The others thought he was dead. No one would be coming to rescue him from this living nightmare. He wished that he could fall asleep and never wake up again; that they would torture him to death and to leave him dead. Instead, they were slowly destroying every part of him. His body, they would leave to the last. When everything else was gone, would they finally give him the oblivion of death? Or would Servalan leave just enough of him so that he could forever appreciate what she had done to him. He didn't have to calculate the odds to know the answer to that question.
Alone. Without hope. In a place where death was a luxury.
He didn't know how much longer he could hold out against Servalan and Sester. They had all the advantages, and all he had was his own mind; a mind they were well on their way to destroying, a mind that they had already forced to work for them. He was helpless against the conditioning; he had to work, he had to serve them. He had no choice.
They had made him dependent on the drugs. Without them he would slowly descend into the madness of the nightmares. Servalan had made him little more than a puppet; a slave to her whims and desires.
Anguish. Humiliation. Helplessness. Depression. Each day seemed worse than the last. Servalan was always most creative when thinking up new ways to torture him. The only thing which gave him any real comfort was the knowledge that Cally was safe. He had been able to save her; she was still alive. It was the only thing that gave him any hope.
You can do anything to me, Servalan. As long as Cally stays alive. It wasn't just the need to no longer be alone.
The cell door slid open. Servalan waltzed in wearing a trademark elegant white dress. Somehow the colour made her seem even more sinister. "Avon. I have something very important to tell you." She seemed to be bursting with the need to tell him something. The happier she looked, Avon knew, the worse the news would be for him.
Servalan continued with a cruel smile, "I am sorry to have to inform you that Cally is dead."
Avon cried out in agony. This news was the worst torture she could inflict on him.
Cally heard a pained scream and was overwhelmed by a blast of emotional pain. For a moment, she was stunned by the intensity of the feelings and then she got up and rushed to Avon's side. Avon's knees were drawn up; his arms hugged his body protectively. He was moaning. Cally's arms went around him, attempting to give him comfort and trying to reach his tortured mind.
* Avon wake up. It's me, Cally. You're having another nightmare. It's time to come out of it. *
She was becoming increasingly worried about him. The nightmares, as the drugs wore off, were getting progressively worse. They were claiming him earlier. She was afraid that eventually, the drugs would no longer be able to hold them off. On that day, she didn't know what he would do; she didn't know what she could do to help him.
As she held him, Avon's body was shivering. She tightened her hold on him and projected as strongly as she could into his mind. * Avon! You have to break through the dreams! Please, Avon. You have to fight. * Cally knew that he must be experiencing torture of some kind. It was usually this or something even worse. She could not imagine the things Servalan and the Federation must have done to him.
Something wet touched her skin. With shock, Cally realized that tears were flowing down Avon's face. This had never happened before.
* Avon! Please! You have to come out of it! Avon! It's Cally. I'm here. Come back! *Cally was frantic. He was scaring her.
A barely perceptible mental voice said, * C-Cally? *
* Yes, Avon! It's me. Please come out of it. * Avon's eyes opened and she could see a naked pain in his eyes; when he saw her, it was replaced with a faint fearful hope.
"Cally?" HIs voice sounded weak and hoarse. It was a moment of vulnerability she had never seen before on his face.
"Oh, Avon." She cried and hugged him, putting her head on his chest.
Instinctively, Avon put his arms around her. "It's alright, Cally." On one hand he was trying to reassure her; on the other, holding onto her, was like grabbing onto a lifeline. The memory of Servalan telling him that Cally was dead was still fresh in his mind. He couldn't tell anymore if it had been real or if it had just been a cruel nightmare from his deteriorating mind.
Cally looked up at him, "No. It's not alright. It's getting worse. Yesterday it was about your brother. What was it about this time?"
Avon's jaw tightened in stress. It was already bad enough having to face the nightmares in his sleep. "I don't want to talk about it."
Cally was aware of his distress and she knew that he would resist discussing it, but she had to try, for his sake. "Please, Avon. I know you think that it doesn't serve any purpose to talk about it. It's very clear from the way you've cleverly avoided saying anything meaningful in those therapy sessions with Argus. If you need a reason for your rational mind, then do it for me. What's happening to you scares me."
A grimace flashed across Avon's face. She was right. It wasn't just about him anymore. There were two of them now. He may not consider it important for himself, but it was important to her, and for that reason, it should be important to him as well.
The last thing Avon wanted to do was to hurt Cally. Her worrying about him was something he could not help; it was something he could not control. Until he fully recovered (and he had to convince himself that he would eventually), she would always be worrying about him. The one thing he could do was to not add to her concerns. If it was in his power to do that, he would. It was something he could do.
He told her, "In the dream, I was in my cell at the detention centre. Servalan came in." He had a stab of irrational fear at the memory of the dream. Avon kept his eyes fixed on Cally's face, trying to commit to his mind every feature, every expression; reminding himself that the nightmare had not been real.
This is real. You are real. You're alive. He held her tighter, feeling the reassurance of her body pressed against his; a warmth that could penetrate even the cold cell of his nightmares.
Cally was very aware of how Avon was feeling. She was more aware of him now than she had ever been; he was no longer just at the periphery of her consciousness. Cally guessed that it had something to do with the breaking down of Avon's mind. The mental barriers that he normally had in place to protect and isolate himself were wearing thin. She wondered how he would react if he knew; he would most likely try his best to put them back up.
Avon continued, "Servalan told me you were...dead." The last word came out in a reluctant and pained whisper.
Cally's feelings at the idea that he could be so affected by the thought of her death contrasted with her anger at Servalan's cruelty. "We will kill her one day. Just the two of us," she said vehemently. There were so many reasons to kill that woman.
Avon said, "I don't know if it happened. Or if it was just another nightmare."
"Does it matter? She's done more than enough to both of us. I want her dead."
This was the Cally he had first met on Saurian Major; the one full of anger and a need to tear down the Federation. She had been very young then. Avon knew it was a part of her that she had let go of. He didn't want her to take it up again because of him.
He asked her with his thoughts, * To destroy until we are destroyed? *
Cally lifted her head up from his chest to look into his eyes; and saw that he was teasing. She smiled softly and projected to him, * Maybe just the first part. *
* You're no longer the person you once were on Saurian Major. *
She had a puzzled expression on her face, she didn't understand what he was trying to convey. * Don't you want to kill Servalan? *
There was tightness in Avon's throat when he responded. *Yes. *¨
* But you don't want me to? * she asked.
* You're no longer a person who wants to destroy, * said Avon.
* You never were. *
The corner of Avon's lips curled in a brief smile. * You knew? *
* Not until much later, when I was trapped on Terminal. I had a lot of time to think. You only did it because of Blake. When you had a choice later, you never chose that path. *
Avon's smile disappeared as she spoke into his mind. His stomach twisted in pain at the mention of Blake's name, Avon grimaced. He wasn't ready to deal with this, he wasn't sure if he ever would be able to.
Noticing his reaction, Cally asked with concern, *Avon! Are you alright? *¨
Avon grimaced again. *Yes. I don't want to talk about this. I can't. *¨
Cally wished she could take her words back. * I'm so sorry, Avon. I should have remembered. * The mention of Terminal and Blake, touched on some of the worst nightmares Servalan had inflicted on him. * We won't talk about destruction or Servalan, or nightmares. *
* No more talking. * Avon leaned down and kissed her. It started out as a teasing and gentle expression, but soon grew to reflect their growing passion for each other. All fears, worries and anger were pushed aside; feelings became action, and action fed feelings. Their bodies were entwined together and for the first time since they started sharing physical intimacy together, Avon did not experience fear or repulsion.
They both took pleasure in the discovery but were careful not to take the final step. Neither of them wanted this moment to be marred by a reminder of another thing Servalan had done to Avon.
Vila was depressed.
He was in the dining area, trying to drown his mood.
In a bowl of ice cream.
A big bowl, a very big bowl, he was going to need another one soon.
Vila really wished he had not promised Avon that he would think first before taking a drink. Not that he didn't think that Avon was right, it was inconvenient, especially when he was feeling like this. He cleared the remainder of the vanilla ice cream with his spoon, sighed at the empty bowl, and got up to get another one. He waited until one of the resident Athol soldiers picked up his meal tray of something that looked like meat, piled on some more meat, of a different colour and a side order of something Vila didn't recognize. Which was odd considering that Vila thought he had gone through the entire menu of the food dispensers at least once. Must have missed this one. Though from the looks of the way it sat on the plate, there was probably a reason why he didn't remember this particular delicacy.
The soldier nodded to him and then moved off. Vila stepped up to the vacant dispenser. Maybe something a little less plain this time. Chocolate? With some sprinkles? And a wafer? He ordered up the concoction. The appearance of the ice cream made Vila even more depressed, and less depressed at the same time. It was very strange. Vila picked up the tray and went back to his table.
As he absently swirled the ice cream around in the bowl, he realized that in a way, it was fitting that he was trying to divert himself with ice cream. The alcohol would not have been appropriate.
Vila missed the children. As the Justice got farther and farther away from Kaarn, the more he felt their absence. It was silly, he hadn't known them for more than three weeks, but he was already attached to them. Avon would most likely have had some snide remark about an overly developed sentiment or the irrationality of developing such strong feelings over such a short period of time.
But Vila didn't care. All he knew was that he loved those children and they loved him.
At times, Vila really wished he had chosen to stay with the soldiers who had decided to remain on Kaarn. He sighed and dug his spoon into the chocolate ice cream.
"Are you trying to use me?" Reya asked Argus. The temperature in their cabin seemed to drop several degrees with the tone in her voice.
Argus winced. He had said in no uncertain terms to Avon that he was never going to do this, and here he was doing it. Sester knew of the existence of the hybrids and the remnants of the Auronar. That was an unfortunate fact that they couldn't avoid. He also knew of Kaarn but due to Reya's diligence, he didn't know where it was. For Argus, this was still too dangerous. They needed some other way to ensure the safety of the children and the secrecy of the new Auronar home planet.
He said, "Please, Reya. I didn't intend to ask you but you're the only one who can do it. Our only other option is to kill him. Even throwing him off the ship won't work, he'll report straight back to Servalan. We can't let him do that. She's already tried to wipe out the Aurons once."
"Stop trying to lecture me, Drel Argus. I know that already." When she said his name, it was not in an endearing voice. Reya was not very impressed with what he was trying to do, even though she understood and agreed with the principle of it.
"Then what's the problem?" he asked in an exasperated tone.
"The problem is you," she told him.
Argus's voice began to rise. "Are you going to let him get between us? This is about the children and the Aurons."
"Don't try to confuse the issue by bringing them into it," said Reya. "This is about you and me."
"And him," said Argus. He was clearly angry now.
"I'm not going to talk to you until you've calm down," said Reya.
"Stop trying to patronize me!"
"And stop trying to bring Sester into it."
"Why not? He's the problem!"
Reya stared at him, not wanting to say anymore because she didn't want to aggravate him further. Sester was a sore point between them and she was afraid that he always would be. She couldn't wait until Sester was off the ship and no longer able to cause them trouble. It didn't help that she still felt guilty about what happened on Papos. She said in a quiet voice, "Please don't do this. I'm sorry I brought it up. I'll try to talk to Sester about it. I know it's important."
Argus felt rotten at her change in manner and he was angry with himself. Why do I always do this?
His voice also softened. "I'm sorry, Reya. I don't know what comes over me when I think about him. It's not just jealousy. At least, I don't want it to be." He reached out and put his arms around her. "Are you angry that I asked you to do this?"
"But I thought that you understood why," said Argus.
"I do. That's not why I'm angry. You just asked me to tell Sester. You never gave me a choice."
"You could have said no. It wasn't an order."
"It's the way you asked me. You knew I couldn't say no," said Reya.
Argus's shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."
Reya put her hand on his chest. "I know you didn't. I guess I over-reacted as well. It felt as if you were trying to use me and you wanted to use Sester's relationship with me."
Argus said, "I felt really bad about asking you but I didn't see any way around it. It was either this or do something even more drastic and I knew you wouldn't like that."
"I'll talk to him. But I won't use his feelings for me," said Reya.
"But Reya..." Argus didn't understand.
"No. I refuse to." Reya was very firm about this. Just as she didn't want to be used, she refused to manipulate Sester by using his feelings for her.
Argus said, "We need him to agree to keep Kaarn and the existence of the Aurons a secret."
"I will explain it to him. He will listen to reason." She was certain that Sester would see the need.
"Reason?" Argus was clearly sceptical.
"Do you trust me?" asked Reya.
"Of course I do. I just don't trust him," stressed Argus.
"Let me do this my way."
Argus could see the confidence and resolve in her eyes. He said, "Alright. We will try it your way. But if it doesn't work, we may have to try something more drastic."
"I understand. I don't think that will be necessary."
"I still think you're placing too much faith in him."
"You don't understand him."
Argus doubted if she
did but he refrained from saying so. It aggravated and worried him to no end that Reya's usually sharp perceptions and natural suspicions didn't seem to apply to Sester. He fully expected that they would have to apply more direct pressure on him.