Thought was lost; no rationality remained. All there was, was need and pain.
Avon screamed and fought against the overwhelming tide, his body thrashing, hands grasping at empty air; agony, an old enemy, had come to take him again to a place where death seemed like a welcome friend.
A faint voice entered his fevered mind. * Avon, hang on. *
He clutched at the comforting presence instinctively, as a drowning man would grab onto a lifeline, but he did not have the strength to speak. All he could do was hold onto her; an anchor in a storm that kept him from drifting away, from closing himself off to the world.
* You must hold on, Avon. Argus is coming. Keep fighting. You have 30 minutes before the crew wakes up. *
The survivor reached past the pain. * Thir-ty? *
* Yes, Avon! *
A strong tide of strength and caring flowed into him, easing the agony just enough to allow him to think.
* Not…enough…time. The drug… * It would take time for him to recover. He needed more than thirty minutes. The device was almost ready but it was not enough.
Cally sent him as much encouragement and strength as she could.
The Thaarn's jealous voice interrupted. I did not say you could do that. Your time together is over.
Avon reached out, * Cally? *
Silence mocked him.
The reality of his situation became clear in the darkness he could never pierce. He was at the mercy of someone who could snuff his life out at the blink of…eyes he no longer had.
The Thaarn was toying with him, playing a cruel game because he knew Avon could not win. Holding out Cally like a prize, only to take her away at the end. An illusion for a blind man.
Had the Thaarn guessed what he was doing? Was he laughing at his feeble attempts? A creature who had the technology to move planets could hardly consider him a threat. Was his failure being orchestrated like a farce? A momentary source of amusement?
It would be the ultimate irony if the ending of his life were little more than a punch line in a cruel joke.
The agony returned as the last faint whispers of Cally's presence was taken from him. A groan escaped his lips and his body curled protectively from pain that came from inside him.
No! He could not accept this. As long as he had his mind, there was still a chance.
Logic whispered the impossibility of his goal. No! He groaned in agony and the refusal to give up. No matter how slim the chance. Cally needed him.
Avon placed his hands on the ground and rolled his tortured body over. If he could give his life to save hers, he would. Did she know that?
His will gathered and his jaw tightened as he pushed against the cold surface, trying to get up. Agony shot through him like a bolt of lightning igniting the pain receptors in his body. Avon screamed and his arms buckled.
"Avon!" Cally yelled and stretched out her hand but it was no use, she couldn't reach him. Her fingers touched the surface of the screen, stroking Avon's body, trying to give comfort to an illusion as her mind reached out uselessly and touched nothing.
The Thaarn watched her with intense and increasingly jealous interest.
It was clear she loved Avon. It was written on her face and in the way she leaned towards the screen, reaching forward as if to dive through.
He was aware of the strength of her feelings for the human as a tidal wave of emotions rushing out, trying to give Avon comfort and strength.
It was an intimate bond he had not thought possible between an Auronar and a human. Obviously, Avon was no ordinary one. The Thaarn had not considered this weak human as a serious rival until now. This man was a threat.
The Thaarn filled with outraged anger. Cally's love should be his. He had been alone far too long with no one to touch his mind and to share the silence with. He needed her.
The solitude had almost driven him mad until Cally had come those years ago. Like a light into the darkness, she had brought colour, warmth and life. He had been waiting for her to come back.
She had broken his heart then when she tricked him and left. But fate had brought them together again and he was determined that she would be his this time. Entirely his. No human was going to stand in his way.
He thought that showing her his strength against Avon's weakness would be enough. Who would want a man who was as physically, mentally and emotionally crippled as Avon was?
Cally was a woman of great loyalty and devotion. He had shown her Avon's limitations but still she loved him and would most likely hate the one who hurt him.
The Thaarn realized he had to change his plans. Nothing seemed to be working the way he planned on this ship. He would have to try something else.
The increased amplification wave should work on the feeble human minds. Something different was required for Avon.
He had to show Cally this human was not worthy of her. It wasn't enough that Avon was weak and could never give her all that the Thaarn could give her. She had to be shown what a base creature Avon was, motivated by desires that made him unworthy of her; ones that would make him betray her.
Cally was capable of great love and selfless devotion. He was going to show her Avon wasn't.
Fear, greed, violence, lust and ambition. These were cornerstones of human weaknesses. It made them easy to influence and manipulate. Even the best of them, when faced with achieving their aims, were willing to compromise any pretence of values. Such base creatures these humans.
What if he could show her what Avon was capable of doing if the right price was offered?
Cally watched in anguish as Avon writhed in agony. What was taking Argus so long?
There had been a time when she had not known what being helpless felt like. She had told Tarrant that once.
Avon had tried to get up. He had tried to fight. Her heart went out to him, filling with pride for him, had wanted to reach out and help him up. But he was weak against an enemy that was far too strong.
It was strange that after all this time, the words she remembered were ones of an enemy. Had they both lived to reach their wall?
Cally would never give up, not for herself, but for Avon?
He had given himself up so that she could live; had lived a nightmare because he had considered her life more important than his own. In many ways, she was responsible for what happened to him under Servalan.
She had a chance to do the same for him, to give up her life so that he might live.
Cally turned slowly to face the Thaarn. This was not defeat, not if she could save the man she loved. She said, "I will…"
The Thaarn help up his hand to stop her. "I have a proposal for you. You obviously care about this human. What would you say if I offered to heal him? Completely."
Cally's breath stopped for a moment. "You can do that?"
"I'm a god. I can do anything. I can give him his eyes back, the way they were before they were damaged. I can remove the agony that is tearing at his body. I can return him to the state he was when we first met many years ago."
"You would heal him completely and let him and the others go? Unharmed?"
"On one condition."
"You want me to become your queen?"
Cally looked down. This was greater than she had hoped. She lifted her head to face him. "I want to see them all leave safely and I want to verify for myself that Avon is completely healed.”
The Thaarn smiled magnanimously. "That will be done."
Avon's eyes opened and he could see!
He was surrounded by shadows. Ones that were visible to his eyes! His heart skipped several beats. He brought his hands up. Fingers, palms, nails, pale skin, deep bend lines and ugly scars. He could see them all!
How was this possible? There was something else.
Avon uncurled his body. There was no pain. No hunger for the drug that drove out all rational thought. No aches that normally plagued his body.
He sat up. It was ridiculously, shockingly easy. He was strong again. It was as if time had turned back in his body. He felt better than he had in a long time, since this nightmare of a life had begun.
I must be dreaming.
He expected everything to come crashing down around him, the way it always did in his nightmares. He moved around, enjoying the unfettered and painless motions. It was good to feel healthy again.
"It's not a dream." An unfamiliar voice told him.
A bright spotlight flashed on, revealing a short alien creature sitting on a tastelessly decorated ornate throne. It was meant to be a formidable sight, and might have achieved the right effect if it had been anyone other than Avon.
"You're the Thaarn?" Avon asked.
"I'm a god."
"Not in any rational universe. Are you responsible for this?" Avon asked as he spread his arms open.
"A mere illusion. For now."
So it wasn't real. "What is the purpose of this charade?"
"I can make you whole again, as if you had never sustained any injuries."
"To what end?" Was Argus still trying to complete his instructions?
"This will determine if we need to continue wasting our time."
Avon’s lips curled in sarcasm. “You think you’re going to win?”
“I know I will. There isn’t anything you could possibly do to defeat me. You do not have the power, the intelligence or the technology.”
“That remains to be seen.”
The Thaarn leaned forward a bit, his voice tempting, “How does it feel to be whole again, Avon? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? My bio-scanners revealed serious injuries over a long period. It must be galling for a man like you to be completely helpless, dependent on the kindness of others. It’s something you hate, don’t you? To be pitied? However, what if you could be completely cured and healed? You would be strong again. You would no longer need anyone. Would that not be worth it?”
Avon would have lied if he wasn't tempted. The idea of being whole again was like a dazzling prize that had suddenly come within reach.
He could be himself again. It was almost too good an opportunity to be wasted.
Avon knew what was coming next. The Thaarn was too predictable. He would offer this tempting prize in exchange for Cally.
The Thaarn could heal him. Was this true, or was it a convenient lie? If it was real, then it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Was there a way to trick him? To convince the Thaarn to heal him and then somehow, to turn around and defeat him?
Once Argus managed to finish the machine and was able to activate it, it should disable the Thaarn.
This was all dependent on Argus being able to follow his instructions. It also had to be done quickly, Cally said he only had 30 minutes. He had considerably less than that now. The chance was very slim.
Should he take it? If he did and Argus wasn’t able to disable the Thaarn, then he would have sold Cally for his own life. Unintentionally. Could he take the chance?