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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7. The Camp

     “Alright superman, just try to keep up,” Ryan mumbled.

     He opened the door and stepped outside. Sunlight poured into the room and I smiled since was the first time I’d seen natural light in a week or two. I was fully recovered though, so Ryan had no excuse but to take me to see Amber. Jean had actually helped me out in convincing him to let me leave the room.

 

     “Please, Ryan?” I pleaded, giving him my best puppy-eyed look. His serious expression never wavered, but I saw amusement flash through his eyes.

     “Yeah, pleeease, Ryan?” Jean echoed. He brought his hands together comically and pouted. I fought back a smile.

     “Come on Ry. Give the kid his freedom. He’s got to get out and meet everybody sooner or later.”

     Ryan groaned and sank into a chair.

     “Why the hell are you pleading his case Jean?”

     “Because, he’s as cute as a button,” Jean answered, patting my head.

     I frowned, but stayed quiet. If he was going to get me out of this room, Jean could call me whatever he wanted.

     Ryan grunted, but Jean smiled brighter.

     “Plus, keeping the boy locked in this room is going to make him as boring as you. I am trying to save his soul, Ryan!”

     I laughed and tried to cover it with a cough. Ryan smirked and finally folded.

     “Fine, tomorrow. I think he’s well enough,” he mumbled.

     I smiled and gave Jean a one-armed hug.

 

     I stood in the sunshine, enjoying the warm feeling spreading across my light skin. I was extremely pale (as were most of the citizens of Region 29) because I rarely got to spend time outdoors. Everything I required was indoors: entertainment, food, work. There was never a reason to spend a lot of time outside.

     A glance at Ryan made me feel even more self-conscious. His skin was a toasted caramel and from just a glimpse I knew he spent a good amount of time in the sun. His eyes met mine and I turned away quickly.

     “Ready superman?” he asked, smiling. I nodded and stepped outside, shutting the door behind me.

     We walked up a few concrete steps and turned left. Apparently, Ryan’s room was part of a larger building with three floors of identical looking accommodations. We were on the first floor which is why the room had no windows; it was basically underground.

     I strained my neck to look up at the floors above us and saw that most doors were missing or broken. It didn’t really look like anyone else lived in the building.

     “What kinds of people live in rooms like that?” I wondered aloud. Ryan looked up and laughed.

     “No one lives up there. This building is vacant except for me.”

     “You’re all alone?” I asked. Ryan stopped.

     “Unfortunately, not all alone,” he answered, frowning. “Irritatingly, Jean comes by every so often.”

     “What about Cameron? Collin?” I said, feeling a little sorry for Ryan.

     Ryan chuckled and shook his head slightly.

     “I’m their boss when it comes to going through the tunnels to recruit the DCB prisoners, but they prefer to stay in the center of camp with Jean and everyone else.”

     “Why?” I asked curiously.

     “It’s safer. From time to time, the city sends Patrols to ‘cleanse’ the area. The Outcasts all evacuate when they hear the alarms. The entrance to the underground sewage system is at the camp’s center.”

     I frowned.

     “Then why do you live out here? Isn’t it safer for you to live with everyone?”

     He shrugged and continued forward. We walked in silence the rest of the way.

 

 

     The Outcast camp was nothing like Region 29. In the city there was lush landscaping with plenty of flowers and trees that provided shade. Animals weren’t common, but it wasn’t that unusual to see a squirrel or cat cross your path.

     The land outside the city was the complete opposite. There was no vegetation, no animals and no water. It was an uninhabitable desert. The ground was dry and seemed lacking in nutrients to grow food or sustain wildlife. Remnants of buildings from the Old World were scattered everywhere. Crumbling concrete lined the road as we walked onward.

     Quite a distance in front of us, I could see the giant white wall that separated the barren land from the ‘utopia’ that was the city. The wall was built to keep the good soil and habitable land safe. It separated us, I mean, the citizens of the Region from the outside world.

     When in the city, the S.R.U. had told me nothing survived in the space between the 30 Regions. Travel between the cities was limited so the only ones that ever really left were the Leader and his lackeys. No one knew an entirely different world existed outside the city walls.

     Suddenly, I heard a noise that sounded like someone banging a giant metal pot. I looked over at Ryan, but he was smiling. There were three bangs and then silence.

     “What was that?” I whispered to Ryan as we reached the top of a small dune.

     “That means it’s time for lunch. We eat all our meals together. Jean’s idea,” Ryan answered, gesturing to the bottom of the hill.

     I squinted through the sunlight and saw groups of people heading towards what I assumed was the center of the camp. Admittedly, it was a bit underwhelming when I saw it. It seemed the housing was all hand-made; small wooden and concrete rooms covered with tarps or wooden slabs for roofs. A few areas with crops were scattered throughout the camp and only one small lake was visible. Nothing new, well-built or astonishing.

     I’d thought that Ryan’s home was shabby, but the camp center was even worse. Obviously, everyone must be desperate to overthrow the Region and have access to decent living conditions.

     “Those poor people,” I mumbled to myself, then followed Ryan down the hill after everyone.

 

     When we finally got to the camp, I was even more shocked by the people. Yes, everyone was dressed in less than adequate clothing, they looked tired and hungry, but they seemed happy. Children chased after each other, elderly couples walked hand-in-hand, teens not much younger than me were wrestling, and even a man missing a leg was smiling as he stumbled forward on crutches. Nobody seemed depressed or sad that they were cast out from the city.

     “Everyone seems so happy,” I said to Ryan, unable to keep the shock out of my voice. He nodded.

     “We may be rejects by standards of the city, but out here everyone’s family.”

     I couldn’t help but smile at his words. Family…

 

     Even though fifty-eight had seemed like so little when we were talking battle-plans, having fifty-eight mouths to feed was a big task. It was a miracle how the camp had enough food to feed this many people every day.

     Everyone had formed a line to receive their food from a window in one of the concrete buildings. Ryan led me past the end of the line and straight up to the building. He pushed aside the sheet covering the doorway and motioned for me to go in.

     The inside was a mess; a flurry of bodies as a group of people prepared the meals. Some stirred pots, others poured soup into bowls, one scooped rice onto plates, a couple of people cut some kind of meat and there were two smiling girls handing the crowd outside their food.

     I grinned, recognizing Amber. She saw me and waved me over. I took a step forward, but right away Ryan put a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

     “Best wait until the job’s done,” he said.

     He was probably right; the kitchen was a mass confusion so they didn’t need me getting in the way. I waited patiently against the wall with Ryan until the last person had been served.

     The mood instantly relaxed and everyone collapsed from exhaustion.

     “Good job everyone. See you at dinnertime!” the girl next to Amber announced, dismissing the workers. Making sure to grab a bowl for themselves, they quickly filed out of the room.

     “Ryan!” the girl called happily, running to hug him. “I haven’t seen you for a couple of days, where have you been?”

     “Home,” he laughed. “I was playing nurse.”

     I grunted, sure I was once again bright red. I hadn’t meant to be the reason Ryan put his life on hold. I hadn’t asked him to care for me.

     I glanced at the two embracing and caught Ryan winking at me. I frowned and turned my head, walking towards Amber. She smiled and hugged me.

     “Jack, I’m so glad you’re okay,” she said grinning. “Can you believe this? We made it, just like you said.”

     I wrapped my arms around her and nodded.

     “Yeah, we made it.”

     “Have you started training yet?” Amber asked, releasing me. I shook my head.

     “You’ll love it! We’re so good Jack. The S.R.U. has no idea what’s coming!”

     The enthusiasm was clear in her voice; she was looking forward to getting revenge on the S.R.U. and the Region.

     I smiled down at her, refusing to ruin her good attitude. She rambled on about all the people she’d met and the training she’d done. I let her rant about how the S.R.U. had to be brought down and how we were going to save all the poor citizens.

     I stared at her, glad she was happy. The Amber I saw in front of me, aside from being tanner, had not changed. Her determination in the Region’s dump had helped me find the tunnel and the Outcasts and now she was ready to fight alongside them in the blink of an eye.

     “So I’ll see you later then?” she asked. I snapped out of my daze.

     “Later?”

     “Yeah it’s your first day of training, silly! Tammy said even Ryan’s going to be there,” she said looking past me. “Everyone’s told me he’s the best. You’ve been staying with him?”

     “Yeah,” I mumbled.

     “What’s he like?”

     “He’s… something,” I told her. “Definitely different…”

     Amber only seemed to be half-listening as I responded. Her gaze was locked on something or someone behind me.

     “Tammy?” she whispered. I turned my head and jumped when I saw that the girl from before had suddenly appeared.

     “Hi, Jack. I’m Tammy,” she said to me, grinning. I smiled and shook her hand. She was a girl about Ryan’s size with short dark hair. Though, her dark brown eyes were no comparison.

     “Tammy?” Amber whispered again.

     “What’s up, girl?” she said.

     “Do you think Ryan might like me?” she asked, her cheeks turning a rosy pink. “He keeps staring over here with that look on his face…”

     Tammy and I simultaneously looked back at Ryan. His eyes connected with mine and he smiled. Tammy chuckled as she witnessed the display.

     “Oh sweetie, he’s not looking at you he’s–”

     I cleared my throat, interrupting her.

     “Well, Tammy it was nice to meet you. See you later Amber,” I managed to say quickly before rushing out the door.

 

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