Argus looked thoughtful as Sester reluctantly accompanied some of the medical specialists to another room. His instincts were telling him one thing but his feelings were telling him another. He wanted to believe his feelings.
There was a distinct lack of conversation going on. Everyone seemed buried in their own thoughts as they waited.
Argus had a real aversion to believing Sester but he couldn’t shake the feeling that the man had been telling the truth this time. Not to mention, Argus felt guilty. The man had saved his life and regardless of Sester’s motivations, Argus did owe him.
It was hard to separate out instinct from feeling. The feelings were seductive, taking the instinct and warping it. It was very easy to see everything that Sester did as manipulative and suspicious. Part of him wanted to.
Even if Avon was right about Sester playing games with the drugs, which would not be beneath him, he was taking a great risk just to gain an advantage. Would Sester take that kind of risk?
Or was Vila right and Sester was being sincere? Vila did seem to have good instincts about people. He didn't have a reason to be automatically biased against Sester. That was the reason why they had him watch Sester.
A good commander does not let feelings stand in the way. Having Sester on their side, did give them an advantage against Servalan.
In addition, if Sester were playing a dominance game, reacting negatively would be playing into his hands. He could see that Reya was still angry with him. Could he afford to play into Sester’s hands even more?
Argus was getting a headache as his instincts and his feelings warred with each other. He was not cut out for deviousness. He missed the days when things were much simpler, when there had seemed to be a right and wrong. But of course, he had been fooled and what he thought was wrong was really right and what he thought was right had been wrong.
He had been told that some things had to be done so that order could be maintained. Without order, there was chaos and death. Some had to be sacrificed to maintain order. It was for the good of the Federation. He had believed. He had been a fool.
But now, on the other side, sometimes he had the same questions. It bothered him that some of these rebels wanted to do the same things, but for a different reason. Was right and wrong solely determined by motivations? Sometimes it made him ill to think of it. He wasn't trained to think of such things. But it did bother him. It used to be so much simpler.
Now he was faced with his own decision about doing what was right.
He sighed and asked Avon, “What do you think?”
“You believed him?” Avon’s brows knitted in disbelief.
“He seemed sincere.”
Avon asked, “Have you forgotten what he is?”
Hoping to call on Cally’s psi perceptions, Argus asked, “Cally, what do you think?”
Cally had received impressions of sincerity from Sester. She had been struggling with her own feelings and what her psi abilities told her. “He seems sincere but of course, he did on the prison planet too. He was able to fool my psi abilities.”
This was not very helpful.
“But what does your gut tell you?”
Avon said, “We should only rely on proven fact. And the fact is…”
Argus said, “The fact is, we don’t know.”
Avon snarled, “You’re allowing yourself to be taken in because of your capacity for misplaced guilt.”
Avon's voice was also starting to take on a stress that Argus recognized.
“It’s not misplaced. I forced this situation. If something had happened to him, it would have been my responsibility.”
Avon said, “He took advantage of your mistake and you’re letting him. Don’t be a fool, man!”
The underlying stress in Avon’s voice told Argus that he would have to handle this carefully. But he was beginning to see a way out of the confusion in his mind. Avon was right; he could not afford another mistake. He'd already made too many mistakes. What if he was wrong?
Argus said with determination, "That's what I'm trying to do. Avoid another mistake. We will give him the benefit of the doubt, for now."
Avon couldn't believe his ears. He grabbed Argus by the arm. "You're making a mistake!"
"Perhaps." He looked down at Avon's arm. Usually he would never allow anyone to grab him like this but he had been expecting it. Avon was starting to become frantic; his underlying fears covered by a familiar aggression.
Argus knew what drove him. The three years at the Detention Centre were never far below the surface with Avon. His experience with Sester must still haunt him. Argus wondered what happened between them to inspire such hatred and fear in one and such guilt in the other.
Avon had even more compelling reasons to be against Sester. He would have to be convinced.
Argus said calmly, "I didn't say that we won't be watching him carefully. If he makes one wrong move, I will take him down personally. Vila made a good point. Sester can influence Servalan in a way that we can’t. Eventually we are going to go against Servalan. We know it’s inevitable. We are going to make it inevitable. If there is any possibility that we can use Sester as a weapon against her, then it would be foolish to waste this chance just because of our own personal agendas."
Avon said, “We can’t trust him.”
“You’re right. We can’t trust him completely. But we know the conditions under which we can trust him. The only fact we can be certain of with Sester is that he risked his life in order to save you from Servalan. We don’t know his true motivations in doing it but the fact is there. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose.”
Argus could see that Avon was trying to find his way around what he had said but couldn’t yet. So far, he had not gone beyond the verifiable facts.
He continued, “Whatever reasons motivated him to rescue you may still be influencing his behaviour now.”
Avon said with sarcasm, “Guilt?”
“I am not saying that it is. But you cannot deny that it is one possibility.”
“You’re an optimist.” The way Avon said the word, it was plainly not a compliment. To him it must have been synonymous with fool.
Argus noticed that the underlying tension had lessened a bit. He was appealing to Avon’s logic; getting him to think objectively and giving Avon the chance to air his concerns.
“I’m an opportunist. Both of us are extremely wary of him. But we also want Servalan. If there is any chance that Sester can be used against her, can we afford to lose this opportunity? He would be a powerful weapon.”
Avon was still sceptical, “But a weapon for whom?”
“You’re right. That is why he must be watched and managed carefully. We cannot allow him an advantage that can be used against us. For that, I’m going to rely on you. You know that I’m no match against his tricks. But you are and you know him.”
“And if he makes a wrong move?”
"You have my word. Are we agreed?"
Avon fell silent but continued staring at him; his eyes boring into his as if he were trying to determine what Argus’s motivations were and how far he could trust him. Argus was not concerned. He met Avon’s eyes with confidence. Argus could imagine the other man calculating and weighing everything carefully.
Avon finally said, "Agreed. As long as he is watched carefully.”
“I will leave that to you.” Argus looked to Cally and Vila.
Vila said, "You already know what I think."
"I will also be watching him." Argus got the impression that she didn’t just mean Sester.
With trepidation Argus turned to Reya, he wondered if she would say that she would be watching him instead.
Reya didn’t say anything, she just nodded. Argus wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. He suspected it wasn’t.
Sester followed Dr. Kendric and the other Tellarans apprehensively. They had indicated that there was something they wanted to discuss with him but hadn’t said what it was. It was clear that something had come up on the brain monitors while they were trying to stabilize him; otherwise, he would never have agreed to follow them. He had overlooked this possibility. It made him ill at ease. Sester did not like overlooking anything.
He did not trust the motivations of the Tellarans. He knew they had an ulterior motive concerning him.
Sester was brought to a small office adjacent the examination room. Dr. Kendric and three of the specialists accompanied him like an honour guard; or some other type of guard perhaps?
He took a few steps inside and stopped when he saw Cambrin waiting. “What is this?” His eyes narrowed in suspicion. He could feel the other Tellarans crowding the door behind him, blocking any exit.
Sester stood warily. It was obviously a trap of some kind. The door hadn’t closed and he was barely inside. He could yell out. Would the others come to rescue him if it were a trap? Would they care? Alternatively, were they complicit in what was happening?
There was only one way to find out.
Sester’s mind sharpened even more and every sense was alert. Mentally he was more than a match for any or all of them, even Cambrin. Sester smiled disarmingly. “Is this a trap?”
Cambrin waved the others away from the door. “No. You are free to leave whenever you wish. The door will remain open. We only want to talk to you.”
Sester glanced back at the doorway. Sure enough, his path was clear. It appeared that he could leave at any time. Or was this like one of Vila’s tricks, an illusion that would disappear if he took the bait?
He looked back at the man who was waiting for his decision. Cambrin stood easily and his intelligent eyes reflected his alertness.
Sester wasn’t concerned yet but he was ready and he was curious. He still wanted to know what the Tellaran medical specialists had found out about him.
Sester suppressed an urge to rub his temple. An old pain was bothering him again. It was almost like an old, annoying friend coming to call. The drugs must have aggravated something in his brain and brought it back. He was determined to dismiss it and focus on this confrontation.
Sester said, “I’m listening.”
Cambrin indicated a chair. “Please, sit down.”
“I don’t plan to stay that long.”
Cambrin said, “I know you don’t trust us. Me in particular. But I assure you, we mean you no harm.”
The specialists had moved within Sester’s sight range. It was as if they didn’t want him to feel threatened by standing behind him. He could see their serious but friendly looks.
It was a game. “Harm is a relative term.”
Sester could tell that Cambrin was trying not to sound confrontational. This man was as aware of cause and effect as he was. Every word, inflection, expression and movement produced an effect.
Cambrin said, “You know our meaning.” It was not a question. Just recognition of the abilities of an equal.
Sester’s lips curled slightly in amusement. “I’ve a fairly good idea.”
That meant that Sester knew that Cambrin was sincere in his intent but both of them understood where the harm was.
“Then I’ll get down to business.”
“By all means.” Sester sat down facing Cambrin, his arms rested comfortably on the armrests.
Cambrin smiled at the timing and the gesture. Sester was making a statement and not being very subtle about it. He sat down.
The others seemed to pause for a moment and then they sat as well. One of them crossed over to the glass and chrome desk and sat behind the computer.
Cambrin asked, “You’re aware that doctors had the brain scanners on you during their efforts to stabilize your brain?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Of course. We wish you to see something.” Cambrin nodded to the man behind the computer. The man pressed a few keystrokes and a graph of some kind was splashed onto one of the walls.
Cambrin said, “This is one of the scans of your brain. It measures various types of brain wave activity.”
Sester nodded. He was familiar with these. But there was something unusual. “These are mine?”
“Yes. You notice something…”
Sester finished for him, “Different. There is increased activity in the four-five through four-eight regions.”
“Yes.” Cambrin was looking expectantly at him.
“There’s something missing.” Sester was starting to feel uneasy.
Cambrin nodded to the man behind the computer again. “Not missing.” The upper and lower ends of the graph expanded. “Increased. These waves now register above even the highest expected normal range.” Sester could see an additional erratic wave pattern now.
Sester said, “This is not normal.” The old pain in his head was becoming a current headache. He rubbed the side of his temple.
“No. Not common certainly.”
Sester looked sharply at Cambrin. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Cambrin directed the man at the computer. “Show him the other one.”
A second graph appeared beside the other one. The anomalous wave patterns were similar.
Before he asked the question, Sester already knew the answer. “Whose are these?”
Cambrin looked him squarely in the eyes. “They are the last scans we made of Avon’s brain. The unusual activity reflects his mind’s efforts to break through the mind blocks and the chaos resulting from it.”
Sester sat frozen for a moment as he digested this information. His head was really starting to hurt. Was this… No. It couldn’t be.
However, there was something. A whisper. He had to ask, “Are you saying that I have mind blocks that I’m not aware of? Just like Avon?”
“Yes. You would never have been aware of them because Federation blocks are maintained by a healthy mind. Taking the mind drugs caused enough chaos in your mind that the blocks started breaking down.”
“You mean that what is happening to Avon will happen to me?”
“No. You have a healthy mind. The instability was a temporary effect of the drugs. Your mind is in the process of healing itself already.”
Sester stood up and started pacing. He could not sit still. “You’re saying that once that happens, I will no longer be able to access whatever memories are being blocked off?”
Dr. Kendric spoke up, “Not exactly. Once the blocks started breaking down, your mind began finding ways to the memories. Even with the barriers back up, those paths, once opened, will remain open. As long as you wish them to.”
Sester was aware of his own stress level rising. The Academy, the pain in his head, the…there was something else. He could not think of it. Sester rubbed his temple.
Dr. Kendric asked, “Are you alright?”
Sester stared at her and then at the other concerned faces in the room, finally resting on Cambrin. “You know I’m not.”
Cambrin asked, “You know who did this to you?”
There were several possibilities. All of them began with the Federation. He had been taught to view others as puppets. He had never known that he was someone else’s. Sester had a sick feeling in his stomach along with the pain in his head.
Sester said, “I have a good idea.” He had to get out of here. He needed to think. “I would like to go back to the ship.”
Cambrin’s face was full of sympathy. “Of course. We understand. You are free to go.”
Sester turned to leave and then he paused. “You knew that I was telling the truth earlier? When I was talking to the others?”
Cambrin responded. “Yes. The scanners told us that.”
“Why didn’t you tell them?”
“Would you like us to?”
Sester shook his head. “No. They still wouldn’t believe me.”
“You’re a man with some very difficult choices to make.”
Sester sat in the dark in his cabin. He was bent over and he had his head in his hands, wondering if decapitation might help. The pain in his head was unbearable. He couldn't feel the rest of his body, just one big sore head. He'd been hearing groaning for several minutes before he realized that it was him.
The Tellarans said that the pathways to the blocked memories, once opened, would remain open, as long as he wished them to. He was determined to reach them. To peel back the layers of the blocks until he could reach the truth that was being concealed from him. The more he tried to think, the worse the pain got.
There was a fresh explosion of agony in his head as the buzzer sounded. He was panting as he put his hand on the table and tried to get up. The buzzer sounded again. Sester groaned and fell back. The pain was almost paralyzing.
He could barely form the words in his head. Need…to get...help.
The buzzer sounded again, causing him to cry out in pain but it was barely a whisper. Not enough for anyone to hear him. Help was just beyond the door but no one could hear him. Don't go away!
There was silence. Whoever it was had given up and left. No!