CHAPTER 1 of The DarkFlyer Protocol
Helmand Province, Afghanistan; June 23, 2016
IT was one thing to be dying, it was another to be dying while enduring torture.
US Marine 2nd Lieutenant Jonathan Powers never expected to be a prisoner of war, locked away in some putrid, sweltering make shift cell located somewhere in the Middle Eastern desert of Afghanistan. From his window he was only able to make out some other small, very rundown structures, meaning it was a small town that had been abandoned a while ago. Marines were always trained to be prepared for any situation including capture and trained to resist giving up information of any importance and make any attempt at escaping if able. Lt. Powers had resisted, even in the face of torture, but escape was going to be another thing entirely.
He was pretty sure that the Humvee he'd been in charge of had been taken out by a roadside IED. He wasn't sure of course, but he knew that something bad had befallen him and his Marines. He couldn't help and wonder about the three other Marines he'd fought and bled beside for three tours, including this last tour. Twenty-three year old PFC Karim “The Kid” Marshall had been the driver. A smart mouthed kid from the Bronx, Marshall was aspiring to become a singer after his enlistment, and he possessed a voice that could have probably taken him far in the music business. Behind him in his usual place had sat LCpl Gregory “Z Bomb” Porter. The thirty-one year old Montana boy had the physique of a linebacker, was deadly with any firearm he got his hand on and had possessed the talent of being able to sleep on any surface in any climate.
The last Marine had been in the turret manning the 50cal. Cpl Marcus “Cy” Young, a thirty-five year old baseball player from Chicago, Illinois, who had immense athletic talent and was one of the friendliest guys Jon had ever met.
Each of them were very capable Marines and Jon knew they would have followed him anywhere. There was an unspoken bond of brotherhood for this group of Marines despite rank and each of them knew what the other was capable of.
Jon was aware of only one other survivor, or that's what he hoped when he found one of his captors wearing a combat vest with Young's name patch on it. There were some splotches of dried blood around the bottom of the vest, but after persistently asking them about the young Corporal, they finally explained that if Jon cooperated he would be able to see him. Otherwise, they would torture and kill his fellow Marine before doing the same to Jon.
Jon had made it this far and he wasn't about to stand for his fellow Marine's torture, but he was in no shape to be even thinking about escape. Whatever the explosion had been, it had heavily damaged his left foot pretty bad and but his left leg was what really concerned him. His left leg, from just bellow his kneecap down, was burned and mangled. Aside from a splint and some haphazard bandaging, the men who'd captured him had done little to try and fix the damage.
His right leg was semi improving, but his left leg was getting worse and Jon was pretty sure that it was turning gangrenous, which would explain the fever that had begun only yesterday. In the current climate of freezing nights and blistering days, and with no medical attention it was obvious not only that he was dying, but if he didn't make a move soon it would be to late to do anything for himself or his fellow Marine.
There was the sound of a vehicle pulling up to the building and he heard a sudden commotion outside his makeshift cell door. His tormentors spoke Arabic and Jon had enough basic linguistics to understand some of what they were saying. What words he picked out, if his knowledge was correct, told him that they had captured a journalist of some sort and that it was possibly a woman.
'When are those journalists and reporters going to learn to stay the heck out of combat zones?' He thought to himself. His instinct to protect the welfare of civilians and innocents instantly kicked in though, despite his aggravation and physical problem. Without even seeing who it was, Jon took on the responsibility of safeguarding the welfare and repatriation of whomever they'd just brought in.
The vehicle had pulled around his corner of the building to – what he assumed was - the front entrance. There was the squeal of old breaks and the engine shut off, leaving only the sound of his captors voices raised in a cheer, some of them even praising Allah. The first sound the captor made was to yell something in Arabic with a woman's voice confirming his suspicions. She sounded young and spoke their language fluently.
Whatever she'd said though, was enough to shut the men up – at least for a moment. He heard a very sharp smack of flesh on flesh followed by uproarious laughter. There was another verbal exchange, first from one of the men who had a gruff, cruel sounding voice as he said something to make them laugh again, followed again by the woman speaking in lower, even tones which were cut off by another sharp smack – most likely mistreatment on the part of the terrorist she was conversing with. He felt a surge of anger and hatred flow through him. No person – especially most military personnel – could bide seeing or listening to women or children being abused by thugs and cowards.
There was another sharp smack and after some more brutal sounding exchanges and further laughter on the part of the group that had obviously stepped out of the building to watch the spectacle, he heard a group of two or three men reenter the building. There was the sound of someone unlocking the padlock and opening the door to his room. Jon was on the thin cot on the floor opposite the door and he propped himself up against the wall as the woman who'd been captured was roughly shoved to the floor beside him. Unable to catch herself with her arms tied behind her back, she nearly face planted. One of the men stood at the entrance to the room and sneered at Jon.
“You have... two minutes. Don't try...anything.” He said in broken English, before slamming the door. Jon recognized the voice as the man who'd had verbal exchanges with the woman and he quickly remembered the man's face.
Jon cursed the man – if you could call him that - under his breath then looked to the woman.
The woman journalist was dressed in a short sleeve tan shirt, khaki pants tucked into a pair of suede combat boots. He pulled himself over to her and removed the sack which had been put over her head revealing straight, ginger hair tied back in a pony tail. He was taken aback by her intensely bright green, almond shaped eyes and – even with the cuts, bruises and the fresh redness of her cheeks – the beautiful angles of her face.
'You're losin' it Powers.' He thought to himself, almost shaking his head to try and clear it. 'Don't got time, focus Marine!'
He was about to ask if she was all right, when she abruptly asked him in a very clear, proper British accent: “Are you 2nd Lieutenant Jonathan Powers, United States Marine Corps?”
“Um, yes Ma'am.” Jon said, his curiosity and suspicion piqued by her sudden query. “How... do you know my name? Who are you?”
Alexa Kingsley looked over the American Marine as she quickly explained to him that she was part of a UN special task force sent in to retrieve him and any survivors from the attack on his convoy. At the same time she was speaking to him, in quiet tones so as not to be overheard, she was also taking stock of the Lieutenant's physical well being.
He was wearing an olive drab t-shirt, indicative of Marine battle dress, his MARPAT trousers, which lacked a belt and were cut from the ankle up revealing his injured legs and feet. She noticed the swollen, sickly look of his left shin, ankle and foot. The area was caked in dry blood and nearly double the size of his right. The other foot was bloodied as well but was in okay shape. She looked at his face which was covered in various gashes and discolored bruises he'd most likely sustained by his captors. His face was gaunt and the skin had an ashen, sickly tone that was worrisome.
“How are you feeling Lieutenant?” It was an obvious question but she was also assessing his mental state of health. By all accounts she recognized the gangrenous left leg and she could guess that he was suffering from shock, fatigue, malnutrition, severe infection and most likely a very high fever that, if not taken care of soon, would most likely kill him.
“You a doctor Ma'am?” His tone was slightly lethargic and weary.
“No Lieutenant; and I'm not a Ma'am, I'm Sergeant First Class Alexa Kingsley.” She replied as she looked him in the eye. “There will be time for talk later Lieutenant, right now I have to...”
She was interrupted when the padlock was removed and the door yanked open. The cruel looking man who had pushed her into the room stood staring at her with a smug smirk on his face.
The insurgent entered the room placed his foot on Jon's busted up left leg and ground his heel down on the swollen shin bone causing Jon to cry out in gut wrenching pain. Jon felt his stomach heave, the sharp agony in his leg traveled up through his spine and into his fevered brain, nearly causing him to pass out.
He heard, almost as if from a distance, Alexa screaming for the coward to leave him alone followed by a sudden shadow of movement that passed before his sight. The grinding was suddenly gone and as his vision and mind began to clear, he recognized the sound of AK-47s going off and shouts of terror and pain from the men in the other room. Alexa was gone and his fevered thoughts bounced from one question to the next. It had to be a rescue, but when had that happened? How much time had passed? Where was Alexa and what had they done with her?
Jon found himself doubled over on his side, his hands grasping fervently for his left shin to try and assuage the sharp throbbing pain that was there. The cacophony of noise was loud to his ears and that's when he looked up and suddenly noticed... the door to his room was open. In the outer room though, it wasn't a spec op group that had attacked Jon's captors. It wasn't even a group at all. Moving through the ranks of aggressors like a deadly wraith with the sole purpose of protecting her ally, was Sergeant First Class Alexa Kingsley.
Alexa was not regular British military. She had been regular army at one point, doing her part in service of Queen and country, but all that changed when she volunteered for a Top Secret military project that would change her life and possibly revolutionize warfare itself.
During the “medical” procedures and new training, Alexa felt that she was a part of something that could be read about in those American comic books and science fiction novels, where people were granted amazing powers and abilities that far exceeded those of regular people.
They had used an experimental Isotope and the latest biological science to genetically and physiologically modify her and several other candidates from different countries to the point of nearly peak physical perfection. In Alexa's final tests it was found that she could run well over 90kph (55 mph) and could lift over 540kg (1190lbs) at full strength.
It wasn't until the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that she was provided the means for testing her abilities and the abilities of her teammates. Her capture by the insurgents hadn't simply been random, it had been an opportunity for the Top Brass to see what she and her unit were capable of – much to the misfortune of the insurgents which were now feeling the brunt of her skills and abilities.
The enemy combatant that had thrown Alexa into the room with Lt. Powers and had been grinding his heel into the Marine's bad leg, was the first to get a taste of Alexa's augmented strength.
When she had screamed in fury and shock at the unprovoked attack on the severely wounded Marine, she had also snapped the ropes binding her wrists in almost the same second, like Sampson from the Bible. With no strain at all Alexa had grabbed the man by his neck and lifted him off the floor like a rag doll. He looked at her in absolute surprise, his eyes nearly as big as saucers as he tried to get to the AK-47 around his shoulder. In a quick motion she threw him towards the door, ripping the weapon away in the same moment, which caused him to spin like a top, till he slammed into the wall and door frame, landing on the floor in a heap. She was on him almost instantly but this time she lifted him to his feet while looking into the other room where the other insurgents were standing.
There were a few cries of warning and some of them went for their weapons when they saw her standing in the doorway holding the half conscious combatant against the wall. Before any of them had a chance to bring their weapons to bear on her, she was already on the move using the man she was holding as a human shield. He became the first casualty, as he was shot and killed by his own men.
In less then a minute she'd moved through their ranks and taken out almost all of the insurgents, but a group of them came in from the door where the vehicle was located, blasting away at her with their AK-47s. There were four of them and as they entered, Alexa ducked into a small alcove. They were suddenly between her and the room that still held the Marine Lieutenant and she cursed herself as she watched one of them enter the room as the others continued to blast away at her.
Alexa assessed the situation in a split second and made her move. The remaining three insurgents were shocked at the speed with which the female aggressor moved and she took them down almost simultaneously.
In the blink of an eye, she moved to a table 2 feet away, tipped it over and crouched behind it, but she only remained for a second. In that second she saw a chair and a Czech made Skorpion Vz. 61 machine pistol near her. She calculated that the amount of ammo expended by its deceased owner left only 2 rounds in the mag.
In the next instant she had both in hand and, even as the AK rounds tore up the table and zinged overhead, she moved to attack.
She set the Skorpion in her left hand to semi-auto then dove to her right side and flung the chair at the nearest insurgent who'd been standing out in the open, overconfident in their numbers and the barrage they were unloading on her. He took the brunt of the chair in his right shoulder and the side of his head, which knocked him senseless and sent him flying backwards.
Even as the chair flew towards its target, she judged the movement and position of the second and third combatant, then fired off the remaining rounds so fast that it almost sounded like one shot. The two 7.65x17mm rounds did their grizzly work, taking the remaining insurgents cleanly in their heads, killing them instantly. It all happened within seconds and to Alexa's keen mind it was almost as if the three men had been standing still.
The silence was deafening after all the previous noise, and she waited for a moment to see if anyone else moved before she made a B-line to where the Marine Lieutenant was located, grabbing an AK-47 off one of the dead men en-route. There was a grunt followed by a loud thud as she approached the room entrance, then silence.
“Lieutenant Powers?” She called out. There was no reply. “Lieutenant Jonathan Powers?”
There was silence for a second longer, then came a reassuring, yet weak “Oorah” from within.
She leveled the AK into the ready position, just in case, and quickly turned the corner into the room, ready to blast the enemy within. She found the insurgent laying face down near the door with his neck twisted at a weird angle and next to him was Lt. Powers. He was breathing like he'd just ran ten miles, which was mostly due to the malnutrition, pain and raging fever which were taking their tolls; but he was breathing.
Alexa kicked the dead insurgent to the side, dropped the automatic weapon and knelt down next to the battered Marine.
“Lieutenant, can you hear me? Eyes open Marine, talk to me.” She placed a hand on his forehead which felt like a kiln. Alexa was pretty sure his fever was beginning to spike with the energy he'd had to expand taking his attacker out and she needed to go get some water and administer aid or the fever and infection would finish the work that the IED and his captors had begun.
The Lieutenant mumbled something to the effect of “I'm fine,” and she was about to get up when he suddenly grabbed her by the wrist. In a very lucid moment, his light brown eyes met hers and through all the pain and misery he asked her simply: “Where's Corporal Young? Where's my Marine?”
Alexa sucked in a breath through her nose, almost gagging at the smell of sand mixed with the sickly odor coming from his mangled left leg. 'He doesn't know' she thought.
She hid the utter sadness and anger at the torture and pain done to this poor man and what he had yet to experience. She didn't hide the compassion she felt though and she smiled down at him while she wiped what little sweat was on his brow and cheek.
“Your Marine is safe Lieutenant, they let him go. He's in a secure location ready to head home.” She half lied. The truth of what had happened to Corporal Young was not an easy thing for her to comprehend and she knew that telling Jon the truth could do much more harm then good. Alexa told him to rest easy as she grasped his arm with her right hand.
Nanotech needles, a new medical device designed through a Japanese and American technology group, issued from the watch on her wrist to her sixth, eighth and ninth finger and injected him with morphine, and antibiotics to start countering the infection and fever that were ravaging his body. She reassured him that everything would be fine, she would be right back and – whether it was the medicine kicking in, relief that his Marine was safe or both – Jonathan Powers mumbled something while his body seemed to relax.