{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.


1. Prologue



The event had exceeded expectations by even occurring in the first place, the fact that it remained a secret was an added bonus. People had flooded into the oversized conference hall, taking seats in a state of disarray as they wondered exactly what they were to be addressed about this evening. Of course, everyone had already signed the binding contract on the way in, an oath to keep any details about the meeting a secret. That gave away the importance of the information there that night, and only added to the eccentric hum of curiosity coming from the crowds.
   “Ladies and gentlemen,” the male’s voice over the loudspeaker silenced the banter taking place within the hall, “May I invite you all to take a seat.”
   The expected scurrying broke out at once. A quiet murmuring began again until everyone had settled down into a row of their choice. The seats of which the people had been offered were presented quite alike those at the cinema, offering a lone armrest per person and the risk of the seat suddenly deciding to fold in upon itself.
   So the hall had been rented a matter of hours before the meeting had begun.
   The man behind the loudspeaker took to the stage and stood alone behind the blood red curtains. He was seconds away from making a speech that would result in his death if he could not convince his audience to support his ideas. He’d worked so hard for more years than he could remember on what was now his proposal to the audience, which were now potential business partners.
   Or traitors.
   The curtains creaked uneasily as they moved in alternate directions, revealing the man to the crowd ahead. He stepped forwards, his heeled shoes loud against the wooden stage. A microphone was already set up for him, centre stage, as he’d requested. Lowering his chapped lips to it, he cleared his throat, hearing the sound ring out through concealed speakers all around the hall.
   “Ladies and gentlemen,” he repeated, “Welcome to the meeting that could change your life forever. I have a proposition to make to you all.”
   The man stepped to his side, gesturing to a member of staff lurking backstage. It was a woman, neatly dressed in a white shirt and grey pencil skirt. She wheeled a larger board onto the stage, coated in scientific images of what appeared to be human cells from numerous parts of the body.
   “This diagram shows a mutated cell. Specifically, it has been genetically modified to host certain strands of animal DNA.” The man’s voice was slightly muffled as he stood at a new angle to the microphone, “And this is just one of the many capabilities I wish to open your eyes to this evening.”
   From the other side of the stage, a second board was wheeled on, squeaking loudly until it came to a standstill to the left of the speaker. This board showed photographs of experiments. Some were instantly recognisable, such as clones of livestock that had later gone on to triple in size and die. Another was a mouse that had a human ear growing on its back. The man did not seem to have any interest in these images. Instead, he ripped a single photograph of a woman from the board and held it up for the audience to see. She was brutally disfigured with long, canine fangs and yellowed fingernails. Her skin was cracked and dry, appearing to flake away in places like scales.
   “This,” he paused for impact, “Is what we are really capable of! We do not need to manipulate animals to do our bidding. It is humans who we should be experimenting on. They can give us everything we need – workers, spies, and killers.”
   He stopped his speech, watching anxiously for the expressions of the people sat in front of him. Many had a smooth poker face, naturals in the field of villainy. Some, however, were leaning slightly out of their chairs with interest. Others were repulsed, and this was made clear by the furious reddening in their cheeks.
   “So to some, this is barbaric. I can see why you may think so now, but just look around you.” Yet again, the man paused to judge the reactions of his audience, “We are all superior to many individuals in modern society. We could use the thieves, the arsonists, and even the murderers to our advantage. They could be mutated.” 

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