The palms of Jake’s calloused hands sweated as they gripped the two-headed axe. He raised the axe over his head like some warrior in ancient times before driving it with full force into a large block of wood. It split perfectly in two. A glaring afternoon sun hung overhead. It was promising to be another hot central B.C. summer. It had been a few days since Jake, Mallory and Sarah Jane had begun their new life. The members of the small group were slowly learning to get along with each other. Jake and Kevin had really hit it off. The same could not be said about the husky ex combat engineer’s nephew. Calvin’s arrogant, confrontational attitude was really getting underneath Jake’s skin. He had a reasonable tolerance for bullshit, but there were limits as to how much of it he could stomach. On the other hand, Neil Owlchild was friendly and polite, quiet and soft-spoken.
Sarah Jane and Mallory had been out collecting mushrooms, berries and nuts all day. By noon, it had become so warm they were stripped down to tank tops. Sarah Jane wiped a film of sweat from her forehead.
“How are you getting along there Mal?”
The city girl was unaccustomed to this type of physical labor and struggled to keep up with her friend.
“Not much. How am I’m going to adjust to this life?” Mallory sighed tiredly.
“You’ll do fine. I’m hoping that we can get a garden planted soon. I’ve been gardening since I was a kid. Parents always put in a big garden each spring. Love doing it. I’ve never hunted or fished. Vegan all the way.”
Calvin and Neil were involved in the not-so-pleasant task of cleaning bull trout they’d caught in a stream a few hours earlier. Kevin finished patching up a hole in the side of the cabin. Just then, the peaceful afternoon sky was interrupted by the piercing scream of a fighter jet.
“Do you have any idea who that could be?” Jake asked Kevin.
“Either NATO or the North American Air Force. There’s been a fair amount of resistance in the border regions.”
Not a minute went by when Jake’s mind wasn’t on Nicole. It killed Jake inside to know that she was somewhere where he could not be with her. But he would rescue both of them come hell or high water.
“I feel somewhat guilty being out here while those bastards enslave and murder our families and neighbors,” Jake said with fire in his voice.
Kevin slipped his hammer inside of his tool pouch.
“Jake, what do you suggest we do? Fight back? Not going to happen my friend. Now I can empathize with you about Nicole. And be my guest. If you choose to risk your life to rescue her and Arielle, that’s your choice. But you’re on your own. We cannot interfere there.”
Adjusting to life in her new, hectic and violent surroundings was hellishly hard for Nicole. Being locked away without due process was something she could never have imagined in a million years ever happening in Canada. Slowly, she befriended the other detainees in H Block. Each day was regulated by a strict schedule. In addition to their assigned jobs in the facility, each detainee, under pain of torture, was compelled to partake in daily re-education classes.
Nicole had just finished lunch. As she and Bridgette got up from the table in the cafeteria, a male guard with a flat face, a muscular build and the two chevrons of a corporal approached her.
“Clare.” His voice was almost robotic. “Come with me now.”
With nervous anticipation, the tenacious writer and blogger was escorted to a small interrogation room. The guard opened up the door. Nicole entered. He locked the door behind her. Nicole shook. Her heart beat fast as she came face-to-face with a man who for years had been reviled by residents of the city.
Ron Storey, a former sergeant with the local police, had recently switched over to the North American Correctional Service’s re-education division, acquiring the rank of captain. He was the de facto commandant of the facility. Nicole averted her eyes from Storey’s domineering glare. The five-foot-three stocky former mixed martial arts fighter had been the subject of numerous complaints of police brutality and severe professional misconduct.
Two years earlier, when the Liberal/NDP/Green coalition government banned all civilian firearms ownership in Canada, Storey had commanded police, working alongside United Nations Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration officers in the door-to-door seizures of guns from Kamloops residents.
Nicole detested the bald, sadistic thug with all of her heart.
“Look who it is,” Storey said snidely. “The one and only Nicole Clare. It’s nice to finally meet you in person.” He pushed a chair away from the table. “Please, make yourself at home.”
Uneasy, Nicole sat down.
“So, you think I am, and I quote, ‘an authoritarian, jackbooted thug who should be imprisoned for crimes against humanity.’” Nicole felt her blood pressure shoot up. “It’s all right there in your blog.”
“What’s the matter? Hit too close to home?” Nicole shot back at him.
“You’ve got your father’s stubbornness. As it was for him, so it will also be your undoing.”
Nicole stood. She towered over the shorter man.
“What did you do to my parents you sick bastard?!”
“Do you actually believe I’m scared of you? Now sit back down or I’ll order my officers to do things to Arielle you couldn’t even dream of.”
Knowing that further resistance would only hurt her at this point, Nicole sat down.
“Your old man as well as your mother refused to go along with the program, if you get my drift. The NAP sent a patrol up to their ranch. Your father rushed outside firing a rifle. What can I say? They were a clear and present danger that needed to be eradicated. Now, on to the more pressing issue at hand. You may or may not be aware, but that fiancé of yours murdered two NAP troopers yesterday as he fled from the city.”
Nicole couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was like a dream come true. Jake had not only survived, he’d struck back at the system.
“You’re lucky Jake didn’t kill more of them.”
Storey waved an intimidating finger in her face.
“You’re walking on thin ice here Ms. Clare. If you ever want to see your daughter again, you better end this pitiful show of defiance and start cooperating. If you choose to continue your insolence, I will personally ensure that you never see beyond these walls for the remainder of your existence on Earth.”