By Alan Stevens and David Tulley
A prequel to "The Logic of Empire" set in the Blake's 7 universe.
WARNING: Mature content and disturbing themes.
"Utiliser to Scorpion. Zarana. The seventh. One subject..."
The sight cross-hairs bisected her elegant forehead. The glint of window glass was of no concern. It would ignore any such barrier and the shot would go clean and true.
As he squeezed the trigger he noticed a slight fluidity to Servalan's image, like a stone underwater, hazing at the edges. The rifle keened, the window shattered, and the room beyond was thrown into darkness.
Elise Kapsanis loved him, but she didn't know why. They lay together and his hand traced the long smooth run of her thigh. She loved the feel of his touch; she reached over and ran her fingertips over his shoulder and down across his chest.
"Why do you have so many scars?" she asked.
They map out a long life," he murmured, half-asleep and resting against her. She smiled in the dark and held him, aware of so many contradictions, not just in herself. In most men, evasiveness was a bore, but somehow with him it was different.
She found another scar, snaking over his heart.
"This one looks fatal."
She slapped his arm, not urgently. "Don't joke with me. I'm being serious."
"So am I."
She cursed suddenly in the old tongue; that which coloured her speech when she was angry, or when they made love.
"There! Again! Why don't you answer any of my questions?"
"Maybe I'm shy."
"Beast! You don't take me seriously." Elise turned her back on him, held the pillow like muffs about her ears, waited.
She smiled to herself as his fingers curled about her shoulders, gently pulling her back to him. They kissed and she said suddenly; "Let me see your hand."
"To prove you're not dead. I shall read your palm."
"It's a talent, passed down from my grandmother to my mother and so to me." She touched a wall pad and discreet lights blushed on.
Smiling indulgently, he opened his palm towards her.
"Now, we see," she said, leaning forward so her long hair brushed his arm. Inside the veil, he felt small fingers touching him.
"What does it say?"
"Don't rush me. I'm remembering."
He felt a line traced. "Now this is the heart line."
"And that represents?"
"And what does my heartline tell you?"
"That you have a badly broken heart, my love. Never mind, I shall mend it for you." Pause. New line trace.
"This is very strange."
"What about it?"
"Well, it just stops. And then it starts again."
Now on the ledge, overlooking the artificial valley between the two city blocks. Prism glass in the window, very old trick - and he could still feel the beat of her black heart. Then came the wail of sirens, like the baying of some great animal. Huge eyes opened with a searching luminous glare -
The morning light was in his eyes. He stretched and examined the clock. "I'll have to go soon."
She had been watching him, smiling, but at his words all the life in her seemed to drain and she flopped, wasted, on the bed.
"No," she said. "Please..."
"I'm sorry." He sat up abruptly and the sunlight that had caressed his face now brought the plasma burn into sharp relief. She thought that he had never looked so cold. His voice flat and mechanical.
"I have business elsewhere in the city. There are things I have to do."
She looked at him wearily. "You have death in your face, Avon. Sometimes you carry it like...
She turned her back.
"It is a cold thing, to be in your world."
"You're not a part of that world - and I want to keep it that way."
"I know what it is anyway..."
Avon paused on the edge of the room. "Really?"
"No, not really. But it's to do with your past. Why can't you leave go of it, for good."
The rush of the shower was her only reply. She sat back down on the crumpled bed and brushed the hair from her eyes. She could never tell him, but there was another factor in the equation now; Lydon. He wouldn't desert her, he had offered to take her with him. He was like a piece of Avon's world, made flesh in a dark jester. But in the end he wasn't Avon.
Elise looked up unhappily as he came back into the room, dressed and ready to go.
"Will I see you again tonight?"
"I doubt it."
And her face fell and broke to pieces.
Avon sat and held the delicate angle of her jaw in his hand.
"But I will see you again soon. I give you my word."
He kissed her, but she did not respond.
For a while she stayed sitting, there on the bed, staring down the short hallway that lead to the closed door. Then she made to get up, to put on her face and leave, but as she did so a wave of tiredness overwhelmed her and instead she settled back and fell asleep.
He followed the escape-route. Rendezvous. In the darkness at the edge of town, a figure. Avon knew the first rule of political murder - kill the assassins. The man raised a hand in greeting. Avon shot him, low and brutal. A cursory search of the writhing body told him what he already knew; Terra Nostra.
"Give me the man who sent you?"
Avon put pressure on the wound. The man gasped, the skin round his eyes tightening and whitening.
"If you don't, I'll kill you. Your only chance now is that I get to him, before he gets to you. The choice is yours."
"How do I know you won't kill me anyway?"
Avon smiled. "You don't."
Elise slept for a long time. When she awoke she saw that the shadows were lengthening. As she slipped on a dressing gown and headed for the kitchen, fragments of a dream came back to her. It was all very confused, but she recalled the sensation of height and rain and Avon and Lydon talking, but she could not remember what they had said.
There was a knock on the door. She wasn't expecting anyone today. She was new to this city and had few friends.
It came again. She felt a sudden thrill. Perhaps he had come back to her after all.
Elise hurried out of the kitchen and along the hallway. Reaching the door she deactivated the lock and threw it open -
Glass crunched underfoot, and light sprang into the room.
"Hello Del. It's been a long time." Avon inclined the gun and Grant placed his hands flat on the tabletop.
"I heard you were dead."
Avon responded with a laconic smile, "Wishful thinking perhaps."
The broken picture frame lay on the desk. Grant moved his fingers slowly, and out of the crumpled paper grew the summer's day. Girl and a boy, smiling, holding hands, captured in a crystalline moment.
On the stairway above the landing, the slightly-built man with the puckish face watched as the Federation soldiers pushed Elise back into her little flat. Then he made his way down the stairs and loitered by the closed door.
Muffled sounds came from within.
Lydon ran a hand through his red spiky hair and smiled the coldest of smiles.