Except when he came to rescue me, thought Cally. She felt a pang of guilt; she had not thought about Avon in many months and she had resolved to find a way to help him. Where are you now Avon? What are you doing?
"That's right," Jenna confirmed. "When we brought him onboard, we thought we were rescuing him; but it became very clear that we were only in his way. He commandeered the ship and directed it to a Federation base in Sector Three and he tried to lock all of us in our cabins while we were sleeping; then he shot Argus when we tried to stop him."
"Then you're well rid of him. He does not sound like a safe person to have around."
And one day, I will personally get rid of him, thought Argus, for Tess. The rebel leader still held Avon responsible for the death of the rebel computer specialist who had been like a younger sister to him.
"You don't even know the half of it," said Jenna, "but we have more important things to discuss than Avon right now. How is the civil war going? Any more devious plots by Ellis since you foiled his plans, and rescued me and Cally?"
How long will it take, to get them to even consider that something else may have been going on with you Avon? Thought Cally. She doubted if it would be any time soon.
Rane began explaining the situation in the Athol Territories.
"I've been trying to covertly derail Ellis' plans to gain control. But I've been countered at every turn, it's almost as if someone knows what I'm doing before I do. The last success I had against him was when I rescued you and Cally. I dare not take more direct action or I run the risk of losing my neutrality status, which would threaten the security of our people. So far they've just been squabbling amongst themselves and leaving the government and the civilians alone. Because of my status, I've been able to step in whenever they threaten to step over the bounds, and they back off. But if I take more direct action, then I will lose that status and the people will be defenceless."
"You're walking a fine line, old soldier," said Jenna. You always did, even in the old days with Feltar. You may have hated it, but you were very good at it.
"Yes, I've been feeling like one of those acrobats in the town squares, trying to balance on increasingly smaller bottles. At the moment, if things keep going the way they are, Ellis will be in full control within six months. That would be very bad for the whole Sector. Ellis is very much pro-Federation."
"He wasn't before," said Jenna. "What's changed?"
"That I don't know," replied Rane. "I was hoping you might be able to help me find out there Jenna. You used to have some interesting contacts here."
"You mean criminal ones," said Jenna.
"Do you think he's been receiving some help? Specifically Federation help?" asked Argus. Where the Federation was involved, he was instantly suspicious. With his personal experience, he had good reason to be.
"It's possible, but none of my security people have spotted anything. Another strange thing is that Kam's forces don't appear to be doing anything, and Ellis hasn't made any moves against him. Ellis is focusing his sole attention on Borel's military units. Kam has the second strongest force, he should be the one challenging Ellis, not Borel."
Kam was the dead Overlord's oldest son, he had the support of some of the oldest families on Athol Prime. Ellis, the middle son and the most devious and treacherous, had the support of many of some of the most powerful warlords in the sector. He was the one who tried to put pressure on Rane, by kidnapping Jenna. Borel, the youngest, was a brilliant military strategist who had the backing of a large number of the Border Defense units.
All of the warlords in the Sector had already allied themselves with whichever son promised them the most benefits or who they thought would stand the best chance of winning. Consequently, most of them were currently split between Kam and Ellis.
"How can we help?" asked Argus.
"It's probably best that no one knows that your ship is here for now," Rane said.
"Yes, I remember what happened the last time," said Jenna with a scowl, remembering how the Justice had become a focal point for unwelcome political intrigue because of the power the ship represented.
"I'll direct Vila to keep it hidden behind the moon when we check in with him tomorrow," said Argus. Argus smiled inwardly, he wondered how Vila was doing.
"Argus, can you go out and make contact with Borel and give him whatever aid you can? Tell him that I sent you and give him this." Rane took off a ring with his family crest, a triangular shield crossed with a jeweled sword and a bird in flight, and handed it to the rebel leader. "Borel is the only one stopping Ellis from taking control at the moment, we have to make sure he doesn't lose."
"I will do my best," said Argus, trying not to sound like he was going to enjoy it. He was relishing the chance to be close to, if not be in the middle of, military combat again. Years of working with rebel civilians was not quite the same and the past half year on the Justice, had really strained his patience.
"I think Cally can help do some infiltrating of Kam's camp," said Jenna. "We need to find out what is going on and Kam already knows my face."
Cally nodded her agreement. She looked over at her companion, even though it sounded like the old Jenna, full of intrigue and plots, the Auron was vaguely aware of something else. Cally was surprised, she had never really been able to 'read' the other woman's emotional state before.
You're very nervous about this and it has nothing to do with the situation we're going into, thought the Auron. Cally wondered if the other woman was still haunted by what happened on C-812.
"Vila," Argus chimed over the ship's speaker.
"What?" Vila replied, to no one in particular, since he hadn't activated the comm. He was sprawled out on the ground in the conference area of the flight deck. He had fallen asleep on the couch and had somehow rolled onto the floor without waking up. Argus's voice over the ship's comm had woken him up.
ORAC, when it realized that Vila was not instructing Zen to make the rendezvous, and repeated attempts by Zen to get Vila's attention had failed, the computer had Zen follow the coded instructions left by Argus and had positioned the Justice back over Athol Prime in time for the rendezvous.
"Wake up Vila!," Argus shouted over the speaker. This was the commander-voice which did not take 'no' for an answer.
"I'm awake! I'm awake!" said Vila as he reached over to activate the comm and struggled to get up at the same time, but his right leg, which he had been sleeping awkwardly on, had fallen asleep and he almost fell over.
"We don't need the Justice for awhile. It's best if you keep it hidden behind the moon for now and keep the anti-detector screen on. We're going out on some tasks for Rane and won't be in contact for awhile. Keep an eye out for any Federation presence. Let's make the next contact in eight standard days, same time. Argus out."
"Hey wait a minute! You can't just shut me off like that! We have things to talk about! Argus!" shouted Vila, frantically pushing the comm button. But it was already too late, he had missed his chance.
"What am I now, just a bloody passenger?"
Vila did not relish spending the next eight days, bored to death, and with no alcohol to keep him company.
"Vila," Argus's voice sounded over the ship's comm again. "Check the cupboard in my cabin, after you direct Zen to return to the position behind the moon. Argus out."
"Check the…" Vila rushed out. A few moments later, he rushed back in. "Zen go back to the moon where we were before, standard by six."
Vila had run out of the flight deck again before he could hear the reply from the ship's computer.
Avon was sitting in his cell, rubbing his knee, and waiting for the medtech with his sedatives. He had just finished another work session; he was slowly and reluctantly building the design for the new security system, one which would protect the techno-virus and would keep him trapped forever. Avon knew that he was working much slower than the minders would have liked and he could tell they were getting very impatient with him; but there had been no punishment. Someone must have given them orders to leave him alone while he recovered physically from what they did to him in the isolation cells.
Normally, as he grew stronger, he would begin to test the boundaries of what he could get away with, becoming increasingly more difficult to handle until someone allowed them to curb his rebellion; but he didn't have the heart anymore.
Avon closed his eyes and tried to block out the pain.
There was a hollowness inside him; they had succeeded in making him nothing more than a tool. Sometimes he thought he would have even welcomed the nightmares; at least then, he would feel something; but it was better not to feel anything, it made being used much easier.
Avon was grateful for whatever circumstances had prevented Servalan from asking him to be brought to her since the day she and Sester had crushed him. He wasn't sure he could stand being used that way as well, not right now. It probably would have destroyed whatever spirit he had left.