Marketplace, 3:58 A.M.
Purposely but gently bumping his shoulder into his comrade's as he passed by, the armed guard drew his ally's attention to the American tourists. "Hmm? Al'abalih," he grunted in Arabic as the other guard brushed passed him. Only raising his head to get a good look at what the fuss was about, the guard tilted his head in confusion and annoyance at how stupid it was that the Americans were traversing unfamiliar territory at such an early time in the morning. Shaking his head, the guards joined one another, dressed exactly alike and both wielding AK-47 machine guns, tightly gripped. Pushing up slowly and cautiously, the two guards trailed a third, watching carefully as he seemed to be escorting a younger American girl to the group of adults.
Their clothing was soft and loose, but appropriate for desert combat. Light colored turbans and long cotton pants to keep themselves cool. Their mouths and heads covered, they pushed upwards behind Mute and her victim, not realizing he was the one being held hostage. The two guards stopped, snickering and sneering softly as they watched their friend coolly escort the young girl to what they assumed to be brother's and sisters. Letting their guard down and relaxing a bit, one of the two guards leaned against a large wheel barrow, his right hand loosely on the butt of his gun. "Athir, " the first asked, nodding towards the Americans. "Ma ryuk fi hudha?" he asked, chuckling softly.
Athir turned his head quickly, smiling beneath his cloak, before turning back to observe the tourists. "Hal nassu 'annana kunna fi halat harb? Will tell them go home," Athir joked. "Kayf jariyat," he said turning to the man who bumped him. "Burhan. Lays 'asrahum algharib?" he asked, noting the extreme differences in their appearances, ages, and heights.
Burhan shrugged. "Americans strange. Always different. But never organized. Madani sawf nursil lahum beydaan."
But Madani could say or do nothing of the sort, as Mute kept her prisoner from speaking. As they drew closer to Mute's group of friends, he remained calm, unmoving, as he waited for a chance to escape. and fight back. But he had to act carefully, less he be killed by his own men for betrayal. Being one of the few of his men fluent in English, he knew he had to speak carefully to these people. If they were this bold, they were probably dangerous. With her silence field fading, Mute emphasized the danger that Madani was in, inching her weapon closer to his testicles.
"If you even whimper without my say so," she said with a grin. "I'll put you down faster than a sick dog. Kay?" she asked.
Madani nodded, finally able to hear Mute's voice. Sweat nervously beading from his brow, he turned his head to Mute slowly, blinking nervously. "What is it you want?" he asked finally, his only free hand twitching as the weight of the RPG in his other hand became annoying. Madani looked up from Mute, to the others surrounding him. They looked him up and down as an enemy, and he did the same to them. But Madani understood that they were at a stale mate. The RPG had been loaded long before these Americans arrived. At this range, it would take the push of a button to kill them all and end their adventure. Or even if they decided to kill Madani before he could act, they would draw attention to themselves and be outmanned and out gunned in seconds. In truth, Madani was still at an advantage, even at knife point.
But Eliza knew this as well. She initially winced when Griever put his arm on her waist, trying her best not to lay him on his ass, but she knew why he did it. She took a deep breath and analyzed the situation, noting the guards that Murdoch pointed out, even though they seemed docile. She shook her head, remaining uncomfortably close to Murdoch and trying to play into his role of boyfriend and girlfriend, albeit unwillingly. "Come with me," Eliza said. "We need to back her up. Aero, Echo, find a place to set up. You can be our eyes in the dark. Let's go," she ordered, casually taking Murdoch's hand and moving towards Mute.
"Roger that," Aero nodded, casually strolling away into a dark alley.
Echo only nodded, sinking silently into the street as he blended among the commoners and went to work.
Upon meeting with Mute, Murdoch and Eliza played the role of the touring American couple, who's troublesome little girl had gotten herself into a mess in a new place. "Aww, Julie. Why are you bothering this poor man? Making trouble again, are you?" Eliza said, trying to hint at nearby guards who were watching them.
"Julie? What are y--oh! Uh, sorry. . .m-m-mom?" Mute said, forcing herself to laugh.
Eliza quickly shook her head. "I am kinda like a mom, since ours isn't here, right sis?" she emphasized.
"Right, right! I guess, so--" Mute caught on, but was interrupted by Madani. "What is going on?" he whispered harshly.
Eliza's fake smile faded with her back turned to the other guards, as she stared Madani in the face and mimicked his voice. "Shut up and play along. You've got some information for me, and you're gonna give it to me."
Madani froze at Catcall's words, as he finally realized what these people were capable of. His thoughts of suicide became more clear, and his advantage faded in his thoughts, as his lips quivered as he spoke. "You. . .you're all--"
Mute edged the knife along Madani's pants leg, before he could speak any further. "That's right big guy. And if you thought killing us was gonna be easy, you've got another thing coming," Mute said softly as she titled her blade at an angle. "Now. You're gonna tell Kitty here what we need to know. And you're gonna find us a nice quiet place to talk. Lead the way," she said tapping his thigh with the metal of her knife. Madani nodded slowly, extending a hand and pretending to guide the 'tourists' to a local residence. Just beyond the marketplace, out of earshot and out of view of guards, a concrete shack with boarded wooden windows and a mudslab stone roof and a single tin hand made carport over a rust bucket was the next stop for the Contractors.
Catcall peered slowly around the residence, checking the outside and corners for other possible guards, dogs, or disturbances. Griever stood near the front door, listening intently to the inside to try to make heads or tails of whether or not anyone was home. Mute kept on the heels of Madani, occasionally shoving him forwards to keep him on his toes.
"Looks clear. Might be one or two inside. I heard snoring," Griever whispered as Catcall returned.
Madani waved a hand a Griever, assuring them it was safe. "There is no one home! You hear things!"
"Shut it!" Griever started, turning to Madani. "You give us away, and I'll let Little Bo Peep cut your nuts off."
"Hey! Shut up! We don't have time for this crap" Eliza butted in, looking from Griever to Madani and back. The boys were silent, as Catcall took point. "Pay attention," she replied, placing a hand against the door and pressing her shoulder against it slightly. Eliza could feel the door give way just slightly, meaning it wasn't particularly strong, nor was it locked. "Eyes up. Watch your corners," she commanded, forcing Griever to turn around. "On me." The Contractors and Madani lined up cautiously behind Eliza, as she opened the door slowly.
But as Griever, Catcall, and Mute entered the tattered down home of civilians, they stopped, and stopped too late. Opening the door, they spotted a small family of three, sleeping in a huddle on two beds pushed together. And that's when Madani broke away. Shoving himself away from Mute and barely escaping Griever's reach, he dropped his rpg at his feet and took a blade from his boot, before shaking awake a mother of one, and covering her mouth to keep her from screaming.
A startled older gentleman bolted up right at the commotion, to see his daughter being held at knife point, and three strangers in his doorway. He began to yell in horror, as the Contractors looked on, panicked. The screaming woke his grandson, causing the boy to begin to cry before sprinting over to his grandfather's side.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up old man! You too kid! Shut up!" Madani called out.
"You son of a bitch. I'm gonna slit your--" Griever began.
"I said shut up!" Madani screamed, holding the knife up to the muffled screaming woman's neck.
"Easy there, buddy. We're just gonna ask some questions. Nobody has to--"
"No! Shut up! I'm making the demands now!" Madani barked, pushing the knife against the woman's neck just enough to make her whimper. "I'll ask the questions! And you'll answer. And if I don't like your answer, someone's going to die! If you move out of my sight, someone will die! If you say anything I don't like, someone will die! Understand!?" he asked, no longer willing to cooperate. "Nod if you understand," he growled. "Nod!"
Griever, Catcall, and Mute nodded slowly, as Madani now took control.
"Good. Good. Now close the door. You're going to start by telling me who you are and why you're here."