I scraped the last of the stew from my bowl as I watched a newscast the System had decided to put on.

            “…must stand against these Outcast terrorists,” said the announcer.  “Report any somenpliousacbvinmy.  Itmedutoplenmenger of the System.”

            I heard the door to my confinement room open behind me.  The System turned off the screen as a number walked in.

            “Good afternoon, 112628,” he said, taking out a portable screen and settling onto my bed.  “I’m 763804.  Terribly sorry about the delay in processing your case.”

            “It’s alright, I understand.”

            I waited patiently as 763804 tapped at his screen.   “It doesn’t seem you’ve tried anything during your stay.  Doedyusnheiwjshfiuelf?”

            For a moment, I only stared at him, trying to piece together what he’d asked – it was harder to understand someone when I couldn’t see their face.  He looked up when I didn’t respond, scowling at me as he waited for my reply.  He must have been asking if I still wanted to end things.  What else could it be?

            “No,” I said truthfully.  “Sorry, I needed a minute to collect my thoughts,” I continued when he raised an eyebrow.  “I really do feel better.”  Barely, but at least I would still be protected by the System.

            “Excellent,” said 763804 with a nod.  “System, since she’s showing sucmiprmelmnt, wecladmanrtg her now.”

            “Agreed!” the System replied.  “No need to waste a resource even longer!  One moment.”

            Silence fell on the room as the System operated.  I smiled uncertainly at 763804, unsure of what was happening.  He smiled back: a good sign.

            “Alright,” declared the System, “reassignment for 112628 will be: Transcriber.”

            I sprung to my feet, knocking the chair onto the floor.  “No, System, please!” I cried.  “Give me something else, anything!”

            “Calm down,” said 763804, eyeing me curiously.  “It’s the perfect place for a failure and it’s still a respectable assignment.”

            “No, you don’t understand!” I screamed through the tears.  “I’m just going to fail again!”

            “A few months training shoujlmngthlemnfrtedu,” the System replied.

            “I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think,” 763804 interjected.  “Now, we’ll just call an escort – ”

            “But my defect will – !”  I gasped, clamping a hand over my mouth.

            The lights in the room became a deep, dark red.  “Come again?” asked the System.

            763804 looked at me with pure revulsion.  “You’re a defect?” he asked.

            I shook my head frantically, my ragged breaths hot against my fingers.  How stupid could I be to make that slip?!

            “Don’t try to deny it!” 763804 screamed as he leapt to his feet and tossed his device onto the bed.  “You akdmdhafnefmelkhtifdsnect!”

            My shoulders trembled as I sobbed.

            He shook his head in disgust and walked out the door.  In his place, two guards came in, each grabbing one of my arms to drag me down the halls of the confinement center.

            “No, System, please!” I called as I struggled against them.  “Let me stay – I’ll do anything!”

            “Defects have no place in the System,” she replied.

            At the end of the corridor, I saw a door open into the green wilderness.  The moss infested trees only grew closer as the guards continued to take me through the red lit hallways.

            “I can make it work!” I screamed.  “I won’t be a problem!”

            “112628 has been officially blacklisted,” the System continued.  “Any attempts at re-entry will remioniuhgpoexlkhukmng.”

            Still the door came closer.

            “I won’t be a problem!” I cried again.  “I can still be part of the System!  Please!”

            “Goodbye,” said the System, “Outcast.”

            The guards threw me out the door.  I skidded along my stomach onto the rough dirt.

            Thunk!

            Lying on the ground, I looked over my shoulder to see the heavy metal door I had been tossed through sealed shut.

To be continued…

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