Friday, August 29, 2008

Chapter 92: Unwanted Techniques

~ For a brief moment Jaden considered trying to take the man Thomas when he came near; Or at least try to pickpocket a knife or something. He decided against the first option almost immediately; recognizing it as an exercise in futility. The second plan was ruled out for him, as Thomas pulled him up and grabbed most of his fingers in one hand, gripping them tightly while he removed Jaden's gag with the other. The lady in red smiled at him again.

"Now that's much better, isn't it? Tell us your name."

"Jaden McAllister," he spat at her. "What do you want with us?" Thomas' grip on his fingers tightened and he gritted his teeth.

"Why, I just want to speak with you, Jaden. You're not opposed to having a bit of light conversation, are you?"

"I am if I've been forced into it," Jaden said, jerking his chin in the direction of Thomas.

"Oh I disagree," breathed Ms. Scarlet, gliding towards him. "I've had experience with your type before and I think that you love being "forced into it"." She leaned in close to him and Jaden felt the warmth of her breath play on his neck. The subtle scent of her perfume that he had not fully registered when she'd first walked in now threatened to become overwhelming.

"You've got to be kidding," he said with a forced laugh. "I'm 18; what are you? Like 40?"

For a split second Ms. Scarlet drew away and looked slightly shocked, before that expression quickly melted back into a smile. She tilted her head back and laughed a sliver laugh that was a fair impression of real.

"You are a vicious one!" She let her right hand glide down his chest and over his stomach to finally rest on his crotch. Her fingers tightened slightly and her voice dropped to a husky whisper. "But maybe I like to take them young."

Jaden was forcefully reminded of a praying mantis as the woman's lips touched his neck. He tried to take a step back but was held firmly in place by Thomas. A wave of nausea washed through him. As Ms. Scarlet grew more insistent, he retreated into his mind.

"Well this is one of the weirdest things that has happened to me today," he thought to himself. "It might even be flattering if I weren't being molested." For a very brief moment Jaden considered his feelings. Mostly there was apprehension of what else the woman was capable of. As it stood right now, she could whip out a knife and gut him right there. She seemed the sort that wouldn't be that bothered by the prospect either. A close second was an unspeakable rage that had begun building in his gut. How dare she do this and even go so far as to act like he was suppose to enjoy it? He would not stand for it.

"I am a person; I have rights."

The fear, anger, and confusion that was forefront in his mind completely drowned out any arousal that might have been possible under slightly better circumstances.

"What now? I can't just stand here. If I act like I'm into it, will she unchain me? Probably not. Good Lord, does she plan to do... whatever it is she wants to do with Thomas here holding me still the entire time? What is she some kind of psycho? That's irrelevant. Action is needed."

Jaden was slightly cheered by the fact that this was not his first time being held down and outnumbered. If nothing else he had experience on his side.

"Use every resource given to you..."

Jaden's eyes came into focus on Ms. Scarlet's face. It really was a shame; she wasn't a bad looking woman. Jaden drove his knee up as hard as he could into her stomach and as she reflexively bent forward, caught her face with the next quick swing. She crumpled to the floor. Thomas immediately drug him backwards by his wrists, the motion of which caused Jaden to pitch forward in order to keep his shoulders from being jerked out of socket. Rather than let that pain immobilize him as was expected, he continued to roll forward, jerking his bound hands free of Thomas' grip and diving over the woman on the ground. He tucked his head in and used the forward motion to somersault back to his feet, barely making it before Thomas lurched after him.

Jaden had not yet figured out how he was going to get free of his cuffs, but he'd worry about that when the time came. For the moment he just made for the open door with all haste. As he skidded into the hallway, he could hear the pounding footsteps of Thomas right on his heels.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chapter 91: Reminiscent

~ Jaden leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He began to count the seconds passed in his head, having decided that if he did not hear any response within 30, he would give up and go back to trying to get his cuffs off. He could feel his jaw already going sore and stiff around the gag and he suddenly felt a wave of claustrophobic panic. As he compulsively swallowed, trying to fight back against his instincts, a faint metallic ping interrupted his personal crisis.

Jaden's eyes flew open and he bent closer to put his ear against the vent. That had been a short pause, then three long, break, two short, two long, two short.


Jaden could barely contain the feeling of relief that rushed through him. It was absolutely tangible. He quickly tapped out his response, all the while silently blessing Andrew for getting him to memorize Morse for a stupid game they had played when leaving notes for one another.


"R u ok?"


"T w/ u?"


A sudden flurry of about half a dozen taps told Jaden that something was going on and Andrew wanted him to "maintain radio silence". He held his breath again and pressed his ear to the small opening. He could hear faint voices drifting through the vent, but couldn't make out any words. One of the voices raised to a shout and then Jaden heard a louder thump, like a door slamming. A split second later there were footsteps in the hall. Jaden quickly jumped to the floor and sat down on the edge of the bed just as the locks on his cell disengaged and the door opened.

The fourth man walked in with someone else right behind him. A woman of medium height and slim build, wearing a red dress. A scarlet, backless evening gown to be specific. Her rich chocolate auburn hair was piled high on her head with several loose tresses falling elegantly down over her shoulders.

Jaden overruled his first impulse to rise and take the best defensive position he could manage. Instead he opted to remain seated and, looking past the man, fixed Ms. Scarlet with a belligerent stare with undertones of disinterest. He hoped she was getting all that.

The woman gazed back at him through heavily made-up eyes and after a moment a subtle, but obviously cruel smile drifted over her red lips.

"How very cliched," thought Jaden.

"Take the gag off of him, Tom," she ordered in a silky voice. ~

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chapter 90: Alternative Communication

~ At the bottom of the stairs the man leading Jaden pushed him around two more corners; one to the left and one to the right. He heard a door creaking and people murmuring in hushed tones and then the blindfold was jerked down off his eyes. Jaden blinked at the sudden bright light surrounding him and winced back as the fourth man approached him.

The man holding Jaden, whom he'd begun to think of fondly in his mind as "Tiny", held him firmly in place. Before the fourth man reached him Jaden took a quick, frantic scan of his surroundings, looking for his teammates. They were nowhere to be seen. He was standing in a brightly lit hallway, facing the open doorway of what was obviously a cell.

"You're going to be staying here for a while," the fourth man told him in a taunting sing-song. "We can't have you making all kind of noise though, now can we?" From behind his back he produced a gag and shoved it into Jaden's mouth while Tiny held him. After the gag was tied in place, the zip tie was cut off of Jaden's wrists and replaced by a set of cold, metal manacles. When that was done, he was shoved forward into the cell without further preamble.

He stumbled against the far wall, unable to catch his balance with his hands chained behind his back, and turned just in time to see the solid door bang shut. The sound of a bolt being slammed home resounded in the small cell and he heard the men walking away down the hall.

The very first thing that Jaden did was quickly scan his tiny cell for openings, weaknesses, cameras, anything. Meanwhile he tried to free himself of the gag and cuffs; and he was unsuccessful on both counts. After a couple of minutes of futile struggling, Jaden moved to the door and stood completely still to listen. The hall seemed to be silent.

Jaden turned back to the room and took a moment to evaluate his surroundings once more, this time being a bit more thorough. Against one wall a thin pallet stood, and above that Jaden spied a small vent. He clambered awkwardly up onto the bed and turned halfway around to run his fingertips around the edges of the vent. The cover was held on securely, but when one of Jaden's cuffs clinked against the metal, he decided to take a long shot.

With the edge of the metal cuff Jaden carefully rapped on the vent cover, with pauses between. Three short, three long, three short. The old Morse code sequence for SOS. If Andrew could somehow hear it, Jaden was sure he would understand who it was from.

He stood still on the bed, holding his breath, offering up a silent prayer that his shot in the dark would work. ~

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chapter 89: Overpowering Logic

~ "Ok, I'm not going to try anything, I swear," said Andrew, standing frozen with the barrel of a rifle jammed in his back.

"You bet you're not!" the man behind him fumed, pressing his sleeve to his nose to try and staunch the blood flow. "Just give me a reason..."

"See if they've got any cable ties on them," ordered the fourth man, though Jaden noticed that he kept his distance. He looked ready to make a break for it if Andrew went ballistic again.

Jaden heard an outer pocket of his pack being unzipped and the man holding him rummaged around in it.

"He's got some."

"Take off their packs and tie them up. All of them. Now," the fourth man said, very conspicuously not offering to help.

"Don't move unless you want to have your head blown off," Jaden's captor hissed at him as he released him momentarily in order to wrestle his pack off; dropping it to the ground and immediately slipping one of the thin strips of plastic around Jaden's wrists and pulling it tighter than was really necessary. That done he pulled Jaden with him over to Takyle and her escort to repeat the process. Once that man had Takyle's hands firmly bound, he tossed the small bundle of ties to the man behind Andrew. He caught them with one hand, still holding his gun to Andrew's back with the other.

"Here," he said, smacking Andrew's arm with the ties. "Put one of these over your wrists behind your back."

Andrew did as directed, making one of the cable ties into a loose circle and slipping his hands through it, carefully avoiding any sudden movements. Once it was on, the man grabbed the tail of the zip tie and jerked it tight. He then lowered his gun long enough to take a second tie and add it on top of the first, just for good measure.

"Alright, get them out of here and into the cells," barked the fourth man and the three others shoved the members of Team 6 out of the stone room and into a damp, narrow hallway. As they were escorted past the iron doorway the fourth man tied a thick blindfold around their eyes. Just before the strip of cloth was placed on his face, Jaden manged to shoot one more look back at Takyle. She firmly shook her head.

No more trying to fight back.

As he was shoved down the hall Jaden tried to keep track of his footsteps. It felt as if the path was curving slightly to the left, but he was fairly sure that it had to be his imagination. The brief look he'd be able to take before being blindfolded had revealed a long straight passage.

After two hundred some steps he was turned to the right and he heard a door open.

"We're going down stairs," his captor informed him gruffly, immediately shoving him forward off of the first one. Jaden felt his stomach jump at the split second sensation of falling, but quickly regained his balance and felt carefully for the next step, counting silently to himself. Ahead and behind him he could hear people moving and he hoped that he was still with Andrew and Takyle.

"I'll be ok, just as long as I'm not alone." ~

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chapter 88: Confrontational

~ Andrew sagged for a moment after the blow and then appeared to rally himself by force of will. He stood up straight and fixed the fourth man with a hard glare. The fellow smirked and drew back his fist again.

"Stop!" screamed Takyle. "Just stop! I don't have the map. I lost it, ok?"

"Is that a fact?"

"Yes! It's gone. I must have lost it while we were climbing up here."

The man was silent for a moment while he studied her, slightly less lecherously this time.

"Well if that's the story you're going to stick to, that's fine. We'll find out if you're lying soon enough. Take them!" he barked to the three other men.

Jaden found himself being hustled towards the door and for a moment put up a fight. His escort quickly brought about a change of mind in Jaden by twisting his wrist up between his shoulder blades. He gasped and stumbled over the uneven floor as the man roughly shoved him forward.

"I'm going, I'm going," Jaden protested. He shot a quick look at Andrew and Takyle to try to catch a sign; anything at all that would indicate a plan of action. He caught Andrew's eye, and his friend gave a minute shake of his head before looking away.

"Where are you taking us?" Takyle demanded as she was pushed in the direction of the hallway.

"Shut up, bitch," the fourth man responded, harshly. If Jaden hadn't been already watching Andrew, he would have missed what immediately happened. With no warning Andrew whipped around, somehow getting one arm free and using it to throw a powerful punch into the face of the man holding him. In surprise the man staggered backwards, barely keeping a hold on Andrew's other arm. Andrew grabbed the back of the man's head with his free hand and drove it down onto his raised knee to finish the job. His erstwhile captor fell backwards onto the ground, blood spurting from his nose and Andrew whirled to go for the fourth man, only to skid to a sudden halt as soon as he'd come around.

Several yards away, the man holding Takyle had one arm around her neck and was using the other one to aim his handgun at her temple. Andrew stood frozen in his tracks, breathing hard, eyes locked on Takyle's face. For a moment it felt to Jaden as if time had stopped. He was expressly aware of his heart beat thumping in his ears. Slowly Andrew raised his hands to chest level, palms out. A long moment passed in dead silence.

The man that Andrew had overpowered regained his feet and rushed up behind him, shoving his rifle into the small of Andrew's back.

"Move a muscle and I'll blow your fucking guts all over this room," he hissed. ~

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chapter 87: Visitors

~ A second resounding clang followed the first one and Andrew grabbed Takyle with one hand and Jaden with the other, pulling them back away from the door.

"Quiet!" he hissed. "I think someone's coming."

"Prepare to defend," ordered Takyle, pulling her arm loose from Andrew's grasp and laying a hand on her dagger in its sheath.

"Step away from the door!" a man's voice ordered from outside. "Face the wall and place you hands on your heads!"

"Ah hell," muttered Andrew."Boss?" Takyle shook her head.

"Stand your ground," she said quietly, eyes fixed on the door. Andrew and Jaden drew their daggers and Jaden moved around to the opposite side of the entry. There was more noise on the other side of the door and what sounded like locks being removed, followed by a moment of silence.

Out of the corner of his eye Jaden saw Takyle make a slashing movement across her neck with her torch. Jaden and Andrew nodded their understanding and switched off their flashlights, plunging them all back into darkness. Jaden held his breath.

With a bang the door flew open, flooding the chiseled room and the waiting trio with light. Four huge men stood in the opening with guns that looked capable of bringing down an elephant, and it was immediately obvious that resistance might not be the smartest option.

"Stand down," Takyle ordered as the men rushed in. Jaden's knife was quickly wrested from him and his arms were pinned behind his back by one of the unnaturally burly men.

"Hell dude, you don't have to be so rough, I'm not fighting back at all!" he heard Andrew protest. A third man grabbed Takyle's wrists and twisted them cruelly until she cried out and dropped her dagger and flashlight. Jaden thought that Andrew was going to come unglued.

The fourth man looked on silently as his three compatriots subdued Team 6 and then he stepped forward.

"Who do we have here? Team 6 is it? Scrappy bunch aren't you? Not that it did you any good."

"Who are you?" Takyle demanded.

"You just don't worry about that, missy. Now I'd like you to give me your map."

"What map?" asked Takyle, indignantly.

"I think you know what map. The only map you have. What did you do with it?"

"If you want it so bad, why don't you try to find it," she said. The man shrugged.

"Have it your way." A short distance away, the man holding Andrew wrenched his wrist up behind his back a good deal further than seemed natural. Andrew drew a quick, pained breath and closed his eyes for a moment before speaking through clenched teeth.

"Hey Takyle, you wanna consider going ahead and playing along with them before She-Hulk over here breaks my arm?"

"Yeah Takyle," taunted the fourth man, giving her a hungry leer; slowly running his eyes down her body and then back up again to her face. "A pretty little thing like you should know that you have to do what you're told, or you might get yourself in trouble with Daddy." The other three men laughed lecherously.

"Don't even think about it, you son of a bitch!" growled Andrew, with so much menace in his voice that it didn't even sound like his own. The fourth man fixed his cold gaze on Andrew and walked over to where he was being held. As Andrew struggled against the man gripping his arms, their leader drew back his fist and punched him hard in the face. ~

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chapter 86: Subterranean

~ "This is kinda freaky weird," commented Andrew as he played his flashlight beam over the chiseled granite walls. The room that they had fallen into was expansive and roughly cut from the surrounding stone. On one wall a riveted iron door was set into the rock, and it seemed to be the only access.

"I don't like the looks of this at all," he murmured.

By the light of Jaden's flashlight Takyle quickly located her backpack and pulled it close.

"Oh shit. A bunch of stuff fell out."

"It's ok; I'll help you gather it up," offered Andrew.

"And uh, I'll take a look around." Jaden got to his feet gingerly and flexed his back, wincing slightly.

"Be careful," Andrew reminded him, unnecessarily.

As Andrew and Takyle set to reassembling Takyle's pack, Jaden took a quick circuit of the room. The floor was rough and uneven, with large pieces of rock scattered here and there. It seemed more like a natural cave floor, with parts of it chiseled away so that it was for the most part vaguely level, than an artificial excavation.

"Perhaps it was a natural cave that was expanded at some point to form this chamber," mused Jaden silently. He shone his light up the walls and noted that they were almost perfectly vertical, and definitely worked, but the beam was too weak to reveal any detail on the high ceiling.

When he finally approached the large door, he did it cautiously and from an angle. He stood to the side of it and gave the handle a tug. The door didn't budge. He gave the slightly rusted iron a quick rap with the butt of his flashlight and heard a very solid thunk in return. So not a thin door either.

"Great. This is just great."

Jaden turned around to go see how his teammates were getting on and very nearly ran into Andrew.

"So the door's locked then?" Andrew asked, gazing up at it. Takyle stood next to him fiddling with her flashlight.

"Yeah. And at first inspection seems to be pretty solid."

"So what do you want to do, Boss?" asked Andrew.

"Um, well, first let's- Oh! I got it to work! And now it's not- And now it is again... Sorry. Let me see now. No other accesses, Jaden?" said Takyle, shining her now operational flashlight around the room.

"Sure don't seem to be."

Takyle opened her mouth and for the second time she was cut off. This time by a resounding clang from behind the iron door. ~

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chapter 85: Into the Unknown

~ Jaden stared out across the rocky mountaintop through the curtain of rain that poured over their ledge and couldn't help noticing that a sense of uneasiness was settling itself around him.

"How long are we going to stay here?" he asked without turning around.

"Hell Jay, you sound like you have someplace to be," said Andrew. Jaden paused before answering, listening for any signs of... well, anything really, but all that he could hear over the heavy rain was the occasional clap of thunder.

"I don't feel right here."

"Anything in particular that's bothering you?" asked Andrew, immediately attentive.

"I don't know... Just a feeling I guess." Andrew turned to Takyle.

"We should think about our next move as soon as possible then. As a general rule Jaden's feelings tend to be pretty spot on."

"Ok, Jaden, can you be any more specific at all?" asked Takyle.

"I think that part of it is I don't like the fact that we're stuck in this corner and we wouldn't be able to hear, or hardly even see anything that happened to come near. Maybe I'm just being too jumpy, but I feel damn uncomfortable about this."

Takyle opened her mouth to respond, but didn't have to chance to actually say anything before the ground dropped out from underneath them. They plummeted downward into darkness and the only thought on Jaden's mind was: "If this fall doesn't kill us, it's not going to do any favors for Andrew's stomach." And then he hit the ground hard and his breath was knocked right out of him. Above them the piece of rock that they had been sitting on under the ledge slammed shut again, leaving them in absolute night.

Before Jaden could manage to draw enough breath to say something, he heard Takyle moan quietly, and then Andrew's voice.

"Ow! Freaking hell, ow... Ow."

"Jaden, are you ok?" asked Takyle, her voice sounding faint and small in the black void.

"I think so," he gasped. He had managed to go somewhat limp before hitting the ground, and so seemed to have avoided any major injury, but when he tried to sit up, a shooting pain speared into his back. He held his breath until the wave passed, and then tried again, but slower this time. "Yeah, yeah I think I'm ok. You?"

"I'm fine, but I lost my pack in the fall. Do you still have yours on?"


"Where the hell are we?" moaned Andrew.

"Inside part of the mountain I guess. I think that my flashlight is broken. Yours?" Takyle asked. Jaden could hear her moving around, groping for her pack. A hand grabbed his leg and he yelped.

"It's just me," said Takyle. A beam of light cut through the darkness and played across Jaden's eyes.

"Oh, sorry," said Andrew, quickly directing his light elsewhere. The small torch sent very little illumination into the blackness that surrounded them. ~

Friday, August 1, 2008

Chapter 84: Rock and a Hard Place

~ Cover on the mountain top was sparse at best, but after some scouting Andrew managed to locate a small outcropping of rock that created a sheltered nook. Plenty deep to get out of the wind and most of the rain, but shallow enough that it wasn't harboring any interesting animal life.

"Guys, over here. Think I found what we're looking for."

Jaden and Takyle hurried towards his voice and found him crouching below the rock.

"What do you think? Good enough?"

"Excellent!" said Takyle, bending her head to join him, and finally get out of the downpour.

"Are you sure there's nothing...cute in there?" asked Jaden, warily.

"Well I'm in here," replied Andrew, in a hurt tone of voice.

"Oh tee hee. I'm comin' in; I better not crawl over anything exciting." Jaden bent at the waist and edged into the small space and immediately noticed something.

"This nook doesn't look exactly natural to me, guys. The rock almost looks machined."

Takyle switched on her flashlight to get a closer look. "You may be right about that. Think it means anything?"

"Dunno. Is it going to make a difference to us staying here even if it does?"

"Probably not. We won't stick around long," said Takyle. Andrew sat down and leaned back against the rock, closing his eyes for a moment.

"Wow, that climb didn't do me any favors."

"You're face doesn't do me any favors," replied Jaden, perfunctorily.

"I'd say something about your mom here, but honestly, she's so hot I just can't speak ill of her," said Andrew without opening his eyes.

"Jaden, give me some antisep will you? And you'd best clean yourself up while you have time," said Takyle. Jaden unzipped his pack and handed her a couple of packets. Takyle quickly swabbed down the deep cuts on her arm and inspected the damage.

"Well that ain't hardly nothin'," she commented, borrowing one of Andrew's phrases. She sprinkled antiseptic powder over the cuts and then reached over and tipped up Andrew's chin. "Let me clean that up for you." Andrew laughed.

"Oh, now you're nursing me back to health; that's pretty hot."

"Yeah, don't get too used to it. I'm not much of a caregiver."

"Have you told you mom that? Because last time I saw the two of you together she seemed pretty set on having grandchildren."

"You mean the only time you saw the two of us together, and yes, I have told my mother not to hold her breath. Don't know that it did any good, but I did tell her," said Takyle. Andrew flinched as she cleaned the abrasions on his jaw.

"Full disclosure: what more could a mother ask for?"

"That's what I said," Takyle agreed with a nod. "I was very nice about it."

"I've no doubt Ta. You're the soul of discretion."

"Don't I know it." ~