Chapter 11

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Sara still wasn’t sure what Eva had meant. She had no idea what game she referred to but had some sort of unavoidable urge to find out. She was convinced that there was a routine behind every challenge, some sort of solvable puzzle, and considered that Eva’s meaning was related to how she had solved the obstacle course.
   “Sara, are you alright?” Jay asked, worriedly, “You look vague.”
   As if shaking out the dilemma that consumed her, Sara shook her head from side to side. Then she smiled innocently at the boy facing her, nodded once, and tried to forget about the riddle forming before her. It was her final week of training and she knew that she would be getting her first dose of freedom for years in just seven days’ time but she didn’t feel excited. She wasn’t even considering escape anymore – none of them were – as instead they had been convinced that bringing down Justice would solve everything.
   “I’ll be fine, Jay,” Sara responded, upon realising that she hadn’t spoken, “I’m just feeling a little run down. Are the others asleep?”
   Jay opened the cabin door and peeked inside.
   “Yes,” he replied, “They’re all snoring.”
   Sara smiled. It was pleasant that the guards had decided to trust them enough to leave the cabin doors open. At first, she assumed that they had made a mistake, but after the third night she had crept over to it and sneaked outside. The guards had noticed her sat on the grass but had said nothing, merely continuing their patrol as if she wasn’t even there.
   “We really should sleep too,” Sara said quietly.
   Jay shook his head: “I can’t sleep tonight. I feel too weird.”
   “Weird?” Sara repeated.
   “Yeah,” Jay said uncertainly, “I feel so reluctant to escape now. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me; I was determined to get away from Calox but now I want to side with them.”
   His silence was tense, so Sara added: “I know how you feel.”
   Jay looked up hopefully, his eyes searching for any untruth in hers before he broke into a grin. His claws extended like razor sharp fingernails and he began to pick at the ground, chipping rocks from the hard soil. He had thought he was alone, weak for trusting Calox, and a coward for not escaping sooner. The knowledge that Sara, the girl he’d come to look up to, was experiencing the same sort of fear made him feel less pathetic.
   “I thought that I was an idiot for feeling that way,” Jay confessed quietly, “I thought I should be wiser because I’m older, and my dedication to Calox was wrong.”
   Sara patted his shoulder gently, “You’re not an idiot, Jay. You’re just working out where your loyalties lie.”

*

Anastasia and Ford had been called to the base to see what the Leader had described as the ‘fruits of their labour’. The journey was long and the terrain was rough but they were delighted to see the beginning of Calox’s plan take shape. When they entered the tall gates, the guards met them with identity passes and card keys for the offices located within the main building. They were both offered quad bikes on which to travel back and forth between the main building and the training cabins.
   “Welcome,” the Leader was waiting for them in the reception, “I have narrowed down the hybrids I was given, leaving a smaller selection of just seventy five to the Alpha Team.”
   Eva appeared from behind him: “Here’s the list of the remaining hybrids.”
   Ford took the list, sighed with relief when he saw Sara’s name, and then handed the sheet over to Anastasia. The names meant nothing to her so she paid them very little attention. Instead, her eyes focused on the second column which contained the DNA sample used and the effect it had. Her eyes widened at some of the results and she found herself nodding in approval at the Leader’s choices.
   “They sound like an impressive bunch,” Anastasia said warmly.
   The Leader smiled brightly: “I can assure you that they are.”
   Ford felt out of place and chose not to make a comment. He was exhausted after the long drive and longed only to collapse within the folds of his duvet. The hybrids were not his concern. He felt no obligation to meet them personally and watch over their progress with the Justice factories, although he knew in his heart that the Leader would be disgusted his lack of interest. Despite this, he was praying for the missions to be a success. He loved working with new technology in a professional laboratory with Calox; however, he wished that one day he could go back to a less controversial position.
   “Would you mind if I rest and then browse the hybrids during dinner?” Ford asked, biting his lip anxiously.
   “No, not at all,” the Leader showed no trace of his annoyance, “The hybrids will be in food hall at six in the evening. The guards will show you the way after your rest.”
   Ford smiled appreciatively, “Thank you.”
   He examined the number on his card key for a moment before stepping around the Leader and calling the elevator. When the doors finally opened, there was a lone guard stood where an empty space should be. From his pocket, he pulled a small, shining revolver and aimed it at Ford’s head. Before he could react, the guard had his finger on the trigger and a loud bang echoed through the room. Anastasia flinched as Ford’s lifeless body collapsed onto the carpet. The Leader did not show any emotion at the sight of the corpse staining the floor but walked over to it to ensure that the deed was truly done.
   A small bullet hole had been made in the centre of Ford’s forehead, leaving a trail of crimson liquid flowing out and into his hair. Still expressionless, he stepped over the body and gestured for Anastasia to accompany him in the elevator. She scurried to his side, selecting her floor from the panel on her right, keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling.
   “Ford was having doubts about Calox,” the Leader explained, “I do not like people who forget their place within the company. We’re a business, ready to take back our planet, and so we only need those willing to stand with us until the end.”
   Anastasia thought over this, before answering: “I agree entirely.”

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