"He's so romantic," sighed Galena, her eyes were bright and dreamy. She was talking to Reya. Reya was not feeling romantic at all; she was getting slightly frustrated. She had been trying to question the woman about her effects on the men on the ship. But ever since Galena had communicated with Kameron, trying to get her to talk about anything else, was an exercise in futility. Sometimes Reya felt as if she was trying to coax a little child to deal with something more serious.
"What were you asking?" Galena asked absently, her eyes finally focussing on who was in front of her.
Reya tried to be patient. "The men on this ship are having an extreme reaction to your presence. Do you have anything to do with this?"
Galena replied with a sad sigh, "Of course. It's one of the burdens I bear. I try not to encourage them but the poor dears can't seem to help themselves."
"Do they normally start fights over you?" asked Reya.
"Some of them have. They're very sweet but I wish they wouldn't do it. I don't like seeing them hurt each other."
"Unfortunately, you might be seeing a lot more of it. Fights have been breaking out here," said Reya.
"Here? You mean on this ship?" said Galena.
"That's what I've been trying to explain to you. The men on this ship seem to be obsessed with you to the point where they've been fighting each other over you," said Reya.
"I don't understand. I don't even know them."
"Well, that doesn't seem to be stopping them. They all want to know you," said Reya.
"That's strange." Galena had a way of turning her head slightly to the side when she was puzzled which Reya imagined that most men would find endearing.
"Didn't you just say that men do fight over you?" Reya asked.
Galena was about to answer but the door chimed. Reya went to the door and asked, "Who is it?"
"It's Argus and Cally. Let us in."
Reya pressed the control panel to unlock the door and open it.
"How is everything?" she asked them as Argus and Cally entered. She noted that he was wearing a teleport bracelet. Since Sester came onboard, the on duty personnel had been doing that in order to bypass the ship's wall comm units so they coultalk directly to Zen.
Argus told her, "Under control, for now. The soldiers are all in cargo bay two doing some exercise. Hopefully that will keep them out of trouble until we can sort things out. I've instructed Zen to monitor things on the flight deck and let me know if anything changes using the comm."
As he spoke to Reya, Argus's eyes were drawn to Galena. She seemed even more beautiful than he had remembered; even though he had only seen her several hours ago. How is that possible? He found himself staring at her. It was hard to concentrate on what he was there to do. I have to do something…I'm here to do something…what is it? Whatever it was, was slipping from his mind. He couldn`t remember; the only thing he could do was to bask in Galena`s presence, to be lost in her lovely eyes, to….
Reya frowned and took a step to block his view. There was definitely a problem and she wasn't sure that any of the males on the ship could be trusted to deal with it. "You were going to sort things out?" she reminded him.
Cally watched while Reya dealt with the situation; ready to help if it was needed. She opened up her senses fully, straining to stretch her own abilities; trying to catch anything, which might indicate what, was causing the situation on the ship. So far, she still did not sense anything from Galena.
Argus was disoriented as Galena's lovely face was replaced by Reya's worried one. He shook his head slightly as he refocused his eyes on Reya. She was beautiful too; the concern on her face and the love he saw in her eyes took his breath away. Oh, Reya. A slow smile spread across Argus`s features. He moved towards her and reached out with a hand to touch her. "Reya." His voice was soft and reflected his love and desire for her.
"Argus!" Reya said sharply. The alarm in her voice made him stop. He shook his head again struggling against the strong feelings. He remembered vaguely that there was something he needed to do.
Cally was watching Argus and Reya anxiously, ready to intervene. Her Auron sense registered a brief flash of amusement, quickly suppressed. Cally immediately glanced at Galena but there was no indication of anything other than puzzled concern on the woman's face. She still couldn't sense her and there was no other recurrence of the amusement. Was I mistaken? Did I imagine it? Who did it come from? What does it mean?
"I was about to do something," said Argus uncertainly.
"Yes, you were going to but now may not be the right time," said Reya.
"It isn't?" he asked. There was great confusion on his face as his feelings tried to sort themselves between two competing objects and a sense that he had a responsibility he needed to take care of; but which he was having trouble remembering.
Reya caught Cally's eyes. Cally understood what she wanted to do and nodded imperceptibly.
"No, it isn’t," said Reya firmly as she took Argus by the arm and turned him around. She began guiding the bewildered and unresisting Argus towards the door.
"You're wonderful." He put his hand over hers; her skin felt soft and warm.
The door slid open as they got near and Reya pushed Argus outside with her as she responded, "Yes. I know you like saying that but now is not the time." Once outside, she continued to leading him away from Galena's cabin, but Argus had other ideas. He turned to face her, twisting around as his hand traveled from her hand and up along her arm in a caress. Reya slapped him hard across the face. She was about to tell him urgently to snap out of it when he grabbed her hand, pushed her against the wall and kissed her roughly and passionately. For a moment, she struggled but his desire was overpowering. She found it hard not to be caught up in the sensation of his mouth on hers and his body urgently pressed against hers, but she made one last desperate attempt to control the situation. "Argus, you have to stop!" she said as she turned her face in order to break the kiss and tried to push him away.
"Why?" he asked as his lips trailed down her neck instead.
"This is wrong."
"It's never been wrong before," he told her as he turned her face towards him and was about to kiss her again.
"Look at where we are. Think, Argus. Something is wrong." The worry in her eyes stopped him again. He hated making her worry.
"Something is wrong," he repeated her words. There was a thought… "I was trying to do something…"
"Yes. The soldiers were fighting on the ship. It's a dangerous situation. You needed to find out what was causing it." Her tone was calm, trying to get through to him; appealing to his sense of responsibility and duty.
"Yes. I need to." Argus shook his head. He looked at her, as if seeing her for the first time. "What just happened? Why are we here?" He looked around at the corridor and then at Reya. He slowly and reluctantly let go of her, taking a step back.
"We were in Galena's cabin. You lost control. You must have been affected like the soldiers were."
"I remember going there…how did we end up here?" His hand went to his face where she had slapped him, it was sore and turning red. Argus was confused; he didn't remember being struck by any of the soldiers.
"Yes, I slapped you," said Reya.
"Did I do something wrong when I was affected?" he asked nervously.
"Almost." She was filled with relief; Argus seemed to be coherent and himself again. "I'm not sure if this is significant but something else happened."
Argus was almost afraid to ask; he hoped he hadn't done anything too bad. He wondered if that was why she had hit him. "What happened?"
"You seemed to be very interested in Galena at first. You couldn’t take your eyes off her. I stepped between the two of you and then you seemed to focus on me. I got you out of there as fast as I could…" Reya was afraid to think what would have happened if she hadn't. She preferred their amorous displays to be just for the two of them; not in front of an audience. "Well, when we got out here, you became a little more insistent with your…attentions, that's why I slapped you. To snap you out of it."
Argus rubbed his sore face and said wryly, "It worked. But I'm glad that I was only a little more insistent."
Reya put her hand on his cheek where she had slapped him. "I'm sorry. Does it hurt? I had to try to bring you out of it."
"No. It just stings a little." Argus was not about to tell her that it felt as if he had been punched and not slapped. "But that doesn't matter. We have a serious situation."
Reya said, "Yes. I think all of the men on this ship are affected. I don't think that you should go near Galena again. Any of you. Leave this investigation to Cally and me. We'll get to the bottom of this."
"Alright. Here, take this." He took off his teleport bracelet and handed it to her. "You and Cally better keep an eye on things in case Avon or I are affected. I think I'll have a talk with Avon." Reya snapped the bracelet to her wrist as Argus started heading towards Avon and Cally's cabin. After a few steps, he stopped and turned to look at Reya. "There's someone missing."
"Who?" asked Reya.
Argus said, "Tell Zen to locate Sester."
Reya hit the button on her teleport bracelet. "Zen, locate the tracer assigned to Sester."
Zen reported over the teleport comm, "The tracer signal is currently transmitting from the medical unit."
"The medical unit?" Argus repeated in surprise. Then he said, "Thank you, Zen. Any movements from the planet? Or within scanner range? Any unusual communications traffic?" he asked.
"No movements are indicated. There has been no deviance in normal communications."
"Continue monitoring," instructed Argus.
"What's Sester doing in the medical bay? And why isn't he affected like the rest of us?" Argus wondered out loud.
Reya didn't want to tell Argus what she suspected but she had no choice. Not telling him would create an anomaly. "I sent him there with Vila to help Cally do inventory with the medical stores."
"You sent him there? And he's still there?" Argus scowled, he did not like the implications of this.
"It appears that way."
"I see," he said in a not very pleased voice.
"Don’t get that way," said Reya.
"He's obsessed with you," said Argus.
"But he's just doing inventory."
"Don't you see, Reya? He's doing it for you! All of the soldiers and Vila are obsessed with Galena, to the point they're fighting each other. Avon and I are also affected. But because I have you and he has Cally, we're able to transfer these feelings to you. And so has Sester."
"It can't be," said Reya, not wanting to believe it; but she was starting to be afraid that he was right. She remembered the encounters in the corridor.
"I'm going to go take care of him. You take care of Galena," said Argus, heading to the medical bay.
She followed. "What are you going to do to him? Remember he can't help himself. He's affected by whatever is happening too."
Argus stopped and turned to face her. He studied her worried face and wondered why she was being so blind to Sester's intentions. "The feelings he has for you started long before Galena came onboard. That's why he has been able to transfer them to you. Galena was not responsible for that."
"But he hasn't done anything, Argus. Even now, with all of this going on," said Reya, trying to help Argus put things into perspective.
"He's doing inventory. Which you asked him to." He was frustrated that she didn’t seem to see the danger.
"Yes, but he's not doing anything else. He's not presenting a threat. He hasn't attacked anyone and he hasn't come near me. I think he's able to fight it to some extent, like you and Avon."
"Don't compare us," Argus said coldly.
Reya reached out to touch his arm, "I'm sorry. I just don't want you to make a mistake you'll regret."
"You mean that you'll regret."
That hurt. Her eyes searched his. "You still hold me responsible for what happened between us, don't you?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Argus wanted to kick himself when he saw the pain and guilt in her eyes. He took her in his arms and hugged her. He said gently, "No, Reya. I don't. I never did. But I think that you're blind when it comes to Sester. Even though you’re tough and don’t take any nonsense from anyone, you also have a natural capacity to care about others. Sester knows it and he’s taking advantage of it. I know you don't see it but I want you to be careful around him. And leave him to me. I promise, I won't hurt him unless he poses an active threat. Alright?"
Reya hugged him back and nodded.
After Reya rushed Argus out of the cabin, Cally watched Galena carefully.
"Is he alright?" asked Galena, her voice had risen with concern.
"You don't have to worry. Reya can handle it," said Cally.
Galena said, "She and Argus make a wonderful couple. It must get complicated."
"What do you mean?" asked Cally.
Galena seemed to think about this for a moment then she smiled, "I mean that theirs doesn't seem like an easy relationship. But it's obvious that they love each other very much."
Galena's head tilted slightly to the side and she regarded Cally with a puzzled and concerned expression. "You don't like me, do you?"
Cally was startled; she didn't expect this question to come out of Galena's mouth. “I didn’t say that.”
Galena said, “You’ve been watching me since you came in. But you’ve been trying to make it seem as if you're not.” Cally found it interesting that this woman could sound at times sweet and vacuous and at other times very intelligent. Both guises came across as sincere and were very effective, on most people.
“I think you have something to do with what is happening on the ship,” said Cally. She was becoming increasingly suspicious of this woman. Cally wondered if Reya had been correct in thinking it odd that nothing emanated from Galena that she could sense. She couldn’t explain it to anyone or understand it clearly herself yet. Her own psi abilities were not something she had studied before even though Avon had been trying to encourage her to explore them and understand them better.
Some people were naturally closed; most people had varying degrees of it. This seemed different; it almost felt as if there was a physical barrier preventing her from sensing anything from Galena.
A suspicion began to form in Cally's mind but she was careful to keep it an impression and not allow it to be a surface thought. Nothing could be given away if she wanted to test her idea. She clearly thought a message with her mind, but did not project it.
* Are you human? *
Galena reacted to the unexpected question. "Well, of course I am. What a question to ask."