Cally pulled back breathless from a tight embrace, the dim lights of the cabin touching her skin with a faint glow. It was proving to be a very good ‘field trip’ with Avon. Walks out in the gardens and short forays into the city were enjoyable but after days of being apart, she and Avon required a form of interaction that was more intimate and physical. They needed to do something that did not welcome observers.
Avon's fingers lightly touched a delicate spot at the base of her throat, her breath caught. She suddenly felt her own vulnerability. With a single squeeze he could assert his control or he could gently caress her as he was doing now, sending tickles of pleasure through her body. Their minds were lightly touching but only in companionship. Each was a comforting presence to the other.
There was a concentration in his gaze that could be disturbing at times, if you didn't know what he was thinking. She could feel his attentions shift, his eyes sought hers. There was desire there, a consuming fire that he allowed to surface from the place where he kept his emotions bottled up, as if he were afraid to allow them see the light of day. His dark penetrating eyes would gleam as they reflected the faint light strips.
Since the day when she had shared her innermost self with him, their intimacy had drawn them even closer. Even if he could not yet share his dark places, he was allowing more of his feelings to surface during their joining.
They had experimented with Avon’s limited psi abilities, exploring their range and intensity. He could do very little on his own, but together he was able to achieve much more than either one had thought possible. It had made their sensual experiences even more powerful, almost overwhelming in their intensity. At their most powerful, Cally could feel the wild pounding of his heart; at times, it faltered, necessitating that they both slow down. It was happening with greater frequency. It frustrated Avon and it was a blow to his pride but it made her very worried for him. Humans were not prepared for the potency of an Auron joining. He may have been able to adjust if he had been healthy but he was far from that.
Avon bent his head down to her throat. She could feel the warmth of his breath tickling her skin and then his mouth was like a hot fire as he kissed her. Her pulse jumped and she let out a shivering sigh. His lips followed a line up to her lips, leaving a trail of heated flesh. They shared a deep kiss.
Cally’s mind brushed his gently, a sensitive spot that he left open for her. Avon hissed, his breath drawing her deeper inside and then he pressed them together tightly as the sensations echoed in his body. When her mind touched touched his again, he was ready for her. Cally gasped as his mind press back against her, his clumsy efforts making her body and mind shuddered with pleasure. They were joined together in both mind and body; surrounding each other and penetrating each other deeper than any human was capable of.
As the feelings faded, Avon sighed and lifted his head. His energies were spent; he could rarely manage this experience more than once unless drugs were involved. Despite the intense pleasure they had given each other, there was always a feeling of holding back. Avon knew that Cally was keeping some of it from him because of her concern for his health. It was frustrating and a reminder of his current inadequacies.
Cally was a warm and soothing presence as she rested her head on his shoulder. Her voice produced gentle vibrations against his skin as she said, “I’m glad that you’ve decided to let the Tellarans heal some of your more serious health problems.”
Avon reflected that it appeared to be quite a popular decision. “I am looking forward to …" A half-grin shaped his lips. "…having more energy."
"I am as well." She closed her eyes and they both rested. Her gentle breaths matched his deeper ones.
Avon's mind wandered. Sester's words came back to him like a hollow sound inside an empty room.
/* What happened to that rational mind of yours, Avon?...What do you think happens to Cally or the others when they see you suffering? Do you remember the looks on their faces? */
He could see her worried faces. There were many of them; too many to count.
/* Have you asked yourself how Cally feels?...Do you know if she feels what you feel? */
With their intimate explorations, how could she not feel it? Avon felt a stab of guilt. Why had he not realized this before? The increasingly worried look on her face. The way she came running when she sensed that something was amiss. It was because she felt his pain.
/* She worries about you all the time. Is that the life you want for her? */
This was the last thing Avon wanted for Cally but it seemed as if it was the only thing he had offered her.
Of all the things I have known myself to be, I never recognized the fool.
He had said that to Anna once. And now he was being a fool again, but someone else was being hurt.
I have chased after an illusion. Now I am giving an illusion to someone who is important to me. It is time to stop being a fool.
Avon said, "I did not consider the impact my decision would have on you.”
She twisted her head and looked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“It was selfish of me. When I decided to leave myself in this state, I never considered the effect it would have on you or the others.”
Cally looked at him intently. Though she knew he was capable of it, it was rare to hear such empathy and self-awareness from him. “It’s alright, Avon. I know that it’s not natural for you to think of such things. Your mind is focused on the practical.”
"I should be able to think of it.”
“You have never learned to think with your heart.”
“That is a contradiction in terms.”
“It is if your logic is based on that of computers and machines.”
This was the connection Avon had always avoided. It was incomprehensible to him. It still was but that didn't mean that it wasn't important to him anymore.
“I...would like to learn, for you. But...”
“You’re afraid that it will interfere with your logical abilities? But why must it? Have you considered that it might enhance it?”
“Now that is illogical.”
“Were your actions tonight purely logical?”
“How is it different? You sought intimacy because your heart wanted it. You applied your logical mind to the task and you gave us both pleasure. That pleasure and your desire to make me happy spurred you to even greater creativity and exploration, which your logical mind processed to its logical conclusion."
"An over-simplified description."
"But I'm right. You don’t think with your heart because you've never acknowledged its importance. But it is important to you that I be happy. The impact of your decisions on others bothers you now because you are attaching more importance to these things. You determine whether an action is right, not just because it is an unassailable fact or because that is how it functions, but because of its effect on others. For people you care about, you want certain effects and not other ones.”
There was a trace of amusement on Avon's lips. "Are you trying to explain my irrational actions using rational terms?"
"I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care, or why it should be necessary to prove it at all. Do you remember saying that, Avon?"
The trace became a wry smile. "Of course."
Cally held Avon's eyes with hers. "Do you still believe it?"
She always saw through him. But that didn't mean that he couldn't still be evasive. "I still believe that it's irrational."
Her eyes would not let him go. "You know that's not what I'm asking."
A roguish smile crinkled Avon's eyes. "You already know my answer."
"You just won't say it."
"That's very perceptive of you."
Cally sighed and rolled her eyes. She rested her head on his shoulder again. Avon lightly traced his hand down her bare arm. The field trip would be ending soon and he would have to return to the medical facility, but not yet. With the rest, he was feeling more energetic. He wondered if…
"Avon, do you consider the Tellarans advanced?”
This was an unexpected question. “Of course, their level of science and technology is far superior to any that the Federation currently possesses. In some areas they are even more advanced than the Justice’s technology.”
“But their hearts are in their technology. That is why it is different than any other that we have encountered. It reflects their respect for life and desire for peaceful solutions. That is what drives their creativity and experimentation.”
Avon wondered what she was trying to accomplish. “Perhaps.”
“In most cultures, scientific and technological advances are driven by the need for military dominance but not in the Tellar Union. I wished you were able to accompany us on the patrol mission. You would be able to see the weapons they use. They do not kill or destroy.”
Avon had studied the Tellaran's scientific and technological advances with fascination. What Cally was saying had been evident from the beginning. There was a complex beauty in the logic of their society. It was not one based on the vulgarities of human whims. It was consistent and orderly. There was sentiment but there was an overriding logic to that sentiment. His studies had soon delved into other areas.
They seemed as alien to this galaxy as he was to humanity in general. He would have called them insane dreamers and dismissed them as a quaint oddity. Except that they had made their society work. He could not deny the fact of the Tellar Union; three planets that had undergone an experiment in human engineering and succeeded.
Could it work? The facts suggested that it did.
Avon said, “I know. The Tellarans have given me access to their scientific and technological networks. As you said, a different philosophy drives their research and creativity. They are far more thorough and rigorous in their investigations because they have a need to understand overall implications. It is a rational and far-reaching approach. Their methodology takes into account many factors I would otherwise dismiss.”
“It sounds as if you’ve been spending time thinking about the Tellaran way. Do I detect a note of admiration?”
His tone rose as he warmed to his subject, as if he were revealing the mystery in a murder. “Theirs is a rational society. Perhaps the only one. They have chosen to base their culture on what some classify as positive impulses and they do it in a logical way. Logic and emotion work together in their society. One does not override the other and they gain the advantages of both.”
Cally lifted her head again in interest. “Avon, are you saying that both logic and emotions are required?"
Avon said with a chuckle, "Isn't that what you were endeavouring to have me say earlier?"
Cally touched his forehead lightly. Behind a hard barrier was a remarkable but flawed mind. "There is a difference between trying to convince you and convincing you. You can be very stubborn."
A light smile played on Avon's lips, "Perhaps not entirely stubborn. The Tellaran society is a moral one but it is an objective and rational morality. They have created a culture that is based on rational principles."
"You are reducing morality to a rational exercise?”
“No. I am lifting it up to the level of rationality.”
Cally smiled and reached out to lay the flat of her palm on his chest. He still felt warm from their earlier exertions. “I understand.”
His eyebrows lifted in query. “What do you understand?”
“I understand that you must always convince yourself that you are acting rationally, regardless of whether you are or not.”
Avon frowned. There was a look of irritation on his face.
Cally rubbed his chest with affection. He could be very obstinate but even in that obstinacy, he was trying to do the right thing. “You can only accept emotions on logical terms.”
“Are you saying that I’m emotionally logical? Or logically emotional?”
A warm smile appeared on Cally’s face to match with her increasingly sensual stroking of his body. “Neither. But you are trying to be.”
Avon's breathing deepened. Cally’s touch was provoking some decidedly non-logical feelings and impulses. He was finding it hard to concentrate on anything other than the touch of her hands and his own physical reactions.
There was a playful shimmer in Cally's eyes. She said, “Let’s practice some more logic.”
Avon opened his mouth to protest the lack of rationality in her statement but she kissed him. He decided that what they were doing could do with a little more logical application on his part. Avon set his mind to work and the rest of him followed. By the time he returned to the medical facility on Tellar, he was satisfyingly tired.
Kerr sought comfort in the darkness of the tunnels that had become his refuge. He rubbed his head in a vain attempt to banish the pain that never seemed to go away. It was becoming very annoying and made thinking difficult at times. The nurses gave him pills for it but they didn’t always work.
He knew he was going to be in trouble if he stayed out of sight any longer. The counsellors kept a close eye on him these days. They had to have known that he had broken into the school's computer network and found out about his parents. The sessions with the therapists didn’t start until after that. Or the learning machines.
Charles had suggested something troubling. They seemed to have been waiting for him to find out.
Kerr didn’t know what to think anymore. His mind was full of confusion. Nothing that he had known before seemed to be real. All the things his parents taught him, everything that shaped who he was…had they all been lies? He didn’t want to believe it.
His instructors, counsellors and therapists were teaching him that he could not deny the truth that was in front of his eyes. He could not let his heart deceive him. Kerr didn’t want to believe that his parents would leave him and save themselves. But the fact was that they had.
Kerr rested his forehead on his drawn up knees. His head felt too heavy, full of thoughts that were too much for his young mind.
There was pain in his chest sometimes; it hurt so much it made it hard to breathe. The doctors had examined him and said that there was nothing wrong; it was all in his head.
Emotions are disruptive influences. They bring chaos and irrationality.
His instructors were showing him a much better world. One that made sense. One that didn’t hurt. It would be very simple.
If his parents who loved him could do this to him then what about everyone else? Were love and goodness like a jacket you could throw off when the weather changed? His parents had. That was what the therapists were trying to convince him of even though they didn’t come right out and say it.
Kerr hugged his knees closer. His chest was hurting inside.
The therapists were trying to help him, but Kerr knew. The things they said and the questions they burdened him with were all leading to the same thing, to question the view of the world his parents had given to him and replace it with the Federation one.
Kerr hated them. His mind and heart rebelled against them.
Sometimes the therapists would send him to the learning machines. The machines didn’t seem to be much use because he never remembered anything afterwards, only a vague feeling of cold and he would have a terrible headache afterwards. Maybe the machines didn’t work on him. That may explain the headaches and why he didn’t remember anything. Kerr wasn’t about to tell anyone. If the therapists were any indication, he doubted that he would want to learn what the machines were trying to teach him. As long as they thought it was working, they wouldn’t try something else that might work. He would just have to put up with the headaches.
Kerr clung onto the things his heart told him were true. His friends were real. They braved risks for each other. He knew that they were looking for him now because they were worried about him.
A wry smile touched the darkness as he imagined Jack dragging along a reluctant Charles. Charles knew better than to come looking for him if he didn't want to be found. Jack would recognize the logic but his heart would not let him quit. They would both continue looking for him.
Kerr recognized that they were trying to make up for the family he had lost. Jack wasn’t very good at it but he tried very hard. Charles helped when he could but often he had to be protected from the bully and his friends. The school was increasingly occupying more of their time, taking his friends away when he needed them most. It was almost as if someone was trying to separate them.
There was a sound approaching in the tunnel.
Kerr smiled. He had another friend, one the others didn’t know about yet. He had been waiting for him. The young boy crawled into view; his smile seemed to arrive before he did.
Kerr greeted him with a whispered, “Vila.”
Pain lanced through Avon’s brain. His shout pierced the silence of the observation room. Sester popped up from beneath the covers and almost fell out of bed as he got up and went to Avon’s side. The observers rushed towards them.
Avon was curled up and his hands held his head. He was groaning.
Sester put his hand on Avon’s shoulder. “Avon.” He put his hand up to stop the observers from advancing closer.
Avon shuddered and shook his head from side to side, as if he were trying to break free from the agony that had him in its grip. Pained eyes opened and looked up at Sester’s face. He half sat up and grabbed onto Sester’s arm. There was faltering recognition and then Avon said in a weak voice, “Vila.”
Sester said gently, “I’m not Vila.”
Avon’s words seemed to be a struggle. “No. Vila. It was Vila. He was…” Avon stiffened and groaned as another flash of pain seemed to split his head.
Sester gestured to the observers, “Quickly.”
They came over and gave Avon an injection. Avon slowly relaxed and fell back onto the bed. The observers began to take readings and examine him.
Avon asked in a ragged voice. “Did anything happen this time? What did we say?”
Sester hovered anxiously by the foot of the bed, trying to keep out of the way of the observers. “It wasn’t me this time. You were having an independent memory. You mentioned Vila.”
Avon blinked. “It was a recent memory?”
“All you said was, it was Vila.” Sester asked the busy observers, “Did Avon say anything else?” They indicated a negative.
Sester leaned against the foot of Avon’s bed. “Not very helpful.”
Avon mused. “My mind is accessing another set of memories.”
“That’s likely.” Sester looked down at the smooth surface of the bed, his forehead creased in worried thought. “If that’s true then it’s not a good sign. It means that the cascading effect we were afraid of is becoming more of a possibility.”
Avon pondered this in silence as the observers completed their exam and determined that his condition had stabilized enough and returned to their posts at the other end of the room.
Sester ran his fingers along the end of the bed. “There is another possibility.”
Avon focused his eyes on him.
Sester looked up. “All of our dreams have focused on one period of our lives. There is a faint possibility that Vila was there with us.”
Avon pointed out, “You did not participate in this current dream.”
“That’s true but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. The way the dreams have been structured…” Sester’s lips pursed in thought. “…there seems to be a purpose to them.”
There was scepticism in Avon’s eyes. “The possibility is still remote.”
“It’s not one we can ignore. Very well. What did you have in mind?”
Sester smiled. "We'll need Vila."
After tearing himself away from Corinne, Vila strolled into the observation room with a ready question on his lips, “Alright. What’s the e…”
He skidded to a stop when he saw Avon, Argus and Sester talking together. He approached them nervously. His stomach felt like it had a thousand butterflies in it, all trying to take flight at the same time.
Avon looked fine, if a little pale. Sester seemed his bright friendly self. Argus could use a few lessons on loosening up but that was nothing unusual, especially with his nemesis in the room.
Vila asked anxiously, “Is there an emergency?”
Avon said, “You took your time.”
Vila grinned, “Well, some of us have real work to do.”
The corner of Avon’s lips seemed to twitch slightly. “That’s a matter of opinion.”
Argus said, “Come in, Vila.”
Vila regarded the three Alphas warily. A collection like this usually meant a high incidence of collateral damage was possible. They all stood proud and sure of themselves. It made his insecurities grow insecurities.
Argus looked at him curiously, he recognized Vila’s nervousness. It was that of a private summoned before his commanding officers. Argus had thought that Vila would know by now that he didn’t think of him that way. He tried to make Vila feel more comfortable. “Vila, we need your help.”
Vila looked puzzled. “The Tellarans will give you things if you ask them to. You don’t have to steal them.”
Avon said, “We are aware of that.”
Argus said, “We don’t need you to steal anything from them.”
Sester said jokingly, “We just want you to steal something from Avon.”
Avon frowned. Argus scowled. Sester had a grin on his face.
Vila looked at the three of them as if he had wandered into an amateur comedy night and ended up with the wrong talent. The way the three of them were acting made him suspicious, “What’s going on?”
Argus muttered, “I know the feeling.”
Avon said, “We have something to tell you.”
Vila asked, “Should I sit down?”
Sester said pleasantly, “You might want to.”
Argus said, “This might be a bit of a shock.”
Vila sat down at a nearby chair. It felt even stranger now because all three men were staring down at him. He got back up. “I’ll stand.”
Avon, Argus and Sester looked at each other.
Vila asked, “Do you want me to come back?”
Avon said, “You are aware that I have mind blocks and they have been breaking down.”
“That’s old news,” said Vila.
Sester added, “What you don’t know is that I have them too.”
Vila turned to him in surprise. “You?”
Argus said, “I do as well.”
Vila had a very confused look on his face. He was almost sure that he was dreaming and hadn’t woken up yet. “I’m going back to my original question. What’s going on?”
Avon said, “The memories I have been experiencing appear to stem from my childhood. I have not been able to remember any of them until recently.”
“Oh?” Vila was starting to get into this dream. It was almost like watching the old Delta vid-dramas on Earth. He wondered when one of them would say that they were really long lost brothers. Vila wished his dream would oblige with some popcorn.
Sester said, “When I took the mind drugs, my mind blocks began breaking down. I had a strong memory of my own childhood. This in turn triggered a memory for Avon.”
“So you both had dreams of when you were children?”
Avon said, “We had the same memory.”
“Eh? What do you mean the same memory?”
Argus said, “It seems that Avon and I…and him, knew each other when we were children. We were at the same training centre.”
“Next you’ll be telling me that you’re brothers,” Vila muttered. He was sure it was a dream now.
Sester grinned with amusement, “Not brothers, but we were friends.”
Vila wondered what else his creative mind would come up with next. Maybe a bevy of…well, maybe not. He wouldn’t mind if Corinne made an appearance, maybe as his long lost younger sister. No…that would limit the possibilities.
Avon said sharply, “Vila, wake up!”
Vila started from his daydreams. Was it odd having a daydream inside a night dream? “Well, I’m trying to but this is too much fun. Are you going to tell me Servalan is your sister?”
Avon asked suspiciously, “Have you been drinking?”
Argus started, "Avon...you don't think...could Servalan..."
Avon said with fierceness, "Don't even think it."
Sester had become increasingly amused. “I don’t think Vila believes us. He thinks that he’s having a dream. Maybe you’d better hit him, Argus.”
Sester grinned. Argus looked as if his preferred choice of target was not Vila.
Avon said, “You are not having a dream, Vila.”
Vila said, “That’s what they all say in my dreams.”
Avon turned to Argus and said impassively, “Hit him.” He picked up a glass of water from the table.
Vila backed up, “Hey wait a minute.” He was sure that even in a dream, being hit by an imaginary Argus would really hurt.
Argus said, “Don’t worry, Vila, I am not going to hurt you. Avon was only kidding. Weren't you, Avon?”
Avon raised the glass up and studied the clear liquid inside. He asked absently, "Was I?"
Sester said, “Why don’t you kiss him instead?”
Argus glowered at Sester and strongly suggested, “Why don’t I hit you instead?”
Sester took a step back and grinned, “I’d like to stay awake thanks.”
Avon suddenly threw the contents of the glass into Vila’s face.
Vila put his hand up as cold water splashed on him. “Hey that's cold! What’s the…” His eyes widened and he wiped his sleeve across his face.
Sester grinned and handed him a cloth. “Now he believes.”
Argus said, “Vila you’d better sit down. We have something else to tell you.”