“Gentlemen,” announced Chuck as he waved a sheaf of papers he had brought in to the lab, “I got some good news and some bad news.”
He paused for dramatic effect, and to make sure he had his collaborators’ full attention.
“The good: it looks like we got ourselves a Volunteer! All six criteria. Including live proof that she screams good. CCTV, British Royal Navy base: she called for help. You can have a listen if you like.”
“Gee!” exclaimed Charity, who had long since given up pointing out that she was not a gentleman, “that’s great!”
“What’s the bad news?” asked the Professor.
“The bad news, Professor, is the rest. For starters, she’s a foreigner: a Limey.”
“That’s not so terrible...”
“She let me befriend her on Face. I got all her details. Green Party: how ’bout that?”
“What’s ‘Green Party’?” Charity asked.
“Bunch of pinkos.” Chuck turned back to the Professor. “Then there’s, ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’. Plus, ‘Community Orchard’...”
“She’s a Comm-u-nist?” Charity’s eyes widened.
“Looks like it.”
“Oh Jeez.”
“Next you’re going to tell us she’s married to a Ruskie.”
“Professor, take a look for yourself.” Chuck handed over the papers.
The Professor sighed. “How in God’s green earth are we going to get this lady a visa?”
“Academic visitor?” suggested Charity, “It’s always worked in the past.”
“But we’re on Black Alert.”
“Can’t you pull strings, Professor?”
“You’re right.” The Professor flicked through the papers and laid them on the desk. “They’ll cancel our contract if we don’t get started soon. I’ll pull strings. I’ll pull the goddamn place down if I have to.”
He glanced at the photograph on the top sheet – noticed white hair.
“Write her with a yes, Chuck. My guess is she’s got college-age kids_”
“Yup: two.”
“Offer what we can.”
“Will do, Professor.”

date:    Saturday 31st December 20XX
to:        Verity Player (
Subject:  re: laboratory volunteers

Dear Verity I. Player, Ph.D.,

thank you for contacting us re. the volunteer posts.

It is unusual for us to find someone who fulfils all 6 conditions, but from the information you provide, you appear to do so. We would be delighted to welcome you to our Institute, and of course we will cover all your expenses. A scan of your passport will enable us to obtain a visa for you as an academic visitor.

As an educational establishment we are unable to offer you direct payment for your time. However, we can offer bursaries to cover college and/or University fees to any children you may have who are studying, if you agree to participate for a full month.

Kind regards,

Charles M. Forrester

Chapter 1 - Freewill

Verity re-read the words. 

Her heart lost its rhythm again.

Her offer to help the psychologists had made perfect sense at the time...

Now she faced the unpleasant task of telling them she’d changed her mind. And she couldn’t even let them know why: what on earth would America’s top Psychologists make of an Englishwoman who claimed to have been stalked, since her student days, by one Stan ‘Satanic’ Mills, whose being was made up of all of Humanity’s irrational fears..?

She scrolled down to her own email, still appended below the reply. Her sentences written on New Year’s Eve as early darkness fell, after she’d heard – could have sworn she heard – Mills mutter that she’d lost the wager he’d tricked her into making.

With her conscience about to be torn from her as forfeit and his plan to set humanity on the course for self-destruction destined to roll on to its inevitable conclusion, she’d seized on the little advert for volunteers – on one last thread of chance.

It would still be daylight in America – morning, even. She'd pictured the sunlit lab: techies and academics sharing a joke over their mugs of coffee as they read her words. They must take her on: what tiny number of people had heart conditions, and all the other things they were looking for?

​Without a Conscience – she’d thought it all through with cold logic – she’d still be a scientist. She'd still be driven, by her curiosity, to go there and take part in experiments: even dangerous ones.

And her presence there would lure Mills – Stan ‘Satanic’ Mills, who always found her wherever she went – so the Psychologists might confront him: take up the fight she had lost...

C L Spillard