11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: The rebel leaders discuss the GP revelations."Reality is a dangerous concept. Each one of us interprets it in a slightly different way. Every sense impression is filtered by the brain and altered, sometimes just a little, sometimes completely, to fit our individual model of what the world is about. If that model should be challenged..."
Avon lay unconscious, his face as pale as the sheet that covered the bed, and eyes active beneath closed lids. Even though he could no longer see, it did not close him to the world inside his mind.
Crew and rebel leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder around him, watching with tense and anxious faces, this man who had only minutes ago, on the screen that was now black, killed a friend out of love.
Argus was bent over him like a silent sentinel on one side, Cally tending to him on the other, and Vila staring from the foot of the bed, his eyes brimming with tears.
Avalon asked, "How is he?"
Cally looked up, wondering what she was truly asking. "His life is in no immediate danger. The shock of what he saw was too much for his mind."
"You mean he fainted?"
"Yes. He should be given time to rest. He's still very weak. I would like to remove him to the medical unit."
Avalon looked around at her fellow leaders but there were no objections, only stunned faces still trying to recover from what they had seen. "By all means. My men will help you." She gestured to a few of the rebel guards to accompany them. "Vila, can you stay?"
A place was made for Vila and Argus at the table as the rebels returned to their seats.
It was a different atmosphere now. It was no longer a jury, or even a group of major rebel leaders, they were fourteen confused individuals trying to make sense of the new world that had opened up before them, and trying not to be swallowed up by it.
Avalon spoke first. "Alright, what do you think?"
Case asked the one question that was on the tip of their tongues, "Is that what really happened?"
Dr. Kendall, his hands steepled before him again. "Cally said that Avon and Vila's memories were tampered with by the Federation. That they don't know the full truth of what happened. I want to know what Vila does remember."
Vila looked around nervously at the exalted company. They were a driven and determined crowd, men and women who commanded and expected people to follow. Rebels with a cause. Some like Blake. Intimidating and could make him quake in his boots by just staring at him. Others nicer, like Dr. Kendall, but far too serious.
Argus nodded slightly to him, encouraging warmth in his eyes. Vila found that it helped. He was not alone amongst strangers. "I don't know how much I can help."
Case, the hefty looking rebel said kindly, "Just tell us as much as you can remember."
"Well, alright. Everything's the same except that last bit. Tarrant told us Blake had betrayed us. Avon didn't want to believe it. He kept asking Blake but Blake wouldn't give him a straight answer. Then…well, you saw the rest. The part where Avon was about to shoot Blake, in my head, he did shoot him. Blake died and Avon realized he'd made a horrible mistake. Then the woman told us who she was. I…knocked her out but then I was shot. Don't remember what happened after that. "
Case said, "That's interesting. So in both versions, there's a Federation spy."
"Yes," said Vila. "I remember her. We were never introduced and she never told us her name. But she said she was a Federation officer."
Dr. Kendall said, "That is interesting. In Vila's version, we are led to believe that Blake's shooting was the result of a terrible misunderstanding. In the other…"
Avalon said, "I'm inclined to believe the version we just saw."
Nalini asked sharply, "Why?"
Argus's eyes were thoughtful. "Because the one we saw reveals something that Vila's version doesn't. Something that they would not want us to know."
Avalon nodded. "Yes. The Federation wouldn't want us to know that we had all been duped. That Blake had been under their control from the beginning. If this gets out, it would destroy our whole movement. No one would want to join us if they knew we had been deceived so badly. And that the man we had all pinned our hopes on was nothing more than an illusion created by our enemies."
Nalini said angrily, "We'd be a laughing stock!"
Avalon said fiercely, "We can't let that happen. This recording must be destroyed. It must never leave this room. We must never talk about it again."
Vila raised a hesitant hand. "I don't understand."
Avalon asked, "What don't you understand, Vila?"
"If these recordings are so dangerous to the rebel alliance and they had them all along, then why didn't they use them to destroy you?"
Everyone looked at each other, dumbfounded looks on their faces.
Kendal said, "He makes a very good point."
Avalon mused, "Yes, a very good point."
Argus was starting to get a headache. He had thought that showing the Gauda Prime recordings and exonerating Avon would be all that was required. Now there were levels upon levels of conspiracies and it looked as if they'd only peeled off the first layer or two. He muttered, "Sester." He wished that the wretched psychostrategist were here. He might be able to make sense of this.
Avalon leaned towards him, "What did you say?"
She looked oddly at him. "I thought you'd said something."
"Just…clearing my throat. It's dry in here."
"Yes, I do find that." She slid over a nearby pitcher of water, filled a glass and gave it to him.
Argus stared at the liquid that he didn't really need, and took an obligatory drink. "Thanks."
"What do you think?"
She's asking me about devious plots? Argus really wished Sester were here and he wondered how Avon was. Being anywhere but here seemed good right now.
Rebel leader might be what these people called him but it didn't mean that he liked it. All he wanted to do was get the job done and move on. Not all of these meetings, intrigues and politics.
Not to mention, he didn't have anything useful to add. "I…I have a question first."
"What's the question?"
"I noticed that none of you seems to be questioning the validity of what we saw. Do you still need verification?"
The rebel leaders all looked at each other.
Paraic, the ex-military man, said, "It's too fantastic. It has to be real."
Rondor laughed. "With logic like that…"
Avalon said, "It fits."
Nalini asked, "You believe that Blake was…used by the Federation?"
"It does explain some very strange coincidences around Blake. Things that I had not wanted to consider before. He did some good things but there were also other disturbing rumours. Some people wanted to know why none of the rebel groups survived working with Blake. And Paraic's experience with him. Vila, Paraic's experience on Jevron, does that sound like the Blake you knew?"
Vila squirmed in his seat, not wanting to be the centre of attention. "Well…Blake was like that when we went to Control. When Gan died. We weren't happy with him after that. We'd thought of dumping him and going on our own. But we took him back. Blake…he did care about us. I don't think he wanted to do some of the things he did but he thought he had to."
"And what about Blake's resistance to being a unifying force for the rebellion. Did you see any evidence of that?"
"Well…I suppose I did. Avon told Blake he should go to Earth and unite the rebel groups there. He said that before we went to Control and when we were at Star One. Blake didn't seem interested."
Avalon looked up, her eyes focused in thought. "Alright. That seems to match the recordings."
Argus said, "The Federation agent said that Blake was used to destroy Bran Foster."
"Dev Tarrant may have been running him then."
Rondor stood up, "We'll get the truth out of him then."
Argus eyed him, "What do you plan to do?"
A raspy voice could be heard from the doorway. "He plans to force the information out of him, of course."
They all turned to look at the pale-faced Sester leaning against Kirsten at the doorway. A sheen of sweat coated his brow, and he was huffing as if he had run several miles.
Sester looked up at the tall man guarding the doorway. He asked with amusement, "Are you going to let me in? Or should I faint out here in the corridor?"
Avalon gestured to the guard to let him through. The injured man, relying heavily on Kirsten to keep him upright and mobile, came towards them. Every step seemed to be accompanied by a tightening of his jaw.
Argus stood up. "What are you doing here? You should still be in the medical unit."
Sester took a few breaths trying to recover. "Believe me, you couldn't drag me away from there once I'm done here."
"How did you escape? I mean, who let you out of the medical unit?"
There was a light grin on Sester's face.
Avalon asked, "Is this Chuck? The one who brought the data crystal?"
Argus started. "Chuck?"
Sester's grin widened.
Avalon stared between the two of them. "He reported his name as Chuck."
Sester said, "It's a nickname. Argus gave it to me."
A low growl formed at the back of Argus's throat.
Avalon had her men bring two more chairs and a grateful Sester sat down gingerly, trying not to wince. "We owe you a debt of gratitude for retrieving the crystal at great danger to yourself."
"It was the least I could do," Sester said sincerely.
"But Argus is right, you should be recovering. Is there an urgent matter you came to see us about?"
Sester shifted uncomfortably as he tried to find a better position. "Avon was brought in a little while ago. I surmised that you had seen the recordings."
Argus asked suspiciously, "Have you seen them?"
Sester flashed an impish grin at him. "If I had been awake, I would have tried to. I must admit to a flaw in curiosity."
"Then why are you here?" asked Argus.
"While I did not see them personally, I did have Cally tell me what was in the recordings."
Argus had a light scowl on his face. "And?"
"I thought you might need my help. There are two issues you need to consider. There are a few more but those are the only ones you would be interested in. One is to determine if the recordings are real. The second is why the Federation did not use these in order to destroy the rebel alliance."
Avalon regarded him speculatively. "You seem to have anticipated our discussions."
"It wasn't that difficult," said Sester dismissively.
"Who are you?"
Sester had his eyes on Argus, a glint of amusement reflected in his eyes.
Argus tried to avoid sounding annoyed, "He's a member of my crew."
Sester almost chuckled but covered it with a cough, which was unfortunate because that sent a stab of pain through his back. He groaned.
Argus said, "You should get back to the medical unit. I'll call for a stretcher."
"Not until I'm able to impart my dubious wisdom. Then you can kick me out."
"I am not kicking you out."
"It's all relative, isn't it?" said Sester.
Avalon said to Argus, with sympathy in her eyes, "Does he often give you a headache? Because I can feel one coming on now."
Argus grumbled, "You have no idea."
Sester favoured the two leaders with a big grin. "Now, to business." The image of the light rogue disappeared from his face. "First of all, trying to question Dev Tarrant, a Federation spy, regardless of whichever charming methods you were contemplating on using, would not work unless you had time, a strong stomach and very little conscience. I'll let you decide which one you don't posses."
Nalini's eyes narrowed, "Did he just insult us?"
Sester almost laughed. "It's a self-revealing question. No insult was intended." Unless you perceive it as one. "As a Federation spy, he would be trained to resist torture. It is one of the hazards of being an undercover agent. Beyond which, you can't be certain that the information he is giving you can be trusted."
Avalon nodded. "You're right. They are a tough and devious lot. The time it would take to extract information from him…we might as well have the memory blocks removed. "
Sester cocked his head at her. "I didn't say that you couldn't get useful information out of him. There are other methods rather than brute force." A conspiratorial grin made him look the rogue again.
"You can trick him into revealing what he knows."
"How?" asked Avalon.
"That's fairly easy. He knows you have the recordings but I doubt if he knows what's on them. I'll leave the rest to your creative imaginations. Now to the second issue."
Sester was tiring and almost leaned back but Kirsten placed her hand lightly on his shoulder. He nodded appreciatively.
His head felt dizzy. He knew he had misjudged his own physical condition and was in danger of leaving the second half of his task unfinished. He didn't want to complete it lying on the ground, it would be highly undignified, and not to mention Kirsten would be here to witness it.
He picked up the pace, no longer bothering to be witty or confounding. "The work Blake was doing for them was far more important than just destroying all of you. You should have realized that when you caught Dev Tarrant."
Argus put his hand to his head. He was definitely getting a headache and this one had a name on it, but he found that he understood what Sester was trying to get at. "Dev wasn't trying to kill the rebel leaders."
Avalon said, "That's true…they could easily have wiped out all resistance leadership for years and left us in chaos."
Sester said, "Yes. They learned an important lesson after they used Blake the first time. When he renounced the resistance, it struck a great blow to all rebel movements throughout the Federation. People were rounded up and others betrayed by the people that they were trying to help. The rebellion went deep underground for years afterwards. But…" He paused a moment, satisfied that all faces were indicating rapt attention. "…it came back. They recognized that as long as there is dissent and dissatisfaction, there would be rebellion. That is an immutable fact that they cannot change. They do not have the resources to control everyone."
Dr. Kendall said, "But they have tried to with suppressants and Pylene-50."
"Yes but they soon found out that suppressants only have limited success and Pylene-50 leaves a population useless except for basic tasks. They must have decided that if the rebels couldn't be beaten into oblivion, then they would control them. Allow serious dissenters just enough to satisfy their rebellious urges. And for the general population, they provide entertainment and the illusion of heroes who will do their fighting for them, people they can cheer and applaud. The heroes become their rebellious surrogates and a source of hope. They live out their rebellious tendencies vicariously. If it is handled correctly, then the general population is satisfied enough that they are not moved to active rebellion."
Avalon had been staring at him, "Who are you?"
Sester said deprecatingly, "A man."
"An evasive man."
The psychostrategist inclined his head.
Avalon turned to Argus. "I suppose you know but you're not going to tell me?"
Argus definitely did not want these people knowing that he had been harbouring Servalan's psychostrategist. It had already been hard enough trying to convince them of Avon's innocence. "He's a private man."
"You have an interesting crew, Argus. This information that Chuck has given us, sounds like Federation knowledge." She turned to Sester. "Are you like Argus? Did you used to be Federation?"
Sester smiled. "No. Anyone who has the skills to interpret the information correctly, would come to the same conclusion, given the relevant facts."
"Then you are a man with rare talents."
Argus muttered dryly, "And don't forget modesty."
There was a flicker of a grin on Sester's face. "Now, if you would excuse me, my work here is done. I have to…" His legs were shaky as he got up. He couldn't understand why Kirsten suddenly grabbed his arm. "I…have to…" He forgot what he had been trying to do and someone seemed to have placed a film of something over his eyes. Sester brushed at it. Kirsten's beautiful face swam into view. He smiled brightly at her. "Kir…." The ground rushed up to meet him. Somewhere distant a man cried out in pain and then there was darkness.