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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lena remembers her experiences when her homeland was initially invaded.

Submitted: February 18, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 18, 2008



- - - NOW - - -


War is hell. Lena had heard it from her father, a veteran of the Great War, but never known the truth of it until the invasion. Since that fateful day, the reality of war had been drilled into her repeatedly every single, eternal day.

It had only been three months ago. She shook her head, a dismal smile stretching the grimy skin of her cheeks as she crouched in the dark. It had only been three months. She had spent more time in a single semester of college that had flown by before she knew it, and yet in three short months she had lived a lifetime every day.

Her parents were dead, her home leveled, her sister missing. The surviving neighbors had fled. Even Ming, her dog, was a casualty. Everything had been taken from her; everything she cared about had been wiped from the face of the planet.

She remembered the first day of hell as if it were yesterday.


- - - THEN - - -


When they had packed whatever they could carry and left the city, the neighbors had tugged at her sleeve or wrapped reassuring arms around her shoulders, trying in vain to get her to accompany them. But Lena would not be moved. She had made a decision, and nothing would sway her. The others could run away if they chose to, but this was her home, her country, her land. She would resist the invaders. She would fight.

She had nothing but an old army knife of her fathers’ she had found in the rubble. It didn’t matter. They could overthrow the politicians, subjugate her kinsmen, erase her country from the face of the earth, but they would never conquer her. She would fight to her dying breath.

She had wandered towards the far side of the city, heading in the opposite direction of her neighbors, towards the enemy. The first night she had found canned peaches on an undisturbed shelf in an abandoned basement and pried them open with the knife she carried. She had lain on the cold, cement floor with only the light jacket she had worn as a blanket and slept fitfully, waking frequently to the sound of distant gunfire and explosions.

The sounds kept on day and night, louder as Lena continued towards the enemy on the second day. It was growing dark, the sun sinking beyond the buildings to her left when she first saw the others; men with guns. They were there if she looked, hiding in empty doorframes, peering from within burned out windows high up in walls or down at foot level in darkened basements. She knew she must be close to the enemy or the men wouldn’t be staring towards her destination with such intensity that they didn’t even notice her until she was parallel to them.

She could make out motion in her peripheral vision; the concealed men trying to get her off the sidewalk, into hiding along with them. They waved their arms and made hissing noises between their teeth, but she continued on. She must be a sight, in her tattered sundress and sandals carrying a knife. They must think her crazy. Maybe she was crazy. She wasn’t certain of anything at that moment, only that she wanted to see the foreigners that had taken her family.

Lena wondered what the enemy would look like. She thought they must be monsters, but knew that they would just be men, like her own countrymen she was passing by. She wanted to see one of them, see a face she could remember for the rest of her life as the oppressor, and was surprised when she turned a corner and was face to face with a man clad in urban camouflage.

He was one of them, one of the enemy, and her hand moved on its own and jammed the knife up under his ribcage before she was even aware of what she was doing. Shock registered on his face as she assumed it had on her own, and she felt herself push the knife in harder, deeper. He made a face like he wanted to vomit and an unintelligible sound escaped his mouth, more like air escaping than any attempt at vocalization.

He was just a boy, really, barely old enough to be called a man, but he was the enemy. His mouth hung agape and his eyes were wide. Lena stared into those eyes as they rolled back into his head until the clatter of his rifle striking the ground snapped her back to reality. He would not have been alone. As his body slumped forward, she yanked her knife down and out, took a step back as he fell forward, turned and ran.

They were there, alright. Behind him had been, from the sound of it, the entire invading army, and though they must not have seen her at first, they saw her running now. The very air about her was split asunder with gunfire. She ran unthinking, fear overtaking her. She didn’t consider cover or ducking into a building to escape gunfire, she ran down the middle of the street, arms pumping air, legs churning, trying to put as much distance as possible between herself and the men behind her.

Through some miracle of fate she was not hit, and her brain finally registered the need for shelter. Ahead and to the left, beyond a small pile of rubble, she saw the mouth of a narrow alley, and headed for it. Bullets still whistled past, rapid-fire bursts of instant death she knew would kill her but somehow missed. She scrambled up the mound of broken bricks and cement, scraping flesh from her hands and knees.

She was nearly to the top when it felt like a speeding truck struck her arm. There was pain, but she felt the force more than anything else; it was as if the biggest man she had ever seen had just punched her in the bicep. She was spun around and carried forward by the sheer power of it, and in mid-air she realized she had been shot.

Her brain registered the spray of blood from her arm as she moved forward in timeless slow motion. She had been shot. Some part of her watched the whole thing as if it were happening to someone else, or like she was watching a movie. She saw herself land on the far side of the heap of debris and tumble down its slope. She knew she should feel the pain of the gunshot, feel the bruises and cuts she knew were forming from the rocky fragments, but the only sense that seemed to be working was her sight. When she felt her body come to rest on the surface of the alley, even that sense dimmed and finally turned off entirely.


- - - NOW - - -


Lena heard a sound come from somewhere outside of the darkened room in which she huddled. Footsteps? She couldn’t tell. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She wiped at them, further smearing the grime on her face. She hated remembering, it always brought tears; but memory was all she had. Everything she had once loved was gone, even Isaac.

Isaac had been her savior, her friend, her teacher, and her lover. Beautiful, gentle Isaac; He had been a poet before the invasion. For seven short weeks, he had been everything to her, but now even he was gone.

There was a metallic grinding sound from directly outside, and Lena felt all her muscles tense. The grinding ended with a loud clang as the door was pulled open, and the room was flooded with blinding light, rendering her sightless after so long in darkness rather than illuminating, just like the first time she had seen Isaac.


- - - THEN - - -


Lena opened her eyes, not knowing what to expect. The light was dazzlingly bright. She could make out a blurred shape in front of her, but had no idea what it was. Was she dead? Captured by the enemy?

“Easy now,” said a voice nearby. It was definitely masculine, but there was a tenderness in it she had only heard from family or lovers.

Lena tried to speak, but her throat was dry. All that came out was a weak croak.

Something was pressed to her lips, and cool liquid sloshed into her mouth. “Drink,” the voice said.

She swallowed, cool water nearly burning her parched throat. Her eyes attempted to find detail in something, and finally managed to pull the irresolute shape that had danced before her into focus. It was a man, a young man, possibly close to her own age. Concern was writ across his face, a face that looked much like that of the man she had killed.

She remembered it then. She had killed. She had taken a life. One thrust of an old knife had ended the life of a man, a mere boy, barely out of high school. She had executed another living being.

It must have shown on her face, because the man leaning over her said, “it’s okay.”

She felt her shoulders shake with sobs, but no tears would come; she was too dehydrated. Why? Why was she crying for the single victim of her knife? He was the enemy, not worthy of sadness. But she knew why; it had been in his eyes. His sad, surprised eyes that had asked her the same question as his lifeblood flowed over her hand: why?

She cried, and though the tears wouldn’t come, the pain did. As if someone had flipped a switch, she felt the bruises, cuts, and scrapes from her flight over broken stone rubble and the throbbing pain in her right bicep where the bullet had struck. She moaned as the pain flooded her nerves, and the man before her placed one hand on her right shoulder. There was a pinch on her forearm and a presence within her skin. She looked down and saw a needle, something injected into her arm.

“It will help the pain,” said the man, meeting her eyes. She felt numbing warmth spread through her body.

“What’s your name?” He was looking at her, but she felt her focus fading again.

“Lena.” It was barely audible, even to her own ears.

“That’s a beautiful name.” He smiled. “I’m Isaac.”

She wanted to say something to him, but her tongue felt like a ball in her mouth.

“Can you walk?” He was speaking softly, as if he were afraid of being overheard. “We’re behind enemy lines. We need to move.”

Lena nodded, though she felt as if her whole body were made of lead and rubber. Every part of her was too heavy to move, and when she did succeed in moving, she flopped like a rag doll.

“I’ll help you.” He lifted her, and there was no pain now. In fact, there was very little sensation at all. Whatever he had given her was fare more than she had needed to manage the pain of her minor wounds.

He half carried, half dragged her towards a round opening in the floor. There was a metal disc beside it. It looked like a manhole.

“We’re using the sewers to hide,” he said, as he propped her against the wall. “So far they haven’t figured it out.”

Another man popped his head out of the manhole and reached for Lena. Isaac moved her across the floor and lowered her legs-first into the opening. The new man gently took hold of her under her armpits with one arm, slowly moving down the ladder with a heavy jerk at each rung. Isaac followed after sliding the cover back in place. Once in the sewers, Isaac bore her weight, led by the unnamed man into the foul-smelling darkness.

So had begun their seven weeks together, seven weeks of terror and bliss, of love-making and killing, of every contrasting event or emotion Lena thought ever existed.


- - - NOW - - -


“Get up.” It was a command, not a request.

Lena stood slowly, her limbs sore from squatting in the same position for too long. She looked up at the silhouette towering over her.

He was as wide as the doorframe, almost as tall, and leaned forward imposingly. She could make out no details with the light pouring into the room from behind him, just the sheer size of him. He was huge.

“Disobey and die.” There was no question he meant it.

Lena waited. She didn’t want to take any chances with this hulking man-mountain.


She moved towards the door, stepping slowly in bare feet. Her eyes were adjusting to the light, and she could see a cinder-block hallway beyond the door. She stepped into it and saw three soldiers, all dressed identically to her first kill. The enemy. She wanted to kill them all, and felt rage building inside her, but a firm push from the giant behind her had her trying to regain her balance instead of lashing out at the men who had invaded her homeland.

“Go,” he said again, and she moved forward down the hallway toward her fate.


- - - THEN - - -


She had stayed with Isaac had his fellow resistance fighters in the sewers and basements of the city. They had lived off of scavenged canned goods and anything edible they could find. They armed themselves with hunting rifles and small-caliber pistols they had found in abandoned homes and the occasional military weapons taken from the dead. They had caches of food, medical supplies, weapons, and ammunition tucked away in countless places beneath the city.

Isaac had been a poet; at least that had been his goal. He had been finishing his doctorate in language when the invasion began, and had gone underground with three fellow students. They had found a survivalist group first, six men armed almost as well as the invaders, and their numbers had continued to grow exponentially in the first few days. Now they dwindled every day.

Isaac had tended her wounds, cleaned her up, and provided her with more suitable clothing and boots. He had shown her the basics of using a firearm. The whole time she had spoken only one word to him, her own name. She didn’t know why, but words seemed somehow useless to her. It was as if words represented reasoning and logic, and she found none of that in the world in which she now lived, so she saw no reason to attempt to use them.

Isaac used words all the time. He was gentle with her, advising her that they could get her out of the city and to the safety of one of the refugee camps. She shook her head, refused to go. He suggested she stay behind when they took up positions and tried to pick off enemy soldiers. She refused to wait, instead spotting soldiers with a scope for their snipers to eliminate one at a time.

She took to warfare as if born to it. The third time she had a rifle in her hands, she was atop a building with a clear view straight down a main thoroughfare. She waited patiently as columns of soldiers moved across and intersection four blocks away. She waited until she saw one atop a vehicle, ribbons on his chest and a different style of hat upon his head. She counted three stars on his lapel. That must make him important.

She aimed just as Isaac had shown her, a little bit in front of him, watching through her scope as she exhaled and slowly squeezed the trigger, watched his head disappear in a cloud of red mist, watched the soldiers spin and duck for cover, the panic in their eyes as the headless body of some officer tumbled into the street. She felt nothing, not even satisfaction.

She should have felt satisfaction. She should have felt something. Anything. But there was nothing there. The officer had been her fifth kill. She remembered all the faces, but none as clearly as the first, the face-to-face murder of that innocent-looking boy. Even that face no longer brought grief.

When she rejoined Isaac he hugged her tightly as if he had been afraid he wouldn’t see her again.

“It’s great to see you.” He held her longer than was necessary, but finally let go. “How did you do?”

She held up one finger.

“Just one?”

She placed the tips of three fingers against her throat where the top of her collar touched her neck.

His eyes widened. “Three stars?”

She nodded.

“A colonel.” He nodded. “Nice shooting. I’m impressed.”

To this day she couldn’t say why she did it, but she leaned in and kissed him then, hard on the lips. His surprise registered with a total stiffening of his entire body.

She pulled back and looked at him, a question burning in her eyes, her lips slightly parted. It was all the time he needed to regain himself.

He moved to her, placed a hand at either side of her head, and kissed her back deeply. Something had changed inside her, and for some reason, after two weeks with Isaac and the resistance fighters, she needed him now. She didn’t question anything anymore; life was too short and could end at any moment. She unbuckled his belt, felt him groping at her pants, felt skin against her own, and then they were on the ground.

In a tiny basement with no windows, they made love. It was fast, as everything was in their lives. The only thing they took time for was waiting for the right moment to kill. They didn’t remove their clothing, they just pulled pants far enough down to engage the important bits, thrusting at each other, staring into each others eyes. There was no kissing, just a steady motion, an explosion of fluid, and a nearly silent moan. It was over almost before it had begun.

That was all it took. Every day from that day forward they hunted, waiting for the perfect time to kill, fled to safety, waiting to see each other, and made love as soon as they met. It was somehow a perfect cycle. It began with the symbolic new life of waking, moved to the death of an enemy or two, the frustrating minutes waiting to see if he would return to her or have been killed by the enemy, and then act that held the only potential to truly bring new life into the world.

They made love in the sewers, Lena bent over a pipe as Isaac took her from behind. They made love in basements, cold stone beneath her as Isaac thrust inside of her. They made love in corners of shelled buildings with the sound of gunfire in the distance, her knees rubbing raw on concrete as she straddled him. Every day they made love, and every day they slept beside one another, hoping they would both be alive and undiscovered when the sun lowered beneath the tops of the buildings and they started their daily hunt.

It was a lifetime every day, and it seemed that life had always been that way.


- - - NOW - - -


Lena was guided up a cement staircase and into a white-washed hallway, past several doors, and into a lavishly furnished room, a hotel lobby as it turned out. Soldiers were everywhere. She wanted to kill them all, but knew that timing was key. She could wait. She may be their captive, but they hadn’t broken her spirit. She would fight, but she had to wait until the right moment to make her move.

In the elevator, she considered trying to take the gun from the soldier beside her, but knew the quarters were too close. With no room to maneuver, the mammoth standing in front of her would crush her. She needed space to have a prayer him.

Out of the elevator, they took her to a room. She was pushed inside by the enormous man. He pointed into the tiny bathroom. She stepped inside, and he moved into the doorway behind her, completely blocking it.

“Wash.” He pointed to the shower.

“Make pretty.” He pointed to a haphazard pile of cosmetics on the counter.

“Dress.” His thumb jerked over his shoulder and pointed at a sequined black dress hanging on the back of the door.

“Thirty minutes.” He pointed to his wrist, where a watch would be if one were made large enough to fit him. With that he took one step back and closed the door behind him.

Lena looked about the room, trying to find anything that might be useful as a weapon. She thumbed through the cosmetics, looked in the shower, but found nothing. She decided she had no choice but to obey and wait for her one chance to escape or fight.


- - - THEN - - -


The last day she had spent with Isaac had been a great one. They woke curled beside each other in a dry side drain in the sewer. They no longer noticed the smell, and when they woke, they made love, slow and easy, Isaac curled against her from behind, one hand on her hip as he thrust inside, the other hand entwined in her fingers above their heads.

They had never made love when they woke. It was almost a celebration for them, a way to acknowledge making it though another day. She wondered why he had initiated it now, outside of their normal routine. It was different, and something inside her opened up.

He had begun to thrust more urgently, his need outpacing his desire to make it last, and she finally felt it building inside her. She had never had an orgasm with him, but one was coming now, and there was no way she could stop it. She tried to remain silent, but heard the stifled moans and tiny cries escaping her own throat as it exploded inside her, the feeling taking her outside of herself for just a moment. She knew then, knew it in the same unconscious way she knew she had wanted Isaac. She loved him.

He thrust within her as he also found his release, and with his last pumping movements, she turned her head and kissed him. They had never kissed since the first time, and his lips were warm and soft. When they pulled apart, she turned towards him and stared into his eyes.

“I love you.” She didn’t care if he responded.

He smiled, and almost gasped. It was the first time she had spoken to him since he had tended her gunshot wound. “I love you, too.”

They smiled at each other, and kissed again.

They had a common target today, an enemy supply depot that was poorly guarded, and they moved quickly to get into position. Lena and Isaac were two of the three snipers, and moved into position on neighboring rooftops. They would take out the guards, allowing their companions to move in and raid the depot. While their fellow resistance fighters were inside, they had to maintain their positions and defend the escape route.

Lena couldn’t see Isaac on the other rooftop, but she knew he was there. At the appointed time, she sighted on the guard to the right of the door, waited, and took him out. She didn’t hear another shot, but saw the guard at the left side of the door fall at the same time as her target. She was in perfect sync with Isaac.

Three men fanned out against the wall, three more made for the door, and the six of them ended up inside. There was gunfire, flashes of light through the single window, and then silence. She waited, scanning up and down the street through her scope, but saw nothing. Finally, she saw a figure stick his head out the door and give the all-clear sign. She relaxed some, but kept sweeping the street for enemies.

The flash of light was the first thing she noticed, followed by the deafening roar of an explosion and the rumble beneath her. Her eyes snapped back to the doorway of the depot, but it was gone, the entire building collapsing in upon itself. Six men still inside, now all dead. She backed away from the edge of the rooftop, slipped the strap of her rifle over her shoulder, and pulled her pistol.

On the next rooftop over she saw Isaac sprinting towards her. They were heading for the same fire escape, and as she closed the distance between them, she saw the pale look on his face. She knew what he was thinking; this had been a trap, the enemy had been waiting, and they would be lucky to be alive. She met his eyes across the narrow alley, each on opposite sides, and he smiled at her, an attempt to reassure her that they would be okay.

Lena smiled back, and saw half of his face disappear in a pink mist, replaced by a bloody crater in the side of his skull. The sound of the gunshot echoed to her seconds later. His body tumbled forward, hesitated at the edge of the roof, and then plummeted into the alley below.

Lena heard another gunshot and saw Isaac’s murderer on the opposite roof, behind where Isaac had been mere second before. She raised her pistol and fired one, two, three, four, five rounds. They all hit, and the man fell backwards. There was another enemy there as well, and she fired again, one, two, three rounds, watched him fall, moved to aim at the third and heard the click of the hammer falling. She was empty.

She ducked for cover and reached for another clip, but something heavy hit the back of her head and she knew no more.


- - - NOW - - -


She recounted the day she had been captured as she showered, remembering the last smile Isaac had flashed at her before his face disappeared. She remembered the last words he had said to her: “I love you, too.” She moved quickly, drying her body and hair, applying makeup that was nowhere near the shades she would have chosen herself, and slipping into the dress that was at least one size too big for her malnourished frame.

She took one last look at herself in the mirror and wondered who it was that stared back out at her. It was a woman from another life, another world. The woman looking at her was beautiful; her hair fell in gentle curls around her face and neck, her makeup was sparse and tasteful, and her skin, although scabbed on one cheek, was otherwise smooth and free of blemishes. Whoever it was, Lena didn’t know her, but she would use the mask to effect her escape.

She opened the door to see the colossal man waiting for her, holding a pair of high-heeled shoes. His eyes widened momentarily, and he made no attempt to conceal his hungry gaze as it traveled down and then back up her body.

“Put these on.” He dropped the shoes on the floor.

Lena slid her feet into the shoes and bent to tighten the straps. She stood and looked straight at the immense man.

“Let’s go.” He opened the door and pushed her through, pointing back the way they had come.

Lena followed him back to the elevator, and saw two other women dressed similarly in ill-fitting dresses waiting with more soldiers. When the elevator opened, all three of them were herded inside, a soldier at either side and the giant in front. They rode to the top floor, and headed down a wide hallway towards elaborate double-doors.

She tried to remember the floor plan as they went, counted doors in case she needed to find her way in the dark, used every trick she had learned in three months of slinking through pitch black sewers and basements. She would be ready when the moment presented itself.

Through the double doors, they entered an ornately decorated suite. Before them were three more women, all dressed in what would have been high fashion if any of the outfits had been properly sized or tailored. They faced away from the doorway, into the large room beyond. Lena and the two women she had rode up the elevator with were guided into the lineup and took their places at the end.

Lena glanced sideway, trying not to move her head. There were at least eight soldiers in the room, maybe more. The big man was behind the women somewhere, and she had no idea who might be behind the three doors that led into the room before her. This was no place to do anything but die attempting to escape or make a stand.

A door opened behind them. It took all of Lena’s willpower to remain facing forward, but she was sure it was the right move. A man moved into her peripheral vision. He was in uniform and wore a hat. She waited for him to move into her line of sight, taking it the five stars on his collar before anything else. A general.

He strolled up the line of women, looking each of them up and down, and Lena never let her eyes leave him. There were more medals on his chest than all the other men in the room combined. He was a leader, perhaps the head of their entire army. If she were going to die taking another enemy life, he was her perfect target.

He stopped at the end of the line, in front of one of the two women who had rode the elevator with Lena. He stepped close to her, and Lena had to turn her head to see what he was doing. She did, and he was staring into the woman’s face. She kept her eyes downcast, but her body was shaking, fear or panic close to overtaking her. Lena watched as he moved his lips next to her ear and whispered something to her. The woman burst into hysterical tears.

He stepped back from her and said, “useless.”

A soldier took her by the arm and pulled her from the line, guiding her out of Lena’s line of sight.

The general moved to the next woman, right beside Lena. She was a pretty girl, young and blonde, probably even younger than Lena. He looked her up and down, grasped her chin in one hand and lifted her face to his. Their eyes met briefly before she looked away. He shook his head and leaned in next to her ear, whispering something that Lena could not make out. The woman shook her head yes. He stepped back.

“You would please me, then?” He stared at her, but she did not make eye contact.

“Yes,” she said, her voice barely audible.

“What would you do to please me?” A grin crept across his face.

“Anything.” She looked up at him, tears in her eyes, her upper lip trembling.

“Anything?” He made it a challenge, daring her to accept.

She nodded.

The general smiled. “Give her to the men,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “She will not be so eager after pleasing two or three platoons.”

One soldier grabbed both of her arms and pulled her back out of the line. The rest laughed with the general as he moved in front of Lena.

Lena stared directly into the eyes of her enemy and saw nothing there. Either he was soulless, or his invasion had taken hers, for she detected nothing redeemable, no humanity, only a target. They stared at each other for minutes that stretched into an uncomfortable silence. His face was expressionless; Lena was certain her desire to kill him was obvious on her own.

Finally he smiled, and then laughed. He reached out and wrapped the fingers of one callused hand around her chin, pushing her head to the side as if appraising her. She resisted, keeping her eyes leveled on his. He pushed harder, forcing her head to turn regardless of how hard she opposed him. She stared at him from the corner of her eye.

He released her chin and she spun her head to face him so swiftly and with such venom in here eyes that two soldiers started forward as if to defend their general. Lena felt the corners of her mouth twitch, as if she wanted to smile.

The general looked her up and down, raised one hand to touch her thigh. Lena slapped it away. He glanced up at her, met the loathing in her stare with a question in his own, and moved his hand to touch her thigh again. Again she slapped him away. His teeth clenched, and Lena felt her arms grasped from behind and pulled behind her back.

He moved one hand up her leg slowly, lifting the fabric of the skirt as he went. When his hand moved towards the inside of her thigh, she leaned back into whoever was holding her and kicked the general hard in the shin.

He stepped back, unconsciously bending a bit to touch his injured shin, and barely moved in time to avoid Lena’s second kick aimed directly at his head. She saw his eyes widen momentarily as the hands behind her forced her to the ground. The general leaned in over her and she saw a pistol aimed at her head from above.

“No!” The general waved the pistol off.

“General, this one is too wild,” said a voice out of her line of sight.

“She has spirit.” The general looked down at her.

“She is too dangerous,” said the unseen voice.

“To me?” He looked at the speaker, a threat in his voice and eyes.

“No, sir, nothing is too dangerous for you, but…”

“No. She is the one.” The general waved to the soldiers holding Lena and they lifted her to her feet.

He moved in front of her again, looking directly into her eyes. “I shall enjoy breaking her.”

With a wave of his hand, Lena was dragged through the door on the far side of the room. She barely resisted as she was pulled into a bedroom; the only real effort she put forth was trying to find something in this room that she could use as a weapon. She allowed the two soldiers to toss her onto the bed, her eyes scanning every item, every surface, searching for the one thing she knew must be there. So intent was she on finding a potential weapon that she didn’t even realize she was being handcuffed until she felt the metal strike her wrists almost simultaneously.

Her eyes followed the chains locked to her arms to a ring bolted into the wall above the bed. She tugged at her shackles, but there was no give. Kneeling on the bed, she watched the two soldiers retreat out the door. This was it, then. There were no weapons in the room, and even if there were, she was now chained to the bed, unable to reach them. Soon the general would be here, his intention to break her.

Lena pulled at the chains, pulled with all her strength, but to no avail. She folded her thumb inside her palm and tried to slip her hand out of the cuffs, but made no progress. There was nothing she could do, but she kept trying. She propped her feet against the headboard and put all her weight and leverage into breaking the chains free from the wall. Still nothing. She yanked and tugged, heaved with all her might, over and over until she collapsed on the bed in exhaustion. She could not get free.

She lay still for a moment and heard the sound of a single pair of hands applauding. Spinning, she saw the general standing just within the door. He must have slipped in unnoticed while she was trying to break free. He strode slowly to the foot of the bed, still clapping slowly, methodically.

“Where would you go if you got free?” He stared at her, arms folded across his chest.

Lena leveled a blank stare at him, but said nothing.

“Out the window, down twelve stories?”

She remained silent.

“Back to the suite, with fifteen soldiers?”

She shook her head, finally giving him an answer.

He cocked his head to one side. “Where then, my fiery little one?”

Lena pointed to the bed, right where she was sitting.

“You would not have run?”

She shook her head.

“You would stay here, and wait for me?” He looked incredulous.

Lena nodded.

“And why would you do that?”

“To kill you.” She stared straight at him.

He raised an eyebrow, and put one knee on the mattress. “I think you will find I am quite hard to kill.” He began to unbutton his shirt, eyeing her hungrily. “But I welcome your attempt. It’s so much more fun when there’s a challenge.”

Lena had no idea how she was going to get out of this. She knew what was coming, and knew she could not fight him off. He would have her body, but he would never subjugate her spirit. She would let him have her if it gave her the chance to kill one more of them. But if he had his way with her physically, and she never found the opportunity to kill him, who had really won? What would she be then, a trophy? Would she not have been totally dominated then? She hoped that weren’t the case as he moved across the bed towards her. She prayed it weren’t the case.

She would not be conquered.

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