Blood, Sweat, & Fear Ch. 08bywildsweetone©
"I can't believe we made it," I gasped, then collapsed on the ground. From the top of the mountain, the island stretched out far below. The waters of the Pacific glistened deep blue as the sun beat mercilessly down. It was a little cooler at this height, being so exposed on the top of the now smouldering mountain; the sea breeze cooled the sweat on my body.
Blondie joined me on the ground; obviously, she was as unfit as I, judging the way that her body shook from the exertion.
"We should have taken his food."
She was right. I hadn't thought about food for most of the day. With Blondie mentioning it, I felt the bile working on nothing and the cramps begin to build again. Groaning, I turned onto my stomach, resting my head on my arms.
"Thanks for reminding me Lorris. By the way, where did that gun come from? When the guard pointed his gun at me, I knew that was the end. When I saw blood pouring from between his eyes, I couldn't quite believe it. Do you still have it?"
"No. I got it out of the drawer by the fish tank. Miles didn't realise, but he'd left the drawer open after he took out the fishfood. The glint of the grey metal caught my eye. I left it there. Forgot about it actually, until that guard waved his around. And no, I don't still have it. It fell over the edge when I moved across the tunnel entrance to the ledge. I didn't see where it landed."
"Pity, we could do with a weapon. I left my gun by the tunnel entrance." We lay quietly for a moment.
"I wonder how Martin is doing. Do you think he's still alive?" she asked.
Visions of the criss-cross pattern on his back oozing dark blood, of the whipper sneering as the whip fell, of Martin grunting in pain, all crossed my mind. I wondered if he got all of the extra 20 lashes Miles had ordered.
"He's still alive. I feel it. Anyway, Miles needs him."
"Needs him for what?" She sat up waiting for my answer.
"Think about it for a minute. Martin told Miles someone was on their way here. Knowing Martin, he wouldn't have said anymore than that to Miles. That must be why he was getting the whipping. Beating the answers out of him. Miles seemed to be pretty vexed though. I guess Martin wasn't planning on saying anything else."
"I hope he's still ali…" A shot of steam flew straight into the air from beside her. It missed her by inches. She screamed and jumped up.
The rumbling moved up through the ground. My head banged against my arms as the ground shook from the strain of containing the volcano.
"Get down! Lay flat!" I screamed, as the silly bitch chicken danced two feet away. "Lorris get down!" She dropped to the ground, close to me. The steam had forced itself through several cracks now. She was petrified. Hell, so was I. I pulled her close to me and we lay together as flat as we could until the rumbling eased.
"We have to get down from here!" I shouted and jumped up searching for an easier way to get down than the way up had been.
"Bess, look!" Turning, I looked in the direction she pointed. In the eastern sky, with the sun directly behind, a black blob was all I could see. I held my hand, shielding the sun and squinted, watching as the dark shape slowly grew. I heard the rotor blades before the rumbling had completely stopped.
"Oh, thank God!" Lorris jumped up and waved her arms around madly.
"Lorris stop! We don't know if their friendly or not!"
"Oh God Bess! What do we do? There's nowhere up here to hide!"
"Stay low. Wait and see if they get close enough so we can tell. Get down low!"
We both dropped to the ground. There was nothing to hide us from their view. I figured the way the helicopter was slowly coming towards us, that they'd probably seen us already.
It felt like waiting for fate to make the next move. I found myself wondering how such a huge helicopter managed to stay airborne. I watched as it came to rest in the sky above us. The pilot seemed to be struggling to hold it steady. The breeze we had felt was obviously much stronger where the chopper was, probably the updraft from the mountain's side. I had no idea how to tell if its occupants were good guys or bad guys.
"It's okay. You are safe. We will pull you up."
With all the dust and steam flying around I couldn't be sure I'd heard the voice from the loud speaker. I looked across at Blondie. Her eyes lit up and she jumped up, her hair blowing in a tangled mass around her face.
"Get up Bess! They're here to save us. Get up!" She screamed above the noise and pulled me to my feet. I dropped low as the ground shook again, and then looked up praying whoever it was would hurry. I didn't think the volcano would hold out much longer.
Two harnesses were lowered from the chopper; a man in camouflage uniform was strapped into one. He motioned toward us. Careful to stay low, we made our way closer to the edge where the chopper waited.
I pushed Blondie forward, letting her know she was going first. She turned, hugged me tightly and quickly then was held by the rescuer as he harnessed her and gave the thumbs up for them to be winched upwards.
It took forever as I watched, holding my breath until I saw her safely aboard. The chopper waved around in the air, wind turbulence seemed to be increasing. The pilot pulled the heavy machine away and slowly moved back. Holding my breath again, I watched as he returned for me. I winced as the wind threw him into the side of the mountain. The pilot pulled up and began a slower descent.
I reached up, was grabbed and held fast until the harness snapped tight around me. He crushed me against his body as my feet left the ground. Wind tried to tear us apart, but he held me in a vicelike grip.
The winch pulled us upwards. As the chopper moved away from the wind turbulence, the line steadied. We spun a little, giving me a 360-degree view. Far out at sea a handful of ships sat. I hadn't noticed them before. I guessed the top of the mountain was wider than I'd thought when I'd been standing on it. The smouldering mountain seemed far below by the time I was roughly hauled onto the chopper. My stomach heaved and I forced myself to concentrate on the two pairs of hands that dragged me into the machine and undid the harness. A pair of earmuffs snapped onto my ears and mercifully the hellish noise of the chopper's engines dulled.
Before I could think straight, I found myself sitting, staring at Blondie's bemused face directly opposite. Two soldiers dressed in camouflage uniform flanked Lorris and our rescuer sat opposite her, beside me.
I grinned. Lorris grinned back.
Our rescuer grabbed my arm for attention and I looked in the direction he pointed. I gasped. The chopper pilot had taken us to the edge of the crater. Hot molten lava was beginning to ooze over the far side of the crater.
The caves below must have been to one side of the central core. Still, I figured they wouldn't be able to withstand the incredible pressure for much longer.
The chopper pilot pulled quickly away and several minutes later we had landed on the biggest ship I'd ever seen.
My head was pushed down as we ran, guided by our rescuers towards a hatchway. The earmuffs were taken from my head as I was pushed roughly forward into another room then I found myself standing in front of a man in uniform. My rescuer spoke, "Here she is, Captain."
"Thank you Jefferies. That will be all." Jefferies saluted then left the room as I spun around expecting to see Blondie, shocked that she wasn't with me.
"Where's Lorris?" I demanded of the Captain.
"She's with another Officer, she'll be fine," he smiled. "Now would you tell me dear, what's been happening on the island?"
"I don't even know who you are. You could be one of Miles' cohorts for all I know." My eyes darted around the room, noting its size and basic contents. It looked like a storeroom with a pile of boxes stacked against two of the walls and a couple of clipboards hanging from hooks. The Captain was sitting on the desk, one leg swinging a little as he watched me.
"Bess, I'm the Captain. I'm not going into details, but suffice it to say that I'm here to help you. I need to know what's happening on the island. My men need to be briefed and I plan on putting them ashore as soon as possible. Will you help me?"
"How do you know my name?"
"I know everything there is to know about you and your friends. I also know that the longer you take to help me, the less likely the chances are of getting Martin off the island alive."
Hearing Martin's name shocked me more than hearing my own name had. Immediately in my mind's eye I saw Martin tied, bleeding profusely from the whipping on his back, head fallen forward and unconscious.
"What do you want to know?" I looked at the Captain with eyes narrowed.
"Whatever you can tell me. Be brief."
"Miles is running the show. He's making a weapon. A rocket. It's nearly finished from what I saw."
"What does he plan on doing with it?"
"I gathered that he intended using the volcano to push the rocket into the ozone layer. He's going to make the ozone layer disintegrate. He's set himself up some kind of dome village where he intends living until the ozone repairs itself."
"I see. Well that sounds the same as the information we already have. How many people are working for him?"
"It looked pretty crowded inside the mountain. There were men everywhere. I didn't see any women. I'd guess maybe 500." I wiped the back of my hand over my eyes.
"When you were travelling through the island, did you find any large clearings?"
"No, we walked through dense bush most of the time. Any clearings were only a few yards wide," I paused and thought for a moment. "I guess it would be possible to make a clearing, but you'd need lots of people to hack the bush away."
The captain's leg swung a little further out as he sat thinking. His hands were entwined and rested on his lap.
"I need your help Bess. I need you to return to the island with a group of men. I can only tell you that we hope to get into the cave area, dismantle the rocket and get Martin out safely. Would you show the men the way in from the ground?"
"God you want me to go back in there? Are you mad? That volcano is going to blow up at any moment!"
"I know that. We need to go now. Will you help?" His eyes bore into mine as he waited for my response.
I nodded resolutely, "Yes, I'll help."
"Good. Now, have you eaten?"
At the thought of food, my stomach turned somersaults. "I'm starving. We've lived on next to nothing since we crashed."
"Right, come with me and we'll get you something to eat and a change of clothes. A uniform like the others."
"I'll be glad to get out of this stuff." I followed the Captain until we reached a small room with a heavily laden food table. Lorris was already there. She jumped up when she saw me, her face full of sandwich.
"Oh Bess, thank God you're all right," she flung her arms around me. Her clean clothes scraped against my bare skin. "Come and eat."
After stuffing myself with food in a most unladylike manner, then drinking a huge glassful of water, I was taken to shower and change. When I emerged 15 minutes later, I walked with a group of men dressed in the same gear I was, to a landing craft. I'd only ever seen one in my kid's toy box, somehow the real thing looked very scary. It was much bigger than I'd ever imagined and by the time I was on it, it was filled to bursting point with troops and equipment and stunk of grease.
The men didn't speak as the craft travelled to the beach, nor did they speak as they left the craft and quickly found hiding places amongst the dense bush. I went with the third group of men, I didn't have a gun, but each one of them did. They carried them ready for firing.
It took half an hour of scrambling through the bush to reach the cave entrance. They already knew the way to it; I had guessed all they needed me for was heading them in the right direction once we were inside the cave. As we waited for a break in the stream of half clad men leaving the tunnel system, I wished I was Lorris. She'd had the gall to smile nicely at one of the Officers and he'd decided he wanted her to stay on the ship.
I didn't particularly want to think of how she'd be draping herself all over the Officer, nor did I want to think of how his body would be reacting to her well learned tricks of the trade. How she'd most likely be touching him, undressing him and giving him whatever he asked for, and knowing her, it'd be one hell of a blowjob.
I pushed all thoughts of Blondie and her shenanigans to one side, forcing myself to concentrate on the tunnel entrance. The stream of men leaving was thinning now. One of the uniformed soldiers scrambled on all fours towards me. He stopped and spoke as he reached my side.
"Right, Bess. This next part is yours to play. We need the most direct route through the tunnel system into the central cave where the rocket is. Are you ready?"
I gulped. I didn't want to go back inside the caves. He saw the look on my face and spoke again. "We need to get Martin out before the volcano gives us no choice but to leave him there."
That spurred me into action. "Okay, let's get in there. Will you stay beside me?"
"Yep I'm here." His steel grey eyes dropped to my chest and he grinned. Looking down I realised my buttons had come undone. I fumbled with them then flushed with embarrassment as I realised what the look on his face meant. Ignoring him, I moved forward toward the tunnel. He caught up with me as I reached the entrance. Glancing back I couldn't see if the rest of the men were with us or not. I figured they were making use of what little camouflage the bush gave them. I guessed they'd been given specific tactics to follow. I stepped forward to the cave entrance then leant against the wall peering into the darkness.
A bare hand slipped inside my shirt. I stood still, shocked as I realised the hand was moving upwards.
"Get off me!" I hissed as I turned around. My hand smacked hard against Miles' smug face. "Get the fuck off me!" I screamed then found his dirty strong hand clamped against my mouth and his arms pulled me back into the undergrowth.
"Shut up! Shut up Bess, or you're one really dead woman," Miles hissed in my ear.
Fright kept me silent. My eyes widened as he moved slightly and I saw his intention clearly marked on his face.
"Yes, bitch. You're going to die this time. Where are all the troops? Where have they gone?"
I shook my head. I didn't know. I'd assumed they were behind me.
"Tell me now, bitch!" He waved a small deadly looking knife in front of my eyes. Horrified I tried to free myself from his grasp. I pushed away from him with my hands, kicked out at his body with my feet. But he was far stronger; he clamped his hand tighter on my mouth, dropped the knife and wrapped his other hand around my neck pressing in.
He was strangling me! I struggled, screamed against his hand then clamped my teeth against his palm.
His yelp of pain ended quickly when an odd thud rang in my ear. He slumped heavily against my body, his hand falling from my mouth. I screamed then. Screamed out so loud that they would have heard me back on the ship.
"It's okay, Bess." The soldier in his fatigues never looked so appealing as he did then. "He's dead."
Speechless, I heaved myself up. I grimaced when I looked down at Miles. His eyes were wide and staring, seeing nothing; his mouth was open, wide open and blood trickled from the edge of it. There was an increasing pool of blood underneath him. I assumed he'd been stabbed. For a moment, I was tempted to kick him hard; my hatred for him overwhelmed me. I looked back into the soldier's face; his eyes softened a little. With a tiny smile of encouragement, and small squeeze on my arm, he propelled me further into the tunnel.
"Okay Bess, lead us to the rocket."
On unsteady legs, I did just that. I led them directly into the central core of the cave system. We avoided meeting any half-dressed men in the tunnels as we managed to slip into empty caves along the way. When we reached the main cave, we found it virtually empty. The few men left were quickly taken by the soldiers and led from the cave system.
"Martin!" I shouted rushing towards the bloodied figure. "Martin, it's me, Bess!" He didn't move. My heart stopped. I held my breath bending to look at his face. Nothing moved. "Oh, Martin! Martin, please don't be dead. Please wake up. Martin!" Tears streamed down my face as I shook his body.
"Martin? Martin! Oh thank God you're still alive. Hold on dear, we'll have you out of here in no time!"
Two soldiers roughly pushed me out of the way and undid the tight ropes from Martin's wrists and ankles. As he slipped to the floor, one soldier caught him lifted him up over his shoulder. Martin grunted in pain then slumped into unconsciousness.
"Come on Bess we have to hurry now." The soldier grabbed my arm shoving me forward through the tunnel system. He shouted for his men to follow us. Those around the rocket gave the 'okay' signal, dropped their tools and sprinted to join us. The mountain groaned. Great huge creaking noises rumbled in our ears and the ground shook with rage.
We had only made it half way across the sea in the landing craft when the mountain spurted fire high into the sky. In dead silence, we watched as Mother Nature wrecked her revenge on the tiny island and it's dead occupant. A shout went up from the second landing craft; then there was noise all around me as soldiers and half-dressed men shouted out with relief at being speared from a hellish death.
Martin woke three days later, and blinked. I stood in front of him, my face close to his.
"Gidday stranger," I quietly spoke.
"Gidday survivor," he croaked his voice barely audible.
"It's good to see you awake, Martin."
"Lean close." I did as he requested.
"Would you like," he paused, then inhaled a ragged painful breath before continuing. "To come away with me and live on a tropical island?" I sat up, then burst out laughing as he winked and laughed with me.
"Sure! I'll bring the muesli bars!"