Once upon a time in the Land of Lab, there was a Princess and two Princes working hard on their Graduate Student projects. One day, the King of the Lab called Princess Jane and Princes John and Robert into his Regal Office.

“Tell me,” he said. “How goes the quest in the Lab?”

“It goes slowly, sir,” they sighed.

“Ah, it is as I thought,” said the King. “Would not a Contest of Skills focus the mind and enhance your activities? I propose that a new Quest begin today! Each of you shall leave my office forthwith and lose yourself in the Land of Lab. And whosoever finds the greatest success in characterizing this new gene shall have authorship on a Royal Paper. Now go, my children. May your results be true.”

Princess Jane and Princes John and Robert hurried back to their separate lab benches and began to toil hardily, each hoping to inherit authorship within the Kingdom.

Princess Jane decided to analyze the gene’s DNA. But the DNA refused to reveal its secrets. It could not be amplified. And so, it could not be sequenced.

One day, Princess Jane decided to leave the Land of Lab to obtain coffee and in so doing encountered Dame Sybil, PostDoc of the Realm. Princess Jane shared her tale of woe.

“Oh, Dame Sybil!” cried Princess Jane. “I fear I will die of frustration! I have tried all manner of optimization. But none has succeeded. I shall forever remain without authorship.”

Dame Sybil gave a furtive glance along the corridor and reached into her well-stained lab coat to produce a small vial.

“Here is the Buffer of Bounty,” she whispered. “Use it well and you will amplify your DNA many fold.”

“Oh, Dame Sybil! How can I take this from you? Surely you need it?”

“Dearest Jane, this buffer has served me well. However my contract is expiring and so I have no further use for it.”

Princess Jane thanked Dame Sybil and rushed back to the Land of Lab full of new hope. She tried her reaction and Behold! The Buffer of Bounty yielded DNA. She obtained its sequence.

At the same time, Prince John decided he would earn authorship by measuring the gene’s expression.

“I shall determine where this gene is expressed, and it shall bring me glory!” He thought as he isolated his samples.

However, after uncountable attempts, the fruits of his labour yielded nothing. His samples were degrading. In despair, he went to visit the dusty science library to quiet his soul. Much to his surprise, amongst the journals he found the Old King reading an article.

“Oh Emeritus One! You have surprised me amongst the journal stacks. Please do not let me disturb your reading. I will go to another aisle for my respite,” said Prince John.

“Young One, you have not disturbed me. You bring me pleasure! I cannot count the days since I last saw a soul in this Library. Whatever is the cause of your visit?”

And so, Prince John told the Old King how he yearns for authorship and his great pain caused by sample degradation.

“I have come to study the Old Ways in Journal Articles of Yore,” said Prince John. “Perhaps here I can find some inspiration or at least respite from my pain.”

“Ah,” said the Old King. “You are wise beyond your years. Here, take this.”

The Old King reached down into a cabinet previously hidden by journal issues.

“This box contains the Tips of Truth. Use them to produce unspeakably clean sample isolations and you will find your sample degradation troubles solved.”

Overjoyed, Prince John thanked the Old King and ran back to the Land of Lab to try his luck. The Tips of Truth worked. The samples were so clean they gleamed in the UV light. The mystery of the gene’s expression was solved.

Meanwhile, Prince Robert decided to study protein accumulation from the gene in question.

“The other Graduate Students are fools!” he thought gleefully. “Measuring expression is a meaningless proxy! I shall find the real purpose of the gene by looking at its protein level.”

However, try as he might, Prince Robert could not load his samples evenly. And so, he could not accurately quantify the protein. Everything he tried, failed.

Prince Robert was letting out a great wail of frustration when there was a knock at the Lab door.

“Excuse me, but is this a good time to talk?” asked the Stranger.

Prince Robert looked around the Lab. It was empty. He looked back at the Stranger and noticed a company crest on her shirt.

“Um,” said Prince Robert as the Stranger walked confidently into the room opening a suitcase.

“I see you use pipettes in your work?” asked the Stranger as she took the pipette from Prince Robert’s hand and examined it. “But look at this old model you use! Its calibration is abysmal. You should use this instead.”

With a flourish, the Stranger produced a beautiful pipette from her case and presented it to Prince Robert. “This is the Pipette of Power. With it you can accurately load samples all day and night. I present it to you as a gift for one month’s time. Try it.” And with a wink, the Stranger departed to whence she came.

Intrigued, Prince Robert tried the new pipette, and sure enough it held the power of accuracy! Quickly, he tested all his samples and quantified the protein to his great relief and satisfaction.

Bursting with news of their individual successes, the Graduate Students sought each other out to share their joy. Excitedly, as they told their stories, the Princess and Princes realized their results could be merged into a single high impact Royal Paper.

Thrilled, they rushed into the Regal Office and declared, “The task is accomplished! We know the gene’s identity – for Princess Jane has discovered its DNA sequence! We know the gene’s expression – for Prince John has visualized it! And we know how much protein accumulates – for Prince Robert has quantified it! We have the answer to our Quest! We humbly submit that we are ready for authorship on a joint Royal Paper.”

“That is wonderful news!” said the King. “You have completed the Quest and all deserve your place on the Royal Paper. It is wonderful to see such cooperation bring great achievement. Now tell me, who shall be the first author?”