Authors: Jaci Wheeler
The auditorium is one of my favorite places. It’s only used for large gatherings and important ceremonies, but it is absolutely beautiful. Like most buildings, this one is made to make the most out of natural light. All buildings are created to use only natural light and solar. Our country is very conservative about how we use our resources. It wasn’t always that way, back before we got rid of the states.
The building itself is made from glass. The light that filters in is so bright you don’t need electricity at all during the day. One wall behind where the speaker sits is made completely out of stained glass. It is incredibly beautiful all on its own, but once the light shines through, it is absolutely breathtaking. The room is filled with large hand-crafted oak benches topped with red velvet cushions. The stage was built in tiers so that when Council meetings are held, the members can sit in them and be seen from below. It also works perfectly for this type of ceremony because the Career Board members have the perfect view of the students, as do we since they are facing us seated directly behind where the speakers will present.
I assume we will be getting our jobs in alphabetical order, which of course means Wes and I are toward the end and I’m not sure either of us is going to be able to sit through that; but, once we walk in we are told to sit wherever we would like because they are going to go by job classification. I’m not sure how to feel about this so I quickly make my way to the bench and take my seat next to Wes. He instantly starts fidgeting in his seat, leg bouncing all over the place. Normally it wouldn’t bother me but my nerves are shot and I feel like I just might pass out. I gently put my hand on his leg and, just as he is about to protest, I look at him with all the fear in my eyes and quietly whisper, “Please, Wes.”
Just as I think he is going to push my hand off and continue bouncing, Wes floors me by stopping his leg and grabbing my hand intertwining our fingers.
WOW, I must be worse off than I thought! The fact that Wes is not only holding my hand, but made the first contact means I must look one second away from flipping out. He smiles shyly at me and instantly I feel less like I’m going to pass out and more like I just want to get on with it. I look up behind the stage at the people in the seats; they must be the Career Board members. I am instantly taken aback because there is one board member that is staring directly at me. She is younger than I had imagined someone in her position would be, only about mid 30’s. If I guess right, I am her first case. She must have started training as soon as she was sixteen and then taken me on at eighteen as soon as I was born. She is my case worker; there is no doubt in my mind about this. She is looking at me intently, like she has known me all my life. Instead of finding comfort in that fact, I find it completely off-putting. How can this woman know everything there is to know about me and I don’t even know her name?
She has shoulder length blonde hair and bright, knowing blue eyes; she is beautiful. She sees my hand intertwined with Wes’s and I see a smile form on her mouth, like she knows how hard it is for him and what an accomplishment it must be for him to be doing so. She makes no indication to me that I am correct in my assumption, but she never takes her watchful eyes off of where we sit. I wish our parents weren’t sitting behind us; I could use a vision of my mother right about now. Her easy smile always seems to calm my nerves.
I take a deep breath as a man walks up to the center of the stage. I instantly recognize him as President Vaughn. I am shocked! And from the gasps and intake of breath around me, I am not the only one. I know I’ve never been to a career ceremony, but I’ve never been told of the President making an appearance. Surely someone would have mentioned something as important as that. That’s when it hits me: it’s impossible for the President to be at all of the ceremonies because as we are sitting here right now, all of the other zones are doing the same. There is no way the President could be in all the zones at the same time, so why did he pick ours?
Wes looks my way trying to gauge my reaction or maybe asking my insight; I shrug back and shake my head slightly.
The President’s job is an important one, as are all jobs in our country. The President receives the same benefits as all workers, but given a little more respect and honor because of the position. The reason for this feeling of awe in the air is because, besides the Council members, I don’t think anyone has ever seen the President. The job is very secretive. We aren’t even sure exactly what he does or how long he will be in place of such honor. When our country was established, the founders created a list of requirements the president must be able to fulfill. Nobody knows what the list entails, only that once you can no longer meet the requirements, you step down from your position and someone new is appointed by the Council. Before the rebellion, the president was only allowed two terms, which at most could be eight years. That isn’t the case any longer; some have served in this position for decades, while others were only in office a few years. Nobody knows exactly why, but it isn’t shameful when the president is replaced; it is seen as a celebration, so I don’t think being replaced is a punishment.
President Vaughn has been in office as long as I have been alive, and even before that. He is a very tall man, broad-chested with a muscular build that surprises me. I never thought being the president would be a job where you would need muscle but I guess I don’t know all that much about it. Despite his somewhat intimidating stature, he also has a wide smile and friendly face. Yet, for the briefest moment, I saw a flash of contempt lurking behind his eyes as he walked across the stage. In a blink it was gone and I thought I must have imagined it, but I know better than to question my gut.
President Vaughn starts speaking, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“Good evening everyone and welcome to the Career Ceremony tonight. My name is Conner Vaughn and it is my honor to be here tonight.”
There are a few murmurs among the crowd at his name but they are quickly stopped as he continues, “First off, congratulations on turning sixteen. This is an exciting time in your life and I wish you luck and prosperity as you embark on this next step of your journey. Our country could not be where it is today, and as beautiful as it is, without everyone helping to make it possible. United America is possible because we are, in fact, united. The man who waters our vegetables is just as important as the one who formulates new medicines.”
Wesley very quietly scoffs at this last statement and I shoot him a reproachful look.
“Without everyone working together using their individual strengths we would never be where we are today. We never have to worry about being hungry, cold, or safe. Thanks to the jobs that our citizens do every day, we can sleep easy at night knowing we are taken care of. Tonight is a big night because you are stepping out from under your parents' protective wings and becoming an active member in society. I’m sure you are all very anxious to find out your placements so I will now turn it over to the Career Board’s director, Mr. Cole Ronan.” With that, the president gives another dazzling smile and steps down.
Cole Ronan is an older gentleman, probably somewhere in his late 60’s to early 70’s. He is very short in stature and rather round. You can tell he has spent most of his life behind a monitor of some sort. He is bald on top and what hair he had left was stark white. But he has big rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes underneath very bushy eyebrows.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As the president stated, I’m sure you are anxious for me to be done so you can move on to hearing your placements, but if you will allow me, I’d like to give you a short run through of how we reach our decisions.”
Hearing this, my ears perk up. I am absolutely interested in learning exactly how they come to their final conclusions.
“Each person behind me has been doing this job for at least sixteen years, some for over 40 years” he says, “They take their job extremely seriously, and only the very best are chosen to be on the Career Board. As you know, we value all jobs equally in our country, but some are much more difficult than others. This is one of those jobs. The men and women behind me know they have your futures in their hands and they don’t take that responsibility lightly. The job chosen for you has been selected after years and years of careful consideration and many, many, hours of manpower put into getting to know each and every one of you.”
With that, he turns and gives another man a nod and walks away.
“Well, wasn’t that perfectly vague?” Wes whispers to me, and I couldn’t agree more.
There are only 50 students in my group, so I’m hoping this will go relatively quickly. Because we aren’t going by alphabetical order, I have no clue how long I will have to wait until they get to me.
A man in his mid-40’s walks up to the center stage and introduced himself has Kevin Masters. Mr. Masters straight up freaks me out. He was huge and had dark eyes and seemed to have a permanent scowl on his face. He explains that he works for the Ministry of Defense, and suddenly it all makes perfect sense. Those guys are incredibly imposing and scary…as they should be, I guess.
We have the Ministry of Defense, which is the head of security and safety for the country, and then the Ministry is broken down into sub groups: troopers, trackers and sentry. The sentry is the most common; they are the peace keepers in the country, standing watch, and prepared to let the ministry know if something isn’t right. The troopers, however, are sent in to do the enforcing and make arrests if need be. Sentries have the power to arrest too, but it isn’t very common to see such an occurrence. Lastly, are the trackers, who tend to be the scariest of all the enforcers. They are highly-skilled and trained for battle but primarily, as the name implies, to track. They are called in cases of hunting down people, or following leads; they are the ones brought in when you have tried everything else. I’ve never actually met a tracker before, but they are widely known and respected. Theirs is a very hard job, one in which you can’t be married or have a family.
Mr. Masters gets right down to business, “Out of your class, only two of you are being placed with the Ministry of Defense. Bailey Landers will be training as a sentry and Tristan Knight will be training as a tracker.”
A huge grin spreads across Tristan’s face. My eyes meet Rae’s a few aisles down. So this is why he wanted to go to University. University is just what it sounds like: primarily academic. However, if you join the Ministry of Defense, they have their own special academy that trains in hand-to-hand combat and other things I probably never want to know about. I couldn’t picture Tristan doing anything academic. But fighting? Oh yes, they choose very well. As Mr. Masters leaves the stage, others take his place and begin giving job placements to the laborers. Not all labor jobs are that bad. In fact, several of the jobs I could very easily see myself doing: nanny for one, where my sweet friend Sarah was placed. Knowing that I wasn't going to be called because I didn't choose labor, I start to zone out a bit.
I steal a glance at Wes and can tell that he is silently counting the panes of glass; obviously he has checked out as well. I have that eerie feeling of being watched and I know who it had to be. Sure enough I look up straight into the eyes of that blonde again. She still holds that confident air about her and now I see a slight haughtiness to her smile. I keep hoping she would just give me some type of hint to put me out of my misery and then, as if she can read my mind, her lips lift in a half smirk. I force myself to once again pay attention and I realize they are nearing the end of the job list. The only jobs left now are ones I was fairly certain I couldn't fit. I instantly started panicking! What if I get stuck with a job that doesn't suit me?!Sensing my panic, Wes begins stroking my hand and he bends down to whisper in my ear, “It’s OK, Roz. Look, we are together.”
He's right, he hasn’t been called yet either...but that makes sense. He is brilliant and loves boring stuff. I, however, may be somewhat intelligent, but I would absolutely hate research and would drown trying to figure out medical school. There is still agriculture left, which is most likely where I will be put. I’m not a huge fan, but I think I could learn to like it. A woman who introduces herself as Camille Stevens steps up to the center and begins talking about the different types of jobs in agriculture. I didn’t realize there were so many. I guess it makes sense having to feed so many people. She has the longest list yet: six people.
She begins reading a list of names and saying their intended purposes when a familiar name catches my attention, but it wasn’t mine, “Rae Ingval will be placed in pharmaceutical horticulture.”
Rae’s face is radiating excitement. Huh, we’ve been friends forever and I would have never put her there, but obviously they know their stuff because she seems happy. This pacifies me only a bit however.
Last is the medical field, which by far has the most break offs; there are literally hundreds of sub sections like healer, nurse or surgeon. There are also all the behind-the-scenes researchers and developers, and all kinds of different positions I have never heard of. This is exactly where Wes is going to be placed, I am just sure of it. But me?! No way am I fit for this. I decide to shoot the blonde a scathing look filled with confusion but she just quietly laughs and continues her maddening observation of me.
Even though the medical field has the most positions, they are the most selective. The science sector as a whole are pretty picky about who they take, but the medical field only takes one, maybe two, people a year and sometimes they don’t do even that. As soon as Spencer Goldman steps on the stage I can feel the tension and excitement radiate off of Wes. This is it, he is finally going to be placed…and apparently so am I since there are only four of us left. Wait four?! The medical and science divisions have never picked that many students from one zone before. I am trying not to break Wes’s hand but I can't help squeezing it. He is trying to let go but there is no way I am giving up his grasp.