The Justice crew and Commander Reve were still discussing their options regarding the phenomenon which had appeared above the moon they were orbiting. There had been no movement from the object since it arrived, over an hour ago. The ship's sensors were not able to penetrate the object and could only pick up faint energy along its surface. Other than visual observation, they had not been able to do anything else. Even attempts by ORAC had failed to produce any results because the object's outer surface was impenetrable; which irritated the computer unit to no end.
"It's just sitting there," said Vila. "Why doesn't it do something? I mean, not that I want it to do anything interesting."
"Just because we cannot see it do anything, does not mean that it is not doing anything," said Avon.
"They could be having a party in there for all we know or planning to blow us up; but that doesn't do us any good sitting out here, does it?" said Vila. "We can't even get inside it."
"There is one thing we can access," suggested Reya. "There is nothing stopping us from investigating the moon. There must be a reason why it is interested in it. Perhaps we can go down and find out why."
"That's a lot of surface to cover, even for a small moon," pointed out Jenna.
"Zen, are there still no energy fluctuations or energy signature changes in the object?" asked Avon. He had an idea.
This level of thought was still difficult for Avon. Each step required a conscious effort. Maintaining the concentration required expending an increasing amount of energy; energy he still had precious little of. Avon tried to pace himself; he refused to have another near-collapse.
* That is correct, Kerr Avon * replied Zen.
"How about energy changes emanating from the object?" asked Avon.
* The Justice's sensors have detected energy signatures consistent with sensor activity coming from the object. *
"Sensor activity apart from the original scan of the Justice?" asked Avon.
* Correct. *
"Is there any pattern to the sensor activity?" asked Avon.
* There was an initial broad-range sensor sweep encompassing the surface area of the moon currently visible. There is now targeted sensor activity concentrated at two points. *
"Show us the two locations Zen," said Avon.
The two points showed up on the main viewscreen.
"Well done, Avon," said Argus.
Avon allowed his mind to relax.
Argus pointed to the location on the left side of the viewscreen, "Commander Reve and Vila will go down and investigate this location. Cally and I will check out the other. We will need the environment suits. Avon, you can operate the teleport."
"I don't remember volunteering," muttered Vila as he followed the others out.
"I'm getting a bad feeling about this," said Vila as the group gathered in the teleport room. They were helping check each other's environment suits.
"When have you ever had a good feeling about doing work?" asked Avon with light sarcasm. Vila gave him foul look.
"Commander, let's set a time limit of one hour," said Argus. "Both groups will report in regardless of the results." Their voices sounded muffled inside their enclosed suits.
"Agreed," said Reya.
"Cally and I will do down first," said Argus as he stepped onto the teleport pad. Cally joined him.
"Put us down," instructed Argus. Avon operated the controls and there was a familiar shimmering; but not in all the right places.
Vila stood staring at Cally. They were both in their environment suits. Cally was still standing on the platform waiting to be teleported down. Argus was gone.
"Avon, what did you do?" Vila asked, turning around slowly and clumsily in his environment suit, to look at Avon; Avon who a moment ago had been seated at the teleport controls and was now gone.
"Cally! Avon's gone!" Vila shouted in shock.
"Commander Reve is gone as well," said Cally. She was also in shock. Cally took her helmet off.
"What happened to them?" Vila was not just in shock, he was well on his way to panicking.
"Someone has taken them," said Cally. Or something. She went over to the teleport control panel and activated the comm. "Jenna, is there anything happening?"
Jenna's voice over the ship's comm replied, "Nothing's happening. Why?"
"Have Zen do a sensor sweep of the entire area, I will explain when we come back to the flight deck," said Cally. She began taking her environment suit off.
Avon opened his eyes; and couldn't see anything. It was completely dark. He was lying on his back, on a hard surface. A floor?
He tried to get up; and couldn't move. Something was restraining him. He could feel them now. Something clamped at each wrist and ankle. Something familiar.
They feel like…hands. Strong hands holding him down. This was too familiar.
Is this a nightmare? It feels so real.
It felt like the isolation cell at the Detention Centre. Slowly the unreasoning fear and panic began to surface.
No. Must not give in to the fear. It does not control me. He struggled to reason out what was happening.
He tried to speak; and ended up choking. His vocal chords were paralyzed. Something was put over his mouth; he tried to shake it off. Hands held his head in place, not allowing him to move. He was able to breathe easier now; the object over his mouth was an oxygen mask.
No! This is not happening! His mind refused to accept it. I am not back in the isolation cell! This is not real!
At that moment his body arched as an excruciating pain radiated from his knee. The pain made any further thought impossible.
Argus opened his eyes and saw Reya lying next to him. They were both naked. Argus lifted his head and looked around.
This is my cabin! He was confused. I don't remember. How did we get here?
He could vaguely remember that they were supposed to be somewhere else. Argus looked down at the sleeping woman beside him. When he was looking at her, things seemed less confusing.
You are so beautiful, he thought.He reached out towards her but stopped himself. Should not wake her; she's a light sleeper.
Argus shook his head. Something is wrong.
You love her. I do. So much that it hurts. Yes.
He looked at her. You look so peaceful now. You weren't last night. He smiled at the memory. So passionate and determined.
Argus shook his head again. There was a pressure in his mind. Something pushing.
He sighed. You are so right for me. And I am the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
He reached out and lightly touched her hair. For some reason, his breathing rate had increased.
Don't want to hurt her.
I don't even know how to have this kind of relationship, Reya. I'm so afraid of hurting you and not even know I'm doing it.
Don't deserve her.
I don't deserve you. You should have someone who can always be there for you. I can't. I have too many debts to pay. Too much blood to atone for. It would not be fair to you.
Have to leave her. The thought filled him with fear.
How am I going to go on without you? You are so much a part of me now.
Have to leave her. For her sake.
Yes. I have to leave you. I have to push you away. I cannot let our relationship go any further.
Reya's eyes opened. "Why are you leaving me?" she asked. In her voice were pain and a rising anger.
Argus was shocked. Did I speak out loud? He couldn't remember.
Reya's face now reflected confusion. You didn't speak. But I can hear you. Her attention should have been focussed on this strange occurrence but her mind was full of another thought which clouded all others.
He is leaving you.
The thought filled her with fear and anger; and something so much like pain that she could barely breathe.
"Why are you pushing me away?" she said angrily. They both sat up and faced each other. There was a distance between them now.
I can't tell you, thought Argus.
"Why can't you tell me?"
You can read my mind, he realized. But only surface thoughts. Else you would not have to ask me.
This thought should have shocked him but it didn't. He shook his head again; he was starting to get a headache. Have to be careful.
"I thought you said that you loved me," said Reya.
They were both caught up in the moment now.
"I do," replied Argus. "But not enough."
"What is that supposed to mean?" She was very angry now and also very confused; angry at what he was saying; confused because she could feel his pain as he said it.
"You're lying," she accused him.
Argus did the one thing he knew would block her from reading his mind. He became angry.
"This arrangement was never meant to be permanent. Other than the sex, it would never have worked between us."
"I don't believe you," said Reya.
He doesn't love you. He is trying to push you away.
No! He does. She knew he did. Where are these other thoughts coming from? Reya struggled to hold onto what she was sure of.
They were both breathing heavier now; but neither of them noticed. They were fighting something they were not consciously aware of; something which was seeking to influence their minds and direct their thoughts.
You don't love him. But I do.
Then why have you never told him that you love him too?
Reya realized with a shock that that was true. Why haven't I? Reya shook her head. It seemed like there were three voices in her mind; hers, Argus's and something else which also sounded like her but was trying to make her question herself. She wondered if she was going mad.
Answer the question. The insistent voice would not be denied. I am afraid. The only other person I ever loved this strongly, he hated me. Why did my father hate me so much? I tried so hard to be someone he would be proud of. And he couldn't stand the sight of me. Why?
So you are afraid. That is why you won't take a chance on Argus. That's not true. He knows I love him.
The voices were all quiet now except for one.
"I love you," she told Argus.
"You love a dream. You love a man who doesn't exist. I am not who you think I am."
"Then tell me who you are."
"No." He was afraid to tell her.
It is better if she knows. It will make it easier for her to leave you.
Yes, it would be better this way. "You once accused me of being a coward on Zircaster. Accused me of killing defenceless civilians. You have never asked me about it since."
Reya wasn't sure if she wanted to know now. She was hearing something in his voice which made her uneasy.
"It was even worse than what you accused me of. I did kill those defenceless civilians. Not because of cowardice. I knew exactly what I was doing. The responsibility for their deaths falls on me."
"You were following orders."
Argus laughed cynically. "You don't believe that excuses it any more than I do. I knew it was wrong and still did it." Argus was on a roll now. He felt like a man who had already lost everything.
"Do you remember those soldiers in the woods? I never told you, but I spent several days with them. Became friends with some of them. Even taught them some knife tricks. And I killed all of them. After all these years, I thought that things had changed. But they hadn't. I am a monster, Reya. A killer. I always will be."
There was a great bitterness in his voice now. The hate he had for himself; the hate which seemed to recede when she was near had returned full force.
"You cannot love a monster. I will not let you," he told her.
It's over, he thought.
Reya's head was bowed. She could no longer hear the thoughts of his mind; but his words had been more than enough.
She finally raised her head and looked at him. So this is why you were pushing me away, she thought. We are a fine pair aren't we? We could both face a thousand enemies in battle without flinching but we are so afraid of this.
Argus was confused.
"You have been spending all of your time trying to repay that debt, haven't you?" she asked him.
He wondered if she could read more than just surface thoughts.
"Tell me the truth Argus," she told him.
"And you feel that no matter what you do, you will never be able to do enough."
Argus thought, You are reading deeper into my mind. I can't very well deny it.
"Yes," he replied.
She paused. In his eyes were such pain and conflict; and so much self-loathing.
"I will help you repay the debt," she told him gently. "You cannot push me away."
We are not alone anymore, she thought. We have each other now.
The man she loved disappeared.
She screamed, "Argus! No!"