Things were falling into place very nicely, thought Rani. The year 1996 is going to be a good one for her and the other freedom fighters.
Six months earlier, she and Dewi had volunteered for this mission to join and infiltrate the Indonesian government army unit charged with searching out and destroying the East Timor rebels. [see Dewi 1 pic] Two days ago, as planned, Dewi, on night watch, had left her post and fled to a warlord sympathetic to the rebel cause, whose territory was located just six miles east. There, she would provide him with the army's troop strength, which the warlord would pass on to the rebels' main headquarters, located three miles deeper in the jungle.
The army's commanders were not suspicious of Dewi's desertion. Dewi was not the first to desert, and they figured that she, like the others, had deserted out of simple fear of the imminent combat. This happened in every army as the time for fighting approached.
Earlier today, the troops had been advised that they would break camp and move in for attack the next day. And tonight was Rani's night watch. This would make it much easier for her to follow Dewi into the night and race to the rebel warlord hours in advance to let him know that the army was marching on the morrow. Like Dewi, her commanders would just label her a coward, when, in fact, the mission she had accepted was as dangerous as they came, and certainly showed her bravery.
Though outnumbered, the rebels, with advance knowledge of the time of attack and the army's strength, would be in position to win a decisive victory that might well lead to independence from the brutal Indonesian regime. Without the warning, the rebels would likely be annihilated, setting back the revolution for at least several years.
Rani's heart raced. Who knows? Perhaps before the end of 1996, she would be the heroine of the famous story of Timor independence that was told to its school children, the Asian version of the famous American Paul Revere. And Dewi, she laughed to herself, would be that other American rider, the one that rode the same night, but whose name no one remembered. Well, hardly anyone. But Rani had been educated in the United States, where she had learned and developed her revolutionary views. William Dawes. Dewi would be Dawes. She would be Revere. And revered. She wondered if the latter word was derived from the former.
Her night watch was now only two hours away... If anyone noticed her racing heart before she left for her watch, she would just say that she was excited and a little scared by the thought of the upcoming battle. The others certainly felt that way, but for different reasons. Finally, Rani's time arrived. As she took over her post, she wondered how long she should wait before leaving for the rebel cell. Pacing her route, she passed the other watchman once every hour. If he noticed and reported her absence the first time she failed to show, they might send out a patrol after her before she had gotten even the first mile away. In the jungle, at night, she figured that she could barely make a mile an hour, and that it would take her at least three hours to reach the cell, assuming she was able to find her directly there. She wanted at least that much of a start to be sure.
So, as she passed her counterpart the first time, Rani stopped and spoke to him: "I'm already exhausted. I'm so afraid I'm not going to be rested enough for tomorrow. Just our luck to draw duty the night before we pull out." She didn't receive much of a response. "Can't worry about it," was all he said, as he started to walk on. "You know. I'd be forever grateful," she paused to make sure that he had stopped, and that the meaning of her words weren't lost on him, "if maybe you wouldn't report me if I got a couple of hours of sleep. I'd sure be feeling a lot better next time we're on watch together." He could barely feel her touch on his arm, but he couldn't miss her eyes and smile. This time she got the response that she wanted. "I'm sure I wouldn't notice. I mean, I've got a job to do. I can't concentrate on when our paths might cross." "Thank you so much." Rani's drew her face close to his, her words soft, and very sincere, but not, of course, for the reason that he expected.
Ten minutes later she was on her way. Summer nights were hot, even at two in the morning, and she soon found herself sweating, partly from the heat, partly from the excitement, and partly from the fear. She wasn't sure which part was most responsible. After an hour and a half, she discarded her military jacket, leaving her in her white t-shirt with no bra underneath. She could feel her nipples hard against the thin material, and knew the answer to her question. It was the excitement of the situation.
She figured that she was halfway there. And confident that her fellow watchman had not reported her, but was himself off by a tree dreaming about the pleasure he expected her to bring him the next time they passed on night duty.
The path was narrow, sometimes blocked by the dense foliage, so Rani had to concentrate on keeping her progress steady. But this had the benefit of making the time pass more quickly, and, by first light, the path widened and she knew she was nearly there.
As she left the dense jungle and joined the broadened path, however, the first sight caused her to suck in her breath. Two figures, one on each side, loomed before her. Rani was sure she saw them before they saw her, and stopped in her tracks. As the figures came more into focus, she realized that it was safe to approach.
The man on the left was tied upright in a spreadeagled position, naked, his limbs attached tightly by bamboo straps to two long straight bamboo stalks just far enough apart to stretch him into what must have been extreme pain. That pain, however, appeared to have recently ended, since he was motionless. Rani did not touch him to see if he remained among the living. If he did, it could not be for much longer. As she looked down his body, she was startled to see what appeared to be an erection, until she realized that what was erect was not part of the natural man, but the sharpened, upright, shortened bamboo stalk placed between the two longer stalks, which had been run completely through his previous manhood.
Intentionally positioned at the path's opening from the jungle, she knew that this was to warn visitors of their fate should they, for whatever reason, displease the warlord. Rani glanced only briefly across the path to the other figure to see that he had suffered a
similar fate. She wondered if the two men might have been government soldiers caught spying on the rebel cell. Or simple cowardly deserters. But she thought that she would not have long to wait to find out. In the distance she could see dim lights from what she
knew must be her destination.
Unarmed except for the knife on the belt of her trousers, Rani straightened herself, took a deep breath, and headed toward the lights, making sure to stay in the middle of the path so that it was obvious that she was not attempting to sneak her way past whoever would be guarding the camp.
It was not more than two hundred yards before she saw the guards, one on each side of the path, standing at the gate of a long wooden wall about nine feet high. She raised her hands to show that she was no threat. Still, one of the guards drew his rifle and kept it pointed at her. She blinked her eyes hard, swallowed, and kept walking.
"State you business," the other guard said coldly. "I'm here to report on the government's activities three miles west," Rani had practiced what she would first say. "Your lord should be expecting me. An earlier messenger should have arrived two days ago."
"We did receive a messenger a few days ago," the guard responded. The other still continued to point his weapon at her chest. Rani was beginning to relax, however, knowing that Dewi had succeeding in her mission also, and that she would soon see her. "Yes, I'm to provide more recent information."
"The other messenger mentioned that someone else that she was working with would be here in a few days. I'll take you."
The guard who talked began to walk with Rani down the path, leaving the guard who pointed alone to watch the gate. She was surprised, though, that there did not seem to be any sense of urgency in the camp to make ready their military defenses, or in positioning their men in preparation for the government's attack, despite the earlier warning that Dewi had provided. Rather, at this very early morning hour, most of the whole camp seemed still to be asleep.
After they had walked about ten minutes, the pair approached a small wooden building on the far side of the camp. Rani's guard spoke with the guard at the door, who went in, then returned, and signaled permission to enter. Rani was surprised that, as she entered, the guard who had escorted did not follow, but turned to return to his post. She entered alone.
There was no mistaking the person sitting in the middle of the room, two guards at his side. She wondered if all tribal warlords were large and fat, if that somehow helped them to become warlords. Two more guards stood by the door, and moved behind Rani as she walked to the center of the room and stopped.
"Welcome. You must be tired." The lord smiled without showing his teeth. "Your friend told us that you too were a very beautiful woman." She didn't like him eying her the way that he did. She was bringing important information and entitled to some respect. "Why do such beautiful women do such dangerous things?" he continued. Well, it didn't matter whether she liked him or not, only that she do what needed to be done.
"For freedom, sir," Rani responded curtly and professionally. "I'm here to warn you that the government's troops are moving out this morning. They plan to attack this afternoon." Rani stood erect, soldierly. "If they overrun you, they will move on to attack our headquarters."
"I see. This is indeed valuable information. You can be sure we will be ready. But now, I suppose you would like to see your friend. I believe she is awake. Follow me." The lord rose, took Rani's hand, and accompanied her out of the room, and around the back of the building, down a short path, and just behind another gated and guarded wooden wall.
And there was Dewi.
But Dewi did not run to greet Rani. Nor did Dewi greet Rani at all. Dewi was on her knees, her ankles tied apart to two posts, her body bent backwards. Her wrists were tied behind her back under her. A bamboo strap was wrapped around her neck, and secured to two short posts above her head. [See Dewi 2 Pic] She could not turn her head to see that Rani was there. The position in which Dewi had been placed was not only extremely painful, but rendered every part of her body helpless and accessible. For what purpose was obvious. In fact, one soldier was standing near her, pulling up his trousers. Another moved back several steps when he saw his lord approach.
An instant after first seeing Dewi, Rani felt strong hands gripping her elbows, and the lord walked around to face her. "A very brave woman," he said. "But no one told her ... or you ... that I went over to the government's side last month. So, yes, I know that the government troops will be here this afternoon. A staging area for its attack on the rebel headquarters."
He punched Rani hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. As Rani struggled for breath, she felt herself being dragged away from Dewi ... In the back of her mind, Rani heard the lord call back to his soldiers: "We have no use for that other one any more. She told us true that this one was coming with more information. Take her out to the road with the others."
Rani began to shriek. She had just come from the road, and she knew what that meant. But at least it would soon be over for Dewi. For Rani, it was just beginning.
Rani was returned to the front of the warlord's headquarters, where only a few minutes earlier she had waited to tell him her important news, the news that had actually betrayed her. Now she noticed the lord's soldiers gathering, laughing, pointing and making rude gestures toward her. The captain held her firmly. The soldiers quickly quieted, however, when the lord spoke.
"This is the one we were told would come to betray our cause !" he shouted, "and she has done so. If she now proves that she can help our cause, we may spare her. If she does not, we certainly will not."
The lord turned to his captain, who nodded to two of his men. One grabbed Rani around her waist and carried her to within a few yards of the front door of the lord's headquarters. She now noticed for the first time that a high pole ran across the front of the building, about eight feet high, secured at its ends by two trees. As the one soldier held her, the other secured her wrists with a long rope, threw the other end of the rope over the pole, and secured it to the headquarters so that Rani was pulled high off the ground, her wrists together, her legs, for the moment, unsecured and flailing to try to reduce the pain in her shoulders, which were now bearing all of her weight.
She had no doubt what would happen next.
It did not take long. The captain moved behind her, and, with a flick of his knife, cut the waistband of her pants, which fell to the ground below her. Two more quick flicks across her shoulders, and her sweaty white t-shirt joined her pants. Obviously, the captain had experience in this sort of thing. The soldiers, boisterous again after the lord had ended his short speech, were loudly enjoying her growing nakedness. The captain waited a few extra seconds to build up their fervor before flicking at her right hip, and her panties wrapped around her left leg, and then moved down and off her body into the pile below.
Rani now faced a dilemma. She could continue to kick and twist to try to take some of the pressure off her shoulders; in so doing, however, she would certainly add to the soldiers' excitement as she spread and closed her legs. Or she could keep her legs closed in the most modest pose allowed her, and bear the added pain in her shoulders. She chose the latter. More painful to her, but she found at least some satisfaction in denying the soldiers, at least for the moment, their added pleasure of an even more intimate view.
Rani's breathing quickly grew strained, her body glistened in sweat. She was not sure what would happen next. Neither of the only possibilities that she imagined -- more pain or sexual abuse -- was something that she could even bear to think about. She closed her eyes. But when she again opened them, nothing had changed. A hundred men were still leering at her and shouting obscenities. And, worse, even above their roar, Rani was sure that she heard a woman scream from far down the road.
As Rani scanned the scene, she saw one of the soldiers move out of the crowd toward her. He carried a long thin bamboo stalk that he flexed between his hands. He looked toward the captain, obviously waiting for a signal. Rani had already seen what bamboo could do to a man's body. Now it was her turn.
As Rani glanced over to the captain, she saw him nod slowly. With no further warning or delay, the man walked close to her, flexed the stalk as far as it would go, and released one end. Rani had no idea that the lash of the straightening stalk across her stomach could bring so much pain. She had hoped that she would show these men her bravery, but, now, with the first lash, she screamed in agony, her body mobilized from the blow until it swayed and twisted in a horrible dance.
Before continuing, another soldier roped Rani's ankles together and then through a small metal ring that she had not noticed in the ground below her. She was now helpless even to try to move her body away from the blows that she knew would soon come, or relieve the pressure on her already strained shoulders. At least, though, her legs were closed.
The soldier again flexed the stalk, and appeared to be examining Rani's body to decide where to deliver the next blow. After what seemed an eternity to her, he released the stalk across the side of her outer left thigh. Before her scream ended, the third blow came across breasts. Rani closed her eyes so she could not see what the stalk was doing to her body, but her mouth remained open in a continuous scream, growing more frantic and hoarser. The soldier moved behind her now, and delivered two more blows across her back.
Rani was sure that her body must be cut in two, and her mind began to whirl. She prayed for unconsciousness, but, sensing that such relief was close for her, the soldier stopped after this fifth blow.
"How far this goes," she opened her eyes slowly as she heard the captain's voice, "depends entirely on you." Rani's screams had now turned to gasping, sobbing whimpers as her body continued to shake in fear and pain.
"Your first chance to reduce what is to come is to answer this simple question: How many troops are in the rebel camp?"
Rani stared at him in horror. Even if she were ready to break, and she knew that it was only a matter of time before she did, she couldn't know the answer to that question, and wondered if the captain knew that she couldn't know. She had been undercover in the government camp for the last six months and had no information about developments in the rebels' forces. If she'd known that, she'd have known about the warlord's defection, and wouldn't be in this helpless situation in the first place.
"How many troops are in the rebel camp?" The captain repeated the question, and Rani could only hang her head.
Rani lifted her head slowly and looked at the captain She was very aware now of the hundreds of men staring at her naked and tortured body, and waiting for her answer to the repeated question.
"I ... couldn't know," she said slowly. "I haven't been there for six months..."
The last word was barely out of her mouth when she felt the pain in the middle of her back, hot burning searing pain that forced her to scream and shriek as her eyes began to roll in her head and her mind blurred. As she was trying to refocus, she saw the soldier who had been behind her move around to face her, holding the still glowing red branding iron about an inch square shaped as a letter R.
"It stands for 'rebel'," she could faintly hear the voice of the captain above the shouts of his men enjoying her agony. "Now, let me ask again, but this time a question that you can answer. What was the rebel troop strength six months ago?"
The soldier was still holding the iron in front of her, and Rani knew that she had better clear her mind quickly and answer the question if she was to have any chance to avoid more of this pain. "Six months ago ...." She was stalling for a few more seconds. "About ... two ... two thousand ..."
"There. That wasn't so hard now, was it?" The captain approached Rani, and pulled her head up by her hair so that his face was just inches from hers. "And what kind of weapons did they have?"
A few gasping breaths to try to gain the ability to answer. "A few hundred Uzis. Mostly rifles and grenades."
"Good. We've been monitoring the camp for the last several months. Perhaps their strength has doubled, but no more, I'm certain." The captain was now directing his comments to the warlord. "You've made a wise decision. The government is much better equipped and is sending more than 10,000 men to invade the camp. We are on the winning side." The lord smiled before turning back into his headquarters.
The captain stepped back. "To your posts men. Our government guests will be here soon. By nightfall the rebels will be defeated." The men quickly began to disburse in all directions. The camp that had been so quiet just an hour or two earlier was now in full deployment.
The soldier holding the iron, however, had lingered, as had the captain. "All rebels must be marked on both sides so that all who see them know what they are. Then take three men. You know what to do." The captain left to oversee the battle preparations.
Rani had let her head slump to her chest after her questioning, but now raised it up again after hearing the captain's words, just a second before the soldier pressed the brand firmly into the underside of her right breast. The activity in the camp stopped for a few seconds to hear her scream, and then resumed before the scream fully died away. Rani then slumped into unconsciousness, hanging by her chained wrists, four soldiers remaining around her. But it did not seem that even her unconsciousness could bring her relief from the pain coursing throughout her body.
One of the soldiers unchained her wrists and she fell to the ground on her back. A few other soldiers passing into and out of the lord's headquarters added a kick or two to her immobile form, bringing forth no more than pained grunts from her hoarse lips. Others
spat on her, a traitor to the cause just as their warlord himself had been before betraying the betrayers. Most just simply stepped over or around her. Finally, the four soldiers charged with her disposition lifted Rani by her elbows, and began to drag her to her fate.
As Rani began to regain consciousness, she could sense that she was being dragged back toward the jungle entrance that she had passed earlier in the day, where she had been startled by the bodies of the two men, where she was sure Dewi by now had met her own fate. The rumbling from the march of the approaching soldiers was now growing louder. They would be arriving soon, and the massacre of the rebels would be over before nightfall.
As they reached the path near the jungle entrance, Rani forced herself to raise her head, hoping against hope that there would only be the same two bodies as were there before. She looked first to her left, and saw only the man's body as it had appeared hours earlier, although she thought that the bamboo stalk that had ended his manhood seems to protrude a bit more. Was it just her imagination, a faulty memory, or did bamboo really grow that quickly?
She then looked to the other side of the path. Her body immediately tensed, then shuddered as she drew in her breath and turned her head away. But when she
looked back, the same sight awaited her. Dewi had been tied in the same position as the man, her back against his front, and it looked like the two were engaged in intercourse, she with legs spread over where anyone who had not passed the scene earlier would assume his erect penis must be. But Dewi's head had fallen to her chest, and Rani knew that it was not the man's penis that had invaded her ...
Rani felt herself pushed against the long fence running along the path, her legs bent back at the knees and then tied to the fence's lower slat. A heavy cord was tied to the fence's upper slat on her left, wrapped several times around her left arm, then looped around her stomach, and several times around her right arm before being tied to the fence's upper slat on her right side. Her arms were pulled back in a manner that forced her body to arch forward, her legs too far back to allow her to maintain her balance. Only the cords around her arms and waist kept her from falling forward. Her shoulders felt the strain from the weight of her body.
Still, this seemed a less worse fate than had befallen Dewi. But, as the soldiers stepped back to admire their work, one of them pulled out his knife, and then jammed its blade into the wooden plank just in front of where Rani's knees rested. She looked up at him, her eyes wide. [See Rani pic]
"I see," he said, "that you are familiar with the custom. With the R emblazoned on your chest, to let all passing know that you are a rebel, any who wish may show their displeasure at your treachery by using the knife on you as they wish, provided that they do not kill you. Although they call it the Death of a Thousand Cuts, it usually takes far fewer before the loss of blood ..."
The soldier then pulled out the knife's blade, and flicked it across Rani's lower stomach, drawing a thin line of blood. He next handed it to his comrade, who did the same to her right thigh. The other two soldiers, in turn, cut her upper arm, and then just under the R on her breast. The last put the knife back in its place, and the soldiers began to walk away. "The government troops will be here soon. Thousands of them. It should be an interesting time for you." Four persons were now bound along the path, two on each side. But only one feared the arriving troops.
Within the hour the sound of the approaching troops grew deafening. And then, suddenly, they emerged from the jungle, cutting a swatch that turned the small jungle path into a 12-foot wide clearing. Ten to 15 abreast, row after row. Their commander followed along the cleared path, leading the rest of the troops.
No more than several hundred of the thousands of soldiers following the commander had exited the jungle when the commander saw the four bodies on the sides of the roads and issued a halt order. He walked toward Dewi's body, lifted her slumped head and opened an eye with his finger, then dropped her head back on her chest, and called for one of his captains. "Is she ... was she one of the traitors?" revealing his finding in his question. The captain yelled out to his lieutenants, and two responded. "Yes, sir. She was." "What about the others here?" the commander barked.
One of the lieutenants left the formation to approach Rani, and lifted her head, then let it drop. Other soldiers examined the two men and reported back. Rani kept her eyes closed, hoping that he would think her dead. "This one, too," called back the lieutenant examining Rani. "She was in my platoon," he called back to the commander, "and she's still alive." The commander approached them, and saw the knife planted near Rani's side. "Well, well," he lifted her head by the hair, "you must be the ring leader or they wouldn't have reserved such a special treatment for you, while allowing the others to die so ... simply...." He felt and found her pulse to confirm the lieutenant's statement. "But it is not to be your time now, no, you are not to be so lucky," he continued, his face close to hers. "Your time will be tonight, when our work is finished." The commander pulled out the knife and held it near Rani's right cheek. "Of course, I cannot pass without obeying the order of the one who placed you here," he flicked the knife down her cheek, and a thin line of blood two inches long began to form. Rani flinched and gasped, and instinctively opened her eyes to see what had happened, and what might happen next. "But my men's time for you is later. They will have earned their pleasure by then."
The commander strode back to the formation. "My orders are to leave these two traitors for now. that one will be one of our prizes tonight, after our victory." He then pointed to one of his aides. "Tell them at the rear that this is the place. Let the third one join these. The details I leave to the captain." The aide immediately ran back into the jungle to relay the message.
Quickly the sound of the men's footsteps resumed, and the thousands of men marched in step, their numbers interspersed with several tanks and jeeps and what appeared to be supply trucks, all emerging from the widened jungle path. It took more than 20 minutes for them all to pass. But, just as they were out of Rani's sight, 15 more men emerged, together with the commander's aide ... and one woman.
The woman was dressed in full military uniform, except that her feet were bare, her boots carried by one of the soldiers standing next to her. Her ankles were chained together, allowing her to take only small steps, and it was apparent that her left ankle was severely swollen. Her wrists were chained behind her back, and two of the soldiers were pushing her forward, a little more quickly than her sprained ankle allowed her to do without pain. This explained why the group had lagged behind.
The group stopped in the middle of the path, right between where Rani and Dewi were chained. The woman's eyes widened at their sight, then looked forward as the captain spoke. "The commander has ordered that we hold your trial here."
The soldiers immediately removed the chains on the woman's ankles and wrists, and formed a loose semi-circle around her. The captain, her interrogator, stood apart, at the head of the opening, which was on the side toward Rani, who could see most of what was happening. Rani guessed that the woman was in her mid-twenties. She looked to have a full figure, perhaps even a very attractive one. Rani had never seen her before.
"Remove your jacket." As had Rani, the woman wore an army jacket and pants, and a white t-shirt under the jacket. It was likely she wore panties and no bra.
"Sir, no. Why?"
"Traitors are not allowed to wear the full uniform of the army."
"But I am not a traitor!"
"The trial will determine that. And the trial will begin after you obey my orders. If you are found innocent, your uniform will be returned to you."
Surrounded by the men, the woman could not see that two of the soldiers had left the semi-circle and moved to the side of the path on which Dewi's body hung, where they were quietly pushing four short wooden stakes into the ground in a rectangular pattern at distances that made their purpose obvious. This woman, Rani knew, had no hope of receiving a fair trial.
Slowly, the woman obeyed the captain's order and removed her jacket. The soldier carrying her boots immediately took it from her.
"And now the shirt," the captain's voice was matter of fact. The woman immediately wrapped her arms around her chest, shielding her breasts from the imagined nakedness that she now was sure would soon be real. ""If the men must do it, it will be worse for you, I promise."
"I'm not a traitor," she pleaded. "I was promised a fair trial."
"And you shall have it. But only if you obey."
Shaking, and sobbing softly, the woman's trembling hands crossed and grabbed the front of the shirt at its bottom, then slowly raised her hands above her head until the shirt was pulled over and then above her face, revealing that, indeed, she wore no bra. The same soldier took the shirt from her, as she crossed her arms again across her chest.
Rani glanced back to the two men who had planted the four stakes. They were now planting four other, much smaller stakes, about a foot lower than the two at the bottom of the larger rectangle. These also seemed to make a rectangle, but a much smaller one. Rani could not figure out the purpose of these last four.
"Clasp your hands behind your neck, and we will start the trial." The captain stared and waited. The woman, expecting this order and resigned to it, obeyed with less hesitation or protest than the previous two orders. She may even have felt relief that, at least for the moment, she had not been ordered to remove her pants and panties. Rani had been aware after the woman had removed her jacket that she had the kind of figure that men definitely liked, big-breasted and solidly built, but definitely not overweight. All the soldiers now stared at confirmation ... and appreciation ... of that fact. But none taunted her nakedness, not knowing how their captain would react. The woman's raised hands enhanced the shape of her breasts, and, while she clearly was shy and embarrassed and terrified at the situation, her face also seemed to show just a tinge of pride in the men's approving stares.
"Now we are ready for your trial."
"Why did you betray our cause?" was the captain's first question.
"Sir, I didn't!" The woman protested.
"But you see the two women here." The captain nodded first in the direction of Dewi, then Rani. The woman turned to look at Dewi, but the circle of men blocked her view. She then turned to look at Rani, who had hung her head at the reference to her, so as not to look back at the woman. "We know that the three of you, and a fourth, were working together. And these two have confessed your involvement," the captain lied. If this was the charge, then Rani knew that the woman was innocent of treason. The plot had been hers and Dewi's alone.
"No. No. No," the woman shrieked. "That is not true !! I know neither of these women. They were not in my platoon. I have never seen them. No !!"
"But you, like they, were found stealing off in this direction to warn the rebel camp !!"
"No. I was just running. I got lost in the jungle. And after I tripped and sprained my ankle, I got disoriented."
"Enough !" the captain shouted. "There is no real need to make that determination. You admit that you deserted your unit??"
"Yes. Yes. But only because I was afraid to fight. But a deserter, not a traitor !!" Throughout the exchange, the woman had continued to hold her hands clasped behind her neck, forgetting her nakedness once she realized -- upon hearing this false evidence of treason against her -- that her shame was not her major concern.
"Neither deserters nor traitors have the right to wear the army's uniform !" The captain shouted. "Remove your pants. They belong to the army."
Before her next word, the two men closest to her, seeing the captain's nearly imperceptible nod, swept the woman's legs out from under her, causing her to fall face down on the dusty road, her hands still clasped behind her neck, her fall unbroken. Each quickly grabbed a leg of the pants and pulled them totally off. In so doing, her thin white panties were also pulled down to her hips.
"Your trial is over. You have admitted that you are guilty of desertion. If all of our soldiers deserted the army, we would have no army," the captain addressed the terrified woman as she slowly rose to her knees and pulled her panties back up to provide at least a modicum of symbolic protection. Her arms moved once again across her chest. The circle of soldiers around her had now closed fully around her and Rani could no longer see her, but she could hear the captain's words loudly. "That means that all deserters are also traitors !! So a proper punishment for treason will now be carried out, partly for just retribution and partly as a deterrent to those who would betray our government in the future !!"
"No !!!" The woman screamed as two soldiers grabbed her wrists, pulling her arms away from her chest, and two others grabbed her ankles. The four then carried the still screaming woman face down toward the waiting stakes, her struggles doing nothing than further rousing their excitement at her predicament. Had Rani believed that this poor woman was going to suffer her fate for conspiring with her and Dewi, she would have felt guilty, knowing that everything the woman said had been true and she was innocent of that charge. But this was happening not because of any real or imagined treason -- certainly the captain knew that this woman was but a scared deserter -- but mainly for deterrence and the pleasure of a few sadistic men. Men who, for the timing being, Rani realized, at least were not concentrating their attention on her.
Rani lost sight of the poor woman as the circle of soldiers around her moved in unison toward the waiting stakes. It didn't take any imagination to know that she was being spreadeagled with limbs attached to the four larger stakes set out in a rectangular pattern, and, sure enough, when the circle widened around her restrained form, Rani could see that she was indeed lying spreadeagled on her back, her wrists roped to the top stakes, and her ankles to the bottom. [see Woman pic]
"Finish the job," the captain nodded to two of the soldiers. The first approached the woman, withdrew his knife from his belt, and slashed one side of her panties, then the other, grasped the material between her legs, and pulled the last remnants of her clothing away, leaving her totally helpless and exposed. He tossed the flimsy material to the man holding the rest of her clothes.
Meanwhile, the other of the two soldiers had moved toward the four small and closer stakes, and laid the butt of his rifle snugly in the middle of them. The stakes held the rifle firmly in place, its barrel just long enough to touch the tender flesh between the legs of the helpless woman, who began to scream and shake her head in horror, immediately realizing what the soldiers intended as her ultimate fate.
Rani's heart raced when she saw the woman's situation. It seemed that these soldiers could only think of one thing to do to a captured woman ... destroy her womanhood, as they had done to Dewi. There was something psychologically puerile in this approach. Perhaps none of these men felt secure enough to have a woman in a normal way, and wanted to make certain that no other man ... or woman ... who could would have the opportunity, either. Or maybe that was just how the captain felt, and the others were merely forced to follow his orders. Well, hardly forced, it seemed.
But when the circle opened a bit more, Rani could see that the soldiers' plan was even more diabolical than she had imagined. The second soldier had now tied the end of a small metal chain to the rifle's trigger, and then clipped the other end of the chain ... to a collar placed around the head of a large rat. He then placed a small bit of cheese near the rat, who had begun to nibble on it. But the trail of food then led directly away from the helpless captive ... so that, when the rat had finished the food he was now eating, he would continue to the next bit and then the next, until the chain between the rat and the trigger of the rifle tightened sufficiently enough to ... Rani shivered uncontrollably.
The soldiers seemed to be betting how long this would take. But they had now fallen well behind the rest of the troops, and the captain ordered them back into formation. "We will see the results of this traitor's punishment when we return. Now let's march." And off they started, most looking back every few steps.
As the troops marched away, leaving the shrieking woman to her fate, the soldier carrying her clothes stopped near Rani, and put them all down, except for the panties and t-shirt, a few feet from her. He then shoved the panties deep into Rani's throat, and secured them there with the t-shirt, making a very effective gag. He picked up the nearby knife and held it near Rani's now sweating face. "Orders are orders so your life is safe now." He rubbed the flat end of the knife against her belly, then turned it to make a very small cut that drew no more than a few drops of blood. "But wait until tonight. The leader of the traitors deserves ... and will receive ... very special treatment." And he hurried away to catch up to the others.
Rani looked over to the woman, whose cries had become more guttural as her throat had become strained and her terror had increased. Occasionally, the rat looked over to her, but, for the most part, he continued to concentrate on the delicacies that the soldiers had left for him. At one point, he ventured out, but then retreated slightly when he saw a bit more food. Rani had shut her eyes, thinking that she had heard the sound of metal, expecting the worst. But it was not yet time. The sounds of the marching soldiers began to fade away. But the quiet certainly would not last for long.
After 10 minutes, Rani realized that the day was growing hot, and that, in her condition, with no water, the sun blazing down on her, and several of her wounds still bleeding slowly, she was already starting to grow faint, her head drooping against her chest, her eyes closing, and she thought that she was not likely to last until the evening. She couldn't decide if this was a good thing or not. The air was quiet, except for a steady background noise that she realized were the constant moans of the terrified woman, who had stopped screaming, and seemed to be trying to restrain the heaviness of her breathing, but could not. The oblivious rat, chewing on the last of the food immediately around him, seemed to be looking about, determining in what direction to move next. One way was harmless; the other fatal. But food lay only in one direction.
It was only when Rani was startled by a sharp sound did she realize that she must have passed out, and did not know how much time had passed. She was certain that she knew what had caused the sound, but when she looked over at the spreadeagled woman, the rat was right where it had been, his belly apparently full, and she could see the woman's rising and falling chest. No, the sound had come from fringes of the jungle. When she looked there, she saw a single soldier emerge from the now widened path, one who looked eerily familiar to her for a reason that she could not place.
He spotted her immediately, and began to walk toward her. Rani, aware that another's plight was far graver than hers at the moment, tried to scream through the gag that the soldier should turn the other way and rescue the other woman, moving her head up and down in the direction of the woman to try to signal him. But the soldier assumed that she was signaling him to rescue her and continued to walk slowly toward her, constantly looking about to be certain that no other soldiers were lurking near her or down the road.
Just as he reached her, Rani realized why he looked familiar. He was the other guard the night before, the one that told her that he would not report her for napping on her watch, the one she had promised to pleasure the next time they met, which she was sure would be never. Suddenly, her hopes that he was there to rescue her began to vanish. More likely, she thought, he had come to take what she had promised before moving on to join the rest of the troops.
The man began to remove Rani's gag, and dislodge the panties from her throat, when they heard a loud metallic click. The man turned in its direction, but his body blocked Rani's view. The blast a second later was unmistakable. It was no soldier leaving the jungle. It was the sound of a rifle shot. No scream followed. But the steady drone in the background ceased.
The panties fell from her mouth to the ground as the man raced across the path to see what had happened, gaining his first glance of the now motionless woman. Rani could now see the still-oblivious rat chewing contentedly on his new find, just a foot away from his previous spot. A critical foot away. The man returned to Rani after a few moments, having touched neither this latest victim nor anything around her. He did notice, however, the three other victims on the same side of the path as the most recent.
Rani stared at him as he took out his knife. He had seemed sympathetic to the woman's plight, and had removed Rani's gag, but her body did not ease until she saw him cut one end of the long cord that restrained her wrists and body. He began to unravel it from around her arms, holding her upright as her body began to droop forward from its newly-gained freedom. He then gently place her down on the ground on her hands and knees, as he released her ankles chained behind her. Rani found enough strength to sit up near him, and she covered herself with her arms.
They stared at each other for a moment, neither speaking. Then the soldier began: "I want to thank you for saving my life. I hope that I've now repaid you." Rani looked at him quizzically. He continued: "You recognize me from the watch the other night?" She nodded. "When you asked that I not report you if you failed to return at the appointed time, I thought it was the greatest luck in the world for me. You see, I was trying to decide when I would make my break to report to the rebels the government's plans. A sleeping sentry is just what I needed."
"You?" was all that Rani could offer, but she remembered the captain saying something about there being four traitors -- Rani, Dewi, the woman deserter and ... "You?"
"Yes. I apparently had the same assignment as you did. I guess they were not sure that either of us would succeed, so it seems that one of us was their backup plan. But I waited the extra hour to make certain that you really didn't show. You obviously left before me, or moved faster, because, when I worked my way through the jungle around to the warlord's headquarters -- I didn't come down this path -- I saw you there, and realized the lord's betrayal. Had you not been there first, it would have been me. And I'm sure that I would now be in the same condition as those two men." He nodded across the way and shuddered involuntarily.
"I'm Azis. And I see that your friend at least left you something." He nodded toward the pile of the dead woman's clothes. "Rani," she responded, but he was already racing across the path to where Dewi hung, and she was not certain if he heard.
He picked up the woman's trousers from the pile and slipped them over her naked form. They were loose, the other woman was much larger, but they stayed over her hips and she rolled them up to her calves. The boots were also a bit large, but would serve the purpose quite well. As she glanced around for where Azis had tossed the t-shirt, she noticed that he had taken Dewi down, and, his arms encircling her chest, was dragging her toward Rani. Rani found the t-shirt and slipped it on. In a sad way, she was grateful that the soldiers had made the woman strip off her uniform, rather than cutting it into shreds, as they had done to Rani's own uniform. But while the trousers and boots were just slightly large, the t-shirt had been stretched in ways that made Rani marvel. That woman had quite a body, Rani thought, and she hoped that she had had a chance to enjoy it. Even after she tucked the shirt into the pants, it still hung loosely on her.
By now Azis had reached Rani with Dewi's body, which he began to tie in the same place and in the same manner as Rani had been tied. "When the soldiers return, they may not notice anything different." When he finished, he pulled out the knife that had been used on Rani, and began to slash Dewi's body viciously. "No, what are you doing? You are defiling her !!" Rani screamed at him and tried to stop him. He pushed her away, but stopped and returned the knife to its position.
"You don't want them to follow us, looking for you," he said calmly. "They can move much faster than we can, especially in your weakened condition." Rani now noticed that several of her cuts were still oozing blood, and that, with the excitement of her rescue now wearing off somewhat, she was again feeling woozy. "They must think that this is you and that you have suffered the fate that you were given. They may not notice that no one is straddling either of the men on the other side. Or, if they remember, they may think that she was moved to where the spreadeagled woman is."
"Where are we going to go?" Rani now realized that she had no idea where they could hide. The government camp was on one side, the warlord and soon to be defeated rebels on the other.
"Many of the rebels will flee into the mountains to regroup. They know the area much better than the government troops. If we circle around, we may reach the mountains not long after they do, and before the government's troops cut off that way."
Azis and Rani set out for the mountains. Progress was slow. Rani just wasn't able to move quickly and needed to stop frequently for rest. They were not really moving away from the impending battle, but in a large circle around where it would take place.
And so, several hours later, they were still close enough to hear unmistakably when the government troops assaulted the rebel camp. Sounds mostly of gun fire, with some heavy artillery. What they couldn't know was the outcome of the attack.
All the better for them. Without the advance notice that Rani, Azis and Dewi had failed to provide, the battle was a rout. Hundreds of the rebels were killed in the first few minutes in the surprise attack; most of the rest fled, while a few tried desperately to stall the advancing troops. While they achieved partial success, and at least delayed the government's chase of the fleeing rebels, their lines were ultimately overrun. Although the commander had ordered that no prisoners be taken, so that the full force of his troops could give chase to the rebels, he made a few exceptions.
Two young European women were also in the rebel camp. These he ordered brought back to the government base for questioning, wanting to know what country was supporting the rebels, or whether they were merely idealistic students taking on the latest cause du jour. Two other Indonesian women were known by the government to be among the group of rebel leaders and might have information about the mountain areas to which the rebels were fleeing. These women, too -- Nini and Tiza -- were brought back to face the depths of the government's underground dungeons. And the need for their information was of more immediate importance. [see Nini pic]
The commander knew that he owed a greater debt to the turncoat warlord than the government had earlier agreed to pay, for his great service in capturing Rani and Dewi and preventing their information from reaching the rebel forces in time. He spared four other of the rebel women to serve the warlord however he chose.
By nightfall, the battle was over. The warlord's forces returned to their camp. Some of the government troops returned to the government's headquarters ... with the four women. The rest of the government's troops would continue to search for the hideouts of the fleeing rebels, but had to wait until sunrise. By sunrise, the two European women were secured in their cells, awaiting their fate. [see European women pic1 and 2] The two Indonesian leaders, however, were already hours into their interrogations.
The warlord was pleased with the four prisoners that the government commander had left him, especially pleased that fate had been kind to one of them, Lilyana, who was actually one of the government officers who had been involved in making the arrangements that turned him to the government's side, and who had then infiltrated the rebels. [see Lilyana pic] Since few of his own men were aware of this, he had to take care to make sure that gave strict instructions as to how she was to be handled, because he also wanted her to keep her cover. Perhaps he would torture her in front of another of the prisoners, and then allow the two of them to escape to the new rebel hideout. This would certainly enhance her cover in the eyes of the rebels, and prove valuable to him in the long run.
Lilyana was able to tell the lord, quietly at a moment that he arranged for them to be in private, which of the other three prisoners might have useful information and which she was sure did not. The lord was pleased when she told him that Retno, the only one of the four with full breasts, had simply served as a play toy and cook for the rebels and knew nothing. Working on her first might loosen the others' resistance. So, with all three of the other prisoners present, the lord had Retno brought to the middle of his underground dungeon, below the jail.
At the time of the government's surprise attack, Retno just entered the tent of a rebel soldier, both with but one thought in mind. A bullet to the back of his head before they were even aware of the attack, and before she had removed more than her shoes, had ended the encounter, and splattered a horrified Retno in blood as the rebel's dead body had fallen toward her and she had caught it. She waited for her similar fate, but a government soldier had instead approached her from behind, and knocked her unconscious with a blow from his rifle butt to the back of her head. When she came to, she was riding in the back of a truck with three other women.
Now Retno was in the center of this dimly lit underground room, with the same three women and with three men, one of whom was the warlord himself.
"You!" The lord shouted at Lilyana, but did not call her by name. Lilyana startled, then began to protest, thought better of it, and meekly replied, "yes, sir." The lord smiled inside at her acting performance. "Go to the center of the room." Lilyana slowly obeyed.
Then to Retno. "Raise your arms over your head." Retno, too, obeyed. Now again to Lilyana. "Remove her shirt." Lilyana could see Retno close her eyes and began to shiver, but not otherwise protest or move. Lilyana obeyed, hoping that she was acting at just the right pace so as not to give anything away. The unexpected sting of a lash across Lilyana's back jolted her and told her that she was acting too slowly. She unbuttoned the shirt, then pulled Retno's arms down one at a time to remove the material completely. Lilyana looked back at the lord, holding the shirt in her hands, her back still stinging. Retno returned her arms overhead, as she had been ordered, not wanting a blow like Lilyana had received.
"Too much sympathy for this traitor ! She must be your friend," the lord sneered at Lilyana. "Let me show you how it should be done." The other two men walked quickly to Lilyana, threw her to the floor, and held her down as they tore her uniform off completely ... jacket, shirt, panties. She was left naked except for her boots, then pulled up to her feet. She was allowed to try to hide her small body with her hands, and left standing next to Retno.
"Now, remove her bra." Lilyana looked in Retno's eyes as if to ask forgiveness, then grasped both of the cups and pulled the thin material hard until it gave and the bra came off in her hands. Retno covered herself, but the lord said only "and now the rest." Lilyana grasped the side of Retno's panties and easily tore them off. Both women now stood in the middle of the room, naked except that Lilyana still wore her boots.
"Now chain her up." Lilyana could see the heavy chains and manacles above Retno's head. Retno raised her hands under the hanging chains, about shoulder width apart, not wanting Lilyana to suffer another blow. Lilyana cuffed Retno's wrists, and then watched as one of the soldiers pulled up the other end of the chains until Retno's toes barely touched the floor. She was obviously terrified of what might happen next. Lilyana felt another sharp sting of the lash, this time across her naked back. "You may return to your place." Gratefully, Lilyana walked back to the other two prisoners. Short chains were then secured to each of their ankles, and the chains themselves tied together. Any attempt by any of them to run, or even to move, would cause all three to fall.
"Answer one question for me," the lord directed his remark to Retno, "and you will suffer no pain. Who is financing the rebel forces?"
Retno shook her head quickly from side to side. "Sir, I cannot know that. That information is not shared with someone like me !! I am just a cook." [see Retno pic]
The lord looked at the three others, cowering near the wall. One of the other two, Lilyana had told him, the one named Kade, might have some useful information, since she was a higher ranking rebel soldier and came from a wealthy family. The other one, Merpati, like Retno, was also not likely to know very much. So, as Lilyana knew, the lord was staging this entire scene for Kade, but he addressed all three in a low voice. "That was the wrong answer. An untruth. And that is something I do not tolerate."
Retno strained to hear what he was saying, but could only see the gasped reactions on the women's' faces. With no further word nor warning, one of the soldiers took a bullwhip hanging on the far wall and moved directly behind Retno. Since Retno was facing the women, her body between the soldier and the women, they could not see the whip slash her back, but heard its unmistakable snap, following immediately by Retno's piercing scream. Blow followed blow, up and down her back and the back of her thighs, each blow separated only by the time that it took the soldier to pull his arm back and strike again. After the sixth, he paused briefly while the other soldier turned Retno's feet so that it was the backside of her toes that now touched the floor, exposing the soles of her feet, which became the whip's new target for its next four blows. By this time, Retno was hanging limply by her bonds, her body bathed in sweat, her breathing heavy, her screams a pained rasp.
"You." The lord signaled to Merpati. One of the soldiers immediately released her from the chains holding her to Lilyana and Kade, then pushed her toward Retno in the center of the room. The soldier handed the whip to Merpati. "Use this on her front side in the same way."
Merpati froze. "Sir, please. I couldn't. Whip me instead."
"I give the orders here !!" the lord roared at her. "Obey or all four of you will suffer the consequences. Now!!"
Merpati started to sob, but, mustering all of her strength, lifted the whip and lashed it at the front of Retno's thighs. Retno's body barely moved. Shaking, Merpati raised the whip again, but this time let it drop to the floor, and herself slumped down next to it.
The lord nodded to one of the soldiers, who released the chains from Kade's and Lilyana's legs. The soldier then dragged Kade to one side of the room, forced her down onto all fours, and moved behind her. He cut down the side of her pants and panties, and removed them in one motion, before doing the same with her shirt, leaving her naked except for her loosely hanging jacket. He then separated her legs, knelt behind her, unzipped his trousers, and forced himself into her without word or warning, grabbing her arms with his to pull her closer.
At the same time, the other soldier twisted the fallen Merpati onto her back and ripped off her jacket. He pulled down her pants as he climbed onto her, and then lowered his own. He forced her shirt down so that he could squeeze her breasts and more easily push himself into her.
At the other side of the room, the lord had dragged Lilyana to a corner, pinned her onto her back with his knees on her arms, and forced himself deeply into her mouth. Lilyana knew that she must be victimized like the others, but it seemed to her that the lord was enjoying her plight a bit more than necessary. The bastard.
After what seemed like an eternity to the women, but was really no more than several minutes, the lord suddenly screamed and pulled himself out of Lilyana, rolling to her side. "You, bitch." The lord slapped her hard across the face. It took a startled Lilyana a few moments to realize what he was doing. It was now the lord's turn to overact. "She bit me." He slapped her again. By now the two soldiers had stopped to see what was happening.
"Guards," the lord yelled. Three more soldiers raced in through the heavy door. "Take this one out and prepare her to be shot in the morning." Two of them grabbed Lilyana, who put up a struggle as she was hauled out of the room, followed by the lord, who returned a minute later.
"That one," he pointed at the still hanging Retno, "goes outside for the night. The men may have her until morning when she will join the other." The third soldier who had entered took down the still slumped Retno, slung her over his shoulder, and carried her out.
"That one," the lord now indicated Merpati, "is useless." He nodded toward a thick wooden pole near a near wall, and the soldier who had enjoyed her pleasures dragged her over to it, pulled her arms over and behind it, and quickly tied her to it. [see Merpati pic] As she stared out to see what was happening, the lord moved to stand five feet in front of her, and, without a word, raised his pistol. Their eyes met for a second, and she started to open her mouth, when he fired, the bullet striking her between her breasts. Her body jolted upward, and then sagged back down, her head falling to her bloody chest.
The soldier moved to Kade, who was now shrieking hysterically. She knew that she was the only one left, and she now, finally, drew the lord's attention. "You, my dear, are going to the experiment room. Where you will have one chance to tell us the truth." The two remaining soldiers dragged the screaming Kade out of the room. [see Kade pic]. The lord followed, leaving the room empty except for the lifeless body of Merpati hanging from the wooden bar.
Kade was dragged down the hall. She found it hard to believe that the "examination room" could be any worse than the torture chamber that she felt fortunate to leave alive. The soldiers dragging her stopped at a large window overlooking the courtyard. One of the soldiers grabbed her by the hair and forced her to look outside.
Lilyana had been forced against a long vertical post, her boots removed, her wrists overhead, and both her wrists and ankles chained behind the post, making it difficult for her to maintain her balance, but preventing her from falling. The soldiers' attention, however, was focused entirely on Retno. Retno's wrists were tied about 18 inches apart to a horizontal wooden pole hanging at a level of about four feet above the ground . Her ankles were tied in the same manner to the ground behind her, forcing her to arch her back painfully.
Two of the soldiers were probing her body, and it was clear that they were going to enjoy her as soon as they decided whether one or the other should go first, or they should work on her together. Kade remembered that Retno had avoided the physical violation in the torture chamber that the other three had suffered, although she had suffered the most severe pain. It was nighttime now, but the whip marks striping Retno's body were visible in the light from the flickering torches that two of the soldiers held. Well, the most severe pain unless you considered what happened to Merpati ....
"You will soon join them, my lovely one," the soldier behind her brought Kade back to her own dire situation. "And, depending on how cooperative you and they are, they may still be alive when you do. Execution is scheduled for dawn." Kade realized that the soldier had not said "their execution" or "your execution", but she assumed that he meant to include her in the statement. After she had been tortured and told all she knew.
The soldiers dragged Kade away from the window and further down the hall, to an unmarked door that Kade had no difficulty realizing was the "examination room." She was not certain why she was being subject to this special treatment that the others had avoided, but she knew that she would soon learn.
At the government headquarters, Nini had been returned to her small cell after three hours of interrogation. She had broken completely, told all that her interrogators had asked about the rebels' forces and their hideouts in the mountains. Now, lying naked on the floor, too weak even to climb up onto the small hard bed that, beside the filthy toilet, was its only furnishings, she could hear Tiza's screams from a nearby room.
Nini knew that Tiza, too, had broken. Tiza's screams of pain were intermixed with shouts of information. They were asking her many of the same questions that they had asked Nini, and then checking the consistency of the two rebels' answers to ensure their accuracy. Assuming that the rebels hadn't developed pat answers in the event of capture. The commander doubted, however, that, under the severe interrogation that he administered, any captive could remember a set of elaborate lies. After an hour, all Nini heard were Tiza's continual cries of pain. Apparently, she no longer had more information that the commander wanted, but he let his men continue their work on her. [See Tiza pic]
Nini barely stirred when her cell door opened, and the commander himself entered and sat on the bed. With the toe of his boot, he gently nudged her onto her back. She opened her eyes to look at him. "I am sorry that we had to do that to you, but I'm sure you understand, given the situation." Nini was puzzled. "You are a beautiful girl. I do not think that your body will suffer permanent harm from your interrogation." This was coming from the man who had just supervised two hours of her agony.
"You deserve pleasure now. I want to see you have pleasure." Now he could see the strange look on Nini's face. "Pleasure yourself. You deserve it."
Now Nini understood and sighed. So this was why her interrogation had ended. If, indeed, it had. If she was to avoid more punishment, she would have to obey this order. She closed her eyes and tried to block out her surroundings, tried to imagine herself with her lover behind the barn at the back of his house. Slowly she placed her hands on her breasts and began to knead them up and back and around, her tongue circling and licking her lips. Then she moved one hand slowly to her stomach and then down until her hand and fingers found a familiar position. She could hear low groans coming from the commander as her fingers now probed and pushed and she began to lose herself in the moment, her other hand squeezing her breasts until it too moved below. She did not realize at first that the louder sounds she now heard were her own, and, when she finally reached the wave of excitement that caused her body to shudder so heavenly, she really thought, for a few moments, that she was behind her boyfriend's barn.
Her reverie was broken, however, when she felt herself being pulled up to her knees, reminding her that this was not the carefree time that she was imagining. "Don't I deserve some pleasure, too?" The commander's hand was between his own legs.
When the door opened, Kade found the "examination room" much as she had expected. Brightly lit, small, empty except for a gynecological table in the center. Two uniformed women waited inside, as the two soldiers threw Kade to the floor inside, then closed the door behind them.
"Remove your jacket and assume the position," one of the women instructed. Kade slowly stood and took off the last shred of clothing that she wore from her ordeal in the torture chamber. She then sat on the table, lay down with her head at the top of the rectangular portion of the table that was just wider than her body, and slowly placed her legs into the raised stirrups at the other end, watching the stares of the soldiers as her position forced her to spread her legs wide and expose herself fully to their view. Quickly, the woman who appeared to be in charge secured her legs in place at the knees, while the other woman chained her wrists to the sides of the table at her waist. The feeling of helplessness that Kade had experienced over the last several hours was now total.
With the two male soldiers standing over her, and without a word, the head woman rolled a small cart close enough to allow her to pull two wires from it that ended in serrated clamps. Kade knew where these were going, and the woman wasted no time in moving between Kade's legs to confirm Kade's fear.
Kade now waited for the first question that would reveal why she alone had been brought here. But, instead, the woman simply moved back to the cart and turned a dial all the way from the left to the right. Kade felt the current surge into her and she screamed at the top of her lungs as her body was lifted entirely off the table from her neck down. She had no idea how long it was before the woman turned the dial back to the left, but it was longer than she thought she could survive. When the woman finally returned the dial to the left, Kade's body crashed back down on the table, her heart racing, her breathing frantic, her body glowing in sweat.
If they were trying to soften her before putting the question to her, their method was working. After witnessing Merpati's brutal murder, the torture of Retno, and Lilyana's violation, as well as experiencing her own, Kade was ready to tell them whatever they wanted to know, ready to beg to be placed outside in the courtyard with Retno and Lilyana and have her ordeal end with theirs at dawn.
The woman approached and looked into Kade's glazed eyes. She put her hand on her chest and listened to her heart. Then she returned to the cart. Kade screamed "no" over and over, but it changed nothing. Again the woman flicked the dial all the way to the right. No build-up. All the way. The burning, cutting sensation that it created inside her seemed even worse to Kade this time. Again her body rose off the table, secured only by her stirrup-ed knees and chained wrists. Was it longer this time or shorter? It really made no difference. To Kade, if there was a difference, it was just a difference in the degrees of eternity. When the woman again moved the dial back to the left, and Kade's body thudded to the table, she was sure that her lungs were going to burst through her chest.
PLEASE ask me a question now, Kade wanted to shout, but all her energy was consumed trying to catch her breath. PLEASE. Anything. Just ask. But not this a third time. PLEASE.
The woman again approached Kade, opened Kade's eyes wide with her fingers and looked closely. The she nodded to the two male soldiers. To Kade, this nod was the greatest gift that she could receive.
The question now came from one of the males: "When the rebels fled into the hills, they barely had time to take what they carried. We know that they must have had a storage of weapons and ammunition. Where is it?"
Kade nodded her head quickly to let him know that, as soon as she could catch her breath, she would tell him. She wondered, though, how the warlord knew that she was the one of his captives -- and the only one -- who knew where these munitions were.
Kade was left in the examination room for several hours while her information about the rebels' munitions was verified by the warlord's soldiers in the field. This was a prize that he would not share with the government, though he had assured Lilyana otherwise when she had told him that Kade had this knowledge. The lord was not surprised when he learned that Kade's information was accurate and quite pleased when the stash was recovered. He had little doubt that she would not want to risk facing further interrogation in the examination room.
By the time that Kade was brought into the courtyard, it was three hours before dawn. Retno and Lilyana were in precisely the same positions in which Kade had seen them hours earlier, though both slumped a bit more against their bonds. Kade had to look twice to assure herself that each was still alive.
Kade was led to the post that held Lilyana, and chained on the other side of it in the same manner, her ankles and wrists wrapped around the post on Lilyana's side, just as Lilyana's had been chained on the side now occupied by Kade. Had Lilyana not slumped, their backsides would have touched.
After 10 minutes, the warlord himself marched from his headquarters to the courtyard, followed by half a dozen of his men, who joined the soldiers that had accompanied Kade. The lord first examined Retno, lifting her head off her chest, and then letting it fall back. Alive but barely conscious. Then to Lilyana, grabbing her hair to force her to look into his face. Lilyana opened her eyes, and her look clearly conveyed her thought that the lord was overdoing the situation with her. She had now been chained to the post for five hours. If he left her there much longer, she would not have the strength to "escape."
The two soldiers who had brought Kade to the courtyard walked over to the post next to the one holding Kade and Lilyana. One held Kade's tattered uniform, the other Lilyana's. Each then nailed the uniform that he carried to the post, Lilyana's on the side where she hung, and Kade's on her side.
The lord explained: "Since you were captured while in uniform, you cannot be considered spies, and the uniforms advise my soldiers of this fact. Therefore, you will be executed with military ceremony, and not subject to further violation. Since military executions occur only at dawn, you have three more hours to contemplate your fate."
"On the other hand," he continued, nodding toward Retno, "your friend was not in military uniform, and is therefore considered a spy. That is why I have allowed my men to make use of her these past many hours. And now that they have used her to their satisfaction, we are finished with her. Without ceremony. And without a requirement to wait until dawn."
The lord nodded to two of his men standing about 10 feet behind Retno. Simultaneously, they removed their pistols from their sides, aimed and fired, striking Retno twice in the middle of her back. Retno's body lunged forward for a second, before returning to the same slumped position. Kade and Lilyana both shuddered involuntarily at the sound of the shots and the knowledge that two of the four women captives had now been executed, and there time was scheduled in just three hours. Lilyana wondered whether the lord had changed his mind about the plan, and worried that he might have really decided to execute them at dawn. If she could survive in her situation for three more hours.
The lord and his men departed, leaving Kade and Lilyana alone. With their uniforms signaling the situation to the lord's men, no one approached them, except on the one occasion after an hour when one of the soldiers brought them water. The lord did not want them dying before his "ceremony," thought Kade.
Ninety minutes before dawn, a shadowy figure dressed in dark clothing crept into the courtyard to the post holding the two women. He unlocked the chains holding Kade's arms, and gave her the key. "I can't be seen here. You take care of the rest. We have our spies, too." And he was gone.
Kade quickly freed herself, then debated for a second whether to make her escape alone or to take Lilyana with her. Lilyana was weaker and would make escape more difficult, she thought. Still, the rebels had to stick together. And the spy who had released her expected her to fee Lilyana as well. Kade unchained Lilyana, who collapsed to the ground, but seemed to regain some of her strength quickly when she realized what Kade had done. Kade freed their torn uniforms -- pants, t-shirt and jacket -- from the adjacent post and tossed Lilyana's to her. No boots, but, given the consequences of being caught, and considering the pain they had endured, walking barefoot would not trouble them too badly. They were off into the night less than five minutes after their shadowy rescuer had appeared.
Rani and Azis, a full day into their journey, had reached the mountains and begun their ascent to their rendezvous with the fleeing rebels. They could be no more than a few hours away, at most, they felt. With no supplies, their pace was slowing, particularly Rani's, still feeling the effects of her ordeal at the warlord's camp. But as they rested, just out of sight of the narrow path up the mountain, Rani felt a resurgence. For the first time she felt that she was actually going to make it back to the rebels, that she was going to survive her ordeal with the warlord. Something that Dewi and the two men and the poor girl could not say. Because she alone had survived until Azis rescued her. She who was facing the most severe torture of any of them. She was strong. She was a survivor.
She reached over to Azis, reached her arms around his back, and pulled him down on her. "I keep my promises," she whispered to him. "And this is one I've been looking forward to keeping."
Forty minutes later, walking through a light forest, a chill ran through Rani as she realized that she and Azis were being watched. Suddenly, three men descended upon them, their rifles drawn. Rani's heart sank. After all she had already been through. So close to success.
"Raise your hands," she heard the order from the man closest to her. She obeyed. Though their pace had not been particularly quick, it had been steady, and she could not believe that the government troops had moved so quickly to catch up with them. Why had she stopped to keep her promise to Azis? Why couldn't she have waited a few hours more?. Until they were really safe.
She looked at Azis, whose arms were also raised. One of the men approached and lifted his rifle in Azis' direction. Rani winced in anticipation of the man hitting Azis across the face with the rifle butt. But, instead, the man swung the rifle around Azis and embraced him warmly. "I never thought I'd see you again, my friend." Rani could now see his broad grin. "And it looks like you've done quite well for yourself !" The man nodded in Rani's direction.
They had reached the rebel forces.
Kade and Lilyana reached the rebel forces many hours later. Something about Lilyana bothered Kade, but she wasn't sure what it was. Lilyana had not suffered torture the way she and Retno had -- oh, a few stings of the whip across the back, but that was all. And she obviously had not suffered the same fate as Retno and Merpati. But then neither had she. Lilyana had been abused ... but only by the warlord himself. And she had been left tied to the post for many hours. Still, Kade decided to keep an eye on Lilyana, just in case.
Lilyana, however, knew that Kade was watching, so, over the next several weeks, did nothing to arouse her suspicions. And, after noticing nothing unusual, Kade forgot her original suspicions. Lilyana was indeed one of them, she decided, as the rebel forces attempted to regroup and needed all the soldiers they could muster.
Nini made valuable use of those weeks herself. She soon realized how enamored of her the commander was. He came to her cell every night, sometimes during the day as well, and she learned how to please him. At the same time, though, she realized that she too was enjoying their encounters, that, while he was a brutal man, she rather liked strong, brutal men. Eventually, he declared her "rehabilitated" and a valuable asset to the government because of her great knowledge of the rebel forces -- their strength, their activities and their mindset. And when he invited her to help him interrogate the next unfortunates whom the government suspected of treason, she found that she very much preferred being on both the winning side and the other end of the whip .. and was quite good at it.
Tiza's screams in the interrogation room not far from Nini's cell were the last ever heard of her. On one occasion, when Nini summoned the courage to ask, the commander just smiled: "Not all were as fortunate as you."
Just as the warlord's switch from the side of the rebels to the side of the government had decided the battle, his switch to the side of the government played a large factor in the rebels' ultimate victory and the breakaway of East Timor from Indonesia in 1999. While the government's interrogation of its captives had been equally brutal, it had been done under the cover of their underground dungeons, unseen to anyone but those in charge of obtaining the needed information at any cost. The warlord, however, believed in ceremony and display, as evidenced by his execution of Retno in the middle of the courtyard and his row of victims lined up along the path leading to his camp. With all those who witnessed these sights, it was not surprising that photographs of them made their way into the underground press, and the obvious brutality of one working for the government appalled many who saw them, leading them to throw their backing to the rebel forces.
Which also made Lilyana reconsider her own allegiance. Being a rebel now seemed rather appealing ... and important to one's self-preservation. She made the adjustment with ease, and Kade never knew that Lilyana had survived the ordeal they had together suffered because she had been a government agent. No, Kade never knew that Lilyana had ever been anything but loyal to the rebel cause.
But there is not always ultimate justice for all. Not only do the good and the innocent often suffer horrible fates -- Dewi, Retno, Merpati, Tiza -- but the evil often escape and prosper as well. With his increased wealth and arms, the warlord had little trouble escaping into safer environs still allied with the country, as did Nini and her commander, who brought with them, from their underground dungeons, their two most prized possessions -- the two European captives. Since these two had been reported killed in the earlier battle, no one would ever be looking for them, and many parts of Indonesia also had underground dungeons in which to keep beautiful prisoners for use as long as their captors still found them appealing, or for sale ... or death ... when they grew tired of them.
The exploits of Rani and Azis became a legend in the new country. Particularly Rani's. It hadn't happened quite the way she had imagined that it might that fateful day when she fled to the warlord, but, still, a legend is a legend. Like the legend of Paul Revere.