The Genome is Greener on the Other Side

by Sarina DorieYumi

Nishida hooked one arm around the handrail of the train and scrolled through the latest research in genetics on her e-reader. The gritty floor underneath her cushiony work shoes pulsed with the momentum of the train’s motion. She kept rereading the same paragraph, trying to process the dense information, but it was in Chinese, and she’d never been good at foreign languages. Why her parents hadn’t enhanced her brain rather than her body, she never understood.

If there was one thing Yumi hoped she might accomplish in her career as a geneticist, it was the ability to undo genetic mistakes like those her parents had paid for. She just wanted to be normal, or some version of it.

Yumi looked like a caricature more than a normal person. To hide this, she sported a baseball hat to hide her pretty face and wore her blonde hair under a ponytail. A pair of loose shorts and a t-shirt covered up the unnatural proportions of her hourglass figure. It used to be so much easier to dress in layers of clothes with Oregon’s temperate climate, even in the summer, but with global warming, there was no way to keep herself hidden under a rain jacket or winter coat.

“Hey, that looks like it would be a lot easier sitting down,” a man in a business suit said, standing up. “Can I offer you my seat?”

“Thanks,” she said, as she slid into the seat. She kept her words brief and her gaze down in hopes of deterring conversation.

She carefully removed her backpack so it wouldn’t hit the lady in the Middle Eastern style headscarf sitting next to her. The veiled woman glanced up from her book, her eyes widening. She smiled and went back to reading. Or at least pretending to read while sneaking glances at Yumi from out of the corner of her eye.

Yumi would have liked to wear a headscarf and veil over her face like this woman, but if she did, she was afraid she’d offend someone like her friend, Amira.

“So, you a student? You studying for school or something?” the man asked.

Yumi let her gaze flicker upward. “Yes.”

She dabbed the sweat from her forehead, trying not to smear the makeup that dulled the fluorescent quality of the melanin in her porcelain skin. It was another side effect of the genetic modifications.

The man was middle-aged and sweating profusely in his business suit. “Wow, you have beautiful eyes. I’ve never seen such a vivid blue. Are they real?”

She knew he wasn’t just talking about the color. He meant the shape with a double eyelid her parents had coveted because it wasn’t the norm among Asian features. He meant her perfectly plump lips, heart-shaped face and unusual combination of Western and Eastern features that made her exotic.

“No,” she said quickly. “Contacts.”


It was easier to lie than admit to genetic modifications while it was still illegal to do so in the United States. Yumi pretended to read her e-reader. The lady next to her snuck another glance. Perspiration caused Yumi’s t-shirt stick to her, making it cling more than she wanted.

The business man said, “So, what school do you go to? Portland State or University of Portland? Or—”

“I’m sorry. I have a test. I need to study.” If she could have afforded a car with her meager grad school stipend, she would have bought one.

“Oh. Of course.” The man continued ogling her.

Yumi went back to reading. When the woman got up for her stop, Yumi heaved her bag onto the seat next to her. The train was still pretty crowded. She didn’t like being selfish, but she hated not knowing who might take that seat. Eventually she switched the bag to her lap when a stooped old man asked to sit down. He was so skinny and feeble, he staggered when the train took off before he could seat himself. She placed a hand under his elbow to help him sit down. Then she felt guilty she’d been hogging two seats.

Yumi kept trying to glean new bits of information from the text on undoing genetic modifications, but it was ten a.m. and it was already too hot to think, at least on the train.

Near the university stop, she put away her e-reader and slung the bag over her shoulder. The old man stood as she shuffled past him, tilting his pelvis against hers so she could feel his erection.

Anger flared up in her. She stepped on his foot with her gym shoe, causing him to give her some space. She rammed the backpack against his chest for good measure.

Her mother would have chastised her for excessive rudeness. She might have broken that old man’s ribs and failed in her duty to be respectful to her elders. But her mother hadn’t ever ridden the train. She didn’t experience what it was like to be trapped in an excessively beautiful body, either.

Yumi’s chest felt tight and her breathing labored. She tried to ignore the panic attack threatening to overwhelm her. She’d gotten through the hard part of the day; everything else would be easier from here on out. As she headed across campus to the science department, ringing started in her ears. She took the stairs up to the biology department to avoid being stuck in an elevator with other people. By the time she reached the fourth floor, a tunnel swallowed the periphery of her vision. She made it to the bathroom where she locked herself in the handicapped stall and sagged against the wall. She gasped for air and sobbed.

Yumi sat on the floor and would have remained there for a while longer, but someone tapped on the door.

“It’s just me, sweetie,” Simon said. “Unlock the stall so I don’t have to crawl under there.”

Yumi stared at the hot pink shoes under the door. It took a long moment for his words to register and she giggled at the ridiculous image of her friend squeezing under. She unlatched the door and Simon plopped down next to her, all two hundred and fifty pounds of him. He opened his arms the way she wished her mother still did and hugged her. It was so nice to be near another human being, and one who she could trust not to grope her.

“How’d you know I was here?” Her voice sounded rough and gravelly.

He waved a dismissive hand in the air, the sparkles in his hot pink fingernail polish catching the light. “Ethan said you looked upset when he said hi to you.” She didn’t even remember seeing him. “So when you didn’t show up on time, I started checking bathrooms. You know me, I just can’t mind my own business.”She pulled away and hit her head on the toilet paper dispenser.

“I’ve got to get to the lab or else Dr. Brandl will think I’m a flake.”

“No worries. She’s in a meeting this morning. Are you going to tell me who molested you this time? Was it the same guy from the party?”

“No. It wasn’t anyone you know. It was on the Yellow line.” She had tried carpooling as undergrad, but that had ended in a car accident when the driver kept staring at her rather than the road.

“Well then, let’s get up off this icky floor,” Simon said. “Bathroom stall chic was so last year.”

Simon pulled her to her feet and dusted off his spandex pants. His form-fitting attire bulged in places Yumi’s mother would have found disgustingly unflattering on his overweight frame. Yumi envied that he was so comfortable wearing whatever he wanted. She’d never been able to do that.

She didn’t feel comfortable until she got to the lab and changed into a pair of long, loose pants, an oversized turtleneck and an extra-large lab coat. In the air conditioned lab, the layers felt perfect. She was the youngest grad student at twenty-one, and one of the few students who bothered with a lab coat. This one was so large, it looked like it might have once been Simon’s.

Yumi put on a pair of glasses she didn’t need, but she liked because they made her look more like Dr. Brandl. When Yumi entered the lab, Simon was already at work with his latest guinea-dog experiment.

Miranda lifted eyes from a microscope, her gaze raking over Yumi’s face. “Hello, Yumi.”

“Good morning.” Yumi bowed her head, then when she realized what she was doing, she forced herself to stop the Japanese gesture. Had she looked more Japanese, she suspected people would have found it endearingly multicultural. As it was, they usually thought she was mocking them, or in some cases, being submissive.

Rand waved to her without looking up from his computer. One nice thing about Rand was he never paid anyone much attention, even her. Numbers were far sexier to him than people. Ethan tried not to stare, but he was still pretty new and snuck furtive looks. She looked around for Amira, but she must have been teaching the professor’s class.

“Still fighting the flu?” Miranda asked a little too cheerfully.

Yumi nodded. “Getting over it.” That had been her excuse for not coming in the last few days. And in truth, the panic attacks had gotten pretty bad every time she thought about riding public transportation to work.

Miranda smirked. “Sure it’s just the flu, not too much partying?”

Yumi pretended she hadn’t overheard the comment. If only she were so lucky that she could party and spend her time the way normal students did.

“Be sure to check out Subject 231 before you get to work. The progress of the fifth leg is coming along ahead of schedule,” Miranda said. She didn’t even look Yumi in the face as she spoke. She stared at Yumi’s chest like the only part of Yumi she could see was breasts. Sometimes women made her feel like more of a sex object than men.

Yumi headed over to the rat cage. “Do you mean Pinky or Mochi?”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “I don’t know your pet names for them.”

Yumi stooped over the cage. It was Mochi who was doing well. Tumors still covered Pinky’s body. Yumi reached in and cradled his quivering form in her hands. Sometimes she felt like a white lab rat in a cage called life.

Miranda placed her hands on her hips. “You know Dr. Brandl doesn’t like us getting attached to the subjects. It makes it harder to stay objective when you humanize them.”

Her gaze flickered to Yumi’s chest again. Was that what people did when they saw her—categorize her as something inhuman so they could treat her however they wanted? Perhaps she would be a better scientist if she could see Pinky as an object—as a subject.

She stroked Pinky one more time before returning him to the cage.

Yumi was already exhausted. She hated coming in to work after a panic attack, but riding the train from her parent’s home was better than living on campus with all the drunk, obnoxious college students wandering around at night. She shivered and pushed the thought away.

Experiments waited. Yumi sat down at her computer and ran the gene splicing simulation to refresh her memory of where she’d left off. Dr. Brandl’s research on genetic modifications as a preventative to disease was years ahead of anywhere else in North America. But there was a limit to how much they could do without stem cells. After Oregon had passed “A Heartbeat is a Life” bill, their research had been drastically set back. Dr. Brandl was already talking about taking a position in Canada. She’d told Rand and Simon she couldn’t continue research without them and intended to hire them wherever she went.

Dr. Brandl hadn’t said anything to Yumi. Nor would she if Yumi didn’t get her butt in gear and prove to Dr. Brandl she was an asset. After two hours of data entry and analyzing statistics, Yumi went back to reading Chinese research.

It was difficult to concentrate. Yumi fantasized that if Dr. Brandl worked in China, where her parents had gone for in vitro genetic modifications, she wouldn’t have to work within the ethical parameters required in the United States. Of course, Yumi didn’t think she could live with herself if she experimented on living human beings like the Chinese were currently doing. She didn’t want anyone to go through what she had.

“Hey, you want lunch?” Simon asked. He hunched over her station, glancing at the screen.

Yumi shook her head. She continued puzzling over genome sequences.“Are you sure?” he lowered his voice. “It’ll just be you and Ethan.”

She glanced at Ethan, who busied himself with feeding the cage of white rats in the corner.

Yumi squeezed her friend’s hand. “I’ll be fine.”

Fifteen minutes later, Ethan set down a protein bar next to her keyboard. “I pressed the button for chips on the vending machine and this came out with it. Thought I’d see if you wanted a snack.”

Yumi wanted to believe her coworker was better than everyone else out there, but she suspected this was a ploy. He was trying to flirt with her. Even so, she plastered a polite smile on her face like her mother had taught her. “Thanks. I’ll save it for later if I get hungry.”

He kept staring at her face, so she looked away.

She said, “I should get back to work. These genomes aren’t going to solve themselves.”

“Yeah, me too. Are you going to get dinner later?”

She crossed her arms. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”“Yeah. Oh, no, I’m not trying to hit on you! I thought I’d see if you want to come with Julia and me.”

Yumi turned back to her desk. She hated being rude. Her mother would scold her, but she’d learned this was the only way to keep people at a distance.

Ethan sulked his way over to the other side of the lab. A minute later he called out, “I wasn’t trying to hit on you.”

“Uh huh.” There was no way she was eating that protein bar now.


By dinner, Yumi was ravenous. She headed to the cafeteria with Simon and Amira. One of the lights was out in the cafeteria, and wouldn’t you know it, that was the only one where seats were empty. At this hour, her face would glow bright like the moon, even with a thick layer of foundation.

She scooted into the booth next to Amira, diverting her eyes to avoid the stares.

Amira grabbed a wad of napkins and placed it in the center of the table. After living in America for ten years, Amira had stopped wearing her hijab, mostly because she said the headscarf interfered with her bicycle helmet. Today she wore a skirt three inches above her ankles, something she only did at work. She was pretty in an unassuming way, and if there was one feature on her face that fascinated Yumi more than any other it was her unibrow.

Yumi would kill for a unibrow like that.

No sooner had Yumi bit into her hamburger than she looked up and accidentally made eye contact with some eighteen-year-old who looked stoned. He swaggered over, “Hey, I’m an astronomy major. I couldn’t help noticing what a heavenly body you have.”

She sighed. She shouldn’t have taken off her lab coat, but she hadn’t wanted to get ketchup on it. Even in an oversized turtleneck her breasts looked like balloons compared to her tiny waist.

“Aren’t you sweet! Thank you, dear,” Simon said. “If you want to come back to my place later, I’ll give you lesson with my telescope.”

The kid’s jaw dropped as he looked from Yumi to Simon and Amira as if noticing them for the first time. “No man, I was talking to her.”

“Were you? Fortunately for me, friends share. How about I scoot over and we all get to know each other.”

The kid stalked off. Yumi tried not to choke as she laughed.

Amira gave Simon a high five.

She was halfway done eating when Ethan wandered over with a young woman. She was a bottle blonde and wore a heavy coat of makeup to hide acne scars. Ethan draped an arm over her and Yumi could tell he really liked her. It made her feel bad about earlier.

The young woman’s smile faltered as her gaze came to rest on Yumi. Yumi didn’t like to stereotype, but she had a feeling Julia would be like Miranda, too jealous of her physical appearance to see her as anything other than a threat.

“Hey guys, this is my girlfriend, Julia.” Ethan introduced each of them. “Mind if we join you?”

This was one of those moments that Yumi’s mind kicked into what she considered high speed survival mode. She wanted to say no, but for reasons of social etiquette, the correct answer was yes. She didn’t want Ethan to try to sit next to her, but she didn’t want him to sit across from her and stare at her the whole time either.

“Why don’t you pull up a chair?” Yumi said. She looked to Simon. “You can make room for Julia, right?”

While Julia and Ethan shared a plate of nachos, Julia snuck glances at Yumi.

A man in a basketball jersey walked over to their table. He hugged a basketball to his hip and smiled at Yumi. “Hey, um, every time I see you look up at me, your face glows. I think we have, um, chemistry. I thought I’d see if you want to go to a party with me tonight.”

Yumi shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t look at you.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I’d go to a party with you,” Simon said. The athlete laughed uncomfortably. “I’m not a homo, man.”

“You’re right, you’re probably a Neanderthal. But if you have any friends who play for my team, send them my way, hon.”

Julia looked from the athlete who headed out the door and back to Yumi. “There’s something weird about this lighting and your makeup. It makes your face look like its glowing.”

“It is kind of angelic.” Ethan laughed, but stopped when no one joined in.

Julia looked from the tight smile stretched across Simon’s face to Amira’s crinkled unibrow. “Um, did I say something wrong?”

“I guess I must be spending too much time in the lab. I’m radioactive.” Yumi laughed.

Amira stole a French fry from Yumi’s plate and dipped it into her hummus. “Just tell them. It’ll be easier for both of them if you do.”

It wouldn’t be easier if they reported her parents. Then again, this wasn’t Japan, and they weren’t the scientists who had conducted the experiments.

Yumi took in a deep breath and spun off the Cliff Notes version of her life. “I’m a genetically modified human being. Like you see in the news from China, but my parents wanted me to have Western features. They left Japan when they decided it would be safer coming here than getting caught.”

“So you really can’t help being beautiful?” Ethan said a little too breathlessly. Julia elbowed him. “Oh, that sounded corny, didn’t it? I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant, you aren’t wearing makeup to look pretty, it’s natural.”

Yumi nodded.

Ethan’s gaze turned pitying as he eyed her baggy turtleneck. “That’s why you dress like a homeless woman?”


“I think Yumi has a nice sense of style,” Simon said. “It’s very scientist chic.”

“I mean, oh, I just put my foot in my mouth again. I mean, you aren’t trying to dress sexy.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t do something with your beauty, like enter a pageant or become a model. You could make so much money,” Julia said.

Yumi shook her head. She doubted Julia could imagine what it was like to be harassed by strangers and stared at constantly.

“Some of us like Yumi for her mind,” Amira said. “In my country, women keep themselves covered so we don’t have to be judged by our appearances.”

Julia snorted. “Then why aren’t you covering yourself right now?”

Yumi could feel the tension building. In her culture, direct confrontation like this was rude. She glanced at Simon. He leaned forward with interest. A woman with short hair at the booth behind Simon and Julia kept trying to catch Yumi’s gaze. She walked past the table, flashing Yumi a smile. Yumi pretended she didn’t see.

Amira waved a hand at her button up blouse. “I can choose how I dress here and I don’t have to worry about my safety.”

Julia lifted her nose into the air. “Well, Yumi can choose how she dresses, too. If she put on a burqa she wouldn’t have to worry about being objectified, and it would be more compassionate to everyone around her who has to look at her.”

Ah yes, another Miranda complex.

Yumi’s voice came out a whisper. “I wouldn’t mind trying a hijab if it wouldn’t offend you, Amira.”

Amira looked to her in horror. “You’re an American. It would be a step back in women’s rights. You shouldn’t have to dress that way.”

Simon sighed overdramatically in the way he did when he wanted to diffuse the tension. “You girls are so lucky to have this problem. No one objectifies me when I go to a club no matter what I wear.” He patted the shirt stretched tight across his abdomen.

Yumi laughed at his attempt at humor. “The grass is always greener.”

The woman at the next table walked over. She leaned in a little too close to Yumi. “Hey, don’t I know you from biology 401? Aren’t you yummy?”

Yumi forced a smile. “I think you mean Yumi.”

The woman chuckled. “Yeah, yummy Yumi. I was thinking—”

“Do you realize you’re treating me like a sex object?” She thought about Miranda who only saw her as breasts and her mother who treated her more like a doll than an adult. Yumi turned to Amira, her voice strengthened by decision. “I want a hijab. One with a niquab to cover my face. Can you get me one?”


For the first time ever, Yumi felt liberated. She wore a purple khimar which covered her head and fell to her waist and matching niquab to cover her face so that only her eyes showed. It was hot and stuffy on the Yellow Line train, but no one groped her. People snuck glances and most gave her a wide berth. A regular who usually tried to strike up conversation with her on the evening ride muttered something about “filthy Muslims,” not even recognizing her. Yumi wondered if she’d traded being one kind of pariah for another, and yet . . . this was a choice, whereas her appearance had never been.

The real problem came when she walked through the door of her parents’ house and removed her shoes. She knew she should have called out in greeting, as was the etiquette expected of her in a Japanese home. But she had hoped to slip by the kitchen to her room down the hallway where she could change. Her mother dropped the knife and half the onion she was chopping and she shrieked.

“It’s just me, Okaasan,” Yumi said.

“What have you done to yourself?” her mother asked in Japanese.

Yumi pulled Amira’s clothes off and raked her sweaty hair out of her face. “Relax. I just wore it so no one would grope me on the train ride.”

“We didn’t modify you so you could hide your face! We did this so you could have a better life than your father and I had, people always judging us because we weren’t attractive. Why can’t you be grateful for what we gave you?”

Yumi studied her mother’s plain face scrunched up in rage. This conversation would be like the rest. She bowed. “I’m sorry, Okaasan. Please forgive my impertinence.”

“You aren’t sorry. What next? Will you dye your hair and wear brown contacts after all the money we spent on you? Do you know how much that gene modification cost us? We’re still paying off the debt.”

Yumi switched her tactics. “I don’t wear the scarf inside. Just in the sun to protect my skin so it stays fair. You know how I burn.” Lying to her mother felt wrong, like speaking a foreign tongue. Only, if she was going to fix her problem, she was going to have to learn to harden her heart to guilt. She added, “I’ll let everyone see how pretty I am at work or school. Just not outside in the sun.”

“Oh.” Her mother turned back to the cutting board. “Don’t let your father see that thing. He’ll think you’ve converted to a different religion.”

Yumi bowed. Tomorrow she would remove the khimar and niquab before she entered the house.


Yumi felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Thanks to her khimar and niquab, she didn’t plan on putting on foundation until she got to work.

As she stepped onto the train, the woman in the headscarf she’d sat next to the day before waved her over and scooted in so Yumi could sit down. Yumi hesitated, afraid she’d been recognized from the day before. To her horror, the woman spoke to her, in what sounded like Arabic. Yumi shook her head. “I’m sorry, I speak English.” She didn’t add, and Japanese.The woman went on in English, unperturbed. “You’re a student at the university too? Are you new? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

Yumi kept her eyes down so the stranger wouldn’t see the color of her eyes. “We probably ride the train at different times. What’s your major?” She tried to keep the questions rolling so the other woman wouldn’t find out the truth—that she was a fake.

As soon as she paused to take a breath, she asked Yumi’s name and introduced herself with a name Yumi tried to repeat, but couldn’t pronounce.

“What mosque do you go to?” the woman asked.

“Um. . . .”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You aren’t actually Muslim, are you?”

“Well. . . .” Yumi thought fast. “I’m trying it out.” Not a complete lie. She was trying the clothes out anyway.

“Trying my religion out? You either believe in the true faith of Islam or you don’t.”

Sweat trickled down the back of Yumi’s neck and it wasn’t from the warmth of the train. “I do believe the true faith.”

“Shiite or Sunni?”

Yumi swallowed. She stood up to leave. “Sorry, my stop is coming up.”

“You aren’t Muslim. What is wrong with you?”

“I—I’m not. I just, excuse me.” Yumi ducked and moved farther down the aisle. The woman glared after her. A man stuck out his foot and tripped her. He muttered a remark about terrorists. She stood next to the door and rushed out when it opened. It wasn’t her stop, but she exited the train anyway. She would be late again. No time for makeup. She would have to apply it during her lunchbreak so her face wouldn’t glow in the evening.

As she waited for the next train under a shady tree, a car drove past. A passenger threw a cup of coffee at her, yelling profanities that came and went like a kamikaze Doppler Effect. She shrieked and jumped back. The shock of the burn subsided into a dull throb by the time the next train arrived. Amira’s scarves were ruined, but so far, this was a better day than the previous one.

She made it to the lab right on time. Rand waved to her from his computer without looking up like he always did. Ethan took notes at the rat cage.

Amira came out of the professor’s office with a stack of papers she’d been grading. “How’d the hijab work out for—oh, habibi!” She looked Yumi up and down.

Yumi removed the headscarf. “No, really, it was great. I’ll buy you a new scarf if you’re okay with it.”

Ethan held one of the rats in his hands. He stroked the little guy on the head. “Hey, Yumi, Amira. . . .” He shuffled his feet. “I’m sorry about dinner last week. I think Julia went a little too far. But I guess some good came out of that conversation. You found something that worked for you.” He looked the coffee stain up and down. “Sort of.”

Yumi stared at the rat. “Is that Pinky?” His tumors were receding and a lump protruded from his side, resembling the start of another foot.

Ethan chuckled. “Yeah, it looks like Dr. Brandl is wrong. You can still get results even if you don’t see them as objects—err—subjects.”

Yumi forced a smile. If only that were true for all people.

Julia stopped by the lab as Yumi studied diagrams of Pinky’s gene splices. She pretended she didn’t hear Julia’s squeals of enthusiasm over the results of Ethan’s work. How she envied Julia and Ethan. She could never get close to a man like a normal woman did or have a relationship. All the men she’d tried to date had acted sex crazed, and she’d given up.

Despite the train and coffee incident, Yumi continued wearing the headscarf and veil. Over the next two weeks, more people behaved with increasing hostility over her attire. The worst of it was when man groped her at her train stop. Her panic attacks returned.

The one good thing in her life was Pinky. She recorded the growth of the rat’s extra leg. She felt a kindred connection with him, seeing the way the other rats shunned Pinky.

Ethan wandered over to where she stood at the cage. “Do you notice Pinky acts different than the other rats?”

She lifted Pinky from the corner. “He’s all alone.” She cradled him against her chest. Today was the kind of day she needed a hug too. As far she could tell he didn’t act different. It was like he was invisible to the other rats. She wouldn’t mind being invisible at times. At least to the right people.

“Yes, but why? Is he depressed?” Ethan checked something off in notes. “Does it have something to do with the experiment? Do you think it’s time to dissect?”

“No!” Yumi said, more forcefully than she meant.

Miranda looked up at her from across the lab.

Yumi lowered her voice to a more professionally clinical tone. “I think we should wait longer. We could start with a blood test.”

Yumi ran some tests. The results for the leg growth were going as expected. She saw no signs of depression. Something was going on with the hormones, though. She tested the other rats. Hormone levels were normal. The next set of tests revealed Pinky wasn’t creating pheromones. The others were. Yumi examined his genetic markers and found the mutation. With meticulous documentation, she recorded the deviation and ran simulations on how to best remedy it. Pinky shouldn’t have to suffer from unintended side effects like she did.

Out of curiosity, she examined her own DNA. What she found was her pheromones were off as well, only in the opposite direction. She examined the other rats and found they had heightened levels of pheromones as well, not as extreme as hers, but it was still there. That meant something was happening during the gene splicing process that made subjects hypo or hyper attractive. Elated she’d been the one to find this, she typed up a report for Dr. Brandl.

Dr. Brandl called her into her office the next day. The older woman sat at her immaculate desk, Yumi’s report in hand. She stared at Yumi over her bifocals. “I want to commend you for what you found. We previously overlooked this in our initial tests. Tell me, why did you conclude the results would be the same in humans with genetic modification?”

Yumi swallowed. “I tested myself.”

Her words hung in the air for a long moment.

Dr. Brandl leaned back in her chair. “I see.” Her gaze raked over Yumi. “You’re originally from China?”

“Japan. My parents lived in China for a time.”

Dr. Brandl sighed. “Did they get caught?”

“No. They moved here to avoid incarceration.” She pulled at a hangnail. “I didn’t ask for this life. My pheromones aren’t normal either. I would like to be able to help people out there avoid these kinds of genetic mistakes.”

Dr. Brandl nodded. “We can’t publish our findings on you without getting your parents in trouble, but we can publish what you found in the rats and hypothesize it would be the same in humans.”

“Do I have permission to see if I can remedy the symptoms in Pinky—err—Subject 246 with additional gene splicing?” If she could solve Pinky’s problem, she could solve her own.

A smile tugged at Dr. Brandl’s lips. “Pinky? Which one is the Brain?”


They both laughed. Dr. Brandl removed her glasses. “I say go for it.”

Yumi stood.

Dr. Brandl smiled. “And, Yumi, good job. You’re an asset to the team.”


Over the next few weeks Yumi recorded Pinky’s progress. She returned his pheromones to a normal level. She applied the reverse process to Mochi to decrease his level of pheromones to a normal balance to make sure it would work in reverse. It did.

Maybe she had a chance of impressing Dr. Brandl enough that she’d take Yumi with her to Canada.

Her next step was to experiment on herself. It wouldn’t be unethical like what they did in China because she was a willing subject, though it would be years before she’d be able to publish the results of this experiment so that it would benefit others. And if she was going to enhance her genes to change her pheromones, she could give herself any feature people found unattractive.

Yumi thought of Amira’s unibrow and smiled.


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