Tad looked from the dead body to Homer, then back again. Shock, denial, terror and utter confusion swarmed around his mind, making his brain want to curl up into a lovely little ball and go to sleep.
For his part, Homer seemed calm. He took a few deep breaths and quietly spoke, "We need to get rid of it."
He looked at Tad, who was still deep in LaLa Land, "Tad. Tad!"
Tad gibbered a little, then managed to squeak, "He's dead."
Homer nodded, "Yes. There was nothing we could do. We have to get rid of him."
Tad pointed at the body, "Omar? He's dead."
Homer sighed, "Yes, I know. You need to snap out of it and help me, okay?"
Violently thrusting a finger at the corpse, Tad almost yelled, "Omar! He's dead. We killed a man!"
"Yes, we've established that. Come on! Oh, and my name is actually Homer," Homer drew out the 'h' in his name, then pulled Tad along back to Stephen's office. Taking a bottle from a desk drawer, he added, "Here, drink this."
Tad shrank back, "That's Stephen's 20 year old Scotch! He'll kill us!"
Homer grabbed Tad by the shoulders, roughly turning him, and exclaimed, "Tad, we just killed the Vice-President of the United States of America, I think Stephen noticing we stole some booze is the least of our worries!"
A small mewling sound came from somewhere inside Tad, and he spun the top off the bottle to take a deep swig. Homer slumped against the filing cabinet wondering what the hell they were going to do.
To say it was a rather strange day at the studios of The Colbert Report would be an understatement.
How it all started is shrouded in mystery. The rainstorms of frogs, the tectonic shifts, the four-tailed comets – these were the plain, unvarnished facts. Just why they all started to occur at this point in time was a matter of some the wildest, most bat-shit insane conspiracy theories to emanate from the finest stoner minds in the country's universities. Fox News Corporation was only too eager to provide the rest of the conspiracy theories to a fearful, stunned and highly trigger-happy public.
"Tad, you and I are the lucky ones. Just think of those poor bastards down on the borders, trying desperately to escape the plague. They're trapped, hopeless and weak. But not us. We get to live in safety, we get a regular supply of the vaccine. As long as I'm safe, you're safe. Never forget that, Tad. You could easily find yourself in Greenwich Village if it weren't for me." Stephen let his last remark hang in the air, as the full horror of it settled over Tad.
"Ste-Stephen, you know I'm grateful. It's just that I'm scared," Tad gazed at Stephen like a puppy, eyes sparkling with a mixture of adoration and fear.
"It'll be fine. Hey, it's not every day I get to meet the Vice President!" Stephen adjusted his tie for the seventh time that hour, gazing reverentially at his reflection in the mirror. He smoothed his hair just so, and reluctantly withdrew his attention from the important matter at hand as Homer trotted up to them.
"I think he's here, Stephen!" Homer nervously hopped from foot to foot, pointing to the door.
Stephen clapped his hands twice, calling everyone to attention, "Now, I want everyone on their best behaviour. I want those audience barriers double checked, okay?"
At the centre of a group of highly trained and brick-shaped secret service personnel, the Vice President strode up to Stephen, fixed grin and eyes piercing into Stephen's soul.
"Mr. Vice President, sir," Stephen announced, "Welcome, and thank you for coming."
"Ah, just call me Glenn!" Vice President Beck chuckled.
Beck's grip was rather tight as he shook Stephen's hand. He noticed Stephen's wince and chuckled, "Gosh, sometimes I don't know my own strength. Been working out, Colbert. Gotta be prepared. For anything." Beck tapped the side of his nose knowingly.
He finally broke his grip and pulled Stephen close in a conspiratorial gesture, whispering, "I may have a proposition to put to you, my friend. But, you must solemnly swear to secrecy. She can't find out. She mustn't."
Stephen looked doubtfully at the Vice President's hand on his shoulder, then back into Beck's eyes. Beck was sweating a little, his eyes a little bleary and bloodshot. Suddenly, he half-turned, patting his chest, then burped. A faint, sweet and undefined smell filled the air.
"Golly gosh, touch of indigestion," he muttered. "Gotta stop bolting my lunch. Now, where was I?
Stephen half-shrugged, "You mentioned something about-"
He was cut off by Beck's sudden movement towards Homer, who stumbled back in surprise.
Beck's eyes narrowed, jabbing his finger at Homer, "Has this man been cleared?"
Stephen nodded, "Omar's fine. No secrets there. I thoroughly vetted him personally."
Homer half-heartedly started to correct Stephen over his name, only to shrink back as Beck stared at him again.
Tad coughed diplomatically, "Could I get anyone a coffee?"
Beck, having only barely noticed Tad, now turned to stare intently at him, asking, "What freak show did you escape from?"
Tad laughed nervously, ushering the way to the Green Room, whilst Homer sadly shook his head, muttering under his breath, "Pot, kettle, black."
He was immediately thrown to the floor by one of the brick shit-house shaped security detail.
The man growled menacingly, "Attack? Did you just threaten an attack, mister?"
Stephen stepped forward, wagging his finger as Homer gurgled under the neck hold, "Omar, I said I wanted everyone on their best behaviour. Now play nice." Turning to Beck, he added, "Omar can get a little rough around the edges, sir. Now, how about that coffee?"
Things didn't get any better when the taping started. Beck seemed rather distracted during the interview, sniffing the air and searching the shadows for something. It didn't help that the audience was unruly and booed him, prompting what sounded like a low growl in response from Beck.
"Mr. Vice President, about the armed insurrection between El Kañasas and the Republic of Texas. Do we send in Lou Dobbs, or go straight to the nukes?" Stephen asked, trying to get the segment back on track.
Beck tilted his head, as though he was pondering actually answering, before leaping up out of his chair. Stephen cocked an eyebrow, trying to keep a smirk from creeping over his face, "You going to do a Jane Fonda and sit on my lap?"
Beck ignored him and darted over to Stephen's desk, scrambling around underneath it.
Stephen stood up and called out, "Glenn, if you miss hosting that much, how about we swap jobs! Oh, there's a Starbucks under there, how about bringing back a few-uh, Glenn? Mr. Vice President?"
To a chorus of cat-calls and laughter, Beck was dragged out from under the desk by his minders, and quickly hustled out the building.
Stephen blinked, recovered his wits, then held out his hand theatrically, "Nation, the man who is a heartbeat away from the Presidency. That was Vice President Glenn Beck. I'm sure that from tonight we'll all be fervently praying for the continued health of President Palin. We'll be right back!"
After the show was done and dusted, the crew had nommed their pizzas and Chinese takeaways and drifted off to their homes. The building was almost deserted as Tad nervously double-checked the locks on the doors. Granted, the show had special status with the White House, and thus received extra security, but Tad liked to be sure.
A sound stopped Tad in his tracks, then something scurried behind him, but he wasn't quick enough turning to see, just a large shadow flashing down the dark corridor. Beginning to panic, he started to back away from whatever it was. Dead on cue, a hand landed on his shoulder.
Tad sighed, he knew that this always happened in scary movies, he knew that when he turned around there'd be a chainsaw wielding psycho in a mask, intent on eating his liver with a side of fries and a Slushie.
Homer took his hand from Tad's shoulder and stepped up next to him, whispering, "Did you see that?"
Tad nodded silently.
After the show, Stephen had checked the studio to see that no-one was hanging around, then slipped under his desk. He unlocked the hatch and descended into the gloomy dungeon. Sweet memories of his time with Omar came flooding back for a moment, before the present intruded on his thoughts.
"Stephen?" came a husky, soft whisper.
Closing the hatch, Stephen turned on a lamp, "Why is it so damned dark in here? You prefer the pizza or noodles? Still got plenty of bathroom tissue?" He crossed to the mini-fridge and put a six-pack inside, keeping two bottles out.
The voice whispered again, urgent and scared, "Something was trying to get in, Stephen. It knew I'm here!"
Stephen sighed, "Jon, that was just the Vice President going a little loco."
There was silence, then Jon poked his head up from under the bunk, "That was Beck? My God, Stephen, he's got it. He's got the Koala Pox!"
Stephen snorted derisively, "What? Come on, Jon. There's a vaccine, everyone important gets the vaccine. He's safe. We're safe."
Jon frowned at Stephen, "Who's we? It's too late for me. It's too late for Beck, either the vaccine doesn't work, or he's got a mutant strain. By the sounds of it, he's already in Stage Two. The mating call, the eucalyptus smell. It's just a matter of time before he's full-blown rabid."
"That's what the smell was! I thought it was aftershave, or maybe mouthwash," pondered Stephen. He spun a finger in the air, "Wait, go back a bit. Mating call?"
Jon nodded sadly, "Yeah, he thinks he's found a life partner. That's why he was trying to get in."
Stephen, trying to keep the grin from his face, failed in a most epic way. He bit his thumb as he cracked up.
"Stephen, this is serious!" Jon exclaimed, getting rather pissed off.
Jon's face suddenly froze, sensing something. He pointed a shaking finger at the ceiling, mouthing, "He's back!"
Stephen looked up, an admittedly pointless gesture since he didn't have X-ray vision, a gift that no amount of dressing up in a super hero costume could ever bestow.
Stephen finally heard a series of low, grumpy-sounding growls. He was tempted to dismiss the sounds as faulty plumbing, or a New York taxi driver who'd just been short-tipped. A fragrance drifted through the air, as a scratching sound came from above.
Stephen and Jon slowly looked at each other, dumbstruck.
"Omar, we're not allowed in Stephen's office unless he says so. I don't want to get in trouble," Tad whispered, only daring to poke his head in the doorway.
"We're already in trouble, that thing is after us, and all the phones are down. It's time to be a hero, Tad," Homer placed a reassuring hand on Tad's arm, before brandishing Sweetness.
The relieved smile on Tad's face slipped as he squawked, "Okay. That's it. Stephen really is going to kill us now!"
Homer swallowed down an insult about Tad's genetic similarity to a mouse and handed him a baseball bat.
Tad took it reluctantly and began to reply, "I actually prefer softball," only to trail off into silence at Homer's raised eyebrow of annoyance. They set off in search of the beast.
Frantically grabbing the remote control, Stephen hit the LOCK button. The indicator light stayed green. He pressed it again, shaking the remote, and sliding the battery case off.
"You got any AAA's? Nobody ever has those little ones, do they?" Stephen started to ramble, only to be punched on the shoulder as Jon ran past to hold the trap door shut. Stephen pouted for a moment, then rushed forward as another round of scratching and groaning came from the pox-ridden Beck.
Homer allowed himself a little 70s cop show fantasy as he darted through the corridors, Sweetness at the ready. The room by room check was made easier as Beck's growling and groaning echoed from the studios. Homer nodded at Tad and they crept forward.
Homer peered into the gloom, trying to judge where the noise was coming from. Tad flicked a switch, flooding the studio with light, and an enraged Beck leapt up, screeching and foaming at the mouth as he ran towards them.
Homer tried to steady his shaking hands as he aimed Sweetness at Beck, gasping as nothing happened when he pressed the trigger. He fumbled with the safety catch, only to look up as Beck leapt upon him. Homer heard a dull, crunching thud as Beck landed on him, sending them both sprawling on the floor. Homer closed his eyes, Beck was obviously infected with Koala Pox, and now he was, too. Surely that crunching sound had been Beck sinking his teeth into his arm in a frenzied cannibalistic midnight snack?
There was an eerie silence. Beck lay still on top of Homer, his blood-lust seemingly satisfied. Homer slowly opened his eyes, expecting the ferocious attack to resume.
Beck remained a dead weight, as Homer realised that he really was a dead weight. He quickly threw Beck's body off him, shuffling backwards in horror until he hit a wall. He tore his eyes away from Beck and looked over to Tad, rigid with shock, clutching tightly to the baseball bat which still dripped bits of Beckian brain.
Down in the dungeon, Jon held the hatch down with all his strength, Stephen helped a little, but kept fiddling with the remote. He flicked the indicator light in contempt, at which it turned red.
"Hey, it's locked now. We're safe," Stephen smiled.
"I'm not taking any chances, he's cunning as a rat," Jon retorted.
"It's quiet now. Maybe he got bored and went home?" Stephen shrugged.
Jon suddenly let go of the hatch and sat on the bunk, rubbing his head.
Stephen picked up the pizza box, "It's cold now, but you should eat something, you look like shit, Jon."
Jon watched Stephen as he sat beside him, "Hmm, I've got a hunger for something else."
"The chow mein's delicious, try it," Stephen suggested.
Jon shifted around to stare at Stephen, "Uh uh, I want something else." He leaned in closer to Stephen, catching Stephen's gaze.
Stephen let the chopsticks drop back into the box, the noodles tumbling out as Jon jumped him, planting a series of lustful kisses on Stephen's lips, his glasses falling off and under the bed.
Coming up for air, Stephen gasped with delight as he felt Jon's boner, "I haven't seen you like this for ages, Jon. You've got the devil inside you."
"You want the devil inside you, too?" Jon leered suggestively.
Stephen looked uncertain for a moment, "I'm not in any danger of, you know, getting it, am I?"
"We still got plenty of packs..." A strange light suddenly glinted in Jon's eyes, and he let out a low growl. Eucalyptus scented the air. "No! You gotta-", Jon clutched at Stephen, torn between wanting to bite him, fuck him and push him away, out of danger.
Stephen scrambled away, lunging for the remote. The light remained stubbornly red. With Jon hanging onto the bed to stop himself attacking him, Stephen tried to swap the batteries around. One plonked onto the floor, rolling away and down an annoyingly located grating. It pinged and bonked down, carrying away Stephen's last hopes.
As Jon lost his internal battle and launched himself across the room, Stephen smiled and opened his arms, he could only laugh, "Come here, life partner!"