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The Price of Justice

By Judith Proctor
Page 2 of 3

      Avon faced his accusers with an expression of bored indifference. He found it mildly amusing watching Blake being backed into a corner by his own philosophies. Principles could be a severe handicap in life; he was rather glad that he hadn't got any. He felt oddly uninvolved with everything that was going on around him. His life was supposed to be on the line, but after the last two months he wasn't particularly bothered whether he lived or not. Death struck him on the whole as a rather peaceful option. There was admittedly the prospect of a future life working with Blake - a life that would in all probability be nasty, brutish and short. Still, it was good to see Blake again, to know that at least one of his friends had survived the Federation's carnage. Blake was irritating, idealistic to the point of stupidity, and Avon had missed him like hell. No one else had ever got under his skin in quite the same way. Blake was an itch that you simply couldn't stop scratching.

      He watched idly as Hendrix jotted down a few notes on a sheet of paper. Any sane man would have used a datapad. Admittedly, paper had its uses, but Avon considered it inferior on principle. Nobody seemed overly impatient about waiting for Hendrix; proceedings here were obviously pretty relaxed.

      Jottings completed, Hendrix rose to address the audience. His manner became curiously formal, as though he had watched numerous courtroom dramas on the vid and felt it incumbent on him to play the part properly.

      "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "we are here to consider the case against Kerr Avon, namely that he conspired with the Federation to betray his comrades and murdered Roj Blake believing him to be -" Hendrix stumbled for a moment and then resumed. "Believing him to be the Roj Blake with whom he had served upon the Liberator."

      Served indeed! Avon thought. Someone had a curious idea as to the true state of affairs upon Liberator. Then again, thinking about it, hadn't Blake always got his own way in the end?

      Hendrix continued, "I have clear evidence to show that the accused was working with the Federation and that his action on Gauda Prime was merely the completion of a long running scheme to destroy the rebellion."

      "State your evidence."

      Blake's voice was just a shade too tense, which led Avon to suspect that not only had he heard this evidence before, he had also helped to put it together.

      "About six months ago," Hendrix said, "one of our members with access to Federation records discovered a report written by a Major Grenlee at the time of a major rebel coup against Residence One. He was shot and wounded by the rebels, but managed to survive. While attempting to hide, he was found by two men. In his confused state, he took them for Federation officers and when they asked him to help them find the President, he agreed. Servalan was being held in the cellar. Grenlee passed out once they had entered the cellar, but before losing consciousness, he heard one of the men address his companion as 'Avon'. Servalan later escaped unharmed, and Sula, the woman leading the coup, died in that same cellar.

      "If it were not for future events, there would be no reason to link the 'Avon' in that cellar with the man here today. However, just a few months after this failed coup, at the time of the Teal-Vandor war, Avon - this time clearly identified, was seen to visit Servalan in her quarters on Teal and was not seen to leave. The implication is obvious. They were working together, and it was in fact Avon who rescued Servalan on Earth after she called on him for help."

      "Objection." Blake sounded tired as though he felt he had to make the point, but already anticipated the answer. "If she requested his help on Earth, they must previously have contacted each other and worked out a way of exchanging messages."

      "Certainly," Hendrix answered without hesitating, "at the time of the Andromedan War."

      "No. I was there. Avon might have been in command of Liberator during the fighting, but the rest of the crew were present on the flight deck. There's no way he could have sent a message to Servalan without the rest of them knowing."

      "No?"

      Hendrix addressed Avon directly for the first time. "I put it to you that during the fighting you began to see the advantages of working with the Federation instead of against it. You had command of the Liberator while Blake was injured and you discovered that you liked it. You contacted Servalan via a coded message, then you ensured that Blake was given a teleport bracelet with faulty circuits so that he would be unable to rejoin the ship."

      Blake interrupted. "Avon didn't give me the bracelet."

      "But the bracelet was faulty?"

      "Yes. The locator circuit went first, then the voice channels. I didn't have the tools to repair it."

      "Is it possible that he could have placed several faulty bracelets in the rack in the hope that you would take one?"

      "Yes, but I don't believe that he did so."

      "You believed it a week ago."

      Blake didn't dare look at Avon, then found that he had to. Dark and compelling, Avon's gaze pinned him down as securely as a butterfly in one of Sarkoff's display cases. Blake glared at him, stung by Avon's silent accusation. What had he been supposed to think? He'd believed implicitly in Avon for over two years, ignored reports of Liberator's loss and Cally's death as being simple misfortune. He'd even discounted reports that Avon was responsible for a war between the frontier warlords. He'd trusted. And then Roj's death had blown everything sky high. Couldn't Avon accept that he'd changed his mind once more? That was the trouble with Avon, he wasn't the forgiving kind.

      "I don't believe it now," he said firmly, and was rewarded by Avon's slight blink of surprise.

      Hendrix leapt to the attack. "On what grounds?"

      "On my own personal judgement of the man I knew for over two years."

      "But that same judgement also led you to doubt him."

      Because with Avon absent, it had been too easy to remember the arguments; the bitter disagreements over where they should go and what they should do; and the endless barrage of back-biting criticism. With Avon present, he could remember the other times, the shared jokes, the easy comradeship and the silent support in times of crisis. The ties that bound them might be invisible, but they existed none the less.

      "I was wrong." But even as he said it, Blake knew that he still had doubts. There were too many things unexplained.

      "Avon," he asked, "did you meet Servalan on Earth?"

      "No." Avon twisted a non-existent ring on his finger, probably unaware he was doing it, and then smiled at Blake. "But I did meet her on Sarran."

      There were a couple of gasps from the audience. Blake ignored them. This was Avon, and therefore this wasn't a confession, it was something that he felt he could turn to his advantage.

      "Why?" Blake asked bluntly.

      Avon's smile become positively angelic, which as Blake well knew, usually meant that he was preparing for a whopper. "It was during the war. Our life capsules crash-landed on Sarran. Dayna rescued us both from hostile natives."

      "The Dayna who later joined you?"

      "Yes. Servalan repaid her kindness by murdering her father, Hal Mellanby. Dayna and I were lucky to escape with our lives."

      "Hal Mellanby!" Blake couldn't quite keep the surprise out of his voice. If that was the point Avon had been angling for, then he had to admit it was a good one. "I remember him. He was quite a hero of mine when I was young. You're saying that he was Dayna's father."

      Avon nodded, totally serious now. "She swore vengeance on Servalan for his death. If I was working with Servalan, do you really think I would have taken on a crew member with a blood-oath against her?"

      Hendrix pointed an accusing finger. "Then why did you meet with her on Teal?"

      "Curiosity."

      Blake could see a faint trace of amusement in Avon's face, and wondered what it signified.

      "Curiosity!" Hendrix demanded incredulously.

      "Why not?" Avon shrugged slightly. "There was always the chance she'd tell me something useful."


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Judith Proctor

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