(This story occurs immediately after "Weapon")
+No pursuit craft within detector range. Please state course and speed.+ Zen broke the tense silence on the flight deck.
Beside Blake in the central seating, Cally glanced up from the computer projections in her hand and looked at him. Blake nodded and turned to Zen's fascia as he always did when addressing the computer.
"Zen, set course for the Weapons Development Base. Speed standard by four."
"What?" The shocked reaction of the other occupants of the flight deck almost drowned out Zen's confirmation.
Blake silently studied each of his companions in turn.
"I knew my brain was furring up," Vila sighed dejectedly.
Jenna looked down at the main pilot's console. "Deja vu," she muttered.
"This was a stupid idea before." Avon's chill comment challenged Blake. His expression betrayed nothing of his thoughts, but his whole posture radiated anger and frustration. "Now it's nothing short of suicidal insanity."
"They won't be expecting an attack so soon after Coser's defection," Cally replied. "It's a perfect opportunity."
"It was a trap before," Avon snarled. He leaned forward, pinning Blake with a stare. "Even you must have realized that."
"Of course it was a trap," Blake responded evenly.
"Marvellous," Vila sighed. "I thought we'd only just left the Supreme Commander and her pet assassin."
Gan moved from his position at the rear of the flight deck to stand beside Avon. "The base will still be on maximum alert, Blake," he commented quietly. "They'll spot our approach."
"Orac can time our approach to avoid patrols and the planet's ring system will give us cover," Cally said. "Besides, they won't be at their most efficient. Their security chief died suddenly."
"During interrogation, no doubt." Avon turned toward Jenna, demanding her opinion with a look.
"A temporary condition," she said flatly. "There's probably already another to fill the vacancy."
"We checked with Orac," Blake insisted. "The base is undergoing massive reorganization. It's the perfect time to strike." He tapped Orac's hard copy. "We also have exact details of how Coser escaped."
"So does the Federation," Jenna retorted, moving to join Avon and Gan.
"Escaped?" Avon shook his head. "Surely even you can't be that naive, Blake. Jenna's right. Obviously, Servalan let him go."
"We need those weapons," Cally insisted.
"What use are weapons to corpses?" Avon inquired softly.
"He's right, you know." Vila looked miserable. "Couldn't we try somewhere else?"
Blake ignored Vila's protest and held out the card. "Just read it, Avon."
Avon accepted it and scanned the information quickly, then re-read portions of it. He looked up and passed it on to Jenna.
Blake grinned broadly. "Orac also intercepted another communication that could be extremely useful."
The huge supply warehouse hummed with activity. On the catwalk above the vast floor, two men stood observing the workers twenty meters below. The loaders shifted the heavy crates into the waiting transports with a regularity that hypnotized the observers.
Acler Turpin turned to his companion, his square face shadowed by the harsh glare of the overhead illumination. The pattern of light and shadow added to the impression of bulk about the man. He gestured with one work-hardened hand to their position on the catwalk. "It's safe to talk. The sweep shows no active surveillance devices."
Beside him, the second man seemed frail by comparison, his short, thin frame dwarfed by the other's size. Hector Beals frowned down at the loaders. "This shipment has to go out ahead of schedule."
"What?" Turpin blurted, then lowered his voice and went on. "We can't send out another shipment so soon."
"We must," Beals insisted. "Our first buyer got nervous and backed out, but I've secured another. He wants immediate delivery."
"The buyer got nervous? What about me?" His voice rose in pitch. "There have been guards crawling all over this place."
Beals scowled at him.
Turpin gulped and lowered his voice. "It's impossible. We've a new chief of security. He's going to be checking everything."
"All the more reason," Beals returned. "We've got to get this lot out before the next inventory."
"It won't work." Turpin shook his head.
"Fine. Then you explain it to Servalan."
"Servalan?" Turpin gasped as if he had been struck.
"Don't look so frightened." Beals took a datapad from the pocket of his uniform. "Look." He punched up a display. "This is the regular invoice. Nobody will question it. There's nothing here even remotely connected to that beta grade weapons tech who deserted."
"But Servalan," Turpin insisted. "Look what happened to Security Commander Benning. I don't fancy a session with Travis. You know the penalty for illegal weapons sales."
"So let's move before they get here," Beals responded reasonably. "The crates are marked. The plans are ready to go. All you have to do is see that they get loaded and transported on schedule."
"But what about the inventory of resources used against products manufactured?" Turpin seemed to be growing calmer.
"Stop fretting," Beals reassured the other man. "I've worked this scam on my last two assignments. Nobody ever knew or suspected a thing." He smiled grimly. "Records and buyers are my worry. Yours is delivery."
"All right," Turpin sighed. "But this is the last time."
"Agreed." Beals smiled and offered him the datapad. "Now, the buyer will meet you on your regular run to the mines tomorrow. Do you have any idea how much this is worth?" He answered his own question without waiting for a reply. "Millions."
"If we live long enough to spend it," Turpin commented unhappily.
The teleport field glowed, leaving Blake and Cally standing on a heavily wooded slope. Cally scanned the area for signs of movement, then nodded to Blake.
"If Orac's got his coordinates right," Blake said, "the rendezvous point should be about fifty meters in that direction." He gestured to a point over the crown of the hill. "Let's take a closer look."
Cally hurried after him. She crouched low as they neared the crest of the hill and inched forward. Below them, the dark entrance to a mine yawned wide in the face of a rocky slope. Guards in Federation uniforms flanked the entrance while others prodded the workers pushing and unloading the heavy ore wagons.
Cally frowned. "Slaves," she hissed. "Disgusting."
Beside her, she felt Blake shrug. "Just another part of the Federation's benevolent resettlement program."
"That, we must stop."
Blake nodded. "Not just on this planet, but on all planets. Central Control is the key." He shook his head. "But for now, we'd better find a good place out of sight to wait for our `friend' to arrive."
Cally scrambled back from the ridge. "Why here, so close to a secured installation?"
"Perhaps it's a regular delivery route." Blake pointed down the slope at the road just visible through the trees. "Let's wait by the road, where we can intercept him before he reaches the mine."
"I don't like this whole thing, Blake." Cally shivered as she started down the slope. "It feels like a trap."
Blake grinned. "Don't want me to miss Avon, eh?"
The hum of the giant generators was audible, even on the outside of the fences where three men crouched in the scant cover provided by a burnt out truck. Avon hunkered down behind a wheel hub, a canister of explosives by his side. Gan shifted closer to Vila.
"That's a lot of open space between those fences and the buildings," Gan observed.
"Another flaw in Blake's plan," Avon commented dryly. "What a surprise."
"What about the lock?" Gan inquired of Vila.
Vila merely shook his head.
"Maybe if you took a closer look?"
"Don't need a closer look," Vila sulked. "I can see from here it can't be done. Why couldn't we just teleport straight inside?"
Gan glowered at him. "Because they'll be using a molecular shift detector. You know that, Vila."
Continued in 'Limitations'
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