Our First Day

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When the alarm sounds through the speakers mounted on the ceiling above us the next morning, I jump, shooting up into a sitting position. Thankfully, I don't move too fast, because Lexi throws her legs over the edge, jumping down onto the concrete. We pull on our uniforms over our shorts and tanktops, yanking on shoes as people file out around us.

The subtle differences in our uniforms stands out now. Although they are all the same navy blue, Naomi's is more form fitting. It has many pockets and seems to be made of thinner material. There's a white cross on the chest, indicating that she's in the health field. Lexi's outfit is heavier, looser to allow for movement. It zips up the front and tucked into the heavy boots. She has the sleeves pushed up at the elbows and cinched closed.

My uniform is like Lexi's, but it has less pockets and short sleeves. Plus, it's too big. It hangs loose around the ankles, making it impossible to tuck into the shoes.

I hurry and zip it up, tucking the note from home into the inside breast pocket, following Lexi and Naomi out the front of the BT Building. Some of the older residents are serving oatmeal in plastic bowls. It steams in the hands of people sitting in the grass round the yard.

Lexi leads the way to a short brick wall, climbing up and sitting Indian style. I lower myself into the grass in front of her, watching Naomi join her on the wall.

"Are you guys ready?" Naomi asks around her mouthful of breakfast.

"For what?" Lexi asks, fanning her mouth as she swallows.

"Your first day."

"I've heard that the infantry training begins with hand-to-hand combat techniques," Lexi says, "I mean, I'm pretty excited to learn how to defend the Queen with some real moves."

I scowl at her, but Naomi just laughs.

"You, Quinn?"

I take a deep breath.

"I don't know, really," I say, "I don't know what exactly I'll be doing. My job isn't as specific as yours."

They both look at me, so intensely that I have to look away, plucking at the grass. Picking at my new shoelaces, I chew my food, listening the chatter of people around us.

"You ready, Austin?"

I look up at Rivers. Did he materialize out of thin air?

"Yes, sir," I say, pushing myself off the ground. I hand my empty bowl off to Naomi, hurrying after him. His steps equal about three of my own, and I have to jog to keep up with him.

"Sir, can I ask you a question?" I say as we weave through buildings towards the center of the Working District.

"Go ahead, Austin," he says, loud enough so I can hear him. The noise around us is deafening.

"What exactly am I going to be doing?"

He laughs.

"Studying," he says, "General Kovach wants you to read all of the manuals and strategy books that she has collected. She has a computer set up with some scenarios that will simulate what you'll be doing in the event of an attack. Mainly, you'll be learning and playing with the simulation device."

Studying and playing a game?

This job was designed for me.

Compound 5 Headquarters come into view, towering over us. It is a building made up of windows, tinted black against the heavy sunlight. The doors at the bottom of the building are automatic, sliding open when we approach.

Colonel Rivers weaves past some men in dress uniforms, talking in low tones. Nothing I hear makes sense, so I stop listening and hurry on.

"Our offices are on the top floor," he says, slipping into the elevator. I watch as he presses the silver button with '10' written on it. The elevator lurches upward, sending my stomach into my toes.

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