Botanical principle that the offspring of a cross displays greater mass, yield, disease resistance, or other desired characteristic than its parents. The hybrid is heterozygous with respect to the parents, meaning it has multiple versions of the same gene. (It has multiple alleles on its homologous chromosomes).

Based on research by Gregor Mendel with pea plants. Related to the idea that that when plants of the same strain are repeatedly crossed (inbred), recessive (usually undesirable) traits are reinforced, while crossing different strains demotes the recessive traits.

Previous | Metro City Chronicles | Next

My name is Darcy Sandoval, and I'm a ballerina.

I'm a member of the corps de ballet in the Zelda Lieber Dance Company here in Metro City. That means I'm one of the dancers in the background while you're focused on the lead ballerina. It isn't as prestigious as being the lead, but it means you get to dance a lot. And I do have opportunities to dance lead sometimes. You know all those arts assemblies at grade schools all over the city? They don't send out the lead ballerinas for those. The corps members alternate the lead roles there. And we all get some spotlight set pieces during the regular productions, too.

I just love dancing. I've performed modern dance, jazz, ballroom, a little tap, even hip-hop. I danced in some videos a year or two ago for Usher, Lil' Wayne, and 3 on the Blok. But they all take a backseat to ballet. There is absolutely nothing in the universe better than ballet.

Oh, yes, and I'm also a superhero.

I call myself Hybrid. I'm a mutant with enhanced agility, strength, and senses. I can jump a great distance -- about a half-mile at the maximum, but I normally stick to an eighth of a mile at a time, to make sure I can see where I'm going. And I heal up pretty fast, too. In fact, I don't think I've ever been sick.

I can also shift myself into a more animalistic form, where my agility, strength, and senses are boosted even higher. I also grow claws and fangs, pointy ears, a muzzle, glowing yellow eyes, and all that. The monstergirl form makes it harder for me to talk, and my temper gets a bit hair-trigger -- it's not very hard for me to go into a berserker rage in that form, so I have to be careful that I don't get mad at random things. Luckily, even if I do lose it, it's easy for me to get myself back under control -- thinking about dancing calms me down. Seriously.

To be honest, though my transformations used to alarm me, I've grown to enjoy them, even relish them, as the years have gone by. I'm not afraid of street crime, and I relieve a lot of pent-up aggression just by shifting my form. Like I said, there is absolutely nothing in the universe better than ballet. But sometimes, shapeshifting comes very close.

At any rate, I've cultivated a reputation over the past couple of years as a savage, terrifying monster. The beginning was quite easy -- I was very excited about becoming a superhero, and my control was far weaker. The only person I ever injured seriously was the Iron Eagle -- a lucky break for me, really. First, the Iron Eagle is extremely difficult to kill -- he survived two world wars, three decades in a Siberian prison camp, and super-battles against much more powerful heroes and villains. Second, if you're going to traumatize someone and force him to undergo a month in traction before he even goes to prison, it's always a plus if your victim is a Nazi ubermensch. The YouTube video was definitely a bonus -- the first time I saw it, even I got a little scared.

I won't even pretend that I'm not probably the oddest duck in the superhero world. I have what seems to be a rock-solid secret identity -- it's hard to imagine that anyone would suspect a dance-obsessed ballerina of moonlighting as a feral monstrosity. The peculiarity of my life certainly doesn't end there. I started life as an abandoned baby in a downtown dumpster. I was rescued by two local police officers, Fred Sandoval and Leon D'Arcy. Fred and his wife Nina eventually adopted me into their family, with Leon becoming my godfather and adopted "uncle." Obviously, I was named for both of them. My parents, Uncle Leon, and my sister Leah are the only people who know about my powers. Well, other than the Chrome Cobra, who had far too easy a time tracking down my real name. I'll excuse her due to the fact that she is (entirely unsophisticated geeking-out mode) THE COOLEST EVER!

Anyway, enough of my introductory exposition.

Now you may be wondering -- what's the life of a superhero like? Well, first, there's amazingly little actual superheroing that goes on. I know, if you read comic books (which I certainly avoid), it may seem like we spend all our time running around in spandex. Now I'll grant you that fighting Amy Arson or Subtronik is a lot more exciting than almost anything I do in civilian life, but the fact remains -- superheroing is a very small part of my life right now.

Obviously, dance is the primary activity of my life, and most of that involves hanging out around the artistic crazies at the Zane and Zelda Lieber Arts Center. When I finally get in this morning, Dianne Wallman, our costume designer, is stomping around the lobby, smoking two cigarettes at once, I swear. She's fuming at a fabric store on her cell phone. "Red sequins, dammit! Not white! I've got all the goddamn white sequins I could ever desire! You said you could get me red fucking sequins!"

Mr. Elting, the janitor, who's been here almost since the day they opened the arts center, is watching her disapprovingly while she rants on the phone. "Listen to her," he says to me as I pass. "It's like one of those shows they got on pay cable. I don't know if her momma raised her in a barn or in the Navy."

"Give her a break, Mr. Elting," I say. "If she didn't have fabric stores to scream at, she'd be yelling at children or cops or us."

In the main auditorium, Dr. Trevor Cameron, the director of the center, is flipping through some new scores with Albrecht Zeimner, our music director -- neither one tends to chat much with us dancers. I don't think it's a matter of being snooty -- more like, well, why would they need to chit-chat with the dancers, I guess. I mean, they wave and say hi, but they don't invite us over for Sunday dinner or anything. They both seem like nice people -- Albrecht once got in a fistfight with a magazine reviewer because he wrote something that called us "bitch ballerinas," and Dr. Cameron takes care of so many things around here, big and small, that no one else can really do.

I meet three other dancers, Adriana Hampton, Jinette Wolf, and Lynda Vance, and our choreographer, Phoebe Pizzino, in our studio. Adriana, Jinette, Lynda, and I are all in the corps de ballet -- obviously, there are a lot more of us, but Phoebe prefers to work on initial choreography in smaller groups before taking on the full ensemble.

Jinette is by far the most ambitious of us, and probably the most cutthroat, too -- we've never gotten any real proof that she's behind any of our various disasters, but there's often a Jinette connection. Dr. Cameron has dropped more than enough hints in her presence, though, that if he ever learns that we have a saboteur on staff, he'll make sure she never dances with a real dance troupe again.

In comparison, Adriana is our stereotypical innocent lamb. She's from Iowa -- no, seriously! -- and she's probably on her way to bigger and better things, but wow, she just can't get used to Metro City. She didn't even realize we had a subway 'til a few months ago -- she just thought all the subway entrances were underground entrances to office buildings. And she's a complete sucker for every panhandler's sob story.

Lynda is just starting back as a dancer -- she got injured in a mugging a few months back (Iota saved her and got her to a hospital) and she's been working hard to get her dance legs back. She's danced lead before, but she's starting back in the corps to help her get up to speed. We're all pulling for her.

Phoebe really is a bit of a rough taskmaster -- believe it or not, she was originally a high school volleyball coach, got roped into taking over choreography for her school's dance team, and was good enough at it that she was eventually able to get work as a real dance choreographer. But she still thinks like a volleyball coach, so there are lots of workouts and lots of yelling and lots of drills. She actually has a whistle -- sometimes she blows it when we mess up, sometimes she blows it in rhythm to keep us on the beat.

Phoebe puts us through two hours of hammering the choreography into our heads (We're doing Léo Delibes' "Coppélia," and I really don't like Delibes, so I'm having trouble with my footwork) when our HR person, Debra Skullcurse (No, I'm serious, that's her name. I've got her on my short list of "People who may eventually turn out to be supervillains," but so far, she's just a very sweet lady who knits and shows off pictures of her grandkids), pops in to ask us to come down and sign our timecards. (And yes, we have timecards. We're professionals, and we like to get paid.) Phoebe calls a long lunch to let us sign cards, unwind, and well, get lunch.

After signing my timecard in HR, I go off to find our stage manager, Howard Kramer. He's starting a short vacation tomorrow, and he's really cool, so I wanted to tell him to have fun before he left. He's taking his family camping in the mountains. In fact, I think that's where he takes all his vacations -- he's always talking about how he wants to get rich and buy a cabin up there. I don't guess he likes the city very much, but I think he's a great stage manager, and we'd hate to lose him.

Anyway, I find him hanging out backstage, naturally, talking to our art director, Veronica Dubczyk, and (ugh) our art manager "Barf" Bolino. Looks like they're reviewing stage designs for the next production.

Veronica is incredibly knowledgeable about art. She's written a couple of books about the history of Metro City's art scene, and I think she's on a first-name basis with every important artist in the city, if not the entire country. She's probably the most cultured and educated person I know. And wow, you would not believe her house -- just the most beautifully put-together place I've ever seen. We have the Christmas party there every year, because she decks the place out so spectacularly. She's in charge of designing the look of every production we do here -- all the set pieces, backdrops, even a little of the costumes and makeup.

But Bolino -- I swear, everyone hates her. (Okay, not everyone. All the dancers hate her. I hate her.) First, she's not even a college grad yet -- she's just a sophomore, and that's way too young to be holding a title like "art manager." Yes, she's an excellent artist -- Veronica hands her the designs, and she makes them all happen, with very little assistance from the stagehands. But she's a complete freak. She's a slob, always wears ratty tractor caps, "smokes" these dumb candy cigarettes, slouches around everywhere. She'd probably be pretty if she fixed herself up, but she's too busy being aggressively weird -- she burps, uses weird slang, makes faces behind everyone's back, sneaks up behind you and just touches you on the elbow, anything to make people freak out. Artistic temperament, my ass. I wish they'd fire her.

Anyway, I head over -- they've got design notes and sketches spread out all over (looks like they'll be going for Paris by way of Picasso for our major set pieces). I tap Howard on the arm and say, "Sorry, not meaning to butt in, just wanted to wish Howard a Merry Vacation."

"Thanks, Darcy," says Howard. "Want any souvenirs? I've already promised Veronica I'll find some mountain hermit who can paint like Michelangelo and bring him back to the city so she can install him in a gallery somewhere."

"Oh, he laughs," said Veronica. "But Edgar Willcanon started out that way, almost exactly. He worked on a farm near the river back in the '20s, got discovered, and ended up painting those wonderful murals all over downtown. I know a few artists living in the mountains already, but they enjoy their privacy too much."

"Just bring me some cheap trinket," I said. "And if there's nothing cheap, don't get me anything -- I'll look at your photos, if you take any."

"I'm supposed to try to find some animal skulls for Barf," said Howard with a laugh. "But I don't know where I'm going to find wolf skulls or bear skulls."

"I need 'em for some sculptures for class," yawned Barf. "Don't wanna use replicas. Hey, Darcy, ain'tcha gonna say hi?"

"Hi, Barf," I say as nicely as I can. "Nice to see you."

"Psshyeah, right!" she brays. "I've seen better acting in Van Damme movies!"

"Oh, please!" I say, temper getting the better of me. "Why do you even bother saying hello when you react the same way every time? Every time!"

"Ain't my fault you can't act, Barbie," says Barf. "I don't reckon dancers need to act anyway, right?"

"Okay, opposite corners, immediately," says Howard. "Darcy, I suspect it's your lunch hour, right? Go get lunch, please."

But I'm already heading off shhhtage-left as fashht as I can. Fangshh are out. Clawshh are out. So fucking mad.

Get into the green room. Empty, thank god. So fucking mad. Briefly conshhider shhhlashhing at the wallssh. Go over the choreography inshhtead. Feet at third poshhition, armshh at Cecchetti shhhecond. Shhtep one two, shhtep one two, step one two, turnout. Step one two, step one two... Okay, good, enough, I'm calm again. Like I said, just thinking about dancing always gets me back under control. Sounds silly, but you can't argue with success.

But I'm on edge, and I hate being on edge, especially during the workday. I go out the back door of the theater, to make sure I don't see anyone else. And I get lunch at the grungy deli no one ever goes to. Don't feel like seeing anyone else 'til I go back to a rehearsal room. The deli tries to sell me on their version of the Sloppy Metro, but I can't handle anything that heavy when I'm supposed to be dancing. I have a not-particularly-fresh salad and a much-better-than-I-was-expecting chicken club.

Anyway, after eating, I went back to the arts center and worked on choreography pretty much nonstop for the next several hours. It felt great, and I didn't have a single unpleasant thought go through my head the entire time.

Of course, I can't dance 24-7, even if I wanted to, so after quitting time, I have to start getting myself into superhero mode. I don't usually change into my costume at home -- it's hard to leave an apartment through the window without lots of people seeing you. I normally pay another visit to the arts center -- there's an old never-used room in the upper levels of the auditorium complex. I don't know what its original purpose was supposed to be, but right now, it's almost-empty storage and my secret Batcave. I tease my hair out a little, put on my costume, head out through the window, and I'm ready for a night of crimebusting.

As it turns out, tonight is a Society night. We've got a couple different unofficial superhero organizations here in Metro City. They're not formal teams, more like "Hey, we've got stuff in common, let's get together and hang out." One is the Metro City Super Grrrlz, which is, obviously, just the female heroes running around beating up bad guys a few nights a month. But tonight is a Metro City Monster Society night.

See, Metro City has one of the largest collections of so-called "monster superheroes" (scary/non-human/horror-themed superheroes) in the country, outside of groups like the Ethereals, the Darksiders, or the Unearthlies. In our case, it's me, Squid Kid, Jonni Rotten, Hypothermia, El Phantasmo, and Gearbox.

Of course, it's not like we're the only people patrolling on Society nights. It's not like we don't all patrol on non-Society nights, too. But on non-Society nights, we're just superheroes on patrol -- on Society nights, we stay in close contact, we check in with each other frequently, we laugh it up over everything we can, and we go ahead and act the part of Metro City's most terrifying superheroes. Even Hypothermia, who really, really hates his appearance, plays along. Even Gearbox, who's normally about as scary as a bunch of kittens, plays along.

Jonni had been cornering muggers in alleys all night, making like a shambling brain-eater and generally making them piss themselves. Hypothermia had grown extra spikes. El Phantasmo is riding through the streets on a spectral stallion, with a posse of six headless horsemen accompanying him. Gearbox is hulking through the streets as a werecar.

And it looks like word got out early, 'cause we're not seeing a whole lot of street crime tonight, even in the usual hotspots. Squid Kid and I take a break around 11 to get some java -- I have to pay for the coffee because, for the moment, I'm actually less frightening than Lenore is. Every time she uses her powers for more than 20 minutes without a break, all of her skin turns as oily-black as her tentacles, her hair turns into long, squirming black tentacles, her whole face disappears except for an improbably broad and unnerving smile, and her voice converts into three-part Harmony-of-the-Damned. She never seems to realize anything's different, which just helps complete the uber-creepy effect.

But right now, she's talking about her homework, the stray cats she's been feeding in her backyard, and the right way to cook linguini, so hearing all this completely mundane, everyday stuff coming out of a gothpunk tentacle monster with three temporary magic voice boxes -- it's just about the most fun I've had in months.

"So I'm working on one of my papers the other night, and there's this loud knocking on my door, more like hammering, ya know?" she says, waving her coffee mug around for emphasis. "So when I open the door, there's this girl I don't know, and she pops off with 'The people down the hall from me are having a really loud party.' And I'm going, 'Oh, really? Um, are we supposed to go and say hi?' And she's 'No, you have to go make them stop!' And I just closed the door and went back to work on my paper. Bad enough the campus cops think of me as an unpaid volunteer SWAT team without random people picking me as their new super-RA."

It's funny to hear her tell the story like this -- I mean, especially with the previously mentioned multi-tonal monster voice -- but it's one of the reasons I'm glad I have a secret identity. Lenore gets this stuff all the time, just because everyone knows her real name. All the local heroes with public identities have to deal with stuff like that, and to a certain degree, they all get griped at for not being at the beck and call of every pinhead who wants to call a superhero instead of the fire department when their cat gets stuck in a tree.

We don't really have long to chat. We got a buzz from the Cobra before long. "Got something tailor-made for Society Night," she said. "Report from the cops says they got a werewolf cornered in a building on Steranko Plaza."

Of course, that got the whole Monster Society crew out, along with some of the other patrollers, like Atlas and Penitente. Steranko Plaza is a nice, large collection of a half-dozen skyscrapers, all arranged together with a nice fountain right in the middle. They're full of banks, big finance, law firms, you name it. If it's a billion dollar megacorp, they've probably got a corporate office somewhere in Steranko Plaza. It's grand fun to jump around the tops of the skyscrapers late at night.

We look for the building surrounded by cops. And they say, sure enough, they've got something that looks like a werewolf cornered up on the top floor. We designate one of the corner windows as our entry point and head up there -- me jumping, Squid Kid climbing, and the rest either flying or being carried up by a flier. We get synchronized a few stories away from the entry point and then all burst through the window at once.

Looked like the whole floor was a science lab of some kind -- lots of laboratory space, computers, scientific equipment, a few offices. Chemistry or biology stuff being worked on, I guess -- I'm not any kind of big science expert. Of course, there weren't any employees up here this late.

And the cops were wrong. There wasn't a werewolf up here.

There were nine werewolves up here.

Not exactly werewolves, though. They were mostly human, wearing rags and castoff clothing. They all had glowing yellow eyes, large claws, pointed ears, fangs, and animal-like muzzles.

They looked an awful lot like me.

From the looks of it, they were all either collecting samples or downloading files from the computers. The thing is, none of them really looked like they'd actually be capable of that. I know I don't think real clearly when I get angry, but these guys (and they were all male, like a bunch of identical twins) looked like they weren't used to thinking much above an animal level. They were all just standing there, glaring at us. Growling low. Drooling a little.

"They've all got implanted earbuds," announced Gearbox. "Probably being controlled from outside the building. Attempting to jam the signal, but no joy yet."

And all at once, they all charged at us, howling wordlessly.

I got just a quick impression of the rest of the action -- two of them tackled Gearbox, the rest of us got just one apiece -- before the one attacking me bit down on my hand. After that, I lost control and went full feral on the guy. A few minutes of enraged screaming and biting and clawing later, he kicked me against a wall and leaped out the window behind him. I started to go after him, but Phantasmo had a bunch of his ghosts grab me and levitate me a foot or two above the floor.

It still took me a minute or two to calm down after that -- I'd gotten bit and scratched a lot, and I was really pretty angry. And pretty embarrassed when I settled back down. They'd taken poor Gearbox to pieces while I'd been lost in my rage, though he was reassembling himself quickly. Jonni was sewing her arm back on with some twine. No one else got any serious injuries -- even Penitente kept his opponent at bay with a bunch of judo throws.

Five of the guys (still not sure what to call them -- they weren't werewolves, they weren't people, I couldn't tell if they were burglars or what) got away clean. Atlas, Squid Kid, and El Phantasmo captured three, and even with an arm torn off, Jonni still managed to break both legs of another of them before pinning it to the floor with a bolo knife through its shoulder. But all four ended up dissolving into nasty protoplasmic goop once they couldn't move.

Atlas wasn't happy with how things had gone down. "We shoulda kept at least one of them alive," he groused. "Interrogate 'em, find out what they were up to, or who they were working for. We got no leads now."

"We got some great leads," said Hypothermia. "We got a whole lot of dissolved monster glop, and we got some blood still left over on Jonni's knife. DNA evidence might at least give us some hints about why they cloned Hybrid."

Leave it to the biochemist to realize why all those guys looked so much like me.

The party mostly broke up after that -- Atlas stayed behind to give a report to the cops, Gearbox morphed himself a jet pack so he could take off before the cops remembered they were supposed to capture him, and Squid Kid, Jonni, and Penitente all left to continue their patrols.

Hypothermia borrowed Jonni's bolo knife, and he, Phantasmo, and I all headed out for Iota's place. He's got one heck of a laboratory, and Hypo figured he could give us some DNA results fast.

I never get to hang out with Hypothermia and Phantasmo very much, and this time isn't any different -- I'm jumping from building to building, Hypo skids around the streets on a thin layer of ice, and Phantasmo gets carried along by a bunch of ghosts.

Hypo is about the most deeply unhappy superhero I know. He's a biochemist, like I said -- Kelvin Mauro -- who got his powers in an accident. Bad enough he's a big, faceless, spiky ice monster, but his powers ran off his wife and kid. When he's not on patrol, I think he spends most of his time brooding in the warehouse he lives in.

I don't know Phantasmo's real name or anything about his life. All I know is, he wears a ghost T-shirt, a black sportcoat, and a luchadore mask, and he can summon a bunch of ghosts. I get the impression he's pretty young -- he's kinda short and skinny and gangly, and he always seems awkward and nervous. He gets soooo tongue-tied when he's around Miss Mega, the Cobra, Squiddie, Defender, or even me when I don't have my fangs out. It's kinda cute.

Hypo radioed ahead, so Iota was waiting for us when we got to his lab out on Woodwall Hill. He meets us wearing civilian clothing and at his normal (but still not real tall) height. He has a public ID -- Stephen Denziger, genius inventor. He created his own neural stunners and super-armor years ago, but his flight and shrinking abilities are mutant powers. He's almost a throwback to the scientist-adventurers of the '50s, like Blake Tesla, Bart Einstein, or Johnny Gadget. He's a little younger than I am, and he's already got four doctorates and 16 patents -- and he's always the first person to charge into battle. It's a good thing that armor works so well, 'cause there's no good reason for a guy who's just an eighth of an inch tall to charge into battle against Torque or Professor Panzer.

So we get the knife with the blood and sludge samples to Doc Denziger and give him the background of what happened. "I can't give you a full DNA analysis on short notice," he said. "That takes a while, no matter what they tell you on the cop shows. Might take even longer to analyze the protoplasmic goop, though it sounds like a bioengineered self-destruct reaction triggered by a code from those devices you mentioned they had in their ears."

"That's murder, right?" asked Phantasmo.

"It depends," said Hypothermia grimly. "I'd call it murder, but legally, artificial lifeforms aren't always given full human rights. Like the way the feds don't consider Gearbox and other robots to be anything but unliving machines."

"And that's what makes it even more important to track down whoever created these clones," said Iota. "Luckily, we may not need a full DNA markup to start tracking that one down."

He took a sample of the blood from the knife and put it on a microscope slide, then said, "Hybrid, you mind if I get a blood sample from you? I'd like to have something to compare the clones' genetic structure to."

As he drew my blood, I asked him, "What's the plan, Io?"

"Simplest thing in the world," he said. "Put some blood samples under an electron microscope and see what we can see."

"That's not simple at all, Stephen," said Hypo. "Biological material has to be specially treated to go under an electron microscope to hold up in a vacuum, the power outputs are huge, it takes time to output and view the images..."

"Please, Kelvin," laughed Iota, putting my blood and the other samples onto glass slides. "You're talking to a guy who knows a thing or two about miniaturization. I've built an improved prototype scope that can give us some useable images in just minutes."

He put the slides into a compartment on the side of an oversized microscope, looked into the scope itself, made some adjustments, and typed some stuff onto a keyboard.

"There we go," he said. "Gimme a few minutes, and we'll have something to look at."

"Stephen, I know you're a big badass inventor," said Hypothermia. "But a new kind of electron microscope with none of the limitations of conventional ones? That's a bit far into science fiction, isn't it?"

"Says the guy who invented a lifesaving procedure to lower body temperature during heart operations," laughed Iota.

"Not funny," growled Hypo, turning away. "Why do you keep bringing that up?"

"Wha -- Kelvin, for God's sake, just because some crook overdosed you on that formula doesn't mean it's something to be ashamed of!" said Iota. "Seriously, I make gadgets. You make miracle drugs!"

"I don't want to hear it," said Hypo. "So shut it."

"Umm, one of my ghosts wants to say something," said Phantasmo apologetically.

One of the wispy figures broke off from the halo of fog that always swirls around him and reformed into a semi-translucent elderly man wearing a wide-lapelled green polyester suit. He had a voice like an old record player. "My grandson was in a car accident last year," he said. "He got a piece of metal in his chest, tore a heart valve. Your drug let the surgeons repair the damage safely. Your drug saved his life. Otherwise, he'd be here with me."

The old man faded back into a whirl of smoke and rejoined the other spirits orbiting Phantasmo.

Hypo didn't say anything. Iota and Phantasmo didn't say anything. I wasn't going to break in just for the hell of it.

There was a ding, and Iota turned back to the microscope, punched a few buttons, and several monitors flickered to life. Some showed what were obviously blood cells, while one displayed something like a cross between powder and black mold.

Iota zoomed in on one of the blood cells, readjusted the focus, and zoomed in even further. A shape took form on the side of one of the cells -- a corporate logo?

"Bingo," said Iota. "Does that look like a 'C,' a 'B,' and a 'T' right there? Does that mean anything to you guys?"

"Chittenburg Biological Testing," said Hypothermia. "Owned by Harlan Chittenburg. I met him a few years back when I was still human. He's been in Metro City for the past few decades. Good reputation, but a bit of a sorehead. They do, well, biological testing. Checking water and soil for contaminants and stuff like that. I'm not aware of anything they do that'd match up to this."

Iota clicked on his keyboard some more, and all the monitors began zooming and refocusing. "Should be able to find more of those logos, now that we know the magnification and parameters we're looking for," said Iota. He turned to the monitor displaying the black mold pattern. "I'm not seeing much of anything in the sludge sample," he said. "I'll defer to you on this one, Dr. Mauro -- you think that's tissue of some sort?"

"Definitely," said Hypo. "Decayed, exploded, aged -- not real sure. Destroyed pretty completely, at any rate. Might be able to get DNA from that, still, but I'm not sure I could tell you the mechanism for wrecking healthy cells like that."

"Hey, look at these cells over here," I spoke up, pointing out one of the blood cell monitors. "The logo on the blood here is different. It has the same basic shape, but it reads 'Chittenburg Labs' instead."

"That looks like an old logo," said Hypo. "They haven't been called 'Chittenburg Labs' in at least a decade."

Iota sucked in his breath suddenly. "Hybrid, that's --" He looked from the monitor to me. "That's not from the clones. That's your blood sample."

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