Thick as Thieves chapter 18
A week had passed since the accident. An entire week of waiting and worrying and wondering what his fate would hold after being locked in that room with his father. Would he be punished? Exiled? His father was a secretive man; even when Michael was allowed to leave the infirmary and rest at home, the Commander didn't give away anything as to what their meeting would involve. He was, however, adamant that the issue be resolved as soon as Michael was well again. Today was that day.
The accident had left permanent scarring on both his calf and head, but other than that the wounds had healed nicely and Doctor Shannon had been pleased with his progress. There didn't seem to be any lasting brain damage, but Michael did notice he was more prone to headaches than usual. He was on crutches for now, still finding it a struggle to walk on his injured leg. Skye went on walks with him around the market (accompanied by a guard of course) to help him get strong again. She would casually bring up Michael's debriefing to which he would sigh and promise her that he wouldn't tell them about Deborah or her arrangement with the Sixers. Not yet anyway. Then he'd remind her of the danger she was in, asking her to reconsider.
"I can handle it," she told him. "I won't let it get too far. They trust me for now; I can use that to my advantage."
She was brave. Probably braver than Michael who had been dreading what he was going to say in this interview with his father. He stood in front of the bathroom mirror, dressed smartly in his combats, his hair combed back neatly. He wanted to look respectable. But the tired eyes that stared back at him told a different story.
A knock at the door. "It's time," came a voice. Michael sighed, grabbed his crutch and limped out of the bathroom.
Escorted by two armed men, Michael supposed it was inevitable they'd get a few head-turns from his fellow colonists. Rumours were already circulating throughout the colony. Everyone was thinking the same thing. The Corporal noticed Skye with Tasha by the market and he caught her worried gaze. Calmly, he gave her a nod and a smile as if to say: don't worry.
"Sorry about the formalities, Michael, but I have to treat you like any other suspect," apologised the Commander, standing above him. Michael nodded at him from his chair, surprisingly at ease. Maybe he was just happy that this was finally out in the open. Not even the dim lights of the Brig or the armed guards by the door seemed to bother him that much.
When he looked at his father, however, hovering over him, watching him with those frosty eyes, all he could see was the reason he and Wash couldn't be together, the reason Lucas was gone. The reason his mother was dead. Then he realised, he wasn't calm. He was angry. Angry and exhausted.
"You obviously know why you're here," declared the Commander. "We just want to know the truth."
"Why don't we just say it?" snapped Michael, surprising his father with his forwardness, with his lack of respect. "You think I'm the Sixer Spy. Have done for ages."
His father narrowed his eyes at him. "Are you?" he asked.
"No," Michael said. "That's the truth."
There was a brief pause. The Commander continued, unconvinced. "Explain to me what you were doing when the meteor hit. And don't lie to me again."
Michael closed his eyes, feeling the onset of one of his headaches. "I can't…" was all he said.
"You can't what? Tell me the truth? Why not? Who are you protecting? The Sixers?"
"No!" he exclaimed, his eyes snapping open again. "I know you don't believe me, but I am not spying for them. I swear."
The Commander looked at him with the same level of suspicion he had once looked at his other son. "I will find out if you're lying," he threatened. "And when I do…"
"You'll what? Cast me out like Lucas?" Michael said hatefully, years of bitterness over Lucas' absence resurfacing in that one moment.
"If I have to," Taylor replied. "Anything to keep this colony safe."
Michael frowned. "And do you really think I'm a threat? That I'm capable of what Lucas did?" he questioned.
"I don't know what you're capable of anymore," his father told him. "It's clear to me that you've been lying for a long time now. I just want some damn answers."
"Commander," a soldier interrupted from behind. "Tom Boylan's asking for you. He says it's urgent."
Michael watched as his father huffed with annoyance. "Alright. I'll be up in a minute." The soldier retreated out the door whilst Taylor addressed his son again. "This isn't over," he said. "I'll be back soon, and you better start talking. Just because you're my son doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on you."
"I know," Michael replied, traces of resentment in his voice. He watched his father head slowly for the door, knowing he'd be back for round two soon enough.
"Alright, Boylan, what's this all about? I was in the middle on an interrogation," announced Taylor as he entered the Command Centre. Boylan was standing over in the corner, waiting. Corporal Reynolds was watching over him.
"I'm here to talk to you about Michael," Boylan said. "None of this is his fault. It's mine."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Taylor questioned, losing patience.
"When the meteor hit…Michael was meeting with Mira, but only because I asked him to," the barman lied. All his gambling skills were coming in to play as he put on his best poker face. He was a natural. And, unlike Michael, he had no problem with lying to the Commander. Especially if it was to help out a friend. "He's been making deals with the Sixers for me. Y'know, trading meds and power cells for wild sorghum, stuff like that."
"You put him up to this?" Taylor seemed outraged.
"Look, he was just doing me a favour. Don't punish him for that."
"I should have known you'd be involved, Boylan," The Commander said furiously. "All that time you've been spending with my son. All the secrets. I just thought he would have been smarter than that. Smarter than to follow the ill guidance of a lying, cheating sewer rat like you."
"You flatter me, Taylor," Boylan said.
"One thing doesn't make sense to me though," mused the Commander, tilting his head to the side slightly. "Why are you telling me this? You could have just let Michael take the fall."
Boylan shrugged. "He's a good lad. He doesn't deserve all this. He was just helpin' me out." He paused, narrowing his eyes at the Commander. "Like that time I helped you out." His expression darkened. "Remember, Taylor?"
Taylor knew he was talking about Phillbrick. His jaw stiffened, his hatred for the man growing. "Corporal," he said to Mark, still glaring at Tom. "Take Boylan to the Brig and bring Michael up to me." He neared that smug face, that sickly smirk. "I'll deal with you later, Boylan," he threatened.
"I'll look forward to it," grinned Tom infuriatingly as he was led towards the door.
"Why did you arrest Tom?" was the first question Michael asked as he hobbled through the door with his crutch, escorted by Reynolds. Boylan had nothing to do with this. Was his father just arresting everybody he was suspicious of?
Taylor looked over at him from the window and crossed his arms over his chest, exhaling a heavy sigh. He could sense Michael's concern for the barman, saw the anxious look in his eyes. This only frustrated him further. Michael seemed to care deeply for Boylan, maybe even looked up to him in a way. How could he have let this happen? How could he let his son get so close to that treacherous fool?
"He told me everything," Taylor said
"What? He told you about the deal?"
"He told me about all of them."
"All of them?"
Taylor dismissed Reynolds and told Michael to sit down. "This is serious, Michael. Trading with the Sixers? What were you thinking?" Michael stared at him with bewilderment, wondering what his father was talking about. Then he started to wonder exactly what Boylan had been saying to him. "At first I didn't believe it, but…I have come to realise you and Boylan have a relationship. He's a bad influence on you. And as you've already demonstrated with Skye, you're easily influenced." A pause and a hard stare. "I've taken him in for questioning. Now you are both going to tell me everything you know about the Sixers."
"I…I don't…" Michael stammered, unsure of how to continue. Then he gave a defeated smile and shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"Where's their camp?"
"They move from time to time," he said, knowing that if he told the Commander about the Sixer's hideout in the canopy, his father wouldn't rest until he made Michael track them down. "They're probably on their way to elsewhere as we speak…real spy's most likely already told them about this."
"Well since you've spent so much time with the Sixers, you'll know who this real spy is. Right?"
"I never saw them," Michael said, feeling an unbearable scratching sensation in his throat. "I don't know. Mira was very secretive about that…"
Taylor studied his son closely, watched the way his breathing increased, how his palms were beginning to sweat. But his gaze was so hard, so steady, he was almost convincing.
"I think you're hiding something from me."
"I still think you're in with the Sixers much deeper than just trading with them. You're not an errand boy. They'd want you for something much more important." He could sense his son starting to lose confidence. "I think Mira asked you to get the box from her house. And I think you agreed to do it, but you got caught. So then Mira brought out the big guns, captured Wash, threatened to kill her, and you couldn't let that lie. You had to confront her about it, so you went to see her." He neared Michael, gazes locked, staring each other down. "The real question is: why? Why agree to it in the first place?"
"You really want to know?" Michael asked, feeling his anger start to rise again.
"Enlighten me, son," the Commander snarled. "Because this is unacceptable."
Michael closed his eyelids, preparing himself, ready to tell the truth even if it couldn't be all of it. "It's true. I was stealing the box for Mira. And I got caught, so I lied." When he opened his eyes, he wasn't quite prepared after all, for the betrayal in his father's expression was becoming more evident the more he went on.
"Why?" Taylor repeated, outraged. "What possible excuse could you have for dealing with those traitors?"
He swallowed. "I owed Mira a favour."
"What kind of favour?"
Michael sighed and at last broke the cold stare between the two, choosing to focus on the cracks of the floor rather than watch his father's angry gaze any longer. "She saved Alicia's life."
"Wash?" he almost whispered. "What are you talking about?"
Michael pressed his lips together, hesitating, thinking about Alicia dying, how he sat by her bedside and wished for a miracle. A miracle only Mira had. "The Syncillic Fever outbreak a few years back…" he said slowly, wringing his hands together. "When Alicia was sick…Mira had medicine."
"She what?" Taylor fumed. "And you didn't think to report this to me?"
"I couldn't…I had to make a deal with her. To save Alicia."
His father stepped back slowly, the information processing. "You promised to get her the box in exchange for the medicine," he concluded. "This was irresponsible," he chastised. "You should have told me."
"I know," Michael admitted, glancing back down at his hands. "But I was desperate."
"You two should never have happened," Taylor remarked. "Look at the mess we're in now."
"Well, I'm glad we did. Even without your approval, I still would have done it and nothing would have stopped me saving her life."
"There are rules in place for a purpose, Michael. A code of honour. You both knew that."
"I did know." Michael glanced up at his father, shaking his head. "I just didn't care."
"When I recruited you, I had an expectation that you would respect the rules we have here. To respect me. I guess I expected too much of you. You and your brother."
He couldn't take much more of this. "Look, I can't speak for Lucas, but I couldn't help it. You can't help who you fall in love with. I would have done anything to save her life and nothing you could have said or done would have stopped me."
His father quietened then, seeming less angry than before. Perhaps he hadn't been aware of how deeply Michael felt for his beloved lieutenant. "Okay," he said. "But I still think you're hiding something from me. Something important."
Michael said nothing.
"You're going to tell me," Taylor threatened. "You don't have a choice."
"I've told you everything."
"Why should I believe you?" growled Taylor. "You've had direct contact with them for all this time. Is there really nothing useful you can tell me? Why are you protecting them?"
"Then why can't you tell me who the spy is? Or maybe it is you. I mean, why not? You're the Commander's son, you're a Corporal. You can get access to anywhere, anytime. You know all Terra Nova's secrets. You could have told them anything."
"I didn't," Michael insisted, resentment in his voice. The fact his father even considered these things were possible gave him a searing pain in his chest.
"I am not the Sixer Spy. You're gonna have to believe me."
"You've been lying to me from the start, Michael," his father said fiercely, seething with anger and betrayal. "About Wash, about all of this. Why should I believe you now?"
"I'm your son," Michael pleaded, trying to hide the choking feeling he felt rising in his throat.
"Do you think that mattered to Lucas when he held that gun to my head? When he tried to get me killed?" his father bellowed, instantly forgetting the secrecy of that night in his blind fury.
"Please," Michael said. He could hardly bare it.
"I didn't want any of this! I didn't want my own children to betray me, to turn their backs on me, their own father!" Taylor's face was red now, furious, his teeth baring. How could he have raised such careless, disloyal sons? How had he not seen that Michael would stray down the same path as his brother?
"I'm not Lucas!" cried Michael at the top of his lungs, enraged, devastated by the accusations. He felt destroyed. He had never hated his father more. There were many times where he had been confused with Lucas, but this was the worst of all. Hearing these things – these insults – shattered the reputation he had spent his entire life trying to build, and from the lips of his own father – he felt annihilated. "I never wanted to betray you, I only ever wanted to make you proud. I'm not turning my back on you or this colony – this is my home. I'm not lying. I'm not the spy. Please, dad. I'm asking you to trust me."
Those ice-cold eyes settled on him, scowling, thinking. For a brief moment Michael thought that his father may believe him after all. But he shook his head, his voice low and serious. "You've run out of trust," he said coldly, and then the interview was over. For now.
Michael was taken to Pod Zero where he spent the night alone. His father wasn't done questioning him yet. Now Michael had started talking he wouldn't be released until he told him everything. He'd keep at it until he was satisfied that Michael wasn't the spy. And who knew what he was planning to do with Boylan?
He thought of Skye and her secret, how he had kept his promise so far. He wondered if she was okay out there, whether she was worried about him or whether she was reporting back to the Sixers. Either way he wished that he could talk to her.
Skye, in fact, was on her way to the Sixer camp that same night. She wasn't planning on telling them about Michael's arrest, but she could tell them about Boylan. Maybe that would satisfy them for the time being. Then maybe they'd allow her mother her dose of medicine before she got too weak again. When she met with Mira, however, she didn't seem interested at all in hearing about Boylan's detainment.
"Go see your mother," she mumbled. "There's someone with her who wants to meet you."
Skye was bewildered by the comment, but Mira wouldn't answer any more of her questions so she went to find her mother.
She was right where she left her and, surprisingly, she looked good. She was sat up in bed, there was a bit more colour in her cheeks, and she was smiling. Then Skye noticed the person with her. She froze.
"Who are you?" she demanded, her throat running dry. He was sat in the shadows, his back facing her, almost like he was hiding. It was strange. She didn't know what it was but the figure looked familiar. When he finally turned around, Skye couldn't believe it. As she looked in to the stranger's eyes, it was almost surreal.
"I'm sorry, how rude of me," he said, offering a smile that sent chills shooting down her spine. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lucas."