"Guys, come over here!"
Douglas spent the last few days working feverishly over the cyber desk, and now it sounds like he's finally done- and thrilled with his success. Leo and Chase glance up from the corner, where they've been engaged in a dramatic game of chess for two hours.
"Oh, come on, you're gonna wanna see this," Douglas says, making those animated hand gestures he makes when he gets really excited. "This is it, maybe my greatest achievement."
Chase raises an eyebrow. "What about me and Adam and Bree?"
"This is it, maybe my fourth greatest achievement," Douglas says without missing a beat. "Come on! Check it out!"
Chase and Leo share a look before shrugging and crossing the lab to look at what Douglas has been working on. It looks like a pill, gray and oblong. Scattered across the desk is an assortment of beakers, computer hardware, pliers, grinders, and pages of notes in Douglas's chicken-scratch handwriting.
"What is it?" Leo asks, squinting at the pill.
"Something I've been working on since I was in high school," Douglas says. "I know it may not look like it now, but I had trouble making friends. I wasn't always such a suave chick magnet." Leo and Chase share a doubtful look but elect not to say anything. "I wanted to use bionics to create a machine that would make me cool, something that would keep me from saying or doing anything awkward, something that would make people like me."
Chase tilts his head as he examines the pill. "I mean, I guess drugs can make people like you, but I feel like there are better ways."
"It's not a drug," Douglas says, rolling his eyes. "It's so much better than that, Chase." He takes the pill back and holds it up to the light proudly. "This… is my super quantum unit intel processor. Or 'squip' for short."
"Isn't Squip the name of Adam's favorite cereal?"
"They're not affiliated," Douglas mumbles. "And there were copyright issues. No one wanted to give me a patent. I don't want to talk about it."
"So how does it work?" Leo asks, peeking at the notes on the cyber desk.
"I actually got the idea from you, Leo," Douglas explains. "Your diagnostic tool? Your problem was that you didn't patch the code right in some places. That's why, when you gave the pill to Tasha, she turned into Eddy. The pill itself was a good design, but you messed up with the software. Me, my problem all these years has been the hardware. I didn't know how to incorporate my program into an actual device. But then when Donnie told me about your latest failed project, I finally figured it out!"
Leo frowns. "I feel like I wanna say 'you're welcome' but I also feel like I just got insulted."
"You swallow the squip like a pill," Douglas explains. "And then it attaches to your central nervous system and influences your hormones, reflexes, your mood, your energy level, your conversational skills. It can even affect the level of interest other people have in hearing you talk."
"So I'm guessing you haven't used it on yourself yet?" Leo says, yawning.
Douglas glares at him. "Unfortunately, I'm still hitting roadblocks on outfitting it for a non-bionic human like me. But it would work on someone bionic." He looks pointedly at Chase.
"Oh, come on," Chase says. "I don't know what that thing's gonna do. I don't want to be your guinea pig. Why don't you try it on Adam or Bree?"
"Because it's a little supercomputer that makes uncool people become cool," Douglas says.
"So there wouldn't be an obvious difference if I gave this squip to either one of them," Douglas sighs. "But with you there'd be a tremendous improvement!"
Chase glowers at his biological father. "That was low."
"Just try the squip."
Chase fidgets a little before reluctantly holding the pill up. "I need water to take this with," he comments. Douglas hands over his soda, which Chase inspects. "You know how much sugar is in this? Blech." Nevertheless, Chase holds his breath and throws back the squip with a large gulp of Douglas's soda.
Nothing happens. "Do you feel it affecting you at all?" Douglas says, watching him hopefully. Chase tilts his head like he's thinking, but he doesn't feel any different. All his brain cells and attitudes and moods seem pretty much typical.
"No," he says. "Nothing changed."
Leo watches on excitedly. "What would you say if I offered you a big piece of cake right now?"
"I'd say 'that's also too much sugar' and ask for some carrot sticks instead," Chase tells him honestly.
Leo makes a face. "Yeah, that squip thing definitely didn't work," he says. "Face it, Chase, your nerdiness is beyond the help of science."
Chase shrugs and returns to the table where their game is set up. Douglas looks down at his notes, disappointed. "I don't get it," he says. "I don't understand what went wrong."
Leo pats him on the arm before running back across the lab. "Well, call us when you invent something that works," he says cheerfully, rejoining his brother.
They finish out the game of chess (Chase wins), and by the time Chase is in bed (well, capsule), he's pretty much forgotten about the squip.
Until the next morning.
"It's the best way to start the day," Adam tells Bree, nabbing Chase by the back of his shirt. "Okay, tuck and roll so you don't get hurt. Too bad."
"No, no," Chase shouts, wriggling in his older brother's grip. "C'mon, don't toss me around. At least not this early in the morning."
"The early worm gets the bird," Adam says with a grin, hurling Chase across the living room where he crashes into the wall and slides down to the floor. He's pretty much used to it now, so he's more annoyed than hurt.
But just as he's getting ready to push himself up, suddenly a voice pipes up in the back of his head.
What a moron. One day he'll be throwing burgers on the grill instead of throwing you around.
Chase goes pale. "Wh-who said that?" He speaks quietly enough that his siblings can't hear him, but Bree gives him a funny look when she notices how scared he seems.
I did, Poindexter. You're supposed to be the smartest man in the world? I'd hate to see the rest of the world, the voice says. Now stand up and tell that idiot to stop messing with you.
Chase looks up at the wall to see if Eddy's trying to play a trick on him, but the little emoticon is nowhere in sight. Get up and tell your brother to eff off now, Chase.
Well. Well. Chase isn't really sure what's going to happen if he doesn't do what the voice says, so he hops into a standing position and stares at Adam.
The smirk's gone from Adam's face; he actually looks worried about his brother. "Chase, are you alright?"
Tell him you feel a lot better than he's going to feel in two years when he gets replaced by a forklift.
"I can't say that!"
"Can't say what, Chase?" Bree says, cocking her head to one side. "Jeez, Adam, I think you threw him too hard."
"Hey, I'm sorry, Chase," Adam says, surprisingly genuine. "Are you okay?"
Chase smiles at him like a shark. "I'm fine," he says, as he realizes what the voice must be. Douglas's new invention. The squip. The thing that's going to make him cool. "Let's hurry up and get to school."
I bet you can't wait to get to school, the squip says to him as he chows down on a bowl of cereal. So many pretty girls to ogle and never get noticed by. Well, that's in the past, Chase. Now you have me.
"You're going to get me a girlfriend?" Chase murmurs into his bowl of cereal, trying to communicate with the little pill/supercomputer in his head without catching his brother and sister's attention.
I'm going to get you way more than a girlfriend, Chase, the squip says. I'm going to get you the life you deserve. The life you've always wanted.
Despite himself, Chase can't help but smile down at his breakfast. This is going to be fun.