Avon was keeping Cally company on the flight deck during her shift. Argus had still not allotted Avon a spot in the rotation and with Jenna gone, there were only three of them to keep watch.
"What is your interest in this place?" asked Cally.
"There are some aspects of the simulation technology used there which interest me. It may prove useful in fixing the sopron projector. Perhaps even improve it."
"I should have known," said Cally. "Do you plan to get even a little rest?"
"Did I promise that?"
"Not in so many words. It may do you some good to take advantage of the more recreational aspects of the facility."
"I thought it was a place you weren't interested in?"
"I could be persuaded, if you came with me," said Cally.
"And we both could get a little rest?"
"Just a little."
Avon gave a light laugh. "Well, if you put it like that. How could I refuse?"
His laughter was boyish and mischievous. It reminded her of the laughter he used to have before things got grim.
It's been along time since you've laughed like that, thought Cally.
Cally turned serious. There was concern in her voice, "Avon, are you sure that you'll be alright working with Servalan?"
"I should ask you the same thing," said Avon.
"I wasn't tortured by her for three years."
"I'm not going to work with her directly," said Avon. "I'll leave that to Argus."
"Are you trying to test him?" Cally asked.
"I know you think he's a good man, Cally. But I need more than that before I can trust him. When we finally deal with the Federation, I have to know what he's capable of."
"How are your therapy sessions with him going?" she asked.
"I don't think he enjoys them." There was a trace of a smirk on his face.
"I'm sure you do your best facilitate that."
"Well, therapy is not meant to be enjoyable, for either party."
"Is that a special Avon guide to therapy?"
"It might be useful if both of you are present during the sessions," said Avon.
"Yes. If only to protect Argus from you," said Cally.
"I would like you to be involved, Cally. I know Argus would prefer if you took over the task. But I will need both of you when I begin to access the deeper nightmares and memories. You will be able to keep me focused better than he does. But we may need him if something goes wrong."
"Do you think you're ready?"
"I have to be. There has been an increased frequency of triggering events. Once the memories begin, I no longer have control. It doesn't make me the most reliable or safe person to be around. I can't trust myself. I need to be able to."
Cally suggested, "Now that we have an alliance with Servalan. Perhaps we should seek some professional help. Maybe a psych specialist?"
"Why not, Avon?" she asked.
"I don't trust Servalan. She must know the type of help I need. The number of specialists who could deal with what she did to me would be limited. And she would control all of them. It would be too easy for her to gain access that way. Argus's rebel group found one of them, a Professor Tarkson. In reality he was working for Servalan. She used him on me while I was at the Detention Centre. I'm not taking that chance again."
"Alright. Then I will join you."
Vila, Ture and Allren were in Vila's cabin sharing what they were going to do once they reached Pleasure City. For some reason this involved a lot of boasting. They were also drinking Vila's favourite green alcoholic beverage; which might explain some of the bragging going on.
"Avon and I went down to Freedom City once and won five million credits at the Big Wheel casino," said Vila. He was excited and clearly looking forward to their holiday. "It's too bad ORAC isn't fixed yet. We could have done that at Pleasure City."
"ORAC was able to adjust the odds in your favour by controlling the computer?" asked Ture. He sounded very interested in this.
"Yes. It was wonderful. The casino never stood a chance against us," said Vila.
"Hmm," said Ture. There was a far away look on his face.
"What are you thinking?" asked Allren worriedly. He knew the "hmm" from his partner and that 'look' always meant he was planning some hi-tech mischief.
"We don't need ORAC," said Ture. "If I could just talk to Avon and if you can help with some of the tech stuff, Allren."
"You think you can rig up something?" asked Vila excitedly.
"I don't think I like the sounds of this," said Allren. He was looking between his partner and Vila. Having the two of them encourage each other was not a good idea and made him feel outnumbered.
Reya moaned softly. Argus was being slow; agonizingly slow. His hand was on her hip, preventing her from moving or controlling the pace. After the flight deck, he had led her back to his cabin. Before she could ask him about what happened between him and Sester, he had them both out of their clothes and in bed again. Neither of them had slept much the previous night. It had been a night of passion. Argus seemed intent on erasing the memories of the last few weeks and making new ones.
After he finally brought them both to a climax Reya asked, "Can we take a break?"
"You're tired?" asked Argus. He lay facing her, his hands caressing her body. Despite her weariness, her body was reacting to his touch. This was something Sester had done, though he had been trying to overcome her reluctance. Argus was doing something very different.
Reya realized that Argus's lovemaking was not just motivated by love or pleasure now. There was an element of control to it. In the past, they had always approached each others as equals. By telling Argus what had happened, their relationship had changed. Sester had been right.
"You can't erase everything that happened by doing this," she told him.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Are you angry with me?" she asked him.
"I told you. I'm not," he answered.
"But you kicked Sester off the ship."
"Yes," said Argus. There was a coldness in his answer. "It had nothing to do with you."
"How can you say that?" asked Reya. She was uneasy. He had never used this kind of tone with her before.
"I'm not going to discuss it with you," he told her.
"Do you want me to leave too?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"Is that a threat?" he asked.
Reya looked into his eyes, trying to understand what was happening. Everything he said to her hurt.
She said in a subdued voice, "Don't do this, Argus. You know I didn't mean it like that. I don't want to leave. Not unless you want me to. Please don't ask me to leave."
"Then don't bring this up again," he warned her.
Reya nodded. "I never meant to hurt you."
What she said shook Argus out of the mood he had been in. When he looked at her face, he was shocked by the misery and guilt which he found there. He realized that he had been so wrapped up in his own problems that he had not truly 'seen' her since the day she had told him what happened with Sester.
"I know." His voice softened and he stopped what he was doing. He shook his head. "I don't know why I'm doing this." Argus took her into his arms and held her gently. "I'm sorry. I do understand, but I can't seem to help myself."
"Not at you. There are so many things I can't control. I'm afraid I'm going to do something..." Argus stopped. He couldn't tell her what he was really afraid of.
Now that he was trying to make sense of what he had been feeling, Argus realized with horror that he had been taking out his anger and frustrations on Reya. The guarded wariness and adversarial association he had with Servalan over the past few weeks was colouring the way he was relating to someone he loved deeply.
"I'm sorry, Reya. I'm such a fool. Can you forgive me?"
"It seems we both have things to forgive and to be forgiven for," said Reya.
"At least you have a reason for yours. I really am sorry. I know I tend to do idiotic things when it comes to our relationship. If I do this again, please hit me or something."
"Is that an order?"
"I don't think you need one to hit me," he said with a quick grin.
She put a hand against his chest. "Were you serious about what you said before? That we we're both independent adults? That we have no hold over each other?"
"No. I was fooling myself. And you. I've always treated our relationship as something different. I wanted to tell you but I was too much of a coward to bring it up. This level of commitment scares me but for you, I would be willing."
"You're wonderful," she told him.
"Don't say that. I'm not. I'm terrible and I don’t deserve you," he told her.
"You are wonderful," she told him. Her voice became quiet. "Were you serious about the level of commitment?"
Argus hesitated. He had not expected the question. "Yes. I am."
"I am too." She leaned forward and kissed him passionately.
He said in surprise, "I thought you were tired?"
"Not now," said Reya. She added playfully, "And I thought I might give the 'or something' a try."
"Well, I have been treating you badly."
She rolled on top of him and said firmly, "Yes, you have."
"Then I should make it up to you, shouldn't I?"
"Do you have anything in mind?" she asked innocently.
"Now who's being bad?" he asked as he kissed her.
This time the passion they shared was very different and had a depth which had not been present before.
"Ture," Cally came up to the computer technician as he was sharing a meal with Vila and Allren in the dining area.
Ture looked up at her; he was still chewing on a piece of something purple.
"Hmm? Yes, Cally?" he asked.
"I know that you like working with Avon but can you give him some space?"
Ture swallowed what he had been eating. "Oh. He hasn't said anything."
"No he wouldn't. He enjoys working on the technology and the problem solving. But he tires easily and would never admit it. I need you to be more careful about his health."
"Alright, Cally. I'll be careful," said Ture.
Vila watched Cally speculatively as she left the dining area. He wondered if there was another reason why she would be concerned that Avon would be too tired.
"Are Avon and Cally together?" asked Ture. He had been wondering since the scene on the flight deck.
"It looks like it," said Vila. "I always suspected there was something between those two. But I never had any proof."
"Are you still interested in Cally?" Allren asked his partner.
"I would never compete with Avon," said Ture.
"Don’t tell me. You're another one of those who thinks Avon is wonderful?" groaned Vila.
"He is," said Ture.
"I don't think I can stand any more," said Vila.
An hour later Avon was running simulations at the computer terminal in his workshop while Ture watched. Avon glanced at the man beside him. The tech's enthusiasm for all things computer related reminded Avon of Tess. He had the same quick mind though he tended to be less outgoing; unless technology or computers were involved. Ture seemed to absorb information.
Avon missed working with people like this sometimes. That was why he had enjoyed being with Tess. There was simplicity of truth in what they did; not complicated by illogical human sentiment. It was a world that made sense.
"The programming is sound," said Avon.
"Then I don't understand it," said Ture. "It should work. But it doesn't."
"Let me take a look at your transceiver unit."
Ture picked up the requested unit from the table and handed it to him.
Avon opened it up and studied it carefully. "Hand me the optical meter." Ture put the meter into his extended hand.
Avon began testing the readings of the various crystals with the meter and dictating the values to Ture who entered them onto a datapad. "This is a clever design," remarked Avon.
"It was your idea. We adapted what you did with the diffuser crystal and the comm unit," said Ture. He continued with great admiration in his voice, "What you did with the comm unit. That was amazing. Allren said that he would have never thought of that. It was pure genius."
The man's attitude made Avon uncomfortable. The last thing he needed was someone who idolized him as Tess had, and definitely not as Meegat had.
"Don't do that," he told Ture.
"Do what?" asked the computer tech, not understanding.
"You can respect the technology but don't idolize me. People held up to be admired often have a tendency to disappoint."
"If you hadn't done the mods with the comm unit first, we would never have thought of this. And if you hadn't helped us with realigning the crystals, it would never have worked."
"Then a simple thank you will suffice."
"You're welcome," said Avon as he took the last readings and then began studying the data using various analysis tools.
Ture watched Avon as he worked. He respected this man a great deal; even after seeing some of his flaws. In fact it was the flaws which made Ture respect him even more; it made him more real. The things this man struggled with were things Ture couldn't even imagine. But despite it all, he was still brilliant. Even his enemies respected and feared him.
After the analysis was done Avon said, "It's what I suspected."
"You see something?" Ture leaned forward expectantly.
He said, "There's a minor flaw in one of the crystals. It puts a slight shift in the transceiver's signal spectrum. You'll need to make an adjustment to your program to compensate. These are the new values." Avon began pointing out the numbers on the screen.
"Alright. That should be easy enough. I can adjust the programming," said Ture.
"I also have an idea on how you can reduce the size of the unit by forty percent."
"That would be great," said Ture. "I know Allren would prefer that we not get caught." He grinned.
"That's always a good thing to be avoided," said Avon in a deadpan tone. "Speaking of things to be avoided. Watch out for Vila. He has a tendency to be enthusiastic. Especially when he's winning. He doesn't know when to stop."
"I'm sure Allren will keep both of us out of trouble," said Ture.
"Yes. Try to bring Vila back in one piece. He's the only thief we've got. It would be inconvenient if we had to find a replacement," said Avon dryly.
Ture grinned at him.
Avon went over to the work-table and began sketching out the modifications on a datapad.
Ture watched him work for a few minutes, fascinated by the changes he was making in the design.
"Hmm?" Avon asked distractedly.
"I forgot to ask. Are you tired? Cally told me not to tire you out."
Avon looked up at Ture. He gave an irritated sigh. "Sometimes Cally can be too concerned about my health. I feel fine. If I don't I'll let you know."
"I think she's worried about you," said Ture.
"I have no doubt. But too much concern can be counter-productive." He continued working on the datapad.
"You're sure you're going to tell me if you're tired? I wouldn't want to upset Cally."
"Did I mention that over-concern can also be irritating?" asked Avon without looking up again.
"Right. Sorry." Ture went back over to the computer terminal and began making the adjustments to his program.
Argus was taking his shift on the flight deck. It was the night cycle on the ship now. Most of the crew was asleep. Even Reya. Argus smiled. He was still tired but he didn't mind. Reya could be very energetic when she set her mind to it. His smile disappeared. It was time to contact the other woman currently in his life.
"Zen. Use my personal contact protocol. D18."
Argus checked some readings at his station while he waited.
After a few minutes, Zen said, "Communication channel established."
"Put it on the main viewscreen."
Servalan appeared. She was wearing a nightgown. Argus wasn't in the least apologetic if he had woken her up.
"We must talk about these irregular hours you keep," said Servalan.
"If we are to keep this agreement confidential, that's the way it has to be," said Argus unrepentantly.
"You've arrived at Pleasure City?" asked Servalan.
"Not yet. We're on the way. You have the additional information I need?"
"Yes. Routing the information now." Servalan could be seen activating some controls on her desk. "I don't have to remind you to be careful."
"I'm a professional, Servalan. Reminders are not appreciated," he said coldly.
"I expect to hear some good news the next time we communicate," she told him.
"If that's meant to be a threat, save it for your decorative staff. For me, even as entertainment value it falls short."
"Your temper hasn't improved since the last time we talked."
"That's none of your concern."
"You're right of course. You temper doesn't concern me. At all. Until next time, Argus."
After Servalan closed the communications channel, Argus stared at the starfield. He had an uncomfortable feeling that she was up to something; though he suspected that this would always be true.