Chapter 7

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The Leader left his office the moment he was informed of the Alpha Team’s arrival. They were quite a talented set of hybrids, as he called them, with lots of useful abilities between them. He had a particular interest in Ruby, the chameleon hybrid, and Sara’s unique visible alterations. However, he knew that there was still a lot of training for them to undergo before they would be the deadly hunters that he wanted them to be.
   He’d already issued the command for them all to go swimming in the lake. Not only would they have to adapt to the cold but it would be good for their fitness, something which interested the Leader. He was going down to the lakeside himself to observe their progress; he wanted to ensure that the guards were strict enough with them.
   He left his office and the door locked automatically behind him; he tapped his jacket pocket to locate the key card. There had been numerous occasions when he had forgotten to pick it up and had to change offices whilst the other was slowly and meticulously broken into. He smiled, knowing that was not to occur this time, and began to pace along the corridors. The carpet was soft under his shoes, and his face was illuminated by small lamps positioned on pine tables evenly spaced apart.
   He called the elevator with the touch of a small grey button. It opened with the ring of a bell and he stepped inside, setting his destination as the ground floor. He winced as the elevator began its descent as it threw his stomach upwards uncomfortably. There was a grinding sound above his head before the elevator stopped and the doors revealed the reception to him. It was a shared view among the hybrids that the reception looked like a hotel lobby, and he couldn’t help but agree as the receptionist gave him a welcoming smile.
   “I’ll be back later,” the Leader said absently, “Be sure that there is a fresh bowl of fruit in my office for when I return.”
   The receptionist nodded, scurrying straight out of the room. The Leader was used to getting what he wanted, exactly when he wanted it, and so left the reception without acknowledging her departure. He found one of the many discarded quad bikes and started it up, powering over the field to the more secure part of the compound. Even from a distance, he could see the two hundred small cabins in which hybrids were waiting to begin their training.
   The quad bike roared, kicking up the grass beneath it as it skimmed over the field. The Leader paid no attention to the noise, as instead, he was enjoying the wind rushing through his chocolate brown hair. It was cold against his face and his lips felt dry, but he didn’t mind. It was one of the small thrills of his life, and one which didn’t happen very often. 
   Upon reaching the facility, he dismounted the bike and made his way over to the lakeside where the six new hybrids had been assembled. Erika was smiling wickedly and rubbing the gills on her neck; she definitely had an advantage over the others. Sara and the twins, however, were looking almost intimidated by the water. Neither eagles nor lions had a strong urge to dive into deep water just for the fun of it, and the animalistic instinct within the trio was beginning to truly take hold.
   The guards were stood around them in a malignant manner, each wielding a different weapon with which to encourage the hybrids to complete their training. The Leader was disgusted. He’d ordered the guards to only use force when it was strictly necessary; they were abusing their position and would suffer the consequences.
   “Guards,” he barked, “I expect you to support the hybrids, not intimidate them.”
   Some of the guards looked away, their eyes clouded by guilt and unease. The Leader had created Calox, and had therefore created their jobs, so they had no right to argue with him. One or two grumbled about his command, but the majority chose to remain quiet and leave him to direct the hybrids.
   “You are no longer ordinary children,” the Leader said to the gathering as he approached, “You are hybrids, the first generation of a mixed species. You are all gifted with extraordinary abilities, brought to you by the fusion of your old DNA with that of an animal.”

He paused, looking over the puzzled expressions of the hybrids. Sara seemed genuinely interested in what the Leader had to say, as her eyes narrowed curiously as he spoke. Devin and Callum had mirroring expressions of discombobulation. The Leader shrugged it off, continuing with his speech calmly.
   “You know what Calox is all about now. You know that we’re creating a race of hybrids to take back our roles within society. You know that we’ve been replaced by machinery programmed to do our jobs for us.” The Leader suppressed his anger, “People are dying out there from starvation, thirst, and disease. We need people strong enough to take back what is rightfully ours – jobs, food, water, and shelter. Surely we deserve that much at least.”
   He strode over to the lakeside and placed one finger into the water. He shivered involuntarily as the chills shot through his veins like ice. He almost felt guilt at the prospect of forcing the hybrids to swim in the lake, but it was soon forgotten when he remembered that he hadn’t finished his speech.
   “And so you exist to serve Calox, and the rest of the human race,” the Leader’s voice elevated dramatically as his emotions spiralled out of control, “You’re not just training to be the best, but you’re training to snatch back everything that was stolen from us. You will be just a selection of the many that will tear down all of the machines and their creators. You are our future.”
   “No pressure,” Erika muttered.

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