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Jewel of Death

By Kathy Hintze
Page 2 of 4

Avon was running a high temperature when he finally came to. Through blurry eyes, Cally's concerned face floated into view as she adjusted one of the sensor links.

"What..." he began, but his throat was so dry and swollen, it was very difficult to speak. Cally left his area of vision for a moment, then returned with a glass of cool water.

"You've contracted a fever of some type, Avon," she explained as he drained the glass. "Orac is trying to identify it now."

"A fever?" he managed to get out. "How?"

Cally shrugged. "You've been out for nearly 12 hours."

"Twelve hours?" Unwillingly, he recalled the collapse, then the faint voices which had preceded his awakening. One had been all too familiar as Servalan's voice echoed in his mind. 'You're sure he's been infected?' Everything grew crystal clear and Avon grabbed Cally's hand.

"Cally," he muttered painfully. "Servalan...virus...like Auron. You...must...keep...others away." The effort to get his message out proved too much for Avon, and he slipped back into unconsciousness.

#

Cally's face drained of color as her mind flooded with memories of her dead people, of Zelda. Servalan had murdered them trying to get the Liberator. And now she was trying again. Slowly, Cally walked to the wall communicator and activated it. "Tarrant?"

"Yes, Cally," came the pilot's voice. "How's Avon?"

"Pendra was a trap, Tarrant. Servalan was waiting for us. Somehow, she injected Avon with a virus." Cally's voice broke. "Like my people, like Auron."

"A virus?" Vila exclaimed. "Is it contagious?"

"More important," Dayna asked in a worried tone, "is there a cure?"

"I don't know," Cally responded. "Have Orac check Federation records. Maybe the answer lies there. But until one's found, no one is to enter the medical unit. Understand?"

"We understand," Tarrant answered.

#

For the next two hours, Avon's temperature continued to rise, his condition deteriorating as the virus drained his strength. Cally tried everything she knew to reduce the fever but nothing seemed to help.

Then Vila burst in. "Cally, Orac's isolated the virus."

Cally looked up in dismay.

"Vila! Why didn't you call? Now you're exposed!"

"I already am, remember?" he reminded. "Besides, Orac says the bug is a strain of the Melden series and the service grades have been immune to Melden for years. It's the Alphas," he paused, gazing at Avon with fearful eyes. "They've no immunities." Then he looked at her with concern. "How are you feeling?"

She smiled wanly. "Tired, Vila, just tired. Alpha grade? What about Tarrant and Dayna?"

"Dayna's all right. Orac ran a check on her and said something about that planet she lived on altering her bios or something," Vila explained. "But Tarrant has the symptoms, and he wasn't anywhere near Avon. The stuff must spread through the air."

"What about an antidote?" Cally asked hopefully. "Has Orac come up with one?"

"Yes." Vila's face paled as he answered. "But it's on Earth. At the Melden Institute. If the vaccine is given within 32 hours of initial incubation, there's a chance." Looking down at Avon, he added, "Tarrant's already laid in a course. We should arrive in ten hours."

"Ten hours?" Her gaze drifted to Avon.

"You need rest, Cally. Go on. I can manage."

Cally appreciated Vila's concern, but she was afraid to leave Avon's side. Afraid of what might happen. "No, I think it would be better..."

"Cally, please. Until we have the vaccine, there's nothing anyone can do." He gently took her arm and urged her toward the door. "Besides, you know Avon wouldn't want you worrying about him."

There was a gentle insistence in his voice and Cally reluctantly agreed. "All right, Vila. But if there's any change at all...."

"I'll call you," he promised.

#

Avon lapsed into delirium shortly after Cally left, giving Vila no choice but to strap him down. Vila tried to reassure him as he wiped the sweat from his face but Avon did not hear him.

In his wandering mind, Avon was back on Star One with Blake standing next to him. Then Travis appeared, gun blazing. "Blake, get down," Avon yelled, pushing the larger man to one side. Blake fell heavily, but Avon had no time to check him.

Travis laughed. "I promised Blake I would kill him, and now I have. It's doesn't matter if you kill me, Avon. Blake's dead. Do you hear me, Avon? Blake is dead."

Avon said nothing but worked his way silently to the other side of the room. Travis was maneuvering for another shot when Avon saw him and fired. The former space commander screamed and fell forward into the complex's energy core. Avon smiled briefly, then returned to Blake. "How bad?" he asked, noting the other's pallor.

"I've had better days," Blake whispered, but there was blood on his lips and his breathing seemed labored. "Travis?"

"Dead."

"You're sure?" Blake asked in an anxious voice.

"Very sure." Avon replied, checking Blake's wound. It looked bad. "I have to get you back to the ship." Avon eased him up against the wall, then activated his bracelet. "Liberator, this is Avon. Teleport now." Silence. "Liberator, we need teleport now. If that fool's gone to sleep, I'll..." Avon stopped, staring at his companion. "Blake?" Blake's eyes were wide and empty. "Blake!" Avon screamed and grabbed his companion's hand, trying to will life into a dead man.

#

Vila was trying to tighten a loose wrist strap when Avon suddenly grabbed his hand. Vila gasped with pain and tried to pull his hand away but the other man only tightened his hold. "Avon, let go." Vila cried. "Please. You're hurting me."

"Blake!" Avon screamed and his eyes flew open. Vila had never seen such grief and despair before. Suddenly, his pain did not matter. He had to help Avon, to comfort him any way he could.

"Avon, it's me, Vila. It's all right. You're safe," Vila murmured, touching Avon's face gently. "It's all right. Relax. You're safe."

For a moment, the fever-ridden man stared up at Vila as if he recognized him, then Avon's eyes slid shut and he relaxed with a sigh. Vila slowly retrieved his hand and rubbed his numbed fingers, praying they would reach Earth in time.

#

On the flight deck, Tarrant was not feeling very well. "Take over, will you, Dayna? I think I'll go rest in my cabin for a while."

Dayna answered without looking up. "All right."

But as Tarrant stepped down from his station, the flight deck began spinning wildly. Dayna reached him just in time to stop Tarrant from falling down the steps. Gently, she eased him into a chair and he heard her go to the intercom.

"Cally, Tarrant's in trouble."

"Vila here, Dayna. Can you get him to the med unit?"

"I can try," came her response.

Vila met them a short distance from the med unit, and he was startled by Tarrant's appearance. Tarrant was very pale and seemed to have trouble staying on his feet.

"Come on, Tarrant, it's only a little further," Dayna urged, trying to hold him upright.

He tried to keep from staggering but couldn't. "I...I'm trying, Dayna. But...dizzy, so very dizzy."

Vila moved up beside Tarrant and put an arm around him, shifting some of the pilot's weight off the girl. "And I thought Avon was heavy," he groaned. "Tarrant, I'm personally seeing that you lose 30 pounds."

Dayna caught her breath and nodded. "For once, Vila, I agree with you."

"I've got the other couch all ready," he continued as they struggled with the pilot. "I was beginning--ow, walk on your own feet, Tarrant--to think you weren't coming."

"So did I," Dayna gasped back.

Between the two of them, they half-carried, half-dragged Tarrant the rest of the way to the med unit and onto the waiting couch. Then while Vila connected the monitoring equipment, Dayna moved over to check Avon. "He's going to die, isn't he?" she murmured softly. "They're both going to die."

"No, they're not," Vila replied, a stubbornness in his voice which made her look up.

Dayna looked around. "Where's Cally?"

"Right here," came a tired voice behind them. Cally stood in the doorway, her face drawn and haggard.

"Cally, you should be resting," Vila scolded.

"I tried to." Then she saw the restraints. "Vila, you promised you would call me if there was any change."

"There was no reason to," Vila answered in a conciliatory tone. "Besides, you needed the sleep."

Cally stared at him for a moment, then nodded. Walking over to Tarrant, she asked. "How are you feeling?"

"A little shaky, Cally, that's all," he replied. "Any change in Avon's condition?"

Cally checked the monitor and sighed. "He's weak, Tarrant, very weak." Her eyes darkened as she looked at the unconscious man. Avon was slipping into another nightmare.

#

He was tired of waiting. How long had he been there? It was impossible to tell. Shrinker had to come soon or he'd have to leave. Then the door to his cell opened and a man walked in and looked at him. "They tell me you won't answer any questions."

Avon eyed him uncertainly and sat up. "Maybe they haven't asked the right one."

"A man with a sense of humor. Good," the interrogator laughed. "I can see we will get along well. Oh, forgive me. My colleagues call me Shrinker."

Avon smiled, then rubbed his shoulder to deactivate the homing device. His fingers encountered a small scar and puzzlement crept into his face.

Shrinker grinned. "Ah, yes. We found that straight away. Intelligence wanted to leave it In place to trap your companions but I convinced them otherwise."

He removed a laser probe from his pocket. "You see, I know you'll tell me everything I want to know."

"I don't know what you mean," Avon muttered, as he tried to stand up.

"Of course, you do." The larger man grabbed Avon by the shoulder and pushed him back down. "Let's start with your name.

Avon shook off Shrinker's grip and glared defiantly at him. "Your name? What is your name?" the interrogator demanded and forced his captive flat against the cell bunk.

"No, I can't," Avon panted, as he fought to keep the probe away.

"Of course, you can," Shrinker replied. He straddled Avon's body, pinning his victim's arms down with his knees. "And you will."

"No, I will tell you nothing," Avon cried, watching the probe edge closer.

"They all say that," Shrinker reflected with a sigh. "But in the end, they always do." With a deft flick of his wrist, he activated the probe and drove it into his captive's right eye.

#


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