Chapter 5

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Once the thirty minutes of work out time was over, the group was split up and sent into separate rooms with each of the guards. Sara was surprised to see that Eva went with Erika, shooing the guards away from her. She muttered something to the guards and they led away the others: Sara, Callum, Devin, Jay, and a younger girl with the climbing abilities of a monkey who was called Rebecca. Each guard selected a different child and took them into a smaller, more scientific training room full of expensive software.
   Sara was given new clothes to change into with long strips along the back of the shirt so that her wings didn’t have to be trapped within the material. She was also given a pair of tracksuit bottoms along with some sports trainers. The guard gestured over to a small room that was hidden only by a flimsy plastic curtain, but at least it was a moment of privacy for her so that she could get changed in peace.
   “Miss Worthington,” the guard said in a deep, husky voice, “Please hurry.”
   Sara was surprised by the guard’s politeness but wasted another few seconds ensuring that her shoelaces were tight. She then turned to view her image in the floor-to-ceiling mirror that was to the left of the curtain. Shocked, she reached for her hair, raking through it with her fingers in a moment of pure panic. Her hair had begun to change colour, from her usual honey blonde to a muddy shade of brown.
   “Why is my hair different?” Sara said aloud to her reflection.
   The guard, worried, ripped the curtain aside and focused his eyes on Sara. She looked quite surprised if anything – it was the most emotion he’d seen in the girl so far. It was a reminder to the guard that she was still a human, not a mutation or a subject as Eva had so often called them.
   “It’s probably an effect of the DNA strand,” the guard shrugged, “We don’t have time for this, hurry up.”
   He dragged her towards a treadmill and positioned her hands onto the silver part of the handle before prodding his short fingers at the touch screen wired to the treadmill. He set a time as well as a limit to the speed that the conveyor could move at, and then placed a small leather strap around Sara’s wrist which was wired to a heart-rate monitor.
   “You will run for an hour, non-stop, at a speed that suits you,” the guard said.
   Sara nodded just as the conveyor below her began to move. She was practically walking at first, but soon found herself jogging – each step springing her into a momentary flight. It was quite the rush for the first few minutes, almost as if she was free again, but soon it began to hurt. Her thighs burned as her muscles stretched and relaxed over and over with every movement she made. Of course, she’d paced herself badly, but there was no stopping now – just like the guard had warned her. It was an unexpected method of torture, but an effective one.
   The machine to her left bleeped in time with her beating heart. The guard watched the monitor carefully, his beady eyes following the erratic green line darting across the screen. Sara tried not to notice it but she pain was becoming unbearable. She flashbacked to her change; she remembered the burning once she’d been injected with the serum and the choking agony as her back tore open. Shaking her head, she stumbled and fell onto her side next to the treadmill.
   “Get back up, Sara,” the guard’s voice had hardened, “You need to finish the hour.”
   Sara wanted to protest or complain or merely continue to lie on the floor, but she found herself getting to her feet. Her knees were weak and shaking. Nevertheless, she got back onto the conveyor belt and focused on the roughness of it under her feet. She took her first step on it, feeling the floor slide away from under her. She took another step, and then another, just like before – and then she was running.
   “Keep going,” the guard spurred her on gently, “Don’t stop – just twenty one minutes left.”
   Twenty one minutes, or one thousand two hundred and sixty seconds, seemed to tick by with deliberate slowness. Still, Sara held out until the end and was grateful when the conveyor beneath her feet came to an abrupt halt. The guard didn’t say anything. Instead, he began to analyse the data that had been recorded by the machine and copy some of the figures into a handheld touch screen.
   “What are you doing?” Sara asked him, only to be ignored.
   She approached him carefully, peering over his shoulder at the digits. They meant nothing of her but seemed to be of the utmost importance to the guard, who snatched them away from her view. He scowled at her, his eyes darkening.
   “It’s none of your business,” he growled.
   “Well, actually, it is my business,” she retorted angrily, “I made those stupid numbers.”
   The guard ignored her again, continuing his work as if she wasn’t even there.

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