Rating: Het Implied
7th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Knowing the Enemy
Everyone had left the flight deck, except Argus and Sester. The two adversaries stared at each other as if waiting for a signal to begin.
Sester knew what Argus wanted to do. The man's intentions had never changed towards him.
He asked, "Well?"
Argus said sharply, "Don’t think you've won."
Sester smiled pleasantly but didn’t say anything.
Argus turned to the ship's visual interface, "Zen, I want a special communications protocol set up under code delta zero zero one."
Zen responded, "Confirmed. Specify parameters of protocol."
"I want you to record the following voice print for this protocol only." Argus looked expectantly at Sester.
"Confirmed. Voice print accepted for communications protocol delta zero zero one."
Argus continued, "Zen, for this protocol you are to establish secure communications according to Sester's instructions."
Sester said, "I want no record kept of my conversations with Servalan and I want your personal guarantee that you will not be monitoring my communications in any way."
Argus snarled but added, "Erase all records of this conversation from the ship's logs on Sester's command for this protocol."
Argus said irritably, "You have my word. Anything else?"
"No. That should be sufficient. Thank you."
Argus said, "Zen, command crew personnel is to have override access to this protocol."
Argus added, "Monitor Sester's movements on the flight deck while he is alone here. If he touches any of the control or access panels, you are to activate the maximum setting on his tracer bracelet and inform me and Avon immediately." Argus smiled. "That should cover it."
"Very thorough," said Sester approvingly.
Argus didn’t appreciate anything Sester said. "Zen, activate special communications protocol delta zero zero one. Bring up the navigation and battle computers. Inform me immediately if there is anything to report."
He said to Sester, "Don't take too long." With that he left.
After Argus left, Sester said, "Zen, I want to contact the Federation President at Residence One in Earth Sector." He provided his private priority code and the special secure channel he used to contact Servalan.
Zen informed him, "Communications requires the use of various relay stations."
"I expected that. Inform me when you've established the channel." Sester sat down on the couch and made himself comfortable.
Despite Avon's protests that he could recover just as well in their cabin, Cally insisted that she needed to give him a thorough examination. A few feeble steps away from the flight deck had convinced Avon that the medical unit was the better destination and he begrudgingly accepted help.
Cally knew that despite his annoyed manner, Avon was more angry at himself than any of them. After his collapse on the flight deck, Avon felt exposed; a situation he hated.
The others knew that they couldn't take Avon's manner seriously. None of them could forget the pain they had witnessed on the flight deck. They understood how Avon was feeling. After helping Avon onto the bio-bed, Reya and Lt. Dain left to give Avon and Cally time alone. Vila lagged behind and hovered at the entrance for awhile before exiting as well.
Cally turned on the life monitors to take readings. She asked casually, "Did that make you feel better?"
When he didn't answer, Cally asked, "Avon?"
Avon turned his head to look at her. He said grudgingly, "No."
"I know you hate having the others see you like this but they don't think any less of you."
"I do." Avon was angry that he could not banish the feelings of being helpless and useless.
She was feeling such misery emanating from Avon that she came over to him before she finished with the life readings. She put her hand on his chest, "You have been very strong and you still are. No one else could have survived what was done to you."
Avon said bitterly, "I don't call this surviving."
She rubbed his chest. "I know. You're angry and you feel helpless and that makes you even more angry."
Avon said in denial, "I am not…I refuse to be…" His words dropped off; to go on would be a lie. Avon closed his eyes as he struggled with feelings of anguish and despair. This was always the moment that determined how he would deal with the chaos that was his life. Either he would be able to push down the fear and manage, or as he done earlier, he would not be able to overcome the tide of emotions and reflexively channel them into aggression.
Avon knew there was another way to cope but at the moment he did not have the control to pursue something that was not yet instinctive. It took a great deal of energy to choose a way that was contrary to what he had done most of his life. He wished it was different. For Cally's sake if nothing else.
Avon could feel Cally's hand stroking his chest slowly and gently. It was a light, non-threatening connection with someone who loved him. A soft peace that was being offered if he wanted to take it. With surprise, Avon realized it was not just a physical sensation he was experiencing. He could feel her at the edge of his consciousness. Avon opened his eyes and gazed at Cally. Her eyes were closed and her face was set in concentration.
Avon's normally tough and impassive face softened around the eyes. He had once told Shrinker that Anna was the only one who considered him worth dying for. Avon knew that Cally did too.
Cally's presence hovered at the periphery of Avon's mind, a soft touch, not unlike the tender strokes along his chest. Comforting and caring; conveying a sense of peace, trying to ease his troubled and ravaged mind. The physical and mental sensations reinforced each other. It was an intimate form of caring practiced between two Auronar who were close.
Cally was aware of the moment when Avon became conscious of her mind touching his own. For a Terran with no psi ability, he was unusually sensitive.
She continued to rub his chest and nudge softly along the edges of his awareness; giving him the calm and hope she possessed. A cooling caress against his fevered mind.
Avon could feel the peace and strength that she was trying to impart to him. She was expanding the limits of her psi abilities, attempting to give more than she was capable of. Avon wanted to take what she was offering. He knew that she would not think any less of him for admitting he needed help.
Then why am I not? After the closeness they had achieved the previous night, why was he keeping himself separate from her? Why was he still not accepting her help?
His rational mind provided the reason. Even with the help it would be a futile effort. It would be better that she not waste her time on him. He wanted to tell her to stop trying so hard on someone who was beyond help.
There was also another reason. One that was not rooted in cold, hard logic but was a reflection of his sense of self. I'm not worth it, Cally.
She deserved someone better than he was; a person who could express his love in a way that others found more socially acceptable. Avon hated that with the state of his mind and body, he would always be a burden to her. She should love someone she could respect, not someone whose sense of personal survival constantly battled with his instinct to protect others.
Cally was troubled by what she was sensing from Avon. She could feel him working towards a deep depression. He was starting to cut himself off from her.
She spoke directly into his mind. * Avon. I know many things are bothering you now. They are so strong that it seems overwhelming. Let me help you. *
Avon responded, * I know you want to Cally, but it’s no use. There is nothing you can do. It would be a waste of your time. *
Cally knew that in this state, his mind would revert to logic again, the one thing that always made him feel safe, even though it was a false security. * Avon, I could provide you with a logical reason why we should not give up but… *
* I’m not giving up. I’m facing reality, * he told her.
She needed something to break through the rationality; something that would help him see past the facts that buried hope. On impulse, she bent down and kissed him. Avon responded hungrily; he put his arms around her. The smell of her hair, the press of their bodies together, the heat of their desire for each other and the gentle caress of her mind along his hard impenetrable edges. Teasing. Encouraging. Intense. Need.
Avon’s mind slowly relaxed as he stopped thinking about himself and the impossibility of his situation. The barriers softened. She was close and real, not a figment of his nightmares. Her soothing presence filtered through the cracks and he did not repulse her. For Cally he would continue to fight; she still had hope.
At that moment, Vila came back into the medical bay. He had been bothered by something and wanted to talk it over with Avon. "Avon...," he said the moment he entered and then stopped.”Oh." Vila quietly backed out the way he came in.
Cally lifted her head and saw the person who had interrupted them. "Vila, did you want something?"
Vila was embarrassed at barging in during an unmistakably private moment. "Oh. No. Nothing that can't wait."
Avon lifted his head and turned to look at the doorway. "What is it, Vila?"
Vila looked as if he was about to run. "Really, it's nothing. I just had a thought about Grant. I can tell you later."
A look passed between Avon and Cally. Avon said, "Come in, Vila."
"Are you sure?" asked Vila. "I could come back later. You looked like you were…busy..."
A smile touched the corners of Avon's eyes as he looked at Cally. He was feeling much better now. Cally had given him a sense of calm and renewed hope. He said to Vila, "I can be busy again later." Cally stood up and patted Avon on the chest. "I need to finish the readings." She went back to the life monitors.
Vila came back and stood by Avon's side. Avon looked up at him impassively. He could see the look of sympathy in Vila's eyes and had a brief flash of irritation. Not because of Vila's sympathy, but because his own weakness inspired such feelings in others. Avon almost sighed as he glanced at Cally.
Vila said hesitantly, "Don't worry; I won't say anything you don’t want to hear." He knew how Avon felt. "I had an idea about Grant."
Avon looked at him curiously. Vila seemed different these days. He was taking initiative and becoming more assertive. They were both working to change their lives. Argus had been right, he did like this Vila. Avon wished he had more time to get to know him.
He said, "What about Grant?"
Vila said, "Well, we've been assuming that Grant might be setting a trap."
"It's logical considering that I killed Anna. As you pointed out, he wanted to kill me before."
Vila said, "Are we sure that Grant knows that you killed her?"
Avon's eyes widened in surprised and Cally looked up from what she was doing.
Avon said mused thoughtfully, "He may not be aware of it."
Vila said, "That's what I was thinking. No one knew who she was. Her death wasn't on any of the Federation public broadcasts. How would Grant know?"
Cally was still checking Avon's life signs but she added, "So, as far as he knows, Anna died under Federation custody. He never knew she was still alive."
Avon said, "This is an awkward situation."
"Yes," said Cally.
Vila asked, "But doesn't this make things easier? Grant knows Anna is dead but we don't have to tell him what really happened, do we? Does he have to know how she died? You can go in, fix the weather system and get out again. No problems."
Cally wasn't able to read Avon's thoughts but she didn't have to in order to know what he was thinking. "Avon can't do that, Vila. He has to tell Grant."
Vila did not like this answer. He asked Avon, "Why tell him? Grant will kill you if he finds out. It seems silly to me to give a killer a reason to kill you."
Avon was staring up at the ceiling, thinking of the implications of Grant not knowing the truth about his sister. "I have to take that chance."
Cally said, "Avon. If Grant really doesn't know and he thought that Anna died in Federation custody, then he most likely doesn't have the information you need. Anna would have lied to him too."
Avon grimaced. "Yes, I know."
Vila said, "That makes sense. Then you don't have to tell him anything. It would be kinder not to. I don't think he'd want to know that Anna was a Federation spy and she made him believe that she was dead all those years."
Avon said, "I would want to know."
Vila said, "Not everyone's like you. Well, most people aren't. They say that ignorance is bliss. This ignorance is going to be bliss for everybody.”
Avon wondered if this was an attitude that was encouraged among the Delta grades; not wanting to look at the truth too closely because to do so would be to recognize that there was very little to be happy about. He envied this ability sometimes. His own mind would not allow him this luxury.
Avon told them, "I will find out what he knows first before I decide what to tell him."
Cally said, "Avon, I would like to go down with you. If that's alright."
"I was going to suggest it." Avon got up with Cally's help. "Let's talk to Argus."
Sester smiled as Servalan appeared on the main viewer. "It's been a long time, Madame President."
Servalan, who was wearing an aggressive red dress, said, "I am very displeased with you, Sester."
"Oh? Have I been bad without knowing it?"
Servalan had a stern expression on her face. "You haven’t contacted me in over three weeks. I was beginning to think that you had left me."
Sester said in mock horror, "Madame President, would I do something like that?"
"I keep an open mind about everyone," said Servalan. "Especially wayward psychostrategists who do not report in."
Sester with a roguish grin, "I'll remember that. Which reminds me, I need another ship."
"What's wrong with the one you have?" asked Servalan.
"It was destroyed. In a good cause."
Servalan's eyes narrowed. "You have a cause?"
Sester had a nonchalant way of expressing himself, even in the face of naked suspicions from the dangerous and paranoid Federation President. He enjoyed the games with her and was confident in his own ability to recognize when he was close to crossing the line.
Sester said, "Poor choice of word perhaps. Let's just say that the ship was sacrificed for your personal interests, Madame President. It removed a danger from Avon's life. Isn't that of primary importance to you?"
Servalan's voice contained a reminder and a warning. "I am glad that you haven't forgotten what should be of primary importance to you."
"I wouldn't dream of forgetting you, Madame President." There was an appreciative look in his eyes as he regarded her.
"You wouldn’t dare forget me."
Sester smiled good-naturedly, "There is that. When can I expect the new ship?"
Servalan glared at him. "It will be delivered to your next destination. You may have to wait."
Sester asked casually. "You already know where they're going next, don't you?"
They stared at each other across the distance separated by the visual medium.
Servalan finally said, "It's good to know that you haven't lost your skills as a psychostrategist."
He said, "You wouldn't have a need for me, if I did lose my skills."
"You can be replaced."
Sester said, "I don't doubt that, but as you've probably discovered, there is no one of my calibre and definitely none that is as capable of playing at this level with you, Madame President."
Servalan said grudgingly, "You can be amusing, at times."
He said with a grin, "I can be more than that. As you very well know. And besides yourself, who could you trust with handling Avon? Your ‘specialists’ at the detention centre had him for over a year and were never able to get anything out of him. That's why you sent for me."
There was light warning in Servalan’s voice, but only a light one, “One day you will go too far, Sester and even your usefulness will not be enough to save you.” He had been correct. She did enjoy their barbed games with the veiled threats and innuendos. She was the hunter with a laser rifle and he was the dangerous animal. Servalan’s lips curled slightly in the smile of a predator. In the end, she was the one with the real power and they both knew it.
The smile was not lost on Sester but he was not concerned. He was very confident in his own abilities. He said, “What are you up to with Del Grant?”
Servalan was surprised at his direct question but said smoothly, “I have some information that I want you to pass to Avon. At the appropriate time.”
Her manner made the hair on the back of his neck rise in apprehension. “What is this information?”
She said, “It is something Avon needs to know.”
Sester did not trust her one bit. “It’s something you need him to know.” For your own purposes.
“Of course. What is good for me is also good for Avon.”
Sester thought, I highly doubt that.
Servalan began to tell him the information. As she talked, Sester kept his expression neutral and professional but inside he had a sinking feeling. This was what Avon wanted to know but Sester knew that the knowledge would devastate him.
If Sester had been one of the lower grades, there would have been many colourful names he would be calling Servalan now and Madame President would not be one of them.