Whose Justice?By Judith Proctor
Page 2 of 3
"Really? And just what do you
intend to do with him
"Let him go," Helena said defiantly. "Avon may have killed a man, but it wasn't planned and I don't think he should die for it."
"Tell her, Blake." Shona sounded tired.
The world was hollow and every word echoed around its cavarnous emptiness. Shona's camouflage trousers were an immovable barrier in front of him. He knew the answer Shona wanted, and the devil of it was that she was right. He gnawed fitfully on the knuckle of his thumb, trying to avoid the necessity to answer.
He gave in. Shona had the patience to work on him all day with the steady, persistent drip of a Chinese water torture. "It isn't what you think that matters," he said to Helena with resignation. "It isn't what I think either. Shona said it earlier, if one person is allowed to overrule everyone else then we are no better than the Federation."
"I don't believe I'm hearing you say this!" Helena expostulated. "I thought you were the man who vowed to take on the Federation single handed if necessary; the man who fought and argued until he got what was right; the man who refused to take no for an answer."
"Maybe I'm the man who just shot his best friend."
Businesslike, Shona said, "And now you can finish off the job." She drew her gun and held it out to him, butt first. "It'll be kinder if you do it before he wakes up."
Blake stared at the weapon as though it were a thing unknown to him. Logic was one thing, knowledge was another. He couldn't kill Avon again. Only anger had driven him to the necessary edge the first time. Now the anger had long faded into cold loss and bitterness. To kill Avon again would be to kill a part of himself: the part that lived and breathed, the part that had life and hope, the part that still believed there was something worth fighting for. He held Avon tightly against him, feeling the bone of the ribs under his fingers, sensing the faint beat of the heart.
Shona was unmoved. "You've said it yourself: he still has to die. You accepted the court's decision earlier. If you really intended to kill him before, then you can do it again. Nothing has changed."
The hell of it was that she was right, nothing had changed, except that he had changed. It wasn't a matter or right or wrong, innocence or guilt, he simply couldn't do it.
"Then I will." The gun slapped back into her hand with practised ease.
"No. That's an order."
"You gave up the right to give us orders, when you let Avon live."
Blake pushed Avon to the floor and surged to his feet in a burst of desperate energy, to face Shona. "And suppose it had been you?" he demanded passionately. "Suppose you were innocent of the crime you were accused of? Wouldn't you want me to defend you, or should I give way to people who didn't know you and couldn't possibly understand what motivated you?" He saw the first flicker of uncertainty and pounced. "I've known you almost as long as I've known Avon. Two years now. Do you think I'd abandon a friend?"
She shook her head, mute.
"I'm not going to abandon him, Shona. Kill him and you'll have to kill me too."
He moved forward, forcing himself between Avon and the gun, willing her to back down. Slowly, in brief, jerky flashes of nightmare, the gun returned to rest.
The tension hadn't left her. "I still think you're wrong."
Avon moaned softly. The sound caught at Blake, pulled him round and down to see this restoration of life. The face below him screwed into a grimace. Eyes blinked open to look around in blank confusion. They focused, found Blake and blinked once more.
"I didn't think you had it in you," Avon said slowly. "First, I didn't think you'd really do it, and then I thought you really meant it. You'd have been a bigger success as an actor than a revolutionary."
"Oh, but he did mean it. Or so he claims."
Blake bled inwardly. Shona had no intention of making things easy for him. Avon glanced up at Shona, then turned to Blake as if comparing them mentally. Blake slid away from Avon's gaze.
"Come on," he said roughly. "We've got to get you out of here." He slipped an arm under Avon's shoulders and lifted. "Can you stand?"
Avon lurched unsteadily to his feet and for a moment Blake thought that he was going to vomit. He caught him in a firmer grip, but Avon shrugged himself free.
"I can manage."
That was a lie if ever Blake had heard one. Avon was swaying on his feet, obviously having difficulty keeping his balance. Helena ducked past Blake and smiled at Avon with a proprietorial air.
"Let me help."
"Why not?" Avon sounded indifferent, but he accepted Helena's support nonetheless.
That rankled, but then when Avon wanted to irritate, he usually succeeded. Blake resisted the temptation to kick him. It was all too easy to understand how Avon felt. He'd been there himself. Small animals chased each other on an endless treadmill around his brain. What was right? What was wrong? Where the hell did he go from here? How did he keep everyone else from discovering that Avon was still alive? Why hadn't Avon told anyone that Servalan had survived?
They moved slowly down the corridor: Avon leaning heavily on Helena's petite form; Shona, in her usual manner automatically moving to the point position. Blake brought up the rear with the shovel and Helena's kit bag, feeling unaccountably weary. Avon's gait was unsteady but that was simply the aftereffect of the stun. Helena had brought supplies - Avon would be all right once he got clear of the base. As long as Blake made sure no hunting parties went in his direction for a couple of days, there'd be no real danger. There was so much he had to do here. Why did Avon have to haunt him like this? If the others found out... He was back to that again. If the others found out, the group would fall apart. What of the contacts he'd worked so painstakingly to build up? What of the supporters who supplied them with money and equipment? What of the 'retraining' centre that he was planning to infiltrate and destroy? There were so many things at stake.
"Shona?" He ventured the question tentatively.
She intuited his meaning as always. "Will I keep my mouth shut? I don't know. I haven't decided yet."
Shona never did things by halves. In the final analysis, she'd either kill Avon when they reached the forest or else help cover his escape. She wasn't the type to do things behind your back, which was probably why she'd resented Avon's survival so much. Shona still thought he'd acted without consulting her. It would have been funny if it wasn't giving him such a headache.
"Shona," he pleaded, "I didn't even look at the gun. I honestly meant to-"
"Kill me." Avon's voice, pitch black and furious. "Don't let me get in the way, if my survival is inconveniencing you. What's the matter? Haven't you got the guts to finish the job?"
"Listen, Avon!" Blake strode forward angrily and gripped him by the shoulder. "I am risking my base, my future and possibly my neck to get you out of here."
"How noble of you. What caused the sudden change of heart?"
He stared into Avon's face, trying to find the friend that he had known, to see what he had seen there only a few hours ago. Strain had etched deep lines into the pale face. Blake was conscious of how ruddy and robust he was by comparison. The clothes that were a comfortable fit on himself hung loose and baggy on Avon. The green trousers only stayed up with the aid of a belt and the shirt looked as though two people would have fitted in it. Avon glared at him, but Blake could see past the fašade. There was pain there, too much pain for either of them to handle right now. They would never have the chance to sort that out now, he had to accept that; but there was one thing he had to know before he and Avon parted company.
"Servalan," he demanded roughly, gripping hard with his hand. "Why didn't you tell anyone she was still alive?"
"My reasons are none of your business."
"You left her free to carry on under another name, free to try and rebuild her empire. You owe me an explanation."
"Why did you never kill Travis," Avon countered.
"That's nothing to do with it!"
Avon looked at him without blinking. "If you say so."
Blake sighed in resignation. "It wasn't Travis I was fighting, it was the Federation. As soon as you start having personal vendettas, you become as bad as the system you're trying to destroy."
Avon flung back his head and laughed: a long slow laugh that grew wilder and wilder, tottering on the brink of insanity. Blake slapped him, the sound sharp and sudden. Avon's attention snapped back to Blake, the feral animal still lurking in the corner of his eyes. "I lack your standards of perfection, Blake. I never fight unless it is personal."
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