Shattered Boundaries Ch. 03byWalksAtDusk©
Chapter 3: "We were given a chance to become gods.... We alone held dominion over all life on this world... and yet we destroyed everything we touched." United Nations Secretary General
Her voice happily rang out as she answered, " He is!"
The Sergeant was momentarily stunned.... but a memory sparked in his mind. Hostages and other captives would sometimes form powerful bonds with their saviors. Her reaction seemed a little severe, even for such a case, but it had to be the answer. He looked up at Private White to see what effect her announcement had on him and noticed a strange expression. He could not quite pin down what was going through the soldier's thoughts.
Unfortunately White wouldn't have been much help in explaining. At the young woman's words, a warring mix of emotions filled him. A warm, pleased sensation was the first, but on its heels came worry and concern. He should not have felt so pleased. The young woman was obviously not in her right frame of mind. Once back with the Bleu's she would be pampered and cared for.... She did not need to become attached to a soldier that was destined for an early grave...
"Miss," the Sergeant said soothingly, " we will help you get to a safe place. I'm sure you appreciate Private White's help in stopping those men from chasing you, but you have to understand... he's not your master.
Sergeant Scott held his breath while he waited for a response. If he remembered correctly, victims of abuse would sometimes build up a fantasy world and lash out at anyone that threatened it.
She did not verbally respond. The young woman only gave him a gentle smile with a tinge of pity in her eyes. The Sergeant inwardly groaned, every woman in the world seemed to practice that look from the cradle. She was conveying pity for an idiotic statement, but did not want to embarrass him in front of his friends.
"White, you and Alpha team stay here and keep an eye on her. Anderson you and me are going to see what we can salvage from this mission."
Scott did not even feel like reprimanding the two soldiers anymore. He wanted to help the young lady, but she was giving him a headache.
"Yes, Sir," they both responded, with White looking less than enthusiastic about staying behind with the girl. But the Sergeant was not about to risk her chasing after the object of her affection and throwing a monkey wrench in their mission again.
As they struck out once more towards the town, the Sergeant began grilling Anderson on what they had seen. The corporal described the ruins and disconcerting lack of activity in them. They both went quite as Scott thought on what information they had managed to gather.
"Wait a second," the Sergeant suddenly spoke. "Where did those two militia men come from again?"
"The portion of the forest to our south, sir," Anderson responded quizzically.
"The sons of bitches are using the town to store the vehicles, but that's not where they are hiding!"
Realization dawned on the corporal. The girl had been running in a nearly straight line, wherever they had come from had to be in the forest. He silently cursed himself for not having seen it sooner.
Beside him, the Sergeant had called a halt to their march and gotten out a holographic display of the area. The satellite images had been combined into a three dimensional layout of the town and surrounding lands.
Scanning over the forest, he pointed at a particular spot. "Does this section of the treetops look a little off to you?" he asked with a hint of glee in his voice.
Anderson looked where he was pointing and nodded. The area in question had a patch of treetops that seemed flat and unnatural. The raiders had likely strung up an old camouflage net. If they had not been looking for any oddities in the forest they would have missed it. He sent up a silent thanks that they had not gotten their hands on any of the more modern camouflage equipment. A decent holoprojector would have perfectly mimicked the trees around them.
"Dagger-1 actual to Alpha 1-6, suspected enemy position has changed, be aware of enemy patrols in the forest itself, over," the Sergeant transmitted to the men left behind.
Alpha 1-6 copies, over," came the response.
"It looks like we need to change course, lets move out," he said while gesturing at his men to follow.
Back in the woods, an awkward silence had fallen over the other fire team. None of them were quite sure how to deal with the young lady and those that were not patrolling tried to look busy. White wanted to try to help her but was unsure how or what exactly to help her with. He was not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination. Making matters even more awkward, when he sat up against a tree she had immediately settled in his lap and closed her eyes, though he could tell she was not asleep. Sighing, he supposed that the first thing to do was figure out a name. They needed something better to address her with than simply Miss.
"Uhm... so you say you don't have a name...?" He nervously asked her.
She looked up at him with a sleepy smile and answered, "You haven't given me one yet, Master."
White coughed and looked around, as if hoping someone would come to his rescue. "Please, call me Jonathan..."
Her smile widened a bit, " Yes, Master Jonathan."
"No, No, No. No master, just Jonathan."
She tilted her head to think in that cute way that White was falling in love with.
"Yes, Mas... Jonathan," she quickly corrected herself.
White sighed with relief and came back to the matter of her name. "So you've never had a name before?"
"I've never found you before," she said with a note of confusion in her voice.
"No, I mean to say hasn't anyone else ever given you a name?"
Her eyes fell as she answered, "The mean ones called me bad things...." Her good mood quickly returned though as she continued. "But Sister always protected me, and now I'm with my master!"
Her smile was radiant and White felt guilty that she seemed to think so highly of him. His mind caught on to what she had said though.
"You have a sister?" he questioned
"Yes, she's my bond-sister. She has really pretty hair. Its red like fire," she happily answered.
"Where is she?"
The young lady pointed south, deeper into the forest. White thought and realized that it was the same general direction she had been running from. He cursed silently. The raiders must have her.
"Cameron," he spoke to the team leader.
"You have to tell the Sergeant, the militiamen are holding another woman."
Cameron turned to his transmitter and sent the message. After Bravo team confirmed that they understood, White tried to relax a little. The Sergeant would come up with a plan to rescue her. White remembered his original reason for conversation though and turned back to the girl.
"Ok, well we have to call you something... do you have any names you like?"
She looked at him as if he had just spoken gibberish, "The one that you will give me."
Of course... White thought. "Well we have to figure out what name I'm going to give you then."
Her expression did not change one bit. "You already know it."
It was his turn to look at her as if she had spoken gibberish, "But I just met you, how am I supposed to know it?"
White was confused and worried, but her next words sent him into an even higher state of alarm.
"You've known my name since the day that you created me, Mas... Jonathan."
"Well boys, you heard Cameron, we have a hostage situation on our hands.," Sergeant Scott told his men after receiving the transmission.
"But Sir, aren't we just here to do recon?" one of the soldiers spoke with worry in his voice.
"Yes we are, but if we just happen to rescue a few people... well, I don't think we'll hear any complaints.... Will we private?" Scott looked poignantly at the soldier that had spoken.
"N-no sir," came the stuttered response.
"Good, lets keep moving."
While they continued on their way towards the camouflaged area of the forest, Scott took the time to mull things over. The Private had been right, this was a recon mission and he would face the consequences for acting outside that role. But he was not about to let those bastards hurt another women. The girl that they were watching over was definitely going to need psychiatric help he thought, not knowing the odd turn that White's conversation with her had taken. Who knew what kind of condition the girl that they were looking for was in.... A memory surfaced in his mind of another time... another life.
He had been a rookie police officer before the world went to hell. There had been a call about a potential break in. The neighbors had heard screaming and objects being thrown. The man that lived there had always been quiet and never had company over according to them. It turned out that he had a permanent resident no one knew about.... She was a young thing... malnutrition had made her body even smaller and more frail looking,,, Apparently she had attempted to escape and he caught her. It was a wonder that there was enough of her left in that withered body to even try. By the time they got there, he had already hidden her.... But the trail of blood led them right to her... The thing he remembered most about her was her eyes... sunken and lifeless... she stared ahead, unblinking.... They only knew she was alive because she was still bleeding... He was not simply going to follow his orders and let that tragedy play itself out again, he would get that girl out of there.
His hand rose and gestured for his men to halt. They were nearing the suspected raider position.
"Set full body camo, and spread out. Remember to keep all communications silent," he ordered. Looking over to his language expert, "Carlos, I want you to tap into their communications and find where they are holding that young woman. Kill one of them and take their radio if you have to, just hide the body."
After pulling down their face plates, the team of soldiers saluted the Staff Sergeant and melted into the forest. The only evidence of their passage was a vague displacement of light that one would see out of the corner of their eye. To many it might have seemed counter intuitive to go sneaking around in broad daylight, but the enemy would be relying much more heavily on their sight, making the light bending armor even more of an advantage.
Anderson was one of the first to come across evidence of the raiders' presence. Broken twigs, bent grass, and the occasional muddy footprint gave away the fact that there were patrols nearby. Doubtless they thought they were stealthy, but they were like elephants stumbling through the jungle to the experienced scout. He did have to give some credit to their trainers though. He knew first hand how difficult it was to teach militiamen to be stealthy. Part of the 34th Division's duties was training militia so that the Drapeau Bleu regulars would not be spread so thin.
He followed a good distance from the tracks, only occasionally coming closer to be sure he was still on the right path. There was always the off chance that they were left on purpose in order to lure enemies into an ambush.
His squad had not survived Central America by underestimating their opponents. Even after the continental divide was secured, there was the occasional incursion by enemies that slipped around the front lines. They were usually just lucky militia units, but every once in a while you would get a former South American Special Operations squad. A Brazilian commando had nearly put a round between Anderson's eyes by laying a false trail. Unfortunately for him, Anderson had noticed the glint off a piece of equipment that the commando had not secured correctly...Now he took extra precautions, he could not rely on such luck forever.
After a while he came on to what was obviously a high traffic area. The clear outline of a well-worn path was visible, with so many shoe and boot prints that they were indistinguishable from each other. He sent off a shortwave transmission marking the area on his Sergeant's display. With satellite communications down, they had to rely on the maps they had stored in their implants. It would have been much nicer to see all of their squad positions marked on a constantly updating display, but one just had to make do.
He continued along and came in sight of some modular buildings. If there had been any doubt as to whether there were ex-soldiers in the group, they disappeared at the sight of the base. It was an orderly array of tents and collapsible buildings. Various pieces of communications equipment could be seen through openings. Tables held numerous maps with notations and arrows scrawled on them.
Anderson should have felt some satisfaction at finding the enemy's base of operations, maybe even anticipation at the coming rescue attempt, but he did not. Instead every hair on the back of his neck stood on end and he dared not move. His senses told him that something was very wrong.
There was no movement in the camp at all.
After seeing the amount of wear on that path behind him, he estimated that there should be a sizable force here. Yet he did not see any activity. Looking around carefully he took note of all the little details. The radios would occasionally crackle with static, so whatever happened, it was a short time ago. There were turned over pieces of furniture and doors left wide open, so it happened fast and possibly surprised them. Looking at the ground he noted the most recent footprints. They were deeper on the front and a few did not have a heel visible at all, so they were running. The direction was odd though, they all pointed towards the center of the base.
He alerted his team to his location and waited, hoping to catch a sign of any potential ambush. After about half an hour, nothing had happened and the others had closed in around the buildings. They all reported the same thing, signs of recent occupation, but no activity. All over the base they also noted the footprints of raiders that had run towards the center.
"Alright boys, looks like we're gonna have to go in and find out what the hell happened here. Move slowly and be ready for anything," came the Sergeant's whisper over their headsets.
The team members heard him and moved into the base's perimeter. Fully expecting an ambush to spring, they were surprised when they reached the first tents and everything remained quiet. As they cleared each space, one of them came upon a grisly discovery.
"Sergeant, I have a dead hostile here.... It doesn't make sense though, there are spent shell casings everywhere, but it looks like he was killed with a knife...," the soldier reported to Sergeant Scott.
The soldier then bent down and checked for more clues as to how someone had killed a fully armed man with a blade. Checking the rifle next to the body he noted only two rounds left in the magazine. It looked like a thirty round clip, and as he counted the shell casings, his worry increased. All the shooting in here was done by the dead man. So now it was a question of who could kill an armed man with a knife... while he was shooting at them.
All around the base, similar scenes were being found. Every corpse was outfitted in pieces of French body armor and all of their weapons had been fired at least once. They could not find any bodies that did not seem to belong to the raider group... and all of the dead had knife wounds.
"Sir... this ain't right... we need to get the hell out of here," came a fearful soldier's voice through Scott's headset.
"Stow it Private. We came here to rescue a defenseless young woman and I'll be damned if I turn tail at the sight of a few dead bodies," he responded harshly.
They all reached the center at roughly the same time and retching noises were heard soon after.
"It's a bloody massacre..." whispered one of the soldiers that was not busy vomiting.
The clear area in the center of the buildings had probably been used for drills and announcements by the raiders, but now it bore witness to a much more gruesome audience. Dead bodies littered the ground. Everywhere the North Americans looked there were more corpses. Their clothes were covered in their encrusted blood and puddles of the thick, red liquid had formed on the hard packed earth. An enormous cloud of flies created an almost deafening buzz as they ate their fill of decaying flesh. And the smell.... Was just horrific. The bodies had obviously been laying out there for hours and the scent of voided bowels and rotting corpses formed a sickening stench like no other. The same circumstances of death surrounded these bodies as well, though. Shell casings everywhere but no dead attackers. And even at the distance the soldiers stood, knife wounds were visible on all of them.
Anderson had only studied the bodies for a few seconds though. As some of his comrades noisily emptied their stomachs he thought he heard movement coming from the building nearest to him. He peered in through a window and could see something shifting around in the shadows. He immediately signaled the others and those that had lifted their faceplates quickly snapped them down to become invisible once more. They surrounded the single entrance of the building module. Being the closest, it fell to Anderson to open the door. He took a deep breath and tested the handle while standing to the side. Surprisingly, it was unlocked and as he finished turning it, the door quietly swing inwards.
They all waited a few tense seconds, but not a single sound came from the interior. Anderson slowly peeked around the corner. What he saw brought him immediate relief, tempered by caution. He now stood fully in the doorway as he studied the inhabitants. All of them were dressed in civilian clothing, or at least what remained of it. A few wore tattered bits of old shirts and pants. There were no weapons or body armor in sight, though, and this led Anderson to believe that what he was looking at was a room full of hostages and slaves. He did not disengage his cloaking device though, he wanted to study them and hopefully catch any threats that might be hiding among them. They all looked straight through him, not knowing that they were being watched. One and all, they had looks of fear and despair painting their features. That's when he noticed the one that knelt in the corner...
Long red hair that fell somewhere past her shoulders... pale, perfectly unblemished skin...This time she did not have an outfit made of leather straps at least.... Or a tail...As far as he could see...
A ball of ice seemed to settle in his stomach. With his heart pounding loudly and his breathing becoming erratic, he realized that she must be the woman that they were looking for. The only other people in the room were men. Stiffly, he turned around towards where his sergeant should be. He paused for a moment before he began walking.
If anyone else had been looking in the room, they would have noticed something strange. As Anderson turned his back to the room, the young woman with the fiery red hair had glanced up. Unlike the men around her who looked beyond the doorway for what had opened it, her gaze focused right where Anderson stood. A mischievous smile flickered across her lips as he began walking away.
Anderson flicked up his face plate and disengaged his camouflage. Taken it as the all clear signal, the others disengaged theirs as well.
"Sir, we have a room full of civilians in there. About ten men... and one woman," Anderson's voice hitched as he thought about the redhead.
"Alright, lets get them out of there," Scott responded.
As they introduced themselves and brought out the hostages, the Sergeant was too preoccupied with his joy at saving the young woman to remember to check them for weapons. No one noticed the blood encrusted knife that she slipped into her pocket. Nor did they notice how all the men seemed to shy away and cast fearful glances at her.