Avon's eyes lifted in a question. "What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing. Hey, why aren't any of these controls working?" Vila pressed several of the controls absently, not really seeing them.
If Avon was the kind of man who rolled his eyes, he would have. Obviously Vila didn't equate "open panel which someone was working on" with, "do not touch anything".
Instead he said, "I've disconnected the energy couplings." Usually he would have added, "it's a good thing I did you fool" and maybe, "are you trying to kill me?", but he decided that this may not be conducive to the new relationship they were trying to build. "It's not safe to have the power running through the circuits while I have my hands in it."
"Oh. That's a good idea," said Vila, not really paying attention.
"Obviously," said Avon.
Vila's eyes took on a mildly curious expression, "What are you doing anyway?"
"I'm building a remote activation capability for the teleport. It allows Zen to control it." Avon straightened up. The partially bent over position was putting a strain on his back, which was becoming bothersome.
Vila's eyes showed more interest. "You mean like ORAC can do?"
"Yes. It will be faster and will have infinitely less attitude."
Vila grinned, "That overgrown drinks dispenser never did like being drafted for teleport duties."
"Any member of the crew whose voiceprint Zen recognizes, will be able to request remote teleport using a teleport bracelet," said Avon.
"That's brilliant," said Vila.
"Mildly," said Avon. He stood up and stretched his sore back. "Why are you here, Vila? Is this another attempt at social interaction?"
"No. I was bored. And besides all of those soldiers marching around the ship. Too much like work. I get tired just watching them."
"So you decided to come and watch me work?" asked Avon dryly.
Vila grinned. "It beats working."
Avon handed Vila a tool and said, "Make yourself useful."
"Now wait a minute…" said Vila as he took it.
Avon suppressed a smile and said. "I could use some help."
"Oh. Really? Are you feeling alright? Should I get Cally?" Vila didn't know whether to be amazed or worried. He had never heard Avon ask for aid for himself before, at least not from him.
"Are you trying to be funny?" asked Avon.
"Are you?" asked Vila.
A slightly irritated look appeared on Avon's face. He did not understand Vila’s attitude when he was attempting to engage the other man in an activity they could do together; in the same way Vila had done before.
"You've never asked for help from anyone before,” explained Vila.
“Your memory must be faulty. I’ve done that many times.”
“But not for yourself. That was always for someone else.” Vila’s face took on a knowing look, “And you don’t really need me to help you right now. Do you?”
“Why would I ask you for help if I didn’t need it?” asked Avon.
“That’s a very good question,” said Vila with a suppressed grin. He knew how Avon felt about displays of sentiment and decided not to push it. Avon did seem to be trying. “Now let's work on this remote thing before Argus comes in and assigns me some real work.”
Cally and Reya were eating in the dining area; sitting at a corner table. The usually empty room was full of military types who seemed to be perpetually hungry. Most of them found the Justice’s food processors far better than the ship board rations they normally got.
More soldiers came in. With a silent look at each other, the two women vacated their table to let the newcomers sit down. They both headed back to the flight deck. Cally’s shift was next.
“Have you seen Sester today?” Reya asked her companion as they passed a soldier carrying some heavy supplies. They got out of his way.
Cally glanced at her. “The last time I saw him, he was with Argus.”
“I thought so.”
“He was still alive the last time I saw him,” said Cally jokingly.
Reya frowned. “Yes, but for how much longer. He likes to play dangerous games.”
“Don’t worry about him. If there is one thing Sester is good at, that’s taking care of himself.”
“I wish they would get along,” Reya said with a sigh.
“They never will.” Cally slowed down and looked at her. “You know why they never will.”
Reya grimaced and stopped walking. “Yes.”
“You have to be careful of Sester," Cally warned the other woman. "He's devious, clever and can be very convincing."
"I know that," said Reya with exasperation. "All of you think that I don't. But I do." She continued walking and Cally followed slowly, studying the other woman. They arrived at the flight deck.
Cally said to herself, "No. You don't." There was a worried expression on her face.
"Avon." Vila sat at the teleport station, activating each control as Avon directed.
"What is it?" Avon asked absently as he studied the interior of the open teleport control panel in front. He chose a tool in the kit lying beside him and made an adjustment. "Try it now."
Vila activated the control, several lights came on. "That's it. What do you think of Sester?"
"Good," said Avon. A brief smile of achievement crossed his face. He stuck his head over the control panel and asked, "What did you ask?"
"I was wondering about Sester. Are we done?"
"For now." He felt tired and stiff; his back had become increasingly sore as he worked. Avon gripped the edge of the control unit and pulled himself up slowly. Vila watched this with concern but didn't say anything. Avon continued, "The final test will be to have Zen activate the controls. I'll do that later." He was too tired to continue and this was too important a system for him to not be fully alert. Avon decided that this wasn't something Vila needed to know; or anyone else for that matter.
When Avon was finally standing, Vila said, "You still haven't answered my question. What do you think of Sester?"
Avon stared at him as if he was trying to ascertain the purpose behind this question. "Be careful of him. He's dangerous." Avon hunched a bit and tried to stretch; his jaw tightened at the sudden stab of pain.
"That's it?" asked Vila. He was hoping for more details; he already knew Sester was dangerous from the way Avon, Argus and Cally acted towards him. He looked on worriedly as Avon tried to relax his back.
"Isn't that enough?" asked Avon. He turned slightly to try to stretch his back at a different angle.
"I'd like to know what I'm dealing with," said Vila.
Avon's eyes narrowed and he straightened up. "I wouldn't recommend dealing with Sester in any way."
"Aren't you the one who always says that all information is useful?" asked Vila as he got up and crossed over to Avon's side.
"Useful. If you live to use it," said Avon. He glanced down at the floor and saw the tool kit still on the ground. His lips twisted in irritation as he prepared to bend down to get it.
"Here I'll do that." Vila quickly bent down to do it before Avon could protest. "You're trying to tell me to mind my own business? And stay out of his way?" Vila asked. He closed the tool kit and handed it back to Avon.
"Thanks," said Avon curtly as he took it; still not comfortable with feeling disabled and needing help. He said in a serious tone, "Vila, stay out of Sester's way. The fewer people he interacts with, the fewer chances he will have." With that, he headed for the exit. Vila followed and watched Avon's slow and deliberate movements, it was obvious that the other man was in pain.
You can't even take care of yourself, thought Vila. And you're trying to deal with Sester.
Vila wondered what he should do. If Sester was as dangerous as Avon and the others thought, then the smartest thing was to stay out of his way. Vila had a natural apprehension of psychostrategists. Among the lower grades especially, they were a feared and mysterious group, not unlike the clone masters. People thought that they could read minds and make people do things. Technically, Vila knew that this couldn’t be true but the old attitudes were hard to break.
Should I do something? His natural instinct was not to, and to let the others take care of it. But there was a difference now; Vila knew that Federation did not want him to overcome this instinct, did not want him to take the initiative. It felt unnatural. He continued to lag a little behind Avon, watching his movements. The analyst was moving stiffly but was trying to do it in such a way as to not draw attention to the difficulty he was having . Vila realized they were headed to the medical bay. It must be bad if you're looking for more help.
Vila made up his mind. I'm going to start watching Sester.
Avon turned to him and said, “Why don’t you go find something else to do? I need some time alone.”
Vila understood that Avon probably didn’t want anyone seeing him deal with whatever problem he was having. He was a proud and independent man. Vila said, “Alright.” He headed off to find out where Sester was.
Avon entered the empty medical bay. He knew that Cally would be on the flight deck now; it would make things easier.
He crossed over to the very familiar medical stores area and took out several items. A pain blocker and a muscle relaxant for his back. He injected these into his neck. His tightened jaw loosened and his breathing eased in relief as the pain subsided.
Avon put the injector down. He looked at the rows of refill units and ran his fingers across them until he came to the right one. Adrenaline-E. He pulled it out and slotted an empty injector into it. Avon carefully selected one dose and pressed the button. He applied the filled injector to his neck and closed his eyes. The effect was almost immediate. A very familiar energy flooded his system, the perpetual weariness and constant feelings of being ill faded. His lips parted at an unpleasant memory. Servalan often gave him this in order to force him to continue when his body was no longer able to. He straightened up; his eyes bright with renewed vitality. There were so many things that needed to be done. He couldn’t let the others down.
Avon knew that Cally would not be happy to find out that he had been doing this lately. He carefully kept his mind neutral just in case she was paying attention and sensed something different. It was both annoying and comforting at the same time to know that she was concerned about him and that she sought his presence with her mind; he wished he had the same ability at times, but not often.
He told himself that this was only a temporary measure; until the current crisis was over. He did not have the energy to deal with Sester, the planning and strategy sessions Argus had been involving him in, the technical tasks which had to be done and the relational things which he never had to bother with before.
He constantly found himself struggling to stay focused and alert when talking with Cally at night or sharing moments of intimacy; it was important to him. And now Vila wanted his time too. Being this actively involved with people drained him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford the time for the solitude he needed to replenish his energy.
He held up the injector. This will have to do for now, he thought wryly. It was such an irrational action for him to take. The last thing he wanted was to rely on more drugs but there was no other choice. He carefully returned each item to the places where he had taken them from. With restored energy, Avon left the medical bay.