The Ranch is a large walled compound in former Croatia. Surrounded by wilderness, The Ranch appears to be an oasis of safety for weary or injured travellers who make it to the gates. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Upon arrival, visitors are given a hard choice, labour or return to the Wilds. Enforced labour contracts keep The Ranch working and The Ministry of Public Safety well-fed.
The entrance fee to The Ranch is three months of hard labour, either on the off-shore oil rigs, deep in the mining levels under the city proper, or in the agricultural domes to grow and harvest crops or breed livestock. Constantly bombarded by propaganda while they work, the citizens are endlessly reminded of how lucky they are to have jobs, food, a safe place to sleep, and a government to represent them on the global stage.
When citizens fulfil their contracts, they can either sign another, longer contract and remain at The Ranch, or be escorted to the main gate for release. The Ministry of Public Safety does not wish to see any harm come to its former citizens, so they often provide those leaving the city with communication units so they can call for help while travelling near the city.
Several kilometres outside The Ranch are several groups of specially designed creatures that The Ranch commissioned Triton Enterprises to create. Known as Screechers, they are essentially a genetically modified breed of bat. Screechers use signals emitted by the communication devices provided by the communication devices provided by The Ministry of Public Safety to locate the newly freed citizens. When in range, the Screechers emit a terrifying scream and bite their victims, paralysing them with a genetically tailored sedative.
The victims miraculously awaken inside the medical facilities of The Ranch, where they are reminded how fortunate they are to have been saved by The Ranch’s security patrols. These victims find themselves with a large medical bill and no Trust with which to pay. From there they are essentially forced to work off the debt (4.3.4).