Wings

{Shortlisted for the Sony Young Movellist of the Year 2013! - DUE TO BE EDITED}

Firstly, it was just the prisoners that were used.

Then it became orphans, and even some of the elderly.

Now it is everyone in a society where people are struggling to find work.

Money is offered to anyone willing to volunteer themselves or their children to take part in scientific trials run by the organisation called Calox.

Except no one ever gets the money.

No one is ever seen again once they've volunteered for the trials.

---- Copyright © 2014 Danielle Paige. All rights reserved.

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16. Chapter 15

 

Ten hours had passed since the five had escaped. They’d found a small secluded woodland in which they had taken shelter, perched in a hollowed out tree, surrounded by roots and dried out leaves. It was cold and every sound made them shrink further into the shadows; it was their first night of hiding from death. The breeze picked up and whistled through the branches like a haunting cry, causing the group to huddle even closer together.
   “This is crazy,” Erika muttered.
   “Calm down,” Sara instructed, wrapping her wings around the group, “Save your energy.”
   They all snuggled into her wings like children into a blanket, holding onto her as their mother figure, and doing their best to maintain an acceptable level of warmth. Sara watched her friends fold into her. She had brought this danger upon them and she was scared of losing them. They were like a second family to her now; she couldn’t lose them – not to Calox and not to Justice. Their presence against her feathers was comforting and helped her, along with the others, drift off to sleep.

*

She knew that the Leader was boiling with an indescribable rage. He had less than thirty hybrids still on the base, imprisoned within their cabins. All of his guards had left the compound to chase down the majority which had escaped. He knew that many had skills beyond his control and their knowledge of fidèle rendered its effects useless; the chances of them being persuaded to re-join Calox were almost non-existent.
   “Eva,” he snapped, “Who caused this? How could this have happened?”
   Eva shrugged, “I am not sure.”
   The Leader slammed his fist down on the table. Her sister had been the same, walking around with her head in the clouds, but good at her job all the same. Sadly, her daydreaming had brought her to her death. Eva would not suffer the same fate. He would not allow her to gain too much power within Calox, as it led only to mistakes. The Leader did not like mistakes.
   “Well, find out,” the Leader demanded, “And ensure it doesn’t happen again!”
   Eva scurried from the office with a sense of guilt. She hadn’t confessed her sightings of one of the twins leaving the main building, holding what she presumed to be a pile of the photocopied letters. The original was still in her pocket, folded tightly into a square. She would dispose of it when security wasn’t so tight – she wanted to remain a trusted figure within Calox for the moment, despite the unending impulse to escape like the hybrids had.
   The feeling confused her more than anything else. She’d actually enjoyed working at Calox; she’d learned so much about science and mathematics and politics than she’d ever thought possible. Even though she had gained such valuable experience, it meant nothing to her. She’d just lied to the Leader who had shot Ford for such disobedience. If she was serious about running away, it would have to be before anyone could notice her lack of commitment.
   “Eva,” one of the guards greeted her, “Is the Leader in his office?”
   She nodded curtly; surprised to see that there were still armed guards on the base. She gestured in the general direction of the office and went to push past him, but a thick, muscled arm blocked her path. Glaring, she shoved hard against his arm but it did not move. He had tensed his entire body, using it as a barricade.
   “You know something,” he leaned closer to her, dropping his voice to a whisper, “And when I find out what, I’ll snap your pretty neck myself.”
   Eva reacted with lightning speed, driving her palm up into his face. There was a sickening crack as she wrenched his head upwards, twisting his short neck with enough force to snap it. His body fell to ground as she released him, watching the last second of his life drain from him. She knelt down beside him and unclipped his keys from his belt along with the three knives and handgun that he was carrying.
   It wouldn’t be long before someone stumbled across the body. They would begin to talk, and the Leader would place her outside of his office at the guard’s time of death. Lying would be a waste of her time – she would be killed instantly. If there was any doubt in her mind about leaving Calox before, in that moment it had been completely forgotten, so she began to run. She held the gun loosely in one hand, keeping low as she crept along the corridors.
   “Eva?” another guard had rounded the corner.
   “What?” she snarled, slipping the gun into the waistband of her jeans, “Can’t you see that I’m busy?”
   The guard stumbled backwards with the force of her voice, shuddering. Eva used her intimidating nature to her advantage by throwing the edge of her jacket over the gun to conceal it. She looked angry and the guard backed away, deciding to leave her alone. She dived into a corridor running perpendicular to the one the guard had taken, choosing to take the quickest escape route.
   It was amusing for Eva as she darted down passageway after passageway to realise that watching all of the hybrids in training had developed her instincts. The slightest noise made her press her body up against the wall, holding the gun boldly forwards with her finger tight on the trigger. She made it out of the building and rushed across the field to the cluster of waiting quad bikes; the gates of the compound were left open due to the guards coming and going all day long.
   “Perfect,” she whispered.
   The quad roared into life the moment her feet touched the pedals, obviously as eager to go as she was. She locked her fingers around the handles of the quad and hoped it had enough fuel in it to get her a safe distance away. The solid ground was rough under the tyres of the bike but the bumpy ride was the least of her worries as she shot through the open gates. Calox was far bigger than anyone on the outside expected. If she was to escape successfully, she’d have to be as discrete as she could.
   It was a brumous day with clouds looming over her, hoping to provide some cover when the guards came searching. The Leader would have helicopters, motorbikes, quads, and as many trucks as he could out looking for her, each full of armed guards. If she was seen, it was game over – and she knew it.

*

Sara wasn’t sure why she left the safety of the tree but it was an impulse and it pained her to ignore it. The others were sleeping, still warm from her wings – safe. She crept silently through the forest, startled to hear an engine heading towards her. Instinctively, she parted her legs slightly and planted her feet firmly into the ground, preparing to fight.
   “Don’t you move,” a voice snarled.
   It was Eva! Shocked, Sara realised that there was the barrel of a gun wedged into the side of her head. The quad had been left running as a distraction, and Sara had fallen for the trap. Cautiously, she raised her arms in surrender, convinced that her action was a wasted one; she was sure that Eva would kill her. Her surprise was clear when the gun was moved away from her head.
   “Where are the others?” Eva’s voice had dropped to a whisper, “I want to help you.”
   Sara was untrusting. Eva had been a predominant figure since she’d been injected with the DNA serum and a valued colleague to the Leader, so why would she leave? Why would she abandon Calox so suddenly after subjecting the hybrids to weeks of training? Sara wasn’t going to let her guard down until Eva revealed her motive, and even then it was unlikely that she would simply lead her to the others.
   “Why?” Sara hissed, “Why are you here?”
   Eva gestured with her arms, “I’m not sure. It’s a feeling, in here.”
   She had pointed to her chest where her heart was becoming more and more desperate to pump blood into the tiniest of her capillaries. Her survival was dependant on support from the hybrids. She wouldn’t last long on her own.
   “In there,” Sara said with a hint of scepticism, “Why shouldn’t I think that you’re just here to capture us or kill us?”
   Eva reached into her belt for the gun she’d taken: “Here, have this if you don’t believe me – shoot me if you feel the need to.”
   Sara froze, holding the gun at Eva in her trembling hands. She’d never killed before and didn’t expect to feel so comfortable with a weapon. She knew that if Eva endangered the other hybrids, Sara wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in her heart. The knowledge scared her. She didn’t want to be a killer but maybe it was the only way to prevent being killed herself; she’d have to take Eva to the others to see what they thought. There was a democracy between them now that needed to be maintained.
   “Come on,” Sara said, “Before the guards notice us.”
   Nervously, Sara pointed the gun in the direction she wanted Eva to walk in. The woman was quick to obey, creeping through the forest with the same care that Sara took, doing her best to keep quiet. If she wanted to draw attention to herself she could but her loyalty was surprising. Sara lowered the gun slightly, gripping it tightly in one hand as they made their way to the hollowed out tree, ready to wake the hybrids.
   “Sara,” Devin growled as they approached, “Where were you?”
   His eyes settled on Eva and he quickly woke the others.
   Callum looked the most alarmed: “Since when did we want to be caught?”
   Sara waited for the noise to die down before she spoke. She knew that her words would not be taken lightly but there was no alternative – they had to know. After all, Sara had always had a strong belief in how enemies should be kept closer than friends, and it was her time to prove herself to her friends.
   “We need to bring Eva into our group,” she explained gently, “She’s been our enemy for a long time, I know, but she’s left Calox and surrendered her weapon. She deserves a chance, one chance, which I’m willing to give.”
   There were worried glances between Erika and Jay, but no one said a word. 

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