Since finishing the new security system, he had been expecting some kind of torture. Servalan wanted him punished for what he did during the forty hours when he was out of her hands; and now it appeared she wanted to do it herself.
This was the first time she had him brought to her since she and Sester had forced the last compromise from him. Avon had not known what he would do when she did; but now, in her bedroom, he knew he would give her what she wanted. He had no illusions that she could force his compliance with drugs or with more time in the isolation cells. This was the lesser of the evils. If he still had the heart to, he would have laughed at the choices; to be used or to be tortured. If he was still capable of fighting, he would have chosen the torture.
Before, this was something he endured because he still had a chance.
He would do it now because he was an object to be used. There was a coldness inside him; he no longer cared. Objects had no feeling; it was much easier that way.
Servalan accepted the glass. He sat down beside her waiting for her next command.
"Did I say you could sit down?" she asked.
So we're playing a different game today. He got up slowly, trying not to aggravate his knee, and faced her.
Normally she was cold and unforbidding. As Supreme Commander or Federation President, she dispatched fleets and ordered executions with an icy politeness. She had the same smile when sentencing entire worlds to their doom as she did when bestowing favours; but in this bedroom with him, she could be very moody and each mood meant that she would use and torture him in a different way.
"Finish your wine and put the glass down." He did as directed, put the glass down on the table and waited.
"Strip," she told him. As he followed her orders, she watched him. Since arriving from the Detention Centre, he had not even looked at her.
When he finally stood naked before her, she reached out and touched his body. Both the deep cuts and the scratches she had given him over a week ago were almost completely healed. She stood up and circled him, exploring his body as he stood unmoving.
There was great tension in him; it was always there. Sester was right; it was not just because she always kept the analyst guessing as to what she would inflict on him next.
She also sensed something disturbing; it was as if part of him was no longer there.
Stopping behind him, she traced her fingers along his spine, feeling for a specific point in the mid-back. Finding it, she lightly exerted pressure on it; it was very tender. Avon arched away from the unexpected pain.
"Don't move," she ordered. Before he had been brought to her, she had directed that the daily dosage of the muscle relaxant for his back be reduced. It would have worn off by now.
She ran her fingers a little further down his spine. This time, finding another spot she was looking for, she pushed hard against it. He collapsed to his knees and groaned. She had followed him down and put her arms around him, supporting him.
"Can you get up?" she asked.
Through clenched teeth, he replied, "No."
She felt along his back; he flinched but this brought about more pain.
"Don't move," she told him again.
She could feel the muscles in his back spasm.
"It's the old back pain isn't it?"
"Yes. What did you do?"
"Why do you always assume it's me?"
"Am I wrong?"
She lightly pressed against a tender spot, this time he stiffened but did not move or make a sound.
"No you're not wrong. I want you to get up."
"How do you propose I manage that?"
She pressed harder this time, she was rewarded with a groan of pain.
"Keep doing that and I'm going to make you crawl."
Is that what it's about today? he thought. He knew he couldn't move. This type of back pain was something he had experienced many times before. It was debilitating. What little movement he was capable of would be excruciating and would only cause his legs to give out.
It was today's game. Normally he would hate her for it, a hatred he would quickly suppress, but he felt nothing.
He clenched his fists and in one motion tried to propelled himself upwards. He cried out and his legs gave out as a paralyzing pain came from his lower back. She supported him and stopped him from pitching forward. He was breathing heavily.
"That's good," she told him. "I'm going to lower you to the ground now. Just relax."
Gently, she let him fall forward and lowered him to the carpet. She felt along his lower back, the muscles were in hard knots. She felt them spasm.
"Stay there," she told him. "Don't try to move."
"I don't plan to." In truth, he doubted he could. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on relaxing the muscles in his back.
What game are you playing now Servalan?
Moments later he heard her come back and felt her kneel down beside him.
"Are you sleeping Avon?"
"I don't appreciate people falling asleep on me when I'm trying to help."
"That must be a strange feeling."
Startled, he felt something warm being placed on his back. He tried to move but this caused another sharp stab of pain and he groaned.
"Did I say you could move?" she pressed her hand on his upper back and held him still.
"Now stay still and try to rest, let the heat work."
Leaving him lying on the ground, she picked up her datapad and went over to the couch. She began to review reports and make notes. She was taking time from her busy Presidential schedule to work on him but she still had a lot of work to do. Occasionally she looked over to where he lay, he was being obedient and had not moved.
As she worked, she reflected on their interaction. Sester had been right, Avon had cut himself off, but for some reason, in their interaction, he was still responding to her; it was either due to their history together or it was a by-product of the conditioning.
An hour later she went to check on him.
"Are you asleep?"
"You said not to."
"That's good." She knelt down beside him and made an adjustment to the pad on his back.
Avon felt the heat dissipate and then turn cold.
"Don't move," she told him, anticipating his reaction. She was pressing her hand on his upper back again to prevent movement. "Your muscles are so tight I have to use a regimen of heat and cold. The pad will be alternating the two for the next while."
"Are you a doctor now?"
"Did you know that I once considered that?"
"Becoming a doctor? That's hard to believe."
Her hand wandered slowly down his back, along his side, down his thigh, caressing him. The therapy was for him but he didn't need to be naked for it, that had been for her. She noticed that his breathing had quickened as she touched him; she smiled, that part of him was not dead.
She got up and went back to the couch and her work.
What Servalan was doing puzzled Avon and it made him nervous. He tried to rest. The cold spreading across his back felt good, this was only the second time in the past three years when he had been allowed any stretch of time to himself to think and relax.
After being forced to think for someone else's profit and pleasure for almost two years, he was tired. He had time to think now and he no longer wanted to.
Memories flooded into his consciousness; memories of things they had done to him, of failure and defeat, of each compromise they had forced him to make; memories of the past month. He fought against the tide of memories; but like the nightmares, he no longer had control.
The damage they had done to his mind was obviously having another unpleasant side effect. It probably had happened along time ago but because he was rarely allowed time for himself, it had never surfaced before. With this time he was being given now, it was becoming very apparent.
He clenched his fists, causing the nails to dig into his palms; he had to maintain control. He gasped as his back spasmed in pain. Instantly Servalan was by his side again, she removed the temper-pad and felt along his back.
"You're muscles are tight again; you just undid all of my efforts. What happened?" she asked.
"Don't lie to me," she pressed on one of the tender spots along his spine in warning. When he still did not respond, she put her other hand on his upper back again, pressing down so he could not move. She pressed hard against another point, he gave an involuntary moan of pain.
"Tell me," she commanded him. "Do you really want another lesson in control?"
"I don't want to remember," he confessed to her. It made no difference whether she knew or not, it was only another thing she would force him to give her.
"What don't you want to remember?"
"Everything, I can't stop it, the memories. What you did to my mind; I've lost control, it's not just the nightmares anymore."
As he told her the truth, she released her hold and began stroking his back, trying to comfort him. She had been shocked to hear his admission about the state of his mind, shocked to hear the effects of what they had done to him. Sester's warning had been correct. The mind was a delicate instrument, and with the unrelieved stress they had inflicted on the analyst, and all of the damage they had intentionally caused, his mind was beginning to unravel. They were in danger of losing their valuable tool.
"Don't," he told her as he felt her hands on his body.
She stopped. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"You always do."
"Not tonight," she said and touched him gently.
"Don't," he said again, there was anger in his voice. "I will not have your pity."
"Is that what you think this is?"
"Even if it is, do you think you have any choice?" She started caressing him again.
"This is an exercise in control Avon, do you think I will stop?"
"What will you do when the damage to my mind extends to my ability to solve the problems you want?"
"You still have other skills, skills that don't require the genius."
He fell silent and held onto the anger, it helped to block out the effect of her hands on his body.
"Nothing else to say?"
"What is there to say? You're going to do whatever you want, you have made it very clear that I no longer have control, not even over my own mind." She had never heard such bitterness in his voice before.
"Don't give up Avon," she said softly.
"Don't say that," he said angrily.
She pressed down hard on his back, he groaned.
She shook her head and sighed; she had promised not to hurt him. "You need to relax Avon."
She picked up the temper-pad, and put it across his back again. "Let's try this again.
Will it help if I keep talking to you?"
"Don't be angry."
"Why? Are you going to take that away too?" More bitterness.
"You need to relax if you want your back to get better."
"Then give me the drugs again."
"The drugs only deal with the symptoms, we need to fix the problem."
"Then let me go." I don't want to play this game anymore.
"You know that will never happen, so stop asking. We're going to work on your back until it gets better. You will not leave this room until I'm satisfied so you might as well work with me. Do you understand?"
For the next few hours, as she alternated the heat and cold treatments, she sat beside him and kept his mind occupied.
When his back had finally relaxed enough so he could move, she helped him up.
"Thank you," he told her as she helped him over to the bed.
"For not leaving me alone."
She looked into his eyes, he was being genuine.
"I expect to be well compensated." She smiled at him.
He bent his head down to kiss her.
She put a finger to his lips. "Not now. Your back won't be able to stand the strain yet."
"What are we doing now?" he asked suspiciously, wondering if it was now time for the pain.
"No questions, just lie down on the bed, faced down."
She helped him lower himself onto the bed.
"Don't move," she instructed him.
She sat down beside him and felt along his back.
"You're tense again, just relax."
She took a bottle from her nightstand and poured some of the oil onto her hands. She started on his upper back and began to work the warming oil into his muscles.
He was confused. As he had expected, she was inflicting pain again but it seemed to be different this time.
"I thought I told you to relax," she told him as she felt his continued tension.
"It's hard to relax when you're hurting me."
"It's because your muscles are too tight but you need to try."
She felt him relax and then slowly tense up again.
"You're not cooperating," she accused him.
"I don't trust you."
"I told you, I'm not going to hurt you tonight, at least not torture; but if you don't relax, I'm going to forget my promise and I will hurt you."
She felt him slowly relax.
She moved down to his mid-back, this caused a lot more pain.
"You're tensing up again," she told him.
"Are you sure you're not trying to torture me?"
She chuckled. "Stop complaining."
She worked slowly down his spine, reaching areas which were causing the most problems.
As she massaged his back, even though there was pain, Avon began to let go of the tensions. Her hands were talented; he wondered where she had picked up this skill. This was a side of Servalan he had never experienced before, it must have been the side which she used on young Tarrant on the sand planet.
No wonder he was taken in, you're very good. One would think you were almost human.
Avon was not fooled, it was only a matter of time before the claws came out again. This tactic would not work on him; he never let his guard down. The closest he had ever come to it was with Anna and she had betrayed him in the worse possible way.
"What are you thinking? You just tensed up again," Servalan asked.
I must be careful. "You always have that effect on me."
"You're a terrible liar." She told him, pressing against a vulnerable spot.
He grunted, after having been worked on for hours, it was no longer as painful.
"Hmm…you must be feeling better," she noted.
"I'm sure you can fix that."
"Do you really think that I'm that cruel?" she asked.
"I know you are," he replied.
She smiled. "Turn over," she told him. With her help, he rolled over slowly. His back was feeling much better and his body was relaxed. He was sure that wasn't going to last long.
"Take my hands," she told him. "Now sit up." Pulling, she helped him up to a sitting position. "Don't let go," she instructed him as she continued pulling him forward until she met resistance. She pulled a little further and then held him there.
He wasn't quite sure what she was doing at first but he felt his back stretch as she pulled him forward, it felt good. He recognized this as a variant of an exercise Cally had shown him on the Liberator in order to relieve his chronic back pains.
After a few moments she let him pull back, she repeated this exercise several times. For the next while, she put him through various exercises to stretch his back.
"It may not have been a good idea having you naked, you're driving me crazy."
"I can fix that," he offered as he took her into his arms. "You did say you wanted compensation."
"Oh no you don't," she told him, pushing him away. "I'm not having you undoing all my hard work. I think you've had enough exercise for now, now lie back down."
He laughed and fell slowly back onto the bed.
She pressed a bio-injector to his neck and injected the sedative mix. "It's time for you to sleep."
As the sedatives began to take effect, he watched her. She got up and went back to the couch; picking up her discarded datapad, she sat down and started working again.
Avon closed his eyes and slept.
As Servalan worked, part of her was thinking about Avon. She would have to call in Professor Tarkson; the state of Avon's mind had alarmed her. She had known there would be damage, it had been deliberately inflicted as part of the program to break him down and control him; but this other damage, it was unexpected and troubling. She was not about to give up her valuable asset, something would have to be done.
For now though, it would be useful; in the next few days, as she worked on him, it would make him dependent on her. He needed some peace and she had artificially set up a situation where she could provide it for him.
As Servalan had talked to Avon, it was also clear that he was emotionally unstable, he fluctuated between laughter and anger so swiftly he seemed like two different people. There was also something else, or rather the lack of something in his reactions. Servalan recognized it. Avon had reached this state when he found out Anna had betrayed him; it was as if some fundamental part of him had been ripped out.