A Lamb to Guide the LionBy Jean Graham
Page 2 of 5
|"You could be rushing things a bit, you know." Jenna finished strapping
on her hand weapon, watching Blake repeat the action with his own.
"She's right," Cally said from behind the teleport console. "It's only been two hours."
"And two missed reports." Blake drew, checked and reholstered the gun. "That isn't like Avon."
"Are you sure?" Jenna's voice dripped cynicism, earning her a harsh glance from Blake. But he chose to ignore the comment.
"Still getting kitted up," Cally replied. "He doesn't want to go."
"Does he ever?" Blake moved to unslot one of the teleport bracelets and snap it on his wrist. The object of his amused derision appeared on the steps as he turned, struggling with the clasps on a bulky utility belt.
"Never could get these things to work right," he complained. "Damned alien technology."
Blake was unamused. "Stop dithering, Vila."
Wide-eyed, the thief looked up at him. "Oh, you're in a hurry are you? Well don't mind me. You go on ahead. I'll be glad to stay here, lend Cally a hand."
"I'm sure you would be. But I may need your talented fingers on Belleron."
"What, rescuing Avon? He won't even appreciate the effort. Avon's idea of a helping hand is one with a very large knife in it -- aimed at the nearest back. Mine. Or yours."
Ignoring the outburst, Blake crossed the room to hand the thief a bracelet. "Shall we go?"
Vila eyed the bracelet warily, took it but did not put it on., "I don't have to do this," he asserted. "We have a choice. You said we all had a choice."
"I was talking about leaving the crew. Are you saying that's what you want to do?"
Vila briefly affected a hurt look, then resignedly snapped the bracelet into place and trudged to the teleport alcove. "All right. But I'd still like for someone to tell me why I'm doing this."
Her own bracelet in place, Jenna turned to favor Vila with a dazzling smile. "Perhaps because at heart," she said cheerfully, "you're really a fine, upstanding, brave and noble individual."
"Oh," Vila said miserably. And as the teleport beam took them, he was heard to add, "I knew there was a good reason..."
* * *
A noise outside the door brought both Gan and Avon to attention. In moments they had positioned themselves on either side of the opening, and stood ready as the chain clanked against metal. With a reverberating ring, something heavy struck it; three, five, seven times before the links must have given way. A long moment of fumbling with the broken chain and the latch preceded the inching open of one side of the door.
"It's all right," a young male voice said from the other side. "I'm a friend."
Avon didn't move, so Gan came within view of the door. "So we'd gathered," he said. "Let's see you then."
Squealing on rusted hinges, the door eased back to reveal a thin young man in Delta coveralls. His face fell when he saw Gan's clothing, as though he had expected someone else to be locked in the storage room.
"Oh. I thought..."
"You thought what?" Avon's sudden question made the boy jump.
"That ... That you were Deltas. Workers. That's who they usually put in... Well I stayed late and I saw them bring someone in here, but I was too far away to see who. There's only--"
"Tell us about it later," Avon interrupted impatiently. "Just now I have a Federation captain to find."
The boy reacted as though Avon's words had been somehow electrically charged. "You mean Davin? But you can't. I mean he's gone. Back to Command Headquarters. Can't figure why he didn't take you with him if you're not..." He paused, staring curiously at Avon. "What are you?"
"Never mind. Take us to this Command Headquarters."
The boy looked desperately to Gan for some support against this obvious insanity, but none was forthcoming. Instead, the giant man said calmly, "I'm afraid we really do have to get there."
"Your Captain Davin has appropriated certain items from us," Avon explained curtly. "Items which it is vital we retrieve."
"Well you can't do it tonight. And not alone in any case. CHQ is swarming with armed guards -- you'd be dead before you got within a hundred metres."
"That's a comforting thought," Gan quipped. "But we have to get those bracelets back."
"Bracelets?" the boy echoed. "Davin took your jewelry?"
"A very special sort of jewelry, yes," Gan said patiently, stepping on Avon's angry retort. "We'll have to find this Davin. Will you help us?"
The boy shook his head. "He'd only take a thing like that for one reason. He'll be sending through a fingerprint check to Federation Central. He must figure you're wanted for something."
Avon paled slightly at that, exchanging an alarmed look with Gan.
The look had not been lost on their youthful rescuer. "It's all right," he added quickly. "He won't have an answer for at least 30 hours. His transmitting equipment's as old as the stuff in this place. Pre-historic. Doesn't even have tariel cells." He paused, considering for a moment. "Look, the night guard doesn't come on shift for 20 minutes yet. I can get you out of here, show you a safe place."
"I doubt that." Avon brushed past him to march out the door. But despite his biting comment, he stopped again in the corridor, apparently waiting for them.
Gan offered the boy a sympathetic shrug. "He doesn't mean to be ungrateful," he apologized. "It's just that he's..."
"An Alpha," the boy finished with the slightest hint of derision edging his voice. "It shows. I don't suppose you could convince him to fake just a little humility for one evening? Where we're going, he could be a problem."
Gan nodded, understanding. "I'll do my best." He clapped a hand to the boy's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. "I never got your name."
"It's Drolis. My friends call me Dro."
"Olag Gan. And my friend is..." Gan stopped himself, considered, then went on. "Let's just call him Myan for the time being, shall we? It may be better for you if you don't know his real name." Better for all of us, he added privately. Avon's name, unlike Gan's own, attached a certain notoriety. News of his daring attempt to defraud the Federation Banking Cartel had travelled far, and since his alliance with Blake, farther still. No. It wouldn't do to tell them Avon's name...
Dro's blue eyes reflected curiosity at Gan's evasion, but all he said was, "Come with me, then."
Gan pretended not to notice Avon's glare as they started off after Dro. He knew, as Avon must, that they had little choice. Staying here would be dangerous with the night guard about. He wondered briefly if there had been any communications equipment in the computer room capable of reaching the Liberator. But Avon would have thought of that. Avon thought of everything.
The computer expert's willingness to leave the complex bothered Gan more than a little. They should have stayed, waited for Blake to come after them. Surely even unarmed, they could deal with a few Federation guards. But Avon did not believe Blake would be coming.
Silently, Gan prayed that he was wrong.
* * *
"Someone's been here. And not long ago." Blake knelt on the earthen floor of the holding cell, examining scuffed prints of what appeared to be three people. One of them was certainly large enough to belong to Gan.
Jenna came back through the double doors holding a metal bar retrieved from the corridor. "The chain holding the lock was broken... with this."
Before Blake could answer her, a distraught Vila, whom he had left on watch, burst into the hall at a run. "Blake! There's a whole squadron of Federation troops! They're in the courtyard. We've got to--"
"All right, Vila. Calm down. Did they have Gan and Avon with them?"
Vila looked befuddled by the question. "No. I mean, they're on the way here."
"To pick up prisoners?" Jenna ventured.
"Possibly," Blake said. "Which means they may have escaped."
"Someone did break the chain," Jenna added, hefting the iron bar. "From the outside."
"Can't we discuss this somewhere else?" Vila pleaded. "Like back on the ship?"
"Not just yet."
"But there are troops--"
"Then you'll just have to take us around them, won't you? If Gan and Avon are free then they've got to be in the settlement somewhere. We're going after them."
"Oh terrific," Vila moaned as they headed out of the parading through a whole horde of stormtroopers as though I can take you around them, can I? I'm a thief. I never said I was a magician..."
Neither Blake nor Jenna paid his diatribe any heed. By now, they'd grown more than accustomed to it.
* * *
Captain Amas Davin was engaged in a contemplative study of the confiscated bracelets when a masked trooper entered his office and came to stand silently before his desk.
"Yes. What is it?"
"Surveillance Officer Reeve reporting as ordered, sir."
Davin looked up at him. "You mean they've been released, already?"
Davin fingered one of the bracelets and chewed his lower lip. "And you saw who released them?"
"A Delta plant worker by the name of Drolis. No previous record, but it's likely he's been involved with the resistance for some time."
"And also likely he was responsible for the release of the Delta dissidents previously locked in that holding cell."
"It's a strong possibility, yes sir. Shall I have them all picked up?"
Davin set the bracelet down decisively. "Not yet."
"Sometimes, Reeve, when you set one trap you accidentally spring another. You remember that story Command Central sent out about our concealing the new Cepheus translator unit here on Belleron?"
The faceless helmet bobbed once. "One of Supreme Commander Servalan's orders."
"Yes, it was. I've no idea just who she was trying to net, but I think I'd like very much to find out. Tell Drang I want two pursuit ships sent out on search patrol; report sightings of any unauthorized craft to me immediately."
When Reeve had gone, Davin thumbed an intercom tab on the desk, one hand absently stroking the scar across his cheek. "Oma, see what you can do about expediting that fingerprint check, will you?" He cut the circuit then, but aloud to himself he added, "I'd like very much to know who it is the Supreme Commander is so interested in. And how much she's willing to give for them..."
* * *
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