"Can you move? My arm is starting to fall asleep," Argus told Reya. They were currently in her quarters. It was late evening and she was resting in the curve of his arm as they lay together. They had been talking; sharing their lives for the past few hours. The remnants of half eaten breads, cheeses and fruit were left on a tray beside the bed.
Reya rolled on top of him.
"That wasn't what I had in mind," he told her.
"I know," she said teasingly as she began kissing him. "I've had enough of talking for now."
"We won't be getting any rest if you continue doing that," he said as he began responding to her.
"That was the idea. Unless you're too tired," she challenged him playfully.
"Would you like to find out?" he said as his arms pressed their naked bodies tighter together and he began moving slowly against her; teasing her in return.
"I like a challenge," Reya replied. She was already breathing quicker. The sensation of his muscled body rubbing against hers soon became overwhelming. She moaned softly.
Argus and Reya did not resurface until the next morning. Borel looked at the two of them curiously as they entered the command centre. It was clear that something had changed between the two of them again.
I wonder what happened. Borel was almost afraid to find out.
The two commanders were impeccably dressed as usual when entering his command headquarters; Reya in her uniform and Argus in the same vaguely-military outfit which he had worn the previous day. It appeared that he had it cleaned and pressed at some point since yesterday.
When did you have the time to do that? thought Borel.
"You both look tired," said Borel. He had decided to tease them a bit.
The two looked at each other and managed to look slightly embarrassed. Only a blind person would not have guessed what they had been doing. There was a slight undercurrent of nervousness between them but they were both relaxed.
"Your sister kept me up," said Argus. The new dynamic between the two of them was still untested. He kept his tone deliberately light.
"I didn't hear any complaints," she replied in the same light tone.
"I didn't either." There was a slight smile on Argus's face.
Reya was blushing.
Borel had never seen his sister do that before. He wondered if he should leave them alone again.
"Now General, what is this phenomenon which you were mentioning?" asked Argus.
"I thought Reya would have told you by now," replied Borel.
Reya managed to look embarrassed again. "I didn't have time," she said. "And no comments you," she addressed Argus.
"Yes, we were too busy," Argus told Borel in a serious tone. He was trying to suppress a smile.
Borel noticed a growing sense of confidence in their relationship.
"Why don't you explain to us what you discovered, Reya," said Borel.
Reya gave them both a detailed report of her investigations and her conclusions; showing them the patterns of movement on the holomap. She was in operational mode now. There was no longer a light tone; they were all business.
"I agree with your assessment," said Argus. "The pattern of the phenomenon does appear deliberately random. But ORAC will be able to determine that more accurately."
"Yes, given your description of its abilities; I was hoping that ORAC would be able to project the possible targets and narrow down the possibilities even further," said Reya.
"ORAC would be good for that. From the reports, it may be better if the Justice were to check this out. None of your ships seem to have been able to defend against it," said Argus.
"We would be glad of your help and that of your crew, Argus," said Borel. "The last thing we need is for this thing to break out of quadrant eight and make the current situation even more complicated. I am sending Reya with you. She is the person most familiar with this phenomenon."
Argus and Reya looked at each other; they had not expected this. They had not discussed their imminent separation yet; it had been too painful a topic to broach. They were relieved that they could avoid it a little longer but there was also nervousness again because it would be a further test of their new relationship.
Avon, Jenna, Vila and Cally were all on the flight deck; each performing their various tasks in preparation for their trip to quadrant eight. Argus had contacted them regarding the request by Borel and their imminent departure.
Cally had given up her operations station back to Avon.
As they were all running checks on their various stations, Jenna, Vila and Cally were sneaking surreptitious glances in Avon's direction. No one had talked about what happened only yesterday. Avon seemed determined to act as if it had never happened.
Avon found it difficult to concentrate on his self-appointed task of running diagnostic checks on all of the ship's systems. For three years, his brain had only worked on problems because it had been forced to. The insistent pressure was always below the surface, even when he was doing the required concentration to prevent it from building.
Now that the conditioning had been broken, his mind seemed to be unable to focus on complex ideas or even patterns for more than three or four minutes at a time. Everytime he tried to focus, his mind would lose the thread of what he was trying to do.
Avon had also not expected what had happened with the food dispenser or in the wardrobe room. What use is someone who cannot do something as simple as choosing a food item without being incapacitated?
Servalan may no longer have control over his mind; but neither did he. He had not expected this result from the breaking of the conditioning. Avon smiled wryly to himself. So I may lose my mind after all.
It was really no different than the fate he had resigned himself to; the day he left Servalan. In his eagerness to be free from her control; he may have done himself even more damage. He wanted to laugh but on the flight deck, surrounded by the others, he could do little more than smile wryly to himself.
He wondered, Can brains burn out? Is that what is happening to me? Did she use me until there was nothing left? Did I escape too late?
Back at the lab in the Detention Centre, they had used him constantly; never allowing sufficient time for his mind to rest. He was always exhausted but the conditioning gave his mind no choice except to do what they wanted. Avon could remember the times they had deliberately worked him until he collapsed. The memories still filled with him anger.
It was not until near the end, when Sester's new guidelines had been put into place; that they allowed his mind sufficient time to rest between work sessions.
Did you do that because you knew my brain was nearing the end of its usefulness? Was that the real reason for the guidelines? Did Professor Tarkson discover that when he examined me? Was that one of the many things you did not tell me, Servalan?
Avon had not been unaware of the interest of the others; and their furtive glances in his direction when they thought he wasn't looking. It had annoyed him at first but he chose to ignore it; refusing to acknowledge their concern.
If they only knew. Their concerns do have merit.
Without his mind, he was useless. Quite a change from being used to being useless.
This was the kind of circumstance he always found amusing. He was in an odd mood. Avon could not imagine a life without a mind which no longer worked. Even when he had been conditioned, at least his mind worked; and there was the chance that mind would one day be his own again. It had been horrifying to have his mind forced to work for someone else; he had felt helpless and hopeless everytime the conditioning had been used. But at least his mind had been functional.
To have to experience his mind dying was something which filled him with dread.
At least there is no one to force me to experience it.
The abilities of his mind defined who he was. Without it, he could not imagine living. It would be as much of a living death for him as being at the Detention Centre had been; but this time he had a choice. He could choose not to experience it.
Perhaps I can ask Argus to do it. He is good at it. He will manage it less painfully than I can. Even in planning his own death, Avon was logical.
After the years of pain, he wanted a comfortable death. He wanted to be aware of it and then have it be over quickly.
Now that he had made this decision, Avon felt oddly at peace. He would seek out the rebel leader when he came back on board; and disturb him during his sleep cycle again. Unfortunately it was the only time that ensured that the others would not be around.
Well, at least I won't be bothering you again.
Cally had been vaguely aware of the play of emotions across Avon's consciousness as he worked at his operations station. She had been troubled and confused by what she read from him.
Since Avon came back, Cally had been aware of the constant struggles in his mind as he tried to force himself to become the person he used to be. Cally knew that he would never accept her telling him that he never could. The Avon he once was; no longer existed. What was left was the broken remnants of someone they all used to know.
Cally knew that it had started long before he had been captured and tortured by Servalan. It had started the day he had killed Blake.
When Avon had first joined Blake, Cally knew that he thought that Blake's recklessness would destroy him one day. He had continually thought to free himself from Blake.
And in the end he did destroy you. But not in the way you thought.
Cally wondered which the greater damage was; what Servalan had done to him, or what Avon had done to himself.
Perhaps it had started even before that, thought Cally. Back when you thought you had lost Blake the first time. And you risked your life to go and find him; only to find that Servalan had tricked you.
Then you began losing everything. No more Liberator to keep you safe. Hounded by the Federation in a ship that could not protect you. And you even lost Anna. The one person you thought would never betray you; and she came back from the dead just long enough to rip your heart out.
Cally could feel the frustration coming from Avon. She did not understand it but for some reason he was finding it difficult to concentrate. She wondered if it was another symptom; like his panic and inability to decide when faced with simple daily choices like food.
The Auron hated Servalan; more than she had hated anyone before. Cally did not normally hate anyone; but she hated this woman for destroying her people; and for what she had done to Avon.
She knew the cruelty of the Federation President even though Argus still refused to allow them to see any of the files from the Detention Centre; and only allowed her limited access to the medical ones. She knew that Servalan must have crushed Avon again and again and relished her power to do so.
Did you laugh Servalan? thought Cally. When he lay broken at your feet; when he no longer had the strength to defend himself from the blows? Or when he had been screaming in pain for hours, perhaps even days; and finally begged you to stop? Did you tell them to keep going? Because you love seeing people suffer, and especially him? And in the end, when he finally gave you everything; even then that was not enough for you, was it? You had to crush him even more. You made him your slave; and he had to do everything you demanded or he would lose the one thing he could not stand losing; his mind. You held his mind hostage. He must have hated you for that; more than for anything else.
Just as she could sense his brokenness; she could almost hear the silent screams of his subconscious mind; trapped in the horror of what they had done to him. How could you face what they did to you day after day, Avon? You always hated losing control to anyone. How did you stand being treated like a puppet?
Argus had let her see the files on Avon's conditioning in order to solicit her help. Cally almost wished she did not know.
She wanted to kill Servalan; for Avon and for her own people. But she knew she couldn't yet, because of the alien threat.
One day there will be an accounting, thought Cally.
There was a sense of calm emanating from Avon now; an impression of dispassionate acceptance and peace. Cally was confused.
Did something just happen? she wondered. Did your logical mind find a peace with what is happening; with what happened?
Vila had never appreciated Avon's fashion sense but the analyst's choice of clothing dumbfounded him.
Even a cold logical computer should be able to manage something less like prison clothes. Especially after all you've been through, thought Vila. I bet even ORAC could pick something better than that.
Avon appeared to be his normal cold, machine-like and anti-social self. Vila was glad in a way; even though it had to have been a façade. It meant he did not have to deal with the messy emotional stuff; which always made things much more complicated than they needed to be.
Not that Vila was unemotional; he was in no way like Avon. But the thief did not like complications; he did not like emotionally dangerous situations any more than he liked physically dangerous ones. Vila was usually very quiet when Blake and Avon fought; the crew normally avoided being in the middle of those two when they had a conflict.
And even though Avon and Argus had not been together that long, Vila could see that it would be just as dangerous being between these two when they had a conflict.
Are things really back to normal, Avon? thought Jenna. She was not convinced. You've never been good at fooling anyone, Avon. You never could fool Blake. And you don't fool me either.
The analyst was so determined to avoid acting like anything was different that it was clear something was not right.
Despite what you would like to think, at least part of you is still human. You cannot have gone through what you did and not have it affect you.
What are you hiding, Avon? Jenna was certain he was concealing something.
I will be watching you.