Category: Angst , Drama
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: The rebel leaders arrive for the trial. Cally, Vila and Argus are finally allowed to see Avon.
The rebel leaders began streaming into the base, ships depositing each party and quickly taking off to allow the next group entrance. There was a festive feeling, a gathering of old friends from all corners of the Federation worlds, many of whom only knew each other by reputation, but whom all shared a common goal, the destruction of the evil empire whose iron-fisted power touched every corner of their galaxy.
Of course, as all such gatherings went, it soon deteriorated to petty bickering, and in some cases outright pitched verbal battles as more arrived who did not share their political views.
Avalon's rebel group, as hosts, played referee and peacekeepers, trying to prevent fighting in the corridors and to stop others from stalking out before the trial had begun. It was a thankless job.
A rough, almost unfinished-looking man, Lahey by name and a miner by trade, recruited in one of Avalon's efforts to start resistance movements on various worlds, shouted across the arrivals hall, "Kendall!"
Dr. Kendall, in the customary high-collared tunics he preferred, winced at the screaming tone and said politely, "Lahey, it's good to see you."
Lahey grabbed his hand in a crushing grip and pumped it vigorously. "What's a farmer like you doing in a place like this? I wouldn't have pegged a bunch of dirt pushers like you to be rebel-types." Kendall's group scowled at the man's rudeness.
Kendall looked at him blankly. The man sounded offensive, but he knew that Lahey hadn't meant it to be. They'd met in a trade fair many years ago. "First of all, we don't push dirt."
"Yeah, yeah, you coax it lovingly and encourage it to produce tasty treats. Probably sing to it too."
"As a matter of fact…" Kendall stared at the man and realized from the grin on Lahey's face that he was joking. "…we find that certain frequencies do stimulate the growth cycle of some plants."
"I knew it. You sing to them."
"So what are you doing here?" asked Lahey.
"I was invited."
"You? You're a rebel…leader?"
Kendall took the dubious look on the rough miner's face as a compliment. It was true that it was incomprehensible that a quiet farming planet such as Destiny would be involved in rebel activities. His people were mainly into peaceful political protests and petitions. Though lately they had branched out into acts of civil disobedience.
They had been hard hit by the destruction of Star One. Their planet was soil-rich but had originally suffered from devastating weather cycles. Federation control satellites had regulated their planetary weather systems in return for a percentage of their farming production. Not a bad trade off.
Until Star One. Their planet had only just recovered, with Federation assistance, which became increasingly more punishing demands on their meagre resources. Pushed beyond all patience and endurance, and with their numerous petitions ignored by the Federation High Council, they had reluctantly begun to take independent action. Some of the more hotheaded ones among them had demanded it and Kendall had agreed, if only to curb their excesses.
Kendall said, "As hard as it is to believe, I am."
"Well, bless my stars!" exclaimed Lahey. "I'd never thought I'd see the day. Well, what do you think of it all?" Lahey waved his hands expansively, nearly hitting someone nearby in the head. He smiled widely in apology.
"About what in particular?" asked Kendall courteously.
"You know...the trial. That traitor Avon. We're going to give him what's coming to him."
Kendall's eyes narrowed. "I didn't realize that the trial had already occurred."
"Of course it hasn't! What are you talking about? That's why we're all here, aren't we? Rebel leader?"
"The way you spoke, I thought that the outcome had already been decided."
Lahey winked at him. "Well, it has hasn't it? He's guilty. Everyone says so. He murdered the hero of the rebellion. In cold blood. And he betrayed the alliance. Killing's too good for the likes of him."
Kendall looked blankly at him again. "Until all the evidence has been presented, we should not make prior judgements."
Lahey slapped Kendall on the back good-naturedly. "I forgot, you're all into judicial procedure and all of that, aren't you. Must be a farmer thing. Where I come from, justice is quick. You don't waste time on judi… well, things like that. Don't have time, do we? You know they're guilty and you deal with them."
Kendall was aghast at such a notion, even though he knew that other planets weren't as rigid about law and justice as his people were. He had seen it firsthand and it had made him ill. It was one of the reasons the Destiny colonists had sought a new home amongst the stars. "You can't summarily execute people. You have to investigate, find all the facts, give the person time to defend themselves. What if you make a mistake?"
Lahey seemed bored, he and Kendal had been friends many years and he'd heard it all before. Still, he liked the man. He found him funny, in an old-fashioned kind of way. "Eh? What mistake? Are you saying that we're all wrong about that traitor?" Lahey leaned closer and his voice dropped. "Wouldn't say that too loudly around here. People might get the wrong idea. Think you were…you know…"
Kendall refrained from pointing out that with Lahey's volume, it was already too late to be discreet. "The Avon I knew, was an honourable man. He helped save my world. My people will always be grateful to him."
"Yeah, well. I can see that. Have to pay your debts, don't you? But, like I said, I wouldn't say it too loudly around these quarters."
"I will give Avon a fair hearing. I can't believe that he would be responsible for the atrocities they attribute to him. And if he didn't kill Blake in cold blood and there were extenuating circumstances…Not to mention if we hold Avon responsible for his actions, then we should also…" Kendall trailed off, an unhappy expression on his face. He looked away.
"What extenu…whatever. Talking to you always makes me thirsty. How about a drink?"
The two strange companions left the arrivals hall in search of liquid refreshments.
Argus, Cally and Vila teleported into a quiet room adjacent to the arrivals hall. Though quiet was a relative term. There were no sounds coming from the room but that didn't apply to the noisy arrival hall next door which, when they arrived, seemed to have erupted into several stand-offs. Men and women, armed to the teeth, standing toe-to-toe in impolite conversations. Avalon's hapless and harried rebels were desperately trying to ward off civil war.
Argus stuck his head outside the door briefly, took one look at the situation and a low growl formed in his throat.
Two rebel groups were facing off near them. An angrily gesturing woman was saying loudly, "You cannot just blow up the food distribution centres on Earth! It'll cause mass panic!"
A man with a scarred lip and a tan leather jacket said, "That's the point! We want to cause rioting. The Federation will have to recall some of its troops back to Earth. That'll give the Border Worlds a chance to break free!"
The woman was nearly spitting. "All you care about are your precious Border Worlds. Well how about us? We have families on Earth!"
The scarred lip man said, "Well, what about ours? We've been suffering the brunt of Federation expansion. You didn't care when you went and blew up the comm and nav station on Selarus Four. Cut us off for months! And I had an infiltration team there! Had! Well, not anymore. Who's bright idea was it to overload the nuclear reactor and blow up the entire station?! With people in it? Most were civilians! Support and technical personnel! Not just soldiers! Whose moronic idea was that? You Earthers keep telling us how much better you are than the rest of us. You have more experience, more resources, better technology, better brains. Well, why didn't it occur to your 'superior brains' that all you had to do was destroy the redirecting towers and the computers? Not kill everyone on the base?"
Cally had almost been bowled over by the intensity of the emotions when she arrived. She said, "There appears to be severe tension."
Vila said, "That's not "appears to be"…that's a showdown with guns blazing." His eyes were wide with fascination, though he was careful not to stick his head out as Argus had. He had no interest in having it shot off accidentally. That'd be just his luck. There always had to be one completely innocent bystander who was killed before all hell broke loose. Usually it was someone like him, trying to mind his own business.
Argus took a deep breath and let it out with violent force. Startled, Vila nearly jumped. "What are you going to do?"
Argus said tersely, "Stay here. Don't come out until I tell you to." He strode out with grim purpose, like a battle tank that was about to mow down anyone that got in his way. Vila's imagination added loud, metallic clomping sound effects in his head as he muttered after him, "Don't worry, I'll stay and watch things here."
Even before Argus had entered the room, his nose twitched at the all-too-familiar scent of aggression. Testosterone run rampant. The air electric with energy that made his hair stand on end. There was a welcoming roar in his ears as his body responded in kind, ready for action. The ultimate predator ready to claim his territory and defeat all comers. His chest expanded and shoulders bulged, like an animal ready for battle. Every sense was alert.
Argus instinctively 'knew' where everyone was, could tell who was the most dangerous, the ones who were dominant, and those ones at the edge of losing control. He made a line straight for the two groups that had the greatest potential of turning this into an ugly situation.
Cally went after Argus.
"Cally! Argus said…" Vila tried to stop her but it was too late. There was a pained expression on his face. He couldn't stay here while they both went out there. What would they do without him? With slower and more careful steps, he followed along behind.
Argus's words rumbled like thunder as his low voice boomed across the hall, "What do you all think you're doing?! We should be fighting the Federation! Not…each…other!" With negligent sweeps of his strong arms, he separated two men who were about to come to blows. The men staggered back as if they'd been hit with a sledgehammer.
Argus glared at them all, his eyes like deadly searchlights. Faces blanched, throats suddenly became too dry to swallow, and some even took an involuntary step backwards. "We're not supposed to be rabble, fighting each other like little children! We should be able to settle conflicts without resorting to violence!"
Avalon's calm voice came from the large entranceway. "Argus is right." They all turned towards her. "We should be able to deal with issues in a civilized manner. That is why we are all here." She nodded to Argus in a gesture of respect. "I'm glad you're here. Thank you."
Argus stared at Avalon without answering as she came into the room.
She addressed the gathered assembly, "Now, if everyone will please follow my team to the reception area. You can rest up before we begin the trial tomorrow."
There were grumbles but they all began filing out.
Argus said, "You'd better keep an eye on them, Avalon. I would volunteer my own men, but I doubt if you would trust them."
Avalon nodded. "I'm afraid you would be right. You are here to see Avon?"
Cally and Vila had come up behind Argus, standing to either side. Cally asked harshly, "Where is he?"
Cally, Vila and Argus followed Avalon to a small alcove blocked by two rebel guards in fatigues. They acknowledged Avalon and stepped aside.
Avalon said, "He's in there. You can speak to him but…we've had to take precautions."
Argus's eyes narrowed, "What kind of precautions?"
"There is a transparent barrier that will separate you and it is protected by an energy field."
"We're not here to break him out," protested Argus.
"I know that. But I have a responsibility to the others. Even the most honourable of men can be tempted."
Argus frowned slightly. "We don’t have much of a choice."
"It's either that or I don’t let you see him," said Avalon.
Cally said, "I used to admire you, Avalon."
"Let the guards know when you want to be let out." With that parting instruction, Avalon left.
The three crewmates stepped hesitantly inside the room. Avon sat stiffly in a chair facing the doorway, his face drawn. A pair of dark shades obscured his eyes.
Argus and Vila stayed back to give Avon and Cally some privacy but their eyes were transfixed on the broken man. Cally approached fearfully and drew in a shuddered breath. Her voice was whispered, as if she was afraid that anything louder would pierce the illusion and Avon's pale form would disappear.
Avon lifted his head slowly and cocked it to one side. His voice was raspy and weak. He was a man who thought he was facing a dream that could not be. "Cally?"
Cally rushed forward the rest of the way and placed her hands on the glass in a vain attempt to reach him. "Yes, Avon. It's me. I'm here. Argus and Vila are here too."
Avon's breath slowed. Could it be? Or was it only a trick of his often-tortured mind? Or was it his tormenters, replacing one kind voice with the ultimate lie? His voice flattened. "You're not Cally."
"Avon, I am!" Cally felt desperately along the glass, trying to find a way in.
Argus growled with anger. "They didn't tell you."
Avon turned his head in his direction. "The imitation is excellent. The only one missing is…"
Vila stood up to the glass. "Avon, it's me! Vila."
"Ah." A cynical smile lifted one corner of Avon's mouth. "You don't have the whining quality quite right."
Vila said, "Is that all the thanks I get?"
Avon said, "Have you done anything requiring gratitude?"
"We're here to rescue you! I mean, we want to rescue you…but there are some problems…But…we'll work them out."
Avon's covered eyes seemed to be staring hard at him. Or at least Vila could imagine they were.
Avon said, "On that inept performance alone…I'm almost inclined to believe you.'
Cally's soft voice said, "Avon, it is us."
Avon's head tilted towards her. He seemed to be thinking. "What is the gift that I gave to you on Pleasure City?"
Cally remembered only too well the twinned Auron rose Avon had produced for her. "A multiple imaging photon-based molecular stabilizer image."
Avon's breath caught in his throat. His voice was a raspy whisper, "Cally. You…remembered."
Vila exchanged mystified glances with Argus. Vila said, "Leave it to Avon to give something that can't even be remotely considered romantic."
Cally said behind her, "Shut up, Vila."
"Well, it's true. Next time if you want advice in the romance department…"
Avon said, "I will remember not to ask you."
Vila rolled his eyes, "Why did I bother coming?"
Argus grinned, "I'm sure you can't remember."
"Abuse, that's all I get."
Argus lifted his fingers to his lips and Vila fell silent.
Cally asked, "Avon, how are you feeling?"
Avon decided that he didn't want to answer that question. "Where am I?"
The three crewmates exchanged surprised glances.
Argus asked, "They didn’t even tell you that?"
"I haven't been conscious long. The last memory I have is being on a ship…with Jenna. Did you kill her?"
Cally said angrily, "I wish I had."
Argus said, "We haven't seen her. This one of Avalon's bases."
Avon seemed to be in thought again but it was hard to tell with the shades on.
Vila asked tentatively, "Avon, why are you wearing those? Is there something wrong with your eyes?"
Avon started as his head turned in his direction. He had not wanted them to find out but he knew that it was impossible to keep it from them. They would have discovered it eventually. "They were injured."
Argus's throat tightened and his fist hit the glass. "They blinded you."
Cally's voice was a choked sob, "Avon!"
Avon kept his voice expressionless. "There is nothing you can do."
Cally's voice rose in anger, "Yes there is! I can go and find Jenna. And kill her!"
Avon said, "I doubt if they will let you."
"I don't care!"
Avon turned his head in the direction of Argus's voice. "I assume that I was brought here for a trial?"
Argus said apprehensively, "Yes. They're going to try you for Blake's murder and for betraying the alliance."
"I thought so. The outcome has been decided, of course."
Argus said, "I made Avalon promise that it would be a fair trial."
Despite having the shades covering his eyes, it was clear that Avon thought that Argus was being naïve. "There are many definitions of 'fair'. Have you determined which hers is?"
Argus said, "I believe Avalon."
Avon said with light sarcasm, "You would."
"You think I'm a fool, don't you?"
Even without his eyes, Avon could hear something in Argus's voice. "I think…that you will be disappointed."
"I'm going to try my best, Avon. I'm not going to let them hurt you. No matter what happens. I promise…"
"But, Avon…" It was the voice of Jack.
"I want your promise to be for Cally."
Argus looked at Cally and then at Avon. "I…don't understand."
Cally's eyes were blurry. "I do. Avon, I don't want this promise. We are going to free you. Sester has a plan."
Avon said with surprise, "Sester?"
Cally said, "Yes, he came back. He anticipated Jenna's actions but he was too late to prevent them. He said that he can help us win the trial."