Chapter 16:New Variables &Chapter 17:Herding Cats
16. New Variables
"The female subject with the stray is still not following her usual passive conversion pattern."
"What do you mean Cervince?"
"She aggressively involved herself in physical conflict with the dominant male we had expected her to bond with. It is highly unusual."
"I want a full gene sequencing of her and the stray as well as the virus that he is infected with. Compare his virus to the one we are using."
"We are already doing all of that. I will tell you our results as soon as we have them."
"I also want a full diagnostic of how the viral code is integrating with their native DNA."
"Of course Primary Investigator!"
"By the way, is the aggressive male recovering from the attack?"
"Yes Primary Investigator. His transformation helped him survive the attack by rapidly regenerating tissues. He is also showing signs of less mental degradation than usual for him at this stage. He can even compose complex sentences like one of the higher order aggressives."
"Include him in your DNA studies then!"
17. Herding Cats
Stephen and Lorelei spent the next hour and a half improvising bandages and first aid for the hapless souls abused by Dick's sadism. The only reaction they seemed to have was to cry out if direct pain was involved. They obeyed any direct instructions, but did not initiate any action of their own.
Lorelei was looking intently at a certain blond woman in the group. Her clothes, while torn, had once shown great taste if a little too much skin. Without looking towards Stephen she began talking, "I know her. Her name is Dianna Mallory. She used to flirt with any man who came by and had hair. Not that I hated her. I just never liked her” Now, seeing her like this…" she shook with an involuntary shudder. "It's like watching a dead person walking around. Her eyes are so empty."
"I know what you mean. They seem like zombies, like all life has been sucked out of them. What could have done this to them? And why aren't we like them?"
"I wish I knew. I feel odd, but not in that way. I never would have struck another person, even Dick, with a weapon before today. What is happening to me?"
"I know what you mean. In my life, I have had plenty of times when physical conflict might have tempted other men, but today is the first time I ever tried to knock somebody's skull in!" heaving a sigh, he pulled up a chair and sat beside her. "Do you think there is some gas or disease causing people to go crazy in here?"
"What could cause this kind of insanity? I sure never heard of a disease that did this kind of damage. I know I have a temper, but I never did anything but yell at the person pissing me off. And I feel strong. Like I could have hurt him worse if I had wanted to, but also calm, like I only did what I had to."
"You did only do what you had to."
"I know, Dick was hurting these people and getting ready to try to hurt you. It's just that, I feel like I should feel more guilty. For all I know, he's going to die from that whack to the head, but I just feel like it would be too bad if he died while not feeling guilty that I helped hurt him. Does that make any sense to you? I don't feel bad we hurt him. I feel bad that I don't feel bad about it..."
"I feel the same to some extent, but I'm more worried that he will recover. We need to watch our backs. If he comes back for us, we can't let guilt stop us. If he gets past us, these helpless people will be at his mercy." Stephen said indicating the empty eyed victims clustered in the break room.
Stephen moved to get up, "We need to find out what is going on with the rest of the staff upstairs. I'll be back as quick as I can, then we can try to secure a safe place to get some rest. I'm feeling a bit worn out."
"Me too." said Lorelei. "I think we are both running a fever. You were very warm before, and I feel a little shaky..."
Stephen moved carefully out of the snack room, closing the door behind him carefully and soundlessly. The stairwell was empty and he was able to pass through and up to the seventh floor without incident. He began to notice a fluidity to his movements that seemed oddly natural while pleasantly surprising. Stephen had never felt so graceful. Before he expected it, he was at the place he and Lorelei had confronted Dick. There was no sign of a body, or even signs of one being dragged away. The only evidence was an impressive blood stain on the polyester carpeting that stood out painfully clear despite the anonymous brown of its fibers. A few random spatters and drips wove randomly down the hall for a short distance towards the conference room. All too soon, the trail tapered off. Dick had obviously survived and had rejoined the main group.
Soon Stephen was at the big double doors. Slowly pushing the gap open enough to see into the room, he spotted Dick, the General Manager, and a man who could only be Director Ngoyen standing together on an improvised dais made from the tables and surrounded by the rest of the management staff. Three other employees were kneeling in front of the three on the dais. Stephen recognized the empty expressions and the listless moaning as identical to the zombified employees he and Lorelei had rescued from Dick.
Director Ngoyen had just finished some sort of speech that ended with loud praise from the assembled managers grunted and screeched out with animal glee. He now drew what seemed to be a ceremonial sword from its sheath on his broad back. Held high, the blade caught the light from an overhead lamp in the ceiling, and the came sweeping down. The fountain of blood that sprang up momentarily was soon gone, but it left a swath of crimson over the three standing on the dais and the barely twitching form of the passive victim.
Stephen could feel his stomach revolting even as he turned away. It was no easy task to keep his lunch down as he heard the blade swing twice more. Still more cheering followed he as he skulked back down the hall. No longer did he feel shame for not feeling bad about harming Dick.