After the encounter with Sester in the medical unit, Argus headed towards Avon’s cabin. On the way, he ran into Vila.
Argus asked, “I thought you were going to get some rest?”
Vila, trying to not look guilty, said, “I was…but…” He definitely didn’t want to tell Argus why he was going to the medical unit. “I couldn’t sleep because of my eye.” He emphasized his lack of truth by putting one hand over the swollen area. Now that he was thinking about it, he had to admit that it was bothering him. He had just been too preoccupied with his thoughts of Galena to notice. “I was going to ask Cally to give me something for it.”
“She’s not there. Sester is,” said Argus.
“Still?” asked Vila innocently.
Argus scowled. “Yes.
“I can get my own pain killer then and maybe something a little extra to help me sleep,” said Vila cheerfully.
“Don’t let Cally catch you. She doesn’t like anyone using the soma for anything other than medicinal purposes,” warned Argus.
“But this is medicinal. I won’t be enjoying it at all,” said Vila.
Argus gave him a hard look that said that he didn't quite believe him. He said again, “Don’t let her catch you. And just this once.”
Vila grinned and continued towards the medical unit, though it was tempting, he had no intention of using any drug that might interfere with his plans. The soma would definitely do that.
As he walked, Vila remembered what he had thought about Avon earlier. Avon was changing but he hadn’t decided how much yet. Vila recognized that this was one of his own areas of decision. The use of soma and other chemical and recreational aids had helped him with fear and stress in the past. He knew that he had allowed it to develop to a point where it could be a real problem. Now that he knew that the Federation was responsible for some of his old behaviour patterns, he didn’t know who the real Vila was anymore. He was in a state of flux, just as Avon was; trying to decide who he wanted to be.
It wasn’t the time to deal with it though. He had more important things to do. Vila filed it away as something to be dealt with later.
Before he got out of earshot, Argus called back to him. “Vila.” There was a sense of urgency in his voice.
Vila stopped and turned to look at him. “Yes?”
“Don’t go near Galena until further notice.”
This warning immediately made Vila angry but he tried not to let it show. The result was an odd smile on his face.
Argus continued, “I can’t explain it yet. I’ll tell you later when I know more.”
Vila pretended to heed the warning but his head was filled with rebellious thoughts. “Alright. I’ll stay away.” The two men went their separate ways again.
Vila thought, Damned Alphas think they can just take what they want and warn the rest of us off. Well, it’s not going to work with me this time. I’ll show you.
He thought that Argus wouldn't be one of his competitors; it seemed that he was wrong. The man was trying to get Galena for himself. Vila wondered what Reya would think if he told her, what Argus was up to. He was even more determined to work with Sester now. Vila knew that the psychostrategist had more than enough incentive to help in any plans against Argus.
Galena is mine. And no one else is going to get her.
Sester was trying to understand what had happened between him and Argus just a few moments ago. His own uncharacteristic belligerence had been shocking but enjoyable. He could still feel the adrenaline pumping through his body, heightening his senses and making him feel stronger. He wished that Reya were there; he would be able to show her how he felt. No more cleverly hidden intentions; just raw passion. He had never felt like this before; it was exciting. It made him want to run to find Reya, to kiss her, to feel her naked body against his own, to hear her soft and reluctant moans of pleasure as he…
“Argus was right. You are still here.”
Vila’s unexpected voice broke Sester’s train of thought. The psychostrategist’s face was flushed. He took a deep breath to calm the tide of feelings that had threatened to engulf him. Vila was giving him a strange look. Sester smiled wryly, "Where else would I be?"
"That's right. You have a reason to be here," said Vila slyly.
Sester eyed him suspiciously. "What do you want, Vila?"
"How about a little mutual cooperation?"
"I thought I was already doing that. I am the Federation liaison on this ship after all," said Sester.
"Seems like you're the only one doing any cooperating," suggested Vila
Sester smiled, "As you said, I have a reason to be here. Neither Avon or Argus trust me. I am trying to build an understanding so that we can work together."
"That's not what I meant," said Vila.
"I know what you meant," said Sester.
Vila offered, "If someone were to arrange for you to have some time alone with a certain female commander. Would that be worth something to you? Hypothetically speaking, of course."
"Subtlety works better when you're not being so obvious, Vila," said Sester. This was a curious proposition from a member of the crew. As a trap, it was painfully inept and as such very insulting to someone of his intelligence. Unless it wasn't; then this opened up some very interesting possibilities. Sester asked, "And what would I be required to do for this hypothetical person in order to benefit from this imaginary act of generosity?"
Argus used his command override privilege and unlocked Avon's cabin. When he entered, he found that it was not as dim as he would imagine from a room where someone was sleeping. He wondered if that was because of Avon or Cally. Of course, the most unexpected thing he found was not the darkness, or lack of it, it was the sleeping arrangements. Avon was sleeping on a cot next to Cally's bunk.
They're not sleeping together? Or do they sleep separately afterwards. This was an awkward situation. The last thing he had wanted to do was make Avon feel uncomfortable. The man already had more than enough to deal with, without adding personally embarrassing situations to them. Argus didn't feel that he had a choice though. He took the bio-injector that he had obtained from the medical unit and applied it to Avon's neck. There was a soft hissing sound and then Argus sat back and waited.
After a few moments, Avon began to stir.
"Avon, wake up," said Argus.
Avon's eyes immediately opened and he turned to the person calling his name. His eyes were instantly bright with alertness and sharp intelligence. "What are you doing here? Is something wrong?"
"You could say that," said Argus.
Avon sat up. There was a neutral look on his face as he processed the implications of finding Argus in his cabin.
Argus decided that the best way to deal with a potentially awkward situation was not to acknowledge it. Of course it was always the way he dealt with personally awkward situations himself. He said, "While you were asleep, fights began breaking out all over the ship." He gave Avon an account of the situation, as he knew it.
"Cally and Reya are questioning Galena now?" asked Avon.
"Yes. They'll let us know what they find when they're done. What do you think?"
Avon gave his assessment. "Cally and Reya were right. We need to stay away from Galena for now; until we can gather more information and determine the full extent of the danger. From the little that you have told me, it is highly probable that Galena is the cause of the disturbance," said Avon.
As he was talking, his mind was already busy thinking of the probable ways it could be done; there were many possibilities. If Galena didn't know what was going on (which he doubted) or proved uncooperative (which he thought far more likely) then they would have to investigate the various possibilities themselves. Avon's quick and suspicious mind already identified another strong likelihood; Galena was either working with Ellis and the aliens, or she was being used by them. Regardlss of whether she was or not, she was definitely a danger to everyone onboard the ship. It was another case of the enemy targeting the weakest link, the human element.
Avon said, "I need to break the encoded files as quickly as possible. We have to find that medical research facility. If this is something Ellis and the aliens working with him have done, we have to find out as much information on it as possible, in order to stop them.”
Argus said, "Good. I thought you might think that. We’ll leave Cally and Reya to work with Galena. And I'll tell them to be careful. There is a possibility that she is working with Ellis.
"I had considered that," said Avon. "We will have to watch her carefully."
"Agreed. Let me know if you need anything to help with the decoding. I will monitor things with Cally and Reya. In the meantime, I'll be in cargo bay two if you need me."
Avon asked, "With the Athol soldiers?"
"Yes. They should still be occupied. I'm going to join them," said Argus.
"Don't tell me. You're going to do push ups with them?" asked Avon sarcastically. He still generally did not believe in pointless actions that served little practical purpose. Avon did very occasionally make gestures purely based on sentiment now, especially when it came to Cally; though he felt that he would draw the line at doing push ups.
"I normally do two hundred," said Argus coldly. “I’m a little behind today.” He got up without another word and headed for the door. "You'll tell me when you have some results?" he asked before he left.
"Of course," said Avon. He got up off the cot and stared a moment at the closed door through which Argus had just exited. The other man had not asked about the sleeping arrangements he had with Cally. Looking at the room, it was very obvious. It would have been the perfect time to make a comment of some kind but Argus had chosen not too. Avon knew that he could trust Argus not to say anything to the others.
He felt a pang of guilt at criticizing the man’s desire to share in the punishment of the soldiers. Argus invariably meant well and he always tried to never hurt anyone else in the process; just himself. Avon wondered if Reya had the same fear as he was starting to develop; that Argus, in his drive to atone for past sins, would not stop until he got himself killed one day.
After having a wash and putting on a change of clothing, Avon decided to head towards the medical unit first, rather than his workshop. The breaking of the encoded files was extremely complex and he was anticipating long hours; he needed some chemical aids. Since Cally was preoccupied in the investigation with Galena, now was the perfect time to obtain the necessary drugs.
Avon entered the open room and went directly to the shelves where the medical refill units where kept.
“This is getting to be a very popular place.” A voice said from behind him. Avon whirled around.
“What are you still doing here?” Avon asked Sester. The psychostrategist was kneeling beside a container of medical equipment that he had just pulled out from a cupboard.
“It depends on your perspective,” said Sester with an easy smile as he put the portable medical scanner he had been holding, back into a box and returned the container to the cupboard. He got up.
Avon frowned at evasiveness of the answer and the fact that with Sester here, he didn’t want to risk getting the drugs. “When are you going to be finished?”
“I’m only half done. There is a lot more than I thought there would be,” said Sester as he walked over to the refill shelves where Avon stood. He studied the units absently.
“I’ll come back later,” said Avon as he turned to go.
“Were you looking for Cally, or something else?” At the suggestive tone in Sester’s voice, Avon turned back to face him. Sester was drawing his fingers along the shelf until he stopped and pulled one out. "Is this what you were looking for?” He faced the label towards Avon.
Adrenaline-E. Sester knew.
Avon scowled unpleasantly and wondered what kind of blackmail the psychostrategist was contemplating. He was not about to give the man an advantage no matter what was threatened.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Avon without an expression.
“Come now, Avon. After all this time? Are we going to play these games with each other? I’m a psychostrategist. We both know, that I know what you’ve been doing with the drugs. I don’t need to bluff.” Sester put the refill unit on the table, with the label facing up so they could both read it. He knew that this was not the only drug that Avon had been sneaking from the medical stores, but this one was the most worrying.
“Don’t think that you can blackmail me with this information, Sester. We both know that I do not react well to force,” said Avon with a cold warning in his voice. The effect was as if he had made a threatening step towards the other man, even though he had not made a movement.
“That was not my intention for bringing it up,” said Sester. He had a much more devious use for this piece of information; he would not take any action. The effect on Avon would be even greater than if he had.
“You wouldn’t have brought it up if you didn’t have an ulterior motive,” said Avon cynically. Even though he was being aggressive and confrontational, refusing to give ground to Sester, Avon knew that this was a weakness of his own making. He had rationalized to himself that it was necessary and that he was in full control; that he would only be able to help the others if he could function like his old self. These drugs helped him do that. Now that the psychostrategist had brought it out into the open, he realized that he may be fooling himself. Avon felt ill.
“You still don’t believe that I’m trying to make amends for what I did to you?” asked Sester. He had an easy and engaging sincerity that required very little effort.
“I believe it is a motive, just not THE motive,” said Avon.
Sester smiled. “One day you will believe me.”
“I doubt it,” said Avon.
Sester picked up the refill unit again and said with concern, “You realize that this has an addiction factor?”
Avon said, “I know what I’m doing. The factor is low and does not present a problem if I’m aware of it.”
“It does present a problem if you abuse it. Did you know that the addiction factor rises significantly with repeated use?”
“It’s none of your concern,” said Avon frostily.
“I did not help you escape in order to see you destroy yourself,” said Sester.
“That’s ironic coming from you,” said Avon cynically. “I would not need these drugs if weren’t for you and Servalan.”
“It always comes back to that. Very well. I will not tell Cally. But heed my warning, Avon. Do not continue taking this. Your body will not be able to stand the strain if it has to deal with the effects of withdrawal.”
“I will deal with it,” said Avon.
“I hope you can,” said Sester as he handed Avon the Adrenaline-E.
"Don't think that this gives you an advantage," warned Avon. "It won't. I will make sure that it won't." His expression was hard and promised all kinds of danger if he were crossed.
"As I said before, that was never my intention," said Sester. He knew that a friend would not have let this go; a friend would have tried to stop Avon. But his relationship with Avon was much more complex. The only thing he could do was begin to watch Avon carefully. He knew that the way Avon was going, he was headed for trouble. He hoped that he would be there to catch him before he fell. It was for friendship; it would also give Sester an advantage; a much different and more useful one.