A line of men and women in white
coats watched from
behind a glass screen as three figures were marched into the room.
Sadia blinked at the sudden
Neon lights scorched her eyes and she swallowed hard, not knowing
what to expect.
For the last hour she had been prodded and scrubbed in a faceless
Blood samples had been taken. Measurements had been made. And then she
dressed in a shapeless blue smock and escorted here.
Two other women had been herded
room at the same time. Both were clad in identical robes. Sadia
ventured a weak
smile, but the others were too disorientated to respond. One of them, a
black woman, was trying to stop herself from shaking. The other woman
She was slim, with dark eyes and a pale complexion.
Behind the glass, the white
watching them impassively. Some held clipboards and were taking notes.
hunched over computer screens. All of them were white; respectable
After a couple of minutes, there
was a clunk
and then a steady hiss. Sadia wasn’t sure where the noise was coming
Chinese woman had sat herself cross legged on the floor, but the other
looking around in alarm.
else who doesn’t know why she’s here, Sadia thought. Another one who'd been abducted;
drugged, bundled into the back of an
ambulance, only to wake up in a windowless room, in the middle of a
all my fault,
thought. I should never have run away.
Nadeem had been a nice enough
boy, but she had
barely known him. She certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of her
living in a foreign country with some young man she had only just met.
had run away. She had come to London. A friend of hers had promised
to put her
up for a day or two, but they had had a row and Sadia had been thrown
the street. She could have gone home, but her dad would have beaten
her. She had
found a park bench instead and tried to sleep. People walked by and
not to notice her. It was humiliating. She hid in a bush and tried to
there, but then it rained. Finally, she sheltered in an underpass, but
bright neon lights kept her awake.
There were other people around.
twice, someone would speak to her. There were places to go for food.
eaten hungrily one afternoon – her first decent meal in quite a while.
woman had sat with her and talked. Asked her questions. Very friendly.
worker perhaps. She had said something about finding her a bed. But
she walked out into the street, two men had followed her. She had been
and bundled into the back of the ambulance.
Sadia had woken up in a cold
room in the
heart of some kind of institution. A mental hospital, perhaps. Everyone
to behave like doctors, although nobody would tell her where she was.
They all wore
white coats and carried stethoscopes. Except the guards, of course.
She was fed and well looked
there was no-one to talk to. She was forced to exercise each day and
subjected to regular medical examinations. There was a toilet and a
sink in the
room, so she was able to wash herself. But there was nowhere to pray.
had no idea what day of the week it was.
Then one afternoon, the routine
guards had brought her here with these other women, who she had never
before. And now she was being stared at by the white coats. And she
go home more than ever. She didn’t care what her father did or what her
might say. She just wanted to see her mother again. And her sister
her younger brother Ali.
The Chinese woman let out a
muted cry. She
was scratching at her hand. Red blotches were beginning to form on the back of it
they started to spread. It took several minutes, but time seemed to
The blotches crawled along her arm and began to infect her neck and
Sadia frantically inspected her
Had something been released into the air? Did they intend to kill them
there was no sign of infection that she could see.
The black girl was similarly
After half an hour, the Chinese
woman was lying
unconscious on the metal floor. Her body was trembling. Soon, the
movements slowed and then her breathing stopped altogether. The black
woman went over
her eyes wide in alarm. She glanced back at Sadia and confirmed what
The Chinese woman was dead.
Shortly after, men in full body
into the chamber and removed the corpse. Sadia was led into an
where her body was scrubbed and scraped like it had never been scraped
Eventually, with her skin raw, she was returned to her room and fell
deep but troubled sleep.
A few days later, the experiment
was repeated. This
time there was a larger group, three men and three women. Their arms
behind their backs and some of the men had to be dragged, kicking and
into the glass fronted laboratory. This time people knew what to
this time they were afraid. The black girl was the only one there Sadia
recognised. There was a black man too, short with a bloodied lip. An
sat in a corner. There were two Chinese and a man with a long grey
might have been Jewish. When the gas – or whatever it was – had been
the chamber it was the black man who reacted to it. The young woman
in horror, expecting to suffer the same fate, but nothing happened to
After half an hour, only one of the group lay dead.
When the suited guards came to
all to the cells, they were armed with machine guns.
Another week passed. Sadia was
collected at the same
time each day for examinations and exercise. Nobody spoke to her. One
she was being escorted back to her cell, she saw a figure being taken
out of a room
next door. It was the Chinese man. A day or two later, the guards came
collect her and Sadia knew there would be another experiment. This time
would be lucky to survive.
The Chinese man was being led
out of his
cell at the same time. One of the suited guards stepped forward to
door at the end of the corridor. At that moment, the Chinese man swung
at the second guard, knocking him backwards. For a moment, they
first man moved back from the doorway. He could not open fire without
colleague. He launched himself at them instead. For an instant, the
three men were
Sadia glanced forward. The door
been unlocked was now wide open.
She did not allow herself to
leapt through the gap into another faceless corridor. At the far end,
a green illuminated sign. A fire door. She ran towards it. A man in a
coat stepped out of an office and stared at her in alarm. She rushed
the bolts on the fire door and sped through it.
The scientist must have hit the
alarm as a
siren sounded loudly.
Sadia sprinted across the grass
fence surrounding the complex. It was a good ten feet high. There was
she would be able to climb it. But there was a hole in the fence at
level. The wire mesh had been pulled away. Sadia did not give herself
think. She bolted straight through it. The edges of the wire scraped at
skin and tore her clothes but she didn’t care. She had to get away.
On the other side of the fence
Sadia heard voices calling from
She looked back instinctively. Guards with machine guns were rushing
out of the
open fire escape. They aimed their guns and Sadia made off. She heard
of bullets being fired, but nothing seemed to come near her. The trees
fence obviously afforded some protection.
She stumbled through the woods,
the guards to follow her, but she heard no sound of pursuit. She risked
look back. Through the tangled foliage, she could just about see two
standing on the other side of the fence. They were not moving through.
Why were they not following her?
She didn’t care. She was free
now. She had
to find a phone. She had to call her dad. Her sister. Anyone. She ran
a country road, nearly colliding with a car as it roared by. The driver
his horn angrily.
She couldn’t risk calling the
Whatever had been going on, it was obvious a lot of money was involved.
couldn’t be happening without the government knowing about it. Perhaps
even behind it.
A signpost a little way along
the road held
the promise of a nearby village. She didn’t recognise the name. But
be a phone box there somewhere or a public house where she could make a
She would have to reverse the charges though as she didn’t have any
She walked along the road,
slightly. She had twisted her ankle in the near collision with the car.
Another vehicle was coming up
It wasn’t really safe to remain on the road. Sadia moved off the tarmac
behind a bush as the car sped by.
A little way further on, she
spotted an old
red telephone box. Opening the heavy metal door, she lifted the
receiver and dialled
Directory Enquiries. A woman answered, with a pleasant Scottish voice.
‘I need…I need to make a reverse
call…’ she mumbled.
‘What’s the number, caller?’
Sadia wracked her brains, trying
the area code. She brought a hand up to her forehead. She was sweating
profusely. The run had taken its toll. Her head was throbbing. She was
‘What’s the number, caller?’
Sadia looked at the back of her
blotches were forming. Her hand was beginning to swell. She let out a
grasp. Now she understood why the men hadn’t followed her. They had
to escape. The whole thing had been planned in advance.
Sadia slumped down against the
wall of the
The institute was conducting its