“We have a name for our hairy aliens now?” asked Vila.
“I doubt that’s what they call themselves. But as a name, it will suffice until we have something better,” said Avon.
Cally who was sitting next to him, was watching him curiously. She couldn’t read him very well; his mind was in neutral information dissemination mode but his eyes were intense and full of energy. * Avon. *
He glanced at her; there was an undetermined question in her eyes. * Yes, Cally? * he thought towards her.
* Are you…all right? * She couldn't identify if something was wrong but she was vaguely aware that something was slightly different. Cally wondered if it was simply the making of a new discovery that was causing it. The solving of problems and mysteries was something he enjoyed.
Avon replied, * Of course. Why do you ask? *
To everyone else, Avon seemed to be taking a long pause to stare at Cally.
As there didn’t seem to be anything mentally wrong with him, Cally couldn’t give him an adequate reply. * Nothing. I’ve been so busy with Vanora that we haven’t had time to talk to each other. *
* That’s true. But now is not the appropriate time. * responded Avon.
Argus coughed. “Avon. Is there any sign that she was working with them? Or if she was aware of the modifications made?”
Avon broke his gaze and stared at Argus. “Yes.” The ability to ‘speak’ to Cally because of her telepathic ability was distracting. In one way it was something he was getting very comfortable with. In other ways, he had not yet adjusted to the two streams of active communication.
He said, “The files don’t indicate one way or the other. Of course, they aren’t likely to advertise it.”
“So we will continue to operate under the assumption that she did,” said Argus.
“That’s the most advisable course of action. There is, however, another problem.” As Avon said this, a slight smile lifted the corner of his lips.
“Another one? Don’t we already have enough?” asked Vila with a groan. Now that he was faced with the reality of the situation, he realized that Argus had not been trying to warn him off because he was interested in Galena for himself. Vila still found it hard to believe that the feelings he had been having were not his own. They felt so natural and he had wanted to feel them.
The others on the ship had their own close personal relationships. Vila recognized that he was feeling left out and alone. He had been looking forward to establishing a closer relationship with Avon; now that some things had been resolved between them. And they had made a good start.
But Avon had more than enough occupying his attention these days; with the demands on his time and his reduced physical capacity not allowing him to do more. Whatever energy he had left was spent with Cally. Not that Vila could blame him; he just wished that there was someone he could spend his time with too. Instead, he had Sester.
“This one is even more serious than the one we are currently facing,” said Avon.
“What is it?” asked Argus.
Avon said, “This may be an indication that Vanora is working with them, but it’s not conclusive. We don’t have enough knowledge about the Andromedan’s level of medical technology."
"They're doing research on controlling the human mind?" asked Argus with alarm.
"Not exactly," replied Avon.
"What then?" asked Argus.
"They've been experimenting with cloning," said Avon.
"They've cloned Vanora?" It was Cally's turn to exclaim in alarm. The idea that the Andromedans were cloning Aurons was disturbing. "If they are able to make the same adjustments to their brains as they did to Vanora's, then humanity will be helpless."
Everyone reacted worriedly to this news.
Vila said, "That's easy, then. We find a way to block the telepathic signals."
"It isn't that simple," said Cally. "My people were never able to. Telepathic signals differ from other ones, they operate in a different dimension, not just a different frequency. They can only be blocked by another mind."
Avon recalled Cally saying something about the other-dimensionality of telepathic waves. The only way he had been able to prevent ORAC from being tampered with by beings from a different dimension was to set a disruption bomb. Anything trying to access ORAC using these signals, would trigger an explosion.
"Well, we're spaced then," said Vila. "We might as well start running now."
"It's even worse than that," said Avon.
"How could it possibly be worse? Didn't you just say that they're building an army of telepaths that can control us?" asked Vila.
Argus asked, "Alright Avon, what aren't you telling us?"
They all turned towards Avon expectantly.
He said, "They're not only experimenting with cloning. They have also been researching the possibilities of combining their own genetic imprint with Auron DNA."
Several mouths opened in shock. "We can't let them," Cally expressed with horror.
"You know, you really should check out the possibilities of becoming a harbinger of doom," groaned Vila. "I think you would be overqualified."
Avon caught Cally's eyes. * I'm sorry, Cally * he thought towards her. He said, "I'm afraid we may already be too late. From the files I was able to decrypt, they've already succeeded in combining certain elements of the Auron genetic code into their own. Vila was right in saying that the Andromedans are building an army of telepaths. That is the purpose of the cloning."
"How far along are they?" asked Argus.
"As I said, they have been able to combine some elements, but not the more complex ones. At the moment the new hybrids are only capable of simple telepathic influence."
"Vanora said that her ability to affect the brain pheromone receptors in the brain involve the simpler telepathic signals Aurons are capable of," said Cally. She was very troubled.
Argus grimaced, "That's not good."
Avon had been watching Cally carefully as he spoke; he wasn't finished yet.
Argus said, "How far along is the cloning process? Do they have an army yet?"
Avon said, "Fortunately not. The hybrids are still in the gestation stage. The Andromedans should be able to speed up the maturation process and produce a fully functional adult within a matter of weeks. But as this is the first group, they're being cautious. That is the only reason why we still have time."
Argus said, "Right. Did you find out where this research is taking place and where the hybrids are being developed?"
"You're not thinking of destroying them?" asked Cally, not liking the idea of killing babies, even if they were enemy ones.
This was why Avon had been very aware of her; he knew the step they had to take. "We have to, Cally," said Avon. "We can't allow a chance that the aliens will be able to possess the ability to control human minds. Just destroying the research is not enough. We have to destroy the entire complex and everyone in it. If even a single hybrid is allowed to escape, the Andromedans will have access to the genetic possibility of doing this again. It is a regrettable but unavoidable step we have to take."
"It's not as if we haven't done it before, Cally," said Vila, trying to help. "Remember that alien projectile we brought onboard the Liberator? The one with the genetic banks? We had to destroy that one. Otherwise we would be up to our armpits in homicidal maniacs."
"Then you'll have to kill me as well," she said coldly. "All they need is Auron DNA. Any Auron will do."
"We would never kill you," said Argus. "But Avon's right. We can't allow the hybrids to be under alien control."
"And if I were under their control? Would you have to kill me too?" asked Cally. She looked straight at Avon. "Would I become a regrettable but unavoidable step too?"
There was a flicker of pain in Avon's eyes but he kept his face neutral. "Cally." I would never do that to you. I will never allow anyone to do that to you. He said in a gentler but still neutral voice, "I understand that they are part-Auron and you feel a kinship to them, but we cannot allow sentiment to rule our actions. The danger is too great."
Argus said, "Cally, if we had any other choice, I would not be doing this. But, as Avon said, our window of opportunity to stop this is limited."
"Then you will stop it without my help," said Cally.
Argus nodded. "I understand. Avon, show us where the complex is. We need to start making tactical plans."
Avon, Argus and Vila began discussing the infiltration of the base while Cally got up, unnoticed and walked towards the flight deck steps. She walked slowly. Her heart was troubled and heavy with sadness at what they were about to do. She had already lost most of her own people due to the plague which Servalan had released. Cally could not stand losing these too; even if they were part-alien and were meant to be used against them. She couldn't believe that there wasn't another way.
Avon glanced up and saw her leave. For a brief moment, there was sadness in his eyes as well, then he turned back to Argus and Vila.
Later during the night cycle of the ship, Avon returned to their cabin. He had been planning with the others and was exhausted; he was expecting Cally to be asleep already. Avon entered the darkened cabin silently, trying not to disturb her. As his eyes adjusted to the slightly illuminated cabin, he saw that she was sitting in a chair.
* You were waiting up for me? * he thought the question to her with surprise.
* I couldn't sleep, * Cally projected to him as she stood to face him.
He nodded sadly. * I'm sorry, Cally. I knew you wouldn't like it. *
* Is that why you didn't tell me first? * asked Cally.
Avon grimaced slightly but he did not take his eyes off her. * Yes. *
* Does our relationship mean so little to you that you wouldn't tell me something this important? *
There was a troubled look on Avon's face as he said, * You're very important to me. * He reached towards her to emphasize what he was saying, but she turned away from him.
Avon grimaced at her reaction, * I didn't know how to tell you. *
* You didn't seem to have any problems on the flight deck, * accused Cally, with her back still facing towards him.
Avon put a hand gently on her shoulder. He was relieved when she didn't brush him off or move away from his touch. * I've never known how to say difficult things in a way that won't hurt. *
She turned to face him again and asked, * Have you tried? *
Now that she was facing him, Avon found himself putting his arms around her. Cally rested her head on his shoulder. Avon said, * I did try with Anna. She found my attempts…amusing. * He smiled wryly.
* I wouldn't mind a little amusement, now and then, * said Cally. * In the future, can you tell me these things, no matter how much you think it will hurt me? *
Avon drew back to look into her eyes, * I promise, Cally. *
* You won't stop your plans though, will you? * she asked.
* We can't, * said Avon.
* Will you promise me something else? * asked Cally. * I'll continue to think of a different solution. If I find one, will you consider it? *
* Of course, Cally. I will as well. But you have to understand that as long as we don't have another course of action, we have to carry on as planned. *
* That's all I ask, * said Cally. There was a sudden look of surprise on her face.
* What's wrong? * asked Avon.
* You're holding me, * said Cally. There was a gentle smile on her face and a sense of wonder.
Avon looked down in surprise. Their bodies were pressed lightly together as he held her in his arms. This was the first time he had been able to do this without a reaction of repulsion or fear. Unfortunately, now that Cally brought his attention to it, he could feel the old negative responses stirring; as well as anger at his own weakness.
Cally was very aware of the play of emotions inside his mind. * It's all right, Avon. * She moved to draw away but Avon tightened his arms around her.
* If I could do it a moment ago, I must be capable of doing it. * Avon's logic told him that it must be possible. He held onto her firmly, even though every instinct was telling him to break off their embrace. * I wasn't thinking about it before. I was focused on you; that must be the key. As long as I'm not thinking about the physical aspects of intimacy, it should be fine. *
Avon forced himself to concentrate; trying to impose his will over his own body. After what seemed to be an eternity, his efforts began to prevail. Cally could feel the turning of the tide as he relaxed against her and his arms were no longer tight with tension; he wasn't holding onto her with desperation. Cally rested her head on his shoulder again and they held each other; enjoying the companionship, and the warmth and comfort of each other's bodies.