Everyone in the medical unit continued watching the flex screen and Vila's terrible memories. The scene now showed the flight deck of the shuttle. It was deathly quiet as Avon and Vila sat side-by-side, waiting for the Scorpio to pick them up. The flex screen was focused on Avon most of the time. Avon did not once face them. The only talking they engaged in concerned the docking operation with the Scorpio. The view on the screen faced forward again and they saw the ship coming in for a landing.
Back onboard the Scorpio, Avon emotionlessly recounted the events down on Malodar and in the shuttle. The screen was focused on Avon again, this time Avon was speaking and staring straight at the screen. The people in the medical unit noticed, in the periphery, that the other members of the Scorpio crew were glancing at each other. They were obviously noticing something wrong between the two men, but it was hard to tell as the observers could not see Vila's face. It was not hard to imagine though; the looks of anger and hatred which Vila must have had.
They all heard Tarrant asking Avon, "So ORAC saved the day? And what were the two of you doing?"
Avon gave Vila a hard and challenging look, "We were trying to lighten the ship. But fortunately it wasn't necessary."
Tarrant said, "Pity about the tachyon tunnel though."
Avon did not take his eyes off Vila's as he said, "We had no choice."
Vila's voice said, "It's a trip I won't forget, Avon."
Avon said with a snarl, "Well, as you always say, Vila: you know you are safe with ME."
The images on the screen faded to black. They all continued staring at it, dumbfounded.
Garett cleared his throat and used the comm mike, "That's good, Vila. You can rest now."
He instructed his assistants, "Shut the chamber down and bring him around."
Everyone else was avoiding looking at each other. No one wanted to be the next one to break the silence. They all watched as the assistants entered the chamber to release Vila.
Finally Reya said, "That was horrible.”
"It can't be true," said Cally, refusing to believe it. "It must be the memories Servalan had implanted."
"It sounded like Avon. But I don't believe it either," said Argus. "It has to be Servalan's doing."
"There are some things which do not make sense," said Sester. They all turned to look at him. He explained. "First of all, the gun."
Argus interjected, "Yes. I was wondering that myself. Why would Avon hide a gun onboard the shuttle? Vila was right, if he needed it, they would have to run all the way back to the landing pad, get the gun, then run all the way back to the biodome; which has a weapons' scanner. And Egrorian warned them what he would do if they crossed him. It's useless bringing a weapon. Why would Avon have done that? It’s doesn’t make any sense."
Sester said, "Agreed. It is not logical. The next point is, why didn't Avon think to land the shuttle? It's an obvious solution when they couldn't make escape velocity. Why waste the time throwing out random space debris? They had enough engine power to leave the planet's surface. Their speed was increasing but not enough to break orbit. But that meant that they had enough power to make a controlled landing. All they would have needed to do then was to contact the Scorpio to be picked up. Even if Avon had decided to try reaching escape velocity first, at five minutes remaining, they still had 70 kilos to dump. At that point trying to land the shuttle gave them much better odds. Something Avon should have known."
Everyone was thinking.
"Those are good points," said Garett, joining their conversation. "But I also have something interesting to add. Take a look on screen." He gestured to one of his assistants. Several of the readouts and charts from the monitors were projected onto the screen.
Garett continued, "When I asked Vila to trace his mind back to when these feelings and impressions were the strongest, he came back to here." He used a pointer to indicate a spot on a gridded wave pattern. "This is like a memory timeline. The point which Vila is accessing occurred just over two years ago."
"Then these are the memories which Servalan implanted," said Cally. Even though she had refused to believe what she had seen, there was a look of relief on her face.
"That is a strong possibility," said Garett.
"Then it didn't happen?" A weak voice asked them. They all turned to look at Vila, who was being supported by two of the assistants. He shook them off and came towards the group.
"They were most likely the implanted memories," Garett told him. "How are you feeling?" Garett gave him a brief examination.
"A bit woozy. But if this is true, then I've hated Avon for nothing?" asked Vila. There was an ill look on his face. "And beating him up…what about those memories?” Vila's hand went to his head. He had a headache. "He's never going to let me forget it." He suddenly put his hand down and asked, "Then what really happened? Did we even go to Malodar? Is there really an Egrorian and Pinder?"
"That's not something we can determine at the moment," said Garett. "But my guess is that the images you saw were based on actual events and people but the memories were altered. That way you could not tell the real memories from the implanted ones if the blocks began breaking down."
"These are the ones that Avon will remember too?" asked Cally.
"It would make sense to match both their memories," said Sester. “There was an Egrorian, by the way. He was a brilliant and controversial scientist who disappeared a long time ago.”
“There is another strange thing,” said Reya. “The object which Vila dropped. The one Avon handed to him. That was very near where Vila was hiding. Now I don’t know you well enough yet, Vila. But would you do something like that? I’m assuming that was how the Avon in your memories found you so quickly.”
“I’m not sure. Maybe, if I panicked and wasn’t thinking straight. But I can’t believe I would do something that suicidal if I was trying to hide,” said Vila.
“There’s also something else very strange,” said Cally. They all looked at her now. “Avon and Vila were trying to lighten the shuttle. They were both frantic. But I only saw Vila going to the airlock and throwing items out. We watched him. Where was Avon? He seemed to be on the flight deck the entire time. Just standing and talking to ORAC? That doesn’t make any sense if their survival depended on reducing the weight of the shuttle as quickly as possible. Even if he needed to continue thinking, Avon can do that and throw things out at the same time.”
Sester’s mind had been busy calculating and finding possibilities to understand what they had witnessed on the screen. He said, “It’s as if, the things which don’t make sense, were deliberately designed to force this sequence of events. The gun which has no purpose. Except inside the shuttle. Because Avon would need it to force Vila into the airlock. The landing of the shuttle. Avon suddenly not being able to think of an obvious solution. Because if he did, then there would be no need for the confrontation. And assuming that Vila would not do something so suicidal as to advertise where he was hiding. A deliberate pointer so that Avon would find Vila quickly within the limited time frame they had.”
Cally studied the psychostrategist. For the first time there was no suspicion in her eyes when she spoke to him. “A fabricated scenario, designed to make it seem as if Avon tried to kill Vila?”
“She’s evil,” said Vila. He wanted to say it angrily but his head hurt. No one needed to ask who the ‘she’ was.
“Yes. She is,” said Argus angrily enough for both of them. He said to Sester accusingly, “And you’re working for her.”
Sester looked uncomfortable as everyone stared at him. He had always known what Servalan was capable of; he had even helped her achieve her goals. And except for Avon, it had never really bothered him. Psychostrategists were trained to think on an impersonal level. Human beings were little more than puppets to them; pieces to be moved in a game, to achieve an end.
But this had to do with Avon. Sester gave a slight grimace and said, “Let’s leave me out of this, shall we? I believe you have more important matters to discuss.”
“Yes, like how to kill Servalan,” said Vila.
“We can’t yet,” said Argus. There was great frustration in his tone. He was as angry as the rest of them. Argus was feeling increasingly trapped in an arrangement which tied his hands. Servalan had left him no choice and he hated her. As the leader, he had to think of the big picture; and that picture did not involve killing Servalan yet.
“How can you say that?” said Vila, his voice rising in anger. He groaned and pressed his hand against his temple. “I’ve got to lie down. Or get a different head.”
Garett checked Vila’s eyes. “You’ve got a headache?”
“A big one. Any chance of some soma?” asked Vila hopefully.
“Not soma. But something that will help.” He spoke to one of his assistants.
Garett said, “It’s a result of the breaking down of the memory blocks.”
“It is,” Sester confirmed. “You will also experience periodic flashes of conflicting memories and strong emotions tied to those memories; until your mind settles and processes the fact that the implanted ones are not real. There is still another problem after that. You will have memory gaps since the blocks on the real ones are still in place.”
“If being in the crawlspace with Ture triggered this memory, why wouldn’t it trigger the other one too?” asked Cally.
Sester said, “My speculation would be that the real memory did not involve a cramped and dark location. Something else happened during that period of time.”
“No small, dark place?” asked Vila.
“That would be my guess,” said Sester.
For Vila, one less memory which touched on his childhood fears was always a good thing. “Then let's get rid of this block too.” Vila said this enthusiastically and then there was a reaction of, “Oh my head!” Vila groaned and put his hand to his head again. “I must remember to speak softer.”
At that moment the assistant came back and gave Vila an injection. Vila’s stressed and pained face began to relax, replaced with a big and happy smile. “Oh. That’s just as good as the soma. What’s the name of this wonder drug?”
Garett said, “You should get some sleep, Vila. Sester is right. Give your mind time to rest and process what has happened.” He gestured for two of his two assistants to bring Vila back to the observation room. Vila was very cheerful now.
After the successful testing of the imaging chamber and the others left to do other things, Cally returned to sit by Avon’s bed. He was moving restlessly again, but at least he seemed to be resting now. She knew it wouldn’t be long. Whatever was happening in his mind, he was never allowed to rest for long.
Cally wet a cloth and wiped his face. Other than trying to reach him unsuccessfully with her mind, it was the only thing she could do for him.
Avon, you’re not alone. Keep fighting. What you are seeing is in the past. Find your way back. She kept trying, hoping that something would get through to him. She projected reassurance and hope; and her own feelings for him. She looked up as Reya came into the room.
“How is he?” she asked Cally.
“There isn’t any change. He’s not showing any signs of regaining consciousness yet,” said Cally. She returned to wiping Avon’s face.
“Argus has been talking to Healer Garett and they want to put Avon into the imaging chamber tomorrow,” said Reya.
Reya studied the younger woman; Cally looked tired and worried. “How are you doing?” she asked her.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine,” said Cally. She put the cloth on the table beside the bed and sat down again.
“How much rest have you gotten since he was brought here?” asked Reya.
“I’m betting that it’s only enough not to fall over from exhaustion?” said Reya wryly.
“I can’t sleep,” acknowledged Cally. “Not when he’s like this. And with what we learned today, I’m not sure I can sleep.”
“But we know that Servalan was the cause of those memories. It wasn’t Avon we saw.” Reya tried to remind her.
“I know. But that means that Avon has been living with those memories. I can’t imagine what it's done to him to think that he has that in him. Despite how he acts, most of the time, he has an even more cynical attitude towards himself than he does to others. Sometimes he doesn’t even think he’s human.” There was a troubled anguish on her face.
Reya could see that it was painful for Cally to talk about this. The other woman’s love for Avon meant that his pain was hers. Reya touched Cally’s elbow in sympathy, “Then it’s even more reason to make sure that you take care of yourself. How do you think he’s going to feel, when he regains consciousness, and finds that you collapsed from exhaustion; because you were looking after him? He’ll feel that he’s become even more of a burden to someone he cares about.”
"He cares about…" Cally repeated this absently; and then she looked directly at Reya and said with certainty, "I know he cares."
"Knowing Avon though, he's probably never said it."
“No. He would call it a display of sentiment. He’s doesn’t believe in them. But he suffered two years for me. He knew when he came to rescue me, what kind of risk he was taking. He knew what that woman would do to him if he fell into her hands again. But he still did it. And then after we rescued him; he knew he had to go back. Servalan must have been furious. I can't imagine how horrible it must have been for him. I knew he had been tortured. I knew what she forced him to do. But this. This is infinitely worse. How could anyone do this to someone?” As she spoke, the anger in her voice rose. “It's entirely my fault! If he didn’t care about me, this would never have happened.” The anguish turned to tears. Reya hugged Cally and held her as the other woman cried. This was something Cally needed even more than the rest. Guilt was a heavy burden to bear.
After making sure that Cally went to sleep, Reya walked back to her suite. She was tired and was looking forward to spending a quiet night with Argus. An affectionate smile played on her lips as she anticipated a 'quiet' night. Reya turned the corner and had to side-swipe quickly to avoid bumping into Sester. She instantly knew that this was another one of Sester's 'accidental meetings'.
She said in annoyance, “Don’t undo the good things you've accomplished today, by doing something stupid, Sester. I told you that if you touch me, I will make you regret it.”
“I’m willing to risk it,” said Sester. As he saw the anger appear on her face, he put his hands up and said, “I’m just kidding. Don’t kill me.”
Reya regarded him warily, “You’re playing a dangerous game, Sester. If Argus found out…”
Sester interrupted her, “Yes. If he found out… Why hasn’t he, by the way?”
“What do you mean?” Being alone with Sester was making her feel uncomfortable again. Reya had a growing urge to get out of this hallway as soon as possible. She was starting to not like corridors.
“Why haven’t you told him?” Sester asked slyly.
“You mean, why don’t I want him to kill you? Don’t flatter yourself. It has nothing to do with you.”
A touch of a smile crossed Sester's face. He could almost see the wall she was trying to build between them as she stood there.
“Then what does it have to do with, Reya?” he asked. His voice was gentle and caring; seeking to understand. Just like those nights he had held her in his arms and tried to comfort her when they both thought Argus was dead. There was no need to build a wall if there was no semblance of an attack.
The hardness in Reya's eyes was mixed with uncertainty. She remembered this tenderness and compassion too; and her own ever-present guilt. Reya took a step back from him. "Don't do this."
He shook his head, "I have no intention of hurting you. But we have to come to some kind of peace if we are to work together."
"What are you talking about?" she asked with a confused look on her face.
"I guess Argus hasn't told you yet. He's agreed to bring me onboard as the Federation liaison during the battle with the alien incursion into this system."
"No. He hasn't. But he's been worried about Avon and Vila. We all are," said Reya.
"Yes. That's understandable," said Sester. "You know that I'm concerned about Avon too. I don't like what Servalan did to him." He hesitated and then said, "Or what I did to him."
"You didn't have a choice," she told him.
"I try to convince myself of that." He let a hint of guilt appear on his face. It helped that he did feel this way to some extent.
"Servalan would have killed you if you refused."
"Or worse," he said with a wry smile.
"What did she do to you after you helped Avon escape?" Her apprehension and guardedness began to fade; slowly replaced by sympathy.
"I'd rather not talk about it. Let's just say, she can be very persuasive when she wants to be."
"None of us thought about what would happen to you if she found out," said Reya. There was a twinge of guilt on her face.
"Why would they? As far as everyone is concerned, I still work for Servalan. I'm still the enemy."
"I'm glad you don't think so, Reya. It means a lot to me." Sester realized that it did mean a lot to him. He had not expected this. Sester had a sudden impulse to reach out and touch her but he restrained himself. He didn't want to end up on the ground again, wondering why he was staring up at the ceiling. "You'd better go. Argus will be getting impatient."
Reya nodded and headed off towards her suite.
She turned to look at him.
"Thank you for not telling Argus," he told her.
She nodded again. "Don't make me regret it."