Well...here it is! The first chapter of my sequel to Shadows!
Oooh...I'm a little nervous about this one. More nervous than I was posting the first chapter of Shadows...because Shadows was pretty impressive for me (I'm not bragging, I'm just saying that it was pretty good for something I've done) - and I really want this story to be just as good as Shadows was.
Once again, I struggled to come up with a title. Shadows I got from a label on a candle. Deliverance I picked up from a footy game that was on TV when I was writing - it was the only word that I heard the commentators say, and I was like, "Heeey..."
Whether or not it suits, I don't know yet...I may change it. :P Let me know what you think!
Anyway, I'm treating this story as just a direct continuation from Shadows - there'll be a little bit of recap in the next chapter, but apart from that, I'm just gonna try and get straight into the story. Once I get come up with some ideas :D
Okay...so, hopefully, you enjoy this story. If you do, please review and let me know - you might just inspire me! ;P I'm always open to suggestions and constructive criticism is always helpful.
Disclaimer - As much as I love G.I Joe and wish they were mine, they aren't. I write only for the fun of it and to share the Joe love.
And with that...here we go! Eeek!
He hit her again, his fist slamming into her gut, forcing the air from her lungs. She wheezed, the rope around her chest - binding her to the chair - not allowing her to double over. Instead, she tried to sit as straight as she could, her head held high, trying to maintain some small shred of dignity while she tried to suck in a breath.
He waited until she could breathe again, patting the top of her head before prompting her to talk. "Stop making it so hard for yourself, Nomad. Just tell me where the Joe headquarters are, and I'll stop hurting you. I promise."
Still dizzy from the blow, Nomad glanced up at her interrogator - Andy, the man she'd once considered a friend. "Go to hell," she spat. "Bitch."
Andy sighed. "Nomad…Nomad. Come on. If you don't tell me, it's only gonna get worse. You know that, right?"
"Fuck you. There's nothing…you could do that's…worse than what -"
Andy backhanded her, reopening one of the scabbed-over cuts on her lip. He leaned close to her. "Are you sure about that, Nomad?"
She looked him in the eye and gave a slightly demented laugh, scaring herself a little. "I've been to hell before, Andy."
He stepped back, leaned casually against the table, his head tilted slightly to one side. "Oh. Alright," he said eventually.
Nomad frowned as he walked around the chair and knelt behind her, uncuffing one hand and gripping her wrist tightly. He shoved the chair further toward the table.
She glanced quickly at the glass of water that was permanently on the table. It was almost in reach -
"Thirsty?" Andy wondered. "You know what you have to do to get a drink."
Nomad remained silent, then winced as Andy slapped her hand onto the tabletop, palm down. It hurt - he'd already ripped out every single one of her nails. What else -
Oh. Oh, god...
Andy smiled warmly at her as he pulled the hammer from a pocket of his Crimson Guardsman uniform - the red uniform worn by the elite soldiers of the terrorist organisation, Cobra. He'd been one all along, and she'd been to stupid to realise -
No. She couldn't have realised. There'd been no reason to think he was the enemy, no signs, nothing.
He was still looking at her, flipping the hammer into the air and catching it again. "I mean it, Nomad. I don't have to do this."
She tried to clench her fist.
"Uh uh," he said, leaning heavily on the back of her hand, flattening it.
"Fuck you," she said again through gritted teeth.
Andy sighed. "Fine. Be like that."
She couldn't stop the pathetic whine that came from her throat as Andy raised the hammer. She braced herself.
The hammer came down -
Andy quickly adjusted his swing and the hammer whammed loudly onto the table, leaving a dent. "Yes?" he asked smugly.
Nomad hung her head in shame. "Please…don't hurt me anymore. I'll…I'll tell you everything."
Nomad's eyes snapped open and she jerked violently, suddenly wide awake, breathing hard. Her heart felt like it was trying to squeeze its way up through her throat and out of her mouth. She was sweating as if she'd just come in from a hard physical training session - her stripy infirmary-issue pyjamas were drenched. The sheets were bunched down around her legs.
What the hell was that? That hadn't happened. Not that last bit, anyway. She hadn't broken…she hadn't told Andy anything.
He'd gone ahead and broken her nail-less fingers. The thought made her aware that her hands were throbbing again now; the painkillers were wearing off.
Nomad took a deep breath, winced as her broken rib twinged, and sank back onto her pillow, staring blankly at one of the posters on the roof of the infirmary. Oddly enough, it was fastened to the roof with throwing stars, one in each corner.
In what had seemed like a pure act of kindness, Storm Shadow had put the poster up there a few months ago for another wounded Joe, a young woman named Jeckle. It was one of those '3D' ones that used to be really popular in the 90s - the ones you had to kind of stare through to see the hidden image. Nomad could see it now: it was a rose.
Nomad refocused her eyes and grinned at the memory. Jeckle couldn't do those pictures - which was probably the reason Stormy had put that particular one up there. Jeckle had spent hours glaring at that poster, trying to see it, swearing at the ninja under her breath. Storm Shadow, of course, claimed innocence.
A few days later, the Joes' other resident ninja, Snake Eyes, had relented and stuck up a few other posters. Nomad could've described each of them precisely, down to the creases in the corner of the wolf one.
It wasn't that she'd been in the infirmary for a long time - it had only been a couple of days since she'd got back from the last mission - but they'd been long days. Lifeline, the shaggy-haired, kind-faced medic - had typically refused to let her leave her bed.
Which, she had to admit, was probably a good thing, given the extent of her injuries. But Nomad hated the infirmary - hated it like she'd never hated anything else.
She'd spent far too much of her life in hospital already.
"Nomad? You okay?" The curtain separating Nomad's bed from the main room of the infirmary drew back a little, and Lifeline poked his head around. He looked worried.
Nomad went to wave a hand dismissively, but winced as her broken fingers - now set with pins and bandaged firmly - protested. "Yeah," she said, giving him a nod instead. She thought about not telling him why she'd yelled out…and then decided against it. He'd find out anyway, the damn nosy medic. "It was just a bad dream. I'm fine."
Lifeline crossed her sectioned-off cubicle and sat in the chair beside her bed, the concern on his face deepening. "You wanna talk about it?"
Nomad answered without thinking. "Not really." She knew immediately that it was the wrong thing to say.
Lifeline gave her a stern look. "Nomad, don't do this to yourself again." Maybe he thought his tone had been too harsh, because he paused, then added jokingly, "Or do I have to go get Psyche Out?"
She played along, letting him know she hadn't taken offence. "No! Not Psyche Out! Please, I'll be good…Anything but Psyche Out!"
The medic laughed - and then his expression turned serious, and he looked at her expectantly.
"Damn you, medic," she said good-naturedly. Then she sighed. "It's…it's not like the dreams I usually have. It wasn't - I mean, it was about Cobra Island…"
Lifeline waited patiently as she frowned to herself, trying to think of the right way to explain it.
"It was different," she said eventually. "The nightmares I have, about the Amazon, they were…almost real. Like it was happening all over again, exactly the same. This one changed. At the end…I broke."
He reached over and put a comforting hand on her arm. "Hey. It was just a bad dream. You didn't give Cobra anything, Nomad. You beat them."
"I know…" She paused, then decided to ask the question that had been on her mind for the last two days. "But…Lifeline, what if I had told them?"
He shook his head. "You didn't. Don't you even worry about that."
Nomad knew she would worry, no matter what anyone said, but nodded anyway. "Okay. Hey, I didn't wake up anybody out there, did I?"
"Nah. Steeler's out cold and Clutch is cracking himself up watching a rerun of Gilligan's Island."
Nomad raised an eyebrow. "Gilligan? Really?"
"Yeah. He's still a little doped up on painkillers," Lifeline explained with a snigger. "But don't change the subject."
"I wasn't changing the - alright, alright, maybe I was."
Lifeline peered down at her through his glasses. "You were tortured, Nomad, mostly in the same way as you were in the Amazon. It's going to have some kind of effect on you."
"What, are you taking lessons from the shrink, now?" she joked.
Lifeline didn't laugh. "I don't need to take lessons from the shrink," he said. "It's just like when Lowlight got shot. Just...don't do anything stupid, okay?"
It wasn't worth getting annoyed over: Lifeline, as usual, was right. "Look…I know I'm gonna have to go talk to Psyche Out," she said quietly. "And I will, as soon as I can."
The medic looked at her. "Promise?"
She nodded. "Yes, I promise. As soon as you let me out of this damn bed."
"Nice try, but you're staying put for a little while yet," he said dryly.
"Well, it was worth a shot," Nomad said lightly. "But…you know…I think I'm gonna be okay this time."
"Why's that?" Lifeline asked, genuinely curious.
Nomad smiled and glanced sideways at the flowers and 'get-well-soon' cards that took up most of the space on her bedside table. "Because last time, I didn't have a bunch of pain-in-the-ass Joes hanging around."
"Ah. Well, there is that. Nice to know we're good for something." The medic grinned.
"Mind if I interrupt?"
Nomad and Lifeline both looked up as the curtain swished aside again, revealing a tall, broad-shouldered man in fatigues and a well-worn brown jacket with a fleece-lined collar. His shoulder holster was still buckled snugly over the top of the jacket, but the .45 calibre handgun that usually occupied it was missing - weapons weren't allowed in the infirmary.
Not even if they were being carried by the head of the G.I Joe team himself: General Clayton M. Abernathy, codenamed Hawk.
Nomad glanced up at the poster fixed to the roof with throwing stars. Of course, certain individuals always managed to find a way around the 'no weapons' rule.
"Morning, Hawk," Lifeline said easily, standing up. He glanced down at Nomad and patted her right shoulder - the shoulder that didn't have a thick, tight bandage covering a stitched-up bullet wound. "I'll be in the office. I'll leave the door open - just call if you need anything, okay?"
"Wait -" she started, glancing at Hawk apprehensively.
The medic gave her a reassuring smile, nodded to Hawk, and drew the curtain shut after him as he headed back to the infirmary office.
Hawk's sharp blue eyes studied Nomad for a long time, taking in the sweaty pyjamas, her tangled hair, her bandaged hands gingerly held against her belly.
Nomad shifted nervously under his gaze. She respected the man - you couldn't not respect Hawk. He didn't command respect from his troops - he was better than that. He earned it, and he damn well deserved it. Hawk was a good man.
However, this occasion was a little different to most of the other times she'd found herself in his presence. It was largely thanks to Hawk that she was here.
She hadn't seen him since she'd got back to the Pit. Actually, she hadn't really seen anyone; Lifeline and Doc, the Joes' resident doctor, hadn't allowed her any visitors yet.
…Not even Lowlight…
"Um…sir?" Nomad prompted. "Did…was there something you wanted to talk about?"
The general sat down, his shoulder holster creaking softly. "How're you feeling, Nomad?"
She tried to make light of her wounds. "Still a little sore, sir, but I'll be fine in a few days."
Hawk raised an eyebrow.
"Well…more like a couple of weeks," she amended. "But I'll get there."
He nodded, checking out the goodies on her bedside table, straightening a card that had fallen over. Nomad winced - it was a rather crude card sent by two certain mechanics.
Of all the cards, why did Hawk have to see that one?
"Is there anything I can get you?" he asked.
"What?" Nomad looked at him, a little surprised. Surely he had more important things to do than worry about her? She realised how rude she sounded. "I mean…no, sir. I'm good. That's what Lifeline's for."
General Hawk chuckled, then leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together.
Nomad swallowed. The man looked serious; like he was about to drop something heavy on her.
He did. "I wanted to talk to you about the last mission."
She wondered if she was in trouble. It was her own stupid fault she'd been captured by the arms dealer, Destro, a little over a week ago. It had been in her own apartment; she'd come home to find the lights cut. She'd scouted the place out - but she'd forgotten to glance out at the fire escape. Once she was in her bedroom, with no other escape route, Destro and his troops had closed in on her. "Yes, sir? What about it?"
When Hawk spoke again, his voice was quiet, but firm. "I know it's only been a couple of days, and I know you've still got a lot to sort out -"
"General, I'm going to go see Psyche Out as soon as -"
Hawk held up a hand. Nomad shut her mouth quickly.
"You can do that in your own time," he said bluntly. "I'm talking about a debrief. I need to hear what happened - all of it, from your point of view. Are you up for it?"
So...she wasn't in trouble? Nomad let out a sneaky sigh of relief, closing her eyes for a moment - and in doing so, she missed the slight smile that played across Hawk's face. It was gone by the time she looked at him again. "You got it, Hawk. Now?"
He gave her a quick once-over. "Let's make it at 1300 hours," he said, standing. "In my office." He turned to leave.
Nomad watched his back, then decided to go for it. "Um…Hawk?"
He looked over his shoulder, one hand reaching for the curtain.
"Sir…can I -"
On the other hand, maybe now wasn't the right time. Maybe she should wait…
"Go on, Nomad," he prompted.
Well…she'd started, she might as well finish. "General, I'd like to be reinstated. I wanna be a Joe again," she blurted out.
Hawk looked at her for a long time - so long, she began to think he was going to refuse. Blushing bright red, she shook her head. "Uh…look, forget I even -"
"You'll be up for convalescence in a couple weeks," he interrupted. "I suggest you take the time off and rest up before returning to active duty. I get the feeling things are gonna get pretty busy in the next few months. We're going to need all hands on deck."
Suddenly, Nomad didn't give a damn about the throbbing pain that was increasing as the painkillers wore off. Just like that, she was a Joe again!
Well, not until the paperwork was signed, but still…she was essentially back in the team! Nomad smiled brightly at the general. "Thank you, sir. I won't let you down again."
"You haven't let me down, Nomad. The rest of the unit I sent in has already been debriefed - Storm Shadow included. After what he told me, I put in a commendation for you. You've got a Purple Heart coming to you."
"What? No...sir, I didn't do anything -"
"You did enough. And you deserve to be recognised for it. Of course, you'll only be able to look at the medal before it goes into a vault…but we'll all know it's there."
"I…Hawk...thanks." Nomad blinked quickly as her eyes started to well up. She changed the subject quickly, before she started bawling. "Hey, I'd salute, but…" She gently flapped her bandaged hands.
The General shook his head, a familiar long-suffering expression on his face. "I'll see you in my office at 1300 hours." Hawk brushed the curtain aside and disappeared from sight.
Nomad checked the clock on the bedside table. Just past 10.30. That gave her two and a half hours to prepare - mentally and physically - for her debrief.
By the time she got herself showered, dressed, and relatively presentable - with minimal pain - it would be almost time to head for Hawk's office.
The big man with the spiky blonde hair clenched his jaw, focusing hard as he slammed his fists into the punching bag, sweat dripping down his face, the chest and back of his white t-shirt soaked. The top half of his prison-issue coveralls hung loosely, the sleeves tied around his solid, tree-trunk sized waist.
Thump. Thump thump. Thwack.
He really had nothing to complain about: he'd got off lightly. Well…if seven years in the maximum security facility of Fort Leavenworth could be called 'light'.
Which, in all honesty, it couldn't.
A year. It'd been almost a year since he'd been thrown in here. Another couple of weeks, and it'd be a year exactly.
He'd had a lot of time to think. And the more he thought, the more frustrated he got. The angrier he got.
He shouldn't be in here. It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
It was her. The little bitch and the asshole captain. They were why he was in this fucking place. But in the end - even though it hadn't turned out how it was supposed to - he had the last laugh.
They'd been aiming for the death penalty. They hadn't planned on him serving time.
It had only been his influence as a general that had saved him from a lethal injection. One of the other generals on the jury at the court martial had owed him a favour. That, and some of the other generals didn't like the idea of seeing a man of their own rank brought down by a young Corporal and her obnoxious surrogate CO. Apparently, it was a little too close for comfort.
Still…it had been closer than the big blonde man had wanted. He hadn't expected to see the brat alive - now that had been a real shock. To this day, he still didn't know how she'd made it. He should've finished her off back in the Amazon; slit her throat after she gave him what he wanted. Snapped her neck. Blown her brains out, just like the rest of her team.
It hadn't been personal, back then. He tried to be nice about it - but the idealistic little brat hadn't obeyed his orders. He'd given her plenty of chances, but it wasn't until half her guts were hanging out that she told him, and by then it was too late.
Or he'd thought it was. That was why he hadn't bothered to finish the job. Nobody could've survived that. Right?
But then, somehow, he'd been found and arrested. And when the plane landed, and he was marched out onto the tarmac at gunpoint, he saw her.
He thought he'd seen a ghost.
Once he'd got over that little surprise…then it had become personal. Because the little bitch was out to get him.
The look on her face when she'd lost the long, drawn out court case had been worth it. And when she'd tried to attack him, after his last taunt…priceless.
And in another six years, he'd be out. Sure, he wouldn't be able to enlist in the defence force…but there were other opportunities for a man like him.
Better paying opportunities.
Hell, maybe he could finish what he started, before he'd been caught…
Maybe he could even pay her a visit -
A knock on his cell door and the familiar order to 'move away from the door' interrupted his thoughts. He turned, stripping his gloves off as the door swung open and two military policemen stepped in without a word. The door closed behind them.
"What the hell do you want?"
"General Goldilocks?" one of the MPs asked, looking him up and down.
New guys. Goldilocks hadn't seen either of them before. He sized them up before scowling, wiping the sweat from his face with a towel. "In case you haven't noticed, this is a prison. I've been stripped of my rank."
The guy who'd spoken stepped forward. Goldilocks held his ground. It wasn't unusual for some of the prison guards to dish out a little violence toward the inmates - somehow, the honchos running the place never seemed to notice.
Prison was funny like that. It was like a tiny little world within the world - a place that was governed by its own set of rules.
Despite their own crimes, the inmates had their own twisted sense of justice, too. Ex-soldiers who'd turned on their own units - killed their own men (and attempted to kill a woman, which was worse) - weren't taken to kindly.
The inmates had learned the hard way to leave Goldilocks alone - he'd put one man in the infirmary with two broken legs, a shattered arm and punctured lungs. That guy had died not long after, drowning in his own blood before the doctors had the chance to do anything. The second man to take a shot had pulled a shiv on Goldilocks, only to end up with the blade driven into his brain, only an inch of the handle left visible, sticking out of his eye socket.
Another favour owed to Goldilocks had taken care of those situations. All the questions went away, and it hadn't been mentioned since.
"Whatever," the MP said dismissively. He gestured to the second guy, who pulled a set of handcuffs from his pocket. They were prison cuffs - handcuffs attached to a chain, which in turn was linked to a pair of ankle cuffs.
What the fuck was this? Nobody had told him anything about going anywhere. Goldilocks moved quickly, lunging forward, grabbing the first MP by the throat and literally throwing him against the wall, his massive, muscled forearm crushing the guy's windpipe.
The second man just watched, the cuffs dangling from one finger.
Goldilocks looked down at the MP pinned to the wall. The man wasn't small - he was easily six foot, maybe a little taller, and solid.
But Goldilocks was bigger, a giant six foot six, and he was fit. "Who are you?" he snarled.
"We're offering you a free ticket out of this shithole. Does it really matter who we are?" the MP choked out.
Goldilocks didn't lessen the pressure on the man's throat, glancing over his shoulder at the second guy. "You better start talking, or I'm gonna snap his neck like a toothpick."
The MP cocked his head to one side - and Goldilocks suddenly didn't like the way the guy was looking at him. "General - I'm sorry. Goldilocks," he said. He sounded sure of himself, almost arrogantly so. "We don't have much time here, so I'll give you the short version. Our employer would like to make you an offer."
"And who would your employer be?" Goldilocks prompted impatiently.
"I think maybe you'd like to hear the offer, first," the second MP continued. "It goes something like this - we get you out of here, you sign up with our organisation, and you can have your rank restored and be given command of a unit of troops. We aren't technically military - but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't matter to you, right? Given your history?"
What the hell was this guy talking about? Goldilocks studied him. He had to admit, he was a little curious. "Or…?"
"Or you can stay in here and serve out the rest of your sentence, having to watch your back every minute of every day." The second MP paused. "I know what choice I'd be making."
Goldilocks flicked his eyes back to the guy pinned to the wall…and let him go. "I'll ask one more time. Who's your employer? And who the fuck are you?"
The guy rubbed his throat. "Make your choice," he growled, heading for the door. "And make it quick. I'm not waiting around for those idiots out there to realise something's wrong."
Well. The guy was blunt. Not only that, but he'd called Goldilocks' bluff.
So…stay and serve out his sentence - or get out of Leavenworth, sign up with whoever these guys were and see where things went from there.
What the hell kind of choice was that?
"Alright," Goldilocks said quickly. "I'll go."
"Nice," the second MP said stepping forward. "Here, put these on."
Goldilocks paused, eyeing the cuffs suspiciously.
The first MP turned impatiently. "Just do it. Our cover story is we're transporting you to another facility."
Goldilocks put the cuffs on…loosely.
"Good." The MPs each grabbed an elbow. The first opened the door, and the three of them strode out into the corridor, straight past the guards standing at their posts, looking bored.
They wouldn't be bored once they realised what'd happened right under their noses.
"I didn't catch your names," Goldilocks said, his voice low.
The bigger MP nodded to the guard at the end of the corridor. The guard unlocked the gate, throwing Goldilocks a disgusted look.
"I'm Andy," the second MP said, once they were out of earshot.
"Zartan," the other said shortly.
Goldilocks noticed Zartan kept his head down whenever they got close to the roof-mounted security cameras. He'd look up once they were past - but made no attempt to avert his face from the cameras further on until they were, again, closer. "And your employer?" Goldilocks pressed.
Zartan gave a sly grin. "He goes by the name of Cobra Commander. And he's met somebody you know well…a soldier called Nomad."
Goldilocks frowned. "I don't know -"
Andy chuckled. "Sure you do, General," he said. "She used to go by the name of Dynamite."