11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Jenna faces the truth about Avon, Blake and what happened in the tracking gallery.
Note: Small addition made. Marked in blue.
Sester popped open the bottle of wine and breathed in the heady scent of dark fruits, a deliberate choice for this evening's…entertainment. Something to soothe frazzled nerves and encourage a contemplative mood.
He placed it in the receptacle and leaned back, his fingers absently feeling the textures on the table. The door slid open and Sester stood to greet her.
Tight tension on her face, bloodshot eyes, the bewildered, wide-eyed expression of someone who didn't know what hit her. No amount of makeup could disguise the fact that she had been crying.
They both sat down and Sester immediately poured a generous portion of wine into waiting glasses. He slid it over to her. "Here, drink this. It'll help."
Jenna felt numb but she reached over, lifted the glass to her lips and drained it. She held her glass out for more and Sester filled it obligingly. The second glass met the same fate as the first. The third time, Sester poured a half portion.
Jenna continued holding the glass out for more.
Sester said, "At this rate, you'll end up passed out on the floor. Which may be what you want, but I prefer a little conversation."
"You're a bastard."
A twitch of amusement tugged the corners of Sester's lips and was reflected in the glint in his eyes. "That's an auspicious start."
"I mean it," said Jenna with a fierce gleam in her own eyes.
"I don't doubt you. Is there a specific aspect of my character which merits such an epitaph or is that a general observation?" he asked lightly.
"I suppose this means the honeymoon is over?"
Jenna lifted her half-full glass, threatening to throw it at him.
Sester held up his hands in surrender. "I'm unarmed."
Jenna flashed him an annoyed look and put the glass down. She snapped, "Don't you ever take anything seriously?"
His voice was suddenly warm. "Do you want to talk about what happened on Gauda Prime?"
Jenna's voice was like that of an automaton, repeating facts that she did not understand. "Avon didn't go there to kill Blake." She picked up the wine and drained it.
"No. He didn't."
Jenna's eyes lowered in anguish, her jaw tightened, breathing was difficult and suddenly she no longer wanted to be there. The very air seemed to be heavy, pressing down on her on all sides, weighing her down.
Sester noted all of her reactions with satisfaction. HIs voice became kind and sympathetic. "I know it's not easy. Truth is not always a friend. In fact, it rarely is." He touched her hand gently and Jenna it jerked back, as if his hand carried a flame that burnt her.
There was pain and incomprehension in her eyes. "Why?"
Sester knew that she was referring to what happened on Gauda Prime. "It was inevitable."
Jenna half-shouted, "Why?! You're the psychostrategist. I want you to tell me why! Why did Avon kill him? Why did Blake… I don't understand what he did. I don't understand any of it." There was a desperate plea in her eyes.
Like a good psychostrategist, Sester was studying her, hearing the tone in her voice, noting the set of her jaw, the light in her eyes, the position of her body, the choice of words and what she wasn't saying. It was a living canvas and if you knew how to interpret it, it was a window to the soul and a portent of things to come. He said carefully, "Avon loved Blake."
Sester's words were like a knife that sliced open Jenna's heart. When her mind's eye focussed on Avon in the tracking gallery, all she could see were his eyes. The pain and the anger.
There was a brief flash of something in her own heart…something she had never wanted to look too closely at before…jealousy. She had been resentful of their relationship. There had been great conflict and anger between Blake and Avon, but that wasn't all there was. Neither had trusted the other but at the same time, they knew they could count on each other for certain things. They disappointed each other and they fought for each other, when they weren't fighting each other. "But he hated him too. Is that why he killed Blake?"
Sester shook his head and let out a soft sigh. Why did people grasp for the obvious? "You know that he didn't. I don't think Avon could stand Blake anymore by the time they parted after Star One, but I don't think he hated him. If Avon had truly hated Blake, he would have taken the ship from him a long time ago and none of you would have been able to stop him. No. It was not as simple as hate. The best way I can describe it, so that you can understand, is that there were many points of disagreement between the two of them. And each did things to the other that neither could accept. Enough that it drove them apart. And kept them apart until one needed the other."
"When you saw the recording of the tracking gallery and you looked at Avon, what did see?"
Jenna didn't want to remember again, it was too painful, but Sester's words were a command that forced her mind to dredge up the horrible images.
Is it true? Avon's voice in her mind caused Jenna to wince. Pain seemed to radiate from Avon, the eyes, the voice, the way he opened up his arms…not believing, not wanting to believe. Almost a desperate plea. She gasped. "Pain…he didn't want to believe it."
Stand still! She winced again. In her mind, she shouted for the thousandth time, Damn it, Blake! Answer him! But all there was, was pain sliding into anger on Avon's face. Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me?! The face of a man who did not want to believe but who was coming to a horrible realization that it might be true.
The angry, Yes!!!
And empty shock on Avon's face as he stared at Blake.
Jenna leaned forward as she noticed something. Avon had closed his arms and pointed his gun away from Blake after he thought Blake had betrayed him. She hadn't noticed that before.
There was confusion in her eyes. "Avon…didn't…mean to kill Blake?"
It had been easy for Sester to follow the flow of her thoughts as she replayed the scene in her mind. "I don't think he did. Not even then."
In Jenna's mind the images continued. Blake advanced, his arm coming up.
Avon reacted, bringing his rifle around and shot Blake.
There was a flash as the gun went off. And another flash as Blake was hit, his mouth opening in surprise and pain at the impact as his body moved forward.
Avon stared down at his gun in shock and then…
Jenna squeezed her eyes tight, banishing the rest of the images. It was too painful to see the rest…except for the one final image that she could not erase, Avon's horrified face as he stood over Blake's body.
She said in a choked voice, "It doesn't make any sense! It was…stupid…idiotic…what were they thinking?!"
Sester's voice was calm. "I don't think that they were." His face reflected sympathy as he noted the tension that seemed to burst from her. Jenna's head was bent in anguish.
"I don't think Avon would have killed Blake if he hadn't moved forward."
Jenna looked up at him. "What do you mean?"
"You may not want to believe it but Avon was a broken man when he went to meet Blake on Gauda Prime. He had been hurt too much. Faced too many betrayals. The last one had been devastating for him."
Jenna asked, "Anna?"
"Yes, Anna. She had been his whole life. To suddenly find out that it had all been a lie, and she had betrayed him from the beginning, devastated him. Then she tried to kill him…I don’t think he ever recovered. He almost gave up the will to live. Oh, he tried afterwards. The way Avon always does, by pushing it away, burying the memory. Making it a small part of his life. But that kind of pain cannot be buried. Not even by Avon. And then he lost Cally. And it was his fault. He never recovered from that either."
Jenna whispered, "Then…he thought Blake betrayed him too."
"Yes," Sester said with sadness. He asked one more question, "Jenna, why would Avon believe that Blake would betray him?"
Jenna's head snapped up. "Blake would never betray…" Her words trailed off as something came to mind. "He…" There was pain in her eyes.
"Blake never considered what he did as a betrayal."
Her voice was a dead whisper. "No…he thought…he didn't…"
Sester said gently, "He thought that as long as it was for a good purpose, a valuable enough goal, it made it justified. But you felt betrayed, didn't you?"
The thoughts became an ache inside her as she remembered.
Before Saurian Major, when Blake had promised to have full discussions before leading them anywhere. He promised not to take unilateral action, that a consensus was required. To lead but not to command them where they didn't want to go. But he lied. She had felt betrayed then by her honest man. She remembered thinking then that she wasn't sure she wanted to stay with Blake. That she would be better off without him.
I keep wondering whether it wouldn't be better to opt out of all this. Find a safe planet. Hide. She remembered saying that to Gan. She had not been pleased with what Blake had done to them. She had felt…betrayed.
She said in anguish, "No!"
But there was another memory. Control. The lies. The betrayal. Leading them where he had promised them he wouldn't. Where they had made him promise he wouldn't. Because she understood, they all knew by then the lengths that Blake would go to for his cause, even if it meant getting them all killed.
None of us is prepared to commit suicide. We don't intend to die making some heroic gesture.
But he had lied again. And it had been the worst betrayal of all. One that had cost the life of Gan and nearly Avon and Vila too if she and Cally hadn't gone down after them.
You lead. We don't take commands. She remembered her own anger at Blake and how she had refused to lift a finger to help him later. Even when his uncle and niece had been taken by Travis and she knew he was going down into a trap.
She had been so angry and disappointed in him. Hurt.
The only one who helped him then was Avon.
Jenna's eyes opened, comprehension dawning. She knew why Avon would believe that Blake had betrayed him. She understood the anger and pain that would make someone strike out at the one who had hurt them deeply. Or refuse to lift a finger to help them. Even when their lives were in danger.
She had forgotten those last few months with Blake. How grim it had been and how desperate and increasingly obsessed Blake had become, trying to prove to them all that he had been right. In the end, she had believed that Blake would do anything, even sacrifice the safety of the human race, rather than going to his enemies for help in fighting the aliens. She had lost faith in him that much. "Blake."
The look in Sester's eyes was full of compassion. "I'm sorry, Jenna. The Blake that you knew was a good man. But he was flawed. As much as Avon is flawed. In the end, they are only human. When we try to make them into something they're not, we will always be disappointed. And we end up hurting ourselves."
Jenna's voice shook with grief. It was as if someone had taken the floor out from under her. "Was it all pointless?"
Sester slowly took her hand in his. There were many other factors that had led to the tragedy that day, cruel twists of fate and the irrationality of human beings, but he knew that Jenna would not be interested in those. "It doesn't have to be pointless, Jenna. There can still be hope."
"Save Avon. Don't let Blake's legacy be a final tragedy. Blake's death does demand justice, but not Avon's life. Give Avon the chance to do what Blake wanted."
Jenna stared at him. It was still hard to move from hatred to…something else. "I…want to talk to Avon. I want to hear it from him."
He let go of her hand. "Don't take too long. The trial is tomorrow."
After Jenna left, Sester sat thinking. Many niggling thoughts creeping into his mind. There was one concern. A very big one. But it was out of his hands.
There were other things bothering him. As Jenna had relived the events of the tracking gallery, he had replayed them in his mind as well. He had studied every aspect of what happened that day from every angle. Every detail was ingrained into his memory. There were several things that had been bothering him.
Too many things.
He was not a forensics expert but there were several details that did not make sense. His forehead knitted in puzzlement.
It can't be. Unless…
He had to find out the truth.