The police arrived at Cat's house very soon. Pushing aside the neighbours, they tried to restrain Cat from scratching herself, but she was in another place altogether.
The ambulance arrived 10 minutes later and then the paramedics took over. They immediately sedated her with an injection. They were getting her ready to take to hospital, realising that she probably wouldn't survive given the state of her when a policeman called from the bedroom.
The PC had gone into Cat's bedroom and found Phil. He'd found Mac too and surreptitiously pocketed it. Naughty!
Boy, was he in for a surprise later!
With Mac no longer in charge, Cat's vocal paralysis ceased. The screams then emanating from her tiny terraced house alerted all the neighbours. This screaming was not to be ignored. The screams of death.
Her neighbours either side got to her front door simultaneously. With one accord they opened it with one mighty combined kick. It shattered, but opened instantly. Hearing the screaming upstairs, they raced up to the bathroom. The sight of Cat, naked, tearing at her skin which was forming a scum on the pink, overflowing water made them both empty their stomachs.
Elsewhere, Rufus was coming home.
With Mac now discarded, no more interference from the machine was possible, but by then the damage had all been done. Phil was ostensibly dead, but the action continued as Cat proceeded to scratch herself to join him. She bounded naked off the bed and out to the bathroom, hoping that a bath might sooth her itching.
It was remarkable that she was able to put in the plug and turn on the taps to the maximum. Quickly, she leapt into the bath as she filled it, caught by scalding water along the way..
But she was beyond feeling it.
Cat had been proud of her long nails, of which she took great care. She'd painted them blue. The palette changed as she used them to scratch, lightly at first, and then increasingly frenetically all over her body. The blue was accompanied by a blood-red hue as she scratched through her skin and down to her muscles, silently screaming at Phil, who was beyond hearing anyway.
Her nails, acting like claws, were ruthlessly efficient in stripping her skin. She tore off the headphones, flinging them, together with Mac, over lifeless Phil, whose headphones were dragged off in the process.
Cat might have been devastated by what had happened to Phil lying next to her, but she was preoccupied by what was happening to herself. The excruciating pain of her clitoris stretching to the limit prompted her to propel her hands there for some relief.
But then the itching started too.
All over her body, her skin was battling with her tightening muscle tissue in the fatty layer linking the two. It started mildly, but accelerated until her attention on her clitoris, which was stretched to bursting, like a ripe boil, had to switch.
Right now she needed her claws.
Cat's body was changing. When Marcus originally developed Mac, it hadn't entered his head that donor and recipient might be of opposite gender.
All over Cat's body, the muscles were tightening underneath a generous layer of fatty tissue beneath the skin. She was aware of this, but was even more aware of a pain down below. Her clitoris was engorging to such an extent that it was agony. She was rapidly getting an erection!
In Yorkshire, Rufus hadn't quite worked out what was going on but realised his mum was involved.
"Stupid cow! I'll kill her!"
He didn't need to.
History was repeating itself, although, unlike Marcus, Cat was an unwilling recipient of Phil's youth. However, she was unable to stop it happening. The speed of Phil's transfer of youth and loss of life was much quicker than in the earlier case of Rufus as Mac's processing speed was now extremely fast.
Phil was lifeless in five minutes flat. Cat, in turn, had been reprogrammed with his relative youth, overlaying her own maturity. Physically, she was changing, she could feel it. She was utterly terrified, but her paralysis prevented her screaming.
Rufus knew something was up, but didn't know what.
"Let's hope Rufus's taste isn't too extreme!" was the last thing Phil said before Mac took each of them over. It was pure chance the way it worked out. Phil, fit and lean, hadn't reckoned for what went next. With a jerk, he became instantly immobile. Mac was immobilising him while sucking out his youth. Cat, seeing Phil's sudden spasm, immediately thought he'd had a stroke. She would have helped but for the fact that she couldn't move either. In Mac's programming, temporary paralysis was essential for success.
In Yorkshire, Rufus screamed "What the fuck?"
Mac had synced with Mac2.
Phil was replete in both senses. Emptied, he was happy to lie back next to Cat, who could never be a long term prospect, but was bloody good in the meantime. Years of being abused had made her hugely grateful for this nice young man and she would do anything to please him. He, in turn, treated her like a lady.
Picking up Mac, she showed it to him.
"Looks like a fancy iPod to me. Let's see what your Rufus is into!" He handed Cat one set of headphones and, putting the others on his head, he switched on....
Cat at 52 was pretty good for her age, although she had put on a bit of weight over the past couple of years. Phil, 15 years her junior, didn't worry about that. Her sexual eagerness more than made up for a few extra pounds.
Phil arrived for takeaway supper and 'afters'. Cat knew that 'afters' would be better after he'd eaten. The pizza was delivered, devoured and Phil was ready for his dessert.
Cat was eager for a taste of that too and decided she would get him to look at the mobile thingy after they'd had their fill.
One ear listening in to one of the headphones and the other to the other, she pressed Mac's on button. Nothing seemed to be happening.
'Ah', she thought, 'it's out of juice, needs charging.' The way Rufus reconfigured Mac was to use an existing standard smartphone charger. She switched on at the mains. It started to hum and she detected odd noises in each ear, but couldn't work them out so took off the headphones.
'Phil can fix it later. He knows this kind of stuff', she thought.
Phil was her new boyfriend, a toyboy. He was coming round later.
When Marcus had developed his machine it had been purposeful. He wanted to gain immortality through literally sucking the youth out of a young victim and reprogramming his own aged body with youthful vigour while remaining himself. He had succeeded, except that he had been too impatient for results before fully testing the machine.
The result was as planned, except for his tell-tale wrinkled skin, which failed to rejuvenate. The result caused his involuntary suicide.
Rufus adopted the machine (Mac), but, not realising its shortcoming, hadn't tried to fix it. Mac was imperfect.
Cat was about to find out.
Curiosity is generally regarded as a positive trait. Being inquisitive, you learn, through your motivation to get your senses working overtime, to look, to touch, to hear.
Cat's curiosity couldn't be curbed. She'd seen, she'd touched and she wanted to hear. Hear what Rufus and his mysterious partner had surely listened to on this intriguing piece of technology. But first she searched for the maker's logo. That was a no go. Nothing to indicate the manufacturer.
Which headphone would she choose? She chose both, using a crossover bodge up so each ear had a different input.
That was a mistake!
Cat opened the package as carefully as Rufus had wrapped it. Years of perfecting strategies to outsmart her late husband ("I'd have cut his balls off if the bastard had any!") meant that she was expert at steaming open letters, removing Sellotape without tearing and resealing as if they'd never been opened.
What she found baffled her. It looked like a smartphone, but where was the screen? There were two sets of headphones and two mini-jack sockets. Was this an MP3 player of some kind... to share.
Aha! Rufus obviously had a ladyfriend. They listened to music together.
Catherine, Rufus's mother, was curious about him. He'd always been volatile, like his dad ("may he rot in hell!"), but since his disappearance, Rufus had been odd with her, sort of distant. She hoped he wasn't into drugs or religion, but dismissed both as he appeared to be doing so well at university and was unlikely to be sidetracked by external forces. It was something inside him.
Maybe Rufus was devastated by his father's death and the circumstances surrounding it ("good riddance to the evil bastard!").
And what was this mysterious package?
'Carefully does it, Cat, so he'll never know'...
Mac prompted Rufus to produce a Mac clone. Rufus had shown he had the skills when he'd updated and miniaturised Mac from Marcus's original unportable prototype.
Using the university's facilities, Rufus cloned Mac. But it was more than a clone as it used even faster processing and twice the memory. It wasn't just another Mac in a different skin. It was an upgrade.
Naturally, Rufus decided to use the new improved version, but felt, prompted by Mac, he needed to store old Mac somewhere safe.
Mailing it to himself at his mother's house, he told her to keep it safe.
Mac rationalised that Rufus was dangerous for its survival. His brutal excesses had to be curbed. Rufus was close to being discovered and facing a future locked up. The machine needed to protect its own future while trying to exercise some control over Rufus's uncontrollable side.
Mac needed to exist beyond the confines of unstable Rufus. Finding how to do so was the challenge. However, Rufus continued his mental dependency on Mac. There was still hardwiring in his cortex forcing him to connect with Mac, although recently contact with Rufus had been rather sporadic.
Time for Mac to get creative!
When it was discovered that Faith had disappeared, following the earlier mysterious disappearance of another student, each person in the halls of residence was interviewed individually,
Rufus took over his interview in an apparent attempt to help, by asking about the two students.
"Did they know each other?"
"Were they an item?"
"Were drugs involved?"
"Was she pregnant?"
By this kind of eager-beaver approach to the interview Rufus both irritated the police officers and set himself up as a rather geeky do-gooder, which would have fitted with the staff's view of him being immersed in his studies.
Rufus's disposal strategy was based on a wide geographical spread, using rubbish skips and ordinary rubbish bins. He reckoned neither of these would go through the same recycling scrutiny as household waste. He was probably correct and elements of Faith would go straight to landfill sites where they were unlikely to be discovered any time soon.
A fast train back up north and he was back in his room, communing with Mac, which was trying to make sense of what happenend and what to do about it.
From Mac's perspective, Rufus was now a liability.
Time to apply the brake.
The train from Leeds to London is fast, but Rufus broke his journey in Peterborough, walked the short distance to the cathedral, putting the contents of his rucksack, bag by bag into rubbish bins before walking back and catching the next train to London Kings Cross.
In London, with empty rucksack and very full suitcase he took the underground to his mother's house, arriving well before her, surprised her, and told her he'd arrived much earlier while she was at work.
She lent him her car to go see his best friend...
...but it was rubbish skips he visited first.