Four hours had passed. The cycle of readings on the monitor screen did not seem any different than when they had started.
"ORAC, I don't see any difference," said Argus.
"You are correct. It appears that focus beams being applied are not providing enough stimulation. Avon's mind requires a longer period without the pressure in order to bring enough concentration to bear."
I don't think I like where this is going, thought Argus. "So what are you suggesting ORAC?"
"The focus beams must be intensified to double the current output," replied ORAC.
"That's going to cause a lot more pain."
"That is obvious."
"I'm going to talk to Avon. Don’t do anything yet."
Argus waited until the current bout of pain had passed, then turned off the sound being sent to the headphones. He activated the comm.
There was no reply.
"Stop shouting," replied Avon. His voice sounded strained. "What is wrong?"
"ORAC says that it's not working. The focus beams are not strong enough."
"I was afraid of that. I have not noticed any appreciable difference."
"ORAC wants to double the intensity."
There was a pause as Avon considered this.
"Well, I do not appear to have a choice. Tell ORAC to proceed. And you may want to watch the door."
"Alright." Argus reset the switches. "ORAC, you can go ahead."
Avon screamed. His body was arched against the increased pain but the invisible restrictor bands held him down.
Oh no, thought Argus. The others are going to hear this. No wonder you said to watch the door.
Vila and Cally rushed out of their separate rooms.
"Did you hear that?" asked Vila.
"Yes, I did. It sounded like someone screaming," replied Cally.
"I don't hear anything now."
"I cannot tell where it came from. Let's wait a few minutes."
A few minutes passed while they both listened intently. But there was no recurrence of the sound.
"Maybe we both imagined it," said Vila. I hope.
"There must have been a cause."
"Well, I'm going back to bed. I have the next shift on the flight deck," Vila headed back to his cabin.
At that moment there was another scream.
"It came from this direction," said Cally moving down the corridor.
"Uh, Cally." Vila had not moved.
"What is it Vila?" She turned back to look at him.
"Where are Avon and Argus?"
The two mens' cabins were also along this corridor but there was no sign of them.
Avon moaned in pain as the beams continued to assault his brain. His body struggled against the restraints. All thoughts of where he was was lost as he battled the agony.
The pain was released. Avon slumped back into the bed; gasping for breath. The insistent voices were telling him to concentrate. He remembered vaguely that he had to. Must try. At least the pressure is gone for a little while.
The reversal process and the increased pain did something which he did not expect. During the original conditioning back at the Federation Special Detention Centre, the specialists had placed blocks on his memory so that he would not remember the process afterwards. WIth this reversal, those blocks were breaking down and he was starting to remember everything.
The conditioning machines had assaulted his mind with pain, drugs and overwhelming impulses; attempting to override his mind and his will even as he screamed in agony. Then when he was too exhausted to fight or provide any kind of resistance; they had continued to assault his helpless mind until it neared the point of collapse. The horror of what they had done to him filled him with anger and an increased resolve to undo what they had done to him.
I will do this, he thought. Even if it kills me.
"How long must this go on ORAC?" asked Argus as he watched the analyst struggling. He was trying to maintain his detached objectivity but it was difficult with someone screaming in pain.
"In conditioning of this type, the best results occur when the subject reaches an exhausted state."
"You didn't tell me that before, ORAC!" accused Argus. This was definitely unwelcome news.
"You did not ask before," replied the computer unit. "Next time be specific with your questions."
You did not put that in the files, Sester, thought Argus angrily.
The screaming had stopped for a few minutes.
"I think it's coming from in here," said Cally; as she and Vila stood outside the medical bay door. Normally the doors opened automatically when approached, unless it was locked. They could hear moaning from the other side of the door.
"What's going on?" wondered Vila aloud. "Avon! Argus! Are you in there?" he said and banged on the door with his fist.
I guess they had to find out eventually, thought Argus as he heard Vila's voice. He got up and went to the door. "Vila, who else is there with you?"
"Cally is here. Jenna is still on the flight deck. We can't find Avon. Is he in there with you?"
Cally added, "It's Cally, Argus. Can you let us in? The door appears to be locked."
"I locked it Cally," replied Argus.
Unfortunately at that moment, Avon screamed again as the reverse-conditioning continued.
"That's Avon's voice!" exclaimed Vila. "He's the one screaming!"
"Argus, what are you doing in there?" asked Cally. "What is happening with Avon? Is he alright?"
That's a silly thing to ask, thought Vila. He's screaming. Of course, he's not alright.
Argus's voice came through the door again, "He's not alright, but he will be. I need you to trust me Cally. Wait until we are finished and then we will explain. But you need to leave now and allow us to continue."
Cally and Vila looked at each other.
Cally said quietly, so that Argus could not hear her through the door, "Vila, can you get the door open?"
"I'll get my tools." Vila headed back towards his cabin.
"And can you stop by and tell Jenna what is going on?" she called after him.
There were no more sounds from the other side of the door.
I hope that door holds, thought Argus. I should have brought a weapon in here.
He highly doubted Vila and Cally were just going to leave.
"What's going on Vila? Who is screaming?" asked Jenna the moment Vila came onto the flight deck. Even though the flight deck was far from the medical unit, she could still hear faint screaming through the ventilator shafts which ran the length of the ship.
"It's Avon. Argus is doing something to him in the medical bay. We can't get the door open. It's locked. I'm going to get my tools and open it. Cally sent me to tell you."
"Why would Argus do that? What did Avon do?" asked Jenna.
"I don't know. It's all very mysterious. I've got to go," Vila headed out again.
"Let me know what you find out. Or if you need any help," Jenna called after him.
Maybe I should just tell them, thought Argus as he heard sounds at the door again. It must be Vila trying to get the door open.
The situation had changed since they had to increase the intensity of the focus beams; causing more pain and the resultant screams. Keeping the information from the crew was no longer a viable option.
"Cally. Vila. I need you to stop what you are doing and listen."
The sounds stopped.
"Alright, we're listening Argus." It was Cally's voice.
"When Avon was at the Detention Centre, he was given a form of conditioning. It is dangerous for him if this is not reversed. The only way to break the conditioning is to attempt a form of reverse-conditioning. That is what we are attempting to do now. Avon has agreed to this. I know, if he were able to now, he would ask you to let us continue."
Argus stopped and listened for their response. He could hear muffled whispering.
"Argus, maybe we can help. Let us in."
"No, Cally. The last thing Avon would want is for you to see this."
Avon screamed again. They all waited until it was over.
"How long will this take?" Cally asked.
"Wait a minute."
Argus crossed over to ORAC, "ORAC, how much longer will this process take?"
"It depends on the strength and will of the subject."
"That may take days! This is Avon we're talking about." Argus was really starting to warm to Vila's idea of dumping ORAC out the airlock.
"That is an exaggeration. The process should take another twelve hours. There may be a way to speed up the process," said ORAC.
"Why didn't you say that before! How?"
"There are drugs which will weaken the physical condition. This will result in the subject achieving the state of exhaustion much quicker. It will cut the time required by half."
"What are these drugs?" asked Argus. "Do we have any onboard?"
"Cally will be familiar with these drugs," suggested ORAC.
Argus went to the door again and started reconnecting the wires which Avon had disconnected.
"Cally, I am going to let you in. ORAC said that there are drugs which will help speed up the process. I don’t know what they are."
"Alright," was the reply.
"But I'm only letting you in. Vila, I do not want to see you when I open the door."