He left the interrogation room to go see what required his attention. The communal cells were used for light security purposes–students who got a bit too drunk on campus, or for fights than might break out in the baths or in the tavern, but since it was the middle of the day, none of them should be in use at the moment. An unease was growing in Marcus’ gut as the day wore on–he was sensing that things were spiralling out of his control. Last night, leaving Clark and Doug together, he had felt confident that he had things under control, and now that he had a member of the resistance, he’d imagined things would be easy, but now he was beginning to feel his doubts and paranoia creep back in. He arrived at the cell and found two of his guards standing outside, looking a bit uneasy. “Alright, so what’s the problem?” Marcus asked.
“Sir,” the guard said, snapping to attention, “Officers 58 and 102, tasked with arresting Jack Wolfson, have returned Sir…unsuccessful. But…well, we had to…well, maybe you should just see for yourself Sir.”
Marcus walked past the guard, saw what was going on in the cell, and gasped. The two guards in the cell…well, he wasn’t even sure they were his guards anymore. He could tell that they had been his guards at one point, that was for sure, but it was only small details on each that remained the same, the high ‘n tight on one, the leather uniform stretched across the fat frame of them other one. However, neither of them seemed all that interested in what was going on, they were a bit too focused on each other. The first one, 58, had his arm lifted up over his head, and the second’s face was buried in his armpit, slurping away. Even outside the cell, Marcus could smell their combined musk, and it was making his stomach turn. “58 and 102, attention!” he barked.
The two guards reluctantly broke away and sluggishly came to attention, but it was obviously hard for them to maintain their focus on Marcus. “Yes Sir?” 102 asked in a husky voice.
Marcus took a moment to survey the damage. Both of his guards were now well into obesity, and it was clear that on his return trip 58 had simply burst out of his uniform, and 102 was well on his way to a similar fate. Both were covered in body hair and stank to high heaven, and Marcus knew it had to be the slob wave. “Report. Tell me what happened. How did you two change?”
The two guards looked at each other, “Changed…Sir?” 102 said, “We haven’t changed. We went to Jack Wolfson’s trailer with a warrant for his arrest, and we returned to report that he wasn’t there, in order to…to…” 102’s eyes rolled back, and it took Marcus a second to realize what was happening. He smelled it first–the stench of piss, and 58, eyes glazing over with lust, fell to his knees in front of 102, ripped open his pants and started lapping up the urine wherever he could find it.
“Attention,” Marcus said, but they didn’t even notice, “I said attention!” he shouted, but again, the two guards didn’t even bother, too lost in their filthy, sexual haze. He turned to the guards outside the cell and said, “I want the two of them reconditioned immediately.”
“That’s, well Sir, that’s part of the problem,” the guard said. “When they arrived back here, Sir, the computer recommended reconditioning. They were a mess Sir…and this, well, this is them, reconditioned. It had a minimal effect Sir, and they’re already, well…regressing.”
Marcus looked back at the two slobs in the cell, and saw that the guard was right. 58’s high ‘n tight was already growing out into a thick mane, and he looked the be even fatter than before, and the last glimmer of intellect was disappearing from 102’s eyes, as he snorted and grunted, little more than a pig, as he shot a load of sour smelling cum all over 58’s beard. The smells…Marcus couldn’t take it anymore, it was just overwhelming. “Alright, stay here, keep them under guard, until I can figure out what’s going on here.”
Marcus headed out of the communal cell block and back towards his control room. He needed an analysis of the footage of his officers as they crossed campus. Unfortunately, the trustees had denied his request to install cameras in all of the dorms and living areas on campus, but maybe he would be able to discern something about what had happened to 58 and 102, or at least know when it happened. That smell, he still couldn’t get it out of his nose, if felt like he was going to be carrying it around with him for hours. He needed a god damn shower, just being that close to those filthy fucks. Jack had to have something to do with all of this, he just had to, but what? He’d seen him slob Grant a few days ago, but that had been with some kind of raygun, and he hadn’t seen Jack use the device since, so it couldn’t be him doing all of this. Then again, if Jack wasn’t at his trailer, then where was he? That was his last recorded location, and the computer had been keeping tabs on him the entire time–where had he disappeared to? Marcus felt theory upon theory start piling up in his head, each more wild and crazy than the next, but his head was running wild. He had to know who was doing this. He had to know why. Was it Jack? Or was it the resistance making it look like Jack, to frame him? Or was it the trustees?
Back in the control room, he analyzed the footage and discovered a strange hole in his coverage on campus, as his officers walked down towards the trailer housing on campus, there was a gap of three seconds between one camera and the next, and it was in that gap–that single gap, that something happened…on the way to the trailer. He could see the changes start then, progress as the officers arrived at Jack’s trailer, searched the premises, and then returned to base, growing filthier and slobbier the entire way back, until they were unrecognizable, coming up the steps into the security building. A gap. One fucking gap that he didn’t know about, but someone else did. What happened in those three seconds? What could have done this?
“Sir, new location registered for wanted individual, Jack Wolfson,” the computer said suddenly, “Location, mobile, forecasting direction, approaching security services.”
“On screen,” Marcus said, and sure enough, there the fucking redneck was, hurrying towards the security building. Now what was he planning, and why in the hell had all of this caught Marcus by surprise? He was the one who was supposed to know what was going on here, he was supposed to be one step ahead, and here he was, playing catch up. “Have four guards intercept him. If he resists, subdue him. Take him to interrogation room four.”
“Understood, issuing orders now.”
Marcus watched on screen as a collection of guards hurried out of the building and approached Jack. To his surprise, Jack seemed to expect this and allowed them to take him into custody, following them handcuffed into the building. Marcus gave them a few minutes as he tried, hopelessly, to put all of this together in a cohesive picture. A resistance member, looking for information on Erikson and Tristan from the board of trustees. Did they have some plan, now that the campus was essentially headless? The defacto head of the board informing on the resistance at the cost of Clark’s life. He was obviously looking for power, was he planning all of this behind the scenes? Jack, the only other master left, now. He seemed like the most obvious culprit, but Marcus had no evidence that he was behind this, even if he was the greatest suspect, and if he was the culprit, why waltz right up here and surrender? Marcus hung his head in his hands, frustrated beyond belief, and that fucking smell! He still couldn’t get it out of his nose, it felt like it was stuck there somehow, and it kept breaking his concentration. On the screen, he saw that Jack had been escorted to the interrogation room. He must know something, and whether it was a trap or not, he needed to talk to him, and Marcus got up and returned to the interrogation bloc, letting himself into the room where Jack was waiting.
“Quite the welcome ya had ready fer me here,” Jack said, when Marcus came in, “Feelin’ a bit paranoid?”
“I don’t know,” Marcus said, “Should I be feeling paranoid? Considering the way the master’s students have been dropping like flies, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to be too careful.”
“Ha, well, by my count, I took out one, ‘n ya took out two. If anyone should be worried, I think it should be me. Look, Marcus, I ain’t here tah hurt ya, there’s somethin’ goin’ round campus, I know ya noticed it too. Ya notice everythin’ that goes on ‘round here.”
“Oh?” Marcus said, feigning ignorance, “And what might that be?”
“There’s somethin’ happenin’ tah everyone. They’re turnin’ intah fuckin’ slobs. I mean, I don’t really object, given some a mah inclinations, but well, there was somethin’ crazy about it, so I went diggin’ in some of Erikson’s old files–”
“Don’t bullshit me, the labs are locked down–you know that. No one has been able to get in or out without Erikson to open them up.”
“Yeah, but his office just has a plain old key, ‘n I can pick those,” Jack said, and for emphasis, released his hands from the cuffs the guards had put on him. They might be big, but they sure are nimble when I need ‘em tah be.” He grinned a bit wolfishly, and Marcus was beginning to worry that this could indeed be a trap. He needed to be more careful than ever before. “What I found was, well, turns out one a Erikson’s little pet projects might’ve had a bit of an accident.” Jack threw down a file folder onto the table he pulled from the back of his pants, and Marcus gingerly opened it up, revealing a collection of files about something called ‘Virus SL004.’
“Just give me the rundown. What’s it do.”
“It’s a slob virus, man. It turns guys into filthy pigs. Again, I’m not really complaining, but that’s my schtick,” he said with a laugh, “Turns out there’s an antidote that was accessible in the upper labs, before getting down into The Depths that are still locked off,” Jack said, and pulled out a small phial and set it on the table, “I already took mine, and I figured you might like one for yourself.”
“Oh no fucking way, how stupid do I look?” Marcus said, “This is all you’re goddamn doing. You released the virus, and now you want me to take an antidote?”
“I’m serious man, this is the only way you’ll be safe.”
“Bullshit. Why in the hell should I take your word in any of this?”
“Well, what other fucking explanation have you got?” Jack said, then stared at Marcus…are you…you know, you look a little…you haven’t been around one of the infected have you?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You can smell it, can;t you? That’s the first sign, you can’t get their fucking stink out of your nose, and then you keep thinking about it, and then you start changing. You need to take this now, or it’ll be no help at all.”
Marcus felt like Jack had just read his mind into his deepest fears. He had been around 58 and 102…could it really be a virus? There was that three second gap, could they have encountered someone infected with the virus? No, there wasn’t even any evidence that this virus existed beyond Jack’s claims. Marcus had to get out of here, he had to. He walked to the door to leave and think, but as soon as he pulled on the door, he heard it lock down.
“Computer…computer open the goddamn door.”
“Due to evidence of a possible viral outbreak, this facility will enter quarantine level three until threat is confirmed or denied. All those possibly exposed are asked to remain calm and report any possible signs of illness to central command.”
“God fucking damn it,” Marcus said, “There’s no fucking outbreak!”
“There damn well is, and you fucking know it,” Jack said, “and if you’ve been exposed, this is you’re only fucking chance man. Once the changes start, there’s nothing you can do, and trust me, as much as I’d like to see you as a fucking slob, I’m doing you a favor here. We gotta stick together man, we goota, we’re the only ones left who can lead this fuckin’ campus anymore.”
“No, this can’t be fucking happening,” Marcus said, and looked at himself in the room’s one way mirror. He looked the same, didn’t he? He couldn’t really still smell the officers, it was just his imagination, or was it? His imagination and terror was running wild now, barely kept in check by the high tension nerves running through him. He looked at the phial, then at Jack, then at the door. Did this make sense? Was it really the most likely solution?
“How do I know you aren’t the one behind this?” Marcus asked, trying not to betray his panic, “How do I know you aren’t setting me up?”
“I suppose you don’t,” Jack said, leaning back, “But I don’t have to worry, I have my antidote. I guess the question is–are you going to trust someone for once in your life? Or are you really going to let your fuckin’ paranoia be the end of you? I’m tryin’ tah help ya Marcus, can’t ya see that? Why in the hell would I a come if all I had tah do is let ya get infected?”
It made sense, didn’t it? Marcus felt the terror rise in him. The smell was stronger now, he could almost taste it, or was it just Jack’s musk? He didn’t know anymore, he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to be a fucking slob like 58 or 102, he didn’t. But what could he do? He didn’t have time, if he waited, he’d be a slob in no time. He had to be infected, how could he not be? And if Jack was responsible for this, he wouldn’t have come, he would have just waited it out, waited until the entire security force was too far gone to do anything and then swept in to take control. He had to trust him, he had to, as terrifying as that was. He hurried over to the table, and with shaking hands, took the top off the phial and downed the contents in a few gulps, Jack just sitting there–grinning.