Almost two hours after she left the lab, Professor Tyler re-entered the building. She had almost reached home when she realized that she had forgotten her datapad. The Professor tended to be very forgetful when it came to personal things like appointments and she always felt naked without her datapad, so even though she was tired, she had returned for it.
As she got off the lift to sub-level five, she could hear a man screaming. Shocked, she looked around for the source of the sound. The corridors caused an echo effect, making it hard to identify which direction it was coming from. The screaming stopped, all was quiet again. She shook her head, perhaps she had imagined it.
Tyler proceeded down a long hallway, turned left and down another long hallway, heading towards a junction of corridors. Just as she reached the turn, a man screamed again, he sounded like he was in terrible agony. Tyler slowed, the sound was coming from the right and there was only one room down that corridor; it was the lab. Her face paled, she peered around the corner cautiously. There was a crowd of people milling around the closed doorway to the lab; it was a retinue of Centre guards along with a medtech. She also recognized a separate group who wore the distinctive black-hooded uniforms of the President's personal guard.
That explains a lot she thought to herself.
Tyler had long surmised that someone at the highest levels must have been involved, in order to be able to put together this setup, where they were effectively able to use the analyst as an intellectual slave. Someone powerful and scary.
Tyler did not want to tangle with the Federation President; there were many underground stories surrounding this forbidding woman and her rise to power. The professor decided that she could do without the datapad for one night, and rushed out the way she came. There was nothing she could do, and for now it was safer not to know what happened in the lab after the researchers left.
The professor had become increasingly bothered over the past few weeks. The research team needed this man's brilliance, but not at this cost. No matter what crimes this man had committed in the past, no one deserved to be used and abused like this.
Professor Tyler had been curious at the identity of the nameless prisoner she had come to admire, but now that curiosity became a puzzle she had to solve. She was resolved to find a way to help him.
By the end Avon's wrists were raw and bleeding from his struggles. With the last application of the rod, he had slumped forward. Servalan pushed him back into the chair and checked his pupils. She knew that even with another adrenaline injection he would not be able to stand much longer, the readouts indicated as much. She had only reached level twelve in the pain settings, but his heart was beating weakly and it had taken longer for it to recover between each application of the rod. He had been pushed past his endurance even before she had started; the shots of adrenaline were the only things enabling him to stay conscious.
"Do not pass out on me Avon," she told him as she injected another shot into his neck, "I am not finished with you yet."
He opened his eyes and slowly focused on her. When she saw that she had his full attention, she said, "I am going to let you finish the phase-TD engine with a computer, but be warned, your tech minders have been authorized to employ the interrogation cycles again if they even suspect that you are using it for anything other than the phase-TD engine. Do you understand?"
"Yes," his voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
"Do you know why we are doing this now?" she indicated with the rod.
"You were bored?"
She swiftly touched the rod to his chest in warning, he flinched. Servalan smiled at his involuntary response, the rod had not been activated. She drew the instrument gently across his ribs and exerted pressure on a bruise.
"I know you Avon; you will continually test the boundaries of what you can get away with, even with our agreements."
"Would you expect anything less?"
"I would be suspicious if you didn't, but you also know that every time you do that, you will pay a price. This has been a little reminder."
"Is that all."
She touched the rod to his chest again and depressed the activator. He stiffened in pain, but before he cried out, she stopped.
"No that is never just all, not between us Avon."
Servalan called the guards and the medtech back in. The medtech immediately checked over the prisoner.
"Once you are done with the examination, have him cleaned up and returned to his cell," she told the medtech. "Give him two hours, then bring him back here, he has a lot of work to do." Avon looked at her icily.
The guards freed the prisoner from the chair and reattached the restraints in front. One of them ordered, "Get up."
Avon didn't even attempt to move, he knew he couldn't. With the torture, physically he had been pushed past the point where he was capable of standing.
The guard drew his club and prepared to strike him.
"Stop," Servalan ordered the guard, "I did not say you could hit him." She had been watching from the side as Avon was being examined.
She turned to the analyst and said, "I do apologize, the guards can be zealous at times and I think you have had enough punishment for today, don't you?" She smiled.
Avon had no reaction; he would not humour her.
Turning to the guards, she said, "I am suspending the punishment protocols for now."
"As you wish, Madame President." Two of the guards lifted Avon to his feet but found, as he had guessed, that he couldn't stand unaided. They dragged him out.
"Madame President," the medtech addressed the Federation President nervously, "the prisoner is going to need more than two hours if he's going to be of any use to you; you saw, he can't even stand."
"Very well." Servalan did not like being told she couldn't have what she wanted, but she liked incompetence even less. The medtech would not have been doing his job if he had not said anything. "Give him his normal four hours but no more."
The medtech nodded, "Understood Ma'am."
Servalan swept out with her personal guards. She had some additional instructions for the Centre personnel and the tech minders before she left.
While the analyst slept, the computer he had been promised was brought into the lab and installed. It had actually been in the facility for over two weeks, Servalan had been waiting until she was satisfied that Avon was ready.
Four hours later, Avon was brought back in the lab, as Servalan had instructed. He could stand now, just barely. A session with a pain rod always left him feeling stiff and sore all over. His wrists had been cleansed of blood but the cuts and bruises had been left untreated. The medtech had taken the liberty of giving him a stimulant before he had been taken from his cell.
He was seated before the new computer terminal, entering all of the data, calculations and simulation models the group had been working on for the past six weeks. At an adjacent table on a tandem computer terminal, was one of his tech minders; with the joined unit they were able to monitor everything he was doing.
It's good to work with a computer again reflected Avon. A proper computer, which did not give attitude when answering back. He recognized the model; it was three versions advanced to the one he had used on the Matter Transmission Project for the Federation; that was before he had decided to use his talents for himself.
Servalan was sparing no expense, it was the most advanced computing machine currently available; it possessed both an oral and a positional tactile interface and was capable of sophisticated holographic projection models. Servalan may not trust him, but her greed and his carefully measured response to their game had convinced her to allow him access to this tool. The suffering had been worth it.
One of the first things he did while familiarizing himself with the capabilities and limitations of the operating system was to check the network access. There were security alarms in place but he was able to get around them easily. His tech minders finally recognized what he was doing when he had already gotten around the security overrides and was three layers deep into the security protocols, and issued a severe warning. So you're not all completely useless thought Avon sarcastically.
He knew he would probably pay for it after his work session, but he also knew that this testing was expected of him. Servalan and Sester would be suspicious if he didn't. Since keeping them entertained appeared to be part of his role, he would not disappoint them. He had to stay dangerous enough to satisfy them but not so dangerous that they would stop denying him access altogether; he was walking a very fine line. He just wished it didn't have to be such a painful one, but he was never one to dwell on such things.
Of course, there had been no network or communication access, he hadn't expected any; they were anything but fools.
By the time the research team arrived in the late afternoon, he had already input half of the data and was building a detailed holographic model of the new transformer bypass unit on the table next to the computer. The four researchers immediately came over to the computer and examined it, and the projected model.
"This is amazing," York said astonished, as he examined the new computer, "I've never seen one of these outside Space Command Tactical and the Primary Research facility."
Professor Tyler connected her datapad to the computer and tested the data link with which they would all be able to download and upload information for personal use when they left the lab.
The prisoner ignored their comments and informed them, "I've already input seventy percent of the data from the last six weeks. As you can see, I've made some modifications to the transformer bypass model, it should increase its efficiency by fifteen percent and reduce the need for a more powerful flow regulator. Give me two hours and we can run some simulations."
The prisoner was manipulating the model on its axis by using a guiding pointer. They were all watching the model with fascination as he worked on it.
From the look on their faces when they entered the lab, he knew that he must have looked in rough shape, but by now they knew better than to comment on his physical condition.
Occasionally he caught Tyler looking at him strangely.
With input from the four, they continued making improvements to the model. Professor Ekron had taken over the guiding pointer while the prisoner orally instructed the computer on modifications to the calculation streams.
The simulations ran perfectly. The two engineers set about adjusting the scale prototype of the transformer to match the new configuration.
By the evening, it was time for a real test.
"I think we're ready," Ekron said. He took a final sip from the beverage he had been drinking from. They had all worked through the evening meal, except the prisoner. Again he had not been fed all day and had only been given a glass of water. It was part of his punishment for getting around the security protocols earlier. Unfortunately he had also not been fed in the previous two days due to the lack of progress.
The four researchers gathered around the step transformer; numerous instruments surrounded it, the machines would take readings and feed them directly into the analyst's computer console. The prisoner did not move from his station, he would monitor the test from the readouts. He was also so tired by this point, he doubted if he could move more than a few feet without stumbling into something, but this was not something he was about to reveal.
"Alright, Delan feed in the power slowly," Professor Tyler instructed the engineer who was stationed by the transformer.
The model lit up; there was a steady humming sound. The computer monitors began registering the data.
"How are the readings?" Tyler asked the analyst.
The prisoner replied, "All readings are at the high end of normal ranges."
"Good, record that and we'll use it as the baseline."
"Delan, increase it by twenty percent. How are the readings?"
There was a sudden spike in the monitor levels, the humming from the unit got louder and the light from the unit increased.
The analyst reported, "Energy output is now exceeding norms by thirty percent."
"Increase power to forty percent."
The humming continued as before but the light increased. The readouts had jumped another level.
"Norm by one hundred and seventy percent," the analyst continued reporting.
"Excellent. Now sixty percent." As before the light level increased but the humming stayed constant.
"Exceeding norms by two hundred and thirty percent."
The four researchers were barely containing their excitement.
"Increase it to eighty percent."
"Now exceeding expected norms by three hundred and twenty percent."
"Delan, how is the unit performing."
"Still stable, there are no fluctuations in the control stream."
York exclaimed, "That's incredible."
Ekron said, "One hundred percent Delan give it all you've got."
The light was now almost blinding; the humming was constant and had not increased.
"Norm by three hundred and fifty percent and holding steady," reported the analyst.
The researchers all reacted with uncontained enthusiasm, even the tech minders seemed happy.
"I didn't think it was possible."
"That's absolutely amazing," Tyler exclaimed as she turned towards the prisoner at the computer console and almost hugged him, but instead settled for telling him, "You were absolutely correct, that last set of adjustments you suggested increased the high end output enormously."
The researchers tested various power inputs for the next hour and obtained more readings. It was a happy group of researchers who left at the end of the night.
Avon sat quietly after they left. The trigger had been turned off but there was no movement from the guards, they appeared to be waiting. He hoped that the success would mean that his minders would overlook his earlier transgressions and allow him some rest instead of bringing him to the interrogation unit for punishment. He was light-headed and felt even weaker than normal from the lack of food and the over-taxing of his system from the torture.
"Avon." It was Servalan's voice over the audio-speakers. "Congratulations on the success of the transformer."
So they were waiting for you. She must have just received the report on the progress which had been made. Either that or you've been watching.
"Servalan." His voice was neutral as it always was, especially when dealing with her.
"Everyone clear the room, I want to talk to the prisoner."
They all filed out but one of the tech minders removed a component from the computer before leaving.
"I understand that you achieved a significant breakthrough; Tyler and the two engineers have been trying to solve that particular problem for almost a year now. It is quite an accomplishment; you have lived up to my high regard for your abilities."
"Excuse me if I can't quite get up the enthusiasm for your triumph," he said wearily.
"I expect the same brilliance on the design of the rest of the phase-TD engine."
"You're going to be disappointed if you don't let me get some rest."
"You do look tired."
"Good of you to notice."
"You've put me in a most awkward position Avon. It has been reported to me that you bypassed the security controls earlier and tried to find out if the computer had access to the network. Is this true?"
"Would it do any good if I denied it?"
"None at all. You have given me a dilemma; you have made a significant achievement from which the Federation fleet will benefit greatly. And myself personally. But at the same time you have broken the rules and I promised that you would be severely punished for any infraction. You see my dilemma?"
"I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble."
"No trouble at all, it's my pleasure."
He waited for her decision; he doubted it would be favorable to him.
"The ease, with which you bypassed the security controls, even with someone watching you, proves how dangerous you are."
"Don't tell me you're surprised."
"Not at all, in fact I wouldn't expect anything less. But you are forcing me to be strict with you. Without control, I would have to kill you, and punishment is part of that control. Remember Avon if you die, Cally also dies."
"When have you ever needed justification for what you do Servalan. Just get on with it and stop wasting both our time."
"Such impatience, very well; you will have to spend time with the interrogators, of course, that can't be helped. But only two hours this time. I am not without mercy. And I do appreciate the work you have been doing, which is why I will also allow you four hours of rest afterwards."
"How generous. Do you also plan to have them feed me at some point?"
"Have they not been doing that? I do apologize; I will reprimand them most severely. I will leave instructions that they are to keep your energy up when you work. You see I am concerned about your needs, as I expect you to be about mine. Is there anything else?"
There was something about a nice Servalan, which made people think they should be watching their backs.
"Since you're in such a helpful mood, you do realize that I can barely walk at the moment, since I was never given enough time to recoup from your last act of generosity."
"So many demands, and what do I get in return?"
"I might hate you less?"
They both laughed.
"Dear Avon," she said fondly, "you could never hate me less."
"So true." For a brief few seconds there was lightness in the atmosphere between them.
"Very well, I will have the guards help you. They won't like it of course but that is the advantage of having power, making other people do things they don't like."