"Professor Tarkson says that it is to be expected," said Sester. He was meeting with Servalan the day after Avon was returned to the Special Detention Centre. "It is a normal effect of the prolonged periods of torture. It leaves deep psychological scars. And we have been constantly breaking him down. And no matter what what we do, the fact remains that he will always be a prisoner and you will continue to use him."
"So even your guidelines will not help?" Servalan asked.
"They have achieved what we wanted. He has become much less difficult to handle. And he knows now that cooperation can lead to a different set of circumstances for him."
"He is still not accepting it."
"Not yet. But eventually he will have to accept that this is all he has. And we will make it as comfortable as possible for him."
"Speaking of making things comfortable. There are some things I would like to do for him."
"He is feeling very isolated. I want to allow him to work with a team again. But this time we will be much more careful."
"That may be useful. We know he is planning something. We may be able to find out more about what it is, by observing how he reacts to this new development. Can you include Professor Ekron on this team?"
"Why? Ekron had his memory wiped and new memories implanted. He will not remember working with Avon."
"I know. It will be very educational for our friend to know what happens to people who help him."
"Your level of cruelty is beginning to rival mine."
"I will take that as a compliment," said Sester, a smile playing on his lips.
"I also want to remove the restraints."
Sester looked at her carefully. My strategy may have worked too well on you, he thought.
"Let's do it in stages," he told her. "We will not require them when he is in his cell. It is not a good idea to give him so much all at once. We should also restore the conversation sessions. It will help us gauge his mental status."
"Very well. One last thing, Sester."
"You want to give him something else?" Sester asked. Yes, it has worked too well.
"Not him. You."
"You want to give me something?" he asked with a puzzled tone.
"A warning. Do not try to manipulate me again," her voice was cold. "If you do, I may just decide that you are too dangerous."
Servalan did not say anything else. She didn't need to.
The lieutenant and the soldiers worked on Argus well into the night. They stopped asking him about Reya. They only wanted to know who he worked for. They were very creative. Despite his best efforts, Argus could not help screaming. But he was proving to be more stubborn than they expected.
They finally dragged his limp body out to a large tree, bound his hands behind him then using another longer rope tied his wrists. The other end was thrown over a strong overhanging branch and they yanked on the rope, pulling him up. He screamed. It felt like his arms were being twisted out of their sockets. The pain was excruciating. He moaned in agony.
"Let's see how cooperative you are if we leave you hanging there until tomorrow morning," the lieutenant told him. They left him to the pain. A single guard was left to watch over him.
Argus found that if he stayed as still as possible, the pain was slightly less than unbearable. He grit hs teeth and fought to remain silent. At first he tightened his muscles in order to reduce the angle of pressure but he couldn't keep it up for long. His muscles began to spasm and that made the pain worse. The bored guard would occasionally strike his legs with the butt of his rifle, causing him to swing and producing more pain. He could feel that his shoulder was starting to bleed again.
I'm going to make you pay for that, thought Argus as the soldier sent him swinging again. Argus moaned.
The soldier suddenly fell to the ground. Dead.
"Argus." Someone whispered his name. Argus looked up. It was Reya.
You're beautiful, thought Argus. He tried to smile but it looked more like a lop-sided scowl.
"What took you so long?" His voice was a weak whisper.
"Do you think you can stop making all that noise when I lower you to the ground?"
"What noise?" he asked.
"Here bite down on this." She shoved a large piece of wood into his mouth.
Holding onto the rope with one hand, she cut the rope with a knife. She slowly lowered him to the ground. He groaned and nearly passed out but biting down on the piece of wood did help prevent him from screaming from the pain.
Argus spit out the piece of wood and lay panting on the ground. Reya went behind him and cut the ropes binding him, trying to be gentle.
"Next time could you find something that doesn't taste like its been rotting for five days?" he asked her as she helped him up. Concentrating on talking helped take his attention away from the agony in his shoulders.
"Do you want me to string you back up?"
"I don't mind hanging around if you don't."
"That's very bad," Reya remarked on his feeble attempt at humour as she helped him towards the vehicle she had prepared. She had already disabled the few perimeter guards and the remaining vehicles.
"You're a critic too now?" He whispered as he stumbled. She held onto him to stop him from falling. Argus groaned.
"Can you stop with the not-so-witty remarks and concentrate on walking? At least until I get you into the vehicle?"
Argus nodded. He knew he didn't have much strength left. Putting one foot in front of the other was fast becoming a task that was beyond him. He leaned heavily against Reya. Feeling her arms around him lent him energy; but by the time he climbed into the seat of the air-car, he was barely conscious.
His next awareness was of Reya trying to shake him awake. Pain from his torn shoulder muscles and the earlier wound made concentrating difficult. He could barely think. His mind seemed fuzzy. He realized he was suffering from shock.
"Argus, get up. We have to get you into the shuttle," Reya told him.
"Shuttle. Trap. Soldiers," he could barely manage anything more than single words. He wasn't sure that he actually spoke.
She helped him out of the car and led him to the shuttle. He pulled against her, trying to stop from moving towards the shuttle. His struggle barely had any affect and only caused himself pain. He groaned.
"Trap," he tried to tell her but only managed a babbling sound.
"I have no idea what you're trying to say," Reya told him as she continued to propel him forward. As they neared the shuttle access hatch, Argus noticed there were no guards.
Realizing what he must be thinking, she told him, "They did have guards posted but I took care of them earlier."
Argus looked at her appreciatively. "You're wonderful," his befuddled mind tried to tell her. But her lack of reaction told him he was still being incoherent.
She strapped him into the seat next to her and prepared the shuttle for take off. His mind was drifting in and out of consciousness as he sat next to her. Argus found himself having some strange thoughts. He could hear Reya contact the command cruiser using the shuttle's comm. Argus looked over at her. She seemed to be glowing. You look so beautiful, he thought as he finally passed out.
"Jenna," Kameron Reve acknowledged the ex-smuggler as she entered his room on the tenth floor.
"I should have realized that you were behind this. You were always devious," said Kam. "Although I am surprised at you, Cally. I would not have expected this from you."
"I'm sorry, but we did not think you would accept our help if we did not do it this way," Cally apologized.
"I don't blame you," Kam told her.
"You can blame me," Jenna asked.
"I blame my dear brother," said Kam. It is not surprising that whenever anyone spoke of the nefarious deeds of one of the Reve brothers, no one bothered to indicate which one. Everyone knew.
"Tell us what happened," Jenna told him.
Kameron waved them over to the couches on the far side of the room. After they all sat down, Kam began to explain.
"I was supposed to meet Galena here. After her shift. She never showed up. There was no sign of her anywhere. I waited here. For days. I put all of my security forces on it. But no one saw anything. Five days later, when I was about to tear apart this town looking for her, my brother contacted me. He had taken her. Right from under my nose. He threatened to kill her if I didn't stop my bid to become overlord."
"You've been waiting here ever since, haven't you?" Cally realized. "That is why you do not leave this room."
Kameron looked at her. She understood him.
"I would never have thought it of you, Kameron," said Jenna. "Becoming overlord after your father was your greatest ambition. You were prepared to do anything for that chance."
"I would never have thought that either. Not until I met her."
It's hard to believe. You were always overly ambitious and ruthless, thought Jenna.
But she noticed that whenever he talked about Galena, his voice changed and became softer. She must be quite a woman, thought Jenna. And she must be a miracle worker to be able to change someone like you.
"Were your security forces able to find out where he is holding her?" Cally asked.
"No. But they know she is on Ventro." Ventro was a planet in quadrant nine where Ellis had his base.
"You know that some of your most powerful supporters are threatening to pull out and join Ellis?" Jenna informed him.
"Yes, I've been trying to convince them not to. I have tried to tell them that my plans require that we wait."
"They don't know about Galena?" Jenna asked.
Kam laughed. "I may be a fool for love but I'm not a fool. Can you imagine what they would do if they found out the real reason?"
"They would all be in Ellis's camp by now," said Jenna.
"Exactly. But they are moving that way now anyways. It is hard to convince people when you cannot explain to them why."
"It does not help that you have also given up," said Cally.
Kam looked at her sharply. Having someone who knew him as well as Galena was proving to be uncomfortable.
"You know that Ellis is about to make a big move against Borel?" asked Jenna.
"Yes, I may be out of the picture. But I am not out of touch."
"What if Cally and I rescue Galena for you? Would you bring your forces against Ellis?"
"I tried that at the beginning. Sent one of my best units in to rescue her. They failed. Ellis threatened to send me a piece of her the next time I tried. I didn't dare try it again. That is why I did not want anyone's help. I did not want anyone bumbling in and getting her killed."
"But you're willing to listen to us now?" Cally asked. "Why?"
"Your ship. You have capabilities no one has. If anyone can rescue her and not get her killed; I believe your group can."
"You really are not a fool," Jenna remarked.
"But understand this. I will not lift a hand to help Borel until Galena is rescued. Until then, he is on his own," he told them. His voice had a hard determination. "I will contact the Families again and make preparations. But that is all. The day Galena walks through my door again, is the day I will move against Ellis."
Jenna realized that this was the best they could expect from Kameron Reve. The next move was hers and Cally's. And Vila's.
Servalan was sleeping in Avon's arms. She had spent an exhausting and frustrating day dealing with some of the top admiral's from Space Command. The Federation President needed to spend some time with someone who could stand up to her but could not harm her. She had sent for Avon. Servalan had been doing that a lot lately.
Avon sighed. His arm was feeling uncomfortable where she lay against him; but he didn't want to wake her. And she had forgotten to give him the sedatives again. After their passion, she had been so tired that she had fallen asleep.
Since the three days when Servalan had brought him back from a dangerous depression, their physical relationship had changed. He had to admit that he found it pleasurable as well. They had both known this was possible even when they sought to kill each other over the years.
This does not change anything, Servalan, thought Avon. With his free hand he gently touched her face. In sleep, the sharpness in her face disappeared. She looked peaceful. Content. Servalan murmured in her sleep and held him tighter.
You do not look like the devious snake I know you are, he thought.
Servalan had convinced Sester that they should allow Avon to work with a team again. The day by the lake, he had played her very well.
***** THE END *****