Vila watched the open entrance to the medical unit. He’d been waiting there for the last hour, trying to work up his nerve to go in. No one had paid any attention to him in the last few days. He doubted if anyone had noticed that he hadn’t been in to see Avon since they arrived on Zirgon. They were all too worried about Avon. Vila was worried too but he was too afraid that the feelings he had been having might make him do or say something they would both regret.
Normally Vila preferred not being noticed. It meant that no one would ask him to do something, or think that all this free time he was having, should be filled with some kind of responsibility that was only important to someone else.
Cally noticed him lurking about outside and came to talk to him.
“How is he doing?” Vila asked Cally when she got near.
“Why don’t you go in and ask him yourself,” said Cally.
“I’d rather not,” said Vila.
“What’s wrong with you, Vila? Why haven’t been to see Avon since he was brought here,” she asked him.
“I didn’t think anyone had noticed,” said Vila. He hoped that Cally's Auron senses would not be able to tell her what he had been struggling with. She had more than enough to worry about. He did not want to tell her about his angry and violent dreams; not with the way she felt about Avon these days.
Cally saw that Vila was feeling depressed and troubled about something. "Is there something wrong?"
"I want to see him. I do," stressed Vila vehemently. "But I can't."
"Then why are you here, Vila?" Cally was not able to sense Vila's emotional state in the way she did with Avon, but she knew enough to understand that the thief was conflicted about his reason for being there. "Did something happen between the two of you?"
"Whatever happened, it was a long time ago," said Vila. But why does it seem like yesterday. It must be these dreams. They make it seem like it just happened.
"Normally, I would say that the two of you should deal with whatever is bothering you … but not right now, Vila. I don't want him to have to cope with more than he has to." Her face was full of worry. Avon had been having continued headaches and it did not seem to be getting any better.
Vila had not been there when Garett told the others what he had found. He still didn't know.
"What did they find? Is it bad?" he asked her. The look on his face reflected hers.
"It is," said Cally. She stopped, finding it difficult to talk about it. "They did horrible things to him, Vila. They tried to make him into a machine. Take away his ability to feel anything. They did it when he was a child, Vila! How could they do that?" She was clearly upset now, and angry. Vila put his hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her.
Cally had been trying to hide how she felt from Avon. Overtly emotional displays would not help him and would only make him feel uncomfortable and even more burdened than he already was.
Vila felt terrible. He remembered all the times he had accused Avon of being an unfeeling computer. "I thought he was always like that. That it was normal for him."
"How can that be normal, Vila? Unless he weren't human. But he is, Vila. Even if he doesn't believe it sometimes. I always knew." Cally turned away from Vila.
Vila felt a stab of guilt. He remembered Avon saying something similar once. "She is more human than I am." And he remembered his own response, "That's not difficult."
Did they make you believe that? Cally's right. How could they do that to anyone? Did she say that you were a child when they did it? Vila felt sick. There were so many things he wished he could take back now. I wish I had known. Maybe it would have been different. Things would have turned out different if we had all known. He had a strong desire to see Avon now, to talk about things that were important.
"Healer Garett is afraid that we haven't found everything yet," continued Cally.
"But that's not fair. Wasn't that enough? Why did they have to do more?" said Vila angrily.
"Garett said that Avon must have tried to fight them. When the conditioning didn't work the way they wanted, they tried other methods. They operated on his brain, Vila."
Vila put a hand to his head. With him, the Federation had tried aversion conditioning so that he would not steal. It never stuck, but they never operated on his brain before.
Cally told him, "I know now why Avon said that being intelligent should not be a curse. After the Federation realized how valuable his mind was, it became a curse. They saw him as a valuable asset and they treated him like one. He wasn't a human being to them. Just an important resource to be used and controlled."
"That's horrible." That was one of the reasons Vila had bought himself a lower rating; apart from avoiding compulsory military service. The higher the class, the more things they did to you. "You know, Avon always said that he wanted to be rich. But he wanted it for different reasons than I did. He thought he could be safe if he was wealthy enough and then no one would be able to touch him. I'd always thought that was an odd thing to say. But now it makes sense."
"Yes, many things are starting to make sense. Vila, can you stay with Avon? I want to find Healer Garett," said Cally.
Vila hesitated. This conversation with Cally had helped. He wasn't feeling anything negative; no twinges of memory.
Vila said, "Go and talk to Garett. I'll stay with Avon."
"Thank you, Vila. Try not upsetting him when you're in there," said Cally.
He put his hand to his chest and asked in a slightly offended tone, "Me?"
"I know you, Vila. I know how the two of you interact. I don't want Avon to have the added pressure," said Cally.
"Don't worry. I'm worried about him too." Vila told her, "You know he's not going to like being treated like an invalid."
"I know. Don't tell him that I asked you to watch him. I don't want to leave him alone."
"Alright," Vila reassured her.
When Vila entered the room, Avon was at one of the medical terminals, looking intently at something on the monitor. At Vila's approach, he shut down what he had been doing and got up.
"How are you feeling?" Vila asked.
Avon stared at him and then walked slowly back towards the patient area. Vila followed.
"Did Cally ask you to watch me?" asked Avon.
"Couldn't you ask me something easier? Sort of, work up to the harder ones?" asked Vila.
"She did," said Avon. He sat down on the bed and leaned back against the wall tiredly. The pain in his head was bothering him again; the drugs had obviously worn off.
"She told me not to tell you," said Vila
"You're doing a splendid job," said Avon sarcastically. He closed his eyes; it seemed to lessen the pain a bit.
"Well, I can't help it if you already guessed," complained Vila. He stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do. Avon had his eyes closed and didn't seem to want to pay attention to him. Typical.
He finally settled for sitting down on the chair next to the bed.
"What do you want, Vila?" asked Avon without opening his eyes. "I'm assuming that you want something, otherwise you wouldn't be here?"
Vila felt insulted. He had been sincere in his concern, but Avon seemed to be insinuating that he was only there because he wanted something from him.
"I shouldn't have bothered," said Vila, he got up to leave. "It's a waste of time being nice to you."
Avon opened his eyes to look at the other man. "Sit down," he told him.
Vila didn't understand why, but he sat down. They stared at each other.
When Vila didn't say or do anything, Avon asked, "Well? Does your 'being nice', extend to anything other than just staring at me?"
"You're right. I do want something. But it's not just for me." He knew that Cally would be angry if she knew what he was doing. She had asked him not to put stress on Avon, but Vila couldn't help himself. He was not experiencing any negative feelings. Maybe it's a good time to do this. Before Cally gets back.
Avon could see that Vila was struggling with something. With the pain in his own head, dealing with something else serious, was the last thing he wanted to do. But he could see that what the thief was trying to do was important. Avon decided that the pain in his head was minor compared to a possible repairing of a relationship. He tried to concentrate on what Vila was saying.
"I've been having dreams," said Vila.
Avon gave him a puzzled look. He did not see how this was relevant.
"I've been dreaming about the shuttle," said Vila. He kept his eyes on Avon's face while he said this, trying to gauge his reaction.
Avon grimaced and his stomach twisted in pain. "I can't talk about this now, Vila."
For some reason, Avon's refusal caused Vila to start feeling angry. "Yes. We are going to talk about this now. And you are going to listen," he told Avon vehemently.
There was confusion on Avon's face at Vila's abrupt and violent change in manner, "What's wrong with you?"
That made Vila very angry. Before he realized what he was doing, he had gotten up out of his seat, seized Avon by the collar and pulled him up off the bed. The shocked and weakened Avon had no choice but to stand up.
Vila was filled with rage now. "Wrong with me? There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not the one who tried to push me out the airlock." He punched Avon in the face. The force of the blow caused the other man's head to snap back. Blood flowed from his nose.
Avon could see the look of rage in Vila's eyes and the complete lack of rational thought. A memory intruded into his mind. There was a sense of déjà vu. Vila hit him in the mid-section, causing Avon to double over in pain. Vila still had him by the collar, and pulled him upright to face him again.
"Vila." Avon tried to loosen Vila's grip and pull away, but in his weakened condition, he was no match for the thief. Vila knocked his hand away and began hitting him repeatedly.
Vila felt good as he felt his fist impacted the other man's body. This is right. He deserves it, Vila. Hit him again. Harder. It will make you feel better. Yes, it always makes me feel better.
Avon's head bowed as the blows continued to batter his body. He felt as helpless as he did at the Detention Centre. "Vila." His voice was a whisper; full of pain. Another flash of memory. He could see his cell again; the harsh glaring lights aggravated the pain in his head. Avon winced, as the next punch from Vila landed at the same time as the one in his mind. Vila? No! Avon's mind retreated in shock.
This made Vila even angrier, he had a great desire to see the other man's eyes; to see the pain reflected there. He grabbed Avon by the hair and lifted his head up.
"Vila! What are you doing?" Several people pulled him away. Without the support of Vila holding onto him, Avon could no longer stand. He fell, into the arms of Healer Garett, who guided him down gently.
Vila struggled against the arms holding him back but they held him still. He turned angrily to the people who were preventing him from hitting Avon again. The sight of Cally's angry face shocked him out of his rage and he stopped resisting. Vila looked around him in confusion.
What did I just do? Vila was in disbelief as he saw Avon lying on the ground, bruised and bleeding. He remembered hitting him. Vila shook his head; he couldn't sort out whether what he was remembering was from his dreams, or if it had just happened.
Even as they pulled him across the room to the other side, Vila realized with shock, I've done this before. He brought his fist up, it was sore and bleeding. He had a sickening feeling; what just happened felt so familiar that he knew that he had done this before; and not just once.
Healer Garett was examining the injuries. Avon's face was swollen and bleeding. He was curled up, his arms crossed protectively over his chest.
"Avon." Cally was kneeling next to him as well. She had felt the pain from Avon as she was talking to Garett, and had rushed right back. She touched Avon on the shoulder, but there was no response. His eyes were closed.
Cally was afraid; there was something wrong with what she was sensing from him. She tried to reach for Avon with her mind. Cally gasped and jerked away; what she felt nearly brought tears to her eyes. She had never realized that loneliness could be so painful. It was the only thing she could sense from Avon. A wall of painful loneliness. She had not been able to touch his mind.
"What's wrong with him?" she asked Garett.
"I'm not sure yet. These injuries are not severe enough for him to become unconscious. Help me get him up on the bed and I'll make a fuller examination."
Someone had been sent to inform Argus and Reya. They were now all gathered in the medical unit and had just received Healer Garett's report on Avon's condition.
"As I suspected, his injuries are not severe. Numerous contusions and some internal damage, but nothing to explain his unconscious state."
"Something must have caused it," said Argus.
"I agree. But the reasons are not physical."
Cally told them, "I tried to reach his mind but I can't feel it. Not in the way that I normally can. All I can feel is pain. Something has shocked him so badly that his mind has retreated in order to protect itself."
"How about Vila?" asked Reya. "He's the one who attacked Avon. Something must have happened."
Garett said, "I've examined Vila. He appears to be fine now but his memory is hazy about what occurred. I strongly suspect that his mind has been tampered with as well. Something which causes a violent reaction when triggered. At this point I don't know if it is directed specifically towards Avon or if it is a general reaction."
"His mind was tampered with," Argus informed them. "We found out that Servalan had implanted memories in his mind to make him believe that Avon had betrayed Blake and the Scorpio crew; so he would tell others. They conditioned him to have a strong reaction whenever the events of that day were mentioned. But we had that conditioning reversed already."
"Did you check if there was evidence of other memories or conditioning?" asked Garett.
Argus said, "No. Damn. The one who undid the conditioning turned out to be working for Servalan. Professor Tarkson."
"So you have no idea if he even undid the conditioning," said Garett.
"We assumed that he had because Vila seemed fine after and he stopped trying to attack Avon."
"Yes, until now." Argus realized that he had made a big mistake in not checking after they found out that Tarkson was Federation. Not that they would have known who had the ability to help them, or who they could trust. But I should have done something.
Garett said, "I will have to do a thorough examination of Vila as well then. I had to sedate him. We will get a better picture when I can talk to him. In the meantime, I have him isolated in another room. I have one of my assistants watching him."
"More of Servalan's doing," said Argus angrily. "She's the only one who could have done this."