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 4

An Apple Slice short story by Apple | Content Warnings

“This is a holo-drive with solid proof that the CMIIIA used my research to create the gummy bear monsters,” Dr. Somber said. It rested between them on the table, a red, gummy bear-shaped keychain attached to the end of the drive.

The crowd had been quietly eavesdropping before, but now the café grew loud with their whispers.

“They made them?”

“The CMIIIA did?”

“I thought they were aliens!”

Cheery kept her eyes on Envy.

Despite everyone else reacting in surprise, Envy stayed perfectly composed. The sympathetic gaze never left her face as she looked at the doc like someone deserving of all the pity in the world. “Are you sure you want to go down this path again, Doctor? After what happened last time?”

Chills ran up Cheery’s arms. The concern sounded so sincere, Cheery had to reach out, placing a hand on the doc’s shoulder, hoping to remind the doc that this wasn’t like last time—that they would get the truth out. Together.

Unfortunately, Cheery couldn’t do anything about the crowd as Envy sucked them right back in with her little show. The chatter died down as people bought her performance. Suddenly the doc was just old news, an attention seeker. Envy wasn’t a pro for nothing.

When the doc spoke again, she stared at her hands, clenched into fists on the table. “I’m only asking you to release this research and let the public decide for themselves. People are dying. They have a right to know why.”

Envy sighed. “I can’t make any promises.” She could. Gossip was Cheery’s specialty, and she’d done her own research to prepare for today.

Envy was a nepotism baby. Her grandfather owned the broadcasting station she reported for, and while Envy definitely had the skills to back up her career, Envy’s grandmother didn’t back in the day. Awkward “Awkwa” Cunning was known for being one of the worst reporters, possibly ever. Her interviews were full of long, awkward pauses that made Cheery cringe just thinking about them.

But if there was one thing the Cunnings were good at it was spinning a story in their favor. So, the broadcasting studio spun Envy’s grandparents into the romance of the century. “Husband too in love to fire wife.” “Cunning doesn’t care about ratings—just wants to see wife on tv.” They even added a timer to the corner of the screen during broadcasts to track how long her awkward silences would go on for. They called it the Heartbeat Counter, after her husband’s lovesick pulse and the viewers’ rising blood pressure whenever she was on screen. The station’s self-awareness made them funny and even endearing. Fan edits and comedy sketches popped up everywhere using clips of Awkwa’s interviews.

Envy rode that same support into her own career with just one difference: she was good. There was a reason Cheery had chosen her from the list of bought out reporters. She had the exact level of fame and power Cheery and the doc needed to make their plan work.

Still, Cheery wondered if money was really all it took to make someone that already had riches and talent and success work with the CMIIIA. There had to be more there, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“I’ll look into this and get back to you,” Envy said, slipping the holo-drive into her purse, “but… Well, try not to get your hopes up.” She smiled to soften what she must have thought was a devastating blow.

Cheery smirked, eyeing the gummy bear bobble attached to the holo-drive as it dangled out of her bag. “I’m sure you’ll do all you can.”

The doc heaved a sigh as Envy left.

“Nicely played, Doc,” Cheery whispered, attempting to lighten the mood. “That’s the perfect level of depression to keep them fooled.

“It’s not an act,” the doc said. She still hadn’t looked up from the table, and Cheery knew she was avoiding the stares of people pretending to drink from cups they’d already finished minutes ago. They were probably waiting to see if the doc would cry.

Cheery stood up. “Come on, detective,” she said, bopping the doc’s deerstalker cap. “We’ve got criminals to catch.”

She turned to leave and almost bumped right into the waitress from earlier.

“That other woman said you two were covering her bill.”

Cheery watched as the fire was relit behind the doc’s eyes. Nothing like a little rage to keep people going. Envy was even more helpful than Cheery could have hoped.

After paying, the two stepped outside and climbed into Cheery’s hovercraft. The doc immediately began tossing parts of her costume into the backseat. “Finally,” she breathed, loosening the tie around her neck.

“You might want to hang those,” Cheery warned. “My mom is scarier than all the gummies combined when it comes to her costumes.” Her eyes caught sight of hovercraft exiting the parking lot and she clapped excitedly. “There she goes!” Cheery said, recognizing Envy in the front seat. “Is it working?”

The doc pulled out her comms and opened an app. Soon a red dot blinked onto the screen and slowly trailed across a map of the city. “It’s working,” she said, and Cheery saw the makings of a smile on the doc’s face.”

“Perfect. The gummy bear keychain was a nice touch, by the way.”

“Are you sure they won’t notice the tracker?” The doc’s voice held its usual grim, controlled tone, but Cheery noticed her leg bouncing against the dashboard as she stared at her comm screen.

“Their main concern is checking to see if you’ve got real proof or not. Once they see it’s real, they’ll probably destroy the holo-drive themselves. They won’t even think to look at the cute little gummy keychain. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

A tap on the hovercraft window had Cheery jumping out of her skin.

2 thoughts on “The Gummy Bear Case Study, Part 4”

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