Avon opened his eyes; he still had a headache. At least it's dark, he thought. He vaguely remembered being helped back to his cabin by Cally. This was not a welcome memory.
He made a mental examination of his own condition. Other than the headache and a general tiredness, he appeared to be fine. He did not count the pain which was still caused by the knee implant.
Avon had hoped that the crew would never find about the conditioning but with the necessity of increasing the intensity of the focus beams that had become impossible. He knew that he could trust Argus not to treat him any differently but he was not expecting the same from the others.
The best way to handle it was to act his normal self and fit back into the regular routine of the ship as soon as possible. His usual cold manner should do the rest; and prevent any embarrassing personal discussions.
Avon decided this was the best course of action.
"Lights, low." The automatic cabin controls responded and obligingly turned on the lights.
Avon sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Immediately, he became dizzy.
Too fast. He waited until the dizziness passed; he realized with dismay that he would still have to take it slowly. He hoped that it would not interfere with his plans for things returning to normal. It has been weeks. I should be getting better.
Avon got up carefully; putting weight slowly on the compromised knee. This was also another annoyance, but he refused to allow it to affect him. It was just another factor to work around.
Change of clothing. Shower facilities. Avon began cataloguing the things he needed to do as part of his normal routine as he limped slowly towards the door. After the years of having his routine controlled by the people at the Detention Centre, he almost had to remind himself what he needed to do every day.
Making a list of activities required for normality was comforting somehow; he was regaining a sense of control over his own life. He would never admit it but it also staved off the feelings of terror at having the routine taken away. Even though he had hated the control exerted by the Centre personnel and being forced to do things against his will, the loss of that routine was causing illogical feelings of fear. People who had been imprisoned for a long time often felt lost when returning to their normal lives.
But Avon was strong; he refused to acknowledge something so illogical. As he had struggled to regain control over his mind, so he also fought for control over his own daily life.
Today was a progression in his recovery. This was the first day that Cally did not have Vila bring him a change of clothing or his meals on a tray. For the first time in years, he would be able to choose what he wanted.
Avon opened the door to his cabin, and nearly tripped over Vila. The thief had been sleeping, propped up against the wall by the side of Avon's door.
"Vila!" exclaimed Avon as he caught himself from falling over the sleeping man. Avon grimaced, the action of tripping caused a sharp pain in his compromised knee and he nearly fell. It appeared that the knee implant was very good at simulating a real injury. Avon gritted his teeth and forced himself to stand up before Vila could offer to help.
Vila woke up in shock as Avon nearly fell over him. He struggled to get up so that he could help Avon but by the time he was standing, Avon was also.
Avon was glaring at him but the rest of his face showed no emotion.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked Vila. The tone in his voice clearly indicated that it had better not be what it appeared to be.
"I fell asleep," said Vila. The thief was at a loss for words; he didn't know what to say which would make the analyst feel any better. Vila didn't want to tell Avon why he was there anymore than Avon wanted to know the real reason why he was there.
Odd that, thought Vila. That I would think you had any feelings about anything.
"Any fool could see that."
"I should go back to my cabin then," said Vila.
"Do that," was Avon's curt response.
Without another word, Vila went down the corridor to his cabin. Avon watched the thief's retreating back. It was beginning; the displays he would prefer to avoid. He watched until Vila disappeared into his own cabin before making his way painfully to the shower facilities.
Avon was even more determined to make things go back to normal.
Avon stood staring at the food dispenser. He didn't know what he wanted. Illogical feelings of panic were threatening to surface again. This was the first time he had to make his own choices about food. While he was recovering in the medical bay, he had received nutritional supplements administered by Cally. Afterwards, Cally had Vila bring him clothing and meals.
Avon had been looking forward to regaining more control over his own life. He had not expected to have this unreasoning panic.
He had experienced this in the wardrobe room as well. There, surrounded by the infinite choices and unfamiliar clothing, he had stood frozen. Waves of panic had washed over him, making him ill. He had grabbed onto the wall, trying to stem the nausea. During his recovery, his clothes had been brought by Vila. This was the first time he had to pick his own.
What is wrong with me? he had wondered with alarm; then he had spied a comforting colour on a nearby shelf and quickly grabbed it and almost ran out of the wardrobe room
But now, standing in front of the food dispenser in the dining area, the only food he could remember was gruel; and the ham and eggs he had in Servalan's bedroom. His mind had rebelled at requesting those items. There must be something else I can request. But he couldn't remember anything else. Why can't I remember?
He was becoming angry with himself; an uncharacteristic anger which drove away the rising panic and fear. Avon didn't notice but he was starting to hyperventilate.
Avon turned around at the voice. It was Cally.
Cally had been standing by the door, watching Avon as he struggled with his choice. She had not wanted to say anything but she could feel his growing panic and anger. It had alarmed her; she was not used to such strong emotions emanating from him. And definitely not the panic.
As the resident medic, Cally had consulted ORAC on what she could expect from someone who had undergone the trauma which Avon had obviously experienced. She had suspected this might happen when she had told Vila he was no longer required to bring Avon his clothing and meals.
She had missed Avon's trip to the wardrobe room. Cally had not expected him to be up this early. His choice of clothing was not lost on her. It looked disturbingly similar to the prison coveralls he was wearing when he was rescued; it even had the same gray colouring.
When she woke up, Cally had gone to Avon's room, found that he had already left it and went looking for him. She had found him in the dining area. The Auron had entered without Avon being aware of it. The analyst had been too preoccupied with the food dispenser to notice her.
Cally had been watching Avon for the past ten minutes.
"Do you mind if I use the dispenser first?" asked Cally. "I'm due on the flight deck soon."
Avon stepped aside to let her use it.
She entered the codes for a light meal of simulated fruit, a toasted flatbread with a nutritious vitamin spread and ersatz coffee.
"The fruit and bread are better than the ones on the Liberator," she told him. "Do you want to try it?" she asked innocently. There was no hint of an ulterior motive in her voice.
"Yes. I would like to try them," said Avon. The feelings of panic were receding. He wondered if Cally's question had really been innocent. The analyst did not know how long she had been standing there, watching him. Hopefully, not long enough.
Cally input the command for a double order. They took the items and went to the square dining table.
Avon preferred to have eaten by himself; but he knew it was considered impolite to tell her to leave or to go back to his cabin with the food; especially since she had helped him. He did not know why but he felt obligated to stay.
He convinced himself it was because he was trying to regain a sense of normality; and that meant interacting with the other members of the crew.
"You sent for me, Madame President?" asked Sester.
The psychostrategist had been summoned to the Presidential Palace and had just been shown in by Corry, her personal assistant. Sester had been waiting for four hours in the outer waiting room.
"Yes, I had almost forgotten I had asked for you," said Servalan. "Sit."
Sester sat down opposite her. As a psychostrategist, he was not used to waiting for anyone, and definitely not for four hours. The deliberate insult and assertion of the Federation President's power was not lost on him. He also knew he did not have any power here.
Servalan looked at the psychostrategist curiously. Sester did not seem annoyed or angry; he waited impassively for her to initiate the next action.
"No comment?" she asked.
Sester did not respond. What do you want from me Servalan? It was clear she was after something.
It is time, he thought. He was tired of acting beaten. I refuse to be beaten. Not while I still have my life.
He was beginning to understand Avon's spirit. Despite having been beaten repeatedly to the point where he no longer had the strength or will to fight; the analyst always found a way to fight back.
It is time, Servalan thought. The time for lessons is over. Time for you to be useful again.
"Do you know why I have sent for you?"
"I am a psychostrategist, not a mind reader. Madame President."
"The last time you were here, I gave you a warning."
"My memory is unimpaired."
"You do not appear concerned."
"You do not kill those who are useful to you; and you can control."
"And you think you are still useful to me?"
"It was only a matter of time. As you know."
At his response Servalan smiled. I do know. You did not require any encouragement after all.
"And you have also discovered that you can control me," Sester added.
"That was fortunate for you," said Servalan. It remains to be seen to what extent.
"Is this exercise over then?"
"For now. Let us discuss the alien situation."