Since when did the U.S. army collect bills for the hotel industry? Was what Colby wanted to say, but after securing an invite to chow, he thought he’d hold his tongue for now. “Thanks for the heads up.”
At the supper chow line, Colby was shocked to see how many kids were there. They outnumbered adults probably 50 to 1. He guessed – and he had a gift for guessing the right amount of people in any given gathering – there was room for feeding four thousand in the main ballrooms and he saw they were three feeding times for each meal. I didn’t know there was room for that many people in this hotel. Colby was impressed with the efficiency of the men under Allan Paxton – US Special Forces General, Retired.
The next morning however, after being well fed twice and then receiving the bill for said service, Colby was singing another tune. He saw the general in the noon chow line, told the children to stay with all the other kids who seemed to be gathered for chow and then went to confront him.
“General Paxton, what is the status of people outside your protected service?”
“Why should I know that, civilian?”
“Because with the amount you are charging for our protection, it is fairly evident you’re no better than a third world warlord. And they tend to know what’s going on within and without.”
“And you’re familiar with the thought patterns of third world warlords?” Paxton responded without taking his eyes off the food he was dishing up.
“What justifies you for demanding such outrageous payment? Why are you demanding it and not the hotel? You’re nothing but a two-bit hooligan.”
Paxton stopped and turned to face his accuser. His men closest to him stepped forward first. “This two-bit hooligan is ushering in the new order.”
“And wanting us to pay for it, no doubt.”
“No one is saying you have to stay.”
“Everybody has said we have to stay.”
“No sir.” Paxton cut Colby off and glared at him with those icy eyes. “The children need to stay. You are free to leave and take your chances.”
“You can’t hold my kids as prisoners.”
“It’s for their own protection.”
“They have rights as Canadian citizens. I demand to talk to the authorities of my nation.”
“Denied” Paxton went back to filling his plate.
“I am not someone you can order around. I am not under your authority.”
“You are under my protection, therefore, you are under my authority.” Paxton was keeping his composure unlike the hot tub, “Pay or don’t pay. Stay or don’t stay. I don’t care. My orders are to keep the children in this area isolated and that’s what I intend to do.”
What could Colby do? Where would he go if he could get the children outside the perimeter? How could he get them outside the perimeter? He was no military man. If he could get them out how would he feed them? How would he travel? It’s over 4000 kilometres to the Canadian boarder. He was trapped. He didn’t like it, but there was nothing he could do. It was helpless. Useless.
He walked back to the kids and noticed Monica was crying. Jeri had her arm around her and was trying to comfort her. “Don’t give up even if it’s hopeless. That’s what I learned when my mom died. You don’t know your parents aren’t alive. You can’t give up Monica. It hurts to be apart, but you’ll see them again. Even if it’s hopeless, don’t give up.”
Colby stood in silence and knew that was the message he had lovingly drilled into Jeri and also knew it was the message he needed to live up to.