Chapter Description: Finally in safety, things seem to turn out all right for the protagonists, despite some of them needing to get their original age and even gender back. Yet, how far is Dr. Andrea Barrow willing to go to see the youth drug released?
Final Tester(Part 5/Epilogue)
Andrea was done trusting the future or companies, nor would she even start with the government. They would either bury the drug or force more innocent people to test it. No. No one would do her dirty work, suffer for her or risk their lives for her. Garry and Mona, Anton, Michelle and Christine and now Brad Korvic who would forever be a little girl … All these victims and so many more for a project she felt was hers by heart and what had she given for it? If Sam had success – and she had little doubt about this – she would return to her life in relative comfort while so many people she knew she could have saved died.
I have given nothing, she decided and looked at the backpack by her side. Time that I do.
The doctor opened the backpack and took the vials out of their protective shells. She took the one she needed and looked at its transparent content. This version of the serum … this barely tamed virus … had scarred her, when she had at first looked at it in Dr. Bedlam’s database. It was much like the one that had been used on Brad Korvic, but different, in that injected it didn’t change the gender, but only reduced the age and that at a much slower rate.
Yet, once the regression started in the person receiving it, the shackles would fall off. It would become virulent. There was a 5 % chance people got infected. Once this happened, the victim’s age would reduce randomly – though always under puberty – with a smaller chance of mental regression and an even smaller of gender change. There was no cure, as the change in the victim’s genes and the start of the process wasn’t preventable in any way by modern science if ever. There was no chance of isolation, because the virus could lay dormant in the normal genes responsible for aging only to reappear by accident, sometimes triggered years after infection. There was no way for the infected to ever age past the new age or change the gender if a change in the latter had occurred.
A sloppy work by a doctor who wanted too much too fast, Andrea thought with contempt. So different from what I wanted to achieve.
Still, every competent expert on her field could discover the method of regressing living beings by analyzing the wild form of the virus. There would be no possibility of denial or cover up. The serum would emerge from the virus as the virus had from the serum, even if not spearheaded by BioSci, her old company. The victims of the virus though …
Andrea unpacked a syringe and drew up the content of the vial with it. She placed the needle on her own arm. Something could get wrong. Always could. It was a test. One final test … And one final tester.
“What have I given?” She asked herself, echoing Julie’s words. “Everything.”
She entered the needle and pushed.
A middle-aged woman, carrying an empty backpack, leaves the parking lot of a large museum and enters the building. She walks through the well visited public part of the exhibition about Ponce de Leon and looks through various shops. Who sees her pays her little mind. Just someone sightseeing or waiting on someone. A bit later she uses the bus and after a bit arrives in the city’s center. She enjoys sitting in the sun on a bench outside for a while. The light makes her look younger.
A younger woman, in her twenties goes shopping in the city. She enters a fashion store and asks a woman working there of her opinion about a bunch of clothes. The latter tells her they fit and is silent about how the braggy clothes she came in with definitely don’t. The woman is satisfied, buys them and changes in them. She also buys some clothes for her younger nieces, packing them in her backpack. A bit later the young woman leaves the shop. She wears a black tank top and jeans, the backpack full on her back. She strolls down some crowded streets, full with shoppers and people enjoying the day. More than one man of her age gives her a closer look, but she seems distant and uninterested, so no one tries to speak to her.
A young woman, no older than twenty, enters the main railway station. She purchases a ticket and some people notice her slightly braggy clothes. A few wonder if she is homeless, but she looks clean, if somewhat lost in thoughts, so they ignore her. The main railway station is a major hub full with people rushing to their destination. The woman doesn’t rush. She strolls through the corridors packed with other travelers and then, smiling she enters a train to the airport.
On the train a girl of maybe fifteen sits opposite an elderly woman who notices her oversized clothes and asks her if it is her first time travelling alone in a train. The girl smiles and shakes her head, before leaving for the toilet. Stepping out she wears new, more fitting clothes of a jeans and a blue shirt and leaves for a different wagon than the one she just left. When the train arrives at the airport she steps out and walks around, down the terminals, some shops, mingling with new arrivals and passengers rushing to get their flight to all continents.
A man from the security notices a girl of maybe twelve in overgrown clothes lingering around. She in turn notices and eludes him, entering a toilet. A bit later she steps out in a yellow dress, wearing sandals, her hair in a ponytail. Following an adult closely, she hops past the man from the security. He doesn’t pay the eight-year-old as much as a thought, as he keeps looking for the twelve-year-old wearing jeans.
A little girl arrives at the play area. She happily goes to the swing, joins a red-haired boy on the seesaw and goes down the slide. Next, she and two other girls chase each other giggling. As all children in play, she hardly notices how time flies by.
A man from the airport security entered the play area. He looked at the stewardess standing at the entrance who nodded and silently pointed to a little, brown-haired girl in an oversized yellow dress. He approached her and noticed that she is moving some pieces around on a bead maze. Once he stood next to her, she looked up at him with wide, brown eyes.
“I’m officer Darcy,” he introduced himself, kneeling down to meet her on an eye level. “Who are you?”
The little girl hesitated a moment. “Pandora.”
“Dora?” The man asked. “A beautiful name. Like Dora the Explorer. Do you know her?”
The little girl smiled, moving a red bead.
“Where are your parents Dora?”
The girl looked up at him and for a moment Darcy felt there were thoughts hidden behind these innocent eyes.
“Dunno,” she answered reluctantly.
“Well, then let us find them. “
He picked the girl up. Her little legs were hidden in the overgrown dress, but he noticed that her feet were bare.
“You told me the girl is five,” he whispered to stewardess, as he passed her. “She is no older than two.”
The woman looked at the girl in his arms. “She seemed older …”
“She will hardly have shrunk,” the man replied and sighed. “Thanks for the call.”
The woman nodded, still looking skeptically at the little girl, as he carried her away.
“We will find your parents soon,” the officer promised to the child in his arms, as he walked through the corridors. “Maybe we even find a snack for you. Are you hungry?”
She wasn’t, but she felt tired. As she snuggled closer to his chest and closed her eyes, her last thoughts before sleep overcame her were: I have been a busy little girl!
Julie pushed the door to their flat open, letting the children in.
“Come,” she told them, as Cassie already raced past her, into the kitchen and to the living room. “Remember it is first Ken’s time to choose the channel.”
The latter walked in now, followed by Steven, who threw his Paw-Patrol-bag in the corner.
“No tv choice for you today!” Julie warned him.
The regressed man grumbled and stomped away.
Julie exchanged a look with James, who just had come from the car carrying some purchases. They both smiled and entered themselves.
The children’s first week in the Tree-Academy-Kindergarten was over and it had taken a visibly toll on Steven. Then again, he did no longer resist as he had on the first day, when he had literally fought against it with hands and feet. Mrs. Miller, the head of the Kindergarten had even told her that he was all right to work with once he had learned to obey her. Being with other children his age wore him down and seemed to rob him the energy for being grumpy most of the day.
A total contrast to him was Cassie, who every day came back with new stories of adventures, games and friends. The man turned little girl had blocked most attempts of her and James to talk with her about her past, yet she seemed to enjoy more boyish shows and activities, at least when home. If this was part of Brad playing being undercover or Cassie being a tomboy, neither of the adults had been able to decide with certainty.
Ken seemed to be the pragmatic one of them. He wasn’t too keen on the mandatory nap times or the healthy-food-policy, but he liked the activities well enough and even seemed at least a bit proud to be in the potty-training-program.
Julie appreciated this. Having them occupied and a bit powered out was one reason she and James had decided to enroll them. Another had been that they such had time for part time jobs, allowing them to stretch if not refill their financial resources. Luckily the rural area offered man opportunities for such without the need for any papers. It also helped blending in.
As she and James sorted the purchase, she threw a short look at him. Maybe they could both take a shower and celebrate having finished another successful day with a little grown-up activity? It was then that she could hear the children arguing over which channel to choose. As she was just going to enter the living room to sort this out, it knocked on the door. Guessing it was Jane, their neighbor, coming over for a quick chat, she nevertheless looked through the peephole, being surprised by who she saw.
“Sam,” she greeted him. “Come in. We hadn’t expected you so quick.”
When he entered, she looked behind him, making sure he wasn’t followed. Only with the door closed behind her, she allowed herself to take a closer look. Still having the age, he had had when she had last seen him, he now wore a Green Day shirt and had added a nose-piercing to the right side of his nose. This way he looked even more different from the man she had first met during her time as test-subject. He even seemed to move like a younger man, probably having lived in more to his new age much like she had.
“Hello you two,” the doctor greeted them. “The roads were rather free.”
“Hi Sam.” The former guard shook his hand. “How are you?”
“Fine.” He smiled at them. “Same?”
“Little family life,” James half joked, giving Julie a hug.
“It is really nice here,” she agreed with a smile. “Have you …”
“Once the lawyers got involved it was over very quick. As discussed, the company agreed to leave you alone and pay all of you a modest lifelong compensation,” their guest explained. “Also …”
Sam placed a briefcase on the table and opened it, revealing two vials. One had her name on it, the other Ken’s.
“Ready to be your true age?” The doctor asked.
Julie waited a moment, then she shook her head and pressed James’s hand. “I already am.”
She smiled at the former guard and he kissed her.
“I understand and congratulate you,” Sam replied with a smile which seemed to indicate he preferred his new age, too. “This leaves Ken.”
Julie nodded gravely. In truth she had begun to hope it wouldn’t come so early. It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy for Ken, that he joined the potty-club sooner, but she also had found she didn’t mind changing his normally wet and occasionally filled night-time-diapers so much. Not to mention how he and Cassie snuggled to her during their tv-time. They would still have the latter of course, as she would always be their little girl and Steven … she found she could live with him, as long as he didn’t speak too much. Also …
“How do we tell Steven he will stay this way?” She asked.
“Well …” Sam began.
The three adults turned around to see Ken standing in the floor leading to the living room.
“Hi Ken,” James began, “we …”
“You must come see this!” The toddler insisted in a voice which betrayed his apparent years.
He rushed back into the living room and after exchanging a worried look between each other the adults followed. In there they found the children already listening to a news anchorwoman with the map of a globe slowly turning red in the background. Ken had begun sucking his thumb as he was prone to when tired or upset. Steven was staring wide-eyed at the tv and even Cassie was unusually quite.
“… have these unbelievable events reported to occur worldwide turned into a terrifying reality. The regression of adults into children and in one case even a child into a you a younger one, have at first been seen as hoaxes. Now it appears a virus is responsible for these drastic changes. Hospitals around the world confirm more and more of these patients. While the change of gender being reported in one case has still to be confirmed it is sure that in some cases the minds of the victims is affected.”
“Andrea, what have you done?” Sam whispered.
“What caused this apparent pandemic of global scale remains unknown,” the anchorwoman informed them earnestly. “But what is certain is that the … age-regression-virus as it is called by some will change the history of mankind forever.”