This is the sequel to a series I started under the title: Beyond Redemption.
...in which Avon is intrigued by one of his guards.
Avon's days were filled with work, meetings with Federation scientists and sessions with the psycho strategic and his staff. Carnell was wearing him out. Mentally as well as physically. He used the prisoner as a guinea pig in a great variety of medical and psychological experiments. The doctor was extra careful with his special project. He always made sure that Avon's mind and body could be sufficiently restored for him to be able to provide Servalan's scientists with the information they required. The preliminary tests on the teleport system had been successful so far and soon they would attempt to transport their first human specimen. Undoubtedly this honour would befall to one of the prison's inmates.
Avon had relinquished control over his life. The psycho strategic had ways of making you do what you did not want to. After the 'patient' had been introduced to a great variety of Carnell's theories on the subject, he had given up the fight. Avon detested drugs and eventually he had to admit that plain old-fashioned torture was actually a very good means of persuasion. Carnell was becoming a master in the art of control and Avon had acquiesced. He'd always thought that an intelligent man could adapt, but he found it increasingly difficult to adapt to living in the madhouse that was now his home.
There was however a constant in Avon's chaotic, disturbing farce of a life. She had been assigned to him a few months ago on the anniversary of his first year in prison. He had no idea what she looked like underneath the standard issue black uniform with compulsory helmet. It was hard to catch a glimpse of her because of the large night-vision goggles that blocked the view to a human face. Avon was sure she was female, though. She was too skinny for a slender built male, although in height she might pass for a man. But Avon could tell by the way she moved that there was a woman underneath the black leather uniform.
Avon had abandoned the need for privacy long ago. He was guarded day and night and Carnell's personal touch to Servalan's orders was that he appointed female guards when the need for privacy was most desired. Within the four walls of his cell. And the women were actually ordered to watch. They would never leave him out of their sight. Not while showering, sleeping or even when he had to relieve himself. Avon knew of course that the surveillance camera's recorded his each and every move, but to have an actual person watching you was something entirely different. He had lost the one thing he always treasured very highly: his privacy and with that, his dignity.
This new guard was different. She was there, but she was a master in being not there. Avon had gotten used to his guards and had learned to ignore them, but the fact that this one actually could be ignored made him suspicious. The others had undoubtedly been given instructions to remind the prisoner of their presence. They would order him about like a child. Deprive him of his sleep with so-called fire drills and if he refused to obey they would activate the knee-lock in his legs to achieve their aims.
The knee-lock was one of Carnell's inventions. Avon remembered the first time he was introduced to it. Vividly. It was shortly after Servalan's departure. She had drugged him and when he awoke several days later he found out that they had tampered with his body. He discovered several scars on various parts of his anatomy. Carnell was there when he regained consciousness, a bundle of clean clothes under his arm.
"Want to get up and get dressed?"
"Why? I'm not going anywhere."
"True, you're not going anywhere..outside this facility. But we have to make the best of it, don't we? You can choose. Lie here flat on your back in isolation all day, force fed and cared for against your will, or you can get some work done."
Carnell had studied Avon's psyche well enough, to know what the tech would chose. There was nothing Avon dreaded more than losing his mental abilities. He knew that he would go insane if he didn't distract himself with work. So he complied, got up and dressed.
When they were about to leave the cell he had vented his surprise about the fact that he was allowed to walk about without restraints.
"Ever heard of a knee-lock?" Carnell turned around, a glimpse of pleasurable anticipation on his face.
"I'm sure you'll enlighten me on the subject."
"It's a means of constraint, developed ages ago, on various worlds actually. I think it is very effective. Of course the original idea was to have a contraption around the knee, that could be activated on demand. The result was that the prisoner was not able to stretch his legs, which is very effective when you want to prevent them from running away. I have developed this concept further and with the medical technology of today, it is no longer necessary to have ugly braces around the leg."
Avon felt a growing feeling of nausea upon listening to Carnell's enthusiastic account. He hadn't asked about the scars on his body. He would find out soon enough.
"What have you done?"
"You have been equipped with...well, maybe a demonstration is in order."
He gave one of the guard's a nod. Avon saw how his gloved hand went for a remote control box that was attached to his belt. The flesh-ripping jolt of pain that subsequently went through his legs was something no one could have prepared him for. He instantly lost all strength in his muscles and fell to the floor like a rag doll, knees bent in a spasm. When the worst pain was over he was still not able to stretch his legs.
"Hence the lack of restraints."
Carnell reached his hand out to Avon. The tech was still trying to catch his breath from the shock of the pain.
"Every guard is equipped with a remote. You're actually the first person we're trying this on."
Avon took his hand and was dragged to his feet. Carnell supported him gently and allowed him the time to regain some feeling in his muscles. It was not so much the pain Avon had to recover from. It was the realisation that a simple push on a button made him vulnerable to the whim of every guard in the complex.
His present guard however had only once subjected him to this kind of torture. On that occasion she acted on a direct order from a superior officer. She never once teased him with it, or threatened to use it like the others would. She was sometimes present when her colleagues pushed the button just to see how he would squirm. It was especially considered fun to toy with the device when the prisoner was brought to the science wing. The guards accompanying him would push the button every other two steps and laughed their heads off at the sight of the 'funny walk'. She was often there, but never participated. She didn't show any compassion for him either, but the fact that she did not let herself be drawn into these twisted games, made her stand out from her colleagues.
Avon had come to regard the watchers in his cell as part of the furniture, but this one intrigued him and he started to analyse her actions. He strongly suspected that she actually tried to give him back his privacy wherever she could. She would sometimes 'accidentally' block the surveillance camera's when he took a shower and he suspected that she avoided looking at him. He couldn't really tell of course, because of the goggles, but he liked to think that she was standing there, facing him while he got dressed and had her eyes closed all the time. He wondered if he could use this humane guard to his advantage. Thus probably signing her death sentence if he ever succeeded.
That evening when she once again placed herself between the prisoner and the camera while he emptied his bladder, he decided to confront her with her behaviour.
"Won't you get into trouble because of this?"
Avon didn't expect her to answer. He would speak to his guards but they were not allowed to speak to him. All he got from them were orders and threats. This particular one had never once spoken to him.
"You don't have to worry about my feelings." Avon explained. "I haven't any left."
He washed his hands and stripped to his briefs and undershirt. He started brushing his teeth, his eyes firmly fixed on the dark goggles. Slowly he approached her. She really was tall. They were practically of the same height, now that he was on bare feet. When he came a little too close for comfort, her hand went for the remote on her belt. Avon hesitated, only a second but then resumed his pace. Very slowly he approached her, holding the toothbrush in his hand like a knife. If she was disturbed by his actions, he had no way of detecting. But then, finally a reaction.
And he did. He'd gotten what he wanted.
Instead of pushing the button, she had spoken to him. A young voice, very young. A girl. Carnell had chosen a girl to guard him. He posed this little of a threat, that the Federation allowed their trainees to guard him. Maybe Carnell's real experiment was to test the troopers in training. He wouldn't put it past him. There was no great risk. The worst that could happen was that they ended up dead. Carnell and his medical staff had made sure that their prize prisoner could never, ever escape from them.
Avon was puzzled. Was the guard just part of one of Carnell's sick experiments or had the psycho strategic just made a big mistake in his eagerness to humiliate the prisoner? The presence of female guards was a means of intimidation. To Avon, a humane guard was a way out.