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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Which is most powerful – heart or fist?

Two highly skilled, gifted, global justice-fighters meet in a Somali stronghold torturer’s den. Will they escape? Instantly a consummate team, they’re capable of conquering the vilest of criminals with balls-to-the-wall fearlessness, dogged diligence and powerful cunning. Elliot is conventional and White an enigma. Understandably rocky comrades, their approach to life is polar opposite even as they are drawn to each other like a magnet seeks pure iron.

White’s life is absolute mystery, influenced by many factors known only to elite classified global principals. Where did White come from? That is the first conundrum, even to White. Why did White end up here, swept into Elliot’s fold? That is a paradox too. White’s unable to recall much of life before rescue – another frustrating puzzle.

The line between rescuer and rescue-ee blurs as their professional and personal lives intertwine. What will give? The riddle unfolds.

Submitted: January 04, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 01, 2017



Shrieks of panicked agony filled the dark, dingy cavern deep in the Somali pirate stronghold.  Assad, the darkest of torturers, was thoroughly enjoying himself, terrorizing the ill-fated boy in the grisly manner he exulted in.  Controllable human slaves were at a premium to these sickening pirates and time in this chamber made many a boy utterly subjugated.  If not removed, blubbering, to a cell so they could be harnessed for use elsewhere, most were snuffed out within hours.

Mentally shattered and dangling by her bound hands across the room, Kass could only resign herself to the screams of the men.  She’d struggled valiantly at first but now knew there was nothing she could do for the unfortunate souls, feeling weak and pathetic, unable to shut out their wails of horror.  Only dark bleakness filled her now.

The boy went silent, his soul separated from this world; his ordeal over.  Hopefully, he finally found peace.  At least Mac had been spared much of what the torturer did to the various men they’d seen him slay or conquer.  Still, though swift, Mac’s death had been brutal.  Kass would never forget being locked in that tiny slatted box for hours; until her limbs were frozen in cramped, painful positions while Mac hung, unreachable, across the room.

Strangely, Mac had said nothing as she died, having last spoken to Kass hours before.  But she’d always remember Mac’s emphatic final words, “Kass, remember your promises.  You must carry on.  Your mission in life is profound, my sister.  Always follow your intuition and heart.  You’re a great warrior with unmatched skills and unlimited potential; so be cocky.  But, girl, your heart is as unequaled, so grab every chance at joy, laughter, and love.  And don’t worry about your memory lapses and flashbacks – it’s all in the past and you must live your life vibrantly forward.  The best finally comes next.  You can do it all and grow old – remember Eve’s predictions.  Know I shall never leave your heart.  I’m sorry you’re witnessing this.  Avenge me.  Goodbye, little sister.”  A single tear streaked down the battle-hardened woman’s face as she went stiffly silent.

Fearing Mac was dying, Kass had screamed, “Mac, yes, yes I promise … Promise it all.  God, please, no!  Mac, I’ll never forget you.  I’ll always love you!”  Still, the other woman silently hung there respiring for several hours while Kass called to and agonized over her.

Assad returned and, strangely unceremoniously, stabbed Mac through the heart three violent times.  Startled at the swiftness, then watching helplessly as blood poured out of her dying best friend, Kass wailed incoherently, slamming against the cage, stopping her struggle only when Mac went limp, just a soulless dead body now.  Nothing mattered anymore.  Inconsolably lost, brokenhearted grief overwhelmed Kass.

Hours after Mac’s murder, the guards harshly cold-hosed Kass down through the slats, dragged her out and strung her up again.  Still numbed-withdrawn by the loss, she didn’t struggle this time, instead hanging still as death, while they brought in the two youth, they’d just finished the last of.

Abruptly, her numb-bubble burst and panicked hyper cognizance took hold as Kass shuddered, assuming, I’m next.  Assad’s already planning my slow, agonizing death, just awaiting the okay to finish me.  Angrily, she scolded herself, damn-it, you’ve got to be courageous girl – like Mac – she was brave.

But unable to stop fretting, she thought, why have I been here so long anyway – and astonishingly unscathed considering what I’ve seen the monster dole out?  Is someone holding him back?  Why?  Did the beast drag out our torment hoping for answers?  Well, I’m not about to give him any either.  Mac hadn’t, even though she’d taken the brunt of things until her … death.  God, it was just hours ago.  And now she’s gone.  So quickly and so … forever.  Why couldn’t I have gone first?  Well, soon I’ll join her, Eve, Nel and daddy.  I’m all alone now – the last – in the final hours of my life.

Until Mac’s death, Kass was in for the long fight, but now her world faded to this dingy Somalia dungeon with no hope left.  The raw pain of loss consuming her, a tear streaked down her face and Assad saw it.  Painfully yanking her head back, he said, “Ready ta join yur friend?  I got pain-filled plans for yur brutal trip ta the end when I get da order; much more tan her.  Maybe break yur arms an tie ya head down for da rats ta get their final revenge.  Eat ya brain thru yur eyes. What cha tink?  Ya ready?  But ya have ta wait til after chow.  Tink of da pain commin’ ta ya whiles I eatsyur las suppa.”

Furious to have been held back from doling out his usual to the women, Assad tossed her head forward.  He hated when the bosses controlled him like some puppet as with this last gal now .  It was bad enough to be ordered to simply stab the raven-haired witch, giving her a quick death, but now, he wasn’t supposed to off the second woman, just keep intimidating her, without inflicting any permanent damage until they gave him the okay.  Never admitting the fear she invoked in him, he thought angrily, wait, wait, wait – for what?  Well, I’s sick a holdin’ back, yeah, tis time to teach da witch a lesson bout real terror.  Won’t matter in da end.  Yeah, after suppa, she’s all mine to terrorize ‘til there’s only a blubberin’ idiot in dat ugly skull a hers.

Looking into Assad’s menacing dark eyes, a strange fear she didn’t understand struck Kass out of the blue, but it wasn’t the fright he tried to incite.  She’d been taught to expect this day with cold acceptance, though unable to remember the particulars of that training.  It wasn’t fear of the pain as she’d been conditioned to endure near crippling brutality without complaint.  She’d suffered incredible agony until she not only accepted it, she expected it.

No, this was a strange new panic of … ceasing to exist.  Her complete surrender for the first time in her life when Mac died sparked a peculiar new war within.  The ferocity of her innate doggedness and angst of desperation smashed into her depression and withdrawal, exploding within.  Attempting to rein in her anxiety, she demanded, I must hold onto the calm strength daddy had that fateful night and controlled resolve I saw on Mac’s face this very morning.  Still, her inner dread was growing near impossible to quash.

Then, trying to change her mind’s course, her thinking became morbidly strange, there’ll be no gravestone for me but I’m not likely to get lonely thrown into a hole with hundreds of other poor, dead, tortured souls.  Wonder if anybody will ever find and tag me a Jane Doe?  No, I’m just going to disappear as if I never was.  But if I could have a grave marker, like daddy’s, it should read … A noble enigma.  Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.  Would anyone even wonder why I’d want to be remembered as a conundrum, a paradox, a …?

But reality slammed her thinking back.  Does it really matter, because soon I’ll be gone, dead, mindless worm food?  Guess I’m going out in this god-forsaken hellhole.  No more evil to stop, people to save … or hope.  I’ll never solve my mind’s mysterious flashbacks.  Never remember my mother.  But, I’ve known this day would come for my entire life. 

The fact she’d die a horrible death at the hand of evil had been ingrained in her to the core.  The message planted in her forgotten past was beckoning her to give into that early conditioning, confirming, my expected death is near, and urging her to, concede, yield and face my inevitable demise with poise.  No one will miss me and I’ll leave no trace I ever existed.  This is my fate and I’m all alone now, so why fight it? 

However, that same doomsayer-drilled yesterday had taught her to fearlessly fight until stopped … dead.  Intrepid and steadfast in combat was as entrenched as knowing she’d die at the hands of evil, possibly even more ensconced.  The question was – which embedded past indoctrination would dominate here?

A growl deep within began to rise against that dark fatalist voice.  It was her ferocious warrior declaring, I am a fighter – give up is not in my vocabulary.  Fighters don’t let fear or pain drive them and they never surrender!  No, they stay in the battle until they are no more.  A true warrior would never know she’d lost because she’d not be around to see her own dead body.

The pessimistic inner voice barked, there’s nothing I can do now but accept the inevitable.  I must embrace my destiny. This is it – the end of the line for me.

The fatalist faced off with the warrior within her suffering, vulnerable mind.  Would she simply accept her impending death, giving up the fight?  Or would she battle until the Grimm Reaper ripped her life essence away even if it meant defeating her deepest self first?  Kass stood on the precipice, a choice between falling into the abyss to serene nothingness and gritting her teeth to inch her way up into the likely painful unknown.  That her physical situation looked hopeless was just one tool of her internal defeatist.

Another wave of panic rose that she could barely suppress, Damn, I knew it would end like this for as long as I remember.  I’ve got to be ready.

But the panic only bucked under her attempted internal-restraint.  God, I’m not ready to die!  There’s got to be another way.

The nihilistic part of her ordered, time to accept my inescapable doom.  This time evil will win.  Just need to come to peace with that.  There’s nothing more to live for. 

Her inner survivalist roared, no, there must be more.  I can’t let these bastards win – not without throwing everything I have against them.

The harsh voice from her past countered, oh, for god’s sake you know this is your finale.  You have no one to fight for and nothing left to throw, you idiot. 

Her inner crusader screamed back, I do so … I fight as long as I draw breath.  Damn-it, the black-hearted degenerate Assad has caused so much horror and agony; someone’s got to stop him.  

Grappling with her inner strife, she willed herself, with everything she had, to be prepared for the end.  Only herself wasn’t willing and wouldn’t buy the lies.  Her life began unraveling as instinct waged war with conditioning.

There was only one point of agreement, come on girl, at least don’t let him see you struggle.  Crap, I’ve got to look ready even if I’m not.

Then a messenger came, interrupting her internal discord.  Alarmed, she figured, it’s my kill order.  The kid talked and Assad smiled, but didn’t look at her.  Then the guards left and others came for the recently deceased.  She thought, great, company’s coming so I’ll have an audience for my final exit.  I hope to hell my courage and strength hold out.  I intend to go out as silently and bravely as Mac.  God, please help me keep the panic under control. 

Bowing her head she hid behind her matted hair.  No solace, just deeper darkness.


This isn’t going well, Milton thought.  Who’s this White anyway?  Why’s Harrison so bloody driven to get a hold of her?  He’s rarely so secretly intense about things, but when he is, it always makes sense … eventually.  However, this operation’s bigger than we expected going in – might have underestimated the enemies capabilities here.  These goons fingered me unexpectedly fast.  And though I’d anticipated being captured, this trip down here right off, likely to meet the bloody torturer, is a total surprise.  Harrison and François personally vetted this mission and I trust them explicitly.  They’ve always been spot on but, they’re … only human.  And to think the bloody intel came indirectly from the CIA.

He snapped at himself, oh for god’s sake the bloody mission’s just begun

Fortunately, his Australian Defense Special Forces, SASR, wanted to infiltrate this place solely for information gathering as a favor to overwhelmed local authorities.  He thought with relief, at least the ADF is on the books for the sponsorship.  Military legalities and local law enforcement support may come into play here as it’s likely to get nasty and deadly.  I’m determined to walk out of here with the woman I was sent in for.

The final dark tunnel leading to the torturer’s den stank overwhelmingly of death.  There was a pile of dead bodies in a cart swarming with rats, likely heading to some mass grave, including a substantial raven haired woman covered with flies.  The only female, she was too massive to be his target.  But her eyes seemed to look to him for help, though there was nothing more anyone could do for her in this world.  It was an eerie feeling because her haunting ghost eyes seemed to follow him into the murky tunnel.

Unceremoniously, they dragged him down the long, dingy rock-walled passage, hot and damp with water dripping down the walls from the well-worn cistern above, towards a dungeon the guards flippantly called the chamber of agony.  Passing goons dragging a dead body out of the room they were heading for, Milton thought, bloody ugly business here.

Thrusting him into the dark squalid room that stank of sweat, blood and burnt skin, they roughly strung him up by his hands to dangle.  He ignored the pain in his ribs, unwilling to reveal anything for them to exploit.  Then, they callously stripped off his boots and socks, ripped off his shirt and heaved them onto the pile in preparation for the festivities to come.  He thought, it’s a huge pile; they’ve been entertaining many guests recently.  Hopefully, my target’s still alive … and they’re getting bloody tired.

The dank, hostile place was full of compelling interrogation tools, fire pit, electric-generator and other instruments of excruciating persuasion.  There was also a series of weird short chains with lockdowns that looked to firmly hold something like a melon to the floor.  A small, blood-soaked slatted-wood cage was prominent though it looked almost torn apart from within.  Rats scurried openly everywhere.  Not a fan of the vermin, he gave no indication of that either.

Ah yes, the requisite evil information extraction artist looked him over with sick calculating eyes.  The scrawny, beastly man scrutinized the handiwork of the earlier monsters the hanging man had met.  His scars were impressive.  Milton silently evaluated his nemesis as he was being assessed.  Fortunately, the bully and his guards were heading out to eat, delaying the formalities.

As Milton’s eyes adjusted fully to the dim light, he realized he wasn’t alone.  In the dark corner next to him was a young woman hanging, obviously having been there a while.  Head hung forward, a mass of scruffy hair obscured her face.  But as soon as the thugs left the room, her head snapped up and she looked at him with piercing green eyes full of anguished spitfire and sorrow, her beaten face streaked with recent tears.  Even swollen he saw she had nicely chiseled features with a strong jaw bone, large deep-set eyes, and a small nose and mouth.

Instantly, the battered woman sensed, this man’s different.  He isn’t just another terrified, hungry boy who found himself in the wrong place.  He radiates … might.  Her new fellow prisoner invoked a strange hope, reaching out to her inner warrior.  Absently licking her swollen lips she said simply, “Hello there, welcome to my personal hell.”

Startled, Milton responded, “G’day, um where are you from, mate?  You sound American.  You CIA?”  Ignoring the ominous position they were in, he thought, could I be this lucky to meet the woman I’m looking for right off?

His deep, powerful and soothing voice filled the chamber with a sweet Aussie accent, potently lessening her loneliness.  Enthusiastically, she thought, he’s a fighter – Special Forces like daddy, I bet.  A sudden courage rose within her as she remembered her father’s potent, unwavering love; their treasured time together.  He’d been her rock.  This man reminded her of the most influential person in her life.  Abruptly feeling optimistic, she answered brashly, “Sort of.  I’m a military convict on an extreme mission for the CIA to win my freedom.  But, I’m in a bit over my head, this is a plusher spa than I expected when I volunteered.  The facials are extraordinary and the electrolysis is … invigorating.  I’m Kassandra White, by the way, but please call me Kass.”

Thinking she’s my target alright, can’t believe my luck, he said “Captain Milton Elliot, ADF at your service, except I’m bloody tied up at the moment.  Please call me Milton.”

A kindred spirit, she readily recognized his warrior potency, thinking, he exudes powerful predatory confidence.  Obviously effectively fighting them, given the beating he’d clearly taken, I bet they sorely out-numbered or more likely, out-weaponed him or he’d have taken them out.  Just like Mac and me.  But even strung up, he conveys a frightening power without any perceptible vulnerability.  Captain Elliot’s fearless, isn’t he?  No wonder Assad didn’t hang around to start his harassment as usual.

Built muscularly long and lean with outdoorsman bronzed skin, his short-ish thick dark hair suited his powerful facial features with large firm lips, and his five-o’clock stubble gave him a roguish look.  But it was his bright blue eyes that captivated her, blazing with the fire she felt just being near.  She was drawn to him on some primal level like a magnet seeks pure iron.  Life beckoned her forward.

Milton studied the woman.  Though slightly taller than average, she was definitely not the thin, lanky model type, having more curves in her well-built legs than her long muscular lower torso.  Having small hips and being substantial around the middle, there was definitely no hour glass figure.  However, her strong midsection was enhanced nicely by her unusually broad powerful shoulders, well-shaped, endowed chest and natural upright posture that gave her a regal appearance, even hanging there.  But now, she looked mostly beaten down and plain.  Thinking, my god, she’s bloody young to be in a Somali torturer’s den.  What’s her story?  Why does Harrison want her rescued?  It’s obviously personal no matter how he plays it down, but he’s refused to give us the slightest inkling.  Milton asked, “How old are you?”

Robotically she answered, “I turn 18 in three days, I think.  The worst days of my life occur three days before my birthday.  Guess if I survive until tomorrow, things might go better.”  Then as her inner fatalist despairingly pulled her down, she finished, “I just lost my last sister, a phenomenal fighter, much better than me.  So it looks like I’m approaching the end of the line.  Tomorrow likely won’t come for me.”

“Whoa.  You sound like you’re giving up there, mate,” Milton cautioned gravely.

Fire blazed again in her eyes as she exclaimed fiercely, “Never.  I will never give up!”  As she vehemently denied it, Kass realized, that’s exactly the track I’m on, isn’t it?  Well, I frankly don’t much care to stay that failing course.

“Good.  Let’s focus on getting the bloody hell out of here then.”

“Got any ideas, I’m open to all suggestions,” Kass replied sardonically, intrigued, but not quite daring to hope.

He asked, “So have you been working that bastard?”

The idea stunned her.  “What?  Work the evil torturer who has complete control?  What do you mean?”

“You know, building rapport with him.  Directing his choices with subtle unspoken cues and….”  Watching her battered face, he realized, she hasn’t a bloody clue how to handle this situation.  My God, I knew the CIA had some sketchy activities but this is unbelievable.  Guardedly, he ventured, “How exactly did you end up on this mission?”

Realizing, I’ll likely die here with our story untold, so might as well tell him; then at least someone else will know.  Not daring to think he might not make it out alive either, she began, “It’s a bit of a story but Assad takes a long supper.  We four met at Miramar prison where we’d landed after venturing into the male military world where women weren’t allowed yet; at least that’s what they said in our court-martials.  Nonetheless, wanting to make a difference in the world, we were zealous but capable dreamers, which, unfortunately, was likely our downfall.”

Skeptically he asked, “You seriously think you were thrown in prison because you bested some military men.  Don’t you think that’s a bloody stretch?”

“Don’t know.  You may be right.  Guess the trials could’ve easily just been some of the finest in kangaroo history.  However, I’m a criminal nonetheless.”  She paused, unsure.

Curious, he prompted, “Four of you?”

Nodding, she resumed, “Yeah, Nel was the talker, able persuade anybody, convincing the CIA we’re skilled operators, equivalent to their own, and from military prison.  She struck what we thought was a perfect deal.  If we complete six of their extreme missions, all our records would be expunged.  Nel, er, Penelope King, was killed during our third mission.  Losing our voice that day, we began to think twice about our deal, but were in too deep.”

Pausing, she decided, might as well continue, “Evelyn Petrotski, a fourth generation gypsy thief with a big heart, was a gifted mystic and talented trapeze artist, deeply devoted to helping children.  She taught me to look at things from different angles and see the invisible details.  Strangely, Eve predicted I’d live a long life, unlike the others.  We lost her in the fryer factory.”  Recalling that horrid day, Kass halted, shutting her eyes.

The silence stretched out until wondering, what does Harrison want with her, he queried, “So two of you ended up here?”

“Yeah, Mac and me on our second to last mission.  A skilled, tough fighter, a true Amazon, Mac grew up in the fighting ranks of drug cartels.  Her father was a beast, but he taught her to fight.  Mac said I was a gifted warrior and I worked relentlessly to learn everything from her.  My extraordinary friend and fighting mentor, Mackenzie Varga hung with a defiant calmness in the very spot you’re tied.  She was the courageous soul Assad killed as this day began.  I never saw her bested; until….”

Grappling with the pain, her internal defeatist suddenly took a hold causing the floodgates to open.  Weeping, she gasped out her agony at their demise and how despairingly lost and alone she felt.  Her tirade didn’t last long because abruptly seeing his expression freeze just short of revulsion, she realized, I’m too emotional for him and frankly, too fatalistic for either of us.  Brilliant girl, our first connection and you’re just a whining crybaby, clearly something our hardened fighter scorns.  Damn, bet he now sees only a pitiful girl strung up next to him.  Yep, I let my plight, no my feel-sorry for myself, give-up crap, get the best of me, so he likely sees me as just another weak damsel in distress.  Great job, girl.

Dejectedly, she thought, I was like him at first, confident and formidable and then lost it, didn’t I?  How’d I let despair take a hold?  Daddy would’ve been so disappointed.  But this is the end, right?  So why would it matter what this stranger thinks?  Still, sensing his powerful presence, she felt compelled to respond to the challenge in him … as a comrade.  A strange draw she’d never experienced before, it was sweetly optimistic, feeding the fight back into her.  Simply shutting up and focusing on her breathing, she forced herself to get it together, then found she had no more story momentum left.

Though uncomfortable with her heartfelt release, Milton was no stranger to sorrow.  But, glad she’d evidently seen the folly of her tears, he asked encouragingly, “So where do you fit in?”  Her story hadn’t helped solve her mystery at all.  Why would Harrison be interested in someone so unremarkable?  And a crybaby to boot.  Though I can’t totally blame her considering the heinous situation she’s in.  Except, giving up and sniveling will get neither of us anywhere.

Spurred unemotionally back to the facts, she answered, “I come from a long line of military fighters – my father was Special Forces – Delta, grandfather a chopper pilot lost in Vietnam, great-grandfather a WWII pilot, with military tracing way back to the civil war.  I think my great grandmother was a Hawaiian warrior shaman but lost track of my Mother’s side of the family years ago.  However, the weak link, though I can fly a mean chopper, tenacity and a scrappy ability to wing-it are my key contributions.”

Thinking, Delta, hmm, maybe Harrison owes her father, he casually asked about her family, which provided another wealth of insight.  Her Mother died in childbirth when Kass was almost 6 and she had no real memory of her.  Growing up daddy’s little Tom-girl, she spent substantial time with and loved her father deeply, but lost him when she was almost 12, which clearly broke her heart, but not her spirit.

Then, two years later, another parent was driving Kass and her brother home from his soccer game when their vehicle got in the middle of a drug cartel shootout.  The car rolled, killing the other family instantly and pinning Kass in crumpled metal.  Unable to reach her brother who was bleeding out, she helplessly watched him slowly die.

A couple drug criminals stopped to check the car and she begged them to help her dying brother – to at least anonymously call someone to come help.  Angrily, she remembered them clear as day.  “First they confirmed there was no one important in the car.  Then smiling, they spoke directly to me, Sorry little girl, this is the last day of your life, and, mocking my pleading, sauntered off laughing.  Found the next morning, fighting for my life, I refused to die, lest they be right.  They patched my skull with a titanium plate, but Eddie was lost forever.”

“So do you have any family left?”

“Only poor Uncle Jim, who tried his best, but I was impossible.  I ran away, thinking I could at least take out the drug cartel thugs responsible for Eddie’s death or maybe avenge….  Crap, hopefully, Uncle Jim thinks I’m dead by now.”

Against his better judgment, Milton felt for her.  But he thought, most women simply don’t have the strength or forcefulness to be high-level fighters.  It takes special skills, incredible courage and the ability to apply pure aggression with perfect timing.  Hell, most men can’t do the job even with the physique.  But, then, I’ve certainly met some fine women justice fighters.  When they have brains and moxie, they’re absolute knockouts.

However, other than the grit and an athletic hardened body, this Sheila simply doesn’t look like she has what it takes to be much of a fighter and she‘s pretty much unexceptional in every other way.  Plus, wearing her heart on her sleeve proves she just doesn’t exude any kind of predator.  Yeah, White’s more likely limited by her physique, lack of malevolence and inexperience than any glass ceiling.

How’d Harrison figure she’s a skilled fighter?  He must have gotten some highly erroneous information from his trusted source.  Wonder who?  Granted she’s young and at her worst in this hellhole.  Thinking deeper, anger rose within.  What the bloody hell’s going on here anyway?  How did a professional organization like the CIA let a fanciful kid end up here?  He burst out with, “The CIA should’ve known you’re bloody amateurs.”

Alarmed, she drew back and her face skewed into a mixture of anguish and diffident defiance so she frankly looked pitiful.  He wondered, is it intentional (is she playing me?), but decided no, I probably am the only mate she has at the moment.

At the end of her rope and feeling lost, Kass couldn’t help but appreciate the fact Mac wasn’t suffering anymore.  He’s right, I’m just an idiot who’ll be dead soon.  Maybe it’ll be a relief to be just … gone.  Her demeanor darkening, she remarked, “Guess maybe I deserve to be in this torture chamber.  Everyone special to me dies.  You may want to reconsider being my mate.”

Furious, he blurted, “Nonsense, nah one belongs in a place like this, it’s me life’s mission to eliminate these evil lawless setups – anywhere and bloody permanently.”

Snapped back by his angry voice, Kass apologized, “Sorry, I’m just being a fatalist baby.  This place sucks.  How are we going to get the hell out of here?”

Milton replied encouragingly, “That’s more like it, luv,” then began with the escape groundwork questions.  “Does this Assad have any vulnerability?  What-da-ya reckon his motivations are – absolute control, personal pleasure hurting people, pressure from the boss or is it just a job for him?”

Thinking carefully, she answered, “Boy, Assad’s one evil guy.  He definitely enjoys hurting people, getting frustrated when you don’t respond.  No vulnerability, uh, except he seems to hate the other guards and sees them as handling his spoils or something.  Hmm, he watches you carefully, seemingly absently moving among his tools, intently scrutinizing his victim.  And he targets the nerve centers of your body to cause as excruciating agony as possible.”  She winced.

Businesslike, he summed up, “So you’re telling me Assad’s motivation is causing pain and creating terror.  The more resistant you are, the harsher he gets.  But once he breaks his victims, he doesn’t enjoy the work because he’s lost the challenge.  Except for the bloody horror he can cause.  That’s typical for a sadistic torturer.  He also enjoys using his tools, as you call them, trying to choose the one that scares you the most, which he determines by watching your reaction, your subtle physical communication, to his movement among them.”

Then he began turning the tide, “See, that’s the trait you use to begin conditioning him.  Get him to use the tool you despise the least and then direct his actions from there.  Give him ever-so-slight frightened signs when he gets near the device you fear less, instead of the one you’re terrified he’ll use.  Then you subtly influence your interactions using whatever your instinct tells you appeals to him, trying to win him over enough he either lowers his guard or goes easier.  You’ll need to convince him that a lie is the truth, but also intrigue him with your tale – if you’re good enough.  Furthermore, he likely feels underappreciated so is unprepared for some positive connection with his victim, like someone who seemingly learns to worship his supremacy, if you know what I mean.  Actually, he’s fairly predictable.  Believe it or not, he’ll likely be easy for you to manipulate at this point because he thinks he knows you.  Especially if you give the impression he’s finally beginning to break you.  Understand?”

A light bulb went off in her head, “You’re brilliant!  If I want him to go for the electricity, I just need to act slightly afraid when he approaches the generator.  Hmm, if I play my cards right, I might be able to convince him a lie’s the truth he extracted and thus not be challenging to him, so he’ll turn me over to the others, opening up better opportunities for escape.  If he doesn’t just kill me.  Um, maybe I need to leave a sense of, er, something else I might be valuable for later.  Or, like you said, I’m worshiping-ly awed by his power.  Okay, need to apply brainpower here.  God, swaying him never occurred to me.  Thanks for the amazing new insight.”  Her mind took this new awareness and ran with it full bore.

Milton proposed a more concrete use, “Or possibly you could draw Assad in close and capture him with your legs long enough for me to get the knife he wears around his waist with me foot?  And then distract him long enough for me to use it?”

Dispassionately she asked, “Wouldn’t it be more effective if I just snapped his neck and dragged his body your way to grab the knife?  He’s a little guy.  Usually, the others are at least a half-hour behind him.  I think they stop for gossip and a smoke.”  Thinking in a realm she’d never imagined, her mind spun with possibilities.  God, if only this was yesterday, I might’ve saved Mac.  But I’ll certainly use the knowledge to finish my mission, get out of here and bring this angel of an Aussie with.  He’s a gift from Lady Luck.  Taking his lessons to heart, Kass saw possible ways out and was all over them.

Surprised by her cool-headed reaction and how easily she suggested offing the monster, Milton answered, “Sounds like a bloody good plan.”

Discussing their strategy, a hidden predator emerged within the woman.  Milton thought, okay, now I see some possibilities; may have been a little rash with my assessment.  Wouldn’t be the first time.  Yes, she does have certain courage.  Looks like there might be more to Ms. White than I first thought.

The fighter finally stomped the fatalist within her.  Always move powerfully forward, especially upon the heels of pain and loss, had been ingrained into Kass, particularly as she’d lost so many people she’d loved, even if remembering so few now.  One foot in front of the other.  Never forgetting those she’d treasured and lost, she’d learned early to rejoice in their shared love, grateful to have known them, instead of wallowing in the pain of their passing.

Their plan now created, with a determined, pained grimace, Kass hooked the ropes she hung from backward against her palms for stability, then slowly raised herself up and down, flexing and stretching different muscle groups in her upper body, and then twisting side to side.  Next, she began lifting and bending to flex the muscles in her lower body followed by curling every which way, all slowly and potently methodical.

Milton was glued to her deliberate, fierce, sinuous motion.  The power and allure of her fine-tuned body took his breath away.  It was startling.  He’d never seen anyone like her before.  Her newly found hope and confidence triggered an incredible metamorphosis and her feral huntress emerged.  Something stirred within him as he watched Kass strengthen and supple her body in anticipation of the battle to come.

He abruptly realized, gone is the common woman.  She looks like a different person when she flexes her muscles like that; a lot more powerful and lithe than I’d given her credit for.  Extraordinarily, she moves like a tigress.  However, it’s her aura that’s the most amazing and enticing in a strange way.  Though she’s been beaten, manhandled and who knows what, she unexpectedly radiates a powerful presence, a charisma, and magnificence.  I’d never have guessed that from the pitiful, wretched defeatist hanging here when I came.  Bloody hell, there’s a fierce beauty in her.

Then, Kass abruptly ceased all motion, stilled her body and slumped, head dangling forward, looking pretty much the same as when he was dragged in.  The door click and Assad entered with cruel purpose, surveying them both with keen anticipation.

Violently yanking her head back by her hair, Assad asked, “Ya ready ta talk yet?  Who do ya girls work fer?  Who’d ya come fer?  Or are ya the same stupid bitch seein’ what it got yer pally girl?  Want ta know why I killed her first?  She’s tougher than ya.  Yeah da other witchdon’t give even ta the end, did she?  But she’s still dead.  An,yur da weak one.  Ya won’t hold out like her when I gets real harsh.  I cannut wait.  We’ll see; lest ya want ta talk.”

Pausing, she said nothing, so Assad started bragging about Mac’s brutal death and how soon he’d get the okay to kill her even slower, trying to make her disheartened by pouring salt in her raw emotional wounds.  He was vicious; cold hearted and cruel.  Finally, he tossed her head back saying, “Suit yaself.”  Kass’s assessment had definitely nailed him – sadistically evil to the core.

Slowly lifting her face, Kass’s expression was listless, otherwise her body dangled motionless.  Watching closely, Assad moved through his tools of terror.  As he passed the generator, Kass’s eyes flickered, opened slightly, and then narrowed.  Milton thought at her, that’s it, easy now; keep it subtle and take your time to hook him.

Under her new influence, Assad put his hand on the electricity generating device and Kass, with precision and control, perceptively expressed increased fear at the tool she wanted him to use.  This may bloody well work, Milton thought with controlled excitement.  She’s a quick learner, reads others uncannily and communicates with minimal effort.

Assad, with all the show of an entertainer, assembled the electrical paraphernalia, erratically arcing the probe to produce random loud snaps.  Periodically, he looked at his victim and Kass gave him just the right almost-subliminal cues.  Her timing was impeccable.  Amazed, Milton thought, Assad's insecure, seems she scared him somehow.  And she’s clueless about it.  Interesting.  But now he’s hungry for revenge.  Good.

After asking the same questions with no answer, Assad came at Kass straight on and she convincingly arched slightly away from him so he moved in closer.  She played him with a subtly that matched his expectation, exactly.  But he wasn’t close enough yet so she had to bide her time and take the hit hoping to draw him nearer yet.  The current snapped through her, locking her body up in a giant painful spasm and she grunted loudly.

Still outside her strike zone, she had to take another hit, but just before the probe contacted, she uttered something seemingly capitulating to him, but that he couldn’t hear, by design.  When he stepped back, she made a small strange sound, like terror being ripped from her struggling-to-be calm core.  A sign he was winning.  It was perfect to draw the monster closer still, as he savored the fabricated sense of cracking resistance she gave him.  Hopefully, that would finally lure him near enough to attack.

Fighting to stay the course, Milton was furious when the electricity hit her.  Appreciating the fact he’d seen few women tortured because it made him raving mad, he suppressed the anxiety trying to rise within, scolding himself, there’s no room for bloody emotion here.  Instead, he mentally worked on other potential breakout strategies, in case this plan failed.  But the warrior in him was impressed by her resilience and steely calm – seeing that her eyes never left her unsuspecting target as she coolly played him, waiting for her chance to spring into action.

With a convincing breaking into terrified expression crossing her face over what Milton would soon recognize as her deadly green-eyed-glower, she made some strange and persuasive whining sounds while angling her body back further, drawing the torturer nearer yet.  He liked seeing the panic on her face up close, enjoying finally eliciting her terror. 

Employing enormous willpower to move her stiffened-numb body fast, she struck, kicking the probe out of his hand then quickly wrapped one leg around his neck to pin his shoulder in place against her so he couldn’t twist away.  Next, she slammed his head up and around with the full force of her other knee in the opposite direction and his neck snapped.  Her fiery eyes looked to Elliot with excited amazement at her triumph.

It was Milton’s turn now.  Repositioning her legs to wrap under the evil man’s arms, with a grunt, Kass heaved Assad’s lifeless body over and up towards Milton, who easily plucked the knife from the dead man’s waistband with his bare foot.  Time being short, it would be surer to get the knife to her.  Thus, he carefully swung his body up and over towards Kass’s head where she gingerly took the blade with her teeth.  Similarly pulling herself up to her hands, she took the knife and cut herself free.

Kass landed with a thud, on her butt, her legs unstable after hanging so long.  Then sideling up the wall, she staggered over to Milton, stopping short when she saw his man-marred back as both heartfelt anger and a strange sense of connection filled her.  But quickly quashing that and ignoring her screaming pain, she reached up and cut him loose.  Milton landed agilely on his feet, ready to go, while Kass struggled to get her sorry legs under her.

Then hearing the other two guards joking about something outside the door, Milton moved nimbly into position at the far side of the entryway while Kass lumbered to the near side.  When the door opened and the two laughing men plodded in, they struck.  The guards never knew what hit them.  The prisoners were free of the chamber, but still had a long ways to go to reach freedom.

Kneeling, Kass silenced the generator buzz.  Milton gasped at her torture-mutilated back, scars from present and past.  Bloody hell, her scarring’s worse than mine.  This wasn’t her first ordeal at the hands of a sadistic monster either.  And all she knows to do is to silently take it.  Damn, how did she survive before?

Turning back, Kass said warmly, “You’re my hero.”

He replied tersely, “I’m no bloody hero.  Just a simple fighter doing me job, understood?”

Ignoring him, she headed to dig out her boots; their clothes were useless.  Abruptly seeing the cage she’d been locked in while Mac was brutally stabbed, she angrily slammed her foot into its upper corner, startled when it easily collapsed.  She realized, it was damaged near breaking because of my earlier struggles – if only I’d pushed it harder.  But, by then, Mac was already gone, so it’s a clearer reminder of my near surrender than of my lacking follow-through.

Disconcertedly pointing to the strange straps on the floor next to the cage, Milton couldn’t help asking, “What were those used for?”

Kass answered dryly, “Oh that was Assad’s favorite.  They’d strap the unfortunate kid’s head down to the floor for the rats to torment.  Most of the poor boys freaked as the multitudes of gnashing-toothed torturer’s apprentices fed on their terror and flesh alike.  Assad amusingly watching their struggles as his pet creatures of horror snatched at his victim's face.  Hands-free, the panicked boy scattered the rats until exhaustedly giving up to cover only his eyes and face as much as possible.  Then, Assad would scurry off his smaller kin to triumph over his victim’s surrender.

Horrified, he exclaimed, “Bloody hell.  Did he, um, er?”

She finished for him, “Tie my head down?  Only once.  I rather established myself as queen rat and spoiled Assad’s fun.  See, they’re just nasty opportunistic vermin and I refuse to give in to them.  Oh yeah, I fought them ceaselessly, grabbing one after another, even from behind, snapping their spines faster than they scurried at me, strewing dying rats everywhere.  Finally, it ended with a particularly vicious fight with a huge one that resulted in dramatic, um … dismemberment of the beast.  Ripping a bone out, I keenly reached behind my head and used it to open the locks, almost freeing myself before they realized.  Unfortunately, I sprang up to face two AK muzzles and see Assad’s knife threateningly across Mac’s throat.  After a beating, I was hanging again, but the rats wised up and stay clear of me.”

Appalled, he muttered, “Good god.  I could tell you frightened Assad.”

Starkly, she pictured Varga’s brutal stabbing as if running a video … how Assad had filled a dirty cup with Mac’s blood, mockingly offering it to her.  Rage had abruptly filled her as she icily stared at the torturer with a deadly glower, gnashing her teeth as if a wild animal preparing to spring up and rip him apart.  Her menacing green eyes reflected his death, frightening him immensely.  Hastily stepping back, Assad tossed the cup at her, blood splashing out as the container bounced off a slat to spill alongside the cage.  The coagulating red fluid flowed towards the many rat entrances and the vermin came in their usual hordes, lapping up most of the last traces of Kass’s friend … careful to stay out of the vicious woman’s reach. 

Realization struck her and she said, “You know, my mastery over his toys of terror did petrify Assad and I never grasped that fact until now.”

A strange new sense of power grew within her, liberating a new dynamic confidence.  Recalling her promises to the girls coupled with the new vitality shooting through her, Kass thought, oh yes, I’m free and a force to be reckoned with.  Just might be time to shut this place down.

© Copyright 2019 J.E.S.. All rights reserved.

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