Coercion

About two sisters who left their country just before war broke out.

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1. Arrival

I didn’t know where we were going. Our parents hadn’t told us. They had just thrust a suitcase into each of our hands and shoved us onto a helicopter. That had been over a day ago and my sister and I had been travelling ever since. The helicopter had taken us to an airport where people had been rushing around like headless chickens. We were herded onto a plane and then after that a train. Over twelve hours later and we were still on the train. There were no windows so I didn’t know what type of land we were travelling through. Even though Amelinda and I had the carriage to ourselves her head was in my lap. She was asleep. I wished I could sleep but I was too anxious. Why had our parents wanted us to leave so quickly? I couldn’t get the image of my mum’s tearstained face from my mind. Stroking Amelinda’s light hair I blinked back tears. Would we ever see our parents again?

The screeching of metal drew me from my thoughts. The train was slowing. Amelinda woke with a start and peered at me with blurry blue eyes. She still looked like a child even though she was sixteen. “Where are we?” she asked sitting up.

“I don’t know.” Standing up, I removed our four suitcases from the overhead storage area.

The train came to a standstill and Amelinda grabbed my hand. Her palm was slick with sweat. Squeezing her hand I tried to push away my fears that at any moment a group of soldiers would board the train to kill us both. The door slid open with a mechanical whirring and I gulped. Five men in armour carrying weapons stepped into our carriage. Their expressions were unreadable as they approached us. I moved protectively in front of Amelinda.

“Passports,” said one of the men, holding out a meaty hand. I hurried to hand them over and the man scrutinised them with his brown eyes. Once he was convinced that the passports were real the man gestured to the other men.

“Hey!” I cried in outrage when they propelled Amelinda and me towards the door. I stumbled out of the train and onto a platform. Gazing around, I saw that we were in an underground station. There were several other trains which were crowded with people. As one their heads all whipped around and they stared as Amelinda and I were manhandled into an elevator. It occurred to me as the doors closed, separating us from the sea of curious citizens, that none of the people I had just seen had been blonde; they had all had black, brown or red hair. They had also been shorter than me with only brown eyes.

We were in Driskova.

Amelinda’s hand had been torn from mine earlier so she laced her fingers through mine. Feeling her eyes on me I gave her a reassuring smile even though I was feeling anything but reassured by the fact that we were in Driskova. Mum and Dad had always said that Driskova was a poor country with next to no technology. Why had they sent us here?

The lift stopped and the doors opened. We were marched down a long grey corridor to a door with a bear engraved into it. The man that still held our passports knocked on the door. There was a reply and we all went inside. The room was an office and sat behind the desk was a man who appeared to be in his late thirties. He must have been important because the soldiers all stood to attention after dropping the suitcases to the floor.

“Is this them?” asked the man behind the desk, accepting the passports. His brown eyes scanned them. “Thank you, Herman that will be all.”

The soldiers all saluted before leaving the room. Herman, the man that had asked for our passports, gave me a cold glare as he passed me.

“Please sit,” said the man behind the desk smiling.

Amelinda and I did so, and while the man examined us I took in my surroundings. The room was big but apart from the desk there wasn’t much else in there apart from a few cupboards and a red and white flag with a bear in the middle of it. A window filled one wall but the blinds were drawn so I couldn’t see what was outside. Everything was a dull grey.

“I am Marshall, President of Driskova,” the man told us, attracting my attention. He was wearing surprisingly casual clothes for the president of a country. The fringe of his brown hair fell across his forehead as he stood up and held out a hand to me. “You’re the eldest? Briar?” Marshall’s smile was friendly.

Nodding I shook his hand.

“And you must be Amelinda.”

Managing a small smile she slipped her hand into his.

I eyed Marshall warily. He was being very pleasant but that didn’t mean we could trust him.

“Your parents must be very important people,” he said, shuffling through some papers.

My voice was cautious as I replied, “They are scientists.”

“Yes, professors in genetics I believe. Their research has saved a lot of lives.”

It was true. Mum and Dad had developed several cures for diseases that in the past had killed hundreds, even thousands of people.

“Do you know why they sent you here?” asked Marshall, his hands clasped together on his desk.

“No,” I said quietly, suddenly filled with dread.

Amelinda gripped the arms of her chair tightly.

“Your country is at war. Not long after you left a nuclear missile was sent to the capitol city.”

Gaping at Marshall in shock I momentarily forgot to breathe. War? We couldn’t be at war. Who would want to attack Melsala? We only ever helped people.

“The capitol?” I wheezed when realised that I had stopped breathing. “Is . . . are there any survivors?” What I was really asking was ‘are my parents alive?’

Marshall gave me a sad smile. “There are survivors but I don’t know if your parents are among them.”

Amelinda burst into tears and I held her in my arms as I fought back my own tears.

“You and your sister are both welcome to stay in Driskova as guests. You must be tired after your long journey. I will take you to your temporary lodgings.”

Amelinda and I picked up our suitcases and followed after Marshall as if in a dream. People stared and pointed as we passed them yet I don’t think we left the building. Marshall took us to a corridor lined with doors. “I’m afraid that it’s not very big,” he said opening door thirty six. “But by tomorrow we should have found somewhere more permanent for you to stay.”

More permanent? How long did he think we would be in Driskova for?

Marshall handed me the keys, asking me not to leave the room without his permission (he gave me his telephone number to call if Amelinda and I wanted anything) and wished us a good night. I closed the door behind him when he left. The room we were in was just like a hotel room; there was a double bed, a wardrobe and a lamp next to the brick sized telephone on the bedside cabinet. The bathroom had a toilet, sink and a shower. There was no window and everything was in different shades of grey. Amelinda flung herself on the bed sobbing. Going over to the bed I tried to soothe her but there was nothing I could say that would help. Eventually Amelinda went to sleep and I took the opportunity to look in the suitcases. They were small and contained only clothes. The bright colours hurt my eyes after seeing only grey for so long. I searched and searched for a letter but there wasn’t one.

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