This story is by Amy Moone and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Scar, you killed him! He was our last chance to get inside information on the Institute.”
Scar shrugged and put her hands on her hips. “I figured you or Dante would hold back and keep one alive.”
Hope sighed, looking around at the scattered group of mercs slumped lifelessly in their camp.
“Hope, this was in the leader’s pocket.” Dante handed her a slip of paper.
She took it and read the merc’s orders. The color drained from her face and she looked around the group. “They were meant to pass this message to me if they found us. They already have Tali in the Institute. The Doctor is offering to release her if I turn myself in.”
The group was silent for a moment, then erupted in an uproar.
“You can’t go!”
“We need to get Tali out of there!”
“How do we know it’s not a trap?”
“Of course it’s a trap! There’s no way they’ll let either of them leave.”
Scar’s piercing whistle hammered everyone into silence as she stepped toward the fire, “There’s a lot to discuss and decide. Why don’t we get the report from Luke and go from there.”
Everyone slowly nodded. Supper was made while others finished setting up the camouflage tents and clearing away the bodies. They ate in silence and many cast glances at the radio sitting beside Hope and Ana. Not long after supper, the radio sparked to life.
“Hope? Are you there?” a voice spoke through the static. It was their hacker and techie right on time.
Hope picked up the mic and clicked to speak. “I’m here Luke. What do you have for us about the Institute?” They had camped a good two miles away from the Institute in a thick forest that covered most of the rest of the island. The only way onto the island was by boat or by air. Air traffic was heavily restricted nowadays, but they had spotted a helicopter fly in the night before.
“It’s an old prison that was converted into a boarding school for gifted children. At least that’s what they say on their paperwork. Most of the children are basically sold to the school. The Institute is a sturdy building with a stone wall surrounding it. A barbed wire fence is 100 feet out, with only a guard station at the entrance. There are four other guard towers at the corners of the stone wall and patrols between those and the fence.” Luke said.
Several people groaned and a few shook their heads.
Scar frowned. She took the mic from Hope and asked, “Are there any other ways in? Sewer? Water pipes?”
“Not outside of the fence. Let me keep looking at the data and see what I can find.”
“How many people are they holding? What kind of experiments are they doing?” asked Ana. Scar repeated her question over the mic.
The radio crackled a moment before Luke said, “Looks like there are three adult groups and one group of children. All being genetically enhanced for various jobs. The children are being modified at a genetic level much like your clan was.”
“So 60 adults and 20 children. There’s more of them than there are scientists and guards. Maybe we could use that to our advantage.” Scar looked around the group. “If we free them I bet they would join our fight.”
“There are also some enhanced guards training there. At least 20. Did you find a safe spot to camp?”
Hope sighed and looked around. She took the mic from Scar and said, “As safe as we can be. We ran into a group of mercenaries earlier but we took care of them. Luke, we really need a way in and out. We found a note on one of the mercs. They have Tali at the Institute but will release her if I give myself up.”
They heard a sharp intake of air and a mumbled curse. “Okay, don’t do anything until I get back to you. I’ll call in some favors and see what I can find.”
“Okay. Hurry, Luke.”
“I will. Don’t do anything, I’ll call back in the morning. Promise.”
“I promise.” Hope clicked the mic off and looked around at her clan, her family. Jenna was leaning against Dante, Ian and Quinn had their heads in their hands, and Ana and Scar watched Hope closely. Hope stood and dusted off her pants. “I’m going for a walk to think. Set a watch and get some rest.” She strode off into the forest.
Ana and Scar looked at each other, grabbing a lantern they followed after Hope. They found her in a clearing far enough away that the camp’s fire was just a speck. Hope paced back and forth.
“You can’t do this, Hope,” said Scar.
“I can’t leave Tali in there. She’s only four.” Hope continued pacing, her brow furrowed in thought. “We have to do something, they want to experiment on her.”
Scar looked at Ana with a frown. She gestured towards Hope. Ana sighed and shook her head gently before moving to Hope and placing a hand on her shoulder to still her.
“Hope, we can’t afford to lose you right now. Who will lead the clan? Let someone else go.” Ana squeezed Hope’s shoulder but she shook her off and glared at the older woman.
“You want me to sacrifice someone else? There’s no guarantee they’ll let Tali go if we send someone else in.”
“We need to take that chance. You’re too valuable Hope.” Scar said.
Hope growled and whirled on Scar. “They’re my family. It’s my job to protect them, not send them into traps.” Hope began to pace again. Five steps. Turn. Five steps. Turn. “We know they want me. They’re more likely to release Tali if I go in.”
Scar threw her arms up and grunted, “Says Leo, the mercenary who tried to kill you how many times? You can’t trust him!”
Hope stopped pacing and took a deep breath. She gave her best friend a steely look and said, “I’m not trusting him. I’m trusting the hundred or so mercenaries sent after me the last 20 years, with the order to bring me in alive. That hasn’t changed. If they will trade anyone for Tali, it’ll be me. I’m the prize the Doctor craves.”
“That’s what they want, Hope. The place is a fortress. We have no plan to get you back safely.” Ana said softly, wringing her hands as she looked towards the building in question.
“That’s why I need to give myself up. They’ll take me inside and I can negotiate for them to let Tali go.”
“And why would they let her go? She’s second gen, young enough to experiment on and track how the genetic modifications have been passed on. They will want her almost as much as they want you.” Ana said.
“We don’t have anyone else the Doctor would want to trade for. I’m the one that got away. I carry the mutated gene she wants to study. I am trained to fight and survive. Tali is just a little girl. She’s so young and innocent, she doesn’t deserve this.” Hope looked towards the Institute. Staring at it with her enhanced night vision made it visible in the distance. “There are more experiments than there are guards and scientists.”
“But they will be weak from experimentation.” Scar pointed out.
“So was my mom and her group when they managed to escape.”
Ana wrapped her arms around herself and blinked back tears. “That was a hard time. And we almost didn’t make it. The Institute didn’t have as many guards or people as it does now. We were among the first experimented on.”
Hope went to Ana and hugged her for a moment. “I can do this Ana. I can get Tali and myself out. My mother would want me to.”
Ana sniffed and pulled back to give Hope a shaky smile. “You’re right. She would be so proud of you.” Ana cradled her face and kissed her forehead.
Scar groaned and stood. She put her hands on her hips and said, “Fine. Let’s come up with a plan. We need a way to distract all the guards to allow you to escape with Tali.”
Hope gave the faraway Institute a determined look and nodded. “Let’s meet with the others and make a plan. I’m going in to get our little girl.”