A kitchen scene, a woman but we can't see her face. An apple pie is cooling on the window sill. On the counter opposite the woman is a painting of apples. Outside the window is an apple orchard and... a wolf, eyeing the pie like he wants to grab it.
Apple Slice

The Gummy Bear Case Study, Part 2

An Apple Slice short story by Apple | Content Warnings

How long did it take for Dr. Somber’s computer to analyze the gummy sample Cheery had collected that evening? The answer was too long.

Okay, so maybe Cheery didn’t have any patience either. Waiting was just not her and the doc’s strong suit. She took one look at the bags under the doc’s eyes and the grim set of her frown as they watched the slow crawl of the update percentage bar and knew that it was entirely possible the two of them would simply pass away before it finished.

Cheery had never even seen an update percentage bar before meeting the doc. This equipment had to be decades old at least. Still, the tiny apartment-turned-lab was meticulously organized and clean to the point of shining in every corner except the one Cheery had been banished to.

The doc hadn’t appreciated her storing carrot sticks in the fancy fridge that was apparently “not for food,” so she and her snacks were sitting on a desk several feet away. Beside her was an actual filing cabinet, with paper in it and everything. Cheery was positive the thing was antique, and it took all of her willpower to not help the peeling paint along with her fingernails out of sheer boredom.

“How much longer do you think it’ll take?” Cheery said.

The doc looked over, completely straight-faced, and said: “Five minutes.”

Cheery took a hangry bite of her carrot. “Well played.”

Dr. Somber cracked a smile.

Finally, finally, the computer chirped, and Cheery swallowed the mouthful of carrots she’d been chewing so she could rush over to the lab area without breaking the no snacks rule.

Holograms of data and DNA samples filled the room. The image from today’s gummy layered itself over the DNA of the past five gummies Cheery had faced. It was another 100% match.

“How are they all the same? I’ve been using the dye, so we know I haven’t been fighting the same gummy each time. Are they twins? Clones?” Cheery asked, moving to get a closer look.

“What did they do to you?” the doc said softly. She reached out toward the hologram of a blue gummy floating by. Her hand phased through it and closed into a fist. “They aren’t clones. I think the same consciousness is breaking itself into smaller parts to gather food. I think the CMIIIA is starving it to make more of them. On purpose.”

The doc swiped at a hologram and an began imputing numbers into a formula Cheery should probably recognize from a grade school math class. “At this rate,” Dr. Somber said, “gummy numbers will enter the double digits by next week.”

“I’m not following,” Cheery said. “Why would the CMIIIA be making gummies on purpose? Like, they’re killing people. Who does that even benefit—oh. They’re using them as weapons.” Cheery saw the doc sinking to the floor out of the corner of her eye and ran to steady her.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” Dr. Somber said. Not No running in the lab, Cheery, or You’ll scatter my holo-browser tabs, Cheery, but It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

“Doc, what is going on?”

The doc looked up at her, shaking like the day Cheery had met her at the gym, carrying a weight that was far too heavy. “This is my research. I made the gummies.”

A million questions sped through Cheery’s head. She settled for a very confused, “What?”

“They were supposed to eat plastic and trash! Clean the ocean, get rid of landfills! They weren’t—” Her voice cracked. “They weren’t supposed to hurt anyone.”

Cheery wrapped the doc in a firm hug. “Okay,” she said, swaying them gently as they huddled together on the floor. “It’ll be okay. This isn’t your fault. We’ll figure something out.”

“Of course it’s not my fault.” The doc sniffed. “Those empty-headed CMIIIA agents took my brilliant, planet-saving research and weaponized it! Imagine being that much of a plague on this earth.”

Cheery threw her head back and laughed. “I’m glad we’re on the same page. Do you know how to stop the gummies? Since it’s your research.”

“They’re so messed up now, I’d need access to the main consciousness to even start to unravel what the CMIIIA did.”

“Um…” The CMIIIA building was a practically a fortress. “Any plan for how to do that?”

“Get a really big hover-truck and drive through the front gate?”

“Bold. I like it. Definitely a good Plan C. Have you thought about going to the press with all this, though?”

“I was laughed out of my university, remember? No one will take me seriously.”

“There’s got to be someone that will listen.”

Dr. Somber shook her head. “My only options are non-credible gossip shows that will make me an even bigger joke just to get more views or networks that are so off the mark, I’m pretty sure they’ve been accepting CMIIIA payoffs.”

Cheery thought for a second. “About that last option… You’re worried they would bury your story?”

“Or give the information straight to the CMIIIA.”

“That’s so trustworthy of them.”

“I hope you’re being sarcastic, Cheery. They’ll literally say anything for the right price. And we definitely can’t afford their rates.”

“Exactly.” Cheery smiled. “So, we can trust them to be untrustworthy.”

1 thought on “The Gummy Bear Case Study, Part 2”

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