“Put down your weapons and get on your knees.”
The man motioned to them with the muzzle of his rifle. Lindsay didn’t understand. This was the army right? Weren’t they here to help them?
“We heard your radio thing! We need your help, mister… uh, soldier?” Lindsay said, the words sounding young and pathetic in her ears. She couldn’t see the man’s expression behind his mask. The gun didn’t waver.
“I said, put the damn weapons down or I will kill you.”
Lindsay looked over to Katie. Her friend didn’t move, but kept her weapon aimed at the man in front of them. Her eyes were closed to slits, her expression tight. She looked mad.
Lindsay wasn’t sure what to do.
“Katie… maybe we should do what they say?”
“You should. You have until the count of two!”
“You don’t look like army to me,” Katie said. “Who’s in command here? What’s his name?”
“Colonel Ericsson. Now put the fucking gun down or we will shoot you.”
Lindsay felt better. She knew that colonel was an army rank, so it had to be right. She glanced again at Katie, who’s expression didn’t change. She also didn’t lower her weapon. Lindsay heard the rattle of weapons and the click of safeties.
Swallowing, she dropped her rifle in the snow. Katie still didn’t move, but Lindsay’s action made her look over. She seemed about to say something.
“Now get down, on your knees! Do it now!”
Lindsay felt a shove from behind and her knees went out from under her. She fell, heavily, her face striking snow before she could stop herself. A strong hand pulled her back into a kneeling position.
“Hey, let her go!” Katie said.
“Put the fucking gun down!” Lindsay didn’t know who said that but it was male and behind her. Something cold and metallic pressed against her neck. She shivered, realizing it was a gun barrel.
“Get away from her!”
“Put it down, little girl, we don’t want anyone to get hurt here,” a new voice said. It was calmer than the rest, firm and in command. Lindsay glanced to her left and saw a man walk towards them, his hands up and empty. His mask was pulled down, revealing an olive complexion, freshly shaven cheeks and thick, black eyebrows. A hood hid his hair and his eyes were a dark brown.
“Who the hell are you?” Katie said.
“I’m Colonel Peter Ericsson and these are my men. We put the call out on the radio but we’ve been attacked before. We can’t take any chances. We’ll talk inside, where it’s warm.”
Lindsay shivered where she knelt. The snow was cold around her legs and despite her two layers of socks, she felt her toes going numb. Warmth sounded really good right then. The pressure on her neck remained as well, and she knew the cold wasn’t the only thing making her shake. She was so scared, she was afraid she’d pee herself.
Katie stared at him for a long moment, then back at her. Lindsay pleaded with her, silently, to just do what they said. It was going to be all right. They’d found the army, hadn’t they?
“I’m not going to ask this again,” Ericsson said.
“Okay, all right,” Katie said, her voice low and irritated. She dropped her weapon and went to kneel. Several men rushed her at once, knocking her to the ground pulling her hands behind her back. One of the men picked up her rifle and pulled the clip out, handing it to Ericsson.
Something hard and strong hit her in the back of the head. The world spun and she felt nauseated. The ground rose up to meet her, cold and soft. She got a mouthful of snow but suddenly she didn’t feel it, feeling warm and very far away.
“It’s about damn time we found some women,” Lindsay heard one of them say, but his voice sounded like it came to her from the end of a long tunnel. She heard more voices but they were muffled. Then one of them yelled loudly. Lindsay thought it might be Katie, but the darkness came for her and she surrendered to it.
She woke, shivering. It was dark and damp and Lindsay lay on something hard, like cement. In the distance, something was dripping, but otherwise all was quiet.
Struggling to open her eyes, she realized she no longer wore her jacket, boots or her socks. She’d been stripped down to her undershirt, a short-sleeved insulator that Katie had given her. Still wearing her pants, she felt her armor was gone, the shinguards removed from her legs.
She stretched and felt cold cement beneath her arms and feet. Struggling to move, she discovered her hands were bound behind her back by the wrists and her feet by the ankles. It felt like duct tape by the way it pulled at her skin.
It was pitch black wherever she was. Opening her eyes made little change to her surroundings and for a brief moment, she thought she was blind. Then, as she arched her back to look around behind her, saw the faintest sliver of light. A doorway? A crack in the wall? She couldn’t tell.
If it was a door, maybe she could get over to it? Open it somehow and call for help? Why was the army treating her this way? Weren’t they here to help them? The message on the radio said so! They were supposed to…
You don’t look like army to me.
Those were Katie’s words. She would know, wouldn’t she? Her dad was in the army or something. She’d know and Lindsay screwed it up. Again. She’d trusted them, made Katie submit and now…
Where was she? What were they going to do to her? Why were they doing this? All these questions and more flooded her mind, screamed for answers of which she had none.
A sudden thought came to her. Where was Katie? Was she here with her? Was she out there? Was she dead?
“Katie?” she whispered. “Katie are you there?”
No answer. She called again, slightly louder, again heard no reply. Tears stung her eyes. Fear took hold and she began to shake, the sobs threatening to burst from her chest. She was alone, in the darkness.
I wish I’d been bitten, she thought, remembering the escape tunnel. Then I’d have just died and Katie would have gotten away and been fine!
Or would she? They’d been ambushed after all. Katie didn’t see that so it wouldn’t have mattered if Lindsay was with her. But you wanted to leave, to go to the stupid radio station.
It was all her fault. Again. And this time? This time what would happen? Was Katie even alive? She wanted to call out to her, scream her name over and over until someone came for her and told her what was going on. She even opened her mouth to do it but, in the end, nothing but a tearful sigh escaped.
She couldn’t do it.
Voices. Lindsay clamped her mouth shut, biting her lip so hard she tasted blood. People were talking, but it was indistinct, too far away to hear. She strained towards the sliver of light, knowing it came from that direction. It was a few feet away. If she could just move, she could get closer and hear!
Turning on to her back, she arched her spin to make room for her bound hands and pushed with her feet. The hard, rough cement tore at her shoulders and neck, and already she could feel the brush burns and small scrapes and cuts opening on her skin. Shutting her eyes, she just kept pushing, propelling herself towards that sliver of light. She could make it. She could do this one thing, at least!
On and on she moved, a few inches at a time. Her shoulders and neck were on fire and she felt wet, sticky blood pass beneath her fingers. The pain was worse than anything and she shut her eyes, clenched her jaw, and thought about Katie instead. How strong she was, how talented, how she’d certainly be able to do this.
And then she was there. She’d made it. Turning onto her side, she pressed her head against something metallic, a door after all, and concentrated, listening as best she could.
There were male voices, one of them being the man who called himself Ericsson. They were angry, annoyed.
“Been at it for an hour. She’s tough.” This voice was new to Lindsay.
“I want to know where the fuck she got the guns,” Ericsson said.
“She’s not going to tell us,” said another new voice.
“What about the other one?” Ericsson.
“Evan hit her pretty fucking hard. Doc doesn’t think she’ll die but…” That was the first voice again.
“But, what?” Ericsson.
“I don’t know if she’ll be awake. Honestly, she seems kinda gullible. We’d have been better off sweet talking that one. That other girl though? Fuck, she knows her shit. Even called out Murray for not being Mil at all,” said the first unknown voice.
“How did she know that?” Ericsson said.
“Got him to say something about Military Family regulations for living or some shit. I don’t know that shit either.”
“Tired of these fucking excuses. Find out who they are and where they got the guns. Do whatever you want with them.”
There was a long pause. Lindsay felt herself go cold, and thought of the lack of clothing on her body. She began to tremble.