A World Apart, Chapter 14

**WARNING - ADULT CONTENT**

The news of the recovery of two survivors from the destroyed Equatorial Schooner, thought lost without a trace, had galvanized the passion of the media – or more precisely, made for good ratings. It made excellent copy – “Terror Attack Survivors Brave Certain Death in Desert”, “A Gripping Story of Survival, Terror, and Death in the Desert” and such titles, set two and three inches high on newsprint. Terror attacks in and of themselves were old hat by now, but something like this was out of the ordinary. Few had the luck or good fortune to witness the evil of terrorists firsthand and live to tell the tale…

Lying in the hospital bed of the Saudi medical center as his body was slowly being revived back to life, Mitchell could hear the distant buzz of the media and, when he gave it a thought, scorned it for its torpid shallowness. The romance of the situation seemed palpable from afar, but when you actually had to live through the experience, it was hard to recognize where the positives could be found…

At least she was alive. That was all that mattered. He prayed that she was healing and that her suffering had ended…being young and healthy it would certainly be easier for her than for him.

--

“Captain Knickerbocker, given two terror incidents within the past two months which have affected Transoceanic Airways’ Equatorial Schooner, do you plan to continue with this service?”

Ever the master media manipulator, Knickerbocker was not one to openly acknowledge negative press about his airline. He stuck to his prepared statement:

”Due to recent events which have caused negative fiscal impact, as of today the Equatorial Schooner is no longer in service. The Company has determined that it is no longer profitable to serve this region with a global service. Continued service will be provided to this important area of the world through existing Transoceanic connections which provide transportation to hundreds of different destinations.”

”Captain Knickerbocker….”

”That is all I am prepared to say to the media as of now. All media requests, as always, can be made through Jay Spandow, Transoceanic Chief Officer of Public Relations. Good day, ladies and gentlemen.”

And with that Knickerbocker retired to the safety of his office.

The Captain’s office was a luxurious affair befitting the executive of a major airline. Lavishly apportioned in green and gold trim, it sported decorative winged motifs modeled on the TA logo and a fortune in fine furnishings and decorations, with the centerpiece being a large illuminated globe of the world displaying the routes and destinations which the airline served.

Knickerbocker pressed a button on his desk, generating a low buzz. “Wallace, please come and see me for a moment.”

In seconds Wallace appeared at the door. He was a middle aged and balding, but impeccably dressed man who served as Knickerbocker’s ‘eyes and ears’ to the rest of the company.

“Report, Wallace. What is the condition of the captain and stewardess?”

”They were returned from Saudi Arabia last week and were to spend a week at the Northdale medical center, but both have recovered sufficiently to leave inpatient care and are now convalescing at our Evanston facility.”

“Good. I shall have to pay a personal visit to them to give them my thanks for their loyalty. Understandably they will be provided compensatory time off as needed.”

”I don’t think that will be necessary, sir.”

”What do you mean?”

”Both of them have each announced their intent to resign by week’s end.”

”But whatever for?....I must speak with them personally about this. I pray the Captain has not lost his nerve due to his experiences.”

”On the contrary, sir, it has nothing to do with that….Captain Mitchell and Miss Carleton have become engaged and plan to be married. You know the policy about married stewardesses, sir…”

Knickerbocker slumped in his seat, as in shock. His expression turned perplexed…

…and then he let out a loud, hearty laugh.

--

Mitchell sank back in her bed as the soft rain of the shower pattered from the nearby bathroom. She was showering, prettying herself up for their first night of married life…

The decision to marry her had not been difficult, but it had taken a great deal of courage to work up his nerve to ask her. At the compound they had been assigned separate rooms in different wings, and the extent of their injuries were such that it still remained difficult for either of them to move around…yet ignoring doctor’s orders they always managed to make time for each other…meeting in secret corners of the facility…spending nights on the beach with only the sound of the surf and their warm bodies providing each other company…caressing and kissing her, touching her like he had never touched anyone before in his life…

They had never before experienced such complete emotional fulfillment as they did around each other…

They would spend hours together…talking, sharing stories of life in the air, laughing and joking almost until the sun poked its head above the horizon…their compatibility was real, and on a deep level. While they were physically affectionate, it had not yet come to the point where they had been intimate. Mitchell believed that as she was a lady, it would be inappropriate to share such a wonderful and sacred bond outside the institution of wedlock…

When he had finally popped the question, after nights of agonizing over how best to do it and whether it was too soon, his expected reaction from her of slight trepidation did not come to pass. Instead she flung her arms around his shoulders, kissed him passionately, and said to him only:

”I would be honored to become your wife.”

And so about three weeks later they found themselves in a small church, somewhere up the Wisconsin shoreline, in the small town where she had grown up, her father and mother in presence, taking the sacred vows that would bond them forever together as husband and wife…

It had all happened quite fast, really….but no, it had been building for years, their silent love for each other, repressed as it was behind a fa├žade of professional formalities and emotional distance…two people trying desperately not to hurt each other with their perceived shortcomings, but at the same time loving each other terribly…

But no matter now. It had come to this and they were prepared to share their first night of wedded bliss together…

The roar of the shower had gone silent and now Catherine appeared in the door of the bedroom. She was wearing a sheer white silk robe that he had purchased for her as a sort of wedding gift…the expression on her face as she stared back at him was one of peaceful and blissful joy.

“I am ready now.”

And with that Mitchell stood up, forcing his still weak leg muscles to lift his body, and stood before her…

“You are beautiful.”

He planted a kiss on her forehead.

“Are you…ready for this?”

Her sexual initiation had been painful and brutal…and he worried terribly that she might not have the desire or the heart for physical intercourse. But she stared back at him with a resolve that would comfort any man…

”I am ready.”

With one movement of his hands he slipped the robe from her shoulders….

…and beheld a magnificent sight of pure beauty as he took her body in….

His loins began to ache with desire as he gazed his eyes upon her fully formed, rounded breasts and hips, her slender and supple waist, her cherry red nipples and areolae, her lean and muscled legs…

“Darling…you are very beautiful….”

His body began to shake as he took her in his arms and for the first time in his life proceeded to make love to a woman…

Laying her down upon the bed he gently took his place atop her and very slowly and gently began to kiss her…her lips, down her body to her chin, her throat, the sweet spot at the base of her neck…her breasts…she could feel his tongue playing against her warm flesh as he worked.

She trembled with fear as for the first time in her life she permitted a man to touch and caress her in that manner…but fear soon turned to warm passion as she could feel the pleasure rising from the sensitive parts of her curvaceous body…

Involuntarily her throat gave off a low and throaty moan of sensual pleasure…”…darling, I didn’t know you could ever make me feel this way….”

He took her in his arms and gripped her more tightly, holding her body closer to his…She did the same, placing her arms around his back, her soft female hands gently caressing him, her fingers playing on the various scars and partially healed wounds to be found there…

“Oh darling, you’ve suffered…”

“Not…anymore…”

When she felt his spear penetrate her she first felt a slight shudder of fear as she recounted the horror of the rape….but as she felt her husband’s member slide inside her, her loins began to burn with the hot sweet sensation of pure pleasure…

“Oh….” She gasped….arching her back to receive him as waves of incredible physical pleasure, a sensation she had never known or even imagined to be possible, overwhelmed her body.

As he moved around inside his wife and he sucked and fondled her round melon-like breasts, Mitchell could feel nothing but an enormous sensation of pure joy…His loins trembled with pleasure as the two lovers provided each other the greatest gift that a man and a woman could share with one another….

Their bodies moved in spasms, in a regular and rhythmic rhythm timed to the increase in their pleasure...beads of sweat poured freely from their bodies as the pleasure increased...it built and built steadily as the naked lovers worked to savor the moment to its hilt…

When the moment of maximal pleasure came….it came as a literal explosion of joy, pleasure, pure ecstasy…Catherine let out a long and loud moan as the hot semen exploded inside her and filled her body with her husband’s seed…

“…yes…yes…yes…yes…oh, yes…”

--

Mitchell held her firm and slender nude body in his arms, as they watched the light of the evening dimming over Lake Michigan, from their lofty perch in their tenth floor apartment. He stroked her long brown hair slowly between her fingers…

“Are you happy, dearest?”

”Marvelously happy.” She sighed blissfully.

“We must do this more often.”

”Of course.”

He planted a warm wet kiss on her forehead.

“You are an excellent lover, darling,” Catherine cooed.

“I haven’t had much experience, you know…so I don’t know…”

”Just trust me on this.” She kissed him tenderly.

“What are we going to do now? You and I don’t have jobs now, you know.”

”I thought we could go and work for another airline.”

”How many airlines employ married stewardesses?”

”Exactly none.” She sighed. “If there were any who would allow for lady pilots…”

”Darling, I have an idea about that….if you’ll allow me to explain….”

--

“This is your captain speaking, welcome to Mitchell Ocean Airways, Flight One, Miami to Nassau. As always we are here to serve you and your travel needs. Neal Bradley, our cabin attendant, is available at all times during this flight to attend to your comfort and safety as necessary. I am Captain James Mitchell and along with my wife and co-pilot Catherine Mitchell we as always work to make your flying experience a pleasant and comfortable one. The current flying conditions are excellent – temperature eighty degrees, unlimited visibility, winds six knots. Therefore our flight should take about forty-five minutes, give or take a few.”

Mitchell placed the microphone aside and glanced at his lovely wife who sat beside him in the cockpit. “Are you ready, Cathy?”

”Ready as you are, Captain.”

”Would you like to take the plane up again today?”

”Sure.” Her eyes beamed wide with the opportunity. “Darling, you place much faith in me…”

”You have progressed into an excellent pilot over the past two years…I think you may have graduated from co-pilot status.”

”Thank you, dear…”

”I was thinking…we are making enough money doing this that eventually we may be able to fly two planes in this operation. I would think…that you are a capable enough girl to get your own plane one of these days…”

”Darling…that would be wonderful…”

He took her hand and squeezed it gently. “That’s what I like to hear.” He took up the microphone and spoke to the passengers again. “This is your captain, we are preparing for takeoff. Secure your seatbelt and all belongings, and enjoy the ride.”

“Here we go.”

Catherine took the controls and slowly brought the plane into movement. Like the professional that she was she expertly maneuvered the plane onto the runway…increasing its speed…soon they were up in the air, passing over Government Cut and out into the open Atlantic.

That girl had skill, thought Mitchell. Not only was she a wonderful wife and mother to their children, she had a hell of a skill with a plane…perhaps it came from her father. As much as he loved the sky, the thrill of flight and the pleasure and beauty of the air…it just seemed most complete when he was up here with her.

A World Apart, Chapter 13

The chilly breeze of the desert night cooled their bodies after a hot day driving in the jeep. Catherine hunched in the back seat, covered in the Captain’s dusty flight jacket, leaning back on the cushion and trying her best to sleep and forget about the things she had faced. Mitchell sat in the driver’s seat, trying to resolve his internal torture, trying to put out his mind the terror he had seen in her eyes…

“Captain, could you come back here?”

Mitchell turned around to face her.

“I’m cold.”

“I don’t have anything else to give you.”

”Come and sit back here with me.”

It was a command given with an inviting and gentle warmth in the tone of her voice. Mitchell could not easily ignore the entreaties of a woman as lovely as she….

He crawled over the seat and took his place beside her…Warmly Catherine leant her supple frame gently against him, snuggling in close for warmth. He could feel her shivering beside him. Mitchell could not prevent the rising tension of desire which came easily to his loins…

“You are a soft pillow, Captain.”

As much as he desired to hold her…to possess her…but she was still hurting, from being possessed by men in the worst way…yet his urge was too great, her waist too tempting…slowly he placed his arm around her, holding her close to him…

And to his great relief and elation, Catherine sighed warmly and deeply.

“Thank you, James…I needed that in the worst way…”

She had never called him by his first name before …or anything less formal than ‘Captain’.

“Well if we are on a first name basis, now, Cathy…my friends call me Jim.”

Catherine laughed.

“I never knew you cared…that much about me.”

”I can’t help but notice, dear, that you seem to care quite a bit for me as well.”

”I just don’t like to see…a young woman like yourself…in peril.”

”I can take care of myself….most of the time….”

”Don’t think about it…”

They sat silently under the twinkling stars.

”You know, Cathy, we aren’t out of the woods yet…or more precisely, we’re not out of the desert.”

Catherine laughed again. “This is rich.”

”What is?”

”Here we are, everything gone to hell, our lives turned upside down, and now we’re stranded here in the middle of nowhere…”

”Well, you wanted to see the world, here you go.”

”You sly bastard.” She laughed.

They sat still again.

”The stars are beautiful, Jim.”

Yes, the heavens were incredible…being miles from anywhere, they could see the full extent of the stars as they were meant to be seen. The glowing cacophony of lights was beyond glorious…

--

The bond between the two of them had only grown as the days wore by….

It had come to the point where they did not even need to say a word to each other…their faces, gestures, and glances were all they needed to communicate between them. A smile, a nod…it was all they needed to tell each other that for now, it would be okay and they were safe.

But of course they were still in the desert, and their fuel and supplies was slowly being drawn down…and their search for any sign of civilization, of rescue, was growing increasingly desperate.

They felt responsible for each other…Mitchell having come to terms with the fact that he was in love with this remarkable woman, this woman he had grown to care for with every fiber of his being…brave, strong, a survivor in every way…a charming and sweet beauty, even in her half-starved, battered condition.

If what Catherine had felt before for the Captain was merely affection, by now it had developed into something more…something called love….He had risked his life for her, shown her the embers of a tenderness which she had never before seen from him, or anyone…and it had touched her deeply. She had never quite felt this way before for a man…but it felt wonderful….she knew that if it ever came down to it, she would sacrifice her life for him…and he would do the same for her…

--

Eventually the petrol had run out…and the last of the food reserves had been consumed. What little they had was now carried on their persons: a large gourd of water – the last they had – a few bits of remaining rations, a few crude tools.

They had zero chance of surviving the desert, Mitchell thought. But what choice did they have?

With Cathy beside him they braced the treacherous sands of the Arabian Desert. Some of the dunes were as tall as mountains and climbing them certainly required the same energy as scaling a mountainside. Quickly this drained them of any remaining energy they might have possessed…The blaring heat took care of the rest….

--

“Jim!”

He could take it no longer. Death had come to claim its most ready soul…Falling upon the dust he let the blackness surround him…he felt the life slowly drain out of him as he prepared for death….

Collapsing on the bed on sand, Catherine’s bruised and sore body shook with weakness, her breaths coming in short gasps as she clung tenaciously to life…

They represented life in a dead land where no life could possibly thrive.

She could no longer take a step…nor could he…they lay prostrate on the sand, their last reserves of energy depleted….sweat poured freely down her half naked body as she struggled to stay alive….

The sun was relentless…there was no escaping the terrible heat…she could feel her body functions slowly shutting down as the water deprivation began to affect her…

Lying on her back her tough and slender frame shook, tortured with pain and lack of energy…she dropped her head down to look at him…he was already still, too still…the look of death was already upon him…

“Jim…?...God no…”

With the last of her strength she pulled her lifeless body next to his, his body still and his breath coming in low shallow gasps….

“Don’t give up on me, darling…”

She lifted herself with a terrific effort, to bring her body on top of his…she stared into his pallid and drained face, his eyes shut, his mind lingering at the border of consciousness, already experiencing the delirium which always accompanies horrible, painful death….

“Don’t die on me…!”

She lowered her lips to his and administered to him a long, tender, passionate kiss….

“Darling, I love you…”

She could feel him move…his shaky arms trembling as he lifted them with the last of his strength…to wrap them around her….He whispered with great pain in his voice:

“It has to be at the end of my life…when I finally find the right girl…”

“Don’t say that…we aren’t dead yet…”

Through his agony he could feel the supple curve of her lovely body upon his…if he was to die at least it would be made more pleasant in this manner…

His dry lips pursed. “I love you, Cathy.”

”Now you tell me…”

Somehow she managed to muster a slight laugh. That girl…she kept her sense of humor even in the face of death….

And holding each other tightly, they experienced for the first and the last time in their lives the sweet wondrous joy of true love as the blackness enveloped them…

--

“Do you hear that?”

It was a low rumble…distant but clearly recognizable….dim in the distance….

“Jim, darling….”

He was deathly still.

“No…no…no…Jim…wake up…you can’t be dead…”

It had worked before…She kissed him passionately, again and again…

He opened his eyes.

“Are we still alive?”

”That noise…”

It was a constant rumble…a low consistent moan in the landscape.

“It’s coming from across the dune.”

Pulling herself from him she crawled along the surface of the dune, struggling as the last of her energy gave way…one foot, then another…it was a struggle for one foot at a time…finally at last she could see the top of the dune in sight…with one last jolt of her fading strength she climbed to the top…

“Jim!!”

He could hear her voice…it was distant and fading…but he could sense the tone of hope within it.

“We’re saved!”

Across the dune, within her plain sight, the city of Riyadh sprawled across the land, a vast urban oasis at the edge of a barren wasteland…

A World Apart, Chapter 12

**WARNING - ADULT CONTENT!!**

When she awoke, as if surfacing from a black haze, she found herself stark naked, and tied to the ground…with four burly and large Arab men waiting to be serviced…

“It is time.”

She could not even muster the strength to scream as Hussein removed his robes and presented himself naked before her…he had a hideously ugly body, fat, bloated, scarred, and malformed in various places….

This….can’t….be….happening….!!

The fat Arab took his place atop her, crushing her under his incredible girth…He had his way with her, ravaging her, biting her, molesting her roughly with his grimy hands…the blood flowing freely from her injured body. His large member penetrated her like a spear…she resisted the urge to scream as she felt her maidenhood being shattered…the pain was horrible, incredible…this was to be her sexual initiation, at the hands of a vicious barbarian rapist…

“Allah al-akbar,” Hussein exclaimed. “I have deflowered a virgin!”

She could feel his member inside her, tearing her open, pushing damn near all the way back to her cervix…She bit her tongue as the desire to scream overwhelmed her…she was not going to give anything to these men willingly…they would not have the satisfaction of having broken her…

“This bitch is tight,” the Arab bellowed. “I have never known such wondrous pussy.”

As he worked she could feel the obese monster coming to a climax…she could feel the Arab expel his desire, the hot seed spilling inside her with a rush…the loud and sick moan of pleasure as he completed his conquest…the final act of a terrible and brutal rape.

She had been defiled, violated…in the most rank and vicious fashion…she felt like discarded tissue paper…dirty, filthy, covered in blood, stink, and semen…a piece of garbage, to be used and discarded like the trash she now was…in that moment she wanted very much to die…

“That was excellent, brothers,” Hussein remarked as he rose. “You should not be deprived of this. Omar, it is your turn.”

Omar took his place before her. Removing his robes to reveal a badly deformed and bent body for so young a man, he took possession of his lovely charge…

Once had been too much…she could not let it happen to her again. She was breaking…”No! NOOO!”

Omar took his position atop her…ravaging her in a manner worse than Hussein had done…her body felt like a dirty rag…the pain of the sufferings she had borne added to the agony of this moment was driving her past the breaking point…

”NOOOO!!! NOOOO!!!! AAAHHH!!!”

The men laughed as the ordeal broke her down…soon she would be whimpering for mercy….begging them to stop….but they would go on…after all, they were only preparing her for the life that she was destined for.

--

From the far recesses of the cave Mitchell could hear her screams….He shook the bars of his cage with increasing rage….the horrors of what she was experiencing were unimaginable…He had to save her, somehow…yet here he was, powerless to do anything….

“THIS WILL NOT PASS.”

With a superhuman effort fueled by adrenaline he used his bare hands to pull apart the bars…his rage seething within him at the violation of something so pure and innocent…it gave him strength that he never knew resided within him…..

Giving the wood trunks one last massive tug he punched through them, shattering the cage to pieces in an instant…Like a viper he descended on the closest of his captors before they even had a chance to react…His foot bore into the teeth of one of the barbarians, crushing his skull and scattering brains everywhere…With the automatic rifle in his hands he scattered volleys of bullets everywhere…the hail of gunfire cutting the barbarian monsters down like the animals they were…the bodies dropping like flies before him, rivers of blood soaking the ground…

He ran as fast as he could toward the source of the screams…she could not be made to suffer one second more…

--

“What is that??” The sounds of gunfire roused the rapists from their reverie of pleasure….

Like a blur he appeared out of the dark, almost like an apparition…He took one glance at the horror before him and cried out with rage…One shot and Omar’s skull was shattered, his brains splattering on the walls of the cave…With his rifle blaring the bodies of the Arabs fell before him, their guts torn with explosions of bright red blood…

“Save us Allah!!”

Hussein’s disgusting body devoured bullets one by one…finally his brain exploded as the bits of flying metal pierced his skull…the rapist fell to the ground, the corpse covered head to toe in slick dark blood…

When they were all dead he took in the sight…her ravaged nude body splayed on the ground before him…

“What have they done to you??”

She could only gasp in pain as he unfastened the rough hemp ropes from her limbs…he could see her trembling, the look of mortal terror in her eyes, and knew that she had experienced a nightmare too horrible to recount…he took what remained of his flight jacket and covered her tender parts with it…they were lovely to look at, yes indeed, but her survival was what counted now…

“You’re safe now, Cathy….no one will hurt you now…”

She lay unmoving on the ground…the insufferable pain of the rape had left her senseless and drained. He picked up a nearby gourd of water and, slowly lifting her and holding her tenderly and gently in his arms, held it to her lips…

“Drink.”

She sipped the life giving liquid…she could feel her strength slowly returning…eternally grateful for the wonderful gift of human kindness…touched by his gentle and caring manner…

“I should have gotten to you sooner. Dear god, Cathy, I’m so sorry….”

He had not noticed that he was calling her by her first name now…it just felt right to do so…She nodded to him to signal that she had had her fill and gulped solemnly.

“Thank…you….”

He laid her back down gently, taking care not to harm her already battered and bruised body too much more than it already was. He noticed her clothes discarded in a pile in a corner of the cave.

“Your clothes…Here they are.”

He retrieved the torn and blood stained articles and placed them gently in a pile next to her. “Are you strong enough…to move?”

”I…will manage…”

She continued to tremble and shake as the terror of the successive rapes still convulsed her. The best thing for her to do now, in his opinion, was sleep…

“Get some rest…I will be here right beside you. I am not going anywhere.”

”Will they come back for me…?”

”They are all dead. We are here alone. I will stay awake in case anyone else comes, which I doubt will happen.”

”Good….” She collapsed upon her side and descended into a deep and unsettled sleep….

**

The slave traders had made one concession to modernity – apparently they traveled around in a jeep. And that jeep had proved valuable to them as Mitchell and Catherine set out across the wide desert, hoping against hope to again reach civilization.

He did not know if anyone was looking for them…likely they had written everyone on that plane off as dead by now. He navigated by the position of the sun – an old aviation skill – traveling on a bearing which he estimated would eventually bring them to Riyadh. It was the best he could do. For all he knew they could be somewhere completely different. And even if his estimations were correct, heaven knew if their fuel supply and their food and water would last…

Catherine sat silently next to him in the passenger seat. She had still not recovered completely from the terrifying experiences of the previous day. While the physical scars had healed, Mitchell knew that the emotional scars, the wounds hidden and unseen, would take far more time to recover from….From time to time she would glance toward him, her eyes filled with sullen gratefulness. He knew that she was most grateful to him for his heroics….

The jeep bounced roughly over the hot desert sands as the midday sun bore down on the land. Their speed produced a sort of breeze, and however slight it was it was a cool and refreshing break from the searing heat of the desert.

“Captain…”

”Yes, Miss Carleton?”

”I never thanked you…for again saving my life.”

”Let’s not speak of it.”

“If you wish.”

”Are you feeling better?”

”As well as can be expected.”

”I mean….you know….”

”I’m holding up….”

She could put on a brave face, but he knew that inside she was still hurting…

--

The jeep sat dead in the sand, the ignition dead, the engine and other moving parts unmoving and still. They still had plenty of fuel so it was not that they were out of petrol…Catherine paced in the sand as Mitchell bent under the hood as he examined the malfunctioning mechanics.

“The timing belt’s broken.”

He removed the shredded piece of rubber from the gear shaft and discarded it on the ground. “This thing is a piece of shit. Don’t they maintain these vehicles?”

”Will it still run?”

”Not without the belt. It needs a replacement belt; good luck finding that out here. If I had something similar to replace it with….I might get it to start working again. My belt here is too thick and the leather will just fly out of the gears….There has to be something among what we already have here that can help us…”

Searching the jeep he sifted through the items that they had brought with them…gourds of water, packs of military rations, an extra tank of petrol, an automatic rifle with ammunition….

Nothing they could use…

”God damn it…”

He looked back to Catherine who stared at him with a pained expression on her face. Her shapely body cut a clean and pleasing line against the landscape.

…Dear god…he had thought of something.

”Your…um…brassiere…”

”My what?”

”Your…undergarment…it has rubber straps….it’s the only thing I can think of in our possession…”

Catherine followed his thoughts. Yes her brassiere did have rubber straps…perhaps it could work…

“Would you mind turning around, then?”

Mitchell understood. He turned to face away from her, the desire rising in his loins as he resisted contemplating the suggestiveness of what he had asked her to do…he very much hated to ask this of her, but it was their only chance in this situation…

“I’m finished, Captain.”

He revolved around to face her…she held the flimsy pink garment in her hand…removing it had definitely altered her, eh, upper body appearance…her full ripe young breasts were now completely unloosed and made a deep impression within the fold of her sweat stained tank top…with slight bumps in the cloth where the nipples were now exposed…the supple curve of her body was deeper and fuller than he had ever seen it. His loins burned with agony as the desire rose powerfully within him…She stiffened slightly as she felt his eyes involuntarily pierce her modesty to take in the glorious sight before him.

“Thank you, Miss Carelton.”

“You’re welcome, Captain.”

He took the lace article and tore it into pieces, reworking it so that the rubber strips of the straps made a continuous loop, and discarding the rest. Working the rubber fabric into the gears, he managed with some effort to rig a suitable replacement for the belt.

“Let’s see if this works.”

He forced the ignition and after a false start the jeep’s engine sputtered to life…

“Good as new.”

Catherine crawled into the passenger seat slowly, her breasts bouncing liberally as she moved. Her face blushed crimson with shame as she moved under Mitchell’s imposing stare.

A World Apart, Chapter 11

The small army of turban wearing, camelback Arab warriors, clad in traditional flowing robes, surrounded the crumpled plane which was very out of place in the middle of the barren desert. They began to holler raucously as the size of their find became increasingly obvious.

In the dimming light of the evening Mitchell counted the number of approaching shadows and determined that there were at least twenty camel-riding men, all heavily armed, all dark and surly. From the style of their robes he could sense that they were not Bedouin. Bedouin never dressed so ostentatiously…

As he approached, Gamal, desert warlord and leader of the band, could see the man in tattered Western dress ahead of him. There were people still alive! By Allah, this was going to be even more profitable than he had expected. At most his men had hoped to scavenge a few items from the plane which they had seen crash to the earth earlier that day. But survivors were far more valuable…for the price they could command in the slave market…

He spoke to the strange White man…

“I am Gamal, leader of this warrior clan. You and anyone else here are now all my slaves.”

Mitchell could not understand him, but the threatening tone of his voice was hardly lost in translation.

“Are there others with you? Bring them to me.”

And to reinforce his point, so as to completely understand his intent, an Arab foot soldier nudged the barrel of a gun upon the Captain’s back.

Of course we couldn’t get picked up by the Red Cross, he thought. That would be too easy.

No choice afforded him, of course. The Captain was led inside the ravaged hull of the Stratocruiser to the terrified stared of the people inside.

--

Gamal took one glance at the battered people lined up in front of the aircraft. Most of them were sick and dying, or otherwise too old, and would be of no use to him. The captain of this aircraft (which is what he assumed the older grey haired man to be, given his style of dress) was still relatively healthy and sturdy save the gash in his arm. But that would heal. He might prove of some use in the Yemeni diamond mines…

Next to him stood the girl. The young woman was by far the most remarkable find. Here he had definitely struck gold. Not only was she healthy and fit, she was also a ravishing beauty, fully formed in all the right places. She would command top dollar in the prostitution markets. Praise Allah, indeed his fortune was good. They had come out here expecting to find scrap metal, and instead had captured a small fortune.

Catherine could see the undue interest the beady eyed Arab men took in her, touching her and poking her in places no woman would tolerate willingly. She could feel herself being undressed by them with their stares, and silently cursed the gods which had formed her so pleasing to men. Who knew what they had planned for her…but she could guess, as the naked lust and desire in the men’s dark eyes grew by the moment. She tried with all her effort to remain calm as the rising terror inside threatened to overwhelm her.

I can handle starvation, physical pain, even death….but such a fate would be worse than death…the worst thing in the world…I would rather die than face that sort of violation…

“Get the hell off of her!” the Captain cried. “Filthy bastards!”

But for now she seemed safe….Gamal called out to his men:

“Enough, my brothers. You will all have your reward with this woman in time…for now we must keep her inviolate, lest she wind up damaged goods. And then there will be nothing for us. For tonight we make camp here. The captain and the girl will be held in the plane for now. The rest of the people can be dispensed with.”

”Do you understand what he is saying?” the Captain muttered to Catherine under his breath.

“He speaks Berber, I think. I can not understand.”

“Shit…What are they doing now?”

The ugly turban heads were now rounding up the remaining passengers…taking them out into the desert…

“What are you doing???” Catherine cried. “What the hell are you going to do to them??!”

“Silence!” screamed their Berber captor as he placed the cool blade of a knife to her throat. “One more outburst and you lose your tongue, infidel.”

Catherine could not translate the words, but it was sure as hell impossible to not understand the meaning of a knife held to her throat…

So again she and the Captain could do nothing as their charges were led out to their deaths…She could hear the report of the rifle fire, the screams of dying men and women, and turned her face away in horror as she could feel the sickness rising within her….

“No, no, no, no, god no……”


She could see that the Captain’s face was red with pain…it was as hard for him to bear as it was for her….

--

Under the watchful eyes of their captors they huddled in the plane, seated next to each other for warmth. They had been allowed to have some food and drink, and while they were grateful for it for prolonging their lives, they knew these gifts were not provided by their new friends out of altruistic purposes.

Outside in the desert, the Arabs had managed somehow to build a fire and they had pitched their tents around this inferno for the night. Their adaptations for survival out here were amazing, Mitchell thought.

The sun had plunged below the horizon and the land was awash in a black darkness so complete that even an object held in front of their eyes would prove invisible….It presented an opportunity for escape, the Captain thought, but he knew that even in the pitch black darkness the Arabs were unmatched in their skills for finding items in the desert…while they would, literally, be running blind.

”What do you think…they plan to do with us, Captain? They did not see fit to kill us…”

“In a way, I wish they had…”

”What do they want with us?”

”From what I know of the warlord culture, probably we would be of value to them as…items of trade…”

”Trade….”

”They will probably sell me into slavery….”

”No…”

“ – and you…..”

”What…..?”

”They will sell you…” It was impossible to tell her the grisly fate that awaited her. “They will probably want to sell you into…prostitution….”

Catherine’s face turned white….

”I will not permit them to do that, Miss Carleton. We will find a way out of this before then.”

”How?….Where would we go?…There is nothing but desert around us for miles…”

“I would prefer death to being someone’s slave. I don’t know about you, but…”

She glanced back at him with a soft expression which communicated to him that she understood.

“I am glad you feel the way I do.”

They sat silently for a moment.

The Captain spoke first. “I never thanked you…for saving my life earlier.”

”You saved all of us…”

“What good that did…Miss Carleton, I am truly sorry…this all had to happen…”

“None of it is your fault. We are still alive, anyway, and there is a way out now. At least we will not die of thirst out here…”

“Our survival, Miss Carleton, is even now by no means assured.”

“You have protected me this far…I have never lost faith in you, Captain.”

”Your faith is misplaced.”

”I believe not.”

”I am not a superhero…”

”Who said you were?”

The Captain sighed. “They will not molest us until morning. You should try to get as much rest as you can, Miss Carleton, as tomorrow will be an arduous day.”

”How can I sleep now…?” But she knew the Captain was right….

--

The harsh desert sun bore down on them brutally as the camel caravan made its way through the forbidding maze of dunes.

They had been made to walk…tied between two camels…today they would not get the luxury of riding camelback. The heat crushed their tired and sweat covered bodies as they struggled to place one foot in front of the other, pushing their bodies forward with superhuman effort….They both knew that physical collapse would mean instant death at the point of a bayonet…

Catherine, despite the tortuous pain that ravaged every inch of her slender, battered frame, could clearly see that the Captain was in far worse condition that she. Being older it was harder on him….he could not possibly hold up for much longer….a few hours more of this and it would certainly kill him…

They’re going to kill him this way…


Every step she took was a major effort but a small victory – one more moment that she would remain alive. But was not death preferable to a life lived in agony? Though she did not fear death, she wondered if it was truly preferable…Certainly it was preferable to the fate she was facing ahead of her. Was it worth staying alive for? She cursed her natural optimism that kept her somehow from completely giving up on life…..

The Captain’s bare feet were now covered with sores and they tracked blood in the sand as he walked…his eyes carried the pained look of someone fully aware of his own impending death. The pain was so complete that he no longer really felt it….he was no longer fully alive, but some ravaged automaton made to follow orders at will.

The sooner I die the sooner the pain stops…

At once the caravan stopped….

Catherine looked around her with bleary eyes. There was nothing around them, only endless sand. What could they possibly be stopping here for?

And then she saw the rocky outcropping in the distance…the black hole of what appeared to be a cave…and the shapes of men in the distance, approaching their position.

--

Gamal spoke with glee, gesturing to his prisoners. “These I present to you, my trader brother Hussein, as captured booty. My men have endured many trials in obtaining these infidels for your business. We expect to be rewarded handsomely…”

The fat Arab slave trader feasted his eyes on the bounty which Gamal had discovered. The old man was battered and broken and perhaps would fetch a buyer, but he could not expect much of a profit from him. The woman, on the other hand….she was a masterful work of art, immodestly dressed but of course she was an infidel…but even so the supple curve of her body was inviting and would command top dollar…yes, she was a most valuable prize…

“This infidel I have little use for,” Hussein remaked hoarsely, gesturing to the old man. “He will sell only at a low price. I can only pay you half a talent for him, no more.”

”I will take you at your word, brother. He is old and has not fared well in this climate. I should have killed him when I had the chance.” Gamal snickered.

“However, you have otherwise done well, Gamal,” gesturing to the woman. “She will garner a high price in the markets…I will willingly give you five talents for her.”

Gamal’s men cheered. Five talents! Unimaginable! They had struck the big time indeed.

“You are generous, Hussein,” Gamal replied. “Five talents will feed my men for a month. But I cannot believe that she would only be worth five talents. Perhaps she is worth her weight in gold…”

”Now, Gamal, I am a generous man. Five talents is a high price for any captured slave. I cannot afford to pay more, as it is.”

“She will command at least ten talents in the slavers’ market. Do not tell me you aren’t making a large profit from this, Hussein. I and my men risked much in capturing this infidel woman and we expect to be rewarded handsomely.”

And if to support his demand he placed his hand on the butt of his rifle…

“Gamal, I am merely a trader, a man of peace. I do not desire violence. I tell you what, I am a generous man and I will make a special deal with you…Six talents. Do not say that Hussein is not generous to his customers.”

”Eight talents. I will accept no less than eight.”

”Please, Gamal…I will give you seven…I cannot afford any more than that.”

”Make it seven and a half talents and we will call it a deal.”

“Seven and a half talents…I have been more than fair with you, Gamal. Along with the half a talent for the man. It is settled.”

As Catherine watched the men haggle over her, she could not help but feel a rising sickness in her stomach. To be bought and sold…like some piece of meat….was this to be her fate?

“Do you hear that, men?” Gamal announced. “Never say that the great Gamal does not compensate handsomely for your loyalty and service to him. The honorable Hussein has offered us eight talents for our efforts!”

The men cheered loudly, some firing pistols into the air in celebration.

--

Now in chains, the erstwhile slaves were being held in the dark recesses of the concealed cave hidden deep in the desert. Hussein’s men were within eyeshot as they huddled around a small fire, laughing and imbibing in their good fortune…

Mitchell could not understand what the slimy Arabs were saying, but they seemed to be in jovial spirits. He was currently being held in a crude cage constructed of wooden bars, tethered together by rough hemp rope….just like everything else he had seen today, a scene out of the last century. It was as if the modern world had never managed to find its way to this god-forsaken corner of the earth.

Catherine was nowhere that he could see. They had been separated by the slave traders after being sold. God only knew where she was…or what they were doing to her….

--

They had secured her, in a standing position, to a rough wooden pole somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of the cave. Catherine could hear the slight chirping sounds of insects and other creeping crawling cave dwelling creatures, and felt a wave of revulsion as to what disgusting animals could be out there unseen in the darkness.

She pondered her situation. Secured tightly – no visibility – no obvious means of escape – nowhere to go if she had somehow managed to break free. The situation was indeed hopeless….Catherine could feel the tears welling in her eyes as the unbearable reality of her situation slowly began to sink in…No escape, no hope….Being a brave and strong girl she hardly ever cried, but under these circumstances who the hell cared anyway….

I never signed up for this…

Her Transoceanic winged pin remained affixed to the cloth of her tank top. The best of the best, it was supposed to represent. If she had known that it would lead to something like this….

Suddenly she heard a soft step of feet approaching…a dim light penetrated the darkness.

Hussein revealed himself from the dark, followed by three of his men, each carrying a torch. Their faces exhibited a lecherous expression that terrified Catherine to the core – the look of unrestrained lust…

Please let me be wrong…

“Allah be praised,” Hussein intoned. “We have captured a real beauty here.”

Catherine could not understand his words…but from the tone of his voice his intent was clear….she stared back at him with a terrified expression, anticipating what was about to come….

Hussein’s rough, filthy hands pawed the sensitive areas of her anatomy…”Yes, my brothers, we will have a most enjoyable and pleasant evening…”

“Get your hands off me, you disgusting brute.” She writhed within and fought her bonds, struggling against hope to prevent her certain fate…

”The lady infidel no likes,” Hussein joked. “We will have to show her the sort of men we are. In the West they do not have real men like us. She knows not what she has been missing. When we are through with her she will be purring between our legs, wanting more.”

Hussein’s partners in crime laughed.

“Do not worry, my brothers. Our customers will never know that we have…sampled the merchandise. They will not care in any case. In fact, they will be grateful to us for breaking her in.”

Hussein ran his hand down his captive’s warm body, taking in every curve of the voluptuous figure of the brown-haired beauty before him…

“Glory to Allah. We have indeed been blessed.”

“You disgusting animal….you touch me like that again and I’ll kill you…”

“Cut her down from there.”

The men did as their leader ordered. With their long sheath knifes they severed the hemp ropes which bound her arms and legs…As they loosed her limbs Catherine collapsed in a heap to the ground…her body completely drained of any energy …

She knew what they were about to do to her….and there was not a damn thing she or anyone else could do to stop them.

Hussein stood over her, pistol in hand. “Get up, infidel wench. You see that I am in power here.”

His men ruthlessly pulled her up by her arms, forcing her to stand. Her legs trembled weakly as she managed to keep herself upright using the last reserves of her rapidly disappearing strength…

“Take off your clothes.”

She of course could not understand his barbarian tongue. But the menacing lustful look in his eyes communicated the meaning of his words well enough.

“Take off clothes.” One of the barbarian thugs had repeated his master’s words in English, for her benefit. Apparently that was the extent of his knowledge of the language.

Catherine faced her captors defiantly. If there was one thing she would not do for them, it was that. She would not let them violate her without a struggle…

”You can kill me first. Go to hell.”

With a short sharp thrust the butt of Hussein’s pistol met her face, striking her with a blunt force near enough to kill her…Catherine screamed and tasted blood as she fell stricken to the earth…

“Get up, bitch. Off with your clothes.”

He picked her up, pulling her head back by roughly gripping her long brown hair which had fallen loose, and held the gun even with her temple. “Do as I say or we will make your time with us quite difficult, infidel slut. There are many ways to harm a person short of killing them. You have no idea what you can live through.”

“Omar! Remove her clothing! If she will not do it, we will have to undress her ourselves.”

Omar reached for her long brown legs, to pull her torn and brief shorts down…She kicked and squirmed within an inch of her life to make it difficult for him.

“That does it.” With a swift blow Hussein slammed the pistol against her skull…Catherine could feel nothing but a hard crack as the metal met bone in a terrible explosion of pain…and then nothing but blackness…

“Undress her, then tie her up.”

With relish Omar and his two companions quickly disrobed the unconscious woman before them. They pulled off her shorts and panties…then made quick work of her tank top…finally unclasping the lacy pink brassiere underneath, her large round breasts falling free…

“Allah al-akbar,” they exclaimed as they gazed at the living goddess before them...

They fought the rising desire in their loins…they were not finished. Omar retrieved four small wooden posts from his pockets and proceeded to nail them into the ground, in a rectangular fashion. His companion Amir procured several lengths of rope, securing one end of each to a post, the other end to one each of Catherine’s limbs…

A World Apart, Chapter 10

Kemal struggled to breathe as the agonizing pain in his legs sent shooting stabs of pain through his body. He cursed as he struggled along the floor, dragging his wounded lower body behind him, toward the blood stained duffel bag in the aisle. Passengers eyed him with terrified stares…like sheep they sat still as evil made its dark rampage….

Allah be cursed, they had failed in their mission. His brothers in arms had died like dogs, never achieving the glory of martyrdom for their god. But by Allah, he would not allow this insult to Islam to go unpunished…He would accept no less than to die a martyr’s death and enter heaven, where twenty-seven virgins awaited him…

Slowly but surely as the Captain righted the plane he crawled toward his goal. Finally he reached his destination. Unfastening the pockets he pulled out his desired object – a large hand grenade. He took the grenade in his hand and placed the pin between his teeth…

“Allah al-akbar!!!”

“Hey!!”

The Captain stood before him, his clothes torn and blood stained, his gun trained on a spot between his eyes. Kemal could only laugh as he stared down the muzzle of the pistol.

”You cannot scare me, Captain. I am not afraid to die. See, I die a martyr’s death. One way or the other, I die. And you die too. Allah be praised!!”

And with that Kemal pulled the grenade pin out with his teeth….

He had….

….Only….

…Three….

…..Seconds….

Mitchell quickly fired at one of the Plexiglas windows…The cabin instantly depressurized and air, along with any loose things were immediately sucked out into the stratosphere…in the next moment he pulled the grenade out from the thug’s hand and threw it toward the window, just as he was thrown around like a toy in the suction…the grenade was sucked out through the vacuum just before it exploded…the explosion rocked the jet violently….he could feel the Stratocruiser descending rapidly….he knew Miss Carleton would not be able to handle the plane for long….

The terrorist bellowed as he clung to the seat to keep from flying through the air….“NOOO!! ALLAH DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!”


Mitchell pumped two bullets into the thug’s skull…the brains splattering on the seats and through the fuselage….

He had to get to Miss Carleton fast…

He crawled along the floor, using all his strength to pull himself along the seat legs to bring himself to the front….the agony of his injured left arm was excruciating and he could feel the effects of the blood loss….he could see that the cockpit door had blown open…and he could see Miss Carleton struggling with the controls…

“CAPTAIN!!! HELP!!”

With grim determination Mitchell flung himself forward and into the cockpit…Crawling forward he took the co-pilot’s seat and began the mortal struggle with the controls…He could see the flashing lights of the instrument panel and knew that things were going mortally wrong…

“The left engine’s been destroyed….the damn explosion must have blown it off…”

“We have to set this thing down!!”

”That’s what I’m trying to do here….”

They could see the barren wastes of the desert growing larger through the windshield…They managed to pull the aircraft from an acute angle into a gliding position to prepare for landing.

Mitchell took the microphone:

”This is your Captain speaking. This craft is no longer airworthy so we are going to attempt an emergency landing. We are about to make a rough landing. Find something to secure yourselves against because we are going to come down hard.”

He cursed. “That’s something I never wanted to tell any of my passengers…”

”You did the best you could…”

”Whatever you say. Let’s do this.”

--

The Stratocruiser worked its way down toward the ground, its left jet engine stricken and burning, its right engine deactivated as the large jet stumbled toward a landing…

The fuselage hit the desert sand with a roar. The crash knocked passengers and pilots alike with enough force to whip them senseless. With flames flickering the big bird exploded through the sand at a sickening pace…slowly but surely slowing with the friction against the barren earth.

Eventually the movement stopped…The charred hulk of the Stratocruiser came to rest against the top of an exceptionally tall sand dune. They were finally at rest…on land…finally safe at last…and most miraculously of all, still alive.

--

“GO! GO! GO!”

With rushed terror Catherine evacuated the passengers from the plane as flames flickered around them….They had only moments to work….

Where have I done this before, she thought wryly.

Last to take the leap through the emergency exit was the Captain. He plunged toward the sand, crying in agony as he tumbled to the earth falling on his stricken and blood soaked arm. Catherine followed soon afterward….

She hit the earth with a blow and rolled downward as sand particles found their way into every crevice of her body…her eyes, her ears, her mouth and throat, her nose….She coughed and retched as the sand threatened to either choke or smother her….

Above her the fiery corpse of the Stratocruiser was now convulsed in flames…a large explosion rocked the earth as the flame reached the fuel tanks….

Catherine came to rest on the desert floor….Slowly she raised up her bruised and battered body to take in her surroundings…

There was nothing for miles save lifeless, sterile sand dunes. They were stranded in the desert.

--

The eight passengers who had managed to survive the ordeal (two had apparently not made it through the crash landing) were in rough shape. Not a single one of them had gotten through it all without some sort of injury.

Having no medical supplies or even bandages (they had all burned up in the plane) Catherine had to improvise. Most of the injuries were broken bones and scrapes of some kind, though one man had been impaled in the chest by a flying piece of metal and was probably not going to live…It hurt Catherine to see people like this. It had been her duty to protect them and she had failed miserably.

At least she was still healthy enough to do her job…

She removed her polyester skirt and proceeded to tear it into strips, for use as bandages and slings for the walking injured. Tying the excess length of her blouse smartly around her waist, she went to work. One by one she attended to her charges. It was the best she could do under the circumstances…she had not even begun to mourn for the friends and colleagues she had lost, much less even thought about how the hell they were going to get out of this damn place…

--

Sitting on the harsh and hot sand, Captain Mitchell pondered their predicament.

Given their last estimated position over Saudi Arabia and their last known course trajectory, he estimated that they were presently located about 250 miles south-southwest of Riyadh. And yes, he thought with rising trepidation, that if he was correct this would place them at the dead heart (literally) of the Rub’ al Khali, the Empty Quarter, one of the driest and most inhospitable environments to be found on Earth – where not even the desert-dwelling nomadic Bedouin dared to trod. And they were stranded here, in a sea of sand so vast that they were likely never going to be found by rescue planes, and completely lacking food and (most importantly) water….

We…are…dead…men…

As the knowledge of their impending death sank into him, the Captain did not think of his own fate. He was old and his life was practically finished anyway. It was Miss Carleton whom his heart bled for…

She was young and beautiful, with so much to give to the world, with so much happiness ahead of her…but it was not to be…she would die a horrible death, before her time, and so would he….but what did it matter in the long run. Nothing in this world was truly permanent, after all….most especially life.

This is the price you pay for caring about the girl, Mitchell, the Captain cursed to himself.

“Captain? Let me take a look at your arm.”

It was Miss Carlton – looking the worse for wear, but still unflappable and cool under pressure…Her brown hair, still secured in a ponytail, fell in loose strands around her bruised face…He instantly noticed that her skirt was missing, exposing a lovely pair of lean, tanned, athletic legs. She rolled back what remained of his sleeve and bent down to examine his wounded limb.

“Just tear it off. It’s shredded to bits anyhow.”

Catherine obliged.

“What happened to your…ah…leg covering?”

“I used it for bandaging. Many of those people are hurt badly. I don’t know if some of them can…even walk…” She held back her emotions as her voice came close to breaking.

“You did well back there, Miss Carleton. I want to thank you, for your bravery and courage if anything else. I put my trust in you and you came through.”

”So many people have died today, Captain. I can’t take credit for anything.” She took a close look at her patient’s injury. “Thankfully it isn’t too deep and it’s stopped bleeding. I want to wrap this, though, to prevent infection.” She removed a long green strip of polyester cloth from her back pocket. “The last one.” Slowly she took his arm and wrapped it gingerly in the fabric.

“I doubt I’ll have to worry about infection here.”

”What do you mean?”

”Do you know where we are?”

Catherine took a curious glance around her. “The desert....Saudi Arabia I presume…there is nothing out there but sand dunes….”

“We are in the Rub’ al Khali, the Empty Quarter. Inhospitable, lifeless desert. Most anbiotic environment on earth with the exception of the Atacama Desert in Chile….And worse, we have no food or water. It was all in the plane.”

She glanced back to the charred ruins of their plane. “Oh….”

”There is an extremely high probability that….we will not survive this ordeal out here…certainly none of them – “ he gestured to the passengers “ – will live, especially in their injured condition. Unless we are rescued soon, there is no real way to avoid…..the inevitable…”

As he slowly spoke the words Catherine’s eyes grew cold with fear. She could feel her insides turn to ice…after all we’ve been through, to die like this….

She glanced at the Captain with a naked terror he had never seen from her….

“I wouldn’t….give up hope…not yet, anyhow…as long as we are still alive….there will be people coming anyhow to rescue us.”

”You are a positive thinker. But don’t get your hopes up. This is a large desert and they will search every inch of it. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack, with the attendant probabilities of success. The desert is a brutal environment – especially for those not used to it.”

Catherine finished wrapping the Captain’s wounded arm and tied the makeshift bandage in place. “That should hold for now. Does it hurt to move your arm?”

Ever since being wounded his arm was wracked with ravaging pain. “I’m afraid so.”

”I can make you a sling.”

”I don’t mind.”

”It hurts you, I can see that. I will wrap it for you.”

“With what?”

She hadn’t thought of that. With what, indeed? Her thoughts came to one thing. Her blouse - ? Well, it wasn’t like she was going to need it out here. It was already mid-morning and she could already feel the sweat roll down her back as the temperatures soared….

“I have something.”

She began to unbutton the blood and sweat soaked garment…removed it gently…

“Miss Carleton – “

”I am fine.”

Mitchell could not help but notice that she was possessed of a fine and extraordinary body. The sweat stained green tank top really brought out her, ahem, assets in a big way…Even in her worn and battered state, she was truly beautiful. He could feel the desire involuntarily rising in him, and with teeth clenched made an extraordinary effort to suppress it.

With aplomb she rigged the garment into a sling and tied it to his shoulder, cradling his stricken arm within it.

“You are most helpful, Miss Carleton.”

”Thank you, Captain.”

”This is your pin….?”

Her Transoceanic flight pin…”Yes, thank you.” She affixed the pin to the cloth above her breast. No point losing that now…

--

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?”

Catherine had no relish for what she was about to say. But what choice do I have, she thought bitterly.

“This is the situation. The terrorists are dead. However we have had an accident and thus are now stranded out here. This is the Empty Quarter, the Arabian desert. The Captain has informed me that there is no food, water, shelter, or human habitation for about a couple hundred miles in any direction. Captain Mitchell has gone back to the plane to look for any food, water, or materials that may have survived the explosion and fire and could be of any use to us. We are hoping something has remained intact, but given the extent of the damage to the plane we do not believe that there will be anything to retrieve.

“The best thing to do for now is to stay here and wait for rescue. Above all else we should not place our lives at risk by setting out into the desert; out there we are assured of a certain death. The authorities know that we have gone down and have a general sense as to where, but not an exact knowledge of our present location. I do not want to sound too pessimistic, but the desert is very large and it is impossible to search every inch of it. So if help does not come immediately, please do not panic. The Captain and I are here to assist you if you should require anything. Not much has survived, but between us we will do the best we can under the circumstances.”

The words were useful but not encouraging to the passengers. The Arab women shook their heads with sorrow as the entire extent of the tragedy suddenly hit them with full force.

“If we have no food or water how are we to survive out here?”

Catherine did not know how answer her….

Yes, how, indeed?

--

Inside the blackened hulk of the Stratocruiser Mitchell scoured the charred mess for something, anything that might have survived.

The kitchen was covered with black soot; the heat of the fire (aggravated by the burning jet fuel) had melted the cabinets and other implements through and through, so that nothing had escaped damage. The contents of the refrigerator and pantry, where meals and drinks were stored, had been reduced to charred ashes…

Nothing…Not even a morsel…not even a canister of water had survived….

Dead….Truly they were the dead walking on earth.

--

“There is nothing. Nothing survived the fire.”

Catherine’s face contorted slightly, as if to suppress the expression of terrorized pain….”What do we do, then?” she answered quietly.

“We wait for help. That is all we can do.”

”Some of these people are already thirsty. They will die of dehydration if nothing is done…”

”I know that!!!” Mitchell could no longer contain his frustration and rage. “Fucking terrorists!!! Do they worship terrible pain and death??!?? Well that is what they have created here.” He paused, shaking slightly. “We can do nothing. If people die, it is tragic…but there is nothing that can be done.”

”Captain…”

”I am sorry, Miss Carleton…I have failed in every way here…”

”You are blameless. Please don’t do this to yourself.”

Mitchell breathed heavily and clenched his fists as the rage seethed within him. He was angry, angry at himself…How could he have let things get this bad? How could he have completely lost control like this, making errors which, like all errors in aviation, led to certain death?

He had been in situations before, but always behind the controls, in the cockpit. Up there he was always certain of what to do. Now he felt a barren hopelessness and guilt which he had never before experienced…

”I am the Captain. Lives were in my hands. Now people are dead and the rest of us are likely to follow. I am sorry, Miss Carleton. I am especially sorry for you. Above all other people, you, possessed of such a capable and friendly nature, are the least deserving of this terrible fate that you will succumb to.”

Catherine could see that he was a man at the end of his rope…

“Captain Mitchell, I believe in you. You saved our lives up there…including mine. If not for what you did, we would all be dead right now. But we are still alive and if that is the case then there is still a sliver of hope, however slight, that we will make it through this.”

”I cannot disavow you of your sunny optimism, Miss Carleton. We shall see if it proves correct.”

--

In the Empty Quarter temperatures routinely rose above 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and this broiling day was no exception.

They had taken shelter (except for the Captain, who had preferred to remain outside for now) in the remains of the burnt fuselage, but it was no good. The heat was as unbearable in there as it was outside. Catherine leant her head back upon the remainder of a seat cushion as sweat poured freely down her lithe and toned body. The heat was damn near intolerable….

She could feel the empty pit in her stomach where food usually went, she had not eaten in what seemed like days. Her tongue felt like sandpaper and was as dry as that also. Water….I need water… She knew that she was losing water fast and that dehydration was not too far off…

So if I am to die…it will be like this…


She knew that death by dehydration was an agonizing and terrible experience. She shuddered with fear knowing that she would soon be subjected to that ordeal personally within an increasingly short time…

While she was as healthy and fit a young woman as any, full of life and vigor, and her body could tolerate substantial punishment, just like any living thing it could not function long without proper nutrition. From her education Catherine knew that the human body could function without water for a maximum of three days. Of course, that was likely under ideal conditions, and those calculations had probably not factored in the brutal heat of the desert which made salty sweat break out all over her, further purging her body of the precious life giving liquid when it was most needed…

And if dehydration did not kill them instantly, the hyperthermia would fell them first. She knew that once the body had leached out all its water, its temperature regulating mechanism was as good as shot, and in this hot climate the body temperature would climb precipitously and without mercy….

Increasingly she could see that they would be lucky if they even lasted until tomorrow…The Captain was right; she had been naively optimistic about their chances after all…Yet as long as there was life, there was hope. Catherine was not one to give up – ever.

--

“India Pacific niner-niner, do you copy?”

Radio silence…only the hum of static.

“India Pacific niner-niner, do you copy? Please respond. This is Transfreight one-four-seven-three and I have received your distress signal. Please reply forthwith.”

Silence greeted him.

He could see the crash site below him…the burning fuselage of the remains of the India Pacific Schooner crumpled on the slope of the mountainside in the high altitudes of the Hindu Kush…the debris scattered all around…the bodies…yes, there were definitely bodies on the ground…bodies broken and bloated…

“India Pacific niner-niner – “

It was no use. They were all dead. One hundred and eighty-seven people, according to the manifest, he had been informed. All dead, in an instant…due to the madness of a small group of very sick men…

“Control Tower Islamabad,” he intoned. “I have made visual contact with the downed aircraft. Position mark two, seven, eight, seven; bearing two hundred and forty-seven degrees from your location. The aircraft has been completely destroyed – there appear to be no survivors.”

”Return to ground,” came the reply over the crackle of the radio. “You’ve done your duty, Captain. The government will take over from here.”

“Copy. Proceeding to base.”

Mitchell breathed a heavy sigh of sorrow. All those people dead – their hopes, their plans, their dreams, shattered in an instant…


“Captain Mitchell…”

Miss Carleton’s pained voice jolted him from his reverie.

“Two passengers have died.”

Mitchell’s stomach grew tight. “Have the others help you. Place them somewhere where they won’t cause a stink. Bury them in the sand.”

”The sand will blow right off and uncover them in no time.”

”By the time that happens we won’t be around to notice.”

Catherine’s expression grew pale. “I will do as you say, Captain.”

”Very well. Thank you, Miss Carleton.”

So it begins, he thought as he attempted with his mightiest efforts to ignore the growing pain in his stomach and bones – the pain of slow, terrible dehydration. He knew that due to his age, the agony he was about to suffer would be worse than imaginable. He would help her himself, but the pain was already too great for him to move.

His thoughts turned to Miss Carleton again. She was so young…she had never experienced real pain…yet she had borne the sufferings so far extraordinarily well, particularly for a woman. Of course she was a healthy and well built girl…so maybe that had something to do with it.

Even in this situation, it was hard for him to resist feeling the burning desire which he carried for her…Ever since that night in the apartment, he had grown to love her as a person. He recognized more than ever her quick intelligence, her tidy competence, her strength of character, her charming and carefree disposition, and most of all her incredible beauty….

He knew it would be impossible between him and her. She was young and supple, he was old and broken, and she would logically desire someone closer to her age and easier to understand. He put the thought out of his mind. I might care for her that way, but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way…

Not that it mattered now, anyway…

He would have very much liked to experience the touch of a woman before he died….he had never known such sweet pleasure. In his life people were not his strong suit; airplanes were. Too bad you couldn’t marry them. Well, you get what you give, he thought bitterly.

And he had received his due – painful, horrible death. He would wake up in Hell, he wagered. That was more than he deserved.

--

As the desert day was scorching, the desert night was equally chilling.

Catherine huddled in the aircraft as she strove to obtain warmth somehow. Ironic, she thought, how today she had nearly died from heat exhaustion, and now here she was in the same place, shivering.

In all, four passengers had not made it through the day…The corpses were already beginning to pile up. Catherine could only feel a frustrated rage as she watched people dying around her, she helpless to do anything…

The Captain was ensconced in the cockpit, trying to do the same thing as her – stay warm.

Suddenly a figure appeared before her. It was the Captain.

“Are you okay?”

”As well as can be expected.”

”Take my flight jacket.”

The tattered garment would provide little protection, but it was a start. “This is yours – you need it to stay warm.”

”You need it more than I do.” He covered her shivering body under the fabric.

“Thank you, Captain.”

”If anyone can make it through this ordeal….Do you hear that?”

In the distance there was a low roaring sound….

“Yes…What is it?”

”Sounds like…camels.”

“Camels?”

”And the people who ride them.” Now voices that sounded human could be distinguished.

“Other people…coming for us!”

”Don’t get your hopes up yet, Miss Carleton.”

”But what else could it be?”

”Anything.”

”You don’t think…our rescuers…would they come on camels?”

”No, they would not. Stay here and I will check this out.”

“Captain…Please be careful…”

”I’ll do my best.”