Once again, I was struck by the power my dad seemed to wield over the group. I had many more questions for him, but for now, other more pressing matters were playing out.
‘Take our prisoners to the storage room---it’s solid enough there and I don’t think they will be trying anything,’ Dad ordered. The look he sent my way was one that I hadn’t seen him employ often. Gone was the indecisive man I knew as my father.
The guards led us to some steps leading down to the storage area. It was empty and only a few chairs and some mattresses laying the floor provided any level of comfort. It was cold too and the clothing we wore was not enough to ward off the chilly temperatures. Before the door was locked, a bundle of woollen blankets was thrown in.
‘You wouldn’t get these if I had my way the guard yelled from the other side of the door.
‘We need to get out of here,’ Ted pronounced. ‘I know what these bastards do to their prisoners.’
‘My dad would not allow that,’ I said confidently--- on the surface that is.
‘You reckon---- then you don’t know him very well. How can he not be aware of what happens?’ The look on Ted’s face was enough to send shivers down my back. ‘Why do you think we were raiding their bloody prison if it wasn’t to get our guys out? Hopefully, they were successful. Going by the attitude of the guards, I’d say that we at least rattled them.’
‘I want to see my dad alone,’ I said quietly. ‘I don’t believe he’s changed into some sort of a monster.’
‘Mick patted my shoulder. ‘Look kid; when it comes down to surviving, none of us know what we’re capable of. With your dad, I don’t know. I’d love to know how he worked his way up so high. He acts like a bloody head honcho and those men respect him. I’m bloody confused.’
‘Whatever----I’m going to get some shut-eye and maybe an idea will come to me in my sleep,’ Ted announced and immediately rolled up on one of the mattresses and fell asleep.
‘I never could do that--- drop off,’ Mick said, ‘but he’s right of course. Hit the sack kid.’
There were too many questions for me to dip out like Ted, but the last few hours had taken a toll on me, so I too crashed.
The door crashed open. ‘You’re coming with me,’ the guard said grabbing me roughly and dragging me to my feet.’
‘Hey--- he’s only a kid!’ Mick yelled. He jumped up and tried to wrestle me away from the guard. One of the other guards rushed in and smashed Mick with the butt of his weapon. Even in my half-awake state, I noticed that it was old--- no flash ray guns for this guy. Mick fell to the floor and I was bundled out of the room, with Ted’s voice ringing in the background, protesting at the treatment Mick had received.
I was dragged back up the stairs along a corridor behind what had once been a café and into the cold blast that felt like it came from the top of the mountain.
‘Hurry up ya mongrel!’ the guard shouted above the wind. I knew from the past that the weather could change in an instant on the mountain. I was hurried towards one of the chalets near the café. The guard pushed open the door and shoved me in, then left. Dad was sitting behind a desk. A plate of food and hot tea sat waiting--- hopefully for me. Dad motioned me to the seat on my side of the table.
‘Time to talk son,’ he said, pouring my tea and adding two sugars. He remembered. ‘I guess I owe you an explanation.
‘Yeah, Dad--- how the hell did you get mixed up with that lot. I know I didn’t notice much back at home about----the world, but in the last day, I’ve seen heaps. What the hell’s going on ------How did you get here dad?’
‘Same as you son--- one minute I was there, and the next, well----here.’
‘But how ---Why us?’ I wanted answers.
‘I’m not totally certain, but I suspect that it all has something to do with that Luden guy you seem to be associating with. I know we are not in our own time and even though it’s all a bit far-fetched for me, I guess I can accept the time rift thing, but Luden is beyond me. The talk of aliens is one step too far. Others believe it though, particularly the Reclaimers.’
I should have laughed my head off at the explanation I had just listened to. It was like an excerpt from a television science fiction show. For the moment I put aside my cynicism. So I’ll go along with the time-shift stuff, but how the hell did you get mixed up with the Reclaimers and even more crazy--- you seem to be the boss around here.’
Dad scratched his head. That was something he used to do when he was figuring out how to pay bills with non-existent money. It drove Mum mad. ‘It
all happened pretty fast son. I think you’ve only heard one side of the story--- from Luden and his crowd. Believe me, there’s another one you should hear.’
‘Try me Dad.’ I prepared to hear yet another implausible explanation.
Dad pushed some food towards me; steaming soup and buttered toast. ‘When I left the house--- I’d had another argument with your mum.’ A dark look danced across his face for a moment before he continued. ‘I only wanted a bit of space, so I took the boat, intending to row for a while. That often worked for me when I wasn’t handling our situation at home. I know you thought I was a useless prick. Anyway, I rowed for about twenty minutes and pulled the boat up onto a bank where I liked to sit. There was a nearby off-road rest area so I headed towards a bench seat there. It’s all kinda fuzzy from then on. One minute I was sitting on the seat and then in the next, the light changed and the smell--- yeah, that really got to me. I thought a truck had dropped off a load of rubbish, yet it wasn’t quite like a rotting smell, more like a chemical residue----.’
‘I was in a crash, I think.’ Dad looked annoyed at my interruption so I zipped it.
‘The light--- hell--- and the sky, if you could call it that. The river was still there, only it was a wicked looking colour----a grey gungy colour. The boat was still there on the bank where I had left it, so I headed towards it. That was when a bunch of weird looking men approached me. One of them shouted something about me being part of Luden’s’ group.’
‘The Reclaimers--- what a bunch of tossers,’ I said. Dad’s face said to shut the hell up, so I did.
‘I think you’ve really got the wrong picture of them, son. If it wasn’t for them, there would be no order around here. Times are tough and we need a strong government.’
I may have been young, but his explanation was crap and I reckon he knew it too. ‘Come on Dad--- for Christ’s sake--- they bloody arrest and torture people--- Ted told me that! They weren’t exactly easy on me either, so you’re talking bullshit.’
Dad drew in his breath as if to launch into another load of lies. ‘I wondered at first, but they have a plan. If it wasn’t for the Reclaimers and tier new Police, New Zealand would have gone back to the dark Ages and there would be no law.’
‘That’s rich, coming from you Dad. When did you give a stuff about the law?’
‘Things are different now. Since most of the world’s buggered now, apart from a few places trying to recycle their way back, well--- we are the only place that can feed itself and have some sort of civilization. The world is a very different place now.’ Dad’s face took on a look of holy virtue. It was enough to make me want to puke.
‘So you’ve been sucked into their bullshit and now you’re some sort of boss around here?’
‘I had to work at it. For some reason they accepted me and made me an officer and now that many of my fellow officers have been killed, then I’ve risen to the top of the Reclaimers in Taranaki. We have links to most of New Zealand via our short-wave network. Yes it’s going back to technology that was used way back in the Twentieth Century. Most of it came from Government stores and museums, but it works. Now, what am I going to do about you and Mick. Ted’s history, but I may be able to work something out for you two, if you let up with your mouth for a while.’
‘Don’t go thinking we want to join you lot. I want to know more about Luden and what he’s trying to do. From what I’ve seen, they have knocked out nearly all of your flash technology and now you’re back to the old fashioned weapons. Those buggers have brainwashed you Dad.’
The door crashed open and a distraught guard came in. ‘The other two have escaped Sir,’ he said. ‘They busted out through the top window. They won’t get far and they’ll be freezing. Do you want me to send out a party to hunt them down?’
‘No,’ Dad said thoughtfully. ‘Let’s leave them. The cold will do our work for us. We have bigger issues right now. Send in the communications officer. I need to contact our Auckland headquarters.’