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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10. Sacrifices Worth Making

     “Jack, here’s another one,” Tammy called from across the camp. In her hand she held one of the dead Officers’ weapons.

     I nodded my approval and continued putting the supplies we’d managed to scavenge into a large sack. So far, we’d found a couple of discarded weapons, a few containers of water, some food from the ruins of the kitchen and some cloth to bandage any wounds we might acquire. Thankfully we’d also found some alcohol to disinfect Tammy’s cuts, but unfortunately there had only been enough for her. Playing the brave hero, I convinced her that my injuries weren’t as serious. It was the least I could have done after lying safely unconscious in a building while everyone outside risked his or her life.

     Tammy walked back and handed me the gun. I checked it quickly and found that it was luckily still loaded. Placing it into the small pile of firearms, I surveyed our haul.

     “I think we have to get going,” Tammy said. I glanced up at the sky and saw that the sun was going to be setting in an hour or two. Soon, it would be too dark to walk through the desert towards the city.

     “Yeah, let’s go. How’s your back?” I asked, still concerned for her health. She had regained some strength, but she still wore a pained expression.

     “I’ll manage. Come on, we have to save Ryan and the others. If I know Ryan, he won’t sit quietly and the DCB loves people who don’t submit easy,” she answered, her voice fading to a whisper.

     “Okay,” I said, gathering the sack and tossing it over my shoulder. “Here we go.”

 

 

     “Duck!” Tammy whispered harshly. She grabbed the collar of my shirt and pulled me down behind a short concrete wall. I didn’t question her actions as she pressed a finger to her lips and motioned for me to be silent.

     I heard voices nearby as the Patrol Officers circled the exterior of the city wall.

     “I don’t see why we still have to be out here, Don,” a voice sighed. “They either killed or captured all those freaks living in the desert. What's there to look out for anymore?”

     “I know, man. But, hey it’s the job,” answered an older man. “There’s wild animals out here ya know? Maybe something will come sniffing our way.”

     I glanced over at Tammy who was peeking over the wall. She sat back down and gestured for me to move closer.

     “There’s only two,” she said in a hushed voice. “I think we can get rid of them. If we do, then it’s a clear shot through the gate.”

     Taking a dangerous risk, I popped up from behind the wall to see what she was talking about. She hadn’t been lying. There were only two men sitting outside the iron gates that led to the city. It seemed the S.R.U. was feeling secure now that they’d killed anyone who posed a threat to the corporation.

     “Where do the gates lead?” I asked, ducking down again. Tammy shrugged.

     “Probably the DCB. Officers are the only ones that enter and exit through there, so that’s my best guess.”

     “Perfect.”

     Tammy smiled slightly and nodded once. Silently, we devised our plan and wasted no time springing into action. I grabbed one of the guns and positioned it on the wall as Tammy took a deep breath and stood up.

     “Don’t shoot!” she screamed, walking out into full view of the guards with her arms raised above her head.

     Both Officers immediately sprung up out of their chairs and aimed their weapons. Tammy fearlessly walked forward until they could clearly see that she presented no apparent threat. Once they saw she was alone, they lowered their weapons and eyed each other.

     “Well, what do we have here?” one of them said, the smile on his face widening. I fought against my instincts to stand up and run at him for what he must be thinking.

     “I’m all alone. I came because there’s no one left. I want the bargain that the S.R.U. was offering: a new life,” Tammy said, in a convincingly timid voice.

     “Well darling, that deal was a one-time thing. I’m afraid your time has expired,” the other Officer said, amusement clear in his tone.

     “But,” he continued. “If you show us a good time, I’m sure we can look into that for you.”

     I bit my tongue to keep from screaming because of the scene playing out in front of me. I glanced over at Tammy to see how she was dealing and saw that she was surprisingly calm. I admired her restraint.

     “What do you mean?” she answered, sounding like a scared child. Both men suddenly advanced towards her.

     My finger twitched and I urged to pull the trigger of the weapon, but Tammy had given me specific instructions. I calmed myself and waited for her signal.

     Then, one of the men grabbed her arm, but she still did nothing. I grew more anxious as the men started laughing. I felt my anger rising and debated whether to use my instincts or follow orders.

     A whistle sounded and I wasted no time. Tammy had managed to get both men directly in my line of fire. Without having to aim, my finger flexed on the trigger and sent two shots flying towards the guards. I vaguely remember seeing Tammy duck down, but I focused rather on the expressions of the two perverts as they were hit. Both fell quickly, knocked back by the force of the shots.

     Swiftly, I shoved the firearm back into the sack and ran out to meet Tammy. She was lying on the ground nearby with her hands covering her head.

     “You alright?” I asked, extending my and to help her up. She nodded and took it.

 

 

 

BANG.

     The gates closed behind us and I felt goose-bumps creep up my arms. I didn’t know the layout of the DCB since I’d hadn’t really made it far when I’d been admitted; so I wasn’t sure where we were. The walls were a dull white and the hallway seemed endless with more corridors extending in all directions.

     I glanced over at Tammy and saw she was frozen. Gently, I put my hand on her shoulder and she shuddered.

     “Do you know where we are?” I whispered. She nodded.

     “And I know where they are,” she said, squaring her shoulders and staring straight ahead.

     “Lead the way, Tammy.”

     Suddenly, she turned to face me, her expression serious.

     “Jack, I need to know how badly you want to rescue Ryan.”

     “W-what?” I stuttered.

     “Would you be willing to do anything to save him? Anything?” she asked.

     “Yes,” I answered without hesitation. Ryan had save my life more than once, I definitely owed him, but that wasn’t the only reason. I wanted to save him, but not out of obligation.

     “Okay,” she said, taking a step forward. “Listen carefully, Jack. At the end of the hall, you have to go right and down the stairs to the very bottom. If everything works out, everyone should be down there and you’ll have exactly ten minutes to get them out. Don’t waste time, and tell Ryan ‘thank you’ for all he’s done.”

     “Tammy…”

     “Go!” she said shoving me forward. Then she reached up above her head and smashed a fire alarm case with her left fist. Glass shattered everywhere and I saw blood coming from her fingers. An extremely loud alarm started blazing and red lights flashed up and down the hall.

     “Go! You idiot!” she screamed again, hitting the bag that was slung over my shoulder. I heard voices coming from other linking halls and knew Officers were coming to investigate. Tammy was giving me a chance to go while she stayed behind to lead them on a wild-goose chase.

     I ran down the hall away from the blazing alarms and glanced back only when I was a good distance away. I saw Tammy climb an emergency ladder up into the ceiling and disappear from view. Trusting her judgment, I turned away and continued going.

     The hall was unmistakably sloping downwards and I shuddered a bit knowing that I was going even farther underground. The alarms were just a distant noise after a while and soon the lighting was beginning to fade as well. By the time I reached the end of the corridor, I was barely able to see where I was going.

     Following Tammy’s instructions, I veered right and pulled open a door. Just as she’d said, it led to a stairwell. Taking the steps two at a time, I scurried down past several floors, making sure to mentally take note of how many I’d passed. I tallied up a total of six by the time I reached the bottom.

     I grabbed the handle of the last large metal door and pulled. It took almost all of my strength, but I managed to get it open. A blast of warm air greeted me as I stepped through the doorway.

W-shh. W-shh. W-shh.

     A strange smacking sound echoed off the walls of the floor I’d just entered. The door led me straight into a narrow hall, but I could see it opened up into a large room after a few feet. Strange stones lined the walls instead of plaster or concrete and there did not seem to be any air conditioner vents anywhere. Sweat was already beginning to build on my forehead as I took a couple of steps forward.

     “Uhh. Nuh. Nuhh.”

     I heard pained cries from the room and instantly reached into the bag. I grabbed the first two firearms and continued cautiously. Tammy had said I only had ten minutes. If I needed to get rid of Officers to save everyone, I’d have to be quick. I couldn’t hesitate.

     I reached the end of the short hall and peeked around the corner. The sight before me made me drop the bag and almost fall down myself.

     “Ryan!” I screamed automatically. My voice cracked and I struggled not to cry.

     Lying on a metal slab in the middle of the room was my Ryan surrounded by two Officers equipped with metal-tipped whips. He was facedown, his back exposed and completely covered in bleeding gashes. His head lifted faintly and Ryan’s eyes met mine.

BANG. BANG.

     Shots rang through the air and the two Officers suddenly collapsed. I froze in fear, and then noticed my outstretched arm. It took me a moment to realize that I had been the one to fire. Seeing Ryan like that, just made something inside of me snap. I’d killed two men without even realizing it…

     “Ryan!” I screamed again, not stopping to analyze the situation any further. I was just doing what I’d told Tammy: anything to get Ryan back.

     I ran towards him and supported his head gently. He smiled up at me, the pain obvious in his face.

     “You really are a hero, superman,” he whispered. I reached over and unclasped the restraints holding him down to the table. He took a moment to sit up and, after inspecting him thoroughly and finding no other major injuries, I flung myself against him; he hugged me back, wrapping his strong arms around me.

     “I’m glad you’re okay,” I whispered, hugging him tighter. I felt his body shake slightly as he chuckled.

     “Alright, superman. Let’s let these poor people out. I think we’ve given them enough of a show,” he said, letting me go. I frowned.

     Then, I noticed that surrounding us were about ten jail cells filled with the people from the Outcast camp. Everyone was looking directly at Ryan and I. The people had been kind enough not to interrupt the ‘moment’ we’d had, but I wished that I had noticed them before. I was sure my face was bright red from embarrassment.

     “No time to be shy, Jack. Let’s move.”

 

 

     “Okay mate, where to from here?” asked Collin in his familiarly strange accent. I smiled when I turned and saw he was okay. He was a bit banged up from the fight, but he’d live.

     “I came from the stairs. I’m not sure if there’s an easier way up though,” I said. Everyone had turned to me for guidance since I was their ‘savior’, but I wasn’t sure how to lead a group of people.

     Was it safe to guide these people up six flights of stairs? Was it better to look for another way out?

     I looked among the crowd and saw a pregnant woman and a few children. There was also an elderly couple. Sensing my hesitation, Ryan touched my shoulder gently.

     “How many floors until we reached the surface?” he asked me.

     “Six,”

     “Okay, that’s doable,” he whispered, then turned to face the crowd. “Come on people. We’re the Outcasts of Region 29! We’ve survived living in the barren desert even after we were ‘cast away’. We managed to form a community where everyone is happy, something not even the Leader has succeeded in doing. We took down who-knows-how-many S.R.U. Patrols in our fight and we’re going to keep fighting ‘til the end! We’re a threat to the Region and everyone knows it. One more feat, and we’ll be back to living our old lives!”

     Everyone cheered as Ryan concluded his motivational speech. The children jumped up and down excitedly, the ‘fighters’ sounded some kind of war cry and even the elderly nodded in approval.

     So with the strongest men carrying the children, elderly and pregnant women, we set off towards the stairs. I handed Ryan one of my firearms and distributed the rest to those capable of using them. Like a trained tactic team, the people with guns covered the front of the group and the rear.

     We bounded up the stairs, keeping a steady pace and before we knew it, we had reached the sixth floor. I pulled open the door and froze.

     Standing there with her arms restrained behind her back and blood dripping down her forehead stood Tammy with about ten armed Officers.

 

 

 

     “Staging a break-out?” one of them asked. “How brave. I didn’t think we’d left anyone alive out there.”

     “Well you did dumbass,” Tammy remarked.

     “Quiet, girl!” he said harshly, swinging his weapon so it hit hard against her cheek. I flinched at the impact.

     “Now, everyone. If you’d kindly just turn around and head back downstairs…” the Officer said, a cruel smile dominating his face. He pulled something from his back pocket and used it to wipe his gun: it was a red bandana.

     Behind me, no one moved: either out of fear or rebellion. I sized up the Officers in front of us and saw they were all a bit uneasy. I smiled when I realized why they were so nervous. Most of the Outcasts probably seemed familiar since many of them had been old prisoners of the DCB, but in the Officers’ minds all of them were supposed to be dead: burned with the garbage.

     “Move along all of you,” continued the main Officer, unaware of his colleagues’ anxieties. I smiled.

     “No,” I said firmly. The Officer opened his mouth to respond when suddenly the building started shaking.

     The floor moved underneath our feet and the walls began to sway and crack. It was the same effect that had occurred when the explosives had gone off on the battlefield. The building seemed horribly unstable although I was sure we were still underground.

     I felt someone staring at me through the confusion and looked up to meet Tammy’s eyes. She smiled and winked. Then so quickly I almost missed it, she disarmed the Officer restraining her and pressed the firearm to the main S.R.U. Patrol’s forehead. Then, using it just like he had before, she swung it and hit him across the cheek with the gun. He fell backwards and stumbled, hitting his head against the wall.

     “The building’s about to collapse,” she called out to us and to the group of Officers. “If I were you, I’d get out quickly. This whole place will be buried soon.”

     As if to back-up her statement, the building shuddered once more and something above us exploded. The lights hanging from the ceiling came loose and crashed to the ground.

     Loosing their nerve, the group of Officers dropped their weapons, turned and sprinted away towards safety. I exhaled, relieved they’d been cowards. Ryan’s eyes met mine and he nodded. Gesturing for everyone to follow him, he led the Outcasts past Tammy and followed the Officers out.

     “Let’s go,” I called to her, getting ready to follow. She shook her head.

     “I need to plant one more explosive,” she said, pulling a black bar from her waistband.

     “You don’t have time! Let’s just go, it’s already falling apart. If we don’t go now, we won’t make it in time!” I screamed over the sound of the DCB falling apart.

     “No, if I don’t plant this last bomb, the building will still be here. I need to erase every trace of this horrible place. I want no one else to know about what went on in this building.”

     “Tammy!” I pleaded, tears stinging my eyes. She smiled and hugged me quickly.

     “Go Jack. Ryan’s waiting,” she said before running off into the stairwell. I stepped forward to follow her, but a part of the wall came loose and suddenly blocked my path. I took a small step backwards as another piece of concrete fell. After turning to look back one more time, I ran down the hallway and towards a faint light I saw at the end.

     I dodged exposed wires and hurdled pipes and debris as I ran up out of the DCB.  My shirt got snagged on a fallen roof tile and my pants leg ripped by a glass shard but I refused to stop. Just as I felt the building was going to fall, fresh air greeted me and I ran straight into someone.

     Immediately, I recognized the strong arms that encircled me.

     “Oh thank heavens,” Ryan whispered, holding me against him.

 

 

 

    “What now?” I asked, gesturing to the ruins of what used to be Region 29. Apparently, the bombs had extended underground all throughout the city and when the first one detonated, the chain started and sunk the city. The wall that had previously enclosed the Region from the rest of the world was now nonexistent, but so was the city itself. The only survivors were the Outcasts and the Officers that had managed to make it out in time. We were all huddled in two groups, an obvious tension running through the air.

     Ryan shrugged and smiled down at me.

     “I’m sure things will work themselves out. Besides, I couldn’t care less what happens to the city. I have everything I need,” he answered slyly, wrapping an arm around my waist.

     I smiled and leaned against him.

     “Excuse me?”

     I turned around and saw one of the S.R.U. Officers. Next to me, Ryan immediately tensed.

     “On behalf of all the Officers remaining, I’d like to formerly apologize for our unacceptable behavior and ask that you give us a chance to redeem ourselves,” he said, bowing his head slightly.

     “Um,” I began, unsure of how to answer.

     “We accept your apology. If you wish, you may live with us until you find a place more suitable,” someone interjected. I turned and saw Jean. He winked at me and smiled.

     The Officer lifted his head and gave Jean a small nod. Then, he grabbed the ring on his right hand and twisted it off. Giving it one final look, he tossed it onto the ground.

     He walked away and two more Officers approached, mimicking the first and tossing their bands on the ground as well. After they left, the rest came forward and did the same. Soon, there was a small pile of Region rings on the dirt.

     Smiling, Jean reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. He flipped it open and pulled out a small wooden stick. He struck the match against the side of the box and then tossed it into the pile. The flame didn’t last long, but it had served its symbolic purpose.

     Ryan and I both smiled as we watched the rings melt together and mix with the soil.

 

 

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