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"I pledge my allegiance, now and always, forever to my country," I say into my AirPhone, voice raspy from waking up so early. Much to my sleepy dismay, my bedroom window allows a few rays of light into the room, turning the comforting darkness into soft light.

Nestled in a small divot on my thick bed sheets, my ultra-thin AirPhone records my little spiel. A soft ticking noise fires from the device into the quiet safety of my room. Every word I recite must be exact.

I shift my weight, wrinkling the straightened gray covers underneath me. The sound of my rasp fails to fade away, so my pledge feels more like sandpaper in my mouth than smooth water. I clear my throat as a hologram of the national flag bursts from my Phone screen, waving powerfully. It's crazy to know that everyone across the nation starts their day the same way I do, repeating the same message, the same promise, completely in sync. Millions of people inaudible and invisible to me yet loud and clear.

I continue. "My loyalty will never falter, my obedience will never halt, and my actions will always reflect these words: timeliness for the sake of productivity; control for the sake of order."

The wide flag flourishes itself again as a systematic message says, "The President approves your pledge. Now complete your daily duties with pride."

"Now and always," I reply, and the hologram clicks off, vanishing with a swish. I slide my Phone into my hand, check my reflection in the mirror of my screen, and exit my room through automatic doors.

Like clockwork, I step into my apartment's bare kitchen, aligning my feet onto the cushy PrintPad. The Pad recognizes my footprints, then the lone refrigerated cabinet slides open. I reach for a NutriBar, and the gray doors lock themselves when they feel the weight of the Bar leave the cabinet.

I stride out of the kitchen, which hardly takes a second because of its small size. Padding across my living room, I sit on the sofa and begin to eat. I reluctantly tear open the plastic packaging of the Bar, spewing a few crumbs into my lap.

The nation issues portion-controlled NutriBars to everyone, regardless of economic standing. But the middle class always end up with the stale ones. The rich want the best and the poor need the best, so people like my parents and I get the worst.

I take a few more bites. The taste of the Bar is neutral, but it's the only option besides water. Besides, nothing beats a full stomach of NutriBars, even if they're a little expired.

The silence of my small house pounds into my ears, intensifying the sound of my chewing. I crinkle the NutriBar wrapper to soften the quietness. My parents left for the factories an hour ago, so I'm all alone in our apartment.

I slide my AirPhone out of my pocket, the time displaying holographically when I lay the device on the sofa. Anyone between ages 14 and 17 must be on their SkyTrain by 7 o'clock sharp. No exceptions.

I've never been late for my Train before, but I've seen a boy miss his SkyTrain a few years ago. The Screeners had him bound with ElectriWrist cuffs and begging for mercy before I could even blink. Luckily, the train zoomed away just as the Screeners made the move to smash the boy's head into the ground.

That boy wasn't the only one who got screened that day. I got a partial screening for unlocking my safety belt and banging on the windows to get the Train to stop. The Screeners locked down SkyTrain 267-B and had me escorted away within seconds. My parents had to pay heavy fines for my direct violation of the national motto: timeliness for the sake of productivity; control for the sake of order. I endured a whole week of correctional therapy before the Screeners allowed me on the Trains again. At that point, no on wanted to associate with the girl who got screened.

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