The sounds of joyous celebration filled Pleasure City. The main hall was packed with merry revelers in various stages of inebriation. Mythical holographic animals roamed the complex. Streams of bright lights floated past, adding to the festivities. Everywhere you looked, you were entertained: amazing feats of acrobatics, the latest music sensations, and holographic recreations of famous events. It was breathtaking.
There was a never-ending supply of complimentary food and drink. All of the relaxation rooms with their anti-grav chambers, the various therapeutic and recreational immersion baths, the de-stressing areas with massages, sensory tanks, and other assorted pleasures; they were all free.
No expense was spared. It helped that Avon had been able to locate most of Sevisia's stash of wealth, secreted in various accounts all over the Federation, and had channeled it back into Pleasure City and other places which his criminal organization had victimized.
The Pleasure City personnel, their guests who had been hidden away in safe locations during the conflict and the crew of the Justice enjoyed themselves immensely. Cally and Reya frequented the massage areas regularly, sampling the merely therapeutic and, after they dragged Avon and Argus with them, protesting at first, also the more entertaining ones.
After the first few days of overactive merriment, Avon had his fill of people and retreated to the quieter research labs and the workspace which had been set up for him before. It was deserted. Everyone else was having fun and no work was being done. Avon enjoyed the solitude and peace.
His only visitor in the labs was Cally. Her presence was not a disturbance, it was a welcome distraction. They would sit together in companionable silence as Avon exercised his mind on various puzzles while she watched or explored her own interests. She knew he needed space and at the same time, he required company. At other times, they conversed about various topics; exploring each other's areas of interests and views. He knew she wanted the interaction of communication.
Cally found herself speaking directly into his mind more and more, and it was becoming increasingly easier to 'hear' when his thoughts were consciously directed at her. They both found this an interesting development and experimented with it. Cally hadn't realized that this was possible except with another Auron. Under normal circumstances, a human mind wasn't capable of projecting thought with enough strength for her to pick up; but as Avon was fond of pointing out with a sardonic smile, he wasn't normal under the best of circumstances.
They became at ease with one another.
Argus sat alone in a small sparsely furnished room. There was a table and two chairs; and he was a man with a mission. The transports would be coming soon to bring the crimos to a penal colony. The remaining troops were about to be released with the warning to never come back to Pleasure City. Once their source of income was removed, there was no longer any incentive for the soldiers to oppose them.
The door slid open. Sevisia was brought in by two security guards.
"Remove the restraints and leave us," said Argus. They hesitated but did as he instructed and left the room.
"Sit down," said Argus.
Sevisia kept standing; his eyes burned with hatred.
Argus took a gun, which had been tucked behind him, and placed it on the table, the grip facing the other man.
Sevisia looked at him suspiciously, "What is this? An excuse to kill me?" He sat down.
"I don't need an excuse," said Argus grimly.
Sevisia sneered, "You can't kill anyone in cold blood, can you?"
With blinding speed, Argus had stood up and had a knife to Sevisia's throat. A drop of blood trickled down from where the tip had punctured the skin. The crimo boss was so shocked, he was frozen in fear.
"What do you think?" Argus asked with cold menace. "Do you want to say that again?"
Sevisia was afraid to move. He could feel the knife tip press in further.
Argus sat back suddenly.
Sevisia's hand went to his throat defensively. "I misjudged you."
"Yes. You accused me of being a misguided idealist."
"What are you?" asked Sevisia.
"I'm a messenger," replied Argus. He spat the words out as if they were distasteful. His right hand still held the knife loosely; his body was very still. Every sense was alert. He knew the exact distance between the gun and Sevisia's hand; and his knife and Sevisia's throat.
"Who's the message from?" asked Sevisia. He was curious now.
"The Federation President? What does she want from me?"
Argus enunciated each word slowly and deliberately, "She wants you to die." There was a look in his eyes which caused Sevisia to grab for the gun. Argus was waiting for that motion; it was like a release which freed him to act. Before Sevisia had brought the gun up to fire, he was already dead; the knife buried in his throat, in the exact place where the tip had punctured him before.
Argus felt ill.
After several weeks, when Smithson was able to get up and walk about with some aid, he insisted on holding a feast for the crew in order to thank them. He was still very weak but he insisted on doing it.
After a pleasant evening of excellent food and conversation he stood up to addressed them all.Smithson stopped and stood still for a moment. It was far too soon for him to be able to handle being in a social situation. He shook his head as if trying to wake himself from whatever memory had captured his attention. When he spoke again, they all noticed that his eyes were wet.
He looked at each of them in turn before he spoke. "I don't know what we would have done without all of your help. I don't know what I would have done. It was a dark day for all of us and you came in and saved us without asking anything in return."
Smithson waved his hands as he talked. He was an expressive and passionate man. They all noted that his new arm looked real. These days it was difficult to tell the difference between a bionic limb and a tank grown one.
He continued. "We owe all of you our lives and a great debt of gratitude. You were strangers when you came here and now you are our wonderful friends. What we could give you in pleasure pales in comparison with what all of you have given to us. Life and freedom; things we used to take for granted."
"You give us too much credit," said Argus. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat at the praise. He was used to getting a job done and moving on without any of this fuss. "You freed yourselves. We only helped."
"Your help was the key. Without your leadership, Avon's brilliant plan and all of your participation, none of our own efforts would have amounted to much."
"There is no perhaps about it," stressed Smithson.
Argus looked around the table. He was very proud of all of them; they had all performed beyond his expectations. Events had been so hectic that he hadn't taken the time to express his own appreciation. I must do that.
"We would like to express our appreciation," continued Smithson.
"Your thanks are more than enough. You have done a great deal already with this celebration," said Argus.
"But that is a celebration for everyone," said Smithson. "You and your crew deserve something more. You have done so much for us, you cannot deny us this opportunity to express our thanks; in our own way."
Argus asked, "What did you have in mind?"
Smithson waved his hand to one of his people who had been standing in the doorway. Serella came in with Allren, who was holding a tray. No one had seen Allren in days, not since Serella had come to pick him up.
"Allren!" exclaimed Vila.
"Hello, Vila," said the recovered Allren. He looked happy and fit.
Serella picked up something from the tray and placed it in front of Vila.
Vila picked it up. "It's a credit marker."
Smithson replied, "This is the twenty million credits you won in the casino."
Vila stared at the card in shock and then he looked at Smithson.
Argus said, "Vila."
Vila said, "I know. I know." He gripped the marker tighter; part of him was unwilling to let it go. Vila finally put it back on the tray. "I can't take this. We cheated. We can't take the money."
"We know," said Smithson with a smile. He gestured and Serella put the marker back down in front of Vila. She then proceeded around the table, placing markers in front of each of them. They all stared at the objects in front of them, uncertain what they should do. It was an unexpected and generous gift.
Argus said, "We can't accept this. You need to be able to rebuild. We can't take this from you."
Smithson said, "You had Avon recover the money Sevisia appropriated from Pleasure City. And many more besides. And you gave it all back to us. We have much more than what we started out with; and you have nothing to show for endangering your lives to help us. If you don't accept this, we will always feel guilty that we did nothing for you in return. Please accept these as a small token of our thanks. Please do not deny us this."
They all looked at Argus; and waited. It made him feel ill at ease to accept anything for what they did. His intentions had never been for personal gain.
He could see that Smithson and his people would be offended if they refused their sincere efforts at gratitude. Argus sighed and nodded. Vila's face broke into a huge grin as he grabbed his marker.
"We are not making this a habit," said Argus firmly.
Smithson said, "We would also like to extend an open invitation for you and your crew to enjoy the facilities of Pleasure City whenever you wish. We would like you to treat this as your second home. A refuge if you will."
"You're very generous," said Argus.
"As are all of you. Two of your people have decided to stay and help us."
They all looked around at each other, wondering who it was.
"It's me, Argus," Allren told him.
"And Ture?" asked Argus.
"Yes. He's staying too. Neither of us are really rebels. We could do some good here. And…" Allren looked at Serella.
Argus saw the look and said, "Of course. You're both free agents. It was always your choice when you would leave."
"If you ever need us…"
"We'll know where to find you," said Argus.
Smithson said to Argus, "I believe a scenario was arranged for you before all of this began. You haven't had time to take advantage of it."
The ship was quiet. Most of the crew spent their time in Pleasure City when they weren't on duty.
Argus instructed, "Zen. Use my personal contact protocol. D18." He knew this would be an interesting conversation.
After a few moments Servalan appeared on the screen. She was dressed in an icy white gown. Her manner was even colder as she said, "So you finally decided to contact me."
"I didn't see any urgency. The task was completed," said Argus.
"You killed Sevisia?" she asked.
"Was there ever any doubt?" asked Argus.
"About your abilities? I never doubted you were a ruthlessly efficient killer. But we need to talk about your inappropriate sense of initiative."
Argus smiled. There was an aggressive quality to it. "You asked me to kill Sevisia. I did. That is all there is to discuss between us. You must be under the mistaken impression that I'm here to serve your interests."
"I won't be making that mistake again," she said with a chill tone of threat. The way she said it sounded more like, "You won't be making that mistake again." For some reason, when she said that, the screen seemed to flare. Argus found it very annoying. I must ask Avon to look into that. Must be something wrong with the vid panel.
"I would appreciate if you don't contact me for awhile. I'll be busy," said Argus with feigned politeness.
"Haven't you already had enough rest?" asked Servalan.
"Don't your people have something better to do than document my leisure activities?"
Servalan smiled and said, "Don't take too long. I might just lose interest in our agreement. And you know what that would mean for Avon."
Argus wondered how she perfected a smile which could look so genuine but still come across as cold and disturbing.
Argus said in a tone resembling a growl, "Save your threats, Servalan. They don't work on me."
"That's why the threat was not directed at you," she said coolly.
"I will contact you when I am finished with what I need to do," he told her.
"Be sure that you do."
Several days after Smithson's feast for them, when they had all rested and enjoyed the hospitality of Pleasure City, it was time to leave for Sector Ten. Avon, Cally, Argus and Reya returned from the city together. Vila immediately bowed out to return to the flight deck to finish his shift.
Reya punched Argus playfully in the ribs.
"Ouch. That hurts," said Argus.
"Don't be such a baby. It's not that bad," said Reya.
"Tell that to my ribs." He was holding his arm protectively over his ribs in case she decided to hit him again.
"Well, who told you to keep falling off your horse?" asked Reya.
"Horse?" asked Avon with mild curiosity.
Argus glared at him. "Let's go continue this somewhere else," he said to Reya, taking her by the arm and leading her out of the teleport room.
"Why didn't you tell me you didn't know how to ride?" They could hear Reya asking Argus before she exited.
"It's not a skill they normally teach at the academy," replied Argus grouchily. "And besides, there was the little matter of a lance that kept hitting me."
"A lance?" asked Avon with a puzzled expression on his face after they left.
Cally said, "It's the scenario Reya arranged as a gift for Argus."
"It seems to be a strange gift if it involved being hit. Although, it is Argus. He probably enjoyed it," said Avon sarcastically.
Cally gave him a hard stare. "Are you going to hit me too?" asked Avon.
"I'm thinking about it."
Avon gave her a mischievous grin. A strange impulse caused him to lean forward and kiss her. The moment their lips touched, it was as if a current of energy passed between them. There was an excitement and eagerness; exploring something they had both wanted for a long time.
For Cally, there was a brief moment of shock which quickly turned to passion. Avon’s presence at the edge of her consciousness became very close. She could sense his desire as his mouth explored hers; it soon became difficult distinguish where his needs ended and her own began. "Avon," Cally sighed. She wanted to feel his arms around her, wanted his body pressed against hers; but she was afraid. She remembered what happened the last time; his involuntary sense of repulsion and fear when she touched him. She hoped that the kiss meant he was ready, but she knew it was wishful thinking.
Avon pulled back and looked at her. "What's wrong?" There was uncertainty in his eyes. He had acted on a natural instinct but he was never one to trust instinct. "I thought it was what you wanted."
"Yes. It is, Avon. Very much."
"Then what's wrong?"
"I'm starting to think that you might have some psi ability after all," she said wryly.
"Don't do that, Cally. Tell me what's troubling you."
"Well, that's an old topic, isn't it? What specifically troubles you about me this time?"
"I…" Cally didn't know how to say what she was afraid of.
Avon sighed. "You're afraid because of what happened before. You don't want to put pressure on me."
The moment she mentioned it, Avon knew it was true. Just the thought of it was already producing unpleasant feelings. The sentiment had overridden his natural caution. I should have realized. Avon knew that he had not wanted to think about it; part of him hoped that this breakthrough extended to more than just the kiss.
He turned away from her. "You're right."
"Avon. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up." Cally wanted to touch his arm in reassurance but was afraid to; afraid that he would draw away.
"I wasn't trying to lead you on," Avon turned back to her. There was earnestness in his eyes. "I wanted this. I want you to know that."
"Yes, I know, Avon."
"Where do we go from here?" he asked.
"Are you alright?" she asked him.
"Is that a description that applies to me, even at the best of times?" he said in a self-mocking tone.
He had said this many times since being rescued from Servalan,and each time she hated to hear it.
"You will be fine, Avon. You have to be." She said it so vehemently that Avon was taken aback. It disturbed him that she was so upset. He didn't want her to be distressed over him.
He put his hand under her chin and tilted her head up to face him. "Don't worry, Cally. I'm not worth it."
"Yes, you are! Don't ever say that."
Avon saw that she was becoming emotional. This made him distinctly uncomfortable; in that, he was very much like Argus. "Alright, Cally," he said placatingly. "I never argue with a woman."
"Well, hardly ever."
"I'll remember that."
"Why do I get the impression that I'm going to regret this?"
"It's not that bad," said Cally.
"Well as long as you don't hit me with a lance."
"I can almost guarantee it."
"Almost?" asked Avon with mock nervousness.
She smiled, the moment of tension had passed.
"There are many things I am not capable of yet."
"I know. I won't press you." She reassured him.
"But we've proven there is one thing I am."
She looked into his eyes. The earnestness was still there and there was something else. "Oh. Maybe this would be better continued in my cabin?"
"I thought you would never ask," said Avon. He took her by the hand and they left the teleport room together.