tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Grateful Virus_Ch. 101

The Grateful Virus_Ch. 101

byjadling©

All events and characters are fictional. Copyright 2007 by James Adling. All rights reserved.

Note: This chapter has no sex.


Chapter 101

He woke up in a hospital bed several days later. "Where am I?" he asked a nurse.

"Safe," she said.

"Who are you?"

"Friends. People on your side. Don't worry. Sit tight a minute, while I get someone who can explain," she said, leaving the room. A few minutes later a familiar young woman walked in, clad in the Angels' form-fitting black outfit.

"Hi Jim. Long time no see. How are you feeling?"

"Nicole. I feel like shit. Where am I? Will you let me go?"

"You're in our base in Hawaii. We won't stop you if you want to leave, but I think you know even better than I do what it's like out there in public for you right now. If you want to stay here, we'll protect you. "

"You lied to me about the morning after pill," he said, looking significantly at her rounded belly.

"Yes. Sorry. There was no way I could explain it to you, then."

"So why should I trust you now?"

"I think you will, pretty soon. Jim, do you want to see your wife?"

"Yes!"

"We have her here. We took her into hiding about two weeks after you and I first met, because we were worried that the Church of Sneezy -- that's Jen's cult that we just rescued you from -- would use her to try to get to you. I was able to track her down by getting your credit card billing address from that pharmacist. Anyway, your wife is here, but she wanted me to ask you first if you wanted to see her."

"Why wouldn't I? Oh. How much does she know?"

"Everything. She told me to say she doesn't blame you for anything."

Jim's eyes teared up. "Yes of course I want to see her!"

Nicole left the room. A few minutes later his wife Jessica entered. She stood at the foot of his bed, looking uncertain.

He held his arms open to her, already crying and unable to speak. She ran to him and they hugged, and he told her he loved her and babbled incoherent sobbing apologies.

She cut him off. "Jim, none of this, NONE of this, was your fault. You did the best you could. I'm proud of you and I love you too. You fought so hard. Now it's all over. We're safe with these people. After all of this I love you more than ever before. We got through this, so we can get through anything!" She paused as they kissed and smiled through their tears and held each other tightly. For the first time in four months Jim felt truly happy. "And one more thing. I've re-thought my decision... We can have kids now, if you still want to."

Jim passed out again.

Over the next several days, as Jim recovered, Nicole stayed away except for a few brief visits to ask if he needed anything. He saw nobody else except the nurse and a trio of doctors. He spent his waking hours catching up with his wife. She kept trying to get him to tell the entire story of his last four months, but parts of it were hazy in his memory, and there were many, many other parts he knew he would never forget, but wasn't sure he could ever explain to his wife.

When Jim was back on his feet, Nicole arranged a meeting with the two of them to decide what to do next. She began with a briefing.

"The Church of Sneezy has fractured into many small, competing sects. Apparently there was nothing in Jen's prophecies to cover this. That means they're not a direct threat to us now, but in a way they may be a bigger threat to the world. The situation is much like the collapse of a government with nuclear weapons. Those weapons can fall into the hands of smaller groups who are more likely to do something crazy."

"Wait, you're saying those girls have nukes?"

"No. Worse. They have pictures of you. Any and all of the hundreds of new Sneezy sects may have these pictures. Don't underestimate how big a threat this is. If pictures of you made it into the mass media right now, world civilization could easily collapse. Imagine the consequences if one day suddenly none of the women in the world wanted anything to do with any of the men except you. As soon as the men realize what's going on, they would want to kill you, of course. And the women would want to kill all of the men first, to protect you. And if you were killed once pictures had been released, it might be the end of the human race anyway even if people didn't kill each other because we're not sure if anyone would ever have a baby again. Once the viral programming activates in a woman, she can't get pregnant with anyone else but you. So if you were dead, there might be no new generation. We simply don't know. We are working on tracking the more dangerous of these splinter groups, but in the meantime we have to prepare for the worst. Our one hope is that even the stupidest bimbos in the Church of Sneezy understand that if Jim's picture gets out, all women would want Jim's babies, reducing each woman's chances. This has at least made them keep your pictures secret so far."

"What about pictures of me that were already out there, from my former life?"

"We rounded all of those up in the first month, except copies of your high school yearbook, which luckily don't trigger the virus because you had that god-awful beard. Your family and friends no longer have any copies of any pictures of you, and we made sure none were left behind when we picked up Jessica here."

"Hey," said Jessica, "what if he just grows a beard again? Or gets plastic surgery to look really different?"

"We thought of that, and Jim thought of it too while he was on the run. What happens when you disguise yourself, Jim?"

"It works for a while. Until I get a look at my reflection. Then after that, pretty soon women recognize me again. It turns out it's pretty hard to avoid even glancing at your own reflection. "

"I don't understand. Why would looking at yourself in the mirror affect how other people see you later?" Jessica asked.

"It's not because Jim sees himself in the mirror," Nicole said. "It's because the virus does. It watches through all of our eyes. The virus in Jim sees his new appearance and uses sneezes to tell the rest of the world about it." She paused to let this sink in. "Yes, it's that smart. The network of virus-infected cells within each of our bodies appears to be an intelligent organism. This is how it's able to adapt itself to fight every new strain of disease, and to overcome any anti-viral or anti-fertility medication we come up with. We've hired and recruited a team of the best geneticists in the world to study this thing. There are bigger and better-funded teams studying it, but the key resource we have is, again, pictures of Jim. We can expose someone to Jim's picture and analyze the changes in the virus and its outputs in sneeze-messages.

This has allowed us to at least partly crack the code of some of the messages the virus sends between people via sneezes. One is a message that originates from each woman Jim has sex with. It's sent out by the woman a day or two later, and copied and passed on through sneezes by other people, usually combined with a lot of other messages too, until it eventually has reached the entire population. Our geneticists noticed that all women who end up with 4 fertilized and stable embryos send out the same message, but that it's slightly different from the message sent by all women who get 3, and both of these are different from 2, and etc. In other words, the virus is communicating about how many babies each woman might have."

"But why?"

"We think we've figured that out. Once we understood these messages we began to track them in the population. We were trying to figure out how these messages ever stop going around the globe. How does the virus know an embryo-count message has gotten through, and it's OK to stop passing it around? It turns out there's a reply. Presumably from the viral network in your body, Jim. An acknowledgment you send out by sneezing after you've gotten a new egg-count message, telling the whole world it can stop passing it around trying to reach you. But your reply also contains something else. This is where it gets really interesting. We figured out part of the code in this message. It contains a simple base-4 number expressed in DNA. It appears to be a tally of the number of eggs you've fertilized, added up across all of your past partners."

"It's notching the bedpost."

"Basically, yes."

"What is it at now?" asked Jessica.

"Are you sure you want to know?"

"Yeah."

"It's at around 70,000."

"Holy shit."

"Wow."

"Any idea why it's keeping track?"

"Yes, actually. This is the very latest. We put one of our Angels in a controlled environment and started feeding her forged tallies of increasing amounts, just to see if anything happened. When we reached a certain amount, she didn't want to have Jim's babies anymore."

"So it just wants Jim to have a certain number of kids, and then we can go home, and pictures of my husband's face won't be threats to civilization anymore?"

"That's how it looks."

"Ok, I guess that's good news. How many kids does it want him to have?"

"A little under a billion."

"Holy crap!"

"Wait, isn't this a cure? Can't you just give everyone that same forged tally so they think it's already at a billion?" Jim asked.

"We hoped so. But as soon as our test subject came into contact with other people, she went back to wanting Jim's babies. And worst of all, just today it appears the virus has begun encrypting the tallies in response to our hacking."

"Smart."

"Yes, very. We don't think we're ever going to be able to fool it, even if we can crack its new code. But we must defuse the threat that pictures of you pose to the world. So we're back to another strategy that we've been developing for quite some time. It's desperate, but it seems like the best shot we have. We've established a large and growing worldwide network of fertility clinics. If we can collect enough of your sperm and we have enough clinics, we might be able to reach a billion before the men figure out what's going on."

"But how will you tell the women without telling the men?"

"Simple. With this." She unrolled a poster. It was a picture of Jim with the words 'Angel Clinics' and the subheading 'You can have it today. Men don't need to know.' "Women who see the picture will get what we're talking about instantly, and the hint about men not needing to know will hopefully keep the secret under wraps long enough for the tally to reach a billion. Men won't even be sure what service all these women are going to the clinics for. They'll think it's just a really poorly thought out ad campaign. We'll need a lot of your sperm, if you're willing to give it. If not, you're still welcome to stay here as long as you want under our protection."

"Nicole," he said, "I'm sold. If all I have to do to save the world is jerk off into a cup, just tell me where to spurt."

A little while later, Jim came out of the bathroom with a dejected look on his face. Nicole, Jessica and a doctor were all waiting for him outside. "There's a problem. I should have thought of this earlier. I can have an orgasm manually, but nothing comes out."

"Shit," said Nicole.

They were all quiet for a moment. Then Jessica spoke up. "Can you collect it from his partner after he has sex?"

The doctor looked surprised. "We've never done that before, but I think it should be possible."

"Ok," said Jessica, "We'll go get you a sample."

The next day they again met with Nicole and the doctor, who confirmed that this method of sperm collection seemed to work just fine. But Jim and Jessica had some bad news.

"We, uh, tried to get a second sample for you last night," Jessica said, blushing. "Didn't work. He came but nothing came out."

"You must now be pregnant. The virus doesn't want to waste his sperm."

"Yeah, I think that's right."

"Shit," said Nicole. "We need a lot more samples. I guess the sperm bank idea is a bust after all."

"Actually," said Jessica, "maybe not. There is still a way."

"Honey, no."

"Shut up Jim. We talked about this." She turned back to Nicole. "My husband is going to help you, but on my terms. You can collect his sperm the only way we know how. But it's not going to be like the torture chamber those bimbos had him in. He gets breaks. No more than 8 hour days. Weekends off. Vacation time. His health comes first. Those girls almost killed him. And second, I'm worried about him ending up hating sex for the rest of his life. It has to happen in a way that he can enjoy, meaning don't make him feel like a sperm factory. Nobody ever says a word about how efficient he's being. He can choose who he wants. He can take his time when he wants. No daily quotas. He can choose whatever..." she swallowed hard and continued, "positions or foreplay he wants. Nobody forces herself on him. You make sure anyone you recruit understands that if he turns them down you will just artificially inseminate them."

"Jessica, you're a hero. I wasn't even going to suggest it," Nicole said. "Yes, we can definitely set that up. I know just where we can find the first 1,500 volunteers. Assuming this is OK with you, Jim."

"Wait," he said, "the first 1,500? How many will it take?"

They all turned to the doctor. "We can't be sure yet, but I think the best we can do is inseminate 600 patients per, uh, sample. That means about 2000 stable embryos per sample on average. So we'd need half a million samples."

"Oh my god," Jim groaned. His nightmare in the Church of Sneezy had only been about 15,000. How could he possibly do 500,000?

"Honey, you don't have to go through with this. But at least give it a try. Maybe it won't be so bad as long as you're in control and you can go at your own pace. It's too important to not try. "

"But don't we have to hurry?" Jim asked. "I mean, because of the threat from those splinter groups, I really shouldn't be taking my time. We need to go as fast as possible, right?"

"Actually, no," said Nicole. "If you're doing this at all, even going slow, it'll give us an easy way to bargain with those splinter groups. They get to be volunteers in exchange for giving up their pictures of you. I think they'll cooperate. But Jim, remember this is entirely up to you. We'll let you stay here with our protection no matter what. "

"No, it's OK. I'll give it a shot. No promises though."

Nicole led him to his new workplace the next day. The floor was divided into a seemingly random jumble of geometric shapes in different colors. It was padded but non-absorbent, to allow any precious drips of his seed to be collected from anywhere they might fall. The walls and ceiling were mirrors. One entire wall was a one-way mirror, through which he would select his mates.

"Looks fine," he said, "but doesn't it need furniture?" The room was completely bare.

"Actually no. Put these slippers on. OK, now touch the ceiling."

"I can't. It's like 20 feet up!"

"Just try."

He raised his arms, feeling a little silly. Then he lifted up onto his tiptoes and suddenly the green circular segment of floor he was on moved smoothly up to the ceiling. As his hands touched, he lowered his heels back down, which caused the pedestal he was now on to smoothly come to a stop.

"Wow. The whole floor is like this, isn't it?" he asked, looking around at all the different geometric shapes with a new understanding. Nicole nodded. "Cool. How do I get down?"

"Just do the opposite. Toes up. You don't have to use both feet. The amount you lift tells it how fast to go."

It was amazingly intuitive. He could even put one foot on the intersection of several segments to move them all together, or do two different things at once with his two feet. It soon seemed almost effortless to transform the room any way he wanted.

"You, uh, didn't just build this place last night."

She laughed. "No. We try to prepare for a lot of possibilities."

"Ok. I want to play a little before I start."

"Sure thing. Just hit this button here when you're ready for the first group."

He fussed with the room for quite a while. He knew he was stalling. Finally, he sat down on a pillar and hit the button. In his room, the lights dimmed. On the other side of the one-way mirror wall, a door opened and in came 20 nude women holding numbers. These were, of course, all members of Jim's Angels, as would be the rest of the first 1,500. They were generally more athletic and a bit older than Jen's recruits -- in their late instead of their early 20s on average. They all had a look of intelligence that made them seem refreshingly individual and real. This made many of them truly beautiful to him, instead of merely sexy, although few of their bodies were anything like the perfection of the girls who had been torturing him just a few days ago. They were, in short, the perfect antidote.

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