Joseph Armitage and Randall Moppet were in prison on the planet Thrombo, and they both had been sentenced to a work camp for fighting with Boffo. They found themselves in a flier, handcuffed to their seats, on their way to the work camp, which was in the most inhospitable environment imaginable.
The Magma Lakes are not really lakes, they form the entire southern half of one of the continents on Thrombo. The planetary crust on Thrombo is thin, but in this region there is no crust at all — just open magma for hundreds of miles in all directions. Located somewhere within this deadly wasteland is a small smeltery. It rests on stone floating upon this sea, and hosts some huge fusion-powered cooling towers. The cooling towers keep the stone from melting back into the lava, while some large “lagoons” of liquid magma provide a perfect environment for operating the smeltery. Unfortunately, it is a literally hellish environment, which probably explains why they staff it with prisoners.
Randall and Joseph were each given a “Toughsuit” to wear — it covers nearly the full body and has a half-inch of an asbestos-like substance. Scratchy, but it protects from the blobs of magma that occasionally fly past as bubbles of gas burst from under the surface. They spent the day getting trained on the equipment, then were expected to start work the following day.
At first, they were surprised to find that the guards were rather few in number and rather lax, but they later realized that this was because the prisoners had no possible way to escape. Even radio and satellite communications from the floating island were difficult or impossible because of the intense atmospheric disruption caused by the open magma. And fliers from the mainland only came once every few days. So the small number of guards had nothing but stun batons, even though nearly all of the prisoners were Gristles or Wookies.
Randall tried to ingratiate himself with the Commandant of the camp, offering his services doing paperwork, but the man had no interest and told him he’d probably be working as a “counterweight”. Little did Randall know, but that job title was literal. The cranes that they used to swing the buckets of metal out over the magma for smelting were old and in ill repair. When they stuck (which was not uncommon) it often required someone to climb to the top and literally shake the crane loose; Randall generally assigned this duty. Joseph found himself mostly loading scrap metal and pouring ingots.
On the first day of work they discovered that the popping magma often tossed small droplets of liquid stone about, and that even the toughsuits wouldn’t protect fully against something like that. Joseph was tough enough that he was able to shrug off the burns as minor, but Randall was splattered and suffered some severe wounds. They sent him back to the base camp where it appears that the cook kept a huge drum of some cream designed to cure burns.
The second and third days of work went similarly. While Joseph and Randall were finding ways to survive in this environment, their nemesis Boffo had been prospering. He had fallen in with a large gang of rather rough Wookies that made up nearly a third of the island’s population. And he still harbored a grudge, because that evening he sent two of his buddies over to quietly tell Jason and Randall that he and his gang would make sure they were dead.
Randall decided he’d better take action. He tried to get in to see the Commandant, but the guards wouldn’t let him. He finally had to bribe one of the guards by promising to get him a video player and recordings of some recent sports games. Once he got to the Commandant, Randall managed to charm him; convincing him that Randall was just useful enough (and amusing enough) to keep around and put him to work in the Commandant’s office. He also offered to move Joseph to a different work crew.
But that evening Joseph and Randall decided that they weren’t sure that a “different work crew” would be enough. So they waited until well after all the other prisoners and even the guards were asleep (the guards sleep in their own building, fairly far from the prisoner’s quarters). Then they sneaked out quietly to see what they could do. They managed to find a huge piece of rebar in a horseshoe shape and slipped that through the handles of the door to the building where the whole of the Wookie gang was housed. Then they went to gimmick the cooling tower that provided cold air for that building.
They broke off the lock and after some debate decided to turn the controls up from 6.5 (the current setting) to 10 in hopes of freezing the Wookies. The cooler began to make a large noise, and after some time there were noises from the barracks also. Once it was clear that no one was going to be able to get out from the building, Randall and Joseph made their way back to their own room.
A couple of hours later they went to check it out. Shortly thereafter a gristle came out and noticed the freezing ground. While he and Joseph went to get the guards, Randall removed all of the evidence. As it turns out, a few of the Wookies had died of the cold and most of the rest were incapacitated. The entire work camp was disrupted (and no work was done) for a couple of days.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra, Viktor, and Chez were searching the planet for Joseph. Chez managed to crack into the prison computer system and found that Joseph had been transferred to a site on the magma lakes. Apparently the only travel to and from the spot was the prison flier (for food, prisoner transport and such) and the scrapyard (flying in raw supplies and taking out the finished product. So they made their way to the scrap metal company.
Viktor spun a tale of how he was a pilot out of work and looking for a job, and with his excellent piloting skills was able to land a job flying a load of scrap out to the prison camp. He explained that he had “subcontracted” to Chez and Cleopatra to assist with the loading, but the yard owner thought it was a bit suspicious that they would want to go along for the flight. So they left and Viktor took off with the load, landing in a parking lot once he was out of sight and picking them up.
With a masterful display of elite piloting skills Viktor managed to fly right over the extreme sheer winds produced by the lava flows and landed at the prison camp. There he managed to ask the only human he could see (which happened to be Randall, delivering some paperwork for the Commandant) whether he knew Joseph. After conferring briefly, they let Randall sneak on board and he directed them to the location where Joseph was working, to make a delivery. They pretended there were mechanical problems with the flier and asked Joseph to help. Once out of sight, they explained the situation and Joseph and Randall were extremely pleased to accept the offer to abscond with them. Everyone climbed into the flier and they were off!
The rest was easy. Without communications from the island, the jailbreak was not reported for three days. By that time, the entire group was off planet, making their way back to where Viktor’s ship was docked. Randall left one final joke: he filed paperwork requisitioning prostitutes and other “entertainment” for the guards at the smeltery.