Cally helped Avon to sit up on the bed after the Tellarans turned off the various medical equipment and left them alone. There had been no examinations done.
Dark expressive eyes searched hers but he didn’t say anything.
Cally told him, “Avon, I understand.”
“After what we shared last night, you know I do. But I don’t think you need to do it this way.”
“I have to.”
Cally sighed. She recognized that stubborn tone in his voice; the obsessive quality he had when he took something upon himself. He would be blind to anything else until the full cost had been paid. A cost determined by him. She was afraid that it would never be reached. Cally knew him; she knew that he would set it so high that he would never achieve it.
She put a gentle hand on his arm, “At least let them fix the damage to your mind. Give them the opportunity to remove the mind blocks.”
Avon slid off the bed. “I was planning to. That’s one thing we cannot do without. We need my mind to be functional.”
Cally didn’t like the sounds of that. “Avon, you’re not a machine. I do not want you to treat yourself as one.”
For a moment, the impassive look on his face softened, just a bit, and Avon touched her face. “It’s enough that you don’t.”
Vila was spreading some marmalade on a piece of toast as he looked surreptitiously at Corinne. She was over at the beverage dispenser, scrolling through the choice of teas.
It was still quiet, even in the usually crowded dining area. Most of the soldiers were still amusing themselves down on Tellar. Now was the perfect time to broach her about something but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Corinne came back with a nice cup of something that had a lightly lemony smell to it. She smiled at him and took a sip of the lightly brownish liquid. “What are you thinking?”
“You’re very beautiful.”
Corinne laughed. “You always say that.”
“But it’s true.”
Corinne put the cup down on the saucer and in a serious voice asked him, “Vila, do you want to have children?”
Vila nearly choked on his piece of toast.
Argus and a team of soldiers came back with a silver case, about the size of ORAC’s carry container. The drug synthesis machine was laid out on a table in the medical unit. It was a box with several rows of input symbols, a slot for a bio-injector in the front and various square slots in the back. The case also contained various cartridges containing the chemical ingredients required.
Sester set it up under Argus’s watchful eyes when Vila came in. “Oh. Didn’t know you were in here. I’m just getting something for Corinne. Don’t mind me.” He went to rummage through one of the medicine cabinets.
Sester picked out several of the cartridges and began putting them into place in the machine.
Over at the medical supplies cabinets, Vila really wished Cally had come back. He had no idea what he was looking for, what it would look like or even if the ship had any. Instead, he went over to where Sester was setting up. “Is that the synthesis machine? It doesn’t look like much.”
Sester said, “It may not look like much but it’s a sophisticated instrument for producing certain types of very specialized drugs.” He looked at Argus, “I would not recommend trying to open it up or tampering with it in any way. Servalan has assured me that the unit is protected. Any attempt to expose the internal controls will cause errors. She will not guarantee what effect that will have on the effectiveness of the drugs produced.”
“She’s very thorough,” said Argus.
“Not to mention devious,” said Vila. “How do we know if she hasn’t done her own tampering?”
“That’s what I’m here for.” Sester picked up a bio-injector from the table and slid it into place. He picked up a plastic data sheet from a sleeve inside the case and entered the appropriate codes. They could hear the machine coming active. “These codes must be entered exactly and in the correct sequence. Any deviations may have unfortunate consequences. I’ve loaded the injector with the five mind drugs.” He held out the filled injector to Argus.
Argus took it and examined the readings on the side, scrolling through to see the type of drugs and the amount.
Sester said, “There’s enough there for three days.”
Argus handed it back to him.
“You want me to do it myself?” asked Sester.
Argus just stared at him.
“Of course you do.”
Vila looked perplexed, “What’s going on? What are we doing?”
Sester smiled pleasantly, “Someone doesn’t trust Servalan.”
Vila said, “Well who would?”
“Someone also doesn’t trust me. So we’re going to test the drugs first before giving it to Avon.” Sester adjusted the controls on the injector.
“You mean you’re going to inject yourself? That’s crazy.”
Sester looked at the stony-faced Argus. The man did not look like he was going to give him a reprieve. “Well, Vila, haven’t you done a few crazy things in your life?”
“Yeah, and lived to regret most of them. My motto now is, don’t do crazy things. That way you won’t have anything to regret.”
“Wise words, if you can afford them,” said Sester as he touched the injector to his neck.
Vila said, “Argus, you’re not going to let him go through with it, are you? I mean, we don’t know what they’d do to a mind that’s healthy, do we? Isn’t this cruel?”
Argus said, “It’s not cruel if it is a trap.”
Vila was flabbergasted. “And what if it’s not?”
Argus didn’t reply.
Sester was about to depress the control that would send the first drug coursing through his system when he paused and said, “You realize that if you want to find out if the drugs will harm Avon, all you need is to get the Tellarans to analyze the drugs produced? With their advanced medical technology, they should be able to model the probable effects.”
Argus said, “I know.”
“But you still want me to do this?”
“That was our agreement.”
Sester sighed resignedly. “So it was.”
Vila protested, “This is crazy. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
Sester depressed the button; he could feel a slight pressure against his neck as the drugs penetrated the skin. A cool, slightly pinching feeling. Suddenly Argus’s hand struck out and hit the injector. It flew out of Sester’s hand and landed with a clang on the floor.
Argus said, “That’s enough.”
Vila breathed a sigh of relief, “You had me worried there for a second.”
Sester rubbed his neck where a bit of the drug had entered his system. “Are you satisfied?”
Argus snarled, “What do you think? You could have easily anticipated my actions. You must have guessed that I would never let you inject the drugs.”
Sester smiled wryly, “Of course. I’m surprised you realized that.” He knelt down to pick up the injector.
Vila asked with consternation, “You mean this whole thing was a game between the two of you?”
Sester chuckled and stood up. “It’s always a game, Vila.” He checked the injector and made a few adjustments. “Or rather, it’s a contest of wills. Isn’t it?” Sester brought the injector up to look at the readings again and before the other two could react, he quickly applied it to his neck and depressed the activation button.
Argus knocked the injector out of his hands but it was too late. “You fool!”
With clinical detachment, Sester noted the effects as the drugs took effect. There was a bemused look on his face as he stood waiting for them to work.
Disorientation. Dizziness. His mind was fuzzy. Something was happening. His mind was… Sester collapsed as Argus caught him. He lifted him up and deposited him onto a bio-bed.
Vila turned on the bio-monitors. The readings were erratic. He asked worriedly, “This doesn’t look good. Should we get Cally?”
Argus went to retrieve the injector from where it had rolled into a corner. He grimaced as saw the indicator screen on the side. “The idiot. He gave himself a full dose. It was a mixture of all five.”
Vila asked with alarm, “Why would he do that?”
Argus looked at the man on the bed. Sester was breathing rapidly and there was a lot of eye movement under closed lids. “It’s my fault.”
Vila had a sudden troubling thought, “Do you think…would Servalan try to trick us?”
They both looked at Sester. Argus said, “For his sake I hope not. Go and get Cally. I’ll stay with him.”
“Alright.” Before he exited Vila said, “You know, you might want to give him a break once in a while. He is trying to help Avon and you don’t make it easy for him.”
“I’m not here to make life easy for him. He deserves what he gets.”
“Does he deserve this? You pushed him into doing this. Do you think this will help Avon? If something happens to Sester, who’ll run interference with Servalan? You? He can get her to do things none of us can. Do you want to lose that?”
Vila left without waiting for an answer and Argus stared after him. He knew that Vila was right even though he rebelled at the thought.
Sester began shaking his head from side to side as if he was trying to throw off something. A groan escaped his lips.
Everything about this man set Argus off. There were too many things to hold against him. The last thing he wanted to do was to have any kind of positive impressions about him but Vila was right. He could not deny that Sester had consistently tried to help Avon. He’d also saved his life down on Chandar. Though he wasn’t sure if Sester would have if Reya hadn’t been there too. They did need him with Servalan though.
Argus said to the unconscious man, “Hang on. Vila’s getting help.”