Hello. Welcome to Otto, the only self-sustaining city in the nation. We here in Otto pride ourselves on our productivity. The citizens are a happy people who are willing to work hard in order to keep Otto operational. Once you are logged in our database, you will be an official citizen of Otto. All citizens over the age of 12 must work. All payment is in the form of rations and an occasional luxury. You must follow all laws and rules set by the Queen. Any violation and there will be repercussions. Thank you and enjoy your new life here in Otto.
The announcement replayed for what I counted as the 30th time that shift. Despite working at the Edge for nearly 6 years, I had never quite gotten used to hearing the Queen's sickeningly sweet voice once every 15 minutes. It was horrible; she was horrible. The announcement was a constant reminder that the people of Otto were under her control. We were anything but a "happy people" as she so lovingly put it.
I walked slowly next to the dome, careful not to touch it. I hated working at the Edge; it was one of the most dangerous jobs in Otto. [And one of the most boring jobs, but that's besides the point.] Every step was planned, every movement had to be precise. Make one wrong move, even slightly brush the side of the dome, you're dead before you can even realize what you've done.
My parents cried on my 12th birthday. Well, my mom cried. Birthdays in Otto were rather gloomy affairs, no matter what age you're turning. The worst two ages to turn, however, were 12 and 18. Now, I had already gotten past one of them. I still have the memory of the Reaper etched into my brain. The Reaper is what my friends and I call the Regal that informs young children what they'll spend the rest of their lives doing. My Reaper was very, well, official. He walked into the house without knocking and read the prepared lines every Reaper reads. It was basically just a bunch of crap about how I should be happy to be a part of the system. I only vividly remember him saying Patrol Officer then leaving as my mother sobbed.
Every weekday since then, I've reported to my post, clocking in at exactly 0800 hours. I remember watching as my childhood friend, Rudy, had a public Treatment in front of the whole city because he was late. Treatment was what repercussions were. There were different Treatments based on how severe the infraction was. The most common one was getting beaten to a pulp by a Regal. That's what happened to Rudy. He was never late after that.
A loud zap from the dome made me snap back into the present. I only had 10 more minutes left on my shift, but I was 5 minutes away from my end point. Sighing, I swung my bag off my back. The artificial heat created by the dome was far more warm than usual. It was probably just another way for the Queen to torture us. I took a quick swig from my water bottle before picking my bag up and continuing on my way.
I saw the next Patrol Officer at the entrance to the Northwest Tower. I gave him a brief nod before entering the building. I could hear his boots crunching in the dead grass as the door closed behind me. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust from the blinding sunlight to the sudden darkness. The Patrol Towers were dark and musky, much like the rest of Otto. Also rather stinky, but that was due to all the Monitors that decided taking off their boots was a good idea.
"Patrol Officer William Gray," a voice to my left boomed, "Shift report."
I stood at attention immediately. I was used to this. Every shift we had to report to a Regal. I hated them. Regals were the Queen's goons. Every interaction with one felt like a reprimanding.
"Nothing to report, sir," I shouted, purposely not making eye contact.
"Dismissed," he growled.
"Sir, yes, sir!" I yelled. I turned around and walked as fast as I could. Despite the blinding sun, I walked confidently toward the city without looking back.
The Main City
It was a 20 minute walk back to the city. I didn't mind it though. I enjoyed watching the landscape change before my eyes. At the Edge, the grass had been dead for years. Hardly anyone goes out to there so there was no point in maintaining it. The closer you got to the city, however, the cleaner the land got. The dead grass turned into gravel, then cement. I know, it's not really the most beautiful thing. But, every once and a while, I see a flower in the dirt. My friends always talked about how pretty flowers were supposed to be and, man, were they right. I would always try my hardest to describe the way they looked to Lacy; she had always wanted to see a flower. No matter how stupid my explanation was, she breathed in my every word.
Other than that she would completely ignore me. Well, not necessarily ignore, more like avoid conversation. Which sucked considering she was literally the love of my life. Okay, maybe not literally, but she was a goddess. Her hair was beautiful, as golden as the sun, and her eyes were as blue as the artificial sky. She seemed to radiate warmth in that cold city. And, hell, I was going to date her.
Yeah right, I thought angrily, Of all people, why would she date you? I had no reason to stand out. I did okay in my classes, sure, and, yeah, I was average looking, but nobody wants to date a Patrol Officer who is the son of two Watchers. My family was basically at the bottom of the social ladder. Watcher was the most disrespected job in Otto. They watched the city's cameras and reported any wrongdoing.
But my 18th birthday was in 3 days. I understand that most people hate being forced to sever all ties with their family, but I'm looking forward to getting a new start. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, but my life has basically been a living hell since they were both Watchers. All the kids in my classes avoided me. It's not like my parents chose the job, and they were actually decent people, but nobody could see past their jobs.