Notes: Many thanks to Brenda for editing :o)
The places are real, even Odem, but when I was out there, I didn't go to Odem, and the Odem kibbutz is entirely fictional as is the plot!
The girls depicted are based on a group I was privileged to be a part of, and this fic is dedicated to them. (No prizes for spotting Mary-Sue :o)) Oh, and there's a bit in here for Claire, too :o
Backup sat on the floor and set up her tiny transmitter on the toilet seat.
She was sure she had been pegged, and needed to send one last message before attempting her escape.
The thumps and screams from the girls that shared her tiny apartment told her that they were being raided. Raids happened on a regular basis, and she had no way of knowing if it was random or if they were after her.
Unable to send a message fast enough, she put the transmitter back in its waterproof container, and stood on the toilet seat to reach up to the cistern. Avoiding Kara's little stashes, she hung it back in its place under the ball cock.
"Come on out of there!" a gravelly voice shouted, banging on the door.
"Coming!" she called, replacing the lid, and flushing. She opened the door, fully expecting to be hauled out. She wasn't prepared to be sent flying back against the shower wall.
The men were efficient, never giving her time to catch her breath, let alone mount any kind of real defence. They pinned her down, and one of them rolled her shirtsleeve up as another pushed the needle into her arm.
She managed to get a kick in but inevitably, the drug overcame her and she sank into an in inky, all-embracing darkness.
Malone watched Tina Backus through the observation window. She had been found by the road outside Qiryat Shemona, a town at the foot of the Golan Heights.
Silent and unmoving in her deep coma, she looked incredibly child-like. He could not seem to rid himself of the feeling that he was sending children into battle.
He had sent Curtis and Keel out to Israel to complete her mission, but even they had seemed like overgrown boys as they had laughed and teased each other on their way out of his office.
Lethal children, with the world on their shoulders, venturing out into the killing fields on a daily basis. And he, Harry Malone was responsible for them all.
"What do you think they did with Tina?" asked Ellen, short, dark haired and pock-marked, but with an attitude that had earned her many hours in the sickbay.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry, Tina can look after herself," Lucy tried to reassure her companions as she lit one of her carefully hoarded cigarettes. The voluptuous blond was eternally optimistic; even their captivity had failed to dent that. She relished the rush of nicotine, and took another quick drag, "I'm sure she'll be giving them hell right now." She passed the cigarette to the dark-haired, athletic young woman next to her on the army cot.
"Mmm, thanks," Lin took it from her and inhaled with a satisfied sigh. "Look," she said, leaning down and reaching under the bed. She fished out three packets of cigarettes and a bottle of gin. "What say we have a party," she grinned gleefully.
"Where did you get those?" gasped Lucy, and Lin passed the cigarette over to Ellen on the opposite bed.
"The usual," grinned Lin, her pixie face with its large owlish glasses out of place on a tall, rangy frame. She had a mercurial nature, swinging from a mischievous party animal to a chronic depressive without warning.
"In other words, we don't want to know. Let's go for it!" grinned Ellen.
"We can't!" a strong Irish voice protested from the floor. "How can you think about having a party when one of our own number is in the hands of those bastards? Its unchristian!"
Ellen peered over to look at the redhead lying on the floor. "Spoilsport. You think everything's unchristian, Kathy, so your opinion doesn't count."
Kathy stuck her tongue out at her. She had been a bible-thumping Catholic when she had first arrived, but her faith had been sorely tested, and while she had become far more relaxed with time, her faith had grown stronger.
"It's a good idea, Kathy, " said Lucy. "It'll take our minds off things."
"Well, what about the guards? I mean they'll be tucking us in before long - less than an hour." Kathy found herself being easily persuaded.
"Then we have an hour or so to have fun!" laughed Lin, "And after lights out, we can light the candles. You do still have the candles?" she asked the fifth girl, squeezed into a corner.
Kara nodded, as she reluctantly passed the cigarette over to Lucy. The tall, mousy young woman rarely spoke, and when she did came over as rather shy, but she was good with machinery, and had earned the nickname 'super-squirrel' for her ability to hoard and hide the goodies that Lin, and occasionally Ellen, pilfered.
Kara took herself off to the toilet, and took the lid off the cistern. She reached for the candles tightly wrapped in polythene, lying at the bottom, and frowned when her hand knocked something - a little box that she had not put there. She made a mental note to check it out later.
The others never cared to find out where she hid things, though they knew some of the places - if they didn't know, they couldn't tell. And as both Lin and Ellen had been punished for thieving, it turned out to be a good arrangement. It would have been easy to give up a hiding place, but they refused to give up one of their own.
Kara was about to leave the bathroom, when it occurred to her that she should contribute a couple of other little treats. Their captors allowed them enough to keep them healthy, but there was no variety. Bread, butter and an orange for breakfast, a basic salad with pita bread for lunch, some unidentifiable slop for dinner, and as much water as they could drink. Not bad for prisoners, but sickening after the same thing every day for months on end. They had learned very quickly that any treats were quickly confiscated, and that books, music, and entertainment of any kind were prohibited.
She hooked a finger into the sink overflow and found the piece of catgut still hanging there. She pulled it out gently, and was pleased to see that her carefully sealed polythene tube was intact. The broken halva inside was still fresh. Next, she turned off the stopcock and unscrewed the cold tap, an irrelevant term as there was no hot water, and retrieved her most treasured possessions, a tiny penknife, and some sewing needles. She put the needles back, and screwed the tap back on.
On returning to the main room, she threw the halva and candles to Lin for distribution, and crouched at the foot of Ellen's bed. She carefully cut her own sewing in the mattress, and reached inside. A box of matches appeared, and after some energetic hauling, a bag of cheese and onion Walkers crisps.
Ellen grabbed them from Kara with a shriek. "I've been dreaming of these for weeks! And all the time I was sleeping on them! How did you -?"
Kara just smiled shyly, and retreated to the bathroom, to return her penknife to its home. When she returned, the halva and crisps were on two plates on the floor where Kathy had been lying, and everyone was sitting on the floor in a circle. Ellen was poking the hole now in her mattress.
"There's nothing else in there," Kara remarked, "Lin, I'm out of thread."
Lin winked, "I'll see what I can do, Squirrel." She opened the gin. "Now lets get drunk, and sod the consequences."
"Well, that was a waste of time," groused Chris Keel, as he drove the rickety old hire car out of Qiryat Shemona. The windows were all wide open in an attempt to cool down the sun-baked vehicle.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Sam disagreed, glancing at his partner.
"No, I guess you wouldn't," Chris scowled.
"Can I help it if women just throw themselves at me?"
"Well, she certainly threw herself at you. One hell of a pickup line."
Sam's smile broadened. "Would it help if I told you I got her phone number?"
"How is that supposed to help?"
"She said if I called her, she'd bring a friend to make up a foursome."
"Oh great, leftovers."
"Oh, come on, Chris, cheer up, we've got over an hour's drive before we're in hostile territory. I for one could do with relaxing a little before we get there."
"Well excuse me if I don't share your R&R session," Chris took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I don't know, it's just, seeing Backup like that, it's like seeing your kid sister, you know?"
"I didn't know you had a kid sister."
"I don't," Chris replied sharply. "Anyway, that's not the point - whoa!"
Sam looked forward. "Impressive."
Having emerged from the lush trees and greenery of Qiryat Shemona, the imposing cliffs of the Golan Heights rose out of the otherwise flat landscape, dominating the skyline. It was hard to believe that they could not be seen from the town, which was located so close to the foot of the cliffs.
The dusty road followed the cliffs for a while then turned sharply and snaked up the craggy rock face, full of hairpin bends and sudden dips. Sam's grip on his seat tightened subconsciously as Chris seemed to get a thrill from pushing the old car as fast as its surprisingly powerful engine would go. Which actually wasn't that fast, but the nature of the road made it seem more. Sam gulped as he spied a derelict bus crumpled below a particularly tight bend, and prayed that Chris wouldn't get too carried away.
He glanced at his partner, and his heart sank; Chris was grinning like a madman, his eyes laughing. "Hey Sam! This is gonna be fun on the way back!"
Going downhill? "I'm driving on the way back!" he told Chris.
"Not on your life!" his partner replied. "You drive like a maniac; this is precision driving!"
The road climbed to the top of the cliffs and onto the flat, barren plateau that was the Golan Heights.
"What's the name of the kibbutz again? Odd-something?" Chris asked.
"Odem," Sam replied pulling out the map. "The nearest village is Buq'ata, a couple of miles away, and there's another kibbutz, El-Rom, a mile after that. There's nothing else in the vicinity."
"We'll stop at Buq'ata, then. I'm hungry."
"You just ate!" Sam exclaimed.
Chris grinned, "By the time we get there, I'll be hungry."
"Takes one to know one."
"Says the man who keeps a stuffed pink and white striped cat in his closet."
"It was a present from my nan when I was - . Oi! How do you know about that?"
Chris just grinned and tapped a finger on the side of his nose.
Sam folded his arms and stared grumpily out the window. "Anyway it's red and white. Didn't you ever have a Bagpuss?"
"Er, no. Jedi lightsaber, yes, but I can honestly say I never owned a Bagpuss."
Sam looked at him accusingly, "You don't even know what a Bagpuss is, do you?"
"I do now." Chris grinned mischievously. "Child."
"And owning a Jedi lightsaber is mature?"
"Of course! It was a huge responsibility using the Force to defeat the minions of the Empire. I terrorised our whole neighbourhood with it. Besides which I don't actually own it anymore. I think I was ten when I last saw it."
"I bet you miss it, though."
"Nope. I definitely do not miss a bit of plastic with a light bulb inside."
"I miss the X-Wing T-16 I had though. A sky hopper," he added as though that explained everything. "Spent hours targeting womp-rats in the back yard."
Sam gave Chris a hard look, "Now you're scaring me."
To say that Buq'ata was small would have been an overstatement. Four tiny buildings surrounded by an array of dirty and seemingly derelict caravans, tents, assorted machinery and a donkey were its sum total.
Interestingly enough, the single tiny shop boasted a small bakery that produced such tantalising smells that even Sam was drooling. They purchased some pastries made from pistachio nuts and honey. Sam tried to ask the wizened old lady who served them for anything she knew about Odem, but she denied understanding him. He knew her speech was a form of Arabic, but it was a dialect far removed from the limited Arabic that Sam knew.
Outside, in the afternoon's bright, hot sunlight, Chris said, "what was that all about?" around a piece of pastry.
Sam shrugged, "She didn't speak Hebrew beyond 'Two shekels please'. Not that I do either, really. But we're in occupied territory up here, so I suppose there are bound to be some Syrian Arabs living here. The only word I understood was 'no.'"
"Well, I won't say this was a waste of time," Chris said finishing the rest of his pastry with gusto and licking his fingers. "But we're not going to find anything out hanging round here."
"No, you're right," said Sam, still savouring his pastry. "We'll give Odem a once over, and then try El-Rom. Kibbutzim are supposed to offer travellers hospitality.
"Guess what!" Lin said excitedly as she came into the girls' room.
"What?" said Kathy, bored.
"We were worried," exclaimed Lucy. "You weren't in the factory. A few others were missing too!"
"I know," grinned Lin, plonking herself down on Lucy's bed. "They had us out planting mines round the perimeter."
"My God, Lin!" exclaimed Kathy, "That's - "
"Unchristian!" chorused Lin and Ellen.
"Leave Kathy alone," admonished Lucy.
"I was going to say dangerous, actually, " pouted Kathy.
"No, it was okay," Lin reassured them. "No one got blown up. But I think I've found a way out of here!"
"What? Where?" asked Ellen eagerly.
"Behind the Bet-Te, you remember where they kept the wheelbarrows?"
"Cripes," said Lucy, "I'd forgotten about the Bet-Te, means Tea House doesn't it?"
"I think so," said Kathy, wrinkling her nose. "Never had tea in there though."
"No," giggled Ellen. "But I think we've all been taken home in a wheelbarrow a few times, even Super Squirrel, here." She ruffled Kara's hair.
"Anyway," Lin interrupted the reminiscing, "you remember the make-out bunker?" Everyone beamed in recollection. Even Kara had a shy smile. "Right, I see you do. You might not remember that it goes under the fence."
"You're not thinking about going under the fence there are you?" asked Lucy. It's electrified, we couldn't lift it up."
"No, no, no, but think way back, to our induction, before we got taken over by the weirdoes. Every bunker has at least two exits. Now where do you think the other exit to the make-out bunker is?"
"No idea," said Ellen. "Enlighten us."
Lin looked chagrined, "I've no idea either." Then she brightened. "But I'm damned well going to find out."
"You'll be caught!" exclaimed Kathy. "And what do you think they're going to do to you then?"
"I'm going too!" exclaimed Ellen enthusiastically.
"Shut up, will you!" said Lin. "What I thought was, I'd have a look tonight, by myself. See if I can find the way out. I'm the best at sneaking around; it'll be easy. I'll come back, and if it's okay, the five of us, or however many of you want to come, " she looked pointedly at Kathy, "can leave tomorrow night."
"Sounds good to me," agreed Ellen. "But I'm going with you tonight."
Lin was about to object, but Lucy overrode her, "Ellen's right, Lin, you need a lookout if nothing else."
Darkness had fallen by the time Curtis and Keel had parked the car and hiked to a suitable viewpoint to observe Odem.
It was a small kibbutz with around thirty or so single story buildings, and a central; two-storey building that seemed to be the base of operations. A large warehouse dominated the main part of the place, and a high wire fence surrounded the whole kibbutz. From the boxes at the front gates, it was a good bet that the fence was electrified, and the front gate was heavily guarded, with other guards posted around the perimeter.
"What's that?" asked Chris, spotting two figures running across a short piece of open ground to another building.
"Where?" said Sam, "Oh, I see. I can't make them out. They're going into the bunker."
"Yeah," Chris scanned the ground moving away from the bunker. "They're either going into it, or through it. I see another bunker about too hundred yards to the right, on this side of the fence."
"Well, one's gone inside, I think the other's hiding on the steps. A lookout I'd guess."
"I'm going down there," Chris told him. "Cover me."
"Chris, don't - " but his partner had already disappeared over the rise, "...do anything stupid." Sam finished resignedly.
Lin crept through the old bunker, the first room bringing back fond memories of drunken nights with the boys. To get any further though, she had to put her torch on the floor and drag open a rusted steel door. She cringed at the sound, and waited a moment in case Ellen signalled that the guards had been alerted. When none was forthcoming, she drew a chalk arrow on the wall with an 'L' beneath it.
The rooms beyond were dark, the torch somehow not really helping to dispel the darkness beyond lighting the way. There were plenty of cobwebs, and Lin could well imagine Lucy and Kara squealing in terror at the thought of the spiders. The odd piece of years-old clothing lay scattered, rotting, on the floor, and metal doors hung open, or half-shut.
After some wrong turns and a lot of chalk marks, Lin found the door that led to the outside world. But whether the outside world was really outside Odem, or whether it led straight into the weirdoes' dining room was anybody's guess. A sense of direction was not her strong point.
She pushed the heavy door open, inch by inch, until she could see the stars above.
Ellen was growing rapidly impatient. Lin was taking far too long, and the crashing and banging sounds she was making were bound to alert the guards. They hadn't yet, and Ellen thought they must have been deaf. After a long period of silence, Ellen decided to follow Lin. She had only got to the first door, when more scraping sounded, but this time from a distance.
She hurried through, being much faster as she followed Lin's chalk marks, only to arrive at the exit in time to see Lin being yanked through the door by a strong arm.
Uncertain for a second as to whether she should help her friend or run, she decided to wait and see what happened. Light scuffling footsteps moved away, and she cautiously looked through the door. When no one grabbed her, she pushed through and found herself outside the fence, but with no sign of Lin or anyone else.
With his hand over her mouth, Chris dragged the wriggling young woman to a nearby dip in the ground where they wouldn't be seen. Pushing her to the ground on her stomach, he lay on top of her, using his body-weight to stop her from struggling.
"Don't scream," he said softly, taking in her wide, frightened eyes, "I just want to know who you are." He cautiously took his hand away from her mouth.
She started to scream, and he clamped his hand back again. She promptly bit it and he yelped, but pressed his hand tighter.
"You stupid bitch! If you scream, those guards are going to hear you. Five minutes ago, you were trying to avoid them. Are you one of the prisoners?"
The woman hesitated and then nodded.
"Good. We're here to close this place down." Chris gently took his hand away from her mouth, and quickly gagged her with her own neckerchief. "I promise I won't hurt you, but I can't take any chances." Kneeling up, he tied her hands firmly behind her with her belt. "As soon as we've verified your identity, I'll take these off, okay?" The woman nodded again, and he helped her up, pushing her along in front of him.
He headed straight for the car, knowing that Sam was watching and would join them shortly. He put her in the back seat, and retrieved the laptop from the boot.
Once they were shut in the car, he took the girl's gag off, trying to smile reassuringly as he noted her terrified features. "What's your name?" he asked. "Lin," she replied nervously, "Linda Wallace."
He asked her a few more questions, all the time busily tapping into the laptop.
Finally, he turned to her and said, "Sorry about that Miss Wallace. Turn around and I'll take the belt off."
Sam arrived at that moment, and slid into the passenger seat. Chris introduced them, and with a nervous tremor Linda commented, "Call me Lin, and, er, I'm sorry about biting you."
"We'll just call it evens, okay?" Chris smiled.
Lin retuned the smile, but then her face fell, "Is Ellen okay? She's expecting me back."
"Was she your lookout?" asked Sam.
Lin nodded, "We were trying to find a way out."
"She's okay. I watched her go back to the building you came out of, and none of the guards seemed disturbed."
Lin breathed a sigh of relief, "We were going to try and make a break for it tomorrow night," she said. "I've marked the way for the others, but I don't know if they'll try it now. If the guards notice I'm missing, they'll step up security."
"Are they likely to notice?" asked Chris worriedly.
Lin nodded. "They do a head count every morning and evening."
"We'll have to go in tomorrow night," said Sam. "Tonight we'll get you somewhere safe, and we'll need to know everything you can tell us about the place."
Lin nodded, subdued.
"What do you know about El-Rom?" asked Chris.
Lin brightened suddenly and grinned, "Great parties!" she giggled. "They're cool. Nothing to do with the weirdoes, I don't think, if that's what you're worried about."
Sam and Chris had their doubts about Lin's reassurances as they pulled up to the gates of El-Rom to find two armed guards outside. But Lin informed them that all the kibbutzim in the Golan Heights were guarded at night.
Chris wound down his window as one of the guards approached, and Lin stuck her head through.
"Moti!" she called happily, "Remember me?"
The round-faced guard smiled back, "Of course I do, Lin! What are you doing here?" His face turned worried. "Are the others okay?"
"They're fine for now. Can we stay?"
"Of course! Go through to the dining hall, and I'll have Mali meet you there."
Lin directed Chris to the two-story building. The layout seemed similar to Odem, although a little larger, with a couple of smaller warehouses behind the main one.
Lin explained to them that besides the vineyards and orchards that El-Rom owned outside the compound, they also bred chickens and mushrooms in the smaller warehouses, but that their primary industry, done in the main warehouse, was putting Hebrew subtitles on the movies that come into the country before they went to the cinema. Before they had been taken over, the people from Odem had often visited to watch a movie and to party afterwards.
Mali was a middle-aged woman with greying long red hair, and tired eyes, but when she saw Lin, she gave her a warm hug.
"You look well, considering," she remarked, rubbing Lin's back, as the younger woman, for the first time, relaxed and leant into Mali's shoulder.
Mali looked at the two men. "Are you from the government?" she asked.
"Not exactly," said Chris, and Mali's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"We are here to close down Odem, though," reassured Sam. "I believe it was someone from here that reported Odem to the authorities?"
"Yes, we did." Mali said. "It's standard procedure. Odem stopped communicating with us; a couple of the guys went over on a friendly visit and didn't come back. A couple of others took a look and saw all the guards, so we notified the authorities. But that was months ago. We didn't think anything was being done, so we've just kept away."
"Something was being done," said Sam, thinking of Backup. "And we're here to finish it. We need somewhere to stay."
"No problem, we have plenty of room, I'll have Schlomo make up one of the empty volunteers' apartments. It'll take a while, though, so why don't you go upstairs to the dining hall? I think Schlush is making some falafel for you."
Lin's stomach gurgled, and she laughed around threatening tears as she pulled away from Mali. "You have no idea how good that sounds."
Ellen was trembling as Lucy held her in her arms. "It's okay, it's okay now, you're safe."
"I knew it was a bad idea," Kathy groused in the darkness. Just a single candle provided light. "It'll be a nightmare for the next few days."
Kara came in from the other room with the almost empty bottle of gin, and gave it to Louise. "It's all I've got," she said apologetically.
"It's enough, thank you," replied Lucy. "Come on, Ellen, get some of this down you, it'll help."
Ellen took a swig, and almost immediately her trembling ceased. "What do you think they'll do to Lin?" she asked softly.
"I don't know," replied Lucy. "And I don't think we should dwell on it, either."
"Probably the same as whatever happened to Tina," muttered Kathy.
"Shush, Kathy, we don't know what happened to Tina either, and there's no use wondering. It's just us now."
"Are you sure the bunker came out on the other side of the fence?" asked Kara quietly.
Ellen nodded, then remembered that the others couldn't see her. "Yes," she hiccupped.
"I don't think it was a guard that got her," Kara said slowly.
"What do you mean?" asked Lucy. Kara spoke little, and rarely explained herself well, but what she did say was usually worth listening to.
"Remember when the boys tried to escape? Both times we were all taken to the dining room and, ah, interrogated within minutes of them caught. The alarms were going off, everything."
"I'm with you," nodded Lucy. "There's nothing. Maybe the army's out there, or someone."
Ellen brightened, "I never thought about that." Her fright having been numbed by the gin, she was back on form. "Let's stay with the plan and get out of here tomorrow night."
"You've got to be joking," protested Kathy. "After this? And besides which, what about all the others? What do you think'll happen to them?"
"They might get a couple of bumps and bruises," said Lucy. "But we've all had those. Don't forget, the weirdoes have limited resources. They're going out of their way to make sure we stay healthy enough to work, I don't think they'll hurt anyone any more than they think they need to."
"It'll give them hope," said Kara softly. "I'm working with Sari tomorrow. I'll make sure she knows about it."
"Good choice," agreed Lucy. "She's sensible, and will wait for us to get help. And if help doesn't arrive, she'll be good at organising small escape parties."
"I can't believe that none of the permanent residents of this place knew about that bunker," said Kathy.
Lucy shrugged. "Kara, ask Sari tomorrow if there's any reason why we shouldn't use it," she instructed.
Later that evening, Chris, Sam and Lin had retired to the small apartment. The main room was divided in two by a wardrobe, with one end holding two cots and the other a small kitchenette along with a table and four chairs. There was a small room adjacent with a cot, and Lin slept in there while Sam and Chris talked quietly in the 'living room'.
"So," Sam summed up, "we've got fourteen international 'volunteers' like Lin, around a hundred or so men and women plus eight children, all as prisoners."
"Right, and twenty-two 'weirdoes' plus their leader. You know, Sam, I really don't like relying on information from Lin. She isn't trained in any of this stuff."
"I don't like it either, but at least she's confirmed Backup's reports. We'll just have to take into account that there's probably a lot she's missed. From some of her stories though, she seems pretty much on the ball."
Chris just grunted. "Mali said that all the kibbutzes around here are built along the same lines. Tomorrow we should get Lin to take us around El-Rom and point out any differences between here and Odem."
"Kibbutzim," corrected Sam. "The plural of kibbutz is kibbutzim."
"All the adults have done army service, and living here, they keep their skills relatively sharp. We should get Mali or someone to come around with us, it might get Lin to point out things she hasn't thought about."
"Good idea," said Chris, "I - "
"Did I hear my name being mentioned?" Lin stood in the doorway, yawning and stretching.
"You're supposed to be resting," said Sam.
"Mmm, couldn't sleep properly. Worrying about the others." She wandered over to the fridge. "Mali's a sweetie, isn't she?" Lin said, happily pulling out a beer. She snapped the top off using the doorframe and took a long swig. "Oh God, that's so good," she said. "You know, you never appreciate stuff until you can't have it."
"Lin," began Chris, "did you ever know a girl called Tina at Odem?"
"Tina? Short, slim, chinky looking Canadian girl?" she asked.
Sam smiled. "That would be her."
"She one of your lot, then?"
"You could say that," Sam nodded.
"What happened to her?" asked Chris.
"She was one of us," said Lin. "By that I mean, when she turned up she was put in our apartment. She said she was backpacking and just walked into the kibbutz. Had a bit of a shock when the guards told her she was now a prisoner. But I suppose that was all an act.
You have to understand that we volunteers have been kept in the same groups. Four boys in one apartment, six girls in another, and six in ours. Apart from work where they always split us up, we're always kept together in those groups, so we kind of developed mini-communities where everyone does their bit. Tina fitted right in as our nurse," Lin chuckled. "Ellen is always getting into scrapes. The weirdoes have a medic that takes care of serious stuff, but Tina took care of the bumps and bruises.
A couple of the weirdoes like to bash some of us around a bit, show us who's boss, but on the whole they're okay so long as we get on with the work and don't cause trouble. Ellen's got a short temper though, so she gets hit a lot.
"I've been caught sneaking around a couple of times. The last time was by one of the real nasties, Collins. He gave me this," she pulled down the neck of her t-shirt, to reveal a long faded jagged scar. "I haven't been caught since, I can tell you.
"Poor Kara got the worst of it, I think. One of the weirdoes, not one of those that likes hitting; he's worse, he's got the hots for her. Takes her away sometimes in the evening, and brings her back in time for work next morning. She's never told us what happens, but we all know; and its not like she enjoys it."
"What about Tina?" prompted Sam.
"Oh, right, yeah, Tina," Lin smiled. "She got a black eye or two herself. Particularly when the bastard brought Kara back that last time. Tina tore a strip right off him, even made Ellen blush. He took Tina outside, and let his mate, another one of the nasties, Johnny, have a go at her. The medic had to come round and see to both Tina and Kara. As I understand it, the head weirdo wasn't happy with either of them, they've kept their distance since.
"Anyway, Tina was a bit of a night-owl, sneaking out at night. I have no idea what she did, but she always managed to bring home some goodies for us. She was a bit weird herself, spending ages in the toilet talking to herself. Oh!" A light bulb could almost be seen appearing above Lin's head. "I suppose she was sending messages to you lot!"
"I suppose," agreed Sam.
"That explains everything!" Lin said to herself. "The guards raid the apartments occasionally to make sure we aren't up to anything. But that last time, they were after Tina. They must have twigged what she was doing. They injected her with something and took her away. But they kept searching the apartment looking for a radio. In the end, Kathy gave up Kara's little transistor radio, and they seemed happy. Kara wasn't, but in hindsight, Kathy did the right thing.
"Anyway, we've not seen Tina again after that." Lin paused "I don't suppose you would know anything, or you wouldn't be asking..."
"She's back in London," said Chris
Lin looked relieved, "Thank god. We tried not to think the worst, but, you know..." she paused, looking puzzled. "But you must know all this from her."
"She was unconscious when she was found, and hasn't woken up yet," Chris explained. "And we didn't get a whole lot from her messages; too much static."
"Oh," Lin frowned. "If it helps, Kara's tranny had really bad reception after the weirdoes moved in, you don't think they've done something, do you?"
"Could be," remarked Sam. "If so, it was probably the broadcast that gave Tina away."
"And why they took our radios and walkmen away. They even took the boys' Gameboy, too. We thought they were just being horrible."
"What exactly is the work you were doing?" asked Chris. "We know that weaponry is involved."
"Just putting stuff together. It all comes in pieces. We just assemble them. Except yesterday. Some of us were laying mines round the perimeter of the compound. I don't think they're expecting anyone, it just happened that a batch came in, so they decided to use some of them."
"What nationality are the weirdoes," asked Chris. "You said that the leader was American, but what about the others?"
"Umm, mixed, I think." Lin thought hard. "Kara's bloke, Charlie, was definitely English. The Johnny and Collins both had American accents, and the medic's Australian, I think. Or New Zealand, I can't tell the difference. One South African, and one French, a couple of Germans too I think."
"What about the leader, did you get a name?"
"Oh, he told us at the beginning, but I think we were all too scared to take any notice. It was something Polish or Russian I think, Peter Onoffski or something."
Chris started tapping at the laptop, routing it through his mobile. "Do you know what he looks like?" he asked.
"D'uh, of course," said Lin.
"Have a look through these, see if you can find him." Chris scrolled through files accessed from the CI5 database.
It was a couple of hours, a lot of files and a few bottles of beer later that Lin spotted him. A blond emaciated looking young man. "It's definitely him," she read the name as Chris pulled up the full file. "Peter Komarov, that's it! Oh, wow!" her eyes grew huge behind her glasses as she read his details.
"Not a guy I'd like to meet in a dark alley," Chris agreed. "He's wanted for mass murder in several African countries, not to mention gun-running and fraud."
"But look, Bilma, Niger, 1996..."
"Gun-running factory raided by the military," Chris read out loud to Sam. "Two hundred and forty men, women and children found dead. The water was poisoned."
"He's going to kill us all when he's finished," whispered Lin. "Oh, shit. We - we've all tried to make the best of things, we all sort of thought it would turn out alright in the end, that we'd get rescued, or they'd let us go. We never even thought..."
Lin turned pale and ran for the toilet.
Ellen, Kara, Lucy and Kathy stood defiantly before the leader. One of their number was missing, and he was determined to find out where she had gone.
They all had black eyes and split lips from the beatings they had just taken, but still denied that they knew where Lin had gone.
The blond man narrowed his eyes to thin slits, and signalled to Collins and a larger man, to take Kathy into the next room. After a moment they could hear her screaming. "Tell me where she is," he hissed.
The three women grimaced in sympathy for their companion, and it was the shy mousy one who broke.
"Leave her alone!" she screamed at him. "We don't know where Lin went, she's always off on her own, you know that!"
Komarov considered her big frightened eyes, and believed her, "Yes," he nodded, "I do. Alright," he signalled to another man who went into the other room, and the screaming stopped. "I believe you this time, but be warned. Tina, and now Lin. I have my eye on your group. I will not tolerate any more misbehaviour."
He smiled evilly as a whim took him. "In fact, I think I'm going to have your two favourite guards take over patrolling your area. I know that Charlie's going to be so pleased to see you again, Kara, and I'm sure that Ellen will give Johnny just the excuse he's been looking for to vent his frustration. You'd better keep your girls in line, Lucy. Now get yourselves seen to, and then back to work."
As Lucy and Kara helped Kathy toward the first aid room, the redhead spat, "bastards! I'm getting out of here tonight, and be damned with the consequences!"
"That's the spirit," grinned Ellen around her bruised jaw.
"Oh, don't get me wrong," Kathy hissed painfully. "I'm coming back to feed them their own balls."
"Er, I spoke to Sari," Kara whispered. "The bunker's dangerous." The others frowned at her and she continued. "The exit comes up in the field next door."
"The one we were told was off-limits when we first arrived?" asked Ellen.
Kara nodded. "Old landmines."
Malone looked out of the aircraft window and wished with all his heart that Curtis and Keel had not had to go into Odem without backup. But it was a sensitive area where the slightest misstep could provoke a full-scale war.
Two of his children were once more in the trenches where their life expectancy declined for every moment they were out there. Not for the first time, he wondered why he did it.
He already knew the answer. He felt that he could protect them better than anyone else and could not bring himself to entrust their lives to anyone else. But in this line of work there was always the possibility, no, the certainty, of failure.
"I wish we had some backup," whispered Sam as he lay on the ground with Chris.
"Political discretion and all that garbage," Chris agreed. "I see they've doubled the guard. Spotlights too."
"I suppose the girls won't be trying to get out tonight then."
"You suppose wrong. Look."
Sam brought his infra-red binoculars over to where Chris indicated. Four figures could be seen creeping around a building.
Chris and Sam both made their way down to the bunker exit. They were almost there when a spotlight swung in their direction, and they flung themselves to the ground.
As soon as it had gone, Sam got to his feet, but a harsh whisper from Chris stopped him. "Don't move!"
Sam glanced cautiously sideways to see Chris, still on the ground. "What?" he whispered back.
"Are you - ?"
"No. I nearly cracked my skull on it. It's old, but you never know. Be careful, there could be more out here."
Moving cautiously, the pair made it to the bunker.
"I don't believe I ran through this minefield twice already without setting one off," gasped Chris.
"Some people are just too lucky," replied Sam. "Now lets get in there."
They heard the girls long before they saw them, and followed the noise to meet them halfway through the bunker.
After some quick explanations, Chris led the way back to the exit, with Sam bringing up the rear. He waved at them to wait while he checked that it was clear outside.
Sam froze as the click of safeties being released on guns sound behind him.
"Turn around," came a hoarse English voice, "and walk straight back the way you came."
The small group did as they were told, Sam surrendering his weapon. He noticed that Chris was not with them, and hoped his partner was hiding out, and not about to walk back in.
One of their captors went outside though, and satisfied that it was clear, pushed the old door shut and bolted it.
Chris had moved silently through the bunker the moment Sam had surrendered his weapon, unwilling to put the girls at risk. He had heard footsteps coming towards him, and ducked back outside. When he heard the man approach the door, he ran up the steps and threw himself on the ground over the entrance to the bunker, intending to take the guy out.
But when the man's head popped up, scanning the area, Chris could do nothing but hope he wouldn't be seen. Only when the door clanged shut did he release the breath he had been holding, and turn his attention to the landmine that he had landed directly on top of.
One of the men looked over the small group. "Where's Kara?" he exclaimed.
"She stayed behind," sneered Ellen. "Couldn't bear to be apart from you, Charlie."
The other man cuffed her upside the head." Be civil, or I'll cut you like I did that other girl."
"Yeah, yeah," said Ellen. "I suppose you've got to get your kicks somehow, Collins."
He was about to hit her again, hard this time, but Charlie stopped him. "Calm down. You'll get your turn later, after Peter's done with them. Hold them here a sec, I'm just going to look for Kara."
"Think with your head, not your groin, Charlie. We can shut the door at the other end. Your girlfriend'll be scratching to get out sooner or later, and I'm sure Peter will let you be the one to welcome her back into the fold. And if she goes out the other way, she won't get through the old minefield."
"Lin apparently did."
"She was lucky. But we'll have the lights cover the area just to be sure."
Chris rolled off the mine and shakily breathed a prayer of relief to whoever was looking out for him. By some miracle, the mine was long since dead; how or why he didn't take the time to find out.
Returning to the entrance to the bunker, he cursed. He had no way inside.
He sat on the steps trying to come up with a plan B, but none was forthcoming. The bolt being pulled back made him jump, and the door inched back.
With his automatic at the ready, he shone his torch in to see the dusty face of one of the girls.
"How did you get away?" asked Chris, pushing the door open far enough to squeeze through.
"I'm good at hiding stuff," she shrugged. "I just hid me."
"You must be Squirrel, I guess. Come on, I'm getting you out of here," Chris told her.
"No," she drew back. "They're in trouble."
This was no place to argue, so Chris said, "you can help me find another way out of here, but you're staying safe."
"Whatever," Kara inclined her head. They made their way through the bunker and tried the door that the girls had used to get into the bunker, but it was solidly blocked from the outside.
A voice came through the door. "Is that you, sweetie?"
"Oh, god, Charlie," Kara whimpered, frightened.
"Yeah, Lin told us about him," Chris whispered. "Come on, there has to be another way out."
"I can wait all night for you, sweetie," came Charlie's voice, soft and wheedling. "The longer you stay down there, the more fun we'll have together, remember that, sweetie, and just let me know when you're ready."
Kara shuddered, and stayed close to Chris as they made their way through the maze of rooms.
Sam couldn't look as the three girls were held and beaten before him. Komarov had quickly decided that he wouldn't get anything from him by threatening him directly, and had set his men on the girls.
Sam had already told him who he was, but the leader wanted to know who was with him. He already knew that Kara was trapped in the bunker and had set guards, but he wanted to know how many more agents were in or outside the compound, and Sam would not tell him that.
He had to keep Chris undetected, and couldn't let the man know that they had no backup, but he neither could he let these girls suffer.
"Stop it!" he said. "There isn't anyone else!"
Komarov chuckled. "What a gentleman. Keep going, Johnny." He turned to Sam. "The girls need to be taught a lesson. More importantly, the other workers need to know what happens to those that try to escape."
"You've done enough to them," Sam cried, "Let them go!"
Komarov shook his head with a small smile and Sam gritted his teeth as the young women, one by one, were left bleeding and unconscious on the floor.
Komarov pulled out a drawer and took out a small vial and a syringe. "Time for you to tell me the truth," he said. "Now be a good boy and relax, would you?" He filled a syringe and emptied it into Sam's arm.
Finally, Chris and Kara found a door that led into another room with stairs and crates containing parts of weaponry. "This is the basement," Kara said, surprised. "Under the dining hall. I've been here before." She fished around in several of the crates, pulling out parts and laying them on a rickety old table.
"Do you know how to use one of these things?" Chris asked the young woman in front of him. She raised grey-green eyes to meet his own, and without breaking his gaze, assembled the gun smoothly, surely and quickly.
"I guess you do," he said, impressed, but she shook her head.
"I can assemble 14 different kinds of gun with my eyes shut. But I don't know anything about them and I've never used one."
"Right, well you'd better wait right here..."
"No." The statement was made without raised voice, but still managed to
convey an absolute refusal to be moved. "We look out for each other."
Whether she was referring to himself, or her friends, Chris didn't know, but
accepted her determination to help, figuring she was best kept under his
eye, rather than running around where she might get herself, or someone else killed.
"I want every man out there looking!" barked Komarov. "There's an armed CI5 agent somewhere. If he's not in the compound by now, I'm sure he will be soon. He has no backup, so bring him in dead or alive, it makes no difference to me. Then we can send them both back to where they came from."
Chris and Kara made their way up the to the first floor via the outside steps. It was not guarded, but led straight into the kitchens, which was. A whimpering could be heard coming from the store room at the back, and Chris threw a random spoon over the tops of the high industrial ovens to land clattering somewhere over the other side. When the guards took off to investigate, Chris and Kara slipped inside the storeroom.
Chris rushed straight over to Sam, who was lying lifeless in the corner. His eyes were closed, his breathing shallow and his skin clammy and grey. Chris swore and pushed down the worry he felt, for his partner looked much as he had last seen Backup.
He checked the girls who were battered and bleeding. Lucy, being the only one fully conscious, held the other two to her, trying to comfort them.
"You okay?" Chris asked, noting her bruised face.
"Been better," she admitted softly, still smiling gently. "I can't feel my legs."
Chris nodded, and squeezed her hand. "We'll get you out of here," he told her.
Kara had picked some disinfectant and towels off a shelf, and gave them to Lucy who tried to administer some first aid, though her hands were shaking from pain.
Lucy looked over at Sam. "There's an antidote," she told Chris. "It's in Komarov's desk drawer in the main hall. He was waving it about when he drugged your friend."
"I can get that," Kara said immediately, and disappeared out the door, leaving her gun behind before Chris had a chance to object.
"Damn!" Chris swore again.
Lucy smiled reassuringly at him. "Don't worry," she said. "Squirrel will be okay. She's good at that stuff. Not as good as Lin of course, or even Ellen, but pretty good."
Kara came back in within just a few minutes. "It's all clear out there," she said, sounding surprised. She held up a syringe. "I thought I'd just take this," she said. "He might get suspicious if the whole bottle's gone, and he's got loads of these."
Chris took it from her. "Thanks, but please don't do that again."
"Whatever," she replied.
Chris knelt by his partner's side, praying that it was the right stuff. He hesitated; he didn't know what the correct dosage was, but Sam was dying before his eyes. He couldn't do any worse. He emptied it into Sam's arm, and waited for some kind of sign that he had done the right thing.
"Come on, Sam, I need you with me," he whispered. He sat for long minutes talking to Sam, waiting for some movement, a moan, anything that would tell him that his partner was coming back to him.
"Chris!" Kara called from the window, "they're coming back! All of them!"
Chris was at her side in an instant. They could see a dozen men, running into the building, two even coming up the kitchen steps.
"We've got to get out of here," Chris told her. He opened the door slightly and saw that men were running through the kitchen toward the main hall, and that Komarov was shouting. "Someone tripped the alarm in here! Find them!"
He closed the door again quickly, and took a deep breath to stop himself from yelling at Kara. It wasn't her fault that she wasn't trained for these things.
"Kara, me and you, we have to get out now. We can come back for the others later."
"But I can't - "
"You have to. If they find either one of us in here, we've had it. The others are safe for now."
Chris led Kara out of the storeroom, but they were spotted before they had gone two steps.
With a quick burst of gunfire to send their pursuers diving for cover, Chris pushed Kara ahead of him. They came out into a small loading bay, and jumped to the ground, making for the corner where tall shrubs might give them cover.
Komarov grinned as he stepped out onto the loading bay, flanked by Johnny and an incredibly large man and aimed his gun.
Chris turned and took a few shots, one taking Komarov between the eyes. But the other two men kept shooting.
As she rounded the corner, Kara looked behind her to see Chris fall, his face a sudden mask of blood.
Kara hesitated a moment, seeing the leader, obviously dead, hanging over the loading bay, then carried on running.
She never knew how she avoided all the guards. Perhaps they were just happy that they had the CI5 man, and weren't interested in her.
She headed for the apartment, and closed the door behind her in relief. And wondered what to do next. In the bunker, Chris had told her about Tina, and that jogged a memory.
She went to the toilet cistern and impatiently clutched at all her threads, pulling out now useless stashes. At last she found what she was looking for; the little box that was not hers.
Once she had worked out how to open it, she recognised it for what it was, a transmitter. She tried to work it, but only got static. She'd just have to go out through the bunker, because somehow she'd always known the weirdoes were responsible for her tranny suddenly not receiving signals. If she was right, maybe this little transmitter would work outside the compound. Failing that, she would chance the landmines and walk the three miles or so to El-Rom.
Clutching her gun and her torch, Kara made her way to the first entrance to the bunker and found that it was now deserted. Charlie must have been called away. The door was wedged shut by a small boulder, and it was with some effort that she moved it away.
Almost as soon as she stepped into the bunker, a voice called her name from outside. Her heart nearly stopped when she realised it was Charlie, and she ran for the door that would take her into the abandoned rooms. She tried to close the door behind her, but he reached through. She slammed the door on his arm, causing him to cry out, and retract the abused appendage.
She ran through the rooms, hearing the footsteps draw closer. She could hide if she had to, but he would find her eventually, so she tried to make it to the exit.
She could feel him breathing down her neck, even as she saw the door. She went to pull it open, but he grabbed her arm, making her drop the torch. She spun, and he threw her to the floor, pressing himself down on her. He felt the rigid metal of the gun between them, and slid his hand in to take it away. She refused, and somehow, the trigger compressed releasing a muffled bang, and Charlie let out a long groan. She quickly pushed him off her, and scrambled away.
Once she had regained her equilibrium somewhat, she crawled outside and closed the door, sitting on the steps with her back to it. She took out the transmitter, and hopeful at the lack of static, spoke into it.
"Hello?" she asked nervously, "Is there anybody there?"
There was a commotion of voices at the other end, then a strong, hard male voice replied. "Who is this?"
"Erm, my name is Kara Davies, and I'm at Odem." Kara's voice shook as she fought not to cry.
"How did you get on this frequency?"
"I- I'm using a transmitter that Tina left behind."
"And who are you exactly?"
"I'm a volunteer at Odem. We were taken over, and - "
"One moment please, Miss Davies." There was some more commotion, and a faint voice said, "Kara Davies is one of those being held." Then the stern voice came back.
"All right, Miss Davies," the voice was somehow softer now. "What is your exact position."
"I'm about a hundred yards outside the Odem compound, in the middle of an old minefield," she said miserably.
"Do not move from your position," the voice instructed. "What's happening inside the compound, can you tell me?"
"Um, Komarov is dead I think, Chris shot him in the head. But he's dead too, I think, one of them shot him in the head. And um, Sam's not well, he's been drugged up and we gave him the antidote but it wasn't working when I last saw him. Three other volunteers are hurt, and oh, I think Chris shot two or three of the weirdoes." she hesitated, then said in a small voice, "I killed one too."
"You're doing very well, Miss Davies," the voice said reassuringly. "What about the rest of the prisoners?"
"Um, most of them are locked up until seven when we go to work. There's Lin of course, but I think Sam and Chris took her El-Rom."
"Can you give me any idea of the nationalities of the your captors? Are any of them Israeli or Arab?"
"No, no I don't think so. European mostly I think."
"Thank you Miss Davies, now please stay exactly where you are, and if you can, stay out of sight. I will contact you again shortly."
Kara sat against the door, knees to chin and shaking, despite the warm night air, burst into tears.
On board the HMS Belgrade Malone was angry and frustrated. He had been trying to get clearance to go in, but was swamped by the sheer amount of red tape that related to that part of the world.
The ship was off the Israeli coast in neutral waters and he needed to be able to send the big guns in should the situation require it. And to do that, he needed permission from Lebanon and Jordan as well as Syria and Israel. Very delicate. He could only hope that Miss Davies was wrong; that Curtis and Keel were still alive and could wrap things up, making intervention unnecessary.
This whole thing had begun as a favour to the Israeli Secret Service, but now it looked as though CI5 were paying too high a price.
And that girl, another child on the battlefield.
Feeling a heavy weight settle on his shoulders, he dialled the Minister's number.
Sam groaned as he came around. He felt as if he had been run over by a ten-ton truck; every part of his body hurt. He tried to raise a hand to rub his blurry eyes, but couldn't find the strength to raise it more than a couple of inches. He decided to wait awhile for his strength to return, and let his head roll to the side, blinking to clear his vision.
He could see Lucy holding her two friends close, and the three of them appeared to be sleeping. He let his gaze wander further down the room, and his stomach lurched as he spied Chris lying in a heap, his face covered in blood.
He tried to move, to get over to Chris, and make sure he was okay, but his muscles refused to obey him. He focussed all his tremendous willpower into his arms, to try and drag himself over, shuffling one elbow in front of the other. His muscles gave out though, and he collapsed back to the floor after moving only a few inches.
He closed his eyes, and swallowed the sense of defeat. He was scared. They were in a mess, and because his body would not respond, he couldn't to anything about it.
"Chris!" he called, relieved to find that at least his voice still worked. "Chris!" he called louder, but his partner remained unresponsive.
"Save your strength," came a gentle voice, "I don't think he can hear you."
Sam looked back at the girls, to see Lucy looking at him sadly.
"They said he was dead when they put him in here. We need to think about the living."
"Have you checked?" Sam asked.
Lucy shook her head, "I'm sorry," she said, "My legs don't seem to work, and I can't move these two."
Kathy chose that moment to give a long moan. Lucy shook her gently, "Come on, Kathy, it's time to wake up," she said.
"Not today, Ma, I don't feel well," the red-head muttered as she tried to snuggle up.
Lucy adopted her most stern motherly voice, "Katherine O'Hearne, you will get out of that flea-pit you call a bed immediately!"
Kathy sat up sharply, and cried out in pain, "You are an evil woman, Lucy Philips."
"I know, now where does it hurt?"
"Everywhere!" she groaned, cautiously stretching her limbs. "My head and stomach mostly though," she amended, then frowned. "How's Ellen?"
"She'll be fine, Johnny was a bit rough on her, so she needs to sleep a bit longer. Do you think you could get over to Chris? We need to know if he's still alive."
Kathy made no comment, but crawled painfully over to the CI5 agent. She found his wrist. "He's alive," she said, and Sam let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding. Kathy ran her hand through the blood until she came into contact with his injury, and winced in apparent sympathy, "He's cracked his head good and hard," she said.
"There's some paper towels over there," Lucy pointed to a lower shelf. "Maybe you could clean him up?"
Before Kathy could move, Johnny came in, apparently in charge.
"We're moving out," he told them.
He pointed at Sam and Kathy. "Take them out to the truck," he ordered. He gave Chris a vicious kick in the side, and Sam could swear he heard something crack. Johnny was obviously satisfied that Chris was lifeless and passed him by.
"You don't need her," Sam protested.
"Shut up, you." Johnny snapped. "What's wrong with her?" he pointed to Ellen.
"She's dead," snapped Lucy. "Internal bleeding I'd guess. Happy?"
Johnny just grunted. "What about you?"
"I can't walk. If you want me to go anywhere you'll have to carry me."
"No. You can stay here." He waved one of the men forward. "Get them some water."
Sam and Kathy were dragged away, and a jug of water with glasses materialised before the door was shut. A few moments later, the sound of trucks moving away could be heard.
Malone stifled his impatience until they could move. The Minister had given him the go-ahead to take armed men into the Golan. A six-man assault team only, with a single helicopter for transport. It wasn't much, but it was enough.
It had to be.
Lucy reached for the jug and shakily poured herself a glass of water.
"Don't drink it," muttered Chris.
Lucy looked at the glass. "Why not?" she asked, unable to be shocked any more.
Lucy put the glass down as suddenly as if it had grown fangs.
Chris looked at her through wavering vision, and wished that someone would chop his head off. His ribs hurt, and his stomach roiled; no one would ever know how much it had taken for him to play dead when he was kicked.
"How long have you been awake?" asked Lucy.
"Not long," Chris mumbled as he tried to ignore rapidly rising nausea. "Someone had their hand on my head - ohhh," the nausea overwhelmed him and he was sick, the spasms sending waves of agony through him.
Ellen blinked herself awake, and stared at Chris. "I hope that hurts," she snarled at him, "You were supposed to be getting us out of here."
"An' you were s'posed to be dead," gasped Chris.
"Ellen!" Lucy admonished, "You can save that attitude of yours for the weirdoes." She turned her attention to Chris, "Johnny would have killed her if he'd taken her."
"We were okay until they came along," Ellen complained pushing herself up.
"No we weren't, we were in trouble well before that, and you know it. How are you feeling?"
"How do you think? Like crap! Where's Kathy and Squirrel?"
"They took Kathy and Sam away. I don't know where Kara is. Hiding somewhere, I expect."
"Can you walk?" Chris gasped, when the last of his spasms passed.
"Yep, yeah, I think so," Ellen staggered to her feet, even as Chris pushed himself painfully to his.
Chris looked out of the window, checking that there was no sign of any remaining weirdoes. "Wait here while I check the coast is clear."
Sam and Kathy lay on the floor of one of the two trucks, bound hand and foot with coarse rope. Men sat on the benches at either side, largely ignoring them.
The CI5 agent could feel the strength coming sluggishly back into his limbs, but muscles were starting to twitch for no apparent reason. Kathy was staring at him, her expression oddly serene.
"You seem to be taking this all rather calmly," he said in a low voice.
"I'm a big believer that whatever happens is God's will and as such, I'll accept it. But if you have any ideas, I'm sure the good Lord will appreciate a helping hand or two."
"That's good to know," replied Sam, smiling. "But I think just waiting will be enough for the moment." He didn't tell her that the ropes that bound his hands were slowly loosening due to his frustratingly uncoordinated but determined efforts.
The truck slewed suddenly to a halt, sending Kathy rolling heavily into Sam. Gunfire broke out, and the men in the truck stepped on and over them in their haste to get out of the truck.
The rope around Sam's hands parted, and he untied Kathy's hands, cursing as his numb fingers refused to fully co-operate. When their feet were free, Sam grabbed Kathy and rolled out of the truck, hitting the ground hard.
They tumbled under the truck as Johnny's voice could be heard ordering men to get the prisoners.
Sam clenched his jaw as cramps chose that moment to assault his entire body. He could hear voices declaring that the prisoners had vanished, but more gunfire interrupted.
Chris entered the storeroom again, and spoke to Ellen.
"The coast seems clear. Go and release everyone, but tell them that they mustn't drink the water. It's definitely poisoned; I just saw a dog drink some."
"What are you going to do?"
"See what they've left behind, get some help in. Oh, and don't forget to tell them about the perimeter mines."
"What about Lucy?"
"She'll be alright here, won't you Lucy?"
"I'll be fine," Lucy smiled. "Just don't forget about me."
Ellen frowned, "Are you all right?"
"So long as you don't ask me to walk anywhere," Lucy smiled. "Before you leave though, you couldn't pass me those cigarettes up there, could you?"
With the whole world tilting at crazy angles, Chris wove his way to the dining hall. He didn't like sending Ellen out there without being able to properly secure the place, but dawn was breaking, and people would be getting up soon, drinking the water.
He was surprised to find a sophisticated set up that the men had not bothered to take with them, most of it geared toward communication and defence.
He stood over the computers, trying to figure out how to switch everything off, but nothing would stay still long enough for him to focus on it. He sat down heavily, and concentrated, turning off everything he could find.
Something fell to the floor, and he bent down to pick it up, almost falling in the process. It was a piece of paper, part of a diary. Chris almost laughed when he figured out what it meant, but it hurt too much.
He found his and Sam's transmitters in the desk drawer alongside the almost empty bottle that was the antidote, and put his earpiece on.
"4.5. to Sunray," he called, choosing to ignore how badly his words were starting to slur and desperately hoping that somehow, Malone had found a way in.
"4.5, how nice to hear from you," came Malone's voice, reverberating around Chris' skull.
"The leader, Komarov's dead," Chris told him, "The others have taken off. They've got Sam and - "
"I am aware of that, Mr Keel, we've just picked them up, and should be with you very shortly."
"Komarov's buyers are due to arrive over the next couple of days, and somehow I don't think they've been cancelled. We also need water; ours is poisoned. And the bomb squad, we've got landmines."
"Noted, anything else?"
"Paramedics, lots of 'em." Chris slurred drunkenly, as a large meaty hand ripped the transmitter away from him. He looked at the hand in confusion and followed up, and up and up to the face of an exceptionally large man who looked extraordinarily pissed off.
"They left us behind," the large man told him.
"That's nice," Chris replied, "You're not going to make me fight, are you? Because I think I'm going to be sick again."
"No," said the large man. "But I think Collins wants to take you hostage." he indicated a stocky man about Chris' height standing behind him.
Chris sighed as the stocky man came toward him, revolver in hand. "I heard about your friends coming in, well I'm getting out."
The large man shook his head and departed into the kitchen area, muttering something about being hungry.
Chris was the picture of abject surrender, and Collins hauled him up. He obviously didn't expect the sudden explosion of action from his prisoner, and was sent spinning backwards, losing his gun in the process.
Chris shook his head, desperately trying to clear the dizziness, but it only got worse. The man came at him again, and he defended against the flying fists, crying out when one struck him in his injured ribs. He doubled over and fell to his knees, instinct making him roll away from his opponent. The kick that Collins aimed at him missed, leaving the man slightly off-balance and giving Chris time to get to his feet. As the man came at him yet again, he launched a right hook that thankfully the man ran straight into.
Darkness was creeping swiftly in when he heard the sweet voice of Malone.
"Brawling, Mr Keel? You know I don't approve of that," the CI5 chief came to stand in front of Chris and looked down his nose at him. The large man who had gone to the kitchen was standing behind Malone under close guard, but still chomping down on a thick sandwich.
Chris couldn't help himself and giggled. "I love you, man," he slurred as consciousness gave out altogether and he collapsed against his boss who caught him under the arms.
Sam lay on the floor of the cramped helicopter, watching his unconscious partner and ignoring the spasms of pain in his own body as muscles contracted and relaxed of their own accord.
He had been unable to move when the helicopter had landed at Odem, and had only been able to listen. The lack of gunfire had been reassuring, and he had heard Malone ordering his team to secure the place.
He had been torn between relief and worry when Chris was unceremoniously dumped to lie unmoving on the floor beside him. The helicopter had taken off shortly after that, leaving Odem to the Israeli Army who he could see approaching through the open door.
The trip back to England was a nightmare for Sam, his body increasingly rebelling against him, and no one willing to give him painkillers until they had been able identify the drugs in his system. Chris spent most of the time unconscious or asleep, only rousing periodically to retch violently and complain of bright lights. Sam found himself envying his partner.
Backup squinted at the bright lights, and tried to hide under the blankets.
"Come on sleepyhead, time to wake up," came Sam's voice somewhere to her right.
"Go 'way," she muttered, pulling the blankets over her head. She frowned as she realised something wasn't right. What was Sam doing here? She flung the blankets back, and prepared to tear a strip off the Englishman.
"What the hell are you - ?" The frown deepened as she took in her surroundings.
"See, " said Chris from her left. "I told you she was faking."
Backup slumped back against her pillows and took in her colleagues. They both sat in hospital wheelchairs, looking pale. Sam looked positively exhausted and Chris sported a large bandage over his ear.
"What exactly am I doing here?" she asked slowly.
Curtis and Keel filled her in, and Sam finished up. "At least you had it easier than I did, Backup. Doctor Keel over there didn't give me enough antidote."
Backup saw Sam shudder at the memory.
"You're alive aren't you?" grinned Chris. "Seems to me you should be grateful."
"What about the others?" asked Backup. "The girls, I mean. They were a good crowd."
"They're mostly okay," Chris reassured her. "Lucy just took some heavy bruising, she'll make a full recovery and she's itching to get back to Odem and help get the place back on track."
"Lin, Ellen and Kathy stayed out there to help," Sam continued. "Like you said, a good crowd."
"And Kara?" Backup asked, concerned.
"She's okay," said Chris a little sadly, "Just having a little trouble dealing with things; she's back with her parents. But she's hoping to go back, maybe with Lucy."
Backup smiled, "So, when do I get out of this place?"
"You need to rest first, young lady," answered a nurse walking into the room. "You two gentlemen shouldn't even be out of bed, especially you, Mr Keel."
She was answered by a chorus of groans.
Malone watched Curtis and Keel pushing Backus in a wheelchair she didn't need toward the exit of the hospital, all three laughing and giggling. He smiled as they raced the chair into the sunlight; his children were home and safe again.
He chose to forget that tomorrow was another day, and ignored the rumbling black clouds on the horizon.
Summary: When Backup turns up in a coma, the boys have to go and rescue a kibbutz community