Without the abuse, the analyst grew stronger each day. Soon the research group would be able to start working on the full scale model of the phase-TD engine. They were already making preparations. A detailed holo-model along with the attendant calculation models were being readied for each component. Only a handful remained to be finished.
Tyler realized that she had to get a move on with her own preparations as she worked with the prisoner over the holo-model of the dimensional phase stream core.
Professor Ekron had already done his part; he had suggested a set of circumstances which would require that the analyst be onsite when the final tests were being carried out, a site which could not be the lab since the forces involved were dangerous. In order for it to succeed though, they had to get through to the analyst and obtain his cooperation without alerting the minders or the guards.
The plan involved introducing a deliberate but slight design flaw into the core and using the analyst's amazing ability to spot flow discrepancies while they were forming. His ability to do this had prevented a major implosion of the core several times. They were close to a solution. When dealing in pure math, the tech minders were out of their depth. Tyler was hoping she would be able to communicate to the analyst this way.
The flawed solution Ekron had proposed would work in most circumstances but would prevent the final ten percent which gave the engine its full potential. The research group would be able to test without the analyst onsite until the final tests. Those final tests would be frustratingly slow until they suggested that the analyst be allowed to visit the site. Professor Tyler hoped that the tech minders would be smart enough to suggest first; it would reduce the risk on the research group, but she that they could not depend on the intelligence of the minders.
She uploaded calculations from her datapad into the computer. These calculations included the design flaw. She knew that the analyst would be able to recognize immediately that something was not right; if not spot the error right away. It was up to her to head off his reaction and communicate to him that it was necessary.
Fortunately he was a man who rarely reacted to anything and he never acted before applying his cold, calculating mind to everything. This would enable her to do what was needed to set up the scenario they needed.
As the prisoner slowly recuperated, the minders had been more tolerant of the researchers increased concern for his welfare. Professor Tyler had found that she could communicate with him in a limited way through the application of pure math and the use of the various simulations because the minders had no knowledge of that area and generally left the prisoner alone when they were doing that.
""I did some game modelling of our problem last night, just like you did before. There is something I wanted to run by you. Take a look at this," Tyler activated a holo-model of the data she had uploaded." It was a computational puzzle.
The analyst studied the rotating puzzle model for a moment, and then he looked at her. His face was as expressionless as usual but she could tell that he was puzzled. They were already close to a solution to the dimensional phasing problem with the core. What the professor was doing did not seem to serve a useful purpose.
"Just watch first before you make any comments," she told him as she continued to work. Tyler carefully kept her tone normal.
As she worked, he became even more puzzled, but as usual, he had no visual reaction.
After it became clear what she was doing he began,"There appear to be…"
"Yes," Tyler answered immediately and nodded at him, cutting him off before he could say anything more.
"That's interesting," was his only additional remark. He did not say anything else and only sat back, watching her manipulate the model.
Avon thought, Yes, very interesting. You appear to be dealing with two separate problems here, each one with a different goal and each is advancing in parallel.
Tyler input some additional parameters.
Even more interesting. You must realize that by doing that, you are blocking the resolution of one of them, the analyst thought as he noted the affect the additional parameters were having, even as Tyler began advancing the solution to the second problem.
"You understand what I'm doing and why?" she asked him. Tyler had also been watching the reactions of the minders carefully. There had been no reaction, it was clear they had not picked up anything unusual.
The prisoner looked at her and held her eyes for a brief moment. He had no reaction throughout their exchange, but with this brief indication, Tyler knew he was puzzled but would play along.
He said, "You have two solutions and you want my opinion on their viability?"
I don't really understand why but it is clear you have some purpose for doing this. He had not missed her interest in the reaction of the minders either.
"Yes," said Tyler. She was careful not to show her relief when she realized the analyst understood.
"Now keeping that in mind, take a look at the solution I was working on last night," Tyler told him as she brought up the data she had uploaded to the computer from her datapad.
The analyst pored over the data and immediately saw the problem. He began making side notes. That was the reason for the charade with the puzzle, you want to introduce a deliberate fault and you want to tell me that you have a secondary purpose which you're trying to advance. Not very subtle but I might be able to use this.
Avon did not trust anyone, especially not here, but he had judged that Professor Tyler was a weak link who could be exploited. Despite the limited interaction they were allowed in the lab, Avon recognized that she was sympathetic towards him. It did not stop her from using him, but she would try to assuage her guilt by trying to help him. This was useful for him.
The analyst added a single coded sequence into the data which did not appear any different than any of the other data he was inputting. This sequence was different, the next time Tyler connected her datapad to the computer, which she did regularly at the end of each work session, and the coded sequence would attach itself to the data she uploaded.
Over the past few months, the analyst had been surreptitiously creating discreet hidden subroutines which attached themselves to the data stream when Professor Tyler uploaded data from the lab computer to her own datapad. When she returned to her residence and connected the datapad with her personal computer which had network access. Once connected, the subs migrate into the network, where they would remain hidden until further orders. They were self-linking subs which would put themselves together into a modified virus, very similar to the Federation spy ASPs, once the coded sequence, which Avon just added into the datastream, was received. This advanced ASP's directive was to contact ORAC using the command code and frequency.
Very soon now, thought Avon. In their harsh treatment, Servalan and all of her Federation thugs had been trying to prevent him from doing something like this, but as long as they didn't kill him, he still had a chance.
Argus was back on the Justice. Allren and Ture had been dropped off and were in the process of carrying out the next part of the plan to have their hacker friends start playing with the Federation Banking System. Argus and Vila were on their way to Gelentrix to meet up with Jenna and Cally.
Security Commander Foren had been very disappointed that his most able captain had been reassigned. He was very grateful that Captain Carver had foiled a major conspiracy to disrupt the computer system in order to discredit his command.
"Here," Vila said to Argus, handing him a drink mixed with adrenaline and soma.
"I see you got the dispensers unlocked," said Argus as he accepted the glass. He should have still been in the medical bay, but Argus hated being an invalid and insisted on recuperating on the flight deck. His left shoulder was bandaged and immobilized by a sling.
"You still haven't told me why you did it?" asked Vila.
"Why you push me out of the way."
"I promised you that I wouldn't get you killed, I always keep my promises," Argus told him.
That's an extreme way of keeping your promises, if you ask me, thought Vila. Although the thief appreciated having his life saved, people who had this kind of single-mindedness always disturbed him.
Argus took a drink from the glass, and promptly passed out on the couch.
"Argus?" Vila called out to the rebel leader, there was no response. "I told you to stay in the medical bay, but no one listens to me. At least the soma and adrenaline worked." He carefully removed the glass from Argus's hand and drank the rest of it himself.
"Avon," Sester said as he entered the analyst's cell. As usual when Sester or Servalan talked to the prisoner alone, the security monitors had been turned off.
Avon looked the psychostrategist without reaction or response, he had been waiting for the medtech with the sedatives, a visit by the strategist was not welcome.
"How are you feeling?" Sester asked.
"Why, are you going to give me another trip to the roof?"
"Do you want one?"
The analyst looked his opponent, wondering what game was being played this time.
"Don't you ever stop playing games?" asked Avon tiredly.
The psychostrategist smiled, "But then it wouldn't be as much fun Avon."
"Perhaps not for you."
"Perhaps you should learn to enjoy it as well. It's the only thing you have."
"Is that where this is going? You want me to accept this prison and learn to enjoy being forced to play your games? You can tell Servalan that I will never accept it."
"The Federation President has nothing to do with this."
"She has everything to do with it."
"You hate her very much don't you?"
"Yes, I'm sure it keeps her up at nights."
That's interesting. I wonder if it does? thought Sester.
"We never did finish our conversation about the Federation President."
"I believe I told you there is nothing to discuss."
"But 'she has everything to do with it'."
Avon looked at him coldly.
"Does Servalan know you are trying to find out more information about her?"
Very good Avon, but I am not so easily dissuaded.
"That's why the security monitors are off," Sester told him, inclining his head slightly towards the cameras.
"Let's begin with the first time you had an opportunity to interact on a personal level with the President; I believe that was on Sarran."
"Avon, you might as well humour me. You know that I can keep you up until they come to take you back to the lab. If you want to sleep, then talk to me."
"Why do you want to know?"
"Let's just say it's for educational purposes." You're still trying to avoid it, thought Sester.
So you don't want to tell me. Interesting, thought Avon.
Three hours later, Sester was still trying to drag information from Avon regarding the events on Sarran. The analyst had countered him at almost every turn and only given him some additional information; and very little of it was useful information about Servalan.
Conversely, Avon still did not know why Sester wanted to know about Servalan. The psychostrategist never revealed anything unless he wished it.
"I guess I should let you get a little sleep, you only have an hour left before they come for you. I'll send for the medtech."
"Do you plan to do this every night until I tell you what want to know?" asked Avon before Sester left.
"I'm not like Servalan."
"Then how do you expect to get information from me?"
"Psychostrategists have their own ways," replied Sester as he exited the cell.
As Sester walked back to his own quarters at the SDC, he reflected on the conversation with Avon. He had gotten what he wanted from the analyst. As long as Avon was kept ignorant of the real goals, the analyst was at a distinct disadvantage. Puppets never knew the motivations of the puppet master, though he had to be extra careful with Avon. The psychostrategist always had to be at the top of his game when playing with him.
Sester's goal had not been to find out any specific details about the Federation President, although it would have been useful. The primary purpose had been to assess Avon's relationship with Servalan.
In the way the analyst had stubbornly refused to give him any useful information, Sester had been able to assemble an interesting picture. Avon was as obsessed with the Federation President as she was with him. This was a very useful piece of information.
Professor Tyler felt out-of-place. She was sitting in a dark bar. Well, technically it wasn't your typical bar, where alcoholic drinks were served, it was a hacker bar; meaning that if you knew where to look, lots of illegal activity could be found. Alcoves lined the wall, each with sophisticated computer terminals. The flickering of the screens threw strange shadows on the walls. The beverage of choice here was as much syntha-coffee as it was the alcoholic ones. Patrons sitting in front of the terminals, manipulated hand-interface units madly, making them look like deranged music conductors.
The only person Tyler knew who could help her was someone who operated on the fringe. It was an old friend from her college days; actually it was an old boyfriend.
Sheldon Grene was a brilliant computer analyst who had run into trouble with Federation Security forces. He had been fortunate that they never found out that he was the leader of the group who had planned to disrupt the Central Space Port Authority computers. As a result, he had only spent a few years in a low-security penal facility. After being released, he tried to keep off the Federation Security's radar by operating on the fringe and off the grid.
The last thing Tyler had heard of him was that he liked to frequent the hacker bars. This was the third one she had visited today.
The professor went up to the bar owner who was playing with his own terminal sitting atop the bar.
"Can I help you?" the man in a bright purple shirt and several days' growth of beard asked her as she approached. His eyes swept her from head to toe in a single glance. He regarded her suspiciously. Professor Tyler felt like an alien.
The brilliant academic had never before put herself in any situation which would attract the unwelcome attention of Federation Security forces. The closest was during her relationship with Sheldon Grene. To this day she still did not understand why she had fallen for him. He was everything that she had spent her life running from. Sheldon was passionate, slightly mad and had an undisciplined genius which scared her. He never saw the world in the same way as everyone else, and in a Federation university, this often meant that things would get interesting. He often dragged her into one mess after another, but he always took the brunt of the unwanted attention from the professors and the administrators himself. Sheldon always protected her. That was another thing she had never understood, why he always found time to spend with her, someone who was as adverse to trouble as he was drawn to it.
After he decided to take more direct action against the Federation, they had parted company. She suspected that he had done it to protect her again.
Why is it that I am always attracted to men who are bad for me? The professor sighed. Sheldon and Avon were polar opposites of each other, but in some ways, they were very similar. Each had a genius which scared her and both had the kind of strong-willed and independent spirit which bristled under Federation control.
"I am looking for Sheldon Grene," she told the man. "You may know him as the Shell."
The man made a gesture with his hand, palm faced down.
She looked at him puzzled.
The man almost laughed. If you're an example of Federation Security forces now, they must be really hard up. Which means that you aren't one and that means that you're either ignorant or an idiot.
"Don't tell me, you're an old friend of his and you haven't seen him in along time," he remarked.
"Yes, how did you know?" she asked.
"No one who knew him now, would be stupid enough to shout his name out loud like you just did," he told her.
"I don't frequent these places often," she told him, red with embarrassment.
"I'd say you've never been to one before at all," he remarked sarcastically.
"Can you help me?" she asked.
"Why should I?" he countered. His whole attitude added another comment. You're not one of us.
"I need his help," she persisted. "We used to be close once."
The bar owner regarded her with interest. He had identified that she was no threat and he had to admire her courage in venturing into a place which clearly made her feel very uncomfortable.
This could be interesting, I haven't had any excitement today and it would serve him right for tricking me with the combination gambit yesterday.
"Alright sit over there and wait," he told her, indicating an alcove in the far corner. "Do you want anything to drink?" he asked.
"Some white wine," she told him as she headed over to the indicated place.
Definitely not one of us, the owner thought. How did the Shell hook up with a cold fish like you? This might be fun. The bar owner's tag name was the T-Maker, as in the Troublemaker, and for good reason.
There was something about her eyes though, something interesting. She may be ignorant of his world, but she had an intelligence which was hard to hide.
Professor Tyler sat and waited. She took a sip of the wine and almost spit it out; it did not taste like any wine she was familiar with. It did not taste like any beverage she was familiar with at all.
Putting the offending liquid down, she observed the activity around her with a mixture of curiosity and nervousness.
I hope you get here soon Shel, she thought. She was not liking some of the looks she was getting from some of the other denizens of the bar.
"Brena." A soft voice came from behind her; it sent shivers down her spine.
"Shel." Even after all these years, you still have the same effect on me.
The man came around and sat opposite her. Though he looked older, with greying hair and lines on his face indicating the stress of the last few years, he still had the same air of intensity and passion. The wildness had been tamed somewhat, though she suspected that it was more a front. His short-cropped hair surprised her; in the old days, he liked to wear his hair medium-length and it always seemed to be beyond his ability to control. He wore non-descript black pants and a plain dark brown heavy shirt. Sheldon had always been very plain about his clothing, leaning towards dark earth tones, which was in contrast to his personality.
"I would have kissed you but I know how you are about public displays, though it wasn't always that way," he teased her.
"And you are the same old Shel," she countered with mock disapproval.
"The one and only," he replied with a captivating grin.
Yes, you are, thought Tyler. I have to stay focussed, or I'll get sucked in again.
The last time the smuggler Lantro had regret about anything, was when he trusted the Shovoans. Since then, he had no regrets about anything he did. He still didn't, but he was glad that he would be able to do something for Jenna. It wasn't really much of a favour, since she had just helped him greatly in proposing this plan which would help wipe out the enemies he had hated for so long.
"I will do it without a fee," Lantro told Jenna as he and the two women shared their last evening meal together. They would reach their destination tomorrow and he would have to deliver them to the utiliser. "I give you my word Jenna, the Amagons and those treacherous thieves will be at each other's throats within a couple of weeks and they won't even know why. By the time I'm finished with them, there won't be anything of them left."
"Be careful though," Jenna told him, "don't let the Federation find out what you're doing. They'll come down hard on you if they find out that you are the one responsible for disrupting the trade lanes by stirring up trouble."
"We've been getting around them for years, don't worry about me. Just worry about yourself. I honestly don't know what the utiliser has in store for you. I never asked. If you do survive, and you don't want to kill me first, you're always welcome to come back and join in the fun."
"I might take you up on that."
"I guess you'll just have to find out."
They smiled at each other. Cally thought it was strange that they were talking about the potential of killing each other with such humour.
Must be another one of those smuggler things, I won't understand, Cally thought.
Afterwards, back in their cell, Cally asked her companion,"Do you trust him to do what he says?"
"Yes. He made a promise, that's his guarantee," Jenna assured her. "He will not let anything stand in the way of keeping that promise; just as he will not let anything stand in his way of keeping his commission of delivering us to the utiliser. Besides, he has a vested interest in destroying the Shovoans."
You are much more bloodthirsty than during the Liberator days, thought Cally. But then, I didn't really know you that well then.
The Auron had mainly kept quiet the last couple of weeks as Jenna worked on Lantro. Cally had admired the other woman's ability to manipulate the smuggler, even though she did not understand half of what her companion was saying.
Cally was normally very patient but she was getting restless with the lack of activity, and could not wait until they reached their destination. She was eager to find out who had commissioned for Jenna to be kidnapped.