"Being tortured on a full stomach, isn't particularly appealing."
There was no expression on his face but in his eyes was a challenge to deny what was in store for him.
She nodded. "You're not angry?"
"We're enemies, what is there to be angry about?"
"You haven't touched your coffee at all."
"I prefer being conscious when I return."
She smiled. "Would it be better if I did this?" She switched the cup she had been drinking from with his.
He took the switched cup and drank from it.
"It tastes better without the drugs," he remarked dryly.
"You're terrible. It's a good thing you're being returned to the Centre otherwise I might start torturing you myself and I have too many things to do today. You've taken up enough of my time."
"The last three days. I know you only did it because you thought you were going to lose your asset, but you didn't have to do it this way."
At his open honesty, Servalan felt a moment of guilt. If she had been truly kind, she would have killed him; but because of her craving for power, he would never be free again.
Anyone who had happened on the scene in the woods would have thought a battle had taken place; and they would have been right. The bodies of dead soldiers were strewn about, their weapons still lying next to them. They would also have marvelled at the life-like statue someone had left to hold vigil over them; the figure of a man kneeling.
"Do you think we're just killers?" asked Argus.
He and Travis were sitting in another civilian bar somewhere; Argus didn't remember where. Travis had just been released from the military hospital after they had fixed the injuries to his left eye and hand; injuries he sustained when he had captured the rebel leader Blake.
"You always did think too much Argus," said Travis. "Of course we're killers and very good ones; that's what we were trained to be; what we have to be. We protect the peace and security of the Federation."
"So we're just instruments of Federation policy?" The tone in Argus's voice indicated that this idea did not make him feel any better.
"Someone has to do the dirty work. Why all this speculation?"
"I've been having dreams. All the people I've killed, I can see their faces, staring at me. They don't do anything, they just stare. Wherever I go they're still there, staring at me."
"Don't let them hear you say that or they're going to think you're unreliable and send you to the psychotherapists," Travis warned his friend.
Argus sighed. "You're right. We're good Federation officers, we're not here to think about why. Politics is not our concern."
The statue moved.
Politics is not our concern. In his mind, the phrase was echoed by another voice, a voice which was now forever stilled.
Argus got up slowly from where he had been kneeling. He could barely feel his legs and his knees were complaining bitterly at the movement.
He knew now why his subconscious had been bringing up all of these memories. From the very beginning, something deep inside him had known that this would happen. His conscious mind had not wanted to acknowledge it. He had been foolish enough to allow himself to be distracted from the reality of the situation. Being with these soldiers had evoked a simpler time; a time when he had not recognized the truth.
A killer and a fool.
Argus looked around him at the bodies. These were soldiers; they had died in battle. For them it was an honourable death; they would have hated anyone saying otherwise.
He bent down and retrieved the ring from the body of the dead sergeant; then he slowly began removing his jacket and shirt. Argus picked up a shovel. He would not leave these men's bodies to the elements and whatever scavengers inevitably preyed on the bodies of the dead.
Avon was suspended from the ceiling by chains attached to his wrists. His feet did not touch the ground and his ankles were attached by chains to rings in the floor to prevent him from moving. Two physical pain specialists were working him over, alternately using hardened gloves and short clubs. The only sound was his own occasional moans from the pain as they took turns hitting him.
He had already been hanging there for almost eight hours; they had brought him here directly after being returned from Residence One. Whatever physical recovery Servalan had allowed him had been completely undone. Of course, those three days in Servalan's bedroom had not been about his physical recovery; and it had definitely not been about his back.
In between beatings, he had been left hanging. He could feel the pain from the torn shoulder muscles and the fractured ribs. His wrists were raw and bleeding.
There had been no questions; the interrogators had not even bothered speaking to him. These were simple beatings designed to incapacitate him. Occasionally they would let him down so that a medtech could check his injuries and heal any serious ones; then he would be injected with various drugs and nutritional supplements and strung back up again.
Compared to the Shredder or what they had done to him in the isolation cells, it was just something to be endured. It was not meant to break him.
The beating stopped; Avon crumpled to the ground as the chain was lowered. A medtech approached and checked him over. After giving him various injections, the medtech nodded to the interrogators, the required damage had been achieved.
One of the interrogators commanded the guards,"He's done, take him back to his cell."
The sun shone off Argus's glistening back as he continued digging. His muscles were lean and rippled as he moved. He was dripping with sweat and his muscles ached from the unaccustomed labour.
"You can't keep beating yourself up," said Jenna.
Argus had been on the roof, staring out over the city below. He often came up here to be alone.
Sometimes when he was with the undisciplined rebels he could forget his past; but sometimes, he did not want to forget everything. It helped him remember why he was there and what he still owed.
"What are you talking about?" asked Argus without turning around. Other than Jenna, none of the rebels knew anything about him other than he had been an ex-military commander in Land Command; and she only knew a little more than the others.
"You know what I mean."
"Don't try to play psychiatrist with me, Jenna. I told you, my life is off-limits."
He knew what she was trying to do and he knew he had never told her enough to guess about what haunted him; and he never would.
The hole was now large enough. Argus threw the shovel up over the side and climbed back up. He carefully lowered each body into the grave he had just dug, along with the various weapons and any sign that there had once been a camp here. Picking up the shovel again, he began refilling the hole. The repetitive motion freed his mind to think and remember.
He hadn't thought about the rebels in days but as memories of the past few years came forward, they provoked different feelings in him. He realized that even though they annoyed his military sensibilities at times, he had found a measure of peace with them. Sometimes, he had even stopped hating himself. When he was among them, working towards their common goal, he could forget that part of him which would always remain a killer.
They would never know it but he needed them much more than they needed him.
Several days after Avon was returned to the Detention Centre, Servalan and Sester met in her office at the Presidential Palace.
"What you did worked," said the psychostrategist. He was referring to the three days Servalan and Avon had spent together at Residence One.
"I said you could trust me. What's he doing now?"
"He's back in the lab working on the advanced anti-detector screen."
"Have you readjusted your psych-strategy?"
"After what has been done to him the last three years, it's going to be difficult to do what you ask Servalan."
"I notice you didn't say that it was impossible," said Servalan.
He smiled, "No I didn't say that." She was also getting to know him well; he didn't think he liked that.
"What do you propose?" Servalan asked.
"For now all the current protocols need to be stopped."
"All of them?"
"Yes, for now. They can still be used as punishment when it's required, but you don't need it as a control anymore. The drugs can continue, that will be enough of a check on him."
"And his visits to me?"
"Those are at your discretion Madame President, as always; but the nature of them will change. They will no longer be used as a punishment and it would be good if you stop torturing him, at least for now."
"Do you think he will ever stop fighting us?"
"You mean, will he ever accept his prison? No. You know he will never do that. But as long as he feels we are giving him at least a semblance of a choice, it will be easier for him to live in this prison."
"He is going to become more difficult as he recovers, he's proven that in the past. And if we relax the controls, he will take advantage of it. Will you be ready?"
"Of course, nothing he's done has been outside the frame of my psych-mapping."
"I'm sorry if it hasn't been much of a challenge for you."
"On the contrary Servalan, you have given me one of the greatest challenges I have ever had the privilege to tackle. I have you to thank for that."
"How can it be a challenge if you have everything already mapped out?"
"A psych-mapping is like a chess board, I know all the places he can move and I know all the pieces. On the board lies the game."
"But in chess, your opponent has a chance to win."
"That's where the analogy differs, with Avon's situation, we also make all the rules. The only thing we ever allow him is check, never mate; and when he achieves a check, we take that piece from him. At the moment he does not have many pieces left."
"I still do not see the challenge for you."
"Even within an irregular framework like this, there are still many possibilities, what we psychostrategists call a curve of probabilities. There is a narrow region at the high end of the curve called the improbability zone. It's improbable because it requires uncommon genius, uncommon will or uncommon luck to fall inside the zone. Most people who do achieve it, require a mixture of the three and rarely reach it more than once or twice. Within our scenario, Avon should never have been able to reach that zone at all. With everything we have taken away from him, and the handicaps he's been given, we've done everything to make sure he doesn't, but he has still managed to fall consistently inside that zone."
You reached that zone yourself when you regained your Presidency, Madame President.
Sester had great respect for Avon. That Avon was able to fight at all after what they had done to him the past three years was incredible; what he did on Guada Prime in being able to retrieve ORAC and gain a new ship when the odds had been slim to none had been unbelievable; that he had managed to find a way to influence the nightmares, no matter how limited, was quite astonishing and confounded the criminotherapists to no end.
The psychostrategsit was convinced that Avon's efforts to free himself and get around the agreements were not as simple as he had revealed them to be; which was why Sester had been forced to chose the strategy he had adopted in order to defeat Avon. There had been no other way.
Sester found the analyst a fascinating subject and enjoyed seeing what he would manage to do next. The psychostrategist had never before had to take such an active role in order to beat someone in a psych-strategy; but this was Avon.
"Are you sure we will still be able to contain him if we relax the controls?"
"The controls will remain the same, it is the conditions under which they are applied which will change. In the past, we never given him a provision to be able to stop the torture; even when he did what we wanted. It was a very effective way to control him; but giving him that provision now, as a choice, we gain another way to control him. One that is less cruel but just as effective. As long as he cooperates, he can manage the level of pain he experiences. We can never remove it. As you said, if there is a relaxation of the controls, he will take advantage of it. The punishment will still be harsh of he disobeys or defies us but with the new guidelines, he will know that there is now a place for him where he can survive afterwards, as long as he cooperates."
Servalan nodded her understanding.
"Can you spare some time?" Sester asked, "I think we both need to talk to him in order to reassure him and to set up the new guidelines. For this to work, he needs to see that this is in his best interests."
"Very well, I will try to clear some time but it may not be for awhile, my schedule is very full. I had to push back a lot of things in order to work on him."
"In the meantime, I would like begin some of the new guidelines now."
"I leave it to your discretion," Servalan replied. "Now, there is something else I want to discuss. We may need to bring Professor Tarkson back in." Servalan told the psychostrategist her concerns about the damage to Avon's mind.
After Sester left, Servalan sat for a few moments thinking about their converstion before her next meeting.
Those three days of peace and false security she had provided for Avon, had also given her something she had never had before, someone whom she felt at ease with; an equal whose company she missed when he was not there. They were still enemies and could never trust each other, and he would always have to be controlled, but she wanted to see him have some kind of happiness; even in this prison she would never allow him to be free from. She realized that she didn't want him to die anymore, even after his usefulness ended.
I hope you accept this, Avon. You may not believe me, but I do want you to find some peace.