They entered the auditorium quietly, from the rear, and the misery was almost palpable to McGee as he and Roos took up an inconspicuous position along a side wall. A younger Marshal read aloud to the ragged and miserable-looking crowd in the seats. He read in English; other Marshals waited their turns to do so in French, Spanish and Chinese. His tone was mournful and his words were plain and simple doom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Antark People, I sincerely regret to give you this notice that you must leave these territories. We have arranged for your transportation to the mainland in Chile, and from there to Santiago; from there you must contact your respective embassies or consulates for further instructions.
“The dangerous living conditions in these territories make it necessary to have very strict immigration policies, and each person living in these colonies must be able to contribute to the survival of all, and to the success of their own colony.
“In some cases, you arrived in Antarctica without having applied for residency and paid the administrative fee, without the means to establish yourself here, and without the training and skills needed to contribute to the success of your colony.
“In some cases, you arrived with dependent children, for whom we cannot provide proper care or education at this time.
“In some cases, you arrived with disabilities or debilitating illnesses that were not disclosed in your residency application.
“Again, the Antark People deeply regret having to return you to your homes, and we sincerely hope that those of you who can, will come back after applying through proper channels. At this time, Marshals will escort you to the dining facility for a meal before your journey. Thank you and we wish you safe travels.”
McGee watched the faces of the deportees. Many were crying; most looked too exhausted for tears. Roos van Rhijn, he noted, was conspicuously looking away from a couple with child, and he wondered if her previous upset was over a similar event.
“Van Rhijn,” he said, hoping the use of her last name would help her snap to. “You okay?” She nodded silently, eyes closed, then took a cleansing breath and resumed her military bearing.
“We’ve had to do this twice a week since the autonomy resolution was passed,” she said quietly, her voice even and firm. “I think most must have been assuming we would offer asylum. I can’t bear the thought of what they’ll face when they get home. If they even make it home.”
McGee nodded. “Law and order are easy,” he muttered sadly. “Justice, though… that’s complicated. It’s messy. And you’re constantly running into situations where there’s just no right answer.”
He nudged Roos with an elbow and smiled. “I’ll take over and check your weapons in. Get some downtime.”