Aquarius.

Author: Maiyri

Rating: PG-13/K+

Category: Action/Adventure/Drama

Summary: What happens when you're a Thirteen-year-old, Five Percent Shark Girl living at the School? Written before MR:SOF

Warnings: Language, violence nasty stuff.

Disclaimer: Don't own MR or the School, but I do own anything you don't recognize.

Author's Notes: This was my first fic, written in 2005, I think. It's terrible, but I kind of like it. Anyway, it's an OCfic, but give it the time of day, please?

--

There are nine of us here, in this tank.

In the beginning they didn't think any of us would survive for very long, so they just gave us one great big tank, and let us loose. That alone makes us luckier than the others, because from what I've heard, they're all alone, in cages that are too small to move around in.

I'd hate to be alone.

So, they gave us the tank, and anyone else who was lucky enough to be alive out of the Nursery was put in here too.

My name is Kayte, K8-92-108-56, I'm thirteen, and I have the ability to sense and manipulate electric fields. I live in the most despicable hole; it's called the school. I was created by sickos who wanted to play god.

Apparently there's this law that says that creations will rise up and destroy their creators.

The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not your ordinary thirteen year old.

I don't know when we started to call ourselves by names that are spelt out in letters, instead of the letter/number combination that we had before then. I think it was when Dr. Neumann first came to work here, at the Aquarius wing of the school. I was only four then, and I don't remember much.

It was just after I first got let out of the Nursery, because they thought I was old enough to survive. I wasn't, but there was J9, and K1 there, and they were older than me, and they would take care of me. I was like their little sister, and they were my big brothers. Jay-nih, and Kay-un.

Come on, I was four, and I still couldn't talk properly. It's probably more worthy of note that I can talk, and read and write at all.

Anyway, they called me Kay-eight, because that was the PRONOUNCEABLE part of the number that the scientists gave me.

Then we heard one of the other whitecoats call Dr. Neumann 'Kate' and she explained, when we asked, that Kate was her first name, the name that her family and friends called her by.

We liked Dr. Neumann because she explained things, and because she wasn't one of the Experimenting Scientists, the ones that injected stuff into you, and made you swim until you couldn't swim any more. She was one of the Creator Scientists, the ones who made more kids like us.

None of us had family, but we knew that we were friends, so we had to have names too.

So, J9 was Jaynine, Kayone was K1. I was called Kayte, because that made me and Dr. Kate Neumann different. No matter how nice a Whitecoat was, you still didn't want to be like one.

---

I was running, feet pounding on the cold floors, sprinting around the corners, through the junctions.

I must keep moving, I must.

Whitecoats were yelling, Erasers cackling with glee behind me. White doors, white walls, bright lights. No escape. A whizzing noise sounded from beside my shoulder. Great, they had the sleeper darts out.

Not going to sleep.

There, the door to the stairs. The door to freedom, I hoped. My hand hit the doorknob, turned it, and I ran into the stairwell.

I knew this was around here somewhere.

I began to climb, running, running, always moving. I had to get away! I rounded the corner, and a grabbed at the handrail to spin my self faster. White heat shot through my body, into the rail and out.

Black……

--

That happened to me. I was ten. That was my last attempt at escape, because then things became much harder. They brought in all these new security measures.

And I didn't want to. I didn't want to try and escape. Three days after the attempt, they took Jaynine and Kayone, and I haven't seen them since. When that happens, you pretty much know that they've been put to sleep.

But the day after that they brought in the others, my new family, and I wasn't alone. I could stop being sad because I worked to make sure they were ok.

They were like I was, when I was first put in here. Confused and like little babies. Newbies always were. The only thing they knew was their namenumber, and some of the older ones knew some words, but they couldn't really talk in a coherent way.

I was pretty lucky that I could.

--

Doctor Neumann once said that my name was Kayte-with-a-y- because that made me special, made me different. Not that you could be much more different than I am.

I'm the first surviving female Marine Recombinant.

Yay for me.

Apparently, some recombinants aren't as successful in one gender as they are in the other, for some reason. The Erasers and the Marine recombinants are two of these, both have few surviving female experiments

Not that any self-respecting, non-eraser Mutant kid wants the comparison.

Erasers are the nastiest, most foul smelling creatures that ever needed a bath. Oh yeah, they also like to tear the other experiments apart, just because they can.

There've been a lot of trials too. They number us in a way in which we can tell.

A0-A9, B0-B9, C0-C9… you get the picture. Jaynine was the last in the J series Trial, and the first marine recombinant survivor that I know of. Kayone was the first of the K trial.

They usually do one trial per year, and usually all of the species they use as the introductory DNA is the same for one trial.

The K trial, we are all 5% Shark.

I don't think I've introduced my family. After Kayone and Jaynine were taken, they put some more in here with me.

I don't think I've mentioned here either. Here is a massive tank, the whitecoats say it is sixty by a hundred by twenty metres. Most of the tank is water, but because we can live on both land and in the water we have a small corner which is out of the water. We all have our own little places in which we sleep, and in which the Whitecoats can get to us.

Yeah I know what you're thinking. Why not just stay out there, in the water, and then the sadistic, fishbrained Whitecoats will never be able to get us.

Unfortunately, we all have to be safely locked away in our lovely little enclosures (read: cages) before they'll feed us.

You get hungry pretty quickly, if you have ever noticed.

Anyway, my family and me live here. I know I had mentioned that there are nine of us. I'm the oldest, so I get to play Mum. Next oldest is Alan (L1-92-111-57), though we all call him Al. Him and next oldest Lee (L3), are bestest friends. Lee is the fastest swimmer, she is amazing to watch.

The triplets are next. The whitecoats must have been drooling when they found out that they had three recombinants from one little experiment.

Their names are Munn, Moo, and Emmy. The boys don't mind having their names shortened, but try that with Emmy, and she'll terrorize you next time you try and go for a quiet swim.

Nate is ten years old, and he's the best at sensing electricity, and at using it. We had to watch out when he first came to the tank because he couldn't control it.

Just a note, water conducts electricity.

Queenie, Q3-92-153-60, is only seven, she and the youngest, Essie (S3-92-173-56), they joined us only last year. They're actually related, we think, because they look so similar.

All of us are five percent shark, and Dr. Kate Neumann said that they used the same shark on all of us, so I guess we are all 5% related.

It's nice to have family.

--

I know I have to escape soon. You have to, or you go nuts. Four days ago, they reactivated the Aquarius experiment.

It was put on hold shortly after Jaynine and Kayone were taken away. That's why there are no more of us, after Essie, who was born five years ago. There might be some others, that we don't know about, but they'll be younger, maybe three or four, and not really old enough to survive here, outside the Nursery.

But then, out of the blue, four days ago the new doctors came, and we started being experimented on.

It took hour to get Queenie and Essie calmed down enough to explain why they hurt, and why they were being made to swim for hours and hours and hours, and why the Whitecoats were injecting them with stuff.

How do you explain that to a pair of little girls?

They were the only ones who hadn't had this particular experience before, and I'd've given a hell of a lot to stop it from happening.

The stupid, fucking, damned to hell, crap eating, sadistic sickos.

I suppose the good things about having Erasers around again means you learn some really neat curse words, and you get to hear about the world outside, because the Erasers have been there! And they spend a lot of their time taunting us about it.

We really hate the Erasers, but they tell us all sorts of things about life outside the school, so we stick around enough to listen. The fact that they're on the other side of the wire mesh that surrounds the tank usually has a lot to do with it.

There are females too, they've got a decent survival rate now. It used to be nil, but rumour has it that the survival rate is up around the 60% mark. The Erasers don't actually know, because it doesn't really concern them.

But they do tell us what it is like out there, and I take each new piece of information and store it. You never know when it might be useful, especially if we do escape.

I have a plan.

--

As you could probably imagine, being what I am, I don't really look like a normal, 100% human, … well, human.

5% shark DNA gives my family and me a few traits that make us different than the Whitecoats. And the Whitecoats are what we should be like if they hadn't experimented on us.

We look different for example. We're more efficient, and we can swim faster underwater than any human can. We've got rounded shoulders, and larger feet, and blade shaped hands to scoop water, and help us steer at full speed. Our hips are flatter, and we're taller than we should be. Our arms and fingers are shorter, and our knees and hips and ankles can rotate to help us swim.

We can breathe underwater, well except Alan who can only stay underwater a short time because he can't filter enough air out of the water. He gets oxygen deprivation after about half an hour, but that doesn't really bother him too much. He's used to it.

Our necks are shorter, to make the gills closer to our lungs. Our throats have a little flap that means water can't get into our lungs, because that would still mean we'd drown.

Which would be ironic.

We've got cartilaginous skeletons too, less solid bone than the other have, so we're all really flexible, but staying out of water too long makes our bones bend. Because of this we're also lighter.

Our skin is thicker, and rougher, and we've got different blood systems in our skin so we don't lose heat as fast in water. Our skin doesn't lose water in water that has salt in it because of "diffusion" like normal people do. We can stay in water for days on end and never get wrinkly skin like the Whitecoats do after an hour. A slight side affect is that our skin is more grey-brown

We can even see in salt water, we have a 'third eyelid' thing that flicks over our eyes to help us see.

But none of these differences are readily obvious, or so the Whitecoats say. They're having fun talking over our heads at the moment. One said that if they put us in 'normal' kids clothes that you probably wouldn't be able to tell that we were different.

That we were experiments.

That we didn't have names, and that they referred to us as 'it'.

Outside, and very far away from this place there is something called the sea. It is like our tank except bigger, much bigger, so big that if we got there then we could swim for years and never cover all of it.

Or so the Whitecoats and the Erasers say.

But I suppose the sharks, like the shark picture that Dr. Neumann pinned to the wall, they have to come from somewhere.

They live in the seas.

So I have to go there, and if it is as big as they say then I could hide somewhere were there is sea, and land too, and they'd never find us ever again.

Never bring us back here.

Never experiment on us.

Never put us in cold water, until we shiver, and then fall asleep. Or hot water until it burns our skin.

Never put us in really salty water and make us go underwater and see if the salt burns our throats and gills.

Never make us swim for hours and hours and hours and never shocking us when we can't go any further.

Never take us out of the water and see how far we can run, for hours.

Never injecting us with stuff that makes us sick, or stuff that makes us hurt, or makes us feel so dizzy that we can't stand up, or so silly that we can't string two words together.

I'll run, I'll swim, I don't care which, but I'll get out of here, me and my family too, and we'll be free.

Today they took the youngest three for testing. Essie and Queenie were returned a few hours later, shaken, scared, exhausted.

They returned Nate bloodied and bruised. He'd bitten a Whitecoat who had shoved one of the really thick needles into his arm.

I don't blame him, those needles hurt.

Attacking a Whitecoat means that the Erasers are allowed to 'restrain the wayward experiment using all force necessary'. They can basically use you for a 'chew toy', and they'd chewed Nate.

They'd made a complete mess of him. His face and arms were scratched deeply, he had a bloody nose, thankfully not broken, and he'd probably end up with black eyes. He'd lost four teeth, but like sharks, they'd grow back.

Worst, though, was that his left arm was broken, and his right shoulder had been dislocated. The Whitecoats had put it back, and they'd given him antibiotic shots.

Then, they'd just dumped him back in the tank.

He'd sank to the bottom, and stayed there, dazed. I swam to him as fast as I could. Just as I reached him he made a small motion with one hand, 'up'.

I picked him up as gently as I could, and by now Alan and Lee had joined us, and they helped swim us the twenty or so metres up to the ledge. We lifted him out of the water, and Emmy grabbed one of the blankets from her cage to wrap him up in. We got him settled and he told us that he'd bitten the worst Whitecoat, Dr. Larsen, really, really hard.

I hugged him, and told him that I was proud of him (because I was), and that he should never do that again.

Ever.

Seeing a Whitecoat in pain is fun, fun, fun. I wish I had been there to see Nate chomp on Larsen.

But being trounced into the concrete for the privilege just isn't worth the trouble.

Well, not usually.

I've now decided that the easiest thing to do would be to escape when there isn't any Whitecoats around at all.

At 'night'.

Whatever that is.

The erasers say that night is when it goes all dark outside. I've never been outside, so I wouldn't know about it. However, the Whitecoats 'go home for the night', so I guess it isn't a bad thing.

They leave, and they turn off the lights in the room, and in the corridor too. They shut off the computers and the other machines. It gets all quiet.

They also lock us in our cages with 'electro-magnetic' bolts, so we can't get out into the room, or into the tank. I don't know how the bolts work, but I do know they put electricity through part of the locking mechanism, and it makes the cages stay closed.

Me and the others can hear/sense electricity's humming, but with the cages, you can touch the bars and you don't get shocked the way you do if you touch one of us and we're generating electricity.

So, I put my hands on the part of the bars nearest the humming on the door to the outside room, and I concentrated. I could just faintly hear that they put the electricity through a coil of wound up wire, and this attracted the door of the cage so strongly that we couldn't push out.

Carefully I put a jolt of my own electricity through, into the coil. Yes! The jolt was strong enough so that the coil couldn't handle it, and something gave, breaking the circuit.

The hum stopped. A few seconds later though, there was a tiny, barely audible click, and the bars locked themselves into place.

I rattled them experimentally. Nope. They weren't going to budge any time in the foreseeable future. I couldn't get out. Not tonight.

I woke the next morning to the sound of approaching footsteps, and to voices. A pair of Whitecoats were discussing what lovely examples of depravity they would get to show today.

I sat up and shuffled across to the bars to hear the conversation better.

"I'm getting to drug test today, the whole range too." One Whitecoat said excitedly. At this I winced. Drug tests were always the worst. They could kill you, in painful ways. Usually they would just make you horrendously and very violently sick.

I hoped it wasn't me.

But if it wasn't me then it would be one of the others…. That made me feel really guilty. I wouldn't wish a full spectrum drug test on anyone, except the Erasers and the Whitecoats.

"Which specimen, Mark?" The other asked, sounding very jealous. Moment of truth, I thought.

"The latest one, 'R' trial, the one they're gonna dump in here too, well," and the Whitecoat snorted disbelievingly, "If it survives. Trial's a botch, but we can still have a play, can't we?" Both laughed. I hated them.

"Care to have a little wager on it, Joe?" The drug test Whitecoat asked, but I didn't hear 'Joe's' reply, as they passed out of earshot.

I was glad it wasn't me, or my family, but I pitied the new kid.

R trial. They'd be a year younger than little Queenie, and she was only five. No four-year-old should ever have to be put through something like that.

I hoped that they'd either live, and be okay, and not be too sick, or be given the mercy of a quick death.

More footsteps approached, and this time the door opened. From the smell, Erasers. Man, those things pong, the Whitecoats even think so. When you have a nose so sensitive that you can pick up blood in tiny quantities…Man, those things just pong.

Erasers, and…Meat.

I'd forgotten, for a change.

Once a week, today, they'd toss partially cooked meat into the tank, and let us have it. Yum. Better than the disgusting, tasteless and lukewarm slop that we got the other six days.

The Erasers were talking too. About the cages, and what I'd done, not that they knew it had been me. They thought it was just a power surge. They were complaining about having to pull the manual releases on the bars, instead of just flicking the control switch that was on the wall like they usually did.

Maybe I should do it more often.

The next bit caught my attention. The fuse, the bit that had broken, melted, when I had overloaded the circuit, the Whitecoats were replacing it this afternoon. Oh, good.

When we were all out being experimented on. Well, I suppose you can't have everything.

The Erasers pulled the manual overrides, and one by one me and my tank-mates slid into the water. Only the Erasers were there, this was unusual; usually a Whitecoat would show up to watch us. They think we're interesting because we never crash into each other. They can't figure it out.

We know.

It all goes back to the electricity. We can generate it, manipulate it to some extent, and lastly, but most importantly, we can sense it. Everything we've seen so far has a bio-electric field that we can detect. The neurons in your brain fire and the nerves throughout your body send electrical pulses constantly, and this we hear as a fuzzy noise. Heartbeats we hear as distinct beats, which can be very useful.

The first bit of meat hit the water nearest Nate with a splash and the smell of half cooked meat and blood, neither of which I minded. I watched as Nate swooped in and caught the piece of meat in both hands before ripping into it with his teeth, still drifting with the speed of his movement.

Then a chunk hit the water above me. Equidistant from Moo and me. I went for it, and seeing me, Moo veered off. This was mine, and you didn't contest with the bigger, hungrier shark-kid. Instinct was a wonderful thing.

I really was surprised that during the whole feeding, no Whitecoats turned up. The Erasers did film it though, they always did as they watched the way we moved and compared it to other recordings that they had previously taken. They like to study lots of things, not just the fact that we never crash.

Like they watch how we move in water, and the fact that swimming is so innate, so easy for us. How we interact in water, and use each other's wake to our advantage. How we know the way the water is moving.

We don't know how, and the best thing is that we can be deliberately infuriating if the Whitecoats ask us. We don't know the words to describe what we do. We were born doing it, or it becomes so automatic when we are young that we don't remember learning it.

Dr. Neumann tried to get us to talk, but she left before she could teach us all of the words we needed. Saying that she left is the way we speak of the Whitecoats being killed, just like we say that other experiments are put to sleep.

It is a code throughout the School. Sometimes you're lucky enough to see other experiments, sometimes you can even talk to them. Alan, last year was taken to the main building to be tested when an Eraser went crazy (well, more crazy than usual) and started killing other Erasers and the Whitecoats.

So, they put the experiments in the nearest room, and the Whitecoats went to the safe places they go whenever something like this happened. Al got to talk to a bird-kid called Alysha who was about his age, two Cat-kids, Ocelot and Margot, twins who were about seven, and a horse-boy called Nymain. They all got to have a gossip on who they knew, and they discussed Her, Maximum Ride, a birdkid who had got free with her flock.

The Experiments have a network, a very slow one, but usually things get around, and everyone know them sooner or later. All sorts of things go around, like the success of experiments, and who had done something brave against the Whitecoats and so on.

Alysha had been at another place like the School called the Institute, before Max and her friends had freed them. She had been caught again but the others, as far as she knew, were still out there. Her information was a year out of date. Alysha had talked for hours, and we'd listened eagerly as Alan had recounted their conversations.

Alysha knew what the world was like outside, and we'd need to know for what would come next.

I had been thinking about what I had done last night, in breaking the fuse on the circuit that kept the cages closed. Most especially I was thinking about the gap, the few precious seconds after the electricity had gone off but before the manual locks had kicked in, the few precious seconds that would be enough for me to escape.

Maybe tonight if I was up to it, and if the others were too. We were all being trialled today, I was the first back. I'd had the swim in really salty water trial, and my throat and gills hurt really badly, they stung. I was still underwater now, trying to get rid of the salt from my system, taking gulps of water and very slowly and gently blowing them out. The low amount of salt in the water meant the stuff in my body, in my gills would dissolve and would be passed out with the rest.

I was currently in my favourite place in the tank, my hands holding the bars on the water inlet, my aching muscles being massaged by the incoming water. This was wonderful. The water in our tank is held at a steady temperature, so the water coming out of the pipe was warmer by a few degrees to counteract the heat loss.

Being hit with warm water at a constant force is rather soothing actually.

A small something hit the water below the 'Chute where the Erasers chucked our meat in. A small, very much alive something. That was different, usually what they chuck down there's dead…

I released the bars on the grate and let the water's force push me towards the unmoving figure. Slowly, as I remembered how frightened the others had been when they first came here, first got dumped into this tank, which was admittedly a very different environment from the nursery's cages that I had small, hazy recollections of.

The child was like me, part marine creature, I could see it in the body proportions. Aside from that, they had to be part something aquatic or they would have drowned by now, and they hadn't.

I was close enough now to see that the figure was unconscious. Caution aside, I grabbed the figure by one of their outstretched limbs, and began to pull him or her to the ledges so I could take a good look. It was slow going because I was too tired to move fast.

I reached the ledge, and pulled the kid out of the water onto the concrete, being as gentle as I could. The child looked to be about four, or five; their arms were covered in bruises and pinpoint red marks, the sure signs of a drug test. I quickly moved to the neared cage, Munn's, and grabbed a blanket.

The clothes the girl was wearing pretty much fell apart as I wrapped her up. She was covered in bruises and scrapes. There was a handprint shaped bruise covering the side of her fine-featured face.

Her hair was the same shade of mousy-brown as mine, as all of us shark kids had. It's a side effect of pigments that the shark genes give us. Her eyes would probably be either blue, like the triplets, brown, like mine, Alan's , Nate's and Lee's or black like the youngest two.

Poor little shark kid number ten. Twelve if you count Jaynine and Kayone.

The Whitecoats were watching me, watching what I was doing, and I wanted answers to a couple of questions.

I picked the kid up and put her in Munn's cage, as he didn't often use it. The Whitecoats often let the triplets share if they were in a good mood. I turned the girl on her side so that if she did throw up, which was likely, she wouldn't choke on it. Aside from that, she'd be more comfortable in an environment that was even a bit familiar, even if it happened to be a cage.

I dived into the water, and arced down, then upwards and surfaced just before the nearest Whitecoat. I didn't know the name of the redheaded woman and I didn't care too much. But if I was expected to look after another little one, then I wanted to know what they'd done to the girl.

"What's her name?" I asked the woman, being as polite as I ever could be to a Whitecoat. If I weren't on my best behaviour then she probably wouldn't answer. She didn't anyway, just walking off with a disgusted look on her face, muttering about freaks. Lovely coming from a scientist who's probably created half a dozen hybrids herself.

Another did answer my question though. "The newly introduced experiment is known as R6-92-186-52." At least this man wasn't looking at me like I had two heads. Just like I was five percent shark.

"What's she been tested with, anything I should know about what the drugs might do?" I did want this information. Different drugs did different things to you, and most of them made you feel bad.

"Nothing too bad," was the scientist's quick and all to brief response. By now most of them had left the room, and now the doctor who had spoken turned away as well. I'd have to make do with what I'd heard.

R6, hmmmm? There wasn't much you could do with that name. Rix, I supposed would have to do. I'd ask some of the others for their opinions.

Soon afterwards, the others were returned to the tank. Essie and Queenie were back first, Alan last. I told the others to stay in the water, and to keep quiet. They must have seen that I was serious about it because they did keep the noise to a minimum.

After Alan dropped into the tank, I motioned them over with one hand. "We have a new kid in here, she's asleep right now. She got drug tested, so she's not gonna be feeling too good, okay? We gotta stay quiet and let her sleep, and be careful around her because she hasn't been in here before, and we're all so much bigger than she is, and she might be a little bit scared." Most of this was directed at the youngest three.

"We wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone," said Nate, his brown eyes wide with disbelief. "'Cept the Whitecoats 'coz they're meanies."

"I know that Nate," I said, and I reached over to ruffle his hair, "But she doesn't, and she's so little that she doesn't know better, okay?"

He nodded, and I smiled at him. He was such an awesome kid.

It was surprising how good we all turned out, considering how we are treated, and the fact that we are 5% shark, which I know to be a major predator.

We could have turned out to be dangerous, mindless, raving, feral sharkthings that went round killing people. Which I wouldn't mind if the people were Erasers and Whitecoats, but I'd hate to live…to be…like that.

I heard the child stirring, she'd wake up. Lee looked at me pleadingly, even though she's only twelve she loves to mother us all, even me. I let her, sometimes. I nodded at her, and she shot to her feet, eager to meet the new kid.

As everyone had expected, Lee had managed to calm the girl down, very easily actually, someone must have been nice to her. The girl was lucky enough to not be too sick, but she was pale, and her eyes faintly glazed over.

And we still needed to think up a name for her.

The girl, the new kid, R6…they really didn't suit her. She was too pretty to be called R6, and the former names were too impersonal.

She was currently swimming, Lee's idea. She'd taken to it like a shark kid takes to water. I was watching them both. R6 was swimming alongside her, and the others, except me, were in the water too, but keeping their distance. She'd had a bit of a look at all of us, but she'd not come too close, too wary in all her four years at the school.

Just as wary as all of us had been.

I decided to join them all, shake out some of the aches I had, some of which had been worsened with the time I'd spent sitting. I flopped forward into the water, and curved around, swimming to join the youngest three, who were currently holding races from one side of the tank to the other.

Rix was watching, which was good. She was taking notice of us, looking to get included by us, but still wary of being hurt. And very attached to Lee, who didn't mind in the slightest.

By the end of the day Rix was quite comfortable to come up to us. She and Essie and Queenie had become best friends in no time. She understood basic hand gestures, and learnt the new ones quickly.

She couldn't speak, not really, only a few small words like cage, food, Eraser, and her name number. We'd also managed to get her to accept the name Rix.

It was interesting to watch. Lee'd touched her own chest and said "Lee. L3-92-113-56." She'd then touched Rix, who had understood the concept immediately.

"R6-92-186-52." The girl had said back, questioningly. Lee had smiled at her, for all the girl was tiny, and had four years worth of hell; she was still intelligent and willing to learn.

"Rix. R6-92-186-52. Rix." Lee tapped Rix's shoulder. "Rix."

"Rih-ss. Rihickss. Riks." The girl frowned, mouthing the word. She looked up at Lee, and nodded vaguely. "Rix." She touched her chest, and said firmly, "Rix."

"Rix" Lee said back, amazed that Rix had picked up the concept of names so easily. She'd be a smart one, that was for sure.

Rix then tapped Lee on the chest. "Lee."

She'd got up off Lee's lap, and had cautiously walked to the triplets, who were sitting closest. "Rix," she said pointing to herself. She then pointed at the triplets in turn. "Emmy." "Moo." "Munn."

Then to Me, Alan, Nate, Essie and Queenie. Then to our amazement, the girl walked around again, and named us all correctly. Then, content, she returned to Lee's lap, curled up, and went to sleep.

I stared at her for a while, and then looked between my almost-siblings. "Well, that was interesting," I observed.

--

Later, we all curled up in one of the cages, the triplets' was the biggest, to discuss, well, life, the universe, and everything.

By the end of our little discussion, by lights out, all but us three oldest were asleep. Alan and I had been talking almost inaudibly not to wake the little ones. Lee'd been listening to our conversation, but she hadn't spoken for quite some time.

The click-hum of the electro-magnetic locks came on, and we exchanged looks. They'd let us stay in the one cage for the night, assuming we were all asleep. The Whitecoats were just locking us up in one cage rather than moving us. They'd rather not wake us up; some of us are really slow wakers, if we can be.

Myself included.

Okay, so it annoys the hell out of the Whitecoats.

The first Eraser patrol came by, so it would be around about 10 o'clock at night, give or take five minutes. They came by every three hours just to be all intimidating and scary, so us experiments don't try anything.

I was gonna try something anyway.

About half an hour after the Erasers had passed, I heard the thunk of them closing the massive door that lead to the outside. I couldn't hear any heartbeats nearby, no one was here.

I shook Alan's shoulder. "Whaaaa?" he said blearily, peering at me through sleepy eyes. When Alan falls asleep, he's dead to the world until you forcefully wake him up.

"Up. Wake the others. We're getting outta here." I was being blunt, and I knew it. We had this one chance, and I was going to get out.

Alan must have seen something in my face, and he obediently shook the triplets awake. They reacted similarly to the way he did, but all three were instantly awake when he explained that 'Kayte was being crazy and trying to escape…. again.'

The others were woken in short order, and all of them were looking at me, expressions ranging from eager to cautious to confused to 'Oh my God, Kayte's finally gone off the deep end.'

Two pairs of black eyes, belonging to Queenie and Essie peered up at me, confused. "We're getting out of here?" Essie asked bewildered. "How? We're locked in a cage."

"I'm going to show you something." I replied. I shuffled towards the bars; they moved to let me past, pressing up against the other walls. I knelt next to the bars, pressing my hands against the wall. The lock was in the same configuration as it was in my cage.

I began to generate.

The others shifted further away from me, if they accidentally touched me then it would hurt. Lots.

I touched the wire coil with electricity, feeding my own electric current into the wires. The fuse was a better one, it took more power to break it.

The circuit broke, and I threw my weight hard up against the door of the cage.

It opened.

It opened, and I spilled out of the cage onto the cold concrete floor. How undignified. To add wounds to my already bruised pride (and shoulder), the two younger girls, Essie and Queenie started giggling at me, hands clamped firmly over their lips to muffle the sound.

I supposed that this was not the best way to start an escape.

I peeled myself up off the floor, and glared at the lot of them. Ingrates. But I couldn't be mad at them for long, and I helped them all scramble out of the cage.

Finally the ten of us were standing in the centre of the room in the semi-darkness, the first time we'd been free in any sense of the word. Adrenaline coursed through my body, so many things could go wrong, but so much was at stake.

One of the computers was humming, and as we all started to explore the room, I walked to it. The screen was whirling with numbers and words. I could read, I'd been taught by Dr. Kate, but this was a little bit over my head.

I knew how to use a computer too, a useful skill I'd picked up when I'd watched Kate at her work. This computer was active, someone had put in the password, and they'd left it running overnight, probably to chew through a massive amount of data.

They'd been testing us for long enough to have that massive amount of data.

I minimized everything on the screen, and read the folders on the desktop. Icons labelled 'Log Out – Josef Rially', and 'Trash Can', and there, 'Origins – Project Aquarius'.

I clicked it.

Files popped up, with name-numbers, dates of birth and piles of other information, 25 pages worth. I moved the mouse, clicking File, and then Print.

The printer across the room came on, making Lee, who was inspecting it, jump and spin around in terror. "Sorry," I said, as she glared at me.

The triplets were inspecting the contents of the mini-kitchen the Whitecoats had. Emmy had grabbed a backpack from one of the desks and upended it, emptying the contents quite nicely. She was now packing it full of food from the cupboards.

Good.

I took another bag from the computer desk and overturned it beside the keyboard. All sort of random things fell out, lipstick, a hairbrush, mirror, and pieces of paper.

One of the pockets was zipped up, and I opened it to find some money. Ooooh, I'd need that.

"Hey Ess, Queenie." I beckoned them over. "See it you can find anything that looks like this in any of the desks." Both examined the notes that I held out, and then began riffling through the desk drawers.

Alan and Nate were picking through clothes that the Whitecoats had left lying around, and those in the lockers against one wall. They'd grabbed anything that looked remotely useful and had tossed it into the middle of the room.

Finished, the triplets came back into the main room, and dumped the two bags of food they had onto the floor. Somewhere along the way, one of them must have found another backpack. Essie and Queenie were done with their poking through the desks, and Essie solemnly held out a wad of cash.

I motioned towards the clothes. "Grab something," I said, and we all picked through the clothes. I found a nice warm black jacket, long enough to go down past my knees, and a pair of thick socks that I tugged onto my feet. Having no shoes, they would keep my feet warm and protect them if I had to run.

"Ready?" I asked my family."

"Ready," Alan replied.

"Lets go." I said.

I opened the door to the corridor, making sure to be quiet. We didn't need to be heard, it would make this attempt very short indeed, and would probably result in us being put to sleep.

I didn't want to be put to sleep at all.

All of us stepped into the corridor, which like the rest of the building smelt of antiseptics. And there was a residual whiff of Eraserpong. I don't know how the Whitecoats can stand those walking piles of contamination.

The corridor was dark, lit only with the small, faint lights that the Erasers needed to see. Their eyes are improved by their mutation, so they didn't need much to see. Unfortunately, Sharks rely on their bioelectric sensors and their sense of smell, so we were stumbling around in the semi-darkness.

Stumbling and trying to be quiet is SO not FUN.

I knew the way to the great big doors to outside, I remembered the way because it had only been a few years after my last escape. My mistake the previous times had been that I'd tried to get out during the day when there were lots of people about.

Now there were none, except…footsteps, around the next corner, heading this way.

I looked around frantically, was there anywhere to hide, to be out of sight? Being seen now, to have the alarm raised so soon…we'd never get out. And my quick scan of the corridor showed nowhere to conceal ourselves.

The Whitecoat came around the corner only metres in front of me. Oh, no, oh no it was the same Whitecoat who'd walked out in disgust only this morning. She looked at me and my almostsiblings with disgust and fear. Then, all at once she spun around and began to run back the way she'd come. Running to raise the alarm.

No!

I lunged for the fleeing Whitecoat desperately. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew, in my panic, that she could not get away.

She'd taken two steps now, and she had opened her mouth to scream. My hand barely brushed her arm, and a residual charge of electricity leapt from my hand to her.

Her red hair stood on end and she froze, the scream stuck in her throat. She twitched once, and then collapsed bonelessly to the ground.

I hadn't meant to shock her! Now the Whitecoats would know what we'd so carefully been hiding from them for so long!

The woman twitched again, her nerves buzzing with the remaining electrical charge. I definitely did not envy her.

I turned to look at the others. Rix had buried her head in Lee's shoulder, hands clenching Lee's threadbare grey dress. Essie had her arm around her little maybe-sister. This little incident had really rattled the younger ones' confidence.

Maybe I hadn't thought this through thoroughly enough…

Jeez, try saying that half a dozen times, thinking it is hard enough.

Alan broke through my musing, asking the most intelligent question I've ever heard him ask, "Where are we gonna hide her? The Erasers will see her if we leave her here."

"There's a room, an empty one where they shoved me during an escape once. It's down that corridor." Munn, shaking, pointed down the corridor that the Whitecoat had come down.

"That will do quite nicely." I said, shooting him a brief smile of thanks. He, his brother and Alan grabbed the Whitecoat by her white coat and began to drag her, as quietly as possible of course, in the direction of Munn's room. They're only eleven and twelve but they're taller, and much stronger than most people twice their age.

I moved ahead of them to scout, hoping there were no other unpleasant surprises around the corner.

As I turned the corner, I heard the tapping of fingers on a keyboard from an open door about half way to the massive exit-to-outside. I stretched out, sensing for heartbeats.

Two sets registered.

Damn.

Carefully we crept towards the doorway. Light spilled from the doorway into the hall, lighting up the corridor.

Double damn.

We'd have to be really, really careful this time.

Alan dropped the woman, and she lay there in a pathetic pile. He and I crept up to the room, wondering who would be up so late. Hidden in the shadows, we both peered into the room.

"Oh, that is just pathetic," Alan breathed into my ear. I silently agreed.

The tapping came from a Whitecoats from a computer in the corner. His back was to us, so we needn't worry about being seen. He seemed absorbed in his work, completely oblivious to the pitiful sight on the table, in the cage behind him.

An experiment, a failed one by the looks of it. The kid was no more than a baby, but it seemed that the Whitecoats knew that it would die. They hadn't even bothered to put it into the Nursery.

It was lying in the cage; its laboured breathing was obvious.

From here I couldn't tell what it had been changed with. Something marine, because it had fins instead of hands, and a finned tail instead of feet and legs. It had some kind of too-big dorsal fin growing from its back, it was almost the same size of the rest of the child, and too heavy for it to move.

Strangely enough, I could see that it didn't have gills.

Its face was the worst, half formed and distorted by the genetic codes in his or her DNA. She or he had no eyes, no nose, and no ears.

This is what the Whitecoats did to us.

We knew we couldn't help her/him, only hope that she/he died quickly.

Alan crept back to the others, and motioned for them to be quiet and to follow me. He, and the other three boys grabbed the Whitecoat again, picking her up this time so that the dragging of her body didn't alert the man in the room.

We snuck past the lab, and easily tossed the red-haired Whitecoat in Munn's little storage cupboard. Munn knew the codes to the locked door, because they never changed them.

We were in front of the doors to our freedom in no time.

This would be the next hard bit. Opening the massive, very noisy doors without the man in the lab hearing.

We managed it, moving slowly, with only one major THUNK. Emmy was watching the Whitecoat in the lab, and he never so much as looked around to see where the noise was coming from.

Lucky us.

One by one we slipped out of the doors into the unknown outside. There was a big light in the doorway, so we carefully and very quickly slid into the shadows.

This was the first time in my thirteen (I think) years that I had ever seen the darkness of night.

The air was cool against my skin, very different from the heat of the day. No one was around, except the Erasers I could hear on patrol behind the main building, and a few Whitecoats loading up what I thought was a 'truck' (it fit the description) by the main building.

The sky, though, was amazing. It was a deep blue in the daytime, now it was black as black, and lit with a million pinpricks of light. It had to be the most beautiful thing I had ever, ever seen.

I was staring up into the heavens, but then so were the others, so I didn't look like a dork.

But we did need to get moving now.

I had an idea this time. It was crazy, but it was an idea.

We began to move towards the main gates to the school, the ones on the dirt road out. They were so far our best chance, but they were lit up like daylight.

We were now by the main building, and between ourselves and freedom were at least five squads of Erasers. Oh, Joy.

I motioned for the rest to keep back behind me, in the corner were we were currently hidden. I wriggled on my belly to the nearest point I could get to, knowing that there was no way to sneak past. This was one of those times that you wish you had wings.

I could see that the next patrol of Erasers was checking out our building. They opened the door and disappeared from view.

So, if they discovered that we were out, we had, oh, about a minute before they raised the alarm and they lit this place up like midday.

We had to get out of here now.

I slid back to the wall and beckoned to the others, they joined me quickly. We began to creep, in the shadows, along the main building of the school. Now we were directly opposite the gatehouse.

"We can't get out there, Kayte!" Alan hissed into my ear. The triplets, who had heard, all looked worried at that remark.

"Trust me," I said, "I've got an idea."

The Whitecoats who had been loading up the crates had left, or more likely, were having a break. Good, it meant that we could pass along the side of the building more easily.

It also meant they'd left the truck unattended.

I saw Lee's look of comprehension of what I'd been planning. We'd hide in the truck and get out as soon as we could once we were outside the school. It was better than nothing.

Maybe it would work.

"The truck?" Lee questioned me.

"The truck." I nodded the affirmative. I saw the rest glance across at the vehicle. Alan looked at the pair of us like we were nuts. We were, but that was completely irrelevant.

I mean, come on! We were 5% shark kids who had just escaped from cages, and we were currently trying to get out, past murderous wolf things that smelled like three-day-old poopies.

Alan wouldn't argue though, he's a bit of a softie when it comes to Lee.

We ran across to the truck, which was almost fully loaded.

Good, it would probably leave soon.

All of us jumped up into the truck, and we began climbing the crates to anyplace we could find out of sight. Finding it, we all slid into the gap, us older ones squashing up, and the younger ones on our knees.

Just in time too, as the Whitecoats came back just as Nate scrambled over the last crate.

"Three crates more, and then the truck's to New York." One said.

Oh, lovely. This was heading for the Institute. We definitely wanted to get out of the truck before then.

--

I know I fell asleep. It wasn't a very restful sleep, but it was sleep nonetheless. It had been a very long day. Hard to believe that Rix had only joined us this morning. Or, I mused, yesterday morning, because I was pretty sure that midnight had been and gone.

I'd woken to find most of the little ones asleep. Alan and Lee were talking quietly. I wish those two would just admit that they like each other; it's such a pain.

Alan looked and me, and acknowledged I was awake with a nod. Lee gave me a smile. She's such a mothering type that she even mothers me. Not that I mind. Not that I'll ever admit not minding it. We understand it. She's the mother type; I'm the leader type, and Al? Well he's just the strong, silent type.

I grinned at that thought.

My grin faded as I felt the truck begin to slow. Light was peeking under the canvas cover of the truck bed. They'd found out that we were missing, and maybe they'd clicked that we'd snuck out this way, my paranoid brain kicked into overdrive.

The truck braked to a stop, assaulting my nose with the smell of burning rubber. The noise of other cars was close, and there was a smell of food.

The truck driver was walking along the side of the truck, and he was talking to someone we couldn't hear, probably on a cellphone.

"Look, whatever freaks escaped can't be on my truck…" he was saying. "No, I won't! This truck needs to be in New York on schedule. If you hold me up…" the threat lingered in the air.

I'll give you a hold up, I thought.

"Erasers? Fine! You're being overcautious! The brats aren't on my truck. Now make sure they get here quick!" The man slammed his cell shut. He threw open the truck's doors, cursing about hold ups and Erasers.

By now the kids were all awake and looking at me. What now? We can't run he'll see us!

Alan was grinning in a way I found distinctly disturbing. He raised an eyebrow. I winced. No choice, I'd have to go with Alan's plan. We couldn't stay around and wait for the Erasers.

My eyes met Alan's and then I leaned forwards slightly on my knees. From here I could just peek over the nearest crate.

The rear door of the truck was gaping wide open, and the stupid driver stood with his back to the crates, to us.

Big mistake, buddy.

Alan leapt over the crates, and copying me, shocked the shocked, evil, nasty School driver into unconsciousness.

Ha, take THAT!

We all got out of the truck as quickly as possible. The sun was shining, but it was early. People were out and about, but no one was looking at the truck, it was sufficiently out of the way.

All to the good, they wouldn't notice a bunch of ragged, bruised children skulking around, and a guy lying as if dead on the concrete. He wasn't, I could still hear his heartbeat.

I pulled the jacket I had grabbed closer around my shoulders. It was just past sunrise, and even in the desert it gets cold at night.

We moved away from the truck as fast as we could without looking overly suspicious. No-one was about. No-one would see.

And the first people from the School to get here would be the Eraser squad in a couple of hours time.

We'd be long gone.

--

We were sitting in a pipe, the entrance partially concealed behind a rubbish bin in an alley, about half-an-hours walk from the park where the truck was.

Unfortunately, there had been no trucks that we could get on near at the time, all of them passed through. Emmy suggested that we wait until lunch, when maybe at least one of the truck drivers would stop to get something to eat.

Then we could snag a ride.

But then we needed to hide from the Erasers until that was an option.

So we'd walked away from the truck, finding this place, which no one would think to look for us. We'd crossed a couple of places where the smells were strong enough to drown out our own scent.

Another commonality that few would acknowledge.

I pulled the files that I had printed back at the lab out from under my torn and fading shirt.

"What's that?" Emmy asked, returning to her usual talkativeness. She had been pretty quiet since they had reopened the project. And now we were free!

"Files that I printed off the computer. They are about where we come from, if we have real parents. Who we were born as."

The silence was overwhelming. Every eye was focused on me. This was something so important to all of us.

Parents. Family.

I opened the files up, and spread them on the ground.

Rix's file caught my eyes first. The terrible twosome knew how to read their name numbers, and they picked out theirs, handing them to me with near identical pleasepleaseplease looks.

They wanted to know if they were sisters.

Essie's file first then, as she was the biggest whinger, and having her whine was not going to be fun.

S3-92-173-56.

I read the file out loud. "Ess, you're five, and you were born in Maryland. Your Mom and Dad are still both alive; they're living in the same place. You've got a baby brother who lives with them. They wanted to name you Luka. They didn't give you up to the school for money, they didn't know. They thought that you died."

Essie was quietly crying. She had parents. She had a brother too.

There was a last notation. "Ess, there's a note here, at the bottom. Rix is your sister, they got her too, because there's some gene you have that means you are less likely to reject the shark DNA."

Ess was looking at Rix now in a new light. Wide eyed she reached across to the youngest of our family and touched her shoulder. Rix turned to look at Ess. "We're sisters you and me." Ess said.

"And there's a second note, Ess." She turned back to look at me. "You don't have the same dad, but you and Queenie have the same Mom. You're still sisters though."

I picked up the other two girls files now, though they were pretty much irrelevant.

"You're seven, Queenie, like you thought. Your mom wanted to call you Alisha. Your dad died," I said, reading quickly, "He's the one who got you in the school, he was a Whitecoat. Erasers killed him."

Queenie didn't seem to mind that fact, knowing she had a Mom, and two half- sisters and a half-brother. The two older girls looked so happy, and were showing it, knowing after all this time that they really were sisters after all.

Funny that. They were almost identical but for the age and height difference, and only half-sisters, while Rix looked different, except for the dark eyes, and she was Essie's full-blood sister.

"They wanted to call Rix, Amy," I said. "I like the name Amy. Lets call her that instead."

I got nods of agreement.

The triplets had found out that they were actually a year older than they thought, twelve like Alan and Lee. The School had actually run two trials in one year. The triplets' parents had given them up to the school. Karma had kicked in, and they had been killed in a car crash three years ago.

Just the proof that all vehicles were death-traps.

Lee had found out that her parents lived in Maryland as well. They hadn't known. They hadn't been able to have any more children, something had actually gone wrong in Lee's birth. They lived not far from the youngest three's parents.

Alan's mother and father had sold him to the School. We got no more out of him, and he looked pretty upset.

Nate had asked Emmy to read his file out. His mother was dead; she had died after his birth. They had no idea who his father was. He was pretty upset that he had no one. Emmy was hugging him.

Four files were left on the ground.

Four.

Only one of them was mine.

I picked up my file, K8-92-108-56. (Kayte).

My father was alive, but he lived in South Africa. I had no siblings. Nothing was mentioned about my Mom.

A bit anticlimactic, really, but that was okay. No matter what, even if the others wanted to go with their parents, I'd still be there for those who didn't.

The other three files were lying on the ground, glaringly obvious.

I didn't want to look at them. I didn't want to know if it was Jaynine and Kayone. I didn't want to know what had happened to them.

"Kayte?"

A hand tugged my sleeve.

"Kayte, are you okay?"

I shook myself mentally and physically. I couldn't afford to look indecisive. I was the oldest, the leader.

I wasn't okay.

The last three files beckoned.

The first.

Oh Jaynine.

My older brother was dead, gone. He'd been put to sleep. They hadn't needed him anymore, and he was too much trouble.

Tears slipped down my cheeks.

The second

Kayone, how could they do that to you?

Death by Erasers, the worst of all…

I knew I was crying silently, and I didn't care.

--

I had been sitting off by myself for the past hour. The others had decided to let me, I had told stories about Jaynine and Kayone, so they all knew how much they meant to me.

Lee and Emmy had decided to risk going to the nearest place that they could buy food, to get something to eat and drink to bring back for the little ones especially.

I'd given them the money and no one had bothered me since.

I think it scared them to know I could lose it like this over people they had never known.

Jayone and Kaynine were dead, I had always known that, well I hadn't and that doubt allowed me to hope.

And that hope had just been torn apart.

Torn apart. Kayte, DON'T GO THERE!

Lee and Emmy were almost back. Munn, who was scouting for Erasers and watching for their return signalled us.

There was a couple of what I guessed to be 'choppers' in the sky, Erasers, so we had to be careful about where we were, and what we did.

It wasn't really anything new, Erasers were still taunting us, and there were probably Whitecoats up there too. Erasers aren't exactly the most intelligent things on this planet. Thick as two short planks, as Dr. Kate had once said.

The only difference from the School was the fact that this was a much bigger playing field.

--

It was nearly nighttime; the sun was setting over the nearest range of mountains.

The Erasers had stuck around the town looking for us for the entire day, so we had a bit of a problem in getting out. We'd decided to wait it out, and this had so far paid off.

We'd had something to eat as well, from what Emmy and Lee had brought back. There was this really nice stuff, bread, which I'd had once or twice before.

Bread is this baked food, and the stuff that the girls had decided to buy was still warm.

It was sooooo delicious.

I think that it will become a favourite of ours!

I'd done some serious thinking about what I was going to do next. We deserved to be able to live our lives.

So we would run and hide, somewhere where no one would find us, where there were no people to see us.

We saw a truck stop near to where we were, by the dairy that Lee and Emmy had gone to, to buy food.

The people emptied half of it, and the rest, or so Munn had overheard, was going on to a store about 80 miles away.

A store in a town bigger than this one, or so one of the women had said. Any truck would do at this point.

We climbed out of our den, and walked as naturally and as inconspicuously as a bunch of mutant shark kids who are being hunted by a bunch of rabid also-mutant masses of nastiness called Erasers.

Not very.

And I could go on all day with imaginative names for the School's resident guard dogs.

We got the little ones on the truck, and then disaster struck. The woman who had mentioned the trucks' destination came back out of the store.

The little ones, led by Queenie-Alisha, hid behind the boxes.

All of us on the ground scrambled behind the truck, and pressed ourselves to the canvas cover. Trying to be invisible in the darkness.

Oh damnation, I hoped she hadn't seen us!

She hadn't, or at least I was pretty sure she hadn't, because she wasn't looking around suspiciously for us.

The higher power in the universe must have realised we had something owed us, because at that moment her cellphone rang, and she turned away.

As quick as we could, we scrambled into the truck, and behind the crates to join the terrified trio and Nate.

--

The journey in this truck was much the same as the first journey in the other truck had been.

Moments of doubt punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

The truck bumped and jolted us along the road to…wherever it was we were going to. We had no idea where we were; we had no idea where anything was anyway.

Oh, sure, a world map had been explained to me once, and there had been one on the wall for as long as I could remember, but we had no idea where anything was supposed to be.

The others were looking to me for leadership, so I made it up as I went along, and hoped that they would let me off easy if I screwed up.

We must be stopping soon; we'd been on this truck for ages and ages. As if reading my thoughts, the driver put her foot down on the brake, and the truck's speed began to drop.

The truck slowed to a halt.

Maybe… no, we hadn't stopped yet, and the truck lurched forward drunkenly, making me feel slightly motion sick. We rounded a corner, and the nausea I was feeling increased, fuelled by my nervous anxiety and the truck's jolting.

Three more nerve wracking turns and we finally began to slow down again. We jerked to a stop.

The engine stopped, and the drivers door opened, then closed with a slam.

Munn and Moo peeled back the canvas covering in one corner where it had become slightly loose. One by one we wriggled out of the space, jumping off the truck into the deserted alley it had been parked in.

The woman who had driven it here was probably long in her bed, and the shop the crates were destined for was on one side of the dark alley.

There was a small sliver of the moon showing in the dark sky, not enough for many creatures on this planet to see by, and not enough for us to make any more than vague outlines. I don't think I would ever get tired of seeing the stars lighting up the heavens like that.

Quietly I picked the two brightest stars in the sky, they were Jaynine and Kayone. Silently I said a goodnight to them, and then I turned my attention back to my family. They'd probably get worried if I zoned out too much.

Alan and Moo had popped one of the crates in the truck open, by touch, and had pinched some of the bread inside. They were passing it out to Lee, who had opened one bag up and was handing it out to the littlies to eat. She was stuffing the rest into a sack.

We didn't feel too bad about it, taking the bread. We needed to eat, and nobody else was going to starve because we'd taken it.

I'd feel bad for stealing, I knew that, and I would probably make up for taking what wasn't mine sometime in the future.

Maybe.

If I could.

Lee stuffed the bags as full as she could get them. She handed them out to myself and Alan to carry, just because we were the oldest. She picked up the sleeping Rix-Amy, and settled the child on one hip.

We began to walk away, looking for another truck to hop into. They were pretty good for transport, and had worked so far, so we'd keep a good thing going.

Quietly I asked Alan, "Which way, do you think?"

He pointed to the left, so we turned that way.

We were at the mouth of the alleyway now, and we began to walk down the street. The triplets scampered from one side of the street to the other, and the three of them peered down other alleyways beside the buildings that lined the road. We kept to the walls, trying to stay out of the pools of light spilling from the streetlamps.

We crossed one road, then another, making our way down this side of the town, looking for another truck to help us get farther away from the School.

Then, in the distance, I heard it. And seconds later, I saw them. Four men, all looking like male models in their early twenties, and each one with the melodic voice of an…

Eraser.

Oh, we were so screwed.

Quick as a flash, my hand snapped out and touched Nate's. I spun him around. The others followed suit as I turned and began to walk the other way, hoping to that cosmic force that they hadn't seen us.

The footsteps behind us got faster. There were no voices now.

DAMNDAMNDAMNDAMNDAMN!!!

We all broke into a sprint at the same time, dropping all our gear to help us run faster. Alan took Amy so that Lee could run without the weight.

Then, ahead, four more Erasers materialised out of the darkness. Nowhere to Run!

I skidded to a stop, and the erasers ringed us, Ten mutant shark kids, four of them little more than babies versus eight vicious Wolfmen who wanted to rip us apart.

We pushed the little ones to the middle, and Alan, Lee, Emmy, Munn, Moo and I formed into a living wall around them.

All the Erasers but one were fully morphed now, furry muzzles curled into snarls, mouths open and dripping with drool.

Not a charming sight, and I was desperately trying to reign in my terror. Behind me I felt the generation of electricity as the triplets began that process.

I began that as well, taking my own energy and amplifying it. In front of me the sense of the Erasers' bioelectric field got stronger. They had no idea that we were doing it.

I watched the Eraser nearest me lick his chops.

The Eraser that was not morphed was speaking on a cellphone to someone, presumably at the School. This was not going to be pretty.

Cellphone carrier snapped the phone shut, and began to morph. He grinned hungrily at us. "Sorry, kids, but they don't want you older ones anymore. You're too much trouble. They'll be here in a while to pick up the babies."

They started to close in on us. We backed up, tightening out wall as much as we could without touching each other.

Cellphone continued speaking, "We get to do what we like with you though," He drawled.

He lunged for Lee, who spun and shoved her hands on the nearest part of his body as he sailed past. She unleashed a jolt that made the air crackle.

The other Erasers hadn't seen this, consumed by their bloodlust. Two leapt for me and I let off a shock into one before I realised that I'd need time to be able to focus another burst.

The Eraser punched me in the face, and I dropped like a stone.

After what seemed like a lifetime, but was probably only seconds, I dragged myself up off the concrete. My head was pounding, and my sight was fuzzy and full of white spots.

Emmy was trying to hold off one Eraser, Alan another. Munn was down, and Moo was trying to drag himself to the defence of his sister.

A third Eraser was dragging himself upright to jump on Lee, but I got to him first, yanking on his arm, and able to concentrate enough for a jolt.

My eyes met Lee's and we nodded at each other, before a scream made us whirl around. I had to close my eyes to try and stop the nausea caused by moving so quickly.

It didn't work and I threw up all over the footpath. Dimly I felt Lee move from beside me, towards the scream. Emmy's.

I breathed in and out several times. My nausea in check for now, I slowly and carefully looked up. All the Erasers were down, courtesy of the built-in stun gun. One was dead, and I didn't regret that in the slightest.

The others looked about as bad as I felt at the moment. Warm blood was running down my face from my bleeding nose and the claw scratch on my cheek.

Alan and Nate were trying to calm down the trio of girls. Alisha, Queenie now wanted to be called by her birth name, was curled up around her half sisters, and Alan and Nate curled around them, trying to reassure the younger ones that everything was going to be alright.

Alan lifted his head from Alisha's shoulder long enough to give me a questioning look, eyeing my blood covered face.

He was one to talk, both eyes swelling shut, and a cut across one arm. The babies didn't look injured at all, at least we'd succeeded in that.

Lee, Munn and Moo were bent over Emmy. They didn't look too bad, but I knew instantly that Emmy was badly hurt.

I crawled over to them, desperate to know how badly.

Bad things always happen at the worst possible time.

One Eraser woke, and lunged towards the closest person. Me. I shocked him, and slumped to the ground, exhausted. Three shocks in such a short time… I was totally used up.

"We need to get out of here, now." My voice sounded weak and pained to my ears.

The others looked at me for a few seconds, surprised at the intrusion into the silence, before they began to move. Munn and Moo slipped their arms under their injured sister, and hoisted her up.

Alan got the younger ones onto their feet, and got them to quickly race back to the place where we had dropped the bags. We needed them, needed food. or we would after about a week of sleep.

I was exhausted.

Lee dragged me to my feet, and held me up until I could stand upright on my own without being in immediate danger of collapse.

I limped along behind the rest of my family. We walked for as long as we could before Alan spotted a stormwater pipe that we could hide in. I forget how long that took, because I was in shock.

We walked to the first intersection of pipes, and then curled into a corner in one of the tunnels. The water would hide our scent to the Erasers if they wanted to track us.

The others slumped to the floor, except Emmy, and her brothers set her down like she was made of glass.

I could see that they had beaten her up badly. I knew that Emmy was my first priority now. I pulled myself up again, marvelling that I could still move.

I motioned at Lee; she nodded, and reached for her pack.

We moved to the younger girls' side. The boys moved away to let us assess the damage done. Both remained close, Munn cradling her head on his lap, and Moo took her hand.

Lee and I peeled away her jacket as well as we could without moving her too much. The white coat was stained red with Emmy's blood.

Too much blood, I knew that. The metallic smell of it reeked in the tunnel, inescapable.

Emmy's blue eyes were closed, her grey curls soaked with water and blood. She was unconscious, and I understood that she would never wake up.

An Eraser's claws had swiped across her arm and her stomach. I could see the blood, Emmy's blood pumping from the veins in her arms, veins that the claws had cut as they swiped.

Her life was bleeding away on the concrete before my eyes, and I could do nothing.

Lee sat back on her heels, defeated. We knew she was all but gone.

She looked up at me, her brown eyes full of tears and grief. I reached out with one hand and smoothed the unruly grey curls of my little almost sister back from her pale white face.

Munn and Moo knew now also, they were crying silently.

Moo had brought his sister's hand to his lips and was quietly rocking on his heels.

Munn had his forehead pressed to hers, and was begging his sister in whispers to wake up, to not leave him.

Alan and the littlies had made the effort to come and sit here, with us, in a silent vigil. He'd put his arm around Lee, and she was sobbing into his shoulder. He was trying, and failing to look strong, like we so desperately needed.

I could see his composure crack, and tears begin to run down his face before her turned and buried his face in Lee's hair.

The small trio were all arms and legs, curled up against and around each other in a frantic ball of grief and comfort.

Nate, having no one else to come to, curled up next to me, with his head on my shoulder. I wrapped my arm around him, and silently cried, as I, and everyone there felt Emmy's heart, so full of love for us, finally stopped beating.

Epilogue.

I can't and won't tell you where me and my family are living at the present time. We move around a lot too, so it is harder for the School to track us down.

We've lost one of our own, and we still grieve, even now. We always will. We miss you Emmy, it isn't the same without you.

My family and I have been through hell at the hands of the Whitecoats and the Erasers, and I will do everything to stop something like this from happening to us again.

I cannot save everyone, but I can save these eight, who are my family.

We live in a place where we can be ourselves, away from everything that would harm us.

We live in a place where no one will find us.

We are free.

FiN.