"They can't napalm the base, KC, they...can't...!"
"They can and they will if it serves their purpose better than sending reinforcements into what they consider to be an ambush. Besides, if they think we're all dead anyway and the VC has control of here, there's nothing worth saving and napalm would be swift and finish it once and for all."
"But...how would they explain it to our families? How -?"
"Colleen, come on... That's the least of their worries. All they have to say is the base got taken over and the VC killed us all. No one will know the difference. Do you think the families of those hostages near Chau Doc know their loved ones were practically vaporized in a cloud of flames? The government would never admit to that, just like they'll never admit to this."
"Yes, but I've seen victims of napalm...I've tended to them. It doesn't 'vaporize' anyone. That would be better than what it does. It's the most terrible pain you could ever imagine, so traumatic that it almost always causes a slow, unavoidable death. Have you ever seen someone who's been consumed by napalm?"
"No. But I've heard -"
McMurphy continued as though KC had not replied. "It burns the skin to where it looks like swollen red meat. I'm talking third to fifth degree burns. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius, right?. Napalm produces temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius. Or more. Napalm burns through to the muscle and bone and the chemical reaction literally melts the flesh, and wherever that flesh runs to, it stays and starts regrowing there. And that's before the gangrene sets in." The nurse was babbling due to despair and terror. "I've treated adults who live in the bodies of ten year olds or younger, and they rattle around with awkwardly disjointed motion and just that simple movement alone, leaves them sweat-soaked. The pain is so horrible, they can't stop crying. If they're lucky, they die immediately. If not, whatever is left of their flesh is nothing but scabs and blisters. Nothing soothes the misery. And we can't really treat them because the weight of anything covering the area is intolerable, including air. Their fingers and toes stick together before they drop off. Their hands wear down to stumps. Every day they lose a little more skin..." Panic had taken control of her eyes. "I don't want to die like that..."
"I know. Me, either. We've got to get out of here."
"And go where? If they have really taken control of this base, we are probably stuck here. And if we try to leave -"
"We can't stay here!"
"We can't leave the others!!" Their voices had risen to near shouting, which both women realized at the same time and immediately shut up. Frustrated, McMurphy cut KC a look and whispered harshly, "We are not abandoning our friends or my colleagues."
"Look, if you want to be Joan of Arc, that's your choice but I've spent my entire life saving my ass and I'm not about to stop now. You said you don't want to die like that, well neither do I."
"There's got to be something we can do to let them know we're not all dead."
"Like what? Twitch my nose like 'Bewitched'? Fold my arms and blink my eyes like 'I Dream of Jeannie'? Even if we could get word to them somehow, I'm telling you it might not matter at this point," KC told her, frustrated. "Generals love the big psychological effects of napalm. Don't you know that by now?" The prostitute lit up another cigarette. "Colleen, our military has illicitly used napalm and other chemicals as weapons in air strikes against not only the VC but also in World War II, when they helped bombed cities in Japan and the Japanese-held islands with it, and used it in bombs and flamethrowers in Germany. And now they are confounding all efforts to appraise or estimate the impact of napalm, unwilling or just plain refusing to divulge or acknowledge cold, hard evidence of the maiming and slaughtering and, instead, are engaging in a campaign of evasion and deception."
"How do you know all this?" McMurphy was literally quite stunned at not only KC's knowledge but her eloquence, as well.
The hooker smirked. "Pillow talk. One of my most frequent and regular customers is an Air Force general whose name I know you would recognize, so I'm not going to tell you who he is. But he just loves to tell me the latest military secrets. Lucky he sleeps with me and not Hanoi Hannah, I guess." She almost laughed, reacting off McMurphy's shocked expression. "Just who do you think my clients are, Colleen? Enlisted GIs can't afford me - at least not anyone below E-8."
"KC, I'm a First Lieutenant and I couldn't even afford you..." the nurse commented, almost grateful for the subject diversion. Almost.
"That's because you're a female and don't think in those terms. Men always find a way to budget me into their...uh...income. Usually as an activity or under 'entertainment'."
"Gee, this is all very stimulating, KC, but it's not helping us come up with a solution."
"I gave you a solution. Escape."
"Sorry. That's not a solution as far as I'm concerned."
"Fine. You can stay here and pine over this lost cause and die excruciatingly for nothing. Me? I'm getting out of here."
"Fine," McMurphy said, stubbornly, folding her arms. "Go. Leave. But I'm going to stay here and try to think of something."
The redhead stood up and moved quickly toward the door, pushing the barricades away. Once she freed up the space, she looked back at McMurphy, still sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, staring back at her with very moist, frightened eyes. "Aw, Christ...All right, look, right next to the bar is what appears to be a storage bunker. It is, but it is also leads to a tunnel, which if you don't know it's there, you can look right at the entrance and not even see it.. Remember once I told you about the tunnels? This particular one, if we can get to it, will connect to an abandoned communications center. I don't even know if the equipment there even works anymore." She extended her fingers to the brunette. "Come on."
McMurphy blinked in slow comprehension. "Really?" She got to her feet and securely clasped KC's hand. "I knew you'd never just leave everybody here to die."
KC sighed and quietly opened the door, scrutinizing the immediate area. Unfortunately, she would have left them all there to die to save herself. If she had been alone when it happened.Or would she, she thought, as she pulled McMurphy with her toward the bar.
It was eerily quiet once they stepped outside and did their best at concealing themselves from place to place in their quest to get to safety. McMurphy never realized how much cover there actually was from their starting point - KC's door - to their finishing point - the storage door by the bar. But then, why would she? It never occurred to her that she'd ever be in a situation like this. KC, on the other hand, always thought of everything, as hers was a much more dangerous and cynical existence.
McMurphy was quite sure she had held her breath the entire way, in fact, once inside the storage area, she could not remember how she got there. Regardless, the nurse was grateful for KC's level headed concentration and her devout knowledge of the base and all its glories and faults. She would never again accuse the prostitute of being paranoid or a pessimist.
"Let's get these bottles and sandbags away from here," she indicated the area, "we can pry the hatch open with that handle against the empties and see what we have to work with in there," KC stated in a low but commanding voice. She knew McMurphy was more than capable of doing this with her, she just needed to get her focus back.
As the two women began moving dirty, grimy old glass bottles and lifting sandbags out of the way, the nurse started talking out of nervousness and uncertainty. "I don't understand this, KC, all reports say that that communist forces have become debilitated and this war is close to being won. Why did something like this have to happen now? And here?"
"Circumstances, Colleen. I'm pretty sure if Nguyen hadn't been brought here, the VC wouldn't be here and the threat of napalm wouldn't be looming over us. And as far as those stupid reports go, that's all wishful thinking. This is a war nobody is winning. My sources - who I think may be a little more reliable than yours - tell me the US command is underestimating the actual size of the communist forces in an eagerness to make the situation look more hopeful."
"Most likely." They continued to work feverishly to get to that hatch as soon as possible. "They did the same thing after Tet, remember?"
And McMurphy did. The VC had broadcast a truce then calculatingly launched an astounding offensive, invading almost every major city in South Vietnam, one unit even managing to encroach the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The VC stayed there for several hours before American forces finally retook the embassy, killing all communist soldiers within. The U.S. forces, however had been totally unprepared for such a blatantly arrogant attack and the units had been caught totally by surprise.
The Viet Cong seemed to have been trying to achieve victory in a single blow. They hoped their enemy would crumble and dissolve into panic and confusion, and that the civilian population would join in a mass uprising against the government. They did not accomplish either of those goals, although the South Vietnamese army did come dangerously close to disintegrating. This failure resulted in the National Liberation Front losing a large part of their forces because many of the guerillas had gone into the cities unsupported by the population, which became their downfall as an enormous amount of VC were killed.
Substantially weakened, to a point where they never fully recovered, the NLF became more dependent on North Viet Nam for support, making the Tet Offensive a military defeat, regardless of how they had announced it as a communist victory. But the United States predicted, over-optimistically, that the impotence of the VC was what contributed, when in reality, the U.S. military had underestimated the strength of the communists and had not expected the vigorous fighting which had ensued. Yes, the communist forces had, indeed, been beaten down but because government spokesmen had been lying about the true status up to that point, it was difficult to persuade anyone to believe them and, soon after Tet, when a couple hundred thousand more troops were requested by US strategists in Viet Nam, this made people, especially deployed GIs, even less willing to trust what the administration was saying to them and feeding to the press.
KC and McMurphy struggled with the final sandbag, arranging that and the rest so that if someone did happen by the storage door, nothing would look suspicious. Hopefully. Then they both went to work on the hatch. A couple good thrusts and yanks and the door popped open with a crack and creaking louder than either woman had anticipated. Silently, they both inhaled sharply, waiting to hear any kind of sound, indicating they were about to be discovered. There was none. Climbing down, pulling the door closed behind them, they carried two flashlights - one from KC's, the other from the room they were just in. McMurphy followed the redhead as she made her way through a dark, filthy, smelly tunnel, hoping KC knew where she was going and how to accomplish what she had planned to do. The prostitute stopped abruptly and McMurphy slammed right into her back.
"Oomph!" the nurse emitted, startled.
"Sorry, sorry," KC said back, distracted, grabbing onto the brunette protectively.
"What is it? Please tell me you haven't lost your way."
"But? But? But what?"
"This passageway splits off into three different ways with more tunnels spidering off from there. I'm trying to get my bearings and correctly remember the quickest way to that old equipment room."
"We don't have a lot of time, KC -"
"I know, Colleen, calm down," the redhead responded, soothingly, unconsciously rubbing McMurphy's side while she thought about the direction they should head in. The nurse suddenly pulled KC into a hug, needing to feel her warmth, her solidness against her. "Come on, come on," she comforted, "it's okay. We'll get through this, we'll make it."
"You don't know that," McMurphy told her, her fear beginning to build now, as she choked back tears.
"Shhhh, shhhh, KC consoled, the irony of her attending to the nurse's emotional needs not lost on her. She brushed a lock of sweaty, errant hair away from the brunette's face and gently kissed the spot. Slowly, she then placed her lips softly, but not without purpose, on McMurphy's, feeling the nurse physically relax and accept this token of comfort.
"How do you do that?" McMurphy asked, as the kiss ended reluctantly.
"Make me forget practically everything but my own name when you kiss me."
"It's a gift," the redhead said, dryly, clutching McMurphy's hand in hers. "Come on, it's this way," she pulled, leading the nurse toward the middle passageway.
By the time they reached the destination KC was hoping still existed, they were covered with dust and cobwebs. Both women were coughing and sneezing, as they threw the full brunt of both their weights against the dry wooden door. It splintered more easily than either thought it would and they tumbled through, KC landing right on top of McMurphy. Despite the severity of the situation, they both found themselves laughing, neither moving immediately.
"Really, KC, you do have a one-track mind," McMurphy smiled, wishing they could have finished what they started before their entire world exploded.
"Is that so? You're the one who brought it up," the redhead responded, staring deeply into the nurse's soulful brown eyes before pushing up off her and standing. She extended a hand and assisted McMurphy to her feet. Moving the beam of her flashlight around the room, she found what she had been looking for, covered with an old, olive drab green-colored canvas tarp. With the aid of McMurphy, they yanked the tarp off, creating another cloud of soil and dust, revealing a radio set up that looked like it was manufactured in World War II.
It was a Hallicrafter, a brand known for its heavy chassis and great, sturdy transmitting capabilities, and one used regularly by the American government and military. This one was obviously purchased on the black market. This particular make, the HT-20, was manufactured in 1950. It was called TVI-proof because it was built to address the "new" problem of television interference by increasing shielding and adding a built-in LP filter. There were more proficient, recent versions now available but being where they were and what was facing them, KC was happy with what they had. In fact, at this point, a tin can on a string would have given her hope.
"Do you know how to work this thing?" McMurphy asked, studying it.
"Not really..." KC shrugged, looking around for an electrical switch or a generator, "but how hard can it be?"
Fortunately, there was power in the room as circuits of electricity ran haphazardly throughout the tunnels. The juice was minimal but adequate. There was a small lamp on the desk next to the radio but as luck would have it, the bulb was burnt out. They worked by the glow of McMurphy's flashlight, intending to use it until that went dead and then use KC's as she had just replaced the batteries in hers. Leave it to a prostitute to always have a working supply of batteries.
The room was small and a lot stuffier and musty-smelling before they had broken the door down. Also on the desk with the lamp and the radio was a small metal fan, which, once the dirt and dead bugs blew off it, did provide some relief to the swelteringly damp space. Across from the desk was a military-type bunk bed also covered with a canvas tarp, which indicated that, at one time, this particular room may have been manned by duty twenty-four hours a day.
The cables and cords that had been used to keep the radio working had all been cut. With McMurphy holding the light, KC was laying on the desk, the top half of her leaning over the side, carefully peeling back the insulation to expose the wires and matching them up, twisting them together. She was glad she was working on external wires only and prayed that nothing was wrong internally as the radio consisted of a complex mass of critically aligned circuits. She would have felt a little better, even though she knew it was psychological, if the electronic had a name on it she recognized like RCA Victor or GE. She was trying to be thorough knowing she was working against a clock. The longer it took her, the angrier she became.
KC hated this Goddamned fucking war. Regardless of the profit she made off it, it was incidents such as this that made her realize just how much of her good fortune was blood money. The reason why she was at an R & R base was, initially, to benefit from Uncle Sam's greediness not to suffer the consequences of America.'s overbearing bullying. Yeah, yeah, she'd heard all the arguments and had even participated in some and she wasn’t ignorant of the atrocities the VC had committed but in reality, no one had yet presented any real justification for U.S. involvement in South East Asia other than in the most vague terms such as "treaty obligations". But America was ignoring, or just plain refusing, to come to terms with losing and it seemed fashionable to soften the truth with politically diplomatic phrases, all of which diverted attention from the harsh reality - that America was suffering a costly military defeat. Nobody wanted to say out loud the possibility of the Tet Offensive being a victory for the communists, because of the way it reduced the American will to fight. Which is why situations like the one KC and McMurphy were facing now were met with such zealousness. It gave the troops 'check' in this nasty little wargame of chess.
Entwining the last wire together, she crossed her fingers as she plugged the repaired cord in and McMurphy flipped on the power control button. They were both a little more than amazed when, through the headphones lying on the desk, they heard grating frequency noises, then static brought the contraption to life. KC and McMurphy traded shocked but relieved looks as the redhead slid off the desk and into the wooden folding chair in front of the radio. The nurse trained the beam of the flashlight onto the face of the radio and KC, holding one earphone close, began fiddling with the tuning dial, moving it until she heard a language she understood better than Vietnamese, locking that band into place. She then equalized the sensitivity adjustment and BPO, which controlled the signal during the reception, which covered any and all knowledge she had about this radio, other than how to transmit and receive.
KC took the headphones in both hands and looked up, solemnly, at the nurse. They exchanged grave yet deeply affectionate expressions. This was it, their only chance to save the base and themselves. McMurphy squeezed the redhead's shoulder, then bent down and gave her a reassuring kiss on the lips. Smiling uncertainly, after the kiss, KC placed the headphones on and went to work.
"Can anybody hear me?! Please respond I'm calling from China Beach," KC was now yelling into the mic, frustrated that no one was acknowledging her. This was the third channel she had locked on where English was being spoken and she had been repeating herself for what felt like an hour, when in reality, it was only five minutes. However, since time was of the essence, five minutes was an eternity.
McMurphy was pacing behind her, working up even more of a sweat. Finally, out of desperation, the nurse startled KC by slamming her hand on the microphone, keying it and screaming, "This is Lieutenant Colleen McMurphy, United States Army, calling from the Five Ten Evac Hospital on China Beach and somebody needs to answer me right fucking now!!" Her voice rose in octaves and intensity at every word.
Looking up at her, after the shock of her outburst wore off, KC couldn't help but chuckle. "Well, that ought to get somebody's attention."
And it did.
"Last unit calling, this is a secure military frequency and we are in the middle of emergency traffic only! Please stay off this channel, I say again, stay off this channel!"
"Son-of-a-bitch, they answered," KC sputtered, keying the mic. "This is traffic related to your emergency," she announced as calmly as she could under the circumstances. "We are AT China Beach, repeat AT China Beach..."
McMurphy grabbed KC's wrist pulling her hand off the button. "Don't use the word 'repeat' on the radio...it's a code word for bomb."
"What? How stupid is that?"
McMurphy shrugged. "It's the military, what can I say?"
"Well, another thing to give credence to 'military intelligence' being a contradiction of terms."
"Last unit calling, say again your last message, copying you are at China Beach? I need your exact coordinates."
"McMurphy, you talk to this idiot - he wants exact coordinates..." She stood up handing the brunette the headphones.
"I don't know that! I..." She snatched the equipment from the redhead, put it on, sat down and keyed the mic. "Listen to me! We know there are orders to napalm this area! I don't know the coordinates! You cannot napalm this base! We are all still alive! Say again, we are all still alive!!"
"You don't know that," KC gently reminded her.
"Yeah, well, neither do they."
"Identify yourself and your location," came the disembodied voice through the airwaves.
"First Lieutenant Colleen McMurphy, I am a nurse assigned to the Five-Ten. I am near the base."
There was radio silence and then the voice crackled again. "Ma'am, what is the current situation there?"
"Currently? I cannot tell you exactly but there are still Americans alive on the base -"
"We need an estimated body count, Ma'am."
"I don't have one," she admitted, flustered.
"So you're not really sure how many are still alive on base?"
Again, silence on the other end. Then, "Ma'am...I'm sorry. I don't have the authority to rescind the order."
McMurphy looked absolutely stricken, an expression KC immediately alerted on. "What - ? You...can't... We're still here..."
"Ma'am...I'm sorry," was all the voice said. And the young man's vocal inflection backed that up.
She looked up at KC, tearing up immediately. "They're going to do it anyway."
"The fuck they are!" KC took the headset from McMurphy, repositioned it on her head and leaned over to get close to the microphone. "You still there?" she said, sternly into the transmitter.
A moment. "Yes, Ma'am, but -"
KC cut him off. "I need to speak to -!"
McMurphy gently removed the prostitute's finger from the mic key. "They can't hear you if you cut them off. It's not like a landline. If they're still transmitting, they'll talk right over you and anything you say will be lost and vice versa."
"Right, I forgot. Guess I'm just anxious." She listened for any transmission before keying the mic again. "You need to put me in contact with General Bingham right now. Find him and patch me through!" The redhead's demeanor was suddenly all business.
"I'm sorry about your...circumstances, Ma'am, but I can't -" McMurphy intercepted KC's hand again before it seized the transmit key prematurely. "- just put the South East Asia SAC commander on the air just like that."
Looking up at McMurphy conspiratorially, KC pressed down on the key. "You can and you will. Tell him his daughter, Katherine, is on this base with a Red Cross group. I'm sure he would want to know that before he barbeques her."
"The general's daughter is one of the hostages, Ma'am?"
"Yes, I believe she is."
"Stand by, Ma'am."
KC folded her arms and looked back up at McMurphy, somewhat smugly. The nurse studied her companion's face. "KC...General Bingham's daughter isn't here...her team left this morning..."
"Oops," the redhead smiled. "My mistake." Half listening for a voice to return through her earphones, she said, "If nothing else, it's bought us a little more time."
“Is Bingham the Air Force general you were talking about earlier?”
“I suppose pleading the fifth wouldn’t do an good now, would it?” KC shrugged.
"Ma'am?" the voice in her earphones said.
"We are attempting to locate General Bingham now. Can you stand by?"
Rolling her eyes at McMurphy, she said, "He wants to know if I can stand by...just where the fuck does he think I'm going to go?" She shook her head and transmitted. "How long?"
"However long it takes, Ma'am. The order is on stand by until the general can be consulted on this matter and your statements can be verified. Any other information is restricted, Ma'am." When his traffic was not acknowledged, he said, "Do you copy, Lieutenant McMurphy?"
"This isn't Lieutenant McMurphy but she is standing right next to me, so I will tell her. My name is KC. Make sure you tell the general that."
"KC? What's your rank, Ma'am?"
"I don't need a rank. Just tell Bingham KC."
"I'm going to need more data, Ma'am."
"Sorry. That information is restricted. The general will understand. Do you copy?"
Twenty minutes had passed without any further radio traffic directed at the women who had both stripped down to their bras and panties. That was the only way they could find any relief from the humidity that dripped in the air. The small fan provided only minimal comfort.
"In any other circumstances, I would be salivating at the sight of you in your underwear," KC commented, wryly.
"Why my underwear? You've already seen me naked," McMurphy smiled, blushing.
"Not nearly as long as I would have liked to," the prostitute told her, her voice filled with obvious disappointment.
"So...no regrets? Second thoughts?" The brunette was fishing and KC knew it. Why this woman was insecure was beyond her.
"My only regret, Colleen, was that we weren't able to finish what we started."
McMurphy's eyes focused on the floor. "Me, too."
"Really? Because if we get out of here, I'd love to seduce the hell out of you...again."
"I'd like that, too," McMurphy admitted, shyly. "KC...if they don't find Bingham, we're going to die...aren't we?"
"No. We're safe here. And we can follow any number of these tunnels to the Marble Mountains and get out that way."
"And risk being captured..."
"Trust me, Colleen, I know I can barter my way out of that...being melted by napalm? The Pope couldn't barter his way out of that."
Noise audibly rattled through the headphones, almost deafening KC and getting McMurphy's undivided attention.
"KC? Lieutenant McMurphy? Do you copy?" The prostitute recognized the voice of the young dispatcher who had been talking to them before.
"This is KC, we copy."
"Stand by for General Bingham."
There was a strange sound, almost a muffled feedback, and then a voice, a baritone, KC instantly recognized. "This is General Bingham, over."
"Glen? It's KC."
"KC? What's going on? What's this about Katherine?"
"Katherine isn't in any danger, Glen. She left China Beach this morning."
"So she isn't there?"
"Then I don't think there's really anything I can do." His voice sounded much too complacent.
"Glen? Listen to me very carefully...I am not at China Beach. I am in a very safe place, which will not be affected by your napalm sweep. If you decide to go ahead and carry out this mission, I swear to God I will go to the press and tell them everything."
"Don't you dare threaten me!"
"I'm not threatening you, Glen...I'm promising...you let China Beach become an uninhabitable hot spring and you will live to regret it. You know what I mean - do you want me to go into this on the air? Because I have no problem doing that." Dead silence. "There are Americans still alive there...you can't just incinerate them like they never existed. You have control over one of the strongest militaries in the world. Napalm isn't the answer here, Glen, and you know it. Call it off."
"KC...I'm under a lot of pressure here," he pleaded.
"You'll be under worse pressure if you follow through with this napalm bullshit. You have other options. Look...I know it's a political statement, Glen, and the thought of the news reports gets you all hard but it's not going to happen here. You're willing to let my friends die without a second thought to boost your career. I will bury you, Glen. And you know I can."
"You're a...a...!" He sputtered, not daring to finish, knowing he had an audience and had no idea who else was listening. "Who do you think is going to believe you?" His arrogance was infuriating.
"Ambassador Yamamura...he's also a...friend...of mine." The redhead stated, triumphantly, referring to a highly respected member of the United Nations. Checkmate.
The silence felt like a pleasurable victory. "Okay. I'll try to call them back," came the defeated response.
"You better do more than try, Glen," KC told him, seriously.
"Where ever you are, just stay there. Give me an hour to call the boys back and get my hind quarters out of a sling."
"One hour, Glen. Then I become Chatty Cathy."
As KC and McMurphy waited for the confirmation that the napalm directive had been revoked, and another avenue of invasion had been agreed upon by the military powers that be, the time passed slowly. Needing to find another way to occupy the wait, the redhead stood up and pulled the brunette into a secure hug.. When McMurphy did not resist her, KC was content to hold her, momentarily, stroking her back and side.
The contact ignited something undefined in the nurse. She had felt her life pass before her eyes more than once in the limited amount of time they occupied that small space and she had no problem admitting she needed the reassurance and comfort of KC's touch.
Snuggling against the redhead, she felt the thin barrier disappear as the prostitute began to work her magic with her skillful hands. KC took control as she planted light but purposeful kisses from McMurphy's shoulder to her earlobe. She locked her gaze on McMurphy's, seeing the anxiety, agitation and curiosity behind the vital windows to her soul. She lightly brushed her lips against the brunette's, then intensified the contact, possessing the nurse in a way that made her feel totally helpless in KC's embrace.
Slowly, reluctantly, separating her lips from KC's, she nuzzled the redhead's neck, breathing heavily. "I don't know how I can be so hot and be so...hot..." Perspiration was rolling down her back.
A soft, sexy laugh bubbled up from deep in KC's chest. She released the nurse, stepping over to the metal fan and positioning it toward the bunk bed. Silently taking McMurphy's hand, she led her to the canvas covering and tugged it off, dropping it to the floor. Sitting on the lower bunk, she pulled the brunette to her, where they began kissing again. Circling her arms around the nurse, KC quickly and expertly removed McMurphy's bra. She leaned into the brunette, gently pushing her back on the bed. Other than smelling a little mildewed, the fabric covering the mattress appeared to be clean. Not that either would have really noticed at that point.
KC never expected McMurphy to be so uninhibitedly passionate - not that she was complaining. Even the preview she had before all hell broke loose didn't prepare her for the unbridled emotion the nurse injected into their lovemaking. She let KC take the lead and thoroughly ravish her. Being instinctive and a very quick study, not to mention being able to take direction very well, McMurphy did not perform as though it were her first time with a woman Maybe it was the seemingly impossible situation they were in that slammed their libidos into overdrive. But when they were finished, both women were drenched in perspiration and other bodily fluids that had excreted during sex. Sweating never felt so good.
They may have enjoyed holding each other in the afterglow if the stifling heat, magnified by their strenuous activity, wasn't so suffocating. Extricating themselves from each other, neither bothered to put any clothing on. McMurphy snagged her blouse and blotted the moisture trickling from her body, then offered it to KC.
Accepting it from her, the redhead lightly dabbed away the damp sheen her body had accumulated. Walking back over to the wooden chair at the desk, KC seated herself, steering the fan her way and welcoming the blowing air, even if it was only slightly cooler than the rest of the climate in the room. Picking up the headphones, the redhead put them to one ear and listened. She heard garbled transmissions in English but it was mostly military phonetics and code. Nothing was directed at her. Yet.
"Do you really, um, service Ambassador Yamamura?" McMurphy inquired.
"No. He doesn't like women. I procure men for him to...well, you know."
"Really? I thought he was the consummate family man."
"And he'll pay outrageous amounts of money to keep that reputation."
"Do you have something on everybody?" Her eyes blinked in, what appeared to be, close to awe.
A knowing smile. "Just about." They waited in momentary silence. "What time do you have?"
McMurphy shined the flashlight on her watch, which was on her pile of clothes. "2210."
"He's got seven more minutes before I start searching these tunnels for a landline." Another ninety seconds passed. Finally, she recognized her name being spoken over the airways. "This is KC," she said into the mic.
"KC, it's Glen Bingham. It's done. Order is rescinded," he announced, crisply, clearly not at all happy at being outranked by a civilian. "Don't ever threaten me again."
"Don't ever make me feel like my life - or anyone else's, for that matter - is worth less than another star on your collar." Her statement was met with dead air. She keyed the mic again. "How is the current situation being resolved?"
"Negotiating the release of Nguyen - it's the only way we could get out of it without charlie taking everyone with them."
KC looked over at McMurphy who was perched on the desk. "Oooh, he's negotiating. He hates negotiating anything. That probably tweaked his gonads even more than me giving him an ultimatum." She returned her attention to the transmitter. "Look at all the lives you saved. Better to be a hero than a martyr," she told the general.
"I still can't guarantee people won't get killed."
"I'm not asking for guarantees, Glen. But you have to admit a few unavoidable casualties beats a few hundred avoidable ones consumed in flames." Once again, a response was not forthcoming. "Well, nice doing business with you, Glen."
"Our business is done, KC," Bingham advised her. "I won't be requiring your services again."
The prostitute smiled. Of course he would. He couldn't stay away from her. "Your loss." They both knew that statement was true. KC removed the headphones. "He did it," she confirmed to McMurphy,
"So I gathered. Now what?"
"Let's get out of here. Get back out into some fresh air."
"Are you sure he's telling you the truth? I mean, can you trust him?"
KC laughed openly. "Of course not. But he knows he can trust what I tell him...and that's how I know he'll do what he's supposed to." She stood up, taking McMurphy in her arms, kissing her neck. "What do you say we get back to the tunnel entrance, drink some warm beer, wait for the 'all clear,' hit the showers and go back to my place?"
"No," the nurse shook her head.
"No?" the prostitute repeated, surprised.
"Nope. Too much happens at your place...let's hit the showers and go to mine."
"Works for me. Let's go."
"Um...shouldn't we get dressed first?"
KC let out a deliberately exaggerated sigh. "All right. If you insist."
As the redhead attempted to move out of the embrace, McMurphy held tight. KC was greeted with a questioning glance. "I didn't say thank you."
"For what? The sex? Jesus, Colleen, I'm the one who should be saying thanks," the redhead cracked.
"No," McMurphy blushed, "for saving my life...our lives...all of our lives. Why...was it that good?"
"The sex? Uh...well, let's see...I might have to nail you a couple more times to make a decision."
"Nail me? How poetic," McMurphy rolled her eyes, smiling. She released the redhead and started putting her clothes on.
Once both women were dressed, KC extended her hand to McMurphy. "Come on, let's go see if your friends are okay."
Curling her fingers around the redhead's, the nurse replied, "They're your friends, too. Or they better be, after this."
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