A harsh scream from a young woman echoed through the dull white building. Most people stopped for but a moment, before continuing on their ways. They knew that sound. Everyone did. It was the sound of a young mother finding out that the Agents would be there soon, possibly to take away her child.
Some felt pity for the young woman, others ducked their heads and tried to pretend they never heard anything. Most, however, ignored it. The average person understood why the Agents were so important, and couldn't even begin to understand a world without them.
They brought peace, controlled the population, and destroyed all bad people before they had a chance to become criminals. It was the way of life that they, their parents, even their great grandparents knew, and never fought. They had lived in prosperity for almost six hundred years after four World War's almost destroyed the planet.
Everyone was thankful that the One Nation was the only power in the world, as even though the livable land was separated into twenty six sectors, it was impossible for a nation to go into war or famine without the One Nation bearing down on them. No one wanted to fight against the power of the One Nation.
That said, everyone understood that the Future Picture being done at birth was for the best. That was the only thing that kept their children innocent, and got rid of all problems before they had a chance to become murders, rapists, or worse.
Why would they? Sure, it was a terrifying decision to have a child, not knowing if they would live more than a few hours before being slaughtered by the Agents, but it was necessary. It was for the good of not only the society as a whole, but for the child. It was better for the children to be dealt with before they became monsters than risking them hurting someone else.
It also made things safer for the population as a whole. Some people grew up to kill, rape, abuse, assault, or worse to others. This way, their victims would never be hurt. It was a good thing, even if it made it more difficult for the few couples with clearance to have children to actually decide that this was something that they truly wanted.
Ninety percent of all of the children born were fine, good, healthy children with futures as bright as the stars, but occasionally, there were others. The thought of allowing a child to grow up in a home where the parents would know what that child would end up doing, and still expect them to change and become productive members of society was simply moronic.
Once you found out something like that about someone, it was impossible to look at them as you may have before you found out. Thus why most parents refused to hold their children before a government worker, called an Agent, came to read the child.
Agents reported straight to the Council, a group of twenty six individuals that each kept an eye on one section. The Council was on the top of the One Nation, followed by their second's, then their chosen Enforcer. After that, it was the Governor's, the Agents, the Guards who worked in the Rehabilitation Centers that the children were sent to, then the normal civilians.
Most of the people were alright with the way things were. Most of them wouldn't be able to deal with the stress that those above them had to. Thankfully, all of those who were above the regular civilians were separated and sent to other camps where they could learn what they needed to from those that came before them. They, unlike the criminals, weren't taken away at birth. Oh no, they spent the first eight years with their families, before spending the next thirteen years learning.
They became adults at twenty- one, just like everyone else, and they had their strengths and their weaknesses just as everyone else did.
It was really thanks to the Agent's and all their hard work that everything ran as smoothly as it did. Not only were they the ones who were burdened with the destinies of others, but they were the ones who had to deal with the results of the children who would commit a crime.
They, along with the Guards, ran Rehabilitation Centers all over the One Nation that allowed them to try and change the destiny of a child. The only thing was, very few children ever were allowed to leave. At the age of twenty one, they would be scanned a second time, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, they would have changed. But rarely were they ever given this chance.
Everyone knew that what happened in the Center's stayed in the Center's, and they were alright with that. It was easier to think of all the criminals, both past and future, were safely locked away from the normal ones.
That wasn't to say that the Agents were evil. No, the One Nation, and the Council that judged it were the saviors of their world. They kept the rest of the population from safe and sane. There were no addicts, no disabled, no poor, and no murders. Everyone worked in harmony. The only people above the average person were those who worked in the government, and that was the way they preferred it.
They were raised in an environment that was best for them as people, and the only divisions were between the twenty- six sectors themselves. Each Sector advocated two languages, one called Common, and their personal language. It made things easier, so that everyone could communicate openly, while still being challenged to learn their native language. The only down side, not that it really was one, was that there was not a Common word for every private word. Some words just didn't translate correctly.
But, over all, there was no wars or poverty or famine, just content people that succeeded in making the best of their lives as each day passed. They knew from birth what they would succeed in, and strived to live up to their fates that the Future Picture foretold. It was better for everyone this way, doctors were given the information they needed from a young age to be able to become better, teachers were taught how to make sure each student learned efficiently from them, builders were always evolving and creating new masterpieces, and even the scientists were able to benefit from the teachings from the One Nation.
No one really remembered what life was like before the One Nation formed, in 2128 A.D., and no one really cared to. From the bits passed down through families, it was nothing more than torture and chaos. The world didn't care about its other inhabitance, or the earth itself, resulting in several Forbidden Zones that couldn't be salvaged.
It really was a pity, an older woman thought, shaking her short white hair slightly, that the One Nation hadn't formed earlier. Things would have been a lot better for everyone if they had.
A second scream shook the building, this one was met with secretive smiles. This meant that another life had officially joined the planet. After the Agent had come and gone, most of the people in the hospital would go into the new parents room and congratulate them, if the Agent didn't storm out with the child of course.
If that was the case, the whole hospital would become solemn for a few moments, before getting back to their normal lives. It was a sad fact of life, but a fact none the less. Two screams like that meant two children, most likely. That said, unless they were part of a very rare breeding pair, then they would never be able to understand what the young woman was dealing with. She, like most of them, had probably been given instructions on how to not get too attached to her children. No, it was going to be difficult separating mother and child, but if she was a part of a breeding pair, she probably had known how to keep herself away. It was stressful, like most pregnancies, but it was a little bit different for expecting parents now that the Future Picture existed.
A few halls away, a woman in her early twenties laid in her bed with tears running down her face, making her usually porcelain skin look blotchy and her green eyes now red and scratchy. Her husband stood next to her, quiet and somber. Instead of just having a single child, like they had expected, there had been two.
He was in a state of shock, but, it was his destiny to be beside his wife, and when they had been selected as a couple allowed to breed, he had been over the moon. A chance, a rare chance, to be able to raise a child was more than he ever expected, even if he had known it from the time he was born.
So many people were unable to have children, but they had managed to have two. Maybe in the old days, before the One Nation formed, it would have been a good thing. Now, though, it simply meant that the two children had a higher chance of being taken away to either grow up in jail, or be killed.
He had refused to be there with his wife when she had given birth, and refused to look at either child until the Agent told him that one, or both, would grow up to be good people. He knew that his wife hated this, and that she wanted her children, but he knew that getting too attached to either of them would just cause both more pain when they were torn from her.
Four hundred years ago, the government had come up with a way to screen the people of the world. If they didn't fit into the same strict standards that they had set, they would be killed. They had gotten their hands on a piece of technology called the Future Picture that was able to tell who someone would be with just a name and a fingerprint. It was extraordinary.
A knock at the door pulled him out of his thoughts.
It was time.
The agent came inside, and easily walked towards the bed that his wife was resting on. The woman was dark skinned, with dark glasses covering her eyes. She was dressed in pure black, with her dark hair braided down her back.
She cleared her throat, and pulled a device out of her pocket.
The Future Picture.
"Have you decided on names yet?" She asked.
He looked at his wife, and watched as tears flowed down her face. It was up to him, it seemed. "The first born is Edrick Justinius, and the younger one is Clovis Jaisen." The names were typed in, and both children were brought into the room.
One child's hand was lifted and scanned. This child was assigned the name of Edrick. The Agent frowned, but nodded. "A doctor, huh. One that will work in one of the most progressive hospitals in the world. Very nice." The child was released and she moved onto the next child and scanned the second one. She clapped several times, and two larger men came in to take the child away.
"You never had a second child." She told them, "Clovis Jaisen never existed. This child would have grown up to be a thief, and possibly has sociopathic tendencies later in life. This child is going into the rehabilitation center. You will never see them again."
Little did any of them know, the twins had been switched. By the time anyone realized it, the Agents were long gone, and the parents didn't want to lose their last child. Edrick had a destiny that was said to be great, normal but great. Clovis on the other hand, was going to be locked up until he was far older.
The younger twin was the only one that the parents had. It was strange, but both parents would never know. After all, neither parent had seen either of their children before the Agents had taken the older of the twins. Only the doctor who had delivered the twins would have known that both children's lives were switched. But no one would know, simply because the older twin was slightly smaller than the younger, and while both children looked similar, their differences would have been very obvious if someone had simply taken the chance to look.
But no one did.
Clovis Jaisen would live as Edrick, encouraged by his parents to grow and learn.
Edrick would be stripped of his name, and given a number instead. He would grow up in a cell, left mostly to himself, and unable to do basic things until far later in life than his younger twin.
Both twins would grow up differently, and both were living a life that wasn't supposed to be theirs. The twin known as Edrick had a better start in life than 907154179 would, but the older twin, 907254179, that was where our story begins.