Logo by L. Mundy Undercurrents
By James I. Ide
Chapter 1 Index Page Chapter 2, Page 2


Avon © 1999 Leslie Mundy

"Rumours of Death"

When the rest of the crew arrived on the flight deck Avon was at his usual station, expressionlessly scanning the telltales. He had already given Zen orders to take Liberator out of Sol system and he didn't look up. In silence, Tarrant, Cally, Dayna and Vila took their accustomed battle stations, alert for signs of pursuit.

But there was no sign of pursuit and after a while the watchful and uncustomary silence began making Vila nervous. "Well... well," he began, looking round at everyone, puzzled as to their quiet. "It must have been lovely to see Servalan again," he said to Avon, "did you find out about Bartolomew?"

Avon ignored the question and continued to scan the telltales intently.

The silence dragged on. "Well?" Vila asked again. "What happened down there?" Avon continued to ignore him and when Vila looked round at the others he saw that they were all watching Avon tensely.

After an uncomfortable moment, Tarrant looked away from Avon and said to Vila, "We were attending a coup."

"A coup? Servalan?"

"Yes. It was nearly successful, too-- "

"Let's dispense with the postmortem, shall we?" said Avon. "It really isn't important. Right now the Federation is on alert and we would do well to get out of their space as quickly as possible."

Tarrant and Avon gazed levelly at each other for a moment, then Tarrant said, "I don't think we have to worry seriously about pursuit. I think the Federation has other concerns than us now."

"You are undoubtedly right," said Avon mildly, "however, they'll be recalling the fleet and we'd better maintain battle stations until we're sure we won't run into them."

Tarrant nodded. "Another hour?"

Avon nodded. "Then we'll post watches."

In silence each resumed his duties. And, looking from one to the other, Vila wondered. There wasn't anything wrong, but the tension on the flight deck was almost palpable. Something important had happened on Earth, at the President's Residence, and he desperately wanted to know what, but strong as his curiosity was, it wasn't strong enough to make him try to break the silence again. Not while Avon was around.

* *  * * *

"He's gone," Vila said, coming back onto the flight deck after surreptitiously peering into the passageway to verify Avon's departure. "Now, will someone tell me what happened down there?" Vila pleaded. He was going to get the story from the others now or expire of curiosity.

"Yes, what did happen?" Tarrant asked, more of himself than of anyone in particular. "That's a good question."

"Did Avon find Bartolomew?" Vila asked, looking from one to the other, trying to get someone to start to explain something. "Has Anna Grant's death been avenged?" Vila looked at Cally. She had been the one who had persuaded them all to assist Avon with his mission of revenge; she was the one who had been most concerned about backing him up, about everyone sticking together. "And who or what kicked the stuffing out of Avon?" he asked her, but she was lost in her own thoughts.

Turning to Dayna he received a shrug and the comment, "It was over when I got there."

"Come on, Tarrant, what happened?" Vila asked again.

"If you're so interested what goes on you should volunteer for active duty, instead of hiding on board."

"Yeah? Well, who'd work the teleport then?"

"Oh, shut up, Vila," Dayna laughed. "Tell me, Tarrant. I was there, on active duty, and I'd like to know what made Avon look so sick myself. You were with him the whole time; you must have some idea."

"When we arrived on Earth," Tarrant began the narrative with a nod to Vila, "Servalan had already been overthrown by a coup-- "

"Overthrown by a coup," Vila nodded back. "That much I knew."

"Servalan was a prisoner in the Residence-- "

"A prisoner? Servalan a prisoner! Why didn't you-- "

"Vila, shut up and listen. This is confusing enough without the interruptions. We went looking for Servalan. That was the whole point of going down there, if you remember. She had the information about Bartolomew's identity. Anyway, we found her chained in the basement and Avon made a deal with her-- "

"A deal!" Dayna exclaimed. "He should have shot her while he had the chance!"

"I agree, but he didn't-- you know Avon; he wanted the information," Tarrant continued, exasperated by the interruptions, but just as eager to sort it all out as the rest of them. "She was to identify Bartolomew in exchange for her freedom-- "

"She did know who Bartolomew was, then," Vila said.

"Yes. She knew. But she didn't tell us."

"Then-- ?" Dayna prompted.

"That's when Anna Grant showed up. It seems she was leading the coup-- "

"Anna Grant!" Vila exclaimed. "I thought Anna Grant was dead!"

"So did Avon."

"Not dead," Dayna said, surprised.

"Evidently not. Corpses don't generally lead political coups, do they?"

"No, they don't. But leaders of political coups generally become corpses rather quickly. So," Dayna said, putting it together. "Anna Grant was the woman Cally and I heard addressing the troops in the banquet hall; the woman Cally followed-- "

"All right, all right," Vila cut in impatiently. "So, Anna Grant isn't dead-- "

"But Anna Grant is dead."

"But you just said-- who killed her? Servalan?"

"No. And it wasn't Bartolomew, either," Tarrant said, making a riddle of it just to tease Vila.

"Then who was it?" Dayna demanded, determined not to be caught up in a guessing game.

"It was Avon."

"Avon?" Dayna asked, puzzled as to the why of it, but not doubting the who.

"Avon killed Anna Grant!" Vila exclaimed, surprised again.


"Avon killed Anna Grant?" Vila asked again, trying to understand it.


"After all that fuss about avenging her death? But, why-- I thought-- I'm confused."

"You aren't the only one. And he killed Bartolomew, too," Tarrant said, riddling again, just because Vila was the only one who couldn't put the pieces together.

"But why, if Bartolomew didn't kill Anna Grant?" Vila objected, before the obvious answer occurred to him. "I suppose Avon just killed him on general principles."

"Not exactly. It seems, that unless Bartolomew committed suicide, he couldn't have killed Anna Grant."

"Suici-- ?"

"You see, Vila, Anna Grant was Bartolomew."

Vila was rendered speechless and silence prevailed on the flight deck as they all thought again about what had happened.

It had seemed simple a week ago. Avon had discovered the name of the man who had killed his Anna Grant, a man called Shrinker, Central Security's top interrogator. And seven days ago, with their help, he had made the preparations for his revenge on that man and set his plan in motion.

Then Avon had let himself be captured, and for five days he endured torture at the hands of Central Security just to lure Shrinker into his presence, into ambush. Not something one would undertake lightly.

And Shrinker had been captured and sentenced and the sentence carried out. By Avon. Shrinker wouldn't be dead a while yet-- the underground cavern was furnished with icons of Anna Grant, but there was no food or water and it was accessible only by teleport and that meant that unless Avon had left him another way out...

Either way, it was a hard death. And it took someone hard to sentence a man, even a man like Shrinker, to that kind of death-- someone especially hard, when one considered that Shrinker hadn't killed Anna Grant after all.

But someone named Bartolomew had, and, since only Servalan knew who Bartolomew was, they had gone to Earth.

Throughout, Avon never had said who Anna Grant was, never said much at all, but she must have been important to him, for him to go to so much trouble to avenge her death. And after all of that, how could he have killed her? It didn't make sense. Not to any of them.

"But, why did he kill her?" Vila finally asked aloud.

"Well-- " Tarrant began, but Cally cut him off.

"He killed Bartolomew," she said, decisively, joining the discussion for the first time. "And Bartolomew tried to kill him first, remember."

"That's true," Tarrant admitted. "She was going to kill him."

"That's a normal enough reaction, I'd say. And enough reason for Avon to kill anyone," Vila remarked, satisfied by the simple explanation.

"But, she said she loved him..." Cally mused, ignoring Vila.

"Loved Avon? She must have been out of her mind-- and I'd be surprised if she wasn't feeling suicidal."

"Oh, be quiet, Vila," Cally said. "You don't know anything about it. Tarrant, you were there with him the whole time. Who was Anna Grant?"

"I have no idea. Anna Grant or Bartolomew. Central Security's top agent, Chesku's wife, Servalan's overthrower, Avon's lover. Take your pick."

"But, what was she to him I wonder. Did he ever say?"

"Never. But... she must have been involved with Avon's fraud scheme. They were going to go away together and he got shot and caught."

"She said she had let him go," Cally said. "I heard her say she had let him go."

"Yes, and if that's the case, she must have been in a position of power," Tarrant observed. "A Central Security agent would be in that position, but there's no reason Central Security would get involved in a bank fraud scheme."

"Not unless it was political. Or unless they thought Avon was political."

"Kerr Avon, The Great Bank Fraud, political?"

"What do we really know about him? Maybe he was political and they wanted him out of the way, set him up."

"You have to give a damn about something other than yourself to be political," Tarrant said. "Avon's about as political as my left boot. In fact, I think the only reason he's stayed-- "

"He could have left Blake or taken over this ship any time he chose and you know it," she admonished. "No, I think he does give a damn. He gave a damn about Anna Grant. His loyalty to her was real. His pain was real. You heard him."

"I heard him say he felt like a fool. I think that's all he gives a damn about, being made a fool of. That's probably what all this revenge was about."

"Tarrant, you don't honestly believe that! Avon loved Anna Grant. I could feel it," she said, as if that clinched it.

"He has a funny way of showing it-- "

"You saw; you heard," Cally said, warming to the defense. "Do you honestly think he didn't?"

"I suppose he could have loved her," he admitted, reluctantly, "but..."

"But, what? But he keeps to himself? But he's so cold and so detached?" Cally glared at Tarrant, knowing that his dislike for Avon clouded his judgement. "But he killed her?"

"Well, yes."

"She tried to kill him, too. And she said she loved him. Said it as she was dying. Why would she lie then?"


"I don't think so," she replied slowly, giving that motive due consideration. "Maybe she did love cold, detached, unlovable Avon. Who are we to say? Maybe, once, he was lovable."

Tarrant couldn't believe that, but Cally was hard to argue with. "They were two of a kind, anyway," he said. "'I love you:' bang, you're dead!"

"Life isn't all blacks and whites, Tarrant. Maybe you'll find that out if you live long enough." No matter what the others thought, Cally had felt Avon's pain.

And much as Tarrant disliked Avon, he had to admit Cally had given him a different perspective.

* *  * * *

Cally screwed her courage to the sticking point as she approached Avon's cabin. She wasn't afraid of him, not exactly, even when he was at his worst, but he could be difficult. The things to remember in dealing with Avon were: don't back down and don't let him bluff.

She had brought along a carafe of her fortified juice. After all, someone had to do something. Avon had been standing his watches, but she was willing to bet from the look of him that he hadn't slept or eaten since they had teleported up from Earth-- and probably not for days before that, thanks to Central Security's interrogators. By now the reaction would have set in.

Shock, stress, whatever one called it, Cally knew all about it. If Avon would ever need a friend to talk to, he would need that friend now.

Knocking lightly she called, "Avon, may I come in?" There was no answer, but she knew he was there. She had timed her visit so that she'd arrive just after he came off watch-- practically followed him from the flight deck. Avon was a very private person and she knew he wouldn't appreciate an audience to any exhibition of concern.

"Avon, open the door. I have something for you."

No response.

"Avon," she called again, "if you don't open the door, I'll get Vila to open it."

"And I'll shoot the first one of you I see!"

"Then I'll be sure to stand behind him! Now open the door." She leaned against the bulkhead waiting. "I won't go away, you know." After a moment, the door opened and Avon was glaring at her, one hand on each side of the door jamb blocking her out.

"What is it?"

"If looks could kill-- !" She quickly ducked under his left arm and was in his cabin. "I knew caring for you would be dangerous."

Avon turned on her angrily. "Who asked you to?"

She grinned. "Someone has to. You look like hell."

"Thank you."

"Really. You do. You're completely exhausted."

"You needn't worry. A little rest and I'll be fine." He was on his dignity now, but he wasn't throwing her out bodily. That was promising, anyway.

"How much rest have you got so far?"

"I'm fine."

"Liar. Here," she said exhibiting the carafe, "I've brought you a present. Mother Orac's Magic Elixir: Sovereign Remedy for Whatever Ails You." She put the carafe on his desk.

Avon let the door slide shut and, pulling the chair a little away from the desk, he sat down, resignedly trying not to think or feel, hoping that Cally would go away and leave him in peace-- and suddenly realized that that was the last thing he wanted. There wasn't any peace to be had and at least Cally was some distraction. But he was tired and he closed his eyes, just for a moment.

Cally, leaning against the desk in front of him, was observing closely. He hadn't slept in days she decided-- and he was very troubled in mind: she didn't need telepathy to sense that. Without thinking, meaning only to comfort, she stretched out her right hand to stroke his head and--

Her mind flooded with images. But before she could even think of trying to comprehend them Avon grabbed her wrist violently and shouted, "Keep out of my mind!"

Mustering her calmness she met his gaze and said quietly, "I'm not a mind reader; just a friend. If you ever do want me to know what's bothering you, you'll have to tell me." He didn't move, didn't even let go; she felt he was considering. Then he loosed his grip on her wrist and slid his hand down into hers, just holding it. He wasn't looking at anything in particular and his expression was infinitely weary.

She held his hand for a few moments, watching him, then, giving his hand a squeeze, she let go and reached around to the carafe. Taking the glass from the top, she poured some of the elixir. "Drink," she said offering it to him. After a moment he took it. Cally waited patiently while he contemplated the liquid and then listlessly began to drink.

Avon certainly had put himself into a state. How in hell did he think he could maintain any perspective that way? She settled herself more comfortably on the desk, patiently, quietly, waiting; attending to the business of being a friend.

"You've had a busy week," she ventured, pouring a bit more of the elixir into his glass.

"Oh, yes," was the only reply.

"Hurts like hell?"

"Hurts like hell."

"Mmmm..." Well, no sense hanging back now, she told herself. "Who was Anna Grant, Avon?"

"My sister."

That was a surprise. Avon had not sounded or acted like Anna's brother. Cally waited.

"My mother was married to Pi Grant and he adopted all of us. Anna and Del were brother and sister; their father was a friend of Pi's... I was only five or so, when..." Avon looked at Cally and the pain and confusion on his face was almost frightening. "I've known Anna nearly all my life and now I don't know who she was at all."

"But you loved her-- were lovers?"

"Yes..." He looked down into his drink, swirling the liquid in the glass.

"Did she love you?"

"She said so; I thought so-- but then I also thought she was dead." His voice sounded detached now, as if he was talking about a stranger.

"She tried to kill you, Avon. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes. And that I killed her. Twice."

Cally knew that sorting out emotions wasn't easy, but-- leave it to Avon to have more complex problems than most. She should have guessed his story wouldn't be dull or ordinary. "Twice? That's a good trick. Are you sure?"


"Did she try to kill you twice, too?"

Avon looked up at her, an arrested expression on his face. "I don't know," he said thoughtfully.

"Well... how did you kill her the first time?"

Avon laughed a small, bitter laugh. "Stupidity. I trusted someone I shouldn't have." He tossed down the last swallow in the glass.

Cally poured more of the elixir for Avon and watched him as he played with it. Well, she thought, that explains why he has such a difficult time trusting anyone-- including himself. Again, she waited, hoping for the rest of the answer.

"We were going to escape the Federation... the Federation's control over people is insidious: you think you know where you stand, think you're in control, then you find out you've been so subtly manipulated, you don't even know which thoughts are your own. You learn to trust no one..." Avon paused to drink, his thoughts far away in the memories. "...and you find you can't even trust yourself."

Cally held her breath wondering whether he'd go on. She was surprised he was so talkative, and she thought he might have forgotten she was listening when he looked up at her.

"They used us both, all our lives-- destroyed our family. We needed to escape-- Anna needed to escape or be destroyed-- " Avon became aware of the emotion creeping into his voice and he looked away, paused to regain his detachment before he continued.

"I was recruited as a member of the Seventh Family-- they control the entire Federation banking industry. Naturally, the man who recruited me had an ulterior motive: he wanted my computer expertise to help him with his schemes against the Family, and, in return he would help us...

"It was Anna who trusted him with our secret... Anna." The detachment wavered again, but he went on. "Anna took him into our confidence, but I went along with it..."

Avon stopped. That was the most painful part. The stupidity he couldn't forgive himself for.

Cally had heard the self-pity clearly. She gave him only a moment before she asked, "And then what happened?"

It was the matter-of-fact tone of her question that allowed him to continue. "He helped us devise the plan whereby we could obtain the money needed to buy our escape. He provided the access, and I developed the plan, put the plan into operation.

"It worked beautifully: the money was there, all we'd ever need: five hundred million credits. All we had to do was get off Earth." Avon paused again, took another drink.

"He betrayed us. He told me Anna was dead and I killed him. And then I was arrested, tried, and convicted. Kerr Avon, The Great Bank Fraud."

"I see." Cally poured more of the elixir while she thought. "And now you know that Anna wasn't dead, that she was Bartolomew, and you're wondering whether she's the one who set you up."

"The thought crossed my mind."

"People's characters don't change. You said you've known Anna since you were five years old, surely you would know if she were the sort-- "

"Drugs can change characters," Avon said, cutting her short, his look challenging her to refute his statement.

"Drugs can change characters," she acceded, saddened by the thought. "How long?"


"Not of her own volition?"

"Of the Federation's... of the Families'... she was so young, still a child. I didn't find out until-- she never had a chance."

"Then she was not responsible."

"But she was Bartolomew, Cally," he said, looking at her, his expression pleading for rational answers to all the unspoken questions. "Bartolomew. And she tried to kill me."

Cally wished she had some answers, but there was no way to put all the pieces together into a clear picture now that Anna was dead; Avon was going to have to live with that. All she could hope to do now was find a way to lessen the pain.

"But she didn't," she said. "Twice." She watched him for reaction as she continued, "You know, Avon, it was Bartolomew that you killed the other day. Anna Grant died a long time ago and it was none of your doing. Oh, you might have saved her, if you had found out in time, if you could have gotten her away, but-- "

"That's a lot of ifs," he finished for her.

"And you've got to ask yourself why Anna didn't tell you about the drugs. She may have had good reason to think you couldn't have done anything-- may not have wanted you to-- may have thought that she could save you or protect you by not telling you... but it's no good wondering about that." Avon was staring into his empty glass and Cally couldn't think of anything else to say except, "Remember the Anna that you loved; remember her the way you loved her. And forgive her."

Cally watched him for a few moments more. He was completely exhausted and needed sleep and there wasn't anything else to be said for now. To continue would only lead to wallowing in self-pity-- and the hurt was going to be a long time healing unless Avon's natural bent for pragmatism asserted itself--

"And you should forgive yourself, too," she said seriously. "You tidily disposed of Central Security's most notorious interrogator and rescued the President of Earth from a political coup. Then you were so obliging as to execute the leader of the coup for her-- and dispose of Central Security's renegade agent into the bargain."

Avon was looking at her now.

"Do you realize, that if the President were anyone but Servalan, we'd all be free today, having been pardoned for performing a signal service to the Federation?"

And, for just a split second, Avon forgot that Anna was the renegade agent and he laughed.

With a relieved grin Cally said, "Go to sleep." Then, picking up the empty carafe and heading for the door, she said, "I'll leave some more of this in the galley for you." And she was gone.

As he settled himself on his bunk Avon found himself chuckling again at the mental picture Cally had left him with-- he couldn't help it, it sounded exactly like something Blake would have done.

Who'd have thought Cally understood irony so well?

For the first time in days, Avon slept.

* * * * *

Chapter 1 Index Chapter 2, Page 2

Please report problems and link errors to: newmoon@tp.net Thanks!