Gerald looked over his data-pad and scrolled through the entries slowly, carefully inspecting the test results.
"Your spatial recognition had improved, at the cost of your natural reflex."
The young man sitting in front of him looked down, disappointed in himself.
"You have to do better today. You remember what happens to those who fail, correct?"
"Yes brother Gerald, we are retired as test subjects."
Gerald dropped the pad on the table next to him and placed a hand on his younger brothers shoulder, covered in the thick carbon weave armor.
"Ivan, you're going to become the next step in humanity. I understand it's a great burden, but you must succeed."
Ivan nodded and sighed heavily. Gerald turned and left the room with a final note. "Tomorrows text may be your last. If you fail now, you will be retired."
The door slid closed behind him and Ivan felt fear, true fear for the first time. Had he known he was so close to retirement he would have done more to impress the observation team. As he left his small room, he made his way into the focus chamber. The area just ahead was the proving grounds, where he my be making his last run as a subject, should he fail.
After a few moments of intense concentration, he felt it, a surge of energy welling up from within him. The shutters to the grounds flashed open and Ivan darted out of the chamber and into the fray.
Focusing on reflex has helped, as spike trap sent sharp metal points upward from under his feet. He rolled, dodging the metal quills and landed back on his feet, charging for the goal. It sat upon a pillar in the middle of the field, surrounded by obstacles and traps. The goal was to stand atop the pillar, proud. Ivan had never achieved this feat. The first obstacle rose form the ground. A droid, programmed to attack him with hand to hand combat. He'd been trained though, and his bio-engineered abilities made this a simple task.
Dodging a punch and delivering one of his own, the metal filaments in his skin tight armor reacted to his focus and formed a spike which erupted from his fist, piercing the droid though its abdomen. A quick pull and the machine fell over in a heap and Ivan leaped for the goal.
He saw something which dismayed him, climbing atop the goal was Alex, his rival. From the left he could see Edmond, wounded by a spear trap on the first run, and to his right, Sarah, still dealing with her combat droid. They have finished in first before, Alex more than the rest. Ivan had the win, he must, for humanity, but more-so from the fear of retirement, the fear of failure.
He used all of his focus and began to manipulate Alex's armor. He sent the metal inwards, wounding Alex, who fell from the goal with a gasp and a choke, blood floating free from his open mouth. Ivan felt a sense of triumph which quickly fade as he turned to see Sarah, now making her way toward the goal. He tried to focus but couldn't. From the beginning of the trials he'd been enamored with her, ans as a result was unable to keep her from progressing. The buzzer sounded and the trial was over.
He fell to his knees. If only he hadn't tried to focus on Alex so much, if only he'd been faster if only...
"Ivan, Report to us through Gate C"
Gate C... no one who left from gate C participated again. Horror filled his heart. He didn't know what retirement was exactly, only that you never came back. Was it death? a life outside the walls of the facility? After standing frozen for a moment he looked up at Sarah who realized only too late the gravity of her actions, a sense of sorrow filled her. Edmond looked on at him with fear. Alex glared at him with a slight grin, knowing what he'd done, believing he deserved it.
The loud speakers screamed again, this time a more stern voice on the other end.
"Subject 388, Ivan, report through gate C for Immediate Retirement."
-to be continued-