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Five Days

By Sashet
Page 2 of 8

They told him he could put them all in danger if the Federation found out who he was. He wavered for a moment; did he have the right to risk their lives to ease his own conscience? Coldly he told himself that they all knew the risks of being with him and what he now, reluctantly, stood for and he wouldn't be swayed. They argued with him, they reasoned with him and they bullied him but to no avail, his mind was set. Eventually they agreed that if he was going to do this they would help him, do what they could to ensure his survival and be ready when he called.

Now, as he stood in the cool dimly lit computer room in the Federation's administration complex on a relatively unimportant world, a place he shouldn't have been, he wondered, just briefly, if he had done the right thing. Made the right choice. But he had had no choice, not since the day he lost her and not since the day he found out about Shrinker.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

He looked at the small man, the thief who had become as close to a friend as he was ever likely to have and for just a moment he questioned himself, his sanity. After all he didn't have to do this, they could teleport back to the ship and carry on with their lives. Except if he didn't do this he didn't have a life.

The flash of self doubt and fear that had crossed his dark eyes was gone, replaced once more by the steel glint of determination.

"....After all the Federation aren't known for their hospitality... you could end up getting hurt or worse... I could end up getting caught along with you...are you really sure you know what you're doing? Could you hurry up please I don't like being here it makes me nervous."

He hadn't realised that his companion had carried on talking, babbling the way he always did when he was nervous or scared. Which was most of the time.

"Be quiet." He barked a little rougher than he intended to. He didn't need the distraction of the man's questions, questions that threatened to make him waver from his goal.

"Sorry for caring" the man snapped back petulantly.

Not one for giving into his emotions the leather clad figure changed the subject. He raised his wrist to his face and spoke into his communicator bracelet.

"Check the homing signal." He needed to be sure that the signal would send through the thick walls of the buildings. He couldn't afford for it not to, it was his lifeline and probably his last chance at getting out of wherever he ended up, alive and ideally with Shrinker.

"It's working fine." The disembodied voice of one of his crew.

"And now?" He reached to his neck and pressed hard, switching the device off.

"No signal now." The voice confirmed.

"Next time that happens it means it's finished so come and get me. 2 minutes remember?"

"We remember, don't worry we'll be here watching and waiting. Oh and by the way... be careful, we want you back..."

He didn't respond, sentiment breeds weakness and weakness was the one thing he couldn't afford.

He took off the bracelet and handed it to the thief.

"2 minutes. Don't be late. You'd better go before they find you here too" he told him smiling slightly at the obvious relief on the other man's face. It wasn't that he was a coward he just didn't like the thought of pain.

"I'll have everything in place by the time you get back" The thief told the man who had reluctantly accepted the mantle of leader of this group of wanted criminals. Then he raised his own bracelet to his lips and within seconds he was gone.

With a sigh of resignation the dark haired man sat himself down at a computer terminal and began to punch in a series of commands. Within no time at all he had gained access to the central computer files and begun a search. He knew that certain keywords would flag up his unauthorised access to the system and from then on it was a case of waiting, waiting for capture, waiting for interrogation but above all waiting for Shrinker.

To his surprise it took them longer to come for him than he expected, but when they came they came in numbers and treated him with the ruthlessness that Federation troopers were known for.

The doors flew open and half a dozen fully armed troopers spilled into the room, fanning out as they did so. For a moment they seemed surprised to find only one man in the room, sat casually at the computer as if he had every right to be there.

"Raise your hands where I can see them" the distorted voice of one of the troopers barked as four of them closed in on him, their fingers itching against the triggers of their weapons. The man complied raising his hands palms outwards, he couldn't see the point in resisting, not yet.

"Behind your neck," the trooper instructed "then stand up slowly and move away from the console."

Again the man did as he was told, his face was an impassive mask, hiding the fear he felt deep inside. Only a fool would not be afraid and he didn't recognise himself as a fool. He stepped away from the console and towards the troopers, stopping when they raised their guns.

"Who are you and what are you doing in a restricted area?"

Silence - who he was, was one question he COULD'NT answer. If they found that out then he would be lost. He was a wanted man and wanted by the most powerful person in the Federation, he couldn't afford to let himself fall into her hands.

The trooper stepped closer, the dim light only served to accentuate the menacing atmosphere he gave off. The hand on his weapon was steady and unwavering.

"I'll ask you again, who are you and what are you doing in here?"

Once more silence was his only answer. The dark haired man hadn't moved, his expression hadn't altered and nobody had even heard his slight intake of breath as he steeled himself for what was to come.

The trooper swung his gun in a short vicious arc into the unprotected midriff of the man in front of him, taking his breath away and causing him to double up in pain. Straightening up he was perversely pleased that he hadn't made any sound although the blow had hurt; he wondered how long it would be before he could no longer keep his silence, it had to be long enough and it had to start now. Calmly he placed his hands back behind his neck and fixed his gaze back on the trooper. His sarcastic streak wanted to make a comment but his common sense prevailed, there was no need to goad them, he was sure they would be violent enough towards him without his help.

"Get him out of my sight" the trooper barked, turning on his heel. Those under his command rushed to obey, securing the prisoner's hands behind him before marching him out of the computer suite to the start of his nightmare.

They took him to the local Federation garrison and threw him into a normal cell with normal criminals, thieves, murderers and rapists. Picking himself up off the floor where he had been thrown he looked at his surroundings. Scared men huddled in corners, men who ruled by fear and intimidation glared at him making their intentions known in a string of expletive laden and often crude comments. The cell was overcrowded and smelt of the underbelly of a society that wasn't as controlled as the Federation liked to believe. Brushing himself down, ignoring the comments and the threats, he forced his way through the cell until he was against a wall and stood his ground. He didn't really want to fight to keep his space or his dignity but he would. After a while the comments stopped and the tense atmosphere eased a little, but not enough for the new arrival to let down his guard, not even for a second. He tried his best to give off an air of menace but he knew that his appearance and his clothes marked him out as a man who wasn't used to prison life. He had to hope that this was not his final destination, Shrinker would never find him in here, in amongst the scum of society. If nothing changed soon he would have to force the issue, make them take him from this place and the thoughts of what he would have to do to accomplish that left him cold.

The cell was too small, too noisy and far too dangerous for anybody too snatch anything more than a few minutes rest. It was just the beginning of the Federation's tactics of wearing down its prisoners before they `confessed' to the error of their ways. The latest arrival to this overcrowded version of hell knew that. Despite his appearance he had been in prison before, he knew how to look out for himself and so he eyed the other occupants warily before squatting down in his tiny space and resting his head on his hands.

He tried not to dwell on his last experience of prison life, on the beatings, the interrogations and finally the `show trial' that saw him deported to a penal colony. He should have ended his days in that colony but instead he threw in his lot with a group of freedom fighters and lived.

He hadn't meant to stay with them, they were just his way off the planet but... well times and people change. He ended up staying and he ended up surviving, survival was the one thing he was good at and he knew that soon he would need to be again.

The sounds of cursing and then fighting drew his thoughts back to the present and stopped any chance of rest. Two of the occupants of the cell were trying to brawl in the confined space, hurling curses and punches with equal venom, the fight was urged on by the cheers and shouts from the other inmates. This was none of his business and he wanted no part of it so he kept his own counsel and put his head back down. The fight carried on until a contingent of Federation troopers arrived and waded in with electric stun batons and a little too much enthusiasm. By the time they were finished, not only the two antagonists lay unconscious and bleeding but several of the `innocent' watchers too.

At the back of the cell the dark haired man had watched with an air of casual detachment as the troopers went about their job. He didn't want the others in there to see him betray his real feelings as he watched the trooper's brutality, knowing that eventually he would have to face the same. He pushed down the lump of fear that gnawed in his empty belly and tried to maintain his composure, tried to ignore the little voice inside him that told him that maybe this wasn't the best idea he'd ever had.

When he pictured her at the hands of the Federation, at the hands of Shrinker, he knew that a bad idea or not there was no turning back.

Despite his fear and the noise he must have dozed off because sometime later he was awakened by the pain of a Federation issue boot in his side.

"On your feet."

As he rose to his feet easing the kinks from his muscles he saw the looks on the faces of those he was leaving behind and heard their mumbled comments. He chose to ignore them both as the trooper, watched by his more heavily armed companions, cuffed his hands in front of him and led him from the cell.

Their journey was brief and conducted in silence, which suited the prisoner fine. He didn't need the additional punishment that not answering the trooper's questions would undoubtedly bring. He had already decided that complete silence was his best defence, better than a tangled web of deceit that might catch him out. He would refuse to answer any questions until he met up with Shrinker and then... well then it wouldn't matter.

Their destination was the office of the garrison commander a short, grey haired man whose face betrayed the boredom of being stuck in charge of a backwoods planet. A look of mild curiosity crossed his features as he gazed at the stranger before him. He was out of place and obviously didn't belong in a backwoods prison on a dead end world. The reason for him being here intrigued the commander, it was a puzzle and he hated puzzles.

"Why were you in the computer suite?"

The well dressed and obviously well educated stranger stayed silent, just tilting his head slightly as if to say `you work it out'. His silence didn't faze the commander; he'd seen it all before. He'd seen prisoners who never said a word and those who never stopped talking, he'd seen bravado and stupidity - in fact until today he thought he'd seen every type of criminal the planet had to offer.

"I'll only ask you once more. Why were you in the computer suite?"


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