Chapter 16 - "Look how much blood I had in me!"

Zac woke up a long time after his brothers did. His first thoughts were about breakfast because he felt unusually hungry and then he absentmindedly wondered why he hadn't eaten dinner, or lunch come to think of it, yesterday. Then memory hit him together with pain. It was intensified by his attempts to move which were not a good idea. He opened his eyes. Even his eyes were sore! And looked around. The room he was in was pretty barren; there were no windows and no seats. There was a bed like thing next to the wall but he appeared to have spent the night on the floor. The room was illuminated by long fluresant light bulbs that reminded Zac of a school classroom. Not that he had really ever been in one. He tried to sit up and instantly felt intense pain in both of his arms. He held them both up in front of his face and inspected them. There were long red bruises on his forearms and upper arms. Evidently he had tried to block some of the kicks aimed at his body with his arms. They felt heavy and hurt when moving but didn't seem to be broken. His hands seemed remarkably unblemished. He guessed he'd rolled them up into fists to protect himself. The only marks they had were red marks his finger nails had made digging into his palms. He determined his arms still worked so with some degree of difficulty and agony he pulled himself up into a sitting position. Now his hair fell in front of his eyes and he shook his head to clear it away. This wasn't a good idea. In any case his hair stayed in place because it was all clumped together with something, blood he guessed was acting as glue. He looked down his legs, which were covered in splotches of blood too, ruining one of his favorite pairs of blue jeans. His feet, like his hands, looked in good condition. Now he looked around the room and decided the bed wasn't too far away to try for. Grunting as pain exploded all over his body he pulled himself slowly across the floor until he was next to the bed. Resting for a moment he psyched himself up for the effort and then with one quick but not quick enough motion he pulled himself up onto the bed. There he rested, exhausted already.

But now his belly felt like it was on fire. He knew he had some serious damage down there and he decided with some trepidation he had to have a look. He noticed idly that his blue shirt was, like the rest of him splattered with blood. He wondered just how much blood his body could possibly have left. Some of the blood on the shirt was still wet too. So selecting a non blooded bit Zac grasped the end of his shirt and pulled it up exposing his belly and chest. What he saw was unbelievable. His normally pale skin was now dark red and blue. There seemed to be no part of his chest or belly that wasn't covered in big deep bruising. No wonder if hurt to breathe so much! Zac looked at himself contemplatively for a moment before remarking to no one in particular, "If I was an apple I wouldn't choose me."

Taylor and Ike felt like they were in a dream. The Commandant explained to them how Zac would be confined to an isolated room as punishment for his deeds and that yes Ike and Taylor could visit him because the Commandant was human after all and that once this was all over they would reflect on how much respect for human life the Commandant had despite what the press might think. After he left Ike and Tay were like different people compared to a few hours ago. Ike was grinning ear to ear and Taylor was chattering on and on about nonsense as they set about making themselves look presentable for their first visit to Zac. Their euphoria was genuine and even the reality of their prisoner status couldn't affect it.

"How does this shirt look?" asked Taylor holding up a green shirt.

"What pants are you wearing?" asked Ike.

"Uh these ones." said Taylor pointing at the pants he in fact had on.

"I wouldn't go for it, but you're different."

"What do you mean?"

"I dress more conservatively than you or Zac."

"Are you comparing my fashion sense to Zacs?"

"Do you deny it?"

"That boy has no fashion sense! He just wears anything, the louder the better."

"Excuse me Mister! I think I've seen some outfits on you that wouldn't look out of place on Elton John."

"I like to express myself!"

"Yeah well you certainly manage that." "What's that supposed to mean?" Taylor narrowed his eyes.

"Sometimes you wear clothes that express you much more than other clothes might."

"Like?"

"Like clothes that seem to be painted on."

"Huh! You're just jealous you can't pull it off."

"Yeah." Ike snorted, "Taylor no one could pull those clothes off!"

"I have a finely tuned fashion sense thankyou very much."

"Whatever."

"Would you rather," Taylor held up Zac's orange T-shirt and pants set. "I wore these?"

"They'd be a bit big for you wouldn't they?"

Tay shot him a look.

"Besides," continued Ike, "I'd be in sunglasses all day and all night if you do."

Taylor laughed. "No wonder they had to keep turning up the lights on our stage. Zac's clothes out shone everything."

"Not quite everything."

"What do you mean?"

"Remember Montreal?"

Taylor went a slight shade of pink. He looked flustered.

"I thought we agreed. You are never to mention that. Ever. Ever again."

"Yes I know... just remember the lesson you learned the 'hard' way that day." Ike laughed at his own joke. Taylor threw a pillow at him.

"You got a standing ovation for that performance."

"Just shut up okay."

"Okay okay," Ike still laughed quietly to himself.

Taylor picked up Zac's clothes again and had a thought. Actually he was trying to look busy so Ike couldn't see how much his joke had embarrassed him.

"Hey do you think we should take some of these to Zac?"

"Yeah, if we're allowed. Whatever clothes he wore yesterday are bound to stink."

"Okay which ones?"

Ike and Tay busied themselves choosing clothes for Zac and eventually put together an outfit that they thought Zac would approve of without it being visible from space. And timely enough the guard knocked on the door to take them to him.

Ike and Tay had no idea what to expect but they were steeling themselves for something. The screams were hard to put out of your mind and even though they were assured he was alive they didn't quite know what shape he would be in. Their apprehension built up as they walked down the hallway towards his room.

Zac was laying down on his bed with his eyes closed just letting the pain all merge into one almost manageable gaffump. He was still having trouble breathing but aside from that there was no need for him to panic. He was uneasy about letting his mind wander because it tended to take him back to yesterday and he never wanted to think about that again. He tried to think about Tay and Ike but for some reason there was a barrier up in his mind preventing him from thinking too much about them. He could still see the looks on their faces as he was dragged away but that was about it. They didn't seem connected to his existence now. All his life seemed to consist of now was pain. Ike and Tay stopped outside the door. Ike held onto Tay's left hand tightly to give his brother all the strength he could muster. The guard fiddled with the lock, he seemed to be having trouble fitting the key into it. He had approved of the pile of clothes Ike was carrying with a nod so Ike balanced them ready to go into the room.

They both took a deep breath.

The key turned in the lock.

Zac felt a hideous creeping fear grab him suddenly by the throat. He suddenly felt very very small and very helpless. Instinctively he moved into the fetal position on the bed. He mind was screaming at him to run and hide but there was no where to go. The guards were back to do him over again. He shut his eyes tightly and prayed as the door opened. For agonizing moments there was no sound at all. Zac's will to keep his eyes shut was overwhelmed by his curiosity and slowly, carefully he opened them.

Zac could have collapsed with shock right there if he wasn't already laying down. He was so completely not expecting the sight confronting him. Taylor and Isaac standing in the doorway holding a pile of clothes. For a few seconds none of them spoke. Zac looked his brothers up and down carefully. They both looked like crap. And something odd, something very odd too. He looked at their hands linked together in solidarity between them. Looking up from their hands into their eyes Zac broke the silence.

"You two look like girls!"

Taylor couldn't prevent a grin from covering his face, his sense of relief was enormous, and complete too. Zac was well enough to insult his brothers. That was good. Isaac couldn't help but be infected by the big grin on Taylor's face and he too broke into smiles. Zac started laughing, well, laughing coughing and Taylor and Isaac joined in.

"So how are you little brother?" said Taylor finally.

"Oh well enough... you know, nothing really special to say."

Ike and Tay went over to Zac and sat on his bed, up close they could see some of the damage more clearly and it was disturbing.

"Look how much blood I had in me!" said Zac pointing at the bloodstains that Ike and Tay could hardly miss.

"Pretty impressive." commented Ike, he was feeling distinctly uneasy now. He looked toward the door where the guard was still standing. As if reading his mind the guard stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. Tay and Ike both relaxed a little and let the concern show on their faces.

"So are you really okay?"

Zac looked at them for a moment trying to decide something. They're my brothers, he finally decided, they should know. Without saying anything he lifted up his shirt for them to see. Ike went pale and sucked in his breath, Taylor almost fell off the bed in shock.

Ike let the first wave of anxiety subside before speaking again.

"Does it hurt much?"

"Only to breathe, and to move, aside from that I'm hunky dory."

Ike nodded and Tay peered at his brother.

"Bend your head a little." Zac did so. Tay carefully pushed his matted hair out of the way to reveal the gash in the top of Zac's head.

"How is it?"

Taylor fought to keep his voice calm and steady.

"Pretty nasty, what did this?"

"A gun."

Ike and Tay both recoiled.

"He hit me with it."

They relaxed a little.

"Who was it?"

"Two of the guards, not sure which ones, not ones we know, not our plane guy."

Zac lowered his voice to a whisper. "Guys...are they gonna come back? What's gonna happen to me?"

Tay put his arm around his brother. "No they're not coming back Zac, we've talked to the Commandant..."

"Well he talked we listened." added Ike.

"Right, he says you are to be kept in this room as punishment and we can visit you and bring you stuff. We bought you some clothes. All you have to do is get healthy again."

"Cool... did they find it?" Ike couldn't hear what Zac had said his voice was so quiet, Tay heard.

"Not that we know of. I think we did it Zac, I think you did it."

Zac smiled, "Okay let's see some of these clothes you chose for me."

Ike put the pile up on the bed while Zac rifled through it. He and Tay sat back and watched their brother thoughtfully.

"Hmmm okay... pretty good choices, I wouldn't put these together but I'm not you. You picked these didn't you Tay?"

Ike laughed to himself.

"Tell us what else you want and we'll bring it for you okay?" Tay replied, shooting a look at Ike as he did so.

"My pad and pencils would be nice and my shoes..." "You want them here?"

"No... keep them safe for me okay?"

"Okay." Ike got up from the bed. "I guess we better go and get that stuff together."

"Can just one of you go?"

Ike looked at his brother, he's still scared he thought. Suddenly he felt mad at the people who had done this to him.

"I'll stay." volunteered Tay, "You get the stuff."

"Okay." said Ike, "See you in a little bit."

Ike knocked on the door and the guard let him out and then shut the door again. Taylor turned his attention back to Zac.

Zac fiddled around with the clothes for a moment before going a slight shade of red.

"Tay." He said, "Can you help me change?"

"Sure." I should have guessed thought Tay, I'm surprised he can even move at all. He helped Zac take off his bloodied clothes and put on his clean ones. While doing so he noticed Zac was watching him closely.

"What is it Zac?"

"Tay you look like crap. What happened to you guys last night?"

"Nightmares Zac."

"You mean you slept?"

"No, not that I remember, it was a waking nightmare, last night... I never want to feel that way again."

"That makes two of us."

"Aww c�mon!" joked Tay, "Look at this. You have a private room. You've always wanted one of those."

"Yeah." said Zac sighing, "But without a Jacuzzi it's just not the same."

As he helped him Tay noticed Zac flinch and cringe several times, he felt like crap every time he did it. Zac was obviously in far more pain than he was willing to say. He tried to be very very gentle whatever he did.

Presently Ike arrived back with a pad and pencil and some food. And his guitar. Zac's eyes lit up when he saw the food and Tay wasn't none to unhappy about it either. They ate it together on Zac's bed and then set about playing every sort of game you can with a pad and pencil. By late afternoon Zac was noughts and crosses Champion of the World. Following that Ike picked up his guitar and they gave their voices a much-needed work out. Despite his injuries Zac's voice was in good form. Tay and Ike weren't half-bad either.

Dinner was served about six o'clock and Tay went and fetched three servings of it. Finally about eight or nine that night there was a knock on the door. Tay opened it and the guard pointed to his watch.

Tay turned back to Ike and Zac.

"I guess it's time."

They couldn't really argue this, the guards had been more than generous today letting Ike and Tay visit with Zac for over twelve hours. These guards were hard to fathom, one minute they were beating the crap out of Zac and now they seemed to have developed a fondness for all three of them. Strange...

"Okay I'm tired anyway." lied Zac.

"We'll be back first thing tomorrow morning okay?"

"Yeah yeah... bring a bigger selection of clothes tomorrow okay?"

Ike rolled his eyes and Taylor laughed.

"Goodnight guys." said Zac and he lay back down on his bed. Tay dragged a blanket he had bought from their own room over his brother.

"Night Zacky-poo." said Ike. Zac smiled.

"Night Zac."

Taylor and Ike left the room and began walking back to their own. It was noticeably late now and Tay marveled at how fast the day seemed to have gone. Ike was yawning a lot of the way, his tiredness was genuine.

Zac lay back on his bed smiling at the day's events, it sure had turned out different, and a lot better than he had expected. He still felt considerable pain but it was manageable now... his heart was healing and he felt better about the future. In fact he felt like, in some far off place, there was light at the end of this particular tunnel.

The light was a lot closer than Zac imagined. It was actually flashing on and off in a shallow pit under a rock far above Zac on the mountainside. It's steady flash was the sign of a signal being carried far into the night. Zac, before he was even aware he was tired, had fallen asleep.

Ike fell asleep as soon as his body hit the bed. The stresses of the past couple of days were finally melting away and he could feel a little security around him now.

Tay was thinking too hard to go to sleep just yet. An idea had been germinating in his mind and he was mulling over the possibilities. Now that he finally had some time to think he was able to think things through properly. The more he thought the clearer it seemed to him. Really there no was alternative. Just before dropping off to sleep Taylor decided. He would do it.

.

Chapter 17 - "Definitely no drumming."

Zac opened his eyes and dreamily gazed at the person they fell upon. "Hello sweety." said Karen.

Zac murmured hello back and closed his eyes sleepily. Then he opened them again. Wide.

"What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you to wake up."

"No, you know what I mean." This lady wasn't taking any double talk from Zac.

"Taylor and Isaac told me all about what happened. I told them I have some nursing training and they said they'd ask if I could come and see you. And I could."

"Oh." Zac said nothing for a moment, then he broke into a wide grin.

"Cool!"

Taylor sat on his bunk idly staring into space. He and Ike had decided to leave Karen alone with Zac for a while. He was hoping Zac wouldn't put on the "I'm not really hurt" routine with her. In any case Tay had some thinking to do about his plan. At the moment he was debating whether it was wise to tell Ike about it. He knew his brother's ability to be overly cautious but he also knew his brother's ability to think things through clearly. Now he had to decide which of his brother's abilities out weighed the other. "So are you gonna let me take a look at you?" Karen asked Zac a direct question. He was still uneasy about this, he really didn't want anyone telling him he was sicker than he thought. "Okay... but you have to promise to tell me if anything is wrong."

"Zac I can see your bruises through your shirt, I know something is wrong."

"I mean really wrong!" Karen looked like she understood the unspoken message he was trying to deliver.

"Okay I promise. Take off your shirt."

Zac felt his face go a little red and he looked down.

"I can't."

"Okay..." Karen's tone had noticeably changed, Zac guessed this was 'nurse talk'.

"How high can you lift your arms?"

Zac lifted his arms to shoulder level and tried his best to smile through the increasingly demanding pain messages his brain was getting.

"About that high?" Zac nodded.

"Okay this'll be easy... You wouldn't believe some of the strange contortions patients have got themselves into that I have..."

"Am I a patient?"

Karen smiled. "No you're my rich pop star friend."

Zac smiled back. "Talk like that is gonna earn you a Cadillac."

"As I was saying..." Karen tried not to smile because this was a serious topic, "Some positions I've undressed patients from have to be seen to be believed." She failed.

"Like this guy who had folded his feet up above his head and he was wearing a turtleneck sweater..."

Isaac looked over at his brother staring morosely at the floor. Tay was always looking morose for some reason these days... you'd think the life of a fifteen-year-old pop icon would be easy... Still Isaac knew Tay had his reasons. And lately there had been an ample supply of those. Striking up a conversation might cheer him up a little though. "What color is it?"

"What?"

"The carpet you've been staring at for the past half hour."

"Uh... Blue, off blue. Stucco maybe."

Isaac smiled and shook his head. He finished folding the pile of clothes they were bringing Zac today and walked over and sat down next to his brother.

"Look Tay it ain't that bad."

"Huh?"

Taylor wondered where Ike had got that from. Oh I spose I look sad when I'm thinking, he thought to himself. I spose I still look sad, stop thinking and look happy. He didn't listen. Taylor pondered the way he was so often misread by people... Like the way he talked up a storm whenever he was feeling nervous or shy. Oh dang I'm thinking again. Better stop that. He smiled at Ike. No point arguing the matter.

"Thanks."

Isaac put his hand on his brother's shoulder for a moment then got up.

"Are you going to help me choose Zac's latest fashion statement?"

Taylor groaned and got up.

"What abomination is he going to inflict upon the world today!"

Silently he and Ike sorted through the clothes. It was weirdly fun. Almost as if sorting his clothes told them something about their unpredictable brother.

"Ahhhhhh love you baby." Zac was trying his best Elvis impersonation but it was coming out garbled. Not surprising with Karen's finger in his mouth.

"What did I have for dinner last night?"

"Be serious." said Karen with more than a hint of amusement in her voice.

"I can't okay," Zac tried to say, "I'm allergic!"

He started making gagging sounds and Karen withdrew her finger.

Zac grinned. "Psych!"

"Okay you're not running a fever," said Karen trying to maintain a serious 'nurse' tone. "So your internal injuries probably aren't much."

"Hey they're the best I can do lady!"

"Do you ever stop cracking jokes?"

"I'll let you know."

Karen sighed. The expression on her face told Zac she was serious beyond 'nurse' serious this time.

"Zac I'm worried you may have broken a couple of ribs. That's why it hurts to breathe so much. I'm afraid there's not much I can do for those. Just try not to over exert yourself for a few weeks at least."

"No drumming?"

"Definitely no drumming."

Zac looked kinda sad.

"But you will have all this extra time to piss off your family."

Zac cheered back up.

"Okay lay back on the bed now, I want to see where your stomach is tender."

Zac lay gingerly back on the bed and Karen began prodding him with her fingers, not hard enough to cause real pain but hard enough for him to definitely feel. She deftly moved across from one side of his stomach to the other measuring his reactions to her touch. He winced once or twice as she prodded really heavily bruised spots.

"Are you done yet?" It wasn't a demand or a request just a statement of question.

"Almost honey."

Zac lay back and tried to relax. It wasn't easy. The sheep he was picturing jumping over the fence kept butting him in the guts.

"How much does this hurt?"

Zac was going to lie about it like he had to Tay and Ike but something stopped him.

"Like a steam train just rammed into my gut."

Karen stopped examining him and looked him in the eyes.

"You're still in pain aren't you?"

He nodded, it felt good to be honest about this.

"A lot?"

"It comes and goes, if I try to move anything, anything at all... Well a blow over the head with a spade would be a nice relief."

"How about your legs? How are they?"

"They're pretty sore, they're bruised too but not as badly as up here."

"Can I have a look?"

Zac went pale and shook his head. "Nooo!"

"Why not sweety?"

Zac shifted uncomfortably, it hurt, he felt his cheeks flush red.

"I haven't been able to walk to the toilet bucket over there."

Karen looked at him uncertainly before her expression relaxed.

"You mean you..."

"I tried to hold it in you know... it gets too painful... when I was sleeping last night it..." Zac felt tears springing to his eyes. He tried to hold them off but the feeling was overwhelming. They were coming now.

"Please don't tell Tay and Ike." he croaked. Karen slid up the bed and put her arm around his shoulders.

"It's okay Zac. I won't tell anyone."

"I...I..." Zac couldn't find the words, they were dissolving in tears. He reached out and put his arms around Karen's neck, it didn't matter that they hurt. She hugged him close to her chest and stroked his back very softly. His whole body was shaking with sobs now.

"Let it out honey... Let it all out."

Zac felt himself give way completely. It felt so good to cry...

Isaac and Taylor sat back wondering how to pass the time. It had been a while now since they had finished sorting out Zac's clothes and they were sort of bored now. They were both thinking about Zac and how long they ought to leave him and Karen alone. "We should go to him pretty soon."

"Yeah we should."

They still made no move.

Isaac looked at Tay, something was definitely up in his brothers mind, he was sure he wasn't imagining it this time. He was curious about what but he didn't want to ask outright. Tay doesn't usually appreciate being told what to do. He hoped he would tell him eventually.

Tay was at that moment trying to decide whether he should tell Ike. All this time hadn't made the decision seem any clearer. He knew he could depend on Ike but...

"Argh!" Taylor slammed his hands down on the bed and stood up.

Ike was looking at him.

"I'm bored!" It sounded fake to him but Ike seemed to buy it.

"I'm bored too. What's the time?"

"Eleven o'clock."

"Okay we'll give them fifteen more minutes then we'll join them."

Tay nodded.

"I hope Karen can do it."

"She's a trained nurse."

"No I mean I hope she can... Oh never mind."

Tay stared at Ike... An incredulous thought filled his mind. Ike had been thinking the same thing Taylor had!

"Can get him to talk about it?" Tay ventured.

Ike's expression mellowed. "Yeah."

"Have you been..."

"Yeah I've been worried about it, have you?"

"All day!"

"Oh so that's what's been on your mind!"

Wrong but Taylor wasn't going to correct him.

"Why didn't you say something?"

"Why didn't you?" replied Taylor.

Ike said nothing for a moment then sighed. "Well I hope she can get him to quit lying about his injuries."

"Amen to that." said Taylor. He sat back down again. "Why does he do that? We're his brothers and his best friends, why can't he tell us?"

"I think he doesn't want us to feel sorry for him."

Taylor's turn to sigh. "That's silly."

Zac clung to Karen long after the tears had stopped flowing. It was so warm and comforting and for just a second, if he closed his eyes and blanked his mind, he could imagine she was Mom. Karen thought Zac had fallen asleep and so was gently shaking him to wake him up.

"I'm not asleep you know." He said in a muffled voice, not moving an inch.

"Are you better now?"

"Mmmm... you smell nice."

Karen raised an eyebrow. She looked at Zac uncertainly for a moment trying to decide whether a lonely child or a hormonal teenager had said that. She smiled, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Knowing all good things must come to an end Zac reluctantly disentangled himself from her. He sat back on the bed and breathed in the Karen smell as it still clung to him. Finally he spoke.

"Thanks. I needed that."

Karen said nothing. It would be their little secret now.

"Do you want me to help you put your shirt back on?"

"No thanks my clothing express will be here soon . I'll get a fresh one."

"Must be nice to be so well looked after."

"Yeah...yeah it is."

Karen picked up Zac's shirt from the floor and folded it beside him on the bed.

"Do they do a laundry service too?"

Zac grinned, "It's full service!"

Karen grinned, she stood up. "I'll come back tomorrow to check on you okay?"

"Yeah."

"And you tell me if anything is wrong."

"I promise."

"I guess I better go." She still didn't move.

Zac noticed she seemed to be having trouble tearing herself away from him. Ahhh the old Zac Hanson charm strikes again.

"See you tomorrow."

"See you Zac."

Karen knocked on the door and the guard opened it for her. Zac waved as she turned around one last time.

"Bye!"

"I think that's twenty minutes." "We should go then."

Taylor and Ike both got up off the bed and Ike opened the door. Taylor stared at him for a second and knew what he had to do.

"Ike wait. Shut the door, there's something I need to tell you."

.

Chapter 18 - "Oh that was just to annoy Tay."

Isaac looked at his brother in awe as he detailed his plan. Taylor had obviously thought this through long and hard. And now he was seeking some kind of approval from Ike. Dammit Tay! Why do I always have to be the responsible one?

Taylor sighed, he took a breath, "So I intend to escape some time early tomorrow morning."

Isaac recoiled a little in shock. He had sort of expected this based on what Taylor was saying but hearing it was a powerful dose of reality.

"Are you sure?"

"I've thought this through Ike, we can't stay here indefinitely. I know what I'm doing."

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"I wasn't going to tell you at all..."

Ike felt a chill come over him with those words.

"...but I guess I knew I had to. I don't want you and Zac to know any details because when I'm gone they're going to blame you."

"I know."

They were both silent for a moment. Isaac let what Taylor had said sink into his mind. They had both come far from being complacent hostages now. This was outright rebellion. He wasn't entirely convinced this was the best course of action but his brother was and Isaac trusted his brother's judgement absolutely.

"I'm here for whatever you want me to do Tay."

"Thanks bro, for the moment I just need you to be Ike. Once I'm gone though... once I'm gone it's up to you. I need to know Zac will be okay while I'm gone. I need to know you'll be okay while I'm gone."

Isaac laughed grimly to himself. More and more lately Taylor had taken the big brother role for himself. Now he was even talking like it. But he was right...

"Tay you have nothing to worry about. I'm never going to let anything happen to me or Zac."

Taylor took this without comment for a moment, then replied, "That's what we thought three days ago Ike."

That was uncalled for! Ike sighed, again Taylor was right.

"Based on what we know they won't beat me or Zac for you escaping. If they think we're not involved. If they capture you..."

Taylor nodded. He had thought this through completely.

"I know what the consequences are... I have to do this Ike and I'm going to succeed."

"I know you are."

Taylor felt an enormous weight lift from his shoulders as he spilled his guts to Isaac. He studied his brothers reactions carefully as he spoke and marveled at the way Ike took everything in, thought it through carefully then gave a measured response. There was one thing he could tell - Ike wasn't too sure why he had to go. Taylor wondered if he could put his fears into words. Somehow to convey to Ike exactly why.

"Shall we go?"

Tay stood up and followed his brother. It was time to visit with Zac.

Zac sat up when he heard the key turning in the door. Karen had left a while ago and he had been daydreaming while he waited. But Tay and Ike were unusually late. Zac pondered that thought for a moment. The same old feeling of unease was coming back to him. Something was up and he wasn't going to be told what it was. He sighed, being the youngest sucks sometimes. They keep information from you because they think they're protecting you but they're not, they're just making you paranoid and untrusting. Still Zac didn't have it bad. He knew most of Ike and Tay's secrets and even when they tried to hold out on him he soon had them confessing. He decided to check their mood while they visited to see whether this one was worth pursuing.

As soon as Isaac entered the room Zac knew it was. Isaac was wearing the fakest smile Zac had ever seen. It was the "I think I just ran over your cat - sorry" smile. And Taylor wasn't even hiding what he was feeling. You could see it written all over his face. Okay, this calls for Zacterrogation tactics.

"Hey guys where are my clothes?"

Always direct and to the point keeps em on their toes.

"Choose from this lot Zac, infact you can keep them in here. These should do for a few days."

Ike put the pile down on the end of Zac's bed and Zac selected a white shirt with a blue stripe.

Point number two - Taylor didn't even notice Zac had deliberately chosen his shirt.

"Sit down, c'mon don�t be shy, let's talk."

"Okay how was Karen?"

"Very professional now let's talk about you."

"What about me?"

Tay was a little jumpy. Interesting...

"Oh just you know...whatever's on your mind."

Whoa that was obvious. Tay physically flinched when I said that. Now let's see if Ike tries to change the subject.

"Hey I feel like playing battleships."

Strike two!

The art of interrogation is knowing when to apply the pressure and when to ease it. Zac decided to let Ike play his game of battleships. Maybe Tay would let his guard down a little.

Taylor was beginning to sweat. He was an old hand at this but Zac was starting to freak him out. Zac wouldn't stop staring at him, not even seeming to concentrate on his game. Yet still he was winning... He's studying me, thought Tay, he knows something. But what? Tay had no intention of telling Zac at all. It wasn't that he didn't trust his brother, that bond was as strong as ever, it was the permanent close proximity of the guards. He was afraid of being heard. But Zac wasn't playing games now. Well figuratively speaking he wasn't. Zac was determined to get the truth out of Tay and, Tay sourly thought, when he puts his mind to it he usually doesn't fail.

Zac saw his chance. Ike excused himself to go to the toilet - couldn't quite bring himself to use the bucket in front of his brothers. He saw a flicker of concern flash across Tay's face as Ike left the room. He knows what's coming. Oh well more power to him. The door had barely clicked shut before Zac kicked into gear.

"Tay what's wrong? Why do you look so worried? Is it me?"

Taylor relaxed visibly at that last part. Zac had given him an out.

"No Zac it's not you."

And he had just blown it.

"Then what is it? Have you and Ike had a fight?"

"No... what makes you think that?"

"Oh I dunno...there's some tension between you two. I don't like it when there's tension between you two."

"There's no tension between us."

Snap!

"Then it is me."

Taylor panicked and tried to change the subject.

"So how many destroyers do you have left?"

"What have I done to upset you Tay?"

Ouch.

"Nothing Zac, you haven't done anything."

"Why are you lying to me Tay?"

Taylor felt himself slipping, Zac was driving it home.

"I'm not... I mean... I'm not lying to you."

"Don't you think I'm suffering enough?"

Ooohh that was a low blow.

"Oh Zac..."

Zac smiled to himself. He could see the line had been crossed in Tay's mind. He had won.

"Zac I... I... I can't say."

He whispered that part. Zac knew instinctively what to do.

"Here Tay." He passed his brother a pad and a pen. Taylor took them and paused for a moment before shrugging his shoulders.

"You win." He said under his breath.

"I always do." Replied Zac under his.

Taylor wrote his note in silence and passed it to Zac. Zac read it.

I am going to escape through the air vent tomorrow morning. You need proper medical attention Zac so I have to go. You and Ike will be blamed for it that is why I didn't want you to know. I am going to find help. Zac took the pen and scrawled at the bottom of the page. That's not why you are going. Tell me why. Taylor figured he may as well go the whole hog here. He wrote underneath Zac's scrawl in tidy penmanship. They're not going to let us go. That's why. This place is designed to be a long term prison not a short term holding area. I think they've called off negotiations by now. They're holding onto us as a way of keeping NATO out of Serbia. Permanently. Then he added something at the bottom. I haven't told Ike that. I didn't want to worry him, you can tell him if you want. After I'm gone. It's up to you. Zac read it and nodded. "Okay?" asked Tay.

"Thank you." replied Zac.

Ike walked back into the room and noting the expressions on his brothers' faces guessed that Tay had just told Zac. He held out for longer than usual, Ike thought. He decided to lighten the atmosphere.

"Guys do you know what I just realized?"

"You can pee standing up?"

Ike ignored that one.

"We haven't been mobbed once in the past four days. Is that some kind of record?"

"Yeah yeah it is." said Taylor looking happier.

"Well ain't that strange." said Zac.

"Infact..." continued Ike, "We've been able to move around as we please without being bothered," he caught Zac's eye, "Well me and Tay have just like the old days!"

Taylor started grinning.

"What is it?"

"It's just," Tay said, "we've got more freedom here in this jail than we get on the outside."

There was a moment of silence while that piece of information sank in. Soon the absurdity of it hit them all. Zac and Ike started grinning as much as Tay and soon they began laughing. Anyone seeing them now would wonder why on earth three guys being kept prisoners, one can't even walk, were finding so much about their predicament to laugh about. It's a Hanson thing.

Taylor had to stop laughing because the urge to pee had suddenly overwhelmed him.

"Guys I've got to go spend a penny."

"Bring back some change." said Zac.

Taylor looked at him questioningly and left the room. The urge was building fast so Taylor hurried down the hallway. He guessed those three glasses of cordial were coming back for revenge now. But that oatmeal had been horrible! He rounded the corner to their room and almost stopped in his tracks. There was a guard standing, well leaning actually, against the door as casual as anything. Taylor kept going because he really had to go. He hoped this guy wouldn't stop him. The guard eyed him as he approached the door but to Taylor's immense relief he stepped out of the way. He pushed past the guard and opened the door. As he was stepping through he felt a rough hand grab the back of his neck. His blood ran cold as the guard shoved him through the door and shut them both in the room. Oh crap what is this guy going to do to me? The guard pushed Taylor up against the wall and leaned in close. He spoke softly.

"Shut up and listen to me. My name is Alexei..."

Zac and Ike weren't idle while Tay was attending to natures call. Ike was helping Zac choose today's wardrobe. Something that wasn't turning out to be much fun for Ike.

"What about this one?"

"Yellow! In December?"

"You wear yellow shoes!"

"They're special."

"What are you talking about Zac!" Madness...pure madness.

"Can I see that one?"

Isaac passed him a blue shirt.

"If only it was a different shade of blue..."

Isaac took back the shirt.

"This one."

"I'm not wearing brown with these pants!"

"What's wrong with the shirt you're wearing? Didn't you just put it on?"

"Oh that was just to annoy Tay."

First piece of sense the kid has made.

"You choose then!"

"I can't Ike...I need you to be my fashion consultant."

"But you shoot down every suggestion I make!"

"It doesn't mean I don't appreciate your input."

"Gee thanks."

Zac put his hand on Ike's shoulder.

"If this band thing doesn't work out Ike you can always have a job as my fashion co-ordinator."

"Why do I not feel reassured Zac? And what are you going to be if this band thing fails?"

"Oh I don't know...President of the World...I'll think of something."

"Poor world."

Ike didn't say anything for a moment.

"You know Zac this band thing could work out... With my prestigious talent and you and Tay's passable musical ability we might make it."

Zac looked up grinning.

"We really do carry that guy don't we?"

Ike laughed at the way Zac had effortlessly shifted the insult away from himself.

"Oh I know, how many times has he fluffed the words to our songs?"

"I stopped counting, it was too painful."

"Yeah it's hard being professional with an amateur like that in the band..."

"Tell me about it brother..."

Zac thought for a moment, then, "If he didn't pull in the chicks for us he'd be outta here!"

They both burst out laughing at that one.

"I'm glad to see you still have such massive respect for my talents."

Ike and Zac looked, Tay was standing in the doorway.

"Just understand you're on band probation now."

"Awww Tay I didn't steal your good n'fruities..."

Tay came in and sat down on the bed. He turned to Zac with a mock serious look on his face.

"If you do, you're out!"

They all burst out laughing.

.

Chapter 19 - "I have to go to the bathroom."

"One thousand five hundred and fifty-seven. One thousand five hundred and fifty-eight." Taylor sighed. The dots on the ceiling seemed endless. He wondered why he had ever started counting in the first place. Oh yeah. Slight difficulty getting to sleep. Okay scratch that - impossibility of getting to sleep. He listened to Ike's soft breathing below him and tried to empty his mind for the thousandth time. It didn't work. Sleep wasn't coming tonight. He guessed he'd have to make do. Zac was asleep but far from relaxed. Images danced inside his mind like shadow puppets at a carnival. Every time he got close enough to see one it would vanish like it was never there. It all gave him an intense feeling of unease. He knew something was wrong. His unconscious was practically screaming at him that something was wrong. But he couldn't hear what.

Taylor turned over and lay on his stomach. He listened to the soft hiss of air coming into their room from the small vent positioned high on the wall. Far too small to crawl along he noted but in just a few hours he would be crawling up its big daddy vent. Following the trail blazed by Zac what seemed like thousands of days ago but was really only earlier in the week. This whole experience seemed to exist in its own time loop. He felt like they had been in this mountain for months when in reality they hadn't even missed an episode of The Simpsons yet. Ike had missed that My So Called Life marathon though... he'll be miffed when he remembers. Taylor realized his thoughts were beginning to make no sense. This wasn't good. He really had to get out of here.

Zac opened his eyes. He wasn't sure how long he had been awake. It was actually kind of peaceful in the darkness like this. His dreams were fading already although he was still gripped by the strange sense of unease. He knew that would disappear soon anyway. What had woken him up was easy - pain. He'd rolled over while sleeping onto his belly and a thousand nerves had sent very angry signals to his brain asking why? He had done that a lot over the past few nights. It would be nice to get through a night without doing it, maybe he could be strapped down on his back. Uh no... something about that idea didn't agree with him. What time was it anyway? How long before Tay would be leaving. He'd made Tay promise to come see him before he took off, that was one promise he knew would be kept. Now it was Tay's turn to be the hero. Well he can have it, Zac was getting a bit sick of the hero schtick.

Taylor was asking himself the same question. What time was it? Of course he had the answer too. Unlike Zac, his watch hadn't been broken. Zac's watch had its face shattered, Tay guessed it had caught someone's boot but he wasn't going to ask Zac about it. He lit up the dial display and read the time. Four am. At least five hours to go. That would depend on when they would be allowed to visit with Zac this morning. Zac had asked especially and Taylor knew nothing on earth would keep him from seeing his brother one last time before he went. He wondered if this is what Lindbergh felt like the night before his big trip, or the Red Baron before a mission, or the Dirty Dozen before they parachuted into France. Yep this was going to be one for the history books. Well for his journal anyway. He wondered if Mom and Dad would be mad at them for not keeping up their journals the past few days...

Stop thinking so much and go to sleep. Zac tried to obey his orders. They were usually right, if only he could get his mind to stop reeling. It wasn't fun anymore and it wasn't healthy. He wondered if he could override it. Maybe singing a song would help. Zac started singing softly to himself, the oldest song any of them had written... Rain falling down outta my eyes and I'm a wondering why...

Taylor's eyes snapped open. Dang! He had fallen asleep. For a moment he wondered if he had dreamed of counting the dots on the ceiling. No, he guessed he'd fallen asleep at some point without knowing it. It had snuck up on him somehow. Hey there was a noise out in the hall... it was time to get up.

Ike opened his eyes and yawned. That was an unusually blissful nights sleep he thought, he'd expected to be tossing and turning all night especially with today being Tay Day. Well at least he was fully alert for this one. He looked up at the bunk above him and saw a heavy lump like object resting in the middle. He's still asleep Ike observed, listening to the soft snoring sound coming from the top bunk.

Taylor cleared his throat one more time then lay back. Today he had to be at his absolute best. And the first thing was to select the right clothes. Literally. It was a desert out there. He rolled to the side of the bunk and let himself down.

Isaac was surprised to see his brother hit the floor, he expected Taylor to lay there for a lot longer than that.

"Hey little brother." he said.

Taylor turned around surprised, he thought Ike was still asleep.

"Hey there. You're up early."

"I could say the same thing."

"I had things on my mind."

Ike nodded, he understood.

"Anything I can help you with?"

Taylor looked a little flummoxed. "Well yeah actually. Ike do you remember much about camping and outdoors stuff?"

"A little."

"I remember zip. I remember that Zac seemed to be the one who told us what to bring and what to do."

"Strange coming from the boy who cried the night we camped out back because we couldn't plug the Nintendo in anywhere."

Taylor smiled.

"So what do I need? For out there?"

Ike got up and scratched behind his ear. It itched.

"Okay I'm thinking lots of loose clothing."

A look of panic crossed Taylor's face.

"You can take some of mine."

Ike walked over to their suitcases and began pulling out shirts and pants for Taylor to wear.

"Do you expect me to carry all these?"

"No just choose what you like."

Taylor looked over the clothes.

"This will be hard."

Ike pretended he didn't hear that.

"You'll need some kind of hat or hood or something."

"I've got a cap, nothing else."

"Wear it, we'll put something over it. Something like.. aha!"

Isaac pulled the bedsheets off one of the unused beds. "This!"

"Cool, I can bundle everything up into here too."

"Good idea."

"What about shoes?"

"Something tough I guess, leather, it's gonna be hard out there."

Isaac turned to face Taylor. "What are you going to do Tay?"

Taylor looked up. He'd been waiting for this question for a long time.

"I'm going to go for help Ike, whether I have to walk or hitchhike or steal a car I'm going for help."

"You could die out there."

Damn you Ike...

"I'm not going to."

"You promise me that."

"I promise Ike, I'm not going to die. You'd never find a keyboardist pretty enough to replace me."

Ike smiled. Taylor smiled back.

Taylor had made some preparations. He wasn't going into this completely amateur like. He had pilfered a water bottle from the dining area last night and was now filling it up with water. He hoped it would be enough.

"Drinks lots before you go."

"I know."

He bent down to the tap and drank straight from the faucet for a while. He wasn't sure exactly how hot it would be out there but from what Zac had told him it would be pretty fearsome. The discomfort of needing to pee was a small price to pay for not dehydrating. Taylor bundled everything he needed up into the bed sheet and left it on the bed. Ike pulled his blanket over it just in the off chance somebody came in. They walked to breakfast where they picked up three trays like usual and proceeded to Zac's room. No one noticed how high with food Tay's tray was piled. The guard outside Zac's room let them in like usual.

"Hey buddyboy."

Zac brightened up as soon as he heard his brothers' voices.

His smile filled the room.

"How are ya?"

Taylor smiled, "Fine..." He left it open. Zac knew why.

He and Ike sat down with Zac and began to eat breakfast. Taylor ate his as fast as he could although to be honest he didn't feel particularly hungry.

Zac watched his brother eat with interest. He wondered what could be going through his mind right now. It was a weird thing, this hostage experience was bringing hidden sides of all of them out. Now it was Taylor's turn to be the hero. Zac wished him the best of luck. He wondered what Taylor would face out there, it was tough in that sun, ten minutes had been enough for Zac and Taylor might have to spend whole days out there. He hoped, no, he knew Taylor could handle it. His brother was stronger than he looked.

Isaac watched both his brothers. They had a strange air about them. Like they shared a secret that he didn't know. Maybe that's was this power driving his brothers to take such risks was. In all likelihood it would be in him too. He wondered when his would be activated. The curious reversal of roles was complete now. Zac was the old master and Taylor the young apprentice. Today Zac passes on the torch.

Taylor knew he was being watched by both his brothers. A strange sense of calm had overwhelmed him now. It was as though the question of whether or not he would do this had been put to rest and how all he had to do was to do it. He felt calm, sane and exhilarated at the same time. Most of all he felt a strong sense of mission. This was make it or break it time. And as he chewed on his last piece of toast he suddenly knew it was time.

"I have to go to the bathroom." He said getting up from the bed. He looked Isaac directly in the eyes as he said it and he knew Ike understood. He turned toward Zac, there was such wisdom in those eyes! He looked Taylor directly in his and Taylor knew what Zac was telling him. He took Zac's hands in his own and gave them a squeeze.

Good luck mouthed Zac.

Ike grabbed Taylor's arm for a second. He looked him in the eyes and nodded. Good luck.

Taylor got up and walked to the door. He turned around just as the door was opening.

"I'll be back."

Isaac smiled at him, Zac smiled too.

"We'll be right here."

Taylor returned their smiles and let the door close behind him.

He walked calmly down the hallway. None of the guards gave him a second look. They were used to those Hanson boys wandering back and forth now. He checked the hallway where the grating was. He had noticed earlier, to his rapture, the guards hadn't screwed the cover back on the vent properly. Apparently they thought so little of Zac's escape attempt they hadn't bothered. Well this was going to bother them. Taylor entered his room quick smart and pulled the bundle out from under Ike's bedspread. He stepped out of the door and let it shut quietly behind him. Carefully he made his way down the hall and into the passageway where the vent was. There was no one about. Taylor pulled the cover off and shoved his bundle into the vent. Taking one last look around their Mountain prison he said,

"Bon voyage." and hoisted himself into the vent.

The first thing that hit him inside the vent was a powerful aroma. It smelled terrible. Taylor knew he'd have to get through this quickly to escape the smell. Then in dawned on him. The smell was him.

Zac and Isaac sat on the bed saying nothing. At least five minutes had passed by now and they knew Taylor must be on his way. They had both decided it would be best if Isaac stayed in here with Zac until the breakout was discovered. It was better to face the music together rather than alone. But their minds weren't on that at the moment. Their minds were on Taylor.

Taylor felt a creepy sensation right from the start. He had guessed correctly that he could fit into the vent and maneuver along it but it wasn't easy. Taylor's shoulders were wider than Zac's and they were rubbing along the sides of the vent. If he lifted his head he'd bash it against the top and his butt seemed permanently wedged against the roof too. This wasn't a whole lot of fun. But at least he had tied his hair up. Zac had been able to give him one tip. His mind was whirling now, doubts flew in and out of it, he wondered if he had memorized the map correctly, if he had mucked it up and was going to be spending eternity in this vents... okay that isn't a good thing to be thinking about. But something very real was beginning to scare him. He had never noticed it before but Taylor but beginning to feel claustrophobic.

Zac closed his eyes and saw his dream again. It was right there bright as day. He was back inside that cave crawling along the passageway as it got thinner and thinner. And something was biting at his feet. Only this time when he opened his eyes it didn't go away. Zac had felt this way before, he wasn't entirely sure what it was but he knew it was important to follow it through. He closed his eyes and let himself be immersed in his dream again. Only this time he could feel himself in control. Zac started telling himself very quietly what to do.

"Calm down, just keep moving, you will make it, just keep moving."

Taylor felt a sense of calm beginning to wash over him. He somehow felt an impulse to keep moving. He obeyed.

"It's all in your imagination. Just let go of it, remember what you are doing, remember why you are here. Just do it."

Taylor felt himself become more and more motivated. His goal became increasingly clear in his mind. It began to override everything else. He pushed on faster.

"You're doing great."

Zac could feel the snapping at his feet lessening, the walls didn't seem quite so close anymore. He knew he was going to make it.

Taylor felt optimistic now. He knew he was going to make it. He began smiling as he crawled and even started to whistle.

Zac felt calm now, he almost wasn't crawling anymore he was sliding, it was so easy now. His mind and heart and soul filled with one overwhelming desire. One message more important than any other.

"Go Tay Go!"

Go Tay Go. Taylor heard it. He didn't even think to ask where it had come from. He knew. He pushed the grating out of the way and burst forth onto the mountainside.

Zac saw everything go golden and he relaxed completely and fell back onto his bed. He began smiling goofily.

Ike looked over at him and could see it on his face. He smiled at Zac and Zac caught his eye and smiled back. He's made it!

.

Chapter 20 - "That semi dramatic waiting pose. Quit it."

Sand. All Taylor could see, could breath, could taste, could smell and could feel was sand. He pulled himself to his feet and spat the sand out of his mouth. The heat... the heat when he got out of the shaft had been so overwhelming it had literally thrown him to his knees. This was inhuman! How do people live in these conditions? It radiated from everywhere... from every rock from every plain from every part of the landscape and in never ending waves from the sky. The glare was so bright he literally could not see! And he thought Bali was hot... He pulled his sunglasses out of his top pocket and put them on. Grateful his eyes stopped stinging and he could see again. He could see the vast rolling mountain ranges stretching far off into the distance and then after that.... desert. Desert like he had never seen before. The reality hit him like a sickness. THIS is what he had to cross? Dear God what have I done? But there was no going back now. He had a mission to complete and damn it he was going to do it. Sand or no sand.

He unfurled the bundle he had been pushing through the vent and put on the hat. Then he folded the sheet a couple of times and put it over his head in a makeshift Arab fashion. He was glad for all dressing up games he used to play when he was a kid now.... Satisfied that his head piece was going to remain in place on his head Taylor started down the mountain side. The most important thing now was to get away from here before someone notices he was gone. He stumbled and half ran down the mountain side. It was kind of steep but more annoyingly very rocky. Colour this place grey and it could pass for the moon. He was already hundreds of meters away when he remembered the phone. Oh well there's no time to go back and have a look. He wanted to see where Zac had hidden it but it wasn't crucially important. Getting the heck out of here was crucially important. The only detail left to worry about now was how....

Taylor peered around for a moment. This place couldn't be as desolate as it looked. There has to be something here, some sign of human life, I mean there's a giant prison inside a mountain under here... there has to be something on top. And then he saw it. He wasn't sure at first, his eyes could have been playing tricks on him but it seemed to be.... yeah it was. A road. Far far away at the bottom of the mountain there was a road curving around. This was a sure sign of life. Roads have to lead somewhere right?

He started stumbling running down the mountain again, the sheet flying out behind him he must have seemed like a guy choosing the oddest place to play Superman.

The rocks beneath him were sharp and jagged and he wondered if his boots were going to be torn apart on them. What kind of place is this anyway? This whole environment was almost... alien to him. This harsh desolate wasteland couldn't be on the same planet as such wonderful places as Cleveland could it? And why is it so damn hot!

Okay this wasn't good. Ten minutes into his escape and already the sun was beginning to piss him off. He had good reason though. The sweat was pouring off him like nobody's business. It seemed to flow down his nose and his face in a never ending stream. This was bad. All this fluid would have to be replaced somehow and he only had one bottle of water. Well... he rationalised himself by saying he can always go back into the prison again if he gets really desperate. But only as the ultra ultra ultra last measure. Cause this was something he was just determined to succeed at. How far is that road now? He looked up, it seemed to be the same distance away as before.... he wasn't running in circles was he? No that was impossible, he'd have to be running up hill part of the way for that and he was sure he would notice that.... wouldn't he?

Taylor just let himself run. He let the slope of the hill just take a hold of him and do all the work for him. All he had to do was place his foot in the right place. Some of those rocks looked like they could cause some nasty damage. But he was getting the hang of it now for sure. He was good at judging where to put his feet, this was easy. He began to enjoy the run almost... speeding up and up and up he almost felt like he was flying. How fast am I going? He wondered absentmindedly what the downhill running speed record is. Gotta be closing in on it today.

He didn't even see the gap until it was too late. He felt his foot hit the ground then slipped down some more. It threw his balance off. He felt his body leave the ground involuntarily and fly through the air. Then OOOMMPH he hit the ground. Hard. It winded him so he got to his feet rather slowly. By some miracle he hadn't landed on any jagged rocks. This must be the only place on this whole mountain not covered in jagged rocks! Oh. He looked to his left and his right. The road. He'd landed on the road. "Brilliant timing Tay."

He looked back up the mountainside to see where he had come from. The vent certainly wasn't visible from here. The mountain seemed so high now. How far up had he been? It couldn't be that high, it gets real steep the further up it goes and there's no way he could have run down that and lived. Somewhere on that mountainside was a tiny silver vent. The only indication in this whole place that a giant complex existed deep underground. What a weird weird place....

He adjusted his head dress that had become dislodged when he fell. Fortunately it had protected him from getting any cuts or abrasions when he landed. Hmmm... maybe these Arabs were on to something. Now the question was which way to go. Taylor looked to his left and to his right. It looked the same both ways. The road kept going until it curved around the mountain. Well he guessed it must end up somewhere both ways. Maybe he would get some clues about where exactly they were. Taylor turned left and began walking.

He was walking for about half an hour with no change in the scenery. The road kept its curve and he kept seeing more and more of the mountain. Not to mention panoramic views of the other mountains in the area. Gee this is something I might even pay good money for. Well I'd gladly swap it for a coke. Taylor's mouth involuntarily began watering at the thought. He scolded himself for thinking such thoughts. That wasn't a good idea. Besides a soft drink would just dehydrate him more. Nope what this called for was a... coke. Damn. Lets not even think about drinks. Hmmm what a pretty mountain. Pretty like the other five thousand mountains out there. This sucks!

He was intently studying the sky for a slightest sign of a cloud when something caught his eye and made him stop abruptly. A truck. An empty truck. Actually an empty burnt out hulk of a truck at the side of the road. That wasn't a good sign. Taylor hurried past it and decided to think about drinks again. Anything to get his mind away from what the fate of that driver may have been. Then he saw what he had been looking for all along. Right there. Truly a sight for sore eyes. A bus and a truck sitting parked next to each other outside a cave. The bus and the truck. The bus they had been driven here on less than a week ago. And here it was just waiting for him. A plan was beginning to form in the back of his mind. Something too rich in irony to ignore. Taylor began smirking to himself. What a grand scheme. How pissed off would they be then? He would steal their own vehicles to escape with! That's what you call karmic justice. Yeah he might just do that. But not too hastily. This was going to call for some extra planning. But first and more importantly he could use them to get out of the sun. Now that was something he could do now.

He crept around the side of a large rocky outcrop next to the cave entrance. This place looked so different in the daylight. The cave entrance was so small... so insignificant it was astonishing to think what existed inside of there. Taylor had to appreciate the depth of planning that had gone into this hijacking. Certainly no one would think of looking for the hostages there. Not in a million years.

He looked around for any sign of the hijackers. Nope not a soul. He guessed they were smart enough to stay out of the sun too. He was the only dumb one around... Still not posting guards was a definite mistake. That's two so far today that Taylor had been able to take advantage of. He was on a roll. Well since there is no one about he figured he shouldn't waste anymore time. Out of the bus and the truck the bus looked more inviting. But it also had big windows. And he needed to get out of the sun. Really badly. The truck with it's covered back had the definite advantage here. Feeling really bold Taylor strode out past the bus and hopped smartly into the back of the truck. And feeling relief from the burning sun he lay down. Somehow... without realizing it he closed his eyes. And Taylor was asleep.

Isaac sat staring at the door for what seemed like forever. It began to really annoy Zac. They were both waiting for the same thing but there was no need for Ike to make it worse by over dramatizing it. Like he has a tendency to do.

"Ike quit it!"

"What?"

"You know what! That semi dramatic waiting pose. Quit it."

"My pose is annoying you?"

"Yes."

"Anyone told you you're a wee bit sensitive Zac."

"Me! Why..." He didn't finish the sentence. There didn't seem any need in getting into an argument right now. Later on when he could enjoy it he'd bring it up again but right now it seems pointless.

"IKE!"

"What already?"

"You're doing it again."

"Don't look at me then."

"I have to! You're the only thing to look at in this whole damn room."

Zac sighed, he was getting irritable he could feel it. How long does it take those dumbass terrorists to find the open ventilation shaft anyway!

Now he was just being selfish. The more time they waited the more time Tay had to get away. Zac scolded himself. He would wait patiently.

He didn't however have much of that left.

"Can we do something?"

"Like what?"

Ike knew his brother was really restless. When he won't even take the bait of an argument there must be something wrong. This waiting was driving Isaac crazy too. He just wanted to get it over with. Whatever was going to happen he wanted it to happen already so they could get back to... whatever it is you do when you're being held hostage.

It's been over an hour now. Ike knew Taylor must be well away from them. Hopefully he would find a way to go and get help. He'd been clueless as to exactly how Tay was planning on doing this but he didn't say anything. He knew how much this meant to Taylor and he was gradually becoming aware how much it meant to all of them.

"We can play I spy."

"Yeah that's gonna last a long time in this room."

Isaac chuckled, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with H."

Zac grinned a little. "A Hanson?"

"Where!?!"

Zac grinned broader.

"How about twenty questions."

"Okay you go first."

"Okay."

"Got it."

"Yup."

"What is it?"

"That's not a yes/no question. And that's one."

Zac appreciated his brothers efforts.

"Is it a movie?"

"Yes."

"You're so predictable Zac."

"That's not a question. No I'm not and seventeen to go."

"Hey!"

Zac almost laughed at his brothers offended look.

"Okay it is a movie with action in it."

"Yes."

"Is it a nineties movie?"

"Nope."

"Eighties."

"Nope"

Zac was making this one hard.

"Is it famous?"

"Very."

"Have I seen it?"

"Yes."

"Recently."

"Yes."

"Is it a long movie?"

"Yes ten to go."

"Umm okay.." Isaac pondered for a moment.

"Is it about a real life event?"

The door flew open so hard it was almost knocked off its hinges. Isaac and Zac both looked up. The Commandant was standing there with a very red face. He looked mad.

"Where is your brother?"

Zac replied, "We have no idea."

The Commandant took one look at the both of them and stepped forward and slapped Zac hard on the face.

"Hey!" Zac hadn't seen that one coming.

The Commandant raised his hand to slap Zac again for answering back. Isaac grabbed his wrist in mid air. He looked the Commandant directly in the eyes.

"Don't you dare touch my brother."