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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Enjoy Chapter Four of The Candle in the Window--a Fan-Fiction Tribute to T-Bag from Prison Break!



Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, convicted murderer, is released from Fox River Prison to help Michael Scofield, whom he once swore a blood feud against, in Scofield's efforts to bring to justice one "Poseidon," the CIA spook who incarcerated him and married his beloved, Sara Tancredi. Scofield even funds a new prosthetic hand for T-Bag, a beyond-the-top-of-the-line marvel that behaves just like any normal one but is many times stronger.

But that isn't the greatest gift Scofield gives him. For T-Bag has a son, one he never knew he had. David--"Whip"--had been Scofield's cellmate while both languished for the past five years in a brutal prison in Yemen.

The plan is hatched, the play unfolds, and David dies just days after Theodore finds out about him. Enraged, he once again lets the demon light the candle in the window of his soul, and kills the CIA spook responsible.

We leave Theodore Bagwell in his cell back in Fox River. His new cellmate is none other than Poseidon himself. This is where we rejoin him and his efforts at redemption. This is where the candle in the window waits to be re-lit.



Chapter Four
Home Base
~~*~~


“Alex Mahone, as I live and breathe. At least for now ...”

   “You’ve got it all wrong,” replied Mahone. “I’d like you to see something.”

   His visage disappeared. What replaced it was a video of two men in black ski masks on their knees ... just outside his and Ximena’s apartment building! He recognized the alleyway. It was where the superintendent kept various supplies. The vantage point was from well above and to the left.

   As he watched, a man in shades and wearing a blue suit came up behind them, silencer in hand. He pointed it at the first, and the man’s forehead exploded on the pavement. The second one was next. That one collapsed next to the first. Their blood and brains pooled together.

   The video ended. Another began, this one unfocused for a few seconds. The image suddenly came into sharp focus and zoomed in, fast. He recognized the architecture immediately as the apartment building next to his. The camera zoomed even more on white drapes, partially pulled. What looked like a man holding binoculars to his eyes could just be seen behind the glass of the sliding door. The view abruptly shook as though someone had jostled the camera. It came back and refocused.

   The man was gone. A small round hole in the glass where his face had been had replaced it.

   The scene cut to another of what looked like a repairman in an elevator. He was a burly-looking man, bald, with vacant black eyes. He held a toolbox in his right hand.

   Theodore recognized the elevator as one in his building.

   The repairman flinched and collapsed, the hole in his temple spurting thickly.

   The scene dissolved. Mahone’s face reappeared.

   “There are seven more. Do you want to see them?”

   Theodore held silent for a moment. “Government?”

   “Private contractors ultimately paid for by the government, yes. There’s a very long, very convoluted money trail, almost impossible to track, but yes. The government has been trying to kill you since it set you free.”

   “And who do you work for?”

   Mahone didn’t flinch. “The government.”

   “You’re tellin’ me that me and my wife are in the middle of some internecine war? All because I was set free?

   The large man next to him cleared his throat, crossed his arms once more, and fell silent.

   Mahone sighed. “That’s the surface explanation; and yeah, that’s true. But it tells nowhere near the whole story.”

   “What is ‘the whole story’?”

   “That’s why you’re here. That’s why Michael sent you the riddle.”

   “What about Ximena? Is she safe?”

   “I’ve doubled the agents watching her. They know how important she is to what you need to do for us. They know they can get to you through her.”

   “I do not want her involved in any of this!” Theodore yelled.

   “That became inevitable when she married you.” Before Theodore could roar a reply, Mahone added: “We know what she means to you. She is your anchor. If that anchor goes away, so does your motivation and will. We can’t allow that. She is as protected as anybody in America is right now, probably including the president.”

   Theodore brought his hand up and stroked his goatee. “So you the white-hat boys, or the black-hat boys?”

   “A little of both, I suppose,” said Mahone. “We’re a government agency at war with another within our own government. We need your unique skillset, Theodore.”

   “And what would that skillset be, exactly?”

   He prepared himself for the usual insults of being a pedophile serial killer, ones Mahone himself had hurled at him.

   But Mahone did no such thing. Instead he shot back, “What do you think that skillset is?”

   It was clear that Mahone—or whoever was running this “agency”—had enough sharpshooters and executioners and guards. It was also clear that they had resources and money. What was also clear—and by far most surprising—was that Theodore was not, perhaps for the first time in his life, expendable. Whatever Mahone and his boys wanted him to do, it wasn’t a suicide mission—at least not initially. Else why protect him and Ximena all this time as he worked out that damned riddle that brought him here? Why bother giving him time in the first place?

   He had two usable and perhaps relevant abilities, which he’d always used in the past for evil and destructive means: to earn the trust of others whom he wanted to victimize; and his overall intelligence, which not only kept him out of the reach of an entire nation’s law enforcement apparatus for far longer than anyone thought possible, but also to see social structures very quickly and to be able to insinuate himself near persons with power in order to learn their agendas and possibly take the reins one day. It was how he survived Sona, and how, before he lost his mind there, he eventually took it over.

   A third ability, one he didn’t want to consider at this point, was how he could switch off his conscience completely in order to satisfy that demon deep and dark in his belly. If it came down to Ximena’s life that he employ it—that he allow it to “light the candle in the window”—could he do so without losing himself once again, very likely forever?

   There was yet a fourth “ability,” if one could call it that; and he considered that if he presented it here and now, with Mahone waiting patiently for him to respond, that Mahone, no dummy himself, would understand that he understood just what his other abilities were and would consider the topic closed.

   And so he lifted Vice, keeping the glove covering it on.

   Mahone’s hawkish stare hardened on him for a long moment. He nodded.

   “I always thought Sco-field had some plan for this prosthetic,” Theodore mumbled.

   “It’s very important, and you’ll learn why as you undertake this mission; but what we need now, much more, is ... well, let’s say your unique personality.”

   Theodore thought of flipping him off, and using Vice’s middle finger to do it, but held himself back. “As much as I enjoy foreplay, this conversation is beginning to chafe. Mind getting to the main event?”

   “Your mission parameters are encoded. You’ll receive the mission in stages in order to protect you and the mission itself. Once you complete a stage, you’ll get new parameters. You may report to me any time. We have considerable resources and monetary support; ask and you shall receive.”

   Mahone shook his head gravely. “You can’t call Ximena or text her. Don’t go back home for any reason. If you want to communicate with her, do so through me. I’ll take care of it. Keep the communications to a minimum. The less we stress the security protecting her, the better that security will be. Understand?”

   Theodore sighed and nodded.

   “Give Jake your phone. You’ll get a new one. This place is your home base and where you need to return when you complete each phase of your mission.”

   “What exactly is my mission?”

   Mahone smiled, but in no manner that could be considered light-hearted or frivolous. “You’re going to save the world, Theodore.”

   “From whom?”

   “You’re about to start the process of finding out. Again, it will be by stages. And Theodore?”

   Mahone’s face had become even more serious.

   “Yes?”

   “I mean this when I say it: the very best of luck to you.”

   The screen went dark.

   The big bulb named Jake gruffly closed the laptop, pulled out the “bleacher bolt,” and grunted, “This way.”

   Theodore stood and followed him across the room to another door, this one guarded by a keypad and a retinal scanner. Jake punched in several numbers and put his eye to the scanner.

   The door clicked open a tiny crack. He pushed it the rest of the way and turned to Theodore as white lights automatically flipped on.

   “You can access this room any time. We just need to scan your retina and your hands.”

   “I’ll also need the code,” said Theodore.

   “No. You don’t.” Jake tossed him the “bleacher bolt.”

   Theodore examined it. “Am I to carry this thing everywhere I go?”

   “No. You’ll keep it in here until you reach each sub-mission’s objective. Then you’ll need to come back and get it for more instructions, as well as to complete necessary paperwork.”

   The large man went to another computer, this one a large flat-screen desktop surrounded on three sides by what looked like many black filing cabinets with no handles, and sat. The swivel chair groaned under the weight. He pointed to the top of a cabinet, upon which rested a small black ball with what looked like a red eye on it. “Put your right eye close to the red part of that scanner.”

   Theodore picked the ball up, examined it a moment, and then put the red eye close to his right eye.

   “Don’t blink,” ordered Jake.

   The red eye came to light suddenly, flashing blindingly.

   “Got it. Now the left.”

   Theodore, blinking heavily, put his left eye against the ball. It flashed.

   “You can put it down.”

   “Je-zus!” Theodore exclaimed as he put the ball back down on the cabinet. His eyes had filled with tears.

   “Come here and put your hands on this pad—the prosthetic first.”

   Jake had produced a rectangular pad from under the desk and set it next to the computer. It was large enough to put an adult hand on. Theodore, still blinking, took his gloves off and, locating the pad, put Vice on it.

   “Press down,” ordered Jake.

   Theodore did.

   Something astonishing happened: Vice seemed to go partially translucent for a moment, with a sudden purple web of lightning showing just under the surface. He felt that lightning, but not sharply: more like a pleasant tingle. It went away, and the reflective silver hardness was back. He went to examine it closely, turning his hand over and back, but Jake ordered:

   “Put your right hand down.”

   He put his right hand on the pad and pressed down.

   “The keypad that lets you in here won’t open unless it senses your DNA. You just gave it the sample that allows you in. You don’t need to know the code, because there isn’t one. Just press any number or any sequence of numbers a set number of times and hit the star key, and you’ll get in. You need to keep that set number of times constant, do you understand?”

   Theodore scowled. The flashes in his eyes were finally fading away. “I think so ...”

   “If you press the keypad four times, then the next time you come in, do it again—just four times. If you start with five or six or ten times, then keep with that number. Don’t deviate from it.”

   “I can press any numbers I want, any order, just randomly each time?”

   “That’s right. Or not randomly. It’s up to you. The system doesn’t let you in by any code, but by your DNA and the set number you choose. Whatever you do after that, don’t press the pound key. Got it?”

   “Why?”

   “It will inform the agency that you’re in danger or have been compromised. It’s what people are told to do, for example, when calling in a prescription—enter the RX number and press the pound key. It’s an alarm. It means you and the mission are in danger. Understand?”

   “Yeah. I think so.”

   The fat man was in no mood to dither. “Good. This room is protected by ultra-reinforced concrete and ultra-high-stress rebar, and can withstand repeated barrages from weaponry as large as a tank if need be without being compromised. This is your safe room, your home base. The laptop will go in here as well; I’ve just been a little lazy in getting a desk for it. There’s a room back there,” Jake pointed past the cabinets towards a dark wall, “with a bed and a bathroom and a small kitchenette.”

   He stood and motioned gruffly at the computer, which was powering off. “I’ve been able to access this computer because I designed and built it. No one else can. Not even Mahone. Not even Scofield. Only you.”

   “And how do I do that?”

   “Sit.”

   Theodore gave him a sideways glance and sat down. The computer immediately began powering up.

   “I didn’t do anything,” he said, gazing around.

   “When you were in Fox River, you got a colonoscopy. The visiting doctor ... he’s one of ours. He took a detailed print of your ass, as well as a sample of the base gases your colon emits. Both are unique to each individual. The chair seat you’re sitting on is a highly sensitive sensor that just measured both. It’s the only way the computer will turn on.”

   The home screen, at least twenty inches across, was grey-blue, with an artful white swish near the top that ended with:

Welcome, Theodore

   “Here,” said Jake, who tossed him something. Theodore, flummoxed, just got hold of his wits long enough to see something gold flipping towards him, snagging it before it struck his head.

   A key.

   “That’s to the back door to this shop,” grunted Jake. “It’s a secured key, meaning, like the computer, it will only work with your touch. From now on, don’t come in through the front—ever. Got it?”

   “Yeah,” said Theodore. “Got it. My things are ...”

   “I’ll get ‘em. I’ll leave ‘em outside the door. Once you sat in that chair there, my ass-gas print was deleted off the system. This is a quantum computer; it doesn’t run like other computers. It’s far faster and more powerful. You’re now the only person on Earth with access to it. No one can hack it; no one can infect it with a virus. What you put on it is totally private. Understand?”

   Theodore gazed at the machine before him. “And the laptop outside there?”

   “It’s quantum as well, and is connected to this one. Once you were identified by Mahone, all abilities for me or anyone to use it were removed. I’ll get a desk and put it outside the door as well. You can bring it and the laptop in here.”

   Theodore looked up at him. “And what is your role in all this besides playing tutor?”

   Jake grinned. It was the first time he’d cracked a smile since Theodore met him.

   “I’m thankfully done at this point. I get to go back to being a simple supply store owner with a family and a mortgage and a white picket fence. I don’t want you talking to me after today; and if you so much as look at one of my daughters, I’ll end you where you stand, and I don’t care if the world goes to hell after that. Clear?”

   Theodore gave him the look he reserved for bulls. “Crystal. Mind tellin’ me what my ‘mission’ is?”

   “I have no fucking idea what your ‘mission’ is. Mahone said you were smart, so figure it out! Oh—and one more thing. Don’t use this machine to contact your wife. Don’t use the laptop either. Both machines may be state-of-the-art, but they still have to connect to the Internet, and so can be, at least theoretically, traced back here. That’s very unlikely, given the massive security protocols in place, but it isn’t a zero chance, and I don’t want this store invaded by who-knows-what because you couldn’t keep your pecker in your pants!”

   Theodore didn’t respond. He returned the fat man’s glare until he turned on his heel and began marching out of the room.

   “You forgot something,” said Theodore.

   Jake turned around in time to catch the cell-phone sailing for his head. He caught it and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

   Theodore was growing very tired, and thought of home and his bride and sleeping in their nice queen-sized bed after a nice home-cooked meal.

   Home. Bride. Bed. Home-cooked meal.

   Three of the four were now denied him, possibly for the rest of his life, which itself may have been put on a severely truncated schedule. And the fourth he couldn’t contact except very rarely. As he thought of her, he gazed at his gloves, which were on a cabinet, and then back at the computer. He licked his lips and reached inside his coat pocket for the bolt. Gazing along the right side of the quantum computer, he spied the hole. He inserted the bolt and waited as the screen dissolved to show a file with a single tab:

SubMISSION OVERVIEW—“2”

   He glanced around for a mouse so that he could double-click the tab, and then for a keypad mouse below the keyboard. But there were neither. He tried tapping the screen right over the tab, but that didn’t work either. Without thinking, he said:

   What is this ‘submission overview 2’?”—and was shocked when the tab opened and a female voice answered:

   “Voice print identified. Greetings, Mr. Bagwell.”


~~*~~

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