It was a torrential rain, the worst of the month, but it was far from being an impediment for my great escape. I scanned the dark horizon for any signs of headlights. Weariness was my sole companion, having walked three hours to this place. The rain had soaked to my bones but hadn’t smothered my hope. Finally, I caught sight of a flicker of light cutting through the curtain of rain, gradually coming closer. It was my ride.
The green car slowed down to a stop in front of me. Through the dripping pane I caught sight of a teenager and a girl who leaned over his lap to look at me and beckoned me to get in. I did quickly, shoving my bag before me and slamming the door after I was inside. The interior of the car smelled of cigarettes and booze.
“You’re late,” I said.
“Hey, 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm, what is the difference?” the girl rolled her eyes. “You won’t be late for your flight.”
Her boyfriend started the car and speed down the lane.
“Do you have my money?”
I rummaged through my bag and passed her the soaked bills, which the boyfriend grabbed greedily. I didn’t know what made me ask her for her help, I just knew she didn’t care enough about me to ask me about my plans. After one hour of riding silently, the space station was coming into view, its massive steel and concrete buildings looming over us.
“See, you’re on time.” The girl said. “I don’t know what your fuzz was about.”
I muttered my thanks and got out of the car. I turned to them, half-expecting to hear some words of farewell since technically they were the last people whom I will see from Earth.
We looked at each other for the longest time, and then the girl smiled encouragingly and said, “You take care of yourself.”
I nodded. They left. I walked to the station. I reached into my jeans pocket to touch and reassure myself that my one way ticket out of here was there. After five years, I was finally going home.
The lights were blinding and dizzying. Martian clinics were sumptuous in their light fixtures and consumption, even during daylight. I scanned the list of superpowers and analyzed how they would help me attain my goal. I had reached the highly technological Martian capital just one hour ago, after planning this escape for months. Mars, during the day, looked friendlier and more familiar. It was another story during the night, and for girls of my appearance that was a dangerous. You couldn’t expect me not to draw unwanted attention after being groomed for marriage for the last five years. Now I stood tall, slim, and pale, with silky dark blonde hair (that I had cut short in the space shuttle, now barely reaching my shoulders), and dark blue eyes.
After an hour, I was being walked down the hallway toward a room where a single chair stood. There was a surgical table next to it, with three syringes full of glowing blue-green liquid. I swallowed, fighting the urge to leave. These superpowers were going to help me not only to avoid recapture by my foster parents, but also, I’ll be able to look for my real parents. I didn’t have many memories from them, since they were out working since really early in the morning and came home really late at night. It was part of living in the slums. However, I do remember love, and sitting on strong shoulders with my hands outstretched and feeling like I could reach the sky.
“Can I see your permission slip?”
I pass him the slip which contained my foster mother’s signature, though more sloppy than her original handwriting. Forging signatures wasn’t in my blood. The doctor scanned it quickly and put it aside.
“Great, we like young ones. You’re half a year of becoming 18. Good, good.” He proceeded to strapped me down the chair and read each label for the syringes. “Ph11 for Phasing, ah interesting choice. RE68 for Enhanced Regeneration, smart one. PN55 for Psychic Navigation, okay.” His face looked troubled. “Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider your choices? I hear lightning is a very popular one.”
I don’t need lightning to escape.
I shook my head. I chose Psychic Navigation mainly to track my parents down, and feel if my foster parents were close. The other two were purely for practical need as well. I didn’t need physical strength. Back on earth, my male classmates would fish for compliments and shove their male bravado in my face. I was not interested in that.
The doctor seemed preoccupied. “Okay, I tried to help you. Now lay back and don’t move. I promise it won’t hurt.”
But it did and I lost consciousness.
When I regained consciousness, the doctor was looking down on me.
“Hey, welcome back. How do you feel?”
I didn’t know. For one, I still felt dizzy and weak, but I could at least stand, which I did. Also, I felt a different type of awareness around me, like the whole entire world and everything in it came into view in my mind’s eye. I could see, no, I could feel everything, and it was dizzying.
“Psychic Navigation tends to do that. Not many request that power, you know?” the doctor smiled kindly. “Come, we need to test your new powers.”
I followed him to another room, devoid of everything but one man wearing a black suit.
“Mr. Kobish will be late, but this gentleman will supervise the procedure,” the doctor explained. “Now, let’s experiment with regeneration. Give him your arm.”
I looked over at the threatening figure and hesitantly extended my arm to him. He took it and waited for the doctor’s consent. The doctor nodded and my wrist was twisted at an awkward angle.
I screamed, not only because of the pain of my possibly broken wrist, but also because I saw a smile of pleasure from the man. I dropped to the floor, cradling my hand to my chest. The waves of pains were unceasing. Tears were welling in my eyes. Was this supposed to happen? After what seemed like an eternity, the pain stopped. My bones shifted back to position.
The doctor knelt beside me and placed a hand on my shoulder. I squirmed and backed away.
“Why did you do that!” I screamed, which I never did.
“We were testing your healing powers. You are not immune to pain, however you heal at a superhuman speed. The more you train your power, the less pain you will feel.”
“You’re suggesting I break my wrist every other day?” I spat.
The man smiled.
“Anyway, on to the other test. Come on.” The doctor beckoned me to follow him to the other end of the wall. He told me to wait while he and the man exited the room.
“What are we testing?” I said.
The walls shook and started moving towards me at a very rapid rate.
“Wait, wait, stop! I want to get out of here!” I pounded on the glass wall, shouting at the doctor and the man on the other side. The walls from the side and back were coming and quick. I was going to be crush to death. Pleading was not going to work, that much I figured. The walls were only a foot away from me and I did the only thing I was good at: I wished I could disappear. The walls finally closed on me, I could see darkness and solidity about me, but I couldn’t breathe. I was sure that the walls had crushed me, and yet, I was here and not breathing. I gasped when light and air flooded into my body. The walls were receding back to their place.
I clutch my chest and controlled my breathing. “What was that?”
“Intangibility in action!” the doctor sounded cheerful. “The walls literally went through you, and apparently you aren't able to breathe while passing through solid objects. Okay, for the final test. How many people are currently on this floor?”
How was he expecting me to know? But I did knew, I could sense every presence in this building. Everybody had different flavours and colour. I knew the answer. “36, wait, 37, someone is coming.”
“Mr. Kobish, just in time.” The man greeted another man dressed in white suit and silvery gray hair.
“Yes, how is she, did she chose interesting powers?” Mr. Kobish voice was strong, with a lilt of command.
“Actually Mr. Kobish, if I may request that she isn’t taken to the dome. You see, her powers are quite useless in that kind of environment, she won’t do a good enough show. I suspect she will be a fascinating case study, what with the powers she chose...”
“No exceptions doctor, she took the injections already.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, with an edge of fear. I had seen into this man’s heart, it was pure evil.
“But surely Mr. Kobish, you can spare this girl, she isn’t even of age and…” the next minute, the doctor was on the floor, his blood running down the pristine, white tiled floor. The man was still kicking and beating him, and the doctor was whimpering helplessly, pleading with him to stop.
I was horror-stricken. “Stop, please stop!” But they didn’t. The doctor was mouthing something at me during his last seconds of life.
“Concentrate on someone long enough and you’ll kill.”
Then he was gone. I had seen death.
I felt a thin sharp object being inserted in my neck. I felt dizzy for a few seconds but the feeling went away. I looked at Kobish, his hand still firmly on the syringe deep in my neck. I guess he expected me to faint because he raised his eyebrow.
“Enhanced regeneration sir,” the man offered as he wiped the doctor's blood on a kerchief.
I was cuffed the next second, with the man hauling me down the hallway while I screamed my head off.
“You are to participate in mortal combat,” Kobish had explained patiently, “since you took the serum. The rules are quite simple, you kill someone else to live an extra day.”
I refused to believe any word he said, yet he was speaking truth. I could read it in his face. The dome was a death facility complete with commodities and high tech appliances, a technological paradise but for the fact that they were grooming you for death, and oh, to put up a good show.
I walked numbly down the hallway, pushing to the back of my mind the horrific events from today, looking for area 50, my assigned unit. Everybody I passed threw me a furtive and threatening look. They knew I was their enemy, and they would be mine. Only one could survive. I had another concern; my superpowers were useless in an arena where everybody was out for blood, fighting to the death.
I turned to find a very beautiful girl who smiled radiantly at me, like she didn’t hate me even before knowing me. “Hi.”
“My name’s Sapphire and you’re pretty. Are you new?”
“Yes, I’m Lorrie Lockhart.”
Sapphire threw her arms around my neck. “Nice to meet you. So, what’s your area? A girl with your looks has to be with us.”
“Ugh, poor kids’ zone. Come, I’ll have my boyfriend talk to administration and have you transferred to our area, 34.” She dragged me down the hallway. Despite the fact that she might die the next day, in mortal combat, she seemed quite cheerful. That was strange, but at least I wasn’t alone anymore. Later that day, I found myself standing in a huge living room of Area 34. There were seven more people in the room, everybody obnoxious and loud and vain and quite handsome.
I didn’t trust these people, but who was I to be picky when my sole objective was to stay alive? These rich kids (who apparently are the elite members and favorite of the audience) accepted me as theirs. I might as well play along and learn a few tricks.
I excused myself and went to my bedroom.
I cried myself to sleep that night.