Alyce came towards Reya with welcoming arms. “Welcome, Reya Reeve.” She gave her a warm embrace. “We’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
Reya face was flustered as Alyce let go of her. She was still uncomfortable with being at the centre of attentions. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you as well. Argus has been telling me many good things.”
Alyce gave Argus a warm smile, “He’s very kind.”
For some reason, Argus found his face reddening. Alyce had a quality that made someone feel genuinely appreciated. He cleared his throat. “I just told her what I saw.”
Alyce seemed amused by his reaction. She said to Reya, “My Impact Analysis Department is very interested in discussing the events on Chandar. And Cambrin says that your psychostrategist hasn’t visited him yet. He was looking forward to talking with both of you.”
Argus tried to act neutral, but only succeeded in sounding odd when he said, “I’ll send for him.”
Alyce didn’t seem to notice; or she did but decided that Argus wouldn’t want her to pursue it. “That would be much appreciated.” She touched Reya on the arm, “How are you feeling? Are you fully recovered from your injuries?”
Reya really wished people would stop treating her like an invalid. It was already bad enough that Argus was very visibly ‘hovering’ near her in protection and trying not to appear as if he was. Not that she didn’t appreciate it but she just wished everyone's attentions would focus somewhere else. She wondered how Avon stood it from all of them. “I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”
Alyce gave her a brief encouraging smile. "You do not like people making a fuss over you. I understand. We shall do something much more pleasant. I hear that you wish to see more of Tellaran society?"
"Yes, I'm very interested in how your society works."
Alyce asked, "What would you like to know?"
Reya said, "Vila has told us a little bit about your economy works. I'm interested in some other areas. Such as how do you deal with things like aggression and crime? What do you do when outsiders commit crimes? Do you have a concept of personal property? If you don't have a class system then how are roles and jobs assigned?"
Alyce smiled, "It looks as if you will have to stay with us for more than a few days, Reya." She led the way, "Come with me. You might both like this.”
A free flowing association of memories and ideas. That was how Avon was experiencing what was happening. It was almost as if it was occurring to someone else and he was watching it as a detached observer. This made his mind easier as random memories flowed through his consciousness, like casual visitors that didn’t stay long enough to dirty up the furnishings.
He was in control again. It had been a long time since he had been able to have memories intrude into his mind without triggering some kind of panic attack or loss of control. A very unusual feeling. A state he barely remembered. Here in this safe environment he was able to treat feelings dispassionately and relegate them to a place in his mind where they would not threaten him. He was able to maintain an equilibrium. Nothing but a rational mind at work; clear thoughts, not cluttered by irrationality.
He knew that this state must be artificial in nature. The Tellaran machines were inducing it; managing his mind so that he felt in control again. He should have been disturbed that someone else seemed to be able to exert this kind of external influence on him, but he wasn't. Were these machines designed to give him back the control he desperately craved? If so, then could this effect be reproduced outside of the machines?
A face floated into his internal field of vision. A memory of his brother. Calling out his name. Avon. There was something wrong with it but he couldn't…
I have to go to him. He loved his brother. He would do anything for him. In his mind, he moved closer to the figure that was mouthing his name, repeatedly. Something was wrong. It was…
An unexpected voice spoke to him, * It’s the past, Avon. *
The vision faded leaving him with perplexing emotions. A confusion of love and fear. * Cally? *
* Yes, Avon. It’s me. Dr. Kendric asked me to speak to you. She said that you were caught up in a memory. A very powerful one. *
* Just for a moment. * Avon realized something with shock. This was the memory that had been used by Zen when he first arrived on the Liberator. Something shaped by its security system in order to trap him, and drive his mind insane or to kill him. But it came from a real memory. * I’m fine now, Cally. *
Calling his name over and over. It was a strange real memory. A piece of recollection that inspired a strong emotional reaction.
There was concern and warmth in Cally's mental voice.* How are you handling the memories? *
* They're manageable. The machines must be modulating my emotional responses. *
* Yes, Dr. Kendric says that they are using various techniques to prevent negative emotions from gaining precedence in your consciousness. They should be at a level that your current state of mental control can manage. *
So he was right. It was the Tellarans who were enabling this but they said that he also had control of what was happening. * They're only interfering with negative emotions? *
* Yes, they left the other ones because they will help you. But they said that this memory was strange. That was why they asked me to help. *
The Tellarans were able to identify it as strange as well. But what was strange about it?
* Cally, are they able to determine what's unusual about it? *
* Alright. I will ask them.*
There was a moment of silence. He imagined that she was asking the specialists.
Cally's voice returned in his mind, * they say that your responses are similar to those memories that Servalan used to torture you with. They say that they seem designed to provoke strong emotional reactions. *
Designed? Avon remembered his reaction that day on the London. While Blake and Jenna had discussed their own experiences afterward, he had been too overwhelmed to contribute. For what seemed a long time, the only thing he could do was bow his head into his hand in shock.
What did it mean?
Corinne almost seemed to bounce into the relaxation room. The room was empty these days because most people were enjoying themselves on the planet. "Vila, do you like it?" She twirled around for him to see what she was wearing.
Vila's mouth hung open in shocked amazement and he dropped the improvised wand he was holding. It clattered to the floor.
"Vila? Are you alright?" she asked with concern and came over.
Vila tried to keep his eyes on her face, anywhere else was too… He closed his mouth and tried to formulate some coherent words. "Uh…what are you wearing?" Although, not wearing, might be more accurate.
Corinne said disappointedly, "You don't like it? I researched it very carefully." She bent down to pick up the wand. Vila deliberately looked up at the ceiling. He wondered if they needed a cleaning.
Vila nearly jumped back as Corinne came up beside him and looked up at the ceiling with him. She asked, "What are we looking at?"
"Uh, nothing." He directed his eyes to look at her face again. She and the outfit she was barely wearing were much too close to him. He took a discreet step back. "Corinne, where'd you get those clothes from?"
"From the wardrobe room. There's lots of things in there. Argus said to help myself."
"Argus suggested that you wear that?" Vila asked incredulously, wondering what had possessed the man and what had been going through his mind. Plus he didn't know the room contained something like this. Now if one of the… Vila shook off the tempting and inappropriate thoughts. What was he thinking?
Corinne said affectionately, "No, silly. He doesn't know anymore about clothes than you do."
"Then how? Why?"
"Oh, you mean why did I pick these clothes?"
"Yes." Vila wanted to know who the culprit was. Horrifying images of Corinne parading like that (he tried not to think in too many details) through the corridors of the ship filled his mind. Thank the stars that most people were away and the ship was almost deserted except for the duty personnel.
Corinne looked down nervously. Vila had been too shocked to notice before but now he realized that she looked awkward and self-conscious and her eyes were looking at him shyly and uncertainly. It must have been because of the clothes she was wearing.
Vila remembered Corinne's reaction to the more liberal dress of some of the Tellarans and her own conservative tastes. Then what possessed her to wear this?
Corinne said, "I was looking through some of the historical records on your computers. The ones about Earth."
Avon had already assigned classifications to all the categories of materials in the ship's databases. The historical and entertainment sections had been deemed accessible to almost everyone.
Corinne continued, “I found some archive pictures of magical performances. All of the assistants seemed to be wearing very revealing outfits." She looked at him timidly. "I…thought it was what you would want."
Vila wanted to hug her but didn't dare move any closer. Instead, he said affectionately, "You didn't have to do this, Corinne. I'd never ask you to wear anything that would make you feel uncomfortable. Now, how would you like to change?"
The complex that Alyce brought them to was an impressive structure at the outskirts of the city. As they entered through the open entrance, Alyce said, "This is one of our physical recreation facilities. It's used for sports, physical training and aggression therapy."
Reya was very interested in the last one. "Aggression therapy?"
Alyce led the way through the building. Wherever they went, people greeted them warmly, even if it was only a brief smile or nod.
"Yes. All of our people are tested for aggression factors in their personality from a very young age. We realize that while it is a necessary trait, it is also one that can be detrimental to society if not used properly. We provide many avenues to redirect aggressive tendencies towards more beneficial activities. We also have numerous therapies to release the stresses that result in destructive behaviour. Our people are taught to use these services when they identify certain behaviour patterns or feelings. It's part of our normal routine. Most people use them for exercise and to release stresses. Others use them more often. It is considered an important activity in our society. It's also tied to the training of our citizens in order to protect our worlds."
They arrived in a large open gymnasium where various martial arts were occurring. Both Argus and Reya's eyes widened as they took in the activity. Young and old. Male and female. Everyone seemed to be involved.
Argus said, "The level of skill is quite impressive. I imagine these are your advance practitioners?"
Alyce said, "No. These are regular citizens. We all train from a very young age and throughout our lifetimes. We all know the danger and aggressive nature of our neighbours. Even with our defences, we must still be prepared." She smiled wryly. "Not to mention the unpredictable behaviour of some of our outworlder guests. Would you like to test some of them?"
That was exactly what Argus had been hoping for. He was intrigued by some of what he was seeing. He said enthusiastically, "I'd love to."
Alyce waved over one of the women and introduced her. "This is Tamarin. She's a trainer in unarmed combat techniques."
She introduced Argus and Reya.
Tamarin, a slender woman who did not seem like a fighter, greeted them with a bow, "Well met, Argus and Reya. We've heard much about your group. It's a pleasure to see you."
Alyce said, "Argus would like to exercise."
Tamarin became very animated, "We'd love to have you. We hear that you're an exceptional fighter."
Though Argus felt that he would be more of a match for most of these people, he would never say so. "I'm adequate."
Tamarin said jokingly, "Then we'll go easy on you."
"Maybe not too easy."
Tamarin laughed good-naturedly and said, "Come and meet the others."
Argus jumped over the railing and joined her.
Alyce had an amused smile on her face. "He's very enthusiastic."
Reya laughed, "That he is. He likes fighting."
As they watched Argus sparring, Alyce continued sharing about her world with Reya. "We send some of our people off world to learn the fighting techniques of different cultures and civilizations. Once they master them, they come back and they work with specialists who dissect the various methods in order to know how to counter them. The one Argus is fighting with is a specialist in a method that was derived from a clawed animal."
They watched the spirited fight for a moment. Argus's movements were quick and fluid. There wasn't a wasted motion in his actions.
Alyce said with appreciation, "He lives up to his reputation."
Argus defeated his opponent. The two men bowed to each other. They could see Tamarin speak to Argus and he moved to the side while another opponent took his place.
The specialist was again defeated but this time it was different.
Reya remarked, "Your methods are much more defensive in nature."
"Yes. That is the focus of our own fighting methods. Very similar to how you were fighting on Chandar."
Reya asked, "What do you do with people who are inherently violent despite the various facilities you provide or those who refuse to use them? What happens when they repeatedly hurt others?"
"We have various ways to deal with those situations. Of course, our preferred method is to work with them. If nothing succeeds then there are two options. The person may choose to leave the Union or they can be fitted with a limiter device that is similar to ones used by the Federation to regulate violent tendencies in criminals."
"Are there many?" asked Reya.
"In the Union, which consists of eight planets, there are less than a hundred. The majority of these have abnormalities in the brain and were identified when they were younger."
Reya said, "I'm not sure how that would work in my own world but I'd like to try introducing some of these ideas."
Alyce was sympathetic. "That's a wonderful idea but it would only work if your own people want it. My world had a very strong incentive to change. We were faced with the destruction of our society. We had to change or die."
"I'd still like to try some of it," said Reya.
"We would be glad to help give you a few ideas."