"Oh come now, Argus. You are telling me that you, Avon and my wayward psychostrategist saved humanity. With just a single ship?" Servalan asked incredulously.
"Avon has done it before. At Star One," replied Argus.
With Servalan constantly being interrupted by her own people and the slow progress of their cooperation, they had finally gotten to the final details of what happened with the invaders.
Servalan looked thoughtful. She had always known that it was Avon who made the difference for Blake. That is why she had considered him such a valuable asset and such a dangerous foe.
Central Security had discovered that Avon and the Scorpio had entered orbit over Gauda Prime and had been shot down by gun ships intent on catching smugglers running the blockade.
Avon's plan to unite the warlords in order to mass produce and distribute the antidote for Pylene-50 was a bold and well-thought out plan. If Servalan had not stepped in, he would have succeeded. Had he continued to pursue his goals despite the setback with the warlords, he would have neutralized the effectiveness of the pacification drug and seriously set back the Federation's re-expansion plans.
Central Security wanted him dead. Finding out that he was on Gauda Prime gave them the chance to kill him and remove this danger to the Federation.
Blake's group had already been infiltrated. His people had tried to break into the Federation computer system and had immediately been discovered. After that, there was not a move he made which Central Security was not aware of. The plans to destroy his new group were already in progress. The killing of Avon and his crew should have been very easy.
Central Security had not figured on Servalan. Or rather, Commissioner Sleer as she was then. She had been sent as the representative from the Federation High Council to Gauda Prime and was already on the planet when she heard the coded signals to kill Avon and his group. For her, it was also the perfect opportunity. It was a chance to gain both Avon and ORAC. She had planned to use them as tools in her bid to regain the Presidency.
Servalan had rushed to the bounty hunter base with her own personal troops. She had barely been in time. Blake had already been killed. Most of the Scorpio crew lay dead. Her men had arrived just as the Federation troops were in the process of gunning down Avon.
He was barely alive by the time her men had neutralized the Federation soldiers. The only other person to survive was the thief, Vila. Servalan made sure no one else on the base survived to tell what had happened; neither Federation, rebels nor bounty hunters. And she got away with her prize, Avon.
"What are you thinking, Servalan?" asked Argus when she didn't say anything else.
Servalan's attention returned to the present.
She asked, "The invaders were using the three of you to assess their probable success for invading this galaxy?"
"Yes. That is what I said."
"And you were able to escape? And managed to defeat the enemy ships? Without any additional help?"
"Yes." Argus was not about to tell Servalan about Reya. He did not want her in this deadly woman's sights.
"You were able to persuade them that it was too dangerous to invade this galaxy? That is why they left?"
"Yes. We have gone over this already."
"Well, then it seems we owe the three of you a debt of gratitude."
"What are you up to, Servalan?" asked Argus suspiciously. Whenever she acted pleasant, it made him very nervous. Gratitude from her put him instantly on alert.
"Why aren't you questioning what I'm saying?" he asked.
"Should I have a reason to question you?"
"If you had told me this story, I wouldn't have believed it. Why aren't you questioning what I'm saying?" he asked again.
Servalan smiled. "It is because it is such a fantastic story. If you had wanted to lie to me, you would have told a much more believable lie. And besides, it is Avon we are talking about."
"You expect a lot from him."
"Don't you?" she asked.
"Is that why you're hunting him? You want to harness that ability again for yourself?"
"That is none of your concern."
"I think it is."
"Is this the part where you issue a threat and I ignore it?" asked Servalan with a note of sarcasm.
"I would never waste your time by just issuing threats, Servalan." His voice had dropped a tone.
"Be careful, Argus."
"Is it your turn to issue a threat?" It was Argus's turn to sound sarcastic.
"I don't need threats."
"You just kill people. With your charming personality no doubt."
"No. I just employ people like you to kill them for me," said Servalan with a chilling smile.
Argus scowled at the woman on the screen.
He asked, "So where do we go from here, Servalan? Now that the information sharing portion of this exercise is over. Are you finally going to get to the real reason why you have been leading me on?"
"You don't think it was for the information?"
"I think the information was a minor reason. You must have already suspected we had something to do with the invaders leaving. You just needed me to provide the details. But I highly doubt it was the main reason. I think your real reason is still on the planet."
"You think I did this so that I can use you to get to Avon?"
"He has always been your main objective."
"I don't deny that Avon is very important. And I do not deny that I plan to use you. But not in the way that you think. I will get Avon. It is only a matter of time. I don't need your help for that."
"If you think that I'm going to help you, you're dreaming, Servalan."
"I don't think you know yourself very well, Argus."
"And you do?"
"That's what this exercise, as you call it, has been about." She smiled. It was the kind of smile that sent shivers down one's spine.
Argus was not so easily intimidated, though he was feeling uneasy.
Servalan continued, "But before we get to that. There is something else we must deal with."
"When Sester returned Avon to you, it was on the understanding that you would help fight against the alien incursion into this system." Servalan was very serious now.
"He told you that?" asked Argus.
"He told me his plans. Yes. Though I didn't agree with them at the time," she told him. "It was very presumptuous of him. He went against my orders."
"I'm sure you punished him for that after he helped Avon to escape," said Argus cynically.
Servalan smiled. "Of course. I cannot allow that kind of presumption or disobedience."
"I'm surprised you let him live."
"I do not like to waste a valuable resource. As long as I can control it."
The way that Servalan was looking at him, made Argus uncomfortable. His sense of danger was working overtime. His instinct told him to fight or run. Argus never ran from anything.
Servalan said, "I propose a truce. Until the present crisis with the alien threat is over. This will be an official agreement between us rather than the informal one you had with Sester."
"You will leave Avon alone if we help in fighting the aliens?" asked Argus. This kind of agreement he could live with.
"It is not that kind of agreement," said Servalan. "There will be a cessation of hostilities between us for the duration of the crisis. In return, I expect you and your crew to do what you do best. Find trouble and neutralize it. I will even make certain resources available to you. If you are agreed, of course."
Argus thought for a moment. "I will need to talk to my crew first."
"You are their leader."
"Yes. But there are several of them who would like to see you dead. Avon being one of them. I will not force them to work with you."
She considered this briefly. "Very well. Speaking of Avon."
"Leave him alone, Servalan. Stop trying to pursue him. Or I will make it my personal business to hunt you. And you know that I am very good at it. Your records on me should tell you that."
"They do. But I don't think that you will."
"You don't know me very well then. I have no problems with killing you," Argus said coldly.
"I didn't think that you would. That is what the Federation trained you to be after all. But the reality of the situation is that you are there. Avon is down on the planet. You cannot keep me from taking him. It is only a matter of time before he is found. And unless you confine him to your ship, you will never be able to protect him from me."
Argus was sick of Servalan's games. He hated her for treating Avon's life as something she could toy with. Argus also knew that Servalan had a fascination with Avon though. He knew that she valued him beyond just being a tool she could use.
He said angrily, "You nearly destroyed him the last time, Servalan. He is still trying to recover from what you did to him. How much more do you think you can do before you completely destroy him? Avon tried to kill himself when he came back. Did you want to know that? He could barely function. He preferred death to what you had made him into. He can barely sleep now without the drugs you have made him dependent on. How do you think that makes him feel, to have a daily reminder that you still control his life? If you were here, right now. In front of me. I would kill you myself."
There was such anger and passion in his voice that Servalan smiled. This was the man she was hoping he was. This kind of man, she could use.
"What are you willing to do to keep Avon safe? From me?" she asked him.
"It's been two hours," Cally said to Avon. He turned around to look down at her.
He had been watching the busy avenue while Cally rested nearby.
"I know," said Avon.
"I should go." She got up and headed towards the street.
"No. Not yet." He reached out with his hand and touched her arm before she could get past him.
Cally stopped and asked with concern, "Did you see something?"
"There has been an increased Federation presence on this avenue in the past hour."
Cally looked past him out onto the street. "I don't see anything."
"You're not supposed to. This is a pattern I am very familiar with. Closing off all access points. The sweeper teams. And now watchers hidden among the populace."
"There is something troubling you."
"Yes. This is what Federation Security normally does when they know who they're looking for. I don't think that all of this activity has been to search for invaders left behind.
"Any indication as to who they're searching for?"
"No. But I think we need to find out."
"You're afraid they're looking for us?" Cally recognized the way his mind was working.
"It is a possibility given that the Justice is orbiting the planet."
"Then what do we do?"
"We need to get off this street as quickly as possible and find somewhere to hide," he told her.
"If you're right and they are looking for us, the moment we step out onto the avenue, we'll be spotted. We can't even contact Palty. He must be waiting for me by now."
Avon thought for a moment. "Do Ture or Allren know what Palty looks like?"
Cally put her hand to her head, "Of course. They wouldn't connect them with us. Ture knows what he looks like. He's contacted Palty before to get medication when Allren was injured."
"Quickly then. We need to get under cover before the curfew."