A/N: This is Chaser 1 checking in for the QLFC Semi Finals of Season 8
Chaser 1: Write a story in the Hard Science Fiction genre. This is science fiction in which science and technology take center-stage or in which scientific concepts are explained in detail.
Optional Prompts: 3. (word) Burn; 5. (song) It's The End Of The World As We Know It; and 13. (color) Purple
Warnings: This is completely AU. Also, not really a content warning, but more so a "I am not very good at science, never had been, so I'm sorry if my made-up science doesn't actually meet real-life scientific standards" warning.
Word count (before A/N): 2,040 words
As always, I have a wonderful team. Thank you to Ashleigh, Arty, and Hannah for beta-ing my jumble of sci-fi ideas. And an extra special thank you to Hannah for sending over information on CRISPR. That was extremely helpful!
I always thought I was special. Turns out, that was a big fat lie.
Of course, I should have known better. Magic isn't real, and even if it was, it doesn't logically make sense that only a select few people actually have it. I've been fed these outrageous lies my whole life, but now I know the truth.
And they're all going to burn for it.
"Did you get it?"
I look at Ron, his cerulean eyes boring into me from behind his cell—they call them rooms, of course, but they lock us in at night with nothing but a square window lined with bars to look through—and I give my brother the tiniest of nods. He slips back into his cell before any guard can see.
I adjust the papers under my shirt, the manila folder pressed tight against my abdomen. It wasn't easy procuring these documents, but it was essential. Now that we have them…
I don't let myself think about that just yet. We still have to read these papers. Understand what they've done to us. Why they've made us this way.
All my life, I've lived in a prison. They don't call it that, either, instead opting for vague, corporate phrases like "The Institute" or "Our Facility." Whatever the label is, it's a place where "gifted" kids can go to learn how to control their powers.
Powers that they forced on us. No one here is any more gifted than the rest of society. We've just been genetically branded by "The Institute" against our wishes and stolen from our homes to become pawns in their scheme.
What is that scheme? I still don't know, but I'm hoping beyond hope that information is safely tucked under my shirt, just waiting to tell all.
Ron lets out a grunt of frustration as he paces the length of my "room." I'm settled on the bed with my legs pulled up tight, the starchy fabric rough against my bare feet.
"I don't understand any of this." He waves toward the pile of papers laid out neatly beside me. This is dangerous—to just have them lying about. But it's dark, and Seamus already created a distraction for us in the B-wing. We should be fine to gather our thoughts...
"I don't—I just don't get it," Ron continues, his voice barely above a whisper. Then, he pauses in his tirade to stare at me, as if I might have the answers.
"Look," I pull the top piece of paper closer to read, "this one explains what they did. How they took our DNA and modified it. And this one," I shuffle around for the all-too familiar release form, "this explains how we got here in the first place."
It's a release form dated 1983 with two names listed: Ronald and Ginevra Weasley. The body of it is pretty bleak—it shows our parents signing away our lives to this godforsaken place.
Basically, it asks if they would be interested in having their kids participate in a study about human intelligence in youngsters. That's the word they used—youngsters. It doesn't say much else about what the study would entail, just that our parents would receive a hefty sum for their discretion.
I saw this very same release form months ago during one of my one-on-one sessions. My so-called teacher, Ms. Skeeter, was working with me to control my "magic." I'd had a few mishaps happen; things I couldn't explain. The "magic" would course out of me in tiny, explosive waves, and I was destroying things around me—desks, lamps, the only beanbag chair in the Rec room. (That last one made me a few enemies, unfortunately.) Worse still, my skin had started to glow purple in the dark.
And so, Ms. Skeeter was tasked with finding out why.
Turns out, I'm radioactive. We all are.
But I didn't hear that directly from her. I had so many tests done, so many pokes and prods and shocks and everything. They took my blood, my urine, my toenail clippings. Anything that could reveal what the hell was happening inside of me to cause those waves.
By the third month, I was done. I refused any more treatments or sessions. Still, they insisted that the magic would right itself. Still they continued to violate my body, taking more and more, digging deeper than I wanted to go.
One day, Ms. Skeeter and I were really going at it, just yelling about all the ways I felt like they had failed me—like I had failed me—when she was pulled out of the room by one of the many nameless doctors. That's when I saw the form, hanging out of my file, just waiting to reveal the truth.
I told Ron, Seamus, and Luna about it later. It was Luna who got me thinking. "Why would science explain magic?" she'd asked. When I asked for clarity, she said, "What could blood tests and toenails reveal about magic if it's actually intrinsic inside of us like they say?"
That's when Ron added the icing to the shite cake we had found ourselves in: "Yeah, and why haven't there been any new 'gifted' kids since us?"
He was right. They both were. Blood samples shouldn't show magic, or any defect within it. That's what they had told us since as long as I can remember. So what were they doing testing mine?
And ever since we were little, the thirty or so of us at The Institute have never seen another person arrive. No new "youngsters." Just us.
If magic was so prevalent, wouldn't others have joined by now?
"What's this mean again?"
My eyes land back on Ron as he holds up one of the many papers to my skin. My purple glow is starting to fade, but it's perfect for these midnight coup d'etat meetings. I bring an arm up over the paper to shine a light on what he's looking at.
"That's the CRISPR stuff," I say. I've had a good four-hour start trying to read and teach myself what these words mean. Ron is just seeing it for the first time since I've gotten back to my room. It's a lot to wrap your head around, especially if you don't know much about it to begin with.
"No, no," I point to the word, "CRISPR. It's the technology they used to edit our DNA. Basically, they chopped up the strands, and then, when the DNA went to fix itself, they added in elements that made us 'magical.'"
"Do you even know what any of these words mean?"
"Uh, vaguely?" I look at him, his pale face staring back incredulous. It makes me want to hit him sometimes, the way he questions the validity of what I'm saying. I get it; none of this makes any sense. We were raised believing that the powers we exude were important. No one wants to learn that what makes them special is really just a scientific blunder.
Because that's what we are. I was able to snag just enough of the data they've recorded on me, and it looks like whatever the initial study had been—to see how well children could learn if introduced to a new sequence of DNA early in their development—it had gone really, really wrong.
And now, we had to be hidden away so no one would ever see the genetic freaks that glowed purple.
"Look," I say, cutting Ron off, "I know that whatever's in our DNA makes us human and not, like… donkeys... or whatever. And that this CRISPR technology is why we can move stuff without touching them and melt things with our fingertips."
"Gin, I believe you," he says, putting his hands up in front of him like he's surrendering to my words. "I was going to say, is this enough? Can we…"
He doesn't have to say the word. I already know what he's thinking. I don't think we're twins—no one's ever told us how old we are or celebrated our birthdays with us—but Ron and I have always had a connection ever since we were little and they forced us into these cells.
"I think it might be."
"You're a bunch of idiots."
"You're still mad Ginny blew up the beanbag chair," Ron spits back.
I roll my eyes. Ron and I were up all night debating what our next steps should be. Ultimately, we decided it had to be everyone's fight. If we truly are going to escape this place, every single one of us genetic abominations needs to be on board with the plan.
So, we've taken our findings to the one place we can actually intermingle for more than a few minutes: lunch. And thanks to Luna, we have a pretty solid crowd.
Luna has always been my closest friend, ever since I can remember. We've grown up experimenting with the magic we believed we had, but when I told her about the release form I found all those months ago, she never stopped questioning what has truly made us us. She was the one who encouraged me to keep going to Ms. Skeeter. To see if I could find out more.
Now that we have our evidence, Luna worked her real magic: bringing together a good mix of freakshows without the guards thinking anything of it. We're seated at the far end of the lunchroom, seven of us in all, and so far, a good majority are ready to leave this place behind.
And then there's Justin.
"The beanbag was the only good seat in the Rec room," he's currently complaining. A fork lazily dangles from his hand, his lunch on display as he chews throughout his speech. "Besides, why would I leave three square meals a day and guaranteed shelter for… what exactly? Parents who let scientists have a field day with my genetic code? No thanks."
I roll my eyes again.
"Wouldn't you rather have your freedom?"
We all turn to look at his friend Hannah, her eyes stuck on Justin. He can't handle the crystal blue clearness of her gaze. I can tell, because the tips of his elfish chin and cheekbones begin to turn pink and the fork in his hand starts to melt.
"Damn!" He shakes the steaming utensil off before it coagulates to his skin. "Alright, fine. I'll listen, but I'm not sold yet."
I let Ron explain the details of our plan. Seamus and Luna are nodding along, no questions asked. A girl from D-wing, Hermione, and her friend Harry seem to be open, too. Hannah also nods along, but Justin is pouting. Doesn't matter, though, because if we can convince the majority of this little cohort of what we've learned, I think we've got a chance.
"Are you ready?"
I feel Ron's hand slip into mine.
And then I sound the alarm—one radioactive blast big enough to tear off the door. It's not magic, just a tragic side effect of messing with a child's DNA.
But now I can use it against them.
Ron pulls me through the gaping hole I've created. We won't have much time to get out, so every second counts. I can't rest and recoup from the blast like my body wants. We have to move.
We push past A-wing's doors and into the Rec room where we're joined by the others—thirty "gifted" kids thundering through the building toward the front door. All around me, they use their 'magic' to set the walls ablaze, the curtains draped across the barred windows, the dirty rugs that never got cleaned—everything. We light it all.
Ron's grip on my hand never falters. Clutched in his other hand is the manila folder. My manila folder, where the proof of the atrocities they've done to us is nestled inside. We're going to show it to the world, show everyone what they did to us and the consequences of their actions.
...I always thought I was special. Turns out, that was a big fat lie.
These scientists took things too far, tore our worlds right out from underneath us like we weren't people, just some experiments they could hide away when things went awry.
But, I think, by messing with who I am at a molecular level, they've only made me stronger.
And now, they're all going to burn for it.