Disclaimer: The Champions and characters are the property of ITC Carlton. This fan fiction is for entertainment purposes only and no profit will be made from it. Thanks to Fiction2 for being my beta.
THINKING IN THE DARK
Richard Barrett stared into the darkness contemplating an uncomfortable truth. Maybe Craig was right. Maybe he did think too much.
Although his eyes were open he could see nothing, but still he kept the light off. He knew there was at least one microphone in the room and, for all he knew, there was a camera as well. While he realised they could hear him, he had no wish for them to be able to see him as well. It was the first time in a long while that he hadn't been able to see anything at all but even his enhanced eyesight needed some form of light source, however small. He waved his hand in front of his face and, despite everything, smiled just a little.
His night sight had been rather alarming to him at first. He'd woken up in a panic, a few weeks after returning from Tibet, thinking that he'd slept through his alarm. He'd jumped out of bed, grabbed his clothes and was buttoning up his shirt before he'd noticed the clock. Then he'd checked his watch. It was 3 am. In a state of some confusion he'd opened his curtains and stared down at the street below. The silence, the absence of people or cars and the brightness of the streetlights told him that it was indeed the middle of the night, but he'd been able to see as though it was midday. After a while he'd realised that this unnerving ability was just another of the powers he'd been granted so he had got back into bed and tried to get back to sleep. However, then - just like now - sleep was elusive.
Back in the present he lay in the pitch-black room unable to stop his mind going over and over the events of the day. He had spent the afternoon with his stomach in knots, every moment expecting Voss to flick the switch. Unfortunately sweeping floors had not been mentally stimulating enough to stop Richard's mind working overtime and, as the day wore on, it had become increasingly difficult to keep himself together. It wasn't until the evening, in the Recreation Room, that he'd realised he had been wrong to assume Voss wanted to kill him immediately. While it had pained him to claim he was a journalist, and the attitude of his erstwhile colleagues had hurt more than he was willing to admit, that conversation had also given him a small amount of hope that he might have time to destroy the gun. Voss was a scientist and, as such, he needed a project. With the fission gun complete Richard rather suspected that he was now it. What this meant was that Voss was unlikely to decide, on a whim, to end Barrett's life. He'd seen the look in Voss's eyes; the man was enjoying this too much. So long as Richard did nothing overt, the scientist would be eager to continue his experiment.
Richard had found it easier to finalise his plan after he'd realised that. As he washed the dishes that evening he had gone over his rather limited options. The fission gun was just too dangerous; he had no choice but to destroy it with or without help. Tremayne had told him that he had set up cover stories for Craig and Sharron but Richard had to concede that the chances of them turning up before Voss moved the gun were slim, so he was on his own. Worse than that, all his special powers weren't worth a damn. He was an ordinary man again. An ordinary man with an explosive around his neck. He hadn't realised how much he had taken his new life for granted. It alarmed him how it shook his confidence; how vulnerable he felt.
Earlier in the day he had walked by the room where the gun was being kept, in the hope of getting a better look at it, only to find two guards now stationed at the door. They had moved their hands to the guns at their sides as he'd approached so he had given them a wide berth and walked on. He had managed to steal a screwdriver and wire cutters from a workshop in the insane hope that he could defuse the bomb around his neck himself but, frankly, he'd dismissed that idea almost immediately. He had no idea if just removing the cover plate would trigger the detonator and getting his head blown off before even attempting to destroy the gun was worse than useless. As he had moved about the facility he'd studied the walls; there hadn't seemed to be any hidden cameras but it was difficult to be sure. There were, however, microphones everywhere. He had silently cursed his earlier conversation with Dr Antrobus, which had tipped off Voss that Richard was not all he seemed, but at the time he'd been so alarmed by the implications of the fission gun he hadn't stopped to think that he might be being monitored. He had paid for that mistake.
So he had come up with a plan. He was pretty sure he could overpower the guards; less sure he could do so without alerting Voss. He had reasoned that it would take a few seconds at least for the man to get to the remote detonator so he should have time to grab one of the guard's pistols, walk straight into the lab and fire it into the fission gun. He just had to hope the room wasn't full of scientists; he might hit one and, more to the point, they might try to stop him. He'd decided to make his move the next morning. It was possible that help would arrive before then, so why move prematurely? Yet he was sure they would move the gun the next day, so he couldn't wait any longer than that. With the plan in place he had gone about his work. An hour later he had heard Craig's voice.
Perversely, in some ways, it was worse now Craig and Sharron were here. Sure, Richard couldn't deny the profound feeling of relief he'd felt when he'd heard Craig call his name but it unnerved him that he had almost answered. It had been a sobering reminder of how easy it would be to screw this up. In addition, the next morning they would have to involve the scientists and they might easily blow it, quite literally. Before Sharron and Craig had arrived Richard had resigned himself to the fact that he'd be dead in the morning. He'd played it over in his head and made peace with it, as much as anyone could. Somehow it had focused his mind, which had made him feel better in an odd sort of way. But now he had hope. He was so close to getting through this and yet still so far away. So many things could go wrong.
All he wanted was to get the collar off. Lying there in the dark he could feel it against his neck. Sometimes it felt like it was getting tighter, at times it felt as if it was constricting his chest. He made a conscious effort to breathe more slowly as he felt the all too familiar sensation of panic threaten to overwhelm him, but it was hard with his pulse racing in his ears and his mouth dry. After a few minutes the emotion passed as he got hold of himself and thought again about the possibilities of sleep.
A short while later he got up in frustration. He put a hand out, feeling for the back of the solitary chair. He was exhausted but he suspected he wouldn't be getting much rest tonight. He was also hungry. He'd hardly been able to eat since breakfast, which was adding to his feeling of light-headedness. He felt sick and had a characteristic tingling in his lips. He rubbed them hard, trying to make it go away. Tired beyond belief he slumped down in the chair and silently cursed his captors.
After finishing work that evening he had been unceremoniously marched to his quarters by an armed guard who had locked him in and taken up residence outside the door. He had found that his room had been ransacked. Most of his clothes were gone, many of his belongings and, most frustratingly, all his pens and paper. He had rather hoped to pass the time composing crosswords but now he had nothing to do but to mull over his current predicament. He wished he could get out of the room and just get on with it. Unfortunately he could barely squeeze his head through the one small air vent. Besides, Craig and Sharron would be busy coming up with a plan, which was unlikely to include him doing a runner.
Earlier, when he had met up with Craig, they'd had only a few minutes. Craig hadn't wanted to risk getting caught talking to him so he had simply told Richard that he'd be in touch once he and Sharron had assessed the situation. Richard had been able to warn him about the microphones and had then, reluctantly let him leave. His relief at his friends' arrival had been short-lived.
Again he rather wished he were still on his own. At least then he wouldn't have to worry about the nagging hope that he might actually get out of this mess. It wasn't that he had a death wish but he couldn't help feeling that he would be able to get some sleep if his emotions weren't continually flipping between insane optimism and hopeless dread. It was making him feel physically ill. And there was something else bothering him, something he had been thinking about all day. He got up from the chair and threw himself back on the bed, unwilling to think about it now. He closed his eyes and tried to relax.
Some time later he jerked awake. Craig had whispered his name.
"We'll meet up after breakfast and go straight to the lab. We're going to need the scientists' help to dismantle the gun. We'll also need to find any microphones in the room. I think you should be there."
Richard scrabbled around on his bedside table, eventually locating his homemade whistle. He blew once into it to confirm he'd heard and put his head back on his pillow. Seconds later he heard Sharron. She simply wished him goodnight.
He wished she hadn't.
He couldn't stand being unable to talk to the two of them. They were somewhere in the complex, nearer than they had been all day but somehow he had never felt more alone in his life. He wanted more than ever to break through the door. He wanted to throttle Voss, tear the bloody gun apart and get out of this place.
He wanted to see his friends.
All day he had been reaching out with his mind, trying to sense what they were doing or where they were. He had no idea where he was so couldn't relay any useful information to them but that hadn't stopped him subconsciously seeking them out, trying to connect. It was the first time it had been so clear to him how much he needed them both. He didn't like the feeling. He didn't like to depend on anybody. But he didn't know what he'd do without them. He had no idea when their shared connection had stopped being something he worried about and had become something he relied upon. He had been thinking about it all day. What the hell was wrong with him?
He was angry now. Angry, miserable and scared. The constant surges of adrenaline, the lack of food and sleep, were taking their toll. He desperately tried to get a grip of himself but there was a pain, deep in the pit of his stomach, which refused to go away.
It was with no small amount of shame that he realised he was crying. He grabbed his pillow and hugged it to himself to muffle the sound; he wasn't going to give Voss the satisfaction. He hit the wall with his fist, which focused his mind on the pain in his hand rather than the one in his head. He took a few deep breaths and tried to regain control. In an effort to distract himself he attempted to compose a crossword in his head but, after a while, less welcome thoughts intruded.
3 down; a small, handheld device that would have come in rather handy (3 letters), 11 across; what he'd be in the morning (4 letters), 14 down; comfort and distress in equal measure (4 letters).
Then, suddenly, he was hit by a wave of optimism. Craig and Sharron were here now and they had a plan. But that was almost more painful; he was so close to being free he could taste it. He didn't want to die. It was just that his situation was so much easier when he didn't have any expectation that he might live.
14 down: hope.
He hugged the pillow harder, more for comfort than anything else, although his mind refused to acknowledge that fact. It was too busy whirling round and round. It was the same feeling he used to get in exams when his brain worked so fast that he couldn't get everything down on paper. He swung his legs over the side of the bed; suddenly afraid he was going to throw up. The feeling passed, the adrenaline subsided and he was left feeling drained. More tired than he could ever remember feeling in his life he collapsed back on to the bed.
What felt like seconds later the door opened. Richard was immediately awake, his heart hammering in his chest. A guard stood framed in the doorway. He flicked on the light, causing a sharp pain at the back of Richard's eyes.
"Get up, you've got to help with breakfast. Fifteen minutes." The guard closed the door again leaving Richard lying on the bed, his arm across his face blocking out the harsh light.
So, it was morning. He took a deep breath and did his best to ignore the tightening in his throat and the wave of nausea that had hit him the moment he awoke. Slowly he opened his eyes and prepared himself to face the day.