Warnings for torture
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Avon finds out who his tormenter is. The frustrated crew continue looking for Avon. Several people have designs on Avon.
Note: Two scenes added at the end and there was a shift made for one of the scenes.
Avon was strapped upright to a metal frame. There was no room for thought, what little concentration he had was used to fight the waves of pain that wracked his body. Thin tubes fed liquid fire into his body. His agony came out in gasping and choking sounds, his lips mouthing screams that no one could hear because they had taken away his voice. Avon's body writhed like a snake trying to escape flames that licked its body on all sides. Sweat dripping down in beads, gathering into rivulets, and mixing with the blood from previous sessions.
The medtech, watching the portable life monitors, said clinically, "His heart is going. You'd better stop."
Breen watched Avon intently. "Not yet. A few more minutes." The paralyzing of Avon's throat had been his idea. Full throated screaming tended to give him a headache after awhile and he intended to enjoy every moment of Avon's torture.
"You're going to kill him." It wasn't that the medtech had any sympathy for their victim, his only fear was that Avon was deteriorating too rapidly. If he died permanently, their employer might not be pleased.
"That's not my concern. As long as you bring him back."
"You know how weak he is."
Breen faced him. "I thought you said his heart was stronger."
"It is, he must have had it fixed. But not the rest. I told you his body would break down without the special drugs, but you refuse to listen."
"That's not my problem. He's going to die regardless. She plans to kill him."
"Yes, but in her time, not while we're working on him."
Breen looked at Avon again. "Alright, turn it off."
The medtech pressed a few controls. Avon's movements slowed to occasional jerks, his chest strained to take in air.
"Prisoner A5428, look at me."
Avon's eyes remained closed, exhaustion lining his face. Breen slid the pain rod from his belt and gave Avon a brief jolt. Avon jerked and his eyes flew open.
"That's better." He could see Avon's eyes slowly focussing as his mind came back from the place of pain. Breen held the rod lightly in his hand, ready to apply it again if he wasn't pleased. "Do you know who I am?"
The prisoner glared at him but didn't answer. Breen touched him briefly with the rod again. Avon arched and settled back into the frame, his jaw tight.
Breen laughed wickedly. "I forgot about your throat." He gestured to the medtech who pressed an injector to the side of Avon's neck, applying a counteragent.
Breen said, "Let's try that again. Do you know who I am?"
Avon's voice was a raspy whisper. "A fool."
The punishment was swift as Breen touched Avon with the rod, keeping it there until a groan escaped from resistant lips. Avon slumped back onto the frame, his eyes staring impassively at his tormentor.
Breen jammed the rod back into his belt and slid his hands into his trouser pocket. He brought out a thin instrument and brought it up to Avon's face. "Do you know what this is?"
Unconsciously, Avon turned his head away. "A laser probe."
"I'm glad you remember." There was a cruel grin on Breen's face as he turned it on. The tip glowed an ominous red. "Shrinker was a good friend of mine before you killed him. I don't normally use this myself, but in your case, I'll make an exception." The probe came level with Avon's eyes. Arms reached through the frame from behind and held Avon's head, forcing him to face the probe.
For the next few days, the anxious and increasingly frustrated Justice crew, helped conduct searches and went out with the patrols while Rane worked with his own people to look for clues of Jenna's whereabouts. The information that Rane had given Jenna a free pass in order to do rebel work had been useful but not as helpful as they had hoped. Numerous ships had special clearance during the Shade crisis. They had been checking and rechecking all of them but to no avail.
The only one who remained unruffled was Argus. The consummate professional, almost like a statue when he stood at his station, looking out at the star screen towards their next target. He was focused, his orders were brisk and clear, every action deliberate, and no one dared stand in his way when he levelled his implacable gaze on them.
Vila glanced over at him occasionally, drawing strength from his presence, needing the man's refusal to give up in order to shore up his own flagging faith. He'd been in this kind of hopeless situation before, but not with this crew and this man as leader. Were all rebel leaders like this? Did they all have a touch of madness and the insane belief that everything would work out as long as they didn't give up?
Blake had been like that. He'd stood like a calm rock, his voice never wavering, when the ship was about to be torn apart. Stresses showing only when Avon pressed him, making him admit that what he was doing was irrational. But for Blake, doing anything, no matter how insane, was better than doing nothing at all.
Vila had bittersweet memories of them at loggerheads about that. Avon was very different from Blake. He preferred to wait and think, trying to come up with a better solution. It was no wonder that they rarely saw eye to eye about anything. They were very different people.
Now Blake was dead. And Avon might soon be.
Vila looked at Cally who was lying on the couch after another bad bout of pain. Corinne was talking softly to her, giving her support. He'd never thought too much about what happened on Gauda Prime or how he felt about Avon killing Blake. He knew it wasn't all Avon's fault. It was partially his. He'd never tried to stop him. But no matter what the reasons, Avon had still been the one to pull the trigger. Not once, but three times, until Blake lay dead at his feet.
Other people would…did…blame Avon and would want him to pay for it. Jenna did. Vila imagined that the other rebels would want to kill him too. He'd never thought about it before but they must want to.
So far, their journeys had avoided the other rebel leaders. Vila glanced over at Argus, wondering if this was deliberate on his part. The man seemed committed to protecting Avon, childhood friendship or not.
"He's dying." Cally's voice was faint, anguished, like a thin reed, weak, and battered by strong winds.
Vila was afraid to look into her eyes. He knew that he would see Avon's pain reflected there and Cally's anguish. All of the words he could think of seemed useless.
Cally struggled to sit up as Corinne helped by holding her arm and supporting her shoulders.
"Jenna won't give him any rest." There was tight anger in her voice.
Cally could barely sense Avon now, except when the pain was at its worst. It meant his life force was weak or he had buried himself deeply in order to be able to stand the stresses of what they were doing to him. Cally wished she could project to him without causing him pain, at least to let him know that they were looking for him and would never give up. To tell him to hang on.
The only one who was not afraid to look into her eyes was Argus. He said in a reassuring but cool voice, "We will find him, Cally."
There were lines on Vila's face that hadn't been there when they began searching for Avon, and a shadow of stubble even though he'd tried to shave this morning. "When? We could search every ship in this quadrant…" He felt like they almost had. "…and still not find them. What if she's hiding him somewhere? Not even on a ship? Or maybe they've already left this sector?"
Argus said, "If they have, then there's no way to find them."
"So we're just going to keep looking?"
"Yes. Rane has already sent his men out. They're searching places she could be hiding in. We don’t this sector well enough to do that."
Cally sat up as Corinne helped her. "What if she has left this Sector?"
"Then she could be anywhere. Our only hope is that she's still in this Sector."
Cally spoke in a breathless voice as she tried to manage the pain. It never fully disappeared despite the mental barriers she had been strengthening. "I don't think she is."
"You've sensed something?"
"Not specifically but Avon's presence is faint. They may be out of this Sector already."
Argus pondered this. "All right. Assuming that they are…"
Vila said, "Then they could be anywhere."
Kirsten, who was sitting by Corinne, was about to give them a suggestion from Sester when Zen reported, "Information. Communications being received from General Reve's headquarters."
Argus faced the screen. "Onscreen, Zen."
Olean Rane's face appeared. He still looked weak and ill but there was determination in his eyes. "Argus."
"Chamberlain, do you have news for us?"
The assorted faces on the flight deck held hesitant hope.
Rane said, "I've had a report from one of the customs patrols. They boarded a transport ship several days ago. It was carrying urgently needed medical supplies. The ship was the Red Raven."
Argus leaned forward. "That's the ship Jenna arrived on?"
"Yes, we haven't been able to find it until now."
"Where were they intercepted?"
Rane nodded to someone off screen. "I'm sending the coordinates to your computer. Argus, Jenna was not on the ship. They searched it and only found medical supplies."
Cally said, "Jenna is a smuggler."
Rane turned his head in her direction, even though she couldn't be appearing on his screen. "You're right. If Atton is a smuggler as well, then they could have hidden compartments that eluded the inspection teams. There is one piece of good news."
Argus asked, "What news?"
"We've had several sightings of the Raven after the patrol left. They do seem to be heading for their registered destination. I know it isn't much…it's too easy."
Argus said, "We still have to check it out."
"You might be able to find a clue."
"We will send you a message once we intercept the ship."
"I hope you find them. Good speed to you."
The viewscreen went blank.
"Zen, set a course for the coordinates received, speed, standard by ten."
Cally said, "It is too easy."
Argus exhaled in frustration. "I know. She wouldn’t make it that obvious. But hopefully, whoever is on that ship will be able to tell us something."
Cally hissed in pain and lay back against the couch.
Prex sat back at his station, casually keeping an eye on the navigation readouts. He glanced at the open doorway that led off the flight deck of the Raven. Jenna had just left after checking on the flight time remaining to their destination. "She's a cold one, isn't she?"
Atton had also glanced that way. "More than that."
"I wouldn't want to be her enemy. What she's doing… It's supposed to be soundproof but…"
Atton said sharply, "It's none of our business."
"Yeah, I know. She's paid us enough. But we've never done anything like this before. It's one thing running contraband and drugs…"
"We're not the ones doing it."
"I know and we don’t even know who the poor sod is but…don't you…"
Atton stood up stiffly, "No, I don't."
"You're as bad as she is. I'm glad we're retiring after this. Not sure I can stomach it anymore. I just wish…it didn't have to end on something like this."
Atton sneered, "Are we developing a conscience after all this time?"
"No," said Prex defensively. "But…never mind. Once we're done, I'll take Edina and we'll go find some nice quiet planet somewhere."
"You and Edina? It won't be a quiet planet for long then."
"Yeah, well, we'll find somewhere."
There was a thoughtful look on Atton's face. "I don't know about a conscience but I wouldn't mind making some more money."
Jenna paused before pressing the hidden indentation along the wall that would open the door to the hidden cargo area. It was time to see how Breen was doing with the traitor. She was looking forward to this.
The rendezvous with the rebel unit sent by Avalon was tomorrow. It couldn't be soon enough for Jenna. Atton made her nervous.
Guildmaster Venner and Deverell sat behind a one-way screen, watching a small group of young trainees being tested.
Deverell asked in disdain, "Have our requirement standards dropped?"
"Don't tell me you aren't."
Venner chucked. "They are ordinary, aren't they?" For a psychostrategist, that was one of the worst criticisms that could be made. "I'll have them wiped, shall I?"
Deverell's throat went dry. It was always dangerous to make a suggestion in front of Venner. If he liked it, there was a real possibility he would do it. He said cautiously, "A few of them could be useful."
"I suppose we do need a few runners, but even then…they'd be poor at it. I don’t like wasting Guild resources."
Deverell dared a glance out of the corner of his eyes, wondering if Venner was seriously considering wiping all of the current candidates and sending them back where they came. "Surely not all of them?"
"Who would you keep?"
Deverell could feel Venner's eyes on him, watching his reaction intently.
The Guildmaster was deliberately testing him. "You're a bastard, Venner."
Venner laughed, easing the tension, and sat back. "You're slowing down, my friend."
"No wonder Sester is so hard to handle. He's just like you."
"I'm sure he would take that as a compliment."
"Well, Guildmaster, what do you plan to do with them?"
Venner sighed. "They are very ordinary. Send them down. All of them."
Deverell turned sharply to him. "You're really going to do it?"
"Don't put that on me."
"It will be my responsibility, of course." A cold smile curled Venner's lips, stopping just shy of his eyes. "But you will be the one to do it."
Deverell was about to protest but he inclined his head. "Yes, Guildmaster." A hint of sarcasm touched his voice. "Is there anything else you wish me to do?"
"What do you think of the situation with the rebels?"