Title: Dangerous Territory
Rating: T rated for now, M rated later in the story.
Disclaimer: Still not mine. I'm just giving them a little bit of an adventure and some lovin', but no infringement is intended. The owners should consider this flattery, since so many of us like to write about them!
Author's Note: I should mention that any inaccuracies with Colombian names that I will use in later chapters should be forgiven. Also, if there are any Colombians reading this, please don't think that I am buying into the typical stereotype that all Colombia is known for is coffee and cocaine. I simply don't know anywhere else where drug related crime is prevalent and I don't want to be perpetuating any stereotypes as I loathe cultural clichés. That said, I'm taking a bit of a liberty here so please forgive me.
A long, featureless corridor stretches from the cell to another door about forty feet away. Booth pulls back the door and watches from inside the room, half expecting an army of weapon-laden thugs to come charging towards him. But there is silence, except in his head as the gun-blast echoes resoundingly in his mind. At his feet, the guard lies in a crumpled heap, blood trickling from the hole in the back of his skull. There will be time to think about it later, he knows. Plenty of time to agonise over his actions and mentally punish himself for taking a life. It is a ritual he knows far too well and one, he had promised himself a long time ago, he would put a stop to.
Crouching, he rolls the guard unto his back and rummages through his pockets. If he is to survive the ordeal that he will surely face, he had better start prepared.
He finds a bunch of keys, a box of matches, a pocket knife and a handful of coins. Flicking open the pocket-knife blade, Booth slips the metal edge under the rope that binds his ankles and severs the binds. Breathing a sigh of relief, he flexes his toes and slowly rotates his legs, working the blood circulation back into his veins. Doing the same with his wrists is more difficult as he holds the worn ivory handle of the knife between his teeth and rocks forward and back to saw at the rope. The fibres snap, one and at a time, unravelling painstakingly slowly. As the binding peels away, his skin is raw and chafed – angry red contusions burning fiercely. He grits his teeth against the handle, fighting the pain that tears through his limbs and the wound at the back of his head.
Finally, the rope is weakened enough that he can pull his hands apart. The skin is damaged and torn. He examines the wounds for only a second before getting to his feet, wrapping his fingers around the handgun he pulls open the cell door and steps into the corridor.
Temperance is alone inside the tent, it's dark outside now and the sounds from the surrounding jungle make her nervous. She isn't used to being nervous and the emotion evokes a certain anger at herself. Outside the tent, two of their captors talk in whispered Spanish, too low for Brennan to hear. She wriggles in the chair, her entire body stiff from hours of immobility. Shifting causes friction between her skin and the ties binding her arms and feet, she winces quietly.
"Hey!" One of them yell, startling her. "Get him!" Brennan's alertness increases a notch for she knows the guards could only have spotted Booth. It surely meant that he was alive. Her heart thundered, her eyes frantically searching the darkness for a shadow, a glimmer of light, anything to indicate she wasn't just indulging in wishful thinking. Weapons are cocked, the metallic clicking making her increasingly tense.
Two shots ring out, so close together that Brennan's body can't react fast enough as to jump twice. She gasps, the sound tantamount to a scream in muggy night air. Footsteps crunch nosily against the foliage outside the tent, a flashlight clicks on and a white beam sweeps across the base-camp, penetrating the canvas walls. She narrows her eyes, hoping to make out the shape of the figure – to determine whether another guard is coming to threaten her with vile suggestions of what he will do to her or whether the gunshots were actually those of her partner. The flaps part, the light blinds her and she screws her eyes shut, tilting her head.
"Bones?" his voice whispers. The relief that floods through her is so incredible in its force that she almost sobs. Booth is alive and he has come to save her. Her eyes fill as he rushes towards her, his hands touching her face, moving over her neck, shoulders, her arms, touching as much of her as he can. She yearns to learn into him, to be comforted by his large frame. He moves away far too soon, disappearing behind her to cut open the knots holding her arms together. Her muscles have cramped, every limb in her body aches and she is immediately fraught with worry that his escape plan will be hampered by her inability to run, or even walk.
"Did you kill them?" she asks, her voice like scrunched rice-paper – dry and brittle. He doesn't speak, cutting the cotton tie at her feet he pulls her from the chair. She stumbles, pins and needles assaulting her. "I can't walk, Booth," she whimpers. "We're going to get caught." Panic is not an emotion she often feels, but each movement of her legs is futile and she feels crippled, staggering towards the entrance of the tent.
"Stay here," Booth commands gruffly. "I've got some thinks to collect. Try to get some feeling back into your legs." He disappears, the flashlight clicking off and plunging the area into total darkness once again. Brennan takes a tentative step, the prickly sensation intensifying as she presses her weight to her feet. Stumbling again, she curses in frustration.
Booth returns, a large green backpack strapped to his shoulders. On his feet he wears heavy-duty trekking boots that stomp against the dry earth beneath their feet. She wonders where he has obtained the supplies from, and cringes to think he might have taken them from a dead guard. He sweeps the tent with the flashlight, snagging a small kerosene lamp from near the doorway. The metal lamp was once a dark turquoise colour but the paint has chipped away and the handle is bent – almost broken entirely. He seems to think it's worthy of being added and adds it to the bag he carries. The backpack rattles and clinks, laden with equipment.
"Is your leg better? We need to get moving. There were only three guards here now but we don't want to wait around for reinforcements to arrive." His voice is brisk and professional, approaching emotionless. Brennan is confused. Isn't he relieved to see her alive? Why does he sound so disconnected? He levels the beam of light on her face and she nods solemnly, even though her leg still throbs painfully.
"I'm not sure how fast I can move," she tells him regretfully.
"Just move as fast as you can. Put these on." He passes her a pair of trekking boots. They are dirty and slightly too large for her feet but she slips them on obediently, tying the brown laces as tightly as she can. Booth looks anxious, his eyes intent as he strains to listen for the signs of approaching guard members. Brennan straightens, squaring her shoulders and mentally preparing herself for a gruelling trek through the jungle – at night. "We need to head north. Take this," he thrusts a small compass into her hand and a pocket-sized flash light. "You navigate." There is no time to discuss their ordeal or what they have experienced while parted. Booth is steadfastly business-like, adrenaline almost visibly raging through his body. "Ready?" he asks. She nods once in the affirmative.
He steps out of the tent, flash light off again. She points north in accordance with the compass, pausing for only a second to glance around the camp. It's been there for a long time, she guesses. The stone building, barely visible in the hazy darkness, looks like a makeshift prison-cum-quarters. A few canvas tents have been erected in a semi-circle, her own taking centre and flanked by two others. The space between is bare, little vegetation grows underfoot and she suspects this place has long since been used for dirty interrogation tactics. How many people have been murdered here? she wonders sadly. There is no time to ponder it as Booth takes her wrist and leads her into the dense jungle. Her skin is raw and his touch is agonising. He is alert, his reflexes honed tighter than a guitar string. They walk in blind, fumbling darkness for almost forty minutes, stopping every few minutes to listen intently for the sounds of humming vehicles, or voices. There are none. The jungle, aside from the nocturnal croaks and whines of creatures unknown and their footsteps disturbing the debris underfoot, is silent and unforgiving. Eventually Booth stops entirely, removing the backpack from his shoulders and inhales deeply - not yet with relief however. She recognises that he is weary and tense, unable to speculate that they have escaped.
"As soon as the others return, they will have an enormous search party looking for us, Bones. Keep alert and do not underestimate how far the clutches of these people reach. Don't trust anyone who is not an official from the United States government." He reaches into the bag removing a faded map of the jungle with the base camp circled in red marker that has bled through the cheap paper. "We need to head here," he tells her, still whispering. Brennan does not trust her voice to be strong enough to speak. Her throat his dry and her heels ache from the constant chafing of the ill-fitting boots. Speaking would burst the dam of self-control. "This is barely more than a village," his finger taps the word Salvoro, in what seems like a hundred miles across the terrain map. She nods silently, resolutely. "Can you use one of these?" Booth removes a compact laptop computer, a fairly old model by any standards and a satellite connecting modem.
"Yes," she says, her voice barely audible. "But we aren't allowed to communicate with anyone from the FBI or the lab." Booth tilts his flashlight, illuminating the stark impatience that etch his features. He looks like a phantom.
"Our cover is blown, Bones. We need help and some way to encrypt our message so that these bastards don't know what we're trying to say." Brennan's thighs ache, too much inactivity followed by entirely too much activity. She rests her back against the heavy trunk of a tree, slouching to rest the laptop against her knee.
"How many days will it take us to get to Salvoro?" she asks gruffly. "Did you bring water?" He reaches into the backpack and rummages around, the noise of clacking metal positively riotous. She winces as he passes her a canteen, filled to the top. As she greedily downs almost the entire thing, the cool water like elixir to her parched throat, he speaks.
"Four days of hard trekking. We need to cover about fifteen miles per day, over tough terrain." The joy she feels at downing the water is quickly replaced with despair.
"This is how I'm going to send the message," she says.
"I don't get it," says Jack Hodgins to the team as the crowd around the computer that displays his email inbox.
"One thing is for sure," Angela whispers, "something's wrong. They were given strict orders not to contact any of us until their assignment was over." Camille Saroyan rubs small circles over her forehead, warding off a near certain headache. "It's obviously a message."
"We know that!" Jack snaps instantly regretting it. "I don't think they would have just typed random chemicals and useless snippets of the phonetic alphabet for nothing, Angela, do you?" His ex-girlfriend and quite frankly, the love of his life, retreats to the back of the crowd her eyes gleaming with worry. Lance Sweets studies the screen, his eyes running from one line to the other, baffled.
"Sorry dude, the periodic table is so not my forte." Hodgins lifts his hands skyward in frustration, slamming his palm against the screen on the way down. "Look, there's a clue. Read it out." Everyone shifts, their eyes drawn back to the mysterious email that had arrived to his inbox in the middle of the night.
"Periodic table chemicals and phonetic alphabet, first "vowels and consonants" in each," Jack reads aloud. "Why is 'vowels and consonants' in quotations?" he asks. Camille rises to her feet, her gut instinct telling her that something is very wrong in Colombia.
"How about you sit here and work it out while I get the coffee?" She moves away from Jack's cluttered cubicle, leaving the three others to contemplate the riddle.
"There is obviously some reason why this is written in code," Sweets says. "Perhaps they are afraid of their correspondence being intercepted by a third party." Angela worries her lip, her eyes cast downward as she mentally depicts the worst scenarios for her friends.
"Letters," she says at last, almost questioningly. The two men turn to her. "Vowels and consonants are letters." Jack nods slowly. "Read it out from start to finish." Angela takes her sketchbook, pencil poised over the canvas-textured paper. Hodgins clears his throat and slowly, concisely, reads the email out in full.
"Periodic table chemicals, phonetic alphabet, first 'consonants and vowels' in each.
Whiskey erbium neon europium echo dubinum helium erbium lithium plutonium indium nickel delta arsenic nitrogen gallium einsteinium Romeo niobium Oscar radium tin hydrogen tango osmium selenium alpha lead vanadium Oscar radon oxygen 4 dysprosium antimony yttrium titanium rhodium echo krypton November erbium echo armsadtium barium americium chlorine kilo uniform palladium," he pauses. "That's it." Angela studies her page, as though she half expects some answer to come leaping towards her. She frowns, eventually, the random letters seem to alter in her mind and click into place.
"We're supposed to take the first letter from each chemical and word. Take a look." She turns her sketchbook towards them and Lance and Jack lean forward, their gazes skimming the notes frantically.
"w-e-n-e-e-d-h-e-l-p-i-n-d-a-n-g-e-r-n-o-r-t-h-t-o-s-a-v-o-r-o-4-d-a-y-t-r-e-k-n-e-e-d-b-a-c-k-u-p," they read in near perfect tandem. It is Sweets who compiles the letters into a lucid sentence first. "We need help, in danger, north to Savoro, 4 day trek, need backup." He straightens, his expression grim. "We need to tell the FBI. Now."
Thanks again for all the fantastic reviews and encouragement. I think there might be some spelling typos in this because it's almost midnight and I'm actually really tired. Forgive any errors I've made. I hope you continue to like the story and I hope to update again tomorrow. One final note, I don't know if 'Salvoro' could even fit with a Spanish sounding village/town but it sounded Spanish-y and that was enough for me. But any native speakers are welcome to throw in suggestions if it doesn't sit right. Thanks for reading and goodnight.