As the transportation pod raced towards the surface, everyone was wrapped in their own grim thoughts. No one wanted to talk about what had just happened and what was most likely occurring in the underground complex below them. It was almost as if by verbalizing it, they could no longer deny the reality and they all wanted to. No one wanted to entertain the thought that Argus was most likely dead.
Along with these thoughts, something else kept repeating itself in Vila’s mind; an echo of the present and the past.
How much weight do we have to lose? Eighty-one kilograms.
It sounded too much like something else; a memory he had not been able to excise, no matter how hard he tried.
Vila weights seventy-three kilos, Avon.
Vila could barely breathe, the memory choked him. The crowded pod seemed to press him on all sides. Even though he knew now that it had never happened, that it had all been a cruel joke of Servalan’s; it was still an unacknowledged spectre between two people who were trying to rebuild a friendship. Vila hated Servalan for doing this to them; hated himself that he could not forget, could not let go of the feelings.
Even though he and Avon were trying to build a new relationship, one without all of the negative aspects that had marred their previous one, they still hadn’t yet. It was only the beginning for them. There were no strong new memories and feelings to override the old ones. They were both trying but it would take time.
Vila had thought that once they knew the truth, that things would immediately be different. He had not expected that the altered past would still have such a hold on him.
Vila glanced over at Avon. It was like the old days; it was hard to tell what Avon was thinking or feeling now. The sometimes-expressiveness on his face he had adopted lately was no longer present. Avon seemed like a statue; Vila was certain that he had not moved a muscle since the transport pod had started ascending, leaving the needed weight behind.
I don’t know who you are anymore. I’m not sure that you do either. The unknown always made Vila uneasy. He preferred unknowns that did not require him to trust anyone. I used to think that I was always safe with you. If his mind were like Avon’s mind, it would be telling him not to be such a fool. The other memory was never real, that meant that he really was safe with Avon and always had been.
I hate you, Servalan. One of these days, Avon and I will kill you for what you did to us.
Vila felt a pang of guilt. I shouldn’t be thinking about myself and Avon now. Not when…
Avon felt cold. Part of him couldn’t understand the decision that Argus had made, the decision he always seemed to make. The other part of him did understand, only too well. It was this part of him that wanted to feel the cold; because it hurt to understand.
How much weight do we have to lose?
Eighty-one kilograms. Avon could hear his own response clearly, as if it were just occurring.
We've run out of time…
No hesitation. No doubts. Only a grim resolve. Avon had seen the fear in the other man’s eyes as they stared at each other across the clear partition of the transport pod. Argus had not wanted to die. But that didn’t stop you.
Vila weights seventy-three kilos, Avon.
Avon’s stomach twisted in pain at the memory. Even after finding out the truth, that this was no truth, it still haunted him. Now he knew why. For a brief second after ORAC had given him the information, he had entertained the thought. It had been momentary and he had dismissed it, but his mind could not forget the fact that he had thought about it; that part of him that did not want to die.
What has that survival brought me? An enemy who has made my life a cruel joke. Someone who still finds it hard to believe in me even after knowing the truth. He knew that Vila still didn’t trust him; that he still had reservations. Avon couldn’t blame him. Sometimes, even he didn't know what he was capable of; not until that last moment, when he had weighed the cost.
They must be left there! Another memory intruded into his mind. This time it was ORAC's voice from the mists of time. Vila and Tarrant were facing death on the Scorpio as each of the ship's systems failed. If they were not teleported back, they would die. But it would expose the base to the same possible fate.
To die? His own voice had responded.
ORAC's urgent voice said, There is no option. To reopen teleport contact could expose the base to undefined systems influence.
Avon's voice said, Oh, you'll have to do better than that, Orac, if you expect me to kill them.
It had been an automatic response from the part of him that would never sacrifice a friend; the part of him that would have made the decision that Argus had. But Avon remembered something else. After he said it, the full cost of his decision hit him. For a few agonizing seconds, he had felt the naked fear of possible death. For a few moments more, he had weighed the cost and then he had chosen.
ORAC's insistent voice presenting a logical choice, a choice for survival. I urge you not to--
Restore the teleport! The Avon of the past had made his choice and shouted his decision angrily at the voice of reason.
The Avon of the present knew what he had to do.
The pod reached the surface and everyone filed out.
Avon said, “Get the teleport bracelets on the children. Quickly. Once I bring down the energy field, the aliens on the surface will know that something’s wrong and will start looking for the cause.”
Vila brought out the extra teleport bracelet and slid it up the arm of the toddler he was holding, securing it with a strap. He said, “Avon.” There was a troubled look on his face and he looked towards the pod they had just exited.
“I know. We can’t leave him. I’ll go back down,” said Avon.
“But, you can’t die either,” said Vila vehemently. “I won’t let you.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” replied Avon. “Remember, I have a well honed survival instinct. I’ll bring him out and keep him safe until you get back with the ship.”
“But Avon, you can’t even use a gun anymore,” said Vila protesting. Vila was on the verge of making a decision but hesitated. He wanted to go down too but he could taste the all-too familiar fear. In his head were all the old arguments; the rationality of the survivor. I will never be like Argus. It will never be an easy decision for me. I keep wondering about Avon and how much he wants to change. How much do I want to change? I don't know if I've decided yet.
Vila said, "Avon, I w…"
“You don’t have to worry about that, sir,” Dain interrupted their conversation. “My team and I will go with Avon. We have more than enough firepower. The others will go back to the ship to protect the children. We will not leave the Commander with the enemy. Even if it's only to bring his body back.”
"It will not come to that," said Avon.
"I hope not, sir. But if anyone can survive, I believe he can," said Dain.
Avon nodded in acceptance of the offer. "Vila. You have to go back to the ship. Argus is right. We have to get the children to safety. Give the Commander the message. You know she won't leave until you do. That's why Argus gave it. I will speak to Cally myself."
"You want me to give her Argus's message?" asked Vila nervously. "It might be safer if you give her the message and I go down and rescue him."
"Tell her I will bring him back."
"Good. Then she can kill him after you rescue him."
"Most likely," said Avon.
Vila said, "Avon. I want to go down too. If I didn't have to go back to the ship with the children…"
"I know," said Avon. He brought up his computer unit and began preparing to bring down the energy field.
Vila watched as Avon began entering commands and then he asked, "Avon. Why are you doing this?"
Avon's fingers stopped and he looked over at Vila. "Why would you have done it?"
Vila wasn't expecting to answer this question himself but now seemed to be a time for truths. He said simply, "Eighty-one kilograms."
Avon stared at Vila for a moment and then he nodded. They both knew what Vila was referring to. Avon said, "I have a different reason."
"What could be greater than sacrificing your own life?" asked Vila.
"What he did in the storage room."
"What did he do?" asked Vila.
Avon didn't answer Vila's question, instead he entered the last sequence of commands into the computer. "The energy shield is down."
"The energy shield....what?" asked Vila in confusion at this abrupt change in the conversation.
Avon pressed the comm button on his teleport bracelet. "Cally, this is Avon."
Cally's voice responded. "It's good to hear your voice. Is everyone ready to come up?"
"Yes. You'll have to make it quick. They're most likely looking for us now that the shield is down. Start bringing everyone up. Leave team one and myself down here."
"Avon, what's wrong?" Cally's voice immediately responded with concern.
"Argus didn't make it out. We're going back after him. Vila will explain when you bring him up. You have to get the children to safety and come back for us later."
Avon said privately * I will explain later. *
Cally responded * Alright. Be careful, Avon. *
Avon responded * I will. *
As the transport pod moved away, Argus heard the door give way. In one motion, he brought his rifle up and whirled around to fire. His shots brought down the first person to burst through the door. In quick succession, he brought down another two as they tried to enter and shoot him. After another three went down, the enemy troops realized that the single entrance gave Argus the advantage in this type of fight. With his speed and accuracy, he could spend hours shooting whomever they threw at him. The only limitation was the charge in his rifle and his endurance.
Argus positioned himself to the side of the door and began exchanging shots with the alien troops. He knew it wouldn't take long before they tried something else; something that would put him at a disadvantage. An object whizzed past his head and thudded behind him. Argus spun around to look at it.
It was a powered grenade. Argus laughed. It didn`t take them long at all.