The government takes us at infants. We are returned when we are ten years old. We aren’t supposed to remember anything, but we always remember our parents.
But me? I remember everything. And those aren’t my parents.
I stood at the door of an apartment, well furnished, with a nice, homely look to it. I remember it was cold, with snow falling like glitter. The perfect night, really.
Except for the two strangers standing in the doorway. She was brunette, hair swept over a white sweater and jeans, a genuine smile on her face. He was tall, one arm around her, the other extended to me, offering me safety, welcoming me into the warmth of a home I could call my own.
I almost regretted not knowing them.
I almost wanted to go in.
The guards behind me gave me a little shove towards them, and it was enough for the woman to put her arm over my shoulders, and the man to close the door, shutting out the world I knew for certain, and trapping me into one that was new, perfect, but utterly wrong.
That was seven years ago.
And for seven years, I’ve had the same questions burning in my mind.
Why was I taken? And who are my parents?
My clock beeps at me; 1:23 am, on the dot. I shut it off quickly, rolling out of bed. The first rule of sneaking out of the house- do it when your parents are in a deep sleep. I calculated it last week. If they go to bed around 11pm, factor in an hour until they’re asleep, another hour to go to deep sleep, plus another half hour for safety… They won’t hear a thing.
I make my bed, prop open the window. I unzip my backpack and double check that everything is in there. Extra sweatshirt, socks, gun (stolen from my dad, which he won’t notice until at least next week), and of course, identification. It puts me at age 19 instead of 17; believable, but just old enough to be walking around without suspicion.
I wriggle out of the window into the dark, dropping down to the sidewalk. Cool, but not too cold. I check my watch; thirteen minutes until the next patrol walks by, which means they’re at the subway station coming this way.
I’ve planned to take the subway down to the capital, where they have the best tech in the country, possibly the world. See, if I’m going to find my parents, I’m going to need a certain little thing called facial recognition.
Except I can’t use the one at home; that only takes pictures, and they’ve got to be real good ones too. No, I need something a little more high tech.
The capital has a facial recognition program that can run off memories. Incredibly useful for finding criminals, enforcing justice and all that. But it’s going to help me find my parents. Unfortunately, you have to hold a pretty ridiculous amount of clearance to even be in the same building as it; either that, or have a load of money lying around, neither of which I have. But I do have the floor plan, and I have my brain. Hopefully, that’s good enough.
I check my watch again; 1:46. The patrol should be a few blocks down, right out of sight. Perfect.
But down the street a door slams. I press myself against the wall, the cool metal seeping through my sweatshirt. No one is supposed to be out this late.
Footsteps. Someone trying to sneak out, by the sound of it.
The patrol stops. Safety’s off.
I silently take out my gun and get ready to fire. I start to aim around the corner…
“Halt!” The patrol guard yells, and I snap back around the corner.
“Why?” A male voice asks tauntingly, with a brashness that’s about to get him killed.
“Who do you think you are? Put that gun down and get on your knees!”
The guards advance on him, and he takes a quick breath in, getting ready to fight back.
I see my chance.
I bolt across the opposite street, heading right for the subway station. If I can make it there, I’m home free-
“Go get the other one!”
What? The other one?
I put on an extra burst of speed as the patrol guard whips around the corner, shooting. I don’t dare waste ammunition, not when I have a chance at outrunning him. I can still hear the other guard in the distance. He’s putting up a good fight. I round the corner, intent on getting to the next building, where I can scale up to the roof.
But I never get there.
A gun comes out of nowhere and suddenly there’s a muzzle in my face and one in my back, holding me there.
I tense. There’s no way out, and I can’t plead innocence, not after running away.
The first guard comes up, bringing a cuffed and struggling young man with him.
“Let’s get these two locked up.” His grip on my arm tightens. “And you’ll find out what the Elector does to rebels.”
Well. This is an issue.
I’m not a rebel.