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Seven Deadly Virtues

By Belatrix Carter
Page 2 of 3

HUMILITY: "I'm Not Worth Dying For"

We're almost to the exit, and I'm beginning to think that we're going to make it. Just like we always seem to. Out in the nick of time. Rebels with charmed lives. I'm starting to feel good again, the old adrenaline flowing, almost forgetting the failure and disappointment we're leaving behind us in the thrill of making yet another last-minute escape. Legs pumping, lungs laboring, I feel alive.

And then comes the explosion. Sounds like somebody's let off a grenade. Travis, probably. I imagine he'd be willing to bring the entire complex down on his head, if it would come down on our heads, too.

Which it feels like it's about to do. And our daring last-minute escape is about to be a minute too late, if we don't make it through that door.

It's closing. Too fast. I don't even think about what I'm doing, really. Just doing the obvious thing. Something's got to hold this door open, and I'm the strongest thing here.

It hurts, actually, takes all my effort to slow the door's progress. My muscles are straining, burning. But I find that I don't mind, really. I feel useful, for once.

And then they're all through, and Blake's calling for me to hurry. Well, I hardly need his encouragement for that, not with the burning in my arms urging me to let go! But I have to time it right, to be off and running as soon as I let go. When it comes down, I think it's going to come down fast.

Right. Now. I brace, myself, start to release...

...and everything starts to shake and crash around me, masonry flying everywhere... it's frightening, disorienting. I let go, lunge forward, but...

"My leg!" I don't mean to cry out, but the crushing pain in my calf is so sudden, so unexpected. Around me, there are more rumbling sounds. The roof is about to come in. I tug desperately on my leg. It doesn't move a millimeter. Caught solid. That's it, then. I'm not getting out of here. So much for charmed lives...

That's when I realize that Blake is still there in front of me, an anguished expression on his face. I know immediately what he's thinking. Of course, if he had a little time, a little luck, he could maybe lever the door off of me, maybe we could both get out. But he doesn't, and we both know it. I may not be much good at maths, but this calculation is easy. If he stays, my odds of surviving don't go up much, but his drop tremendously. And standing there staring at me while the roof falls on him is just stupid.

"Blake! Go! I'm not worth dying for!"

I realize after I say it how it sounds. Noble, self-sacrificing Gan. Leave me, save yourself! What a cliche. But that's not it at all. I don't want to die for Blake. I don't want to die for anybody. But for a man like Blake to die for a man like me... No, that's simply not right.

Another explosion stops my racing thoughts, chunks of the roof cascading down on us. There's pain, not just in my leg now. I'm injured somewhere. Pretty badly, by the feel of it. I try to open my eyes again. My vision's dimmed: by dust or by the haze of pain I'm feeling, I don't know.

Where's Blake? Is he...

No. There he is. Still moving. Thank God.

And still here! Dammit, Blake, go! But I can't say it, can't quite get my lips to move. He actually looks like he's considering digging me out. It makes me want to cry, and not just because I'm touched by his concern.

Dammit, I'm not worth dying for! What use am I? I'm not a genius like Avon, or a fighter like Cally -- not with this limiter in my head. I don't have Jenna's or Vila's skills, don't have Blake's leadership. All I have is a pair of strong arms, and I was happy to lend them, but they've served their purpose now. Blake's worth far more to humanity than I could ever have been, and I will not let him die for me!

I go limp in his arms, stop my breathing, force my eyes to glaze over. It's not hard.

For a moment, I think he's still not going to leave. I have to stop myself from trembling. Dead, I tell myself. Dead, you're dead. Dead. I try to broadcast it at Blake, as if I were Cally. To make him go. Dead, Blake, I'm dead!

And, finally, after a few seconds that seem like an eternity, he lowers my head to the floor, and quietly says "No." And then he's gone.

Any moment now, the pretense will become a reality. That's all right, I suppose. I still don't want to die, but if it had to be someone, best that it's me. Best that it wasn't someone important.

I smile.

HONESTY: "A Question of Policy"

"...but as tests go, isn't that..." -- Tarrant indicated the gun lying on the forest floor beside him -- "...and this..." -- he held up the pouch of jewels -- "...a little obvious?"

"He's right, Blake. I'd say that is a bit much, even for you."

Blake whirled at the sound of her voice, groping instinctively for the spare gun she knew he kept in his pocket. She stepped out of the trees, slowly, and he relaxed. "Jenna. What are you doing here?"

"Klyn spotted those gun-runners coming after you, and I thought you might need some help." She smiled. "You seem to have taken care of it without me, though."

She turned her attention to the young man sprawled amongst the wreckage. He was staring at Blake with wide, accusing eyes. "Blake? You're Blake?"

Blake walked over to him with that newly-acquired swagger Jenna had so come to hate and retrieved his gun. "That's right." He pointed it at the man. "And you're Del Tarrant. Aren't you? Quite a price on your head, I understand."

"Blake, stop it!"

"Jenna..." He cast her an accusing look.

She turned to the man. "Is that right? You're Del Tarrant?"

"Yes, that's right. And you're Jenna Stannis?"

She nodded.

He smiled at her, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. "I've heard a great deal about you." He looked at Blake. "About both of you. Although I'm not quite sure how much of it to believe anymore."

Jenna cast Blake a dirty look. "That's because he enjoys playing games." She moved to Tarrant's side, offered him her hand.

"Jenna..." Blake sounded annoyed. Too bad.

Carefully, she pulled Tarrant to his feet, offered him the support of her shoulder. "Now is not the time for the bounty hunter routine, Blake. This man is badly injured and needs medical attention." She turned her head to give Tarrant a smile. "Nice piloting, by the way. At the speed you must've come down, this ship should be in a lot more pieces. So should you, for that matter."

"Thanks." He smiled wanly at her, and she realized that he would be quite attractive, in a boyish sort of way, once you cleaned the blood and dirt off him. "It's nice to know at least someone appreciates me." They slowly started moving towards the flyer.

Blake was scowling. "We don't know if we can trust him."

She rolled her eyes. "Of course we can trust him. Avon trusts him." She cast a sideways glance at Tarrant. "Right?"

Another weak smile, followed by a grimace as a movement aggravated his injuries. "Sometimes," he said wryly.

"And you know how hard it is to get Avon to trust anybody. Avon's personality may leave a lot to be desired, but I never doubted his capacity for paranoia. I imagine he's tested this one far more thoroughly than you ever could."

"All right, Jenna," Blake grumbled. "You've made your point."

"Deva's right, you know. One day this crazy need you have to 'test' people is going to get you killed."

"But I have to, Jenna. You think I like playing the bounty hunter?"

"You want to know what I think?" She stopped, still supporting Tarrant, who was watching the interplay between them with interest. "I think..." She paused. "Do you remember, Avon asked me once if I had ever met an honest man." She gazed at Blake steadily, her eyes burning into his. "I think I did know an honest man. Once."

Blake flinched.

And that was when the firing started.

The first shot missed Blake, as he went diving for cover. Jenna turned, encumbered by Tarrant's weight against her, to catch a glimpse of the man crouched among the trees. His clothing was scorched and torn, his face dirty and wild. One of the gun-runners! she thought, reaching for her own weapon. Damn! We should have checked for survivors!

Tarrant had disentangled himself from her, and her hand found the gun. She heard Blake firing as she raised it, saw the flash of the weapon discharging against the tree the man had ducked behind...

...and then the whole world got very, very bright, and she was falling.

Well,, she thought fuzzily, honesty may be the best policy, but then again there is something to be said for good old-fashioned paranoia. Must keep that in mind, next time...

But, she realized as her mind rapidly followed her body into numbness, there wasn't going to be any more time. Not for her. Please, she prayed silently, to what, she didn't know. Please, let it be different for Blake...

And, who knows? Perhaps it was.


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