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Jabberwocky - part 3 - Healer

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 31

      "Orac's right, Avon," Jabberwocky agreed. "I didn't like Witt, but he couldn't have damaged me that way. He might have hurt me if he'd tried to make me kill any of you, but he didn't, and I got rid of him."

      "That takes care of your first idea, Vila," Avon told the thief. "May we now hear the second?"

      "All right. We've just spent a week getting the new photonic drive installed at Avalon's base. Maybe something happened when it was put in, a systems overload, even though you tested for the possibility, or else sabotage."

      "That is three ideas, Vila. This is indeed a first." Vila could tell from Avon's expression that he had already considered the possibilities and implications of Vila's suggestions. "I did ask Orac to monitor work done on the photonic drive at all times and to keep me informed of anything that might constitute sabotage. I do not think Orac would have missed anything, and since Dr. Plaxton and I did the bulk of the work, I was able to watch him as well. Plaxton may be a genius, but I do not believe he could fool Orac, or me, especially when we were alerted to the possibility."

      "Then what about an overload," Vila persisted. "Jabberwocky wasn't designed for this, and we've already given him a teleport and you've upgraded a lot of systems. Maybe there isn't enough power to make them all work."

      "That has all been taken into consideration," Avon replied. "However a breakdown is always possible, some structural or design weakness that was overlooked, a flaw in a piece of mechanism."

      "I've found and corrected it already," Jabberwocky reminded him pointedly. "I think you're overreacting."

      "Oh, you think I am overreacting, do you?"

      "Well, we all know what a suspicious nature you've got.'

      "He's got you there, Avon," Vila commented cheerfully. "You do have a suspicious nature."

      "If you are not suspicious, then you are certainly a fool, Vila," Avon informed him impatiently. "You are the one who was put at risk. You are too tolerant. Suppose you had been trapped in your cabin while the heat continued to rise. An unpleasant way to die."

      Vila could imagine it; he had a very good imagination concerning the nasty things that could happen to him. People had convulsions with heat stroke, or when their body temperatures rose above a certain point. Baked Vila didn't sound like his idea of a tasty dish. "But it's fixed, Avon," he persisted.

      "Yes, until next time."

      "Next time?" Vila echoed unhappily,

      "Oh, come on, Avon," Dayna protested. "Orac's checking on it, and Jabberwocky's alerted to the possibility; We've got enough safeguards to take care of it, and if you don't think we do, design a few more safeguards into the system. Orac's too valuable to destroy, and so is Jabberwocky. Let Orac monitor Jabberwocky to make sure he stays within certain parameters."

      "Short of abandoning this ship, there is no other choice," Avon replied. "Jabberwocky, you will need to be very careful."

      "I don't like threats, Avon," Jabberwocky sounded angry. "I've told you I'll monitor myself. You've even got Orac doing it. Watch me yourself if you want to, but don't threaten me. I've done all right so far. Besides, you helped design me. Think of that before you go finding fault."

      Vila gave a crow of delighted laughter. "That's it, Jabberwocky. You tell him."

      Avon made an impatient sound. "Orac, when you have finished with your investigations, you are to report to me, and only to me."

      "And not to Blake?" asked Orac.

      "No. Blake is linked to Jabberwocky."

      "You don't think Blake is affected?" asked Dayna in surprise.

      Vila saw new speculation flash in Avon's eyes, and he realized what it was. Blake had been traumatized by what had happened to him when Witt stole the ship from him. Maybe there were some lingering after-effects. They stared at each other in startled dismay, then Vila shook his head. "No, he's all right, Avon. We were in link-mode just this afternoon practising. He never learned how to shield. If there were anything wrong with him, we would have noticed. At least Cally would have noticed, and she didn't say anything about it. She didn't say anything to you, did she?"

      "No."

      "That's all right then," Vila grinned.

      "Is it?"

      "Of course it is," Dayna retorted. "I would have noticed if Blake was different in the link. And he's not. He's just the same. He's fine, Avon."

      Avon nodded. "Jabberwocky?" he questioned. "How is Blake?"

      "Very well, Avon. He had a few nightmares after you and Cally rescued him, but they've stopped now and he's doing very well. I'm glad. I like Blake."

      "Blake's all right," Vila agreed. "I'm going back to bed. It ought to be cool enough to sleep now." He headed for the door.

      Maybe he shouldn't have said anything to Avon, he thought as he returned to his cabin. If there was anything that seemed remotely suspicious, Avon would be suspicious about it. Most of the time that was good, like when they were dealing with nasty people like Witt. But sometimes that wasn't good at all, like when Avon was dealing with Vila. Oh well, thought Vila cheerfully as he let himself into his cabin and noted that it was back to normal, it had been worth it to see Avon playing 'Ship and Asteroids'. He'd love to tell the others, but they would never believe it.

      

      If anyone had asked him, Hugh Tiver would have said that he was an easygoing man who dealt with life as it came along; he made the best of bad situations and enjoyed the good, and if that involved standing up to Avon or risking danger with Blake, then so be it. During the time spent on Avalon's base while they had worked with Dr Plaxton to install the photonic drive, Hugh had called the whole crew in for tests, and every one of them had passed with flying colours. Emotionally, too, the crew were in the best state they had been in since Hugh had known them. Since Blake had been brought back after the incident with Witt, Avon and Cally were on better terms and Avon had become easier to deal with. He still loudly proclaimed the others' stupidity when they did something that his cool, reasoned intellect disagreed with, but it didn't always seem as though he meant it these days.

      Tarrant was changing too, and Hugh liked the change. It was true that Tarrant was impulsive and sometimes given to acting without thinking, but Hugh liked Tarrant's loyalty, and he was beginning to enjoy his sense of humour. It was fun to watch Tarrant pretending to be enamoured of both Dayna and Soolin and to see the way the two of them reacted to him and played it against him sometimes. Tarrant wasn't ready to be serious about anyone yet, and the only one who didn't know that was Tarrant, but it was still an amusing game that everyone enjoyed, even Avon.

      Vila had mellowed too; he could still play the coward and the fool, but rarely was it anything but a game any more. Mostly, Vila used it to defuse tensions, to give Avon an outlet, an acceptable way to blow off steam, but when the chips were down, Hugh would trust Vila to watch his back, and he was just beginning to realize that Avon did too. Avon gave Orac into Vila's keeping to carry about the ship, and while Vila complained long and hard about being a slave, he had to know that Avon wasn't prepared to trust Orac to just anybody.

      Cally looked happier than she ever had. Hugh didn't know if that was because of the fragile understanding she and Avon shared or if it was because Jabberwocky could boost everyone on board to create a facsimile of telepathy which enabled her to receive telepathically from the others on occasion. Losing her people and the interaction with other Auron telepaths had been a terrible blow to her, but Cally was strong, and she was beginning to come to terms with her life again.

      Blake was in his element. Working with Avalon to help unite existing rebel groups, happy to be reunited with most of his original Liberator crew, enjoying his linkage with Jabberwocky, Blake seemed a contented man. Though Hugh could feel the driving force of his determination to defeat the Federation, Blake was willing to moderate his drive to meet the needs of those around him. On better terms with Avon than he had ever been, Blake was blatantly happy.

      Then why was Hugh uneasy? He wasn't the type to look for trouble that wasn't there, but in the past few days, a niggling unease had begun to chip away at his contentment. He knew it wasn't only the thought that they would soon be going into danger again. That was something he was accustomed to, he didn't like it, but he could handle it, and he was here to put the crew back together again if any of them were hurt. They were on their way to Eridani Major now; Avalon and Blake had determined that would be an ideal starting point. Blake would meet with the local rebels and try to work out an agreement between them and Avalon's organisation. They'd been forced to delay their plans when Witt had tried to take over the ship and turn it over to Servalan there, but that had been weeks ago, and even if Servalan had left people there to watch for them, she might also believe that they wouldn't take the chance so soon. It would be dangerous to go there, but it was a reasonable danger, one Hugh could live with.


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Sheila Paulson

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