"Don't you ever go home?" Engineer York asked the analyst jokingly as he entered the lab with his three companions, and saw the prisoner in what seemed to be the same position they had left him the night before. The prisoner was bent over a small model of the step transformer they were developing, making some adjustments.
He looked up at them briefly and then returned to his work without responding. They may have been brilliant scientists and engineers, but if they had not figured out what his position was by now, they really were fools. The engineers immediately came over to see what he was doing with the step transformer.
Both Professors Ekron and Tyler crossed over to the desk which was full of papers filled with written calculations and drawings, and began studying the work the analyst had done since they had left the previous night. They picked up paper after paper, comparing some and reading others.
"You must have been up all night to complete all of these," said Ekron.
The analyst was more than just tired; he really had been up all night. His left hand was cramping from all the writing he had done. His minders had been steadily increasing his work hours; he knew that he was being punished for the lack of results. They were trying to put pressure on him.
At thirty-two hours, he would not collapse but any longer and he knew he would start losing the kind of intense concentration required for the analysis he was doing; loss of concentration meant he would start making mistakes, and that would mean more punishment.
The guards had also started submitting him to beatings again. He knew that Sester had brought a halt to it the last time, and directed that he be given time in the healing tanks, but he had not seen the psychostrategist in several weeks. It was obvious the guards felt they could get away with it as long as Sester stayed away.
The prisoner had not once complained at the treatment, or the conditions under which he was forced to work. He knew he was not there to be treated as a human being; anything he said would only have been an excuse for them to punish him more. So he had done everything they had asked of him, despite knowing it was impossible. He wondered how long Servalan would accept this lack of progress before she took action.
"Here you finish this off," the analyst indicated to Delan, as he handed him the tool he had been using. The two engineers had been watching what he was doing with interest, "Don't let the bilateral coupling touch the ventral circuit feed until it's connected." Of the two, Delan seemed to have the more delicate touch when it came to working with his hands.
The analyst went to a chair, sat down slowly and leaned back, crossing his arms.
"Don't talk to me for a few minutes," he indicated to the two scientists who had approached him. They looked like they were about to ask him something. He closed his eyes and tried to rest.
Tyler and Ekron looked at each other; when the prisoner had first done this, they had both been puzzled, but now they accepted it.
They knew the prisoner worked long hours, they could not guess how many. He was already working when they arrived at the lab in the morning and he always continued working when they left for the day, no matter how late they stayed. When the researchers took breaks for meals and rest, the prisoner still kept working.
The only time he had any rest when they were working, was these few short minutes. They suspected that he was only allowed this by his minders because they would have gotten in trouble if he collapsed and was no longer able to work; but if he took more than a couple of these, the guards would take him away. When they returned him, he usually could barely stand and every movement appeared to cause him pain.
They had also noted that he was no longer being fed, at least not while they were working. The only thing he was given was water.
The professors quietly went about their tasks, trying not to disturb him.
After five minutes, the pressure building in the analyst's head began negating his efforts to rest. He got up slowly trying not to aggravate his injuries.
"Alright, what were you going to ask?"
They all got down to the business of designing the new phase-TD engine.
Several hours later, engineer York stood up from the augmenter model he and Delan were working on, "That's it for me, I've got plans tonight."
That seemed to inspire a general desire for all of them to leave.
Good thought Avon. His minders never allowed him to go back to his cell as long as even one member of the research group remained.
They all began packing up. Professor Ekron lingered, there was a look of puzzled concentration on his face. He started rummaging through the myriad of pages on the table until he found the ones he was looking for.
"I knew there was something wrong, it's been bothering me all day, but I haven't been able to put my finger on it until now. The logic flow diagrams you finished last night," Professor Ekron held up the page, "seem to be entirely different from the ones you did two days ago." He held up another piece of paper.
The prisoner took both pages and compared them side-by-side on the table. There was no reaction on his face but as he sat down, his shoulders slumped in weariness, "You're right, I made a mistake. I'll have to redo all the calculations I did today that were based on these. We can't test tomorrow without the new calculations. The whole transformer by-pass model and the last two simulations were built on this logic flow." This meant another ten hours. The analyst looked over at his tech minders, they were clearly not pleased. He knew they were not going to let him to rest before he corrected his error, despite already working thirty hours. He knew that his chance of making errors increased as he got closer to the limits of his endurance, but he had no choice. Without another word, he got a blank piece of paper and started re-doing the flows and calculations.
Professor Ekron had debated whether he should have revealed the error, but he had no choice. The phase energies they were working with were dangerous when combined with the time distort energies; concealing the error would have made it worse. It meant a difference of a delay of weeks rather than days.
The four members of the research group were not fools, they had all noticed the prisoner's look towards the minders, they knew what it meant. Normally they ignored the Federation tech minders and guards who were always hovering nearby. It was an unpleasant reminder of the analyst's prisoner status, along with the restraints he always wore and the grimaces of pain he tried to hide while they were working.
Over the course of the past week, the researchers had all come to respect the analyst's intelligence and understood his value in the research they were doing, even Delan. They all felt guilty at using this nameless prisoner, but they realized that they needed him in order to achieve success.
They were all aware that the analyst was looking increasingly worn out as the weeks progressed, but they had all been warned before they were brought to the facility; treating him as a human being was definitely not acceptable.
They all stood by, unsure as to what they should do next as the prisoner worked silently.
Professor Ekron made a decision, "York, you and Delan should go. We won't need you until the calculations and redesigns are complete. Tyler," he looked towards his fellow professor who nodded in agreement, "and I will stay and help out." Unlike the first time he had worked with the prisoner, Ekron's attitude towards the prisoner had changed. Knowing now that the man was no threat to him and would only enhance his career, the professor realized he had a vested interest in protecting him.
There was no reaction from the prisoner, he continued working. The two engineers left reluctantly. With the help of the professors, the work was cut down to eight hours. They had to correct the analyst several times, but they were finally able to finish in the early hours of the morning.
Tyler stretched to ease the tension in her back, and yawned; Ekron yawned in response.
"I'm so tired I could almost crash here," Professor Tyler remarked as she packed up,"almost."
"I'll let York and Delan know to come in later," Ekron said, "I need to see the experiments for myself, don't start until we come back." By requesting this, he hoped that he was buying their analyst some time to rest.
The prisoner looked at him and nodded, it was an acknowledgement, and as close to a thanks as he would give for what they had done for him. The two professors left, tired but happy with what had been accomplished.
Avon sat waiting, his hands resting on the table in full view of the guards. The pressure was starting to build in his exhausted brain. The security observers should have turned off the trigger shortly after the two professors had left; they were late, or there was something else going on.
"Avon." A familiar voice, he did not bother to turn around to see who had entered the room, he already knew who it was.
Servalan. It was the early hours of the morning. Does the woman never sleep?
"It has been along time."
"Not long enough," he said tiredly.
"Now now, one would think you weren't happy to see me."
The Federation President seated herself opposite him, she looked at him pleasantly. One of her special presidential guards placed a metal case on the table in front of her. Another one came up behind him, undid one of the cuffs around his wrist and re-attached it behind the chair. Avon could hear something brought in behind him, outside of his field of vision.
"Leave us and have the security monitors turned off," Servalan ordered the people in the room. She always had the monitors turned off when she interacted with Avon. Both guards and minders filed out, the door slid closed; they were alone.
"They tell me that you've been stalling."
He looked at her coldly. "How could they tell?" The sarcasm in his voice was unmistakable.
"You are saying that you're not?"
"I'm sure you get regular reports."
"Don't play games, Avon."
"It's your game."
"From the reports, the professors seem to be quite impressed with you and I think the engineers are jealous."
The analyst waited.
"The researchers were not very happy that they could not bring a computer unit in."
"That's what you have me for, isn't it?"
"You underestimate yourself Avon; you are much more amusing than a computer."
"Is that what you call it? I can't give you more than I already have on this project, Servalan."
"But you're letting them push me."
"No," she smiled," I asked them to push you, as I said, you are much more entertaining than a computer."
"I see," he said acidly.
His head was pounding; he was starting to feel dizzy. Avon leaned back in the chair, there was nothing he could do except wait. She would do what she came to do, all he could do was try to conserve what was left of his energy; with her here, he knew he would need it.
"You knew that it was impossible to complete this project without a computer," she said more as a statement than a question.
"Yet you still tried to do it?"
"You make it sound as if I had a choice."
Servalan did not tell him that Professor Tyler had contacted her office the previous day, making a personal appeal. Tyler had explained the impossibility of the task without access to a computer, and she had explained in great detail, of Avon's efforts to make up for the lack and the futility of it.
Servalan had not liked this turn of events; Tyler's sympathy for Avon.
Why do they always fall for you, thought Servalan with a tinge of jealousy, but you never pay any attention to them, do you?
There was bound to be some degree of relationship developing between the researchers and Avon, that was unavoidable, considering how closely they worked together, but this level was a threat to security. Servalan made a mental note, mind blocks would have to be placed on the researchers after their work was done and they would all have to be watched more carefully in the meantime. All opportunities would be denied to Avon.
The tasks which she had assigned to Avon so far did not utilize his full abilities. To be the kind of tool which was most useful to her, those abilities had to be utilized; that required giving him access to a computer, it had only been a matter of time. It was something she had discussed with Sester and they both knew that before they could allow Avon access, they had to know to what level he was cooperating. They knew that they could never truly trust him and they could never allow him any quarter; pushing him on the phase engine project served as a useful test, and a reassertion of their power over him.
Avon closed his eyes; the pain and the pressure were making it difficult to concentrate.
"If you want me to keep talking, you'll have to turn it off."
"Is that a request?"
"It's whatever you want it to be," he said with a tone of resignation.
Servalan got up, crossed over to his side of the table, and stood behind him.
"It's time to rest Avon."
The pressure in his head eased but he still had a headache. He felt Servalan's hands on his shoulders, she slid one hand down gently across his chest, he was careful not to react, he would not give her that satisfaction. Without warning, she down pressed hard with a twisting motion, he gasped in pain as she pushing down on one of his many deep bruises.
As a senior political officer assigned to Central Security, Servalan had watched many torture sessions over the years. She knew where Centre personnel preferred to strike to produce maximum pain but cause minimum damage. Tracing across the analyst's ribs, she pressed another point, Avon's jaw tightened, refusing to show pain. Slowly with her other hand, she traced gently along his back then exerted pressure on a particularly tender spot, he arched in pain and groaned involuntarily. After five minutes of painful manipulation of his injuries, she pressed one final point which caused him to double-over.
"Look at me Avon." She was now standing beside him.
He straightened himself up slowly and met her eyes, there was no expression on his face but he was perspiring.
She drew her fingers along his jaw.
"You are going to get your computer; but you knew that didn't you? You played it very well, but know this Avon, the agreements you made with me are still in effect and there will be safeguards in place in case you forget. I will be watching you." She pointed to the security cameras.
Servalan pulled his head against the back of the chair and kissed him, with surprise she felt him responding to her. Their passion threatened to break through to the surface. Servalan broke off, stepped back and looked at him. What she saw caused her to slap him, hard; the look on his face had been one of faint amusement.
Without a word, she went back to the other side of the table and opened the case, taking several objects out. Blocked by the open cover of the case, the analyst could not see what she was doing. Servalan came over beside him, unzipped his coveralls and pulled it open. She attached several remote bio-sensors pads to his chest and then turned on the monitor behind his chair. The readouts showed the steady beat of his heart, his respiration rate and graphs displaying various life signs.
Standing behind him, she pressed a bio-injector to the side of his neck and injected something into him. He felt a rush of adrenaline negating the tiredness, and then another object was pressed against his neck. Before he could register what it was, a shock of intense pain ran through his body. He cried out involuntarily. It was a familiar sensation coming from a familiar device, a pain rod. She held the activated rod against his neck until the bio-readout indicated an irregular heartbeat, then turned it off.
"You know it is not wise to antagonize me Avon," Servalan told him. She applied the rod again, this time to his bare chest, he arched in pain. He gritted his teeth to stop himself from crying out.
"You mean you weren't planning to do this already?" he asked with cold sarcasm when the pain stopped. "Or do you normally bring all this equipment on the random chance that you will have a chance to use it?" In reaction to his response she immediately depressed the rod gain.
"You're right, I was, but how long depended on you," she said as he strained, pulling at the cuffs which attached his hands to the back of the chair, causing them to cut into his wrists.
"When have you ever been able to stop," he said in a stressed voice when there was a break in the pain, he was gasping for breath.
"That is very true." She increased the setting and depressed the rod again. He groaned in agony. After sixty seconds which seemed like an eternity to the suffering man, she lifted the rod and finally allowed him to catch his breath.
For the next two hours she worked on him, steadily increasing the pain level. With the monitors she could judge exactly how much he could take before he passed out. As the pain escalated to the higher end of the settings, he could no longer stop himself from screaming.