Avon looked tired but was his usual impassive self. Ten days in solitary confinement in the brig aboard Command Vessel One had taken its toll.
"You look tired Avon. I trust it was not because of the accommodations?"
He waited, not responding.
"Do you know where you are?" she asked him.
Again he chose not to respond; he would not take the bait. He would not be manipulated by her attempt to bring up the events from his last visit to Residence One.
Servalan smiled and continued, "I have had some interesting additions made to the design of this building since you were last here."
"I have never been interested in architectural design."
"I think you will find these additions very interesting."
"Really," he said, with a distinct lack of interest.
"You can leave if you wish, no one would stop you. I can even have the restraints removed."
Again he did not take the bait. She was looking for some fun, wanting to assert that he was in her control and that he had chosen this path.
"What do you want Servalan?"
"Nothing as yet." She smiled, "I just want you to enjoy the hospitality which only the Presidential Residence can offer." She pressed a button on her desk's control panel. Two of her special guards appeared from a concealed door which had slid open. They pulled Avon to his feet and led him out the way they entered.
Avon had discovered something interesting in the visit to the President's private office, ORAC's activation key was sitting on her desk.
Avon learned what Presidential hospitality entailed. The guards brought him to an underground room of the Residence, with dismay he recognized it, it was the cold, dark cellar in which Servalan herself had once been held prisoner when Sula's rebels had attempted their coup. It was also where Avon found out about his lover's betrayal and killed her. It had been one of the blackest days of his life.
There was a reception committee waiting for him, interrogators from the Federation Special Detention Centre. They had ordered him to remove his clothes and put on the familiar nondescript prison overalls.
Then the torture began, standard beatings designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and to physically incapacitate him. In between the sessions, he was chained to the wall where Servalan had once been chained. They left him chained and alone, apart from the various security monitors. From this vantage, he was looking directly at the spot where Anna's body lay after he shot her. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes he thought he could see Anna's body.
Sometimes he could even hear her words, "I let you go, my love."
Sometimes he could feel her in his arms as her life slipped away.
Sometimes he could hear Shrinker's mocking voice.
"Bartholomew let you run."
"Anyone you so much as looked at was pulled in."
"Does anyone think you're worth dying for?"
At first he thought that it was a trick being projected by the interrogators but he recognized the images; the level of detail, the things only he knew, they were his own familiar nightmares.
He knew what they were doing by torturing him here and he hated Servalan for it; he had not been able to stop the nightmares, even when he was onboard the Deep Space Vehicle. For a man who did not acknowledge emotions, the events in this cellar had almost destroyed him.
As the days progressed and they steadily and methodically broke his body, he was almost grateful as the constant pain level increased. More and more of his concentration and energy were required to fight the pain from the injuries they left untreated, it served as a distraction from the waking nightmares when he was conscious. Because of the chains, he could not even lie down.
Servalan and Sester were conversing while they watched Avon on the monitor from her private office in Residence One. They were sharing a drink as they were discussing their plans for him.
"It was masterful the way you manipulated him on Terrus," Sester indicated his admiration.
"You mean that your plan worked perfectly. Splitting the trap into two parts and making the first one a blind worked beautifully. From the beginning, he had no idea what was really going on, he still doesn't."
"All in a day's work for a psychostrategist, Madame President."
"How did you know it would work?"
"From my psych profile, one if his primary characteristics is his confidence in his own abilities and his belief in his own instinct for survival. That is why he came, he thought he could save her; and even though his first loyalty is always to himself, he accepts responsibility for his own actions. He made a mistake on Terminal when he left the girl there and he does not like making mistakes. That was the easy part. I was curious how he was going to do it and he didn't disappoint; he would have escaped, if we didn't have the virus as a weapon."
"He is good isn't he?"
"He does have many useful talents."
"I especially appreciated the second stage. It was pure genius."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. We knew Avon would come prepared and that he is very clever. So it was important for him to know that we had outmaneuvered him at each stage."
"Yes, that was very good. He surrendered without knowing that he had gained nothing and he still had confidence he could escape."
"When he finally realized the truth, it was already too late, by then he had already shown us that he was willing to make the compromise. He would never sacrifice his own life for hers but he would trade his freedom for her life, thinking that as long as he is alive, he still has a chance to escape; but we tricked him and he gave up his freedom for nothing. In order to salvage it, he had to accept the agreement. At that point, you could have killed her and there was nothing he could have done about it."
"And so now I own him and it was by his own choice. Did I ever tell you that this will be the second time?"
"Second time?" he asked, not understanding.
"Owning him; I bought him once on Domo."
"The pirate planet? Where they have the slave market? How did that happen?"
"It is a long story. But he escaped before I could claim my property, so you can say that I am just reclaiming what is rightfully mine."
"This is more than just that." You've been obsessed with him for along time, haven't you?
"Oh definitely more."
"Zen, magnify," Argus ordered the ship's computer. "I want a visual display of the coordinates where Avon teleported down to."
On the screen was an orbital view of the Terrus moon. Magnification increased in stages until they were looking down at the alcove where Avon had arrived on Terrus.
"Zen do a survey of the surrounding area."
The perspective on the screen shifted, following the street outside an alcove to a partially bombed out shell of a warehouse.
"Zoom in on the building currently on the screen. Cally, is this the warehouse?"
It was clear to the observers that nothing could have survived the blast. Half the building lay in rubble.
"Yes," Cally said quietly. "He really is dead."
"I'm sorry Cally," Jenna tried to comfort her.
"Zen, are the scanners picking up any Federation vessels within sensor range?" Argus asked.
Argus activated ORAC's transmitter which was still sitting on its casing.
"What is it?" ORAC asked impatiently.
"Can you tap into the Federation's fleet navigation channels and find out the movements of Command Vessel One?"
"Of course I can."
"Can you find out the movements of Command Vessel One?" Argus rephrased the question.
"I have already answered that question. Rephrasing it will not produce a different answer. It is a waste of my valuable time to answer the same question twice."
Argus was not one to frustrate easily, which was a good thing considering he was dealing with ORAC. He changed his statement to a command. "ORAC, find out the movements of Command Vessel One over the past twenty standard days and report."
"That is better. Our association would be less tedious if questions are logical and commands are specific."
The lights in ORAC's unit indicated that the computer was busy.
"If I didn't know any better I would think that it's trying to be difficult," he turned to Jenna.
Vila commented, "Soon you'll be coming over to my side."
Argus grinned. Vila's opinion regarding the annoying computer had never been a secret.
"I have accessed the flight log computers. The registered flight plans of Command Vessel One are as follows: twenty standard days ago, the vessel was docked at the neutral commerce centre of Nislex in Sector Six."
""Nislex is only eight hours from Terrus," Jenna told them.
"Nineteen standard days ago, it left Nislex on a course back to Sector One. Nine standard days ago, it arrived at Earth Central Space Port where it has remained."
"Where is Servalan now?"
"She is currently in Residence One."
"ORAC, is there any indication that Avon is still alive?" Cally asked.
Argus repeated her question, "ORAC, is there any indication that Avon is still alive?"
"I will need some time to find out that information. Security protocols have been increased since the last time I accessed the protected Federation networks. I also remind you that I am constrained by the lack of a cipher unit."
"Alright. How long will it take?"
"Is that a serious question?"
"I guess not." Argus turned the transmitter off.
"Irritating isn't it?" Jenna remarked. "You think Avon may still be alive?"
He looked at Cally and hesitated. He knew his answer would not be one that Cally would like. Even though he had only known her for a few short weeks, Argus knew that Cally was sensitive when it came to the subject of Avon.
"It's alright," Cally told him. "I know it's not likely."
"Why don't we rename the ship, The Avon," Vila suggested, then he looked embarrassed.
"Oh yes, I can see Avon loving that," Jenna said.
Several hours later, they were gathered around the computer again.
"ORAC, do you have the report on whether Avon survived yet?" Argus asked.
"Yes. It is highly unlikely that Avon survived. Evidence suggests that he died in the explosion at the warehouse on Terrus. There were no additional passengers reported on Command Vessel One when it left Nislex for Sector One. There have been no unusual movements or communications traffic originating from the Federation President."
"I'm sorry Cally," Argus told her.
"There is one thing I do not understand," Jenna said, "Why did Servalan go to so much trouble just to get Avon?"
Vila told her, "You weren't with us when we went to Terminal, Jenna. Servalan tried something similar then but this time she used a fake Blake as bait. She lured Avon with hopes of finding Blake. Her intention was to force Avon to give up the Liberator but he made the same precautions then as he did this time. He didn't tell any of us what was going on and he ordered us not to follow him."
"But from my understanding you did lose the Liberator."
"Yes, but it wasn't Avon. When he realized he had been tricked, he tried to order us to leave but what he didn't realize was that the ship was dying; we had gone through a fluid particle cloud before arriving at Terminal and it was destroying the ship. We couldn't do anything about it, that's why Tarrant gave the Liberator to Servalan. He was hoping to trap her on it as it was destroyed."
"But she got away."
"Yes. That woman has more lives than a cat, a dangerous demonic cat."
"And it looks like she has escaped destruction again. But why would she try the same thing again, knowing from the first time, that Avon would never give her the ship?" Argus asked. Tactically, it didn't make any sense to him.
"That's an interesting question," mused Jenna.
"ORAC, do you know the answer?" Argus asked the computer.
"I do not have enough data to form a conclusion. Why human beings insist on performing the same actions repeatedly and expect a different result is beyond my logical capacity."
"That sounds like an insult if I ever heard one. It must be my imagination but sometimes talking to ORAC is like talking to Avon."
"My opinion exactly," Vila added.
"Alright then we will concentrate our energies on finding out what happened with our group back on Earth. We need to make some plans, I think the Justice should begin living up to its name. We will make the Federation regret what they did to us and to Avon."
They all nodded in agreement.