tagRomanceShackled Ch. 10

Shackled Ch. 10

byStory_Spinner©

"Sexy, Irish?" he said. "It's been a long time since anyone called me that."

She felt her cheeks heat up and grinned a little, "Don't let it get to your head." Taking another bite, she studied his profile. Watching him methodically chew his food and swallow, then gulp down his beer. Obviously this wasn't something he wanted to talk about and the longer the silence extended, the worse Emma felt. She didn't want to dredge up bad memories, but felt like she at least had earned knowing a little something. After all, now they were in it together.

He sat closer to her this time, his body almost brushing up against her own. It was comforting. So was the food, which filled her hungry belly and helped her relax. When he still didn't speak, she let out a little sigh and went to open her mouth and tell him never mind. She was such a softie, but pulling teeth just to learn his story wasn't worth it, was it?

But then he spoke.

Carefully she set her plate aside and jumped when he slammed his beer down, watched him turn to face her. Her pretty face turned to his, gazing into his dark eyes. What she saw in them was both frightening and heart breaking all at once.

For a moment she said nothing, but held his gaze, shifting her body so that they were face to face. Food and drinks forgotten. "So tell me more...tell me what happened. Why do they want to kill you? I already know why they want me."

Her voice was soft and low, she wasn't going to back down unless he insisted on not sharing, but since he'd taken the first step for her, she reached over and took one of his hands, linking her fingers with his.

****

She leaned over close to him and took his hand. He hadn't expected that, but then he hadn't expected helping her last night. Now she wanted to know what was going on. She was in as much danger as he was.

More.

At least he knew how to fight them, or at least go down fighting and cause those bastards the most of amount of damage imaginable.

He looked at her. "I'll tell you," he said. "It doesn't matter anyway. You're in as deep as I am." He paused. "As.... we all are."

He took in some air and let go of her hand. He walked around her and the bench and fetched another beer from the fridge. He needed it.

"I'm not from here," he said. "I come from Australia. At least came from there. Now I'm here. I was a junior sportsman there. Not world class, but pretty good at everything. I had a shot once at swimming, but I wasn't good enough.

"My family had a long military history. Once I was out of university," he smiled at her, "yes. I only act like I'm uneducated. I have a degree in, of all things, literature. Anyway, once I left school I joined the military. My athletic ability had me fast-tracked into Special Forces and my education gave me privileges, like being made an officer on entry."

Hansen stopped. He walked back around towards Emma. He didn't know why, but he wanted to be closer to her as he told his story. He sat on his stool, very close to her, looking her in the eye.

"When all the changes started and natural resources became the biggest issue facing the world, governments started to work in a different way. It became about sovereignty. Who owned this and who owned that. It became about pollution. On the face of it, all significant issues, but slowly the emphasis changed. It was more about who was allowed to do what, not what was best for the planet.

"I was involved in missions that ostensibly were about doing the best thing for the population. Get rid of this dictator, secure that resource, all those sorts of things. Gradually, I couldn't work out why we were doing things any more. My government became part of the the Global Energy, Health and Food Management Council, so I was not only working for our people, but for them. I worked with people from all the nations that had signed up, all of them Western, except for China. We did many....bad things."

He drank a bit more of his beer.

Slow down already.

"But you know all of this. My work was good, the best. If there was something to be done, my team would always do it. They discovered I had a very useful trait. I could do things that others couldn't. I was not immoral, their words, but amoral. If the job demanded it, then I could do it."

He looked at her.

"They studied me and tried to work out what it was about me that made me like that. I could lay waste to a whole city and not think twice about it. I'd been told it was the right thing to do, so I did it. There was a part of my brain that was able to disassociate pain and death from the job at hand. I could go....outside myself to follow orders. They couldn't really work it out. They started to give me a drug, Palazonol, that was supposed to heighten this mental process. It didn't work. In fact, it did the opposite: it gave me a conscience. I started to question what I was doing."

He paused for a moment.

"But, I didn't tell them that. After they started feeding me the Palazonol, I didn't know why the fuck I was doing anything I fucking did. Then a job went wrong. Wrong if you were them. We went to Indonesia. I was supposed to produce a disaster, something that destroyed a town. They were sitting on oil, lots of it. There were children, there were women, there were innocent peasants. They wanted to live on their land, the way they had for hundreds of years. I wouldn't do the job. I didn't do it. They did it with someone else, but it blew up in their faces. They wanted the oilfields, but they didn't want it to be overt. It ended up becoming a major issue and it was the beginning of the contrived wars. It was the beginning of when they stopped caring about how they looked and if their motives were obvious to the rest of the global population."

She kept looking at him, listening. He smiled at her and raised his hands.

"I hope I'm not boring you," he said. "My team followed me in everything. I knew how to plan what the leaders wanted, but I looked after my team. I was the best. I was an asset. They put me in the care of Laura Black, basically twenty four seven. She's a neurosurgeon. Her job was to repair what the Palanozol had undone. I had not only become normal, they could have coped with that. I was actually becoming a problem. They could have put a bullet in me, I suppose, but my team was the best of the best and if they did that, they were taking a chance that it would all fall apart. You've met some of my team: Carl and Jimmy. Mrs. Chan's husband was there. Bonnie was there. You haven't met her, but you will. Bonnie could be watching you for weeks and you wouldn't know it. To keep her close to me, Laura Black was made the doctor, but she's also deadly in hand to hand combat. I wouldn't want to fight her. We always joke about that, but I'm serious, I don't know who would win there."

He smiled weakly at her.

"Of course, I'm lucky she likes me so it won't come to that."

He took another pull on his beer. He watched her. She was listening.

Good. You have to know what we are.

"Our role changed a little as the world changed. Our work became much more related to the economic power of nations. We were involved in industrial espionage, we brought down governments for no reason other than they stood in the West's way and we conducted terrorism on a scale our enemies could never have thought of."

His beer was finished. There was more to the story, but he needed another.

It feels good to tell someone.

Dickhead, she won't understand. She'll be scared of you.

I don't care....anymore.


****

Emma listened and watched him. The amount of beer he was consuming didn't go unnoticed. Not that she minded terribly. It was obviously his way of coping with a past that was eating at him. Palanozol...that name stuck in her brain. She'd heard of it before and none of it was very good. Strangely while he rattled on about his life, she began to worry more and more about him. They had harmed him and used him, like they had used her.

He was also dangerous. But she had known that. Seen him dangerous he could be and was sure he could be brutal when it came down to it. But she had always seen a softer side of Liam. One that showed her how much he cared for his team and those he had come to know along the way. Like Mrs. Chan and her family. There was good in him and while he had done a lot of bad, that was then. This was now. This was a new Liam, a little battered, a little unstable, but one trying to make rights out of all sorts of wrongs.

He was still gazing at her face, more than likely waiting on her reaction. Standing, she surprised him by moving away and going to the fridge. She took out two bottles of beer, popped the tops and then slowly sauntered back. "Well, I have to say this does explain a few things." she started off slowly and handed him the bear. She wanted to pull him into a hug instead and squeeze him tight for comfort, but restrained herself. Instead she sat back down, her beer handing between her slightly spread thighs. For a moment she looked pensive, her eyes searching his darker gaze. "So when you went to see Laura...that was for the Palazonol, not headache medicine or am I wrong?"

He gave her a slight, if not reluctant nod. She blew out a breath. She wasn't completely familiar with the drug and all the side effects, but it was some heavy shit. "Okay, fair enough." With a small smile she took a long sip of her drink and then made a face. Definitely not what she wanted. "Liam, I already knew you were different and possibly a dangerous man if messed with the wrong way. I've noticed enough also to understand that you're also one of the good guys, even if you have your rough edges. I'm not here to judge you. I think the past should remain the past. Any other person would have ditch long before now and left me to those SPF bastards. I would be dead. And you've at least bought me some much needed time."

Her hands came up and gently caressed the side of his face a second before dropping. "Of course, now I have deduced, because I can be a smart cookie sometimes, that you were waiting for me to pass out to take your drugs. And I respect that in a way, but I want you to know you don't have to hide things. I might have been sheltered in a lot of ways, but by all accounts I should have unraveled days ago." She gave him a bit of a rueful grin. "I'm not a porcelain doll, I won't crack so easily. Is there more?"

****

She had listened quietly to all he had to say. When he paused, she got and walked to the fridge and pulled another two beers out for them. She brought them back. She seemed to accept his story so far.

He drank a bit more of his beer.

"You've done well," he said. "Better than I thought you would. It's not easy when they're all gunning for you. I know."

He sucked in some more air and continued on.

"My team reported to a man called General Blaxland. He had once been a legitimate soldier. He was highly decorated and highly respected, but slowly he became more aligned to the economic side of the Global Energy, Health and Food Management Council. He was involved more in terrorism than military duties. At the time we didn't notice the shifting priorities of our missions, but in hindsight, we were his tools in serving his masters.

"The final mission we did for him was to protect the interests of a company called Hardacre Industries. They had been receiving threats from various groups around the world. They manufactured weapons that were being used by governments to quell insurgencies. They had plants all over the world, but we were asked to protect the one they had in Thailand. They used cheap labor and it also kept it out of the world's view.

"Bonnie was doing the initial surveillance and she came back with some terrifying news. Not only were they exploiting the local population, they were using children to work long hours in sometimes dangerous conditions. I thought that was bad enough, but then Bonnie found out that they were actually testing their weapons on the local people. They were killing people in their trials. Now, I never thought anyone would stoop to that, so I went in as part of the plan. I worked with the management there under the name of Patrick Flannery. They knew I was undercover to protect them. While I was there, they showed me..... more things.

"What they showed me was revolting. I was disgusted. When I spoke to the rest of the team, they all agreed with me. I went to General Blaxland for a face to face meeting. He listened to me as if it was all new to him. I remember him nodding and listening. He was an imposing figure. Tall and thin with silvery hair. He was just about the only person in senior ranks I truly respected. But.... he said we had to carry out the mission. We were to protect the plant while we worked on finding out who was threatening it. I was shocked. He was a true military hero and he was directing us to protect a business that was using live humans for the testing of lethal weapons."

Hansen stopped again. He really needed that beer. "Thanks," he said to Emma, tilting the bottle in her direction and then taking another slug of it.

"I went back to the team. I told them I was going to take the fuckers out. I was sick of what we were helping to do and couldn't bear to be a part of it. I was surprised with their reaction. They were surprised I'd taken this long to come around and they were all for it. Laura admitted they'd been sort of grooming me. They knew I was the one, in their words, that was finally going to do something about this. They had all been involved in some minor stuff here and there in helping rebels and insurgents, but they thought that this would be a significant kick in the teeth for the bastards, that maybe we could generate enough publicity to make the world come to its senses. There was only one problem.

"The Palanozol was not working as it should and my mind was deteriorating. I can't really describe it to you except to say that I hear voices. There is a constant chattering going on in my head. There's a 'good' side and a 'bad' side. They are constantly fighting. When I make decisions, I usually listen to the good side, but when I'm confronted or in danger, the bad side seems to take over, even when I'm doing supposedly good things.

"The job basically went to shit. We set up a plan. We were going to take all of the management hostage, then destroy the plant and then try to get as much media exposure as we could. We were naïve. We didn't realize how much the media was controlled by the governments and the corporations. Shit, we didn't realize that the governments really were the corporations."

He tried to slow his breathing.

"On the day we went in to grab the management, I totally lost it. I actually killed all of them. Then I killed the CEO on film and sent it to media outlets and to as many members of corporation boards as I could. These were evil men, but I had become them. Every time I put a bullet in them, I thought of the innocent people they had killed. I was a mess. Carl had to shoot me with a tranquilizer in the end. I massacred the whole management team at the plant while the others were rescuing the workers and destroying the facility. I'm not sure if you heard about it because they tried to keep it quiet, but they ended up twisting the story so that we were dangerous terrorists that had to be destroyed. Now, we live here, under their noses. Because we were from all different parts of the world, they thought that we'd scattered, but we came here. It was easier to hide here than anywhere else. We all do odd things as our part of the effort, but it is difficult to pull anything big together without exposing ourselves. The night I met you, I'd just dumped an informer with some insurgents. I believe they were going to kill him."

He smiled wryly.

"The problem is, after the incident at the bar where we rescued you, they will know that at least Carl and I are together. That means they will be coming after us. It means you're in even more danger because they know we have you and they know what we can do. Their urgency and effort to eliminate us will be doubled. But," he said, "your problem has given us something to target. That's why I asked you if you wanted to start this, because once it's started, it has to go all the way. You're shackled to me for now, so unfortunately, you have to be a part of it. The risk you're taking is that I can be very unstable. The Palazonol helps keep my voices quieter, but it can also be unpredictable. It can make me behave so coldly that nothing is beyond me. Nothing."

He drank more beer.

"You're right, I wanted you to be asleep before I took the drug. It takes a few hours to stabilize and I can really sit there talking to myself in a creepy way and I didn't want to scare the crap out of you. I remember everything afterward, but at the time, I can't really control it. It scares even me."

He put the beer down and sat back on the stool. That was enough for now. He didn't want to tell her about how they'd killed his wife and child. He couldn't go back there for now.

"So you see," he said, "you're sort of with the safest person you could be with, but sort of with the most dangerous. If we weren't shackled, then maybe....." He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his palms upwards. "But we are shackled, so you're stuck with me."

****

Emma smiled and nudged his foot with her bare one, "So you're a little crazy, we all have our faults." She teased softly. "I'm not complaining. At least you don't stink. Could be worse, always worse. I'd like you more if you stocked up on some sodas though. Honestly, I don't know how you can live on beers and coffee...by the way, should you really be drinking AND taking drugs?"

Setting aside her beer, she stretched a little and rolled her shoulders, digesting all the information he had given her. It definitely helped put the pieces together as to how he ended this way and why. While in some ways it was sad, at least he and his team had their eyes open. Not many cared to bother looking, content to stay in their own little bubbles and doing as they were told. Emma had been one of those people and like Liam, had gotten quite the shock of a lifetime.

"I think you and I have a lot more in common than we initially thought, Liam. And since we're stuck together, I say we make the best of it. And before you ask, no, I'm still not washing your dirty socks." She gave him a wink and stifled a yawn behind of her slender pale hands.

For a moment she watched him drink his beer, both of them falling silent before she started speaking again. "I've trusted you with a lot recently and well, I'm hoping you will trust me here too. I'm not a doctor and I won't pretend to know what you go through when you take those magical little pills. It doesn't sound like much fun." Drawing a breath, she let her fingers brush against his own, her gaze shifting to his hands. Large and strong. It was hard to picture him falling apart, mentally or in any other way. "So I'm proposing that maybe we can get comfortable, take your medicine and let me be here for you. I don't like the idea of me snoozing away while you have a small mental breakdown in a dark corner, Liam."

****

She seemed to have absorbed what he'd told her. Of course, he hadn't told her what had happened to his family, but she didn't need to know that.

Yet.

She rubbed her foot on his, just a quick nudge. It made him feel....warm. Having her there made him feel better. The smells of cooking, sitting at the bench talking, her nudging his foot.

Domesticity.

For a trained killer, he was very domestic. Laura had often joked about that. I'll fuck you all day long, Liam, but I'll be damned if I'm going to put your washing away. He smiled at that.

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