When Reya arrived in the infirmary, she had been shocked to see the empty bed.
Argus, the rebel leader of the Justice, had been shot two days ago; when he and Reya had fallen into a trap on the agricultural planet, Alabar. It had been a trap specifically designed to catch whoever was responsible for helping Borel Reve restore his forces from the manipulation being done by his brother, Ellis. The three Reve brothers were currently embroiled in a civil war to determine who would become the next Overlord over Sector Ten.
Not only had Argus been shot, but he had also suffered severe injuries due to the torture he had suffered when he had been captured on Alabar.
Healer Garett had just reported that Argus had finally regained consciousness.
"He insisted he was fine and said he would go rest in his room. We stopped him but he snuck out when I was tending to my assistant," the healer told her.
The poor assistant, who was now resting on a bed at the far end of the room, had a concussion because he had tried to stop Argus earlier. How Argus managed that in his condition, they still could not figure out. No one told them that Argus was still very capable of damage even with severe injuries hampering him.
"The idiot!" exclaimed Reya.
Healer Garett was a thin, serious man who wore the same fatigues as the rest of Borel's soldiers. Over the fatigues he wore the long dark green vest worn by medical personnel. Very few patients were able to go against his wishes in any health matter. He was a very determined healer who accepted no nonsense, especially not from his patients. But he had never run into someone as strongwilled and stubborn as Argus before.
"It was against my advice but he's not one of our men, so I couldn't order him. With his injuries, he should not be moving around. He's still very weak. Plus I just gave him a strong painkiller. It should be making him feel very drowsy and very good right now. We were waiting until the drugs took effect before sending someone after him. He should be passed out somewhere by now."
"Don't bother, I'll go look for him. I'll bring him back after I kill him." Reya turned around and exited the room.
The healer looked after her retreating back. He had a slight smile on his face. Reya Reve had never been the most cooperative patient herself in the past.
Argus was making his way slowly towards the command centre. For some reason, the walls kept moving on him and the floor appeared to be undergoing a major geological event of some kind. He had to hang onto the wall with his one good arm to stay upright. His other arm was currently in a sling. The world seemed like a wonderful place, even if it did not seem to be cooperating with him at the moment.
He couldn't remember why he was going to the command centre. Just that he needed to. Once Argus made up his mind, very few things could stop him. He had actually made it a lot farther than anyone would have expected for a man in his condition.
"Argus!" Someone shouted out his name. He turned around to see who it was. For some reason, this took a major effort.
His face lit up as he saw who it was. "Reya!" He tried to walk towards her but his feet did not appear to be cooperating with each other and he fell. Reya crossed the distance between them in record time and caught him before he hit the ground.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked as she helped him back up. She sounded very cross. Reya had looked for him along the path to his room but had not found him. She had guessed that he had done something stupid, like going to the command centre.
Argus didn't want her to be angry with him. He wanted to tell her how extraordinary she was for rescuing him; but all he could manage was a barely coherent, "You're wonderful."
"Yes, I know. You've said that many times," Reya said as she gently but firmly guided him back to the infirmary.
In the command cruiser, as they had returned to Borel's base on Zirgon, the drugged and dazed rebel leader had kept trying to say "You're wonderful" to her with varying degrees of success. It had seemed important to him. He was suffering from shock and had been given drugs to knock him out until he could receive proper medical treatment; he had not been himself.
"I feel fine," Argus reassured her in a slurred voice. He had noticed the worried look on her face. The rebel leader tried to go back towards the command centre again.
"That's just the drugs talking. Now stop being an idiot. You are going back to the infirmary," Reya told him.
He smiled at her. He wanted to make her happy. "Yes, I'm an idiot and you are wonderful," he cheerfully agreed with her. She sounded so wise.
He stopped resisting and allowed her to take him back to the infirmary. Once there, the healer helped Reya put Argus back into bed.
"You're going to stay here and rest until the healer says you can leave," Reya ordered him. "Or I'm going to tie you to the bed. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Reya," said Argus with a big grin on his face. He did feel tired. She was very wise. And she looked so beautiful. Argus closed his eyes and went to sleep.
"Did he suffer a concussion?" Reya asked the healer. "He doesn't seem to be making much sense."
"A mild one, yes. But it's more a result of the drugs."
"What about his other injuries?"
"They already put a healing patch on his shoulder wound; so it's healing nicely. He did lose a lot of blood though." Garett was referring to the enemy medtech who had tended to Argus's injuries while they tortured him.
"The other injuries which were the result of the torture are not permanent; and are also healing. The shoulder joints will take longer. There was extensive tearing. That's why I gave him the stronger painkiller. I was shocked that he was actually able to get out of bed on his own. Not to mention disabling my assistant. He must have extraordinary will."
Yes, he has extraordinary something, thought Reya.
Garret continued speaking, "He will have to spend some time doing rehabilitation exercises to regain the full range of movement once he heals. But he should make a full recovery given time."
"Thank you, Healer Garett. If he becomes difficult again, let me know," she told him as she headed back to the command centre to report to her brother.
Avon found himself working on the anti-detector screen problem in his head; even when he was in his cell and was not required to. He used it as a mental exercise to keep his mind occupied during the torturous rest periods.
There was another reason. They would not allow him to move onto the next project until he finished the current one. Moving onto the next project meant an opportunity to work with another human being again. It was not the human contact which was the most important thing to him; though it was something he found he did miss. There was something he needed access to which would only happen if he was allowed to work with another human being.
The cell door opened. The psychostrategist strode in. Avon had not had a visit from Sester in weeks. He found that he was actually looking forward to having one of their talks. But his face revealed nothing.
"How are you feeling?"
"Is this an attempt at conditioning? Is that why you always ask the same question?"
Sester smiled. "I notice that you never answer my question the same way twice."
"I do not like to repeat myself."
"Yes. Repetition is the refuge of unimaginative minds."
"Yet you repeat the same question," Avon replied without emotion.
Sester laughed. "I have a reason for everything I do, Avon. And I assure you, it is always creative."
"What do you want from me?"
"We haven't had a talk in quite a while."
"And here I thought that you had finally found a friend and would stop pestering me."
The psychostrategist smiled. Avon was not a friend, but he did consider him a worthy opponent. For a psychostrategist, that was much more important.
"How are you enjoying your additional free time?"
Avon gave a faint scowl. "I am using it to plan my escape."
Sester looked at Avon in shock. That was the last response he had expected. Sester began laughing. Avon was an entertaining opponent as well as a dangerous one.
"You knew that my psych-profile on you already told me that."
Avon smiled cynically. "Of course."
Of course, thought Sester. Yes, what are you up to, Avon.
"You realize that it will be very bad for you when I do find out," warned Sester.
"I wouldn't expect anything else. But as long as I am cooperating, you will do nothing."
Or appear to be cooperating. Very well, we will play this game for now, thought Sester.
"You have been manipulating our dear Federation President," said Sester.
"Haven't you been doing the same thing?" Avon countered.
Sester looked sharply at Avon. "She already knows that," he told him.
"You mean she saw through you."
"Yes," Sester smiled. "She actually threatened me."
Avon wondered. But does she know about me? Are those times with you, really only a charade, Servalan? A chance to live a dream which is not real? What are your real plans for me?
"But you already had what you wanted by then," said Avon.
"From her, yes."
"But not from me."
"That is only a matter of time, Avon."
"You will not tell her what I am doing?"
"Not as long as you serve my purposes."
What is that purpose? wondered Avon. He did not like the sounds of this.
"Now what were we talking about in our last conversation." Sester changed the topic.
They spoke for another hour. It was an enjoyable game of cat and mouse.
Sester got up from his chair and said, "Hold up your hands."
Avon regarded him with suspicion but did as directed.
Sester took a set of keys from his jacket pocket and unlocked Avon's manacles.
"You don't have to wear these when you're in here anymore. They will be put back on whenever you leave the cell."
"More of your guidelines?" Avon said with a strong tone of sarcasm. "More of your manipulation?"
"Do not provoke me when I am extending you a freedom, Avon. I can change my mind and put them back on. And they will not come off again. Do you want me to do that?"
An hour of verbal battling with his enemy had almost made Avon forget that he was supposed to be cooperating. Sester left the cell and took the manacles with him.
Avon thought, As long as you and Servalan continue to play this game, that is all the chance I need. But I must be careful. I must continue to cooperate.
The new guidelines were proving to be very useful for him. As long as he was outwardly cooperating in everything, they would not return him to the isolation cell.
Avon had no illusions what they would do to him if they ever found out. But in the meantime, they had no proof he was planning anything. Even the admission to Sester proved nothing. It had been no real gamble. It had been impossible that Sester had not guessed that he was planning something.
This time I must win, thought Avon. I have to.
Avon found himself thinking of the Federation President. The only one being played was Servalan. For some reason this caused a brief feeling of regret. Avon shook his head. He refused to have these thoughts. The glimpses of the human being underneath the deadly snake were part of the illusion.