Servalan studied the man sitting opposite her. They were in her cabin onboard her command ship. He was staring straight ahead, but did not seem to see her. There had been no sound from him since he had been delivered by the guards several minutes earlier.
"Look at me, Avon," she commanded him.
"Why? What you require from me doesn't need me to look at you, does it?"
"Are we going to keep this civil?" she asked.
"I refuse to indulge your fantasies of polite repression," said Avon.
"Is that all there is between us?"
"I have never been anything other than a useful tool to you, Servalan. A source of entertainment to satisfy your sadistic whims. Let's not pretend otherwise."
"You underestimate your value, Avon."
Avon shifted his eyes to look at her. There was a darkness in them; a deep-seated hatred.
"Either use me or return me to my cell. I have no interest in continuing this conversation," he told her coldly.
"Is that why you think you're here?"
"Don't insult me, Servalan. We both know why I'm here in your cabin rather than in your office. Unless your normal place of business is in your bedroom."
"Be careful, Avon," she warned him.
"Spare the threats. They don't impress me. What could you possibly do to me that you haven't already done?"
"I'm sure I can think of something. There are no limits for a creative mind."
Servalan had never intended to threaten or bait him like this but she couldn't help herself.
Since Avon had been brought to her cabin, there was something in his attitude which troubled her. Something beyond the insults and hatred; those she had expected. She hadn't been able to identify it until now.
There was a fatalism. He was still fighting her; but it was an empty fight.
Servalan stood up and crossed over to his side of the desk. She stood close behind him. He was very aware of her physical presence. His breathing had quickened.
"You hate me, don't you Avon?"
"More than you could possibly imagine."
"Don't move," she told him.
She reached out with her hand and touched his neck. Then she traced her fingers lightly down his back. He flinched but did not move away. He was barely breathing. Where she was touching him was a place where she knew there was a scar; knew because she had given it to him. Everytime he felt it, he would remember the pain she had inflicted on him. In a way, it was her mark of ownership over him.
She could feel the tension in his body. He was like a trapped but dangerous animal. There was an energy beneath her fingers; a coiled anger she would never allow to be released. His breathing was shallow.
The power she had over him was almost intoxicating. It was stronger than any aphrodisiac.
I've missed this, thought Servalan.
She reached up and traced the line of his jaw. He stayed still. They both knew that if she wanted him, that there was nothing he could do to stop her.
It would be so easy.
Servalan grabbed his hair and forced his head up to face her. She bent down but did not kiss him. They were so close that Servalan could almost feel his anger. She drew her other hand down his chest slowly, sensually. He tried to move away but she gripped his hair harder, causing his jaw to tighten in pain.
"No," she admonished him. "I said don't move." As she continued to caress him, she could feel the heat given off by his body. Her hand slid inside his tunic. His breathing had deepened. She recognized the reactions of his body. After all this time, the physical attraction was still there. She felt him shiver involuntarily.
Yes. She kissed him and he responded to her. Servalan wanted to smile. You are still mine.
He was trying to fight the affect she was having on him but couldn't. This part of the conditioning was still in place.
Her hand let go of his hair and pressed her ring against the back of his neck. Avon reacted in surprise at the sharp jab of pain then he slumped against her, unconscious.
Servalan sighed. There was a reason why she had him brought onboard. This wasn't it; no matter how much she wanted it.
Servalan called for her personal guards and watched as they carried him out.
The psych specialists at the Detention Centre had warned her that if she intended to use him the way she had done before, if she attempted to have him reconditioned again, the likelihood was that his mind would not survive. Too much damage had already been done.
She could not risk it. He was too valuable. And a world without an Avon who could fight her was not worth contemplating. He had to be given time to heal: physically, mentally and psychologically. At the moment he was too unstable and he would never accept help from her. He had to be with people whom he felt safe with.
But Servalan would never let him go unless she knew there was someone who would protect her asset until he was ready for her again.
The purpose of Servalan's arrival over Papos had never been to capture him. It had been to test Argus. She had to know to what extent Argus was willing to protect Avon.
Finding Argus alone on the ship had been fortuitous. It had facilitated her purposes. The psychostrategist and the psych specialist she had working on him when she wasn’t talking to him, had confirmed her own instincts about him. It had been a carefully prepared plan to trap him.
Servalan already knew Argus's abilities. He was one of the best field commanders the Federation had ever produced; he was a superb killing machine. He was also a man afflicted with a conscience; someone who had a natural affinity with those he led and those he had formed an attachment to.
These qualities were weaknesses for a Federation officer but they made him well suited to protect her asset. They also made him vulnerable to the kind of unscrupulous manipulation Servalan was very good at.
There was another equally important reason for allowing Avon this temporary freedom. Argus had been right. She needed Avon to help in the fight against the alien incursion; but he would never work with her directly. This part of what she told Argus had been true. She had wanted the formal alliance between them.
The Federation's forces were still years from reaching the strengths it enjoyed before the alien invasion at Star One. They could not effectively fight the aliens on their own.
While she had worked on Argus, she had another idea.
He was a useful man. With him doing her bidding, she would gain a powerful weapon. A tool she could use to destroy her enemies; as long as she could help him overcome his quaint sensibilities.
Servalan smiled. Argus would never know that the agreement he made with her was an illusion.
Servalan had allowed him to see that she was concerned for Avon; had appealed to his awareness that Avon would not survive being imprisoned by her again. The best lies are those based on a measure of truth. It had not taken much persuasion to convince him that she was twisted enough not to let Avon go unless she got something in return.
She knew that he was still highly suspicious of her and mistrustful of this arrangement; he would not begin to trust her until she appeared to honour their agreement.
Argus thought he was doing this to save Avon from her and the Federation. In reality, he was only there to serve her interests.
There was one final thing she had to do before she would let Avon go.
"Why didn't you kill him?" Sester asked Reya as they sped away. She had just rapped the Senior Controller at the base of the skull, tied him up and rolled him down a steep ravine.
Reya glanced at Sester briefly. He was still in the driver's seat but she was sitting next to him now. "Contrary to my most recent performance, I don’t like unnecessary bloodshed," said Reya.
"When he wakes up, he's going to send people after us," said Sester.
"Yes. But that won't be for at least five hours. And it'll take him some time to get himself back to civilization. "
"By then I imagine he'll be in a foul mood. Assuming he isn't too busy trying to save his own skin that is. I don't think the Federation is very happy with him at the moment."
"I don't imagine they would be."
"Alright dear. Where to now?" he asked her.
"We do what we should have been doing before we were so rudely interrupted," she told him.
"Find Avon and the others?" asked Sester.
"Do you already have a plan?" Sester asked.
"We need to change vehicles. This one is too noticeable. Head back towards the city."
Reya glanced at her companion again. "If you want, you could easily link up with the Federation forces in the city. Just drop me off somewhere I can get transport."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to get rid of me," he told her.
She didn't answer him. It had been what she was trying to do.
Sester sighed. "You are trying to get rid of me." He directed the transport vehicle to the side of the road.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He turned to look at her. Reya stared straight ahead, trying not to meet his eyes. She hated personal scenes and it seemed as if they were headed for one.
"Look, Reya. What happened between us will never happen again. It was only out of necessity. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around me."
What Sester said was not what he wanted to say but he knew that it was what she wanted to hear.
She turned to look at him. It wasn't going to be as bad as she thought.
"Besides you would probably kill me if I tried anything," he told her jokingly.
"That's more than likely."
From her tone, he wasn't sure if she was joking or not; but he knew she was. At least, he hoped she was.
"I want to help you find the others," said Sester.
"Why? You don't know them. Except for Avon. And I don't think he likes you."
"Not liking me would be putting it mildly," he said wryly. "Do you do any freelance work? I might really need a bodyguard if we do find him."
"You wouldn't be able to afford my fees," she said dryly.
He grinned at her. "I'm serious though. I want to help you find them."
"I still want to know why," said Reya.
"I like to finish things. And it doesn't feel like I have unless we find the others."
"I'm the one who made the promise to Argus," she told him.
"I know. That's why I want to do this. You risked your life to stay with me. I'd like to do something for you."
"You don't need to."
"I'd like to. You might as well let me. The only way you're going to stop me is tie me up." He was determined to help her.
"I could do that."
"Are you always this way when someone offers you help?" he asked.
"Alright. You can help. But on one condition."
"What's the condition?"
"Stop flirting with me."
"Can you ask me to do something easier?"
"That's my condition."
"What if I say that I'll try?"
"Do more than try. Or I might change my mind about tying you up."
He grinned at her then said, "Where do we start?"
"Since the Federation is looking for both you and Avon. Then they don't have him. And neither did Dayto. Argus must have told Jenna that we were coming. That means that they were looking for us and probably still are. So either Jenna was able to find him or he's hiding somewhere."
"Do you have any ideas?"
"From their actions here, the Federation seems to be taking major actions against any groups opposed to them. Most likely trying to find and remove any harmful irregularities in the population. It may or may not be because of the information I gave Dayto."
"If that's the case, I'd like to go by the main Federation Security building and see what the situation is. Since we have no way of knowing where Jenna or Avon are, perhaps we might be able to find out something from their investigations. I'm assuming that you can do a passable Federation officer if I can get you a uniform? And even if you're caught, you can tell them who you are."
"Are you still trying to get rid of me?"
"Not this time."
The door panel to the storage facility was too damaged for Vila to do anything about it. In the end, they had to bodily force it open.
"Let's go find Avon," said Cally. Vila, Ture and Allren followed her.
When Jenna and the rebels with her also made moves to go along with them, Cally asked, "Where are you going?"
"We're going to find Avon too," Jenna told her. There was a large red bruise on her face now.
"Not with us," said Cally. She blocked the opened doorway.
"Look, Cally. I don't want to get into a fight. I know you have feelings for Avon. It's blinding you to the truth. Avon is a murderer. He must be brought to justice."
"Don't try to fool yourself, Jenna. What you're after is not about justice."
They stared at each other.
Jenna broke the silence, "Then I guess this is where we part company."
"Jenna, maybe we can talk about it," said Vila. "We don't have to break up. We need each other."
"I'm sorry, Vila but I can't be on a ship that harbours a murderer," Jenna told him.
Vila tried to make her see reason. "I was there, Jenna. Avon did kill Blake. But it was a mistake. A terrible mistake. They both made terrible mistakes. Avon didn't go there to kill Blake. He wanted Blake's help to build up the alliance."
"You must be desperate if you think I'm going believe that," said Jenna. "Why are you trying to defend him, Vila? He used to despise you. He probably still does."
"Yes and I despise him too. But it's not that simple. Nothing ever is with Avon. You must remember that. We get on each other's nerves. And we insult each other. But we respect each other's abilities. When Avon wanted to do something, he always picked me to go with him. And as embarrassing as it is to admit, we cared about each other. We needed each other to stay alive. If it weren't for Avon, I would've been dead ages ago, all of us would have."
"He's got you fooled too," said Jenna sadly.
"You're the fool, Jenna," said Cally angrily. "When has Avon ever wanted people to think he cared? He's always gone out of his way to deny it."
"Then you should believe what he says. He doesn't care about anyone except himself."
"How can you be so blind? It's Avon's actions that prove how he really feels. Vila is right, if it weren't for Avon, we would have all been dead along time ago. We would not be standing here arguing about it."
"You're only saying that because he saved your life," argued Jenna.
"And what does that tell you?" said Cally.
"I know what you want me to say. That Avon did something noble. But all that proves is that he has feelings for you too. Even a cold-blooded murderer can love someone."
Cally fell into an angry silence. Avon's actions the day when he came to rescue her had spoken loudly. She had never discussed this with anyone else before.
"Will you wait?" Cally remembered his words.
She said, "You can believe whatever you like, Jenna. You will no matter what we say. We're going to find Avon and you will not follow us."
Jenna nodded. "I wished it didn't have to be this way. We'll give you a five minute start before we leave."
Before they exited, Cally turned around and said, "Don't let vengeance destroy you, Jenna. Vila's right we all need each other."