Reya was still sleeping in Sester's arms when they woke up the next morning. She had never done that before. Her body was warm against his.
You're beautiful. Sester touched her face gently. She opened her eyes and saw him looking at her.
There was a question in her eyes.
"No. There's nothing wrong," he told her. He wasn't about to tell her what he was really thinking.
Reya rolled away from him and got up. She was always an early riser. It was a habit of being in the military most of her life. He watched her as she pulled on a robe and headed to the bathing facilities. Sester wanted to touch her again but he understood that she would not accept that from him during the day.
He sighed. The memory of Argus was something he knew that she would never be free from; not that he wanted her to forget him. He knew that she still cried at night when she thought that he was asleep. Until then he could almost convince himself that the pleasure he gave her was something she needed. But it was a lie; it was something she did because she had to.
Sester got up.
Reya looked at him in astonishment when she came back into the room. Unlike her, Sester was not an early riser. He preferred waking up at a more humane hour.
"You've got something to do this early?" she asked.
"No. You must be rubbing off on me," he told her as he stretched. "I thought I might join you in doing some exercises."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Are you used to doing exercises?" From their activities during the night, she was aware of his physical fitness level.
"I've been known to do them."
"Do psychostrategists always find it necessary to be evasive?" she asked.
"Only when we don't want to be embarrassed," he admitted wryly.
"You have nothing to be embarrassed about."
He took her hand and pulled her to him; his arms wrapped around her and he pressed their bodies together. He said teasingly, "Really?"
"Men. Is that all you ever think about?"
"Not all. But it is fun."
"Don't tell me that you don’t enjoy it as well."
Reya looked away from him. "I try not to." Her face abruptly changed and became blank.
Sester suddenly felt guilty. He felt so comfortable relating with her now that it was easy to forget.
"I'm sorry." He let go of her.
"We're getting out of here today," she told him.
He looked at her sharply. "You didn't say that before."
"There's no point in waiting. A few more days won't make a difference."
"When did you make this decision?" Sester asked.
"This morning." Just now.
"Do I have a say in this?"
"You could stay here," she told him.
Reya did not want to tell him that their interaction this morning troubled her. She was becoming more comfortable with Sester and it scared her. His charm was becoming harder to resist. As usual, when she felt vulnerable, Reya tended to go on the offensive.
"Well, if you put it that way. I wouldn't want you to face the danger on your own," he told her.
Sester recognized that she was trying to put walls up between them. He knew her well enough by now to know that she was feeling vulnerable and emotionally exposed. Her tendency in this situation was to become aggressive and to take proactive action.
He also knew that her rigid sense of duty would never allow her to risk someone else's life due to personal considerations. In that, she and Argus were very much alike. Sester trusted her in this.
He wondered why she was feeling vulnerable. Part of him thought he knew; the other part told him that he was fooling himself. Becoming emotionally involved was always death for a psychostrategist's objectivity.
"Get dressed. I'll tell you my plans over breakfast," said Reya.
Jenna sat staring at the comm unit on the table. She had heard Argus attempting to contact her several days ago; heard and did nothing.
I'm sorry, Argus. You're a good friend. If it weren't for you, I don't know what I would have done after Blake died. But you would try to stop me and I can't let you do that.
"Jenna." Tancit rushed into the room excitedly. "There's a lead on Avon."
Another lead. How many does that make in the last two days?
Jenna didn't care how many. As long as one of them led to Avon. She picked up her weapon and followed Tancit out.
Avon felt much better. Most of the aches had dulled to a barely noticeable level. Rest tended to do that and staying off his feet. Cally had insisted on it. She had become very stubborn about his physical well-being.
It was much safer lying low for awhile and the storage facility was proving to be a secure location. This was the first good opportunity Avon had to recover from the stress and exertions since arriving on this planet. He was also aware that his survival might depend on being less physically disabled. As a result, Avon had relented.
Between bouts of Cally-supervised rest, he was able to work on the teleport bracelets. Even then she had insisted that he keep his leg supported, which he felt was a bit much.
He preferred it when she was not so stubborn about helping him. Avon suspected it had something to do with the exchange which had occurred between them before. He knew it had been a mistake to allow that level of closeness between them, regardless of how limited it had been. Sentimentality always made things more complicated than they should be.
Cally was examining Avon's knee carefully as he lay on one of the beds.
"Are you satisfied?" Avon asked.
"There doesn't appear to be any damage," she said in an astonished tone. Avon had never allowed her to study it this closely before. It seemed more efficient in the long run to allow her to satisfy her doubts rather than getting into an argument.
"I did tell you there would be none. The disability is solely caused by the implant."
"It's inhuman to create such a device just to simulate an injury which does not exist."
"It is all too human," remarked Avon dryly. "Is there any other curiosity you wish to satisfy? I would like to continue the work on the teleport bracelets."
"Are you almost finished with them?" asked Cally.
Avon sat up and slid off the bed. He went back to the table where he had been working. Cally followed.
He replied, "Not yet. I've had to improvise some parts. If it doesn't work, we may need to make another trip to the shop where we picked up the diffuser crystal."
Avon sat down, picked up Cally's teleport bracelet and studied the changes he had made in order to make up for the defective parts.
"We can send Ture or Allren," she suggested.
"I'm not sure if it would be safe to send them now. Jenna and her group know what they look like and can follow them back here."
"We can wait until Palty gets back. He can go."
"Unfortunately, your young thief friend won't know what to look for and the shopkeeper will not deal with someone who doesn't."
"Then how do we get the parts?"
"I'm thinking." Avon started working on the bracelet again while Cally watched. He glanced at her briefly. She was being quiet and helpful again. As he worked, part of Avon's mind was also busy trying to process the complexity of their dynamic.
Why are you going to all this trouble? Is it because of what happened before?
Avon wasn't sure what had happened.
Why have you always taken an interest in me, in my work? I have never encouraged it.
When she had touched the marks on his body, the scars Servalan had given him; it had made him feel uncomfortable. The gentleness of her touch had seemed to promise something more and suddenly it had evoked feelings of fear.
It wasn't you, Cally. It was me.
When Cally touched him, it was as if he could feel someone else's hands. An enemy's hands.
The last person who touched me that way was Servalan.
Avon's stomach twisted in pain, anger and humiliation. He tried not to grimace but didn't succeed.
Cally asked immediately, "Are you alright?"
Cally had been vaguely aware of an increasing tide of emotions from Avon. It seemed incongruous with his actions of fixing the teleport bracelets. There was no outward display of emotions until she had noticed the grimace.
I must maintain tighter control over my own thoughts around you, thought Avon. I reveal too much to your ability.
Without looking up from what he was doing, he said, "Thank you."
Cally was surprised at his words. "For what?"
"For insisting that I get some rest. I did need it. I have a tendency to ignore physical needs when I'm focused on a task."
You have a tendency to ignore many things, thought Cally.
She said, "You're welcome. You haven't answered my question."
Avon had been hoping to deflect her attention. When did you become so persistent?
"It is nothing to be concerned about. Just one of the benefits of having the implant," he said sarcastically.
"Don’t joke about it," said Cally.
"Believe me, I find very little about it which is amusing. But as there is nothing that can be done, there is no benefit in discussing it." The tone in Avon's voice indicated he would not discuss it any further.
Cally decided not to pursue it. There would be other times.
They sat together companionably while Avon continued working and Cally assisted. She was intelligent and surprised him at times; she always seemed to know what instrument or tool he would need next before he even asked. If he didn't know any better, he would think she was able to read his mind.
After awhile Cally said, "Avon."
"How about a disguise? Ture or Allren can use a disguise."
Avon looked up at her. It was an excellent suggestion. People who used their intelligence always made things much easier. It was one of the things which had first drawn him to Anna.
"That's a good idea," he told Cally. "If these modifications are not successful, it's always good to have an alternative. Can you arrange with Palty for the disguise? I will let Ture and Allren know what I need."
"I am not going out like this," said Allren indignantly. He was currently dressed like an old woman complete with a flowery dress, large brooch which contained what looked like a miniature garden and a floppy hat with more flowers around the brim. Flowers appeared to be the in-fashion among the older set on Papos.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better. I'm sure no one would be interested in you. At all," said Vila with a critical eye. He was trying not to laugh.
"Why can't Ture do this?" Allren said.
"I did offer," said Ture. "But the dress doesn't fit me."
"What he's saying is that you have a better figure," said Vila. He could barely contain himself now.
Allren scowled at him. "I don't find that funny, Vila."
At that, Vila burst out laughing. This set Ture off as well.
Avon looked on with amusement. "You're clear on what you need to get?" he asked Allren.
"Yes," replied Allren, pointedly ignoring the laughter. He adjusted the dress over his hips. This resulted in more laughter from the others.
"Ignore them," said Avon. He handed Allren the coat which went with the outfit.
"I plan to." Allren put the coat on.
"You look passable," said Avon as he studied the disguise. He hadn't been sure of its effectiveness until the coat had been added.
"Thanks. At least some people appreciate it."
With great effort, Vila and Ture managed to stop laughing, although there were still big grins on their faces.
Cally came over after talking to the young thief. "Palty is going to take you to the shop."
"Alright. I guess I'm ready," said Allren.
"Good luck," she told him.
"Be careful," said Avon.
Allren nodded and followed Palty out.
"That's very interesting, Commander Tau," said Servalan.
"I thought you might find it so, Madame President." The Space Commander was the commanding officer in charge of the assault units currently on the planet. He was an efficient and capable man; and who had the occasional flash of insight.
He continued, "The senior controller thought he was being clever by knowing who the other man in the target profile was."
"Thank you, Space Commander. I will take it from here. Do not let the senior controller know. We want it to be a surprise for him." There was an unpleasant smile on her face. She had little time for people who thought they were cleverer than they were. Dayto definitely qualified as one of those.
"Yes. Madame President," Tau acknowledged.
Servalan cut the connection and pressed another button. Her aide appeared on the screen, "Corry, find me senior agent Gorman. I want to speak to him immediately."
"Yes, Madame President."
None of the troops had been told the identity of the two men they were searching for. The only one who knew was the Space Commander and the select team of agents sent from Central Security.
That the Senior Controller knew who Sester was, was not surprising. Sester had been sent there officially after all. If the man had been able to identify Avon, that would have been clever of him. It would mean that he had contacts and sources of information which would make him a useful man.
Servalan laughed. "Drel Argus."
The senior controller was a fool. Or rather, he had run foul of a man who was infinitely cleverer than he was. Her wayward psychostrategist.
After Servalan finished directing Gorman to make preparations, Gorman said, "You might be interested to know that we have found someone who may be helpful in your search for Kerr Avon, Madame President."
"Oh?" Servalan was instantly interested. "And who may this helpful person be?"