Chapter 10

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Two weeks had passed since Ruby had been declared dead. No one had truly been given time to grieve over her, and so they had hidden their feelings in order to get the training done. There were distinct physical changes now visible in each of them. Callum bore a scar just above his wrist from a fight with one of the other boys, and they had all increased in fitness, forming defined muscles and a flat stomach.
   Sara had changed the most. Her eyes were sharp and glossy, like an eagle’s, and her wings had grown slightly and become a lot stronger than they were. She had taken on Erika’s position as leader within the group and had therefore suppressed her emotions the most, making her calm and collected and the figure of authority amongst the five. In nothing more than fourteen days, Sara had grown up.
   “You first,” she ordered, jabbing a finger in the direction of the climbing wall.
   Devin was sulking but followed her instruction all the same by scurrying over to the wall and placing his feet in the footholds as carefully as he could. Sara nodded encouragingly and kept a close watch on his weight distribution. One false move could send him plummeting to the ground and so her wings were extended just in case she had to swoop in for a rescue.
   Devin looked confident as he scaled the wall, more than glad to be rid of the harness he had been practising with. As secure as it was, it was restricting, and the cables always seemed to get in the way. Finally, it was just him and the wall, running parallel to each other and connected only by his feet and hands. The wind rushed past him from the west and one foot slipped, but he’d been expected it and hauled his weight up to the next set of footholds.
   “You’re next,” Sara told Callum who was bouncing from foot to foot and desperate to catch up with his brother.
   “Awesome,” Callum said brightly, “I’ll beat him!”
   The guards overlooking the exercise glanced down at the stopwatch they were holding between them. Devin’s time was good – better than anything they could achieve – but they still couldn’t help but snigger whenever he lost his footing. The others ignored them, determined to get the best time they could without being distracted by petty insults.
   Just as Devin reached the top of the wall, the guard slammed the button down on the stopwatch, recorded the time – one minute and twenty six seconds – and reset it just as Callum ran at the wall. He lived up to his earlier promise and beat his brother but only by four and a half seconds. Next went Jay who made deep slashes through the wood as he used purely his claws to scale the vertical obstacle in a record time of one minute and one second. Rolling her eyes, Erika started her climb only to achieve the same time as Devin, leaving Sara alone on the ground.
   “Go,” the others demanded, perched on the top of the wall.
   Sara ran at the wall, head down and arms pinned tightly against her chest. If Jay could use his abilities to cheat, so could she. With as much strength as she could muster, she took flight and soared high above the wall, and closed her eyes tightly. She stopped flapping the wings stirring up the air on either side of her and fell into the little platform that the others were sat on. Jay scowled at her and mouthed the word ‘cheat’.
   “What’s my time?” Sara yelled down at the guards.
   “Thirty one seconds,” the guards replied, “But you had an unfair advantage.”
   Sara didn’t reply. Instead she stood on the edge of the platform and leaned back into nothingness. It was quite a dramatic scene as she began her free-fall towards the ground and spread her wings at the last minute to slow her descent. With a smile, she landed neatly on the grassy floor, and looked happily up at the others. They grinned back at her and began their own climbs down to meet her at the bottom.
   “What’s next?” Callum asked the guards as he wiped his hands on his trousers.
   The guards checked the list which was secured to a black leather clipboard: “It’s a run around the perimeter. You need to do eight laps, which is sixteen miles.”
   Jay groaned. He hated running and the others knew it, all keeping as far from him as possible. Erika had sworn to tear out his tongue if he didn’t stop complaining, but even that threat didn’t stop him.  As they began their repetitive route around the perimeter, one of the guards leapt onto a quad bike, wielding a taser as he followed them. None of the hybrids even bothered to try an escape so their pursuit was pointless; most of them had decided that Calox’s plan was a good idea after all and were complying as much as they could.
   “I can’t believe this,” Jay moaned as he ran beside Callum, “This is stupid.”
   Callum was quick to retort, “You’re stupid.”
   He chuckled and raced ahead, thinking that he’d rather tire more quickly than be stuck listening to him. Sara was already quite a way ahead, but still unable to catch up to Devin who was incredibly fast. She found the run mediocre, as the ground was too damp for her to fully enjoy herself, even though she still found the course relaxing. The sixteen miles went in a blur as she spent most of them lost in her own thoughts of heroic scenes: breaking into factories, destroying machines, and watching her family go to job interviews. The thought warmed her from the inside out but it soon faded when she slowed to a halt behind Devin, with Callum hot on her heels.
   “That was draining,” Devin said, bending down to touch his toes, “But I feel revitalised.
   Sara laughed at his choice of vocabulary but made no responding comment at risk of offending the boy, who was scratching his tail with an irritated expression on his face. The two brothers shared a bottle of water which was handed out by the guard who had recently parked the quad bike. Sara was handed the second one, and then Erika was given a third as she staggered uneasily over the finishing line. Jay was a mere speck in the distance.

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