“Do not panic.”
That was the first part of training, the very first slide of the whole presentation. When you come in contact with the infectious disease or the infected person, do not panic and you’ll make it out of the hot zone alive.
Mick was a professional. Four years in the military entering foreign combat zones, three years of government sponsored training in handling rare contaminants and dangerous agents, and five years at a desk researching every possible chemical or disease that could be used to start a global epidemic. He could teach this course on how to service an attack, but he played nice with the civvies and followed orders. The point was to get in close enough to study the agent to see if it’s risk of being a biological agent that could decimate the world.
All his studies pointed to this particular strain being a mutated form of Ebola. Extremely deadly, but self limiting. He needed to test his theory and find a possible cure.
It presented with many of the hemorrhagic effects of the virus and seemed to infect certain people and not others. The person grew crazed and attacked the uninfected individual before themselves dying, their bodies almost bubbling up and melting into a river of sanguineous fluid. The fluid itself seeped into the water table and infected subsequent others, continuing on in a nasty cycle.
The outbreak had made local news before the government swooped in to put a lid on it. It was contained and under control. That’s the story they were feeding the country, the reality was far more gruesome.
The controlled area – The Hot Zone – had been cordoned off, but it encompassed a space the size of San Francisco. The fact that it was far enough out in the middle of nowhere, and the government controlled the media picture, is what kept it under wraps.
It wouldn’t be long before the truth leaked out like the blood of the infected.
“This way.” A deep voice sounded in his ear piece.
Mick picked his way across the area he’d been designated to research. Robert had arrived the previous day, giving the other man a head start on the exploratory stage of their mission. They’d met at the compound just outside of the Zone, between the decontamination pod and the entrance. Both garbed, Robert had given him a brief nod before they’d plunged into hell.
There were twitching bodies littering the area. Mick prided himself on having a steel stomach after the things he’d seen on missions, but he nearly lost his breakfast after coming on a particularly gruesome scene down a side street. A little girl, couldn’t have been more than twelve, huddled over a man wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt. He started to go down to help her, but Robert stopped him with an arm across his chest.
“Don’t. She’s gone.” He nodded to the missing face of the person she leaned over. “Looks like it may have been her father.”
She must have sensed them because she turned and Mick staggered back at the sight. Her skin was peeling off, blood trickling down to stain her white church dress pink. She opened her mouth as she moved toward him, revealing jagged teeth and a twisted tongue. Before he could react, Robert drew his gun and put a bullet through her forehead.
“Let’s move. The noise will attract more of them.” Robert’s voice was flat in his ear piece.
Mick was far more shaken than he cared to admit. Something about this place was wrong, far more wrong than any combat zone he’d fought in.
They established a routine in the first week of their assignment. Go out and explore, collect specimens from both the obviously infected and the killed, and then return and study the samples.
Mick was becoming more sure of his understanding of the infection. He kept detailed notes, coming closer to a possible cure. Initially, Robert seemed keen to hear his thoughts, but as one day bled into another, the other man grew distant and quiet. Something had been off with him since he’d gone out alone one evening, stating he had a hunch. Robert had returned, behaving erratically, but without any signs of infection.
A day later, they’d arrived at the lab after a hot day out in The Zone, sealing themselves into the decontamination area. Mick quickly doffed his gear and stripped to his skin so he could enter the shower chamber. His eyes strayed to Robert, watching the other man lead into the shower. He’d blamed his increasingly bizarre dreams for the turn his thoughts took as he watched the other man’s taut behind flex.
They stood in silence as a special laser neutralized any hazardous viruses before the shower itself turned on. Water flew from every angle, but nothing obscured his view as he stood facing Robert. They were built the same, packed with hard muscle gained from years of military service and numerous scars. Mick’s eyes wandered back to Robert and found the man’s hand wrapped around his hard cock. Mick shook his head, surprised at how much he wanted to reach out and touch the other man.
“The hot zone gets to you really quickly. It isn’t just the virus infecting this place, there’s something else here that changes you the moment you step inside.”
Robert’s voice was strained, his hand stroking firmly as their gazed stayed locked. Mick felt an answering tingle in his groin, but ignored it. This was crazy and he needed to keep his head on the task.
The water stopped and Mick quickly stepped from the chamber. He heard Robert’s groan and the light splash of come hitting the spot he’d just vacated. Mick’s cock hardened painfully between his thighs as he grabbed his towel and went in search of his quarters.
Sitting on the bed, willing the blood from his hard cock, Mick couldn’t get the image of a diseased Robert fucking his body as he tore the skin from his face. Knowing nothing would relieve the act, he took his own cock in hand, stroke hard to the dark thoughts clouding his brain.
It should’ve been his first true inkling that this place was dangerous to his mind.
Neither spoke of the encounter in the decontamination shower later at dinner. Mick tried to engage Robert on his developing ideas, growing more animated as things started to come together.
“I have my theories. Having studied other similar viruses, I believe this is a mutation of an earlier strain of Ebola perhaps. I just need to figure out how it’s spread.”
They needed to talk about their plan to isolate the virus more effectively, but Robert seemed intent on picking at his chicken.
“There’s no cure for this, if that’s what you’re thinking. The only option is natural mutation of the virus and a host that can tolerate it without dying.”
Mick shook his head. “This isn’t a symbiotic infection. We’ve seen how it works on the cellular level, Robert. This is more like the AIDS virus, taking over a body and destroying it. It’s not possible for it to integrate with a human without killing it.”
Robert seemed lost in thought before he turned bright eyes on Mick. He looked almost feverish, his skin gray, but the moment passed in a blink.
“But what if it is? What if finding the correct host is the whole purpose of this virus?”
Robert stood suddenly, nearly upending the tray of food in front of him. He stared down at Mick, that feverish look in his eyes again.
“We’ll figure it out. I’m sure we will.” He disappeared from the room leaving Mick wondering what had happened.
It was becoming a nightly thing, these deeply erotic and sinister dreams. They started with him in the lab, but they always changed. They always changed him.
Heat filled the pit of Mick’s stomach as his dreams took on a darker tone. He stood in what used to be a park in the center of The Zone. Garbed in his safety equipment, he was trying desperately to get back to the entrance. Creatures bombarded him at all sides, tearing into his suit.
“Don’t panic.” Robert’s voice echoed in his ears. “Don’t panic.”
Mick turned to find Robert within touching distance, naked and erect. While Mick’s gaze was locked on his cock, he missed the red tint to Robert’s sclera.
“Just let it bind to you…”
Watching Robert kneel in the grass in front of him, made his hips lurch forward in longing. Mick glanced down to find a monstrous Robert, red eyed with blood dripping from his skin, sucking eagerly at his cock.
“Just let it in…”
The heat spread suddenly, centering in his groin for a moment before blooming out. It drew him from his sleep with a gasp. His eyes snapped open and he swore he saw an imposed image of Robert leaning over him, lips still stretched around his cock.
To be continued?