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In Broken Images

By Catherine
story by Catherine Salmon, poetry by Robert Graves

      

      {"Sub-Heading" off}Even on the London, he influenced me. He reached out, whether in need or, as he might claim, in friendship, it hardly matters. But that was where it began.

      

      ******

      

Avon sat quietly, alone, studying a piece of paper. He didn't even glance up as Blake entered the room, moving to sit across from him. He was aware of the big man's presence though, Blake was hard to ignore.

      "If you had access to the computers, could you open the doors?" Blake's eyes were intent, gazing off into space.

      Avon didn't even bother to look up. "Of course. Why?" And why am I not surprised at the question, he thought to himself.

      "Just wondered how good you really were?"

      You've planned this, Blake, Avon thought sardonically. You know exactly what I'm capable of. "Don't try and manipulate me," he said aloud.

      "Why should I try and do that?"

      "You need me."

      "Only if you can open the doors."

      I don't want to be needed, thought Avon in irritation. He considered Blake's plan, duelling verbally, while part of him chased after possible alternatives. There were none. He watched Blake pace, listened to him speak again.

      "You'll do it then?"

      "When?"

      "Now."

      Avon made up his mind. For now he would follow Blake's lead. Blake was a fellow alpha and he appeared to have an acceptable plan.

      I'm too tired, he admitted to himself. I don't want to think, don't want to dream. He shivered slightly, then rocked with the ship as it shifted sharply. Blake was watching him and his gaze said now. Avon rose.

      

      He is quick, thinking in clear images;

      I am slow, thinking in broken images.

      

      *****

"You really do intend to attack Control, don't you, with or without your faithful crew?"

      Blake, seated on the couch, looked up at the question. Avon was standing just beside Orac, his gaze curious rather than scathing. They were alone on the flight deck, the others having gone off to talk among themselves. Blake contemplated his companion's question, wondering at the reasons behind it. "Of course I do. It's the heart of the Federation's power, destroying it would be a crippling blow to the Federation, the opening the rebellion needs."

      "And if none of us choose to accompany you?"

      Now that, Blake thought, was a different twist from Avon's usual. Avon was always interested in his own welfare, what possible interest could he have in Blake's?

      "Then I go alone. I believe that I can destroy Control, with or without your assistance. Kasabi and her forces will be there." Blake paused, irritated by Avon's apparent indifference. "I don't want to do it alone but I will if I have to. It must be done, Avon."

      "Restoring power to the common man, how noble." Avon's voice dripped scorn. "The masses you so long to free care nothing for you. Your death would be meaningless, as would all of ours."

      "Afraid, Avon?"

      "No, concerned that you are not thinking. One of many constant concerns, I'm afraid."

      Blake couldn't help but smile at the sharp words. Avon did care. This was the only way he could show it, that was all. I know you, Avon, better than you know yourself, he thought fondly.

      "That's why I keep you around, Avon. You do my thinking for me." He smiled up at the technician, watching Avon tense up even more. Avon hated being caught out and Blake loved to do it.

      "I don't like it, Blake. The odds would be against us."

      "They always have been. We'll still win. With Kasabi's help, we will take Control."

      Blake turned away then, returning his attention to his plans, hopeful that Avon would support him in spite of the man's reservations. He was sure the rest of the crew would back him, despite their fears, they would want to make the attempt. Kasabi would be there too. Blake trusted that she would contact him, that everything would go, if not exactly as planned, then close enough. He never guessed that Gan would pay the price for his over-confidence.

      

      He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;

      I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

      

      *******

Blake leaned against the wall, as he watched Servalan's headquarters rock with the strength of Liberator's attack. They had hit quickly and were off, unwilling to risk themselves further.

      Avon was aware that they were all upset by Gan's death, perhaps Blake most of all, inevitably holding himself responsible. And rightly so, Avon thought, as he watched Blake, you will be the death of us all. Blake seemed anything but threatening now though. The others had left Avon to his watch. Blake remained, depressed and depressing.

      Avon glared at him but Blake took no notice, staring off into space.

      "Feeling guilty, Blake?" Avon enquired nastily. Can I shock you out of this stupor? Avon wondered. Make you angry enough to think for a change? The look on Blake's face wasn't of anger though. Hurt maybe, for a moment; then resignation, acceptance.

      "Yes, do you care?"

      Avon had to look away. Damn Blake for always pointing out his own inconsistencies. Cruel to be kind, was how Blake interpreted Avon's actions, no matter how nasty he was. "When your mistakes could cost me my life, yes, I care."

      He paused, stepped to Blake's side. "You won't succeed, Blake. And no one will thank you for the effort. You'd be better off using Liberator to save yourself, and us, from the Federation. The masses don't wish to be freed."

      "You don't really believe that?"

      Blake's shock was apparent. He couldn't understand Avon's point of view, couldn't see past his own cause. It was his life, it gave him something to fight for and he believed in it implicitly, in its worthiness. It was purpose, meaning; but not for Avon.

      "Maybe not," Avon finally said, "but I don't believe that I was cut out to be a martyr. Certainly not for the sake of people I haven't even met and couldn't care less about." Avon could tell that his little speech was beyond Blake's comprehension. The rebel didn't believe Avon's words. He believed what he wanted to believe, as he always had.

      

      Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;

      Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

*******

Destroy Star One and the Federation will fall. Blake was so certain that it was the only way. Avon wasn't so sure. He had suggested to Blake that they control it instead, sure that Blake's altruistic nature would make him jump at the chance to save lives. He was surprised by Blake's response.

      "No, Avon."

      "Why not?"

      Blake rose to face the smaller man, inches away, but the distance between them greater than ever.

      "Because that much power could corrupt anyone."

      "You don't trust me?" It wasn't really a question, Avon assumed that he was the problem, that Blake didn't believe that the computer expert could resist the chance at wealth. Avon however, was mistaken.

      "Anyone, Avon." Even me. It hung there, unspoken. For the first time, Avon wondered. Did Blake mean that he might abandon his belief in freedom for his beloved masses in favour of replacing Servalan or did he simply fear that he would become the benevolent dictator; his people's best interests at heart but going about it all wrong?

      "Do the ends justify the means, Blake?"

      Blake was looking at Avon again, intensely. But there was no hesitation in his response.

      "They have to, Avon. Otherwise, all it has been is senseless violence, no better than Servalan or Travis."

      Avon saw that Blake believed it, every word that he said. Avon had often advocated the same type of philosophy, justifying all his actions in terms of his own survival. Blake's terms were a little broader but...it seemed wrong coming from him, inconsistent with his own principles.

      Irrelevant to consider it though. Blake had made up his mind to destroy Star One, that was the answer. Avon would help but still, he wondered; was the Federation the problem or people who wanted to be led? There was no guarantee that the government to replace the Federation would do any better. Even Blake conceded the corruptibility of man, and he was the least corruptible man Avon knew.

      

      Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;

      Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

      

      *******

      

"Lie still, Blake. You'll open it up again."

      Avon watched Cally press Blake back down, one hand planted firmly against his uninjured shoulder. He acquiesced, unwillingly. Avon admired the other man's will to keep going but he would do best by staying still and letting the healing pad work. Blake had been badly hurt when Travis shot him.

      "Stay here with him, Cally. I'll get Jenna to take us out of here. Servalan will be here soon. Let her deal with the Andromedans." Avon turned to leave when a hand grabbed his wrist. He tried to jerk loose but Blake refused to let go.

      "No. We must hold them off until the Federation forces arrive. Try and protect Star One, we mustn't let them win, Avon."

      Blake's eyes burned into the technician's, desperate for him to listen, to obey. "Please, Avon."

      Avon almost laughed. Blake had been so certain that Star One must be destroyed, that the only thing of importance was freedom from the Federation. And now? He saw the worry on Blake's face. The rebel had been wrong. He recognized it now and was afraid that it was already too late. Avon looked down at Blake's hand, still tight around his wrist. Could we do it? Avon questioned himself. Possibly, at an unreasonable cost, risking our lives again for others.

      "We could run." Avon offered. He saw a moment's doubt flicker in Blake's eyes. He felt Cally's outrage. That was low, Kerr Avon, he thought, low even by your own standards. Blake was hurting and here he was twisting the blade.

      Avon sighed. "I'll stay." The doubt vanished from Blake's eyes, replaced by grateful affection, almost as painful for Avon, as doubt had been for Blake. Avon withdrew his wrist cautiously.

      "Stay here, Blake," Cally said. "And please lie quietly." She patted him on the shoulder, glancing back as they left.

      "Good luck," he answered.

      

      When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;

      When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

      

      *******

      

"What are you planning now, Blake?"

      Blake looked up from his terminal. Deva was standing beside him, a knowing look on his face. Deva was a good friend, but sometimes he was too much like another friend, one that Blake found himself missing more and more.

      Leaning back, Blake gestured for the other man to pull up a chair. "Sit down. I want to talk to you about it and now's as good a time as any."

      Deva sat, a little uneasily, wondering what risky plan was in the rebel's mind. Since Jenna's death, Blake had been more driven than ever. Raid after raid on Federation installations, recruiting new followers on a dozen planets, and Deva was concerned that Blake would collapse under the stress. His eye wasn't fully healed yet, and wouldn't be if he kept refusing to rest.

      "Have you ever heard of the planet Gauda Prime?" Blake watched for a reaction and got none. "It's been an open planet, no real law, a home for criminals of all types." Pausing, Blake continued to eye Deva, waiting for a response.

      "Your point, Blake?"

      Blake smiled. "The Federation has decided to reclaim the planet, restore law and order. This is the day of the bounty hunter on Gauda Prime. What better cover for recruiting anti-Federation forces than that of one working to bring in the opponents? Set up a base of operations and we would have our Inner Worlds base, right on the Federation's doorstep."

      Logical, Deva had to concede. Dangerous too, but that would never deter Blake now. He spoke with his old conviction. Blake believed that they could do it, building an army of rebels right under the Federation's nose. He might be right, might be wrong, but he would make the attempt whether Deva agreed or not. And Deva was not about to let Blake try it without him. Someone had to keep an eye on their leader. They couldn't afford to lose him.

      "I assume that you've already worked out a plan for how to set it up and who will go with us."

      Blake's smile widened. "Us, Deva?"

      "Of course, Blake. You need careful watching." Deva was surprised when Blake's smile faded, but Blake waved off his concern.

      "I wanted to mention it to you first, but there will be a meeting for all but on-duty security in two hours in the hanger deck. I'll go through it all then." The smile returned. "Better practice up on those rusty computer skills of yours. We're going to need them."

      With a raised eyebrow, Deva nodded and left, hoping that Blake was right in this; that it would work. Blake had largely recovered from their last fiasco, but one more might be one too many.

      

      

      *******

      

"You really do believe it's Blake, don't you?"

      Avon and Vila stood off together. Vila, unwilling to retreat from Avon's fierce gaze but equally unwilling to get too close, stood behind the lower console.

      "Yes, I do," Avon replied.

      "He's not likely to be a tame figurehead you know, not Blake. And what if Soolin is right about GP? What if he's gone bad?"

      Avon simply stared at Vila. "Blake was never tame but he can be manipulated just like anyone else. Gauda Prime may be the hell Soolin says it is but Blake's bounty hunter role must simply be that; a role to play. Blake may be many things, Vila, foolish, idealistic, trusting, but he is a believer. He could not return to the Federation fold. He would despise himself."

      "Wouldn't have him anyways," Vila mumbled, the submissive Delta again.

      That thought made Avon pause. Wouldn't have him as he was on Liberator but they had controlled Blake's mind before. If he had been captured, conditioned, and released? Avon watched Vila shuffle back towards the rest of his crew, complaining to Dayna as usual. Released to what purpose? Servalan wanted Avon, himself, of that he had no doubt. Would she risk setting a conditioned Blake on the loose to capture him? Avon didn't like that thought. Blake being used again, against his will.

      No matter. They were going to Gauda Prime and he would locate Blake. Contemplation of what he would find was futile.

      Still, I hope you are unchanged, Blake, that you are the same man who led the unwilling on Liberator.

      I want you to be that man, Avon admitted to himself. His need for that Blake was a bitter acknowledgement. No matter how much he wanted to believe in Blake, and, occasionally, in his cause, something held him back from the cause.

      Belief in Blake? Of course. But it was a painful admission, one Avon knew he would regret.

      

      He continues quick and dull in his clear images;

      I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

      

      *******

      

"Is it him?" Tarrant asked and all Avon could do was stare. It was him and it was not. Older, heavier, scarred, he moved heavily, so different. Blake had always moved easily for his size. It was Vila who answered Tarrant.

      "It's him."

      "He sold us, Avon, all of us. Even you."

      Not possible Tarrant. Not possible. Avon couldn't believe it, not Blake. Please, not Blake. He couldn't take his eyes off the rebel's face. "Is it true?"

      "Avon. It's me, Blake." Concerned, he sounded concerned, and puzzled. Avon's gun slipped to the side. He couldn't be bothered with it. This was far more important.

      "Stand still. Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me?" Deny it, Blake. Tell me you haven't changed that much. Tell me you would never betray me, that you trust me, as I have trusted you. The words raced through Avon's brain as he waited for Blake to deny them.

      "Tarrant doesn't understand."

      Blake sounded angry, as if Avon wasn't behaving as expected. What the hell did he expect under the circumstances? A calm surrender? Avon wondered in confusion.

      "Neither do I, Blake."

      "I set all this up!"

      No denial. Avon's gun came up, unthinking, reacting. "Yes."

      "Avon, I was waiting for you." The words echoed through Avon's head. No, no more, Blake. I can't bear it.

      The gun went off as Blake approached, arms spread wide. Once, he gasped painfully at the impact, twice, and again. Still he kept coming on. Avon wanted to run, to get away, but Blake kept his feet, grabbing his killer's arms. Their eyes met and Avon read Blake clearly, no betrayal, only confusion. Blake's pain was excruciating, his eyes unbelieving, no blame, only regret.

      "Avon."

      Those eyes closed as Avon weakly returned his grasp and Blake collapsed at Avon's feet. Swaying, the stunned technician stood there while the others fell, waiting. When Avon finally looked up, it was with regret for their deaths and anticipation of his own.

      Will you be waiting for me, Blake?

      

      He in a new confusion of his understanding;

      I in a new understanding of my confusion.


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