You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Alternative to Torture-

Michael Benson awoke. He was groggy. He was sore. He wondered what had happened.

Sitting up, he looked around the room. It was clean, but obviously a prison cell of some kind. Moving slowly, he tried to remember how he had gotten here.

The convoy. Some kind of explosive tipping his vehicle. Darkness.

Mike realized that he was a prisoner of war.

The door opened, and a soldier stuck his head in.

"Come with me." he said. The accent was strong, but Mike understood. He stood and slowly followed the soldier down a long hall. There were other doors along the hallway. Solid doors. Locked doors.

The soldier opened one of the doors using a large key. He nodded toward the opening, indicating that he wanted Mike to enter.

Mike did so. Inside was a table and two chairs. A man in a dark suit sat in one of the chairs. The man waved a hand toward the empty chair. Mike sat down.

He anticipated an interrogation. Mike reviewed his name, rank, and serial number in his still fuzzy mind. That was all he would give them.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Benson?" asked the man in the suit. "Better, I hope. You were a bit damaged in the accident. We did a bit of surgery, and kept you sedated as you healed."

"Accident?" Mike asked. He recalled the event, and suspected that the explosion had not been accidental. This was, after all, war.

"Are you feeling well enough to go, now?"

"Go?" asked Mike. He was confused. Prisoner of war. They didn't just let prisoners go.

"Yes." said the man in the suit. "You were injured. We helped you. Now you can go, if you want."

"I want." said Mike. He was confused, but not a fool. Of course he would go.

The man waved his hand, and the door opened. The soldier reappeared. Mike was escorted away, still reeling from the unexpected turn of events.

"I have him in my sights." reported the sniper. "He looks like one of ours."

The Commander viewed the man coming across the perimeter through his scope. Another prisoner, coming home.

"Drop him." he ordered. The sniper depressed the trigger, and a piece of death metal traversed the distance between him and the man in the field.

The commander sighed.

"Gonzales, and Johnson. You are with me. Let's get down there and have a look."

Twenty minutes later the commander and a field surgeon were looking into the opened wounds of Michael Benson.

"Tracking and telemetry devices." said the surgeon. He did not like these changes in the mode of warfare. Surgery had been conducted at a distance from the action. Here he was, now on the front lines.

"Leave him." said the Commander. "Bug out!"

The small forward team quickly gathered gear and began moving away from the opened body of their comrade. They were under way only a matter of minutes before the first surveillance drones buzzed overhead. As the drones sought the larger force they were trying to protect the small forward team sought a place of sanctuary.

Someplace else.

The men did not even flinch as an explosion rocked the ground. The body of Michael Benson was now dust and ashes. They kept moving quickly, hoping to be away from the area before the follow up rounds arrived. Not only did they have to worry about stopping the enemy, but now they had to stop returning comrades, as well.

"That one didn't make it very far." observed the man in the dark suit. He was now sitting in a command center, watching the dust settle on the place Michael Benson had last stood. The surveillance drone gave a clear picture.

"Far enough." said the General by his side. "We got a direction and general location. The drones will do the rest. We will find them."

The soldiers at various panels in the command center directed their drones. One directed fire on the team that had stopped Benson. The team had been quick and evasive, and might just get away. They were wisely moving away from the still unknown location of the larger force they had been protecting.

"I miss torture." said the man in the suit. He sighed, fondly reminiscing.

"Not as efficient." commented the General. "So many lies and inaccuracies, just to end the threat of pain."

"It was an art."

"We have moved on." said the General. "Besides, nobody wins a war these days and gets to rewrite history. Torture makes for bad press. How can we be faulted for helping the wounded enemy and sending them back?"

"Yes." said the man in the suit. He smiled. "Making them kill their own is a nice twist. How will they manage that in the press?"

The two old warriors sat and watched the action on the various monitors. The were each lost in thought, wondering what new twists might come to mutate the love of their lives. Fighting wars in the news and on the Internet had robbed their darling of her old glory.

Smoke still wafted from the place that Michael Benson had last stood. There it was, an alternative to torture.