Mission To Oz
Part Four: The Wicked Witch of the West
When Archer came round he was sure he was in the safety of his quarters. Then he recalled the bizarre world of Oz and fervently hoped he was in his quarters. That hope, unfortunately, faded as he became aware of his surroundings.
He was standing, his back against a cold stone wall with his arms chained high above his head and his feet chained to the floor. It took a bit of effort but he managed to look down at his feet, surprised to see that he was still wearing those darned boots.
"He's awake," Malcolm's voice said, and Archer turned to the sound to see that to the left of him, at the end of the room was a large barred cage in which Trip, T'Pol and Reed were all being held. He relief was palpable that not only were they all unharmed but that Trip was cradling Porthos in his arms.
"What happened? Why hasn't The Wicked Witch taken the boots?"
"They cannot be removed from a rightful owner," supplied T'Pol, coming to the front of the cage to stand by Reed.
Reed nodded. "So, she's brewing a special potion to help her."
Archer wondered why, if she wanted them so much she didn't simply... but then again he would really prefer to keep his limbs intact so if she hadn't thought of that it would be sensible not to say anything. Instead he tugged at the chains, testing for weaknesses. There were none, he could barely move at all.
"Can you get out of the cage?"
All three shrugged.
"Can you try!" Archer growled, exasperated.
Trip frowned at the lock on the cage door. "If I had some tools, I could prob'ly dismantle the lock. But I don't got nothin' on me."
"Oh!" said Reed. "I carry a pocket knife with tools on it." He patted down his uniform, "But The Wicked Witch emptied my pockets whilst I was unconscious."
"You were unconscious too, Malcolm? Are you injured?" Archer could feel a persistent throbbing in his own head and suspected he was sporting an impressive bruise. Reed, however, didn't appear to be injured.
"He fainted," said Trip.
"Tactically, I'm sure," added T'Pol.
Archer's headache was getting worse. He tried to distract himself by scanning the rest of the room. The only door was to room was opposite the cage to Archer's right. Directly opposite his own position was a large window cut into the stone wall, leaving the whole place open to the elements, through which he could see the pink glow of dawn. The only other thing in the room was a workbench, empty except for a small pocket knife and a pistol of some kind. Perfect. It almost looked close enough for one of his companions to reach.
"Can any of you reach Malcolm's knife?" He asked, trying to point at it with his eyebrows.
"We've tried and failed on numerous occasions. It is too far away." She demonstrated by stretching her arm through, between the bars. Even braced against the side of the cage her reach was still a couple of centimetres too short.
Archer sagged back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Y'know, I got an idea..."
"Yes, Trip?" Reed prompted.
"What if we all pulled together on the bars, maybes we could bend 'em enough so as one of us could reach a teeny bit further?"
Archer opened his eyes and stared at them. Trip had a plan?
"Teamwork. Good plan. T'Pol, will you help?" asked Reed.
T'Pol inclined her head in a graceful nod and the three took their places.
"On three," said Reed, sounding considerably more confident and officious than he had previously. "One... Two... Three."
There was a lot of groaning by all concerned but the bar they were working on started to give. Trip whooped in joy as T'Pol reached through the bars and snagged the pocket knife.
Trip, totally at home with something mechanical, made short work of dismantling the lock and with a beautiful creak the cage door swung open.
And so did the main door.
A figure in a long black cloak and broad brimmed pointy hat rushed into the room, oozing menace from her gnarled features. "How dare you try to escape from here," she bellowed in an ugly parody of an old lady's voice. "I'm not finished with you yet!"
Reed, panic evident in every line of his wiry frame, ducked behind Trip and T'Pol.
"Listen Witch!" Archer called, directing her attention from his friends, "It's me you want, not them. Just let them go!"
"Let them go?" She cackled maliciously. "I am The Wicked Witch of the West. I never let anyone go. I'll feed them up with my Drone Potion and they will serve me without a scrap of free will in their pretty little heads. But first... The potion will work on you too. I can order you to give me the boots..." She rubbed her hands together in gleeful anticipation and drank in the sight of the Ruby Boots as though she'd never seen anything more precious. Then, reaching a wizened hand into her billowing robes she pulled out a vial of something the colour of blood and advanced on the restrained captain.
"Hey, you leave him alone, you big ol' hag!" yelled Trip, lurching forward to attack.
The Wicked Witch spun quickly and raised a spindly finger to point at the engineer. Before Archer was able to shout a warning to Trip a bolt of sickly green lightening flashed toward him and would have hit him square in the chest if T'Pol, with her superior Vulcan reflexes, hadn't jumped in the way.
It hit her with enough force to knock her off her feet and back into Trip, carrying them both to the floor in a tangled unconscious heap.
The Wicked Witch chuckled as she returned her attention to Archer, the bottle now uncorked, a stench like death rising from the liquid inside. He tried desperately to pull away from her and her foul concoction, but the chains were far too tight. The best he could do was press his lips shut and turn his head away as she pushed the vial to his mouth with more force than he would have imagined her desiccated body capable of.
"Stop it, and stop it now."
Archer couldn't see, but he knew that voice well enough. Reed's clipped accent, cold and demanding.
The Wicked Witch pulled back slightly, sneering. "The coward finally found his guts, huh? Too late, far too late."
She whirled on him, finger raised to fire more of her magic lightening and Archer wasn't sure he wanted to watch but couldn't drag his eyes away. Reed stood firm, his pistol drawn and held proudly out in front of him even as his nerves caused him to sweat profusely.
The pistol squirted a steady stream of what looked suspiciously like water at The Wicked Witch and she let out an ear-splitting scream as it impacted.
"Nooooooooo! I'm melting! I'm melting!!!" And she did. Right into a little puddle on the cold stone floor.
Archer let out a breath he hadn't consciously been holding. "What the hell was in that gun, Malcolm?"
"Standard issue DC-39 Water Pistol, sir. The only thing guaranteed to take down a Wicked Witch. No one's ever got close enough before though. She never leaves her castle and those flying monkeys are scary."
If he'd had the energy, Archer would have laughed.
Meanwhile Reed went to check on Trip and T'Pol. Trip was just coming round, grimacing and rubbing his head where it had impacted on the floor as he'd been forced backwards. Checking T'Pol's pulse and the scorch mark on her torso, Reed addressed Archer, "She doesn't seem to be too badly injured. Probably due to her having different physiology," he added, tugging inquisitively on the tip of one of her ears. He helped Trip to his feet and the two men went to help Archer off the wall.
They were just removing the last of the shackles from his feet when a shadow crossed the window and the first rays of morning were blocked out.
Archer, trying to rub feeling back into his hands was the first one to call out. "Who's there?"
There was the sound of a pneumatic hatch being opened and a figure jumped down out of the shadows. A figure in a uniform like Reed's but with a face just like Travis Mayweather.
"Rescue party, sir. His Wonderfulness has been watching your progress and sent me to bring you the final leg of the journey to meet him. I'll be your pilot, if you'll just follow me..."
Their eyes adjusting to the ambient light level again, they could all make out the vessel hovering outside the window. They couldn't help but smile at each other. Rescue: what a lovely word.
Archer scooped up his tired-out Beagle, while Reed and Trip helped a now conscious but still weakened T'Pol, and they all gladly entered the rescue pod.