Category: Humour, Drama
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Sester and the Guildmaster. And Avon's idea of torture?
Note: This is a fun chapter before the final one for this story."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..."
Sester reflected on the simple pleasures as he slid gingerly into his flight seat. A clean chair without any sticky blood or slick with his own perspiration being one he was enjoying at this very moment. Auto-cleaners were not a luxury, they were a necessity.
Practiced fingers made the necessary connections.
The healing pad that covered his back wound itched slightly but it was infinitely preferable to the pain of a few days ago. He squirmed a bit, trying to ease the irritation.
The rebel leaders had been here a week now, discussing some major issues. They seemed to have taken a liking to him and had included him in a few meetings, to his own amusement, though not to his surprise. They were all overly concerned about his health and made certain never to tire him out, much to the increasing annoyance of Argus.
The computer reported, "Connection achieved."
"Onscreen, computer." He sat up slightly as the Guildmaster appeared. The Guild black accentuated Venner's coal dark eyes. The white accents, which normally brought out the light laughter in Sester's eyes, stood out severely against the Guildmaster's pale skin. Normally though, such as now, Sester preferred wearing grey or blue with silver accents rather than traditional Guild colours.
"Master," Sester dipped his head briefly in respect. "You were right about the Federation President."
The suggestion of a smile creased the corners of Venner's eyes. "Is she aware?"
"No. She doesn't realize that I understand the why."
Venner nodded his head slowly. "Good. And the other?"
"The President suspects or she wouldn’t have held onto the logs for so long. But I don't think she was able to puzzle it out before she gave it up."
"She will have a copy," said Venner.
"It would be out of character for her not to."
"You have done well with the alliance."
The unaccustomed praise filled Sester with warmth that was not reflected on his face. One did not show emotions in front of the Guildmaster without giving him an advantage. "I'm only doing my job, sir."
"The rest is proceeding as per my instructions?"
"Avon will recover. He was blinded but the crew will find a way to restore him."
"He's a survivor. The crew seems to be shaping up as we expected. And the pilot?"
"It wasn't that difficult, sir. People with a conscience, even one deeply compromised, can be manipulated fairly easily."
"You've learned your lessons well."
Sester inclined his head in acknowledgement, "I had a good teacher."
"So you did. Deverell can be an irritant at times, but he is a gifted one."
A flash of a grin twinkled in Sester's eyes. "A gifted irritant or a gifted teacher, sir?"
Like an iron statue, Venner regarded him impassively, and then a light grin lifted the corner of his lips, but disappeared quickly. "I would not say that in his hearing."
Sester said with mock-seriousness, "Of course not." He lifted a hand to his chest, grimacing slightly as he did.
"Is something wrong?" There was a faint note of concern in the Guildmaster's eyes.
"Nothing of note, sir."
Sester sighed. "Just one of the hazards of working with the Federation President."
The way Venner was staring at him, Sester felt as if he were under a particle scanner, with a thousand eyes searching out every detail, all of his hidden secrets. He had to stop himself from squirming in discomfort; he was a man who had far too much to hide.
The Guildmaster said, "I would not appreciate having to train a replacement."
"I will be careful, Master."
"Good." The Guildmaster's hand could be seen moving forward to the panel in front of him. "You understand what you need to do next?"
"There are several possibilities."
"I expect it to be narrowed down by your next report."
"I will be ready."
An unexpected tiredness came over Sester and he leaned against the hatch. He had misjudged his own energy level again but it couldn't be helped. He was looking forward to more rest in the medical unit. The personnel there were very good at taking care of people and it was enjoyable with Avon there, not to mention highly amusing when Argus made his regular visits. The man didn't seem to be able to stay away with both Reya and Avon there.
He pressed the activator switch and nearly had a heart attack when the opening door revealed Kirsten standing in the doorway. "Kirsten!" His eyes searched the docking bay. She was alone. "What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing."
"This is my ship."
"I can see that." She peered in curiously. "What are you doing here?"
"You're repeating yourself."
"And you're not answering my question."
"I can be in my ship if I want." Sester didn't know why but he felt very uncooperative and just a bit petulant.
"Not when you're about to pass out."
Only then did Sester realize that his hand was on the side of the door and he was leaning heavily against it. He let go and straightened himself. "I'm perfectly fine."
Kirsten's eyes were sceptical. "Then ghastly pale is your normal shade?"
"It…must be the overhead lights."
"Uhuh," she said, not believing him one bit. "You know, I still have those cuffs."
Sester grinned and slipped his arms around her unresisting waist. "I have a very good idea what we can do with them. And this time, there will be no interruptions."
Following his actions, she snaked her hands up, along his arms, her softness and warmth reenergizing him. Pressing gently behind his neck.
Sester bent forward, their lips touched, sweet…he yelped. "Ow!"
Kirsten said firmly, "You are going back to the medical unit, or I will find another use for the cuffs."
Cally refused to allow Jenna to touch Avon so any help with his recovery was out of the question. Avon had found a suitable task for her to perform, though Jenna would have preferred torture.
She rubbed bleary eyes as Avon had her repeat the same sentence for the third time. Her fingers traced along the screen, trying to get the pronunciation of the tongue-twisting foreign words to his satisfaction. She grumbled under her breath, "I'm a pilot, not a…"
Avon cocked his head. "Yes?"
Jenna coughed. This was only the third day of her life sentence, she had better get used to it. "Sorry, I meant…" Her eyes squinted. "SMDI and UVAC/TSA are conjective system programs (or threads) running parallel according to differential constraints and requires fine-grained synchronization. The following equation…"
"You must be reading it incorrectly. Again." Avon was in his impassive 'professor' chiding voice. "It isn't possible for SMDI and UVAC/TSA to run parallel. Unless…"
She snapped, "I am bloody reading it correctly. You need your…" Jenna immediately shut up as she realized what she had been about to say.
There was only a slight change in inflection from his normal flat tone but Avon's voice dripped sarcasm. "I need my eyes checked?"
Jenna said, "Look, Avon. If you want to torture me, aren't there more useful things you can have me do? I'm not very good at these technical terms."
"You surprise me," said Avon dryly. "Unfortunately, I need this information to develop a new algorithm."
"Why?" She asked, trying to engage him in conversation, anything to stave off reading that damned sentence a fourth time and being told that she had made a mistake.
"The current antidote to the Shade poison is a temporary solution."
"Oh." Jenna hated that it only took a few words to fill her with guilt. "I'll just read that again…" She bent her head towards the screen in resignation and started reading…and nearly kicked herself. Her eyes must have been playing tricks on her before, or they were tiring. "SDMI and UUVACT/TSA are conjective system programs (or threads) running parallel according to differential constraints and requires fine-grained synchronization. The following equation…" She glanced at Avon and when he didn't say anything, continued reading. After a few more sentences, read correctly, at least she assumed so since he didn't say anything, Avon said, "I need water."
As she went to get the requested item, Jenna muttered under her breath, "No one asks me if I want some water and I've been reading three hours straight."
Avon said, "You only had to ask."
Sester and Kirsten came in as Jenna poured two cups of water.
"Will you be here when I wake up?" the psychostrategist asked as he climbed carefully onto the bed and slid into the sheets faced down.
Kirsten said, "Only if you're good."
"I'm bound to be since I'll be sleeping."
"That's a matter of opinion. How do I know what you'll be up to in your dreams?"
Sester's faced started turning red and he quickly plopped his head down on his pillow. He mumbled, "You have so little faith in me. I don't just kiss anyone, you know."
Jenna, holding a cup in either hand, was passing by on her way back to Avon. She said sarcastically, "I wouldn't believe him if I were you."
Kirsten faced her. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
Sester groaned into the pillow.
This caused Kirsten's eyes to narrow. "Sester, what is she talking about?"
Jenna smirked and walked away. "Here's the water." She took Avon's lifted hand and put the glass into it.
Avon asked, "What was that all about?" He drank half of it and held out the glass for her to take. His head was angled to catch more of the conversation between Sester and Kirsten.
Jenna put his on the table and drank her own. "Why do you want to know?"
Avon turned his head and faced her. It was amazing how he managed to create an impression of staring even with the shades on.
"Alright, alright," said Jenna. "No need to do…whatever it is you're doing at me. He's a rascal. Sester. Chuck. Or whatever it is you call him."
"Rascal would not be my term for him."
"I imagine there are many names around here for him," said Jenna as she glanced over at Sester, who was trying to explain, unsuccessfully, what Jenna had meant, without getting himself into trouble.
"That's a safe assumption," said Avon.
"How did we end up with him onboard?" asked Jenna.
"As Vila would say, it's a very long story."
"Well, I have time."
"I don't. Continue with the text."