When Carla was a kid, movies had taught her that a stab to the kidney would trigger a death so painful the victim couldn’t even scream. She had gotten the kidney of the terrorist named "Al" with the first stab. He stiffened and fell, but didn’t cry out even as she continued stabbing. This was good. She didn’t want his screaming to echo down the cave walls.
If only she could grant all of her captors such an agonizing death. But she couldn’t lay money on that.
Carla dropped the old bottle she had dug up from the floor of her makeshift prison and patted down Al’s corpse. A few days ago, she would have been nauseated by the smell. Now she was used to it. The only thing she did feel was angry, and a little sorry that she couldn’t kill him again. Thankfully, the blood didn’t have a lot of spatter, just a little cast-off from the repeated stabbing. It mixed with the dirt on her hip. She had been so dirty for so long, a little more didn’t matter.
Come to Malaysia, they said. It will be fun, they said. It’s a tropical island with peaceful natives. If I knew they had meant "the religion of peace" I would have shot them all in the head myself and saved them the trouble.

Carla took a deep breath. That was a terribly unchristian thought. All of her fellow co-eds were probably dead by now. Marc and Rick had been beheaded not long after their parents had paid the ransom. Jamie’s screams had stopped yesterday. The others had gotten weaker over time until they just stopped. She didn’t know whether they had died, or no longer had the energy to scream. She wasn’t going to sit around long enough to find out if she would be the next one to go.
She took another deep breath as she found a knife. It was a goodly length, though it wasn’t a Bowie. She had half-expected a machete, but maybe they were all in another part of the cave. It didn’t matter. She preferred something that could stab, as well as slash. Carla worked her arm a bit to make certain she didn’t hurt herself. The arm felt fine, if a little shaky–adrenaline was probably helping with the exertion, but also giving her the shakes. She was going to feel this later. If there was a later.
Five terrorists had visited her that week for "their turn," but for all she knew there could have been a dozen floating around. She had dubbed them Al, the Admiral, AK, Barry, and Hugh. While her goal was to escape, if she ran into all five of them, well, that was just Divine Providence allowing her the satisfaction of delivering some justice. Not vengeance. Vengeance was the Lord’s, and she couldn’t even be His instrument. She didn’t have the time.
Al’s corpse didn’t have any other weapons on it, not even a handgun. Dang it. I guess I’ll have to make do. Praise Jesus for finding the knife. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to not have to use it–I’d prefer not to get that close. But if I must, I shall. I–

She heard movement down the cave.
Carla frowned, and grabbed Al’s body, dragging him closer into her "cell." It was a dark, poorly little bit of cave that went nowhere, though the smell had suggested it used to be for lavatory use. It reeked of ammonia, damp, and mold.
The blood didn’t show against Al’s dark shirt in the dim light from the candle they had left her, and she was grateful for that. She undid his belt, clasp, and fly. As usual, no underwear. Unfortunately, his body had voided as soon as she stabbed him. There was nothing to be done for it now. She made sure the back of his pants covered the fecal matter, then rolled him on top of herself. She was already naked. They hadn’t allowed her any clothes since the first rape.
She closed her eyes and sighed. Not that I object, Lord, but I had hoped to never be in this position again … yes, it could be worse, he could be alive … yes, Lord, I’m sorry for nitpicking.
A few moments later, Carla could hear the footsteps of yet another of her tormentors. By the sound of them, it was Barry. He was the only one who wore steel-toed boots. She liked the boots, but they wouldn’t fit her. Maybe she could use them to bash in someone’s head.
She lay still under Al, as she usually did. Then again, with Al, rape wasn’t so much the horror as his girth slamming against her repeatedly. She literally had to time her breathing so she wouldn’t have the wind knocked out of her over and over again. Only this time, her eyes were closed, and she focused on her hearing. Every other time, she kept her eyes open so she could see an opportunity to hurt them.
Barry kicked in the makeshift "door" of the prison, compiled of old planks and something that resembled a hinge. As he spoke, Carla couldn’t understand the words, but she heard the exasperation. Probably something along the lines of "Again, Al? Are you that desperate to prove you can get it up?" Barry’s boots crunched along. She felt Al’s body shift above her when Barry kicked him. She looked through her eyelashes, waiting.
When Al’s body rolled off, Carla sat up. Between her long body, long arms, and frequent crunches, she was spring-loaded. Her body stretched from prone to striking distance faster than Barry could see. The knife slid in right under his ribcage. Barry’s mouth opened, and nothing came out. Her father described getting stabbed like being punched, so she probably knocked the wind out of him.
Carla rolled away as Barry fell. He was still alive. She blinked, and studied where the knife had hit him. It had not gutted him like a deer. She had taken out his diaphragm. Instead of the strike being quick and too painful for Barry to scream, Carla had literally disabled his ability to breathe.
This death wasn’t quick. Barry was still alive, and trying to gasp for air. He was drowning on dry land.
It was tempting to revel in his suffering, but Carla had been taught to never let an animal suffer … she’d make an exception in his case, but she refused to enjoy it. You have delivered me from mine enemies, and they are dropping like flies.
Barry’s eyes were wild, the pupils bouncing around like pinballs as Carla patted him down. She found a gun, a rusty six-shooter. The terrorist’s lack of respect for firearms was appalling. Aren’t all of you supposed to carry AK-47s? Or at least knockoffs?

Carla shook her head and took the gun anyway. She pulled at Barry’s pants so she could at least have something to cover her behind, but the first yank revealed that Barry was ruining them in his death throes. She just hadn’t smelled it between the cave itself and Al’s own contribution to the stench.
She shrugged. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Carla took the two weapons and eased down the cave path. No one bothered lighting this end of the cave, so she had to feel her way down the wall, like in a maze. Walking on stone would have been a problem for most people, but Carla’s feet were heavily callused from being habitually barefoot. She had no problem understanding how hobbits had soles like shoe leather. The cave wasn’t stone cold, more like lukewarm. Between the heat and the humidity so high she could almost swim in it, the climate almost felt like home, though she had preferred the swamps to this jungle.
Assuming you’re even in the jungle. Remember that.
She held the gun in her left hand, the knife in her right, and let the gun lead the way. Normally, Carla would have been worried about standing out. Blonde hair and fair skin didn’t exactly blend into the darkness. However, she had been lying in or rolled around in dirt for the last week. At this point, her hair was closer to black than blonde, and she could probably blend in with the cave wall if she were much dirtier.
Another twist in the cave brought her to a slightly wider area. Her breath caught.
She had found the sleeping quarters of the entire brigade.
Despite a moment of panic, Carla let out a breath of relief. Only one of the numerous bedrolls appeared to be occupied. It was AK. She smiled. He had always carried his AK-47, even when he came to assault her. It was as tricked out as it got–bayonet, extended magazine, red-dot sight on top, an under-the-barrel grenade launcher, and he loved that gun so much, it shone even in the dim light of her recent cell.
At the very least, Carla could respect a man who took care of his gun. Even if her first thought was to take the bayonet and ram it up his–
May God have mercy upon my enemies, for I won’t … no, wait, that isn’t a psalm, that’s General Patton. Sorry, Lord. But you know what I mean.
Carla crept closer to AK. She wanted that gun. Yes, there were two other AK-47s lying around–probably belonging to Barry and Al–but AK’s was the one that she would bet money on as the most reliable. If she needed to fire an assault rifle indoors, then she was going to have the best one possible.
AK was snoring. It was gentle, unlike the man himself. This was the only man here she had a modicum of respect for, but that was for how he treated the gun, not how he had treated her and her friends. She was reasonably certain AK had been wearing Marc’s blood the first night he had raped her.
Still standing, Carla leaned over the sleeping terrorist, and winced. AK had fallen asleep with the rifle strap around his arm. She considered cutting his throat, but that didn’t instantly kill people like it did in the movies. She didn’t want to risk wrestling with a dying man over his automatic weapon in the middle of arterial spray. She could have crushed his skull with the revolver, but since she didn’t know how close his fellow scumbags were, it still had a little risk.
So, the path of least resistance–knifepoint through the temple. Like putting down Lassie.
Carla slowly lowered herself to one knee, knife in one hand, revolver in the other.
The moment her knee touched the ground, AK’s snoring stopped. His hand clamped down on her knife wrist.
Without pausing, Carla fell on AK’s body, and hammered the butt of the pistol grip into the side of AK’s head with a resounding crack. She would have shot him, but the sound would travel. Besides, considering the condition of the pistol, she felt safer using it as a blunt object.
AK fell back, and Carla pushed off of him so she could sit back. She grabbed his rifle and pulled, taking it off of him. She was tempted to off the little bastard right there. But AK slumped over, clearly dazed or unconscious, unable to pursue her if she just got up and left this minute.
Mercy towards my enemies, and all that. Dang it.
Carla left the revolver and rose. She kept the knife. The various and sundry bedrolls didn’t have much in the way of clothing around them. She started heading for the exit–at least, the cave opening opposite from the side of the room she’d entered from–and heard the click.
Carla dropped to the ground as she spun. AK was still on his back, but he had the revolver up and sort-of ready. Actually, it looked like he was drunk and seeing double.
It hadn’t stopped him from pulling back the hammer on the gun.
Lord. We need to revisit the mercy bit–
The gun exploded. Instinctively, Carla raised her hands to block flying debris. She couldn’t see which part of the gun had disintegrated in the explosion, but shrapnel had lodged in AK’s throat. His head was slumped back, exposing his neck. She couldn’t tell if he was knocked unconscious from the explosion, out cold from the shock of losing his fingers, or already dead, and she wasn’t going to stay long enough to find out.
Carla rolled, getting away from the tunnel, expecting footsteps any moment. Heartbeats later, two men burst into the den, guns high, passing her to get to AK’s bedside.
Carla didn’t hesitate. She sprinted behind the duo. She swung from the hips, clobbering the one on the right with the rifle stock, then thrust the barrel at the second one before he could turn.
The bayonet didn’t so much get him in the back of the neck as it entered just in front of his spinal column, coming out through his throat.
Carla swung out and away with the rifle, and the arterial spray when the blade ripped loose soaked AK in blood. The terrorist dropped. She ignored him. He would bleed out fast.
She smiled as she examined the man she had knocked out. Most of his clothes were too big for her, but he wore a long jacket. She couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be a duster, a greatcoat, or a serape with an attitude problem, but it would cover her body, and she could hide the length of her hair behind the collar. It might give her a precious second to react before the next terrorist did.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Carla collected a sheath for the knife that would wrap around her thigh, and a belt of extra ammunition. She gave the two terrorists a quick once-over. She didn’t know either of them, and she wasn’t surprised. Her rapists weren’t the only people who had stolen her and her friends. Carla only knew Hugh and the Admiral by sight, so the odds were slim that she would have run into all of them.
She looked skyward. You have removed five deadly men from my path already, Lord, and I’m not even out of the cave system yet. You are a wonder.
Carla blinked, looked around the den one last time, and thought, I’m a lone killer picking off my victims one at a time. Does this make me the killer in a horror movie?
She said aloud, "Ch-ch-ch-ch …" No, bad Carla. Use your inner voice, girl.

For the first time in a week, Carla almost laughed.
Carla slipped down the tunnel, this time with the rifle in front of her. She hoped she didn’t have to use it. It would be loud, giving away her location. Even if it echoed, it would still tell her captors that they had a problem.
After a few minutes, Carla considered looking for her friends, even their bodies. No. Bad idea. Escape first, then work on the others. Can’t help them if you’re dead, and thou shalt not test the Lord thy God by wandering about, lost, alone, and in the dark. Good Lord, that would make me one of the blondes in the horror film, wouldn’t it?
Carla shook her head and kept moving. She always wondered about horror films that had city kids go into the woods without any knowledge of, well, the woods. Smart campers bring axes for cutting wood, knives for skinning animals, guns to at least discourage bears…
And I’m going to be easily sidetracked if I keep critiquing horror films.
Carla wheeled around a sharp turn in the tunnel, and came face-to-face with another terrorist, then felt the impact as he was skewered on her bayonet.
Carla and the terrorist blinked. Carla almost apologized for his bad luck. Then she recognized Hugh, remembered every time she had ever encountered him, and thought better of it.
She looked at how far along the bayonet Hugh was and grimaced. She hadn’t exactly been going at her full five-minute mile, but she had taken the turn fast enough to drive it in deep.
She drove it deeper, twisted the rifle, and jerked it out, backing up a step. "Go with God?" she asked.
Hugh blinked a few times, looked down at the hole in his gut, and quickly slapped both hands over it, as thought that would stop the blood.
He gasped a few times, and tried to take a deep breath. Carla slapped him across the face with the butt stock. She followed with a kick to the face, and he went down.
Carla was about to move on, but considered the bayonet. She paused long enough to clean the blade on Hugh’s body.
She blinked as she heard gunshots in the distance. At least I know that I’m close to the exit. She was about to head out when she stopped, gave her head a little shake, and thought, I have to run towards the gunfire. Yay! Great. That’s just…oh, Lord, please keep me from getting shot…That would be appreciated.

As she moved closed to the sounds of gunfire, Carla was hit with the sudden and overwhelming smell of rotting meat. She didn’t want to think about the source. She gave a little shudder, then pressed on. She peeked around the turn in the cave, and found the entrance. Sunlight never looked so good.
But the image of crisp green jungle was marred with a cloud of flies. She couldn’t see what they were gathering over–which meant it was out of sight, in the jungle, or just inside the cave.
It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s dead. You’re interested in not joining them. Keep moving, at least a little more.
Carla pressed on through the stench, stopping at the tunnel entrance just inside the twilight shadow. If anyone came in from the outside, their eyes would take a moment to adjust to the dark, and she’d be more than able to gut them. She frowned. Instead of the back-and-forth rhythm of automatic bursts she expected from a firefight, there was the inane chatter of full-on bullet streams.
Are they having a party?
Carla took a few steps closer, and then she stepped in it. "It," in this case, felt like it had been alive once.
She tensed. She had stepped on roadkill once by accident, in her bare feet. She recognized the familiar squish of rotting organs, and the sudden release of fumes and stink.
She considered not looking down. She told herself again that it didn’t matter. Curiosity, cats, and all that. There’s a reason you’re a dog person.
Carla looked down. Her foot looked like it was in a turkey cadaver. At first. She realized after a moment that it was a woman’s chest. She looked up a little more. The empty eyesockets of her friend Jamie looked back at her under the blonde hair she had once brushed. The sparkling blue eyes had been eaten by something. At least they had left Jamie’s head next to her body, if not attached.
Carla swallowed, took a step back, and tried not to vomit. Bent over is not the way to meet any of the bastards who did this.
Carla took a few more deep breaths before she moved forward to peek out of the cave, into the jungle outside.
Three men stood in front of a giant flag, a digital camera on a tripod pointed at them. The camera was attached to a laptop, and the laptop was attached to a satellite dish.
In the middle was the Admiral. He didn’t wear a mask, unlike the two on other side of him. He had no AK-47, but the others were armed, automatic rifles slung across their backs.
"You have paid the ransom for the last girl," the Admiral declared. "Now, insh’Allah, we will return her to you. One piece at a time." The Admiral smiled. "Unlike the other captives, this will be a live performance."
Carla grinned ferally. She stood, aiming her rifle at the three of them.
"Try again," she said aloud.
The Admiral and his two masked men looked to her as one. One henchman reached for his gun.
She screamed, "Really?" The terrorist stopped, though she suspected he didn’t comprehend her words. "I’m holding an AK-47, and you want to draw down on me?"
The Admiral smiled. "You can’t possibly know how to use that," he said in American-accented English.
Carla arched a brow. "Let’s see." She flipped the selector switch, and squeezed the trigger three times. All three bullets struck the closest henchman center-mass. He jerked with each impact, then crumpled. "I think that’s semi-auto." She flipped the switch again, re-angled the gun slightly, and squeezed it for a moment, putting several more bullets into the other masked man. "I suspect that’s fully automatic."
Carla smiled. "My parents are from Alabama. I grew up in Texas. I knew more about guns and skinning when I was eight than any six of you folks put together."
The Admiral said nothing for a moment, considering her and the gun. "I went to Berkeley. I now know why they hated you people."
"Feeling’s mutual." She nodded towards the camera. "Now, tell them where we are. GPS coordinates would be nice."
The Admiral said nothing for a long moment. "And if I don’t?"
Carla arched her brow, and switched it back to semi-auto. "I need to explain?" She smiled sweetly. "Never mind, sugar. I’ll take it from here."
The Admiral blinked, right before Carla put two rounds into his head.
Carla calmly moved into the camera, bent down, and picked up Marc’s backpack. The terrorists had kindly placed all their belonging into a pile in front of the flag, probably as trophies. One pocket of the bag had the shape of the big blocky GPS Marc had thought to bring. She pulled it out, sat down, and turned it on.
Thank you Lord. It still has a charge.She got the coordinates and held it up for the camera. "Here I am. Someone, please, come and get me."
"And how do you feel about it?"
Carla blinked as she looked at the neatly dressed psychologist. She didn’t remember her name, but she had noticed her manicure and the powdery makeup residue at her hairline. She wondered why the base at Okinawa even had a psychologist, but she also wondered why she was talking to this…person. It had been two weeks since Carla had escaped. Surely they were done talking.
"I was raped repeatedly, and several of my fellow students were murdered. Beheaded. I still think I feel Jamie’s organs underneath my toenails. They were going to rape me to death. How do you think I feel about it?"
The shrink smiled tightly. "You also had to kill seven people."
Carla blinked. "What part of ‘they raped me and killed my friends’ did you not hear?"
"But they were people."
Carla cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "Not proven."
"You didn’t identify with your captors? After all, you gave them names."
"Actually," Carla explained, "I just used their battle cry. With Barry, I cheated a little. Al, a Hugh, Ak, Bar."
The shrink blinked. "And the Admiral?"
"Admiral Akbar? You never saw Star Wars?"
The shrink had no comeback for that. She made a note and gave herself a little shake. "You’re taking all of this very well."
"Who says?" Carla answered, her voice deadly serious. "I’ve spent the two weeks since then talking with my priest. A lot. I think I’m doing okay, all things considered."
"How are you going to handle the media attention when you get back?"
Carla shrugged. "Simple. I’m going to tell them exactly what happened, and exactly what I was told when the marines came to pick me up–that the president of my country was too chicken to do anything about saving any of us until I was sitting in front of a web camera, having a heart-to-heart with the internet for … hours? I think?" Carla sighed and shook her head. "I’m still going to be talking with my priest back home. A lot." She waited only a second before she asked. "Can I leave now?"
The shrink paused, shrugged, and said, "Okay. I was told that your airplane home is in a few hours."
Carla was up and moving at okay, and at the door by hours. "Praise Jesus," she said, bowing her head. "I can’t wait to get out of here."
The shrink nodded. "I can understand that." Carla already had the door open when the shrink added, "It was impressive how you got out of there."
Carla looked over her shoulder and gave the shrink a dazzling smile. "It’s like my Daddy always said, ‘yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil–‘"
"–‘For thou art with me’?"
"–‘for I am the meanest bitch in the valley.’" Carla shrugged. "Daddy wasn’t very religious."