Chapter 10: Caged

Smith hadn't been asleep for long when another pair of guards arrived at the Robinson camp. West and the Professor attempted to ascertain their purpose, but the guards were tight lipped. When they roused Smith and hauled him to his feet, the two tried to step in, but were shoved aside forcefully. As the guards drew their laser pistols, they warned the humans that they wouldn't survive another attempt at interference. Smith, despite the fear that gripped him, shook his head in a silent plea with the men not to cause trouble that might have unfortunate consequences. The guards flanked Smith and each grabbed an arm to escort him away. Oddly enough, they marched the doctor farther into the cavernous stockade living quarters and not toward the entrance. The Professor and Major followed some distance behind to see where they were taking him.

The trio stopped before what appeared to be a cell carved into the rock wall of the cavern. A metal frame surrounded the entrance, but there were no bars. The floor was bare concrete. There appeared to be a sink in the back and a small alcove, presumably for a toilet of some sort. One of the guards appeared to call someone via his communications device. In a matter of seconds, bright lights flickered on inside the cell. They shoved Smith inside and he hit the ground sliding, much like his original entrance to the stockade. After another brief call from one of the guards, a forcefield flickered into existence at the mouth of the cell.

Satisfied he wasn't in immediate danger, Smith sat up and risked voicing his displeasure, “I'm getting quite tired of this. You guards do understand that I'm quite capable of walking where you wish me to go, don't you?”

The guards both grinned wickedly and just shrugged. “You will wait here until your trial,” one of the guards informed through his translator, while the other one made another call.

“Can you at least remove these dreadful things?” Smith held up his wrists, indicating the manacles.

The two guards shook their heads and left, making sure to roughly shoulder their way past the doctor's companions.

Smith stood and made his way to the front of the cell. Cautiously, he touched the forcefield and let loose an uncharacteristic expletive as he pulled his hand away.

The Professor and Major West walked up to the cell. Smith regarded the two and sighed. “Gentlemen, I can't help but think I've been ‘set up', so to speak. Mal J'hat must have found out I was providing medical aid to prisoners and apparently despised me for finding a way around his directive. He had little recourse to get rid of me since M'jek was involved, providing me with the protection of Asmani law, and it wasn't technically a breach of his directive. If he changed his directive, he still could not get rid of me without consequence from the high council, since I would not risk mine or M'jek's safety to continue. So, he placed me in a no-win situation. He threatened to kill William. Whether or not he would have gone through with it is moot because his intention from the beginning was to goad me into a physical confrontation that would legally seal my fate.” The doctor released a despondent sigh. “I'm doomed.”

“It's a frame-up if I ever saw one,” West confirmed.

“You're not doomed yet,” the Professor stated. “We don't even know if attempted murder carries a death penalty in Asmani law.”

Both Smith and West cast incredulous looks at the Professor.

“Ok, well, I'll concede that it most likely does,” he amended. “But there's still the matter of the trial. Perhaps the high council will show leniency given your service to the prisoners.”

The incredulous looks on Smith's and West's faces remained.

“Ok, that's another long shot,” the Professor conceded again.

“Do the words ‘kangaroo court' mean anything to you, Professor?” Smith asked.

“I admit, things look… bleak, right now, but we'll think of something,” the Professor vowed.

“I'm doomed,” Smith repeated.

The guard who had informed on Smith's activities waved his hand in front of the panel to Mal J'hat's quarters, requesting permission to enter.

“Come in,” Mal J'hat grunted.

“Sir,” the guard began, “Doctor Smith has been relocated to maximum security.”

“Good,” the chief said as he took a seat behind his desk.

“If I may ask a question, sir, why didn't you just kill him? He is a prisoner. He wouldn't be missed,” the guard asked.

“Because… Smith is no ordinary prisoner. If I killed the human doctor, there would be plenty of questions as to my motives. Most would assume it was because he was providing medical care to the prisoners, against my wishes. Someone was providing him supplies and that someone had to be Asmani. M'jek to be precise. That afforded Smith the protection of Asmani law in this regard. That makes him equivalent to an Asmani citizen. You remember what the high council did to me last time I killed Asmani?” Mal J'hat inquired.

The guard visibly cringed. “Yes. It was rather… distasteful.”

“Humiliating. Painful. Appalling for someone of my stature,” Mal J'hat complained. “As you might imagine, I have no wish to go through that again any time soon. But, if the doctor attacked me, he would forfeit the protection he enjoyed under Asmani law,” Mal J'hat explained.

“You set him up,” the guard deduced.

Mal J'hat smiled and stroked his bandaged hand. “He took the bait, though I never expected him to do so that violently. And for a moment, I actually thought he was going to let me kill the boy.” The Asmani chief laughed. “His fate is sealed.”

A few minutes later, Mal J'hat barged into the chief medical doctor's quarters, much to the surprise of M'jek.

“Mal J'hat, how nice to see you. May I help you with anything?” M'jek greeted in as ingratiating a tone as he could muster. He stood, as was customary, in the presence of his chief.

The alien chief didn't bother with pleasantries and got straight to the point. “You were giving medical supplies to the human doctor, weren't you?”

“Well, yes, Mal J'hat, I was. I didn't see the harm in it, since it was not prohibited by your directive. Is there something wrong with that?”

“It did not technically violate the directive, but you know what my intent was,” the threat in Mal J'hat's voice was unmistakable.

“I'm sorry, my chief. It will not happen again,” M'jek apologized.

“Did you know this human doctor you were working with tried to kill me?” Mal J'hat continued.

A look of shock flashed across M'jek's face. He, of course, didn't believe Mal J'hat's statement, but he knew it meant trouble for both Smith and him. “No,” M'jek sank into the chair behind him. “I did not know. I would never have aided him if I had known he was intending to harm you, great leader.”

“He is awaiting trial and will no doubt be convicted. I intend to execute him,” Mal J'hat studied the doctor's face, attempting to ascertain his loyalty.

“As well you should,” M'jek confirmed. “He should be made an example of, that such treachery will not be tolerated.” The doctor mentally cringed as he made the statement, but his face remained impassive.

Mal J'hat smiled, pleased at M'jek's response. The doctor's words had assuaged his fears of the doctor's disloyalty, but the alien chief voiced a warning to M'jek anyway. “You will no longer aid this human, M'jek. Or there will be consequences.”

“Rest assured, dear leader, I will do no more for him than my duty as chief medical officer requires,” M'jek stated.

“Good,” Mal J'hat answered. He turned and left quickly, leaving M'jek to ponder the turn of events.

As soon as Mal J'hat left, M'jek contacted T'pat to inform him of the Asmani chief's visit. With the disheartening news, the guard could see all their plans vanishing in a puff of smoke and it didn't sit well with him. T'pat informed M'jek he would find out when the defense counsel would be visiting Smith and would arrange for the two of them to accompany him.

Meanwhile, the alien families nearest to Smith's maximum security cell had gone to the Robinsons and offered to relinquish their spot to them, in order for the doctor to have familiar company. The Robinsons graciously accepted the offer and moved their camp with plenty of help from fellow prisoners.

As they settled in to their new spot, they saw the doctor working his way up and down the length of the cell entrance, seemingly probing the forcefield for any weaknesses. The Major would have enjoyed the sight of the doctor being repeatedly shocked, if it weren't for the fact that the man was in such serious trouble.

Smith ran a hand up and down the smooth metal that housed the components that generated the forcefield, his mind obviously working furiously on a problem. Then he ran his hand along the seam where the frame of the forcefield generator met the wall. His gaze followed his hand, then wandered around the walls and ceiling, searching for something.

The Robinsons watched as the doctor rushed to the sink near the back of the cell. Cupping his hands under the spigot, he filled them with as much water as he could carry. He went over to the metal frame and flung water against it, hoping to possibly short circuit something. The forcefield sizzled and an arc jumped outward at the doctor. An expletive flew and Smith shook his hands. “Idiot dolt!” he cursed himself. His nerves a bit frayed from the repeated jolts of electricity, he leaned against the wall and slowly slid to the ground, seemingly defeated for the moment.

The Professor walked over to the cell and asked Smith if they could talk privately for a minute. The doctor stood to talk face to face with him.

“Yes, of course, Professor,” Smith said. “What is it?”

“You know, as well as I, that your incarceration in that maximum security cell has changed things,” the Professor began.

Smith nodded and his heart sank as he quickly deciphered where the conversation was heading. He had been dreading this since the moment he had been thrown into the cell. After studying his new home, he had quickly resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't getting out of that cell unless the Asmani wanted him out. After all, there were no locks to pick, no bars to be manipulated, or any guards that could be jumped. He was safely tucked away, close enough to almost touch, but so far out of reach.

“If there's a way to break you out of there,” the Professor continued, “I don't know what it is. Even if we could figure it out, it would probably take quite a while.”

Smith held his hand up to forestall further discussion. “I understand, Professor. I am…”‘ he sighed, “…expendable. Do what you need to do to protect your family.”

“Doctor Smith, you're not expendable. It's just that…”

“Aren't I?” Smith countered. “I am not family. And while Major West isn't either, he's closer to you all than I and he pulls more weight than I do. If anyone was to be left behind, I would be the logical choice. I don't fault you for the decision, Professor. You've been more than fair to me all these years. I don't imagine this was an easy decision for you to make.”

“No, it wasn't,” the Professor admitted. “I don't like having to make it. If we are successful in escaping, we will try to rescue you,” he vowed.

“I appreciate the sentiment, Professor, but you and I both know I won't be here to rescue,” Smith stated.

“I'm sorry,” was all the Professor could think to say.

“Don't be,” Smith replied. He nodded toward the children who were busy unpacking. “Save them.”

The Professor nodded and having no more left to say, went back to his family. Smith once again slid to the floor.

As Will was storing some of the leftover medical supplies and rations under his bed, he glanced up and saw the doctor, sitting on the floor looking quite dejected. He walked over and sat cross-legged next to the cell.

“Hi, Doctor Smith,” Will greeted.

The doctor looked over at the boy, his frown briefly replaced by the flash of a smile. “Hello, William.”

“I just came over to tell you not to worry. Dad will think of something to get you out of here,” Will said quite confidently.

“I wish I had your optimism, my boy,” Smith replied.

Penny wandered over and sat next to Will. She chimed in, “He will, Doctor Smith. In all the years you've known him, has he ever let you down?”

“Well… no, I suppose he hasn't,” Smith agreed. He wasn't about to tell them of the conversation he'd just had. He continued, “but my dear, I don't think your father has ever been in a situation quite like this.”

“That doesn't matter,” Penny insisted. “He's very… what's the word?”

“Adaptable?” Will offered.

“Yes,” Penny agreed. “You'll see. He's probably working on the problem right now.”

Smith found the children's faith in their father heartening, although he was convinced there was nothing the Professor could do. Just having the children for company raised his spirits.

The Professor and Major West watched Smith and the children, their thoughts on this latest complication to their captivity.

“John, we'll never get him out of there,” West conceded.

“I know,” the Professor agreed. He sighed heavily. “If the opportunity arises for the rest of us to escape, we'll have to leave him.” He instantly regretted what he had just said, but his desire to protect his family overwhelmed him. He had given it a lot of thought and given the dangers he'd seen so far, he wanted his family out of harm's way as soon as possible. Uncharacteristically, he had decided to deem Smith a “necessary casualty” and he hated himself for it, especially since Smith so calmly understood.

West stood with his mouth agape at what he had just heard. “John, I can't believe that you, of all people, just said that. As much as he gets on my nerves, we just can't leave him here. He won't survive this place.”

“Don, if you had the opportunity to save Judy, but it meant leaving Smith behind, would you do it?” the Professor asked.

“That's not a fair question,” West replied. “If it were Maureen in that cell, or one of the kids or… me, would you leave us behind?”

The Professor stood silent, unwilling to answer the question.

“I can't believe I'm arguing on behalf of Smith,” West muttered. “Look at him, John… with the children. He's just as much a part of this family now as I am,” he argued. “We all go or none of us go,” he insisted.

“Alright,” the Professor backed down. “We'll wait to see the outcome of the trial,” he suggested. He looked over towards Smith and the children, who were all smiling at something Will had just said. As if he knew they were discussing him, Smith looked up and locked eyes with the Professor for a brief moment, then focused his attention back to the children. “The Asmani may make our decision for us,” the Professor said solemnly.

A few hours later, T'pat met M'jek in his quarters to discuss Mal J'hat's visit. The doctor went into more detail about just what was said between the two.

“You told him he should make an example of the doctor?” T'pat was shocked at M'jek's words.

“What was I supposed to say to him, T'pat? If he suspects I'm disloyal, our cause is lost and we'll be executed alongside Smith,” M'jek explained.

“So, to save your own skin, you just throw Smith to the v'lkai? We were so close, M'jek. We can't let the execution go forward,” T'pat pleaded.

“Do you forget we're talking about Mal J'hat? What do you propose we do?” M'jek asked. “Ask nicely?”

T'pat slammed his hand against the desk and then pointed at the doctor. “I swear, M'jek, one day I will kill Mal J'hat myself. I only wish the charges were true and Smith had beaten me to it.”

“Be patient, T'pat,” M'jek cautioned. “We will do what we can for the doctor. I will talk to members of the council, request leniency. We can do no more than that for now.”

At the appointed time, T'pat and M'jek accompanied Smith's defense counsel to his cell. When they arrived, the defense counsel got right down to business, laying out Smith's very limited options. The Robinsons could tell from the look on Smith's face and the reactions of M'jek and T'pat that it wasn't going well.

“I'm not pleading guilty,” Smith insisted. “He provoked me by threatening to kill Will. He threatened to kill me. I was acting in self-defense!”

M'jek attempted to calm the doctor, while T'pat sympathized with the man. The defense counsel explained again that due to the fact that the victim was the Asmani chief and there were five witnesses, under Asmani law, he had no option to plead ‘not guilty'. It would be an insult to Mal J'hat and the high council. He would have to plead guilty with extenuating circumstances at best.

“Then what's the point of a trial?” Smith asked. “I'm already convicted. I'll have you know, I have no problem with insulting Mal J'hat and the high council. At this point, I would gladly do that without benefit of a trial.”

The remark elicited a smirk from T'pat, which he quickly suppressed. The guard gently nudged Smith in an attempt to remind him that such comments wouldn't help his case any.

Exasperated, the defense counsel tried to reason with Smith, but the doctor would have none of it. He stood his ground and maintained his innocence. Finally, the counsel threw up his hands, announced his intentions to enter a plea of guilty with extenuating circumstances, and left abruptly.

“Well, that went well,” T'pat said sarcastically.

“It's not my fault your judicial system is so archaic,” Smith defended.

“I wasn't faulting you, doctor,” T'pat apologized. “The situation is unacceptable.”

“Before we get into the intricacies of the Asmani judicial system, why don't you tell us in your own words what happened between you and Mal J'hat,” M'jek suggested.

Smith, despite his reluctance, revisited his confrontation with Mal J'hat and the guards. As he finished, both M'jek and T'pat reached the same conclusions.

“I suspect someone told him about you,” T'pat growled. “Probably one of the guards trying to curry favor. And in response, Mal J'hat created a situation in which there would be no successful outcome for you. He wants to get rid of you.”

Though the doctor was already well aware of that fact, hearing the words sent a chill down his spine.

“T'pat, see if you can discover who it was… discreetly. We must steer clear of this individual. In the meantime, I will talk to my contacts on the high council to gauge their mood and whether or not they will consider leniency,” M'jek stated.

M'jek put a hand on Smith's shoulder. “We will do what we can for you, doctor.”

Smith nodded. “I appreciate it, gentlemen.”

Smith watched as they left and realized his only hope rested with them.


Continue to Chapter 11: Trial & Tribulation

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