A/N: Well, here it is, the last chapter. I'm so very grateful for all of your reviews and encouragement in writing this story. It's been a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy this last chapter. As a side not, I'm not an expert at electricity nor am I any sort of medical professional, so much of what you read in this next chapter was gleaned from wikipedia and my own imagination, so any inaccuracies are mine alone, but feel free to correct me if I'm way off base. :D
"You are certain there is no other way?" Helen asked as she paced the floor in front of Henry and Kate.
"I tried everything else I could think of. This is the only sure-fire way to shut the nano-cytes down completely." Henry argued.
"How much electricity are we talking about here?"
"Well, there's the part you're really not gonna like." Henry looked down at his shoes, unwilling to meet her eyes.
"Just tell me Henry." She insisted. Henry cleared his throat before speaking again cautiously
"I tested all of the nano-cytes I had. Anything less than 500 volts only powered them up more and doubled their reproduction rates. It took over 1000 volts to ensure that all of them were successfully overloaded."
"1000?" Magnus' voice hitched with incredulity. "He's already weak enough as it is. That much electricity could cause serious internal burns, not to mention cardiac arrest."
"I told you you weren't going to like it."
"There's nothing about this plan that I like, Henry. We could end up killing him with this cure."
"We might not have much of a choice here, Doc." Kate cut in. "If we don't do anything then those nano-things are just gonna keep going and Will will certainly die. At least this way he has a fighting chance."
Helen turned around to look at her patient and friend. Even under the veil of unconsciousness, Will's face grimaced in pain and his teeth chattered excessively, the ice packs keeping his fever down for now, but soon, she had to admit, it wouldn't be enough. Kate was right. Will wouldn't have much of a chance if something wasn't done soon, even if that something was as drastic as pumping him full of electricity. At least he might have a chance.
"Set it up, Henry." Her decision made, they got to work.
He was vaguely aware of the bustle of activity occurring around him. Voices cut in and out of his hearing, but he couldn't make out what was said, too lost in the cold and pain was he to make sense of any of it, nor did he have the strength to care anymore.
Darkness beckoned, offered sweet, blissful nothingness if he would just let go. It would be so easy to cut that cord, to give in to find the release from pain that only death could bring. But, somewhere deep inside, something told him to not give up just yet. That's when it registered that it wasn't an internal voice telling him to hold on, but an external one. The one that was touching him now, wiping his brow and grabbing a hold of his hand.
He would have liked to tell her that he was trying, but the icy tendrils wrapped around his body wouldn't allow it and pulled him further away from her until her voice was just a faint, distant white noise.
Everything was set-up and ready to go. Henry had rigged the defibrillator to amp up it's electrical output to the levels necessary to fry the nano-cytes into oblivion, but her fear about this procedure was palpable by all in the room. When Helen Magnus was afraid, then things had to indeed be dire and no one was unaffected by it.
Henry nervously fiddled with the equipment, getting the voltage set to just the right level. Kate took up pacing and Big Foot, while silently stoic, still gave off an air of uncertainty as he removed the ice packs surrounding Will.
Helen meanwhile cleaned the sweat from Will's brow until he was dry than opened up his shirt. He visibly shook from the chill his exposed skin caused and instinctively, she grabbed his hand and leaned in close to his ear, speaking softly the words of encouragement he would need and she would need also to help him through this.
"Will...I don't know if you can hear me or not, but you need to hold on. I'm not ready to give up yet and I won't allow you to either. So stay strong, no matter what."
She felt a hand touch her shoulder and she turned to see Henry indicate that everything was ready to go. She nodded once and shored up her courage to take the next step, knowing that what she did next just might kill her friend rather than help him. With on last squeeze to his hand, she straightened up to her full height and took the paddles from her hairy assistant's hands. Big foot opened Will's mouth and slipped in a rubber mouth guard in to minimize the risk of Will biting his tongue once the jolt hit him and it suddenly struck Helen what she was about to do. Her hands shook ever so slightly at the thought, but she hid it well from the others as she took charge.
"Alright...Henry charge it up." Henry just nodded and flicked a few switches, the machine powered up with a high-pitched whine. Helen squirted a liberal amount of gel onto the paddles and rubbed them together to spread it across them evenly.
Taking a deep, calming breath that did little to ease her anxiety, she addressed everyone around the bed. "Stand back away from the bed." She ordered them.
Henry backed up and stood next to Kate, the tension on his face clear as he took the hem of his shirt and rubbed it nervously between his fingers. Kate took notice and in one simple, yet expressive move, she took his hand and held it tight.
"I'm sorry, Will..." She whispered, hoping he would hear her, taking no notice of the others surrounding them, her only focus being Will's face.
Big foot backed away from the bed as Helen placed the paddles onto Will's exposed skin.
"Clear!" She called out from force of habit and depressed the buttons that would send the electrical current flowing into Will's body.
Immediately his body reacted violently. Back arching up off the bed, every muscle in his body tightened and corded grotesquely as they visibly vibrated and shook from the force of the power. He grunted low and Helen held her breath. The whole thing took only seconds, but it felt like an eternity to her until his body finally flopped back to the bed bonelessly, looking for all the world to be dead.
She anxiously scanned the heart monitor. Instead of the normal sinus rythmn she had so desperately hoped for, it raced into disorganized, irregular peaks and valleys.
"Damn....he's in v-fib.....Atropine." She held out her hand and only a second later a needle landed in her palm. Without a moment's hesitation she injected the fluid directly into his heart His heart wasn't pumping sufficiently, instead fluttering uselessly, the cells of his heart failing to beat together, causing chaos withing the muscle itself. Full cardiac arrest was inevitable if she didn't act quickly.
Still clutching the paddles, she hated knowing that she would have to perform a cardioversion and shock him again to reverse the dangerous heart rythmn, but she had little other choice. Only electricity, the thing that had almost just killed him, could save him now. She snapped back into action again and began barking orders to Big Foot.
"Lower the defibrillator to 200." She squirted more gel onto the paddles as he adjusted the machine. From the corner of her eye she caught the tension marking the faces of Henry and Kate as they watched, feeling their fear as her own.
"Clear!" She called out again. Placing the paddles back onto Will's chest, she depressed the button again, sending even more volts into his body, praying this would shock his heart into working properly.
Again his body reacted, tensing his muscles tightly, throwing him upward until he flopped back down lifelessly.
"Bag him!" She ordered her hairy assistant and despite his usual slow pace, he move swiftly and surely to begin pumping air into Will's lungs with the ambubag. Helen gave him a few seconds to get some oxygen into Will while carefully staring at the heart monitor, begging for it to show some sign that his heart was responding to the treatment. When there was none after a few moments she began performing compressions on his chest, wincing internally as she felt the bones of his ribs crack under the pressure of her hand.
One more time she repeated the procedure and again her heart sank seeing little improvement. Then the horrible sound she had been dreading pierced the tense air. The high-pitch whine of the cardiac monitor called out its warning that his heart had given up.
"Dammit, Will....don't do this." At this point she could feel their options slipping away. She was losing him, but she wasn't ready to give up yet as she kept up her frenzied pace, continuing the CPR until her arms began to hurt. She ignored the pain, pressing on until a hairy hand rested on her shoulder.
"He's had enough." She looked up into Big Foot's eyes. Saw the sadness he held in them, to him Will was already gone. She looked down at her patient then, saw the blue lips, the red marks from the shocks and felt a lump grow in her throat that she couldn't contain, her vision blurring with unshed tears.
She wasn't ready for this. "Nonononono...One more time." Her eyes blazed with fury now towards her assistant. She wasn't about to fail Will now. Seeing the determination in her eyes, BigFoot relented with a nod and charged the defibrillator once again. She could see it written on his face that he didn't think it would work, but she was past caring, she had to try again.
The shock jolted through Will's dying body one last time and Helen held her breath again, knowing that this was it, if it didn't work this time, she would have to let him go.
Seconds ticked by with only the flat line of the monitor running across her vision. She felt her hope slip until one blip registered on the screen followed by another and then another. It wasn't for at least half a minute of counting the beats that she finally let go and exhaled, feeling light-headed from the deep relief washing over her.
It seemed as though everyone else in the room also exhaled at the same moment.
Hours later the infirmary was dark and empty, save for a light in the corner where Helen sat reading over the latest results of Will's blood tests. They had done it...The nano-cytes were indeed inactive now, but she really didn't need to read the results to know that. Will's temperature was coming down and he was sleeping peacefully, not having surfaced yet from unconsciousness.
Her only worry lay in the amount of time he had spent under. Oxygen deprivation to his brain coupled with the effects of the fever where still her main concern, any damage done she wouldn't be able to observe and gauge until he fully woke up.
She suddenly felt so tired and bone weary. She had almost killed one of her best friends, even if it had been successful, she still felt such tremendous guilt over everything that had occurred with him. From the fight in the rainforest to trusting Nikola, she had set motion the chain of events that had led to her taking such drastic measures to save Will's life. But, if he were indeed brain-damaged and impaired for the rest of his days, what sort of life had she brought him back to?
A rustling of fabric from across the room snapped her out of her self-flagellation. Will had shifted in his sleep, a small moan issuing from his end of the infirmary. She was on her feet in an instant and making his way over to him, taking a hold of one of his hands once she reached his bedside.
His eyeballs rolled underneath his eyelids, causing his long lashes to flutter like he was caught up in a dream that he was fighting to wake up from. She leaned in and ran a hand across his brow and through his hair.
"Come along now, Will...Go ahead and wake up now." She encouraged him. Feeling his hand tighten around her own, a smile brightened her face. A heartbeat later, his eyes opened to mere slits, but enough for her to see his clear, hazel irises gaze up at her.
"Welcome back." She greeted him softly. For second there, she thought he was going back to sleep on her when his eyes slid shut again, but instead he began speaking and her previous concerns about any brain damage he might have suffered were smoothed over with what he said.
"Hey..." He began, his voice barely above a whisper as he opened his eyes again and looked into bright, blue eyes staring back at him. He felt tired and weak as a kitten, but the pain the remembered from before was gone as were the chills and certainty that he was going to die. He knew there was only one reason he was still alive and he was looking right at her. "Thanks..."
"You don't have to thank me, since this whole entire mess has been my fault."
"That's not true... You never gave up, not once even when I was ready to. You pulled me from the darkness, even before I got my eyesight back, Magnus. I can't thank you enough for that."
Will's eyesight still wasn't 100% of what it used to be, but he could have sworn that he saw her cheeks darken red. It wasn't often that the great Dr. Helen Magnus looked embarrassed or meek and the sight of it made him grin tiredly, grateful to be alive and whole enough to witness such an event.
"You're welcomeThe moment was over almost before it began and she cleared her throat, a clear sigh that she was fighting tears-even Magnus had her tells.
"Get some sleep, Will" She squeezed his hand and he gave himself over to the peacefully serenity that only sleep could bring, the darkness had been pushed aside and on the other side lay beautiful dreams.
He grinned to himself as he hefted his carry-on bag higher on to his shoulder. The line through security was incredibly long and slow going as people passed their bags onto the conveyer belt and removed their shoes for inspection, but he didn't mind for once. Soon, he'd be on his way to white, sandy beaches, warm South American breezes and cool umbrella drinks taken under a starry sky, a little vacation was going to reward himself with before he got back to work again.
All was waiting for him in Buenos Aires. A new lab and his stunning new invention that would not only promise to cure himself and resore him to his rightful state, but also bring him profits of an untold fortune. He was so close to being what he had once been that he could practically taste it.
He took another step forward when he felt the presence of two people slide up next to him on both sides. His grin immediately faded into a scowl.
"Going somewhere?" He turned his now frowning face towards the voice, unsurprised to find Helen on his left and her lackey, Henry on the other with Kate not too far off behind him.
"In fact, I am. Now, if you'll excuse me the plane should be boarding soon..." He moved to place his bag on the conveyor belt petulantly only to have Henry pick it up again, the younger man's face registering anger and annoyance as he slung it over his shoulder.
"Be careful with that, it's Italian leather." He snipped.
Helen wrapped her hand around his arm and began pulling him away from the line quietly without causing a scene and alerting security to anything suspicious. "Now Nikola, it would be rude of us to just let you take off so quickly without a proper send-off. Come, let us take a little walk, shall we?"
Nikola sighed and unwillingly allowed himself to be led away from the line and back towards the crowded terminal. "So, how did you find me? I was certain that I was flying under even your radar, Helen."
"Well, you were very good at covering your tracks, but I'm afraid that having a global network of eyes and ears would make it difficult for even one such as yourself to avoid. You might have even gotten away with it if you hadn't gotten greedy. I have a friend in Buenos Aires that heard about a new breakthrough in medical technology that was going to change the world and a certain deal that was made to it's inventor for a new lab. Strange thing about this lab though, seems that said inventor demanded that all the equipment be rubberized...now one would have to wonder why anyone would request something like that, unless of course they were a walking magnet."
"I should have known." He groused.
"Yes, well...hindsight is 20/20 isn't it?" She kept up her cheerful face as they walked, but he could hear the venom in her voice.
"I suppose you're not going to let me go to Argentina then. So what now, back to your jail cell?"
She actually snorted a little at that and grinned genuinely in a way that made his blood go ice cold. "Oh, no...You're free to go since I think it would be best for us all if you left the country, I just wanted to chat before you were gone. Of course, you might have a lot of explaining to do to your new benefactors when you show up without this..." She held up a small vial between her fingers, eyeing him shrewdly. He ignored the other two as they grinned at each other and exchanged smug looks.
Nikola was stuck between wanting to praise Helen for her cunning and smacking the look of satisfaction off of her face. Instead he did neither, opting for a small chuckle of amusement. "You actually want me to believe that you found the nano-cytes I had sent ahead of me to Argentina?"
"It's funny how causcious the postal system has become nowadays. One anonymous tip and packages from all over the country were stopped, inspected and irradiated before being sent on their way. I had some of my people pose as postal inspectors and it wasn't too hard to track this down, especially given that it had to be sent in a dry-ice container to keep it's contents fresh. That really helped narrow things down. You may be good at deception, Nikola, but we're better."
"You're loving this aren't you?" He asked her, his voice hitching with barely contained anger. "You just love to see me brought down." To that Helen sighed and her face took on an honestly pained look.
"No Nikola. I'm sad for you. I actually had hopes that we might be able to work together again and be friends, but the time when that could have been possible has passed."
He wanted to still be angry with her, but all he could feel was a confusing mess of mixed emotions. He didn't have many friends, actually none would be a more accurate estimate and now he didn't think that Helen would ever look at him with any sort of trust again and strangely, he felt bad about that, even remorseful for the loss of their friendship.
"Well, Nikola. It's been nice catching up, but it seems you have a plane to catch and we'll be on our way."
Henry dropped Nikola's bag to the floor unceremoniously at his feet while Helen turned her back on him and began to walk away.
"Wait." He called out to her. He thought for a moment that she would just continue on her way, but to his surprise she stopped and turned around. "I have to know...they worked didn't they? Will's eyesight was restored, the nano-cytes could have worked for me too?"
She seemed on the verge of telling him, but instead she just gave him another little grin. "Have a nice trip, Nikola."
Lifting his leg up to the last step, Will hauled himself up and cursed at how weak he still felt even after a week spent in bed. In all honesty that's where he was still supposed to be, but he just couldn't think of spending anymore time there when there was a whole world full of color, light and beauty waiting just outside for him to get reacquainted with.
Giving himself a moment to catch his breath, he vowed to himself to start working out more as soon as Magnus would let him, then maybe a simple flight of stairs wouldn't leave him so winded.
Now that he had reached his goal, Will inhaled again deeply, enjoying the freshness of the air. It had recently rained, the air still holding the clean and earthy smell that it had brought with it. And now the clouds were parting and giving way to a deep shade of orange and red as the sun began its decent beyond the horizon. It couldn't have been a more perfect sight for him.
He adjusted his new glasses , even though they were thick as coke bottles, he couldn't complain. Dr. Rauch had assured him that he could wear contacts again when he was fully recovered and he was grateful that he could see perfectly clear with them on and besides, he'd worn glasses since high school, so they were nothing new, just a bit stronger. Will still had to grin at the older doctor's expression of disbelief when he came by to exam him the other day and saw the dramatic change in his eyesight. To say he was flabbergasted would be putting it mildly. Thankfully, the aging ophthalmologist didn't push for an explanation, knowing that if it involved Magnus' work, then she would most likely keep it quiet unless he needed to know.
Finding a dry spot, to sit down, Will looked out over the edge of the roof's parapet and gazed at the city below, lights were just beginning to flicker on around the town as twilight approached and he took in the view, never believing that he could have ever once taken such a scene for granted.
He sighed in appreciation of the new world open up to him.
"I thought I might find you here." Helen announced her presence from behind him and he turned around to watch her stride up to him and perch herself next to him. "Seems like I have to keep looking for escapees today."
"Sorry...just didn't think I could stand another minute in bed."
"Actually, I was going to suggest some time outside when I got back, so you've saved me the trouble. However, it's a little chilly out, could you not have at least taken a coat?"
"Cluck, cluck, cluck, mother hen." He kidded her and she grinned back. "I'm fine."
They sat for a few minutes in companionable silence until Helen spoke up again, turning her attention back on Will. "So...I have it under good authority that there are some creatures in Mexico that require some investigation. Apparently they have been causing some havoc and I feel that we might need to go and do some observation to determine what needs to be done about them. That is if you think you'll be up to it in a week or so."
"As long as it's not a rainforest, count me in." He could feel his excitement grow knowing that he would soon be back at doing the job he had missed so much.
"So, what kind of creatures are they, and please don't say giant, man-sized lizards." He had to ask.
She chuckled at that and slid him a sly grin which told him that there was something deeper going on than just your normal abnormal. "Actually, they're a rather nasty flock of seagulls stealing chips from tourists in Cancun... This could get dangerous. We'll have to go in deep under cover, pose as tourists, drink cervesas and lay around getting tans...."
Damn, but she could pull off a dead-pan delivery and he found himself laughing. He never in a million years thought that Magnus would ever try to prank him before it was just too rich. "Is this you asking me to go to the beach with you...as in a vacation?" He asked in disbelief. "I didn't think you did vacations."
"Well, I could always take Henry instead...."
"Don't you dare." He laughed again to himself, imagining Magnus wearing a bikini and chugging Coronas while lazing around, it was almost an absurd image, so contrary it was to her character.
"If you're thinking that you'll be seeing me in a two-piece, you've got another thing coming." She came back quickly as if she was reading his mind.
She could show up to the beach in a paper sack for all he cared, this was almost too good to be true and he'd take what he could get.
"Well then, abnormal seagulls here we come."