The System

2045. The world was overpopulated. When the black death happened. Millions died. This time mutated and came back worse. The system seeks to save humanity. To pick the brightest minds to develop a cure

Jess Peters

16 min.


Today is the day. Today is my turn to participate in the system. Today I become a man in our safe zone three's eyes. I don't particularly understand the point in the system if I'm honest. Why can't we just pick a quadrant to work in? Deep down I do know why it's in place. Everyone would pick either medical and science quadrant or politics quadrant if they had the choice.

I woke up with a groan. Mornings were never my strong point. The light shined through the room. Artificial light of course. Throughout the whole of the safe zone, there's only one small corridor which has windows to the outside. I’ve never seen them myself, only heard of them.

When we turn seventeen we enter the system which dictates our work placements. They run twice a year. The population is slowly increasing in the safe zone so there is a slow flow of participants for the system or a steady flow of slaves to the system. It depends on how you see your life route being chosen for you with no say in the matter. I don’t like the idea of that what so ever. That is what we are to them, slaves to do their work to keep society alive. Sure, it doesn't sound too bad, except it is unless you're placed in the top quadrants. For that, you need to pass.

Safe zone three is one of many safe zones set up across the world. After the plague disease returned and mutated, it was the government's idea at the time to help preserve those of humanity who were not infected, or worse, dead.

Here in Britain, there are six safe zones in total. One in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, London, Cornwall, and in the Midlands. Safe zone three is in the London region. They were built just outside of the cities so to be in the countryside. These are completely enclosed and airtight, built quickly when the outbreak began. Within six months, they were ready to receive the first survivors. For the amount of time they were built in, they were designed for humanity to not only survive but to thrive. It would become our home until the disease was gone.

Six months was very quick was a five-floored massive building to be built. The government got nearly every construction worker and builder on to them. Every other construction job stopped in the country as to get all remaining resources and manpower on these safe zones.

They were finished just in time, before the disease steeped across the world. Nobody was allowed into the safe zone without being scanned. No risks were taken. Any possible symptoms and you weren't allowed in.

The scanners were state of the art at the time, quickly developed by the first medical and science quadrant leaders why the actual buildings were being built. With the symptoms of the mutated plague disease being buboes (enlarged lymph nodes) and gangrene of the fingers, toes, and nose and high temperature. The mutation meant that these didn't become visible until at least three days of having the disease. There was no cure. Three days was too late, the disease could have spread from that person to another by then. No risks could be taken for humanity's sake and survival.

Unlike the original plague where most victims died at two to seven days after initial infection, the mutation meant that victims could go three days without showing any symptoms what so ever and people often died between seven and ten days. The scanners stopped any infected people getting in and spreading the disease.

People are not honest. They did anything to get out of the outside and into a safe zone. Everyone became desperate to find safety. They lied about having any symptoms. The scanners prevented these liars from getting in. Once inside, people were placed into isolation why a blood test was carried out to prevent any mistakes from being made by the scanners. The blood test results only took a few minutes and confirmed what the scanners showed, that the person was clear from infection.

The scanners scanned body temperature and picked up on gangrene and buboes with special cameras which picked up changes of the skin. They could pick up buboes before they were even visible to the naked eye. It took about two minutes for a full body scan to be complete. There was no hiding these symptoms from the scanners. When someone was scanned and found to be positive for the plague, and often they hadn't even found these symptoms themselves yet, they were denied entry and forced to evacuate the area immediately.

After three days, other symptoms began to show, such as heavy breathing, continuous vomiting of blood, aching limbs, coughing, and extreme pain caused by the decay or decomposition of the skin while the person is still alive. Additional symptoms include extreme fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, delirium, and finally slipping into a coma followed by death. These symptoms were the obvious ones and when you got these, you knew death was only around the corner.

The mutation meant that any pain associated with the plague symptoms was eradicated. Buboes and gangrene were often missed due to this until it was too late, and you had infected many other people. It wasn't often clear you had the plaque until the skin started to decay around the four days of being infected. As such, people got infected due to there being no obvious symptoms for a few days into the disease. The disease is incredibly infectious. It became airborne around the infected person with their own breath. It spread as easily as the common cold.

Many people done the responsible thing and isolated themselves and loved ones once symptoms were found. There was, however, some who thought better and continued to walk among society. Even though the mutated plague is incredibly infectious, you genuinely had to be within touching distance for it to catch.

During the black death in 1346–1353, infected fleas and rodents caused the spread. During 2045, flies and mosquitos became infected and carried the spread of the plague. If a fly merely landed on your skin, there was a 70% chance you caught it. If a mosquito bit you, the chance was increased to 95%. That 5% was whether that mosquito was infected yet. If it wasn’t, it soon would be.

The safe zones were massive buildings consisting of five floors. One floor per quadrant. There are five quadrants. Medical and science on the top floor. Then politics followed by teaching, greenery and finally engineering on the first floor. Underground there was a small prison which politics own and do the running of. You only end up there if you fail out. Every safe zone building was completely airtight to prevent the plague infection from getting in. I also believe it's to stop us from getting out. They like to have control and power. They don't admit this though.

Each quadrant is responsible for different categories of jobs. All food is rationed and given based on behaviour, work ethic and health which is all picked up on the bands which we must wear on our wrists. A small device connects onto the back of your neck which picks up on electric pulses from the brain. The band then shows a colour based on the information it's received, green, yellow, red and black.

Green means you get good rations and good sleeping quarters from within your quadrant. Every quadrants’ living standards vary.

Yellow means you get restricted rations and that improvement is required. Red required you to go through the system again due to bad attitude and work ethic. You get kicked out of your quadrant and have to go through the process again. It's a warning. They believe that to be taught again will remind you of the importance of contributing to society. Black means you fail out. Nobody knows for sure what this means but we all know that those who fail out, are never seen again.

It is rumoured that fail outs get put on manual labour in the prison doing nasty jobs such as cleaning the water filters and cleaning generator parts when they get replaced. I mean, somebody has to change the toilet filtration system I guess. Nobody knows for sure. Dad heard someone at work say they get thrown out of the safe zone altogether. The next day that guy who told him, his band changed to yellow. A positive attitude is a requirement. Unfortunately, which quadrant you are in has an impact on how well or badly rations are as well and living conditions.

Each quadrant has their own shops and market stalls where you can bargain for goods and buy extra food or birthday gifts. There were people who would run personal services such as hairdressers and repairers for shoes and personal items. These all came at a cost.

People could put in a request to politics to run an official stall. If accepted, they were then allowed a certain number of days off from the quadrant work placements to do so. Everyone earned points for their bands for completing a day’s work which could be used towards buying these certain goods. The number of points earned per a day was nowhere near to covering a cost of something nice from a shop, especially a politics run shop. These official shops and stalls were expensive and those who ran them didn’t gain much from it. To run a personal stall, you had to gain permission from politics, and they would award a percentage of the points for doing so. Black market stalls would take all the points gained for themselves. These were run under the radar.

The lower quadrants also had some black-market stalls. These were run secretly, and they would keep all the points for themselves in order to buy more goods from the politics run stall. My mum and dad never bothered to get involved in the black-market stalls as by doing so, if you were caught your band colour could risk changing. This meant we never got any special treats and gifts. On birthdays, they spent their points in order to get a cake to celebrate, but this was from an official stall, so it genuinely used up nearly all their combined points.

I missed how things used to be before the outbreak. Mum and dad always had a party for me on my birthdays. I either had friends around or we went out somewhere special like a zoo or adventure park. Now they just work, I just study, and we barely get any free time together.

Politics run the safe zone. They set the laws and keep the system going smoothly which in turn, ensures that there is a steady and well-qualified amount of people working in each quadrant. Those in Politics ensure the systems teachings are enforced once your time in the system is completed. They monitor everyone's band information and ultimately, try to stop fail outs from occurring.

They also set the tasks which you compete in. Their living quarters are pretty good as well as their rations. Suppose that's the advantage to working with the law, you get treated well. I always remember Politics being corrupt back on the outside. Apparently, nothing has changed. Those in that quadrant will argue this of course as the last thing they want is equal treatment and opportunities for all. They like to think that they are better than everyone else.

Medical and science research and create ways to help fight the mutated plague as well as care for the general safe zone population. They are our doctors and nurses and run a hospital wing area in the safe zone. They are considered the most important quadrant because the survival of humanity relies on them. They try to find a cure or vaccination for the mutated plague. Their living quarters and rations are on par with politics. Got to keep them happy I suppose, or we'll be stuck here forever, with no cure or vaccination.

Teaching quadrant work in the system on the introductory weeks and teach those under the testing age in schools preparing them for the system and working in the other quadrants. By the time people reach seventeen years old and enter the system, they are completely prepared for what they should be working towards. They have clean living quarters, though not the grandest. Overall, they are pretty basic. Rations are enough to keep everyone healthy.

Engineering keeps the water filtration system and the generator going as well and everyday machines such as the equipment in the medical and science lab and hospital. They maintained the safe zone building and ensured that it was kept airtight from the outside air. I don’t think any infection could get in even if there was a gap due to the nature of the plague, but no chances were taken. One infected person on the inside could possibly be the death of us all.

Greenery grows and looks after the crops and animals. They feed the population and run the kitchens. We don't have too many animals in the safe zone, only the basics to get enough food to feed everyone. There is also a breeding program within this so to ensure a consistent supply of food. There are chickens, ducks, cows, sheep and pigs as far as I'm aware. This means we get some meat as well as items such as cheeses, milk and eggs. Greenery takes up a lot of room because of the space required for keeping these animals as well as space to breed and slaughter them. A very large quantity of people is placed in this quadrant. That is why it is one of the most worse off ones to live in.

Both engineering and greenery have basic living quarters. Not many people except the leaders get their own private living compartments. A small number of families with children got some individual living compartments, but there wasn't a large amount of them available.

They both have communal canteens as oppose to smaller intimate ones like the others. The work itself is hard labour with long working hours. To get placed here is seen as almost failing the system. Sure, it’s better than being put out if that even happens and sure the work is important in keeping the safe zone running, but the working conditions, rations and living quarters, as well as everyone's general opinion, is not a lot to be desired.

School teaches us to aim for the top. Everyone wants to be in the medical and science quadrant. To contribute to society and to try and be the one who cracks the problem in eradicating the plague. That person would be a hero among humanity. To be the one who was able to let everybody leave and re-enter the outside again...what an honour that would be. To re-enter the outside and re-build life as it was and find any survivors is the ultimate goal. Failing medical and science, politics is a top aspiration as well.

In school, we got taught of the consequences on outside life when the outbreak first began. Shops and workplaces seized to continue. Looting hit a dangerous level within two months of the outbreak with desperate attempts at finding enough food and water to hide out. Of course, this was a wasted effort with so many other looters around. Statistically, in a group of five looters, at least one was infected. In turn, the other four had a chance of becoming infected with being in close proximity. The only hope for them really was not to get too close to anyone and hope that you were extremely lucky. This is how the world as we knew it broke down. Death took over. Millions of people died. It's unknown to us how many people survived and made it into the safe zones worldwide. It is also unknown whether there are any survivors still living outside at the moment.

They were made large enough to house ten-thousand people with extra space for an extra five-thousand to allow for population growth. That's space for sixty-thousand people in Britain alone. Before the outbreak, there was just over seventy million people in Britain. Sixty-thousand is nothing compared to the amount who have presumably died, and it is unknown whether all the safe zones even filled up.

Our safe zone three which is in the Midlands only had seven-thousand before the gates got permanently shut due to the amount of infected who kept turning up. It was deemed too risky. That was seven months after the outbreak began. I assume the other safe zones had similar occurrences.

We are taught that the national grid stopped working not long before the gates closed. No more electricity. People started entering the safe zone as soon as it was completed, six months after the outbreak, so some of those never experienced the loss in electricity.

The lack of power cut off all communication off with the outside. Luckily for us, the safe zone was built with its own self-sustaining generator. We had electric. It was another nasty job the engineering quadrant has to do, keep the generator going at all costs. Everyone within will all die without it going due to the place being airtight. More importantly, politics quadrant would never allow the medical and science quadrants work to be compromised.

This all started back in the year 2045. Eight years after this all began, and I am ready to begin my testing in the system. Today I will leave my home with my parents to move into the systems wing in the safe zone. After my train, I will enter the arena at the end of the building and system wing to compete for my work placement. Today I will receive my band which will dictate my life quality. Today my life in the safe zone will truly begin.

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Books by Jess Peters

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About Jess Peters

I'm an aircraft mechanic by trade and an author in my spare time. My debut novel, The System, is out now. I'm currently working on a prequel noa and book 2 of the Bubo series. 

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