Like a man on a mission, Argus walked briskly into the observation room. Avon and Sester were sitting up on their beds talking. Argus's pace slowed, an instinct told him that something had changed in the room. He looked around warily, every sense alert as he continued moving towards them.
When they noticed Argus, both men stopped talking and turned to look at him. There was an intense interest in their eyes, as if they were studying every aspect of him. It made him feel like a junior officer on parade for the first time and he had two left feet.
The last time, Avon had asked him to remove the tracer bracelet. What was it going to be this time? What was going on between these two? What had Sester done to Avon to make Avon believe him? He would not have thought that Avon would fall prey to his tricks but Sester was dangerous. He could even fool Cally's psi abilities.
Argus eyed the psychostrategist warily as he neared the foot of Avon’s bed. He was determined to resist whatever tricks the man was going to throw at him. The crew had to be protected from this man. Avon had to be protected. But he would have to do this carefully. Argus knew that Sester could easily turn the situation against him. He wished that he could use his most formidable weapons, he had confidence in those. It would be so much simpler and the victory would be sure. Instead he had to play the game of words.
First he had to understand the situation with Avon. He said lightly, “Avon, if you’re going to ask me to give Sester the ship, I’m not going to do it. I don’t care what you say. It was already bad enough asking me to remove the tracer.”
Argus glared at Sester with suspicion. The man always seemed to know what to do or say that would irritate him. “Avon, what’s the urgency? Why did you call me down here?”
Avon had an indecipherable look on his face. He said flatly, “You lied to us.”
Argus reacted in surprise and looked from one man to the other in bewilderment. “What’s going on?” His eyes narrowed as they settled on Sester. “What did Sester tell you?”
As a statement of fact, Avon said, “Your name is not Drel Argus.”
“What?!” There was incomprehension on Argus’s face. “Of course it is. I never lied to you about that.”
Sester said hesitantly, “Jack.”
Argus froze and then he turned slowly to face him. “What did you call me?”
Avon said, “Your name is Jack.”
“No. It’s not. But…” There was confusion on Argus’s face. “I used to be called Jack when I was young. I…always hated my own name.”
Sester said in a light teasing manner, “Drel…yes, I can see why you would hate it.”
Argus stiffened and he said in a tense, almost angry voice, “It was my father’s name.”
Sester said in immediate apology, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you, Jack.”
Argus said in a controlled voice, “Don’t call me that. No one calls me that. Not since…” A dark shadow seemed to pass across his eyes. His voice became cold. “Jack died a long time ago.”
Sester remembered the dream and the strong boy with the desperate question. He said with compassion, “I’m sorry.”
Argus said harshly, “Stop saying that. What do you know about it?”
Sester’s eyes sought Avon’s. “What do you remember?”
Avon’s hand went to his head as he tried to recall the dream. The memories still caused pain, but it was a condition he was used to. “Fragments. Nothing coherent.” He concentrated on Argus’s face. “I do remember Jack. And you.”
Argus had an uncomfortable feeling, “Will someone tell me what’s going on before I get a headache?”
Avon asked sharply, “Have you been experiencing pain in your head?”
Argus said with exasperation, “Only the ones that the two of you give me. Now will someone please tell me what’s going on before I decide that the two of you have gone insane and need some medical assistance?”
Sester said lightly, “You’d better tell him, Avon. He’s never going to believe me. Besides which I do want to keep breathing.”
Avon fixed a steely gaze on the man that he had once known as Jack. “When Sester took the mind drugs, it opened up certain avenues in his mind. He was able to access memories that were previously closed to him.”
Argus asked, “Closed in what way?”
Sester said, “When the Tellarans were examining me, they found mind blocks.”
There was scepticism in Argus’s eyes but he said, “Go on.”
Avon said, “He has been experiencing memories of the past.”
Sester added, “We both have.”
There was a pause as Avon and Sester looked at Argus closely, making him feel like something under a microscanner. Avon said, “The same memories.”
Argus asked with confusion, “What do you mean the same memories?”
Sester said, “Avon and I have some memories in common.”
Avon said with significance, “As do you.”
Argus looked as if he was facing two crazy people. He started backing away slowly. “You two stay here…I’ll go and get the doctors.”
Sester said to Avon with amusement, “He doesn’t believe you either.”
Avon said firmly, “Jack, stay here.”
Argus stopped. He looked at Avon uncertainly.
Sester had a curious look on his face. “That’s good, Avon. He does remember on some level even if it’s not consciously. He has always…listened to you.”
Argus eyed Sester warily but came back towards them. “Alright, you both know that I used to be called Jack. And you’re saying that we shared a history together, one which I don’t remember.”
Avon said, “Yes, none of us did.”
Sester said carefully, “That means that you have mind blocks as well, Jack.”
Argus said sharply, “Don’t call me that.”
Avon asked, “Jack, do you remember the Academy?”
“Of course I do. I…” Argus stopped in shock. “How did you know about the Academy?”
Avon replied, “All three of us were there.”
“But I don’t remember any of you.”
There was a hard look on Avon’s face. “They took those memories from us.”
Sester said, “You may not want to know this Argus, but the three of us used to be friends.”
Argus said with a trace of antagonism in his voice, “You’re right, I don’t want to know. Not about you. But…” He turned to Avon. “We used to be friends?”
Avon said, “That is what the memories indicate.”
Argus tried to understand the implications of what he was hearing. “I’m glad. It would explain some things. I never understood why…” Now Argus understood why he had given up what he did in order to protect Avon and his willingness to have him as a partner. “…well, let’s just say that some things make sense now. So where do we go from here?”
Avon’s head tilted in speculation, “You have hidden memories.”
Glancing quickly at Argus, Sester said immediately, “That might not be a good idea.” He gave a meaningful look to Avon. “At the moment both our minds are unstable, we should not risk a third one.”
Argus asked suspiciously, “Are you trying to keep something from me?”
Sester said sincerely, “Of course not. These mind blocks were placed by people who were determined to keep these memories from us. Removing them may be dangerous. My mind and Avon’s are already compromised. We should not risk yours as well.”
Avon remembered the look in the eyes of the boy who did not want to kill anyone. “Sester’s right, Jack. There is no point in risking all three of us. The ship needs you.”
Argus said reluctantly, “Alright. You’re not going to keep anything from me?”
Avon said, “We will tell you everything that you would want to know.”
Sester glanced over at Avon. “Avon, was there someone in that tunnel with you?”
Avon said, “Yes. It was…” He gasped in pain and held his head. “It…I don’t remember.”
Sester said, “It’s alright, Avon. We’ll find out. Just leave it for now.” His lips pursed in thought. “Don’t try to remember the bully either. I suspect you’re going to have the same problem.”
Avon groaned as pain seemed to explode inside his head.
“Avon! Stop it!”
Argus put his arm around Avon’s shoulders. His voice was a low comforting rumble. “It’s alright, Avon. Listen to him. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Avon tried to concentrate and put thoughts of the bully away from his mind. The pain faded slowly. “When did you start listening to him?”
Argus said wryly, “I don’t plan to make a habit of it.”
Sester sighed, “It’s amazing how some things never change. It seems that we need to find out the identity of two more people.”
Avon straightened up and looked at Argus. Argus let go of him and took a step back.
Avon said, “It appears so.”
Sester said, “There is a bigger mystery at play here.”
Argus’s voice became cold and determined. His voice lowered. “Who wiped our memories? And why? And what is the Academy?”
Sester nodded, “Yes that. But there’s an even bigger one.”
Avon asked, “What are you thinking?”
A strange smile spread across Sester’s face, one that disappeared quickly. “Don’t you find it odd that the three of us are together again after all these years?”
Argus had a thoughtful look on his face. “You don’t think it was a coincidence?”
Sester asked, “What does your instinct tell you?”
Argus nodded. “You’re right. Something doesn’t feel right about it.”
Sester said with a light grin, “If you’re not careful, you are going to make a habit out of it. Listening to me that is.”
Argus glared at him.
Sester said with amusement, “Don’t look at me like that. There are worse things.”
“Not for me.”
Sester tried not to smirk.
Avon said, “I do not believe in coincidence. We need to go back to Earth. There is one person who knows.”
From the determined and ruthless look in Avon’s eyes, Sester already knew what he had in mind. He asked nervously, “You want me to find out from Servalan?”
“She must have files. Ones she keeps from you.”
Sester’s face paled. “I know she does. But…Avon…I can’t go back. Not after all this.”
“You are the only one who can.”
Sester wished that those dark, penetrating eyes would look anywhere else except at him. He wished that the guilt did not churn in his stomach every time he looked at Avon. Avon didn’t have a reason to care about him anymore, not as he once did. Sester knew that it was his own fault.
Kerr had said it. Of the three of them, he was the only one who had received what he wanted. And he had done something terrible with his life. When they turned his friends into what they were today, had he even fought what they did to him? Or had he welcomed it because it had been what he always wanted? He wished he could remember and that the memories would tell him something better about himself. But he was afraid. “You don’t know what you’re asking me to do.”
Avon’s stare was merciless.
Sester said reluctantly, “I’ll do it. But…only if you let the Tellarans heal you. I’m not going to do this if you’re going to die on me.”
Argus said, “Avon, he’s…” He stopped for a moment. “Did I used to call you Kerr?”
Avon stared at him. “You did. But as with yours, that name is dead.”
“Alright,” Argus said with a touch of regret. “Sester’s right.” He glanced quickly at the man, causing Sester to suppress a smile. “We’ve just found each other again. We can’t let the people who did this to us get away with it. We need you to be strong enough to help us fight them. At least let the Tellarans fix some of the more serious damage.”
Sester said, “Avon, I will go to Servalan and find out what we need to know. No conditions. But Argus is right; we need you strong so that we can fight our enemies.”
Avon looked at both men. He saw the boys in them very clearly now, the blond boy and the strong one. Even though he only had a few brief memories of them, they felt like his long lost family, even more than the memories of his real family. Someone had tried to take that from them.
There was a nagging thread of feeling, an indistinct thought that there was something missing. The thought produced pain. Avon suppressed a wince. They were right, he had to become stronger. There were too many things to be remembered, too many obstacles to be overcome, and too many enemies to be defeated. And now there was one more.
The enemies were not just in the present, they were in the past.
Now that we know who the third boy is, I can explain about the name, Jack. Argus mentioned very briefly once to Reya that he had another name but he never told her what it was. This was in the first story of Perceptions.