10th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Mysteries and Discoveries
Introduction: After the heavy action, drama and angst of the last few chapters, finally one that is mainly light.
EDIT: A small part added to the beginning to set the stage for the following scenes. Marked in blue.
Sester felt like a young child as he stood before his master. A tired, shaky child who was still recovering from the effects of the punishments. Venner was studying him over steepled fingers, taking his time, allowing the silence to work.
When Sester woke on a soft bed in the infirmary, he had been shocked. Why had his master cut short the session in the punishment Chamber? Was he displeased with his failure? Sester hoped that he had something for him to do so that he could redeem himself.
Venner asked, "Tell me about the woman."
Shock nearly gave Sester away but he remained firmly in control of himself. Servalan must have been the source of information. That meant that the Guildmaster knew about Reya. He couldn't know about Kirsten yet. Sester wanted to make sure that she remained a non-topic with the Guildmaster. He did not want this complication.
He maintained a tone of surprised innocence, calling on the roguish charm that was his normal character. "Sir?"
"Charles." There was no warning or threat, but it was enough. This had always been one of Sester's constant trials. He loved women and they found him irresistible. The master had not been pleased but he had allowed a certain latitude as long as Sester didn't allow it to affect his work or objectivity.
Sester grinned apologetically. "You always know me, sir."
"What am I going to do with you?"
Venner suppressed a smile. "That depends. Tell me what kind of trouble you've managed to fall into now."
Sester sighed with exaggerated resignation as his mind worked furiously. How much could he tell his master without making Reya someone of interest? He had to treat her as another one of his playmates. "Her name is Reya Reve.."
A week after the Challenges ended, the Justice crew was readying to depart for Athol. The situation on Chandar had been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The women were safe and Chandaran society was, if not moving out of the dark ages in terms of their views of women, at least open to dialogue in improving the treatment of women.
Avon’s eyes were half-lidded as he lay faced down on his bed.
Cally was almost completely healed but that unfortunately meant that she noticed he had been neglecting himself shockingly (her words). At least that was her assessment of his tendency to work long hours, to substitute nutrition bars for real food, and to sleep on a chair by her bed during her recovery. He didn't agree but there was no stopping her when she had insisted on returning to his regular rehabilitation routine; something she had to forgo during the busy days of the mission on Chandar. Her tendency to nurse him when she thought he needed it was irritating and intruded on his independence but she cared about him. It would be unreasonable to fault her for that. As she pointed out, he had taken care of her when she needed it so he should understand her desire to do the same for him. Before such logic, he had reluctantly relented.
As Cally’s fingers expertly explored his body, searching out areas of tightness and pain and kneading away the stresses, Avon felt light. Each stroke and press released the burdens and tensions, allowing his busy mind to slip into a relaxed meditative mood. She was quite good at it. Calm deep breaths. Avon felt an unfamiliar peace and contentment in this simple activity. His mind wandered.
The oddity. Blake. Why did… His body tensed as memories of the tracking gallery began to surface. A twinge of pain reminded him that he should not be thinking of this now.
“Avon, try to relax.” Cally's touch became less rehabilitative and more sensual. Avon inhaled deeply as she caressed him, her hands following the curve of his back. His mind concentrated on the enjoyable sensations rather than continuing with the dark memories.
He shivered slightly as Cally’s fingers reached a particularly sensitive area. It was a pleasurable feeling and almost seemed as if she was touching him lower down. It was fortunate he was faced down. Or perhaps not. He mumbled into the pillow, “That depends on your definition of relaxation.”
Her hands wandered lower. Avon drew in a hissed breath. “That’s a good definition.”
Cally smiled and helped him to roll over.
Reya rested her head on Argus’s comfortable chest, her fingers playing along the ridges of muscles.
Argus said lightly, “You know that if you keep doing that, you won’t be sleeping for awhile?”
“I’m not sleepy.”
Argus grinned and wrapped his arms around her. “Neither am I.”
An hour later, as their breathing returned to normal and their bodies shone with the evidence of their exertions, Reya said, “Quite a few of the women have decided to stay on Chandar.”
“Hmm?” His eyes were closed. “That’s good.”
“Did you hear me?”
“Mmmm….yes.” He was enjoying the warmth of her body against his. “You said…the women want to stay.”
“About half of them.”
With his eyes still closed, he nuzzled the side of her neck lightly. “Mmmm.”
Reya sighed but the light kisses turned it into a light moan. “It looks like the women will be approved as Champions. It will ensure the protection of the ones who remain.”
“You were…” His kisses trailed up to her ear, causing a ticklish sensation. “…magnificent. All of you.”
Her breathing quickened and she squeezed his firm shoulders. “Was it hard being support this time?”
Argus lifted his head and looked down at her. “It was horrible. I think I deserve a reward.”
“I just bet you do and I can guess what you have in mind.”
Argus sighed. “Another person who thinks I’m predictable.”
Reya traced his lips. “Who said you are?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You’re reassuring in your predictability. Everyone knows that they can depend on you.”
His eyes were soft. “How do you do that? Make everything sound much better than it is?”
“It’s the truth. And I don’t think it could have been too horrible. We saved an appropriately heroic role for you at the end.”
An ingenuous smile brightened his face. “That was fun. I’m glad that no one died. Well…other than that Thyssen ship. But I didn’t have a choice about that. They wouldn’t stop firing on the women.”
“I’m sure everyone cheered when you did it.”
Argus sighed sadly. “I suppose.”
Reya brushed her fingers through his hair. “There are some things about you that are not predictable.”
“I know something else that wouldn’t be predictable.” He whispered something in her ear.
Reya’s eyes widened. “Oh.” She started to blush. “Where did you learn that?”
“I promised not to say.”
“I think I can guess.”
“Do you…” Argus was turning a light shade of red. “…want to try it?”
Corinne twisted around, trying to see what Vila was doing behind her. “Are you sure it’s supposed to be like this?”
Vila picked up the clear plastic instruction sheet. “That’s what it says here.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.” She wriggled around and adjusted the straps. “Shouldn’t we be doing this in one of the cargo bays?”
Vila eyed her critically, wondering if he had it on backwards. “Don’t worry, we won’t turn it on. Here take it off.” He helped her as she shrugged the straps off her shoulders.
“Why do we need a jetpack?”
“I saw it in one of the Chandaran shops.” Vila didn’t like most of the Chandarans but they did have interesting gadgets. “I thought…we might be able to use it. One of these days. Be prepared, I always say.”
“Do you say that?” asked Corinne curiously. It was the first time she had heard this from him.
“And its fun.” Vila put his arms through the loops and buckled himself in.
And accidentally activated the switch. He shot upwards at an alarming speed.
Corinne tried to grab him. “Vila!”
One of the Tellaran doctors at the infirmary looked at Vila’s head wound. “How did this happen?”
“I…banged into a door.”
The doctor eyed him suspiciously, “And this caused an injury to the top of your head?”
“I wasn’t looking.”
Corinne blurted out, “Vila was trying to help me.”
“I see.” There was a faintly amused look on her face. “Do you feel dizzy?” She ran through a list of symptoms as she checked his eyes and coordination.
“None of those.”
She asked several questions to test his brain function. When she was satisfied, she said, “You’re fortunate. There doesn’t seem be a concussion, just a large bruise on your head and smaller scratches and bruises on your arms that are easily taken care of.”
The doctor took out a tissue regenerator and applied it to his head. “Try to avoid ‘banging’ into doors for the next day or two and come back immediately if you feel any of the symptoms I mentioned.”
Kirsten sighed heavily as she sat at a table with several of the woman. Even though they were all happy, there was a subdued air. Some of them were preparing to leave in the morning. “I’m going to miss all of you.”
Sentha said, “We could always visit each other. No one can stop us now.”
“Still, it’s not the same.” She sighed again.
“Is there something else wrong?”
Kirsten said, “I never thought you would choose to stay.”
“I’m even more surprised than you are but Chandar is my home. I wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else.”
Alara said, “I wouldn’t either.”
Sentha said with light sarcasm, “I thought you had another reason to stay. How is Brady, by the way?”
Alara blushed. She had been visiting the injured young man at the hospital every day. “He’s fine.”
Sentha said suggestively, “I’m sure he is.”
Alara was turning a deep shade of pink.
Kirsten was glad that Sentha didn’t realize that she hadn’t answered her question. The truth was there was another reason why she was feeling out of sorts. She missed Sester. He had an easy charm that made everything seem fun. She missed the annoyed and frustrated looks he would get when she teased him. The game they were playing with each other was exciting and made her feel alive. He inspired feelings in her that she knew were reciprocated, whenever he allowed himself to acknowledge them. She loved the challenge and mystery of him.
She was also worried. He was unusually subdued before he left and he deftly avoided all of her questions about where he was going and why. He had promised that he would return. She was going to hold him to that promise or go and find him if he didn’t come back.