The scientists behind the youth-drug enter the final phase with a last set of trials. What fate awaits the unwilling testers? This is the last of five chapters. If you liked it, feel free to comment. It is the sequel and last part of the saga I began in Jumper and Losing Weight.
Chapter Description: The research of a group of scientists working for a large company to perfect a youth drug for the market is nearly done. Can Dr. Andrea Barrow finish the tests on one last group of unwilling participants, while she is already struggling with the guilt over the fate of the ones who have brought them so far? How will she react if the experiments of a rival expand the whole project in a completely different direction?
Final Tester(Part 1)
It was a cold evening and despite the coming spring it would be even colder for a while. Overlooking the river at the outskirts of the city, Brad could feel it in his bones. Old Bones, which had sucked the knowledge of weather patterns in much deeper than memories could. Breathing out, he warmed his hands. It were dirty hands. Not the regular dirt, for he cleaned them daily in the river, but dirt which had gathered over the years, imprinted into the skin so deep, that no soap could have really cleaned them. The dirt had become part of them, as had roughness of the calluses and the partly broken fingernails.
A hobo’s hands.
Brad touched his face with both hands, feeling the stubbles which were close to, but hadn’t yet become a beard. A beard would be practical, would keep him warm, yet he was wary of one. A beard meant to be seen even less like one of his fellow humans in the streets. To get less money. Just another homeless man. He could sense the jaw under the skin, knew there were already too many teeth missing and felt old. Old when thinking of these old man’s teeth, old when thinking of the coming winter and the many to come. Much, so much older than his forty years.
Frustrated he shook his head. Thinking this way wouldn’t help. Thinking this way would turn him into one of these seeking the last bits of heroin from old needles and pieces of dope. Turn him into one of these wandering the streets without really knowing where they were, why and even who. He wasn’t one, yet.
Brad looked around at his home under the highway bridge. Made of cardboard and wood it wasn’t one of the worst constructs littering the area, though he found no pride in it. Its interior he had kept clean and orderly to the best of his abilities, so he had no problem finding the small mirror he searched for. Brad looked at his face in the mirror, vowing to make a deep dive with stones in his pockets, before he would sink such low as to no longer wanting to see himself in the mirror. The thought was tempting. One jump. One deep breath. No more worries …
Forcefully Brad turned his thoughts away from this and to memories. Happy memories, which would make at last something in him warm. Most were of his childhood. Watching the lights of the city, he remembered the one time when he had been nine and his parents had taken him to see the ballet. Miss Joan’s Ballet. He had hated the thought, but his parents hadn’t given in and when he had seen the women the first time, watching them dance in perfect precision, he had felt enchanted.
Other memories forced themselves into his mind. His parent had died in a car crash soon after, caused by a drunk driver. He had gone from one foster home to the next. Too angry and hurt to accept love. Too spiteful to learn in school. In a way he had always searched for this place, where his outside was hurt as much as his inside. Now he had found it and knew no way out.
Just as Brad turned to slip under his blankets for the night, a car approached. The homeless stood still, but wary, as it parked nearby. The headlights were too bright to identify details, but when they died down, he could see a man in a grey jacket step out. The stranger smiled at him and lit a cigar.
“Hello,” the other man greeted him not unkindly.
“Hello,” Brad replied, his weariness increasing.
Something was odd. The clothes and the car looked too new.
“I was wondering if you were interested in a job,” the stranger explained.
The man gave the hint of a smile. “Drug trial.”
“Welcome all of you!” A bald going man with hard lines in the faces took place at the head of the table in a conference room. “Again, excuse me for being late. I know you understand there is a lot of need for coordination with the central at this point of the project.”
He looked at the other five faces at the table, all like him behind a laptop and a note block.
“Part of this stage is identifying the benefits of the Youth Drug for the public and specific groups. I send you the questions earlier this week and received some questions in return. Let me say this again: Convincing the people of the benefits of our product is of course what marketing is there for. Still, we have the most experience with it, so the central hopes we can offer ways to spearhead the use.” He was silent for a moment, before turning to this left. “Give me your best shot first. Dr. Bedlam, why don’t you start?”
“Thank you, Dr. Henderson!” The attractive woman in her thirties smiled at him. “First on my list is promoting it as a way to fight overpopulation.” She looked around. “It is clear, when first introducing it, the risk of a massive overpopulation is the biggest stone that critics will throw at us. Let us fight back! Studies show that with the rise of their life expectancy, men and women postponed having children. Imagine the effect once they realize they have all time in the world now. Also, introducing it to third world countries, where children are a way of old-age-insurance could bring a drastic change. Children would become mor of a future rival then.”
“A great strategy!” Dr. Henderson praised. “Dr. McArthur, you are next.”
The young-looking man smiled. “Medical. It might not sound original, but if we make clear from day one how much this drug can help people in emergency situations, we might get an even faster approval than if we argue with the numbers of people dying of old age.”
Dr. Henderson made some notes. “Not bad. Dr. Gusto?”
The slightly too thin, brooding looking man nodded and with a hint of reluctance clicked on his laptop. Andrea knew, of all of them he hated this session the most, finding marketing demeaning.
“End of pensions.” He looked up. “It has been said before, but you should be concrete. The state is risking going broke once the boomers retire. Show them the potential savings if they allow the drug and end age-based retirement system at the same time and they will wave it through before we have even finished our speech.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Dr. Henderson noticed, making notes on his paper. “Can you make the calculations?”
Andrea could see her colleague’s face harden even more. He was clearly not happy, but nodded.
“Dr. Wilson?” Dr. Henderson continued.
“Letting adults spend their holidays in theme parks as children.”
There were some smirks at the table and even Andrea smiled a bit, despite having heard this argument from Sam before.
“Oh, I’m serious.” Her colleague assured them, despite smiling himself. “Just think about how many adults never were to Disney World themselves as kids and secretly wonder what they miss. The number of children is dropping and will even more once we introduce this. I agree with Dr. Bedlam here.” He gave his colleague a nod. “If this industry wants to survive it needs to adapt. If they do, they can really experience a boom. Sure, many adults will dislike the idea of such at first, but enough advertisement should normalize it. Trips to Disney World? Summer Camp free of adult worries? Become a boy/girl-scout like you always dreamed of? Spring Break?”
Dr. Henderson thought about it a moment, then he nodded.
“Good! You are right that this would bring us powerful partners.” He made a note. “Dr. Barrow?”
“Space flight.” Andrea sent her colleagues a few pages with calculation over the wi-fi-network. “Every bit of weight costs tens of thousands. Bringing young astronauts into space would lower cost. The medical benefit on long flights – let’s say to Mars – would make it safer. Injuries could be treated without the need of much equipment, muscle degeneration, too. There is also the question of group dynamic. A group of pre-teens might work together better than adults dealing with hormones. Not to mention the flight to other stars is only possible over generations with our current level of technology … and we can’t be sure this will change.”
For a moment Dr. Henderson folded his hands in front of his face, then he nodded.
“With our youth drug to new worlds. I like this. I like this a lot.” He gave Andrea a smile as he made notes. “I admit you covered my best points already. Who has more?”
“I think it could help to shape the education sector,” Dr. McArthur noticed. “We hesitate to let kids and teenager who struggle in school fail, due to them aging. Sitting in a class, where the other pupils are one or two years younger isn’t fun and even a stigma. Coupling it to a rejuvenation of the child could help it to acclimate and learn.”
“Good one!” Dr. Henderson noticed. “The same would apply to adults wanting to make their college diploma.”
“Or High-School,” Mr. Anderson agreed.
Dr. Henderson nodded, as he took notes.
“Why not go one step further and let parents decide the age of their children?” Dr. Bedlam suggested. “You think neither you nor your child is ready for puberty, yet? We have the answer!”
“The Child Protection Services would go nuts,” Andrea countered. “Interfering in children’s lives this way is wrong.”
“Oh, this is something you care about a lot, isn’t it?”
Dr. Bedlam gave the hint of a smile and Andrea felt tempted to throw her note-block at the other woman.
“Please, we are all professionals here,” Dr. Henderson interrupted. “I agree with Dr. Barrow’s notion, that using the drug this way might be seen as violent act by child right advocates. There might be a market in the future, once people are more familiar with our drug, but there is no reason to press this. Remember we need good press for a smooth start.”
This was met with silence.
“Personally, I think we could advertise its use in the prison system,” Dr. Henderson explained. “The ways of using it could proof to be more variable than even I had thought at first. First there are the prisons themselves. Guards have to be always weary of violence or even revolts. Gangs of children might proof easier to handle. Less hormones. Less muscles. Less reach. The cells are larger for them. The meals can be smaller. But this is just the superficial part. There is always a discussion about releasing potentially violent criminals on probation. If they would be released in a condition harmless to most the acceptance would rise.”
“This has indeed potential,” Dr. McArthur agreed.
“I also thought about the resocialization programs,” Dr. Henderson continued. “Wouldn’t making them younger be positive for the success-rate?”
He looked at Andrea, clearly seeking approval from the one doctor with psychological knowledge.
“At a younger age behavior is easier to modify, yes,” she admitted. “But let us not lean too far out of the window here. Such things are deep in the person’s character. We would need the help of professional therapists and psychologists to even begin creating a muster for such therapies, which also would have to be tailored individually. We are speaking about adults in the bodies of children. There would be little to achieve without their agreement.”
“Why not make them children entirely?” Dr. Bedlam suggested. “Raising them right is easier than correcting it.”
Andrea turned to her.
“I won’t even begin to discuss this.”
The other doctor remained cool.
“Let us be realistic. A life sentences would become hell, especially if the all the prisoner could do would be occasionally visiting the playground. Even three hundred years … and let us not forget the ones in the death row.” Dr. Bedlam smiled. “Giving them a new start would be more humane. I think given our experience we can all agree.”
Dr. Barrow slammed her hand on the table.
“I will agree with nothing you,” she nearly shouted. “You amoral …”
“Ladies please!” Dr. Henderson rose, clearly not happy with having his own presentation derailed this way.
The rest of the meeting went tense, but without anyone rising their voice. As the others left, Andrea stayed behind, trying to gather her thoughts. She was staring out of the window for a moment, just following a plane high above with her eyes, when someone entered. It turned out to be Sam, carrying two cups of coffee.
“Thank you,” Andreas said, as she took one. “I wasn’t quite professional today.”
Her colleague sat down in the chair next to her.
“Let us say you brought in a bit of spice.” Sam noticed. “It isn’t too bad. Everyone understands you and Kathy have a bone to pick. Also Dr. Henderson agreed with you.”
“Bone to pick,” Andrea repeated. “If not for her, we might already have brought the drug on the market.”
“Let us say, it would be in the midst of being waved through.”
“At least the experiments would have stopped.”
“It is only her testing now,” Sam reminded her. “And she had a good argument for her study.”
“Suppressing genetic flaws is not a priority,” Andrea replied not for the first time. “It could have been tested in normal studies with the standard version of the drug already on the market. The effect of regression heals a lot of the damage and make the gene dormant again if it activated later in life.”
“Hey, I am on your side!”
Andrea looked at him. It was true. He had sided with her and even voted against continuing the tests after they had made the breakthrough in preserving the memories during the process of regression of the test subj … of the people they had experimented with. Still, she had never felt sure if he had done it out of compassion or because he wanted his stock options to finally soar.
“I know,” she lied, sipping her coffee. “I just wished it was over.”
“Good to hear.”
They turned around to see Dr. Bedlam standing in the door.
“What do you want?” Andrea asked sharply.
The other woman walked closer. “Your help.”
“Ask Dr. Henderson.”
Dr. Bedlam shook her head. “I don’t want you to help me, because you were ordered.”
“To prevent unnecessary tests.”
Andrea looked at the other woman for a long time. Finally, she sighed.
“I need you to speak with someone.”
Two hours later, Andrea and Sam followed Dr. Bedlam through a wide floor of a former sanatorium two hours outside the city which had been turned into a lab for their use. The latter had been adamant not to reveal any details, only that she needed her colleague for an evaluation and that she needed her to be unbiased for it. Since she didn’t get more information, Andrea in turn had insisted that Sam accompanied her.
They finally stopped in front of a room with a heavy, soundproof door, the sort of Andrea knew too well.
“Will you finally tell me more?” Andrea asked. “Or shall I be as clueless as the tester?”
“I prefer to call them patients,” Dr. Bedlam informed her, handing her a clipboard with papers. “All you need is here.”
Andrea went through it, with Sam looking over her shoulder. Cassie Korvic. Current age 15(former 40). Mental Regression. Nothing about the genetic illness supposedly cured – though Andrea knew her colleague concentrated on mental illnesses in this run –, the former life or state of mind. Only a set of questions for her to go through.
“What is … was her genetic defect?” Andrea asked. “Or shall I see if I can find this out?”
For a second there was a strange look on her colleague’s face. She looked almost … ashamed?
“I think it is better, yes,” Dr. Bedlam explained. “We will be behind the mirror.”
Cassie looked in the mirror fixed on the wall next to the table she sat on. Feeling self-conscious, she used it to adjust her middle long brown hair and gave herself a shy smile … why did the girl in the mirror suddenly looked so strange?
The door opened and a woman with a note-block entered. She had a natural grace and an aura of formality about her, which made Cassie unconsciously adjust her shirt.
“Hello Cassie.” The woman extended her hand over the table. “I’m Dr. Andrea Barrow.”
The girl shook them, hesitating just one moment her own were clean. She didn’t know why, but clean hands seemed important to her.
“Nice to meet you.”
With this Dr. Barrow removed her jacket and put it over the chair, before sitting down.
“You just arrived?” Cassie wondered.
“Yes, there were …” The older woman hesitated. “Issues with other appointments. I’m sorry for the delay.”
“No problem.” She smiled. “You must be very busy here.”
“Let us begin. As you were told, I am here for an evaluation.” The doctor lifted her pen. “Please tell me about you, about what you know about the institution and what you expect from us.”
“I’m Cassie Korvic. I’m …” Suddenly feeling insecure, the girl looked in the mirror. What she saw reassured her. “I’m 16. My parents sent me here for a special education, because … I have run into some trouble at school. I already explained Dr. Bedlam that I am ready to work hard at your institution. Getting a good degree is important and I’m happy you offer a place to sleep, too, but …”
Cassie decided to be honest. “I most look forward to the ballet course.”
Dr. Bedlam, her assistant Dr. Lorain, Andrea and Sam had taken place at the conference table of the institute.
“Your report?” Dr. Bedlam asked.
“Miss Korvic’s mind is clearly working along the lines we know of other regressed whose memories were affected. She uses templates from her past to make sense of her present situation.” Andrea went over her notes. “I could find nothing hinting any mental issues. Besides her mentioning of problems in school and a slight fixation on ballet, she looks like a well-adjusted girl. Sam?”
Her colleague shrugged. “Same here. What was the disorder?”
Dr. Bedlam looked at both for a long moment, her eyes revealing a mix of pride and interest. Her assistant looked less comfortable.
“None,” she revealed. “Like the rest of the test subj … patients we recruited, this one was homeless. Unfortunately, there was a mess up. Instead of the schizophrenic person with severe paranoia we wanted, this one had no mental issues as far as we know, except for a bad childhood due to losing the parents. He was completely normal.”
Heavy silence fell upon the room.
“He?” Andrea had to ask, despite knowing her rival had wanted just this.
Dr. Bedlam wordlessly handed her a file, which she opened at once. She overflew the person’s history, the company’s agents had to have scrapped together rather rapidly. Brad Korvic, 40. There were photos of him. Of the place under a bridge, he called home. Him in dirty, but not too horrific clothes. Brown hair. Broad shoulders. Three-day beard in a face which wasn’t clean, but neither too dirty. Clear brown eyes. The next photo showed him in a medical gown, clean, shaven and with a slightly worried expression on his face. His eyes did indeed seem clear. The next picture showed him younger. Five years according to the notes, though the way he looked it could have been easily ten. The regression repaired the body, wiping out lines etched in faces created by a hard life. Andrea knew this, but wasn’t there more? Wasn’t the face a bit too round? Soft? Hadn’t the adam’s apple shrunk? She might not have noticed it if she hadn’t looked, but the whole body looked a bit less male.
The next photo showed a 20-year-old girl. Her breasts were pronounced under the gown, her hips relatively wide and in the face Andrea could find only small traces of the man from the first images. The last photo showed the girl she had just met. A typical teenager. Other photos – obscene under other circumstances – showed normally developed breasts and vulva. The screens and test results added showed the same internally. Ovaries and uterus included.
Andrea looked up, starring at Dr. Bedlam. “What have you done?”
Her rival smiled slightly at the other woman’s breathed question.
“I’m past the need of a control group in my test series, so I had no use for this patient. Tunneling him straight into the adoption system looked like a waste, so I decided to try out a new version of the serum I had not planned to ever test. This version should have suppressed the effects of genetical keys responsible for gender during the regression. Just a little effect on the features. A bit pioneering in the direction of the beauty industry.” Dr. Bedlam looked straight at her. “It caused a total transformation in the gene structure. These results were a surprise even for me.”
Andrea looked over to the file. Sam had already grabbed it and was studying it intensely.
A surprise, she thought. This is one way to put it.
“Didn’t the laboratory animals show this reaction?”
Dr. Bedlam hesitated a heartbeat. “No.”
“When will you change him back?”
“After the study.”
Andrea felt her stomach growing cold. “Which one?”
Dr. Bedlam folded her hands.
“It was a surprise, but then so were a lot of the results of our experiments. Weren’t they?”
Andrea remained silent.
“I want to further test this … transgender variant of the serum.”
Andrea had to control herself not to stand up and shout.
“The market for this is small.” She tried. “The board will never agree on this.”
“Maybe in the west. In many other parts of the world, there would be plenty of couples wanting to change the baby’s gender at birth. Maybe even later.” Dr. Bedlam leaned back, letting it sink in for a moment. “This would mean much more potential customers than even the cure for hereditary diseases.”
Andrea tried to find good arguments to counter this, but saw none. She knew there was a large market, as disgusting as it was. The very thought …
“This would contradict the company’s goal of good publicity, though,” Sam noticed. “Even a hint that we condone the use of this formula in this way and we would have child-right activists besieging our headquarter.”
Andrea looked at her partner. She didn’t know if he did so out of morale reasons or not, but this was the argument she had needed. Dr. Bedlam seemed to think though, too.
“Maybe,” the other woman replied, not admitting defeat. “I don’t plan to ask for more test persons Andrea. I only want to see the effects on the one you just met and the two others who we have here. If you help me with this, I promise to not raise the issue.”
Andrea looked at her a long time, trying to estimate the chances of the company doing such tests, despite their objections.
“You promise.” She asked. “The last tests. No more testers. You change these one back before releasing them.”
“Despite the potential for interesting long-time-tests?” Dr. Bedlam asked. “You have my word. You help me in this and the tests are over.”
Andrea’s mind worked. She remembered a promise she had made to a man she had regressed. No more test-subjects … She had not taken part in another study, but if this really … finally ended it.
Julie Brandly enjoyed a book of Stephen King. She had always loved horror books, even as a kid. As teenager she had still enjoyed it, though it soured as her life had slowly turned into a horror movie itself. People waiting for her in the shadows. Secret services spying her. Her teachers and friends conspiring against her. Even her parents … She sat up on her bed, laying the book aside, as the pain of memories – of clear memories – felt better to face this way.
Her parents had tried to help her, even as her delusions became worse. She saw this now, even if it was much too late. How often had they tried to speak to her? How often sent to hospitals which nevertheless had failed to cure her? Which had made it worse, as she had seen them as secret government facilities to experiment on her ... As she looked around in her room with the barred window the irony now nearly made her laugh.
It knocked at the heavy door.
Julie looked in the large mirror in the side of the room. She wore a black shirt and grey sweatpants. Her middle long black hair hanging down. There were no hairdressers here, but she had convinced her captors to let her use scissors to make herself look at least a bit presentable. She had little recollection of ever looking at herself during the last years – something about someone else looking at her through the mirror – but given the way she had looked as she had begun the bit of styling this was maybe better. Curious she turned a bit, glancing at her clearly visible, firm breasts with satisfaction. She could …
It knocked again.
“Come in,” she called.
Julie tried to stand tall, as the door opened. It was nice of the people holding her to give her privacy, but she wouldn’t forget her status. She eased a bit as she saw who entered. It was James, the muscular, blond guard who so far, had treated her better than his colleague or even the doctors.
“James.” Julie nodded.
“Miss Brandly,” the man replied, always kindly, placing something on her bed. “The doctors need you.”
She looked at the hospital gown he had brought for her.
“Not something I can deny, can’t I?” Julie looked him straight in the eyes.
James met her eyes for a moment, she believed to read a mix of lust and guilt.
“Knock when you are ready,” he asked her and left.
As the door closed, Julie sighed. She unclothed and then put on the gown, meanwhile thinking of James and how he really reminded her of Jack Darcy. Her first and only boyfriend. He had been strong and nice as James and had stayed with her as things got worse, until she had accused of wanting to abduct her in his Cadillac and rape her. She wondered where he was now.
A bit later she was walking down the floor of the building she was held in. James led her and a second guard, more muscular and fatter, tailed her. She didn’t like this one a bit. He was often mean to her, and did not even try to pretend she was anything other than a prisoner. Worse maybe, he didn’t seem to care, the way most people hadn’t done on the streets. Since he had never bothered to introduce himself, she had decided to call him Buck, a bully from her high school.
James opened the door to another room. As Julie entered and the men took place besides the now closed door, she had time to look around. It looked like a normal conference room. A television in the corner showed some film – a man and a woman in business suit talking while sitting at a desk –, a little table in the middle and two seats in around them. One was occupied by a woman in a doctor’s outfit she hadn’t seen before.
“Hello Mrs. Brandly,” the strange woman greeted her. “I’m Dr. Andrea Barrow.”
“Hello,” Julie replied, neither friendly nor unfriendly.
“Please take place.”
Not really wanting to, but deciding to spare her strength, she followed the order masked as nice suggestion. The chair felt soft, but strange through her gown. The table between them was mostly deserted but for a note block and a remote control.
“How do you feel?”
Julie looked at the woman. Strangely there was more honesty in her question than she expected and much more than in her colleague.
“I was abducted, imprisoned and given some stuff in a syringe …” She smiled. “Still, better than expected.”
Julie hesitated. She had no reason to cooperate, but neither had she to remain silent. Speaking with someone she at least could pretend to be civil with, would be a nice change. It felt good after years of mostly speaking to herself.
“Your colleague … Dr. Bedlam, if this is her true name.” She noticed the other woman smiling slightly and against her will. “She told me she cured me of schizophrenia. I didn’t believe her at first. I didn’t really understand her at first. I mean I am here, kidnapped and experimented with by shady figures.” Now the doctor’s face got slightly softer. It had hit her, but she made no effort to defend herself. “This is what I always imagined … before.”
“What makes you so sure you don’t imagine it now?”
“Because I doubt it,” Julie revealed. Her eyes briefly turned to the tv, as the man undid his shirt, revealing a gorgeous six-pack. “All of it. I never did, when I … when I just imagined things. They were real. Were more than real. I couldn’t even for a second think they weren’t. This …” She lifted a hand to show around. “I question, though I still come to the conclusion that it is real … I don’t have to like it though. Have I?”
“No.” Again no denial.
“What do you want from me?” Julie leaned forward, wanting to better see the other woman’s eyes. “More experiments?”
This was half a joke, as she didn’t believe they would warn her, but what she saw in the doctor’s face showed her she had nailed it.
“Bastards!” She cursed, leaning back in the chair, wanting to be as far from the other as possible. “Haven’t I been through enough?”
“Yes, you have.” Dr. Barrow admitted. “Still, we need you.”
“The serum you got is in its base version a youth-drug. We used the regression to correct the genes causing your illness. Before we came so far, we had to work hard to control the process of regression, in age and … other aspects.” The doctor seemed a bit more at ease when talking about this. “Then we recognized its potential to cure illnesses, reduce weight …”
Julie had problems processing this. “Heal scars?”
The other woman nodded and Julie leaned back. She had noticed she lacked a scar on her stomach, where another homeless had attacked her with a knife years ago and another on her hand due to bottle shards she had once grabbed into due to believing they sang to her … and so many small more.
“Missed some?” Dr. Barrow asked.
“Missing?” Julie repeated. “No, but when I did not find them, I wondered if …”
“If you had imagined them.”
“Imagined even more of my life than I thought,” Julie corrected her, unwilling to let the doctor get too deep in her mind. “I also wondered about my appearance and me getting my age right … How old am I?”
“25,” the doctor explained and when she read her face added: “You were 35 before.”
“Ten years,” Julie repeated and for a brief moment wondered if she did not indeed dream this, lying in some alley and not even getting pity by anyone passing by. Then she looked at her hands. Clean and without scars. She clenched and unclenched them, finding this real enough. “Someone is going to make a lot of money.”
“Yes,” Dr. Barrow admitted. “and a lot of people – billions – will have their lives saved, bettered and turned around. Like yours.”
Julie had to laugh. “Do you expect me to thank you?”
The other closed her eyes. For a moment she believed to see true hurt in the other woman’s face.
“No,” the doctor replied as she opened them again. “But I want you to understand why we do this.”
She gave a nod to the other side of the room and things suddenly happened very fast. Julie stood up from the chair and turned to the door, but this turned out as foolish as she had guessed it was. The two guards had grabbed her arms before she had barely made a step. They pressed her back in the chair and as she turned her head around, she could see another man, wearing a lab coat, approaching her a syringe in the hand.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” She screamed, buckled and nearly managed to slip out of Buck’s grab. “Fuck no! Motherfuckers!”
She turned left, looking at James. The shame she saw in his eyes was clear. His calmness was catching. She relaxed a bit. Julie had reverted to the way she talked on the street and felt ashamed for it. This lasted until she felt the pain in her arm. As she turned around, she saw the already empty syringe deep in her arm. Again, she tried to resist, but it was a weak try. Worse, she felt tears of anger, humiliation and weakness in her eyes.
“Fuckers,” Julie said weakly, watching the man in the lab coat leaving.
“Soon you can fuck,” Buck whispered.
Julie stared at him, not comprehending.
“Mr. Dubloin!” Dr. Barrow admonished him sharply. “You can leave her now.”
The other woman looked at Julie who gave her the slightest nod. She didn’t want to cooperate, but what was done was done. The guards retreated, giving her the illusion of freedom.
“What now?” Julie asked. “Do you strap me to a bed to watch me change?”
“No, the changes take longer and I have a meeting,” Dr. Barrow replied, standing up and grabbing the remote-control. “You can watch tv.”
With this she activated the sound of the tv and left the room together with the guards. At first Julie didn’t want to look at the tv – just to give a sign of resistance – but then the show caught her attention. The man and the woman were seemingly done talking and had begun undressing. The business they had probably come together came to a hot phase, as the woman placed herself on the desk. The man had completely undressed, his six-pack clear and perfect. His best part visible and not disappointing at all. Something in her made her own breath go just a bit quicker. She wasn’t a virgin, but the persons she had had sex with or rather who had had sex with her she refused to call men. This one though … He was hot. Yet, as the action progressed, Julie strangely found herself not as attracted to him as before and increasingly less so.
Suddenly his cell-phone rang and almost comedically he excused himself. The woman was quite disappointed and let her long blond hair fall back. The movement made her breasts stand out. Big, but still firm enough, the mounds light brown and round. The woman in the tv began touching her most private part. Julie imitated this without thinking. Her eyes were fixated on the screen. The vagina of the woman was red, wet and she believed hot. Her own hands caressed something soft, wrinkled, which more and more grew, becoming harder and …
What am I doing?, Julie suddenly asked herself, as a moan of the woman on the screen sent a shiver down her spine.
She looked down on herself. Vaguely noticing that her breasts no longer hindered her view. There was something in her crotch. Something erected. Like in a dream she lifted her hospital gown. Her eyes widened. What she saw made her scream in a deep voice.
In a conference room, Andrea watched Julie lying on the bed in her cell by a hidden camera. She had trashed her room before they had given her sedatives, even then she had at first seemingly been hellbent on continuing the destruction she had begun when she had thrown the remote-control into the tv.
Rest, she begged the person she still regarded as another woman. It will all be over soon.
The door to the room opened and Andrea shut the tv, feeling oddly obligated to give Julie at least this bit of privacy. As she turned around, Dr. Bedlam and Sam came in.
“How did it go?” Her rival asked, taking place.
“Besides her flipping out?” Andrea asked.
“You weren’t expecting him to thank you, did you? Maybe he should be a bit younger. Less testosterone and muscles.”
Andrea clenched her fists, mustering all her strength to remain – at least on the outside – professional.
“She recognized the change in her body only when confronted with a major change. Just like a tester of the normal drug.” She looked over her notes. “No change in personality and no memory loss as far as we can see now. Sexuality … sexuality is changed along the lines. She is reacting to females the way she reacted to males before.” Andrea looked up. “If your data is correct.”
Dr. Bedlam shrugged. “The videos of her watching television before make this rather obvious. How will you proceed?”
Andrea felt cold at the hunger in the other woman’s voice.
“I see no reason to change the plan,” she explained. “Let her rest a day now, before we continue.”
Dr. Bedlam looked at her, clearly dissatisfied.
“Fine,” she finally gave in. “But you will begin with the others.”
Andrea’s voice was pure ice. “Sure.”
Dr. Bedlam rose, giving her and Sam a smile just a bit too kind.
“Remember,” she noticed. “We are doing groundbreaking science here.”
With this she left and Andrea buried her face in her hands.
“I can’t do this,” she whispered.
“I will do it.” Sam offered.
Andrea looked up at him.
“The next tester is a male, so it will get easier this way anyhow,” he reminded her. “You can follow it all over the monitor.”
“Thanks,” Andrea said.
“Hey,” Sam smiled, “we are partners.”
Ken Lee was having a good time.
He had stuff to read, tv shows to watch.
He was no longer on drugs.
He no longer felt driven by mood swings.
He could make clear decisions.
Sure, these decisions were somewhat limited by the fact that he had been kidnapped by some shady organization, but their experiments had been to his benefit so far. His window might have been barred and his door locked, but his mind felt his own the first time in years. The warm cell was better than the carton he often called home and the chair he now sat in felt better than any bench.
With the notebook the guard called Allwood had provided for him, Ken now proceeded to write down his life, as good as he remembered. It helped him for some sort of closure, as the doctor had assured him his bipolar disorder wouldn’t return, nor would he feel the sting of addiction. He had just arrived at the start of his college.
In college I took my first dose of cocaine, in help it would fight my bipolar episodes … I was wrong.
It knocked on the door, making Ken close the book.
“Come in,” he called.
It was James Allwood.
“A doctor wants to see you,” the guard said, presenting him a hospital gown.
Ken shrugged. “Sure.”
Things couldn’t get worse than they had been.
To be continued …