The Southern Hemisphere war had left thousands of people homeless, without food and medicine. Sally Mainlock was no exception. When the elite Rogue Battalion force rescued the central town of Gainsby back from the rebel Makri group she had been split from the rest of her family. As Rogue Battalion kept the town secure, the refugees caught among the fighting tried their best to pick up their former lives. Sally held hope that she and her family would be reunited but they remained trapped elsewhere. She stopped herself thinking about. It made her too restless. She bedded down with the other refugees in the camp that had been created within the town hall. Rogue Battalion ushered in what supplies they could. Things like tea and biscuits had become scarce during the fighting but were now flowing as freely as they ever had.
Sally laid her cup beside her sleeping bag and munched her biscuit greedily. She had always been a slim girl but now she felt like a bag of bones. Her golden hair had lost all of its shine and it was thinning. Her hooked nose looked disproportional on her gaunt, drawn face.
“Go away!” cried out on the other girls to a young man who had sat himself beside her.
Sally had seen the same young man try to engage other girls in conversation. They all had had the same response.
‘They’re being harsh on him,’ Sally surmised. ‘He’s probably just lonely like the rest of us.’
He stood again when the girl gave him nothing but derision. He raised his hands and walked away. He caught Sally’s gaze. He had a muscular physique that hadn’t faded with undernourishment. His skin was a warm brown. His handsome face was sun beaten. He sat down next to her.
“Do you mind?” he asked, even though it was too late.
“Don’t worry about the others,” said she. “We’re all sick with worry,” Sally explained.
He pulled his knees up to his chest and began to scan the room. A man in a Rogue Battalion uniform stationed at the main door looked over in their direction. Seeing no distress, he went back to his watch.
“Where you a model before?” he asked.
Sally blushed. “Nothing like that.”
He raised his shoulders and examined her more closely. “You could be a model.”
Sally giggled. “I don’t think so.”
He sighed.”This is no place for us,” he stated.
“We’re safe here,” Sally commented, referring to the presence of Rogue Battalion.
“It’s a shame. I have a modelling agency in the States but I can’t get there unless I’m bringing models with me. No more camps, no more rations…”
“Why can’t you go on your own?”
“Diplomatic rules have come into play because of the war. New border checks mean I have to have models with me to prove the legitimacy of the agency.”
Sally felt sorry for him, having such a glamorous life waiting for him but being trapped in a war zone because of a technicality. “Hopefully you will find someone soon,” she said.
He examined her again. “You could have such a great career as a model. I know plenty of brands that would snap you up.” He seemed so sure.
Sally’s heart began to beat a little faster. “You really think so?” He nodded in agreement. “I would love to go to the States but my family are still missing,” she explained.
“I was reading just the other day about families being reunited in the States. They have taken as many refugees as they could. That’s probably where your family are. Didn’t you see the news?” He spoke in such a matter of fact tone it suggested that he wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know.
Sally squealed. “My family are in the States?”
He was taken aback by her sudden enthusiasm. “I can’t say for certain but if they’re not here that’s where they will be.”
“If I am one of your models will you take me there? Will you take me to my family?” she grabbed his shoulder excitedly.
“I don’t know,” he hesitated.
“I promise I will do my best for you! Anything you want, just help me find my family.”
The Rogue Battalion watchman looked over again. Sally was hushed. “You’ll have to calm down,” he warned. “You can’t let any of the Rogue Battalion find out.”
He lowered his voice. “They mean well but if they know that your family are abroad they will have to go through the proper channels which can take a long time.”
Sally was baffled. “All right.”
“Meet me at the makeshift gates at eleven. Come alone and make sure no Rogue Battalion see.”
Sally was delirious with excitement at the prospect of her new life and seeing her family again. The hours seemed to slip by at a snails pace. Finally it reached a few minutes to eleven.
The Rogue Battalion guard had been changed.
“I’ve left some things in my house. They aren’t valuable or anything but they are important to me. I would really like to have them.”
The guard looked out into the thick darkness. “Now?” he asked.
Sally sobbed. “I have nothing of my family! No photos, no memories and they’re missing.”
Most of the buildings nearby had been destroyed in bomb blasts. It wasn’t safe but the refugees weren’t prisoners either. The guard made up his mind.
“Outside you’ll find three of my colleagues. Ask for Noah. I think you should at least wait until morning and he’ll probably agree with me. He’s off duty but you are free to ask for his help.”
Sally thanked him and slipped out into the night. Like she had been told, three members of Rogue Battalion had grouped together beside a camouflaged van. They were laughing. One, shorter than the other two, was stubbing out a cigarette. The largest, and by the style of his dress the most senior, was reminding his subordinates how detrimental to a persons health smoking can be.
Sally took her chance whilst they were distracted. She ran as quickly as she could to the makeshift fence that had been erected at the edge of town. It was now a few minutes past eleven. She hoped the modelling agent had waited for her. She despaired when she found no one was there to take her to her new life.
“This way,” she heard a cry. A hole had been cut in the fence. The modelling agent had waited. His face was muddied now and he he had a deep scar down the left side that hadn’t been noticeable before. “Hurry!” he urged.
Sally cut her face on the sharp edges of the space she crawled through. She hoped the modelling agent wouldn’t notice.
A grey van pulled up. Three men piled out.
“Wait? Where are we going exactly?”
Sally had been so consumed with glee before she hadn’t thought to ask. It only occurred to her then that she didn’t even know the modelling agents names.
One of the large men from the van gripped her chin. He moved her face side to side. The large double doors at the back of the van were pulled open. The floor was a metal grate. On the wall hung a black and white striped flag with a red rattle snake in the corner. That same symbol had been a token of fear for months before the outbreak of the war and for the duration. When she saw the Makri symbol she tried to scream. Her mouth was covered with a rough, spade like hand. She felt a needle plunge into her neck. Her unconscious body was bundled into the back of the van.
Makri were expert smugglers. Only they would boldly drive to the edge of Rogue Battalion territory and abduct young girls. Sally wasn’t going to an exciting life. She was being taken into the heart of a Makri stronghold in the deep underworld. She would never see her family again. Once in Makri hands she would never be found.
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