Category: Angst, Drama
Rating: PG for violence
11th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to A Difference of Visions
Introduction: The others try to convince Avon to change his mind. Avon and Cally share a few moments together. Sester's mission.
Note: I had intended to go into the inconsistencies of the tracking gallery scene over several chapters but decided it worked best in this one. The notes and pics are at the end of this chapter.
Back to the present.
The stretcher-bearers brought Avon into a room that contained a bed, a table and some chairs. It was a functional room, devoid of any pleasant touches, but they wouldn't have noticed it if there had been.
They deposited him carefully on the bed and left.
Argus expelled an anguished breath. "Alright, Avon. Explain yourself. What possessed you to confess? Was it Avalon? Did she force you?"
Avon turned his head in his direction. "I could not allow Jenna to show the Gauda Prime recordings at the trial."
They all looked at Avon in shock.
Argus asked incredulously, "You're the reason why Jenna wasn't there?"
Avon's voice was particularly flat. "We cannot afford to have them see what happened."
Cally’s eyes widened. “Avon, you can't do this!”
Avon turned his head towards her voice, “I'm sorry, Cally.”
Argus did not understand. “What’s going on?”
Cally explained, “He doesn’t want anyone to see Blake in the recordings.”
Vila exclaimed, "But that's crazy. They're going to kill you, Avon."
Argus finally understood. He looked with anguish towards Avon. “Avon, you're a fool. You can't save Blake's reputation with a lie.”
Avon was relentless. "You can and you must. It’s my choice. No matter what else happened, I killed Blake. I will not destroy his reputation. The rebellion cannot afford it."
Argus wished that he could shake some sense into the misguided man. "Avon, I can't let you do this."
Vila said, "I agree with Argus."
Not having eyes, Avon couldn't level a steely gaze on them. "None of you can stop me."
Vila thought he had seen enough madness on Gauda Prime, this was coming in a close second. He wondered if it would do any good tying Avon down before he said something even worse, though he couldn't imagine anything that would qualify.
Argus really didn't want to use pressure but he wondered if the torture and the Shade had affected Avon's ability to think clearly. Of course, Avon could also be extremely stubborn at the most inappropriate times. "Avon, I know what I promised before, that I would never force you to do anything you didn't want to but…"
Avon's voice was icy, "Are trying to tell me that the reverse does not apply? You will try to prevent me from doing what I want to do?"
Argus expelled a frustrated breath. "Damn it, Avon!"
"That is not a convincing enough argument," said Avon.
Argus tried a different approach. "Avon, you might not be thinking clearly. With the Shade and…"
Avon's sharp words cut him off. "Claiming diminished capacity would give you the rationalization required to remove my freedom of choice."
Cally was not about to give up. "Avon, Blake is already dead. You're still very much alive."
"We need you. I need you." She squeezed Avon's hand, trying to impress on him how much this was true. "I don't want you to throw your life away."
Avon could hear the tone of anguish in her voice and was glad that she wasn't the kind of female that would throw herself over him in a weeping fit. That kind of histrionics would make him highly uncomfortable. It was already difficult enough having to do this. He squeezed her hand in return. "I would not be throwing it away, Cally. The rebellion needs Blake, it does not need me."
Argus had been listening. His voice became a gently rumble, "Avon, if this is about your eyes…"
At the unwelcome reminder, Avon said stiffly, "It isn't." Each word was like the metal clang of a barrier coming down.
Argus asked, "Then what is it about? You haven't given me a convincing enough argument either."
"The alliance must never find out that their…hero…" It took an effort for Avon to not put a negative slant on the word. "…was human."
Argus sighed with explosive force and shook his head. "Avon, you're not only blind, you're an idiot!" He was immediately mortified by what he had said. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."
Avon said acerbically, "Yes, you did. It must be a novelty being able to say that to me."
Vila said, "Avon, we'll back you up. You don't have to do this alone. If they want to blame you for what happened to Blake then...they'll have to blame me too."
Avon said, "This is no longer a topic for discussion."
Argus was becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to reach Avon. He was running out of words to say. "Avon, we don't have to show the recordings to everyone. Just the leaders. They can decide."
Avon said flatly, "No."
Argus forged on. "If the others never see it…"
Avon was like a huge meteor on a collision course and nothing could swerve him. "Promise me that you’ll do this.”
Argus shook his head again. “Avon, I can’t.”
"I need you to do this." Avon knew that this man cared a great deal for him. He had since they were both children. It was a great weakness. “Jack.”
Argus's fists tightened at the sound of his name and there was anguish on his face. "Avon, please, don't do this. Don't ask me to. As a friend, I can't stand by and let you do this. I will…" Argus reached for another solution. "…I will take your place."
"Don't be a fool!" snapped Avon.
Argus said stubbornly, "Then we'll both be fools."
Avon knew that Argus had another weakness. "It's a debt that I have to pay, Argus. I know you understand what that means."
Argus wanted to punch something very badly. His head bowed in anguish.
Cally wanted to shout, to cry, and to reach inside his stubborn mind. “Avon, they’re going to hate you.”
A slim smile of irony stretched Avon's lips. "You mean even more than they do now?"
Argus took a deep breath and raised his head. His voice was calm, hiding behind the strength of the professional. “That’s the point, isn't it? ”
Avon inclined his head, “Yes.”
Argus said, “He wants them to hate him. Just as he wants them to love Blake. Blake would become the great martyr that the Federation has always feared. He will become what the rebellion has always needed from him, to be the rallying cry for the resistance. The legend.”
Avon said, "I knew you would understand.”
Argus said, “It’s still wrong.”
“It is my choice. I am asking you as a friend, Jack. Do this for me. I will die regardless of what any of you can do. Don’t make it a pointless death.”
Argus nodded reluctantly.
“I have two other requests.”
Argus hesitated. “You’re not going to ask me to kill you myself, are you?”
“No. Avalon will arrange that quite adequately.”
“What are your other two requests?”
Avon turned his head towards Cally, “I know that Cally is more than capable of taking care of herself, but…”
Argus said, “I will look after her, Avon. You don’t have to worry about that.”
“What's your other request?”
“I want you to take Jenna back onboard the Justice.”
Cally asked with shock, “Why, Avon?”
Argus asked, “You can’t be serious? After what she’s done to you?”
“Jenna understands the necessity.”
Cally said heatedly, “If she steps one foot on board, I will kill her.”
“Cally, I killed Blake. There must be payment.”
Argus clenched his fists again. “You persuaded Jenna to do this, didn’t you? That’s why you want me to take her back onboard?”
“Damn it, Avon! We’re supposed to be partners. You can’t take these kinds of decisions without me.”
“This will be the last time.”
Argus loosened his fist and placed his open palm Avon's bed. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“You will do it then?”
Argus nodded in resignation. “Yes. I will take her back onboard. If she asks.”
Argus frowned. “You have it all nicely planned between the two of you.”
Cally said, "I haven't agreed."
Avon turned his face towards her. “I would like to speak to Cally alone.”
Argus said, “We’re not going to give up, Avon. Sester is working on something. He’s trying to find out new information. It might help.”
Avon’s ears pricked up. “Did he say what?”
"No. But he said he'll be back tomorrow.”
“I doubt if he would find anything that will change the outcome.”
Argus's eyes rested on his friend for a moment before he left. With the Shade, the torture and the loss of his sight, Argus was certain that Avon must be in a depressed state and wasn't thinking clearly.
Sester had better be back soon.
He headed out, determined to find Jenna.
After Argus left, there was a period of silence in the room. Cally stared numbly at the man who was about to sacrifice his life.
Avon moved his head slightly, as if he were trying to catch a sound that would tell him where she was. "Cally?"
Cally almost couldn't trust herself to speak. She was afraid that if she did, the tears would come. Instead, she whispered, "I'm here, Avon."
Avon's head turned in her direction. "You understand it has to be this way."
"I don't want to understand."
"I don't want to hear it..." The tears were gathering at the corners of her eyes, like clouds that were threatening rain.
"Let me finish. I have one big regret with the decision I've made, and that is you. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you ahead of time. The circumstances didn't allow it. I’ve been able to rationalize away most things in my life, but not you. For that, I am glad."
Avon struggled against the instincts that had ruled most of his life. This was too important. This was one regret he refused to leave unfulfilled. “…I want you to know... that, I love you.”
“I know you do, Avon.”
“I…thought it was important to say it again.”
“Twice in a lifetime, Avon?”
“It does seem excessive.”
“I don’t want to lose you.”
“I know. Deciding that my death was necessary was not an easy decision to make. Knowing that it would hurt you, made it the hardest decision I have ever made. But it is necessary.”
“That’s always your excuse.”
“Is it? Perhaps. This time it's particularly true.”
“Sester is going to find something.”
“I don’t doubt that he will. But it won’t change the facts. Blake is still dead and I killed him. I may not be sure of anything else, but I am certain of that.”
“Why are you so certain, Avon? If your memory is compromised because of Servalan, if you cannot remember everything that happened, why are you so certain that you killed Blake?”
“I’m…” Avon’s brow knitted in thought as he tried to wrestle some semblance of order and truth from what he remembered of Gauda Prime. “…not sure. I just know.”
“You just know? Is it an instinct? Avon, that doesn’t sound like you.”
“It…doesn’t…but I know I killed Blake.”
“Or Servalan made sure that you believed you killed Blake. Avon, we have to get you back to Tellar. They’ll be able to help you unravel the truth behind your memories.”
“There’s not enough time.”
Cally said with fierce determination, “I’ll make them give you time.”
“No. They won’t. Hatred and vengeance do not have patience for the truth. They only have time for regrets.”
Cally said bitterly, “After it's too late.”
Now that the end had been decided, as with the other times when an end in his life was reached, Avon could not afford the impassive, emotionless mask that he always wore. The words he wanted to say seemed to be in a foreign language, but he had to say them. He wanted her to know the truth. He could no longer afford to wait for a time that would never come again.
He said, "I have never understood the need to continually reinforce the verbal expression of sentiment. Until now. I wish I had more days, and then I would be able to tell you repeatedly how I feel about you." Avon wished he could see her. He wished that the implant was gone and they could touch each other deeper. He would give her as much of himself as he could before it was all gone. It was only rational. There was no need to keep from her, that which she already knew.
The barriers to sharing himself with another human being were high and almost frozen in place. In the past year, as they had explored each other's minds and souls, and she had encouraged him to let down his defences, it had become easier. It was his version of sharing. Reminiscent of a listing of truths and facts.
He gathered himself, as for a prodigious feat of mental acuity, but infinitely harder, and said, "I care about you, Cally. Without you, I would not have been able to survive these past few years. With you, I am not afraid of hidden agendas. You have never tried to do to me all of the things the Federation did to me. Others have lied to me, betrayed me, and tried to use or control me. They try to make me do things I don't want to do, but not you, Cally. I have never had the desire to free myself from you. With you, I do not have to be afraid." A smile of memory touched his lips. "Except when you've been possessed by an alien, of course."
"Avon..." Cally brushed her fingers along his cheek in a gentle caress; her face was full of sadness and tenderness. She had expected to hear some of this, spread out over a long period of time, teased out like tiny nuggets of treasure, but not like this. Not all at once.
Avon said, "The thought of being without you, fills me with more fear than I have ever known. I want you to understand what I did today. If it were a decision between saving your life or Blake's, I would choose yours. That is why I didn't want you coming with me down to Terminal. I would risk my life to save Blake's but I would sacrifice both his and mine to save yours. But that is not the decision I was faced with here. I have a debt to pay, Cally and I will pay it. You will continue to live and so will Blake's legacy. I love you very much. More than anyone I have ever known."
"I love you too. Avon, I know you think this is the rational thing to do but I think Argus is right. You can't save Blake's reputation with a lie."
"That is what a reputation is. Lies backed up by the occasional truth," said Avon.
"It's wrong." Cally could see that her words were not getting through to him.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
For the rest of the time they were allowed together, they talked about the past and about each other, sharing their lives as if they had all the time in the world.
Being a psychostrategist had many advantages. Being Servalan's psychostrategist opened up a whole range of possibilities. As long as you survived the dangers inherent in that position.
Sester easily gained access to Residence One. Having worked on Avon before, he knew some of the most guarded secrets of this building. Including the hidden entrances.
If he was in his right mind, Sester knew that he would not be doing this. Defying Servalan had nearly cost him his life once. Doing it a second time was suicidal, even with Servalan safely off to an official dinner.
Therefore, he concluded with wry humour, he must be out of his mind. It was the only way to explain it.
A small bout of temporary insanity.
He wondered if she would accept that as an excuse if she caught him rifling through her safe.
The two of them had…relations before. It had been inevitable. Two deadly snakes teasing each other, the tension electric. The threats had only added to the spice.
Of course, as he told himself now, it had been for a good reason. He needed to know her better and for a person like Servalan, who was as closed as Avon; additional methods had to be used to relax her guard.
It wasn't work that he normally did himself. The Guild had people they usually tasked for such basic activities. The Federation President was different though and Sester had been following orders. His master had wanted to know specific secrets that she was hiding. That was why he knew she had a hidden safe full of data crystals and other valuable objects.
Like a shadow, Sester silently slipped through the hidden entrance into Servalan's bedroom. He wasn't all that quiet. In fact, Vila would probably complain that they could hear him a mile off. But Sester wasn't a thief either. A few extra recreational skills he might be able to manage but cat burglary was not one of them.
He turned on a small hand torch and eyed the far wall across from the canopied bed. With his eyes measuring off the distance, he approached and with practiced fingers, felt along its surface. He had done this once before. After he had ascertained the location of the safe from Servalan with his usual deceptive skills. She had never known that she had given herself away.
Sester smiled with satisfaction as he pressed the hidden switch and the wall panel slid open noiselessly. From his jacket pocket, he removed the security scanner he had been given by the Guild. A few more minutes and he would be safely back on his ship. A bead of sweat trickled down his nose.
He pressed a few buttons and beams extended from the scanner.
Sester gasped as something was thrust into his back.
"Don't move," said a cold female voice.
Sester's jaw tightened as pain radiated from the place in his back. He tried to sound casual, which was somewhat mitigated by the fact that his words came out as a croak, "Madame President."
Servalan said in surprise, "Sester? What are you doing here? And why…" Sester could imagine her eyes narrowing with suspicion. "…are you in my safe? My secret safe?" The object in his back slid in further. Sester groaned. He could feel a rivulet of warm liquid sliding down his back. "I'm waiting," said Servalan.
In a voice taut with pain, he answered as lightly as he could, "A small bout of temporary insanity?"
The knife made a hard slide upwards, the energized crystal blade easily slicing through his ribs. Sester cried out and fell forward, his hand reaching out for the wall. His master had said that his tendency to joke at inappropriate times might get him killed one day. He really shouldn't make it so soon. "Alright, alright," he gasped out. "No need to kill me yet."
He could feel the tension in the blade, as if Servalan was pondering that very idea. The voice that was colder than ice said, "I won't kill you. Yet."
The message was clear.
Sester knew there was only one way out of this situation. "I'm trying to save Avon's life."
He had her interest.
"Your security people must be sleeping on the job, Madame President. How could they miss a gathering of the major rebel leaders?"
Servalan said, "They would have told me."
His voice was full of insinuation. "But do they tell you everything?"
"I don't think I like what you're implying."
"I wouldn't either, Madame President. But it is curious, isn't it? A gathering of the major rebel leaders from all corners of the Federation, and no one saw fit to tell you? I find that rather negligent of them."
The knife twisted and Sester groaned, his knees buckling. Servalan leaned into his body, pressing him down further. The light flowery scent of her hair mixed with the rusty, metallic odour of spilt blood. Sester gasped, "You can't afford to dismiss what I'm saying. Not if you want Avon to live. If he dies, it will be your fault."
Servalan hesitated. "You have one minute to explain."
"The gathering is a trial." Sester's breath came in struggling pants. He knew that his lungs must be filling up. "…for Avon. They are trying him for Blake's murder and for betraying the rebel alliance. Your propaganda machine did too good a job in establishing his guilt and the rumour mills did the rest. They want him dead. They've also tortured him."
Servalan's voice lost some of its ice. "No one is allowed to do that. Except me." There was anger in her voice now, "Why didn't Argus protect him?"
Despite the pain and the risk of imminent death, Sester's psychostrategist instincts were still very active. The way she had said that last sentence…contained an interesting kind of anger. She expects Argus to protect Avon?
He said, "He was surprised. They took Avon before he could do anything about it. That's why I came. I need the real files from Gauda Prime."
Servalan moved the knife upwards a tad. It was dangerously close to his heart now. "I gave you the real files."
"I thought so too at first. Something always bothered me about them but I'm not a forensic specialist. Those details weren't important to me. Until they took Avon. Then I did a little research on my own and had some of the images enhanced. You must have used special effects people from the entertainment industry to produce your version."
Servalan seemed to exhale in frustration. "You can't find decent help these days."
"It appears not. The flash was a dead giveaway. Apart from the fact that projectile weapons, such as the double-barrelled one used by Avon, do not produce a flash when striking a target. None of the energy weapons used that day produced a spark either when hitting their targets. That only happens in the Delta vids. It's an 'exciting effect'. Projectile cartridges are made of substances that do not produce a spark. Your people also made the careless error of only creating the spark effect when the weapon struck Blake and not when Avon shot the woman at the control panel. My guess is that the shooting of the woman at the panel was real. The footage of Avon shooting Blake was recreated. There is one other inconsistency but that one is merely a curiosity."
Servalan said, "I might need to kill more than one person today."
"Well, as long as one of those persons isn't me…"
"Don't push your luck."
"Of course, if you are admitting that the recording of Avon shooting Blake was fake, it opens up some interesting possibilities, one being that Blake might not be dead."
"He is dead," said Servalan with finality. "I had his body incinerated."
"Now that's interesting. Why wouldn't you use his body for propaganda purposes? Why destroy him so thoroughly?"
Servalan grabbed the back of his collar and pulled, choking him. With the knife still in his back, Servalan slid him away from the safe. "I wouldn't recommend trying to escape. If that knife moves one more millimetre, it will be your last millimetre."
Sester groaned, "I wasn't planning to go anywhere." He turned his head to see what she was doing. Servalan opened the safe and slid out a tray full of data crystals. Her slender fingers reached in, lifted one out, and handed it to him.
Sester eyed the translucent crystal warily. "This will save Avon. What else will it do?"
He could feel her hand closing on the knife again. Sester gave a sharp yell as she yanked the blade out. His legs nearly failed him but he kept his hold on the crystal.
Servalan said, "Show them what happened." There was a faintly disturbing smile on her lips. "You're right, I should be more careful. The last time, the Presidency was stolen from me. That will never happen again."
Sester straightened himself and moved stiffly towards the exit. Every step sent shooting pains through his back.
Before he left the room, Servalan said, "A word of warning. You realize the implications of my not being told about the gathering of the rebel leaders?"
Sester nodded faintly. There could only be one. He had to get back to the rebel base. "You will not have anyone following me."
"I want you to save Avon."
"I'm serious, Servalan. If there is any hint that your people are following me, they might not believe me. And that would not be good for Avon."
She watched him stagger out before she contacted her assistant.
Addendum: The Inconsistencies Mentioned by Sester.
The first one is the strangely sparking gun. This site has the clearest explanation.
The second is the differences in shot effects when Avon shoots Blake and when he shoots Klyn. I couldn't get a clear still pic of this effect. The flash gets washed out in the background of Blake's white shirt but if you watch the episode, the effect is clearly visible when Blake is shot but there is no corresponding effect when Klyn is shot.
The other one Sester mentions but doesn't explain, regards Blake's knife. Blake wears a knife, which he uses when he meets Arlen in the forest. The knife is in an horizontally worn holster. If you see Blake from the front, the holster has been placed so that it cannot be seen. But once you go off-centre, you can clearly see the knife sticking out horizontally.
When Blake is talking to Tarrant and Deva in the control room, he is not wearing the knife. I watched Blake's profile in that scene, frame by frame, and found no evidence of a horizontal shadow or anything jutting out indicating that Blake was wearing the knife at that point. His profile is cleanly vertical.
This changes when Blake is in the tracking gallery. In several, off-center views of Blake, the knife is clearly seen jutting out from his side.
From a full side view, the knife is clearly visible.
The curiosity is this. In the control room, Tarrant knocks his own gun from Blake's hand, which Blake had taken from him before. Blake doesn't pick it up again. Then Blake places his own gun down. At this point he is completely unarmed, without even the knife. Then he goes to meet Avon, taking with him an armed guard, the trigger-happy Arlen.
By the time he gets to the tracking gallery, all of a sudden, he is wearing the knife. So somewhere in between, Blake stopped to get his knife and put it on before meeting Avon? Why? Was he expecting to treat Avon to a steak dinner and wanted to bring his favourite knife? It doesn't make any sense.