9th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Pursuing Truth
Introduction: Strange room-mates and welcome visitors.
Everyone watched with a mixture of concern, curiosity or suspicion as Sester was tended to by the Tellaran medical personnel.
Dr. Kendric approached them.
Argus was still struggling with the confusion of concern and a desire towards antagonism as he asked, “How is he, Doctor?”
“We’ve been able to stabilize him.”
For now the concern won out. “Did the drugs do this?”
“Yes. The drugs have a potent combined effect. His mind is in the process of healing itself but it will take time. Normally, with the treatments and drugs we've given him, the healing should have progressed normally without further aids. But we did not anticipate the strength of his mind or we would have kept him here for further observation.”
Cally was full of professional, not to mention personal curiosity. “I don’t understand. What does the strength of his mind have to do with what happened?”
Dr. Kendric hesitated as if she was uncertain what she could reveal to them. “Unfortunately, that is something I can’t tell you without Sester’s permission. It’s a matter of professional ethics and privacy. I hope you understand.”
Avon said speculatively, “Are you saying that there is something about his mind which is causing this?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
Vila said, “That’s not vague at all, is it? Couldn’t you give us a clue?”
Dr. Kendric turned to him, "You would have to ask him when he wakes up."
Cally wanted to know. "When will that be, Dr. Kendric?"
"We've given him a mild sedative to encourage him to sleep and we will be monitoring him carefully. Like Avon, we recommend that he stay under observation. That way we can deal with any problems which come up."
Avon readjusted the bed in the observation room for a sitting position. Plumping up the pillow for his back, he carefully climbed up onto it, stretched out his legs comfortably and crossing his arms over his chest. He watched impassively as the medical personnel wheeled Sester over to a place next to him. Several hours in the examination room under the machines had assured the medical specialists that he would not suffer another relapse.
Having company might have been an annoyance at any other time but having the psychostrategist where he could keep an eye on him was very useful. He wouldn't have to feel useless even though he was stuck here under observation.
The Tellarans had provided a computer terminal that gave Avon access to anything he had a mind to explore. He'd amassed a large amount of information on various Tellaran scientific and technological advances. They had made great strides in many areas that he was eager to explore and see firsthand. He couldn’t wait to see how compatible some of it would be with the Justice's technology.
After setting up the various monitors for Sester, the medical personnel left. They were relatively alone now, except for the discreet observers at the other end of the room. Avon looked over at the man he considered his second greatest enemy.
Sester's face still reflected faint tension and at times, his breathing was laboured. In this state, he looked vulnerable; not like the devious, cold-blooded psychostrategist who had broken him with clinical precision.
When Avon looked at this man, it was hard to hold back the burning anger. At times, there were other feelings; things he refused to acknowledge in the daytime but which haunted his nightmares. An underlying fear and panic. This man had pushed him to the point where he no longer wanted to live.
Sester seemed to know him better than he knew himself. He knew the things that haunted him, that drove him and the things that would ultimately destroy him.
Avon hated this man almost as much as he hated Servalan. If he had the opportunity, he would destroy him. Unfortunately, they were both being carefully monitored in the observation room.
Vila and Corinne came in through the open doorway. The corner of Avon's lips twitched briefly. It was the only indication of welcome on an otherwise inexpressive face. It seemed a long time since he'd had the opportunity to talk to Vila.
Vila glanced at Sester before saying, "Corinne and I thought it must be boring for you so we thought we'd come keep you company for awhile."
Corinne gave him a shy friendly smile.
Avon asked, "More magic tricks?"
Vila found them some chairs and they sat down next to Avon's bed. "No. We know how you feel about those so we thought…"
Avon interrupted, "I enjoyed your show."
Vila was taken aback. "You did?"
"You won your bet," said Avon.
Vila still couldn’t quite believe he had heard correctly. "Oh. There was a trick that you didn't know?"
Avon looked at Vila and Corinne for a moment. Even to his uninformed eyes, it was clear that they were joined together already. "No."
Vila sounded disappointed. "Then I didn't win the bet."
"But if you knew how all the tricks were done, that means you won the bet."
Avon repositioned the pillow behind his back and explained, "You achieved something that I've never been able to."
"The affect you accomplished with the audience was more potent than simple tricks."
A ragged voice from the other bed broke into the conversation. "What he means is that you are the magic, Vila. You and Corinne. You were able to achieve something that Avon is not capable of doing or understanding. You make people laugh and you lift them from the commonplace to a place of magic. You even made him enjoy the show. That is a wonderful magic ability."
Avon glared over at the psychostrategist. Sester had turned towards them and had been listening to their conversation. Avon said in a voice that could freeze the coldest of hearts, "This is a private conversation."
"My mistake. Pretend I'm not here." Sester smiled and rolled onto his back, but then he rolled towards them again. "Oh, before I mind my own business and none of yours, what am I doing here?"
Vila asked, "Don't you remember?"
Sester said, "The last thing I recall was…" He appeared to think for a moment. "…getting some coffee. Argus and I were…attempting to be nice to each other." An amused grin curved his lips. "I don't suppose he tried to poison me in his effort to be nice?"
Vila said, "He'd never do that. Not Argus."
Avon said, "I might."
Sester grinned at him. "And I bet you wouldn't bother being nice first."
Avon had an aggressive smile on his face. "I'll let you know."
Sester grinned, "Right before you poison me no doubt."
Vila asked Sester, "You don't remember Argus carrying you to the medical unit?"
Sester had a teasing look on his face. "Are you sure it wasn't to the airlock?"
Avon said expressionlessly, "Obviously an oversight."
Sester grinned at him again and said, "Like you, he could never ignore someone who was vulnerable or hurt."
Avon snarled and said with tight anger, "Don't presume to know me."
There was a flash of guilt on Sester's face. It was because of his understanding of Avon that he had been able to break him. "I'm sorry, Avon. It was insensitive of me."
Avon leaned towards him and punctuated each word with hostility, "Your apologies mean nothing to me."
"Of course. I'm….I'll shut up now." He faced the ceiling.
Vila tried to defuse the situation. He said jokingly to Avon, "So you owe me a favour now?"
Avon directed a long gaze at him. "It appears that I do."
Vila grinned impishly, "An unconditional one? It was your idea, remember?"
"So it was. What would you like me to do?"
Vila glanced slyly at Corinne before saying, "Can I tell you it later?"
Avon's eyes narrowed, "What are you up to, Vila?"
"Oh, nothing you have to worry about." He added hastily, "Or anyone."
"Now why does that worry me?" asked Avon.
Corinne had been very curious about the interactions between the people in the room. She asked, "Avon, why would that make you worried?"
Avon stared at her for a few seconds and then a with something resembling a twinkle in his eyes said, "You have no idea. Perhaps it's time you learned. I wouldn't want you to be uninformed."
"Hey!" said Vila in mock protest. "Don't listen to him, Corinne. He likes to make trouble."
"I believe that's your province. I seem to remember Space City and…"
"That's not fair! I was…I…I…"
Corinne was very curious now. She hadn't seen Vila this flustered since she had brought up the topic of having children. He had raced out of the room in record time on his way to get some birth control meds. "What happened on Space City?"
Vila sputtered, "I just…well…it was like this…"
Avon said helpfully, "Vila likes having fun." There was a hint of a mischievous grin on his face.
Corinne said with a smile, "Oh, I do too. We both do."
Avon said, "Not this kind of fun."
Vila had a near-panicked look on his face, "Avon…"
"He…" Avon had a roguish grin on his face. "Spent the entire time…playing games with a computer."
Vila's mouth dropped open and then he quickly said, "Yes. I like computer games." He gave Avon pointed look, "Especially the funny ones."
Avon chuckled. "As do I."
Corinne said, "Do you think I might enjoy them?"
Vila said with a grin. It had been a long time since he and Avon had played games with each other. "Maybe we can get Avon to program us some."
Avon glanced slyly at him, "Would this be in the nature of a favour?"
"Oh, no. You're not getting off that easy, Avon. You could do it as a nice gesture for Corinne. To show what a nice person you can be sometimes. You know, start off on the right foot?" Vila had a wide challenging grin.
Avon stared at Vila and then the friendly young woman next to him. Corinne had an innocent quality to her that was rare these days considering what she must have gone through on her home planet. She had intelligent eyes and like her mother, had an underlying strength of character. "I will do it as a welcome for Corinne."
After Vila and Corinne left, Avon stared a long while at Sester before going back to his researches on the computer terminal.
Sester asked jokingly, "Have you decided to let me live for now?"
Without looking up, Avon said, "Don't get too confident."
Sester chuckled good-naturedly. He watched Avon work for a while, studying the way he was totally focused on the screen in front of him. "I don't suppose I said anything incriminating while I was out?"
Avon looked up slowly and fixed him with a hard look. "The Tellarans found out something about your mind."
Sester's easy manner did not disappear but his finger traced an invisible circle on the surface of his bed. "Did they tell you that?"
The tension in the air was palpable as each opponent tested the field.
Sester glanced at him briefly. Avon was still fixing him with an impenetrable stare. Sester gave him a calculated grin. "I doubt if they told you anything. That is not the Tellaran way." Invisible circles overlapped each other.
"Then there is something."
Sester's grin turned into an amused smile. "I could hardly deny something we both seem to know."
"What are you trying to hide?"
Sester shook his head lightly. "Avon, do you expect me to answer that?"
Each thrust of words was met with a sharp response. "If you want me to believe you."
Sester's finger stopped tracing the circles. "We both know that will never be possible."
"There are differing levels of trust."
"And you are offering the least trustworthy level of trust? In return for what the Tellarans discovered about my mind? That's hardly a fair trade."
An aggressive smile appeared on Avon's face. "Then it must be something substantial."
"Or something I don't think you would believe."
Sester's eyes met Avon's. "I want to tell you the truth, Avon; if there was any chance that you would believe me."
Without a further word, Avon turned his attentions back to the computer.
Sester sighed and went back to contemplating the ceiling and applying his skills to the mystery of his mind.
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