(Another piece from my online writing group.)
Echo shuffled nervously as she stood in rank, staring forward at the massive pale blue monitor.
It was a room of the complex she had never seen before. It had been three days of blood sampling and examinations and a tattoo number on her wrist. She had rested more than usual from what she suspected was sedation.
There had been thirty of them in the line when they entered but six had been called to leave. A number, each digit larger than a human male, appeared on the screen.
"Number 23178, exit to the right for processing." The mechanical command boomed from above, raising the hairs on the back of Echo's neck.
A rotund boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, started to whimper from about eight people down the line. A soft whisper bounced off the walls of the chamber.
"It will be okay, Jeffie," a woman said with a tremor in her voice. "Just go through the door."
Echo looked to her right.
"Mother, no. Please, no," The boy cried as he gripped the woman's leg, burying his face into her thigh.
Startled, Echo spun her gaze back to the screen. Two heavily-armored soldiers passed inches before her, carrying long black cudgels with a shiny metal knob at the end. They stopped before the boy.
"Come with us. It's time to go."
The boy wailed and hugged his mother's leg tighter, drawing Echo's attention again.
"Please, Jeffie, go with them." Tears rolled down the mother's face.
"Go with us now or..." The soldiers words trailed off and he pressed metal ball of his cudgel against the boy's back.
The woman reached down and desperately tried to pry the boy from her leg. He would not let go.
"All right," the guard said with a sigh. His cudgel lit to life, an electric charge leaping from the metal ball to the boy.
The boy slumped immediately. The woman spasmed for a moment and collapsed to the floor. No one in the line moved or looked. All stood staring at the screen.
Echo started to go to the boy but a hand clasped her wrist. She looked back.
The man beside her, still staring forward at the screen, held her arm.
"Don't," he whispered. "Nothing you can do."
Echo looked back. The soldiers lifted the boy by the armpits and drug him through the door to the right. The woman still laid flat on the floor.
Echo stepped back into rank and looked forward.
A long silence pushed in on the room, building an unseen pressure. The man beside Echo allowed his hand to slip from her wrist and he suppressed a cough.
The screen lit again with letters.
"Complete," the mechanical voice from above boomed, repeating what the screen read.
A few exhaled sighs and one woman fell to her knees, weeping quietly into her hands. Several people went to attend to the fallen mother.
"What just happened?" Echo asked the man beside her.
"Yes, obviously, you haven't been here before," he whispered to her. "We are okay for now. We weren't chosen. We are the left-overs."