I am sick. The chamber is spinning around me as the black screen turns to a deep red. The man behind me quickly tries to stop the Burning Process, but it's too late. My code it's already burned in my skin. Forever.
I feel the urge to throw up, but I resist. I look at the panicked examiner. He looks really scared. He violently takes my arm and reads the code over and over again, like he is wanting to assure himself that what he sees is real.
"No...no no no no..." he whispers.
I can't open my mouth because I think I may throw up. Instead, I inhale huge amounts of air, trying to calm my stomach. Why am I so sick?
"Listen to me, Mark. You cannot tell anyone about your code and about your test result. You understand me?" he says to me.
I simply nod. I don't understand why does he looks so scared. After all, he does this thing almost every day. He should be used to burning Validation Codes into people's skin...
"You, my dear Mark, are the first person in a very long time who got... an eight-digits code."
His words make my heart sink. It's not possible. I inspect my arm, reading my code over and over again, just like the examiner did moments ago.
Indeed, on my skin are burned eight digits. The burning sensation is still there, I can feel it under my skin. My skin is red around the black digits. This is not possible. No one in this city got an eight-digit Validation Code...It's impossible. The computer is set up for burning only seven digits...How did this happen?
"But...how is this even possible? All the people get seven digits, not eight!" I say, feeling more and more fear by the minute.
The examiner closes his eyes and lets out a loud sigh. He looks as if he is about to explode. He is young. He has black hair and he looks like he is working out. Strange thing for a doctor...
"You aren't like all the other people! You have a very rare condition, named Xenomancy, which gives you the ability to think freely. You can't be corrupted, you can't be controlled. Your brain's structure is a bit different from the other's. The computer didn't make any mistake. You really deserve eight digits..."
His words are sad and full of fear.
"But, why are you scared? Is this...condition fatal for my life?" I ask.
He smiles a bit, and then whispers :
"No. You just think in a different way. But you are a danger for those who stand in your way. This ability can bring our society to ruin. Your skills are very uncommon for someone your age. Some people with minds just like yours started the war. This city has very strict rules about Xenomans just like you. If you will get caught, they will kill you, because you are a real threat to their power. You are not like them, so they cannot control you. It's not your mental condition that is fatal for the society...You are."
I am shaking with fear. What should I do? I can't go outside the city's walls. There is a radioactive wasteland out there. I would be dead in less than a week from the toxic radiations. The war destroyed any chances of survival outside the city's walls.
The man is writing something on his computer. He looks like he is trying to hide some information from suspicious eyes. Why is he helping me survive?
"I am sending you to the Courage sector, since your code starts with a "2". You will get into the army and train with the others. If you will stay hidden, you will be just fine. Tomorrow, you will go to the Courage's headquarters. I believe you know how to get there?"
I nod, and then I get out of the chair. The room stopped spinning. I approach the man and ask him :
"How long has it been since someone got this type of code?"
He answers, almost whispering :
Twelve years, since the war. Twelve years, since my mother and father died. I was six when the left to join the armed forces of room. I am scared. I am more than scared. What should I do? I feel my cheeks burning and I feel the tears stinging my eyes. It's over. I get out of the examination room, and the, I walk through the crowded corridors, trying to get out from this place.
Will I survive long enough in the army? Will I be able to blend myself in the army? If the examiner is right, then my mind is not as easy to control as the other's. This means that I can't be a soldier. The Army is directly controlled by those from Justice. They practically make the soldiers risk their lives for the "good of the many", as they say.
I finally get out of the Hospital. I see very few people on the concrete streets. Just some guards and some children. They look happy. What is their sector? Clearly not Prudence. Those from Prudence are not happy. They never were. They will never be.
I start walking to my house, thinking about my past. After the War has ended, many people died because of the radiation. So, new cities rose from the ruins of the Old World. This one is called Betaglow-1035.
After the war, a huge crisis began. The world's economy was destroyed. So, each new city made it's own money and economy. Our city divided its priorities into four big sectors, based on the four Cardinal Virtues of the founder : Courage, Prudence, Temperance and Justice.
Each sector has its own priorities. The first and most important sector is Justice, with its governors and politic power. The member's codes start with an "1" to show the importance of diplomacy.
The second sector is Courage, with the army and weaponry. Its members have their codes starting with a "2", just like mine. The "2" shows the two main sources of protection : man and machine.
The third sector isTemperance. Its members study all day and night, trying to find new types of technology everyday. Its members are smart and their codes start with a "3", which indicates their main subjects of study : the Earth, The Universe and life.
The last sector is Prudence. Its members supply our town with food, clear water, shelters and a stable society. Those from Prudence practically serve this city's inhabitants, trying to sacrifice their lives for other's well-being. Their codes start with a "4", to symbol the four main things humans need : food, water, shelter and society.
I feel sorry for them. They are slaves. And even if they are mistreated, they are still trying to look happy. They are trying to make this society work well.
But this society didn't always work well. Before this testing method, there was a total chaos, because no one knew what was needed to be done. This way of testing was invented by the Temperance's members to give everyone a place in the system. They found a way to identify the human virtues related to the sectors of this city. The computer automatically reads the subject's mind, finding the defining virtue for that person.Then, the computer burns the Validation Code intow the subject skin, choosing a suitable place in the system. The subject will work there for the rest of his life, giving his best to make this society better.
I get to my little concrete house. No one is inside. My parents are dead. Since the war has ended, I've been living alone in my parent's house. I enter in the cold and dark house. It's almost night outside. The street lights don't light unless it's a problem with the city's security system. The people aren't allowed to switch the lights on in their houses, because the energy must be preserved in case of emergency.
I stay in the dark living room and I look once again at my forearm. The burned digits are still there. And they will remain burned in my skin forever...