For Sarah Jane and Mallory, spending a restive damp night in a small shelter with a tall, rugged handsome man whom they’d met by mere circumstance only a few hours earlier felt a bit peculiar but also somewhat comforting. Throughout the night, Jake managed to catch scattered interludes of sleep, but even those were assailed by troubling images of NAP troopers doing unspeakable things to Nicole and Arielle. Early morning light filtered in through the shelter. Groggy, his head banging, Jake turned over and looked at his newfound friends, who were snuggled up against each other sleeping soundly.
Jake flinched at hearing movement outside; footsteps. They were very close. He gripped the Beretta’s handle. His body froze as three shadowy figures loomed over the fallen spruce tree. If by some unfortunate circumstances they were NAP troopers or UN soldiers, this party was over. Jake slowly emerged from the shelter. His tired eyes came upon a bear of a man who was a cross between Grizzly Adams and Little John of Robin Hood lore.
Kevin Sorenson displayed little emotion as he aimed a double-barrelled shotgun at Jake’s head. Standing on either side of Kevin were two young men in their early twenties. Calvin Sorenson, unshaven and a bit haggard after being away from civilization for a while, had the smooth, appealing appearance of a hot young Hollywood actor or pop star. He gripped a Nosler M48 rifle. The third woodsman, Neil Owlchild, pointed a Lee Enfield at Jake. Neil was Aboriginal-Canadian with long, dark hair and a penetrating scowl. All three were wearing woodland camouflage gear.
Jake could tell immediately that these were desperate men. Jake, Sarah Jane and Mallory had stumbled into their territory, something they didn’t take kindly to. He had to tread very carefully…
“Hand off that pistol,” Kevin ordered.
Jake tossed the Beretta in their direction. Neil picked it up and stuffed it inside of his jacket.
“You guys from Kamloops?” Calvin asked.
“That’s correct,” Jake replied. “I barely escaped yesterday afternoon.”
“That means the city’s under martial law,” Kevin stated. “We knew it was only going to be a matter of time.”
“How long have you been out here?” Jake asked.
“Since the end of the winter. With all of the turmoil exploding around us we wanted to get out before the hammer dropped,” Kevin explained.
Sarah Jane and Mallory awoke hearing men’s voices. They exited the shelter. The girls were shocked at the sight in front of them. The three woodsmen lowered their firearms. Calvin smiled lewdly at Sarah Jane and Mallory.
“Hey, Neil. Get a load of this. Appears you and I are going to have ourselves a couple of honeys to keep us warm at night.”
Calvin continued to wear the cocky grin as Sarah Jane glowered at him with a look that could kill.
“I would rather be devoured by a bear.”
“You’ve got a lot of attitude, don’t you?” Calvin said. “That really turns me on.”
Jake and the young women were getting quite hungry.
“I’m going to assume you guys have a cabin somewhere close to here,” Jake said to Kevin.
“I’ve kind of figured out by now you and your lady friends are not government agents,” Kevin said. “But we’re as concerned about being bothered by looters as we are about the prospect of the government finding our location. I’m sorry, but we can’t spare any of our food. It’s survival of the fittest out here, understand?”
“You’d be wise not to dismiss me so quickly,” Jake rejoined. “I’ve been hunting big game since I was a kid. Great at fishing too. I can cook as well. I also spent twenty years in the air force.”
“What was your trade in there? You don’t appear like the officer type to me.”
“You’re right. I actually worked for a living,” Jake replied with a smile. “I was in the U.S. Air Force - Combat controller.”
“You a Yank?” Neil asked.
“Duel citizen,” Jake answered.
“I spent fourteen years in the Canadian Army. First Combat Engineer Regiment,” Kevin stated. “Enjoyed the military for most of my career. That was up until about a year and a half ago. I was on an operation in Syria. I had recently attained the rank of master corporal. I frigged up my leg helping in the construction of a pontoon bridge. Hasn’t fully healed yet. This was just prior to the formation of the North American Union. If that wasn’t bad enough, the godforsaken government threw me under the bus as it did to most veterans. I received no compensation.”
“I was lucky enough to get my pension. I’m Jake Scribner, by the way.”
The men shook hands.
“This is my nephew Calvin and his friend Neil Owlchild.”
“These upstanding young ladies are Sarah Jane Pearce and Mallory Hutchinson,” Jake said.
Kevin nodded to them.
“Pleasure to meet you. Anyway, our camp is about a quarter mile from here. Even though we don’t have a lot of food at the moment, I can tell you’ve all been through Hell and back. Least we can do is offer you breakfast.”
As far as Frank Carragher was concerned, the complete subjugation of the Thompson-Nicola District had been a success. Other than the killing of the two NAP troopers, there had been no resistance.
In fact, Carragher, as well as Major Toombs and Colonel Mullen, were astounded by the sheep-like mentality many of the local denizens showed toward their new masters. Carragher stood in his office window peering out into the downtown core and the dry hills and mountains that lay beyond. Toombs stood in front of Carragher’s desk. The incidents which had occurred yesterday continued to trouble him. It was unacceptable how the NAP had not planned for every single scenario that could arise in an operation of this magnitude.
Though he was also quite upset, Carragher had largely put the incident behind him. Some veteran who happened to get lucky and was now far from the city was not the most imminent threat to the district administrator’s power. As of right now, he had badder fish to fry. The grip Carragher held over his sparsely-populated fiefdom would be ironclad. Any resident wanting to travel more than five kilometers beyond the city limits was required, under pain of indefinite detention, to have an administrative permit authorized by one of his bureaucrats. An 11p.m. – 6a.m. curfew had been put into effect, a curfew that would be enforced stringently.
Toombs simmered in his furious state.
“Sir, we have to continue tracking through the mountains until we find that animal. This district will not be secure until there is a bullet between Jake Scribner’s eyes.”
Carragher was sick and tired of hearing the NAP officer’s bellyaching.
“Major, as I’ve told you a dozen times already, our manpower and resources are limited. Do you have any idea how many communities are scattered throughout this enormous region I am responsible for governing? Little jerked off one horse towns such as Ashcroft, Barriere, Tranquille…there’s over a dozen at least. The main roads are always going to be under surveillance, either by helicopters, drones or armored patrols. The NAP’s intelligence division has been working tirelessly to establish a network of informers in each community. In my opinion, Scribner is out there possibly alive, possibly dead. I really don’t know. Right now, his sole objective is to survive. He has no reason to want to come back into Kamloops and be a thorn in our side.”
“No disrespect, Sir, but you are dead wrong there.”
“Explain what you mean by that Major.”
“It just so happens that Scribner’s fiancé was apprehended yesterday along with her daughter. They’re being held at the detention centre. I could be wrong, but I do not believe that we have seen the last of this shit disturber.”
“And if this does become a problem, it will be dealt with swiftly. In the meantime, let’s not meet trouble halfway.”