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Ghosts of Gauda

By Jackie
Page 3 of 3

Orac proved as useful as it had promised. Servalan's rise tended to follow Orac's wish to access information, instead of the more direct one she would have preferred.

She was spending more time than might be considered wise on trying to find out what had happened to those who had been on the Liberator, and came to understand what had driven Avon to look for Blake. Curiosity unsatisfied could be a potent driving force. Up to #whatever# had happened on Gauda Prime there was some evidence of their existence, people who had actually met them - and many tales that changed in the repetition. After Gauda Prime there were only faint and distorted echoes feeding off each other, third hand at best, shadows in a mirror maze. And as Arkeley had said, there was also evidence of other people's actions being assigned to the group. Some of the by-ways proved fascinating and useful.

She arranged a meeting with Arkeley - they agreed to "forget" the "unfortunate misunderstandings" that had occurred on Gauda Prime. He was prepared to accept that Shirdley had been travelling under a given name while working on the Pylene 50 project: he knew when #not# to pursue matters. So did she: his slightly dubious activities were not dissimilar to hers'. Her researches into his past showed him to be a most interesting person - and he reminded her, somehow, of Avon. Arkeley's talents were complementary with hers, and he was willing to work alongside her. He was interested in "her" rebels, and eventually conceded that they #were# of some significance. Servalan found her taste for new partners declining, preferring to return repeatedly to Arkeley - another departure for her.

 

Others were now making use of what Blake and Avon had represented, or done or were associated with - though there seemed to be little direct connection.

Servalan, on Orac's prompting, suggested to her administrative superiors that they should make use of some of those in opposition to the Federation. Given the weakness of the present administration the idea was accepted, and seemed to be effective, cheaper than suppression - and popular, so was developed further. The rebels who accepted the offer came to understand the practicalities of what they sought to achieve, while the more uncompromising were marginalised. Servalan occasionally wondered how Blake would have fitted in to the situation now developing. Avon would have compromised, she knew. Perhaps, she decided, it was better that the question would seemingly remain ever hypothetical.

Servalan knew that her policies were successful when the first independent planets started #asking# for association with the Federation. The dream of a galactic-wide entity was a possibility... and perhaps beyond, should the intergalactic program be pursued - one of the functions of Star One, its successor and its equivalents. Whatever her ambitions had been as Servalan, she might well achieve now.

 

Servalan met a number of those who wished to change the political structures of the Federation: rebels, politicians and others. None had the charisma of Blake that had attracted even her, or the challenge that Avon had posed, though some came close. Blake had provided a dream for others to follow. Many of those who now took over his role were more practical - and less interesting. While she took care to avoid known associates of her previous roles - however different she looked - she resented the fact that there seemed to be no general memory of Servalan.

She was becoming an expert on the Blake group of rebels, among others, acquiring information from some strange and obscure sources. Eventually researchers started coming to her to make use of what she had collected: she found herself enjoying the activity. The precise relationship between Dev Tarrant and his namesakes was not made clear - nor whether Blake had actually been to Cygnus Alpha. She would have acquired young Captain Artix for her services had his association with a prison ship not been problematic.

 

The Federation as it was developing through the reforms she was promoting - aided by Orac and assorted sometime rebels - was increasingly different to what Servalan had sworn to serve as Supreme Commander and President, or even as Commissioner Sleer. She decided she would rather rule what emerged than remain a minion in what had been, disturbed as it was by discontent and tensions. She was increasingly uncertain whether she was promoting Blake's cause through pragmatism -  #it worked# - or because she herself was coming to believe in it.

 

As soon as she could Servalan organised a search of Gauda Prime - and what would #definitely# be her last visit - to see if there was any trace of Avon and the others. There was a ship that Orac identified as the Scorpio. It had crashed - and had then been looted, possibly more than once: most of what remained had been subject to weathering. What had once, perhaps, been a teleport, was a few incomprehensible fragments of equipment, and Orac would not reveal what it knew of the subject. The ship's computer had been too badly damaged to yield any information on the crew or the rest of the ship's equipment.

On the journey back to Earth Orac seemed to be as mournful as she felt - and as eager to take up the challenge of finding more information about Blake, Avon and the others.

 

Servalan and Orac then sent out messages that only those who had been on the Liberator would understand fully - as she had done to lure Avon to Terminal - but to no avail. Whatever returned was too obscure or distorted to make sense - whether they had reached their intended destination was uncertain. #Some# of her messages were understood though - but she could not find out who responded. Servalan found the uncertainty made her rise to power less enjoyable than it had once been. At times she would rather chase up some of the leads than go for promotion and reach her goal of the Presidency. She almost regretted putting Avon through something similar to what she was undergoing now - but he had #wanted# to go to Terminal to find Blake.

#She# wanted proof one way or the other, so she could get on with her life.

 

****

 

Servalan realised it was five years to the day since she had linked up with Orac on Gauda Prime - and in a couple of weeks she would be President again. The Federation had changed noticeably since she had last held the office. As had she - the search for #her# group of rebels had become an obsession that at times was more important to her than her rise to power. She now understood what had driven Travis, Blake and Avon.

'What do you think of the Federation now Orac?' Servalan asked. 'Is it how Blake would want it?' She would work her way to the question she really wanted to ask. Idly she stirred her sweetened tea.

'It is moving closer to it, insofar as he developed anything. As the sometime rebels now working within the administration have discovered, not all changes wished are attainable - or practical.'

Servalan laughed and took a biscuit - another of her indulgences. She relaxed back into her chair, playing with her cup, aware that her clothes were tight. Again. Kasabi long ago had called Servalan self-indulgent, and so, many years and two name changes later, she was still. She would do something about it. Again. Soon. For Arkeley. She was indulgent towards him. He was almost... no actually, her only partner now.

'Perhaps,' she mused, 'if we had brought Blake and others into the administration - or at least used some of their ideas - we would have saved ourselves some trouble and expense.' Though without Blake's search for Star One they might not have been aware of the alien invasion until too late. And people seemed to #want# figures such as Blake and his companions.

'You do not need me to draw such conclusions Shirdley. It is generally acknowledged that the Federation is more stable, with less discontent than there used to be. The disruption of a large scale rebellion - which carried a thirty nine point six percent chance of generating tensions which would have resulted in the destruction of the Federation as a galactographical entity - has been avoided.'

'Yes,' Servalan acknowledged. 'So who has won?' She felt slightly unsettled.  Orac called her by her latest name when in the presence of others, naturally, but when had it started doing so in private? Did she always think of herself as Servalan now? Was what she was feeling now an echo of what Blake felt when his memories returned? Mindblocking was rarely used now - assigning obscure and challenging tasks seemed to be just as effective, and more productive.

'The administration wished to retain control, and they are doing so. Many of their more capable opponents have achieved at least some of their intended reforms. The populations of the Federation's planets are rarely drugged - and rarely disruptive. You will shortly have the office you want. Who has lost?'

'We still have not found those whom we are looking for.' In the way that her obsessive desire to discover what had happened to Avon, Blake and the others at times overrode her other interests, had #she# lost?

'We have spent five years looking for them. Do you wish to stop?' #That# was the question. Arkeley occasionally complained he was competing with something no more substantial than a dream - but Servalan #could not# stop.

'Ask me again when I am President, and we have looked at the records that will then be available.'

'As you wish.'

 

****

 

It took some acting on Servalan's part to express surprise at being shown round the Presidential palace - though there were a number of changes. Her old apartments, were still known as 'Servalan's rooms', and she opted for them again. She would change them to suit her present tastes. That was another change Orac had wrought - she enjoyed cultural activities..

Then she was back in the President's office, at her desk, where she belonged, as Servalan or as Shirdley.

Orac was sharing the desk with an ordinary computer.

Servalan sat down gratefully. Perhaps Orac had a point about her weight. Even Arkeley had commented on his return to her side. She #needed# something to distract her when he was absent.

'Here we are Orac - have you found anything interesting?'

'To me or to you?'

The other computer's screen came on, with a message to Shirdley 'congratulating her from "those who had helped her most".'

'Who sent the message?' Servalan asked, feeling a sudden hope. Perhaps her obsession - to discover the fate of the Liberator and Scorpio groups - would at last be resolved, and she could enjoy the Presidency.

'The message was installed by Blake and Avon - in case I should ever be acquired by someone in a position to initiate the reforms they wished.' Avon's idea, probably, knowing him.

'But no response from them now?' Servalan said, aware of the desperation in her voice. Perhaps now that she had reached the top they would get in touch.

'Nothing that can be clearly assigned to them.' Orac managed to sound wistful. 'There are some measures to discuss,' it added.

She normally liked doing that - understanding why things had to be done, deciding which should be implemented or changed, discussing ideas with others. 'You know my opinions Orac. The search takes priority.'

'We continue looking for Blake, Avon and the others?'

Servalan knew that her enjoyment of her ambition satisfied and popular support for her association with reforms would be overshadowed by the dream that had been created by those on the Liberator and Scorpio.

There were already stories that Blake, Avon and their companions would return if they felt their services were needed again - a threat, perhaps, to the leadership of the Federation as it now was, as much as it was an acknowledgement that things #had# changed for the better. Whatever had become of them, this was what they had wanted. Now that she had achieved her goals - return to high office, and a stable Federation, what was she to look forward to? The answer was clear.

'We continue the search.' She smiled at the final revenge of Blake and Avon.


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