Avon was working on fixing the programming while Cally had one of the computer panels open and was replacing some of the destroyed transfer crystal circuits. They were both absorbed in what they were doing.
Cally was aware of Avon at the edge of her consciousness, trying to gauge his tiredness and concentration level and persuade him to take short breaks when she felt he needed it. Often he had to be encouraged strongly before he relented. She could see that he was irritated at the disturbances to his work but she insisted.
Avon was increasingly ill-humoured and he said during one such disruption, "How can I possibly finish this in time with all of these interruptions?" He put his feet up on a chair that Cally had pushed towards him. It was either that or have it bang across his shins. At times Cally felt as if she was managing a petulant child.
Cally eyes met his without hesitating. "You won't finish at all if you collapse from exhaustion."
They stared at each other, neither one willing to back down. There was no antagonism, only two wills with different priorities. Avon finally leaned back against his chair, folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes.
Grant came in through the doorway. "How are the repairs coming? Do you need…" When he saw Avon resting and Cally gesturing for quiet, he whispered, "Sorry, I'll come back later."
It was too late, Avon's eyes had snapped open when he heard Grant's voice. Cally noticed a strong spike in Avon's emotional state. She knew that it would be almost impossible to get Avon to rest now unless she could persuade Grant to leave.
Avon sat up and kicked the chair away. "There's no need. I'm…"
Cally said, "Avon needs rest." She didn't want to embarrass him but his health was more important to her than his pride.
Avon looked at her with mild irritation.
Grant was not blind to the dynamic between them and said diplomatically, "I should leave you to rest."
Avon had a flash of memory. He, Anna and Grant had been at a restaurant before the mercenary went out on another job. It was the last time the three of them had been together. He and Grant had debated heatedly about various topics while Anna had tried to play referee.
Avon didn't want Grant to leave the room without talking to him. He asked, "You require a status report on the repairs?"
Grant glanced at Cally and said hesitantly, "Yes. We need to know how close you are so we can decide if we need to make further plans about moving the population."
Avon looked up at Cally, who was hovering nearby. "This is important."
She gave him a hard look and projected into his mind, * You're supposed to get some rest. *
Avon said, "It won't take long."
The way she raised her eyebrows and the strong sense of scepticism that she projected to him told Avon that she didn't believe it for one moment, even if he did.
He promised her, * I will not to do any work and I will rest after talking to Grant. *
Cally nodded reluctantly and returned to work on replacing the crystals. Grant lay his rifle down on a table and sat down heavily on one of the chairs nearby. He looked tired to the bone and there were dark circles under his eyes. Grant asked, "What's the status?"
Avon gave him a report on his and Cally's progress. He concluded by saying, "Everything is going according to the original estimate. I was able to reverse engineer most of the missing code. How is the situation outside? Have they decided to take Servalan’s proposal?"
Grant barely managed to keep the impatience out of his tone. “They’re still debating about it.”
“Still?” It had been over a day since Argus had come back from the Justice and told them what he had negotiated for the Solterans.
Grant said, "You know how it is when several rebel groups get together. They all have their own opinions on the best course of action."
Cally looked up from what she was doing and said, "Then they may never come to a decision."
"They will," said Grant.
Avon said with a strong tone of sarcasm, "Or they will wait until circumstances force them to." In his experience most people either rushed headlong without taking the time to think first, or have a lot to say, but do nothing.
Grant nodded in agreement. "Regardless, they will come to a decision, one way or another."
Cally remarked, "Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later."
Grant said, "Yes." He seemed to want to say something more, wavered and then decided to get up from his seat instead. "I should go and let you rest. I'll give this report to the others." He slung his rifle over his shoulder.
Avon hesitated then he said, "We can talk about Anna after I'm done here."
Grant reacted in surprise, "How did you know that I wanted to talk about Anna?"
"We both need to talk about her."
Grant said, "I would like that. I should go report to the others." With that Grant left.
Avon pulled up the chair, he had kicked away earlier, and settled back to get some rest. He did feel tired, despite the stimulants Cally had been giving him.
Ten hours later, the computer control room was crowded with people, as they watched Avon and Cally bring up the weather computers. Argus and Grant were standing behind Avon. Even with the room full, the only voices heard were those of Avon and Cally as they called out the steps to each other. The energy level was high, as well as the nervousness.
They had all finally agreed to accept Servalan's offer but it would be moot if Avon couldn't fix the weather control systems.
Avon said, "Bringing up the weather control monitors."
The various screens around the room began to turn on and register a range of information.
Cally glanced at each of the monitors and reported, "Monitors online."
Avon flipped various switches in front of him and entered a command. "Primary weather system grid activated."
Cally checked several monitors. "Registering weather control grid activity."
There were pleased whispers and movement around the room.
Avon flicked on a few more switches. "Secondary system balance controls activated."
Cally went to another bank of monitors and verified the readings. "Confirmed. Secondary system is operational."
The excitement around the room increased with each successful systems check. Avon got up and checked each of the monitors in turn, making some minor adjustments on some of the panels. He turned to the assembled group. "The temporary fix appears to be holding. The controls are beginning to rebalance the weather systems. The advance of the ice has already been halted but it should take several hours for it to start receding. I would recommend that your people stay where they are until the weather patterns stabilize."
Everyone in the room burst out into excited congratulations. They all tried to shake Avon and Cally's hands or hug them. Avon looked awkward and uncomfortable at all of the emotions being directed towards him.
Argus said, "Excellent work, Avon and Cally!"
The rebel leader Grey said as he shook their hands and said with warm and sincere enthusiasm, "Our people owe you a great debt of gratitude!" There was no longer even a hint of suspicion or negativity in his tone.
Hess seemed to be overwhelmed and speechless. The only thing he seemed to be able to do was put his arms around Avon and give him a big hug.
Avon sent his thoughts out to Cally, * Do they have to be this enthusiastic? A simple thank you would suffice. *
Cally projected back to him, * They are only being human. You should learn to enjoy it. You most likely have a planet full of people who love you now. *
He said dryly, * That's what I'm afraid of. *
After everyone left to go make arrangements in the light of the new developments, Grant stayed behind to talk to Avon. He pulled up a chair and sat down facing him. Like most military or former military men, he sat with his back straight and not slouched over, even though he was tired. He looked at Avon for a moment then he said, “We never had much of an opportunity to talk the last time.”
Not knowing what Grant’s objective was, Avon said cautiously, “Yes.”
Cally was still in the room but had moved off to the opposite end in order to give the two men some privacy.
Without hesitating further, Grant said, “I wanted to apologize for thinking that you could have left Anna to die.”
“I would never have,” said Avon.
Grant carried his body with the same stillness as Argus did. No fidgeting, no nervous movements. “I should have remembered. I should never have threatened to kill you.”
“I would have, in your case.”
Grant smiled wryly, “And most likely much more. You never believed in idle words. I think that’s one of the reasons Anna loved you as much as she did.”
Avon’s eyes held a grimace. “She told you that?”
Grant said, “She didn’t have to. I could see it. Of course there was that bastard of a husband of hers. I never did understand why she married him. She was miserable and the man was a bully. Then of course, she met you and everything changed. I was happy for her.”
“Everything changed, for both of us,” said Avon. “I wanted to take her away from it all. Somewhere that no one would be able to touch us again.” They became such empty words for Avon after he thought that he had lost Anna. For a long time afterwards, he had continued living but something inside him had died. The only thing that kept him going was the desire to find out who had killed her and to avenge her death.
“Yes. Do an Ensor. I wanted that for her. And I thought that you would be the one. But when I found out what happened, what I thought happened, I wanted to kill you.”
Grant words touched some deep-seated feelings for Avon. Anna had been angry, miserable and afraid when he first met her. She used her bright intelligence to lash out at others. It was something he was very familiar with.
Grant asked, “There’s one thing I’ve never understood. What possessed you to want to bring down the entire Federation Banking System? Why couldn’t you have been happy with just stealing the money? What happened to ‘I could steal a hundred million credits and no one would ever know’?” You had to have known that Central Security would be after you. What made you risk your life, and Anna’s, like that?”
Avon said, “A moment of madness.”
“You wanted to strike a blow against the Federation? Because of what they did to you? Is that why you joined with Blake afterwards?”
Avon’s stomach reacted in pain. He stifled a grimace. “I can’t talk about Blake.”
Grant nodded. He remembered what Argus had warned them about. Avon could not be stressed. “Did you know that they arrested that no good husband of hers? Had him sent to one of the worst penal colonies. Crimes against the Federation.” Grant chuckled. “The only crime that idiot was guilty of was being a bastard. I wished Anna could have known. It would have made her happy.”
The news didn’t surprise Avon in the least, not with what he knew about Anna now. Memories of the cellar began to surface. In his mind, he was no longer fully in the computer room. Avon remarked to himself, “Revenge.”
“What was that?” asked Grant.
“It was Anna’s revenge.”
Grant said, “Anna reaching out from the dead to make sure the bastard got what he deserved?”
There was grimness in Avon’s tone and he could almost smell the cellar again. “No. Not reaching out from the dead.”
Grant leaned forward, “What do you mean?”
Cally’s voice entered Avon’s head, * Avon, please be careful. *
Avon’s stare was unflinching as he said, “Anna set him up.”
Grant was confused and tried to understand what Avon was saying. “You mean that you and Anna were going to run and Anna planned to turn her husband into the authorities before she left? As revenge for the way he treated her?” Cally had come up silently behind Grant.
The pain of betrayal was never far away. Avon was finding it hard to breath but he forged ahead. “She set us both up.”
Grant’s voice was hard and suspicious. “What are you talking about? Anna would never have done that to you!”
Avon shivered, he felt cold and tired. Something heavy was weighing him down but the truth was relentless. He had to go on. Avon’s voice was tight with held emotions as he said, “Anna was a Federation spy.”
Grant’s eyes were like flint. “You’re a liar!” In one motion, he shoved his chair away - causing it to crash backwards onto the floor - and reached for his rifle. Before Grant’s hands could touch his weapon, Cally had pulled it from the table and now held it pointed at him. At that moment, Reya burst into the room with her pistol drawn. She had been standing guard outside and came in when she heard the crash of Grant’s chair. Reya advanced into the room cautiously, keeping her gun trained on Grant. “Avon, Cally, what happened?”
Avon and Grant were staring at each other. Grant’s eyes were hard with anger. Avon’s face seemed frozen, but his eyes were dark with pain and anguish.
Cally answered Reya, “Avon and Grant were talking. About Anna.”
Without taking his eyes off Grant’s, Avon said, “Give him his rifle back.”
They all looked with shock at Avon.
Cally said, “No, Avon. I can’t do that.”
Avon repeated it a second time, this time with more force. “Give him his rifle back.”
Cally said with equal force, “I’m not going to see you throw your life away again. Not for that woman.”
Grant said with suspicion, “What is this? What are you trying to do?”
With his eyes still locked on Grant’s, Avon said, “Cally, I need you to give Grant his rifle back. It’s the only way he will listen.”
Grant said in warning, “Don’t think that you can trick me. I will never believe that Anna would work for the Federation.;”
Avon said, “It’s no trick. The only deception came from Anna. She was their top undercover agent.”
Grant looked as if he wanted to lunge towards Avon for saying these things. A slight gesture with their weapons from Cally and Reya, stopped him.
Avon looked at Cally. * It’s the only way to resolve this. *
Cally was troubled, torn between her instinct to protect Avon and her desire for him to find peace. The rifle in her hand wavered as she hovered indecisively between thoughts.
Reya put her hand out and grabbed the barrel. “Even if Cally is willing to give up the rifle, I can’t let her. This man wants to kill you, Avon. It would be irresponsible of me to let him have a weapon to do it with.”
Avon levelled inflexible eyes on her. “It’s not your choice to make.”
Reya said, “Avon, this is madness.”
“I wouldn’t disagree,” said Avon. “Now give him the gun.”
Avon directed his thoughts to Cally. His eyes were sincere. * You know that it has to be this way. I am not trying to commit suicide this time. I promise you that, Cally. Grant will not kill me. *
Cally knew that Avon would never break a promise to her but she didn't know what Grant was capable of, she asked, * How can you be sure of that? You thought you knew Anna. *
Avon grimaced at a reminder of the truth. * I need you to trust me, Cally. You know that I have to do this. *
Cally reached towards the barrel of the gun to brush away Reya's hand. "I'm going to give the rifle to Grant."
Reya’s eyes held a question, “Are you sure about this?”
Cally replied, “I’m sure about Avon. He needs to do this and I want to give him the chance.”
Reya struggled between her duty to protect Avon and his right to make his own decision. Very reluctantly, and against her better judgement, she let go of the rifle, “I think you’re both mad.”
Cally looked at Avon and repeated his answer, “I don’t disagree.” She placed the rifle on the table. Grant looked at it but made no move to take the gun. Reya still had her pistol trained unwaveringly at him.
Avon said to them, “Grant and I need to talk in private.”
Cally and Reya glanced at each other and then at Avon. Cally said, “Alright, Avon.” She projected to Reya, * I can still monitor things from out in the corridor. If I feel there is danger, we can come back in. *
Cally and Reya walked towards the door and Avon lagged behind them. Before she exited the room, Reya fixed Grant with a glare, but said to Avon, “We’ll be right outside if you need us.”
Avon locked the door after them and turned around to face Grant. The mercenary already had the rifle in his hands and had it trained on Avon.
When Grant was angry, he spoke with a low burning intensity. “I should kill you right now.”
Avon walked slowly and deliberately towards Grant, keeping his hands away from his sides. “Or you could wait until I tell you everything, then you might have even more reason to kill me.” He stopped moving forward when the muzzle of the gun pressed uncomfortably against his chest.
Grant moved the gun up and put it against Avon’s head. “Don’t think that I won’t.”
Avon made no move to stop him, he only waited.
Grant finally took a step backwards, he moved the muzzle to point at Avon’s chest again. “Say what you have to say.”
More than the idea of Grant wanting to kill him, this was what Avon had been dreading. In many ways, death would have been preferable.
As Avon began to recount the events that led up to the cellar, more memories stirred in his mind. Feelings and sensations. He tried to push them back down but it was a losing battle.
“After I was shot and found out later that Anna had been killed, I escaped Earth. I spent the next few years hiding, living under an assumed identity, trying to put together enough money in order to find out what happened to Anna. It was never enough. I could never find out anything other than she had died. I had almost given up hope until I saw you on Albian. You said that Anna had died under Federation torture.”
Grant’s voice was angry. “She died because of you and you have the gall to accuse her of being a Federation spy!”
“I had thought that too. I promised myself that I would never rest again until I knew what happened to her. I directed Orac to start looking through the Federation networks. Concentrating on the security services.”
Despite the hostility and suspicion, Grant wanted to know. “You found something?”
“Yes. The information indicated that Anna had been tortured to death by a notorious para-investigator named Shrinker.”
Grant’s face registered alarm. “Shrinker?! I’ve heard of him. A lot of rebels wanted him dead but he disappeared.” The idea that Anna had been tortured by Shrinker was too horrible to think about.
Avon’s voice was tense, “I killed him.”
Grant was poised between anger and confusion, “You did that, for her? Then I really don't understand.”
“When Orac discovered who killed Anna, I directed it to find Shrinker. It wasn’t easy. It took Orac months to track him down. Too many people wanted him killed and he was paranoid about security.”
“So you found him?”
“Yes. I found him.” There was a twinge as Avon felt the remembered pains from the five days he had allowed himself to be tortured in order to gain access to Shrinker.
Grant was increasingly mystified but the muzzle of the rifle was still pointed unwaveringly at Avon. “You loved Anna and you avenged her death. Why would you say she was a Federation spy?”
Now that he was nearing the cellar of his recollections, Avon was finding it harder to breath again. “I questioned Shrinker before I left him to die. He told me that a top undercover agent from Central Security had been sent to watch me when they discovered my plan to undermine confidence in the Federation credit system. An agent codenamed, Bartolomew. He said Bartolomew was the one who killed Anna and that Servalan may know who he was. He also mentioned Councillor Chesku in connection to Bartolomew.”
“Chesku of the High Council? But I thought you killed Shrinker because he killed Anna?”
Avon’s eyes were hard and merciless. “Not quite. I gave him the generous opportunity to kill himself. It was a better end than he gave to any of his victims.”
“Can’t say that I would disagree with that,” said Grant. Some of his own rebel friends had been among Shrinker's victims. “You should have made him suffer first.”
“He did.” Avon's eyes did not invite further questions on this topic.
“Then what happened? Did you go after Servalan and Chesku? Did they tell you lies about Anna to save their skins?”
“I went after Servalan at Residence One.” Avon could feel his heart pounding in his chest. The smells of the cellar filled his nostrils, nearly choking him. He took several breaths, trying to compose himself. “A group of rebels had taken over the place when we arrived. We found Servalan chained in her own cellar. She had been beaten up.”
“I would have loved to see that,” remarked Grant.
“She offered to tell me who Bartolomew was if I let her go.”
“I would have killed her after I found out the information,” said Grant. “But you’ve always been a man of your word.”
Avon tried to take another deep breath. He was starting to feel dizzy. “Servalan was about to tell me…when someone came. It…was Anna.”
Grant exclaimed incredulously, “Anna!?”
Avon’s eyes closed tightly as a wave of memories hit him. Anna’s voice. Her face. Her lips. She tried to kiss him.
Grant said in angry denial, “It couldn’t have been Anna. You’re lying. My sister is dead! If she wasn't, she would have told me!”
There were sounds from the door. Cally and Reya were attempting to re-enter the room. Cally’s frantic voice shouted simultaneously in Avon’s head and from the other side of the door. “Avon, open the door!” * Avon! * Both men were too focussed on each other and Anna to pay any attention to the continued shouts.
Avon’s eyes opened at Grant’s anger. “I didn’t want to believe it, but it was Anna. She told me how she looked for me when I didn’t come back from the dealer with the visas. Anna said that she ran back to her husband, but because of what Shrinker had told me, I knew she was lying. Central Security had sent Bartolomew to stay close to me. To run me and to gather a list of all of my contacts.”
It still hurt after all this time. The slow realization, the agonizing logic that told him that Anna was Bartolomew. A sharp stab through the heart. Avon swayed on his feet, as he had the moment he had recognized the inescapable truth in the cellar. At that moment the truth had become an enemy, forcing him to admit that he had been a fool to believe in anyone that much again.
Grant came over and put his free arm around Avon and guided him into a chair. Avon was unresisting. His eyes, when he lifted them up to meet Grant’s, were as lost and full of pain as they had been that day in the cellar.
Grant’s anger was slowly turning to disbelieving confusion; he could not ignore the anguish he saw in Avon’s eyes. He said to the stricken man, “There has to be another explanation.”
Avon said, “Anna lied to you too. She let you believe that she was dead. Servalan confirmed the information, Anna was Bartolomew.”
Grant stood up and paced the room, his rifle hung down. “I don’t…believe it. I can’t. She was my sister.”
“After she betrayed me, Anna must have faked her own death. It must have facilitated her work as Bartolomew. When I saw her again, she had become the wife of Councillor Chesku.” Avon choked out a short, cynical laugh. “Sula Chesku.” He wondered how many names she had worn in her treacherous profession. “Most likely, she was sent to spy on him as well or as cover for something else devious.”
Grant turned back to face Avon and asked, “Avon, where is Anna now?” He needed to speak to her, he had to hear it from her lips.
Grant’s eyes opened in shock. A hope was dashed, only to be left with a taste of bitterness and the feelings of disbelieving anguish.
Avon could barely hear anything except the pounding of his heart. “When Anna realized I knew the truth, she tried to kill me. I…” Something heavy was pressing against his chest and his arm was in pain. “I shot…” Avon toppled forward.
Grant shouted, “Avon!” He rushed to his side, dropping the rifle. He caught Avon as he fell out of the chair and onto the floor.
There were sounds of weapons fire hitting the door panel from the other side and more shouting from Cally and Reya.
Avon shook his head and looked up at Grant. There was confusion in his eyes. He was supposed to be the one holding Anna. Not… His mind was caught up in memories that he had no control over.
More sounds of someone trying to gain entrance was heard.
Grant made a move to get up in order to let the others in but Avon grabbed Grant’s arm. “She said that she let me go. Why did she say that?”
The ghost from the cellar whispered to him, Anna Grant. I was only ever Anna Grant with you.
There was an explosion of pain in Avon’s chest, as if the shot he fired had hit him. He gasped weakly, “She said it wasn’t all lies. What did she mean?” He slipped into unconsciousness.
The door slid open and Cally and Reya rushed in.