'You took your time,' Tarrant said when Avon returned to the Liberator.
'It was necessary,' Avon replied. Patience was a virtue Tarrant had yet to learn.
'Is it done?' Tarrant asked, ready for something else after the past five days' waiting.
'Yes, but it isn't finished.'
'Wonderful,' Vila muttered. 'Who's next on your list? Servalan?'
Avon switched Orac on. 'Orac.'
'What is it now?' How did the humans always *know* when Orac had come to the most interesting parts of the novels?
'Gracious as ever. I want you to interrogate the Federation Security computers and get me Servalan's present location.
At least that was something worth interrupting Orac's latest story.
'I was joking, Avon,' Vila said.
'Then I want your best strategy for reaching her, Avon continued.
'You wish to communicate with her,' Orac asked. In its experience, where there were several possible interpretations to an answer, humans tended to choose one of the less logical possibilities.
'Face to face with a gun in my hand.'
'And a hole in your head,' Tarrant said. 'Have you gone completely mad?'
'Possibly,' Avon said, and hoped that Tarrant would never find himself in the same position. Blake, Cally and Dayna each had reasons to understand what was driving Avon now - those they cared for destroyed by someone they could identify. Vila understood in his own way. 'How long, Orac?'
'I will inform you when I have the necessary data.'
'Don't we get a say in this?' Vila asked. This would hopefully be ended more quickly than the conflict between Blake and Travis. Revenge was understandable, and best resolved cleanly.
'By all means. Say away.' Avon recalled his conversation with Shrinker. 'Oh, Orac?'
'Yes?' How was Orac going to write the best selling novel of the millennium if people kept on asking it questions?
'Check on a Councillor Chesku at the same time. I want to know where he is too.' Orac was happy to oblige, but only because it would give the computer the perfect cover to pursue some of its own private researches.
'It is the duty,' said Servalan, 'of surveillance to keep track of everyone.' She was annoyed.
'Councillor Chesku and his wife,' Grenlee replied over the comm, 'left the perimeter some time ago, ma'am. They were taking the air.'
What sort of a nincompoop was Grenlee? Chesku was ambitious and had his eye on the main chance. 'You let them leave.'
'We had no authority to stop them, ma'am.' Rules and regulations, thought Grenlee, could be very useful to hide behind when necessary. 'Two troopers were following them, ma'am, at a discrete distance, of course.'
Thereby giving Chesku the perfect opportunity to plot his advancement, beyond any means of surveillance.
'Find them. Bring them here. Convey my compliments to the Councillor, and assure him that I am certain he has an excellent reason for keeping his president waiting.' And Servalan could think of six excellent reasons for banishing Chesku to somewhere unpleasant.
'Yes ma'am,' Grenlee said, and wondered where he would be posted to, once this fiasco had reached its conclusion. 'Some days are better than others. Thank the stars that squad is still out there.' He might be able to pass the buck and salvage something out of it.
'I hope the Councillor's wearing fireproof underwear,' Forres replied.
'If I were him, I think I'd keep on going.' There were worse things than being security on a prison ship. He tried to call the patrol squad. 'I suppose they are still out there?'
Forres checked. 'Absolutely. They definitely haven't come back across the perimeter.'
'I'll have that Guard Commander on a charge. If his men were any slacker you'd have to pour them into uniform.' While he attempted to contact the patrol again he thought back to the old days, and what would have happened to them then.
Sula, Balon and the others listened to Grenlee's increasingly frustrated pleas for a response.
Balon replied on Sula's nod.
'Have you seen Councillor Chesku and his wife?' Grenlee asked, his relief on picking up a response evident.
'Yes, sir. We passed them about, uh, ten minutes ago,' Balon replied.
'Get back to them and remind the Councillor that he's late for a meeting with the President. You might tell him that she's not exactly overjoyed about it.'
Sula spoke when Grenlee had signed off.
'Perfect. Get to your positons. And good luck.' She checked everything including her substitute husband. 'All right. Let's go.'
Grenlee and Forres watching the monitor saw Sula, Chesku and a group of troopers moving towards the Presidential palace.
'Here they come,' Forres said.
Grenlee let President Servalan know that Chesku had finally reappeared.
'Look,' Forres said, 'he's starting to run.' Grenlee laughed at the sight. 'Go on, Councillor!' This might be one of the better days.
'Yeah, it's a race. Come on, Councillor, you can do better than that.'
'If it wasn't free, you'd pay to see it, wouldn't you? Look at him go.' Forres would have something to tell his replacement.
'Oh, dignity, Councillor, at all costs dignity.' Pity it hadn't rained recently - the ground could be muddy in places.
'My money's on the woman. Look at that movement. I had a feeling she'd be athletic. Every part a moving part.'
'Yes, all right, Forres,' Grenlee said indulgently. 'Back to work while you can still see.'
'Sir!' Forres said. There shouldn't be that many men around.
'What is it?' Hadn't Forres had enough excitement for the day?
'We're under attack!'
The next few minutes were confusion as the alarm systems went off. The next thing Grenlee knew was when Sula and the others came into the surveillance section and shot Forres and himself.
What, Grenlee wondered as the alarms were switched off and the intruders dispersed, the hell was Councillor Chesku's wife Sula doing as part of this? Despite the pain he crawled over to Forres - dead. 'Some days are better than others, Section Leader,' he said, for want of anything better.
The Liberator was in position over Earth again, the detector shield Avon had developed ? before the attack Blake had launched on Servalan's command centre and developed thereafter acting effectively.
Tarrant called over the comm link from the flight deck. 'You can tell Avon the new orbit is confirmed and steady. Green on all systems.' He was impressed by the cloaking system - not that he would admit so to Avon.
Right,' Dayna replied, and turned to Avon. 'You heard that. Are you really going through with it?'
Avon nodded. 'I made a promise.'
'To Anna?' When she thought of her father she could understand what was driving Avon.
'So what are you going to do? Stick a gun in Servalan's ear and say "Give me Bartolomew or I'll blow the top of your head off"?' Dayna had no moral objection to killing the likes of Bartolomew and Shrinker.
'Something like that.'
'And if she doesn't?'
'I'll blow the top of her head off.'
'Yes, I believe you would.' That was one reason why she and the others had planned to go with him.
'So will she. Orac, have you got it yet?'
'An examination of the plans contained in the main security computers indicates that there is no safe place to teleport within the defence perimeter.' Orac had found all sorts of other fascinating information.
'Outside it then?' Avon asked. Cally had been thorough in training the Liberator group in her techniques - and Jenna had provided some things she had learnt as a Free Trader.
'To cross it undetected would be impossible.'
Avon was not going to be frustrated at this stage of the process.
'I'll take your best option within the perimeter.'
'Very well. I will set the teleport coordinates. I would, however, strongly advise waiting until dusk.'
'Why not full dark?' Dayna asked out of curiosity.
'Despite all efforts to eliminate this weakness, dusk and dawn remain the human being's most vulnerable times. Therefore, insofar as the security system contains human components'
'All right Orac, we get the picture,' Avon said, amused. Just because Orac had lost at a couple of games and Vila had pointed out a few flaws with computers, Orac had to find some means of revenge.
' it will be at its least efficient at these times.' Orac finished.
'You know Orac's main drawback?' Avon said, half-humorously.
'He's too useful to destroy.'
'Irritating isn't it?' Dayna smiled.
Sula and her companions reached the President's office. The door was locked.
'Break it down,' Sula ordered, and a couple of her companions did so.
Servalan got up from behind her desk. She had been expecting this. What would be the most appropriate point to reveal Sula's true identity to her followers?
'I take it these creatures belong to you,' Servalan said, and was knocked to the floor by a rebel.
'That's right, Madame President. And they want you to resign.' Sula was going to use the access to records provided by the President's office to consolidate her own position.
She was able to work for an hour or so before Hob returned and asked about Servalan.
'She's useful,' Sula replied.
'The men want her killed.' Some of them had been quite forceful about it. There was no response, so Hob banged on the desk.
'I'm not deaf, Hob.' She had explained the need for a public execution, or there would be the perpetual risk of impostors.
'Just not listening, is that it? I'm not fighting my own men to protect Servalan. Or to protect anyone else, for that matter. Do you understand me, Sula?' He suddenly wondered what Sula's personal plan actually was.
'You see, I know which side I'm on.'
'Meaning what, exactly?'
'Meaning I've never been a member of the senior echelon.' Where there was a constant minor shifting of positions, temporary alliances to achieve personal goals, which seemed totally divorced from everyday reality. 'I have no problem understanding how the men feel. I've never eaten at Servalan's table.'
Sula laughed. 'I wouldn't let that bother you. I'm sure your exception from the guest list was an oversight rather than a deliberate insult.' She was trying to trivialise the problem into irrelevance.
'Don't patronise me, Sula.' Hob was not certain now how committed Sula was to the rebellion she had become involved in.
'Then stop talking like a fool. Do you seriously imagine I have any personal regard for that woman? Doesn't it occur to you that I might hate her more than any of you precisely because I do know her?' And because Servalan knew precisely who, and what, Sula was.
'So let's cut her throat and be done with it.'
'She is more use to us alive.' For now at least.
'The men don't think so.'
'The men don't think at all.' They had no understanding of politics, or what they would do once their immediate purposes had been achieved.
'Maybe not, but they do fight, and they do die. And that isn't something that's new to them.'
'Now you're patronising me.'
'We didn't fight to put you behind that desk, Sula.' Hob wanted the chance to be there so himself.
Sula stood. 'It was my planning that got us here, Hob. Without me, you and your men would still be skulking around the wastelands. You seem to have forgotten that rather quickly.' And most of them would promptly sink back into obscurity once success had been attained.
'Did you expect gratitude?'
'I expected to be listened to.'
'Sula, we've WON.' The first battle at least.
'Servalan IS the Federation. Kill her and it's over.'
'You're not really that naive, are you?' Did he really not know how many of Servalan's predecessors had died violently and untimely, or had been exiled to forgotten worlds?
'I'm speaking for the others. It's what they believe.'
'And you? What do you believe?'
Hob thought for a moment. 'I believe we're lost unless we stick together. If killing Servalan is what it takes, then she's more use to us dead.'
Such short-term thinking was why the rebels had not succeeded yet. 'Alive, Servalan can order her forces to disarm. Alive, Servalan can announce that she's standing down in favour of the People's Council, which you and the others will lead.' Or not as the case may be. 'Alive, Servalan can hand over power. Dead, she's just one more corpse. Haven't we got enough of those?'
'We're clearing them away now.'
'That's not what I meant.'
'You think she'll actually do all that?' Hob was considering how he would use this line of argument to persuade the others.
'I think she could be persuaded.' In exchange for her life - for a while at least.
'I imagine that between us, we could think of a way.' One that would mean that no blame would attach to Sula.
'You'd have to persuade the men, first.'
'Will you back me?'
'Yes. You've been right so far.' So long as she allowed a little discrete liberating of property within the palace.
'Good. Get the men together. We'll talk to them.'
'In the banqueting hall.' While its splendour remained. To deny the men the rights of looting would make her unpopular.
'All right.' Hob left.
It would be a pity to waste the meal that had been prepared. 'An appropriate place to whet the appetite of the People's Council.'
Hob reached the Surveillance Unit. One of his men was removing one of the bodies.
'Get a move on with that. Sula wants to talk to us about the next phase.'
The rebel followed him - the rest of the clearing up could wait.
Grenlee left the closet he had been hiding in. He had a chance - perhaps - of surviving.
He went, painfully, to the comm unit, switched to the emergency frequency.
'This is Major Grenlee on Emergency Band Seven. Residence One to Command HQ. Do you copy? We need help. Do you copy?'
What joy would he have in a posthumous medal - but it might improve the pension his family would get as a result.
Avon stood in the teleport bay. In a little while he would know who Bartolomew was, would be able to exact revenge for Anna.
What had Shrinker said? 'Bartolomew was running you. Anyone you so much as looked at was marked. Bartolomew stayed close let you run.'
He could imagine now what Anna had been through in prison, having experienced it himself.
For once he was grateful his family had emigrated years before.
Orac broke into Avon's reverie. 'The optimum time will be in precisely one minute and forty-three seconds.'
Avon realised he had drawn his weapon, put it back.
The rest of the crew came into the teleport bay, and to Avon's slight surprise prepared to go down.
'Good,' Tarrant said. 'Let's get on with it then.'
'Uh,' Vila said. 'I'll operate the teleport. A visit to Servalan appeals to me rather less than going bald, or breaking both legs.' Besides, someone had to stay on the Liberator and keep an eye on things - Orac was not as omnipotent as it liked to think.
'I'm going down alone,' Avon said, rather less firmly than he intended.
'Not this time,' Tarrant said.
'This has nothing to do with you - any of you.'
'That's true,' Tarrant admitted.
'On the other hand,' Dayna said, 'you are something to do with us.'
'We've talked about it and discovered we care what happens to you,' Cally added. She and Vila had remembered what had happened to Blake after Gan's death - and how Avon had willingly found a way to rescue Blake.
'Within reason, of course,' Tarrant added, hedging his bets.
'We're as surprised about it as you are,' Dayna said.
'Not to mention embarrassed,' Vila added, knowing what Avon felt about any display of emotion, or caring on his part.
'I stand a better chance alone.' Avon was nevertheless pleased at the support he was being shown. He had achieved a team as well as Blake had.
'No you don't,' Tarrant responded. He wished to demonstrate some of the skills he had acquired in the FSA. 'Are you coming?'
'We'll try not to get in your way,' Dayna added.
'What's the matter, Avon? Are you afraid of witnesses?' Cally asked.
'If you are going at all,' Orac said, to end this unnecessary human display of emotion, 'now is the optimum time.'
Avon redrew his weapon and joined the others on the teleport pad. He looked at Vila. 'Put us down.'
The four materialised close to the perimeter and looked around. Dayna discovered a body of a guard and called to Avon, who was already making his way to the Presidential residence.
'Avon!' She indicated the body. 'He's been shot. Not too long ago.'
'Probably forgot to salute,' Tarrant said, keeping an eye on Avon. He called Vila.
Tarrant indicated to the two women to follow Avon - they should all keep together.
'Still here,' Vila reminded him.
'Make sure you stay that way. I think we've walked into a revolt.'
'You're among friends then,' Vila replied, though he doubted it. He knew well enough from his past that one team of thieves rarely liked another group moving in on their patch - why shouldn't the same apply to rebels? Especially when the other group was more famous.
'Avon may not see it that way.' Nor, Tarrant thought, might whoever they came across be willing to accept "Blake's people." And they might have no connection with the rebels at all. Servalan herself had staged a military coup and so might others. 'Stay awake!'
'Of course,' Vila replied.
'And sober,' Tarrant added, breaking the connection.
'That,' Vila said, 'was uncalled for.' He poured himself a drink. 'I only drink to be sociable. Cheers, Orac.'
'Define the meaning of that last phrase.'
Orac fully intended to do so. And look after the teleport as necessary.
'Tell me, Orac - can computers get drunk? I know you can't consume alcohol.'
After five minutes of deliberately complex explanation, Vila told Orac to confuse Avon with the details.
The Liberator group entered the Presidential residence and disposed of some guards they encountered.
The place was strangely empty, but there was speechifying in the banqueting hall.
'Listen. Listen! Sula's right. Servalan's main forces don't even know we're here. Why throw away an advantage like that?'
Tarrant and Avon looked at each other as the speech went on. Whoever was in there had lost the advantage, if they didn't know who else was wandering round the building.
Another voice, a woman this time, could be heard through the door.
'You have to make up your minds. Do you want victory, or do you want revenge?'
Disturbed by a seeming resemblance to Anna's voice, Avon moved away, Tarrant going with him.
'We want both,' another voice said behind the door.
'Yes!' someone agreed.
Avon and Tarrant found Servalan's office. It was empty. Avon had a quick look at the computer equipment, and they left.
They reached Surveillance, found someone there, barely alive, sitting in a chair.
Avon shook the man. 'Wake up! Where is Servalan! Where is Servalan!' He allowed his anger and frustration to show.
'Easy, man,' Tarrant cautioned Avon, 'you'll kill him.' He recognised Avon's feelings, and pulled him away from the other man.
'I don't' Grenlee began. More rebels, the rescue team, what?
'Major,' Tarrant said, recognising the markings.
'What?' Grenlee asked.
'Major, where are they holding the President?'
'I, I think below.' From what he could make of the confused information.
'If we help you, can you show us where?' Tarrant asked, as the major discovered the extent of his injuries. 'Yes, Major, you're dying, but that's what you're paid for.' That was what Tarrant had been paid for when he was part of the service. 'Now the President's life is at stake. Can you take us to her?'
Avon stared at Tarrant, and the way he was taking charge. Well, he appeared to know what he was doing for once.
'I'll try,' Grenlee managed.
'Good man. Take his other arm,' Tarrant thought for a moment, '"Section Leader".'
Avon was slightly amused. 'Yes, "sir".' They both knew Avon would have his revenge later, but here necessity ruled.
They followed Grenlee's instructions, down to the cellar. Servalan was not immediately visible.
'Gently, Major,' Tarrant said.
'Be all right in a minute,' Grenlee said weakly. It was a lie, and they all knew it.
'Take your time,' Tarrant said gently.
'But not too much of it,' Avon added, not without sympathy. People like this man, or the captain of the London, would be in those positions whoever was in charge.
'Odd feeling,' Tarrant said as he looked round the place.
'Mm?' Avon asked, his attention elsewhere - was Tarrant showing a sudden burst of Cally's abilities?
'Place feels old. Do you suppose this part's original? Genuinely pre-atomic?'
Tarrant was not much into reading history, but was curious about actual places.
'Possibly. Does it matter?' Avon asked. Under other circumstances he would have been willing to speculate.
'Obviously not.' Avon let go of Grenlee, his attention otherwise engaged. 'Oh, Avon its all right Major, I've got you. Avon, you really are a prize' He realised Avon had found something, so put the Major down and followed Avon.
'Yes, I really am,' Avon said in reply to Tarrant's remark. 'So shut up and let me do what I came to do.'
'I might have known you were behind this,' Servalan said, though she knew the situation was more complex.
'You flatter me,' Avon said.
'Go to hell, Avon,' Servalan replied.
'Probably,' Not that Avon believed in an afterlife probably. 'But I'd like some information first.'
'In exchange for what. A quick death?'
'THAT,' Avon said, 'is the reward for silence.'
'I've had worse offers,' Servalan replied.
'Tell me what I want to know and I'll get you out of here,' Avon replied.
'Yes?' Servalan could never quite get the measure of Avon.
'What's the matter with you, Servalan? I'm offering to set you free,' Avon replied, remembering a remark that he wanted to be free of Blake.
'You're offering to let her go,' Tarrant said. 'That's not quite the same thing.'
'What are you talking about?' Was Tarrant finally learning the art of splitting hairs?
'I'm talking about the President of the Terran Federation, Ruler of the High Council, Lord of the Inner and Outer Worlds, High Admiral of the Galactic Fleets, Lord General of the Six Armies, and Defender of the Earth.'
'Get to the point,' Avon replied. Unless the point was that Tarrant could remember all the President's titles.
'The point is that a few dozen guerrillas walked in, killed her guards, beat her up and then chained her up. 'You want to set her free? Convince her that it didn't happen.'
'She's been a prisoner before,' Avon replied. What he wanted now did not involve Servalan's death. He was prepared to let someone else do it.
'Yes, but in her own palace, on Earth, in what should be the centre of her power?'
Avon turned to Servalan. 'Is that it? Have you finally lost your nerve?' He grabbed her, trying to get a response. ''Have you murdered your way to the wall of an underground room?'
'It's an old wall, Avon, it waits. I hope you don't die before you reach it.'
Dayna and Cally continued to listen to the rebels talking.
The woman was still speaking.
' Then we're agreed?' A murmur. 'Then bring Servalan to me. You'll see. She'll do everything we say, and that, my friends, is real revenge.'
Dayna was not certain about that.
The door opened: Dayna and Cally pressed themselves against the wall. A woman Cally judged to be younger than Jenna came out, and, fortunately, started to walk in the opposite direction.
Cally telepathed to Dayna to find Avon and Tarrant while she followed the stranger - if she was a rebel it would be best not to end up killing each other accidentally.
'Why should I tell you anything?' Servalan asked. 'What can you threaten me with?'
Avon dragged her to her feet. 'I spent some time with your interrogators.'
So that might explain Shrinker's disappearance.
'It's too late for that,' Servalan said, not certain of what Avon was after.
'Your dead major there might have given the alarm,' Tarrant waved at the major. 'Help could be on the way. Don't you want to be alive when they get here?'
'And unchained?' Avon asked. When Servalan indicated a desire to be released, he declined. 'Who is Bartolomew?'
'Why?' Servalan suddenly realised what Avon was up to - or thought he was up to.
'Tell me who.'
'Tell me why.' She would have to give the right answer. She wanted to survive.
'He killed someone,' Tarrant said. 'A girl. Anna Grant.'
Servalan felt a sudden and unexpected pity for Avon: Avon really didn't know. Nor was he connected to the farce upstairs. 'Release me. I'll tell you anything you want to know.' She might be able to snatch some victory out of this after all.
Avon made to shoot the chain, but then there was a movement on the stairs, and the group from the Liberator made for cover.
Sula went into the basement - typical of this lot that she had had to go and get Servalan. Well, they had served their purpose.
She saw the major from the Surveillance Unit lying dead on the floor. Which indicated that other people were here. She drew her gun.
'That's far enough,' Tarrant said. Whoever she was, she was attractive enough. He put his gun to her head, and when she moved told her not to. She put the gun away.
'Hello, Anna.' Avon appeared from the shadows. What on Earth was going on?
Sula was momentarily confused. 'Avon?' Tarrant gave Avon a quick glance and moved away. Sula decided to play the innocent. 'Avon Avon! Oh! I was afraid they'd kill you. I heard there was someone with Blake, but I didn't know for sure, and I didn't dare let myself hope.' She had known full well, as a member of Security. 'Oh Avon, Avon.' She kissed him: no response. He was too stunned to react. 'Why didn't you come back for me? What's the matter?'
'I didn't come back, because you were dead.' And even your brother doesn't know you are alive.
Avon was vaguely aware of Cally's arrival: there was no way he could explain to her what was going on.
'Well, as you can see, I'm not.'
As I can see.
'You don't seem very pleased about it. Course, it's been a long time. I suppose there's someone else, is that it? Is there someone else, Avon?'
'No, no, there's no one else,' How could he, after knowing he was responsible for what had happened to her?
'What then? What's wrong?' She went to kiss him again, felt his rejection. 'Why won't you touch me?'
'Perhaps because I can't believe that it's you.' Avon was in turmoil.
'Have I changed so much?' she asked, knowing that he had.
'I don't know.' What could Avon believe in now? 'Have you, Anna?'
'Not the way I feel for you.' That was more true than many of the things she had said in her career. 'Nothing's changed since you left me! There hasn't been one single moment when I wasn't alone, I want you to know that. You must see that. Avon, look at me. Look at me.'
Avon could not. He was remembering what Shrinker had said. Shrinker had had nothing to lose, had said anyone Avon so much as looked at was marked for collection. 'How did you get away, Anna, that last day, the day I got myself shot? How did you get away?' He did not want to believe where his line of thought was going.
'I waited for you, and when you didn't come back, I ran.'
She had been willing at the time to try for a new life.
What had Shrinker said, that Bartolomew was running Avon? 'Where to? Where did you run to Anna? Not to your brother. He thinks you're dead.' What would Avon say if he met Del Grant again? 'Who hid you, Anna?'
'My husband. I didn't love him.' Nor he her. 'He knew that. There was only you. But he wanted me and I was afraid.'
Avon remembered Shrinker's words, about Bartolomew staying close and letting him run. He whispered to himself. 'He wasn't Bartolomew, was he?'
'No, he wasn't,' Servalan said. She could see Avon thinking, coming to the unpalatable truth. 'Not even Chesku knew who Bartolomew was. But you do, don't you, Avon?' She had followed his slow, horrified, realisation.
Cally saw what Anna - or was it Bartolomew? - was doing. 'Avon!' She half telepathed his name, and he reacted instinctively, shooting Anna before she could shoot him.
'At least that was honest,' Avon said. Had he really wanted to discover this?
'I knew when you found out, you would kill me,' Anna said.
'Unless you killed me first,' Avon replied. What was there for him to believe in now?
'We were well matched, Avon.'
'You weren't even real. Bartolomew. Central Security's best agent. One of your colleagues told me that.' Avon felt a perverse pride in that statement.
'Anna Grant. I was only ever Anna Grant with you.' And with her brother. Only honesty was left now.
'Of all the things I have known myself to be, I never recognised the fool,' Avon said. What was he going to tell Del Grant if they ever met again?
'It wasn't all lies. I let you go my love,' Anna said, and died.
Avon bent down to kiss her. 'Oh, no, you never let me go. You never did.' He put Anna down and took off his bracelet.
'Can you convince yourself that that didnt happen, Avon?' Servalan asked. She knew, as well as he, that he could not do so. He had not her skill at forgetting things that were not convenient.
Avon stood and fired at the chain restraining Servalan. He would let her do her worst on him - he no longer cared.
Dayna, alone, was hiding in a corridor from the troopers, who said they were preparing for the final assault on the rebels and others in possession of Residence One.
As the troopers came in Dayna shot them and then contacted Vila, telling him to prepare for teleport.
Cally had just called out to the unheeding Avon that they had to go, when Vila operated the teleport on Tarrant's command.
'You idiot!' Cally said to Vila when she, Dayna and Tarrant reappeared on the Liberator.
'What do you mean "idiot"?' Vila asked. 'That was a very fast pick up.' He then noticed who was missing. 'Where's Avon?'
'Exactly!' Dayna said.
'Put me back down,' Tarrant said, judging that Avon was in no state to think straight.
It took a few moments to establish that the teleport co-ordinates had not been reset - but, Vila decided, he had had no reason to know he would need the new coordinates, which would take a couple of minutes to calculate.
Servalan aimed Anna's gun at the unprotesting Avon. She almost didn't want to shoot him like this: he deserved better.
'Avon,' she said.
'You really think I care?' Who could he trust? Not even Servalan to kill him cleanly.
'Put the bracelet on.'
'Just do it,' Servalan said. She stroked his face with the gun. Sex and death. 'I'm going to send your friends a corpse. Tell them to bring you up.'
Yes, they were his friends, if Servalan said so. He thought of them as colleagues, but would accept friendship now. They had been willing to risk their lives for him.
'Liberator. Bring me up.' He was half aware of someone coming down the stairs, calling for Sula - whoever that was.
Servalan shot the incomer - one of Anna Sula Grant's rebels, Hob. By the time she turned back to Avon he had gone.
She did not regret it. They belonged together - just as Travis and Blake did, though she did not presently know what had become of either of those two.
Vila operated the teleport again and Avon appeared, kneeling.
'Servalan was planning on sending you a corpse,' Avon said. What was Vila's phrase - while there's life, there's hope of something worse? What could be worse than what he felt now?
Vila gave Avon a drink. 'Corpse reviver?' The others, on teleporting up, had said just enough to prevent Vila from saying the wrong thing about Anna.
'But,' Avon said as he drank, grateful, for once, for the alcoholic warmth it provided,'the rumours of my death...'
'...have been greatly exaggerated,' Tarrant finished.
'Well, slightly exaggerated, anyway.' Avon turned wearily to leave.
Tarrant watched the retreating man. 'Let's get the hell out of here.'
'How,' asked Vila, indicating the direction of the retreating Avon, 'do you get him out of the hell he's in?'
'Avon has no choice but to do so,' Cally said.
Vila knew that. 'He's a survivor,' they all had to be, to get this far, 'but at what cost?'
He asked Avon later whether he would rather have done what he had, and known, or not pursued the matter and not known the truth.
'Yes...' It was, Avon knew, an unresolveable dilemma. Had the truth made him free?