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Fifteen-year-old Will Drake has made a career of breaking out from high-security prisons. His talents have landed him at the Rig, a special juvenile holding facility in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. No one can escape from the Rig. After hatching some escape plans—and making the first real friends of his life—Drake quickly realizes that all is not as it seems on the Rig. The warden is obsessed with the mysterious Crystal-X, a blue glowing substance that appears to give superpowers to the teens exposed to it. Drake, Tristan, and Irene are banking on a bid for freedom—but can they survive long enough to make it?
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British-born Joe Ducie attended Edith Cowan University and graduated in 2010 with a Degree in Counterterrorism, Security and Intelligence. Ducie also studied creative and professional writing at Curtin University.
Home Sweet Home
The Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk flew low over the ocean, low enough that a cool mist splashed William Drake in the face through the open bay doors. He could taste salt on his lips and feel the roaring wind rush past his ears.
Handcuffed to a steel pivot loop attached to the floor of the chopper, Drake glared out at the miles of endless ocean. He had lost sight of the mainland nearly an hour ago, after takeoff from the holding center in St. John’s harbor—the very edge of Newfoundland and Labrador on the North American continent. Nothing but dark, deep waters stretched over the horizon. The sky was bruised purple, heading toward nightfall.
It was cold aboard the chopper, but Drake refused to let his jailers see him shake. Also onboard were two armed guards, both wearing sealed gas masks and carrying sleek semiautomatic rifles. They sat, menacing and silent, by the cockpit doors, their eyes unseen behind tinted plastic. Drake was bound at the ankles and tied to a group of six other prisoners. Four girls and two boys, all about his age.
He had lost track of the days while on the run, but he knew that his fifteenth birthday had been in the last week or so. There was a good chance he was the youngest prisoner aboard, but that didn’t make him the weakest.
Not by a long shot.
Strands of strawberry-blond hair hid one girl’s face. She had started crying five minutes into the flight and hadn’t stopped since. None of the others had tried to comfort her. A stocky boy on Drake’s left, who had spiked purple hair—Drake tagged him as Mohawk—sneered at the girl. Drake knew little about where they were going, as the Rig was shrouded in secrecy, but he knew enough not to cry.
“Five miles out,” a voice clouded in static transmitted into the cabin.
Drake turned his gaze back out to sea, scanning the horizon for their destination. He spotted it in the distance, rising out of the water like some dilapidated demon of steel and smoke.
An old oil platform that had been converted into the world’s first floating rehabilitation center. The Rig was actually five platforms, one at each point of the compass, connected by networks of metal walkways and orange pipes, and a final platform in the middle of the structure. From the air, the Rig was shaped almost like a diamond.
Another cage, Drake thought bitterly.
He watched the Rig grow larger from his seat on the side of the chopper. In the vast and murky ocean, it was the only man-made structure. For all that it mattered this far out to sea, the Rig could have been the only dry land left in the world.
The chopper landed on the southern platform on a wide helipad marked with yellow paint. The shackles were unlocked from the chopper’s floor, and Drake was offloaded along with his fellow prisoners. More faceless guardsmen met them here.
With a hard shove from a guard, Drake stumbled forward, shuffling in his ankle cuffs. The seven of them were lined up along the edge of the helipad. They stood shivering and alone as the Seahawk was quickly refueled by a ground crew and took off, on its way back to St. John’s.
A large man dressed in a fine suit—too fine for this place, Drake thought—waddled up to them, his thumbs hooked into the loopholes of his pants and a smirk on his face. His tie was tucked into his belt, and his neck jiggled as he spoke.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, smiling at each of them in turn. “My name is Jonathan Rayland Storm. You may call me Warden Storm. Let me be the first to welcome you to the Rig.” His gaze settled on Drake last of all, and he did not look away. The warden’s smile turned into something nasty as they stared at each other.
“You must be my special case,” he said, inclining an invisible hat. “Well, you ain’t so special here, son. A few days of work in Tubes will see to that.” He opened his arms and gestured to the group at large. “We live by rules here on my five platforms. As you can see, there is no escape. Nothing around you for a hundred miles but freezing water infested with some of the meanest sharks to ever grace God’s green earth.”
He dabbed at his brow with a cream-colored handkerchief.
“Only you won’t find any of that earth around here, no matter how hard you look. So you will follow my rules. You will call me Sir or Warden Storm,” he said, repeating himself. “You will address all the guards as Officer.
“Alliance Systems, among other exciting ventures, provides the finest custodial services in the world, as some of you already know.” The warden chortled. “Ten years ago, in 2015, after the eastern platform you see just over there was decommissioned, the Alliance built the rest of this place, and since then it has become the foremost center for violent offender rehabilitation on the planet. You are lucky to be here.”
Drake tried hard to suppress a smirk at that and failed.
“If you’ve been sent to me, to my Rig, you are all criminals, no matter your age, and have been sentenced to no less than five years of rehabilitative incarceration by your respective national governments. This old girl is your home for the next half decade, if not more. You will hate it here. You will hate me. That’s just fine. Keep your head down, do your work, and once your time is up, we will send you home as a productive member of society.”
As the warden finished his introduction, Drake ran his eyes across the visible structure of the oil rig. He counted three guards behind Storm, plus the two from the helicopter. There was a shadowy figure stationed up in the command tower. Call that another prison officer.
That made at least six unique guards, all faceless and armed with automatic weapons and nasty-looking black batons. There’ll be more, Drake thought, licking the salt from his lips.
Drake had known men like Warden Storm before. Men who sat in seats of power and absolute authority. Men who controlled everything about their private worlds. The faces of the men often changed, but in Drake’s experience, they were always the same in one regard.
They were overconfident.
So Drake believed the warden when he spoke of shark-infested waters and the rules by which the prisoners were supposed to abide. He believed it as much as the man himself did. But his overconfidence, his arrogance made him overlook one key factor. One small yet important detail.
There is no escape, Warden Jonathan Rayland Storm had said, and it was there that he and Drake would have to disagree.
Because there wasn’t a prison built—on God’s green earth or otherwise—that could hold Will Drake.
After the warden’s speech, Drake and his chain gang were marched single file across the helipad and into the Rig, led down a gray corridor by four of the masked guards. Every two meters or so, a window looked out over the darkening ocean and the blinking orange lights along the perimeter of the other two visible platforms to the east and west. Mid-November and close to the Arctic Circle, the night would be cold.
The corridor took an abrupt turn to the right and opened into a larger room in the heart of the southern platform. Drake guessed that they were somewhere below the control tower he’d seen from the helipad. The floor was carpeted here, and a row of empty desks sat opposite a small kitchen. Along the far wall, five bunk beds were arranged in front of porthole windows. The last of the day’s light shone across the room from the portholes, and the air smelled faintly of fried onions.
“Inside. Line up next to the central desk!” a guard barked.
Drake shuffled along at the back of the group. He thought it was just his imagination, but he was sure he could feel the floor moving beneath his feet, swaying with the ocean currents. At the front of the group, the girl who had been crying on the flight failed to stifle a particularly loud sob.
Mohawk pushed her hard in the back. “Shut up,” he spat. She fell to her knees and wailed.
Drake stepped forward and smacked Mohawk upside his head with the edge of his steel cuffs. More surprised than hurt, Mohawk reeled back and raised his hands. He snarled and advanced on Drake with his fists clenched.
“Break it up!” A guard stepped between Drake and Mohawk. “Line up against the wall like good little daffodils now!”
Drake did as he was told, ignoring the look of pure hatred from Mohawk.
The guard strapped his weapon to his chest armor and undid the clasp on his facemask. The molded plastic fell away to reveal a young man with a jovial smile. His brown hair was short at the sides and back, a military buzzcut, and his blue eyes seemed to sparkle almost sapphire in the half-light.
“There now,” he said. “That’s better.” The three remaining guards kept their faces covered, weapons at the ready, and took up positions behind the smiling man. He began to pace back and forth in front of his captives. “There’ll be no brawling here, my boys. Not while Marcus Brand is on watch!”
Brand . . . Drake filed the name away.
“Screw you, pig,” Mohawk spat.
Without breaking pace, Brand slapped Mohawk hard enough to rattle the teeth in Drake’s head. Mohawk snapped his head back with a cry, and droplets of blood sprayed from his mouth in a wicked arc.
“As I was saying,” Brand continued. “Discipline, and a healthy respect for those in authority, will go a long way toward making your stay on the Rig that much more bearable. You will be here with us for some years. This is the entirety of your world from now on, and you can forget about luxuries such as trees or grass. Figure out early that it’s best to do as you are told.” He stopped pacing and crossed his hands behind his back.
“Tomorrow morning will be your induction meeting with Warden Storm. He will assign you a daily schedule, focused primarily on your platforms—boys on the western platform, girls on the northern—and a work program that you will adhere to at all times. Failure to do so will constitute a breach of the rules, and you will be punished accordingly. Am I clear?”
No one said a word. Strawberry Blonde whimpered while Mohawk licked the blood from his lips. The rest, except for Drake, simply nodded.
“Good,” Brand said. “Now, you will be unlocked from your cuffs one at a time. When you are unlocked, you will step forward and Officer Hall will fit you with your very own Alliance tracker. A wristwatch, of a sort.” He held up a thick black band that flashed the time, along with a stream of other data, in luminescent green numbers on a five-centimeter screen. “None of you will have any excuse for being late to work now, will you?”
Drake was unlocked first. He stepped forward and offered his left arm to the man behind the gas mask. Hall slapped it away and grabbed his right arm. The screen went over the back of his wrist, just above the steel handcuff, and snapped shut, uncomfortably tight.
Drake examined the watch while the other members of his group were each given one of their own. The heavy black metal band had sealed seamlessly around his wrist, and apart from the digital display and a single rectangular hole in the side, it was unremarkable.
The display flashed the time across the center of the screen, and a few numbers and symbols scrolled across the top-right-hand corner. Drake’s read $-182 AC.
“Will someone please tell me what time it is?” Brand asked once every new inmate was wearing one of the bands.
No one spoke.
“Do not make me ask again, my little lawbreakers.” He was still smiling, but it never touched his eyes. Something else smiled there, something not so kind. He rolled up the sleeves of his black sweater, below the armor, and crossed his arms over his chest. Drake thought he recognized the tattoo on Brand’s left forearm—two swords crossed over a wreath and a silver crown, with the inscription “C-F ’13” beneath the blades—but he didn’t know from where.
He’s dangerous, Drake thought. He enjoys his job.
“Half past eight,” muttered the girl next to Drake.
“Thank you, my dear. Time for dinner before lights out at half nine. You’ll sleep here in Processing tonight until you’re assigned accommodations tomorrow. Oh, and just so you know, kids. You’ll find it impossible to remove your trackers. There is good reason for this. They’re also state-of-the-art Global Positioning Systems. They can track you to within a meter, no matter where you are in the world—and seeing as how your whole world for the next five years is the Rig, there won’t be a moment Control can’t find you.” He grinned again, at Drake in particular. “Now, let’s get you fed before naptime.”
Still secured at the wrists, Drake and his six companions were herded over to the stainless-steel table next to the kitchen. The table was set with bowls of soup and hunks of bread. Plastic spoons had been provided for all. In the arm of each seat was a square device about the size of a smartphone. The device shone with a dull red light.
“Everyone sit,” Brand said. “And wave your trackers over the scanners.”
Drake waved his arm over the scanner embedded in the chair. It beeped as his tracker passed over it, and it turned a healthy shade of green. He also noticed that the display on his watch had changed. The counter on the screen now read $-184 AC.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“I’m glad you asked, boy,” Brand said. “Your tracker also keeps an account of how much it costs Alliance Systems to feed and house you during your stay.” He chuckled. “This delicious meal before you costs two shiny Alliance credits. Your jumpsuits and flight to the Rig make up the remaining balance. A balance you owe the Alliance for your rehabilitation. Every meal you eat, every night you sleep must be paid for.”
“And how do we pay?” asked an Asian boy opposite Drake. Black tribal tattoos crisscrossed his neck and up under his dark hairline. He had already finished half his bread and soup.
“You work, my boy.” Brand clapped his hands together. “A day’s work on the Rig will earn you, roughly, depending on the task, between fifteen and twenty-five credits. This will be used to provide your accommodation and food. Work hard, and you can spend the remainder on certain luxuries, such as candy or mag...
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Book Description HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, United States, 2017. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Fifteen-year-old Will Drake has made a career of breaking out from high-security prisons. His talents have landed him at the Rig, a special juvenile holding facility in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. No one can escape from the Rig. After hatching some escape plans--and making the first real friends of his life--Drake quickly realizes that all is not as it seems on the Rig. The warden is obsessed with the mysterious Crystal-X, a blue glowing substance that appears to give superpowers to the teens exposed to it. Drake, Tristan, and Irene are banking on a bid for freedom--but can they survive long enough to make it?. Seller Inventory # AAC9780544936744
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Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0544936744. Seller Inventory # Z0544936744ZN