The various dire issues affecting the world were the furthest thing from Jake Scribner’s mind on this warm late-April morning. Crusty sleep still embedded into the corners of his hazelnut brown eyes, Jake sauntered into the living room of the two-storey home he’d purchased nearly a year earlier in the Kamloops suburb of Batchelor Hill. Glorious rays of sunshine penetrated through the east-facing windows of the house. Jake had recently turned forty. At an age when many men put on what is commonly referred to as ‘middle-age spread’, Jake maintained a lean, borderline ripped figure.
Hanging from the walls of the living room were reminders of both his distant and recent pasts. They included portraits of Jake, his sister, Samantha, and their parents including one taken five years earlier of him outfitted smartly in his crisp United States Air Force Uniform, the hard-earned scarlet beret of a combat controller atop his head. Jake was the oldest child of an American father and Canadian mother who had divorced when he was just eight years old. Jake and Samantha had spent their childhoods living between Hamilton, Ontario, and San Diego, California. Shortly after graduating from high school in San Diego, as a dual citizen he was eligible to enlist in the United States Air Force. He had retired a year earlier with the rank of master sergeant.
Jake flicked on the coffee maker. Nicole Clare, the fun-loving country girl he had met not long after settling down in Kamloops, had already put water and ground coffee in the filter the night before. Nicole and her seven-year-old daughter, Arielle, were still asleep upstairs.
Jake took out a hard plastic cutting board. He took tomatoes, red, yellow and green peppers from the fridge and cut them up into little pieces along with onions and cheese. This was for the omelets he was preparing to make for the three of them. As a youth, Jake had spent some time in the interior of British Columbia. He was enthralled by the sheer beauty of the region; the mountains, shimmering blue lakes, pockets of arid desert, vineyards and the expansive reaches of Lac Des Bois Provincial Park, a stone’s throw away from his front doorstep. After he had finished cutting up the veggies, Jake took out a carton of eggs.
It had been the first night Nicole Clare had taken off in close to a month. Her body and mind still tired, she struggled to pull herself out of bed. In addition to her job as a researcher for Analytic Chemicals, the pleasant-faced, petite but strong thirty-three-year-old single mother operated a blog that saw upwards of two-hundred thousand visitors each day. Nicole was the daughter of Francine and Bill Clare, who operated one of the largest ranches in the Thompson-Nicola region. Renowned for her sharp wit and literary talent, Nicole wasn’t afraid to make her views known about hot-button issues such as big government, censorship, abortion, gun rights or the American takeover of Canada.
Nicole went downstairs. Jake and Arielle were seated at the kitchen table slowly eating their veggie omelets. She made a beeline for the coffeemaker. She took down a mug from the cupboard and poured. The strong Colombian roast revitalized her drowsy senses. Nicole sat down at the table.
“You look like somebody who is well-rested,” Nicole said to her fiancé as she took a sip of her coffee.
For the down-to-earth small town B.C. girl, meeting the ruggedly-built former Special Operations soldier was classic love at first sight. Nicole adored Jake’s outgoing, funny personality and his eagerness to always want to do something fun. Like Jake, Nicole, when time permitted, enjoyed various outdoor pursuits such as camping, swimming, hiking and even target shooting. Jake, who had remained a bachelor up to this point, was looking forward to spending the rest of his life with Nicole. They had already discussed the possibility of her having another child.
“I’ve been getting up early most mornings since I was eighteen,” Jake stated. “So, what do you ladies have planned for today?”
“Well, we have to get the house cleaned for tomorrow. My parents as well as my uncle Frank are coming over for dinner. That’s at five by the way,” Nicole explained.
“I’ll be there. Don’t you worry,” Jake said with a smile.
Jake was alerted by the sound of an armored military vehicle driving down Benton Street. He arose from the table and peered out the kitchen window. A North American Police armored personnel carrier moved slowly down the suburban street. It was one of countless former military vehicles that had been ‘donated’ to law enforcement agencies throughout the continent.
“A bunch of those jackbooted thugs again?” Nicole asked with disdain in her voice.
“Yes.” Jake sat back down. As of yet, there had not been many signs of the crackdown on freedoms the republic was currently under. Other than the odd NAP patrol, the region was relatively quiet.
Nicole sipped the remainder of her coffee. A few days earlier, she had caught wind of a popular civil liberties activist from Victoria who’d allegedly been detained along with dozens of others.
“Jake, you know how I feel.”
Jake could sense the fear and trepidation in the tone of her voice. In his mind, the entire world had gone completely insane. And he was trying to make sense of it all. Like most citizens, the former airman simply wanted to be left alone to live his life.
“I spoke to somebody a couple of days ago who told me that I need to be extremely cautious about expressing my views. I’m getting scared Jake. I don’t mean to get paranoid in front of you and my daughter but this whole situation is getting really frightening. I just have a feeling something catastrophic is coming down the pipe.”
Jake put his arm around Nicole’s shoulders.
“You’re not the only one who feels that way. How do you think I feel? I didn’t spend twenty years risking life and limb just so our beautiful countries could be transformed into the Fourth Reich. I promise both of you. Should anything bad happen, I will be there to protect both of you. And I always make good on my promises,” Jake exclaimed adamantly.