4th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to The Definition of Peace
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Several days of meaningless recreational sex had not solved the problem as he had hoped. He needed something more diverting. Unfortunately Servalan had not assigned him anything to do yet. She was keeping him on medical leave until the doctors cleared him for duty; despite his protests that he was fine.
In a way, he dreaded what Servalan would order him to do next. She had warned him that she was going to use him as a liaison with the Justice crew. Sester was apprehensive about seeing Argus again. The man could take him apart quite effectively without much effort; not that he blamed him. But this was not Sester's greatest source of anxiety.
He wanted to see Reya again but he didn’t want to hurt her. He had already done enough damage. Sester wondered if he would be able to be near her again and not remember the nights they had spent together. He knew that he had overcome more than just her reluctance. At times it had become more than a simple physical exchange to defer the suspicions of their captor; more than about him trying to give her comfort when they both thought that Argus was dead. Sometimes it had been about mutual need; a need he never realized he had.
In the past, being a psychostrategist was everything to him. It defined who he was; it governed how he viewed himself and others around him. But it wasn't enough anymore. His association with Avon and Argus, and now Reya, had changed him.
Sester could not think of Avon without a strong sense of guilt. What he had done to him should not have been done to anyone; to force him to relive the most horrific events of his life over and over again until he was almost catatonic. Avon's will to survive and his fight to remain sane even after all they had done to him, made Sester respect him even more.
The comm unit on his desk beeped, there was an incoming communication. Sester checked the log, it was Servalan.
"You don't look happy." The President regarded him with interest.
"I have the perfect remedy for boredom," said Servalan.
"You have an assignment for me?" Hopefully nothing to do with the Justice. Or anyone on it.
"Join me for some afternoon tea," she told him.
"Tea?" he asked sarcastically. "Is that a job now? Or have your medical personnel told you that I'm not fit for anything other than a light snack?"
"Oh I think there are quite a few women who think you provide more than a light snack," Servalan said smoothly.
You've had me watched. Of course, he thought.
"I'm not interested," said Sester.
"In tea?" asked Servalan.
"In providing a light snack," said Sester.
Servalan said with a predatory smile, "You make light dining sound positively tempting."
"Then I must be losing my touch," he said icily. "Do you have anything more useful for me to do, Madame President? Or are you bored because you don't have Avon to play with?"
"What makes you think that I don't?" asked Servalan.
His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What have you done?" he asked.
"I hardly think that's your concern," said Servalan.
"I thought you had made a deal to leave Avon alone until after the alien threat is over?" asked Sester.
"Oh I have. And I intend to honour that agreement."
"Then there must be strings attached that they are not aware of," said Sester. You're even more of a puppeteer than any psychostrategist, thought Sester.
His mind was racing as he tried to understand what Servalan's game was with regards to Avon and the Justice crew. Should I warn them? Suddenly Sester did want Servalan to send him to Avon and Argus. First, I need to find out what you're doing, Servalan. Being a liaison might be useful if I can help them keep out of your clutches.
He continued, "I am a little hungry now."
"Are you?" she asked.
"For tea, that is," he said with a slight grin.
"Of course, what else would we have for afternoon tea, except tea?"
"I believe light snacks are also customary."
"Well, we wouldn't want to disappoint custom," said Servalan.
There were profuse apologies all around as the reception personnel explained that the giving of free massages was not meant to be a hostile act.
Reya explained, "I'm sorry. But I have an adverse reaction to someone putting their hands on my neck, unless I know what they're doing." She helped the man on the ground up. He looked at her warily as he rubbed the sore parts of his anatomy.
"I hope you accept our apologies," said Cally. "It was not our intention to hurt anyone." She also helped her unintended victim up.
"No, the apologies should be ours," said the host. He was a handsome, well-built man. The dark green bare-sleeved tunic he wore made his light green eyes seem even greener. "Please accept one of our complimentary relaxing treatments as an expression of our sincere regret that your stay at Pleasure City has started out so inauspiciously. My name is Garod. I am here to make your stay as pleasant as possible."
"We have several special requests," Cally told him.
"Of course. You will find that we can do almost anything. In the meantime, please accept our hospitality. We have champagne and chocolates for your enjoyment," said Garod, indicating several of the muscular men who were hovering around them apprehensively.
This time Cally and Reya were able to enjoy the hospitality of Pleasure City; though none of the men dared give them another massage.
"Does that mean you don't want to try out our little toy?" asked Ture, tapping the wrist unit he was wearing.
Vila popped out of bed. "I'll 'never get up', later. After we've won our five million credits."
"Or twenty," said Ture. "Credits don't go as far as they used to since the alien war and Star One was destroyed."
"True. And I do want to enjoy that ultra-deluxe package," said Vila. There was a faraway look in his eyes as he remembered the two beauties who had been attending to him in the reception centre and the melting of the chocolate in his mouth.
"Are you both really going through with this?" asked Allren.
"I want to try this out," said Ture, fiddling with the wrist unit Avon had helped him with. "Don't you want to know if this works? You worked on it too."
"I have better things to do with my time," said Allren.
"She said her shift ends in an hour," said Vila offhandedly.
"The one who gave us the complimentary suite with the very comfortable bed," said Vila with a smirk. "We're doing you a favour by getting out of your way."
"What's wrong with giving us a complimentary suite?" asked Allren defensively. "It's complimentary. Everyone gets one."
"Well, if everyone means just us, then yes, everyone does get one," said Vila.
"What do you mean?" asked Allren.
"There are no complimentary suites, except for VIPs," said Vila.
"How do you know this?" asked Ture with interest.
"I asked her," said Vila.
"Oh," said Allren.
"Maybe we shouldn't go to the casino now," said Vila teasingly.
"I wouldn't want to get in the way of you and your millions," said Allren.
Vila grinned. "Come on Ture, lets get rich," said Vila, leading the way out of the room.
"It does feel too good," said Cally. She was receiving her own massage in the bed next to Reya. "But it would be rude to refuse their hospitality."
There was a light aroma of various flowers and gentle music. Even the air felt soothing.
"Yes, it would be," murmured Reya, sounding extremely relaxed. She was sure Argus would be willing to do this if she asked him to.
"Do you think they'll like what we've planned?" asked Reya.
"They should," said Cally.
"I really want Argus to like it," said Reya.
"I'm sure he will. You should stop worrying."
"I can't help it. Maybe he'll like one of these too."
"With what you've planned for him, he might need it."
"Avon should enjoy what you've planned for him though," said Reya.
"He's surprisingly easy to plan for," said Cally.
"Do you think they suspect?"
"I doubt it," said Cally. "I think we're making them nervous."
"Is that good?" asked Reya. She turned to face the woman in the other bed.
Cally smiled. "They're both strong men. And proud. Sometimes it's good to keep them guessing."
"I don't care. I just want to test the unit," whispered Ture. "Pick whatever you want."
"Roulette. We can win a lot with that." Vila looked at the bright casino markers in his hand, trying to judge how long it would take them to win ten million credits.
"Doesn't that have the greatest risk?" asked Ture.
"You're sounding like Allren now," said Vila. "You have to risk big if you want to gain big. Does that unit work?"
"Then what are you worried about?" asked Vila, dragging his partner-in-crime to the busiest roulette table.
"Are you nervous?" asked Argus. He was at his usual station on the flight deck.
"Are you?" asked Avon, fiddling with the switches on the panel in front of him.
"I'd like to know what they've got planned for us."
"Don't you trust her?" asked Avon.
"Do you trust Cally?" responded Argus.
"I believe we are expected to," replied Avon.
"I really wish I knew what they were planning," said Argus.
"You've said that already. Do you find it helps?" asked Avon with a sardonic tone.
"No. It just makes me more nervous."
"I thought so." Avon looked thoughtful.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Argus.
"They're very clever."
"You mean they're doing this deliberately?"
"That's a strong possibility," said Avon.
"Why?" asked Argus.
"Can't you guess?"
"I wouldn't have to if you stopped answering a question with another question," said Argus irritably.
Avon grinned wryly and said, "Reya loves you."
"She's keeping me in suspense because she loves me? How about Cally?"
Avon didn't answer. He had a troubled look in his eyes.
"Oh come on, Avon. It's clear she loves you. Even a blind man can see that. And I'm not blind."
"I'm afraid she does," replied Avon finally.
"I thought that was a good thing," said Argus. "Unless you don't love her."
"I didn't say that."
"Then what are you saying?"
"Perhaps it would be better if she didn't," said Avon.
"I don’t think she would agree with that," said Argus.
"She won't agree with many things I've done," said Avon.
"She probably won't but I'm sure she would forgive you. She seems like the kind who could."
"That's what I'm afraid of," said Avon.
Argus looked at him. This was the most personal truth he had heard Avon share. Normally Argus would be acutely uncomfortable in this kind of situation but he felt empathy for this man. He understood what he was saying.
"I'm afraid of that too," said Argus. His mind went back to something he hadn't thought of in a long time.
"Don't tell me that our brave commander has a deep dark past," said Avon sarcastically.
"You'd be surprised," said Argus.
Avon stared at him for a moment. "Not that surprised."
"We don't deserve either one of them," said Argus.
"I would agree with that," said Avon.
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