Aboard a submarine crewed by people of questionable morality, the one man who they all feared and the boy they had risked everything to retrieve were engaged in a battle of wills. The young boy was defiant as he stared down his captor with blind eyes, but he was indeed a young boy, and not even the most extraordinary of children could have denied their fear in such a situation. It wasn't long before this fear and the feel of the unblinking gaze of his opponent wore him down, and he found himself looking away, tears in his eyes.
"Come now," said the man. "It needn't be like this. Speak with me. We could be friends, you know."
Joshua sniffed, but did not speak.
"No? I thought not. You always insist on making things difficult for us, don't you? You could have avoided a lot of hurt if you had only cooperated. How many of your new friends do you think were hurt in that fire?"
Again Joshua didn't answer, but his lip quivered and he seemed as though he might cry.
"Did you think they would save you? That you would be safe aboard that ship? Is that why you ran to that boy? Did you feel us getting close? We've been looking for you for months, but by now you should know better than to think you can escape, Master Linden."
Joshua's attention snapped back to the man across the room from him, his fear and sadness displaced by surprise. He was sure the man had some sort of ability to read minds, but he was also sure that his own defences had not yet been breached. So how did the man know his name? And what had he meant by 'always insist on making things difficult for us'? Did he know these people?
A dark realization dawned on him then, and all pretence of hope was lost. He knew who this man was, he knew who had sent him.
And as the man saw Joshua's face fall, he knew he had won.
"Your parents will be so happy to see you again. They've been worried sick, you know."
In the corridors outside, a wave of despair crashed over passers-by, and the low sound of defeated sobbing intensified for a moment as Jed opened the door for the man in the wheelchair.
"Inform the Lindens that we have their son, and are en route. He should be home by tomorrow evening."
* * *
"Ow ow ow ow ow!"
"Benny, I'm barely twisting it," Jimmy said, but he let go of the younger boy's wrist regardless.
Benny rubbed the sore appendage and frowned. "Well it still hurts," he pouted.
"Here's your chance to get back at me, then. Come on, try it on me."
Benny frowned, but leapt forward and grabbed Jimmy's wrist, twisting it just as he had been taught. He caught his friend off-guard, and it was barely a moment before it was Jimmy's turn to wince and cry out.
"Hey, take it easy!" Jimmy said, laughing even as his eyes watered in pain. "We're on the same team here!"
Benny laughed and hopped away, releasing Jimmy's wrist in the process. "I was barely twisting it," he teased, his pride at having done it right plastering a huge grin across his face.
Jimmy laughed again and got to his feet, ready to teach the next lesson.
It hadn't taken long for the duo to grow bored of simply lying on their bunks, and they were quick to realize that by trying to help Tony and Nestor they were really only getting in the way of the far more experienced seamen. So, Jimmy had decided it was time to fulfil his promise to Benny and teach him how he had handily disabled Walker, back on the Thrush.
The two of them had been at it for hours on end, Jimmy teaching his young friend as much as he could about close-quarters combat as he could in the cramped quarters. And Benny had been a surprisingly quick study, often needing little more than one demonstration to pick up a technique.
In fact, Jimmy had been noticing more and more that Benny seemed a completely different person when he had a goal and the conviction to complete it. The young man he was quickly becoming was completely different from the normally clumsy, awkward boy those aboard the Thrush knew.
As he watched Benny on one of their breaks, Jimmy just hoped that the whole ordeal wouldn't be too hard on him. Growing as a person was all well and good, but for all they knew their mission could end in failure, and Benny might never be able to forgive himself for that. Jimmy knew he would certainly have a hard time of it.
A shout from the front of the vessel interrupted his thoughts, and he jogged forward to see what Tony wanted.
"I've picked up the trail, eh Jimbo? It won't be long now before we've got your little friend back."
Jimmy nodded and clapped Tony on the shoulder, his mouth a grim, determined line, but beneath the surface, he couldn't help but wonder if they were in over their heads.
Hold on, Joshua. We're coming.