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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5. The Outcasts

     “Please, Jack. Please get up. Get up!” a voice above me pleaded. I groaned, opening my eyes slightly.

     Amber’s face eventually came into focus; she looked terrified. Why was she so scared? I lifted my arm and placed my palm against her cheek. I didn’t want to see her with that expression on her face.

     “Jack! Please, are you okay? Tell me you’re okay,” she whispered, her voice cracking. I nodded, dropping my arm and she exhaled with relief. Then a sharp pain erupted in my shoulder.

     “What was that for?”  I asked, rubbing the spot where she’d punched me.

     “For making me worry.” Amber smiled.

     “Sorry,” I mumbled. My apology was lost in the noise of the room as something exploded nearby. Amber was thrown forward by the force of the blast and she fell on top of me.

     Her weight knocked the breath from my lungs and I struggled to sit up. My body ached all over and I wasn’t sure I could run anymore to escape the flames. I looked at Amber and saw she’d been knocked unconscious.

     Great

     There was absolutely no response from her when I smacked her cheek. I grabbed her by the waist and tried lifting her. With great difficulty, I managed to carry her fireman-style and take a couple of steps forward.

      Soon, I had nowhere to go. Ahead of me lay nothing but burning heaps of garbage and when I turned around, I saw that the fire had caught up to us. We were surrounded.

     Frantically, I turned in circles, looking for a way that was safe. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I’d escaped one of the DCB’s tricks; I’d get out of this one, too.

     But there was nowhere I could go. Nothing I could do. Amber seemed to be getting heavier in my arms and my legs were starting to hurt from standing. My earlier sense of hope was fading away quickly. We’d need a miracle to survive this…

     Then, the garbage started moving and I felt myself being slid backwards across the ground. Startled, I glanced down at the floor. Sure enough, I had been pushed back a bit, but my feet hadn’t moved. It was like the flat cardboard box I’d been standing on had crawled across the ground on its own.

     I stared at the spot where I’d been before. In place of the trash, there was now a round gaping hole the size of a storm drain.

     “Hello?” a voice called up from the darkness, barely distinguishable from the chaos of the room. Curiously, I took a step forward.

     “Hello?” it yelled again. “Please, answer me if you’re there.”

     I debated whether to answer. Then, something nearby fell over and sent a small gust towards us. I felt the heat singe my back and grunted from the pain.

     “We’re here! Up here!” I screamed desperately, walking forward to the hole. Looking down into the darkness, I was able to make out a human form.

     “What are you waiting for? Climb down!” the person insisted. I moved Amber off my shoulder and held her in my arms.

     “My friend’s unconscious!” I said.

     “Leave him then! Don’t be stupid, let’s go!”

     I felt something hot against the soles of my feet and panicked when I saw the fire engulfing my shoes.

     “Catch her!” I screamed down, throwing Amber into the hole. I listened for the sound of an impact, but heard none. Hopefully, someone had caught her.

     “What the hell are you waiting for? Get down here you idiot!”

     I quickly batted at the flames crawling up my pants and then jumped down after Amber. I was swallowed up by the darkness and it was momentarily frightening. I couldn’t see where I was going or when I was going to land.

     Then, I crashed against something warm. I felt strong arms encircle my waist and realized it was someone, not something.

     “You’re lucky, you know that?” someone whispered. I felt my face go red as their hot breath warmed my neck. Quickly I wiggled out of the person’s hold and landed on my feet. The moment I hit the ground, I regretted jumping down.

     A horrible pain shot up my legs and I cried out. Reaching forward, I found someone’s arm and clutched to them desperately trying to take the pressure off my feet. The fire had gotten them worse than I’d thought.

     “Well that’s what you get for trying to be the hero,” someone muttered. I looked up to face the person who’d spoken and froze. Bright blue eyes stared into mine and I found myself at a loss for words.

     “Are you alright, superman?” the guy asked. A light flashed on and I saw three other people standing off to the side. All were wearing dark clothing.

     “I-I think so,” I managed to say.

     “Was there anyone else with you up there that didn’t make it?” the guy in front of me asked firmly. I shook my head.

     “No, just me and… Amber!” I said suddenly, looking around for her.

     “Don’t worry,” someone assured me. “I got her.”

     I looked towards the group and exhaled with relief when I saw her safely cradled in one of their arms. I turned my attention back to the guy in front of me.

     “Who are you?” I asked. He smirked.

     “We save your lives and you’re not even going to say ‘thank you’?”

     “T-thank you,” I said quickly. “Now, who are you people?”

     The guy smiled.

     “We’re the outcasts of Region 29. Just like you and your girlfriend. My name’s Ryan,” he said.

     “Outcasts? But how- Wait! She’s not my girlfriend!” I told him, processing the second part of his sentence.

     “Oh, no?” Ryan said, smiling down at me. “Interesting...”

     I felt my face blush red once again and looked away quickly. My gaze focused upwards at the hole in the ceiling I’d jumped through. We were in some kind of tunnel from what I could tell and the opening was about twenty feet above my head, but I was still able to see and feel the flames as they disintegrated everything in the room above. A few more seconds up there, and we would have died. I really should have been thanking Ryan a lot more. I owed him my life.

     “Are you ready to go?” Ryan asked, brushing something off his shirt. I glanced at him.

     “Go where?”

     He smiled, but didn’t answer my question.

     “Hey Cameron, go on and close the hole,” Ryan called back to one of the others. A tall guy with short brown hair and muscles nodded and walked over to the side of the tunnel. He grabbed onto a metal ladder and hoisted himself up. 

     Quickly, Cameron climbed up to the hole in the ceiling. He reached back and pulled some kind of glove from his back pocket, slipping it over his left hand. Then his arm went up into the fire and I heard him struggle as he pulled on something. With a loud clank, the manhole cover was pulled into its original position and the tunnel got a little darker. The sewer cover must have been what I had been standing on earlier that had moved.

     “So what did you mean by ‘the outcasts of Region 29’?” I asked Ryan when Cameron had come safely down. He shrugged.

     “That’s it. We’re what the Region and the S.R.U. don’t want. Every one of us was in the situation you were, though maybe not as extreme.”

     “So you’re criminals? The Region only punishes criminals.” I said timidly. Ryan frowned.

     “Let me ask you superman: are you a criminal?”

     His eyes bore into mine and I felt ashamed of myself. I shook my head, averting my eyes.

     Nice one, Jack. They save you from burning to death in the Region’s dump and you go and call them crooks.

     “S-sorry,” I whispered, too low for Ryan to hear.

     “Alright, let’s get going. If we hurry, we’ll get back by dinnertime,” he called to everyone else. Then, I remembered Amber.

     “Oh, hey! I’ll carry her if you want,” I said to the person holding Amber. The guy turned around and gave me a small smile. His curly red hair hung over his eyes and he shook his head a little to move it away.

     “It’s alright mate,” he answered in an accent I’d never heard before. “I’ve got ‘er. Besides, you look like you’re gonna need some ‘elp yourself.”

     I looked down at my pants and in the dim light I saw they’d been charred badly. No wonder standing hurt so much. If my jeans looked that bad, I dreaded finding out how my legs had turned out.

     “Collin’s got your girl, if you want I’ll help you out,” I heard someone say. Cameron stepped forward and I gave him a grateful smile.

     “Thanks.”

 

 

     The six of us traveled down the tunnel for what seemed like hours. We hadn’t stopped for a break once and my legs were starting to complain, but I didn’t dare ask Ryan to slow down. Though, even with Cameron almost fully supporting me, I knew I wouldn’t last much longer.

     Ryan and the boy that still hadn’t introduced himself were at the front of the group, leading the way. Next there was Collin who didn’t look like he was having any trouble carrying the still-unconscious Amber. Then there was Cameron and I at the very end.

     My arm was around his shoulder and he had his looped around my torso, trying to support me. I tried my best to keep the weight off my feet, but every once and a while I stumbled and landed hard on them. Every time they came in contact with the ground, I flinched at the sharp pain.

     Ryan looked back every so often, seeming worried (or maybe he was wondering whether they should just leave me behind). At that thought, I froze. Cameron took the next step forward though and I tripped. Just before I hit the ground, I felt someone catch me.

     I looked up to thank Cameron, but found Ryan looking down at me instead. He frowned.

     “Do you need to take a break?” he asked, concern lining his voice. I nodded slightly.

     “Alright, take five,” Ryan announced. Collin and the other guy stopped and looked back at us.

     “Really? A break, boss?” Collin asked, looking surprised. Ryan nodded once and Collin shrugged, setting down Amber so that she was sitting against the wall. The other guy grumbled and took out what looked to be a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

     Ryan helped me to get to the wall and I sat down gratefully. Taking a deep breath, I rested comfortably against the cool concrete. I closed my eyes and soon felt myself drifting off into a much needed sleep.

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