After Sester said that there was more, Reya had sat down again.
Sester paced the cabin while she waited. His pounding headache had lessened in intensity, most likely due to the influx of adrenaline in his system as he told Avon and Anna’s story. It was a point of stress for him. He knew that despite Avon’s desire to know the truth, he didn’t really want this truth. The knowledge that Anna did love him would be more devastating than any confirmation of her unbridled treachery.
The information had been a great burden for Sester. He hated that Servalan had put him in this position. Her reasons for doing this made him ill. She wanted to assert her control over Avon. She wanted him to feel the power she had over him; the power to tear his life apart at a moment’s whim and then watch him desperately try to put himself back together again. Sester had watched it often enough at the Detention Centre; he had helped her do some of it. He didn’t know if he could watch it again or hear Avon’s screams of agony as they ripped into the heart he barely acknowledged he had.
Sester hated himself for being an instrument that could be used to cause this much pain. He wondered how many other lives he had destroyed in the course of his work. It had never meant that much to him before. You don’t have feelings for puppets. Seeing Avon suffering another horrifying nightmare on the flight deck, had brought back memories of the isolation chamber and Sester’s finest and most dreadful achievement. Until that day in the Detention Centre, he had never witnessed the cost of bringing a human being to the point where they lost all desire to live. Servalan may have authorized it, but he was the one who had knowingly made it happen.
The guilt was like a black hole that threatened to swallow Sester up. He could not do that to Avon again. The others may not believe him, they might see it as more proof of his treachery but he could not tell Avon what he wanted to know. It would hurt Avon too much to realize that he killed someone who loved him; that once again he had done something horrible and made a fatal mistake.
Sester shook his head. Why is it that you always find yourself in these situations, Avon? First Anna and then Blake. What possessed all of you? What happened to your brains? What enables this tragedy of errors in your life, Avon? A simple word. A little thought. If you, or Anna, or Blake had done just one thing different, it could have all been avoided and your life would not be in the mess it is now.
At times, at the Detention Centre, Sester thought that Avon wanted the pain they were inflicting on him; bowing his head as they broke his body, as if accepting a punishment for something only he understood.
Reya broke Sester’s train of thought, “You said there was more?”
He was startled and turned to look at her. She was beautiful. Her hard face was softened by the humanity he saw in her eyes. A humanity, he knew he didn’t possess. “Yes.”
[Outside Avon’s cabin, Vila had joined Cally and was working on the door panel in order to override the security lock Avon had placed on it. Vila straightened up and said in frustration, “I can’t do it with this.” He looked at the all-purpose tool he normally carried for such occasions. “He must have been watching me override the door panels and done something tricky with the lock.”
Cally’s face was heavy with concern. “Can you open it?”
“Not with this.” Vila put his tool away in disgust. “I’ll have to get my proper kit.”
Cally’s voice was tinged with fear as she said, “Please hurry, Vila.” She had not been able to reach Avon with her mind and there had been no responses to repeated shouts and banging on the door. Her mind was shielded now against the continuing assault of emotions from Avon but it was not enough. She could still feel his pain and devastation. Something terrible was happening inside the room.
Vila was always affected by someone else’s pain and fear. It was even worse, when he shared it. He ran off to his cabin to get the thieves kit that Argus had given to him as a birthday gift. It seemed like such a long time ago.]
Sester tore his eyes away from Reya. His feelings for her were a distraction that he wanted, but could not allow himself. He had more to tell her. “As I said, Anna loved Avon, but not in the way that he loved her. She loved him enough to help him and to let him go but not enough to give up everything for him. She returned to her life as Bartolomew.”
“She was still a spy and she worked for the Federation.”
Sester could almost hear the words she was not saying. “Reya, I know what you’re trying to imply but I’ve already explained my reasons for what I do.”
She was in an unrelenting mood. “I don’t buy it. I don’t think that you believe in what you’re doing anymore. You feel guilty and it’s eating you up inside. You can’t do Servalan’s dirty work for her anymore. That’s why you’ve been drinking.”
Her words were like a sharp knife piercing through to where the truth lay. His jaw tightened and then he said, “It’s my turn to tell you to stop doing that.”
She challenged him, “Am I touching too close to the truth? Am I making you feel uncomfortable?”
Sester’s breathing increased with the stress of the confrontation. He had never felt defensive before. It was not a feeling he liked. He had never been harsh with Reya but he said with anger, “Stop! Do you want to hear the rest, or not?”
Sester’s eyes were like that of a cornered animal. Reya realized she had pushed him too far. She said calmly, “Yes, I do.”
Sester instantly regretted his uncharacteristic outburst, but it was too late to take it back. Reya had the ability to get underneath his barriers and chip away at the areas he was most vulnerable.
In self-defence, he continued telling her about Anna. “Anna expected that Avon would move on with his life and learn to live without her. That was what she did, but she did keep an eye out for him. Then Avon was captured and brought back to Earth for trial. He was sentenced to Cygnus Alpha. Anna still loved him and did not want to see him end up there. She had acquired quite a power base with her success as Bartolomew. Many people owed her favours. She used some of them to help Avon.”
Reya was puzzled. “But Avon still ended up being sent on a ship to Cygnus Alpha.”
Sester smiled. It was a burdened look that spoke of someone who knew too much that wasn’t good for him. “Yes. That was his sentence and that was where he was sent. But not when.”
Reya was even more mystified now. “I don’t understand.”
Sester asked her a guiding question. “Think about it, Reya. Who else was on the ship with Avon?”
Reya knew the answer but she still didn’t understand. “You mean Blake?”
“Are you saying that it wasn’t a coincidence?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“Anna had something to do with it?”
Sester started pacing again as he told her the circumstances that had put Avon on the same ship with Blake. “When you put two people like Avon and Blake together, several inevitabilities are created. It’s what psychostrategists call the predictability quotient. But you don’t need to be a psychostrategist to know that it’s a very bad idea to put the two of them together. Given half an opportunity, either one of them could cause a great deal of trouble and they both have a tendency to make things happen. Avon and Blake would have been bright enough to recognize each other’s capabilities. Together, it was inevitable that they would attempt to escape. Alone, they each had half a chance. One had the technical ability to take over the ship and the intelligence to plan. The other had the ability to gather a group of people together and to lead them.”
Reya asked, “But I understand that they didn’t succeed. They tried to take over the ship but it failed. They only escaped when they accidentally encountered the Liberator.”
Sester smiled. “That is the bane of a psychostrategist’s work. It’s the unpredictability of human actions. No matter how much we calculate and make provisions, even when things seem inevitable, there is always a chance that things will turn out completely differently."
"It's a good thing they didn't otherwise they would never have been able to get the Liberator," Reya remarked.
"That's very true."
[Vila rushed back with his equipment satchel gripped in anxious hands. Cally was frantic, she had continued to try calling out to Avon but to no avail. The emanations she had been receiving from him, despite her mental barriers up, were becoming very troubling.
Vila opened up the case, picked out a tool and began working on the door panel. His fingers were stiff with tension.
Cally said, "Please hurry, Vila!"
"I'm trying! I'm trying!" He shook his fingers and tried to relax them so that they wouldn't be so tense. He was very worried too.]
Reya asked Sester, "So Anna arranged for Avon and Blake to be on the same ship?"
Sester sat down again. "Yes. When Blake was sentenced to Cygnus Alpha, Avon was kept in a special holding facility away from the others. He was never supposed to be put on the London. He was to come on a later transport. The Federation was not going to risk having both of them together. Once they were on Cygnus Alpha, it didn’t matter. You can probably verify that with Vila. Avon was never in the holding cell with the rest of the prisoners that were going to the London. He was brought in later when they started to board. Somehow Anna was able to arrange that. She had false orders issued for Avon's transfer and then had fake prisoner rolls sent to Civil Administration. As far as the Federation authorities knew, Avon was still at the holding facility, waiting for the next transport. You must have imagined their surprise when the captain of the London reported that Avon was among the prisoners who escaped. Central Security was furious. Several people were demoted to penal colonies. The Federation had intended to retrieve Avon from Cygnus Alpha, after a suitable period of time. They thought that after giving him a taste of what life could be like if he refused to cooperate, then he would be more reasonable, and they wouldn't have to employ more drastic measures that might damage his brain."
[In the cabin that Cally and Vila were attempting to enter, Avon was in shock. His heart was beating wildly but he no longer noticed. There was one word repeating itself in his mind, over and over again until it was the only word he knew. Anna. ]
[Vila said, “Just two more connections.” His voice was full of anxiety, but his hands were steady as he continued to work on the door panel. Avon had done something very clever with the circuits. It was like unravelling a lock puzzle. Fortunately, Vila was very good at those.
Argus arrived and urgently asked Cally, “How is he? Have you been able to connect to Avon?” When Argus was informed of Cally’s rushed return to the ship, he had come back immediately as well.
Cally was full of fear for Avon. She knew that something terrible was going on inside of him. “I haven’t been able to. He’s closed off to me and his mind has lost conscious control. Argus, he’s in so much pain!”
Argus put his hand on her arm, “We’ll help him, Cally. He’s not alone. Do you know what caused this?”
Vila’s hands stopped working and he turned towards Argus.]
Reya said, "But there's one thing I still don't understand. If Anna did all that for him, if she did love him, then why did she try to kill him?"
Sester's lips contorted as if there was something he didn't want to say but had to. "That was the greatest tragedy. You see, Blake was known by the Federation as a violent terrorist. He caused the deaths of many people. Blowing up major comm and nav centres like Saurian Major and causing the deaths of many thousands when the control systems went down. Anna never expected Avon to stay with someone like Blake. The Avon she knew was not a violent man. But when he stayed and helped Blake and heard all of the destructive things they did, she thought he had changed. When she saw Avon again in the cellar, Anna thought she didn’t know him anymore. She was afraid he would kill her if he found out she had been a Federation spy, so she pretended that she was the Anna he had known. But then Avon realized the truth and she was trapped."
"That was why she tried to kill Avon?"
Sester looked uncomfortable, "I'm not sure she intended to kill him. She believed that Avon had become the kind of person who would kill her for betraying him to the Federation.”
As Reya heard this, an increasingly horrified look came over her face.
Sester said, “I watched the footage from the cellar that Servalan provided when we rebuilt the scenario for Avon. Anna did pull a gun on him. Cally shouted in warning and Avon whirled around and shot her. It was a purely instinctive reaction on Avon’s part, but Anna may not have meant to kill Avon. She may have only wanted to prevent him from killing her, so that she could tell him the truth. That would make more sense with what we know about her. But unfortunately, Avon never knew that when he shot her. There was no way he could have known that she didn’t intend to kill him."
"So Avon made a mistake?"
"It is likely he did. Anna tried to explain it to him after she was shot. She tried to tell him that it wasn’t all lies and that she did love him. She tried to tell him that she let him go but it was too late and she died before she could say more."
[Cally and Vila finally burst into Avon's cabin but his heart had already stopped.]
[In Sester’s cabin, Argus overrode the door controls and went inside to stop Sester from saying any more, but it was too late, the damage had already been done.]