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Delayed Reaction

By Rebecca Ann Brothers
Page 3 of 13

Blake was certain that Avon hadn't told him quite everything yet--he had been especially vague about that Malodaar business--but this wasn't the time to press for details. There was a lot of relearning to be done, for both of them, and it looked like it wasn't going to be impossible. So many times he had been tempted to get in touch with Avon; so much regret when he'd believed them all dead at Terminal--for things said in haste and anger, for things left unsaid. For what could have been.

Hard to believe they had been handed this second chance, and Blake meant to take full advantage of the opportunity. This time everything would be better, this time they were going to get it right.

At the moment, though... "When did you sleep last?" he asked Avon. The tech looked about done in, Blake thought, and hoped showing such concern for him wasn't already overstepping the bounds of their reforming friendship.

But Avon only gave him a wryly tolerant look, shoulders lifted in a shrug. "It hasn't been top priority."

"It should be. Burning ourselves out doesn't help anyone."

"Are you speaking from personal experience?"

"Oh, yes." More than he'd like to admit. There had been times, since Jenna's death especially, when he had felt as though he was running on empty--fired by the cause, and not much else. Not despairing, never doubting the worth of what he was pursuing but feeling ever more isolated, haunted by too many ghosts. It wore at a man's spirit as much as the flesh, and he'd begun to wonder how much more he had to give. Now, he felt rejuvenated, ready to take on anything.

All the same, a few hours' rest mightn't come amiss; it had been a long night, and quite an eventful morning.

"Go on," he told Avon, "get some sleep."

Avon was about to protest, only to be betrayed by a jaw-cracking yawn. Looking a bit sheepish, he said, "Perhaps I will just close my eyes." Barely stifling another yawn, he conceded defeat and shrugged out of his jacket before unbuckling his boots, stretching out on the bunk just as Vila bustled in, noisily setting up a cot in another corner of the room.

Eyebrow quirked, Blake shared a look with Avon, then said, "Couldn't Deva find you a room, Vila?"

Oh, fine," Vila said. "You don't want me either. I'll just wander off into the woods, shall I? Get captured by bounty hunters or eaten by wolves--"

"There aren't any wolves, Vila," said Avon.

"And you're perfectly welcome," said Blake. "But it's going to be a bit crowded."

"You call this crowded?" Vila busied himself getting his bedding just right. "Anyway, at least I know you two; that dogsbody of yours wanted to put me in with some stranger, and Soolin and Dayna wouldn't have me--"

"Yes, Vila, we get the picture." Well, if Avon didn't mind--and he looked more surprised than anything--then Blake had no objections. "It'll be like the first time we all met, on the London."

"Let us hope not," said Avon. "As I recall, the hygiene facilities left a great deal to be desired." He looked at Blake, shook his head. "You're quite pleased with yourself, aren't you?"

Grinning, the rebel nodded. "More than you know. Sleep well, you two."

Yawning enormously, Vila said, "Where're you off to, then?"

"I need to check with Deva and Deeta. I'll see you both later."

Vila snuggled down on his cot as Blake went out, then cracked an eye open, looking over at Avon. "Did he say, 'Deeta'?"


"You don't suppose...? Nah, couldn't be, could it; just someone with the same name."

"It's a long story, Vila."

"I like stories."

"Go to sleep."

The thief was quiet for a few seconds, then, "Avon?"

Avon sighed. "Yes?"

"Things're gonna be okay now, aren't they?"

"I don't know."

"Yes, you do."

"Go to sleep."


"Morning." But Avon was smiling as he closed his own eyes.

Maybe a little cautious optimism might be in order now.


Meeting with Deva and Deeta in the council room, Blake asked after Tarrant.

"Docholli says he'll be all right, with some rest," Deeta said. "He needs to stay off his feet for at least twenty-four hours, though." The ex-gunfighter favored Blake with a censuring look. "He'd been running around with cracked ribs, and one of them broke when Griffin tackled him--it nearly punctured a lung."

"I am sorry about that," Blake said, and meant it. "You know why I thought it was necessary." Deeta nodded. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."

"And you think I do?"

Hesitating a long moment, Deeta finally said, "No, but he's my little brother."

"I know, and I'm looking forward to getting to know him. I'm more than grateful Del's not your uncle's cat's-paw, but even you weren't completely sure of him."

Deeta had to concede the truth of that "It did strike me, in light of my own experience, that his being on Liberator was quite a coincidence."

"Extraordinary things do happen by chance," said Deva.

"So it would seem," Blake said, and got a sharp look from Deeta.

"You still have doubts?"

"No. Not about you or Del, that is." Rubbing his neck, Blake said, "The coincidence of Avon and his crew showing up at this precise moment is one I can't quite swallow." Mind you, it could well be nothing but that, there did not have to be any sinister undertones. From what Avon had told him, it sounded like he and his crew had been pushed into ever more desperate circumstances, with ever-shrinking options. Odd, though, that Avon would suddenly discover Roj Blake could be found on Gauda Prime. Presumably--unquestionably--Avon had thoroughly quizzed Orac as to what evidence had allowed the computer to trace his path through infinity, but Blake wouldn't mind speaking with Orac himself. Especially since he had taken pains to not be easily located.

"You've been talking about contacting Avon," Deva said, "ever since you found out he was still alive."

"That's true," said Deeta. "But he hadn't actually got around to doing it." Leaning forward a little, he asked, "What's on your mind now, Blake?"

Elbows on the table, Blake shook his head. "I'm not sure yet, just...." He shrugged. "Maybe I'm getting too cautious."

Deva's inelegant snort expressed his opinion of that.

"Yes, Deva, I know--and you know my reasons better than anyone."

"It's over now, though, isn't it?" Deva looked at him hopefully, and shared a look of relief with Deeta when the rebel nodded.

"Yes. We'll still need to bring in more people, but there are other ways to go about it."

"Oh, yes, now he says there are other ways," Deva's voice and expression were a mix of humor and exasperation. Pushing his hair out of his eyes, he added, "Is Orac really that good?"

Grinning, Blake said, "He thinks so."

"And your Avon?" asked Deeta.

"He's not my Avon, but, yes, he also has a high opinion of himself. It's generally warranted." Blake suspected Deva and Deeta were anticipating being relegated to the background, now he was reunited with Avon, and he wanted to show them that would not be the case. Listening to a mix of ideas, opinions, being aided by a variety of skills and knowledge, was the point of this whole operation. Space might be somewhat limited, but of everything else there was plenty to go around--including Roj Blake. The last thing he wanted to see was friction developing between any of these people, egos bruised or charges made of favoritism. There was bound to be some shifting around, but Blake was convinced it would all work out

"Where is Orac?" Deeta wanted to know, and right on cue Klyn walked in, carrying a box of twinkle lights and saying she'd found this in one of the flyer silos, and did anyone know what it was?


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