Just outside of Nick's neighborhood is the ominous Restricted Zone. It's a massive excavation site where only a few people are allowed to travel to, and even fewer are allowed to walk out from. This place hasn't affected Nick's daily schedule though, which hasn't changed since he turned three. This all changes however when someone destroys a truck carrying artifacts from the Restricted Zone, and Nick finds a piece a paper among the wreckage reading "We hold these truths to be self evident..."
"You better go get it."
"Are you kidding me?"
Nick stared across the river at the football. It appeared to be mocking him as it hung on the edge of a rock, refusing to fall into the river where he could go and grab it.
"C'mon," complained Jackson, "it's like three feet into the restricted zone. Go and get it."
"Why me?" asked Nick.
"You're the one who bombed it over there."
Nick looked at Jackson. He was staring back at him with brown eyes and long dark hair. He was at least an inch within his height, but he was more powerfully built in the upper body than him. He was also older. This usually meant he got to do the instructing.
"You know how strict they are about people going into the excavation site," said Nick.
"You're half a mile from where they're actually doing anything. If they see you jump out to grab a ball they're not going to care."
"Fine," said Nick. He stripped off his shirt and dove into the river.
Although he wasn't a swimmer by far, he was definately better at it than Jackson. His legs were stronger, and his shorter brown hair provided less drag and didn't get in his way when he looked to his side to breathe. Within a minute he had crossed the river and pulled himself onto the shore. He was now in the restricted zone.
What made the restricted zone so forbidding was that it was very well defended. No one from the city was allowed in, and those who were led very secretive lives. Nothing really happened there that seemed very important, so not many people bothered about it. You couldn't help but notice though when the massive machines began to work and people on the edges of the dirt mounds were sitting there for hours removing dirt and dusting off small artifacts.
This was another mystery of the restricted zone. Strange objects no one had ever seen before traveled from there in heavily armored trucks to the inner parts of the city. Again, these relics appeared to have no influence upon everyone, so they were of little intrest. However, every now and then some daredevil group would attempt to steal something from the trucks by stealth, and every time they would fail miserably. The punishments weren't light by far, so Nick had a sense of dread as he stood up on the bank of the river.
His dread turned to shock as he looked up and saw one of the guards from the excavation site standing in front of him. He was tossing the ball up and down in his hand while staring at Nick with an amused expression.
"I-I...um," stammered Nick.
"What are you doing here?" asked the guard in a monotone voice. He looked menacing in his full body armor complete with an assault rifle.
Nick tried to say, "I was getting my ball," but the only audible word out of his mouth was "ball".
The guard raised an eyebrow. "You know what the punishemets are for illegaly and intentionaly walking into this zone are?"
"No," muttered Nick. His confidence was falling.
"Well neither do I," said the guard, "But I've heard that no one ever walks away from them as the same person they were before."
At this a miniscule flame of courage sparked inside of Nick. This man was trying to treat him as a kid, and at age fifteen, he wasn't much of a kid anymore.
"Sorry," said Nick in a more pronounced voice, "It won't happen again."
"Better not," said the guard. He walked over to Nick and shoved the ball so violently against him that he fell backwards into the river.
"Well that went well," said Jackson as Nick pulled himself out of the river on the other side.
"Shut up. You couldn't have done better," said Nick defensively.
"You know I probably couldn't have," said Jackson, "but at least I could have kept myself from being shoved into the river."
"Not with legs like that," mocked Nick. Jackson smirked at him.
On the walk back home Nick and Jackson argued constantly about which was more benificial, leg strength or arm strength. This was a topic they seemed to argue about constantly since they had met each other seven years previously. Even worse, neither had bothered to attempt to strengthen their weaker muscles. It's not as if they never exercised them, but they weren't in surperior shape.
As continued home, the city of Colombia came into view. This city of five million people was the only major city known to most of its residents. Few had heard of the other cities that lay elsewhere beyond the horizon, and even fewer knew their names. Anyone who traveled from those cities to Colombia came in trucks similar to those that carried the artifacts from the excavation site, so no one knew who these foreigners were or how they acted. Trips were usually brief, and most left by nightfall of their arival.
Secrecy and preventing information from leaving the Elites of the city was a common practice in Colombia. The Elites were a very high ranking group of people who were never seen in public. They ran and knew everything, including what went on in the restricted zone. They were the people that met with the foreigners, and any discusion between them was safely recorded and stored in a high security location. At least, that was what had been told. Sometimes there would be a person who would claim they had found something the Elites had been hiding for decades. These outbursts never lasted long.
When they got close to Colombia they arrived at the first checkpoint. These checkpoints were stationed everywhere around and in the city. Any place that you entered, left, worked at, or lived at you scanned your ID card. The checkpoints around the city were much more secure, but there were severe punishements for forgetting to scan your ID when passing one of the checkpoints in the city. Even more there were survallince cameras at about every checkpoint so the Elites could watch over.
The IDs were meant to watch almost every move a citizen of Colombia made. As the lady working the checkpoint scanned his ID, he could see all the places he had been that Friday, from leaving home to arriving at school, leaving school, arriving at Jackson’s house, leaving Jackson’s house, and leaving the city inner boundry.
“I wonder what would happen if we broke one of these,” said Jackson as they left the checkpoint.”
“You can’t,” said Nick, “A lot of people have tried.”
“Why?” asked Jackson.
“I don’t know.”
When they passed the checkpoint leading into one of the suburbs of Colmbia they went seperate ways, Nick to the south and Jackson to the north.
When Nick arrived home, sloppily throwing his ID against the personal checkpoint in their house, he saw his younger sister and brother in the living room.
“Where’s mom and dad?” questioned Nick.
“No idea,” they said, still absored by the TV. Nick walked over to his parent’s table, where a small tablet was sitting. He looked at it and saw his parent’s schedule. This was the schedule that they were given at the age of twenty-five and they had to follow it their whole life. It was taught in school that if everyone is assigned jobs by the state, in this case the state being the Elites, then the city will benifit greatly. If people begin to resist their schedule though, everyone will suffer greatly. Nick didn’t get his schedule, which was considered an honor, for ten more years.
On the schedule it showed that both of his parents had extra hours of work assigned to them so that they could help prepare the company for a vist from another foreign group tomorrow. Nick guessed that this would make them have to work well into nightime.