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Jabberwocky - part 11 - Overload

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 15

Servalan had been returned to her cell some hours ago after her abortive escape had been discovered, and while she was disappointed that it had not succeeded, she had not yet given up. There were still two more chances for her escape. One was her former spy, Witt, who had visited her twice. He had changed from the hard-edged man she remembered, but his feelings for her had not changed and she thought there might yet be a way to make use of him. So far she had tried nothing, for she could not trust him, but if her main effort failed, he was there to fall back on.

      Her main effort was working, though more slowly than she had expected. Avon was fighting her all the way, and that caused her to feel a delicious amusement as she watched his struggles against her, his fight to regain control of himself.

      Contingency plans were wonderful things. How long it seemed since Terminal, since her plan to take the Liberator, since she had had Avon in her hands. The drug-induced illusion she had given him had brought her a great deal of pleasure, but it was more than that. Never one to waste an opportunity, Servalan had asked her programmers to add just one little thing for her. There was no time to waste on major programming, especially when she had hoped the Terminal scheme would rid her of Avon forever. But knowing Avon and suspecting that if anyone could win free of her scheme it was he, she had taken one final precaution. Should he manage to escape there had been a compulsion to obey implanted in his brain. All she needed was to speak a trigger phrase and he would follow her orders, anything she instructed until she repeated the trigger phrase. He would not remember it afterwards nor anything he did to obey it. If she were precise in her instructions, she thought that might be enough.

      On the ship where Avon and the others had captured her, such a plan would have been wasted. At first the doctor was with Avon and later Dayna as well. She meant to save it until she was alone with him. Knowing him, he would be unable to resist visiting her, if only to gloat. More likely he would come to make sure she was secure in her cell.

      It had taken several days, but he had come. By then, Servalan had decided what she expected of him, and was prepared for it. "Avon. How pleasant to see you."

      "Is it?" he asked, his teeth clenched. "You are lucky to be alive, Servalan."

      "You mean I'm lucky you didn't strangle me?" She put a hand to her neck, which was still tender from his attack. Hiding a smile at the memory of his pathetic devotion to Blake, she decided to make use of it. "That was unkind of you, Avon. Surely you understand I have the right to defend myself."

      "I understand that I will kill you, Servalan, if you harm one member of my crew."

      "Has it come to that, then, Avon? I should have thought you would put yourself first."

      "I do put myself first. It will be small enough risk to kill you. I came today to be certain you will not endanger me by escaping. It is my plan to strengthen security not only here but on the base as a whole."

      "I should have expected nothing less." She smiled at him. "But think of what we might accomplish together. I have always respected you, Avon. Together we could rule the galaxy."

      "We have been through this already, Servalan. I have no interest in allying myself with you. The risks would be far too great."

      "But, Avon, I could make you wealthy beyond belief."

      He shook his head impatiently. She stretched her hand out toward him, only to be brought up short by the force field that kept her imprisoned. "You shall be my consort," she said, intoning the trigger phrase with deliberate clarity.

      Avon opened his mouth to disagree, then he fell silent, staring at her blankly, his mouth still open. He looked rather like a zombie, his cool intelligence concealed behind a controlled mask.

      "You will arrange my escape, Avon," she continued in the same deliberate voice. "You will free me and take me to the mindship, which you will turn over to me. You will immobilize the ship's link-partner and establish me in his place. You will do this secretly so your plan will not be discovered. You will not remember this at any time and you will not speak of it to the others."

      "It will take time," Avon replied in a slurred voice that sounded drugged. "I will need to rework the computer systems. To free the mindship, I will need kill the link-partner." He stiffened, fighting her control with all the strength he possessed. "I won't do that."

      "You will do as I command."

      "I will do as you command," he repeated after her. It was enough for the moment. She could reinforce it with the trigger phrase each time she saw him. "You will visit me regularly, every few days, to report your progress," she told him. Then, deciding she had risked enough this first visit, she had said in the same tone as before, "You shall be my consort."

      Avon's face stiffened then relaxed. "I should think that unlikely," he replied with sour amusement. "You can offer me nothing, Servalan. You have nothing I want."

      "You think not?" She favoured him with a seductive smile, and he made an impatient sound and went away.

      He was back in three days, and upon hearing the trigger phrase, announced that he had begun a reworking of the base's security computers. This would eventually allow him to shut down the force field around her cell without triggering an alarm and to play a tape loop showing her still there after she had departed.

      "Excellent," she had approved, knowing Avon's computer skills were equal to the task. "And the link-partner? Have you planned his demise?"

      "No. I will not kill him, Servalan."

      "Oh, but why? It's not Blake, only Tarrant. You and Tarrant have not become friends, surely. You are too different. If you can remove him from the link without death, that would satisfy me. He is rather too pretty to damage permanently. But you must sever the link. The mindship will be mine."

      "It might be possible," Avon replied reluctantly as if he were still fighting for control. But he couldn't counter her programming. "A judiciously placed explosion would sever the link," he volunteered as if the words were being dragged from his body.

      "I knew I could rely upon you, my pet." She reached out to him caressingly, but the force field still restrained her. "You might test your handiwork by shutting it down," she suggested, letting her voice caress him softly.

      He remained unmoved. "Not yet. It is far from ready."

      With that she had to be satisfied, though she knew her control of him was precarious. She doubted he had realized it existed yet, but he might do so at any moment. The program was too simple to deceive him forever, and he was certain to notice that there were gaps he could not remember. Were it anyone but Avon, he would see a doctor, talk about it, try to have other people monitor him and discover what was wrong. But Avon was a secretive man, unlikely to confide in the others especially if he suspected something was wrong with himself. He would watch and be wary, but he wouldn't share that type of a problem with the others. At least that was what she believed. Subsequent visits proved that he had no idea of the programming, and she liked that. She had been careful not to ask too much.

      But time was running out. Her little ploy with the guard Jenkiss had been as much to divert suspicion from her games with Avon as it was an actual escape, though she would have taken it, had it worked. Jenkiss was useless, of course, and she felt no regret at destroying his career here. He was certainly decorative enough to have made the game a delicious diversion, but now it was time for more serious action. She needed Avon.



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Sheila Paulson

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