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B7: Damaged Beginnings - Chapter 23

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Sester was reporting regularly to the Federation President now. He was part of her weekly schedule. She employed him in a diverse range of capacities; from coordinating with the various psychostrategy teams to secret meetings on her behalf; some of them having nothing to do with the Federation at all.
 
Sester reflected that it was reminiscent of how she had used Avon. Both he and Avon specialized in solving problems no one else could; the only difference lay in the application.
 
I was never anything but a tool for you, thought Sester. He wasn't bitter or angry about it. It was just a fact which she had never hidden.
 
"Have they completed their mission yet?" asked Servalan. They were talking about the Justice and her crew.
 
"Not yet. They have been there a week but there has been no movement," Sester replied.
 
Sester continued contemplating the Federation President as they talked business.
 
I underestimated you, he thought. You actually managed to get ahead of me with that little scene in the cell. Not many people have been able to do that. Only you and Avon.
 
She had gotten the better of him and taught him a humiliating lesson in power. He did not hate her; on the contrary, she was proving to be a worthy opponent herself. Sester had misjudged her.
 
You are cruel, ruthless, devious, arrogant and dangerous, thought Sester. And you make life very interesting. As a psychostrategist, he appreciated the interesting.
 
Sester had learned a lot about the Federation President in her treatment of and interaction with Avon during the time he had been her prisoner.
 
The acquisition of power is your sole motivation and yet you also have surprising depths.
 
Sester had sought to manipulate her relationship with Avon. It had been like playing with fire; and he was the one who had been burned. As a gifted psychostrategist who could accurately predict most people's behaviour, not many things could surprise him. The three years of working with Avon and Servalan had been exciting and satisfying. He liked living on the edge of not knowing.
 
Sester wondered how Avon was doing; he was concerned about him. Although they were enemies, he considered Avon a worthy opponent. A worthy opponent was a rare find.
 
Sester had consulted Professor Tarkson about Avon's mental health and the implications his escape had on that health. What he had heard from Tarkson had not been encouraging.
 
Sester hoped that with the files he had given to Commander Argus, they would be able to help Avon. Like Servalan, the psychostrategist found the world a lesser place without Avon as an opponent who could fight them.
 
Sester turned his full attention back to what Servalan was saying.
 
"Any word on how Avon is doing?" Servalan asked.
 
"No. Not since they left Borel's headquarters."
 
The Federation President was also quite worried. Sester was not the only one who had consulted Professor Tarkson regarding Avon's mental health.
 
It was ironic that the two architects of Avon's present miseries were concerned about him.
 
"I am sending you out to the Luttrel System in Sector Three. There has been an unexpected shift in power there recently. I want you to investigate and determine if it is a result of alien activity," Servalan told Sester.
 
"I will head there immediately, Madame President."
 
**********
 
Argus had been watching Reya sleeping for the past half hour. They were both still lying on the ground next to his bunk. He wanted to reach out to touch her face and stroke her wonderful body. He refrained because he knew she was a light sleeper. He contented himself with just watching her.
 
You are so beautiful.
 
In sleep, her normally unreadable and professional face became relaxed and gentle; and there seemed to be innocence about her. When they were making love her face was mercurial; one moment intense and passionate, another moment playful and mischievous. When she was angry, as she sometimes was with him (he grinned), she became hard, determined and dangerous.
 
Reya was intelligent, driven, disciplined, tough and more than a match for him. For her, duty always ranked higher than personal considerations. She loved to challenge herself and others. Anything physical came naturally to her; she was very gifted. She had great joy in physical movement. They were very much alike. And the sex was incredible between them.
 
You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, Argus thought. He loved her so much it hurt. He touched her hair lightly and sighed. And I am the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
 
Argus had always chosen a life that did not lend itself to any kind of personal relationship other than friendship. So far, other than working together, the constant arguments and the sex, they had not had much time to develop a normal relationship.
 
I don't even know how to have this kind of relationship, thought Argus. Unlike his role as a military or even a rebel leader, Argus was tentative and unsure of himself in his relationship with Reya. He was always afraid of doing something wrong.
 
Why have you given me the power to hurt you?  It scared him that he could hurt her and not even know it.
 
When the two of them were together, it was as if the rest of the universe did not exist. Now that the crew knew about their relationship; the universe was starting to intrude into their lives. Argus saw things much clearer now.
 
You deserve someone better. Someone who knows how to take care of you. Someone who isn't me.
 
The thought of losing her, terrified him. It felt like trying to tear out an essential part of himself; but he would do it, for her sake.
 
The only thing you would ever be able to look forward to with me, is news that I had died on some miserable planet; still seeking to pay a debt which can never be paid in full. You deserve better than that.
 
With the rebels, sometimes he could forget what he was; a trained killer with too much blood on his hands. With her, he saw the possibility that someday, he could be something else. I don't deserve that.
 
Reya stirred and opened her eyes. When she saw him looking at her, she smiled; then she looked puzzled.
 
"Why so sad Argus?" She reached out and touched his cheek.
 
He knew she would be angry if he told her what he was really thinking.
 
"I was thinking how beautiful you are."
 
"And that makes you sad?"
 
"No." He smiled and pulled her towards him. Their passion from the night before had not abated. Even as his body responded to her; in his mind, he was already preparing to let her go.
 
**********
Avon was amused.
 
The crew and Commander Reve were all on the flight deck again; waiting. Instead of the crew surreptitiously watching him when he wasn't looking; they were all sneaking looks at Argus and the commander. The two of them were standing where they had stationed themselves the day before; Argus at his co-pilot's station and Reya by Avon.
 
Argus and the female commander did not seem to be acting any differently than they did the day before; when they thought that no one knew about them. They were both coldly professional again. Jenna, Cally and Vila were puzzled. Avon didn't really care one way or another; other people's personal concerns did not interest him.
 
"Alright, I can't stand this anymore," declared Argus.
 
They all turned to look at him in amazement.
 
"Either stop staring at us when you don't think we're looking, or leave the flight deck. Yes, we did sleep together. Yes, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. No it does not change anything on the flight deck. And now it is time to get back to work."
 
No one said anything but they all suddenly found interesting things to do on the panels in front of them.
 
"And I am sure Avon would appreciate if you also stop staring at him; when you don't think he's looking."
 
"Then what will we have to do?" muttered Vila. Standing around and waiting was very boring.
 
"Argus," Reya said urgently. They all looked at her and then towards the viewscreen.
 
Zen interrupted * Forward detectors report a large object has materialized at one million specials. *
 
It was a redundant report. No one could have missed the huge spherical shape which had suddenly appeared in front of them. There were no visible hatches, no markings, no communications arrays; nothing except a smooth, unbroken surface.
 
"Zen, raise the shields," said Argus.
 
* Confirmed *
 
"Vila, clear the neutron blasters for firing and raise the radiation flare shield," said Avon. Vila reached towards his control panel.
 
"No," said Argus.
 
Vila hesitated. He looked between Avon and Argus, unsure of what to do.
 
"Do not ready the neutron blasters," stressed Argus.
 
"It hasn't noticed us yet," said Avon. "It may be our only chance." Avon was wondering if Argus was going to prove to be as reckless and illogical as Blake used to be. He doubted if Argus had the same luck that Blake usually had.
 
"No. We must not make any movement which can be interpreted as hostile," said Argus. "Vila, do not do anything unless I say so." Argus was in full command mode. Vila found himself obeying and lowered his hand.
 
"This is madness," said Avon.
 
"Perhaps," said Argus. "But we will wait and we will not make any aggressive movements. I will explain later." There was no concern on Argus's face. His voice was calm and professional. Avon's eyes narrowed; he looked at Argus suspiciously.
 
There is something you are not telling us, thought Avon. There is something going on.
 
Argus instructed, "Zen, have the battle computers plot the course of the object on the screen. What is its predicted path?"
 
* Confirmed *
 
After a moments the ship's computer reported * The battle computer indicates that the object is approaching at speed standard by two and will reach the moon in five point eight zero two minutes. *
 
"Zen, is there any indication that the object is aware of us?"
 
* Hull sensors have detected the presence of scanning beams *
 
"Whatever it is know's we're here," said Jenna.
 
"Why isn't it doing anything then?" asked Vila.
 
They all watched and waited nervously as the huge spherical object approached.
 
Avon was also watching but he had also been observing Argus and the female commander carefully. Neither one of them appeared nervous. He was certain now that they both knew something the rest of them didn't.
 
**********
 
"What's it waiting for?" Vila asked no one in general. They had all been waiting for fifteen minutes and nothing had happened.
 
Argus addressed Reya, "Your theory was correct."
 
"It was the only explanation," Reya responded.
 
"It's nice that the two of you know what is going on but can you enlighten the rest of us?" asked Jenna in an annoyed voice.
 
"My apologies," said Reya. Her voice was also calm and professional. "I will explain. I have had extensive opportunities to study the behaviour pattern of the object we are observing. On previous encounters, the object destroyed most of the ships it encountered. Most but not all. I noticed one interesting factor in common with all of the ships which were not destroyed. They were either unarmed civilian ships or unarmed military transports."
 
"So your assumption was that the object only attacked when it perceived a threat?" said Avon. He looked at her curiously. Like Argus, she seemed to be capable of much more than his first impressions of her.
 
"Correct," replied Reya.
 
"It would have been nice if you had told us," said Jenna.
 
Reya looked towards Argus.
 
"It was my decision," said Argus. "I am not used to having to explain my actions."
 
"We are not your military underlings," said Avon icily.
 
"Avon is right. We do not appreciate not being told," said Jenna.
 
Argus nodded. "You are right. It is a habit of command. It is a hard habit to break. I will try to remember."
 
"Don't worry, I'll remind you," said Avon.
 
Argus looked briefly at Reya. Nothing passed between them but they both understood what had just been achieved.
 
"Now that that has been established. Let's get back to the matter at hand," said Argus.
 
Everyone turned towards the viewscreen again.
 
 
What Argus had just done went beyond an issue of communication and command. This was something he had discussed with Reya. It had been a test. They were both confident in Reya's assessment of the situation. There had been little risk.
 
This was the first real test of the new dynamic of the crew in a stress situation; since Avon came back. Argus was certain that the crew would do what he asked, even if they did not understand or agree with his decision. He had not been as sure of Avon.
 
He knew Avon's reputation; and he knew that the analyst had given Blake many headaches on the Liberator. This had been a test of Avon and his influence on the rest of the crew.
 
Even though it had not been his intention for doing it; Argus knew that his sessions of therapy with Avon had helped in building a nominal trust between them.
 
It was clear from the test that Avon was still not decided about Argus but he would give the rebel leader the benefit of the doubt, for now.
 
You're going to continually challenge me, aren't you Avon? thought Argus. That's good. That is what I need in a second. Though you probably don't see yourself as that. He smiled to himself.

  

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