Argus the ill-temperedly patient was being tended to by Cally in the ship's medical bay. Her original diagnosis had been correct, his injury was serious but nothing which the advanced medical facilities of the Justice could not handle.
Jenna was making a sweep of the entire ship to make sure that Avon had not left any ‘surprises' for them. Vila was monitoring the status on the flight deck. The ship was still following the pre-programmed pattern initiated by Avon.
Please be specific. What is the ‘it' you are referring to?
"Why did you help Avon betray us?"
That reference has no meaning. ORAC spoke with the same annoyed tone it often employed when dealing with humans. Specify what is it you wish to know.
"Oh come on ORAC, don't play coy with me."
Am I to understand that you are referring to my following Avon's orders?
If ORAC was human, it would have been giving a loud sigh right about now. Illogical humans.
I followed the orders of the command source. That is all. Help and betrayal are human concepts. They have no relevance when applied to this unit.
"So you were just following orders."
That is correct. The computer spoke to him using a tone one commonly heard from someone speaking to a delta-grade child with a learning impairment.
As it was interacting with Vila, ORAC registered a coded message sent from the head of Federation Security on Rygellus to the Terran Presidential headquarters. It also noted that shortly afterwards, the fastest pursuit ship above the planet was ordered to make immediate preparations to leave.
"That sounds like an excuse to me ORAC."
It is merely a statement of fact. If you did not want me to follow Avon's orders, you should not have given him access to the command transmitter.
"Are you saying that it's our fault?"
Assigning fault is an irrelevant human activity and is an improper use of my time.
Vila was angry and wanted to take it out on someone, ORAC was not cooperating.
"You're a bad computer ORAC."
Avon was delivered to Residence One via the secret underground passage. They dragged him unresisting into the President's private office, positioned him a distance in front of the President's desk and forced him to his knees. "Stay there until you're told to move," he was ordered.
The Federation President was extremely busy, it was supposed to be a rest day for her but affairs of State took precedence. She barely took notice as the guards and their prisoner entered, and continued to pay no attention to the kneeling man after the guards left.
She looked at the time indicator on her terminal.
Two hours to spare. She sent a coded instruction to have the techno-virus' countdown turned off; the girl could live. Servalan felt a twinge of jealousy. Who is she to you that you would give up your freedom to save her life. She had toyed with the idea of having the girl killed but Cally was much too useful as a lever against the analyst.
I wonder what you've been up to in the last two days.
Servalan remembered that she had resolved to kill Avon the next time she saw him; but he had returned, the controls had worked. She was now determined to make him regret ever having defied her.
The ground was hard, it was difficult to ignore. As she continued to take no notice of him, Avon's knees began to hurt; kneeling there was cutting off circulation. But one thing he had learned over the past two years was that he had a high tolerance for pain. She was playing games with him again, trying to make a point; the only thing he could do was wait.
Servalan watched him surreptitiously as she worked. She knew that he must have been uncomfortable from kneeling on the hard surface but his face did not show any signs of discomfort or pain.
So stubborn. Well, I can be stubborn too. She blocked him out of her mind and continued working.
Olean Rane, the dead warlord's chamberlain in Sector Ten. Reports from the sector were indicating that this man was becoming a serious problem. He was a capable man and very decidedly against Federation interests. He currently held what was left of the Athol government together while the squabbling over power took place. Whoever one came out on top in the civil war, which currently appeared to be son number two, would consolidate and legitimize their own power with his help.
This man had to die; the psychostrategy team had made this recommendation in their latest assessment of the situation, brought back by Sester. Servalan sent a coded signal to authorize the assassination.
Reports from the former Star One sector. The high priority rebuilding of the anti-matter mine field was progressing steadily. Avon's work had been instrumental in developing a more efficient mine-grid pattern which required fewer resources, which was good considering the Federation's resources were already stretched to the limit.
A new Federation Defence Zone Command base had been set up and the Eleventh Fleet under Admiral Colair had been tasked for tactical defence capability. There were no reports of alien activity. Since the incursion which resulted in the destruction of the Star One Command Control Centre and the wiping out of ninety percent of the Federation's military forces, things had been eerily quiet from that region of space. Servalan did not trust things which were eerily quiet.
A group of advanced Starburst Mark II deep space pursuit ships using the new phase-TD engine was two months from completion in the Ovyhra ship yards. This was the new engine developed by Professor Tyler's research group, with Avon's invaluable help. The ships were to be used on scouting missions beyond the mine field; the Federation was not about to be caught unawares again.
Servalan reflected on how close humanity had come close to annihilation then. If it had not been for Blake's crew, humanity would never have known it was in danger and Travis' traitorous plan to disable the anti-matter mine field would have succeeded. And from what Cally had told them, if it had not been for Avon's stubborn brilliance which delayed the aliens attack in the desperate hours before Federation forces began to arrive, humanity would have fallen.
Avon. She looked over to where he knelt in front of her desk. There was no expression on his face, no indication of his stress except a film of perspiration on his brow. He appeared to be concentrating on a spot on her desk, she followed his gaze. A control box. The control box. She smiled. It was ORAC's activation key.
Servalan switched off the vidscreen. It had been another late day for her; there were a lot of demands on the President of the Federated Worlds but it was time for something more relaxing. She got up from her chair and crossed over to the other side of the desk. Servalan held out her hands to the kneeling man.
Avon looked up at her, reluctantly he took her hands. Using her strength, he tried to stand, it was not that easy when you no longer had any feeling below the knees. His legs buckled, she put one hand around his shoulder. He stood unsteadily, supported on one side by his enemy and holding onto the desk for support.
Servalan pushed a button on her desk panel, a secret panel slid open along the wall, revealing a built-in lift.
With Avon leaning against her, Servalan moved slowly towards the lift. The analyst never knew that the act of putting one foot in front of the other without falling down could be so difficult. In silence they ascended. The lift stopped and the doors slid open, a dimly lit room lay beyond. Automatic sensors activated soft lights revealing a large, tastefully decorated bedroom. A sitting area on the other side of the room held a set of comfortable couches and a low table.
You couldn't resist could you? he thought as he realized the type of room it was.
Servalan let go of him. Not a word had passed between them since the guards had brought him to her. Next to the lift door was a well-stocked liquor cabinet. She deposited the keys to his manacles on the cabinet table and as she walked towards the sitting area, she broke the silence.
"Why don't you release yourself and pour us some wine."
He stood as if frozen for a few seconds, then did as directed.
Holding two glasses of red wine, he walked over to where she was sitting.
"Do you remember the last time you gave me some wine?" she asked as he handed her a glass and sat down beside her on the couch.
"Yes and I also remember that you said you had a long memory."
They both remembered the incident on Sarran well.
It was the first time he had kissed her; the air had been electric between them, then he had gripped her by the throat and pushed her to the ground. It was the first time she had offered him a partnership, which he had firmly and forcefully refused. Until Sarran, they had never interacted on a personal level before.
It had been an insult she never forgot and a passion she could not let go of.
Theirs was a strange relationship; hatred and desire so intermingled it was difficult to separate the two but neither had ever let anything take priority over their need to kill the other. Even now, especially now that he was in her power, his death at her hands was a delayed inevitability; they both knew it. The moment his usefulness ended was the day their contest of wills would end.
"Haven't you had enough revenge?" he asked. "You've already had two years of it." He sat awkwardly, staring ahead, holding the wine glass in both hands.
She had watched him as he followed her orders, pouring the wine and bringing it over to her. She had noticed something strange, even though he was no longer fettered he still moved as if he was.
You've been a prisoner too long Avon.
"It's not a question of revenge, Avon, it's a matter of getting what I want."
She took a sip of the wine and contemplated him thoughtfully.
"The wine's not poisoned, or drugged," she told him.
"I never spoil a good wine." She took another sip in order to reassure him.
Avon looked down at the glass in his hands as if seeing it for the first time. He brought it up to his lips and took a sip, it was excellent; nothing synthetic for the Federation President. He drained the glass and put it down on the table.
Servalan chuckled. "I knew you would appreciate it, you were always a man of taste and discernment but you keep drinking like that and you'll get drunk." She went to the liquor cabinet, got the bottle of wine and came back to fill up his glass.
Again he drained the glass. Servalan took the glass from his hand and placed it on the table.
"You are trying to get drunk," she accused him.
"Why would I want to do that?"
She traced her fingers across his lips. "So much sarcasm. Were you always like this?"
"I can't tell if you're telling the truth or not. There are no records of that early part of your life. It's been quite the game you've had with the Federation Records Bureau, you continually erasing all of your records and they constantly rebuilding them."
He chuckled, "I don't imagine they see it that way." He had started doing that early on in his life.
She laughed, "I don't imagine they do. The Records Bureau doesn't tend to have a sense of humour."
She put a hand against his chest. "Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different between us if we had met much earlier, before we became enemies."
He looked down at the face of the woman who was as beautiful and as desirable as she was deadly. "I doubt it."
"Such coldness. Why have you not asked about Cally? Or the virus?"
"Do I need to? You know our agreement ends if Cally dies."
"Sometimes that calculating mind of yours takes all the fun out of things."
He was right, she would never risk breaking their agreement.
Avon took the partially empty glass from her fingers, placed it on the table beside his, and kissed her, just as he had those years ago on Sarran. As they kissed, he was at war with himself; hatred and passion, passion and hatred, that had always been the nature of their relationship.
As natural enemies, their hatred had always taken precedence; they had repeatedly tried to kill each other. Their passion resulted in their mutual obsession and fascination; and combined with the hatred, they had hunted each other and sought to destroy the other's plans from one corner of the Federation to the other. The few occasions when they had personally confronted the other, each had murder on their minds but each had also been highly aware of their passion for and strong attraction to the other. For a man to whom logic and self-interest always took precedence, and a woman for whom power was her sole motivation; that desire had given a spice to their relationship, and nothing more.
Avon knew what she wanted. Now that he had put himself back under her power, she could act on both the hatred and the passion. He was just surprised that it had taken her this long. Even if he denied her, he knew that there were drugs which could compel his physical reactions to her; he did not want that. This way he still had a semblance of choice; so to do what she would demand of him, he allowed the line between hatred and passion to blur.
He would concede this battle; but with his plans in place, he now had greater hope that he would win the final war between them.