Jabberwocky - part 4 - The FromaBy Sheila Paulson
Page 1 of 11
BachgroundCally has survived the explosion on Terminal and the crew have escaped in Servalan's wreck of a ship. While in a coma, Cally dreams the events of the fourth season, including Blake's death. Traumatized by her injury, she has lost her telepathy. When the crew, augmented by Hugh Tiver, a doctor kidnaped by Avon to take care of Cally, steal a prototype Federation mindship constructed around a living human brain and capable of bonding with a human in a mental linkage, their adventures are just beginning. Afraid of finding Blake for fear Avon will kill him, Cally bonds with the ship, naming it Jabberwocky. After rescuing Soolin from the Scorpio, they go to Gauda Prime, where the encounter backfires. Blake is wounded but is rescued and joins the crew of Jabberwocky. Cally's telepathy returns and she turns linkage of the ship over to Blake.
Blake is back, and in linkage with Jabberwocky, and Servalan wants to steal Jabberwocky and link with it in order to take back the presidency. She had meant it to be hers from the beginning. She uses Witt, a telepath who had worked his way into Avalon's rebel army on Ryalon base, to wrest control of Jabberwocky from Blake, leaving the rebel trapped inside his mind. A mental linkage is the only way to bring him back, and Avon the only one who can do it. With Cally's help, and using nearly atrophied telepathic skills he had long pretended he didn't have, Avon is able to draw Blake back from the prison within his mind. Jabberwocky defeats the rogue telepath.
With Blake in control once more, Avon is gradually accepting he was born a telepath, but his powers were suppressed to the verge of destruction.
Blake begins behaving oddly, and problems develop with the ship as Jabberwocky begins to remember his long suppressed past - his memories had been blocked when his brain was used in the mindship. In the meantime, Jenna Stannis and Del Grant have teamed up and have one objective: Kill Avon. When their plan goes wrong and Tarrant is gravely wounded, only the combination of the mindship and Avon, the untrained telepath are able to save the pilot's life, and at this point, Tarrant becomes Jabberwocky's linkmate. Jenna joins the crew.
The FromaOn a mission to draw in potential rebel support, Blake and his crew are asked to steal the Froma, an alien artifact that cannot be stolen as it destroys anyone who tries to remove it from its world. When Avon and Hugh are captured, Avon receives an unexpected telepathic contact - from the Froma itself. The strange device proves to be a sentient organism, the last of its kind. Able to link telepathically with Avon, it wants to bond with him on a permanent basis, but Cally helps, and the entity is taken to Kahn where it can be among the newly reviving Auronar.
"They expect us to do what?!"
The sharpness of Avon's voice should have struck a jarring note, but it didn't. Blake's own reaction to the demands of the rebels on Triana had been much the same. He must have been spoiled by the ease of their past few planetfalls. Helping Avalon to unite the various rebel factions on different worlds had gone without a hitch for the past two months. Since the incident with Del Grant on Eridani Major, nothing had really caused them any problems. Oh, they'd had a run in with three pursuit ships, but with everyone in tune with Jabberwocky, the battle had been little more than a skirmish, easily won. In fact, Blake had begun to be complacent, which should have warned him that things were about to change. They had stopped at five different worlds since Eridani Major, met with the rebels there, and worked out tentative agreements with them that would help to ensure the success of Avalon's plans to transform a haphazard collection of rebel groups into one comprehensive whole, able to mount a campaign against the Federation that just might have some impact.
Even on Jabberwocky itself, things had been going smoothly, and more than anything else, that should have warned Blake. With his crew of misfits and troublemakers, who were never happier than when they were in disagreement, two months of comparative peace were almost too much to expect. Part of the time, Tarrant had been recovering from the wound he received on Eridani Major, but he was well now, and Blake had taken him down to meet with the Triana rebel cell, along with Cally and Soolin. None of them had expected any real resistance.
But resistance they had got. Triana's rebel leader, Marthonal Tant, made it clear from the first that he wasn't having any, not unless Blake could prove his good intentions. Blake had been amenable until he heard exactly how they were expected to prove it, then he stalled by suggesting a need to confer with his crew. He could feel Tarrant simmering beside him as they walked out of the council chamber. Soolin, cool and unsurprised, was no less annoyed, and of them all, only Cally had adequately maintained her poise as she followed Blake from the room.
"They expect us to steal the Froma," Blake replied. "And they expect us to do it now."
Avon looked like he could have done without Blake's repetition, but before he could add something vitriolic, Vila leaned forward. "What's a Froma when it's at home?" he asked curiously.
"You mean you've never heard of it?" Jenna questioned in surprise.
"We don't all have your smuggler's experience, Jenna," Hugh pointed out. "The name's familiar from someplace, Blake, but I can't say I can pin it down either."
"The Froma," said Avon in his 'lecturer' voice, "is an alien artefact of undetermined origin. It was discovered on Triana when the planet was colonised and has remained here ever since, despite Federation efforts to take it back to Earth. It has an affinity for the planet, at least that is all the explanation scientists have been able to determine. Ships attempting to remove the Froma from Triana invariably crash. People who try to shift it from its location have a very nasty habit of dying."
"But we couldn't possibly steal it," Soolin exclaimed. "There's something more here than meets the eye."
Blake was inclined to agree with her, but before he could say so, Vila objected, "There's nothing that can't be stolen if it's handled properly."
Avon turned to stare at Vila as if he had suddenly grown a second head. "You cannot be serious," he demanded. "Vila Restal, self-proclaimed coward, is prepared to steal an item considered 'cursed' which has proven fatal to everyone else who has ever tried to remove it. It cannot be done. I would say, Blake, that the Triana rebels set themselves too high and that we should abandon them to their fate. We can proceed to the next world and deal with people who will, possibly, be more practical and realistic, though I tend to doubt it."
"And the word will go round that we declined the first challenge put to us," Blake pointed out. "I don't know, Avon. I'm not saying we should agree, but neither should we refuse them out of hand."
"But what exactly is the Froma?" Dayna asked. Growing up isolated on the planet Sarran, she often came up against things she had never heard of but which the others took for granted. "Is it a device, a relic, a jewel, what?"
"A jewel?" Vila echoed. "Who's talking about jewels?"
"No one," said Jenna impatiently. "Go back to sleep, Vila."
"Wasn't sleeping," Vila muttered. "Remember, if we're supposed to steal something, I am the only thief on board."
"The Froma," Avon announced impatiently, "is a device of unexplained nature. It has no obvious power source, it is small, perhaps not as large as Orac, and it is made of an unfamiliar metal. Attempts to analyse its chemical components have proven unsuccessful. Yet the device has been known to send electrical charges into those who have handled it unwisely."
"It sounds nasty," Vila objected. "Why would anyone in his right mind want the bloody thing then?"
"Because," Jenna announced cheerfully, "its surface is coated with pure irrestium. And you should know that irrestium is -"
"One of the most valuable substances in the galaxy," Vila interjected. "No wonder the rebels want it. I'd want it myself if it didn't have a nasty habit of terminating people. I'm too young to die."
"The rest of us are getting tired of hearing you say that," Soolin snapped at him. "Try stealing the Froma and you'll never have to say it again."
"It might prove interesting to learn why the Froma won't be taken from Triana," Avon commented. "Not that we should attempt it, but it would be worth our while to find out why. Perhaps Orac could discover something useful."
Blake looked at Avon in surprise. Maybe the challenge of stealing something unstealable or maybe curiosity had caused Avon's resentment to vanish. Vila, too, was looking interested, but then Vila's normal protective impulses vanished when there was something to steal worth stealing. Present Vila with something worthy of his gifts and the cowardly little man vanished to be replaced by a gifted professional. Blake didn't mean to risk his crew or his ship to attempt the impossible, but perhaps the others who had tried and failed hadn't had Blake's resources. Orac alone might find the data they needed to make it feasible.
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