"You're a quick learner," remarked Argus to Reya. They had come back from another successful mission. They were returning the operational equipment to the ship's stores.
Since Kameron Reve and Borel had formed an alliance, things had changed. Borel's forces added to Kam's were fighting Ellis on several fronts. Even with the joining of the two groups, they were still vastly outnumbered; but Borel's tactical skills made them more than enough.
Argus and Reya had been leading their hand-picked units into more conventional, commando-type raids against Ellis's forces. He had been teaching her Federation commando tactics.
"You're a good teacher," Reya replied.
Argus looked at her suspiciously. "You're making me nervous," he told her. "You haven't said one insulting thing to me today."
"I thought you said that you like variety."
Argus opened his mouth to say something and thought better of it. Instead he said, "I don't understand you."
"At least you didn't say that I still annoy you."
"I didn't say that you didn't. Life used to be so simple. You make my life so much more complicated now."
"Are you saying that you don't want me around?"
"You know I don't mean that. Why do you always think the worst of me?"
"I don't. But somehow you always bring out the worst in me when we're fighting."
"So you agree that we are bad for each other?"
"You know I don't mean that either." She was starting to get frustrated. The two of them had been wanting to say something to each other since Argus had gone to rescue her; against all operational rules. But each effort always ended up in a fight.
"I want to know why you came to rescue me."
"You rescued me."
"So you're saying that it was repayment? Because I rescued you?"
"I don't know," Argus sounded confused.
Reya was even more confused. She had wanted him to say something but he didn't.
"You were supposed to follow protocol. You're a soldier. At least you used to be one. Why didn't you follow orders?" Reya demanded.
"And leave you to die?"
"Yes, I told you to leave me. But you didn't listen. You never do. You risked everything to come after me, even though I told you that Borel needed you."
"Are you going to hold that against me now?" Argus asked.
"I just want to know why you did it."
Argus very much wanted to tell her but instead he turned around and stormed out; leaving too many unanswered questions between them.
"There is an incoming message," Zen reported.
Jenna, Cally and Vila turned towards the computer's visual display. They were all in the conference area of the flight deck trying to decide what to do with the information that the aliens were back and causing trouble.
"Who from?" Vila asked.
"There is no sender identified. The message contains two sentences for visual display and a communications frequency."
Jenna crossed over to ORAC's unit and used the command transmitter.
"What is it?" ORAC replied with the same irritated tone it normally used.
"I want you to analyze the message which Zen just received. Determine if there are any dangers in reading the message."
"Very well." After a few moments it replied, "The message is simple. There are no discernable threats."
Jenna instructed the ship's computer, "Zen, relay the message to the main screen."
On the screen two sentences appeared.
Regret is part of being alive. But keep it a small part.
Cally exclaimed, "It's Avon."
Jenna and Vila looked at her. "What trick is this?" said Jenna.
"That was something Avon said to me many years ago," Cally told them.
"That may be, but why should we listen to him now?" said Vila.
"You don't understand. I've been trying to find a way to tell you. That day when Avon was on the ship and had a gun on us, I felt that something was wrong with him."
"Yes, he was holding a gun on us. I'd say that was very wrong of him," said Vila.
"No," said Cally. She didn't know how to explain it to them but she tried. "I could feel that the Federation had done something to him. He felt he had no choice. I could sense that he felt trapped. And he was so damaged."
"How do you know that?" Jenna challenged.
"I could sense it."
"We can't go on your sensing something, Cally. No offence. You don't have any proof and we have more important matters right now."
Cally said, "Ask ORAC." She was making a desperate gamble.
"Why?" Vila asked. "What can ORAC tell us?"
"Please, Jenna. Just ask ORAC."
Jenna could see that the Auron was very serious. She did not see any harm in humouring her if it meant that they could get onto more pressing matters as soon as possible.
Unsure of what she was even going to ask ORAC, Jenna addressed the computer, "ORAC."
"Must you always take up my time when I am busy?" asked ORAC.
"ORAC, I have a question to ask you. You have been listening to our conversation regarding the message and Avon?"
"Yes. Of course," replied ORAC.
"Cally thinks we should use the frequency provided in the message to contact Avon. What do you advise?"
ORAC did not understand why Avon would have sent a message directly to the crew. It also did not understand why Avon did not include either a command frequency or code which it would recognize. But it appeared that the Auron recognized a personal message from Avon.
"I advise that you accept the message. Now please stop bothering me."
This was not the answer that Jenna had been expecting. She said begrudgingly, "Very well. Zen, use the frequency provided in the message and initiate contact. Relay to main viewscreen."
The viewscreen showed static for a second then the picture cleared. A man appeared on the screen. Cally recognized him. It was not Avon.
"You!" she exclaimed.
"You're the one who sent the message?"
Cally realized that there one other person who knew about the conversation regarding regret.
"Cally, who is this?" Jenna asked. Both Jenna and Vila were confused and immediately suspicious.
The Auron explained, "When I was a prisoner of the Federation, I met someone in the prison. He was a prisoner too. We became friends. His name was Nolan."
"Yes. And you told me many things Cally," said Sester.
Cally had a sinking feeling. "I should never have told you all those things, should I have?"
"Is your name even Nolan?" she asked.
"No. It is Sester. I am a psychostrategist."
"Then you work for the Federation, don't you?"
"What?!" exclaimed Jenna. "Zen! …" Jenna was about to tell the computer to immediately terminate communications.
Knowing what she was about to do, Sester asked, "Wait. Please listen to what I have to say first. All of our lives may depend on it."
Jenna stopped. "What do you mean?"
"You are Jenna Stannis," identified the psychostrategist. "And the other one must be Vila. Where is your leader? Argus?"
Jenna did not answer him. Instead she demanded, "Explain what you just said or I will terminate communications."
"First there is something I must explain."
"Explain," said Jenna. "But if there is anything we do not like, we will terminate the communication."
"Alright. What do you have to tell us?"
"Do you remember the alien invasion at Star One?" began Sester. He gave them an abbreviated version of he what he had explained to Servalan. "I do not have any proof though."
Jenna said, "You don't need any."
"Ahhh. You've already seen them?" Sester asked.
"In a manner of speaking. What does Servalan want?"
Sester smiled. The crew of the Justice were not fools. If they were, he would not be taking the chance he was about to take. He gave them a plausible explanation without giving them the real reason. They did not need to know about Servalan's relationship with Avon.
"This is not from Servalan?"
"How can you promise that we can work together with the Federation if Servalan is not involved in this decision?"
"Leave Servalan to me. Cally can tell you how persuasive I can be."
Cally nodded when they all looked to her for confirmation.
Sester continued, "I know that it would be useless for me to ask you to trust me. So I as pledge of good faith. I am going to return Avon to you. Or rather, I will give you information so that you can rescue him."
"And why should we want to rescue him?" asked Vila.
"Come now Vila, even you must realize by now that Avon had no choice in what he did. There is one additional problem. All of you have been infected by a new hybrid form of virus. The same virus you went to Tingash to obtain information about. Your ship's medical facilities will probably be able to confirm that. It is a virus which can be controlled using an external means. Means which Servalan possesses. You must find the antidote before you rescue Avon or she will use it to kill all of you."
"That is easier said than done," said Jenna. For some reason she found herself trusting this man. She understood why Cally had found him persuasive.
"It is not that difficult. The antidote is probably on one of the Federation ships currently orbitting either Gaverin Three or Tysus."
If ORAC was human, one could say that it was extremely annoyed now. Despite not having received a specific command or request, it decided it needed to speak up.
"That is not necessary."
They all turned towards ORAC.
Sester, who could not see what they were all looking at asked, "Who is that?"
"Zen, mute the communications channel," Jenna instructed.
"Explain ORAC," Jenna told it. There appeared to be many things that no one had bothered to tell them, including ORAC. She was not thrilled.
ORAC explained. "The last time Avon was onboard the Justice, he left coded instructions. One instruction was to obtain the antidote to the techno-virus. The other was to locate all of the materials required to manufacture the antidote. I have achieved both objectives. The only task which remains is for a human agency to go to the places which I will identify in order to obtain the necessary components. Once this is achieved, I will be able to synthesize the required antidote using the ship's laboratory facilities."
"You are more useful than a drinks dispenser," remarked Vila.
Jenna asked, "Avon did that?"
"If you are asking if Avon left instructions, then yes he did. If you are asking if he found all of the necessary information, then no. That task fell to me and I have achieved it despite overwhelming obstacles," ORAC replied.
For some reason Jenna found herself saying, "You have done well ORAC. We could not have done it without you."
"Of course," said ORAC. Now that it was the centre of attention, they could all almost swear that ORAC was sounding very pleased with itself.
"There will be no living with ORAC now," remarked Vila.