Aymin lived a normal life until she was told that her brand of talent was forbidden. A tattoo, nanites and a life as a social reject were the result.
Backers were supposedly protected by law, but there were ways to torment them, and that is what wracked Aymin each and every day. When the Backers started disappearing, Aymin got worried, and when she was the last woman standing, she gave herself to the inevitable.
Waking on a space station was a shock. Seeing what they were doing to the other Backers was worse. An escape thwarted and a rescue by strangers starts a new phase in Aymin’s life if she can prove herself to those around her.
The manacles held her face-down as the injections went in. She screamed as they reached her spine and sent the acid though her nervous system.
Aymin’s hands formed fists as the worst part of the treatment began. Lasers began to burn a pattern on the back of her skull and down to her shoulders. It was a mark no one could miss and would be on her for life.
Sobs wracked her body, but the machine compensated for the movement, scarring and blistering her skin to make its mark.
Her voice was cracked, broken, when they finally released her. They unstrapped the restraints across her waist and hips, saving the manacles for last.
The guards holding her parents let them go, and they rushed to her side, helping her off while now-silent tears made tracks down her face.
The scent of her own scorched skin was still hanging in the air.
The nearest guard smirked. “You are a Backer now. Get used to it. Your mark needs to be kept free of hair, and a fine or worse will be imposed if you hide it.”
Aymin’s mother muttered, “We understand; now, get out of our way. My daughter needs rest.”
One of the tagging team nodded. “She can rest here today, then she will need to come back in a month to verify the mark and record it for identification. It burned in fairly clean, so it should be rather elegant.”
Her father looked at the woman in astonishment. “Yes, because aesthetics are a concern when your child has been burned. We will be back in a month and not a day before.”
Aymin wanted to die. The flames were still burning into her brain and cutting her off from her ability to touch the dead. The sudden silence in her mind was frightening. For three years, she had had constant companions, and now, they were silent. It was breaking her heart.
It was the tenth anniversary of her burning, and Aymin leaned against the wall in the corner, keeping her back to it. They were called Backers for a reason. One sight of their spine and you knew they could not defend themselves.
She had done her homework as to the start of the program, and it had been a hard thing to research. Eventually, she pinned it down to the Lorthatch. They had been trading partners for years, and suddenly, the Backers started appearing in the population.
Regulations and protections had helped them through school after the procedure, but from then on, it was a struggle for survival against a talented population that saw an easy target.
The alien influence was behind the locking up of certain talents, but it was the disappearances that were sending chills through the Backer community. They were disappearing, and it was being done with precision.