"Avon." A voice came through the darkness. He was swimming through thick fog but now he was drifting upwards towards the voice. Someone is whimpering.
"Wake up Avon." Don't want to wake up, waking up is a bad idea. Go away. Somehow he knew that where the voice was, there was pain, lots of pain; he struggled against the force which was dragging him upwards.
"Avon." It was the same insistent voice. Stop telling me to wake up!
There was a familiar pressure, it seemed so far away. There was a faint hissing sound.
A voice again, but he couldn't hear anything.
He tried to concentrate. No, don't want to think; thinking means I have to wake up.
"You have no choice now."
His mind felt like it was being squeezed; someone moaned, it was a familiar voice but he couldn't place it.
The fog was starting to thin.
"Wake up Avon."The insistent voice called to him again.
No. Want to stay here where it doesn't hurt.
Light, ahead is a bright annoying light. His chest hurt and something was pounding; his mind continued floating to the surface, he couldn't stop it.
"Give him another one."
He was nearing the surface now; he was still fighting against it but that only slowed his ascent towards the light, it didn't stop it.
He felt pressure on his neck again, this time he felt the drugs entering his system.
More fog dissipating, more pain intruding into his subconscious. Groan. He recognized the sound now; it was the sound of his own voice.
"Avon, I know it's difficult, but I want you to wake up."
His mind struggled against the tide of consciousness; constant familiar pains; he could feel his body again.
His eyes opened. Ahhh. The light hurt, his hands reached out to block the brightness. His hands are shaking; his body was shivering as if it was cold, except it wasn't.
"Turn down the lights." Lights dimmed, one source of pain was gone.
"Thanks." The voice was a harsh whisper. Was that my voice?
"Don't mention it."
His vision was blurry but he could make out a face. "Sester?"
"Did I go somewhere?" His voice still seemed far away.
"I was worried about you."
"Don't drift off Avon, you have to concentrate."
"I know but you have to try harder."
"I'm tired." I don't want to.
"It hurts." Leave me alone.
"Come on Avon, you've had much worse than this." The voice was unrelenting.
Yes, but why does it always have to hurt? His eyes closed.
"Give him another one."
"No." But the voice was not to be denied; there was pressure against his neck and the hiss of another injection.
The fog is virtually gone; there is nowhere left to hide. More pain intrudes; more groaning.
"Stay with me Avon."
The analyst opened his eyes. "Am I dreaming?"
"Have I ever appeared in your nightmares?"
Sester gave a brief smile. "How are you feeling?"
"Are we at that question again?"
Sester turned to the medtech,"Help him up and give him some water."
The medtech helped Avon up so he could sit leaning against the wall. After giving him some water, he retreated back out of the way.
"I thought it was a dream." His voice was no longer far away but his mind was still drifting.
"It's not a dream."
"What did you do to me?" It's not too late; I can still go back into the fog.
"It was the induction chamber; we misjudged the effects of using it this way. It was destroying your heart, amongst other things."
"So I'm a test subject now?"
"No, it was a mistake. What was the last thing you remember?"
Avon closed his eyes and tried to remember but all that came were memories of pain and exhaustion in the lab, in the interrogation rooms, in the induction unit; the memories all came crashing in on him. He was out of breath, his left arm was numb, a tight band seemed to be squeezing his chest; it hurt. He clutched at his chest; his life had become a nightmare, a nightmare he could no longer bear. He was going to go back down again, back down into the fast disappearing fog; away from the horror.
"Quickly," Sester directed the medtech. The man stepped forward, applied the bio-injector to Avon's neck and injected him with a new mix of drugs. The medtech held a bio-scanner over the prisoner's chest until his life signs stabilized.
The medtech nodded to the psychostrategist and retreated back out of the way.
"Avon, are you still with me?"
Avon kept his eyes closed; he did not want to be with these people; it was too hard, too painful. He could not stand being helpless again, being nothing but a tool to be used, he wanted to go back into the fog.
The pressure in his head began to build; it would not let him go back into the fog.
"Give him another one."
No! I can't do this anymore. Pressure against the neck and another injection, he was helpless.
The analyst opened his eyes.
"Keep your eyes on me Avon."
"I don't want to do this anymore."
"You don't have a choice."
"I did, once." I remember that.
"Yes, but you gave up that choice to her."
"I didn't have a choice, you made sure of that." I was always right too, once.
His chest felt tight again.
"Yes, I did. Do you understand what was done?"
"Why?" Yes I do. It's always a game to you. Anger, coldness: his mind was calculating again. What is this game you are playing now? An attack of pain.
Avon clutched his chest again and groaned. "What's wrong with me?" He was out of breath; his mind was slipping away again.
The medtech came forward and gave him another injection, the pressure gradually eased but the pain remained.
"It's a result of the nerve induction chamber, it had a cumulative effect. You're suffering from the same trauma you would normally have with multiple full sessions; normally you would be barely conscious for days afterwards. Using the unit this way meant that you were more conscious than you should be, making the effects much worse. The surgeons have fixed the damage to your heart but it's still very weak. What you really need is rest."
"How long have I been out?"
"Eleven days. Unfortunately, she wants you back in the lab as soon as possible, I can't hold her off much longer, you will have to try."
"I have already given her my best."
"I know and it almost killed you; but as you said, you no longer have a choice."
"I no longer have a choice," Avon whispered; he closed his eyes. His mind was still drifting, perhaps it would never come back.
"Avon," Sester's voice was sharp, bringing him back. "You no longer have a choice."
The analyst came back. He opened his eyes, he could see properly now. He nodded.
It's good to have you back Sester thought with relief as he saw that Avon's eyes were now focussed. He had been worried; the analyst had resisted, his subconscious had not wanted to come back.
Sester signalled the security observer to open the cell door. Two black-uniformed Centre guards entered the cell.
"Bring him," Sester ordered. They pulled the prisoner up off the platform and followed the psychostrategist out. The medtech trailed behind them.
Avon came along unresisting; he couldn't guess where they were bringing him, it was not the tunnel to the lab. He had no interest in speculating, whatever lay at the end, would only serve their purposes and usually it involved a lot of pain on his part. He closed his eyes. He kept stumbling as they dragging him along.
The party entered a lift; it ascended in a long journey upwards. Movement stopped and the door opened.
There were different sounds, different smells, Avon opened his eyes; they were on the roof. The guards brought him over to the edge where there was a chest-high ledge encircling the roof.
"Let go of him," Sester told the guards.
Avon stood unsteadily on his feet, supporting himself with the ledge. He looked up; the sun was warm on his face. He took a deep breath, the air smelled sweet. It had been along time; he was always kept underground, or in fully sealed transports when he needed to be moved, to see anything other than walls was disconcerting.
"What game are you playing now Sester?"
"I thought being up here might speed up your recovery."
"Bring me back down," Avon told him, his voice was cold. He did not want to be part of this new game.
"Did you really think some fresh air would help me?"
"No, not the fresh air; well what passes for fresh air under the domes."
Avon looked out over the ledge, the Special Detention Centre was a building isolated by laser fencing, security screens, and surrounded by a large buffer area actively monitored by security cameras. He could see dozens of detectors beams criss-crossing the grounds and signs of deadly defence systems, those were the ones he could see. He knew there had to be many more, invisible ones. They were probably managed by a series of discreet computer systems and the security precautions had most likely been increased after the successful break-in by the rebels. It would be even harder to bypass them now. Harder but not impossible.
Avon stopped; his mind had automatically set about the task of trying to break through the security systems; he realized he had been manipulated again.
Am I really nothing but a logical, calculating computer? Is that what they've made me into, or is that what I have always been?
He pushed himself away from the ledge and hit a wall. One of the burly guards had come up close behind him, preventing him from moving away; the guard pushed him forward again.
"What do you see Avon?" Sester asked.
"Stop it." There was no expression on the analyst's face but there was a cold anger now. He turned to face the strategist who stood beside him. "You've achieved what you wanted; you can put me back to work."
For a moment, they stared at each other, the tension and challenge very clear between them.
"Very well," replied the psychostrategist. He directed the guards to bring the prisoner back down to the lab.
As the lift doors closed, the last rays of the sun reflected on Avon's face, but he no longer saw them.
Sester looked out over the edge of the building, he smiled. He had known that all it took to bring the analyst back was to expose him to a challenge which required his mind; that need to understand and solve a problem was an integral part of who Avon was.
To turn a man into a machine was not difficult. The instinct for self-preservation made it possible for some people to completely cut themselves off; Avon had done it all his life. But the analyst's brilliance lay in something very human; that ability to see what no computer could ever see, calculations which went beyond mere pattern and logic.
Avon saw a truth which when applied to humans, often disappointed; which was why he had abandoned all hope in the human race long ago and why he had cut himself off; but he could never cut off that part of himself which made him exceptional and that was the part which made him vulnerable.
As the phase engine group began putting a plan into place, the prisoner was returned to the lab; he was still deathly pale, but appeared to be stronger. At least he no longer collapsed and it appeared that his minders had been told to ease up on the pressure; they did not punish him when he began taking more frequent rest breaks and they now gave him what appeared to be supplement injections during the group's meal times.
His interaction with them was at a bare minimum now. Apart from his work, he barely acknowledged their presence; his brilliance was still intact but it was clear to all of them that it cost him a great deal to maintain his concentration. He tired easily and often seemed out of breath.
The tech minders also left him alone now when he was working, unless they identified a clear threat to security.