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Deliver Us From Evil

By Willa Shakespeare
Page 1 of 7

The hand that held the gun trembled. Blake tensed to leap, but Ensor's son lifted his head and said, "She'll die if you try that again. Now, take this ship to Aristo. Coordinates eleven - two- intersect nine." The man was weak, but it took very little strength to pull a trigger. Cally was helpless, her face pressed sideways to the deck. The weight of a solidly-built man held her motionless, unable to use any of her unarmed combat techniques.

"You'll be killing yourself, too," Blake replied. "And for nothing. My ship is much faster than your old SpaceMaster was. We can easily pick up my people and still be able to get to your father in time."

"No. My father gets the power cells first."

Blake considered waiting until the man collapsed, but he sensed a steely determination that would drive this man to his dying breath. "I understand. You love your father. He's all you have and you'll do anything to save him." He lowered his voice. "I love someone, too. One of my crew down on that planet. One of the people who saved you. They're being exposed to radiation -every minute we argue they're coming closer to dying."

"Take me to Aristo quickly, then."

Blake shook his head slowly. "If my lover dies, then I'll see you and your father dead if I have to burn the entire planet down to its core. This ship can do it."

/ Blake, no! / Cally's telepathic cry startled both men. Blake had experienced it before, so he was only slightly taken aback, but Ensor's son reeled, dropping the gun to clutch at his temples. Before he could recover, Cally had rolled out from under him and knocked him out with a neat blow to his neck.

Blake grabbed the gun and put it safely aside, then checked that the man was unconscious. "Are you all right?" he asked Cally.

The Auron rubbed her neck where the gun had rested so heavily. "Yes. Blake," she asked, worried. "You would not have destroyed an entire planet simply for revenge, would you?"

Blake picked up the unconscious man, grunting with the effort. He answered, "Revenge is never simple, Cally. I'm taking him back to medical. This time he stays under restraints."

Cally nodded. Restraints seemed cruel to her, but were necessary in this case. She followed Blake and saw her patient settled as comfortably as possible. "I'm going to the teleport," Blake told her, assured that she had the situation under control. "The others have been gone too long."

"And you're worried about them. About Jenna?" Cally hinted gently, wondering if Blake's words had been true. It was obvious Jenna was attracted to Blake, but it far less obvious how Blake felt about Jenna.

"I'm worried about all of them."

Blake went to the teleport room and activated the communications link. "Avon, are you there? This is Blake, can you read me?"

"Like a primer," came Avon's acid tones through the wall speaker. "Why were you out of touch? What were you and Cally doing, having a party?"

In the background Blake heard Vila grumbling about not having been invited. Blake grinned with relief. The thief would not have been that relaxed if there were any danger. "Our guest gave us a bit of trouble," he admitted, "but that's settled now. Have you found Jenna?"

"I'm here," Jenna used her own communicator to answer him directly.

"Are you all right?"

"She's fine. We're all fine," Avon answered impatiently. He forestalled Blake's next question. "We'll be ready in a few minutes."

"Why not now? What attraction could Cephlon possibly have for you?"

Another voice came through, less clearly than Avon, but still quite distinct. It was a young woman's voice, soft-spoken, with an undercurrent of quiet joy. "The Lord Avon is about to fulfill the prophecy."

"Lord Avon?" Blake sputtered, hard put to control his laughter.

"It's a long story," Avon warned.

"But with a happy ending," Gan put in. He quite enjoyed making Avon glare at him.

"I dunno," Vila said. "It's scary to think that Avon's the hero in this fairy tale. What does that make us?"

"The fool and the giant, of course," Avon replied smoothly. "Now, let's get this over with." He quickly directed the others in the launch of the Cephlonian space-going incubator and said farewell to Meegat.

Avon frowned at Blake. Ever since they'd returned to the Liberator , Blake kept regarding him with amusement and encouraging the others to tease him about Meegat. It had been embarrassing enough having that poor, deluded child worshiping at his feet, but at least she didn't know any better. Was it too much to expect civilized conduct from the only other Alpha male on board? Meegat's prophecy took very little effort to fulfill. Why should they make such a fuss over it? You'd think he ate small children for breakfast.

"All right, we've each done our good deed for the day, Blake." Avon strode over to his position, examining the readouts as he spoke. His attitude was all business. If he hoped it would rub off on his companions, it was a fleeting hope.

"What was mine?" Blake asked, with a good-natured grin.

"Letting Ensor's son live after he attempted to murder Cally."

"Why, Avon, we didn't know you cared," Jenna commented.

"I don't. But I don't see that it serves any useful purpose to cosset a hostile agent. And it is doubly foolish to chauffeur this ungrateful wretch back to his home."

"His father might be grateful to get him back," Vila remarked.

"How grateful?" Avon shot back.

"Ensor's supposed to be a computer genius. Maybe we could trade you for him. You could have a whole deserted planet all to yourself and all the computer bits you could shake a stick at."

Avon looked at Vila mildly, tilting his head as he considered the idea. "Don't tempt me."

Blake cleared his throat. "Ensor does have one valuable item. Orac. Servalan wants it, so we'll have to see she doesn't get it."

"Servalan wants everything," Vila grumbled. "I don't see what we need with another computer whatzit. We have Zen."

"Which does not always obey," Avon said. "On the other hand, Ensor has been in hiding for thirty years. Who's to say he hasn't gone insane from the isolation and imagined this marvelous invention?"

"His son." Cally came onto the flight deck, momentarily drawing the others' attention. "From what little Alin will say about it, this Orac device is unique, and has capabilities no other computer can match. Ensor had promised to sell it to the Federation for one hundred million credits and the new energy cells for his heart."

"We have the energy cells," Blake said thoughtfully, "and there is the treasure room."

"Which is not your sole property," Avon snapped. "If you really want this Orac, trade Ensor his son and his energy cells."

Jenna didn't want to side with Avon against Blake, but the temptation was strong. Once in a while, she would appreciate it if Blake remembered she'd spaced and traded for a living. He could do worse than ask her advice. Instead of always listening to that sharp-tongued bastard. She would have said so, in fact, but she was too tired for a fight at the moment. So she concentrated on her flight controls. At least Blake wasn't listening to Avon either, this time. They were already going to Aristo.

Gan had been quietly observing the others and noticed that Avon's color was high and he was sweating. Blake often affected Avon that way, but it seemed more pronounced than usual this time. For that matter, he felt a bit warm himself. Maybe the environmental controls needed adjustment.

Blake said in his most patronizing tone, "That's the Federation's way, Avon. If we use their tactics, we'll be no better than they are."

"We aren't any better than they are!" Avon flushed bright red with anger. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're terrorists, Blake."

"You say that." Blake folded his arms across his chest. "But you don't really believe it."

Blake's calm assumption that the entire universe agreed with him was bad enough, but implying that Avon was another witless idealist was too much. Avon abandoned his post with the intention of wiping the smug grin off the big rebel's face. But a sudden wave of dizziness struck just as he stepped down to Blake's level. Off balance, he reached out wildly.

Blake reacted instinctively, grabbing Avon around the chest. He felt the other's heart pounding against him. "What happened?" Blake asked, concerned, holding on.

"I don't know." Avon allowed Blake to hold him for a moment longer, then he shook his head and straightened, Blake's signal to release him. "A momentary dizziness. Nothing of consequence."

There was a loud thump and the deck shook to a heavy weight. "Gan?" Vila looked back, finding his friend collapsed across two levels. He froze, frightened. Gan seemed indestructible. If Gan could die, so could he, he realized for the first time.

Jenna started toward Gan, but stumbled, and had to lean upon the nearest station. The strength had left her legs, and her arms trembled as she forced herself to move toward the stricken man. "Gan?"

Cally got to Gan first and knelt by him for a quick examination. "He's alive." She frowned. "I think it's the radiation."

"Damn," Jenna said softly. Radiation poisoning was a nasty business, at best. And from Cally's expression, it was far from the best.

"Radiation?" Vila squeaked. "From the planet? Does that mean we're all sick?"

Cally produced a small device and ran it the length of Gan's arm. The shrill protest of the device gave him his answer. "The dosage is beyond human tolerance."

Vila went white. "Does that mean we're going to die?"

"Don't panic, Vila," Avon said. He'd gotten his strength back and had regained his composure. "A week's treatment of anti-radiation drugs and we'll all be fine."

"Great. I'm ready, Cally. Give me my shot or whatever it is," Vila said. He turned toward the corridor.

"I can not do that, Vila," Cally said gently. "We have no anti-radiation drugs on board."

"None, Cally?" Blake asked. "I can't believe that. The medical unit has everything else."

She shook her head. "I suspected we might need the drugs, Blake. I searched thoroughly. There are none."

"Well, what are we going to do, then?" Vila asked, frantically looking from one person to another for a solution. He settled on Avon. Avon always seemed to have a clever answer.

"We appear to have two choices Vila. Die with dignity or die screaming and kicking."

"No. Not me. It must be a mistake."

"Yes. In your case, dignity is not an option."

Blake refused to give in whether with dignity or without. "Ensor must have some. We'll get the drugs. Everything will be all right, Vila." Avon gave Blake a sour look, but did not dispute him. It was their only chance.

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