The sudden stinging pain on the back of his neck made him squeeze his eyes shut. The feeling crawled throughout his body and finally seemed to wake him up.
Where was he?
The black-haired man thought, slowly opening his eyes to a white wall scarce of anything else. Adjusting his eyes to the sudden brightness he rubbed them with his hands and blinked a few times swiveling his gaze around.
Was this some sort of a small room?
Creasing his brows he tried to remember again when suddenly the wall in front of him lit with some words of different colors.
”THE BRANDING SYSTEM, ” It read on the top followed by four options below.
The man read the words one after the other trying to make sense of them and suddenly it struck him; He had come here for his branding.
Laughing at himself, he turned around surveying the cubical white room again but this time excitement was visible in his gait as he mused to himself, ”How could you forget, Aksel? Its the biggest day of your life! ”
”Welcome to The Branding System. ”
An electronic female voice could be heard announcing from somewhere through a set of speakers that weren visible. The sudden voice startled him and looking around for its source he came upon nothing as the room remained unchanged.
The automated voice took a small pause and then continued briefing him through the information that he had already been taught as a child and was well known throughout the world. There was just one thing that didn settle well with him but deciding to listen first, he paid attention to the robotic voice.
”The Branding system consists of four brands. The first classification is termed as Contrivo under which the humans are evolved with proper adjustments or replacements done to their limbs with mechanical and robotic parts. ”
The blue word Contrivo glowed and then dimmed.
”The second classification is termed as Exter under which the humans are evolved with mutations done to their body through the infusion of Virus M. ”
The red word Exter glowed and then dimmed.
”The third one is termed Debilis under which humans undergo no evolution as their bodies are weak and incompatible. ”
The yellow word Debilis glowed and then dimmed.
It was now time for the fourth definition and the meaning of the word which was most awaited by him. But instead of the electronic voice continuing further the green word simply glowed and then dimmed like the others. Being of a naturally inquisitive mind, Aksel was curious to know about this fourth type of branding that he had never heard of or seen before.
Was this a new kind of branding introduced?
What were Intercessors and what did they do?
Aksel wanted to know about this new fourth type that he had recently learned about but the electronic voice again grabbed his attention away from his lingering thoughts as he felt a rush of blood through his body at this new announcement.
”The body scan has been completed. The specimen is now ready for the next step of the procedure. ”
It was the year 3022 and Earth had gone through a series of changes reaching new technological and metaphysical heights. Humans had generated into a superior level of beings where they were now classified into three categories based on their body structure and strength when they came upon the age of twenty.
Aksel remembered his mother and father wishing him good luck that morning before he had left his home to get branded safely. He had wished to be a Contrivo like his parents but he would be happy if his body was suitable to be an Exter as well.
Just don make me a Debilis…
He had thought.
Debilis were treated as subhuman in this new and innovative world of the future. The concept of equality had been lost a long time ago since this new system arose. People now hoped to be stronger than the other, to be of more power and Debilis were those people who helped such people of power to become stronger.
It didn matter if they had to give up their life doing so.
The thought of becoming a Debilis made Aksel shudder and focusing his attention away from a life of suffering, he hoped to be able to be someone who his parents could be proud of and the whole world would fear.
The new norm was simple; only the strongest would survive.
”The Branding process will start in ten, nine, eight… ”
The system started the reverse countdown and with bated breath, Aksel waited for his transformation.
”Four, three, two- ”
The voice suddenly cut off and a whirring noise could be heard as the cubicle suddenly turned dark. This abrupt cut of his sight senses made Aksel nervous as he tried to make sense of what was happening around him.
Flailing his arms around in the pitch blackness Aksel felt for some kind of switch on the walls but the walls were smooth and made of a glossy texture. He realized then that they, themselves must have been the source of lights as he had not seen any other equipment used for it.
”Calm down, I am sure its normal, ” he muttered to himself trying to keep his breath in check as he felt the uncertain darkness choking him. The possibility of this being a part of the procedure or an anomaly was fifty-fifty and with hope taking forbearance in his mind Aksel practiced breathing motions.
In the heavy silence that he was wrapped in his slow breathing almost felt like a companion to him and was also an assurance of his existence.
Suddenly the machine whirred to life again and the room lit up but instead of the bright white light that had been filling it before, it was now cast in a light blue glow. It was ghastly and there was a knot in Axels stomach that told him that there was something wrong with this new change.
He tried remembering about the process that his parents themselves had undergone at their age but no such mention of darkness or this pale blue light had been made before.
”Don worry the branding System will choose for you the best category that is suitable for your body and the whole process in itself doesn hurt a bit. ” Thats what his mother had told him a hundred times before whenever he had asked about it, then why…
Keeping his stance steady he made a complete circle trying to find a clue but when he spotted nothing out of the ordinary he dejectedly sat down, thinking it was wise to be saving his strength than doing anything else.
Like every other person who went through branding, this was his first and last time and no amount of wracking his brain was helping him to find a solution.
There was a distinct buzz sound that started and a second later the room brightened up a little more but not to its previous extent as the annoying electronic voice could be heard again.
”The Branding System has been restarted. The Boot error has been solved and the files have been restored. The system is functioning at 80%. ”
What did this mean? Aksel thought to himself as he slowly stood up and watched a bar that had appeared on the wall where The Branding System had been displayed before. The bar was slowly filling up to a hundred percent and when it reached ninety-nine it stopped.
An alarm started blaring inside the room promptly, the entire blue glow turned to a red one as a new message displayed on the screen.
”An intruder has been detected. ”
Was it talking about me?
”The Branding System rejects this specimen for branding. The Subject must be eradicated. ” The automated voice spoke again.
Panic rose within Aksel at once, he didn understand what was happening to him but he knew that in a few seconds he was going to be killed.
Before he could ponder on that question some more a white plate slid to the side from the wall on his left and a conical glowing instrument appeared out of it. It wasn very big, only about the size of his fist, and staring at this new guest Aksel waited for it to do something.
He watched it carefully for a microsecond and when he saw a beam collecting at the tip of the metallic cone he knew the system was using this to obliterate him.
A red beam zapped at the spot where he was, more particularly where his heart was, and closing his eyes waiting to feel some pain, suddenly he felt himself duck and plaster himself to the side of the wall displaying the warning.
Opening his eyes he realized that his body had acted on its own to save him. It surprised him at the agility he had shown, it was new and most certainly uncharacteristic of him but instead of delving into it further, he watched the conical instrument turn to target him again. This time he didn wait to be killed. Fear that had stiffened his muscles before had been lifted away by this newfound skill that he discovered and instantly laying on the floor and kicking the device with his boot-clad feet he heard a satisfying crack.
That was surprisingly very easy…
He thought watching the glow disappear from the conical instrument. He had just taken a moments rest standing up when many plates slid open in the wall and revealed around ten more conical instruments.
Aksel realized that handling all these small devices was not possible and backing away to the far end he tried to find something to use to his advantage.
There had to be something! Something that would save him!
Turning around he punched the wall behind him, the metal rattled but nothing else happened, and pressing himself against it completely, he felt the cool gloss textured wall against his flattened palms as the glowing red surrounded his body.
I can believe this is how I die…
He was just readying himself to die when the wall shifted behind him and then opened, making him stumble and fall as he saw the red laser beam just microseconds away from him. The cool air surrounded him but his other senses had dulled as the bright red filled his sight and just as he felt the warmth of the beam reaching his forehead, the wall closed.
He was safe.
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