Category: Angst, Drama
Rating: PG for violence
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: A real traitor?
Jenna contacted the Justice and Kirsten was sent down with teleport bracelets. The young woman's face went pale when she saw Sester lying in a pool of blood and rushed over and knelt beside him. It was hard to tell whose face was paler, her fear-filled one or his.
She asked anxiously, "Is he…"
"I think he was stabbed in the back. He's lost a lot of blood. You'd better get him back to the ship," said Jenna, eyeing the stranger.
Kirsten quickly snapped a bracelet on Sester's wrist. Her face lined with worry as she gently touched his damp brow. She raised her own bracelet to her lips.
Jenna realized that a lot must have happened on the ship while she was away. Strange new people. Servalan's psychostrategist aboard the ship. And this woman obviously had a relationship with him. Another one of Servalan's people? Before Kirsten could ask for teleport, she asked suspiciously, "Who are you?"
"I'm Kirsten. Who are you?"
Kirsten's eyes widened in shock and she suddenly pushed Jenna, sending the startled woman sprawling backwards. "Get away from him! You're not going to hurt him too!"
Jenna groaned and brought her hand to her head. She wished she were still passed out behind the maintenance cart. "I'm trying to help."
"You hurt Avon and Reya."
Sester groaned. Kirsten looked down in concern and then said, "I don't have time for this but I hope you get what you deserve." She pressed her bracelet, "This is Kirsten. Two to teleport."
Jenna watched the teleport energies form and whisk the two of them away. She got up slowly, a thoughtful expression in her eyes.
Argus ground to a halt as he saw the procession led by Avalon and Dev. For a moment, he hesitated. He had both recordings now. Jenna's and Sester's. Could he trust the psychostrategist? The man had come back injured, in no condition to be question, or have the truth shaken out of him.
The distance was closing, he had to decide. Argus faced them squarely.
Argus said, "I have the recording." He held out Sester's data cube.
Dev's scar seemed to take on a life of its own, cutting his face with a deep sneer. He said callously, "Too late."
Argus levelled icy eyes in his direction. Dev swallowed hard, as if Argus had just pointed a gun at him and was prepared to shoot. He straightened his shoulders, unconsciously trying to imitate Argus's solid stance, and said, "You can't fight all of us, Argus. The others may be intimidated by you, but I'm not."
"No?" Argus asked, his voice low with growled menace.
Dev stood his ground.
Argus said, "You've been trying to stir up trouble ever since you got here, Dev. Pitting the Outer Worlds against the Inner Ones."
"I'm just trying to get what's due to us," said Dev defensively. "It's about time."
"Avalon has been trying to unite the alliance. You're trying to cause even more divisions. It makes me wonder why."
Dev's lips pulled back in a snarl. "Are you trying to put suspicion on my devotion to the rebellion? I've been fighting this fight longer than you have, Argus. While you were still a Federation flunky. I fought with Blake. I was with Bran Foster."
A sound of a gasp made them all turn to look at Vila. There was a pale look on his face.
Argus asked, "What is it, Vila?"
The shocked man came forward, approaching Dev with uncertain steps. He asked, "What's your last name?"
Dev asked with outraged anger, "Avalon, they're trying to stall again. Are you going to let them get away with this?"
Avalon looked at Vila, who was staring intently at the scarred man, and then back to Dev. "Why don't you answer the man?"
"This is a waste of time!"
Argus said, "I don't think it is. Tell the man, Dev."
The blond-haired man looked around like a cornered animal but his voice remained calm. "What is this? I'm not the enemy here. You know my last name!"
Argus said, "Yes, but Vila doesn't."
Vila couldn't wait any longer, he was bursting to speak. "His name is Dev Tarrant. He was with Blake in the Freedom Party. He's a Federation spy."
Several guns wavered. Avalon sought the man's eyes. "Is it true?"
Dev's voice rose a tad. "You can't be serious. Vila was with Avon. He's probably guilty too. He's trying to save him."
Argus said, "You're the only one who survived both massacres. Either you're an incredibly lucky man, or…you are a Federation spy."
Everyone seemed to be holding their breaths.
Tiny beads of sweat had formed on Dev's upper lip and his eyes shifted left and right, as if he were measuring something. His hands moved quickly. At the point where thought and intent translated into action… Umph! He was slammed back into the wall with explosive force. His head snapped back, hitting the grey stone with a sickening thud.
Argus's hands, like bands of steel, clamped around his wrists and twisted sharply, revealing a sinister round metal object in Dev's hand.
"Grenade!" shouted one of the rebels as they all backed away.
Argus quickly grabbed the object. "It's alright; he didn't have time to arm it."
Everyone let out a breath they didn't realize they had been holding. All guns were now pointed towards the stunned Dev Tarrant.
Argus turned the grenade over in his hands, studying it with professional detachment. "It's a solium grenade."
Avalon's face turned white as a sheet. "That would have…"
"Yes, it would have taken out a sizeable portion of this base."
Vila looked like he was about to be ill.
Avalon's fear turned to fierce anger. "And killed many of the rebellion's leaders."
Dev spat out furiously, "I would have succeeded too."
Cally had come up and had been concentrating her psi senses on the scarred man. "I don't think so. I don’t think it was his intent to destroy this base."
Dev sneered at her.
Argus said, "I don't either. Or you would have used it during the trial, when all of the leaders were gathered together. Instead, you've been trying your best to cause trouble."
Avalon nodded with understanding. "Divide and conquer. You've been pushing me, challenging my authority with the others, and trying to take over leadership of the Outer Worlds. The grenade must have been a back-up plan, in case you failed. If you couldn't control us, you wanted to destroy us."
Argus said urgently, "Avalon. We must get everyone out."
Avalon looked at him sharply. "You're right. He might have more than one contingency." She said to one of the rebels, "Quickly, raise the alarm. Alert port control. Ready all ships for launch immediately!"
The rebel jerked his thumb towards Avon. "What about him?"
"Now is no time for executions. Take him aboard my ship. And Dev too."
The guard rushed off while others secured the Federation spy.
Argus said, "Avalon…"
"I know." She reassured him, "Avon will not be harmed. Cally and Vila can accompany him if you wish. We'll discuss this again when we're all safely away. We will all watch the recordings." She held out her hand and Argus gave her the crystal. "I will give you new coordinates. We'll have to assume that our old ones are compromised."
Avalon directed one of her men to give them back their teleport bracelets.
A claxon began sounding. "Emergency! All rebels back to your ships and prepare for launch. This base has been compromised. Repeat…" The message continued its urgent warning as people poured into the corridors.
Argus snapped on his bracelet. "The Justice will provide cover. Our scanners have longer range than yours do. Cally, Vila. Stay with Avon. Avalon, I'll see you at the new coordinates."
Argus settled into his flight station as the duty soldiers stood ready at theirs. "Zen, extra long range sensors online. I want to know if there are any Federation ships in the vicinity."
There was a short pause. "Scanner beams detect no Federation signatures."
"Good. Keep scanning. The rebel ships will be leaving soon."
Even as he said it, ships were already launching away from the asteroid, going to maximum speed as soon as they were clear.
Jenna stood uncertainly near the flight deck steps. She had followed Argus in but was hesitant what to do next. There were too many new faces on the ship and there didn't seem to be a place for her anymore. They all stared at her curiously. Obviously, no one had told them who she was yet.
Argus turned to her. "Jenna, take the pilot controls."
"Do you trust me?"
"I trust that you want to get out of this alive."
Jenna came down the steps and sat down beside him. Her hands brushed against familiar controls, as she checked the instrument panel. "I'm ready."
The base was cleared without incident and it was decided that only the major rebel leaders would view the Gauda Prime recordings. A few days later, they all convened on the Justice.
A shaky Avon, having recovered from his "illness" and the overdose of Shade, had demanded to be included in the proceedings. No one thought this was a good idea, but Avon refused to have his fate decided when he was not in the room. Everyone reluctantly agreed. There were no objections to Cally and Vila attending with him.
The logistics were a bit trickier as Avon still couldn't stay up on his own. His healing body had not reached that stage yet. As a compromise, they used the main cargo hold for the meeting and set up one of the bio-beds for him, angling it so that he could sit and follow the recordings.
The leaders sat behind a semi-circular table facing a large screen. Serious-faced rebels, some in civilian dress, others in military fatigues. A mixture of people from both the Inner and Outer Worlds, including some ex-military.
Avalon placed the data crystal in front of her. It seemed such a small thing to be the centre of attention but their eyes were all glued to it. Twelve men and women, a jury of sorts.
Argus stood up. “The crystal contains the security logs from the bounty hunter base on Gauda Prime. Blake's base.”
Nalini, whose red tan stood out against her pale skin, bent forward. "How do we know it’s real?”
Cally stood up. "There is proof. Avon and Vila. The events of that day are locked in their minds."
Rondor, shifting restlessly in his seat, said in a scratchy bitter voice, "People lie."
Cally's eyes flashed but her voice remained reasonable. "Avon and Vila's memories were tampered with during their incarceration by the Federation. They do not know the full truth of what happened either."
Dr. Kendall, who with his level-headed manner had become a respected figure amongst the rebels, had his hand steepled in front of him. "Are there methods to extract the real memories?"
Cally said, "Yes. If you are willing to give us the time. The people of the Tellar Union have advanced methods that can break down memory blocks. We also have machines that will read the memories once they are released and project them on a screen."
Dr. Kendall said, "We'll be able to see their memories?"
"How long will this procedure take?"
Cally answered, "We don't know. It depends on how deeply buried the memories are and the strength of the blocks."
Nalini scowled with displeasure, "But that could take weeks, even months."
Avalon said, "I propose that we watch the recordings first. Then we can decide on the proof. Agreed?"
The rebels consulted each other in murmurs.
Vila whispered to Avon and Cally, "D'you think they'll give us the time?"
Before either of them could answer, Avalon said, "Then we're agreed. We will watch the recordings first."
The scratchy-voiced Rondor said, "And if we don't like what we see…there won't be any need, will there?"
Dr. Kendall said, "We agreed that we would watch this without prejudice."
Rondor said, "You agreed. I think this is a waste of time."
Nalini nodded, "I do too, but we should try to be fair about it. In case we're wrong."
Rondor snorted. "You don't believe it anymore than I do."
Case, a hefty rebel humphed. "I'm with Kendall. And Avalon. This should be about justice."
Rondor said, "Shut up, Case. Of course, you would agree. Your people like to think. You don't like doing anything. You let the rest of us do all the fighting."
Case said, "I resent that. Just because we try to work inside the system…"
Rondor snorted, "Fat lot of good that does."
Case humphed very loudly this time. "I'll let you know that we came closer to a coup than any of you ever did. I was part of Ven Glynd's group. And we didn't blow anyone up to do it!"
Rondor half-rose out of his seat, his voice angry. "Yeah, well, they got wiped out, didn't they? All executed for treason?"
"At least we came close!" This was descending to a shouting match.
Avalon held up her hand. "Gentlemen! Sit down. Remember why we're here."
Rondor sat sullenly and Case said, "Sorry, Avalon. But if that blow-hard says one more…"
Avalon said, "Case…"
Avalon glared at both of them until they lowered their eyes and stared at the table in front of them. "Now we do what we came to do. We will watch the recordings and then we will decide whether we will wait for the memory blocks to be removed." Her eyes swept from one end of the table to the other as she stressed, "Agreed?"
They all indicated their consent. "Argus, the recordings." She held up the crystal and Argus took it. He crossed over to a projector unit and slipped it in the slot. The crystal lit up as a laser reached into its depth and the images of the GP base were splashed onto the white wall.
Argus said, "This crystal contains the entire security log from all the monitors for the day of the shooting. It might take awhile to search for the footage we're interested in. Bear with me."
The images fast-forwarded, recordings of the normal and abnormal workings of the bounty hunter base that doubled as a rebel base.
Argus scrolled along the timeline until he found one of Blake. Their hero's scarred and roughened image was frozen on the wall. There were also two other figures. A battered young man, his clothes mangled, as if he had just escaped from some great disaster.
Vila exclaimed, "That's Tarrant! He was part of our crew."
Nalini asked, "That's Blake? What happened to him?"
Argus asked, "When was the last time any of you saw Blake?"
There were murmurs of consultation among the rebel leaders.
The hefty Case said, "Well, he kept to himself after Jevron. Don't blame him. He said he'd been betrayed but didn't know who it was. He didn't trust any of the old guard anymore. He wanted to recruit new blood. Last time I saw him was…a month after Jevron."
Paraic, an ex-military man who had been in Federation scout unit, said in a soft, almost hoarse voice, "I was with him on Jevron but I saw him once after that. This must have been…about five months before Gauda Prime. He…didn't look good then. They did quite a number on him on Jevron. You're right. He didn't seem like he wanted much to do with us anymore. And well, to be honest, after Jevron most of us were sort of wary of him. He said he'd found himself a computer expert. Deva, I think his name was. And he was going to go recruit himself some criminals from one of the worst places in the Federation. I told him that was crazy. What would criminals want with a proper rebellion? They only want whatever they could get for themselves." He looked over at Vila and said apologetically. "Not you, of course. But he was lucky with you lot."
Nalini said, "Maybe he thought he could be lucky again."
Avalon said, "Argus, play the recording." The frozen images came to life.