"Do you have an assessment Healer Garett?" asked Argus. They were gathered in Borel's office just off the command centre. Vila had remained with Avon again; the thief had refused to leave him alone. The analyst seemed to react with unreasoning panic whenever he was left alone in his unfamiliar surroundings.
"It will be difficult. Avon has given up the will to live. After all that he's been through, he has decided he doesn't want to add the deterioration of his mind to the list of things he has to experience. For him it is a very logical decision," said Garett. "Right now his mind is so confused that his present and his past seem the same to him."
That must be terrifying, thought Cally. She could not imagine what it must be like for Avon.
Garett continued, "We have to be careful not to do anything which reminds Avon of the terrible things they did to him at the Detention Centre. But at the same time he panics when things are different from what he was familiar with there."
"This doesn't sound like something which can be fixed in a few days," said Argus.
"You are correct," said Garett. "He will require long periods of therapy and gradual adjustment."
"Can we leave him here? You seem better equipped to take care of him here than we would be," said Argus.
"We can't just leave him here with strangers," Cally interjected.
"Cally is right," said the healer. "The ideal situation is if you all stay here while we attempt to heal him. But given what your priorities are and how long the healing would take, I doubt that is possible."
"Then it is best to leave him here," reiterated Argus.
"No. In order for Avon to be able to recover, he needs people he knows around him. It would not work as well if he were only surrounded by strangers. We would have to break through the barriers of mistrust and paranoia first," said Garett. "This would be much quicker and easier if this were done by people he already knows and trusts."
Argus doubted if Avon ever trusted anyone.
"You mean we would have to do this aboard the ship?"
"Yes. That is the only way."
"There must be another way," said Argus. "There always is."
"Unfortunately in this case, there isn't. The issue here is how important is it for you; that he be healed? What are you willing to do?"
"Of course we want him to get better. It's not a matter of that." Argus was starting to get frustrated although his voice and face still remained unemotional.
"Argus," Reya called his attention. So far she had kept out of the conversation.
Even though he showed no outward indicators, Reya was very aware of his reaction and recognized the signs which none of the others saw. From their conversation the previous night; Reya also knew the rebel leader's concerns. She knew how important it was for him; and despite how the crew may view him, she knew that he would give his life for them; and for Avon, if he thought it would help.
Argus looked at her. He could tell from her eyes and the way she said his name; what she wanted to say.
He sighed and nodded. You know me too well, he thought.
He said to Garett, "With what we have to do, we cannot afford the time or resources to take care of Avon. I will not risk the crew if it means that they will have their attentions divided. It would not be fair to Avon and it would be dangerous for them." He knew that the rest of the crew would probably not agree to leave Avon behind; especially not Cally or Vila.
Cally did not miss the interaction between the Argus and the female commander. She did not miss that they seemed to know what each other was thinking even without communicating it verbally. She reflected how amazing it was that two people with a close relationship to each other seemed to exhibit the characteristics of her gift. They appeared to be able to read each other's minds.
So it has finally happened, thought Healer Garett. He had also not missed the brief exchange between the two commanders. I am glad for you Reya.
Garett considered Reya to be almost like a daughter. He had hoped that one day she would find someone worthy of her. She needed someone who would love her strong and independent spirit; and not be threatened by it. Argus seemed like such a person.
You are both very strong and independent. You might want to kill each other occasionally but your relationship will not be boring, the healer thought with amusement.
"The situation is not ideal," agreed Garett. "But it is the only way."
Reya knew that as military commanders, their concerns could not be personal. They had to weigh the cost of one man against the lives of many. They thought in terms of acceptable losses and collateral damage. It was up to them to remain detached and coldly logical in order to achieve success.
She did not say anything as she saw Argus struggling with the decision. Reya knew what kind of man he was; but she also knew he had to struggle to get there.
They all waited.
"You are right," said Argus finally. "We will take him back onboard and deal with whatever comes. Together."
Reya knew that in the reality of the Federation, this decision would have marked him as someone who could rise no further in the ranks; regardless of the propaganda which painted the Federation as a just and humane society.
He had the flaw of humanity and she loved him for that. For the first time in almost a week, there were no sexual overtones in how she felt about him.
"Are you going to come with us?" Argus asked Garett.
"Unfortunately, I can't," said Garett.
Argus was beginning to not like the word "unfortunately" when it came from Garett.
Garett said, "We are about to start a major campaign. I am required with the troops. I also have my priorities. But I will give all of you detailed instructions. And if you can stay here another day or two, we can begin the process here so you will become familiar with what needs to be done." Garett looked towards Borel.
The young general nodded. He also had his priorities but he was not without compassion. This was why he and Reya had always stood together.
"As you said, it is not ideal," remarked Argus. "But we'll do it."
Avon woke up. His head hurt and the lights were too bright. He brought his hands up to shield his eyes; and discovered that his right wrist was chained to a rail on the side of the bed. This circumstance seemed vaguely familiar and at the same time not. Illogical feelings of panic began to rise until he looked around and saw Vila sitting next to him on a chair; asleep. The thief was snoring lightly.
Other familiar thoughts surfaced. At least they got that right, he thought. It's useless having Vila guard anything. Even a fake one.
"Vila," Avon tried to wake the thief up.
Vila started at the sound of Avon's voice.
"Avon, you're awake!"
"Observant as usual Vila."
"How are you feeling?"
Vila thought, This is odd. He recognized something was not quite right, but he couldn't figure out what it was. Vila stared at the analyst, trying to understand why he had the impression that something was wrong.
Avon was starting to feel the panic rise again. He fought against it; his mind tried to reason out what was wrong. Something is missing, he thought. But what is it?
"Vila, can you get me some water?" Avon asked. I need water.
Avon didn't know why he needed it; he wasn't thirsty. But his mind told him that water was what was missing.
"You're thirsty?" Vila asked; he realized instantly that this was a silly question. Avon wouldn't have asked him for water if he wasn't thirsty.
"Right, I'll get some," said Vila. He got up in search of the requested item.
Vila came back without the water.
"I'm sorry Avon; there isn't any water in here. I've looked all over. I'll have to go outside to get it. Are you going to be alright?" Vila asked. He didn't want to leave the analyst alone; he knew how panicked Avon became when there was no one he recognized nearby.
For some reason, the idea that there was no water caused an unreasoning panic in Avon.
There is no water. There has to be water.
"No!" shouted Avon. "There has to be water."
Vila heard the panic in Avon's voice; he was starting to panic himself. When there was danger, Vila always rose to the occasion; regardless of how much he protested. But his lock-breaking and thieving skills were of no use here.
The thief remembered that when his friends got this way; when they irrationally latched onto a single thought, it was better giving them what they wanted as long as it didn't hurt them. Water didn't seem that dangerous.
Vila was about to rush out of the room to search for the water but Avon was becoming frantic; the illogical feelings of panic had risen to a fever pitch. He pulled on the chain which secured him to the bed and tried to get out of the bed.
I have to get water! Avon thought.
His mind had an illogical consuming need to have water; but his mind gave him no reason as to why. His mind could not concentrate enough to reason it out. This caused even more fear and panic. My mind is not working.
"Avon, don't do that. You're hurting yourself," Vila tried to calm the frenzied man. The thief had normally stood back while some of his burly delta friends did what was needed; but there was no one to help now.
Vila put his arms around the analyst's shoulders, trying to stop him. Avon pushed him away violently; Vila fell backwards and hit the table beside the bed.
At that moment, the others came back into the infirmary.
Argus and Reya immediately came over to immobilize Avon; holding him still while he struggled against them. The healer injected a sedative into his arm.
"What happened?" asked Garett as he examined first Avon and then Vila for any injuries.
"I don't know," said Vila, rubbing his sore back where it had hit the table. He was still occasionally bothered by stiffness from the blaster injury he had received in the back at Gauda Prime.
"He was fine one moment; then he started acting like this."
Avon calmed down as the sedative took effect. Argus and Reya let go of him.
"Something must have triggered it," said Garett.
"Well, he asked for water but I couldn't find any in here so I told him I had to go find some. That was when he started acting strange."
Vila remembered that something was wrong with the entire interaction. He still didn't know what it was.
"He only asked for water?" asked Garett.
"Yes. He woke up. We talked for a bit. Then he asked for water…" Vila stopped. The thread of memory returned.
"Oh no," said Vila.
"What's wrong?" asked Cally.
"I thought something was wrong when I was talking with him. I remember having the same conversation several years ago. The first time we rescued him. He was in a bed in an infirmary then too. And his hands were restrained. And I was sitting beside him on a chair." It all came back to Vila.
"This was back at the auxiliary safe house near the West Europ Dome?" asked Argus.
"What's wrong with that? The circumstances are similar, that's true. But nothing happened then. Why would it cause this kind of reaction now?"
"You don't understand Argus. Avon and I had the same conversation; almost word for word. It only became different with the water. That's when Avon started acting strangely."
Garett nodded with understanding. "You are saying that in his mind, he was reliving a memory but started to panic when the reality began to differ?"
"Yes, that's it," said Vila. At least I think that's what I'm saying.
Garett nodded. "I had warned you that this would happen. Avon's mind is so disoriented now that he is trying to grasp onto anything familiar. If his mind cannot find it in the present it begins making other connections. In doing so he is starting to confuse the past and the present. And when things begin to differ from what he remembers; his mind cannot handle it."
This never happened to my friends, thought Vila. With dismay he realized that even his experience with his friends would only be of limited use. They had only been imprisoned and some had received "retraining" which was just another name for conditioning; but none of them had experienced what had been done to Avon.
"That does not sound like someone who is entirely sane," said Argus. He wondered what he had committed the crew and himself to.
"You do have one asset," said Garett. "And that is Avon himself. In my examinations of him, his mind is still trying to bring logic out of the chaos in his head. As long as he continues to do that, it will be easier. But he will need a lot of help. Unfortunately being here, in these unfamiliar surroundings has aggravated his condition. That may be why he acted the way he did earlier. You need to get him back to your ship as soon as possible. I will join you tomorrow and we can start treating him then. But in the meantime I would suggest that either Cally or Vila stay with him at all times."
"Vila?" asked Argus puzzled.
"Yes, your structural access engineer. He appears to be familiar with some of the things which need to be done. I understand he had friends who underwent long periods of incarceration. And Vila himself has undergone short periods of imprisonment and torture as well."
Structural access engineer. Argus almost laughed. You definitely like that title a bit too much Vila.
"Very well." Argus picked up Avon's teleport bracelet which had been deposited on a table nearby. He snapped it onto the analyst's wrist. "I will send someone for you tomorrow."
"I will also not join you until tomorrow," said Reya.
Argus nodded. "Very well Commander." They both knew it was not a good idea to be on the ship together, when there was nothing operational to be done. It would have been too difficult and too tempting.
Argus activated the communicator button on his teleport bracelet. "Jenna, we're ready to come up now."