THE LEGACY CONTINUES
(A Blake’s 7 Fan Story)
He paced the tiny cell searching for a solution, planning an escape, as if one were possible. The room measured five strides by four. He’s counted the cramped space more times than he cared to remember. It’s dim, with only a single recessed bulb overhead, too high to reach even if he could move the bed to the centre of the room – which he can’t because it’s riveted securely to the dull gray wall.
He listened to the low hum of an engine and felt the slight vibration through the steel floor. He assumed he’s on board a large craft, probably a Federation ship. The last thing he remembered was the underground base on Gauda Prime where Blake had brought him. He regreted not trusting the one man who could have helped them.
Their archenemy, Servalan, had baited the trap well. She had made them all believe that Blake, the once-great leader of the rebellion, had turned traitor. Every time he closes his eyes, the laser blasts of the ambush bore into his memory. He may be the only one left alive in the clutches of the Federation and there’s not a damned thing he can do about it.
A faint scratching outside his door interrupted his musings and he noticed the corner of a slip of paper sliding under the door. He glanced at the surveillance camera in the corner, nonchalantly sauntering towards the exit. When the monitor panned away, he quickly snatched up the note and read it hungrily, relieved he finally had something to do:
You probably don’t remember me, but we were in flight training together. I’m sorry things have come to this. I admired your courage when you left the fleet. I wish I could have been as strong as you were, then. When I could no longer stomach the tactics the Federation was using, I staged a carefully planned crash to use as an excuse so that I would not have to fly any more missions for them. In my spare time, I keep close watch over you and your friends.
Yes, they are safely aboard, in similar cells. We’re heading back to Earth, where the five of you will await trial. The man called Blake is in critical condition in the infirmary. The best physician available is caring for him, but it’s still unknown whether he will live or die.
I have been trying to figure out a way to assist you. There are others on board who have also expressed their disgruntlement with Federation policies and may be willing to help, too. Try to keep your spirits up, although I know it must be difficult.
Tarrant tries to remember the author’s face, vaguely recalling a petite young woman with shoulder-length, mousy brown hair and hazel eyes. She was no great beauty, but she was pleasant to look at and she was an exceptional pilot. It seemed a shame that she was now unable to fly around the galaxy.
“And destroying rebel ships,” Tarrant reminded himself. “She chose menial duty to avoid the senseless killing.”
It was a relief to think he now had an ally on the outside of these four gray walls. He would not give up hope. Tarrant had confidence that Sarah would come up with a way to get him and his friends out of here.
Off duty now, Sarah peeked into the infirmary window. Blake was there, tubes and wires sticking out all over of him. To Sarah, he looked like some helpless puppet on a string, not at all like the famous rebel leader she’d heard so much about. At the click of boots approaching, she turned away, casually sauntering down the corridor. As the footsteps caught up with her, she pretended not to notice. Sarah’s heart nearly stopped when someone gripped her arm, but she stood tall and pulled away without glancing at the Trooper.
“Wait!” the man whispered.
Sarah glanced into the sharp features of Lieutenant Berens, long-time friend and co-conspirator.
“Jon, you scared me half to death!” Sarah said through her teeth. After nodding to another Trooper that passed them, she whispered, “Why are you here?”
“I figured you’d be checking up on him.” Jon replied, nodding towards the infirmary door. “How is he?”
“Unchanged, although I only had a moment to peek in.”
“Why do we have to include him?”
“He’s their friend,” Sarah responded. “They won’t leave him behind.”
“They may not have a choice, if he can’t be moved.”
“Commissioner Sleer will use him to lure them back. His friends know that. That’s why Blake must come with us.”
“Courage,” Sarah told herself, trying to steady her shaking hands.
They had gone over the plan hundreds of times within the past four days. They had to act now, before they landed on Earth. Jon was in place, as were Eric and Flanders. Sarah glanced at her watch.
Just a few more minutes.
Approaching the receptionist, Sarah spoke with him briefly, before being allowed to enter. She eyed the two officers standing guard inside the door. The woman behind the desk rose to greet her.
Commissioner Sleer was an imposing figure, dressed in black, probably to match her short-cropped hair and eyes. Those eyes! Cold, hard and full of suspicion.
Sarah swallowed hard, knowing that she had to be convincing. She also knew that she could never reveal her knowledge about Sleer’s true identity; that the Commissioner was really the woman known as Servalan, who had assumed the position of President of the Terran Federation for a brief time during the intergalactic war. Most thought she was dead. The few who had learned this secret did not live to tell the tale.
“Commissioner, I request permission to speak to you in private,” Sarah said.
“It better be important. I am very busy,”
“Yes, ma’am, I know, but I have some information that you should know.” Sarah glanced at the two guards, suspiciously. “Information for your ears only.”
Servalan checked her monitor containing Sarah’s service record, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Since a flight accident almost a year ago, Sarah had not flown another mission. The little coward is probably here to inform on someone, Servalan sneered to herself. Deciding that the nervous young woman standing in front of her was harmless, Servalan dismissed her guards with a nod.
“So,” Servalan said out loud, “What information could be so important that you felt the need to interrupt my busy schedule?”
“I’ve overheard some of the men plotting a mutiny,” Sarah began, twisting her hands in feigned distress. “It seems they’ve secretly admired our prisoners and wish them freed to carry out their traitorous activities.”
“Is that so?” Servalan grinned, enormously pleased to think her assumptions had been correct. “Please continue. Do you have their names?”
The woman shifted uneasily, looking over her shoulder at the door, as if expecting reprisals from her fellow officers. When Sarah finally turned back, Servalan found herself staring down the barrel of a laser pistol.
“As a matter of fact, I do have their names. DON’T!” Sarah warned, as Servalan’s hand inched towards the alarm button under the desk. “I don’t think it would be any great loss if I were to blow you away right now, so don’t do anything to provoke me. Step away from the desk and sit in the chair, here.”
Servalan moved slowly, deliberately, showing no fear. “Well, the little coward has backbone, after all. I am impressed. Who put you up to this?”
Sarah did not answer, concentrating on her prisoner’s movements. She had been warned of the Commissioner’s treachery and was taking all necessary precautions. Removing a roll of heavy tape from inside her uniform jacket, Sarah found the end with her teeth and pulled off a strip.
Servalan eased into the chair, leaning back comfortably, as though to converse with an old friend.
With one hand, Sarah stuck the end of the tape to the back of the chair, without taking her eyes off of Servalan, without lowering her weapon. She quickly wrapped the tape around her hostage, binding Servalan’s arms to her body, her body to the chair. Sarah considered sealing her mouth shut as well, but thought better of it, in case someone needed to speak to the Commissioner. Sarah didn’t want any alarms raised just yet.
When she was done, Sarah exhaled slowly, feeling she could now relax, but only slightly. She stepped around to the opposite side of the desk to check on the progress of her friends. Watching the monitors closely, Sarah surveyed their locations and those of the Troops.
Jon and Eric quickly took over the bridge and communication centres, easily disabling their unsuspecting crewmates. Leaving Eric in control of the ship, Jon joined Flanders outside the prison quarters.
A single sentry sat with his feet up on a small desk. He quickly sat upright as Jon and Flanders approached casually, as though they were just stopping by to chat.
Flanders leaned against the wall beside the desk and, although he knew it was forbidden, lit a cigarette, cupping his hand around the flame. He inhaled deeply. Bending towards the sentry, Flanders slowly blew the smoke into the man’s face.
The guard blinked, his eyes burning. An instant later, Jon’s rifle pointed at his chest and he was staring into Jon’s steel blue eyes, silently warning him to keep still. The guard watched fearfully as Jon reached up and punched in the security code to open the main cell door.
Jon grabbed the guard’s collar, pulling him to his feet and forcing him ahead. Flanders settled into the empty sentry chair, while Jon followed the guard along the corridor to a row of individual cells. The other two guards were caught by surprise as Jon shoved the sentry towards them.
“Drop your weapons and open the cells,” Jon ordered. “NOW!”
They hesitated for a moment, staring in disbelief, until Jon aimed his gun at them. Their rifles and handguns clattered to the floor. One of the men slowly reached up to unlatch the doors.
Tarrant rushed out first. Jon tossed him a weapon, saying, “Take some to your friends.”
“Where’s Sarah?” Tarrant asked.
“She’s taking care of the big fish,” Jon said with a grin. “I’ll take you there in a moment.”
There was a brief, but joyful reunion as Dayna, Soolin, Vila and Avon emerged from their cells and greeted Tarrant.
“No time for pleasantries,” Jon said. “Tarrant, put the guards in this cell. I’ll take you to the other one.”
“The other one?” Avon asked.
“Blake’s here, too,” Tarrant informed him. “An old class-mate told me. He’s not dead. At least, not yet.”
“Where is he?” Avon demanded.
“This way,” Jon said. “Hurry!”
He led them back past Flanders, who would ensure the guards were kept quietly secure. Jon brought Blake’s crew to a small room filled with canvass bags and uniforms hanging on racks. The former prisoners donned the uniforms quickly.
Next, they headed for the infirmary. Jon slipped his weapon into his shirt and went in first. Stepping up to the doctor, Jon whispered in his ear, then whipped out his gun. The doctor paled and called over the nurses.
Jon forced all but the doctor into another room, destroyed the inter-ship com board, and locked the medical team inside. When he was done, Jon turned to see Avon and Vila standing over Blake’s almost lifeless body. Vila’s eyes glistened with tears as he turned to glare at Avon.
Avon said nothing, his expression impossible to read.
“What happens now?” Tarrant asked.
“Vila and the women are to bring Blake and the doctor to the Commissioner’s shuttle. Sarah wants you and Avon to meet her in Sleer’s office.”
At the sound of their nemesis’ pseudonym, they turned and stared at him.
“Servalan is on board?” Avon asked, his face inscrutable.
Jon nodded. “Very few aboard know her as that. Those of us who do are careful not to reveal that knowledge, as they tend to disappear. Sarah was supposed to be taking care of her. She also has that strange computer box of yours. We’d better hurry.”
Jon ordered the doctor to complete the necessary arrangements to mobilize Blake.
“You can’t move him now,” the doctor insisted. “His condition is too critical.”
“It’s now, or never,” Jon told him, glancing at the others. “Do we risk it, or leave him here?”
“He can’t stay in Federation hands. They’ll use him against us,” Tarrant stated.
“That’s what Sarah thought you’d say,” Jon sighed. “Well, doctor. You have your answer. Get him ready to transport.”
Finally, they were able to leave the infirmary. They took a circuitous route to the docking bay, to avoid any interference. Once there, they hid Vila with the doctor and Blake in a storeroom nearby, while the others attempted to secure the area.
Jon burst into the bay flanked by Tarrant and Avon, all with weapons ready. When Dayna and Soolin fell in behind, all personnel stopped their activity in surprise. Two of the Troopers reached for their weapons. Jon fired once into the air.
“Throw down your weapons and drop to the floor!” he ordered.
The Troopers, mechanics and pilots immediately lay prostrate on the ground. Dayna called Vila out of hiding. With the doctor’s help, Vila wheeled Blake into the awaiting shuttle. Dayna and Soolin approached Avon near the craft.
“Make sure this bucket of bolts is ready to move as soon as we return,” Avon told them. “I want to be out of here at a moment’s notice.”
Sarah glanced nervously at her watch. “What’s keeping them?” she wondered to herself.
Servalan watched Sarah’s actions, amused.
“Well, my dear. What’s next on the agenda? Or are you planning to stay locked up in my office until my guards get suspicious and break in to blow your head off? You know, if you let me go right now, I can assure you, there will be no repercussions. I give you my word.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard how much one can rely on your word!” Sarah sneered.
“Then, may I ask why you are ruining your career with the Federation to run with these rebels?”
“Because I’m sick and tired of the pain and suffering the Federation has inflicted on others. Your so-called ‘protection’ is a load of crap!”
“But, my dear, our methods are the only way we know how to insure law and order.”
“Your laws, your order. Enslaving people, drugging them so they have no minds of their own? What kind of laws would allow that?”
“The drug rehabilitates criminals.”
“I don’t buy that. I’ve seen whole planets under the influence of the drug. You can’t tell me they were all criminals.”
“They were not part of the Federation, therefore they are a threat to the unity of the galaxy. We are trying to prevent another intergalactic war.”
“I can’t be brainwashed by that garbage any longer. The Federation has become like the Nazis of ancient Earth. Anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype is wiped out. I don’t agree with that kind of backward thinking, so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.”
“You’ll never get away with this, you know.”
“We’ll see. Blake’s people managed to elude you for quite some time. With any luck, we’ll buy enough time to continue the fight against you. Once enough rebels join our cause, we will defeat you.”
Laser blasts erupted outside the door, then screams. Sarah’s heart skipped a beat.
A voice came through the intercom. “Sarah? It’s Tarrant.”
Sarah released the door, which slid aside so the men could enter. She smiled at Tarrant, then at the man in black behind him. One member of the team was conspicuously missing.
“Where’s Jon?” Sarah asked.
Tarrant looked back through the open door. Sarah followed his gaze and saw the two guards, the receptionist and Jon – a jumble of bodies on the floor. She choked on a sob, but had little time to mourn. Tarrant grabbed her hand.
“We’d better hurry before reinforcements show up,” he said.
Avon released Servalan from the chair and the two stood, staring at each other. Sarah could not tell by their faces whether they were glad to see each other or wanted to rip each other’s hearts out.
“Where’s Orac?” Avon demanded.
Servalan assumed a cool, haughty expression, but remained silent. Sarah went to a cabinet along one wall and attempted to open the doors. They wouldn’t budge, so she blasted them open with her gun. The doors swung open to reveal a large steel suitcase.
Avon was at her side in an instant, opening the lid of the case. Inside was a clear crystal box displaying its guts of wires and circuits. Avon found a square peg tucked down the side of the suitcase and slipped it into the slot on top. Small lights flashed within the box as the unusual computer whined into service. Satisfied, Avon remover the square key and closed the case.
“Let’s go,” he said, gripping the bulky case and stepping out of the office.
Tarrant threw Avon a mild glare, but did not comment as he shoved Servalan ahead of him, pointing his weapon at her back. Sarah slipped past Tarrant and paused beside Avon, listening to the clatter of footsteps in the left corridor. Servalan opened her mouth to cry out, but Tarrant poked her with the muzzle of his rifle.
“One sound and you’re dead,” he warned her. “And nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
“This way!” Sarah whispered, as she headed away from the approaching Troopers.
Part way down the corridor, Sarah stopped and looked up. Above them was an air vent.
“Boost me up,” she said.
Avon set Orac on the floor and took Tarrant’s weapon, keeping it trained at their hostage. Tarrant crouched down, so Sarah could climb onto his shoulders. He stood carefully, until she could reach the ceiling, forcing the metal grate up and out of the way. Sarah crawled inside, unraveling the coil of rope she had planted there, checking that it was tied securely before letting it dangle down.
Avon prodded Servalan. Forcing her up the rope, he followed close behind. Tarrant passed Orac up to Avon and climbed quickly, pulling up the rope after him. Sarah slid the vent cover back into place, just as Troopers rushed below. Avon wrapped his arm around Servalan’s neck, prepared to silently strangle her should she attempt to alert them.
When all was quiet, Sarah led them through the maze of ducts to the corridor near the docking bay. Peering through the slats, she surveyed the swarm of men who had arrived to block their escape.
“Back up to the last vent,” Sarah said. “We’ll get out where there’s less activity. We can use her as a shield to get to the shuttle.” Sarah motioned to Servalan.
“How will we leave the ship?” Avon countered. “They’ve been alerted to our escape. They won’t open the bay doors.”
“I have a friend in the right place” Sarah assured him. “He’ll make sure we get out, but no one else.”
They waited until the corridor below them was empty, before jumping down.
“Augh!” Servalan screamed, falling to her knees. “My ankle. I think I broke it!”
“Tell someone who cares,” Avon growled at her.
When she refused to stand, he sighed in exasperation. He nodded to Tarrant, who grabbed Servalan around the waist and, lifting her to her feet, dragged her along behind Sarah as they continued towards the shuttle.
They peered around the last corner, only to find half a dozen Troopers standing by the entrance. Sarah and Avon stopped short and let Tarrant go first. The Troopers froze when they saw Servalan supported by Tarrant with a rifle at her temple.
“Drop your weapons!” Tarrant ordered.
Guns rattled, as they disarmed themselves. The four sidled past the Troopers. Avon and Sarah gathered up the weapons as they went. Tarrant prodded Servalan forward with the barrel of his gun. Avon and Sarah covered the rear. More Troopers greeted them inside, but stopped abruptly when they saw that Commissioner Sleer’s life was in danger.
Vila saw his friends approach and opened the hatch. As soon as they were safely aboard, he started the engines. Dayna had assumed a position at the control consul beside Vila. Soolin manned the starboard guns. Before Tarrant took up the captain’s seat, he hesitated, glancing at Sarah.
“Did you want to fly?”
“Go ahead, Tarrant. I’ll help Soolin operate the rear weapons array.”
Tarrant placed a tiny receiver over his curls and adjusted the mic, telling the control room that they were ready for take-off. A warning buzzer sounded before the portal doors were activated. Troopers fled towards the exits, sliding under the heavy doors before they were sealed and the airlock terminated. Tarrant initiated the vertical thrusters and the shuttle rose slowly, as the outer iris opened.
A moment later they were propelled through the portal, g-forces pushing them into their seats. Lasers streaked past them. Sarah and Soolin returned the gunners’ fire as Tarrant manoeuvred out of range. With a sigh of relief, Sarah left her post to give Tarrant the co-ordinates for their destination.
“But don’t leave just yet.”
Tarrant glanced at Sarah curiously, but did as she requested. Within minutes, an escape pod was spit from the port side of the mother ship.
“Get a tractor on them,” Sarah instructed.
Soon the pod was on board. Moments later, Eric and Flanders stood safely on the bridge beside them, glancing around curiously.
“You made a great diversion!” Flanders commented. “Everyone was so busy trying to catch you, they didn’t pay any attention to me.”
“Speak for yourself!” Eric shot at him. “The vent from Communications is bloody tiny! I felt like a caterpillar crawling through a pinhole. I was afraid I’d miss my ride!”
“Never mind, you two.” Sarah’s eyes twinkled as she scolded them, giving each a squeeze. “You’re safely aboard, now.”
“Where’s Jon?” Flanders asked.
“I’m afraid he didn’t make it,” Sarah said sadly.
There was a moment of silence before Sarah introduced everyone concluding with, “And I’m Sarah.” She offered her hand to each of Blake’s people.
“Thank-you for getting us off that ship,” Vila said. “I was certain we were making our last voyage.”
“Yes, thank-you, Sarah,” Tarrant agreed. “It’s been quite some time since the academy, hasn’t it?”
“Too long,” Sarah nodded, slipping into the co-pilot’s seat beside him. She smiled, then blushed slightly as his soft brown eyes met hers.
“What made you decide to risk everything to help us?” Avon asked suspiciously.
“I realized I’d been on the sidelines too long,” Sarah explained. “It also matters more when it affects those you know and admire. I knew that once you reached Earth, no one could help you. Trials these days are pretty well settled in advance. They’re just a great big show put on to deceive the weak-minded. With all the charges against you, it would have meant the death sentence. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t just kill us when they had the chance,” Avon said. “Why would they go to all the trouble of bringing us back here?”
“You’re the big prize,” Servalan interjected. “Catching you was a real bonus. You had become folk heroes, as much as we tried to keep your activities quiet. Your deaths would have deterred other rebels and I would have become Supreme Commander of the fleets, again.”
“Folk heroes? Us?” Vila said proudly. “Well, what do you know?”
“Where exactly are we heading, now?” Tarrant asked.
“My brother runs an underground combat unit,” Eric confided, “near the co-ordinates you’ve been given. They’ll be waiting for us.”
Just then, Soolin spoke up, “Looks like we have an escort.”
Sure enough, several blips had appeared on the screen, fighters rising from the planet’s surface. Everyone scrambled for their seats. Eric took control of the other set of guns.
“Hang on!” Tarrant warned, as he banked sharply to the right, away from the enemy craft.
An explosion on the underbelly reverberated throughout the ship. Servalan’s eyes widened slightly, then the panic was replaced by an outward show of calm.
“Don’t they know I’m on board?” she asked haughtily.
“They probably do,” Avon replied, dryly. “I suppose they just don’t care.”
Servalan shot him a murderous look before the craft was wracked by another blast.
Sarah’s fingers flew over her consul, assessing the damage. “Superficial,” she reported.
“Got one!” Soolin announced, triumphantly.
“Me, too,” said Eric.
“Still four left,” Sarah reminded them.
They all leaned into the next turn as Tarrant brought the ship around to face the Federation fighters. Both Eric and Soolin displayed their shooting expertise. Eric whooped with delight as his aim destroyed another ship, but it was short-lived as more laser fire erupted around them.
Tarrant managed to out-manoeuvre the other craft, momentarily. Suddenly, sparks flew out of the consul in front of Sarah. She drew back in alarm. Another explosion struck the shuttle’s starboard side.
“That one nearly took out my weapons!” Soolin exclaimed. “They’re getting too close!”
The shock from another blast, tossed Dayna to the floor.
“Are you all right?” Sarah called to her.
“Yes, just a little shaky,” Dayna replied.
“Flanders!” Sarah commanded. “Take over for her, assess the damage.”
“Right,” Flanders said, jumping into Dayna’s seat.
“Damn!” Tarrant swore, as they were hit again and the shuttle swerved precariously. “One of the thrusters has been knocked out! I’m having trouble holding her steady. I’m getting out of here.”
Steering away from the oncoming craft, Tarrant headed down towards Earth. The fighters followed, unwilling to give up their quarry. Tarrant managed to level off the shuttle’s trajectory slightly as they entered the outer atmosphere.
“We’re going down too fast, Tarrant,” Sarah said, almost inaudibly.
She did what she could to help him make the course adjustments but the controls were not responding.
“I’m switching to manual controls,” Tarrant told her and took the stick.
It shook in his hands as he tried to manoeuvre it. The cabin temperature rose. One of the control panels blew a circuit, sparks flying out at Flanders. Sarah placed her hands over Tarrant’s to help him pull back. The added pressure was just enough to level them off a few more degrees, so their descent slowed.
Sarah checked their position. They were off course slightly so, together, they forced the stick to the left. She shot a glance up at Tarrant. Sweat glistened on his brow. His jaw was clenched.
The vibration on the stick increased. The two pilots used all of their strength to keep the craft steady.
“We’re going to crash,” Tarrant said softly.
“We’ll be alright,” Sarah whispered back. “We just have to level her off a little more.”
With an added burst of strength, Tarrant pulled it back. He felt Sarah do the same. The stick moved towards them, ever so slightly. Tarrant glanced up at the forward monitor. They were spiraling, the ground getting closer by the moment.
“Everyone brace yourselves,” Tarrant grunted through clenched teeth.
He brought his foot up against the consul and pushed with all his might. That gave him enough leverage. They straightened out just as they reached the tree line. They burst through the forest, treetops tearing at the hull. The shuttle creaked from the strain before they impacted with the ground.
When Sarah came to, she peered through the settling dust. The bridge was a mess. Ceiling panels had dropped down, bringing with them reams of wires. The hull was cracked, a tree trunk wedged into the opening. She could smell smoke.
Beside her, Tarrant was lying across the consul. Sarah unbuckled herself and reached over to lift him up. There was a huge gash on his forehead. She shook him gently.
“Tarrant! Wake up!”
He stirred, moaning softly, then opened his eyes, blinking as blood trickled over his lid. Sarah carefully wiped it away with her sleeve.
“How are the others?” he asked.
A groan came from the other side of the consul, then an arm appeared as Vila pulled himself off the floor. Sarah hurried over to the others, checking them over quickly. It was a miracle that everyone on the bridge was still alive.
Avon shook his head, as he rose from the floor. His first words were, “Where’s Orac?” He sifted through the rubble looking for it, while Vila headed for the back.
“Doc?” he called. “How’s Blake?”
There was no response. Vila stumbled into the room where Blake had been strapped in, hooked up to all manner of equipment. Vila heard the faint beep of the medical monitors before noticing the doctor sprawled on the floor. A ceiling panel had fallen on him. Vila felt for a pulse, but found none. Then he went to Blake’s side. The eyes fluttered.
“Tarrant!” he called.
Tarrant rushed in, Sarah on his heels.
“He’s still alive!” Vila told him excitedly. “I saw his eyes move.”
Just then there were shouts from outside the shuttle and Eric ran in.
“It’s my brother, Sarah,” he said. “Let’s get out of here. The area will be swarming with Troopers any minute, now.”
Flanders rushed in to help lift Blake onto a makeshift stretcher. He and Eric carried him out of the shuttle, while Vila and Tarrant walked alongside, carrying the necessary medical equipment. Avon joined them, Orac in hand, as usual. Sarah and Dayna covered the flanks behind Soolin, who pressed her weapon into Servalan’s back.
Outside, Eric briefly introduced his brother Dag. When everyone was clear of the shuttle, Dag instructed his men to launch a missile, which struck the bow of the craft, engulfing it in flames. With a wave of his hand, Dag motioned the group away from the burning ship.
At the sound of aircraft approaching, everyone ducked for cover. Once Dag was certain they hadn’t been spotted, the group hurried on, struggling through dense underbrush for almost a kilometre.
Vila paused to catch his breath, huffing and puffing from their jog. “I’m exhausted,” he said, hands resting on his knees. “I can’t go on.”
“It’s not much farther,” Dag told him. “We can’t afford to stop now.”
A few minutes later, they came up against a moss-covered bluff. Dag reached into his pocket and withdrew a small black box. After pressing a button, a portion of the cliff side lifted. Dag ducked inside, motioning for the others to follow. The entrance sealed itself and the rebels found themselves in a dim tunnel. The only light came from a torch stuck into a crevice in the rock wall.
The floor sloped, leading them down into the bowels of the earth. The tunnel soon opened into a tremendous cavern. Men and women, dressed in green camouflage gear, were busy stacking crates against the walls. The labels on the crates identified their contents – weapons and ammunition mostly, ranging from ancient projectile rifles and canons to newer laser weapons.
Vila whistled, then said, “This is quite an operation you have going here!”
Dag grinned. “We have enough weapons to launch a major attack on Federation Headquarters. We just have to figure out a way of getting through the force field.”
Dag glanced at Servalan. At her surly expression, he gave a hearty guffaw. “Well, well. She may be the key we need. We should have a strategy meeting and I’ll introduce you to everyone. It is indeed a pleasure to meet you all. But first, you would probably want to freshen up.”
Bringing his fingers to his lips, Dag whistled loudly. Everyone stopped in their tracks.
“Alf!” he shouted. “Go fetch the doc and bring him to the living quarters! And make sure this one is well guarded,” he added, pointing to Servalan.
“Aye, sir!” the man responded.
Once she had sponged off the smoke and sweat, Sarah felt a little more human. She drew back the curtain to the small cubicle that served as one of the bathrooms and wandered down the hall in the direction from which she’d come. She turned the corner and nearly ran into Tarrant.
“Sorry,” she said.
“That’s ok,” he replied. “It’s nice to bump into you, after all these years.”
Sarah smiled. Tarrant could still make her heart beat faster, though she had never revealed the effect he had on her. He turned and walked alongside her.
“Thanks, again for rescuing us,” Tarrant said, smiling down at her.
“My pleasure,” she replied.
She lowered her eyes in awkward silence, very aware of his closeness. She cleared her throat, nervously.
“I think we’re safe here,” she began. “Eric told me his brother’s been stationed here for several years and hasn’t been discovered by Troopers, yet. Dag’s made a few local attacks on patrols in the area, leaving his calling card, ‘AFA’ for Anti-Federation Alliance. He’s hoping to get a lot more followers. If you and your friends stick around to help, his credibility will increase. He’s also hoping to get a fleet of his own started, so he can spread the word farther.”
“Sounds like a pretty ambitious venture. He should be careful, though. The Federation will soon learn of this and send in spies. That’s what happened to Blake’s Operation.” Tarrant paused, with a sigh. “I feel a little responsible for his condition. The Federation had spread rumours that he was now working for them as a bounty hunter. Avon had to find out for sure and his lack of trust was contagious. I, too, was guilty of believing the rumours and, by the time I found out the truth, it was too late. That’s how we ended up on Servalan’s ship. She’s a clever woman.”
“She did manage to bait the trap quite well, didn’t she?” Sarah agreed. “We’ll have to keep a close eye on her. If she ever escaped and notified the Troopers of our position. . .”
She let the unpleasant thought linger in the air between them . . .
Sarah awoke with a start and for a moment, couldn’t place where she was. It was dark and a damp. She wriggled her nose as a musty smell pervaded her nostrils. This dank chamber was quite different from her quarters on board the Federation transport. As her ears detected the soft sighs of other slumberers, memory flooded back to her.
Her eyes soon adjusted to the dim light filtering through the curtain in the doorway. Glancing at the beds next to her, Sarah recognized her two roommates and smiled. Dayna and Soolin were exact opposites. Dayna was tall and lythe with short, curly black hair and dark skin. Soolin was shorter with long blond hair and snapping blue eyes. Sarah wondered about their alliance with Blake’s men and the circumstances thet led them to join his crew. Then, she thought about Tarrant.
Of the six members who remained of Blake and his crew, Tarrant was the only one Sarah knew well. They’d gone through training together. Funny how things evolved over the years. As new recruits, they’d been enthusiastic about the Federation unifying the galaxy, certain they could bring peace and prosperity to so many different worlds.
However, the arrogance of superiors, and probably their greed as well, had altered the atmosphere of the unification process. Citizens became disillusioned. Rebellions broke out. At first, it had confused her. Sarah hadn’t understood why people were resisting the modifications that were meant to improve their conditions.
That was before she’d left Earth to fly missions to other worlds, before her position reversed itself. Sarah no longer believed she was helping to bring positive changes to the planets. She’d seen, first-hand, the terrible suffering and degradation brought about by mining projects initiated by the Federation.
Sarah finally understood why people were fighting against the Federation and sympathized with their cause. Following her faked accident, she refused to fly again, requesting instead, to work in Communications. There, she would be privy to all flight conversations as well as Federation battle instructions.
It had been very difficult keeping her opinions to herself. Sarah had to pretend that she still agreed with Federation policies, while hoping to pick up important information that might assist in the ultimate destruction of their power. She carefully watched all personnel until she began to notice odd looks from her companions, overhearing whispered comments that made her suspect she was not alone in her beliefs.
Sarah was glad her intuition had been right about those people, for they had been instrumental in her rescue of Blake and his crew. Blake, the legend, was now little more than a vegetable. She prayed that his condition would improve so that he could help lead the AFAs to victory.
Time was hard to predict down here where the sun never shone. Sarah stifled a yawn and checked the glowing green numbers on her watch. It would be dawn on the surface. She sighed as she imagined how the golden sun might be tinging the sky various hues of pinks and blues.
It had been almost two years since she had been home. However, although she was back on Earth, she still could not see her family. It would have been a difficult reunion anyway, she convinced herself. Her parents had been so proud of her when she graduated from the academy with honours. How could she possibly explain her actions to them?
“Here on Earth,” she thought, “life goes on as before, unhindered by rebellions or mining expeditions. No one understands what it’s like in the vastness of space. Most are content to experience things vicariously through Federation News Briefs. Sadly, the Federation only divulges what they want the people to see, for without the support of Earth’s citizens, they couldn’t get the funding needed for their missions.”
Sarah shook her head and rose from the cot. Slipping out into the corridor, she headed for the main cavern. In the centre of the large room, a six-sided kiosk held video screens displaying various locations. The dark-haired man on duty at the communications desk, sat in a chair attached to a sort of carousel that circled the video screens so that he could monitor them fairly easily.
Nodding to him, Sarah wandered around the cavern, looking at the stacks of military equipment piled against the walls.
“What’s it like out, today?” she asked the sentry.
“Pretty quiet, now,” the man at the monitors told her. “Last night, though, there was a lot of activity. Everyone was looking for you and your friends.”
“Thank heaven your base is well hidden. Are any of my friends awake yet?”
“Haven’t seen anyone else, so far,” the young man tod her. “Actually, I’m glad of the company. Things get pretty boring on night duty.”
“I’m sure they do,” Sarah agreed, giving him a small smile.
His eyes appraised her curves, barely concealed by her uniform, lingering at her chest far too long for comfort. Sarah squirmed uneasily.
“Where’s the doctor’s chambers? I’d like to see the patient we brought with us.”
The man seemed disappointed that Sarah wouldn’t stay, but he gave her directions just the same. She paused when she caught the murmur of voices, words slightly muffled as they drifted through the heavy material hung at the infirmary entrance.
“There’s still very little change in his condition,” the doctor was saying. “Vital signs are a bit stronger this morning, but he hasn’t regained consciousness.”
“May I stay with him for a while?” Vila asked.
“Of course. Perhaps the sound of your voice will help bring him back.”
Footsteps approached the door. Sarah slipped into a crevice, pressing her back against the rock as the doctor exited the room and walked down the hall in the opposite direction. She was unsure why she didn’t want to be noticed. Possibly, she just wanted to learn more about the relationship of the men she had rescued.
She stood outside and listened to Vila, who was talking about previous missions that he and Blake had been on together. His voice became hoarse, choked with emotion.
“Oh, Blake! I hate to see you like this. You’ve got to wake up! We need you in charge, again. Avon’s a bloody cold fish. All he cares about is that precious Orac and saving his own skin. Why, one time, he was ready to kill me, so that he could escape with Orac! You would never have considered doing that, would you Blake? You always put our safety before your own.”
She had heard enough. Sarah retraced her steps back to the main area and explored the far tunnel. Another chamber opened up, lined with tables, like a mess hall.
Sarah nearly jumped out of her skin as a buzzer suddenly blasted twice, reverberating throughout the Underground, followed by a flurry of people rushing about to begin their day. Several men and women nodded to her as they passed, gathering up cans and boxes to bring into a make-shift kitchen.
“Need any help?” Sarah offered.
“Sure. You one of Blake’s people?”
“Actually, I worked with Dag’s brother, Eric. My name is Sarah Winston.” She held out her hand.
The tall, slim blond shook her hand.
“I’m glad you’re here. I’m Karyn. There’s no need to use last names here. It’s probably best if no one knows them, safer, if you know what I mean.”
Sarah nodded as she listened carefully to Karyn’s brief instructions on how to prepare the morning meal and soon everything was ready to eat.
“So this is where you disappeared to!” a familiar voice greeted her.
Tarrant strode up to Sarah, followed by Dayna and Soolin. “The girls were worried when they noticed your bed was empty.”
“I woke up early and decided to do a little exploring. Then I got commandeered into kitchen duty!” Sarah grinned.
“Well, I hope you’re a good cook,” he grinned. “I’m ravenous!”
Just then, Vila walked in with a decidedly miserable expression.
“How’s Blake?” Tarrant asked.
“Pretty much the same,” Vila replied, sadly.
“Were you and Blake close?” Sarah asked Vila.
He nodded and said, “I would do anything for that man.”
Vila scowled as he caught sight of Avon entering the mess hall. Sarah wondered at the animosity between them. Did it have something to do with the story she had overheard, about Avon trying to kill Vila? Why had Avon done that when they were all supposed to be friends?
There was still a lot to learn about them all. The only one she was sure about was Del Tarrant. He had always been brave and loyal, bristling at injustice, and handsome. Sarah glanced up quickly, ensuring Tarrant’s attention was elsewhere so he wouldn’t see her blush.
Avon settled himself at one of the long tables, placing the steel box containing Orac at his feet. Occasionally a beep was emitted from the strange computer box.
Sarah leaned over to Tarrant and whispered, “Does Avon take that thing with him everywhere?”
Tarrant nodded. “It’s the most advanced computer of our time. It’s helped us through many scrapes. Saved our lives on more than one occasion. Avon is deathly afraid of it falling into the wrong hands.”
Sarah became silent, lost in thought, as the meal was served and everyone busied themselves with the task of eating. Her concentration was so great, she scarcely noticed the clatter of cutlery on metal dishes and the chatter of the rebels. When breakfast was over, Dag stood up in front of the group and instructed his people of their duties.
“And I’d like to welcome the newcomers of which we’ve heard so much about and thank those who helped my brother rescue them. At this time, I would like to invite our guests to observe the efficiency of our operation and if you so desire, you may even take part. In addition, we would be honoured to listen to any suggestions or constructive criticism, you may have to offer. Again, welcome.”
After Dag had finished and left the dining hall, Avon slipped away without a word.
“Avon isn’t much of a team player, is he?” Sarah commented. “Is he always so much of a loner?”
“He’s a very difficult person to get close to,” Soolin confided. “He’s a brilliant computer programmer and, together with Orac, makes a formidable opponent for the Federation, but he does tend to keep to himself a lot, almost as though the rest of us were well beneath his level of intelligence.”
“Be fair,” Dayna interrupted. “He finds it hard to trust people . . . after Anna.”
“Who’s Anna?” Sarah inquired.
“The one woman Avon gave his heart to,” Dayna replied, despite a warning glance from Soolin. “He later found out she’d been a spy.”
“I can see why he’d be distrustful, after that,” Sarah agreed. “But, surely, he’s learned to trust all of you?”
“I suppose so,” Tarrant replied with a shrug, “Although he doesn’t let us know whether he cares about our welfare.”
“So true,” Vila interjected, bitterly. “He’d easily sacrifice one of us to save himself and his precious Orac!”
“Now, Vila,” Tarrant said, soothingly. “I think you misinterpreted his intentions in the heat of the moment.”
“You still don’t believe me, do you?” Vila snapped accusingly.
“I have trouble believing that, after all the two of you have been through together, that he would have entertained such thoughts,” Tarrant said.
“What are you talking about?” Sarah asked.
“There was a time recently, that Vila and Avon were in a craft, rigged to crash. Orac calculated that they could still reach orbit, if they could remove enough weight. Vila seems to think that Avon was ready to toss him out on his ear, until he discovered part of a neutron star in a small container. Because of its size, it had been overlooked. Throwing it out was enough to lighten their load, so they were safe. Vila still hasn’t forgiven Avon for thinking about killing him to save himself.”
Sarah was silent for a moment, mulling over the information they had given her about themselves. She thought back to every report she could remember about Blake’s people and their victories. Finally, lowering her voice so that only Tarrant and his friends could hear her, Sarah finally voiced the germ of a plan.
“It seems to me I’ve heard somewhere that your original ship, the Liberator, was capable of teleportation. Does Orac have the schematics for reproducing that technology?”
Tarrant searched her face, then looked at the others. Dayna cocked her head and raised an eyebrow slightly. Soolin shrugged. Vila gave a small grin.
“You seem to have everyone’s confidence,” Tarrant smiled. “I know I can trust you, but why are you so interested?”
“Yesterday, Dag said he was ready for a strike but couldn’t get through the force field around Federation Headquarters. Would a teleportational device be able to penetrate it? That way, we could make the offensive that might tip the balance of power.”
“Unfortunately, we can’t teleport through a force field,” Tarrant informed her. “The radiation makes it impossible.”
“Could Orac de-activate it?” Sarah queried.
“Now, that is possible,” Tarrant said as his forehead puckered in thought.
“Do you think we could convince Avon to lend the technology to the Alliance?” Sarah asked.
“Only if he supervises and removes the information, once they complete their mission,” Tarrant said.
“You don’t think Avon would allow them to keep the information?”
“I doubt it. He’d be afraid someone might sell it to the Federation.”
“Well, if that’s the only way, I’m sure Dag would agree,” Sarah said, satisfied that they might just have a fighting chance. “Should we go and ask Avon for his help?”
“I’d like to check out this operation a little more carefully, first. Would you join me?” Tarrant invited.
“Sure,” Sarah agreed quickly, glad to be spending time with him. She didn’t noticed the raised eyebrows of Tarrant’s friends behind her back.
As they wandered through the underground complex, they noticed that a lot of Dag’s people were simply maintaining equipment, since no major manoeuvres had been planned. The scream of laser fire and explosions from an adjoining room, attracted their attention. Following the sounds, the pair found an impressive array of combatants firing a variety of weapons at targets on the far wall. In the next room was a huge room with a padded floor where men and women practiced hand-to-hand combat, keeping their skills sharp in the event that a target should present itself.
Tiring of that, Tarrant and Sarah headed back to the control centre. Several of the video screens relayed news broadcasts. Suddenly, one by one, the images of Blake’s people, Sarah, Eric and Flanders appeared on the screens.
“Quickly! Turn up the sound!” Tarrant commanded.
“. . . have all been presumed killed in the crash that occurred late yesterday afternoon,” the newscaster was saying. “There is a slim possibility that one or two may have escaped before the explosion, so a 20,000 credit reward has been offered to anyone providing information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of any of these criminals. Also presumed dead, is Commissioner Sleer, who was taken hostage by the rebels during the escape. A memorial service will be held in her honour Thursday afternoon. It will be broadcast, world-wide at 2:00 pm Geenwich time.”
“That’s in three days,” Sarah said. “Speaking of Servalan, where is she?”
Dag walked in at that moment. “Don’t worry,” he assured them. “She’s safely locked away and carefully guarded. Would you like to see her?”
“Yes, we would,” Tarrant said. “It’s unlikely, but we may be able to get some information from her.”
As Dag brought them to the prisoner’s quarters, their heels clicked against the stone floors, echoing along the stark walls. They came to a barred door embedded into the rock, preventing Servalan’s escape. In addition, a guard stood erect nearby, hands clasped behind his back, feet planted firmly, slightly apart. Dag removed a key from his breast pocket and unlatched the door.
Servalan did not move a muscle.
“Let me speak with her alone,” Tarrant said, stepping inside the cell.
Dag took no chances. Quickly shutting the door behind Tarrant, he dropped the only key back into his pocket. Impatiently, Dag waited outside with Sarah, who watched the interaction between Tarrant and Servalan with great interest.
A sparkle appeared in Servalan’s eyes as soon as she saw Tarrant and an odd expression flashed across her face, one that Sarah had never seen before. It was almost as though Servalan was remembering a romantic moment.
“I must be imagining things,” Sarah thought to herself, stifling a shudder as she imagined Tarrant and Servalan together.
The picture was too sickening to consider, Sarah decided. Tarrant could never be interested in Servalan, could he? Despite that logic, doubt crept in and tugged at her heart. Sarah looked back at the two of them, but there was no sign of that spark, now. They sat across the room from each other as enemies would.
“The Federation is planning your funeral,” Tarrant began. “Perhaps we should provide them with a body. Would you like to attend?”
She glared at him, but said nothing.
“What do you think would happen, if you showed up, there – alive?” he asked.
“They’d think I was now a spy.” Servalan’s voice was devoid of expression.
“You could tell them you were held prisoner and that you escaped,” Tarrant suggested.
“I doubt they would believe me.”
“We could always rough you up a bit,” Tarrant teased. “To make your story more believable.”
“Only if you do it,” Servalan cooed, finally showing some animation by batting her lashes at him.
It made Sarah’s blood run cold.
“Or better yet,” Servalan added, “let Avon do it.”
“I’m sure he would be delighted to have the opportunity,” Tarrant smirked. “Actually, I’m hatching a plan that may work without having to hurt you.”
“That would be preferable,” Servalan purred. “What did you have in mind?”
“I’ll let you know when I’ve had a chance to run through all the details.”
When Dag noticed Tarrant stand up to leave, he prepared to unlock the door. As Tarrant walked away from Servalan, she grabbed his arm, pulling him back towards her. She whispered something in his ear. Delighting in his embarrassment, Servalan’s tinkling laughter echoed off the stone walls of her prison. Then her eyes focused directly on Sarah’s. It was as if Servalan sensed how Sarah felt about Tarrant and how much the feigned intimacy bothered her.
Tarrant, on the other hand, was confused by Servalan’s actions. He still remembered the night they’d spent on Virn and the brief moment of vulnerability Servalan had shown at finding the dead remains of a former love. Tarrant knew that Servalan had a soft spot hidden deep within her somewhere, but he no longer had any inclination to seek it out. He had convinced himself that the odd, sentient sand had manipulated them and certainly did not find Servalan a romantic partner, now. She had returned to her role as adversary and Tarrant knew she would never allow him to get that close again – unless it was a ploy to manipulate him, but he refused to be beguiled by her charm.
Without so much as a backwards glance, he rejoined Sarah and together they sought out Avon, whom they found alone in his quarters.
The room was identical to the one Sarah had shared with the women, sparse, with only fold-up cots that served as beds, ancient, but well-maintained, covered with foam mattresses and grey blankets. The room was devoid of personal effects except for a few articles of clothing that were kept in a wooden wardrobe. A single metal desk stood in a corner to be used for letter-writing, when paper was available.
“Avon,” Tarrant began settling on the bed beside him, “do you have any thoughts about we are to do next?”
Tarrant thought his friend had suddenly aged as though the last adventure had taken the last of his spirit. He thought of Blake, on the verge of death in a small cubicle down the corridor. It had been the blast from Avon’s weapon that had placed Blake in such a life-threatening position. Avon must be feeling a great deal of guilt. Tarrant almost placed an arm around Avon’s shoulders to console him, but changed his mind. Avon would never appreciate the gesture, anyway.
“I want to get away from here,” Avon said, in a small, tired voice.
Sarah felt a twinge of pity for him as she listened from the door. Since her conversation with the others during breakfast, Sarah had become a little more sympathetic. Sullen as Avon may seem, she now realized he had good reasons to be bitter.
While musing about Avon, Sarah had missed Tarrant’s conversation. Whatever he’d said obviously worked. Avon reached for Orac and rose with Tarrant. Without glancing at her, Avon passed by into the corridor. Sarah followed behind him with Tarrant as they sought out Dag.
“We have a proposal for you,” Tarrant began. “I think we have a way of getting into Headquarters . . .”
Everyone spent the next few days scrambling around the underground base trying to put together all the components of Tarrant’s plan. Engineers began constructing a make-shift teleport compartment to Avon’s specifications. The AFA’s distributed Federation uniforms, which they had managed to acquire. Friends on the outside provided them with the necessary vehicles to bring them to the site of the memorial service.
Several hours before the funeral, Sarah and Tarrant waited along the route the mourners would use. At last, a hover craft hummed towards them. Tarrant stepped onto the road, motioning for them to stop. He strode to the driver, who slid open the dome to speak to him.
“Routine check,” Tarrant began casually. “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Whipping his weapon out of its holster and aiming at the driver’s head, Tarrant continued, “But I have need of your vehicle.”
The man in the rear began to protest until Tarrant shifted his weapon in his direction.
“Well, well, a General,” Tarrant observed. “You will do nicely. Out of the craft.”
The General complied hesitantly, eyeing the gun in Tarrant’s hand. Just then, Sarah and the other men burst out of the bushes, threateningly.
“We have a proposal for you,” Tarrant continued. “We’ll let you ride with us, as long as you behave. Sarah, hop in the back with the General. I’ll sit beside the driver. If anyone at the gate asks, General, Sarah is your niece and I am your aide. Any attempt at heroics will result in your death as well as your driver’s. Do I make myself clear?”
The two men merely nodded. Before stepping into the vehicle, Tarrant waved a signal. Immediately, several other military-style hover craft appeared from behind a bluff, driven by Dag and his men. They all had acquired forged identification and invitations, giving them permission to attend the services.
The four vehicles appeared as a convoy, approaching the main gate to the highly secure Federation Headquarters. Several Troopers were stationed at the entrance. After examining the General’s credentials, they spoke into their headphones.
The force-field crackled for a moment as it was de-activated, allowing Tarrant’s craft to enter. Turning in his seat, he watched for the guard’s reaction to Dag’s credentials. Whoever had forged them had done an exceptional job, for they all passed without hindrance. They found the parking area where they left the vehicles, forcing out the General and his driver to enter the fortress that acted as headquarters. Once inside, they found a secluded area where they bound and gagged the two prisoners, then knocked them unconscious, shoved them into a closet.
Tarrant and Sarah headed for the control room with three of Dag’s men following at a distance. They all sauntered naturally so as not to attract attention. Tarrant nodded to the two guards outside the control room, pretending to walk past, then whirled around, drawing his weapon.
“Open the door!” he demanded.
The sentries did as they were told. Tarrant shoved them into the room ahead of him. Two of Dag’s men replaced the guards outside the door. The third accompanied Sarah inside. They easily took over the controls, Sarah holding the guards at bay in a corner. Tarrant went to the controls, glancing over them quickly as a voice over the speaker announced that another vehicle needed to pass.
Tarrant lowered the force-field, then spoke into his wristband, telling Avon to lock onto their position and teleport immediately. Avon, Dayna and Soolin materialized in front of them. After getting their bearings, the girls left the room to take up their assigned post at the entrance to the chapel. Avon remained with Tarrant and Sarah.
More of the AFA’s arrived whenever they received orders to lower the forcefield. Each trio left the control room to take up strategic positions around the building and grounds.
Soon, all the members of Dag’s rebellion were in place at Headquarters, except for Vila and Blake, his physician, and the guards outside Servalan’s cell.
One final step.
Minutes before the service was scheduled to begin, Orac relayed Servalan’s position in the her cell and Avon was soon inside. He clamped a teleport bracelet onto Servalan’s wrist and immediately the two were standing in the control room at Federation Headquarters. Avon escorted her to the chapel, where they found Soolin and Dayna, each grinning at the scowl on Servalan’s face. Dag’s men closed in behind them.
Through the closed doors, they heard, “Ladies and Gentlemen, it grieves me to know the reason we are all here today. Commissioner Sleer gave her life during her duty to the Federation. She . . .” The minister halted, shocked by the apparition coming towards him. “By all that’s holy, I don’t believe it!”
At that point, everyone turned to watch aghast, as Avon and Servalan made their way down the aisle to the dais. Avon’s weapon was drawn and raised to her throat. They stepped onto the platform and Avon spoke into the microphone.
“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking,” he began, “I will be brief. I assume you all know who this is.” Avon shoved the gun tighter into Servalan’s neck. “In case she ever strives for another Federation position, I thought you should know how useful this woman has been to us. She has assisted in our escape from the prison ship, as well as the takeover of these headquarters.”
There was an audible gasp from every mouth in the audience. They squirmed, some attempting to leave their seats. The AFAs burst in on cue, surrounding the impressive group of top Federation officials and their spouses. Screams and curses could be heard until Avon raised his weapon into the air and fired. Plaster rained down and the sound shocked the group into silence.
“I will now leave you in the competent hands of AFA while I work at loosening your grip on the galaxy.”
Dragging Servalan with him, he returned to the control room. Dayna and Soolin trailed along behind them.
Settled at the controls of the main computer, Avon’s fingers flew over the keyboard. At times his attempts to gain access to confidential files was thwarted, but eventually he was able to slip into the mainframe through a back door. He scanned through various files then stopped suddenly, voraciously absorbing all the information on the screen before plunging into another file. When he had read all he needed to know, Avon programmed a virus to eat away at all Federation files and infect any attempts to extract Federation information on Earth. It would affect everything from simple accounts to background information on all rebel groups, their membership and presumed locations.
Tarrant detected a hardness in his eyes and asked, “What did you find?”
“Something that will definitely be of use in the future,” was all he said.
When his task was completed, Avon withdrew his weapon and destroyed all the equipment in the room. Sparks sizzled and danced as circuits ignited, melting into an unrecognizable mass.
“Why did you do that?” Servalan asked.
Avon merely shrugged. “Perhaps now, private enterprise will thrive, providing ample opportunities for resourceful people to strike it rich.”
“So why did you need me for all this?”
“To discredit you, dear Servalan,” Avon replied. “Every official of importance was in that chapel today. Now they all know your face and know you cannot be trusted. It guarantees us that you will be unable to use your Federation influence to track us down, should you survive.”
“Survive what?” Servalan asked nervously.
Avon did not answer, just gave a quick movement of his head, motioning for the allies to leave. As they turned to go, one of the guards lunged for Sarah. She caught the movement from the corner of her eye and turned to face him, reaching for her weapon but he was too quick. She was knocked to the ground by the weight of his body. Sarah thrust the man off and stared into his lifeless eyes. Scanning the body, she noticed the blast wound on the guard’s chest. She glanced up as Tarrant holstered his weapon.
“Thanks, Tarrant,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief.
They all raced down the corridor to meet the others. Dag had chosen several of the Federation’s top people who stood sullenly against the wall, carefully guarded.
“We’ll bring them with us,” Dag informed them. “They shall get a taste of Federation justice, the kind they would have given to you, Avon,” Dag added, a nasty gleam in his eye. “Or perhaps we could bargain them for the release of political prisoners still being held captive.”
“It makes no difference to me,” Avon informed him, his voice flat, expressionless. “We have accomplished what we set out to do. I want to leave, before word leaks out.”
With that, he instructed Orac to initiate the teleport sequence. He and Servalan returned to the base. Immediately upon his return, Avon gave Orac one final command before disconnecting him from the base’s central computer system. Then he set the timer on the explosive device Dayna had rigged to the teleport. Making a brief call on his wristband and grabbing the computer box, he and Servalan de-materialized once more.
They arrived inside a deserted hangar. Avon set Orac down so that he could keep his weapon trained on his hostage. Moments later, Tarrant and Sarah appeared, then Vila with Blake and his doctor. Tarrant and Sarah were amazed when they realized that Blake was standing – supported by Vila, but nonetheless upright and conscious. With the help of the physician, Vila brought Blake to a crate where he could sit and recover his strength.
The exertion of the past few minutes was evident on Blake’s face. Beads of perspiration travelled down his forehead, traced the scar-line over his left eye and dribbled to his chin. Tarrant glanced at Avon, who averted his eyes, refusing to show his relief at Blake’s miraculous recovery.
Soon, Soolin and Dayna joined them, glancing about in surprise, expecting to have ended up back at the base.
“Where are we?” Dayna asked.
“As far from Dag’s base as the make-shift equipment would allow,” Avon replied.
“Why?” Soolin asked.
“I think I can guess,” Tarrant answered for him. “You found something in the files about him, didn’t you?”
Avon nodded. “The file I happened upon was a list of covert operatives working for the Federation to expose dissidents. Dag and his brother Eric were both on the list.”
“I can’t believe it!” Sarah cried. “I trusted them. Eric seemed so sincere in his desire to defeat the Federation!”
Sarah was silent for a moment, finding the news a bit overwhelming. She looked up when she felt Avon’s piercing eyes studying her. There was a savagery in those eyes, a fierceness which frightened her. Avon continued to bore directly into her eyes, probing for the truth. Sarah knew the reason. He could not trust her. She had been part of the escape attempt, so she was suspect.
Her heart thrummed in her ears. What if Avon was convinced she was part of the conspiracy? Would he kill her? Sarah saw that his hand was at his holster, ready for any sudden moves. With cold awareness, she realized that Avon would not hesitate to kill her, if he thought she had betrayed them.
Sarah glanced at Tarrant who watched the silent exchange between them. Even he seemed a bit suspicious of her. The thought that Tarrant could not trust her completely brought tears to Sarah’s eyes. She tried to blink them away.
“So, what happens now?” Sarah asked, attempting to sound calm. “Are you going to kill me? You obviously think I can’t be trusted.”
Her tears barely under control, she confronted each of them in turn, beginning with Avon, ending with Tarrant. Noticing the glisten in her eyes, Tarrant’s expression softened.
“Avon, you can’t believe she was with them,” Tarrant turned to Avon in an effort to defend her. “Unless you found evidence of it in the files, you shouldn’t accuse her.”
“You’re too trusting Tarrant,” Avon growled.
“And you are to dis-trustful,” Tarrant rebuked. “Look what happened when you couldn’t even trust a friend!”
Tarrant waved his hand towards Blake. Avon’s cringe was imperceptible, but Tarrant knew he had struck a nerve.
“All right,” Avon conceded, his voice a low snarl. “I’ll allow her to accompany us, but if she gives me any reason not to trust her . . .”
The threat lingered, menacingly, causing prickles to rise along Sarah’s spine.
Avon dismissed her with a glare, then glanced around the hangar. Several small Flyer-type aircraft sat awaiting their pilots, but they were much too small for their use. On the other side was a larger craft, a planet hopper, big enough and comfortable enough to get them wherever Avon had in mind.
“We’ll use that one,” he announced, striding towards it. “Dayna, keep an eye on Servalan while I find suitable quarters for her.”
He raised the hatch and stepped inside. Dayna nudged Servalan with her weapon, forcing her nemesis ahead of her. Tarrant and Sarah followed, heading for the bridge. Vila helped the doctor bring Blake on, while Soolin brought up the rear.
Sarah found that the controls were not much different from those she was used to, so she and Tarrant soon completed the pre-flight check and began take-off procedures. While Avon found a secure place to keep their hostage, Dayna kept a weapon trained on her.
Avon chose one of the ten rooms used to accommodate passengers, rewiring the door panel so that it could only be activated from the outside. After calling the bridge to have Dayna bring Servalan down to the room, Avon destroyed the com board with his laser. When Servalan arrived, he gave her a smug grin.
“Your room is ready, madame.”
“Would you mind telling me what you plan to do with me?” Servalan asked. “And where we are headed?”
“All in due time,” Avon replied. “But I think you’ll like the little out-of-the-way spot I’ve chosen for your new home, a place where you won’t be able to interfere with our plans.”
He gave a nod to Dayna, who preceded him out of the room. Making sure that the door to Servalan’s prison was locked securely, Avon headed for the quarters he had chosen for himself. He found Orac exactly where he had hidden the obnoxious little computer. Plugging in the square key, Avon gave Orac a series of problems he wished to be solved.
In the meantime, Vila made sure Blake was settled comfortably in one of the other rooms. He set up a cot for the doctor, who had brought along enough medical equipment required should his patient take a turn for the worse. Vila refused to leave Blake’s side until he knew everything was fine, then he claimed the room next door.
Soolin and Dayna took up positions near the weapon controls, in case they ran into any resistance. Fortunately, the confusion Avon had caused with Earth’s computers, made it impossible for the planet hopper to be tracked by enemy craft. All Federation pursuit ships were much too busy trying to de-bug their own systems, allowing Blake’s crew to pass unnoticed. Tarrant’s current heading sent them to one of the moons orbiting Uranus, where they would be able to refuel.
Sarah absently counted the crew on board, coming up with the number seven. A sudden thought crossed her mind and she smiled.
Blake’s Seven was still a thorn in the Federation’s side.