Avon woke. His mind tried to focus. He was only just starting to recover from his session in the nerve induction unit. His was shivering, both from the after effects of the torture in the induction chamber, and from the cold in the cell. Why is it so cold? The temperature in his cell was normally kept below a comfortable level, but never this cold.
He didn't want to move but it was dark and he was in strange surroundings. Avon straightened himself and immediately hit his head against the side of the cell. After a few moments, as his eyes adjusted, he realized that it was not completely dark, there was just enough light for him to make out his new environment.
Avon looked around, he appeared to be in a small cell, about two thirds the size of his other one. The cell was completely bare, not even a sleep platform.
I seem to be moving down in the world. The ceiling appeared to extend up beyond what he could see in the dim lighting. It was completely silent.
The darkness filled him with dread, it meant the ghosts and the visions would come soon.
Holding onto the wall for support, he attempted to stand up but sharp stabs of pain from his knee made him fall back. After his time in the med unit, the pain should no longer be this bad; he should have at least been able to stand. When the pain subsided, he tried again but more stabs of pain again prevented him from being able to get up. After the third try, he gave up and leaned back against the wall.
He tried to reason out what was happening; they had subjected him to a full session in the nerve induction unit, he had been removed to this cell while he was drugged, his knee appeared to be worse and the cell was dark. There was only one reason he could think of why they would have done all of this.
It had only been a matter of time before they escalated the nightmares. The two hours they normally subjected him in Servalan's office had obviously not produced the results they wanted.
He had to fight, if he gave up the information they wanted, he would never have another chance, they would make sure of it.
He had no control over the nightmares but he had gained some limited control over his own reactions to them. He knew it was not enough; as they wore him down, he would lose even that little control. He had to give them something before that, they had to think they had won, else they would not stop.
He already knew what he was going to do, but he had to make it a good show; his life and future freedom depended on it. Because his two opponents were Servalan and Sester, he had to allow himself to be pushed to the very edge, else they would not be satisfied; anything less and they would know that they were being fooled. He knew he was running a great risk, he had to allow them to weaken him to the point that they would be convinced when he broke, but in that weakness, he had to retain enough strength so that he would only reveal what he was willing to give up; that was the most difficult part.
Avon, a ghost called his name.
The battle had begun.
Pressing down hard on his injured knee, he stifled a yell; the pain drove away the ghost.
Very clever Avon, Sester thought, but you can't win this one.
The psychostrategist made several adjusts to the palm-sized implant control and continued monitoring Avon on the vidscreen in the isolation control booth nearby.
Avon pressed down again on his knee when the pain subsided.
Nothing. No pain.
He changed the angle and pushed down again. Still nothing.
He tried to get up. Daggers of pain caused him to groan. It was impossible to get up.
But as long as he could produce pain, it would suit his purposes; it didn't matter how.
He waited for it to die down and tried to get up again, this time there was no pain at all and he got up successfully. He walked around tentatively, it felt good even though there was nowhere to go; the movement seemed to help settle the shaking. The analyst had not been able to walk around unaided and without pain in along time.
All of a sudden he collapsed to the ground, it felt as if someone was tearing his knee apart, he screamed in agony. He had never experienced this kind of pain before in his knee, even when he was being tortured with the wave manipulator. After what seemed like an eternity, the pain finally abated. His mind was in shock and he was shaking badly again.
He lay unmoving, trying to rest but in the dark and isolation of the cell, he could feel his mind slipping towards the nightmares again.
No. He fought his own mind and struck out against his knee again. He stiffened at the pain he had just caused himself but it soon passed, it was nowhere near as bad as it should have been, it was as if someone had anticipated his actions and was controlling the pain.
He sat up and explored the joint. Odd. There did not appear to be any damage; there should have been. He thought he could feel something, something which was not bone, muscle, or ligament.
The surgery: they must have fixed his knee completely, but they had done something which enabled them to simulate damage and to cause and control the pain. He had not been able to tell the difference, until now.
They had wanted him to know.
Someone was playing with him.
Although this activity was distracting his mind from the nightmares, it served little useful purpose. He was using all of his energy and concentration to fight an invisible opponent who had full control over his surroundings; an adversary who could inflict pain at will; an enemy who could anticipate his every movement and was not allowing him any kind of control.
He did not have the endurance to keep this up, eventually exhaustion would overtake him and he would be left with nothing with which to fight the nightmares.
He could guess who his opponent was; as he had guessed, it was going to be a dangerous game.
Sester was watching Avon struggling on the vidscreen monitor. As he had anticipated, the analyst had easily figured out about the knee implant, it had only been a matter of time, but the psychostrategist had controlled the when. Doing it now, when they were going to manipulate him into revealing what they wanted to know, would serve to show the analyst how little control he had over his own life.
It was all about the control.
Sester adjusted the palm-sized implant control unit again. Avon was trying to damage his own knee in order to cause pain but the implant not only inflicted pain, it gave total control over the knee and regulated impulses to the brain, as the analyst would soon find out.
It was like one of their games of chess, except the field of battle was Avon's mind, and despite the analyst's best efforts, Sester had power over all the pieces.
What is he doing now? thought Sester as he watched Avon exploring the area around the knee, applying pressure at various points and grimacing occasionally.
The implant control beeped. Interesting. You shouldn't be able to do that.
Sester changed the settings on the implant unit and pressed the pain activator. The analyst yelled in pain and grabbed his knee. Sester waited five minutes before turning it off.
Sester turned on the cell's speaker.
"You do not have control here Avon, if you continue, I will have you restrained to the wall. Is that what you want?"
"No." The analyst's voice sounded muted over the comm unit.
"Will you behave?"
Sester turned the speaker off.
For the next six hours, the psychostrategist played with his captive; keeping him off- balance, siphoning off his energy, taking away his control, and making him scream.
By the end, the prisoner could no longer do anything except lie on the ground and moan from the pain he could neither control nor escape. He was also starting to interact with things which were not there; the nightmares had taken over.
Sester stretched, the nightmares would continue to work on the prisoner without any additional input from him. The crimino-technician who sat next to him in the control booth could be left to monitor while he took a break.
It was an intense session. The goal was to wear the analyst down to the point where the nightmares would have greater power over his mind and will.
In chess, he and Avon were evenly matched and keeping several steps ahead of him was difficult, but in this game Sester made the rules.
Even with a severe handicap, Avon would not be easy to break down; he should have been. The Centre's best had been working on him, off and on for over two years. They had damaged him virtually everyway a man could be damaged; physically, mentally, and psychologically but they had never succeeded in breaking his will. He and Servalan had manipulated him into making compromises but that was not the same thing.
Sester had the advantage of the implant; every time, the analyst had threatened to regain the ability for coherent thought, the psychostrategist would subject him to increasing periods of intense pain, then the mind trigger would be applied to force a mind that could no longer concentrate, to think. It was cruel but necessary. Of course, nothing they had ever done to him was anything but cruel.
Before Sester exited the booth, he checked the settings of the constant pain activator on the implant control unit. It had been set for a constant throbbing pain. Not enough to distract from the nightmares but just enough to continue sapping the prisoner's energy and preventing any recovery.
Just one last thing to do before he left the room. He turned on the cell's speaker again.
"It's time to work Avon."
It was just the beginning.
Avon lay curled on the ground in the small dark cell as the pain from his knee subsided. His body was trembling, he had never fully recovered from being in the nerve induction unit and now he was being assaulted mercilessly both physically and mentally by an opponent who was not going to let him go until he had given up his secret.
He needed sleep, but the current bout of pain had just shown him that he was not being allowed that. Avon pulled himself to the wall and rested against it. The movement aggravated the knee again, a knee which was not really injured.
His mind started wandering again.
Without access to a cipher unit, the chances of finding information on the antidote to the techno-virus is extremely slim. It is a waste of my precious time and resources to do something which has such a low probability of success. The ORAC unit sounded annoyed.
"No!" Avon shouted at it. "You must." Some small part of him remembered he must not respond to ORAC the way he normally would.
Why was he shouting? He never shouted, cold sarcastic comments, yes; shouting was for the labour grades.
It is illogical to rescue someone when there is nothing left to rescue.
"You arrogant…." Avon said. He stopped himself, he couldn't remember why he had to.
Avon shook his head, it was another nightmare vision, one he could not afford. He struggled against it but his mind would not stop.
ORAC will no longer respond to you Avon. I have control. I have the command code. You made a deal and now you have to live with it. How much did she pay you to betray us? Argus asked. His voice was like steel.
"I didn't," Avon said, his voice was equally cold. He was indifferent to the opinions of the rebel leader. He knew ORAC would do as he had instructed it. The others had no idea how much he knew about how ORAC functioned; and he was not about to tell them.
I've finally made ORAC into a drinks dispenser Avon. He's no use to you anymore. Vila said.
Avon laughed, he knew he was going mad.
"He's got another four hours before he reaches the end of the seventy-two hour cycle," the c-tech reported as Sester entered the control booth to check on the prisoner. More than seventy-two hours without sleep and Avon's mind would descend into the oblivion of madness and then they would have to waste time bringing him back. They always allowed him sleep before he reached that point; this was the third three-day cycle.
"How is he doing otherwise?"
"He's stopped trying to hurt himself."
"He's finally accepted that he has no choice but to suffer the nightmares."
"I doubt that. He's trying to figure out something else."
"But there's nothing he can do." In the crimino-technician's experience, no one could withstand the kind of treatment the prisoner was getting, not for long and he had worked on the best.
"I would agree. If he were an ordinary man."
"But he's still human."
He would debate that, thought the psychostrategist, smiling inwardly.
"He's very resourceful."
"You're very sure of him, sir."
"I am. This time when you sedate him, use a normal sedative only." Using a normal sedative meant that the nightmares would continue to plague the prisoner's sleep, the sleep would only be enough to keep him sane.
"He won't get much rest then."
"That's the idea."
"Call me a half hour before you wake him for the next session. Put bio-sensor pads on him. I also want a med team in attendance."
Sester had broken down the analyst with pain and continually keeping him off-balance; now it was time to take another layer of control from him. They were stripping away Avon's conscious will so that he would be helpless in fighting the nightmares.