11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: All hell breaks loose.
Note: I came back from holiday yesterday. Pics to come. I tried to do some writing during the many hours on the bus but creativity the old fashioned way is far too slow for me. It was a great trip but I'm glad to be back to my old trusty computer.
The Athol soldiers, who were preparing for the mission to destroy the Shade base, didn't seem to pay much attention to Jenna. They were all very polite when asked questions but otherwise didn't treat her with any wariness or hostility. It was hard to tell if this was by design, if they hadn't been told who she was, or if they were just an excruciatingly polite group. It didn't matter though, she knew there were more than enough people keeping an eye on her every move. She doubted if it was a coincidence that she'd been assigned to Cally's team.
Jenna glanced surreptitiously over at Cally, wondering if the Auron woman was doing the same to her. Did she suspect the truth? Had her psi abilities grown enough that she could read human minds now? If she could, then they'd be on their way to the labs now and… Wait a minute.
She passed her eyes quickly over the teams gathering to load onto the drop ships. Reya wasn't anywhere in sight. Jenna asked conversationally, "Where's Reya?"
Argus, who was nearby, heard her question and answered offhandedly, "She's gone back to the labs to protect Avon."
Jenna's heart skipped a beat. Cally looked suspiciously over to her. Jenna tried to sound casual as she commented, "I thought I saw her earlier." Do they suspect? A single bead of sweat rolled down her back.
"You did," he replied.
Trying to sound concerned, but not in a way that might look suspicious, she said, "Nothing wrong I hope."
Argus didn't want to worry anyone before the mission. They needed all their wits confronting the ruthless drug dealers, not wondering what might be wrong. "We're just being cautious. You know Reya."
There was nothing Jenna could do now. All she could do was wait and hope that her plan worked. She forced out a casual chuckle. "Security is her middle name. I remember."
"We should concentrate on the mission."
Jenna said, "I wasn't sure if you'd trust me to come with you."
A sarcastic comment came from Cally, "We don't."
Before this could deteriorate into a verbal battle or worse, Argus said in a low growl, "We have no time for this."
Jenna said placatingly, 'You're right."
Cally kept one eye on Jenna but nodded, "We can deal with this later."
While they waited to board the ships, Cally kept on eye on Jenna, while Jenna tried to look unconcerned and Argus watched both of them like a hawk.
The teams dropped in with deadly speed, taking the enemy by surprise. A fierce firefight ensued as the remainder of the Shade organization desperately tried to escape.
Cally and Jenna's team was pressing a group back away from one of the exits, straight into the waiting arms of Argus's team. Jenna let off a shot and ducked down quickly behind a metal barrier. In distorted reflection of the railing, she saw one of the enforcers sneak up behind Cally and point his gun at her.
"Cally! Behind you!" she shouted. The Auron woman whirled around and tried to fire just as a shot barely missed her head and burned a groove in the wall next to her. Another enforcer was approaching on the right, Cally was trapped. Her cover couldn't protect her from both enemies.
Jenna stood up and began firing, trying to make them duck or at least draw their fire. Both men turned, their guns pointing in the direction of this new threat. She dove for cover just as one of the tracers sliced towards her but not fast enough. Jenna jerked as the shot hit her on the arm, her gun clattering to the ground.
"Jenna!" Cally raced towards the fallen woman while she fired at the enforcers, killing one. She dragged Jenna behind a desk as Argus's team arrived in a rush.
With both teams together, there was little hope left for the remaining criminals. After a few minutes, the smart ones surrendered.
Cally ripped open Jenna's sleeve. "It doesn't look too bad." She rummaged in her field medical kit and brought out a tissue regenerator wand and rolled it over Jenna's wound. The angry red burn slowly faded, along with the pain. She finished and turned the wand off. "Try moving it."
Jenna lifted her arm and gingerly rotated it. "That feels much better, thanks."
"You should get some rest. Try not using it much for a day or so. Let me know if you feel any numbness or tingling."
"Don't worry, I will."
Cally looked at her for a moment and then said, "I should thank you. You saved my life."
"All in a day's work," said Jenna jokingly. There was much more she wanted to say, regrets she wanted to express, and sadness she wanted to show but Avon would always be between them. "I wish we could still be friends."
"Your need for revenge will destroy you, Jenna."
"And Avon's going to betray you one day."
"You never understood him. Avon would never betray me."
"He betrayed Blake. He killed him."
Cally tried to make Jenna understand. "It's something that has haunted Avon since the day it happened. He tried to provoke Servalan's people into killing him because he couldn't face what he had done."
Jenna scoffed. "I don't believe that."
"Your lack of belief doesn't change what happened."
"Even if I believed you, which I don't, it doesn't bring Blake back."
Cally bowed her head. "I know, but neither does killing Avon. Give him a chance, Jenna. You want to see Blake's dreams realized? Avon can do it. Wouldn't that be a better payment?"
Jenna considered this. The idea of having Avon spend the rest of his life serving Blake's dreams was a mildly appealing one. She could spend the rest of her life making certain that he suffered for the rest of his. But Avon was too dangerous and he couldn't be trusted.
As she considered it further, she realized there might be a way… Shade was a very good motivator, even against someone like Avon. But was it good enough? The idea of holding the drug over him as the addiction deepened, making him beg as the pain of withdrawal became increasingly worse, it would be a delicious revenge. And at any time, she could withhold it and enjoy watching him die a slow agonizing death, with the music of his screams in her ears.
But Argus and Cally would never allow that. Avon had too many friends who cared about him. Jenna's eyes hardened. The idea that Avon had any friends at all angered her. He had to die.
"A life for a life, Cally. Only Avon's death will pay for Blake's death."
"He never betrayed Blake, Jenna. It was all a horrible mistake. Many things happened to Avon after you left. The pressure was too great. He had experienced too much pain."
Jenna raised her hand to cut off the rest of her words. "I don't want to hear it. Blake went through much more. It tore him up inside. None of you will ever understand what happened to him."
"Then they were both broken men who faced each other that day on Gauda Prime. Perhaps neither one was thinking clearly. Neither one could stand more pain or betrayal. We should both understand the extremes that people are driven to when they've been hurt too much. All they can feel is pain, anger and a need to destroy. That is what you're feeling now, Jenna. Don't make the same error that they did, don't create another tragedy."
"Do you really expect me to feel sorry for Avon? You talk about him as if he were human. As if he had feelings." Her voice rose in anger. "He's never had any feelings except for himself."
"You're wrong, Jenna. I know Avon. I have always been able to sense what he was feeling even if none of you could see it externally. Avon lost faith in humanity a long time ago, Jenna. It was hard for him to believe that there was such a thing as an honest man. Didn't you ever wonder why that would be? What made Avon lose all trust in human beings? Why was his idea of paradise, a place with no people? Blake may have been hurt deeply, but I don't think that he was the only one. In fact, I know he wasn't." There wasn't time to tell Jenna about Avon's past and what the Federation had done to him as a child. "If you have time later, I can tell you…"
Jenna said, "I'm not interested."
"Save your breath, Cally. I don't want to hear a sob story about Avon. He's still alive."
The operation was a complete success. Thanks to Jenna's timely information, the Shade organization had suffered a great blow and wouldn't be able to recover for a long time in the Athol Territories. During the debriefing, Argus had been glad to hear that Jenna had saved Cally's life. He wanted to talk to her, but Cally had said she needed rest and had left already.
With Cally helping with the injured in the medical unit, Argus teleported down to the lab to check on Avon's progress.
Argus appeared in a corner of the lab that was kept clear for teleport. He felt the danger before his eyes saw all the people lying on the ground or draped over tables and chairs. Avon!
His gun was already drawn before he hit the comm button. His voice was calm and controlled but there was a clear sense of alarm. " Emergency! This is Argus. Send all available teams down to the labs. Immediately. The labs have been…" He staggered and nearly fell but reached for the wall to brace himself. He felt…strange. It was difficult to move. His eyes felt heavy and he was suddenly very sleepy. He fought to stay conscious. No! Have to find Avon! He said into the comm, "Gas…br…" It was hard to concentrate. "…face…masks…Get Cally."
Argus slammed his fist hard into the wall. The shock of pain helped as he tried to move forward, holding onto whatever would keep him standing. "Avon! Reya!" His legs stumbled and he fell forward onto his knees. That was when he saw her. A sight that filled him with horror and drove everything else from his mind. He screamed, "Reya!" She was lying in a pool of red, a wound in her chest still seeping blood. The sight of her filled him with pain and fear and he crawled towards her.
Suddenly a hand reached around and clamped something to his face. Argus grabbed the hand in a vice grip and struck back. A man grunted in pain and said, "It's Lt. Dain, sir. Breathe deeply. It'll help with the gas." Argus stopped struggling as he saw Cally appear and kneel by Reya. Help was here.
He took hold of the mask that had been put over his face and breathed in the clean air. An injector was placed on his neck and a rush of chemical energy filled his body. His mind began to clear and his voice was raw with pain as he asked Cally, "How is she?"
Cally's troubled eyes filled him with trepidation. "She's been hurt badly but she'll survive if we get her back to the ship right away. There were two shots. One to the chest and shoulder." Her next words seemed difficult. "Did you…see Avon when you arrived? I can't contact him. I can barely feel his mind." There was fear in her eyes.
Argus felt as if someone had hit him in the chest with a heavy object. His fists tightened in anguish. The two most important people in his life had been attacked and he had not been able to prevent it. He had failed them.
But he couldn't think about that now. There would be time for recriminations later. Despite all of his instincts that told him he should hold Reya in his arms, he knew that there was nothing he could do for her. Cally would be able to take care of her much better than he could. He had to concentrate his energies in finding Avon.
The discipline of the soldier asserted itself and he pushed down the emotions that made him human. He needed to stay focused. "I'll find him." He stood up quickly and looked around. "Dain!"
"Sir?" Dain had been directing the teams that came down. His left eye was developing a big bruise where Argus had hit him earlier.
"Have you found Avon?"
"I'm sorry, sir. We haven't been able to find him. I've sent two of the teams out to search the rest of the building."
"Damn!" Argus slammed his fist down on a table, knocking some of the testing equipment over. "He won't be here. Someone planned this very carefully." He hit the comm button on his bracelet. "Vila. Contact General Reve. Tell him to shut down all the spaceports and transport networks into and out of this city. Tell him that Avon has been taken."
Vila's shocked voice asked, "What happened?"
"There's no time to explain. See if the General can set up blockades to intercept anyone leaving the Athol Territories. Now, Vila!"
Vila's voice replied, "Right. I'll contact him now."
Argus turned to Dain and said in a curt, rumbling voice, "Take two men. Go find Jenna and bring her to me." Something told Argus that Jenna would be long gone, but he hoped that she wasn't. If she were the one who was responsible for hurting Reya and taking Avon, nothing would be able to spare her from his anger.