Jungle Labs

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“All right,” Jack Lemmer said, grinning at the camera. “Tonight we have three special guests. They’re starring in the anticipated reality show, Jungle Labs. Please welcome Doctor Aaron Brenner, Tiffany the Tiger, and Ginny the Gorilla!”

The man who entered was a tall, skinny man with wild hair. Walking alongside him was, in fact, an actual tiger, and a young gorilla was holding his hand. He smiled and waved nervously at the crowd before sitting down next to the host. Tiffany sat down next to him, looking warily at the crowd, and Ginny climbed into his lap.

“Dr. Brenner, can I call you Aaron?”

“Sure.”

“Aaron, before I start, I think what we’re all really curious about is the lab coat.”

Brenner laughed. “I’m afraid if I take it off, I’ll forget I’m a scientist.”

“Papa’s smart,” Ginny said in her synthesized voice. She wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug that drew an “aw” out of the audience.

“That’s kind of you to say, Ginny,” he told her.

“Joking aside, the actual photos of your uplifted animals came out last week,” Jack said. ”We were told you had created animals with near human intelligence, and I don’t think I was the only one who was expecting animals that could walk and talk.”

“Tiffany can walk and talk fine,” the tiger said, looking up at the host and growling.

“Don’t growl, Tiff,” Brenner said before turning to Jack. “It took me a while to get the executives to understand it as well.”

“Could you make us some uplifted producers, next?” Jack asked with a toothy grin. Aaron snorted loudly, and Ginny made ape-like chuckling noises.

“That right there, though,” Jack said, pointing at the gorilla. “She can laugh, but when she talks, she sounds all digital.”

“Well, Ginny’s just like any other gorilla,” Aaron explained, bouncing her up and down. “My designs only affect the brain. Her mouth isn’t really designed for human speech. All of the animals have a cyber-voice box installed in their throats that let them speak.”

“And how many animals do you have?”

“Why don’t you ask Tiffany?”

“Good idea! Here I am with actual talking animals on my show, and I’m wasting my time with the human. Hey, Tiffany, how- woah!” The tiger had reared up onto her hind legs and rested her paws on Jack’s desk. “Hey, there.”

“Hi.”

“So, Tiffany. How many of there are you?”

“There’s only one Tiffany,” she said.

“I think she’s gonna be the funny one, don’t you?” Jack said, looking at the laughing audience. “How many animals are with you at Jungle Labs?”

“There’s Papa, and Uncle Terry, and Ginny, and Wendy, and Darla, and Lisa. So that’s…” She paused and glanced over her shoulder at Aaron. “Six?”

“Very good,” Aaron said, reaching over to scratch her ear. “Can you tell Jack what kinds of animals your sisters are?”

“No,” she said, dropping back down to the floor. “Can we play?”

“Later, Tiff. You’ll have to forgive her,” Aaron said to Jack. “Keep in mind that while I’ve made her smarter, she’s still a cat, and only a year old.” Tiffany huffed, but she curled up at Aaron’s feet.

“Y’know, I was trying to tell the studio that I wasn’t testing well with young tigers, but they didn’t believe me. How about you, Ginny? Can you tell me what Wendy, Darla, and Leia are?”

The gorilla looked at him with big dark eyes. “Can I have a hug?”

“Now who could say no to that?” Jack asked as the audience fawned and cooed. Aaron passed Ginny over the desk to Jack. She gave him a big hug then sat down in his lap. “Now how about your sisters?”

“Wendy is a wolf, and Lisa is a leopard, and Darla is a doggy.”

“Somebody’s got a thing for alliteration, don’t they?”

“I dunno.”

“Fair enough. So, Aaron, why a TV show?”

Aaron laughed. “Because no one else would give me the money. I had all the theories worked out for uplifting a gorilla, but I needed the funding to do a live test, and nobody was interested. My brother was the one who said we could turn it into a TV show.”

“And you liked the idea?”

“I hated it, but Terry had already pitched it to the network and they’d said yes. It really became a ‘why not?’ at that point.”

“Do you think reality TV is going to be the next big wave of scientific research?”

“I hope not. I love the girls, but as far as experiments go, it’s a bit of a joke. I’m working with five species instead of just a gorilla. I’ve got no control group. I shudder to think of what kind of peer review I’m going to get.”

“Probably an ‘F’ with ‘See me after class’ written in red ink.”

“You’re probably right.”

“What does the studio think about this? The hype’s been absolutely huge!”

“That’s probably because we cost them a fortune. We’re about twice over budget, and we were already the most expensive show in production this year by a large margin.”

“How’d you manage that with these skinflints? Cause they won’t even give me a new coffee maker.”

“Uncle Terry is sneaky,” Tiffany said, still lying down.

“She’s… not wrong on that. I think he led them to think the cost of the experiment was just getting and feeding the animals. He didn’t bring up the licenses, facilities, or the actual machines we’d need to uplift them in the process until after they’d signed.”

“Y’know, I’ve got a contract negotiation coming around soon, could I borrow your brother for that?”

“I’ll have his people call your people.”

“Oh, you’ve got people now? I thought it was just animals.”

“Terry has people. I might have people, but I think Terry’s people take care of my people for me.”

“How about you, Ginny?” he said, turning to look down at the gorilla. “Do you have people?”

“I have Papa and Uncle Terry.”

“Are you excited to be on TV?”

“Can I meet Elmo?”

“We’ll see what we can do.”

“Have your people call my people,” she said, then laughed at her own joke.

“That’s all the time we have for tonight! Jungle Labs starts next Tuesday. Make sure you watch it. You can find more pictures of Tiffany and Ginny, as well as Darla, Lisa, and Wendy at late hour dot com slash Jungle Labs. Can you wave to the cameras, Ginny?”

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Prompt: Uplifted Animals

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This week’s prompt is to write about a scientist working on an experiment involving uplifted animals (that is, animals that have been given near human intelligence).

Good luck and good writing!