It seemed that they had let him sleep recently but he could not remember when. He wanted a sleep which did not come with nightmares; either the drugs no longer worked, or more likely, they had changed the sedatives while he was in this nightmare room. He could not even guess the effect of the other drugs they were also injecting into him.
Blinding light in the cell again; light in this cell was not a good sign. There was a flurry of motion as people shapes entered the cell. Again strong, cruel hands rolled him onto his back and then held him down like bands of steel, immobilizing arms and legs.
A bio-injector was pressed against his neck, a familiar hissing sound as drugs entered his system.
His vision began to cloud. Another sedative?
A prick of pain towards the front of his neck, near the vocal chords. There appeared to be two medtechs. Was he experiencing double-vision?
The lights continued to dim.
It was so dark now he could barely make out shadows of people. He could feel the zipper of his prison coverall being pulled down and something cold pressed against his chest over the heart, another on the other side and one to his left temple.
Movement stopped, they all appeared to be waiting.
Darkness; he could no longer see.
Someone checked his eyes. An uncomfortable realization, it wasn't dark, he was blind; something they injected him with had robbed him of sight. He had a brief second of shock and panic and before he could react, an attack of excruciating pain radiated from his knee. He arched in agony as the hands held him fast.
He screamed but there was no sound. His throat was frozen, paralyzed; they had done this to him too. He choked, barely able to breathe.
Something covered his mouth, he moved his head trying to shake it off. Another set of hands held both sides of his head, not allowing him to move. He tried to breathe, it was oxygen; it was an oxygen mask. Someone lifted his head, pulled a band behind his head and put his head down again, the band held the mask in place.
A second attack of pain; this one was different, it felt like the ligaments were being twisted apart. He never experienced this type of pain before in his knee, he tried to scream and only ended up choking again. The cruel hands continued to hold him down as he squirmed in agony, unable to scream. He began to retch, the contents of his stomach started coming up. The mask was removed and he was rolled onto his side so that he could throw up onto the ground.
They held him there as another attack of pain came; more of the twisting pain, more emptying of his stomach. He didn't think that anything could possibly taste worse than the gruel they normally fed him, but the mix of bile and gruel together definitely qualified.
There was wave after wave of pain until his stomach was empty. When it finally stopped, they rolled him over onto his back again and the mess was cleaned up. He tried to recover his strength but the pain returned, even stronger. His body strained against his captors, his mouth opened in a silent scream.
After what seemed like hours of pain, he felt his heart begin to falter; it was beating erratically and there was an unbearable tightness across his chest, it felt like something heavy was crushing him. It was a familiar sensation, he would finally get some relief, even if only for a few minutes.
The pain stopped again. There were indistinct voices in the darkness; something else cold and metallic was pressed against his chest, a tingling sensation extending through to his heart. A bio-injector pressed against his neck, there was a burst of faint energy and his heart slowed it's racing.
The pain suddenly returned full force; his heart felt like it was going to explode. It should have failed, but it didn't; the drugs they had just injected him with prevented it.
They controlled his body, they did not even allow him the refuge of his heart stopping or his mind slipping into unconsciousness; he was completely helpless. Tears of pain streamed down his face from eyes which could no longer see; it was the only reaction they allowed him.
For hours, Sester worked on the analyst; anticipating his every move, his every thought, removing anything he could hold onto and never allowing him enough time to recover so he could gather strength to fight. The psychostrategist explored all the variants of pain the implant was capable of; tearing, twisting, stabbing, throbbing and shattering pain, varying the intensities in order to make the pain worse. It was a fascinating academic exercise. By the end, he had become even better than the Centre interrogators at inflicting the kind of pain which destroys all resistance. He had the advantage of a brilliant mind and the special manipulative skills of the psychostrategist.
It went on and on; by the end, Avon was so passively accepting the pain that Sester was afraid that he had been stressed too far.
The pain finally stopped.
"Release him," the Sester's voice came from the speaker far above.
The hands let go; there were bands of painful bruises where they had been holding him down. The prisoner could feel someone bend down beside him; a bio-injector pressed against his neck again. The sensor pads removed and his coveralls zipped back up. The oxygen mask was taken away.
To Avon, they all seemed very far away. The only thing which felt close, was the still constant pain from his knee, now a manageable dull throbbing. He could hear feet moving, they were leaving. The cell door slid closed, it was quiet again.
Avon curled his back, bringing his knees up; an instinctive protective action against the assault of the past hours. His mind was numb and there was pain from muscles which had been overtaxed by the torture; he didn't want to do anything except curl up and pass out.
"No," he groaned weakly. He never felt as defenceless as he did now, he did not have anything left to fight the ghosts. He shivered in the cold of the cell.
There was a shocked realization, he had spoken. His throat hurt and it still felt tight, but he had spoken.
"Avon," the insistent voice called his name again. It was not a ghost.
"Go away," he rasped.
Someone lifted him up halfway and threw him hard against the wall, this aggravated his knee. He would have groaned except the wind had been knocked out of him. Someone positioned him into a sitting position.
Avon opened his eyes and found that he could make out a vague shape in front of him. His sight was returning, he was relieved; he had a vague realization that they would never have blinded him permanently, not if Servalan wanted to continue using him.
As his sight gradually cleared he saw two people, a black-shirted Centre guard and leaning against the wall, his arms crossed casually over his chest, was his nemesis over the cell's speaker, the psychostrategist.
He had a quickly suppressed flash of anger. "What do you want?" Avon rasped. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, trying to rest; to regain some strength and to wait for the psychostrategist to make a move.
A hand slapped him hard across the face. "Open your eyes!" A barked command. The guard had leaned down and hit him. Avon opened his eyes. The guard slapped him again, the sound of each strike was loud in the bare cell. The guard continued to strike him.
Avon rolled with the blows to lessen their impact, he had gotten quite good at it after two years of beatings; besides there was nothing else he could do.
"Stop," the psychostrategist ordered calmly after the fifth strike. The guard did as instructed and stepped back. "You may leave." The guard turned and left the cell.
Avon moved his jaw, his face was still smarting from the blows. The guards had never slapped him before, they were under orders never to strike anywhere near his head, he was too valuable a commodity. It was too easy to make a mistake and cause damage they did not want. The only one who had ever slapped him before was Servalan, when she was very angry with him.
"You have no control here Avon. Remember that."
"How could I forget?" That must be the lesson for the day he thought sarcastically.
"Now don't fall asleep, we're going to talk."
"I didn't break the agreement."
"Don't you ever tire of saying that?"
"Don't you ever tire of hearing it?" The prisoner stopped looking at the psychostrategist and concentrated on a spot on the far wall, he no longer wanted to look at the man who considered his life a game.
"You're a stubborn man."
"Is that what I am?" Avon asked tiredly. He didn't know who he was anymore, he had been nothing except what they had wanted him to be the last couple of months; he had not had the energy to be anything else. Even when he had not had the energy, they had forced him.
But that was apparently not enough, they were in the process of stripping away everything from him.
His stomach felt uncomfortable.
"You must know by now that you can't win," Sester told him. There was a level of seriousness to his tone Avon had not heard before.
Avon didn't answer.
"This will not end until you tell me what I want to know, until you tell me what measures you put in place in those forty hours you disappeared?"
"Why don't you save yourself a lot of time and just kill me."
"You won't get off that easily Avon, Servalan will never allow you the freedom of death, not until she has taken everything from you and probably not even then."
Avon shuddered involuntarily. He didn't know if it was from the cold or from what the psychostrategist was saying.
"She told me that she bought you once. Is that true?"
Avon tightened his jaw at the memory of the slave auction on Domo. He had gone down to the planet to trap Servalan and ended up being trapped himself. After she had bought him, the slavers had brought him before her and forced him to his knees. Fortunately he had gotten away.
"Yes. It was a mistake."
"She doesn't see it that way."
"I'm sure she doesn't. I don't care what she thinks."
"That's not a healthy attitude considering the position you're in."
"One day I will kill her."
"I don't think so. It's an interesting game the two of you play, trying to kill each other and never really succeeding."
"You don't think I could kill her?"
"I believe you may have been able to once, but not anymore. Servalan has made sure of it. You see, you have been conditioned, you are no longer able to kill her."
Avon's jaw tightened in anger but his face remained neutral.
The psychostrategist watched the analyst's reaction; another layer of control had been stripped away.
This was not really a fair contest, not anymore.
Actually Sester had lied to him, they had not conditioned him for that yet but just the suggestion that they had would be enough to prevent him from trying. The day he realized the truth, would be the day they would condition him. And unlike the conditioning to make him work, no mind blocks would be applied to cause him to forget the process, it would be much worse that way.
"Nothing to say?"
Avon wanted to tell the man that this kind of manipulation would not work on him, that telling him this would not affect him in the least but he would have been lying. He felt sick, they kept taking away what little he had left; and now even the ability to kill his most hated enemy.
"Is she that afraid of me?"
Sester smiled. I can see why she likes playing with you. But I wonder if you will be as much fun after we force this next compromise from you.
"She doesn't like playing fair," the strategist replied. He signalled the technician to open the cell door.
Sester headed towards the exit, at the doorway, he turned around and told the analyst, "Tell me when you've had enough."
As Sester walked back to the control booth, he reflected on the goal of the exercise, they wanted to take all hope away from the analyst, and force him to destroy it himself. From their interaction in the cell, he knew that Avon was not ready yet to give up the information they wanted.
Back in the control booth, he left instructions for the c-tech before he left.
"Keep up this treatment for the rest of the session and give him two hours rest in-between. And now that he's given up trying to hurt himself, I want his hands bound behind him until it is all finished."
"It will be done sir," the technician acknowledged.