Reya was putting on a blue tunic when she asked, "Why don't you have breakfast with Sester this morning? Cally and I are going down to the planet."
Argus couldn't believe his ears but he bit back an immediate response. Reya obviously wanted him to do this as part of his promise to be nicer to Sester. He didn't think that eating with the man was called for though; he hadn't agreed to become friends.
Reya was looking at him expectantly. Argus sighed and tried not to sound too reluctant. "Alright."
Reya smiled and brushed her hand through his hair affectionately. "Thank you. I know that was hard for you."
Argus smiled wryly and took her hand in his. "The hard part is still to come."
"I have every confidence in you."
"I wish I did. I'll try to leave him alive," he said jokingly.
Right before she left the cabin, Reya said, "Remember not to go too early."
"Don't worry, I won't."
The children stood huddled together waiting. Whispered conversations were being carried out among them.
"I'm Jack." A friendly open-faced child introduced himself.
"I'm Charles," he told him.
"Charles or Chuck?"
"Charles if you want to be friends," he told him.
Jack laughed. "I'll call you Charles. Do you know what this place is?"
Another child said in a knowledgeable voice, "That's obvious."
Charles had noticed this child before; a solitary child with dark eyes who didn't stand with the others. The boy's eyes were intelligent and seeking and had been exploring their surroundings while the other children sought the security of being with each other. Charles had already identified the children as Alphas. But this one was different.
The boy said, "The name's…"
The sound of a buzzer cut off the rest of the sentence. Pain exploded inside Sester's head. He jerked up to a sitting position and held his head in agony. He remembered the room from his childhood but there was something wrong with it. The memory was fading quickly, as if someone was drawing a thick veil across it. No matter how hard he tried, he could no longer remember some of the faces. Each attempt produced more pain.
Another buzzer. He gripped his head tightly as he recognized the sound. It was the door. Someone was trying to get in. Vila?
He could use his help. Sester staggered off the bed and grabbed a robe.
Argus straightened his already straight back and took a deep breath before pressing on the buzzer to Sester's cabin. Reya had said not to go too early. He'd waited an hour. That should be long enough.
There was no response to the buzzer. He waited for a few seconds and pressed it again. Still no response. Maybe he'd be lucky and Sester wasn't in his cabin. Though he suspected that Reya would expect him to go and find the man. He sighed and pressed the buzzer again. After a few more times, he decided it might be faster to check with Zen. He didn't want to use his command override to open the door. It wouldn't have been nice. He was about to do that when the door slid open and a bleary-eyed Sester in a hastily thrown on grey robe answered the door.
Sester said in a scratchy voice, "Oh, it's you. What are you doing here?"
Now that it came time to say it, Argus felt awkward. "I was wondering…" Did he really have to do this? "…if you'd like some breakfast."
Sester's forehead furrowed. "Do you know what time it is?"
"It's 0730," Argus informed him.
Sester sighed. He could see that Argus didn't seem to think there was a problem. "Whose idea was this?"
Argus tried not to sound irritated. "Reya thought it might be a good idea."
"I thought so. Did she also tell you to wake me up this early?"
"Early?" Argus asked perplexed. But I waited a whole hour.
"Yes. As in too early for me to get up?"
"Aren't you feeling well?"
Sester pulled the robe around him tighter. Mornings always felt colder. "I never feel well this early in the morning. I normally wake up at nine." He remembered that Reya woke up at an indecent hour too. It figured that Argus would be the same way.
"Nine?" Argus asked incredulously. He remembered that he was trying to be nice. "I can come back."
"You're serious about having breakfast? You could tell Reya that we did already and let me go back to sleep."
Argus said, "I can't lie to her."
Sester sighed again. "I suppose I couldn't either. Alright, give me some time to get ready."
Vila and Corinne were in the dining area getting breakfast. It was much too early for Vila. Like Sester, he preferred a more humane hour for waking up. Unfortunately, Corinne was used to starting the day earlier. Vila insisted on waking up with her so they had compromised. Though this morning they had woken up earlier than normal because they had wanted to see something down on the planet.
He was regretting his decision as he began on his third cup of coffee and had his sleepy head propped on a hand. There was a lazy smile on his face as he watched Corinne eat a bowl of three-flavoured ice cream. Ever since he had introduced her to his favourite Earth treat, she had developed a real taste for it and ate a bowl every morning. There was nothing like this on Chandar.
Corinne asked, "Did you want some?"
Vila loved the sound of her voice. "Hmm?"
"Did you want me to get you some ice cream too?"
Vila sighed happily. "No. I just love watching you eat. You do it very well."
Corinne blushed. "Is...that supposed to have another meaning?"
Vila grinned mischievously and drew his finger suggestively along her ice cream bowl. "Would you like it to?"
"Is this where you introduce me to another one of the things on your list?"
Vila's grin got wider.
At that moment, Argus and Sester came in together.
Argus was trying not to be irritated. Sester's "some time to get ready" had stretched into almost an hour. He was almost sure the man was taking advantage of the situation and was deliberately trying his patience. Argus was determined not to let Sester rattle him. He remained scrupulously polite.
Argus nodded to Vila and Corinne and went to the food dispensers.
Sester stopped and greeted them with a friendly smile, "Good morning. You're up early."
Vila said, "Tell me about it." He picked up his half-eaten piece of toast.
Sester grinned and headed for one of the beverage dispensers.
Sester called over to Argus, "Do you want me to get you some coffee? Black, right?”
Argus wasn’t quite sure how to take this offer. He looked confused for a moment, “Yes, black.” He entered his normal "breakfast of champions" choice but paused before pressing the activation button. Sester was coming over to him carrying a tray with two cups. Argus asked, “What do you want?” He had meant to sound pleasant but old habits around Sester made it sound like something else. He added, “I meant for breakfast.”
Sester had a faintly amused look on his face. “A bran muffin and some butter.” Argus ordered up breakfast for both of them and Sester went over to a table and set the cups down.
Vila whispered to Corinne, “It’s started.”
Corinne wondered what all the whispering was about but decided to play along. “What’s started?”
“Them trying to be nice to each other.” Vila wondered if it felt as strange and uncomfortable to the two men as it was for him watching them. It was definitely abnormal. "I wonder how long it'll last."
"Are we going down to the planet yet?" asked Corinne.
"Not yet. I'd like to stay and watch a bit if you don't mind. This might be interesting."
Argus came over with a tray bursting with food and put it down. As he set the items up on the table, he wondered if having breakfast together really meant they had to sit at the same table and talk to each other. Somehow, he knew that Reya would expect it. Resignedly, he sat down.
Sester looked far too amused when he said, "If you want, I could move to the next table. Or I could go eat with Vila and Corinne."
Argus barely suppressed an irritated snarl. "No. We're going to do this." It was annoying that Sester could read him so well.
"I did offer," said Sester as he spread butter on his muffin.
Argus picked up a knife and fork and attacked his mound of food. Trying to make an effort at polite conversation, he asked, "How did you sleep?"
"Fairly well until you woke me up." Sester avoided a grin as he bit into his warm muffin.
Argus glared at him for a second. "I shouldn't have woken you up that early."
Sester said, "I don't mind it once in awhile. Just don't do it too often. And I would like prior warning."
Argus really hoped that Sester didn't expect this to become a normal routine. There were limits. "I'll try to remember that."
Sester rubbed his temple absently as he ate. To his annoyance, the dull aching pain of his childhood had returned. He had been feeling weak and dizzy since waking up. The time he had taken to get ready this morning was not normal for him. He almost had to drag himself out of the shower. He knew that Argus must have thought it was intentional on his part but that couldn't be helped. The bran muffin was not sitting well in his stomach.
This movement was not lost on Argus. He glanced over. "You alright?"
Sester said nonchalantly, "Just a bit of a headache." The food was making his stomach ill. The details from the dream this morning had gone, only leaving a vague impression of a childhood memory. He wished he could remember more of it but every time he thought about it, it brought more pain to his head and more unconscious rubbing of his temple.
For the first time, Argus took a good look at him. "You look pale. You should have Cally examine you. The drugs might still be having an effect."
"You don't have to pretend to care," said Sester. "You've met all the requirements of being inanely polite." He picked up his cup of tea, hoping that it would warm the cold that was spreading inside him.
"I will determine what's required or not," said Argus. He stared at Sester's hand; it was shaking as it held the tea cup. Argus immediately took it from him. Sester was as white as a sheet now and there was a fevered brightness in his eyes. Argus felt his head. "You're burning up," he said in alarm. "Vila, call Cally! I'll get him to the medical unit."
Vila immediately sprang up from his seat and rushed out. Corinne was a step behind him.
"This isn't necessary," Sester protested as Argus took his arm and pulled him up from his seat. It would have been more convincing if his voice wasn't a whisper now and he staggered back against Argus because his legs were too weak to hold him up. Even with help, he could barely stand.
"I'll be the judge of that." Ignoring his protests, Argus lifted Sester up in his arms and carried him bodily to the medical unit.
At the urgent summons, Cally and Reya immediately came back up to the ship. By now, Sester was barely coherent even though he still made faint attempts to get up.
Argus put his hand on Sester's chest to keep him down. He said gently, "It's alright. Lie still." Despite his antagonism towards this man, he could not ignore a person in pain.
Argus's voice seemed to calm the fevered man. Sester stopped struggling and closed his eyes.
Reya, Vila and Corinne stood by with worried looks on their faces. Vila said, "This doesn't look good. I thought there might be something wrong with him last night."
Reya asked in a concerned voice, "What was wrong?"
"Well, I went to see him in his cabin. This was before you got there, Argus. I tried the buzzer several times but he didn't answer. I'd checked with Zen so I knew he was in there so I opened the door. He was sitting in the dark."
Argus said, "He didn't answer this morning either when I went to get him for breakfast. It took him along time to open the door."
"Why wouldn't he say anything?" asked Vila.
"I guess he didn't want anyone to know." Argus found that he had to keep his hand on Sester's chest else, the man became restless and moved around. Argus found it hard to have suspicious and antagonistic feelings about someone who was clearly suffering; especially when he was partially responsible for his pain. For now at least, Sester was no longer a rival, he was someone who needed his help.
Reya had a worried expression on her face as she watched but she took Argus's free hand in hers. "Thank you for helping him."
"I had to do something," said Argus.
"I know you did." She knew it was in his character to help those in trouble no matter who they were. It was one of the reasons why she loved him. She knew it set him apart from most of the military leaders that were trained by the Federation. Reya often wondered how he had managed to stay human.
When Cally finished her examination, there was a worried look on her face. "We have to get him down to the Tellarans. His brain is fevered and the readings are erratic. If we don't do something soon, I'm afraid of the consequences."
"He might suffer brain damage?" asked Argus.
Vila said, "Oh that definitely doesn't sound good."
Cally replied, "That might be a possibility. I don’t have enough knowledge in this area."
Argus was all action now. "Vila, get to the flight deck and contact the Tellarans. Tell them the situation." He was already lifting Sester up from the bed. "We need their medical specialists. I'll get Sester to the teleport room."
"Right." Vila raced out with Corinne in tow.