Sorry this is very rough. I'm so caught up in original fiction at the moment, that I've reached the point where I know the only way the story is going to be finished in any fashion, is to just post it as it is.
Thanks to everyone for reading this and all the other stories I've posted over the years. This is the final chapter. Hope you like it.
All eyes turned to Lucas. It wasn't as if they could have blamed him for using whatever chips he had but still…
'Nice show of faith, guys,' he muttered.
'You were guessing?' Ben asked. It was obviously too late to bluff now.
'I've spent the majority of my life in and out of these facilities,' Angelo said. 'I know an escape party when I see one. It was obvious as soon as you stepped in here. You're supposed to be the best there is, maybe you have a chance and what do I have to lose anyway.'
'So we do have something you want?' Ben said.
'No, Ben, I have something you want,' he stroked Lucas's hair. 'If you want to take pretty with you then you take me too. Of course, you could just leave him here with me, that would be fun too.'
'If, for the sake of argument we were planning something,' Ben said slowly, 'and if we were to include you in our plans, we want Lucas back.'
'And I will return him to you when we are all free men,' Angelo said, 'until then, he stays with me.'
Ford's eyes didn't waver from his. 'That isn't acceptable.'
Angelo shrugged. 'So leave without him.'
Ford looked at Lucas. There really wasn't anything he could do; Lucas knew that as well as the rest of them.
'And what guarantee can you give us that Lucas will be well treated while he is with you?' Ford asked.
'You want a guarantee?' Angelo asked with some amusement.
'Yes,' Ford didn't blink.
Angelo considered him for several long seconds. 'You may have my word. While the child is obedient I won't harm him.'
Ford looked to Lucas. Obedience wasn't one of his stronger qualities. Lucas smiled a little under the truth of it.
'And if he is disobedient?' Ford asked.
'Then he will be punished however I see fit,' Angelo said. 'You'll find he will be reluctant to be disobedient twice.'
Ben's knuckles turned white. 'When we get out of here, if I find out you have put one hand on him,' he began.
Ford put a hand on his shoulder when he would have stood up. 'Can we understand that won't happen?' he asked.
'While he is obedient,' Angelo allowed.
It wasn't much of a reassurance. Ford could do nothing but nod his acceptance. The word of a murderer wasn't much but it was the only thing he had.
'Are you okay?' he asked Lucas.
Lucas nodded. 'I'm fine.'
'He hasn't hurt you?'
Lucas blushed and shook his head.
Ford nodded to Angelo and forced a smile. 'Welcome to the team.'
While it was possible the seaQuest crew stayed as close as they could to Lucas.
'Is it me or is it hot in here?' Miguel asked. The sweat was pouring off all of them and it wasn't nerves. He wiped the sweat off his forehead. All the inmates looked uncomfortable.
'Is it always like this here?' Ford asked Angelo.
Angelo shook his head. 'It's nice to get a bit of variety; the environmental controls are usually static. I haven't been this warm since I went down the last time.'
The others shifted uncomfortably in their clinging uniforms. Angelo was the only one who seemed to be enjoying the heat, everyone else looked miserable. They watched as a few of the inmates went over to the guard on patrol above the exercise yard. They were obviously complaining. They moved away when the guard charged his baton. The guard didn't look like he was enjoying the conditions either.
They were just about to leave the exercise yard when the temperature dropped dramatically. One moment it was boiling and the next the sweat was cooling on their skin and chilling them through.
'You had to ask for variety?' Ben grumbled as he put the over shirt he had taken off back on.
Angelo shrugged. Lucas thought back to the shower. The cold water hadn't fazed him a bit and neither had the heat. What was the man made out of?
He wrapped his arms around his torso and tried to look like he didn't know what was going on. It wouldn't do to let anyone suspect that that wasn't the case at all.
It was a long night with the temperature rushing up and down the degrees without any sort of pattern or reason.
'And nothing like this has happened before?' Bridger asked as they watched one of the guards sigh over the environmental controls.
'There must be some sort of bug throwing the system but I can't find it anywhere,' the guard said. 'We'll have to get someone in.'
'We'll you'd better do it quick,' one of the other guards snapped. 'They're getting jumpy already. We'll have a riot on our hands before too long.'
'From the guards or the prisoners?' Westphalen asked under her breath. Bridger turned the laugh into a cough and tried to look innocent when the guards turned to look at him.
The seaQuest party wondered away from the others. 'You still haven't seen any sign of them since the incident with Ben?'
'They've moved me away from any direction contact with the prisoners. I've been stuck in the office doing paper work all day.'
Crocker saw the look on the Captain's face. 'Cap, if they need us they can always get to see the Doctor, right?'
Bridger nodded. Right then it was just about the only thought that was keeping him on this side of the bars when all he wanted to do was be in there with his men.
'I've set up to start on the medical check ups but the guards are pushing for the existing in-mates to be seen first. It does make sense and I don't have any reason to insist on seeing the newer men sooner. Unless they send some sort of message my hands are tied by UEO protocalls. I don't want to attract any unnecessary attention to them in case it will spoil some plan that they are working on.'
'It's about time,' the guard muttered as a harassed looking man was lead off a shuttle and directly to the environmental controls.
It was amazing just how slowly the man worked. Of course it wasn't fair to compare him to Lucas, it wasn't fair to compare anyone sitting at a computer with Lucas but still. How long could it take to find one bug in an environmental controls system?
Bridger pulled his coat around his shoulders more firmly and put his hands in his pockets. It hadn't been this cold when they went down to the Antarctic. A shiver ran though his in spite of the extra layers.
Lucas shivered and tried to look like he hadn't. Angelo looked towards him anyway.
'Cold?' he asked.
Lucas glowered at him. 'You're not?'
Angelo smiled. 'Temperature is just a state of mind.'
Lucas tried not to let his teeth chatter loudly enough to be heard by anyone else. 'It's a state of fact. Vibration of atoms, heat energy, convection, conduction, radiation. It is not a state of mind.'
They walked down towards the shower block. There was ice beginning to form in one corner where the excess water had accumulated.
State of mind, yeah, right!
Lucas reluctantly took off his clothes as slowly as possible and now it wasn't about the looks the other men were giving him. He shivered. Hot water was the thing he kept reminding him. Hot water would be worth it.
They all walked slowly into the shower section. Lucas went to one of the shower heads and turned the water on.
He jumped back. So the water system was also controlled by the environmental controls. It shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. A glance over his shoulder saw Angelo standing under another shower head. Some of them must be fed by a different system to the others and as Lucas looked around it seemed that that half of the showers were being fed hot water.
Of course all of that side was full now that everyone else had working that out too, and there was a queue forming for them. The freezing cold water that had poured over him dripped onto the floor. There was nothing he could do but shiver as he waited.
It was just his sort of luck that he had ended up on the side that froze while Angelo stood under the steaming water. Angelo turned and looked at him standing at the back of the queue.
'Come here, pretty,' he called.
Everyone turned to look at Lucas. The men waiting for the showers parted slightly to let him through. No one wanted to get in the way of one of Angelo's orders. Lucas forced himself to go forward.
Angelo pushed him under the hot spray. 'You're no use to me with hyperthermia,' he said sharply.
Lucas blushed as the other men laughed but at least he was starting to warm now. The hot water felt close to scalding but he couldn't bring himself to step out of the sudden and wonderful warmth.
He just stood there and let the heat wash over him for a long time before he reached for the soap. On the positive side there was no way they would be able to hold out much longer. The guards would have to do something to fix things soon or there really would be a riot.
'How complicated can it be?' Stephens snapped. 'I thought you were supposed to be some sort of expert!'
'I am!' the computer expert complained. 'There is nothing wrong with the programme. I've run every diagnostic that I can think of. There's nothing there to fix!'
'Then why are we freezing to death down here?' Stephens demanded.
The expert started half a dozen different sentences and then stopped each time. He didn't have any sort of explanation. 'It doesn't make any sense,' he complained.
Bridger was watching the exchange with cold interest. 'I wonder how long it would take Lucas?' he whispered to Westphalen.
'What was that?' Stephens asked, he caught sight of the look on Bridger's face and added, 'sir.'
'Our former computer expert was something of a genius. I was wondering how long it would have taken him to fix this.'
'It's a pity he isn't down here so we could find out,' Stephens said.
Bridger smiled. 'He is, Commander. Lucas Wolenczak, he's one of your newest inmates.'
Bridger nodded. 'The kid.'
'You think he could fix this?'
Bridger looked his disbelief. 'I've never found a computer problem that he couldn't fix,' Bridger said, 'although he is a teenager so don't expect him to be too helpful if you don't make it worth his while.'
Stephens and a few of the guards exchanged looks. 'I'm sure we can convince him that it is in the best interests of everyone here that he chose to help us out with this.'
'Okay, kid. Let's see what you've got,' Stephen's said as he put Lucas in the chair in front of the computer that ran the environmental controls. He took the hand cuffs off him.
Lucas made a slight show of rubbing his wrists as he brought them back around in front of him. There wasn't anything much to do except fiddle with things for a long as he thought necessary before he turned back to them. And because he was still Lucas he said, 'I thought you said you'd had an expert look at this?'
'If the guy couldn't see the problem and the solution he's an idiot. This is easy.'
'Then fix it,' Stephens bit out.
Luca looked back to the screen. 'That brings me to why he probably chose not to tell you.'
'Kid,' Stephens warned.
One of the things about Angelo was that by comparison he made everyone else far less intimidating than they would otherwise be. What could the guard really do to him that was that bad, right here in front of Bridger and Crocker and the others?
'You need to fix the intermediary control boxes. That's where the problem is.'
'So?' Stephens asked.
'The stuff you've insulated them with, only an idiot would want to work around that stuff. It's lethal. This section here,' he brought up a map and pointed to a section near the hatches, 'that's where these controls are. Now, no-one is supposed to need to get at them, so they can use lower grade insulation around them. It hasn't got to be tested for safety standards or anything like that. I wouldn't like to be the poor idiot who has to go and mess around in that stuff looking for the control boxes. They must have been faulty when they were installed. The system could contain the fluctuations for so long but then just cracked under the strain.'
'It looks like we have a volunteer,' Stephens said. He put his hand on Lucas's shoulder. Lucas forced himself not the wriggle away from it.
'As much as I would love to help out, this isn't a one man job. You need at least six, more like seven men on it. I'm good, guys, but I don't have fourteen hands. I can't correct all the boxes at the same time and I can't read values at different ends of a room at the same time either. Looks like you'll just have to wait until the repair team gets here,' he said smugly.
'That'll take days.'
'Not my problem, unless you guys want to volunteer to help out?'
Did he actually have to hit the man over the head with the idea? He waited impatiently for him to suggest the blindingly obvious.
Stephens smiled evilly.
'I think the rest of your little friends might enjoy a little outing, don't you kid?'
Lucas tried to look worried rather than relieved. 'Did I mention the protective clothing you need to work with this stuff? It would be just as quick to get a team down here.'
Stephens smiled. 'I'm sure a smart boy like you will be able to work something out.'
'So what he said was true?' Bridger asked the expert.
The expert looked up from the plans. 'It does seem to be the case,' he allowed cautiously.
'So they can fix this?' Stephens asked.
The expert nodded again. 'From what I can gather about the last minute adaptations that were made to the facility after the plans I was able to access were drawn up, yes. Of course you couldn't leave them in this area unguarded, there would have to be a guard with them and I don't think you'll find any volunteers for that job.'
Stephens looked across at Katie. 'Sounds like a job for the newby,' he said.
'Yes, sir,' she couldn't bring herself to be surprised. She had expected to be getting the jobs no-one else wanted anyway. She exchanged a look with Bridger, of course they both knew that Lucas and the others were planning something, the only question was what.
'Wolenczak, the rest of you, report over here. We've got a nice little job for you.'
They went. The rest of the guys still looked confused but that was only to be expected while Lucas refused to give them any information.
Angelo went over with them.
The guard looked at him and hesitated. 'I don't have your name down as a member of the work party,' he said.
'I'm volunteering,' Angleo said, he looked to Lucas and the guard smile thinking that he understood what was being said to him. Angelo wasn't about to send his newest acquisition off into another part of the complex without some supervision.
As they went through into the guards section of the complex the guards lined next to them with their batons charged. A few cast worried glances towards Angelo.
Before they entered the room one of the guards stepped forward and hand cuffed Lucas's wrists behind his back. 'You know, fixing things like computers is best done with your hands,' he snapped.
'Guess you'll just have to tell them what to do,' the nod was carefully made towards the other men with no attempt to include Angelo in the motion.
'It will take forever,' Lucas complained in his best "I'm a teenager, I'm supposed to be difficult," voice.
'Then we won't bother to check on you for a while,' Niven said with a look towards Katie.
'That's a really lame excuse to avoid getting contaminated with this stuff,' Lucas told him.
One of the guards charged his baton, Angelo shifted his position ever so slightly and he lowered it back to his side.
Lucas smiled sweetly at the guard.
As they went into the designated room Angelo shook his head. 'We're you this much of a brat when you were on the boat?'
'Yes,' Lucas said.
'I'm surprised your Captain put up with you for so long then.'
The other men exchanged looks. 'So am I,' Lucas said softly.
Katie looked at the various men in the room. Of course there was no way that this was going to go well. She knew that and she would have to guess that all the guards on duty knew that too.
You don't put one guard in a small room with seven prisoners expecting her to guard them. If she were honest with herself she would have to admit that if Angelo wasn't there she wouldn't even have bothered going through the motions of being overpowered.
His being there did complicate things. He didn't know it was just a sick game.
She and Ben had spared enough over the years that the moves were almost choreographed. She let Ben move her so she was pinned against the wall and let the baton drop from her finger tips.
'How about you be a good little girl and no-one gets hurt?' he asked.
It was just the wrong time to be patronising. Katie had reached her limit on idiots a long time ago. She brought her knee up sharply and Ben dropped.
The other men looked towards her and she looked back. She wouldn't give any of them odds against her right then.
'Hi, Katie,' Ford offered.
'Commander,' she said with a nod.
'She was in on this the whole time?' Angelo asked. He hadn't moved from his stance against the wall.
Ford looked to him, 'something like that.'
'That explains why pretty here was so taken with the idea of protecting her,' Angelo mused.
'Lucas?' Katie asked.
Angelo smiled. 'Is there anything you want to tell the nice lady, pretty?'
Lucas stared at the wall opposite him. There was a flash of light and then a beep. He brought his hands around in front of him.
'Another trick you learnt in Juvenile Hall?' Angelo asked, willing to be distracted for a few moments.
'You were in juvie?' Ben asked, 'when?' He could see that Lucas had no intention of discussing the trade he had made there and then and was more than willing to add to the distractions.
Lucas ignored him.
'Answer the man, pretty,' Angelo ordered.
Lucas shot Angelo a dark look through his lashes.
'Yes, I was in juvie, a few years ago.'
'What did you do?'
Lucas glanced at Angelo and knew that he had to answer. 'Hacked into someone's secure computer,' he said.
'You hacked in to a secure computer?'
'You got caught?' Ben asked at the same time.
'I didn't get caught as such, I wasn't trying to cover my tracks. I needed to give someone a message and I couldn't get hold of them, so I hacked in and left the message. The wrong person got the message, knew someone had hacked in and panicked. They called the police, I got arrested.'
'Who's computer?' Angelo asked.
'I assume they have a name?' he prompted.
'Most people do?'
'What was his name?'
'Lawrence what?' Angelo was losing patience.
Ben looked at the uncomfortable look on the teenagers face and answered for him. 'Lawrence Wolenczak.'
'How long were you in for?' Angelo asked.
'A few weeks, until my father came back from his conference.'
'How bad was it?' Ben asked.
'You want to know if I got beaten up? Yes, OK, I did. A lot.'
'What did your father say when he found out?' Angelo asked.
'You're a genius, Lucas. You should be able to take care of yourself,' as he had spoken he had moved across to a panel and started to take it off the wall.
'What are you doing?' Ford asked.
'Fixing the environmental controls,' Lucas said over his shoulder as he tapped into the terminal that had been behind the panel.
'I thought this was supposed to be an escape plan?' Angelo said.
'It is. I'm just fixing this before we go.'
'And when do you intend to tell us how we are going to leave?' Angelo asked.
'If you would stop interrupting then this will go a lot faster.'
'If you would be an obedient little pet and tell us what is going on then I wouldn't need to keep asking.'
Lucas spun around. 'Make up your mind. Do you want an escape artist or a pet? I can't be both at the same time. If you want to get out of here you're just going to have to shut up and trust me. If you can't do that then you'll just have to rot down here. Make your choice. We are leaving; you can't threaten me with anything anymore.'
Everyone held their breath. Lucas seemed to come back to himself and he took a deep breath himself.
Angelo raised an eyebrow. They all watched as Lucas looked down and blinked very slowly. 'Let's just get out of here,' he said.
Ben and Katie exchanged looks. 'And how do we do that, Lucas?' Katie asked carefully.
Lucas turned back to the panel and closed it up, and then he turned to another panel and undid that. He stood back and looked at them all. 'You just go straight through there.'
'As simple as that?'
Lucas nodded. 'It's a panic room, he always puts one in. He never marks them on the plans though. I doubt anyone knows it's here but that shaft will lead straight to the launch bay.'
'And what about the codes and the…' Ford trailed off as he saw Lucas's expression.
'That's all been taken care of,' he said.
They all seemed at a loss for what to do. It was too easy. 'What's the catch?'
Lucas shrugged. 'There's no catch. This isn't a secure area. There is no reason why anyone would try to break out of this room. There was no reason to make it secure from the launch bay. It's just a conduit room.'
'Won't the guards know?' Ben asked.
'They're dealing with a kid and a hand full of sailors; they aren't expecting us to actually know what we're doing.'
Miguel hesitated and then went to the shaft. He crouched down and crawled inside it. A few moments later he came back. He looked to Lucas. 'He's right; it goes straight to the launch bay.'
They went though one at a time. The launch still had an open connection to the main dive area. There wasn't even a guard on duty. What would have been the point when there weren't any prisoners in this part of the facility? That was the trouble, Lucas thought. People got lazy. They thought that they were so good that no-one would ever be able to get past the first line of defence and then there was no reason to have any further lines.
His father had spent too long in the board room and had forgotten a lot of the lessons that Lucas still played by every day in the hacking community. Never doubt your opponent.
'Will they know when we debark?' Miguel asked.
Lucas shook his head and slumped into one of the seats.
'For a free man you don't look very happy,' Angelo said.
Lucas saw Ben looking at him from across the launch. 'What's not to be happy about?' he asked.
'You were expecting this to be more difficult weren't you?'
Lucas shrugged. 'I thought that there might have been a few extra protocols put in place recently,' he said as if he didn't care, Ben knew better than that.
When Anglo moved away slightly Ben went across and sat next to Lucas. Angelo turned back to watch them but he didn't appear worried by their closeness.
'You're father's an idiot,' he told him.
'Like father like son,' Lucas whispered.
'You outsmarted him,' Ben tried to cheer him up.
Lucas shrugged and looked at the wall.
'Don't try to tell me that you didn't enjoy getting one over on your old man!' Ben teased.
'Maybe it would have been nice if he thought I was worth fighting,' Lucas said.
'He didn't put up a fight, Ben. It was so easy. He could have… there were so many things he could have done to make this impossible and he didn't do any of them. The only reason why he wouldn't bother is if he didn't think I was worth fighting.'
'Maybe he just…'
'Ben, if you going to send me in there what sort of precautions would you take against my breaking out?'
Ben thought, 'I don't know, kid, it's not as if…'
'Don't lie to me!' Lucas snapped.
'I'd have issued orders to stop you coming into contact with anything computerised, no exceptions,' Ford said from across the launch. 'Traditional restraints with no computerised locking mechanism. If at all possible I would have found a cell with old fashioned bars rather than a field. I would have restricted access with the guards in case you talked any of them into helping you and as little contact with the other prisoners as possible.'
Lucas nodded. 'He didn't even bother to put a note in my file to tell them that I was a hacker. It would have taken minutes. He didn't bother because I'm not worth it to him. He just assumed that he could win without even trying.'
That last bit had come out a lot louder than he had planned. Everyone was staring at him. He turned back to stare at the wall.
'Did you know Bridger has put censors all around the conduits leading to mammal engineering?' Ford asked.
That caught Lucas's attention. He smiled a little and nodded.
'You know?' Ford asked in obvious surprise.
Lucas shrugged. 'I know the wiring on seaQuest better than anyone. New things don't turn up with me noticing.'
'Are they still active?'
'Does Bridger know you know?'
Lucas shook his head. 'He'll probably guess when he sees the modifications I've made to them.'
'He thought you sneaked out when you were grounded.'
'I still do,' Lucas said.
'He also has a special system that records how long you spend in your room to make sure you actually remember to leave it those rare times you aren't grounded.'
'I've bypassed it.'
'I think he knows that too,' Ford said. 'That's why he comes to check on you so often. He knows your smart enough to work out a way to do anything that you want to do badly enough.'
'It's a pity my Dad doesn't know the same,' Lucas said.
'Your Dad or your father?' Ben asked.
Lucas didn't respond.
Bridger didn't smile.
'It's a locked room!' Stephens stormed. 'This is not a freaking Sherlock Holmes mystery. People do not disappear from locked rooms! Find them!'
Bridger walked around the room examining the walls and panels carefully.
'What are you doing?' Stephens snapped.
Captain Bridger raised an eyebrow at the Commander.
'Sir,' Stephens finished.
'When you eliminate the improbable, whatever left, however implausible must be the truth.'
'Sherlock Holmes, Commander. If they didn't leave through the door then they must have found another way out of the room.' He continued his careful inspection.
'I bet that bitch was in on it,' Niven said.
'Commander Hitchcock?' Bridger asked.
'I knew there was something about her that I couldn't trust,' Niven went on.
'Commander Hitchcock is an outstanding officer and a credit to her uniform. And if I were to question anyone's abilities it would be those who thought one guard in a closed room with seven convicts was a good idea. Exactly how many standard protocols was that breaking.'
'I…' Niven began.
'You played right into their hands,' Bridger said. Lucas wasn't going to shut up about this for weeks! It was a small price to pay for getting the boy out of here safely and it would be a very enjoyable message to send to his father but still. There was no way that Bridger was going to go back to the boat until he could at least show a belated understanding of how he had accomplished the feat.
He began to take those panels that were removable off the walls. There were several conduits leaving the room.
'It appears we have found our escape route,' he told Stephens.
Stephens bit back whatever he had been about to say, 'yes, sir.'
'And,' Bridger prompted.
'You aren't going to find them if you don't follow the ducts,' he said.
'Sir, they could lead anywhere… and they could have been gone for…'
'I suggest that you try to catch up with them, then.'
Stephens sent some of the men along the tunnels with bad grace.
A little while later one of the men came back through. 'Well?'
The man said nothing.
'Did you find them?' Stephens demanded.
Bridger and Crocker exchanged looks, it he was already descending into the trap of stupid questions then this was going to go very bad very quickly.
'The launch is gone, sir.'
'What do you mean gone!'
Bridger couldn't resist this temptation to smile.
'What did he mean when he said that Lucas was protecting me?' Katie asked Ford.
Ford looked at the sensors and tried to work out what to say.
'Ford,' Katie warned.
'When he found out that you were trapped in there he went to him for help.'
'Because he was the only one who would be able to stop the other men getting in there,' Ford knew that she would find out the truth sooner or later.
'What aren't you telling me?' Katie demanded.
'He traded himself for you.'
'What!' Everyone turned to look at her, saw that whatever they were talking about didn't need any third parties and pretended not to have heard the exclamation. 'You mean, he…' he waved a hand towards Angelo.
'I don't know what happened,' Ford said. 'Lucas says that he didn't lay a hand on him.'
'Is he telling the truth?'
'It's Lucas, Katie. How is anyone supposed to know with him? There's nothing we can do about it now except take his word for it until the Captain gets back to the boat. He might be able to get something out of him but I know I can't.'
'How bad was it in there?'
Ford's features hardened. 'Lucas got the worse of it. And Ben, it wasn't easy for him either.'
'Ben?' Katie asked. Yes, her former husband was an idiot but he was still Ben.
'Don't give him too hard a time, okay?' Ford asked.
Katie went quiet at that. If Ford was bargaining on Ben's behalf then it must have been bad.
'What about you? All fun and games?'
'Games, sure. They weren't very funny. Nothing new to them though.'
'What is the next stage of your plan?' Angelo asked out of the blue.
Everyone went silent.
'You do have a next stage to your plan?' Angelo asked.
They all automatically looked to Lucas.
'We're meeting up with a container vessel a little way from here. We'll have safe passage to wherever we need to go from there.'
'Vessel?' Angelo asked.
'Our own special tribute to the seaQuest,' Lucas said.
'You named your get away submarine after your last post?' Angelo asked.
'Well, I thought the stinger would have been a better name.'
'Gazelle,' Katie said automatically. Their eyes met for a moment across the launch.
'I think it's probably for the best none of you tried to use your imaginations,' Angelo said as he heard the alternatives.
'Quick thinking,' Ben said as he sat back down next to Lucas.
Lucas shrugged and resumed his silent thoughts.
He stayed perfectly quiet as they docked. He didn't even say anything when a syringe full of aesthetic went into Angelo's neck and the man fell to the floor as easily as his father's security system had fallen with the slightest nudge.
The others looked across to him, but there weren't any words in his head right then. It was over, and that was it. He watched Angelo being stretchered out of the launch bay feeling entirely numb.
'I thought children were supposed to bring home stray pets not convicts,' Westphalen chided as she looked around her ward at the waiting patients.
'It's not as if we want to adopt him,' Ford tried to explain.
'But you just couldn't leave him there?'
'It was a tactical decision. A military decision,' he tried.
'Proving once more that military intelligence is an oxymoron.'
Lucas smiled. Westphalen turned on him. 'Do you really think this is funny, young man?'
Lucas shook his head and tried his best to look suitably subdued.
'Whose fault is it, exactly, that you are all running a fever with a chill?'
'It worked,' Lucas muttered.
'Hyperthermia is no laughing matter,' she told him. 'And what about you?' she turned on Tim. 'Do you intend to explain to me just what happened to you?'
'Freak accident?' Tim asked.
'You just happened to walk into someone's fist a few dozen times without noticing?' she demanded.
'I think perhaps that is all the healing they can cope with at the moment,' Bridger said from the doorway. 'Perhaps they should rest and you can finish their medicals later on?'
The look she gave him told him exactly what she thought of that.
'Of course, you are the Doctor. What do I know? I'm only the Captain.' She gave him another look and the Captain made a tactical retreat.
The knock on his door came as something of a surprise to Bridger.
Ford and Ben came in together. That was a rare enough occurrence to get his attention.
They told him. He listened. At one point he punched the wall. Then he listened some more.
'And exactly who were you trying to knock out?' Westphalen asked as she studied the x-ray.
'You're arms aren't long enough.'
'Probably why the wall got in the way,' he conceded. He relayed some of what Ben and Jonathan had told him. Westphalen looked consideringly at the wall in her own office before she thought better of the idea.
'Lucas, we'd like to speak to you about a few things.'
Lucas looked up from the programme he was running on the computer in his room. Bridger and Westphalen together was never a good sign. He really didn't want to talk about this, especially not with them. 'I'm busy.'
'You can shut it down yourself or I can turn it off at the power, it's up to you,' Bridger offered. It was an effective threat.
Lucas sighed. 'What?' he asked with bad grace as he turned around. What had the others told them about that place?
'We have some concerns about some of the things that went on while you were at the prison complex,' Bridger told him.
'So, we want some answers.'
'Like why there is no mention of Juvenile detention on your record?' Westphalen asked.
'We have spoken before, at some length, about the appropriate use of your talents, Lucas Wolenczak,' Bridger reminded him.
Lucas looked from one to the other of them as if they had lost their minds. 'That was years ago?'
'When you were in detention or when you expunged your records?' Bridger asked.
'Both?' Lucas hazarded.
'And these murders you've been plotting?'
'Viruses,' Lucas corrected.
'In some of my father's companies.'
'Lucas…' she warned.
'If we were still in there on those dates the viruses would have activated and began destroying the companies,' he was fed up with lying about it. 'He cares about those companies, if he thought they were in danger he would have got me out of there.'
They heard the words he didn't say. He wouldn't get me out just because I was in danger.
'You think that was appropriate?'
Bridger smiled. 'Just this once, I think I agree with you. But for the record, if you try anything like that in real life you will be collecting your pension before you leave this room. Understand? And now that we know about your little tricks with our electronic security find it more a challenge, Lucas. Any questions?'
Lucas hesitated. 'What's going to happen to Angelo?'
'He's being transferred to a surface prison as soon as we dock. I thought he'd been sent back to the bottom of the ocean but…'
Lucas tried to look as if he didn't care one way or the other.
Bridger stayed when Wesphalen left. He continued to stare at Lucas until he realised there was no way he was going to leave until he had his answer.
'I freaked them out so he could have his chance at escaping. That's all.'
'A real compliment when it comes from you.'
Lucas nodded absently. There was no need to tell the captain that he'd visited the other man in the brig. No need to tell him that the reason why Angelo was going to a surface prison was because Lucas offered him his choice of residence if he agreed to say that he didn't belong to him any more.
Bridger ruffled his hair as he walked out of the room.
'I know, Kiddo.'
Lucas looked up at him. His surprise only lasted for a moment.
Yes, the captain knew. And Bridger knew him too. He might have been the only one on the planet who did.
Lucas smiled slightly as he was left alone in his room. Sometimes one person was enough.
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.
This is the last story I intend to post, so a general thanks to the people who have followed all the stories.
It's been fun.
Take care, Cadnobach.