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Dayna sat on the flight deck of the small ship, thinking of when she would be
back on the Liberator. She was not certain when the spaceship had become
"home" - but, apart from Sarran, it was the only place she had links to - and
her daughter Xia had no other home. Dayna now felt she had more links with
the Free Traders and suchlike than planet dwellers.|
The most familiar of the Free Traders, Jenna Stannis, joined Dayna.
"I agree with Avon's idea of associating researchers with the rebellion, I am prepared to give the likes of Justin a miss," Jenna said. Avon wished to involve many of the researchers in his intended explorations - and most of those involved were willing to negotiate mutually profitable marketing arrangements with the Free Traders. "I know he was your tutor, but what he was doing was disgusting."
"I agree, and he wasn't into such animal research when he was my tutor." Dayna replied. "There's genetic modification and then there's what he was doing." She now recognised that what she had felt towards Justin had been little more than a crush, whatever it had felt like at the time. "And it's not just because I'm expecting again."
"You are sure now?"
"Yes." In a discussion Avon had started just before Dayna had left, he had made it clear he was willing "sometime soon." Dayna hadn't planned it to work out this way - not really.
"What do you think Avon'll make of it?" Jenna seemed strangely uncertain.
`He'll argue that now will not be the best time, what with all the negotiations going on."
"I think most men - and women of course - think quite a few things should be assigned to the "vague sometime hence." I never thought he'd be so happy with a family." Jenna was not the only one to be quietly amused at Avon's transformation
Avon watched those around him talking while they waited for Blake. Whatever Blake seemed to think it was the discussions, arrangements, and agreements being made now that might make, or break, the rebellion. And, after weeks of seemingly non-stop negotiations, they were approaching victory.
Time to think of what would happen after the rebellion was won. Six months, a year, organising whatever would follow the old regime - one of the things Blake was finally being forced to consider - and the rebels would have to consider returning to their various realities. Avon had already started making plans. Vila would come with him - and had made some suggestions for the Liberator's crew, mostly sensible - such as having a medical person. The Liberator was arranged for a 'standard crew' of some three dozen people, with room for others. Deva, one of Blake's 'acquisitions' and a computer expert would be useful, and could probably be persuaded to work with them. A few more experts in various fields. Where would they go? An image came to Avon - the Liberator circling the galaxy, and something in him answered 'Yes!'
The various conversations taking place all came suddenly to a natural pause.
As if on cue Blake appeared, looking slightly amused. He came to Avon.
"You took your time," Avon said softly. People were glancing in their direction. Blake gestured that he did not wish to start the meeting yet.
There were various murmurs arranging conversations to come.
"Jenna was in touch." Blake almost blushed: he would be prepared to discuss matters with her now. She had been in touch since she had left - she had needed more time to think, and some work had come up. "And I was just seeing whether something was feasible."
"Is it?" Avon sensed it would involve yet more of his time.
"Ignoring Orac's protests at the abuse of its capacities, yes." Blake smiled as he thought of the computer's list of complaints, many of them routine.
"So what is it?" Genuine rather than mock curiosity.
"You know you suggested the other day that you and Deva should hack into the viscast systems and the rebels should announce that they have taken over and carry on from there..."
"Yes." The remark had been slightly sarcastic, though Avon and Deva had started developing the idea.
"I know it was a joke, but Orac seems to think it might be feasible."
"When do you want us to start arranging things?" Avon would get some sleep first - he needed to be more awake for computing than with these discussions. "Half an hour ago?" He suddenly realised how tired he was. He would, like Orac, also protest partially out of form.
"No - an hour ago," Blake said with a smile. "How does the meeting feel?"
"Do something soon - or they'll start getting bored, and making their own arrangements."
"I wouldn't necessarily say no to that." Blake said. "One reason why I want to do the broadcast." He sighed, feeling as weary as Avon looked. "I know this is the part that has got to be done and ... you may be right about my being a romantic idealist rather than a practical realist. And I intend being a transition president - so I can leave with my reputation intact." Making the statement hurt - but Blake felt relief as well.
Avon was not surprised, though he was pleased Blake had come to the decision he had by himself, and admired him for it. "Blake - you are a figurehead of the revolution, and so you have got to be a romantic idealist, but to make that statement you have to be a realist. Get something sorted out here, we will hijack the communications networks then give them a well-prepared speech that achieves whatever you want. Then find your successor, to will take over when you cease being President Hero of the Revolution and the populations of the Federation want somebody new to complain about."
Blake laughed. "That sounds eminently practical. Do what you can," Blake said, and turned to the group. "Shall we start the discussion?"
Everybody was in a good mood - they could see things might improve, for themselves in particular.
Avon left quietly as soon as he could, to rest and then go to his latest projects. Blake could present his speech in a couple of days.
Orac had been 'persuaded' to stop protesting about being turned into a simple transmitter and send the take-over broadcast. Now the group gathered together in an office - one wall covered in monitors - to see what would happen. Avon was half watching Blake.
"The message has been transmitted," Orac said using the monitors. Servalan's intention in going to Aristo had been to acquire Orac and make it emulate Central Control-Star One for her own purposes - which would have been a gross misuse of its capacities. There were, however, practical reasons for having a central hub dealing with such things as communications and flight control - and Orac had made all necessary arrangements so it would not be inconvenienced.
A few minutes passed, and there was a certain amount of restlessness.
"A message has been received," Orac said, putting it up on a monitor. Zukan of Betafarl had agreed to provide support. Then other messages started arriving, mostly positive or benignly neutral, with evidence of interactions between groups That all the sentient computers - who kept their own existence quiet so not to be disturbed - had agreed to promote the change of allegiance to those who had access to them had probably had some effect. The rebels, it had been decided, would not make the excessive and irrelevant demands on computer resources that the present regime did.
Blake could not resist shouting out, "We've won!" He then added. "Anybody willing to join me on the long journey to Earth?" It would be as difficult as what they had done, and probably far more boring. "I would like to be there soon." With my wife and child, Blake added mentally. There were various expressions of support and mutual congratulation and people formed into small groups to discuss matters arising.
Blake came to Avon. "Avon." he said quietly, and almost hesitantly. Around them everybody was talking, and starting to disperse to carry out the next stages of the plan.
"What?" Avon was puzzled - Blake should be happy and busy now.
"I wish to thank you for everything - even if I forget to say it when everything is finished, assume I still mean it."
"Thank you," Avon replied, appreciating the gesture.
"I hope to meet up with Jenna soon, and sort everything out."
"I think you will," Avon replied. From the messages Jenna had sent it was obvious this was only a temporary parting. "Blake - whatever you expect, life with Jenna and the child will be different."
"You said you supported the rebellion so Xia could acquire her own price on her head. Do you still feel the same?"
"Yes. And when we took over the London I said I was prepared to let others have the same opportunity as I did." He had not expected then to be in the position he was now - or even when they were first on the Liberator.
"In some ways what I want - and I think we about to achieve it."
"Good." Avon meant it. Time for the next challenge - somewhat daunting.
"You know what the problem really is Avon?" Blake said with sudden awareness.
"Apart from having to find new problems and think of a whole new set of answers?" He felt a sudden regret that the situation he had grown up in was changing - whatever its many faults, it was familiar.
"There is that - but the realisation that others will take over from us."
"Don't get maudlin Blake," Avon replied, though he understood what Blake meant. "We will be remembered, for a while at least. Write down all your dreams and plans - and you might be able to influence people long after the Federation itself has been forgotten."
"And Orac and Zen and the other computers will remember us. I would like to see what there will be..."
"Don't we all. As Vila would say, enjoy what you have, and see if you can arrange something more than what you are given." The sort of thing it was impossible to disagree with.
Blake smiled. "I agree. I once said I had always trusted you - I still do. And you are a friend."
"Most of my friends," Avon decided to admit, "are associated with the Liberator. I know where I stand with you." Which implied trust.
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