It was the middle of the night, and I was almost done. My garter snake Hermes hissed at me from his cage. I smiled back at him and showed him my creation.
At 13 years old, most girls were out with friends, crater surfing, shopping, playing video games, or even reading retro books like Jane Eyre or The Hunger Games. But, no. I had my lab. It was pristine and white. I only asked of the best for my lab. And so I got it. Perks of being a princess after all.
That night was a school night...but it didn't matter! Amphibian lives were at stake!
"Cordelia! You will be taking Mr. Jumpers home with you for the week." My teacher told me.
Mr. Jumpers was the class pet. An ornate horned toad that would sometimes escape his cage and jump around your room at night. Most of the class were afraid to take him home. I wasn't. I like Mr. Jumpers and would always play with him at recess. I never got the chance to take him home yet because some of the other students would lose him on the first night.
"Thank you Ms. Mech 3.6. I'll take good care of him." I smiled.
I'd take good care of him...by studying him.
My father hated frogs so I got a snake instead. Snakes eat frogs. But I would never do that. I grew fond of that frog. He was my only friend at school.
So as a friend, I wanted to make sure I could keep him forever. I heard Vulcan and my father talk about this thing called cloning. Creating a replica of another person almost identical in every way. I wanted to clone Mr. Jumpers, keeping the real thing and giving the clone to the class. I just needed to find that cloning machine my father and his scientists had.
My lab is just a small replica of the original lab in the palace underneath all of Atlantis. I was always a welcomed guest.
"Cordelia welcome back! We were finally able to perfect the truth serum you wanted!" Greg, one of the low level scientists that actually have time for me approached me with a murky brown liquid in a test tube.
"Doesn't matter. I have bigger plans." I swatted the truth serum away.
Greg sighed. "But I worked forever on that...What's your new project?"
I turned and looked up at him, my grin wide and sadistic. "What do you know about cloning?"
Greg stroked his chin, his crystal blue eyes looking up over the frames of his thick black glasses. He scratched his head tossing his thick, mop of red hair. He had a sharp chin and high cheek bones. Always staying up late and writing and studying. He barely had time to eat. I wonder what Hermes ever saw in him.
"Cloning...nothing...I would transfer you to the higher ups but...your father would fire me if I did!" Greg laughed nervously.
What a pain. "Alright then. I guess I'm on my own." I did a fake deep sigh and slowly started walking away. I hung my head low like I was sad.
Now we wait. In 3...2...1...
I perked my head back up and pretended to feign ignorance. "What was that Greg?"
"I said...Fine...I'll see what I can do. But you better put in a good word about me for your dad."
He Held his hand out and I shook it.
Dinner was the same as always. My father at the head, Vulcan Aster, his young adviser to his right, Hermes to his left and me directly facing him. Today we were having chicken Parmesan and root veggies from some planet or another. I didn't care, it all looked unappetizing. I painted a smile on the chicken with the marinara sauce as my father talked about things.
"Cordelia...your father was talking to you." Hermes said, biting into his garlic bread.
I looked up at my father. His presence was intimidating, his face terrifying. Everyone was afraid of him, pale skin and frosty white hair. To me he looked like a sharp, white rock that doesn't shut up.
"Lia, I asked how your day was." He was having steak for dinner. He tore a piece off and swallowed it whole. What a show off.
"My day was fine. The teacher let me take home the class pet." I poked at my veggies.
"That's good. Anything else?"
I thought about that for a moment. "Hey...Zed...what do you know about cloning? Is it possible?" I started to stir the sauce around in my plate.
My father and Vulcan choked on their food. Hermes just sat there, reading the E-news and drinking some tea.
Vulcan cleared his throat and looked at me. He had one golden Umlilo eye and his left was deep red. Well, it was supposed to be...he had his golden contact in. "Miss Cordelia, why would you ever need to know about cloning? Even our own scientists don't know anything about it." His stare was cold.
I stared back, unmoving. "I'm doing a research project."
Hermes spit out his tea. "Research project?! On cloning? You do know it's prohibited here!"
I sighed. "Where did I say I was goign to clone. I just want information."
"Well you need to pick a new research project." My father stood up and began to leave. Vulcan following behind like a little duckling with his mother.
"Idiots..." I said under my breath.
"Lia? What are you doing."
I looked at Hermes and smiled. "I heard Zedekiah and Vulcan talking about cloning only a few days ago and I want to learn more. I promise I have no other motives." I lied.
Hermes tapped his chin and sighed. "Lia, I know there's more...but I won't push you. Just clean up your mess when you're done." Hermes gets up and leaves the dining room leaving me to my cold chicken Parmesan.
I went back to my lab. Hermes was asleep in his cage and Mr. Jumpers was awake an staring at me. But not from his cage. He was on top of my books about amphibians I read a week before I took him home.
He blinked at me and made a croaking sound.
"Hello, Mr. Jumpers."
"Would you like to know what I'm going to do to you?"
He stared at me.
I sighed. "You're not one for conversation I see. Well, I'm going to clone you. When I do, you will stay here with me and I'll take your clone to school."
He made a ribbit noise.
"Well, because, I don't have any friends. And this way we can be friends for as long as you're alive. I think Hermes might eat you though. But I'll protect you." I reached out to pick him up but he jumped away knocking over the books and moving Hermes's cage a little.
It startled him and he slithered around a bit.
"Sorry Hermes! Mr. Jumpers! Where are you?" I searched the lab looking for him.
I heard ribbit in the hall and looked out. I saw Mr. Jumpers standing there, staring at me. I followed him into the hall and he kept jumping.
"Get back here you!" I ran after him.
He lead me to the hall of pictures. They would change the pictures whenever there was a new Emperor. In this hall was me, my father, but none of my mother. Out of respect her pictures were removed. Except for one. The largest one down the hall, before I was born. Everyone said I looked exactly like her, from her round lily pad green eyes, to the long and soft plum purple hair, to even the same amount of freckles on our cheeks.
Mr. Jumpers stared up at that picture with my father and my mom. I sneakily walked up behind Mr. Jumpers. Almost there...and...
"Lia! Hey! Just the person I was looking for." Greg yelled.
Mr. Jumpers turned to look at me and then jumped away. I grunted as he jumped away and looked at Greg.
"Oh shoot...did I do that?" He rubbed the back of his head and looked apologetic.
"Yes, you did. What did you want?" I crossed my arms.
"I looked into cloning for you, and well," He sighed and hesitated.
"I don't have time Greg!" I huffed.
He laughed an airy laugh. "Apparently there is a cloning machine that is in the works. That's the good news."
"There's bad news?"
"Yeah. It's still being tested to see if it works. Also the lab is closed up for now. I can try to get you in but-"
I ran up to him and hugged him tight. "Thank you! Now help me catch that frog." I started running in the direction Mr. Jumpers jumped away.
"O-Okay!" Greg's maple brown skin was now a touch shade redder after I hugged him. He was right behind me while I chased the frog down the halls.
I don't know how, but Mr. Jumpers jumped right onto an elevator and by the time we saw him the doors started to close. Before they closed completely, he croaked. He was mocking me. I stamped my foot.
"C'mon we're taking the stairs!" I grabbed Greg's hand and we ran down the steps.
"Wait! How do you know where the frog is headed?"
"The elevator was heading down to the lab!" I almost tripped on a step but kept going.
"Cordelia be careful! We can try and find the frog tomorrow morning-"
"We can't! I have to find him now!" I stopped running, my cheeks felt hot and my eyes were watery and burning. What...am I crying?
Greg stoops down to get eye level with me. He hands me a napkin. "You really loved that frog, huh?"
I shook my head...then nodded. "He's my only friend at school..." I started to let the tears fall one by one.
"You're only friend? Really?" He wipes away my tears.
I nodded. "He was a true friend. He talked to me because he liked me. Not because i was a princess. He liked me as I was."
Greg nodded. "You know I'm your friend too right?"
I stopped crying and looked up at him into his brown eyes. "What? No you're not. You're just some old scientist guy that I talked to because no one else would, when I asked questions."
Greg blushed and stood back up. "I'm 21...Anyway, I thought of you as my friend, because you would talk to me. At first I didn't even know you were a princess. I thought you were one of the scientists daughters. Always asked questions and messing with things, wanting to learn so much."
I nodded. "Funny. I thought so lowly of you. So, we are friends?"
Greg nodded and held his hand out. "I'd like to think so. You'll always have a friend Cordelia. Hermes is your friend, I'm your friend, your pet snake Hermes is your friend too I guess...And that frog can be your friend too. You're not as alone as you think you are." He lead me down the steps down to the science lab below.
Once we got there, it was chaotic. There were Mr. Jumpers everywhere.
"Um, Greg...what did you say about cloning again?" I stared at the thousands of frogs jumping around the science lab.
"I said that there was a cloning machine. At least we know it works now." We both stood there and watched the frogs jump around.
After some time we tried to gather them up and put them in containers and bins, but it seemed that every one we catch there were five still jumping around.
Then we heard footsteps nearing the lab. Greg snapped up and looked at the door.
"Someone is coming? But it's so late!" Greg tried to grab a frog.
"Doesn't matter we have to hide!" I grabbed his hand and went to find a hiding spot.
I shoved him into a cabinet but by the time I was done the doors slid open and in stepped my father and Vulcan. I ducked under a table and prayed to Poseidon that they wouldn't find me.
"And the machine should be up and running and...frogs...why are there frogs?" Vulcan picked up a Mr. Jumpers clone and examined it.
I covered my hand to my mouth and held it there tight so I wouldn't make any noise. Then I heard a ribbit. I looked over and saw the real Mr. Jumpers. He looked back at me and...I swear to this day...that frog smiled at me...the sneaky little thing.
"Can't you feed them to Hermes?" My father's deep voice asked.
Vulcan giggled. "Feeding frogs to that stork, seems very likely."
Zedekiah sighed as he shook off two frogs from his boot. "I mean Cordelia's pet snake. If Hermes heard you say that, I'd never hear the end of it."
Vulcan picked up another frog and flung it across the room. It splatted and fell to the floor. Heartless jerk!
Zedekiah...don't these frogs seem a bit...familiar?"
"Vulcan whatever do you mean?" My father picked one of them up and gave a close look at one and smiled. "I think they're quite cute."
Vulcan sighed. "I mean, aren't these frogs identical to the one Princess Cordelia brought home from school?"
My father made kissy faces at his frog. It croaked and then jumped out of his hand. "Aw...I guess...where is she anyway? Shouldn't she be asleep?"
Vulcan nods. "Alright then, let me call her."
Oh no...Oh no... Vulcan held up his comm bracelet and started dialing my number. Then my comm bracelet began to ring.
"Huh...she's here..." Vulcan began to look for the noise.
I started to panic until Greg took off my comm bracelet and stood up. "Hello Vulcan, Emperor Zedekiah!" He said sheepishly.
Vulcan sighed and ran his hand through his sleek, black hair and curses under his breath. I hope he goes bald.
My father laughed boisterously. "Greg, my boy! Haven't seen you in ages!"
Vulcan's golden eyes coldly gazed at Greg. "Why do you have the princess's comm bracelet? Where is she?"
Mr. Jumpers continued to stare at me and make noise. I tried to shoo him away but he stayed in place.
Just go already! Be free!
"Well, you see...she probably forgot it down here! I'll just-"
Vulcan stopped him. "Gregory this is unacceptable, cloning all of these frogs and taking Princess Cordelia's comm? You won't just be fired, I could send you to jail."
Jail? I stood up.
Everyone looked at me surprised. My father smiled. "Lia? Are these your frogs?"
I nodded and sighed. "Yep...I just wanted to make Mr. Jumpers another friend." I picked up a Mr. Jumpers clone.
"Hm, well, you, Hermes, and Greg can clean all of this up together." Vulcan looked around. "Wait, how did you do that?"
I looked at him and blinked. "Do what?"
"You cloned these frogs didn't you?"
I couldn't think, my mind was blank. I stared at Vulcan, and he stared back sneering.
Greg spoke up to break the silence. "I did it. Princess Cordelia asked me for help and I couldn't refuse her request. And then some things happened and well...You know." Greg picked up a random clone frog. "I do say, the cloning machine did very well. Down to the last detail."
"Gregory, Cordelia, you both need to clean this mess. I'll wake Hermes up to help you." Vulcan left the lab.
As I tried to round up some more frogs I felt my father staring at me.
"Lia, it's good to see you making friends." He smiled.
I only nodded.
"You're mother used to get into trouble like this all the time."
"Uh huh." I was barely paying attention when I tried pouncing on a frog.
"You're grounded for a month, and your lab will be closed off until further notice." He left as well, his black cape billowing behind him.
"Well, that was fun..." Greg said, he had a crate full of frogs."
"Yeah, I guess." I turned around to find Mr. Jumpers sitting on a counter staring at me.
Hermes came down after awhile, complaining the whole time. We stayed up all night collecting frogs and sending them to the zoo down the street. In the end, Greg was relocated to earth, Hermes scolded me and told me that I'm banned form anymore amphibians. But I was able to find and keep the original Mr. Jumpers...who turned out to be a Mrs. Jumpers...
But I did learn something. Greg may be gone, but he's still my friend. And that's what matters.