Devin was nervous as he wandered through the maze of corridors that led from the food hall into the rest of the building. He had been lucky to get past the guards, but Erika’s dramatic departure from the hall after eating something overly spicy had been an appropriate distraction. There was a bizarre pain in his head as he made his way towards the room he hoped to find. It was almost like a conscience, punishing him for doing something wrong. He gasped as he saw the door and hurried towards it, glancing back over his shoulder for a moment. Assured that he was completely alone, he slowly twisted the handle and peeked inside. Letting out the breath he was holding in his lungs, he entered the room and quietly closed the door behind him.
He found himself in the little office that he had been practising his computer studies earlier. Pleased to see that the computer was still there, he made a start towards it, but jumped as the printer went into standby behind him. He cursed under his breath and sat down. The Calox logo pulsed on the illuminated screen until his fingers began to dance over the keys. He followed the same routine he had before: bypassing the security settings and manipulating the cryptic code until the Calox Network appeared.
“Bingo,” he muttered.
He dashed between keys on the black keyboard, making a constant string of taps that rang out through the room. A search box appeared on the screen in front of him but he did not type anything. Instead, he just started at it and rubbed at the pain in his head. Something wasn’t right – the agony was becoming less and less bearable. He stretched his fingers, carefully typing ‘loyalty’ into the search box and then slammed down the enter key. He cried out as white hot fire exploded in his head. It brought tears to his eyes but that didn’t stop him making out the three results that came up.
All of them were in the same pile, which was named ‘fidèle’. He recognised that the word was in French but had no idea as to what it meant. He opened the first document and found lots of scientific diagrams involving the production of something. To him, it meant nothing, so he closed the page with a sigh. However, the second document loaded a lot more quickly. It was a letter from the Leader to Eva and read:
I am writing with the intention to inform you that the fidèle drug had finally been completed and should be administered to all hybrids immediately. I have dispatched the load and they will be arriving at your base within the hour.
There has been a rather successful trial run at my compound where even the most rebellious of hybrids have become trustworthy companions with their loyalties secured completely within Calox. I take great joy in seeing the numbers converted to our way of thinking, ready to do our bidding. They are no longer afraid to die for the cause. They no longer hate the mutations they have developed. They are, quite literally, faithful.
So far, no hybrid that has been administered the drug has shown any negative effects. Therefore, I proclaim that it is safe and suitable for use straight away. I believe that this is the sort of breakthrough we hungered for – I can finally see an end to Justice.
I would like to thank you for your time and commitment to Calox, and would love to hear of any results when you begin using fidèle.
Devin’s shock escalated a lot more than he’d expected it to. He swallowed uneasily and sent a copy of the document to the printer. It wheezed into life and began to duplicate the page on the computer screen at a speed he hadn’t expected from such an ancient machine. When it was done, he closed down the network, snatched the page, and left the room.
The Leader stood amongst the guards who were tirelessly dropping small white tablets into bottles of water and then resealing them. Through the plastic, it was visible that parts of the tablet seemed to be melting away, as if it was becoming invisible. In fact, it was dissolving in the water, leaving no evidence that it was even there in the first place. It was odourless, tasteless, and undetectable to the naked eye; it was everything that the Leader needed it to be for use on the hybrids.
It had been called fidèle, after the French word for faithful or loyal – traits that he was able to evoke in the hybrids through using the drug. It was the ultimate form of brainwashing. There was no need for extensive repetition and propaganda, or dramatized video clips and psychological manipulation. Instead, it was just a simple tablet that could be crushed into food or dissolved into drinks, and then consumed by the hybrids. It only shielded memories and the ability to question orders, almost as if impenetrable walls were built around rebellious parts of the mind.
“Quicker,” the Leader ordered, “These are necessary for tomorrow’s training sessions.”
One of the guards groaned, but quickened his pace. However, he became cumbersome and knocked a couple of the milky white tablets onto the ground at the Leader’s feet. He braced himself for a blow that didn’t come and bent down to gather the tablets from the floor. There was a grinding sound before a heavy chuck of cold metal was pressed to the back of the guard’s head, pressing his face against the ground.
“If you ever show such insolence again,” the Leader said darkly, “I won’t give you the chance to redeem yourself. Is that clear?”
The guard nodded, feeling the gun sliding against his hair: “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” the Leader snapped.
He lifted the gun from the man’s skull, and discreetly placed the gun into the pocket of his overcoat. He smoothed down the rough, black material in an attempt to fit it to his figure, and then shrugged his shoulders to loosen the thick collar around his neck. Happy with his appearance, he drew his attention back to the production of contaminated water, desperate to ensure that everything was done correctly.
Sara had found no way to bypass the mental pain she was inflicting upon herself, and wasn’t able to come any closer than before to clearing her mind of whatever was blurring her thoughts. The others returned whilst she was in the bathroom, clearing the sweat from her face. Erika rushed in to see her, only to grimace at her trousers hanging from the shower rail, dripping a mixture of water and orange juice. Sara was in her spare pair, leaning over the sink with droplets falling from the tip of her nose.
“Are you sure that you’re alright?” asked Erika in a worried tone.
Sara turned to look at the other girl, “Of course. I just felt dirty, if you know what I mean. After all this training and stuff I had an urge to wash it all away.”
Erika smiled sympathetically; she nodded with an expression of understanding that was clear to see. Everyone felt the same way as her – sweaty and tainted by the dirt that they ran, crawled, swam, and fought in every day. Even if they were becoming some of the most athletic young people in the world, they had clung onto their sense of personal hygiene, especially Devin who insisted on trying to tame his hair every morning.
“Hey, Sara,” Callum greeted, “Where’s Devin?”
Sara tilted her head to scan the room, “I was going to ask you the same question.”
Erika’s eyes widened, “But I thought he was ahead of us.”
“I’ve been here alone,” she said, confused, “I haven’t seen Devin.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each weighing up their options with a sense of foreboding. If they wanted to go looking for Devin, their actions would be questioned, and then he could get into serious trouble. If they didn’t find him soon, he could be caught by the guards and punished for whatever it was he was doing. Sara definitely did not like the uncertainty. She liked knowing exactly what to do and it was the second time in one evening that she had been unable to, and her anger was increasing.
The door swung open. Devin scrambled in, clutching a piece of creased white paper with slanted black text on it. He held it out for the others to read, only for it to be snatched by his brother who had used his tail as an advantage. He smoothed out the crumpled paper and began to read, his expression slipping from relaxation into one of fury. He pushed the letter in the direction of Erika, who read it aloud.
“Yours sincerely, the Leader,” she finished after what felt like an eternity.
The shouting began at once.
“What the hell has happened?” Callum roared, “They’ve drugged us!”
Jay swore loudly, “We’ve been deceived and forced to work for this damn organisation. We’ve not loyal to them, we’re slaves – let’s face it.”
Erika slammed her fist down, but the duvet it collided with swallowed up any hope of it making a sound. Despite this, her rage was still clear, and Erika had never shown such strong emotion before in front of the others. Sara was the only one who didn’t react. All of a sudden, her mental blockage was gone. Now that she knew of the drug, its effects seemed to dissipate into nothing more than a mild headache.
“Stop bickering,” she said calmly, proud to finally snatch back her position of leadership, “We’ve been lied to and manipulated, and I understand that you’re angry, but we can’t let this get to us.”
“Damn it, Sara,” Devin protested, “The drug’s still affecting you!”
“No, it’s not,” she replied furiously, “In fact, I have been trying to understand why I wasn’t able to strategize all evening, and now it makes sense. This drug forced my allegiances to lie with Calox, whereas they don’t anymore.”
“Super,” Jay said sarcastically.
Sara ignored him, determined to continue: “What I’m trying to say is that we need to escape from here. We don’t need Calox to control us – we have all the training and skills necessary to survive.”
“But I want to bring down Justice,” Erika insisted, “I want revenge.”
“Then we’ll take it,” Sara said encouragingly, “We’ll take down Justice ourselves.”
YOU ARE READING
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