STORIES : The Anti-Sneeze Serum : Part Two:

Wesley Gordon sat in front of the entrance to the Antisneeze Compound, wondering just why in the hell he'd been asked to guard this useless dump in the first place. It was in the middle of the desert, for crying out loud. For that matter, who was going to try and stop some nutcase from trying to perfect his precious serum that, when ingested, would make everyone stop sneezing? But as pointless as it seemed, he supposed he was lucky to even HAVE a job of any kind, even if it was rather boring out here.

He pulled out his canteen and took a small sip to moisten his parched throat.

The guard was lucky in another respect as well: He wasn't of the percentage of people who had been killed instantaneously after having taken the serum. Had it not been a condition of employment, the guard never would have allowed the stuff to touch his lips in the first place, but he'd been desperate for a job 6 months ago, and could find nothing else. Having a wife and kid back at home really put things into perspective for him; if not for them, he would've said the hell with it with this shit job for that lunatic Antisneeze. When having to choose between death and having to sneeze from time to time, the guard would have most certainly chosen the latter of the two; it was not like he'd been much of a frequent sneezer even BEFORE ingesting the serum. It would be barely once or twice a week at the most under normal circumstances. Was it really worth risking his life over? But the guard had survived the ingestion and thus wasn't among the unfortunates who'd died instantaneously. Yet there was still a VERY good chance that the serum might turn toxic two or three years down the road. But that wasn't something that the guard liked to think about much, and so he pushed the thought aside, or at least tried to, shuddering in revulsion to such dreadful notions.

"How did I manage to get myself into this line of work?" he often wondered, sighing at the thought of how his dreams had been deferred, shattered when he'd been declared mentally unstable for police work. How could that have happened? So he had a history of deviant and antisocial behavior; he still had a sense of loyalty, still loved his family (sort of) and had a moral code of some kind, or at the very least something passing for one. There'd been far worse cops on the force than he; but then there was that scandal, and how he'd been screwed afterward. But it was time to move on, wasn't it? Sure, the only job he could now get was working for a bogus project secretly funded by the government in which a madman was put in charge. A madman who wished to beat and detain someone against his will, a man barely past adolescence, solely because he had a bizarre sexual attraction for the one bodily function that Antisneeze wanted to put a stop to. It was insane. But of course it would seem that way to the guard, who most of the time barely even remember that there WAS such a thing as sneezing most of the time. It wasn't like any of it mattered to him. What did HE care if some schmuck wanted to jack off to audio and video material on the web of women in the grips of a sneezing fit? Who cares? And why single out that particular fetish anyway, given the wide diversity of freaks and weirdos on the net. It was beyond the guard's understanding.

Gordon  took another sip from his canteen, then put it away, signing as he looked absently up into the full moon that hovered directly above him. "My life has no meaning," he thought dejectedly. Talk about a meaningless existence." Gordon contemplated briefly whether or not he should draw his weapon, put it over his temple, and squeeze the trigger. Beat the serum; it would most likely turn toxic in due time--surviving completely was about as likely as winning the lottery, but he could still beat it. Off himself before the serum had the chance to do the job for him.

"Hi, there."

A female voice called from behind. But who could it have been? The voice was unfamiliar and he doubted that he would see anyone out here except those employed by Antisneeze. He turned around anyway, and stared in disbelief at the woman in front of him.

"Wh-who are you?"

"My friends call me Kitty." She approached him, moving gracefully, her hand lightly caressing the guard's cheek, and he was frozen, feeling the lust building, the image of his wife fading from his mind, and he struggled to remain focus, not wanting to do anything he would later regret. "Must be pretty lonely here," Kitty mused.

"Yeah, it is," Gordon agreed. "Very lonely and VERY pointless. I doubt that there are too many people who would want to stop my boss from doin' the shit he's tryin' to do anyway...doubt there're too many people who really care anyway, except for a few freaks on the net."

"Mmmmm...you never know." Kitty grinned mischievously.

"But hey, job's a job, right."

Kitty nodded.

"So how'd ya get here anyway?" the guard inquired.

"I walked a long way through the hot desert and boy am I ever thirsty."

The guard went to grab his canteen to offer the woman something to drink, but then another voice from behind startled him, this one not so friendly at all.

"Don't move!"

The canteen slipped from the guard's hand and his eyes rose in fright when he saw the man standing before him with the pistol aimed at his frontal lobe. Gordon was about to draw his own weapon instinctively from its holster, but then felt a piece of cold steal digging into his spine.

"Don't move, pal, or you're a dead man," said Kitty from behind. She then turned to her partner, the man who held the gun: "Nice work, Watchman."

"Oh...shit," muttered the guard, and sighed one last time.

***

"I don't know who you people are, but I swear to God that I had NOTHIN' to do with capturin' your sneeze fetish buddy," Gordon asserted, squirming and shaking through the cacoon of duct tape over his entire body, exposing only his head, that kept him on the dusty ground, unable to get up. "I always knew Antisneeze was a psycho, ever since I started workin' for him."

"If you have such a low opinion of him, then why do you still work for him," scoffed Sir Sneezealot.

"Oh really, Sir Sneezealot," interjected Cath UK, grinning, "I thought that being a disgruntled employee was the new national passtime for you yanks."

"I know I sure hate my job," Demon agreed. "Having to commute 200 miles everyday sucks the big one, Cath, let me tell you."

"Enough, you guys," Kelly said, shushing the group.

"Look," the guard went on, "the only reason I work for such a scumbag as Antisneeze is 'cause I got nowhere else to go, okay? No one else'll hire me, so I HAVE to work here. I got no choice."

"There's always a choice, buddy," taunted Sir Sneezealot as he stuck out his tongue at the guard. "You COULD have chosen to remain unemployed, you know."

"I'll not even dignify that stupid comment with a response," thought Gordon, grudgingly. He then explained: "Most of the people working here are here because they got nowhere else to go. You won't run into too many respectable folks in that building, lemme tell ya. Most of Antisneeze's employees and test subjects had been among the homeless population before meetin' the man. Or they were death row convicts given a second chance. In either case, we're all society's garbage, and no one gives a shit about any of us. I took the serum and might end up DEAD in two or three years, and the only ones that'll care'll be my wife and kid. To everyone else, it'll be no big lose."

"That's all fine and dandy," Watchman broke in, "but why don't you quit gripin' and tell us where the bloody hell you got our friend, Bondi."

The guard sighed, feeling defeated. He considered briefly not responding to Watchman's inquiry out of spite; he felt angry, almost violated at the treatment Watchman, Kitty, and the rest of this pack of rogue freaks had been given him. But they were angry, and righteously so. Gordon thought of Bondi locked in the prison cell, caged like an animal, beaten and tortured throughout the last four days, and a sharp pang of guilt stabbed at him, reminding him of the utter travesty that he himself had been participating in during these past six months. And finally, the guard caved in: "Bondi's being held on the third floor. In a prison cell in this small cellblock that Antisneeze has set up over there. Just take the nearest elevator to the third floor, then crawl through the ventilation ducts until you find the cellblock."

"Thank you. If the information you've kindly given us is accurate, then you've been a great help," said Cath UK.

"Yeah," Kelly agreed. "Now, why don't you tell us how to find where Antisneeze stores all his files?"

"What do you need to know that for? I thought you came for Bondi." A perplexed expression formed over the guard's face. He ceased squirming, wriggling, and trying to tear his way out of the thick cocoon of duct tape and merely stared blankly at the strange group of people standing over him, that had captured him. Three men. Three women. A part of him resented them all for what they were doing to him, and yet, could he truly blame them for any of this? "Why should any of YOU care if Antisneeze manages to make it so sneezing ceases to exist?"

"Because sneezing turns us on as well," Kitty responded immediately. "And if people stop sneezing, well...lets just say that we wouldn't like that at all."

The others nodded in firm aggreement.

"I see," muttered the guard. He stared up at the indigo sky, thinking briefly. His thoughts were cut off by the sudden itch in his nose. It was nothing new to him; it had been happening quite frequently these past six months...ever since he'd taken that damned serum. The itch grew into a sharp tickle poking him in the back of the nose, the familiar sensation of an impending sneeze. At first Gordon merely shrugged (as much of a shrug as was permitted given the confining duct tape wrapped throughout his body; it was times like this that he wished he were Harry Houdini). Another false alarm, he assumed. Doubt of that assumption grew as the tickle intensified, burning all the way up his nose, and he though: "Holy shit, man, this sure as hell ain't no false alarm!"

This was the real deal!

On the night that the guard had ingested the Antisneeze Serum, he never thought he would sneeze again in his life, whether he survived or not. One way or another, sneezing for this guard had been over. It was nothing that had drawn any kind of emotional reaction within the guard at all, whether elation, anxiety, or malancholy. "Okay, so I'm not gonna sneeze anymore," he figured, "so what?" No excitement grew within him because he was never a very sneezy person to begin with and had NEVER sneezed in multiples even once in his life. There was no anxiety, because what had there been to be nervous about? And no sorrow because sneezing had never been something that he'd ever gotten overly enthusiastic about. It was just there, and mostly something he never thought about and had completely forgotten about at least some of the time.

A month after taking the serum, his nose had gotten slightly itchy. At first the guard thought nothing of it. But the itching persisted, lingering long within his nasal area, leaving for short intermissions, but then returning worse than before. Then the false alarms came upon the third month. At first, not too frequently, and they had been quickly forgotten. But as time went on, the false alarms became more frequent, and gradually more intense. Each time Wesley Gordon swore that, this time, he would surely sneeze the torturous tickle out of his nose. But each time the urge faded at the very last minute. Another false alarm. Gordon had begun asking about a month ago if anyone else whom had taken the serum had been experiencing similar side effects, if anyone else had had any false alarms that they could recall. To date, he hadn't found one person whom reported anything even remotely similar to what he was experiencing. He considered reporting this to Antisneeze--wondered if someone else he had confided this little "secret" had already beat him to it--but declined the idea, thinking himself better off if these side effects REMAINED a secret. And the tickles kept on hitting his nose.

And right now, the guard's nose was on fire. He had to sneeze so bad. He reminded himself that this was no doubt another false alarm, but no matter how many times he told himself that, it just wouldn't seep in. Would a false alarm be THIS intense? This time, it HAD to be the real deal! It looked like the serum wouldn't prevent him from sneezing after all. The guard felt a great deal of excitement at this thought. Now that the urge to sneeze had become absolutely insurmountable, he yearned to sneeze. Nothing seemed more important to him at this moment than sneezing. He absolutely HAD to sneeze and nothing was going to stop it and the guard was filled with elation at this realization. Perhaps this meant that the potentially toxic antisneeze serum might not have any effect on him, or only a temporary effect. It wasn't the idea of being able to sneeze again that excited him, but the possibility that perhaps his chances of living beyond two and a half years might have been greatly increased.

Gordon's eyes squeezed tightly shut, watering like fountains. The fire in his nose grew hotter. It was coming! His lips parted. His head bent slightly back and he felt the desert sand pressing into his scalp. And then...

...nothing.

Another false alarm.

The guard sighed. Disappointment filled him. He blinked most of the tears out of his eyes, groaned, and sniffed wetly.

He looked ahead, and saw, just five feet away, the nose of the blond woman, Kelly, was twitching madly. Her lips spread wide open, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Kelly slowly cupped her hands over her face just as she abruptly turned away and doubled over with two harsh sneezes: "huh-HAEEHSCHOO! EEHHAASCHOO!" Then it was her turn to sniffle wetly. "Jeez--we're in the desert, for crying out loud, and my allergies are STILL a pain." She giggled nervously as a chorus of "bless you's" rang throughout the group. "Thanks, guys," said Kelly with a warm smile.

"Fuckin' bitch--you stole my sneeze," he thought blandly.

"Well," called Kitty, startling the guard out of his brief state of malencholy. "You've had long enough to think about it. Now how about telling us what we need to know," she demanded. "Where does your boss store the data from his experiments?"

Gordon sniffed again, and as he was about to mutter an answer, a proposition suddenly came to him: "I have a better idea: How about if you guys cut me lose and I take you to the data storage area personally."

A sudden comotion within the group, some of them murmuring such phrases as: "What? Are you kidding?" "No way, man, he ain't serious!" "You gotta be kidding me. If he thinks--"

Then, finally, Demon glanced at the guard, his face darkening. "How do we know that you won't turn on us."

"Yeah," Kelly stepped in, in agreement, "how do we know you won't...huh-ah-HAESCHOO! Eeeschoo! turn us in?"

Another chorus of bless from everyone in the group. Gordon imagined what it might be like if Antisneeze had been here when Kelly sneezed, and saw in his mind's eye the expression of utter disgust on Antisneeze's face for what Kelly had just done. And upon hearing the "bless you's" being said, Gordon had then gotten a glimpse in his mind of the the bitter contempt blazing in Antisneeze's eyes. The guard found it almost amusing when he thought of how Antisneeze could let something as trivial as sneezing and saying "bless you" after someone sneezed was so apt to enraged the man. It was so damned absurd it was hillarious, and the guard would have surely laughed his ass off if not for his current predicament.

"You're joking, right?" scoffed Sir Sneezealot. "Cut you loose and have you help us infiltrate the complex." Sir Sneezealot burst out laughing. "Aw man, that's GOTTA be the best joke I heard all day!" He laughed again, even harder this time.

"I'm serious!" attested the guard.

"And why should we trust you?" Watchman asked in a harsh tone.

"Let's put it this way, if you cut me loose and have me lead you to the date storage area of the complex," the guard explained, "you will be at RISK of me giving away your position and getting you killed or captured. But if you leave me here, and someone finds me, you can bet'cher ass I'm gonna spill the beans as to what you freaks are doing here." He chuckled smugly. "Damned if you do. Damned if you don't."

"How about a third option?" suggested Kitty.

"A third option?"

She nodded, flashing him an evil grin. "Yeah, silly, a third option." She then revealed the holstered firearm she resting snugly by her thigh, and Gordon's eyes raised slightly with unsettlement. "I could put a bullet in your head right now. Then we would bury you in the sand, and you won't be any threat to us and our objectives at all."

"Sure, you could do that. But I won't be any good to you dead."

Sir Sneezealot burst out laughing once again. "Man, you're a fuckin' riot! No good to us dead." His laughter ceased. "Useless dead. Useless alive."

"Don't remind me," Gordon muttered bitterly.

"I'm thinking we should waste this fucker," Sir Sneezealot said, flicking the guard the bird.

"Then go ahead and kill me! I got nothin' to lose anyway. But even killin' me, you put your mission at risk. If they find my body, they'll know somethin's amiss. If they suspect you've come to save Bondi, they might go ahead and kill 'im. And yes, you could bury my body, but that'll take a great deal of time out of your already 'busy schedule.' Then there's the off-chance that someone might come outside for a cigarette and see you pricks digging a whole in the sand with my dead corpse. Don't ya see? No matter wha'cha do, guys, you're potentially fucked!"

"Is that so?"

Gordon nodded. "But if you help me out of this blob of duct tape, I can lead you to where you wanna go." He paused momentarily, thinking that the tickle in his nose might've returned, but then figured it had only been his imagination, since it went away just as quickly. "Sure, I already told you how to get to Bondi. And whoever is responsible for his rescue will probably get him outta there in twenty minutes...a half-hour flat if they follow my instructions."

Cath and Watchman exchanged earnest glances.

"But those responsible for shutting down Antisneeze's experiments won't know where to go. And believe you me, its VERY easy to get lost in that building, especially if you don't know where you're going. You'll be like rats in a maze without me."

"How do we know you won't double cross us?" questioned Demon.

A smirk rose over Wes's face as he attempted to shrug once again, reminded yet again of the movement restrictions within the duct tape. "You'll just have to trust me."

There was a long, awkward silence among the group of sneeze fetishists, none of them completely sure exactly what the best course of action in this case would be, but none of them trusting the guard Wesley Gordon one bit.

Gorden's smirk widened. His lips pealed back into a toothy, viscious grin. His eyes blazed with a sensation that Gordon associated keenly with the glorious feeling of victory over one's most hated enemy. "So, boys and girls, what's it gonna be?!"

***

"Uh-huhshooo!" Bondi sneezed, muffling it in the crook of his arm.

For some reason, he'd been sneezing a great deal lately. He hoped he wasn't getting sick, but doubted that that had been the case. So what might be causing the sneezing, then? Allergies? Could be. But allergies to what? No way of knowing. And knowing the cause of his sneezes took secondary importance to silencing them as much as possible. He'd never been much of a stifler (though he'd successfully stifled a few here and there), but he could still muffle them a great deal. And that's what he had to do at all costs, not because of embarrassment, but because of fear. If Antisneeze were to hear him sneezing so frequently in his cell, there was no telling what that psychopath might do.

Bondi could remember what Antisneeze had said to him that one time when he'd first been captured. Under other circumstances, Bondi would've laughed at the story of what had become of Antisneeze's ex-fiance and how the couple had broken up. The story was so ridiculous you couldn't help but laugh your ass off, even if you were a sneeze fetishist like Bondi had been--he supposed such a story would, in fact, seem even MORE absurd and with a HIGHER degree of hillarity. But at this moment, after all he had been through recently, nothing had been the least bit humorous and everything filled him with dread. As he lay on his cot, his nose tickling, another sneeze building, he placed his hands over his chest in hopes to slow down his erratic heart, fearing it might tear itself apart should it continue to beat at such a fast pace for much longer.

The words of Antisneeze, the story of his lost love, rang through Bondi's head now, a story that rippled his flesh with gooseflesh:

Even if I caught her in the arms of another lover, I might have eventually forgiven her for that as well. I am very tolerant and very forgiving...But when she had that sneezing fit...I would have rather she pulled a Larana Bobbitt and cut off my penis in my sleep and throw it in the lawn than to have witnessed such a disgusting act...I called off the whole wedding. I screamed and hollered right in her face...She ran out crying...I'm glad, because I doubt I could ever look at her the same way again after the travesty I just saw.

Bondi laughed humorlessly. "And he thinks I'M crazy."

He groaned at the sudden, throbbing pressure of an impending headache, groaning as he pressed his index and middle finger against his right temple. Bondi lay back down on his cot as the world began to go gray before his eyes, and stared at the concrete ceiling, watching it swirling, rippling, and changing colors before his eyes, exaccerbating his oncoming headache. His nose tickled fiercely, and Bondi managed to stifle this next sneeze, but it felt as though his skull had collapsed, totally caving into over his brain, sending bolts of crushing pain throughout his head and throbbing eyeballs.

"Ugh...aw man...what's happening to me..."

***

Footsteps...again coming closer to his cell...

Bondi wondered absently what brand of torture those sons of bitches would inflict upon him this time.

"What if they heard my sneezes after all?" he thought in the back of his mind. Then there was the terrifying notion that they might force him to ingest that nasty, toxic antisneeze serum after all. That had been the last thing Bondi EVER wanted. Even if he had been CONSTANTLY sneezing, unable to stop, he still wouldn't want anything to do with that serum. It was better to be sneezing than to be dead; at least that's how HE saw it. And he might've panicked just now, had he not been too fucked up to be terrified of anything.

The cell doors came open, and in came Bondi's next tormentor.

It was James69...again.

"Haven't you beaten me enough, James?"

James69 at first said nothing, just looked toward Bondi laying on his prison cot. James69's eyes were locked in a cold, icy gaze that cut cut through Bondi like a hot knife dipped in burning coals. "Get up," he said harshly.

Bondi lifted his head slowly, and it lolled uncontrollably over his shoulders, as though he were trying to balance twenty-pound weights over the top of his head. He forced himself into a sitting position, propped on his left shoulder, his head dropping downward as the floor began to spin rapidly before his eyes.

James69 grabbed hastily at Bondi's lapels and nearly threw him to his feet. "I SAID GET UP, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!" Bondi stumbled forward a few feet, nearly colliding head-first into the concrete wall in front of him, but able to stop hismelf somehow at the last minute. Bondi stood there, drunkenly, in front of James69, struggling to retain his footing. His head still lolled upon his shoulders like dead weight. His head throbbed--it was as though his brain were struggling to push its way out of his skull. The scraps of whatever that crap had been that he'd eaten shortly before was now scaling the back of his throat. His legs felt like two rubbery slabs of meat and he could have sworn that he felt the floor moving around beneath his feet.

"Whaddaya want with me..."

"You should've believed what I said about Stacy," James69 stated, for probably the 500th time already. "You're all LOSERS for not believing me! LOSERS!!!!!"

"We been through this before," Bondi said, his speech slurred. "Most of us think you are a raving lunatic, and nothin's gonna change that."

James69 threw his fist into Bondi's jaw, knocking him back into the corner. The sudden shock of the blow had helped to sober Bondi up a bit. He looked toward James69, an expression of bewilderment in his eyes. He felt his legs buckle, and then fell back against the corner, leaning upon it for support, a thin rivulet of blood flowing from the right corner of his chapped lips down his chin.

"Nosirree, James, you haven't changed a bit."

James69 rushed forward, lunging over Bondi. He closed his fingers over Bondi's left wrist and slammed his forward over. A cry of pain escaped Bondi's lips and James69 threw an uppercut into his gut, forcing him to bend forward, cluching his belly. It was then that James69 rammed his knee straight into Bondi's gut, bending him forward even more and completely knocking the wind out of him. Bondi stood there, gasphing and wheezing.

"Do you believe me now, dumbshit? Huh, you fucking LOSER? DO YOU FUCKIN' BELIEVE ME NOW?!!!"

Bondi could say nothing. He only stood there, hunched over, gulping air down his throat, struggling to breath. His face was now dark red, his eyes watering. The salty taste of his own blood coated his tongue, and once again, the cell was spinning before his eyes, this time even more rapidly than before. Nausea overtook him, and he felt he might puke--something that, under normal circumstances, he would have hated doing. Yet now, it seemed the least of his worries.

Hatred spurned within his jack-hammering heart at the moment--hatred both for Antisneeze, Gus, and for James69 as well. He wanted nothing more than to tear James69's throat out, then leave his cell, find Gus and Antisneeze and tear them both apart for what they had done to him as well. But he couldn't. He could barely focus on anything, completely at the mercy of this raving lunatic and his even crazier boss.

"Do you believe me now, Bondi?"

Again, Bondi could say nothing, only utter a few dry, wreching sounds.

James69 closed one hand loosely around the side of Bondi's neck and the other around his bicep, drawing Bondi closer. "You never should've doubted me for a second about what I said about that skanky slut Stacy," he whispered into Bondi's ear. "That was the. Biggest. Mistake. Of. Your. Life." He then thrust Bondi forward, sending him careening into the wall in front of him. This time, Bondi was unable to stop himself from the collision. His forehead rebounded smartly against the hard concrete wall and he collapsed and plummetted to the ground. He lay there on his side, his body crumpled, his back touching the wall, block flowing in an even thicker stream from his split-open lips. James69 thrust the instep of his right foot quickly three times into Bondi's gut, the shock causing his body to convulse with each impact.

"See what happens when you don't believe me?" James69 snicked as he peered down upon the crumpled body of Bondi, who now lay completely motionless. "None of this woulda happened, Bondi, if only you believed me." He chuckled again as he lifted his right foot over Bondi's still body. "Yeah, ya loser, I'll teach ya not to believe me!" And he brought the heel of his foot down hard into the side of Bondi's ribcage.

***

"I don't know, Gordon," Sir Sneezealot remarked. "Seems to me you might've overestimated yourself out there when you said you could help us find what we were looking for."

"I didn't say that we'd find it in five minutes," retorted Gordon. "Keep in mind that this is a very big installation."

"Yeah, I saw," responded Demon. "Tell me, Wes--what does Antisneeze need such a big building just to run one lousy experiment?"

"He's got a lot of money to spend and not a lot of rationality," explained Gordon. "When his parents died in the early seventies, he inhereted quite a respectable fortune. Add his winning the lottery in 1973; that helped him set things up here a great deal."

"I thought it was covered through government funding."

"It is. He started himself out with his own money or money he inhereted from his rich parents, but it's the government that's KEEPIN' him in business. If not for the government funding, he would've had to shut the project LONG ago. He might've been wealthy, but he sure as hell ain't no Bill Gates and never was."

"So why would the government spend all that money on a project for two and a half decades that wasn't even showing much success in all that time?" inquired Kelly.

"Hey, its the fuckin' government," scoffed Gorman. "No one ever gave 'em credit for bein' the brightest bulbs in the bunch. I guess people are always trying to find ways of stopping the spread of germs, you know? Get rid of sneezin', you at least reduce the amount of germs that are spread."

"Fuck the germs," Kitty said. "We can't let him get rid of sneezing--I like doing it too much and I enjoy watching others sneeze as well."

"We all do," agreed Demon.

"Everyone but the guard here," said Sir Sneezealot.

"Nothin' like bein' normal," mused Gorman.

The five of them walked further down the corridor in silence. The four sneeze fetishists had been partly astounded, partly horrified that so much money was being put into a project like this. Even Gorman considered it an obscene waste of the tax payers funds; not that it was HIS problem, of course. But still; what a waste of time, energy, and money. Money that could have no doubt been put to better use than for a project that had been a failure since day one. And the guy running it was no doubt completely out of his mind. But no one ever spoke out about it to Antisneeze. No one ever openly questioned his agenda, even though the vast majority of people involved here had been in agreement with Gorman. The one time someone HAD dared to question Antisneeze's policies and goals back in 1988, the guilty party ended up dead. Of course, this hadn't been officially proven, but everyone knew it to be the case. That was the advantage of having your installation completely isolated from the rest of the country and the world: Antisneeze could litterally do whatever the hell he wanted here. Officially, he'd been subject to the law as everyone else had been. But in reality, he could get away with any damn thing he wanted. Once you join his project, you sold your life and your soul to Antisneeze. This building was your new home until your death. sure, you might get released for a couple months a year, but for the most part, this was your home, the people, your family, and Antisneeze's will became the law. He became your ruler and your god.

Gorman and the sneeze fetishists turned a corner to their left and were now walking down a new and different corridor, Gorman still leading the way. "We'll be there soon, guys, I swear," he reassured them. The floor they walked upon had been green and white checkerboard floor, the walls a winter white. They walked past several doors leading into offices and laboratories. How many laboratories did Antisneeze need? How many death row convicts with skills and talents in chemistry did he require? And no matter how big things got, he couldn't get the results he wanted, and the serum remained as unstable as the mind of its inventor.

Another burning sensation struck deep within Gorman's nose. It was, of course, the familiar urge to sneeze. It was much worse this time than it had been before. The tickle had always occurred progressively more frequent and it was always more intense than the last time as well. And up until now, the end-results had always been the same. But this time, the burning tickle had been so bad, that Gorman knew with absolutely certainty that THIS time, he was definitely going to sneeze. His breathing became hitched and he bent his head back, his eyes squeezing tightly shut as always and his mouth opening up. And as always, the very last minute, the insurmountable urge to sneeze vanished entirely.

Another false alarm.

"Are you okay?" Demon asked, appearing a bit confused.

"Yeah...yeah, I'm fine...s'nothing."

"If you don't mind my saying so, Gorman, but it looked like you were about to sneeze," Kelly said with a bit of a mischevous grin forming over her face.

"That's because I WAS about to sneeze."

The four sneeze fetishists exchanged perplexed glances, all appearing quite confused by what Gordon had just revealed to them. He himself couldn't understand fully what he had told them, and wondered if it would always be like that, or if in some way this had been his body's way of fighting off the serum that he'd poisoned himself with six months ago. He wanted desperately to believe the theory that he'd concocted just now, yearned for it to be true. Perhaps he might be able to leave if the serum didn't work, and find something new, away from the mad scientist emperor known he had been working for all this time.

"I thought that you took the serum--"

"I DID take the serum, Kitty, but you gotta understand. That is perhaps the most unpredictable chemical known to man, probably. A lot of times, you don't know WHAT its gonna do to you. For one thing, 90% of everyone who ingests it ends up dead sooner or later. And the 'lucky' ten percent that don't die usually never sneeze again for the rest of their life. At least that's how its SUPPOSED to work."

"But that's not always the case?"

Gorman shook his head. "Most of the time it is. But from time to time, there might be a person who takes the serum and is completely unaffected. And then there's the rare cases in which the serum will actually make it so the person sneezes more than they had before ingesting the stuff."

"Holy shit!" exclaimed Sir Sneezealot. "That IS some unpredictable stuff!"

"Sounds like some pretty nasty shit to me," muttered Kitty and the other three fetishists nodded in firm agreement.

"What's even more nasty and deserving is that the only thing stopping him from depositing this shit in every resevoir and water source worldwide is those last two rarities that I mentioned. He can deal with killing 90% of the human population. Most people working here don't know that about Antisneeze, but I do, because I snuck a peak in his diary. In his deranged mind, killing ninety percent or more of the human population worldwide would be perfectly acceptable and justifiable if  it meant that NO ONE in the world that remained alive would ever sneeze again."

"Sounds like one sick son of a bitch," remarked Sir Sneezealot.

"Belive me he is," confirmed Gorman. "But I don't have time to get into all that right now. I'd suggest we keep moving until we get to where it is we need to go to. Don't want to appear TOO suspicious, now do we?"

"Gorman's right," proclaimed Demon. "We should complete the objective as quick as possible. The longer we stay here, the greater danger we're in."

"That's right, people," shouted Sir Sneezealot in the tone of a drill sargeante, so c'mon people, let's MOVE OUT!"

"Shut up, Sir Sneezealot," muttered Kelly as she poked her tongue out at him.

"Okay, okay, I'm shuttin', I'm shuttin'. Jeeze!"

***

Watchman crawled on his hands and knees inside the ventilation shaft on the third story of the complex, and Cath followed close behind. She wondered dismally what kind of condition Bondi would be when and if they managed to find him, and at the same time wondered if the guard Wesley Gordon could truly be trusted. He worked for the enemy after all, and here she and Watchman were following his instructions, crawling through these tight, confined ventilations shafts. But perhaps it was the best course of action; more likely than not, if they were going to be caught, it certainly wouldn't be in the vent ducts. Still, she had her doubts...

Cath stopped by one of the grates and peered through to what was outside. It looked nothing like a prison cellblock, but instead another of the endless corridors that seemed to fill the entire building. The top half of the walls had been a creme color and the bottom part green. The floor appeared grated. Cath saw two men standing around talking, and it was the one on the left that had caught her attention.

"Hold on," she whispered to Watchman. Watchman halted and turned toward her with a peculiar look in his eyes.

Cath stared once again at the man to the left on the other side of the grate as he quickly threw his hands over his nose and mouth, and turned away from his partner and sneezed noisily into his cupped hands: "HUAEESCCHOOOO!"

His partner only laughed. "Jesus, man, I thought that serum shit Antisneeze gave us was supposed to STOP people from sneezin'."

The man to the left blushed, sighing, and then muttered: "Only makes me sneeze more."

"Better not tell Antisneeze that," the man to the right snickered.

"NO WAY, man! The crazy fucker'll kill me for sure if he knew."

"You're secret's safe with me, buddy. I may be a lot of things, but I'm no murderer no matter WHAT the state of Texas might have to say in that regard. And another thing I know for sure, Drake, is that Antisneeze is perhaps the craziest son of a bitch the world has ever seen."

"You got that right, Collins," Drake agreed, still blushing. To Cath, he looked like he might sneeze again, though she couldn't know for sure. "I've been sneezin' all the time ever since I took that serum, and I definitely don't want that psychopath knowin' about it."

Cath smiled as she contined to watch, transfixed and anticiping yet another sneeze from the man called Drake, and then another, and perhaps another after that if she was lucky.

A hand closed around her wrist, startling her. Her entire body shook convulsively and she gasped, barely biting back a shriek of terror that rose in her throat. She turned toward the direction the person whom grabbed her had been and saw that it was Watchman. "Sorry," she whispered timidly, feeling the heat rise over her face as she herself blushed brightly.

"We don't have time for this crap, Cath, now let's go."

"Err...right...good idea..."

And the two of them continued to crawl through the ventilation ducts in search of the small prison cellblock, Cath still feeling a bit embarrassed over what had just happened, nagging herself that no matter how much she might enjoy seeing and hearing a cute bloke sneeze that this was definitely not the time to indulge in her passion.

A few minutes later, from a distance, she heard what sounded like Drake sneezing again. It didn't stop her in her tracks this time, but the smile returned immediately to her face.

***

Gordon and the four sneeze fetishists that accompanied him continued to walk down the corridor, getting closer and closer to where they needed to be. He grew excited, awaiting what was about to go down with eager anticipation. It seemed too good to be true, but he could always hope nonetheless. And although he might be desperate, it didn't matter, because NOTHING was worth having to work for a psychopath like Antisneeze. His nose felt like pins and needles as they passed the men's room.

"Hey, guys, hold up."

They all stopped and looked behind, seeing Sir Sneezealot standing in front of the door to the men's room. "I gotta use the restroom, guys, hold on."

"Fuckin' delays," muttered Gordon as he rubbed the back of his hand beneath his itchy nose, taking in a few hitched breaths.

"And why didn't you go before we left the house?" asked Kelly.

"I didn't have to go, then. But I really gotta go now."

Kelly stuck out her tongue at Sir Sneezealot and Sir Sneezealot responded in kind by flicking her the bird.

He sighed. "Look, you guys can go on without me, okay?"

"You sure," asked Demon.

"Yeah, just go on. I'll catch up with you later."

"Okay, just hurry up, okay."

"I will."

"And be careful," Demon advised.

Sir Sneezealot nodded.

***

Beyond the grate appeared to be the prison cell-block portion of Antisneeze headquarters. Watchman and Cath UK had finally reached their destination. A man stood outside nearby, his back to the grate, and Watchman drew his sidearm, aimed it steadily at the base of the man's skull, and squeezed the trigger. A silenced gunshop whispered into the air and the man was taken off his feet, falling forward, hit the grated surface face first and was dead.

"Got the bugger."

He replaced his sidearm in the holster hanging on his belt and then pushed the grate outward. The two of them crawled slowly out of the ventilation duct. Watchman's eyes darted to the right and then to the left and he saw no one. The coast was clear. He moved slowly toward the guard that he had killed, seeing the blood leaking from the back of the man's neck.

"Looks like you got him good," Cath said softly, a feeling of uneasiness creeping over her.

Watchman turned the guard's body over, and both he and Cath immediately recognized the dead man's features. Their eyes rose in shock over the revelation, but at the same time they both knew that neither one of them should've been the least bit surprised.

"Oh my God, its James69!" Cath exclaimed.

"Never did trust the bloody wanker," Watchman muttered in disgust.

Cath UK pulled the keys from his belt and began walking beside each of the prison cells, glancing inside briefly until upon the eighth or nineth prison cell she saw a man inside, laying motionless on the floor by the concrete wall. She stopped immediately and took a closer look inside. Indeed it was Bondi, battered and broken by those lunatics that had captured him. "Oh Bondi, what've they done to you?" she thought dismally. "Hey, Watchman" she called out as she unlocked the prison doors with the keys and pulled it open, "I found him!"

"Hang on!" he called back. "Let me just make sure that the coast is clear."

Cath walked into the prison cell, noticing for the first time how stale and musty the air had been in these prison facilities. The faint but acrid odor of dust loomed in the atmosphere, tickling her nose, and she immediately turned away and sneezed quietly into her arm: "huh-iischooo!" She sniffled and then walked toward Bondi, kneeling beside him and holding his head in her hands. "Bondi...Bondi, are you okay?" She rubbed the ball of her thumb over the coarse stubble over his cheeks. He gazed at her blankly, his mouth slightly open, blood coating his lips and around his chin and philtrum, and a large purple bruise forming over his forehead.

"Ugh...no...please." He groaned, tensing up. "Please don't...no more...I can't take anymore...please..."

"Its okay, Bondi..."

"Enough, please," he continued to beg, his bleary eyes looking up at her. "Please...I can't..."

The tickle returned once again to Cath's nose. She turned away momentarily and sneezed lightly into the air, sniffed wetly, and then turned back to Bondi. "It's okay, lad. Its me, Cath."

He stammered incoherently and his eyes opened wider. She could see an expression of recognition form over Bondi's face and he relaxed. "Cath? That you?"

"Yes, silly," she said, smiling. "It's me."

"Help me...please..."

"Don't worry," she said. "We're going to get you out of here."

Cath rose to her feet, that familiar tickly feeling returning to her nose. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut as he head bobbed back. She took in a few hitched breaths, cupping her hands over her face, and sneezed several times, doubling over with the force of each one. "Huh-heh-SHOO! IKCHEEEW! *sniff* oh God...huhschooo! aschooo!" She moaned, sniffed, and finally regained her composure once more, looking down upon Bondi, sure that perhaps her mini fit had arroused him at least somewhat, in some ways hopeful that it might be enough to snap him out of his haze. But Bondi only lay there, staring up at the ceiling completely unaffected. That worried Cath a great deal.

She heard Watchman entering the cell finally, turned her head back and saw that he was carrying the corpse of James69 over his shoulder. "How is he?" Watchman asked quietly.

"He's hurt bad," Cath answered grimly. "Going to need medical attention by the looks of it."

Watchman gently placed James69's body over the prison cot. "This'll hopefully act as a decoy, so maybe if they're dumb enough, they'll think it was Bondi sleeping on his cot if they don't look too closely. Hopefully by the time they figure out what happened, we'll be long gone. He then went to Cath and Bondi and placed Bondi's left arm gingerly over his neck. Cath put Bondi's right arm over her own neck and the two of them very slowly lifted him to his feet and walked him out of the prison cell. "We'd better get him out of here fast," Watchman commented.

Cath nodded in agreement.

"Cold," hissed Bondi, his voice trembling. "God...why's it so fuckin' cold..."

***

"Well, boys and girls, looks like we're here," declared Gordon, rubbing the back of his hand against his nose and sniffling wetly. "We've reached our destination at last." He put his hand against the door beside him, the one that had led into the main computer area, where all the data on the experiments had been stored. "Let's do it."

He pushed the door open and was about to go in, when Demon stopped him in his tracks. "Wait a minute," he said, "where's Sir Sneezealot?"

"He went to the bathroom, that's where," Kelly answered.

"I know that, but he should've gotten back by now," said Demon. "Even a number two shouldn't take THIS long." He sighed. "I hope he didn't get lost." He turned to Kitty. "Kitty, could you try to find him and make sure he's okay."

"Sure thing."

"And be careful."

Kitty nodded, then turned and went in search of Sir Sneezealot.

"Now that that's taken care of, let's tackle the REALLY important stuff." Gordon grinned, then pushed the door open, and he, Demon, and Kelly went inside.

***

"Okay, guys, I'm almost in," Kelly said in a nervous tone, pushing a cluster of blond hair out of her eyes. She sat on the swivel chair in front of one of the computers, nervously typing in a series of keys. "Gotta crack a few passwords...not gonna be easy."

"You're doing okay," Demon said, standing over her. "Just be careful..."

"Couldn't you just have hacked into the computer system at home," Gordon asked, his arms folded over his chest. He sniffled intermittently as the long and agonizingly tense seconds passed, excited over what was about to come to pass, a deep feeling of liberation sweeping over him. At the same time, it seemed unbelievable, almost unreal.

"We still had to save Bondi," Demon reminded him.

"Oh, right..."

"And I'm not a hacker." Kelly didn't stick out her tongue when she said that; this time, her nerves were too frazzled, her voice trembling, and her eyes remaining glued to the green glow of the computer screen. She slowly moved the mouse with her sweaty hand, clicked OK, and then continued typing away frantically at the keyboard once again. "Ugh...too many defenses."

"What're you trying to do anyway, if ya don't mind my asking." Gordon rubbed his finger against his burning nose again, feeling way too sniffly.

"Got a virus right here." Kelly pulled a floppy disk out from her inside coat pocket and pushed it into the A-drive slot. "Should infect every computer on this network system, wiping out EVERYTHING and render the system completely useless. I prepared it myself." She grinned thinly, but Gordon could tell just by looking at her and the beads of cold sweat that formed over her brow that this was a very tense moment for her. If she wasn't unconfident that it would go smoothly, she was still apprehensive, uneasy about the whole sitiuation and what might happen next. The uneasy feeling was more than mutual, and he suspected that Demon felt it as well.

Gordon nodded, lacing his fingers around together tautly. "Sounds interesting."

He suddenly doubled over with a hard sneeze that had caught him completely off-guard: "HAAAASCHHOOOO!" The shear force of the sneeze made it seem almost as if it had been lingering within his nose for an eternity, struggling fiercely to be released, until finally, it managed to burst free with such impeccable force that his entire body had been thrown forward with the momentum.

Gordon marveled at the irony of how everytime he'd gotten an intense, burning tickle in his nose and had been absolutely positive he would sneeze, the tickle went away and it was a false alarm; yet now he HAD sneezed this time, but felt barely a slight twitch in his nose before doing so. Gordon didn't even have time to cover up, and instead sneezed harshly, spraying a fine white mist into the air.

As he regained his composure, Gordon felt liberated over what he had just done. Upon taking the serum, he thought he would never sneeze again. Then all those false alarms and extremely close calls over the past few months. He remember how desperately he had wanted to sneeze upon each false alarm, and the feeling of disapointment he experienced when he hadn't. Not only had yearned to sneeze upon those false alarms, but overall wanted to sneeze throughout the whole six-month period--a part of him wanted it to happen, because he had always hated to blindly follow absurd rules and social norms, and in this building, in the land of Antisneeze, sneezing wasn't just taboo but a capitol offense. He'd spat right in the face of Antisneeze, and the lunatic didn't even know it, and that left Gordon in a state of blissful euphoria. "Yes!" he thought excitedly. "I BEAT the serum!"

"Okay, guys, I released the virus into the system, and--"

The sudden blare of an alarm cut Kelly off at mid-sentence and startled Gordon out of his emotional high. Everything went pitch dark for a second, and then red light filled the entire room.

"Oh shit!" screamed Kelly.

"GODDAMN IT, GORDON, WHAT THE HELL'S GOIN' ON?!!"

Gordon was unable to speak. Fear had seized him, and he sthrank away, cursing himself for not thinking of this before; he should've known that they would set up an alarm, just in case someone tried to break into the system. They ALL should've foreseen that possibility.

And now it was much too late.

***

Sir Sneezealot had already wiped his ass, pulled up his pants, and flushed the toilet when the whole plan had gone to hell. Washing his hands, he'd heard the sudden shrieking of an alaarm piercing his eardrums, and had panicked, his entire body seemingly convusing as he struggled to figure out what he was going to do. Outside, he heard a series of rapid footsteps pounding upon the floor. A single thought raced through his mind again and again: "What's goin' on? Shit! WHAT THE HELL'S GOIN' ON?"

Sir Sneezealot hurried toward the bathroom door and pulled it open just enough so he could peak outside and see what was going on. What looked like soldiers armed with AK47 assault rifles raced down the corridor past him, and endless onslaught of men armed to the teeth, all rushing toward the source of the disturbance.

Sir Sneezealot's entire body was jolted with fear, and he either pushed himself or was thrown backward, but either way, he careened back, his hands and ass slapping hard against the filthy bathroom floor. The pain was immediate, stinging his palms but he was unmindful of it. All he cared about at the moment was whatever the hell had been going on. Sir Sneezealot had no idea if any of the soldiers had caught glimpse of him, or if one of them or a few of them would suddenly burst into the bathroom and take him out in a hail of bullets. The uncertainty scared him. But the one thing that filled him with terror was the fact that regardless of what might've set off the alarm, one thing was abundantly clear: The shit had now officially hit the fan, and he and all of his friends were now completely screwed.

***

The sudden shrieking of the alarm had startled Kitty as well out of her little stroll down to the "little boy's room" to pick up Sir Sneezealot. From a distance she could hear a series of pounding footsteps. At first, she had no idea what this could mean. But then she thought of Cath UK and Watchman, whom had been on the third floor of the complex; their objective was to find Bondi and get him out of here as quickly as possible. With the sudden blaring of the alarm, she was sure that they had been caught, and her heart sank at the thought of maybe never seeing Bondi alive again. The footsteps grew closer, and she knew that if whoever was rushing toward her caught sight of her, she wouldn't make it out alive either. Her head veered toward her right and she saw a door. She had no idea where the door would lead her or what might be behind, but it was her only chance. Without thinking about it, she hurried toward her one chance of survival, pushed the door open hastily, and threw herself inside, into the unknown.

***

"WHY DIDN'T YOU WARN US ABOUT THE FUCKING ALARMS" Demon roared madly, pointing an accusitory finger toward Gordon, his body and face glowing in the dark crimson luminescence of the room, accentuating his rage.

"I d-didn't know about 'em!" Gordon stammered as he flinched back.

The footsteps were growing louder now; the men were coming closer and closer and soon he, Kelly, and Demon would most likely be taken out in a hail of bullets. Gordon was sweating, his heart jackhammering. Panic had seized him, and he took another step back, his hand brushing against the cold metal barrel of the sidearm resting in his holster. He remembered earlier how he had complained of not having a gun to the other fetishists. They all scoffed at the idea of trusting GORMON of all people with a firearm, but he persisted, and finally, Demon had ordered Sir Sneezealot to hand over one of his sidearms to Gorman. Of course, Sir Sneezealot protested, insisting that this was an extremely bad idea, but in the end gave in and surrendered the weapon to Gorman. Gorman thanked him, and Sir Sneezealot just muttered about how much of a horribly bad idea it was trusting the guard with a fucking weapon.

Closing his sweaty hand around the handle of the holstered sidearm, Gorman couldn't help but think that Sir Sneezealot had been right after all; it really was a VERY bad idea to trust the guard with a weapon.

"HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW OF THE ALARMS, DAMN IT?"

"I'm just a fucking guard!" argued Gordon, a bit timidly. Without hesitation, he tore the sidearm from its  holster and aimed it firmly at Demon's chest. "Don't get any funny ideas, man. Just put your hands where I can see 'em and don't move!"

"What's going on, Gordon? Why're you doing this?" Kelly asked, dumbfounded and terrified.

"You too, Kelly! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE 'EM!" Gordon bared his teeth at the both of them, spittle flying from his lips.

"This was a set-up, wasn't it?" shouted Demon, even more enraged now. "We never shoulda trusted you in the first place, YOU SON OF A BITCH!"

The door flew right open, slamming hard against the wall, and dozens upon dozens of men armed with assault rifles burst into the room, their weapons drawn and aimed at Demon, Kelly, and Gordon, ready to open fire any second. "DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND GET ON THE GROUND NOW!" one of them spoke through an amplifier.

Gordon stood still, his sidearm still aimed at both Demon and Kelly, his finger poised at the trigger, streams of snot running down his nose to his chin, with his teeth bared in a feral grin. "Looks like we been caught boys 'n' girls!"

"This was a set-up right from the beginning, wasn't it, you motherfucker? RIGHT FROM THE FUCKIN' BEGINNING!"

"I REPEAT, DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND GET ON THE GROUND NOW!" the man with the amplifier said again. The trio now found themselves completely surrounded on all ends, a man with a gun pointed at them in every direction, each one ready to open fire on command. "THE THREE OF YOU HAVE UNTIL THE COUNT OF THREE TO DO AS I SAY, OR WE WILL OPEN FIRE...ONE...TWO..."

To be continued.

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