Title: New Patterns and Old Friends
Prequel to: Broken Things
It is eight months after GP and Avon has been 'enjoying' Federation hospitality, courtesy of his hated enemy, Servalan. The once deposed Federation President has regained her position and is even more powerful than ever as she seeks to reclaim and expand the glory of the old Federation.
Everyone wants to find Orac and only Avon knows where he hid it, which has made his life extremely uncomfortable as first Servalan, and then a new band of rebels try to obtain the information from him. No one succeeds. But will a new deadly psychostrategist employed by Servalan be able to succeed where others have failed?
Vila is operating as a master thief under the alias of Gan Lason and one of his jobs leads to new band of rebels, and an unexpected old friend.
|Chapter One||Next Chapter|
New Patterns and Old Friends
The President and Supreme Empress of the Federated Worlds was vexed. The day was not starting out well. She was in her lavish presidential office, reviewing coded priority transmissions which had come in during the night.
News had come in from Sector Ten, and they confirmed earlier reports that the Federation's Second Great Expansion had hit some snags. The area was full of petty warlords with their own private armies. Months of manipulation, extortion and bribery by the Federation Military Psy-Ops Department had encouraged even greater animosity between the various groups and they had been at each other's throats. The Federation's plans to take over the sector were progressing according to schedule and the whole sector was ready to implode. Federation troops had been amassing conveniently in a nearby sector for training exercises, ready in case any "aid" was required.
But now reports said that that was no longer the case. In fact, there were troubling indications that the squabbling may have been an act. Instead of a disorganized rabble of small private armies, they had been organizing into a large coordinated fighting force. The head of P-O had already been demoted and Servalan had a meeting later with someone who might be able to salvage the mess.
But that was not enough. She needed someone to suffer.
Servalan sighed and brought up another report on her terminal.
Another planet immune to Pylene-50. This was becoming an increasing annoyance. The pacification drug which had worked so well in bringing two sectors in line appeared to no longer be working on several border planets. Rebels had somehow gotten hold of the antidote. The Federation thought they had derailed the insurgent's plans with the destruction of the Xenon summit conference and the stopping of the Scorpio crew.
Servalan punched the computer button viciously. Another planet with the same problem, this was definitely putting her in a foul mood. She had several important meetings this afternoon and could not afford this frame of mind; she might do something unfortunate.
A diversion, that's what she needed. She absently toyed with a small control box on her desk. She knew the perfect one. Her pet. She hadn't played with him in several months. He would be the perfect diversion.
She contacted the duty officer at the Federation Special Detention Centre. A black-uniformed officer of the special interrogation division appeared on her screen; a man with a cruel face but a properly diffident tone.
"Yes, Madame President?"
"I want prisoner A5428 brought to the interrogation rooms in one hour."
The man hesitated then said, "He's just finished an interrogation cycle. He's in bad shape in the med unit now."
"Now! Sub-Lieutenant!" she was not taking no for an answer.
The man's face paled. "Yes, Ma'am. Immediately."
Before his last word was out, she turned the vidscreen off in dismissal and called for her pilot.
Damn. She would have to be careful, but she would not be denied her pleasures. The anticipation made her smile; the kind of smile that, if anyone had been in the room to observe it, would have sent a shiver up their spine.
The Sub-Lieutenant had been mistaken; the man was no longer in the med ward. He lay curled against the cold on a metal platform against the wall. The lighting panels overhead flooded the small cell with harsh light. He was dressed in prison grey coveralls, his feet were bare and his hands were shackled behind him.
He had just been brought back from the medical wing and dumped on the platform. A painful cough wracked his body and he spit out blood. The prisoner had lots of it now; the med unit was very efficient in replenishing all the blood that he had lost and healing any injuries and broken bones. They did everything but take away the pain.
Every movement hurt. Even breathing was painful from the ribs which had been broken repeatedly. Sleep these days was full of nightmares and ghosts, not helped by the drugs they always pumped him full of. He lapsed into unconsciousness.
"Get up prisoner A5428!" A barked command from a black-uniformed guard woke him, emphasized with a strike against his shoulder with the butt of a stun-rifle. Only stun guns were ever used by personnel tending to the prisoners. They did not want to risk any 'mishaps' which would result in the accidental death of a prisoner.
The prisoner moaned and moved away from the blow. It had only seemed like minutes since he fell asleep and he was still exhausted. Was it already time for the next session? Actually it had been less than an hour but he did not know that; time had no meaning in that place.
The guards knew he couldn't get up, not without help. He no longer had the strength or energy. And especially not with his hands shackled behind him. But it was a cruel game they played. "Get up!" another command and another blow. He remained where he was, ignoring them. From experience, he knew no matter what he did, the outcome would be the same. So why move.
Again: "Get..." The order was stopped by someone. Must have been one of the other guards. There were always three when they came to get him, two to carry him and the lead guard in front. It had been along time since he was able to walk on his own. Two of the guards roughly manhandled him to his feet and hauled him out, the head guard leading the way.
Corridor. Checkpoint. Another corridor. Checkpoint. It was all a painful blur. His head hung down as they dragged him along. He did not care where they were taking him. At the other end was always pain. He didn't care about anything anymore.
The corridors were cleared whenever this prisoner was moved. He was kept completely isolated from the other inmates. Except for the select group of interrogators, specialist technicians, guards and medtechs who worked on him, no one knew his identity.
Servalan was seated in interrogation room two. Opposite her was an inclined metal chair with arms. The room was bare except for the two chairs and a metal table. There was only one purpose for this room. There were no other distractions.
She could barely contain herself in anticipation. A medtech stood unobtrusively out of the way with his equipment. The President wore a white shapely gown; the height of fashion, like a well-dressed cobra.
The guards entered the room, brought the prisoner over to the metal chair, removed the shackles and strapped him in. The lead guard grabbed his hair and turned his face towards his torturer.
"Servalan!" The prisoner managed a weak exclamation when he registered the face of the woman who was the bane of his existence.
"My dear Avon." She gestured to the guards to leave. The medtech remained.
The old fight was there, much weaker now but still there. Good. It had been two months since she last visited him. The torturers had done their job well but he still hadn't broken. It was frustrating but part of her was also glad. A broken Avon would not be as much fun.
"You look terrible. What have they been doing to you?" It was not really a question. She was mocking him. It was a game, a reminder of another time, another place, another person and at the end, the ultimate failure. She had watched recordings of his previous time in this same detention centre, waiting for the man he thought had killed his lover. Finding out there was a heart beneath the icy exterior; she had been curious and angry at his love for the woman who had played him for the fool.
Her remark was the truth; he had a haggard, haunted look and several days' growth of beard. There were no marks of injury on his face but she knew that the same could not be said for his body. The torturers had been under orders not to mark him permanently or to cause any irreversible physical damage. The medtechs were good and very experienced at keeping people alive for more torture. Other than the fatigue, his face was cold and as unexpressive as ever.
He stared at her, not responding. She was toying with him as she always did when she had him brought before her. Gloating over him, goading him. He knew she enjoyed the sport, their verbal sparring. They were evenly matched and equally as dangerous and now he was in her power. Totally.
No Servalan. I will not give you what you want at my expense. Not this sick game. Not for your amusement. It was the only weapon he had left.
She stood up, a pain rod in her hand and circled around him as she talked.
"Do you know what they call you now? 'Avon the Betrayer'. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Everyone knows what happened on Gauda Prime, at least our version of it." She paused and smiled. "My version. I was very creative. Everyone believes you sold out Blake and the Scorpio crew; it wasn't much of a stretch to plant rumors that you were well paid for their deaths and for betraying the rebel alliance. There are even rumours that you're helping us re-establish a new Central Control complex."
He quickly suppressed a flash of anger. She hadn't beaten him. He had defeated himself. His back hurt but his face remained impassive.
She continued, "After all, everyone knows Avon is only in it for himself."
She touched the rod to his jaw and drew it across his cheek. "We know each other too well and you made it so easy." She was almost purring.
Without warning she pressed the button on the rod. He arched and almost cried out as the pain shot through his body. Thirty long seconds then it stopped, she stepped back and looked down at him as he slumped in the chair, gasping for breath. That was only setting five of fifteen; she was already starting to feel better. She traced the rod across his chest. "Was that good for you?" Without warning, she depressed the button again. He tensed in pain, fighting with what little strength he had left.
She continued to alternately taunt him and apply the rod with increasing pain settings. He was already weak from his most recent bout of interrogations and had not been allowed enough time to recover. With the tenth application of the rod, he could feel himself almost slip into unconsciousness. She recognized it and slowed down, but continued to taunt him, giving him time to rest.
One day Servalan. He thought to himself. But I am kidding myself. She will never let me go. Not until I'm dead. Servalan would not permit that; not yet. She could not give him the oblivion of a memory-wipe either, at least not until they had one key piece of information, he almost laughed. ORAC. Only he knew where that obnoxious computer was and it was in a very safe place.
Servalan's troops had confiscated the key, a small control box, from him when he had been shot and captured on Gauda Prime, but only he knew where he had hidden ORAC. Of all the information they were attempting to extract from him, the one which Servalan would never allow him to die without divulging, was the location of ORAC.
What was that about Anna? He had stopped paying attention to her rantings. All of his energy was concentrated on fighting the pain but she had said something about Anna.
Servalan noted that his eyes were tracking her now. Yes, that was still his weakness. The unfeeling computer, the man who had conquered emotion and replaced feeling with logic; brought low by a woman. Two women; Anna and herself. Servalan felt a twinge of jealousy at the dead woman. Avon had killed his lover by his own hands, but Anna's memory had still never let him go.
That day in the basement of the Presidential Residence when Servalan and Avon's positions were reversed, and she was the one imprisoned, even then he was the one who had failed. She had felt his pain as his world was torn apart when he confronted his lover and betrayer, and killed her. In a rare gesture of kindness Servalan had wanted to grant his wish to die, on her terms of course but then the rebel Hob interrupted her and Avon escaped.
"You can't escape me now, " she told him as she drew the rod down his right arm affectionately and pressed the button again.
His breathing was labored between the applications of the pain. He was trying not to wince away when she brought the rod close.
Servalan stepped back and allowed the medtech to check over the prisoner. The heart was weak and erratic.
"His heart can stand four, maybe five more shocks then he will go into cardiac arrest." The medtech moved away so she could continue.
It was just a simple report; his heart stopping would not stop the torture session. They had all the tools prepared to bring him back from the dead and pump him full of drugs so their fun could continue. They had done it dozens of times in the past.
He did not know how long he had been there. Had it been weeks, months, years? Losing the sense of time increased the helplessness, they made sure of that. No visible time instruments; no frame of reference. The unrelentingly bright ceiling lights were always on in the prisoner areas. No natural light ever penetrated this complex. What little food they gave him was at unpredictable times.
He remembered back to those five days, years ago in these same interrogation cells, waiting for Shrinker; the one who, he thought had tortured his lover to death because she had refused to give him up. He had deliberately set himself up to be captured by the Federation in order to gain access to him, their most gifted torturer. Those five days had seemed like an eternity. The only thing he knew was that this time it really was.
"You won't leave us so soon, will you Avon? Not when we still have so much to talk about."
She applied a short touch with the rod and he gasped in response. She was enjoying herself immensely. Having her greatest enemy, the one she desired but could never really have, at her mercy was delicious. But there was one thing missing; she missed the fire of his barbs, that superior arrogance which both infuriated and attracted her. What would it take to bring that out? Except for the initial shock of blurting out her name he had remained silent.
She paused, listening to his breathing until it became less strained.
"We were well matched you and I, " she told him, emphasizing the "were".
Like two psychopaths, he thought, not missing the past tense.
"Until you caught Blake's sickness and tried to become the crusader. It did not become you Avon and it did what you always thought Blake would do to you, it destroyed you."
What are you up to now Servalan?
"I am going to give you another chance Avon. One chance. Join me. With your intellect and talents you could help me shape a new empire. You would be rewarded beyond anything you could imagine."
I could imagine quite a lot. He could almost hear Vila saying that. Odd. Why would that irritating little thief come to mind now?
"You would be safe. No one would dare touch you as long as I was in power."
"No thanks, I prefer the torture, " he spoke finally in that low acid tone that was now barely above a whisper.
There it was, that old fire that wanted to make her slap him and yet excited her at the same time.
"Oh Avon, you misunderstand my intentions."
"I think we misunderstand each other perfectly."
Swiftly, she put the rod to fifteen and pressed it against him until he passed out from the pain. She wanted his fire but could not allow the insolence. She called the guards to take him back to his cell.
These sessions always did wonders for her mood. She would have liked to stay awhile longer but she had a meeting with the trade commissioner from Crasus Major. At least officially; in reality it was with the Terra Nostra. She was hoping to use their special skills to help out in Sector Ten. A few well-placed 'accidents' could prove useful.
The medtech checked his patient as the guards waited. The heart was weak but that was normal; he had been there for almost a year after all. The man desperately needed rest; hopefully for the prisoner this was in the schedule.
This was an exceptional example of an alpha grade; they made the best citizens as well as dangerous criminals. Unfortunately this one had attracted the attention of the Federation President. The medtech knew that it was none of his business. He finished his exam; no need for restoratives or blood fusion to replenish fluids, not this time anyways. The guards released the prisoner from the chair and reapplied the restraints. They pulled the still unconscious man to his feet and took him back to the cells.
Back in her spacious Presidential office at the Terran Governmental Headquarters waiting for the trade commissioner, Servalan's mind wandered, remembering the two occasions in which Avon had kissed her in the past. Hate and passion mingled together. They could never accept each other as partners; it would always end in one killing the other, neither of them had any illusions about that. Neither of them could afford not to and she had used this knowledge to provoke a reaction from him today. Her face was relaxed and thoughtful as she contemplated this.
"Madame President," her aide, Corry called her over the voicecomm, "you asked to be informed when the trade commissioner arrived in the building."
"Send him in when he gets here."
Her face immediately assumed her normally superior but pleasant mask. The Terra Nostra representative was a devious, ambitious, sniveling gangster and no match for her. She was definitely in a better mood as she smiled that cold smile that would send a chill down anyone's spine.
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