"No!" A shout disturbed the night, waking those who preferred to be asleep.
Avon’s eyes snapped open. He sat up quickly and looked around warily. Restless sounds came from his unwanted roommate. Sester’s breathing was strained and he was tossing and turning. The two observers had already rushed over to examine him.
One of them immediately sent out a call for help while the other one undocked Sester’s bed and steered it towards the examination room. Avon got up and followed.
Sester groaned in agony and cried out, “Avon!” There was a stricken look on the man’s face.
He’s dreaming about me? Avon did not like that idea. He hung back as several of the medical specialists rushed into the room just as Sester was transferred to the examination bed.
“No!” Sester shouted again. Something horrible was happening to him inside whatever dream he was trapped in.
Avon had no sympathies for his enemy. The man deserved whatever he was experiencing. It was the least that Sester could suffer for what he had done to him. He hoped that the dream Avon was torturing him in the same way he had been tortured.
It was unfortunate that the Tellaran doctors were working to relieve the dreaming man’s suffering. The rays of the various machines for the mind were already bathing Sester’s head in comforting light. The medical specialists and technicians were working frantically. They seemed to be experiencing some difficulties. Avon wondered if they had the same problems when they worked with him during one of his nightmares.
Sester almost screamed the next, “No!” It was a heart-rending sound, for those who had a heart for him. His face had turned pale. The next words pierced the room; they were laden with guilt, horror and anguish. “I'm sorry, Avon! I'm…"
Sester cried out in agony. Avon grimaced. There was pain in that sound, something deep and inescapable. Just like Cally's and his own. It was the sound of a soul in torment.
He heard one of the medical specialists say, "His mind is too strong. It's overriding our efforts. He will not let go of the memory."
A woman's voice said, "We have to use stronger measures then. I'll give him a dose of…" The rest of her words trailed off as she picked up something and moved towards Sester. She injected something into his neck. The screaming stopped abruptly.
Avon returned to his bed in the observation room. He needed to think.
The doctors were still with Sester in the next room, watching to make sure that he did not suffer a relapse. Avon could not watch any longer. He had to escape back to the tranquillity of the observation room.
The place seemed bare without Sester in the next bed. The observers at the far end were too unobtrusive to make much of an impression. Having them there provided an underlying sense of peace and security but Sester had been a much stronger presence; an irritating and hated one, but he gave Avon something to focus on.
Empathy was something that Avon had to work at. Sometimes it came naturally, but most times, it was a conscious exercise to do something that seemed alien to him. He considered it in very bad taste that this rare natural impulse should come at this time; for someone he had every reason to hate.
I'm sorry, Avon! Avon tried to shake the sound of the words from his head. It wasn't just the words; it was what lay beneath it that he did not want to hear. The sounds of guilt and horror. A man who had done something that he deeply regretted. A man who hated himself because of his own actions.
Empathy for a man he hated. Because he was also such a man.
No! It was hard to tell if the explosion of anguish was his memory of Sester's or his own. In an uncharacteristic display of emotion, Avon's fist came crashing down on the surface of the table beside the bed, sending a half-full cup of water tottering perilously close to the edge. Avon grabbed it before it fell, causing the remainder of the water to splash over himself. Wonderful. He put the glass back down.
Sester was steered into the room by a doctor and one of the assistants. They placed him back into place next to Avon. The psychostrategist was still unconscious but he was breathing easier and he was no longer as pale.
Avon asked, "How is he?"
The doctor replied, "He's resting easy now. His brain activity has decreased to within normal ranges. We will continue to monitor him carefully."
"Has he regained consciousness?"
"Not yet. There is no reason why he can't, but we suspect that his mind doesn't want to yet. Whatever memories he experienced earlier may have something to do with it. You might try talking to him, if you're up to it."
Avon did not like the idea of having to talk to Sester with anything other than hostility. "Is that necessary?"
The doctor studied him for a moment. There was compassion in his eyes that made Avon uncomfortable. "The memories Sester had dealt with you."
The doctor continued, "Despite your unwillingness to admit it, what happened in the other room has also affected you. That is why you left."
Avon bristled, "You're mistaken. There was no reason for me to remain. That is why I left."
The man nodded slowly, more in understanding than in agreement with what Avon was saying. "Perhaps." His eyes searched Avon's as if he was trying to ascertain a deeper comprehension of this complex and difficult man. The doctor nodded again, this time as if he had decided on something. "He may not remember anything when he wakes."
Avon said, "That would not be surprising. Not everyone remembers dreams."
"This was not an ordinary dream."
Avon waited for the doctor to explain further but the man only gave him a brief friendly smile. "If you wish to discuss it further, I recommend that you ask him." The doctor and the assistant left the room.
An annoyed frown darkened Avon's face. People had far too many mysterious attentions concerning him. He liked being an unsolvable riddle to others, but only when he was the one holding all the answers.
The normally calm and controlled Argus was bursting with happy energy when he ran into Vila and Corinne in the corridor near the makeshift gym.
"Vila! I was going to come and find you and Corinne." He had a big grin that spread from ear to ear. "How'd you like to come and see how the Tellarans fight? They've agreed to let us go on one of their patrols."
Vila could see that Argus was looking forward to this. He didn't have the heart to tell Argus that watching more space battles was seven hundred and twenty-six on his list of favourite things to do, just after having all his teeth pulled out without anaesthetic or dancing backwards off a cliff.
They were on Tellar to enjoy the peace. He really liked peace. "That sounds very interesting. But Corinne and I…" He looked at his partner-in-crime for a little help.
Corinne had an interested look on her face. "I don't mind, Vila. You don't have to say no because of me."
Vila tried to make obscure eye signals. Corinne only looked at him curiously, perhaps wondering what was wrong with his eyes. He sighed. "I was afraid that you wouldn't want to see it. But if you want to…" He tried a little stronger eye signal.
Argus asked, "Vila, is something wrong with your eyes?"
"Who me?" Vila asked innocently, finally giving up. "Nothing at all. We'd both love to come with you. Watching space battles is…"
Argus said enthusiastically, "I know! It's going to be fascinating to see how a civilization devoted to peace handles itself in a hostile environment."
Vila pointed out, "Didn't we already have a taste of that when we first got here?"
Argus said with a smile, "That was just a taste. I want to get the whole experience! I'm going to get Reya!" He bounded off.
Corinne said, "I think we made him very happy."
Vila looked sharply at her. "You're doing this for him?"
Corinne had a puzzled expression on her face. "I thought that's what you were trying to tell me. Argus has been so unhappy lately, I thought you wanted to support him. And you were making funny shapes with your eyes. I knew you were trying to tell me something. Did I get it wrong?"
Vila felt embarrassed. He had been so happy lately with Corinne and being on Tellar, that he tended not to notice too much else.
It came as a shock to him that Corinne noticed Argus was unhappy. Of course, even if he had, he may not have done much about it. Men didn't tend to be aware of each other's emotional states unless there was conflict or something more interesting.
He loved that Corinne was concerned about things like that. Together they made a good team. "You're right; we should do something to cheer him up. But I think we need to work on our signals."
Argus almost seemed to burst through the door as Reya put the finishing touches on a drawing. "Reya! Are you busy?"
Reya put the drawing pad down and stood up. "I suppose not. What's the big rush?"
"Alyce has arranged for us to join one of their patrols." He had a big enthusiastic smile on his face.
"Oh? She's finally had time to do that?"
"You knew?" Argus asked in astonishment.
She shrugged on a jacket and joined him. "I asked Alyce if she could arrange it. I knew it was something you'd enjoy. I know you've tried very hard to be nice to Sester and that you've been unhappy. I wanted to do something to cheer you up and I wanted to thank you for trying."
"You didn't have to do that. I was only doing what I should have done in the first place. You were right. I was acting like an ass before."
Reya smiled warmly and ran her finger lightly along the edge of his jaw. "I still want to cheer you up. I know you get out of sorts unless you have some kind of outlet."
Argus grinned and put his arms around her. "You gave me enough of an outlet last night."
"I thought that I might give you another one."
Argus suddenly realized something. He asked with concern, "I didn't…wear you out last night, did I? I wasn't thinking. You seemed…so energetic. It was hard to remember that you just got better."
Reya shook her head with amusement. "It takes more than a couple of shots to keep me down. Shall we go?"
It may have been a bright morning, but there seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over Avon's bed as his dark eyes kept watch over Sester. He had washed and eaten a light breakfast but the man was still asleep.
The doctor had said that Sester might not want to wake up because of what he experienced in the dream. It must be a way to protect himself from emotional trauma.
Avon's lips formed an unpleasant snarl. He was very familiar with the subject. Much of it because of Sester. This was poetic justice.
But the doctor had also indicated that the dream that Sester had was not an ordinary one. It was a mystery Avon could not let go of.
If the dream had something to do with him, then perhaps Sester might respond to his voice.
Avon tried to sound at least non-hostile. "Wake up."
He observed the other man carefully, watching for any sign of returning consciousness. No reaction. Avon thought for a moment. "You had a dream last night. Do you want to talk about it?" Still no reaction. "I know the dream had something to do with me." Sester remained unmoved by his attempts.
This was ludicrous. He was talking to an unconscious man. He should be using a stimulant instead. Avon slid open the drawer next to his bed and took out the stimulant that was used to wake him up in the morning. He set the dosage a little higher and said grimly, "You will wake up and talk to me."
Sester's eyes opened. He said, "K…" There was a stab of pain and he brought both hands up to cradle his head. "Stop it! That hurts!"
Avon slid off the bed and approached Sester's bed as the observers rushed over.
Sester saw him and said, "Avon, I'm…" He groaned and closed his eyes as another stab of pain pierced his head. One of the observers injected something into his neck. The agony in his head slowly decreased. The observer said, "Just relax and let it work. Allow your mind to sort itself out."
Sester thought, Sort itself out? There was something. Pain again. Something to be remembered. But what was it?
"You must let it go for now," directed the observer.
"Not yet. Not until…have to tell someone before it goes." What was it? "Avon!"
Avon stepped up so that Sester could see him.
Sester reached out and grabbed his arm. He blinked several times, trying to focus on Avon. There was confusion on Sester's face, as if he wasn't sure who he was looking at. "There was something important I had to tell you."
Avon said calmly, "I'm here."
"I'm…" Sester put his other hand to his head as another stab of pain interfered with his concentration. A veil was drawn across his mind. "I'm…I don't remember." He put his hand down. The pain was gone, along with whatever he had been trying to remember. "What happened?" Sester looked around in bewilderment at the observers and Avon gathered around his bed.
Avon said, "You're supposed to tell me."
One of the observers said, "You had a memory last night. It was a very strong one. We had to put you under."
Sester's eyes widened. "An effect of the mind drugs?"
Sester looked at Avon. "I suppose you want to know what's going on?"
"Are you going to tell me?"
Sester said to the observers. "I'm alright. Can you give us some space? We need to talk."
The observers returned to the other end of the room as the two men watched.
Sester adjusted his bed to a sitting position and leaned back against it. "I don't remember anything about the dream."
"Then this is a pointless exercise," said Avon as he climbed back up to his own bed.
All Sester had were vague impressions. "It had something to do with you."
"I already know that."
"You spoke my name during the dream."
"Oh. Anything specific?"
"You are here to give me information.""
Sester said, "I just told you that I don't remember anything."
Avon could give lessons on sarcasm. "How convenient."
Sester knew that something had changed. Something was making him ill inside but he didn't know what it was. He wanted this man to believe him; he did not want Avon to hate him. "The Tellarans told you that they found something in my mind."
Avon said warily, "Yes. They did indicate that."
"What they found was that I also have mind blocks. I know you won't take my word for it. So I will instruct the Tellarans to give you all information pertaining to me. Would that satisfy you?"
"Do not think that this will change anything between us."
"I never thought it would. And the dream that I had earlier, the one where I called out your name, it was a memory. The Tellarans said that because of the mind drugs that I took, some of the blocks have started deteriorating."
"What are you trying to say?" Avon asked suspiciously.
Sester said, "I'm saying that some of the mind blocks in my head were placed there to prevent me from remembering something about you."
"Something happened between us at the Detention Centre that Servalan doesn't want us to know?"
Sester tried to search his mind for any clue as to what had happened but it was useless. "I suppose it is possible. She kept me locked up for months after I helped you escape. If something did happen between us but Servalan wanted to continue using me, then she would have to block those memories. But that doesn't make sense. Servalan sent me here to work with you. She may have blocked my memories but you had already escaped. It doesn’t work if only one of us has our memories blocked. Eventually we would find out."
"True. Then it must be something else."
"Avon, does that mean that you believe me about the mind blocks?" Sester knew that there was little hope that Avon would believe him about anything, but because of the Tellarans, there was a slight one.
Avon needed the truth from this man who was waiting for his answer. He had finally heard some last night. In a memory of him, Sester had finally given Avon some truth. But if Sester did not remember, Avon was not about to tell him. "I believe the Tellarans."
"I suppose that's better than nothing. At least you accept that my mind has been tampered with as well.”
"That still remains to be seen." Avon was not about to give him any quarter. Because of last night, Avon believed Sester's guilt and desire to help him. He wasn't ready to concede anything else yet.
"Oh, come on, Avon. What else could it be?"
"There is one other possibility. You could have had false mind blocks placed in order to trick us into believing you."
"I would not play such games with my own mind."
"You would do anything to achieve your goals."
Sester said dejectedly, "I suppose I deserve that."
Guilt was a powerful weapon against anyone. It could also be a two-edged sword. Avon said, "I will not rule out that your mind was tampered with."
Sester nodded. "I appreciate that."