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“My God, it’s working!”

“You really think so?” Robert peeked around John’s back, and stared down at the mice in the large glass tank.

“I am absolutely certain. Just look at these times.” John pointed to the numbers on his clipboard.


“That’s right. By just eyeballing these figures, I’d say the mice’s learning times have decreased by at least a half.”

The two men walked back to the other side of the lab where the computer station sat, with their eyes still locked on the numbers on the paper.

“I have to get this into the computer right away.” John sat down at the cluttered desk, dug out the keyboard and began to type.

“Are you going to call the professor?” Robert rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.

“No…” John had a queer smile on his face. “I want it to be a surprise.”

Robert took another Twizzler from the package sticking out of his back pocket, and rammed it into his mouth. “Yeah, but don’t you think he’d want to know right away?”

John shook his head as he hacked away on the keys. “Aw, come on. Do I always have to do your thinking for you? You know what he’d do if we did that. First off, he’d have a fit, because we weren’t even supposed to touch the research materials while everyone was away…”

“Yeah, like I told you at the very beginning.”

“Whatever. Then, as soon as he realized there really was something here, he’d yank us off duty because we’re just…”

“Just juniors on the project. Right, right.”

Robert’s open-mouthed chewing noises finally caught his friend’s attention.

John spun around. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? What is that?” He peeked around Robert’s back at his pocket.

Robert back away. “Hey, calm down! It’s just a Twizzler. You want one?”

“No, I don’t want one! And you shouldn’t want one! You’re not supposed to eat in here. You know that!”

“Yeah, yeah…”

“You’ll contaminate everything and then we’ll really be in it deep.”

“All right already.” Robert tucked the snack away.

With a scowl on his face, John turned back around and finished feeding in the numbers. He sat back and watched as the computer did its thing.

“Look at that!” said John, as the first of the graphs came up on the screen.

His estimation of the beneficial effects of substance 386U was right. The computer indicated that on standard task assessments, the mice in the test group were learning 250% faster than the ones in the control group.

“Wow wee,” said Robert. “There’s really something special in that 386U.”

“I’ll say. I guess my hunch was right.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know how the first set of test substances all focused on the first three bonds of the molecule?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well, I searched the databases of our affiliated universities, and do you know how many articles have been written about the first three bonds?”

“How many?”

“Hundreds! Hundreds of them. And do you know how many articles were written about the fourth?”

“How many?”

“Two. Count them.” John held up two fingers. “Two.”

“So you figured it had to be the last bond.”

“Yup. It had to be. We’ve studied so much about the first three, that if the answer was there, there’s no way we wouldn’t have found it by now.”

John stood up, arched his back and stretched out his aching muscles. “Well, I’m beat. I’m going to head home.”

“Yeah,” said Robert. “Me too.”

The two took off their lab coats and headed to the door.

“I can’t wait ‘til the professor comes back,” said John, “he’s going to flip!”

“I hope you mean in a good way.”

As they left the room, John reached back and turned out the lights. “So, same time tomorrow?”

The next day dawned and John headed down to the basement lab right after breakfast. When he arrived, Robert wasn’t there. Well, he thought, just as well. Maybe he’d really get some work done then.

After he put on his coat, he sauntered over to the mouse cage and found that nearly half of all the mice from last night had died.

“What the…?”

He examined the bodies and found that all the test group rodents had died, except for one. The dead ones looked fairly normal on cursory inspection. There was a trace of blood, however, that had clotted in their eyes and on their noses.

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