11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Cally tends to Avon. Jenna's sentence.
"Reality is a dangerous concept. Each one of us interprets it in a slightly different way. Every sense impression is filtered by the brain and altered, sometimes just a little, sometimes completely, to fit our individual model of what the world is about. If that model should be challenged..."
Restlessly, Avon's head tossed from side-to-side, reacting to images only he could see, ones that resided inside his mind. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. Lines of stress, like slices cut deeply into his skin, and his lips twitching in the semblance of speech that no one could hear.
Cally soaked a cloth in a nearby basin and squeezed it, a bit too tightly, as anguish came over her and she bent her head. The image of Avon's face as he shot Blake on the screen, the pain and anguish…she had sensed Avon, her Avon reliving the same experience all over again.
And, as on that day, his mind had been sent into emotional turmoil, like a sudden surge of overwhelming power overloading his mental circuits. But this time, because of his weakened condition, it didn't just paralyze him; it had caused his mind to close down to protect itself.
She hoped that with the revealing of the truth of Gauda Prime, a major source of his nightmares would fade back into whatever hell Servalan had dragged them from but she knew it wasn't over yet. There was a new type of anguish that came with the truth and she knew that with Avon's personality, no matter what he said about regrets, he was a man who could not let go of them. If he had, he would have been able to let go of Anna instead of seeking her murderer years after she had died.
Avon was a man who felt deeply and hid too much, at times even from himself, until he was ready to act.
She breathed in deeply, a brief mental exercise that cleared the mind and brought the anguish to a level where she could function. Avon needed her.
The cloth was cool, bathing Avon's damp forehead. His hair was matted and clung to his face. She brushed it back, caressing his cheek as she did, and wishing that their mental connection had not been severed.
If it had been possible, she would have ripped the device from his head.
Cally missed the 'feel' of his mind. The inherent strength and the brokenness that gave him a vulnerability that he hated and steadfastly refused to acknowledge.
The discipline and order. The depth. The coldness on one hand and the passion that lurked beneath. The dry humour. The way he saw himself, as a mind that surpassed others but for everything else, he considered himself of little worth. At times, not even considering himself as human. He knew what others wanted of him and he did not think that he had it to give.
She would have to ask the Tellaran surgeons to remove the device as soon as possible.
Jenna slipped into the room, like a shadow that only belonged in dark corners. She had stayed near the cargo bay where the meeting was being held and saw Avon being brought out. Afraid of being seen, she had followed at a discreet distance until they had reached the medical unit.
After Sester had staggered out of the medical unit with Kirsten, she could not hold off any longer.
"How is he?" she asked fearfully, expecting to be thrown out bodily.
Fired burned in Cally's eyes. If she had been a dragon, Jenna would have been burnt to a crisp, leaving nothing but a pile of ashes. "Haven't you done enough!"
"I'm sorry, Cally. I know…I deserve whatever you want to do to me, but I'm truly sorry. It's not much…"
Cally's anger was explosive. "Nothing you do will ever be enough for what you did to Avon!"
Jenna fought back tears. She felt terrible enough and now, it was even worse. "I know…I…only wanted to see how he was. I'll leave now."
She turned to go but Cally grabbed her arm in a grip that was fuelled by fury. "Did you know that it was all for nothing?! You tortured him and you destroyed his eyes…all for nothing?!" Every word was a fiery blade plunging deep into Jenna's heart.
"W-what do you mean?"
"Avon didn't murder Blake."
"I know. It was a terrible mistake. I…"
"Blake asked Avon to kill him." Cally let go of her and looked down at Avon.
Jenna staggered back and her face lost all colour. "I…don't understand."
"The Federation used Blake. They have been all along. The conditioning he received, the one you tried to help him break, we never understood the extent of it. They used him, Jenna, to destroy any rebels that posed a threat. We were too blind to notice."
Jenna took another staggered step back, her legs felt weak and her mind rebelled at the idea. "But…that can't be true. Blake fought the Federation."
"That's why we never noticed. All that he did had a good purpose. He believed it. We believed it. But how many rebel groups that he worked with ended up destroyed, Jenna?"
"It…can't…" Her forehead creased as her mind ranged back, trying to recall every detail that she could remember of Blake's struggle against his powerful enemy. Foster. Avalon. Kasabi. Kurlis. Otark. Jevron. Chetis. Deva.
"It…can't be…" Jenna felt sick to her stomach. All the pointless deaths. Blake had recognized it at Star One, but he couldn't stop.
A raspy voice finished her sentence, "He had to continue fighting."
Shocked eyes turned to the conscious Avon.
"That was his strength, his refusal to give up." Avon lifted his head, trying to get up but fell back in frustration. Cally gently placed her hands under his shoulders and guided him up to a sitting position. "The Federation used it for their purposes."
Jenna's face fell, her eyes wet again as her illusions kept crashing down around her, leaving behind the ugly truth. Each word was painful, "They used him against the resistance."
Avon turned his head towards her. His voice was impassive, but not overly so. "I'm afraid so."
"Cally…said that Blake asked you to kill him?" Avon's sightless eyes seemed to bore into hers even though it was impossible. Her own eyes lowered.
Avon's breathing quickened and his heart was racing again. "He did not want them to use him any longer."
Feeling his distress, Cally placed a gentle hand on his arm.
Jenna's lips pursed and she nodded. "He was always more afraid of living as a slave than dying."
There was the barest of quivers in Avon's voice, so slight that only the most sensitive could hear it. "In the end, he was still a rebel."
Avalon's voice came from the doorway, "They could not take that away from him."
She came in, followed by Kirsten, Vila and the rebel leaders. Argus and one of the leaders were carrying an unconscious Sester between them. They laid him carefully on his bed and stepped back as the Tellaran doctors tended to his injuries.
Sounds of "tsk- tsk" accompanied their examinations as they discovered that he had managed to reopen his wound. Leaving 'Chuck' in their capable hands, and under the watchful eyes of Kirsten, they gathered around Avon.
Avalon said stiffly, "Jenna."
Jenna couldn't meet her eyes. "I should leave."
"Stay." All eyes turned with surprise to Avon, who had slid to the side of the bed and was perched on the edge. Argus once again stood sentinel by his side.
Jenna looked around uncertainly, "I don't think I'm welcome here."
Vila said, "You can say that again."
Jenna took a step to go but Avon said again, "Stay." He turned his head in the direction where he had heard Avalon's voice. "Avalon."
"I'm here, Avon," The rebel leader had moved closer.
Avon's head tilted towards her. "Have you come to a verdict?"
Avalon started. "We haven't taken a vote, but I think we can now."
Dr. Kendall said, "This is highly irregular."
Avalon said, "This whole thing is highly irregular but I don't think it will matter where we take the vote, the results will be the same. Does anyone want to wait until the memory blocks are removed?"
The rebel leaders exchanged glances.
Case said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready now. I vote not guilty."
Dr. Kendall nodded. "As do I."
Nalini stared at the waiting Avon. "I want proof eventually. But for now, I will accept the evidence of the recordings."
Paraic said, "I'm convinced."
Rondor and the others agreed with Nalini. They wanted the memory blocks broken but for now, they were willing to accept the recordings.
Avalon said, "I also agree. The memory blocks need to be dealt with for everyone's peace of mind, including yours, Avon. But in the meantime, I will also accept the recordings."
Cally asked, "What does this mean?"
Avalon's eyes softened. "As the adjudicating member of this tribunal, and on behalf of my fellow leaders, we find Kerr Avon, not guilty of all charges. In fact, we all owe you a great deal, because of what you did for Blake, for the rebel alliance and…because of what was done to you. For that, we are truly regretful. If there is anything that we can do for you, any specialists that would help you, we…"
Paraic said with confidence, "We will bring them to you. Kicking and screaming if we have to."
Cally said, "That will not be necessary."
Avalon nodded. "Of course, your ship has advanced medical equipment."
"The Tellarans also have advanced knowledge. They were able to repair Avon's heart. I'm hoping that they may be able to help with his eyes."
"I hope they will."
Avon found he had no feelings one way or the other about the verdict once it was pronounced. "What will you tell the others?"
"Ah," said Avalon. "We will need to decide that. Obviously we can't tell them the truth."
The others agreed that under no circumstance should anyone outside of their group be allowed to know what happened on Gauda Prime.
Avon said, "The Federation altered the security logs to produce the false version. I propose that we do the same."
The hefty rebel leader, Case, said, "We might be able to push it on the Federation agent. Edit out most of her speech. Use footage of her shooting."
Rondor said, "But we don't have anyone who has that kind of skill."
"I do," said Avon.
"But…Avon…" Vila's voice trailed off. "You can't see. How can you…"
Avon grimaced. "I'm aware of that. I can guide someone in what is required. We will require a top line technician in the computer field."
"Someone we can trust," stressed Avalon.
Argus said, "We know someone. We've worked with them before. They're mercenaries but they only work with members of the alliance."
Avon cocked his head in thought. "You're referring to Ture and Allren?"
"Will they do?"
For the first time since boarding the ship, Avalon smiled. "We will be able to use this against the Federation. Blake will remain the hero and he will become the martyr that the resistance needs him to be. And we now have a living hero, the man who stood by his friend and who survived terrible torture by the Federation but refused to betray us."
Avon's lips parted in displeasure. "You will not make me into a hero."
Vila tried to suppress a grin, "Avon would rather die than be accused of being a hero."
Avalon regarded him with amusement. "That is the mark of a true hero."
Cally sensed that a snarky response was forthcoming from Avon and stepped forward. "It would be best if Avon is not exposed to the stress of such a public role. Remember that his health is still in a delicate state."
She could 'feel' a growl of irritation emanating from Avon even though she couldn't hear it. * I'm sorry, Avon but… *
Avon cried out in agony and tumbled from the bed, his hands gripping his head. Argus grabbed him as Cally whirled around in shock. They laid the groaning man back onto the bed.
Cally's eyes reflected his pain. "I'm sorry, Avon. For a moment, I forgot about the…" She hugged him in apology, holding him tightly as his mind was blinded by pain.
After that graphic display of why Avon should not be stressed, Avalon said, "Cally is right. We should not put strain on Avon."
Cally lifted grateful eyes. "Thank you."
"What's wrong with him?" asked Dr. Kendall.
Jenna's voice was subdued. "It's my fault. I had a limiter placed in his head. It prevents him from receiving psi communications."
Avalon's lips thinned. "You did that to him as well?"
"I'm…" Her head lowered in remorse. "Yes."
"Can it be removed?" asked Avalon.
Avalon said harshly, "For your sake, it had better be, Jenna."
Avon's groans were decreasing and his body relaxed. He gasped to Cally, "The sooner the better."
Avalon was staring at Jenna. "We may have resolved Avon's ruling but we are not finished. Jenna, you have a great deal to answer for."
Jenna flinched. "I understand. Before you say anything, I wish to make a full confession. Argus, can you bring Reya in here?"
Argus looked at her questioningly but went to the adjacent room. Reya walked without aid and approached the group. "You asked for me?"
Jenna swallowed hard. "I have something to say to you. When I was planning my revenge on Avon, I needed resources. That is why I came to the Athol Territories. I…wanted to use the resources of the Shade organization in order to help me."
Reya's eyes hardened. "Then I was right. It was you?"
"You knew?" asked a shocked Jenna.
"I suspected. That was why I came back."
A low, powerful growl formed at the back of Argus's throat. "You're responsible for Reya being shot? And for Avon's kidnapping?"
Jenna gulped and her palms were damp. Her voice nearly choked, "Yes. And it gets worse. Reya…I…I'm the one responsible for Rane being poisoned."
Reya's eyes flashed with anger and her body tensed, almost like a panther ready to pounce. "He was your friend!"
Jenna's eyes were moist at the recollection of Rane's pain-wracked body. "I know…I was a fool. I thought I could control the organization but…"
Avon asked, "Did you order Rane to be poisoned?"
Jenna turned stricken eyes to him. "No…but I'm still responsible. If it weren't for my help, their power would never have been able to spread that quickly."
Where Argus's voice lowered in anger, Reya's was controlled but calm, giving the impression of a spring pressed tight, in preparation for being released with explosive power. "You destroyed my people."
Jenna shivered at the deadly tone in her voice. "If you want to kill me, I don't blame you."
"We do not have capital punishment in the Athol Territories." Reya's voice contained an icy chill. "But I am tempted to make an exception."
"Then lock me up and throw away the key."
Reya's jaw tightened. "Nothing I could do to you would bring back all of the lives you destroyed."
Avon turned his head in Reya's direction. "I have a suggestion."
"What is your suggestion, Avon?"
"Jenna will pay her debt to your people by removing the threat of the Shade organization. She will provide assistance in finding a cure for Shade. And she will give up all of the resources she has gained as payment to the survivors."
Reya fixed Jenna with unyielding eyes. "That's not nearly enough payment for what she has done. But I will accept it. I will speak to my brothers. On two conditions."
Jenna said, "Name them."
"You will do this until I am satisfied. And I warn you that I am notoriously hard to please. Second, you will make a personal apology to Rane and tell him everything that you did."
Jenna blanched but she nodded in acceptance. "I will go to him. I owe him a great deal."
There was a hard look on Cally's face. "I know that Avon wants you back onboard the ship."
Avon touched her arm but Cally shook her head slightly. "I also will only agree on two conditions. Before we found out the truth about Gauda Prime, Avon was willing to spend the rest of his life in service to Blake's dream. That will become your charge. But you will be answerable to Avon and to me. And you will help Avon until he is fully recovered."
Jenna looked between Cally and the listening Avon. "I accept these conditions."