The Rebellious Slave Ch. 20byHisPet21©
Author's Note: Good day, wonderful readers. First off, I owe you all an apology for disappearing without a trace. I have no intention of abandoning this story and am back in business. Suffice it to say that some people in my family became ill, and I didn't have the time to write or forewarning to let everyone know I was going to be gone for a while. I certainly never anticipated that I would be out of commission this long. Anyways, here is the next chapter. It's not all that long, but I wanted to put something out there to get things rolling again. I hope you enjoy and again, I offer my sincerest apologies for the time away, but I assure you that I had good reasons.
Ben wasn't too happy about their situation, but didn't really have any choice in the matter. Greenwood had seamlessly assumed the role of their leader, dictating with authority how they would escape from Capital City and into Nardia. If there had been any point, Ben would have objected to Greenwood's plan. It irked him that they were placing all of their faith in Mr. Cross and his escorts for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the unslaver's status as a "Wanted Man" and his dedication to greed. Now that the man had his intel, what was to stop him from turning the fugitives in for an additional two million in bounty money? And why did the escapees need escorts anyway? Couldn't a former general, a double agent, a weapons specialist, and a medic/demolitions amateur get out of the country without any help? But Alyssa and Kara both trusted Greenwood and had dedicated themselves to following his direction. If Ben protested their current plan, he risked destroying the unity of his team and upsetting a very powerful unslaver. With a deep sigh, he finally quelled his nerves and resigned himself to the current situation, gently laying his hand over his pistol . If trouble arose—as it undoubtedly would—he wanted to be prepared, whatever that entailed.
Carefully, Ben and his companions traversed a narrow hallway, then down a set of concrete steps and into a large, open warehouse. Leading the way were the two escorts assigned to them by Mr. Cross, who had been charged with breaking the four fugitives out of the country and getting them safely to the Nardian border. Ben had been assured that the pair was more than capable of arranging for their escape, but they were still a source of anxiety. The escort farthest ahead went by Mrs. Timmons, a very elderly woman with white, wispy hair piled atop her head and a twitchy set of eyes that made Ben nervous. Occasionally, an emotion resembling guilt would light up her face, as if she had something to hide. Not exactly a promising sight, Ben mused. And then there was the old woman's companion, a much younger man by the name of Avery who had dark hair, violet eyes, and an cocky grin. Not only was the lad a little young for a professional escort—hell, he could be Mrs. Timmons' grandson—but he also had an aura of over confidence that bordered on carelessness. The general had babysat many a young recruit and had no desire to do so again, especially not after his companions had paid for proper passenger into Nardia. But supposedly, Mrs. Timmons was a former bounty hunter under Lady Charlotte and Avery was once a slave hunter for Martkorp. They knew the system and how to beat it better than anyone, according to Mr. Cross. With a sneer, Ben decided to withhold judgment until they'd passed the city limits and entered into the surrounding countryside.
As they descended into chilly air, the smell of the warehouse hit Ben, foul and poignant. The source of the stench was soon made apparent as he stepped onto the floor, which was covered in bat guano and rodent's nests. There were even signs of human activity here and there, in the form of tiny cardboard huts and shoddy tents, set up by the local homeless. The place must have been abandoned before Mr. Cross' arrival, which would also explain why such a massive structure was nearly empty, save for a few dark vans and several dozen cargo crates. And in a few days, even those would most probably be gone. Mr. Cross didn't stay in one place more than a few days at a time, maybe a week at most. In a few hours, only the man's drug parlor would remain. Ben suspected that it was a permanent arrangement, used for garnering some extra cash on the side as well as a convenient front. He probably had several such drug parlors throughout Isleydor, which he rotated through looking for new clients. It was brilliant, really. The best way to hide something dirty, it seemed, was to cover it in yet more dirt. What better way to hide the crime of unslaving, but with drugs and prostitutes?
Quickly, the four fugitives were led through the eerie, concrete space and toward one of the many dark vans. There, Mr. Cross' escorts began unloading a number of crates and packing their contents into the vehicle. The trip from Isleydor to Nardia would take several days, especially if the escapees stuck to mountainous roads and stayed away from Isleydor's major cities. Necessary supplies included food, fresh water, blankets, and even a couple of tents. Then, of course, there were guns and extra ammo, in case something went wrong. These were cleverly stashed away in hidden compartments throughout the van and then on both the escorts' person. Ben didn't like that at all and the tension in his gut began to resurface, much to his dismay. He didn't like being less armed than Mr. Cross' employees, and he liked the look of the van even less.
With its tinted windows, wide back end, and sleek design, the van screamed "suspicious." They might as well have added a decal on the rear window reading, "Illegal Fugitives on Board." And dear god, Mrs. Timmons and Avery were putting on bullet proof body suits. Sure, over them, Mrs. Timmons wore a flower patterned dress, while Avery wore baggy pants and a t-shirt. Really, the two looked like a grandmother and her estranged grandson ready for a picnic outside the city limits. But the mere fact that they felt the need for such heavy gear was disturbing, especially since neither Ben nor his companions had been offered anything resembling a bullet proof vest or even an extra gun. It was too much for Ben and while Mr. Cross' escorts were distracted, the general grabbed Greenwood and swung him behind a concrete support pillar, determined to get answers. Enough was enough and as the minutes ticked by, Ben was becoming ever more distrustful of Mr. Cross and their plan at escape.
"I hope you know what you are doing," Ben whispered ferociously, pinning Greenwood up against the concrete support pillar. Warily, he eyed Mr. Cross' escorts, to ensure that they hadn't noticed his and Greenwood's absence, but they were as busy as ever loading the van. "We won't get a second chance," Ben hissed, turning back to Greenwood and shaking the collar of his shirt for emphasis. "Either we make it out of Isleydor and into Nardia now, or we never will. And I don't trust Mr. Cross. That man has one and only one god: greed. If it's advantageous for him to turn us in, then he will. And what do these two escorts have that we don't? I mean, you're 'supposedly' a double agent." Ben emphasized the word "supposedly," and the irritated look on Greenwood's face told the general that he'd noticed. "I mean, seriously. Your girlfriend is a weapons specialist, I'm a former general, and Kara is a medic. What skills do these escorts have that we don't? Kara paid an awful lot for these services, Greenwood. And I am not so sure that we're getting our money's worth."
"Get off of me, Karrington!" Greenwood growled, pushing the man away from him and straightening his jacket. Quickly, he peeked around the pillar and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that they were not missed. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Could you be any more conspicuous? And you call that a whisper?" Greenwood looked livid then, but he soon managed to smoothen his features. "Listen, Karrington," he began, with a tone reminiscent of a teacher before his pupil. "Mr. Cross doesn't take kindly to rowdy clients and, as they say, it isn't wise to bite the hand that feeds you. You're just going to have to trust me on this. And now, if you'll excuse me..." With that, Greenwood moved to ease his way around the support pillar and toward the van, but Ben grabbed him once more and pushed him back in place, so that the air left Greenwood's lungs in a little gasp.
"But see, that's the problem," Ben hissed, his voice dangerous. He would not allow Greenwood to dodge him yet again, like he had in Bremmington. Ben would not be ignored once more, not when he had Alan Greenwood—the devil in black himself—trapped against concrete and at his mercy. "I don't trust you, Greenwood," Ben snarled, blocking any escape with his massive form. "And I don't like you. I've really only put up with you for the past several days out of necessity and because Kara trusts you. Though I'm sure it's only because you're smart enough not to brag about your past, not when your meal ticket is a medic. The things you've done, Alan...I've heard so many stories...How can someone from our side have been so diabolically cruel? Even if the intent was to keep your cover? I mean, for the love of god..."
Ben wasn't expecting to get such a visible reaction out of Greenwood, but he did. He could see the confession in Greenwood's form, in the tension that crept into the man's features and made his face ugly. He could hear it too, in the ensuing silence, which was thick with a dark, pervasive emotion. Was it guilt, perhaps? Maybe even self hatred? Or was it anger, at having been drawn out?
"Alright! Alight! You've caught me!" Greenwood whispered ferociously, his teeth clenched against the torrent of emotions contained within. But the fury soon sizzled away to reveal deep, intense shame. The sadness in the old man's eyes made Ben want to apologize for prodding and walk away, for it seemed sincere. If it was all an act, then it was a brilliant one. And yet, who was to say that Alan Greenwood wasn't a brilliant actor? "It's true that at one point, I had to make some very difficult decisions," Greenwood continued, his tone rife with pain. "And, admittedly, I made the wrong ones. Trust me when I say that I have suffered a great deal for my sins already and I am sure that I will suffer even more when it is time to meet my maker. But I assure you, I am done with all of that utilitarian nonsense and I've been done with it for a while. I retired a couple of years ago, after I met Alyssa and well... Anyway, I've been nothing but Arlington's errand boy and a board member for quite some time. I just want to go home, like the rest of you, and forget any of this ever happened."
"Does Alyssa know?"
"Yes, Alyssa knows," Greenwood sighed. "She was my last case. I'm surprised you didn't figure that out for yourself. Our little "revenge" game has been the cover for our continuing relationship for over half a year, and it's the only reason no one was suspicious when I bought her at auction."
"Hey, boys!" Mrs. Timmons screeched from across the warehouse, and both men turned suddenly in unison. The elderly woman was impatiently gesturing for them to come forward and Ben saw that all of their supplies had been successfully packed away. For a moment, Ben strongly considered asking for a few more minutes, but Mrs. Timmons began shouting once more and he thought better of it. "Come on, boys, you can compare schlongs later! We haven't got all day to pussyfoot around while you two play chicken!"
Hurriedly, Ben headed toward the van and much to his surprise, Greenwood came into step beside him. The man's voice was low and barely audible—a series of successive whispers issued from the corner of his mouth—but when he strained his ears, Ben could make out the words. "Albert Cross won't double cross us, Ben. After all, the success of his business rests on a reputation for discretion," Greenwood began in earnest, as if trying to assuage as many of Ben's fears as he could before they reached the van. "And yes, the four of us are very capable when it comes to combat and stealth, but we aren't paying Mr. Cross for his escorts' skills. We're paying him for his contacts. In order to get out of the country alive, an awful lot of people will have to be bribed and Mr. Cross knows better than anyone who is for sale and who isn't." And with that, Greenwood quickened his pace in order to increase the distance between himself and Ben, effectively ending their conversation once and for all.
"I said, get your butts over here!" Mrs. Timmons cried, and she smacked Greenwood's ass as he passed by, making him jump a little. When he backed away beet red, clearly embarrassed, and rubbing his bottom defensively, she laughed. "Come on, handsome," Mrs. Timmons grinned, a predatory gleam in her eye. "Don't be so shy. I love dangerous, wanted men and we'll be spending a lot of time together over the next few days. There isn't a lot of room in the van, so we'll probably be cramped up close together and—"
"Hands off, grandma," Alyssa growled, slinking into view from behind the van. For a moment only, her eyes locked onto Ben's and her glare seared right through him, but she was soon focused on Mrs. Timmons again. Then, with a pronounced gesture, Alyssa smacked Greenwood's other ass cheek and stepped up beside him. "I own that ass," Alyssa declared, a devious grin on her face. "And you have to ask me nicely if you want to touch."
"Alyssa," Greenwood whispered hoarsely, as if he wasn't already the center of attention. "Alyssa, we're in public..."
"Cradle robber, eh?" Mrs. Timmons snorted, eyeing Greenwood first and then his much younger lover condescendingly. "Can't say I blame you. That's how most men are these days. Always looking to hook up with something younger."
"Oh, don't get the wrong idea, grandma," Alyssa laughed, the grin on her face widening still further and making her face playfully sinister. "I came onto him, not the other way around. I suppose that makes me a grave robber then, doesn't it?" With a shrug, Alyssa grabbed Greenwood's hand and pulled him toward the back end of the van. "Anyway, he's my bitch, and you don't get to play dirty without my say so."
"Alyssa," Greenwood begged, as they approached the rear of the van. "Please, not in front of people..."
As a thoroughly embarrassed Greenwood was pushed into the back of the van, Ben emitted a reluctant sigh and moved to follow suit. Normally used for storing supplies, the rear compartment was large enough to hide all four fugitives with a little extra room besides, mostly used to pack away a few boxes of food and several gallons of fresh water. Ben could hear Kara in the back of the van already, chatting away with Greenwood and then laughing ecstatically a few minutes later. He didn't mean to, but in a few seconds he'd quickened his pace. If he were indeed dangerous, Greenwood wouldn't dare make a move now, but Ben still didn't like the thought of him alone with Kara. Ben was rapidly rounding the vehicle and about to climb into the van when Alyssa stepped out, grabbed his wrist, and swung him against the side of the vehicle.
"This is your only warning, Karrington," Alyssa sneered, her face nearly pressed against Ben's. "Lay off the old guy. Whatever you think you know about Alan, you're way off base." Ben would have thought up some clever retort then, but as quickly as she'd come, Alyssa was gone and crawling once more into the back of the van.
The rear compartment of the van was about the size of one of Bremmington's jail cells, meaning that it was small and cramped. The floor was a black, plastic type of material that absorbed heat like nobody's business and chilled Ben to the bone the moment he sat down. It wasn't an easy task either, as he found himself maneuvering around stacks of equipment and several small boxes. He finally settled on a spot across from Greenwood—the better to keep an eye on him—and next to Kara, though Ben made sure to keep a short distance between them. Kara very clearly wanted her space and the general wasn't unwilling to compromise, although he refused to outright ignore his protective tendencies. Kara was the least experienced among them when it came to combat skills, and all be damned if Ben was going to let her get hurt.
It was an odd scenario though, even for Ben. Never before had he been so smitten by a woman he barely knew, whom he had met just a few days back. Perhaps Kara was right, and he was so starved for affection that he was drawn to her irrespective of her own personality traits. But as soon as the thought crept into his mind, Ben dismissed it as ludicrous. Kara attracted him because of her fiery personality, like a moth to a flame. Her body was stunning, there was no doubt about that. Kara's long, brown locks caressed a gentle, but unremitting face. And the woman's slender curves were hypnotizing to the point of being a safety hazard. But really, it was her determination and fierce compassion that compelled Ben to want her in his arms, blossoming under his gaze and touching him thoughtfully. Of course, until she was ready to open up to him, trying to establish anything more than platonic friendship would be impossible. And after her torment at Arlington's hands, Ben doubted she would willingly make herself vulnerable to love and then passion. Unless....
Well, Ben thought. Unless he made himself vulnerable first, and showed her that there was no shame in it. Ben didn't like the idea of opening up to Kara anymore than she seemed to like the idea of opening up to him, but one of them would need to be the first to budge. And Ben decided that, if need be, he would go first.
God, he wanted her....
And dammit all, he would have her...