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The Liberator led the rebel armada to Earth. They were uncertain what to
expect, only that the old regime was going and they were in a position to
determine what would happen now.|
And Blake knew he would now have to face Jenna. The reasons for his hesitation before had gone - but he was still uncertain precisely what he wanted.
Blake and Avon teleported to an antechamber of the President's office and went into the main room. They found Jenna, now very pregnant, sitting at what could only be the President's desk, Vila, looking smug, and two men arguing furiously about a file. One of them said that it was "an absolute disgrace' that Security only had records of a fraction of what he had done, and then noticed the newcomers.
"One of you Roj Blake?"
"Yes," Blake replied, somewhat uncertain what to expect from someone who complained about the inadequacy of Security's information.
"I am Bayban - you may have heard of me? Bayban the Butcher some call me," a glance at Vila, "among other names."
"I ... have heard of you." Blake considered his words. "Someone not to be annoyed unduly."
Bayban nodded in approval at this assessment of his reputation. "Good. What I like to hear."
"What is the problem?" Blake asked, conscious of Jenna watching him. This was some sort of obscure test.
"You and your claim to fame. I was number one on the Federation's most wanted list - and I worked to get there." It was something to be proud of.
"He did," Vila interposed, slightly nervously. "From what I have heard, he did work very hard to get there."
"Thank you. I could get to like you."
Vila was prepared to forego this pleasure. But - sometimes hinting that he knew #the# Bayban might be useful.
"And?" Blake asked.
"You and your fancy rebel antics took the position from me."
"That was not entirely of my doing - I suggest you complain to the Federation authorities about their lamentably wrong priorities." A slight trace of sarcasm, which Bayban chose to ignore.
"That is what I have been doing - to the likes of him here..." a wave at the other man. "You may go," Bayban added as an afterthought. The man scurried away gratefully.
"As the situation has changed slightly, perhaps we could come to a new arrangement." Blake suggested. "It looks as if I may well not be on a new wanted list. Do I take it you wish to be involved in it - or do you wish to turn your undoubted skills in another direction? Or perhaps both?"
Bayban was obviously uncertain how to respond. "I will consider the matter.' He left.
"I see you can use your charms on anyone," Jenna said.
Blake went to embrace her, slightly awkwardly. She held him.
"While the situation is changing, many things are possible. Jenna - can we talk? I am now ready to do so."
"Yes. And to forestall your asking, Vila and I did get a business proposal from Bayban. Very profitable it may well be too - though not quite in the way we all originally expected." Locating a planet where the crystals that were a necessary component of spaceship design were 'all over the place' was a golden opportunity.
"You are a Free Trader - I expect you to know what you are doing in business matters." A statement of fact - and Blake knew the limits of his knowledge.
"What are your intentions now?" Jenna asked. "Apart from us talking?"
"I am not certain," Blake admitted. "As it is expected, and seems to be the only option available, I will lead the rebel movement to victory - whatever that means," he added, with a smile at Avon, in recognition of the use of the phrase long ago. "And then ... Do you think I could be your business partner Jenna? As we will be together anyway?" He meant the last remark, and knew Jenna understood. "I want it to happen."
"You would step down from the Presidency if I asked?" How committed was Blake?
"I am a rebel, not an administrative leader, Blake admitted. "There are others who seem to be able and willing. I will not stop them. I will take office as it is required of me - but I will make it clear I am a transition President." He felt no regrets. "Apart from that - I will do what you ask."
Jenna looked at him. "I believe you - and better you know what your limits are." And he had said it in front of others.
"And presumably you will want some help so you can become an official rebel, keeping those in office on their toes," Avon remarked. He might enjoy that challenge - when he was not exploring.
"Yes. Jenna - I would like to be your partner - in every sense. If you wish."
"Yes. I do."
"And now I will admit the child is mine."
Jenna decided she would tell him she was having twins later when they could discuss everything in private. "That might be a good idea."
She picked up two files from the desk. "Blake, Avon, these are your Federation records. I expect you will wish to look at them, to see what might be revealed, by opponents and others, by accident and through malice, or even the best of intentions." She smiled. "I have not touched them, but have read mine. There is nothing I am ashamed about - but a few things I would wish to explain, and I expect the same is true for you."
Blake was hesitant.
"I understand the distinction," Avon said. He reached out to take the file. "I wish to read mine elsewhere." At last he might find who had betrayed him - and what had happened to Anna.
"Not possible, they have to remain here for now," Jenna said. She understood enough about both Blake's and Avon's pasts to understand their reactions - and why it might be better for them to have company.
"Did you look at your file Vila?" Blake asked, to cover the awkwardness of the moment.
"Naturally," Vila replied.
"He's pleased because the authorities agree with his assessment of his skills," Jenna said with a laugh.
Blake shrugged and took his file. He would have to read it, for the reasons given, and in case there was still some parts of the past unknown to him.
After a slightly longer hesitation, Avon took his file. He was, though he would not admit it, glad of the company. These three would understand - and then he could go to Dayna, tell her what he had discovered, and, disconcerting thought, ask for comfort if he needed it.
Jenna and Vila quietly watched the other two as they read. At first there was little more than concentration and occasional comments of understanding, such as both Jenna and Vila had had.
"We, I, must do something about those three children..." Blake said, in shock and disgust. Jenna knew what Blake had been accused of to be sent to Cygnus Alpha. He looked at her. "Don't ask me... please. Not yet. What was done to them..."
Jenna went to comfort Blake in his distress. He put his hands on her shoulders, needing the stability. "Sometimes," she said softly, "retribution means righting a wrong. Others were hurt - use your feelings now to urge people to do something positive." Jenna did not protest when Blake held on too tight.
"Yes..." Blake said after a while." Can I come back to the file later... Jenna?' he asked in puzzlement, then turned to see what had made her react.
The colour had drained from Avon's face, his expression was one of horror. The file dropped from Avon's hands, and it seemed as if he was going to faint.
Avon now understood the full import of what Del Grant had said. Not that he could blame the other man for being obscure - at the time he had thought Grant was just speaking as he did out of consideration for Dayna.
"Avon - what is it?" Blake asked. What he had read of his own file had triggered some obscured memories - but he would have to deal with them and anything else later.
Avon decided he would have to give some explanation. "Anna Grant was a spy - the Federation's top agent." Avon took an obscure pleasure in that. Somehow he would have felt worse if it had been anybody lesser. "She was spying on me. They thought that because we both worked on the Aquitar Project, I was politically inspired. By you Blake. Not then I wasn't: only later, when I became truly associated with it. You provided me with a challenge Blake - it was that which I pursued, not your cause." The truth was more complex than that, as they both knew.
"I am glad you enjoyed the challenge, then and on the Liberator," Blake replied, understanding why Avon was changing the subject. "I too was betrayed by some of those I trusted Avon, and it hurts. Not least because you start to doubt your own judgement." That was what hurt the most.
"I more than trusted her," Avon replied. He understood and accepted what Blake was offering. "I never guessed... I trust you, all of you."
They had not noticed Dayna join them.
"Dayna, please..." Avon wanted to protect her, but knew he had to say something, to prevent her from getting the wrong impression. "I was looking at my file... It discusses Anna..." He could not continue.
Dayna looked at the others, puzzled. She went to hold Avon, feeling him take strength from the contact.
Blake decided he would have to answer. "Anna Grant was a spy - and Avon was one of her subjects."
"And I never guessed," Avon whispered.
Dayna felt a sudden new maturity, turned to Avon. "Were you responsible for what you did?"
"Yes - completely." He had been irrational in giving his love - but Anna had been so beautiful, so sweet, he could not resist. And Dayna - well, she had offered her trust completely and freely, and he knew he could trust her implicitly. "
I would probably have arranged the bank job anyway," Avon admitted. He had enjoyed the challenge.
"I chose you because you take responsibility." She was aware of the others keeping out of the discussion. "And I think you would rather know the truth, whatever the cost." That she also admired.
"Shall we have a short break - to regain our composure?" Blake said, speaking for himself as well.
"That might be wise," Avon replied.
An hour or so later they met again.
"Avon, Vila, Dayna," Blake said. "Jenna and I have decided on two things..."
"Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage," Avon replied, judging the atmosphere. He was back in control - Dayna had known what to say, including that Anna would have to be good to fool her subjects.
"And no, I don't want your son to be named after me." The child would have enough problems having the premier rebel as a father.
Blake laughed, taking the remark in the spirit intended. "That wasn't the other thing. As it will be a transition joint presidency, do you wish to join us?"
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