It had to be clear now, even to their limited imaginations, what the danger was. With it, Avon had detected and destroyed the ASP. Sester had no doubt that it had been Avon.
He had appreciated Avon's strategy in flooding the public message system so that they could not tell which message was the real one. Genius recognized that the simplest strategies were often the most successful. Complexity often tends to unravel easily to the unexpected.
One thing the various activities did tell him, Avon was working with the rebels. Even with these unexpected developments, progress had been made. From Tarkson's reports, he knew that Avon did not trust the rebels, but a couple of the rebels were beginning to trust him. Trust had been required as the next step, that appeared to have been achieved.
Later he contacted Servalan and gave her a full report.
"You are sure it was Avon who destroyed the ASP virus?" she asked.
She sounds pleased. Almost proud. Interesting.
"And you are sure we do not need to extract him yet?"
"Not yet, it is a risk but I believe it is an acceptable one. Events are still progressing as I have predicted. We know where they are and we have Professor Tarkson working for us. We can pick Avon up at any time."
"You are playing a hazardous game, Sester. Avon is a dangerous man."
"Those are the only games worth playing Madame President but it is hardly a fair game, since we have the ace. The Federation holds Gauda Prime, no matter what move he makes that is a fact he cannot change."
"Very well, I will tell Senior Controller Tarvin to stand down from any precipitive action. And Sester."
"Yes Madame President?"
"You will make sure you don't lose, won't you?"
After Sester signed off, Servalan picked up the small control box on her desk. She smiled. Avon, Avon, when will you ever learn. I always get what I want in the end.
Several days later, Avon requested to speak to Argus and Jenna. "I have to send another set of messages."
"Why should we let you do that?" Argus asked warily.
Avon never seemed fazed by Argus's open suspicion. "ORAC has to be informed that we are coming, that way it can warn us of Federation defenses at Gauda Prime."
"You remember where ORAC is." Jenna realized the implications of what he just said.
"Yes approximately, I remember general landmarks, I do not have specific coordinates. Remember it has been along time and there was no locator fix. I will have to go to the planet."
"What aren't you telling us?" Argus asked.
Avon smiled. "There is however, a problem."
"Servalan has ORAC's activator key."
"Of course," Jenna put her hand to her head, "I'd almost forgotten about the key."
"Servalan took it after I was taken on Gauda Prime."
"You never mentioned a key before Jenna," Argus told her.
"It's been so long, I had forgotten. In order to use ORAC, we need the activator key."
Argus turned to Avon, he was getting a good idea as to how Avon's mind worked.
"You have a way around this problem, don't you? A way that doesn't involve storming into Servalan's headquarters and taking the key by force, otherwise you would have mentioned this before."
"Naturally," Avon replied. So you are brighter than you look. "I will need a few tools and some components."
From what Avon understood, the rebel group had lost their sole electronics engineer during the attack on the Federation Special Detention Centre. The others only had basic electronics and circuitry knowledge. It was a risk but a slight one.
Once the rebels obtained the parts, and with Tess monitoring, he started building an activator unit. He had not told them that it was not possible to duplicate ORAC's activator key else he would have done it when he was back on the Liberator. The unit he was building was an activator of sorts. It serve the purposes of the activator in that it was a transmitter which operated on ORAC's command frequency. He could interact with and give orders to ORAC using it. It would have limited range, that could not be helped. He knew he could mask the purpose of the transmitter components, but they could only be fooled so far. It meant he would have to be in orbit over the planet in order to use it.
Vila's rebel group returned from their reconnaissance mission. They reported that preparations had been made to leave Earth aboard a produce transport to a nearby sector. It would be ready to depart in two days. Somewhere along the filed flight course they would intersect with the rebel space cruiser and Captain Sovan.
Professor Tarkson had returned and with Vila's unenthusiastic participitation, they had started his deprogramming sessions. His mind seemed to go blank every time he tried to remember anything other than the specific images surrounding Gauda Prime, but it no longer triggered a violent response, only the headaches.
"He's as good with electronics as he is with programming and manipulating the system," Tess reported to Argus and Tess in the meeting room.
"Nothing suspicious?" Argus asked. You are still fascinated with him aren't you?
"No. Of course, without Sato, I cannot tell for certain."
"Keep an eye on him, Tess. Don't be blinded by his abilities. That's all."
"I will," she told him as she left the room.
"You're worried about her aren't you?" Jenna asked. She knew him well enough by now to recognize the concern on his face.
"She has a tendency to be enthusiastic, especially when she runs across someone she can share her abilities with, it tends to dull her common sense and with Avon, she has a lot to be enthusiastic about."
"If I didn't know you better, I would say you were jealous."
"Not jealous, protective. Tess is like a little sister. If he uses her, I will take him apart one small piece at a time. In some ways, she is naïve, she's never met anyone quite as dangerous as he is. What do you think about this activator he is building?"
"Tess was right when she said that Avon is as much of a genius at electronics as he is with the programming. It may be just as it seems, he is building an activator unit. But with Avon, things are never that simple."
"I completely agree. I think I'll have a little talk with Vila."
She nodded, "That's a good idea."
"There's something else we have to be careful of. So far we've been able to keep a low profile but now that we have Avon, we have attracted a level of attention from Federation Security we never had to deal with before, in particular, Servalan. From what you've told me, it is extremely unhealthy to be in her sights, especially now that she is the supreme ruler of the Federated Worlds. We can never let her have ORAC or Avon, either one helping her would be disastrous for the rebel movement. It would be wiser to destroy them than to risk either one falling into her hands."
"You're saying that you want to kill Avon after he leads us to ORAC?"
"No, I see that he is an extremely valuable asset, I understand why Blake went to such great lengths to keep him with the Liberator. As long as we can control him it will be advantageous to have him working for us but if at any point we are in danger of losing him to Servalan, he must be killed."
"He would never help Servalan."
"I'd rather not run that risk."
ORAC had picked up Avon's second coded message that the rebels would enter Gauda Prime orbit in two standard weeks. Avon had also requested the security status on the planet. ORAC had reported a strong Federation presence on Gauda Prime in the reply message. There was an additional piece of information it had included, which Avon had not asked for. It was an attempt to warn him that the rebel group had been infiltrated and to be careful.
Avon had completed work the on the activator on board the rebel cruiser Carver, now bound for Gauda Prime. The rebels had been impatient, they had not been willing to wait. Idealists didn't have much sense. He would have warned them if they had been inclined to listen but knowing their mistrust of him, he did not bother.
His own plans were made, all he needed was access to the fast scout shuttle. Timing was essential. Once he was within the Deep Space Vehicle's forcewall, he would be able to dock and board without much difficulty and with access to the teleport system onboard the DSV, retrieving ORAC would be considerably easier.
His shadows still had to be dealt with, the two guards assigned to accompany him wherever he went, but he was working on it.
To increase their chances, and his own, he had been helping Tess.
Avon had suggested to Tess that it would be useful to convert the former Federation vessel back into a Federation cruiser, at least temporarily. It would increase their chances at survival once they entered the Gauda Prime system. Tess had brought the idea to Argus.
"The Federation controls Gauda Prime, Argus and we have a ship which can pass as a Federation vessel, we can use that to our advantage."
It was a creative suggestion and gave them some tactical leeway. Argus agreed and the ship had been returned back to it's original appearance. Avon was now helping Tess to set up a masking beacon which would identify the ship as Federation and fake electronic orders to justify their arrival.
Tess was clearly fascinated by him. Avon had never understood why human beings insisted on attaching irrational emotions to people who exhibited extraordinary abilities. There were people he admired, such as Ensor, ORAC's creator but there was no emotion involved. An appreciation for talent and genius was natural, and helped to identify who was a more useful tool, or a more dangerous opponent.
Tess's enthusiasm with technology was contagious. She had a first-rate mind and a certain innocence in the way she trusted his abilities. He found himself helping her to expand her abilities with the bio-interface. In particular, he trained her to recognize the passive monitors which she did not seem to be aware of. It was an ability which would increase her survival rate if she insisted on continuing with the rebels.
A week after ORAC sent the reply, additional Federation elite assault troops had arrived and the entire security infrastructure had gone into heightened preparation mode. ORAC had sent a third message indicating danger but it knew that there was slim chance that it had been picked up, Avon had not expected an additional reply.
Now, things were quiet. The Federation had set its traps and like a spider, was waiting for its prey.
Originally, ORAC had planned to position the Deep Space Vehicle behind the planet's moon and as close to it's surface as possible the day before Avon and the rebels were due to arrive. The Deep Space Vehicle would continue to hide in charged asteroid cluster just outside the sector until then. But newly arrived Federation pursuit ships were currently using the moon for the same purpose. ORAC adjusted it's strategy to a much less optimal solution, the options and the odds had diminished considerably. The ASP virus had done considerable damage and the rebels had not been careful enough.
There was a piece of information which Avon, and in particular the rebels with him, would have found useful and would have alarmed them.
"I have good news Madame President, the entire Earth rebel network associated with the Argus group has been neutralized. Simultaneous strikes took them completely by surprise." Controller Tarvin reported to Servalan, "They are all either dead or in Federation custody."
"How deep did they infiltrate into Federation Landforce Command?"
"We have a list of nine so far although none at the command-level.. The nine are currently undergoing interrogation; I will send you the preliminary report by the end of the day."
"And the preparations at Gauda Prime?"
"The additional assault troops are in place and pursuit ships have been positioned behind the planet's moon. Everything is ready for the arrival of the rebels."
"You are sure that none of the rebels had a chance to send a message out?"
"Certain. We used the blockers to make sure that nothing could be broadcast out and we shut down the sections of the CompComm network they had access to."
"Good. Keep me informed."