The medical unit was usually a serene place, but not at the moment. There was rushed activity as Cally and Marlena worked quickly on the injured Reya and Sester. Argus and President Brent stood nearby like helpless statues.
Brent, trying to relieve the worries of the man who had saved his life said, “She’ll be alright. Your…Cally appears to know what she’s doing.”
Argus didn’t answer.
Brent said, “That’s two times I owe you my life.”
Argus turned to him. “What did you say?”
“You’ve saved my life twice now.”
Argus was mystified. “I didn’t.”
“You gave me the teleport bracelet.”
Argus began to grasp what Brent was saying. “What happened? Why did you come back early?”
“A sticky situation. I was left in a room, guarded by three of Grenthel’s men while he went to get your security officer. Another group came bursting in. It was clear that they wanted to capture me but Grenthel’s men didn’t agree. I could see where it was heading so while they were busy, I decided to leave. I got back just before you did.”
Argus turned back to look at Reya. “Then you got yourself out, it had nothing to do with me.”
“If it weren’t for the teleport bracelet, I would never have been able to get out at all. So indirectly, I do owe you my life.”
“Vila was on teleport duty, you should thank him.” Argus didn't feel like anyone's gratitude right now. He would have exchanged it all if he could roll back time and stop this from ever happening.
Brent was finding it very difficult to thank this man. “Yes, I did do that when I came back. But you’re the leader.”
Argus had fallen silent again. His face was so expressionless that it was hard to tell what he was thinking, but his eyes told a different story. There was pain in them.
Cally cleansed her hands with a sanitizer, looked down at the unconscious Reya and patted her shoulder.
Argus came over and asked with a hesitant voice, "Is she…how is she?"
Cally was very aware of his misery and pain, his emotions were very strong. She put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "She's fine. She'll make a full recovery."
The pain was raw in his voice, "But…she looked…"
"Yes, the wounds were…severe." Cally decided not to go into detail about what was done to Reya. It would not help him. "But not permanent. She needs to rest."
Argus asked, "When will she wake up?"
"It's hard to say. I have her on sedatives and she's heavily medicated for pain right now."
Argus grimaced. "How is Avon?"
"He's sustained a severe concussion. There was pressure building up in his brain due to bleeding but we've been able to relieve it. He should be fine in a few days."
"I'm glad." Argus's mind was eased somewhat at the news that Reya and Avon would recover. "How…about him?" His head indicated Sester who was also unconscious on a bed nearby.
"The chest wound was deep but didn't slice anything vital."
Argus was about to say a snarky, "You mean his heart?" but it didn't seem right at the moment. Instead he said, "Good."
Cally lifted quizzical eyebrows. "Is it?"
Argus took a breath and stared at her for a moment before he said, "When I found Reya, I was frozen. I couldn't do anything. If…it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have found her. And...he risked his life for us."
She asked cautiously, "Are you changing your mind about him?"
Argus said quickly, "No." It was an old defensive reflex. His right fist clenched as he admitted, "He…loves her. I…can't blame him for that."
"Just don't let your guard down around him."
Vila and Corinne came into the medical bay, entering cautiously like two silent ghosts trying not to disturb the scenery. They didn't know what to expect.
Vila came level with Argus and asked in a whisper, his voice rising on the last syllable "Are they…alright?"
Argus turned his head just enough to see Vila out of the corner of his eyes without taking them off Reya. "Yes. They'll all be fine. Cally and Marlena were able to fix everything. They're sleeping now."
Vila breathed a sigh of relief, "That's good. I wasn't worried or anything…"
Argus's voice had become an inexpressive monotone. "Good."
"I mean, I was, but in a good way."
Vila saw that nothing was getting through to Argus now. He wondered if it was time to report that the soldiers were all back. Argus had wanted to know. He could always tell him again later if he wasn't paying attention. "All of the teams are back now. Did you want anything else done?"
Argus asked absently, "What?" Expression began to come back to his face. "Oh. They're back now." He was repeating things like someone who was slow and needed to remind himself what had been said. His eyes suddenly sharpened and he said in his normal voice, "They're back." He turned this head to look at him. "Thank you, Vila. Check in with the duty sergeant and see if the situation has changed. Tell him to have Zen monitor and record all communications to and from the location we found Reya in."
Vila got ready to go, at his elbow, Corinne was ready to accompany him. "I'll do that."
Argus looked at them curiously. "How are the Chandarans settling in, Corinne?"
Corinne's voice was soft, but with a hint of steel. "They're making themselves comfortable. You've been very generous but they're all worried about their families."
Argus said, "Don't worry, we haven’t forgotten them. We will help as soon as we can."
"That would be much appreciated."
Argus glanced at Vila. "Why don't you have Vila give you a tour around the ship? We've all been too busy to do that."
Corinne was wide-eyed as Vila gave her a tour around the ship, focussing on his favourite areas. Almost everything seemed new to her.
Corinne said, "I never imagined it to be so big on the inside. They seem so boxed in from the pictures in the archives."
Vila asked, "You mean, you've never been on a ship before?"
"I've never been off the planet before. Father would take us outside occasionally. Late at night, in a closed transport. He'd show us all kinds of places. When there wasn't anyone around."
Vila was horrified. He knew that the women on the planet were not treated well; were little more than property. But it had never dawned on him what it really meant other than the obvious mistreatment. "I'm really sorry, Corinne."
Corinne's eyes were speculative as she regarded him with interest. Vila was as much a wonder of exploration for her as everything on the ship. She hadn't met anyone like him before. "You don't have to be. Father tried to give us the best that he could. I don’t feel bad."
"But that's only because you haven't known anything else. Don't you hate them for what they did to you? I mean, you could have had a life somewhere else. A real life."
"Mother said that hate is a destructive emotion. It's a blade curved upon itself that hurts the person wielding it more than the person it is directed against."
Vila found this very hard to believe. "You mean, you don't hate anyone?" In his experience hate was a normal emotion when someone did something hateful. In the Federation, there had been a lot to hate.
"I would be very angry, maybe for a long while. But I would try to find a solution."
Vila suddenly wanted to put his arms around her and protect her from everything that she didn't know about yet. He didn't want to burst her illusions but she had obviously never been exposed to the evils that human beings could get up to. She'd probably never been betrayed before. She had lived a very sheltered life.
They finally reached the cargo hold that had been converted into a gym. Vila stood from the doorway and waved at it. "This is where people exercise on the ship."
Corinne's eyes brightened. "Exercise?" She went inside eagerly.
Vila followed somewhat reluctantly. This was most likely the least interesting place on the ship for him, ranking right up there with the waste disposal system or the laundry facilities. He asked with trepidation, "You like to exercise?"
"Oh, very much. Father had one built for us. It was lots of fun."
Vila was thinking that Corinne really needed to be introduced to more normal forms of entertainment. He was looking forward to showing her all the things that he liked to do.
Avon opened his eyes. It was such a strange thing to be without the constant pain in his head that he was confused for a moment.
A gentle presence brushed against the edge of his consciousness and a soft voice entered his mind. * Avon, you're awake. *
He thought towards her, * It would be difficult not to be with my eyes open. *
Cally came into his field of vision and stood by his bed. "You're humour has returned. How are you feeling?"
Avon asked with surprise, "You heard me?"
"Yes. Your head injury is healing nicely. I was able to stop the internal bleeding and relieve the pressure to your brain. The injury was preventing you from being able to concentrate hard enough to think your thoughts so I could hear them."
Avon was relieved. This was a form of communication that was special to him. It gave him a connectedness to Cally that he had never achieved before with another human being. It was a disturbing thing but also comforting.
He asked, "They were able to find the Commander?" Avon wasn't sure why but now that they were no longer prisoners sharing the same cell, he thought of Reya by her title again.
Cally lifted up a scanner and turned it on. She directed it towards his head. "Yes. With your information they were able to rescue her."
"Is she alright?"
"Yes, she should make a full recovery but it will take time."
Avon's eyes took on a faraway look as memories surfaced; feelings of his own torture and what it had done to him, showing him what Reya must face. He grimaced. "Yes, it will take time."
Cally could feel that Avon was thinking about something much more than physical recovery. "Perhaps you can help her?"
"I'm not the right person."
"Avon, don't you think that she will need help?"
"That's not the issue. It requires a degree of empathy I'm not capable of."
Cally said gently, "Do you really believe that you're not capable of it?" She knew he was wrong. He had shown that he was capable of it in their relationship.
"I know it."
She touched his head lightly. "But knowing a thing is not the same as believing in a thing."
He asked with a touch of cynicism, "Is that another one of your Auron sayings?"
"It comes from knowing you and from believing in you."
He looked away from her and said with stronger cynicism, "Then you must have been disappointed often."
"No. You have always surprised me by being more than anyone thought you were, even yourself." She placed her hand lightly on his chest. "It's why I have always been drawn to you."
"Then it's not possible for you to be objective."
"Why is it so important for you to be objective, Avon? To the extent that you cut out all emotions in your decisions, even about people?"
"Is that a serious question?" He couldn't believe that anyone would ask that kind of question, he would have thought it would be obvious. Of course, he had often been disappointed in humanity as a whole; the illogical and treacherous creatures that they were. But Cally was different. He wanted her to understand.
Cally had always know that for Avon, rationality and logic were paramount. He hated doing things that didn't make rational sense. He hated himself most of all when he found himself doing them. Cally knew that using logical arguments would be difficult with him in this matter. It was not an issue that was purely logical. She said, "Avon, when you came down to Terrus to offer your life in exchange for mine, was that a rational decision?"
"I know what you want me to say, Cally. I made an irrational decision, one based on sentiment. It was a moment of weakness."
Cally said, "And it cost you two years of your life and may have permanently destroyed the health of your body and mind."
In Avon's mind words came up unbidden from the well of memories. He repeated, "Sentiment breeds weakness. Let it get a hold of you and you are dead." A stray thought was bothering him, something nagging somewhere between his conscious and subconscious mind. The words echoed, ranging into the deep past. Or forward?
Cally said, "Yes, I remember that. You said that to us at Terminal, just before you went down to rescue Blake; even though you knew you were walking into a trap. Were you trying to convince us? Or yourself?"
"Both instances prove my point. There was never any Blake at Terminal. I nearly lost you there and we did lose the Liberator. If I had not been weak, none of it would have been allowed to happen."
He was being far too rational in this discussion. Cally wanted him to see that there was more. "Let's leave Terminal for now. What about me? If you were given the chance to undo the past and relive it again, would you have come down to rescue me?"
Avon said, "I would have adopted a different plan, knowing that the one I used didn't work."
Far too rational. It was always a challenge talking to Avon about things he didn't want to talk about. Cally said, "But what if the circumstances couldn't change? What if the only choices you were given was to relive what happened or to not rescue me?"
Avon remarked, "If this was a temporal phenomenon of some kind then it would be an exceedingly strange one."
Cally said with frustration, "Avon, that's not the point." A sliver of a grin appeared at the corner of Avon's lips. She realized he was avoiding the issue by teasing her. "I'm serious."
Avon said, "You know that I would."
"But you know it's not a rational decision. You've identified it. Why would you do it again? Knowing what was in store for you?"
Avon looked into her eyes. He knew what she was after but it was hard for him to say. It was a truth he rarely admitted to anyone, and often not even to himself. Each word came out reluctantly. "Because…I…care about you."
"Then there are some instances where being objective is not the most important thing to you?"
Avon hesitated. This was an even harder idea to face but he recognized that she was right. This was the decision he made when he first went down to rescue Cally. It was the decision that had driven him on Terminal, telling the others to save themselves and abandon him at the first hint of trouble, on Albion, on Exbar, there were too many to count. Weakness all but he had chosen them. "Yes."