"Do you know anything about this Sevisia?" Argus asked Jenna. They were in the teleport room; Jenna was programming in the coordinates Avon had given her.
"I've heard of him, he has a reputation of being able to get anything, for a price," Jenna replied. "I've never met him though, he's very elusive. I wonder how Avon was able to find him."
Even Vila had heard of Sevisia. "Don't cross him," was his only remark, "the last person to do that, they kept finding parts of him, for years." He shuddered.
"I don't like it that Avon is insisting on going down alone," Argus told Jenna.
"Are you concerned for his safety, or ours?"
Argus smiled wryly, he still did not trust the analyst.
At that moment, Avon entered the teleport room carrying a satchel. He had just come in from the flight deck where he had just directed Zen to make a complete sensor sweep of the entire region, including using the energy draining extra-range sensors, to check that no Federation ships were within range. So far Servalan was following his conditions. He crossed over to the teleport bracelet tray and picked out two; one he placed in the satchel the other he snapped onto his wrist.
"A spare?" Jenna asked suspiciously.
"Precautions," he told her as he stepped onto the teleport pad.
"Are you sure you don't want to bring a weapon with you?" Argus asked.
"Yes," Avon replied. "Sevisia is very specific about his conditions."
Unknown to the rest of them, hidden in his satchel was a standard Federation laser pistol and an area grenade.
This Deep Space Vehicle had its own armoury containing an improved hand gun. It no longer needed to be connected to a bulky power pack attached to a belt unit. The handgun had a small but powerful pulse energy unit which slid into the handgrip. It was advanced technology which Avon had no intention of giving to Servalan if anything went wrong, which was why he was carrying a standard Federation energy pistol.
"Stay by the teleport. Put me down."
As Avon's form shimmered out of view, several things began happening onboard the DSV. Avon's plans had started going into action the moment he disappeared; ORAC was now in full control of the ship.
The battle and navigation computers came online, startling Vila who had been leaning back, dozing at his console. In the teleport room the console outbound coordinates were cleared and outbound controls were locked.
Unknown to the rest of the crew a countdown had begun, ORAC would not release the control of the ship for another three hours, or until Avon had returned safely. If Avon did not request a second return teleport within five minutes of the first, if Federation ships appeared or if the ship came under attack, the ship would leave, regardless of whether Avon was back on the ship or not.
Avon's voice came over the comm system reporting, "Down and safe."
"Argus is something happening over there?" Vila's voice came over the comm system right after Avon's signal; there was concern in his voice.
"We just teleported Avon down to the planet. Why?"
"Something strange is going on. The battle and navigation computers just came online. By themselves, and Zen is not answering any questions."
Argus and Jenna looked at each other.
"Vila, come down here. We need you to monitor the teleport."
Jenna shouted, "Argus look at the outbound coordinates, they've been cleared."
"Avon," Argus called the analyst's wristcomm using the ship's communicator. No reply. "Avon."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Jenna said. She checked the teleport controls. "The inbound controls appear to be working. The outbound ones are frozen."
Vila arrived out of breath. "What's going on down here?"
"Avon is not responding to hails. The teleport seems to be frozen for outbound traffic; so far inbound still appears fine. Stay here and bring Avon up when he calls," Argus directed him.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Vila echoed Jenna's earlier sentiment.
Jenna and Argus hurried to the flight deck but Zen did not respond to any of their requests or commands either.
"Someone has taken over the ship. It's a trap," Argus realized. The only one with a hope of regaining control of the ship had just been teleported to the moon they were orbiting and they were unable to communicate with him.
The coordinates Avon had chosen landed him in a secluded alcove near the warehouse district of the trading centre. His destination was a building at the end of the street. He stood waiting in the shadows, watching. There was no suspicious movement.
So far so good. But he knew he could not afford to let down his guard.
He put the satchel on a ledge protruding from the alcove and opened it; the laser pistol he stuck into his belt, the teleport bracelet he put into his left-hand pocket, the final object, the area grenade, was powerful enough to level half a warehouse.
He activated the grenade and carefully positioned his right thumb over the timer detonation control. He placed this hand inside his jacket pocket while with the other he drew the laser pistol. Everything was ready.
Leaving the alcove, he advanced along the street, his senses on alert. The sun blazed down on the white surface of the road, causing a glare. The street seemed deserted. There was no movement, no sounds; everything seemed dead. The explosion he planned would be satisfyingly loud in the silence.
He entered the warehouse without incident, as with the street, all was quiet inside. Rows of huge packing containers extended out in front of him. The rendezvous point was the large open area by the entrance.
"Servalan," he called out his hated enemy's name; the pistol was steady in his hand.
A rustle of movement broke the silence. The Federation President, resplendent in another trademark white gown came into view from behind a tower of crates; she was flanked by a squad of her black-hooded personal guards.
"Should I be flattered that the Federation President would come to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere to meet me?"
"Only if you were susceptible to flattery, which we both know, you are not."
Avon was in no mood for her games or her false pleasantries. He wanted it to end, one way or another.
He brought out his right hand from his pocket and held up the grenade.
"Do you know what this is?" he asked.
"An area grenade. I imagine that it has been primed?"
"One would think you didn't trust me Avon."
He asked, "Where is she?"
Servalan clapped her hands twice. Two guards appeared from behind another set of crates, they were holding a prisoner between them, Cally. She was dressed in the same prison coveralls from the vizphoto and looked tired but otherwise physically undamaged. Her hands were shackled in front of her.
"Avon!" she reacted in surprise, she had not been told what was going to happen.
Avon looked on impassively.
"Remove the restraints," he ordered.
Servalan nodded to the guards; they removed the restraints.
"Go. You are free my dear," she told the stunned young woman. One of the guards emphasized the point by gesturing with his rifle.
They all watched as Cally crossed the distance to Avon. When she finally stood in front of him, she looked up at his unreadable face and suddenly punched him; not exactly the smartest thing to do considering he was holding an active grenade in his hand, but Avon was a man who was always in control.
"What?" he reacted in mild shock. Cally the former freedom fighter, could pack quite a lot into a single punch. Avon wiped the blood from his lip with the back of his hand.
"You left me on Terminal. You didn't even bother to bury my body," she accused him.
If he had buried her, she would not be standing there today but he didn't bother to say it. Nothing would stop his plans.
Servalan watched in amusement, this was something else she would be able to use later.
Without a word, Avon slipped the pistol into his belt and unclipped the teleport bracelet from his wrist. This was a risk. They would be instantly suspicious if he had brought out the other bracelet at this point; he had to get Cally out first. Clipping the bracelet onto her wrist, he activated the comm.
"This is Avon, teleport now."
As Cally shimmered out of view, the black-clad guards surrounded him, their rifles pointed at him. There was a horrible feeling of déjà vu, but this time he had an area grenade instead of a rifle, it evened the odds considerably. Federation guards, even Servalan's elite personal ones, preferred that other people did the dying, not themselves.
He brought the other bracelet out of his pocket slowly.
"Either kill me and we all die, or let me go Servalan, you will not be getting what you want today."
He had planned to release the grenade as he was being teleported out. This was the crucial point, everything else was working. Cally had been rescued; the DSV, ORAC and the rest of the crew were safe. But this was the point where his own life hung in the balance. He knew that Servalan was also not the sacrificial type, which had made the odds acceptable.
"Oh but I will Avon."
He hesitated and looked at her suspiciously, there was a confidence in her manner which made him uneasy.
"If you teleport out, Cally will die in twenty minutes. Only I can stop it."
"I don't believe you."
"I don't need you to, I just need you to watch something," she gestured to a guard. Two men in prison grey were brought in. Avon recognized them, they were from Argus's rebel group. "Do you remember IMIPAK Avon?"
"Yes." He remembered the remote killing device; anyone marked by it could be killed remotely anytime, anywhere. "You didn't get it."
"No, I didn't. Did the rebels tell you about the information they retrieved on Biliar, about the techno-virus?"
"It's a versatile little virus, one of its properties is that it is programmable, and like IMIPAK, can be activated anytime and anywhere."
She turned to the rebels. "You are free to go."
The men hesitated. "Run before I change my mind." They ran out of the warehouse and down the alley, Avon could see them getting farther and farther away.
One of the guards handed Servalan a control unit, she accepted it and began pressing several buttons. One of the men fell immediately, they could hear his screams as he died. The other man stooped down to check his companion, it was no good. He looked back at the warehouse and ran.
"The other one will die in 60 minutes. I think it will be a painful death or maybe he will just explode, I haven't decided yet."
"You infected Cally," Avon said simply; the demonstration had the effect which was intended. "It's a mistake to presume that I won't let her die to prevent you from getting ORAC or the ship. You know me better than that Servalan."
"Yes I do which is why I will not ask you for the ship or ORAC, I just want you. If you do not surrender yourself to me immediately she will die, in sixteen minutes now. And do not think of using the grenade Avon, if you or I die, I promise you she will also die and painfully. It has already been programmed and no one can prevent it, except me."
He was mystified. What was her reason for doing this? He knew better than to believe her. He needed just one more minute and then the ship would be safely on its way. With a shock he realized the shift in his own thinking, he was trapped and he was not getting out of it.
Servalan guessed what he was thinking, she was enjoying herself. It was clear that Avon still did not understand what was going on. She would keep it that way until it suited her otherwise.
"It is a shame there is such a lack of trust between us, so I will give you an opportunity to contact the ship, if that would convince you. Tell them to leave. I'll wait. Do not try to teleport out though, remember Cally will die instantly and painfully if you do."
The five minute window he had left himself would be expiring within seconds. Under his orders, ORAC would be directing the ship to leave.
"There's no need. I programmed the ship to leave if I didn't come up, they will be gone soon."
"Very clever, if a wasted effort."
He sighed. He had been outmaneuvered. His glare never left her as he surrendered the teleport bracelet to the nearest guard. He did not resist as another guard carefully removed the grenade from his hand, the gun followed. Once disarmed his arms were grabbed and forced behind him as the shackles which had been around Cally's wrists, were fastened to his. They forced him to his knees in front of her and held him there.
Servalan approached and wiped the corner of his mouth which still had blood from where Cally struck him. He was unresponsive but his eyes contained a cold hatred. She smiled down at him.
"What is it about you which makes women want to love you and kill you at the same time Avon?"
"You mean you don't know?" he remarked insolently.
She slapped his face.
She turned and gestured to the guards. "Bring him." Dragging a resistant prisoner, the President's party left the warehouse.
Avon stopped abruptly, refusing to move another step despite the blows from the guards. "Cally. What about Cally?"
"What about her?" Servalan stopped and turned towards him.
"You said that if I surrendered, she would not die, you haven't deactivated the virus."
"That is not quite what I said if you recall. I said that if you did not surrender, she would die in sixteen minutes. I never said that she would not die if you did surrender."
He lunged towards her, an icy anger on his face. "You!" The guards held him back as another one struck him from behind with the butt of his rifle. His knees buckled at the pain. They dragged him back to his feet.
He knew this was part of the game, and for Cally to live he had to play.
"What do you want?" he asked.
Servalan refrained from smiling. She had him exactly where she and Sester had planned.
"If you want Cally to continue living you will keep yourself my prisoner. You will not attempt to escape, you will not kill yourself and believe me, you will want to. You will not try to contact anyone, you will not tell anyone about any of this. The punishment for any of these infractions is instant and painful death for Cally. If any random rebels succeed in freeing you again, you will return yourself to me. From the moment you disappear, Cally will be on a forty-eight hour death sentence until you return. Your freedom for her life, I never lied to you about that. Agree to my terms and I will deactivate the virus."
"You've thought of everything."
"I like to be thorough."
"You will never use the virus on her at all" he added.
Servalan smiled. "Agreed."
"Or any of the crew."
"You are being demanding today. Very well, I will not kill Cally or any of the current crew with the virus as long as you keep to my conditions. Satisfied?"
There are many other ways to kill them, she thought. The variant of the virus they had infected Cally with did not contain the pacification aspect. She did not want the crew to know that Cally had been infected, and with the pacification ability of the virus, they would have been suspicious.
He looked away from her; the ship was gone, ORAC was beyond Servalan's reach, Cally was safe, the crew would go on without him. Servalan saw his jaw tighten as he struggled with something which was not within his nature. After a year as her prisoner, he had no illusions as to what she was going to do to him.
He took a deep breath, looked directly into her eyes and nodded, "I accept your terms."
Behind them the warehouse they had just vacated exploded.
"Cally!" Vila exclaimed, as his former crewmate on the Liberator appeared on the teleporter pad instead of Avon. He almost fainted at seeing the ghost in front of him.
"Vila get me a blaster and send me back down on the same coordinates."
"Did you forget to set the outbound coordinates again," she sounded very annoyed as she almost shoved him off the bench and tried to program the coordinates herself. But there was something wrong with the panel, it was not responding.
"Well you're not a ghost", Vila rubbed his sore arm where she had pushed him. "I tried to tell you. The outbound controls aren't working."
"We have to save Avon."
"What's happened to Avon?"
"By now Servalan's got him."
"Servalan? I don't get it. How did you get here? What's going on? What's Servalan got to do with it?"
"Where are Tarrant and Dayna?" She was referring to their former crewmates who had joined them on the Liberator after the alien invasion at Star One.
She paused absorbing this information, but there were more pressing matters, time to deal with this some other time.
"Who is in command of the ship now?"
"Jenna and Argus. They're on the flight deck."
"Jenna? She's back?" Cally ran towards the flight deck. Vila almost followed her out but remembered that he had to wait in case Avon signaled for teleport. He used the ship's comm instead, "Jenna, you will never believe who came up on the teleport, it's Cally. She's headed for the flight deck now."
For once he was going to be responsible. He did not know that it would be for nothing.
On the flight deck Jenna and Argus barely had time to react in surprise to Vila's announcement when Cally came rushing down the steps.
"Cally!" Jenna shouted out in surprise, hardly believing her eyes. "Avon found you? That's why he wanted to come to Terrus?"
"No. Servalan found me."
"Servalan!" Argus and Jenna reacted in shock.
"Who is this, Jenna?" Argus asked.
"This is Cally. We were together on the Liberator with Blake. She's from the planet Auron," she introduced her.
"What did you say about Servalan?" Argus asked.
"Avon is in trouble, we have to get him out," Cally told them urgently. "Servalan probably has him by now."
"Unfortunately we can't," Jenna told her. "Someone has taken control of the ship. We can't even raise Avon on his communicator."
"He gave his bracelet to me," Cally told them.
"He took two down with him," Jenna told her.
"You can ask ORAC to override Zen."
"Unfortunately we don't have ORAC's activation key anymore and the transmitter which Avon used to communicate with it, he always kept it himself. Plus Avon has locked it on a command code, no one else can use ORAC except him."
"Jenna," Argus called her attention, he pointed to Avon's flight console. The transmitter was sitting on the panel of Avon's operations station.
They stood staring at it uncomprehendingly; Avon never let the transmitter out of his possession, he would never forget something like that; but there it was sitting on his operations console.
Despite the futility of the exercise, the Jenna and Cally tried to activate ORAC with the transmitter, but ORAC remained silent.
"Sometimes I agree with Vila," Jenna told them in frustration.
"About?" Argus asked, he was trying to override Zen from the flight console.
"ORAC is as useful as an empty space."
All of a sudden, Zen spoke as if in response to a command.
"Course plotted and confirmed. Speed standard by twelve."
They could all feel the power of the engines as they jumped into maximum speed.
"Anti-detector screen activated." The device which Avon had been working on began to indicate that it was operational.
"Close range sensors register five ships launching from moon surface. Records indicate they are Federation B-19 cruisers."
Zen activated the view screen.
Vila chimed on the ship's comm channel, "Did we just break orbit? What's going on Jenna? Avon isn't back. We can't leave yet." They ignored him.
B-19 cruisers were capable of time distort ten, which was approximately standard by six, but they had launched too late. At standard by twelve, the DSV would be outside the range of their close-range sensors by the time the cruisers left the moon's gravitational influence.
There were no other pursuit vessels lying in wait, Avon had made sure of that in his agreement with Servalan and she had respected the power of the DSV's sensors, which was why she had been forced to use the B-19 cruisers which were capable of making planet-fall rather than the faster pursuit ships. In addition, in this sector there was no convenient astral phenomenon to hide in, Avon's choice of this particular sector had been deliberate.
As the screen showed the positions of the cruisers, the three stood transfixed, there was nothing any of them could do except wait, they had no control over the ship.
"Hello? Argus? Jenna? Cally? Anyone?" Vila asked again over the ship's comm.
"We're no longer in control of the ship Vila. You might as well come back to the flight deck," Argus told him.
Once the ship was beyond the reach of the cruisers' close-range sensor's ORAC directed Zen to alter their course.
It was clear from the view screen that the pursuit ships were following them on the original course. Soon they flew out of range of even the DSV's long range sensors.
"Avon's gadget works," Jenna remarked. That had been a running joke aboard the Liberator, it came from Vila's comment upon witnessing Avon's advanced detector screen in action for the first time. For a significant scientific breakthrough, it had seemed an inappropriate description and only served to irritate the analyst, which was one of Vila's favorite past-times.
"That means going to Terrus was a ruse all along," Argus noted.
"He took two bracelets down with him," Jenna reminded him. "That meant the whole purpose was to rescue Cally."
"Why didn't Avon tell us?" Vila asked.
As if in response to Vila's question, Avon's image appeared on the view screen. He was wearing the same black jacket and white shirt that he had teleported down to the trading centre with.
"If you are hearing this message that means that I am dead. If I do not initiate the second return teleport within five minutes of the first, ORAC will direct the ship to leave orbit and follow a pre-programmed evasive pattern. To prevent any heroically pointless attempts at rescue, I have instructed ORAC to lock out the Deep Space Vehicle's controls for three hours, from the time I teleport down to the trade centre. Afterwards you can go where you like, but do not come back to Terrus unless you like retrieving corpses. By now, you will also know the real reason why we came to Terrus. Through ORAC, I received a coded message from Servalan eight standard days ago indicating that Cally had not died on Terminal and that she was being held prisoner. I have verified that this information is true. I have taken every possible step to prevent Servalan from gaining ORAC and the Deep Space Vehicle; I have also taken the precaution of bringing an area grenade with me to the rendezvous point. ORAC puts the odds of rescuing Cally as forty-two point zero five. Those are better odds than most things we faced with Blake."
The Avon on the screen smiled, that ironic smile he always had when things threatened to be even more dangerous than they seemed.
The image continued, "I will make sure Servalan will not be gaining anything out of this transaction. The anti-detector screen has been operational for five days. I have also added a new technology based on a variation of the sopron. Vila can tell you about it, if his mind hasn't been pickled with alcohol by now. Or better still," he hesitated before he said, "Cally can tell you. It can be activated by the black button on the anti-detector screen control panel. I have stored instructions on its operation in the ship's computer. I have also released ORAC's command code. Once the last of my orders have been completed in three hours after I have left the ship, you will have full control. That is all."
The screen went blank and redisplayed the star field. There had been no words of farewell. No sentimentality.
They all stood stunned.
Vila had a sense of déjà vu. Something similar had happened once before, when Avon had been tricked by Servalan into going after Blake on Terminal. That had been when they had lost the Liberator, and thought they had lost Cally. At that time the analyst had also tried to safeguard the ship and ORAC by excluding the others and failed. But it seemed that this time he succeeded at the cost of his own life. Vila wanted to scream and get drunk, or get drunk and scream. The order didn't matter.