NovaBy Judith Proctor
Page 1 of 51
Omega and AlphaHe 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.
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