"You still love him, don't you?" Avon asked Servalan. She had been talking about Don Keller again. Avon's arm was around her as she lay relaxed against his shoulder.
"Then why did you go looking for him on Virn?"
"I wanted to kill him."
"You wanted answers."
"Stop it, Avon. Stop trying to understand me." He was making her uncomfortable.
Avon realized with dismay that he had fallen into the same trap as Tarrant. And he was the greater fool. Tarrant had fallen for her tricks; but Avon had sought to understand the mystery. He had walked into the trap on his own. Here, in her bedroom, with her guard slipping, she had become human.
He put his hand under her chin and tilted her head up to face him.
"When will you stop trying to punish him?"
"I don't know what you mean."
Avon looked into her eyes and the confusion reflected there and thought, When did you become so vulnerable?
He said, "You really don't, do you?"
She did not know how to respond to him. Is that what I have been doing? With you?
"You always stress how alike we are. Why is that important to you?" he asked when she didn't answer him. He suddenly had a flash of insight; and wish he hadn't.
"And when will you stop trying to punish yourself?"
Servalan pushed against him and sat up facing him.
"Now I really don't know what you are talking about," she said. There was a coldness in her tone.
Of course, timing demanded that very moment was the perfect time for Argus and Vila to arrive. Avon saw them. He quickly sat up and pulled the blanket around Servalan's shoulders.
"What took you so long," he asked them.
Clutching the blanket to her, Servalan whirled around to face the two men who had appeared in her bedroom.
"How did you get in here?" She demanded. Her hand slowly moved towards a hidden security button.
"I wouldn't," Avon stopped her hand in a hard grip. Servalan turned to stare at him in anger. She felt as if she had just been betrayed.
Argus and Vila approached the bed, their pistols raised to cover the Federation President.
"Madame President. I would stay very still if I were you," said Argus.
"Who are you?" she asked outraged.
"My name is Argus."
"We have been searching for you."
Vila had an amused look on his face as he saw the state of Avon and Servalan on the bed. He remarked to Avon, "I was going to say that we were here to save you from a fate worse than death, but I see we were too late. Or were we too early?"
Avon gave Vila a cold stare. "Bring me my clothes," he told him. Vila looked around and spotted the discarded prison coveralls on the ground. He picked it up and handed it to Avon.
"I take it ORAC followed my orders?" Avon asked as he got out of bed and pulled the coveralls on.
"Yes and no," said Argus. "We are safe from the virus. As for the rest, we can discuss that later." The rebel leader guessed what they would find in Servalan's bedroom and had insisted that only he and Vila teleport down. Argus handed Avon a teleport bracelet. "Do you want to kill her yourself?" he asked, indicating Servalan.
Despite their agreement with Sester, there had been no promise not to kill Servalan. After Argus had read the files which Sester had sent, he felt that Avon deserved the chance to kill her. They would deal with whatever fallout would result.
"Give me a gun," Avon told him as he snapped on the bracelet.
Argus nodded to Vila, who was very happy to surrender his weapon to someone else.
Avon trained the phase pistol on Servalan.
The analyst told them, "Downstairs, in a locked safe, you will find ORAC's key. I trust you are still competent enough to open it Vila. You can take the lift next to the liquor cabinet. There is a recessed button on the side of the cabinet. Now leave us. I want to have a few words with the Federation President. I will signal for teleport when I am done."
Argus looked at Avon. The analyst had a cold impassive look on his face and his gun hand was steady. The rebel leader nodded. "Let's go get the key, Vila."
"Oh. Yes. Right." Vila didn't really want to leave. He felt that things were much more interesting in the bedroom.
Argus took Vila's arm firmly and guided him to the lift. The two men left.
Avon sat down on edge of the bed and stared at the woman who had been the bane of his existence for more years than he could remember.
"We don't need to talk. Just kill me," Servalan told him. "We have already done too much talking. It's time to work Avon."
Avon immediately knew what she had done as his mind began responding to the conditioning.
"It won't work Servalan. You no longer have any leverage over me."
"That's true. But you know that unless I turn the conditioning off, your mind will destroy itself."
"I would rather be free and go insane rather than spend another day trapped here under your control."
"Then kill me and go."
Avon pointed the gun at her and squeezed the trigger slowly. Servalan showed no fear.
She was his hated enemy. The woman who had him tortured and turned his weaknesses into debilitating nightmares; the one who used him like a personal slave and had conditioned him to work for her. She had broken his body and made his sanity dependent on drugs he would never be free of. Every pain in his body and every scar was a reminder of what she had done to him.
It was so easy to kill her now and to end his misery. It was time. It had reached the point of no return. The gun shot out its charged energy; racing towards its final destination. And hit the wall behind Servalan.
Avon lowered the gun. He could not kill her.
"Are you going to stay then?" Servalan asked. Her voice had softened. She had seen the anger and hatred in his eyes when he pulled the trigger; she had expected to die.
"No," he replied. In that one word was conveyed a wealth of misery which was incongruous with a face which remained emotionless.
"You have to. I do not want you to go insane. That would be worse than death for you."
"Yes," he admitted. "Perhaps I will end up killing myself. But at least I would be free."
"And you would rather do that than to stay here with me?"
"Yes," he replied. There was no emotion in his voice. He felt numb. Part of him no longer wanted to feel anything. It meant he would not have to hate himself.
Servalan suddenly realized something. "You knew that this might happen, didn't you? Even if your crew obtained the antidote, you knew you were still vulnerable to the conditioning and that I would use it against you."
"I know you; I knew it would be a strong possibility. Even if we knew how, the likelihood would be that we would never be able to break the conditioning soon enough to prevent me from going insane."
"So you were waiting for them to rescue you so that you could die?" she asked incredulously.
"You would not give me that option."
"Avon," she said his name softly. There was such sadness in her voice.
"Don't," he told her. "Don't become human." Don't become more human.
He leaned forward and kissed her briefly, keeping his gun well away from her hands. Just as she responded to him, he pulled away.
Avon stood up away from the bed and activated the teleport bracelet on his wrist, "This is Avon. Bring me up."
Just as his form began to shimmer in a familiar energy, Servalan said quietly, "It's time to rest Avon."
Despite his efforts to hide his actions, Servalan knew who it was who had freed Avon. She knew it couldn't be anyone else. She immediately instructed her special security personnel to apprehend the psychostrategist.
The cell door opened. The Federation President stood in the doorway, flanked by her hooded personal guards.
Sester was sitting on a metal sleep platform. His hands were restrained by shackles. He was not wearing a prison uniform; obviously an oversight by the Centre personnel. Sester reflected how the guards had processed him with undisguised pleasure and anticipation.
There was no sign of fear or defeat on his face. He was every inch the confident psychostrategist Servalan had known for over three years. There was even an amused look on his face.
The psychostrategist had almost escaped. He had been about to board his personal observer craft when the Central Spaceport had been shut down for security reasons. After that he didn't have a chance. He did not even bother to run; and had waited calmly for them to take him.
Sester stood up as the Federation President entered. Her guards did not follow her into the cell. The door slid closed. Sester saw that the security cameras had been switched off.
There was an atmosphere of formality between them.
"Given my present circumstances, I assume that Avon got away?"
"I let him go."
The psychostrategist reacted in surprise then he laughed.
"The two of you consistently surprise me," he told her. There was no need for pretense any longer.
"I am glad you find it so amusing. It may be your last opportunity."
"So you came here to decide whether it would be more amusing to kill me or to torture me like you did with Avon?"
"You are in his cell."
"I am aware of that."
"Why did you do it?" she asked.
"I told you my reasons when I came back," Sester replied.
"And you think that will excuse you? I warned you what would happen if you tried to manipulate me again."
There was nothing he could say to that.
His planned had worked. Avon was free. The Justice crew would help fight the aliens. And Servalan would work with them. The only thing he had not been able to ensure was his own survival.
Servalan stared at the silent man for a few seconds then she activated a button on her wrist communicator. "Open the cell door," she spoke into it. The door slid open. She turned and walked towards the exit.
"So what is your decision?" Sester asked. For once, he had no idea what she was going to do.
Servalan hesitated at the doorway, and then she said, "Kill him." She left without looking back.
The two black hooded guards entered the cell; they were like twin spectres of death in faceless masks. They both lifted their rifles and prepared to shoot him.
The psychostrategist faced his death calmly. He smiled.
Just as their fingers tightened on the triggers, he said, "Wait."