Chapter Description: Dr. Andrea Barrow agreed to evaluate the three unwilling participants in a study which not just made them younger, but changed their gender and in one case their mind. Already wrestling with the weight of her decisions, how will she react when a shocking twist threatens everything she worked so hard for?
Final Tester(Part 2)
Julie watched herself in the bathroom mirror. Despite already one day having passed as far as she could say, she only now had found the strength to do so. The face was that of a boy. Edgy and in a way attractive that she still recognized, but no longer felt. To top it, she had stubbles in her face. Reluctantly she touched them, feeling their strong consistency, only to recede her hand in disgust. Next, she lifted her shirt, seeing the breast, flat in a way it had been the last time when she had been ten. She had been a late bloomer, something which had seemed to her like the end of the world back then … how stupid she had been!
It knocked on the door.
Julie remained silent.
It knocked again.
Julie swore herself to wait until the end of time before she would answer it.
The door opened and out of the bathroom, she could see Dr. Barrow entering.
“Get out!” She shouted.
Instead, the woman stood at the entrance to the bathroom. Now a bit larger than Julie, for a moment it seemed like she would shrink.
“I didn’t know …”
For a moment Julie didn’t understand, then it hit her.
“That they made me 15?” Julie laughed a boy’s laugh. How she hated it. “You think this bothers me?”
She felt tears dwelling in her eyes and angrily rubbed them away.
“Once we are done, you will be a woman again,” Dr. Barrow promised. “The tests are soon over.”
“In what do you turn me now?” Julie wanted to know. “An animal? Something with six arms?”
“Nothing,” the doctor assured her. “We only oversee how the serum affected you. Once this is done …”
“Shall I show you how I changed?!” Julie began pulling down her trousers.
“Mrs. Brandly, please.”
The woman turned boy stopped, staring at her.
“You know you trying to pretend to be the good one pisses me off more than your colleague’s iciness,” Julie revealed. “Just say I have no choice.”
For a moment Dr. Barrow was silent.
“You have no choice,” she admitted. “But you doing it without us having to use force, would make it easier for us both.”
“Fine,” Julie gave in after a moment of thinking. “But I want a shaver.”
“This … I will arrange it.”
With James escorting them, Dr. Barrow led her to a conference room, where Buck already stood guard. The way to walk as a man was strange to her, as if she stood steadier on the ground and had to think less about balancing.
“Wait here,” the doctor told her, opening the door, “we will soon come for you.”
As Julie was ushered in, she discovered it to be a living room, already occupied by someone else.
The door was closed in front of her face.
Bastards, Julie cursed, clenching her fists.
As she turned around again, she took more time to look upon the other person in the room. It was a woman, no, rather a 20-year-old college girl with short blonde hair, dressed in a training suit. She sat in a large armchair, holding her legs close by. She looked lost eyed her with the same suspicion she felt … suddenly Julie understood.
“I’m Julie,” she explained. “I’m really a woman of 35.”
For a moment the girl didn’t look as if she wanted to answer, then she looked away. “I’m Ken. 37 … a man. I used to … I am.”
Julie nodded, understanding very much, and took place in an armchair nearby. It was clear the wo … man was having a worse time than her, still she felt she needed to speak with someone else than the people who had done this to her, if only to be secure about things.
Ken nodded. It didn’t seem he wanted to speak, but then he sighed and put his feet on the ground. Doing so revealed a well-developed pair of breasts, making Julie wonder if he wore a bra.
“Pretty much,” Ken revealed. “I’m from Denver.”
“Baltimore.” Julie hesitated. “I had schizophrenia.”
Ken’s eyes became more vivid. “Bipolar … and drugs. But not anymore.”
Julie looked at the wo … man. The hair and breasts caught her attention more than she wanted to admit to herself.
“Can’t wait to be a man again …” He gave her a slight smile. “No offense.”
“Non taken.” Julie let her eyes wander around, just to not look at him. If they wanted to test them for mutual attraction … “You think they keep their word?”
Ken shrugged. “Why not? They don’t seem the kind of people to kill us and drop us in the river.”
Julie wasn’t too sure about this, though she had to a hard time to think James would do so. Even if, there were many more ways for them get rid of. Locked in some institution. Or just making them insane again and releasing them back to the street. Who would believe two insane hobos? She still pondered if she should mention it and risk destroying the rest of optimism her fellow prisoner seemingly held on to, when the door opened.
A girl was ushered in. She had brown hair and was around Julie’s current age, but something, maybe the fearful green eyes, maybe the shy smile, made her look younger.
“Hi,” she greeted them. “I’m Cassie.”
Julie looked skeptical, but when Ken said his name, so did she.
“You have strange names.” Cassie noticed.
“I’m a woman,” Julie said. “Ken is a man. Haven’t they changed your gender?”
The girl shook her head, all the while looking at them as if they were mad.
Lucky one, Julie thought.
“How did they treat you?” Ken asked.
“Oh, they are nice.” Cassie smiled and stepped nearer. “I just wish they would finally start.”
“Start?” Julie couldn’t believe it.
“Yeah, with the training.”
“Training?” Julie suddenly wondered if the girl knew more than they.
“The ballet training,” Cassie revealed, taking place in a free armchair. “The waiting kills me. I mean all the doctors tell me is that it will start soon.”
Julie and Ken exchanged a look.
“Cassie,” Ken asked, smiling friendly. “Where do you think we are?”
“Well, in the ballet-institute of course,” the girl noticed with a smile, stretching her leg a bit. “Don’t you think it is great they integrated a school for education and ballet? Which class are you?”
Again, Julie and Ken exchanged glances.
Did their parents drop her here to be experimented with? Did the doctors get her from an orphanage or mental institute?, Julie wondered. They are monsters.
“Cassie,” Ken began, “what did you do, before you came here?
“Well, I lived with my parents of course!” The girl smiled, but it seemed stressed. “Yes, I had problems at school. I skipped a lot and hung out with the wrong crowd, but this is past. I will train for ballet and be a good son … daughter.”
At the slip, Cassie’s smile became even more stressed.
“I love my parents and they love me and what is past is past.” The girl tried to laugh, but it came out more like a caricature. “Not my parents. They live. And they want me to be happy and study, so I don’t end up homeless and … and …”
She closed her eyes and shook her head. As she opened them again, there were tears in them.
“Leave me alone,” she demanded angrily. “Just leave me … leave me …”
With this she pulled her legs close to her body and looked away. As Julie shared a look with Ken, she could see the same fear in his eyes that she felt. Things just got a turn darker.
It felt like a long time for Ken, until the heavy door opened and Dr. Bedlam entered, followed by Dr. Sam Wilson – the man who had turned him into a woman –, another woman in a lab coat and the guards.
“And how are you three?” Dr. Bedlam asked.
“Spare us this!” Julie snapped. “What did you do to him? Why can’t he remember?”
She was of course pointing to Cassie, who seemed to recede even more into her/himself, seemingly oblivious to the surrounding.
“His kind of change has been the first,” the doctor revealed, just briefly looking at the girl she talked about. “We learned from this, as we will learn of yours.”
“Asshole!” Julie made a step to the doctor, only to have the larger guard step forth at once.
“One step more and I throw you to the ground,” he warned.
“Try it and I make your teeth flying!”
Ken starred at the woman turned boy. She was probably half the mass of the guard and had to know this was no good idea. He briefly wondered if she was too angry to see it, if her body made her particularly aggressive or if her mental illness still affected her.
“Peace,” Dr. Bedlam said, raising her hands. “We want to keep this a civilized talk between adults, do we?”
Julie looked even angrier. She clenched her fists, but made no move. The threat of being reduced to a child was clear, but Ken thought this to be a bluff. If they really wanted to test them for the effect the transformation had on them, they needed to test them as adults … did they?
“We want to be treated with dignity,” Ken said, standing up. “We are human beings.”
This seemed to shatter the calm in Dr. Bedlam’s stony face and for a moment she nearly looked ashamed, but then she caught herself.
“Of course,” she said in a calm tone. “And even if you are here against your will, you will help uncounted people with your … contribution.”
“Dr. Barrow sounded at least as if she believed this,” Julie noticed.
“We all do,” Dr. Bedlam insisted and added with a short look to the woman behind her. “She and her partner made major breakthroughs though.”
The other woman looked uncomfortable at the mention of her achievement.
“Will you turn us back when it is over?” Ken asked. “Without our defects?”
“Yes, to both. Who would believe you anyway,” Dr. Bedlam promised. “As long as you behave and you don’t prefer your new gender by then.”
“Motherfucker,” Julie cursed.
Ken looked to Dr. Barrow. The woman still didn’t seem comfortable, looking at her colleague in a strange way. Had Dr. Bedlam lied to them? But what could they do to them except killing them? He thought about Cassie who knew even less than him and looked over to what he knew was really a man like him.
What he saw was unexpected enough, that he at first didn’t really grasp it. Cassie still did not pay attention to them, but had stopped holding her legs close and instead was removing her socks, as her shoes were already laying on the floor. It wasn’t this, or the distant way she now looked at her feet, but the way her face looked, rounder and a bit more childish. The socks somehow looked too large for her feet and Ken could see no breasts under the shirt as if …
“Hey!” Ken interrupted Dr. Bedlam who had been saying something he hadn’t heard. “Should she get younger?”
All eyes turned to Cassie, who noticed the sudden attention, looked up at them and giggled at the faces they made.
“What the hell was that?” Andrea asked.
Julie and Ken had been escorted back to their cells by the guards and Cassie by Dr. Lorain. The girl had been 12 then and this regression had shocked the doctors as much as the rest of the room.
“A flaw,” Dr. Bedlam replied, looking at some files.
“The new version of the serum seems to be a bit too strong.” The other turned to her, showing a certain arrogance, which couldn’t hide the insecurity in her eyes. “James will give her the antidote and stop this. All will be fine.”
Andrea felt far from this. “Which version do you use? Can I see the data?”
“No!” Dr. Bedlam replied a bit too sharp and quick. “You are only here to evaluate the testers. You didn’t want to make your hands dirty anymore. Remember?”
With this the doctor left, leaving her colleagues to look at each other.
Julie looked at the reflection of the mirror. Her face … The face of the boy she had been turned into, was covered in shaving foam under which she saw a bit of blood spilling. Silently she cursed the world and just for a heartbeat wished the doctors had regressed her below puberty.
A very fast heartbeat.
“Everything all right in there?” James asked from behind the half open door.
“Yes,” she lied. “Give me a minute.”
With this the woman turned boy proceeded to carefully shave her face. She managed to do so without further wounds and when she finally washed her face with warm water, she felt relieve. How did men deal with this every day?
“How do I look?”
“Like someone I would drink a beer with,” James replied with a smile, which quickly died. “I mean … if I could.”
Lucie looked at him. Even in this body she couldn’t deny that he looked good. It was clear he had problem with his role in all this. Then again, so did Dr. Barrow, though not as openly. Did this mean she should forgive him or even like him? Was she suffering of Stockholm-Syndrome or was she just still insane?
“The shaver?” James asked.
Lucie sighed and went back into the bathroom to pick it up.
“I am not suicidal,” she noticed.
“Would you swear to not use it on my boss? Or Steven?”
Wordlessly Julie handed him the blade.
“I will give it back to you tomorrow morning,” James promised.
Cassie was sitting on the carpet in her room, wearing only a large shirt and drawing on a block she had found on the desk. Before she had gone to meet her fellow students, she had used it to plan her future, by outlining potential career paths she could follow after successful ending the school. Becoming a ballerina had been one of those, but there had been more, like going to college or getting a job in sales or management just in case this didn’t work out. Planning ahead had seemed important to her, but when she had come back and had looked over it again, she found it now to be too far in the future to really worry about. So, she had used a fresh page to draw horses instead, something which seemed much more satisfying.
The outcome had been quite bad so far, but she was determined to improve. Maybe she could give some to the doctors. They had been nice, despite one of them just giving her a shot. And Julie and Ken. She had found Julie interesting when she had first seen him. These wild black hairs, wild eyes and stubbles. She had felt an attraction she no longer quite understood, but this was before he had acted so strange … they both had been strange now that she thought about it and then these strange names … but Cassie saw no reason why they shouldn’t be friends, despite them being older than her. She looked at her picture and thought about making one for each. The best she would keep for her mother and father of course. When she was having would see them again, she would …
The sound of the door being unlocked made Cassie look up. One of the men taking care of security entered, carrying a large box. It wasn’t the nice one, but the thicker one, who hardly smiled and often sneered at her, when the doctors weren’t around. Cassie didn’t like him, still she decided to be polite if only to not get into trouble again.
“I made something for you!” She showed him her latest drawing of a horse.
It was a black one – she lacked color pencils to draw anything else – with white hooves and a white marking on the head. Her best work so far. Still the man just sneered and set the box down in front of her.
“Don’t care,” he informed her. “The doctors wanted you get this. Have fun.” With this he turned around, adding more to himself: “The next box will be full of diapers.”
Cassie had heard this and looked after him, wondering what he had meant. As he closed the door behind him, she just shrugged – probably some grown-up joke she didn’t get – and investigate the content of the box. What she found made his words instantly forgotten. First, she noticed the color pencils, then the toys. A game console. A Rubik’s Cube. A teddy bear. There were also too childish ones like a set of colorful blocks and a pink bouncy ball. Definitely nothing she would touch, as the grown-ups had to know, so this was probably a mix-up. She knew there were girls who learned ballet at a very early age, even toddlers! What she definitely would use were the color pencils.
As if they had seen me drawing, Cassie thought with a smile.
Investigating the box even more, she noticed the clothing, amongst them a jeans, a white shirt, but also a white dress with red stripes, Cassie instantly had her eyes on.
She stood up to get rid of the oversized shirt she wore, but as she pulled it over her head, she noticed something falling down her feet. As she picked the piece of cloth up, she recognized it to be a bra. She touched her breasts, which were completely flat. Why had she worn one? Confused she looked in the large mirror standing near her bed. A pre-puberty girl looked back at her. Lean, with a slit between her legs …
Cassie felt her confusion growing. Something in her insisted this wasn’t right. Something was missing. For a moment she felt the phantom of a mass between her legs, even weight … This felt right. This felt wrong. Suddenly afraid of the image in the mirror, Cassie backed away, staggering, as if she was unused to this body. She nearly fell. Shaking. How much she wished her parents were here. To hold her. To comfort her. To help her make sense. There was a glittering piece of knowledge at the edge of her mind. She was tempted to look at it, but then she felt the soul shattering sadness which would come with it and recoiled.
In search for help, Cassie looked down on the bra. Suddenly she remembered how Dr. Barrow had helped her putting it on. The woman had been so nice to her then, while going through books, asking her various questions about politics, math and languages. The girl smiled. This was the solution. She just had to have forgotten to take it off afterwards, preferring to play grown-up like a little girl.
No wonder I got these baby toys!, Cassie thought.
Feeling like any confusion had been washed away, Cassie threw the bra into a corner. Instead, she picked up a blue panty from the box and put it on, before pulling over the dress. As she was done, she looked at herself in the mirror, smiling widely at what she saw. She looked cute. Maybe she had no breasts, yet and maybe her hair was too short, but this would come. She liked what she saw and no longer felt even the ghost of the discomforting feeling which had overcome her before.
Smiling, her mind at peace, the girl laid down and proceeded to draw horses.
Steven Dubloin silently cursed his bosses. He didn’t mind working for a shady company. He didn’t mind helping them experiment on people who for him hadn’t made much of their lives anyway. He especially gave a shit about what the latter thought about him or that Julie had named him Buck. They would soon be gone and he would be another good amount of cash richer. What he minded was that he was supposed to be nice to them. What did it matter if he tried to do so, if they soon forgot it anyway?
James did, but he was pretty much the doctors’ pet guard, having been chosen for this last assignment because of the way he connected to the test-objects, while Steven had just been the only other one to apply … the rest of the former guards all having enough. Only Garry and Robert had agreed to stay ready in case of an emergency.
Pussies!, Steven thought.
Planning his coming free time by mentally going through the movies he could watch, Steven suddenly felt an itch in his stomach. He wanted to shrug it off as a sign of hunger, but at the same time his temperature rose. Pulling back the sleeves of his shirt, he realized he got goosebumps. Feeling a wave of weakness, he leaned against the wall, breathing hard.
What …, Stevens wondered. Heartattack?
He cursed his luck. Just a few weeks away from being finally able to spend his money ... This was when he realized he could ask the doctors for help. Wasn’t their serum good for those sorts of things? They babbled about it, at least. Using all his willpower, Steven pushed himself from the wall and made a step in the direction of the laboratory, only to notice that he lost his right shoe and the other was about to follow.
What the hell?!
This was as much as the guard could think, as pure panic washed over him. He ran to the laboratory, having to hold on to his jeans as he arrived. Frantic he banged at the door to the lab for what felt like an eternity. When it finally opened, he found Dr. Bedlam standing in front of him, wearing a face mask. He needed a heartbeat to realize the insanity: She was a bit larger than him.
“Help!” Steven muttered, still holding his jeans.
He could see the shock in her eyes. “How …”
“It begun a minute ago …” He tried to explain. “After I brought her the box …”
For a heartbeat he saw her eyes growing even larger, but then she seemed to have caught herself.
“Come,” she told him, touching his shoulder with her gloved hand, dragging him with her.
“What is happening to me?” Steven asked, too scared to resist.
At first, she seemed reluctant to answer and didn’t even look at him, as she hurried along. “Nothing we can’t fix. Here …”
She stopped in front of a door, making him entering first. Steven was too perplexed to do anything but obey and thus entered the room, before realizing it was an unused cell for the testers.
“Hey,” he protested. “What …”
The door shut in front of his eyes and was locked from the outside.
“I will fix this,” Dr. Bedlam promised. “Just relax and give me time.”
With this he could hear her walking or rather running down the floor.
“Hey!!” Steven banged on the door. “Don’t leave me.”
Frustrated he tried to open the knob, but it didn’t move. Already knowing the futility of trying to break out, he rushed to the large mirror which was standard in the rooms. The sight of a boy of maybe ten in overgrown clothes greeted him. In shock he let go of his jeans and it dropped to the ground along with his boxershorts.
Steven screamed a boy’s scream as his voice cracked.
“What have you done?”
Dr. Bedlam didn’t react on Andrea’s question, just like she didn’t on the ones which came before, instead looking on some files and charts.
All doctors had gathered in the conference room, after Andrea and Sam had gone investigating the source of the screams, suspecting it to be Julie, only to find an unknown boy locked behind a door. Him telling them who he was and what had happened, had frozen the blood in their veins. Since then, they had tried to get answers they knew they would hate.
“You used a virus, didn’t you? That is why you couldn’t test it on an animal first, because it wouldn’t work with one, would it?” Andrea asked. “Despite all we decided. Despite the risk …”
“I tailored it specifically to destroy itself after the change,” the other doctor said, without looking up. “Any spread should have been impossible.”
Andrea banged on the desk with her hands. “You messed up!”
This made the other woman look up at her for a short moment. Andrea saw reluctance in her eyes. Worse: Even fear.
“Why take the risk?” Andrea demanded to know.
The other woman didn’t reply, but looked back to her files, so Andrea looked at Dr. Lorain. The assistant was clearly nervous, looking all over the room, but given that his boss didn’t seem to care to explain things which no longer could be kept a secret, he gathered himself.
“A regression process based on a virus has the potential for greater change in the gene structure,” he began. “This would allow us to change genes for intelligence and … and attractiveness …”
Andrea looked from him to Dr. Bedlam, not believing what she heard.
“Who authorized this?”
“No one. Dr. Henderson thought it too risky and wanted to push the release of the serum. Thanks to your influence I guess,” Dr. Bedlam replied, finally looking up for good. “I had planned to perfect the formula a bit more before testing it, but since this was out last opportunity …”
Andrea couldn’t believe how the other woman tried to make her an accomplice in this.
“Are we at risk?” Sam asked.
“No,” Dr. Bedlam replied.
“NO!” The woman nearly shouted, only to breath hard and rub her eyes. “I just double-checked it. The virus was reactivated by her passing puberty, but it had only a chance of 5 % to 10 % to infect anyone. That it hit Mr. Dubloin was bad luck, but since we sit here it hasn’t spread. Once the regression stops, both aren’t spreading it either.”
“Why is Steven still a boy?” Andrea asked. “Why does he remember?”
“The virus mutates a when switching a host,” Dr. Bedlam revealed. “Instead of changing the gender it just turned him younger. No memory loss. He will end up 4 or 5.”
“Mutates …” She spit the words out like venom … indeed she felt sick.
“Only along the parameters of the regression I set,” the other woman tried in a controlled voice. “Always below puberty, boy or girl, keeping memories or not. In between …”
“And it turned Mr. Korvic younger than expected,” Andrea added, not trusting her with any detail.
“Yes. She will be 5 or 6 according to my data … variations.”
Dr Bedlam looked at the monitor, showing Steven, sitting in his oversized shirt in front of his bed. The perfect picture of a lost boy.
“Will the virus activate again when we turn him back?” Sam asked.
“We can’t change him back.”
Sam blinked. “He is upset, but I don’t think he will speak when …”
“I mean we literally can’t.” Dr. Bedlam now looked at everyone in the room. “The virus. It not just regressed him, it destroyed the codes in the genes for aging. He will never be older than when the virus stops.”
All heads turned to the monitor showing Steven.
“Mr. Korvic?” Andrea asked, fearing the answer.
“Neither. The genes for being a male were destroyed, too. She … He will never be a man or even a boy again.”
Dr. Bedlam used a remote control to change the camera. The picture switched to Cassie. The girl – maybe 8 – was lying on the floor, wearing an oversized dress, legs flapping in the air and happily drawing with color pencils on a block. A teddy bear next to her keeping her company.
“We can regress her though. According to your own evaluation, she will grow up like any girl, until she … just stops.”
There was silence for a long, long time.
Finally, Dr. Lorain cleared his throat. “So, what are we telling the central?”
The truth was the only thing they could tell in the end. What had happened to one tester would have been easy enough to cover up, but the fate of a guard was a different matter. Telephone conferences were arranged. Charts were made. People who would always deny knowing anything made decisions … Time passed.
Andrea sat in the conference room of the former sanitarium, going through some files. It was almost depressingly silent in the building. No new tests were scheduled. James and Garry Weber – the guard replacing Steven who remained locked up for health reasons despite his protests – did their duties much more professionally and therefor silent than their former colleague. Sam was trying to represent their position in the central, so he commuted between there, his home and there. Dr. Lorain had left, officially since there was nothing to do for him, but in truth, because he very much didn’t want to have the stench of this fiasco on his reputation. Dr. Bedlam had told Andrea she was free to leave, too, to which she had only responded with icy silence. Having little else to do, she had gone through her rival’s files regarding the virus – a mess as she had expected – and monitored the virus’s victims.
Cassie’s regression had ended at 5, though the way she was behaving seemed sometimes more fit to a younger girl. As others before, she compensated the loss of memory with the creation of a new history for herself. Giving her the drug, which maintained the memory during other regressions had none of the positive effects noticed in testers who had gotten the version of the drug with memory-loss first. If this was due to the time that had passed or the nature of the chance Andrea couldn’t tell, but her gentle attempts to guide her to remember her life or just being a boy had been unsuccessful so far.
Cassie’s math and grammar skill had regressed accordingly with just hints of knowledge lying outside the range of a girl of her age. Hints which would have easily been dismissed as just a sign of a bright girl by anyone not knowing to look. She could write an A or B, and knew what 1, 2 and 3 were, not more. A happy Kindergartener by all metrics and yet … sometimes she had noticed a scowl on the girl’s face or a hesitation while being in thought, which made her look older.
Steven’s state was a different matter. Ending at 4 rather than 5, his mind was very much intact, making him the worse to handle of the two. Forbidden from leaving the room, he was barely placated by the promise of an antidote. The latter was a lie for all Andrea could see, as like with Cassie this version of the serum not only had wiped out the program of the genes to age past the current point, but scarred this section enough to prevent any sort of gene therapy she knew or could imagine to fix it.
“What a mess …” Andrea whispered and began going through the data again.
The door opened and Sam stepped in. He hadn’t told her he would be back and looked quite worn out. Andrea understood the discussions had been quite heated in the central. Dr. Henderson was probably close to a stroke.
“How are things?” Her partner asked, taking place besides her.
“Dr. Bedlam still doesn’t want to tell Steven,” Andrea told him.
“That the best job he can hope for in the future is guarding the floors of his kindergarten?” Sam guessed.
Andrea made a face, trying to hide a smile. There was no one she wished this fate for, but of all guards …
“She says she waits for a decision from the central,” she told him, “but I think she only wants me to do it.”
“She doesn’t have this excuse anymore,” Sam replied.
Andrea felt her heart missing a beat. The tone in her partner’s voice … she now realized he had tried to hide it from the moment he had entered.
“They want to cover it up,” he revealed.
“This test run?” Andrea asked. “The tg-variant can wait, so …”
“The whole project.”
“They postpone it?”
"They slate the release indefinitely. They scrub the databases. Clean facilities …” He stopped. “It is over.”
In her heart of hearts Andrea had feared this the moment she had learned the truth from Kathy, but it still hit her like a bullet.
“It was just one version,” Andrea told him. “One faulty version. The other two testers are perfectly fine.”
“What they heard was incurable virus.”
“We have it under control. It will never happen again …”
“Then they came with morale concerns.”
“Morale …” Andrea starred at him. “What did they think we were doing here?”
Her partner didn’t respond.
She jumped up and threw the files off the table. “What?!”
Andrea starred at her partner, who was so sickening calm. She wanted to hate him. Anyone. She needed to.
“Millions,” she said in a deadly calm voice. “We can save millions of people with the basis version alone. Tens of millions each year who die of old age …”
She fell back into her chair, looking down to the now empty table in front of her. Breathing. It was easier to just breath than to think about what was happening. About all the lives wasted … destroyed by her in a failed cause. Garry and Mona, Anton, Michelle and Christine … how many had it been? How many?
She didn’t know how long she sat there, but as she felt the touch of a hand on her right shoulder and looked up. Her partner looked tired, though not as much as she felt. She felt near collapsing, tears were running down her cheeks.
“I’m on your side,” Sam noticed.
“What comes next?” Her voice felt weak.
“This site will be cleaned up. The test persons will be fully regressed and find their way to adoption. Steven …” He hesitated. “The base story for the guards is that he will get a secret identity and will live together with an employee, enjoying his bonus, but the truth …”
Andrea understood. Another betrayal. Did it really matter?
“Go home,” Sam advised her. “Take a shower. Get some sleep. There is nothing we can do.”
And this was the one thing her partner was wrong about.
Things moved fast once the decision had been made. Near evening, not even two days later, Dr Bedlam laid her hand on the door latch of a cell. She looked at Garry, the security guard who had taken over for Steven. He nodded and she unlocked the door with her key. As they entered, the tester rose from her bed.
“Hello Julie,” Dr. Bedlam greeted her. “It is time to change you back.”
The boy didn’t answer, but the way his eyes became smaller spoke for themselves. When the doctor made a step forward, Julie made a step back, going into a slightly crouched position and pulling back her lips to reveal perfect teeth – another thing the regression repaired – looking like a feral boy with her long black hair, blue eyes and black stubbles in the face. Soon those eyes would shine with innocence and the teeth she obviously was prepared to bite her with would hide deep in the gum under the milk teeth.
“Don’t fret,” the doctor asked. “It will all be over soon.”
Dr. Bedlam sighed and nodded to Garry who moved forward to face the tester. The latter prepared to fight, but there she would have as much chance as any lean 15-year-old boy had against a full-grown man with the stature of a bodybuilder. It should just be pathetic, but suddenly she felt angry at the tester to put her through this. She wasn’t heartless or ignorant about the feelings of the people she experimented with as Andrea accused her off, but couldn’t this person see, that any life from now on would be better? Shouldn’t she be thankful?
Dr. Bedlam turned around and to her surprise saw James standing in the doorway. He gave no explanation, but walked past her and the other guard.
“It is all right James,” she assured him. “We can finish this without you.”
“Hell, you will,” the man replied, now standing in front of Julie. “She has been through enough.”
“I know, this is why I don’t want to make this harder,” Dr. Bedlam explained. “But if you insist …”
She nodded to Garry, who – reluctantly – took the taser from his belt and looked at James, determination and regret clear in his eyes.
“Don’t make me do this man,” he told him.
Before James could reply, Dr. Bedlam felt something sting her neck. She turned around to discover Dr. Barrow behind her.
“Andrea,” she began confused, touching the place of her neck where she had felt it. “What …”
The world began to turn before her eyes.
“Don’t worry,” the other doctor assured her. “You will sleep like a baby.”
Dr. Bedlam noticed the syringe in the other woman’s hand and realization came over her like a thunderstruck. She wanted to grab her, but instead fell to the floor and blacked out.
No!, were the last words in her mind.
To be continued …