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Chapter 18

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   “Elise?” Eva whispered, “You’re dead – you can’t be here.”
   “Oh but I am,” the woman snapped, “just to show the Leader how infantile his ideas really are. He’s taking the meticulous route, unable to think outside of the box.”
   “Is this what all of this is about? Revenge, Elise, really. Now who’s the infantile one?” Eva retaliated, a snarl creeping into her sinister tone, “You’re taking cells from children, already affected by the Leader’s sick little game. Is this what you are?”
   Elise growled, “You have no idea who I am. My name is Fox now, Elise died long ago. Besides, you took her place at the Leader’s side like a lost sheep, and you stand there now trying to make me feel guilt.”
   Elise was incredibly disfigured. She had ears and whiskers, as well as a beautiful fox’s tail which flicked back and forth. Her nails were claws and the backs of her hands were covered with fur the same colour as her tail. When she opened her mouth to speak, there were long, sharp teeth sticking out of her blood red gums. She looked vicious, but Ruby still felt sympathy. After all, her mutation was unnoticeable on the outside, unlike Elise who couldn’t ever hide the changes that had come.
   Devin swished his tail, an action that went unnoticed by everyone except Callum. They stepped forwards simultaneously, finding themselves on either side of Elise, and both lunged for her at once. Instead of capturing her, they collided, as Elise had moved backwards with inhuman speed. She lunged forwards, knocking them both clean off their feet and into the dust at Eva’s feet.
   “This is what you bring to me, Eva.” Elise chuckled, “You betrayed the Leader to run with a group of children. You’re as useless as ever, putting your faith in whoever makes a stand, no matter how weak.”
   “They’re not weak,” Eva said icily, “they’re stronger than you’ll ever be. They were strong enough to escape the Leader, strong enough to find you, and will be strong enough to take down Justice.”
   “Save the cheesy speech,” Elise rolled her eyes, “it’ll be years before the makers of Justice are put in their place. The seven of you aren’t going to do it alone.”
   Sara pushed Eva to one side and walked straight towards Elise, who did not move. She extended her wings to form a divide between her friends and her enemy, as well as shield them from anything Elise may do. She could have many weapons concealed, and was already beginning to lose her temper. Something that she was about to say could easily send her over the edge.
   “If we’re not going to do it alone, come with us. The Leader ruined you, held you back when you could have stood tall. You’re one of us – a hybrid – not a human.” Sara spoke as persuasively as she could, using her words to manipulate Elise, “You could prove your worth, not just to the Leader, but to the whole world. All you’d have to do is fight for it.”
   “So the count would go from seven to eight,” Elise mocked, “not the best odds.”
   “Forget the odds,” Sara replied, “they’re machines. They have tactics, controls – they’re nothing like us. They can’t devise new methods, they have no brain, and no heart.”
   Elise snorted, “And I do?”
   Sara nodded, “I think so. If you didn’t, you would have killed us all by now and got on with you day. These hybrids could help us, everyone you have down here, I mean. We could get them fit and healthy, and that’d leave us with how many, Elise? Come on, do the math.”
   A moment of silence fell between them as Elise thought on Sara’s proposal. She glanced back at some of the heavy gates, each separating her from a hybrid. Many were collapsed, sprawled out on the floor like corpses. It was quite a morbid sight. Elise’s lips moved rapidly, letting no sound escape them as they shaped into words.
   “We’d have a small army of around a hundred,” Elise replied, “give or take.”
   “Would you join us?” Sara questioned, keeping her hope out of her tone.
   Elise gave a curt nod, looking resentfully at Eva over Sara’s shoulder: “I will need about a week – along with sufficient food and water – in order to get them prepared to journey.”
   “We can sort that out.” Sara insisted, reaching out with one hand.
   “Let’s hope so,” Elise replied, grasping her hand firmly and shaking it.
   Sara let her wings fall back to her sides, tucked into their resting position. Erika shot her a look but Sara knew that she’d made the right decision. All doubt had slipped from her mind now, and she was feeling a lot more confident about her future run-in with Justice.


The Leader stood with Anastasia in his office once more. She’d altered to the extent that even the guards would jump at her every command, quite the little leader. However, she reminded him so much of Eva that she still angered him. He wanted revenge, not a replacement, but for now – at least the paperwork was no longer cluttering his desk.
   “Sir,” Anastasia said softly, “is there anything else that you require from me?”
   “No,” he said abruptly.
   Anastasia did not let her disappointment show, “As you wish, sir. I will ensure the guards aren’t slacking off. Call me if you change your mind.”
   She left the office, only to kick the bin outside the door. It rolled down the hall noisily, scattering its contents across the ground. It was mostly waste paper, but a shimmering object caught her eye. She went over to it, stooped low, and took it between her slim fingers. Recognition ignited within her straight away, after all, she’d worked with thousands of these in her lifetime. It was a needle, and someone within the compound was smuggling animal DNA samples. 

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