He was puzzled, there was something he did not understand about what had happened. Servalan knew him too well and she had consistently used this knowledge in the past to try to manipulate and trap him, but there was something different about this time.
He had been outmaneuvered, there was no denying that. No amount of meticulous planning could have anticipated the use of a techno-virus he had been unaware of.
In the past Servalan's goal had always been to obtain a Deep Space Vehicle like the Liberator and the ORAC computer. He had expected some attempt on her part to do just that which was why he had taken such precautions but she had made no such move, made no such demands.
Her objective could not just be him. From his year at the Special Detention Centre, he knew she derived great pleasure in seeing him suffering and in her control but she was never one to be motivated by her amusements. Having him in her possession must give her some advantage he could not yet fathom, he continued pacing.
Other than the original blows on the planet, there had been no further abuse. They had tossed him in the cell and seemed to have forgotten about him. His hands were restrained behind him but they were removed when he was fed. There were no drugs in his food or drink; he did not understand it.
In focusing on this mystery, he was also trying to not dwell on what he had done, what he had agreed to. For all his lack of morality and highly developed cold-blooded instinct for self-preservation, Avon was a man of his word, once he gave it.
He had once told the infamous Centre interrogator Shrinker, "I'm a man of my word. In the end, that's all there is really." He had been referring to his promise to give Shrinker a way out, but of course he had not told him that the ‘way out' meant a quick death by suicide.
A man of his word; he had given his word to Servalan and in doing so he had handed her his freedom, the freedom he had fought so long and so hard to keep.
He felt sick, but not defeated. It was a tricky problem, how to regain his freedom without breaking the agreement; fortunately he specialized in difficult problems.
There were various monitors in the cell meaning there could be no movements which would not be observed. He had been put through a search scanner upon boarding the vessel and the tool he normally concealed in the heel of his shoe was removed. He was allowed to keep his original clothes and they were cleaned when he was permitted to shower. This was definitely not the standard prisoner treatment he was familiar with.
There was even a day-night cycle. He could tell that it had been four days since they left the trading centre.
The darkness of the night cycle was taking its toll. Isolated in the cell with nothing but his own mind for company, the nightmares had been inescapable. On the Deep Space Vehicle he had his projects, his research and the distractions from the rest of the crew. On Earth with the rebels, he had poured his energies into escaping; the activity kept him occupied; but here there was nothing.
He applied his mind to solving Servalan's mystery.
The Federation President was lounging on the bed in her lavishly decorated cabin, reading endless reports from a datapad and observing Avon on a screen which picked up the feed from his cell. She smiled fondly as she watched him pacing, she knew that intelligence like his never rested when there was a puzzle it could not solve; genius could never stop thinking, this was something they were going to use against him. His strengths would be as much his downfall as his weaknesses.
She knew that he still did not know why he was there, had not yet figured out why she had gone to such great lengths to recapture him. He hated not knowing.
Professor Tarkson's knowledge that the analyst was still suffering from nightmares when he was with the rebels, even after the psych drugs had worn off had been of particular use in what they were planning for him.
Servalan had observed Avon's nightmare-plagued nights. Tarkson's analysis had been correct, Avon had never recovered from the shock of killing Blake on Gauda Prime. The torture, psych-therapy and mind-drugs during his year in the Special Detention Centre had made sure of that, if not intensified it. They were going to use this knowledge and with the aid of various psych drugs, would manipulate his mind into intensifying the effects to the point where he would begin slipping into insanity.
The year in the SDC had shown that even their advanced methods had limited effect on him; they could not beat him that way. Sester's psych-strategy was to make him defeat himself. The added advantage of this method was there was a greater chance that his strengths would remain intact when he had been broken. There were risks of course, there always were with these kinds of treatments.
They had planned five scenarios for him, each one drawing on traumatic experiences from his past. Filled out with details from official records and footage, input from Servalan and Cally, each one was designed to delve deep into his psyche to bring out the ghosts of his past.
They would bring him to that brink of madness again and again until he could take no more, and then they would offer him release. Each time he was brought to the edge, when he was at his weakest, they would subject him to a carefully planned conditioning program which was designed to give them some measure of control over him.
They would be careful and patient, their goal was to break and control him without tampering with the prize, his brilliance and his ability to solve any puzzle and get around any problem.
Avon had made a mistake years ago when he boasted to Servalan that he was the only one in the galaxy who could put the Zen computer back together again once it was taken apart; combined with the fact that he was able to recreate the teleport technology on board the Scorpio, and his ability to achieve a breakthrough in the anti-detector screen technology in a few short months, something which the Federation's top scientists and engineers had been working on for over five years before they came to the same point. Avon had also had access to the Liberator's technology and ORAC's research capabilities for three years. The analyst had a mind which thirsted for knowledge and he did not like it when there were things he did not understand. He would not stop until he understood how everything worked; until he could solve all the mysteries. Cally stories about Avon onboard the Liberator had been very illuminating.
The most valuable asset had always been Avon himself, even more than the ship or the computer. He was too dangerous to be a partner, but as a controlled tool, he would be an invaluable asset; Sester had pointed this out after he had reported to the Federation President after the Gauda Prime fiasco, where Avon not only escaped with ORAC, but had somehow managed to obtain a brand new Liberator ship.
Servalan savoured the moment when Avon finally realized the truth, when he realized the only chance he ever had was when he was holding the live grenade.
"What is this sopron that Avon mentioned in his message?" Jenna asked Vila.
"It's a rock Avon found."
"A rock?" she was confused, it didn't sound promising.
"Well I don't know that much about it, it was Avon's pet project. He dragged me to this miserable planet and all he was after was a rock. He said that it was alive and that it had the ability to mirror whatever was scanning it."
"And how is that useful?"
Cally took up Vila's meager explanation, "When we were trapped by Servalan and left stranded on Kairos while she took over the Liberator, we only had a primitive space craft to work with. It had no weaponry, barely any scanners, and only sub-light engines; but Avon was able to build an artificial sopron, an artificial mirror. When Servalan scanned our craft using the Liberator scanners, they saw mirrored back, another more advanced Liberator. We managed to fool her into abandoning the Liberator and escape on her own ship."
Jenna laughed, "She must have loved that."
Argus, "That trick won't work a second time and it's of no use to mirror a Federation vessel when they know we're not."
"There must have been a reason why he built it," said Cally. "Avon never does anything without a good reason."
The DSV stopped, it had been at standard by six for the past hour, following a pre-programmed evasion program. Avon's limit of three hours had passed.
Zen asked, "Please state speed and course."
"Zen's back." Vila always had a talent for stating the obvious.
They stopped their speculation on the possibilities of the sopron and focused their attentions on the computer's visual interface.
"Zen where are we?" Argus asked.
"The Justice is in sector six at star grid position one five by three nine."
"Cally and I were discussing names earlier," Jenna said embarrassed. "It just seemed time that we gave it a name. We hadn't decided on one though, Zen must have picked up on it."
"The Justice was accepted," Zen explained.
"That's not fair, you named the last ship," Vila complained jokingly.
"It's a good choice. The focus of this ship is different from the Liberator," Argus agreed.
He addressed the ship's computer, "Zen, full sensor sweep. Are there any Federation ships within range?"
After a few seconds of activity, Zen reported, "Negative. No Federation vessels within detector range."
"Keep the anti-detector screen on. Maintain medium and short range sensor sweeps."
"We're in a barren sector of space, not much here; the Federation doesn't have much interest in this area. We can stay here for now until we make some plans. Jenna, check our power reserves."
Jenna went over to Avon's operations station.
"Banks one, two and three are depleted. Bank four is at thirty percent. Banks five through seven are fully charged."
"Alright we'll stay here until the reserve banks are back to full strength. Zen, how long will that take?"
"Forty hours at present power usage"
"Time to check our other asset," Argus said.
"Do we have to? Couldn't we just save ourselves a lot of trouble and dump it out the airlock now?" Vila spoke up. They all ignored him.
Argus took ORAC's transmitter from Avon's terminal and turned it on.
"ORAC," he addressed the computer unit.
There was no response. They all seated themselves around the computer, Argus laid the transmitter on ORAC's case.
Jenna tried as well. "ORAC respond."
Still no response.
"Avon said that he released the command code," Jenna said puzzled.
"The command code. Of course. ORAC, command code gamma two delta three six four. Respond," Argus addressed the clear-cased computer unit.
"Respond to what? Please state a specific request or question and stop wasting my time."
The look on Argus's face was one of astonishment. He was not used to attitude from a computer.
"ORAC are you still monitoring Federation communications traffic?" Jenna asked.
ORAC remained silent. "ORAC?"
"Maybe the aural receptors have been damaged?" Cally remarked.
Argus repeated Jenna's question, "ORAC, are you still monitoring Federation communications traffic?"
"Of course I am, there was no countermand to the original instruction given by Avon."
Jenna asked, "Is there any more news about the move against the rebel group on Earth?"
ORAC was silent again.
"I think it's ignoring you Jenna," Vila told her.
"ORAC, did you hear Jenna's question?" Argus had a suspicion.
"Of course I did. My aural receptors have acuity of…"
"Yes, yes, I'm sure it's very impressive ORAC. My question is, why did you not respond to Jenna's question."
"I would think that would be obvious."
"I'm not yet familiar with your operation. Could you enlighten me?"
"Very well. Only the command code source can use this unit remotely."
"That's why no one could use ORAC when Avon had the command code," Jenna nodded her understanding.
"I don't get it," Vila said.
"It's very similar to a ship's override command, it will lock on the first source to use it. Once activated, it will not respond to anyone else using the command code until released."
"ORAC, as the command code source can I order you to respond to anyone else?"
"No it is part of the basic design by Professor Ensor which cannot be altered."
"That makes it limiting. Only one of us can use ORAC at anyone time" Jenna said.
"I volunteer not to be one of those," Vila said.
"ORAC, did you know that Avon was going to Terrus to rescue Cally?"
"Of course I did. Avon's message relayed by Zen already told you I received the original message from Servalan."
"Did he know how dangerous it was?"
"Avon requested the odds of his plan on rescuing Cally."
"And you told him it had a forty-two percent chance of success?"
"It was forty-two point zero five percent to one to be exact. Is it your intention to continually ask questions you already know the answers to?"
"Did he ask you the odds of escaping himself?" Cally asked.
ORAC did not respond.
Argus remembered why and repeated Cally's question, "ORAC, did Avon ask you the odds of escaping himself?"
"Avon did not request those odds."
"Why would he not do that? Avon doesn't do anything unless he knows he has at least a greater than even chance of success," Jenna said Except at Star One, but that was different. "Why would he ask the odds about Cally's rescue but not on his own survival? He's not the sacrificial type."
"Maybe he didn't think he needed the odds. Maybe he thought that he had everything under control." Argus said. "He did take an area grenade down with him."
"But why did he exclude us?" Jenna asked. "Doing it alone made it much more dangerous."
Cally took the transmitter from the top of the case and looked at it thoughtfully, "You said that Avon was very possessive about this transmitter, that he always kept it with him?"
"Yes, that's true," Jenna replied.
"I think he already knew the odds," Cally said quietly.