James wakes up in a sealed box, suddenly jolted around and surrounded gunfire. He can't see, he can't move and he can barely feel anything or he anything from the world outside. He can barely remember a thing apart from his name. Whatever is happening, he seems to be at the centre of it.
James was woken up by a sudden lurching sensation. He tried to get up but was numb, his limbs seemingly a mass of pins and needles. Another lurch came and suddenly a shift in gravity that flipped him off his back and upright. It was pitch black still, but sensation was coming back to him and he could feel that some kind of harness kept him in place, secured to whatever it was he was attached to. He wasn't sure what was happening or where he was and was about to call for help when the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire burst out in the darkness. Again, he shifted, gravity this time pulling him sideways and he felt himself being shook up and down or more accurately, bobbing, like he was being carried.
He opened his mouth again to speak but quickly shut it again at the sound of an explosion. Suddenly he was falling and his head was whipped sharply against some kind of cushion, the harness not able to fully compensate for that amount of motion. What was happening? He tried to think back to the last thing he remembered. Nothing, it was blank. He knew his name, James Caldwell, but anything else, any other enquiry met with blank resistance. There was a loud knocking, the thumping of something blunt on metal and he realised that it was coming from only a few inches from his face. Was he in a box of some kind? A container? He swallowed nervously - a coffin?
"Hey asshole! If you can hear me in there, you better give us the code to get you out now! We're dying out here carrying this damn chamber!" Yelled a voice, muffled by whatever container he was in.
It was an American voice, probably military - not exactly a stretch given the gunfire - but what where they doing here, wherever here was? Was he still in London? London! He remembered something, he was from London, but why was he in this box? Was he dead. No, that couldn't be it, if he was dead, surely there wouldn't be people outside, dropping him on his head and shooting machine guns. If he was dead, wasn't there meant to be a light? All he could see was darkness.
"Just drop it Miles! We've got us another dud, it ain't worth losing more lives over." Another voice called out, this time a woman, but with the same, American accent and military tone of voice.
"No wait! I'm alive!" James yelled. He tried to rise his arms but they were strapped down.
There was a fainter explosion, further off and then the first voice came back.
"You hear that?"
"I'm alive in here! Don't leave me! What's happening?"
"We got us a live one! Okay, you in there, give us the ejection code."
Ejection code? What the hell was he talking about? "What code? I don't know what you mean!"
"What? Stop playing games son, we're dying out here for you, just gimme the goddamn code!"
"I don't know any code!"
There was an eerie silence that lasted for all of three seconds and then James felt himself hurled upwards, spinning around and around, his ears ringing from the crash of a mighty explosion. He lost track of time and orientation, the spinning making him dizzy until he came to a sudden stop, the impact pushing him hard against the soft cushioning that seemed to surround him.
"H-Hello? Are y-you alright? Is anybody out there?"
SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEECH! The sound of sharp metal against metal rang through his head, making his teeth ache as the sound continued. It turned into a hammering sound, not a few inches from where he imagined his legs to be when the sound of gunfire burst back with a vengeance. There were suddenly several loud, rapid taps and James realised that the machine gun was firing at him, but whatever he was inside seemed to be holding. He wet himself, but felt nothing, no dribble of liquid, only shame and fear.
"Please, don't hurt me! I'm sorry! I'm so soo-ooo-ooo-rrrr-y!" James sobbed as he felt himself lurch up again and then resume the familiar bobbing sensation that he guessed was him being carried.
He felt himself being slid onto something and then the rumbling vibration of an engine. There was another burst of gunfire and then nothing, only the vibrations he could feel through the harness.
"How many did we lose this time?" He heard, muffled through his container.
"Two. Kolanski and Priers. Kolanski was caught underneath the popsicle when the enemy missile hit. Priers lost his arm to a bush then ate a pineapple before it could finish the job. This asshole better be worth it, damn popsicle crushed Karen into paste and it wouldn'ta happened too if this cocksucker could remember his damn code!"
James gulped. There were several bangs above his face.
"You hear that, asshole? You listening? Your goddamn memory cost two soldiers their lives today! You hear me, tin can? You better be the goddamn, motherfucking messiah in there!"
"That's enough private! Go cool off!"
"I said cool off, private! Command wants to debrief you, the pilot's got them on the radio now."
There was silence for a while.
"You hear any of that?" It was the other voice. This one sounded American too, but it was different from the first one, something less... southern, maybe New York? James wasn't sure, he didn't really know American accents all that well. He decided to remain silent, already afraid out of his wits.
"Well, even if you didn't, I'm telling you that it's all okay, no need to worry, you did the right thing, sir."
The voice continued, quieter. "The team doesn't have the clearance to know what it is they've reclaimed. I'm authorised to follow your instructions, sir."
Instructions? Who were these people, and who did this guy think he was?
"Who are you?" James asked tentatively.
"Special Agent Lance Garratt, sir."
"And who do you think I am?"
"I'm not authorised to know that, sir. All I know is that the mission objective was to acquire the Alpha Charlie Uniform from the given coordinates and to follow the instructions of the occupant that fall within mission parameters, sir."
"And who gave you your mission?"
"Why, the President of the United States of America, sir."
Somehow, James did not find the news comforting. Not comforting at all.