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Pulling Strings

By Marian Mendez
Page 2 of 3

Gan sat next to Vila in silence. For once, neither of them could manage a smile. Avon, Jenna and Blake - gone; others dead and the remaining convicts drugged and demoralized beyond considering another mutiny attempt. And it was Gan's fault. He'd been so concerned with bolstering Blake's confidence in himself and his followers that he hadn't properly accounted for the effects of the suppressant drugs on the prisoners' mental and physical reactions. The drugs slowed his own wits as well, but he should have been more patient. Now he'd have to rework all his calculations to include an escape from Cygnus Alpha. He sighed. "Vila."

      "Yes, Gan."

      "Tell me again, what the guards said." Vila had remarkably acute hearing and a keen survival sense which impelled him to eavesdrop on the guards whenever possible. Mostly, the information he gathered was useless, but not always.

      Vila patted Gan's shoulder. "Don't get your hopes up. They said that Blake, Avon and Jenna took off in a big ship. They also said that the ship was alien and it killed a couple of their men. It probably ate Blake and the others, too."

      "You don't really believe that, do you, Vila?"

      Vila frowned. "No. It spat Avon out, I'm sure. He'd put a bad taste in anyone's mouth." Vila lay down and yawned. "Wake me when we get to Cygnus Alpha, will you, Gan?"

      

      

      

Gan paced as best he could, trying to ignore the cramps and fever dulling his wits. The cell where the priests had placed him and the other convicts from the London was not really spacious enough for pacing, even if he didn't have to step over the other groaning bodies littering the ground. Cygnus Alpha was closer to Hell than he had imagined. Except for the lovely young lady who'd greeted him with a kiss. He had originally had faint hopes of including the natives in his schemes to reform the Federation, but that was dashed with his first sight of the mutilated body left as a signpost for newcomers. An ossified theocracy heading a world of primitives existing barely above subsistence level was not apt to encourage independent thought and resolute action among its citizens.

      A familiar voice outside in the corridor drew Gan to the bars. If he hadn't been so sick from the 'Curse of Cygnus' he would have laughed aloud. Blake! He'd considered the possibility of Blake surviving and returning to pick up crew from the only people he knew, but assigned it such a low probability as to be virtually impossible. In future, he would have to take Blake's stubbornness - and that indefinable quality, luck - into account.

      After Blake left, Gan roused the others and began encouraging them. Some at least would have the heart to fight their way to Blake's side.

      

      Liberator was amazing. Even without full knowledge of the capabilities of the ship, he could see that this could be the tool to bring down the Federation. Of course, the chances of any of Blake's Seven being in existence to see that happy day was unlikely in the extreme. Their individual lives were of no importance against Gan's mission.

      Nothing was as important as that. Not the fear of death, not the pain from the limiter whenever he exceeded the allowable margins for anger, not even the fact that he had come to love the others like the family he would never have.

      He had been especially fascinated by Cally, at first by her telepathy, then later by the woman herself. It was very fortunate for him that she couldn't read human minds, or his facade would have been gone in an instant. She was a remarkable contradiction, a gentle soul inhabiting the body of a dedicated revolutionary.

      "I'd like to visit Auron, someday," he told her while he was familiarizing her with the Liberator's medical unit. She knew nothing of Earth classifications and found nothing unusual in his deft expertise with the equipment, while the others assumed that Cally was teaching him.

      "I do not think that is very likely, Gan," Cally said, politely. "They are strict isolationists. They are so terrified of contamination that they probably will not allow me to return."

      "Oh. They're afraid of bringing in new diseases." Gan thought that an incredibly short-sighted policy.

      "Even more afraid of new ideas." Cally turned over a gadget and asked, "What does this do?"

      Gan took the device from her. "It's a cell regenerator. This one's for minor injuries, but there is a much larger one set into the wall here, by this diagnostic bed." He looked around with satisfaction. "It's marvelous, isn't it?"

      Cally smiled at the big man's enthusiasm. "It certainly will be useful. Blake will not be content to fight from the flight deck alone. It is too personal a matter with him."

      "And with you, Cally?"

      "What do you mean?"

      "I just wondered. If your people have so little to do with the rest of the universe, how did you come to be fighting the Federation on Saurian Major?"

      Cally replied, "I had more opportunity than others to see the evil of the Federation. Auron believes its neutrality will be respected. The Federation only respects power. I argued before my people, but they think peace and good will are universal. So they sent me away as a disruptive influence. I sought out the nearest rebel group to offer what assistance I could. Although I am in disgrace on Auron, I will fight for my people." Despite the fiercely spoken words, Cally's eyes were bright with unshed tears. "Even though I may never return home because of it."

      Gan enfolded the slender woman in his arms. "Shh. Little one, you are right. We will fight together." He kissed the top of her head and waited for her to quiet.

      She pushed at him and he released her, stepping back. She wiped her eyes. "I am being foolish, Gan. Thank you."

      Gan put his hand on her shoulder, lightly, offering her his strength through the contact. A telepath must need to belong and be accepted more than the ordinary human. He could not offer her what she had lost, but perhaps faithful companionship would be enough.



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