‘What--- you’re gonna leave them to freeze out there! Jesus Dad, can could you?’
‘They’ll come back soon enough. There’s only one way down and we have that road covered and I doubt they’ll head off into the bush in this weather.’
We starred at one another, neither one of us willing to break the impasse. Finally we were interrupted when a guard entered the room, followed by who I assumed was the communications officer.
‘Right---take him back to the holding cell and this time make sure that he doesn’t get away like them others. He needs to cool down and see the light.’
‘If it’s the same light you see dad, then you’ll be waiting a bloody long time,’ I shot back as the guard escorted me back to my cell. With the others gone, I was left alone but not for long. A bedraggled figure was thrust none too gently in to join me. A second later I realized just who it was----- my little sister.
‘What the hell--- how did you get here?
She didn’t move or answer for a few seconds, then she looked up through bloodshot eyes. Her face was bruised and scratched.
‘Did those bastards do that to you? Dad will be one pissed off guy if he finds out you’ve done this!’ I shouted at the retreating guard. I turned back to my sister.
‘Tania--- are you OK?’ That was a stupid question, given her appearance.
She lifted her face and muttered, ‘Do I look OK you dumb ass?’
‘Point taken ----Who did this to you?’
‘No one. I was trying to follow you when you left and, well, after Rangi got caught, I was on my own. I got scratched by bushes and I fell a few times.’
‘But how did you end up here? We’re miles away from New Plymouth.’
‘My luck ran out back in town. Yuck--- it’s not like before. I don’t understand any of this. Rangi tried to explain, but she lost me when she talked about time shifts and Luden. Anyway, I stuffed up when I was looking for you in town. I heard all of those explosions--- don’t know what they were for, but that was when these guys caught me and brought me here.’
‘So now I have to watch after you again.’ Wrong thing to say.
‘Piss off--- I don’t need your help!’ Tania broke down and sobbed, her frail body shaking with a mixture of anger and exhaustion.
‘I’m sorry. I just got a shock when I saw you. You know Dad’s here he?
‘What? How can that happen?’
‘Something much like happened to us and don’t even get me started on that, cause I don’t know. Anyway---- we need to get you fixed up.’ I started banging on the door. It took a few minutes before a grouchy guard appeared outside the door.
He shouted, ‘What the fuck do you want now? It better be good.’
‘How about you get some help for my sister here?’
The guard seemed surprized. ‘She’ll be fine then, now she’s with her big brother,’ he snarled.
I didn’t want to but I did. I said, ‘OK then--- you can take your chances with Dad once he finds out.’
I thought the guard was going punch me as he moved forward, but he stopped, just short of me. ‘So you want to play the tell my dad trick eh? Well, we’ll see what he says shall we?’ He didn’t look at all as sure as he backed out through the door and slammed it before we heard him trudging outside on the gravel yard.
‘Don’t worry Tania; Dad will make sure you get help. He’s in for one hell of a shock when he finds out you’re here.’
Tania didn’t answer. I thought she had fallen asleep, so I put my jacket over her, which left me feeling even colder. A few minutes later, I heard several people approaching. The door was thrust open and Dad filled the space, observing us sitting on the floor.
‘Right, I want these two out of here now. Get them to my office and bring some blankets, food and send for the medic. I want my daughter seen to--- now!’
This time the guards were much gentler; not that had any choice in the matter with my dad glaring at them as Tania was lifted and taken to Dad’s office. We lay Tania on an old couch near an old cast iron wood burner.
‘I won’t ask how she got here. There’s almost nothing that supersizes me anymore,’ Dad said. ‘Your mum must be’ He stopped and his face changed in an instant. ‘I’m sorry---I haven’t got used to the news you brought---damn what a total stuff-up this all is.’
‘Like you’ve made it better Dad--- by joining those clowns?’ My mouth got the better of me again. Dad didn’t react like I thought he would. He just stared at me, as if I wasn’t there.
‘You don’t understand son. One hell of a lot has happened since I arrived. You’ve been here---- what---one day and you think you know it all. I’ve been here a year---- In know---- times not quite what you think it is--- I won’t even go there. I doubt I would even be alive if they hadn’t rescued me from a bunch of mutants---- No you haven’t seen them, but if you spend much more time around here, you’ll soon find out. They will kill you as soon as look at you.’
‘But how the heck did you end up leading this bunch here in New Plymouth?’
‘Well that happened by mistake really. I was pretty good at organizing--- I know--- that’s not a side you’ve seen of me, but here---- it happened and what with officers getting knocked off by those guys you met, well---- I sort of rose to the top. We’ve been pretty isolated from other parts of New Zealand and things are getting worse for us by the day. Auckland is a bloody long way once you lose technology that we used to take for granted, even in this time.’
‘That’s another thing--- when’s now—you know what I mean,’ I asked. Dad didn’t answer as a medic and a guard brought in some hot food. It looked like soup and bread.
‘That’s all the cook can rustle up at short notice sir,’ he said as he put the food on the desk and left.
While I helped myself to the food, the medic examined Tania, who grumbled something about feeling cold. ‘She’s just beat sir. It’s nothing a clean-up, hot food and a good sleep won’t fix.’
‘Thanks,’ Dad said. ‘I’ll take it from here. Just send in one of the women to help and tell the rest to assemble in the old café. I’m expecting a call from Auckland soon, so I will be letting you all what’s happening next.’
Right on cue, a crackling sound interrupted us. It was an ancient radio telephone. I looked like it had been rescued form a museum. Dad saw my amused glance and said, ‘It’s amazing what one finds in funny places. That’s what we’re down to now when it comes to communicating. You wouldn’t know we are decades in to the future would you?’
‘I’ve seen a few bits and pieces that at the other end of the scale Dad,’ I replied, thinking of some of the weapons and ’birds’ in the sky.
‘Yeah, well around here, they’re becoming few and far between as they break down or get nicked by those’--- He didn’t finish, going instead to the radio phone and talking into the mouthpiece. ‘Officer Sam Frampton speaking.’
‘What’s your status there Frampton? A barely audible voice replied.
‘Who am I speaking too?’
‘General Tyler--- just get on with it man. I haven’t got all bloody day.’
‘Sorry Sir--- we’ve lost new Plymouth and we need to be moving out of here--- there’s no way we can hold them off for long. I’m down to about fifty all up and we don’t have enough supplies to last more than a few days.’
The phone remained silent for a few moments. A young woman was looking after Tania, washing away the worst of the grime and cleaning up the cuts. She then spoon fed Tania some of the hot soup. Tania grabbed the spoon and stubbornly fed herself, leaving the woman with nothing to do. ‘She’ll be fine--- just makes sure she eats and rests.’ We were left alone.
Meanwhile the general came back onto the phone. ‘Look I’m trying to make arrangements to get you all out of there. It will take a day to get things organized at this end, but the plan is to lift you out by copter. One of our ships will be offshore in a few hours and we’re sending the copter down tomorrow morning. You make sure there’s a clear space for landing and pray that the weather doesn’t turn ugly. OK--- we’ll be in touch tomorrow morning.
‘Thanks general, we’ll clear the car park and haver everyone ready. I take it the copter will have to make quite a few flights.’
‘Three at the most Frampton, so some of your lot are going to miss out, so I’d keep that to yourself if I was you.’
‘Shit--- that’s all I need,’ Dad swore. He turned to me. ‘You better keep that to yourself too boy--- that’s if you want to join us.
‘But what about Uncle Mick--- you know he’s out there somewhere too.’
‘Christ-----He’ll have to fend for himself. If he’s mixed up with those bastards, then that’s his choice.’
‘Dad, he didn’t ask to come here. He was doing me a favour when he arrived here.’
Outside, the wind was whipping around the building, searching for a way into the office. At the same time, the sound of hail on the iron roof all but drowned out further conversation. I turned back to the hot soup.