In a dystopian America, Trinity Shire, and three other teenagers are taken captive by the government to be used as scientific experiments. The scientist plan on making the "perfect human". They strive to create someone that is able to conquer anything. They spent years perfecting a chemical that could wash out the mind of a human so they can't think for themselves. They plan to build an army of mindless power machines, but will they succeed? Copyright © 2013 by Cassidy McClurkan,
All rights reserved


22. Chapter Twenty one


The tickle against my shoulder wakes me with a start, but my heart settles once I realize it's only Griffin. The chair beneath me vibrates slightly as the car hums.

"You're back soon." I say with a smile.  He nods as he helps me out of the tailgate. Lance is already in the car, and I smile at the back of his head remembering the moment we shared. I slide into the car, in-between Lance and Griffin. My bones are weary, but my mind is awake. I rub my eyes, hoping it will file away my thoughts and put me to sleep because it usually does. But this time, it doesn't. 

For nearly hours I shift in the seats of the truck restlessly. I put my feet on the dash board, sit on my knees, sit half way off the chair, sprawl out in all directions, rest my head on the dash board, and each time I move, I mentally say to myself, surely this will be comfortable. And each time I think that, I prove myself wrong. 

"No point in sleep anymore." Griffin's voice interrupts my train of thought; "We’ll be in Georgia soon." The statement prods my curiosity, and I look at the clock. It's been nine hours in the truck. 

"How much longer?" 

"Five more hours." he looks over to me, a smile plastered on his face. "And I can't wait to get out of this car." 

He taps his fingers against the steering wheel in anticipation. "Think well make it with this gas?" I question.

"Yeah, and if not, I have more in the trunk. I made sure we wouldn't be making anymore stops." I glance back to see a bright red jug tumbling around with each bump in the road. I haven't heard Lance speak in awhile, so I turn to him to find him passed out. His face is mashed against the window, and drool sits on his lip, expanding with each exhale, and shrinking with each inhale. His nose twitches and his legs sometimes bounce. I give a small smile. 

This is the first time I've felt this way. The feeling of warmth bursting though my veins and rushing to my cheeks when he touches me overtakes me. The way his laughter can swing my mood around. The way I'm always expecting the worst, but hoping for the best around him.

Then it occurs to me, I have felt this way before. I immediately bite my lip in shame of what I have done. I kissed someone I hardly knew. Was he just caught up in the moment? Was I caught up in the moment? I remember the way Griffin held my hand when he was about to jump off the building. I didn't know what was going on, but I trusted him. Was that just living in the moment? Trusting somebody I don't know because I can't rely on myself to get out of messy situations? These thoughts fluster my mind, but the one that pulls at me the most is: am I using these boys?

People say love is a game, but I don't believe it is. It's about picking the right piece.



The car pulls into a stop beside a mighty pine tree. The air smells of sap and needles from the trees. I climb over Lance, eager to stretch my legs and aching back. I pop open the door and tumble out of the car. Finally

Griffin yawns while throwing his arms behind his head. "I think I've had enough driving for a lifetime." he says, and I agree. It has been nearly two days on the road, and I'm grateful to be out of that miserable truck. I shuffle my feet against the leaf-covered ground before being able to walk normally. The crisp air kisses my nose, and weaves though my hair. I inhale deeply, not wanting to miss the sweet smell of the earth. 

Lance makes his way toward the back of the truck to collect our things, which consists of ammo, weapons, and a few bags of food. "Lets not take the road way. We don't know how the gangs are down here.” advises Lance. 

We parked the car off the paved road and in the trees. We hope to stay out of trouble while we're here and we don't want people to be looking for us. "Sounds good." I reply while slinging a satchel full of food over my shoulder then slide a pistol in by belt. Lance and Griffin mimic my movements before we head into the trees. 

"Think they already know about the Drones?" Griffin ponders aloud. 

"I'm not sure. I don't think New York has been in contact with Atlanta. I don't even know if they are on the charts anymore." Lance says, "I've heard rumors about an uprising there. So, they took them off the charts." 

I insert myself into the conversation, "What kind of uprising? Why would they fight against New York?" 

"I think they cut back the food supplies there. Since New York pretty much controls all resources, they have the power to cut back on food portions. The question is why would they cut back on the food?" Lance says.

We begin to weave throughout the massive pine trees casually. There is no panic or caution in our steps, and I wonder if that is a good thing.

"Because they saw this coming. The rebellion." Griffin says, "They knew if Georgia found out about the tests they were doing on kids like us, they would disapprove. So they slowly let them go, not having to explain their reasoning."

"Is it nice there?" I feel stupid for asking.

Lance puts his had on my shoulder for a brief moment, sending electricity through my veins. "It used to be, but I don't think it is anymore. I heard that the food has gotten so low that people have started breaking into stores and stealing valuable items to trade for cans of beans. But those are all just rumors, Trinity." 

I don't know how to respond. My mind had built up so much hope for Atlanta. It would be a safe haven, and there would be no reason to fight, but I was wrong. The anger inside of me that has been slowly building up towards the Capital, New York, was about to explode. They took me from my family to run tests on me. They only provide for the wealthy. They let people starve while they consume all they want. They ruined my life. Now I will ruin theirs. 

The thought somehow comforts me, and I suddenly want to join the rebellion in Atlanta. I want to fight against my enemy that has mutilated innocent lives for so long. But the feeling leaves as soon as it comes.

I can’t seem to find my courage.

We travel on no path; we just wander deeper into the forest. The temperature has been dropping, and the leaves are shedding from the trees. I wonder what it will be like this winter if I were back home. I lived on the edge of the Wasteland, almost out of reach of the government, but obviously not far enough.

            All of our shoulders are relaxed and we take it slow. We inhale deeply, taking in the smell of the pines. The forest is silent. The crickets and bats have hidden themselves away from the cold, and I am glad. To be honest, I always thought crickets were annoying.

            “It’s nice to not be on the go,” Griffin says after awhile, “I mean, I feel like all we’ve been doing is running.”

            We all agree, nodding silently to ourselves. The grip on my pistol finally loosens, and I let my guard down completely. There is nothing here. I have developed a smell for danger and I would know if there was someone here.

            The night rolls on and it looks like we have been going in the same direction for hours. Everything looks the same. The needles that have fallen from the trees flood the ground, coating it with a soft dull orange. The tall pines are everywhere, and they hardly differ in size. The cool air rustles the branches above and everything is peaceful until I hear a twig snap.

            The instantaneous noise attracts all our attention. Our muscles stiffen, and I ready my hands. Griffin is slowly pulling the gun off his shoulder, making sure his movements are small so he doesn’t alert any danger.

            We all back against each other, scanning our surroundings. Some leaves jump across the ground and the trees whirl around us as our eyes sweep the perimeter.

            Silence. It can be both calming and sinister. At the moment, it is causing an unsteady feeling inside. Who is out there? It couldn’t be a deer, no. It was too loud for a deer. Has the government found us? I find myself burning with anger and fear.

            I hear the wind tickling the branches of the trees, but beyond that, I hear nothing. The limited light causes shadows of darkness to form all around. I don’t know what I am looking for, so my eyes can’t focus properly.

            My heart throbs in my chest, echoing in my ears. Griffin cocks his rifle.

            “Drop the gun.”  A voice in the darkness barks.

            “Show your face.” Griffin snaps back.

            “I said, drop your gun.”


            The voice disappears almost as soon as it appeared. The words echo in my mind. It is soft and satin like. The words flow together with the voice guiding it.

            A moment drags on; the air still lingers of her voice.

            “We have you surrounded.” She speaks, “so drop your weapons.” Griffin looks at me and I nod. Reluctantly, he thrusts it upon the ground and places his hands on his head.

            “Now show your face.” He demands, but there is no response. I suddenly wish I hadn’t told him to let go of his gun.

            The presence of danger is self-evident. We can hear nothing.

            “The patrol.” Griffin whispers, “They must be here to stop people like us from getting into Atlanta.”

            Long shadows reach out from the roots of the trees. They extend their dark branches over the ground and grab my ankles. The falling leaves are illuminated with the limited light the stars provide. I wish the light would shine on the faces of the predators.

            Everything is silent, even Lance’s breathing is evenly paced so he makes no sound. The ground is silent, not even the slightest shuffle of leaves can be heard. I would close my eyes and try to listen, but I don’t want too. I need to be able to see.

I focus so hard on seeing and hearing, that I am oblivious to the conversation going on around me. I feel stupid, and jerk my head in the direction of the voices.

            “We’re here from New York. We’ve come for safety and refuge.” Griffin reassures the woman.

            “Why New York?”

            “Because,” his voice trails off and I step in, finishing his sentence.

            “Because the government over there has come up with a serum that can wipe away the mind of any human and replace it with orders provided by the government. We are the first of these experiments. We were supposed to die because our test failed. But we are still here. We still have our minds.”

            They must be processing the information, because there is no response for a few moments.

            “How can we be sure you’re not trying to fool us? What proof do you have that let’s us know you have control of your mind?”

            “That’s just a risk you will have to take.” Griffin says.


            The same stillness that haunted us before haunts us now. I sigh with aggravation, but deep inside I know that I would be just as skeptical. I cannot blame someone for trying to protect his or her family.

            “Alright,” she says stepping from the shadows “I’m into taking risks.” The minimum light illuminates the small stubs of hair standing on her head. There are three scars reaching back from her forehead. That must be why she shaved her head. Long scales travel up her arm and disappear around her back. Snakes.

            Golden eyes meet mine. They are fierce like the tigers eyes, and I almost have to turn away. She prowls around us like a lion stalking it prey, but Griffin doesn’t flinch, he stares at her directly, challenging her.

            Her long dark lashes flutter as she looks down and up along our bodies. Her thick shaped brows draw together with curiosity. “Ya’ll are pale.” she exclaims, breaking the tension. “Come on down Liam. These idiots couldn’t take us down.” A cocky smirk lifts her cheeks.

            Griffin leans forward and snatches her wrist, “Don’t think I couldn’t kill you,” He snarls. The young woman merely laughs.

            “Whoa there tiger, no need for death threats.” She says while circling us, “I’m Phoenix. I’m the patrol captain for this squad. Congratulations, you found Atlanta.” She says while applauding sarcastically. The boy Liam walks to her side. His body language states that he is uncomfortable.

            “I’m Trinity,” I stretch out my hand but Phoenix just walks by. I draw it back slowly, hoping no one saw my attempt in friendship.

            “You call this a patrol? Two people?” Griffin says with his arms crossed, clearly disapprovingly.

Phoenix snaps her head toward him, “Why yes, we do call this a patrol. We set out in groups of two or three.”

“Why do you keep staring at us? We’re not animals.” Griffin continues with the unnecessary questions.

“You practically are. You’re experiments that supposedly have “super powers” so don’t look at me like I’m a freak… freak.” she says waving her hand at him.

I smile at her confidence. She is clearly a fearless girl with a lot of spontaneous energy. I wish I could be like her. “So, show me some of your super powers.” She exclaims like a child.

 “It’s not like that—“ I begin, but I’m cut off as she pulls out one of her guns.

 “I need proof you’re here for a valid reason. I have orders to not let anyone in under any circumstances. I’d be taking a risk with brining ya’ll in as it is. At least let me see some fireworks before I get in trouble. Or is it you have nothing to show me? Is this just a trick?” she cocks her eyebrows while teasing her gun.

Lance and I share a quick glimpse before racing to the trees. My fingers claw at the bark, and my shoes strip the tree of its covering. Lance is ahead of me, and I hear Griffin from behind. My muscles are not stiff or aching. They do not tremble under all this pressure instead they burst with power. Within nearly seconds, I’m perched high on a branch nearly four stories above ground.

“Like that proves anything.” Phoenix smirks from below. The sudden urge to prove her wrong flares inside of me. I signal Griffin and Lance to the tree parallel to the one we are on now. They nod, hearing my thoughts. The split up and move to the trees on the opposite side of us, our feet flying over thin branches. We shake the leaves, sending them spiraling downward. Before flinging myself off a tree, I catch a glimpse of Phoenix’s face, which is ridden with worry now. My feet balance perfectly on the branches, and I find myself at my destination in nearly seconds.

Once I’m reunited with my crew, we all glare down at Phoenix and the boy, Liam. All at once, we kick the branches out from under us, launching ourselves into thin air. Gravity immediately takes its toll on us and we spiral towards the ground at maximum speed.

We all land at the same time. Each of us crouched on the ground, looking up to Phoenix. She doesn’t blink, she doesn’t move. She just stares at us, her mouth wide open. “Okay, um. I believe you.” She manages to say. The three of us rise to our feet and lock eyes with her, but this time she doesn’t challenge us. This time she’s submissive. “I’ll take you in, but you promise me that you will follow all my rules. If someone found out I brought in outsiders…” She shakes her head and gives a quick discomforting laugh, “we’re all dead.”

Griffin and I exchange glances. Why do they have such a hard lock down?

She waves her fingers forward, signaling us to follow behind. “We are going to have to pass the guards somehow. I don’t suppose ya'll have any genius ideas on ways to get passing em’ huh?”

We all exchange a smile before splitting up, “Remember, meet me at the second gate,” she separated the leaves in the bush so we could see the gate. “The second gate is always unguarded on the inside. The guards will leave for the distraction and call in reinforcements for this gate. That will take about five minutes, so get here before more guards come.” Phoenix whispered before she started screaming and flailing her arms into the air, gaining the attention of the officers around her.

We all crawl down the main gait, waiting for Phoenix to finish the deceiving act. I could here her voice off in the distance. She is a very convincing actress. “They’re coming! Guns n’ all! You gotta get your men down there now, before it’s too late!”

“Who is?”  The officer replies, her looks at her quizzically

“Did you not hear those gunshots back there? I don’t know who they are but they sure are making a fuss over what they want.” Phoenix says.

The officer glares at her, examining her behavior, “Phoenix are you-“

I fire my gun. This is bound to get his attention. The bullet crackles into the air, silencing the officer.

When I hear the static from the mic hooked around the officer’s ear, I know its time to start the distraction. Griffin, Lance, and I slowly remove our guns from their holsters. I slide the metal back towards me, the guns clicks as it prepares itself for fire.

“One. Two. Three.”

My arm jerks back as the bullets are released into the air. A rally of soldiers comes swarming towards the sound. Their guns, which were once slung across their backs, are now cradled in their arms. Some stand, calling in reinforcements while others crouch down peering through their scopes. They near the woods, leaving the gates behind, unguarded. We fire three times before stopping.

The soldiers venture closer to the woods, with each sound they jerk their guns forward shouting, “Who’s there?” Of course, there is no reply. We then slip back into the woods and race to our rendezvous point. We still have three minutes before the reinforcements arrive, but I push myself forward at maximum speed.

The thick branches of the bushes try desperately to contain me, but I break though them with one heave. I see the gate now; Phoenix and Liam stand by the doors, and are now pushing it open.

I beat Lance and Griffin there, and slam my body against the heavy wood. Two minutes now. “Come on!” Phoenix grunts as she digs her shoulder into the door.

Griffin collides against the wall, opening it just enough to fit us through. “One at a time.” Phoenix states.

I slip though first, then Griffin and Lance. Liam is the last to come through, and he is nearly trampled down by the mass of soldiers flooding through the gates like water bursting through a dam.

He flings himself away from the throng and catches himself on Phoenix. We all cling together as the soldiers file past us. They are completely oblivious to our existence, so we manage to slip back behind the crumbling shacks unseen.

Liam motions us forward, running through the sagging doors of the make shift homes. “Quick, over here.”

I avert my eyes from the women and children sitting helplessly in the corner. They act as if a person breaking into their homes is a daily occurrence, but I ignore the urge to stop and help them. We need to help ourselves now.

Liam leads us through a maze of ruble and ash. The smell of smoke lingers in the air, and shields the moon. A blade of metal severs my shoulder, allowing a warm substance to ooze along my arm. I grit my teeth and keep running. I place my hand over the open wound, feeling the warmth of my blood and then watch as it stains my fingers.

My voice cracks, “Where are we going?”

“Just up ahead to our place,” Phoenix says, she always speaks for Liam. “Not much longer now.”

Everything is grey. Everything: The sky, the ground, the houses, the people, the trees, and the buildings. This must be what it’s like to see through a pair of dogs’ eyes. Every once and while I will see the yellow flames of a fire burst into my peripheral, letting me know that I am not imagining this.

Liam makes a sudden right turn, throwing me off balance for a moment. He flings himself inside a medium built, concrete house. Phoenix is the next one to enter, and ushers us in before violently slamming the door. She tosses her bow to the floor and slings her quiver off her shoulder. She inhales deeply, and stares blanking at the wall, I’m about to ask if she’s okay when she bursts out laughing.

The loud cackle fills the smoke infused air, and then a soft chip joins in. Liam and Phoenix both clutch their stomachs, gasping for air. Lance stares at them, wide eyed, and Griffin grows ridged quickly.

“Did you not see how awesome that was?” she throws her hands in the air, a smile spread across her face. “They didn’t even question us! Ha, we snuck in right past them!” Liam’s face lights up, but instantly fades.

His eyes wander outside the windows. He stands and throws himself against the glass looking out into the grey streets. “House checks! They’re looking for intruders. There’s a patrol coming down the street now.” At the sound of his words, her smile also disintegrates, and she launches to her feet.

She checks the time on her watch, then grabs us by the shirts. “They don’t know about the cellar yet do they?”

“No,” Liam replies, and that’s enough for her. She tosses the tattered rug to the side and props open the cellar door. She grabs us all by the shirt and shoves us down into a pit of black.

“Stay quiet, and don’t make a sound. It’ll be five minutes before they get here for house inspections,” she glances at her watch again, “make that three.” we share a weary glance, then she closes us in complete darkness.


The sound of boots shuffling across the wood floor causes my body to grow stiff. The wood creaks, moaning as the soldiers let their weight into the panels. I press my back against Griffins chest, and to my surprise, his heart is not steady as it usually is.

A small sliver of light shines through one of the gaps in the flooring, showering dull rays across our eyes. Small particles of dust dance in the spotlight, slowly flickering back and forth, but it seems like they freeze as soon as a soldier stands above the cellar.

I stare deeply into Griffin’s eyes, asking him if there is any way out, but he only looks down, telling me this is all. So we wait.

I turn my head upward, listening to the conversation upstairs. “Why is there another house inspection? This is a little uncalled for.” Phoenix spits.

“This is protocol, Phoenix, it has to be done.” Says the man above. By the way she speaks to him, she must have some kind of relation with him. “Did you hear the alarms? There was a shooting outside, we’re checking all houses to make sure they aren’t hiding.”

She doesn’t reply, and I’m guessing she’s crossing her arms and glaring right now. “Why weren’t you out there? The rest of your group was.”

She’s still silent, as if looking for an excuse. When she speaks up, she says, “I figured that there was already enough troops out there. They didn’t need me.”

The moment of awkwardness drags on, and for a moment I think they might leave, that maybe they have finished the inspection, but I was wrong. As soon as I let myself relax, a voice snaps me back into reality, “Check the house, and I mean thoroughly.”

At his command, the rest of the men scatter around the house. They lift up furniture, and examine the floors. I cringe as more light shines in. They have removed the rug covering the cellar. They will find us now. I bite my lip, praying for a miracle, but it’s no use. Before I can finish my pleading, the door creaks open, exposing us in the light. The first thing I see is a young man. His long blonde hair is pulled back into a slick ponytail. His eyes burn into mine, and his brows tighten around them, causing his dark brown orbs to shrink. He examines us all closely, as if he is filing away our appearance in his brain. His lips curl into a evil smirk, “Sir, I found what we were looking for.” 

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