Circle of LifeBy William Charlier
Page 3 of 3
|"Vila, could you come to the bridge, please?"
Vila stirred in his sleep. "Come on Dayna, leave me alone. I'm tired and I have a headache."
"You always have a headache when there's work to be done. Now get up." Dayna laughed.
Vila rolled on his back. "Alright I'm coming. Keep your shirt on." he said.
"Vila, please respond." He opened his eyes. For a moment he was disoriented. Slowly, he realized where he was. Dayna's voice was just a dream. Dayna, Soolin, Tarrant - they were all dead. A tear began to roll down his cheek. So many people had died - so many friends. Gan, who had been his protector, was the first to go. He hadn't allowed himself the luxury of sorrow at the time. Cally, sweet caring Cally. She was the only one who had ever taken him seriously. Now she was gone too. He wanted to blame Avon for everything, but somehow he couldn't help but miss him too. And Blake - but Blake was back. He didn't look the same, but the same fire was there. The two Blakes had more in common than their name. Vila felt almost as if he had just come back in a different body.
"Vila, will you please respond?" The voice of Barbara Tomkins was coming from a speaker by the door. She did sound a little like Dayna, he thought. He stood up and crossed the room to the intercom panel. He looked at it for a moment, then pressed a button. A loud claxon sounded. Quickly, he pressed the button again. When the noise stopped, he pressed the other button on the panel. "Sorry," he said meekly, "I hit the wrong button."
"That's all right, Vila," Tomkins replied, "When you wake up, would you please come to the bridge?" Then as an after thought, "you'll find some aspirin in the top drawer."
Vila stepped onto the bridge, yawning. He was kind of proud of himself. He had only gotten lost once. Blake and the engineer were there. What was his name? Vila thought to himself, Oh yes, Piper. He could appreciate their ingenuity. They had come in fast and moored to a large satellite. If the Federation scanned the area, they would see only one contact, and assume it to be the satellite. It would take a visual sighting by a close passing ship to spot them. "We've located two places that appear to house prisoners in the main government complex," Blake said, "Do you know which one they would have Avon in?"
Vila looked at the diagram on the table. Piper had drawn it up from his scans of the area. Two areas were marked in red. "These two sections contain a series of small rooms with metallic walls." Piper explained. "This one," he indicated the one on the left, "has several larger rooms, and is adjacent to the medical complex."
"He won't be there," Vila said, "Even Servalan isn't sadistic enough to turn him into a mutoid."
"What is a mutoid?" Blake asked.
Vila thought for a moment. "The Federation takes some of it's delta class citizens who don't have much of a future, and changes them into the perfect soldiers. Unthinking, completely loyal, living machines."
Blake shook his head. These people were worse than he thought. "Okay, then we start here," he said, indicating the other complex. Tomkins and Kline entered the bridge. Tomkins held out a jacket and belt like her own to Vila.
Vila looked at the equipment, then at Tomkins. His eyes grew wide, and he shook his head. "No way," he said, stepping back and waving his hands, "not me. If you want to get yourselves killed, go ahead, but not me."
"Look, you're the only one who's ever seen him. We need you to identify him," Tomkins said as she put the equipment in his hands. "Besides, I believe it was you who bragged about an uncanny knack for opening locked doors."
"No, you look. Security in the lock-up is tighter than the Presidential Palace. The second you get there they'll know it. They have cameras everywhere." Vila seemed adamant.
Blake walked over to Vila. "Consider it inspiration to move quickly, but like it or not, you're going," he said sternly, and helped Vila on with his jacket.
"Nothing ever changes," Vila muttered as he
followed them to the teleport room.
Blake set the coordinates. "Look," he said, "no chances. In and out quick. If you get in trouble, shout and we'll pull you out." Vila was about to protest again, but Blake activated the teleport.
They materialized directly beneath a security camera. Vila reached up and cut the wires to the camera. "It'll take them about ten minutes to check out all the systems in the monitoring room," he said, "then they'll be all over us."
Tomkins moved toward the nearest cell. "Then we'd better not waste any more time," she said coldly.
They checked each cell in the corridor. The prisoners all looked the same. Maybe it was the surrender in their eyes. Some had obviously been tortured. Unset broken bones in the arm and hand of one prisoner had healed in a contorted shape that little resembled a human arm. Kline had to turn his head. He became angry at the thought that any civilized society would withhold medical care from people. Then again, there was nothing civilized about this place.
Vila approached the last door in the corridor tentatively. He slid the inspection panel open and peered inside. There was a platform in the corner that served as both table and bed. There was no other furniture in the room. Perched on the edge of the platform was a man. He was thin from malnutrition and mistreatment, but he sat perfectly erect. He was a picture of defiant pride. He was bearded and wore the same clothes as the other prisoners, but Vila recognized him immediately.
Vila felt intimidated, as if the situation were reversed. He rapped lightly at the door. "Avon?" he said quietly.
The man in the cell just stared straight ahead. "Hello Vila," he said calmly, "you certainly took your time getting here."
Vila shook his head. "I didn't have to come after you at all, you ungrateful..." he stopped short.
"Well, you're here now, so either kill me or open the door, but get on with it." Avon was still staring straight ahead. He showed no emotion at all.
Vila called to the others and went to work on the lock. Suddenly there was the sound of Federation guns nearby. Kline ran over to him. "The gig is up," he said, "She won't be able to hold them off long, so let's pick it up, huh?"
The door swung open. Vila smiled and said, "I do my best work under pressure."
The two men entered the room. The doctor made a quick evaluation of Avon. "Can you travel?" he asked.
Avon looked at him and then at Vila, no emotion apparent on his face. Vila nodded, "They're friends," he said.
Avon looked at Kline. "I'll have to," he said as he stood up. His body protested the movement and he let out a stifled groan.
Tomkins jumped in the door, firing her laser around the doorway. "Is that him?" she asked. Vila nodded. "Good. Let's get out of here. It's getting a little hot for my taste." She fired three shots out the door and ran over to the others. "Bring us up, Skipper," she said into her comm link.
Guards burst into the room firing wildly. Their shots
ripped into the walls of the empty room. They all stood there as if they
didn't know what to do next.
Dr. Kline took Avon straight to the Med Deck. Considering his ordeal, he was in surprisingly good shape. The doctor gave him an injection of nutrients to help build up his strength, and took him to a cabin that was set aside for him. Avon was asleep as soon as he lay down. Kline went to ships stores and picked out a uniform in what he estimated was Avon's size. They could give him the rest later.
Avon slept for fourteen hours. His dreams were tortured. His mind just kept replaying his last battle over and over again. Again and again he saw his companions go down. First Dayna, the shock of her own death frozen on her face. Vila, who somehow he knew was uninjured. Soolin, the master gunfighter, killed after firing only one shot. Finally Tarrant, bold, brash Tarrant, fighting to his last breath. All of them, gone. But Blake haunted him the most. The surprise on his face as he died by Avon's own hand. A terrible misunderstanding. Avon would suffer from it for the rest of his life. He had killed many people and never shed a tear. Never felt the guilt. Never allowed himself to become vulnerable. But Blake was different. Blake was his friend. And now he had killed that friend.
He woke up, bathed in sweat. As alertness came to him,
he remembered the events of his rescue. So, Vila was alive. He was right.
He stood up and, seeing the clothes on the table read the note Kline had
left for him:
You're among friends. You'll find a washroom through the door near the bed. When you're ready, call for Vila on the intercom. The controls are on the wall next to the door. Vila will bring you food and anything else you need. Then we'll talk.
Avon went into the washroom. He stood for several long moments, looking at his face in the mirror. It had only been ten weeks since Gauda Prime, but he looked as if he had aged as many years. He almost didn't recognize the face in the mirror.
He stripped and stepped into the shower. The hot water felt good. He stood there, savoring the feeling for some time. When he finished, he looked into the mirror again. He sighed. No amount of soap and water was going to be able to wash the blood from his hands. He shaved the beard which had grown during his captivity. His cheeks were drawn, and there were wrinkles around his eyes.
He dressed in the uniform Kline had left for him. It fit no better than Vila's, but somehow he made it look better. No one could look at Avon and see anything comical. He stepped out into the corridor. It was clearly a large ship. He went back in and switched on the intercom. "Vila, this is Avon." he said.
A claxon went off. When the noise stopped Vila's voice came across the speaker, "Sorry, I did it again. Yes, Avon."
Avon chuckled to himself. `Same old Vila' he thought. "Yes, Vila. I'm ready. Come get me." He sat down on the bed, and waited for Vila.
Vila led him to the ship's galley. Despite his intense hunger, Avon ate slowly and deliberately. Vila offered him wine with his meal, but he refused, drinking water instead. He was determined to keep a clear head, as he still wasn't convinced that this wasn't a Federation trick.
While he ate, Vila filled him about the events of the last couple of days. He told Avon of the meeting on Gauda Prime when he, himself was rescued from exile. He told him about the ship - at least as much as he could. Vila never was very good with things technical.
Avon heard the door open behind him. Vila looked up. "There's some one I'd like you to meet," he said. As Avon began to stand up Vila said, "Kerr Avon, I'd like you to meet Roger Blake."
Avon dropped back into his seat. "That's not funny, Vila," he said sharply, looking straight ahead.
"It may be cruel of him to tell you that way," said a voice from behind him, "but my name really is Blake."
Avon stood and turned to face the source of the voice. He wondered to himself if this could be a relative of Blake's. There was a resemblance, especially around the eyes. "I'm not that naive," Avon said, "It's good, but not that good. You can come out now, Servalan."
"It's no trick, Avon." Blake said. "You're free."
Avon smiled. "Free," he said, almost sarcastically, and walked out without another word.
Avon returned to his cabin and lay down on the bed. His mind raced from the day's events. After a couple of minutes, Blake came in. Avon just lay there with his eyes closed.
"You really can't blame him for being angry," Blake said, "just as I don't blame you for being skeptical." He paused for a moment. When Avon said nothing, he continued, "Look, hear me out. Let me tell you how we got here. Then Piper will give you a complete tour of the ship. Anything you want to see. Then, if you're still skeptical, we'll take you anywhere you want to go. Then you're on your own. I hope you'll decide to join us, but no one's going to force you. It's your decision."
Avon opened his eyes. "What reason do you ave to trust me? Remember, I killed the last man who trusted me."
"Only one," Blake answered, ignoring the last
comment, "We have the same goal - freedom. And the only way to gain
true freedom is to help in the overthrow of the Federation. We need each
other, Avon. We need you." He held out his hand. Their eyes met. Avon
took his hand.
Avon stood on the bridge thoughtfully. Blake stepped up next to him, unnoticed. "A penny for your thoughts," he said.
"What?" Avon asked, startled.
Blake chuckled. "An ancient cliche' " he said, "It means - what's on your mind?"
Avon looked thoughtful. "I was just thinking. What if your name isn't a coincidence?"
"What do you mean?" Blake asked.
Avon turned to face him. "What if your name is the same because you're related?"
Blake looked puzzled. "That can't be. Remember, we came from somewhere else - from some kind of parallel existence."
"You miss my point," Avon said, "What if you traveled through time instead of dimension?"
Blake shook his head. "No," he said, "I checked the computer history. Our Federation was never anything like yours."
"You're operating from the assumption that you would only pass backward in time. Our history is rather vague beyond the last couple of centuries. The histories were replaced with Federation propaganda years ago. I don't think anyone knows the truth." Avon knew he had struck a nerve.
"That's impossible!" Blake said, "I've never been married. And I don't have any children."
"Yet," Avon's one word answer cut to the bone. "I believe that Blake - our Blake - was descended from you. There is a family resemblance."
Blake looked away. He was silent for a moment and then he said, "If you're right then I must find a way back to where I came from or..."
Avon cut him off, "Or our Blake will never have existed. History will change drastically. Blake saved my life... and Vila's on more than one occasion. We would both be dead."
Blake looked around the bridge. Everyone was looking at him, their mouths open from surprise. "I... I can't accept that. You're wrong. You must be."
"I may be," Avon said, "but can you afford to take the chance?"
Blake sat down in his command chair. Avon looked at the
view screen and smiled.
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