After what they had discovered the previous day with Vila, everyone was nervously waiting for Avon to be brought into the imaging chamber. They all readied themselves for more of the same. No one had gotten a good night's sleep. Everyone seemed to have experienced their own nightmares.
Vila, Argus and Reya waited while the Healer's assistants readied the equipment again. Argus was speaking with one of the assistants.
"I don't know if I want to watch this," Vila said uneasily to Reya. "It would be like watching my own funeral."
"You don't have to do this, Vila," said Reya.
Vila said with a troubled but determined expression on his face, "I want to be here. But I don't want to be too. If you know what I mean. I don't want to be here, for me."
"You want to be here for Avon," Reya said with understanding.
"Yes." Vila looked embarrassed.
Reya touched him on the arm, surprising Vila. She told him, "You're a good friend, Vila."
Vila managed to look even more embarrassed. "I want to be this time."
"This time?" asked Reya, not understanding.
"It's a long story."
At that moment, Avon was wheeled into the room and put into the imaging chamber. Cally watched carefully as he was readied and strapped in.
Vila and Reya saw her arguing with Garett and Argus. Then Cally shook her head and came over to the observation area.
"What's wrong? How is he doing?" asked a worried Vila.
"I don't know if I want Avon to do this now," said Cally. "He's exhausted. I don't think he got any sleep at all. Not in his head. Whatever is happening to him, he's not being allowed any rest." Neither Vila nor Reya said anything but Cally looked exhausted too; it was doubtful that she got any rest either.
Sester slipped into the room while the others were occupied and stood out of the way. Argus noticed him out of the corner of his eyes but didn't say anything. Reya also saw him and other than a brief nod, did not pay any further attention to him.
There was distress in Cally's voice as she said, "He was screaming last night. I didn't know what to do." She did not look very steady on her feet. Reya put her arm around Cally's shoulder to support her and said, "Vila, get a chair."
"Right." Vila located one and came back with it. "Here, Cally." They encouraged her to sit.
Argus came over with Garett. Upon seeing the distraught Cally, he asked, "Is she alright?"
Reya said, "Can't we do this tomorrow? Cally said that Avon had a bad night."
"We can't, Reya. It has to be now," Argus answered.
Garett said to Cally, "I know you don't want us to do this, but we don't have a choice. Avon's mind is not giving him one. He is experiencing these memories whether he wants to or not. But…" Garett had a thoughtful look on his face.
Argus asked, "What are you thinking?"
"I was wondering if this is really entirely out of his control," said Garett.
"I don't understand. You just said that he doesn't have a choice," said Argus.
As he thought out loud, Garett crossed his arms over his chest and occasionally he would look towards the ceiling as he remembered. "Something he did during the mind mapping. Some of the readings we are getting now are similar. I think he was learning to gain a measure of control over the memories; enough that his mind would not shut down. He didn't explain what he was doing, but I think what is happening now, may actually be a good sign that he has not lost control."
Cally stood up. She demanded, "I don’t understand. How could this be any better than collapsing? He's suffering now. How can that be better? And if he is in control, then why doesn't he wake up?"
"I'm not sure. It may be partial control. Or perhaps, he doesn't want to regain consciousness yet. For some reason, he wants to follow this memory. Regardless, we are not the ones in control here. He will continue this trail of memories until they are finished. The only thing we can do is monitor him. Interfere if he is having trouble physically and try to reach him with the imaging chamber technology. If he wants to pursue this, I would like to give him a chance. He must have a reason."
"He wants to understand everything," muttered Vila to himself.
"What was that, Vila?" asked Argus.
Vila repeated, "Avon. He always wants to understand everything. He never rests until he does."
"Yes. He's infinitely curious," said Cally. For a moment, there was a lighter look on her face as she remembered something.
"Then you're not opposed to us continuing?" asked Garett.
"I still don't like it. But you're right, there is no other choice," acknowledged Cally.
With that everyone moved into a better position to watch the screen. For the next few hours, they all watched a re-enactment of the memories which Vila experienced; but from Avon's perspective.
Afterwards Vila sat down and said, "I think I'm going to be sick." One of the assistants quickly handed him a large metallic pan. "Not that kind of sick." He handed the object back.
"You were right about the matching of the memories," Healer Garett turned around and addressed Sester, who was still standing unobtrusively a distance away.
"It made the most sense." Sester came over to join them.
"Then it's over. He should be coming out of it," said Cally hopefully.
Garett went over to the imaging control panels to check. He used the comm and said, "Avon. Can you hear me? It's Garett." He looked down at the monitors. There was no change in readings. "Avon, the scenario is completed. You can come out of it now." There were still no changes or indication that Avon was regaining consciousness. "I don't understand it. He should be coming out of it if the memories are over."
"They must not be finished then," said Sester. "If you are right and Avon is partially in control of what is happening, he obviously doesn't consider it over yet."
As if on cue, one of Garett's assistants called for his attention. "Sir. We're getting more images."
They all turned towards the screen. Familiar faces appeared on the screen. Vila, Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin. Vila found it strange watching himself on the screen.
"We must be seeing their attempts to implant the memories," said Garett. "Normally it would be repeated many times until they become ingrained in the subject's mind."
The screen was showing motion along a corridor and then onto the flight deck. Tarrant was walking beside Avon.
They heard Avon's voice say, "Orac is loaded, Vila, and we're ready to go."
Dayna said, "Oh, Avon, is it really worth losing Orac for this new weapon?"
Avon voice replied, "I don't see that we have a lot of choice. If we say no deal, Egrorian can destroy this ship faster than you can snap your fingers."
Soolin asked, "And how do you guarantee he won't anyway once you've delivered Orac?"
Avon's voice replied, "We have no guarantee. But if he tried that he must know that we would kill them."
[There was stirring among the medical unit observers.
"This is different," remarked Argus. "I don't remember the dialogue being like this."
"You're right, some of those lines were said by someone else before," said Cally.
They were all puzzled but continued watching; trying to pay even closer attention, trying to spot any other differences.]
They all heard Dayna say with concern, "But you've no guns."
Avon's voice did not contain any concern. "You haven't seen those two. They are old and they are decrepit, especially Pinder. Vila could handle him on his own."
Tarrant asked, "Pinder's old?" There was a puzzled look on his face.
Vila said, "Late seventies. Why?"
Tarrant replied, "After you'd gone, I got Orac to do us one last service. This is a printout from Central Records, all that's known about Egrorian."
Avon's voice asked, "Interesting reading?"
Tarrant said, in a superior voice, "Yeah, very interesting. After he vanished, they started finding the bodies. He was never a simple scientist, Avon."
Vila asked, "What was he?"
[The real Vila asked loudly and with great confusion. "WHAT?" Everyone stared at him. Cally was looking increasingly confused.]
The Tarrant on the screen replied, "Power mad from his earliest days. He was at the center of a conspiracy to take over the Federation."
Avon said, "This is the man who says he wants to spend the rest of his life in the advancement of science."
Tarrant added, "The other interesting thing is Pinder."
Vila asked, "What about him?"
Tarrant replied in that superior tone again, "He was a mathematical prodigy apparently. He was eighteen when he disappeared with Egrorian ... ten years ago. Now I'm not a mathematical prodigy, but it seems to me that makes him twenty-eight."
[The real Vila began giggling. They all looked at him again.
"Would you like to share the joke with us?" asked Argus.
"That's exactly what it is. A joke. It has to be," said Vila, trying to giggle and talk at the same time.
"Vila?" Reya asked. "Would you like to explain it to the rest of us?"
Vila said, "Explain…" Then he burst out laughing while Cally asked, "Vila, when did Avon stop doing his own research? And when did Tarrant start doing any? Did something happen after I was gone?"
"That's just it," said Vila. "It never happened that way. I mean. What I remembered. The memories they implanted in me, made much more sense."
"I'm inclined to agree. It doesn't seem to make any sense with what we know of Avon," said Sester. "I am not familiar with Tarrant but, we all know that Avon is almost paranoid about safety. Servalan had been hunting him for months; setting traps for them, trying to kill them. Then out of the void, Egrorian requests a meeting? Only with Avon? And he offers them the ultimate weapon in exchange for ORAC. Avon and ORAC. Now who else does Avon know who would want that combination together, alone and somewhere where they are vulnerable? What is the possibility that Avon would not research everything he possibly could before even considering going to Malodar?"
"And Tarrant having to do math for Avon…," Vila was laughing so hard now that he was almost reduced to tears.
"Now that you put it that way…it is very funny," said Reya.]
The images on the flex screen had continued. The rest of the scenes were very similar to the ones they had seen in Vila's memories: the interaction between Avon and Vila on the first trip to the planet, the meeting on Malodar with Egrorian and Pinder and then the second trip to make the trade. As Avon and Vila returned to the Scorpio with the tachyon funnel safely in the cargo hold, the observers in the medical unit all unconsciously leaned closer towards the screen.
Everything happened as before in the shuttle, up to the point when ORAC fatefully proclaimed that the speed required to break orbit, was unattainable. Avon again stayed in the cockpit of the shuttle talking to ORAC while Vila rushed around lightening the ship.
Vila rushed back to the flight deck of the shuttle in time to hear Avon's stressed voice ask, ""What's the position now, Orac?"
ORAC responded, "Remaining flight time: five minutes and forty seconds."
Avon's voice asked, "How much more weight must we lose before we can achieve escape velocity?"
ORAC replied, "Seventy kilos, Avon."
Avon's voice said, "Only seventy kilos... Vila, strip off the insulation material in the cargo hold." There was a slight pause then they heard Avon's voice shouting, ""Vila!" Avon handed a small plastic trolley to Vila, who took it.
Vila whined, "But that's plastic. It weighs nothing."
Avon's voice told the onscreen Vila, "Get rid of it anyway!"
Vila said, "A kilo and a half if we're lucky."
Avon's voice was frantic, "Do it! We've got five minutes." Vila disappeared from the screen as he ran to follow Avon's orders. They could hear Avon saying frantically, "Not enough! Not nearly enough! Dammitt, what weighs seventy kilos?"
ORAC responded, "Vila weighs seventy-three kilos, Avon."
[In the medical unit, everything was deathly quiet as everyone prepared themselves to watch the next few disturbing scenes.]
For a moment there was a pause then they heard Avon say in a quieter, determined voice, "Vila." They all saw the screen lower and then Avon opening the panel to take out the gun.
["This scenario has the gun too," remarked Argus.
Sester said, "Yes. I had noticed that."]
The next few minutes they saw the screen moving slowly through the ship and then down the ladder into the cargo hold.
[Reya asked, "Why is he moving so slowly? And why isn't he looking in things if he's trying to find Vila, instead of just wandering around the corridors?" No one had an answer.]
They heard a calm and persuasive voice saying, "Vila? Vila? Vila? Vila, are you here? I need your help. Vila, I know you're here, come out. Vila, I know how they did it, but I need your help. Please help me."
[The moment they had heard this voice, there were many looks of confusion in the medical unit.
"Who’s voice is that?" asked Garett. "Is that supposed to be Avon?"
"I think so," said Argus looking very confused.
Vila started giggling the moment he heard this voice coming from the Avon on the screen and then he muttered in disbelief, "Please help me?" Vila started laughing again. He had to hang onto a desk.
Cally said, "I don't understand. Why is Avon sounding like that?"]
The screen stopped abruptly and panned down. There was a plastic box. It seemed as if Avon had just kicked it accidentally with his boot.
["What is that?" asked Reya. "I don't remember seeing that in Vila's memories."
Vila shrugged, "No idea."
Argus asked with confused incredulity, “Is that THING in the MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR?!!!”
They all stared at him and then at the object on the screen again with increasingly mystified looks on their faces.]
They heard Avon's voice again, identifying the object, "Plastic. High tensile plastic. Vila?" They saw his foot try to kick the object away. It didn't move.
Avon's voice said, "Couldn't possibly be that heavy. Unless there's something imbedded in it, and there isn't. Unless it's very tiny, in which case it wouldn't have... the weight!" The tone of Avon's voice changed again. He sounded more like he did in the cockpit, before ORAC told him about Vila’s weight. Avon's voice said with more energy, "Vila, I really do know how they did it! It's a speck of neutron material, but I need your help to shift it." The view lowered and they saw Avon pick up the small cart he had handed to Vila earlier. Avon's hands used the little trolley to push the heavy plastic box to the airlock.
["I thought it was supposed to be a really heavy object. So heavy that it was preventing the engines from reaching escape velocity. Should he be able to move it like that?" asked Reya.
Vila couldn’t stop laughing. He was laughing so hard now that he had to sit down, or be rolling on the floor.]
Avon said frantically, "Vila, help me! Vila, you have GOT to help me, come on! Vila! Vila, WHERE ARE YOU?"
[As the rest of the scenario played out, everyone was either smiling in amusement or joining Vila in laughter. It was hard to take anything they saw on the screen seriously now.]
After the images on the screen faded, everyone looked at each other. There was a light mood, unlike the time when they had finished watching Vila’s memories.
“Well, now that was interesting,” said Sester. He had been silent so far; quietly thinking about the improbable things they had been looking at on the screen.
“I haven’t seen anything that funny since…” Vila stopped. His brow furled in thought. “Since watching Delta vids when I was a kid. None of them made any sense either.”
“These vids, they were entertainment?” asked Reya.
Vila replied, “Yes. The government Delta channels have them. All kinds of things. Comedies, romance, action stuff.”
“But why would they make anything that didn’t make any sense? Wouldn’t people find that insulting to their intelligence?” asked Reya. She didn’t understand. There wasn’t anything like this in Athol culture.
“Well, it was meant for the Deltas. We don’t get much education. And when you’re life is rough anyway, even a little mindless entertainment is good. It’s free and it takes your mind off things,” said Vila.
“But this doesn’t just take your mind off things,” said Cally. She had never understood this aspect of Terran culture either. “I imagine it would encourage people to turn their rational minds off, in order for it to be entertaining.”
“Exactly,” said Sester.
Cally looked at him. “You’re saying, it’s deliberate?”
“It is the Federation,” he responded.
They all absorbed this piece of information.
“The more interesting question is, why would Avon remember this? And why does he have two different sets of memories?” asked Sester.
“Well, this one can’t be true. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Cally.
“And we know that the other one isn’t true either,” said Argus. “So what really did happen?”
They all looked at each other.
“For that answer, we would have to break the memory blocks hiding the real events,” said Garett.
The flex screen began showing images again. They all looked at it.
“It’s repeating,” remarked Reya.
“It’s the first set of memories. The ones Vila has,” said Cally.
Garret said, “That would make sense. It reflects the implantation process. They would have to feed Avon the images repeatedly until his mind accepts them as part of his own.”
Avon began screaming in the chamber. They all reacted in shock. Garett immediately checked the monitors.
“What’s happening?” asked Cally. There was great concern on her face. She made moves to go into the chamber.
“Something is causing him a lot of pain,” said Garett.
“We can see that!” said Argus. “But what’s causing it?”
Garett said, “We’re checking.” He worked quickly with his assistants to find the source of the problem. The images on the screen continued.
The screaming stopped abruptly. They all continued staring at the chamber while Garett and his assistants continued trying to find out what happened.
“It looks like…” began Garett but he was interrupted by the sound of a weak and hoarse voice, “Cally?”
* Avon! * Cally projected to him. She ran to the chamber and tried to open it. “Get him out of there!” she turned to the assistants. Everyone ran to help. When the door was finally opened, Cally rushed in and hugged Avon. “You’re awake!”
Avon said with tired amusement, “Yes. I do appear to be.” His voice was barely audible.
“How are you feeling?” asked Garett.
“I have a headache,” replied Avon. His throat was scratchy. “Throat is dry.”
“I’ll check you over,” said Garett. “And we’ll get you some water.” Cally let go of Avon reluctantly and let Garett do his job.
“I’ll get the water,” said Reya.
There was relief on Vila’s face and a grin. “No one hugged me.”
Avon looked over at him and said lightly, “That’s hardly surprising.”
Vila was about to respond when Avon said in a more serious tone, “We have many things to discuss.”
“Not right now,” said Garett as Reya returned with the water and handed it to Cally. As Cally raised Avon’s head, Garett said, “You need to rest. There will be no talking until tomorrow.”
Avon was sleeping now and of course, Cally was with him. The others were sharing a meal as they talked about what just happened. There was a lighter air and lots of laughter as they each tried to poke holes into the scenes they had just observed. Even Sester seemed to be accepted in the merriment.
Vila had just put a fork of something sweet into his mouth and was busily chewing and talking at the same time. “My favourite part is still, Tarrant doing research. And Avon not being able to do simple math.”
Argus took a drink out of his cup, grimaced and put it down again. “Vila, does ORAC have the ability to know how much you weigh? Does it have external sensors?”
Reya switched cups with his. “Here try this.”
Vila tried to think, “I’ve never asked the little bugger. I think it can use the ship’s internal sensors.”
“Or perhaps it accessed your medical files on the ship?” remarked Reya as she watched Argus try her cup. He nodded in appreciation.
Sester added, “If ORAC is able to interface with any computer or ship and use its sensors, then it didn’t make sense that it didn’t detect the neutron material.”
Argus said, “Or that it didn’t notice someone or something gaining unauthorized access to the shuttle and loading something on. I assume that you don’t normally leave the shuttle unlocked? I can’t imagine Avon would do that. It’s too dangerous and especially when he knows they’re in a hostile environment. And that he can’t trust Egrorian.”
“And that thing in the middle of the floor!!!” Vila was starting to laugh again. “I went to the airlock half a dozen times throwing stuff out. But that thing was in the middle of the floor! Even if I was blind, how could I not trip over it before or even notice it? I was trying to throw things out.”
Sester picked up a piece of fruit from a bowl in the centre of the table and studied it. He added, “Speaking of ‘things in the middle of the floor’. It would be a poor murder plan to kill someone by weighting the ship, but leaving the object where even a blind person would trip over it and be curious.”
“That’s true…” said Vila. “It would take a really stupid evil genius. Oh, there was an episode of….. You know what? Avon caught me looking through the Liberator’s archives once. There were all kinds of useless information there, including loads of files on old Delta vids. I wonder if that has anything to do with it.”
“You’re conjecturing that Avon’s mind may have used information from the vids to alter his own memories?”
“Well, I don’t know how long he had been standing there watching me watch the vids. Then he said something about wasting my time on sop for the masses and left.”
“That sounds like Avon,” said Argus. “What we saw didn’t.”
“Yes, it is completely inconsistent behaviour. Even within the scenarios we saw,” said Sester. “Did you notice?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Argus.
“Avon’s behaviour. He doesn’t do research on Egrorian. But throughout all of the other scenes we saw, Avon is continually thinking and planning. As Vila said before, Avon has a need to understand everything. He takes pre-emptive measures such as building an ORAC Mark II, just in case they might need it. This is an overly cautious man. He is obviously obsessed about safety and is constantly planning and plotting. To not do detailed research on Egrorian is just not plausible for Avon.”
“That’s true,” said Vila. “He may not always tell us, but he’s always doing research about things.”
Sester continued, “Another inconsistency. ORAC tells them that escape velocity is unattainable. Avon wonders how but he never tries to find out? He never checks the ship status or asks ORAC if there is something wrong with the ship? That is a normal thing to do.”
Reya added, “Yes. There seems to be many things the Avon in that scenario didn’t ask. Even if there was nothing wrong with the ship. Why didn’t Avon ask ORAC why the ship is too heavy? It’s their second time down to the planet. This didn’t happen before. It’s obvious something has changed.”
Sester had been thinking while the others continued to poke holes in the scenario. He said, “Vila. How much of those Delta vids did Avon watch with you?”
Vila replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t see him until he spoke. Nearly jumped out of my skin when he did that.”
Reya could see that Sester had something on his mind, “What are you thinking?”
He replied, “It doesn’t make sense for Servalan to implant two different sets of memories for the same series of event. And you would have to be insane to want to implant ones that make so little sense.”
“Yes, we know that. Get to the point,” said Argus.
Sester stared at him and then he said, “We know that Avon would have fought them doing this. And we saw Vila’s set of memories being repeated several times with Avon. That is consistent with what is done with the implanting of memories. Repetition until the mind can no longer resist. But I think that Avon’s mind did resist, even after they thought he couldn’t. He could not stop them from implanting the memories but I think that his subconscious mind continued to reject them the only way it could. It forced chaos on them. After the criminotherapists finish a session, they test the success of the implantation by having the subject recall the memories. That must have been the second set we saw.”
“They must have been surprised,” said Reya.
"I'd have loved to see the look on Servalan's face when they had Avon repeat the memories and they found that," said Vila.
“Yes. And that would also explain the pain when the first set of memories began again. They realized what Avon was doing and was trying to break him down further.”
Vila had not been thinking about that aspect of it. “Poor Avon,” said Vila. “He didn’t want them to give him this memory. And I….” He looked depressed.