In the time that they had been there, only once had any of the humans been assigned tasks and that was the work on the palace M'jek had rescued them from. That morning, several guards came for the Robinson women, refusing to reveal their purpose. They could only assume they'd be put to work. Still, the Professor, the Major, and even Will put up as much of a fight as they were able, trying to prevent the guards from taking them, as Smith watched helplessly from behind the forcefield imprisoning him. Ultimately, as was always the case, the guards won and escorted the women away.
Penny, Judy, and Mrs. Robinson clung to each other nervously as they traveled through the halls of the complex. Smith had traveled these halls extensively and the Major and Professor had been through them once, but this was the first time the women had been out of the stockade.
The guards brought them to Mal J'hat's quarters. When the women entered, the leader rose and strode towards them. With a salacious, toothy smile, he looked the women over. They felt extremely uncomfortable under his reptilian gaze. Mrs. Robinson stood protectively between the alien chief and her children, which only brought the brunt of scrutiny on herself. Mal J'hat placed a single index finger below Mrs. Robinson's chin and forced her face up, to look him in the eye.
Mal J'hat tried to walk around the women to get a full view of them, but they all turned as he did, afraid to take their eyes off him for a second. He attempted to caress Penny's face, but she batted his hand away. He simply laughed. Without warning, he grabbed Judy and pulled her against his body. Judy struggled against his grasp and when she managed to put some distance between them, Mrs. Robinson broke the leader's hold on her daughter. He stumbled backward a step, but came at Judy again, his smile wider than ever. Mrs. Robinson stepped in front of her daughter and when Mal J'hat attempted to grab her, she shoved hard, sending him to the ground.
Mal J'hat scrambled to get to his feet, completely embarrassed at having been felled by a female. He grabbed Mrs. Robinson, intent on teaching her a lesson, but she again shoved hard, making him stumble back a few steps.
“Leave us alone!” she yelled.
The leader backhanded Mrs. Robinson across the face and she crumpled to the floor. Penny and Judy immediately dropped to her side to help her.
Mal J'hat called for guards on his communications device. When they arrived, he told them the women were unacceptable and requested more submissive females be brought to him.
The Robinson women were escorted back to the stockade. Smith was the first to realize something was wrong.
“Mrs. Robinson, what happened to you? Please, come here,” Smith requested.
The Professor intercepted her and gently removed her hand from her face. “What happened, Maureen?”
“I'm alright,” she announced. Before she could explain what had happened, Penny interrupted and described everything that had gone on in Mal J'hat's quarters.
“I'll kill him!” the Major yelled.
“Get in line, Don. I want first crack at him,” the Professor stated.
“There'll be nothing left for you, gentlemen, if I get to him first,” Smith vowed, his voice cold and calculating.
Both the Professor and the Major looked at Smith, eyebrows raised in surprise. Smith looked back at them, determination on his face and anger in his eyes. It was something they'd never seen in Smith, but somehow it didn't seem out of place.
“My dear lady,” Smith's countenance softened as he addressed Mrs. Robinson, “Please come over here so I can take a look.”
Mrs. Robinson complied and Smith studied her injured cheek through the forcefield.
“There's already some bruising. The laceration is quite superficial and should heal well. Clean it, bandage it, and some antibiotic ointment wouldn't be amiss. Who knows what wretched things live on that blackguard.” Smith sighed heavily. He wanted to tend to Mrs. Robinson's injuries himself. He owed her that much and more for her kindness over the years. “I regret that you had to meet that reptilian reprobate, madame.”
“Me too,” Mrs. Robinson agreed. She suddenly had much more appreciation for what Doctor Smith had faced when he had saved her son. She was just glad Mal J'hat had not decided to utilize any of the intimidating weapons that hung on his wall on them. Doctor Smith hadn't had that luxury and she could only imagine that the fear he had experienced dwarfed her own.
“Are you ok, Mrs. Robinson?” Smith asked.
“I'm fine,” she replied automatically.
“Are you sure you're fine?” Smith repeated.
Mrs. Robinson saw the concern in the doctor's eyes and understood that he wasn't just asking about her physical well being. She nodded. “I will be,” she answered.
“And Penny and Judy?” he asked.
Mrs. Robinson nodded. “They'll be fine.”
Smith nodded as he looked out toward the Robinson daughters. They appeared very shaken. A feeling of protectiveness, so strong that it surprised him, rose up in him. It was one thing for Mal J'hat to harass him, or even the Major or Professor, but quite another to see him harassing such kind and caring souls as the Robinson women. It angered him beyond measure.
“I'm getting very tired of these humans,” Mal J'hat spat.
“They are nothing but trouble, sir,” the leader's personal assistant offered.
Mal J'hat had severely underestimated them. He had assessed the humans as weak and vulnerable, but they had all shown themselves to be intelligent, resilient, adaptable, and fierce when cornered, even their females. They were not at all what he expected. It bothered him. He saw them as a threat and he wanted them gone.
He addressed his assistant. “Have the arena ready in three days. Alert B'tal and make sure he is prepared. And set up a meeting with my most trusted guards. The humans won't be trouble for very much longer.”
Major West approached the Professor with the intent of continuing their conversation regarding Smith and their escape plans. “John? The trial is over. The Asmani have made their decision. What do you intend to do now?”
The Professor was rarely at a loss for strategy, but this was one of those times. He'd had to make the decision to sacrifice Smith before to ensure the survival of his family, but this time was different. Smith had saved his son. It was a debt he couldn't easily repay and one he didn't want to repay with abandonment. It irritated him that Smith had understood his decision and accepted it so readily. If Smith had shown any of his usual self-centeredness, it would have been so much easier.
“I don't know, Don,” the Professor admitted. “I just don't know.”
“Well, let's start at square one. We need to know the defenses and layout of this place. How do we get that?” West asked.
“I may be able to help you with that, gentlemen,” Smith offered. He knew the only way left for him to help his family was to impart all the information he'd gained to the Professor and the Major in the hopes they could use it to escape.
“Smith, anybody ever tell you that you have the ears of an owl?” West asked.
Smith simply smiled and motioned the men over.
“What information could you possibly have that would be of any use?” West questioned.
“Layout of the base, schematics of the power grid and communication systems, surveillance, defense systems. Would that be helpful?” Smith grinned.
“How did you get access to all that?” the Professor asked.
“I have my sources,” Smith stated.
The Major and Professor looked at each other. Both assumed Smith meant T'pat and M'jek and left it at that.
“Where is all this information?” West asked. “And just when did you get it?”
Smith tapped an index finger to his temple a few times. “Did you think I've been doing nothing the entire time we've been here, Major?”
“Well, doing nothing does seem to be a habit with you, Smith,” West replied.
Smith cast the Major an irritated glance.
The Major eyed the doctor suspiciously. He knew full well Smith was cunning and crafty, but the doctor had been in rare form lately. More than once during their captivity, the doctor had completely surprised him. He rarely counted on Smith to come through in a pinch, but this time seemed different. A completely hopeless situation had, for some reason he couldn't fathom, brought out the best in the doctor and it pained the Major to think it would be the end of him.
“Ok, let's have it,” the Professor said, not quite sure he believed the doctor had any valuable information at all.
“First things first. Layout.” Smith sat down, his back to the forcefield so he could map out the base in the same perspective the Major and the Professor were viewing it from. He outlined an imaginary map on the ground using the square patterns in the cement floor as a grid. He showed the relationships between their location and other areas of interest, the directions through the hallways to get there, and the surveillance camera installations and timing.
The Professor was quickly convinced Smith knew what he was talking about. It made him wonder just what the doctor had been up to all this time and what other secrets he may be hiding.
Smith quizzed the men to make sure they had committed the map to memory. He then moved on to the schematics, describing the weaknesses of the power and communications systems.
“M'jek and T'pat just gave you all this information?” West asked.
“Well, it's obvious by the fact that I have it, Major, that they certainly didn't keep me from it, did they?” Smith countered.
West just shrugged and Smith continued, describing the defenses inside and outside the base that they'd have to contend with.
“And if you knock out power to this sector,” Smith pointed to his imaginary map, “it will disable the laser turrets. However, if you have enough time to completely knock out the power, you won't have to deal with anything but the guards. They do have backup generators that will start up automatically during a blackout, but they are reserved for Sick Bay, security measures on the Armory, and unfortunately…” the doctor sighed heavily, “maximum security cells. You'd have to open the main gates manually, but I'm sure you can convince 5 or 6 of your friendly neighborhood Kir Gal to come along with you. The more, the merrier, in fact.”
“You know, Smith, I'm beginning to think you might have actually earned those Colonel's birds all by yourself,” West chuckled.
Smith cast an annoyed glance at West. “Why, thank you, Major,” he replied, his tone completely sarcastic and insincere. If you only knew how I came by these talents, he thought.
“If you had all this information, Doctor Smith, why didn't you help us attempt an escape earlier?” the Professor wondered.
Smith sighed. “Professor, I had only just finished compiling it when I was incarcerated in here. At that point, I had more pressing matters on my mind. I'm sorry.”
“There's nothing to be sorry for, Doctor Smith. You've done excellent,” the Professor praised.
Smith smiled briefly at the compliment. “So, when will you attempt escape, gentlemen?”
The Professor and Major looked at each other. “Excuse us a minute, Smith,” West requested. He pulled the Professor along by the elbow until they were well out of range for Smith to overhear.
“John, I know you want to leave this place as soon as possible, but…”
“I've made my decision, Don,” the Professor interrupted. “I have re-thought my earlier position. We're not leaving here as long as there's any possibility of leaving with Smith, no matter how slim. He saved Will… and the information he just revealed may save us. I can't repay him with abandonment.”
West smiled. “Agreed. In the meantime, I think we should start testing some boundaries. Perhaps see if we can enlist the help of a few of Smith's new friends.”
The Professor nodded. “I think we can do that.”
The two men walked back over to Smith, who was waiting expectantly for their answer.
“Doctor Smith,” the Professor began, “we have decided to immediately start putting your information to use. Do you think we can get the cooperation of your friends T'pat and M'jek?”
Smith shifted uncomfortably. For some reason, he was uneasy at the thought. “I honestly can't say, Professor. They have already risked far more than I ever would have expected. They may balk at assisting an escape attempt and quite frankly, I would not want to be responsible for the consequences should their involvement be discovered. I am quite positive M'jek only narrowly avoided the fate I now face.”
“I understand,” the Professor replied. However, despite Smith's feelings, he was not about to turn down some inside help if it was available. “Well, it wouldn't hurt to ask. If they're willing to take the risk, we certainly could use their help.”
“I plan on talking to T'pat and asking him to escort me to a meeting with Mal J'hat. Then I'm going to give him the slip and check out the power station,” West announced.
Smith shifted uncomfortably again. Sometimes it scared him when he and the Major thought alike. It also made him nervous that West might inadvertently learn of his own intel gathering efforts. He sincerely hoped T'pat would keep his mouth shut. What made him most anxious of all, however, were the consequences the Major faced should he fail. Mal J'hat would have no qualms about executing him expeditiously.
“That's an excellent plan, Don,” the Professor said. “In the meantime, I'll see if I can talk to M'jek and get his cooperation.”
The doctor felt completely helpless. This was his mission. He had done all the leg work. It felt strange to have to turn it over to someone else. He knew both men were quite capable, but somehow he couldn't help but feel that, in this instance, he was better suited for the job. Espionage and sabotage were, after all, his forté.
“Oh, Doctor Smith,” the Professor added, “I have decided… we're not leaving without you, as long as the possibility we can get you out of there remains.”
Smith nodded, “I appreciate that, Professor.” He held no illusions they could rescue him, but he did truly appreciate their pledge not to abandon him as long as he was alive. Still, he preferred they were safely out of there as soon as possible, with or without him.
Their current strategy decided, the two men left to pursue their particular tasks. Smith noticed they hadn't told the rest of the family what they were up to, so the doctor would have to worry enough for all of them.
The guard at the main entrance to the stockade was surprised to see another human asking for T'pat. He had become accustomed to seeing the doctor show up at odd times requesting to see the Asmani guard.
T'pat arrived quickly, assuming it was something urgent if one of the other humans had requested him.
“I'd like to talk to Mal J'hat,” West said.
T'pat's eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What for?”
“None of your business,” West replied.
T'pat studied the Major for a moment. He had a strong feeling of déjà vu, but ignored it and offered to escort the human. “Alright, come along.”
West waited for T'pat to lead the way, but the guard insisted, “You first.”
“But I don't know the way,” the Major explained.
“I'll give you directions,” T'pat replied. He didn't want to have to cover up another security breach.
Great, Don thought. I'm not going to get anywhere like this.
The Major tried engaging T'pat in conversation, as Smith had. He tried shortening his stride so T'pat would overtake him. He even attempted the tried and true “Hey, what's that over there?” routine, but the guard was not fooled. Frustrated at every turn, West eventually just took off running. Unfortunately, the guard caught up to him in a few short strides.
“I know what you're up to, human,” T'pat said. “It won't work.”
“Look, I know you're a friend of Smith's. I just want to get a look at the power station. Can you get me in there?” West replied.
“It's too risky for me and definitely too risky for you,” the guard answered. “Besides, if you were as competent as the doctor, you wouldn't need to ask me that.”
The Major stood puzzling for a moment, fairly certain he had just been insulted, but also wondering if there was more to Smith's story about how he'd gained access to the information he had shared.
Before West could even guess at what the doctor had been up to, T'pat shoved him back the way they had come, headed for the stockade.
The Major turned slightly and said with a tinge of frustration, “Hey, you can't blame a guy for trying.”
T'pat laughed. He'd certainly heard that line, or a variation thereof, before.
Smith was relieved to see Major West return, but immediately knew his attempt had been a failure. It was impossible for him to have been gone for such a short time and still have been able to get a decent look at the power station.
“What happened, Don?” the Professor asked.
“T'pat watched me like a hawk,” West admitted. “I couldn't slip away to check the power station. You know, John, I think he may have dealt with sneaky humans before.”
“What… Smith?” the Professor asked. Both men studied the doctor who was obviously trying to determine what the two men were discussing. Smith smiled weakly, unsettled by the looks he was getting.
“I have a hard time believing that. Smith?” the Professor repeated.
“I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility, John,” West insisted.
The Professor laughed and shook his head. “Possible? Yes. Plausible? No. Smith probably just struck some sort of deal with M'jek, like he did for the medical supplies. He's a better negotiator than a spy,” he rationalized. “Besides, T'pat's a guard. He guards things. And he did a pretty good job with you.” The Professor laughed. “You really think Smith could have done any better?”
West thought for a moment. “You're probably right.”
“Well, since you didn't get anywhere with T'pat, I might as well see if I can get anywhere with M'jek,” the Professor announced. “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” West offered.
The Professor paid close attention as M'jek led him through the halls to his quarters. He was able to confirm some of Smith's information, specifically the surveillance in the corridors. As they entered the doctor's office, M'jek offered the Professor a seat, which he promptly took.
“So, Professor Robinson, what do you wish to discuss?” the doctor asked.
“Getting out of this place,” the Professor stated boldly. “And perhaps your help in doing so…”
“I see,” M'jek replied, voice full of caution. “What of Doctor Smith?”
“Our plans include him, so long as the possibility remains that we are able to take him with us,” the Professor explained.
M'jek stroked his chin thoughtfully. “How do you propose to break him out of his maximum security cell?” M'jek inquired.
“We were hoping you could provide information on vulnerabilities that would allow us to effect his escape.”
The doctor shook his head. “Professor Robinson, I am a doctor. Prison security is not within my realm of expertise,” he explained. “Even if it were, I'm afraid what you're asking is… dangerous, if not impossible. I'm sorry about Doctor Smith, I've grown very fond of him in the short time I've known him, but I do not know of a way of escape for him. At least, not one that wouldn't lead to my own demise, Professor. As much as I like the man, I'm not about to risk my life for an alien prisoner.” The doctor regarded the look of frustration and perhaps glimmer of anger in the human's eyes. “Now, I may be able to get the rest of you out, but again, I'd be taking a fantastic risk.”
“We're not leaving Smith, not while he's alive,” the Professor insisted. “He saved my son,” he pleaded, “I can't just leave him here.”
“Admirable of you,” the doctor lauded. “He is lucky to have such friends, a fact of which I'm sure he's well aware. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to, I simply cannot help you. I'm sorry.”
The Professor could tell from the doctor's voice and expression that he was sincere. Somehow, it didn't make him feel any better. “I'm sorry, too, to have wasted your time.”
“Oh, it was not a waste. If there's anything I can do for you, anything at all, including getting the rest of your family out of here, don't hesitate to ask.” M'jek paused for a moment, in thought. “I do not know the man as well as you, Professor, but I think that the doctor would like to see you and your family safely out of this place, even if it meant his life was forfeit.”
The doctor's last statement struck the Professor. If he had been told months ago what would happen to them and this same statement was spoken about Smith, he'd have a hard time believing it. After the experiences of the last several weeks and his own conversations with Smith, it wasn't so difficult to believe anymore. “Thank you for your offer. And thank you for all the help you've given us so far. My family would probably be in much worse shape if it wasn't for you.”
“You're very welcome, Professor,” M'jek replied. “It was the least I could do for you. Our relationship has not been without benefit for me, as well. You humans are very unique and I consider myself fortunate to have met you.”
Professor Robinson smiled at the sincere compliment. Despite the fact M'jek declined to help spring Smith, he couldn't help but like the alien doctor.
“We'd best be getting you back,” M'jek announced. “Again, I'm truly sorry.”
The Professor nodded and the two left for the stockade.
Major West and Doctor Smith were waiting anxiously to hear the outcome of the Professor's conversation with M'jek. When he arrived back at their camp, they could tell by the look on the Professor's face that he had not accomplished what he'd wanted.
“Things didn't go well?” West asked.
“Not exactly,” the Professor replied. “Oh, he offered to help the rest of us escape, but he said there's no way to spring Smith… not without the strong likelihood of M'jek himself being executed. He likes you, doctor, but he's not about to risk his life for you.”
“Understandable,” Smith replied. “But Professor, if there's a possibility of escape for you and the others, you must take it. My situation can't be helped. I appreciate your offer to stay for my sake, but it simply isn't realistic. Please, take him up on his offer. Get your family out of this pernicious purgatory while you have the chance.”
The Professor smiled, both at the doctor's alliteration and the fact he confirmed M'jek's belief that the doctor wanted to see his family safe, even if he had to be left behind. “I won't go back on my promise to you, Doctor Smith. We won't leave without you, not as long as you're still alive. We'll have to find a way.”
The Major agreed with a nod. “Like I told John, we all go or none of us go.”
The doctor was conflicted. He desperately wanted to leave this place and continue life with the Robinsons as before. Since that was an impossibility, he wanted to see them safe, so at the very least, his death would have some meaning. If he was going to die, he wanted to die knowing they had escaped. It would give him some sense of peace. Besides, their escape would be a victory against Mal J'hat, a victory Smith wanted a great deal.
“Professor, your stubbornness can be most irritating,” Smith said before turning and stalking off to the corner of his cell.
“He's right,” West confirmed.
“Your stubbornness can be irritating,” the Major smiled.
“Well, hopefully, that stubbornness will get us all out of here,” the Professor replied.
Continue to Chapter 14: Fight or Flight