Category: Drama, Romance, Humour
Rating: PG for suggestiveness
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: Avon and Cally share an experimental moment. Argus speaks, and wishes he hadn't. The crew gathers together.
Notes: This is the final chapter of this story, and of the B7: Perceptions series. Hope you've all had fun reading it, I've certainly had fun writing.
The next series is currently in development and will follow the ongoing intrigues already introduced. Any suggestions/comments always welcome.
"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..."
Consciousness slowly returned as a gradual reassertion of self on an unfolding reality. Avon eyes opened. Normally, as had happened since he lost his sight, his sluggish mind, slow to the truth of a current situation that was not yet habit, would command his eyes to open. He would blink and eyes would widen momentarily as he tried harder to penetrate the veil of darkness. Then as memory caught up to his racing thoughts, Avon's rational mind would impose order on the situation. Being without sight was a fact. It didn't matter if he wanted to accept it or not, it made no difference. Unlike those who would rail against the injustice of their condition, fighting it or being dragged down into the depths by it; Avon knew he didn't live in a world where justice applied, except in the minds of those who refused to accept the truth.
This was what he expected to find. Avon took in a sharp, shocked breath. There was colour. Brilliant lights of sparkling joy inside his mind.
* Avon! * Cally's mental voice was a gentle healing breeze, swirly around him, lifting him up in her happiness, erasing the aching loneliness and sending ripples of multi-coloured waves of warmth through him. Her presence buffeted his bruised mind with gentle undercurrents of peace and affection.
The unexpectedness of it threatened to overcome his iron control. This was a barely dared hope becoming fact. He tried to maintain an impassive tone.
* The surgery succeeded? *
* Avon! * Cally's amused, affectionate laughter burst like gentle bubbles inside him. * Is that all you can say? *
Despite all they had been through together and his occasional stuttering attempts at verbal expressions of sentiment, Avon was still more comfortable with actions.
He wanted to give her more. There was an experiment he had intended to try before Jenna had taken away his access to Cally. Avon focussed his mind, bringing all of his concentration to bear. It was a struggle, more than he expected, but he directed his * eyes * to look deeply into * hers *.
There was a responding gasp from Cally. * Avon! *
Avon's 'eyes' blinked.
Cally said with awe, * Avon! Your eyes! They're beautiful! Brown, golden…and liquid! Oh! * Her pleasure was a charge of energy that connected them both.
Avon's mental voice asked with puzzlement, * Golden? You must be mistaken. *
* I can see them, Avon. Pools of deep brown. With tiny specks of gold that reflect the light. They're gorgeous. *
Cally sensed a flash of embarrassment from him. * I will correct them. *
* No. Leave them. This is who you are. This is your subconscious impression of yourself. *
* Somewhat theatrical * he said flatly.
* I think it's wonderful! * Her presence swirled around him with pleasure. Lightly 'brushing' against him in places that produced increasing, sensual warmth.
His mind reached out tentatively and was rewarded with an exultant hissed breath. * Yes! * Hands began touching, stroking, matching the action of their minds. Moving together as one entity, anticipating each other's needs and desire and finding comfort and joy in their joining.
Cally said, * I didn't know you could create illusions with your mind. Auronar are capable of it but I've never tried it myself. *
* I decided to experiment. *
* Well, it was a complete success. *
* I'm glad. It takes all of my concentration to do this. I cannot create more than a simple illusion. *
Avon felt her arms hugging him. * You will become stronger in time, Avon. *
* You have never tried this before? * he asked curiously.
* I've never had the need. * Cally concentrated, thinking of the image in her mind, giving it form, and releasing it into his mind. * Until now. *
Avon's breath caught and his sightless physical eyes opened as his mind 'saw' her. A soft involuntary moan of pleasure escaped his lips. It was Cally as he remembered her. Her body lithe and curved in places that he couldn't wait to explore again. * You're…without clothing. *
The Cally image grinned as Avon tilted his head, trying to listen with his ears. * Are we alone? *
* I had you moved to Reya's recovery room. She no longer needed it. *
* Ah. *
He could feel her fingers at the front of his shirt. * Cally. Physically, I'm still… *
* I know, Avon. You're talking far too much. * Buttons were quickly undone.
A ripple of amusement emanated from him as he felt her sliding the shirt down his shoulders. The warmth of her breath and her teasing lips followed the landscape of his chest. Along his collarbone, between the ridges, lightly kissing the scars and welts that marred his body, as if she were trying to take away the pain of the memories. He drew in a shuddered breath at the sensations.
Cally projected * Would you like to expand the scope of your experiments? *
There was a pause as he seemed to be considering this and then he smiled.
Sester was having his own amorous moment as he woke up and found Kirsten's ready lips on his. Twisting around, and trying not to grimace in pain, he reached around her and was stopped cold. Something… His eyes flew open and he saw with consternation that his right wrist was now attached to the bed with a restraint.
"Now, just a minute..." He spied Jenna quickly turning away and covering her mouth, obviously trying to hide a laugh. Sester said to Kirsten, "If we're planning a continuation of our constantly interrupted endeavours, could we find someplace...less public?" When she didn't say anything and just stared at him, he said, "Kirsten, this is embarrassing."
"Well, so is finding out that you kissed another woman, just when you told me that you don't kiss just anyone." Her arms were crossed over her chest and she was staring down at him with a complete lack of amusement. "What am I supposed to think?"
From the other end of the room, Jenna added helpfully, "Don't look at me. I had nothing to do with this. Well, not the chain part of it."
Sester glared at her. "Kirsten…can't we talk about this?" He tugged on the chain and its rattling sounds seemed to mock his efforts.
"You can talk. You're very good at that," said Kirsten with a definite huff to her tone.
"I tried to explain before. It meant nothing with Jenna."
Jenna's helpful voice said, "That's not what you told me."
Kirsten glared at her and then her eyes were daggers when she looked at Sester again.
The psychostrategist winced as they hit. He said to Jenna, "You're no help at all."
"You're welcome." She came closer and he could see her icy eyes. Jenna said, "I don't like being used."
"Look, I'm sorry but we were both using each other. I was on a mission. I had to save Avon."
Jenna said, "You could have told me the truth."
Sester sighed. Civilians would never understand what needed to be done. "It would never have worked."
"You're saying that flirting with me was part of the mission?"
Kirsten said acidly, "This is fascinating. I can't wait to hear your explanation for this."
Sester grimaced, glad that her eyes weren't lasers that could burn holes through him. He rarely experienced the pleasure or danger of having two women at the same time. It was something he had managed to avoid until now.
Admittedly, despite the awkward situation, he found this rather fun. And if he was being truthful to himself, he may have confessed to deliberately giving Kirsten unsatisfying answers, just so that he could provoke this state of affairs. Though if Reya came in at this moment, he would probably be dead. He fervently hoped that she was far too busy with Argus.
"Now ladies," he said reasonably.
Jenna said dryly, "Does he do this often?"
Kirsten asked, "Do what?"
"Try to squirm out of things."
Kirsten's lips pursed. "Usually he's trying to squirm into things."
Suspicion lurked as Sester glanced furtively at her, quickly taking in her manner, the look in her eyes, the way she was leaning… He said, "Now, wait a minute…"
"I've seen his type before," said Jenna knowledgeably.
"You have?" asked Kirsten, her eyes suddenly wide with interest. "I thought…"
Sester was finding this very amusing but he dared not show it.
"He was one of a kind?" Jenna laughed even as her eyes glanced at the closed recovery room. She had no question what was going on behind those doors. Cally and Avon seemed intent on making her life miserable and have fun while doing it. A frown touched her lips as she said fiercely, "They all like to think that."
Sester said grouchily, "I don't think I like being talked about like I'm not here."
Jenna said, "You could always leave."
Yanking on the chain, Sester said, "That's a little hard at the moment."
"Then don't listen."
He glared at her.
Jenna proceeded to impart her wisdom about rogues to a raptly listening Kirsten, while Sester made intermittent choking sounds.
When she was done, Jenna decided to take a quick trip to the dining hall before Avon needed her again. She rushed out.
Kirsten sat down at the edge of the bed. "She doesn't understand you at all."
Her partner chuckled. "You're very good and very bad. You nearly had me fooled. But only for a few seconds."
"What gave me away?"
"That…is a trade secret." He curled his arm around her waist and pressed their bodies together. Kirsten's soft curves seemed to fit snugly against him.
She twisted around to face him. "She doesn't know that she's never met anyone like you before. I knew it the first time I saw you."
Sester gently nuzzled the sensitive flesh at the side of her neck and heard a soft 'ah' escaping from her lips. He smiled. "Now, can we talk about removing this?" The chain rattled in emphasis.
Kirsten tilted his chin up and brushed her lips across his in a brief kiss. He leaned into her embrace but kissed empty air as she abruptly got up and took a step back. "And you've never met anyone like me before either."
"I take it the chain stays on?" asked Sester.
Jenna arrived in the dining hall at the height of the lunch hour. And of course, it was full of well-built and very hungry soldiers. She elbowed her way in, trying not to be squashed. They were all very polite but in a hurry.
Every seat was taken and she doubted that anyone would offer the pariah of the ship a seat. Her stomach growled at the delay but apart from yelling "fire!" at the top of her lungs, or "battle stations!", nothing was going to move the line any faster.
The smells of food were cruelly taunting her with their delicious odours. Everything seemed to be mocking her today. From Avon and Cally - doing something she would rather not think about - behind closed doors, to her own dubious position as the resident slave of the ship. It made her angry and irritable. Not that she didn't think that she deserved it, but it rankled her pride that she used to be an important member of this crew and now she was barely tolerated as a gofer for Avon.
Making Sester's life miserable had been the only bright part of her day but it wasn't nearly enough to release her frustrations.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she spotted Vila and Corinne at a table with several soldiers. They were all laughing and joking and Vila was pointedly not looking in her direction.
She envied them all and wondered if she would ever have friends on the ship again.
Finally, at the front of the line, she quickly chose a simple sandwich and coffee, and taking a brief glance to confirm her suspicions that all the tables were still full, she headed for the door. If she got out of this room without dropping her tray, it would be a miracle.
"There's a seat over here, ma'am," one of the soldiers signalled her over as he got up. It just had to be at Vila and Corinne's table.
She knew this would be a bad idea, but her feet seemed to have a different idea as they walked her over. The soldier seemed to be friendly though she wished that he wouldn't call her "ma'am" quite so easily. She had been trying out a 'younger' look with the makeup but it didn't appear to be working. Either that or these soldiers were far too young.
When she came within spitting distance, Vila said brusquely, "Table's full."
"No, it's not, sir." The soldier who had stood up, a big strapping young man with lieutenant's markings on his shoulders said, "I'm finished."
Jenna stayed standing and said sarcastically, "You do know who I am, don't you? You wouldn't want to make a mistake."
The young man said, "I know who you are, ma'am. You're Jenna. I was told all about you."
"Then you're either brave or a fool to offer me a seat, soldier."
Vila said, "Leave him alone. The lieutenant's being nice. You don't have to insult him."
Lt. Dain's blue eyes were stern as he placed a strong hand on Vila's shoulder. "It's alright, sir. I can handle this."
Jenna scoffed at this term being applied to Vila. "Who made you an officer? They must be desperate."
Corinne's eyes flashed as she popped out of her seat. "Leave Vila alone! He's worth ten of you!"
Vila placed a restraining hand on her arm, "Ignore her, Corinne. Jenna wouldn't recognize quality if it fell on her." He began gathering up his and Corinne's food and assorted utensils. "We're finished too." They both turned their backs on her and left the table without another word.
Lt. Dain said, "I would try to be nicer, if I were you ma'am. I don't like you. What you did to Avon, the Commander and the people of my world is something I cannot forget. But we're on the same ship. We should try to be civil if we have to work together." He walked out and suddenly everyone at the table had a desire to follow him. Jenna sat down heavily at the table. She had a seat now, and she wished she hadn't.
The rebel leaders were still gathered on the Justice, working out tedious details about the alliance and how they were going to unite all the different factions.
Argus was becoming increasingly frustrated. This was much harder than banging a few heads together to knock some sense into narrow-thinking people.
After everything they had seen and discovered, how could these leaders, still be worrying about political agendas? Did they have no sense of urgency or priority?
He imagined that the entire galaxy could crumble around their ears and they would still be gathered around tables, arguing left or right-leaning agendas and Inner vs. Outer World prejudices. Not to mention the old favourite, grade differences and the equalization of power.
He'd had enough, and to everyone's surprise, including his own, Argus stood up suddenly and said, "I have something to say."
All eyes turned towards him. Argus straightened his already straight back and took a deep breath before continuing his herculean task. "There is something I haven't told you yet."
All ears were attentive.
"I have made a temporary alliance with the Federation President."
Collective mouths dropped open, other than for Avon and Sester, of course.
There were assorted exclamations of:
"Are you crazy?"
"Why, for Terra's sake?
"What are you up to?"
And more…"Are you crazy?"
Avon leaned towards Sester and whispered, "Are weapons out?"
Sester whispered back, "No."
"We might need them," said Avon dryly.
Sester laughed softly. "We won't."
"Don't tell me, your psychostrategist skills tell you this?" asked Avon with sharp cynicism.
"Annoying, isn't it? But you don't have to worry. He may not know what he's doing, but he will be able to do it."
Avon turned his head and directed a sightless glare at him. "Would you care to explain that?"
Sester said, "Just watch the show, Avon. You might still want to shoot him later."
Avon settled back in his seat. "I doubt he's the one I would want to shoot."
Sester chuckled. "Haven't you noticed the increase in his frustration level the last few sessions?"
"He hates pointless meetings. In that, he shows a modicum of intelligence."
"You only see half the equation. It's the type of frustration that's interesting. It's been building towards this moment and he doesn't realize it. But he has to act."
Argus took another deep breath before speaking again. "I am not crazy, and in case you were wondering if you need to hold another trial, I have not betrayed anyone."
He quickly outlined the facts behind the alien incursion into their galaxy and his agreement with Servalan to pool resources to fight them. "I've been hoping to involve more of you in this but…we're not exactly a united group." His tone ended in cynicism, "Not even in this room."
Avalon said, "You have proof of this alien activity?"
"My crew has been fighting several incursions this past year, in the Athol Territories and the Chandar Alliance. You can check with them. Servalan's people have been providing the intelligence and we've been following up the leads on alien activity."
Dr. Kendall said, "If the aliens are still trying to take over this galaxy and using underground means, then we're all in serious danger."
Case said, "You can say that again."
Paraic said forcefully, "We can't let them have a foothold in this galaxy. We have to find them all and take them out."
Everyone agreed that this had to be done.
Avalon had been thinking as the others talked. "I don't like Servalan calling the shots."
Argus said, "I don't either but she's the only one with the widest intelligence resources. We've been very careful which leads we follow up. I made it quite clear that we do not follow her orders. This is to be an equal endeavour."
"But can she be trusted?"
Avon interjected, "Only a fool would trust Servalan. But you don't need trust in order to work together for common survival. Even Servalan understands that power is pointless without people to rule over."
Argus said, "And not just Servalan. We all need to learn to work together to defeat the aliens. It's no longer about politics or factional differences. Inner or Outer Worlds. In the eyes of the Andromedans, we're all the same. And they will destroy us all regardless of who we are."
Satisfied that he had said what he needed to say, he sat down.
And bounded back up again. He looked around hesitantly, as if he were as startled by his actions as the people staring at him. Argus wasn't quite sure why he had stood up again. But he didn't need to be. The man of action, when deprived of his normal tools, found other ones to use. Avon would often say that an intelligent man adapts. Argus's frustration with his fellow leaders, and the demands of the situation, forced him to adapt.
The words came out in a tumble of urgency. The depth of his feelings about this matter reached beyond narrow minds, making them sit up and listen. There was something mesmerizing about a man who believed what he was saying.
In a low, booming voice that seemed to make the very walls tremble, he said, "I thought the Gauda Prime footage would have woken us up. The Federation wanted to keep us apart. They prevented Blake from using his abilities to unite us. They knew that separated, we're little more than minor nuisances. We make a lot of noise but have no bite."
Avon leaned towards Sester and whispered, "What is he doing?"
Sester grinned. "He's being frustrated."
"He's still speaking."
"Amazing, isn't it?"
It was becoming uncomfortably warm and Argus was tempted to remove his jacket, but he was afraid that if the momentum was broken, he might not be able to continue.
"We have an opportunity now. To learn to work together for a common good. Maybe in fighting the aliens, we can learn to stop fighting each other. We can finally become the coordinated force that the Federation fears. And…"
Argus blinked, and looked around him. It was almost as if it finally dawned on him what he was doing. He was poised on the knife-edge of panic and the passion that had gripped him and made him speak.
This was the longest speech of his entire life, but he had more to say. It didn't occur to him that he didn't need to say it all at once. That there would be other, perhaps better times.
Argus's fists clenched and he pushed down his own fears. There was time to think about himself later. This was too important.
"Avalon was right in trying to pursue justice rather than revenge. We're supposed to be fighting against the Federation. But the Federation is not just a military force or a power structure we need to destroy. We are fighting a system that is corrupt and ruthless. That would condone torture and violence to meet its goals. That would sacrifice human life in favour of political agendas. Its leaders lie as easily as breathing."
He took another deep breath.
Sester whispered to Avon, "He's really going to do it."
Out of habit, Avon turned his head towards Sester. "You knew this would happen?"
"It was bound to eventually. Don't tell me you're surprised."
Avon turned away without responding.
Sester grinned to himself. "Are you going to stop him?"
Avon remained silent.
Sester studied him. The way he bent forward slightly to catch every word, the faint, familiar sarcasm that shaped his lips and the intensity with which he was concentrating. It was a picture of a man whose mind told him not to believe but who was unconsciously grasping onto someone who did.
Argus's next words were explosive, hitting everyone in the room like a storm. "And we are becoming just like the Federation. We're supposed to be freeing people from tyranny. But the way we've been acting, we're only going to replace one bad system with another. Theirs for ours. We cannot fight the Federation and be like them. I will not! And if it means that I have to leave the alliance, then I will."
Argus sat down.
There was silence in the room. Argus looked around him and saw everyone was staring at him with mouths open in astonishment. Sudden shyness came over him and his face reddened.
But he was unapologetic. "That's how I feel."
A hint of a smile crinkled Avalon's eyes. "You've made that very clear."
Case chuckled, "You keep that up, old boy, and they'll start nominating you next."
Argus asked, "For what?"
Case said, "For legend, of course."
Argus nearly choked. "Tell me you're joking."
Avalon's eyes were hooded in thought. "Can you do that with a larger group?"
"What you just did now. The speech."
There was a mortified look on Argus's face as he repeated, "The speech?"
Case said in jest, "You know, Avalon. He is a little slow on the uptake but I think we can work on that."
Argus said, "I know you're joking now."
Avalon said, "We're quite serious. People respect you, Argus."
"You mean, they're afraid of me."
"Yes…that too. But you don't try to push it on people. This is why you haven't played a larger role in the rebellion. Until now."
"I don’t want to."
Case's eyes twinkled, "You might not have a choice."
Argus gulped and looked for somewhere to hide.
Sester leaned over to Avon. "If you want, I could try to get a gun. Argus looks like he wants someone to shoot him."
After nominating Argus as the rebellion's official representative to the Federation during the alien crisis - to his mortification - Avalon and the other rebel leaders also appointed Argus and his able crew to be the vanguard of a new rebel alliance. With Avon and Chuck as his advisors, and his crew of specialists, it was felt that they would be the best suited to coordinate the uniting of various resistance groups.
With all of the rebel leaders headed back to their various groups, the command crew, plus a few guests, gathered on the flight deck to discuss their new status.
There was still a stunned look on Argus's face as he slumped back into his flight seat. A sickening feeling was churning in his stomach. He groaned, "I should have kept my mouth shut."
Avon, with Cally by his side, was at his familiar tactical station. He said dryly, "We noticed."
Argus turned to Sester, who was sitting on the couch. "And I want to know how you got yourself included in all this."
"Is it my fault that some people appreciate my considerable talents?"
"They obviously don't know you very well."
Cally, who had her communications station moved next to Avon's, said, "I think this is a good thing. We are finally going to become a united force against the Federation."
Vila, whose neutron blaster station had been moved up to where Cally's had been, said, "We're not united yet. Remember, we're supposed to be doing the uniting. Personally, I think it's like trying to dance naked in a Jellean snake pit."
Corinne, who was sitting opposite Sester, said, "Why would anyone want to do that?"
"No one in his right mind would," he answered with a slight shake of his head.
Avon's head tilted towards him. "It's never stopped us before."
Straightening himself up and pulling his shoulders back, Argus said, "Avon, I know you tried to unite the rebel alliance before."
"You made this situation."
Argus groaned. "I don’t know what possessed me."
"Several thoughts come to mind."
Argus said plaintively, "Do any of those include taking this off my hands?"
"No," said Avon without mercy.
Argus grimaced and his eyes sought out the third person who was sitting on the couch. There was no smile on Reya's lips but her eyes reflected her confidence in him. She nodded imperceptibly.
Argus breathed in deeply and let it out slowly. "Alright. But I can't do this alone."
"That much is evident," said Avon.
"I never wanted to be in this role. I'm a leader but not this kind. I'm better suited to military operations. But I think that together we make a formidable team. We all possess special talents."
As he addressed each one, Argus turned to look at them. "Avon, with his exceptional mind and his technical genius. Sester…" He suppressed a growl. "…and his psychostrategist skills. Cally, with your Auron senses, medical skills and rebel experience. Vila's ability to break into any lock and facility. And expertise with the neutron blasters. Reya's strength as a security specialist and her sharp-shooting skills. Lt. Dain and his teams providing front line support and back up."
He paused for a moment as he turned to the most controversial person on the ship. "Jenna's skill as a pilot. Together, we can do this."
Avon asked, "And our original partnership?"
Argus turned to face him, "That will never change, Avon. You have my word."
"Then I agree."
Everyone indicated their agreement as well.
Argus said, "I don't know if I should thank you…"
Sester asked with a grin, "Or run screaming?"
Argus glared at him briefly. "But we are now committed to this. We will fight the alien incursion first and we will work together to build a united alliance to defeat the Federation, once and for all."
Servalan was not happy as she flicked the plasti-sheet in her hands, making it sound like a whip slicing through the air.
After her 'talk' with Sester, she had called in Othello, to do some discreet investigations of Central Security. Othello's findings had been disturbing. Sester had been right to call her attention to the strange goings on in that service.
Some heads were going to have to roll. She had already decided that. But how? Bringing them all in and having them executed would be flashy but not very effective. It would only alert her enemies that she was onto them. Servalan's manicured hand went to her throat. It was a very uncomfortable sensation to be in constant fear of being deposed.
These days, losing one's power often meant losing one's life and the lives of anyone who supported you. Not that she had any strong attachment to anyone these days. Other than for Avon, of course. Most people followed her because of common interests, they were afraid of her, there was enough incentive to buy their support or, as in the case of some of her personal security force, their loyalties were beyond question because they were programmed to obey.
Two such black-hooded minions stood guard at the door inside her office. She pointed to the one on the right. "You. Come here."
The black-hooded figure approached obediently. "Yes, Madame President."
"Remove your hood."
The figure brought his hand up and slipped the hood back, revealing his face.
"What is your name?"
Like an automaton, the figure said, "My designation is T dash 3."
"You must have had a name," said Servalan.
The unhooded figure had no reaction. "My name is T dash 3."
"You have no recollection of your previous identity?"
The figure hesitated, but only for a split second. "I have no identity except that which I have been given, Madame President."
Servalan searched his face, lingering on the eye that had once been damaged. He looked much better this way. Whole. It was too bad about his mind. "It's ironic, isn't it? You only trusted mutoids and now you are one." There was no response from the unhooded guard, but she hadn't expected any. The man he once was, no longer existed. "Go back to your post."
T-3 replaced his hood.
Servalan smiled. Her plans were progressing smoothly. Sester should be able to use the Gauda Prime recordings. The joke of a resistance movement would finally become united and be a formidable force, ready for someone with vision and the ability to present the right illusions.
She had her pawns in place. And - she smiled as the hooded figure stood sentry at the door again - incentive for one particular pawn.
Her final reward would be to retrieve Avon from the rest she was allowing him now. No one would be able to hurt him again, unless she desired it.
It was all very good.
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