At times, as she watched, it had been difficult not to feel sympathy for the suffering man; from this safe distance, she could allow herself the luxury of feelings she would never have when she was with him.
If only you weren't so stubborn, then none of this would be necessary.
The interrogators entered the cell again; she couldn't watch anymore. Servalan turned off the vidscreen and picked up her datapad.
She re-read a report on the mine disaster. For months the Federation had lost track of the Justice and it's crew, but now it appeared that they were somehow involved in what had happened on mining planet C-812. The descriptions of two suspect persons who may have been involved, were clearly the little thief, Vila and the ex-Land Commander, Argus. She could not this little band of rebels interfere in her plans again. Something would have to be done.
She reflected on the irony which had caused her to use Avon to take out her anger and frustration over the mine disaster, when it was caused by the crew of the Justice.
Servalan called her personal assistant, "Corry, get Controller Tarvin of Central Security for me. Tell him I want to see him this afternoon. After that, I want a vidconference with Science Commander Latham."
Without access to a cipher unit, I am unable to access the information you requested ORAC told the analyst.
At that moment Argus entered the flight deck. "What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously.
"Nothing." Avon was not about to let Argus know his plans.
"Really? Do you really think I don't know? You're dreaming Avon. I will never let ORAC rescue you. There is too much blood on your hands. Look." Argus pointed.
Avon brought his hands up. There was blood, lots of blood. "No!" Avon shouted. He stared at the blood. Argus was right, he did not deserve to be rescued. "No!" He shook his head.
"Where is the cold, logical machine now?" Argus taunted him. "I thought you said that you knew nothing about guilt."
His chest hurt and his knee. Why do they hurt?
For a brief moment the vision vanished, he was in the cell again, holding his hands up; there was no blood on it. He remembered.
I can't let these visions happen. Not these ones he thought.
You don't have a choice Avon the rebel leader intruded into his consciousness again.
No. I can't afford these ones. he shook his head, trying to banish the vision.
What do you think you can do? You're just one man. And you're alone, against two opponents you cannot beat. Not even ORAC will help you now. I've made sure of that.
Avon looked at him coldly, he was used to being alone.
He shook his head again, he was starting to interact with the visions again; his control was slipping. There was one final thing he could do, it was a last desperate step; he had to access the nightmares they had used against him before in order to distract from the nightmares he did not want.
Things had settled down on the Justice. The crew were no longer at each other's throats. After the distance of time, they realized that they could not have anticipated the extreme reaction of the miners. Other than a natural tendency towards paranoia, there had been no indications of the instability which would lead to such an extreme reaction.
They were resolved to be more careful next time and assess the situation more carefully. Jenna was still guilty that the idea to manipulate the miners' paranoia had been hers. It had shaken her confidence to the extent that she was not sure that going to Sector Ten to help Olean Rane was a good idea anymore.
"Don't beat yourself over it Jenna," Argus told the still depressed woman as the crew shared an evening meal together in the dining area near one of the cargo holds. Vila was monitoring things on the flight deck. "You couldn't have known; none of us did."
"I still feel responsible."
"It was not your intention for this to happen, and it was not a circumstance which anyone could have predicted," said Cally.
"Saying that we didn't mean for it to happen, doesn't make me feel any better. Does it make you feel any better?" the woman challenge.
"You're right, it doesn't. But if there had been time to react, we would have all done our best to avert this disaster, but we were not given the chance," Cally continued, trying to help all of them put some perspective into what had happened.
Argus said, "Jenna, you know the risks we take whenever we are on a mission. Sometimes there is collateral damage. It's a harsh thing to say, but if you don't accept that, then you've only been fooling yourself and you should just stop now."
The rebel leader always had a brutal honesty. As a military leader, he had always known there were risks to everything he did, and oftentimes those risks involved others.
"I know you're right Argus, although part of me doesn't accept it. Can you accept that I need to be angry at myself for awhile?"
Argus nodded. He added, "We should head towards Sector Ten. Rane's going to need your help Jenna, and we promised our aid. We can set a speed of standard by six, that way it will us take us three weeks."
Jenna hesitated, she wasn't up to making that kind of decision at this time.
"At the end of the three weeks, if you still aren't up to it, you can opt out," said Argus. "Agreed?"
"Agreed," said Jenna reluctantly.
"Agreed," replied the Auron.
The next day, the crew were all on the flight deck, making preparations to leave for Sector Ten.
"There appears to be signal coming from C-812," reported Cally.
"But I thought all the miners were dead?" said Vila.
"Zen, identify the signal coming from C-812," said Argus.
"It is a standard Federation distress beacon."
"Can you identify where the signal is coming from?"
"Please observe on the monitor."
The visual interface showed an orbital view of the former mining asteroid, which currently had a huge crater on one side of it. There was a glowing red spot on the surface of the asteroid, it was near the bunker area used as a living quarters.
"Zen, are the medium-range scanners still on."
"I want a long and medium-range sensor sweep of this entire area. Report any indications that there may be a Federation presence."
After a few moments, Zen reported, "Long-range scanners have detected a group of Federation pursuit ships headed towards C-812."
"Estimated time of arrival?"
"One hour and twelve minutes at present speed and course."
"How many ships are there?"
"There are five pursuit ships."
"Have they detected us yet?"
"There is no indication that the Justice has been detected."
"How long before they spot us with their close-range visual scanners?"
"We will be within visual scanner range in one hour."
"That should give us enough time to go down and check things out and get out before they've spotted us."
"Zen, bring the navigation computers online. I want the optimal flight path to escape the pursuit ships the moment we come back onboard."
"Cally, bring your med kit and Vila, bring your kit as well," said Argus. The Auron immediately left the flight deck in order to prepare.
"Couldn't you just blast through any doors you come across? I'm sure no one minds anymore," said Vila.
"Don't you want to help the miners? In case some of them did survive?"
"Well, I suppose," said Vila reluctantly. He headed towards his cabin.
"Nicely done," remarked Jenna.
Argus grinned at her.
"But not very subtle."
"I'll work on it."
Ten minutes later, Argus, Vila and Cally shimmered into view inside the bunker where the distress beacon was supposed to be emanating from. It was pitch dark. The three had been prepared and switched on their hand-lights.
All three wore a similar equipment belt now. It was one of the things which Argus had instituted for their off-ship jaunts. The belt not only contained their pulse guns but had general essentials such as hand-lights, spare teleport bracelet, emergency beacon, directional locator etc.
The bunker was not only dark when they arrived, it was also completely silent.
Argus took out his directional locator. "The coordinates, Zen specified are in this direction." He pointed and then headed off down the corridor in the indicated direction. Cally and Vila followed.
Every room they passed through was as devoid of life as the last one. They finally reached the last room.
"There isn't anything here," said Vila. "Let's head back."
"We picked up the distress beacon, something's got to be here."
"It's the 'something' which makes me nervous," said Vila, looking very nervous.
"Argus, we need to get out of here. Look out the window," Cally told him, pointing to a window.
Argus looked. Just outside the window, about fifteen feet away was an object, about the size and shape of a small missile, it's nose partially embedded into the surface of the asteroid. A light on it blinked in a regular sequence.
"I think, that's our distress beacon."
"You were right Vila, it's a trap." exclaimed Argus who immediately activated his voicecomm, "Jenna, bring us up immediately and bring the battle computers online."
Within seconds, the three shimmered back onto the Justice.
Jenna was about to ask them what was going on but Argus rushed to the flight deck, followed by Vila and Cally. "I'll tell you on the way. We have to get to the flight deck."
Rushing onto the flight deck, they all went to their respective stations.
Argus asked, "Zen, how far away are the pursuit ships now?"
"Pursuit ships are currently two minutes away from firing range."
"Two minutes! Zen, follow the optimal escape path plotted earlier, speed standard by twelve. Get us out of here."
The would all have liked to ask how a buffer of an hour could disappear to two minutes but they had more important things to attend to at the moment.
Argus continued, "Zen, show us the pursuit ships on the screen."
"Confirmed, observe the screen."
The view of the asteroid disappeared and a space view with the pursuit ships appeared.
"Those aren't like any Federation pursuit ships I've ever seen," remarked Jenna.
"Zen, access the Federation Central Ship registry, can you identify the ships which are chasing us?"
"Information from the Central Ship registry indicate they are Starbust class Mark II pursuit ships."
"Mark II?" wondered Jenna, "I've never heard of those. The Mark I's are long range pursuit ships. They shouldn't be very fast."
"Uh Argus, are we sure about that?" said Vila, indicating the screen and the ships which did not appear to be falling behind.
"Zen, what speed are the ships following us travelling at?"
"The pursuit ships are currently travelling at standard by 10.19"
"That's impossible," exclaimed Jenna. "The Federation doesn't have any ships that can travel nearly that fast."
"Maybe you should tell them that," said Vila.
The pursuit ships fired, tracers approached the Justice.
"Cally, forcewall." Cally went over to the forcewall control panel and activated the energy screen.
"Forcewall up," she reported.
It was just in time, the impact of the tracers rocked the ship.
"Zen, report damage."
"The ship has sustained no damage."
They all saw more tracers approaching.
"Jenna, do you think you can navigate the asteroid belt and lose the pursuit ships."
"I can try."
Jenna took hold of the pilot controls, switched the ship to manual and began steering the ship in an arc back around to the vast asteroid debris field in which C-812 had been part of. Her superior piloting skills and the slightly faster speed of the Justice enabled them to lose the pursuit ships.
Sester returned to the isolation control booth towards the end of the sixth cycle. He looked at the monitors, Avon was leaning against a wall and he appeared to be speaking to someone who was not in the room.
"Anything to report?" the strategist asked the crimino-technician.
"He keeps talking to someone named Anna," the man replied. "Can't quite figure out if she's an ally or an enemy. I think he's trying to trick us."
Sester smiled. "He is up to something," he told the man, "but it's not a trick."
I did warn you that he was going to think of something else.
Somehow Avon had gained a limited control over the nightmares, not enough to prevent them but enough to redirect them. He was allowing his mind to torture him with memories of Anna in order to prevent it from focusing on the information they were trying to find out.
But it‘s a losing proposition my friend thought Sester. The more you allow yourself to be tortured, the weaker you become and the less able you will be to fight what we want. It only delays the inevitable.
"Give me the implant control."
The technician handed the small control unit to him. Sester changed the setting to the high end of the tearing pain and depressed the activator.
The man on the monitor screamed and grabbed his knee. He collapsed on the ground as the pain continued; he moaned in agony.
Sester waited five minutes and then switched the activator off. He turned on the speaker to the cell.
"Don't do that again Avon."
"Do what?" the prisoner asked, his voice strained.
Sester depressed the activator again; there were more sounds of agony. He waited one minute this time then turned it off.
"You know what I mean. You may be able to fool them but not me."
"I wasn't trying to fool anyone," the analyst replied, his voice barely registering. Sester gestured the guard to turn up the pick-up volume.
"No you weren't," he agreed. "You realize this is a move of desperation?"
There was no response from the prisoner.
Sester activated the implant control again, another sixty seconds of pain.
"Do I have to remind you, you do not have control here Avon. Now answer the question."
The man was gasping for breath.
The strategist repeated the question, "Do you realize this is a move of desperation?"
"Yes," came the reluctant reply.
Sester turned the speaker off. "I am going to take personal control of the remainder of the cycles. Let the team know," he told the c-tech.
Sester sighed, he was going to have to cancel his other plans. He had not expected to have to be this actively involved until the last few cycles. Avon should not have had enough left to be able to gain this kind of control but in desperation, some people are able to dig into deeper reserves of strength.
I misjudged you Avon, I don't do that often and I won't be doing that again.
He was full of admiration for this man, and pity.