Jenna woke me up early. "Blake," she said, "the Tiranans have arrested Avon. I think you should come and see the viscast." So here I am, still doing up the fasteners on my shirt, standing in front of the main screen and trying to work out what has happened to you.
There's an enormous crowd on that screen. Where did they all come from so quickly? How is it that people always know instinctively when something is going on?
Avon, you're not as well known here as I am, but they've still flocked out to see you taken. The camera is moving over the heads of the spectators now and I can see you clearly. The vid audiences will be loving this. You won't give them a show though, will you? No expression on your face, no protestations of innocence, no flamboyant gestures, no protests against the handcuffs holding you to the policeman by your side.
Handcuffed, like a common criminal! When did I stop thinking of you as a criminal, and start thinking of you as a trusted friend? I don't really know.
How did they take you? It must have been by surprise or you would have teleported back to Liberator. What false charges will they bring against you? It isn't you they want, Avon - it's me. They need to discredit me before the referendum.
Two weeks I've been here now, making endless vid appearances arguing against Tirana joining the Federation. Endless talk shows. How odd it seems to be sharing the stage with Federation representatives. Yet this is still a neutral world, and here for a while I rub shoulders with them in safety. Now I know why they changed their pattern yesterday. Instead of the usual discussions of trade benefits, cultural freedom, the pros and cons of mutual defence and so forth, they moved to attack us personally. Wasn't it true, asked Holroyd, with a smile, that all my crew were criminals, that they included a murderer, a thief, a smuggler and an embezzler? Even if I denied the charges laid at my own door, did I deny that they were guilty? What could I say? He'd done his homework well, he knew all the details of your crimes.
Much though I like and value all of you, there are times when I wish fate had landed me with a crew of honest men. Of all of us, only Cally is free of the taint of crime.
Why do you follow me Avon? If follow is indeed the word to use? Do you share my desire to destroy the Federation, or is it simply that you have no safe place to run to? That's something I can't make up my mind about. In some ways I know you better than you know yourself, and in others not at all. I'd trust you with my life, and I like to think you'd trust me with yours; but I don't always know what motivates you.
They will seek to destroy the work I have done over the last fortnight by pinning some crime on you. It hardly matters what, although I imagine it will be something appropriate. Will you understand when I don't rescue you? To teleport in and seize you from their grasp would merely confirm to them that you are guilty. The referendum is only a few days away - for the Federation to profit most by your capture, they need you to be brought to trial and proved guilty before then. Publicity is what they seek, to sway the electorate, to convince them that those who oppose the Federation are simply a load of thieves out for whatever they can get. The only way for this battle to be won, is for you to prove yourself innocent in court. You're an innocent man, Avon, and you're smart, surely you can win the fight some way.
I promise you Avon, if they find you guilty, I'll come and get you out of there. I won't leave you to rot in one of their jails, no matter how well they guard you.
Continued in Star Two
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