Chapter Seventy Five
The woman snapped her fingers.
A cup of blessedly clear water was lifted to her mouth and she tried to sip it, but choked anyway when the big masked guy tipped the cup too fast.
Hard pounding on her back was followed by sharp, angry instruction from the soft voice.
"Not so hard. He has been here for two years and is too weak to treat so badly."
Was that really her voice?
It sounded so...old...frail.
"Do not try to speak. I am sorry for your treatment, but with the information you gave us, we have been victorious against our enemies. We told your country you told us nothing and admitted that we had treated you badly so now that the war is over, you will be received as a hero."
Amber's knees failed her as despair rose in her.
They had to be lying, but could she be sure?
"I can go home?"
The masked woman stepped forward, her gentle fingers caressing Amber's forehead.
"Yes. You have suffered long enough. Go home and forget us."
"Shh...quiet. Your ears have been covered for a very long while and that is why your hearing seems so painful. It will pass and will in fact make your senses that much better in time. Please, come with me."
Amber held back, but the men beside her moved and she was still too disoriented for her body to understand the direction she wanted to go.
So she followed the masked woman into another small room identical to the one they'd left...except that it had a small mattress on the floor.
"Go to sleep. You will heal and be ready to leave when your American friends arrive to take you back."
"I will have food prepared."
Amber nodded weakly, sighing a bit as the soft mattress cushioned her back.
She wasn't sure what was really going on, but was willing to play along if it meant better treatment for awhile.
Strategic retreat and regrouping of strength and supplies was sometimes necessary.
Her head began to pound and one of the masked men pushed on her stomach, forcing her to exhale before holding an open vial under her nose.
She instinctively inhaled and foggy thoughts began running through her brain before blackness stopped thought altogether.
* * * * * *
"I do not know, O'Neill. Perhaps a clue is on the tape?"
"If it is, then we're never going to know, because I'm not listening to it."
"If you wish, I could listen to it using DanielJackson's headphones."
"Do you not trust me with your past, O'Neill?"
O'Neill's jaw moved, but no sound came out for a moment.
"Teal'c, I want to, but I can't...I mean a lot of it's confidential and..."
Teal'c looked at the way sweat broke out across O'Neill's brow.
Deciding for him, Teal'c took the recorder and began looking through DanielJackson's drawers for the headphones.
* * * * * *
Amber jolted herself awake as blow after blow rained across her.
She felt the impact, and the pain, but it felt odd...diffused.
She opened her eyes and felt a shock of fear race down her throat as clear plastic was immediately stretched over her nose and mouth.
Unable to breathe, she struggled in vain, her lungs burning.
The plastic was ripped away, chapping her skin.
A vile, rotted foot detached from it's owner's leg was held under her nose as she inhaled, deeply.
The stench assaulted her and she gagged.
Her head was grabbed and the hood was slipped over it again.
This time, she felt a weight on her face and then felt the binding sensation of tape being run around the hood to keep it in place.
The weight made her gag as the stench came through the hood.
She'd seen the thick rug they had laid over her body as they beat her with their fists.
That was why the blows felt odd.
She shook her head violently, trying to get the rotted foot off, while fighting nausea.
No matter how she moved, the foot didn't budge and she concluded it must've been taped in place.
She tried to control her stomach, but as she felt liquid seep through the fabric, intensifying the stench, she lost the battle and began choking as the contents of her stomach emptied into her throat and were forced back inside by the tight confines of the hood.
She began drowning in her own vomit, thrashing against the large hands holding her in place.
The blows had not abated and Amber barely noticed when they stopped.
"I said to treat him well. You disappoint me."
The tape was removed, the foot was tossed to a forgotten corner and Amber flipped onto her stomach as the hood was ripped off.
As the bile and what little had been in her stomach poured out of her mouth, she glared at the masked woman.
"I apologize for your unfortunate treatment. They were not made aware of the information you had disclosed to me. It will not happen again."
A warm cloth massaged her face as the last traces of liquid were wiped away.
The smell from the foot remained, coloring her sense of smell with its unique foulness.
"I have prepared a bath for you. It has been over a year since you were last bathed...and that spraying of water didn't really count as a bath. Come with me."
Amber tried to remember, but her head felt so fuzzy.
She struggled into a sitting position, realizing she was completely nude.
She spotted the ripped remains of the shirt on the floor beside the mattress
She wrapped the rug around her waist as best she could as she stood under the vicious gaze of her captors.
Following the woman through the door, back into the other room, she caught a glimpse of something along the edge of the wall, but had no time to dwell on it before the woman gently took her arm and led her to the metal bowl.
"Step onto the cloth so no water touches the floor and raise your arms."
Amber refused and the woman smiled sweetly.
"Modesty is your choice, of course, but it will include staying unclean. I will wait only a moment longer before leaving if you choose not to bathe. I am needed elsewhere."
Amber looked at the water, feeling the carpet of dirt on her body acutely as well as the small things moving in it.
She straightened her shoulders, realizing there was no power over her that she didn't give them and let the rug drop to the floor.
Raising her arms, she waited for the blessed cleanliness the water promised.
The woman filled two large metal cups using the ladle in the small basin.
She swiftly lifted them and Amber looked at her, waiting a moment longer.
Expecting a drizzle, Amber was unprepared when the woman dumped both cups on her shoulders at once.
Expecting water, Amber was doubly unprepared for the stinging burn of the clear liquid as thick streams of hydrogen peroxide raced across her flat chest and down her body, foaming her multitude of wounds painfully.
She howled, lashing out at the woman, the pain galvanizing her military mind out of the fog it had been living in.
Swinging on a balanced pivot, she connected her foot to the woman's face, sending her flying into the wall.
Amber then dropped into a crouch as two pairs of fists swung over her head and countered the men's movements with a sweeping floor kick followed by as many sharp jabs as she could manage per second into their legs and as she stood, the closest man's solar plexus.
Grabbing the rug, she used it to knock the basin over and onto the men, grinning without humor as they screamed, rubbing their eyes and foaming in their mouths.
Her own wounds drying in the cold air, she grabbed the basin and slung it into the head of the farthest man.
Rolling forward, she balanced on a painful handstand, wrapping her legs around the nearest man's neck and squeezing.
He racked his nails across her legs anywhere he could, and she twisting, snapping his neck.
Releasing him and falling gracelessly on already stressed ribs, she flinched as his large body smashed onto the floor beside her.
She scrambled off the floor and placed her feet against the wall, ready to use it as a lever if anyone came to and headed her direction.
When the wall shifted, she froze and slowly turned around.
The wall slid away, revealing a third room...filled with bodies, some of whom she recognized.
The floor had dogtags scattered across it.
As soon as she saw the way the wall slid open, she was able to turn and see the same distinct crack along all of the walls.
The walls were false.
She ran across, kicking the woman along her jaw to send her back into oblivion when she stirred, and pushed on the wall.
It moved easily and she peeked through the crack to see.
A naked man was being beaten with wooden sticks along the back of his legs and arms.
She was about to run in, when footsteps made her turn.
A blow to the back of Amber's head sent her reeling and another one put her to sleep.
* * * * * *
Teal'c finally found the small earphones in the back.
They were the small ones that fit just inside his ear.
He settled into a meditative state as he folded his legs beneath him.
He heard the chair move and looked up to see O'Neill mimicking his posture and position.
Teal'c approved, knowing the position would release the tension in O'Neill.
"You mind some company?"
"I do not."
"Good. Thanks, Teal'c."
Teal'c allowed a small smile for O'Neill before pushing play.
* * * * * *
Lots of gunfire.
Amber felt hard, hot, dirt underneath her as she opened her eyes.
It was almost dusk, and there was gunfire coming her way.
Looking around, she noted a small forest of trees, a fence, and a building.
The building looked old, rusty, and she figured it probably wouldn't last much longer.
She had no idea how she got outside the fake rooms or how far away from them she was, but she also wasn't questioning it.
She got up, noticing the worn sneakers on her feet - her only clothing, and ran.
As fast as she had ever run in her life.
The only real cover was in the trees behind her and since that was the direction the gunfire was closing in from, she elected not to go that way.
The gunfire became louder, inspiring her to run harder and faster.
Ahead, the dirt ended at the fence, barbed, but unguarded.
She looked around quickly, to see if there was anything she could use to protect her hands, but saw nothing.
Gritting her teeth, she checked to make sure it wasn't electrified, and then climbed, the tiny barbs digging into her hands.
She wasn't halfway up when bullets started zinging around where her feet had been.
Climbing faster, wincing against the tearing in her fingers, she scaled the fence.
Carefully climbing over the top, she faced the direction the bullets were coming from and froze in place, unable to move.
Fifteen naked, dirty prisoners were there, crying, slumped in defeat...some leaking blood and fluid out of multiple bullet holes.
She didn't care about them.
It was the fifty plus grinning men behind them.
All pointing guns at her.
Noises assaulted her tortured ears and she looked to see small moving objects in the distance.
Unsure whether she should climb down or try to go back to the other side of the fence, she chose to lessen the damage to her hands by slowly descending the fence, each barb sting imprinting itself in her consciousness.
The vehicles pulled up as she touched the ground.
She took a close look and noticed a familiar shape.
Realizing the woman walking toward her was the same woman from before, unmasked, Amber wiped her bloody hands on her ribs and held out her hand.
"Nice to meet you again. Seen an American Embassy around here somewhere? I just need to make a quick phone call."
The woman paused and Amber wasn't sure if it was because she wasn't expecting sarcasm or because Amber's voice had croaked too much to make out what was said.
A cruel smile played across the woman's lips and she started forward only to stop when a few commands were barked from inside the vehicle.
Answering too quickly for Amber to follow, the woman glared, then spun on her heel and got back inside the vehicle.
As that vehicle pulled away, Amber saw a beaten, aging truck pull up.
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