Selection Library Help

A Choice of Identity

By Judith Proctor
The sound of the explosion echoed deafeningly around the walls of the windowless factory. Blake turned and ran towards the sound without conscious thought, the serried ranks of the half completed pursuit ships looming over him in the gloomy half light. Vila followed, muttering under his breath, wanting desperately to return to the Liberator, but unwilling to leave without Blake, both knew they had seconds at most before the security forces entered the area.

      The lights came fully on with a bright blinding glare and Vila seized Blake by the sleeve, tugging at him to stop.

      "It's no use, if the explosion didn't get him, the security guards will."

      Blake shook him off angrily, "I'm not leaving without Avon." He spoke into his bracelet, "Avon, are you all right?" Tapping it, he tried again, but still without response.

      Escape became Vila's top priority as he heard the sound of booted feet approaching down the aisles between the machinery; he ducked behind a stack of tail fins and called the ship, "Cally, prepare for teleport."

      Looking desperately around, Blake tried to find a direction with no one approaching, he raced between the brightly lit ships, wishing that the machinery was operating to cover the noise he was making. Running silently was impossible, and he had to find his missing crew member before the guards did. He paused briefly, leaning against the landing gear of a half finished Starburst class vessel to catch his breath and to call Cally to ask if she could locate Avon and bring him up. Her answer gave him no comfort, the teleport could find nothing to lock on to. Whatever had happened to Avon in the explosion must have damaged his bracelet, he could be injured, he could be dead, and they had no way of knowing without getting to him.

      He sighted a trooper at the end of an aisle, loosed off a shot and ducked around a paint spraying machine without waiting to see if he had hit anyone. Still heading in the same direction, he started running down a neighbouring aisle, trying to determine as he ran what could have caused the blast. The three of them had been placing mines, the timing had seemed ideal, all shifts in the factory having the day off for the president's birthday. They had evaded the security patrols by teleporting within the outer security perimeter and Avon and Vila between them had managed to deal with the movement detectors and automatic cameras. Splitting up had enabled them to work faster and the job had almost been completed when the explosion occurred. Had a faulty fuse caused a mine to detonate early? If that was the case, then the question was how early? If it had gone off as Avon was setting it, then he had to accept that Avon was dead. If it had gone off a few seconds later, then he might still be alive.

      He heard a shout behind him, and turning gun in hand, saw two black clad Federation troopers. He knew he couldn't shoot them both in time, but as they raised their weapons to fire, the factory dissolved around him and re-formed into the teleport booth of the Liberator.

      "Thanks Cally, that was good timing."

      She was angry with him, and she let him know it,"No thanks to you. If Vila hadn't told me to bring you up, you'd probably have got yourself shot."

      Weary now, he allowed her to read the truth of that statement in his face, and waited for the inevitable questions. They wouldn't be long in coming.

      Jenna entered the teleport section wearing a long flowing blue robe that accentuated her figure. Even in his current state of mind Blake could admire it, it would probably be the last chance he'd have for some time.

      "I don't know if anyone is interested", she reported drily, "but Zen reports that two pursuit ships have just come into range." She looked around, "Where's Avon?"

      

      Servalan looked at the man lying on the hospital bed before her with interest; unconscious, his skin pale from loss of blood contrasted sharply with his dark hair. He wasn't exactly handsome, but his face, even relaxed in sleep looked interesting. Yes, that was the word, interesting. Creases around the eyes suggested a man who smiled a lot, yet there was something in that face that suggested a darker nature.

      She shrugged mentally, she was probably imagining it from his dossier. Kerr Avon, computer expert, probably a genius, convicted and transported for fraud on a massive scale; self-centred, a cynic, virtually without friends, reputed to be willing to do almost anything for money. There had been a top flight agent assigned to him until shortly before his capture and some of the notes were intriguing.

      "I was assigned to this case in order to determine if there was a political motive behind the bank fraud, a strong possibility in light of Avon's family history. This proved not to be the case, this man has about as much interest in politics as a fish has in breathing air, he is motivated purely and simply by a desire for money and for control over his own life."

      "Avon is an unfeeling and unemotional man who doesn't trust anyone except himself."

      Later entries in the file had changed their tone slightly.

      "Somewhere in him, I think, there is a capacity for obsession. I have a feeling that if he ever let anything or anyone become important to him, it could come to dominate his entire life."

      Insights into his personality were remarkably rare in the file after that until the final entry.

      "I have lost Avon's trail and am therefore leaving this case. If he ever discovers what I have done to him, he will attempt to kill me, I am for this reason faking my own death."

      Fascinating, thought Servalan, that a man on the run could be regarded as so dangerous that an agent of Central Security felt the need to hide. The question with the information, as with all information was how to make best use of it. Blake was the real target, and Avon could certainly be used to trap Blake, the question was how best to do it. Ideally he could be used to gain both Blake and the Liberator.

      Walking around to the other side of the bed, she studied the medical report once more, severe shock and trauma, some internal injuries which were recovering under treatment, and a strong possibility of traumatic amnesia when he regained consciousness.

      "Why does he stay with Blake?", she asked herself. From his record, there would appear to be two possible motives, the first, and most likely to her way of thinking was that of a criminal on the run, he needed the Liberator and its speed to stay out of the reach of Federation law. The second was that possibility for obsession hinted at in his dossier, if for any reason Blake or the rebellion had become important to him, then that could provide his reason for remaining. She smiled, both possibilities could be covered by the right plan. Money and memory were the keys here. Money would provide the motive for him to do as she wished, and affecting his memory could remove any motive for acting against her. Regretfully there wasn't time to implant a full set of false memories, Blake would suspect a trap anyway, and the more time that passed, the more suspicious he would become as to its nature. A simple memory block would have to suffice. With the possibility for amnesia already present, the doctors should have little difficulty carrying out her instructions.

      

      Blake could feel his crew slipping away from him. Wryly he recalled Avon's warning after Gan had died. "One more death Blake and you'll lose them." He had recognised the truth of the statement, but had never expected that death to be Avon's. They had all concentrated on their tasks long enough to outrun the pursuit ships, but now they were bickering among themselves and largely ignoring him. Everyone except Cally seemed certain that Avon hadn't survived, and even Cally wasn't one hundred percent positive.

      Vila wanted to be put down on a populated planet immediately, Jenna thought they had made a sufficient stab at trying to injure the Federation and wanted the Liberator to stick to less dangerous activities such as smuggling arms to resistance groups in the outer worlds. Cally was all in favour of carrying on, but her proposals tended towards the suicidal, as though she simply wanted companions for her death in order to reduce her sense of failure. As for Zen, Zen had no opinion on any subject.

      "Information", they all ceased their arguments for a moment and looked up at the computer display.

      "There is an incoming message, but the signal is very faint."

      Blake's reaction was automatic, "Boost the power gain, draw energy from other systems if necessary." He paced impatiently up and down the flight deck as the message replayed. It was badly distorted by distance, but it was definitely Avon's voice.

      "Liberator, this is Avon. Can you hear me? I'm not sure if my receiver is functioning, it's taken me this long to get the transmitter in working order. If you can get a fix on my signal, send someone down with a spare bracelet, I don't want to trust my life to the one I'm using in its present condition. Tell whoever comes down to bend low, I'm hiding in a ventilation shaft, and there isn't much room."

      Relief washed over him in a flood, it wasn't just the lifting of the burden of guilt, he'd actually missed Avon as a friend, something he would have thought impossible when he first met the man. Let's face it, Avon wasn't an easy man to like, in fact Blake frequently gained the impression that he didn't actually want people to like him.

      "Zen, lay in a course for Dageron, standard by eight."

      "Confirmed." came the reply in the computer's monotone.

      "Zen", complained Vila, "can't you sound just the least bit cheerful on occasion?"

      Jenna eyed him sourly, "You realise it could be a trap? He was out of touch for a day and a half, that's a long time just to fix a transmitter."

      Blake nodded, he was aware of the possibility himself, whilst he was convinced that Avon would never willingly aid the Federation, there was always the chance that he was unknowingly being used as bait. "Keep an eye on the long range scanners and look out for ships using Dageron as cover. I want to go in and out as quickly as possible using the teleport at maximum range."

      

      Caleb Avon crouched in the shaft, he was tired and he was thirsty and his head hurt, the doctor had assured him that the pain was transient and that he would be able to function normally within a day or two, this would have been reassuring if he had trusted the doctor. Once this job was over he wanted nothing more than to have a decent rest. Time and rest should restore his memory, at least it should if the doctor was telling the truth.

      He hoped someone would come soon, it was almost dark here, only a small amount of light filtered in from the factory floor. He could hear the sounds of workers clearing the debris from the rebel's handiwork, it had been an efficient job from the sound of it, it would probably be a year or more before the factory resumed full production. He shifted position again, he was getting cramp in his left leg from sitting still too long, lying down again might help, but the dust on the bottom of the shaft made him want to sneeze.

      He wondered if they had buried his brother's body as he had requested, it wasn't that he cared particularly, but family was family.

      He knew there was something he needed to remember, something that he desperately needed to know, but whenever he tried to concentrate, the effort made his head start throbbing again. The only good thing about this whole situation was the money, the bounty for the whole group would come to millions of credits. He wanted that money. Blake's people didn't matter, they were nothing to him. Money was the only thing that really mattered, money was freedom to do whatever he desired.

      Would Blake come anyway? According to Travis' reports, Blake was incapable of abandoning a friend, Caleb wasn't so sure about that, if he were in Blake's place, he would have cut his losses and run. Returning to a zone that was now in a state of full alert, with Federation pursuit ships known to be in the area was folly, to be added to that was the chance that the set up was a trap. No man was worth running a risk like that for, no matter how valuable his skills were.

      There was a sudden brief light in the shaft behind him accompanied by a noise. He squeezed himself around to be confronted by a beautiful girl with a worried expression on her face.

      "Avon are you all right?"

      He nodded, not trusting himself yet to say anything, this had to be the Auron girl, and he perceived her as the greatest threat to himself of all the Liberator crew.

      "The others thought you were dead."

      "But you didn't?", this was going to be easier than he had thought. Servalan had obviously been correct when she had told him that the Auronar could not read the minds of humans.

      Cally smiled and touched him lightly on the shoulder and Avon found himself suddenly regretting the possibility of her death.

      He put on the bracelet she passed him, leaving the old one in the shaft, damaged or not, the supreme commander would want it for her research programme. Now he had to prepare himself to act the part of his brother, it wasn't going to be easy, he didn't know enough about them or how well they got on with Kerr. He wished he had had more time to do research on both his brother and the rest of the Liberator crew, but Servalan had been adamant, it simply wasn't plausible for him to have hidden himself, injured and without food for more than a day or two at the most. At least he had information in his datapad which included everything the Federation knew to date about Blake and his crew; as soon as he was alone, he could punch up some of the information he needed and start memorising it all over again.

      "Bring us up." Cally spoke into her bracelet, and the world around Avon wavered and reformed into a different place.

      They were all waiting for him, the man dressed in green, that had to be Blake, he recognised him from the photographs; the smaller man holding out a glass filled with some kind of red liquid must therefore be Vila. He took the glass and gulped down its contents gratefully, he didn't recognise the taste, but it was warm and probably alcoholic in nature. "Thanks."

      He looked at Blake and realised that he had absolutely no idea of how he was expected to react, what was the relationship between his brother and this man, was he expected to be eternally grateful for being rescued, or simply to brush it off?

      Feigning illness seemed like a good idea, and then fighting back the dizziness that threatened to overwhelm him he realised that he didn't need to fake it. He staggered slightly, and Cally caught him by the arm, Blake took him by the other. "He's ill", he heard Cally say, "I think he lost a lot of blood. Help me take him to lie down."

      

      

      The doctor looked nervous which Servalan took to be a bad sign, if he had something to feel guilty about then he obviously hadn't been doing his job properly. She moved onto the attack automatically, "How long will the block hold? You told me two weeks at least, and that he would retain all his skills but be unable to access any personal memories"

      He wasn't actually shaking, but the probe he was spinning between his fingers gave him away just as badly.

      "Two weeks, I assure you two weeks supreme commander, if only I had had time and the proper equipment I could have done a much more thorough job. It could be most unfortunate if something occurs to trigger his memory."

      Servalan managed to look bored, "It could indeed be unfortunate." She steepled her fingers in front of her on the desk and then smiled maliciously, "For you."

      

      She thought back to her conversation with Avon-

      

      Night reigned in the hospital, and as in hospitals everywhere the subdued lighting lent a slightly eerie aspect to the silent corridors. The walls were a pale green colour, no doubt chosen by some psychologist to have a soothing effect, doubtless, she thought, it worked in the day, but at night it merely made the place look emptier. Not that Servalan was worried by the dark, she was a creature of the night, and so perhaps was Avon. The monitors reported that he had regained consciousness, so now it was time to see if the more predatory and mercenary aspects of his character had survived the memory block. If he proved to be disinterested in her offer, there was always good propaganda value to be gained from executing him.

      The door opened quietly, but audibly; the man on the bed turned quickly towards the sound, then winced momentarily in pain. Servalan snapped on the light and paused, framed in the doorway, well aware of the effect she made and playing it for maximum effort. The white dress flowed from shoulder to ankles, hugging her figure tightly, with small geometric patterns picked out here and there in delicate pearl beadwork. Power dressing was something she had been unable to indulge in at lower ranks in the service, but having reached the top, she knew exactly how to utilise her assets and enjoyed the reactions she obtained from men. She was beautiful, desirable, and totally out of their reach.

      Avon was watching, waiting for her to make the first move.

      She moved towards the bed and seated herself in a chair so that her eyes were just a few inches higher than his own. "Caleb", she loosed a devastating smile at him, "don't you think you overdid the desire for realism?"

      There was a momentary touch of confusion in his eyes, rapidly covered up. This was the point where most people would have begun the "Who am I, where am I?" routine, Avon didn't disappoint her, he smiled slightly ,"Overdid?"

      Servalan waved a hand negligently in his general direction.

      "The injuries; I know you needed to look convincing enough to pass a possible medical check up, but you came close to killing yourself."

      Rising to her feet, she looked down at him, her face totally serious and her voice crisp, "We've invested a lot of time and money in this project and this is the only shot we'll ever get at it. Your twin is dead, there will be no future opportunity for you to take his place among the rebels. Understand this Avon, I want Blake and I want his ship, alive or dead."

      She tossed a small datapad onto the pillow beside him, "Here's your files on the rebels and some final updates that I've added, I'm told that a degree of amnesia is not uncommon in cases like yours, so I suggest you do some last minute revision if you need it, you leave in two hours." Turning on her heel, she exited the room with a swirl of fabric, leaving behind her a man with no memory of himself desperately trying to gather up the threads of an identity, any identity.

      

      

      Caleb awoke on the Liberator and looked around him, the room was spartan in appearance, either his brother had simple tastes in decoration, or two years on the run simply hadn't given him any opportunity to personalise his quarters. Everything was neat and efficient; he got cautiously to his feet and got himself a drink of water, he still felt terribly thirsty. A study of a closet revealed a selection of clothing, Kerr's taste in clothes appeared to run mainly to black, Caleb smiled, black was just fine, it concealed everything, revealed nothing.

      

      The drive section was empty of people, but then it normally was; after two days, Caleb had begun to get a feel for the Liberator and the daily routines of her crew, he avoided them as much as possible and by and large they respected his desire to be alone. It was Cally who had sought him out to ensure that his injuries were healing and treated his many bruises with a pad from the ship's medical supplies. It resembled nothing he had seen before, but was remarkably effective. Even when she had determined that he was physically well, she still seemed worried about him, asking if he felt all right in himself. He'd given a brusque reply and made an excuse to leave, it was obvious that she both knew and liked Kerr, and he had no desire to be pinned down in close conversation where he would probably give himself away.

      Looking around the alien machinery, he tried to determine where he could do the most damage, it had to be something critical to knock out the main drive, and it had to be something that the auto repair system could not handle easily. A series of conduits intersecting in a control panel appeared promising and he investigated closer, tracing the critical circuits by hand. Once satisfied, he placed a mine and checked its timer, an inner sense of caution prompting him to inspect the innards of the device also. He stood back, satisfied with his handiwork, with the spacedrive disabled, he was not going to have to worry about Blake regaining control of the ship, the locator signal he had been sending should ensure Servalan's arrival within half an hour of the Liberator ceasing to move.

      Returning to his room, he strapped on the power pack for the gun he had taken the night before and headed towards the flight deck.

      

      "Information"

      Cally looked up from her console where she was experimenting with different shield overlap patterns, "What is it Zen?"

      "There is an explosive device attached to the main drive controller."

      She turned to Jenna in shock, "How did that get there?"

      Her question was answered by Avon standing casually in the entrance way, "I put it there. It should go off", he glanced at his watch, "any moment now."

      As if to confirm his words there was the muffled thump of an explosion from deep within the ship. Cally looked at him in puzzlement, taking in the gun in his hand which pointed at herself and Jenna, and the relaxed but cold expression on his face.

      "Move away from the controls, sit on the floor in front of Zen." He gestured with the gun to emphasise the point.

      Jenna moved around slowly, trying to buy time; Cally was sure to try and contact Blake, if she could just keep Avon's attention on herself she might be able to create an opportunity of some kind. She stopped in front of Zen's wall display and waited for Cally to join her, then she turned to face the man with the gun and placed her hands on her hips allowing her face to show her contempt for him.

      "Avon, I've thought a lot of things about you, I've always known you were a cold blooded bastard, but I never thought you'd sell us out to Servalan."

      The bitterness in her voice amused him, "If it's any consolation, your friend didn't sell you out. You see", he paused and smiled at her, "I'm not Kerr Avon."

      Then he crumpled and fell to the floor as Blake stepped out from behind him nursing the hand he had used to attack him.

      "Thanks Cally, that telepathy of yours is extremely useful, I'm surprised he forgot to allow for it." He looked thoughtfully at the man lying on the floor, "Now why does he claim he isn't Avon, something obviously happened on Dageron, but what?

      "Cally, is there any chance he could be an android like Avalon?"

      "No, none at all, I checked him out shortly after he came on board, he's human all right, and I'm positive that he is Avon, although he has been acting a little oddly over the last few days."

      "Then they've done something to his mind." Blake was angry, he was unable to forget what the Federation had done to has own memory, it drove him, and gave extra impetus to his crusade. To have one of his crew violated in a similar manner was a personal insult.

      Jenna was less certain, mistrust of Avon was deeply ingrained in her, but she could see no logical reason for Avon in his right mind to claim to be anyone else. He had nothing to gain by it. She had other more immediate problems to consider though, "Zen, set detectors at maximum range, report all ships in scan area."

      "There are three ships approaching on an intercept course, at present speed they will reach the Liberator in twenty two minutes."

      "How long until the main drive is operational?"

      "Auto repair systems require forty seven minutes."

      She swore under her breath and looked at Avon who was beginning to come around, she wanted dearly to kick him hard. There simply wasn't enough time left to them.

      Blake considered his options, and didn't much care for what he came up with.

      "Jenna, Cally, find Vila and all of you do what you can to speed up the repairs. I'm going to have a word with Avon."

      "It won't do any good", protested Jenna, "We simply can't work fast enough to make a difference."

      Defeat had never been something Blake accepted easily, and he wasn't going to change now, "Then we'll go down trying. Now do it!"

      They departed the flight deck as ordered, leaving himself and Avon alone. He looked cautiously at Avon and then sat down, pointed to the seat opposite, "You might as well make yourself comfortable."

      He got no initial response other than a suspicious look, but then Avon shrugged and seated himself, spreading his arms along the back of the couch. That was irritating, and probably intended to be so, the man looked so infernally relaxed in spite of the gun aimed at him. Not knowing where to begin, Blake resorted to the straightforward approach, "Avon, I think the Federation have tampered with your memory. They can remove true memories and implant false ones, I know, they did it to me once. Right now, I need you and I need your help, and I can't do it unless you can get past whatever they have done to your mind."

      Was there a flicker of reaction? He wasn't sure.

      He pressed harder. "You said that you weren't Avon, who are you then?"

      That produced a result, although not altogether one that he had expected, "I'm not Kerr Avon, I'm his twin brother Caleb. Your Avon is dead."

      Dead. Blake wasn't sure how to take that. He knew Avon had a brother, he recalled when they had first boarded the Liberator, that the automatic defence system had shown Avon an illusion of his brother. Beyond that basic fact he knew nothing, Avon never discussed his family, his personal history or indeed anything to do with himself; it was, Blake reflected like living with a stranger. For the first time, his certainty that this man was indeed Avon wavered. Then he reflected that had nothing to lose by trying to convince him of his identity; the thought that he might have nothing to gain by succeeding, he tried to push to the back of his mind. He was all too aware of the slow passage of time.

      He needed information. He took Orac's key from where it was resting on top of the computer and plugged it in, a circle of lights cycled around inside the transparent casing and an irritated sounding voice queried him.

      "What is it?"

      "Orac, query the Federation computers for birth records. I need to know if Kerr Avon has a twin brother."

      "The information will take some time to obtain."

      "Better get started then."

      Avon was watching, trying to look indifferent, but not totally succeeding, Blake moved to the attack once more, trying to work out an approach that stood a chance of success.

      "There would appear to be two possibilities", he commented, "either you are Caleb Avon in which case I'll shoot you before Servalan arrives, or else you are Kerr Avon, in which case Servalan will ensure that you stand trial and are executed with the rest of us. Not much of a choice really, the question is, which would you rather be?"

      Avon, whichever one he was, smiled. "I've got a more interesting idea. Why not give me the gun? If I'm Kerr Avon, I could get you out of this; if I'm Caleb Avon I'll probably shoot you, but then you're a dead man anyway, so you've nothing to lose." The smile deepened, "You don't trust me of course, and I'm not sure that you trust him either."

      He shifted his position and leaned forward slightly.

      "You shouldn't have gone back for him. That was a stupid mistake,the risk of a trap was far too high. You have Orac, you don't need a computer expert any more.

      "Why?", he sounded genuinely puzzled, "Why did you go back for him?"

      Blake looked at him, sadness and sarcasm mingled,

      "If you have to ask the question, then you'll never understand the answer."

      

      Reaching a decision, Avon looked up at the flickering pattern of lights on the wall which represented Zen. The Liberator's computer wasn't necessarily located there, but Zen's voice always emanated from that point. "Zen, open a communications channel to the ships pursuing us, a personal message for the Supreme Commander."

      "Confirmed"

      He held out his hand, "Blake, give me the gun." He spoke quickly, his voice no longer mocking.

      Blake hesitated,"Why, have you decided who you are?"

      "It doesn't matter, whatever I said I could be lying.

      "Give me the gun." His voice was insistent.

      There are times when decisions that affect lives have to be made, Blake realised that this was one of them. He gambled with fate and handed over the weapon into the outstretched hand.

      "Zen, make the link visual, we should be within range"

      The screen lit up and the cold but beautiful face of the Federation space fleet's supreme commander appeared.

      "Caleb, is the Liberator secure?"

      "The main drive is disabled and as you can see I have Blake. However, before I hand the ship over to you, there are a few minor matters I would like to discuss. My payment for example. It occurred to me that you might just might try to economise on the bounty money by killing me after I've completed my job."

      "How could you think such a thing?" Her voice was soft as silk, as though she was holding an intimate conversation with him with no onlookers.

      "I'm suspicious by nature." His voice was light in tone, this was a game, and they were beginning to establish the rules.

      Servalan raised an eyebrow, "How do you suggest we resolve the problem?"

      That was simple to answer, "Pay me in advance, you can access the federation banking service from your ship. Set up a secure account accessible only to my password, transfer the money, and then we can do business."

      "That would take time."

      Avon leaned back in his seat and rested his feet on top of Orac, "I'm in no hurry. Oh, and don't bring your ships into firing distance while you're sorting out the money, I left the weapon systems intact. I'm sure I could persuade Blake to co-operate in sending a few shots your way."

      So that was the way the game was developing, Servalan ordered her ships to halt while she considered her response, the Liberator's neutron blasters had a notoriously long range. Although they could doubtless destroy it, that would be at the cost of one or more of her own ships.

      "With the main drive out of commission, the Liberator cannot escape. If I open fire I could destroy the ship without paying you anything."

      "But you want the Liberator intact, that should be worth paying a few million credits for" He'd called her bluff.

      She fell back on a reserve strategy, "I'll set up the money for you", she typed a few numbers into her terminal, waited a minute for the result and then looked back at him. "According to the system, the next available account is delta vee seven thirteen oh four."

      Avon grinned, "Nice try Servalan, but it won't do, the delta vee accounts all have security overrides, get me an account number in the MZ series."

      Servalan turned to discuss something with her aide, and Blake took the chance to glance at his watch, he largely discounted Vila, but Jenna and Cally between them should be able to make an impact on the total repair time. Avon just had to buy them more time, if indeed he was tying to buy time for them, and was not just working to ensure his own survival.

      The screen filled with Servalan's face once more.

      "I've got someone working on an MZ account, but he'll have to get special notification and that will take time. Caleb, how do I know that you'll keep your end of the deal?"

      "You don't", he was quite open about it, " but then I can't fly the Liberator single handed, and the money is of far more use to me than the ship could be. Why go on the run when I have the chance to live in luxury?"

      Her mind was working hard on the problem, there had to be some way of keeping the money, Avon was going to die one way or another, but if she transferred the money to an MZ account, it could sit there forever with no one able to access it at all. The problem was, he knew the banking system too well. With somebody else, she would simply have faked the transfer, but he would know all the correct responses and check codes, it hadn't been ineptness on Avon's part that had caused his original bank fraud to be detected.

      Time for the next challenge.

      "Avon, how are you going to set up a password. Any number you choose you will have to tell me. If you wait until after the Liberator is taken, you can input the number yourself, far more secure."

      A good move, but he'd already worked out a solution to that one. "Orac", he commanded, "I need two very large prime numbers and their product, when you've got them, give Zen the first number and the product and I'll send them to Servalan.

      He glanced up at the screen, "Set it so that the only number that will access the account is the second unknown prime, the banking service is quite capable of handling such an approach."

      Checkmate. It was the equivalent of a public key encryption system, virtually unbreakable.

      She mentally conceded Avon the battle. "Contact me when you have the numbers."

      Cutting off the communication channel, Servalan weighed up the balance. It was going to cost her after all, but the Liberator and her crew were worth the price, and Avon would lose in the end. She decided to wait a few weeks for his memory to return before having him executed, he deserved to die under his own name, and besides she added to herself, it would make the trial more effective from a propaganda viewpoint. She sighed, it was going to be such a waste to kill him, why didn't the Federation have men like this?

      

      As the screen went blank, Blake and Avon moved rapidly into action,

      "Zen, plot us an escape course out of here at maximum velocity."

      "Confirmed."

      "Zen, how long until the main drive is functional?"

      "Main drive will be fully functional in five minutes."

      Avon leaned over Orac's casing, "How long will it take you to calculate those numbers?"

      "About ten minutes, longer if you keep on interrupting me." came the annoyed response. "Incidentally Kerr Avon does not have a twin brother."

      "I'd already guessed that", said Avon drily, "I know too much about the banking system to be anyone but myself."

      Simple arithmetic led Blake to a decision, he wanted to leave as soon as possible, "Zen, as soon as the drive is functional, put escape course into action."

      As he had feared, Avon rounded on him angrily, "Why not wait for the money?"

      "As you said yourself you know too much about the banking system. How long do you think it will be before Servalan realises you've worked it out?"

      Reluctantly Avon nodded, it pained him to part with that much potential credit, but Servalan was nobody's fool. If she had time to reposition her ships, the Liberator might not escape even with its superior speed.

      The minutes passed with unbearable slowness, Blake checking out the weapon systems, while Avon ran simulations of possible attack patterns. When Servalan finally made her move she was too late, the Liberator leapt away form the confines of normal space and slowly but surely gained a lead as she headed for the relative safety of the galactic rim. It would be days yet before she finally eluded her pursuers, but providing no other ships intercepted her course, they would be safe, at least for the time being. They could relax for a while.

      It was only hours later when they were taking a long overdue meal that Blake finally worked the conversation around to what he been wanting to ask. "Avon, what made you decide to help us when you were still uncertain as to who you were?"

      Avon regarded him coldly, "Zen accepted my instructions, he only responds to certain voice patterns, therefore I had to be Kerr Avon."

      

      It was only Cally who understood differently; Cally who could never have cared for Avon as she did if he had been only the cold emotionless front that he showed to the world. Avon had had a choice of being two people, and he had chosen to be the man that they had gone back for; not out of gratitude, nor out of a sense of obligation, but simply because somebody had cared what happened to him.

      

      

      


Rate This Story: Feedback to
Judith Proctor

Selection Library Help

Back to B7 Top