Battle Front: Chapter 17

Kaoru bit the inside of her lip in an effort to keep the tears from spilling from her eyes. There was no way she'd give these men the satisfaction of making her cry. And even if she did know anything useful she'd rather die than tell these dishonorable men any sort of valuable information.

The door shut behind Shishio and the room was silent aside from the sound of her pounding heart, the wheezing of her chest, and Soujiro's quiet breathing. He knelt in front of her and brushed aside the dark strands of hair that had fallen across her eyes. Kaoru glared at him with narrowed eyes and waited for his fingers to get close to her mouth and she snapped her teeth-just missing crunching down on his digits.

"Now, now, Kaoru, no need to be unsociable," Soujiro said reaching behind her and balancing the chair back into a sitting position. He checked the ropes and kept them secured around her wrists and ankles but he did loosen them just enough that circulation flowed a bit more freely.

"Traitor," Kaoru hissed.

He smiled at her gently-not his manic crazed smile from earlier. "Don't lose that spark. We'll need it for the video."

Kaoru reared her head back as far as she could manage hoping to make it appear she wanted to distance herself and then she flung her head forward with all her strength and slammed her skull into Soujiro's forehead. He staggered back with a surprised expression and rubbed the frontal portion of his skull gingerly. "You can't seriously be thinking of broadcasting a torture scene of an American soldier over youtube. That won't accomplish a thing!"

"It will go viral and show the world to take Shishio seriously. It's not the viewers on youtube we're concerned about reaching but when the news stations get a hold of it you'll be on CNN and BBC and the like." He placed his hands on her shoulders and kept himself out of reach. "And we both know you're not a soldier, Kaoru my dear sister."

"You can't get away with this." She turned her face towards his arm on her right and attempted to bite him again, but he was just out of range.

"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," he mocked. He let go of her shoulders and moved behind her and placed his lips right near her ear. "We have to make this look convincing. Pretend I threatened you with something horrifying and I promise we'll both get out of this heroes."

Kaoru's eyes widened and her lip quivered. It wasn't hard to pretend she was scared out of her mind. Did she trust Soujiro whom she had known for years? Or did she keep caution on her side-hope for the best and expect the worse? Aoshi would save her-wouldn't he? Of course, her future brother-in-law had shot him down and that scenario wasn't the most promising.

Soujiro pressed his finger against her carotid artery and Kaoru felt the blood pressure going to her brain drop dramatically. It was a pressure hold-known by followers of Spock from Star Trek, highly educated Martial Artists, and Xena the warrior princess. As her vision faded and her conscious thought began to diminish it wasn't Aoshi's face that she saw before her mind's eye but a man with a shock of white hair, bright turquoise eyes, and a grim expression.

OOOOOoooooOOOOO

Enishi sat in one of the chairs across from General Saitou's desk with his brother-in-law Himura on his right in the other chair. Aoshi had woken up for a grand total of two minutes before he was drugged up with morphine so that he could tolerate the bullet wounds and be rushed off to surgery. He had confirmed what they all ready knew about Makoto breaching security and leaving with the sensitive biological warfare data and Kaoru as a hostage.

What was unexpected was to learn that Soujiro Seta was the one that had shot Shinomori in the legs and had helped with the infiltration of the system.

"Before you two go off on a vendetta to rescue Kamiya and the data and destroy Makoto and Seta you need to know what really happened," General Saitou said calmly leaning in his chair and lighting up a cigarette.

"Sir, this is a non-smoking facility," Kenshin said flicking his eyes in the direction of the 'non-smoking' sign emblazoned on the wall right behind Saitou's desk.

Saitou purposely let loose a puff of smoke directed towards Himura's face. If he was hoping to get a rise out of the calm red-head he was disappointed because Kenshin merely gazed back at him expressionless.

"We're listening, sir," Enishi said. He wasn't known for his patience. He might not have been as short tempered and foolish as Sagara, but he preferred action to passivity any day. His piloting skills were often needed in various top secret missions and if there ever was a missing he needed to be on the need to know list it was this one.

"It's unfortunate that Kamiya was captured, but she does stand a better chance of survival than if anyone else had been taken hostage. Seta is a double agent. He infiltrated Makoto's organization approximately eight months ago and was being used by the terrorist as a means to gain the sensitive biological warfare research that was stolen earlier."

"What century are in, sir? That we'd store such important data in a binder out in the open? No computer discs? No encryption codes? No security cameras?"

"I'm well aware that we're in the twenty-first century, Captain Yukishiro. Shishio believes what he has are notes by the brilliant scientist team that he can utilize for his own research purposes. It's an elaborate rouse with the explicit purpose to capture Makoto in his own compound and destroy his support system entirely. And there were cameras-they were also stolen most likely to film his hostage being tortured. Makoto is a resourceful man."

"He's not an idiot, sir. Surely he knows there would need to be more to it than a journal?" Enishi pressed.

"Of course, within the binder are two minidiscs with over 50 Gigabytes of valuable biological information-at least that's what it looks like," Saitou explained looking at Enishi through narrowed wolf-like eyes as if explaining things to a three-year old. "In actuality, as soon as he begins to look through that information he'll have implanted a ghost virus into his mainframe that will both destroy his data and supply us a means to copy anything useful into our system before it erases in his. He won't even realize this has happened until its all ready over."

"And you're telling us all this, why, General?" Himura asked. "It sounds like you have everything under control."

"Why do you think I sent for you, Battousai? This mission was your true reason for coming." Saitou looked back toward Enishi. "And I wouldn't be able to keep the Captain out of this unless I killed him now that Kamiya has been involved. That is the reason you are both in the know."

"What are our orders, sir?" Enishi asked quietly musing over everything. If he wanted to play spy games he would have joined the CIA. He was in the Army-dammit! His job was to fly helicopters and save his fellow soldiers and occasionally shoot the bad guy. Spies, biological warfare data, and encrypted codes were not his forte. Or at least, they weren't his chosen forte. He'd been in these sorts of missions before but prior to this his need to know had been the drop off and pick up locations for his passengers.

OOOOOoooooOOOOO

Megumi was the first assistant on Shinomori's surgery. The Chief of Surgery was doing the operation and it was always a personal mission when the surgical patient was a fellow doctor. They couldn't afford to have any mistakes because every doctor was a precious commodity in the middle of the war-torn desert.

The sharp clink of the bullet hitting the metal bowl drew her attention to the surgeon's hands. They were confident and sure. Megumi looked down at her hands delicately yet firmly holding the surgical instruments to give the wound a better visual-they were also confident and sure. How could she be so confident about life and death and not be able to make sure strides in the romance department? She'd been with Katsu for a while, but the whole time she'd really been in love with Sano-but she didn't think he met her standard.

What exactly was her standard? If she reviewed her previous relationships her typical boyfriend had been an arrogant, handsome jerk who was only interested in her body. It wasn't until she met Kaoru and had a real female friend and was able to see how she casually interacted with Sano that she had her eyes opened for the first time.

Maybe, Sanosuke was the one. Shouldn't the one be different from the rest? She retracted the medical instruments from Aoshi's bullet wound after the surgeon had cauterized the bleeding blood vessels-no major arteries were hit and it was a relatively simple surgery. Her gaze went towards the young doctor's face. She'd seen the pictures in Kaoru's bedroom of her and Aoshi. Was he the one for her? She'd also seen the way Enishi and Kaoru fought and the fierce look on Enishi's face when he went looking for Kaoru fearing her in danger.

As they began to close up the wounds and finish the surgery Megumi pondered the strangeness of life. She liked Shinomori and he and Kaoru obviously had a good history. But Megumi knew that Sagara was the man for her and she had a sneaking suspicion that Yukishiro just might be the man for Kaoru. She'd known the captain for a couple of years and he was different around Kaoru. At first it was bitter rivalry that she sensed between the two.

Now, she was afraid it was something so intense that neither knew what to do and with Kaoru missing-abducted-she feared she'd lose the chance to see if her friend ever got to have her happy ending.

Megumi scrubbed out of the surgery and Aoshi was moved down the hall into recovery. She made her way to the locker rooms to change and then she would go see Sano. It might be against protocol, but she didn't care. He needed to know the truth of what happened to their friend. And perhaps that Yahiko boy that Kaoru seemed to like so much-he should know too.

OOOOOoooooOOOOO

Kaoru awoke with the taste of copper in her mouth. She blinked her eyes open and her vision was gray and blurred. She ached all over and there was a flashing red light that drew her attention. Was that what had woken her up? As her vision cleared she realized the red light was attached to a camera and she was being filmed. Was it time to grace youtube all ready?

"Awake are you?" Shishio asked. He was across the room leaning against the wall reading through the stolen binder. "Interesting stuff in here. I don't see your name as one of the authors for the research so I doubt you know anything useful."

"You're foolish to think the American military would be stupid enough to make things this easy for you capture?"

Shishio laughed. "Easy? Why it was child's play! The problem with you Americans is you are arrogant. If you had any brains between you - you would put such valuable data in a locked vault with security codes of impeccable fortitude. Instead you leave it out on the table and hidden within something so obvious to find the true treasure." He snapped the binder shut and started to stalk towards her like a hungry predator in the Sahara. "But I am smarter than you Americans think. I found the hidden discs and my men are working now to crack your codes. You Americans are fools! I will destroy the weak from your population. You should thank me for eliminating your weak to make room for the strong!"

"Forgive me for lacking your enthusiasm," Kaoru said blandly. "I am, after all, a simple-minded American woman."

"True, but Seta seems attached to you. I won't be killing you off as I had originally planned." He looked her up and down, his dark eyes red in the dim light and showing a glint of madness. "But really, what use have you for legs? I say we chop them off like in the American author Stephen King's book Misery. A woman has no need to walk when she can be carried." He leaned over her placing his hands on her shoulders as Soujiro had done earlier, but too far away for her to headbutt. "Or crawl."

There weren't many times in Kaoru's life that she'd been scared. But this qualified as a level of absolutely terrified. "And then I'll die of infection and Seta will be pissed."

Shishio pulled away and walked back to the wall to look at the binder once more. "Perhaps, but I do not care about the feelings of my associates. I just want to be entertained." He looked her over again and this time instead of madness glittering in his dark eyes it was unmistakable lust. "Or perhaps I could find something else to do with you that would involve you keeping all your parts intact."

Pride almost had Kaoru shouting, 'I'd rather die!' But she kept that thought unvoiced as her eyes no doubt reflected the rebellious feeling. She didn't want to die. What would Misao do without her? What would Enishi do? He was just starting to emerge from the shell of bitterness that had encased him. If she went and died on him what would happen to the progress he'd made as a person? And what about Sano and Megumi? Without her those two would definitely screw up what could be a beautiful relationship. She thought about Yahiko and Aoshi. And she thought about Soujiro-what was his game? She couldn't let Misao marry him if he was evil and she needed to live to find out the truth.

"I'd rather stay intact," Kaoru said.

A smirk lifted the corner of Shishio's lips. "You won't think that after I'm done with you." There was a knock on the door leading into her prison. "Enter."

A woman with long, dark hair entered wearing what appeared to be a Geisha outfit. Kaoru thought for certain she was hallucinating. What would a Geisha be doing in the Middle East? "You wished to see me, Master?"

"Yes, Yumi, take the peasant there and make her presentable. I can't have her on video with blood and snot all over now can I?"

"What about your terrorist video?" Kaoru asked.

"I've changed my mind. There's another type of video I'd rather do now for my personal collection. And this way you get to keep your legs."

Fear was a vicious emotion. It paralyzed you and kept you from saving yourself when you needed to. Its what caused the deer to stand by and be struck by a car once the headlights hit them. Kaoru wanted to know where Soujiro was. Surely, this whole situation wasn't happening. The bad guys weren't supposed to win! The woman held a long syringe in her hand and brushed aside the hair that had clung to Kaoru's sweaty neck. The sharp stinging sensation of the needle pierced her skin and she felt liquid fire racing into her muscles and blood stream and then Kaoru's vision went blessedly black as her conscious went to a much happier place-anywhere but where she was at.