Please See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.
Bebo and Steph worked with Frances to get Patricks legs splinted and ready for travel. Under a large tree Beth sat with the computer and was reporting their latest developments to the Lincoln.
Snake Charmer: We have most of the Cobras in hand. Missing Turner and their original quarry.
U.S.S. Lincoln: You have two more days to get to an extraction area before we have to move positions. Once that happens we will not be able to provide the same level of air cover.
Snake Charmer: Well try our best but our orders were to pull out once we had all our targets. Out.
"Whats up?" asked Bebo when Beth knelt next to her. The princess scanned the page and shook her head not liking what it said. "Lets move out then."
Titus and Arthur took the first shift of carrying Patricks litter. The others followed single file as the Amazons ran point looking for any traps like the one that had taken out Brian. From the trees Max kept an eye on everyone making sure no one lagged and no one uninvited got close enough to do harm.
They stopped after four hours of walking and the women shared some of their energy bars with the Americans. Junis went and sat next to Bebo and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Whats up?" he asked the woman with her head resting against the tree behind her with her eyes closed.
"The stock market last time I checked, but who knows since weve been out here." Hearing his voice and having to answer made the image of Annie in her mind disappear. Bebo opened her eyes and laughed along with him. "Sorry, its been a long haul." She explained the message from the ship and how much time they had left. "Are you positive that first village we went through was the hospice?"
"Walker went ahead and scoped out the area. He reported seeing a man fitting Yorks description being led from one of the buildings along with a group of women who could have been nuns or missionaries. Thats all I can give you."
Bebo took a deep breath and held it for so long Junis thought she was going to pass out. "I guess that means I have to talk to Titus." She patted his leg and got up moving closer to the Captain and his general who had their heads together in a whispered conversation. "Can I talk to you, Captain Walker?"
"I got nothing to say to you, bitch."
"You really do need to work on some new lines, but I need you to put aside your feeling for me and report on your earlier surveillance. I need a run down on what you saw at the first village before you got captured."
"Like I said I dont report to you and Im not here to help you." Titus folded his arms over his chest and looked to Patrick to see if he was going to dress him down for his behavior.
The royal also looked to Patrick to see if he was going to intervene, and when he turned his head and looked at the foliage she figured it was a lost cause. The others in the unit also took note of the two mens behaviors and Junis decided to take charge.
"Captain Walker, Im ordering you to answer her question. This isnt a contest to see who gets the girl, its our lives at stake here and I for one am ready to get the hell out of this fucking hellhole. Either you answer her question or Ill make sure you face court martial when we get out of here."
"Im in charge here, Junis, lets not forget that," said Patrick focusing in on the group again.
"Im sorry, sir, but your injuries have left you in a state of mind we cant rely on at the moment. If you want to reprimand me, you can do so once we get back to base. I want you to know though, that I plan to file a report of what happened out here and what kind of cooperation our counterparts received." He leaned closer and made sure Patrick could see his face clearly. "And I mean a full report, sir."
The general gripped the sides of his makeshift bed and glared at his number two man. "Are you threatening me?"
"Im trying to keep us all alive, but you can interpret my actions however you like. We dont have time for this shit anyway. The Lincolns put us on a timeline that isnt very favorable." Junis stood up and looked to his people. "Billy and Doug, take a turn with the litter and lets move. For now were taking our directives from Bebo and her people. Move!" The big mans voice rose as loud as he dared and he was relieved when everyone fell back into formation.
A mile later Max called down from the trees with a serene birdcall that was just slightly different than the ones theyd been hearing in the jungle. This was the area they had all moved through earlier in the trees so Bear had already pointed out a few triggers on the jungle floor making their progress slower than Bebo had planned. The Amazons looked up and watched the movement of Maxs hands.
The princess put a clenched fist into the air and all noise from the group stopped. They were in the middle of an area full of traps and the safest place for all of them was where Max was sitting at the moment, but that wasnt an option. She motioned to Bear and Beth to find them all a hiding place from whomever Max had spotted ahead of them. As the two women did that, Bebo took charge of Billy and Doug and the litter they were carrying.
"Stay put and shoot anyone who gets within ten feet of you," she handed both healthy men a weapon before disappearing into the tree above them.
It was part of the posse from their first night out. The group of civilians along with some uniformed rebels were checking their traps for any human targets they might have ensnared or killed. From her vantage point, Bebo could see the line of men coming closer and their movements as they went from one trigger to the next. Again they couldnt take the chance of being discovered before they had all of their people together but it never hurt to even the odds if you could do so without being detected. And the added noise would muffle any cry from the infant Rita had strapped to her chest.
From her back pocket she pulled the weapon Annie had found the most amusing when she had packed, and smiled when Max pulled out one just like it. Bebo positioned herself against the trunk of the tree and waited for one of the runners to move to the next trigger. With luck there were three other men following close behind him. She pulled back on the slingshot and let the hard nut from one of the trees in the area in its pouch fly to the trigger releasing it.
The sound of rope and vine being pulled taunt as the log came down filled the air around her but it was soon replaced by the screams of the men who it had hit. The area became a beehive of activity when the men working with the rebels moved towards their friends. The two Amazons took advantage of the chaos and set off another two snares cutting down the number of men by a third when they were done.
"Stop! Everyone stop moving," ordered the man who had been walking at the front of the line. He walked to where the first set of men lay moaning from their injuries. "Idiots," he whispered as he removed the machete from his belt. With three swift strokes, the leader beheaded the injured men.
In the healthy group left, one of the younger men moved toward the other group of injured ignoring the order to be still. Bleeding from the nose and ears lying in the middle was his older brother and seeing what had happened to the first set of men, he wanted to protect the only family he had left.
"Please, sir, hes all I have left." He cradled the bloody head in his lap and looked up at the man blocking out the little sun that filtered through the trees.
There was no warning just another swipe of the large blade and the young man fell over. His blood poured out over his injured brother who a second later joined him in death. "Anyone else want to beg for someones life? I dont have time to deal with stupidity," the man pointed to the traps. "Now back out of here and lets move. I know someones been out here and theres no answer from Pellis group."
The Cobras and Amazons sat silent as the men moved on towards the village they had left behind. As soon as they were far enough away, Beth pulled out the laptop and checked the satellite feed. If there was no one else on the path they could make better time before these men reversed their course and came after whoever had killed every rebel under Pellis command.
Bebo dropped next to the litter but ignored the man lying on it and instead concentrated on Beth. When the guard gave her the all-clear sign she motioned for Beth to join her along with Junis. "Bear and Ill have a go at carrying our package, general," she said to Junis. "You get your men and follow Rita and Steph, and I mean step for step. We need to make time if we want to put some distance between those guys and us before they find our little surprise. Max will keep an eye on you from above and if you hear this bird call," she demonstrated the signal and waited for him to nod, "Move into the bush as quickly and quietly as you can."
"How much farther?" asked Junis.
"We have about three miles to the village we think is the hospice. The village you first came across didnt have any markings or equipment of a hospital. I believe it would have been a first stop for York and Brian. When Titus saw him, York was probably there to tend to either some injured rebels or trying to keep Brian alive for information. The river bends to the east of here and along the banks theres a village that looked promising."
Bear didnt want to do it in front of the men, but she felt like she had to speak up. "The movement we saw there was normal, Bebo. I thought we all agreed on that."
"We did, but I think its because the rebels are stretched thin. You had one village to the west guarded by Pelli and his group of goons, and the first one guarded by our friend who just killed most of his men. Unless you want to hack your way through all this shit or fly down into the middle of the village square there was no reason to waste any men on it until youre ready. If Brian and York are still with us, thats where well find them."
"And if youre wrong?" asked Patrick.
"Youll get to enjoy my company that much longer, sir. Were getting out of here either by air or on foot, so dont worry your pretty little head about it."
The two women adjusted their gear and picked up the litter. Knowing time was getting short, they started down the path at a jog. Ahead of them, Beth and Steph were pointing out traps as they moved. All of them were drained and ready for a rest but no one voiced a complaint as they kept moving. As the hours moved on, the temperature was starting to get unbearable so Bebo called for them all to stop. Several of them stood with their hands on their knees trying to suck wind into their lungs and fight the nausea of the exertion.
Canteens filled with fresh water were mixed with a sports powder, to replenish some electrolytes they had sweat out on their run, were passed around as they sat wherever they had stopped. Steph and Max did a quick scan of the area, then gave Bebo the all clear. The princess motioned them all into a circle, her backup staying in the trees to keep watch.
"I need to know if you all can go on. We can stop here and rest for a couple of hours but after a short break, if you feel like you can go on, Id like to keep moving." She explained the new timeline they were on and where they were headed.
Sweaty, mostly red faces looked back at her and Bebo could see the fatigue in their eyes. Being tired led to mistakes, but she felt she had no choice except to keep pushing them. Between the two groups they had enough expertise in warfare to handle anything they ran across, which would balance out the tiredness.
"How much farther until we get to the next village?" asked Carey Sanders. The small brunette could feel the blisters on her feet, but the thought of what could have happened to her and her fellow women soldiers if Bebo and her friends hadnt shown up would keep her running until she passed out.
Checking her GPS, Bebo did some quick calculations. "About two miles. If Brian and York are there, we have another four or five miles to reach the pickup point. I wish it could be closer but there isnt a clear spot for Joe to land anywhere around here."
"I say we keep moving," said Billy. It was hard to say what his hair color because the style was so short but he had big brown eyes that were at the moment extremely blood shot. "It sounds like a ways to go but itll be a hell of a lot longer if we have to walk out of this pit all the way to Jacolla.
Junis looked at the group from while drinking from one of the canteens. He was so thirsty he could feel the liquid as it made its way down his throat. "Permission to speak freely," he said to encourage those who were silent.
"I can go as long as she can," Titus said, pointing to Bebo.
"I say we go on. Its hot, but until I get my weapon back, Im not going to feel too comfortable out here," said Michelle. The rest of them just nodded their heads agreeing with her.
"The only problem were going to have is carrying Brian out of here when we find him," said Arthur. "Of all the people among us to get injured, it had to be the moose from Georgia," joked the blond eliciting laughs from his fellow soldiers.
They sat for thirty minutes before Bear and Bebo moved back to the litter. Billy and Doug tried to take a turn but the two women waved them off. "Youll be responsible for him soon enough if we find the others, guys, so just move out." She gripped the front part of the litter and adjusted her pack on her shoulders, but before Bebo took her first step, a picture of Annie flashed in her mind.
As long as theyd been out there shed tried to keep thoughts of the blonde at bay, but a deep longing set over her as she visualized her smile. When she started to move, Bebo sent up a silent prayer that this mission was almost finished so she could get back to what was important to her. Behind them though, the biggest complication they would face was about to hit the ground running in an effort to settle an old score.
A number of trucks pulled into the village as the group of men who had been checking snares emerged from the jungle. The leader, who had killed six of his own men, looked to the second vehicle and was the first to notice the woman sitting with her head back and her eyes closed. She stood out among those in the back of the trucks with her thick auburn hair that was pulled into a long braid, and her skin looked as if it would burn easily if she stayed out too long in the African sun. Without calling attention to himself lest she turn her ire on him, he pointed her out to the man in a uniform identical to his own who had been traveling with him.
"Did you find him?" asked the woman. Without opening her eyes, she turned her head to face the woman shed addressed. "I mean were in the middle of nowhere. How Pelli couldve fucked this up is beyond me."
"There are a few villagers left, but thats it. Were looking but we have yet to find him and his men." They had come as part of a team, the woman seated in the truck and the one talking to her from the window.
It was the four dead bodies near where the American prisoners had been kept that caught her attention when she decided to open her eyes. The three men lying so close to the mutilated woman who lay dead with her eyes open wasnt right and Niazia Suire was prompted to get out of the truck. Her partner Eva Tesoro followed her to the spot and looked at the rest of the landscape trying to find whatever had spooked Niazia from the cab.
"What?" Eva asked.
"Who do you suppose was brave enough to defend this village from these three?" Niazia pointed to the three men stripped of their boots and clothing. "I dont remember his name but I think this guy was with Pelli the last time I saw him." She moved closer and studied the wounds on the big mans body. He was killed from a shot to the throat. "Have the men fan out and check, because I think we have company."
Niazia was one of the main reasons the rebels had been so successful to that point. The mercenary had given the rebel leader sound advice on taking control of the country and ridding themselves of any potential threat. She had fanned the fires of old hate between the tribes and watched as they destroyed each other at the end of their blades. Who won didnt matter to either her or Eva; they were simply there to fight and to get paid.
"Dead. Theyre all dead," reported one of the men. He wanted to back away when black eyes looked up and pinned him in place.
"Did anymore of them have these wounds?" she pointed to Maus neck.
"Most of them, but there were others with gun shots."
"Whats going on in that pretty head of yours Nia?" Eva removed her baseball cap and ran a hand through her short black hair.
"I think, lover, that we missed out on some very big fish, and I think they were taken out of here by Amazons." With her foot she rolled Mau over to see if the wound went all the way through his neck. "Before you say Im crazy, this is an arrow wound. Now I wish Id taken Pelli more seriously."
"Do you think they were on foot?"
The rebel standing close to them cleared his throat and prepared to garner favor. "We tracked a helicopter that hovered close to our position a few days ago but saw no signs of anyone in the jungle." He stuck to his French knowing some of his men could translate if the women didnt understand.
"Why wasnt this reported?" demanded Niazia.
"Weve been trying to find whomever it was but followed the trail all the way here without luck."
"Did any of you idiots ever venture to look up?" She put her hand up to keep his mouth shut and looked back to her driver. "How much farther in can you move the vehicles?"
"Not much. To make it to the first outpost without taking the long way around requires you to go on foot. If you want to drive it, youre looking at a day and a half."
Niazia closed her eyes for a long moment and turned her pale face to the afternoon sun. There was one thing that drove her to places like this around the world and that was the chance to fight, a chance to prove that she was a better warrior than anyone else on the field. Up to then the game had been boring since she and Eva hadnt found anyone in their league, but this was a chance to change that and to repay an old debt.
With a slow smile spreading across her face, Niazia ran her hand along the long scar on her chest. She could just imagine sending a pile of bodies back to Boden and her little blonde bitch to show them how far shed come and how deadly she still was. It had been years but the memories of her years on Amazonia were still fresh in her mind.
A group of teenaged girls stood in the corner of the training yard laughing softly as their ringleader cracked off another insult. Their instructor, Naellie was going through some advanced defensive sword moves in the center of the arena with her elite class of warriors. The cadets were in their twelfth year of study and among them there was an outstanding young woman who had mastered almost every weapon and hand-to-hand fighting style the instructors had shown her.
Black eyes stayed glued to Naellies pet looking forward to knocking a bit of luster off Bodens star. Niazia had come up through the classes with the tall girl and was sick of being labeled an underachiever by the instructors who compared everyone to the mighty Boden.
Of all the things they had learned, Niazia thought the sword was her strongest suit and she felt, given the chance, she could make Boden bleed. She got a nudge in the ribs from one of her friends when it became apparent she wasnt paying attention.
"Does anyone have any questions?" asked Naellie as she finished her lecture and slid the sword back into its sheath. "Good," she continued when no one answered. "I want you to be very careful since the weapons strapped to your backs arent toys, but using real blades is the only way to learn."
With determined strides, Niazia got to Bodens side before their teacher could point to Bear as the tall womans practice partner. Boden laughed low enough not to be heard by anyone else at the girls move. The young woman was more than aware of Niazias hatred of her and her constant attempts to beat her at anything. She shook her head and waved Bear off when she offered to spar with her.
"Take Kip on, my friend, Ill be fine." Boden bowed her head as they all did before starting a match.
The sword in Bodens hand was much heavier than most of the ones the others were using but she had enough strength to wield it without problem. She twirled it slowly as she waited for Niazia to make the first move. Facing her, the shorter woman circled her twirling her own weapon and her other hand was in a clenched fist. Niazia waited until most of the other students were engrossed in their matches to turn the odds in her favor.
"You think youre so great," she whispered harshly to Boden. Before the brunette could answer, Niazia brought her fist forward and opened her fingers. A fine white powder flew into Bodens eyes and even though she tried to close them, she was temporarily blinded and she brought her hand up to try and wipe her eyes clean.
Naellie and Bear both saw what had happened and soon the others turned when Boden cried out from the stinging powder. They all stopped and looked on as Niazias sword slashed out and caught Bodens side making her bleed.
"Put it down, Niazia," screamed Naellie. Bear was at her back and ready to jump in and save her friend.
"No!" screamed Boden, taking her hands away from her face and taking a deep breath. All she saw was a blur through her tears but she wasnt about to let the little bitch get away with what shed done. "Leave her to me."
"Just say you surrender to me and Ill leave you to bleed," said Niazia softly so no one but Boden would hear her. The red stain on Bodens shirt was getting larger and so was the size of the small womans smile.
"If youre so confident, then come on and give it a try because we both know cheating is the only way youll ever beat me." To fight the sting Boden closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds around her. The rest of her class had stopped to watch and all she could hear was the sound of Niazias boots as they scraped along the dirt.
The dark head lowered and Boden put down her sword making her opponent think she was doing as she had asked, but Niazia couldnt resist taking one more swing at her so that the tall woman would always wear her mark. With a strong stroke downward she aimed for the middle of her chest. Whomever Boden ended up with would remember Niazia for as long as the big warrior lived and removed her shirt. The thought was making her want to laugh when the big sword came up and stopped hers inches from Bodens chest.
"Careful what you think is a weakness, you stupid idiot." Boden pushed her back and tried to open her eyes again the tears now streaming down her face in an effort to clear her vision. "Maybe, just maybe you should start paying attention to our esteemed teachers instead of making jokes with your friends at the expense of others. Then youd know that when you loose one sense you need to rely more heavily on your others." Getting a clearer picture of where Niazia was standing, Boden moved forward and started a number of offensive strokes. On the third one Niazia stumbled and the very tip of Bodens sword sliced through her shirt.
"You bitch!" The scream came as Niazia looked down and saw the blood covering her chest. Boden had left her with the same scar she had planned for the tall warrior. Just as quickly any other words died in her throat as Boden stood over her and pressed the tip of her sword to her heart.
"I believe you mentioned something about surrender."
In an old habit she rubbed the area again as she looked to the jungle. After that afternoon both Niazia and her mother were banished from the island by Queen Bekka for conduct unbecoming an Amazon and for her unprovoked attack on Boden. They had gone to live in South America where her mother found work as a mercenary, a job she would teach her only child. When Niazia had turned twenty-two she had met and fallen in love with Eva, and a few weeks after that her mother was killed in a battle outside of Bogota fighting for the drug cartel.
Her death was something else Niazia blamed on Boden and the ruling family. Had they been allowed to stay on Amazonia, her mother would have continued to serve the queen and lived out her life the way she had intended. Instead she had died alone and left to rot in a place far from her home.
"How would you like to go for a walk with me, lover?" Niazia asked Eva.
They had met years before when Niazia was working in Spain for the Basque insurgents in Barcelona. Walking along the empty streets one night, the red head came across a man slapping a woman so hard he knocked her to her knees. He was screaming at her for the rest of his money and the young woman was cowering at his feet. In an act Niazia defined as compassionate she gutted him where he stood so hed leave the girl alone.
After that, and after the death of her mother, Niazia found comfort in teaching her new charge the ways of the Amazons and how they fought. Eva was much smaller but her companion found she had a rare talent for torture. The small brunette could have men begging for death within an hour, but the more they begged the more she made death linger just out of their reach.
"Id love to." Eva smiled up at her before standing and moving back to the truck to get their weapons and equipment.
"Get those guys who just came from the other village and tell them to head back. Eva and I will be heading back ahead of them, but their job is to make sure no one gets out of here alive. Tell them Ill hand anyone who fails over to Eva and her bag of tricks just for the fun of it." The man who had driven them ran off to do her bidding and Niazia ran her fingers down her chest again, along the ridge of the scar. "Who did you send out here for me to kill, Boden?"
"Tell me what you want, love," Bebo whispered into her ear as her hand came slowly up her thigh. Annie could feel herself getting wetter and she moaned and tried to turn and open her legs wider so the hand would come to rest where she needed it the most. "Tell me, Annie."
"I want you to go inside me." Annies voice sounded so sultry to her own ears and it felt like she had a fever, but the heat didnt come from sickness. She realized Bebo had found the want that had been buried in her heart for so long. The Amazon had uncovered the woman Annie didnt realize existed who was waiting to be taken by the warrior of her dreams. "Please, baby, I cant wait anymore. I need you to touch me. It feels like Ive been waiting for you all my life."
"But Im here now and I love you, Annie."
The long fingers were positioned just at her entrance and beginning their slow journey in when the alarm went off next to the bed. Rudely startled awake, Annie picked up the offending object and tossed it across the room. She fell back into the pillows with a satisfied smile for destroying the thing responsible for pulling her out Bebos arms, but just as quickly she groaned when she felt how hard her nipples were from the dream. "Just what I need to start doing when shes like a million miles away."
"What?" asked Reggie from the door leading to the bathroom. From the moaning she could guess what Annie was dreaming about, but the torment factor was too good to pass up.
"Nothing." Annie rolled over and tried to hide her blushing face from her sister.
"Tell me," whined Reggie. She jumped up and down and silently clapped her hands at her sisters state of embarrassment. It wasnt that she wanted to make fun of her, well she did, but a part of Reggies heart was thrilled that Annie wouldnt die without knowing what it was like to be totally in lust with someone.
The younger blonde figured love and showing someone how much you cared through a variety of different things was in some ways the easy part. Holding hands, cooking them a meal, picking up flowers was important to making a relationship work and showing the other person youre thinking of them, but the total need for someone to put their hands on you and make your brains melt to goo held its own importance. For some it was lost after the initial haze of togetherness wore off, but with any luck it would be like what shed seen in Audrey and Boden. They loved each other, it was clear, but the looks between them also spoke of two people still very hot for each other too.
"I was having a dream about Bebo and the damn alarm went off when it was getting good. Satisfied?"
"Totally," said Reggie with a laugh. She ran and jumped into the bed making Annie bounce hard enough to almost fall off the other side. "Im glad to know that my sacrifice wasnt in vain."
"What sacrifice?" Annie found a pair of green eyes twinkling down at her when she rolled to her back.
"Well if you remember correctly, I dated her first and graciously stepped aside when it was clear you had an interest in her. If I hadnt loved you so much and cared about your happiness itd be me having wet dreams, baby."
Aside from the subject they were discussing, waking up like this with Reggie reminded Annie so much of when they were growing up. On Saturday mornings when they werent expected anywhere, they would spend their time lying side by side talking about everything and anything that came to mind.
"Thank you for your selfless acts, my beautiful and giving sister. My libido thanks you as well." Annie hugged her before getting up. She wanted to go back to work today hoping that by keeping busy it would keep her mind off of Bebo and her absence, or more importantly why she was absent.
"Youre welcome, but I expect you to name your first three children after me, especially after having a talk with the staff."
"What are you talking about?" Annie moved to the bathroom stripping her pajamas off as she went.
Thats new, thought Reggie looking at the retreating back. For the longest time she thought her sister had been born fully clothed she was so modest even with her own family. "They just mentioned you were a screamer, or else you were doing something to Bebo to make her voice go up about ten octaves the other night." I still got it, baby, Reggie laughed mentally as she watched the almost full body blush that swept over Annie.
"Hurry, child," the woman standing at the river said in a scolding voice to the boy standing next to her. They had been sent for water and he had wanted to linger and play at the waters edge.
"I dont want to go back, mama. That man hits me when I dont do what he says." He continued to ladle water into the urn at a slow pace. "And I miss papa."
The men were still alive, Shalla caught glimpses of them every so often as they were herded to the jungle with axes in their hands, or at least she had seen some of her neighbors. It had been days since she had laid eyes on her husband. She feared he was dead but saved her tears for long after her two boys went to sleep at night.
Their lives had changed weeks before when the men came and killed anyone who showed any type of resistance. The villagers had heard rumors of what was happening in their country, but they were so deep in the jungle where nothing had changed for generations that they had thought they were safe. The Habu tribe was learning quickly though that the world was getting smaller by the day.
Shalla helped her son put the jug on his head preparing for the walk back to the hospital where they had her working. Michael York had been the one bright spot in all this madness. He protected all of them as best he could from the tyrants who had come to destroy their world as well as tried to heal those who were sick and injured.
"Careful for snakes, Wazi," she cautioned as they stepped away from the bank and back into the thick vegetation. They hadnt gotten twenty feet when two figures in black and green faces stepped behind them and put their hands over their mouths to keep them quite.
"Sssh, I come to help you." Bebo whispered in the womans ear. She held her tight enough to keep the woman in place but not hard enough to make her any more afraid. They had been watching the village for over an hour and it seemed normal as the people went about their business, but something wasnt right and this was their first opportunity to find out what was wrong with the picture.
Titus watched from his hiding place and couldnt believe when Bebo spoke to the woman in her own language, or at least thats what it sounded like. "She speaks this shit?" he asked of Beth who was standing next to him.
"Well technically it isnt shit, its kind of an offshoot of a Swahili dialect, and I believe she speaks it well enough since the woman is looking relieved and nodding."
"Is there anything she cant do?"
"Cooking and playing the banjo come to mind," the guard teased, loving the way the vein in his forehead had started to bulge as he looked at Bebo. "She just likes to read a lot and learning new languages is like a hobby of hers. Look I know you dont like us much, especially Bebo, but she really is an extraordinary person. I know you dont want to hear this but its not like you lost out to some snob who was just out for sport."
"Fuck you." Hatred in its purest form dripped from his words.
"Unless youve got really nice tits in a nice C cup and are wearing a garter belt under all that finery you have on, youre not my type, big boy."
Bebo escorted the two villagers off the path and shot Beth a look that stopped anything else from coming out of her mouth. "Im sure its boring as Hades to just sit here quietly but lets see if we cant manage it." She offered the woman her hand and sat her on a log for their talk. "I am Bebo and we have come to help." She was having trouble finding the right words and pronunciations so she hoped the woman understood her.
"Theyve taken my father and theyre hurting me and my mother all the time," said Wazi when he had the chance. Bear had let him go and allowed him to go and sit next to his mother.
They spent a few minutes talking and answering Bebos questions. The princess didnt want to keep them too long lest they be missed by the men who had blended in enough to fool whomever was watching. Relief flooded all of them when Shalla reported they had a big white man in the hospice and that Dr. York had tried to help him as best he could with the limited supplies they had. Brian was in pain but he was alive.
"Go back and wait. Were here to help you but I want to wait until your men come back from their work to move." Bebo reached out and put her hand on Wazis head. "You watch out for your mother and keep your head down tonight."
Bear picked up and handed them the water urns and watched them go. From the trees Steph and Max made sure they got back all right, then went back to the positions Bear had assigned. A little while later one of the men they had been watching emerged from one of the huts with a bag and a towel draped around his neck. He headed in the direction that Shalla and her son had come from and his watchers figured he was going for a bath. For the first time they noticed a weapon of any kind as he slung the assault rifle over his shoulder. It was not a gun a villager here would have ever seen much less owned.
He was on the trail when the first bird call came summoning death. If he was going for a bath he wasnt going to be missed for some time. The second call stopped him and made him look to the trees for the agitated sounding fowl. He rubbed his eyes as he watched someone almost materialize out of the tree her camouflage was so good. The woman just stood there looking at him and then she cocked her head and gave him a smile.
The toiletry bag dropped from his hand and he turned to run back to the village and sound the alarm only to run into a solid body standing behind him. He never heard Bebo as she had followed his steps from the time he moved into the jungle. From their posts the Americans watched and wondered when Bebo was going to pull out some type of weapon and off the guy. They were all shocked when she instead jabbed her fingers to the sides of his neck and just as quickly the man dropped to his knees, his chest suddenly paralyzed.
Patrick and Arthur both looked on with the same level of interest. They had heard stories of this technique of killing but both thought it was legend to make a good story. For a brief moment Arthur glanced at the second hand of his watch and waited. Less than a minute later the man fell over and stared up at the canopied sky with dead eyes.
"Shes been given the gift of the great warrior," said Patrick in a tone that was half way between a question and a statement with a good dose of disgust thrown in. What a waste to teach something to a woman who would probably use it so sparingly.
"I didnt know the legend was true, but she was a good choice to entrust it to." He watched as his daughter looked to the sky herself and took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders.
How different she seemed from the little girl he remembered running toward him whenever he came for a visit. Uncle Arthur, she had called him with her big blue eyes never stopping their study of the world around her. To Arthur, Bebo was born ready for whatever life threw at her because it was in her nature to succeed no matter the odds. Even when she was at rest, he could see the restlessness in her from the way her muscles twitched and her eyes hungrily took in the sights. Here before them was the future queen of the Amazons and he puffed his chest out a little that part of her was his doing.
The flurry of hand signals to the women in the trees and on the ground made Patricks eyes bulge. She was planning on going in to the village alone in broad daylight. "Is she crazy?"
"No, shes their leader and when they get back to the island they will sing of the brave warrior she is and how they would follow her to any place she asked. Look at her, Patrick." He pointed toward the woman removing her bow. "Thats who Annie fell in love with and who will protect your girl until there is no life left in her. Be smart because there is no way you can compete with that."
"You worry about your family, Leon, and Ill worry about mine."
When the sun started to set, the others were brought back from their labors for the rebels. The village seemed as quiet and as peaceful as when they left it. The men had gone from their regular daily farming and herding chores to chopping down trees and making the traps the rebels wanted. They were promised their lives in return when the armed men were done and it was time for them to leave.
"Get up you lazy bastard," yelled the leader when he came into the hut he was sharing with his second in command. The man was still in the cot hed been lying in when the leader left.
He kicked the bed and turned it over to get the man moving when the body just dropped to the ground revealing a pool of coagulating blood hed been lying in for hours. The man standing over him pulled his pistol from his belt and ran outside. As he opened his mouth to yell for help an arrow from the trees silenced the sounds in his throat.
Unlike the fight they had encountered at the first village, this one was over in minutes as the Amazons and Americans took care of the remaining men Bebo had left with swift justice. Shalla came out of the hospital and assured everyone Bebo and her people were there to help when the other women starting crying thinking that something even worse was about to befall them.
"Hes back here," Shalla pointed to the last cot in the hospice.
Brians breathing was shallow and the bruises that covered his chest along with the puncture wounds looked painful, especially where the broken ribs had come through the skin at the impact of the log. He opened his eyes and looked at the woman with her hand on his forehead. "Well fuck me with a carrot. What are you doing here?"
The princess laughed at the expression and leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Im here to carry your ugly ass out, and as for your sex life, maybe we can hire someone once we get home. If you pay enough Im sure theyll fuck you with whatever you like, though, it boggles the mind to think youd be into produce. You should try a woman with nice curves. Theyre much more interesting and feel better than anything you can eat. Wait scratch that last part, at least the eating part."
"Fuck, Bebo, dont make me laugh, man. It hurts like a bitch." He smiled for her and tried to keep his eyes open. "Are the rest of my guys all right?"
"I found them in their underwear pining away for you so dont worry. Have you seen your good doctor?"
Someone cleared his throat behind her and Bebo turned around. He was slightly overweight with thinning brown hair. His shirt looked as if he hadnt washed it in days the sweat stains were so pronounced and mixed with little specks of blood along the front.
"Im Dr. York."
"Pack up whatever you need and dont want anyone to find once youre gone, and fill my friend here up with whatever drugs you have on hand to make the trip easier on him." Bebo stood up and felt like smiling for the first time in days. With everyone she came for in the same area this nightmare was almost over.
"I cant leave these people to die, maam. You can take your friend if you want but Im staying."
The last conversation with Philip came back to her as she looked at this man who had the potential to wipe out entire civilizations. "Your choices are to leave with us or I kill you where you stand. Im sorry, Dr. York, but there isnt an option C for you to consider."
She wasnt American, or at least part of the American forces, her uniform was too different and the bow on her back didnt fit with anything hed seen in his time in Africa. His eyes studied the paint that made her stand out in the clinic, but Mike was sure when she was in the jungle someone could brush up against her and not notice her. The threat, and thats how he took it, was delivered in the calmest voice she could muster and he was sure she meant every word.
"Who are you?"
"Thats Princess Bebo to you, buddy, so get packing," said Brian.
"Im sorry to be so rude, doctor, but Im not sure how many more of these guys are out there and once they find the last place we left its going to be a foot chase to the finish line if we want to make it out of here alive. You and I both know why your government wont allow me to leave you behind. Its noble of you to want to help these people, but if your formulas fall into the wrong hands the world as we know it could change with something as innocuous as an aerosol can."
He ran his hand through oily hair and sighed. "Whats going to happen to these people, the villagers I mean?"
"Weve taken care of all the men who held them prisoners in their homes, giving them a chance to take to the jungle until the danger is over. Wars between the tribes arent a foreign concept to them, and in a couple of months things will get back to normal. The world may not understand it, and you and I may think its inhuman, but its a part of their culture nonetheless." Bebo moved closer him and dropped her voice. "I also need you to tend to Brian while were moving."
"Bebo," interrupted Bear. "Shalla and her people are ready to go."
"Pack, doctor. We move out as soon as youre done." Bebo moved out to the village clearing where there was a group of people with various bundles. "Good luck, Shalla, and may the gods keep you safe." The tall warrior motioned for her guards to pass out the weapons they had stripped off the dead rebels. It was enough to give them a chance to get away from anyone trying to harm them.
"The gods have already smiled upon us, highness. We have lost some, but for most of us, our families are still here to enjoy another day." The woman bowed and reached for Bebos hand and kissed it.
"How did you know who I am?" Bebo placed her fingers under the womans chin and encouraged her to stand straight.
"The Amazons arent the only ones who keep their history alive through stories. Our shamans tell of a traveling pair who came once ages ago and taught our warriors many things to keep our people safe. When we saw you fighting it was like seeing a piece of our past come to life. My wife speaks the truth, highness, you are a gift to our people and you will forever be welcomed here. We will pray for you and your peoples safety." The slight man had a pleasant voice and his face reminded Bebo of his son.
"Be well, and you too, Wazi." Bebo pulled an arrow from her quiver and handed it to the boy. "For you to start practicing when you get to where youre going. A gift from one warrior to another."
"Thank you, highness, I promise to get as good as you," said the smiling boy. He clutched the arrow to his chest as if it were the greatest treasure hed ever been given.
"Were ready, Bebo," reported Max.
"Then lets finish this."
"When was this taken?" asked Boden looking at the photograph Kip had just handed her. The years had hardened the features of the woman in the picture but she was still as recognizable to Boden as the last time shed seen her.
"We pulled our agent out a month ago but she left some local people in place she trusted to continue the search. These were sent out last week, we just got them tonight. The woman with her as you remember is Eva Tesoro, a Spaniard she met years ago. Niazia concentrates on battle tactics and fighting, and her pet specializes in torture."
"Charming," said Boden. Her own set of memories flooded her brain as the situation just got more bizarre and dangerous for her daughter. Why the fates would put her only child in the same place as the one person who hated her more than anyone alive was beyond her. "Do we know where she is now?"
"The man who got the pictures out said shes advising the leader of the rebels and helping with some of the larger fights, but no, we dont know where she is at this moment."
"Dont know where who is?" asked Audrey from the door. She had spent the day in a pair of comfortable jeans getting a lot of her paperwork done, but now wanted to spend some time with her wife before Annie and her sister got home.
"Niazias in Conger," said Bo without preamble. If being married to Audrey all this time had taught her anything it was not to try and hide anything from her. The blonde was petite but her temper was fierce.
"I thought our people had tracked her and cornered her in Yugoslavia." Killing wasnt something Audrey relished ordering but sometimes it was the only way to correct your mistakes. No one could have known how dangerous the woman would become when her mother banished her from Amazonia, but after the pile of bodies shed left in her wake over the years, Audrey had been left with no choice but order, with Bos backing, her extermination.
"We did, but she got away and covered her tracks very well until now, highness." Kip looked between the two women and felt like she was intruding.
"Bo, whats going to happen if she runs into Bebo? Theres no way to hide that shes ours and you know how she feels about us."
The Amazon Consort crumpled the picture in her hand then went and hugged her wife to her chest. "We have to have faith in Bebo, love. Like you told me when this began, I know we did our jobs well in every aspect of her life including her skills as a warrior. If Niazia runs into her, Im sure shell sell her soul to kill Bebo, but our cub wont be so easy to get to. Just remember she isnt out there alone."
When Annie got home she listened as Bo explained the newest development and what it meant to Bebo. Just as she thought she had no tears left, a sense of despair almost swamped her as the tall woman spoke.
An hour later Philip arrived bringing news of the Amazons latest transmission. They had all their targets and where heading to the first pickup spot. The two royals had let Annie stay for their meeting with the Defense Secretary not having the heart to keep her in the dark any longer than they had to.
"Does this mean its almost over?" Annie looked at him with such an open expression on her face it made him want to hug her and tell her it was going to be fine, that Bebo would be home soon.
"Its almost over, Miss Paddio." He leaned over and put his hand on her knee where she sat sandwiched between her future in-laws. "Im sorry to have taken her away for so long, but I knew she was the only one we could count on to get the job done. You should be proud of her."
Their progress was slow going because of Brians bulk and their trying to keep from jostling him too much. After moving for hours, Bebo and Junis had no choice but to call a halt and let their people rest. They were getting back to the part of the jungle the rebels had booby-trapped and she didnt want deal with another injury.
"Get some sleep, highness, or well be having to carry you out of here along with these guys," said Max. They were both so delirious that she couldnt remember the last time they had gotten to close their eyes for more than ten minutes.
"I can sleep when we get home."
"Come on, Bebo, I got Arthur, Carey and Titus to take the first watch. We havent run into anyone or anything remotely dangerous in hours so take a break and get some sleep. They promised to wake you if even a bug gets too close."
Bebo tried her best to find cover as it started to rain. They had been lucky up to that point with the weather but the skies opened up in the early morning and the rain came down in sheets. It didnt matter though, she was so tired that as soon as she closed her eyes sleep took her back to Annie and the comfort of the petite blondes arms. Arthur was close enough to watch his daughters face relax in sleep and he smiled at the way it made her look so much younger.
The rain was the best thing that could have happened to the woman watching them and her group of fighters. It muffled any noise that could have given away their position and Niazia watched the bedraggled looking bunch hunker down for a rest. She had sat in the high branch for over an hour studying each of them individually to see what she was up against. A few hundred feet behind her sat Eva with the rest of their men. The renegade Amazon would have attacked already but she had pushed the rebels to the point of exhaustion to make up ground and she was giving the same luxury Bebo was giving her people.
It was the tall woman sleeping under a large fern tree and the man keeping watch over her that intrigued Niazia. There was something about the young woman and the man that jiggled something in the corners of her mind. I should know them, she thought as she tried to make out the womans features under the camouflage paint. That she and some with her were Amazons was a forgone conclusion after Niazia had seen the weapons they carried.
The swift bringer of death slithered close to her and Niazia sat perfectly still. If you want to coerce a mamba into striking all you had to do was move. She could almost feel the sweat dripping down her neck mixing with the rain as the snake crawled across her lap in search of an evening meal. With a quick hand she reached down and grabbed it by the head, amazed at the strength in the long green body as it coiled around her arm. It was time for a little wake up call if only to have a little fun with her prey.
Titus was spared his life when the reptile fell on him because Niazia had cut the things head off before throwing it. It didnt keep him from jumping up and screaming like death was after him. The reaction was more than she could have hoped for and when Arthur jumped up and stepped in front of Bebo, Niazia figured out who he was. The more important question though was who he was protecting. Little Arthur who trailed after his older sister like a puppy when he was a boy wouldnt so readily take an arrow for someone not important to him, or so she thought.
From a dead sleep to instant alertness, Bear ran to Titus and clamped her hand over his mouth. When she saw what he was screaming about she pulled him into the thick foliage and dragged him to a safer position. "Max, get to Bebo and stay with her. Theres someone out there." The guard didnt ask questions she just moved.
Niazia put her knife away and pulled free her bow. The movements of the woman behind Arthur were almost identical to the woman who had haunted her dreams for years. If this was who the lost Amazon thought it was, revenge was going to be sweet. With no fear of being seen she stood up and pulled back on the string and prepared to shoot.
"Take the men and go," Bebo ordered Arthur and Junis, who had just awakened close to her. "Stay on the trail and dont veer from this course," she stripped off the GPS device from her wrist and handed it to the general.
"Where are you going?" asked Junis.
"Im going to take Max and Steph and find whoevers out there and give you time to get out." Bebo swept her hair back out of her face very much like Boden and Niazia was sure. "Dont worry, well be right behind you. I want you to keep going until you reach the pickup point. Bear, Beth and Rita will stay with you and check the trail for triggers as you go."
"Im not leaving you." The words left Arthurs mouth just before the arrow streaked through the air headed for Bebos chest. It was as if they both sensed it or heard it despite the rain and he made a quick decision. He stepped in front of her and took the hit for her. Had they still had their gear, which included flack jackets, he would have walked away, but those were long gone.
It was a perfect hit for a quick death. The arrow nicked his heart barely, but enough to make sure his chest filled from the blood oozing out of the dying muscle. He looked up at her as she cradled him and brought him down to the ground. The sun was starting its ascent and it formed almost a halo around Bebos head.
"You stay with me, dad. Keep your eyes open," she said in desperation.
"You get going, sprout, and dont worry about me. Theres a girl back home waiting on you and thats why I did what I did so dont you worry about it okay. I want you to tell my sisters I love them." Around them the soldiers moved to protect their fallen comrades and the Amazons took to the trees to find where the assault was coming from. "And find Greg and tell him the same thing. I love him like I have no other outside my family. Do you promise?"
She was at a loss as to who Greg was but there wasnt time to ask. "I promise but dont talk like that, youre going to be fine." She looked at his chest and the dark blood coming from around the arrow. It looked grotesque as it mingled with the fine blond hair that covered his body. "Dont you leave me."
"Ill always be with you, Bebo. I love you and this time it was my honor to carry out the acts of the one for the good of my child."
The body in her arms went limp and it stunned Bebo for a moment. Arthur was dead. "No!" Her scream scared the birds from their perches and for an eerie second the jungle became almost silent except for the rain falling.
"You gonna run over there and clamp your hand over her mouth?" Titus asked Bear as he looked at Bebo.
"If you open your mouth again, Ill kill you myself and be done with it. Are we clear?" Max stepped closer to him and removed the chobos from her sheath and slammed one into his upper arm. The blow was enough of a warning shot to keep him quiet.
Beth moved to where Bebo was standing holding her father and called down. "Twenty feet about half way up. She looks like one of us."
Something in Bebo snapped when she looked up and saw Arthurs killer. She took to the trees armed with only her chobos and the arrow she had pulled from his body and went after the woman like a swarm. Niazia laughed as she watched the hate take over the handsome features and knew she was going to be easy to bring down. Her mother had been a challenge she had never been able to best, but the older woman was disappointed by how easy it was going to be to bring down Bodens child, because if there were gods in the heavens, this was that bitchs kid.
Her second arrow took flight and Niazia along with everyone on the ground held their breath as it sped towards Bebos chest. What happened next was what started the legend that Bebo would become. She stopped on a high branch close to the woman and snatched the arrow from the air with a swipe of her hand. Looking at Niazia, she snapped it in half and threw it to the ground below. From the sheath at her side Bebo removed her chobos and moved closer.
"Only a coward kills from a distance when its so much more personally satisfying to kill while you look your opponent in the eye."
"I see youve inherited your mothers superior attitude and ego." Niazia put her bow down and pulled out her own clubs. "But unfortunately for you she mixed her blood with Audreys weak line. I always figured the ruling family would be the Amazons downfall, Arthur proved that."
Another yell of outrage was torn from Bebos chest as she swung at the womans head, but her opponent easily defended the pathetic attempt. The voices of every trainer shed ever had screamed in Bebos head to calm down and pay attention to her form, but she was too angry to listen. The lack of concentration allowed Niazia to connect first with the side of her neck and then with her knee knocking her from the branch. Not wanting to drop her weapons, Bebo stopped her fall by latching her legs around another branch close to the ground. The fall seemed to break the grip of emotions choking her and she hung there long enough to get her breathing under control.
"Get moving and dont look back," she ordered Bear. "You know she didnt come out here alone."
"Youre very perceptive, highness, and its going to be so rewarding to send you all back to Audrey and that bitch in little pieces." Niazia jumped down knowing she had the advantage after Bebo wasnt able to get anywhere near her with the chobos.
When the princess turned around it was the Amazons best warrior that faced Niazia. "Tell me your name so I can give my mothers your regards," the voice sounded dead calm and it made the woman stop her movements.
"Im Niazia Suire and Ill send my own message thank you." She looked down as the troops started to pull out as Bebo had ordered. Taking a moment she yelled out her call to Eva to get her and the men moving. They had to find out what an elite group of both Amazons and Special Ops was doing in the middle of Conger. The call was heard but didnt give her as long as shed planned for a counter move when Bebo connected with her stomach.
After that the fight was on and they exchanged blow after blow as they moved through the trees. Max and Steph would look back every so often to see that Bebo was holding her own, but they were trying to hold off the advancing force as best they could to give Bear and the others the best possible chance at escape. There was only another couple of miles to go and theyd be at the clearing.
As Eva got closer to her lover she stopped to watch the fight Niazia was engaged in. It looked like the red head had the advantage as she maneuvered the taller woman out to the end of the branch. Even if Bebo was able to fight back, she was so close to the end that the branch was about to give out on her.
"She taught you well, but not well enough," taunted Niazia as she pushed Bebo further towards her death.
The princess would move no further back and she redoubled her attack to buy time. "You left, or I should say were banished, before my mother reached her full potential as a warrior."
"Im sure shes convinced you shes the best, but if youre anything like her you dont measure up to the warrior Ive become."
"I can only hope to be like her, and Im glad to have the opportunity my grandmother didnt give her so long ago," Bebo came down hard with her right hand and knocked one of Niazias chobos from her hand.
The set back didnt faze her since all she need was to move Bebo back another foot. "Oh yeah, whats that?"
"The chance to kill you." Another blow knocked the other one loose and Bebo had her where she wanted her. With an innate sense of balance, she pushed her legs down a couple of times and used the branch as a springboard. As the young woman vaulted over Niazias head, she had the arrow the woman had used to kill Arthur in her hand and she buried it to the feathers in her chest.
Like her mother, Niazia dropped to the ground in a place far from home to rot forgotten in death. Close to them, Eva let out a scream as she watched what had happened to her lover then ordered the men to kill Bebo and the other two.
"Your packs a couple of trees over," yelled Max as she opened fire at the ground taking out five of Niazias men. The rebels were mystified that these women moved towards them instead of running in fear, as they were accustomed to. They watched more of their friends drop from the bullets raining down on them, and those who didnt fall in the hail of bullets, turned and ran.
Eva stood her ground and continued to fire until she was out of bullets. She dropped the gun when it clicked empty and moved toward Bebo with her knife at the ready. More than anything she wanted to avenge the woman who had saved her from a life of hell on the streets of Barcelona, but she was no match for Bebo. It took one sweeping arch from the Amazons knife to almost sever the smaller womans head from her shoulders showering Bebo in a warm spray of blood. The brunette dropped from the branches and landed close to where her lover Niazia lay dead.
Joe and his gunners scoured the landscape looking for yellow smoke. At the edge of the clearing hed asked Bebo to try and make, he spotted it and radioed the bird behind him to keep close as he brought his own in for a landing.
They came running from the jungle with their two makeshift stretchers and made for their ride home. "We wait until the other three make it out," screamed Junis over the engines.
"I have my orders, sir, and if they arent here now we have to go." Joe didnt want to say it since he didnt see Bebo among those who had made it out, but the rebel leadership had finally figured out what they had within their grasp in York and a large contingent of men were heading in their direction.
Junis pulled out the sidearm Bebo had given him and pointed it at the pilots head. "I said we wait, and thats what were going to do. Its your choice, son, you can sit here and whistle the Macarena or we can dump you here for the buzzards and Ill fly us out myself."
"They could all be dead for all we know. Lets get out of here while we still can," said Titus. Any other complaint out of him died away when Bear moved closer to him with her fingers in a striking position. He remembered that guy Bebo had jabbed in the neck and didnt want to experience anything remotely like it.
Just as Joe was about to pucker his lips and start whistling, he let out a relieved breath when he saw them emerge from the bush. She looked inhuman covered in blood but it was a touching scene to watch Bebo cradle Arthurs body in her arms and carry him to the helicopters. When Doug and Billy moved to help Junis and Bear held them back.
"I think this is something she feels she has to do," said Bear.
"I didnt think they were so close," commented Lacey. She and the others had taken their borrowed boots off and thrown them in the grass as soon as they reached their ride out.
"They were close enough," said Junis. He had his suspicions of their relationship. After they had been rescued and started to move, he had seen the way Arthurs eyes followed the tall royal. There wasnt anything remotely sexual in it but it was filled with love just the same. The kind of love a father has for his child.
"Hey," Bebo said to all of them as she laid Arthur at the back of the cabin. "Lets bring him home."
Concluded in Chapter 6
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