They shoved her hard into the metal chair, cursing at her for failing to land properly on the seat as they pulled her handcuffed arms around the spindly wooden back. One soldier held her wrists while the other maneuvered her legs into a sitting position, threatening to cuff her ankles if she did not stop kicking and squirming. Not that she was squirming so much as she was just trying to get balanced and sit under her own willpower.
“Your name?” a third soldier demanded from across the table.
Why the Hell is there a table in here? she wondered. None of them had anything to write with. Was it just so they had something to pound their fists into? Or to put between her and them?
Annie, Penny, Jasmine, Laura, who cares?
“Come on, Missy, your name!” Yep, he pounded his fists into the table.
She kept her mouth shut. Her ID was in her pocket. They could fish it out.
“Answer him, you little punk!” The soldier holding her legs yanked them apart and shoved his nether regions toward hers. “Come on, answer! Speak, huh? Scream!”
What are you going to do, rip my jeans and panties? She glared at him.
“Hey, hey, buddy – she’s underage, stop it!” His comrade had pulled her identity card out of her pocket. “She’s only sixteen!”
“That’s legal in my state,” the thrusting soldier grumbled.
“Yeah, well, not in the federal territories, it ain’t!” The soldier across the table – clearly the highest-ranking among them – ordered him to stand down and step aside. “The card, Corporal.”
‘Corporal’ handed him the card, briefly letting go of Annie.
“Don’t make any moves or you’ll regret it,” ‘Commander’ warned. She nodded. Her red leather jacket was too stiff for her to pull her arms back anyhow.
“Says she’s sixteen and that her card was issued at …”
“Yes, Corporal, I’m reading it. Now Missy, it says here your name is Anne Redcoat. That don’t sound like a real name to me, but I’m gonna go with it. Anne, is it? Annie, maybe?”
That’s Miss Annie to you, buddy. Getting awfully familiar, aren’t we? What’s next, you going to send McThrusty here back to prod me some more?
“Annie, we don’t want trouble. You’re just a kid – you should be in the high school. Where do you go to school? You’re still in school, right?”
‘Course I go to school, you eejit. I go to Frozen Lakes Academy. We’re on break now, though. This is part of my work-study program – Guerilla Resistance Mischief 20.
“From that look, I’d say you either mean it’s obvious you go to school, or obvious you don’t. Which is it? Come on, now, we won’t tell your teachers on you.”
Like Hell you wouldn’t, you lying smarmy sob.
“Either you’re in school or you’re not – it’s not a hard question, Miss Annie,” Corporal added softly, patting her gently on the shoulder.
“Where do you live? Your card just tells us where they issued your driver’s license.”
Well, wouldn’t that be where I live? Not that it was, but it would be good guess.
“You from a ways off from here?”
I’m from Frozen Lakes. So yeah, kind of a long ways off. About a six-hour drive in good weather.
“You’re kinda dark – you a Native American? Hispanic? Arab?”
Why do you ask that? What next, my whole family tree?
“Commander, I don’t think you can ask that.”
“She looks like one of them,” McThrusty piped up from the corner.
“You shut it!” Commander turned back to Annie. “I’m sorry, Miss Annie. That was indeed not a good question. Just wondering who to call to retrieve you.”
What would my ethnicity have to do with that?
“She’s got a tattoo on her wrist, sir,” Corporal offered. He whirled her chair around and held out her bound wrists in the commander’s direction. “Maple leaf, see?”
“Yep, I see. Now put her down and turn her around again. She ain’t a blow-up doll.”
She was soon facing Commander again. He was smiling smugly.
“So you’re part of the resistance, huh? That ain’t a joke, you know. We don’t take to kindly to traitors and that’s what those so-called resistance fighters are. Just deluded folks who need to be taught a lesson. You don’t want to associate with them.”
“They refuse to accept our legitimate takeover and our two governments’ decisions. They hurt hard-working, decent folk and disrupt our economy. They refuse to respect the law! If it weren’t for them, we’d have backed off years ago and set up a civilian police force.”
Oh really? Like, for nearly twelve years, you’ve been scared by a few thousand resistance fighters? The best military in the world? What a load of bearshit.
“Your mama know you got a maple leaf tattoo? What does your daddy think of his little girl traipsing around with a bright red hat and a pink handgun?”
You don’t know a damn thing about my mother or father. I know my dad is proud of me. He is one of my biggest supporters.
Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Come on, you just want to go home, don’t you? You don’t want to be in trouble.”
‘Course I want to go home – don’t you? You’re not from around here. Don’t you want to go home? Why don’t you just pack up and take your stupid flag and tanks and head back to where you came from?
“Where are you from? How many people are in your unit?”
Eff off. I’m not telling you that.
“Just tell me what I want to know, Annie, and I can send you home. Back to school and mama and daddy. No trouble.”
Buddy, I’m sixteen, not six. Don’t give me that.
She closed her eyes.
“Daddy, daddy, wait! Where’s Mummy? I want Mummy!”
Debris was falling around them as her dad squeezed her tightly against himself. She was only four years old – a petite little girl who took after her mother’s olive skin and black hair. One might have still mistaken her for a toddler at a distance. She couldn’t run far on her tiny legs, even though they weren’t wobbly anymore.
“We have to keep going, sweetie. I need to get you somewhere safe. We’re going to Grandma’s.”
“Is Mummy meeting us there? With Andrew and Puffball?”
“No.” Her father finally answered, albeit with a lot of hesitation. “No, Mummy won’t be meeting us. It’s just you and Daddy now, okay? We’re going to Grandma’s cabin. Remember? That’s where the camper is. You like the cabin.”
“What about Grandma?”
“She might meet us there too. I don’t know, sweetie, I really don’t. Now, can you hold on really tight to me, keep your head in my coat, and don’t let go? We’re gonna make a run for it across this street now.”
She had nodded and whimpered “Yes, Daddy.”
Somehow, they had made it out of the crumbling city. She had seen footage of it later – huge towers collapsing, smaller buildings being crushed, tanks and soldiers in the streets, civilians being rounded up…they had lived in one of those smaller buildings once. They had been a happy family of four, complete with a puppy, and she was supposed to get another brother or sister.
“Hey, punky, wake up!” Corporal was shaking her.
“Answer my questions, Miss Annie,” Commander demanded.
I’m from Toronto. You know, that metropolis you razed. Suppose you think you’re all high and mighty for that, eh? So now I’m from Frozen Lakes. My family had four and a half people and a dog. But now it’s got way more than that, okay? Even if you killed my Mummy.
“How many people in your unit?”
“Let me guess, you’re just a pawn? A throwaway? Not worth telling important things to?”
You said yourself that I’m just a kid.
“Put her in solitary overnight. Maybe she’ll have her voice back in the morning.”
“Commander, let me at her! I’ll loosen her up real quick.”
“No! If it gets out that we’re raping kids, Operation 54’40 Freedom is over. Corporal, take Miss Annie Redcoat to solitary. Get her some water! And give her her hat back.”
Corporal lifted her arms back over the chair and pulled her up,
“Come with me, Missy.”
“Take Private Nott with you. I don’t want the girl left alone with anyone.” Commander gestured toward a uniformed woman outside the interrogation room. The woman fell into line behind Corporal as he pushed Annie toward her cell.
Well, what a gentleman you are, Commander! Just afraid of being sued, eh? Go on, don’t think this isn’t getting back to Frozen Lakes. Your Operation is going to fail like the board game. Even if it takes years. I’ve been waiting twelve already. I’m not the only kid who lost their mother.
The woman unlocked her handcuffs before throwing her into the padded cell. Corporal shoved a full water bottle into her hand and then tossed her hat at her before the two of them slammed her cell door shut. The woman snapped a photo and the flash momentarily stunned her.
Once they had left, Annie burst into giggles.
My hat actually landed on my head.
She adjusted the hat so that it sat in its proper place over her black braids: a red hat with a white maple leaf on the front.