Repayment in Full
3 pm, day 0
Sarah was sitting in the drawing room of the manor house, sipping on her coffee as Lucinda, Anne and Susan were talking. The incident at Blaketon Laboratories was in the past, and she had enjoyed the rest of her stay, looking at the twins as they played in the playpen at one side of the room.
“They’re getting bigger aren’t they,” Susan said as she put her hands on her own bump.
“Yes, they are,” Sarah said as she looked at them, “and they’re getting to be a bit of a handful.”
“Not really,” Lucinda said as she looked at them, “compared to your girls, they’re little angels.”
“I know,” Anne said as she looked at Andrew playing on the floor, “you should be grateful for that, Sarah.”
Sarah smiled as she watched Bart crawl over to the far side of the playpen, and start to tease his twin sister. “Hey,” Sarah said as she looked over, “play nicely with your sister young man.”
“Problem,” Brian said as he came in, Lord Holderness on his arm.
“Nothing I can’t take care of,” Sarah said as Lord Holderness sat down, and she stood up and started to walk to the playpen – and then stopped.
“Sarah, are you all right?”
“I’m not sure,” Sarah said as she looked at Brian, “I stood up, and suddenly felt a bit light headed. In fact...” She suddenly stumbled a little, as Brian came forward and caught her.
“Sit down for a minute,” he said as he gently took Sarah back to her seat, “catch your breath.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said with a smile, “It’ll pass soon.”
Brian put the back of his hand on Sarah’s forehead, Lucinda watching as he started to frown.
“Yeah, I’m sure it will pass,” Brian said with a smile as he kissed his wife’s forehead, and then left the room. “I’ll get you a drink of water.”
Lucinda watched him leave, and then said “Excuse me a few minutes” as she stood up and followed him out. Looking up and down the corridor, she walked to the kitchen where she found Brian looking out of the window.
“She’s got a temperature, Lucinda.”
“So? We all get colds from time to time...”
“Not Sarah – her DNA when it was modified meant she is immune to all viruses – but something is giving her a temperature.”
He turned and looked at Lucinda. “Can you take her the water? I need to make a phone call – and keep an eye on her please.”
“Of course,” Lucinda said as she took the glass and walked out, Brian waiting before he took out his mobile phone and dialled a number.
10.30 am EST, Day 0
FBI Laboratories, Augusta, Maine
Kayla looked up from her microscope and smiled at the agents.
“Definitely arsenic – mixed in with the porridge.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” one of the two men said, “we’ll take it from here.”
Kayla smiled as she showed the two men out, and then made some notes. As she finished typing, she heard her cell phone go off.
“Kayla, it’s Brian. Are you free to talk at the moment?”
“Well, nobody else is here. What can I do to help you?”
“Sarah has a temperature.”
Kayla stood up and said “repeat that please.”
“Sarah has a temperature, and she’s feeling unwell. Kayla, this is meant to be impossible.”
“I know – apart from your recent work with Barry Hampton, has anything else happened?”
“No – why?”
“Listen, I’ll be on the first plane I can get out – can you get Mister Bridges to meet me at the airport?”
“Sure – in the meantime?”
“Watch her, give her plenty of fluids, and if she gets worse make sure she goes to bed – and don’t worry Brian. I’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Ending the call, Kayla looked round, and then dialled a number.
“Anne? Emergency on Project Pink Widow – can you get me on a helicopter to JFK, and a ticket on the next available plane after we land?”
6 pm EST, Day 0
JFK Airport, New York
“Once again, ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay in departure to your flight,” the captain said over the intercom. “This was due to a medical emergency, and the need for two late passengers to join this plane...”
“Miss Duncombe, Doctor Smith,” the steward said as Anne and Kayla walked into the first class cabin, “your booths are over here.”
“Many thanks,” Kayla said as she put a medical bag and her own luggage in the overhead locker, Anne doing the same before they both sat down and strapped themselves in.
“Please inform me as soon as it is possible to use a cell phone,” Kayla asked, the steward nodding as the final preparations were made for take-off.
“Have you talked to Brian again?”
Kayla nodded as she looked at Anne. “She’s feeling flushed and gone to bed – Lucinda is staying by her bedside while Brian looks after the kids.”
“He’s right – nothing should affect her like this. What’s going on?”
“I’ll find out once we’re airborne – the director of the laboratories they worked in is expecting my call.”
As the plane levelled off, the steward whispered in Kayla’s ear, and she connected her laptop to the internet, before starting a Skype call.
“Professor Blaketon,” she said as the face of a bearded gentleman appeared on the screen, “I am Doctor Kayla Smith. We spoke briefly on the phone earlier.”
“Doctor Smith – your matter sounded urgent. What can I do for you?”
“What I am about to say,” Kayla whispered, “is in complete confidence. It concerns the recent attempted theft at your research centre near Holderness.”
“Ah – I guessed as much. The couple who Hampton sent in pulled off a miracle that night. I would be more than willing to help in return for that.”
“Good – because the woman has fallen ill, and we think whatever it is causing her illness may have come from your laboratory.”
“Well, I checked the work details for her time here – she didn’t handle any hazardous chemicals or bio material.”
“Hmm – is it possible she may have accidentally brushed against something or touched something.”
“Nothing she was...”
“There is one thing – we’ve been conducting some trials for a US client, on a new virus designed to be harmless to humans, but lethal to a particular pest. They could not conduct final safety trials in the US, so we had an agreement to test it here.”
“What trials,” Kayla said quietly.
“We arranged to have work surfaces and tables sprayed with the virus, after assurances it was not toxic to humans, to see how long the virus would stay active. All staff were informed and consented, but...”
“But my people did not know?”
“I don’t think they were told – there was not time for the full induction. Doctor Smith, if we are responsible, then we must help with treating your colleague. We have excellent medical facilities here – if you can get her here, we will monitor her until your arrival.”
“The offer is appreciated, Professor Blaketon,” Kayla said, “but tell me – what was the pest the virus was designed to kill?”
“The Black Widow spider,” he replied as Kayla’s face blanched.
“Doctor Smith, is there a problem?”
“I am afraid there is, Professor Blaketon. Our associate may have been adversely affected by this compound,” Kayla said quietly.
“Oh – oh my. Then the offer to help in any way we can is still there. IS there an issue with this person’s immune system?”
Kayla nodded as she said “I fear it may be compromised in this case. We need to find a way to get some antibodies into her and flush this virus out. Do you have anything that could do this?”
“Antibodies? We could generate them, but there are risks.”
“If I hear what you are saying correctly, then your associate does not have the means to develop the antibodies herself.”
Kayla nodded and then said “What if the virus was introduced to a healthy human being?”
Professor Blaketon rubbed his chin, and said “Well, it would cause extreme cramps and muscle spasms – even seizures – but a healthy body would respond by creating a massive amount of antibodies to flush the virus out.”
“So they could be used?”
“Possibly – if the volunteers were blood related in some way, or else the body’s own immune system would reject any antibodies. There is another problem – because of what will happen, it needs to be a younger person for them to have a full chance of recovery?”
“Ideally? Late teens, no older than twenty or twenty one. Older relatives could provide the antibodies, but their own body may not handle the strain.”
“But once we introduce the antibodies, and assuming they get to work?”
“Assuming that, your associate should make a full recovery. In fact, this would only need to be done once.”
“One moment, Professor,” Kayla said as she removed the divider between her and Anne.
“So – we have a chance, and only one. Call Brian – tell him to get Sarah to Blaketon Laboratories as fast as possible. Then call Anne and Simon – tell them we need to ask a favour, one of the biggest we have ever asked.”
“Got it,” Anne said as Kayla went back to the screen. “Professor Blaketon, my associate is going to come to your centre. May I ask for complete privacy and security?”
“I’ll arrange it personally. And the other matter we discussed?”
“There is a way – but we will discuss when we arrive. I’m coming straight to your laboratories, and will see you there.”
9 am, Day 1
The car stopped outside the main entrance, Kayla and Anne getting out and walking quickly into the reception area.
“Professor Blaketon,” Kayla said as she shook the hand of the man waiting inside.
“Doctor Smith - welcome.”
“This is Special Agent Anne Duncombe of the FBI – the director of Project Pink Widow.”
“Where is she?”
“This way,” the grey haired man said as he led them down a corridor, and past two security guards into what resembled a medical ward. Sarah was lying on a bed, monitors attached to her while Brian sat by her bedside.
“Hey,” Kayla said as she came in, “What’s this about you catching a cold?”
“Funny,” Sarah said as Kayla looked at the notes. “Seriously, what’s happening to me?”
“Well, looks like we found a virus that has not read the playbook,” Kayla said, “but we have a plan. For now, you rest – leave the rest to us.”
Turning round, she said “The other guests?”
“This way,” Professor Blaketon said as he took Kayla to a side room, where three people were waiting.
“Anne – thank you for coming, all three of you,” she said quietly as she sat down. Anne Bowden was wearing a pair of grey joggers and a t-shirt under a grey jacket, while Angela was wearing an Oxford Brookes sweatshirt, jeans and trainers. Alicia was wearing a black t-shirt over a white jumper and black leggings.
“How bad is she,” Anne said as they all sat down.
“Well, this is uncharted territory,” Kayla said as she rubbed her eyes, and then looked up as some coffee was brought in. “Have either of you had anything to eat or drink yet?”
“No,” Angela said, “when Dad woke us up, he said not to. Kayla, what’s going on?”
“Essentially,” Kayla said as she put her coffee down, “Sarah’s immune system is being attacked by a virus – one specifically designed to work in a way she can’t cope with. We can manufacture antibodies to give to her – but she needs a lot, she needs them quickly, and there is only one way we can do it.”
Looking at the two young women, Kayla said “We need to inject a large amount of the virus into blood relatives – younger ones – and essentially harvest the antibodies as they produce them. We can do this using something akin to Kidney dialysis, which can be done here, but there are risks.”
“What sort of risks,” Anne asked quietly.
“We need to use a very large dose of the virus, and it causes severe cramps and muscle spasms. Unfortunately, giving any sort of sedative can compromise the production of the antibodies, which means whoever does this is going to have the worst possible day of their lives until such time as we have reversed the virus in Sarah’s body.”
Anne looked at Kayla, and said “if this is not done?”
Kayla looked at her, and then at the girls, before she said “I don’t know – but I’m worried enough to ask that you Angela, and you Alicia, to volunteer for this. I know it is asking a lot – a hell of a lot – but you are the closest match we have in terms of blood relation and age group. All I can say is the moment we know she is on the mend, it will be over – and we will be watching you throughout the process.”
Anne stood up and turned round as Alicia looked at Angela, and then held her hand. “We owe so much to Sarah and Brian, and the twins need their mother. Let us do this.”
Nodding, Anne said “what do you need?”
“You’ll need to sign a consent form for Alicia, and Angela can sign for herself. Girls, I need you to change into hospital gowns – the sooner we do this, the sooner it ends.”
“Right,” Kayla said as Alicia and Angela walked in, both wearing white gowns, “we’re going to put you on these beds here, and strap you in. Are you both ready for this?”
“No,” Alicia said, “but let’s do this anyway.”
As they lay down, two nurses used medical restraints to secure their wrists and arms to the side of the beds, and then strapped their ankles and legs down to the bed, as well as their stomachs.
“Is this really necessary,” Angela said.
“I’m afraid so,” Kayla said as she injected a local anaesthetic into her right arm and Alicia’s left arm. “What we’re going to do next is hook you up to these machines. Once we inject the bolus of the virus, we will start to run your blood through these machines, extracting plasma hopefully with the antibodies.”
The two girls watched as the tubes were inserted into their arms, and then Kayla held up two plastic gum shields with straps on them.
“We need to use these to stop you biting your tongue, and also help muffle any noise from each of you,” she said quietly, “and then we have special blindfolds, which are designed to keep your eyes moist. Girls, I cannot say how much I appreciate this.”
“Like we said, she did more for us,” Angela said, remembering that night for a moment. “Do it.”
“We’ll talk later,” Kayla said as she fitted the gag into Angela’s mouth, securing the straps round her head, and then placed the blindfold over her eyes.
Alicia nodded as she bit down on the plastic, and then felt the damp sponge like blindfold on her eyes as she laid her head down.
“We’re also strapping your heads down, for your own safety,” Kayla said as the straps were fastened over their foreheads.
Kayla looked over as Professor Blaketon came in, carrying a black box.
“Thank you,” she said quietly as she opened the box, and took out one of the two hypodermic needles inside.
“All right girls, Angela, you will be first, then you Alicia – and good luck.”
The two girls nodded as Kayla injected the virus into their bodies, and then stood back.
“I’ll be with their parents,” Professor Kempton said as Kayla and the nurses watched, before Alicia suddenly bit down and arched her back.
“Start the machines,” Kayla said, “and may God protect them both.”
Alicia could feel the stomach cramps, the pain washing in waves over her as she wanted to scream, but the gag in her mouth kept her voice down to a dull moan of despair. She tried to block the pain out in her mind, imagining Martin was there with her, holding her hand and comforting her as the next wave of pain began.
Angela was writhing in pain as well, in her mind crying out for Eddie as she tried to escape from the evil genius who had kidnapped her...
Kayla walked over to the machines and watched as the blood started to flow from both girls through the tubes, and then back again. After a few minutes, she took a sample from both girls and handed it to one of the nurses. She took it for a minute, and then came back.
“It’s working – but those poor girls...”
“I know – but we don’t have a choice. How long before we have the first plasma bag ready?”
“At the current rate, twenty minutes – but they must be in agony. Is there nothing we can do?”
Kayla merely shook her head, focusing instead on the monitors as she watched their heart rates...
Alicia could feel the cold sweat on her body as another wave of nausea washed over her, and she arched her back once more, wanting to scream to the heavens. As she calmed down, she heard Kayla said “I know it is bad, and I know you want it to end, but we need to keep going for the sake of Sarah.”
“We’ve got the first batch, Doctor Smith,” the nurse said as she handed a plasma bag to Kayla. “Keep monitoring them,” she said as she walked quickly to a nearby room, where Brian was mopping Sarah’s brow.
Kayla nodded as she hooked the bag up and inserted the drip into Sarah’s arm, adjusting the flow as the plasma slowly flowed into her body. He checked the monitors as Sarah looked at both of them, and her body broke out in a cold sweat.
“Kayla, what the hell’s happening?”
“Wait,” Kayla said as she watched Sarah, and then smiled as the woman slowly closed her eyes. Looking at the monitor, she said “thank the Lord – her temperature is starting to drop.”
“So it’s working?”
“It appears as if it is – but I want to be sure,” Kayla said as she drew a blood sample, and then left, returning to the lab and looking through the microscope.
“All right,” she eventually said, “do we have a second bag ready?”
She ignored Angela’s screams, clear enough even though the medical gag was muffling them, before taking the second plasma bag and heading out again.
“How much longer,” Anne said as she sat with Simon in the waiting room.
“I don’t know,” Simon said as he held his wife’s hand, “but as soon as she knows, we’ll know.”
As she looked up, she saw her mother come in with Anne Duncombe, Lucinda walking over and embracing her as Simon looked at the FBI agent.
“I don’t know – Kayla’s got everything in terms of the process under control, but until she knows something...”
“I don’t know how much more they can take,” one of the nurses said as they checked the monitors.
“I know, I know,” Kayla muttered under her breath as she took a fourth bag to the room, and hooked it up to the drip, before checking the monitors.
“Well,” Brian said as he looked over.
“Respiration returning to normal... Temperature dropping...”
“It’s working isn’t it?”
“Let me check one more sample,” Kayla said as she drew more blood, and then returned to the lab, looking through the microscope.
“Thank God,” she whispered under her breath, and turned to the nurses.
“Turn off the machine,” she shouted over the screams as both Alicia and Angela arched their backs again, “and give them the sedatives.”
Alicia was screaming, unable to move and talk as the spiders crawled around her body, their bites getting worse and worse – before a cold blast of water washed over her, numbing her as the creatures were washed away.
Looking up, she saw Martin holding the hose, looking at her as he said “Alicia, I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here. Can you forgive me?”
Alicia slowly nodded as Martin came over, easing the cloth cleave gag from her mouth as he gently kissed her lips, and she wrapped her arms round his neck, relaxing as the pain eased away...
Angela looked at the small, hunchbacked man in the white coat as she struggled to break free from the restraints hold her to the chair, as another electric shock ran through her.
“Not until you sign over the deeds...”
The door to the room was kicked open, and Eddie ran in, knocking the mad scientist out with one punch before he turned the infernal machine off, and released Angela from the chair, picking her up as she rested her head against his chest, her eyes slowly closing...
“It’s done,” Kayla said as she walked into the waiting room. “The girls are sleeping, and Sarah is recovering. The antibodies are fighting the virus now, and they all should make a full recovery.”
Simon held his wife close as Anne and Lucinda let out a sigh of relief. “Her DNA?”
“No change – although the Parlour is suppressed for the moment. I think that’s a transitory thing, and she will be back to normal – well as normal as Sarah gets, eventually after some rest. You’d better let Sue know so that Project Red Widow is available if needed.”
Anne nodded as she left the room.
“They’re going to need time to recover, but we checked – the virus has flushed out of their system as well, so no after effects.”
“Good,” Lucinda said, “but we need to thank them properly, when they are up to it.”
Alicia slowly opened her eyes and looked round. She was lying in a hospital bed, with a monitor attached to her, and a bandage around her left arm. Turning her head slowly, she saw Angela in the bed next to her, also with a monitor and her right arm bandaged.
“Hey,” she said quietly as her sister slowly opened her eyes.
“Hey yourself,” Angela said quietly, “is it just me, or are you...”
“I ache like I’ve never ached before, if that’s what you mean – but Sarah?”
“Is recovering as well,” a male voice said, both girls turning to see Professor Blaketon standing there, looking at a clipboard. “Doctor Smith will be along shortly, but I wanted to personally thank both of you for what you did.”
“You’re awake,” Kayla said as she came in, “how do you both feel?”
“Like hell,” Angela said quietly, “but if Sarah’s recovering...”
“... then it’s been worth it,” Alicia said. “Can we see her?”
“In a minute,” Kayla said as she looked at the monitors, Professor Blaketon leaving as two nurses came in with wheelchairs.
“Who was that?”
“Hmm – oh, the head of Blaketon Laboratories. He felt personally responsible for what happened – your parents and him have been watching you.”
“How long were we out for?”
“Forty eight hours – here,” she said as they slowly sat up, and handed them some water, “drink slowly, and then we’ll visit Sarah.”
“Two days,” Alicia said as she took the cup, and moaned a little. “I still ache – that was far worse than I thought it was going to be.”
“It will pass in time – now, let them lift you into these wheelchairs. It’ll be a day or two more before you can move yourselves, while you get your strength back.
“I don’t think I want to sleep again for a while,” Angela said as she was placed in a wheelchair, “some of those dreams were very vivid.”
“Yes – yes they were,” Alicia said as Kayla opened the doors, “but some of them were also...”
“Keep those thoughts to yourself,” Kayla said quietly as they were wheeled down the corridor, and into another room, Brian standing up as they came in and Sarah looking over from her wheelchair.
“Hey,” she said as Alicia and Angela were wheeled over to be with her, “how are you both?”
“Sore and tired,” Angela said, “but forget about us – how are you?”
“Tired would not even begin to describe it,” Sarah said, “but I’m here, and I’m getting better – and I have both of you to thank for it. Anne and Kayla told me what you did – and I don’t know if I can ever...”
“Hey hey,” Angela said as Sarah started crying, reaching over and taking her hand, “there was no way we were not going to do this. After what you did for me and the others that day, we would have done anything to make sure you were all right.”
“Big sis is right,” Alicia said as she took Sarah’s other hand, “We owe you so much, this is just a part repayment... Sarah, your watch!”
Alicia and Angela looked at the face of her watch, which was turning from a dull grey to a light green.
“Ah – yes,” Kayla said, “the antibodies managed to suppress Sarah’s particular gifts for a short while, but now that she is recovering she should be well soon, and the watch back to the usual colour.”
“What about Chloe,” Angela said as she looked at Kayla.
“Chloe? What about her?”
“We’ve managed to create something now from Sarah’s blood that means Chloe will be immunized,” Kayla said, “and what’s more, if I’m right, it will also kill the Parlour virus if anyone else ever gets infected again. There can only be two Widows.”
“Good – I didn’t have a choice, and Chloe was an accident. I think it’s best that never happens again.”
“All right you two,” Kayla said, “we need to let you rest, and Sarah needs her as well. Your mum and dad are coming in soon as well, so back to bed with both of you.”
“We’ll talk later,” Sarah said as the two girls were wheeled back to the room, and lifted back into bed.
Three days later
“There we go,” Simon Bowden said as he helped Alicia to step out of the car, Eddie taking Angela’s arm as they walked slowly up the stairs and into Holderness Manor.
“Hi Grandma,” Alicia said as she saw Lucinda Holderness standing just inside, “miss us?”
“Oh come here both of you,” she said as she hugged her granddaughters, tears in her eyes as she looked at them. “You both did a wonderful thing; I want you to know that.”
“So people keep telling us,” Angela said quietly.
“Well, it’s true – but come on, you need to come into the drawing room,” Eddie said as Martin came out of the door, and took Alicia’s arm.
“Do not ever do that to me again,” he said as he walked slowly with her.
“No promises – but I don’t exactly want to do anything like that ever again,” Alicia said as she smiled weakly, and the two girls walked in.
Sarah was sitting in a chair, Bart and Sarah in her arms as Brian stood behind her, but they were not the only ones in the room. Susan and Alex Holderness were there with their mother, as were Jennifer and Cassie Craig senior, Connie Brown and Miranda Craig, while David Brown was standing with Lord Holderness and Barry Hammond.
Anne Duncombe and Kayla Smith were also there, but what caught the eye of both girls was the banner that simple said “welcome back.”
Alicia slowly turned to see Jenny, Mary and Cathy standing there, smiling before they came over and embraced her.
“What, no hugs for me,” Angela joked.
“Of course there are,” the girls said as they came over. “It’s just you’re bigger, older, and have Eddie.”
“Yeah – just my luck,” Angela said before she put her hand on the back of a seat, and slowly walked round before she sat down.
Alicia sat with the others as Lord Holderness said “there is no way we can ever thank the two of you enough for what you did, but we did want to say thank you anyway.”
“So we’re going to have a little party, just us,” Lady Holderness said as the door opened, and Mrs Bridges brought in some cakes, followed by Mr Bridges with some glasses and champagne.
“As far as the school and university are concerned, you both came down with a bad case of gastric flu,” Barry Hampton said, “so your absence, though regrettable, has been noted. I just wish, as I always do with these two, there was more we could do to acknowledge your gift.”
“Having said that,” Anne Duncombe said, “there is something we can do. I’ve been authorized to invite you, as a family, to come over in the Spring, and we can do something then. We’ll time it for the Easter holidays.”
“And while you’re over, hopefully we’ll be able to express our gratitude more properly as well,” Brian said as he put his hand on Sarah’s shoulder.
“A toast,” Lord Holderness said as he raised his glass, “to the heroines of the hour, Alicia and Angela.”
“ALICIA AND ANGELA!”