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Another Beginning

By Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 4

Despite Avon's apparently complete surrender Servalan decided not to allow him in Stiletto's control room where a desperate man could conceivably sabotage the vessel. Instead, she chose to travel with him in the ship's ready room, leaving the operation of the ship to her hand-picked crew. As soon as Avon was secured into the seat beside Servalan she gave the order to launch.

In contrast to Scorpio's last harried flight Stiletto's journey was uneventful, thanks to Servalan's authority and identification codes that allowed her to pass the blockade unhindered. When they had landed at the given coordinates Servalan issued her orders to her men.

While Avon was being released from his restraints Servalan took her chief henchman aside. "You have issued gas masks to all the crew?" At the man's nod, she continued, "I fear that the prisoner will panic . He may even attempt to remove his mask before the poison is negated. Without damaging him, you are to prevent this." In the absence of the counteracting pheromone, Avon's present apathy would quickly turn to terror. Servalan had become intrigued by the thought of keeping Avon as a pet and would regret losing him before she became bored.

Supported by two troopers, Avon guided the squad to Orac's lair. "There." A black hole, smoothed by the passage of countless scaly bodies, lay directly before them. "That's it."

The entire party donned their gas masks and the chief lashed Avon's hands together behind his back. Then the grenades were flung into the snake pit, detonating with sharp reports, releasing vast clouds of dirty green smoke. Agitated, the dying serpents poured out of the nest, hissing and knotting in convulsions. The clouds thickened, and the vipers were reduced to silently twitching lumps. "Get Orac," Servalan ordered the chief into the dense smoke. He disappeared from view.

The crackling hisses of blaster fire, far louder than the serpents' final agonized cries, erupted in the smoke-shrouded forest. "It's a trap!" Servalan cried as her men scattered. She jerked Avon to his knees and reached for a discarded weapon lying nearby.

"It's a trap, all right," A familiar deep voice rang out. "This time I set it." Out of a cloud of poison, a broad-shouldered, gas-masked figure stepped, weapon pointing at Servalan.

"Blake," Servalan said, "I thought Avon had killed you." She rose slowly, letting her weapon dangle loosely from one hand. "And Orac? Was it ever here?"

"Oh, yes. Every trap needs bait." With his foot, Blake nudged the clear plastic case forward until it could be seen through the ragged smoke trails.

Avon had been weaving with increasing tremors while they spoke. Suddenly,

he scrambled to his feet between them, screaming.


Shielded by Avon's body, Servalan aimed at Blake, but he fired first, dropping Avon at her feet. Exposed and vulnerable, Servalan hastily dropped her weapon."You have changed, Blake."

"He's only stunned. I need him." Blake made an adjustment to his weapon. "You, on the other hand... "

"You also need," Servalan said. "My ship, with me aboard her, is the only way off this dull little world. My blockade is unbeatable."

"Can't say the same about your men." Tarrant arrived, holstering his weapon with a satisfied air. "I have to agree about the blockade, though."

"I'll defer the pleasure, then. Start walking." Blake gestured with his gun. He picked up Orac with his free hand and followed Servalan. Tarrant led the way with Avon slung limply over his shoulder. The heavy poison smoke lay in the hollows, dissipating as they ascended the slope. When the air was clear they removed the gas masks. Tarrant and Blake were jarred by Avon's ravaged features.

"What have you done to him?" Blake growled, looming over Servalan.

"My technicians tried something novel." Servalan took spiteful pleasure in explaining the details of Avon's treatment.

"The drug wears off in a week, you say." Blake said, "I propose a bargain, Servalan. You get us clear in your ship and I personally guarantee to release you, unharmed, on the nearest neutral planet once Avon is fully recovered."

Servalan grinned wickedly at Tarrant's prim disapproval of the offer. "Yes, you do need me, Blake. To give the clearance codes and to keep your friend alive. Which is more important to you, I wonder?" Blake's fierce glare made her laugh aloud. "If Avon was making the offer, I'd refuse. He and I are too much alike, but you'll keep your word, won't you, Blake? Yes, I agree."

 

Servalan's belief in her immunity was shaken when they arrived at the tumble-down farmhouse Blake had chosen as his rendezvous with the remainder of Avon's crew."Servalan! At last!" Dayna shouldered Soolin aside, drew her lips back in a humorless grin and raised her gun.

"No, Dayna." Blake stepped in front of Servalan. "You can't kill her."

"Don't be stupid. She killed my father. Of course I can kill her."

"You'll be killing Avon as well," Tarrant said. He let Avon down next to the girl. She recoiled in dismay as she noticed Avon's state. Blake's terse account convinced Dayna, reluctantly, to postpone her revenge.

"I still don't like it,"she muttered, as she holstered her gun.

"It sounds dangerous to me, too." Vila joined the group, with Pavra at his side. Prudently, they had waited under cover until Dayna ceased hostilities.

Soolin said, "Everything sounds dangerous to you, Vila."

Blake frowned at Pavra. "What are you doing here? I've separated from the Gauda Prime resistance. We've got to get Orac off-planet."

"I have no ties here, anymore." Pavra said. "I'd like to go with you."

Blake studied the frail, graying woman with compassion. "There may not be room aboard the ship," he said gently.

Now over her initial fear, Servalan was restless. She said, "Stiletto is large enough, Blake. Take the old woman, who cares?"

Pavra ignored Servalan, keeping her golden-brown eyes fixed on Blake.

"All right." Blake nodded toward Avon. "See what you can do for him."

In a few minutes, Pavra succeeded in reviving Avon. His head pillowed on Pavra's lap, Avon whispered, "Servalan."

"She's right here," Blake said, pulling her into Avon's field of vision. "And I have Orac." He set the plastic box down beside Avon.

Avon dismissed Servalan with a hate-filled glance. He said to Blake, "I thought I'd killed you."

"You killed a clone, Avon, not me."

"Sorry, anyway, Blake. Just so damn tired of it all." Avon closed his eyes in exhaustion. "A favor, Blake. Kill me and Servalan, her first. After I see her die then I can rest." His last words nearly inaudible, Avon passed out again.

Blake stared at Servalan for a moment, then he handed Orac to Vila. "Servalan's taking us to her ship. Dayna, if she causes any trouble, shoot her in a non-vital area." Blake hoisted Avon to his shoulder. He told Servalan, "Stay close. If he comes to, you keep him calm."

 

"There she is," Servalan announced, "my private transport, Stiletto ."

The ship's blue-black metal hide glittered with an oily sheen. It had the wedge shape of a starship capable of atmospheric work, subtly modified to enhance her speed. Protuberances dotting her sides at regular intervals hinted at sensor devices and armaments far beyond the norm for her class. She resembled her owner a great deal, being beautiful, powerful, and utterly merciless.

"She's a beauty," Tarrant said.

"So glad you approve," Servalan responded.

Soolin stared at the sleek black ship. "I wonder if Servalan left a friend or two on board."

"Not possible," Vila said. "She hasn't any friends, but, to be on the safe side, I'll watch your back while you go ahead and check it out."

Blake asked Servalan, "Well, is there anyone aboard your ship? Betray us and you'll be the first to die."

"I'll make certain of that," Dayna said.

"You and Tarrant accounted for my entire crew with your little trap."

"Not us alone." Tarrant grinned. "We had help from some friends who prefer to remain anonymous."

"The point is, Tarrant, the ship is unguarded." Servalan sighed. "If you are going to steal my ship, I wish you'd get on with it."

 

For once, Servalan spoke the truth. Stiletto was unoccupied. Indeed, the ship showed little signs of use. The control room's instrument panels boasted factory-fresh gloss and the richly padded seats were stiff with newness. Nine seats were arranged in a double arc; six outer places enclosing three central seats. Blake belted Avon into the seat next to Servalan's at the communications console before settling behind the commissioner. "Be very careful what you say, Servalan."

Dayna selected a nearby seat. "Yes, they might be your last words."

Soolin manned an armament panel. Pavra and Vila occupied scanner positions with Orac wedged on the floor between them. Tarrant studied the controls for a moment, then confidently took his place at the helm.

The lift-off was smooth; Stiletto's rakish nose sliced effortlessly into the sky. Servalan's passwords got them safely past the blockade and the crew relaxed .

Blake stood and turned to Servalan. "You'll be confined to a cabin with Avon until he's back to normal." Leaving Soolin and Tarrant on the bridge, the others accompanied Blake back to the living quarters. Vila and Pavra were motivated by curiosity, Dayna by her reluctance to allow Servalan out of her sight.

Blake stopped at the first cabin they found. It was fully furnished, comfortable in appearance, although Blake frowned at the glinting lens of the surveillance camera set high in one wall. He lowered Avon to a bunk.

Vila nodded in appreciation. "Very nice. All the comforts of home." He located a liquor cabinet,circumventing the lock in seconds.

"Later, Vila." Blake ordered. "Make certain this room can be secured from the outside."

"I was just going to do that," Vila grumbled. He examined the door panel. "Yes, it can. Don't like guests sneaking out for a midnight snack, eh, Servalan?"

Blake searched the compartment and the attached hygienic chamber thoroughly. "All right. Servalan, if you or Avon need anything use the intercom." He turned at a noise behind him.

Avon tossed fitfully on the bed. He bolted upright, screaming, "Servalan!"

Blake caught him, manhandling him back onto the couch. "Where can we get a sedative?" He asked Servalan, as he held Avon down.

"Down the corridor to your left, there's a small surgery. You'll find everything you need there."

"I'll get it." Pavra ran out of the room. On her return, it took the combined efforts of Blake and Vila to hold Avon still for the injection. Within seconds, Avon slumped back, unconscious.

Breathing heavily, Blake released Avon and rose to his feet. "Remember, Servalan, your life depends on his."

Left alone with Avon, Servalan waited a few minutes, then listened at the doorway intently. Satisfied that they had gone, she tapped briefly against the wall adjoining the door panel. A niche appeared, exposing a single button and a small blaster. "Imprison me on my own ship, will you?" She aimed the gun at Avon. "No, that would be too easy." She knelt beside him and kissed Avon savagely. "Goodbye, Avon. Sweet dreams." She pressed the button, overriding the door mechanism.

"One last little chore before I go," she thought, making a slight detour on her way to the emergency escape pods.

 


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