- Attempted Rape
- Dark Themes
- Alternate Universe
- Episode Related
Chapter One, Part One
John groaned out loud as he woke. He’d obviously shifted in his sleep onto one of his numerous cuts and bruises, and, goddamnit, they hurt. At this point, he wasn’t sure if there was an inch of his skin that didn’t hurt. They’d even whipped the soles of his feet on one memorable occasion.
‘Sir? Are you awake?’
The quiet tones of Major Geoff Daniels reached John, and he found himself, despite the circumstances, slightly amused at Daniels’ insistence on respecting the formalities of rank even when he’d seen his CO crying in pain after a torture session, and helped him clean up after vomiting. To be fair, John had also helped him, and indeed, most of his team, clean up after both sickness and diarrhoea from both the beatings and the poor food they were given by their captors.
John shifted again – as much as his chains would allow – and called to his 2ic in the quietest of tones in an effort not to wake the others. ‘Yeah, I’m awake, Geoff. You alright?’
The jangle of chains from the far corner of the cave suggested another of John’s happy band was stirring.
‘Can’t you two keep the riotous partying down? Some of us are trying to get our beauty sleep.’
John grinned in the dark, wincing as it pulled at the bruises on his face. ‘You know we’d never party without you, Gunny. No-one can tell a dirty joke quite like you.’
A number of chuckles indicated that several of his team were awake, so John began the daily roll call.
‘From the top everyone.’
‘Major Geoff Daniels, usual bruises, broken nose, and back pain from where they kicked me yesterday. My pee stung last night so they might have bruised my kidneys. Over.’
‘Captain Laura Cadman. My arms still hurt from where they burned me the other day, and my head itches terribly. I think I might have head lice. Over’
‘I doubt it,’ John broke in. ‘Contrary to popular belief lice like clean heads. It’s more likely fleas. I think we’ve all got them. Carry on, Mike.’
‘First Lieutenant Mike Smith, usual cuts and bruises. They didn’t interrogate me yesterday, so I got a day off. Over.’
‘Gunnery Sergeant Marty Weston, broken left arm and pinky finger on my left hand from a couple of days ago, and I suspect I’ve got a new black eye to match the other one which’ll be fading by now. Must remember to aggravate Yasir again so I can still have a matching pair.’
Sniggers came from around the cave, and the roll call continued. It had become a daily ritual, instigated by John shortly after they were captured, but instead of name, rank, and serial number John’s Marines gave name, rank and most recent injuries since the pitch black in which they were kept meant wounds could easily be missed by the others and left untreated. Not that much could be done for their injuries as all their equipment had been stolen by their captors, but things such as Gunny Weston’s broken arm could be wrapped with a splint as best as they could manage. Fortunately for them, one of the team, Sergeant Jack ‘Glen’ Millar, had sufficient medical training to allow him to treat anything minor and uncomplicated, at least sufficiently that Gunny’s arm would still be usable when they were rescued.
When we’re rescued, John repeated to himself each day as a mantra. Not if. Never if. When we’re rescued.
It was around seventy days – no one had thought to count them at the start, expecting to be rescued at any moment – since he and his team were captured deep in the mountains in northern Afghanistan and were bundled into a cave deep within one of the mountains, and chained to the walls. At varying intervals, they were given food and water and, very occasionally, light from a lantern. At more frequent intervals members of the team were taken for questioning by their captors in an effort to learn where other teams of Recon Marines were searching the mountains of Afghanistan, and what they’d found out; an almost impossible task especially with them being held for so long. For all John knew after over ten weeks in captivity, Osama bin Laden had been captured, and the whole War on Terror ended, yet the terrorists still asked the same questions each and every day of at least one of the team.
‘Think we’ll get fed today?’ PFC Kevin Wright asked plaintively. At 20 he was their youngest member and had only joined the team a week before they were captured. He was also still a growing lad and was always as hungry as a horse.
‘Maybe,’ Geoff replied. ‘It’s been a couple of days, and they rarely leave it more than that.’
John knew that withholding and then providing food was a common habit for hostage takers. It began to make those captive see their jailers in a positive light when food was given; something taught to everyone who went through SERE training. Unfortunately, this was Kev’s first deployment as a Recon Marine and while having the knowledge was one thing, having to put it into action was quite another.
‘So who’s for the chair today?’ Glen Millar asked.
‘It’s been a few days since they worked me over,’ Corporal Andy Foster admitted. ‘My bruises are almost gone, so I’m due a few new ones.’
In the darkness, John smiled to himself. When they got out of this they’d all be changed men – and women – but would have a closer attachment to each other than the usual Recon teams, and they were close enough. He felt sure he remembered a quote about sharing misfortune or experiences—
‘Someone’s coming,’ John said aloud. ‘And I can hear the rattle of paper so we’ll likely be getting some food. Light too as I can smell kerosene.’
‘I can’t hear anything,’ Cadman complained. ‘Although I am further away from the cave opening.’
‘I’m closer and haven’t heard or smelt anything,’ Geoff returned. ‘You’ve got good senses, sir.’
It was close to five minutes before someone finally entered their cave carrying a bucket of water and bread wrapped in paper as well as a hurricane lamp which was placed carefully on a shelf out of reach of the captives who were individually chained to the walls. John wondered if they were afraid of them setting the cave on fire, even though they’d hurt themselves doing it, but he was quite happy to have some form of lighting even if it hurt his eyes after so long in the dark.
The bucket containing the water was placed within reach of John who was chained at the front of the cave. He would then pass it down the line until it reached Cadman at the back in the most protected position, although it didn’t mean she couldn’t be taken, just that they’d know if she was. It was the best John could manage in the circumstances even though men and women were supposed to be treated equally in the Marine Corps. The reality was they’d all do what they could to protect Laura.
Parsa aimed a kick at John as he left the cave, but John managed to roll himself, so it only connected with his leg. Casual kicks like that were all in a days work by now, and John ignored the sharp pain and concentrated in dividing up the food. As always – although he took pains to hide it from the rest of his team – he took the smallest potion for himself and passed the rest down the line. Each of them took a slice of bread and hunk of meat, although what they’d been given wasn’t really large enough to qualify as a ‘hunk’, John thought to himself. Still, it was food and would prevent them from starving. The water, too, was passed down the line although they had nothing to use to scoop it except their hands. Not for the first time, John considered the effect all of this was having on their health. Still, that could wait for when they were rescued. When, not if. When, not if.
They each ate quickly, conditioned by both the USMC and their time as hostages; use it or lose it. It wasn’t unknown for one of their kidnappers to give them food, and another follow right after to take it back – just another method of breaking their spirits as well as their bodies.
‘I could do with a bath,’ Mike Smith commented, scratching his nether regions.
‘We all could,’ Marty Weston retorted. ‘I think my fleas have got fleas.’
This raised mild laughter as even the poorest of jokes do in dire circumstances. Gunny Weston, however, had worked hard to keep their spirits raised through the worst of the beatings and torture. It was something the Taliban couldn’t understand, that no matter their injuries or condition they could still laugh and joke with each other, even though the jokes were frequently feeble and the laughter somewhat forced.
‘We should have a new President by now,’ Geoff said after a few minutes of silence. ‘Wonder how that went?’
‘At least we missed all the pontification in the press,’ Millar pointed out. ‘Guesses about what kind of President he’ll be. He’ll be and do what he wants to do, just like the rest. A million written words won’t change that.’
‘Cynical at all, Glen?’ Geoff asked jokingly.
‘Realistic, sir,’ Millar told him.
‘Someone’s coming,’ John said suddenly. ‘Two men.’
Conversation died as they waited. After food was when one or more of them were selected for questioning and torture. None of them were sure if it was random or if the kidnappers had a plan, but the questions were always the same. Who, what, and where – questions none of them could answer.
Two men entered the cave and went straight to the back. They unfastened Laura’s chain’s and dragged her to her feet, and John had to force himself not to react to her being taken. All it achieved were more bruises for himself and a longer torture session for Laura; they’d learned this from experience. She managed a faint smile and a movement of her hand approximating a wave as she was dragged past them all, then all John could hear was the fading sound of footsteps and the breathing of his fellow prisoners.
No one spoke. They’d almost exhausted topics for conversation in the first couple of weeks after their capture, and by now all ten of them spent much of their time dozing when not being beaten. Memories of his father and brother ran through John’s mind. What were they doing? How had they reacted to news of his capture? Did they miss him? Did they even want him back?
This last question came when he was at his lowest; the thought that his family could manage perfectly well without him and might even prefer it. Again, it was a symptom of captivity they were told and warned about in SERE training, but knowing it and living it were two entirely different things. John tried to force himself to think about happy memories and was remembering the horses his family bred and kept when he was jerked from his thoughts by a scream. A scream from Laura.
He sat up and looked around. None of the others appeared to have heard it, but she screamed again, long and loud.
‘Geoff? Can you hear that?’ John asked in a low voice though his heart was racing.
‘Hear what, sir?’
Geoff concentrated but shook his head. ‘I can’t hear anything.’
Mike Smith, just yards away from them, pricked up his ears. ‘I can’t hear anything either, sir. Might it be an animal of some kind?’
‘This deep in the mountains? Unlikely,’ John told him and shifted, his chained hands and feet clanking. ‘It’s Laura, and she’s definitely screaming.’ He shifted again. ‘She’s yelling no! Fuck! They’re going to—’
The thought of what might be happening to one of his own team and a woman under his protection to boot gave John strength he didn’t know he had. He managed to rip his chains from the wall and set off at a run, following the sound of Laura’s screams and yells. Twice he tripped on the chains dragging behind him, and he gathered them into his arms and, as he ran, he wrapped the one attached to his right hand around his fist to use as a weapon. He lashed out at several of the men in his way as he tried to find her, but her screams were still loud enough for him to focus on and nothing stood in his way. He was now deep in the mountain, deeper even than the cave they were kept in, and the mere thought of thousands of tons of rock above and around him was frightening, pressing down on him, but his senses were fixed on Laura and trying to save her.
He came suddenly to a door. An actual wooden door rather than the usual tunnelled gaps. Laura was in there. He could hear her screams, could hear fear making her heart race.
The door was no obstacle and gave way under his relentless attack. Kicking the broken bits of wood aside he fought his way to her side. They’d managed to rip most of her clothing away but hadn’t actually…John couldn’t go there. Couldn’t admit the actual word to himself. Not yet. Not while there were men who threatened to do unspeakable things to a woman under his protection. Not while they lived. Not while they were still able to hurt his people, his team.
Not until…they were dead. All of them. All dead.
‘Colonel? Can you hear me? Sir? John? Focus on my voice, John. Listen to my voice and answer me. You can do it, John.’
The voice came from far away. He tried to concentrate on it, and it became louder, closer.
‘Cadman?’ he managed to croak. Why did his throat hurt? Why did everything hurt? ‘What’s happened?’ Memories began to return, and he tried to sit up. ‘Cadman. Are you okay? Did they hurt you? Did they…?’ Rape you. Did they rape you? His mind formed the words he was unable to articulate.
‘No, sir. You saved me. You were in time to save me from them. We’re all safe. The whole team. You saved us.’
He opened his eyes and was assailed by brightness. His world darkened again as a hand covered his upper face.
‘Keep your eyes closed for the moment, sir. The Major is moving the lantern away to make it easier on your eyes. Try again, sir. Open your eyes slowly. Let them become accustomed to the light.’
He did as he was told and gradually opened them until he could see his team crowded around the ramshackle bed he was laying upon. ‘Hurts,’ he complained.
‘Everything. Feels like my skin’s on fire. Did they burn me?’
‘No, sir. They’re all dead. The danger’s gone; you can stand down.’
The words made little sense to him so he added them to the list of surreal events he could remember from before.
‘Is he alright?’ Millar asked. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. He moved so fast I could barely see him.’
‘He is right here, Glen. And for the love of God, stop shouting!’ John grumbled.
‘How could he hear me? I’m on the far side of the room…cave.’
‘Still here and still hearing you yell, Millar.’
‘Sir, try and imagine all your senses are marked like a clock,’ Cadman told him. ‘Turn each of the clock hands to number one. It should make things easier for you.’
‘What are you talking about, Cadman? Are you telling me to dial down my senses? It makes me sound like a Sentinel.’
‘You are a Sentinel, sir. And you need to dial your senses down before you hurt yourself.’
‘I’m not a Sentinel. I don’t have the Sentinel gene. I was tested as a child.’
‘Then the tests were wrong because you’ve just come online as a Sentinel, sir. You went into what we call a feral episode when I was attacked. You rescued me from danger and killed all the bad guys. Major Millar is trying to find something we can use to contact the closest US base. There must be a radio of some sort here, but it’s a massive cave complex.’
‘Rescued you?’ John fixed on the only thing that made any sense. ‘We’ve all been in danger for weeks. Why didn’t I come online before today? If I really have come online. There’s no history of Sentinels or Guides in my family.’
‘I can only think their threat to me today is what pushed you over the edge, sir,’ Cadman replied. ‘I don’t know how you’ve come online; I just know you have. I’m an unbonded Guide and have been taught to recognise the signs, and I’m trying to bring you out of the episode.’
‘Are you my Guide, then? That’s lucky.’
‘No, sir. I’m not your Guide, but I can help you stabilise your senses until we can get to a medical station. They should have the drugs to sedate you until we get back to the US. The journey will be unbearable if they don’t.’
‘Then we really are free?’
‘Not quite. You killed all the people holding us, but more could appear at any time, and we have to get back to a base before we can go home. We don’t even know where we are at the moment.’
‘Why doesn’t Geoff use the radio?’
John struggled to get to his feet and after a couple of failed attempts, managed it with Cadman’s help.
‘There’s a radio. I can hear it buzzing.’
By dint of leaning on Cadman and Wright, John led them to a hidden radio. “We must be quite close to the surface or top of the mountain if it can get a signal,’ John commented looking around. ‘Where did you all get weapons from? Have you found our gear?’
‘Still searching for that, sir,’ Gunny Weston told him. ‘Can you help us with your new, super senses?’
‘What do you think I am? A sniffer dog?’
It turned out he was exactly that, but he didn’t complain too much as they all had their equipment back even though the food had been taken.
‘I’m surprised they didn’t take the guns,’ Geoff Daniels commented as he checked his pack. ‘All the ammo’s here as well.’
‘Maybe they didn’t know how to use them?’ Cadman suggested.
‘What’s so difficult? Point and press the trigger.’
Corporal Foster, who had been fiddling with the radio while they searched for their gear, gave a shout of glee. ‘I’ve got it working! What should I do now?’
John winced at the volume and watched as the Gunny went to help Foster. He turned back to check his pack when Kevin Wright touched his left arm, almost making John go through the roof.
‘Sorry, sir, but you’re bleeding.’
John glanced down at his arm and saw blood staining his dirty and tattered battle-shirt.
Cadman swore. ‘Glen, the Colonel’s bleeding. Can you do something?’
Millar disappeared from view, but John could hear him rummaging around in some boxes of equipment a couple of caves away, and he reappeared a few minutes later bearing a first aid kit.
‘Probably stolen from one of our own bases,’ he grumbled while deftly sorting through the pack. ‘Can you take your shirt off, sir?’
John hesitated, not from shyness or anything to do with his new senses, but because he was aware of how thin he’d become since their capture. Deciding he had no choice but to acquiesce, he tried to slip out of his shirt, grimacing at the pain in his upper arm.
‘I have no idea how you didn’t notice this,’ Glen said severely as he tried to clean the area with alcohol wipes.
John tried to remain stoic at both the pain from the wound and the smell of the alcohol wipes, and also from the pain of someone merely touching him. It still felt as though his skin were on fire.
‘It’s a through and through, sir, but it has ripped out quite a lot of flesh from your upper arm. Didn’t you notice it?’
‘All of me was hurting, Glen. How could I separate the difference between what hurt?’
‘Have you been eating your rations?’ Cadman asked suddenly, just as John had worried she might.
‘I mean, we’ve all lost weight, and you had little enough to lose in any case, but you’re emaciated, sir if you don’t mind me saying.’
‘I do mind you saying, Captain, and keep your voice down,’ John told her in as firm a tone as he could manage, not helped by being half naked.
‘You took less than your ration every time we were given food, didn’t you?’
John sighed. ‘I had very little appetite, what with the torture sessions and all. I’ll soon put it back on.’
Cadman didn’t appear to be appeased by this but was sensible enough to drop the subject – for the moment, at least. John suddenly tilted his head to one side.
‘They’ve got through to someone.’
‘Not sure. The voice sounds…German?’
PFC Stuart Woods entered the cave at that moment. ‘Andy’s got through to an International base. They’re passing on a message to Kabul to ask for a pick up for us.’
‘Do they know where we are? Because we don’t.’
‘They can get a fix on our radio, sir.’
John gave himself a mental kick. He knew that. If he didn’t get a grasp on the situation, his team’d never follow him into the field again. ‘Thanks, Stu. Keep me posted on what they say, okay?’
‘Okay, sir.’ Woods gave him a sketchy salute and took off out of the room at speed.
They’d all been confined for so long John knew how he felt although he suspected his legs wouldn’t support him for long at the moment. Still, a shower and a hot meal were almost in sight.
‘Won’t be long now,’ Cadman said softly, almost as though she’d read John’s thoughts.
‘All done now, sir,’ Millar told him, patting his arm while John tried hard not to flinch.
He searched through his pack in the hope of finding a clean shirt, but all he found was a black t-shirt. He gave a mental shrug and pulled it on. It left his injured arm bare and did nothing to hide his thinness but was far better than a dirty, smelly shirt. As he and Cadman joined the rest of the team in the room with the radio, he noticed all of them had managed to change into something a little cleaner than what they’d worn for…
‘What date is it?’ he asked. ‘Anyone know?’
‘I think it’s the 16th March if this radio is set properly. About that date, I should say,’ Geoff Daniels told him. ‘That makes it, what eight weeks since we were captured?’
‘Ten weeks,’ John replied absently, his head tilted to one side. ‘Quiet everyone. I can hear something…’
The room stilled until John’s head suddenly shot up. ‘Incoming hostiles! Several of them, it sounds like.’
Like the well-oiled machine they were when working together, everyone slipped into their accustomed position and moved towards the entrance Kevin Wright had discovered.
‘I laid some proximity alarms so we should hear them when they’re within a hundred yards of the cave entrance,’ Cadman said in a low voice, knowing John would hear.
He nodded just as a buzz sounded and the team slipped into position close to the entrance. Nine figures were creeping up the mountain closer to the cave entrance, and John could hear other movements to the left where he suspected a second group would be making their attack.
‘Geoff, Glen, Kev. Protect the left side approach. Three…no, four bogies incoming. The rest of us, straight ahead. Try & keep at least one alive for us to question afterwards.’
There was no time to say any more as the new attackers were within firing range. John took the first shot, his new and improved eyesight giving him an advantage over the others. He made sure to aim for the right shoulder, thus preventing the man from being able to use his gun for anything other than randomly firing it. A second shot, also dead on target, removed a couple of fingers. The other team members fired at will wherever they could do the most damage. This was a fight for their lives since recapture meant almost certain death. How this group had known their fellow terrorists were compromised could be found out later. For now, it was kill or be killed.
The fight was over within a few minutes. John had taken a second bullet when he moved to protect Kevin Wright and had left his right flank open. He’s lost sensation in his upper right thigh although he could feel the blood trickling down his leg. The main thing was they were safe for the moment and had a prisoner to interrogate.
Millar slapped bandages on the captive’s wounds and insisted John allow him to examine his leg.
‘Rip my pants, then. I’m not taking them off on the top of a mountain, Glen,’ John told him.
‘We’re nowhere near the top,’ Cadman returned. ‘Sir,’ she added at his glare.
‘Rip them anyway; I can hear helos approaching. Hopefully, they’re our lift out of here.’
Their captive was trussed up like a turkey for Thanksgiving by the time the helos were in range, and someone had clearly recce’d the area at some point as the two helicopters landed a few hundred yards away after lowering two medics near the cave entrance. By this point, John was flat on his back with his right leg held up by Cadman, the only person whose touch didn’t hurt him.
‘Gunshot wound to the left upper arm and right thigh,’ Millar told the medic who approached John. He’s also just come online and is in a heightened state due to our situation. Let Captain Cadman stay with him. He’s the only one of us who can help him at present.’
‘Is she his Guide?’ the medic demanded.
Millar never got to finish his sentence as the medic pushed Cadman away from John and poked around at the hole in his thigh. ‘This might have nicked an artery. Why weren’t we notified to bring plasma?’
‘It’s only just happened,’ John ground out from between clenched teeth. ‘We didn’t have time. Been a bit busy here.’
The medic looked around. ‘I can think of better places to holiday. Why were you here?’
‘We were being held hostage. Look, can I have Cadman back? She was helping me with my senses. They’re all over the place.’
‘She’s not your Guide she said.’
‘I didn’t even know I could be a Sentinel. Give me a break here.’
‘If she’s not your Guide she can’t help you.’
‘And I’m telling you she can. Get her back here, Captain. That’s an order!’
It barely touched the man who was pulling out a syringe. ‘This won’t hurt,’ he told John, and John didn’t need his heightened senses to tell he was lying, but oblivion overtook him despite the pain.