Avon had lost track of how long he had been here, in this damp concrete cell, was beginning to wonder whether it was worth it, why he was doing this. He was doing it for Anna of course. And himself. Revenge of course, nothing more, and regret for the loss of what he had cared for most in the entire galaxy. Perhaps he was also doing it for Vila, the only one of the Liberator crew who understood. After making an appreciative remark about the picture of Anna, which Avon had not responded to, Vila had said that he approved of removing the Shrinkers of the galaxy. From Vila's expression Avon had known better than to probe further.
Avon was aware of distant cries of prisoners, felt a stab of guilt despite his pain. He could escape when he chose - they could not.
The cell door opened. Avon looked up wearily, another one to torture him. Black clothed, black bearded and balding.
'They tell me you haven't been co-operating.' Malice not menace. Perhaps this was the one Avon had been waiting for.
'No? What's the matter?' Avon asked, enjoying the challenge still. 'Did I bleed on the wrong bit of floor?'
'I'm glad you're pleased.' The only reason Avon cared was that it made the justification for what he was doing easier.
'I hate to waste my time.'
'Don't let me detain you.'
'I'm a specialist, you see.' Yes, this was Shrinker. Or one of his kind.
'Oh, it's written all over you.' Avon felt nothing but disgust for the man in front of him. Servalan he could understand, exuberant in enjoying the trappings of power and maintaining her position. Travis too, a soldier doing his duty, driven ever further down the path he had chosen by hate. But why become a torturer?
'I specialise in uncooperative prisoners,' Shrinker continued.
'And you love a challenge.'
It was the only thing Shrinker could enjoy. 'Its good that we understand each other.'
'Your name wouldn't be Shrinker by any chance, would it?' Avon wanted to be sure. Whoever this monster was, he would die: his response would determine how. Even Blake the idealist would agree to that.
'You've heard of me?' The tinge of pride in Shrinker's voice nauseated Avon.
'Ah. I knew if I held out, you would show up eventually.'
Orac, not knowing the significance of the information, had come up with the detail of Shrinker's survival when Avon had been looking for something else. The plan to destroy Shrinker like the vermin he was had come to Avon immediately, and he had planned everything meticulously, even gone out of his way to convince the others.
'That says more for you nerve than your brain.'
'You think so?' Avon massaged the back of his neck.
'Long before I've finished with you, you'll be begging for death. Don't worry, it's sending all right.'
'What are you talking about?' Avon feigned surprise.
'The implant in your neck.'
'I don't know what you're talking about'
'There is a homing device implanted in your neck.'
Not for much longer. He had found the button - the device had shifted slightly.
How did you know? Avon asked.
'We detected it as soon as we picked you up.' Not that Avon had made it difficult to be found. 'We've been monitoring it ever since. It's been sending steadily for five days.'
Avon was surprised. 'Five days? Is that how long I've been here?'
'Your friends aren't coming,' Shrinker said with glee.
'Oh they are. They must.' For I trust them.
'An attack on this place would be suicide anyway.' Perhaps it would be worth it. 'Is there anyone who thinks that you're worth dying for?'
'Not anymore, not since Anna,' Avon said, knowing that it was not true.
'Anna?' Shrinker was puzzled. The reports on this prisoner had mentioned no Anna.
'Dead,' Avon explained, feeling grief even here, after so long. 'Anna is dead.'
Shrinker held up an instrument.
Where were they? Avon had lost all sense of time.
'It's a laser probe,' Avon identified without hesitation.
'It's a laser probe. Now we're tired of waiting for your friends to come to us, so we have decided to go to them. You are going to tell me who they are and where they are.'
'I can't. Please, I can't.' The fear Avon put into his voice was partially genuine.
Im going to start by burning out your eyes. Shrinker threatened.
'And youre going to start by telling me your name. Now that's not too difficult, is it? Who are you?'
'Avon. My name is Avon.' It took some effort to break the resistance which had sustained him to this stage.
'Avon?' Shrinker recognised the name.
'And you misunderstand about the homing device. My friends won't come while it's sending. He sensed rather than saw the teleport operate. But now I've switched it off' It had been Vila's idea, much as he had protested at Avon's desire to pursue Shrinker in this manner.
'And we're here,' Tarrant said. Whatever else he felt about Avon, the man had courage and strength of character to do this. What they were doing was no different from getting rid of Klegg and his crew.
'Still!' Dayna said. 'Stand very, very still.' She could agree with getting rid of this creature, and could admire what Avon had done to get him - she was not certain that she could have done the same.
'How did you get in here?' Shrinker was afraid.
'It's called a teleport,' Tarrant explained.
'You're Blake's people.'
'That's right,' Avon said. Sometimes it was easier to use the name of someone who wasn't there to rally behind. But - were Tarrant and Dayna "his" as the others had been "Blake's"? 'That's why I couldn't tell your interrogators my name.' Avon had had Orac alter crucial details in the databases so he wouldn't be identified readily, and had done the same for the others for good measure.
'What IS your name?' Tarrant asked. He owed his loyalty to Avon rather than the nebulous and unfound Blake. 'You look terrible, Avon. What have they been doing to you?' Tarrant was not certain he really wished to know.
Avon saw Dayna was aiming to shoot Shrinker.
'No! Don't kill him. I waited for him!' Avon grabbed Shrinker, barely controlled his desire to throttle the man.
'No,' Shrinker pleaded.
'He's mine!' Avon said.
'No!' Shrinker felt afraid. 'Guards!'
Avon knocked Shrinker out before he could raise the alarm.
'Bracelets,' said Avon. All he wanted was to get to the Liberator's med unit to recover, and then a shower and sleep.
Tarrant gave Avon a bracelet, and put one on Shrinker.
'Sorry we took so long. A two minute alert is difficult to sustain over five days.' He had thought he had escaped such exercises when he'd finished training, and, again, when he'd left the FSA.
'I thought he'd never show up. Then I thought you'd never show up.'
An alarm was going off.
'Well, now everyone's showing up,' Dayna said, preparing one of her explosive devices.
A few moments later Vila had teleported them up.
'You look terrible,' Vila said.
'So I've been told,' Avon replied, suddenly feeling worse. He accepted the proffered drink gratefully, for once appreciating the alcohol. He realised he was still holding Shrinker's laser probe, passed it to Vila.
'So you're Shrinker,' Cally said. 'He doesn't look like much,' she added. Remembering what Travis had done to her long ago she could understand what Avon was doing, even if she disapproved of it.
'It depends on what you paid to get him,' Tarrant said.
'It cost me enough,' Avon said.
'Was it worth it?' Cally asked.
'I'll let you know.'
'What are you going to do with me?' Shrinker asked. Nothing pleasant.
'He's going to kill you,' Dayna said. What this lower than slime did was wrong in every sense. She was happy to kill him even for no personal motive.
'Why me?' Shrinker asked. He was but one cog in the Federation system. 'I haven't done anything. I've only ever'
It was people like Shrinker that had resulted in Tarrant leaving the FSA. 'Oh, don't tell me, let me guess. You've only ever followed orders.' Whatever imagination this man had had was long since perverted out of any honour attached to the phrase.
'Its true! Its true!'
'I believe you. Stand there.' Tarrant expected to be obeyed and was.
'Is everything ready?' Avon asked Vila.
'Just as you said. I set it all up myself.' Vila had met enough people who aspired to be Shrinker to wish his own revenge on the man.
'Are you sure you want to go on with it?' Cally asked.
'Yes. I'm sure. Look, Cally, I know you don't want any part of this. All right, I'm not going to give you any part of it. You're out. This is mine. I'm doing it.' He cared for Cally, would have tracked down anyone who had done the same to her, and they both knew it.
'And what am I doing, Avon? Just following orders, like him?' She knew he felt guilty over what had happened, did not wish him to add to it.
'She's right. It'd be murder,' Shrinker said.
'Well, you should know if anyone does.' Vila would have been quite happy to do something nasty to Shrinker on his own account. He had been through the prison system enough times to have heard of the likes of Shrinker, and they deserved whatever fate came to them.
'I'm going to get cleaned up,' Avon said - though it would take long to feel clean after what he had been through. 'Will you entertain my guest?' He understood what they each felt about the likes of Shrinker.
'It'll be a pleasure,' Tarrant said. As he watched Avon leave he felt that if there had been men of that stature in the FSA he might never have left.
'Why?' Shrinker asked. This was not how it was meant to happen. His job was to be where these strangers were now. 'I don't even I never saw him before. What have I ever done to him?'
'You killed someone he loved,' Dayna said. She could understand that as a motive. If she ever saw Servalan
'And there aren't many of them about. Avon's not a very loveable man, in case you hadn't noticed,' Vila said. He had long ago decided that Avon would have been respected in his legitimate life, rather than liked. And so long as you could argue your case he would accept being contradicted.
'Who was it?' Shrinker asked. He was being encircled, menaced, taunted.
'Oh, did they give you names when they gave you your orders?' Tarrant asked.
On and on went the taunting.
'Stop it!' Cally said. The three of them had no right to do this to Shrinker, vile as he was. 'Leave him alone.'
'He's an animal, Cally,' Tarrant said.
'Yes, and it's contagious, isn't it?'
'Get over there and sit down,' Tarrant snapped and Shrinker did so.
'What do you suppose went wrong down there?' Dayna asked. From what Avon and Vila had said of Earth she did not wish to go to the domed cities. Too alien. Vila had told her something of the Outsiders - either from personal knowledge or hearsay, and she could see herself being with them.
'Took longer to trap him than we expected, that's all,' Vila said, misunderstanding.
'No, I didn't mean the plan.' Dayna could understand that part of what had happened. 'I meant the whole thing. What happened to the rebellion? Why is the Earth still controlled by creatures like him?' Something had gone very wrong.
Councillor Chesku was walking in the grounds of Residence One on a beautiful day with his wife Sula. He knew what they said about her behind his back, but he could put up with her being called a trophy wife though she was not: her love could not be feigned. Better though that she was called a trophy wife than her real function - that she was a member of Security - be acknowledged. But he was concentrating on other things at the present - his speech to be delivered this evening.
' a question of leadership. The rabble which sought to challenge the established order lacked our inspiration, our unity, our leadership. They are crushed. Earth and the Inner Planets are once again united. Gentlemen, I give you a toast. Our inspiration, our unity, our leader: President Servalan.' He could imagine the applause at this point. 'What do you think?' he asked Sula.
'I think it's crude and obvious,' she replied. She briefly wondered what he would think if she told him she knew one of the rebels he denounced intimately. Of all the people she had handled, he had been the one of which she had been most fond - and not just because he had been her brother's friend.
'Thank you, Sula,' Chesku said sarcastically. For all her connections she could be remarkably negative.
'You asked what I thought.' It was all rather academic anyway.
'Stupid of me. I should know better by now.' He had long since given up hope of even a business relationship between them, even after the help she had requested from him: he had known better than to probe too deeply as to what had happened.
'If it's any consolation to you, I'm sure Servalan will be delighted. She is, after all, a tasteless megalomaniac.' She doubted that there were any megalomaniacs with a sense of taste.
'I think it' rather fine.' His wife knew nothing of politics.
'You would, Chesku.'
'Her presidential palace,' Chesku clarified.
'A grotesque anachronism, like its owner. We could have built two cities for what it cost to reconstruct that absurdity.' Bread and circuses kept a population quiet, not suppressant drugs.
'You keep talking like that, you'll get us both killed.' Or was this a plot to test his loyalty?
As if to underline Chesku's point two troopers appeared. 'Yes? What do you men want?' he asked.
'I'm afraid they want your security pass and your clothes. The rabble aren't quite as crushed as your speech suggests.' She thought of the one who had used the term "rabble" once, saying that it was difficult whether their courage or their stupidity was the greater. She had realised by then that he was not a political, but had been too fond of him to disengage. And that had been his tragedy.
She took out the gun she routinely carried.
'Sula is this some kind of a joke?' What about his speech, his prospects?
'No, Chesku. This is no kind of a joke.'
'I don't understand. You're my wife.' Even if it is in name only.
''That's all over now.' She shot him as he fled.
Sula turned to the rebels disguised as troopers. 'Get him out of sight.'
Grenlee and Forres were arguing good-naturedly in the security area. It was quiet - for now at least - but would start getting busy shortly.
'Maybe we should have stopped them, sir,' Forres said.
'Stopped them?' Grenlee asked. They had just been watching the sports program on what was, officially, the news monitor.
'Councillor Chesku and his wife. Maybe we should have stopped them leaving the surveillance zone. We are supposed to watch everyone.'
'That is the meaning of surveillance, yes. Have you been studying in your spare time, Forres?'
'Sir?' Several of his colleagues had been promoted - including the one involved in that peculiar event on the London.
'You think we should have stopped them, do you?' Give him a few years experience, Grenlee thought, and Forres might get some sense into himself.
'It is standard procedure.'
'For a member of the High Council there's no such thing as standard procedure.' Well there was, but it applied only to them individually - do it right and they'd be duly grateful. Quite a nice little earner it could be too. Forres could discover that for himself.
'The book says'
'Never mind what the book says, Section Leader. All you have to worry about's what I say, right?'
'Absolutely sir,' Forres replied.
'Absolutely, Section Leader. And what I say is that if a High Councillor wishes to swing stark naked through the trees and spit on the surveillance scanners, then swinging stark naked through the trees, spitting on the surveillance scanners, becomes standard procedure, at least for him. Or his wife.' One of these days he might tell Forres the incident on which that was based.
'Now there's a thought.'
'Huh! Not one to dwell on, given your present rank.'
'One law for the rich, eh Major?' Forres said, having already discovered that long ago.
'There's no law for the rich, Forres,' Grenlee explained patiently, 'and even less for the rich, personal friends of the President.' Some of the things he and his mates had seen during their years here
Forres put his feet up on the console. 'They are only civilians, though.'
'Do you want to join them?' Grenlee asked and Forres put his feet down again. 'If you want to get on in this man's army, Forres, you've got to learn to distinguish between civilians who are and civilians who aren't.'
'Sir? Are and aren't what, sir?' Forres was wondering whether a posting to the Presidential palace, whatever prestige it had, was all it was cracked up to be.
'When you know that, Section Leader, you'll be ready for promotion.'
'I don't know that I'd want it promotion, I mean.'
Grenlee looked at his watch. Time for a routine check of the place.
'Some days are better than others, sir,' Forres said as they settled back to their banter. 'They say that where I come from, sir,' he added by way of explanation.
'Loudly, I imagine, on the day you left.'
'My mother cried when I left. Thought she'd never see me again.'
'Cries easily, your mother, does she?' Something else to talk about.
'No, not really sir. But I owed her money, you see.' He had kept within his accounts since. 'Oh, it's true, may I never leave this spot.' Another colloquialism from home - he might go back there when he next had leave.
'That can be arranged, Section Leader.'
Forres glared at the monitor - one of the security cameras was playing up.
'The teleport co-ordinates set?' Avon asked Vila on entering the teleport bay. He felt better now, clean and in his usual clothes, and the worst of his injuries seen to.
'All set.' Vila had told Avon he was doing it for the likes of himself, caught up within the Federation's prison system. Avon had accepted that.
'Need any help?' Tarrant asked. A formality.
'I'll manage,' Avon turned to Shrinker. 'On your feet.'
'No,' Shrinker knew it wouldn't do him any good, but decided to make the act of defiance anyway.
'I'm tired and I hurt. It would be easier to kill you here and now.' But he wanted to learn what he could in private. 'On your feet.' He indicated the teleport unit.
'Avon,' Vila said, and handed him the control box. He had made things like it before often enough.
'Concentrate,' Vila said. 'He's more dangerous than he looks.' So was Avon for that matter.
'Isn't everybody?' Avon replied.
'Listen, you've got him on his feet. Are you sure you can stay on yours?' Tarrant asked.
'I'm touched by your concern.' Avon was not just being sarcastic.
'My concern is that I don't find myself looking down the wrong end of your gun with him on the right end of it.' That had happened to him once or twice before he got to the Liberator.
'Don't worry. You won't. Put us down.'
They appeared in the cave Orac had found for what Avon had planned.
'Where are we?' Shrinker asked. It was cold and dark and damp.
'The bracelet,' Avon replied, and retrieved it.
'What, what is this place?'
'It's a cave. If you're thinking of running, don't. There's nowhere to go.'
For anything larger than a beetle or a mouse that was. 'The only way out is the way we came in.'
'You're, you're really going to do it, then? In cold blood?' One of the things he and his kind lived with - the vengeful prisoner or their relatives.
'Executions are always in cold blood.' Avon wanted this over with.
'Executions, I see, so that's it, is it?' He'd still end up dead, however it was defined. 'Execution? Justice?'
'You tell me,' Avon replied. Blake wanted to remove creatures things like this from the Federation. That Avon could agree with.
He used Vila's control box. The cave lit up - Vila was again as good as he claimed to be. The picture of Anna was as he had requested.
'Well,' Shrinker asked, 'who is she?'
Avon remembered back to his time with Anna - one of the happiest times of his life.
'Who are you?' Anna had asked him once, as he dressed for work, six months after their relationship had begun.
'Isn't it a bit late to ask that?'
'Why do I never know what you're thinking, Avon?'
'I could never say it,' Avon had said, truthfully. She would not understand his work for one thing. And he preferred things to be unsaid and open to interpretation. Still did. Made life more flexible and interesting.
'Not even to me?'
'Especially not to you,' Avon had replied. Anna had smiled in the way that had made him fall in love with her.
'I never saw her before in my life. I'm telling you the truth. I don't know who she is,' Shrinker said when Avon had obviously returned to the present.
'Anna Grant. Her name was Anna Grant.'
'It means nothing. You, you've got to believe me' Revenge he could understand - perhaps he could argue his way out even now.
'Oh, I do. It's been several years. You must have killed hundreds since you tortured her to death.'
'All right, yes,' Shrinker admitted. 'I've killed hundreds and remembered them all, all of them, every last whining traitor. And there wasn't one of them that died without telling me what I wanted to know. Not one.' He had had a job, and he had been thorough.
'Professional pride?' Nauseating, but Avon could understand it.
'If you like.'
'Not much, no,' Avon replied, using the ambiguity.
'I never saw your woman.' That had to be the relationship.
'You were looking for me. She knew where I was.' Who else had, he wondered.
'This man you're buying the exit visas from do you trust him?' Anna had asked.
'Trust him? Of course I don't trust him,' Avon had replied. No further than the money would go.
'Trust is only dangerous when you have to rely on it.'
'That's very profound, my love.'
'As long as I know I can't trust him, there's no problem.'
'Do you trust anyone? Do you trust me?' She was still, technically, married.
'Oh, yes, I'm afraid I do.'
Did he trust anyone now? His companions on the Liberator? Did he trust Blake to return with his vision?
'Why were we looking for you?' Shrinker asked, trying to remember about Avon.
'You hadn't joined up with Blake. Not then. Not here on Earth.'
'Id found my way around the security programmes in the banking computers. I was about to undermine confidence in the entire Federation credit system. Anna and I were going to be so rich that no one could touch us. And we were almost there.' He had done it partially for the fun of it, seeing what he could do.
'You were never even close,' Shrinker replied. To undermining the banking system that was. 'I remember you now: you're Kerr Avon, the great bank fraud.' Considering how much he had achieved, he did deserve the epitaph. If only he had been allowed to operate freely that was.
'That's what I just said.' Avon knew what he was good at.
'Bartolomew was running you.'
'Running me?' Avon was puzzled - but it would explain at least some of what had happened. What had he said to Blake when Vila had introduced them, that he had failed because he had relied on other people? There was some small satisfaction in knowing that he had not been totally wrong.
'Central Security - Bartolomew was their best agent. They were on to you from the start.' It was one way of finding the flaws in the system, letting someone like Avon manipulate it. 'But they were convinced that you were political, so Bartolomew stayed close and let you run. Anyone that you so much as looked at was marked for collection.' It had been realised fairly quickly that Avon was non-political, but it was difficult to backtrack - and it was not known what he would decide to do.
'You expect me to believe that?' It was all too plausible though.
'You, you dropped out of sight, after you killed the man who was supplying you with exit visas.' Had saved Security the work of doing it though. 'I'm right, aren't I?'
'I was shot. I was stupid enough to let him fire first.' But, Avon accepted he had been more innocent then. There was a ghostly memory of pain where he had been injured.
'Once Barolomew lost sight of you, all your contacts were pulled in.' And the most of them proved non-political with it.
'So. You remember her now.' Avon glanced at the picture - as if he did not remember the image without it.
'No! That's just the point! I never saw any of them! It was Bartolomew, he was in control. I didn't kill her.' While there was a chance of escape from this place Shrinker would attempt to play it. 'Bartolomew did.' He could understand Avon's desire for revenge - but he might be persuaded to go after Bartolomew instead.
'Well?' Grenlee asked. Just his luck that something would go wrong this close to the end of his shift, and so close to the state dinner. Endless hassle and no chance of overtime out of it.
'Everything's out in that section, sir,' Forres replied.
'Breakdown or sabotage? Well, what is it, Forres?' Let this young whippersnapper make use of the brains he claimed to possess.
'I'm not sure, sir.'
'Being sure is what you're paid for, Forres. Would you rather be back on foot patrol?'
'Breakdown. I'd say it was a breakdown, sir. All the equipment hasn't been fully tested yet.' The inherent animosity of theoretically inanimate equipment. 'Why sabotage a small section like that, anyway?'
Grenlee contacted one of the foot patrols. Forres was probably right. Equipment was installed on too tight a schedule, and the contractors cut all the corners they could, and the guards got the blame when things inevitably went wrong.
There was a commendably prompt reply. 'Guard Commander.'
'Major Grenlee here.'
'Get a squad out to section' Grenlee looked at Forres who gave him the fault location. 'We have a surveillance malfunction. I want to know why.'
Grenlee urged speed on the guard commander and turned back to Forres. 'Are all the others clear?'
'All functioning normally. It's just that one. Shall I seal the perimeter?' He had wanted to do a full alert for some time.
'Standard operating procedure, sir.'
Grenlee would give him standard procedure and all the paperwork to go with it if he wanted. It would resolve quite a few problems. 'I don't give a damn if it's Holy Writ. You don't seal the perimeter on the day the President's giving her first official reception at her new residence. Not unless you'd like to explain to her that the guests couldn't get through because we had a faulty microcircuit.' For one thing, Grenlee and all the other guards would have to find means of covering their backs first.
'There are worse things than foot patrol, sir,' Forres pointed out.
'Oh, there are indeed, Section Leader. And if we interfere with that reception, we'll get to know most of them - intimately.'
Servalan surveyed the formal banquet arrangement. She was going to enjoy herself tonight.
'Excellent. My other guests will be arriving in about four hours. I trust everything will be ready for them?' Servalan asked, not expecting an answer.
The guard smiled as if to indicate there would be no more than the usual minor adjustments - which, would, in fact, involve paying specific attention to the visitors' minor dislikes.
Servalan swept out of the banqueting hall, and saw a guard who reported directly to Councillor Chesku.
'My compliments to Councillor Chesku. Ask him to check the seating arrangements in the banqueting hall before our meeting.
The guard nodded, left to carry out the instructions and Servalan went to her office.
She contacted Security Section. The older guard, Major Grenlee responded. She might ask him to release the attractive young guard she had seen earlier for her personal guard.
'I take it surveillance and perimeter security have been fully briefed on the guests I'm expecting, Major.'
Grenlee confirmed that it was so, and there were no problems.
Grenlee was being economical with the truth: the guard squad had seemingly vanished. Of all the times for things to go wrong, this was the one which would cause the most problems, and so, logically everything that could go wrong would.
'Where the hell is that squad?' he asked rhetorically.
'We can't wait any longer. We must seal the perimeter. It's taking too long. Something has happened to that squad,' Forres said.
'All right.' Grenlee put out the alert. 'Status One alarm. Seal the perimeter.'
With an impeccable sense of timing the security patrol got in touch. 'Surveillance. Surveillance, do you read me?' He repeated the message.
'We read you.' Grenlee felt relieved, though the voice was distorted and unfamiliar. 'What happened?' He would enjoy bawling out the patrol as they fully deserved.
'You aren't going to believe this,' one of the guards said. He held up the very dead remains of a creature Grenlee decided was a squirrel. 'It was building a nest in the microwave transmitter.'
'That's why nothing got through to us,' Forres said with some triumph. 'I told you that was the weak point in the system.'
'All right, Forres.' Pompous little idiot. He turned back to the patrolling guard. Well done. You and your men can get back now.' They would be required for all the ceremonials.
'Right, sir, but, uh, with your permission, we'd like to make a quick sweep beyond the perimeter, now that we're here.'
'Oh, very well. Out.' Might as well make the best of the situation. The guard broke the link. 'Section Leader Forres?' Grenlee said icily.
'If you ever panic like that again, I'll see you are busted so far down you'll be saluting civilians.' Grenlee knew he was taking it out on Forres, but he would have to assert his authority.
'Sir.' Forres knew that Grenlee's bark was worse than his bite.
In fact, Forres was correct in his assessment of the situation.
Sula and her group had jammed the security camera and then overpowered the patrol. Sula had ordered the group to strip the patrol and take their uniforms. Balon had then taken on the role of contacting the central security unit.
Sula decided that the next phase of the take-over would begin in two hours, and while the others rested she could decide precisely what she would do.
'I've told you over and over and over again,' Shrinker said. 'Why won't you
believe me?' Avon was as persistent as any Federation interrogator.
'All right. Let us assume I do believe you.' Avon decided that if Shrinker knew any more he would have said so by now. Who is Bartolomew? Where do I find him?'
'What's in it for me?'
'A way out.'
'I don't trust you.'
'That's your problem.'
'Why should I trust you?'
'I'VE got the gun.'
''Bartolomew was just a code name.' Perhaps, thought Shrinker, they might be able to negotiate something.
'Yes?' The conversation might go somewhere interesting at last.
'Well, I'm not sure who he was.' Little more than a name associated with pieces of information.
'End of conversation,' Avon replied. As Vila said, the galaxy would be better without the likes of Shrinker.
'No, wait! Don't shoot! Bartolomew w-was Central Security's top agent.' That Shrinker did know.
'So you said.' A so-called blow for the rebellion to remove Bartolomew then.
'No one knew who he was. That's why no one was safe from him. He was free to hunt anyone in or out of the service. Bartolomew could be watching you, and, if he didn't like what he saw ' Perhaps, Shrinker thought, he was actually talking to Bartolomew. What better way to disguise yourself than to seem to be one of Bartolomew's victims
'Paranoia is the occupational hazard of the torturer,' Avon replied. Though it was normally justified.
'Bartolomew was real,' Shrinker said. At third or fourth hand were reports of people who had met Bartolomew.
'WAS real?' Was Avon too late in his hunt for Anna's killer?
'One of the first targets of the Rebellion was Central Security.' From what Avon had read of history that, and whichever place held the tax records were always prime targets of any rebellion. 'That was where they made their mistake. They were obsessed with revenge.' That Avon could understand. 'By the time they'd finished kicking the corpses, they, they'd lost their chance, and the, the President had regrouped her forces.' And, Shrinker had heard, she had been grateful to the rebels for removing various potential inconveniences.
'Are you telling me that Bartolomew was one of the corpses they were kicking?'
'Well, no! At least I don't think so. I mean, if I escaped, why shouldn't he?'
All manner of people had emerged since the Federation retook control.
'You're wasting my time, Shrinker. "Ifs" are no use to me, or to you either,' Avon replied - though he could understand the man's wish to live.
'No, wait, PLEASE! I've got a name'
'I had to question a controller from Central. When I was with the rebels' Changing sides had been the only way of surviving.
Avon laughed. What would Blake with all his lofty ideas make of that? 'So that's how you escaped. And when the rebels lost, you changed sides yet again. No one could accuse you of being doctrinaire could they?' Avon turned serious again. 'Why didn't the controller recognise you?' Avon vas all too familiar with double and multiple bluff.
'Why should he? The elite from Central didn't mix much with members of the interrogation division.'
'Their fastidiousness did them credit.' Avon knew all the doublespeak they used.
'Well, somebody's got to do the lousy jobs!' And Shrinker, despite all the promises given to him, had never been given an opportunity to move into Central.
'Life is cruel, isn't it? Spare me the rationalisations. Just give me the name.' Avon did not wish to be with Shrinker any longer than he had to. And he wanted to sleep and recover from the physical damage that had been done to him.
Well, it would not be the first time a jealous husband had used every means at his disposal to remove a wife's lover
'The controller told you that was who Bartolomew was?'
'Well, not exactly'
'Well, WHAT exactly?'
'Well, I, I, I'd finished questioning him - he, he was dying - and suddenly I got curious, so I hit him with one last order' Shrinker had been thinking of his own future. 'Identify Bartolomew. And HE said "Councillor Chesku is still" and then he died.' And Shrinker had been unable to discover more since.
'He's one of Servalan's closest advisors. She'd know the answer, I mean, why don't you ask her?'
Another reason for dealing with Servalan. 'I might just do that.' There was nothing more to be gained here. Avon activated the bracelet. 'Are you ready to bring me up?'
Vila replied. 'Ready when you are.'
'Stand by.' Just in case Shrinker had any last thing to say.
'Uh, we had a deal,' Shrinker began.
'Did we?' Avon fiddled with his weapon.
'A way out. You promised me'
'Oh, and I'm a man of my word.' Avon prided himself on that statement. 'In the end, that's all there is, really.' Vila had once asked Avon if he wanted it on his tombstone, should he have one, to which Avon had assented.
He tossed the gun to Shrinker.
'What's that for?' As if Shrinker didn't know.
'That's your way out. It's a better deal than you gave any of your victims.'
Avon gave the signal to be teleported up.
'No, we had a deal' Shrinker began, but Avon vanished. 'That isn't what I meant. That isn't fair. It isn't fair!
He would check just in case Avon had misinformed him about there being no exit from this place.
'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. The others had given Vila enough details for him to understand.
'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?'
'But,' Avon said as he drank, 'the rumours of my death'
' Have been greatly exaggerated,' Tarrant finished.
'Well, slightly exaggerated, anyway.' Avon turned wearily to leave. He could not resolve whether he would rather have done this and known, or not done it and remain in ignorance about Anna's true nature.
Note: this is where the episode as originally transmitted ends. The below dialogue was added by the author of this novelisation and indicates how she thinks the episode might have continued.
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 asked Avon later whether he would have rather not done what he did and not know, or done it and known.