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The loud buzzing sound of the mechanical lock unlatching tore through the silence of the lab, causing Phil to look up from his work just before the door swung open. Max casually walked in as the door promptly sprung shut and latched itself. He flipped up his dark shades and asked “How’s Sally?” grinning from cheek to cheek, while he set his things down on a nearby desk. “Surprisingly well” remarked Phil, as he pondered over the seemingly endless series of numbers which sat side by side next to long, tedious lines of code on the computer screen in front of him.
Max smirked and shot a cold glance in his direction, his dark shades now laying with the heap of belongings piled carelessly before him. “You know, you really need to work on some new material. Especially for today.” Phil nodded, with what may have been the slight hint of a smile on his face, but remained silent.
Phil turned his attention back to his work, casting his weary aged eyes over the countless succession of numbers. Phil usually kept to himself, which was not hard in his business. Some might say he was a hard man to know – a poker face seemed to be his most prized asset.
He was a bit of a math wiz. His task was to formulate and run as many probabilities and scenarios as possible to determine the most logical course of action (according to the numbers) as they progressed in their work. This duty, while seemingly simple enough on the surface, becomes a particularly intricate and exhausting task when working with the extremely small objects, which he had been involved in.
Max walked over to a glass opening separating him from the adjacent room. He looked long through the clear window, fixed in his thoughts. Inside was a rather large, clear glass enclosure in which many small white rodents were running about within a miniature jungle like habitat.
They darted back and forth amongst each other, trapping and killing various insects which were grown and released into the area on a timed basis. Several sparkling waterfalls which lead to tiny ponds dotted the floor and sprayed a fine mist into the air, creating a small rainbow formed by the sunlight streaming in from a well-placed opening in the ceiling – an unintended marvel which was only visible from the proper angle. A fitting view, since this was where the mice would often congregate.
Many mice had come and gone since Max and his cohorts built the habitat many years ago, each with its own name and story. However, of all these rodents, one was extremely special. Especially on this day, since it was her birthday. And not just any birthday, but a very extraordinary birthday. After all it was not every day a mouse turned four years old. At least, not one that looked so good – in fact, Sally, as she was named, looked remarkably similar as when she was only a teenager.
This was because Max and Phil had been working on something amazing. Something that had been dreamed of for thousands of years, at least. While it was spoken of amongst professionals as a “cure for the negative effects of aging”, in one more commonly known word it could be explained quite simply.
Indeed the quest for immortality was as old as death itself. Ever since man realized he would one day die, he had longed for a way to defeat this curse. Many people developed philosophies and religions in order to somehow romanticize the inevitability of death. But others could not be swayed so easily, and searched endlessly for a way to elude the phantom specter of their own death. But exactly how to achieve this elusive treasure had always been the true dilemma. However with the advancements in technology, that was soon to become a thing of the past.
While the cure for the side effects of aging had been pondered over and debated for quite some time, in the end, it was Sally, the tiny, unimportant rodent who would secure mans fate. Her being chosen however was due to many reasons. Mice had long been used for experimental purposes as they were fairly intelligent, rather abundant, and easy to work with.
The procedure itself was quite simple – inject Sally with an experimental virus, one which had been altered to seek out and repair the damage inflicted by time. And that, is exactly what they did.
“You know this is her fourth birthday. That means we did it. The experiment seems to be a complete success.”
Max gazed out the window into the flowing hills which were covered in lush green forests as far as his gaze would fall. For miles nothing else could be seen, aside from the few other complexes like their own (which were spaced far enough apart that you would need to be viewing them from above to even notice them all) and the countless furry and feathered things either flying or scampering about, searching for their next meal. The animals were untamed and wild, having likely never left the valley, and most had hardly seen a human before.
The valley in which they sat stretched 50 miles in each direction, with a single road leading in from the north, and sharp, jagged mountains surrounding the edge of the forest. This entrance was heavily guarded, as the entire area was zoned as a military base, complete with restricted airspace, and was not indicated on any common maps. As far as anyone but the handful of scientists and the guards toiling away in seclusion knew, it didn’t exist.
“We should be hearing from Jones soon.” Phil plainly stated while he sat busily crunching numbers. “He’ll want a full update again, vitals and all.” Max barely heard him. He was staring into the enclosure, not really focused anything, trapped in his thoughts. He glanced to the side of the habitation where another smaller enclosure was sitting. Inside were various pieces of interchangeable equipment, designed to test different aspects of the animals. He shook his head with a smile. “You know, it still amazes me every single day. No matter how much we increase her training she adjusts. She seems to crave the activity. I swear sometimes when I put her away she happily darts around the habitat for another few hours, cleaning up the messes her siblings created.”
Max glanced at Phil with a smirk “It’s funny, with these numbers Sally’s about to become the richest mouse in town. She’ll never have to lift a finger the rest of her life.” Phil grunted, rolled his eyes and shook his head with what was likely a sigh of derision as Max walked over to a nearby coat rack and grabbed a pale white lab suit which zipped up in the back and covered every bit of his body, complete with mask, boots, and gloves. He quickly suited up and slid open the first glass panel leading into the area which contained the enclosure. He slid closed the panel behind him, sealing himself into a slightly cramped airtight box.
A large red button protruded from the side of this small room, and steel rods with several holes at the end jutted out from the walls and ceiling about him. He placed his palm on to a large red button which he pushed his weight into. The shriek of a buzzer cut through the air, deep red lights began to dance about and the chamber began to fill with a light pink mist – an anti-bacterial agent which was to ensure the sterility of the experiment. After a series of three different bursts, each of a different shade of pink and a different intended purpose, another alarm sounded, and the lights flickered one last time then went dark, as the decontamination was completed, allowing the panel to freely slide open from the other side.
Max stepped into the room that held the glass environment in which lived several young white rodents, along with their resident senior, Sally. Whether she truly realized it or not, Sally had outlived many generations of mice just like her. This, was all thanks to that special little addition to her blood.
You see, Sally was born a very normal mouse, no alterations of any kind, other than the cold, sterile laboratory which surrounded her man made home. She was raised with her litter, about 6 or 7 in the beginning. After a year or so, it was determined that Sally was the healthiest of the bunch and thus the best choice to undergo a quite radical experiment.
In the scientific community an idea had long been forming. For many years humans had sought to find a way to achieve an extended lifespan. Kings had devoted their entire fortunes to it. Many alchemists, the ancient predecessors to chemistry, went mad concocting potions and tinctures seeking the same. However, it was not until the discoveries from the field of nutrition entered into human consciousness that serious scientists began to look into the possibility of indefinitely extending human life.
It has since been noted that many of the undesired effects of aging are the result of the lack of cellular nutrition. So the nutritionist spends their energy developing the finest meals and supplements intended to supply the body with every possible necessity. Still, the very organs responsible for the assimilation of these nutrients eventually break down and wear out, leaving the nutritionist ultimately powerless.
This may seem like a grim situation for those who would seek an indefinitely extended lifespan. However, all is not lost. Indeed the breakthroughs concerning nutrition have pointed out something extremely important – the fact that the accumulation of damage at the cellular level may be the primary cause of the many unwanted symptoms associated with aging.
And while focusing on nutrition alone does not seem to be enough to win this war against aging, if we were to combine what we have learned with the increasing levels of technology, we may have a very realistic chance to begin the process of eliminating this accumulated damage.
This idea, while ingenious in its own right, was not possible to effectively implement until very recently. Advancements in technology, mainly intended for military use, have opened the doorway for new biological creations to become widely studied. It soon became realized that these synthetic organisms could, theoretically at least, be injected into a person’s blood stream and other fluid systems, after having been programmed through the rewriting of their genetic code, to detect and repair certain forms of damage.
If it were possible to sustain these organisms using the same substances which a creature already consumes, then perhaps they could be made to be self-maintaining and last indefinitely within a hospitable environment, such as well-maintained blood. It was a great theory, but only that – until Sally.
Sally, at the tender age of just one year, was injected with a cocktail of these friendly viruses, each with a specific role, and fully capable of self-maintenance, under the right circumstances. It was the first time such a task had truly been attempted. And much to the relief (and shock) of Max and his partners… it worked.
From that moment on, it was as if Sally ceased to age. In a few years, all her unlucky litter mates, those who had not been fortunate enough to enter the graces of these scientists, had died off. Sally, however, remained as strong as ever. New mice were introduced, who lived relatively uneventful lives, but all looked to be out lived by little old Sally.
Now, do not make the mistake that Sally was somehow suffering from her extended lifespan. Quite the opposite was true. Every day she would exercise and grow leaner and healthier. And every day she seemed to crave the effort. It was almost as if she instinctively knew she was different than all her siblings and had some sort of innate responsibility to further capitalize on her good fortune however she could.
That she did. And the proof was, as they say, in the pudding. She was stronger, leaner, quicker, and smarter than any of her companions. They came and went while she said goodbye to the old, and hello to the new. Yet she always remained, nearly unchanged, aside from her vastly improved physical and mental capabilities.
Max casually walked along the side of the enclosure, peering in at the different mice scattered about. Most all the mice were identical and impossible to discern from each other – a result of careful selection and painstaking detail during the cloning process. All of course except, for Sally. Besides her physique, which was only clearly apparent with properly trained eyes, Sally did have one other quirk – a result, you might say, from the extended lifespan. You see, Sally was missing… A toe!
Max wasn’t quite sure how it had happened. Just one of those things, he guessed. Maybe a scuffle with one of her peers over dominance, a battle she was unlikely to lose. It was nothing shocking nor too important, but it did help Max in picking her out from the crowd. As soon as he spotted that little stub inconspicuously sticking out from the outer side her foot, he knew he found who he was looking for.
Suddenly, a loud ringing shot through the building. Phil looked up from his work and grabbed a phone mounted to the nearby wall. “Hello.” His voice was flat with hardly any tonality, as was common and matched his demeanor. “Hello Phil, how’s everything today?” It was the call they were waiting for, the call from Jones.
Jones was a top level official working with the military, although his specific position and duties were never made apparent to either Max or Phil. Although he didn’t seem to possess any sort of scientific knowledge, the understanding was that he was in charge, and he like to drop subtle hints reminding them of this fact. That is to say, whatever he said, was what happened – no questions asked.
“Keegan is going over the final vitals right now. Everything seems to have succeeded.” Just about then Max was stripping of the lab coat and heading back into the main lab, having gone through the decontamination process again. As he stepped into the room, he had a sort of shine about him, almost as if he was exuding confidence. He walked to Phil’s side and grabbed the phone.
“This is Keegan.” “Keegan, this is Jones. Security clearance Echo Charlie One Six Echo Tango. Requesting status update.” “The final tests have been completed, the specimen continues to show substantial regression in all forms of age related damage compared to the others. The experiment…” He glanced over to Phil, meeting him with a long stare and placing a free hand on his shoulder “Has been a success.”
“Very well, I have confirmed your report.” He hesitated for just a moment. “And now that that’s out of the way… Great job!” Jones made no further attempt to hide his excitement. After all, he stood as much to gain from this accomplishment as either Phil or Max. It meant great things for them all – not only the chance to extend their own lives, but that of the people they loved. That and the legions of fans they were about to acquire… Once (and if) the project went public, that is.
“I trust you understand the significance of this accomplishment. We will go down in history as the ones who finally solved the greatest problem any man has ever faced… his own death. Of course…” Jones said, halfway mockingly but also with a slight air of jealousy “It’s you two everyone will be focused on. I see a very interesting and lucrative career in your futures. Now, I must make this report, and spend the rest of the night preparing so that we may properly reveal this to the investors. As for you, I very highly suggest that you take some time to relax. I know it’s been awhile since you have, and you know, once this gets out, it will be a long time till you have another chance. I’ll get you cleared for whatever you like tonight – but don’t go having too much fun. We need you in shape for tomorrow.”
The thought of taking a break hadn’t yet crossed either of their minds, but the way Jones put it, they quickly realized that he was right. Max looked at Phil, shrugged and said “Well, I suppose one night of fun won’t do any harm.”
“So,” Max asked, “Whata ya wana do?” Phil glanced over at him. Max was shooting him a rather large, comical grin. In all the years they spent working together, they had never gone out to celebrate any of their successes. Not surprising since Phil obviously wasn’t the partying type. As far as Max knew, he never even celebrated his own birthday.
Phil just shook his head.” There’s no time for this nonsense, we still have a long ways to go.” “You know what they say, A little nonsense now and then…” Max was definitely ready to relax. “Well, whatever you do, I think I’ll go out to a nice old-fashioned bar, mingle with some of the… common people. You know, the kind we used to be?”
“Right… You do that. Maybe I’ll join you in a bit.” Phil had no intention of joining Max in his adventure, and Max knew it. “Well, if you change your mind, I’ll keep the ringer on for you.” Phil nodded and began to collect his paperwork as Max slipped on his dark sunglasses, and headed out the door.
Max’s phone, which was sitting by the hotel bed began to ring, violently tearing through the peaceful serenity of the early morning. It was a special ringer assigned to Phil’s number, one which was specifically set up in case of an emergency. It went through, even though the ringer had been carelessly turned off during a night of passion.
Max yawned and stretched himself long, looking over to the clock. It was just passed 5am, and he was still groggy from the night before. It had turned out to be quite a night, far exceeding his expectations. He softly muttered to himself “The hell is he calling me for at this time…” Then he realized that frantic buzzing was that of the emergency number. Whatever it was, this… was serious.
He fumbled around for the phone, and answered with a scratchy “Keegan here. What’s…” Before he could say another word Phil interrupted “Max, you… You need to get over here… Now!” Max quickly sat up in his bed. Phil’s voice was trembling uncontrollably in a tone and manner which was extremely unusual and unnerving for Max to hear. Phil was not the kind of person to get excited. Max knew all too well that Phil’s lack of emotion was something he prided himself upon, believing that the emotions only purpose was to thwart his most valued possession – his logic. “What’s going on?” “It’s… It’s all gone. Everything! It’s just gone!”
“Gone? What the hell are you talking about?” “Just get down here… now!” “Alright, I’m on my way.” Max shot up from the bed and quickly tossed his clothes on. He looked over to the young beauty laying in the bed, her pale naked body half covered with the soft white sheets, her long, flowing blonde hair draped about the pillow.
He tried for a moment, but for the life of him, could not remember her name. Probably the result of heavy drinking the during the previous night’s celebration. He quickly decided, that it was best to leave it that way. Without so much as a word, he was out the door, leaving nothing behind but a few dollars, for cab fare.