Steve looked awful. Physically he was an image of abuse. Cuts overlaying his skin like spiderwebs, purple rosettes blossoming all over his chest where he'd been beaten and the burn marks... That was awful. The medics got busy treating all the surface wounds and eliminating infection while we were in the back of the chopper. Dani sat with me and just stared at the disfigurement, aghast. Jagan and Beth were having something of a quiet time in the back and I just sat there willing him to pull through. I felt guilty. He was part of my team. My responsibility. I had let him down. Kim caught my eye from the other bench and spoke to me.
"It's not your fault. Do not worry for him. He would not wish for that."
I almost smiled at him. So he knew. How it felt to lose a soldier, and a soldier you cared about, a friend. He knew. Everyone sat in silence the rest of the ride back to base.
* * *
Minister Jung welcomed us back into the war room with a sense of urgency.
"We have information. You must see this."
Scarecrow was taken away to the sickbay for some minor surgery and extra treatment. We all stood in front of the big screen and watched the face of Kim-Lee Seuk appear. He spoke in Korean but there were subtitles presumably for our benefit. Without understanding the Korean we could still hear the malice in his voice.
The subtitles read; We have your President Fullman and Miss Fullman. You will comply with our demands or they shall both be executed very publicly. Mr. Jung will abdicate power to me. Our new Loyalist party will receive backing from the UN in the form of five hundred billion US dollars. There will be no negotiations and no compromises. This is an ultimatum. You have two weeks to discuss this with the UN world leaders and decide whether you want your precious President of the United States of America to suffer any more like this.
The screen panned across in grainy and shaky video camera style to show John and Kristen Fullman both tied to chairs in front of a huge concrete wall. They were both very disheveled. The president was dressed in a pair of sack-material trousers and nothing else. There were black bruises on his face and torso and he was slumped to the side as if asleep. We could see the needle marks in his arms. Drugged. His daughter looked a lot worse. She was dressed only in a filthy and stained cloth shirt. Her hair was matted and greasy but there were no marks on her face. Instead there were red weals and grazes all up and down her legs and at her wrists and ankles. She was shaking in terror and everytime someone spoke she would shrink into the chair in fright as if clinging to it would somehow save her from some terrible evil. These were the symptoms of someone who'd been repeatedly raped.
Seuk started talking again and the subtitles came back up. As you can see we are not bluffing. We have them and our threat stands. We will kill them if you do not meet our demands.
He drew a pistol from his hip and shot Kristen in the leg. Her scream was protracted and harrowing. It sent visible shivers down everyone's spines. Dani left the room. She was going to be sick. I didn't blame her. For someone so near her age this was again something that she'd never experienced before. It was too much like seeing someone she knew getting hurt.
That is to show that we mean business. Remember. Two weeks.
The screen died and we all stood silently for a moment recovering our composure.
"Jung," I addressed him informally. He was surprised only for a second but didn't seem to mind.
"Yes Mr. Lewis?"
"Can you trace that video feed?"
"It was encrypted. Our technicians are working on it but we have had little luck so far."
"Let my team have a look at it. Beth here is an excellent technician. She'll trace it. Then we can find Seuk and his men and make them pay for what they're doing."
Jung nodded and ushered Beth towards the computer console. We all left the main war room in a daze. I considered giving Crow a visit but thought better of it. Even if he was out of surgery right now he wouldn't be in any state for talking. It would be better to find Dani and comfort her. I found her in the underground shooting range near the armoury. She had a weapon and was just firing aimlessly down range with tears streaming down her cheeks. I took the rifle from her and hugged her and she just cried, huge heaving sobs into my shoulder.
"Why would they do something like that? Dad, why? It's vile and evil and-" She wept violently and I calmed her as best I could.
"Dictators and madmen have no rules. They will do anything for power. It's all that matters to them. It's our job to bring these maniacs down."
I picked up the rifle she was using and we aimed it together, my arms enveloping her to grasp the grip. It was a sleek and light sniper. A German made DSR-1 arguably the most precise sniper in the world. We worked the bolt action together and lined the crosshairs over the head of the target board.
"We train to stop people like this. We give no trials, no juries, no mercy. We're here to kill."
The rifle barked out a cracking shot as we put a bullet into the target-man's head. I knew we were both imagining Seuk's skull shattering as we fired again.