A knot formed in the pit of Father Tuck’s stomach. He slowly approached the guardhouse attached to the fence that surrounded the re-education facility. Forty or so family members and friends of those locked up inside stood vigil outside of the fence. A vigilant tower guard toting an AR-15 monitored them closely. Tuck displayed his laminated pass to the stone-faced federal correctional officer inside the guardhouse. After scanning the pass, a second guard escorted the veteran clergyman through the security gate into the administration area of the facility.
A buzzer sounded. Another barred door slid open electronically. It led into the foyer of the sprawling former provincial jail. The veteran priest didn’t recognize any of the prisoners walking past him. Their eyes were downtrodden; devoid of hope. Tuck was escorted down a corridor where Ron Storey stood outside the door of a meeting room.
“Good day, Father,” the dictatorial goon said in a snide tone. “I think it’s safe to assume that you have no intention of smuggling any illicit items into this place. Just to let you know, Nicole Clare is one or our more ‘dishonorable’ prisoners.”
Tuck had never met Ron Storey before, but from the stories he’d heard, this was one malicious individual.
“She’s a child of God. The same as every other person who has been wrongly imprisoned in here.”
“Says you. I wouldn’t get too cocky there, padre. You’re being kept on a short leash while inside my prison.”
“May I see Nicole now?” Tuck just wanted to get this visit over with.
Storey opened the door to the small room.
“You have twenty minutes. After that, this hated enemy of the people goes back to her cell and you get the hell out of here.”
“Thank you captain,” Tuck said a bit begrudgingly as he entered the small room.
The door was shut behind him. The officer stood rigidly outside. Nicole sat at the other end of the table. The young woman appeared as though she had been through Hell and back. Her hair was uncombed and dry. Conspicuous, heavy bags hanging underneath her eyes was proof of a lack of sleep. She was pale and weak. Tuck sat down. He held her hand in his.
“I’m so glad that you came, Father.”
“It took a bit of bureaucratic wrangling to get in here. Anyway, how are you?”
“It’s been one nonstop nightmare,” Nicole said tiredly. “I know that Arielle is in here. Those bastards won’t even let me see my own daughter!”
“I inquired-I meant, I wanted to see her but the answer was a resounding no,” Tuck explained. “It would appear that the goal of the federal government is to completely brainwash impressionable little minds. Therefore, there can be no outside influence.”
“If that isn’t a bad enough blow, every moment of every day I’m thinking about Jake. I do know that he escaped into the mountains.” A sudden smile lit up her unhappy face. “And that he wasted two NAP officers.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any comment on that. As a member of the clergy, I am forbidden to partake in the shedding of blood. As is said in the sacred scriptures, there are many wolves, as well as sheep. Perhaps Jake Scribner is a good example of the proverbial ‘sheepdog.’ We just have to pray that this fiery ordeal ends soon-and peacefully.” Tuck hated to see Nicole suffering in the state she was in. “Regardless if any government agents choose to be in my church or not, this Sunday, I will instruct all of the congregation to pray for you, Arielle and Jake. I’m sorry about your parents. I will also pray for the repose of their souls.”
At that moment, the door opened.
“Time’s up, padre,” Storey said as the other officer entered.
Nicole rose to her feet. She held out her arms as the officer handcuffed her wrists.
“Hang in there Nicole,” Tuck said to her as he left. “We’re going to get through this.”
Colonel Mullen continued to wonder if those two young privates, Randall Williamson and Cory French, had fallen prey to the savages that lurked out in the untamed wilderness far beyond the confines of Kamloops. As bright afternoon sunlight reflected off of the small gathering of tall office buildings in the city’s downtown core, Mullen and Toombs stood in Frank Carragher’s office. The Machiavellian administrator sat behind his imposing desk.
“Sir, as I’ve been trying to say all along,” Toombs said. “Those young men didn’t go AWOL. They fell victim to the same maniac who slaughtered two of my men!”
“Major, you have no proof of that. There are still several residents from the district unaccounted for. Everybody around here hates us. For all intents and purposes, Jake Scribner is out of our lives.”
“Sir, if I may be blunt, if we allow Scribner to get away with what he did, we’ll never gain complete control. I have requested more personnel. We’ve been using unmanned aerial vehicles. They work fine in the open desert but are woefully inadequate in this type of terrain.”
“I’ve spoken with General Rogers in Vancouver as well as the North American Armed Forces Command Northwestern Division in Seattle. Insurrections are springing up from one end of this continent to the other. As you’re well aware, manpower can only be stretched so far. Now, there are most likely a few brigands out there who believe that they can take on the most powerful government in the world right now. Let them enjoy their fantasy. As long as the residents of the Thompson-Nicola district are obedient and don’t display any outward signs of rebellion, we can rest relatively easy,” Carragher said.