By Unfrequented WaysBy Helen Parkinson
Page 2 of 14
While in the darkness I dreamed. I was walking along an elevated walkway-where I had no idea, but it was a dangerous place to be. Avon walked ahead of me, silent, wary, gun drawn. Trusting me to watch his back. There was a noise, oddly distorted, as if someone far away called my name. I turned but there was no one there. When I turned back to Avon he was hidden, a Federation trooper was between us his back to me, his gun drawn on Avon. I shouted Avon's name but no sound came out. The trooper's shot was loud, echoing and Avon fell. The trooper vanished then and I found myself leaning over the walkway rail. Avon lay on the ground far below, his body oddly twisted. Vila was beside him, he looked up at me.
"Your fault."He shouted. The words were not just sound but colour too. They leapt out of his mouth to spin round my head and I think I shouted his name. Gentle voices spoke to me cajoling me back to wakefulness destroying the dream. All were strange to me. Time passed. I slept again and there were more dreams of Avon, of Vila and of others whom I thought I ought know but I did not. Then darkness receded and I was awake
I had been moved. I was no longer tied to the bed in fact the very bed on which I lay was different. It was no longer a wide medical couch, this was narrower more like the kind of bunk I had used, when I had a bed, on Gauda Prime, before Avon had come.
Before Avon came! The thought was quite enough to choke me. Before that man I had thought my friend had come and tried to kill me. I shifted on the bed awakening a whole new set of aches and pains and that scene from the tracking gallery in my base replayed itself against the inside of my eyelids.
Avon looked so wild, so desperate when he had asked that damn fool question. Had I betrayed him? Of all the stupid things to ask, I couldn't believe I heard him correctly, that was why I had kept on going even after he had told me to stop. I had been so sure Avon would not shoot me. And then he had. The actual shock of him firing was greater than the impact of that first shot. Sheer disbelief kept me moving towards him. For, though I could see death in his eyes, I could see madness and pain too. I had never been able to resist that man in pain. The second shot hurt like hell but I couldn't stop then. I had to see his face properly, to see his eyes and understand why he was doing this to me. I remember hearing a third shot though I never felt it, then he was there in front of me holding me and I still didn't understand. I never for a moment thought that Avon would sell me to the Federation and I wondered at his price.
Tears leaked from under my closed eyelids, I could feel their wetness on my cheeks. I opened my eyes to control the memory of him looking down at me as I lay dying. I remembered hearing shots as the others who had come with him died and still he didn't move, until, at last, when my vision had shrunk to contain only him, he moved to stand over me. Laying claim to his prize as the troops came in.
I rolled over on the cot, an attempt to ease the ache in my side and froze. I felt sick. Avon was there, sitting across the small room reading something. As I moved he put the sheets of printout aside and looked at me. Neither one of us spoke. I was too busy trying to control my heart rate to form a coherent sentence and he seemed content to wait for me.
I found myself studying him, comparing him to the man I remembered from Liberator. I think perhaps I was looking for an indication that this wasn't really Avon. He looked older, more than two years older, but then so did I. There were lines on his face and grey in his hair that I hadn't seen before and he looked tired. I don't expect he had had much time for sleep in the few days since he tried to kill me. Perhaps he was plagued with nightmares. I hoped that was the case, that Vila had come back to haunt him. As I watched he climbed to his feet and walked over to me, he limped slightly as he moved something I hadn't noticed in the tracking gallery. Then again he hadn't needed to walk far had he.....I had gone to him.
"Blake?" He said, stopping just out of my reach. He pronounced my name almost like a question and he sounded so unlike himself I wondered if perhaps he was a clone and not my Avon. Odd how I thought of him that way, my Avon. But no this was him, of that I could have no doubt. I didn't answer him but instead began to look round my cell. It was small and looked like a private cabin not a prison cell. I wasn't going to be fooled however.
Avon followed my search with his eyes ."What are you looking for ?" He asked.
"Surveillance cameras." I replied as I moved to sit up. Avon took a step forward as if he would help, something in my eyes must have warned him off for he pulled back abruptly. Silently I cursed. Avon's aborted move had brought him almost within my reach, if he had just come a little nearer I would have had him.
"Why would there be cameras?" He asked.
"Standard Federation procedure." I replied looking up at him.
"Federation...?" Avon echoed. Watching his face I could see his mind racing, briefly he narrowed his eyes. "You are not a Federation prisoner." He said at last.
"Oh. And I suppose you didn't just try to kill me?" He had pulled away as I spoke so I bided my time. If I meant to kill him before the guards who were, I had no doubt, watching could stop me, I would have to act quickly, the closer he was the better.
"Kill you..." Avon sounded genuinely confused. "I don't.... "He stopped talking then and sat down in the chair, almost as if he had fallen. I clenched my fists between my knees in frustration, he was much too far away. Glancing down I had saw my feet were bare, a disadvantage in a fight, also that I was dressed in dark pyjamas, not Federation issue. They were in fact the kind of thing I would have chosen if I had ever had the chance.
Avon was silent a long time, finally I looked up not sure what I would see. He was studying me, eyes narrowed in concentration. As he realised I was watching he rubbed his hands together. All was so familiar there was no way to doubt this was the man I had known on Liberator.
"Blake." He spoke at last. "Do you know where you are ?"
"Gauda Prime." I replied. He jerked back in the chair as if he had been slapped. "What's the matter?" I taunted. "I'm not supposed to remember the name of the place where you tried to kill me ?"
"Blake." He was on his feet now, walking towards me. I tensed ready. There are many ways to kill a man and I was familiar with them all. "You are not on Gauda Prime. We haven't been there for four years." He stopped, still too far away, head on one side. "You are in the medical unit on your base in orbit round Priam II." That made me jump. There was no base orbiting Priam, but I was planning one. Priam II was an agricultural world, backward and of little interest to the Federation. However the people were involved with my group and orbiting the planet was an out of commission, supposedly derelict, old style space station. Some of my people were already there looking into the viability of making it a base. If the Federation knew of the plan then I had a spy in my group and we were more severely compromised than I had thought. "You had an accident Blake." Avon continued.
"Oh that's what you call it is it?" I replied, rubbing at my belly. There were no bandages a fact I hadn't noticed before, but it was still tender, my ribs ached.
"You were working on the new teleport systems with me." Avon explained. Now there was a novelty. "There was a power surge through the damaged cables, you pulled me out of the way." He took a deep breath, uncomfortable as he would have been were this the truth, but I didn't let that fool me. Avon had always found outright lying difficult. "You were lucky to survive. We didn't think you had at first, you weren't breathing." He looked down at his hands than back at me. He was almost close enough now. "I'm afraid I broke a couple of your ribs, I'm not as good at first aid as I thought." He could see that I didn't believe him. "You have been unconscious for seven days, I'm not surprised that you feel confused."
I was not confused, just very very angry. Avon was clearly working for the Federation, I didn't know if he was programmed or had sold out. Either way, if I had my chance, I would kill him. If he was programmed than the Avon I had known was dead anyway and if he had sold out then the man I thought he had been probably never existed. Just a little closer I thought, come just a little closer.
"Blake?" Avon asked, clearly my silence was worrying him. He sounded so hesitant and unsure I began to hope he had been programmed, I didn't want to have been wrong about him too. I had to believe that once upon a time I judged this man correctly. His hand on my shoulder was a shock and I moved without thinking.
Perhaps I was wrong, given time perhaps I could have my Avon back, but we didn't have the time and couldn't risk failure too many lives depended on me keeping silent.
I lashed out knocking him off balance, tripping him. He fell heavily, clearly unprepared for my attack, his head connecting with the frame of my bed with a loud crack. I thought I might have killed him then. Almost without awareness I moved to sit astride him. He was out cold. My hands went round his throat, I could choke him or break his neck, it all depended on the hold. It didn't require much strength to kill a man, just the right frame of mind and then it was no more than swatting flies.
I tensed to crush the bones of his spine when arms went round my shoulders and there were hands pulling at me.
"Let go Roj." Someone shouted in my ear. I fought them but there were too many and I was pulled away. Avon was hidden from me by a mass of bodies as I was thrust aside to land heavily on the floor. One man stood over me, he wasn't in any kind of a uniform but he wore a gun and I knew him for the guard he was.
"Get a stretcher in here." Shouted the voice that had cried in my ear. It was one of the men from my first awakening, the one who had caught Avon when he fell away from my bed. He was bending over Avon as a woman ran to the door.
"Is he dead?" I asked. The man looked across at me then, his expression both worried and angry.
"No." He seemed about to say more but the another man, the other from my first wakening, put a hand on his arm.
"Not your fault." He said. He was sitting with Avon's head cradled in his lap, his fingers checking the pulse in his throat.
"No? Then whose?"
"His." He looked down at Avon for a moment. "You told him the risks. He insisted." I wasn't sure what they were talking about, nor could I understand this compassion from these Federation medics for Kerr Avon.
The stretcher arrived then and the man at Avon's head relinquished his place to come towards me. The man who blamed himself stayed at Avon's side as they manoeuvred him onto the stretcher.
"My name is Tomas Pask." He said. "Does that mean anything to you ?"
"No." I snapped, looking up at him "Should it?"
He rubbed at his face, glanced towards the door as Avon was moved through it. "Sam?" He asked. The man who had felt guilty looked up from a hand held medical monitor and smiled. Pask nodded then turned back to face me. It was clear from the exchange that Avon would live. That I had failed.I began to wonder if perhaps there wasn't a particular devil watching over Avon, he seem indestructible. Pask waved the guard away from me slightly as the cell door shut behind the medical team. "Get up off the floor Blake." He said. He sounded tired, not at all like a Federation interrogator.
"So you can knock me down again?" I asked. "I don't think so."
"No one is going to knock you down." He said. "Sit on the bed man, then we can talk." He lowered himself into the chair Avon had been using and waited. It seemed foolish, sitting on the floor, and the cold was beginning to seep through my clothes. I levered myself back onto the bed. Pask nodded. "Thank you." He said. He studied me a moment, weighing his words carefully. I waited, I was in no hurry, I had nothing to tell these people. "Roj." He began, "I know you are confused, that you are hurt. I heard all you said to Avon....."
"I rather expected someone would be listening." I told him
"Please, hear me out." He took a deep breath. "You are not a Federation prisoner. You are in part of the medical unit on your own base."
"And I've just forgotten all about it have I?"
"In a way yes."
"You expect me to believe that?" I found myself amused as well as puzzled. This determination to go on with the charade when it so clearly was not working was very strange. Why didn't they just cut their loses and go straight to the questioning.
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