Disclaimer. I don't own any of the characters from BMFM, nor do I make any profit from this story yadda yadda. Any character here not mentioned in the series is my own creation, unless otherwise indicated. Feel free to use them, but do let me know, and let others know where to find them. Otherwise, just read and enjoy. Cheers, Mez.
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The day after the trial, a handcuffed Stoker was flown across to Mt Etna Jail, a medium security prison resting on a small plateau. As he jumped down from the transport, he looked across the plain. He could see the roof of the courtrooms from here and cold anger burned in him again. A guard woke him from his brief reverie.
"This way. Move. Now."
Stoker moved across the landing pad and into the main building. The guards, one in front of him and one behind, led him down some stairs to the second level of the main cell block. As they moved across the level, there was a shout from one of the cells.
"Well look who it is lads! It's Stoker!"
Stoker glanced across without moving his head and saw a tall beefy man with black and tan fur leaning on his cell bars. "Grythe," he thought. "The day just gets better."
"Who would'a thought we'd see him here, eh lads?" Grythe said loudly.
More figures appeared at cell doors and Stoker recognised quite a few hostile faces. A low, angry murmur started up, rapidly growing to a loud clamour as many of the prisoners began snarling and shouting insults. "This is an unforseen problem," thought Stoker. He knew a lot of these prisoners; he'd been responsible for capturing some of them, or just plain ruining their plans. Not all single-handedly, but whatever his Freedom Fighters did, he was ultimately responsible for, and these angry convicts knew it. Most of them were slavers and traitors and he was an identifiable enemy to them. More guards appeared, attempting to calm the furious men in the cells as Stoker was led across the floor.
Down the stairs to the next floor and the two guards escorted Stoker into a small room with a single table and two hard wooden chairs. One of the guards indicated he should be seated, so he sat. He looked around carefully without moving his head, using his eyes, ears and nose to gather information, but there wasn't a lot to gather. The guards were standing one either side of the door, but with weapons holstered. He knew he'd been classified low security, which was something at least; a high security classification would make it much harder to escape, something he hoped to do as soon as possible. Locked in a jail cell, he was a sitting duck and he had no illusions that the person who had put him here would now no longer think he was a threat. No, Stoker dead was the best-case scenario, but Stoker wasn't keen on that one at all.
As Stoker was being flown to Mt Etna, Rimfire was leading Throttle, Modo and Vinnie up to the level above their rooms.
"Where are we going this time?" said Modo
"I'm taking you to Deakin," said Rimfire. "You'll need tags."
Vinnie looked sideways at Throttle.
"You want to tell us what tags' are, and why we should be so desperate to have them?"
Rimfire reached up to his neck and dragged out a leather thong. Hanging on the end were two metal tags, each about a centimetre thick with a small green LCD in the centre.
"Identifying tags," he said, holding them up over his shoulder so they could see them. "So we know who you are, where you are and what your security rating is."
This time Throttle looked at Vinnie.
"Try again, kid," the white-furred man said, "and tell me exactly why this is a good thing? Because from where I'm standing, they don't look so hot."
Rimfire stopped in the middle of the corridor and swung around to face them.
"You just have them, ok?" he snapped. "Everyone has them. Deal with it." Rimfire turned and strode off again, his back stiff. Modo gave Vinnie a look before moving after Rimfire.
The four of them walked in silence the rest of the way to Operations. They entered the large cavern and Throttle immediately spotted a familiar face. Deakin was even taller than Stoker and leaner, his fur a dark cream and the stripe on his head almost black. He stood out in the sea of blue uniforms, wearing a pair of cast-off green army pants and a brown vest with an unbelievable number of pockets, bulging with unseen items. As they entered he spotted them over the heads of the crowd and came to meet them, grinning.
"Deakin," said Throttle, gripping his wrist as the man clapped him on the shoulder.
"Hello, rookie!" said Deakin, "Modo, Vinnie, good to see you guys! I heard you were on planet again. Nice to see you're back." He glanced at Rimfire, who was looking moodily around the cavern, his shoulders hunched.
"Cheer up kid. We'll get that tape soon, find out which slimy fish-faced son of a Plutarkian put the boss in jail and we'll fry his scales for him." Deakin's grin was infectious and Rimfire smiled back. Deakin turned back to the guys.
"Is this a social call or can I do something for you?"
"They're here for tags," said Rimfire, glancing at them before moving off to speak to someone. Deakin chuckled.
"Of course, you missed the big Organisation," said Deakin, motioning them over to a bench. There was a strange device sitting there. On the top was a hand shaped depression and the sides were covered with a smooth metal. A round slot projected out the front. Throttle eyed it warily.
"I still don't get it, Deakin. What are these things and why do we need them?"
Deakin pulled the silver chain holding his own tags over his head and handed them to Throttle. He examined the thin metal disks closely. There was a depression on the underside that his thumb fitted into perfectly. The tag beeped and he saw the LCD flash to "Error incorrect identification." He looked at Deakin, bemused.
Deakin laughed and plugged the tags into a socket next to a vid-screen. The screen flashed up with Deakin's details and an identifying shot, as well as a short DNA sequence. Deakin pulled the tag out and pressed his thumb to the depression in the back. "Identified Deakin," flashed up on the LCD.
"Just proving who I am," he said, "in case you weren't sure." Deakin looked at their still sceptical faces. "Look, all they are is a fail-safe ID system. Something we need. We were having the worst trouble with spies and infiltrators until some bright spot came up with this idea." He pointed to the strange device on the bench. "You put your hand in here. The box ID's your DNA, we add a mug shot and it's linked to your file."
"What file?" interrupted Modo. Deakin ignored the question and continued.
"Every tag has an originating integer depending on where it was made. And there are only 11 of these little boxes; one at each of the main army and freedom fighter bases. So we can pick a fake tag in 2 seconds flat. It's a great system. This way we know exactly where someone is from, and can trace them via their tags."
"Yeah, but " started Vinnie, clearly not happy at being "classified."
Throttle cut him off.
"I guess I can see the point. This way you know who to trust."
"Well, sort of," said Deakin, "unfortunately not everyone who has a tag is on our side. There are quite a few corrupt commanders around. But we know pretty well who they are even if we can't prove it, and if someone's tag links them to a suspect base, well we're just extra careful. You see?"
Throttle nodded, Vinnie looked sulky and Modo was looking around for Rimfire.
"So what do we do?"
"Plant your palm on the machine and relax."
Throttle placed his palm into the depression on top of the machine. The machine lights blinked and suddenly Throttle felt a sharp pain in the centre of his palm. He snatched his hand away. A small circular piece of flesh was missing from the centre of his palm.
"DNA sample," said Deakin unconcernedly.
The machine whirred as it processed and Deakin tapped away at a keyboard. A few seconds later and two disks popped out of the slot at the front. Deakin scrabbled around in a box and pulled out a thin metal chain.
"There you go, latest fashion for bikers," he grinned. Throttle put the tags on without comment as Vinnie stepped up to the machine, complaining bitterly.
The door opened and Stoker glanced up. A middle-aged man of medium height walked through. He had dark brown fur, close to the colour of Stoker's own, and was solidly built, but without fat. He was carrying a thin file, which he dropped onto the table before he sat down. Stoker glanced down and saw his own name on the tab.
"My name is Treads," said the man. "I am the warden of this prison." He flipped open the file.
"You have been classified as a low security risk as we've been assured by the courts that you pose no threat to yourself or any of my men." Stoker remained silent, and Treads continued. "We have a small problem with you however. This is a medium security prison, which means that we usually group prisoners together for work duties, meals and exercise. Your, er, unique situation means that we can't do that." Treads flipped to another page and Stoker saw the recommendations from the court.
"You're to be placed in solitary," Treads continued. "This isn't a punishment, but for your own safety. You will work, eat and live alone, and will not be allowed to move unescorted when other prisoners are out of their cells. Is that clear?"
Stoker looked up and met Treads' gaze, saying nothing. Treads grunted.
"Fine. Consider yourself informed. You will be assigned to garbage detail. A guard will fetch you for work every day, starting tomorrow." Treads rose to his feet and walked out the door without another word.
A minute later another guard came in and Stoker's insides went cold when he saw what he was carrying. The man dropped a pair of clippers and a grey prison uniform on the table in front of Stoker and he bit back a curse. He'd forgotten; all prisoners had their hair clipped close to keep the lice and other pests down. A desperate urge to fight his way free overcame him and Stoker clamped his teeth together. He felt the guard grab his ponytail and heard the snikt of the scissors. He looked down to see his prized ponytail snipped off and casually dropped on the floor. "You bastard!" he screamed inside. "This is something I'm DEFINITELY going to pay you back for," he thought furiously at his unseen enemy, as the guard clipped his hair close to his skull. Stoker's hair was his one vanity and he knew it; he'd grown that tail since he was a youth and was very attached to it. "Not any longer," he thought, half whimsical, half despairing, as the rest of his long locks fell in waves to the hard stone floor. The guard finished quickly and Stoker tried not to think about the rough job he must have done as he picked up the clippers and walked out.
The remaining guard motioned to Stoker to put on the drab prison garb. Stoker stripped and pulled on the coarse material, lamenting the loss of his own comfortable clothes. His boots he was allowed to keep and he was thankful for that. The guards escorted him outside and they moved down a long corridor with doors along one side; not barred, but solid wooden doors with hatches. The guards led him to the far end and opened a door, motioning Stoker inside. Stoker looked into a tiny room with a bed and wash facilities and nothing else, bar a small window high in the wall.
"Turn around," said the guard.
Stoker turned and one guard removed his handcuffs, the other training his blaster on him. The guards walked out and shut the door. Stoker turned around once, slowly, then flopped onto the hard bunk, his close-cropped skull feeling strange against the pillow. He felt like a caged animal and it was a depressing feeling. And his head was cold.
He lay unmoving for hours, his body still but his mind active with escape plans and the occasional revenge plan. Around lunchtime the top hatch on his door slid across and a guard looked in. The top hatch was then closed and a tray of food was shoved through the bottom hatch. Stoker ignored it and continued his plotting. The guard said nothing about the uneaten food when he returned to collect the tray, nor did he say anything when the same thing happened that night. The moons were high in the night sky before Stoker finally drifted off to an uneasy sleep, his dreams twisted and dark versions of the events of the past few days.
The next morning a guard arrived as the sun rose to show Stoker the procedure for the garbage run. With a pair of heavy leather gloves to protect his hands, Stoker collected the bins from each level and took them down to dump in the trash compacter on the lowest level. It was mindless work and Stoker kept his brain occupied with his plans. The prisoners were all locked up at this time of day, so once he had been shown what to do, his escort left him. Stoker counted the watchful guards at each level as he passed them, not observing them openly. None of them moved from their posts and he dismissed a few of his wilder plans as impractical.
Stoker was deep in thought as he made his way down to the lowest level for the fourth time. "Too far from here, and no direct route. I've got to get closer. But how?" He reached the lowest level, ignoring the guard sitting by the door. He moved across the room and dumped the contents of his bin into the trash hopper. As he turned, he saw the guard get up and step out the door. Stoker's heart leapt. "Or I could just leave now and see what happens," he thought, looking across to the room's only window and plotting the fastest course to the gate. He heard the sound of boots on stone and turned back to the door. Four prisoners came in, three of them with broken chair legs and one with an iron bar. Adrenalin began pumping through Stoker's veins when he saw who was in the lead. He put the bin down and flexed his fingers in the heavy leather gloves.
"Well, well, well, look who it is, boys," hissed Grythe, his tail lashing with excitement. His three cronies moved around the walls until Stoker was surrounded on three sides, Grythe effectively blocking the door.
"Did you want something, rat-face?" said Stoker, moving slightly so he could see all four of his assailants, one of whom was a rat. He flexed his hands again and reminded himself to avoid the rat's teeth. The disappearance of the guard made sense now and he wondered how much Grythe had paid. Four on one he could handle, but those clubs were going to make things messy.
"We don't have much time, so I'll be brief. You're leaving here in a bodybag, Stoker. This I promise," Grythe snarled, and leapt.
Stoker moved easily aside, dodging the iron bar as it came down. He lunged sideways at the rat, kicking him hard in the solar plexus, effectively slowing him down for a while and then lashing out with his fist at one of the others as they came near. He rolled under another wild swing from a club and moved swiftly to the left. These guys were poor fighters; he was confident he could bring them down easily. He faced off to Grythe as Grythe stalked forward, swinging the bar low. A movement to the side warned Stoker and he dropped and rolled as someone swung a club at him again. He snorted.
"You certainly haven't improved over the years, Grythe. You're slow and sloppy," Stoker said, lashing out with his hand and drawing four red lines in the fur across Grythe's muzzle. Grythe howled in pain and leapt in again, bringing the bar down towards Stoker's shoulder, but Stoker dodged under it and came up inside Grythe's defence, levelling a solid uppercut to his chin. Grythe staggered backwards and fell to the floor.
Stoker laughed and set about teaching his other opponents how to fight. He beat them easily around the room, kicking Grythe down again on his way past. He disarmed one and flung the club across the room, catching another in the gut. He turned to the left as the rat leapt for him. He went down under the rat's weight, smelling the rank breath as he snapped at Stoker's face. Stoker held him off with one hand and punched him solidly with the other. Stoker leapt to his feet and moved towards the unguarded door.
"Nice playing with you boys, but I've work to do," he said. Grythe's sudden smile warned him, but too late. He turned his head in time to catch the guard's nightstick hard across his cheekbone and he fell to his knees, his head ringing. He heard a vicious laugh and tried to move out of the way, but the club came down hard across his shoulders and slammed him into the floor. He rolled to the side, feeling the rage building and giving in to the berserker inside. His vision tunnelled in and he attacked again with killing force. He leaped at the nearest attacker, driving his fist to the side of his head then kicking the body across the room as it crumpled. Another face appeared in his vision and he kicked out, feeling bone breaking beneath his foot. The guard appeared in front of him and Stoker lashed out with an open palm, smashing the head around with brutal force. He heard a crack and the guard fell to the floor.
Grythe was before him now and Stoker advanced, snarling, his lips pulled back and saliva darkening the fur around his mouth. Grythe raised the bar and they circled warily. A heavy weight landed on Stoker's back and he went down once more. Sharp teeth sank into his neck and he screamed. He tore out of the rat's grip, feeling the blood gush down his shoulder. Agonising pain speared down his side as Grythe's bar connected and he felt the bones crunch beneath. He turned and leapt for Grythe, bearing him to the ground. He raised his arm and smashed his fist into Grythe's face, three times, until a kick to the head flung him across the room. The rat landed on him, and sank his teeth into Stoker's bicep to the bone. Blood poured down Stoker's arm and he sank his own teeth into the rat's shoulder. Locked together, they fought a silent, bloody battle, neither able to break away.
A guard bolted into Treads' office and slammed the emergency button on the wall. Treads was on his feet in a second.
"Prisoner fight in the compactor room!" shouted the guard and grabbed a Stunner. Treads sprinted along behind him as the guard raced down the corridor. All around he could hear shouts and clanging as the rest of the guards secured the area. They bolted down to the lowest level and charged into the room. Treads registered a number of bloody bodies before sighting Stoker and the rat in the centre of the room, locked in deadly combat.
"Shit!" he yelled. The guard beside him was frozen, not knowing where to shoot. Treads grabbed the Stunner from him and fired a bolt at the bloody pair. The rat dropped at once, releasing his hold on Stoker. To Treads' amazement, Stoker pushed himself off the rat, moving jerkily. Treads fired off another bolt and Stoker slumped to the ground.
"Get a med team down here. Quickly!" snapped Treads at the horrified guard.
The guard raced off and Treads moved into the room, checking over the bodies. His jaw tightened as he came to the guard. He was dead, his neck broken. "Must have got caught trying to break it up. How many times have I told these people never get in the way?" Grythe was alive, but his face was almost unrecognisable. Of the other two mice, one was dead, the sternum crushed into the heart; the other was alive, but barely, with a fractured skull and internal bleeding. The rat was the best of the lot, bruised and bloody but mostly untouched except for a deep wound in the shoulder caused by Stoker's teeth.
Finally Treads moved over to Stoker and swore. There was a long, bloody tear at his neck and another on his right arm; both were bleeding profusely. Blood drenched his chin and neck. His left cheek was a pulpy mess and his right temple bore the marks of a kick to the head. Treads swore again and ripped off Stoker's shirt, trying to stem the bleeding. He swore for a third time at the swellings along Stoker's side and confirmed at least two fractured ribs.
"Great, just fantastic. The most high-profile prisoner in the place. How the hell did these guys get out anyway? There's going to be an inquiry for sure. And it's my job on the line."
Treads cursed Stoker, all prisoners, stupid guards and Stoker again as the medical team rushed down the stairs and took over.
Treads stood in the doorway, watching two burly male nurses strap a bandaged and still unconscious Stoker to a hospital bed with wrist and chest restraints. His assistant appeared beside him with a sheaf of documents.
"No chance, sir. The newshounds have already got the story."
Treads swore. This place leaked worse than a sieve.
"Alright, we can't hush it up. Have you found out where the hell those prisoners came from?"
"No-one's speaking sir. Someone got paid off, but we've no idea who. And none of the combatants are in any shape to talk yet."
"Fantastic. What the hell are my superiors going to say to that?" He rubbed his forehead. He hadn't wanted Stoker here in the first place. The man was an organisational nightmare.
"Sir, we'll need to bring in some extra guards."
"Our hospital wing is low security sir. We can't guarantee his safety here without round-the-clock observation. And under the circumstances, something happening to Stoker is the last thing we need."
"I'm damned if I'll bring in more guards for one prisoner! Our costs will go through the roof and what the hell will the supervisors say then?" Frustrated, he glared at the still form on the bed. "Bloody sands. Why couldn't you just die?"
His assistant cleared his throat reproachfully.
"All right, all right, you know what I mean. So what are our options?"
"Sir, the easiest option is to upgrade him to a high security risk classification."
"What good would that do?"
"It means he can be moved. To the high security hospital wing in Babatyu Tower. Where he will no longer be our responsibility."
Treads smiled slowly, relieved. "I might survive this after all." He turned to his assistant.
"Do it now, and get him out of here before the brass come around asking questions. And tell the press; that will distract them a bit. Let them go bother Babatyu's warden."
"Yes, sir. Consider it done."
Stoker opened his eyes. His vision was blurry, but he could feel he was moving.
"Lie still," said a voice. He could feel restraints across his chest and his wrists.
"Where are we going?" he mumbled, finding his jaw stiff and his lip swollen.
"You're being moved to the hospital wing in Babatyu Tower," said the voice. A black opening approached and he felt the stretcher lifted up and through a doorway. The movement made his head spin and he closed his eyes, but inwardly he was smiling.
"Babatyu. How lucky can I get?"
Throttle, Modo and Vinnie were walking back to their digs from Vehicle Two when Rimfire bounded up the stairs towards them.
"There you are. We're wanted in Operations. Deakin called; he says it's something serious."
As they moved down the hall Throttle saw Carbine and Stone heading towards them.
"You too?" Carbine said as they came within speaking distance.
Throttle smiled, and draped an arm across her shoulders, nodding at Stone. Carbine looked no better than she had yesterday, but she smiled up at him. He squeezed her shoulders comfortingly.
In Operations it was chaos. People in blue uniforms were gathered in groups, talking urgently, or running around with data disks and paper files. Deakin was in the middle of a circle of his assistants.
"Those are your orders," they heard him say as they approached. "Get the info as quickly as you can, and keep the feeds scanned for any piece of information you can find, however small."
The men and women nodded and moved swiftly to their duties. Deakin spotted them as the crowd around him cleared.
"Bad news guys," he said grimly. He moved towards a set of vid-screens in the corner, where a young blonde girl was typing furiously. She grabbed a data disk from the console and left as they approached. Deakin tapped at the keyboard for a moment and suddenly a newsfeed flashed on the screen, the attractive female anchor frozen mid-sentence.
"I recorded this about 5 minutes ago. It was on the latest broadcast."
Deakin tapped a key and the feed played.
"And this just in from our reporter at Mt Etna Jail. The recently convicted leader of the Freedom Fighters, Stoker, was today transported to the high-security hospital wing of Babatyu Tower after a brutal encounter left a prison guard and one prisoner dead. Stoker and three other prisoners are believed to be in a serious condition. Prison authorities refuse to comment on the incident, however a full inquiry into the matter is expected to be undertaken by Military Intelligence."
Deakin tapped another key and the feed paused again. There was shocked silence until Stone slammed a fist onto the table.
"I knew this would happen! Dammit, they assured us he would be safe from these sort of attacks!"
"You're kidding me, Stone. He had no chance in there. In the last two days money has been pouring into Mt Etna from all kinds of sources, none of them close friends of ours. Someone got bought off big time." Deakin pulled angrily at an antenna. "We're trying to find out who."
Throttle said nothing. He felt helpless and angry. "This isn't our sort of fight," he thought bitterly. "We can't just charge in there and bust him out. But he's in danger." He looked around at his bro's. They looked just as angry and helpless as he felt.
"What the hell are we going to do?"