Chapter Twenty

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Hannah sat in stony silence, her eyes fixed on the scenery passing-by. The tint on the long side-window of the car made everything outside appear drab and grey. They had left the Flawed sector and were currently travelling through the Industrial Zone with its vast factories and workshops. Enormous red brick buildings with tall smoking chimneys towered over the area. They turned a corner and passed a labour agency with a large queue of Flawed men and woman stretching out of the door and down the road; all waiting to be assigned work. Despite their many differences; sex, physique, disability, work apparel, Hannah could see they all shared the same desperate desire to work. She knew most of them would not get work that day and would be turned away after hours of pointless waiting. They would then be left with just two choices; begging or crime. After all, with families to feed and rent to pay, you didn't get the luxury of other options when you were a Flawed. Oddly this sight made her feel homesick. She so desperately wanted to get out of the car and run home. She remembered queueing for work with Shane. Pain lanced her heart and caused her to take a sharp intake of breath. Not now, Hannah, she thought, hold on for just a bit longer. How long could she keep her grief boxed up she wondered?

Turning away from the reminders of home, she stole a glance at Zeke. Gone were the combat trousers and military style boots, replaced with a sharp navy suit, pale-blue shirt and highly polished black shoes. He looked important, official, not at all like the person who had saved her life and taken out the guards who'd killed Shane. That Zeke had shown such genuine care and concern for her or so she had thought. But where was he now? This Zeke was reading files, making notes, seemingly oblivious to her presence. What the hell was he doing here?

"We are about ten minutes away," Scott told Hannah and then turned his attention to a small device in his hand that looked a little like a phone. Hannah continued to look out of the window. They were now approaching the Business Zone. In the near distance she saw tall office blocks, monoliths of smoked glass and steel. The company where Hannah had first met Zeke wasn't too far from where they were now. This area was a marked contrast to the Industrial Zone. Here, expensively dressed men and woman moved about with pace and purpose. No queues, no broken buildings or broken people. The area screamed wealth, success and greed. Her father called these kinds of people consumption monkeys, working the Flawed to death and consuming everything else.

A few minutes later the Regional Council Offices appeared in front of them. A lavishly constructed building made from pale grey stone. Grand pillars held up the front of the building and in the centre, was large copper-domed roof, which had greened with age. This building was the largest of the eight regional council buildings around the country. This one served as the home of governance for the entire state of Bellissa, the country's wealthiest state which made its fortune due to the area being fortuitously rich in minerals, natural gas and precious stones. It also had excellent quality farmland. The old saying went that Bellissa 'fed the country, powered the country and (with the help of the precious stones) made the country pretty'. It also had the largest overall population and the highest Flawed to Perfect ratio, necessary to staff the industries that made it so successful.

The car pulled up at a security checkpoint and Agent Scott got out to show their papers.

Sensing Hannah's scrutiny, Zeke looked up and met her stare. Hannah held her breath, waiting. Then with the smallest of movements his eyes softened and he dipped his head once in the slightest of nods and turned his gaze back to the file on his lap. That small, almost imperceptible response was enough for her anxiety to reduce slightly. He was still with her; still complicit in whatever it was she/ they were going to do. Most importantly he was with her and not with them.

Scott got back in the car and they drove up to the grand entrance. Scott left the car first and Zeke gestured to Hannah to leave next. Hannah hesitated, not wanting to leave the temporary sanctuary of the car. "You can do this," Zeke whispered. The guard who had opened the car door, offered his hand to her. With a deep breath, she took it and stepped out into the cool shadow of the imposing building.

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