Sailor Fleye had small bones. Actually, everything about her was small: her stature, her hands, her ears, her voice, her height and weight. She knew her own height and weight to three decimal places; she never shared the data with anyone, but it was obvious that she was below average.
The only large thing about her was her eyes. They were always wide open, framed by small lashes, and looked as if they were about to fall out of her head - and the massive round glasses she wore only made it worse.
One day, when a group of the sailors had gone for a post-battle smoothie, Sailor Shoyru - always gracious - apologized for a bit of rude behavior. "Sorry I was so touchy. It's just that your eyes are so vibrant, it always feels like you're staring at me."
"I am," replied Sailor Fleye.
"Oh." Shoyru considered this. "May I ask why?"
Another time, when she appeared in answer to a distress call by Sailors Techo and Scorchio, they both noticed that her skirt had a large swath missing. It hadn't been ripped off, much less bitten; the line was much too clinically straight for that. It was simply a perfect rectangle sliced from the cloth.
When the danger was past, Sailor Scorchio asked her about it. "Did you fight something with very square teeth?"
"No. I removed it myself."
"What do you want with a slice of your skirt?"
"I'm studying it," was the inevitable reply.
Long after the battle, as they met weekly and then monthly and then only all got together for annual reunions, the other sailors began to notice her stomach growing. Nobody knew who the baby's father might be, and nobody asked her how she'd come to this point. They could already guess the answer: "I was studying."
Two years after her son Dana's birth, they lost track of her altogether.
"Number 18 is dead," said the yellow scorchio with the wild hair, interrupting Dr. Quiner at her notebook.
The former Sailor Fleye did not look up. "We expected that. Her weight was reaching a peak."
Experiment 18 had her metabolism slowed to such a point that she could fulfill her caloric needs with only a few meals a month. Unfortunately, she needed vitamins and minerals and proteins and all sorts of nutrients, and supplements couldn't make them all up. If she ate enough food to get her proper nutrition, she also gained weight rapidly.
They had higher hopes for 19. She had higher caloric needs, but in theory she could extract them from almost any material - wood, grass, insects, whatever was around. (They had isolated Skeith genes for this.) If successful, she could take only a few vitamin pills and traverse a battlefield alone with no ill effects.
The Cold War was on. There were no battlefields yet, but there might be any day.
"Finish your entry," said the scorchio. "Dinner approaches."
"It can be postponed."
"Not on this date."
"I had forgotten."
This was a lie, and the scorchio knew it. With her clinical memory for numbers, there was no chance that Dr. Quiner would forget the date of her son's birth. He chose not to press the issue. "I've made all the necessary recordings from 18's death. Everything is in order. Finish up."
The woman closed her book and swiveled her chair to face him. "I've finished. We can go."
"You weren't writing?"
"No. I was studying."
As they walked out, they passed by the long row of numbered cages. Like 20 and 19, 18 was now empty. The subject in 17 was sleeping; 16, 15, and 14 were all empty; 13 was curled in a corner whimpering; 12 through 9 were all empty. The subject in 8 was playing with blocks, the one in 7 hooked up to tubes; 6 through 2 were empty. Cage number 1 had become storage for boxes of records. Finally, there was a freezer, numbered 0.
The freezer held the remains of the preliminary genetic basis for this line of experiments: Dana Quiner.
"We're running low on cages," remarked the scorchio as they approached the freezer.
"We can begin recycling the numbers," said Dr. Quiner. "Cage 11 will need to be replaced entirely, but the rest are in good condition and ready to use."
They left the laboratory and entered the labyrinth of passages that would eventually take them up to the entrance, submerged deep underwater off the coast of Mystery Island. A small submarine took them to a private harbor where no questions were asked, and from there it was only a short walk to the restaurant where they had their annual dinner. They did this on Dana's birthday because neither of them knew their own, and it was as good a date as any.
"Experiment 68 is excelling at all the tests," the scorchio recited. "Strength, speed, agility, intelligence. However, she seems susceptible to anxiety and fear; she withdraws more often than not."
The fragile woman in the bed nodded. White hair lay thinly around her face; her small bones stood out under the skin. "How is your other project coming?"
"The spontaneous mutation ray has hit a block," confessed the grey-haired scorchio. "I've isolated the genes for color, as well as many performance statistics. Pet genomes are really extremely similar. But I can't get any consistency. Sometimes the stats will leap up, and sometimes they'll just drop. I can't figure it."
"You'll sort it out," said Dr. Quiner quietly.
The scorchio cocked his head. "On what do you base that conclusion?"
"Nothing empirical. But I have confidence in you."
"That's not a very scientific observation."
Dr. Quiner sighed. "I know. Forgive me."
"I'm concerned," pressed the scorchio. "Your attitude has become far more sloppy these past few weeks. Have you been eating properly?"
He got no answer.
The scorchio stood outside the cage numbered 68, which had been 18 decades ago, and looked down at its occupant. Mentally and physically, she was twice her actual age of three. (Experiments 54 through 62 had grown old and died very rapidly, within a matter of years for the earlier ones; then he'd managed to bring the aging mechanism under control, with enough finesse that 66 grew rapidly to her mid-twenties and stayed there. Of course, she'd had problems of her own. But 68 had the same aging mechanism, hopefully without the mental disorders.)
Experiment 68 looked back up at the scorchio with vibrant green eyes. She looked, he though distantly, vaguely like a Buzz - the modern descendant of the Fleye. Odd. They hadn't spliced in any Buzz genes. A few air faerie genes, but no Buzz ones.
The huge eyes make her look suddenly like Dr. Quiner, and the scorchio's vision blurred. He pulled off his glasses and wiped the water from his eyes. It wouldn't do. Death was inevitable; that was scientific fact. No reason to grow emotional over it.
"I'm going to name you," he said suddenly to 68.
He knew only three names. Dana was one. Not a very good name, and anyway it had been a boy's. Dr. Quiner's Fleye had been called 464994821204, which hardly counted. But the other . . . it seemed to fit.
"That is," he continued, "I'm going to give you a secondary designation." Dr. Quiner would not approve of her name being used for such a sentimental thing as, well, naming someone; but she was dead, after all. "Experiment 68, from now on you are designated Kara Lynn."