Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters I have borrowed from MI High. I do own Aggie Madison and Illya Gordovski.
"I've had to bring my attack on the SKUL base forward," complained Stark. "Thanks to you, we may not catch all of the SKUL agents now."
"If it weren't for our work, you would never have known the base even existed," pointed out Carrie. This shut Stark up, but we walked away looking as if he'd swallowed a wasp.
"Nice one Carrie," Rose whispered in Carrie's ear. Stark impatiently waved them all to get into the cars. Another MI9 agent took the van and drove it away.
Back at MI9 HQ, Rose, Carrie and Illya were debriefed on the night's mission. Frank introduced himself to Bill, Alf, Marty and the doctor. He suggested they should change out of their SKUL uniforms. "Walking around MI9 HQ could get a little hazardous if you keep wearing your SKUL uniforms," he pointed out. The other men looked at one another and took the clothes they'd been offered. Once changed, Frank talked to them about their plans. He was interested to know about the doctor's work and he suggested he apply for a job with MI9. This cheered the doctor up hugely.
The other three were planning to head off to Bill's brother to get proper jobs. Frank suggested that if they could supply MI9 with any information on SKUL they might be able to help set them up with new identities to help keep them safe from SKUL. They discussed it between them and agreed. Although none of them were very high up in the organisation, Bill and Alf had been there for so long that they knew a lot about its strategies and some locations.
Frank talked it through with the Head and she agreed an amnesty and help for the men if they were able to supply MI9 with information on SKUL. Frank was updating the ex-SKUL men and his team, who had completed their debrief, with the good news when his phone rang. "Oscar has had some physio to get the water out of his lungs. We can have a quick visit if you want ?" he suggested. Everyone nodded, including the SKUL men. "I don't know if they'll let us all in," he said uncertainly. Everyone was adamant though, so he sighed and led them through to the medical facility.
The nurses were not happy about letting them all in to visit Oscar, but made them promise not to stay long or tire him. Oscar was propped up in bed looking exhausted. He still had a breathing mask over his face, but was now breathing easily. He brightened visibly when he saw he had visitors. Carrie got to him first. She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek then Rose did the same.
"Do you remember us yet ?" asked Carrie, half teasing. Oscar nodded once, then lifted his hand slowly to take off the breathing mask. "I don't remember everything yet. There are big holes," he whispered.
He was starting to look upset so Rose quickly cut in, "We'll all help you remember stuff Oscar. I'm sure it will all come back as soon as you are back at home and school again." This seemed to make him happier. Rose put his mask back on and then she and Carrie quietly left.
Illya took Oscar's hand and told him he'd see him back at home soon. As he was leaving Frank took him to one side and said he might have to stay for a little while so he'd arranged a lift home for them all. Illya glanced back at Oscar and then nodded his understanding to Frank.
Finally, all the SKUL men gathered round Oscar's bed. "Well Oscar, you had a pretty short career in SKUL," said Alf jokingly. "I'm not sure you've got it in you to be a hardened criminal. I should seek out other employment son." This made Oscar smile a little. The doctor apologised to him for the trauma he'd been through and Oscar smiled his forgiveness at him. Marty wished him well and then he, Alf and the doctor left. Bill hung back.
"Well, I'm off to my brother's like I said. Do you still think I should go and see my kids then ?" he asked Oscar uncertainly. Oscar nodded vigorously. He slowly pulled his mask off again.
"I would give anything to see my Dad again," he gasped out. Bill quickly put his mask back for him.
"Alright. I'll do it Oscar. I'm not going to get any better advice I don't think. Good luck with everything Oscar. Bye son," said Bill, giving Oscar a quick hug. Oscar waved a hand to him as he left.
Finally, only Frank was left in the room. "Well, I should let you get some sleep, or the nurses will be chasing me out," he said smiling. Oscar reached out and took his hand. He was trying to speak, so Frank pulled his mask down for him.
"They won't turn the light off will they ?" whispered Oscar, clearly anxious.
"I don't think so, but I'll go and make sure if you like," promised Frank, putting the mask back on. Oscar nodded.
Frank went out to speak to the nurses and explained Oscar's anxiety about the dark. They smiled and said that even if they turned off the main light, there was always a night light on in the room. They said he needed to get some rest now and to let him sleep. Frank went back to reassure Oscar about the light and found him staring across the room at nothing.
Frank sat on the chair next to Oscar's bed and took his hand. "It's going to be alright now Oscar. You're safe. Your mother can't get you again." Silent tears started to roll down Oscar's cheeks. He tried to blink them away, but couldn't. Frank took both of Oscar's hands in his and spoke to him quietly and calmly. "Oscar, I want you to know that we're all very proud of you. The others told me about what you mother did and how she forced you to tell her what Illya said. You should not feel in any way ashamed Oscar. She messed with your mind and she tortured you in a truly terrible way. I think you did brilliantly." Oscar looked him in the face. He seemed to be checking that he really meant it. Finally, Frank felt Oscar's grip tighten slightly in thanks. Then slowly the tears slowed and Oscar fell asleep.
Frank gently wiped the tears off Oscar's face with a tissue and then put his arms under the covers and pulled the bedclothes up over his chest. He stood for a few minutes looking at the sleeping boy. Finally he sighed and left the room.
Stark was waiting outside. "Is he alright now ?" asked Stark.
"Physically yes, mentally I think it's going to take a while yet," answered Frank.
Stark pressed his lips together in frustration. "You know I don't approve of using the young agents Frank. It's one thing to ask adults to take these kind of risks, but it's not our job to ruin the lives of young people."
Frank sighed, looking at Stark. "At times like this I can only agree with you. The trouble is Horatio, that Oscar's life was ruined a long time ago. His mother is toxic. At least working for MI9 he has some level of freedom. Without his work he would be moving from one safe house to another with no means of protecting himself. At least he has some skills to take care of himself and friends he can talk to. I don't think there was a better option for Oscar."
"And what about the others ?" asked Stark. "What about Agent Gupta ? She could live a perfectly normal life without the risks of MI9.
"Well, she could live a normal life, but I don't think it would be a fulfilled one," said Frank after some thought. "She's free to be herself without criticism. Her cleverness is valued here and she has resources at her disposal she could only otherwise dream of. Best of all, she has a purpose in life."
"I supposed Agent Gordovski was already an agent, so that leaves only Agent Stewart," said Stark. "I'm sure she would be better off without the danger of MI9."
"That is probably true," said Frank. "I think MI9 would be a much poorer place without her though. She's street smart, her physical skills are second to none and the others need her. She has the mental strength which keeps the team going. The truth is Horatio, I would hate to lose any one of them."
"The day may come Frank when we do lose one of them. Permanently. Are you going to be able to deal with that ?" asked Stark. "I don't think I could." With this he turned and walked away.
Frank stood in the hospital corridor for a few minutes. His face looked haunted. He ran his hands over his face and took a long, deep breath. He went back into Oscar's bedroom. Frank stood and watched the sleeping boy for several minutes, then turned and left.