Category: Humour, Drama
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Jenna steps out with a rogue.
Note: No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, this is a second chapter today. This was one of the ones that had been pre-written and it's a fun one so I decided to post it too.
Jenna met the man in an out-of-the-way establishment. A very posh restaurant where even most Alphas couldn't afford to go to. It was the kind of place that charged so much that anonymity was part of the service.
The refined atmosphere and the luxurious surroundings filled her with nostalgia. Even the smells lifted this place above the common and spoke of civility. People who frequented these establishments wore privilege like a second skin.
If the mysterious man wanted to see her, he would have to pay for it.
She used to frequent places like this. Before everything went wrong and she was forced into a life of crime as the only way to reclaim the lifestyle she used to have. It had been a long time since she had such simple ambitions.
Booth Eight. Tier Four.
She followed the deferential waiter in black as he led her through the maze of corridors. There wasn't any hint of surveillance, traps or a Federation presence. So far so good. She'd scouted out the place for half an hour outside before entering.
The waiter stopped in front of a control panel. "Please, put your hand on the ident pad, Madame."
Do I look like a madam? A disgruntled Jenna placed her left hand on the indicated surface. The panel turned green and the door slid open.
"The door control will only activate for yourself and your guest. And authorized restaurant personnel, of course. Bon appétit, Madame." The waiter stepped aside to let her in.
She was going to have to start wearing something that made her younger, thought Jenna as she entered the door, and nearly did a double take, her hand sliding towards the pistol that was concealed inside her jacket. She exclaimed, "I know you!"
Sester greeted her with a warm smile. "We've met before. Not personally, of course." He sat relaxed with both hands casually resting on the table. Almost as if he wanted to reassure her that he was unarmed. At least his hands were.
The psychostrategist. Servalan's psychostrategist. The one who had saved Avon's life.
She knew this was a dangerous man. Despite his harmless, easygoing manner, he was a psychostrategist. They had a reputation that was universally feared and respected. You ignored a psychostrategist at your own peril.
Sester was a deceptive charmer who had hidden depths and agendas she could only guess at. He had even been able to fool Cally's psi abilities. Jenna knew she would have to be very careful with him. She would have to be on guard against him every moment and resist his considerable charms.
She lowered herself into the seat opposite Sester, her eyes full of wariness. Jenna noticed that there was already a bottle of opened wine breathing in a container next to the table. Sester lifted the bottle with practiced movements and filled the waiting glasses on the table in front of him. He slid one over to her and said pleasantly. “You have very good taste. This is a fine establishment. Did you used to come here often?”
This was one of Sester's favourite restaurants. He came here frequently, often bringing dates or people he wanted to give a special treat. Or to dine with his fellow psychostrategists. It was a discreet place with enclosed booths for those who wanted privacy.
Jenna left the glass untouched and studied the ginger-haired man over the top of her menu. “Only when I want someone to pay.”
He grinned. “And I would be paying, of course.”
“You're the one who contacted me.”
“This is hardly a date,” he said pleasantly.
“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not my type. I don’t go in for devious snakes who work for Servalan. I have scruples.”
Sester chuckled, “And I have none at all.”
His charm was smooth and subtle. It told her that he was no threat, but if she wanted some fun, he would be more than obliging.
Jenna said impatiently, “Why did you contact me?”
“I’m looking for a beautiful woman.” His voice was like rough silk, its agreeable baritone vibrations would easily slide past her defences if she let them.
Jenna’s lips thinned in annoyance and she said in the tone of someone who was not amused in the least, “I knew this was a mistake.” She got up to leave.
Sester half-rose from his seat, “Wait. Hear me out.”
Jenna sat down again with suspicion stamped on her face. “I have no time for any games. If I don’t like what I hear...”
“I’m sure you will let me know and make me regret it. But, in the meantime, why don’t we order something? At least you will have enjoyed some gourmet food at my expense, if nothing else. Besides, the waiters might appreciate something to do. They tend to get impatient if patrons just sit and talk.”
Jenna picked up the menu again and pored over it. The items sounded delicious. Jenna was determined to pick the most expensive items on it. The smug psychostrategist deserved to be stiffed for all she could take him for.
Sester slowly picked up his own menu. He already knew what he wanted, but he was using the pretence in order to study Jenna.
Without looking up, Jenna said, “I’m waiting.”
Sester asked casually, “Firing squad, poison or a slow painful death?”
Words without context can be very disconcerting. Especially if you didn’t know if they were aimed at you. Jenna suppressed a reaction of shock. “Are you trying to threaten me?”
“I was speaking of the threat you pose to Avon. Have you decided how he will die?"
Jenna's breathing quickened. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come now, Jenna Stannis. If you don't admit to something, we're going to be at this all day. Let's cut through the preamble and get to the chasing part. You want Avon dead and you're trying to find a way to do that, with or without Avalon's interference."
Jenna realized that it would do no good denying something that Sester seemed certain of. “What do you know about that?”
"A great deal…and not enough."
Jenna's eyes narrowed at the evasion.
Sester smiled at her reaction. "My information about you is incomplete. Your files don’t contain much after you joined up with Blake. Just a few random notes. Mainly referring back to the Blake file. It's almost as if you ceased to exist as an individual."
"This had better not be a criticism of Blake," Jenna warned as her fingers curled ominously around the stem of the wine glass.
"Oh no. I wouldn't dare. He's your great hero. I only meant that after you joined Blake, you seemed to have devoted your life to his cause. Nothing else mattered to you anymore. Not your days as a famous and successful smuggler…"
Jenna instantly corrected him, "Free trader."
The barest hint of a smile played on Sester's lips. He knew it was a designation that she was very sensitive about. "Of course, my mistake. It didn't matter that you once owned your own ship, had your own crew and were master of your own fate."
"I learned that there were more important things."
"Yes." Sester leaned forward just a tad. "Such as dreams worth living for?"
Jenna stared at him. Sester's words were bringing up thoughts and feelings of Blake.
Sester leaned back. "I've been studying you, Jenna. You’re far more ruthless than your files indicate. You've changed a great deal since your free trader days. You are willing to do things now that you never thought you would do. And some of it bothers you because it no longer bothers you.”
She said frigidly, "Don’t presume to know me."
"Oh, I never presume, Jenna. That's the mark of an amateur." His fingers lightly ran around the rim of his own glass. Somehow, he made it seem like a sensual act even though his words were far from it. "I may be many things, but an amateur, I am not. And neither are you."
Jenna said, "I'm tired of your games. Tell me why you asked me here and what information you have about Blake."
Sester picked up his glass of wine and took a tasteful sip before saying with a slight grin, "And why I need a beautiful woman?"
Jenna pulled her gun out and pointed it at him. "Tell me one good reason why I shouldn't shoot you now."
There was a roguish grin on his face now. "Because I'm irresistible?"
Before Jenna could tightened her finger around the trigger, he said, "And because you wanted to see this." He reached slowly into his breast pocket, drew out a small data cube and set it on the table.
Jenna looked at it warily. "What is this?"
"The sample that you're dying to see."
Jenna said, "Show it to me." She emphasized with her gun. "No tricks."
Sester smiled pleasantly. "I wouldn't dare. Well, actually I would…but not right now." He depressed a control on the side. Coloured lights formed above the cube, coalescing into the image of Blake and Deva. They seemed frozen in time.
Her Blake. Her broken Blake, with his face battered by a dozen battles, his eye scarred by betrayal and - her heart caught in her throat - a harsh cynicism and determination in his eyes.
Sester asked, "Would you like to see more?"
Jenna's throat constricted in sorrow. It was too painful to see him again. To see what had become of him. Her reply was almost painful. "Yes."
Sester pressed a different button on the side of the cube. The figures began to move, replaying the scene that she had heard on the shuttle.
All too quickly, it was over.
"Where's the rest of it?" she asked.
"All in good time." Sester leaned back and studied her. "Do you know why you're here?"
Jenna regarded him guardedly. "Don't you mean, do I know why you're here?"
"Oh, I think you know that already. Once you identified who I was. Not that interesting a question really, since you know the answer."
"You want to help Avon," she said with angry accusation.
"You see? Not that interesting. Now the other question…that is fascinating."
"I don't think so."
Jenna wanted to slap him, before she killed him. The man was supremely confident and arrogant in his own abilities. She imagined that other women found him a charming rogue. She didn't. "I'm here to find evidence that Avon betrayed Blake."
Sester shook his head and smiled. "That's not the reason."
Jenna stood up and pointed her gun at his head. "This conversation is over."
"Did they ever find out…" He said the next part with great deliberation, "…that you're the one responsible for Rane being poisoned?"
Jenna's gun hand wavered. How did he know? It had to be a bluff.
Sester continued, "Or that you were one of the key players in Shade trafficking in the Athol Territories?"
Jenna sat down heavily. In a shaky voice, she asked, "How…did you know that?" More importantly, had he told anyone?
"It wasn't that difficult for a man of my calibre. All I had to do was put together the facts. Too many things pointed to inside knowledge. Reya must have suspected." Sester's eyes became suddenly menacingly cold. It was a shocking change from his normal friendly manner. "Is that why you tried to kill her?"
"I didn't know. It was a shock to me."
Sester's face relaxed and he became friendly again. "I know."
"You…do?" Jenna was perplexed.
"You lost control the moment you arrived on Athol and contacted the Shade organization. But you found out too late, didn't you, Jenna? When they poisoned Rane."
"That was…a mistake."
"Was it?" Sester's tone was more curious than accusatory. "You almost killed a friend, Jenna. Was it just a mistake? Or was it the culmination of many bad decisions on your part?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"By the way, you don't have to be concerned. I haven't revealed this information to anyone."
"Do you think you can blackmail me with it? To save Avon?"
"Blackmail is such an ugly word." He paused, giving her a few moments to think. "You can relax, I won't use it that way. You might consider it worth the sacrifice. Which brings me back to my original question; do you know why you're here?"
"You obviously think you know the answer. Why don't you tell me?" said Jenna belligerently. The balance had shifted but she refused to be cowed.
Sester absently noted her aggressive posture, that was also strangely defensive. "You're here because you want to know that you're doing the right thing."
Jenna said emphatically, "I know I'm doing the right thing."
Sester leaned forward again. "Then why can't you sleep at night?"
"How did you…" Jenna blurted out.
Sester smiled again. "Does it matter? You nearly caused the death of two friends, Jenna. Only a completely heartless, totally obsessed person would be unmoved by that. I don't think you've reached that stage yet. What you did on Athol sickened you and you're hoping to find evidence that Avon is as treacherous as you believe he is. You think it will justify what you did. But Jenna…" His voice became quiet. "…what if you're wrong? What then?"
"Are you trying to say that Avon didn't kill Blake?" demanded Jenna.
"I know that he did," said Sester. "I have seen the full record of what happened on Gauda Prime."
"It was information that was used to torture Avon with."
"You tortured him?"
Sester shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "Yes. Something that I regret. Avon…" He sighed. "It's better if you see it for yourself. I know where Central Security keeps its classified records. I can get us in. I still have clearance. You can make a copy and see for yourself what really happened."
The two Federation guards appeared at the end of the lane. Sester groaned. There was nowhere he or Jenna could run to or hide behind. Besides, they'd already been seen.
What was the patrol doing here? It wasn't following its regular pattern.
Jenna was going to think that he was a prize idiot for leading them here. She'd think he didn't know what he was doing. This was a highly unacceptable situation.
His mind worked even faster, analyzing the situation. There was a myriad of agendas to be considered here. The most important one for Avon and the rest…well, his reputation for being a top psychostrategist wasn't an empty one. Far from it in fact.
What would two privileged Alphas be doing away from the party and outside, hiding in the barely-concealing bushes? There were limitless possibilities but which one should he use?
Sester had attended a few of these gatherings before, out of curiosity and for educational purposes. He'd always found them amusing. No one seemed to enjoy them but they all attended.
Sester was aware of Jenna's arm still looped in his. Part of the illusion. For all appearances, they were an impeccably dressed and handsome Alpha couple. Jenna's face reflected the soft lights and her dress accentuated her beauty. Not quite as beautiful as Kirsten…his mind quickly clamped down on the random, if thoroughly delightful and mildly frustrating idea. He had to concentrate.
No thoughts that Jenna had tortured Avon and had nearly killed Reya. No personal considerations. Avon's life was at stake.
Thoughts of Kirsten gave Sester an idea, one that he was certain was going to earn him a slap or two, but he couldn't think of any another more optimal, and fun, solution.
With a soft sigh, he wondered why it was that he always got into trouble with women this way.
The patrol was coming closer. If they weren't wearing those concealing helmets, he knew he would be able to see the suspicious look on their faces. There was no guessing about the rifles that were uncomfortably pointed in their direction.
Sester said quickly, “Don’t be alarmed, but I’m going to do something that would be considered very cliché in the Delta-vids.”
Jenna eyed him suspiciously. “What are you going to do?”
Sester suddenly put one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulders. He pressed her against the wall and began kissing her with great purpose. Jenna was startled but then she began struggling. His mouth covering hers was passionate and insistent, and made it hard for her to do anything other than incoherent protesting.
Sester, realizing that she hadn't understood his message - most likely because she had never been exposed to the plebeian Delta-vids - tried to explain, "Jenna…"
Jenna managed to jab him in the solar plexus before he could get out anything more than her name. She felt him double-over in pain but he did not let go of her. She managed to twist one of his arms around behind him and pivoted, thrusting Sester hard into the wall. He oomphed and then gasped, “Kill me later. After the guards leave.”
He kissed her again as Jenna finally realized what he was trying to do. She stopped resisting but kept her firm hold on his arm. Jenna said in a whispered hiss, “We'll talk about this later.”
Sester paused long enough to give a single chuckle, “I’m sure you will. Make it good. They’re almost here.” For the next few moments, they devoted their attentions to being the affectionate couple, kissing each other as if there was no need for oxygen, their hands exploring each other’s bodies; one of each hand, since Jenna still had his other one locked behind him and was applying light pressure. Just enough pain so that he wouldn't forget why they were there.
Sester found that the danger of the guards and the excitement of kissing a woman who could hurt him if she really wanted to, added spice to his amorous performance.
Jenna had to admit to herself that Sester was a very good kisser. It would be very easy to let herself go and be caught up in the moment and the sensations. His mouth was enticing and experienced. It was becoming hard to concentrate, to remember what he was. In self-defence, Jenna twisted his arm. Sester gasped and stopped his movements. He looked into her eyes.
Jenna warned silently, "Don't forget yourself."
Sester grinned and whispered into her ear. "I wouldn't dare. Shall we continue? They're watching us."
Jenna frowned but didn't move away when his lips touched her earlobe and traced slowly down her throat, gently nipping at her, leaving a trail of warmed flesh, just like two lovers. Then his lips were on hers again.
The guards were very convinced. They had been about to say something, to ask if the woman was all right, but then she'd pushed her partner against the wall. It didn't seem like either one of them wanted to stop now. They were all over each other.
Alpha games. The guards smirked to each other. Some of the Alphas liked the rough stuff, or so they'd heard. The two troopers knew where this one was going to end. Reluctantly, they continued their patrol. What Alphas did was none of their business unless they were a threat to security.
Sester suddenly stopped and looked up. "They're gone. But we could continue if you wish. I don’t mind." There was a suggestive tone in his whispered voice.
Jenna’s face was flushed. For a moment, she was disoriented at the abrupt end to their kiss and then she slapped him across the face. "Don't do that again."
“Ow!” Sester rubbed his stinging cheek. "You're right. Next time, I'll remember to let them arrest us. Or ask us embarrassing questions we don’t really want to give them the answers to. I'm sure that by the time they let us out, we won't be too old. I'll still love you no matter how you look."
Jenna prepared to slap him again but this time, Sester was ready, caught her hand, and grinned. "You only get one slap per day."
He let go of her hand and with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes said, "But for you, I might make an exception."
Jenna lifted her hand again but he looked squarely into her eyes with an amused, challenging air. She was very tempted but Jenna's instincts told her that he was playing games with her. Putting her hand down, she said angrily, “Don’t flatter yourself. I would never involve myself with someone like you.”
“Isn’t it a little late to say that? We are working together,” Sester pointed out.
“We’re using each other. Nothing more.”
Sester grinned, “If you say so. Now what were we about to do before we were so rudely interrupted? You did want to do something besides kill me, didn’t you?”
“I’m trying to decide.”
“Well, do it quickly before the next patrol comes or you’ll have even more reason to kill me.” Sester rubbed his sore cheek again. "They don't appear to be following their normal patrol schedule."
“This isn’t over,” said Jenna.
Sester muttered under his breath. “I certainly hope not.”
Her eyes narrowed. "What did you say?"
"I said, I certainly hope another patrol doesn't come along. I wouldn't want to have to kiss you again and get my other cheek slapped."
Jenna glared at him. “I can slap you anytime without the kiss. Just say when."
Sester leaned towards her. "When…"
Suddenly Sester felt something pressing up beneath his chin. He didn't need to look down to know that it was the barrel of a pistol. Jenna had somehow brought it up without him noticing it. For some reason, he was delighted to find that his estimation of her was not in error; she was a very capable and dangerous woman.
Jenna said with a sickly sweetly smile, "Why don't we skip the slap and go to something really serious, like killing you?"
"You're a hard woman, Jenna Stannis."
"And you're a charming, devious snake."
He grinned at her. "Why don't we get back to business?"
“I thought we were.” She increased the pressure of the gun under his chin, causing Sester to tilt his head back.
“Don’t I get any last requests?”
“You don’t deserve one.”
Sester felt Jenna’s hand tighten as she prepared to squeeze the trigger. His eyes were bright with amusement and excitement. They both knew that she wasn’t going to kill him; at least, not until after they did what they came to do. But they also both knew that she could.
Spice of life. Sester had not felt this alive since the last time his life was in mortal danger.
Jenna had a real desire to shoot him but they had more important things to do now. She could always shoot him later, after slapping him. "How do we get in?”
Sester almost seemed disappointed as he took the ident-key from his pocket. Vila had very creative fingers when it dealt with locks. "How about using this?"
“What are we waiting for then?” She headed off towards their destination without waiting to see if he was following.
Sester smiled and went after her.
The rest of the mission went without incident. Rather anticlimactic really. They gained access to the files, Jenna made a copy and after giving him a slap in the face, she left.
The rest would depend on Jenna's reaction to the footage from Gauda Prime. If he read her correctly, and he was confident that he had, she would be shaken by what she would find. Sester found guilt a wonderful tool. It coloured one's perceptions in very useful ways.