Sequel to: Fighting Back
Prequel to: Needs are Never Simple
Begins with Avon shooting Argus, then things get steadily worse.
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Avon opened his eyes. His head was throbbing and his ears were ringing. The unfamiliar surroundings added confusion.
"Avon, you're awake!" shouted Vila, who was standing by Avon's bio-bed in the medical bay of the Justice. "Cally, Avon's awake!"
Vila's voice was grating and aggravated the pain in the analyst's head even more.
"Shut up Vila," Avon told the thief. He winced, even the sound of his own voice made the pain worse. Avon put his hand to his head, and noticed that he was no longer wearing the manacles. For a moment he stared at his wrist with confusion on his face.
"I took them off," explained Vila. "Do you want to see them?"
"Don't be a fool Vila," Avon whispered to the thief. "Stop shouting."
Until now, Avon had not been sure if this was another one of his nightmares; the Vila of his dreams was cruel and full of hate. This one was just annoying; it had to be the real Vila.
"How are you feeling Avon?" a soft feminine voice asked.
Avon turned his head and saw that Cally had approached the bio-bed on his other side.
Cally. For a brief moment Avon felt relief; she was still alive. He did not know how or why, but from the looks of his surroundings, he was back on the Deep Space Vehicle. The last thing he remembered was being sedated by the medtech back in his cell at the Special Detention Centre.
"You must be confused."
"The last thing I remember was falling asleep in my cell."
"They didn't tell you where you were going?"
"I was going somewhere?" he asked, becoming even more confused by the minute, even though his face reflected nothing.
"They didn't even tell you that?" Cally could not hide the anger in her voice as more of the Federation's cruelty came to light.
Avon was concerned now. It was obvious a lot had happened between the time he fell asleep and when he woke up here. He had to know how long it had been; but he could not let them know why.
"You'd better tell me everything."
"We received a message from ORAC that you were still alive."
So the ASP got through, thought Avon. I need access to ORAC and I have to be careful. His mind began making plans.
Cally continued speaking. "ORAC told us that you were being moved to a testing facility just outside of Pacifica Dome. We rescued you before the transport reached the facility. Vila got you out."
"Vila?" asked Avon, his tone clearly not quite believing this statement.
"Don't sound so surprised," said Vila indignantly.
Avon smiled. He remembered that insulting Vila had been one of his favourite past times. It seemed so long ago.
"How long ago did you rescue me?" Avon asked casually.
"About four hours."
Avon looked around the room, taking in his surroundings, and noting the time from the indicator on the wall. As a safety margin, he marked the time for five hours since he was rescued. Forty-three hours left, he noted to himself. He wished he had more time, but he realized he was lucky that they hadn't sedated him and let him sleep until tomorrow.
"Where is your glorious leader?" asked Avon.
Vila replied, "He's on the flight deck with Jenna."
"You were always the follower Vila," remarked Avon. His question had been a sarcastic one. It was clear Vila had fully accepted Argus as his leader.
"Tell him I need access to ORAC," he told Vila.
"He's not going to like that."
"You remember what happened before Vila. I need to know if this is all real, or just an illusion by the Federation interrogators. For that I need time alone with ORAC."
"You need to rest Avon," Cally told him gently. "You can do that later." She couldn't read him but at the edges of her awareness she could sense that he was deliberately trying to block her. "We've only made a start of fixing some of the injuries you had. It's going to be along time before you're fully healed."
Avon explained to her, "You know I cannot rest until I know whether all of this is real or not. Nothing you can say will be able to convince me, I need to find it out for myself. If you want me to recover faster, you need to convince Argus to give me access to ORAC."
He was deliberately manipulating them; he could not spare the time for subtlety. If they thought about it carefully, they would realize what he was saying did not make any sense. But he was depending on their guilt and the sympathy he clearly saw in their eyes, in order to get away with it; and it would facilitate what he had to do later, when they finally realized it.
"Alright, I'll try to talk to him," Cally agreed. Even though she could not read the analyst, Cally had an uncomfortable feeling that he had a deeper agenda than just this simple request. It was not surprising; Avon was always a complex man and rarely revealed anything about himself. But regardless of what that agenda was, the welfare of her patient came first and if that meant getting him access to ORAC, she would do it.
"But you stay here and rest," she told him. "Vila, look after him." Cally headed towards the flight deck.
Avon closed his eyes and rested; his head was still pounding. He needed all of his strength if he was going to do what needed to be done.
There was an awkward silence. Vila had all kinds of questions he had been prepared to ask the analyst but, for some reason, seeing Avon lying on the bio-bed, still exhausted and the marks of torture clearly evident on his body; Vila couldn't bring himself to ask them.
"The first thing he asks for when he wakes up is access to ORAC?" Argus asked suspiciously.
Cally had just relayed Avon's request and her report of his physical condition.
Argus and Jenna were still on the flight deck. The Justice had escaped from Federation pursuit ships which had been launched against them from Sector One and they had just dropped off the Athol Elite Guard. At the moment Argus and Jenna were in the process of doing a full systems check.
"He said that in order to find out if this is a trick by the Federation interrogators, he needs to be alone with ORAC," Cally replied.
"They must have played tricks on his mind like they did the last time," remarked Jenna as she continued checking her flight panel.
"Did he say why they wanted him?" asked Argus. Despite his willingness to rescue the analyst, he realized that he still did not trust the man.
"Not yet," said Cally. "He probably won't say anything more until he knows that all of this is real."
"Alright," said Argus. He did remember what the Federation had done to Avon the last time he had been a prisoner. "But I want you or Vila with him the entire time he has access to ORAC."
"If you feel it is necessary." Cally could clearly feel the suspicion and mistrust emanating from Argus; and a deeper anger she didn't understand. She knew from the crew, that Avon had killed Blake.
Cally picked up ORAC and the command transmitter, from where it had been resting on the table in the conference area, and headed back to the medical wing.
After she left, Jenna asked, "You still don't trust him, do you?"
"Even after all they did to him?"
"It's because of what they did to him."
"I don't understand."
"If they were after this ship or ORAC, they would have used him to try to get them, but they haven't. That means that he has a value to them that is beyond the Justice and ORAC. We need to find out what that is. You were the one who told me that he is a dangerous man, Jenna; and from what they did to him, they believe that too. We cannot let him be a danger to us or the rebel movement."
Jenna remembered that Argus had said that if they were ever in danger of losing Avon to Servalan, they had to kill him.
"Do you think they broke him?"
"Everyone breaks eventually."
"He didn't before."
"You told me yourself Jenna, he protects himself above all else. They wouldn't have to break him; they would just have to offer him the right deal."
"Then why would they still continue to torture him?"
"From what Vila said, Avon has a strange relationship with the Federation President. It may be that even with a deal, she still doesn't trust him."
"Just like you don't."
"I have different reasons not to trust him."
Cally brought ORAC into the med unit and put it on the table next to Avon.
She told the analyst, "Argus agreed to give you access to ORAC, but Vila or I are supposed to be with you at all times."
"He doesn't trust me," remarked Avon with approval. A smile played on his lips. That will make this easier.
"He's a cautious man."
"He's paranoid about me," stated Avon. He smiled.
Cally didn't think that it was something worth smiling about but it was very typically Avon.
"I need to speak to ORAC alone," Avon told her, ignoring Argus's directive. "I am not about to reveal to anyone, what arrangements I set up with ORAC, in order for me to verify that all of this is real."
"We're at an impasse then. Argus will not let you alone with ORAC."
"Argus may not trust me, and I definitely do not trust any of you; but Cally, do you trust me enough to help me verify whether this is all an illusion forced on me by the Federation interrogators?"
Cally was conflicted, with the mention of the interrogators, she remembered why Avon was in the state he was in; it was because of her. She owed him this.
"Very well," she said reluctantly.
Vila said, "Cally, do you think this is a good idea? Argus is not going to like this. Shouldn't we let him know first?"
"I will take full responsibility, Vila. You know why I'm doing this," she stressed to the thief.
Ever since Argus had taken the shot meant for him, Vila had been conflicted in his dealings with the rebel leader; so he definitely knew what Cally was talking about, but it still made him very uncomfortable.
Several minutes later, Avon was installed in his old quarters. He had convinced Cally to let him use ORAC here while Vila stood guard outside.
Avon turned on the transmitter. "ORAC, command code gamma two delta three six four."
"Yes Avon, " the computer responded. At the familiar voice of the difficult computer, Avon felt a lessening of stress. For the next little while at least, he would be able to make plans of his own.
"Does the crew suspect that you are also acting under my orders?"
"They are as yet unaware of your coded orders."
"The crew do not know that your information comes from me directly?"
"No. You specified that very clearly in the communication relayed by the ASP."
"I have another set of directives for you, also to be put under the same coded classification."
"Very well," the computer said with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
"Are you aware of the techno-virus which Argus's group obtained information about on Biliar Prime?"
"Of course." Unknown to everyone, it was ORAC who had arranged that information be leaked to the Federation, so that they knew Argus's group would be infiltrating the Advanced Medical Research Division, which was experimenting on the virus. This had resulted in the capture of Argus, and set about events which eventually led to the freeing of Avon from the Special Detention Centre the first time.
"I need you to put all available resources on finding the antidote to the virus, without letting the crew know what you are doing."
"Progress would be infinitely faster if I was not continually bothered by frivolous requests by the other members of the crew," said ORAC.
"I can't do anything about that, you will just have to multi-task. Once you find the cure, you must immediately find a way to get this antidote to Cally. She has been infected. I am making this request to you, ORAC. When or how or what you communicate to the crew in order to fulfill this directive is entirely at your discretion, not at my request. When Cally is cured, I release the coded classification and you are to give all of this information to the crew. Is this clear?"
"I do not understand such an illogical request."
"It is important ORAC, just follow the orders."
"Very well," said ORAC begrudgingly.
"I have a separate set of directives to be put under a different coded classification."
"Are you not done yet?" asked an annoyed ORAC.
Avon spent the next few minutes reviewing his plan to get away from the crew and relaying instructions to ORAC. It was essential that the crew not follow him. He knew he was running a risk, but there was no other way he could see which would achieve the same results in the short period of time he had left.
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