Frank Martin looked out the vehicle window at the outsides of the new prison he was being transferred to. He was considered high-risk, having successfully escaped from four prisons already. That was why he was being sent to a new prison, one with a record of no escapes in the decade it had been in operation. The sign at the bridge was typical, except the prison name had an HT after it which stood for High Tech. He doubted that it was impregnable to escape despite its name extension and implications. To him, it meant that there were simply more ways for something to go wrong, hence more opportunities to escape.
The vehicle passed over a long drawbridge and then through the gates.
He didn't see anything about the chainlink fence topped with razor wire which would stop him from escaping. Inside the compound, he could see how some methods of escape would be foiled. The compound was strewn about with tall brown columns designed to prevent helicopters from landing or getting close enough to the ground to lower a rope or ladder. Frank sneered at those. He figured a really smart con would simply climb one of those poles during the night and wait to be plucked off by a helicopter.
The buildings in the compound had narrow windows, much too narrow, it appeared, for anyone to escape through one. Frank sneered at the windows as being just window dressing for the buildings. He wondered just what the buildings were like on the inside. That was where the true measure of security came into play. If a prisoner could get past the first line of defense, then the other precautions were probably inadequate as well.
The cell door closed. Frank looked around. The windows were a bit more complicated than he first thought. He'd never seen walls so thick in a modern building in his life. He guessed that the walls were close to eight feet thick. That was much too much to attempt burrowing through. He could only guess at how thick the floor was. The aperture leading to the window was twisted, requiring a contortionist just to be able to get to the bars which were close to halfway between the outside and the inside. There was no way that anyone could work on that window and move quickly enough away from it if a guard was heard coming down the hallway. In fact, there was also the presence of the closed-circuit cameras which were recessed in the ceilings outside the cells to further discourage anyone from attempting to dig through the walls or floor or reach the window to cut through the bars. The camera was enclosed inside one of those one-way domes which made it nearly impossible to determine which direction the camera was pointed at.
Frank concentrated on the weak points. The doors. They were always one of the best places to start at. Their very nature made them susceptible to breaking out. He could see that the bars were thick. Much too thick, he figured at first, for them to be cut through. However, they had a strange sound to them. It took a moment for him to realize what he was hearing.
They were hollow!
He realized then that they weren't going to be so difficult to cut through if they were. He looked at the size of the door and considered it. He had thought for a moment that the bars were hollow to reduce the weight which had to be moved in order to gain access to his cell. However, after some careful thought, he realized that couldn't be the case. There was some give in his cell door. He pushed against it and looked at where the bolt engaged. He almost missed seeing it, but he didn't. He knew then why the bars were hollow. They concealed wires. Likely, he figured, if the bar was cut through, an alarm would be triggered. Then guards would be swarming on him before the task of cutting through completely could be finished.
From where he stood, Frank glanced around at the outer area. There were simple controls which the guards operated. Of course, each control needed a key before it could be engaged. However, to Frank, keys weren't a big problem at all. He knew enough about picking locks to get past most of those precautions.
Frank was surprised at the work assignment he was given. He was placed in an electronics workshop where access to equipment and tools was sloppily controlled. Within three days of being assigned there, he had stolen enough stuff to make himself a set of lockpicks. As well, he had the basic things needed to jump the contacts on wires that would otherwise cause an alarm to be set off.
He tested his theory on another prisoner's cell earlier that day.
All Frank did was stick a wad of chewing gum into the receptacle for the cell door bolt. The electrical contact couldn't be made when the door closed. The alarm went off immediately. The guards practically swarmed over the man and his cell when the alarm went off. Frank learned enough valuable information from that to know that the alarm had to be jumped.
Frank took it easy. A few days of delay could pay off big as far as making his escape successful. He'd already found out that the tall brown columns meant to foil helicopters from landing or getting close would also foil anyone from climbing them. He was surprised to discover that they were brown because of the Teflon coating each column had. There was probably no way anyone was going to climb one of those columns to wait on top for a helicopter to pluck him off.
Frank watched one of the other prisoners make a break for the fence in broad daylight. He thought the man would be shot down as soon as he reached the fence. Instead, the guards merely watched along with everyone else. Frank was mystified by that. He wasn't mystified for very long. The man somehow made the top of the fence before falling back when he touched two electrified wires.
Frank stole some more equipment. He knew that he'd have to cross that fence. He didn't plan on being toasted by the high-tech fence.
Frank slipped out of his cell after successfully jumping the alarm and picking the lock. He moved quietly in his bare feet. Reaching the end of the cell block, he picked the necessary lock to give him access to the switch for opening the cell block door. He was surprised that the camera hadn't picked him up yet. He hoped that he was staying out of the camera's range by walking down the center of the corridors. As well, he hoped the dummy he left in his cell would fool the other camera long enough.
Frank slipped out into the night air. Quietly, he moved towards the fence. He felt of his pockets and made sure he still had all his tools. There was no way that a high tech prison was going to be enough to hold him. Stepping lightly and carefully, he picked his way through the scattered razor wire coils on the ground in front of the fence. He knew that if he was spotted, the guards probably wouldn't shoot. They'd probably watch just to see him fry himself to death. He hoped that he could disappoint them. However, he wasn't sure if they would shoot or not if he was spotted and successfully cleared the fence. That was why he didn't want to be spotted.
Frank reached the fence, having nicked himself once or twice while stepping through the coils of razor wire. He looked closely at the fence, trying to distinguish where the live wires were at. As he suspected, there was more than one. The convict who died on the fence before had been lucky to miss some earlier live wires. Frank reached into his pocket and pulled out some wired alligator clips. He gingerly placed the clips in place before he cut the wire, giving himself a two-foot wide gap to climb within. He stood up and continued to search for more live wires. Within moments, he was placing another pair of connected clips before snipping away another live section.
Slowly he climbed up the fence. Frank stopped when he spotted the next set of live wires. He clipped and snipped each of them before resuming his climb. He reached the top and made his way through the razor wire. He could smell freedom in the air.
Much as he wanted to leap down from the top, he decided that it was better to climb down cautiously. He realized that he didn't know enough about the ground between the fence and the moat to take obscene chances that might increase his risk. Keeping strictly between the clips he placed on the live wires, he climbed down until he felt his feet touch the ground. He took a deep breath and turned carefully as he stooped back down to present less of a silhouette in the pale moonlight.
Frank strained to see in front of him, trying to see if there were anymore live wires which might roast him. He spotted the wires crossing in front of him starting at just about ankle height. He took out his last pair of clips and worked on the lowest wire. Frank knew that he might have to retrieve some of the others to reuse so that he could remove enough of the wires ahead in order to crawl under them. He laid down and looked at how much clearance he had. It wasn't enough. He crawled back to the fence and retrieved one pair of clips.
Back at the new obstacle, Frank put the clips in place. Then he began to snip through the wire. It was tough. He looked at the wire closely. He couldn't see anything different about it in what little light he had. He put more pressure onto the snips and finally felt the wire shear through.
The prison spotlights came on! The entire outer fence was suddenly bathed in bright light. Frank blinked at the sudden intrusion to what had been his dark world. He almost held his breath as he kept absolutely still in hopes that the lights coming on were merely part of the prison's routine.
"Hey, it's Frank! Hi Frank! You're doing pretty good!" one of the guards hollered out from a tower.
"What cha stopping for, Frank?" another guard hollered.
The first guard said, "Aw, go on, Frank! We're not going to shoot
you! We've got a bet going between us just to see how far you get!"
The second guard said, "Yeah, you're the first to make it that far.
Joe doesn't think you can swim, so he bet against you getting this far. I'm already ten bucks richer!"
A spotlight focused on Frank and the ground leading to the moat.
Frank could see the wire that gave him trouble moments earlier. He could see that the metal was hollow and carried a fiber-optics cable inside it. He realized then that he had triggered the lights.
Joe hollered, "Hey, no fair helping him!"
The other guard hollered back, "I just want enough light to video-record this! Okay?"
"That all?" Joe hollered.
"That's all I'm doing," the second guard hollered back.
Frank was astounded. He couldn't believe it. Not only were the
guards not shooting him, they had even illuminated the ground so he could see what else he had to avoid in order to reach the moat. He crawled under the wires and looked around, aware that he was being video-taped for posterity. No longer afraid of the guards shooting him, he tried to keep his mind focused on the obstacles which were meant to do him in. He continued to crawl, then stopped suddenly. He could see the fine wires protruding out of the ground. He racked his mind for a moment until he came up with the right answer.
Mines! The ground was laced with anti-personnel mines. No wonder the guards weren't shooting! They expected him to be blown to bits. Maybe that was worth recording, but he was just as determined as before to escape alive and whole.
Frank crawled around the protruding wires, making sure he didn't get close enough for any of his clothing to snag. He watched carefully in front of him for more. He detoured once more when he spotted more of the telltale wires protruding from the ground. He stopped only when he reached the edge of the moat.
He lifted his hands and looked at them. He had cuts from broken glass which he had crawled through. None of the cuts were serious, being more of an inconvenience than anything else. His knees felt cut as well. He glanced down at them and could see small cuts in the knees of his pants and a little blood on the material. If he had to run, those cuts might be a bit of a bother, but they were mostly an inconvenience. His feet were what really concerned him most. Sooner or later, he would have to outrun the bullets he expected the guards to fire at him once he crossed the moat. He could see that his feet were cut as well. He felt down his feet with his hands, gingerly removing a few pieces of broken glass sticking in his flesh. At least, the cuts weren't deep. Frank felt certain that he could still run.
Frank looked at the moat. It was about fifty-feet wide. Much too wide to pole vault across though he didn't have a pole. It was probably too deep for that as well. He looked at the guard towers for a moment, wondering if the guards would try to shoot him while he was swimming. As far as he could tell, the guards were watching him, but their rifles were still slung from their shoulders. One guard continued to record him on tape. Evidently, they weren't at all concerned yet about him escaping.
Frank stood up after carefully brushing some of the broken glass out of the way. He tried to look into the water, but he couldn't see anything for the glare of the lights on the surface. He wondered if the bottom sloped away or went deep immediately. He knew better than to suddenly dive in. With his luck, the bottom would slope gradually and he'd risk breaking his neck that way. He stepped forward carefully, feeling for the bottom with his foot. A moment later, he felt it just inches below the surface. It was a gradual slope. Frank slowly walked into the water.
He felt more glass on the bottom. It wasn't like the small pieces which he crawled through. It was much bigger and meant to cut deeply into the flesh. Before he put his foot down again, he did his best to sweep some of the glass aside before putting his weight down.
Frank's foot came up against the underwater barricade which protruded up to the surface just as he reached water where it was deep enough to swim. It didn't make any sense to him. He stepped over it, using it to support his weight when he couldn't feel the bottom. He splashed in suddenly as he got both legs over. It marked the end of the gradual bottom. It marked a sudden drop off. Frank began to swim.
Then pain hit him all over his body. He felt it in different places all at once it seemed. As he lifted his arm to take another swimming stroke, he saw with horror what was hurting him. Piranha! The moat was filled with piranha! Frank tried to turn back, but it was too late. . .
One guard hollered as Frank began to disappear beneath the water, "See, I told you he wouldn't make it past the moat!"
"Well, that's what happens when these high tech criminals suddenly find themselves confronted with low tech security in a hard time prison. It fools and beats them every time!"
"So, did you get it all on tape?" asked Joe.
"Sure did! Hey, old Frank was even nice enough to face the camera
when he went under!" the guard hollered back while he switched the searchlight off.
Joe asked, "So, how much did you win?"
The second guard replied, "Enough to pay for the camera! I told you old Frank was going to be the toughest this prison had ever seen!"
Joe hollered back, "Yeah! Good thing the fish don't mind them being tough!"
Atk. Butterfly works as a Computer Programmer/Systems Analyst, most often as a contractor. An avid science fiction reader, Atk. has written a number of science fiction stories. Some have actually been published in Dragon Dreaming, Dream Forge, Eternity Online, Exodus, Fusion, Just Because, Keen Science Fiction!, The Rock, The Tales' Realm, TimeWinder, and Veils Magazine. As well, he wrote a few technical computer articles which were published in computer magazines. His novel, Washout, is available online from HyperBooks at URL http://www.hyperbooks.com/.
Atk. is an Event Host on Prodigy in the Books and Writing Area where he moderates a writing workshop for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and humor. He is presently the editor of Preditors & Editors, a web resource for writers, composers, and artists located at URL http://pages.prodigy.com/XLTX22B/publish0.htm. He also has a personal web site located at URL http://pages.prodigy.com/sf4free which he hopes people will visit and enjoy.
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