Vila had marked off each of the bottles into four sections. He was planning to make it last for the eight days until the next contact with Argus. The thief wondered if he could distill the imitation .1 percent of alcohol into something stronger, in case Argus was late. He had already searched Argus's cabin from top to bottom and opened every lock he could find, on the off chance that the rebel leader had some other hidden source of alcohol, but had found nothing.
"He's very good," remarked Rane to Jenna as they watched Argus leave, from the security monitors in Lelea's quarters in the inn. "Hent said that he wouldn't mind working with him again and you know how Hent is like with Earthers."
"Argus was one of their best Land Commanders before he quit his commission, just one step ahead of a court martial," said Jenna.
"What did he do?" asked Rane.
"He's never talked about it and there are no records," said Jenna. Federation Land Force commando group activities, just like the activities of the Death Squads, were almost always classified. "The only thing I know is that he reacts very strongly if anyone ever mentions it, so I learned early on never to ask. From the first day I met him though, he's always carried a great burden and he always pushes himself harder than anyone else."
"I've noticed that," said Rane. "One day he's going to get himself killed."
"Yes, he will bend backwards to make sure he won't get anyone else killed, but he wouldn't hesitate to get himself killed," said Jenna. "He worries me sometimes."
"Only sometimes?" asked Rane, looking at the young woman questioningly.
"Where is your mind going, you old soldier?"
"You always did like the heroic self-sacrificing rebel types."
"Argus doesn't see himself that way."
"Heroic, self-sacrificing and modest, that's quite the combination. If I were a woman, I'd fall for him."
"Am I going to have to kill you?" asked Jenna with mock-seriousness.
"After I saved your life?"
"That only makes us even," said Jenna.
Rane laughed. Jenna tried to keep a stern face indicating her disapproval, but couldn't help laughing too.
"Besides, I've never seen Argus look at any woman that way," said Jenna. "Not to say that he doesn't have a healthy appetite, but he won't let anyone get that close to him; and he's very strict about not getting involved with anyone he leads, not even casually."
"But sometimes, when he doesn't think anyone's looking, he looks lost and alone." And he always ends up finding something dangerous for himself to do.
"That's a little too much information for me," said Rane. He was never the kind that a woman would say, that he had an overly sensitive side. "But being alone is one of the burdens of leadership."
"Not this kind of alone," said Jenna.
"When are you and Cally going to see your contacts?" Rane asked.
"Tonight. My criminal contacts prefer operating at night," Jenna replied.
Cally regained consciousness first. Shaking off the effects of the knock-out gas, she tried to make out details in the dim light from a overhead light source she could not quite make out. Her hands were shackled, the chains were attached by bolts to the wall. She noticed Jenna next to her, the woman was also awake and trying to shake off the effect of the knock-out gas.
They appeared to be in a storage room of some kind. Various supplies of edibles in crates and several shelves of cooking oil, spices, and other kitchen essentials lay against the wall, just out of reach.
"Jenna, is this going to be a normal procedure when trying to meet your contacts? I think I would like to come better prepared next time."
"Yes, this is getting somewhat repetitive, isn't it?" said Jenna, sounding definitely annoyed.
Psychostrategist Tace was appearing on the Federation President's vidscreen at the Terran Presidential Palace. He was one of three in the psychostrategy team assigned to direct Federation interests in Sector Ten.
"Madame President, I assure you, the situation is well under control here."
"You are sure that Ellis Reve can be trusted?"
"He definitely can not be trusted," said the psychostrategist, "that's why we can trust him."
The Federation President was not following this logic. She did not understand how Federation interests were being advanced by trusting someone who definitely could not be trusted.
This must be a psychostrategy logic I am not following.
Even after working with psychostrategist Sester for almost two years, she still did understand what he did to achieve his results. She only knew that he was very effective.
"Very well, you do not need to explain it to me, just get me results. I want that Sector in-line within six months."
"Of course, Madame President."
Servalan closed the connection and brought up a summary listing of the days reports.
Federation Banking: new banking security system functioning satisfactorily, no further security breaches; although Central Security is still having problems tracking down the culprits.
So Avon's new security system for Banking is holding. Of course it would.
Admiral Colair: still no activity along the alien border.
Servalan still could not get rid of her uneasy feelings about that area, even with the total lack of anything interesting happening. I won't believe that until the new Mark II fleet is ready and we can send scouting missions beyond the rim.
Space Command report on Sector Three: Task Force 336 having problems trying to hold the trade lanes open in Sector Three. The smugglers and pirates in that region appeared to be in an all-out war and are attacking anything moving through that region.
Task Force 336, those are the idiots who lost the Justice crew. Remember to check with Space Command on sending someone better out there.
Central Security report: The rebel groups had been quiet since the destruction of Argus's WED group, but there has been some activity recently among some of the older colonies . Central Security is watching it very closely. Several undercover agents had been dispatched.
Will have to keep an eye on that. Destroying Argus's group was a great help. Should check with CS to see if we can pull off another one like that.
Space Command report: no sightings of the Justice since they were last spotted at C-812.
Servalan sighed. The trap at C-812 had only partially worked; it only succeeded in trapping Avon further, but the crew had escaped. Space Command could not spare more ships to look for them, not since TF 336 had been diverted to Sector Three.
I wonder if we can use Avon to trap them? What would they do for a chance to kill Avon?
Servalan smiled at that thought. I will have to speak to Tarvin of Central Security to explore that possibility.
Avon. With that thought, the Federation President turned on her side vidscreen which provided a private feed from the Federation Special Detention Centre. The view currently showed a small cell bathed in harsh light, and it's single occupant who was seated on a metal sleep platform; his knees were drawn up, his arms wrapped protectively around them, and his forehead resting on his arms. Servalan reached out and touched the figure on the screen. He looked so sad.
She knew Avon would have hated anyone thinking of him that way.
Avon was trying to rest. Being in the lab had become increasingly difficult, it felt like each day he was putting another nail into his own coffin.
It was odd that in this day and age, when deceased citizens were generally vapourized, the concept of a coffin was still understood.
Avon heard the cell door open and lifted his head, it was the psychostrategist. Sester always had a relaxed and confident air and strode into his cell as if he could do anything; which he could. The strategist sat down facing the sleep platform. Avon leaned back tiredly against the wall and waited, his face an impassive mask.
"How are you feeling Avon?"
"Don’t use it this time," said Avon with his characteristic lack of emotion, "I will talk to you."
Avon had noticed that the short-term use of the mind trigger which forced his brain to work, was causing progressively worse headaches with each application. The last thing he wanted was more pain to accompany the already unbearable pain from his knee.
Sester noted that Avon still looked exhausted, even though they were no longer subjecting him to punishing hours in the lab. He wondered if the sedative mixture was no longer as effective and whether the dosages needed to be increased. The body tended to develop a resistance to the long term usage of drugs.
"Very well. I had some of the President's security specialists look over your preliminary designs."
"You were checking up on me," stated Avon.
"Yes," the psychostrategist acknowledged.
Avon looked him, not responding.
Sester continued, "They were quite impressed. You're doing good work Avon, even though I know it is difficult for you."
"Do you want me to thank you, or strangle you?"
Sester smiled. He preferred not using the mind trigger on the analyst unless he had to; as long as he responded like this, Sester would not have to force him.
By the time Sester ended their conversation though, he had nothing to smile about. It was evident that Avon was still only going through the motions in their interaction; only responding because he was required to. There was no calculation for wit here, no verbal sparring. The responses were clever but only mechanically so.
"You're not satisfied are you?" asked Avon, noticing the look on the psychostrategist's face. "I'll try to do better. Just don't activate it."
Sester looked at the analyst. This was the second time tonight that he had asked that the mind trigger not be used.
"It's been giving me headaches afterwards. Bad ones."
"I didn't realize. You mean, it's happening everytime we use it?"
"No, not in the lab. Just when it's used short-term, like you've been doing."
"You should have said something."
"Would it have made a difference?"
"Of course it does, your mind is very valuable. I will speak to the Centre doctors."
"It still won't make a difference in what you wanted from me tonight."
"And what did you think that was?"
"You wanted a worthy opponent, I'm not that anymore."
You don't even care to win anymore, do you? thought Sester, finally understanding.
In order to fight, you had to have a heart, else you are little more than a chess computer. Sester found no great joy in beating a computer, it was only an intellectual exercise.
Avon's mind still functioned, his heart no longer did. Even the application of the mind trigger could not force his heart to work.