This story is dedicated to Richard Condon, who pioneered this kind of story, and George R. R. Martin, who planted the seed of the idea in my mind.

I saw right through the way you started teachin' me now
So some day soon you could get to use me somehow
I thank you very much and though you've been very kind
But I'd better move along before you change my mind…

-Four Jacks And A Jill

Hicks placed the last set of vials in the cooler with the others and closed the lid. He clicked the padlock back into place, and returned to his laboratory. Hicks took off his lab coat and placed it on the hat-tree that sat next to the door.

Hicks sighed with satisfaction as he surveyed his small lab. He looked at the chalkboards, so covered with writing that it was nearly impossible to tell that the boards had a green surface. His eyes moved to his desk, the top of which was occupied with messy stacks of papers filled with chicken-scratchy handwriting and mathematical equations that blended their numbers with other equations. His gaze shifted to the tables that housed his chemistry equipment. Hicks looked at the burners, test tubes, and other chemistry equipment; it seemed strange to him to see these tools, which had been kept so busy during the past three months, now all turned off and sitting quietly on the table, their purpose now fulfilled.

Hicks whistled as he walked to his desk. He sat in his trusty wooden chair and put his feet up on the desk. His feet shoved a pile of papers off the desk; the pile flew apart like confetti and covered the floor surrounding the table and chair. Hicks shrugged; the papers would all have to be burned, anyway, so it really didn't matter if they were mussed. The chalkboards would also have to be erased, but there was no rush; the really important work was done, and the destruction of the papers and the erasing of the boards weren't urgent.

Hicks smiled as he realized that Phase One was finally complete. This first stage of his plan had been the part he had most dreaded. This first element had also been the most risky, since it had required him to bring in outside help. Hicks had originally planned to carry out the first phase on his own, but he had quickly realized that his limited knowledge of math and chemistry made complete independence impossible. After careful deliberation, Hicks had chosen Dr. Harrison to assist him. At first, Harrison had been unacceptably curious about why they were doing the work they were doing, but after a retainer of a thousand bucks, the questions had stopped. An additional nine grand, paid just a few hours ago, had ensured that Harrison would never blab the little that he did know.

At any rate, the need for any assistance had ceased. The skills that Phase Two depended on were ones that Hicks had always had a strong command of: charisma, persuasiveness, eloquence, flattery. Of course, the plan would require a large amount of people and their cooperation if it was going to achieve its ultimate objectives, but Hicks felt confident that said people wouldn't present any problems. He and Dr. Harrison had made sure, through the work they had done during Phase One, that such would be the case. Those people that would help roll out Phase Two, after the initial meeting, would only need large doses of charisma to keep them going; Hicks was confident of that.

There was still a week left before the events of Phase Two could commence, however. This pleased Hicks; he planned to use this time for a trip to Jamaica that he hoped would help get him refreshed and ready for Phase Two.

The man got up and went to the kitchen in search of a Coca-Cola. He felt that he deserved a bottle of The Real Thing and the Refreshing Pause that it offered; after all, he was a hard-working man.

A/N: Hopefully you're enjoying this so far! Reviews would be appreciated;both criticism and praise will be welcomed with equally open arms!
I don't own the lyrics that open this chapter; that would be Four Jacks And A Jill.