The breakthrough came, not because of my hard work, or our long hours, but because of the intervention of our second kind human. She came over one day with stacks and stacks of paper in her arms. The kind human ran to her in the doorway.
"Heide! Your mice!" he said.
"Mary Ann is watching them," she said. "I'm staying. Until this is all over. I have something Squibble badly needs. The risk was worth it."
I happened to be up on the table at that moment, watching my master. He was slowly recovering. It was barely noticeable, but he was not dead. He was struggling to eat a Cheerio. He smiled at me through the transparent tent film. I put my paw against the tent side towards him, and he limped over to do the same. I pointed to Heide. He nodded, moving his nose in her direction, telling me to go. I went.
Heide put the stacks of paper down on the floor as I watched. She looked at me and smiled triumphantly.
"I've told Shiva and Thor what's going on here," she said. "And they, in turn told me where the lab was that you were held at." I looked at Nemo and he at me. We both smiled and turned back to Heide. "These are the lab notes on every experiment performed back to a year ago," he said, and held up a single sheet of paper. "But this...this is the formula for the toxin that mice were being injected with when the black mouse was born. This is the poison that's killing all your friends." My eyes bugged out. I ran up and tugged at the paper with Nemo. She giggled and let go. Nemo glanced at me, no need for words, and raced with the sheet back to the lab.
"They call it RG-10," she said. "It was supposed to be a new kind of rodent medicine, spread through contact, but something happened and it went wrong. It became malignant instead. Pest control companies are trying to buy it as a new product." Her face was angry and sad at the same time. Good old humans. Couldn't eradicate us with normal means. Had to result to biochemical warfare.
I ran up her clothes and kissed her on the lip. Wonderful Heide. She knew my question. How did you get this?
She giggled. "We stole it," she whispered. I knew she meant my crack team of secret mouse agents. Good ol' Clyde. I jumped down to the table, snatched up a pencil tip, and took the time to write a small note. It said: You've saved us all. BJ will be issuing medals. She knew it was also meant for the rat twins, and Clyde. She put it in her pocket.
I jumped down and ran for the lab.
With Nemo's magic and my scientific knowledge, we now knew what we had to do to stop the plague. But the demonic version of RG-10 was not going to give up so easily. The long hours, the lack of food, the worry over my master and the lack of sleep finally caught up with me, and I fell sick.
When we first came to the safe house, my master was almost dead from injury and exposure to the elements, and I wasn't much better off. We had been taken to a vet, who poked and prodded me, picked me up by the scruff of my neck and forced bad-tasting liquids down my throat. I hadn't liked it much then, and I liked it even less now.
The kind human spent four hours, twice a day, treating mice with medicine. He tried to treat everyone, and in order to do so had to separate many into closed cages, for he could not tell us all apart. I was one of the mice getting "the long treatment."
Shots, fluids, medicine, and the nebulizer. A chamber the human pumped medicine-fog into for ten minutes at a time (hours for a human). It helped the breathing, and my master had to go through it too. We got put in together. He would have chuckled if he could have, because I had made fun of him in the nebulizer before (no one liked it), but he was at Death's door. Thanks to Nemo, that door was closed and would not open for my master. But now I was in the same predicament. The same treatment. Poked, prodded, squished, manhandled, and forced to drink nasty fluids. I hated it. I squirmed and fought, but my strength failed me. The human was kind, trying to joke and laugh while he put me through the necessary torture. I always thought it was a weird human thing, to laugh under stress, especially when abusing my dignity so.
"C'mon Squib," he'd laugh. "You look real funny all miffed like that."
Oh yeah. Real funny. Laugh it up, human. Maybe the Mousegod gives me an extra 500 pounds and then we'll see who's laughing.
I knew he was just trying to help, so I didn't bite him.
Breathing was a chore, and within a short time, a dire struggle. My head hurt, my chest burned, and my limbs would not hold me up. I fought with every inch of my willpower to mix the solution to RG-10 before I could no longer function at all. Terror filled my weakened soul that I might have brain damage, or not be able to think as smart anymore, and all would be lost. Nemo, Percival, BJ, Squibette, and trusty Scratchy gave me chi every couple of hours, but it wasn't enough. I fought the illness for a couple of days, and finally collapsed before I finished my work.
"Damn mouse," I mumbled as I fell.
Nemo put me in the oxygen tent with my master and ran to get the human. I thought that was it, it was over. To come so close, just to fail, was the ultimate, most stupid irony yet. When I saw that black mouse on the other side, I didn't care how powerful a demon he was. I was gonna punch him in the eye!
But that night as I slept, Nemo visited me in my dreams. There he had a lab set up, exactly like ours - down to the crumbs of food and the mess. Every detail was perfect. I was very impressed - that took some serious power of concentration and recall.
"Ready to continue our work?" he asked, smiling.
"Yes sir," I told him, and dove right in.
In the astral plane I was not sick, and I had mastered the clarity of mind to remain aware in my dreaming state. Nemo remembered flawlessly what I told him to do in the waking world. He could memorize thousands of instructions and recall it perfectly with not one error. It was a wonderful tactic he had come up with, and within a few days we had our formula. I called it RG-11.
I tested it on myself, and recovered.
We gave it to every mouse, every rat. After losing so many, only a small number remained in the house. Of 800 plus rodents that had come with us from the old kingdom, barely 200 remained. We sent the formula back with Heide, and I asked her in private to deliver a message to my generals.
Dear Gentlemen and party,
This is RG-11, the cure for RG-10. Go back to the lab and replace the old formula with this one. Make sure the documents you "correct" look exactly like the original. Keep this formula on hand in case anything goes wrong, or anyone there becomes infected. You've done well, boys. Proud of you.
PS: Double the training regimen. Recruit anyone who wishes to join. Stand ready.
-Your commander and uncle, Lord Squibble
My master recovered, although slower than anyone else. I got better almost immediately. I told everyone to put their chi into my master instead of me, for he needed it more. I took up my practice again, and left my lab up just in case. Heide returned to the city, taking my letter.
It was almost Christmas. It was winter.
Rain had not yet fallen. Even the news on the TV said it was freakish, bizarre weather. The field mice everywhere not near this house must be dying in huge numbers. The kind human put water out for them here, and they came in large numbers when no one was looking. The water was always gone by morning.
It grew bitterly cold.
Christmas passed. It was sad and lonely for most. The kind human spent alot of money on us, trying to cheer us up, but everyone had lost family and friends. Nothing could fix that. In addition, the human limped everywhere, and could not even visit the restroom without pain. He looked like he was getting worse, not better. He acted like an old man.
My master was busy recovering and nothing else. BJ and the rat girls as well. The inner circle had fallen last, and had it not been for Heide's intervention, it would have been the end for us. The remaining rodents in the now quiet safe house were somber and subdued. No one wanted to guess what was coming next. Couldn't we have just a little break? We knew better.
And those among us well informed knew exactly what was coming next. We knew what the fourth horseman was.
"War," BJ said at council. "There is no avoiding it now."
My master lowered his head. We all knew it was true. Horrible, but true.
"We have been annihilated," my master said between coughs. "Even if we'd been at full strength, you heard our knight's last words. The enemy has thousands of troops. Coyotes. Beasts. More by now. We have nothing comparable. Almost all our fighters are dead. We have no army to meet his."
I shuffled about, folding my hands behind me and looking at the floor. Everyone looked at me. I whined some.
I slowly turned my head to my master. I was wincing.
"That's...not entirely true...master."
Their eyes remained on me. No one spoke. My master's face clearly required more. I sighed. The jig was up, and it was about time.
Within the day we were in the human's new car, another truck, this one with a shell and air conditioning, headed into the city. I had never planned on going back, but now I had to. Anyone who was anyone was coming with us. BJ, Percival, Nemo, Stompy, Squibette, my faithful squire, and my master. The human was our servant. We asked him to take us and gave him the address. He obeyed instantly, without question.
I was searching myself all the way. I had mixed feelings about it. It was surely necessary now, whether or not I got in trouble. Now, we had to go to war. I could tell it was tearing my master up inside. He almost looked afraid. War against other mice, even zombies, and other animals...It wasn't right. Everyone agreed. The black mouse seemed to be the master of making right things into wrong things. He'd done too much damage. Wayyyy too much. He had to go. It was mildly amusing though, looking around the dashboard of the truck we were all sitting on. Judging by our faces, now alight with the hope of a new army and a fighting chance, I'd say that the black mouse had failed. He had wanted to stomp our spirits into despair and hopelessness; he wanted us to quit and lay down. But everything he had done had just fueled our fires. Determination and fury burned in our eyes. None of us would quit now. This was the very last thing the black mouse wanted.
Now he was going to get it.