Kern said, "Most of us work here because we want to avoid any military applications of our work. We prefer to give people pleasure rather than to destroy them."
"An idealistic sentiment," remarked Avon. "The application of your work is not within your control."
"You sound like you've run into this problem before," said Kern.
A fragment of memory flashed across Avon's mind and disappeared before his mind could grasp hold of it. He gave an unconscious shiver.
I cannot allow this to happen. I must maintain control. Avon's mind focused.
"Perhaps," said Avon.
"How did you deal with it? How did you win against those who tried to take your work, against your will?" asked Kern.
Avon's jaw tightened. "I didn't." Though he couldn't remember any details, for some reason, he knew that this had happened. Why can't I remember? Why was I not aware of this before?
"Is that why you ended up fighting the Federation?" asked Kern.
Avon stared at Kern; he could guess where this was going. His hand relaxed and moved away from the teleport bracelet.
"What do you want from me?" Avon asked.
"Can you help us?" asked Kern.
"You still haven't told me what the situation is."
"Haven't I? I'm sorry. It's been so nerve-wracking. One of my project leaders disappeared yesterday. No one's been able to find him. There have been rumours that other people are missing too. Then this afternoon there was a directive to concentrate on the holographic molecular stabilizing technology. From the orders, it was clear that someone is interested in its offensive potential."
"Do you know who?" asked Avon. He was all too familiar with what these men were facing. His own specialties lay in the areas useful to military science and technology. It had not been by choice. People in these fields tended to be of great interest to the Federation.
"There are rumours of new people taking over," said Kern hesitantly.
Panner, who had been standing quietly behind Avon interjected, "Not just rumours. No one's seen Smithson, our boss, in over a week. There have been new managers coming in. Some of them are odd."
"Define odd," said Avon. This interested him.
"People say that when they look at you, you don't know if they're human sometimes," said Panner.
"Don't be a fool, Panner," said Kern. "Of course they're human."
"I'm just conveying what some of the people in the hospitality division are saying," said Panner defensively.
"Someone said that they're not human?" asked Avon. This definitely interested him.
"Well, not exactly," said Panner. "More inhuman. They scared them. You get the impression that if you crossed them, you might be one of the ones to disappear next."
That's different. But I need to find out for certain.
"I’m interested in helping you," said Avon.
Cally tended to Smithson as he lay in the medical bay.
"How is he?" asked Argus.
"He’s in worse condition than Allren, but he will recover in time," responded Cally. "I've given him a large dose of pain inhibitors and a sedative."
"How about his arm?"
"There isn't anything I can do for him other than to make sure the wound is clean and to promote healing. He will need a prosthetic or a replacement."
"Can he talk?"
"I would prefer to give him time to rest."
"We may not have much time, Cally. Sevisia and his people know that he was rescued. I need to talk to him."
"He's suffered trauma over a long period of time, he may not be able to help you."
"We won't know that until we ask him. Wake him up," said Argus.
Cally hesitated and then she went to get a stimulant. "Don't take too long," she told him as she applied the injector to Smithson's neck.
Argus nodded grimly. He didn't like doing this, but he had no choice.
Smithson immediately stirred and opened his eyes. He reacted in fear when he saw Argus and Cally; he nearly rolled off the bed. Argus stopped him from falling and held him down. He said reassuringly, "It's alright. You're safe now. We rescued you. Do you remember?"
Smithson looked fearfully at Argus's face. He stopped struggling and said hesitantly, "I...yes, I remember."
Argus let him go. Tears started streaming down Smithson's cheek. That made Argus feel awkward; he was not used to grown men crying. Argus frowned and glanced at Cally. "Pull yourself together," Argus told the man. "We need your help." Smithson began sobbing loudly. Argus looked helplessly at Cally. He was ill at ease with people of either gender bawling uncontrollably. He could tell that Cally was not pleased with what he was doing.
Cally came closer and said gently to Smithson, "I know it's difficult. I know you don't want to deal with it right now." She looked pointedly at Argus.
"Cally." Argus stared back at her without apology. "The quicker we do this, the faster he can go back to sleep."
Cally looked back at Smithson and said softly, "We need your help to stop these people. Can you help us?"
"Stop them?" asked Smithson. The sobbing stopped and he tried to focus his eyes on her. He grabbed her arm. Argus reacted but Cally waved him off.
Smithson said urgently, "Don't try. I tried. I did. But...no one can stop them. They're monsters." His voice trailed off and his eyes closed.
"Smithson," said Argus sharply. Smithson’s eyes snapped opened and he stared at the man calling his name.
Smithson asked, "You’re the one who saved me?"
"Yes. My name is Drel Argus. I want to help get the man who did this to you.”
“You already killed them.” The man had a childish, lopsided smile. “There was someone else…a woman.” It was obvious that the man was unstable; shifting between emotional states abruptly.
“Yes, that was Reya. Smithson, I want you to listen to me carefully. I plan to stop these people. But we need your help. What do you know about their base? The place where they're training their troops," asked Argus.
"Troops?" asked Smithson. He sounded mystified.
"Yes. Sevisia said that they set up a base here…"
At the mention of Sevisia's name, Smithson reacted in panic and fear. "No!" He tried to get out of bed. Argus held him down again.
"You don't have to be afraid," Cally reassured him. "No one can harm you here." Smithson had stopped listening; he struggled against Argus's grip.
"Put him out again," said Argus. Cally changed the setting on the bio-injector and gave Smithson an injection. He began to calm down and then shortly was asleep.
Argus let go of the man and took in Cally's look of disapproval, "Yes, I know. You don't have to tell me. I had to try."
"I didn't say anything," said Cally.
"You didn't have to."
"What are you going to do?" asked Cally.
"We can't wait for Smithson. We'll have to find it some other way. Maybe Zen can help." He paused before broaching the next topic with her. She already didn't like what he had done with Smithson, he doubted if she would like what he was about to say. "There's something else you won't like."
"I hope it doesn't involve waking him up again," said Cally. Her look clearly indicated that one bad idea was enough for Smithson.
"No. Not that. We need to recall Avon from the planet."
"You think he's in danger?" asked Cally with alarm.
"With what we know is happening, it will be safer for him to be on the ship. And we might need his help."
"I would prefer keeping him out of this, Argus," said Cally.
"So would I. But I don’t think we have a choice. We can’t keep this from him."
“There’s something you don’t understand,” said Cally.
Her tone warned him that she was worried. Argus asked, “What is it?”
“There is something wrong with Avon. Something going on inside his mind. Something he has no control over. It’s almost as if…” Cally stopped. She didn’t know how to express it.
“As if what?” asked Argus.
Cally tried to make sense of what she had been sensing from Avon the last few days. “It’s almost as if the damage to his mind extends further back. Long before Servalan captured him. I think he has gaps in his memory. When he tries to access them, his mind shuts down.”
“How can that be? Wouldn't you have noticed it before?”
“I don’t understand it myself. I'm only telling you what I've been able to sense from him.” She remembered something, “There’s a curious thing he said before he collapsed on the flight deck.”
“What did he say?”
“He said that being intelligent should not make him a tool for others. That it should not be a curse.” Cally could still see the scene clearly in her mind. She had been afraid for him since he had collapsed and was determined that he not face any more stress.
Argus said, “It sounds as if people have tried to use him before. Someone tried to control him before.”
Cally said, “I also got the impression of being trapped. There was desperation and anger. And fear.”
“What happened to him? You said that this predates his time with Servalan? Do you think he will tell you?”
“I’m not certain he can, even if he wanted to. Something is stopping him.”
Argus nodded. “Playing with people’s minds. That sounds like something the Federation would do.”
“You think…” Cally said. The thought made her ill.
“It could be a possibility,” said Argus. His fists tightened unconsciously, reflecting a growing anger. Having served in the military, Argus knew all about the manipulations of the mind practiced by the Federation. Punishment cells were used on the lower ranks but retraining sessions were common practice among officers who proved to be 'unreliable'. "Someone with his intelligence and abilities would have been marked for attention early on."
The moment Argus had said it; Cally knew it was more than possible. She was also starting to get angry. What did they do to you, Avon? Did they seek to control your mind? Did you refuse to do what they wanted?
“I don’t want him to continue suffering like this,” she told Argus.
“None of us want that,” said Argus.
“I’m afraid for him.”
“We won’t let anything happen to him, Cally,” Argus reassured her emphatically. "But we can't do it by trying to control him. I won't do it."
Cally could feel Argus’s growing anger. There was such depth to his feelings that she had a suspicion. “Did they do that to you?”
“What?” asked Argus.
“Play with your mind, when you were in the military? Did they try to control you?” asked Cally.
Argus was surprised by her question. He noticed his own clenched fists; he deliberately released the tension. “Sometimes,” he admitted reluctantly. This was not an easy topic for him. "It was normal procedure."
"Why would you let them do that to you?"
Argus looked away uncomfortably. "There are things I can do which make me very dangerous, Cally. In the military, and especially in special sections like mine, it was always understood that in order to protect society, society also had to be protected from us."
"You were sent for retraining?" she asked.
Argus avoided her eyes; it was not a subject he wanted to discuss. "We were talking about Avon," said Argus. It was clear he no longer wanted to pursue this topic.
"When are you going to contact Avon?" asked Cally.
"The sooner the better."
"I want to be there when you do."
"Alright. We'll do it now." Cally followed Argus to the flight deck.
Avon was talking to the senior project manager, Kern about the new people who had taken over, when Argus's voice came over his teleport bracelet.
"Avon. This is Argus. Do you read?"
Avon responded into the transceiver of his teleport bracelet, "What is it Argus?"
"I need to talk to you, can you come up?" Argus requested.
"I'm busy. Can this wait?" asked Avon.
"You have people with you?"
Avon looked at Kern and Panner; so far he had been careful. He had not revealed anything more about himself than was absolutely necessary. Now that they knew who he was, and the situation was proving to be one that would require outside help, Avon made a decision. "Yes. We are having some fascinating discussions. In fact, I think you might find them interesting."
"How interesting?" Argus`s voice asked over the comm.
"Come down and find out."