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A Fine Collection of Allies

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 24

As the Liberator neared the planet Chenga, Vila's desperate transmissions ceased, but Zen and Orac answered Blake's worried questions with reassurance. Vila still lived and wore his bracelet. "I hope we can teleport him," Blake muttered.

"I'm certain Vila hopes so, too," Avon replied. "I shall go set the coordinates."

Dayna studied Avon with interest. He had an unusual manner with Blake, different than she had expected, different from his treatment of her. She had expected him to be openly supportive of Blake; her father had paid close attention to any reports of Blake, and those reports always mentioned Avon fighting at his side.

Her father... She forced her thoughts away from the memory of her father's death, turning the pain into a desire to avenge him. Surely with this great ship and its legendary abilities, she could get the revenge she sought. I will stop her, Father, she thought sadly and turned her mind to the here and now.

"I'll come with you," she volunteered. "I'd like to see how the teleport works."

Tarrant unfolded his long legs and jumped up too. Avon cast a sardonic look at Blake as if to ask if he meant to make it a group project, but Blake shook his head.

"I'll wait here," he said. "I'll see what messages I can pick up. Perhaps someone else out there needs rescuing."

"This is hardly a mercy vessel," Avon protested, leading the way off the flight deck without pausing to see if Tarrant or Dayna followed him. Dayna hurried to keep up.

Blake didn't meet her expectations, either, though it was difficult to judge while he was still recovering. Yet, he had no hesitation about standing up to Avon, and Dayna liked that. She had been drawn to Avon when she first saw him, but part of that was the novelty of meeting an attractive stranger. Even if teachers had been imported to train her during their exile--though she had never considered it so--she had seen no civilized person but her father and Lauren for several years. When the last of the teachers went she had been a child and now she was an adult. Remembering her actions in the cave, she was slightly embarrassed at her temerity, but she had learned early on that if she wanted something, she must take steps to attain it. She wasn't sure Avon was what she wanted, but she had needed to satisfy her curiosity. Looking at Avon's set shoulders as he walked ahead of her, she smiled faintly, then turned to study the profile of the man who walked beside her.

Tarrant was certainly beautiful, but it was a coltish beauty; he was young enough to have his uncertaintites and to feel the need to prove himself. Trying to prove himself against Avon might produce some interesting pyrotechnics. She planned to enjoy the resultant fireworks. Though she had had enough excitement lately to last some time, she knew she would soon be looking for something to liven the atmosphere. Maybe Tarrant could help create a few sparks.

Avon sat at the teleport console and Dayna slipped in beside him while Tarrant leaned against the wall, folding his arms across his chest. He had a cocky look as if he enjoyed challenging those around him, and irritation flashed in his eyes when Avon gave no sign of noticing.

Dayna watched Avon's long fingers, trying to guess what he was doing. She thought she had figured out which controls were directional as a dot moved across the grid, presumably in response to a signal from the planet below. Vila had not replied to their attempts at contact. Since he had proclaimed himself in dire circumstances, Dayna halfway feared he was dead, but from something Avon had said, the teleport only worked on living tissue. If it didn't bring Vila up, they'd know what was wrong, too late to do something about it.

"When will you bring him up?" asked Tarrant.

"As soon as teleport range is achieved," Avon replied without looking up. A long pause followed, then, when Tarrant started to speak again, Avon put up a hand to forestall him and reached forward to a group of levers, to pull several of them toward him. Dayna stared as two forms materialized in the chamber, a man and a woman, both clad in what looked like hospital attire, both of them unconscious. Vila and Cally, apparently, though she had not realized they had met. She jumped up to examine them, kneeling beside the woman. "She's still alive."

"That one is Cally. I'll introduce you to her when she wakes up. This is Vila." Avon strode forward. "I should really introduce you now. He's at his best when he's unconscious."

Dayna bit back a smile at Avon's tone. He sounded as if he meant nothing but contempt, but she suspected he liked Vila, and she wondered why he would try to conceal it.

Her suspicions were confirmed when Avon bent briefly to check Vila's pulse, then he turned to Tarrant. "You and Dayna take them to the medical unit," he instructed.

Tarrant started forward obediently, then caught himself. "What will you be doing?" he asked pointedly.

"One of us must report to Blake. I believe you have some understanding of the functions of the medical unit." He paused in the doorway. "Alert the flight deck before they come around," he instructed and strode away.

Tarrant stared after him, his resentment obvious. "That one likes giving orders," he observed.

"It needs doing," Dayna said, picking up the slender Cally with ease. "And it's more his ship than ours. Didn't you learn to take orders at the Academy?"

"I'd prefer to take them from Blake."

"Blake would probably have made the same suggestions," Dayna replied and waited for Tarrant to pick up the hapless Vila and lead the way to the medical unit. Grumbling under his breath, Tarrant complied. Dayna suspected he and Avon would have a confrontation in the near future.

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