"You do realize that even if I help you, you are not in a commanding position," Sester pointed out to the Senior Controller. "It is unlikely that you will ever be free of a Federation presence but I can help you to gain more independence."
He was seated opposite Dayto in a very familiar office. Guards were posted by the door. It gave Sester a sense of déjà vu. Everything looked the same, even down to the restraints which were too tight around his wrists.
"That's not good enough. I want the Federation gone. You're a psychostrategist, I'm sure you can figure out something," said Dayto.
And only your group and yourself in sole power no doubt. That's what you really want, thought Sester.
"You seem to equate a psychostrategist with some ancient concept of a miracle worker. I assure you we are not," said Sester.
"Then why did I bother saving your life? Why don't I just kill you now?"
Still the same aggression substituting for real thought. I am going to enjoy planning your demise, thought Sester.
"I said that I am not a miracle worker. I didn't say that I couldn't help you," said Sester. "But a psychostrategist builds scenarios on what is possible."
And what is impossible only if I feel like it. Which I definitely do not. Not for a fool like you. Not even if I was serious about helping you.
"You had better find a scenario that meets my requirements then," said Dayto.
The man was glaringly transparent in his attempt to be menacing. Sester hated people who did not have the intelligence to be less obvious. Even the straight-forward Argus was capable of much more subtlety than this man was. Dayto was a bully and a fool.
"Possible scenarios are not influenced by threats no matter how much you would like them to be," said Sester.
"I think there is one threat which will change the possibilities." Dayto said. He clearly refused to believe that Sester could not be pushed to do what he wanted.
"Leave her alone," said Sester, the volume in his voice rising.
Dayto smiled cynically. "I was beginning to suspect that she was not who you said she was."
"She is," stressed Sester.
"Then why do you not sleep together?" Dayto asked cynically. There was an unfriendly look on his face. "I thought you said you were lovers?"
Sester did not like this turn in the conversation. Until now he hadn't been sure if this was something Dayto had asked his security people to track. Sester knew that the senior controller might become suspicious if it was. With the setup in the room, it had been impossible to hide the lack of more intimate activity. For Reya's sake, Sester had decided not to broach the subject until it appeared they had no other option.
Sester was prepared for this though. There was still a possibility that the other option would not be necessary. He didn't have that much confidence in the chance though because it depended on the senior controller.
"We are. But we do not appreciate being watched," said Sester. There was a trace of anger in his voice. "We will not perform for your security monitors."
"Don't tell me she's shy," Dayto said.
There was smoothness in Dayto's voice which made Sester realize that he had been a fool to think that there was even a small chance. Security was not the only thing on this man's mind.
There was barely veiled anger in Sester's voice now, "I told you to leave her alone."
Sester had known that setting up Reya, as someone he loved was a double-edged sword for him. He didn't have a choice though. It had been the only way to keep her safe; and they had to be able to coordinate together in order to have a chance to escape.
"I warned you what I would do if I became suspicious," said Dayto. There was an icy tone in his voice now.
Sester recognized the danger. If he gave his opponent what he wanted too fast, Dayto's suspicious mind might conclude that he was trying to deflect him from the fact that Reya was not his lover. If he did not agree to give Dayto what he wanted, then he would kill her or at the very least harm her in some way.
"I am already cooperating; you don't need to threaten her."
"You are not cooperating. Not unless you give me everything I want," said Dayto.
The man didn't seem to have any tone other than varying shades of menace.
"What you are asking is the impossible," said Sester.
"I don't believe you. Just as I do not believe that the woman is who you say she is. I think you have been doing nothing but lie to me. And I think she's too dangerous to keep around if I can't use her."
Dayto gestured to the guards standing by the doorway.
"I am not lying," said Sester.
They could hear the door slide open.
"Wait!" Sester shouted.
Dayto indicated for the guards to stop.
"Well psychostrategist? What is it to be?" asked Dayto.
"You win. I will attempt to do what you ask," said Sester.
"Not just attempt. You will find a solution. If you don't I will kill both of you," warned Dayto.
Sester allowed the anger to show clearly on his face now. "Yes."
Dayto continued, ""Perhaps she is useful after all. But be warned. I will be watching both of you very carefully. If I have any further reason to be suspicious of her, you know what I will do."
Sester ignored his threats and said, "I need a computer to work with and full information on your current situation. I will provide you with a list of the types of data I require."
"You will get them."
Yes, I am going to take a perverse pleasure in bringing you down. You won't even see it coming, thought Sester.
"Stop it! Leave him alone!" shouted Vila. There were sounds of a struggle.
Cally immediately opened her eyes at the commotion.
"No!" There was an anguished shout and more sounds of struggle.
She quickly sat up and looked over to where Avon had been sleeping. Two of the rebels were by Avon's bed, trying to hold him down. Avon was struggling wildly.
"No!" The look in his eyes scared her.
Jenna was watching Avon being subdued by the two men. In her hands, she was holding the comm unit which Avon had modified. The look in her eyes also troubled Cally.
Avon's mind was confused. He had woken up to two Detention Centre guards trying to grab his arms; he knew what that meant and immediately started fighting them. They were going to take him away to be tortured again. He was filled with anger; he would not let them take him without a fight. As he struggled, he was also aware of a nagging fear he was trying to push down. He didn't know how much longer he could continue fighting. Part of him wanted it to be over; but the part of him which was still the old Avon, refused to give up.
Another of the rebels was holding Vila back. Two others were blocking Ture and Allren, who had also come over to help.
Cally got up quickly and went over. "Jenna, stop this. What do you hope to achieve?"
Jenna turned her head to face Cally, "I need his teleport bracelet."
Avon was still struggling madly. He cried out as one of the rebels brought his fist down on his compromised knee. Vila tried to get free from the man holding him in order to stop them.
For a moment Avon stopped fighting as his body stiffened in reaction to the pain. One of the rebels was able to remove the bracelet from his wrist and handed it to Jenna. Avon started to struggle again.
"Ow!" Vila said. His arm was being twisted around behind him by the man he was trying to break away from. He stopped struggling.
"Jenna!" said Cally angrily as she looked at the woman. Cally moved towards Avon.
"Let go of them. We have what we wanted," said Jenna generously.
The rebels let go of Avon and the others and stepped back.
Once released, Avon immediately sat up and slid to the farthest part of the bed, away from his attackers. There was a look of hatred and wariness on his face as he regarded all of them. One hand was rubbing the knee which had been struck.
From the look in his eyes and what she was sensing from him, Cally realized that something was still very wrong with Avon.
"Get away from him," said Cally. There was coldness in her voice. It seemed as if the temperature in the room had just dropped several degrees. "You've already done enough damage." Cally deliberately stepped between Avon and Jenna.
"Enough damage?" Jenna looked at the teleport bracelet in her hand and then at Avon. "For now." She and the rebels left the room; but not before she had also taken the modified comm unit from the equipment satchel.
After she left, Cally sat down at the edge of Avon's bed. They all crowded around. Avon continued looking at them warily.
"Avon, are you alright?" asked Cally, she reached towards him. Avon suddenly lunged at her throat with both hands.
"Cally, watch out!" shouted Vila even as she reacted quickly and backed away from Avon. Avon grimaced. The quick effort had aggravated his knee. He moved back against the wall and glared at them.
"What game is this? Did you really think you can take me with just one person now?" Avon asked coldly.
With shock, Cally realized that Avon didn't know who they were.
"Why is he saying that?" Vila asked Cally. "Avon, it's us."
"What's wrong with him?" asked Allren.
"I need all of you to go to the other end of the room," said Cally.
"But Cally, what if he attacks you again?" asked Vila.
"Please, Vila. Do as I say," said Cally.
"Alright, but we'll be here if you need us." Vila, Ture and Allren went to the other end of the room. They watched Cally and Avon's actions intently.
Cally sat down on the edge of the bed again. This time she moved carefully and slowly, trying not to make any threatening movements.
"Avon," said Cally gently, trying not to startle him.
Avon regarded her coldly. "Are we using names now? Or do you have problems with remembering numbers?"
He was puzzled. This was not Servalan or Sester. They were the only ones who used his name here. Was this a new opponent? Another one of Servalan's underlings? How dangerous was she?
"Avon, I need you to listen to me," said Cally.
"You need me to listen? You make it sound as if I had a choice," said Avon sarcastically.
He was tired off all the manipulation.
"Avon, you're no longer at the Detention Centre. You're safe," said Cally.
Avon laughed cynically. It was a disturbing sound.
Cally realized that she was not reaching him. It was time to try something else. She tried to project her thoughts to him.
* Avon. You need to concentrate. What you're seeing, it's not real. You're not at the Detention Centre. *
Avon put his hand to his head. "No! Get out of my head!"
* Avon. It's Cally. This is not a trick. You must believe me. *
"No! You're not Cally. Cally is dead!" shouted Avon again. Both of his hands held his head. He was trying to fight the thoughts intruding into his mind. They were trying to play with his reality again. He couldn't let them.
I must be in the psych-interrogation room. It's an induced vision, thought Avon. He struggled against it.
His mind was breaking through the vision. He saw Cally. This is not real. You are not real. Cally is dead. I know that Cally is dead. What trick are they playing?
His mind rejected what he was seeing. He continued to fight. His vision faded between his cell and a room which contained Cally. His mind desperately fought to find reality; but found nothing. His head was starting to hurt. He felt dizzy.
Any minute now, he expected the interrogators to fill him with drugs which would make him scream. They always did when he began breaking through the visions they were forcing into him.
Avon was lying down on the sleep platform now. His hands were still holding his head as he continued to struggle. Someone touched his hand.
There was a stab of thought into his mind. * Avon! You must break out of it! *
It was Cally. The impression of her presence was so strong in his mind that it stopped his immediate instinct to attack the person who was touching him. He could feel Cally in his mind. She was very worried about him and she was afraid for him.
This was the Cally he knew. His logical mind rebelled at the idea that such a thing was possible. But it was so much like Cally that he hesitated.
Could it be? Avon began entertaining the thought. Is this reality or just an insane hope that you're still alive?
His vision began stabilizing. He reached for the Cally in his mind. His physical hand tightened around Cally's hand.
* Cally? * his thought was tentative.
* Yes, Avon. It's me. *
* Are you real? Are you really alive? *
* Yes, Avon. Don't you remember? You saved me, * she reassured him.
* I… don't remember. I don't know what's real or not anymore. * he told her. He was very tired.
Avon could feel her sadness. It made him uncomfortable.
* Don't be sad, Cally. It's not the time for regrets. *
* I'm not sad. I'm angry; angry that Servalan did this to you; angry that Jenna wants to hurt you. *
Memory was returning. His head hurt. * I need you to get out of my mind, Cally. I'm fine now. *
Through the connection, she could sense that his mind was calm and in control again.
* I'm not in your mind, Avon. Don't worry. Your secrets are still safe. I will break the connection. *
Avon opened his eyes. Cally let go of his hand.
"Are you really alright?" asked Cally. She had taken a chance. Cally knew that powerful telepaths on Auron found that physical touch could enhance the telepathic connection. Avon was not an Auron, but she had always had a stronger sense of him than of the others.
Cally had been surprised that she had been able to hear his thoughts though. She had never been able to do that with another Terran before. Cally wondered if it had something to do with what had been done to Avon's mind.
Avon responded to her query, "Alright? That's a relative term when applied to me I think."
Avon sat up and looked around the room. He recognized it now. Vila, Ture and Allren were still watching him nervously from the other end of the room. They approached tentatively as they saw him looking around.
"What happened?" Avon asked Cally.
"You don't remember?" asked Cally.
"You went a little nuts," said Vila. They were all surrounding Avon's bed again.
"That's not very helpful," Cally told Vila.
"Sorry," said Vila.
"I remember waking up in the Detention Centre. The guards had come to get me." Avon stopped as he realized what he was saying.
"That wasn't real, Avon. They were the rebels with Jenna, not guards from the Detention Centre. They wanted to take your teleport bracelet. When you woke up, your mind must have been confused. It immediately connected them with the guards at the Detention Centre. Did they do that often? Did they come for you when you were still asleep?" she asked.
Avon's jaw tightened before he said, "Yes."
He still remembered the months they had worked him to exhaustion at the Detention Centre. They would come for him when he could not wake up in response to the commands of the security overseers. It had always meant a session in one of the interrogation rooms as punishment. Then even more exhausted and barely able to move, they would force him to work. The systematic cruelty had reduced him to little more than a machine that could be switched on or off at whim of his captors.
Avon could almost feel the pain and the hopelessness again. It had been the closest he had come to no longer being human.
Cally noticed Avon's breathing had become quicker as he recalled the past. She could sense a flow of increasingly strong emotions across his consciousness.
"Avon." There was sharp concern in her voice. He could see the worry reflected in her eyes.
Avon consciously pushed the memories back down.
I can't let the memories have power over me. I have to maintain control.
He forced himself to become calm. He looked at Cally impassively.
"I understand that it wasn't real," he told her. His voice was composed. He looked down at his bare left wrist. "Jenna got what she wanted."
Vila said, "Yes. The underhanded….something. Trying to get it when you were asleep. And bringing those thugs with her." Vila wasn't used to calling members of the opposite gender something nasty. Unless it was Servalan.
"You were right about Jenna wanting to take your teleport bracelet," said Cally.
"In this case, being wrong would have been more useful," said Avon.
"You? Wrong?" said Vila in mock disbelief.
"Yes, you're right, Vila. It's not a realistic possibility. More in the realm of fiction."
"I was joking," said Vila.
"I wasn't," said Avon without a change in expression.
"Now I know you're feeling better," Cally remarked.
Avon was relieved that the mood was lighter now thanks to Vila. He was troubled and he didn't want the others to know, especially not Cally. The last thing he needed was emotional reactions from the others when he was already struggling with his own unwelcome ones.
This incident informed him that his control over his own mind was tentative at best. He thought that he had made more progress than this. It was disconcerting to find out that he hadn't. His mind was stronger but his own control over it was not.