Contents and Mini Review by Sarah Thompson

Chapter 1 from Nova


He lay silent in the dim light. Pain was a constant reality, but he welcomed it as a familiar friend. When the pain went the ghosts would return. He could hear them chattering on the fringes of his mind. He didn't dare sleep any more. They came to him in his dreams.

Soon she would come. He was waiting for her. Soon she would come, then everything would end and he would be free to join his ghosts.

How long had he been here? There was no day and night in this place. Meals were irregular and he ate sparingly in any case. Every few hours they came to question him. The questions were always the same:

"Where is your base?"

"Who are your contacts in the revolution?"

"Who was passing you information from within the Federation?"

"How did you maintain contact with Blake?"

"What are the abilities of Orac?"

"Tell us about the teleport system."

"Where is Vila Restal?"

He didn't think he'd told them anything useful. It wasn't in his nature to be cooperative if he had nothing to gain by it.

He had no illusions as to what awaited him. Blake was dead and the Federation needed someone to display before the public, someone to convict at a public trial to show how successful they were at catching dissidents. After such a court appearance, all he could expect was execution. Or worse.

Blake was dead. If they couldn't display Blake they would display himself instead.

He could remember the last battle clearly. They had been at great pains to take him alive; every shot fired at him had been to disable rather than to kill. It had cost them dearly though, he was sure he had killed at least three men before falling: an honour guard for Blake. He smiled briefly and ironically at the memory.

Blake. It had been a mistake to think of Blake. He rolled over and held his head between his hands, trying by sheer willpower to drive out the memory. It was no use. Blake stood before him once more, covered in blood from the shots of Avon's own gun; his eyes searching Avon's face, the message in them saying "Why? You were my friend, I trusted you above all others. Why, Avon?"

What could he say in return? That he trusted no one. That people you trusted always betrayed you in the end. Everyone from Anna to Zukan had betrayed him.

Tarrant, whom he had given up for dead, had suddenly reappeared very much alive and claiming that Blake had sold them out. It had been so easy to believe in just one more betrayal.

Tarrant had been wrong, Avon knew that now. He had known it from Blake himself as the dying man grasped Avon's arm. The words of Arlen, the Federation spy, had simply been confirmation. Avon had been wrong and it had cost Blake his life.

The ghosts were all crowding in on him now. There were too many of them. His friends had depended on him and now they were all dead. He'd never asked them to trust him, but they'd done so anyway. They had paid for that trust with their lives.

Avon could see Cally in the corner. He supposed she had a right to be here, he'd led her to her death too.

"Avon, why did you kill Blake?"

"Because I trusted him. Can you understand that? If I hadn't trusted him I wouldn't have killed him."

Yes, she understood; but then Cally always had understood. "A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken." Avon had mocked her for that proverb of the Auronar, whilst pretending not to understand its meaning.

"Well Blake," he said to the ghost near the door, "perhaps we were both mistaken."

The spirit was silent, but he thought perhaps it understood. The others were not so forgiving. Dayna, Soolin and Tarrant stood together. "Avenge us Avon. Give our deaths meaning. It's all your fault"

Vila wasn't there, he'd noticed that before. The questioners had kept asking him about Vila. Was it possible the thief had survived the shoot out?

"Vila's dead," he had told them, and he thought they had finally believed him.

When was she going to come? She had to come. It hadn't been her plot that had killed the others. She had to come because Avon was still alive.

The questioners came once more and left him bruised and bleeding. Avon gained the impression that they enjoyed their work on him. Since the advent of Pylene 50 they must have had very few people to experiment on. Avon was immune to the effects of the pacification drug, since fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, he had taken the antidote long ago. He tried to hold his own against them, but the effort required was greater each time. He was afraid that sooner or later he'd crack. He had to hang on. If he gave them all they wanted to know they might move on to the next stage. Would they try and destroy his memory as they had done with Blake? Avon feared that more than the pain of the interrogators. The loss of identity, the loss of himself was something he could not face. He curled up tightly on the bunk, his back to the door, and tried to shut out the world.

Avon heard the sound of the door opening. Surely it was too soon for them to come again? Then he knew who it was. He recognised her scent before he felt the long delicate finger tracing its way through the stubble on his chin.


Avon sat up slowly, trying to ignore the pain, unwilling to show any physical weakness in front of her. "There's a backup audio monitor under the bunk," he told her.

"Indeed?" Servalan cocked her head slightly and smiled maliciously. "They didn't tell me about that one. Someone is going to be sorry." Drawing a miniature gun from a sleeve that had seemed incapable of hiding anything, she aimed where Avon pointed and calmly fired. Then the gun moved around to point at his chest. "You're next Avon."

"Gracious as always Servalan."

"You haven't told them. Why not?"

"That Commissioner Sleer is ex-president Servalan? Perhaps I thought they'd find it more convincing if it took them several days to force it out of me."

"No, there has to be some other reason."

So she hadn't seen it. Avon allowed himself the satisfaction of a minor victory. It was the last one he would ever have. "I was waiting for you. You have to kill me to prevent me from talking."

Now Servalan realised. She was disdainful, but he'd expected no less. It was a price he was willing to pay for death.

"So you've given up Avon. You've finally come to that cold dark wall."

Avon said nothing, there was no need to any more.

Servalan raised the gun. "How does it feel, to die knowing that you've failed?"

Slowly, as she watched, Avon's body crumpled and fell to the floor of the cell.

Kneeling down, Servalan bent to examine him. She hadn't fired the weapon. Was Avon faking, or had he simply collapsed from pain and exhaustion?

Servalan stretched out her hand to grasp Avon's hair, to force his head around to face her. She knew instantly that she had made a mistake. The act of touching him made him real. The congealed blood matting the dark hair under her fingers was Avon's blood, the blood of a man who had held her and kissed her, the blood of a man she knew and desired.

Something within her, something that had died long ago when Don Keller had left her; something that had died a second time with her clones on Auron and surfaced momentarily with Tarrant on Virn was struggling to be allowed to live once more.

When Avon was gone, who would be left to her? There were men aplenty who desired her, but none she considered her equal; they were fools who thought that entering her bed would give them control over her power.

Avon: her enemy who desired her in spite of what she was, rather than because of it. She knew he had wanted her. His eyes, his body, his lips had all spoken for him. Avon, the only person who truly understood her, whom she herself understood in turn.

How many hours had she spent studying the Federation's records on him? She no longer knew. First as a member of Blake's crew; then as she had come to realise how much Blake depended on Avon, she had studied him as an individual in his own right. Blake's shadow she had called him, for whenever she encountered the terrorist, there by his side would be a slim, ruthless figure in black and silver. For a long time Servalan had failed to understand why Avon followed Blake, simply assuming from his background and records that he was there for money or for protection against the Federation.

When Servalan met Avon on Sarran in the aftermath of the Andromedan War, she had realised that he could care for others and that it was a weakness she might be able to exploit. However, it wasn't until they had met again on Earth that she realised the full extent of his vulnerability. His love for Anna Grant had almost destroyed him. Servalan had become aware of the emotional depths that were hidden behind that mask of unconcern and indifference. A side of himself that he had never intended anyone to see, but a facet of his personality that was now drawing her to him as the moth to the flame.

She had known then why he had stayed with Blake, and the knowledge of the bond between the two men had enabled her to draw Avon to Terminal and the destruction of the Liberator.

Avon had escaped, but that was the nature of the game between them. Sometimes one won, sometimes the other. Now, he was here at her feet and she had his life in her hands, to take as she wished.

"Avon," she whispered to a man who could not hear her. "Why is it so easy to give the order for your death, and so impossible for me to kill you myself?

"Could I have killed you that day on Earth when Anna died? I no longer know. I felt your pain then, half of me wanted to force you to escape, and the other half, the half that was President of the Terran Federation said that you had to die.

"Avon, could you ever love me as you loved her?

"Avon!" the cry forced itself out from her. "I don't want to be alone!"

Avon stirred under her hand, and she snatched it back instinctively. His eyes opened and looked blankly up at her.

"Alone?" he asked dazedly. "Cally, stay with me."

Searching blindly, his hand reached out towards Servalan and she took it into her own. Grimy, and streaked with blood, the tips of his fingers looked as though someone had stamped on them with a heavy boot. Someone probably had. Someone was going to suffer...

"Avon, you're a fool."

His eyes drifted back into focus. "Probably. Was I talking to myself?"

Servalan shook her head briefly, earrings trembling as she did so. Avon's gaze travelled slowly to where her hand still held his. This time she didn't pull away from him.

"Servalan?" he queried.

"Can you sit up?" she asked in concern.

"I think so."

Cautiously he accepted her help, watching her all the time with his dark eyes. She looked back at him, holding his gaze with her own.

"Wait for me here," Servalan instructed. "I'll be back soon."

"I wasn't planning on going anywhere," he commented with a touch of his old asperity, and Servalan left the cell with the faint ghost of a smile on her face.

The last few days had been the worst that Vila had ever experienced. Considering some of the days he had suffered previously that was saying a lot. The nightmare had begun when he'd awoken in the hall where Blake had died:

"This one's still alive. I've given him a stimulant, he'll come round in a moment," said a voice that Vila didn't recognise. The figure bending over him wasn't dressed in Federation uniform, which Vila supposed was something to be grateful for. He couldn't think of anything else to appreciate at that moment. His body hurt and a troop of miners were blasting away with explosives inside his head.

"My head hurts," Vila moaned.

"Don't complain," replied the stranger. "Just be glad you're not dead."

A new voice spoke. "What happened here?" Vila looked up and saw a large man carrying an assault gun. His voice was authoritative and impatient.

"Who betrayed us? Who?" There was a very grim note in the man's voice. "Who killed Blake?"

Vila struggled to sit up and winced at the sudden pain in his chest. He looked desperately around seeking an avenue of escape, but there was none. He was surrounded by a small group of men armed with a variety of weapons. They had obviously been in a fight recently. Several of them were injured. Casting his mind back, he recalled Arlen saying something about a nest of rebels. These presumably were Blake's men. Vila had the distinct feeling that they weren't very happy. He dissembled as fast as he could. "It wasn't me, I had nothing to do with it. It was Arlen. She said she was a Federation spy."

"Did she kill Blake?" the big man demanded.

"No, I mean yes, I mean I don't know," Vila stammered in panic.

A hand gripped his shirt and pulled him ruthlessly to his feet. "Little man, I need to know, and I need to know now. Who killed Blake?"

"Avon," Vila said helplessly. "It was Avon."

His adversary took a step back and let go of Vila who promptly fell to the ground.

"Kerr Avon?" the man asked incredulously.

Vila nodded miserably. "It was a mistake. Everything went wrong."

"Where is he?"

Slowly Vila looked around the hall. It was hard to take everything in. He could see the bodies of Federation troopers, but among them lay his friends. Tarrant flung out on the ground. Soolin still and lifeless. Then a lump caught in his throat. He could see Dayna with no visible mark on her, unmoving and alone.

"Why aren't you helping her?" Vila asked angrily.

The big man looked down at him with a trace of pity in his eyes. "She's dead. They're all dead, except for you. Is that Avon?" He pointed to Tarrant.

"That's Tarrant," Vila said quietly. The words were hard to force out. He wanted to curl up in a ball and die. Dayna and Soolin were both gone. Tarrant he could have lived without, but Dayna had been so beautiful and alive. It should have been Avon lying there instead.

Vila looked unsteadily around the hall again. "I can't see Avon."

"So, Avon betrayed Blake and then escaped?"

"I don't think Avon escaped. He didn't move after he killed Blake." Vila's head was spinning, he sat down on the floor as a way of avoiding falling over and rested his head in his hands. "We heard sounds of fighting, and then someone shot me from behind. There must have been troops everywhere."

"There still are," said his interrogator. "We've only just retaken this area. You're lucky - if they hadn't been busy fighting us they'd have started checking the bodies." He looked grim. "Avon obviously left with them. That proves his guilt as far as I'm concerned."

"No," Vila protested. "Avon would sell his own grandmother, but not Blake."

"Really?" The big man sounded dubious. "Would you have trusted him with your own life?"

Vila's silence was answer enough. Once, he thought, once Avon, I would have trusted you. But not since Malodaar. I'll never forget that you tried to kill me.

The expression on the other man's face was not pleasant. "If I find Avon, he's a dead man. How Blake ever achieved anything with a crew of thieves, murderers and psychopaths is beyond me. The whole lot of you together weren't worth one of him."

Obviously concluding that Vila had nothing more useful to tell him, he started to organise his men for their next move. As far as Vila could work out, the rebels were planning an assault on the second level of the complex which was occupied by Federation forces. If they failed to take it then they planned to retreat into the open country surrounding the base and hopefully join up with other groups. There didn't seem to be very many of them. Vila hoped they all wouldn't die. He hoped he wouldn't die.

As they left through the exit up the steps, their leader flung back a last contemptuous glance. "You have to be Vila," he said in disgust. "Why did a coward like you ever stay with Blake?"

Vila looked up through the tears that threatened to blind him and whispered to the retreating back, "He was my friend."

The sound of distant gunfire alerted him to the need to move. Vila looked around for a weapon but could see none. Whether they had been taken by the Federation or by Blake's men didn't really seem important. Nothing seemed that important any more. Still, he supposed, better a live coward than a dead hero.

Carefully edging down the corridor he came to a locked door. Opening it took longer than usual; his fingers were numb and refused to obey his brain. In addition the pain in his head and chest refused to go away. Once inside he relocked the door and collapsed on a convenient chair.

The room appeared to be some kind of office. There were charts on the walls as well as a few pictures; a portrait of a young woman, an ocean view, and a swirling galaxy of stars. There were no windows, but there was a large viewscreen set into the desk top and another one on the far wall. The third wall contained the safe. Vila was exhausted. He didn't understand the full extent of that exhaustion until he woke up, and realised that he had gone to sleep without investigating the safe. He must have been out for several hours at least. The pain in his head had eased, and he felt thirsty. A search of the desk drawers revealed a half full flask of brandy, which he hastily appropriated before tackling any work.

While thinking about the lock mechanism, he glanced at the portrait again and realised with a start that it was Jenna. The hairstyle was different, and she looked older than he remembered, but it was unmistakably Jenna. Had she been here? Had she survived the fighting? Had this been Blake's office?

Turning back to the safe Vila gave it his full consideration. The lock was an alphanumeric pad; if it was typical of its kind, it would require a ten character code to open it. In the past, he'd found there to be two ways round any system of that kind. One was the long hard way which involved rewiring half the lock without triggering any of the fail safes. The other method was the psychological one. Many people in Vila's experience found it hard to remember safe combinations. They used names, birthdays or any other easily memorised sequence as a password. All that was required was to evaluate the psychology of the person in question and determine what they would use. Blake for example, what would Blake have been likely to use as the password for a safe?

Footsteps came down the corridor and stopped. "This one's locked."

"It could have been locked from the inside," said a voice in reply. "Shoot it open."

There was nowhere to hide within the room. In panic, Vila tapped out a sequence into the keypad and sprang into the safe as it opened, pulling the door shut behind him.

"No one in here. He may not even be in the complex any more." Vila was sure the voice was inside the room now.

"Are they sure he was here in the first place?" asked the second voice.

"There were no bodies in the spaceship, they checked. If Restal knows Avon is a prisoner, it seems likely he might hang around."

Vila stayed where he was until he was convinced they had gone. "Thank you, Blake," he whispered. "You saved my life." Blake had always had a sense of humour. Using VILARESTAL as a key to his safe must have struck him as the ultimate in memorable combinations.

Thus began Vila's existence as the complex's ghost, existing by night, hiding by day, stealing food whenever he was able. He was afraid to leave, and afraid to stay. Beyond the base there was no easily available food, and the additional danger of bounty hunters. Within the base, there were the troops to be endlessly avoided, but at least it was warm and dry. And there was Avon. It always came back to Avon, Vila thought helplessly. Avon would have known what to do. Avon would have called him an idiot, but at least he would have had a plan.

Lying in a ventilation shaft Vila contemplated the situation once more. The systematic searches seemed to have ended after the first day and he knew the reason why. The knowledge didn't make his life any easier either. He'd heard so many conversations while keeping out of sight in the air ducts, but this one he couldn't forget:

"You mean we wasted all that time yesterday hunting for the thief?"

"It wasn't wasted. There could have been other rebels hiding and waiting for a chance to fight."

"Restal was the one that mattered. He was with Blake and Avon."

"Well he's dead now all right. Did you hear the story?"

"Is it any good?"

"Sure, took them twelve hours to get it out of the prisoner, but he talked in the end. Amazing how persuasive a few electric shocks in the right place can be. He and Vila Restal were on this planet called Malodaar, and they were leaving in an orbital shuttle to rendezvous with their spaceship. Seems the shuttle had been sabotaged and they didn't have enough fuel to reach orbit. Avon pushed his mate out of the airlock in order to lighten the load."

"What a bastard!"

"He's got plenty coming to him. There's lots of other things they want to know before they ship him off to Earth."

Vila shivered as he remembered. He'd undergone electric shock treatment on Earth once. Aversion therapy they had called it: an attempt to stop him stealing things. It hadn't worked, but he could still remember the pain. If they had asked him questions, he would have told them anything, anything at all, just to make it stop. What gave Avon the strength of will to hold out long enough to make the lie convincing when he eventually told it?

"Damn you Avon," Vila cursed silently. "I can't help you escape, but as long as you're alive, I can't leave without you either."

Oh, he'd thought about rescue. Long complicated plans in which he knocked out guards single handedly, shot them down by the dozen with captured weapons, released Avon and escaped in a stolen flyer. In the cold light of day he knew it was impossible. He'd never get to Avon alive, and if he did they would both be dead before leaving the building. There were simply too many troops.

He knew it was impossible, but he still couldn't leave while Avon remained. That was just the way it was.

"Orac, I want a word with you."

"Statement does not compute," the computer replied flatly. "Please state required command and parameters."

Servalan tapped the tips of her fingers on Orac's casing and smiled. It hadn't been too difficult to get the computer to herself for a while. Now she understood why.

"Don't try that trick with me, Orac. I know you."

"What do you want, Servalan?" he said testily.

That was better. It was interesting to note that the computer appeared to have some loyalties. Whether they were programmed in or were a result of Orac's own personality she was unable to judge at that point. The mistake everyone else here had obviously made was to treat Orac as an ordinary computer, which had allowed the machine to run rings around them.

"I need a diversion, something that will distract the entire base," she replied evenly.

"Why should I assist you?" Orac demanded.

"I want to get Avon out of here." Now she had said it, she'd committed herself. If she wasn't extremely careful she would bring her whole career tumbling down around her. Servalan amplified her statement. "I need to get him out of here without anyone realising that he is with me. Of course if it is beyond your capabilities..."

If Orac had been human he would have bristled with indignation, as it was, the tone of his voice made his feelings clear. "Of course I can do it. It will take two hours to prepare the necessary sub programs. Once the alarm sounds you must move immediately. I will display the route you have to take on the viewscreen outside the cells. The computer records will show that you departed before the prisoner escaped."

"Thank you, Orac," Servalan said with mock courtesy. "I don't suppose you'd care to explain why you're helping me? "

"According to my predictions it is necessary. It is also necessary that you take me with you."

"I'm not a fool Orac. I had no intention of leaving without you."

Two hours; it would be a long wait, but she had patience when it was necessary. It was most likely that Orac would falsify sensor readings to fake an attack on the base. That would require most of the personnel to take up defensive positions, leaving the interior of the complex largely unmanned. The precise method didn't matter particularly. Servalan was going to get what she wanted provided the computer played his part properly. It would have been so much simpler, she reflected, if Avon were her own prisoner, but the men here were not under her command. She had influence and could use it to a point, but the President himself had demanded that Avon be taken to Earth and she didn't have the authority to override those orders.

After giving the crew of her ship instructions to prepare for a take off at short notice, and taking a brief excursion in a flyer, Servalan returned to the cell area. The guard she had been forced to reprimand over the minor matter of the audio monitor was no longer on duty. His replacement waved his hand idly in the direction of the viewscreen. "Do you want to watch?" he asked, then pressed a button without waiting for her answer.

She could see Avon and his interrogators, three of them. Servalan hadn't expected them to resume questioning so soon. Interrogation sessions were nothing new to her. She had sent men to a similar fate herself on many occasions; but this time it might be her own life on the line. Would Avon betray her? Or would he trust the unspoken agreement they had made and hold his silence until she came back to him?

Instinctively she knew that he was nearing the end of his strength. The death of Blake and the others had brought him down to a level which torture alone might never have achieved. His eyes were the eyes of a man who had seen too much. She wanted to reach out and hold him close to her, for her life, for his sanity. Servalan knew she was allowing herself to become too close to him emotionally. She could feel his pain as they worked on him. When Avon cried out in spite of himself, the knife twisted inside her.

"Avon," she whispered silently, "I've tried to kill you many times, but I always offered you a clean death. Never this. Not for you."

She forced her face to show no sign of her feelings. Outwardly she was as impassive as if she were simply watching a game of cards. Even when the questions turned towards herself, she forced her emotions down, refusing to let her fingers drum on the desk as they wished to.

"What did the Commissioner wish to discuss with you? Why did she destroy the monitor?"

Servalan awaited Avon's answer with icy self control. Either he trusted her to return or he did not. They were both in each other's hands now.

"I was working to destroy the pacification programme," Avon replied. "Commissioner Sleer has a personal vendetta against me. She came to gloat over my downfall. The monitor? I imagine she didn't wish you to hear what I was going to call her." He sounded tired. "I've tried to kill her on many occasions. She is my sworn enemy."

The back of Servalan's neck was slick with sweat. She hadn't even realised how nervous she was. Avon was still with her. He had chosen to ignore old vendettas and to accept what he had seen in her eyes.

The sudden sound of the alarm made Servalan jump. She hadn't realised how much time had gone by. She watched as the interrogators left the cell for their duty stations, and then calmly shot the remaining guard in the back.

"Come on Orac," Servalan muttered. "Open the door."

She waited twenty seconds while her nerves twitched in agony, then the computer controlled lock opened and she stepped into the cell. Neither of them spoke. Words were for once unnecessary. Avon came to his feet, and they stood tightly locked in each other's arms for what seemed like a small eternity, until practicalities surfaced. "Can you walk?" Servalan asked.

Avon nodded abruptly. "If I have to."

The map on the viewscreen was as Orac had promised, showing a route to her ship that allowed her to collect the computer, whilst presumably avoiding all guard posts.

Avon questioned her as they started to move. "How did you get Orac to co-operate?"

Servalan smiled to herself in spite of her worries. That was one of the things she liked about Avon. He was always three steps ahead of everyone else. He challenged her - no one else had his quickness of mind.

"I think he likes you," she answered.

"That sounds improbable."

They moved as quickly as they could through the complex, pausing only to collect Orac. Avon was tiring rapidly though, and the weight of the computer slowed them further. The route they were following seemed to take them through dozens of minor passages and endless maintenance corridors with cables suspended from the ceiling.

Avon leant against a wall, his strength nearly spent, eyes half closed and breath coming in deep ragged gasps. "Why did Orac bring us this way?" he asked.

"He probably knew you'd never make it without me," came a cheerful voice from behind a broom cupboard.

"Idiot," said Avon, with what sounded suspiciously like affection in his voice. "Come and carry Orac."

Servalan looked Vila up and down as he moved out of cover. "For a corpse," she commented, "you look remarkably healthy."

"It's no thanks to you that I'm not one," answered Vila shortly.

"Avon, do you really want him along?"

Avon's eyes narrowed slightly. "Vila's useful."

Servalan decided to take the hint. This was not the moment to get into an argument; besides, she did need help to get both Avon and Orac back to the Pole Star. She would have to make a final decision regarding Vila later. He was the last of Avon's friends, and as such could come between Avon and herself. Servalan had no intention of allowing that. On the other hand, Vila was easy to manipulate. He had useful skills, and killing him could well turn Avon against her, unless she was very discreet about how she did it.

They made an odd looking group. Servalan contrasted her own black sheath of a dress, still crisp and clean, with Avon's dirty unshaven appearance. She supported him as well as she could, but he was almost unable to stand and his weight threatened to throw her off balance.

Vila looked little better, but he was at least steadier on his feet. He carried Orac and gave Avon a hand whenever necessary.

They progressed in relative silence, each constrained from saying what they wanted to say by the presence of other members of the group.

At the final exit Servalan held up her hand. "Wait here a moment." A minute later she returned and they made their way to the airlock of the Pole Star, carefully stepping over the body of a dead guard.

The ship, Avon conceded to himself, looked fast and deadly. If outward appearances were anything to go by, she would be more manoeuvrable than Scorpio, designed as a fighting ship rather than a freighter. Inside, the Pole Star was trim and spartan. They passed through the vessel, avoiding both flight deck and crew. Eventually they reached what had to be Servalan's personal quarters; decorated in black, white and grey, the rooms had a classical elegance which was easy to associate with her.

Avon stood wearily, trying to keep his balance. There was still one final task he had to attempt before he could leave Gauda Prime, before he could allow himself to relax for a while. "Servalan," he said, "we need to destroy Scorpio."

She looked up at him with a half smile on her lips and mischief dancing in her eyes. "To prevent anyone else getting the teleport?"

Her smile was infectious.

"You've already done it, haven't you?" Avon asked lightly.

"I set the charges two hours ago. They should be going off any time now."

Cunning, avaricious, beautiful, intelligent and totally amoral, the future was there, and Avon was looking into its eyes.

"Servalan," he murmured. "Where have you been all my life?"

"Waiting for you, Avon. Waiting for you."

It's great to be alive, thought Vila to himself later that day, as Minna, Servalan's maid, brought him a second bottle of wine. It's even better having clean clothes and plenty to eat. There's just one thing I can't figure out. Has Servalan joined the revolution, or have Avon and I joined the Federation?

Continued in Nova

Nova is available from Horizon, NOT from Judith.

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