The TestingBy Alicia Ann Fox
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"Avon!" Tarrant called. The older man did not even glance up, and Tarrant fell to the floor, not knowing if his warning had been heard. As blackness overtook him, he saw troopers surround Avon, and begin to fire....
"Tarrant," someone was saying, urgently. "Tarrant, wake up. Del Tarrant!"
"Mmph," he said. "No...." The someone was shaking him by the shoulder. That hurt. "Ouch," he mumbled.
"What did he say?"
"I don't know. Wake up!"
The voices were faintly familiar. "I said ouch."
"Oh. Sorry." The shaking stopped. The man held Tarrant's head between his hands and turned it carefully from side to side. "Does that hurt?"
"Yes." He decided to open his eyes, since he obviously wasn't dead, as he had thought. After a moment the man came swimmingly into focus.
"Sorry I had to knock you out; you seemed to be getting the wrong idea. I didn't realize you were so badly injured."
"Not so bad...wr--wrong idea?"
"It was a test. The bounty hunter trick. I like to make sure people are sincere."
Test...Tarrant looked around him. He was still in Deva's computer room, and there was Deva...all of the things that had happened after his "escape" from Blake were hallucinations. He almost laughed. His subconscious mind must have convinced itself that after so many traumas, this mission would be the same. It was certainly heartening to know that everyone was not, in fact, dead. "Blake--"
"Avon and Vila and Dayna and Soolin are somewhere on Gauda Prime. Looking for you, probably." He stopped and caught his breath. "Don't say, 'I've been waiting for you.' No tests. Avon has an itchy trigger finger."
Blake smiled. It took Tarrant a moment to notice that the smile was only in his eyes. "I believe you. How about, 'Avon I'm glad to see you do you want to join the glorious rebellion again I've missed you, you bastard'? Will that do?"
Tarrant grinned. It hurt, but he grinned. "I--"
"Yes, Blake. It will do very nicely," said an acidic voice behind them.
Blake whirled and said joyfully, "Avon! Vila! How have you been?!"
"We're short one base," Vila said. "Can we borrow yours?"
This, thought Tarrant, is more like it.
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