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"How is he doing?" asked Jenna when she took over the watch from Doctor Alberay. They had been guarding Avon for over a week, waiting for the Federation to ease up on the tight security measures so that 624 Group could join them.
"His breathing has improved and his life signs are still weak but stable; he's running a fever. I am running out of medical supplies, but what he really needs is a healing tank."
"Don't worry doctor, the curfew was lifted this morning. We can see to getting you more supplies. Make a list and pass it to Argus, he`s sending a team out. I will take the watch from here."
Jenna settled down on the chair. The last few days watching over their prisoner had brought back many memories for her. Many of them ending with her wanting to kill Avon with her own hands.
Federation Security Forces were now concentrating on the adjoining sectors. The rebels did not understand how or why they were doing this, but it helped them greatly. Security was still tight but 624 group would be able to arrive in a few days. None too soon, thought Jenna rubbing her neck.
Avon was shifting restlessly on the bed, he was having another nightmare. It was almost as if he was still experiencing torture, even in his dreams. There was no expression on his face, just a physical reaction and his labored breathing, as if he was running away or fighting.
Jenna had no sympathy.
The nightmare. Surrounded by all the people who had betrayed him; there were too many to count. Each one took turns shooting at him; they were taking their time, prolonging the torture; Anna, Tynus, Keiller. Too many faces.
Another shot. Blake falling. No! He looked down at the gun in his hands. Then at Blake's body at his feet.
Avon woke with a shout. Disoriented, he started struggling ineffectively against the restraints which chained him to the bed and tried to get up but the pain and weakness made it difficult.
Jenna put a hand against his chest, "Don't move Avon, you're going to hurt yourself."
He stopped as his surroundings began to register. He lay back, exhausted from the effort.
"You know who I am?"
"Of course. What's going on? Why am I restrained?" His voice indicated confusion and anger. As normal, there was no expression on his face.
This was the first time he seemed to recognize her. She asked, "You don't remember?"
She knew that he would not remember being rescued, since he was unconscious at the time.
"What is the last thing you remember, Avon?"
She could see him concentrating.
"I…don't know. I can't remember." She could hear the strain in his voice. His eyes closed, as if the act of concentrating caused pain.
What did they do to him?
Vila was right, it was difficult seeing Avon like this. Jenna shook her head, she could not afford to feel sympathy for the man who killed Blake.
From Avon's periods of conscious interaction with them, it appeared his spirit had not been broken but it was obvious that his body and mind had. Each time he woke, they could not be certain who he would recognize, if at all.
She agreed with Argus, the Federation would not have risked losing the information they were after. The information had to be in his mind somewhere. To get to it, they had to unravel what had been done to him; they needed a psych specialist.
Avon was only partially acting, waking up from the nightmare had helped facilitate his illusion of mental confusion. He had not expected the nightmares to continue, or to be this bad, not after the drugs had cleared his system but he made it work for his own purposes.
The pain was real, a real memory. He remembered the psych-torture sessions; each attempt at breaking through the hypnotic drug-induced visions either brought direct stimulation of various pain centres or filling his system with drugs which made him scream.
In building his own counter-scenario, Avon had many experiences to draw from. The Federation interrogators had been very creative. Avon had made a calculated gamble that they did not know what the effect of the removal of the drugs from his system and the limited degree of effectiveness of their treatments would produce; bringing in Sester indicated that they knew the latter.
If they wanted the scenario to progress beyond this, they would have to risk the next level of reality.
"It's alright Avon, don't try, we'll do it another time. Just rest now."
Avon opened his eyes and asked, "Why can I not remember? Why am I restrained? What happened to me?"
"It was for your own good. Just rest now."
Jenna could see in his eyes the familiar cynicism, he did not believe her but he did not say anything. She remembered that Avon rarely felt it necessary to lie. He was secretive, he did not often volunteer information and he did not go out of his way to correct people if they insisted on deluding themselves, but deliberately lying was not part of his character. He dealt in facts. He never made any attempt to disguise his total lack of trust or his open cynicism of most of the human race nor did he ever conceal that his first priority was always his own safety and freedom.
With the curfew lifted, Dr Alberay contacted an old mentor who held a high position at the Federation Central Clinic. Professor Tarkson was a respected leader in the area of psycho-drug therapy.
"This is not going to be easy, " Professor Tarkson told the gathered rebel leaders. The psychiatrist had already spoken with the patient several times. He had been shocked when examining Avon. There had been rumours of such treatments going on behind closed Federation doors but to see evidence of it had disturbed him. The patient had a strong mind, but Tarkson did not think the man would ever be whole again, which was just as well, considering what Avon had done and what the rebels had in store for him.
"Is there anything we can do to help him snap out of it Professor, so we can get the information we want?" asked Jenna.
"It's not simply a matter of 'snapping' out of it."
The professor had read Dr Alberay's notes on the drugs found in Avon's system. Scrolling through the medical recorder unit, he told them, "What the Federation psych specialists did to him was highly illegal and caused great damage to his mind. I cannot even guess at the effect of some of the advanced psychotropics which were found in his system. It is clear that the patient's sense of reality is severely compromised. The severe torture would have intensified the effect of the drugs and other treatments they used on him. He experiences difficulty and pain whenever he tries to concentrate past his current condition, this points to at least partial conditioning. Even though his memory and sense of reality have been compromised, his basic character remains intact and his mind is still strong. The information you require is most likely still there but he has buried it so deeply that even he himself cannot access it consciously, that is the only way he could have prevented them from getting what they wanted."
"How can we get the information then?" Tanner, the leader of 624 group asked, he was a former teacher. None of 624 group were ex-military.
"One way would be to undo the conditioning and the damage. It will require similar advanced drugs, intensive therapy over a long period of time and sophisticated mind mapping machines."
"What is the other way, " asked Argus.
"Am to understand you only want him in a good enough state so he can give you the information you want and nothing else?" Tarkson asked.
Jenna replied ruthlessly, "Yes. I know that it is against your professional ethics Professor, but it's necessary."
"Very well, that makes it easier. We have an advantage." Professor Tarkson looked at Jenna and Vila. "Two advantages."
Even though he shared Jenna's sentiments about Avon, something about the professor bothered Argus. The man had accepted this condition much too easily for a professional who was supposed to care about his patients.
The rebels spent the next couple of days discussing strategy as 624 group took on the responsibility of guarding Avon. Gaining the trust of someone who did not normally trust would be difficult at best, if not impossible. And even though his mind was damaged, his intellect was still intact. They would have to be careful and stick to the truth as much as possible.
Vila and Jenna would have to re-establish their old ties with him, such as they were. There was severe disagreement when discussing how much movement to allow Avon and to what extent they would keep him physically disabled. None of them wanted to give him any chance of escaping. But at the same time, they had to convince him to help them by giving them ORAC. In the end they agreed to give him some mobility but to keep him restrained and guarded at all times. Drugs would be used to keep him physically weakened and limited medical treatment would ensure that his capacity for movement was restricted. Argus was very insistent on that, he was not about to let their valuable asset escape and they were not going to waste scarce medical resources on someone they were going to kill anyways.
Knowing what to reveal to Avon was difficult to assess since his memories seemed to be variable. They would have to be careful not to let him know that his final fate had already been decided; that would be difficult since they had to deal with the events at Gauda Prime if they were to get him to remember what they wanted. Jenna and Vila's participation would be essential.
Jenna wished Blake was still with them. He had had a knack for persuading a reluctant Avon to participate in his crusading mission against the Federation during their days on the Liberator. Avon was a genius with machines and facts, Blake had been a genius in handling people but in the end Avon had killed Blake. Jenna consoled herself with the knowledge that Avon's days were numbered.
Professor Tarkson returned to his post at the Clinic. An extended disappearance would have attracted unwanted attention. He would check on their progress periodically, as time permitted. Dr. Alberay would have the main task of monitoring Avon.