Chapter 21

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The sound of Callum’s cries woke her immediately. She threw her head to the side, eager to check on her friends. Everyone was still asleep, curled up in the dirt, close enough to defend each other in an emergency. Sara shook her head at the very thought of an emergency – she had become so paranoid. 
   “Sara!” Callum yelled again. 
   She rose to her feet, choosing to walk the short distance to the shack, where Callum was waiting eagerly. He grabbed her by the wrist, dampening her skin with his sweaty palm, and pulled her under the computer desk. Sara flapped her hands at him in disgust. 
   “What the hell are you doing?” 
   Callum rolled his eyes and pointed up at the screen. He began to type, carefully decoding the security settings until pages and pages of information flooded their eyes. Some of the pages contained detailed images of the technology within the machines. 
   It was fascinating to Sara as she read the scanned-in handwriting of the designers who had labelled intricate circuits with comments about things she didn’t understand. It must have taken a very gifted mind to invent some of the detailed creations she was seeing. She felt like she should look away, as if she was prying on someone’s most personal possessions, but her eyes remained locked on the dazzling screen. 
   “There,” Callum said, freezing the screen, “look at that.” 
   Sara stared, but was completely confused: “What?” 
   “There,” Callum pressed a few keys on the keyboard with a groan, “the address.” 
   She grinned, unable to hide her immediate satisfaction. She patted Callum on the shoulder affectionately, laughing quietly at his talent. Her hands fell upon a pen resting on a nearby shelf and she jotted the location down on her arm. The ink smeared slightly but it was still readable. Callum glared at her. 
   “There was paper in the printer, you know.”


Fox sat outside the door of the shack, hidden by a shadow that was a matter of millimetres wider than her scrawny frame. She could hear Sara and Callum discussing the plan of action for when the others woke up. However, she was against the idea, and knew the truth about their situation. They were going on a wild goose chase, and Fox knew it. She pulled a small communications device from her pocket, tapping the screen impatiently, before typing a long message into a white rectangle: 
   I am still alive, however my plan to produce embryonic hybrids failed. I will report to base at my next available opportunity. The cave is no longer a safe zone. Do not return there at all costs – Calox will be waiting. I intend to bring some guests. Fox. 
   The message sent within seconds of being written. She didn’t think twice about sending it; in the long term it would be more beneficial. After years of isolation, she had gotten used to looking after herself. She had no regard for many of the hybrids. In fact, it was quite pitiful that she actually thought some of the runaways could be a threat to her. She was fast and strong, and had survived on her own excellently so far. There was nothing for her to fear.


Waking the others was something Sara had been looking forwards to for hours. The moment the sun touched the horizon, kissing it with a golden glow, she revved one of the quad bikes. Jay woke first, rolling over onto Devin’s arm who grumbled with disapproval. There were marks in the ground where Jay had fidgeted in the night, clawing at the dirt. He had never been the most peaceful sleeper, but it was clear that their constantly ignited stress levels was having an effect on him. 
   “What is it?” Jay grumbled, “I hope you’ve found something good.” 
   “We have,” Callum said slowly, waiting for the others to stir from their slumber, “we have found Justice.” 
   Devin jumped up in amazement, stumbling helplessly for a moment. He looked genuinely proud of his brother, running into his arms like a child. He'd never expected that Callum had the same computer-based skills that he did, nor that he'd even listened to his long rants about decoding databases. They embraced for less than a second before regaining composure and nodded politely at one another. Devin had always been the more controlled of the pair but now he was shaking excitedly with a manic grin on his face. He looked slightly psychotic with his filthy, matted hair and dusty skin, but Callum dismissed the thought. 
   “Justice itself? The creator?” Devin asked eagerly. 
   Callum nodded, “the big guy himself.” 
   Devin gave a cry so loud that it startled anyone who still wasn’t fully awake. One of those was Erika, who shrieked in response to being awoken so suddenly. Her eyes locked on the little gathering of Sara and the twins and she ran over to join them. There were dark circles framing her eyes, contrasting the abundance of energy that she seemed to have.  She caught on to their conversation immediately and began to squeal in delight, which caused Jay to clutch his ears. 
   “What did I miss?” Fox said coolly as she joined them, along with Eva. 
   “We found the location of the leader of Justice.” Callum informed them, “I broke into the database that they tried to destroy.” 
   Eva shook her head in disbelief; Callum had no intention of taking a breath.
   “We can go find him, and then find a way to take over the machines. We can save the world!” Callum cheered, dancing around like a young child. 
   “That sounded so cheesy,” Devin said with a smirk. 
   Sara rolled her eyes at the boys before smiling across at Eva. She looked troubled by something beyond her control, and if she wasn’t in control, nor was Sara. It could mean danger for the group – a risk that Sara was unwilling to take. She discretely moved to Eva’s side, gesturing at her to move away from the celebrating hybrids. Her last intention was to ruin the positive atmosphere that was spreading like a rare, infectious disease. 
   “What’s going on?” she demanded. 
   They were out of earshot but Eva’s face contorted with worry. She glanced towards Fox, who had an arm draped around Erika’s shoulders as they did some sort of victory dance. Sara noticed the motion and gave Eva a shove in the shoulder. 
   “What was that for?” Eva snapped. 
   “I’m the one asking the questions – just give me an answer.” Sara retaliated. 
   Eva cleared her throat whilst her mind desperately searched for the words to say to make it all better. She had a way out, the promise of a new life. It was a direct path to paradise, or wealth, not that she ever noticed a difference between the two. She had an appetence to lie but found her lips spilling the truth – as if they were working against her. 
   “Fox has contact with Justice. She has since the very beginning.” Eva’s eyes found the floor between her feet and locked on it, “We’ll go to the location on the computer because it was deliberately only partially destroyed. It was meant to be a challenge – we were supposed to find it.” 
   “You mean…” Sara whispered in horror. 
   Eva swore under her breath: “Of course that’s what I mean, Sara. Don’t be so naïve. They’ve been one step ahead of us since the very beginning – nothing’s changed.” 
   “Your sister has,” Sara said, “and you can either change with her, or you can do what’s right. It’s up to you, Eva, but I’m not going to sit around and watch the lives of those children been taken.” 
   “Have you ever wondered if you’re out of your depth?” Eva asked softly.
   “Every day,” Sara confessed, “but personally, I think they’ve gone through enough. Even I’ve gone through enough. Someone has to take control, and it looks like they chose me.” 
   Eva seemed to be fighting some deep desire. Her eyes darted between Fox and the ground, a clear sense of conflict behind her worried smile. Fox caught her gaze for a second and Sara clearly saw her expression fall into one of fury. She knew that Eva had confessed. Their sudden closeness was finally clear to Sara, and she was in the line of fire. Fox walked with her arms outstretched, pushing through the crowd that had gathered around Callum with a sense of dread. She fought through to the other side, using them as a shield between herself and Sara, before taking the communications device from her pocket. She tapped the screen as she had the night before, desperate to send for back up. 
   When the keyboard finally rose up from the bottom of the screen, her fingers flew across it, forming a message that would surely put an end to Sara’s meddling. At first, Justice’s power had scared her, but they saw her potential – just like the Leader had. Except, Justice had already taken over the world. The Leader hadn’t. She wanted this opportunity, and she wasn’t going to let her ex-guinea pigs ruin it for her. 
   Justice, it’s me, Fox. Send for back up immediately. My cover’s been broken – I can’t face this many alone. I need about thirty of the soldier machines. Check the coordinates from this device for my location. Hurry.
   Fox became aware of the ever quietening hybrids behind her. She turned slowly, raising her hands in a surrender. In her left hand, she clutched the small device. They were completely unaware that it was transmitting her exact location as they watched her. 
   “Drop it,” Ruby demanded. 
   Fox let the device fall to the floor, following its path with her eyes. The second it touched the dirt, she began to run. She went left, away from the shack, and towards the long road that ran parallel to thick forest. Once she concealed herself amongst the trees, she would be undetectable, and could lie in wait until the machines picked off the hybrids. She was aware that Sara would fly circles over the canopy until she spotted her or was shot down. Fox was confident that the machines would eliminate the biggest threats first. 
   “Get her, quick!” Devin cried. 
   The war had begun.

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