Region 29

Jack Taylor is a 19 year old boy, but to Region 29 and the S.R.U. Corporation, he's Employee #7905. Because of a crime his family committed against the S.R.U, he's reassigned to the Department of Correctional Behavior.
As soon as he's reassigned, Jack knows his life will never be the same. He will be a prisoner of the Region. When he learns that there's a worser fate in store for him and all of those condemned to the DCB, how will Jack escape this sentence?
With the help of all those that have also been cast away by society, Jack slowly uncovers the dirty secrets of Region 29 that the S.R.U. Corporation has been hiding. But will finding the truth cost him his life?

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6. A New World

     I was jolted awake by the feeling of water dripping onto my forehead. My eyes opened and I stared up at the leak in the ceiling. My face was wet with a mixture of dirty water and sweat. The brief sleep I was able to get had not been at all peaceful. My short dreams had been filled with images of burning cities and torture rooms; I shook my head at the mere thought of them.

     The back of my cold hand ran across my forehead as I sat up and I took a couple of breaths to reorient myself. 

     I froze.

     I wasn’t in the tunnel anymore. I’d fallen asleep against the metal wall of an underground pipe and had awoken someplace completely different. My fingers curled to form fists, but instead got caught in a mess of blankets. I pushed off the sheets and swung my legs over the bed so that my feet were touching the floor. I ignored the pain that shot up my legs: too concentrated on figuring out where exactly I had been taken while unconscious.

     I was in someone’s room, definitely. There was hardly any light, but I could see the walls were cluttered with drawings and taped pieces of paper. The floor was a complete mess: books everywhere. (Although, I’d never actually seen a book, I recognized them from pictures of the ‘Old World’ I’d caught a glimpse of in school, years ago.) The space was a disaster.

     The room was generously spacious though, along with a small bathroom, it had room for a bed, a desk, a stove and a fridge. Of course, the appliances looked nothing like the modern ones of Region 29, but they were distinguishable as cooking aids.

     I sighed, thinking of Region 29. No one would notice I was missing; no one would care. There was no way I could ever go back. My old life was gone.

     The weight of that statement made my heart sink in my chest. I wasn’t a fugitive though, because the Region thought I was dead. I wasn’t a prisoner either. I was nothing; not a citizen, not even a criminal.

     My gaze drifted down at my right hand. Beneath the dirt and scratches, I could see the thin white line left behind by the absence of my ring: the ring that had been my life. I turned my hand over and clenched my fingers into a fist.

     The S.R.U. had taken everything from me: my family, my freedom and now my identity. Who am I? A tear rolled down my cheek and landed on my hand. Calmly I flexed my fingers, relaxing a bit. Getting angry was not going to solve my problems; I had to get to the bottom of things. I had no idea where I was, but I needed to move fast.

     No matter where I had ended up, I was going to find a way out and then bring down the S.R.U. Corporation.

     I stood up from the bed and slowly made my way around the dark room. Sadly, there were no windows so I had no idea what time of day it was. I searched around for a clock, but found none. I didn’t know where I was, how I’d gotten there, or what time of day it was. I was getting tired of feeling completely helpless.

     Deciding to make a run for it, I headed over to the wooden door at the far end of the room. Automatically, my hand rose to have my ring examined, but obviously there was no scanner. Rather embarrassed, I dropped my arm and put my hand on the door handle. I grabbed it and pulled, but nothing happened. I pushed and got the same result.

      Then suddenly, the handle twisted and the door was shoved open. Sunlight poured in from outside and I jumped back quickly to avoid getting hit.

     “Well, well superman. I see you’re up and about.”

     I looked up, surprisingly into Ryan’s unmistakable blue eyes. He smirked.

     "But, you shouldn’t be out of bed. You got hurt pretty bad back there,” he said, pushing me back slightly and stepping into the room.

     I was at a loss for words. I thought I’d been abandoned, maybe kidnapped by someone else in the tunnels, maybe even found by the S.R.U. itself. Seeing Ryan was kind of a relief.

     “I-I…” My mouth couldn’t form words and my breathing was getting faster. I felt my face turn bright red from embarrassment.

     “You okay?” Ryan asked, pressing his hand against my forehead. I nodded once.

     “You don’t look okay. You might have a fever. Off to bed!” he said comically, pointing towards the mattress at the back of the room. I smiled.

     "I’m fine. Um, where are we?” I asked. Ryan closed the door behind him, leaving the room dark again. He dropped a bag he’d been holding and walked over to the small desk. I heard a small flick and then I could see once again.

     I walked over to the desk and couldn’t help but ogle at the strange source of light. It was a small container with glass in the center and metal on the top and bottom. From the top, Ryan had stuck his hand inside and turned it on somehow. There was a small flame flickering in the center.

     “Never seen a lantern before?” Ryan asked, clearly amused at my behavior. I shook my head.

     “No, never. How does it work?” I looked up at him and he smiled.

     “There’s oil inside so when I light it, it sparks up and stays lit for a while,” he replied, grabbing the lantern and hanging it from a rod in the wall.

     “Interesting,” I whispered, staring at the bright flame. Behind me, I heard Ryan chuckle.

     “So I thought it was just your girlfriend that was the oddball. She was just as mesmerized by the little things as you were. Are all the ‘Region 29 citizens’ like that nowadays?”

     I really hadn’t heard anything Ryan had said after the word ‘girlfriend’. Quickly, I turned around to face him.

     “Amber! Is she okay?”

     Ryan nodded and walked over to the door to pick up his bag. He opened it and pulled out two white containers, two bottles and plastic forks.

     “She’s fine. I just couldn’t very well have put her into my bed now. That wouldn’t have been ‘appropriate’,” he said smiling. “She’s with my friend, Tammy so they’re having the time of their lives ‘girl-talking’ it up.”

     I laughed and he handed me a container and a bottle. I put the glass bottle on the floor and opened the plastic container. The most delicious smell was wafting out and I was curious to see what kind of food was inside.

     Ryan gave me a fork and pulled up a wooden chair to sit in. I slowly went and sat on the edge of the bed again.

     The food was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. It was flavorful just like the food in Region 29, but the Region’s food was predictable and routine. The brown rice Ryan had brought was filled with many different meats, vegetables and something called ‘duck sauce’. It was something I had definitely been missing out on for nineteen years.

     The beverage was the same way. The drinks in Region 29 were either water, natural teas or (if you were 18+) simple alcoholic beverages. The bottle that I had chugged down quickly was filled with sparkling liquid and it was like drinking bubbles. According to Ryan it was called ‘soda’ and the one I had drunk was flavored ‘lemon-lime’.

     First the lantern then the meal; it seemed like there was an entire world I had yet to discover.

     “Thanks, hip, Ryan for the, hip-hip, food. It was, hip, great,” I struggled to say. The soda had (much to Ryan’s amusement) given me a terrible case of the hiccups. I was sure my face was a dark red as I handed him my empty container and bottle.

     "No problem, superman. I’m here to help you get better. You can stay as long as you want,” Ryan told me. I smiled.

     “Hip, Ryan?”

     “What’s up?” He asked.

     “There’s a leak in your ceiling.”

       

 

     After our delicious meal, Ryan made me go back to bed. Apparently, I still wasn’t ‘well’ enough to be walking around. It was true that my legs were still aching, but I didn’t think I needed to be treated like I was so fragile. My concern wasn’t for myself, rather for Amber.

     “Just let me see her once. I’m completely fine,” I insisted, sitting up. Ryan rubbed his eyes, obviously annoyed at my persistence.

     “No, you’re in no condition to be moving so much. Besides, she’s across the camp, it’s too far.”

     Ryan gave me a stern look and I frowned. Obviously, he wasn’t going to change his mind. I sighed.

     “Just get some rest. Don’t be so eager to go off running. Once you fully recover, your training starts,” Ryan said, placing a hand on my chest. He pushed me back so I was lying down and then covered me back up with the blanket.

     “Training?” I asked, looking up at him. Ryan smirked and sat down in a nearby chair.

     “You’ll need to build up your strength for the Uprising: when we take down Region 29 and that irritating S.R.U.”

     I sat up so quickly, Ryan jumped.

     “We can’t seriously take on the S.R.U. like that! Are you crazy?” I screamed, my voice cracking a bit. Ryan sighed.

     “Superman, you’ve seen what that ‘corporation’ does to people. They have control over everything, even life. It’s dangerous for the S.R.U. to have that much power over us. We can’t let them continue what they’ve been doing. You and I have both witnessed it firsthand; everyone in this camp has. We are going to put a stop to it.”

     I gulped. Going against the S.R.U. with brute force was suicide. They had the latest technologies, the best guards, the larger army, and the upper-hand. We’d have to have a super-weapon up our sleeves to be able to defeat them.

     “H-how many people are ‘we’ exactly?” I asked, scared to hear the answer.

     “In total, we’re fifty-eight, but…”

     My spirits had lifted when he’d said fifty-eight, and then sunk right back down after hearing ‘but’.

     “But?” I prompted. Ryan scratched his face as if trying to recall every single person.

     “But, twenty are over sixty years old, there are six children, I think three pregnant women, five people that are not mentally stable, four critically injured, and two unconscious.”

     Slowly, I subtracted people in my head and groaned when I came up with the final answer.

     “There’s only eighteen left,” I mumbled.

     “Twenty actually. I take it that little Amber won’t back down from a chance at revenge and hopefully you’ll help, too?” he said, glancing sideways at me. With him looking at me like that, all my clever excuses disappeared.

     “Yeah, I’ll help,” I muttered, lying down once again. I covered my face with the blanket and sighed deeply, closing my eyes.

     I hadn’t actually planned on helping in the ‘Uprising’, but after seeing the look on Ryan’s face, how could I say no? Besides, I guess I did want a little revenge on the S.R.U. Maybe this was the golden opportunity. Plus, I’d get to help out everyone else who was affected by the corporation; and Amber and her brother….

     My eyes opened quickly and I peeled the blanket away from my face. Ryan was across the room, organizing a stack of books. Well, at least he’s cleaning up a bit.

     “Ryan?” I called hesitantly.

     “Hmm?” he said without turning around. “Need something?”

     “Um, no. I was just wondering...” I said slowly. “Amber told me her brother had been taken to the dump a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t see him when we were in there, though, did he by any chance end up in this camp?”

     Ryan stopped organizing and turned to face me.

     “What does he look like?”

     “Uh, I don’t really know. Maybe like Amber? Oh, she did say that he has a bandana he never takes off…”

     I watched as Ryan thought about what I’d just said. His forehead wrinkled when he was thinking and his eyebrows twitched a little. His ‘thinking face’ was almost cute in a way.

     “No, I don’t remember anyone like that. Actually, now that I think about it, last week we didn’t pick anyone up. We got there just as they started the incinerator, too. So, it’s not like we could have left him behind.”

     “There was no one?” I asked. He nodded firmly and then went back to what he’d been doing.

     Had Amber gotten the time wrong? I had asked her before if she had been absolutely sure of the date, and she seemed confident in her words. Amber didn’t seem delusional either. It’s not like she made-up a ‘big brother’. Maybe he hadn’t been taken to the dump. And if he hadn’t been thrown out, that meant he was still somewhere inside the Department of Correctional Behavior.

     I grimaced and put a cold hand to my forehead. All this thinking about dying and fighting was giving me a headache. I flipped onto my side and covered my head again to keep out the light.

     Actually, I was pretty tired. Maybe Ryan’s idea of resting for a bit longer hadn’t been such a bad one. Sighing, I closed my eyes and tried my best to get some rest.

 

 

CRASH!

     The sound of something breaking, echoed through the room and I opened my eyes to complete darkness. The lantern had been blown out.

     I sat up and scooted back until I was against the wall. I could only see about a foot in front of me, but I heard someone moving around in the darkness of the room. My heart rate increased as the person got closer.

     “Ryan?” I called out, already knowing that it wasn’t him. Someone let out a faint curse as they bumped into something. I gulped.

     “W-who’s there?” I asked, feeling around for anything I could use to defend myself. I reached down into the space between the bed and the wall and felt something wooden. Quickly I grabbed it and pulled it up onto the bed. It was a tube-shaped wooden object, most likely the broken leg of a chair. I felt a little better knowing I had something I could swing around.

     The noises in the room stopped and I knew the person was standing still. I listened carefully for any clues as to where they were.

     Then, a hand closed around my wrist. I yelped in surprise and brought the wooden object down. I swung it until I felt it make contact with something.

     “Ouch, that was mean,” said a male voice. I squinted and made out the shape of a tall person standing in front of me. Still unsure if I was in danger or not, I held the chair leg like a sword, ready to strike.

     Someone laughed and I heard a flick in the dark. A small light turned on and it was floating in the air. At closer examination, I saw a hand holding the light. It was a flame just like the one in the lantern, but this one was simply on a thin wooden stick.

     “Who are you?” I whispered uncertainly. I heard a rustling noise as the person searched for something. Another click and then the room was illuminated once again.

     Standing in front of me, holding a smaller lantern was an older boy with dark eyes and a devilish smile. He grinned at me, flashing perfectly white teeth.

     "The name’s Jean. I’m the leader of this camp. I just came to visit the new recruit. Jack, right?” he asked, setting down the lantern.

     I nodded, relaxing a little and lowering the piece of wood. There was a large red spot on his cheek where I’d smacked him. I cringed, simply looking at it.

     “Sorry about that,” I said, worriedly. Would he kick me out for hitting him? Or worse, give me some kind of punishment for disrespecting the ‘leader’ like that?

     “Don’t worry about it, kid. That’s the kind of fighting spirit we need if we’re going to take down Region 29,” he reassured me, grinning. I smiled nervously.

      “I guess there’s nothing left to say but ‘welcome to the Outcasts'.”

       

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