The Columbia River - Long Beach, Washington

Waterfront Trail

Eureka, CA

            Every part of his body hurt as he’d surmised that the electrical current had trickled along every nerve, every limb, and throughout every extremity. The adrenaline surge he’d felt down below in the hallway had worn off at this point, leaving him almost useless as they’d found a pathway leading up to the surface. Savannah was awake thankfully and despite being sullen and no doubt quite pissed at Jill, she’d gone along with them instead of resisting.

            Skyler had almost collapsed as they’d exited the ascending tunnel into the harsh daylight above, each of them wincing as they sought cover. Shade had been found easily enough as the area into which they’d emerged was surrounded with trees and high bushes that obscured them from easy view of the mall. They had quickly discovered that they’d traveled well over a hundred, perhaps two hundred yards from the mall, though their flight from the black site had seemed to flash by so quickly.

            “What’s wrong with him?” Savannah’s voice had been laced with contempt, or at least that was what it had sounded like, but had softened once Jill had explained to her just what had been done to him.

            Skyler heard all of it but didn’t react as he knelt upon the ground, trying just focus on breathing for the moment as the residual effects of the shock his body had been forced to endure were still causing his limbs to tremble slightly and his vision to blur. He hadn’t felt that kind of current in a long time, in fact the initial shock had almost floored him. One might have believed his bones should have snapped like kindling under the strain and that his skin should have been blackened and scorched all along his spine and shoulder blades. His mind should have been little more than jelly encased in bone after even a few seconds. But here he was, in pain and already able to feel the damage being repaired as his body set to work.

            He could recall the many tests that had been conducted in the past when it came to his accelerated healing, and despite what the surgeons had said, that it wasn’t medically possible, his body had continued to repair the damage inflicted upon him, and had even grown stronger as a result. Of course his masters had seen fit to put this to the test more than once, and broken bones, torn ligaments, and sundered muscles had been result. But always his body repaired itself, growing stronger somehow as the tests had continued.

            This shock however was proving a bit problematic as it seemed to have sunk deeper into his body somehow, disrupting more than just the surface as his thoughts felt scrambled, almost as though someone had opened his skull and twirled a fork around his gray matter like so much pasta. At the moment he was quite aware of his surroundings, the women speaking to each other, and even the feel of the gravel-laden asphalt beneath his knees. But despite this he still felt apart from all of it, removed in a way that was almost akin to what he’d read about as an out of body experience.

            That could be why he didn’t pick up on what was wrong as Jill hit the ground first, followed quickly by Jamie, and then Savannah. Skyler had to wonder what had happened as his sense of reckoning only allowed him to blink stupidly as he turned around, and saw the reason for the collapse of the women.

            “Night-night asshole.”

            It shouldn’t have worked, he should have been able to dodge aside from a simple blow the to head, and he should have been able to take it. But in his current condition he was simply too tired, too exhausted, and had nothing else left. As the stock of the mercenary’s weapon met his temple Skyler fell to the ground with a heavy thud, the lights already going out as he rolled to his back.

                                                            *                      *                      *

            He’d checked in with Burke alright, and despite his current condition, the leader of their merry little band had been in a righteously pissed-off mood. With his ribs messed up he wasn’t in any shape to do what they needed, but he’d been clear with his instructions. Disregard what the Ferrarra’s said, the bounty was theirs, and they would apprehend him as they pleased. Craig might not be happy that his prize would be returned in less than perfect condition, but they were going to take their pound of flesh all the same.

            The Ferrarra women weren’t to be touched as Burke had told him, but the other was fair game as far as he was concerned, and she was damned pretty too, maybe in her early thirties or late twenties. In any case she was likely to provide a good time before they made her just disappear. Skyler though, that punk was going to suffer, and he was going to be made to watch what they did to the woman first.

            “Is he awake yet?”

            “Lemme check,” one of his people, a big and muscular woman named Anne turned to the prisoner, who was currently chained between a pair of ratty old fir trees that were just another big part of the patch of woods they’d decided to take the foursome to. It was just off the trail so it was likely that they didn’t have too much time until someone noticed them, but he was planning to be far away from here before anyone could hear or report a thing.

            A hard slap came from the direction where Skyler was chained to the trees, his arms elevated to provide the maximum amount of discomfort while still keeping him on his knees. They’d almost opted to chain his legs to the trees as well but seeing as how they only had the two lengths of tow chains they’d opted instead to keep someone nearby just to give him a good knock if he needed it. He might be a badass asset for the pre-eminent clan on the west coast, but he was still human.

            “He is now,” Anne chuckled, walking away as she looked at Jameson, a wicked gleam in her eyes. God if she was just a little less muscled and a little prettier he wouldn’t mind bending her over the tailgate and having a go. Hell, she’d probably break it off any guy that wasn’t ready for it, assuming of course she even liked dick. Looking to the asset he smiled as the dark gaze he was met with seemed rather impotent at that point.

            “Hey big guy. I was hoping you’d wake up. I don’t want you miss this. Bring the skank over.”

            A big burly individual they called the Mexican, his real name was Jimmy, had been keeping watch over the woman in question, whose name was Savannah apparently. She hadn’t given her last name, but Jameson didn’t really give a shit. She’d been found with this group, and that was all the reason he needed to think that she was worth something to them. Grabbing at his crotch in a meaningful way he grinned even wider as he saw Savannah’s eyes go to where his hand was now resting, her sudden struggles hardly surprising as she no doubt knew what was coming. Jill and Jamie were still out cold, but if he had his way they’d be joining in the party, and he’d tell Craig that they were accosted before they managed to find them.

            “She means something to you, doesn’t she?” he asked, still gazing hard at Skyler as the other man didn’t reply, his dark, brooding stare speaking volumes. “Bend her ass over the tailgate,” he said as Jimmy brought her closer, “He’s gonna want to see this.”

            “No!” Savannah screamed, “N-!”

            A good clip upside the head from Jimmy silenced her for the moment, dazing Savannah as she almost fell to the ground. Thankfully no one on Burke’s crew was weak enough to drop a body without good reason, and Jimmy hauled her pretty ass up as he almost body-slammed her over the open tailgate of Jameson’s truck. It was time to have some fun.

            As he turned to regard the faintly struggling form beneath him, holding Savannah down with his left hand while he tore at her belt and pants with his right, Jameson heard a strange, almost ripping, shredding sound in the next moment, though he disregarded it at first as he finally managed to tear Savannah’s pants over her shapely backside, feeling himself getting excited as she tried to struggle again but couldn’t summon the energy.

            “Holy sh-!”

            That was about as far as Anne got before she was flung away, shot into his field of as though fired from a cannon, the left side her jaw nearly pulverized. Jameson felt his sudden erection go limp almost immediately, the bared ass beneath him seeming not to matter as he spun about. The hunk of curved metal that came sailing at his head in a wide, flat arc could have killed him, but instead it grazed Jameson’s left temple, stunning him as he collapsed next to Savannah, who was still trying to move away as he glanced at her, almost laughing as her bared cheeks jiggled slightly with her efforts.

            What the hell had just happened?

                                                            *                      *                      *

            Here’s what happened.

            Of course Savannah meant something to Skyler, she was his older cousin after all, and she’d saved his life. How she’d escaped was something of a miracle that he’d be willing to hear when this was all over, but at the moment he’d seen the merc bend her over and threaten to rape her, all conscious thought had disappeared. There was only the animal, the hunter that the Ferrarra’s had created during the past two decades of constant torture that they’d seen as training. Skyler had gone away for a short time, and in his place had knelt the last thing that anyone in the mercenary group might have expected.

            There were only five of them, and two were preoccupied at the moment he decided to strike, while the other three were well within range. All he had to do was stand up. The moment he did however the closest of them, the one they called Jimmy, or Mexican, noticed and attempted to do something about it. He didn’t use the blade launcher he had strapped to his back, which could have put Skyler down in an instant with two or three well-placed and very powerful shots.

            That was his mistake.

            The mistakes the other two made were not reacting quickly enough or calling out to their friends, since in the next moment Skyler’s left foot found the underside of Jimmy’s chin. He felt and heard bone break and teeth give way as they were reduced to deadly shards of enamel that went sailing into Jimmy’s upper palate and possibly down his throat. The other two should have been all over him then, but they’d hesitated, which gave him time to yank on the heavy truck chains binding him to the tree, feeling the small but workable amount of give since the hooks that were buried into the bark weren’t sunk that deep. Obviously they’d thought being close enough to give him a few whacks if he got out of line was enough. Apparently Craig hadn’t made it clear just how dangerous he could be.

            That was okay, they were getting a crash course.

            He flexed his arms again, pulling with every ounce of strength he had as his left foot rose and flashed out, first to the right and then to the left as the ball of his foot connected with a hulking monstrosity of a man, slamming hard into his cheek as he was spun away. The next blow was a heel kick that didn’t have as much force but still rocked the other merc, who might have been a man or a woman, it was hard to tell due to the girth and chest that could have been flab and muscle or breasts and muscle for all he cared. Skyler didn’t think much on it as he flexed again, feeling the hooks rip free of the trees they’d been embedded in. Another tug had them scraping around the trees as they stripped bark and the wood beneath, the chains falling to the ground with a harsh clinking sound.

            Still the man preparing to rape his cousin didn’t turn, but the hard-looking woman next to him did as she sputtered and tried to raise her weapon, only to go flying back as Skyler snapped the chain holding his right arm as though it weighed nothing, sending the heavy metal hook rushing forward as it crashed hard into the side of her face. She was out for at least a few moments if not the entire fight he figured, and as he recalled the chain to hand he began to wind it around his right arm, ending up with the hook dangling a short way from his grasp as a result.

            The other two that he’d struck a moment before were recovering already and reaching for their weapons, heavy artillery that could knock him down and put him out without question. There was no doubt that they would easily explain his demise to Craig as a necessity if such were to happen, but he was still quicker in that moment as he swung the other length of chain around, catching the he/she in the back of the legs before pulling it tight, tripping the merc without fail. The other man was dropped in an instant as Skyler stepped forward, swinging the hook up into the man’s face as a satisfying crunch could be heard. The merc dropped hard to the ground, leaving only Jimmy, who was trying to rise to his feet, and the would be rapist.

            Skyler caught the hook on its downward arc and tried to bury it in Jimmy’s skull, but the merc had enough presence of mind left to lift his arms, blocking the strike. That was okay since Skyler had a backup move, which was to slam his left knee into the man’s face as hard as he could, dropping him again as his nose gave way and blood fountained from the ruined proboscis. By this time the rapist was finally turning around, the front of his pants sticking out like miniature tent pole as Skyler could see that he’d yanked Savannah’s pants down to expose her backside. His cousin was trying to move away but was reacting sluggishly, still dazed from the hit she’d taken.

            He didn’t hesitate, but the merc did, and that cost him.

                                                            *                      *                      *

            “Why didn’t you kill them?”

            “They’re close enough to dead as it is,” Skyler answered, his voice low and his manner somber. He’d been doing this kind of thing for too long to be questioned by anyone, even someone that had been forced to survive on her own for so long.

            The two mercs he’d only stunned had gone down easily enough when he’d clobbered them a few times with the chain that he’d wrapped around his left forearm, bludgeoning them in such a way that blood had come from every facial orifice possible. If they recovered it would be a small miracle, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to kill them in cold blood, even if good sense dictated that it was the wise thing to do.

            Jamie and Jill had come to only a short while ago, after Skyler had dragged each of the mercs further into the wooded area, watching closely to make sure that he wasn’t being observed. So far it would seem no one had seen anything wrong with a lone truck being parked just off the gravel road leading from the mall. Maybe though it had more to do with the ruckus in the mall that was still being handled. He could imagine that Craig had been forced to field more than a few questions about the ‘disturbance’ in the mall considering that it was a part of his family’s holdings. The thought of his former master having to perform crowd control was amusing enough to elicit the ghost of a grin from Skyler as he stood to his feet, hiding the gesture from the women.

            “It’s not close enough for me,” Savannah almost snarled, walking over to the man that had so forcefully pulled her pants down. Currently he was fading in and out of consciousness, the blood that had come sheeting down the left side of his face from the near miss that had opened him up blinding him in his left eye. He barely stirred as Savannah kicked his outstretched foot, his eyes blinking heavily as he tried to focus. Skyler knew that look, he’d seen it more than once in his life.

            “Do you think the bindings will hold them?” Jamie asked, wincing as her fingers found the lump just above her right temple where she’d been struck.

            “They’ll hold for long enough,” Skyler replied, “And they’re not going anywhere anyway.”

            “That’s a bold statement,” Jill said, checking the magazine on a dart thrower that she’d liberated from one of the mercs. They would be taking the truck that their tormentors had driven up in, a four-door beast of a machine with an extra-long cab and enough armament in the utility box bolted to the front of the cab to take on a sizable force.

            “Not really,” Jamie said as she glanced at each of the bound men and women. Only a couple of them were even conscious, and even that was a generous description, “They don’t look like they could spit at us if they wanted to, much less make an escape.”

             A horrid, ear-piercing shriek of agony caused both women to jump as they cast their attention to the man that Savannah was now walking away from, brushing off her bloodied hands as she made for the truck. She didn’t speak a single word, nor did she look at any of them as she made for the right side passenger seat, opening the door and settling in before closing it with a reserve that belied the rage that had allowed her to perform the act they now gazed upon.

            If the rest of the mercs wouldn’t be following them anytime soon, the would be rapist wouldn’t be in any shape to follow them at all. The dull, dazed appearance he’d presented only a moment before was now a glass-eyed stare that each one of them had seen before. The reason for this was still buried in his flesh just below his belt line, protruding in an obscene manner from where it had been buried, point first, into his genitals.

            “Jesus,” Jamie said, gulping as she turned away.

            “Was that really necessary?”

            Skyler saw Jill staring hard at him as he turned, “Why’re you asking me? I didn’t do it.”

            “Is she going to be a problem?”

            “Are you going to try to rape her?”

            “That’s not funny!” Jill hissed as he turned his back.

            “Do you hear me laughing? Get in the truck, we need to get the hell out of here, like now.”

            The sound of Jamie climbing in the other side of the truck reached his ears as Skyler made his way to the front passenger seat, checking quickly to make certain that keys were still in the ignition. Seeing the cluster of shiny metal keys swaying ever so slightly from the motion caused by the opening and closing of the doors he noted something odd dangling from the lanyard that was attached to the keychain. Jill was just getting in when he leaned over, hesitating as she saw him leaning over.

            “What is it?”

            He didn’t want to say, but he had a sneaking suspicion that the small plaque reading ‘EMILY’ didn’t correspond to anyone they’d just left behind. The back of the plaque was blank, but Skyler’s heart tightened just a bit all the same. Letting it go he sat up again, shaking his head.

            “Nothing, let’s go.”

            Jill cast her gaze down to the keys, but she didn’t bother to read the small plaque as she turned the key instead, stomping on the clutch off to her left as she forgot that the truck was a manual transmission. Grimacing she stomped on it again, holding it down as she turned the key once more, her right foot on the brake as she did. The truck gave a rattling, throaty growl as a dark cloud of exhaust belched from the tailpipe, moving swiftly towards the bound mercenaries as it began to dissipate.

            None of them spoke a single word as Jamie steered the truck towards the road, seeking make tracks before anyone could come along. In only a few moments they were back within sight of the mall, where they could see a few emergency vehicles still lingering as their lights flashed. People that had congregated nearby were still watching as the mall was being cordoned off by several police officers. Of Craig however they saw no sign.

            “Let’s go,” Skyler said as he glanced once at the scene.

            “Where to?” Jill asked, keeping her eyes on the road. She had no intention of slowing down or stopping unless she had to.


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