Category: Action, Drama
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Both Jenna and Sester receive surprises.
Breen lifted the comm device to his lips. It was time to contact Argus for teleport when the panel slid open. He quickly put his hands behind him. Captain Atton came through the doorway, his hands held high. The sight of the bloodstained frame and Avon lying groaning on the floor immediately drew his eyes.
"What is this?" asked Breen suspiciously. None of the Raven crew had entered this room before. Atton jerked forward, as if someone had pushed him. He took a few steps into the room.
Jenna followed closely, her pistol aimed at his back. "He betrayed us."
Breen and the medtech exchanged guilty glances. Jenna eyed them warily. "Were you in on it?"
"How could we? We've been in here. Besides you're the one paying us."
"Maybe not enough?" said Jenna.
Breen's voice rose in indignation. "Don't be paranoid."
Jenna looked at him closely, wondering if she was seeing conspiracies because she had just caught Atton and Prex doing it. "Is he ready?"
"Yes. What do you plan to do?"
Jenna gestured with her pistol and Atton moved over to the far wall. "We wait here. I've disabled the ship and the comm channels."
Breen asked, "How are we supposed to make the rendezvous if the ship can't move?"
"The rendezvous is coming to us."
Breen and the medtech eyed each other. Their plans for an even wealthier retirement were fading fast. Breen edged closer to Jenna. She was a single woman."When are they getting here?"
"Shouldn't be long." She brought her hand up to look at the chronometer.
Breen threw the comm device at her. As Jenna raised her arm to ward it off he made a grab for her gun. They struggled. There was a flash just as the two interrogators rushed forward.
Jenna pushed Breen away from her, waving her pistol menacingly at the two men. They backed off as Breen crumpled to the ground, eyes staring but no longer seeing. He was dead from a direct hit to the heart. "Does anyone else want to try it?"
The interrogators backed off, hands raised in surrender.
"I should kill all of you," said Jenna, her finger tightening on the trigger.
The medtech said placatingly, "It wasn't our idea. It was Breen. We told him not to do it but he didn't trust you. Said you'd kill us when you didn't need us anymore. Is that true?"
Jenna stared hard at him, her gaze seeking to penetrate to where the truth lay. Her jaw hardened. She didn't know who to trust anymore or who was lying. Too many secrets, too many lies. She was drowning in them. And some of them were her own. She couldn't see clearly anymore. "Do what I paid you to do and you won't end up…like him."
The deck shook slightly, a vibration that they felt through the soles of their feet. At the looks of alarm, Jenna reassured them, "I'm expecting visitors."
Atton's arms were getting tired but with the look on Jenna's face, he dared not lower them. "What are you going to do?"
"Don't worry. You'll get your money," said Jenna.
"You're going to let us go?"
"I should kill you for trying to double-cross me, but I won't. I'm not even surprised. Because of that, I'm going to let you live. But cross my path again…"
"And you'll kill me?"
"I guarantee it."
The medtech asked, "Are you going to let us go?"
Jenna looked down at the groaning Avon. "You still have work to do."
"But Breen is dead."
"I still have the three of you."
A female voice said from the entrance, "Jenna."
Jenna whirled around. "Avalon! I didn’t expect you to come in person."
The brown-haired woman entered with four armed rebels in military fatigues. Her nose twitched in disgust at the smells of human suffering as she looked down at the broken body that she barely recognized as Avon. "Argus warned me about this."
Jenna said with dismay, "You've already spoken to him?"
"I had to. They were about to teleport aboard this ship."
Jenna knew that Breen's mistake in blinding Avon was going to look bad. "I…have some things to explain."
Avalon's eyes were piercing. "I do not like to be lied to."
"I didn't lie to you," said Jenna defensively.
Avalon said cynically, "You didn't tell me the full truth. You did not tell me that you wanted custody of Avon…" She jabbed a finger in Avon's direction. "…for this!"
"Can you blame me? He killed Blake! He betrayed him! And all of us!"
"Then you're a fool. If he goes to trial like this, they'll think that you tortured the confession out of him…he is going to confess, isn't he?"
"Yes, I can guarantee that. He will confess to killing Blake."
"Good. But I want him cleaned up. He cannot appear like this."
Jenna grimaced. "There's a problem."
Avalon's voice rose. "No more lies, Jenna."
"The…specialists I had working on him. They made a mistake."
Avalon's eyes narrowed. "What kind of mistake?"
"They blinded him."
Avalon's eyes automatically went to Avon. "What?!! Are you insane?!!"
Jenna backed up. "I…didn't tell them to do it. It was…"
"A mistake?! How do you blind someone by mistake?!!"
Avon groaned loudly, his hands clenching and unclenching as the agony of withdrawal wracked his body.
Avalon asked, "What else haven't you told me?"
"He's…" Jenna had not expected to be on the defensive. But the blinding of Avon and the necessity of calling in Avalon had destroyed all her carefully prepared plans. With sole custody, she had hoped to force Avon to confess and clean him up for the trial. Then no one would know what she had done to him. "He has Shade poisoning."
Avalon asked in a scathing voice that made Jenna wince. "Don't tell me that was a mistake too?"
Jenna squared her shoulders. "I take full responsibility for it."
Avalon's eyes narrowed again. "And will you die for it? Or do you only expect Avon to die?"
"What do you mean?" asked Jenna nervously.
"If Avon dies because of Shade poison or any…" She gestured towards Avon's twisting body. "…of the other things you, accidentally, had done to him. That will be cold blooded murder."
Jenna's face reddened, "You're not serious! If Avon dies, it's only what he deserves."
Avalon said, "Then why bother with a trial? Why not execute him yourself? Why go through the charade of wanting justice?"
"It's not a charade. He is guilty."
Avalon stabbed her finger to the moaning Avon. "This is not justice! This is revenge! You want this trial in order to humiliate Avon. To lift him up so that everyone will hate him as much as you do!"
Jenna said angrily, "Don’t tell me that you don’t hate him for killing Blake."
"I want to see justice. You want to see him suffer."
"He owes it to me. He owes it to Blake!"
Avalon shook her head. "No. If Avon is found guilty, he will be executed."
Jenna's eyes bulged. "If?!!" This was becoming worse by the minute. Her dreams of vengeance were fading away.
Avalon's eyes were unyielding. "Justice, Jenna. Not revenge."
Jenna said defiantly, "You promised I would have sole custody of Avon."
Avalon weighed her words carefully. "I will keep my promise. Custody is yours. But I will provide medical personnel to take care of him. They will report to me directly."
Jenna was about to say something but Avalon cut her off. "That is not negotiable. You have already made a hash of things. I guarantee you that if Avon dies because of what you've done to him, then you will be the one on trial next. Do I make myself clear?"
Jenna said in a subdued but reluctant voice, "Yes."
The medtech spoke up. "There is no cure for Shade poisoning."
Jenna flashed him an angry look. "There is."
"I've never heard of one. It's always fatal."
Jenna hated to tell her what she knew. "Avon found a cure for it."
Avalon looked at Avon. "Why would he do that?"
"He…" Jenna's words trailed off. How could she admit that Avon saved the life of the man that she was responsible for almost killing?
"Why would Avon, the man you say is self-serving and treacherous, find a cure for anything?"
Jenna realized that Argus and the others would bring this out at the trial regardless of what she said or not. "A friend of mine was dying. Argus asked Avon to work on a cure."
"Avon saved your friend's life?"
She said stubbornly, "At Argus's orders."
Avalon's hard eyes turned to pity. "We've known each other a long time, Jenna. What happened to you? You weren't always like this. This time, you haven’t only stepped across the line, you've destroyed it."
"Then you didn't know me very well."
"You've lost yourself, Jenna. One day, I hope you find yourself again. Before it's too late. In the meantime, my people will help take care of Avon while he's in your custody. I will send a message out for medical assistance and I will contact Argus to explain the situation with the poison."
"If you were hoping to keep it from him, you're too late. He already knows. I hope for your sake that he's not like you, Jenna."
Jenna shivered. Argus might not be, but there was no knowing what Cally might do.
Avalon ordered her men, "Transfer Avon to my ship. Be careful with him."
Sester had one arm crooked behind his head as he lay on his bunk. It was as he had feared. In her blind need for revenge, Jenna had subjected Avon to torture. He winced at the memory of Avon's ravaged body hanging from the metal frame. The image was vividly burned into his mind, and echoed unpleasantly with other such memories from the Detention Centre.
He had to save Avon. He owed it to him. It didn't matter that his master wanted him to fix this situation as well.
Argus planned to defend Avon at the trial. But it would be his word against Jenna's. Everyone would know that he would be biased. They might respect Argus but they would expect him to say anything in order to save Avon. It didn't matter that he was an honourable man. There wasn't much understanding of the concept of honour these days. Argus was an anachronism masquerading as a rebel leader.
A smile touched Sester's lips. There was one way to convince them that what he was saying was real. One piece of evidence that would corroborate Vila's shaky testimony. It was too bad that they didn't have time to break the memory blocks to get to the truth.
But facts were as good as truth and those facts were accessible. He just had to get them. That was his mission. And there was one wrinkle that he hadn't told Argus. Even with the evidence, the more resistant ones might not believe Argus. The evidence had to come from someone else in order for all of them to believe it.
The buzzer announced a visitor. Sester grinned. Kirsten. He padded over on soft feet to open the door. "Kirsten."
For once, it was who he expected.
She said with consternation, "I didn't surprise you this time?"
"You can't surprise me every time. That would get commonplace."
She leaned forward, her lips lightly brushing his ear, sending electric currents through his body. "We are not commonplace."
The delicate scent of her hair tickled his senses. His voice was a husky murmur, "Never that."
"Are you going to invite me in?" Kirsten entered his room, leaving him warm and frustrated at the door.
"Come in," he said belatedly as he followed, like a magnet drawn to an irresistible force.
"You're leaving again?" she asked curiously as she stopped by his bed, her fingers lightly touching where the restraint had been attached to his bed.
"Yes. Tomorrow. I have something to do."
"I heard. You're going to try to help Avon."
He came up behind her, just close enough to feel the warmth of her body but not touching. His head bent to the nape of her neck and lightly kissed the soft flesh there. Her shudder of pleasure filled him with elation. She turned slowly and his lips followed the curve of her neck.
Snap. Cold metal against his wrist. Sester looked down in alarm. Snap.
The restraint was back on his wrist, and attached to the bed. "What is this?" The links rattled mockingly as he pulled on them in vain.
Kirsten said, "Don’t you remember?"
"Of course, I remember! Why did you do this?"
"I thought we might continue where we left off the last time. You were…preoccupied if I remember correctly." There was a suggestive twinkle in her eyes as she lightly pressed him down onto the bed.
"Kirsten…" Sester leaned back against the wall and made himself comfortable. Anticipation filled him with restless energy and his skin felt as if it were on fire. With an amused curl to his lips, he said, "You're still full of surprises."
"And you…" Kirsten's eyes glanced down at the interest he could not hide. "…love it."
He reached over with his free hand and pulled her down next to him. "Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?"