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The System

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In a world where "Boy meets girl" is predetermined by The System's countdown on your wrist, Chloe finds out what happens when boy doesn't want to meet girl and when boy does everything to keep away from girl, throwing off her entire life's plan.

Romance / Scifi
4.8 4 reviews
Age Rating:


003d, 04h, 47m, 12s

In the mess of morning traffic and streets full of people on their way to work, school or various other appointments, all surrounded by a kind of tranquillity, one of them was not. The brunette, her skin naturally tan, was rushing through the streets, turning corners while simply hoping she wouldn't face-first run into any of the calm and collected peers she shared her way to work with. This morning, when she left at a time that would usually get her to work early, the coffee she always drank on her way spilt across her white blouse in a way she would describe as messy at best, and unfathomable at worst. Since then, mentally, she had prepared to be late for the first time in her career. And so, as soon as she turned the last corner, she exhaled in relief.

Her eyes roamed the tower. The headquarters laid beautifully in its place. Blue skies hovered above the towering buildings of Arcan City. The white concrete gradually flattened the further they were from the center. Trains were speeding through the city on their elevated railways, out of everyone's field of vision in the blink of an eye: rushing past fields of green beside the streets and crystal clear water flowing out of the city.

And despite the stress not only induced by her being late but also the coffee she had decided to down after spilling half of, Chloe Gray took a moment — a fracture of a second, although usually she allowed herself more time — to remember why she enjoyed working at The System so much. How orderly and structured it felt. How perfect.

Which is exactly what Arcan City and most of its residents strived for. Chloe was no different. It was an honour for her to be involved in anything they did. She reminded herself of it every single day.

She pushed herself through the groups of people in the entrance hall, coming to a halt at the security gates. Her hands fumbled with the ID hanging around her neck, eyes curiously scanning her surroundings as she waited in line for the blonde before her, Carry Woodbury, to scan the card that would gain her access.

With a light startle, Chloe's attention was grabbed by the beeping sound of the machine as it approved the woman's ID. Carry rushed through the gate in a hurry similar to Chloe's. Perhaps she was late, too.

"Miss Gray."

Her head snapped upwards at the sound of her name, caught off guard as she flashed Prem, the familiar security guard, a wide grin. Her mind was all over the place this morning. She simply wasn't used to the stress of being late to, well, anything. In her mindlessness, she didn't take the ID off her neck, instead leaned down to the sensor to scan it. Hunched over, almost crouching, her eyes batted open to look at the man.

Despite her curious and quite uncomfortable-looking position, he smiled at her. The mustache sitting against his brown skin moved slightly with the corners of his mouth turning upwards.

"Prem," She greeted, giving the chubby man a nod right as the pleasant sound of release signaled for her to step through the gate. In a heartbeat, she straightened her back and hurried through it.

"You're exceptionally giddy today, miss," He noted curiously. Chloe spotted the grin tugging at the corners of his lips as she turned back to face him. "Stressed, too," he added quickly. She replied with an amused huff, making her way towards the elevators backwards in order not to fall out of her newly set timeframe.

"Three days, is it?" Prem raised his left arm slightly to signal what he was talking about. His eyes flickered back and forth between Chloe and the people passing through the gate.

She nodded in agreement, the smile on her lips growing deeper at the thought alone. She meant to reply to his statement right then and there. Her lips had already parted when that excited smile on her face was replaced by a horrified expression. With wide eyes, she bumped into one body. Immediately followed by the second. And she apologised profusely as she turned around to give both of her colleagues an equally apologetic look.

"I'm sorry— my apologies, I'm—" The words fell out of her mouth unhinged. At the same time, the two gave her nothing but an eye roll before moving on to wherever they had to be. Chloe exhaled loudly, the sound mirroring a sigh as she turned back to face Prem.

He was watching the woman in amusement, shaking his head lightly at her clumsiness before she caught his eyes again.

"Three days, exactly! You know it, P," she threw at him before disappearing into the elevator behind her. She fought her way through the small group already inside and a sigh of relief escaped her lips as soon as she leaned against the back wall of it. Her eyes closed just for a moment to gather her thoughts.

Three days, she thought— unnervingly little time in the grand scheme of her life.

Chloe's eyes remained closed and her mind wandered elsewhere altogether. She didn't even notice the ginger-haired man stood right beside her. By Aiden Walsh's facial expression, one could tell he took playful offence at her disinterest. And though he was a humble man — took pride in making Chloe's life just as much miserable as he made it fun — he raised an inquiring brow at her disregard, trying to decipher that smile still plastered across her relaxed features.

He continued to throw her a glance or two every few seconds all without the girl ever noticing. Even after they passed five whole floors, he was still searching and scanning her face for answers. When they passed the sixth one, he simply had enough of the guessing games.

"What's with the smile?" he wondered. A playfully accusatory tone lingered in his voice that dripped with sarcasm half of the time, anyway. "Your countdown running out today?" Aiden's eyes were pointed straight ahead, the sound of the doors opening catching his attention. He watched a few people get off the crowded elevator on the seventh floor, though couldn't hide the satisfactory smirk on his lips when he noticed Chloe startle at the sound of his voice.

Of course, Aiden knew her countdown wouldn't run out for another few days — whether it was two or three or four, he wasn't sure — though he enjoyed teasing her about the day she had been obsessed with for years now. He simply couldn't help himself.

Her eyes widened in a frenzy, flickering through the entire elevator before resting on Aiden in relief and recognition. The doors of it closed, and she shook her head both in disbelief and to answer his question.

"Thursday," she corrected, side-eyeing his reaction curiously.

He acknowledged her words and the boyish grin Aiden always wore settled into his pale features. In his Irish accent, he muttered a" Poor bloke." His teasing coerced a snicker out of the girl and she rolled her eyes in light amusement. But not even Aiden would be able to get the reaction he was aiming for out of her today. She, herself, was too giddy to ever find an ounce of annoyance in what he had said.

"Have they given you the day off, then?"

With genuine interest lacing his voice, she let his previous comment slide with nothing more than her initial reaction. Chloe nodded.

"I declined. They shouldn't have to." She shrugged. "It wouldn't be fate if I went out looking for them, right?"

A pleasant ding followed her words, and as the elevator doors opened on the thirty-first floor, only nine floors still above them, Aiden's nose scrunched up at the explanation. Of course she was right, though still, he had a hard time coming to terms with the concept of coming into work willingly.

"I guess," was all he offered her in response.

Even as they stepped out of the elevator together, Aiden still seemed to try and grasp the concept. "But—" he began. "It's still a day off. You know, where you wouldn't have to come into work?"

Chloe just raised her brows in amusement, taking in her friends puzzled expression in delight. With determination, he shook his head once more, beginning to walk in the opposite direction with his back still turned towards it. "Where you take all that bloody motivation from, Chloe, I'll never understand." Defeated, he trotted off to his workspace after the words left his mouth.

Despite knowing Aiden for years now, she never quite caught onto what it was he did to earn his living. And she figured five years into a friendship it was simply too late to ask.

Something with numbers and science— she was sure of that. Aiden was smart, even if he might not let much of that on at first glance. Or ever. Though, you sit him in front of a broken piece of technology, and you'd realise soon enough just how smart he was. He had to be, to be working at The System.

Still carrying that carefree lightness in her steps, Chloe took a turn to the right. She made her way through the long, brightly illuminated corridor, walking the hall as if it was her first day even if it's been years since. She scanned her surroundings intently, feeling oddly small in the middle of the arched, tunnel-like hallway that wouldn't show anything but bare stretches of white wall. Windows were scarce in comparison to the entrance hall of the building.

The sound of her heels clacking against the marble floors echoed through the long hall, nothing but the sound of it and distant chatter audible as she closed in on her destination. Chloe gave the two men in white suits positioned on each side of the door a hasty nod. They didn't return her gesture— she didn't remember a time or situation in which they did before.

The girl came to a halt, pressing her thumb against the fingerprint sensor beside the door. Her print was approved with a pleasant sound, and a hue of green light illuminated her face lightly just seconds after. The door slid open soundlessly.

"Miss Gray."

She came to an immediate halt. Didn't even dare take her eyes off the white floors at first and felt all the curious glances on her before she lifted her own gaze.

Monroe stood up as her name rolled off his tongue, politely greeting her as he leaned himself on the circular table he previously sat at.

Stood at the table in the middle of the conference room was The System's highest up, generally referred to as Monroe. Short, light brown hair, middle-aged, wearing a crisp, well-fitted, white suit that complimented his authoritative nature. His blue eyes peered into Chloe's brown ones, her head tilting at the sudden attention she was given. She was undeniably startled by it.

Her brows furrowed at the sound of his voice, taking in the circular room as the door closed behind her. Eleven pairs of eyes were on her just like she had expected them to be. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. She swallowed thickly at the situation she found herself in. Simultaneously, her arm raised in front of her, and her eyes dragged away from the unusual sight to check the time displayed on her watch in light panic.

It was her father's. And usually it brought her peace of mind: made her feel safe and calm just like she had felt in his arms when she was still young. Today that wasn't the case.

08:55 — Chloe was later than she usually was thanks to the coffee-incident this morning, though had made up enough time to still be early. Five minutes before their weekly meeting usually commenced. But here she was, attention flickering back and forth between the time and the council her superiors. Her heart threatened to jump right out of her chest with how vulnerable and exposed she felt.

She checked the time once more in order to avoid prolonged eye contact with any of them but instead her eyes fell on the little countdown on her wrist partially covered by that same watch. It brought her a sense of security, seeing it counting down the days like it always did;

003d, 04h, 35m, 57s.

"No worries."

Her eyes snapped back up to them, the words reeling her back into a reality she'd rather not be in. "You're not late; we merely started early," Monroe stated calmly, a polite smile gracing his features. "Take a seat, Miss Gray. You may start taking notes now."

She did.

Chloe was still startled by the ordeal, told herself not to overthink the situation to no avail; her thoughts ran deep. Why had they merely started early today? Why had no one informed her? For a moment she feared someone had, and she simply missed the memo. But it couldn't be. He would've made sure to let her know now. Though instead it seemed they had left her out of it on purpose.

She was only vaguely aware of Monroe's voice in a far distant corner of her mind. Her own thoughts occupied the space, instead. Only the sound of low hums of disapproval lured her back into reality before his voice followed.

"I know," he acknowledged his council, shaking his head in the same disapproving manner and making Chloe wonder what he had said just moments prior. "Sales in bandages have been increasing for weeks now. Whether that is because of them, the department is unsure." His blue eyes scanned the room, waiting for a similar reaction that followed suit immediately.

His attention landed on a particular member as he nodded in his direction. "I'd advise you to keep an eye on it, Zach."

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