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By Judith Proctor
Page 2 of 51

      When Servalan met Avon on Sarran in the aftermath of the Andromedan War, she had realised that he could care for others and that it was a weakness she might be able to exploit. However, it wasn't until they had met again on Earth that she realised the full extent of his vulnerability. His love for Anna Grant had almost destroyed him. Servalan had become aware of the emotional depths that were hidden behind that mask of unconcern and indifference. A side of himself that he had never intended anyone to see, but a facet of his personality that was now drawing her to him as the moth to the flame.

      She had known then why he had stayed with Blake, and the knowledge of the bond between the two men had enabled her to draw Avon to Terminal and the destruction of the Liberator.

      Avon had escaped, but that was the nature of the game between them. Sometimes one won, sometimes the other. Now, he was here at her feet and she had his life in her hands, to take as she wished.

      "Avon," she whispered to a man who could not hear her. "Why is it so easy to give the order for your death, and so impossible for me to kill you myself?

      "Could I have killed you that day on Earth when Anna died? I no longer know. I felt your pain then, half of me wanted to force you to escape, and the other half, the half that was President of the Terran Federation said that you had to die.

      "Avon, could you ever love me as you loved her?

      "Avon!" the cry forced itself out from her. "I don't want to be alone!"


      Avon stirred under her hand, and she snatched it back instinctively. His eyes opened and looked blankly up at her.

      "Alone?" he asked dazedly. "Cally, stay with me."

      Searching blindly, his hand reached out towards Servalan and she took it into her own. Grimy, and streaked with blood, the tips of his fingers looked as though someone had stamped on them with a heavy boot. Someone probably had. Someone was going to suffer...

      "Avon, you're a fool."

      His eyes drifted back into focus. "Probably. Was I talking to myself?"

      Servalan shook her head briefly, earrings trembling as she did so. Avon's gaze travelled slowly to where her hand still held his. This time she didn't pull away from him.

      "Servalan?" he queried.

      "Can you sit up?" she asked in concern.

      "I think so."

      Cautiously he accepted her help, watching her all the time with his dark eyes. She looked back at him, holding his gaze with her own.

      "Wait for me here," Servalan instructed. "I'll be back soon."

      "I wasn't planning on going anywhere," he commented with a touch of his old asperity, and Servalan left the cell with the faint ghost of a smile on her face.


      The last few days had been the worst that Vila had ever experienced. Considering some of the days he had suffered previously that was saying a lot. The nightmare had begun when he'd awoken in the hall where Blake had died:

      "This one's still alive. I've given him a stimulant, he'll come round in a moment," said a voice that Vila didn't recognise. The figure bending over him wasn't dressed in Federation uniform, which Vila supposed was something to be grateful for. He couldn't think of anything else to appreciate at that moment. His body hurt and a troop of miners were blasting away with explosives inside his head.

      "My head hurts," Vila moaned.

      "Don't complain," replied the stranger. "Just be glad you're not dead."

      A new voice spoke. "What happened here?" Vila looked up and saw a large man carrying an assault gun. His voice was authoritative and impatient.

      "Who betrayed us? Who?" There was a very grim note in the man's voice. "Who killed Blake?"

      Vila struggled to sit up and winced at the sudden pain in his chest. He looked desperately around seeking an avenue of escape, but there was none. He was surrounded by a small group of men armed with a variety of weapons. They had obviously been in a fight recently. Several of them were injured. Casting his mind back, he recalled Arlen saying something about a nest of rebels. These presumably were Blake's men. Vila had the distinct feeling that they weren't very happy. He dissembled as fast as he could. "It wasn't me, I had nothing to do with it. It was Arlen. She said she was a Federation spy."

      "Did she kill Blake?" the big man demanded.

      "No, I mean yes, I mean I don't know," Vila stammered in panic.

      A hand gripped his shirt and pulled him ruthlessly to his feet. "Little man, I need to know, and I need to know now. Who killed Blake?"

      "Avon," Vila said helplessly. "It was Avon."

      His adversary took a step back and let go of Vila who promptly fell to the ground.

      "Kerr Avon?" the man asked incredulously.

      Vila nodded miserably. "It was a mistake. Everything went wrong."

      "Where is he?"

      Slowly Vila looked around the hall. It was hard to take everything in. He could see the bodies of Federation troopers, but among them lay his friends. Tarrant flung out on the ground. Soolin still and lifeless. Then a lump caught in his throat. He could see Dayna with no visible mark on her, unmoving and alone.

      "Why aren't you helping her?" Vila asked angrily.

      The big man looked down at him with a trace of pity in his eyes. "She's dead. They're all dead, except for you. Is that Avon?" He pointed to Tarrant.

      "That's Tarrant," Vila said quietly. The words were hard to force out. He wanted to curl up in a ball and die. Dayna and Soolin were both gone. Tarrant he could have lived without, but Dayna had been so beautiful and alive. It should have been Avon lying there instead.

      Vila looked unsteadily around the hall again. "I can't see Avon."

      "So, Avon betrayed Blake and then escaped?"

      "I don't think Avon escaped. He didn't move after he killed Blake." Vila's head was spinning, he sat down on the floor as a way of avoiding falling over and rested his head in his hands. "We heard sounds of fighting, and then someone shot me from behind. There must have been troops everywhere."

      "There still are," said his interrogator. "We've only just retaken this area. You're lucky - if they hadn't been busy fighting us they'd have started checking the bodies." He looked grim. "Avon obviously left with them. That proves his guilt as far as I'm concerned."

      "No," Vila protested. "Avon would sell his own grandmother, but not Blake."

      "Really?" The big man sounded dubious. "Would you have trusted him with your own life?"

      Vila's silence was answer enough. Once, he thought, once Avon, I would have trusted you. But not since Malodaar. I'll never forget that you tried to kill me.

      The expression on the other man's face was not pleasant. "If I find Avon, he's a dead man. How Blake ever achieved anything with a crew of thieves, murderers and psychopaths is beyond me. The whole lot of you together weren't worth one of him."

      Obviously concluding that Vila had nothing more useful to tell him, he started to organise his men for their next move. As far as Vila could work out, the rebels were planning an assault on the second level of the complex which was occupied by Federation forces. If they failed to take it then they planned to retreat into the open country surrounding the base and hopefully join up with other groups. There didn't seem to be very many of them. Vila hoped they all wouldn't die. He hoped he wouldn't die.

      As they left through the exit up the steps, their leader flung back a last contemptuous glance. "You have to be Vila," he said in disgust. "Why did a coward like you ever stay with Blake?"

      Vila looked up through the tears that threatened to blind him and whispered to the retreating back, "He was my friend."


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Judith Proctor

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