“Good morning, 112628!” cried the System as I cracked my eyes open to a new day.

            “Morning,” I grumbled, slogging through the motions of extracting myself from the bed.

            “Get dressed quickly, now,” said the System in her usual chipper tone, “you have a lot of studying to do.”

            I glared at the closet as my bare feet touched the cold tile floor.  It seemed like far too much effort to get dressed, but I walked over to it anyway.

            “What am I studying?” I asked, finally reaching into the closet to pick from one of many stiff gray and black dresses.  “I only have one final today and I’ve studied with everyone already.”

            “Well, there’s no hamgurlbroethdmnd.  Antommrikonshomin with your friends.”

            I pulled on one of the drab dresses with a sigh.  My condition was already acting up, not that the System knew anything about it – I knew what happened to defects.

            I looked toward the desk wall near the foot of my bed, the screen already lit up by the System’s suggested review material.  “Do I have to?”

            My room glowed red, accompanied by a sudden silence from the air conditioning when she cut it off.  “You should know better than to question the System,” she stated.

            “Yes, System,” I replied half-heartedly, “I’m sorry.”

            The room returned to its normal lighting and the roar of ventilation resumed.  I slumped into the desk chair, wondering once again what the point to all this even was.  It wasn’t like I enjoyed my assignment to studying law.

            “So, 112628, where would you like to start?” asked the System cheerily.  “You have amoringetsomwaymt.”

            “Pull up old finals for the ‘Prosecution of Outcasts’ course.”

            “Congratulations on completing your finals, 112628!” The System said when I returned to my room, sunlight already beginning to disappear from my room.

            “Thanks,” I mumbled as I kicked off my shoes and flopped onto the bed.

            “I saw you work very hard during that exam.  I’m so proud of you taking it so seriously.”

            “You say that to all the numbers,” I replied, closing my eyes.

            “Emindopleygetmin.  Megionplientoin.”

            I drifted in and out of sleep as the System chattered on until she finally said my scores were entered.

            “Is that so?” I asked, still lying in the bed with my eyes half open.

            “You failed the ‘Prosecution of Outcasts’ course.”

            I bolted upright.  “What?” I asked.

            “It seems you could not live up to your assigned path as lawyer.  But, don’t worry – even failures have a place in the System.  Repdsiomtehfdsiojtnhewyfoidjslkmtehudfhijtmedosijwing.”

            My heart sank into my stomach; the room growing darker than night itself.  My entire life, planned out by the System, was over.

            “Hey, System,” I said, “would it be alright if I took a little stroll?”

            “Of course!”

            I left my dorm room and eventually found myself walking along the top of the city wall in the humid night air.  I brushed my hand along the outer rim, staring out into the wilderness beyond the System’s reach.  Defects, magic users, Outcasts that simply didn’t fit in; each one of them something deathly dangerous.  We were safe inside the System – she protected us, provided for us as long as we obeyed…and never failed.

            I stopped my walk halfway through, staring out into the darkness beyond the System’s light.  Everything was over.  All the friends I’d been assigned would be taken away, everything I worked so hard for gone.  I would be completely alone.  What other option was there?

            One foot on the top of the ledge, the other quickly followed.   Looking down at the ground barely visible in the System’s shadow, a smile crept up onto my face.  Soon.  Soon it would all be better.

            I began to move one foot forward, then a rough hand grabbed me from behind, knocking me back onto the city wall.  Shackles clasped around my wrists.

            “112628,” said the city guard who had tackled me, “you’re under arrest for attempted destruction of System property.”

To be continued…

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