Category: Action, Drama
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Has the crew arrived in time to rescue Avon?
Everyone on the flight deck turned to look at Zen's interface, and then they stared at each other, wondering if they were all thinking the same thing.
Argus said, "What is it, Zen?"
"Scanner beams have detected the approach of three vessels on intercept course."
Argus quickly looked down at his navigation screen. "Identify."
Vila asked, "Why didn't we see them before?"
Argus's face contorted in a scowl. "They were hiding in orbit around the outer planet, just beyond the coordinates. It must have confused our scanners."
Cally was working at Avon's station. "There appears to be…low level radiation storms. They must have been strong enough to obscure scanner readings."
Argus said, "They must have been in very close orbit. Risky."
Zen reported, "Federation database identifies two ships as Class Orion scout ships and one Mark II pursuit ship."
Argus read the information scrolling across his data screen. "Federation signatures?"
"The ships do not conform to known Federation signatures."
"Cally, are we close enough to the Raven to teleport?"
Cally replied, "Teleport range in two minutes."
Vila twisted around. "You're not going over there? Are you? We haven't received the confirmation signal yet."
Cally said, "The ships will be in docking range of the Raven in one minute."
"I know." Argus replied to both of them. They hadn't received any signals from either one of the people who had offered to sell Avon to them.
Vila turned back to look at the screen worriedly, "This isn't good." He wished Avon were back onboard. He missed someone saying that he had the gift of understatement.
Sester sat relaxed on the couch, watching with fascinated interest to the buzz of activity. It was like being in the eye of a storm with the winds howling around him. He asked with casual curiosity, "What do you plan to do when you get back without Avon? You are going to teleport over, aren't you? Because you're stubborn?"
Argus wanted to snap at him. The psychostrategist was going to make him pay for having him locked up and he was counting on Reya's displeasure to prevent Argus from ripping him from limb to limb. "I have to try. It'll be close but I might be able to get him out."
"Ye-s. And what will you do when you get back without him?"
"I have to go." To emphasize this, Argus headed for the steps. "Cally, you're with me."
Sester sighed, "You might as well go. You won't be satisfied until you try but I suspect…"
But Argus and Cally were already gone.
Vila turned to him. "You don't think this'll work?"
Sester smiled and shook his head.
"Information. Incoming communications."
Vila shouted, "Onscreen, Zen."
On the screen was a brown-haired woman in military fatigues, her hair blunt-cut and eyes that were unyielding. "Argus."
"Avalon!" Shouted Vila. "He's…not here."
Avalon paused, a troubled look in her eyes. "He must be preparing to teleport."
Avalon commanded, "Tell him that if he tries to board the ship, Jenna will kill Avon."
Vila shouted, "Don't do that! I'll tell him! I'll tell him!" He ran to the comm panel and hit the activation button. "Argus! Don’t teleport! Avalon says you'll kill Avon if you do!"
Argus's voice came over the comm. "Vila, does Avalon have Avon?"
"I don't think so. She says Jenna will kill Avon if you try to go onboard."
There was a pause. "I'll be right there."
Vila stared at the woman on the screen. She didn't look forbidding, except for her hard, unforgiving eyes. But he knew her reputation. Even after she had been tortured by Travis, she had been a tough presence on the Liberator after they had rescued her. She and Blake had got along very well; both fiercely determined people who refused to give up. He asked anxiously, "You're not going to kill Avon, are you?"
"That's not my decision to make."
"Gauda Prime was a mistake. I was there…"
Avalon held up her hand to stop him. "You can spare that for Avon's trial."
Argus came resolutely down the steps. He had raced the corridors in record time but there was no trace of hurried breathing. Stopping in front of the viewscreen, he said in acknowledgement, "Avalon."
"Argus. It's good to see you."
The two rebel leaders faced off against each other, like two gunfighters circling each other warily, not wanting to be the first to do something that both would regret. Cally arrived and quietly went to Avon's station.
Argus said, "We're here to rescue Avon from Jenna."
"And I am here to make sure you don't," said Avalon in a steely voice.
Argus asked, his voice in a low boom but not menacing, "You were involved?"
"In Avon's retrieval? Not directly. But am I involved in everything else."
"I should have known you would come early."
"I find that I survive longer that way."
Argus nodded. "Of course." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I cannot let you kill Avon."
"Would you oppose us, Argus?"
Argus stood tall and unyielding. "I want you to guarantee that Avon will get a fair trial. On your word, Avalon."
Avalon nodded. "You have my word."
"Jenna has been torturing him. Did you sanction that?"
Avalon became still for a moment. "I was not aware of it. I also cannot stop it."
Argus's voice took on a dangerous edge. "You gave your word, Avalon."
Avalon leaned back unconsciously, away from the screen, as if Argus could reach out and strike her. "And I will keep my word. But I also promised Jenna that she would have sole custody of Avon until the trial. Now I understand why she asked for that condition."
"She will not be satisfied until she sees Avon dead."
"I'm beginning to see that." Avalon stared at him for a moment, her eyes deep and troubled. "I will ensure that Avon will survive until his trial."
"That will be the decision of the tribunal."
"I demand that we be allowed to represent Avon."
"We expected that. You will have your say, but I expect you to abide by the ruling of the tribunal."
Argus did not want to agree.
Sester's voice spoke up from the couch. "She's already made up her mind about Avon."
Argus stared at him and then back at Avalon.
Avalon turned her head in the direction of the voice she could not see the owner of. "Who is that?"
There was tightness in Argus's throat. "Is it true? Have you made up your mind, Avalon?"
Avalon started but her face remained hard. "Who was that?"
"It doesn't matter who it is. I want an answer, Avalon. You promised me a fair trial." His voice rumbled dangerously. "Remember?"
Avalon blinked. "And you will have it. I keep my word." She glanced in the direction where Sester's voice had come from. "Your…advisor is right. It would be my greatest pleasure to see Avon dead."
Cally said, "You can't trust her."
There was sadness in Avalon's eyes when she looked at her.
Argus said, "If this was one of the others, I might not believe her. There are too many who make promises…of convenience." He spat out the words with disgust. "But not you, Avalon. You have always kept your word and I will hold you to it or you will owe me Avon's life."
Avalon's eyes flashed. "That was not the agreement."
"That was before I found out that you also want Avon dead."
The two stared at each other unflinchingly. "Very well but you will promise that you will abide by the ruling of the tribunal." She leaned forward, pronouncing each word carefully, "Even if they decide to execute Avon."
Cally pulled on Argus's arm, "Argus, you can't…"
Argus removed Cally's hand from his arm. His voice was cold. "You have my promise."
"Very well. I will send you the details for the trial."
"I want to see Avon before then."
"That will depend on Jenna. She has custody of him until the trial."
"I promised her and I keep my promises."
Argus said, "Make sure that you do, Avalon. Argus, out."
Avalon's face faded back to the star field. They all stared as the three rebel ships surrounded the Raven and one of them docked.
Vila said, "Do something! We can't just let them take Avon!"
Argus's face was emotionless. "We can't take the risk."
Cally raised her hand and slapped him across the face, it sounded more like a…whack!
Argus turned expressionless eyes towards her, not protecting himself as she raised her hand to strike him again. Cally's face was red with fury that boiled over into rage. Her hand hovered, torn between wanting to hit him again and confusion that he wasn't defending himself. "I trusted you! Avon trusted you!"
He spoke calmly, his voice low and determined. "I will save him, Cally. Even if it means my life. But I need you to trust me."
Cally was torn with anguish and her hand dropped in frustration. "Do I have any choice?" she asked bitterly.
Sester said from the couch. "Avon would understand."
Cally rounded on him, her anger finding a new target. "What would you know about Avon?"
Sester winced and stood up. There was sympathy in his eyes, just as he had many years ago on the prison planet when he extended his comfort to her, but this time, it was real. "He would understand the political necessity of not crossing the rebel leaders. Avon is committed to realizing Blake's dream. You already know this. He wouldn't want to see the alliance split over him. That is what will happen if Argus forcibly takes Avon. There will be war. Argus has a great deal of influence over some of the rebel groups. Especially the ex-military groups. They look to him."
Cally turned to Argus. "That's why you said to trust you?"
"I will not let Avon die." Argus was full of explosive energy but he was in full control. A human weapon that would kill with swift and surgical precision.
"I can help you," said Sester as he came over to the two of them.
Argus's eyes were like black ice as he stared at him. His voice sliced through Sester. "You knew."
Sester tilted his head in appraisal of this new creature. This was the first time that the Argus from the files had emerged where he could see it. The dangerous killer, cool and controlled. Without hesitation or the usual frustrated personal tensions. This creature could not be pushed without having it bite your head off in return. It had no sense of humour.
Sester said, "Yes, I knew. You never had a chance to rescue Avon from the ship. Not with Jenna holding him. And not with Avalon involved. You couldn't afford it. The trial is the only option to resolve this permanently. The other option…well, I knew you wouldn't choose it."
"You will help Avon."
"I said that I would."
"How?" Argus demanded.
Sester smiled. "You need a convincing argument at the trial. I know where you can obtain one."