“I can think of one reason,” a voice said from the entrance to the medical unit. They all turned to see who it was. Standing by the doorway, leaning casually against the wall and with his hands crossed over his chest, was Sester.
"What are you doing here?" asked Avon with a snarl. No one had told him that Sester was here.
Sester smiled at the predictable attitude and came over to where they all stood. "Is that the way to greet someone with an interesting hypothesis to put forward?" he asked. He was all charm and smiles. Unlike most smooth operators, Sester did not ooze charm; his came across as disarmingly straightforward.
Standing there among them, Sester could see the only one who didn't want him to leave the room was the Healer. Most likely because he doesn't know me yet, thought Sester. I'm sure the others will fill him in soon enough.
Argus stepped forward aggressively, "We're not interested in anything you have to say. Leave the room. You're not wanted here." His stare held the promise of air locks and the emptiness of space.
Sester was not one to be intimidated. "I don't think it's your place to say where I can or cannot go. We are both guests here. But I am not here to cause trouble. I will leave once I tell you what I think Servalan's intent is."
Argus half-turned towards Avon, but kept his eyes on Sester, "Avon?"
Avon stared at Sester, his eyes boring into the other man like daggers seeking to slice through the façade of civility. Avon projected to Cally * Do you sense anything from him? *
Cally had been trying to do that since Sester had made his presence known. He was one person who instantly caused her to put her guard up. She always wanted to know what he was up to.
* He seems to think he's being genuine in his offer. * She told Avon. A strong tone of cynicism was conveyed with her telepathic communication.
The corners of Avon's mouth lifted in suppressed amusement. * You're getting as bad as I am. *
* No one could be that bad. Not even you. * She sent a ripple of laughter towards him. Avon's amusement became a little less suppressed.
Sester's head cocked in interest. It was obvious to him that unspoken communication was occurring between Avon and Cally. He wished he was privy to what they were saying to each other. This is interesting. The two of you appear to have grown closer since the last time I saw you. Servalan must have known this would happen. It’s unfortunate, I doubt if she will allow it to last. Sester suppressed his own smile. I don’t think I will tell her though. She is not the only one who can play games.
Sester was still irritated at Servalan for trying to put him on the defensive, by forcing a confrontation with Argus and Reya. He felt a mixture of guilt and excitement as he remembered the scene earlier, in the corridor with Reya. Thoughts of her always did that to him.
"It might be worth listening to what he has to say," Avon responded to Argus. "It would be interesting to know what he wants us to believe."
Sester inclined his head. "Of course. But I will only speak to you, Avon."
"Fine," said Avon.
Argus gestured for the others to leave. Before he followed them he turned to Sester and said in a cold voice, "If Avon asks me to kill you, I will."
"I don't doubt it," said Sester.
Argus nodded to Avon and then he left the room as well.
There was a chilly silence as Avon stared at Sester. "Say what you have to say.”
“And leave? You left that part out,” said Sester.
“You’re a psychostrategist,” said Avon. The word, psychostrategist, from his lips sounded like something very unpleasant. “I expect you to be able to read the subtext.”
“Oh, we can. That’s why I’m staying. I do like the challenge of an openly hostile environment.”
“Stop wasting my time,” said Avon.
"Very well. I think you already suspect what I’m about to say.”
"Servalan." Avon said the name with disgust.
"Yes. Servalan. It's ironic that you are benefitting from her obsession with you," said Sester.
"She thinks that giving me back the ability to experience emotions normally will change my need to destroy her."
"I don't think she ever believed that. But I do think she is hoping for different possibilities with you."
"I know what she wants. She will never get it from me," said Avon.
"I hope not. For your sake. But we both know how devious she can be," said Sester.
"I don't need you to tell me that," said Avon coldly. "Unless you plan to tell me something I don't already know, you can leave."
Sester smiled at the other man's continued hostility. "We both suspected what Servalan's intentions were in doing this. I just wanted to give you time to sort out your suspicions, without the presence of the others. It avoids questions you might not want them to ask."
"You expect me to believe that you had a fit of altruism?"
"Even psychostrategists do have them occasionally. It broadens our experience," said Sester. He turned serious. "Avon. You may be able to use this obsession against her one day. But be careful how you do it. She's never stopped having a plan where you're concerned."
Sester did not want to see Avon in Servalan’s hands again. He did not want to be forced to have to hurt him again. He still felt he owed Avon a debt for what he had done to him the last time.
"I can take care of myself," said Avon.
"You don't need anyone? Do you still believe that, Avon?"
"I don't need you."
"True. You have Cally. And Argus. And the others. I should be jealous. It’s not often you can find so many people who would stand with you. I believed what he said before, by the way. Argus. He would kill me if you asked him to."
"I don't need him, for that."
"I didn't say you did.” Before Avon could tell him to leave again, Sester said, “I think it's time to relieve you of my presence." He turned to go.
"This doesn't change anything between us," said Avon.
"I didn't think it would." Sester left Avon to contemplate on the deviousness of a woman who wanted him to be able to experience emotions normally again.
After Sester left, Argus came back into the room. Avon was pacing; he was deep in thought.
“Do you want me to kill him?” asked Argus, half in jest.
Avon stopped pacing and turned to stare at him. He said, “And what if I said, that I did?”
Argus gave him a wolfish grin and turned to leave, giving every impression that he was about to go on a hunt.
“Wait,” said Avon.
Argus turned back to him, “Don’t tell me. It’s more fun to do it yourself?”
“Stop playing,” said Avon.
A brief wolfish grin appeared on Argus’s face again, this one had a mischievous quality to it. In a more serious tone he asked, “Are you going to tell me what he said?”
Avon studied the other man, wondering how much he knew and how much he had deduced already.
When Avon stayed silent, Argus said, “You don’t have to say anything.”
“You’ve already guessed,” said Avon.
“I did find you in Servalan’s bedroom when we rescued you. She wasn’t torturing you,” said Argus.
“That depends on your perspective.” There was a brief flash of anger on Avon’s face as he said this.
“Cally probably knows too.”
Avon nodded resignedly and started pacing again. “It’s hard to keep anything from her.”
“Yes, I know what you mean. I could swear that Reya can read my mind most of the time and Cally really can almost read yours.”
Avon stopped abruptly and asked, “Did everyone leave the room because you wanted to avoid embarrassing me?” He did not like this thought one bit.
“I’m sure Vila had no idea.”
“Vila wasn’t in the room,” said Avon with icy irritation. He began pacing again.
“Well, I’m sure he wouldn’t have guessed even if he was in the room. For some reason, he can’t seem to grasp the idea that any woman would find you so fascinating. What are you going to do?”
“As Sester observed, this is an unexpected benefit from Servalan’s obsession with me. But I fully intend to disappoint her as to the results.”
“She may target Cally if she doesn’t get what she wants from you. She will see her as an obstacle to be eliminated.”
“I’m aware of that.” Avon stopped directly in front of Argus and looked at him. He was thinking about something and then he appeared to make up his mind and said, “You said that you would kill Sester if I asked you to?”
“Yes.” He looked at Avon quizzically, wondering where this question was leading.
“Would you protect Cally from Servalan if I asked you to?” asked Avon. There was a serious look on his face.
“I would do that anyway. You don’t have to ask me,” said Argus.
“I don’t mean that. I need you to protect her if I can’t,” said Avon.
Argus nodded with understanding. “You’re afraid that Servalan will get to you again? And you’re afraid of what will happen if you continue to deteriorate?
There was a grave look on Avon’s face. “Yes. It’s the only thing I can do to protect Cally.”
“I won’t let that happen, Avon. Not if I can do anything about it,” Argus said just as seriously.
“I believe you. But I doubt if sentiment will matter much in the face of Servalan’s schemes or if my mind refuses to cooperate.”
“Oh I plan to face Servalan with much more than just sentiment,” said Argus forcefully.
“Would you like help or do you plan to do it all yourself?” said Avon.
“Sorry. Of course. What did you want to do?”
“You still haven’t answered me,” said Avon. He needed an answer, even if he already knew what it would be.
“Yes, Avon. I will protect Cally.”
“Don’t tell her that I asked you to.”
Argus nodded. “She won’t like the implications. And for the record, neither do I. It sounds too much like you’re giving up.”
“I’m just being a realist. And I like to make provisions for every contingency.”
“Yes, you’re infinitely practical. But let's do some fighting first before we start thinking about last resorts.”
“You would,” said Avon; with a much lighter sarcastic tone than he normally used with Argus.
Servalan appeared on the main viewer in Sester’s observer craft.
“Have you found out why Avon is there?” she asked him.
Sester had prepared his response before she asked him this question. He knew that lies would not work. At least not full lies. The Federation had agents in each of the Reve brothers' headquarters. He directed the majority of them, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t have other ones who reported directly to her. In fact he knew she did.
“Yes. He’s here to undo some of the damage you did to his mind.”
Servalan smiled the smile of a slippery snake. “You mean the damage that we both did.”
“Yes. You’re right,” he conceded. “They know about the microsurgery. And about your attempts to fix it. Why didn’t you tell me? Those details were not in his files.”
“Not your files,” she told him.
“I see.” Sester wondered where she kept these other files.
“Has he been having problems?” asked Servalan. From her interest, one would think that she really was worried about Avon.
“He wouldn’t be here if he weren’t.”
“I underestimated the Atholians. I didn’t realize their level of medical technology was that sophisticated.” Servalan thought for a few moments, her eyes focused on something beyond the screen. “Avon does need help,” she mused. “Very well, let them help him for now. Don’t interfere. But I want to know if they’ve found out anything else.”
“Yes, Madame President.”
“Have they found out anything else, Sester?” she asked.
“Not as far as I know, Madame President.”
There was a look on her face that told him that she didn’t quite believe him; but she had no proof that he was lying to her. She would have been told that examinations were made but Sester knew that the results would have been kept highly confidential. She would not know what was found out. It was most likely that she would guess that they would find the physical damage to the brain. That was the easiest. But she would not guess that they had the ability to find the more subtle damage; the ones that impacted the mind.
“You will keep me informed, won’t you?” she said, stressing his role in their relationship.
“Of course, Madame President.”
“I want you to arrange to have yourself based on the Justice,” said Servalan. “I want you to keep a closer eye on them.”
“You mean as a prisoner? That’s the only way they will let me onboard their ship again,” said Sester.
“I’m sure you will think of something, psychostrategist,” said Servalan. There was no need for further incentives. She expected to be obeyed. “You are very persuasive when you want to be.”
“Very well, Madame President.”
After Servalan signed off, Sester thought, I need access to those files. Find out what else she is hiding.