STORIES : The Anti-Sneeze Serum : Part Three:

Excerpt from The Diary of Antisneeze

June 08, 2002

Though it grieves me to say this, I fear that the project that I have devoted over half my life to is now winding down to an end, and without the results I so greatly desired.

I remember over twenty-five years ago how optimistic and excited I had been when the experiments began, when I funded this laboratory in the middle of this barren desert. I was young, naive, and idealistic back then. I never DREAMED that it would take as long as it has. Even as the years went by and I didn't have the results I yearned for, I never gave up hope. When I had nearly depleted my funds and could no longer afford this laboratory and everything else, that was perhaps the one other time that things had looked bleak, and I nearly lost hope. In desperation, I went to the government, not expecting much, realizing how the government could spend money so frivolously. Surely they their money would be too tied up in worthless investments for them to EVER fund anything even remotely worthwhile, such as perfecting my serum. But I ask nevertheless in the small hope that they might agree, and to my greatest surprise, it paid off. From there, the government took over funding the experiments, relieving me of the great financial burden. It had been the most wonderful news I could have heard in my life. My youthful excitement and elation returned; my great hope and ambition that I had experienced when it all began flooded me once again, and I returned to the labs with great anticipation. The experiments continued.

But now it all comes to an end.

I guess I shouldn't be too upset. In retrospect, I'm surprised that the government has continued funding me THIS long. I never expected anything from them in the first place, and in a lot of ways, I am grateful for all that they had done for me. But I AM upset. The email I received from them just now feels like the ultimate betrayal, a dagger to the heart, dishing out a fatal blow to the project that I have devoted my entire life to.

The government can no longer afford to fund these experiments, they say? They have things of greater importance to use the money with than the serum that could stop the world from sneezing, should it ever be perfected? Bullshit, I say. Sneezing is the gravest threat to the human species. It is a greater health hazard than smoking, drinking, drug use, and foods high in cholesterol. It is a greater threat to the human species than any disease, famine, terrorism, any problem you can think of. It is the most heinous act that could ever be perpetrated by a human being. Nothing enrages me more than being exposed to the noxious, toxic fumes that fill the air after one has just sneezed. It sickens me, and if I were dictator, reigning supreme sovereign of the state, perhaps the world, I would make it so anyone who sneezes will be shot on sight; no exceptions.

I know that there are plenty out their who ask: "What's the big deal, anyway? EVERYONE sneezes, and its not like it hurts anyone most of the time anyway?" Nothing could be further from the truth. More strife and misery have been brought about because of sneezing than from anything else, period. Sneezing has brought about more misery than the world will ever know. And it's not like EVERYBODY sneezes, either. I know that THAT is definitely not the case because I have never sneezed once in my entire life. I know others who haven't sneezed either, and they are among my best friends; should they ever sneeze, I will never speak to them again. And had my serum been perfected, then NO ONE would ever sneeze from that point forward.

But unfortunately, my serum sometimes doesn't work on everybody, and in some cases makes the subject sneeze more than he or she had done prior to ingesting it. That is the part that needs to be rectified. Those in this compound that sneeze more because of the serum can easily be killed; they think they can hide those effects from me, and they CAN hide them...but only for a little while. Eventually, they will slip up, and I will kill them. They can't get away with such a travesty for very long. But if I apply the serum to every resevoir worldwide, then I WON'T be able to find and kill the subjects that are unaffected by it throughout the world, and won't be able to finish off those who sneeze even more as a result of ingestion of the serum through their drinking water. I don't care that it will kill ninety percent of those who ingest it. As long as no one ever sneezes again, that is all that matters. Sneezing is such a great threat to the human race worldwide, that killing ninety percent of the species is more than justifiable. Its the only hope that mankind has left.

Unfortunately, the government no longer sees it that way.

And now the plus has officially been pulled. No breakthroughs had been made, but we were so close. So close, and now its all over. I can't go back to financing these experiments on my own; I've about three bucks in my name. I NEED those government grants. Without them, the experiments can't go on, and the experiments are my life. Without them, I have nothing. Without the serum, I am nothing. And now, the government is taking it all away, taking everything away that I have worked so hard for. Our species as a whole is doomed now. The government has sealed their fate with the damning email they have just sent.

In some ways, I think, it might be just as well. Morality has been declining around here for a very long time. Those that work under me are starting to question my purpose. Even if they don't believe in my cause (the fools), they must realize that I am still their savior. If not for me, they would all be dead by now. And yet they question my methods and my goals and call me a lunatic, a psychopath behind my back. I hope for their own sakes that they don't try to rebel, because I have zero tolerance for insubordination. The only thing that pisses me off more than insubordination is sneezing, and neither will be tolerated. But if they are merely wary of my presence, then so be it. It doesn't matter now anyway.

Game over.

And thanks to that bitch, Kelly, I no longer have the data stored. She infected each one of my computers with a virus--the alarms went off, alerting us of the presence of her and Demon, but not before the damage had been done. Had I still had the data, then perhaps someone else could carry on with the experiments from where I left off at some point in the future. But not only has my progress been halted by the damning government email, but everything's been deleted, as though it had never happened at all.

Those filthy fetishist freaks haven't gotten to the samples of the serum that I have stored elsewhere in this building. The serum remains intact, so perhaps there is still some hope. Things look bleak still, and I fear for the human race as a whole.

There isn't much time...

Things might be going bad now, even without the sneeze fetishists, but those sickos made things so much worse. And the worst part of it is that I have no one to blame but myself; the blunder was purely mine. I NEVER should've captured Bondi in the first place. And I DEFINITELY shouldn't have told them what I had done or what I was planning to do. I have thought about that a lot, and I still can't understand what came over me. To have Bondi apprehended was understandable. If there are people who are turned on by sneezing as James69 had claimed there were, then of course I should drive a stake through their black hearts before they could learn of my project and put a stop to it. But to ALERT the other fetishists of what I had done...no doubt the biggest mistake of my life. Even with the grants from the government cut off, as long as the data remained intact, there was still some small measure of hope for future generations, even if I was no longer alive to see it put to use. I still have the samples of the serum, but not the data, and that makes everything so much more complicated.

And worst of all, Bondi is gone...

How could that be? When I had seen him last, he was in no condition to so much as move, let alone execute any kind of plan of escape. "Holy shit, Antisneeze, I think I really messed Bondi up this time," James 69 had said, rushing into my quarters to alert me of what had happened. "I think I might've killed the bastard or something." He seemed quite nervous, trembling, his voice quivering as he delivered the news. I don't blame him either; I'll be the first to admit that I can be a bit rash at time, a little too quick tempered, and that my temper might at times make me do irrational things. But James69 had nothing to fear. If Bondi had indeed been dead, it would have been of no consequence to me or to James69.

I still had to check the cell and see for myself. Upon entering the cell, I did see Bondi lying motionless against the wall, and at first I thought he had been dead, just as James69 said. His leg twitched slightly, but that could've easily been a dying nerve. I took a closer examination, scrutinizing the blood drying over his mouth, chin, and philtrum, the bruise growing over his forehead. I put my fingers to his throat and felt a slight pulse.

"He's alive," I said at last, "at least for now."

"But what if he dies later on?"

"Then he dies," I answered nonchalantly. "Shit happens. Just make sure he doesn't leave his cell, and I'll be happy."

Satisfied with the situation, I left, with no anticipation that anything would go wrong.

Several minutes later, of course, I hear the alarm blaring. Security rushed to the computer labs, but it was too late. The damage had already been done. Irreparable damage. A horrible virus crashing my systems, demolishing over twenty years of reasearch, notes, and data in under twenty seconds. No one is very hopeful that they will be able to recover that much, if any, of the data lost. That bitch, Kelly, really fucked EVERYTHING up. If only she could have destroyed my laptop as well, so I might not have received that horrid email from the government informing me that they will be pulling the plug on my precious experiments. That email was the icing on the cake, the final slap in the face, and I wonder if there aren't any of those disgusting fetishists working for the government, and if THAT might not be the reason why the funds will now cease.

Of course, the email came AFTER the discovery of Bondi's escape.

I knew something was wrong the moment I noticed the blood drying over the grated surface of the prison cellblock, around the ventilation duct. The security team had already escorted Kelly and Demon to their own prison cells, and I was alone. I checked the cell where Bondi had been kept and noted what looked to be Bondi sleeping on his cot. I knew something was wrong, however, because Bondi had been in no condition to move all the way to the cot. And where had James69 gone off to?

I went into the cell to have a closer look, and to my utter horror, I discovered that it WASN'T Bondi sleeping or in a daze from a concussion over his cot, but rather, it was the corpse of James69, bleeding all over my hands from a gunshot wound to the base of the skull. Up until that point, I had retained some hope that Kelly and Demon were the only intruders; no one else had infiltrated my compound. But upon seeing what happened first hand, I knew differently.

Kelly and Demon's cells are right next to each other; Kelly on the left, and Demon on the right. This would make interrogating them easy, as I could talk to the both of them at the same time; yet it also made it easier for them to deceive me, as one would no doubt corroborate the other's account. Neither of them said much, but they both insisted that they were the only ones, and that no one else had been sent.

"Maybe Bondi got up and left on his own," suggested Kelly, sullenly.

"That's IMPOSSIBLE!" I screamed insanely. That was no doubt an occurrance of one of my more irrational moments, but who can blame me? I spend my entire adult life trying to save the world, and even those that work under me dismiss me as a kook at best, and a raving, deranged madman at worse. I have every right to be bitter.

"Strange things happen every day." She shrugged, as though it were no big deal at all and I was overreacting over nothing. "But if he DID escape, I'm glad. He doesn't need to be subjected to your insanity and neither does anyone else." Her voice was cold; I could see the hatred burning in her eyes. But her comment angered me as well. Another bitch calling me insane, and one with the type of fetish constituting the pinnacle of madness.

"He COULDN'T have escaped on his own!" I informed both Kelly and Demon. "Not in the condition HE was in. At the very least, he would end up with a bad concussion, but it wouldn't surprise me if he were to go into seizure and end up dead. James69 had beaten him, fucked him big time! Next thing I see, James69 is DEAD and Bondi has VANISHED!"

"I don't know anything about that." Kelly stuck out her tongue at me.

"What do you have against us and sneezing in general anyway?" Demon asked, and I could sense the bitterness and hatred in his own voice as well. "This is a perfectly innocent, harmless fetish."

I threw my head back and burst out laughing immediately, long, hard, roaring with laughter. Sure he must've been joking, right? "Harmless? INNOCENT?" I chortled. My eyes began to water, I was laughing so hard. Eventually, the laughter subsided, and I was able to speak once again. "Its NOT good clean innocent and harmless fun, you fucking idiot. I could write a whole fucking book on why sneezing is hazardous. And this fetish that you freaks share makes a sexual arrousal for SCAT look sanitary."

He said nothing, just looked at me, another fool dismissing my claims as utter madness. I should be used to that by now, desensitized to it. Yet it still hurts everytime, wounding me deeply. I couldn't let it show. And a part of me still knew that I couldn't sway someone like that, whom had been stimulated by sneezing in one way or another his entire life, to come to my side.

"Just tell me who else was sent here with you," I said, calmly, in a reasonable manner. "There has to be at least one other person in your company. Please, tell me who it is and what he might've done with Bondi, and I promise, I'll let you both live."

"Its like we told you before; we're the only ones here," Demon repeated.

Immediately, I drew my .45 caliber sidearm from its holster and squeezed the trigger without an ounce of hesitation. The sudden blast startled me briefly, as the recoil jolted all the way up my arm, making it ache...but in a way, it was a WONDERFUL ache. I watched ecstatic, as the bone-shattering round passed through Demon's forehead, throwing him back. The back of his head exploded, vomiting his brains and his blood against the wall, with small chunks of flesh and tufts of hair flying all over the place. Kelly's shrill cries of terror pierced my eardrums from the next cell over, but I was too immersed in the rush to be bothered. It was a liberating, cleansing experience for me, and I almost wished I could resurrect him just so I could kill him all over again.

Then I turned to Kelly, still holding the .45 in my hand as the smoke billowed from the muzzle. She was crying hysterically over Demon's death, panicking and saddened all at the same time. I almost pitied her...almost, but not quite. "Listen to me," I said harshly--she'd get no solace from me, that was was for sure. "I'll be back soon, and if you don't give me the answers I need, you'll join your little friend over their"--I pointed to the cell to the right, where the corpse of Demon resided.

She merely looked up at me, hatred spurning in her teary eyes, and spat in my face. That amused me more than anything else.

"You might think that you stopped the experiments with your dreadful virus," I went on, "but even if I DON'T have the data, I still have plenty of samples of the serum and the show will go on."

Of course, at that point, I hadn't gotten the email from the government, telling essentially that, contrary to what I might have thought before, the show WASN'T going to go on. It all stops right here, right now. Finished. Kaput. Game over.

There's still time for revenge, however.

I sent out a small team to scour both the inside of this building as well as outside, in search of Bondi and whoever might have helped him escape. It is my fervent hope that those parties are still in the area. My orders as far as Bondi and his savior are concerned: Seek and destroy.

The most dangerous enemy of all is the one with nothing left to lose...

 

* * *

Antisneeze Headquarters: the Basement
2:00am Mountain Time

Wesley Gordon was soaked in perspiration as he strapped the bomb over the generator. It had to be this way; no other way around it. He didn't like it; he was scared. But this was the only way. Antisneeze was a psychopath, one who would take countless lives if that's what it took for him to get what he wanted. Gordon couldn't let that happen. He'd stop Antisneeze one way or another, even if it meant that he and the others would perish in the explosion. Three hours before detonation. Plenty of time to defuse the bomb, to back out. But Gordon couldn't do that. So he put his back to the bomb attached to the generator, and calmly walked away. A tickle seized his noes and he sneezed harshely into the air. "HERRSCHOO!" Gordon was sneezing all the time now, it seemed. If Antisneeze were to find out, he'd kill Gordon mercilessly and without hesitation. Somehow, the bomb strapped over the generator made EVERYTHING seem irrelavent.

Fifty-nine seconds until the insanity ends...for good...

For the first time in years, a grin of triumph broke over Wesley Gordon's face, faltering only when he felt the need to sneeze again.

* * *

Somewhere in the Nevada Desert
Almost a mile from the Antisneeze HQ
2:03am

Watchman and Cath UK gently set Bondi down, both winded, and hiding behind the huge plateau, hoping they were at a safe distance from the building, hoping they could catch a five-minute break. It had been a miracle that she and Watchman were able to get Bondi out of there without much of a conflict, Cath reflected.

As they'd crawled through that ventilation shaft, struggling to push Bondi through as he was in no state to crawl through himself, she had panicked immediately upon hearing the sudden blaring of the complex's alarm system, sure that she and Watchman had been caught somehow. They couldn't have realized that Bondi had been missing so soon, could they? But what else could have set off the alarm? And what could have given away their position? Security cameras? But why wouldn't the alarms have gone off when they were carrying Bondi through the prison cellblock, rather than five minutes into the ventilation shafts? It made no sense.

But that didn't matter at that moment. All that matter was that apparently Cath and Watchman had somehow been caught, and Cath was terrified. Watchman was in a frenzy as well, and the two of them, pushing Bondi hastily, scaled through the ventilation shafts hurriedly until they reached the grate on the other side. It seemed like moving through molasses, but eventually, they made it to the other side and peered through to the other side.

It had been utter chaos in the corridor beyond. Men in uniform coming from the right and moving quickly to various routes toward the left, in a single direction. Were they heading toward the prison cellblock, or somewhere else entirely? It was then that Cath doubted that it had been her and Watchman that had set off the alarm in the first place? What if it were the others? What if that fuckwit, Gordon, whom had given away their position?

Cath and Watchman waited, crouched uncomfortably by the grate, with Bondi's semi-conscious form, as the uniformed men continued to blaze by; Cath couldn't ascertain where they had been headed, and no longer had any clue what any of this commotion could possibly be about. It seemed to go on forever, an infinite number of man blasting by in a never-ending span of time. She was filled with dread, fearing that one of the men running time by would glance in their direction, and catch a glimpse of her and Watchman hiding behind the grate. It couldn't be that difficult, if they were to walk slowly by. They would no doubt be able to spot the two intruders in the ventilation ducts. Another instant of panic came when Cath felt a tickle in her nose; if she sneezed now, they would surely catch her, she thought, disconcerted by this new burning sensation in her nose. A few minutes later, she had managed to stifle the sneeze, but was still sure that those rushing outside toward the source of the alarm had heard her, and she expected someone to peak in, find them, and kill them. But no one did. A little while later, she stifled another sneeze, and then another, and was filled with relief when it appeared that no one outside had heard.

Eventually, the stampeding footsteps pounding on the surface outside tappered off, and then dwindled entirely. After a while, no one could be seen or heard from outside. No longer did the threat of getting caught and captured loom so ominously over their heads, though it never left completely.

And there was still Bondi to worry about. "If we don't get him out of here and to a hospital soon, he's going to die," Cath whispered gravely as she and Watchman pulled Bondi carefully out of the ventilation ducts.

"I know, but we've got to get out of this bloody hellhole, first."

They walked Bondi slowly to the elevator, all the while feeling a cold, dreadful suspicion creeping over them, feeling an eerie, evil presence close by, lurking. Cath wondered dismally if this might not be a trap, a ploy used by the soldiers to get them out of the vents, to draw them out from their safe haven. But no one came. No one shot at them or ordered their surrender. No alarms went off either. Watchman pressed the elevator button, and within seconds (long, dreadful seconds), their was a chime as the elevator doors slowly came open. The elevator was empty. Cath and Watchman slowly walked Bondi into the elevator, a sense of relief washing over Cath once the doors closing open and they began to descend to the first level. Almost out of the building...almost homefree. But she couldn't get too over confident. They still had to be careful. They--

* * *

"Hey, look over there," Watchman called, pulling Cath out of her thoughts. He pointed his finger up ahead, drawing her attention toward the van that they had all arrived in, parked fifty feet ahead of them. "Not much farther at all."

Cath nodded in agreement.

They lifted Bondi from the ground, not bothering to dust the sand off his cloths, and began to walk him toward the van, toward salvaton. "Should hurry," Cath said, "the sooner he gets to a hospital, the better..."

"What about the others?" Watchman brought up.

"Prof can send someone else to come pick them up," Cath replied, unsure. She considered momentarily; it was a tough call. But a decision was made: "We need to worry about Bondi, first. Once he's in the clear, we can take care of everything else."

Watchman hesitated for a few seconds as they neared the van. Then: "I guess you're right."

They continued toward the van, walking Bondi as he stared blearily toward the sand, one arm around the back of Watchman's neck for support, the other around Cath's neck. They began to walk faster, the closer they got to the van. They suddenly felt pressed for time; it seemed imperative that they get Bondi into the van and drive off to the nearest hospital or clinic ASAP.

From a distance, behind them, a series of gunshot rang off. "HOLD IT!" someone called.

Cath and Watchman were both startled by this sudden intervention, their bodies jolting in terror, and they nearly let Bondi fall to the ground once again, but managed to catch him just in time. Cath looked back. "Shit!" she murmured, nearly panicked. "Looks like we were caught after all."

"GUYS, GOT 'EM HERE!" screamed the man armed with an AK47, running toward them, firing randomly in front of him. "THEY'RE OVER HERE! THOSE FUCKERS'RE OVER HERE!"

Watchman frantically tore the rear doors open to the van. More shots from behind went off, and Watchman instinctively turned around, drawing his sidearm from its holster and fired off three deafening gunshots, feeling the sharp recoil surge all the way up his arm. One of the rounds hit the gunman from behind in the throat, and his AK47 flew from his arms, firing uncontrollably in every direction. The gunman threw his hand to his bleeding throat, gagging as blood sprayed like a geyser from his mouth, and fell back, making a loud THUD as he hit the ground.

Watchman and Cath pulled Bondi gently but quickly into the van and pulled the rear doors shut just as reinforcements arrived on the scene and began to fire rapidly and uncontrollably in their direction. Watchman raced toward the drivers seat, fishing quickly in his pockets for the keys, found them, and jammed them hastily in the ignition, the sound of the engine humming to life now being drowned out by the loud, droning gunfire outside.

Cath screamed as a few stray rounds broke through the glass, buzzing past her, and was then taken off her feet just as Watchman pressed the accelator all the way to the floor.

The van zoomed off into the darkness just as the platoon of men with AK47s closed in on it. The van's tires kicked up opaque clouds of dust into the night air. The men continued to fire in its direction even after the van had left, and continued to fire on at least for a few more minutes after the van had disappeared entirely, unable to stop, unable to believe that the occupants within the van truly had been able to escape Antisneeze's grasp.

* * *

Forty-seven minutes left until detonation

"How many were there?"

"Two of 'em, sir. Not including Bondi. But they were carrying him off into the van."

Antisneeze's grip tightened around the cellphone. "HOW COULD YOU LET THEM ESCAPE!" he screamed, enraged. They would feel his wrath when they returned, he'd make damn sure of that. They'd pay for their failure. It was times like these, he wished he had gotten a PROFESSIONAL military force, but the government wouldn't give it to him, so he would have to make do with what he had.

"We're sorry sir, we--"

In a fit of rage, Antisneeze threw the cellular phone against the wall. He screamed madly as he brought the closed fists of both hands down hard upon the surface of his desk. "SHIT!"

Tears began to well in his eyes now, his whole life coming apart. He stared at the computer screen, and the damning, abysmal text stared back at him, the email that the government had sent to him with their bleak news. He thought in a bout of denial that perhaps if he called the email up again, it would say something else, hoping that things might change. But nothing was different; the email had the same message, those same damning words, crushing his soul:

"We appologize, Antisneeze, but we are no longer able to fund your experiments. Those above us no longer see the validity of your work, and we can no longer afford to give you anymore grants for the project. So, though it pains us to report this, governmental funding for the Antisneeze Serum experiments ceases as of this point. Active immediately.

"Have a nice day."

How could they do such a thing? What could be more important that the abolition of sternutation? It boggled his mind. He couldn't for the life of him comprehend how the government could be so STUPID.

It was a travesty, and Bondi's escape was the final slap in the face.

Perhaps if he had had a helicopter of some kind, he could send someone to search for the van. Those sons of bitches whom had gotten Bondi out of his grasp would have no hope of escape. But the government, those fucking assholes, wouldn't give him one. So Bondi had gotten away from him, along with whomever his savior had been...at least for the time being.

But Antisneeze still had Kelly in his grasps.

Demon, before he had died, had insisted that he and Kelly were the only ones sent to Antisneeze Headquarters. Kelly carried on with that claim, but now Antisneeze knew that she and Demon were lying all along. How many others were here, in this building, even now? How many more freaks and perverts had been sent? No way of knowing. But Antisneeze had Kelly, and Kelly was going to pay for lying...pay BIG TIME! Antisneeze would see to that.

Oh yes...EVERYONE was going to suffer for Antisneeze's fall from grace.

* * *

Forty-two minutes before final detonation

Gordon felt yet another tickle inside his nose as he pressed down upon the handle and heard the urinal flush. He zipped his fly and walked slowly to the sink, viewing his face in the mirror, glimpsing upon his dark hair, his clean-shaven face. He looked strong, felt strong, even in the face of death, even though in a little over two and a half hours he and everyone else in the building would die. Nothing would cause his smug demeanor to falter.

Washing his hands now, Gordon noticed how badly his notrils were twitching, how his nose burned. He needed to sneeze and needed to do so very badly, and this thought excited him. He turned off the faucet, dried his hands with paper towel, and the tickle in his nose grew ever stronger, the sneeze becoming ever persistent.

As he was about to walk out of the bathroom, Gordon doubled over sharply with the force of this next sneeze, very loud and very powerful as well: "huh-HEEAAAASSSSCHOOOOO!" He sniffled wetly, but the there was still that sharp nasal burn, and he knew, somehow, that he was definitely going to sneeze again. Gordon's breathing became hitched. He took in a gulp of air, and then: "Huh-ah-HASCHOOOO! HEEHSCHAA!"

Upon regaing composure and wiping his hand across his watering eyes, Gordon reflected upon what he had just done, thrilled and absolutely amazed. He'd NEVER in his life sneezed more than once. The few times he had had to sneeze, it would be one sneeze and ONLY one, every single time. He didn't mind, but now, upon sneezing in multiples, he had been greatly excited. What a thrilling, amazing experience. Each sneeze was spitting right in the face of Antisneeze and all of his twisted philosophies. And now, Gordon was sneezing VERY frequently, and had just done so in multiples. Oh, if only he could have a long, drawn-out sneezing fit. If a man was going to die within a couple hours, he might as well make the most of what little time he had left and ENJOY it.

A wide grin stretched across Gordon's face as he walked out of the men's room. He almost felt the urge to go directly to his quarters and start inducing.

* * *

Several miles west of Antisneeze Headquarters
2:30am

"I notified Professor and Tarotgal of what happened," Watchman said. Now that they were at a comfortable distance from Antisneeze's headquarters and from those men firing at them, he was able to ease pressure on the accelerator and allowed the van to coast at a comfortable sixty miles per hour. "Tarotgal said that she would send someone to pick the others up in a little while."

"We don't even know for sure if they're even still alive," Cath said dismally.

"That is true, but for now, it is best to assume that they are."

"I guess." Cath sighed, and then looked over toward Bondi. He was sitting quietly, staring absently out the window, his cheek pressed against the windowpane. "How are you feeling, Bondi?" Cath asked.

"Still feel like shit," he grumbled. "Head hurts, still really cold..."

"Better get him to the nearest hospital ASAP, Watchman."

"That's where we're headed now."

* * *

Antisneeze Headquarters

Kitty had been wondering around aimlessly for what seemed like forever, but in actuality had only been a couple hours at most. She had no idea what was going on, or what had happened when the alarms had gone off. She thought that they had caught Cath and Watchman trying to get Bondi out, but now wasn't so sure. All she heard had been the men rushing down the corridor, but they were rushing in the direction of the computer labs, where Kelly and Demon were with Wesley Gordon, trying to infect the systems with a virus. Kitty hid in the janitor's closet, not wanting the men to catch her, or to hear how she had been sneezing like crazy, because it had been SO dusty in there.

Had Wesley Gorden set them up all along?

There was no way for Kitty to know that. The thought haunted her, as she spent so long wandering about now, searching for something, anything, for her friends, for a familiar face, trying desperately not to be caught by the enemy.

Kitty HADN'T been very discreet, though, when she had been in the janitor's closet. She HAD been caught, by the janitor himself afterward, when the commotion had died down. She cursed herself for not leaving sooner, but how could she know that things had calmed down outside? She couldn't, and so she remaiend hidden, until the janitor pulled the door open. She gasped, startled, but the janitor had been just as frightened upon finding her there in the first place.

"Jesus, lady, what're you doin' here?" The janitor had been a man of small frame, around five and a half feet tall and weighing about a hundred sixty pounds, with blue eyes and dark hair, bald on top, and a thin salt-and-pepper mustache.

Kitty was flustered now, not knowing what to say. She sniffled wetly, feeling a sharp tickle in her nose, and sneezed: "Huh...HAKSSSHHH!" Then sniffled again. "Whew! Awfully dusty in here." She walked toward the janitor.

"Better be careful," warned the janitor, his voice trembling. "Don't wanna let da boss hear ya sneezin' like that."

"Oh, would that annoy him," Kitty said, with a mischevous grin as she approached the janitor.

The janitor stood there, motionless, a bulge in his pants enlarging now. He opened his mouth, but could say nothing. He just stared at her, entranced, his face blushing. Kitty wrapped her arms around him, and he stood there, about to do the same with her, holding her in his arms, when she lifted his metal bucket, brought it up in a thin arch and brought it down hard over his bald pate. He went down immediately, unconscious, but still alive. Kitty stole the keys from his pocket, and walked out of the dusty janitor's closet, sneezing three times, uncovered, and then walked down the corridor and began to wander.

* * *

"Hey, Kitty!" someone called from behind, startling Kitty out of her thoughts.

She turned around immediately, her heart racing; she was sure that she had been caught, until she had turned around and then saw that it had been none other than Sir Sneezealot. "Damn it, Sir Sneezealot, you scared me."

"Yeah, whatever. What the hell happened?"

"When the alarms went off?"

He nodded. "Yeah."

"I have no idea." Kitty sighed. "Someone set it off, either Cath and Watchman, or Kelly, Demon, and Gordon. But I don't know who."

Sir Sneezealot brought his closed fist down upon his open palm. "That son of a bitch, Gordon. He set us up...he set us ALL up, I know it!"

"We don't know for sure."

"I checked the computer lab after everything quieted down," Sir Sneezealot confessed. "No one was there."

"Well, of course no one's going to be there," argued Kitty. "They probably would have hid somewhere once the alarms went off...unless they were caught and captured." She sighed, then pulled the keys from her pocket that she had stolen from the unconscious janitor in the janitor's closet. "I was searching for the jail facilities. Where did Gordon say it was?"

"Somewhere on the third floor."

"We should check it out, to see if any of the others are in there, or if Bondi's still there and still alive," Kitty suggested. "Maybe we can save him, if nothing else, then figure out what to do next."

"Good plan," Sir Sneezealot agreed. "Let's do it!"

* * *

Eighteen minutes until final detonation

Kelly sat, her back against the wall, staring at the bars while sneezing intermittently from the dust and dry air in the prison cell, partly hoping that they wouldn't catch her, but also there was a part of her that didn't care. She sniffled wetly, her nose stuffy, and heard footsteps outside, coming toward her cell.

The footfalls grew closer, until she saw standing on the other side of the bars the face of Wesley Gordon.

"What do YOU want?" she asked scornfully. "Haven't you done enough damage already?"

Gordon doubled over with a sneeze, then regained composure, laughing and muttering a inchoherent "Fuck you, Antisneeze," before looking directly at Kelly again, wiping his watering eyes and sniffling. "I'm here to get you out of here, Kelly."

"Why should I trust you?" inquired Kelly with a great deal of scorn in her voice. "You screwed us over. Demon's DEAD because of you."

"We don't have time to argue," Gordon said, unlocking the cell and pulling it open. "Are you going to trust me, or are you going to stay here and die along with the rest of us?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I set up a bomb in the generators," explained Gordon. "This place is getting blown sky high a half an hour from now. We're all gonna die. I thought I would release you and give you the chance to get out. Its the least I could do?"

"What about Bondi?"

"Bondi and his rescuers are most likely not even inside this complex any longer."

"What about Kitty and Sir Sneezealot? They're still inside."

Gordon paused for a moment, in deep consideration, while scratching his itchy nose, then finally: "They're as good as dead. I can't save them, but I can still save you."

Kelly rose reluctantly to her feet, shot Gordon a hateful glance as she began to walk out of the cell. "This doesn't change a thing between us, Gordon, you're still a piece of shit."

"That's wondeful, now just go." He sniffled wetly.

"FREEZE PUNK!" someone shouted from beyond the corridor. Both Kelly and Gordon's eyes veered to the left, where it had come from, and it had been Sir Sneezealot and Kitty, entering the cellblock and approaching Gordon and Kelly. "Don't move, Gordon, I want answers!" In Sir Sneezealot's hand had been his sidearm, his finger poised at the trigger, ready to fire should Gordon make any sudden movements.

"We don't have time for this crap!" shouted Gordon.

"What's he talking about?" asked Kitty, uneasily.

"Gordon set up a few bombs by the generators and they are going to blow up the entire place in a twenty minutes," Kelly explained.

"Shit, more like FIFTEEN minutes," Gordon corrected.

"HOLY SHIT! What the hell's going on here?" exclaimed Sir Sneezealot.

"Kelly can explain later," replied Gordon. "For now, if you guys don't leave soon, you'll die along with the rest of us. NOW GO!"

With that said, Kelly, Kitty, and Sir Sneezealot left, racing down the corridor of that prison cell block and leaving Gordon alone, watching them leave hurriedly, reflecting on everything that had gone done this night. He was going to die, sure, but, he decided, grinning devilishly, not before he had a chance to give Antisneeze a piece of his mind first. It was during this final confrontation that Gordon hoped his nose would let out a few last sneezes for Antisneeze to remember and retch over during the final minutes of his miserable existence.

* * *

Ten Minutes Until Final Detonation

Gordon read the bold print silently on the door. OFFICE OF ANTISNEEZE. This was indeed the right place. He pushed the door open and saw Antisneeze sitting solemnly at his desk, in deep consideration, the dull glow of his computer monitor reflecting from his face.

"We need to talk, sir," Gordon said, matter-of-factly.

Antisneeze said nothing at first, then beckoned Gordon closer. "Take a look at this," he said quietly." He drew Gordon's attention to what was on the computer screen.

"We appologize, Antisneeze, but we are no longer able to fund your experiments. Those above us no longer see the validity of your work, and we can no longer afford to give you anymore grants for the project. So, though it pains us to report this, governmental funding for the Antisneeze Serum experiments ceases as of this point. Active immediately.

"Have a nice day."

"They're shutting us down?" Gorman asked, astonished, but without an ounce of grief.

Antisneeze nodded morosely. "Unfortunately, yes."

"Tough break," said Gordon with false sympathy as he slapped Antisneeze on the back. "And to think, when this is all over, you're gonna have nothin' left to remember it by."

"What do you mean?" Antisneeze looked up at Gordon, perplexed, and Gorden's grin widened. "Why are you grinning like that? What's going on?" Antisneeze began to sweat.

Gordon backed away a few steps, drew his sidearm, and aimed it at Antisneeze.

"Goddamn it, Gordon, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" Antisneeze rose frantically to his feet and was about to draw his own gun when Gordon squeezed the trigger. He felt the recoil tremoring throughout his arm, making his shoulder ache as the barrel shot out a round in a brightening flash of light that lit up the room momentarily. Antisneeze screamed in agony as the bullet ripped through his left bicep, clutching the bleeding bullet wound tightly with his right hand, his blood seeping thickly through the fingers. "YOU SON OF A BITCH--!"

"SHUT UP!" Gordon's finger remained poised at the trigger as smoke billowed from the gun.

"Why're you doin' this?" Tears streamed from Antisneeze's bloodshot eyes, but his voice remained clear. He looked up at Gordon, both hurt and betrayed.

"There's a bomb planted in the basement, on the generator. And its gonna go off in about"--Gordon peered over his watch--"Eight minutes."

"Holy shit..."

"And this whole installation is gonna go up in smoke. And you and me, my friend, we're both gonna die, along with everyone else in the building."

Antisneeze's mouth dropped open, cold sweat soaking his face. "You betrayed us all. I knew it. YOU WERE HELPING THOSE FETISHISTS ALL ALONG!"

"Got that right, asshole!" confessed Gordon. "I WAS helping them, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do a damn thing differently!"

Gordon paused, momentarily, and reflected upon the way he had handled the situation when the alarms had set been set off as Kelly infected the computer systems with a virus. Like a good, loyal Antisneeze comrade, he had drawn his gun and captured both Demon and Kelly for the troops. Perhaps that had been the one time he had truly faltered in this whole operation.

But upon further thought, he concluded that it had been the right thing to do. Demon had been killed, no doubt, by his actions, but upon further consideration, one couldn't escape the realization that Demon would have been dead either way. There was no way that the three of them--Demon, Kelly, and Gordon--would have beaten a whole platoon of armed security agents. It was impossible, and if they had tried, the whole trio would have been torn apart in a hail of bullets, rather than having but one casualty later on. Nothing Gordon could have done to prevent that, of course. And HE had been set free, to continue the descruction planned by the fetishists, only carrying out his own plan of attack, planting bombs in the basement by generators, setting Kelly free so that she could at least escape to safetly with her friends...maybe. Gordon would never know for sure. But he would at the very least Wesley Gordon would go out as a hero. He always did want to go out heroically.

"You filthy TRAITOR!"

"Better a traitor than a lackey to a psychopath like you!" returned Gordon. "I NEVER believed in your cause. It always seemed completely absurd to me, like the quest of a madman."

Antisneeze was sobbing now. "I only wanted to make the world a better place--"

"I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Gorden yelled to the top of his lungs, angry now, after hearing Antisneeze's bullshit rationalization. "You only wanted to make your LIFE a better place. It was NEVER about saving the world. You just kept telling yourself that so you wouldn't have to live with how selfish this whole project has been."

"No...nooo....NOOOOO!"

"You wasted the government's money all these years because YOU found sneezin' so replusive. Most people don't give a shit, but YOU have to make such a huge issue of it! And then, to your chagrin, you find out some people are actually TURNED ON by sneezin'. So heaven forbid someone might be arroused by that which YOU find so repugnant. So horrified by your findings, you have on of the big names in the sneezing community captured, kept locked in a cage like an animal, beaten, tortured, and dehunamized. And all because HE found something attractive in a phenomenon that YOU hate so passionately!"

Antisneeze was now crying hysterically, blubbering, unable to utter a word. His knees buckled and he fell back onto his swivel chair, gasping and sobbing. His shattered and bleeding left arm dangled limply, blood raining upon the floor below, and Antisneeze sobbed. Gordon chuckled to himself. He savored every moment of this, thoroughly enjoyed watching this Nazi piece of shit squirm in pain and fear, forced to confront his own demons, to confront the cold hard truth, and completely broken down by it.

"It was never about fixing the fatality rate of the serum, was it? Oh no; you're sole focus was fixing the rate of effectiveness. It didn't matter to you if 90% of the world population ended up dead, just as long as no one ever sneezed again, wasn't that the case? I checked your secret logs, so I KNOW it was the case! I KNOW it; I just wanna hear it from your lips. Might as well be honest, Antisneeze, you owe me that much! We're both dead in five minutes, so how about some fuckin' HONESTY?!"

Antisneeze nodded reluctantly.

"You Hitlerian bastard--"

Gordon was cut off by a very strong tickle. Normally, he didn't like being interrupted, but this would be a welcome exception. The tickle evolved into a burning sensation within his nose, very strong, and his eyes began to water profusely. Wesley Gordon was going to sneeze one last time, and this time the very thought of sneezing brought about a moderate degree of sexual arrousal, teasing his loins as it teased his nose as well. He squeezed his watering eyes tightly shut, and doubled over into a very harsh, very wet, and completely uncovered sneeze: "HUAAASCCHOOOOOOO!"

This time, the sneeze was so forceful it felt as though it had torn his brain open. Gordon's vision remained clear long enough to see the cringing look of wretched disgust form over Antisneeze's reddened, tear and sweat covered face. Then things began to go blurry. Gordon also saw that when he had sneezed, he had sprayed not snot, but thick spots of blood over Antisneeze's face. It should have alarmed him, but under these circunstances, it didn't bother him in the least. Then he grew dizzy, his knees buckling as the vertigo set in. The room was spinning before his eyes. Staggering drunkenly, Gordon sneezed again, and then the world darkened and he fell to the floor.

Antisneeze rose to his feet once again, nauseated by what he had just seen. The sight of blood didn't bother him in the least, but the sneezing had sickened him. He was now hyperventilating, and tried to calm himself. He peered down upon the floor and saw Gordon laying motionless on his face. Kicking the body over, so Gordon lay on his back, Antisneeze could see the glassy gaze over Gordon's eyes. He put his index and middle finger over the carotid artery. No pulse. Wesley Gordon was indeed dead.

Antisneeze wiped the tears from his eyes and looked at Gordon's watch. Two minutes before final detonation. Not much time, but still enough, perhaps, for Antisneeze to get away safely. It was a long shot, but he'd lived in this building for over twenty years and knew it like he knew the back of his hand, so perhaps there WAS still a chance, still some hope--

His eyes veered right, and he spotted the sidearm held by Gordon's lifeless right hand. Antisneeze hesitated a few seconds, then bent down and closed his right hand around the cold chrome barrel of the gun.

* * *

Just outside Antisneeze Headquarters
3:00am Mountain Time
Final Detonation

The sand rumbled as the bombs around the generators detonated. The explosion was deafening and could be heard from miles away. Each of the windows shook violently and then exploded outwardly, billions of glass splinters flying everywhere in a glittering and deadly rain of glass shards upon the desert sand below. Immediately, the entire complex burst into a sea of flames, consuming the entire building in a blazing inferno, destroying everybody and everything trapped inside. Explosing after deafening explosion went off within the Antisneeze Headquarters, and the heat and flames grew more intense, thickening the very thick plums of smoke shooting up into the indigo sky.

And approximately two hundred yards away, Sir Sneezealot, Kelly, and Kitty stand watch as the building and the dreams of Antisneeze crumble into smoldering pieces of glass, plaster, and flaming chunks of wood and debris. The twenty-year quest of a madman now reduced charred ruins lying in the middle of the desert, soon to be forgotten.

* * *

A Hospital in Reno, Nevada
16 Hours Later

Bondi lay quietly in his hospital bed in his hospital gown, his head still killing him, but he felt relief that at least he had been out of the woods now. Even more relief filled him when he remembered that it would almost be time for the nurse to come back to give him another dose of aspiran to relieve the pain he was in. Ah blessed relief; it was definitely a very good thing.

Cath walked into the room, shutting the door quietly, and approached the foot of Bondi's bed. "Hey, Bondi, are you feeling any better."

"A little," he replied softly. "I'm still alive, anyway. At least there's that."

Cath nodded and smiled. "Yes. And the doctors expect a full recovery."

It was Bondi's turn to smile now, despite the pain. Recovery was also a good thing. Bondi was thankful that there was no permanent brain damage either and eternally grateful that Cath and Watchman had been able to get him away from the clutches of Antisneeze and get him out of that building alive after all, even after he had lost all hope.

"So what became of Antisneeze and his corrupt operation?" Bondi inquired.

"Antisneeze's headquarters was blown up and Antisneeze is dead," Cath explained. "Autopsy reports indicate that Antisneeze died not because of the explosion, but because of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."

Bondi shrugged. "Go figure." He might have laughed, but with his headache, everything, from laughing, to crying, to sneezing hurt too much at the moment. One thing was for sure, though: he would shed no tears for the dead in this case, not after the hell that Antisneeze and his comrades had put him through.

"And Wesley Gordon died of an anneurism; though the origin of his anneurism is still unknown," Cath went on.

"Who the hell's Wesley Gordon?"

Cath hesitated a moment, unsure, and then: "Never mind. Kelly can explain later, if you're curious."

Bondi nodded. "Okay."

"Anyway, I better get going now," Cath said. "Just wanted to check on you and see how you were doing."

Bondi nodded again and smiled warmly as Cath turned and began to head toward the door. She was about to leave when Bondi called her once more: "Hey, Cath..."

She turned to him. "Yes, Bondi."

"Thanks for saving my butt."

Cath grinned. "Hey, don't mention it. What are friends for, right?" And with that said, she left, quietly shutting the door as Bondi sank blissfully into his blankets and quickly drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

 

The End.

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