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Hazel Jones stared down at the letter in disbelief and slumped backwards into her office chair. She sighed heavily as she adjusted her prescription glasses and glanced down at the foreboding signature slashed sharply across the bottom of the paper.

“Shit,” she said flatly as the reality of what the letter meant was sinking in. Her funding was being cut drastically, almost to the point where she might as well not even be receiving any.

She stood up slowly and shook her head, “I’m going to have to tell Brandon,” she muttered with dread. Personally, she was always calm, regardless of the situation, but her research partner, Brandon, was going to be livid at the news.

“This is bullshit!” Brandon’s teeth were bared into a snarl as he finished reading the letter.

Hazel had been watching her partner’s eyebrows cranking downward progressively as he read through it, and now they were fully furrowed into an almost ninety degree angle, “I agree, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Like hell, there’s not!” Brandon snapped at her before smacking the letter with the back of his hand, “We’re gonna appeal right to the board with this; if they can spare ten thousand dollars a month for fucking mold research then surely they can dig up the money to continue funding ours. How can you be so calm about this?”

“What do you want me to do, get mad?” She snagged the letter out of his hand before he could crumple it and folded it neatly, “I’m just as upset as you are, maybe more, but throwing a little hissy fit over it isn’t going to solve anything. There’s no point in going to the board; they have no reason not to cut our funding, really.”

Brandon was a tall man, fairly attractive, and black. At her comment, however, his face looked almost red, “How can you say that?! Are you fucking serious?”

She sighed and slipped the troublesome letter back into her lab coat, “I am. Think about it: we haven’t made any real progress in months.”

Her partner looked as if he were going to blow a gasket, “That’s not true, Hazel! We’re running through the sequences; you know as well as I do how time consuming that is!” He took a deep breath and forced a bit of composure into his features, “You’re not giving up, are you? We’re so damn close.”

“No, I’m not. I’m saying that if you look at it from their perspective, we haven’t done anything recently that warrants how much they’re giving us. We know how close we are, but there’s no way we can convince them without some sort of proof. This is a business, Brandon, the only thing they’re concerned about is turning a profit from our research.”

He nodded begrudgingly, “Yeah… fine, I get your point. Still, what are we going to do? Roll over and go back to using second rate equipment and…”

“No,” she cut him off as she placed her hand on his shoulder. At five four, she was substantially shorter than him, but her calm demeanor lent her some effective strength, “We’re going to go home tonight and get some sleep. We’re gonna wake up bright and early and come into work and we’re gonna do what we always do. This cut doesn’t come into effect until the end of the month, and we still have the majority of our budget left over from last month. We’ll figure it out…okay?” She smiled thinly up at him.

“Yeah… okay,” Brandon grumbled as his shoulders loosened. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “I’m sorry, Haze, it’s just that we’ve been working so hard on this.” He shook his head, “Two years, man… shit. To see it all just go down the toilet like that,” he shook his head again.

“You don’t have to apologize,” she removed her hand from him and frowned, “I’m right there with you. This project is everything I got; you don’t need to explain to me how much this sucks. We’ll find a way, though. So, it’s in the toilet but it’s not being flushed yet… that’s better than nothing, right?”

He blinked before offering her a dry smile, “No. If they put it in the toilet in the first place then that means that they think it’s shit.”

She chuckled, “Okay, so that wasn’t the best metaphor. Either way, they’re not shutting us down quite yet and that’s a good thing. If we can make another break through then they’ll have to keep funding us. In order to do that, we’ve got to work a little harder.”

His face went slack, “Better, not harder. Your work is starting to suffer because you spend too much time in the lab.”

Hazel pursed her lips, “I’d say my feelings were hurt if I had any. Where did that come from?”

He laughed, “A place of concern, Hazel. How many hours did you spent in the lab yesterday?”

“Maybe… hell, I don’t know, the average American work day, why does it matter?”

“Average American work day? You call a five AM to ten PM shift an average workday? You’re working yourself to death. You can preach to me, but I’m gonna preach right back at you if you start giving me shit about not being angry all the time. So we’ll go in early tomorrow, but you’ve got to promise me that you’ll Picture upload get a full night’s sleep and get breakfast and coffee on the way in.”

She hated the fact that he was right, but she couldn’t help but smile, “Fine, you get the breakfast, I’ll get the coffee.”

“Deal,” He exhaled sharply and nodded once, “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

Hazel went home, but she did not rest. She tried to watch a show, then she tried to read a book, but it was impossible for her to concentrate. The more she thought about her funding being cut, the more anxious she became, and soon she was a ball of nerves and pent up stress.

She showered and settled in for bed, but sleep didn’t come. In fact, it seemed like the longer she lay there, the more awake she became. She closed her eyes in an attempt to force sleep, but all she saw in her head was sequences of numbers. Both Brandon and herself had been running thousands of numeric sequences over the past several months in an effort to find a particular endocrinol code they were looking for. The work had been slow and disheartening, but with every day that passed they were one step closer to discovering another breakthrough and changing history. Not that the members of their research board cared; as long as it was something they could make a profit on, her benefactors could care less about what the fruition of her research would mean on a global scale.

Although she wasn’t asleep, Hazel allowed her mind to wander in a sort of creative trance as the numbers in her head continued to multiply. The answer to her problems might be a digit or two away, but the digits themselves were like the last two numbers on a lottery ticket.

“Lottery,” she mumbled before opening her eyes slowly. A thought dawned on her then and she took a deep breath, “No…we haven’t tried that. ”

She felt a rush of nervous excitement as a wild inspiration fell over her. She bolted upright and grabbed whatever she could find to wear. Minutes later, she was in her garage and starting the car with a look of mania in her eyes.

Twenty minutes later, she swiped her key card and entered the research facility. It was just a few minutes before three AM, and the giant parking lot was largely empty.

A security guard nodded to her as she made her way past the reception area, but otherwise she didn’t see anyone as she made her way to the lab. After using her key card once more, she walked through another set of doors and into her own lab, which was on the ground level.

“Good morning, Mr. Bunsen,” she smiled over at the large cage to the left of the entrance.

As she set her keys down, Mr. Bunsen came to greet her. He was Hazel’s pet rabbit, and currently he was the embodiment of all of her research. He was exactly like any healthy, grey rabbit, except that he was just under six feet long and weighed over a hundred pounds.

At the start of their research, Hazel and Brandon had been giving the rabbit small doses of customized endocrines. At first, their research was fruitless, but eventually they hit on the combination they were looking for and Mr. Bunsen had grown exponentially almost overnight. Dozens of tests were run on the mammal to see if it was unharmed during the process, but ultimately it was concluded that nothing adverse had happened; beside the rabbit gaining an appetite to match his size. Because of their success, Hazel had been given a generous amount of funding to continue her research, and things continued to go well. Eventually, however, their research hit a wall, and the rabbit ceased to grow all together. Both she and her partner had feverishly attempted to figure out how to proceed with the experiment, but it seemed that the research board had run out of patience.

Hazel poked her hand through the cage and stroked the rabbit’s head gently, “It’s not your fault, buddy,” she spoke quietly as she smiled. “We’re going to figure this out and when we do you’ll get to eat even more.”

She left the cage and walked to a large refrigerator set into the wall. The room itself was about four thousand square feet, a little smaller than the average school gymnasium, but the ceiling was high and there was enough storage space for several more rabbits of the same size.

She opened the fridge and removed an entire head of lettuce before closing it. She tossed it into a hopper attached to the cage and watched her rabbit devour it methodically.

“Alright, time to get to work,” she told herself as she turned toward her work station.

An hour passed, but to Hazel, it felt like a minute. She was carefully tapping away at her computer with a look of concentration on her face, her glasses reflecting the algorithms that played over the screen. The next several moments might determine whether or not she’d be able to keep her funding, and as she entered the last few digits she took a deep breath.

“All right, Hazel, just take it easy,” she said under her breath as her index floated over the enter key. “It’s images upload not the end of the world if this doesn’t work… maybe just the end of your career and the end of your relationship with Brandon,” she chuckled. Brandon, who had started the project with her, had no idea how much she liked him. She’d developed feelings for her colleague over the two years they’d been working together, but if he felt even remotely the same way about her, he hadn’t made any indication.

She shook her head and grunted, “No use waiting, let’s see what happens.”

With a flourish, she spun her finger over the key once before tapping it.

A series of numbers and pictures appeared on the screen as the software processed the data she’d entered. She stared at it unblinkingly for a moment as the percentage of completion climbed steadily. When the bar reached ninety eight percent, she held her breath and forced herself to face the results.

A window blipped up onto the screen: positive match found

She stared at the blue box for a long moment before she broke out into nervous, relieved laughter, “Oh, thank God,” she held her face as she continued to laugh. Brandon would be elated; with every day that passed she could tell that he’d been growing discouraged, and the project meant just a much to him as it did to her. She glanced at the screen once more and the repercussions of what another breakthrough meant began to sink in. Quickly, she looked at Mr. Bunsen before returning to the screen. Excitedly, she began to tap away at the keyboard once more before she stood and prepared the equipment she would need.

By four thirty, she was ready to administer the new endocrines to her rabbit. She put the concoction inside a hollow, pelletized treat, as she usually did, and dropped it into the feeding hopper.

Mr. Bunsen beelined to the treat immediately. He wiggled his nose in satisfaction as he gobbled the pellet down. Hazel watched him the entire time, hoping to see some sort of noticeable reaction, but within five minutes it seemed that the rabbit hadn’t changed at all.

She knew she was being impatient, but she very much wanted to see her bunny grow like he had in the past. When she’d given him the first set of endocrines, he’d actually grown several inches longer and had gained measurable mass within a thirty minute time frame.

“I’m expecting too much,” she muttered with a hint of disappointment. She had theorized that they would see diminishing results the larger the rabbit grew, but that still didn’t mean that she had to like the fact that her theory had been correct.

Then, Mr. Bunsen began to grow. It began in his feet and legs, but it was at a speed that could be seen in real time.

Hazel’s breath caught as she rushed to the refrigerator. She threw the door open and began to pull produce from it rapidly, tossing it in the hopper. When the rabbit grew, so did his appetite: it was something that she’d learned immediately. The body’s response to the synthetic endocrines was so rapid that there were almost instant results, but the downside was that while the endocrines were in effect the creature’s metabolism skyrocketed in order to supply all the extra calories needed.

Mr. Bunsen didn’t seem to mind. As he grew, he simply stood in front of the hopper and began to munch on all of his favorite foods. Hazel kept her eyes on him as she continued to pile food into the hopper. After she felt like he had enough, she topped the pile of vegetables with a generous amount of timothy hay.

“Good boy!” she praised the rabbit as he ate. She wondered if he knew that he was getting larger, or could feel it in any way. She had always paid close attention to his behavior to make sure that he wasn’t scared or experiencing pain, but every time he’d seemed completely indifferent, assuming there was enough food for him to eat.

By five AM, Mr. Bunsen had ceased his growth. Hazel measured and weighed him and was impressed with the results. The rabbit had grown nearly another foot longer and had gained weight to match. His vitals were still healthy and with all factors accounted for, he didn’t seem bothered in the least. She took as many notes as she could and snapped pictures with her digital camera. She rushed to her computer and uploaded them, then went about preparing a presentation to reapply for her grant.

As she did so however, her smile slowly turned downward. She examined the pictures carefully and sighed as she realized something terrible, “It’s not enough,” she said lowly as she shook her head.

Currently, the board was granting her over twelve thousand dollars a month for her research. It had seemed like a lot at the time, but they’d gone through it quickly. Between the cost of feeding Mr. Bunsen, keeping his pen clean and all of the other resources they needed, it would be almost impossible to continue with less than they’d become accustomed to. Hazel stared at the screen for a long time in thought. The victory she’d made was a small one, and it might very well be enough to keep them going for several more months, but what if the next one they had took even longer? She realized that it was only a matter of time before they were in the same boat all over again, and the thought made her simultaneously depressed and resigned.

“What the hell will it take?” She asked the computer screen rhetorically. If she was going to the board to appeal the budget cut, then she would need something big, something that they weren’t expecting in the least.

She laughed, “Shit, I might as well grow myself.”

The comment resonated within her mind as her laugh died down. Her eyes widened as she thought about the concept, “Is that even possible?” She asked the screen as her hands began to fly across the keyboard once more.

She opened several programs before standing abruptly. She walked to the instrument table and took up a scalpel, then scraped a bit of skin from her finger onto a petri dish. Afterwards, she swabbed her mouth and added it to the sample, then drew a small drop of blood and added that as well. A moment later, she turned on the machine that would process her various endocrines and headed back to the computer.

She listened to the machine whir as it analyzed her data. As it poured in, she looked it over as one might look over a personality test, and she nodded here and there as the high tech machine finished it’s work. After all of the data was compiled, she ran the adjacent program to see if any of their known combinations would work with her profile. It was a shot in the dark, or so she thought, but within moments the computer had generated a usable profile for her.

Positive match found.

Hazel bit her lip with a mixture of astoundment and incredulity, “You’re kidding me,” she told the screen flatly as she opened up a detailed report of the sequence.

A queasy excitement came over her as she thought about the possibilities. Before her mind wandered too far, however, she clamped down on it with a vice of realism and began to do some reasoning, “Okay, let’s say, hypothetically, I actually want to try this. It didn’t kill the bunny, so it probably won’t kill me. I could lose my job, but it also might save my job.” She glanced down at her body and laughed. She’d always been rather lanky, and even at her heaviest she’d never weighed more than a hundred and twenty pounds. She was a naturally small framed woman, and no amount of gym time or aggressive nutrition plan would ever change that. She’d made peace with it early in her teens, and had never been very interested in physical activities to begin with, so being small was easy to accept.

Suddenly, however, she was being presented with an opportunity to potentially change her body. The software had already proven that it could make changes in even degrees, assuming the commands were inputted correctly. The real question was: how much did she want to change? It had to be enough to impress her benefactors, but it also had to be reasonable. Hazel wasn’t the vain sort, at least not when it came to her body, but at the very least she could make herself a little taller. Carefully, she began to input information into the program, being very deliberate with her keystrokes.

Five thirty AM rolled around and Hazel’s personalized endocrines were ready. Hesitantly, she took off her lab coat and folded it before setting it on one of the steel tables. She stepped out of her shoes and emptied her pockets, then took up her camera. There was a large mirror that was affixed to the wall that Mr. Bunsen sometimes liked to stare into. Hazel raised her camera and snapped several pictures of herself from different angles. She took a few notes and lifted a voice recorder to her mouth as she mentally prepared herself, “Hazel Jones, subject number two for the hormonal scaling project. I’ve calculated the risks of my participation and they appear minimal. I have customized my own set of synthetic endocrines and am attempting to increase my height by twelve inches. The rest of my body should adjust accordingly to become proportionate. I feel that it is in our best interest to use myself as the first human test subject and I say for the record that I will assume complete responsibility for the outcome. Commencing.”

She stopped the recorder and set it down before walking over to the instrument table and taking up the small glass tube that was waiting for her. It was a clear, colorless liquid. She’d been told it was tasteless, but if course, she had no way of really knowing. She glanced at the door quickly and took a deep breath: if she were going to do it, she’d better get it over with before Brandon showed up and tried to talk her out of it. With a single motion, she brought the beaker to her lips and drained the contents into her mouth. She swallowed it quickly and wasn’t surprised to find that out simply tasted like slightly soapy water. Then, she waited.

Five minutes passed and it was everything she could do to keep calm. So far, she wasn’t feeling anything, but she knew that might change at any moment. Nervously, she took up the recorder and fiddled with the buttons. She was about to switch it on when she saw her finger nail begin to elongate.

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