Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)
Stories


STATE OF EMERGENCY BOOK 2: THE CAMP

By King Diocletian


The heavy door of the carriage opened. Megan blinked in the sudden light as the sun shone in. Every inch of her ached. She sat up and stretched as far as she could in her cage. It stank in the carriage. She was one of eight prisoners and their only access to a toilet had been twice a day when guards had released them one at a time, to go in a bucket that stood unemptied by the door. Eight guards, all female, entered and opened the gates of the first four prisoners. They were all women, all local, all young. In a barrage of shouts and cuffs they were bundled out and the door was closed again. That left the four white prisoners.

At the end was another American, Beth, whom she'd known slightly before. She'd been given electric shocks to force a confession out of her. Then next to her was Rebecca, who seemed to have had the worst time of it, being tortured and flogged. Flogged! And on the other side of her was Bobby, slender and English. Bobby hadn't been tortured. She hadn't confessed. But then they hadn't needed a confession because Megan had condemned her. Megan had lied. She'd been asked about Bobby and had seen a way out which she'd seized. Bobby had been whipped and had got five years. Megan and Rebecca had got two. And she, Megan, who'd lied to save herself had only got one year. She felt terrible. She hadn't dared tell Bobby it was her fault.

Well, if saying whatever got them to stop when they'd beaten you for two days made it her fault it was her fault. The whole thing was horrific. Surely their embassies would work something out. All of them had been abused and she couldn't believe this camp would be much better.

She lay back on the hard boards of the carriage. It was two days since they'd taken her from her cell, hustled her into a van and driven her to the station, packing her into this cage, perhaps six feet long and three feet wide. She had no idea how many other carriages with prisoners there might be or far they'd gone. The train had stopped often. Most of the time they'd been left alone, guards coming in only occasionally, shouting at them occasionally to shut up if they felt they were talking too much. It was a comfort to see other prisoners, to hear their stories, although the local girls had been reticent. At least one of them, she suspected, was heavily involved in the separatist struggle.

Beth, she liked. She knew she was smart and she knew she'd helped promote demonstrations. Rebecca, she feared for. She was so slight, so delicate, and had already suffered so much. The way, sobbing, she described being caned, strapped down naked in front of an audience… Bobby seemed to have been desperately unlucky. She'd hoped, talking to them, that a leader may emerge, somebody she could rely on. She suspected, though, that she might be the strongest of all of them, that she may have to support them.

And she owed Bobby. Big time.

*

Governor Mistry left his office. He wasn't particularly happy about having four foreigners at his camp. It could only bring the scrutiny of outsiders and that was bad news. But it wasn't his job to decide who came to his prison, merely to make sure they served their sentence without event. He hoped he'd have nothing to do with them, that the layers of staff beneath him could absorb whatever disturbance they caused. He thought it was wise, though, to get a look at them and try to assess their attitude. If they were trouble, it was important the warders felt no qualms about putting them in the punishment cell or on a work detail or even beating them if need be.

He stood at the steps of the main office block and looked across at the low platform and the train, the door just being opened by a guard. The sun was low in the sky and there was a slight chill in the air. It was later than was ideal, but the train had had to drop off 40 prisoners at the male camp down the valley.

The four foreigners tumbled out of the carriage. The guard dogs barked. There were 20 guards to escort them, all female, although he noted a lot of the male guards had left their mess room to watch. Well, he couldn't blame them. The four were hustled the 50 yards or so down the path, through a double gate of barbed wire, and then towards him. Protocol said prisoners should be hurried at this stage – make them realise they were not in control, prevent them getting too good a look at the outside of the camp. If they slowed the guards shoved them on.

The first one was a slim girl with shortish golden hair. That, he thought, must be the English one. She was wearing a stained T-shirt that emphasised how slender she was, and trotted along as ordered, although she seemed to find moving difficult. The procession peeled right, to the hall where they'd be registered. Then came a short girl, who looked terrified. She was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt – that must be the one who'd been flogged, Harris. Behind her was a strong-looking blonde woman in a grey vest, who looked about her calmly, even when the guards gave her a push. The photographer, he guessed. And then, in jeans and a white top, dark hair falling over her face as the guards gave her a shove that made her nearly stumble was the second American, the one the Secpol seemed most interested in. Mistry watched as they were taken into the low building that was mainly a storage and administration. That took the total prisoners in his camp to 168: 46 new ones in the past three weeks. He didn't really know how many more he could accommodate. He turned and went back to his office.

*

"When your name is called," said the fat woman behind the desk, "you come forward, strip off your clothes and place them in the bag you will be provided with."

Rebecca felt ill. How could this be happening? The barbed wire, the armed guards, the dogs, the terrible sense of an institution. Two years here. The room was perhaps 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. The four of them stood against one wall, facing the desk. Perhaps 20 or 30 guards, all in khaki uniforms, stood to the left and right, all armed with truncheons. The dogs, at least, had remained outside. Her heart was thumping. At least she thought, they were all female, but then she noticed towards the back four or five men, smirking and talking between themselves.

The woman behind the desk had a sergeant's stripes. She picked up a folder and took out a form. She glanced at it. "Stafford," she said. "Roberta."

Bobby walked forwards until she stood three or feet before the desk. A guard passed her a bag – more like a large envelope really. Bobby paused and then set the bag down and began to strip. "They're pretty trousers," the sergeant said mockingly, and there was laughter. As her T-shirt came off, the extent of the beatings she'd suffered became apparent. Her back was still blotched with pink where the knots had bitten and the odd streak where a lash had cut, while her buttocks were lightly marked with fading parallel welts, especially on the outsides, where the tips of the canes had done their damage. Slowly, seemingly calmly, Bobby took off her underwear, placing it in the bag, then she picked her trousers and T-shirt from the floor and put that in.

"Stand up straight," said the sergeant. Bobby's hands had instinctively gone to cover herself and even as she pushed her shoulders back, she held them there.

"Hands by your sides," said the sergeant in irritation and Bobbly slowly lowered them.

"Thank you. Now, I need to check some details. Full name?"

Methodically, she went through the usual list: name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, address, parents' names. Quietly, Bobby answered. Rebecca felt humiliated already.

"Go back to the wall," the sergeant ordered and Bobby turned, exposing her pale slim body and her neat high breasts to the mass of guards. There was a gruesome bruise on her collar-bone – presumably the result of a beating. Bobby hurried towards the other prisoners, her jaw set, her eyes seemingly focused far in the distance.

"Donohue, Megan," said the sergeant, and she walked briskly forwards. She stripped quickly to reveal smooth, tanned skin, dusted with freckles. A couple of slight bruises were visible from her beating. When she turned, Rebecca saw a pair of almost laughably perfect breasts, full and round. Megan seemed calm; she wished she felt like that.

"McCormack, Elizabeth." Beth strode to stand before the desk. She was wearing a flimsy white blouse and she seemed to find unbuttoning it difficult. Her jeans then came off. Her legs were long and lean. She hesitated slightly, and then removed her underwear. She, at least, seemed nervous as she answered the questions, but Rebecca noted there was no sign of flogging. Still, electricity was arguably worse.

And then it was her turn. "Harris, Rebecca." Her innards turned to water as she stumbled forwards. She thought of stripping for her torturer so he could rape her again, remembered that night with a shudder, when he'd fucked her front and back and made her masturbate him with her breasts. When had that been? Three nights ago? Four? In this hell time lost its meaning. She felt nauseous and her hands went to her sweatshirt. She sobbed as she fumbled with it, feeling their eyes on her. How often would she be stripped? Would there ever be a time when her nakedness didn't shame her? She pulled her jeans down, hearing a gasp as her buttocks, still marked with brown bruises just fading to green and yellow, were partially exposed. They still hurt, had made the train journey and the hard floor a nightmare. She felt the familiar cool of air on her skin. Feeling sick, she struggled out of her underclothes. She bundled her clothes and shoved them into the bag, then forced her hands down by her sides and, concentrating, staring at the floor, answered the questions.

*

Sergeant Desai looked at the four prisoners, naked and exposed in front of perhaps 40 guards. It was needless, of course, but she was happy to humiliate them. Let them know their status. And Westerners especially. Let them know there'd be no special privileges. Let them know they were here to suffer. She gave the order to move them on to the next stage: a full search, and one with a little twist she'd prepared.

The four of them were marched out of a door at the opposite end of the room to that where they'd come in. There was a covered walkway there that led to the search room, and she suspected more of the guards would have gathered by that to see these four white girls naked. The sun had gone down half an hour or so ago, so it would be cold too. She followed at a slight distance. Yes, as she'd thought, a small crowd had gathered. The search room was different, though: tiled section at one end, her desk at the other, and room for only the dozen or so guards needed to restrain them.

The four were lined up about 10 feet in front of her desk. She walked in behind them, her leather-handled cane in her hand. Scrawny things, all of them, even McCormack with her large breasts. She walked in front of them, looking them up and down, trying to spy weakness or defiance. They'd been arranged in alphabetical order from left to right: Donohue, Harris, McCormack, Stafford. She paused in front of Donohue, the Australian, and tapped the cane against her cunt. She closed her eyes, but otherwise didn't react.

"You are here," she said as she walked along the line, "to learn how to behave. If you step out of line, we will punish you. We give you punitive work details or put you in punishment cells. If necessary we will flog you." She got to Stafford and looked at her thin body. She prodded her left breast with her cane. "Are you sure you shouldn't be in a men's camp?" Stafford stared coldly ahead.

"We will now search you. That means a full search, cavities as well. As you can see, there are four packs on the desk. Each contains a pair of gloves. Three have been treated with Vaseline, and one with heat rub. One of you is going to be very uncomfortable." She smiled, and took her place behind the desk, noting that around a dozen and a half guards, including two men, had managed to gain access.

*

Beth was appalled. She had expected it to be tough, but she hadn't expected systematic humiliation. Heat rub? In her most intimate places? It was inhuman. Not just that it would hurt, but that they'd turned what was supposed to be bureaucratic processing into a game to humiliate them.

"Do we have a volunteer to go first?" the sergeant asked.

Beth stared at the concrete floor. This was far worse than she'd imagined. The open mockery, the gawping faces, sickened her. She'd thought when they'd sentenced her and the torture was finished that the worst was over. She was facing the realisation that it might be yet to come.

"Nobody?" said the sergeant mockingly. "Ok, then. Harris."

Rebecca stepped forwards. The poor girl looked terrified. What must she have gone through to leave her buttocks like that? Two guards stepped up to her, made her lift her feet, checked between her toes, looked in her ears, her nose and her mouth, ran their fingers through her hair. The one of them walked to the desk. "Which pack do you want?" the sergeant asked with a smirk. "One, two, three or four?"

Clearly choking back a sob, Rebecca glanced left and right. "Four, please," she whispered.

"Bend over, legs wide, and pull your cheeks apart."

Rebecca hesitated, the shake of her slim shoulders suggesting she was in tears. The guards stepped forward and dragged her roughly to the desk and slammed her down, kicking her legs apart and holding her down. Two other guards helped hold her as another, her hair in a thick plait, opened the fourth bag and snapped on the surgical gloves inside. Rebecca whimpered. This was awful. The guard stepped forwards and rammed a finger inside Rebecca's anus. She shrieked. Was that the heat rub, or just terror? She squirmed, but Beth decided this was just Vaseline. The guard poked her finger inside her for perhaps 10 seconds, then the fingers went inside her vagina.

"Clean," the guard said, and Rebecca was pulled up from the desk and shoved back towards the line. She fell, then slowly picked herself up, still snivelling, and took her place back in the line. "Who's next?" asked the sergeant.

There was silence. Beth stared at a point on the grubby cream-painted wall.

"Donohue!" said the sergeant, and Megan walked forwards. She was poked and prodded, the guards making a point of manhandling her breasts.

"Pick a number!" the sergeant said with a broad grin.

"One," said Megan and bent over obediently. She grunted as they probed inside her but no more: just Vaseline.

Beth didn't dare glance at Bobby. She felt bad enough as it was: would Bobby even be here if she hadn't given evidence against her? And now a 50-50 chance.

As Megan, face taut, returned to the line, the sergeant laughed. "So who's going to get the hot glove?" she asked. "Stafford or McCormack?"

Beth felt sick. "Who's going to choose? A volunteer?"

There was a silence and then Beth found herself stepping forward. "I'll do it," she said, but as she did so she recognised Bobby had also stepped forward. The sergeant laughed. Beth glanced at Bobby, who nodded. Beth stepped back. She didn't know what she wanted to happen. She didn't want the hot glove, but she didn't want Bobby to get it either. This perhaps would be a way of beginning to pay her back. She looked at the marks on Bobby's back as the guards searched her toes, her mouth, her hair, laughing as they pretended to peer beneath her small pert breasts. And then the moment of truth.

"Two or three?"

"Two, please," Bobby said, shuffling her feet wide and bending over.

Beth found herself holding her breath. The finger went in. There was a murmur, a whimper perhaps, but no more. Shit! It was her. Beth swallowed. She had to stay strong, but she could feel her heart beating harder.

She went forward. The guards, with some glee, spread her toes. It all felt a little unreal. She stared straight ahead, but she could feel the eyes of the room on her, particularly the two male guards to her left. What right did they have to do this?

The fingers yanked at her hair, jabbed around her mouth, lifted her breasts and let them fall. And then the moment they'd all been waiting for.

"Pick a number," the sergeant said mockingly.

"Three," Beth replied, far more calmly than she felt.

She heard the bag being popped open, the snap of the gloves being put on, the order to bend over. She caught a whiff of the heat rub. "How can you do this?" she asked. "What right do you have?"

Guards grabbed her. She couldn't resist. They threw her down on the desk, bruising her hip. She tried to struggle, but there were too many of them. Hands grabbed her buttocks and pulled them apart. She fell still. For a moment there was just the shock of a finger poking into her anus, and then the heat began to swell. She tried to take it in silence, but a groan left her throat. The finger went in deeper and the heat intensified. The finger wriggled about. Beth could feel sweat beading on her brow. The pain was getting worse and worse. She roared. The finger was withdrawn but the burn went on. A dozen hands held her down, arms, shoulders, ankles, thighs, all pinned to leave her helpless. A guard grabbed her hair and yanked her head round so she could see the gloved hand, and then the fingers were lowered. She thrashed, pulling her right leg free so it caught a guard's chest, but they soon overpowered her, and two fingers were inside her, less searching than rubbing the ointment on her clitoris. She howled in pain. For a minute, two perhaps, the search went on. But even after it was over, the pain went on.

They pulled her to her feet and shoved her back towards the line. She stumbled but stayed on her feet, tears filling her eyes, the burn still radiating from her most private places. She wanted, more than anything, to rub where it hurt, but she kept her hands by her sides, suppressing the urge to scream.

The sergeant walked along the line, a cane in her hand. She stood in front of Harris. "You need to learn discipline, Harris," she said. "That flogging doesn't seem to have been hard enough. When I give you an instruction, you obey. Why shouldn't I give you another dozen right now?"

Rebecca sniffed. "Please…" she squeaked, and the sergeant slapped her across the face, before moving on.

She stopped in front of Beth. She was short, her eyes level with the top of her breasts. "And you," she said, "are a disgrace. Kicking a guard! Tell me why I shouldn't report you to the governor for punishment?"

Beth said nothing.

"Walk to the desk."

Beth obeyed, her bowels liquid.

"I'm going to cane you," said the sergeant. "If you accept your punishment, then we'll say no more about it. And believe me, if I report you to the governor, this will be much worse."

Beth stared at the wall.

"You will take six strokes," the sergeant went on. "You will stay still throughout the punishment. You will count the strokes. At the end, you will thank me. Is that clear?"

"Yes," Beth said

"Yes, what?"

She didn't know. "Yes, ma'am," she said uncertainly.

Evidently that was correct. "Bend over."

Beth obeyed, the varnished surface of the desk cool against her body. She gripped the far side of the desk. The heat rub still burned. Six strokes. How bad could this be? And the cane was thin and whippy, not like the one Rebecca had described. The sergeant walked back and forth, then took up a position to Beth's left. She lay the cane across her buttocks. Beth shuddered.

She heard the cane whip down, felt the shock of it striking her buttocks, and for a second there was nothing. She stared ahead at the grubby paint on the wall ahead of her. "One," she said. She thought, briefly, that it wasn't going to be too bad. Was that it? But slowly the pain began to grow, radiating out from the welt that she suspected was already forming.

The second landed perhaps six or seven seconds after the first. The pain was sharp. She found herself staring, eyes wide open at the wall, fingers clinging to the desk. "Two," she hissed, willing herself not to shout. She lowered her head, teeth gritted. How had Bobby taken 72? Surely they hadn't been as bad as this?

The thwwwwwp came again. "Gah!" she yelped. ‘Three!" Her knuckles were white. Her heart was thumping, throbbing through her breast into the desk. Stay down. Don't give her an excuse to add strokes.

The fourth lash was lower, delivered into the base of her buttocks. She screwed her eyes up at the pain. "Four," she said, pushing herself down into the desk. This was hell. How had Rebecca taken a dozen far worse than this? She held on as tight as she could. Thwwwwwp! She gasped. "Five," she said, tightening her grip and pushing her head down.

But the last was too much. The stoke caught the edge of one of the other blows and the pain was intensified. She instinctively leapt up, hands grabbing at her ass. Too late, she realised. "Six," she said, lying back on the desk.

"Too late," said the sergeant. "That stroke doesn't count and you have one punishment stroke in addition." Shit. Two more. It was chilly, but her body was damp with sweat. The lash came again, low, away from the five of the first six. "Six," she said decisively. Hold on. One more. It came and she received it in silence. "Seven," she said. "Thank you very much, ma'am."

*

Sergeant Desai could be a real bitch, Agarwal reflected. But he wasn't complaining. He rarely got to witness canings, and especially not of American girls with asses that perfect. And certainly not after they'd undergone the hot glove. The four of them, pale and terrified, had been made to line up in one corner at the back of the room, which was covered with tiles. Desai called the first one forward. It was the slim blonde English one – Stafford. She was made to stand against the wall, then they turned two hosepipes on her. She shrieked – and no wonder, it was getting cold and the water must be icy. She held up her hands to try to defend herself but it was hopeless. For perhaps a minute they sprayed her – Kirin, he saw, took great delight in directing her hose at their breasts; she was pretty and he fantasised at times about her but he knew she could be vicious – and then she was shepherded to the other corner as the blonde one with the great tits was hosed. Then they did the one who'd just been flogged, McCormack, who was clearly still squirming from the hot glove. Finally there was Harris, the one with the bruises from a proper caning on her backside. She looked petrified.

As the four of them shivered together, two guards wielding large shakers threw delousing powder over them, a cloud hanging over the delicious mass of pale skin as they squealed. It stung, he knew, and it burned terribly if it got in their eyes. Then, one by one, they were shoved back across to be hosed down again, more thoroughly this time, front and back. Finally, in a line, they were marched out of the room.

*

Bobby was cold. How long had they been naked now? Her feet ached from the cold concrete, and the shower had been the final straw. Rebecca seemed on the verge of tears and Bobby could understand it. The temperature had dropped alarmingly since they'd got off the train and being paraded naked wasn't exactly helping. They'd been led from the shower room into a long corridor. A counter had been cut into one wall and behind that an anxious-looking man fussed around under direction from the sergeant.

Eventually each of them was handed what was essentially a dark grey pair of pyjamas: a thin shirt and pair of trousers. "Dress," the sergeant commanded and hurriedly Bobby did. On the left breast was a paler grey square in which was printed the number 2381. The sergeant explained that each Sunday they would hand in their clothing to be washed and be given a replacement set that they'd wear for a week before swapping back over.

A brown paper pack was dropped on the floor in front of each of them. "In there," the sergeant said, "you will find a mat, a blanket and basic toiletries. These are your responsibility. You will be given fresh supplies once a month. They will not otherwise be replaced. Pick up your packs and carry them on your heads."

"This is a prison," the sergeant said, clearly relishing her role. "If you behave and work hard, the clock will tick down until you leave. If you do not, you will be punished. We have isolation cells, we will place you on punitive work details and if necessary, we will flog you. You will be woken at 5.30. You will wash. Roll call is at 5.45. Breakfast is at 6. You will start work at 6.30. Is that clear?"

None of them said anything. She smiled. She walked up to Bobby and stood in front of her. "Is that clear?" she asked from six inches in front of her face. "Yes, ma'am," Bobby replied, but she wanted to spit at her.

The clothing offered some respite, but it was still cold. At least they weren't naked any more. But Bobby had never felt so alone, so scared, so vulnerable. Even strapped to the bench in the hall, even being whipped in the police station, she hadn't felt as helpless as this. She had nothing. Was there any way she could speak to her embassy? Would they even care? Rebecca had said her embassy hadn't helped at all.

They were led out of the building and across a rough courtyard to the middle of three long low huts. It was dark, but Bobby could see watchtowers looming up. A raw wind blew across the dry earth. Two guards waited by the door of the hut and unlocked it. Inside there was a dim light from a series of bulbs set behind mesh in the ceiling. There was a fug of heat, a smell of sweat and faeces. On the floor, arranged in ragged rows, were a perhaps sixty or seventy prisoners, dressed as they were, lying on mats, covered with blankets. Most seemed to be asleep, but some attention was paid to the new arrivals. Down one long wall were a series of mesh shelves. "Open your packs," said the sergeant. "Leave the stuff there."

They obeyed, unpacking the toiletries and laying them carefully down. "Don't forget where they are," the sergeant said. "Now, take your bedding and find somewhere to sleep." She prodded at Megan with her cane the turned to leave, flicking out at a prone form as she did so.

For a moment they stood uncertainly. There was no space on the floor. "Over there," said a prisoner from the floor, jerking her hand back towards the door. There were six buckets arranged along the wall and around them a little room.

Bobby knew what the buckets were but also knew they had no choice. She picked her way across the wooden floor. Sure enough, four of the buckets were half-filled with piss and shit, the other two with water. She put down her mat, lay on it, pulled the blanket over herself and tried to think of a time before she'd accused Father Johal of abuse.

It took a long time for sleep to come. A chill took over the room. She was scared and hungry, it was cold, it stank, the floor was hard and with all the other prisoners the room was surprising noisy. Every few minutes, it seemed, somebody came to piss. And the lights seemed to throb through her soul. She hardly seemed to have dropped off when a siren sounded. She grabbed her toiletries and, with the three others, followed a crowd of other prisoners through the door, joining a line that led into a block on the corner of the square. Guards patrolled everywhere, occasionally prodding or lashing out at a prisoner.

There were rows of pegs and dozens of women stripping before passing through an archway into a dim shower room. Bobby washed quickly in luke-warm water, then returned and dressed again. Her back screamed in pain. There were no towels, but there was a line of wash-basins where she cleaned her teeth. Seemingly rushing the whole time, she followed the others out into the square. It was chilly, a low sun just beginning to slice through a fine mist. They were made to line up in three long rows before their barracks and a sergeant shouted their names and then carried out a brief inspection.

She saw the courtyard clearly for the first time. Opposite the barracks was a tall building, a road leading through a gate in its centre. Beyond that to the left, she though, was the station and that block where they'd been processed on arrival. To the left of the square were two buildings: the shower block and another long low block. To the right was a barbed wire fence and beyond that, in what seemed like a separate closure, another, smaller block on which was painted the logo of the Secpol. She knew deep down what that meant: this was a torture centre as well as a work camp. Before it, even more terrifyingly, was a low platform on which was mounted a frame – two solid uprights angling towards each other at the top in the shape of the letter A, chains hanging from the apex, a cross bar mounted on it at about waist-height. It was, she had little doubt, a flogging frame. Either side of the platform were other, more mysterious frames, three uprights, about three or four yards apart topped by a bar about nine or ten feet off the ground from which hung a series of chains. What was it? A gallows?

Her feet were aching with the cold by the time they were dismissed. She followed the crowd into the building next to the shower block: a dining hall and kitchen. They lined up and were given a mug of weak tea and a chunk of tough bread each, before taking their seats on low wooden benches beside long tables. None of the other prisoners spoke to them, although some stared. The four of them were too frightened and too cowed to do anything other than mechanically chewing their food.

They dropped their mugs and plates into large tubs - some prisoners, evidently, were deputed to wash up – but the four of them were told to line up with a group of perhaps 40 women. They marched behind the barracks where there was another large barbed-wire fence and what Bobby guessed were the guards' accommodation blocks and then onto a road. As the sun rose the mist was burned off and it began to grow warm. The road was rough, hard on the feet. Rebecca, Bobby saw, was limping – the effects, presumably of having her feet beaten. Perhaps 20 guards, male and female, accompanied them. Some carried guns, a sergeant had a cane and the rest were all armed with leather straps. And there were four guards with dogs, which snarled every time they came close to a prisoner.

They walked for 20 minutes or so through scrubby country before reaching an area perhaps 800 yards square surrounded by another barbed wire fence. The land had been marked out, lines scoured in the dust dividing it into squares. Each prisoner was assigned a square and they were told to clear it of stones, placing those they removed into plastic buckets.

It was boring, annoying work. The sun beat down. After a few minutes Bobby was sweating freely and her fingers already were sore. Guards walked between them, occasionally shouting or flicking out with a strap. On one side of the site, a small group of prisoners dug a ditch. At least, Bobby thought, this work was better than that. She kept hearing shouts from over there, guards lashing out frequently.

After about an hour they were called together, told to carry their buckets and tip the contents into a small cart to which two bedraggled prisoners were harnessed. A guard monitored how much they'd gathered, occasionally threatening punishment if the prisoner didn't gather more in the next hour. Bottles of water were passed around. Everybody seemed too tired to talk and after five minutes they were set back to work.

*

Beth's hair was damp with sweat. Her buttocks were sore and she wasn't entirely sure her insides had stopped tingling from the hot glove. Her knees and back ached and her fingers were stiff and scratched. The sun was high in the sky when they were gathered together and marched back along the road to the camp. Rebecca was limping badly; they were all exhausted. They went back into the dining hall and lined up to be given a tin plate of rice and a watery stew of vegetables and lentils with the occasional hunk of mutton floating in it, often still attached to the bone.

For about half an hour they were allowed to rest, then it was back to the field and the stone picking. As the sun began to set, the guards took exception to the number of stones gathered by a plumpish prisoner in her mid-twenties. She shouted abuse at her, and then, a look of horror on her face, she was marched off to join the group digging the ditch. That was punishment detail, then. Surreptitiously, Beth watched what happened to her, guards screaming at her, striking her as she tried to dig. She made a vow then always to do at least enough not to have to go through that.

By the time they were gathered together again to march back, the sun had almost gone and she was beginning to feel the chill through her sweat-soaked clothes. Dinner was the same stew as lunch, and then they were allowed to wash again before a roll-call in the floodlit yard and bed. Beth was exhausted. She lay flat on her belly, feeling the aches across her body, wishing she could lie on her back, but the stripes on her buttocks were too much. Then they had to do it all again.

*

Colonel Uppal picked up his cup and lifted it to his lips. Then put it down again: it was empty. He reached for the flask Shilpa, his pretty secretary, had left for him but that was empty as well. Reluctantly, he went to his fridge and took out a Red Bull. What time was it? A little after 2. But he had to break the back of these reports by morning.

Uppal was in his late-thirties and a rising star of the Secpol. He was an intelligence officer. He read, he thought, he understood. He interrogated. He had men to do the torturing for him. He'd thought the women's camp was a dead end, although many of his friends had envied him. Sure, if he'd wanted to he could have picked the prettiest prisoners and made them perform unspeakable acts, but his job was intelligence. He was good. He got inside prisoners' heads. He felt he was wasted at a women's camp.

But then the Rainbow conspiracy was uncovered. Americans, British, Australians, plotting in his country. He would break this circle. He would show no mercy. He would have those women in his cells and he would work them over like nobody had ever been worked over. He would cajole and charm, tease and torment. He would cleanse their souls. He would break this conspiracy. And he would be a hero.

But first he had to read the files. Really read them.

*

Agarwal sipped at his water and watched idly at the line of prisoners queuing to empty their buckets into the cart. It was about 6.30 in the evening. Two more hours of this and he could go back to the camp out of this infernal sun. Stafford tipped her bucket – a moderate return – and then peeled around to get water. Then came Donohue, chest straining at the front of her jacket. She tipped her bucket into the cart.

"Is that it?" asked Sergeant Lorgat sharply. He was a hard man in his late forties, somebody Agarwal had always thought seemed out of place here.

"Sir?" She looked anxious, and brushed a damp tendril of blonde hair from her face.

"You're meant to be doing hard labour," he snapped. "It's not a holiday camp."

She swallowed. "I'm sorry, sir."

"You will be. Punishment detail for the rest of the day."

Agarwal hastened forward and took her arm, noting the firmness of the flesh beneath her shirt. A female guard, Dayal, took her other arm and they led her, unresisting, to join the detail digging ditches. Agarwal could feel her anxiety but also her femininity. He enjoyed pushing women around, enjoyed being able to grab hold of whoever he wanted. Although there were limits. The governor was very much of the old school.

It was Thaker who was in charge, a woman who seemed eternal, steely hair pulled back in a tight bun. She handed Donohue a shovel and gestured at the three other women digging between two strings pegged out on the ground. Two male soldiers, Puri and Reddy, watched over them as they sweated and strained. This was the plum job, Agarwal reflected, driving these wretches as hard as you wanted, essentially allowed to do what you wanted with them. Kirin always seemed to get selected when she was on duty. That was the dream: working with Kirin on punishment detail. He lingered for a moment, watching Donohue's discomfort as, with a bare foot, she pushed the blade of the shovel into the dusty earth. Puri immediately began berating her. Reluctantly, Agarwal returned to the stone-pickers.

*

Megan lay back on her mat. She was exhausted, every muscle aching. Digging the ditch had been the hardest thing she'd ever done. Her feet were in agony, her hands were blistered and her back was stiff and sore. It would have been tough even if she'd been in peak fitness. After her beating and the poor food it had been almost impossible, sweat coursing off her and nausea welling as the soldiers shouted abuse at her.

And then, when they'd finally got back to the camp, there'd been a prisoner bound on one of the frames in front of the Secpol building, arms above her head. This, she'd learned, was one of their punishments, leaving prisoners there for hours at a time. Sometimes, said Meera, the prisoner she'd asked, they hung them off the ground. Meera was an intense woman in her early twenties, nine months into an 18-month term for attending demonstrations.

"Try to keep your head down," she'd said, but they both knew that for a blonde woman here that was easier said than done.

And she'd also warned her that only about half the prisoners were political. Others were real criminals, sent to the camp to avoid the hassle of a trial – and they could be dangerous. Every now and again, Meera had said, prisoners would be flogged – usually with leather straps, but sometimes with canes. They'd all have to watch after roll-call while the prisoner was stripped – sometimes naked, sometimes just shirt or trousers removed - and beaten: six strokes, ten, sometimes as many as twenty. And there were disappearances, prisoners taken by the Secpol who sometimes didn't return. Those who did spoke of beatings and electric shocks. Had anybody ever escaped, Megan had asked. Meera had just laughed. "Where to? To the desert?"

It was hopeless. All they could do was wait. She didn't think she could cope. Two years of terrible food, mind-numbing exhausting work, cold and heat, lack of sleep, and constant fear. Would they be raped? She'd seen the lascivious looks of some of the men. She knew how they'd been stared at on arrival. And she remembered the terror of Rebecca, remembered that she had the shortest sentence, and she knew she had to be strong.

She heard the door open and, to her surprise, there was a smell of alcohol. There was a large group of guards stumbled in, male and female, and they came over to the buckets. There was a brief discussion and then they grabbed Beth's blanket and ordered her to get up. Slightly dazed, she obeyed.

"How's your bottom?" one shouted and gave her a sharp smack. Beth grunted and said nothing, Two of them grabbed her arms and they pulled her to the door of the hut and outside. What was this? Were they taking her for torture? It seemed more as though they were just having fun. For fuck's sake: how could they do this?

It was perhaps half an hour later when Beth was shoved back through the door to hoots of laughter. "What did they do to you?" Megan asked. Beth lay down and turned away, clearly upset, a red mark evident on her cheek. "They made me clean their room," she said. "And they knocked me around a bit."

Jesus.

*

Uppal yawned and took another gulp of coffee. The important thing was to ignore the pressure to get started. He had to understand the situation fully. The constant influx didn't help. Some of the more minor prisoners he had to leave to his juniors, although there was a danger in that. Narayan had nearly beaten a girl to death last week. No subtlety.

Donohue, he thought, was of interest primarily because of the contacts she may have. She was a photographer, not a revolutionary. Harris seemed a little naïve, caught up in things she didn't understand. And he knew Patel – a good officer. He'd worked her over properly. There probably wasn't much more there, but it never hurt to try. And there was that file found in her room which contained some details and two pages in some kind of code. McCormack was a different matter, clearly in it up to her neck. The report on her was sloppy, but that was often the way with airport police even with Patel's assistance. She definitely required serious examination.

But the one who fascinated him was Stafford. Six different prisoners had implicated her, including Donohue and McCormack. Six! There had to be something in that. But what? The allegations were vague. He couldn't work out how Donohue and McCormack even knew her. What was the connection? But maybe that was the cleverness of it all. She sat in the background at her school in the middle of nowhere and pulled strings. Maybe she was the spider at the centre of the web. And if she was, he would find out.

*

The heat was just beginning to go out of the day. Agarwal was tired, paying the price for the previous night's drinking. He watched McCormack crouching in the dust, remembering her crawling around as she collected cigarette butts from the floor and swept up with a dustpan and brush. It wasn't what he'd have liked to do with her, but it had been a couple of the girls who'd decided to make her do that after realising just how filthy the mess-room was. He'd enjoyed looked at her ass as she shuffled about but, still, he'd rather have had her naked. And he'd enjoyed Kirin slapping her every time she paused.

There was probably only 15 minutes or so left before they marched them back. By this stage of the day, the pace dropped; everybody was tired and keen to return to camp. He felt himself nodding off, but was suddenly jerked awake by a clatter. He looked up. Stafford had knocked her bucket over. Silly girl. She hastened to tidy up, but Dayal was standing by her and Sergeant Lorgat was already striding over.

"What's going on?" he snapped.

‘I'm sorry, sir," she replied. "It was an accident."

"Stand up," he said.

Uncertainly, she obeyed, face pink with exertion beneath her damp blonde hair. "I'm not certain I believe in accidents," he said. He was going to punish her. Agarwal was delighted. "When we get back," Lorgat said, "you'll go on the punishment frame. No dinner for you. Four hours."

*

Bobby felt exhausted. Her shirt clung to her with sweat, her limbs ached, her feet were in agony from walking on rough surfaces. And she was hungry. But as they reached the camp, half a dozen guards surrounded her and, laughing, marched her over to the frames. Roughly, they positioned her underneath the cross beam, so she looked directly across at the dining room. Chains were lowered and the straps fastened around her wrists. She was too numb to react, watching dully as the leather cuffs were tightened and the buckles fastened over skin that was still grazed from her struggles in the cuffs when they'd whipped her. They raised her arms until her hands were a little above the level of her head. When had she become somebody used to being tied up?

"Four hours," said one of them. "Have fun."

Bobby looked at the ground. The six guards surrounded her – all women. One of them patted her backside. "Flat little thing, isn't it?" she taunted.

Bobby was taken back, inevitably, to standing naked on the stage at the school. She determined not to react. Another guard tapped her left breast through the shirt. "Not much here either," she said. "Like a little boy. Are you sure you're in the right camp?"

Bobby ignored her. "Maybe we should send you down the road to the men's camp? Would you like it there? Cock up your arse every night?" She stroked her cheek with mock tenderness, but still Bobby didn't react. The guard at her and then the six of them walked off. "Dinner time," one said over her shoulder.

It was growing cold and her damp shirt was beginning to feel chill against her skin. She tried to clear her mind. She could endure this. This wasn't as bad as the hall at school. She wasn't naked. She wasn't about to be caned again. Or whipped. But she was cold and hungry and her arms were already beginning to feel stiff. She stretched. Her back was sore. She shuffled her feet. Four hours was roughly the time she'd been naked on the stage. This was nothing compared to that. Except she was cold and tired and when it was done she'd be going to lie on a mat on a hard concrete floor. That, at least was better than 36 lashes of the cane but it was only the beginning. This was her third day. Three of 1826. Five years of picking up stones and being abused. What were they picking up stones for anyway? They surely didn't think you could ever grow anything on that land?

She wondered if there was any point dreaming of escape. Dozens of guards, barbed wire everywhere. And even if they did get out, they'd be in a desert with no idea where they were. And what would they do to anybody they caught? If it was four hours standing like this for knocking over some stones, what would they do to somebody who escaped? A flogging, she was sure, and she'd seen poor Rebecca's arse.

She looked around. The station and main entrance to her right. Was there any way of getting on a train when new prisoners were delivered? Or of somehow hiding away in a supply truck? The cell-blocks to her left. The Secpol centre behind her. Fences and watch-towers everywhere. Dogs. Guards. Guns. Truncheons. On the other side of the whipping platform she could see nine squares in the ground. What was that, she wondered? Drains? Was there a way out there?

The minutes passed. Occasionally a passing guard would jeer. She felt colder and stiffer. She saw them come out of dinner, have roll-call and go into the shower block. She saw them come out again. She kept moving her feet on the dusty earth, lifting and lowering her arms but the punishment had its effect. She ached. She wanted to lie down. Late in the fourth hour, three male guards approached.

"Pretty lady," one said, stroking her cheek. She looked straight ahead. "Ooh, playing hard to get," he taunted. "Come on, fuck me and I'll make sure you're looked after."

Was this how it worked? He kissed her clumsily on the lips, and let his hand fall across her breast. She tensed. He grasped her buttocks. She could taste the foulness of his breath. She felt ill. Would she be raped? Having heard what Rebecca and Beth had gone through, she realised she'd got away with it with Father Johal, horrible as that had been. His tongue pushed against her mouth. She kept her teeth clenched shut, closing her eyes to try to block out the horror. He licked her, kissing the end of her nose then, laughing, tapped the side of her chest. They hurried way. She shuddered.

The same women guards who had fastened her up came and released her. She felt a surge of pain as the blood returned to her shoulders and arms. They hurried across the yard to the accommodation block and shoved her in. Cold and stiff, she staggered in, stumbling towards her mattress. A prisoner stood up and blocked her way. "How many did you fuck?" she hissed.

Bobby was startled. She blinked in the gloomy light trying to focus. The prisoner was short, almost rat-like in her skinniness, a scar evident on her left temple. Chaudry, Bobby thought she was called.

"What?"

"How many of them did you fuck, you fucking whore? We all know your game, fucking them for favours. How many?"

Bobby felt a fury building in her. This was so unfair. "They tied me on the frame for four hours," she said. She could hear the tension in her voice.

"Did you let them use your ass? Or did you just suck them off with your fucking blow-job lips?"

Chaudry snatched at her trousers. "Let's have look," she said.

Bobby stepped back and pushed at her. The prisoner grabbed her wrists. Then Megan was there and the situation calmed. Chaudry glared at her. "I'll get you," she hissed. "I'll get you both."

*

It was mid-afternoon and hot. Reddy was bored. He shouldn't be spending his Saturdays like this. Even the thrill of watching the white girls work had worn off a little after a week. He watched idly as the prisoners went to tip their stones into the wagon. It was Thaker on duty and she took exception to Stafford's haul. "Is that it?" she asked.

Stafford just looked at her, dumbly, as though too exhausted to say anything. A wet strand of hair clung to her forehead. Thaker shrugged. "Punishment detail, two hours," she said, and Reddy hurried forward to lead her away. Two hours of digging would exhaust her. It was Mangal on duty, an old woman a couple of weeks from retirement. He wished it had been one of the stricter sergeants then they might have got the girl stripped, seen her little tits. Still, he and Puri could have some fun.

He watched as Stafford pushed the spade into the ground, pale foot obviously too soft for the task. She was slender without being skinny, a rare combination over here. They let her dig for a few minutes, the strain obvious, sweat dripping from her. And then they began. It was a well-worn routine. Puri kicked loose soil into the hole she'd dug. "Is that it? Is that all you've done?" he shouted.

Reddy followed up. "You little whore! Why do we give you food? Why do we waste resources on you? You lazy bitch! Work!"

She said nothing but kept digging. "Faster!" yelled Puri.

"You soft, weak, self-entitled little bitch! Never done a day's work in your life, have you?"

Her face was red, her pain as she pushed the spade in clear. But she kept working so Reddy wandered away. They kept up the assault though, returning every few minutes to add further abuse. She had about quarter of an hour remaining when they went back for a final go. She looked exhausted, face beetroot, shirt soaked, hair clinging to her head. Puri kicked a pile of soil into the ditch and it caused a small avalanche, wiping out perhaps 10 minutes work. "Fuck you!" she said.

Sergeant Mangal heard. It was terrible luck for Stafford that she'd happened to be passing, but Reddy felt a surge of excitement. Mangal would punish her, he was sure. She was old-fashioned, hated swearing. "Put down the shovel," she said, in her menacing croak. Stafford, with a look of resignation obeyed.

"What do you say?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am," Stafford said dutifully. "I shouldn't have said that."

"No, you shouldn't. Punishment cell tonight."

Reddy was furious. Others would have the fun.

*

Sometime, Bobby thought, people would stop abusing her. What had she done to deserve this? Even Chaudry had picked on her. She was horrible, a vicious bitch. Everybody seemed terrified of her. She'd had some connection to a drug gang, Bobby had been told when she'd asked around. It was thought she'd killed at least four people. There were even rumours that when the bosses needed somebody interrogated, they got her to do it. And she wasn't even the boss, just an enforcer for a fat woman called Amitab who ruled the hut.

After dinner she'd been taken aside by a group of guards. They'd taunted her – but then they always did – and taken her towards the flogging posts. She felt a momentary fear that she was to be lashed, but she was taken to the side to those nine squares she's seen when she'd been bound to the frame. Close up, she'd realised they weren't drains. They were just gratings about four feet square, covering small concrete-lined cuboid spaces about three feet deep: the punishment cells. They'd lifted a grating, pushed her in, tossed a thin blanket after her, then closed the grating above her, slamming home two bolts that were locked with padlocks. A couple of them spat down on her, and then she was left.

She'd checked the grating, of course, but it was solid, the padlocks secure, the hinges firmly mounted. How long ago had that been? She had no idea. At first it had simply been uncomfortable, curled up on the grimy concrete, smelling the filth of previous inhabitants. But the temperature dropped rapidly and now she was desperately cold, constantly rubbing herself to try to keep warm.

That morning, they'd witnessed their first flogging, the prisoners gathered in the cold after roll-call before the platform. A girl from one of the other huts – probably in her early twenties – was ordered up from the lines. They'd fastened her on the frame, wrists cuffed to the back upright so her buttocks rested on the central bar. Then they'd yanked down her trousers and two female guards had given her six strokes of the grade one strap. It had a wooden handle to which was attached a length of flat leather perhaps two feet long and an inch and a half across. It was the lightest implement they used, Meera had told them. Yet the slaps were terrifying enough, and the victim was in clear distress by the time they'd finished. Bobby had stared, thinking inevitably of her own caning. This looked nowhere near so bad, but she had no desire to find out.

Eventually she had to piss. There was a small drain in one corner but the floor wasn't flat and she was concerned by what would happen if she was inaccurate – there was no point sitting in a pool of her own rapidly chilling urine if she could avoid it. How had it got to this, that she had to plan where to piss so as not to end up freezing in a pool of her own waste? And so she huddled all night, cold, uncomfortable, aching from the work, her back still sore from the whipping, her left foot in agony. If she slept it was in snatches, five minutes here, ten minutes there, the cold always there to wake her. When she was pulled out to shower the next morning, she felt exhausted.

At breakfast, Megan handed over her tea. "You need it," she said. Bobby refused at first but then took it. Megan was right: it would help. Thank God she had Megan to protect her.

*

Sergeant Thaker glared at Stafford. "I had to punish you yesterday," she said. "Don't make me do it today." Two hours had passed on the Sunday afternoon and Stafford looked exhausted. Her haul of stones really should have earned her punishment, but Thaker understood she was suffering from a night in the punishment cell and gave her a final chance. She sent two other prisoners over for an hour digging the ditches, though: standards had to be maintained.

She watched Stafford carefully in the third hour. Struggling badly. Well, there was nothing she could do. She pulled her aside as she tipped her stones into the cart. "You are a disgrace, Stafford," she said. "I warned you and still you disappoint me."

"I'm sorry, ma'am. I'm very tired."

"Shut up! I'm not interested in your excuses." She'd thought carefully about an appropriate punishment. She decided to pass the problem on to Sergeant Mangal. "Punishment detail for the rest of the afternoon," she said.

Stafford's shoulders dropped and she shook her head slowly. Two guards hastened her over.

*

Bobby had never felt so tired. She was nauseous with exhaustion, sweat dripping from her. Her muscles were leaden. How could she do four hours of this? Her left foot was in agony, so she'd tried switching to her right but that hurt as well. Only 25 minutes had passed when one of the guards alerted the sergeant to what she called her laziness. It was the same sergeant as the day before, the old woman who'd sent her to the punishment cell. She started to explain her tiredness but the sergeant cut her off. "Punishment cell," she said wearily. God, not another night.

But she still had to work. She got through to about ten minutes into the third hour, by which time her clothes were soaked, her muscles trembling. Breathing was difficult. Imagine if she hadn't been fit. Her eyes stung with sweat, her mouth was dry, despite the water each hour. Then the sergeant approached. "Your laziness cannot be tolerated," she said. "What should we do to liven you up?"

Bobby stared at the ground. Half a dozen guards had gathered, four women and two men, the pair who'd abused her the day before. What would they do? "I think you should see the governor tonight, see if he thinks a flogging would help."

Not again.

*

Governor Mistry had known this would happen, but he'd hoped it might have taken a little longer. Bobby Stafford, serving a five-year term, had been sent to the punishment cell after swearing at a guard doing punishment detail. Then she'd been sent to do further punishment detail and had slacked off. The threat of another night in a punishment cell hadn't helped. What was he supposed to do? If she was weak or lazy, how could he change that? It wasn't her fault she'd been brought up soft. And what would the consequences be if he had an English girl flogged?

But he had to do something. He called her in from where she'd been sitting in the corridor outside his room. She looked frail, salt marks clear on her clothing from her sweat. She limped to stand demurely before his desk. Four guards followed her, although they were surely unnecessary.

"Stafford," he said, "You disappoint me. You've been sent for punishment detail twice in two days. Both times additional punishment has been ordered because of your laziness. Still you didn't work. What is wrong with you?"

"Sir," she said unsurely, looking at him with her remarkable dark eyes. "I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I didn't sleep. I'm trying…"

He felt a surge of anger. "It's a prison," he said. "You're here for forced labour. You will labour."

"Yes sir," she said.

He had no option, he knew. "I will let you off the night in the punishment cell," he said. "But you will be flogged in the morning."

She bit the inside of her lip. "You will receive the grade two strap upon your shoulders. Eight strokes. I will then permit you a day in the infirmary."

*

Bobby could take this, Beth was sure. From what she'd said of her two beatings, this sounded less bad than either, although Meera had said that the grade two strap was a lot worse than the grade one that they'd seen two days earlier. Bobby, exhausted, had slept for three or four hours, then had woken and lain fretfully. They'd tried to help, the three of them, but what could you say?

After roll call the prisoners were gathered in front of the platform. The guards were out in force as well, even those who were off duty. It was cold, the mist still thick. Bobby's name was called out and she presented herself, walking up with an attitude of nervous defiance. A female sergeant with a plait read out the sentence. "Roberta Stafford, for persistent laziness, you will receive eight strokes of the grade two strap across your shoulders."

She turned to Bobby. "Take your shirt off," she said. Bobby gave a slight flick of her head, jaw thrusting out, and unbuttoned her shirt, handing it to a guard. There was something obscene about this, her breasts exposed in the cold before all these prisoners and guards, the mark on her collar-bone clear. There were some hoots and jeers. Chaudry and her gang, Beth noticed, were particularly vocal, but for the most part there was silence. They all knew it could be them. Bobby stood pale and thin in the early-morning light, head bowed. How humiliating must it be to have your breasts bared like that in front of a crowd? Guards pushed her towards the post. Her hands were buckled in leather cuffs which were raised above her head, then her ankles cuffed to the base of the frame, the central bar meaning she was bent forward slightly at the waist. A strap was passed over her hips, then a pulley turned to raise her hands further, stretching her out.

Beth glanced at Megan who caught her eye and shook her head slightly. Rebecca seemed on the verge of tears. Bobby's back was still marked by the whipping she'd taken before her sentencing, just pale streaks, but marks nonetheless. The two guards who were to administer the flogging stepped forward, tall women, bearing straps perhaps three feet long and a clearly heavier than the grade one version.

The beating was horrible to watch. The straps crashed into Bobby's skin, each one immediately leaving a broad pink stripe. They seemed to land with incredible power. The first three she took silently. The next three with grunts, but by eight she was shouting in pain. By then her slender back was a vivid red. She looked terrifyingly small, the punishment out of sync with her size. But she took the flogging, and while she was clearly stiff and in pain as she was unfastened, she survived. Beth felt a great sense of relief. As they led Bobby away, she saw the smirk on Chaudry's face. It was all she could do not to attack her.

*

Bobby had needed the time in the infirmary. A nurse had applied some ointment to her back and she'd slept most of the day. The eight strokes had been nothing like as bad as the caning or the whipping, but they'd hurt badly enough, and being stripped half-naked in the cold, bound up in front of an audience and thrashed was never nothing. How had this happened? How had she become somebody who regarded eight lashes as not too bad? Her back burned with the sting, heavy blows that smarted and left bruises, hurting dreadfully when two bows intersected. And the nudity, her little breasts revealed to hundreds of prisoners and guards… yet she had felt discomfort rather than the crushing humiliation on the stage in the school. It hadn't even as bad as being naked in front of the police. Was she becoming immune to shame?

But then she thought of them binding her. Thought of the terror of waiting for the first lash, the pain of the blow, the awful sequence of lash, pain, wait, lash, pain, wait. She thought of the governor peering over his glasses as he decided precisely where they would hit her how often and with what, and she knew she had five years of this and little way of clearing her name and the tears came again.

By the time she'd joined the others at roll-call the following morning, she didn't feel too bad. Sleep had helped and she settled back into the rhythm of misery. She'd coped with work on the Monday and the Tuesday, and she was feeling relatively optimistic as they trudged back to camp.

She talked to Meera as they walked. Some prisoners, Meera said, gave favours to the guards in return for special treatment. Rape was rare because the governor was a stickler for justice – or at least this government's perverse form of it. Guards had been expelled from the camp for attacking prisoners, but couple of women in one of the other huts were effectively having full-on relationships with male guards who gave them better food and made sure they were treated leniently. And then there was the issue of the gangs. Amitab was a second cousin of a major drug dealer. She'd been jailed because somebody had to be after an investigation and the dealer himself had offered her up. But he'd also paid off the guards to ensure she was given the easiest work detail, to get her better food and to make sure she was protected. She had to be obeyed. And Chaudry, little rat-like Chaudry, was her main enforcer. She'd been beaten once when she'd slapped a guard but otherwise was left free to do Amitab's bidding.

Bobby was wondering if she could somehow divert money to somebody important when she saw Chaudry dart up behind Rebecca. She was about to shout a warning but she was too late. Chaudry tripped her and as she did so, wrenched down her trousers. Rebecca fell, heavily, with a flash of pale leg and instinctively tried to lash out, all she did was stumble on further and she shouted in anger. "Fuck!" She glared at Chaudry as she pulled her trousers up. "Fuck you!" she shouted, getting to her feet. Bobby closed her eyes. It was a terrible mistake. Lorgat was on the spot instantly.

He grabbed Rebecca by the hair and shook her. Bobby started towards him, but Meera laid a hand on her arm. "Don't make it worse," she said.

"You think swearing's clever, do you?" he shouted, shaking her violently. "Do you?"

"Sorry, sir," Rebecca mumbled. "I tripped… She tripped me." She pointed at Chaudry.

"I. Don't. Care!" he roared. He threw her down. "You will do punishment detail all morning tomorrow," he said. "It's your lucky day. I'm in charge."

*

A meeting? Uppal didn't have time for a meeting. What was wrong with them? He need to build the picture. He needed to prepare. And now he and Lieutenant Narayan had been summoned to the regional capital for a meeting with General Sen. What was the point?

He and Narayan had taken the train down together. They tolerated each other rather than liking each other. He knew Narayan thought he was a pretentious fool with his expensive education and his methods, but then he thought Narayan was a brute, although he too had been to university. Narayan, he knew, couldn't wait to get started on the white girls. He'd already asked a couple of times which one they'd begin with and if he should prepare anything.

On the way south, Uppal had asked Narayan if he'd read the files. "I've skimmed them, sir," he'd said. Skimmed them: that was the problem of the present regime's haste. And the problem of Narayan. So he'd asked what he would do. "I have one of them severely whipped so they know what's what," he ‘d said. "Thrash her senseless then hand her back over. Let them see what defying us is. Let them feel fear."

The plan wasn't a bad one, but Uppal knew that Narayan just wanted to whip one of them. "Which one?" he'd asked.

Narayan had considered for a moment. "McCormack," he said. "She's the one we know is involved."

But that was also why they had to be careful with her, why they had to make sure they got every drip of information out of her. She was also the one with the biggest tits.

And then there'd been the meeting itself. Sen asking why he hadn't started. Telling him to use "all methods" to break this ring. It would be politically advantageous, he was told, if western governments were implicated. He had nodded and spoken of truth, but he feared his version of truth and Sen's were quite different.

*

Lorgat looked at Harris, who nibbled her lip anxiously. What was wrong with her? He hated softness. He was a man who had driven himself to the maximum to get to where he was. He had worked as a shoeshine boy while he was at school to support his family. His father had lost a leg in the war and although he'd done menial jobs had never been the same since – not that that had eased his temper or the sting of his belt. He'd gone to military school and had impressed his superiors with his asceticism and discipline, his ability to endure. But he was from a poor family so advancement hadn't come as quickly as it should have, which is why he was here, working in a women's camp, bullying and harassing enemies of the state.

"Start digging," he said. She picked up the spade uncertainly and pushed it into the dry earth. "Use your foot!" he snapped. What was wrong with her? Indulged from a young age, he was sure. Well, he would sort her out. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he said. "And you will dig and dig and dig. And if you slack, I will punish you."

After quarter of an hour he went back to her. She'd barely made an impression. "Come here!" he shouted. She stood, head bowed in front of him, breathing heavily. She knew how to use her prettiness, he saw, pretending to be subservient. "You think that's good enough?"

"No, sir," she murmured.

"What?"

"No, sir."

"Then why aren't you trying harder?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm doing my best. I'm not very strong."

"You're pathetic. Get digging or we'll have to work out ways of encouraging you."

She nodded demurely and returned to work. But when he came back after another 15 minutes, although she was sweating heavily, she'd made only limited progress.

*

Rebecca's heart was thumping. Sweat stung her eyes. Her shirt stuck to her. Her feet hurt, her shoulders and back ached. She stared at the dusty ground, listening only vaguely as the sergeant shouted at her. It was the second time he'd bawled at her that morning, and other guards had heaped on abuse. But it was pointless. She couldn't work harder. She suspected something terrible was about to happen. "Harris," he said, "I have given you chance after chance and still you defy me."

"Sir, I-"

"Shut up!"

She flinched at his shout.

"If I want you to speak I will ask you. I will teach you discipline. If you will not work you will be punished. You will learn."

She swallowed. He was about to hurt her, she knew. "Take your shirt off."

She looked up sharply.

"Now!"

She glanced at the sky and then began. Her arms were so tired it was hard but slowly she unbuttoned it and slipped it off her shoulders, exposing her tender torso to the sun.

"Give it to me."

Reluctantly she handed her shirt over, clasping her hands across her chest. "You can have it back at lunchtime. Now work!"

It took her a moment to react. He was going to make her work topless till lunchtime? She saw the grins of two soldiers behind him. She considered protesting, but knew there'd be no point. She turned, picked up the spade and, breasts exposed, began digging.

It was awful. The torrent of mockery was constant, their laughter, their comments, the sun beating on her naked back. The two of them spent most of their time standing next to her, shouting at her to work harder, talking about her breasts.

"Go on!" one shouted. "Work harder. Dig, dig, jiggle, jiggle."

"Harder! Make them bounce!"

On and on it went. Every few minutes they would go away for a brief time, but then they'd be back with their taunts, threatening to kick the dirt back into the ditch, threatening her, laughing.

*

Lorgat watched her work. He didn't like how the boys teased her but realistically there was no way of stopping them and it did perhaps encourage her. She worked solidly, her lovely trim body gleaming with sweat. He thought she should be working quicker, but he knew he couldn't push her too hard. When she had her water break after an hour, she was obviously struggling. After an hour and a half, her could see the muscles in her arms tremble. After an hour and 40 minutes, she actually stopped, leaning on her shovel for half a minute or so until she saw him approach. He couldn't accept that.

"Trousers off," he said. He saw her lower lip wobble as she pulled them down.

Silently she went to work, naked, pathetically small in the dirt. He saw the bruising on her buttocks – browns, greens and yellows. He'd heard rumours she'd been flogged but he hadn't realised how serious it must have been. For a time he watched her girlish body straining, a sight he was surprised to find alluring, her gentleness such a contrast to the brutality around her. "Work!" he said as he pulled himself away.

But 25 minutes later, she paused again, wiping sweat from her brow, panting. He couldn't show mercy. He told her to report to the governor that evening. He was worried though. He could see now that this wasn't just laziness. She was weak. She was exhausted, heart pounding. He couldn't beat her into submission.

"You are pathetic," he said. "I've never met anybody as weak as you."

She looked at the ground.

"What are you?" he asked.

"Pathetic," she said. "Weak."

"I will help you. Take 30 minutes off. Stand by the ditch with the shovel on your shoulders. Think about your weakness. Then you will work for 15 minutes, stand for 15 minutes, work for 15 minutes until lunch."

She picked up the shovel and lay it over her slender shoulders, hooking her arms over it. "Yes, sir," she said. It was degrading. Her breasts felt horribly exposed.

"What do you say?"

"Thank you, sir."

*

Rebecca stood in the governor's office, waiting for him to decide how to hurt her. Why had she sworn? It was simple enough: don't swear, don't give them the excuse. And once she'd been given punishment detail, her fate was sealed. She just wasn't strong enough. The morning had been hell, working till she felt nauseous, shaking with effort, stripped and abused by those two guards. Her head still ached with dehydration. She wasn't quite sure how she'd got through the afternoon without incurring further penalties, with all her clothes on.

The governor scanned the report sheet in front of him, shaking his head. He looked up, peering over his glasses. "Abusive language… aggressive attitude… laziness… you were stripped naked and still slacked off… What are we to do?"

Rebecca bit her lip. She assumed he didn't want an answer.

"Well?" he asked, his voice harder.

"I don't know, sir," she said.

"If I put you on punishment detail you'll be back here tomorrow night, won't you?"

"Sir, I'm not strong enough…"

"Then I have to have you flogged."

She whimpered. "Please…" she began, but she could think of nothing else. Her mind went back to her nakedness in the yard, being strapped on that frame, the unbearable pain of the canes.

"Grade one cane on your buttocks," he said.

"No…"

"Ten lashes."

She shook her head. "Then two hours on the frame and you can spend the rest of the day in the infirmary."

*

Megan knew it was bad as soon as Rebecca was returned to the hut. Her eyes looked empty, she walked as though dazed. The guards shoved her but she barely responded as she picked her way to her mat. When they'd gone, Megan moved over to her. "What is it?" she asked, laying a comforting hand on Rebecca's shoulder.

"Ten with the cane," she said. "Grade one."

"Oh God." What could she say? The poor girl. "On your bottom?"

Rebecca nodded.

She thought of the bruising she'd seen in the showers, the yellows and greens and brownish streaks. "Does it still hurt?"

"A bit," she said, lip quivering.

Megan squeezed her shoulder. She felt so angry and helpless. Rebecca began to sob and Megan hugged her. "It'll be OK," she sad, but she wasn't sure it would be.

*

It was a chilly morning, frost on the ground, breath steaming. Sergeant Desai was glad of her coat, although she knew within an hour or two she'd be down to shirtsleeves. The prisoners huddled in front of the punishment platform, on which two floggers flexed their canes, warming up. "Rebecca Harris," she called out. "Come up to the stage."

She saw the girl move forward, small and slight, head bowed. One of the other western prisoners patted her shoulder as she went but there were jeers from others she passed. Four guards approached in case she needed encouragement but she kept going, slowly. Desai was looking forward to this: make another one of these arrogant white girls pay.

Harris took terrified, but she joined her on the stage. It was the one who'd been flogged back in the capital, Desai realised. "Rebecca Harris," she announced, "for persistent laziness, you will receive ten strokes of the grade one cane across your buttocks."

*

Rebecca felt sick. She was desperately cold, her feet aching on the rough wood of the platform. She didn't dare lift her head, just looked at her pale feet. She was shivering.

"Strip naked," said the sergeant.

She'd hoped they might just bare her buttocks but hadn't really believed it. Mechanically, her hands went to her shirt. Her fingers were cold and stiff but she unbuttoned it. She could feel panic rising. She kept looking down, but she knew hundreds of eyes were on her. Did it make a difference they were largely female eyes rather than male? Not really. She shucked off her shirt and stood bare-chested in the cold. Her hands went to the button of her trousers. Perhaps the hatred was less. Perhaps some felt sympathy for her, but many didn't and, fundamentally, they were stripping her to make her even more vulnerable before tying her up and hurting her.

She slid her trousers down and she was naked in the grey morning light. She felt terribly cold. Guards took her arms and they turned her round, leading her to the frame. She heard a murmur as the bruising on her buttocks was revealed. Her chest tightened. She could taste bile. It wasn't like the frame they'd caned her on in the capital: there was nowhere to kneel – just the shape of the letter A inclined back resting on a bar perhaps nine or ten feet off the ground, itself supported by two uprights a yard or so apart. Her feet were so frozen they barely responded. She thought she might piss herself. Her chest hurt. They pushed her up against the frame, her hip bones pushing against a rough blanket that had been wrapped around the central bar. They pulled her ankles back so she almost fell forwards, fasting them in straps at the base, then pulled her arms forward to fasten them to the back supports. She was a little too small for the structure, stretched tight, toes only just touching the ground. As her torso tipped forward into that horribly familiar position, horizontal, breasts hanging down in shallow cones, buttocks raised and exposed, she could feel her heart pounding.

*

Agarwal looked on keenly. After being far too far back when the English girl had been strapped, he'd managed to get to within about 20 yards of the platform for this one. He'd rarely seen anybody look so scared. Harris was delicate and pretty, her skin lovely and smooth, but it was her terror that made this stand out. Desai was a bitch as well – there'd been no need to strip her naked, not that he was complaining. And Malhotra and Sai were brutal floggers, two of the toughest half-dozen women in the camp. They flexed the canes, whipping them through the air, taunting Harris.

Desai gave the order to begin. Sai, the left-hander, touched the cane against her buttocks, stepped back and, in a blur, delivered the first lash. There was no mercy; she clearly hit her as hard as she could. Harris's head jerked up. She seemed to be struggling to breath, gulping at air, her delicate little feet twitching as spasms passed through her.

"One," called Desai. The lash had cut into bruised skin on the left buttock, leaving a shiny streak edged in purple. Malhotra flew in, full of effort. The lash landed badly, though, catching Harris in the middle of her thigh. It wasn't good enough, really. Desai was irritated. Malhotra had volunteered for flogging duties. She was supposed to be good. There was power but without accuracy it hardly mattered. She knew the men who administered the judicial canings could hit the same line over and over.

Chaudry cheered each lash. What did these pampered bitches know of real life? What did they know of growing up in the slums, fighting for each morsel of food? What did they know of the compromises you made to survive, the dog-eat-dog world that allowed the toughest and most cunning to progress by joining the crime syndicates. She'd done some terrible things in her time but you did what you did to survive. Her attack on Stafford had been to establish hierarchy, to let them know who was boss. And it had been for fun. But now it was more than that. Donohue had stood up to her and that was bad, so all the white girls were fair game. She'd done much worse things that pulling down Harris's trousers – always isolate the weakest one first – but it had worked. Harris had fallen into the trap and her screams were the sound of Chaudry's victory. Amitab had asked about the possibility of extorting them and she'd try that. But Donohue was the one she wanted. She had to show that nobody stood up to her. This was war.

Beth felt sick. She was aware this was far worse than the six she'd taken on arrival. She was shocked by how small Rebecca appeared. She'd seen her in the shower of course, but this was different, her nakedness shrinking her. It was so cold as well. She was shivering standing in her clothes; poor Rebecca was naked. She looked at Megan, who stood tight-lipped, eyes fixed on the stage. Bobby couldn't look, her eyes down. The lashes were vicious, the thin three-foot canes whipping through the air in a pale blur. Rebecca twitched and bucked but she was largely silent. But after five or six strokes it became clear something was wrong.

Agarwal saw it too. The girl wasn't screaming but waves were passing through her. She was struggling to breathe, short gasps racking a tense body. Desai halted the count on six and ordered in the doctor, a well-fed, white-coated man of about 30.

Desai was furious. The malingering little bitch. A panic attack they called it. She'd seen it before. Hyperventilation, bulging eyes. She had a good mind to add penalty strokes. But she couldn't risk Harris dying. The doctor gently stroked her face, then took a paper bag and held it to her mouth. What was that going to do? She wasn't unfastening her. There was beating to be done and then the prisoners to be fed and sent off to work. And she had to sort out Malhotra. Her second stroke had been fine, striking the middle of the buttock, but the third had been high – so high she thought she had caught the strap holding Harris down as much as her skin.

The doctor turned to her. "You can complete the sentence," he said. That was a surprise. She nodded at Sai and it began again. By the time they finished, Harris was screaming properly.

*

Six guards unfastened her. Her buttocks were agony, her legs felt like jelly. Her breathing still felt uneasy. She was icy cold but there was a film of sweat on her forehead and her upper lip. She knew her heart wasn't regular. Had she had a panic attack? She'd never experienced that before. She just remembered the pain in her chest and then not being able to breathe. The next she knew the doctor was holding the bag over her face.

They dragged her down to the frame. She was freezing, her breath steaming. Her wrists were cuffed again and she understood she would be naked. Her hands were raised just above the level of her head, and then they began abusing her, spitting on her and poking her.

*

Agarwal lingered. He was supposed to be guarding them over breakfast but he wanted to have a closer look. A number of prisoners made sure they passed her on their way to the dining hall, spitting at her – that Chaudry was a real bitch – but when they'd gone, he went over. Harris was shivering piteously. She glanced at him, fear and disgust clear in her dark eyes. He smiled. Her body was streaked with spittle, but her skin, goose-pimpled as it was, still had an alluring smoothness.

He reached out gently and touched her cheek, stained with tears, rosy in the cold. He ran a thumb over her beauty spot and then ran it over her little nose and her soft lips. "Please…" she murmured. She was extraordinarily pretty. He walked behind her. He couldn't get over how slight she was. He put his hands on her waist, so firm and tiny. She squirmed. He ran his fingers over her buttocks, hot from the caning, red lines criss-crossing the bruising beneath. She whimpered at his touch. He ran her hands up to her breasts. They were cold and light, but the nipples were hard in the chill.

"Pretty little thing, isn't she?"

Agarawal looked up with a start. Kirin was looking at him. He laughed anxiously. "I'd have given her 20," he said. Kirin laughed, her eyes flashing. It wasn't just that she was pretty; there was self-confidence about her.

"Twenty, thirty, a hundred," Kirin said. "It would never be enough for what they did to us."

She spat in Harris's face. "You lazy little whore," she hissed.

Harris barely reacted. Agarwal gave her nipples another tweak, moved in from of her, hawked some phlegm from his throat and spat between her eyes. He cuffed her tits lightly and then the pair of them left for the dining hall.

*

Rebecca lay face down on a bed. The two hours had been horrendous, a swirl of guards slapping her, fondling her, spitting on her, taunting her. And even when she'd been left alone for a few blessed minutes, she'd been desperately cold, at least at first, buttocks screaming in pain, arms aching.

But then, relief. A wash in warm water to sluice off the grime and the spittle, then gentle hands applying balm to her throbbing buttocks. The doctor had visited, checked her over, advised she stay in bed until roll call the following day.

She slept, she woke, she slept. She had terrible dreams. A nurse gave her food and water. Nice food. She wept with gratitude. She hated that this felt so good. That life had become so bad that a bed and good food felt like luxury. Then the doctor came in again.

He caressed her hair. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

If she'd answered she'd have cried. She turned awkwardly onto her side to look at him.

"More painkillers?" he asked.

She nodded and he gave her two tablets and a glass of water.

"Thank you," she croaked.

"Now," he said with a smile. "About my fee…"

She felt her innards drop away. It was obvious what he meant. Had Bobby paid this way? She bit her lower lip, stared at him, mute.

"Come on," he said. "No need to be shy. Get up, take your clothes off."

She curled into a ball. "Or would you like a night naked in the punishment cell?"

She closed her eyes, hoped it would go away. He pushed his hand into her hair. "Come on," he said. "We've given you food and medicine and a bath. You have to pay."

*

Dr Krishnamurthy pulled the girl by the hair, dragging her out of bed. She staggered onto the floor, then fell, looking up at him pathetically. "Please..." she began, but he was not to be moved. She wouldn't be the first he'd raped, and she wouldn't be the last. This was his perk and their way of paying. That's just how it was. He was annoyed he'd missed the first white girl, but the Secpol had had him at work that night. He certainly wasn't going to miss this opportunity.

"Take your clothes off," he said.

Slowly, awkwardly, she stood. She stripped without further complaint, unable to look at him. Her attitude made clear to him that she was becoming used to the sense of undressing for strangers. He picked up her shirt and trousers and tossed them into a corner. He took the stethoscope from round his neck and placed it in his pocket then removed his white coat and hung it from a peg on the back of the door.

"Let's have a look at you," he said as she stood, head bowed, in front of the bed. She was small, delicate, perfect, skin smooth, stomach flat, breasts pert. He stepped up to her, and ran his hands through her hair, brushing it back from her pretty face. There was an emptiness in her dark eyes as he pulled her to him, kissing her firmly on the mouth. She didn't respond. He held one hand to the back of her head, ran the other down her narrow back, pulling her body into his, feeling the press of her breasts through his shirt. He pushed her back to the bed, lifting her slightly, feeling her shudder of pain as her buttocks touched the mattress.

He unbuckled his trousers and dropped his briefs. His penis was already erect. From his shirt pocket he took a condom. You could never be too careful with a prisoner. Who knew who else had used them? He flipped her legs up so she lay meekly on her back, eyes closed, waiting to be invaded. He got onto the bed, kneeling over her, then rolled the condom over his shaft, flicking the packet away.

He kissed her – such kissable lips. He stroked her small ripe breasts. He kissed her soft stomach. Then her lifted her legs onto his shoulders, raising her buttocks from the bed and entered her, fingers gripping her tits. His teeth nibbled on her neck as he thrust into the tight cleft. This wouldn't take long. He pounded up and down. She lay like a corpse, so he dropped his hands and, without warning, squeezed her bruised buttocks. Instinctively she clenched and he was taken to the point of climax. He eased back, moved his hands up her slender body, feeling the ribs and vertebrae, then attacked her buttocks again. This contraction took him over the edge and he quivered with pleasure as he came, rocking up and down before finally falling limp on top of her, panting, his head resting on her chest.

He waited a minute or two, recovering his breath, then pushed himself up. He discarded the condom, wiped himself on the sheet and dressed. He leant over the bed and kissed her forehead. "I hope to see you again sometime," he said.

*

Which one would he bring in first? Uppal considered his options as he had done since getting the hurry-up from Sen. The temptation, of course, was to go big, to get Stafford in there and try to scare the shit out of her with something brutal straightaway: a couple of nights in the box interspersed with beatings even before he asked her a question. The danger, though, was that if he did that and it didn't work, he had nowhere to go. No, he would start smaller. He would gather evidence. He would build the big picture. He'd already put out arrest warrants for everybody Harris, McCormack and Donohue had so much as mentioned in their testimony. He would break this. And he would start that night.

He picked up his telephone. "Bring me McCormack," he said. "I'll see her at midnight."

He poured another coffee and picked up her file again. Narayan was right: she was where he would start. Agent Violet was going to tell him everything she knew. He would break her.

*

A hood was slipped over her head and her wrists were cuffed behind her almost before she'd awoken. Beth sensed their strength and their professionalism as she was pulled to her feet and led out. This was it. She'd known there'd be interrogation and probably torture at some point. She'd seen the Secpol insignia. She'd just been waiting. They all had.

She felt the cold mud of the yard beneath her feet. The guards were silent. There were six of them she thought: two in front, two behind and two holding her arms. She should have felt scared but mainly she felt tired, and a lot of her emotional energy had been taken up worrying about Rebecca. Even now she thought of her hyperventilating. Could she have died? And the bastards had just finished beating her then strung her up naked for two hours.

She heard gates and then two heavy doors and she knew she was in the Secpol building. The horror of her own situation suddenly struck her. She felt her bowels turn to ice. Another corridor, concrete beneath her feet, the clang of a gate, a right turn, another door, another corridor, then a lighter door to the left. She was pushed onto a chair then her cuffs were removed and they pulled the bag off.

She blinked in the light. The chair she was sitting on was bolted to the floor. About eight feet in front of her was a desk, behind which sat a sleek, well-fed man in the blue uniform of the Secpol. He smiled at her. "Miss McCormack," he said. "I am Colonel Uppal of the Secpol. I'm here to interrogate you."

She felt a band tightening around her chest. He was in his thirties, she thought, fancied himself. His hair was oiled into a quiff and she could smell his aftershave. To her left sat another man in Secpol uniform. He was in his forties, looked tough, face thin, body clearly honed. "I'm sure you've heard of the more painful ways that are used to gain co-operation but it doesn't have to be like that," Uppal said. "Work with me and I can get your sentence reduced."

*

McCormack was taller than he'd expected, a fine-looking young woman with high cheekbones, a mass of dark hair and breasts that strained against her prison shirt. Her trousers were too short, leaving her exposed from three or four inches above the ankle. The first task was to gain her confidence, then to check the information he had already.

"Two years is a long time," he said. "If you help me I can get you out in a few days. We'd move you in here, to a nice room, with a bed and a mattress. Hot water. Proper food. No picking up rocks. No beatings. No guards leering at you. Does that sound good?"

"Yes, sir." Her tone was flat. He didn't trust her. He wondered if he should have given her a beating to soften her up.

He looked at his file. He'd taken notes from the reports and arranged them into bullet points. He took a swig of his coffee and, after turning on his tape recorder, began. Keep it simple, get her talking. Her life at the university, her studies. Slowly he moved it on. The demonstrations she'd been to, the people she'd seen. Steve McCoy. Other students.

It was a little after three. He decided to have a break. "I'll be back soon," he said to her, patting her shoulder. "No sleeping, now."

He and Narayan went down the corridor to the kitchen. He made them both coffee. Narayan, he knew, was bored, but he felt it was going well. He was developing a picture. The next session was key. That's when they'd get on to the rainbow and Stafford.

*

Beth felt exhausted. She needed sleep. She dreaded what would happen the following day working after a night without rest. She feared a beating. She feared being stripped in front of everybody and lashed. Those six with the cane on arrival had been bad enough. She feared being brought back the following night. She feared torture. Would they even send her out to work or would they just keep going? And she knew however bad the electricity had been at the airport, what they'd do to her here would be much worse.

And she had to decide what to say about Bobby.

She could feel her eyes beginning to droop but she knew this was an opportunity. She could learn something. There were still guards in the room so she didn't dare stand up, but she could look around. It was perhaps 25 feet long and half that wide, an unadorned concrete block. Behind the desk there was a filing cabinet and a cupboard and, to the left, next to the seat where the tough-looking officer had sat, there was a tap. They wouldn't torture her here, she suspected.

Her head began to nod and she jerked awake. The movement attracted the guards. One of them cuffed her round the back of the head. There were four of them around her, all wearing Secpol blue.

"Fucking lazy whore!" said one.

Another squeezed her nose and shook. "I can't wait till you're next door, naked on the bench," he said. "You won't be so haughty then."

His hand ran down her chest. Beth stared straight ahead, trying not to engage. She heard the door open and the guards backed off, one of them giving her a light slap as he went.

"So sorry to keep you waiting," said Uppal as they resumed their places.

She swallowed and tried to calm herself.

"Now, how about you tell us about how you became Agent Violet?"

She told him. Told him everything. How Steve had wanted to make her more involved. How they'd had six members. How Steve had been Indigo. How he wanted to fuck her. Uppal nodded thoughtfully.

"And you were unlucky enough to be caught up in this because he wanted to have sex with you?"

"Yes, sir."

"I see. How unfortunate.

His sarcasm terrified her. ‘Please," she said. "I know it sounds ridiculous but it's true."

"Who were the other five?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You don't know?"

"No, sir."

"Did you meet them?"

"No, sir."

"What was your contact with them?"

"Some emails. Not many. Six or seven. It wasn't serious."

"And Roberta Stafford, was she one of them?

"I don't think so. I never heard her name."

"You never heard her name?"

"No."

"But you testified she was involved."

"I was being tortured."

"You lied?"

"Yes."

"That's a very serious matter. Are you sure?"

Beth swallowed. "Yes."

He nodded and made a note. "Does she know that?"

Shit. She'd fucked this up. He would use this to drive a wedge between her and Bobby. She hesitated.

"Does Miss Stafford know that your testimony earned her five years in this camp?"

"I was being tortured. They–"

"So she doesn't know. Interesting. And lying in signed testimony is very serious, very serious indeed."

*

Narayan felt his interest growing. It was serious and it warranted punishment. A beating? Technically they could have sent her back to the capital to be caned for that. But he would have taken being allowed to strip her, to reveal the breasts he could see pushing against the shirt and to punch her around the room with the boys.

He enjoyed hurting women. There was no point denying it. He enjoyed hurting men, but he enjoyed hurting women more. This was the ideal job for him. He liked the squeals, the softness of their skin. And a white woman would be particular fun. All of them, no matter what they said, had a sense of superiority. Since the four had arrived at the camp, he and the boys had been waiting their chance. But Uppal was such a boring prick, always doing it by the book, always getting his full pictures. Maybe he didn't even like breasts.

The opportunity faded. Uppal went on, asking about the other rainbow agents. Had she any idea who they might be? Did she know where they were based? What nationality were they? Male or female? What age? Were they students? Narayan gradually realised that he wasn't going to get to work on her that night.

Would he keep her here? Maybe put in the box? Then he could have some fun. She was a handsome woman, a broad face with dimpled cheeks and pure white teeth. Put her in the box and he could find an excuse to play with her. But at quarter to six, Uppal closed his file, smiled, and sent her back to work. The next night, maybe, when she was exhausted. He looked forward to it. He thought he might even wander out to watch her work – see how she was bearing up after a night without sleep. There was every chance they might punish her – which was, of course, part of Uppal's plan, slowly building up the pressure.

*

Beth was scared. She was scared they might torture her that night. She was scared they might torture her some other night. And she was tired. It was hot. She sweated. She ached. Her eyes felt scratchy. At the end of the second hour she tipped her stones into the truck and heard Sergeant Desai's voice. "Unacceptable." God, why did it have to be her? What a bitch she was.

She turned slowly to face her. Her head was throbbing. "Take your shirt off," Desai said. Beth looked at her. She felt angry and weary. She unbuttoned her top and with a defiant toss of her head shucked it off. Her breasts were good, she knew that. Steve had told her that often enough. But that didn't mean she wanted them exposed in the searing heat as she slaved under the gaze of soldiers. She could feel the eyes of two male guards staring at her but with a glare at Desai she returned to work, squatting in the dust. They taunted her but her fury gave her renewed energy and she got through to lunch when the shirt was returned. She put it on with a sense of having defied them. She hadn't broken, not then.

She got through the afternoon as well but at roll call she was pulled aside. Secpol officers chained her and hooded her and she knew this night was going to be much worse than the previous one.

*

This was it. Narayan got to his feet. This was his time. McCormack had been questioned for another half hour and had offered them nothing. There was almost a look of apology on Uppal's face when, after telling her it was her final chance, he turned to Narayan and gave the order to put her in the box.

"Strip naked," Narayan ordered.

He saw the look of horror flicker across her face. She got up from the chair and began to undress, reluctant but not resistant. He'd seen her topless earlier, enjoyed the sight of her toiling in the heat, but he was closer now and her fear was more evident.

She gave her head a slight toss as she stood naked before them, left arm over her breasts, right hand over her cunt. Within seconds she was exposed as his men cuffed her wrists behind her. Narayan stood in front of her, looking her up and down, making the fact he was assessing her clear. Her legs were ridiculously long and she clearly worked out, the breasts full and round and smooth. He would enjoy working her over. She was blindfolded and led out into the corridor. As soon as the door was closed, they began. They knocked her back and forth, they cuffed her and fondled her, jeering at her nakedness, hinting at the pain they would put her through. His boys were good. They dragged her one way down the corridor, then back again, through a door, down another corridor up some stairs, into a lift, down again, round and round, disorienting her, until eventually they took her into a cell next to the one in which she'd been interrogated. With a practised move, two guards took her legs and two her chained arms, lifting her and then dropping her down into a Perspex box. This was the beginning of her torture.

*

Beth shuffled. There was a relief simply in not having them touch her any more. Her heart was thumping but she was almost more angry than scared. She was in a box perhaps four feet long and three feet wide. Some kind of metal gate had been fitted over her head to give the box a height of about three feet. She sat with her back to one wall, her feet against the other, knees bent, head slightly bowed. She heard something being fitted above the grate, and then there was silence. What was this? She could move enough to curl up on her side, maybe even to go on her knees. Could she push up at the grate, maybe? Although what good would that do?

And then it began.

A sudden, ear-splitting roar, so loud she flinched. What was it? It came from above her but seemed all around her. It went on, and on. Slowly, it dawned on her. It was a jet engine, or something like that, and they were playing it. They were hammering her with noise. It was awful, throbbing through her skull, making it almost impossible to think. And it was hot. It was definitely getting hotter. Uncomfortably so, so it was difficult to breathe. She sweated.

She tried to breathe deeply and slowly but she was panicking. She pushed against the grating but it was firm. The Perspex base was slippery with her sweat.

The noise changed. Some terrible local pop music, still at appalling volume. The temperature began to fall. The bass throbbed through her. The singing was repetitive caterwauling. She pushed her head down between her knees. It was cold. She developed goosebumps, her hairs standing on end. She began to shiver. She drew her knees up as far as she could to retain warmth. The temperature began to rise again.

*

Uppal gave the order to turn off the sound and walked into the room. The guards lifted the Perspex top off the box and pulled up the grating. She twitched, clearly frightened. They dragged her out and threw her down so she sprawled at his feet. Narayan, with a degree of relish, seized her by the hair and pulled her up to her knees. He could hear the fear in her breathing. "That was half an hour," Uppal said. "Still six hours before roll call. I'm quite happy to leave you in there until then."

He saw her jaw give a slight wobble.

"Tell me about the other agents in your rainbow group."

"I don't know, sir."

"Tell me about Roberta Stafford."

"I never heard of her till they tortured me."

That concerned Uppal. What if McCormack was telling the truth? It could happen when they put out those alerts. Over-zealous officials looking to make a name for themselves. But he didn't let it show. He looked at her nakedness, at the finely sculpted torso. "Give her some water," he ordered.

"What sort of music do you like?" he asked.

She said nothing, just gulped at the bottle that had been held to her lips. "She's American," he said. "Maybe some classic American rock, or country and western."

He stepped up to her and lay a hand on her cheek. "I'll see you in the morning, my dear," he said.

He turned to Narayan. "Remember to give her water every couple of hours," he said.

*

"Beth!" Rebecca hissed. "Beth!"

She'd looked terrible at roll call, eyes bloodshot, face drawn. At breakfast she'd explained what they'd done to her. Or sort of explained because she could hardly finish a sentence. The box. She hadn't slept for two nights. Her hands trembled. She said she had a terrible headache and felt sick. And now here she was, head nodding, seemingly falling asleep while she was working and they hadn't been going an hour.

"Beth!" she almost shouted, desperate to wake her and spare her punishment. Beth heard, but so did the sergeant, the same one who'd made her do punishment detail the week before and then stripped her and had her flogged.

‘Harris!" he shouted.

"I'm sorry, s–"

"Shut up! What an incorrigible little shit you are." He strode towards her. What am I going to do with you?" he asked.

She stood meekly in front of him, arms by her sides, shoulders back, head bowed.

"You're here to work, not to talk," he said. "This is punishment, not a tea-room." She said nothing, just looked down, praying the shouting would be the end of it.

"Tonight," he said. "You will go on the punishment frame for six hours. No dinner."

She swallowed. Barely any sleep but it could have been worse. He made to turn away. "And to focus your mind," he said, "you will be fastened up without your shirt."

Systematic humiliation. She bit her lip. She knew how cold it would be as well.

But the morning's trials weren't over. Rebecca saw clearly what happened. Midway through the second hour one of Chaudry's minions threw a stone at Bobby, and when she reacted, another knocked her bucket over. The sergeant, of course, was on the other side of the field. The guards didn't care. So the sergeant just saw Bobby shouting at another prisoner, her bucket empty. He wouldn't listen to her explanations; they just made him angrier.

Rebecca kept working, trying not to make it obvious she was watching. But she heard clearly his decision. Six hours topless on the frame. Rebecca felt a strange sense of relief. At least she wouldn't be alone.

But even that wasn't it for that worst of mornings. As they marched back for lunch, Beth began to fall behind. She was clearly exhausted. She tottered and swayed. Rebecca, Megan and Bobby hung back to try to help, supporting her, trying to keep her moving. But she staggered from side to side and eventually collapsed. The sergeant, of course, was right there. Beth was to spend the afternoon in the punishment cell and then report to the governor.

*

Agarwal looked at the two girls in excitement. He was going to enjoy this immensely. Both of them looked anxious, both would soon be humiliated. It was 9 o'clock and until 3 o'clock they would both be bound with their tits out for him to ogle. Dayal led a group of 10 guards, six women and four men, over to the frames.

Harris was pushed forward first. "Take your shirt off," Dayal ordered. Harris obeyed with protest, revealing her slender torso, the neat high breasts. Agarwal grabbed an arm and he and Puri fastened her wrists. She didn't protest, just stood, corners of her mouth downturned. He gazed at those breasts, smooth and lovely, round and just gently upturned. Dayal turned the chain, lifting her wrists a foot is so above her head. She looked deliciously exposed.

Bobby was shoved forward. The order came and she removed her shirt quickly. The air was just beginning to cool and felt unnatural on her chest. She knew their eyes were on her. They pulled her alongside Rebecca, perhaps six feet away. The cuffs were fastened, a strangely familiar feeling, and her arms were raised. She glanced at Rebecca, hoped she would stay strong. And then the abuse began, pushes, half-slaps, prodding, jokes about the size of their breasts. Hands running over their skin, fondling their breasts, rubbing their buttocks through their trousers. Spittle and taunts, laughter and threats. Bobby tried to keep staring straight ahead, looking at a stone on the ground about 10 yards in front of her, shutting down her mind, but the buffeting, the laughing faces, were hard to ignore. Finally – after five minutes? After twenty? She had no idea – they left their victims to the cold.

*

Uppal was furious. The whole point was that McCormack should be exhausted. If they'd stripped her or given her a bit of a beating all well and good. Letting her doze through the afternoon in the punishment cell was not part of the plan. As soon as he'd realised she was there, at about five o'clock, by which time she'd had probably three hours to sleep, he'd had her brought out, stripped and dumped in the box.

But then they'd demanded her back so she could report to the governor. They'd dressed her and taken her off and Mistry had sentenced her to five nights in the punishment cell. Well, she wouldn't be serving them anytime soon.

He should never have sent her back to work. He should have kept her here, kept her walking up and down a cell with a couple of guards to make sure she didn't slack off. That was the problem with working alongside the camp: they were idiots and didn't understand the subtlety of what he was doing. Well, the lesson had been learned.

He watched as they pulled her out of the box. She stumbled, dazed, as they dragged her down the corridor to a small tiled cell. They shoved her in and she staggered, unsteady on her feet. Uppal tried to ignore the physical characteristics of the prisoners he worked on, but even he was struck by the beauty of her full breasts, just wobbling slightly as she came to an uneasy halt. She stood unsurely, still blindfolded, wrists still chained, slightly hunched over, clearly listening closely, alert to what might come next. What came next was a jet of cold water from a hosepipe wielded gleefully by one of Narayan's men. She shrieked and backed away, bending over even more as the water bounced off her skin. Uppal hated the smell of sweat but this was useful as well just to wake her up, to add to her discomfort.

*

Megan lay down for the night, very aware of the space around her. Poor Rebecca, poor Bobby, condemned to stand half-naked in the cold. But most of her fear was for Beth. The box sounded horrendous. She'd barely been able to talk that day, so pummelled was her mind, and it was obvious that was merely the prelude to further questioning and perhaps worse.

They couldn't just let this happen. They couldn't just wait out their sentences, being stripped and beaten whenever the guards felt like it. Being tortured. She had to think of something. How could she get a message out? How could she contact an embassy or a journalist? Maybe if she could find a prisoner nearing the end of her sentence and bribe her?

*

Beth shivered. Her head thumped. Her brain had moved from wooliness to pain. She sat naked in the cell where he'd first interrogated her. After hosing her for several minutes, they'd brought her back here and removed the chains and the blindfold. Uppal had begun interrogating her almost immediately. Her skin was pimpled with cold, beads of water still dripping from her. The questions were familiar, the same old ground. She answered wearily, barely able to understand what she was being asked. She told the truth for she had nothing else.

"Roberta Stafford," he said. "Tell me again why you implicated her."

"I'd confessed," she said. "I'd signed… then…" She couldn't concentrate. She made a tremendous effort. "The officer used a cattle prod on me. He wouldn't stop. He mentioned a name, Bobby… but… I'd never heard of her… It was just… it was clear he wanted me to say things… It was a way to make him stop."

Uppal took a sip of coffee. She watched him closely, the way everything he did felt like a little act. She just wanted to sleep. Her head felt heavy on her shoulders. When they'd first put her in the chair she'd moved to cover herself with her arms but had felt too exhausted. How could he not see that she was incapable of making anything up? She saw the other officer's face: a leer, a look of impatience. He was wanting to hurt her, she understood.

"Has she threatened you?"

"Bobby?"

"Yes."

"No, of course not."

"If she's threatened you, if she's told you what to say and you're scared, we can protect you."

She wanted to scream. "Sir," she said with exaggerated patience. "I'm telling the truth."

"You had no idea who the other members of the Rainbow Group were?"

"Just Steve. I didn't know… didn't know… it was serious."

"Then you place me in a difficult position," he said, closing his file. "The problem is I don't believe you. And that means we have to find a way to persuade you to tell the truth."

She felt a surge pass from the depths of her stomach to her heart. It was about to begin for real.

*

This had worked out perfectly. Chaudry had known the opportunity was there as soon as Rebecca had been sentenced to the frame. Beth was going to be tortured so that meant that if they could get Bobby out of the way, they could work on Megan – and she was their leader. And Bobby, she'd realised, had a temper. It had been easy to provoke her. And so now Megan lay alone. All they'd had to do was wait till she was asleep. Chaudry led six of her gang over. She was going to enjoy this. Amitab had nodded when told of the plan. Everybody knew, of course, what she really wanted – fresh tongues to lick her out. Well, there'd be plenty of time for that.

By the time Megan woke, her blanket had been wrapped tightly around her, obscuring her vision and pinning her arms to her sides. Two of them held her down, the other five beat her mercilessly, fists and feet drumming into her as she struggled on the ground. Chaudry knelt, pounding her fist down again and again into her head. She could almost feel the energy leaving Megan as she was left coughing and gasping. After perhaps five minutes she lay limp, but they carried on the beating a little while longer.

Chaudry felt exhausted, out of breath, hot even in the chill air of the night. She gestured to them to pull the blanket off. Megan cowered, her face blotched with red, beginning to swell. "Strip her," she ordered. Megan didn't resist as her trousers were wrenched off. Her shirt soon followed, exposing her creamy body, marked now with the evidence of countless blows. This would be the worst bit for her. Megan now sat, two of Chaudry's footsoldiers behind her, holding her arms, two on each leg. Chaudry held up an empty glass bottle that once, many years ago, had contained Coke. "Guess where this is going," she said, mockingly.

"Please…" Megan began, but a slap around the side of her head shut her up. Chaudry approached. Megan began to struggle but six opponents were too many. Chaudry could hear her breathing, scared and angry. She moved between those smooth legs, looking down at the plump cunt. She knelt and gently pushed the neck of the bottle through the outer lips. Megan's head tipped back, back arching. She pushed harder. There was a little resistance and then the bottle was in. Now it was just a matter of forcing it up there. She pushed. The neck went in smoothly. Megan had fallen still, looking in horror at her tormentors. Chaudry hit the bottle with the heel of her hand. Megan grunted in pain. Chaudry hit it again. Megan's head rocked back and she gasped, gritting her teeth, trying to keep control despite the pain and her fear. Chaudry hit it again. And again and again. And again.

The main swell of the centre of the bottle was inside Megan now. Her cunt was distended, stretched painfully around the glass. She was trembling with the pain. Good. She pushed it a little further: make sure it was secure. And then, before Megan could expect a change, she gestured across the hut to where Amitab sat, a smirk above her double chin. Her companions reacted instantly, hauling the naked Megan across the floor. She scuttled, struggling with the Coke bottle rammed up there, unresisting. Other prisoners got out of the way. Some hated Chaudry, some hated the white girls, most did what they could to survive, but none of them were going to get in the way. All of them were relieved this wasn't them.

They got to Amitab, who turned away, facing the corner of the hut. Megan was dragged round to kneel in the corner. Amitab rolled down her trousers and Megan's face was shoved into her crotch. Amitab grabbed her, her fat fingers gripping the blonde hair and holding her in position. Our others made sure Megan couldn't get away. And so, the bottle still sticking out of her as she knelt, bent awkwardly forward, Megan began to pleasure Amitab.

*

Agarwal approached cautiously. He didn't really want anybody else seeing this, but the two girls were alone, their bodies pale in the moonlight. He stood in front of them, admiring. Stafford, tall and impossibly slender, Harris shorter, slim, a little darker complexioned, but with slightly bigger breasts. They'd been out here for four hours and were clearly suffering, both shivering. Which should he go to first?

He went to Stafford. There was something about her that did something to him. He walked around her. She didn't make eye contact, just looked down. Her waist was astonishingly thin. He saw the eight red marks from the strap, crossing the lashmarks she already bore. He stepped up to her from behind, placing his hands on that narrow waist. Her skin was cold to the touch and he felt her shudder. He ran his fingers up her ribs and reached her breasts, feeling the softness of the flesh and the hardness of the nipple in the cool air. He could sense her distaste as he placed his cheek next to hers, his stubble brushing against her. She remained inert and he kept fondling. He ducked round under her arm and squeezed her breasts but still she kept staring at the ground. With a slight laugh he patted her cheek and moved over to Harris. He'd seen her naked before, of course, after her caning as well as at the initial reception.

Her back was pure and smooth: the beating her been on her buttocks. She stiffened as he caressed her nipples and he kissed the side of her mouth. She pulled away and he grabbed her hair. "Kiss me," he hissed moving in front of her, hands still on her tits. She moved her head away. The bitch. He would punish her. He yanked her trousers down. She gave a soft moan as he did so. He let his fingers play in her pubic hair and then walked behind her, hands on her buttocks, which he saw streaked with fresh welts over old bruising. He slapped her buttocks, left hand then right and then, moving in front of her again, kissed her hard, his fingers digging into her ass. She didn't respond, but nor did she move away. He pulled her trousers up and returned to Stafford, kissing her as his hands traced the shape of her buttocks through her trousers. His cock was rigid now. He dropped to her flat stomach and kissed her belly-button. He allowed himself another fondle of her breasts before he made for the toilets to relieve himself.

*

Narayan had waited for this for a long time. He enjoyed torture. There was no point disguising it. Fastening McCormack on the bench, feeling her fear, stretching out that long, lean body so that it was exposed. Her wrists and ankles were fastened in thick leather cuffs to legs of the bench, the seat of which stood about three feet off the ground, and a broad strap cinched her waist to the polished wood surface, buffed to a shine by the sweat and struggles of countless victims. She lay on her back, breasts lolling delightfully, cunt available. The hosepipe was fixed to the tap, the generator and other tools ready on the trolley.

As Uppal came in with the doctor, he removed the blindfold. He could see the terror in her eyes.

"Doctor," Uppal said, "would you examine her?"

Krishnamurthy put two fingers to her neck and checked her pulse, then , with clear relish, placed his stethoscope to her breast. He nodded. "She's tough," he said. "Physically she can take a lot."

Good. Narayan hated the stop-start rhythm with weak prisoners.

Uppal approached the bench, expression cold. Did he not feel turned on? He placed his hand on her forehead and smoothed back her hair. "We're going to give you a series of electric shocks," he said. "Have you anything you wish to tell me?"

"I've told you everything…" she said, her voice trembling.

Uppal shrugged and gestured to Narayan. He wheeled over a trolley on which was set a generator. When she saw it she began begging. He ignored her. "Water, please," he said to one of his men, who obediently turned the hosepipe on her. She gasped at the cold as the jet played up and down her for a few seconds. She shivered, skin goosepimpled, beads of water standing out on her taut body.

He took up the crocodile clips, each about three inches long, and snapped them open and shut above her face, letting her sense his relish. "I don't know anything," she shouted, jerking at the cuffs. Narayan returned to the trolley and picked up a small jar. "Aids conductivity and stops you burning," he said, and smeared some on her left ear. She knew where he was going next and pulled more violently at her bonds. He let his hand play on her cunt for far longer than was necessary, making sure her labia were liberally covered.

"Please…" she sobbed. "Please…"

He fixed the first clip on her ear. She shouted in pain, and she knew the second would be worse. Slowly, as she cried again that she was innocent, he pulled at her labia, stretching out the skin, then snapped the clip to it. She shrieked. He looked at Uppal.

"This is a much bigger generator than was used on you at the airport, I imagine," Uppal said. "It's more powerful. It will hurt more. We'll start you off on level one."

He nodded at Narayan, who flicked a switch. Her body tensed and her eyes clouded with pain.

*

Megan didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry. She lay, shivering, on her mat, clutching her hands to her cunt, hoping a little pressure would help relieve the constant pain. Even the beatings at the police station hadn't been as bad as what she'd gone through that night: the kicks and the punches, the terrible pain from the bottle, then having to kneel there, naked, face thrust into Amitab's bush, sweat and hair everywhere, licking and licking and licking. How long had it taken, that constant foul taste, the sense she couldn't breathe, the knowledge they were all staring at her, the bottle sticking out from her cunt? It had felt like for ever before Amitab finally came, but they'd held her face there so the vaginal juices plastered her face.

But they hadn't finished with her. They'd dragged her back across the hut, kicking and slapping her as they went and then, as the final indignity, they'd taken her clothes and dumped them in one of the buckets they used as toilets. She'd felt the tears pricking at her eyes then: it was the callousness of it, the way they casually added humiliation to the pain she was already in.

They'd left her alone at that. For a few minutes she'd lain, exhausted and naked, on her mat, but then she'd realised she had to respond. She managed to extract the bottle. Getting it out wasn't as painful as it being forced in, but it was bad enough, even with her blood acting as a lubricant. Then she'd fished out her clothes, drenched in piss and shit and, as best as she could, had washed them in one of the buckets of water, even as blood continued to run down her thighs. She'd hung her clothes from the shelves knowing that, realistically, there was no chance of them drying by morning. And now she lay, cold, humiliated, in pain, and naked under her blanket.

She had to work out a way to escape. And then Bobby and Rebecca had returned from their night on the frame, with more tales of abuse. This was inhuman. It was intolerable. And that was without even considering whatever poor Beth was going through.

*

Beth was shaking. She didn't know how many shocks he'd given her. Ten maybe? Or a dozen? Each one ripped through her body, seemed to burn her from the inside, a terrible pain that exploded in every nerve. Her teeth throbbed, her heart felt unsteady, her mouth felt utterly dry. She waited for the next question, something else she couldn't answer, but instead she felt hands on her. The clips were removed. Was it over? Did they believe her? A blast of the hosepipe extinguished her hope. The tough-looking one was putting gel on her other ear. Oh God, there was more.

She tried to think of something happy, tried to take herself out of that room, out of the camp. She remembered the party before she'd left New York, a couple of dozen of her friends. She'd worn a shimmering gold dress that clung just enough to her figure. She looked good in that dress. She'd danced most of the night, enjoying the sense of freedom, the knowledge she was going away. She–

The clips were fastened again. The other ear, the other lip. It hurt so much. He was talking. The boss. "We're going to step up to level two," he said. "The amperage is greater so the pain will be greater." She was panting, she realised, unable to breathe properly.

"Now," he went on, "I'm going to give you a leather bit to bite down on so you don't bite off your tongue. Obviously that makes it harder for you to speak, so I'll ask you now: what was Roberta Stafford's role in the rainbow group?"

Beth shook her head slowly. The tough-looking one, the lieutenant, pushed a battered strip of leather into her mouth. She almost gagged. It tasted foul, of vomit and fear. But she grasped it between her teeth. She stared at the ceiling, saw the criss-cross of cracks in the paint. She tried to think of that dress but she heard the click and then there was nothing but pain. Her muscles tensed, her back arched, she couldn't breathe. It was far worse than anything she'd experienced before. There was a click and she relaxed, slumping onto the bench. Her jaw ached with the pressure of clenching her teeth, her nerves fluttered and twitched. The bit was removed from her mouth. She took her breath in great gulps. She was sweating profusely but felt bitterly cold.

"How was that?" the boss asked. "We have to be careful with the stronger currents so we'll knock you back to level one."

She watched as the other one turned the dial. She shook her head. "I've told you everything," she said, her voice hoarse.

"Which was the first demonstration you went to?" he asked.

"I don't know," she coughed. "Two years ago, maybe?"

"Who did you go with?"

"I can't remember. I went to lots of demonstrations."

"Did you ever see Stafford at one?"

"Not that I know of, no."

She saw him nod and the agony flashed through her again.

*

Uppal was becoming frustrated. She was giving him nothing. Why couldn't he find a link between her and Stafford? He'd given her four blasts now in this second set of level one shots and it was clear he would soon have to stop. She was trembling, growing weaker and weaker, the aftershocks in her muscles becoming more and more pronounced. He decided he'd let her have one more then have Krishnamurthy check her over. He glanced at his watch. The interrogation had gone on nearly an hour and 40 minutes.

He decided to try a new line of questioning. He drew out a list of students from the university. There 50 names on it, about half of them foreign, half local. Some he knew were involved in illegal activities, some he suspected, some he was confident weren't. He began going through the list.

"Tell me about Sarah Walker."

He saw a flicker on concentration, a slight tightening of the brow. "She's a literature student, I think. I don't know. She came to meetings sometimes.

"Heavily involved?"

"No. She was very quiet. I don't think she even went to a demonstration."

"Karim Ali?

"He's a medic. On my course."

"And anything more relevant to say?"

"He came to meetings. I don't know."

Uppal nodded and Narayan pushed the switch. He watched her body tense, lifting off the bench, those long limbs straining. He stood up and approached her, looking down on her nakedness, her panting frame. Her eyes were red, terrified, snot oozed from her nose. She was a remarkable woman, he thought, looking at her pure white teeth, exposed as she gasped for breath. "Don't mess me around," he said softly. "This goes on till I'm satisfied you're holding nothing back."

He gave her a light tap on the cheek. He saw defiance but he also felt how soft her skin was, yet how firm the flesh. "Check her over, doctor," he said and returned to his seat. Krishnamurthy pawed at her breasts under the pretence of listening to her heart and he felt a strange sense of protectiveness towards her.

Krishnamurthy scribbled a note and passed it to him. "Good for a few more," it said. "Maybe one more big one."

He sat back. "Tariq Ali," he said and was gratified that her answer was prompt.

"He was very anti-government. He wrote some of the leaflets. I don't think he went to many demos. He was quite scared. I didn't know him too well."

"Meera Zinta."

She hesitated. "I'm sorry, sir," she said, her voice laden with panic. "I don't think I know her."

Narayan looked at him meaningfully. He shook his head. "Kevin Stiles."

"Canadian, played a guitar. Never showed any interest in politics."

"Kate Dryden."

"I only vaguely knew her. I don't think she was political.

"Rebecca Harris."

"What?"

"Rebecca Harris."

"You know her. She's here."

"Yes, but I want to hear what you think of her."

"She's nobody. She went to demos and meetings but she knew nothing. She just thought what the government was doing was wrong. But she didn't organise. She wasn't on any committee or anything."

"Did you know she hid leaflets for Steve McCoy?"

"She what?" The shock seemed genuine.

"She hid leaflets for Steve McCoy."

"I knew she took his room… But no… Were they just in the room?"

"Would it surprise you to learn that it was her who gave us your name?"

"You must have known who I was. You were watching us."

"But she betrayed you. She gave us details."

She said nothing. "She told us a lot about you," Uppal went on.

*

Narayan gazed at her breasts. He liked to think he was a specialist in breasts. Larger was better, he felt – but he liked them pert. Of course there was a lolling effect when they were lain on their backs but he'd become something of an expert in that. McCormack's were lovely, essentially holding a flattened version of their shape, not slopping to the sides. And of course the tautness of her skin, the flatness of her stomach made them all the better. He just hoped he'd get a proper chance to explore them.

Uppal was boring him. He hadn't given her a shock for about half an hour. Just these endless questions about people. He knew Uppal was good, that his methods worked but there were times when he thought they could have got there faster with a bit more pain and a bit less talking.

"Lars Karlsson."

"Swedish I think," he said. She seemed almost relaxed. What was he doing?. "Norwegian maybe. Or Danish. He knew Steve. They went drinking sometimes. I didn't really know him but he was often at demos. Didn't really like the meetings. I think they bored him."

Uppal nodded. "Roberta Stafford."

Narayan prepared himself. "I didn't know her." Her voice was flat, resigned. Uppal nodded. He flicked the switch and her body bucked. When it was over, she sobbed. "Ple- ple-pleasssee. I didn't know her."

"Water," Uppal commanded. "Prepare her for more."

She gave a roar of fear as Narayan moved in to remove the clips.

*

It was over. She couldn't quite believe it was over, but they were unfastening her wrists and her ankles. She felt nauseous and weak, her muscles still twitched and her heart was thumping but it was over. After they'd soaked her again and the electrodes had been reapplied they'd given her five more level one shots before the terror of the bit and a shot on level two. Level one hurt, but level two felt like it was tearing her apart.

Everything felt hazy. Their hands were at her belly, removing the strap around her waist, then they were shouting at her to get up. She tried, but fell, weak and dizzy, landing hard on her side and collapsing to lie face down on the concrete. Her wrists were yanked back and cuffed behind her and a blindfold fastened over her. They were shouting at her but she could barely understand them as they pulled her to her feet. "We'll carry on tomorrow," said the younger one.

She knew she had to think, but she couldn't. She was too tired, too weak. They dragged her out of the room, her feet trailing on the floor and the next she knew she was being dropped into the box. She could have wept. She needed sleep. They held a bottle to her lips and let her drink and then the lid came down and the noise of the engines began.

She must have dozed off or lost consciousness because the next she knew it was bitterly cold and the noise was of a drill. Her teeth chattered. Think. She had to think. What could she say to them? She couldn't take another night of shocks. But when she tried to think all that came into her head was the thought that Rebecca had betrayed her. She knew it was ridiculous to hate her - you couldn't blame anybody for what they said under torture – but it was Rebecca's fault she was here.

Should she lie about Bobby? But all that would do would be to ensure Bobby was tortured and when their stories didn't match she'd be punished. Her head throbbed, her mouth was dry. She felt hungry. She was cold. She pulled her thighs as tight to her chest as she could. Her cunt was in agony. Her ear hurt. She felt desperately fragile. Could she seduce them?

The drill stopped and more terrible local pop began. Were they watching her? The tinny thumping cut through her. She thought of her gold dress. The temperature began to rise. She touched her head back against the Perspex behind her. She had to end this. She couldn't take another shock. And if level two was that bad, what was three, four or five going to be like? She'd heard stories that shocks could harm your reproductive system. Could it be that she was sterile already? But it was the pain, more than anything else, the pain that she dreaded. It was so hot she could barely breathe. She had begun to sweat. She pushed her feet against the other end of the box. Her buttocks felt clammy against the base. The bass of the music hammered her aching head.

*

Uppal saw the girl tense as he entered. She was naked, still, of course, still chained, still blindfold. She was wet, dripping around the chair she sat on. He'd had her hosed down. It was about 3 in the afternoon. She'd been in the box a little under 12 hours. He approached her, admiring the golden skin, the trim waist. He removed the blindfold. She tossed her hair. He took up his position behind his desk. She looked exhausted, face drawn, eyes bloodshot.

"Miss McCormack," he said. He could see the struggle in her to pay attention, her weariness and her humiliation. "I assume you'd rather not spend another night on the bench?"

She gave the slightest nod. He gestured at two guards who stepped up to her and removed her chains

She brought her hands in front of her, not to cover herself but to rub her wrists.

"Co-operate," he said, "and you need never go in that box again."

He took up copies of the two coded sheets of paper that had been found in Harris's room. He'd ask Harris about it, of course, but he believed her story, believed what she'd told Patel, that she'd never opened the file. He felt a slight shimmer of excitement. This could be key to everything.

He approached her. He handed her the sheets. She took them, hand trembling. Did she show any sign of recognition? None that he could see.

"What does this say?" he asked. He wouldn't tell her what it was. See if she knew.

She looked at it, blinking as though she was struggling to focus. She shook her head and gave a slight shrug.

"Well?"

"I don't know. It's random numbers and letters. What is it?"

"What do you think it is?"

"I don't know. A code?"

"You tell me."

"Sir, I don't know."

"It was written by Steve McCoy. Now, here's what happens next. You are taken to a cell with a desk and a chair. I give you food and water, a pen and some paper. I'll even give you some coffee. You break the code and you can sleep tonight. Fail, and you'll find out what level three feels like."

*

Beth sat at the desk on a hard wooden chair. She was still naked. The cell was tiny, so small she could almost feel the breath of the two guards who stood by the door. She'd been blindfolded and manacled even to get here. She looked at the page. The symbols jumped and span. She was too tired. Her head ached. She drank the coffee greedily but the food, some sort of oily bread, she could hardly force down. She had to think. But even as she was trying to think another voice was telling her not to solve the code. If Steve had written it in code then it must be important. But then she thought of what they were going to do to her that night.

But Steve wasn't that bright. What was he doing with a code? It couldn't be difficult. She guessed it was straight substitution. Except there were numbers as well as letters. And every letter was represented. So that meant 36 characters. That made no sense. Except 26 letters plus 10 digits made 36. So maybe it was straight substitution. The letters and numbers on the page swirled. She was too tired for this. Concentrating made her nauseous. She took another gulp of coffee.

How should she do this? What would be the logical way? Look for the most common symbol and assume that was E? She began to do that, going through, seeing if she could make any words. But nothing worked. She was too tired.

Was there another way? Maybe double letters together. They had to be Es or Os or Ts or Ms or Ls or Ss. But there were none. It couldn't be straight substitution then. And if it wasn't, what hope did she have? Shit, didn't they have cryptographers?

What could the document be? Was there any pattern? Some of the letters had dots about them. It began with a paragraph of four lines, another of five, then one of two. Then seven lines, then two. Then three then two. There were a lot of two line paragraphs, she noticed. Was that significant? She looked at the second page. The pattern continued.

Her head throbbed. None of this was helping. She was sitting naked at a desk doing a fucking puzzle that if she couldn't work out meant torture. She couldn't take more shocks. Lying there, naked, helpless, waiting for them to hurt her in a terrible way. Was it worse than at the airport? Level two definitely was. The loss of control. The pain. The sense of her body being about to snap. Then their faces looking down at her, most of them clearly enjoying what was going on.

With an effort she refocused on the code.

*

What the fuck was Uppal doing? Narayan had assumed she'd be in the box, being driven slowly mad but when the order had come to take her to the electric room, she had to be taken from another cell where she was sitting at a desk like she was doing her fucking homework. Although naked. The boys pulled her from the chair, sending it clattering to the ground and, as she shrieked in fear, they blindfolded her and fastened her wrists behind her. She pulled against them as they hustled her down the corridor, so scared she was fighting them despite the obvious hopelessness of her situation. A couple of punches to her belly and a tap with a truncheon soon calmed her.

Even as they strapped her down to the bench she struggled, but she was easily restrained. Still, there was never any sense in wasting an opportunity. He straddled her, sitting on her belly, pushing down on her tits. He felt himself stiffening at the sensation of the firm muscles beneath him. What he needed was Uppal to have her put in the box with regular beatings; then it would be easier to arrange to fuck her. Or he could wait until she was sent to the infirmary. Kirshnamurthy, he knew, took advantage of any half-attractive prisoner he got in there.

He slapped her a couple of times around the ribs then stood up, fastened the belt across her waist and gave the order to soak her. As soon as she was wet, he removed the blindfold and took up the ointment. Where today? He always quite liked poking one electrode into the rectum but Uppal had some hang up about the clips actually being attached to the skin. He sometimes put them on the tongue or the mouth but Uppal always wanted them to be able to speak. He settled on the breasts. It wasn't exactly imaginative, but sometimes the old ways were the best. And it meant he got to play with them again. Leaning over her he cupped her right breast in his left hand and teased the nipple with his right, seeing the loathing in her eyes as he gently coated it in the gel. He repeated the process on the left breast. The coldness of the water had left her nipples semi-erect. "Excited to see me again," he said with a smirk. And then, snapping them with relish, he applied the first clip, on her left nipple. She gasped in pain, eyes closing, and was still grimacing as he applied the second. She was ready.

*

Uppal walked straight over to her. He'd looked at the notes and scribbles she'd made but had seen nothing of any interest. He glanced down at the naked body, the electrodes fixed to the breasts, beads of water dotting her smooth skin, face tight with fear.

"So you got nowhere with the code?" he said.

"Sir, I'm sorr.."

He nodded and Narayan flicked the switch. She was half-shouting at his gesture when the electricity hit her, silencing her as her body tensed.

"I'm beginning to grow impatient," he said, shaking his head as she gasped for air. He nodded again.

There was a clear slap as her body landed back on the bench. He lay a hand on her cheek. Her skin was extraordinary, so smooth and firm and yet to soft. "I thought you were clever," he said. "You're a doctor and yet you have no thoughts at all? What were you doing in that room?"

He patted her cheek and let his thumb brush her lower lip. She was shaking. "Did you just sit there?"

"No, sir."

"So tell me your thoughts."

"Sir," she said, her mouth dry. "There are 36 symbols so it's not straight substitution unless digits are included. But I couldn't see any double letters so I don't think it is."

Interesting. She clearly had thought about it. He could see Narayan itching to shock her again. But her intelligence intrigued him. "Go on," he said.

"Some of the characters have dots above them."

"And?"

"I don't know, but it must be significant."

"In what way?"

"I don't know."

He said nothing, waiting.

"Do you have any idea what it is?" she asked. ‘That might help."

He laughed. "That's not information for you," he said. "What do you think it is?"

"I've no idea. Has a proper cryptographer looked at it? There must be better people than me."

He stepped back, shaking his head. She was right, of course, and he hated the inefficiency that meant that, as for as he was aware, nobody had looked at it. But she couldn't speak to him like that. "Level three," he said, turning away.

"No!" she shouted, struggling desperately, but the bit was forced into her mouth and her protests were reduced to muffled grunts. He heard the two clicks as Narayan moved the dial, then turned back to face her. He nodded. "Hold it for a couple of seconds," he said.

The switch was flicked. Her body lifted from the bench, back arching, waist pushing up against the strap, her cunt seemingly thrust at him. He could see clearly the strain on her muscles before she slumped back down, shaking, wet with sweat, whimpering. She began to retch and the guards, knowing the routine, swiftly unfastened her, throwing her to the floor where she cowered, half-kneeling, forearms on the floor, vomiting up the coffee and food he'd given her, muscles spasming, sweat dripping from her. Almost as soon her retching and died away into coughing, they turned the hosepipe on her, washing away her vomit into a small drain beneath the bench and soaking her with icy water.

*

Beth lay on the bench, almost too weak to feel the electrodes being fastened onto her nipples again. She was going to die here, she was sure. They'd given her a water bottle to glug from before strapping her down again but her mouth felt parched. Her head throbbed. Think of the gold dress. Pulses kept twitching through her muscles. Her nipples felt sore. And she was wired up again.

The questioner sat down beside her.

"What would McCoy hide away like that?" he asked.

"I don't know, sir. Contact details?"

"Of who? Or what?"

"I've no idea. I'm sorry. Please sir…"

"Think."

She couldn't. She was too tired, too weak, too scared. She stared at the cracks in the ceiling.

"Printers? Vehicle hire? I don't know. T-shirt manufacturers?"

"Why keep them secret? Why write them down at all? Their details would be freely available."

It sounded like he was thinking this through himself. "Other leaders of the protests?"

"The Rainbow Group?"

"If it existed, maybe, yes."

"Ok, I'll give you another go later and you can look for that. Now, Roberta Stafford?"

She groaned. "I didn't know her."

He nodded and she began to scream before electricity hit.

She sobbed. "I don't know anything," she said, imploring him. "I've told you everything. I'm trying to help."

"Why?" he asked.

"What?"

"Why are you trying to help?"

"Because you're torturing me. Please. Because I want you to stop hurting me." Her words came in a dry gulp.

"You've given up all your ideals and now you want to help me because of a little bit of pain?"

What was he doing? Did he want her to resist? "I've given up," she said. "You win. I just want to be left alone."

"You can see why I find that hard to believe, Agent Violet?"

"Oh God," she moaned. "I don't know anything about that."

"And Roberta Stafford? You betrayed her once. Why not now?"

"They tortured me," she wept. "They tortured me."

"Am I not torturing you? What's different?"

What could she say?

"Did they torture you harder? Do you want me to make this worse for you?"

"No! Please! I've met Bobby now. Before it was a name. Please…"

He nodded.

*

Narayan wished Uppal would change tack. There were times when he'd just hand a prisoner over with the instruction to make their night uncomfortable. Then he could have fun: hours to do what he wanted with a naked girl, just so long as she was fit enough to answer his questions the next day – and terrified enough to never want to suffer another night with him. He would enjoy fucking this one but what he really wanted to do was to take a whip to her. That long smooth body, the taut muscles of her shoulders and upper back, was perfect for a flogging, bent over, huddled in terror.

Not that he could really complain now. She was bearing up well under the shocks, physically tough enough to take far more than most women. She seemed broken now, though, sobbing almost constantly, clearly terrified. And yet she was sticking to her story. Maybe it was the truth. Who knew?

"I want to be absolutely clear with you," Uppal said to her. "If you signed a statement that you knew was untrue, you will be flogged. I don't know if they'd do it here or back in the capital, whether they'd do it now or at the end of your sentence, but at some point they would flog you. You've seen Harris. You know what a caning would do to you. So, I ask you again, did you know Roberta Stafford before you got on the train to this camp?"

"No, sir, I did not."

Narayan's hand tightened on the switch, but Uppal shook his head.

"OK," Uppal said. "Unfasten her, clean her up, give her her clothes back and put her in a cell."

What the fuck was he doing?

*

Rebecca stood to attention, feet burning with the cold. The sergeant with the heavy pony-tail walked along the line. She tried to stand as still and as straight as she could. She was tired and cold and she was worried about Megan. Something terrible had clearly happened the night before last. She and Bobby had been brought back from their session on the frame to find Megan lying naked under her blanket, clearly distressed. She'd refused to say what had happened but other prisoners spoke of it: the beating, being raped with the bottle, being made to eat out Amitab. She remembered with a shudder having to discuss lesbian technique in her interrogation. She shivered, her wet hair icy on her scalp. The sun was just coming up.

They were dismissed and she walked with Megan and Bobby over to the breakfast hall. Megan walked with obvious discomfort. A bottle. What must that be like? Rebecca held out her mug to be filled from the vast urn. It was warmer in here at least. Then there was a clatter. She looked up sharply and saw Megan sprawled on the ground, tray and mug and plate scattered, her bread skittering away and her tea spilled. There was laughter from a nearby prisoner: one of Chaudry's gang. It was clear what had happened – a foot out, a shove and Megan had gone flying.

Megan scrambled to her feet and grabbed her mug and plate but it was too late. There were two soldiers there immediately. "Lick it up," one of them ordered and poor Megan fell to her knees. She lapped at the rough concrete floor. Rebecca wished there was something she could do but she just walked on to sit next to Bobby, watching as Megan was made to clean up the spillage. "She munches concrete like she munches carpet," somebody said and there was laughter. One of them prodded her backside with his foot and she fell awkwardly forward. Rebecca could see the shame and the anger on her face and prayed she wouldn't react. One of them stood on the bread, grinding it with his boot, then kicked that to her and made her eat that off the floor was well.

The sergeant waited, arms folded, and when they were finally satisfied all the tea and the bread had been cleaned up as far as it would be, ordered Megan to her feet. "Two nights in the punishment cell," she said. "I'm not having you being disruptive." As Megan walked over to their table, Rebecca heard the taunts follow her. "Strongest tongue in the camp." "Can't stop licking." "Whore." "Dyke."

*

Uppal looked at McCormack, who sat demurely on the chair in his room, looking rather better than she had for some time. He'd let her sleep, let her have a warm shower, given her food.

"Elizabeth," he said. "We're working together now. That's what you said you would do and I've taken you at your word. I think you're a clever girl. I'm going to let you work on the code. Mess me around and the last two nights will seem like a holiday. Mess me around and I give you level five till you pass out, then we'll wake you up and I'll give it to you again. And when I'm done, I'll let the boys have you. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." He gestured to the guards who blindfolded her and took her to the cell with the desk so she could work. Now the next step. He sat back and skimmed his notes on Rebecca Harris. Ten minutes later, she was brought in. He had been in two minds as to whether to start gently or to hammer her and then ask the questions. Patel, he knew, had done a thorough job but Narayan had argued that she was used to interrogation and so a shock was probably necessary. As she stood, blindfolded and in chains before him, he could sense her fear.

He had decided on a halfway house. He wouldn't let Narayan brutalise her but he would let her know there was to be no messing about. He had the chains and the blindfold removed. She blinked uncertainly. "Strip," he said.

She glanced around her, her terror obvious, but her hands went to the front of her shirt and she began to undress. She was small and very pretty, he thought, her delicacy giving her a sense of vulnerability. She slipped out of her shirt, revealing a slender torso and a pair of perky round tits. She hesitated, holding her shirt, wondering where to put it before a guard grabbed it. He could almost see the effort she was making as she forced herself to pull down her trousers and she was naked. She hooked her arms over herself to hide her shame but only for a couple of seconds before the guards had seized her wrists and were fastening them in leather cuffs. They lifted her until she stood on the balls of her feet, arms stretched up above her, the neat small body exposed. He walked around her admiringly, noting the bruising on her buttocks from her flogging, purple stripes laid over older green and yellow marks. He stepped up and touched her, laying his hand over the firm rounded flesh. "Does that hurt?" he asked.

He could feel the tension in her. "A little, sir," she whispered.

He moved in front of her, looked her up and down. He tended to agree with Patel's assessment. Scared, not especially tough, but with a sense of right and wrong that had led her into trouble. "I don't want to hurt you," he said, returning to sit behind his desk. He was sure this wouldn't take long.

*

Rebecca felt the familiar strain in her wrists and shoulders. How had it got to the point where she recognised torture techniques? She wondered if there would ever be a time when being naked didn't bother her. Already she knew the shame wasn't quite so intense as when she'd first been stripped in that cell in the capital. But it was bad enough, exposed like this in front of perhaps a dozen Secpol guards.

"You directed us to a file hidden in your room," he said. "Tell me about it."

"Steve McCoy gave it to me, sir." She remembered she'd been chained like this when they'd asked her about the file before.

"And he asked you to hide it?"

"Yes." She could feel his eyes devouring her breasts. She looked at the floor, shifting her weight to try to relieve the tension.

"Did you know what it contained?"

"He said it was love letters between him and Beth."

"Why would he give them to you?"

"He was going home. I think he had a girlfriend back in Canada. But to be honest, I didn't believe him."

"Really? What did you think was in there?"

"I guessed it was to do with his work with the human rights groups."

"You know that it's an offence to conceal evidence of sedition?"

She said nothing, kept looking down. She heard the chains clink and she was lifted. Instantly, the pain in her wrists increased. Her shoulders ached. She could feel the constriction of her chest, the difficulty breathing.

"You knew it was an offence?" he said again.

"Everything's an offence," she said. "The meetings, the demonstrations, everything."

"I can have you flogged again for obstruction, if you like, Rebecca," he said, ingratiatingly. She bit the inside of her lower lip. She would do almost anything to avoid that.

"Did you know it was an offence?" he asked again.

"I don't know," she said. ‘I didn't think. I didn't know what was in the file."

He approached her holding a piece of paper. He held it in front of her face. It was a list of names and numbers, email addresses. "Do you recognise this, Rebecca?"

She hated the way he used her first name. She looked at the paper. She was sure she'd never seen it before.

"No, sir."

Do you recognise any of the names?"

She peered at the list. "Yes," she said. "Of course. These are students."

He nodded and returned to his desk. He came back with another sheet of paper. "Recognise this?"

She didn't.

"Read it out."

"Red: Stafford," her voice was uncertain. "Orange: Raja. Yellow: Khan. Green: Stephenson. Blue: Singh. Indigo: McCoy. Violet: McCormack."

"Does that mean anything to you, Rebecca?"

"No... well… I was asked before about the rainbow. In the capital. But… I don't know. I don't understand."

*

Narayan liked big tits. He wanted to get stuck into McCormack. But this one would do. Pretty little thing, a bit girlish for his tastes, her tits almost entirely flattened by hanging by the wrists. He wanted to set to work with a cane or a whip, to lay welt after welt on that delicate frame. The marks already evident on her buttocks and thighs suggested just how soft and receptive her skin was. But Uppal, again, was wittering on, pursuing his method – a method that had McCormack sitting in another room doing her fucking homework and had him showing Harris fake documents he'd knocked up to test what she knew. He made it far too complicated. Beat the shit out of her, fuck her senseless and see what she'd say to avoid a repeat.

"What's this, Rebecca?" Uppal asked.

"I don't know," she said. "Is it in code?"

"You haven't seen this before?"

"No."

"Do you know what it might mean?"

"No."

Uppal held up the previous sheet. "What about this? Do you recognise names?"

"Yes, of course. McCoy, McCormack, Stafford."

"Does it surprise you Beth knew Bobby before they got here?"

"I don't know. Should it?"

Uppal nodded and looked over at Narayan. "Blindfold her, lower her and give her a footrest."

Good. He was going to hurt her a bit, then.

Uppal left, Harris's eyes following him out of the room. Narayan stepped up to her, running his hand over her ass and then moving round in front of her, letting his fingers explore her tits and her satiny stomach. He went to a cupboard and took out the footrest, a simple plank through which had been hammered a series of three-inch nails.

He approached her slowly, relishing the terror in her eyes as he brandished it. He held it in front of her face so she could see the nails, sixty of them, positioned in six rows of ten about an inch apart. He touched it against her breasts, laughing as she squirmed away from the points. "I could thrash you with this," he said and jabbed it towards her. She shrieked.

"Maybe later," he went on, and positioned it beneath her feet. He nodded at one of the boys and he lowered her gently. The key was to hang her just high enough that she could rest her feet on the nails for relief – they weren't sharp; they wouldn't really do any damage – but not so low that she could reach the floor. It was about forcing her to choose between taking the strain on her shoulders or suffering the spikes on her soles. She was already whimpering as he blindfolded her. He gave her breasts one final grope and then left the room.

*

Uppal perched on the desk and looked at McCormack, her dark hair tucked behind her ear, the smoothness of her cheek illuminated by the desk lamp. She was clever. And she was making progress. He liked that. He looked at the swell of her chest in her prison shirt.

She'd pointed out that there were seven paragraphs of roughly equal length, each of which ended with a series of letters with dots over them. Could it be, she suggested that they were the seven members of the rainbow group and that letters with dots represented numbers, that these were their telephone numbers?

That was smart, very smart. She'd also noted that none of the letters with dots on came after T in the alphabet. There were 20 dotted symbols, in other words, so perhaps two letters each represented a digit. Not only that, but she noticed that immediately before the numbers there was a pattern of words that always contained a two-letter word at its heart. An email address, she wondered? Were the two letters ‘AT'? The problem was that if that was true, A seemed to be represented by either C or 1 and T by Q or 0. He smiled gently at her. "Have you tried looking at the first word in each of those lines? Is it Red, Orange, Yellow?"

She nodded. "I was just trying that, sir."

"Good. And you know you're Violet. Try your own details on the last one." She nodded sadly.

"You're doing well. Keep going and I'll see if I can get you off that flogging."

*

Rebecca sobbed into the blindfold. What had she done to deserve this? Her shoulders and chest ached, her wrists were in agony and the pain in her feet was terrible. There were men in the room, she knew, looking at her, leching over her, thinking about hurting her, thinking about raping her. She knew from his face that the grizzled one would rape her before she left the camp. Become her fourth rapist. She almost wanted to go back to the inspector's office at the police station. At least he'd been gentle with her. Or he had until he'd fucked her in the ass after she'd been flogged.

What did the plump one want? Was there anything else she could tell him? She shifted slightly and new pain stabbed through her feet. The door opened. She smelled the aftershave and knew it was the interrogator, the plump one, with his ridiculous quiff. She heard him approach. He walked around her and as he approached the desk, she heard the order to remove her blindfold and lift her. She whimpered as the strain intensified on her wrists and shoulders. She blinked away the tears.

He looked at her suspiciously. "Had you heard the name Roberta Stafford before you got here?

"No," she said. "I met her on the train."

"Did McCormack give any indication of having met her or known her before?"

"I don't think so, no."

"Donohue?"

"No."

Her arms were trembling with the strain. The pain in her chest was getting worse. She could see him thinking. Thinking whether he should keep hurting her.

"What do you know about Stafford? About her background?"

"Nothing much." Even speaking was difficult. "She was a teacher, I think. Or at least she was doing some teaching at some school in the hills. She's English."

"Do you know why she's here?"

"No."

"You didn't ask?"

"She said she tried to reveal a priest had been abusing pupils at the school where she worked." She paused for breath. The pain was awful. "That the school didn't believe her and they caned her. That she ran away but was arrested and whipped and sent here."

"And did you believe her?"

"Yes. I mean, she's been caned and whipped. Why would she lie?"

"Why do you think?"

Did he want her to answer? She blinked.

"Why?" he asked again.

"I don't know…" She shook her head. The only thing she could think of was ridiculous.

He stood up and began to walk towards her. Shit. He stood in front of her. The smell of his aftershave was overwhelming. He placed his hands gently on her hips and pushed down. She shrieked as intense pain shot through her chest and shoulders. "Why?" he said, more forcefully.

"To hide something," she gasped.

"To hide what?"

"I don't…" He pushed down again. The pain was excruciating. For a moment she could see nothing.

"If she was a spy," she sobbed.

"Exactly," he said. He turned and walked back to his desk.

"Do you think she is?" he asked as he sat down again.

"No." Her voice sounded like squawk. He nodded slowly, then gave an order to let her down. She could have wept with relief. The soles of her feet throbbed as they touched the ground but she didn't care. Rather that than the agony in her chest and arms. They unfastened her wrists. She lowered her arms slowly, the pain terrifying as the circulation rushed back into her joints. She stood uneasily, massaging her sore wrists, eyes watering with the pain, wondering what was coming next. Was it over? Or was there a different kind of torture?

"Come here," he said, and she hobbled forwards, conscious of all their eyes on her nakedness.

*

Uppal stood up. What a pretty little thing she was. He walked to meet her. She looked petrified. He lay his hands on her shoulders. She flinched at the touch. "Look at me," he said and slowly she raised her gaze so those deep brown eyes settled on his.

"Do you want to help me?" he asked.

She glanced down at her nakedness, at her bloody feet, then lifted her eyes again. "Yes, sir," she whispered.

"Good girl," he said. "I want you to watch and listen. I want you to tell me what Stafford says. I think she may be very dangerous. Maybe she isn't, but I fear her. I want you to find out what she's been up to. Ask her about her work with the rebels. Ask her about her anti-government activity. Ask her about her sedition. Be careful. Be subtle. She mustn't suspect. But I want you to find out the truth. Is that clear?"

"You want me to be your spy?"

"Just find out the truth. About McCormack. About Donohue. But mainly about Stafford. Is that clear?"

She blinked, her mouth half-open.

"You can refuse, of course." He smoothed her hair back from her forehead. "But imagine what might happen if you did."

He kept his hand in her hair, cupping the back of her head with one hand and gently stroked her cheek with the other. "You know what a proper flogging feels like," he said. "Don't put yourself through that again. And we have plenty of other ways of making your life unpleasant."

She opened and closed her mouth, half-shaking her head.

"Will you do that for me?"

Tears rolled down her face as she nodded.

"Say it."

Her voice was flat and quiet but she found the words. "I will try to find out the truth for you sir."

*

Beth heard the door open. She smelt him before she saw him.

Uppal smiled at her. "How are you getting on?" he asked.

She couldn't look at him. How she hated his unctuousness. "I've finished," she said and handed him a sheaf of paper. She felt ill. All those people betrayed.

The interrogator took the sheets and glanced at them. "Finished?" he said with surprise.

"It's a simple substitution cipher," she said. "Made a bit more complicated by using digits as well as letters to represent certain common letters and representing numbers by letters with dots over them."

He read with interest. "Good," he said. "Very good."

Beth looked down. Her name, Steve's name and five others. One she recognised as a journalist but about the other four she had no idea. Three men, two women. None of them local.

‘What's this between the names and contact details?" he asked.

"It's garbage," she said. "It's there to confuse. It's lorem ipsum, some Latin words publishers use to show how text would look on a page."

"You're sure?"

"Yes. You can check my working."

"Excellent," he said. "You can have another day in here if you like, warm water, warm food before I hand you back over to the camp."

"They've sentenced me to five nights in the punishment cell."

"I'll see what I can do."

*

Megan shivered. How much of this night was there left? She hugged herself, rubbing her arms and looked up through the grating at the stars. Was this the coldest night they'd had? She was frozen. But there was a part of her that almost preferred being in the punishment cell to the hut, waiting to see if Chaudry's lot would rape her again. To think she'd thought she might thrive in here, that she might be able to lead them. It was just a matter of survival. Beth hadn't been seen for three days. Rebecca had come back from being tortured hardly able to lift her arms above her head and with her feet covered in scratches. And Bobby could barely lift her head or meet anybody's eye she'd been stripped and humiliated so often. She rubbed her feet, trying not to let them get numb. Could she get frostbite?

A shadow fell over the grating. Shit. It opened with a creak and hands were pulling at her, helping her up. It wasn't morning and that was bad news. She could smell alcohol. They threw her down onto the hard earth. There was laughter. She looked at the boots that surrounded her. At least eight of them. A hand pulled her hair and she was forced up to a kneeling position.

"Strip!" said a female voice. There was laughter. A boot prodded her backside. She couldn't resist. Her hands shaking, she unbuttoned her shirt and slipped it off then stood and pulled down her trousers. A shove in the back sent her tumbling back down to her knees. It was terribly cold. Mechanically she wrapped one arm over her chest and hooked a hand between her legs. Her nipples were rigid in the icy air. She felt utterly defeated.

"Bottle-fucker!" somebody said and there was laughter, a push with the sole of a boot against her shoulder. She remained kneeling, a terrible emptiness in her gut. There were at least 10 of them, she realised, a couple of women but mostly men.

Agarwal stared at the naked girl, shivering in the moonlight. Her breasts were like nothing he'd ever seen, full and firm. They were breasts he'd imagine might exist but never really believed, so round, so perfect, so smooth. He'd seen her on arrival when they'd hosed her and had watched her with her shirt wet with sweat, of course, had observed the strain her breasts placed on her shirt, their wobble beneath the cloth, but the full magnificence had slipped from his mind.

It was Puri's 30th birthday. They'd all had a few beers and some whisky and then they'd asked him what he really wanted. And he'd said her. He wanted Donohue to dance naked for him. Agarwal had wondered if it was a matter of ease: she was in the punishment cell so easy to get. He'd wondered as well if this was Amitab's doing: Puri was one of the guards who took payment from her gang and everybody knew Amitab had targeted Donohue. But he looked at Donohue's nude body, at the smooth skin and the perfect curves and he suspected Puri just wanted to enjoy her.

Led by Dayal, they dragged her across the yard, past the huts to the guard's accommodation. Megan tried to take in what she saw, tried to gain information, but she was cold and scared and humiliated and they kept shoving her. They went through some double doors into a corridor and suddenly it was warm which came as a relief. Her clothes had been left by the cell. They got to a door and paused. One of the female guards approached her. "It's Puri's birthday," she said. "You're his gift."

What the fuck did that mean? A red paper hat was pulled onto her head. There was laughter. "Go in there," the female guard went on. "He's sitting in a chair with a blindfold on. Go over to him. Sing ‘Happy Birthday'. Take the blindfold off him. Dance for him. Make him feel good. He's 30. Make him happy. Do that and you can have a drink and some cake. Fuck it up and we'll work out how you can entertain him."

Fucking hell. Was she meant to give him a lap-dance? "Do you understand?"

"Yes," she said, her throat dry.

"Look sexy," one of them said, and a hand groped her ass.

"Are you ready?"

The door opened and she was pushed in. It stank of stale beer and cigarette smoke. There were several dozen guards there, men and women. She could feel sticky linoleum beneath her feet. She saw a guard, blindfolded on a chair straight in fort of her, perhaps seven or eight yards away. She hesitated but the toe of a boot urged her on. There were cheers and wolf-whistles as she advanced, laughing faces everywhere. She'd never felt so naked. But she could do this. In fact the only way to get through this was to act up to it. She tossed her hair and set her mind to it. She wasn't sexually inexperienced. She knew what men liked.

She strode over to him, trying to ignore the cat-calls and whistles. She placed her foot on his crotch and gently pushed, feeling him stiffen instantly. There were cheers as she straddled him and stroked his face. She pushed her breasts against him, then stood, stroking his groin again with her foot and moving behind him. Breathily, doing her best impression of Marilyn Monroe, she began to sing. She pushed her breasts into his back and began to unbutton his shirt. She reached inside and felt his soft pectoral. "Happy birrrthhhday, Private Puriiii…" she drew her nails over his nipple and felt him shudder with pleasure. She untied his blindfold and moved in front of him. "Happy birthday…" She pulled his face into her breasts. "To… yououououo."

They applauded. She felt a flush of shame, then kissed him firmly on the mouth, tasting garlic on his breath. What should she do now? She stood, tossed her hair back and walked towards the door. Her way was barred by a female soldier. "Whore!" she said.

Agarwal had barely been able to contain himself. He didn't know that Puri had. That was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen. But Kirin was jealous or something and Donohue was being dragged out of the building. He hurried after the golden skin and after Kirin. There were four of the women guards, Kirin foremost among them, berating Donohue, calling her a slut, slapping her and kicking her, and there was a group of male guards following excitedly. The cold hit him as they stepped outside. What must it be like to be naked in that? She stumbled and fell and they were on her, Kirin almost dragging her by her hair. Kirin had a bitchy side, they all knew that, but he couldn't work out what had enraged her. There were more guards joining them all the time, having pulled on coats for the icy weather. Where were they going? Not to the punishment cells. Donohue was shrieking. As they hurried her gazed at her flailing legs, those peachy buttocks. He wanted her to dance for him.

The showers. Megan suddenly understood where they were going. Her feet scrabbled for purchase as they pulled her by the arms, the hair. It was bitterly cold. They got her through the door and hauled her through the changing area then threw her down on the tiles. She slid forwards, the floor icy against her skin. She felt a pain in her knee where it had slammed into the tiles, swelling, getting worse and worse. Hands were on her, pulling her up, turning her round, pushing her back against the wall. There were shouts, a kick to her thigh, and then her hands were being cuffed together above her head, the chain looped behind a pipe so she squatted awkwardly. They backed off and she looked at them, a couple of dozen guards in a semi-circle surrounding her. She pushed her knees together, trying to regain some dignity, but she was naked and bound and she knew what was coming.

Agarwal stared at her breasts, wanted to press his head between them. Her skin was unbelievably smooth, gloriously lickable even in the cold.

"You are filthy," Kirin screamed at her. "A filthy, disgusting whore."

She turned on the shower. Megan shrieked as the water struck her. The force was much greater than usual, presumably because only one head was activated rather than the 20 that were usually turned on. The jets hammered down on her. She twisted, got her head out of the way, but the water strummed on her chest. She squirmed desperately. It was ferociously, bitterly cold. She could feel her heart thumping. Her head ached. Her body came out in goosebumps. And all she could see, though the pounding water, was a mass of mocking faces above their khaki uniforms.

Her skin had gone from golden to pink to a sickly purple. Her nipples were rigid. She'd stopped fighting and just hung, legs apart, the crinkle amid the tawny hair clearly visible. Agarwal was enjoying this almost as much as seeing her dance, although there was a part of him felt sorry for her. It wasn't her fault Kirin was in love with Puri. He hadn't realised himself till she'd reacted like this.

Kirin pushed past him, her plaited hair bouncing. She held a broom that she must have gone to collect from the supply hut. She jabbed it at Donohue and began to scrub, the hard bristles scouring her soft flesh. Donohue screamed as it scraped her icy skin, her belly, her ribs, her chest and then, inevitably, her breasts and her cunt, Kirin all the while hurling abuse at her.

How long had it gone on for? She had no idea. Megan just knew pain. A minute? Two? Five? Eventually it was over and they turned the water off. They unfastened her hands and slung her forwards so she sprawled, shivering, on the tiles between their feet. They pulled her up, by her arms and her hair so she stood, hunched and trembling, her breathing coming in gulps, arms hugging herself to try to generate some warmth. A hand grabbed her hair and twisted so she was forced to look into the face of the female guard who'd caused all this. "You're a filthy little whore," she said. "What are you?"

Megan bit her lip. "I'm a filthy little whore," she said, snot running from her nose. There was no point in defiance.

"Are you going to try to seduce a guard again?"

"No, ma'am," she said. The end of the broom handle suddenly jabbed between her legs. "No!" she shrieked. Not again.

"If you do," said Kirin, "we ram this inside you and give you such a good time you'll never feel like sex again. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am." It was amazing, Agarwal thought, how she'd gone from such confidence and, well, sexiness in the mess room, to this snivelling figure, dripping and shaking, skin red and scratched in places where the broom had broken the skin.

They hustled her, shivering desperately, back to the punishment cell and threw her in, still naked. A few guards drifted off, but Agarwal stayed, staring down at her nakedness as she curled up on the concrete. Eventually someone dropped her clothes down on top of her and then, as an act of mercy, they tossed her a blanket. But it was still going to be a very uncomfortable night.

*

Uppal couldn't believe how well this had gone. He had the list of names. Thanks to McCormack, he had the Rainbow Group in his hand. He had Harris primed to spy on Stafford – and that was the big thing he didn't understand. What was Stafford's role in this? How did she fit in? Was she not part of the Rainbow Group? Was she above it, somehow, directing them? Or not connected at all? The fear nagged at him that McCormack had been telling the truth, that people had just named her because they were told to. Anyway, he had five years to break her if need be.

He'd put out arrest warrants for the other five names: David Berg, Lucie Clement, Christopher Ellison, Emma Swann, Marco van der Meyde. He'd searched for them in the files and on the internet. He had pictures. If they were still in the country they were in big trouble. McCormack had claimed not to have heard of any of them and he was inclined to believe her, although he probably would work her over again just to be sure. He'd managed to get Mistry to suspend her nights in the punishment cell. She must be grateful to him.

His next job, though, was to go through the files on those five, to cross-reference, to work out time-lines, to work out who was where when. It would take time. He considered calling Patel for help. He would be able to do research at the university, find out what connections they had there.

Or at least, that should be his next job, except he'd been called back to the capital to discuss his findings. He wondered if he should let Narayan loose on Stafford, soften her up for a few days before he returned but he was worried he'd go too far. His method, after all, had worked: a little persuasion and they were working for him.

*

Rebecca didn't know why she'd woken. The siren hadn't gone off. It was still dark and nobody was stirring in the hut. She shuffled on her mat, trying to find a more comfortable position. Her shoulders still ached from being strung up and her feet were in constant pain from the footrest but a sense of normality had fallen over the camp. For a start all four of them were together in the hut, which offered some sense of security after what had happened to Megan. She'd heard what the other prisoners said had happened. Fuck, it didn't bear thinking about: raped with a Coke bottle. And then something had happened on her second night in the punishment cell but she'd say only that they'd stripped her and given her a cold shower.

And Beth had returned from the Secpol centre the day after her, looking tired and haunted but strong enough to work despite the electric shocks she said she'd taken. Rebecca moaned softly and turned over, still stiff and sore. Through half-closed eyes she saw a pair of boots and somehow she knew. She stifled a gasp and pulled back, then slowly looked up. It couldn't be. But it was.

"Hello, Rebecca," said his voice. "Is this how you greet an old friend?"

Rao. Fuck. What the fuck was he doing here?

"Get up," he said.

She struggled to her feet. She dared not resist. Thoughts of him beating her, humiliating her, raping her in the capital flickered in her mind. She was aware of others waking around her. She saw his bulk, his grinning face and stood, head bowed before him. He took her hand and she followed him, heart thumping. He led her out of the hut. Where were they going? As soon as they were outside, in the cold, he stopped and blindfolded her. Then he took her hand again and led her behind the hut towards the guards' barracks. What was it? Rape? Spanking?

It was warm in his room. It wasn't much, just a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and a washbasin, but at least he had privacy. He locked the door behind him, then took her blindfold off. He hung his coat and his jacket on the back of the door. She blinked awkwardly, biting her lower lip. She was just as pretty as he remembered. He stroked her, first her face then her hair, so delicate so lovely. He sat on the end of his bed and began to unbutton her shirt.

"How have they treated you?" he asked.

She looked blankly at him and gave a slight shake of the head.

"Is it tough here?"

"Yes, sir," she muttered, as he peeled back her shirt to reveal her slender torso, her breasts, just as soft and pert as he remembered them.

"Have they hurt you?"

"They've flogged me and tortured me."

Her shirt fell to the ground. He let his hands fall to her breasts. "I can protect you," he said. "If you're well-behaved."

He pushed his head between her breasts, feeling the soft pressure on his forehead, then pulled down her trousers. He pushed her away from him so she stepped away from her clothes and was naked. "Let me have a look at you," he said. He took in the delicate form, her fear, her shame. He'd spent weeks dreaming of this as he'd negotiated a transfer from Patel's squad. This was his reward.

"You've lost a little weight," he said.

She gave a slight snort. "The food's not great," she said. What was he doing here? She stood with her hands loosely by her sides, resisting the urge to cover herself for she knew that would antagonise him. She couldn't look him in the eye. She saw the shirt straining over his belly, his cock pushing at his trousers. Fuck.

"Don't lose too much," he said with a smile. "I don't want a sick insect for a girlfriend."

"I'm not your girlfriend," she said, and regretted it immediately. Why had she said that? He was off the bed in an instant, and cuffed her hard round the back of the head. She stumbled and he grabbed her by the hair, shaking her violently. She shrieked, grasping at his hands. He threw her down. She sprawled on his rug, looking back desperately over her shoulder. He was taking his belt off.

"Please," she said. "I'll fuck you. I'll suck you off. But I'm a prisoner. I can't be your girlfriend."

It was too late. He was furious. "Stand up," he said, his voice terrifyingly calm.

She obeyed. "Bend over."

Fuck. There was nothing she could do. "You know the rules," he said. "Twelve lashes and you count them."

‘Thank you, sir," she said, voice unsteady. Fuck.

Rao was going to teach the little bitch a lesson. You didn't treat him like that. She would pay. He looked at the quivering naked form, the buttocks streaked and bruised. He doubled over his belt, snapping together the two halves, enjoying how she flinched. He hit her, hard. She gasped. "Thank you, sir. One."

That was calmer than he'd expected. He walked past her, seeing the tremble of her legs as she held the position. There wasn't really room in here. He lashed her backhanded. "Thank you, sir. Two."

This wasn't working. "On your knees," he ordered and she obeyed. He blindfolded her, then put on his jacket and overcoat. He'd flog her in the showers. He hooked his belt around her neck. "You remember this, bitch?" he asked. She said nothing, but got down on all fours. He picked up her clothes, gave her a prod with his foot and led her out on the leash.

Blindfold, she followed him uncertainly. He kept pulling her, enjoying the sense of power. The bitch. He was going to make her life hell. He pulled her into the shower block by which time she was shivering. He took his coat off – he wanted a clean swing. He removed her blindfold and ordered he to take up the position.

Rebecca bent over, eyes closed. She grasped her ankles. Fuck, it was cold. Why hadn't she just fucked him? He lashed her. She grunted. "Thank you, sir," she coughed. "Three." Was it three, or one again? He seemed happy enough, walking round her then hitting her again, on her thighs this time. The force almost knocked her off balance but she adjusted. The sting on her cold skin was horrible – although nothing like even the caning she'd taken in the camp. "Thank you, sir," she said. "Four."

He wasn't getting through to her. The camp had toughened her up. He remembered her sobbing and bawling in the mess room in the capital. Now she was just reluctantly submitting. Five, six, seven, eight. At last a proper yelp of pain but she stayed down and thanked him. How could he make this worse?

The burn was getting worse. It was desperately cold. He waited for what seemed like an age before delivering the ninth and when it landed, slap across the middle of her buttocks, it was ferociously powerful. On the bruised flesh it was horribly painful, but she managed to stay in position. "Thank you, sir," she said, her voice a weak croak. "Nine." He backhanded her: ten. Nearly there.

What had happened to the bitch? Rao swept up, deliberately flicking between her legs. Most of the force was taken by her inner thigh but her squeal told him he'd hurt her. But she thanked him and called out the number. One more. Of course he could beat her again for something else but that would seem like defeat. He lashed hard across her lower buttocks. "Thank you sir," she said defiantly. "Twelve." Maybe it was just that the canings had been fresher the last time.

"Up," he said.

She stood. He approached and gently cupped her left breast in his right hand. With the other, he smoothed a strand of hair away from her face. "You'll soon be begging to be my girlfriend," he said, and slapped her cheek. "Report to the governor tomorrow evening."

He forced her to her knees and led her like a dog back to the hut, throwing her clothes in after her.

*

When would it stop? Mistry looked at Harris, at her serious face and sad eyes. He knew he'd flogged her once but now the new sergeant said she'd spat at him. She denied it, of course, but she would. She looked so pathetic snivelling in front of him but what could he do? He couldn't have prisoner spitting at guards, trying to take advantage of somebody new, feeling their way into the job.

He pushed his glasses up his nose. "There's a lot of prisoners here who've never been punished by me," he said. "And now you're here for the second time in less than two weeks."

She looked down, didn't say anything. She seemed terrified.

"I'm not going to have you spitting at guards," he went on. She half-lifted her head as though to protest but then thought better of it.

"You'll be flogged." She swallowed but said nothing, "Grade two cane on your shoulders. Twelve lashes." He peered over his glasses. She seemed absurdly slender to be having beaten like that. "And if you're before me again, it'll be really serious."

*

Rao stood with his arms folded. It was a chill damp morning. He still hadn't got used to the changes in temperature in this place. Harris been called forward and now stood, trembling on the platform. He would do this to her again and again until she wanted him.

Desai, the stern fat female sergeant, announced the sentence. Twelve lashes for gross insubordination. He didn't know what a grade two cane was. He suspected it wasn't going to be as severe as the caning he'd watched her take in the capital. And they were using women to flog her. Three days a week he would have control of the beatings and when he did, he would have men carry them out. Still, these looked like tough women.

The order came for her to strip. He'd seen her naked for far longer than he'd seen her with clothes on, of course, but that didn't lessen his enjoyment as, with a great weariness, she undressed. When she was naked, the guards spun her round and pushed her resisting body towards the frame. Rao had never seen anyone beaten on their back before. Her wrists and ankles were cuffed, a strap passed over her waist. She seemed entirely passive and then they stretched her out, which seemed only to emphasise how small she was. There was a pinkness to her buttocks where he'd beaten them, although it was the purples and greens for her previous canings that were more noticeable.

She raised her head slightly and he saw terror even in the shape of her body. From where he stood, he couldn't see her eyes but he knew what they looked like. His cock was rigid at the sight of her. His eyes fixed on the side of her right breast, pushed away from her body slightly by the angle forced on her by the crossbar. The two guards charged with flogging her approached, each flexing their canes. They were perhaps four feet long, pale and threatening. They had a quick discussion, about who was going first, he reasoned, and then the left-hander touched her cane to Rebecca's back. She flinched at the touch and there was some laughter. A lot of the prisoners clearly were quite happy to see her beaten.

There was a blur and whoosh, a dull thwack and an anguished gasp. Her breasts jumped, her head shot back and her mouth opened wide, her little teeth bared. "One," called Desai and Rao was transported back to watching her caning in the prison hall in the capital.

Mistry regarded floggings as necessary evils. It was like butchery. He wanted the animal on his plate but didn't much like to think about how it had got there. There was a need for discipline in his camp but the punishments needed to achieve that tuned his stomach. But he wanted to know what made this girl such a particular offender. He checked his thought: she was not a girl. She was a woman and a criminal: to think of her as a girl, however young and slight she seemed, was to misrepresent the threat she presented.

From the window of his office he looked over the yard, over the heads of the prisoners, to the punishment platform where Harris was being flogged. She'd looked terrified as she'd stripped, exhausted and humiliated. It made no sense to him. Why was she not better behaved? He watched Malhotra and Sai lashing her, saw how hard they struck, saw how her slender body twitched and bucked under the assault. He didn't like that he'd had to order them to do that to such a pretty young thing, but what choice had he had? She'd made him do it. She was the one who'd spat at a sergeant. And if she was brought before him again he'd have to order a really severe punishment. Not that 12 strokes with a grade two cane wasn't serious. He probably should have given the order for two days in the infirmary not just one. But that was his soft heart speaking. Just because she was young and pretty he was thinking of mercy when there was something wicked about her.

Bobby was the only other one of them to have been flogged in the camp. She felt she knew what it was like. But she was well aware that the grade two cane was a far more fearsome instrument than the grade two strap she had taken. It was more fearsome than the cane they'd used on her at the school, and probably worse even than the knotted whip she'd taken in the police station. Poor Rebecca. The lashes were brutal, the welts the canes left vicious, marking her tiny back with evil purple stripes. By the fourth lash she was screaming unrestrainedly, twisting hopelessly in her bonds, looking over her shoulder again and again at the guards flogging her. But there was no mercy, of course. Bobby turned away, but the noise was almost as bad, the canes whooshing through the air, the thud on cold skin, the shout of pain, the laughter and cheers from other prisoners. Why did Chaudry's mob hate them so much?

Rebecca wanted to die. The seventh stroke smashed into her lower back. Her head flicked up. She saw her arms stretched above, the stark frame, the icy blue of the sky. How could she take five more? How? She turned, looking over her left shoulder. Face blank, the guard took two paces and with clear effort lashed her. It hit high on her shoulders, a terrible pain. She shuddered, shaking with the cold and the agony, and began to retch. They just kept lashing her. It wasn't drawn out like the punishment back in the capital. There wasn't that awful wait between the lashes, just pain added to pain.

There was a doctor standing on the platform, arms folded. Rao was troubled by him. There was a self-satisfaction about him he didn't like. And he saw a glance he'd shot her, lascivious and complacent. Were they fucking? Was that why she'd rejected him? Was she fucking the doctor? She was suffering now, shaking and screaming, panicking and thrashing as the tenth blow landed. He admired the skill of the floggers: they hadn't drawn blood but had left a series of parallel stripes on that slender back. The eleventh was delivered just below the middle of her back. Her whole body jolted and she howled again, her head jerking back and then falling forward. He was consumed by his desire for her. He wanted her on her knees in front of him, her little tongue working on his cock as he played his hands on the soft bruised skin of her back. She shrieked again as the final lash was delivered.

She was left quivering, bawling, tears rolling down her face clearly in a state of shock. He watched as they loosened her bonds and the doctor, with a smile he hated, gave her a cursory check before pointing to the infirmary. Her legs seemed barely to function as the guards dragged her away.

Mistry wondered if there was any other way of maintaining discipline.

*

Two days had passed. It was Wednesday, Rao's first night on duty. He was irritated by how much he had to do, supervising them washing and roll call, paperwork, checking supplies, making sure the dogs had been fed and that the guards manning the outer fence were alert. It was almost three hours before he got to do what he wanted to do and walk through the huts, looking for pretty girls. Rebecca had been the main reason he'd got his uncle to swing him this job, of course, but what man wouldn't take advantage in the circumstances?

He paced up and down, occasionally prodding one that took his fancy to wake them and get a better look. He left Rebecca's hut till last, but she wasn't there, still in the infirmary. He stood by her empty space, looking at the other three white girls. Should he have some fun with one of them? He looked at Beth and thought of taking his belt to her. She was bigger than Rebecca, taller, stronger, larger tits, but he might enjoy that. But he decided to wait. He knew Mistry hadn't been impressed by his demand that Rebecca be beaten. It was probably best to be a little cautious.

*

On the Friday night, Rao was presented with his opportunity. It was almost too perfect. It was almost 1.30 and he was sorting out a change in the rota because Reddy needed time off to visit his mother. There'd been a knock on the door. And two soldiers had dragged Rebecca in. At first held feared they were mocking him but it turned out they'd caught her wrestling with another prisoner over a blanket.

"Well?" he said, smirking at her.

"It was my blanket, sir," Rebecca said, resentfully. "She stole it."

He turned to the guards. "Her blanket was on her mat," one said.

"They put it there to get me into trouble," Rebecca blurted. She was almost crying.

"That doesn't sound very likely," Rao said with great relish. "Now, what should we do with you?"

She bit her lower lip and looked away. "I think maybe you'd better do punishment detail tomorrow," he said. "I'm supervising the afternoon so you'd better look sharp."

His first day overseeing punishment detail was going to be fun.

*

Rebecca was horribly weak. Her back was still on fire and she felt nauseous when she ate. The doctor had raped her three times although she'd been barely conscious on the first occasion. But the worst thing as she set to work digging was the pain in her feet. The soles were still scratched and scarred from standing on the spikes. They hadn't really recovered from the beatings she'd taken when they'd tortured her back in the capital. Trying to push on the shovel was hell.

It was dreadfully hot and humid. She was drenched within minutes, blinded by sweat. It was hopeless. She couldn't do this. She pushed herself on, grateful that in the morning at least the sergeant supervising punishment detail was a relatively reasonable woman in his fifties.

She survived but by the time they walked back for lunch, she was exhausted, her feet bleeding. She felt dizzy and Megan had to help her. Water and lunch helped but as they were taking their plates and bowls to be washed up, the sergeant approached. It was the grey-haired one, the one who'd made her strip naked on punishment detail, the one who'd got her the first caning here. There was something in his stride that scared her. He was angry about something. As he walked past her she felt a sense of relief, but he turned on Megan. "Punishment detail this afternoon," he snapped at her. Megan look baffled. "You know why," he said, but Rebecca was sure Megan didn't. At least she'd have support for the afternoon with Rao.

*

Two of them. All the better. Rao watched intently as Rebecca and Megan worked. Rebecca looked exhausted already, shirt stained with salt and grime and sweat. Megan was taller, rounder, breasts pushing at her shirt. She was blonde and beautiful and he would enjoy watching her, but there was something in Rebecca's fragility that appealed to him.

There were guards shouting at them both almost constantly, abusing them, taunting them. He let them tire themselves. Whatever fun he had, he had to make sure they did some digging. Just after three hours in he made his move. "Harris," he said, and beckoned. She staggered over. He face was red, her clothes wet. "Take your shirt off," he said. Hands trembling with exhaustion, she obeyed. He smiled as he watched her set to work again, smooth skin exposed, back streaked with welts, gentle breasts quivering in the sun. She seemed almost too exhausted to express emotion.

He saw Megan shoot him a look of disgust. Perhaps his relish had been too great. Still, he had the power. "You can take your shirt off as well," he said. He saw the smirks on the faces of the two guards. He thought for a moment she might refuse, but she slowly stripped. Her skin was smooth and golden, her breasts full and round. One of the guards gave her a shove. "Come on, bottle-fucker," he said. What was that about? Rao stood and watched the two pairs of breasts. He was in heaven. Quarter of an hour later, he made Megan strip naked. It was good to exercise his power, good to teach them who was in control.

*

Bobby pushed a wet tendril of hair from her brow. It had been a stifling, humid day and she was exhausted. The sun was setting and the temperature beginning to drop as they trudged back to the camp. She picked her damp shirt away from her skin. This was hideous. She didn't know how she could keep going. Rebecca had been like a zombie since they'd flogged her again and Megan had retreated into herself, all the more so since Rao had made her do punishment detail naked the previous day.

She walked with her head down. There was suddenly a flurry of shouting. She looked up. She saw Beth rushing forward and, beyond her, scrabbling in the dust, Megan and Chaudry. Soldiers piled in and pulled them apart, dragging them to their feet. Megan was bleeding from her nose but Chaudry's shirt was torn. "She attacked me," Chaudry shouted. "She's crazy, mad. She's dangerous."

The sergeant, a cold woman in her fifties with her hair pulled back in a tight bun. approached. The guards still held Chaudry and Megan. "What happened?" she said to one of them. "I'm not certain, ma'am," he replied. "I just saw this one," – he pointed at Megan – "throw herself at the other one."

Bobby's heart sank. She could imagine all too easily what had happened, Chaudry tormenting Megan who'd finally snapped. There was no way she'd avoid a flogging. Other prisoners joined in, denouncing Megan. The sergeant sighed. "Cuff her wrists," she said to the guards. "Put her in the punishment cell till the governor's ready to see her."

*

Wrists shackled behind her, Megan stood before the governor's desk. How could she tell him why she'd attacked Chaudry? How could she begin to explain her pent-up rage? The thought of the bottle being shoved inside her shamed her on a level she couldn't begin to express and she was disgusted now by the way she'd danced for Puri. There were easy buttons for Chaudry to press and she'd pushed them expertly. She'd started by suggesting she would introduce Rebecca to the bottle, picking on their weakest link. When Megan had tried to defend her, she'd asked if she was jealous. And then Chaudry had suggested that if she kept showing her body off to guards the bottle was going to move on. "If I had a body like yours," Chaudry said, "I'd be a whore as well." At that, the red mist had come down. Because she was right: with Puri she had acted like a whore. She had tried to seduce him. She thought of rubbing her naked breasts against him and was appalled. And of course it had only made the situation worse.

The governor was furious. "What is wrong with you?" he said, his voice radiating anger. He slapped the desk. "You're lazy. You spit at guards. You fight with other prisoners."

By you, she realised, he meant the four white prisoners. There was a trickle of blood running from Megan's nose but she didn't point it out. "I have no option," he went on. "No option. You must be severely punished."

She'd expected that. She braced herself. "You're so unruly you have to be brought to me in chains. Well, no more. No more. From now on there will be a zero tolerance approach. No giving you the benefit of the doubt."

He took a breath. "Flogging," he said. "Tonight, the punishment cell, naked. Then in the morning, grade two cane on your buttocks. Twenty-four strokes. Then three hours on the frame. You will learn discipline."

*

Agarwal hadn't quite been able to believe the sentence when they'd heard it. There were a dozen of them now by the punishment cells watching as Donohue stripped. He couldn't remember Mistry ever ordering a prisoner to be naked. It wasn't the coldest night but it would still be deeply unpleasant for her. And then 24 strokes. Nobody got that with a cane. She took off her shirt with obvious humiliation. Her lower lip was trembling and he could see tears glinting in her eyes. The contrast to her sexy dance for Puri was astonishing. Her tits were just as amazing as he remembered them. She loosed her trousers and stepped out of them, her skin still lovely and creamy. But this time there was shame. She covered herself as they stared at her before Kirin – who else? – took charge.

She held a pair of handcuffs. "This one's dangerous," she said, shoving her hard on the chest. Donohue staggered backwards into a couple of guards. They grabbed her, twisting her arms behind her and turning her so Kirin could shackle her hands behind her. Agarwal stared at the firm round buttocks and thought of the damage they'd sustain the following day. They pushed her around, laughing at her. She fell to her knees and Agarwal was one of those who grabbed her, pulling her to her feet. As he took her right arm with his left hand, his right hand somehow landed on her right breast. He felt its soft firmness, the nipple like rubber in the cold and he realised what power they had. This beautiful woman was entirely in their grasp. They could do what they wanted to her.

Kirin had further plans. She took a dark cloth from her pocket, folded it in three and tied it over Donohue's eyes. Blindfolded she was even more helpless. They began pushing her between them, laughing as she staggered. Somebody made the noise of a cane and there was more laughter. Kirin slapped her hard on the buttocks. "It'll be a million times worse than that," she said, then spat in her face. They all spat, Agarawl deliberately directing his onto her breasts, then, finally, they pulled her to the cell.

Kirin had one more modification. A couple of the cells had hooks fixed almost at ground level. They'd shoved her in, enjoying her discomfort stepping blindfolded into the hole and then they'd yanked her wrists up and fastened the cuffs over the hook, meaning she was bent awkwardly forward, strain on her shoulders. Then they'd closed the grating, pressing her head down between her knees and with more spittle had left her to the night.

*

Megan had never felt worse. Not when they'd beaten her in the capital, not when they'd flogged her with hosepipes, not even when she'd licked Amitab out with a bottle up her cunt. She was desperately cold, her shoulders were in agony and all she could think about was the caning they were about to give her. She understood there was no respite. A lot of the prisoners hated her and most of those who didn't were too scared of the ones who did to do anything other than look on. A lot of them were just glad it wasn't them being abused. And of course the guards were only too glad to abuse her. She understood she was an attractive woman. She understood she had a good body. She understood the history of empire. She understood why humiliating and hurting a beautiful white woman might be fun for them. And she hadn't even been tortured yet, although she had no doubt that would come. There was no escape. For the next 42 weeks it was pain and abuse. There was nothing she could do about it.

At least she only had 42 weeks left. Rebecca and Beth had another year after that. Bobby three years after that. Rebecca, she knew, used a small stone to mark each day on the floor beneath her mat. She'd drawn 104 boxes for each week she'd be there and in each one she counted up to seven. 728 days of abuse.

She heard voices. There was more spittle, cold on her back and shoulders, laughter, guards making the noise of a cane. She wept into the blindfold.

*

Mistry wondered if he'd been too harsh. He pulled his overcoat tighter around him. The girl looked devastated as she stood on the platform, shivering, head down and shoulders hunched. The guards turned her and led her to the frame. She didn't resist, just shuffled, stiff and cold. They bent her over the bar, hips against the blanket, fastened her ankles to the base and her wrists to the back support. The two floggers took their positions either side of her. A sense of silent expectation fell over the foggy yard.

Agarwal had got himself in a perfect position. He could see her face, which bore a mixture of tired resignation and fear, and he could see how her breasts hung down, beautifully round and tipped with the firm cones of her frigid nipples. She was going to suffer horribly. He had no great desire to see her lovely buttocks ruined but he wanted to see her tits jumping and the pain on her face.

Rebecca knew what it was to be naked up there. She knew what it was to be bent over awaiting agony in front of a crowd. She knew what the grade two cane was. She shuffled her feet on the cold earth. She'd decided not to look. She felt a hand laid gently on her shoulder and turned to see Beth's concerned face. She shrugged. "It's not me up there," she said, but she was grateful for the sympathy. Bobby was staring grim-faced at the platform. Rebecca heard the cane land, heard Megan's gasp, heard the low appreciation of the crowd, heard the announcement of "one" and felt utterly defeated.

Megan stared straight ahead, at the fence and the Secpol building behind it. She as shocked by how painful it was. This was far worse than the hosepipe, far worse than fists. The second stroke landed. Her hips ground into the rough blanket. She grunted with pain. This was fucking awful. The sense of helplessness, her immobility, made it worse. The third landed. She clenched her teeth, hearing the hiss of anguish leave her mouth. An officer in Secpol uniform stood outside the building, smoking, a wry grin on his face.

Narayan felt his cock rising. Those tits were amazing. He hoped Uppal would let him loose on her. At each stroke she jerked and her tits bounced, beautiful, firm, round tits. She seemed tough as well. All the better. He liked a challenge. Well, he liked them sobbing and begging as well. He wasn't bothered. But he knew he wanted her, with her smooth golden skin, and he wanted to break somebody who could take five, six blows like that without crying out.

Mistry was shocked. Shocked by how hard they beat her and shocked by how well she stood up to it. Only after nine strokes did she cry out and by then her buttocks were a deep red. By then she was clearly suffering terribly, twisting and writhing as the lashes landed on flesh that was already bruised. He wondered if he should stop it but he knew this had to be an exemplary punishment, that everybody had to understand that fighting was not to be tolerated. Why had she made him do this to her?

The cane smacked into the lower part of her buttocks, clipping the bottom of the mark left by a previous stroke. Krishnamurthy understood how that magnified the pain. Her face twisted in anguish as she was thrown forward by the force of the blow, but she managed to emit no more than a grunt, clenching her teeth, eyes bulging. Her breasts rippled. He would enjoy them over the next couple of days.

The thirteenth landed. "Grrrrraaaaaaahhh!" Despite the cold, sweat had formed on her brow. Her heart was thumping. She willed herself to stay strong. She heard the dreaded whoop of the next lash, braced herself and heard herself roar. She tipped her head back but in the white sky there was no comfort.

Bobby knew this pain. Her caning had been with a lighter rod but she knew what it was to be in agony waiting more agony. Megan was tough. Tougher than any of the others of them, anyway. She knew she'd been bawling by that stage, thrashing around hopelessly. Megan was suffering, that was clear, but she was maintaining some level of self-control. Another lash landed. She heard the strike and Megan's gasp but then she gave a slight toss of the head and set herself again. The rhythm was awful: lash, shout, number, silence. She could hear sobs near her: Rebecca. Beth sympathetically took her hand. She felt a flash of irritation. Rebecca wasn't the only one who was suffering. She wasn't the only one who'd been beaten. And Rebecca wasn't serving five years. And Rebecca was guilty. They were all fucking guilty apart from her. She pushed the thought from her mind.

What a job, where watching this could be counted as work! Agarwal knew he should feel some sympathy for her but he was turned on. He knew she'd fallen in Chaudry's trap, that the punishment was ridiculous, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the sight of her golden body trembling and bouncing on the frame. He thought back to her gyrations for Puri. He wanted that. But for now, this would do. Another blow landed, a shudder went through her and she gave a grunt that was almost sexual as she hips pounded the bar and torso bounced up, sending her tits wobbling and shimmering. "Eighteen," came the count.

He scanned the prisoners for Chaudry. There she was, arms folded, surrounded by her acolytes, a smirk on her face. What a victory this was for her. She was almost licking her lips watching Donohue take the flogging.

Desai was much happier with this beating. She'd had Malhotra practise after the ham-fisted caning of Harris and she was much better. More rhythm in the stroke, good power and accuracy. She'd have liked Donohue to be in more distress, but she was tough. The flogging itself was being administered well enough. She knew Rao wanted them to use men to administer the punishments but that was never the way it had been done, and she suspected Rao just liked the idea that he could cane girls. She had no sympathy for these prisoners but there was something wrong about the way he looked at them, Harris in particular. That was one of the problems with male guards in a women's camp: they started thinking with their penises.

Krishnamurthy relaxed. He had done research into floggings and he knew the theory. Unless the cane were heavy or significant amounts of blood was being drawn, these lashes didn't really do much more damage. For the first eight or ten the pain slowly grew, and striking bruised flesh hurt more than fresh skin, but once it was bruised it was bruised. The challenge at that stage was mental, the sense of pain going on and on. Unless the skin began to split it would take a lot more blows before the muscle was seriously damaged. After a dozen he could be confident she wasn't going to go into shock. The question was whether she could keep enduring the pain. She was suffering, that much was clear but she was holding it together pretty well. He watched another blow land, saw her groin thrust into the blanket and then the shoulders arch back. He couldn't wait to get his hands on her tits.

"Twenty-two," Megan heard. Two more. She could do this. She was panting, desperately trying to get air into her lungs, and her thighs were shaking but she could take two more. The twenty-third landed with its familiar whump and she felt the pain well, felt her body go taut. She saw the posts to which her arms were bound and the sky beyond and she felt agony wash over her again and she heard her own grunt and a couple of breaths that sounded like whimpers and then she fell calm again, her breath rasping. She waited. The last one. She could do this. She could survive it. The lash was low, whipping the top of her thighs rather that the buttocks themselves. The pain was dreadful but there was also the sense that it was over. She had survived. She spat a globule of stringy saliva from her mouth and breathed deeply. Her buttocks still burned. And now the next stage.

*

Agarwal was quickly over to help. Her buttocks were streaked in purple and red, the skin broken in three or four places. Her eyes were closed and she'd gone limp, her breathing a strange hiss as she took in air through clenched teeth. They unfastened her ankles and her feet slowly slid towards each other, as though she were too exhausted to stand. The strap over her waist was undone and she hung by her wrists, bent over the beam, her cunt lips clearly visible. They unfastened her wrists and she slid slowly to her knees, resting her head on the blanket that had protected her hips. They pulled her to her feet. He found his hands on her bicep as six or seven of them hauled her golden body over to the frame, feet dragging on the wooden boards. He'd expected jeers and taunts but there seemed almost a respect for her suffering. Then Sergeant Desai arrived to take charge.

"Stand her up," Desai ordered and so they positioned her beneath the bar, the cuffs bearing the leather cuffs dangling against her shoulders. Donohue let her legs take the weight and stood, eyes almost closed, a look of profound resignation on her face.

"Wrists!" came the order and she was fastened. She held her arms loose so her hands were about level with her jaw, her forearms covering her breasts.

"Up!"

The chains were raised, her breasts revealed again. They'd only been hidden for a couple of seconds, but Agarwal was glad to see them again and this time they were fully exposed, her arms well out of the way.

"Keep going," said Desai.

Donohue's hands rose above her head, then further, until her arms were straight and then beyond that until they were stretched. Was she going to hang her? No, not quite, but she was up on the balls of her feet, her sumptuous smooth body drawn out. Agrawal heard the pitch of her breathing change as she tried to deal with the strain. Her feet were grasping for the wood, desperate for purchase. Desai took her cane and poked Donohue's left breast with it. "This is the least you deserve, you little fucking whore," she said. She walked behind her and swished the cane an inch of two from the bruised buttocks. Donohue flinched and they laughed, and then the cane was between her legs, tapping up. "Learn from this, Donohue," Desai said, "because next time I will hang you and I will thrash your arms as you're hanging there." She raised her boot and gave Donohue a sharp push in the middle of her buttocks. She shouted and stumbled forward, losing her footing so she lifted from the wood, moaning at the pain in her arms and chest before swinging back. In a slow pendulum she went back and forth before finally her toes found some grip. Desai gave her another push and walked off.

Reluctantly, Agarwal followed her, looking back over his shoulder at the beautiful nakedness stretched out on the frame.

*

She'd been hanged by her wrists before and that had been worse. That's what Megan told herself. And it was true. It had been longer than for three hours and it had been accompanied with a beating. And at least here she could alternate, taking the strain on her calves and then on her arms. But back then she'd been fit. She hadn't spent weeks doing hard labour with poor food and not enough sleep. She was hurting. She closed her eyes and let her head fall forward, encouraging her brain to drift away, to let the time pass.

The next she knew was a sharp pain in her ass. She snapped alert and saw Chaudry's grinning face in front of her. She reached round and slapped her again. "Bottle-fucker!" she said with a giggle then spat in Megan's face. Megan stared at her. There was nothing she could do. Her buttocks had numbed slightly but the pain had been reawoken. Chaudry drew her nails over the wounds, clearly relishing the pain she was causing. "Amitab wants you," she said. "Hurry up and get better." She spat on her again and left to join her work detail.

Megan raised her head. She had to think. She couldn't endure this. Her arms and shoulders ached. Her calves ached. Her buttocks throbbed. There had to be a way to get out. She looked around the camp: the fences, the watch-towers, the guards, the dogs. It was hopeless. The train track. That must be how supplies were delivered. But when? Was there any way she could hide herself on the train? Or follow the line? Was that possible? Or would they just follow and find her easily?

The doctor approached. The little shit. "I'll just check your heart," he said with a leer. Of course it involved a lot of playing with her tits. Fuck him. Something in her manner must have irritated him. He stepped back a little and smiled at her. "Don't be like that," he said. He reached out and stroked her cheek. "We'll have some fun tonight."

She glared at him. "You don't get medication for free," he said. "You have to give me something in return."

He ran his finger down her nose, blew her a kiss and walked away.

Fuck him. She would take another flogging rather than fuck him.

The sun was up by then and for a while the warmth was pleasant. Her whole body was in pain. She alternated taking her weight on her calves then her arms, trying to count to 30 before switching. Her buttocks throbbed dully. Another guard, one she recognised from the night she'd been made to dance in the mess room, approached her. For a while he just stood looking at her, then he began caressing her, running his hands down her ribs to her waist, drawing his fingers over her belly. He gave a slight groan and then pressed his head between her breasts. She swallowed. It was no great revelation men wanted to fuck her but this obsessiveness surprised her. She supposed there weren't many accessible women around. The guard took her right nipple into his mouth and then seemingly thought better of it, giving her a rough shove and walking away quickly.

She felt disgusted. Was that all she was? A sex object? And tonight, she knew, she'd be fucked by the doctor. But as she stood there she realised something quite profound. Not only was there no way of avoiding fucking him, but fucking him was an opportunity. She had at least two days in there, maybe more. She could give him the best time he'd ever had. It might have worked with Puri if that woman guard hadn't got jealous. She could make it work here. She didn't know what the endgame was but she knew this was the only chance she had. There was nothing else. She couldn't fight her way out. No help was coming. She couldn't survive another nine months. But she could gain an ally and see where that took her. She had to be careful. She couldn't make it too obvious. But she could seduce him. She could make him want her. She just had to get in the right frame of mind, had to put her shame behind her and get under his skin.

*

Uppal was frustrated. Just as he'd been getting somewhere, called to the capital for more fucking meetings. Didn't they understand the importance of rhythm? He'd cracked the cypher. He had the names of the Rainbow Group. He had arrest warrants out for them. He had Harris terrified into being a spy. He'd been about to start on Stafford, to find out her connection to the plot. And then a call to the Ministry to discuss what held found, to talk about the future direction of his investigation. Fucking politicians, always desperate to stick their oar in, to claim credit where none was deserved. Didn't they understand this was him? He'd broken this? What if McCormack spoke to the others? What if the trail was contaminated? What if Harris admitted she was spying?

All the way down on the train he'd been thinking. Should he isolate Stafford? He had no idea how long this would take. Maybe he should get Narayan to start on her. But he knew this needed subtlety. He knew it needed his touch. It was entirely possible that Narayan would beat her into a coma. Or at least hurt her so badly she started lying just to stop it. And he was a moron. He never read the files.

He loved his job, but there were times when he hated the people he had to work with.

*

Rebecca lay sleepless on her mat. Every time she closed her eyes the image of Megan being thrashed came into her head. And when she thought of that she thought of her own caning, the shame, the agony, the sense of helplessness. Not the beatings she'd taken here, bad as they were, but of the flogging back in the capital when the crowd hadn't been a group of prisoners who had no choice but of people who'd actively sought to be there.

Which had been worse, her caning or Megan's? How did you quantify such things? Megan had taken double the lashes but the cane had been lighter. Megan had spent a night shivering naked in a punishment cell and had then been hung on the frame for three hours. How did you calculate? All she knew was that Megan had taken her flogging better, that she hadn't been screaming and bawling and begging for mercy.

She wished Megan was here now. Megan was tough. Things didn't seem quite so bad when she was there. She knew what Chaudry and her mob had done to her. What if that had been her? She couldn't do that. She couldn't take it. She lifted her mat and looked at the scratches she'd made on the floor. 104 boxes: ten of them now were filled with seven marks and there were two in the seventh. So long still to go. So long.

She heard the door open and dropped the mat, lying still to feign sleep. It was never a good idea to let them see you were awake. She heard boots, perhaps three or four pairs, the tread heavy. These were men. They moved purposefully. This wasn't the guards looking for a victim to have some fun with. They were getting closer. She knew before they got there they were coming for her. A kick to the back of her calf confirmed it. "Up!" a voice shouted and she opened her eyes to see four men in Secpol uniforms, one carrying cuffs and another a hood.

*

Megan woke as the door closed. She looked up and saw him, the doctor. He carefully locked the door and smiled. "Time for you to pay your bill," he said and approached with lascivious grin.

She pushed herself up from the mattress. "Doctor," she said, breathily, "I can't fuck you now. My ass is too sore. We can do that in a day or two." He began to speak but she cut him off. "But I'll give you the best blow-job you ever had," she said.

He looked at her with interest. Why not? He could always fuck her if he wasn't satisfied. Awkwardly she clambered off the bed, clearly still in a lot of pain. She grabbed his tie and pulled him close, kissing his lips gently. She had lovely, full lips and neat white teeth. She backed off and smiled at him then smoothed her fingers through his hair, pulling him close again and kissing him hard. She began to unbutton his shirt.

"You first," he said. "Let me see you naked."

She backed away, running her finger down from his hairy chest to just brush over his cock, semi-erect in his trousers, before removing her clothes. She did it without fuss – let him know that if he wanted sexiness it had to be on her terms – gave her hair a slight toss and returned to undressing him. The pain in her buttocks, the sense her legs might give way, was constant, but it was also a reminder why she was doing this. It kept her in character. He was not fat exactly but pudgy, his chest a mass of thick curls. There was something almost cuddly about him. She took his glasses off and kissed him again, scratching his back with her nails, teasing him with her breasts, slowly working her way down his body till the tip of her tongue touched his tumescent cock. Her nails dug in to his buttocks as, with an effort of will, she closed her lips over the foul warmth.

She was good, unbelievably good. Krishnamurthy had had blow-jobs before, plenty of them, from girlfriends and prisoners, but nothing remotely approaching this. She toyed with him, gently running her teeth up his shaft, pretending she was going to bite, playing games with her tongue. She kept bringing him to the point of climax then dropping back to use her nails on his thighs. And when he eventually came, she took him deep into her mouth and gulped his cum down. And even then she wasn't finished, gently teasing his chest hair with her fingers before dressing and lying back, face down of course, on the bed. He rewarded her with extra painkillers and an instruction to give her fruit at breakfast. When he left, she gave him a wave. Tomorrow he would fuck her properly, take possession of that magnificent body.

Almost as soon as he'd gone, Megan retched. She dressed with tears in her eyes and swallowed the painkillers he'd given her. She could do this. He was a little fat but he wasn't bad-looking. She could do this. She would give him the best time he'd ever had and she would get them out of this mess. She had to use the one weapon she had and that was her body. She would not feel guilty.

A few minutes later, a nurse came in. Without speaking, she peeled down Megan's trousers and applied balm to her buttocks. Megan could sense her disgust. Fuck her. She wasn't the one being beaten and raped with bottles. She wept again.

*

Narayan sat behind the desk and looked at the girl. He'd have given her much harder time than Uppal had. Hanging her and making her stand on the footrest was hardly torture. But it had worked, he supposed. She looked scared now, standing head bowed before him. He wondered what he could justify. Very little, he feared. And Uppal, annoying as he was, was important and become more so.

"Harris," he said. "You agreed to spy on Stafford. What have you learned?"

"Nothing, sir," she murmured.

"What? Speak up!"

"Nothing sir," she repeated. "Nothing yet."

She was trembling, although that might have been the cold. "What?" he snapped.

"Nothing yet."

"You've had a week."

"I'm trying to be subtle, sir."

"Or maybe you just lied. Maybe you said you would help but always intended to say nothing." He stood up. "Was that your plan?"

"No, sir."

"Tell me why I shouldn't have you whipped for disobedience and dishonesty?"

"Sir, I'm working on it." She was blinking back tears.

If it had been up to Narayan, he would have stripped her naked and taken a bullwhip to her. But Uppal's instructions had been precise. "You have two more days," he said. "If you have nothing by then, I'll tell Stafford you're spying on her."

"I'll get something..." she said, quickly. "I promise…"

Narayan approached her, amused by her fear. "Good," he said. "Now, we don't want anybody finding out that you're working with us, do you? So you'd better send the night in a cell here. And we probably should make it look like we've hurt you."

"Please…."

He smirked. "We could take your shirt off and give you a couple of dozen with the cane."

"No! No! Please…."

"Then stand still."

He placed the flat of his right hand on her left cheek, tapped a couple of times, measured his blow and then slapped her so hard he felt the sting on his fingers. The sound was extraordinary and she fell with a shout. He gestured and the guards were on her with the hood and the handcuffs. He would have made her spend the night naked in a bare cell, but Uppal had instructed she be given a bed and a heater, that the carrot should follow the stick.

*

Rao walked along the lines. Roll-call was over but he was enjoying making them wait. They'd washed and were ready for bed and it was getting colder. Every now and again he would berate a prisoner for the slovenliness of their dress. But it was all about the white girls. There were only three of them, the blonde Australian missing, still in the infirmary 36 hours after she'd been flogged.

He stood in front of McCormack, laid a hand on her soft cheek. She almost flinched at the touch. "Stand up straight," he said. "Shoulders back." He looked approvingly at the way her breasts swelled beneath her shirt. He moved along to Stafford and straightened her shirt, letting his fingers probe the gentle valley of her chest. Then Harris. There was a bruise on her cheek, a slight swelling to her lip. "What happened?" he asked.

"Secpol, sir," she said. The Secpol. Fuck. That complicated things. He weighed up his options. He had to be careful if the Secpol were interested in her. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to hurt her. He wanted to play with McCormacks's tits and stroke Stafford's flat belly. He wanted to use his belt on them. He wanted to have them screaming as he took his cane to them. But he would wait. He dismissed the lines.

*

Beth was woken by Rebecca talking to Bobby. She lay still, at first because she was tired and just wanted to sleep, but then because she wanted to hear what was said. Rebecca was explaining that the Secpol wanted her to spy on them, on Bobby in particular. She said that if she didn't give them something by the following night they'd whip her. Bobby seemed baffled. Shit. This was bad. Rebecca went on to ask about the Rainbow Group. Fuck. This was her fault. What could she do? Should she tell them she was responsible? What would they think of her? But she couldn't let Rebecca be whipped. She couldn't let them torture Bobby thinking she was part of it.

In the end she compromised. She told them they'd asked her about the Rainbow, that she'd been part of it and that they'd asked her about Bobby. But they still couldn't think of anything for Rebecca to tell the Secpol.

*

Narayan understood the orders. He'd done this many times before but this, he knew, was more important than any of the others. And he would enjoy it more than any of the others. Uppal had been clear on the phone: take Stafford and put her on the programme. Humiliate her, make her life uncomfortable, scare her but don't hurt her. Not badly, not yet. Uppal would be away for two more days but when he got back he wanted her ready for him and it was Narayan's job to prepare her.

He waited till they were asleep, then sent four men to get her. He followed at a slight distance. They were rough, of course, needlessly so, pulling back her blanket and yanking her up by the hair, giving her a couple of slaps before they cuffed her wrists and hooded her. She didn't resist as they dragged her out of the hut, across the yard and into the Secpol building, but that didn't stop them shaking her and prodding her. They dumped her in a cell. He would come back for her in a couple of hours. Let the tension build.

He summoned Harris, that terrified little mouse. She was visibly shaking as the guards removed her hood.

"What have you learned?" he asked.

"Nothing," she whispered.

"What?"

"Nothing, sir," she said louder.

"What?" he bellowed, enjoying how she flinched.

"Nothing, sir. I don't think…"

"You don't think what?"

"I don't think she knows anything."

"Liar!"

She closed her eyes. Her fear was an aphrodisiac to him. He wanted to crush her, like a sparrow in the trap.

"What do you think's going to happen now?" he asked.

She said nothing. "I asked you a question," he said.

"I think you're going to punish me."

"Take her to a cell," he ordered. "I'll deal with you later." And he would enjoy it. He heard her whimper as they hooded her and watched her small frame being marched out of the room.

He had a drink, then sent the boys to get Stafford. This was where it really began. He settled back behind the desk. He had two days, two days where he was in charge.

*

Even from the way she walked Narayan could sense her terror. That surprised him. If she really was the linchpin they seemed to think she was, he'd have thought she'd have been tougher than that. She shuffled as the four guards marched her across the room, shoulders slightly bent. She was taller than Harris, even slimmer, but just as pretty, just as scared. They pulled the hood off and, as they unfastened her cuffs, he examined her.

She was thinner than he liked, not much in the way of tits, but there was beauty in her weary face, a spark in her eyes still. She nibbled at her lower lip, glancing anxiously around. "Take your clothes off," he said eventually.

She swallowed, breathed out and began to unbutton her shirt. It was cold in there, as Uppal demanded. Make them feel their nakedness. She fumbled a little, then slipped it off, tossing it to the ground. Her trousers quickly followed. Narayan stood up and approached her. She shrunk away from him, covering herself with her arms, bending forward.

"Stand to attention," he said. She closed her eyes and swallowed, but obeyed, dropping her arms to her sides, straightening her shoulders. He walked slowly round her, letting her feel his appraisal. She was slender, delicate, breasts shallow but beautifully smooth. Her back bore the odd pinkish brown mark and there was a bruise on her collar bone but that aside her skin was beautifully pure. He'd read in the file she'd been caned before she arrived but her buttocks showed no obvious sign. They were high and firm, perfect for the cane.

He circled her three times then paused in front of her. There was a pleasing glow to her cheeks, a couple of freckles that in another context might have suggested health. With his right index finger he flicked at her left nipple. She whimpered. He flicked it twice more. He could sense her shame, see tears sparkling her remarkably brown eyes. "Tell me about your breasts," he said.

"What?"

"Tell me about your breasts. Do you like them? Are they big? Small?"

"They're what I have, sir," she croaked. "This is just the shape I am."

"You know they're small, then. You're pathetic. You disgust me." He flicked her right nipple, watched the breast quiver, made sure she saw him sneer. He walked slowly back to the desk and took a pair of rubber gloves from the draw. He put them on, ostentatiously. "A quick search," he said.

Her lower lip began to quiver. "What could I possibly have hidden?" she asked.

He smiled. "We'll find out," he said, snapping a glove against his wrist. He stepped close to her. "Lift your left foot," he said with a smirk.

Bobby was cold and she was humiliated. She'd thought they'd run out of ways to shame her but standing there naked being so overtly examined was dreadful. He'd searched her with clear relish, lifting each foot in turn, prying between her toes, then looking at each hand, opening her fingers one by one, then her arm-pits, her breasts, her ears, her nose, her mouth. The sense of intimacy was horrible, his gloved fingers poking inside her, all the time clearly enjoying her discomfort, his sense of power. He'd run his fingers through her hair and she knew the worst bit was yet to come. He made her bend over, then his finger was inside her. She squirmed as he stroked her clitoris.

"Stand still," he said. "Anybody would think you had something to hide." He resumed his probing. Bobby closed her eyes tight, biting her lip as she forced herself to remain calm. Then abruptly he jabbed the finger into her anus. She shouted in pain and staggered forward a half-step.

"Stand still or I'll whip you," he shouted and with a half-sob she checked herself. He waggled his finger about, clearly relishing her discomfort.

"Up," he snapped as he withdrew it and she stood again.

He smiled at her. She hated him. "I'm just going to check your mouth again," he said, and pressed the finger that had just been in her arse between her lips. She gagged instinctively and he laughed.

He removed the glove and tossed it aside. He lay a hand on her cheek. She shuddered. "Now, a little preparation," he said. She saw him nod and in seconds she'd been blindfolded and her wrists chained behind her. They marched her out of the room and she felt a renewed surge of panic. She knew what they were preparing her for. This was the beginning of her torture.

*

Rebecca heard footsteps in the corridor. Four or five sets, she thought. Fear submerged her. She was still bound and still blindfold, huddling in the corner of the cell where she'd been for a couple of hours. Was this her punishment? What would they do to her?

The door opened. She pulled her knees to her chin, backing away. Hands grabbed at her, hauled her to her feet. The hood was taken off. She blinked in the grey light. Five men: the main one and four others. "Punishment," he said with a grim smile. She swallowed. A guard took each arm and shoved her towards him. She stumbled towards him, hands still bound. He turned her round and smashed a fist into her kidneys. Lights flashed in her head and she collapsed, retching. She felt the burn of vomit on her throat.

She was pulled to her feet, dazed, fragile. The chains were removed. They stripped her. He punched her again, in the pit of her stomach, feeling the softness of her skin against his fist. She sprawled on the ground, gasping for air.

"Get up!" he shouted, but she couldn't. She just lay on the concrete sobbing, exhausted. Their hands were on her again, on her arms, in her hair. She was dragged up, her body unable to resist.

Narayan smiled. She was whimpering, pathetic. He swung another fist, hard under her ribs. She collapsed again, little legs flailing. He felt the lust come over him to keep smashing her and he knew he had to restrain himself. She was retching, the slender shoulders heaving. He grabbed an ankle and lifted her, fascinated suddenly by the soft smooth skin of her calf. He seized her other leg and held her out, hanging her upside down, hair tumbling to the floor, arms draped limp. He stared down at her nakedness, her exposed cunt, the trim stomach, the breasts that wobbled delightfully as he shook her.

He swung her up, amazed at her lightness, then tossed her to the boys. She fell into them, shrieking and they grabbed at her, slapping her and poking her. He wanted to hang her up and use her as a punchbag but he knew Uppal would be furious if he went too far.

They carried her into the corridor. Rebecca knew she should have tried to concentrate now they'd taken the hood off but she was too dazed, felt too sick. She was taken into a room with a tiled floor that contained a cage, about six feet cubed, in its centre. Was this the box Beth had talked about? They shoved her in and she slithered over the tiles, clasping her arms around herself. They locked the gate to the cage and the cell door and she was left standing naked, scared, cold and wanting to be sick. She wondered if she should sit down when she heard noises above her. She looked up and realised with horror what this way of hurting her was. The room was high and about nine feet up there was gallery running round the whole cell. He was there, her tormentor, as were the four guards, each of whom held a hose. They took positions on each of the four walls and then, at the lieutenant's command, turned them on.

The water was icy cold, the jets powerful. She fell to the tiled floor, shrieking as the water thundered into her, slithering and sliding in hopeless attempts to escape. Eventually she just curled into a ball, huddled over as her body was pummelled. And of course they focused on her tenderest areas, playing the stream between her legs, aiming at her face and her breasts, enjoying tormenting her.

Narayan watched with satisfaction. What a pathetic creature she was. He'd let her feel his fist a few more times before sending her back, but this would do for now. For five minutes he had them blast her, then gave orders they were to repeat the dose every second hour for the rest of the day. He left her shivering and sobbing, and decided it was time to clock off. He'd be back that evening to finish the punishment of one girl and continue the torture of the other.

*

Bobby shuffled across the room. She touched the wall, turned round and shuffled back again. Two Secpol officers watched her, looking bored. She was exhausted. Her feet hurt. Her knees hurt. She felt sick. For hours, she didn't know exactly how long, she'd been kept in chains, blindfold in that box. It had been horrific. Cold then hot then cold then hot, always uncomfortable, sirens wailing, drills throbbing, terrible pop music played at full volume. Every now and again they'd pulled her out and held a water-bottle to her lips, fumbling at her breasts, prodding her and slapping her and then dropping her back into the box. It was hell, an assault on her psyche. It was impossible to relax in there, impossible to do anything other than curse the noise and the temperature. And when she did for a second have some clarity of thought, it was to realise that this was the prelude to torture.

And yet when they'd finally taken her out of that room it had been to bring her to this long cell. They'd removed her shackles and returned her clothes and then she'd been told to walk up and down. There'd been guards there holding canes, looking menacing and so she'd starting walking. That had been hours ago. And so it went on, grinding her down.

As she turned she paused, but immediately there were shouts. "Keep moving, you lazy bitch." One officer made as if to stand, raising his cane, and she picked up her pace slightly. What did they want? She didn't even know what they thought she was guilty of. All that stuff about the Rainbow Group. What was that? Beth had been given electric shocks. Would they do that to her? She'd said it was the worst pain she'd ever felt. But then she hadn't had a proper beating. Would they flog her again? She couldn't take another one.

*

At last the water stopped. Rebecca didn't move. She couldn't move. She was so cold, so sore. She just lay face down on the tiles, shivering, her body reddened by the cold and the pressure, covered in goosebumps. Eventually she pulled her knees to her chest and began to rub at her upper arms, trying to restore the circulation. What was that? Five times they'd hosed her? She wanted to die. She heard the door. Was that it? Was it over? She heard the cage door opening and hands were on her. They were shouting, pulling her by her arms. She couldn't understand what they were saying, but she was dragged back into the corridor, dripping, sobbing. They took her back into the cell where she'd been before. She saw her clothes on the floor. But he was there. The lieutenant.

They pushed her towards him and she stood uncertainly, wet, cold and scared. He smiled and then, without warning, punched her, hard, on the right breast. She collapsed, the pain terrible. "Get up!" he yelled, and she scrambled to obey, but barely had she got to her feet when he hit her again, this time on the left breast. She fell, instinctively rolling away from him. Her eyes were watering with the pain. He grabbed her hair and lifted her them hit her again, his time in her kidneys. Her vision went black and she dropped to her knees. She began to retch and then she vomited.

It wasn't much: she hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours, although they had shoved a bottle of water through the bars of the cage every now and again. But in three heaves she emptied her stomach. She knew instinctively that that would mean more pain and looked guiltily over her shoulder at him.

"You disgusting creature!" Narayan roared. "You filthy sow! How dare you? How dare you?"

"She pissed in the cage as well, sir," said one of the guards.

"She did what?" he shouted, although he was well aware she had. Of course she had. They hadn't let her out for eight hours. "Take her to the discipline room," he ordered, and was gratified by the look of terror on her face. The feel of her firm breasts beneath his fists had been good. She had a lovely trim body, wonderfully smooth skin. He would enjoy punishing her some more. "Prepare her to be whipped," he said, barely able to keep the smirk from his face.

But before that, he had to watch Stafford strip again and put her in the box for the night.

*

It was late, getting on for midnight, when Krishnamurthy finally was able to see her, his gorgeous Australian. This was the night he would fuck her properly. She was asleep when he went into the room and for a few seconds he watched her, blonde hair falling over her face as she lay on her right side. Gently, he lay his hand on her cheek. "Megan," he said. She woke, and smiled. She reached up for his tie, pulled him down and kissed him. "Krishy," she said. "How was your day?"

"Busy," he said. "How are you?"

"OK," she said, pushed herself up. "Considering."

Immediately he was wary. "Will we…"

"Can we wait?" She reached out and lay a hand on his cheek. "It was 24 lashes. It still hurts a lot."

His face must have betrayed his disappointment. "When we do it I want it to be special, not painful," she said.

Was she stringing him along? He wondered if he should just take her, but then she clambered out of bed and began to undress and he forget everything apart from her breasts and her creamy skin and her extremely skilful lips and tongue and fingers.

*

Narayan had thought hard about Harris's punishment. He would have liked to have her properly whipped, with heavy bullwhips, but he was aware of her delicacy. Who knew how many lashes she could take? He didn't want her collapsing after three or four. Plus Uppal had warned him not to go too far, stressed she still had a role to play.

He walked into the discipline room and smiled. What a sight she was. As he'd instructed, they'd fastened her to the concrete post towards the back of the room, wrists in front of her at around stomach height so she seemed to be embracing the pillar.

He approached her, contemplating the pure narrow back still marked by red streaks from her caning, the firm rounded buttocks that still bore the shadows of her flogging in the capital. She glanced up at him over her smooth shoulder and he saw the utter terror in her dark eyes. He lay his fingers on her satiny shoulder, looking down at her breasts which just brushed the concrete. "Punishment," he said. She whimpered, trembling at his touch.

Why her? What had she done to deserve this? A couple of demonstrations and now this, eternal pain and humiliation. She shifted her cold feet on the floor and sniffed, blinking back the tears. She saw the grinning faces of the four Secpol officers looking down at her: they were all much bigger than her of course. She still felt sick from the punches. She adjusted her arms, but the thick leather cuffs held her wrists tight.

The lieutenant went to a large cupboard at the side of the room. It was filled with canes and whips of varying weights and lengths. He took out a pair of thin straps, each perhaps half an inch in width and two and a half feet in length. Part of him wanted to use the heavy rubber truncheons, to smash this delicate little creature to pulp, but a lengthy beating, stinging rather than crushing, would probably be more fun. He knew she was watching him, so let his hand linger on a couple of the heavier canes before returning to her.

He stroked her fine neck, gently pushing her wet hair over her shoulders. "You lied to us," he said. "You said you'd help and you didn't."

Her skin was cold to the touch, astonishingly fine-grained. He knew it would mark up beautifully. He put his hands on her shoulders, marvelling at how slender she was, the straps dangling against her ribs. He lowered his mouth to the level of her ear. "How many lashes do you think you deserve for disobedience?"

"Sir," she squawked, "I don't think Bobby knows anything."

"And still you lie," he said, pushing her so she stumbled into the post. "I had thought of being merciful." He handed one of the straps to one of the guards, then stepped back to her left. Let the other guard backhand her. "Fifty lashes," he said.

"No! No! You can't. Please…" She tailed off into tears.

"You will count the lashes," he said. "Is that clear?"

She whimpered. "I said, ‘Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Count properly, or we'll have to start again." She was visibly shaking as he measured the lash. The strap landed with a satisfying thwuck across the middle of her back. She shouted and, as he'd expected, the welt was almost instantly visibly, a pink line quickly darkening into something angrier amid the older marks. "One," she gasped.

Fuck, it stung. It was surface pain, nothing like as terrifying as the heavy canes, but it still hurt. The second landed, biting at her left shoulder. "Two," she grunted. She hated having to count. It made her focus. She couldn't let her brain drift away. The lieutenant hit her low around her waist "Three." Fuck. Fifty. Fuck. She couldn't. "Gaaaah! Four." No. No, no, no. "Aaaaaaargggghhh! Five."

*

Narayan had known it would be good but he hadn't expected it to be quite this good. Her back was soon pink, but it was her screaming that got him, higher and higher pitched, more and more terrified, until it just went on, constant howling broke only by her attempts to say the numbers. She was shaking and sobbing, body pressed against the post. "Nnnyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh," she roared as the twentieth stroke landed. "Twe-aaahhhhh-twen-aaaahhhh-ny." He paused. Her legs seemed to be buckling so her knees almost touched. Slowly her moans subsided to a whimper, torso heaving. He reached a hand between her legs. "Stand up straight," he said, poking a finger inside her and eliciting a squeal. "Count the numbers nice and loud."

She glanced over her shoulder, eyes wet with tears, dread etched across her face. He stepped back, admiring the pale roundness of her buttocks beneath the pink back. Then he lashed her and immediately the screaming began again.

Her back was red now, from a pale pink line perhaps three inches above her waist, through a vibrant scarlet around the centre of her back and shoulders, the red streaked with darker purple lines. She'd half-collapsed, leaning on the pillar, shaking. Forty-two. Narayan struck her again, just above the centre of her back, where the inflammation was at its worse. Through her sobs she yelled in pain. "Forty-three," she gasped as her legs gave way. She fell to her knees, embracing the post, top of her head pushed against ht. He held up a hand to stop the flogging.

"On your feet," he said, "or there'll be extra punishment."

She glanced back at him, terrified and reproachful, over her shoulder, then slowly pushed herself up, legs trembling. "How many have you had?" he asked. He knew very well, but he wanted to make her engage to understand her penalty. "Forty-three, sir," she whispered.

"Can't hear you. How many?"

"Forty-three, sir."

He nodded, and the flogging continued. He wondered if, when it was over, he could justify thrashing her lovely round buttocks as well.

Rebecca hugged the post. "Forty-five." She was terrified that he would add more if she fell again. She needed to piss. "Forty-six." She wailed but her brain was telling her there were only four more. She could take this. She would survive. "Forty-seven." The slap sent a sheet of fire from her shoulders to her waist. "Forty-eight." She ground her forehead into the concrete. Nearly over. Two more. ‘Forty-nine." It flicked across her back, reaching towards her breast. It stung and she yelped and it was over. "Fifty," she said but she didn't dare relax.

Narayan gave the order to unfasten her. "Turn around," he ordered and she shuffled to face him, hunched, tears marking her face. He placed his hands on her narrow shoulders, relishing the smooth skin. "Come," he said, and led her to the cupboard.

She gnawed at her lower lip, terrified as he showed her what was inside. He lay his hand on her back, feeling the heat from the beaten skin. "Look," he said. "Heavier straps. Canes. Whips. Truncheons."

He moved behind her and pulled her close to him. He reached around and lay his hands on her breasts, enjoying their softness. He lay his chin on her silken shoulder and spoke gently into her ear. "I will have you whipped," he said. He pointed at a black length of leather, stiffened with whalebone. "That will cut you," he said. "Ten of those and you'd be bleeding like a sheep at the slaughterhouse. I'd give you twenty. Maybe more, if you annoyed me."

He squeezed her breasts. "So what will you do to make me happy?" he asked.

"I'll keep listening," she said. "I'll keep asking questions."

‘Good," he said. "So long as we understand each other."

He slapped her hard on her sore back and, as she collapsed, ordered them to take her to the infirmary. She seemed to flinch at the very idea of it.

*

There was a hand in her hair, shaking her violently. It hurt. Everything hurt. It hurt her scalp, it hurt inside her head and it worsened her feeling of nausea. Bobby's teeth clicked against each other so she told herself to clench them. Even that seemed to hurt. She was thrown down, landing heavily on the floor, too tired to protect herself. She was blindfolded and her wrists chained. Hands pawed at her breasts and probed between her legs. They tossed her between them, taunting her as they hustled her along a corridor. Even walking was difficult.

Finally they got her to a cell. The blindfold and chains were removed and she was given her clothes. She dressed, slowly, her fingers reluctant to accept the messages from her brain. She knew the lieutenant was watching her, a smirk on his face. "Ok," he said, when she was wearing her uniform again. "Walk." She'd dreaded that.

"Please…" she said. "Please let me sleep."

"Walk or I'll have you flogged."

And so she began a desperate shuffle up and down the cell.

*

Megan knew this was it. There was no delaying it any long. She'd been preparing all day, but it seemed earlier than usual when he came in. She hurried to him, and pulled him by the tie to the bed. She carefully took off his glasses and began to undress him. It was important it looked as though she wanted this, that he wasn't begging her. He smiled at her, reached in the pocket of his white coat for a condom and then unbuttoned her shirt.

She pushed him back onto the bed and eased his trousers down. He was stiff already. He patted anxiously at her breasts, then yanked down her trousers. "Gently," she said, giving his wrist a playful slap. When they were both naked, she knelt over him. She let her fingers play in the thick hair of his chest, ran her nails over his nipples. His hands went to her waist. She took the condom from where he'd lain it by the pillow, tore the packet and slid it down over his cock. It would at least be mercifully brief, she thought. She closed her eyes and thought of the English journalist she'd had a couple of dates with in the capital. He was a wiry, slender man, not at all like Krishnamurthy but it helped a little as he pulled her down on to him.

It was over in less than a minute. It hadn't been enjoyable, but it was over. He lay back with a sigh. She leant over him, letting her breasts caress his face. He snapped at them, grinning, and she pushed down on his shoulders. "Are you early today?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "The Secpol need me. They're giving somebody electrics tonight."

Megan felt cold. "Oh," she said, feigning a lack of concern. "Do you know who?"

"No," he said. "But we've got one of your friends in here."

She was suddenly alert, her nails pressing into his flesh.

"Harris," he went on. "Secpol gave her a pretty nasty strapping. Came in last night. She's got at least another day here."

Something about his manner troubled her. She tapped his nose in mock annoyance. "No sleeping with her," she said. "You're mine."

She kissed him then pulled away. "Is that clear?" she asked.

"Of course," he said, and she fell to kiss him properly.

*

Uppal was tired, but more than that he wanted to get to work. Those meetings infuriated him. What was the point? To hurry him along? It would be quicker if he could just get on with it. And was he not doing good work? Had he not got a list of names and addresses of the Rainbow Group? It was maddening. But it was as though what he'd done meant nothing. Always on to the next thing. What about Stafford? How did she tie in? Well, he was about to find out. He gave the order for her to be brought in.

He took a sip of coffee. It was just after eight in the evening. He'd got back about three hours ago, read the files again to refresh his memory and had a briefing from Narayan. Harris had given them nothing – he suspected she needed his gentle probing rather than Narayan's head-on approach. A day of being hosed in the cage and then a severe strapping was more than he'd have given her but it wasn't disastrous – it would get her properly scared – and at least he hadn't left her needing weeks of care.

And Narayan had followed his instructions absolutely with Stafford. Two nights in the box with a day of walking in between, clothes off, clothes on, clothes off, clothes on. Then today she'd walked for three hours, been stripped again and given six hours in the cage, being hosed down every half hour so she got a little sleep but not too much, been dressed again and made to walk for four hours before another hosing just to get her clean. He couldn't abide the smell of sweat.

The door opened and she was hustled in, a slight figure, obviously terrified. The guards pushed her down onto the chair, released her hands and pulled off her blindfold. One of them clipped her round the back of the head as he backed away. Uppal's instant reaction was that he'd gone too far. He'd overestimated her. She was shaking, eyes red-rimmed, pretty face haggard. She sat forward on the seat, hunched, head bowed, looked up at him with fear. As she reached a hand up to smooth a tendril of wet hair away from her face, it trembled violently. He hadn't realised how girlish she was, how slim. He'd given her a softening up process appropriate for a soldier, for somebody physically and mentally tough, somebody who'd been trained to resist.

But maybe she had. Maybe this was her skill. To look like a pretty, naïve girl. He had to steel himself to the job in hand.

"Miss Stafford," he said. "I'm Colonel Uppal of the Secpol. I hope we've looked after you well."

She said nothing, a shudder passing through her. He saw how the uniform, too large for her, clung in patches to her damp body. "Just a few questions," he said, "then you can have a nice warm shower, some dinner and bed. We have some very good rooms here. We can give you a few days off work if you're co-operative."

*

Waves of nausea washed over her. Bobby's head throbbed. Her vision kept on blurring. She tried to concentrate on what he was saying but it was hard. She needed sleep and she needed food. She hugged herself, trying to stay warm. She tried to relaxed, but the chair was hard and bolted to the floor and she suspected she could be fastened to it for torture. Electric shocks, they'd given Beth. Was that worse than being flogged? Her mind kept drifting. She tried to concentrate. He was asking her about the Rainbow Group.

"Sir," she said. "I don't know anything about it." Speaking was a terrible effort. His face was plump, self-satisfied.

"You've never heard of it?"

"Rebecca asked me about it a few… I don't know how long… a few days ago."

"And that's it?"

"Beth said something, I don't know. I think Beth was part of it. Something to do with the university. I don't know."

"Do you know what it was?"

She shook her head and regretted it. Her headache throbbed from behind her right eye back into her skull. "Some sort of political group? I don't know. About human rights?"

"A group dedicated to bringing down the government? To supporting the separatists? Terrorists?"

"I don't know. I never heard of it till Rebecca…"

"And did you participate in demonstrations?"

"No." She was exhausted.

"Did you oppose the government?"

"No."

"Did you know anybody who did?"

She sighed. "At the school. Staff talked. Pupils talked. But actively, no, not till I got here."

"What do you think?"

"Think? About what?"

"About the government. About the separatists."

"I don't know enough about it." A flicker of resistance sparked in her, raged at his smugness, at what he'd done to her. "But I know torture is wrong," she said.

Narayan would have had her whipped for that. He thought of her slender body, the feel of those gentle breasts, bound as Harris had been earlier, but taking a proper lash. But Uppal just laughed and asked one of the boys to get her a bottle of water.

Uppal asked her what she had been doing at the school, asked her about her studies. Narayan never understood this bit of interrogations. Just ask her about the Rainbow Group and if she didn't answer get her down the corridor and onto the bench so they could get started with the electric shocks.

He was being unbelievably gentle. This wasn't fun at all. Why wasn't she naked? It was almost as though he believed her. He asked her why she thought she was there, then ordered a pot of coffee. She said she didn't know but thought it was something to do with the priest. What the fuck was that about? Maybe he should have read the file again.

She was clearly exhausted. She kept tailing off as she explained what had happened, having to go back and pick up a sentence again. The priest had been molesting pupils. She'd printed a notice about it and pinned it on a board. The school hadn't believed her. They'd had a governors' meeting and decided to cane her. Thirty-six times. Fuck, these British schools. Then she'd tried to run away so they'd doubled it and made her stand there naked between the two halves of her caning. Fuck. Was that in the file? Surely he'd have remembered that. She told the story in a low monotone, her eyes blank. Was that exhaustion or something to do with repression? That was the kind of thing Uppal would be interested in.

Then she'd fled the school, only to be arrested in the capital and whipped in a police station while the priest watched, before being put before a tribunal and sentenced to five years here. Narayan was just thinking of her bent naked in front of the school, being caned. Seventy-two lashes was a lot, even if the cane was light and the people applying it unskilled.

The coffee arrived. Uppal left it for a moment on his desk, enjoying the aroma and seeing how much Stafford wanted some. He poured himself a cup and then poured a second. He stood up and carried it towards her, seeing her get her hopes up, thinking it was for her. But he walked past her and handed it to Narayan. He walked back past her, gently laying his hand on her damp blonde hair as he did. She looked up at him, her deep brown eyes reproachful, scared. He wondered about her guilt, he really did.

He sat back behind his desk. "So you think the priest framed you?"

"Yes," she said.

"You deny any contact with any opposition group."

"Yes."

"You knew nobody at the university?"

"I don't think so."

"Had you heard of Donohue, Harris or McCormack before you met them on the train?"

"No."

She was either very, very good or innocent.

"It's a lovely story," he said, taking an ostentatious drink. "You tell it well. I would like to believe you. I'd like to give you a cup of coffee, let you sleep. But I have a problem. Six other prisoners have implicated you."

She looked at him wearily.

"How do you explain that?"

She shrugged. "I can't," she said.

Uppal leaned back and took another sip. There was nothing for it. "Take your clothes off," he said.

It took a moment for the order to register. Bobby felt the corners of her mouth turn down, her lower lip begin to wobble. She'd thought this one was reasonable. She stood up, uncertainly. Even that simple act made her feel dizzy. She swayed for a moment then her hands went, again, to the buttons of her shirt. She could feel them watching her, Uppal, the lieutenant, the others. Six of them, dressed in uniform, armed, and her about to be naked and defenceless again. Why did they keep doing this? But she knew somehow that they knew the act of stripping was more humiliating than just being naked, that it emphasised their power over her. She let the shirt fall from her shoulders, taking it in her right hand as it slid from her body. Her breasts were exposed again. She same the lieutenant smirk, saw Uppal's eyes flick up and down her body as he sipped his coffee. She dropped the shirt and pulled down her trousers. She was naked. The tears began to fall from her eyes. She was terrified. What now? More pain?

A guard took her clothes and disappeared behind her. "Sit down," the colonel said. She hated him, hated his ingratiating manner, but she obeyed. Half-heartedly she hooked an arm across her breasts, tucked a hand between her legs. The wooden seat was cool against her skin. She looked at him, with his absurd quiff, felt a new wave of anger as he took a sip of his coffee. On his desk were a number of files, a phone, and his coffee. Behind him was a blank wall, dull grey concrete. What were they going to do to her?

"Six prisoners," he said. "That's a lot, don't you think?"

"Were they tortured?" she asked, insolence swelling beneath her shame.

He smiled. "I wouldn't push it," he said. "I like your spirit, but there gets to a point where I'd have to punish you."

There was a silence. She felt very naked, very alone.

"Put yourself in my position," he said. "Six people, one of them a member of the Rainbow Group, six of them all say, six independent people have told us that the great leader of the resistance, the real power, the person pulling the strings, is Roberta Stafford. What would you do?"

She pushed her lips together and shook her head.

"If you were me, what would you do?"

"I'd find me and strip me naked and torture me," she blurted. "Is that what you want me to say?"

"I want you to tell me the truth, Miss Stafford."

There was a silence. She wondered if she should speak. "Why were you whipped in the capital?" he asked.

"Father Johal said school rules meant I should have been whipped for blasphemy, not caned. So the police picked me up. They took me to a basement, stripped me, tied me up and whipped me. 24 lashes." "What did they whip you with?"

"The old school whip. Father Johal had kept it, I think."

"Can you describe it?"

"Five thongs, hard little knots. It stung terribly."

"Tell me about your friend Steve McCoy."

She paused and thought. Her brain was woolly but she couldn't remember a Steve McCoy. "What? Who? I don't know a Steve McCoy."

*

It had taken about an hour, but finally Uppal had given the order. Narayan, gleefully, had overseen her being chained again and blindfolded and, against her terrified struggles, dragged down the corridor to be fastened on the bench for electric shocks.

She looked impossibly thin, arms pulled down behind her, legs apart and fastened at the ankle, the broad strap across her waist making her look even thinner. Her breasts lay almost flat against her chest, but the nipples stood up, red and firm in the chill. She was still blindfolded. He flicked at a nipple, smirking at her yelp. He ran a hand down the shallow valley between her breasts, noting a small freckle, then let his hand play on her flat silken stomach. He liked them bigger that this, more flesh, but there was no doubting her beauty.

The doctor checked her over, barely more than a cursory check before he pronounced her healthy.

Uppal came in. She was doused with water, moaning softly as the hose played on her. He removed the blindfold and she blinked in the light, her eyes a rich, deep brown. Narayan wheeled over the trolley on which the generator stood ready. It was all part of the ritual. Let her see the instrument of her agony. When she saw it she began pleading. "Please…," she sobbed. "I know nothing. Not this. Please..."

He took the pot of gel. Where should he put it? He looked down at her slender body, beads of water standing out on the goosepimples, her fine golden hairs catching the light as they stood up in the cold. She had lovely lips, and he was tempted to apply one there, but that would make it harder for her to speak. He settled on her delicate breasts. As Uppal gave his speech about aiding conductivity and stopping the burning, Narayan gleefully applied the gel, caressing and teasing the nipples. She whimpered in terror.

Bobby couldn't believe this was happening. What could she do? The position was degrading. She was exposed, utterly. Arms and wrists bound, the strap over her waist, just about all she could move was her head. She peered down her body at the lieutenant. He seemed to have finished with her breasts and was returning the pot to the trolley. She saw the generator, saw him pick up a wire that ended in crocodile clip. It was obvious where it was going. She wailed in fear as he approached.

He tweaked her left nipple up, pinching it painfully. She hated the way he tormented her, the way he'd caressed her, mockingly playing on a perverse sense of intimacy. He snapped the clip open and shut in front of her, letting her see the teeth, sense the power of the spring, then he fixed it on the breast. The pain was awful. She gasped and held her breath, but there was no respite. It bit savagely so badly she wondered if it might slice the nipple off. She raised her head a little and looked at the clip fastened on the nipple, and felt again her shame and defencelessness. He returned with the other clip. She was panting in pain and fear. He taunted her again and fixed it. She had to bite her lip to prevent herself crying out in pain.

He backed away and Colonel Uppal stood over her. She looked up at his ridiculous quiff and the cracked ceiling beyond. She smelt his aftershave. "Miss Stafford," he said, laying his hand on her stomach. "I need you to cooperate with me. I need you to tell me everything you know. If you don't, then I'm afraid we'll have to give you a series of electric shocks. It will be painful, but if you are difficult there is no choice."

"I don't know anything." She was pleading now. "Sir, I don't."

"Tell me about the Rainbow Group."

"Sir, I told you. Beth was part of it, I think. McCormack. But I never heard of it before I got here."

"OK," he said, with a resigned nod. She heard a click and pain flashed through her, terrible pain that took her breath away. Even when it was over her body was rigid, desperate whimpers pulsing from her throat.

She stared at the ceiling. What could she do? She knew nothing. Should she lie? He was talking again. She tried to concentrate but her brain was melting. "That's one shock," he said. "One. We can give you as many as we want. That was level one. There are five levels. We can cause you a lot of pain. Or you can co-operate."

She let her eyes flick to him. Their eyes, starting at her nakedness. "How did you communicate with the capital?" he asked.

She was confused. Communicate? "I didn't…" she said, and the pain surged through her again for a second or two. She was panting, her breath coming in shallow gulps. She felt intensely cold, but her body was damp with sweat. Her shoulders ached from the strain of pulling against the bonds. Her mouth was dry. She closed her eyes. Tremors passed through her. How could she take more?

*

Uppal walked around the bench, looking down at the sobbing girl. How could she be resisting him? She was so delicate: he should have been able simply to crush her and yet after two days of sleeplessness, two days without food, two days of the box, forced walking and hosing, two days of being stripped repeatedly, she somehow had the strength to resist. He hadn't expected her to be able to endure a second shot, but she'd taken six with no sign of cracking. Yes, she was crying. Yes, her slender body was shaking with the strain. But she'd given him nothing.

Usually there was at least a panicky defence, an excuse, a name. Or from professionals, perhaps a prepared lie. But she just kept saying she didn't know. He wondered if he should let Narayan loose on her: beat her to kingdom come and try again tomorrow. But this was his reputation. This was his entire method at stake. He wondered if he should try with a list of names. But he didn't want to reveal his hand. He decided to move away from his investigation entirely, one of Patel's favourite tricks.

He sat down, the chair level with her breasts, facing her head.

"Do you have a boyfriend, Miss Stafford?"

"No," she croaked.

"I don't mean in here. I mean on the outside."

"No."

"Really? But you're a pretty girl. Or are you lesbian?"

"No."

"You've had a boyfriend, though?"

"Of course."

"How many?"

"Please…" she whimpered.

"What? What are you ashamed of? Are you a slut?"

She closed her eyes. He was surprised by the effect this line of questioning was having. "Tell me," he sad gently. "Who was your first kiss?"

"Kevin Simpson," she murmured. "I was at school with him."

"How old were you?"

"Fourteen."

"So young." He drew a finger over the underside of her left breast.

"Did you fuck him?"

"Yes." It was a croak.

"At fourteen?"

"I was sixteen," she said.

"How old was he?"

"The same."

"What happened?"

"Why do you need to know?"

Uppal nodded, and she screamed as the electricity ripped through her again.

Narayan had no idea why they were talking about this but she was clearly uncomfortable. A school dance, illicit alcohol, a fumble in the bushes. But they'd broken up because this Kevin found somebody else. She was openly sobbing as she described it: emotion plus tiredness plus fear.

"Why did he dump you?" Uppal asked, his fingers teasing her belly button. This wasn't his usual approach. Narayan hadn't realised he had it in him to humiliate somebody quite so effectively.

"Karen was sexier than me, I suppose." She sounded almost sarcastic. "More fun, more bubbly, bigger tits. You know, I worked hard. I was head girl. I got into Oxford. I played football. I was too serious for him."

"Does it worry you, the size of your tits?"

"They seem big enough for your purposes."

Uppal laughed and withdrew his hand. He nodded and Narayan dutifully flicked the switch, holding it for a count of two in his head. She flopped, gasping and trembling. He had high hopes for her feistiness: it might persuade Uppal to let him have her for a night. Small tits or not, he would enjoy that. In fact there was something in her delicacy he would enjoy smashing.

"Don't be silly, Miss Stafford," Uppal said. "We're having a nice little chat. Don't spoil it."

There was silence punctuated only by the rasp and puff of her breathing. "So Kevin dumped you because you were boring," Uppal went on. To Narayan's surprise, he reached a finger into her cunt and began slowly circling it. "Were you a bit frigid, maybe?"

She closed her eyes. "I'm sure he thought so," she said.

"A picture emerges," Uppal said. "So who was next? Who next entered the ice cave?" His finger went to her clitoris and gently began teasing.

"At university," she said, her voice notably tense, higher-pitched. "Please stop that, sir."

"No," Uppal said. "Carry on."

"It was near the end of first year. Somebody else on my history course. Adam Dawson. We spent a lot of time together and one night at a ball… Please, sir, stop."

"Am I turning you on? This and Adam. What was he like? Big? Muscular? Handsome?"

"Good-looking, yes. But he was an intellectual. Glasses. Not sporty. We were outside, both drunk, and he very nervously asked if he could take me for dinner. I said yes."

"And did you put out straightaway? I bet you did. There's a fire inside you."

She began crying again. Slowly she told the story between sobs, Uppal effectively masturbating her the whole time. A slow and gentle romance that had blossomed over two years before falling apart as they worked for their finals. How she'd hoped they could get back together again afterwards. Uppal was good there. "What happened?" he asked. "Did he find somebody with bigger tits? Somebody who was better at sex? Less frigid?"

She wailed at that. He had found somebody else.

"So you came over here to forget?"

"Yes," she breathed.

"Oh dear," Uppal said. "Then you fucked Steve McCoy?"

"No! I never even heard of him."

Uppal stood and nodded and Narayan flicked the switch. This time he held it for five seconds as she bucked against the straps. He knew it was the last of this session.

*

Beth was relieved. A day of being alone was awful. She sensed them looking at her, plotting, planning. She'd barely slept, terrified they'd do to her what they'd done to Megan. But at roll call, Megan and Rebecca were back. Both were still in a bad way, Rebecca particularly, but just the fact there were three of them was a comfort. Although not for poor Bobby. Was it her fault? She'd done what she could to put her fault right. The thought of the electricity made her feel sick.

In the showers she saw their wounds: Megan's buttocks still bruised and swollen, Rebecca's back a savage red, so sore that even water running over it seemed to hurt. "Shouldn't you have stayed in the infirmary" she asked, but Rebecca just shook her head and wouldn't say anything.

As they had breakfast, Rebecca explained what had been done to her, her punishment for not spying effectively. What could they do? Who knew when they may come for Rebecca again, give her a worse flogging? Beth thought of Rebecca on the bench, taking electric shocks. She couldn't take that. No way. And then she thought of Bobby, who might be going through that now. What could they do? All they could do for now was work and keep their heads down.

*

Uppal was tired. He should have gone to bed when he'd finished with Stafford, sending her to a cell. He'd ordered she be kept naked and in chains, so she could sleep a little but not well, and then be returned to the box at 6am. He'd see her at four – after she'd been hosed down, of course. Only then would he let her dress and give her some food and coffee. Make her rely on him. But he hadn't gone to bed. Instead, he'd replayed the tape of her being questioned and sent off some inquiries. He'd got to bed at about six and had been up by 11.

She worried him. It made no sense. She was clearly terrified and clearly suffering and yet she had given him nothing. There hadn't even been a flicker of weakness in her cover. She had behaved exactly as an innocent woman would. He gulped down his coffee and gave the order for her to be brought in. He poured another cup.

She was shivering and wet. He looked her slender body up and down. Was this really a separatist kingpin? "Unchain her," he said.

Her head was bowed. She was snivelling, body pink and goose-pimpled with cold, the nipples swollen and red from the clips. "Where are the girl's clothes?" he asked, in mock anger. "Let her get dressed."

A guard hurried out. He stood and walked over to her. She instinctively shied away from him. He lay a hand on her thin upper arm. "Don't be like that," he said. "Come and sit down while we wait for your clothes." He led her to the chair. "Now," he said with a smile, gently kneading the cool flesh of her shoulders, "you must be hungry. What would you like? Some hot soup maybe? Some coffee?"

She was crying as she nodded. "Thank you, sir," she said.

*

Bobby had known it was a trick. He'd tortured her yesterday and now he was giving her soup. He'd kept her naked for however long it was and just because he'd got her clothes back didn't change that. She hated him, his stupid hair and his heavy aftershave, but at that moment she wanted him to hug her. He, at least, was better than the thug of a lieutenant. She needed a hug. Just somebody to tell her it wasn't hopeless.

The soup was hot and tasty. It was the first food she'd had in she didn't know how long. The coffee was strong and sweet. She needed this. Even after the lack of sleep, all the time in the box, she could feel her mind clearing. As she ate he talked to her. Was it interrogation? She didn't know. He talked about life in the camp, how difficult it was, whether the other prisoners accepted the white girls. He asked her about football, what position she played, who she supported. He was nice. And then, when they took the bowl and the mug away and he gave her some water to drink, he opened a file.

"There are just one or two things to clear up," he said, and she felt a world of dread settle on her again.

"You never met Steve McCoy?"

"No," she said.

"You never met Elizabeth McCormack until when?"

"The train up here."

"When did you last speak to Kevin Simpson?"

She shook her head. Why the fuck did that matter? She thought of his fingers inside her, teasing her as he'd asked about him the previous day and shuddered. "I don't know, sir. At the end of school. Before university."

He nodded. He took a sheaf of perhaps 20 photographs and carried them over to her. "Have a look at these," he said. "Tell me who you recognise."

They were pictures of demonstrations, meetings. She saw Beth and Rebecca in a couple and pointed them out. But that was it.

"Have you ever been approached by MI5?"

"What?" The question was ridiculous.

"Have you ever been approached by MI5?" he asked again.

"No," she said. "Of course not."

"Stand up."

She obeyed. What was coming? What was next?

"Place the sole of your left foot against the inside of your right knee."

What the fuck was happening? She obeyed, slowly, uneasily.

"It's a position that helps memory," he said. "Stay in that position or you'll be punished. You can hold your arms out if you need to, for balance."

There was a pause. Bobby was terrified. She knew they were building to more pain. He carried on.

"Let's test this, shall we? How about you tell me about a night you must remember well. Tell me about when you lost your virginity."

It was excruciating. She went through it and he kept asking more and more questions, drawing out more and more detail. The dance. The vodka that she'd bought earlier in the day. Her giggling, leading Kevin into the bushes. Them kissing. His hand groping at her dress. Her hand down the front of his trousers, feeling his erection. The sense of abandonment, pulling up her dress, pulling down his trousers. The act, those few seconds of excitement and warmth and the pain and the sense of vague disappointment and his confusion and apologies and them hugging and dressing and hugging some more and promising never to be apart. The fear the next day and the day after and the week after that. The relief when her period came. Telling a room of men these humiliating details as they smirked and she stood on one leg.

Uppal nodded. Was this over? She was aching. She wobbled a little. "See?" he said. "Good for the memory. It helped, didn't it?"

"Yes, sir," she said flatly.

"There's just a couple of minor problems. Firstly, you were under-21. Drinking alcohol is an offence. Probably three months in a camp. Buying alcohol as an under-21, a year in a camp. Supplying alcohol to under-21s, two years in a camp and probably a flogging. You're in trouble, aren't you, Miss Stafford?"

"Sir-" Fuck. What could she say? "Oh, I hadn't finished. Theft from the school, let's say five years. Trespassing, three years. Malicious falsehoods against the priest, ten years and a flogging."

"I've already been flogged for that," she blurted. This couldn't be happening. She stared open-mouthed. He couldn't be doing this. It was absurd.

"And sex outside marriage, public indecency… you're a whole, Miss Stafford. Flogging and maybe another ten years."

"I think we're talking another twenty, twenty-five years in here, plus five years left to serve and probably two floggings. Maybe a total of 40 strokes, 50 perhaps. Who knows these days? Maybe more. How old are you now?"

"Twenty-two," she whispered.

"Well, you'd be out at 50," he said. "That's not so bad."

She began to sob and put her foot down unthinking. "I'd die," she said.

"Yes, you probably would. So you probably should co-operate. Clothes off."

*

Narayan had supervised her being manhandled naked to the electric room and strapped down to the bench. Krishnamurthy had checked her over and pronounced her fit. He'd teased her, playing with her breasts, laughing about how they hadn't been enough for Kevin. He touched the electrodes together, sparking them. He'd told her they'd move her up a level.

Eventually Uppal came in, looking weary, yet another coffee in his hand. He moved to the chair. This was when he had to act.

"Sir," he ventured. "She must be punished for putting her foot down without permission."

He saw Uppal's mouth tighten. "I suppose so," he said but his reluctance was obvious. "Turn her over."

The guards were on her in an instant. She struggled, hopelessly, as they unfastened her, turned her to lie on her stomach and then reattached the straps over her wrists and ankles, then over her waist. "Be quick about it," said Uppal, stepping back. Narayan looked at the pale expanse of her back and buttocks. He thought of 72 strokes on that pert arse: what a sight that must have been. "Ten with the grade one cane, sir?" he asked.

Uppal nodded and approached her. Narayan sent a guard to get the canes from the punishment room. Uppal gently stroked her hair. "I'm sorry, Miss Stafford," he said. "But you put your foot down without permission and you have to be punished for that. I did warn you." As he stepped back he continued. "This is what happens when you don't co-operate. It ends up hurting."

She clenched her teeth. Narayan could almost see the struggle in her not to plead, before she pay her right cheek against the bench, looking away from Uppal. Her fists balled and she prepared herself.

The flogging was brief but satisfying. Her slim buttocks were firmly muscled, evidence of the sport she'd played as well as the work in the camp. Narayan lay on strokes from the right, the other officer from her left. They showed no mercy, working her swiftly from the top of her ass to the bottom, each stroke applied with a swift vigour and landing with the dull whump that indicates a lash well-applied. She took the first four in silence but by the end was roaring in pain., buttocks streaked with burgundy. Narayan would have liked to have carried on, and to have made her count the strokes, but Uppal was a professional. As soon as it was done, he had her turned onto her back and fastened again.

*

Why was she not breaking? Uppal didn't understand. The girl was exhausted. Over the course of the past hour, he'd given her a level one shot, a level two and six more level ones. She was shaking, sobbing, begging, but she had told him nothing. How could she keep up her cover story this well? Not a slip, not a hint, nothing. Her brain couldn't be working properly and yet she was outflanking him at every turn. And that was after a flogging. Not a serious flogging, but ten with a grade one was bad enough. She'd need a day or two in the infirmary before she could work again. The longer it went on, the more his doubts troubled him.

He gazed down at her trembling nakedness, wires leading from her left ear and her right labia. He let his fingers wander across her breasts to the fading bruise on her collar-bone. "Where did you get that?" he asked, in part because he was intrigued and in part because it was essential to get her talking, saying anything other than, "I don't know."

"In the police station," she said, her voice weak. "Before they whipped me. I asked for clothes. They said… said I was disobeying them."

"Disobedience does seem to be a trait," he said. "Were you indulged as a child?"

She didn't answer. He tried to quell a surge of anger. He stood up and took the leather bit in his hand. "The Rainbow Group?" he said.

She shook her head gently. "Level Two, then. Open wide."

She obeyed and closed her teeth on the leather. He looked at the reddened lobe of her ear, the white crust of the ointment. How could somebody as delicate and pretty as this be involved in that? He nodded at Narayan and was already out of the room when they cut the current, her rasps of pain echoing after him.

*

Narayan had supervised her being taken to a cell. They'd unchained her and thrown her down. She just lay, naked and exhausted on the concrete, trembling and moaning. He told the boys to wait half an hour or so and give her a drink of water and then to leave her. He'd been about to go to bed when Uppal asked him to join him in the kitchen.

They stood drinking more coffee, leaning on the counter.

"What do you make of her?" the colonel asked

Narayan didn't know how to answer. He thought she was an arrogant bitch who should be punished severely, even if she was flatter-chested than he'd have liked. "What do you mean? She's the head of all this isn't she?" he said, but even as he did so he thought of how unlikely it sounded that that girl could be the head of anything.

"What if she's telling the truth?"

"What?"

"What if she is just a student who came back to help out at her old school, who tried to expose a lecherous old priest and ended up getting beaten as part of a cover-up?"

"But six testimonies?"

"McCormack was tortured and asked to give her name. You know how it happens. An officer gets a list, he goes through it. If he gets corroboratory evidence it looks good for him. What if all six of them did the same?"

"No, surely not. Not six." It didn't make sense.

"If the priest knew people, which he clearly did… he gets her whipped, totally without justification. He gets her imprisoned under the emergency laws. He gets her name put near the top of those lists. It's a hell of a revenge."

Narayan couldn't believe what he was hearing. He wanted to hurt her some more. "I can't-" he began.

"Why has she not showed up in any photograph of a demonstration? Why did we know nothing of her till, what, three, four months ago? And you really think a top intelligence officer gets caned by a school?"

That was a horribly persuasive argument. "Cover?" Narayan suggested.

"What, to get into one of these camps?"

"Why not?"

Uppal shook his head. "Maybe she was working with rebels in the hills. That's what we have to work on next."

Narayan decided to plunge in. "Maybe I could give her a beating, sir. Work her over for a night. Humiliate her. Maybe she's trained for electricity."

Uppal screwed up his mouth. "Not yet," he said. "Get yourself to bed. We'll start again tomorrow."

*

Megan had been pulled aside at roll-call and taken to the infirmary. "The doctor wants to check your wounds," the sergeant had said to her. She felt a moment of panic but she also knew this was what she needed.

She'd had to wait about an hour before he'd come in, smiling, with flask of hot tea and a basket of warm bread. He really thought she liked him. Well, good. They chatted. He asked about her bruises. She asked him about his life outside. As subtly as she could she asked about Bobby. He seemed unsurprised by the question, told her she was being tortured, that they were blasting her with electricity.

After they'd eaten, they fucked, slowly and, if not enjoyably then at least not in such a way that it revolted her. He applied balm to her buttocks. They had more tea. They fucked again. And then, as they lay together, her head resting on his chest, she asked about the possibility of maybe getting a message to somebody on the outside. It was just to let them know it was OK, she insisted. He seemed hesitant, but she suspected it was more that he couldn't be bothered than that the idea outraged him.

He left her after about three hours, allowed her sleep in a warm bed, before she was returned to eat lunch with the other prisoners. She should feign illness, he said, so he could have her spend more time in the infirmary.

*

Bobby lay on her side with her knees to her chin, hugging herself. She was trembling, cold, hungry and feeling worse than she'd ever believed possible. Her muscles still twitched, her head throbbed and she was consumed by despair. Sometimes she slept, sometimes she woke, but her dreams were so vivid and her brain so fogged that the distinction between the two states was unclear. Her buttocks hurt, but that was just a minor part of her hell. She knew nothing. How could she persuade them of that?

She heard footsteps and flinched. It could only be more bad news, more pain. The bolts were shot back and she heard a key turn in the lock. She backed away from the door. Four of them came in, pulled her to her feet and cuffed and blindfolded her. A hand slid over her arse, and prodded between her legs. "Nympho," said a voice in her ear and she whimpered in terror.

They dragged her along the corridor, fondling her, taunting her. "Level three shocks today," one said.

"You'll fry," another said, jabbing her nipples.

"They'll thrash you. I heard them. Cane you till there's no skin left on your ass then make you sit in chilli oil."

"They hate you. They're going to make it especially bad. Even when you've confessed they're going to whip you. Then we get to play with you."

A door opened and she was pushed through it. It was the box, she knew. She heard it open and then she was picked up and dropped in. For a moment when the lid closed it was deliciously peaceful, but then the drills started and the temperature began to rise and she began to cry again.

How long was she in there? Bobby had no idea. She hurt. She felt nauseous. She sweated. She shivered. Six times they gave her water. She wanted sleep but she wanted to be more awake. She wanted to be able to think to find a solution, she wanted to die.

She was dragged out. They slapped her on her bruised buttocks and dragged her into another room. They gave her a shove and she heard a metallic clang. She stood, uneasily, naked, not knowing what was going on. She heard the cell door close. And then powerful jets of water struck her from above. She collapsed but there was no escape. Cold water hammered her tender body. She tried to curl up but there was no respite.

And then it was over. The floor was wet and cold and tiled. She lay, too weak to move, still blindfold, still chained, shaking and sobbing. She couldn't take any more. No more. She shouted, but there was silence. Slowly, using all her strength, she pushed herself up onto her knees. She had to pause to recover her energy then she stood, unsteadily. She reached in front of her with her right foot. Nothing but more cold tiles. She took a step forward. Then another. And another. Then her toe hit something solid. There was a thick metal grille. She was in a cage in a cell in a torture unit in a prison camp in the middle of nowhere and she was naked and blindfolded and in chains. She sank again to her knees. She pressed her forehead against the mesh and wept.

*

Uppal pushed his thumbs into the cold flesh of her shoulders. Stafford sat, naked and dripping, skin pink and goose-pimpled, in the interrogation room. She looked exhausted, dark rings under her eyes, body limp. He'd given her eight hours in the box and four in the cage, being hosed down for five minutes every half hour. She was so weak now she'd hardly been able to walk unaided. Her neck was smoothly delicate and he stroked it. She barely reacted. He smoothed her wet hair back from her forehead.

"Why are you doing this to yourself?" he asked.

"You're doing it to me," she said flatly, so he slapped the right side of her head. She barely reacted.

He moved in front of her, placed his hand on her cheek, noting the gentle freckles along the line of the bone. He looked into her deep brown eyes. "Just tell me the truth and this will be over," he said. "If you co-operate, I can get your sentence reduced. If you don't, you stay here for ever and we give you electric shocks for ever."

He lifted her chin so she looked up at him. "Why were you based in the hills?" he asked.

"It's where the school is."

"Were you in contact with the rebels?"

"No."

"Why that school?"

"It's where my parents sent me. It's an international school. It made sense for them when they were travelling for work."

"When did MI5 recruit you?"

"They didn't." She sounded exhausted, despairing.

"Tell me about the school. Who there might have been working with the rebels?"

She shook her head slowly. "I don't know."

He walked behind her again, traced a finger up her vertebrae. "Why would six people name you if you are not involved with the rebels?"

"Tortured? Asked to implicate me? Because Father Johal gave my name to police?"

It made an annoying amount of sense. He seized her by the hair and lifted her, shaking her violently and then throwing her to the floor. She was too tired even to get her arms out properly in front of her and skidded painfully on the concrete. "Hang her," he said, and returned to his desk.

*

Bobby dangled, head flopped forward. She'd hung for perhaps ten minutes and already she was in agony. She was too weak for this. Her arms, her shoulders, her chest all ached. She would have done anything to end it. And she knew this was probably just the prelude to more time on the bench. And then the box and then the cage, a terrible routine of torture.

As they'd cuffed her wrists, he'd ordered coffee, flicked through some papers. Finally he looked up. "Miss Stafford," he said. "This is your fifth day with us. Your sentence still has four years and forty-one weeks to run. Including the leap year that's 1748 more days for me to work on you. And of course I can get extensions. I can probably get you jailed for 40 more years. You are mine and I will get the information from you.

"Now, I'm going to tell you some names and you're going to tell me what you know about them. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good."

He went through a list. Most she hadn't heard of. Some were former pupils at the school. Were they guilty of anything, or was he testing her? Some were staff. She thought of lying about Coulthard or Cadwallader or Dupont or Tony Watson or Mrs Bannerjee or any of the bastards, but she knew he'd then ask her about them and he'd find her out and hurt her more.

"David Berg?"

"I don't know." "Lucy Curtis?"

"She's a pupil. Sixth form. I don't really know her."

"Emma Swann?"

Bobby hesitated. Should she lie? But it was too late. He'd seen her pause. "That's my cousin," she said.

"Your cousin?"

"Yes. She's older than me. Five years, I think. Five or six. But I haven't seen her in ages. I don't know. She went to Australia a couple of years ago. We weren't close.

He nodded and carried on with more names. The pain was getting worse and worse. It felt like she could barely breathe.

*

This was it. This was his way in. He had her. He went down his list, but it didn't matter. Emma Swann was the one. He walked over to her. He could sense her pain. She looked exhausted, trembling. It was time to pull back. He ran a hand over her welted backside. "Good girl," he said. "You've done well."

He traced his fingers up her ribs and paused at the soft flesh of her flattened breast. "Now, because you've been so helpful, I'm going to let you down. You can have your clothes back, a nice warm shower, some hot food and a night in a nice warm bed. Then tomorrow you can help me some more. Will you do that for me?"

"Yes, sir," she whimpered.

"Good. Do you promise?"

"Yes, sir."

"Say it."

"I promise to help you, sir."

"Good. And if you don't, I will hang you back up and we'll beat you." He patted her ribs. "You're very exposed like that," he said. "Ribs, back, bottom, thighs. We'll cane you till you're bloody then let you taste level three electric shocks. Then we'll keep you awake and do the same thing the day after and the day after and the day after that. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good girl."

He gave the order to let her down. As they led her away, chained and blindfold, he shouted after her. "Good night, Roberta."

He turned to Narayan. "Bring me Donohue," he said.

*

At last. The blonde one with the tits. Narayan had been looking forward to this. She sat in the chair, anxious but not terrified, waiting as Uppal shuffled his papers. He wanted her naked, wanted to see that golden form, bucking in pain as she had when she'd been caned.

Finally, Uppal began. "Miss Donohue," he said. "I have here the statement you signed in the capital. I'd just like to go through it with you. All I want is the truth. Be honest with me and nothing bad will happen. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

Fuck, it was boring. Detail after detail, question after question. An hour, an hour and a half. Uppal gave her water. What the fuck was this? Why was she not naked? Why was she not hanging from the ceiling or lying on the bench?

And then Uppal got to the crunch. "Tell me about Roberta Stafford."

"I didn't know here before I met her on the train."

"But you knew she was heavily involved? You'd heard her name?"

"No."

"But your testimony here…"

"They were beating me, torturing me. I said what they wanted me to say."

"They offered you the name?"

"Yes. They made it clear that if I said she was guilty they'd stop hurting me."

"You signed a statement."

"I know." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "It was wrong."

"You know signing a false statement is a serious offence?"

She said nothing.

"It could get you flogged."

She nodded.

"But you still wish to retract it?"

Fuck's sake: just beat her, Narrayan thought. But Uppal kept going. This was proving his point about Stafford, proving she wasn't guilty. He asked Donohue if she'd been intimidated by Stafford, if she'd threatened her. Donohue denied it, of course.

Uppal nodded. He went through a list of names, working out who Donohue had known. "I'm a photographer," she said, repeatedly. "A journalist. It was my job to know people."

"Elizabeth McCormack?"

"I knew of her, yes. I knew she helped organise demonstrations. I knew she worked with Steve McCoy. But she wasn't a friend." Uppal sighed. Narayan could sense he was weary. "Thank you, Miss Donohue," he said finally. "You've admitted to signing a false statement, and to failing to reveal information about seditious activities to authorities, both of which are serious offences, but I'll let you go now. I may follow this up and they may want you back in the capital for punishment, but I thank you for your cooperation."

What? Was that it? No stripping? Not even a hint of torture? What was wrong with him? What if she was lying?

"Good night, Lieutenant," Uppal said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

*

Uppal didn't go to bed. He had to think. He was almost sure now that Bobby Stafford was an innocent, somebody who tried to do a good thing in exposing the priest and had suffered terribly since. He wondered if there was something in her prettiness and delicacy that encouraged men to abuse her. She was stronger than she looked, though, and it amazed him that even under severe pressure she hadn't begun just lying. And doubts nagged at him. What if this was the game? What if she was just very good and she was a spy, that this was all an act. What if she had intimidated Donohue and McCormack, or persuaded them, into retracting their accusations? He would have to tread very carefully.

He would speak to her again. Ask her about her cousin and if need be give her shocks again. He'd seen plenty of prisoners resist torture but then buckle when threatened with it a second time, after they'd thought it was over.

And he needed to speak to McCormack again. Find out if she knew this Emma Swann. In fact he needed to go through that whole list with her properly, with at least the threat of torture. Then he had to hope at least some of the Rainbow Group were still in the country.

*

Rao couldn't wait any longer. The Secpol had sent Harris back three days earlier. He knew she'd had a day in the infirmary, but he wanted her. And he wanted to make her suffer. She said she didn't want to be his girlfriend. He'd make her beg. He'd make her suffer.

It was about 1am when he walked into the hut, strode over to her, and grabbed her by the hair. She shouted as he dragged her outside and over to the shower block. He threw her down on the tiles. "Strip," he said, and she stood up and obeyed.

"Let me look at you," he said. "Hands by your sides."

What a sight she was, doll-like in her delicacy, shivering, pathetic. He walked around her and was shocked by her back. Her buttocks were marked by fading bruises but her back was red and welted. He lay a hand on the skin and she flinched. "The Secpol did this?"

"Yes," she said.

"What with? How many lashes?"

"Fifty with a strap," she whispered. Fifty? He'd been going too soft with a dozen.

He ran his hands down over her satiny buttocks. "I'm going to toughen you up," he said. "I'm going to help you survive in here." He pulled her against him, let his hands play on the soft firmness of her breasts, felt her resistance and pushed her away.

He walked in front of her. "Give me 20 star jumps," he said. She swallowed and with obvious reluctance squatted down then sprang up. He watched her breasts bounce. "Doesn't count," he said. "Right down, then jump as high as you can, arms and legs wide."

He stood, arms folded, watching her, enjoying her obvious humiliation, shouting encouragement and counting. He thought of how he'd hated this during his training, being forced to do extra PT, of the instructors shouting at him. And he'd had clothes on.

She got to twenty, but there was no relief. Her back was in agony, she was freezing and she hated the way her breasts bounced, his obvious enjoyment of her embarrassment. "Twenty press-ups," he ordered. "Over here. Kiss my feet with each one."

She dropped into position. "Back flat," he ordered. "No cheating. Right down."

She tried to obey, her hair falling forward over her face. She let her lips touch his boot, the pushed up. She got to six, and her arms began to feel tired, her back desperately sore. By twelve she could feel her arms giving up. By sixteen her muscles were numb and getting up was a struggle. At eighteen she collapsed onto the cold tiles. He pulled her up by her hair. "You lazy little bitch!" he shouted, and threw her down. She sprawled on her back. "I'm sorry," she cried. "I'm sorry."

"Twenty sit-ups," he ordered.

This was the worst yet, the position so humiliating, as though she were offering herself to him.

Why hadn't he done this before? This was great fun. He made her do more star-jumps, then press-ups. She collapsed again, this time after twelve. Well, she'd asked for it. It was time for a beating. "Stand up!" he shouted, unfastening his belt.

"Please…" she whimpered as she got up. "I can't…"

"Bend over!"

"Please… I can't take it… I can't." She fell to her knees, hands clasped before her as though in prayer.

"Give me a blow-job and we'll see."

She nodded and sniffed, then shuffled over to him. She unbuttoned his trousers and pulled down his zip. His cock was already hard. She lowered his trousers and his shorts and kissed the tip of his cock.

"Make it good," he said, looking down on her welted back. "Or I'll give you 50. That's your basic now, yes? Or perhaps 100?"

She let her tongue play down his shaft and he sighed with pleasure. She forced herself to suppress her revulsion, teasing him with her tongue, taking his penis deep into her mouth. She wasn't clear what deep-throating was but she tried what it sounded like. She suppressed a gag as his cock touched the back of her mouth and quickly withdrew, working with her tongue.

He grabbed her by the hair. This was good. This was very good. He pulled her close, thrusting deep until he felt the back of her mouth. He sensed her revulsion, sensed the gag reflex but didn't let go and then he was coming, holding her as she heaved, spurting deep into her throat. He withdrew with a sigh of contentment as she coughed and choked, slumping to the ground. "Don't spill any," he said. He fastened up his trousers and gave her a half-hearted kick.

"Twenty more star-jumps," he ordered, "now you've had your protein shake."

Rebecca felt sick, but she obeyed, and then did the 20 sit-ups he ordered as well.

"Good," he said. "We'll have another fitness session tomorrow."

*

Was it a trap? Was it really over? Bobby had no idea. What she did know was that the shower was warm and she had been terribly cold. She knew that the soup was hot and that she was ferociously hungry. And she knew that the bed was soft and warm and that she was desperately tired. She woke at some point to find the doctor in the room. He gave her painkillers and applied balm to her buttocks where they'd caned her, and to her wrists and ankles where the straps and chains had chafed.

The next time she woke there was coffee and fresh bread and fruit. She fell asleep again and was woken to have another shower. They blindfolded her and chained her wrists behind her after that but it was only to take her to the interrogation cell. When she sat in the chair, she was given more coffee. Uppal sat behind the desk. The lieutenant sat to one side, his face furious.

"Roberta," Uppal said and smiled. She hated him. "How are you? Did you sleep well?"

"Very well, thank you, sir," she said, anxious to be polite.

"Thank you for cooperating," he said. "You've seen what happens when you're silly and stubborn. Please don't make us do that again." She seethed. How dare her? Making it seem like her fault. But she said nothing.

"Tell me about your cousin."

Bobby didn't know Emma that well. She was her mother's sister's daughter. The age gap, five or six years, was significant, and while she'd been here, at school, Emma had been back in England. She remembered a Christmas, many years earlier, playing with a big girl, had liked her, but they'd barely spoken in years.

The questions kept coming. She answered them honestly, but she knew she wasn't satisfying him.

"Have you had any contact with her here?" Uppal asked impatiently.

"No, sir. I didn't know she was here."

He sighed in frustration. And reached into his desk. He took out a pile of photos, four five inches thick. "Come here," he said.

Bobby stood uncertainly and approached the desk. "Go through these," he said. "I want you to put aside all the pictures your cousin appears in." He turned to Narayan. "Prepare the electric room," he said. "Just in case."

He walked out. His head was aching.

*

Uppal went to the kitchen. Was it possible she didn't know her cousin was here? She seemed plausible. He'd sent the order for them to check her emails and her phone again, but he doubted there'd be anything. She was either innocent or so smart she wouldn't make a mistake like that. He boiled the kettle. But he also knew that he had to be thorough and realistically that meant another session of electricity. He feared as well that if he didn't get more out of her they'd hand her over to another interrogator. That would be bad for her and it would be bad for him. He cared about truth; others didn't. He poured the hot water onto the coffee. Others would just hurt her till she confessed to any old nonsense. And that would look bad for him.

Narayan came in. "It's ready, sir," he said. "Whenever you need it. And I gave the doctor a call to warn him."

"Thanks." He poured two mugs of coffee. "What do you think?" he asked.

Narayan paused. This was an opportunity. "I think McCormack has more to tell us," he said. "Maybe we should give her another session. And are you sure Donohue has told us all she knows?"

Typical, Uppal though. The two with the big tits. He was right, though. They probably should make sure McCormack didn't know more about this Emma Swann. And it couldn't hurt to ask Donohue a little more. "And Stafford?" he asked.

"I don't trust her," Narayan said. "I'm not sure she's some sort of mastermind, but she's too clever by half. We haven't broken her yet."

Uppal nodded. It wasn't a great surprise Narayan wanted to torture all of them, but he felt the same about Stafford. There was something not quite right. "And the other one? Harris?"

"Terrified," Narayan said. "She's told us everything. I mean, we should still use her to spy on the others but she's a frightened little girl."

*

There were hundreds of photographs. Bobby went through them. Pictures of demonstrations. Pictures of meetings. Pictures of students on the campus. She saw Beth on a number of them. Rebecca was on a handful. And on a couple she could see Megan's blonde hair behind a camera. But not Emma. Shit. Was she condemning Emma to torture? But then she thought of what Uppal had said. The electric room. What could she do but be honest? She couldn't bear any more. Not when she'd thought it was over.

Then there she was. Standing on a bridge above a march, on the phone, wearing sunglasses, but definitely her: Emma. Bobby felt relieved, then felt guilty about feeling relieved. But this might keep her away from the electric bench.

The door opened and Uppal and the lieutenant came in. "How are we getting on, Roberta?" he asked.

"I still have these to do," she said, pointing to a wedge of photos. "But she's here."

Uppal took the picture from her and nodded as she pointed at the figure on the bridge. "Keep going," he said, looking at it. It was hard to make much out. A slim girl, brown hair lightly curled. Was she co-ordinating the demonstration? Was that why she was on the bridge? Why had they not seen her before?

Bobby found one other picture of her cousin. This one was clearer. Uppal could see a slight family resemblance. The straight jaw, the deep brown eyes. He handed the two pictures to a guard. "Take them and get them circulated," he said. "We need her picked up."

He turned to Stafford, who still stood by his desk. "When did you last speak to her?"

"I don't know," she said. "Two, three years?"

"Tell me about it."

"I don't know. It was a wedding, I think. Another cousin, Jeremy. I can't even remember what we talked about. It wasn't long. Just a minute or two: how are you doing, that kind of thing."

"And you haven't been in touch since?"

"No," she shook her head.

"OK," he said. "Strip."

"No!" she squealed. "Please, sir. Please…. Not more."

"Now!"

She bit her lower lip and, hands shaking, tears welling, began to unbutton her shirt."

*

Krishnamurthy pressed two fingers against the side of the girl's neck. He glanced at his watch. Her pulse was elevated, her heart racing, but she would survive. He stood up and nodded at Uppal. The girl was shivering violently, sobbing and moaning, her skin damp with sweat. They sprayed more water over her and checked the electrodes which were clamped to her nipples. This had been a brutal session and it wasn't over. A level one, a level two, then six level ones, a couple of them extended for three or four seconds. It seemed absurd that such a slender body should be expected to absorb such treatment.

Uppal stepped forward. "Come on, Roberta," he said. "Don't do this to yourself."

She glared at Krishnamurthy, fury in her brown eyes, teeth clamped together as she desperately sucked in air. Her breasts were small but there was something alluring about her slender figure, the thin wrists and ankles held by heavy straps. In the old days he'd have looked forward to fucking her, but now he felt he had to be faithful to Megan. How he wanted her, those breasts pushed into his chest, her smooth thighs wrapped around him. What a woman she was.

Bobby stared up at them. She could barely focus. Even breathing hurt. She saw Uppal, the doctor and the lieutenant, all staring down at her. She felt dreadfully cold. "When did you last speak to your cousin?" he asked again.

Her mouth was dry. "At the wedding," she said. "I told you."

"I'm afraid I have to move you up to level three," he said.

She didn't even beg. What was the point? He pushed her mouth open and inserted the leather bit. It was already damp with her own saliva and tasted foul. She closed her eyes. She tried to take herself far away.

"I'll give you five seconds," he said.

She breathed out through her nose. "Five… four… three… two…" she closed her teeth on the leather. "One."

The pain was terrible. Her muscles tightened, her head tipped back and her eyes opened. She stared unseeing at the ceiling and thought her spine would snap. She could feel the leather bonds holding her down, her muscles fighting against them. Pain surged though her. Everywhere. In every nerve. Awful, cold agony. Her back slapped against the bench. The tension was released. She felt a wave of profound nausea. Only slowly did she realise the pain had stopped. They were unfastening her. She was going to be sick. She slid from the bench to the floor and heaved, kneeling, shaking, sweat dripping from her even as she vomited.

Uppal wondered whether he'd gone too far, but gestured for them to hose her down. She gave as soft moan, curling into a ball as they let the water play over her, then swilled away her vomit. Narayan grabbed her by the hair and lifted her. She shrieked, her hands going to her scalp. She looked pathetic, tiny, girlish as they fastened her back on the bench. He could see her heart thumping as the doctor checked her again. "She's OK," he said, and she wailed.

Narayan took the gel and applied it first to her nose and then to her clitoris. She moaned in desperation. Narayan teased her with the electrodes, enhancing her horror, then clipped them to her: first in her nose, the teeth biting into her septum, and then, and a little pinching that was only partly gratuitous, to her clitoris. He had Narayan turn the dial down to one.

"Why must you resist?" he asked, approaching her again. She was whimpering. He stroked her brow. "Why are you resisting? What good is this doing?"

"I haven't seen my cousin for two years," she sobbed. "I haven't been in touch with her. Why won't you believe me?"

Uppal nodded at Narayan, who flicked the switch. She roared as the pain surged through her. Narayan counted slowly to five as the girl twisted hopelessly in her bonds, shallow breasts quivering, head tossing. She was soaked with sweat now, a thin dribble of blood running from her nose. Long after he shut off the current she was panting and gasping, chest heaving.

Krishnamurthy checked her pulse again. He was concerned. He'd never seen Uppal like this, pushing so hard, and Stafford, although she was clearly fit, was a slender little thing She couldn't take much more. And he knew that Megan would be furious with him if he let anything serious happen to her friend. He took Uppal aside, leading him to corner. He turned away from the bench. "She needs a break," he said. "She needs time to recover."

Uppal was irritated. He knew the doctor was right. "Complete break, or just from electricity?" he asked.

"Give her an hour or so," Krishnamurthy replied. "But lay off the electricity till tomorrow."

"Can you give her anything?"

"Not if you want to interrogate her in an hour, no. She needs rest and liquids. I'd give her painkillers and a sedative but not if you want to torture her before morning." "Can I give her one more?"

"A short one, probably, yes."

Uppal nodded and approached the bench again. He crouched beside her. He was slightly appalled by her distress. He lay his hand on her cheek. "The truth, Roberta," he said. "That's all I want." But a large part of him was sure she was telling the truth. He let his thumb play over her gentle lips, looked at the two upper front teeth, slightly larger than those around them, looked into her deep brown eyes, now haunted with pain. "I can keep hurting you for ever," he said. "And when I'm done, I can give you to the lieutenant. There is no escape but the truth about your cousin."

She looked exhausted, desperate. "What do you want me to say?" she said. "I've told you." He gave her a gentle slap and stood up. He nodded at Narayan who dutifully turned on the current. When it was over, she flopped limp, chest heaving, breath rasping.

"Put her in a cell," he ordered.

*

Bobby lay naked on the concrete. She was freezing cold but she was too exhausted to curl up properly. They'd tossed her in and she'd fallen pretty much the position she was in now, face down, left leg bent, left arm out to the side. She was finished. She wanted to die. Every inch of her hurt, her muscles twitched, but worse was the sense that they'd drained her of all life. She had nothing left. Even breathing hurt.

The doctor came in and squatted down beside her. He hooked an arm under her shoulder and hauled her into a sitting position. She moaned at the pressure on her bruised buttocks. He held a water-bottle to her lips and she tried to drink but much of it spilled down her chest. "Wake up," he said. "Think of something to tell them."

She retched but didn't vomit. Her head thumped. She shivered. The doctor took a syringe from his pocket, squirted a little liquid from the end. "A pick me up," he said with a smile. "Liven you up for the next session."

She began to cry.

*

Narayan watched dispassionately as Stafford was brought in. She was blindfold and chained, but was so weak it seemed hardly worth it. The guards almost carried her, her legs trailing on the floor. Uppal ordered them to hang her. He seemed agitated, running his hands through his hair again and again.

The girl moaned as the chain tautened and she was lifted from the ground, thin body dangling, breasts pulled almost flat, her head flopping forward on her chest. He looked at her graceful neck and was struck, to his surprise, by how alluring she was, how ridiculously delicate in this place.

Reluctantly, Uppal had them take off her blindfold. He wasn't sure he wanted to look into her eyes, but he stepped up to the pale body. "Tell me about your cousin," he said.

She moaned. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot. She looked exhausted, haggard. "I've told you everything," she said, speaking an obvious effort.

Uppal placed his hands on her narrow hips and pushed down. She gasped in pain. He steeled himself. He had to be tough. He had to make absolutely sure.

He stroked her stomach, letting his fingers wander around her belly button. "Tell me again," he said. She did, slowly, painfully. The same story. He pushed down on her hips again, harder this time. She screamed. "You frustrate me, Roberta," he said. "You think we don't know the truth?"

He walked back to his desk and sat down. He wondered if he should let Narayan loose on her. He knew the psychology of a beating was different to his more remote ways of causing pain. But he also knew she was already in big trouble physically, that he had to be careful. He thought back to the lessons in interrogation. He had to change the subject. He had to get her talking.

"Do you like Elizabeth McCormack?" he asked.

What was this? Was this another of his tricks? Bobby gazed at the floor, too tired to even think of doing anything else. Already her arms were in agony, her chest aching. She realised she'd said nothing for several seconds.

"Lieutenant," Uppal said, "go and get a cane. Miss Stafford is being difficult."

"No!" she yelped. ‘Sorry, sir. I'm just…"

"Yes?" Uppal signalled to Narayan with his eyes to obey his order.

"I'm exhausted," she said, and felt the tears leaking from her eyes again.

"Do you like Elizabeth McCormack?"

"Yes," she said.

"Why?"

"She's strong, she's honest. She looks after us."

"She betrayed you. If it wasn't for her you wouldn't be here."

"You tortured her."

"Megan Donohue? What about her?"

"She's brave and tough."

"She betrayed you as well."

"You tortured her."

"Rebecca Harris?"

"She's finding it difficult. She's not strong. But you tortured her as well, flogged her…"

"You seem angry."

"How can you do this?" She found unexpected strength. A fury seized her. "How can you torture women into confessing or blaming others? How?"

Uppal was surprised by her spirit. Narayan returned, two medium canes in his hand.

"It offends you that I protect my country by questioning criminals?"

"With torture? With humiliating women?"

With an effort to control himself, Uppal smiled. "When you're ready Lieuteneant," he said.

Narayan grinned. At last. He lay down one of the canes and flexed the other. It was about as thick as his fourth finger, four feet long, whippy. He swished it through the air. He saw her fingers clench. He stepped closer and touched the cane against her slender back. Her muscles rippled in anticipation. He drew back and unfurled a long, smooth lash, striking her hard just below her shoulder-blade on the right side. Her head flicked up and she let out a yelp of pain. Across her pale back, a brutal deep red welt began to emerge.

Bobby hung limp. Why had she angered him? She'd been in agony even before they'd started with the cane. She wanted to turn her brain off, to float away, but the pain in her wrists, her arms, her shoulders, her chest, was insistent. She heard the cane though the air, felt the smack across her lower back, a sickening pain that swelled and swelled.

"One more," she heard Uppal say. She braced herself, but she was defenceless and it slashed across her thighs. She moaned, jerking against her bonds, increasing the pain in her shoulders. Her right leg felt numb from the impact.

"Why?" Uppal said. "Why do this to yourself?"

She said nothing, just looked dully at the floor, pain and exhaustion overwhelming her. She'd thought nothing could be worse than the caning at the school. She'd thought nothing could be worse than the electric shocks. But this was worse. She had sunk through misery into something far worse. She knew there was no way to stop this. They would hurt her till they wanted to stop.

Uppal gazed at her pale body, took in the detail of her nakedness, the bruise on her collar-bone, the tiny handful of freckles – one between her breasts, one on the left side beneath her ribs, one just under her belly button. She was finished, he knew. He doubted there was anything worthwhile he would get out of her now. All he could do was take her to the end, then given her a long time to recover and hope the fear of further torture would break her. But he doubted she had anything left to tell him.

"Emma Swann," he said. "Tell me about her."

She didn't even react. He nodded, and Narayan lashed her, hard, across the buttocks they'd caned 36 hours earlier. She only grunted, her body swinging forward. "Again." Narayan struck her buttocks once more. This time she gave a long, agonised roar, a howl of dread and despair.

"What are you hiding?" he asked.

"Nothing!" Her voice was hoarse. "Please! For God's sake, I know nothing!"

Throw her. Humiliate her. Uppal knew the theory. "Have you ever had lesbian fantasies?

"What?"

"Have you ever thought about sex with a woman?"

"No!"

He nodded. Narayan lashed her ribs on the right side. She gave a retching scream

"You want me to say yes?" she squawked.

"I want the truth. Have you ever thought about having sex with a woman?"

"Yes. I've thought what it would be like. Have I ever desired it? No."

"Who in the camp would you go for? There's no men. Who do you go to for comfort? Who holds you? Who do you kiss?"

"What?"

He nodded. Narayan hit her ribs on the left side.

"Who?"

"Megan."

"Megan. Why?"

"She's strong. She's tough. She's a good woman."

"She betrayed you."

"When you tortured her."

Narayan saw Uppal nod and hold up four fingers. He took his time, chose a spot across the base of her buttocks, below the lashes they'd applied on the bench, and struck her. There was a grunt but other than that she barely reacted, her body swaying forwards slightly. He waited, and smashed her just above the knees, in the tender skin of the thigh. She began to shake. He lashed her across her shoulders and there was the slightest flick of the head. He returned to her buttocks for the final stroke. She gave a tiny whimper. She was nearly finished, he could tell.

Uppal hated what he'd had to do to her. He looked at her beautiful naked body, long and thin and pale, a little blood crusted on the nipples where the clamps had bitten. Her head had fallen forward on her chest and her breathing was shallow. He approached her slowly and placed his hands on her hips. He gently pressed down and a quiet wail slithered from her lips. He pushed harder. "Tell me about your cousin," he said, looking into her bloodshot eyes. She looked back at him despairingly, shaking her head.

He stepped back and gave the order to let her down. "Take her to the infirmary," he said. What had he done?

*

Beth lay uncomfortably on her back, staring at the ceiling. She was alone. Bobby was with the Secpol. Rebecca was with Sergeant Rao. And Megan was over in the corner with Amitab. That she was cold and stiff and her muscles ached seemed irrelevant. She was the lucky one. There had to be a way to stop this. She tried not to listen but she could hear heavy breathing and grunts as Megan pleasured Amitab. Thank God it wasn't her. And Megan was fucking the doctor as well. The doctor who'd examined her and pronounced her fit for torture. It was part of a plan to get out, Megan insisted, but Beth wondered. Maybe she just enjoyed it. She certainly got better food and a warmer bed. But she couldn't blame her. Not when the alternative was licking out a gang boss.

This was the fourth night in a row Rebecca had been taken away by the sergeant. The previous three she'd spoken of being stripped and made to do exercises in the showers and then either blow him or fuck him as he threatened her with a belt. And Bobby. She couldn't even remember how long Bobby had been away. Far longer than she had. She'd do anything not to suffer the electric shocks again.

They had to escape. Had to. They couldn't survive this. They had nothing to lose. She had to think. Had to work out where they were vulnerable. Where was the weak spot? She went over and over in her mind the routine of their day.

*

Every night for a week, Rao had made Rebecca strip and do exercises in front of him and had then either fucked her or had her suck him off. She'd become obedient. He hadn't needed to beat her and there was part of him that regretted that. But it was Friday, so he'd with some of his junior colleagues. He was popular. Or at least, they didn't hate him.

He told them about torturing Rebecca, about caning her and raping her, how she begged him. How she now would do what he wanted. How he made her cavort naked in front of him and then service him. They laughed and seemed to enjoy his stories. Why didn't they go and get her now? Rao didn't want to share. She was his. But at the same time, he liked the idea of her being humiliated in front of others. And he liked being popular.

Agarwal thought Rao was an idiot. Boasting about raping a prisoner. It wasn't that he didn't want to do it, but talking about it seemed stupid. But he liked the idea of making Harris strip and do star-jumps in front of them. He was drunk and he wanted something to entertain him.

Rao told the six of them to wait in the shower block and a few minutes later he joined them with Harris. She looked broken, defeated, her head bowed as he pushed her on front of him. When she saw there would be a group to watch her humiliation she gave a slight whimper. Rao ordered her to strip. Agarwal felt his heart constrict. He wanted to see her naked, but he also felt sorry for her. It wasn't an emotion he'd expected.

Slowly but without resistance, Harris unbuttoned her shirt and slipped it off, revealing again that slender torso and the lovely pert breasts. She unbuttoned her trousers and they slid down. Rao gave her a shove and she stumbled forwards, naked, pathetic, back streaked by lashes, so thin her rubs showed clearly. Agarwal felt for her. She could barely look up she was so ashamed.

"Show the boys how you've been getting on," Rao ordered. "Twenty star jumps."

She bit her lower lip and glanced up at her audience, her dark eyes radiating shame. She trembled with cold and humiliation. Agarwal wanted to wrap her in a blanket and take her away, but then she squatted, a ridiculous, degraded creature and jumped, breasts bobbling, cunt exposed, naked in the most demeaning way. "One," shouted Rao as she landed into a squat and sprang up again.

They cheered her efforts, mocking her as, face flushed, she went through the whole routine. Twenty star jumps, twenty press-ups, twenty sit-ups, then the same again. She was sobbing by the end, trembling at the effort as they urged her on, laughing all the while at her nakedness. By then, Agarwal's sympathy had waned. She was so pathetic he just wanted to humiliate her more. He remembered rubbing his head against her breasts and wanted that feeling again.

"Good," said Rao. "You are improving."

She stood, arm hooked across her breast. "Down, bitch," Rao snapped and she dropped to all fours. "Heel!" he commanded and she scuttled to take her place by his feet.

*

Megan lay with her head in the crook of Krishnamurthy's shoulder and chest. He smoked a post-coital cigarette, sighing with satisfaction. They were in the infirmary. He'd become increasingly bold, letting himself into the hut and taking her out, telling the guards that he needed to examine her."

"Krishy," she said. "Is Bobby in here?"

"Hmmm?" He tousled her hair.

"Bobby," she said. "Roberta Stafford. Is she in the infirmary?"

"Yes," he replied. "She'll be a few more days, probably."

"Was it bad?"

"Yes. They really worked her over. Sleeplessness, electricity, a beating. Gave her hell. I don't know… she's so… thin, you know? She was in a real mess. But she'll be OK."

"Could I see her?"

She felt him react. "No," he said. "No, I don't think that's possible. We have to be careful, you know?"

"Of course," she said. She had to be careful. She kissed him. "You're right."

They lay in silence for a few minutes, then she let her hand cup his balls and began very gently to tease them. She waited for him to begin to stiffen. "Krishy," she said. "We're exhausted, all four of us. They pick on us, you know that. Beatings, torture. What Amitab makes me do. Could you do something for me?"

"What's that?" he asked, suspicious.

She rolled on top of him, knelt over him, let her breasts caress his face then slowly worked herself down his body. She kissed his tumescent cock. "Could you maybe get us a break? Just a day or two." She probed his shaft with her tongue. "Just say we're sick, that we have an infection, and let us have a couple of nights in here, just to get our strength back." She didn't wait for an answer, but took his cock in her mouth.

He moaned with pleasure. "I'll see what I can do," he gasped.

*

Rebecca crawled at Rao's feet. She was naked and he'd fastened his belt around her neck. She was cold, terrifyingly so, water dripping from her hair as he hurried her over the rough ground. After her exercises had come a shower, cold water strumming off her nude body as they gawped at her, mocking her, enjoying her embarrassment and discomfort. And now, she knew, there would be rape.

Rao made her wait at the door then handed her a towel. "Don't get my bed wet," he said. Mechanically, with a mounting sense of the horror to come, she dried herself. Her back was still stiff and sore and she ached with cold. "Come in my little bitch," he said, and she padded forward, still on all fours, ashamed yet welcoming the warmth of his room. He closed the door behind her, locked it, and she knew she was about to be abused.

He dropped her clothes in a corner and turned to her. "Undress me," he said, taking the belt back. She stood, slowly, not quite knowing whether she were allowed, and began to unbutton his jacket. She could smell his sweat, alcohol on his breath, and was nauseated. But she knew she couldn't show it. So she kept going, lay his jacket on a chair, and set to work on his shirt, pulling it back to reveal his hairy, flabby belly. With a slight sigh, she dropped to unfasten his boots. Off it all came. Trousers, socks and then his grubby boxers, which she had to prise over his erect penis.

When he was naked he pulled her to him, striking her damp hair, holding her head to his chest. Again she sensed that strange affection he had for her, then something clicked in him. "Down bitch," he said, and she dropped automatically to all fours.

He patted her, tousling her hair and then lay on the bed. "Lick me," he said. "Lick me like a dog. Start at my feet."

Barely considering resisting, Rebecca crawled onto the bed and began to lick him. His body was hairy and tasted of sweat but she forced herself to keep going. "You have a cold little nose," he said. "Like a bitch."

She worked from his vile, calloused feet up his legs. His flabby thighs revolted her. She moved to his penis but he told her to leave that till later and so she worked up his body, straddling him, wondering when this nightmare would end. He lay back, eyes closed, relishing the feel of her tongue. Rebecca felt ill but she kept going, feeling loose hairs in her mouth. She worked up over his vast belly and his sagging moobs, circled her tongue as he demanded round his belly button and his nipples and then into his armpits. She was sickened by the smell, by the texture of the tangled hairs, but on she went. Then he grabbed her by the shoulders and tossed her to one side, turning over. "Now my ass," he said.

Oh God. She looked at his quivering buttocks and began to kiss then, licking over the dimpled, spotty surface. "Inside," he said. "Clean me."

Fuck. But what could she do? Rebecca took a breath, pulled his buttocks apart and licked. She gagged almost instantly, but he didn't notice shuddering with pleasure. The smell, the taste, was horrendous, but what could she do? She licked, pushed her tongue as deep as it would go. She forced back waves of nausea and then he flipped over again. "Finish me off," he said, and once again she took his cock into her mouth, brought him to climax and swallowed his cum.

He lay back and sighed. "Now, sleep," he said. She curled up on the mattress, disgusted with herself but glad at least of the warmth and the softness. But then he was pulling her up by the hair. "What the fuck are you doing?" he shouted. "The dog doesn't sleep on the bed."

He threw her down and she landed heavily on the floor. "At the foot of your master's bed," he said. She crawled over, sobbing, and suddenly he was over her. He handcuffed her ankle to the leg of the bed, then took up his belt from the chair. "Arrogant. Little. Bitch," he shouted, lashing her at each word.

"I'm sorry, sir," she sobbed. "I thought you might want to fuck me again."

"I will," he said, and lashed her again, before turning off the light, giving her a slight kick and lying back on the mattress.

*

Uppal handed Beth a cup of coffee. She sat anxiously on the chair in his interrogation room, clearly wondering whether there was to be more torture.

"There's just a couple more names I need to go through," he said. "A formality, really."

He returned to his desk and sat down, looking at her beautiful form, dark hair drawn back from a concerned face that looked pale in the spotlight. He looked down at a list of names. Some were students at the university, some were dissidents, some were made up and in among them all were the five members of the rainbow group .

"Just tell me what you know of these people," he said, and he began.

She answered wearily. Many she didn't know. Many she had discussed before. He got to Emma Swann, doing everything he could to keep his tone neutral. "She was on the list, wasn't she?" McCormack asked. "Part of the Rainbow Group."

"Did you meet her?"

"No."

"Ever correspond with her?"

"No."

He went on. No sense letting her know who he was interested in. For an hour he went through his list, getting nowhere. Either she was very, very good or she was telling the truth. He gave her a sheaf of photos. She didn't recognise Swann on them.

Uppal was frustrated and gave the order to take her to a cell. He went to the kitchen and made more coffee, asking Narayan to follow him. "What do you think?" he asked.

Narayan shrugged. Of course he did. No brain.

He was tempted to let Narayan loose on her, just to make absolutely sure, but he knew that was unfair. The girl had cooperated and she was already facing a flogging. She was, he was certain, what she claimed to be; a naïve girl who was in over her head. But could they all be naïve girls in over their heads?

He had McCormack sign a transcript of her earlier statement and returned to the hut then ordered Donohue be brought to him.

*

They'd taken Megan straight from the infirmary to the Secpol centre and as they had, in the dawn light, they'd been careless. The doctor, in a panic about being caught, hadn't blindfolded her and so she saw, as she was marched across the small dusty plot that separated the infirmary from the courtyard, a dry drainage ditch. At one end, where it met the fence, was a mesh grating, but it looked loose, bound in place at one side by twine. Get through that, and there was the station. This was, at last, as possibility. Megan didn't know how she could use the knowledge, but at last there was the faintest glimmer of hope.

She'd been scared. She'd expected torture, but her interrogation had been uneventful. A list of names, some photos, but she knew nothing. She could sense one of the interrogators was itching to brutalise her, but the other, the one with the quiff, had been thoughtful, picking painstakingly through his list. He seemed tired, she thought.

Eventually he handed her a transcript of her earlier interrogation and asked her to sign it. She knew it included a confession of giving false testimony and withholding information of sedition and considered resisting, but she knew if she did so it would lead merely to torture. She signed.

*

Bobby was asleep when they came for her. She didn't know how long she'd been in the infirmary but it had been heavenly. A comfortable bed, good food, painkillers. She'd slept for hours and hours, and then suddenly she was hauled from the bed, wrists cuffed behind her and a hood pulled over her head. She thought she'd seen the blue of Secpol uniforms and that was enough to terrify her. She screamed as they dragged her over the courtyard, twisting in the iron grip to the extent that they cuffed her ankles together and carried her most of the way. She couldn't take more. She couldn't.

She heard the door of a cell open. The chains were removed, then off came the hood. A hand shoved her forward and she stumbled. The door clanged shut behind her. It was a bare concrete cell, perhaps 10 feet square, a single low bulb illuminating stains on the floor and wall.

It was cold. She waited. She sat down, leaning against a wall, feeling a film of grit on the floor. She hoped this was just about signing confessions, but she feared worse. Why was she here?

The door opened. The grizzled lieutenant came in with four guards. They locked the door behind them. She stood, terrified, shoulders hunched in fear. They all held lengths of rubber hosepipe.

"Take your clothes off," the officer said. "I don't want to get blood on them."

A wave of nausea swept over her. A beating, and a savage one. She stripped, awkwardly, hands shaking as she looked at the five men who would thrash her.

*

Narayan had waited a long time for this. She was surrounded, naked, terrified, head bowed, eyes closed. He tapped the hosepipe against her cunt, first gently, then harder, building up the pressure until it became uncomfortable. "What would you do to avoid this?" he asked with a smirk.

She said nothing, just looked down. He tapped again, harder. She shifted her feet. Her thin body was pale in the dim light, the welts of his cane visible. She looked pathetic, girlishly slight between five uniformed men. And yet she didn't beg. He would have expected her to sob, to offer sexual favours, to blab information. Instead she just seemed resigned to what was about to happen to her.

Narayan stepped back and nodded. She saw her swallow and purse her lips. She knew it was beginning. A guard gave her a sharp prod in the lower back with his foot and she stumbled forwards. As she did so two lashes landed almost simultaneously across her shoulders. She gasped in pain, tottering towards him, bent over and he lashed hard, upwards, into her chest. She was thrown back, and another blow behind her knees sent her down, falling backwards, so she sat, dazed, blinking, knees bent, weight supported by her arms behind her.

He waited, let her gather her senses, let her anticipate, then smashed his hosepipe across her shins. She roared and jack-knifed forward, clutching at her lower legs, turning away, exposing her shoulder for a fierce blow. She sprawled on the concrete and Narayan lashed hard at her buttocks. She yelped and scuttled away, turning, hands raised in a hopeless attempt to protect herself.

They beat her slowly and systematically, targeting her shins, her knees, her elbows and her ribs, but happily lashing anything else that came within range. Within a few minutes she was curled into a ball, sobbing, as the blows rained down. Narayan stopped them, had them pull her up, ne on each arm, another holding her head up by the hair. Her legs would hold her no longer, trailing limp on the floor. He looked up and down her quivering bruised nakedness and threw down the hosepipe.

He stepped up to her, placed a finger under her jaw and raised her face so she looked at him. Her lower lip was trembling, she was breathing in short, panicky bursts and her eyes were red with tears. She was terrified. Good. He began playing with her breasts, teasing her nipples with his thumb nails. They were much smaller than her liked, but smooth and round and trembling as her heart thumped. He smashed his fist into her belly, seeing the air smashed from her lungs even as he felt the soft skin and the firm muscle beneath. He slapped her breasts from side to side, gently and first then harder and harder before he delivered a fist in turn to each of them. He slapped her hard on the cheek, feeling the bone beneath his fingers. The guards dropped her and she fell to her knees, bent over, sobbing, blood dripping from her nose.

Narayan kicked her so she rolled onto her back. "We'll be back," he said. "Have a think if you want any more."

*

Bobby cried for a long time. She had thought it was over and the shock of them beginning again had broken her. Every inch of her ached. In the dim light she could see welts and bruises all over her body. It took her several minutes even to raise the energy to crawl to her clothes. What more could she give them? She had told them everything. When she was dressed again – a slow, painful process – she slumped in a corner and waited. What else could she do? Everything hurt.

The door slammed open and four guards came in. They shouted as they pulled her up, blindfolding her and cuffing her wrists behind her. They dragged her out, abusing her. One pulled her trousers down so the waistband caught around her knees. They laughed, slapping her buttocks and thighs, pulling her along a corridor. She was tossed to the ground and landed painfully. Her trousers were yanked off fully and they kneeled on her back to uncuff her wrists, strip off her shirt and then chain her again. They picked up her naked body, poking her and prodding her. They carried her a short distance and threw her down again. She heard a clang and she knew where she was. Sure enough, the jets of cold water started soon after.

They hosed her for several minutes, and then their hands were in her again and she was dragged on to the next torture. The box. She wept as the noise pummelled her and they took her from intense heat to bitter cold and back again. She was done. She would admit anything. She sensed the lid being lifted and she was hauled out. She heard the voice of the officer who'd supervised her beating. "Blow-job or flogging?" he asked. Dutifully, she sucked his cock.

*

Uppal was nervous as to what he'd find. He opened the door, and there she was, sitting on a chair facing away from him, naked and wet, wrists cuffed behind her, a blindfold over her eyes. Her narrow shoulders were heaving as she sobbed, her whole body shaking. The effects of her beating were clear, reddish-purple stripes covering her body. He shouldn't have done this to her, but he'd had a surprise call from Patel about Emma Swann and McCormack's relationship to her. Patel thought he had her. When Uppal had told him he had Swann's cousin, Patel had been surprised. When he'd said he thought she was innocent, Patel had warned him to be very careful. Make absolutely certain, he'd said, and so Uppal had ordered further torture.

He steeled himself and walked over. Her skin was goosepimpled, the welts ugly. He unfastened the blindfold and gently kneaded her narrow, cold shoulders. He moved in front of her and looked down at her nude body. There were marks and bruises everywhere. Narayan had done his job and then she'd spent the last six hours in the box. He suspected there'd been additional abuse then as well, Narayan making sure he and his men were rewarded for beating her.

She looked up at him and he caught her mix of terror and resentment. He had lied to her. He didn't like doing it, but he had to be sure. He saw the swelling on her left cheek and slapped her left-handed to leave a similar mark on the other side. Her head fell.

He took her hair in his right hand and twisted so she was forced to look up at him. "Tell me about your cousin," he said.

She looked at him in blank despair.

"Do you think we don't know the truth?" He shook her. "Do you think we don't know?" But of course they knew nothing. "Do you want more electricity?" She whimpered.

This was hopeless. He clipped her round the back of the head and went to his desk. He sat down and leaned back, staring at her, the girlish figure, naked, bruised, sobbing. Was she really defying him? He didn't think so, but how could he be sure?

"Miss Stafford," he said. "I am trying to be reasonable. I do not want to hurt you, but you make my life very difficult. Tell me about your cousin."

She barely glanced up as she gave the slightest shake of the head.

He stood up and walked over to her. He crouched down beside her and smoothed her hair back from her brow. She looked away. "It's just you and me," he said. "Let me tell you how it is. I have to get results. If I don't satisfy them, they sack me and you get handed over to somebody else. I am helping you. I want truth. The next guy… maybe he enjoys hurting you. Maybe he rapes you. Maybe he leaves the electricity on until you admit trying to kill the president and leading a gang of alien sex colonists. Trust me, I'm your best hope."

She sobbed, but she said nothing. With a sigh, Uppal stood up. "I have your confession," he said. "I have material that will have you locked up here for life, probably with a severe flogging first. I can send that to the courts or I can file it away. I can recommend clemency. Help me help you."

He walked back to his desk. "OK," he said. "Here is what happens. I lock you up with a desk, some paper and a pen. You write everything you know about your cousin. Everything. What food she likes, boyfriends, what music she listens to, what her political beliefs are. I'll check on you in a couple of hours. If you're doing well, you get coffee and food and your clothes. If not, you're on the bench getting electricity again."

*

Bobby could barely grip the pen. Her hand shook as she tried to write. She shuffled on the hard wooden chair, unable to find a position that didn't hurt. Everthing was pain. She tried to concentrate, to put the words in the page, but she was too tired, too broken. She didn't care any more. She would give them Emma willingly. She would betray her as she had been betrayed. She would betray Rebecca and Beth and Megan. Anybody and everybody. She just wanted it to stop.

She looked again at the page and forced her hand to move. Writing was difficult, the letters big and clumsy. But she wrote. She was naked and in pain and there were two soldiers a foot behind her and the only way she ended that, the only way she avoided the electricity, was to tell them everything about her cousin.

What she wrote had no structure. It was isolated thoughts, many barely completed. Emma eating an ice cream. Christmas when she'd been, what, five or six? Emma giving her a nearly used lipstick that she'd hidden from her mother. It wasn't like they'd been close. They'd met a maximum of two or three times a year during her childhood. Yet the memories made her sad. The thought of her family, of the warmth and love and comfort, how she'd taken food and clothing for granted. And now this.

*

Uppal took a glance at the writing. Eight pages, covered in an awkward, wavering scrawl. It was enough. He had them give her coffee, rice and vegetables and her uniform. "Keep going," he said.

He took the pages away and read them more carefully. Inconsequential stories of family gatherings. Birthdays, christenings, weddings. Nothing much. Some details they could scare Swann with when they picked her up. It was exactly what you'd expect from somebody innocent. But that was a problem. Because that was exactly what you'd expect from a clever agent.

What could he use? Swann had given Stafford a lipstick when she was "11 or 12". He could probably spin that into a prosecution for luring a minor into depravity. But all he had on her politics was that she was "vaguely left-wing". Nothing on boyfriends. He wondered whether to consult Narayan. But Narayan would just want her tortured some more. Maybe he should.

He took a sip of coffee. He hated this. Why couldn't she just be guilty? He hated the fact that she might be innocent, that he thought she was innocent, a luckless girl caught up in events far bigger than her. He knew what he'd felt when he'd seen her slumped naked on the chair, her slender body battered and bruised, had been shame.

He steeled himself. He had to have the truth. Lives on the frontier depended on it. If some innocents suffered as a result that, it was a price that had to be paid. Would the British have cared about the rights of individual locals as they ran their empire?

*

Bobby blinked as they removed the hood. She felt sick. She was back in the interrogation cell, soldiers all around, the colonel behind his desk and the bastard who'd beaten her and then made her suck him off to his side. When would this hell end?

The colonel began. He went through the pages she'd written, dozens of them over the past few hours. She'd been given coffee and food and her clothes. She'd even briefly been allowed to sleep, although only on the concrete floor of a cell. She didn't know how many hours she'd spent at the desk, but it was many. Then they'd stripped her and hosed her down, dressed her again and now she was back for more.

Wearily she answered him. Bizarre questions about distant birthdays. What had Emma eaten? What had she worn? What did she think about Major? About Blair? About Brown? How the fuck did she know? But she answered politely because she knew what the alternative was. On and on it went. They had a break, hooded her again as they left her blindfold on the stool, aching and exhausted.

They returned, unshackling her wrists to give her more coffee before chaining her again. On and on, relentless. Was Emma promiscuous? Was she a member of a political party? Had she been a member of Amnesty? When had Emma come to this country? Had she met? What had their contact been?

*

Uppal was becoming impatient. She'd had 24 hours of writing time and he'd interrogated her for eight hours on and off and yet he had nothing other than background. He felt somehow that he was losing. Narayan, he knew, wanted to get on with it.

"How did Emma lose her virginity?" he asked.

Stafford shrugged as best she could with her hands cuffed behind her. She looked tired, dark rings under her eyes, cheeks thin and sallow.

"Do you know of any boyfriend?"

"I don't know," she said. "We weren't close. I keep saying. She never brought a boyfriend with her to any family event. There was… I can't… maybe Miles? Or Mal? Something like that… Mal, I think. She'd just gone to university. I remember her talking about him, mooning over him. But I was, what, 14? I can't…"

"Who did she know who would be out here?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think she works for the British state?"

"I really don't think so."

"But good at languages, travels a lot, implicated in those pictures…"

Stafford shrugged again.

"Miss Stafford," he said, "please have the respect to answer properly."

"Sorry, sir," she murmured, and he realised how defeated she was.

"Is your cousin a spy?"

"I don't know, sir. It's possible."

"How did you communicate with her when you were at the school?"

"I didn't, sir."

Uppal sighed. Why could he get nowhere? He gestured to Narayan and the pair of them walked out into the corridor. "Innocent?" he asked. "Or very clever?"

He knew what Narayan's answer would be. "You have to make sure," he said.

Uppal nodded with a slight feeling of nausea. That was the problem. He had to be sure. "Prepare her," he said, and set off for the kitchen.

*

Narayan went back into the interrogation room. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her down. She yelped and fell heavily, her cuffed wrists making it impossible to protect herself. He prodded her with his boot. "Get up," he shouted.

She struggled to her knees and he seized her by the hair again, yanking her to her feet. He unfastened the cuffs and gave her a shove. "Torture," he said. "You fucked up."

She gave a low moan and began to cry, sinking into herself. "Get undressed," he said. "You know the drill."

Mechanically, her hands went to her shirt front. "What would you do for me if I spare you the electricity?" he asked.

She pulled her shirt off and tossed it down. She was shaking with terror. Narayan took in the slight of her pale torso, streaked with the bruises he had inflicted. Her lower lip had come out above her upper lip and was trembling violently. She wrenched down her trousers. "Come on," he mocked. "What would you do for me?"

"Whatever," she blurted. "I'll suck your cock all day if that's what you want."

There was ripple of laughter from the soldiers. "Beg," he said.

Naked, she fell to her knees. "Please sir," she said, "let me suck your cock."

"Go on."

"Please, sir, can I… can I… orally pleasure you?" Her self-disgust was obvious. "Can I drink your semen? Please can I take you penis in my mouth and lick and suck it till you're happy?"

"What else?"

She was sobbing again. "Please let me pleasure you however you want. Use my vagina. Use my anus. My body is yours sir."

‘No," he said with a smile. He gestured to the soldiers to chain her and hood her. "And for trying to seduce me, mark her down for 20 lashes. For suggesting sodomy a further 10." She wailed.

*

Uppal had watched her being dragged along the corridor to the electric room. Her terror was obvious in the way she fought, dragging back, twisting until Narayan, with a degree of relish, still her with a blow of his rubber truncheon into her lower back. Almost instantly she fell limp and had to be dragged into the room.

He waited a few minutes and followed. He still felt conflicted about this. He looked down at her. She was shaking, her face ashen. She was beautiful, still, tired and battered as she was. He sat down beside her, looked at the delicate face, the gentle smattering of freckles, the sweet little nose. Narayan had fixed one electrode to her right ear, the other to her cunt. Her deep brown eyes radiated hurt and shame. Her breathing came unsteadily.

Uppal let his hand wander across her shallow breasts. Her skin was cold, beaded with water. "Tell me how you contacted your cousin," he said.

"I haven't seen her since Jeremy's wedding." He voice was exhausted, flat, defeated.

He lifted his hand and nodded. Narayan flicked the switch. She bucked with pain.

*

The ceiling drifted in and out of focus. Bobby was trembling. She was bitterly cold. She could barely concentrate on his questions. She could feel his hand on her breasts. That was good. If he was touching her, there was no electricity. A tremor passed through her. What damage had this done? Her clitoris was burning, the pain terrible. He'd given her five level one shocks, she thought, although she wasn't sure.

She was aware of a man in a white coat pressing his fingers to her neck. The doctor. The clip were removed. She felt pain as the blood surged back into her eat and the flap of skin on her perineum they'd attached them to. There was cold water, then an injection. Fuck. They were bringing her back for more.

There was gel, then a clip was attached to her left ear. Then fingers on her clitoris, teasing back the hood. Not there, surely not there. But she felt the gel being applied. "You have pushed me to level four, Miss Stafford," he said. She wailed in horror.

Level three had been a threshold she'd never believed possible. She couldn't take more. She could feel her consciousness sharpening. The injection was working. His fingers played over her breasts. "No, no, no, no…" she muttered. The question. Again, how had she contacted her cousin. "I didn't!" she shouted. "Please!"

He forced the bit into her mouth. She tasted again the tang of fear. She couldn't take this. She couldn't. She wanted to shout, to say anything, but all she could do was bite down on the acrid leather. His hand left her breasts. She steeled herself. But nothing could have prepared her for what followed. Liquid fire burned through her nerves. The pain was atrocious. It seized her and took her outside herself. She felt her body must snap she was so tense and as her mind drifted up towards the ceiling, she thought she would see her limbs catch light. A burning brightness seethed through her skull and as consciousness returned she found herself crouched on the floor, vomiting. Urine and a little blood dribbled between her legs, sweat dripped from her and she shook violently. Wave after wave of retching convulsed her. All the coffee, the vegetables, the rice came up, then yellow bile and still the retching went on. Icy water struck her and she fell as they hosed her. She wept and huddled into a ball. Surely that was it. Surely. She retched again. More bile, the taste foul in her mouth.

But their hands were on her. She was lifted and slammed back onto the bench. She flopped, too weak for anything else, shudders coursing through her.

She smelled his aftershave as he bent over her and pulled down the skin below her eyes. "You want more?" he asked.

She didn't answer. She couldn't answer. The doctor approached again, holding a syringe. Not more not more. He thrust it into her upper arm and, mercifully, there was nothing.

*

Megan knew it must be serious when Krishnamurthy had said Bobby was in a bad way, but she'd been shocked by just how bad. He'd let her go and see Bobby, just for a couple of minutes. She was unconscious, but it was obvious she'd suffered terribly. She was so pale, her breathing so laboured, her skin so drawn. They had to get out. And now she knew how.

They had to wait until Bobby was strong enough, and she had to persuade Beth and Rebecca it was worth the risk. Beth, she thought, would be persuaded readily enough, but Rebecca was a problem. She was too scared, too defeated. She had to start bolstering her, but it was difficult when she was being humiliated and raped every night by that monster. And they couldn't go without her. Leave her here as the three of them escaped and she was abandoning her to be tortured, flogged, fuck knows what.

But in a sense, getting out was the easy part. Krishnamurthy would let the four of them sleep in the infirmary. She knew where he kept his spare keys. She could get them, get into the small kitchen at the back of the building and, from there, so long as there was some sort of opening window, they could get into the garden. Peel back the mesh, crawl along the drainage ditch and they were out. The bigger issue was what they did next. How could they take enough water? How could they avoid detection? Where did they go? Where the fuck even were they?

*

Sweat dripped from Beth's brow, but she kept going. She drove the shovel into the ground, seeing the star shape in the dust as the bead landed. She was soaking, her uniform clinging to her, but she knew the eyes of the guards were on her. Her muscles screamed in pain, but she was used to this. She kept going. More than four months now they'd been here. She didn't know how much time she'd spent on punishment detail, but it was a lot. And at any moment they might stop her, humiliate, lash her with their straps.

It wasn't as bad now as the first few weeks. Perhaps she'd just got used to it, but the fun of abusing white girls seemed to have died down. And her torture seemed to be over. Bobby was still in the infirmary and had been for a couple of weeks. Megan had said she was in a terrible state. Rebecca was fucking the new sergeant who seemed to have made life a little easier for her. She couldn't blame her really, and she knew that it was effectively rape, but there were times she wished she could spend her nights in a bed rather than lying on a mat by a bucket full of shit.

Megan had secured an easier time by simultaneously fucking Amitab and the doctor. At first she'd disapproved, wondered how she could give up her body and her dignity so cheaply, but that was until she heard Megan's plan. It was risky. In many ways it was stupid. But she felt they had to try. And yet what if they were caught? And how could they take enough water? She paused and took a deep breath. A guard shouted. She pressed on, limbs like rubber. She felt a little faint. The next thing she knew, soldiers were dragging her to face the sergeant.

It was Lorgat. Punishment was coming. "You lazy bitch," he shouted, and clipped her round the head. "See the governor tonight." Beth sighed.

*

Megan looked at Beth. "This is it," she said. "This is perfect."

Beth looked tired. It was a little over an hour after bedtime but she was still digesting the sentence. A day of punishment detail – and Rao, the fat lecherous bastard who was tormenting Rebecca was on duty. "What is?" Beth asked.

"You get sent back to the governor tomorrow night. He has you flogged. That means, the day after tomorrow, you get a day in the infirmary. We get Krish to admit Rebecca and we're all in there. This is our chance."

Beth shook her head. "But how?"

Megan reached under her mat and withdrew a key. "For the kitchen," she said. "I took it off his key-ring last night and had a bit of an explore. There's food in there, big canisters of water. All I need to do is get him asleep, get out of the room and we're away."

"But I'll have been flogged."

"And you'll still be stronger than Rebecca, and probably than Bobby given what they've done to her."

"Where do we go?"

"Follow the railway south. I was thinking. We were on the train a day and a half. Those trains are slow. 25kph? 35 maximum. We stopped a lot. We didn't move for a lot of the night. So I reckon we're maybe 300, 400k north of the capital. There must be other towns, roads. We find another track. We hide on a train. Two, three days walking. A week tops. As soon as we get to a phone we call an embassy."

"Then what?"

"They know we're here. They help."

"You know the number?"

Megan sighed. "No. We work it out."

"You know what they'll do to us if we're caught?"

"No. But I can guess. But… look at Bobby. She can't take five years here. Fuck, do you want 20 more months?"

*

Beth had only been working a couple of hours when Rao walked over to her. "Stand up," he said. "Put down the spade."

She obeyed. This was the beginning. Sweat stung her eyes as she stood, staring straight ahead as he walked round her. He moved in front of her and began to unbutton her shirt. "Laziness must be punished," he said, peeling the damp fabric back to reveal her breasts. She bit her lower lip. He let the shirt drop to the ground then began to toy with her breasts. "Get to work," he said. "Let's see if you can keep your trousers on till lunch." She swallowed. This was a high-stakes game she was playing.

She knew he was staring at her, enjoying the sway of her breasts as she worked. The sweat dripped from her. Her body gleamed. She had to provoke him just enough, had to earn her flogging. She would do it this afternoon. She worked steadily. She hadn't been flogged. Not on the frame. Not since that six she'd taken on arrival. How bad would it be? That six had been terrible. Could she have walked mile after mile after that? As her mind drifted her work slowed. Rao, of course, took the opportunity. Down came her trousers and she worked naked till lunch.

*

Rao watched McCormack work. An hour had passed since lunch. He hadn't stripped her yet, but he would. The anticipation was almost as good as the actuality. He loved punishment detail. He could do what he wanted. And he was keen for more flesh. He enjoyed Harris. He liked her vulnerability. He enjoyed having her curled at the bottom of his bed at night, the way her terrified little tongue worked over him. But he also felt an urge for bigger tits. The flogging Donohue had received had delighted him, all that golden flesh. And McCormack, with her long olive body and high round breasts was another gift. She sweated profusely, the shirt sticking to her body, chest heaving. He decided to wait no longer. "Naked!" he shouted.

He watched her strip with pleasure. Even now, after almost 20 weeks in the camp, she felt shame. Her breasts were lovely, full and swelling, leaving the sort of valley between them his Rebecca didn't have, all the better for being on such a long, taut body. "Now work!" he shouted.

Even better, he was in charge of floggings the next day. He would send her to the governor, he decided, and he would beat her himself with one of the other male guards. He would love that. That naked body on the frame, breasts bouncing as he struck her. He wondered whether he would prefer to lash her back or her buttocks and walked behind her to aid his imagination.

Her back was long and smooth, her sweat-dampened hair brushing her shoulders. Her slender legs were firmly muscled, reaching into pert round buttocks. He watched her bending and straining, imagined a cane biting into those delicious plump globes. This was going to be good. He just had to think up a decent excuse. Harder!" he shouted.

Rao waited another couple of hours before taking action. He made her put down her spade and stand in front of him. He looked up and down her body, streaked with sweat and dust. "You lazy, fucking whore," he shouted. She stared at his feet. "What are we to do with you?" He stroked her left breast.

"Get off!" she said, and stepped back. Soldiers seized her arms. He slapped her, hard, right-handed, across her tits. Then left-handed, right-handed, left. God they felt good. "Governor tonight," he said. "You will not defy me."

*

Beth hoped she'd pitched it right, been defiant enough to earn a flogging but nothing too severe. Waiting outside the governor's office was awful, knowing what awaited within. She felt a knot of anxious anticipation such as she hadn't felt for years, not even really before her trial, not before last night. Finally she was called in. The rug, again, felt bizarre under her bare feet. Looking at his office, Beth felt like tears. How could such normality exist here?

She saw the governor looking her up and down. He seemed tired, blinking frequently and she had a sense of what she was to him. A problem, filthy and sweating. Eventually he spoke, peering over his glasses. "I cannot have laziness and insolence in my camp," he said. "You must be punished and if punishment detail is not enough, you must be flogged. Twelve strokes on your back with a grade two strap, two hours on the frame, then a day in the infirmary."

Beth's heart lurched. She knew it was what they'd hoped for, that it was what they needed, but it was still a flogging.

It was, she told herself, a way to make amends.

*

Their luck had been in. Rao had returned Rebecca to the cell after her exercises. Megan had played Krishnamurthy. He agreed. If Rebecca feigned illness he would allow her in the infirmary so all four would be together. A little break, just for one night. She would give him a special reward, she said, with a little twitch of his lips.

Between them, Megan and Beth had persuaded Rebecca. This was the only way. As Megan had anticipated, Rebecca had been scared. But they'd explained what Bobby had gone through, had pointed out what would happen to her if they left her and, reluctantly, realising her torment with Rao would be over, she'd agreed. So now they stood in the icy morning air, watching as Beth strode forward to take her flogging.

She looked confident, tough, and Megan wondered if that might give something away. She repressed the thought. Her brain had been fizzing. She had barely slept the previous night, giving Krish a good time, making sure he hadn't noticed the missing key, worrying about whether there'd still be food in the kitchen. Carrying it, of course, was still a problem. She hoped there were some kind of bags in the kitchen, but what they really needed, of course, was a couple of backpacks. And a map. A map would be a huge help. She wished Krish were stupid enough to bring his mobile with him, but he never seemed to.

"Elizabeth McCormack," the fat sergeant announced, "for persistent laziness, you will receive t12 strokes of the grade two strap across your shoulders."

With a sense of horror, Megan realised he was holding one of the straps himself, while the other was held by another male guard, a tough, short man with a bristling moustache. She was going to be flogged by men. The bastards.

*

Rao stepped back and looked at her. He had thought long and hard about whether to strip her naked or not: he didn't want to appear overly harsh, or as though he was relishing it too much. He wanted to be permitted to do this again.

"Take your shirt off," he said.

The day before she had been reluctant but obedient. Here, faced with a crowd, she seemed more embarrassed, but there was a defiance about her. She tossed her hair and unbuttoned her shirt. Her skin was pink in the cold, nipples firm. The guards escorted her to the frame. He weighed the strap in his hand, a nicely shaped handle, a hinge, then three feet of leather, perhaps half a centimetre thick. He had practised and handled it well, as did Dev, the left-hander he was allowing to lash her other side.

She was stretched out, a glorious sight. He stepped up, and pushed her dark pony-tail over her shoulder. He wanted to touch her breast but held back. This had to be done properly. He stepped back, measured his run. He looked at the left side of her left breast, visible by her ribs. He swept in, and crashed the strap across her shoulder blades. Fuck, it felt good.

He watched the muscles contract as she flinched, saw her breast quiver as she hissed in pain and her head jerked back, saw the red stripe begin to emerge on her pure skin. "One," he said calmly, flicking his wrist and resuming his position. He watched Dev deliver his lash. He seemed nervous and the strap twisted slightly as it landed diagonally across his. Here was power, though, and she yelped, breast bobbing as she clenched her teeth and looked up, eyes wide. "Two."

Low across her waist, he decided, for the third, and then he would reach around for the fifth, under her armpit and attack the outside of that tempting breast. He began to wonder whether his obsession with Harris had gone far enough. Maybe he would fuck this one as well.

*

Rebecca was terrified. She was terrified of staying and she was terrified of going. She couldn't bear Rao, jumping around naked for him, licking him, being fucked by him. She couldn't bear the thought of months more of this slog, the heat, the cold, the beatings, the threats, the humiliation. But escaping terrified her as well. What if they were caught? She knew the punishment would be terrible. And how could they escape? Megan wouldn't even tell her the plan, but she knew it must involve days of trekking across the desert.

But equally she couldn't stay. That was obvious. If three of them got out and she was left… it was obvious what would happen. First the Secpol and then an awful revenge. So she agreed. All she had to do was pretend to faint. That was easy enough. She was so tired, so dehydrated, she might faint anyway. Certainly it was easier than Beth's part of the plan, which had involved being flogged.

She thought back to the morning, Beth nude to the waist in the chill, Rao and another man lashing her with unbearable power. Beth clearly hadn't expected it to be so bad, descend rapidly from defiance into pitiful screams before being bound on the frame. She'd passed by to offer what support she could, but Beth had seemed distant, eyes wide, her right breast marked with two livid welts. That was why they had to escape.

She'd waited until the last hour of the day. That made it more realistic, Megan had felt, less as though she was just trying to get out of work. She looked at Megan, who nodded. She let her body go limp and fell into the dust. Megan shouted for help. She lay still, careful not to give any sign of understanding. Guards rushed to her. One kicked her, but she managed to avoid reacting. She heard Megan screaming at them to get the doctor, and then she was picked up and carried to the side of the field.

Water was poured over her head. A guard slapped her. She feigned coming round and then, in a moment of inspiration, spun away and retched. They gave her a bottle to drink from and, almost before she knew it, she was being loaded onto a stretcher and carried back to the camp.

*

Megan couldn't believe Krish had fallen for it. She told him to borrow some handcuffs and had had him chain her to the bed while he rode her. And then they'd changed places. He'd even laughingly let her blindfold him and stuff his mouth with a rag and tape it shut. And so now he lay helpless, making muffled grunts, as she hastily cleaned herself, dressed – she considered putting on his clothes but decided in the end to show solidarity and wear her uniform – and took his keys.

The other three were all in the same room. All had dressed and were waiting anxiously. Beth, she saw, was moving stiffly. They said nothing, but sipped out into the corridor and then into the kitchen. There was food in a large cupboard – rice, lentils, vegetables. She'd hoped for something more portable, something that didn't require cooking. What would they carry it in? "Find a bag," she said.

In the end they tipped the rice form two sacks and filled them with vegetables and some biscuits they found in a cupboard. They took a bag of sugar as well, and two boxes of pre-cooked rice they found. The sacked were heavy but just about manageable.

They opened the window. It was just big enough to get the cartons of water and the sacks out. There was a moment's pause, then Bobby volunteered. She climbed onto the counter and swing herself through. Megan heard her land heavily on the far side. Shit. Was she OK? Was the noise enough to alert the guards?

But then she heard her whisper. "It's OK. Pass the stuff."

They manoeuvred the sacks and the water up, Beth awkwardly sitting in the counter, passing them through the window into Bobby's hands. Then she clambered through. Rebecca next. Then, with a glance behind her, Megan. She pushed the window shut as she jumped the six feet down. She felt a sense of euphoria but also of terror. She forced herself to focus.

It was a bitterly cold night, the moon clear in the sky. Megan didn't know if that was a positive or not. She picked up a sack. Shit, it was heavy. Beth did as well but she was obviously struggling, while Rebecca and Bobby rolled the water canisters. It would be a miracle if they didn't burst. But it was all they had. She tried to put the negative thought out of her head. She led them across the garden to the ditch. The infirmary, she thought, should hide them from the guard towers at least for the first few yards. After that, it was luck.

They dropped low, and lay flat in the ditch. It was uncomfortable, strewn with stones, but there was no option. Megan worked at the mesh. It was not as loose as shed thought. She could hear the breathing of the other three in the still desert night. Then she heard footsteps. Shit. She glanced behind her, saw the other three ducking their heads. She did the same. The steps got closer. Boots on gravel. Two pairs. Fuck. A patrol? Did they patrol?

The boots paused. Megan cursed her sloppiness. Where were they? For the first time since they'd emerged from the window, she felt the cold. Blankets. Shit. They should have brought blankets. Fuck. Maybe it didn't matter if they kept on the move at night and slept by day.

Apart from her breathing there was silence. What had happened? She heard a giggle and then, what was that? A kiss? Two courting guards. For fuck's sake. She listened to them fumbling around. At least it was quick. Ten minutes, at most. And then the boots moved away. As she set to work on the mesh she reflected that at least that meant this was a secluded spot.

*

Bobby still felt weak, but the bruising had receded and now she'd begun to move she felt a little better. The hour or so they'd spent lying in the ditch had been awful, bitterly cold and fraught with danger. But Megan had, eventually, managed to break the mesh loose, using a stone to break the final bracket. They'd crawled out, under the fence and, suddenly, they were free. The temptation had been to celebrate but Mega had kept them moving, ducking from depression to depression, staying in the shadows of the moonlit night, taking it in turns to carry the sacks or push the water cartons.

It was terrifying, but nobody had ever escaped before and the guards perhaps were lax. There were no searchlights, no barking dogs. There was no howl of an alarm. Just the chilly silence broken by the sound of their breath and their bare feet on the rough surface.

They were lucky. Megan led them away from the camp, skirting towards the railway track. After an hour or so, a mist began to fall, and they joined the track, walking between the rails. Pushing the water was much easier on the flat and their pace increased. It was cold, and her feet ached, but they were free.

Or freeish. As Megan kept reminding them, they had to keep pushing on.

As dawn began to break, they left the railway and headed out into the desert. The ground was rough, stony and uneven, dotted with the odd bush. But that unevenness was to their advantage. They dropped behind a hillock, drank heartily from a water canister and made a breakfast of cold rice and vegetables. It was the best meal Bobby had ever eaten.

*

Governor Mistry felt a terrible lurching sensation in his stomach. Gone? How could they have gone? He got out of bed, his legs like rubber. He couldn't have lost them. He couldn't. He dressed quickly. Desai was waiting for him. She told him the basic facts. All four in the infirmary? What the fuck was Krishnamurthy thinking? The fool. A relationship with Donohue? That made sense. Krishnamurthy was finished. This was why he forbade the guards from fucking the prisoners. They got too close, did stupid things, starting thinking with their penises not their brains. Who had known?

He had to think. Dogs. Had they sent the dogs out? They had. Good. But how had they even got out? Desai explained: the kitchen, the drainage ditch. Fuck. He would be blamed for this. He had to get them soon. And when he did, they would suffer. He hadn't been tough enough. He should have flogged them more. Well, they'd be flogged plenty now. He would make their miserable little lives hell. He was trembling with fury. He'd put them on the carts. He'd have them on punishment detail for a month. He'd halve their rations. He'd get the Secpol to work them over.

But first he had to catch them.

END




King Diocletian Index  |  Bring Out the GIMP Stories Index  |  Back to Forum  |

Story page generator script by the Scribbler --- DaringHeroines.com