Chapter Seventy Six
The bed was full of bodies.
They looked as if they'd been baking in the sun all day.
Two large men jumped out of the cab and motioned her into the bed of the truck with their guns.
She got in, forcing her nose not to wrinkle as the stench of multiple corpses snuck up her nostrils.
She only glanced up for a second as commands were issued and the fifteen prisoners were forced to scale the fence, then climb into the truck bed beside her.
She sat down on one corpse only to jump in fright when it moved.
Looking closer, she realized that not everyone in the bed was as dead as she had thought they were.
Many were dead...body parts were littering the bed floor, but some were looking around.
Others she figured were either only just died or were pretending to be dead so as not to attract attention.
Not all were naked, so she began pulling clothing together.
Most of it was unusable, but as the truck shook and jerked around her, she was able to find pants that had one leg intact and about a third of the other leg that wasn't falling off.
They reeked, but provided protection so she wasn't picky.
Amber looked up as the truck turned and realized they'd reached an opening in the fence...to the back end of the rickety building.
Five vehicles of various makes and models were parked and as soon as the truck stopped, bullets began flying over the top of the truck bed.
Amber had ducked down as soon as the first gun had fired, and so ended up on the bottom of a pile as dismembered or headless corpses fell on her because other living beings in the truck panicked and pushed the dead people away.
She would push one off just to have two more newly shot corpses land on her.
Each one had bony elbows.
The gunfire ceased and dirty, tired men...obviously prisoners, began following directions to pull the dead off the truck.
Each time a living person was discovered, screams filled the air.
Amber dreaded her section being cleared.
All too soon, hands touched her and pulled the last body off of her.
She was then dragged and she couldn't prevent a low moan as her shoulder slammed the side of the truck.
Two laughing men grabbed her from the prisoners' grasp and as she twisted, hit her with flattened palms, deliberately twisting the pants so the clothing restricted and cut into her.
She couldn't hold back grunts of pain, but refused to scream.
Unsatisfied with her response, they motioned two more men over and with three of them holding her down on the edge of the truck, her feet dangled just over the edge.
A large, uneven, wooden paddle was in the hand of the fourth man.
Her legs were forced to still as they were roped together.
The man with the paddle stepped so he could swing freely.
Amber gritted her teeth once again, anticipating pain, but hoping her shoes would absorb some of the blast.
Her pain threshold was reached and then drowned as the man systematically alternated between slamming the paddle across the sole of her shoes and resting while the other men took turns raking their fingernails up and down her body, not even an inch escaping unscathed.
Finally her mind could stand no more and she passed out.
* * * * * *
Teal'c was cold with fury.
Each sentence from O'Neill on the tape was spoken with a flatness that would fool one who did not know O'Neill as he did.
He could hear the undercurrents of fear and remembered helplessness.
Much as O'Neill had been when he first walked into DanielJackson's office.
Worse, was what O'Neill was trying to describe.
He knew O'Neill had to be leaving much out.
How can you describe forever in a moment?
* * * * * *
"O'Neill. You are free to go."
Amber didn't even bother to look up.
Everyone in this room knew her name and they delighted in using it.
She'd woken up in time to eat, as usual.
She couldn't budge without coming in contact with another prisoner, dead or alive, and almost all of the live ones talked.
She'd been told the war had become a World War, and that it had lasted two and half years so far.
"O'Neill! I said you've been released."
Amber finally looked up and saw a crisp, clean, beautiful man standing there in USAF uniformed glory.
She stood, hope giving strength even though her legs were shaky.
The man grinned and motioned her out of the room.
She began to relax until she realized where they were headed and then she twisted, animal sounds ripping out of her throat.
"Oh no, O'Neill...it's time to talk about your family."
Amber froze only for a second before bolting, but that second cost her.
A huge weight knocked her to the ground and a deep laugh filled the air as the fake airforce officer banged her head against the floor three times.
"Stop this. We want him conscious."
The banging stopped, but the pain still blasted through Amber's eyes.
"I won't tell you...anything!"
Amber panted with exertion, her weakened and beaten body betraying the strength she tried to put into her voice.
A deep laugh rumbled through the officer.
She was hauled into a dirty little cell.
Four prisoners were sobbing on the floor.
A gun was placed in Amber's hands.
"You know the drill, O'Neill. If you shoot them, you go free."
Amber could've laughed.
As if they thought she was stupid enough to fall for that.
She aimed and fired.
The officer yelled in rage.
As usual, it was full of blanks.
As usual, she shot a guard and not a prisoner.
Before the officer could get closer, she pulled the trigger on him just for the sheer pleasure of aiding her imagination.
To her surprise, a real bullet flew out ripping through the officer's arm.
Glee ran through her as her body tried to move properly, but too much stress had been placed on it and her knees gave out as she hit the floor.
Anger lacing his voice, another man grabbed her and slammed her head against the wall.
Then, two other men were grabbing her and pulling her in different directions, stretching her body.
They waited until she grunted before pulling harder.
As soon as she sobbed, feeling her muscles rip, they let go and she fell, hitting the floor.
Her head impacted the floor and she was unconscious again.
* * * * * *
Teal'c hated what O'Neill had gone through, knowing his imagination and past experiences could not truly fill in what O'Neill was unable to describe completely.
He opened his eyes and looked at O'Neill anew.
This time, pride filled his gaze.
O'Neill's eyes were fixed again and he shook O'Neill gently.
Receiving no response, he shook harder.
O'Neill held up a finger.
Something had clicked, but Teal'c didn't know what.
* * * * * *
"Wake up! We gotta move! C'mon!"
Amber jerked awake, her head pounding.
"C'mon, we have to go."
Arms pulled her up and she let them.
She wasn't awake yet and she wasn't sure she wanted to get that way.
"They're coming to kill you this time. We have to go."
"If they haven't killed me in two years, they're probably going to just let me rot."
"Two years? What're you talkin' about? You've only been in here a couple months, max."
That penetrated and Amber sat up, staring into the other prisoner's eyes.
"I promise you. I have been here less than two weeks and unless you were captured before Desert Storm started...I thought not, well that started only a couple months ago so you couldn't possibly have been here longer."
Amber shook her head, the confusion clearing a bit.
"Oh...kay. So how exactly are we going to get out of here?"
"I know the way."
"I'm part of an underground resistance. We got a message you were there when one of our leaders died. We had thought he had joined you, but I can see he didn't."
Amber's head reeled as they passed through false walls, only wondering for a moment how the prisoner knew which walls to move to keep from getting caught.
"Thought you were American?"
"I am, but well, half of me is. Trust me, it's difficult to explain. Just need you to answer a couple questions."
That let Amber know what was really going on.
"I swear to you, I already know pretty much any military information you have and even if I don't, I don't want or need to. I just need to know..."
A wall slid open beside them and a blast of energy caught Amber.
She assumed the energy made the prisoner's eyes glow as he dropped her and ran, the other man in hot pursuit.
A blow to her head knocked her back out and she willingly fell back into oblivion.
* * * * * *
Jack jumped up, knowing he'd startled Teal'c.
He looked down, seeing that Teal'c was finished with the tape.
Teal'c put in on the floor and placed his foot on top of the recorder.
Now that was tempting.
"No, Teal'c, we need to know who did this and why. There may be clues on the recorder."
Teal'c picked it up and Jack grabbed the bag it had come in.
"I wanna check on Amber and make sure she's not reliving this stuff in her dreams. I didn't even think about that until I realized there was a weird echo at the back of my head."
"I do not understand, O'Neill."
Jack stopped, fear pushing him to move.
"Teal'c, Amber was sedated, I wasn't. Someone left that in here deliberately. I may be off completely, but if you wanted access to confidential information, but knew you wouldn't get it out of me, and you knew I was connected to a civilian who probably has no mental defenses against interrogation...I know she does, but they probably don't...wouldn't you try to find a way to get it out of Amber?"
Teal'c cocked his head.
"None of that probably made any sense, but I know what I mean and we have to go. Now."
Jack raced out of the room, the bag gripped tightly.
As soon as he entered the infirmary, he saw Amber breathing hard, drenched in sweat.
He was at her side in less than a moment and pulled out her IV.
Shaking her awake, he wrapped his arms around her as she began sobbing soundlessly, her body shaking violently.
"I know. I'm so sorry Amber, I know."
Jack repeated the words softly, over and over, into her ear.
"Teal'c we can't let her out of our sight. If this was a setup, they'll need to get it out of her. She's a target."
Teal'c nodded and stepped closer.
"She should not have lived through that."
Jack swore and held her tighter, feeling the tears wetting him through his shirt.
"I think it's time we cornered Hammond."
* * * * * *
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