Thursday, October 1, 2009

Daily Story 169: Rats in a Maze

"It's a false positive," Doctor Lazlo said, watching the three-dimensional brain scan floating in the air between the researchers. Several of them started to protest, but he just shouted over them. "Stop. Just take a look around - yes, there's activity. Does that mean something? Certainly. But you are ignoring the rest of the evidence. Look at your test subjects!" This was met with nothing but a shuffling of feet. Nobody wanted to admit failure this far into the project, not when early results had been so promising, but the test subjects couldn't be ignored.

All forty of them were vegetative, staring at the ceiling and drooling. For a drug intended to improve brain function this was a hell of a side effect. Lazlo had visited them in person just that morning, and while some did appear to have some basic level of awareness none came anywhere close to explaining the frenzied activity on the scans. Whatever was going on in their heads, it didn't appear to be anything productive. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. He reached out and turned off the projection. "I'm very sorry, but this isn't something we can publish."

Walking down the hall back to his office, with the protests of the researchers fresh in his ears, Lazlo had a strange feeling. Deja vu. It was like he had made that speech a hundred times, somehow - and then the feeling passed. He sat down and looked at the data again even though he had made his ruling... something wasn't right. The activity really did look deliberate. There were several theories, ranging from errors in the scan to neurological damage from some undetectable biological weapon that the test subjects had been exposed to prior to the treatment. It was true that they were prisoners of war, but he had checked with the field command and none had been exposed to anything exotic.

There was a theory that intrigued him, however... it was absurd, he had dismissed it out of hand the first time he heard it, but... if the heightened mental capabilities had granted them non-vocal communication the activity could be the test subjects talking. When had that been proposed? Lazlo suddenly had another bout of deja vu, and felt certain that it had been after the meeting... that it hadn't happened yet. He clutched his temples and tried to concentrate - it was like there was a jigsaw puzzle in his mind, but all the pieces looked the same and he didn't have a picture to go off of. Why did this feel so familiar?

No matter. Whatever was bothering him could wait until after the meeting. Turning on the three-dimensional projection of the scans, Lazlo addressed the gathered researchers. "It's a false positive," he said.