Trade-Up (A Season 5 Reboot)

Chapter Twenty-Three

When Auggie came back to consciousness's hold, he tried to pull back, stretch his body out, but everything fetched up. He was sitting on the cold floor, and his hands were shackled to his feet. He shook the chains, but there was no slack. He couldn't sit up straight.

"Hello, Captain Anderson," said a voice to his right. He twisted around to face him but said nothing.

"You are not impressed with my hospitality, hmm? What a shame; I've pulled out all the stops for you. Did you not enjoy the scenic travel?"

Auggie did not recognise the voice. In a way, he was grateful. "Belenko?"

"Ah, you guessed it correctly. I haven't had the pleasure."

Auggie sat, thinking. He still hadn't figured out what it was that had put him here, or that which had cost his friends their lives. He heard quick footsteps and he felt a blow to his right shoulder, which sent him sideways. He pulled himself back upright, his mouth set, trying to breathe through his nose. He wouldn't give anything away.

"It's polite to respond to conversation, Captain. I want to just talk."

"Don't let me stop you," said Auggie.

He heard Belenko laugh. "Oh, Captain Anderson, you are so smug." The footsteps moved from right to left. Auggie only turned his head slightly to the sound.

"I'll ask you now: where is Deckard?"

"What?"

"I want to finish all of this that you started. I want to save you for last. Because you are the one that made all of this come to be. So tell me, Captain, where is Deckard?"

"Why would I know that?"

"Are you kidding me? You, who knows everyone, everywhere. You, with all your connections. You, Mister Anderson, with all your CIA contacts. You seriously think I will believe you don't know where he is?"

"He's dead." Auggie did not turn his head. He sat as still as possible, listening. He tried to ascertain the situation around him with his ears. The room sounded huge and yet, there wasn't a lot of echo, so he figured the place had equipment or crates or something to take up the space around him. He could hear shuffling to his ten O'clock, further off, so he knew Belenko was not alone. Of course he would have his henchmen. Auggie heard water dripping in several places. The smell in his nostrils was damp, musty, and somehow chalky. He closed his eyes, concentrating.

Two loud steps and Auggie felt the boot hit his left shoulder, sending him hard to the right.

"I have many little treats in store for you," Belenko said. "If you won't tell me what I need to know."

Auggie pulled himself up again and closed his eyes. He would calmly remain silent. He thought back to his days with his team, the men that fought like soldiers and cried like children over the suffering they witnessed. They deserved nothing but his silence, his protection, his honour. He had withstood atrocities, he had withstood pain, and he had withstood terror. This man had no idea.

"No? Nothing? Well, why don't we let you think about this for a while?"

He heard Belenko step toward him, and waited for the blow, but instead, he felt the snap like a clamp over his head and everything went silent. He couldn't reach up to pull the noise-cancelling earphones off his ears with his hands bound to his ankles. He felt Belenko grab his hair and roll tape around his head to hold the earphones on.

After that, it was silent.

Auggie could feel vibrations in the floor as Belenko walked away, and then it was still. Auggie tucked his chin and tried to clear his mind. He would keep himself centred, he would concentrate on the one thing that would get him through any pain. He would think solely of Annie. Her voice was the one he could hear when he could hear nothing. Her touch was the one he could feel, when he could feel nothing. He could even detect her scent in the air, though the air was thick with damp and ruin. If he concentrated, he could taste her on his tongue. This would keep him strong, and if he should die, he would go out with Annie as his last and eternal thought. He loved her more than he had ever realised. He wished he had had told her everything at the very start, and that they had been together through the hard stuff. He wished he could go back and start again. Had he made it up to her? Had he been enough?

After a long time, hours, he felt vibrations again, and he was roughly picked up and pulled across the floor. His shoulders strained at the chains holding his hands to his feet. He had no idea what was happening. He could hear a muffled deep voice, but he couldn't tell whose it was or what they were saying. He felt himself dropped unceremoniously on the hard floor and his head pulled back by his hair. He kept his eyes closed. He imagined Belenko looking at him, trying to guess him out. He felt all the muscles in his neck and back tight, ready to spring, but the restraints held him fast. He felt the thin blade of a knife at his temple, sliding between his skin and the tape, and snicking through the tape. He felt Belenko rip the tape from his forehead as he pulled the earphones off.

"Silence. What do you think of that? Give you time to think, in there?"

Auggie wouldn't give him the satisfaction of an answer, but Belenko made himself heard with two swift snaps to Auggie's jaw. Auggie couldn't help the noise that escaped from his throat.

"How would that be for you to live like that?"

Auggie shook his head, trying to get the ringing from his ears and the sting from his cheek. Belenko grabbed his head and pulled his head back again, and he felt the hot breath of the man as he leaned close.

"You are not answering me, Anderson. I asked you if you would like to live like that."

Auggie was not sure to what Belenko referred. "I don't know," he gasped out. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm talking about silence, Anderson. How do you feel about silence?"

Auggie was confused. Belenko cleared it up fast. He leaned in to Auggie's ear. "I have a nice idea. If I were to shoot this gun next to your ear enough times, I bet I could do you some damage. And then," he physically moved until he leaned into Auggie's other ear, "I would try the same to this one." And without any warning, he clapped Auggie hard on the ear, sending Auggie reeling and his ear ringing.

"Tell me."

Auggie squeezed his eyes shut. This man meant business, he knew. This man had had no qualms about killing all the others. He wouldn't have any problem taking Auggie's hearing from him. Auggie was prepared for a beating. He was prepared for lies about his family, about people he loved. He was prepared for physical pain. The idea that Belenko would take his hearing away from him wasn't something he had fathomed, and the idea terrified him.

"Still no? Well, can I present my dear friend, a wonderful doctor; he is a specialist in pain." Auggie could hear Belenko's smile in his words through the ringing in his ear. "He has this wonderful tool. It can shatter the bones in your ears in less than a minute." He walked around Auggie and then he leaned down and unlocked Auggie's hands from his feet, and took the chains from around Auggie's ankles. Two strong men pulled him to his feet. Auggie's spine screamed in anger as it straightened, but Auggie kept from crying out.

"Should I let him do his work?"

"Deckard is dead. You don't need to do any of this."

"Yes, yes, so you say. I know differently, however. Well, we'll see if your tune changes."

Auggie felt the two men step back from him. He didn't know what was next, but he stayed strong on his feet, not letting himself sway or fall. He felt Belenko storm ahead and grab the shackles around Auggie's wrists and he was pulled across the floor, which was uneven and covered in rubble. Auggie stumbled and Belenko laughed.

"This is too easy," he said. "To think my biggest adversary is blind! It's almost ridiculous to think I need to strong-arm a blind man." He pushed Auggie hard and Auggie fell hard to the ground, trying to break his fall with his bound hands. He was kicked hard once. He turned himself over and faced Belenko. He wouldn't give him the satisfaction of not facing him.

"So. You are not scared of being deaf, too? I would think your life would be a bit more difficult that way. I doubt the CIA would want you then. I doubt anyone would want you then. And you, not being able to rely on those ears. A bit frustrating, no? Silence and darkness forever?"

Auggie's mind reeled. He would rather be killed. He knew Belenko was serious. He would do this, and he would find it delightful. Auggie would be left deaf instead of dead. He may be killed in the end, too, but he wouldn't know it was coming.

There was a buzzing sound to his left, in the ear that wasn't ringing. He reached his hands up and blocked whatever it was that was being held there.

"This is the little toy," said an unfamiliar voice. "It's a sweet little piece. No mess. You'll be a deaf man in an instant."

"Tell us." Belenko's voice was chilling. "Where is Deckard?"

"What does it matter? He's dead, and I'll be dead soon."

"Oh, you think I would make it that easy for you? You killed my brother. You! You ordered it." Auggie was punched hard, and he fell again to the cold floor.

All the pieces fell into place in Auggie's head. The past came clearly into his memory like a film. All this was revenge for a brother lost.

"I want that traitor. I want him, and I want to take him out myself."

Auggie had sent messages to Deckard by routed, coded methods. He hadn't known why they were being targeted, but he warned the man who had helped them to escape all those years ago, and he hoped Deckard had received those messages.

His mind flashed Annie. Annie. How would she feel to see him crumpled, blind, and deaf, too? The thought nearly broke him, but he bit back a choking sob inside and stayed strong.

There was a huge blast outside the building, and it rocked the ground under them. This made swift action on Belenko's part. Auggie heard hurried footsteps as the men fled to see if they were in trouble, if they were caught. He tried to count how many footsteps but he couldn't distinguish with one of his ears still ringing.

He pulled himself to his feet, every muscle and tendon straining at the discomfort of stretching out to his six feet of height. He wanted to run, but the rubble on the ground made safe travel impossible. He moved slowly, sliding his feet ahead of him, not transferring his weight until he knew his foot was sturdy below him. He held his shackled hands in front of him. Belenko wouldn't hesitate to take those from him, too, he knew.

He reached the wall, and he followed it to an opening. He had no idea where he was, or how to get out. He had no clue which would lead him to freedom or back into Belenko's hands. He heard gunfire and he stopped, crouching, searching with his hands for the way to fresh air. He didn't have much hope, even if he made it out of this building, he was a sitting duck. He could stumble right to Belenko's clutches without even knowing it. And he knew that would please the man, entertain him, even, to have the blind former-soldier stupidly walk right to him and not even realise.

He kept on, following the wall, travelling through the damp hall. He tripped and stumbled a few times, but he got back up and continued on. His shin met an object hard and his hands flew to feel the edge of a step. He felt to his left and made contact with a metal handrail. Something in his memory kicked in, and he didn't think about it anymore, he climbed those stairs and at the top, he turned right. There was a narrow passage and a door at the end. Auggie felt a smile on his swollen lips. One point for Auggie. Maybe even two. He pushed the door, and it groaned and Auggie felt the heat and air hit him, dust clogging his sinuses. As he burst through the doors, the building rocked again behind him and he was pushed forward to the ground.

Auggie lay there for moments. He had no next step planned. He had no way to contact help. He had no way to make it to safety. He had no idea where to go now. His only hope was that whoever was doing the detonating was on his side and would find him. He felt the blood caked around his face, and the swelling all over his body where he had been punched and kicked and beaten. And yet, all this hatred, all this evil, all this revenge, did not take her from his mind. He would not die before he could tell her he loved her. He would struggle against all until every last shred of breath was spent trying to find her. He let his mind quiet, only wanting to think about her pure scent, her teasing voice, her soft hair, the physical contact she made with him that made his sight seem almost silly to need. He concentrated on her so hard that he could hear her voice, calling to him. He smiled. The voice calling was screaming in anguish. That wasn't right. He turned his head, listening. Was it his imagination? He wasn't sure of anything anymore. He had no idea how many days had passed since he'd been taken, he had no idea if Annie even knew he was kidnapped or where he was. But he could hear that voice, screaming his name. He used all his strength to get back on his feet and he started toward that voice.

When he didn't think he could walk any more, he gave one last attempt to make contact with the dream voice. He called her name, and then he stopped, concentrating on everything outside himself, willing himself to be seen. If it was her. If it was not a dream induced by his torture.

"Auggie!" He heard that. It was a change in tone, from gut-wrenching anguish to disbelief and utter relief. He didn't believe it was real, she was mirage in his confused brain, in his messed-up hearing. He stumbled, but he was kept upright as arms wrapped around him, and his mirage became real to him. He found himself sobbing without knowing it had begun, and he let her lead him from his jail. He didn't know how this was happening, he didn't know how she had found him, he didn't know any of the ways she had nearly died trying to reach him, but she was here, her arms around him, her breath on him, her words of comfort and coaxing him to be strong, to hold on giving him the strength to keep walking. He didn't know how, but Annie had found him. If there was any thought in his head before that she was not his life, his end, they were wiped clean at this moment. He would never let her go again.
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