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Jewel of Death

By Kathy Hintze
Page 3 of 4

In the med unit, Cally, Vila, and Dayna fought to hold Avon still. Cally tried to touch his mind but could not penetrate the terror which gripped him. If it had not been for the restraints, they would not have been able to hold him at all as Avon fought to free himself. Then he screamed and went limp.

"Avon, it's all right. Rest now. You're safe," Cally assured him, wiping the sweat from his face. "It was a dream, Avon. Only a dream."

From his couch, Tarrant watched in silence and fear. He had never felt so helpless in his life. Oh, he'd been scared before, but never like this. The former space captain had flirted with death many times in his career but had always managed to elude it. Until now. Death suddenly seemed very real and it terrified him. How long, he wondered. How long until we reach Earth?

Zen's voice cut through his thoughts. +Information. Destination has been achieved. Further instructions will now be required.+

And Tarrant suddenly knew he had to do. Struggling into a sitting position, he announced, "Cally, I have to go back to the flight deck."

"Tarrant, you're not strong enough," Dayna protested.

He ignored her. "Someone will have to watch for Federation ships, Cally, and give Zen instructions. Cally, let me help, please," he pleaded.

Cally studied him a long time before replying. "All right, Tarrant. If you feel up to it."

"Thank you," he sighed and switched his attention to Vila. "Do you have the location of this Melden Institute?"

"Orac has the location pinpointed and can teleport us there," Vila answered without hesitation.

"Good man. Dayna will stay with Avon while you and Cally teleport down. Orac can operate the teleport." Tarrant gritted his teeth as he got to his feet. The dizziness was still there and he realized he'd need help back to the flight deck. Before he could say a word, Vila came to his aid.

"Need any help?" Vila asked.

"Yes," Tarrant replied in surprise. "Thank you, Vila."

"No trouble. I have to fetch Orac anyway," Vila answered, walking to Tarrant's side. "Meet you at the teleport, Cally."

#

After helping Tarrant back to the flight deck, Vila picked up the computer and collected his kit. Cally was waiting for him when he got to the teleport. Quietly, she handed him a bracelet and they stepped onto the grid. "You have the coordinates, Orac?" Vila called.

Lights flickered in response from the computer on the teleport console. "Of course," Orac sniffed.

"Then put us down."

"Teleporting now," came the computer's voice.

The pair materialized in the shadow of a large statue. "According to Orac, the vaccine vault should be on the fourth level," Vila whispered as they made their way to the service lift.

"Level desired?" the lift computer requested as Vila avid Cally entered.

"Fourth," Vila responded and the door slid closed.

The lift didn't appear to move at all, so smooth was their descent. Then the door opened and the computer announced their arrival on the fourth level. Voices floated down the hall as they exited, and the pair sought cover in the shadows.

"Imagine, Javarre, in less than 24 hours, the Federation shall be rid of Blake's band and in control of the Liberator," Servalan's voice rang triumphantly. "And your work has made it all possible."

"Madame President, you honor me too much," he murmured in reply. "The Melden Institute developed the strain many years ago. It's only recently that I reopened its testing."

"And development," Servalan added with a smile. "Its uses in the future may prove limitless. You're sure the vaccine is secure? If this strain is able to mutate as the Auron virus did, I'd prefer a supply of the vaccine be available at all times."

Javarre smiled confidently. "The laboratory has a fail safe system built into it, Madame President. Without the proper voice authorization, it is impossible to gain entry. And I've had the latest detection devices installed to ensure its complete security."

"I've heard that before." Vila commented as he watched the pair disappear down the corridor. "Come on."

Vila led the way quietly down the hall, following the instructions Orac had given him to the letter. The computer had warned of the sensitive pressure plates located on either side of the main walkway and Vila, in turn, had alerted Cally to the danger. Two minor security doors blocked admittance to the vault corridor but Vila was able to deal with them easily. Then they caught sight of the massive door which marked the entrance to the vault.

"Don't say or touch anything," Vila cautioned some distance from the door. "Orac said there were audio monitors set in the adjacent walls which will trigger a depressant gas." Cally nodded in understanding. "How much time do we have?" he asked.

"Only four hours," she replied. Looking at the immense structure, she suddenly grew afraid. "Vila, are you sure you can get it open?"

Smiling with a reassurance he did not feel, he whispered, "Of course I can."

#

On board the Liberator, Tarrant struggled to stay alert as his body was wracked by stifling heat and bone chilling cold. The communicator at his station chimed, and the pilot swayed as he reached to answer it.

"Tarrant, are you there?" Dayna's voice held both worry and fear.

"Yes, Dayna, I'm here."

"How are you feeling?" she asked in a calmer tone.

"As well as can be expected. Avon?"

"Cally had to put him on life support before going down," she murmured. "Tarrant, what if...."

"Don't even think it, Dayna," Tarrant replied, breaking the contact.

#

Sweat shone on Vila's face as he delicately probed the door for its trigger mechanism. Time was too precious to waste in locating and deactivating the alarm devices so Vila had been forced to resort to a slower method of opening the vault door.

Cally kept watch in the shadows, her eyes glancing down the corridor, then back at Vila. /Vila,/ she telepathed, /we've only three hours left./

Vila jumped, almost crying out. Looking at Cally, he wiped the sweat from his face and nodded. He was all too aware of the time it was taking. Damn the Federation. Damn Servalan, he thought to himself. And damn you, too, Avon, for getting us into this mass.

Cally turned back to the corridor. A faint grating noise startled her and she whirled around again, gun in hand.

Silhouetted by the light of the vault, Vila waved at her and she ran to his side. He smiled and said, "See. I told you I could do it."

"I never doubted you for an instant," she replied, hugging him. "Now let's find the vaccine and get out of here."

"Wait a minute," he called and turned to twist a few dials on the inside of the vault door.

"What are you doing?" she asked impatiently.

"Making sure all the detection devices are off. Tricky one, this is. All the controls are located inside the vault. As long as the door is open, it's safe." He finished and flicked a switch. "There. All set for when we leave."

Walking through the vault, they came upon row after row of vials. "How are we to find the right one?" Cally whispered.

"Orac said it should be in Sector 4," Vila told her. But Sector 4 proved to house no less than 45 different vials.

"But which one?" Cally asked Vila. "We don't have time to check all of them."

"Then we'll take them all with us," Vila muttered, picking up the tray of vials. "We can always space the ones we don't need."

"Put them down, Vila," ordered a voice behind the pair. Vila froze but Cally spun around, her blaster ready. Servalan and Dr. Javarre stood a scant five feet away with their weapons drawn. "So much for your elaborate security, Javarre," Servalan snapped, then turned her attention back to Vila and Cally. "I don't know how you managed to escape the virus, but...."

"You forget. I was a service grade, Servalan," Vila responded in a cold voice as he turned to face them. "Melden was tried on us some time ago by the Federation, but it didn't work on everyone."

Servalan's expression grew thoughtful. "Ah, yes. During a minor revolt if I remember correctly."

"A 'minor revolt' which killed 200,000 people, including most of my family," Vila returned angrily.

"A miscalculation," she sighed. "More died than anticipated, but it served as a lesson to the masses. The vaccine is for Avon and the others then." She smiled at the sudden pain which crossed their faces, and moved forward.

"Not so fast," Vila snapped, holding up the tray of vials. "You forget that I have these."

Servalan dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "Empty threats, Vila. The doctor and I are both immune to the virus."

"But what about the others, Servalan?" Cally looked at Vila as he spoke, and was startled by his calm expression. "Are you sure you're immune to those? I don't think the doctor is."

Servalan glanced at her companion who was turning a little pale. "Well, what is it?" she demanded.

"There's an experimental culture there," Javarre confessed in a shaky voice. "We've not had time to develop a vaccine for it."

"So we seem to be deadlocked," Cally mused, watching Vila from the corner of her eye. Vila was scanning the labels quickly. Smiling, he removed a vial and slipped it unseen into her hand. Then he picked up another, unmarked vial, and held it up.

"Is this the one you were talking about?" he asked innocently, noting the frightened look in the doctor's eyes. While Servalan glared at the doctor, Vila whispered, "Get the vaccine up to Avon, Cally. I'll join you in a bit."

Cally looked uncertainly at him, then activated her bracelet. "Liberator, this is Cally. Bring me up, Orac."

As Cally faded from view. Servalan made a sudden move to her left, but Vila intercepted her. "I wouldn't do anything hasty, Madame President," he said, motioning her back beside the doctor. "Those guns look awfully heavy. Why don't you and the good doctor put them here on the counter?"

"What do you hope to gain, Vila?" Servalan demanded, as they complied.

"Time, Servalan, just a little time." His voice carried a calmness Servalan could not believe. Tightening his grip on the vial, Vila picked up one of the weapons and added quietly, "It's simple, really. If Avon dies, I intend to kill you both."

Servalan looked puzzled for a moment, then laughed. "You?" she asked incredulously.

"Me," came the quiet reply. "All I have to do is drop this vial. That's something even a service grade can do."

#


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