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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20. Chapter 19

 

A few days had passed and Erika knew that Sara was exhausted. They’d made the occasional trips out of the cave, setting up traps with rope to catch small animals that lived in the woods. They’d learnt that Elise’s adaptations made her able to hunt of her own accord, living off everything from young deer to beetles. She gave most of the meat to the hybrids that she’d taken, revealing how some of the Leader’s guards were on her side. She’d offered them money and power, and they’d offered her their loyalty. It was a simple game, she’d said, and one that involved nothing more than manipulation.
   “Hares,” Devin said simply.
   He was holding a rope from which two hares hung by their feet. They were scrawny, dishevelled looking creatures with piercing eyes, and limp fur that resembled an old carpet. Devin didn’t look much better. He had grazes on his face from where he’d brushed up against the jagged rocks. Elise could see perfectly at night, and therefore had no problem navigating the cave, and only provided light for the hybrids. When the flares ran out, they began to look for ways to illuminate the rest of the cave, but it had failed. Not that it mattered anyway, it was only a temporary residence.
   “Hand ‘em over,” Callum replied, kneeling over a small fire, “I’ll do it.”
   Jay made a deliberate lunge for the bedraggled creatures and made long slices through their fur. Callum smiled gratefully before tearing the skin away, trying to keep the flesh as intact as possible. Sara watched him from the corner, completely unresponsive to the sight of gore, unlike Ruby who had turned away from it in disgust. She’d changed a lot since her time with Elise, traumatised by her experience.
   “I need a bit more wood,” Callum stated, wedging the first hare into place above the crackling flames.
   “Here,” Eva handed him a bundle of dried twigs, “I couldn’t find much.”
   Callum muttered darkly, “I can see that.”
   The atmosphere was more tiring than their living conditions. They could barely make a few hours without having an argument, and everyone seemed to be holding onto a grudge with whatever strength they had left. Erika craved to feel the water on her skin once again. It was difficult enough getting some down her throat, not to mention the experience of being engulfed by it. Elise’s arrival stopped her thoughts in their tracks. She smelt out the meat, taking her share and then distributing the rest among the others. Usually, she didn’t speak, but today she had a sense of authority. Her very presence demanded attention; it was impossible to resist.
   “Elise,” a voice croaked, “please let me out.”
   The hybrids had strengthened so much now that they were beginning to leave their cells, some were even leaving the cave to help collect water from a small stream seeping down through the rocks. However, they were quite friable. The others tended to tiptoe around them as if they were made of glass, ready to shatter at any moment. It was disheartening to see that they were still weak, but they continued to feed from the hope that they would soon be strong enough to begin their mission.

*

Anastasia smiled as flicked through document after document on Eva’s old computer. It had been terribly easy to gain access, nothing was delitescent here. She considered planting files to accuse Eva of the needles in the bins but there was nothing to achieve from such an act – Eva had already left, betrayed the Leader in a humiliating manner. Adding more fuel to the fire would do nothing for his mood.
   A small search box appeared in the bottom right corner, flashing grey a few times before turning black. Anastasia stared at it for a moment before typing one word: guards. Multiple accounts came up, all completely unprotected. After all, Eva’s server was connected to everyone’s. She had been granted access to everything – much to Anastasia’s delight.
   “Excellent,” she whispered.
   She moved the mouse across the smooth wood of the table, ignoring the grating sound that it produced. The screen went a fuliginous shade for a moment as she loaded the files for a random guard in the main squad. A hint of panic swarmed in her eyes before hundreds of tiny icons flooded the screen, handing her any information she needed. She scrolled through folders until she stumbled across an unnamed folder; it appeared blank but she found that it was actually full of documents named ‘the fertility project’.
    “Fertility?” Anastasia asked herself quietly.

She accessed the first file, scrolling through pages of irrelevant code before she found what she was looking for. It was a copy of an email, obviously sent from one of the guards to someone named Fox. She skimmed the words, taking in as much as she could. Her eyes widened as the picture became clearer, and the realisation hit her like a runaway train.
   The guards were smuggling the DNA out of the Leader’s personal stores. They were being taken to Fox for experimentation, so someone else wanted rid of Justice. She grinned at the very thought of rivalry and how the Leader would respond to this knowledge, convinced that she would be greatly praised for uncovering such a scandal.
   And it had been going on right under the Leader’s nose.

*

It was the eleventh day when a guard arrived from the compound, clutching new oil for the lamps and some paperwork relating to the locations of new Justice Factories. He scurried into the cave with a torch balanced precariously on his shoulder, shouting for Elise. She responded instantly, meeting him in the clearing and taking the new data. Her eyes darted across the pages, absorbing the information they contained at superhuman speed.
   She thrust the papers at Sara: “Read these.”
   Sara handed them out between Erika and Jay and they began to read, carefully taking in the coordinates for the main technicians for Justice, along with the addresses of the factories. They were thrilled to know that one was only a few days’ drive away, but this set in a new sense of fear. The guard had begun to talk to Elise in a hushed, uneasy tone.
   Eva returned with Callum and Devin, surrounded by new, alert hybrids, each sporting their own gruesome scars and dirty clothing. She joined her sister instantly, recognising the guard, and filtered herself into the conversation.
   “How long do we have?” Eva whispered.
   “Hours, perhaps. Maybe less.” The guard responded.
   Sara got to her feet: “Until what?”
   Elise turned slowly to face her and then glanced towards the hybrids, “We need to go, now. The Leader knows we’re here. It’s not safe for us anymore.”
   “I’ll get the remaining kids,” Erika shrieked, darting into the maze of enclosures that Elise had constructed for the hybrids.
   “Pack up,” Sara instructed weakly, “put everything we need into the bags and then we’re getting the hell out of here.”
   Devin and Callum sprang into action, mirroring each other’s actions with accuracy. Their movements were fluid and fast, and soon they were loaded up with whatever they could carry. Elise had moved too, bundling all the supplies that she had into her satchel that she slung over her shoulder. Finally, Erika returned with a group of startled hybrids, some of which looked close to death. At least they were standing.
   “Ready?” Sara asked, “Because I’m not sticking around any longer.”
   Elise and Eva met her stare, nodding once sharply. Devin and Callum did the same, followed by Jay, Erika, and finally Ruby. Some of the others were nodding too, but they seemed less sure of Sara’s leadership. Despite that, they were quick to follow her from the cave to where the guard had parked a quad bike.
   “Elise,” the guard said, “take the quad – I don’t need it. I’ll wait here for the forces to arrive, and then I’ll hold them off.”
   “No,” Elise cried, “you can’t. You’ll be killed instantly.”
   The guard shook his head in disbelief, “Everyone dies someday.”
   “Not today,” Elise growled.
   He pushed her away and drew a gun for his belt, ushering at the others to mount his bike. Sara chose to fly, and fox removed her military boots to reveal paws. She was going to run. Some of the other hybrids chose to run with her despite their ordeal; Sara could not help but admire their courage. Erika was driving one of the bikes, crushing her body up against the handlebars in an attempt to fit an extra person in her seat. Devin was preparing to run beside Sara, tuning into the lion within him. Callum was close by, but looked a lot less comfortable than the others.
   “I’ll lead,” Sara said, “don’t stray from the road without my say so.”
   She extended her wings and leapt into the air, suspended by the resistance provided by the luxurious white feathers all around her. The hybrids all looked up at her, even Eva, who was on the same quad as Jay.
   “I know that there’s not enough space for transport to be possible. If anyone gets tired, swap with someone willing to run for a while. It’s not going to be easy,” Sara froze, taking a deep breath, “but it’s this or certain death. You decide.”
   When no one objected, she let her body fall through the air for a moment before finding her perfect position and propelling herself forwards. The quads snarled, clawing at the ground as they shot after her. Sara could barely hear the footfall of the runners, but when she looked over her shoulder, she was faced with an army. Her army. 

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