Category: Action, Drama
Warnings for torture
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: It's an episode of...everyone wants Avon.
After reassuring Reya that Sester had been released from his restraints, Argus came back to the flight deck. He slumped into his flight seat with a humph and asked, "Anything happen while I was gone?"
Cally said from the couch, "We're still on course."
"You released him?"
Argus tried not to growl in displeasure. "Yes."
Sester's voice came over the ship's comm. "Argus."
Argus pressed a button on his panel and asked grumpily, "What is it?"
"Did you forget something?"
Argus's brow furrowed in irritation. Restraints. Tracer bracelet. What else did the man want? He snapped, "I'm busy."
Sester's voice said, "Well, are you too busy to let me out? I believe releasing me includes letting me out of my cabin."
Vila turned around. "The cabin's locked on the inside."
Argus sighed irritably. "You'd better let him out."
"Right." Vila went off.
"Information. Incoming communications."
Argus and Cally exchanged looks.
This time, the screen was grainy and full of static. A man in an unwelcome black uniform appeared.
Argus shouted in alarm, "Zen, cut the c…"
The man said one word. "Jenna."
"Hang on. Zen, track the signal. Cut off the moment there's feedback indicating trace activity."
"Confirmed. Tracking initiated."
Argus said to the man, "Alright, you have my attention. Who are you and what do you want?"
"I have someone you might be looking for."
"Go on," said Argus cautiously. Cally had come to stand by him and was watching the black-clad man intently.
"Being a military man, you should recognize my uniform."
Cally said accusingly, "You're the ones who've been responsible for what's happening to…"
Breen looked at her. "You must be the telepath."
She demanded, "Where is he?"
Breen ignored her and addressed Argus. "If you want him back, I'm willing to sell him to you. At a price of course."
Argus said, "I want proof he's still alive."
Breen looked off screen and nodded to someone. They heard the shuffling of feet and then the viewscreen flickered, for a brief moment, there was a horrifying sight of Avon.
Cally moved forward in shock and anguish, "A…"
Argus held her back. "You bastards."
Corinne had come to Cally's aid, hovering near her shoulder.
Breen's face appeared again. "It's nothing personal, you understand. Just a business arrangement. We were hired to do a job."
Argus said, "And now you're selling out your employer? How can we trust you?"
"She sold you out, didn't she? Someone like that, who would sell out her friends for her own reasons… We decided that we couldn't trust her. I'm sure you understand."
Argus's voice was low and deadly. "If you sell us out, I will come after you. There is nowhere you will be able to hide. Do you understand?"
"I know your reputation."
"Good. Now name your price."
Breen's eyes narrowed. "No haggling? Additional terms?"
"You have our friend. I want to make sure he survives and you will stop torturing him."
Breen smiled. "Of course, but I can't guarantee what she'll do to him. Afterwards you must guarantee us safe passage to a port of our choice."
"How many of you?"
"Agreed. Send the coordinates."
Breen said, "You have to get here by the designated time or the deal's off."
"Once you're there, stay out of sight and wait for my signal."
The screen went blank.
Cally looked over Argus's shoulder as they received the coordinates.
"Yes, those are the same ones. What's going on? There are two groups?"
"I don't like this," said Cally.
"What did you feel?"
"The sense of him is stronger so he is closer than the other group."
"But if they're both broadcasting from relatively the same place…"
"And we're moving closer…that would make sense."
Argus was mystified. "Why are there two groups trying to sell Avon to us?"
Sester's voice came from the flight deck steps. He was casually leaning against the wall. "Is this a private game or can anyone play?"
Argus snarled, "You."
Sester said with a friendly grin on his face, "Yes, it's me. I'm out now. Unless you want to remedy the situation." He came down the steps, followed by Vila. They both went to the neutron blaster station.
Argus glared at him but refrained from responding. With his luck, he would say something snarky just when Reya was walking in. She was still confined to the recovery room, but he was taking no chances.
"No?" asked Sester with amusement. "Now, will someone tell me what all the fuss is about? Or do I have to develop telepathy? I warn you, it might take awhile."
Cally said, "We saw…" The image of Avon's broken body hanging from the metal frame made her close her eyes in anguish.
Vila asked with concern, "What happened, Cally?"
Her voice was choked. "We saw…" She couldn't continue. Avon's bleeding image seemed burned into her retinas.
Argus responded, "We saw Avon."
Vila looked around wildly, "Where? How?"
"A man contacted us. He wore the black uniform of the Central Security Detention Centres."
Vila was mystified. "The Federation has Avon? That doesn't make sense. Does it?"
"No, it doesn't. He offered to give Avon back to us. For a price."
"Didn't someone else just do that?"
"There appear to be two different parties at work."
Vila asked, "I don't understand."
Argus exhaled in frustration. "Neither do we." His eyes bore into Sester's. "I don't suppose you have any ideas?"
"With such little information? You're kidding." His fingers played idly along the edge of Vila's station.
Vila was eying him nervously and said, "I wouldn't touch the buttons. You might blow something up. By mistake."
Sester grinned impishly. "Yes, wouldn't want to do it by mistake."
"Maybe you'd better stand over there." Sester took a step back, and then walked over to Argus's station. Argus glared at him. "Well?"
"You did hear me say that there's not enough information?"
"Yes." Argus still seemed to expect an answer from him.
Sester sighed, wondering if Argus was related to Venner somehow. The two of them seemed to think he was capable of doing the impossible. "So far, all you've told me is that there are two groups trying to sell Avon to you. I'm assuming that it's a location and time? One of the groups appears to be related to the Federation Detention Centre? Would I know this man by any chance?"
"He didn't leave a name."
"I suppose your computer records all communications? Could I take a look at both of them?" He saw a flash of irritation in the Argus's eyes and said, "Yes, you should have thought of that." Argus seemed to be grinding his teeth.
"Zen, play back both communications."
Sester's mind became sharper as he took in every detail of the two entrepreneurs and the conversations. It was very educational. Out of the corner of his eyes, out of habit, he was also watching the reaction of the crew. He grimaced at the brief sight of Avon. "You appear to have two groups."
Argus said impatiently, "We already knew that."
"I do know the man from the Special Detention Centre."
Cally asked in alarm, "Avon's Special Detention Centre?"
Sester said regretfully, "Yes, I'm afraid so. That's Breen. A particularly nasty para-investigator. A friend of…" He watched her reaction carefully. "…Shrinker's."
Cally started and her face paled. "He…"
Vila said, "Oh, no…"
Argus asked, "Who's Shrinker? You've mentioned the name before."
Vila saw that Cally was too upset to answer. He said reluctantly, "Avon killed Shrinker because he thought he killed Anna."
Argus felt sick at this news but he stayed calm. "Jenna hired him…to work on Avon?"
Cally said in a tight, angry voice, "I'm going to kill her."
Vila said with uncharacteristic fierceness, remembering the days of torment Avon went through with Shrinker because of Anna. "Save some for me."
Argus said, "Let's calm down and concentrate on finding Avon first." He turned to Sester. "Do you have anything more useful to add?"
"Avon is most likely being held on a ship. The first man is probably the captain. I would also hazard a smuggler. Breen. Well, we know what his purpose is. And I've already told you that Jenna has called a meeting of the rebel leaders."
Cally said sharply, "That's the first I've heard of it."
"My sources tell me that the rebel leaders have been on the move. A gathering of some sort. A trial for Avon. The most probable deduction is that the deadline imposed requires that we intercept the ship before it reaches the rendezvous point with the rebels. After that, your hands will be tied."
Vila asked, "Why would we be tied?"
Argus said, "We can't fight the other rebel groups."
"Why not? If they take Avon…and they're like Jenna…"
Argus said, "Do you want both sides hunting us? I will not fight them."
Sester looked at him speculatively. "He doesn't want to cause a split in the rebel alliance."
Argus was about to glare at him but said instead, "We cannot afford that. There are too many factional conflicts already." He hated politics.
Sester said, "I would recommend getting there faster."
"You suspect a trap?" asked Cally.
"There are two groups. They obviously don't know about each other and both think they can sell Avon back to us. Do you see the problem?"
Vila muttered, "War in the streets. And the corridors."
Sester nodded. "And Avon stuck in the middle."
Vila didn't like that at all. "Like a prize."
Argus said, "And with the rebels about to arrive. He asked urgently, "Cally, what's our energy reserve situation?" As Cally rushed to the tactical station to check, Sester said, "There is another danger..."
Argus grimaced. "Avalon."
One of the interrogators poured water over Avon's body, while the other used a cloth to rub some of the blood and assorted stains off, attempting to have him in a more presentable condition for the hand over. Avon was barely conscious but guttural moans came from his throat. Every motion caused fresh pain even though it wasn't meant to be torture.
Breen was searching the equipment table. "Damn. She's taken it already."
The medtech asked, "Yeah, I noticed that. She's starting the withdrawal."
In conspiracy mode, their voices were even quieter than normal.
"We'll have to tell them to get it from her."
"Do you think they'll get here in time?"
Breen glanced at Avon, "I almost wish they won't."
"Speak for yourself." The medtech took a step towards him. "Breen, you are going to go through with this, aren't you?"
Breen said sarcastically, "You'll get your money but don't expect a warm reception. After what we've done to him…"
"That was business."
The interrogators unclamped Avon from the frame. Avon immediately cried out sharply as broken limbs could no longer support him. He collapsed forward into waiting hands that guided him to the ground as he continued groaning in complaint.
There was no expression of sympathy or otherwise on Breen's face as this went on though the medtech grimaced slightly.
Breen said, "They won't see it that way but this Argus has a reputation of being an honourable man." He said to the interrogators. "You'd better put some clothes on him. If they see him like that, they might not take us with them."
The medtech asked, "Honourable? Wasn't he involved in that scandal? You know, the one on Zircaster? Travis and the lot of them."
Breen sneered, "Do you really believe what they tell you in the official reports?"
"They can be confirmed…"
"You're an idiot. Besides what do you care if he killed those civilians or not? He was following orders."
"You mean, just like us?"
Breen's smiles always had a chilling quality. "I enjoy my work."
"Yeah, you do, don’t you?" The medtech gave an involuntary shudder. "You're a scary man, Breen."
"Don’t forget it. Besides Central Security gets the real reports. We have to if they want us to break them. I was supposed to work on him when they had him at the Detention Centre, but Argus was rescued before I had the pleasure. I really wanted a stab at him. He's supposed to be exceptional physically."
"Lowly medtechs like me don't get anything."
Breen laughed. "Yeah, you don't need to know." The interrogators were trying to force clothes on Avon's twitching limbs. "There is something odd about him though. Dangerous."
"How's that?" asked the medtech, wondering if he should suggest giving Avon a pain blocker first. Their dressing task would be easier. He thought better of it, these men took pleasure in other people's pain.
"His files are incomplete."
"That would make sense. He's a commando, or at least he was. They're like the death-eaters. I mean…the death squads. Their activities are classified. They do the things no one wants to admit to."
"You mean like us?" There was a cynical smile on Breen's face. "No. This is different. His commando activities are classified but so is everything before he entered Land Command. And he entered young."
The medtech's nose crinkled. "That is odd. Do you think…" The medtech decided that voicing his suspicions weren't a good idea. "…never mind. I never pay attention to gossip."
"Smart man. It could get you into trouble."
The medtech said, "I thought you said Argus was an honourable man? Then why bother to cover him up?"
"Even honourable men get mad but once they have us on the ship, there's not much they can do about it."
"Except flush us out the airlock," said the medtech nervously.
"That's something he won't do. Argus might not take us with him if he gets mad but he won't kill in cold blood." He looked at his wrist chronometer and told the interrogators. "You'd better hurry it up."
Jenna sat in her cabin, her pistol held lightly in her hands, watching the interrogators get Avon ready. They were early in their preparations but with the difficulties they were having getting him cleaned up, it was no wonder. She couldn't see the other two, the limitation of having a single camera, but she knew they were around.
Something was making her nervous. Atton was his cool self but Prex had been glancing at her nervously when he thought she wasn't looking. She knew he still held her responsible for Edina's injury but the woman seemed to be making a fast recovery.
It still made her uneasy the way he looked at her. Would he sell her out? Jenna hoped the rebel unit was able to do what she asked. They couldn't get here fast enough for her.
She stood up and holstered her pistol, but kept the catch unfastened.
Prex glanced back at the empty entrance to the flight deck before he said to Atton, "We're coming up on the coordinates, Captain. Thirty minutes."
"Good. Stand by the comm channels."
Prex reached over to the controls behind him and made the necessary connections. "Done."
"Send the burst signal."
"I wouldn't if I were you." The two men turned with shocked to the previously empty entrance to see Jenna with a gun pointed unerringly at Atton's head.
Prex's finger hovered uncertainly over the button.