Bright Jackets

Katie stood in the middle of the field. It was a beautiful field, with oat grass swaying around her in the breeze, and rippling and swirling further out. It felt as if she was the centre of this motion. Two helicopters hovered above like slim dark dragonflies. Police cars stretched along the side of the field bordering the road, with people and cows scattered along the other three sides. The bright green forests clothing the lower slopes of the Valley set off the orange jackets of the hundred men closing in around her.

Katie felt groggy. Her mind was confused and senses dazed. What had happened to her? Why was she here? The police cars, people, and cows weren’t getting any closer; they remained behind the wooden rail fence running around the field. The helicopters were wavering but mostly holding still. The men in orange jackets drew closer, pacing slowly forward, approaching her individually and together, tightening their bind. This wasn’t their first time, thought Katie. Their speed and spacing was so steady that she felt like giving them marks. If there were a prize for synchronized stalking they would be sure to win it.

Katie’s stomach cramped, and she felt like curling up and falling down. However her survival instinct made this impossible. How could she make herself more vulnerable than she already was? She had to stay up, facing the situation, whatever it was. These words seemed familiar, why?

The men in orange jackets were a hundred metres away. If only she could use a tape measure to check their distance. Maybe they would agree that anyone five metres over or under the norm was not performing up to standard and should be removed, and as they got closer these tolerances should be reduced, so by the time they were within ten metres, those remaining must be within fifty centimetres of their radial norm. If they were careless, many, maybe even all, would be eliminated before they reached her. But theoretically when it was down to the last orange jacketed man, he was the norm. What would she do then? She could always run.

Katie realized that these thoughts weren’t helpful. She was in the middle of a field of swaying oat grass with a hundred men in orange jackets closing in around her. Focus, Katie, she said to herself, focus.

She remembered being awarded a medal, not so long ago. During a ceremony in Lucerne Village a golden disc was pinned to her chest by the mayor, the provincial flag was raised, and everybody clapped and cheered. That was where those words had come from. The mayor said that she had, “stayed up, facing the situation, whatever it was.” Yes, she had, but what was the situation?

She remembered a long tunnel. She was stuck inside it. But she had entered of her own accord. Was it a cave, a subway, a conduit? Yes, it was a big pipe of some kind. All of a sudden she needed to go to the washroom. She needed to pee. Was there something in that? Need to pee? To pee? Pee – to pee? That’s it. It was P2P. The multi-resource pipeline being constructed from Canadia through America to Mexica. Lucerne was slated to be the province’s first multi-resource hub.

Katie felt the helicopters draw closer as the orange circle constricted. They were blowing her hair about. How annoying, she thought – how would she look on TV?

Why did she remember the P2P? Had she tried to save this tunnel? Yes she had. Not out of loyalty to The Authority, simply the desire to be a good citizen. Somebody was trying to destroy it and she had stopped them. But the blame had been pinned on her. It was a case of mistaken identity – or was it? Did a hundred men chase misidentified women – you know, usually? She’d been framed for sure.

Katie was a government agent with an enviable record. She had served with honour abroad and was now stationed at home. But her local investigations had found the tail of something sinister. She remembered explaining to people that she was trying to save the pipeline, not destroy it, but she had become the prime suspect. She had seen something that day. Something they had tried to make her forget. What was it?

The memory returned. She had seen plans for a pump house to power this stretch of pipeline.

It was only then she realized that she had a gun in her hand. How did that get there? It must have been there the whole time. She raised the gun without thinking, felt a sting, and then nothing.

The shot by a helicopter sniper was made to look as if it came from a farmhouse in the next field. The old farmer there was refusing to leave his fifth-generation Old Family home, whose site was needed for the pump house. If he’d shot Katie that proved he was dangerous and needed to be taken out. So he in turn was shot by the sniper in the second helicopter.

A hundred men in bright jackets met in the centre, around a corpse.

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