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Justice

By Judith Proctor
Page 2 of 5

      Blake's fists clenched. He barely resisted the urge to kick Avon in the guts. Shona grabbed his arm. "Save it. We've got to make it to the caves, before the patrols get this far."

      Blake turned, and nodded in reluctant agreement. "Hendrix, bring that with you." He gestured in Avon's direction, and walked off in the direction of the caves without looking back. Avon's antagonism was going to make everything a lot easier; but at the same time, Blake couldn't help wishing for some sign of remorse over his/Roj's death.

      Shona covered Hendrix, while he pulled Avon to his feet. She watched as Avon made a futile attempt to remove the worst of the mud. He was going to feel the cold if they didn't get to the caves quickly. The prison garment was thin, and now that it was wet, the wind chill factor would be worse.

      "Still as fanatic as ever, I see," Avon commented, as he watched Blake's retreating back.

      Shona felt the need to defend Blake. "He was very close to Roj."

      "And just who the hell," demanded Avon, "was Roj?"

      "His twin brother."

      "That's impossible," Avon said flatly. "All Blake's family were killed by the Federation."

      "So, who the hell," Shona said, deliberately mimicking Avon's words, "do you think you murdered on Gauda Prime?"

      Avon seemed to have no answer to that. He moved slowly along the path Blake had taken, too slowly for Shona's liking. "Get a move on," she ordered.

      Avon turned back to face her. "I can't go any faster," he said.

      He was trying to delay them, that was obvious. There would be air patrols searching over this area. The infra-red scanners would pick them up easily in the open, and in any case, it would be dawn in half an hour. She warned Avon. "If they spot us, I'll shoot you first."

      The pale moonlight picked out the gaunt angles of Avon's face. "I hope you'll remember that," he said.

      "Why? Are you so keen to die?"

      "It's better than going back."

      Shona studied Avon closely. She could see the signs of strain in him now. It showed in the way he held himself and in the lines of fatigue on his face. Whatever had been done to him in the prison, it had left its mark. The act could well be genuine.

      "Hendrix," she ordered. "Give him a hand. If he tries anything stupid, I'll shoot his ears off."

      Recent rain had left the path slippery. Avon skidded a couple of times, he seemed to be having trouble with his left knee. Hendrix supported the prisoner with an arm around his waist, an effort which gained him no thanks. It was difficult to see far ahead - Blake had been out of sight for several minutes before they finally reached the concealed entrance to the caves. Shona always hated this part. The stream that emerged from the cave mouth erased all footprints, but it also left her boots soaking wet. The stones were covered in algae. If you put a step in the wrong place, it was easy to slip and fall. Hendrix let go of Avon and got out his torch. The bright beam picked out coloured streaks on the walls where minerals had been washed out over the years. Further in, there would be stalactites.

      Shona watched Avon pick his way over the stones, realising for the first time that he was barefoot. It was no more than the man deserved. Shona had been with Blake for just over two years now. She'd heard his tales of the old days on the Liberator, understood the degree to which he had relied on the cantankerous computer expert. "Some day," Blake used to say, "Avon will come and find me." But Avon had never come. Then came the news from Gauda Prime, and the vid footage from the security cameras there. Blake had changed on that day. Shona was never sure which had hurt Blake more, his brother's death, or Avon's betrayal. He was colder now, more suspicious, and at the same time more inclined to take unnecessary risks. This whole expedition was a risk they should not have taken. Blake's need for revenge was pushing him too far.

      Avon moved forward mechanically, catching his feet on the stones of the stream bed. He felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. He'd lost count of the time he had spent under interrogation, but it had to have been a couple of months at least. Pain had become a simple constant of life. His knee also was a constant source of trouble - a badly healed injury from Gauda Prime.

      Blake. Avon wished he could concentrate his thoughts and work out how Blake could possibly be here. The dead man on Gauda Prime had been Blake. He{\160}had spoken with Blake's voice, looked at Avon with Blake's eyes, and bled with Blake's blood. The blood was still there if he closed his eyes to see. The pain and confusion of that death were still with him, had never left him in all his time in prison. Now Blake, or a man who claimed to be Blake, was here and very much alive. Mocking the emptiness inside him. How could he grieve for a man who wasn't even dead?

      At least this Blake was easy to deal with. A Blake who hated him was simpler to handle than the Blake of the Liberator days. This man demanded nothing that Avon couldn't give. Hate was simple to handle - faith was the deadlier weapon.

      A vertical crack of light ahead intruded into his reflections. Bright enough for electric lighting, so there had to be more in these caves than met the eye. The crack widened into an opening. Avon staggered towards it, feeling less steady than ever. A stone door opened into a brightly lit corridor painted in antiseptic white. He stepped forward into the whiteness, and promptly tripped over the sill. A hand caught his arm, supporting him: Blake's hand. For a moment, Avon felt grateful. Then he knew. No gesture of comfort, no unspoken offer of support. Simply a hand to stop him falling, to save someone the effort of picking him up off the floor. He shrugged himself free and waited to be told what to do next.

      Blake led the way up a long, gently sloping corridor that must have led right into the heart of a mountain. The walls were featureless, and apart from the steady gradient, there was no indication as to where they were going. Avon soon found himself lagging. Blake didn't look behind him, his whole stance radiated anger. Hendrix gave Avon a hand once more, but there was no more sympathy from him than from Blake. Avon was more alone than he had been in his cell.

      After a small eternity, they emerged into a hall. The walls were lined with controls which reminded Avon vaguely of a hydroelectric power station he'd once investigated on Xenon. Blake was nowhere to be seen, but a small group of people were waiting there, and more emerged from another entrance as Avon watched.

      "Is that him?" one of them asked Hendrix. "He doesn't look much like the pictures."

      Hendrix shoved him lightly forward. "That's the traitor."

      Defiance was hard to summon up - Avon had been beaten for it too often in the past couple of months. He tilted his head up, and gave them his best 'don't you dare come near me' look. It didn't work. They crowded around him, poking, pushing. Too few people for so long, and now too many all at once. He tried to push them back, and without warning they were on him. He could hear their voices hurling insults at him, feel feet and fists abusing him, but none of it seemed to reach him. His head was slowly spinning. The last thing Avon heard before the world collapsed underneath him was Blake's voice.

      "Leave him!" Blake shouted angrily. "What is the point of fighting the Federation if we end up just like them?"

      Crazy, stupid, idealistic Roj Blake, thought Avon. Justice for everyone, even for murderers. Then the blackness took him.

      Blake shoved people aside angrily as he moved to view Avon's sprawled out body. "If we resort to this kind of action, then we're no better than them; we're no better than him."

      "What did you expect?" Shona demanded.

      Blake rounded on her. "I expect people to act like civilised human beings. To act how they would like to be treated themselves." He bent down and scooped up Avon's limp form. "Come and help me get him into some dry clothes. I don't want him dying of pneumonia before his trial."

      Avon was lighter than he'd expected. That was oddly worrying. But then, you couldn't spend two years with someone, living in constant danger, without becoming close to them. Life only existed to kick you in the teeth, Blake reflected morosely. With Roj's death, he hadn't lost just one friend, but two. Killing Avon might be satisfying, but he was unlikely to feel any better for it. He led the way down a side corridor to his own room. That would be the easiest place to get clothes. Pausing outside the door, he nodded to Shona, and she opened it for him.

      His sleeping bag was on the floor by the far wall. Blake deposited Avon there and stretched out his arms to ease his shoulder muscles. The room was small, but sufficient. Accommodation here wasn't too bad. They had discovered the underground power station almost by accident last year, and moved into it when a previous base had become untenable. A reservoir in the hills fed water into a man-made tunnel right through the mountain. After repairs, they were even able to generate a small amount of electricity. Blake's own room had been an office once, the desk and filing cabinets still came in handy. Here in the darkness and the even temperatures of the perpetual underground, little changed. Where vermin had left things untouched, it was even possible to read the old documents of many centuries ago.


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Judith Proctor

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