"Chance favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur

Grantville, May 1632

When Amy Kubiak walked into the biology classroom, Lori Fleming had her head on her desk. Amy smiled. Pete Farmer had been a good biology teacher when Amy had had him in high school. But now that she was working to become a teacher herself, she knew that she would have had trouble if Pete was her colleague. He had been so patronizing to his female students, unlike Greg Ferrara. Lori, on the other hand, wasn't patronizing at all, and her experience in the USDA helped her make her biology lessons more connected to reality, unlike Pete's mania for microbiology.

"Lori, you okay?"

Lori raised her head slowly. "I'm fine. Just another long meeting last night with the Ag group. I swear, men say that women are the gossipers, but you get J.D. and Gordon and Willie Ray together . . . "

Amy laughed. "I was wondering why Alexandra was looking so bushed. When did the meeting finally break up?"

"Midnight. Again." Lori grimaced. "But at least I have tonight free. Once we get Tony's little job done."

Amy grimaced herself. "Nice how we got 'volunteered' for it. Ever notice when cleaning work needs to get done that Tony always seems to find other things he has to do?"

Lori got up from her desk and stretched. "I noticed. I just wish he was less of a bureaucrat and more of a leader. He may be head of the science department, but that doesn't mean he can't, or shouldn't, get his hands dirty along with the rest of us."

"Speaking of hands, he better start keeping them to himself in the future. I like teaching, especially chemistry, but now that I've got other options . . . "

Lori tilted her head quizzically. "Other options?"

Amy nodded. "My roommate, Nicki Jo, has been hired by Colette Modi to get the ball rolling on a chemical company that will be set up in Essen. She's cutting back to half-time at the methanol plant so she can spend more time with the chem team doing research. She said if I ever need work, she could use me in a heartbeat. And now that the Modis are flush with cash from Louis de Geer, it would pay pretty well."

Amy paused and smiled at Lori. "We're procrastinating, aren't we?"

Lori laughed. "Yeah, we might as well bite the bullet and get it done. Onward!"

Together the two women left the classroom and headed down the hall.

****

"Oh God!"

Amy laughed as she pulled on her latex gloves. "That bad?"

Lori looked into the open door of the science department's refrigerator and shuddered. "Worse than bad. Horrid. Smelly. And there are . . . things growing on the walls!"

Amy looked around the corner of the refrigerator door and shook her head. "Want me to go get some sulfuric acid? Or a flame thrower?"

"No, I think the hot water and bleach will do. But this looks like it's going to take awhile. You still up for it? It's my responsibility, according to Tony."

"Yeah, well, too bad he didn't tell you that last fall. Or that it was stuffed with Pete Farmer's bacteria and fungi supplies. You could have used them."

Lori shook her head. "Probably not. This first year I was just happy to stay a chapter ahead of the kids in the textbook. I was too scared to try any labs beyond some basics with plants and animals. Not to mention I had no time outside of school to think about labs what with all the extra work helping with the agricultural stuff."

She sighed. "Well, let's get started. If we find anything we want, we can put it in the cooler to stay fresh."

It was fifteen minutes later when they found the paper bag labeled "Kwik-Stiks."

"Kwik-Stiks?" Amy asked, opening the bag. "What are Kwik-Stiks?"

"I don't know," Lori said, "cultures of some kind? Let me see."

Amy pulled several silver packages from the paper bag along with a product sheet that she handed to Lori. Lori nodded as she read the sheet. She pointed to the first few lines.

"See? I was right. 'Lyophilized reference stock cultures.'"

"Lyophilized?" asked Amy.

"Freeze-dried, essentially. Keeps micro-organisms in good condition for awhile. So what have we got?"

"This one sounds interesting. Clostridium sporogenes. Putrid odor. Yummy."

Lori took the package, marked Microbiologics on the label, and looked more closely. "Yeah, but notice the expiration date. October 2000. Which would have been last October. Way out of date. Anything else?"

Amy rummaged through the paper bag and pulled out another Kwik-Stik. "How about this one? Penicillium roqueforti. Even more yummy. Roquefort cheese organism. And can't we use this to get penicillin?"

Lori shook her head. "No, you need a particular strain of penicillium, not just any strain. I forget the exact species. As I recall, Alexander Fleming, the guy who discovered penicillin, had his cultures contaminated by accident. Besides, this one has an October 2000 expiration date as well."

While Lori had been talking Amy had been rummaging in the bag and she pulled out the next package in triumph. "Bingo! expiration June 2001!"

"Penicillium italicum, causes blue mold of citrus fruits." Lori smiled. "Closer, but still not the right one."

With a flourish Amy pulled another package from the bag. "Next to last one. Ring a bell?"

"Penicillium Notatum. High yield. Expiration March 2001. A little out of date, but it still might be viable. Expiration dates are generally conservative. This is the stuff we want."

"Cool!" Amy said. Moving quickly the two women searched through the remaining paper bags in the refrigerator. Most of the Kwik-Stiks they found were far out of date or of organisms that didn't seem important. Only three were Penicillium Notatum, two labeled low yield, with expiration dates of June 2001, and the one labeled high yield. They transferred the penicillium Kwik-Stiks to the cooler while they finished cleaning the refrigerator, then transferred them back.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff