"Then I take it everything is in order?"
"Yes," Lucas said, looking around the lab full of equipment, "it is. I'd prefer that there were better equipment, but it is enough to keep going."
"Given the circumstances Dr. Hewitt," the employee, Wesley, said behind his mask, "it's astonishing the company hired you and the others."
"And tell them that we are grateful. I will do what work they need me to do, but understand that I do not care about money nearly as much as being given a significant portion of time to work on the cure."
"And the company will allot that time Dr," Wesley said. "But if I may be frank... speaking personally, the pandora's box has been opened. So many people are going to to change before you get a chance to intervene. I'm not saying that what you and the other new hires from Generation want to do isn't honorable, but I am saying that perhaps it would be best to put resources elsewhere."
"I don't think you understand," Lucas said. "I want the real cure. I want to find out how to make people change back."
The man surveyed the lab equipment with a thoughtful look. "That's a... daunting goal sir."
"Lucas is fine. And your name again is Wesley right?"
"Okay. Yes, Wesley, you're right. The task ahead is daunting, but I've got to do it. A lot of people out in the world are suffering in a body that changed against their will, and I and others have a responsibility to save them."
"Again," Wesley said, leaning against one of the lab counters, "I have the utmost respect for you, but there are many, many great men and women out there working on this."
"They're focusing on preventing the onset of the disease. Not reversing it."
"I'm sure there are still many Lucas. That problem is still very much on all of their minds."
"And it is on my mind as well. I've watched as my son has had to endure this virus, and now I've failed to protect my daughter as well, and she's changing herself."
"I'm sorry to hear that sir."
"They are healthy," he said with pain in his voice. "But they do not deserve this. Unless I do something... they're going to have to face the world as canis people for the rest of their lives. I just... can't live with that."
"Well as you said. They are healthy at least. Many people around the world have bodies too frail to withstand the transformation. Not too diminish the pain of your children of course. Just saying that things are better for them than they could be."
"Of course. I just... they are my own children, and yet I feel uncomfortable around them. I see my son... wagging his tail like a dog... my daughter growing dog ears... and..."
"Sir," Wesley said, "with all due respect, I think it isn't the best for you to be venting your thoughts to me. Perhaps you should meet with the company psychologist. It appears you're under a lot of stress."
"I am alright."
"Stress will not be very good for you if you are serious about helping these people. I hope you don't think I'm trying to deter you. The execs gave you and the others permission to work on this, as we've received government funds for it - but I think you need some help."
Lucas sighed. "You're right. Perhaps I'll look into that."
"I would encourage it. Would you follow me, I have some things I need you to fill out."
Lucas obliged, following after Wesley. As he walked, Lucas felt it again - that uncomfortable itch. Some on his back. Some on his legs. He pushed the thought aside. He'd need to shave again.
"And again Lucas," Wesley said as they walked past several labs, "I understand. I've only interacted with one canis person, and it was very strange. They were an acquaintance of mine, and though I could recognize their face if I squinted, they felt like a stranger to me."
Lucas squinted his eyes closed for a moment, exhaling.
"But I think," Wesley went on, "that we'll adjust over time. It's been only a few weeks since this situation erupted onto the world. I think that we should not give into grief too quickly."
"Yes," Lucas said. "Yes."
"And again Lucas, I read your application. I'm impressed with your honesty, and your earnest desire to help people. I like to think that we are a more ethical company than Generation, and we hope you remain a good addition to our team for years to come."
"I appreciate that."
"Besides, you'll be a lot better than the last person to hold your position."
"Why? What did they do?"
Wesley shrugged. "Can't say everything of course. They did some shady stuff. Was fired after he was caught digging around in company files he wasn't authorized to view. He was kind of a decent normal looking guy on the surface but... I can't really put my finger on it. Just something about him, the way he would smile at you felt... creepy."
The hairs on Lucas's arms stood upward, as though someone had opened a window to the winter air outside. He halted in his tracks.
"What... what was his name?"
Time stopped for just a brief moment. A moment where all of his other problems faded into the background.
"This... man," Lucas said carefully, "he worked at Generation before this?"
"I'm not sure," Wesley said. "A lot of rumors swirled around at the time, and I wasn't at my place in the company then, so didn't get as much access. I do remember that the company investigated his past work experience. He'd obscured a bunch of recent jobs where he'd had a really quick turnover. It sounds like the folks up top discussed legal action against him, but they just couldn't find solid charges to bring against him."
"That man," Lucas said, "was collecting information."
Wesley cocked his head. "Did you know him?"
"Yes. Yes I did. And that's all I'll say."
Wesley began walking again, and Lucas slowly followed.
"Do you know where he left the company to?" Lucas asked.
"No," Wesley shook his head. "But if you want me to, I could poke around perhaps, test the limits of my clearance."
"I... I would appreciate it."
"The man was obnoxious in a way that I can't really describe," Wesley said. "It'd be my pleasure to get back at him."
"No," Lucas said. "Find information, but do it discreetly if possible. You don't want to get back at him. You don't want him to know that you're following him."
"Because," Lucas said, putting more firmness, more urgency into his steps. "Seth is not afraid. He is not afraid of anything."
A golden retriever that knows how to use a computer
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