People are spawned instead of birthed in this society. The dystopian world is suffering from a severe shortage of "copies", and may even run out entirely. Turning against one another, exiling the individuals who may be the cause seemed to be the only option. However, for Wicker and Velo, who thought they were safe as well-respected members of their society, are about to face what no one has even imagined.


1. System Error

"Wicker! Where are you?" a voice called out. I could recognize it.

I turned in the field to see Velo, my best friend, running to me. The long grass brushed her legs as she dashed over the uneven ground. Her long, chocolate brown hair blew in the wind, her caramel eyes shimmering in the midday sun. The classified "runner" was named one for a reason. Only the swiftest in our society were classified runners.

"Wicker, there you are!" she gasped, clutching my shoulders to stabilize herself. "You're going to be late! There's a new announcement today!"

I absolutely dread the announcements, so as she ran freely, I trudged through the meadow. I had to constantly brush my short, curly auburn hair out of my eyes, and shield them from the sun's harsh glare.

While Velo was a Runner, I was a Thinker. I was given smarts from The Program, as it was called. It was the thing that programmed us all to form civil people. As we were printed, we made society rise from the ashes it had fallen to not long ago. We were different. We were new.

We arrived to the center of the town and saw everyone's gaze fixated on the tall, iron pedestal our alerts rose from. As the midday sun rose high above our heads, it hovered directly over the pedestal, making the large black panel attached to the top illuminate the expected announcement.

It was a holographic message, with digital text and blue rays of a "background" to make the letters visible. The letters read "PRINTING PODS BROKEN. MALFUNCTIONS HAVE BEEN RELEASED. DANGER: MALFUNCTIONS TO DESTROY SOCIETY."

As soon as everyone has read the message, there was screaming from the crowd. Everyone was terrified, but I didn't feel that way. I didn't see the problem with malfunctions, because maybe they could be helpful. Of course, nobody knows what a malfunction actually is. It's never happened before, as far as our society can date back.

Velo, however, was terrified, much unlike her calm nature. "What's going to happen to us?!" she screamed over the yelling of confusion and fear. I just grabbed her shoulders and my misty gray eyes met hers.

"We're going to be fine," I told her in a stern tone. That's not normal for me, but I had to. "Everything is going to be fine. It's probably just an error, they'll fix it soon!"

Velo's breath slowed its pace as she nodded. "Yeah, you're probably right..." she sighed, calming down.

"Good, now we just have to wait for the next announcement, and everything will go back to the way it was."

That was all good in theory, but it was proven to be wrong around dusk.

Everyone in town was awoken to the sounds of crashing and yelling. A group of people -- the Fighters, mind you -- were surrounding the gates.

I pushed my way through with Velo on my sleeve, silently cursing at my night dress for getting in my way. I snuck between the legs of the men and women in front, only to see several small kids being thrown out of the gates and into the barren wasteland that was outside our walls.

Horrified, Velo and I exchanged looks of terror, clutching each other tightly. 

"What are they doing to them?!" she whispered to me in a fearful voice.

We felt a pair of large, sturdy hands on our shoulders before I could whisper back. The two of us were picked up by the back of our night dresses, to see the smirks of the Fighters.

"Look at these two runaways. They must be some malfunctions, too. Curiosity is banned, don't you know?" they chuckled at us, tossing us over the tall, steel barred gates. 

Tumbling to the ground, we heard them roaring in laughter at us. We quickly scrambled to our feet, our eyes wide and bodies trembling.

"No! We're not malfunctions! We've been accused falsely!" I shouted back to them, but my words were drowned out by their howling laughs. Velo began to cry, wiping her silent tears on her sleeve.

"Please, listen to us!" she yelled as well, but her voice was also covered.

I tugged her sleeve to lead her away, and we sat on a fallen tree log about half a mile from the town. Velo had stopped crying, but her eyes were still red, and sleeves still damp.

I didn't cry. I was pretty tough, as I was programmed to be, but I comforted her the best I could. We watched the full moon rise, holding hands and not letting each other leave our sight.

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