"We have to rescue him," Cally told them as they were all gathered on the flight deck, trying to digest the information that someone whom they had thought was dead, was very much alive.
"I think we're all thinking the same thing," Jenna reassured her.
"Yes, even me," said Vila, "though I couldn't tell you why."
Argus addressed ORAC,"Where is Avon being held?"
"Avon is currently at the Federation Special Detention Centre."
The crew looked at each other; they all knew what that meant. That was where Avon had been held prisoner before, when Argus's WED group had accidently rescued him. They knew that the Federation had done terrible things to him there.
"It's going to be virtually impossible to break him out of there without more people, and they've probably increased security so that it won't happen again," said Argus. The last time they had broken into the Detention Centre was to rescue Argus. Then they had the resources of half a dozen of the ex-military rebel groups at their disposal.
So far, Olean Rane had been quiet but now he spoke up, "I can help you there Argus, I can lend you some of my own people."
"You have your own troubles," Jenna told him.
"Jenna, all of you are willing to embroil yourselves in a civil war which does not concern you, let me return the favour," Rane told her.
"I have not finished," ORAC told them irritably. After ORAC had given them the information that Avon was alive, they had ignored the computer and started talking among themselves.
"What other information do you have ORAC?" Argus asked.
"I have obtained information that Avon will be transported to a remote testing facility near Pacifica Dome. In two days time."
"Two days time! Why didn't you tell us earlier?" exclaimed Argus. He addressed the ship's computer, "Zen, have the navigation computers plot us a course to Earth immediately."
They all looked at him; it was not like Argus to rush in before formulating a plan first.
He explained, "It will be a lot easier to rescue Avon while he is being transported to Pacifica rather than at the Detention Centre."
Zen reported, "Requested course has been plotted."
"How long will it take us to reach Earth at standard by ten?"
"It will take thirty seven hours at the specified speed."
"Rane, you should return to your ship. We're leaving right now."
"Don't leave until I transfer over a group of my men to help you."
Jenna followed Rane out towards the teleport room.
Argus continued to question the computer unit,"ORAC, I don't suppose you know the route they will be using to transport Avon?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," replied ORAC.
"Then it's time to make a few plans," said Argus.
Fifteen minutes later, Jenna returned.
"Rane lent us twenty of Feltar's Elite Guard. I've put them in the empty living quarters. They're waiting for orders."
Argus nodded. "Alright Zen, follow the plotted course, speed standard by ten. Cally activate the anti-detector screen."
The Auron crossed over to Avon's old operations station.
"There is something strange about this," she said, as she checked the operational status of the screen and switched it on.
"You think it's a trap?" asked Jenna, who was seated at the primary flight console.
"It's strange, not suspicious," replied Cally. "It sounds as if ORAC has had this information for along time, but it only chose to tell us now."
"It sounds suspicious to me too," said Vila.
"It's as if Avon told ORAC not to tell us," Cally told them.
"Now why would he do that?" asked Vila. "Do you think it's a plot by the computers?"
"Computers?" asked Cally. Of all of the puzzling things of the past few hours, Vila's comment was the one that confused her the most.
"You know, ORAC and Avon," Vila said.
"You never change," Jenna told the thief.
"The security precautions must be airtight Krelis," the Federation President told the senior tech minder over her vidcomm. "The prisoner must not be allowed any opportunities while he is outside the Detention Centre."
"I assure you Madame President; he will have no chance to cause any problems. He has not been told that he is being moved and he will be sedated until he reaches the testing facility outside Pacifica. From his point of view, he will be given his normal sedatives for his regular sleep period and when he wakes up he will find himself already transported to the testing facility. A full security escort will accompany him and he will be conveyed in a sealed transport, even when he is in the air. In addition, since you have reinstated the punishment protocols again and authorized the normal dosage of drugs, he's become much more manageable. It's hard to resist when you don't have the strength or energy to."
"I leave it in your capable hands then."
"Thank you Madame President."
As Servalan turned off her vidscreen in dismissal, she wondered if it was a mistake to allow Avon outside of the Detention Centre despite all the security precautions being taken. She remembered how often in the past Avon had managed to escape her attempts to kill him, or had managed to spoil her plans, regardless of how impossible the situation he found himself in.
Servalan knew that the mind she had taken such great pains to harness could easily be turned against her. All he needed was the opportunity; that was one of the reasons why he was always treated severely whenever he broke the rules they had setup to contain him. For her to be able to use Avon he had to be controlled; otherwise she would have to kill him. He would see any relaxation in their treatment of him as a weakness he could exploit.
With the other things currently going wrong, losing Avon would not be good. For some reason, trade lanes were experiencing major disruptions out in Sector Six. She was going to have to recall the Task Group currently hunting down the Justice and divert them to protect Federation trade interests out there. As well, Servalan had just received a troubling report from Tarvin of Central Security this morning that there was something odd going on with the Federation Banking Systems' security network.
"Corry, get Admiral Ves of Federation Space Command on the comm for me."
An hour after the ship got under way; the Justice crew was gathered around the ship's central viewing screen, looking at a topographical map of the route which Avon's security transport would be taking. They had been joined by the commander of the Guard unit Olean Rane had lent them to rescue the analyst.
"We cannot get him while he is in the air but fortunately the testing facility can only be accessed by ground transport once they are near Pacifica."
Argus pointed out two spots on the screen with a laser pointer.
"There are only two points along the route which are suitable for our purposes."
Commander Hent nodded, indicating his agreement.
While the military and ex-military commanders debated the tactical advantages and disadvantages of the two locations, Jenna, Cally and Vila felt like spectators. The two men seemed to speak in a short-hand only understandable to each other.
"It appears that no matter which location we chose, there will still be risks," said Hent.
"Yes, the decision depends on which set of risks we are willing to take," remarked Argus. "We can decide that after we work out some of the other details."
Argus turned on ORAC's transmitter. "ORAC, do you know what type of vehicle will be used to transport Avon on the ground?"
"Yes, it is a sealed transport truck."
"Sealed? Those are used for high-risk prisoner transports."
"What's wrong Argus?" Jenna asked.
"Sealed transports are thickly shielded, and have a lock which can only be opened by someone inside the vehicle."
"ORAC, am I right to assume that the truck cannot be penetrated by the teleport?"
"How are we going to open it up then?" Jenna asked.
"How about it Vila?" Argus asked the thief.
"I've never had a reason to unlock a sealed transport before," Vila told him. "And opening a lock that is inside in order to get inside doesn't make any sense to me."
"Then you'll just have to open it from the outside," Argus told him.
The look Vila gave Argus seemed to say, what part of 'inside' don't you get?
"You aren't going to give one of those, 'Vila, haven't you always wanted a challenge worthy of your skills?' speeches again, are you?" the thief asked.
"You read my mind Vila," Argus told him.
"I was afraid of that." Vila sighed. "I can't believe I'm saying this again but I'm going to need some time with ORAC again, if it has details on the lock," Vila told him.
"ORAC, do you have the technical details on the door locking mechanism for the sealed transport?" Argus addressed the computer.
"I have already obtained the information."
"Wonderful," said Vila, in a voice which indicated that it was not so wonderful tone.
None of them seemed to notice that ORAC seemed to have the information they wanted almost before they had requested it.
"Leave the locking mechanism to me then," Vila told Argus." You concentrate on trying to not getting me killed, and rescuing Avon, of course." And no more of that pushing me out of the way and taking the shot yourself.
The rebel leader said, "I knew we could count on you."
"And no more locking of the liquor dispensers," Vila added.
"That explains why almost all of them were dismantled when we came back," said Jenna.
"Ask our fearless leader," Vila said, inclining his head at Argus.
"We can discuss that later," said Argus.
Vila was about to protest when Argus added, "After the meeting." The thief fell into a sulky silence.
"My men can take care of the four escort vehicles," said Commander Hent.
Argus nodded, "Agreed. That takes care of the easiest parts. Now comes the hardest part of this rescue."
"You mean it's not hard enough already?" asked Vila.
"The hardest part is trying not to get you or Avon killed," said Argus.
"You didn't tell me that before I volunteered," said Vila.
"Well if it makes you feel better, we're all going to be in the same danger."
"That makes me feel much better," again the thief said it in a way which conveyed the exact opposite meaning.
"The moment we begin the attack, Federation Security will be alerted. That means reinforcements will arrive within minutes. Your role will be the most important Vila, how long do you think it will take you to get the lock open."
"Ask me after I talk to ORAC."
"Alright, regardless of how long it takes, we have to hold that position until we get Avon out. And we have to protect Vila until then."
"Hey, and after that too," said Vila. He could swear that he could see a slight grin on Argus's face.
"I'll give you a gun," Argus told him.
"That's not funny," said Vila. He was sure he could see an almost grin on the rebel leader's face.
"Once we get Avon out, the escape itself will be easy," said Argus."We teleport out. That means that you have to be on the alert the whole time we are down at the ambush point Cally."
"Don't worry, I will be ready," she replied.
"And Jenna will be monitoring the situation from the flight deck and will be ready to leave orbit the moment we are all onboard."
"There is one additional problem," Commander Hent interjected. "How do we know that the Federation guards inside the transport will not kill Avon the moment they realize we are trying to rescue him?"
"I've already thought of that," said Argus. "Speed and timing will be the key, and two directional percussion grenades."
"I've heard of those but never seen them in action," said Hent.
"Some of the Federation commando units use them, for other purposes, but in our case, all we need to do is have Cally teleport several of us, and Vila, right next to the truck the moment the escort vehicles are taken out. A grenade will be attached to the truck and the percussive effects should set up a high intensity shock wave inside the vehicle, knocking everyone out."
"For how long?" Hent asked.
"It should be good for ten minutes. But we're taking two so that should give us a window of twenty minutes. Using more than two is not a good idea, or the people in the truck will suffer from severe concussion. We're all depending on you Vila."
They all looked towards the thief, who seemed to be trying his best to shrink but not having much luck.
"Now that we have a plan, let's work out the timing," said Argus.
Two days later, a still sedated prisoner A5428 was loaded onto the sealed transport with a contingent of Centre guards. The door of the vehicle was closed and the lock applied from the inside. Two heavily armed escort vehicles led the way, and two provided a rear-guard, as the procession started its journey to the remote testing facility outside Pacifica dome.
In the meantime, Sheldon Grene and his band of scruffy rebels had positioned themselves in concealed positions, not too far from where Argus's team were about to arrive.
The Justice crew and the Athol Elite Guard, who had joined them, were about to teleport down to the ambush point which Argus and Commander Hent had decided on.
At the remote testing facility, Professor Tyler was trying not to look at her wrist chronometer every few minutes. She had not told the others on the research team what was being planned. It was much safer for them if they knew nothing, especially if something went wrong.