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Playing Dangerous Games - Chapter 04

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 Cally was working undercover in a bar, of sorts. It was called the Heavy Cruiser and catered to an enthusiastic clientele. The main source of entertainment was centred on a raised circular stage in the middle of the room. On it skimpily clad dancers of varying abilities were cheered on loudly. Compared to them, Cally was almost overdressed.

 Cally was grateful that her job at the bar was more functional; she did not do dancing. She was already having enough trouble trying to remember the crash course on bar etiquette and the serving of alcoholic drinks Delik had given her.
The Auron girl tried to keep focussed on the real reason why she was there.
"You said you wanted to find out about Kam Ellis. This is the best way," Delik had explained back at the music shop.
"You are saying he frequents this establishment?" asked Cally.
"Well, not exactly frequents. He practically lives there now," Delik replied.
"Oh?" asked Jenna.
After having spent several hours trying to fend off drunken advances, Cally did not think much of the clientele at the bar. She did not have high hopes for anyone who practically lived there.
Not surprisingly, Delik was on friendly terms with most of the women who worked at the bar and was easily able to get Cally in as a new barmaid. He obstinately refused to tell Cally and Jenna why Kam Ellis frequented this place. His excuse was that it would be much better if Kam 'discovered' Cally for himself.
"How do you know that he will?" Cally had asked. She wasn't sure about anything the charming rogue said. "I do not even know what he looks like."
"Believe me, he will notice you," Delik replied. "Once he does, then I will tell you. It will be more convincing if you don't know anything at this point."
Carrying a heavy tray full of foaming beer mugs, Cally weaved her way through the crowded floor space. She dexterously avoided the other popular sport at the bar which appeared to involve slapping the behinds of the various serving staff as they passed by. At first she thought it was a form of punishment or perhaps a method of calling for attention. The first time it happened to her, she had nearly dislocated the shoulder of the perpetrator.
Doing grievous bodily harm to Delik when she saw him again was proving to be an appealing idea. He had not warned her about this aspect of bar etiquette. Although if he had told her, she probably would not have agreed to do this in the first place. Cally was beginning to think she had made a serious mistake agreeing to this cover. 
As the night progressed, she was becoming aware of a sense of being watched.
The cell door opened and a man entered.
Avon was shocked at the familiar face but did not react; it was Professor Tarkson from his time with Argus's West Europ Dome rebel group.
"You work for the Federation."
"You could say that."
Avon was not surprised, there had always been something about the Professor which did not seem quite right; a dark secret always seemed to hang over him. The man hid it well, but Avon knew a lot about being secretive and he had recognized it in the professor. Avon never trusted instincts about people but it appeared his were right this time.
"I have nothing to say to you," he told the psychiatrist.
Servalan's voice over the cell's speaker activated his mind trigger.
"It's time to work Avon."
Tarkson was fascinated as he saw the conditioning begin to work. Although he had participated in the conditioning program, he had never been involved in using it.
Servalan continued to speak over the voicecomm; it was actually her over the speaker, not a recording.
"Avon, you will cooperate with Professor Tarkson and answer all of his questions. He is here to assess the damage to your mind."
"More of your help?" Avon asked sarcastically.
"Now stop being difficult, you know you do not have a choice. I will talk to you again later," the speaker became silent.
"Ask your questions. She is not going to let me alone until you do," Avon told the professor.
"Sorry, I forgot about the conditioning." Tarkson replied.
"What do you know about that?" asked Avon suspiciously.
The professor looked embarrassed. "I helped design it."
"I see," Avon commented acidly. "Get on with it."
"You told the President that you could not stop the memories. I want you to tell me about them."
With that began hours of detailed questions and various investigative mind and memory exercises.
The empty liquor bottles were staring at Vila accusingly.
Don't be a fool, Vila, Avon's voice admonished him. Bottles are inanimate objects, not capable of thought.
"No!" Vila shouted out loud. He could almost hear an insult coming, he refused to listen; especially since the Avon-voice was not real and was only in his head. Vila was still monitoring things on the flight deck. He had made himself comfortable and was currently wearing a bathrobe and slippers; he had just taken a shower in his cabin.
"Stop haunting me, Avon! You're not even dead!" he shouted. Vila wondered if he was going mad.
He wanted a drink. But do you really need one? Avon's voice asked him.
Hey, wait a minute, thought Vila. Avon would never ask that.
Shut up, Vila. Of course I wouldn't ask that. But as you have correctly pointed out, I am not really Avon. I am just the voice in your head.
Then I really need a drink, thought Vila. Hearing voices in his head was bad enough. Having them sound like Avon was infinitely worse.
After he had completed his examinations of Avon, Professor Tarkson reported to the President from a secure channel in Sester's office at the Special Detention Centre. The psychostrategist sat across the desk from him; they both addressed Servalan on the vidscreen.
Tarkson reported, "As Sester suspected, there is considerable damage. It is complex and goes deep. He was already experiencing problems when you captured him the first time. And everything which has been done to him since has intensified it and caused additional damage."
"What kind of damage are we talking about Professor?" Sester asked.
"The damage causes both the nightmares-which you have found useful-and the inability to prevent memories from surfacing. Normally the memories can be controlled by mental concentration. But the extent of damage to Avon's mind means he can no longer prevent them from intruding into his consciousness. The problem has been compounded because he is also suffering from mind fatigue. The overuse of the conditioning is wearing out his brain. I believe the loss of control will continue to advance and will eventually affect other areas. And if you continue to overwork him the deterioration will be much faster."
As she listened to the Professor's assessment, Servalan had become increasingly alarmed. She had witnessed Avon's distress as he experienced the loss of control over his mind. It had hurt her to see him like that.
"What can be done about this professor?" Servalan asked.
"Nothing can be done."
"What do you mean nothing? As you well know, we have advanced psychotherapy methods and drugs which can wipe memories and even entire personalities. And implant new memories and identities. Surely something can be done to fix this damage."
"Those methods are effective but crude. It is easier to wipe the slate clean than it is to repair this kind of damage. But in Avon's case it is impossible."
Servalan did not like the sounds of that. "What do you mean impossible?"
"It would take years of intensive therapy techniques and drugs to heal the damage. And it would have to start with the removal of the conditioning. And am I correct in my assumption, that you never want him to recover enough, that the nightmares will no longer be a tool for you to control him?"
"You are correct."
"Then nothing can be done. Everything which has been done to his mind has been to control him. And you are unwilling to lose these controls. Unfortunately it is these which are causing the most damage."
"This is not acceptable professor." Servalan was angry.  Her face had a deadly calm.
"Controlling his every waking moment and never allowing him time for himself has inadvertantly served to put a check on the problem. But his condition will soon advance to the point where this will no longer work. Right now it is only in a relaxed state that the problem arises. Eventually it will happen all the time. And ultimately it will drive him into madness. Then he will no longer be able to distinguish reality from memory."
"There must be something which can be done." She refused to accept that her asset would be lost to her.
Professor Tarkson hesitated and then said, "There is one thing. There is an experimental drug, similar to the ones you are currently using to prevent the nightmares when he sleeps. It will help him to maintain control but once you start using it, he will be dependent on it for the rest of his life."
"I am not concerned about that."
No you wouldn't be, Tarkson thought. He felt sorry for this man whose life was nothing more than a tool to be used. It was clear they had no interest in healing him, not if it meant that they couldn't control him. Tarkson was afraid of the Federation President and the more he interacted with her, the more he was resolved never to end up like Avon.
"This loss of control, has it already extended to other areas?" asked Sester.
"He is weak right now so it would extend to other areas. The most likely area is that of emotional control. Normally his emotions are deeply buried. He rarely lets them surface. But he will likely find it difficult to prevent strong emotions from surfacing."
This may be useful, thought Sester.
"Thank you Professor Tarkson," said Servalan, "you have proven to be useful once again. Give your reports and details of the drug to Sester."
"Of course. My pleasure Madame President."
"Remember that your involvement here is protected by a security ban."
"Of course Madame President, no one will hear anything from me."
"How is your family?"
"They are fine. It's kind of you to ask." The good professor looked nervous.
"You are dismissed Professor."
"Thank you Madame President."
After the professor left, the psychostrategist commented,"That was not very subtle, the solicitude about his family."
"It was not meant to be. Your suspicions were correct about the damage."
"There were indications. You still do not appear happy even though we can regulate the damage."
"We must not lose him Sester."
"Of course not Madame President. I will continue to monitor him closely. Do you want him told?"
"The control will be greater if he is told and he must be wondering about the results of Professor Tarkson's examinations. What is he doing now?"
"He's back in the lab, working on the advanced anti-detector screen. You may want to tell him yourself," Sester suggested.
"Very well. Have him brought to me tonight. Now I want to talk about the situation in Sector Ten."
That was too easy, thought Sester as Servalan changed the subject.

Tags: b7_fanfic

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