Cage Undone Part Eleven
Cage woke again to the sound of thunder and rain driving against the windows and roof of the HUMMV. Peeling her eyes open only made her blink the blurriness away. Her body felt cramped and sore. An all over body ache that would, she knew take hours to work out.
“Welcome to the glorious world of intelligence”. She muttered out loud as she semi rolled in her seat.
“Welcome to the not so glorious world of the Military Police.” A female voice answered her with a wry sound. “It still beats West Virginia rural life.”
“We were poor, dirt poor. Mama and daddy tried hard, but it’s depressed ya know. We had a roof over our heads even if it leaked half the time, food on the table mostly and clothes on our backs but not much more. Most of the men work the mines and the women seems like they just have more kids. I wanted more. This was the best way to do it.”
“You in long?” Cage asked as she rummaged in her pack for an MRE.
The voice chuckled. “Long enough to make E5 get busted back and make E5 again.”
“How’d you get busted?” Cage asked as she made her meal choice. Somehow the Spaghetti meal sounded good even at five am.
The MP snorted. “I got into a fight. Some dickhead Marines were jacking with one of my new rooks. Female MP from Native American country. She was maybe five foot five, all of one hundred ten dripping wet out of Oklahoma I think.” She paused to dig into her pack for her own meal. “She was checking ID’s and they just started calling her names, you know like squaw and shit. She braced them and they ignored her, started tossing punches so I jumped in. God only knows where her back up was.” She cut the MRE heavy brown plastic open with a sharp short knife. “So I jumped in. Between us we cleared out those pussies. Marines.” She snorted. “I don’t care who you think you are, one hard knee to the balls and you will cry for momma. Even if you are an oh so tough and special Marine.” She laughed lightly.
Cage lifted some pasta to her mouth. “So why’d you get busted?”
“Hit ‘em too hard apparently. Something about serious soft tissue damage and med discharges.” She grinned.
Cage laughed weakly. “That sounds definitely painful.”
“You don’t seem too shocked.”
“My little brother is an MP. I know how it goes.”
“All the way. Da was Special Forces, my granda was a boo. He was hit in Korea and early Vietnam.” Cage admitted.
“I’m Angela Crimms.”
“Sergeant Angela Crimms I’m Cage Quinn. You can call me Quinn on duty and Cage when we are off duty.”
“You got it Cap.” She stirred her breakfast with the knife.”
Cage watched her. “That’s not a reg knife.” She murmured.
Crimms grinned without looking up. “Nope, but it sure comes in handy.”
“I think I like you Sergeant.” Cage chuckled.
“Sorry Captain, I already have a boyfriend.”
Cage looked at the female MP. “Umm, that didn’t come out right.”
Crimms laughed. “Got ya Cap.” She dipped the tip of the knife into the slab of ham and brought it to her mouth.
Cage wobbled her way down the sidewalk risking a backward glance to make sure Tommy hadn’t done a face plant on the concrete. He was there just as wobbly; his eyes had a certain glazed quality.
“Tis a fine night.” He managed with a grin.
Cage stopped to lean against a building façade. “A grand night. Whose idea was this again?”
“I t’ink it was yours.” The accent learned from their granda leaked through. “Maybe it was Da’s?”
“Oh sure,” Cage rolled her eyes. “Da said ‘Sure kids, go to Dublin and get yerselves tanked.” For some reason the absurd visual caused her to giggle, then giggle some more. Soon her butt hit the pavement as she was laughing so hard tears leaked down her face.
“What’s so funny?” Tommy slurred out as he looked down at his big sister who was close to rolling around on the sidewalk.
“Can you…can you imagine Da here with us? ‘Now behave yerselves proper like.’ Oh, God.” She broke out laughing again.
Tommy joined in the laughter. “Oh, yeah. Remember this one? ‘Ye have to carry yerselves with the correct deportment at all times.’ Who uses deportment these days?”
Cage snickered. “Da.”
“Ahem.” The new voice caught their attention immediately and they turned at the same time. In front of them stood a member of the Garda.
“Tommy shush. It’s a peeler.” Cage tried to whisper but in her state it was impossible. The slang used for the Irish police and laughter didn’t improve the mans expression.
“If you’ve a place to stay the night I would suggest you find it.” His tone was no nonsense as he rocked back and forth slightly on his feet.
“But we’ve got two more pubs left on the crawl.” Tommy stated in what he thought was a reasonable voice.
“Boyo, you and your friend there don’t need to finish the crawl tonight.” The officer almost smiled.
Cage smacked Tommy’s shin with her hand. “Don’t argue with the peeler Tommy. Da would be mortified.” She laughed hard. “I’ve been here too long. I just said mortified.”
Tommy smacked Cage in the head with a light slap. “Don’t call the man a peeler to his face. You’re gonna get us into trouble.”
“All right you two. Identification now.”
Both of them glared at each other as they handed over their passports and military ID. The officer checked them. “Should have known you two would be from that trouble making clan. What’s it you do in the army?”
“Intelligence.” Cage said. “And yes I know, oxymoron.”
“MP.” Tommy answered.
“Stumble yer way back to the hotel and stay out of trouble tonight. Or do you need the frog march treatment?” He tried to sound professional but the accusing glares these two were tossing at each other was amusing. He was actually having fun for a change during pub-crawl season.
Cage looked up with a curious expression. “Can you frog march him and I’ll stumble behind?” Her granda’s accent came out thickly in the honest question.
The officer could only laugh as Tommy slapped her head again and was tackled to the ground by the woman. His two children were exactly the same. He called a back up unit over the radio. If the dispatcher wondered why he was laughing she didn’t ask.
Cage woke slowly and blinked away the blurriness. It took several seconds for the realization to sink in. “I had that conversation. Tommy got us tossed in jail.” She stated out loud just to make sure she was making sense. “Holy shit. I remembered something.” With that she bolted out of bed, dragged her mostly clean jeans on and pulled a t-shirt over her head.
She followed the smell of brewing coffee and cooking eggs. She was in deep thought and didn’t notice the noise her bare feet were making on the hard wood floor. As she came through the doorway a full cup of coffee was suddenly in front of her. She quirked an eyebrow.
“Heard you coming this time.” Olivia smiled and turned back to the stove.
“Really? Damn I must be slipping. All this soft living I’m doing.” Cage made her way to the stool by the counter and plopped her butt down.
“Oh sure. You’re the epitome of soft living.” Olivia laughed in a low tone. “Do you want ham or roast beef in your eggs?”
“Roast beef? I’d never have thought about that.”
“You really have to go shopping again.” Olivia said in a much too cheery tone. “It was an either or kind of thing ‘cause you don’t have much else and I refuse to toss spaghettios in my eggs.”
“At least it’s not SPAM.” Cage muttered around her coffee cup.
“What did you say?” Olivia asked turning her head with a quizzical expression on her face.
“Nothing, just talking to myself.” Cage answered innocently. She watched as Olivia returned her attention to making breakfast. Something close to happiness settled in her chest and rested there. In so many ways it reminded her of the early morning conversations between her parents that she had witnessed as a child. She made a mental note to call her parents later in the day.
Olivia peeked over her shoulder and had to smile. The expression on her girlfriends face was nothing less than content, maybe even certain happiness. It was the one thing she wanted for Cage since the first night on the porch. In some ways Cage had changed a great deal since that night in other ways she was the same woman with demons. What she had learned most about Cage Quinn was that this woman could hardly ever be predicted.
“I can hear you thinking you know.” Cage said out loud without looking up from her coffee.
“And what was I thinking?”
“I don’t know. I just know that you were.” Cage answered honestly. “Good thoughts or bad?”
Olivia took the pan of eggs off the burner. “Good I hope.” She decided to take a chance. “What were you doing during Desert Storm?”
Cage let out a breath. “Ask something hard why don’t you?” There was no humor in Cage’s answer.
“You asked.” Olivia answered simply.
Cage nodded. She had asked. “I was intelligence so I was asking questions of captured enemy soldiers.”
Olivia dished out breakfast silently, waiting patiently, she knew Cage would continue when she was ready and she knew that she could never force anything out of her very special soldier.
“We tried the soft sell at first but that only worked on the conscripts, the Republican Guard were different. They were half hard core, so I got called in a lot because those women hating types just got pissed when a woman showed up to ask them the same things the men did. When they did get pissed off so bad they let things slip that I’m sure they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“There’s nothing like pointing a sidearm at a man and telling him that because a ‘weak woman’ will kill him he won’t be let into Allah’s paradise. You’d be surprised how that fucks with a soldier’s mind.”
“How did you know to say that?” Olivia was truly curious.
Cage looked up and sipped on her coffee. “I did my homework. Every time I go in somewhere I find out what it is that will give me an edge. I look at the culture, the religion, the attitudes and what really, really scares people. I want to know what scares someone even more than I scare them.”
“Sounds like what the Comanche used to do. Find a man’s weak center, what he loves more than anything else and threaten that. It worked.” Olivia brought the plates to the counter and sat down.
Cage smiled softly. “Where do you think we got the idea? At the War College we were taught what the Indians did and how they got even the toughest cavalry boy to spill every thing he knew. ‘Course most of those Yankee white boys pissed themselves in fear days before. Fear is a great motivator.”
Olivia flicked an eyebrow up. “We are not Indians. We are the original owners.”
Cage laughed open and wide. It was a full body laugh. “And I’m black Irish. That makes you and I a good match.”
“Oh really,” Olivia drawled playfully. “How is that?”
Cage leaned over the space and kissed Olivia softly. “We’re both fecked beyond belief.” Her grin was decidedly little kid like. “I guess I was a feck in Iraq because I saw Kuwait first. It was medevile. I saw what they did to the Kuwait people and I wanted some serious payback. I’m not proud of if Olivia.”
“But you still did it.” It was not a question.
Cage nodded. “Yeah, I still did it. My first day we drove in and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the oil fires. They were throbbing like a heart beat. They were red and then black smoke. Thump, thump, thump.” Cage closed her eyes. “It was three in the afternoon and it looked like midnight. We got to our interpreters family house and it was ghost dark. They only came out after they knew it was safe. The women came first, protecting and hiding the men. I can’t even imagine what that was like.” Cage took a breath.
“The Iraqi’s killed four men in our interpreters family. Tortured them to death, for damn stupid reasons. The women hid five men in the family under the Iraqi noses. How bad is that for a man and his ego? I don’t know, but what I saw was men grateful.” Cage said around a mouthful of coffee. “This looks good.”
Olivia pushed her breakfast around the plate. “And Bosnia?”
“Bosnia sucked.” Cage answered flatly. “If I could remember more I’d tell you.”
“I think you are remembering.” Olivia stated as she picked up a crispy slice of bacon. “I think you just don’t want to.”
Cage quirked her head. “What?
“You heard me. You don’t want to remember. It was bad enough that you speak of Sergeant Crimms and what they did to you in your sleep.”
“Crimms died.” Cage said flatly.
“But you didn’t Black Irish Leader. She died from what I can tell walking behind her other warrior and then you followed,” the voices invaded and swirled around. “You followed as a good war chief follows.” A voice stated.
Cage shifted her head. “I only followed…I did not lead.”
“You mourn your dead, your charges. It is not needed. We meet our spirit gods when it is time.” The voice answered plainly.
“Bullshit.” Cage gave back.
“Weak words from a white.” A voice thundered to the left.
“I am not weak and I am not white.” Cage shouted as she picked herself up. “I carry my culture on my sleeve and I dare you not to look away from that fecking bleeding.”
A voice laughed to her left. “This one has a thick skin and too much pride. When there is too much pride we do not see when the winds turn.”
Cage bristled as she watched Olivia struggle. “Let her go. I’ll talk to you in the shitter if you have to, but let Olivia go of you.”
Voices laughed. “She is our voice. Without her you hear us not.”
Cage stood up and faced off. “And without her you are weak fecks who cannot speak to me. Let her go. I will speak to you regardless.” It was a promise she would keep if it killed her.
Voices swirled around, confused, angry, no one had ever offered that sort of thing before. “She is released. We will test and see if your words are true.”
“I don’t fecking lie.” Cage muttered as she wrapped her arms around Olivia to support her.
“I’m cold.” Olivia stuttered in confusion. “It happened again.” She took a moment to ground herself.
“Are you all right?” Cage’s voice was soft and full of concern.
“Shaky.” She admitted. “Coffee loaded with sugar?” she requested.
Cage squeezed her once more and moved away slowly. “How do you live with this?”
“How do you live with the ghost of the woman your friend lost? The woman you loved too?” Olivia answered without judgment.
Cage poured the coffee and loaded it with sugar before answering. “I get it. It’s what you grew up with. You’re used to it.” She returned with the coffee and handed it off before settling back behind Olivia. “You have got to be the strongest woman I know.” She kissed the back of Olivia’s neck in reassurance.
“I could say the same about you.” Olivia sipped the hot coffee and leaned back into Cage. “What else did you remember?” She asked to take her mind off the visit from the voices.
“Pub crawl in Dublin with Tommy. He got us into trouble with the Garda. That’s the Irish police by the way.”
“He got you into trouble?” Olivia’s inflection gave away the idea that she didn’t believe it. “I’m sure that’s one very good story.”
“It is.” Cage promised and proceeded to give her version of the events.
Back to the Academy