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Bounty - Novelisation

By Murray Smith
Page 4 of 8

Outside the residence, Cally was around the back, testing the rope, while at the front Cheney angrily shouted at a trooper, "Idiot, why didn't you report this to me immediately?" He then pointed to two others, then to one of the building's corners. "You two, around the rear!" he ordered.

Luckily for Cally, she had managed to climb to the roof, hide behind its fake battlements, and haul the rope up before the troopers arrived at the back wall, and began checking it and the surrounding area.

* * * * * * * * *

Inside the residence, Sarkoff, who had sat down at the desk, told Blake decisively, "I won't do it." He looked at Blake. "No, Blake, what you say is impossible." With this, he looked away, as if in dismissal. "It would be a mistake for me and the people of my planet," he explained quietly. "I am not the same man."

"To them you are," insisted Blake, looking down at Sarkoff, back slightly bent, hands resting on the desk.

Sarkoff looked again at Blake. "I am no longer a politician," he further explained. "But if I were, I would tell you that your timing is wrong, anyway."

"And if I were," retorted Blake, "I would tell you that if you wait any longer it will be too late."

"You don't understand," said Sarkoff, shaking his head.

Blake was (finally!) about to explain things to him, angry that so much time had already been wasted, when Cally made a loud entrance, at the point of Tyce's guns. "Blake?" the latter asked in a one-word question.

"She's with me," confirmed Blake.

Cally turned around to stare at Tyce. "I did tell her that," she said, a touch resentfully.

Tyce ignored this. "Are there any more?" she asked Blake.

"No, just Cally."

"Something has alerted the guards," Cally urgently told Blake. "Are we safe in here?"

"Yes." Tyce answered her question. "But I'll go and check." She turned and left the room.

"Did you hide the box?" Blake asked Cally.

"Of course. Is he ready?" Her question was understandable, but the worst one she could have asked in the circumstances. Blake wondered if things could get any worse.

"Well, Cally," said Sarkoff, now on his feet. "Must I listen to you, too?"

"No," was her simple reply, as she looked at him.

Sarkoff was curious. "Have you no opinions?"

"None. You are needed to unite your people." Cally sounded perfectly sincere, because she was.

Sarkoff was polite but probing. "I see. Facts, not opinions."

"Would we have risked our lives for an opinion?" Cally did not think it the time to discuss such niceties, wanting them all to be off. Blake was proud of her retort, while realising that she had sounded too like a fanatic.

Sarkoff did something that surprised Cally. He walked to the centre of the room, indicating some of the objects with one hand. "What do you think of my collection?"

Cally, who had not expected the question, tried to be polite. "Ah, it is most...," she searched for a description, "ah, impressive."

"'Impressive', only?'" Sarkoff sounded surprised, although her answer had told him most of what he needed to know, something explained in his question. "Ah, but then your people don't originate from Earth, do they?" He pointed at her.

"My people are the Auronar." Cally supplied Sarkoff with the answer he was looking for, moving next to him.

He looked pensive. "Yes, I remember in my last years of office, we received an ambassador from Auron." He looked at Cally. "His name was--."

"--Lehan". Cally again gave him the answer. Blake, watching all this, wondered how much of Sarkoff's behaviour was an act. Politicians tended to have good memories, he recalled. Would he really have forgotten the name of the Auron ambassador?

"Yes, Lehan," confirmed Sarkoff. "I remember how alone he seemed."

"He did not return to us," stated Cally.

"Because he failed," concluded Blake.

"Because I failed him?" speculated Sarkoff, looking at Blake, before looking back at Cally. "I wanted that alliance," he emphasised.

Cally shared that sentiment. "So did we," she agreed. "To resist the Federation."

Blake, puzzled at Sarkoff's attitude, moved closer and made a disapproving observation. "You seem to have shifted your ground somewhat since then."

Sarkoff began to explain his behaviour. "I was leader of the planetary government on Lindor for five years. During that period I resisted political pressure to join the Federation," his voice took on a slightly ironic tone, "even from factions within my own party." He walked to the centre of the room, continuing his explanation. "Eventually I decided to settle the issue by trying to get a vote of confidence. So I called elections."

"And he was beaten," added Tyce, who had just returned down the stairs. She carried a projectile weapon, roughly the same age as the revolver, Blake presumed, but smaller and differently shaped.

"Of course he was beaten," said Blake, his face expressionless.

"My friend, I was totally annihilated, complete rejection," Sarkoff added more details as he turned to face Blake. "And no precise decisions followed my political disgrace. Lindor did not join the Federation." Sarkoff had arrived at the kernel of his explanation. "You see, it wasn't a rejection of my policies; the vote was merely a rejection of me."

Blake's face had been expressionless throughout all this; but he remembered the accounts about how wildly popular Sarkoff had been at the time of the first election; and how most people had believed in his assertion that he had a 'special feeling' for what the people of Lindor wanted. His shattering defeat in the second election caused a revision of this opinion to try to explain why this had taken place. Many concluded, particularly after he went into exile, that Sarkoff was a fraud and a hypocrite.

Tyce's lips curled back as she provided the scornful ending. "So he ran away and hid, here on this empty, nameless planet which the Federation so generously provided."

"Together with a security force," contributed Cally.

"And you're right; something has stirred them up," observed Tyce. "Since there's nothing else that's any threat to them," she gave Sarkoff a look, "they must know you're around here somewhere."

Sarkoff clutched her right arm with his left hand and gave her right wrist a couple of affectionate pats with his right. "I'm afraid that Tyce has never been able to accept that I am no longer important."

Blake, while silently guessing that relations between the two during their exile must have been difficult, chose to follow up on what Tyce had said. "It's a very impressive bodyguard for someone who is no longer important," he scornfully observed.

Sarkoff had a ready, plausible answer. "Courtesy. Besides, it would be politically embarrassing for them if I were to be killed while I was their guest."

"Not unimportant, then," concluded Blake. "Not naive, either. I mean," he became louder and more indignant, "surely you must realize you're a prisoner here!?"

Tyce answered, "Of course he does. Don't you see it, Blake; he relies on them keeping him here."

"No, no; that's not true." Sarkoff denied this; but he did not sound convincing.

At least Tyce is an ally. Blake silently congratulated himself on this fact; they had no idea when they went down as to what her attitude would be; but the congratulations were quickly cut short by a telepathic nudge from Cally. "Blake, we're running out of time," his mind heard her say urgently before she went into the second exhibition room.

Blake moved quickly, after so many diversions, to tell Sarkoff the true situation on Lindor. "President Sarkoff, your planet is in total chaos. There are dozens of factions fighting for power. They're on the brink of civil war."

"That cannot be true," replied Sarkoff. "I get regular reports."

Blake continued. "When the fighting starts, the Federation will move in a peacekeeping force. They'll take over the administration and the government and your planet will have lost its freedom. Just swallowed up into the Federation. All quite legitimate and not a single voice raised in protest."

"That cannot happen," denied Sarkoff evenly. "I know the situation on Lindor. I get regular reports."

"From the Federation communications, yes?" asked Blake, as if to a child, though he was inwardly shocked at Sarkoff's naivety.

"Yes." Sarkoff smiled slightly, acknowledging the patronising tone in Blake's voice. "But I have proof of their authenticity."

Blake smiled; he was now going to destroy Sarkoff's complacency. "The Lindor Strategy. That's what they called it." He began to explain. "It began with the rigged elections which removed you from power and will only end when you return to your planet as," he enunciated the last words of the sentence one by one, "the puppet leader of a subjugated people."

"I knew!" quietly explained Tyce, who looked at Sarkoff, glad to have her beliefs confirmed by hard evidence.

"Nonsense," responded Sarkoff, but quietly.

"No." Blake quickly moved on. "We captured a Federation cipher machine. Now before they changed the code, we picked up a lot of information. Our computers have been unravelling it ever since. One of the things they came up with was the Lindor Strategy." He finished simply. "We have checked. It is happening."

"Why should I believe you?" asked Sarkoff when Blake had finished.

"Well, what have I got to gain by lying?"

Cally, who had returned to the room, backed up Blake's rhetorical question. She fixed Sarkoff with an intense look. "You are the only man who can reunite your planet. If you act now, you can save it from war and from the Federation."

"Well?" Blake's question finished the argument and challenged Sarkoff. The latter bowed his head slightly, and walked towards then past the desk, looking bewildered, his hands clasped behind his back.

"He won't go with you," explained Tyce sadly, shaking her bowed head.

"He must," insisted Blake.

Tyce looked up at Blake. "He was broken; can't you see that?" she lamented, almost angrily. She looked wistful, heaved a tiny sigh, and shook her head slightly. "If you'd known him before, you'd understand," she continued quietly and sadly. "He was a very special man, brilliant and proud. Failure never occurred to him." Again she shook her head.

"But the elections were rigged," pointed out Cally.

"It was still failure." This did not console Tyce.

"That's something you should understand." Blake quietly reminded Cally of what she had been like when he met her on Saurian Major.

"I thought I could help him," lamented Tyce, her head again bowed, thinking of the years she had wasted on the planet.

"He must come with us, by force if necessary." Blake spelt out what needed to be done.

"I know." Tyce nodded. "You will take us both?"

"Put this on." Blake took a teleport bracelet and fastened it around her right wrist. "And put one on him." He took out another bracelet and gave it to her. Tyce nodded and left to go to Sarkoff, who was in the second exhibition room, visible through the entrance.

"I'll go and check where the guards are," said Cally, who also left.

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