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The Agony of Victory

By Catherine
Page 1 of 5

Avon shifted uncomfortably, silently damning Blake and himself for fools. The mission had seemed so simple: teleport down, set the charges and leave. So simple that neither of them had suspected a trap. Only when they bad lost contact with the Liberator had Avon realized that the building was now shielded, that teleporting out was impossible. The subsequent appearance of Travis and Servalan had been no surprise at all.

Servalan hadn't stayed long, but she had left Travis in no doubt that she required results quickly. Travis's initial brutal assault had owed more to a desire to hurt and humiliate Blake than a quest for knowledge. He hadn't even bothered asking questions to begin with. Receiving a lack of instant answers to his demands as to how the teleport functioned, Travis had seemed unconcerned. In fact, he had seemed almost pleased, as though it gave him the chance to try something else.

The floor under him was cold. Avon shifted position painfully; climbing onto the bunk shouldn't have been impossible, but somehow it didn't seem worth the effort. His mind was occupied with Blake: why had Travis taken him from their cell and what was he doing to Blake right now?

A sound at the door made Avon's head jerk up. Two mutoid guards appeared and gestured him forward. It would have been useless to resist; even before their capture he would have been hard pressed to handle one, let alone two. Silently, he acquiesced and followed them, despite his cynicism, totally unprepared for what he would be forced to watch.

* * *

Avon looked at the screen, wondering why Travis had brought him here. He could see Blake sitting dejectedly on a bunk, but nothing else of interest.

"If you think torturing Blake will convince me to reveal Liberator's secrets, you're mistaken."

Travis smiled contentedly. 'Nothing as crude as that. Observe."

Avon watched, and blinked as he saw himself appear in the cell. Obviously, a holographic projection. "That's not likely to fool Blake," he said.

"You don't think so? Blake's been without sleep for twenty-four hours now, and has been given drugs to heighten his suggestibility."

"Avon!" Blake stepped toward the figure, but stopped suddenly as it raised a hand with a small control box in it. "Don't come any further or I shall have to hurt you. I think," the projection continued in a near perfection of Avon's voice. "that I might enjoy that."

Blake took a step forward. "What the hell are you playing at, Avon?"

The projection touched a button on the control box, at the same instant as Travis. and Blake suddenly collapsed, writhing in agony on the floor. 'Avon! No!" he screamed.

Avon's gut twisted within him. He realized his fingernails were digging into the palms of his hands, and he deliberately relaxed them. "Charming," he observed sarcastically to Travis, "but what exactly is it supposed to achieve?"

"Perhaps I just enjoy it?" Travis suggested.

Avon waited, outwardly calm. He could hear his own voice asking Blake for names of underground contacts, and the hatred in Blake's voice as the rebel first cursed him and then screamed again as the pain hit him once more.

Avon's throat was dry, and his eyeballs itched for some unaccountable reason. How can you believe this, Blake? he thought in desperation. In his heart he knew the answer all too easily; his sharp taunts, continual jibes, his aloofness, all too easily helped alienate Blake from him.

Travis gloated. "When I've finished conditioning Blake, he will associate you with pain and betrayal. Eventually, he will try to kill you. He'll want you dead."

Avon's eyes strayed involuntarily to the screen once more.

Blake's shivering form huddled in a corner, staring with fascinated horror at the hologram. "I never realized you hated mc so much," Blake said slowly. The hologram smiled. "Why don't we discuss the nature of the teleport?" it suggested.

Why don't you go screw Travis?" Blake retorted and was rewarded with another bout of agony for his effort.

Avon flinched as Blake cried out his name once more. It was a condemnation, and at the same time a plea for help.

He was aware of Travis watching him. "You're not totally immune, are you?" the Federation officer stated snidely

Avon ignored the comment.

"Of course," Travis mocked him. "you could always do what your noble leader suggested..." He let the comment trail off.

Avon smiled slightly. "You're not my type."

"Is he?" Travis responded. "Not that it matters, of course. When he's killed you, I shall tell him what's happened. Maybe I'll play him the tape of you standing here, getting all concerned about him. I'm afraid that the death of yet another of his followers at his own hands will finally drive him to insanity."

Avon shuddered. For Blake to believe that Avon would torture him for things that Avon already knew, suggested that his friend bad already been driven over the edge.

"And you think he'll then tell you whatever you want to know?"

"I'm sure he will. Perhaps you d like to see him?"

Travis gestured Avon towards a nearby door. Opening it, Avon was confronted by the unconscious body of his friend. The door slammed shut behind him and he flinched.

"Blake?" He stepped forward, kneeling at the big man's side. A tentative hand reached out. "Blake." The rebel jerked at the hesitant touch, immediately starting to shiver. Carefully, Avon pulled the larger man into his arms, trying to reassure him. "It's all right, Blake. It's me. Avon. I'm here with you now."

The shivering continued as Blake buried his face in his friend's chest. "What is happening? Why did you do it?"

Avon froze. Blake believed it! He actually believes that I was the one hurting him, Avon thought. But what was even more painful was the realization that Blake seemed to accept it. "Blake, listen to me." Avon pulled slightly at the rebel's curly mane, damp with sweat, forcing his head up. "Look at me, Blake. I was not here. I did not hurt you. I... could not. Not like this." The last words were barely whispered. Eyes focused on Blake's, he could not miss the fear and mistrust barely under control

Blake was trying to pull back, away from the offered comfort. "Whatever happens, Blake, remember that it's not me. It may look like me, sound like me, but if it hurts you it's not me. It's a holographic projection, Blake. It's Travis. Understand?"

Blake's head was down, still struggling slightly to escape Avon's hold.

"Blake? What is it?" Avon tightened his grip and then he heard it. The faint tone he had heard before when Blake had collapsed. Somehow it was the cause of the rebel's pain. He tried to cover Blake's ears but to no avail. The rebel was struggling wildly now, desperately trying to escape Avon's hold. He broke free to stagger a few steps before falling to his knees with a moan of pain.

And again, Avon heard his own voice. "Blake. You must tell me."

"No!" Blake bent over, hands squeezing his head. "Avon, please don't. I trusted..." Blake whimpered as he slumped to the floor.

Avon could not stop himself. He cautiously approached the crumpled figure. "Blake. It's not me. You know I would never intentionally hurt you. It just sounds like me. Let... let me help you."

The rebel lay still so Avon dared to touch. He placed a light hand on Blake's shoulder. Blake's scream was horrible, the sound of a man driven far beyond his breaking point. It was harsh and raspy, dying down to a gasping sob. Blake curled into a tight ball. And Avon could hear faint laughter in the background, behind the voice. Travis's laughter.

Travis was timing his torture. Avon began to shake.

"Damn you, Travis. Stop it."

But, of course, he did not.

Avon stepped back, retreating to the far side of the room. Gradually, the tone eased and Blake fell into an exhausted sleep. Which left a very hopeless and tired computer tech alone with Travis's words echoing in his brain: "He will kill you."

Avon shivered.

* * *

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