|Previous Chapter||Chapter Eight||Next Chapter|
The rebel unit leaders were meeting for a debriefing after the operation. They were in the crypt of an old religious building outside the West Euro Dome, it was their backup safe house. This secondary location was still in the process of being setup and only had limited medical equipment and supplies. Access to their main safe house in the city had been blocked and a massive manhunt was being conducted to search for the rebels and their rescued prisoners. Scores of people had been pulled in for questioning by Federation security.
Argus had cleaned himself up and was leading the meeting. He looked tired and his face was pale. There was a big bruise on his chin, one eye was swollen and he was favouring one leg when he walked but no one dared tell him that he should be resting. They all knew what he was like when he was in this mood and no one dared to get in his way.
"How many did we lose?" he asked.
Prake, the leader of unit two replied, "One killed, three injured. All three should recover but we're going to need better medical facilities to take care of them."
"It was too high a price, you should have just killed me."
"You're not in the Federation anymore, we take care of our own, " Jenna reminded him, "and we gained a very valuable prize."
"How long before we can question him?" Ander, the brown-haired leader of unit three asked. He was a former sergeant in the Federation assault groups.
They were all eager to get their hands on the man who killed Blake and betrayed the Scorpio crew.
"Dr. Alberay is examining him now, " she replied. "He will have a report later."
"What's the status in the WE Dome?" Argus asked.
"Security is on a level four alert, " Jenna responded, level four was the highest alert level. "There's a massive search going on for us. All transportation access ports have been shut down. Fortunately, we got all our people out just as the curfew went into effect."
"Are all the security monitors in place?" Argus asked Ander, who was in charge of the safe house security setup.
"Yes. All of the alerts are in place. There are additional security cameras on the roof and we've expanded the range of the sensor grid."
Argus was operating on pure adrenaline. He should be resting after his ordeal in the Federation Special Detention Centre but he was a man who could not let go when his people were in danger, especially when that danger was because of him.
He felt a stab of guilt. He had resolved never to allow others to die for him again.
Not again. There have been too many already and now there is one more.
He could not sleep yet. There was still too much to do.
Vila had been astounded when he found out that they had captured Avon. It seemed as if the rumour that the Federation had turned on the traitor was true. Vila's head had started hurting the moment he saw his old crewmate and leader. Avon looked terrible.
"Has he woken up yet?" Jenna asked Vila as she joined him. She was accompanied by Argus and Prake, they were there to check on the prisoner.
"Not yet. He's still out, " the rebel unit's doctor replied.
"When can we question him, Dr Alberay?"
"It's not a good idea, he's not in good shape. From his injuries, he has suffered severe torture over an extended period of time. Other than the external injuries, which we can heal there are numerous internal injuries, some fresh, some partially healed, which will take much longer without better medical equipment; and we can't get that right now because of the clamp-down. The rescue from the detention centre did additional internal damage. Even if he heals, it will take a long period of rehabilitation before he will be able to function fully. He is also in an enormous amount of pain so I'm keeping him sedated for now."
"Bring him around, " Argus ordered.
"Alright. I'll just give him a pain blocker."
Argus had no interest in making the traitor comfortable.
The doctor looked at them. He nodded, he understood what they wanted.
"One other thing, his system was full of drugs; some of them were to intensify pain, some would have made it difficult for him to concentrate, some are advanced psychotropics and hallucinogens of types I am totally unfamiliar with. The reason why I am telling you this is that I don't know what you're going to get when he wakes up. His sense of reality may be severely compromised."
They were all aware of what the Federation could do to people under their control.
"We understand, bring him around, " Jenna told him. Her voice was cold.
The doctor administered another drug and stepped back.
Avon gasped as conscious returned. He struggled to concentrate, fighting against the flood of pain. His last memory was of the sound of pulse and laser rifle bursts.
Blake! Falling. No. Not Blake. Something else.
He opened his eyes. Faces floated into view; Vila, Jenna, several faces he did not recognize.
Jenna? He almost laughed, he knew that Jenna was dead. This must be another hypnovision. What was Sester up to? This was too obviously a mistake.
"Avon do you know who I am?" Jenna asked.
"No have we been introduced?" his voice was hoarse.
Let's see how far we can take this he thought. The pain was worse than was normal during these sessions, he was struggling to breathe, it was hard to concentrate.
"Jenna, " he asked, sounding perplexed, "do I know you?"
"Put him out again." Jenna instructed the doctor.
Avon's last thought before he drifted into darkness again was that was too easy. What is he up to?
"What's wrong with him doctor?"
"I did warn you. There is no telling what they have been doing to his mind."
"Maybe some more pain will help him get his memory back." Prake had the typical single-tracked Federation military mentality. Revenge was foremost on his mind. Revenge for what they all knew Avon had done to Blake.
"That's not going to work. We need a psych specialist to assess the damage done to his mind and recommend a course of treatment, " the doctor told them.
Argus was former military, but being a command-level he was able to see the bigger picture.
"Federation interrogators would not have risked losing the information we are all after. They're too good for that, it still has to be in his mind somewhere. Like the doctor said, we need to understand the situation first, we need to find a psych specialist but because of the hunt going on now we will have to wait." He looked pointedly at Prake and added, "Before then we have to be careful how we treat him, in case we do more damage and risk losing the information."
Prake made a disgusted sound and stalked out. Federation Death Squad members even former ones tended to be difficult.
"We're going to have to be careful, " Jenna told Argus, "Prake is not the only one out there who wants to beat the truth out of him. I must admit, I want to see Avon suffer too, more than any of you could possibly understand; but not until we get the information we need out of him."
Argus nodded, "We'll have to appoint some cool-headed people to guard him. I'll go arrange that now."
Jenna put her hand on his arm. "You're tired, leave that to someone else. You need to rest."
"You know I can't. If the sacrifice of Sato is to mean something, we need this."
You mean you need this. When will you ever be able to let go of the past? Jenna sighed and let him go. Argus reminded her a little of Blake, he always felt responsible for everyone else except himself.
Argus paused at the door, "I promise, I'll get some rest right afterwards." He smiled tiredly and left. Jenna was the only one who ever had any success in getting him to take care of himself.
After Dr Alberay finished tending to the patient and left the room, Jenna asked "What do you think, Vila? Do you think he's faking it? You've been with him longer than any of us."
Vila had been observing quietly throughout the entire exchange. He had mixed thoughts and his head was pounding again.
Avon the Betrayer.
"I want to kill him; I want him to suffer for what he did to Blake; and Tarrant, Dayna, Soolin, and me but he also saved our lives, dozens of times."
"Mine too, and Blake's; but we always knew what he was. You and I both know, Avon was always in it for Avon first."
"You're right Jenna, but it's hard to see him like this. Avon was always in control. I want him to suffer, but not like this, no one deserves what they did to him."
Vila put his hands to his head, he was in pain again. Traitor! Betrayer!
"What's wrong, Vila?" Jenna asked concerned.
"I'm going to lie down, I've got a headache the size of Jupiter."
"Go ask the doctor to give you some medication."
"Maybe I can get him to throw in some soma too, " Vila said as he left.
Jenna smiled. Good old Vila.
She agreed with Vila, it was a shock to see Avon in his current state. He was still in his grey prison coveralls stained with blood, his feet were bare and his hands had been left manacled. His wrists were bruised and had numerous abrasions. From the bio-monitors she had seen at the Detention Centre, she knew that his injuries were many, some were serious and all of them seemed to have been designed to cause pain.
Avon had always been well-dressed and in control. He was tall, strong and arrogant; a match for anyone, including Blake. Vila had once said that if it ever came to a showdown, he would put half his money on Blake, and the other half on Avon.
If Avon had had Blake's morality and compassion, he would have made a powerful leader for the rebel alliance but without it, he was just extremely dangerous. One thing she did not agree on with Vila. Avon deserved everything that happened to him.
Jenna had pledged to follow Blake to the very end. After leaving the Liberator, they had fought side-by-side against the scattered Federation forces, secretly building the rebel forces on one border planet after another. They had saved each other's lives countless times when they ran into Federation treachery and now Blake was dead, betrayed by Avon, a man he considered a friend.
She was going to make Avon pay, but not until after they got ORAC, she could wait that long.
The object of everyone's goal was advancing it's own plans. The rebels had gone underground and off the CompComm grid. They would remain that way as long as the Federation forces on Earth were on high alert. It would have to trace another line through infinity, like it did in finding Blake on Gauda Prime but in order to do that it needed some cause and effect to track.
There was one thing it could do to speed up it's task.
DSV V had sent a signal indicating that it was four Federation standard weeks away from the frontier planetary system of Gauda Prime. Finding it had been brilliant. Avon had surmised that there must have been other ones out there which survived the disruption of Spaceworld in Twelfth Sector and had given standing orders to monitor for them. After 1 years, 9 months, and 5.813 days, ORAC had finally detected a familiar frequency. It was faint, but enough and contact had been established. For a human, Avon was bright. If ORAC had been capable of human emotion, it would have been annoyed that it had not made the assumption itself.
After it's creator Ensor died, Avon was the only human ORAC took seriously.
Without Avon's anti-detector shield it had to be careful as DSV V neared the system.
Since ORAC had been forced to advance it's timetable, the danger level had increased. It had been physically safer for Avon to be in the hands of the Federation interrogators than to be in the hands of the unstable rebels. ORAC had originally scheduled the "rescue" of Avon later. But the introduction of the psychostrategist had changed the nature of the odds. It had to get him out earlier. It took a calculated risk that Vila and Jenna would keep him alive even in the face of the rebel group's anger.