Everyone was excited about tomorrow. It was publicized all over the tabloids, the internet was having constant updates, parents couldn't stop talking about it, students getting overly conscious over themselves. Fingers pointed, rumors birthed. Everyone couldn't wait. Everyone but Taylor.
There were always the rejects. The people who didn't make it, failed to pass and discarded away because they were trash. Society understood that they were an unhealthy kind of nuisance, so it treated them like a disease. Immediately past The Selection, the peacekeepers forced the failures to huddle, then pushed them into a metal container where they were shipped away.
It always happened amidst a loud chaos. Hoarse throats screaming profanities. Along with loved ones crying. With hysterical laughter coming from the rejects and onlookers alike. They were the uglier side of the world, not fit for existence. Or so people believed. She hated the scene and the fact that it was mandated that she watch it every year.
This year was different. Tomorrow, Taylor would receive her code, and just like the rejects many years before her, she was to be sent off for the common good of the people.
A hiss of air sounded, and the heavy titanium door slid open.
She didn't have to turn around to realize who entered. "I should've ran when I had the chance yesterday," she said, keeping her voice low.
He kept his footsteps slow and heavy as he strolled over to her bed. As he sat down, she felt the familiar sinking of the mattress. Lucian kept silent.
"I had sixteen years to escape," Taylor continued. "We already knew that I wouldn't make it." He took in a sharp breath.
"You will," he said, his words hard and reassuring, as if a confirmative tone would make his want a reality.
She shook her head. "No I won't." She tried to smile, but her lips barely curved upwards. It was difficult to imagine that in less than twenty-four hours she was going to be ripped away from everything she had ever known.
Lucian looked at her with hopeful yet teary eyes. "There's a fifty percent chance that you can. Most of us will get through, I don't see why you won't. I overheard someone saying that her sister got through even though most people said that her physique wasn't up to par."
"Luc, I've failed every single test they've put me through."
"You passed the mental ability test."
It was true. And that was the only glimmer of hope she had before she started failing every other one.
He reached out for her hand and held it in his. "You topped the class for that one. They were all surprised."
Taylor pulled her hand away and rested it on her knee. "And I scored the lowest in class for all the other physique tests. You aced every single one of the rest." A small tear rolled down her cheek, but Taylor quickly cleaned it off. She had anticipated tomorrow since she was a toddler, and she promised herself that she wouldn't bawl her face out—she wanted to look good in front of the people she knew before she was dragged away.
She pulled Luc into a hug. "You knew about this when we met. Why be sad now?" Taylor had always been weak compared to the rest of the children, and in the Illuminati's eyes, that meant that she was useless and a burden to the world. It meant that she was her imperfect—or more specifically, her genetic code was imperfect—which made her an anomaly that had to be removed.
"Because it's too soon damn it." Luc almost choked on his words trying to hold back a cry. "I always told myself it's going to be a few years later or maybe even a few months. Not tomorrow."
Taylor wanted to comfort him and say that everything was going to be okay. But she couldn't, because everything wasn't okay. She needed comfort too, although instead of feeling an overwhelming feeling of grief, she felt more numb than anything else.
He pushed himself from her and wiped the few drops of tears that managed to escape his eyes with his sleeve. "I look like a total wuss." He sounded a soft laugh of disbelief. "Shit."
The titanium door hissed and slid open once more.
"Lucian Alcantar and Taylor Fiering."
Both their heads shot up in unison. A peacekeeper stood before them, armored with a tight-fitting suit and a sleek bulletproof vest. On her arm was a band with a proud number eight sewed in red—a number many people would do anything for, including Taylor. An ominous large weapon hung behind her back. It was a gun that shot air bullets fast enough to kill anybody that got hit—one of their lower-ranged weapons, simply meant to intimidate schooling students.
The peacekeeper held a holographic tablet which she read from. "You are to meet at the hall in five minutes."
"Yes mam'" they said. Lucian and Taylor stood up and headed to the hall as ordered. They followed behind the peacekeeper in single file-a habit that had been conditioned in them since they were children.
Outside Taylor's room was a line of sixteen-year olds staring at them with beady brown eyes. They all looked the same, brown-eyed, muscular and taut with wispy gold hair. The girls had either bobbed cuts or pony tails, and the boys all had short, cropped hairstyles. The only thing that differed were the shape of their faces. Some noses were sharper than most, others, more crooked.
One look at Taylor and anybody could tell that her genetic code was more than unusual. Her hair glowed red, the kind of red that attracted attention everywhere she went, and her body was thin, with barely any noticeable muscles covering her bones.
Needless to say, the line of teenagers flashed her unwelcoming stares.
She stepped behind the boy who was last in line, with Luc following behind her. When they started walking, it seemed like the boy tried to keep his distance, his footsteps faster than necessary.
The corridor was painted white and lined with metal doors. More teenagers filed behind Taylor as they went by the rooms. The peacekeeper stopped by every single door, all eight hundred of them, and all the students followed as ordered, joining the queue without question.
It wasn't long before they reached a hall with a large holographic screen flashing at the front. On it was a large title that wrote Guide to The Selection, the well-known video that the instructors had talked about many times before, affirming how it was paramount that everyone paid attention.
The sixteen year olds kept absolute silence, taking their seats in an orderly manner. No pushing, or murmuring. It was almost frightening how obedient they were, and Taylor could never understand how it worked, though she was part of the puzzle herself.
Another peacekeeper stepped up from the corner of the stage. He too had a large number eight printed on the band that laid on his arm. It was the first thing that everyone looked at.
The man smiled; the kind of smile that didn't make people feel good, but more nervous because of the thousands of hidden meanings and intentions it might carry. "I am sure that all of you are looking forward to tomorrow. It is one of the most important days of our nation. It is a sacred event where we clean and purify the place that we treasure and live in. We, the adults, expect that all of you are well informed about the procedure and wish that you all keep perfect behavior on that very day."
He gestured to the screen. "And hence, we provide you with this informative video about The Selection. Enjoy." The lights went off, which made the creepy silence even more evident. The only thing that lit up everyone's faces was the bright—almost blinding—screen.
The video's sound was almost sudden, too loud in comparison to the lack of noise just a second ago. "The war has left the people frightened and scarred," a controlled and feminine voice said as the images of burning buildings and nuclear bombs moved across the holograph. "The Selection is an all important exercise carried out on sixteen-year olds every year to remove our differences. It is necessary to ensure that nobody will ever have reason to fight again."
It was nothing that Taylor had never heard before. The same idea was repeated to her many times throughout her childhood, by teachers, her parents and other similar authoritative figures, including the media. They always told her that it was important, but she could never really bring herself to believe it. Differences, in opinions, appearances and any other form of incongruence that would lead to ostracization or feelings of injustice were to be avoided at all cost.
And that, in tangent with the need to better the human race, sought genetic engineering for an answer. Everyone was to have to have their gene code similar to the perfect standard. And anything too far from it was to be removed and prevented from contaminating the genes of future generations.
Of course, that meant that Taylor had to be removed.
Which reasons why she always saw the system as being flawed. Because what they were trying to prevent was being bred in her—feelings of injustice. Yet, everyone else saw it as normal, except for Lucian. At least that was what she thought; he always did anything he could to support her.
The voice of the woman still went on. "For now, we still have to remove these unwanted genes, and that unfortunately leads to dissimilarities. However, it is for the good of the future. A world without differences. That is a vision of the Illuminati that will be accomplished, thanks to the valiant sacrifices of these people."
That reasoning was supposed to make the treatment of the present fair.
It didn't. Not to Taylor. It was difficult to see why she had to surrender her whole entire life simply to create a society that completely lacked individuality. Yet, everyone else perceived it to be utopia. Because it wasn't them that was making the sacrifice.
The holograph was now showing images of teens lining up in a row. "The procedure is as such..." They've heard about the test before, from teachers and seniors. But they had never seen a visual of what it was like. This was the first.
The sixteen year olds were to stand in a straight line, each waiting for their turn. A few inspectors would be at the end of the line, one of them holding a needle to take a blood test. A large machine scanned the blood and its contents before flashing the genetic information in percentages—how closely related it is to the ideal. Depending on the number given, a person was allowed to stay... or was taken away.
It didn't look pleasant.
For most, the unpleasantness would be from the blood and needles. For Taylor, it was her removal. Despite this, the students tried to keep a straight face, in fear of being punished.
"A band will be given to each of you," the woman announcer said. The peacekeepers held smug expressions once the word 'band' was said. Taylor didn't blame them. Anyone was bound to be proud to have such a high number. Eight was the highest ever obtained. "Do not remove it. It is only suited to your DNA and if anybody tries any mischief, consequences will be faced. Namely, an electric shock."
Nobody would even dare—or want—to exchange their bands anyway. It was their identity.
After the whole process was described, a panoramic view of the core city was shown; the skyscrapers, the overhead tunnels and people like ants scurrying on the see-through roads. It was a futuristic haven. The scene faded away and familiar words appeared on screen: All Hail Pangaea. All Hail Illuminati.
The holograph switched off, throwing the room into darkness. And almost like it was choreographed, hands were raised in unison and a series of robotic, reluctant claps chorused through the hall. The information had been reiterated to the teenagers many times before.
None of the students found the video interesting.
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