Avon and Cally shimmered into view on the planet Papos. They had teleported down to a secluded wooded park area, one section away from the main commercial avenue on Papos.
Papos was a modest planet with a moderately-sized but busy commercial centre. People still called it a trading post even though it was considerably larger than that now. It still retained its trading post atmosphere.
Papos was new to the Federation. It still had not acquired the habits of a Federation-run society. Actually the locals were becoming increasingly underwhelmed with the so-called benefits of joining the Federation. Many of them had objected to losing the independence of a free-trading post.
Avon immediately began having unwelcomed feelings of panic. The lack of walls, the sky stretching far above him, the thousands of unfamiliar colours and the feeling of open space; they were overwhelming.
His conscious mind was trying to processing their new surroundings; his subconscious mind was panicking because it had lost its safe, familiar surroundings. He reached out towards a tree for support; he was starting to feel dizzy. Avon closed his eyes and struggled to rationalize the irrational. The weakness and feelings of illness were increasing. His struggle was causing him to breathe faster.
"Avon?" Cally said gently. She had immediately noticed his difficulty.
"Give me a few minutes Cally," said Avon. He was trying very hard to concentrate past the panic; trying hard to sound calm and in control. But he could not fool Cally.
She waited. Argus was right, she thought.
"I can do this," he told her; or perhaps he was trying to tell himself. There was great determination in his voice. His mind had failed him so often in the past three years, that he refused to allow it to anymore.
Avon tried to think through the crisis.
Think. Why did I not have any problems which I was in the gardens at Residence One? he asked himself.
He knew the answer. Even though Servalan had allowed him to walk outside, he had still been a prisoner there; he could still felt the walls of his prison even when he was in the garden.
I have been a prisoner for so long; that it has become a part of who I am.
Here on this strange planet, no longer enclosed in suffocating but familiar walls; and with the sky open above him, the trappings of the prisoner were no longer present.
I do not know who I am anymore without the walls. The panic threatened to override conscious thought. No!
Avon fought to maintain the thread of reasoning. He was angry at what his enemies had done to him. The anger was useful; it distracted from the feelings of panic. Avon realized that he had not just been a prisoner physically; what they did to him had a much deeper effect.
They kept the parts of me they needed and tried to remake the rest into what they wanted, he thought bitterly. Did they leave anything for me?
The fear told him that they did not. No! I will not accept that!
His mind continued to rationalize his situation. He wondered, Why do I not have this problem on the Justice?
His mind also had the answer to that question. Because on the ship, the others already had an identity for me.
His identity on the ship was bound up in what the others remembered of who he had been and in the roles they needed him to fill.
So even on the ship, my identity was not my own.
That still left one important question. Then who am I when there is no one else? When there are no walls? It scared him that he didn't know.
No. I will not give in to this fear. Servalan did this to me. I will not let her win. I will find who I am again.
He realized that even though his enemies had tried to destroy his sense of who he was, they had never been able to destroy his basic character. That was why it had always been necessary to keep him off-balance and controlled at the Centre.
I can do this, he told himself. If I can survive the Detention Centre, I can do this.
You never survived the Detention Centre, Avon. You still belong to me. You cannot survive without us. We made sure of that. He could almost hear Servalan's voice in his head; saying the things he was subconsciously afraid of.
He wondered if he was already going mad. The drugs are supposed to prevent the nightmares.
Avon struggled to reduce the problem to something he could rationalize. The increased concentration and confidence allowed him to do this.
This must not be a nightmare then. It is the fear talking. Fear is not reality. Not unless I allow it to be.
Avon clenched his teeth in determination and removed his hand from the tree.
I will do this. No matter how long this takes. He was resolved.
It was a mistake to leave me alive, Servalan.
Avon straightened up and opened his eyes. He was facing the tree he had been using for support; a support - he made a conscious decision - which he no longer needed.
He made a conscious denial. I am not a prisoner. My life is not defined by walls or what others want me to be.
Keeping these thoughts in his mind, Avon turned around. Cally was looking at him with concern.
Not even you, Cally,he thought.
His mind thought about why they were there, This is a small, insignificant planet. We are here to get medical supplies. That is all. He held onto the task at hand.
As long as I keep focused on the task, I will be fine. Avon was so focused he no longer paid attention to the trees, the sky, or the myriad of colours. He no longer felt the open space. They were just facts to be processed.
Avon was still aware of the fear and panic at the edge of his consciousness but it was controllable. He knew he had to keep focused or that could change very quickly.
"You did it," said Cally. Although she could not read his mind, she had been aware of the flow of his consciousness. She could sense his struggle and his determination; and she had been aware of the turning point. Cally knew the man who stood before her now was different from the one who had teleported down with her.
He was focused and her impression of him was much clearer.
You have a stronger sense of who you are now, she thought. You are no longer lost. There is an assurance which was not there before.
Because she was aware of what it had taken for him to get to this point, her admiration for him had grown even more. And she had a greater appreciation for Argus's leadership.
"For now," Avon told her. "Shall we go? I believe we have some shopping to do."
"I still don't understand why we had to come down here too," Vila said to Jenna.
Jenna had persuaded Vila to come down to Papos with her. She had almost dragged him into the teleport room. They had arrived in an alcove just off the main commercial avenue.
"It's not a matter of needing to come down, Vila. It was a matter of someone needing us to be down here," said Jenna.
"Oh," said Vila. "Cally didn't say that she needed help."
"Sometimes you are dense Vila. Haven't you noticed Argus and Reya having problems?"
"Oh," Vila said again. "So you wanted to give them time alone?"
"Got it in one."
Why do I keep missing these interesting things? Vila asked himself. "What did you want to do then? There's not a lot here. It's no Space City."
"I thought we might do some shopping."
"Couldn't we do something more fun, like sampling the local brews?" asked Vila.
"We can do both."
"Lead on," said Vila.
They exited the alcove and were immediately assaulted by the sounds of a busy avenue. The street was wide and it was a non-work day so it was packed with people rushing about carrying packages of numerous shapes and sizes.
"I take it back," said Vila as yet another person bumped into him in their hurry to get somewhere else. "It's a little like Space City. Except, not in space." Vila rubbed his arm. Whoever it was who had bumped into him that time, had something very hard under their jacket.
Something concealed? A weapon? Vila shook his head. Must be getting paranoid.
Reya walked down the short flight of steps onto the flight deck.
"Where is everyone?" she asked Argus. He was busy at his co-pilot's station, running some flight simulations for the practice.
"Are you talking to me now?" he asked.
"Unfortunately, you're the only one I can ask. I can't seem to find anyone else," she said.
"They're all down on Papos," he told her distractedly; his eyes focused on the panel in front of him.
Reya looked at him suspiciously. "Did you arrange this?"
Argus looked up at her. He suddenly realized they were completely alone on the ship, just the two of them.
That's why Jenna was so insistent on Vila going down with her, he thought.
"No," admitted Argus. Argus realized that he should have thought of this himself. "It looks like they're interfering again."
"Someone had to do something," emphasized Reya.
"You mean, you expected me to do this?" he asked.
"Not exactly this," she told him. "But something."
"I'm sorry," he was crestfallen. He had been procrastinating. Running simulations was much easier than fixing a relationship. Damn. I wish there was a manual for this relationship stuff somewhere.
She sighed. You really are hopeless at this, she thought. I'm going to have to learn more patience. And obviously you need some help.
"Where do you suppose they're keeping our stuff?" Ture whispered to Allren. They were making their way silently along a corridor of the main Federation Security building. Allren had managed to disable the door lock in their cell and they were in the process of escaping.
They flattened themselves against the wall as a security camera swept in their direction.
"Don't tell me you're still thinking about that stupid game," Allren whispered back.
"It would be nice to have it back and retrieve our equipment."
"Forget about it. You've gotten us into enough trouble as it is," said Allren. His right eye was still painfully swollen from the beating administered by the guards. "I want to get off this miserable planet as soon as possible."
The camera swept past them and they continued down the corridor.
"Alright. I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Besides I thought you only played games with Avon in them, not Blake."
"It's not about that."
"Then what is it?" whispered Allren as they reached a junction. Allren peered around the corner. The coast was clear.
"The Princess, she reminds me of Cally."
Allren rolled his eyes. "That's just great. Let's concentrate on getting out of here."
Psychostrategist Sester was becoming very annoyed; though he showed no outward signs. He was seated in senior controller Dayto's office on the top floor of the main Federation Security building. Sester had come to question the man about his woefully inadequate report.
Dayto said again, "I assure you that there are no additional details, psychostrategist Sester. The report is as complete as we can make it."
Even though Sester had spent the past hour pointing out the glaring omissions in the report he had been given, the controller still adamantly insisted that the report was complete. The report was full of details, very few of which were useful. As Sester read the report, it had been very clear that the writer's intention was to hide the lack by burying the reader in a mass of useless facts. Unfortunately, the writer did not know the abilities of a psychostrategist.
Sester was becoming increasingly certain that the senior controller was not incompetent. The man was deliberately lying. He was very good at pretending to be pleasant but useless; but he could not fool Sester. It was what the man was not saying and how he was not saying it, which spoke volumes to the psychostrategist. He had enough of the pretense, lies and half-truths.
"What games are you trying to play?" asked Sester.
You do not know who your opponent is if you are trying to do this with me, thought Sester.
The senior controller did not answer. He stared at Sester; he appeared to be trying to make a decision. Finally he nodded. This nod was not to Sester, it was to someone behind him. Sester could hear the sounds of weapons clearing holsters. He had not even heard anyone come in. Sester did not even look around; he knew they were pointed at him.
I doubt if these are stun guns, he thought.
"What are you doing?" Sester asked. His voice was calm and measured.
"You've forced our hand," said Dayto. "We can't have you asking questions we are not prepared to answer yet."
"Who is 'we'?" asked Sester.
"That is one of the questions," Dayto replied.
Sester noticed that Dayto's demeanor had changed. He was no longer pleasant.
And you are not a fool, thought Sester.