Avon walked down the steps onto the flight deck.
How many analysts does it take to change a light bulb? The ORAC unit asked Vila.
"Look Avon, I've succeeded in making ORAC just like me," Vila told him, excited.
Avon shook his head, this was not right. ORAC had much more important tasks, like finding the antidote. He needed to redirect the thief's attention.
"Vila, haven't you finished with the inventory yet? Or is the task beyond you?"
"I don't take orders from you anymore Avon. You betrayed me," Vila turned his back on the analyst.
"I don't know ORAC, how many analysts does it take to change a light bulb?" Vila responded to ORAC.
Their voices droned on but he could not hear them anymore, they seemed far away and were getting farther away by the minute. He tried to reach out to them, try to keep them close. He had to convince them to help him but he could not move. His hands were frozen and his feet were rooted to where he stood.
Vila's voice echoed in his head. "You betrayed me Avon."
Avon did not want to think about it. He struggled to move, to run after them. He had to make them understand.
"Avon, don't move, you'll open up the cuts again."
Avon shook his head, he was breathing heavily. He felt a hand pushing against his chest, he stopped struggling and looked at the source of the hand.
"Servalan," he said coldly. The newly-healed cuts smarted.
Servalan's hand gently slid down his chest to the healing patch. She carefully removed it and studied the cuts. "They're healing nicely. Does it hurt?"
"With this," she touched the cuts lightly. "You're not going to be much use to me tonight. You know where this is headed?"
"I can guess."
"You're not going to try to dissuade me?"
She went behind his chair and released him.
"What?" he asked, surprised at her actions.
"What did you think I was going to do?" she asked as she re-applied the restraints to his wrists in front.
"I thought," he started then fell silent.
"No more nightmares tonight," she told him. He had immediately slipped into a nightmare when he awoke after recovering from the loss of blood, she had not expected it. It was clear that his mind needed rest; like this he was of no use to her.
"Come." She helped him up. There was sharp pain from his knee again, he fell against her.
"Careful, or we'll both end up on the ground and you'll probably start bleeding again."
He steadied himself. Leaning against her, they slowly made their way up to her bedroom.
Once they were there, she handed him the keys to his manacles. The only time he was ever allowed to be free from restraints was in her bedroom.
"Release yourself and go wash up," she ordered him.
As he limped slowly to the bathroom, hanging onto various pieces of furniture, she took the palm-sized implant control from her night-table and dialled down the pain. By the time he reached the bathroom, he was walking easier and no longer needed to hold onto anything for support.
While he was washing up, Servalan sent down to the kitchens for a supplement drink and then retrieved the shirt and pants which had been left from the day he was sent to the cellar. When he re-entered the room, he was wearing a towel tied around his waist. He limped over to where she sat on the bed.
"Sit," she told him, patting the spot beside her.
He sat down. "Here, drink this," she handed him the glass.
He looked at it suspiciously.
"You drug one drink and you're suspected forever," she protested jokingly. "Don't worry, it's just a supplement drink"
He did as directed. When he was done, she took the glass and put it on the night-table.
She leaned forward and kissed him. He put his arms around her.
After a few moments she gently pushed him away.
"Lie down," she told him. He complied. Once she lay down beside him, he rolled towards her. The cuts were painful but he was used to pain. But he could also feel them stress and pull, he grimaced and slowed his movement. Servalan put a hand against his chest and directed him back down. "Don't move. You're going to open up the cuts." She checked the healing wounds, touching them lightly. "You're fine."
She picked up the bio-injector from her night-table and injected the sedative mixture into his neck.
"Stop asking ‘what' and just sleep Avon."
Avon woke slowly, he kept his eyes closed for a moment, assessing his situation. He was lying on a bed, not a hard surface. He still felt tired but not the exhaustion he normally felt, it was a strange feeling for him. There was pain from his knee and side but that was normal. He was hungry; this was also a normal condition.
A warm, sensuous hand was exploring his body. He opened his eyes.
"Hello. I was afraid you were going to sleep all day." It was Servalan. She was wearing casual clothes, well casual for her. She was continuing her explorations as they talked.
"What time is it?" he asked. He was puzzled, this was only the second time he had woken up in her bedroom. Usually she had him drugged and taken back to the Detention Centre. When he woke, it was usually in his cell, or in one of the interrogation rooms, or in the induction chamber; depending on her mood.
"It's almost evening. It is a shame that we won't be able to do anything further until this heals."
"When has that ever stopped you?"
"I don't like blood on my sheets Avon, it's very difficult to get out and I like these sheets."
"We wouldn't want that. We don't actually need the bed."
She laughed. "Always the problem-solver." She bent over, kissed him lightly and then touched her index finger to his lips. "Not tonight, I have a state dinner to attend to; one of those tiresome affairs with lots of speeches and bowing from no one of particular importance."
"Then why have them?"
"The burdens of office dearest."
She chuckled. "It is. You wouldn't want to apply that brilliant mind of yours and find a way to make it less tedious?"
"Burdens of office."
"So many people have told me."
"Now go wash up. I'll get the kitchens to send up another supplement drink; then I'll have the guards return you to the Detention Centre. Oh and your old clothes are on the table by the couches."
He nodded and headed towards the bathroom.
Servalan reflected on their interaction. It was the first time they had a normal conversation together.
Is this what it would have been like if we had been able to be partners? It is too bad that it will never be possible.
She couldn't trust him and he was much too dangerous not to be controlled; and because she had to maintain that control, he could be trusted even less.
It was the paradox of their relationship.
When it was time for him to be returned to the Centre, Servalan had feelings of regret. She enjoyed his company. There was a refreshing directness about him, a sharp and unforgiving wit, and a total lack of pretence. The only deceptions he ever practiced was for personal survival, and even then he was very bad at it.
Servalan also had a brief pang of guilt at what they were about to do to him, but only brief.
The Federation President had changed into a beautiful white gown in preparation for the state dinner, simple but elegant; she was a vision of beauty. Men were so easily distracted and as a result, they often misjudged her. It would serve her purposes tonight.
"I want your best work when you get back to the lab. I have a special project for you, it's very important."
She picked up the manacles from the cabinet where he had dropped them the night before and walked towards him.
"When have I ever done less than my best in the lab?" he asked her.
"Or in bed," she added, teasing him as he held out his hands for her to re-apply the restraints.
He didn't react except for a narrowing of the eyes indicating his annoyance.
"I'm serious Avon. Do you remember the attack at Star One?" she asked as she snapped one bracelet to his wrist then the other.
"You have to ask?"
"The whole border in that sector is being patrolled. Your new design grid for the minefield was invaluable in bringing the defences back up quickly and your work on the phase-TD engine will give us a tactical advantage. I am having scouting parties sent out. We need to be proactive and find out more about the enemy in case they attack again. I want you to design a new anti-detector screen, one which is invisible to even close range visual scanners."
"I told you that I would not give you anything involving my time on the Liberator."
"That's true but this is to save the human race."
"I have no particular fondness for the human race."
"Then do it for Blake, you owe him."
He did not respond.
"What do you think the nightmares will do to you if you don't do this?"
"Such language Avon, not typical of you."
Being a cold, logical man, Avon had never found the need to use the more colourful aspects of language. Not to mention, it was not in the character of an alpha. Their expressions of attack were usually much more substantial and did not involve the baser methods employed by those who could do nothing.
"You'll do it then?"
He said, "Yes." There was a hint of anger in his eyes. "Don't use Blake against me again."
She smiled but promised nothing. Taking hold of the chain connecting the bracelets, she pulled him towards her. They kissed.
A buzzer sounded.
"The lesser grades have no sense of timing," she complained as she released her hold on him.
She activated the door control. The guards entered and led him out.
"Until next time, Avon," were her parting words.