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For Nothing

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 1 of 3

"Standard orbit established," Jenna announced into the silence on the flight deck.

      "And much good it will do us," Vila complained. "We shouldn't have come back, it's far too dangerous."

      "Vila," Cally said quietly. "He could still be alive."

      "If he is, he's probably getting on with them like a house on fire."

      Blake looked over Cally's shoulder at the detectors. There were no pursuit ships in range. It had taken four days to finally shake them off. Four days in which anything might have happened to Avon.

      Blake said nothing. There was nothing that he could say. Returning to Garron had not been a choice for him. He had had to come. Since Gan's death the whole fight against the Federation had become less certain, his confidence in their final victory less complete. How could he hope to save the galaxy if he couldn't even protect his own crew?

      Everything had seemed so simple, initially. They had received a message from Dr Sanchez on Garron saying that he wished to defect from the Federation and to offer the benefits of his life's work in psychology to the rebellion.

      Arriving at Garron slightly early, he and Avon had teleported down to the laboratory to meet the doctor. Blake had helped package up various charts and items of equipment that Sanchez wanted to take with him, while Avon went with the doctor to aid in downloading his computer files.

      The alarms on the base had gone off without any warning. He'd ordered Cally to teleport the three of them up, only to find himself arriving on the Liberator alone, and the ship under attack.

      He had wanted to go back immediately, but Cally had stopped him. He was needed on board, and without Avon they were short-handed already. If Avon was a prisoner, it would take several people to carry out a rescue, people they simply could not spare while under fire. Oh, it was logical. Blake had had to agree that it made sense, Avon would have been the first to tell him so. But that still didn't mean he had to like it.

      Now they were in orbit around Garron once more. Liberator was still not fully recovered from the fight, but at least there were no pursuit ships in detector range. The small moon that had concealed the hostile force last time had been checked out with care; Blake had no intention of allowing the same trap to be sprung twice.

      If Avon was alive, they'd find him. If he wasn't alive? Blake pushed that thought to the back of his mind. He wasn't prepared to consider it yet.

      The sound of the communicator caught him by surprise.

      "Liberator, can you hear me?"

      Avon's voice, faint but clear.

      "I hear you, Avon," Cally replied quickly.

      "Bring me up," the voice said sharply, "and tell Blake to stay out of my sight."

      Cally sprinted for the teleport, and Blake followed more slowly, noting even in his relief, that Avon's temper hadn't improved during his absence. Still, it was understandable if he'd been on the run for several days. It was nothing short of amazing that Avon had evaded capture.

      Cally set the teleport controls, locked onto Avon's bracelet and pulled the lever. Blake looked into the teleport bay as Avon's form wavered into existence in front of them.

      Avon looked wary, on edge, holding his gun as though he had been hiding, waiting for someone to attack him. Bags under his eyes and several days growth of stubble did nothing to enhance his appearance. Cally smiled and walked round the control panel to meet him. Avon relaxed and lowered the gun, then, as Blake stepped forward, jerked round suddenly and aimed it at him.

      Cally's reaction seemed instantaneous, perhaps her telepathic abilities had given her a moment's warning. She knocked down the gun, even as Blake ducked back around the corner, reacting in shocked surprise to a shot that had barely missed him.

      Avon struggled with Cally for a moment, trying to gain control of the gun, then he let go abruptly and stepped back, pulling the handgun's connector from the power pack as he did so. His face was bleak. "I told you to keep Blake away from me," he snarled, and pushed his way past her towards the corridor.

      Blake stepped out and seized Avon by the arm. "That's not good enough, Avon. I think I'm entitled to an explanation. What the Hell is going on?"

      Avon froze as Blake touched him, his fists clenched. "Let go of me," Avon said very slowly and deliberately. "I am not going to explain myself to you or to anyone else. I know what happened, and it won't happen again, provided that," Avon almost shouted the words, "you leave me alone."

      "Conditioned reflex," Cally said suddenly.

      Avon closed his eyes for a moment, an acknowledgement perhaps, if Cally chose to take it that way.

      "You're telling me," Blake said disbelievingly, "that they conditioned Avon to kill me?"

      "In essence, yes," Cally replied.

      Blake released Avon's arm, stepped back, and looked at him consideringly. "Is this going to happen every time you see me?"

      "No," Avon said tightly. "I can control it."

      "Do you expect me to risk my life on the strength of that assurance?"

      He took a step towards Avon, who backed away from him towards the teleport bay. He moved forwards again, leaving Avon with no option but to retreat towards the wall.

      "Just how sure are you?" Blake asked, as he deliberately reduced the distance between them even further.

      Avon's hands flashed out, taking Blake by surprise as they reached for his throat. The two of them struggled for a moment, then Avon sagged limply as Cally applied a tranquilliser pad from the emergency medical kit.

      "Thanks," Blake said in relief. "Help me get him to the surgical unit."

      He reached out to take one of Avon's arms, while Cally took the other, but even in his drugged state, Avon shied away from Blake.

      "Let me," Cally offered. "I can manage him on my own, and it won't panic him so much."

      Blake nodded, and Cally led Avon unsteadily down the corridor.

      "Well," he demanded an hour later, "what did you find?"

      Cally fiddled with a blood sampler before answering. "You aren't going to like

      Blake glanced at Avon's unconscious form on the surgical unit's bed. "Probably not," he agreed.

      "He wouldn't let me examine him," she said slowly. "I had to drug him in the end. Now I know why."

      Blake waited patiently. Whatever Cally had found had evidently distressed her. There was no point in upsetting her further by pressing her too hard for information.

      "He had some superficial cuts and bruises, nothing too serious; but he was bruised internally and I found traces of semen."

      Cally swallowed hard. "Blake, he was raped."

      That was hard to absorb. Blake tried to imagine Avon helplessly pinioned, assaulted by the weight of another man. How many of them had it taken to hold him down? Had there been just one man inside him, or had they taken it in turns?

      Avon, who valued his independence and freedom so highly. Avon, who disliked close human contact at the best of times. What must it have been like for him, to be humiliated in such a manner?

      He looked at the unconscious man on the bed. Did you fight them Avon, or did you accept the inevitable in order to get it over with as quickly as possible? Somehow, I think you fought them. I think you fought them with everything you had - and lost. "But what's that to do with him attacking me?" Blake asked, and knew the answer even as he spoke. "That damned child molesting charge! Avon knew that was false," he protested.

      Cally walked over to Orac and positioned the activator key. "Orac, tell Blake what you told me about Avon."

      "It should be apparent, even to one of Blake's limited intelligence, that Avon's memory has been tampered with. He was conditioned and then deliberately allowed to escape once Liberator was sighted. Given the limited time available to them, they will have been unable to do a perfect job; hence, Avon having some moderate intellectual ability, will have realised that his memories are inconsistent."

      Blake interrupted. "If Avon knows the memories to be false, why is there any problem?"

      "If," said Orac in his most offended manner, "you will allow me to continue..."

      Blake was silent.

      After a short interval, Orac carried on, "Owing to his family history, Avon would be an ideal subject for this form of manipulation, a fact which his captors were doubtless aware of from his files."

      "Family history?" queried Blake.

      Cally looked him squarely in the eye. "Avon was sexually abused by his father."


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Vanessa Mullen

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