Argus was a difficult patient. He had obstinately refused to stay in the med-bay after Cally had applied a healing pad to the injured area.
"I've had much worse," he had said vehemently to her while she wrestled him back into bed, which wasn't that difficult considering the seriousness of his injury.
A tissue regenerator would have to be used later, Federation energy pistols tended to have a burn-like effect and left nasty scars.
Cally sat down next to him, she wanted to make sure he was really sleeping and did not sneak away when her back was turned, as he had done before. She did not want to apply a tranquilizer patch, she firmly believed that it was much better for the healing process if the rest was natural.
As she sat, Cally's thoughts naturally turned to the events of the last twenty-four hours.
Why did you do it Avon?
Of all of Blake's crew, Avon was the one she had found the easiest to relate with. Perhaps because he was as much an alien among the others as she was.
Aurons were naturally telepathic but the telepathic ability only had limited effect with non-Aurons, which was why she was pleasantly surprised when Avon was able to pick up her thought projections sometimes when he was not focused or preoccupied with something else. By the time they worked together to solve the mystery on the colonist ship Destiny, they had an easy rapport. Blake had noticed it early on, which was why he had accused them of collusion in his paranoia when the Federation activated Blake's latent mind trigger in order to control his actions.
When the others accused him of never caring about anyone else, Avon had remarked," I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care, or, indeed, why it should be necessary to prove it at all." The others did not understand what he was saying about himself but Cally did.
Cally had already come to respect his honesty and his stubborn refusal to live a pretence; even though she hated his lack of morality. He never hid what he was; she had found him much less devious than Blake. Avon was secretive, not because of deception, but because he had no natural desire to help anyone other than himself.
Avon never invited any form of closeness with anyone and Cally never pushed, but she did come to care about him. Which was why when an alien entity took her over and tried to hurt the others, she did nothing, but when it tried to hurt Avon, she fought back. She had been as surprised at her own reaction as the others, just as she was surprised to find out that Avon knew how she felt about him. It was this knowledge he had depended on when he goaded the alien being in order to force Cally to fight the possession by the entity.
And he had came to Terrus to rescue her, risking death and capture.
When they rescued him, it was clear that he had been a prisoner and had been badly mistreated. She had felt his sense of relief but when he returned to the ship, she had been aware of something else she could not place; something which was not quite right.
She knew that the others were very angry and she knew that none of them trusted him; she could not blame them. But they were not aware of what she had felt from him as he stood facing them with the energy pistol, that deep sense of damage.
The Federation. Servalan. They had trapped him on Terrus and then they had done this to him.
Why did they do this?
If their goal was to do what they had done on Terminal, to play with his reality in order to force him to give them ORAC and the new ship, then they had failed, just as they had failed then.
Is that why you did it? Did they tried to condition you to do something you didn't want to do? And so you are running? Even from us?
She knew that to try to convince the others of this, especially now, would be very difficult. If they went after him now, it would be to kill him. She would have to bide her time, find some way to try to convince them. She owed him that.
Cally had always had limited interaction with ORAC before, she preferred people, but ORAC may be a useful ally now.
A machine as an ally, perhaps that is fitting, I will be helping Avon after all.
Argus, Jenna, Cally and Vila were seated around the conference area of the flight deck of the Justice. They all looked at each other in uncomfortable silence. It was supposed to be a planning session to decide what they were going to do next. No one really wanted to bring up the topic they all wanted to discuss; and none of them wanted to discuss anything else.
It had been almost four days since the rescue of the man they thought had been dead, and now most of them wish he were dead again.
It had been two days since Avon had shot Argus and disappeared onto the surface of Rygellus. Cally may be able to remove all scarring from Argus's healed energy pistol burn with the Justice's advanced medical facilities, but she could not do anything about the emotional scars which Avon had left in his wake when he apparently abandoned them and was now possibly working for their enemy.
If Avon had been able to observe the last few days aboard the ship, he would realized that maybe he had done too good a job in alienating the crew; or that his reputation for self-interest and self-preservation were working too well. If the crew decided to look for him now, it would only be to kill him.
The only one who still believed that things may not have appeared to be, what they seemed, was Cally; but for now, she knew she had to keep her own counsel.
"ORAC, have you been able to find Avon yet?" Vila asked. The thief had asked for some time with the uncooperative computer to the surprise of the others. For some reason, each of the crew had requested time with ORAC recently, to the great annoyance of the busy computer.
"All attempts to locate Kerr Avon have failed."
"How is that possible?"
"Obviously, he has succeeded in wiping all electronic traces of his current location from the channels I have access to," said ORAC, it's tone indicating that it should have been so obvious that the person asking the question must be mentally impaired.
"That's very sneaky. Then how do you propose that we find him."
"When all electronic means have failed, then non-electronic means must be employed," again ORAC's tone indicated that it should have been obvious.
"I don't get it."
If ORAC had been capable of humour, an astute observer would have concluded that ORAC had just made a joke, at Vila's expense.
Of course, the real fact was that Avon was no longer able to make any kind of electronic impression himself. Plus the fact that once Avon had returned to Servalan, he had once again become a non-person. The Federation President made sure that her people removed all reference to his current existence.
That suited ORAC. The computer did note that although there were no references to Kerr Avon per se, there were references to prisoner A5428 in reports from the Federation Special Detention Centre and the Federation President's private office at Residence One.
"We can't sit around doing nothing," said Argus.
"Why not? I like sitting around doing nothing. It beats getting shot at," said Vila, or being betrayed.
"What do you propose?" Jenna asked.
Vila gave his companion a dirty look.
Cally remained silent, and observing. She had been doing that a lot lately, when she wasn't consulting with ORAC.
The Justice had been moving aimlessly in a barren sector of space for a week now, while the crew tried to regain their bearings. All attempts by ORAC to locate Avon had failed and they were at a loss what to do.
Argus was getting restless, but under Jenna's advice he recognized that they all needed time to deal with what had happened. Sitting around doing nothing had never been his way but he was constantly reminded now that he was no longer a military commander; but seven days was more than enough for him. He decided that all of this waiting around, feeling sorry for themselves was not doing anyone any good, least of all themselves.
"We can't find Avon, or rather, ORAC can't seem to find any trace of him," Argus began. He secretly suspected that ORAC was lying to them, under Avon's orders. The analyst had most likely left instructions that ORAC was not to help the crew to locate him. ORAC was being very clever about providing reasons on why it could not locate Avon.
"I'm not about to waste my time when there are other more important things to do," he continued. "I have been having ORAC keep an eye on anything which the Federation may be showing an unusual interest in and I think it's found something. There appears to negotiations going on one of the mining planets out along the border in sector four. The Federation appears to be willing to pay a lot in order to obtain whatever is being mined there. The strange thing is that, ORAC cannot find any records on what exactly is being mined there."
"That is strange," said Jenna.
"It must be valuable," said Vila, his eyes suddenly bright with anticipation. Normally he would have been providing warnings about being anywhere near Federation interests, but the words 'mining' and the possibility of something glittering and lucrative was a combination which always proved too tempting for his thieving nature.
"What do you propose?" asked Cally. She was glad that the crew would now have something else to occupy their minds, other than their anger for Avon.
Avon returned to consciousness slowly, he was curled in a foetal position on the sleep platform in his cell, his arms wrapped protectively around his knees. What he could remember of the last few days was a confused jumble of pain and the constant roaring sound in his ears. His mouth was dry and he ached all over. His mind fought for clarity but it was like moving through a thick unrelenting fog.
He felt something pressed against his neck and the familiar sensation of an injection. The roaring gradually lessened; his mind slowly cleared. Every fibre of his being remembered a pain which was no longer present. He began to feel a faint energy infusing his body, an energy which was not his own. Insistent hands rolled him over and stretched him out until he was lying flat against the platform.
Avon didn't want to move but he had no choice. Movement aggravated an injured knee, he groaned. Someone lifted his eyelids, he raised his manacled hands to shield his eyes from the blinding light.
"So you are awake," the medtech said. The man helped him up to a sitting position against the wall. "Here drink this." He put a cup to Avon's parched lips, it was water. The analyst drank gratefully but then he started coughing, spilling some of the water. "Not so fast, slowly," the medtech told him. After a few more sips, the medtech took the cup away and then left the cell; the door slid closed behind him.
It was only then that Avon realized that someone was leaning casually against the far wall watching him, hands crossed over his chest.
It was a familiar face he hadn't seen in a long time.
"Welcome back Avon," said Sester.
"Your idea of a welcome leaves a lot to be desired." The analyst's own voice sounded strange to him. He wanted to go back to sleep but he knew Sester would not allow him that until he got what he was here for.
"I won't ask how you're feeling."
The psychostrategist chuckled good naturedly and came over to sit down on the chair which had been placed there earlier.
"What do you remember of the last ten days?"
"Was there something worth remembering?"
As Avon began talking with the psychostrategist, and his mind pushed past what remained of the fog, memory began to return; memories of things he would have preferred to forget. There was the week of torture after being brought back from Residence One, which left one knee shattered; afterwards he had been given a full session in the nerve induction chamber which he was only just beginning to recover from, that must have been three days ago.
"She was extremely angry with you when you disappeared."
"I'm painfully aware of that."
"You're lucky it wasn't worse."
"It doesn't feel that way."
"She isn't finished with you yet; she still isn't satisfied."
"So that's why you're here?"
Sester smiled. "I'm here to assess whether we can put you back to work."
"She knows the controls work, I came back."
"We never had any doubts about that Avon."
"I can't control other people accidentally rescuing me."
"She doesn't believe that."
"And what do you believe?"
"Psychostrategists don't believe in accidents, only in lines of intersection."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I don't believe you either."
Avon laughed. "So it's check."
Sester smiled in acknowledgement. "You're playing a dangerous game Avon. Is it worth it?"
"Ask me when it's over."
"How many games are you playing?" the psychostrategist asked; he had missed these verbal sparring sessions.
"You're acting as if I'm the one with the control, not you."
"You didn't answer my question."
"You mean it wasn't rhetorical?"
"What did you tell Argus and the rest of the crew?" Sester asked.
"I did not break the agreement."
Sester's face never lost that pleasant casualness but there was an undercurrent of warning to everything he said.
"I know you didn't, but you and I both know that you did do something. I will find out what it is."
No direct threats; there never were with Sester. Just a statement of fact.
"What did you tell them about where you were going?"
"I told them that I was offered a deal that was worthy of my talents, and if they followed me, I would make them regret it."
"And they believed you?"
"You've never tried to hide that have you? You've never done anything which didn't have some benefit to yourself; but you're a fraud Avon by doing that you saved their lives."
"You're mistaken, without the agreement no one else has any hold on me. Loyalty is overrated and sentimentality is for fools."
"Ever the romantic."
"Servalan doesn't need me as an excuse to kill them, and I understand she's been trying to do that without success."
"That's true, but you've effectively removed yourself as viable bait."
"Purely a by-product, she's using me enough already, I will not let her also use me as bait."
"We are going to make things much harder for you, I'm going to recommend that you be put back to work."
Avon nodded, things were out of his hands, the only thing he could do now was hang on and wait. He hoped that when the plans he put into place finally produced results, there would still be something left to rescue.