I woke up.
My mind was extremely foggy. As the cloudiness slowly faded, I realized I was sitting in a chair. My wrists were bound to it with zip-ties. I was in a medium sized room, lit with several lights from above that appeared to be mismatched, with different intensities and colors.
I strained against the zip-ties, but they only dug into my fur. I looked around the room. It looked old and bare, but the design of it reminded me vaguely of a classroom. With my snout I could perceive quite acutely that it was old - like really old, before the turn of the century. Oils in the carpet from decades of use wafted up an awful stink.
I tried to move the chair, but my ankles were also zip-tied to the legs. With effort, I could scoot the chair around somewhat - but it unfortunately had the side effect of squishing my cramped tail up against the back of the chair - which had no gap for it to stick through.
I did my best to ignore the growing ache in my cramped up limb as I tried to figure out something I could do. There were two doors, but I was in the center of the room, which was in a lower section compared to the edges where the doors were. I would have to figure out how to get the chair up that half foot high step - and then what?
My hands were literally tied, and I wouldn't be able to do anything until I got them off. There was barely anything in the room but some old chairs stacked up, and thus nothing I could use to cut the zip-ties with.
The door to my side opened.
"You sure took a long time to come out of that sedative."
I stared at the man. He wore very nondescript jeans and a grey button up short sleeved shirt. I resisted the urge to say something useless like "let me go!" or "what do you think you're doing?" Instead, I didn't want to give them anything - no information on who I was, on Dad's work, or anything that would give them reason to get rough with me.
"I'm going to cut to the chase Matt," the man said, pulling over a chair and sitting across from me. "You have something we want. You have information."
"I doubt it," I said. "I'm not an engineer or scientist. Unless what you want is something that's at a high school level of knowledge."
The man didn't make a very visible response. It was a good lie - because it wasn't a lie at all. I didn't understand my dad's work well. Even telling them the whole truth, It was doubtful I had enough information to tell them what they wanted. Dad always had said that the best, most convincing lies were the ones that were genuine. Mom never liked when he taught lessons like that.
"Look," I said. "I don't have what you want. So let's skip this, and get to the part where you use me as a hostage to try to get what you actually want."
The man smiled. Gosh that was creepy. It was interesting how an unremarkable smile could be transformed when it was on the face of a man who had kidnapped you.
"No Matt," the man said, "I don't think so. I don't think your Dad has the information we want."
I was silent.
"Matt, you're in high school, right?"
"I assume you've studied history."
"Perhaps you are familiar with the idea of a primary and secondary source."
"So you see Matt," the man said, "secondary sources, as you are aware, can be helpful - but they are subject to bias, misreporting, flaws in the technology used to pass them on... etc. No, what is much better, is a primary source... to be able to have an eyewitness account. A person you can ask more detailed questions, get the genuine article, so to speak. They will have their own chance for error, of course, but are on the whole, much better than the alternative."
A wave of dread passed over me. They must have found out that Ashley and I had this strange anomaly with the virus. They wanted to know it - firsthand. We were not a ransom - probably. We were the true prize they wanted.
I once again had to stop myself from saying something stupid like "you'll have to fight to get a needle in me!" I couldn't fight. I was restrained. They could get as much blood or saliva out of me as they wanted. A new thought came to my mind though.
"If you try to get something out of me, I'll bite you."
"I really would hate becoming one of you," the man admitted, "but I'd be willing to take that risk - or more accurately, someone else would make that risk. But we have nice thick rubber gloves for that - and biting us would just give us a saliva sample from you anyway."
My strong will to fight their intentions was crumbling away. I was in their power. They could kill me, get all the samples they wanted from me. I had no bargaining power in this situation. I couldn't stop them - at least right now.
"If I give you a sample willingly," I said, "will you let Ashley and I go?"
The man crossed his legs - he did it in such a relaxed manner, like he was thinking about some news article he was reading - it was infuriating.
"You don't seem to understand this Matt."
"I understand that you're trying to take advantage of whatever's in our genes to do something awful."
"Hm," the man hummed. "History maybe, but science apparently not - as in, something you are proficient in. Not your genes Matt, but the virus that lives in you. And you're making me out to be a cartoon supervillain. Real people are not supervillains Matt."
"Yeah," I said, "you don't even have a rocket ship."
"We have some experiments on Orbital Reef," he said, looking away thoughtfully. "But that's besides the point. Let me tell you what I'm pushing for here. Your father is a brilliant engineer. He was part of the international team that developed that first wave of cancer treatments - and he specifically had the organizational skills to gather all of it together, to make the data readable, understandable. Without him the treatment may have never developed to its far more effective successors. I have great respect for him."
"However," the man said, "he is cautious - cautious to a paralyzing point. He is of a school of thought that there are certain areas of genetics we just do not touch, or at least, when we explore them, we are to go very, very slowly. Did you know that we've had the technology to cure Alzheimer's disease, Down Syndrome, and Cystic Fibrosis for decades now?"
I was quiet. "No," I finally answered.
"Well we do. As is visible by your appearance, our genetics technology is more advanced than we may have even realized. Despite this however, the world is caught up in curing canis. It is a trendy disease that everyone wants to help with - yet we are not working as zealously on curing Alzheimer's, or other awful genetic diseases. Our ability to fight cancers of all kinds is hindered. Do you know why?"
I gave no response.
"Because people like Lucas Hewitt refuse to enter that territory. Many people, civil, commercial - and even the government and military all fear it."
"It's because you don't know how to control it."
"And have we known how to do that with any emerging technologies? Have you seen pictures or video of the first airplanes? It was a miracle those shoddy things got into the air and got back down in one piece. Imagine if we had looked at the things, and said that it was just too dangerous, and we should wait at least a good thirty years before we try again."
I was silent.
"And that's what has happened here Matt. We could've started flying those airplanes decades ago - and by now we would've been on the Moon. We got into the air and into space because there were people like me, pilots and astronauts, who were willing to push forward and take risks, while men like your father, as well intentioned as they are, try to hold us back."
"But this isn't an airplane," I said, "and you aren't the actual one taking the risk."
"True," the man clasped his fingers. "I am not taking the risk. But someone has to eventually. Isn't much of a moonwalk if no one is wearing the suit."
"You are talking about people."
"I am talking," the man said more firmly, "about things that can do amazing things for people. There are people who have to make sacrifices for technology. Who have to put themselves on the top of a rocket. In the end, their risk benefits everyone."
"It seems far less honorable when you're forcing the person to ride the rocket."
"Who said anything about forcing?" the man said. "There are people out there that are willing to take the risks. Governments just don't allow them to. It is extremely unfortunate. People struggling with these awful diseases are not being helped, all because of fear."
"They don't want to make it worse."
"And what if it makes one person have a worse case?" The man mused. "What if two, three, or twenty - but then it ultimately leads to millions of people being freed from awful diseases that impair their quality of life, or even their very mind?"
"You are making a needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few argument," I said. "And I find that very unnerving."
"So," the man said, "it is better for us to protect one person, make sure they don't have any risk posed to them, when hundreds of children are born with life altering diseases? When countless elderly people slowly lose memory of the people they love the most?"
"I... I don't know."
"This is a sad truth to swallow Matt," the man said, "because the fact is, every technology has had so many unpleasant things with it. Railroads built our country, connected it in a way never before possible, but destroyed the Native American way of life. The industrial revolution along with it built our whole modern society, but it was powered by child labor, by oppression of women and minorities... "
"And you're trying to tell me that was necessary," I said flatly, my disgust not very hidden.
"Not necessarily," he said, "but we can't deny that it happened. If someone who was willing to take the risk dies from an attempt to cure an awful disease, that will be minute compared to other awful things that happened in the history of technology."
The man did not continue.
"So that's it there," I said. "You've told me your secret evil plan?"
"Gosh," the man huffed, "the way you talk makes it sound like you grew up watching cartoons from the 1980s or something - which considering your fathers' antiquated taste in media I wouldn't be surprised. Few things are so black and white. I take offense at you calling a plan to eliminate awful diseases with elusive cures 'evil.'"
"You say that," I said, "how can I be exactly sure that it won't be used for things that are far less noble?"
"Well you can be sure. It will be used for many awful things. Not by me. I have no interest in that. But technology always has been misused. And anyway, you call it 'my secret plan' - but I've hardly made my thoughts a secret. Your father... he did not like me. The execs at Generation seemed to - or at least they wanted to use me. I'm glad that I'm off on my own now."
"So you're not working with Generation?"
"Generation is dead Matt. But no, I'm not affiliated with the brass at Generation. I left them many years ago. They just wanted money. Your father wants a cure for this. He can play around with that, I don't care - but I want his data."
"I thought you only wanted the samples from us."
"That too, but the data - his library of how everything with the virus is organized...it is very, very very helpful. Even with it, it's still difficult, as the virus mutates, old data soon becomes less and less useful..."
"Okay," I said, "if this is what you want, if we give you a sample, and then negotiate for my Dad to get you the data, will you let us go?"
The man stroked his thumb slightly on his slightly bearded jawline. "No."
"Why?" I asked. "That's everything that you want."
"No," he said, "not really. That data would be super useful, but not without a subject."
I trembled. "Why... why can't you just take a sample from us, and put it in someone else?"
The man's face contorted a bit, seeming to indicate he was thinking things out.
"The issue is... the virus will sometimes sort of... die when we've done this. Yes, with help from Melina working around your father more recently, it was very easy to get a bit of the virus from you - but it never retains that high level of activity it does in you, even if we inject it into a lab rat or something."
"So you don't care if I'm willing to comply," I said.
"So why are you telling me all this?"
"Well," the man said, "For one, I hope it might improve your desire to comply - secondly, I don't believe I'm invincible. If this ever ends poorly, I'd like to have the people who testify against me in court paint the proper picture of me. I hope however, that it won't come to that."
The man stood up from his chair.
"I'm Seth by the way," he said. "Judging by your demeanor however, you probably prefer Skeletor or something."
"No," I said, "Seth is fitting. Sounds a lot like Set - the Egyptian god of chaos - that is, the thing you'll unleash if you continue in this."
"Rather harsh," Seth said, "but perhaps accurate. I have unleashed chaos on the world - chaos disrupts order - and sometimes order means stagnation."
"I don't follow."
Seth was silent. He walked around me, looking me over.
"It's just incredible to me how this all turned out. It feels fanciful, but it actually happened. I didn't intend it to go this far, but at least it stayed somewhat contained..."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
Seth bent down and pinched a tuft of fur on my arm, tugging it upward. I winced, but tried not to react.
"Thankfully," he said, "you've been far easier to work with than Ashley. Much more interesting to discuss this as well - but ultimately still disappointing in the end, sadly."
"I suppose you wanted me to join your scheme or whatever?"
"I was hoping... perhaps you might convince your father to work with me. Seems not."
"Well then," Seth said, "we'll have to go a different way with this then."
Seth left me alone. For a while I sat there, stewing over what he'd said. If I convinced him to let me call Dad, I could at least try to communicate what was going on. If it came to it... we could maybe work out some way to get them to let us go, if I got Dad to agree to something.
A woman came in - Melina. She'd dyed her hair darker, and it was now cut shorter.
I growled loudly at her, trying to contemplate some really, really awful thing I could to say.
She hung in the doorway for a second, and then approached.
Seth assisted her as they cut my ties, and then put my hands behind my back, binding my wrists together with a new tie.
I got ready to kick her away and try to escape as soon as they started cutting my angle ties - but a man came in, noticeably taller than I was, and grabbed one of my arms firmly. He silently turned, and looked down, motioning to show a gun holster on his hip. My blood ran cold, but I got the message. I didn't resist as they blindfolded me, and then led me out of the room.
Several minutes of walking and turning later, I finally was stopped, and the blindfold was taken off. I saw Ashley in the middle of a room with that same kind of old carpeted floor. Her eyes were stained red. I wanted to reach out to her, embrace her - but I was still bound.
I looked around the room, and two things stood out prominently to me - two dog beds.
"Seriously?" I said.
"Seth," the man said, "doesn't have a very high opinion of you guys. I think though he mostly thought it would be funny."
"Seth is a jackass."
"I won't disagree with you on that one." the man said, chuckling slightly.
He cut my zip ties.
I spun around, and swung at -
The man hit something against me hard, and an electric shock unlike any I'd ever felt jolted through. A minute later, I was able to concentrate just enough to realize that I was on the floor, panting hard. That was not a gun.
"Remember that dog boy," the man said, "and Melina has one as well."
And with that, he closed the door, and left us alone. I barely had the energy to drag myself over to the dog bed, and collapse.
A golden retriever that knows how to use a computer
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