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By Devin Hallsworth
General Staton tried not to look too puzzled as he was lead to the room Hick's was going to use for the demonstration.
"I'm afraid I dont understand proffesor. If you think you've figured out how this thing is transmitted why not go straight to the brass in charge of quarantine?" Staton asked, wondering why the proffesor would want to come to an airforce general with regards to information about an infectious agent that was spreading like wildfire.
"We want to be careful with what our test data is showing here. I've heard that you're a fair man of science as far as the military brass goes and I wanted to enlist your help in convincing the people higher up the chain of command that what our tests are showing is actually happening." Hick's said as he rushed the general down the back corridors of the CDC campus in Atlanta.
The general shook his head. "I'm sorry but why wouldn't they listen to you? This just isn't making any sense to me." He wondered if he was actually going to see one of the afflicted in person. He'd seen the images on CNN like everyone else, but to see it in person... "We have a contagious mutagen loose in the states and a large portion of the first world that is causing massive bodilly changes in people and you dont think the top brass will be willing to listen to what the centre for disease control has to say?"
The proffesor suddenly stopped and turned to look at him with an intensity in his eyes that Staton didn't like. "Thats just the thing. We dont think it is a mutagen. We think it may not even be biologically based at all!"
The proffesor grabbed his shoulder and practically dragged the General back into motion. Staton allowed himself to be led as his mind tried to wrap itself around what Hick's had just said. Instead of asking Him for a better explanation his mind poured back through a life times worth of science and science fiction material he'd read.
"You mean... like quantum probability or something?" He pondered. This got a massive nod of affirmation out of the proffesor.
"YES! Yes, I knew you were the person who could help us explain this. You're familiar with the idea that there is a small but finite chance that at any moment, even right now you could suddenly change into a pink teddy bear or a goat or a block of cheese or whatever." Hick's finnaly brought them to the demonstration room. He signed a clipboard handed to him by an armed member of the campus's security.
"But.. the chance is supposed to be so small that theres practically no chance. Proffesor this is happening all over North America and Europe." Staton shuddered at the thought of spontaneusly dying and leaving nothing but a block of swiss where he was standing. A week ago it wasn't even a thought, now after what he'd seen and heard of it was another possibility he couldn't readilly dismiss.
"Yes it is. But we think we have test data that shows this idea in action." Hick's lead him into what looked like a conference room. "Most of the changes once you figure out the pattern are actually fairly uniform, it was just so weird that it didn't even occur to us until we had exhausted every other avenue of thought and were just tossing random idea's out hoping for a hit."
Hick's motioned for Staton to take a chair while he pulled a television set over. He popped a video cassette in and took a chair next to Staton.
Staton watched curiously as on the video tape a volunteer who had to be military with that haircut and build walked into the room. He wasn't wearing anything but a hospital gown but he had a look of grim determination on his face.
"Please sit down. We will begin the test momentarilly." A voice said over a loud speaker.
"We had to find volunteers for this test. One of the problems with this is that it doesn't appear as though its communicable to animals. Only humans are afflicted." Hick's said in explanation.
"Afflicted by what?" Statton asked. Hick's didn't answer so he instead turned his attention to the experiment on the video. The only chair in the room was one in front of a computer monitor. Staton noticed that the monitor was turned away from the camera which seemed kind of odd to him.
The soldier took a seat in front of it. He only gave the monitor a seconds glance before looking around at the other wise empty room. "Alright, we are beggining the test. Please look at the monitor." He seemed confused at first until he looked at the monitor. The confusion only deepened for a couple seconds until a grin broke out across his face and he let out an amused chuckle.
Staton leaned forward in his chair as he watched the soldier lean forward in his, the look of unrestrained amusement plainly evident on his face as he studied the monitor. "Heh.. who. God that must be the.. Who drew this?!" He tore his gaze away from the monitor to look right at the camera, "This." He looked back at the monitor and suppresed a snicker behind his hand before looking back at it again almost sheepishly. Like someone who knew they shouldn't be laughing but couldn't help it. "This has gotta be the damned cutest thing I've ever seen. I... Oh my god that baby rabbit is just..."
"Now switching off the monitor." Whoever was supervising the test said. He watched the test subject stare at the screen for a few more seconds before a look of shock seemed to cross his face. He looked around the room for a few seconds as if in a daze before turning to the camera.
"Hey.. uh..." He started to say something, but choked himself off with what looked like some effort as if remembering that he was here for something. He sat up straight and from the looks of it tried not to fidget, but his body was very aggitated. It didn't take more than thirty seconds for what Staton had seen on CNN to start.
The test subject looked startled by something. He half jerked up out of his seat, sitting back down after reaching a hand into the back of his hospital gown. Statton almost wished there were multiple view points available for this test until the object burst from the soldiers rear, knocking over the chair.
The General looked on with just as much amazement as he had the first time he'd seen it. The soldier looked back over his shoulder with a slight bit of concern that almost seemed to melt away into a pure unadulterated smile the longer he looked at his tail.
It grew in length until it was long enough that the soldier was essentially a tripod. Statton was so distracted by the tail he hadn't noticed the other changes. The legs reformed before anything else, the feet stretching out into the long clodhoppers of a kangaroo. The chest barreled as Staton watched, arms losing their definition and dexterity as the muzzle pushed out. He saw though that like the rest who had been afflicted he didn't seem to gain fur, if anything he seemed to lose definition. Where before he might have had skin or fur he now seemed to have... Staton didn't even know what to call it, cartoon skin? Either way, as cute as whatever pic had been on the monitor Staton somehow doubted it was as cute as the purple cartoon Kangaroo that was now balancing solely on his tail and giggling in delight.
"Its the picture!" Hick's blurted out. Staton looked over at him in bemusement, as if just remembering he was there.
"Sorry?" He asked as Hick's thrust a few pages of printouts at him. The printout looked like a comments list or something for what he guessed was the picture the soldier had looked at. TOO KEWT!! Kawai to the nth degree and similar such messages seemed to be the bulk of what was posted. It didn't seem to get much more intelligible than gushing out how said picture was the cutest thing any of them had seen.
"We didn't notice it until much later, but everyone of the first people afflicted looked at this picture online not long after it was posted. We also checked the witness accounts and although we can't ultimatly confirm we do believe that there were ZERO cases before this picture was posted online last thursday. We've tried having some of the staff here look at the picture but not long after doing so they all wind up like Gunnery Sergeant Smitty here." Staton looked up at the cartoon roo again, trying to relate it's gleeful bouncing around with what he knew of Marines.
"So what? You're saying a picture did this to these people?" He asked, unable to take his eyes off the gut twistingly cute roo on the TV.
"We think so. Although from what we've seen, after a person has been transformed we think it may also be possible for people who observe the cartoon like person for a sufficient period of time to also succomb. We have data to back this up as well." Hick's said, reaching to turn the tv off.
Staton, jerked suddenly. Having an urge to want to turn the tv back on before clamping down on it and wondering where it came from. He tried to regain his train of thought, but couldn't concentrate beyond a sudden pain in his mouth.
"Whats wrong?" Hick's asked, looking concerned.
"Its nothing. Just a stupid tooth ache." He explained, trying to remember what he should be talking to Hick's about.
"A tooth ache?!" Hick's seemed genuinely alarmed, which made Staton chuckle at how silly he was being.
"Yeah. Its just a tooth ache. No biggey."
Hick's expression saddened and Staton wondered why. "No... No Im afraid its not nothing. Thats one of the symptons of over exposure." Staton wondered what he was talking about, but then his eyes drifted across one of the comments on the page he was holding proclaiming the picture to be tooth achingly cute.