As much of a pain as school work normally was, doing it via a video projection on his wall, using only verbal commands for input, was far worse.
It took him an unreasonable amount of time to discover the basic commands that the computer would recognize, such as 'page' and 'solve'. The entire process was frustrating and Joseph could feel his stomach gurgling, demanding its next meal.
He had finished his chemistry work earlier, along with some rather dry English. Now he was struggling with United States History lessons.
Back in his school, doing the very same lessons had been a simple matter of memorization and regurgitation. No thought required. However, in this new environment, he was paying closer attention to the things that he was being expected to learn.
Many of them were wrong.
Not only could he detect flaws in logic and blatant misrepresentations of people's motives, but also some out and out lies.
As he thought back over the 'facts' that he had been taught in school, he realized that non-white, non-male, non-Christians barely existed in their fallacious version of history. If they were ever mentioned in passing, it was as incompetent villains, easily conquered, or powerless wretches that needed to be 'saved' by way of the white man's boundless generosity.
* * * * *
A knock on his door caused him to jump.
He got up from the bench a bit stiffly and absently wondered just how long he had been sitting there. Of course, such speculation was pointless, since it was impossible to develop any concept of time in their current setting.
As he slid open the door, he was greeted by Kenyon's smiling face.
"Hey. How's it going?" Kenyon asked happily.
"I'm still doing my 'academic exercises'. Are you finished with yours?" Joseph asked as he backed into his room, allowing Kenyon entry.
"Yeah. After you left for your meeting, Wade stayed with me and helped me get bandaged up. After that, I didn't feel like walking or anything, so I got an early start on my lessons. I just finished a little bit ago."
"Did you notice if you had exactly the same lessons that you were doing at your old school, before you came here?"
"Yeah. How long do you think that they were watching us before the kidnapping?"
"I keep going back to the 'standardized tests'. It seems that they must have used those to compile a list of potential candidates. Then, somehow they investigated each one of us to whittle down the list to only white, physically 'acceptable' subjects for their experiment."
"Did you ever do those 'physical assessments' in gym class where they calculated everyone's BMI?"
"Yeah. I hadn't thought about that. And now that I do think about it, I also remember my parents complaining about the school requiring a complete medical history to get me enrolled. They couldn't understand why the school needed that information."
"So, do you think that all of this has something to do with the schools?"
"I don't know. It seems as likely as not that the schools were 'used' to collect the information and screen potential candidates, but I don't see this being a part of their 'agenda'. There's probably someone high up who makes the requirements who's in on it, but I doubt that very many, if any, of the people at the local level are involved."
Kenyon shook his head, then said, "They had to have someone local to arrange for us to be picked up, drugged and transported. There's no way they could have secretly made all those arrangements from the top. And they couldn't have made those arrangements in time without a network of people already working for them."
Joseph thought about that for a moment, then quietly said, "You're right."
Kenyon smiled with satisfaction.
"I need to finish my 'academic exercises' and drink my 'snail trail'. Then we can go and pitch this idea to the others in the Blue and Green room, to see what they think about it." Joseph said as he went back to his bench.
As soon as his butt hit the seat, the projection on the wall reappeared, just as he had left it.
* * * * *
Joseph read through the question on the wall, then noticed a movement. He turned to see Kenyon stripping his bed and remaking it properly.
"Thanks." Joseph said with a smile at him.
"Uncoded response: Please restate." The computer said in its ever cheerful voice.
"I wasn't talking to you." Joseph growled at the wall.
"Uncoded response: Please restate." The computer repeated.
Joseph took a deep breath, then carefully formulated his response to the question on the screen before starting his answer with the proper code word, 'Solve'.
He was surprised to find that when he finished answering the question, the 'food receptacle' opened, revealing his revolting gray sludge.
"I don't know if I'd call this a reward or a punishment." Joseph said as he picked up the glass and placed it on the table before him.
He waited for a moment, to see if the computer were going to chastise him, but apparently it stopped listening to his every word as soon as the 'academic exercises' were over.
"Mine tasted different, today." Kenyon said from his place seated on Joseph's bed.
If it weren't for the empty gnawing in his stomach, Joseph would have found some excuse not to drink the sludge. But he was just hungry enough that he wasn't able to put it off.
His first drink was as much a struggle as it had been the time before. When he came up for air, he realized what Kenyon meant about the flavor being different.
He could detect the slightest hint of something, not an herb, but more like a spice. It made him think of baked goods, and reminded him of nutmeg or maybe a very mild cinnamon.
"Can you taste it?" Kenyon asked curiously.
"Yeah. I don't know what that is." Joseph said before dutifully taking his next drink.
"Me neither." Kenyon agreed, then continued, "I don't think it made it taste better. But it kind of made me take my mind off the 'goop' a little."
Joseph came up for air again, and said, "Yeah."
As Joseph went in for his third and final drink, Kenyon quietly said, "The real reason I came over here is because I wanted to thank you."
Joseph wanted to respond, but was having difficulty getting his last mouthful of 'goop' to go down.
"I mean, I appreciate what Wade did, but he told me that you're the one who asked him to go and check on me." Kenyon explained.
Joseph took in a long, deep breath.
"Please return the glass to the dispenser receptacle." The computer said in an upbeat and cheerful tone, which made Joseph want to punch something.
"Fuck you." Joseph growled as he leaned forward and placed the empty glass into its little recess.
Nothing happened for a moment, then Joseph remembered how it worked. As soon as he stood, the bench, table and the door of the 'food receptacle' all moved in unison.
"Have a nice day." The computer said, sounding inordinately pleased with itself.
"Blow me." Joseph snarled at the computer reflexively.
When he turned, he was surprised to find Kenyon standing, only inches away.
Before he could react, Kenyon swooped in and wrapped him in a hug and began to kiss him.
Joseph was frozen in shock, trying to get his mind to comprehend what was happening.
As suddenly as the kiss had begun, it ended and Kenyon released him.
"Sorry." Kenyon muttered regretfully.
"What was that all about?" Joseph asked cautiously as he fought to keep a sudden adrenaline rush from overwhelming him.
"I... I don't know. I just felt like I had to."
"Because I helped you?"
"No. I don't know. Maybe. I just feel something. I don't know..."
"Maybe you should not do that again until you do know."
"You don't hate me for doing that, do you?"
"No. I just wasn't expecting to get jumped."
"I didn't mean to. It just kind of happened." Kenyon said nervously and seemed to be fighting back tears of humiliation.
"Just so we're clear on something, I'm rubbed raw. So even if I wanted to, and I'm not saying that I do, there's no way that anything's going to happen."
Kenyon slightly nodded, then said, "Mine's in a sling."
Joseph broke into a reluctant smile at that, then said, "Good point."
Kenyon seemed to be lost in his thoughts as several conflicting emotions made their way into his expression.
"Are you okay?" Joseph asked cautiously.
"I'm not gay." Kenyon said in confusion.
"Well, I'd say that you're not exactly straight, either. Not after doing that."
"I never even looked at guys before, and now all I want to do is kiss you and hold you in my arms."
"We've been abducted, drugged, and stuck in some demented scientist's genetics experiment. I think that would cause anyone's emotions to go a little janky."
Kenyon slowly nodded.
"And just so you know, I didn't hate it. That was a nice kiss. It might have been even better if I'd been expecting it."
"Do you want to?"
"Not now. Let's give both of us time to calm down and figure out what we really feel before we do anything else."
"I'll try. But I can't think clearly, right now." Kenyon said as he fought to contain his boiling emotions.
"Maybe that's the plan." Joseph said in sudden realization.
"What do you mean?"
"Come on. We need to talk to the others." Joseph said decisively, then led the way out of the room.
* * * * *
As they approached the Blue and Green meeting hall, they heard voices taunting and cheering.
Walking in, they saw two girls, one dressed in blue, the other in gray, alternating between fistfighting and wrestling, while others stood around the edge of the room, egging them on.
"Stop this! Are you two crazy?" Joseph called out as he immediately ran to try to break them up.
It took a moment for Kenyon to realize what he was seeing, but when he saw Joseph spring into action, he was only a step behind.
It took a moment for the two boys to pull the girls apart, but once they were finally separated, Joseph asked the girl in blue that he was restraining, "What caused this?"
"She's a Gray! She doesn't have any right to come in here! This is our room!" The Blue girl venomously spat.
"This is a lab experiment. We're their rats. The only reason for us to be wearing these colors is to divide us to make us do exactly what you're doing right now." Joseph urged the struggling girl to understand.
When the words finally seemed to sink in, she stopped her struggle.
"Are you okay?" Joseph asked her with concern.
"Yeah." The girl said slowly, then cautiously said, "I'm not like this. I don't get angry at people over stupid things."
Joseph glanced at Kenyon, then calmly said, "I think that they've put something in our food to heighten our emotional states. I guess that we were behaving too calmly, so they decided to 'stir the pot'."
"I'm sorry... whoever you are. He's right. I got mad for no good reason." The girl in blue said repentantly to her opponent.
"I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. When I noticed that you were angry with me, I responded with anger. I didn't even realize it." The girl in gray said thoughtfully.
Kenyon reluctantly released the girl in gray a moment before Joseph released the other.
The girls could obviously feel the stares of everyone in the room on them, waiting for their next actions.
"Sorry." The girl in blue finally said.
"Me, too." The girl in gray said timidly.
"Joseph." Kenyon said in nearly a whisper.
The puzzled look on his face made Joseph follow his gaze. As he looked around the room, he saw what Kenyon was seeing. It appeared that everyone in the room was either holding on to, or standing very near, one other person.
"It's also possible that they've given us something in our food to encourage us to form attachments to each other." Joseph speculated.
A few of the people looked around the room in surprise as they understood what he was saying.
"You guys, could you try to keep each other from doing things that you might regret when this drug wears off? They want us to be their guinea pigs and lab rats. Instead, let's show them how humans behave." Joseph said firmly.
"You sound like you're going somewhere." Kenyon said cautiously.
"I am. And I'd appreciate it if you'd go with me."
"Right now, I'd follow you to the ends of the earth."
"We may already be there." Joseph said as he started walking toward the Green hallway.
* * * * *
"Where are we going?" Kenyon asked cautiously.
"Right here." Joseph said simply, then knocked on door number one thirty.
"Come in!" A voice immediately responded from inside.
Joseph slid open the door and saw that Wade was sitting on the bench in front of his projected schoolwork.
"How are you doing?" Joseph asked with concern as he led the way into the room.
"Okay. I guess. Hey, Kenyon. How are you?"
"I'll have to get back to you on that."
"Uncoded response: Please restate." The computer said insistently.
"If you stand up, it will stop listening for your response." Joseph told him simply.
Wade immediately stood, then said, "Thanks. I thought I was never going to figure out how to answer the questions."
"An instructional video would have been nice. Then again, seeing how long it took us to figure out the basic instructions might have been part of the overall experiment."
"So, what brings you guys here?"
"There's a chance that they might have added something to our... 'Snail Trail' to heighten our emotions or lower our inhibitions or something. I just wanted to check on you and make sure that you were alright."
"Have you checked on Jason, yet?"
"No. Your room was closer."
"I haven't drank my 'Snail Trail', yet. So I'm fine. Go and check on him."
"It seems that your choices are to drink it and be drugged or not drink it and starve. Whatever you decide to do, it's your choice. But if you decide to drink it, then you might think about being around someone that you trust, to help keep you from doing anything that you might regret."
"Got it. Go on."
Joseph nodded, then looked to see if Kenyon were ready to go.
"Yeah." Kenyon whispered, then led the way out.
* * * * *
"What's got you bothered?" Kenyon asked curiously as they walked back toward the Blue and Green meeting hall.
"I can just feel my mind starting to cloud over and I feel like my nerves are on edge."
"Don't worry, I'll stick with you to make sure that you don't lose control."
"Thanks. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not going to unintentionally hurt someone."
"Yeah. If you start to lose control, I'll just kiss you until you're back in your right mind."
After a pause, Joseph simply said, "Noted."
* * * * *
The Blue and Green room had about a dozen people in there, but all of them seemed to be paired off and talking quietly to each other.
The Blue and Gray room was deserted.
As they approached the Gray and Purple room, Joseph glanced at Jason's door and found that it was slid open.
"Jason? Are you here?" Joseph asked cautiously as they approached the doorway.
"Joseph? Can you help me?"
Joseph and Kenyon walked into the room to find Jason backed into the bathroom, trying to fend off the advances of three girls, two in purple and one in gray.
"LISTEN!" Joseph bellowed.
Once he had their attention, he continued in a more reasonable voice, "They spiked our food. I don't know what they gave us, but it's their drugs that are making you act like this."
"No it's..." One of the girls began to protest.
"Just think about how you'd feel if someone were trying to touch you without your permission. That's what you're doing to Jason."
The three girls looked at each other with confusion and none of them could force themselves to look Jason in the eyes.
Joseph could tell that he was getting through to them, so he continued, "We're all away from our homes and our families, and now we're here in this new situation, and on top of everything else, they're giving us drugs to make us lose control of ourselves. Don't let them win."
"I'm sorry." One of the girls muttered, then edged around Joseph, toward the door.
"It helps if you're with someone you can trust. You three take care of each other."
"Thanks." The last girl said as she scooted past him.
"Thank you." Jason said as he wilted with relief.
"Joseph's always got our backs." Kenyon said with a smile of admiration at him.
"I think you're right." Jason said with a grin at Joseph.
"Before we go any further, there are some things that you need to know."
Jason looked at Joseph with concern at the statement.
"What I was saying about our food being drugged, it's true. I can feel myself on the edge of losing control and wanting to act on every impulse."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Have you had your dinner, yet?"
"I was just finishing it off when Karen and the other two showed up."
"Then you don't have long. Make sure that you're with someone you can trust to help you. When this stuff kicks in, every random thing that crosses your mind sounds like a good idea. If you don't stay right on top of it, you'll probably end up doing things that you'll regret later."
"And that's what's happening to you, right now?"
"I don't know who to trust... besides you. You're the only one who's been there for me when I needed someone."
"I need to walk the station. Not only will it help to work some of this crap out of my system and help me to clear my head, but we also need to spread the word to people so that they won't do too many stupid things that they'll regret tomorrow. You can go with us, if you want."
"If I'm about to lose my self-control, then I should go with you. Otherwise, I might not try to fight off the next group of admirers who come to visit."
"And taking advantage of them while they're in that drug induced state would be bad. No matter how much the drugs might want to convince you otherwise, it would still be wrong."
"Sorry, Joseph." Kenyon quietly muttered.
"It's okay, Kenyon. You've been given retroactive permission. You're off the hook." Joseph said with a grin in his direction, then thought to say, "Jason, I don't think you've met Kenyon, our escapee from the 'Amazon Zone'."
"I was wondering about the orange coveralls."
"Yeah. From what Wade told me, when we first woke up today, Joseph asked Wade to check on me while he went to check on you."
Jason looked at Joseph with a broad smile of gratitude.
"I like you Jason, and unless you're willing to find out how much, I think we should be going, right now." Joseph said in a tightly controlled voice.
"You mean that you?..."
"Since you're so tall, I'd like to climb you and then kiss you like crazy when I get to the top."
"Yeah. We'd better go." Kenyon said quietly, then looked to Jason and said, "You can come with us, if you want. We're probably going to find a lot of people doing stuff they'd only dreamed of before today."
"Yes. I don't like the idea of being here on my own. Especially since I'm not sure that I'd be able to trust myself."
"That's the whole idea of this. We'll keep each other from doing things that we'll regret." Joseph said and Jason noticed that Joseph seemed to have a fine sheen of sweat forming on his upper lip.
"Either that, or we'll all feel guilty about it together in the morning." Kenyon said before turning to walk out the door.
Joseph looked to Jason and quietly said, "I can't imagine what you're feeling after what happened to you in the blackout. But I'll do whatever I can to keep anyone from hurting you."
"Since I'm so big, people don't usually worry about my feelings."
* * * * *
They walked the few steps from Jason's room into the Purple and Gray meeting room and found several girls and one boy separated into pairs, and one threesome, all kissing and in the first stages of getting undressed.
"Everyone! You need to listen to me!" Jason said in a commanding voice.
Joseph felt his knees get weak at the raw power and sensuality that Jason exuded.
"The food that you've been given has been drugged. You're not behaving rationally."
A few of the participants looked up from what they were doing, but were soon drawn back into their loveplay.
"Try to think about what you're doing. Is this what you really want? Are you going to regret it tomorrow?"
"This is what I've always wanted." One of the girls in purple said before returning to her partner, a girl in gray.
"Okay. But remember that if any of you want to talk to me later about what happened, I'll do my best to help you however I can."
"You can help me now." A voice called from the other doorway.
Joseph was surprised to see Autumn stalk up to Jason and start to kiss him.
Due to their difference in height, she caught him mostly on the neck and a little bit on the chin. But she certainly gave it an admirable effort.
"Autumn, you wouldn't want someone walking up to you like that and kissing you that way without your permission, would you?" Joseph asked her reasonably.
"If it was Jason, I would."
"Autumn, try to think past the drugs. They're forcing you to do things that you don't really want to do."
"They're forcing me to do exactly what I want to do. This is what I've wanted to do since the first time I saw Jason."
As Jason tried to keep her at arm's length, he quietly said, "Autumn, I like you very much. But you don't know me. All you know about me is what your eyes tell you. When this is all over, if you want to get to know me, if you want to find out who I am inside, then we can spend time together. But there's no way that I'd take advantage of you when you're not in a state of mind to make a rational decision."
"Come on, just a little?" Autumn pouted.
"No." Jason said firmly, then continued more gently, "I hope that when this has worn off, that you'll appreciate that I respected you enough not to take advantage of you."
"I don't want your respect! I want you to love me!" Autumn said angrily.
"This, what you're doing right now... not helping." Kenyon told her simply.
Jason separated himself from Autumn and watched her carefully, to be sure that she wasn't going to attack again.
When Joseph was certain that Autumn was convinced, he quietly said, "We need to get moving. There's not much more we can do here."
* * * * *
As they began to walk, Jason absently said, "I was a goofy looking kid."
"Really? I can't imagine that." Joseph said honestly.
"I was put into a foster home when I was about seven. The people that I call my mom and dad... they're paid to take care of us. It's their job. They treat me okay, but I was never really... loved."
"I can't imagine how that was for you."
"I was a little underweight and small for my age. Then, last year, I started to grow like crazy. Along with that, people started noticing me and telling me how handsome I was. I didn't know how to handle it."
Before he could say more, a girl, dressed in black coveralls, came running toward them leaping in long slow strides.
All three boys stood and watched, not knowing what, if anything, they were supposed to do in response.
When she was a few feet away from them, she stopped and somehow managed to do a little pirouette, in her army boots, then took off, leaping in long slow strides down the rest of the hallway.
"You don't see that everyday." Kenyon finally said.
"We might now." Jason said as he continued to watch after her for a moment longer.
"Kenyon, is there anyone that you were wanting to check on, while we're walking around?" Joseph thought to ask.
"No. The Yellow Greens were all fine when I passed through there. You and Wade were the only other ones I knew."
"Kenyon? That's an unusual name." Jason said slowly.
"It's my last name. My first name is Richard, just like about a third of all the guys in my grade at school. It was just easier for everyone to call me by my last name."
Jason nodded, then said, "The same thing happened to me. There are a lot of Jasons, so I've been called Jason K since I was in grade school."
"What about you, Joseph?"
"Guys, I may need to go back to my room. I don't know how much longer I can go on like this."
"What's wrong?" Jason asked with concern.
"I feel like I'm about to crawl out of my skin!"
"Tell me what I can do to help you." Kenyon said gently.
"Don't say that! If you say that, I might tell you what I really want you to do and then... I can't!"
"I don't understand. What does he need?" Jason asked cautiously.
"I think I know." Kenyon said quietly, then explained, "It's kind of like Autumn, he wants to kiss you and have you love him."
"I'll be fine." Joseph said as he fought to get himself back under control.
"Do you think that when we're not under the influence of these drugs that he has those same feelings toward me?" Jason asked cautiously.
"No. I understand what he's feeling because I feel the same thing for him. I didn't feel this before... or, at least I didn't think about it for more than a second or two, if I did." Kenyon tried to explain.
"I'm sorry, Kenyon. You can kiss me if you still want to. I'm sorry I didn't let you before." Joseph rushed to say.
"Yeah. I might if it weren't for that speech you gave about 'respect'. I want to still be your friend tomorrow."
Joseph nodded slowly as he struggled to keep his mind on what they were saying.
* * * * *
"Don't mind us! Just passing through!" Joseph said as he shielded his eyes from the mass of naked people, writhing on the floor and table in the Purple and Black room.
"You don't need to rush away! Stay awhile." A familiar voice called in return.
Joseph forced himself to stop in the doorway to the Black hallway long enough to say, "They put a drug in our food to make us... lose inhibitions, I guess. It may be a little too late to be telling you this, but don't do anything you'll regret."
"Oh! I won't!" Lisa responded, then broke into a fit of giggles.
Although he didn't want to, Joseph couldn't seem to keep himself from looking back into the room. By his estimate, there were at least fifteen naked girls. At his first and only glance, he didn't see any indication of boys, but he wasn't about to hang around and look to be sure.
"If the rest of the rooms are like that, we should probably turn back." Jason said uncomfortably.
Joseph thought that the fact that the tips of Jason's ears blushed was just adorable. "No. Whether or not they listen, everyone deserves to be told what's going on."
"Yeah. That's only right."
Joseph stopped in his tracks, then said, "We need to check on Ryan, while we're here."
"The guy in black who's always running back and forth?" Jason asked to be sure.
"Yes. His room is right there."
"I love you, Joseph." Kenyon said in a hopeless, helpless voice.
The words stopped Joseph in his tracks.
Joseph stood still, frozen in place for a moment, then looked Kenyon in the eyes and said, "If you tell me that tomorrow, I might believe you."
Kenyon slowly nodded his understanding.
Joseph walked to Kenyon and gently placed a hand on the back of his head before asking, "Is it alright?"
Joseph smiled slightly, then pulled Kenyon into a kiss, guiding him exactly where he wanted him to go.
Although Jason knew that there was a reason that he shouldn't be looking, he found that he couldn't look away.
The kiss didn't last too long. But it said what they both wanted it to say.
"I'll still love you tomorrow. I just don't know if I'll be able to admit it." Kenyon said quietly.
"We'll find out, then. And if you can't... that's okay. I don't think it's the drugs talking when I say that I don't think that I'll regret this."
Kenyon smiled at the response, then followed as Joseph walked up to the closed door and knocked.
"Ryan, it's Joseph. Are you okay?"
"Kinda busy, right now." Ryan called in return.
"I just wanted to let you know that they added drugs to our food to lower our inhibitions and make us act on our impulses. Be careful that you don't do anything that you'll regret."
"We won't." Kenna's voice called in response.
Joseph's eyes went wide, then he said a brief, "Have fun."
"We will!" Both Ryan and Kenna answered, then broke into joyous giggles.
* * * * *
"Jason, are you okay? You're kinda quiet." Joseph asked cautiously.
"I think I'm feeling the drug. I'm feeling... I want to hold someone. I just don't know who." Jason said anxiously.
"Hold, like hugging and stuff like that?"
"Yes. And I've never kissed... anyone."
"I've seen at least four girls kissing you so far, and that's just today."
"That was them kissing me. That even happened before I was brought here. But I've never been in a circumstance where I felt a level of affection where I wanted to initiate a kiss... until now. I want to do that. I want to feel that. But I don't know with who."
"I think we have a volunteer." Kenyon said as he made a show of pointing at Joseph.
"No, Kenyon. I kissed you. I wouldn't betray you like that."
"I wasn't asking you to." Jason said quickly.
"Just go ahead and give the big guy a hug. I've got no problem with that. In fact, if he needs one later, I may hug him, too."
"Okay." Joseph said decisively, "If you want a hug, we can do that whenever you're ready. It only means as much as we say it does. It's not a gay thing or a lover thing unless we both agree that it is, right?"
"I'm not sure... What if I like it?"
"Then you're human. Hugging isn't a gay or straight thing."
Jason looked to Kenyon and quietly asked, "You're okay with this?"
"Keep your hands where I can see them." Kenyon said with playful sternness.
"I will." Jason assured him, then leaned in and gave Joseph a gentle, almost ethereal hug.
Joseph had no idea that someone so big could be so gentle.
As Jason's hand slipped from the small of Joseph's back, Kenyon said, "Hey! Watch the hands!"
Jason flashed him a pleading expression and Kenyon wilted in resignation.
"Okay. Just don't go too far." Kenyon reluctantly agreed.
Jason then simultaneously moved in to give Joseph a deep kiss, but also moved his hand down to firmly cup Joseph's left butt cheek.
After a moment, Kenyon quietly said, "Um... guys..."
Jason seemed to realize what he was doing and slowly began to release Joseph.
"Wow." Joseph whispered.
"I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No." Joseph said quietly, then added, "Whenever you find who you love, for real, I think that they'll be a very lucky person."
"I enjoyed that. But I feel as though I shouldn't have."
"They gave you drugs and you did things you wouldn't have done otherwise. That's it. Don't get all caught up in what it means, because it doesn't mean anything."
"It meant something to me."
"Me too! I'm sorry I said it that way! I just wanted you to know that the whole gay and straight thing... this doesn't have anything to do with that. You can still find a girl and fall in love and all of that and never look back on this as anything except something that you did when you were drugged against your will."
"It means more to me than that."
"Right. It means a lot to me, too. It just doesn't necessarily mean that."
After a moment to consider, Jason slowly nodded his head in agreement.
"Good. We need to keep going if we're going to let everyone know before someone gets hurt."
* * * * *
"Sodomites! Heathens! God will have His VENGEANCE upon thee!" was being called out as they walked toward the Red and Black room.
"I should have known." Joseph said with a sigh.
The sight that greeted them as they walked through the door was still somehow unexpected.
Various teenagers, both male and female, were either nude or in the process of getting that way while feverishly humping and grinding against each other.
Standing before them fully dressed and staring disapprovingly, was Jude.
"You got a minute?" Joseph asked as he approached.
"They won't listen."
"When we got our last meal, there was a drug in the food. It makes people act on their desires."
"We're in hell."
"We're in a facility, being experimented on. Now we're being drugged... for some reason. Maybe it's just for their amusement. I really don't know. But we're here and we've got to deal with it."
"Sounds like hell to me." Kenyon muttered under his breath.
"I don't know what it is that I'm supposed to do." Jude said helplessly.
"I don't know either." Joseph admitted, then continued, "But keep in mind that these people aren't evil or wicked. They were drugged without their knowledge or consent. They're not the bad guys."
Jude slowly nodded, signifying at least some level of understanding.
"And I think that tomorrow, when the drug wears off, you're probably going to have some very guilty and confused people who are going to need someone to help them deal with the things they did while they were under the influence. They won't need someone blaming them and making them feel worse."
"Look at that!" Kenyon said suddenly.
Joseph reflexively looked where Kenyon was pointing and very nearly lost his 'Snail Trail' at the sight.
After a moment to choke down his distaste, he carefully said, "I never, in a million years, would have thought of that. But I suppose that technically, it could be counted as sex."
"Thank you." Jude said quietly, drawing Joseph's attention.
"For reminding me that my people will need me to be there for them. I have sinned in pride, believing that I was better than they are because I didn't succumb to my forbidden desires."
"Did you already drink your dinner?"
"No. I am fasting while I offer up prayers of protection for Tanner."
"Jason, Kenyon, come here. We've got a job."
"But did you see that?!" Kenyon asked with wide eyes.
"Yes. But this, first." Joseph said firmly.
Jason and Kenyon finally tore their amazed gazes away from the impending orgy and looked at Joseph expectantly.
"Jude, I don't know how much good this will do, but if you think it'll help, we'll pray for Tanner with you."
"Will you lead the prayer?"
"Please join hands."
Joseph looked around to be sure that Jason and Kenyon weren't peeking at the sexual gymnastics on the other side of the room.
"Dear God, we implore you to intercede on behalf of your innocent son, Tanner. Please protect him and bring him back to us safely."
"Kimberly, too." Joseph quietly added.
"We ask that you remove from power, those who have captured us and deliver us from their evil hands. Protect us, O Lord."
"And please don't let anyone get hurt." Jason added in a low voice.
Joseph gave Jason's hand a squeeze of support.
"In Jesus' holy name we pray, Amen."
"Amen." Joseph said in a whisper.
"Thank you, Joseph. I just wish that there were more that I could do for my brothers and sisters who have been overcome."
"Try telling them that they've been drugged. That what they're feeling isn't real, it's a chemically induced state that our captors have inflicted on them. That might snap a few of them out of it."
"And afterward, remember to tell them that they are still good people. Just because they were drugged into giving into carnal desires doesn't mean that they've been corrupted by Satan. Corruption is a choice, and that choice was denied them. This wasn't something that they did, this was something that was done to them." Jason said firmly.
"I understand." Jude said calmly, then added, "I had better get to work. It looks like I'm going to have a lot to do."
"If you need any help, I'm in Blue Green, Jason's in Gray Purple and Kenyon's usually in Yellow Green. If there's anything we can do to help, let us know." Joseph offered sincerely.
"I will. Thank you." Jude said quietly, then walked away.
As Joseph was about to leave, he noticed Kenyon staring at the orgy, once again.
"If you want to stay and play... I won't stop you." Joseph said quietly.
"No! It's not that! They're just doing things that I never even thought of before!" Kenyon said disbelievingly.
"Yeah. From what I hear, when Christians let loose, they're like that." Joseph said as he started toward the door.
"Over there. That looks like it's gotta hurt." Jason whispered as he pointed.
"Yeah." Kenyon agreed before also turning to leave.
* * * * *
"Do you think that maybe they're doing this so that all the girls will get pregnant?" Jason asked Joseph as they walked away from the Red and Black room.
"I honestly don't know."
"Do you have any theories?" Kenyon asked curiously.
"I have tons of them, but none of them fit with the scenario that we're looking at."
"With all the drugging and the blackouts, couldn't they have just given us the drug before we woke up this morning?" Jason asked carefully.
"I don't see any reason why they couldn't." Joseph admitted.
"So, the sporadic way that people were overcome at different times, and some, like Jude, not at all, might have been a desirable outcome?" Jason slowly deduced.
"Possibly. Joseph said thoughtfully, trying to get his foggy mind to cooperate.
"But the reason behind giving us the drug at all... I mean, they damaged our penises, then they give us drugs to make us want to have sex... that's just mean." Kenyon said cautiously.
"I think that Stone is the one we need to ask about the drugs." Joseph said, then explained, "He seems to have more knowledge about them than anyone else that I've talked to. He might have some idea of what the intendeduse for a drug like this might be."
"He's probably busy with Alyssa. And if they've had their dinner..." Kenyon trailed off, letting the others fill in the blank.
"Even so, he's probably our best source for information." Joseph said slowly.
"Hold it right there!" A girl said as they approached the Orange and Red meeting room.
"We're not here to cause any trouble. We just wanted to talk to Korbin, if he's got a minute." Joseph said carefully.
"Denise. Get Korbin. I need him here." The girl firmly said over her shoulder.
From the determined look in the girl's eyes and the confidence she exuded, Joseph wasn't about to try to do anything to set her off.
* * * * *
"Joseph... and Jason. It's good to see you again. How are you?" Korbin asked pleasantly as he approached, then motioned for them to follow.
"We're fine. This is Kenyon." Joseph said quickly.
"It's nice to meet you, Kenyon. I'm surprised that I haven't seen you around." Korbin said honestly as he walked to one of the meeting tables and took a seat.
Joseph noticed a familiar face and said, "Hi, Randa. How are things going?"
"You mean besides being drugged half out of my head and having to watch out for the Rape Gang? Fine, I guess." Randa said with impressive sarcasm.
"Rape gang?" Joseph asked with concern.
"Yes. They came from the Red and Black room a while ago. We were able to get our people back from them before anything happened, but just knowing that they're out there gives me the creeps." Randa said with anger under her words.
"From what we saw, all the people in the Red and Black room were entertaining themselves pretty well." Kenyon helpfully supplied.
"Still, until this wears off, I'm not taking any chances. Laurina has a third degree black belt in Karate, so I've got her posted at the door. We've got two other people with martial arts training to trade off shifts with her. If we get attacked again, we'll be ready." Korbin said, mostly to Joseph.
"So, I take it that you were able to figure out about the drugs in our food?"
"Yes. I should've seen that coming. Next meal, we're going to have someone eat first and wait to see their reaction before the rest of us have any."
"If you ate dinner, how are you not... violent or lust crazed?"
"The same way you are, I'm guessing. I know that there's a poison inside me that infects my mind and I'm not giving in to it."
"I admire your willpower."
"I'm guessing that you're here because you're walking around the station, warning people about the drug."
"That's right. I'm just glad that you were able to figure it out before your people were overcome by it. The other sections weren't quite so lucky."
"'The Sisterhood' shouldn't be a problem. I told them what was going on... well, Randa told them. So they were probably able to get on top of things before they went out of control."
"That's good. There have been a couple rooms that were pure orgies. I didn't know what to do except warn them about what was really happening to them and leave them to do whatever they wanted with that knowledge."
"I'm too much of a control freak to be okay with that. When I see something wrong, I want it to be fixed, immediately."
Joseph looked at him curiously at the statement.
"If I don't go and look at it, then I don't react to it. That's most of why I stay right here."
Joseph smiled and said, "It's good that you know yourself that well. Maybe if I looked at my own mind and my own motivations a little more, I could make some wise decisions like that, too."
"Don't change what works." Kenyon said to him firmly.
Joseph smiled at the words, then thought to ask, "Before we go, is there anything we can do for you guys?"
"I'm still waiting on that jackhammer."
"It must have been lost in the mail." Joseph said with a grin, then asked again, "Can you think of anything that we can do for you, from over on the other side?"
After a moment to consider, Korbin slowly said, "Yeah."
Joseph waited with anticipation.
"Would you mind spreading the word that as soon as the 'drug crisis' has passed, that we're probably going to start sending search parties into the other areas to inspect the inner wall, to see if they can find an entrance to the middle?"
"Sure. I'd be happy to tell everyone."
"That's all I got. Our wall's fixed and we haven't been able to find so much as a crease in the inner wall in this section."
"I'll see you again on my next walkabout. Let me know if you need anything." Joseph said as he stood, then quickly added before Korbin could say it, "I'll reorder the jackhammer and get it to you as quick as I can."
"Right." Korbin said with a smile.
As Joseph walked to the door that led to the Orange hallway, Jason and Kenyon automatically followed.
* * * * *
As the trio walked away from the Orange and Red room, Joseph quietly said, "I think that Korbin is an amazing leader. He takes good care of his people and understands himself."
"Yes. And he seems to have embraced the concept of being a leader, something that I'm still struggling with." Jason said quietly.
"What's wrong, Jayce?"
"I feel like I should be in the Gray and Purple meeting room, watching over my people."
"It would be nice if you could do that, but you know as well as we do that it wouldn't work out that way. It wouldn't be safe for you there. You're just too damned cute."
"They've been warned, so all you can really do is let them work the drug out of their systems, then help them to pick up the pieces." Kenyon explained then pointed as he said, "There's my room. Do you guys need anything while we're here?"
"Actually, I'm thirsty. Do you think that there's any way to get a glass of water from the computer?" Jason asked cautiously.
Joseph was surprised by the question and admitted, "I haven't tried. But if you can't, you could cup your hands under the faucet in the bathroom sink."
Kenyon led the way to his door and slid it open.
"It's your room, so why don't you try asking?" Joseph asked as he followed Kenyon into the room.
Kenyon walked to where the 'food receptacle' was located and said, "Water."
Much to their surprise, the food receptacle panel opened to reveal a glass, the same as their 'dinner' glass, filled with water.
"Here you go." Kenyon said as he picked up the glass and handed it to Jason.
"Thank you." Jason said gratefully, then took a tentative sip.
"How is it?" Joseph asked cautiously.
"Lukewarm." Jason said before taking another drink.
"I noticed that the people in charge of this place don't seem to have any concept of refrigeration."
"Are you thirsty?" Kenyon asked Joseph quietly.
Something about the tone of Kenyon's voice made Joseph look at him consideringly.
"I think I'll wait until I get back to my room." Joseph said as he stepped forward and pulled Kenyon into a gentle hug.
"What are you doing that for?" Kenyon asked cautiously.
"You looked like you needed it." Joseph said simply, then quietly added, "And so did I."
"Please return the glass to the dispenser receptacle." The computer said in its ever cheerful and upbeat tone.
Joseph turned to see that Jason had finished drinking his glass of water.
"It's watching. It knows when you're done drinking." Kenyon said quietly.
"Yeah. But that doesn't even make the top ten list of creepy things about this place." Joseph said as he reluctantly released Kenyon from the hug.
Jason edged past Kenyon and Joseph to place the empty glass back into the 'dispenser receptacle'.
As soon as he did, the panel began to close and the computer voice said, "Have a nice day."
"If we don't need anything else here, let's get moving." Joseph said decisively.
"Let me check something." Kenyon said as he walked to his bed and pulled back the blanket.
The sight of the dried bloody mess on the stark white sheets was disturbing, to say the least.
"I just wanted to see if they'd somehow change the sheets or something while I was gone." Kenyon said as he moved the blanket back into place.
"What happened?" Jason asked in horror at the sight.
"You know how the rest of us were rubbed raw during the blackout, Kenyon was mutilated." Joseph explained.
"It's not too bad, now. But when Wade knocked on my door and woke me up and I found myself covered in blood, it was a big shock. Then, we couldn't get the bleeding to stop or even figure out where the blood was coming from. It wasn't until Joseph got here and helped us to sort things out that I was able to think rationally about anything." Kenyon shyly admitted.
"When I woke, I found that I had been anally penetrated during our 'blackout'." Jason said quietly.
"I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry as hell that they did that to you."
"I'm sorry for you, too."
"Are you guys ready?" Joseph asked cautiously.
He didn't want to interrupt their 'moment' but he didn't know if either were going to say anything more.
Jason walked to Kenyon and gave him a gentle squeeze around the shoulders as he said, "Yeah."
* * * * *
All three were cautious as they walked into the Yellow and Orange meeting hall, now also known as the 'Amazon Zone'.
The sight that greeted them was beyond bizarre.
All the tables and chairs had been pushed against one wall. About twenty girls were all evenly spaced on the floor across the room, holding exactly the same pose, propped on one knee with the other leg extended in the air behind them.
"Do you have any news about Kimberly?" One of the girls asked and broke ranks to stand.
"No. I'm sorry. Kimberly and Tanner are both still missing." Joseph said regretfully.
"We were walking around letting everyone know that our food had been drugged." Jason added helpfully.
"Yes. Randa told us. It turns out that Madison's mom is a yoga instructor and Madison's been doing yoga all her life, so when we found out that we were drugged, we got everyone together and started going through yoga routines. It seems to help." Valerie explained.
"Good. The Orange and Red room seems to be handling it fairly well, too. Everyone else, not so much." Joseph said honestly.
"If they keep doing this to us, maybe we can get some of our people to learn enough to teach yoga classes in the other areas."
"Right now, it wouldn't be safe for them. But maybe once we've dealt with the aftermath of today, people will be in their right minds enough to want to fight against the effects of the drugs."
Valerie nodded her agreement.
"We need to be going. We've got one more stop to make, then we will have warned everyone."
"There's no way out of this, is there?" Valerie asked in an uncharacteristically emotional desperate voice.
"Not yet. But we need to be alert and aware in case they slip up."
Valerie had a momentary look of confusion, which morphed into resolve.
"Yes. And right now that means not letting their drugs control us." Valerie said decisively, then walked back to her place on the floor and assumed the pose of all those surrounding her.
Joseph tilted his head in the direction of the Yellow hallway, then started walking.
* * * * *
"I never expected that." Kenyon said honestly.
"Neither did I. But I guess I allowed my disagreement with their matriarchal philosophy to influence my estimation of their reaction to the situation." Joseph said consideringly.
"Are you feeling better? I mean, do you feel like the drug is wearing off?"
After a moment to consider, Joseph slowly answered, "Yes. At least a little, but not entirely."
"I was just wondering because you're sounding all brainy again, like you usually do."
"If it bothers you, I could try to dumb it down."
"Don't you dare! I like it!" Kenyon yelped.
"Would you two stop flirting? We've got a job to do." Jason scolded playfully.
"Whatever you say, Jayce." Joseph said with a wink in his direction.
Kenyon rolled his eyes, but didn't comment.
* * * * *
Walking into the Yellow and Green room, they were surprised to find several people, sitting and talking quietly amongst themselves.
Since Stone and Alyssa were present, Joseph led the way to talk to them.
"Is everyone alright here?" Joseph asked with concern.
"Yes. For the most part. Wade let us know what was going on before anyone was 'overcome'." Alyssa said carefully.
"What do you mean, 'for the most part'?" Joseph asked cautiously.
"Some were affected more strongly than others, or just didn't have a lot of willpower to begin with. We made sure that they knew what was happening to them and allowed them to make their own decisions." Stone answered, and didn't seem to be too happy with the resolution that they had come up with.
"We had to do basically the same thing with a few of the rooms that we passed through. We let them know what was happening and let them know that we'd be available to help them pick up the pieces when the drugs wear off."
"Just when I think that this chamber of horrors can't get any worse, they violate us in even more egregious ways."
"Stone, don't let the drugs influence your behavior. Right now, they're making you angry." Alyssa warned him.
"No. I'm already angry. The drugs are just preventing me from keeping it to myself." Stone said past clenched teeth.
"Do you have any idea about what kind of drug they might have given us, or what it's normally used for?" Joseph asked carefully.
"It's probably some kind of antidepressant, or at least that's one of the drugs being used. I can't really narrow it down any more than that."
"I suppose it doesn't matter. I just thought that if we knew what the drug was supposed to do, we might have a better idea of what they were trying to prove, or what was expected of us."
"I'd guess that the drug or drugs did exactly what they were intended to do. They broke us out of ourselves and forced us to deal with others, whether that be benevolently or aggressively. In doing that, they forced us to form 'families' or 'tribes'. For this experiment of theirs to continue for an extended period of time, we're going to need that social safety net." Alyssa said thoughtfully.
"I need to get back to the Blue and Green room to see what's going on there."
"Zarah sent Brianna over to check on us a little while ago. It sounds like she has things under control."
"Good. I feel bad for leaving them, like I did. But I felt that it was more important to spread the word, so that people would know what's being done to us."
"I think you did the right thing. Thanks to you telling Wade what was happening, we were able to at least make informed decisions." Stone said simply.
"Where is Wade? How is he doing?"
"The last thing he said to us was that he was going back to his room. He hadn't decided if he was going to take the drug or go hungry."
"We'll check on him on the way."
"Let us know if there's anything we can do to help." Alyssa said quietly.
"Just keep on trying to come up with theories and explanations. Even with all we've done so far, I still can't get a sense of what their plan for us is."
"I know what you mean. As soon as something starts making logical sense, they turn around and do something to defeat their own efforts." Stone said gravely.
Joseph nodded, then looked at his companions to see if they were ready to go.
"I'm going to go check on Wade, then I'll be back to fill you in on what we found in the other rooms. Maybe it'll help." Kenyon said to Stone and Alyssa.
"Yes. It might." Stone said with a smile at him.
As Joseph, Jason and Kenyon walked toward the door to the Green hallway, they looked back and noticed the somber mood of the room that they were leaving.
* * * * *
"Who do you think is handling this the best?" Joseph asked thoughtfully as they walked.
"I don't know. I mean, Korbin seems to have things under control, but I'm not sure that would work for everyone. It's perfect for his way of dealing with things, but I don't see myself being able to maintain control of the Grays and Purples like that." Jason said speculatively.
"I think the Amazons are probably the happiest. They all look like they're in a really tranquil place, but I don't know how much good that's doing with actually 'dealing' with what's being done to us. It just sort of defeats the effects of the drugs." Kenyon added helpfully.
"Yeah. Stone and Alyssa's group don't seem happy. It's like they're fighting the antidepressants with depression. I'm not sure that's the most productive way of handling things." Joseph said, then pointed at Wade's closed door.
* * * * *
"Wade? Are you home?" Joseph asked after knocking.
A moment later, the door slid aside as Wade said, "This isn't anything like home."
"True." Joseph conceded, then asked, "How are you doing?"
"I haven't taken the drug, if that's what you're asking."
"Are you going to be alright?"
"I've decided to hold off as long as I can."
"Just let us know if there's anything we can do to help."
"I'm going to hold off until the next blackout, if I can. But if I can't, I was thinking that maybe you guys could help me... get through it."
"Yes. Of course we'll help, however we can."
"I'm going back to the Yellow and Green room. You can come and get me whenever you're ready." Kenyon offered.
"Thanks, I'll do that." Wade said gratefully.
"We're going to the Blue and Green room now. Do you want to come along?" Joseph asked with a smile.
"Actually, I think I'll go with Kenyon. I think that I've had enough of being alone for a while."
"Just let us know if there's anything that we can do."
As Joseph turned to leave the room, Kenyon quickly asked, "Can I have one for the road?"
Joseph smiled at the question then, without hesitation walked up to Kenyon and pulled him into a long kiss filled with loving (drug induced) emotion.
"If that's what this drug does to you, it might not be so bad." Wade said to Jason in a whisper.
"It's caused many people to do many things that they will no doubt regret later. It seems that only a few have been able to get it right." Jason responded quietly.
When the kiss finally ended, Joseph looked into Kenyon's eyes and said, "You know where to find me if you need me."
"I will find you." Kenyon said as a vow, then added, "And I will need you."
Joseph smiled at the response, then reluctantly led the way out of Wade's room.
It's funny but I almost always have the same feeling when I finish a new chapter of this story. I find a few new factors showing up, some of which seem to help resolve what went on in the last chapter, yet others that present themselves more confusing than helpful to know.
That goes for the participants as well as the readers.
Basically, once I have read a chapter, I try to formulate some ideas as to what the captors have in mind for the captives, yet when you think about what happened, you tend to still come up with very little information that turns out to be useful.
I guess we will just have to wait to get the next tidbit.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher