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The Fool Who Follows

By Jean Graham
Page 1 of 1

Centero had gone up in a satisfying series of explosions. Blake heard the first of the charges blow as the teleport swept him from the communications center, then watched an anxious Jenna materialize behind the control console.

"We've got three pursuit ships closing fast." She was moving to follow Blake out the door as she spoke, the others falling in behind her. He didn't need to look back to know that there were there; the clamor of their footsteps charged after him down the honeycomb of corridors, beating uneven time between his own heavy strides.

"Zen!" He burst onto the flight deck, gulping air between commands. "Get us out of here fast, standard by ten!"

Jenna slid into the pilot's chair and rapidly programmed a course as the computer acknowledged Blake's order. Vila hit the weaponry station at a dead run, flung himself into the seat and began throwing shield-activator switches without needing to be told. Gan and Cally took up the back console positions, and Avon...

Blake spared a glance over his shoulder at an empty station.

Where the hell was Avon?

+Plasma bolt launched and running, vector five-five-zero-zero-two,+ Zen announced. +Impact in eight seconds. Seven seconds. Six--+

"Evasive course!" Jenna's fingers flew over navigation controls. "Four-seven, mark seven. Execute, now!"

Though there was no tangible motion, Blake grabbed instinctively for support as the stars on the viewscreen skewed and tilted.

+Evasive maneuver insufficient to pre--+

Zen's report ceased in mid-word as the plasma bolt struck home. Blake's grip on the flight couch was torn free; he landed hard on the deck, wrenched himself upright immediately and, over the high-pitched whine of stressed engines, shouted for Vila to return fire.

"I'm trying, I'm trying!" The thief's excited response came seconds before the scream of Liberator's neutron blasters drowned all other sounds on the flight deck. The viewscreen image stabilized in time to display a brilliant flash and blossoming fireball directly between the two remaining pursuit ships. The scenario was already falling rapidly behind as Liberator accelerated and slipped the pursuit-net. Vila's triumphant cheer was nearly lost under Zen's booming report that Liberator was now out of strike range.

Blake indulged a moment to draw a deep breath, absently brushing at the dust his tunic had acquired in the effort to steal the Federation decoding device from Centero. "Alter our heading fifteen degrees, Jenna. It doesn't matter where just yet. Drop speed to standard by four."

"Right." Visibly more relaxed now, Jenna carried out the request while Blake strode around the flight couch to the nearest incercom.

"Avon," he said to it with undisguised annoyance. "You might have waited until after the crisis had passed to begin tinkering with that translation unit."

The intra-ship address system echoed his words back at him. No one responded.

"Avon!"

He was suddenly aware of an imposing presence at his side, and turned to find Gan carefully extracting the pilfered decoder from its ruck-sack.

"The unit's right here, Blake. Avon handed it to me before we tele--"

"Avon!" Blake shouted the name into the com unit, slapped it off and wheeled toward the ship's computer. "Zen -- report number of life forms aboard Liberator."

Maddeningly slow to answer, the bass voice finally rumbled, +Carbon-based life forms aboard Liberator currently number five.+

Five? Oh, gods. Avon...

They were all around him then. All but one. Gan, Cally, Jenna, Vila. One missing. One he had left behind.

"He's still back there."

His order to reverse course didn't make it past Jenna's sharp retort. "Don't be an idiot, Blake. We can't just--"

"--place will be crawling with troops by now!" That was Vila.

"And pursuit ships," Gan added.

"Blake..." Cally had a hand on his arm, gentle but persuasive. "If he was still in the control room when the charges went off..."

She didn't finish, but her point was morbidly clear. Blake pulled free of her grasp, stalked away from all of them to brood near Zen's silent face. Jenna, correctly reading the determination in that stance, came after him.

"Turn this ship around, and you'll kill all of us." It was a statement as brutally candid as any of Avon's, no less galling for the fact that it was also inarguable. Blake tried to glare, knowing full well that Jenna could see the pain behind his fury. Her hand was on his arm now, where Cally's had been, and they were all regathering around him, strength in their unity. Except that they were minus one.

The proximity of others was a thing he'd longed for and always drawn comfort from. Just now, though, it didn't help.

It didn't help at all. * * * He couldn't move.

Alarms still screamed in the distance. Smoke hung, heavy and acrid, in the air of the control room, while debris fell in miniature avalanches from the ruin of what had once been the ceiling. He could hear it striking objects in the room with sharp, gritty reports.

It was the ceiling, he realized, that had come down on top of him in the explosion, seconds after Blake and the others had vanished in the teleport field. Somewhere amidst the shuffle of loading the decoder and their equipment into the canvas bag, his bracelet had fallen off...

"...worst damage looks to be in here," echoed a voice, and he heard heavy feet grinding over the rubble nearby.

Another voice, soft yet coldly authoritative. "Emergency generators. Let's have some light in here."

More footsteps, some of them scrambling to obey the order, others moving around him, noisily shifting the damaged equipment that lay to his immediate left. From somewhere, yellow light flooded the room. The shattered ceiling panel pinning him shifted abruptly, and for the first time, he felt the presence of its weight on him. When two pairs of hands appeared to wrench it away, pain replaced its bulk and forced the room and its amber-washed wreckage to retreat suddenly.

He closed his eyes and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a coughing fit brought on by the dust sifting down on him from the upraised panel.

"Commander Travis! Over here!"

"What is it?" "One of Blake's people, looks like."

More footsteps, and a hand clutched briefly at his wrist.

The soft, authoritative voice made a single-word query. "Dead?"

"No, sir. He was lucky."

There was an unmistakable sneer in Travis' reply. "Oh, hardly. His luck ran out -- when he didn't die. Get a medic in here. And I want an interrogation room prepped. Now."

More than one person scurried off to obey him that time, but the sounds were oddly muffled, fading away into a dark and comfortable nothing...

The pain woke him; that and the sting of a needle at the side of his neck. He was still in the shattered control room -- he could feel the same debris beneath him -- but there was a new voice now, a woman's, murmuring something about broken ribs and internal injuries.

Travis overran her. "I want him conscious, not coddled. Now get out of the way."

The medic made a half-hearted objection; it and she were summarily snatched away, replaced by a far more imposing presence. A fist, stronger than any human hand had right to be, closed over his throat, clutched the fabric of his tunic and shook him, forcing out a strangled gasp when the broken ribs protested. His eyes flew open at the sudden movement, and he found himself blinking into a tanned, flat-planed face, the left eye obscured by a black prosthetic patch. The too-strong hand gripped harder, dragging him upward off the floor.

"What was Blake after?" the soft voice demanded, deceptively calm in contrast to the hatred that glittered in his single eye. "What did he take from this room? What were the explosions meant to cover? Tell me!"

Angry questions, fired too rapidly for him to answer, even if he'd wanted to. He didn't.

The gloved fist opened, let him drop a few bone-jarring inches to the floor. It might as well have been miles. The room retreated again in a red haze, and when he could see again, the black-clad figure was towering over him, a leather-clad shadow backlit in amber.

"I'll know soon enough. If I have to sift through every last crumb in this room to find it, I'll know."

Go ahead, Avon thought with all the hatred he could summon. But don't expect my help. It is not that I owe Blake the favor of my silence -- I would tell you nothing anyway.

One of the base personnel edged back into his limited field of vision and reported briskly to Travis, "There's no sign of anyone else left behind."

Travis waited a beat, then snapped, "And the ship?"

"Patrols lost it just outside the system."

The unsheathed eye smiled grimly down at Avon then, and confidence laced the man's gentle tone. "No matter. He'll be back."

"Sir?"

"Blake will be back." Travis directed the words quite deliberately toward the prisoner at his feet. "You see, I have something he wants..." * * * "Blaming yourself won't help, you know." Gan's quiet admonition drifted through the haze of Blake's guilt, making him aware for the first time of the man's presence beside him on the flight couch.

In front of them, Jenna and Cally worked, heads together, on the decoder, while Vila watched sleepily from his station. The flight deck hummed to itself efficiently, carrying on about its business as though nothing at all had changed. As though no one were missing.

"There it is," Cally's muffled voice announced from the heap of equipment and wiring on the table. Jenna muttered something in return and attacked the device anew with her laser probe. Blake had to admire their composite skill, but he could not restrain the thought that Avon would have had the thing connected in half the time.

"Might have been any of us," Gan's placating tones intruded again on his morbid reverie. "A lost bracelet's hardly your fault."

"Whose fault was it then?" Blake snapped in spite of himself. "I should have checked."

"Oh, yes." That was Vila, sounding unusually sarcastic. "Bombs going off all about, the roof about to cave in, and you should have checked. How? Who the hell had time?"

"He's right." Jenna's blonde head came up, and beside her, Cally paused in the midst of connecting a wire. The pilot locked eyes with Blake, her gaze every bit as glacial as the late computer tech's would have been. "Avon knew the risks. He chose to take them. Just like the rest of us."

Only he wasn't just like the rest of us, Blake thought acridly. Somewhere, under all of that biting cynicism, was a man I had barely begun to reach. To like.

Cally, completing the circle, offered her own comfort mentally. //To lose a comrade is never easy. But you were not responsible.//

His look said otherwise. Before he could speak, the chitter of transmission code erupted from the assembled device, and Zen's screen lit with a crawling bar-code pattern. Cally indulged a fleeting smile, donned the headset and listened, her face unreadable.

Blake waited an interminable three minutes before he asked, "Anything?"

The Auron shook her head. "Routine ship movements, for the most part." She altered frequencies, fluttering the screen pattern, and listened again. Moments later, she repeated the process, still without result. Vila nodded off at the weapons console.

The droning squawk of the untranslated signals had nearly put Blake to sleep as well when Cally sat abruptly upright, pressing the headphone speaker closer to her ear.

"What is it?" Blake lacked the Auron's patience.

"A message going into Centero."

"What?" Vila was awake again. "But we just destroyed--"

"They're using emergency frequencies." Cally waited again. The screen display chattered erratically.

"Well?" Jenna and Blake chorused the question.

"It's an authorization from Space Command Headquarters," Cally said, pausing to listen between phrases, "placing a Federation officer in charge of the investigation... of the terrorist attack on the communications center... All authority to pursue this matter is forthwith granted to Space Commander Travis by Supreme Commander Serv--"

"Travis!" Blake was on his feet, pacing away.

Gan's eyes followed him, as did the others. "Someone you knew?"

Teeth set, Blake glared at the screen as though it might offer answers to the mystery. "But he's dead. I was sure I'd killed him..." * * * The third blow had broken another rib. Avon tried to recoil from the fourth, but the guards on either side held him fast; the assault continued until his weight sagged between them and the blackness closed in once again. Travis' bionic fist retreated then, along with the rest of the stuffy little interrogation room. For a time.

He grew gradually aware of a hard surface, a chair, beneath him, and another hardness, this one cold metal, securing his hands to the arm-rests. The salt-and-iron taste of blood was in his mouth; the glass-shard agony in his lungs made breathing a torture in itself. He tried to twist away from the sting of another needle below his ear, but he could not move. The vague outline of a blue medic's uniform loomed above him on the right. Its owner had said something with a woman's high treble as the needle went in. Now, swift and Federation-efficient, she pulled it free and retreated, the crisp blue of her tunic at once displaced by more forboding black.

The gloved hand with the yellow-crystal ring shot into his field of vision, caught him by the hair and forced his head back as far as the rigid chair allowed.

"What did Blake take from the control room?" In direct contrast to the action, the voice at his ear remained malevolently calm. "Why was the Liberator here? What did you come for?"

Avon had just three words for Travis: the only words with which he intended to part.

"Go to hell." The iron grip slammed him hard against the chair, making the broken ribs lance fire into his lungs. He bit back a cry, tasting more blood, and braced at the same time for further blows that did not come. Instead, Travis released him and turned aside, heavy bootsteps striding away to meet with others at the door, where an eager young voice reported, "We've gone over the control room equipment just as you ordered, sir."

Travis snapped at him, a single, explosive syllable. "And?"

"The decoding unit appears to be missing, sir."

"The decoding--?" Travis paused, then uttered a cryptic, "Well now, that could be useful."

"There's also an incoming message on the emergency frequencies for you from--"

"Not now."

"Sir, it's Supreme Commander Servalan."

"Damn." Travis was beginning to sound oddly far away, even as his boots scraped the floor coming back to the chair. The strong hand gripped Avon by the chin, an intimidation tactic only slightly less demeaning than the previous hair-pulling had been. "I won't need answers from you after all," the quiet voice rasped. "But you can still be of some use. You're going to get Blake for me. Bait in the trap..."

Avon was thrown back against the chair with a force that should have brought pain but somehow did not. Travis' boots marched away, the voice ordering someone to stay and watch the prisoner. Then the stifling little room fell silent, except for the rattling hiss of an antiquated air filter and the peculiarly loud breathing of the two non-entities assigned to guard duty.

You're going to get Blake for me, Travis had said. As though he had known Blake before. And despite their best efforts at total destruction, the missing part had been identified; the decoder would be useless to Blake's precious Cause. Divining Travis' plan now was child's play: feed Blake only that information which he was intended to hear, including the fact that Kerr Avon was alive (if not entirely well) and held captive on Centero.

Bait in the trap.

Blake would have to be an idiot to fall for that.

Which meant they could expect him precisely on schedule.

The air filter wheezed. One of the two breathers came to stand suffocatingly close, fairly reeking of disinfectant and scented soap. He caught a blurred glimpse, through slitted eyes, of blue tunic. The woman medic. Something clicked, hummed, and shut off again: he identified the sound only dimly as a medi-scanner.

A male voice behind him spat out a brusque question. "What are you doing?"

"My job." The scanner whirred again; the feminine scents moved nearer. Avon would have warned her away with a glare, but just now he couldn't convince his eyes to open far enough. When her hands began expertly examining the broken bones, invading the barriers of both his clothing and his dignity, he tried to scathe her with a verbal rebuke, but that too failed him. Whatever those hypodermics had contained had effectively immobilized everything but the ache beneath his ribcage.

As the hands continued to probe he tried to wrench away, succeeding only in renewed pain made worse by his harsh intake of breath. A hand grasped his right arm, and the woman's voice gently admonished him to be still, that it would be better in a moment.

Her male companion overheard. "Are you crazy?" he snorted. "You don't have orders to--"

"Shut up." She overran his objection with the familiar authority of an Alpha addressing an inferior grade. But it was her air of compassion that Avon neither trusted nor welcomed. He wanted more than anything, even as the cool metal of a fusion-healer pressed itself to his injuries, to strike out at her, to shout for her to get away from him. But the drug, giving no quarter, forbade any movement at all.

"Damn..." The medic's ministrations had met with the barricade of the restraints pinioning Avon's arms against both his ribcage and the solid edge of the chair. Incredibly, he felt her unfasten both cuffs and pull his left arm toward her, freeing the ribs for further treatment.

The other voice protested again. "Now wait a minute..."

"I said shut up, Jenks. Is something wrong with your hearing?"

"But you can't just release--"

"He's sedated. Believe me, he isn't going anywhere."

The fusion-healer went back to its task, clicking dully.

Avon still wished she would leave it -- leave him. Whatever foolishly altruistic reasons she may harbor, her gestures were at best a waste of time. Why treat a dead man?

Travis was without doubt the type to kill a hostage whether or not the 'ransom' was paid. In this case, the trap had likely been designed to kill all of them the moment Blake came charging to the rescue. What an ignoble epitaph to the short-lived rebellion that would be: Roj Blake, who roamed the galaxy for a time, freeing the oppressed, destroying the oppressors, captured and killed out of misplaced loyalty to one of the reluctant five he called a crew.

For reasons he could not quite fathom, the prospect disturbed Avon far more than it ought to do. Once, not very long ago, he knew he would have found the irony amusing. That it should bother him now he found as profoundly disturbing as the idea itself. He had never cared. And yet he did care.

Paradox.

Self-contradiction.

Concepts to defy even the most sophisticated computer's reasoning abilities.

The fusion healer withdrew, and the hands-that-shouldn't-care probed cautiously at the repaired ribs.

"That's got it," the woman said reassuringly. "Just relax now. Try to sleep."

The other voice uttered a muffled curse. "I ought to report you for this."

"Go ahead," she snipped. "Command will be just as interested, I'm sure, in learning who's been juggling supply records down in C-division..."

Dream began swallowing their words then. Avon felt the metal restraints clamp over his wrists once more; then the scent of disinfectant and soap drifted away, and the drugged sleep claimed him completely.

He dreamt of roaming Liberator's corridors for the very first time -- on that first day of his freedom and the beginning of his involuntary 'service' to Blake's crusade against the Federation.

Blake and the Federation; idealism and totalitarianism. To Avon, these were nothing but two sides of the same non-negotiable coin; each of them an obstacle at odds with his own self-interest. His escape to Liberator had done anything but liberate Kerr Avon: he had merely exchanged one style of tyranny for another.

Freedom that was not freedom

Paradox again. He wandered Liberator's depths, relishing the absence of others and the luxury of space he had not been afforded in many months, and while he walked, he grimly considered his options. To stay and follow, or to go and risk capture outside Liberator's protective walls.

Somewhere, long ago, he had read of an ancient philosopher who had summed up his present dilemma with a single, straightforward question. 'Who's the more foolish,' the wise man had wondered, 'the fool, or the fool who follows him?' * * * The message had come across from Centero with flat, unassuming indifference. Federation business as usual.

TO THE SUPREME COMMANDER, it read. ONE MALE PRISONER CAPTURED IN REBEL RAID ON CENTERO, BOUND OVER FOR TREATMENT AND INTERROGATION. PROCEEDING. -- TRAVIS.

"He's alive." Blake got up to pace after Cally had read the message aloud. "It's Avon -- it has to be."

"Treatment and interrogation?" Vila echoed nervously. "I don't like the sound of that."

Jenna, more pragmatic, merely said, "It could be a trap."

Blake chose to ignore her remark. "Zen," he ordered, "I want a course back to Centero, maximum speed."

"But the pursuit ships--" Gan started to say.

"They won't be expecting us."

Blake's comment evoked a scowl from Jenna. "I wouldn't count on that," she warned, but she set about confirming Zen's course co-ordinates just the same.

With a smile, Blake joined her at the console. "Thank you, Jenna," he said. "Take us in fast. A fly-by at optimum teleport range. I'll go in before they have time to identify us, then you can circle back to pick both of us up again."

Gan nodded, glancing sidelong at Cally as though seeking support for his words. "It could work," he decided.

Vila alone remained unconvinced. "I think you're crazy, the lot of you."

Blake's smile was both paternal and indulgent at the same time. "So I've been told, Vila," he said wearily. "So I've been told." * * * Avon felt stronger. He had no idea how long he'd slept, but the pain in his ribcage had subsided, along with the soporific effect of the drug. He forced his eyes open to survey the interrogation room, noting at once that the medic was its only other occupant. Her back to him, she worked with something at the inset wall cupboards just to his right. When she turned, he feigned sleep again, listening to her crisp footsteps approach the chair.

"How do you feel?"

The question clearly revealing that his ruse hadn't worked, Avon looked up at her and opted for an alternate ploy. He drew in a labored breath and winced.

Instantly, the hands came to probe at his ribs once more, again meeting the obstacle of the restraints. And again, she unfastened the cuffs to continue the examination.

"The ribs are properly fused," she muttered. "Probably just residual bruising. I can give you another sedative and a pain killer..."

Avon waited.

She moved away to the cabinets, puttered for a moment, turned back with a hypodermic in her hand --

And found herself pushed roughly to the wall with a hand at her throat.

Avon wrestled the hypo from her easily, turned it and injected her with the drug, feeling no remorse whatsoever in the action. The sedative would not kill her, nor would he -- but he doubted Travis would be so merciful. Her carelessness -- and her caring -- would ultimately cost her her life.

He let the limp form slip to the floor and turned to rapidly search the small room for any sort of weapon. The presence of a security camera over the door heightened his anxiety, until he noted that its operating light was off. Had it been working earlier, or had someone only now disabled the surveillance system? It might have been damaged in the bombing. Then again, if Blake had arrived...

He dismissed the thought for the moment, and gave priority to the task of getting out of here. Ransacking the cupboards, he came across something that would serve as a makeshift cudgel; it resembled a spanner and was sturdy enough to crack a skull, if the need arose. Hefting it, he eased open the door and crept out into the hall.

Three doors away, on the left, light poured from the open 'Interrogation Room 5.' There were voices as well; both Travis' soft growl and a deeper, booming voice he recognized as Blake's.

"A little trick I learned from you, Travis," the latter rumbled. "I got here first."

So they had known each other before. The revelation came as no surprise. Only a prior altercation between them could have engendered a hatred as deep as Travis'. But he had never heard Blake use quite that tone of voice before, either.

The sound of a scuffle brought Avon closer. When he peered around the wall's edge, it was to see Travis, his blind side to the door, pointing a miniature gun at Blake, who knelt doubled over on the floor. A detached Liberator weapon lay against the back wall, useless and out of reach.

"Get up," Travis ordered him with a sharp motion of the gun. "I want to see your eyes when I kill you. Get up!"

Blake either couldn't or wouldn't comply. Travis started forward, perhaps intending to kick the rebel leader into obeying him, but he did not complete the short trip across the floor. Avon's thrown spanner caught his gunhand broadside, causing the small gun to misfire, and Blake was on top of him before Avon had come fully through the door.

This time, when they parted, it was Blake who held the little gun and Travis who knelt on the floor, staring between them with rage burning in the single eye.

Blake held the gun on him and simply stood there, an act that sorely tried Avon's patience.

"Well?" he demanded. "What are you waiting for? Kill him."

His words were intersected by Jenna's voice whispering from Blake's wrist. "Teleport range in ninety seconds."

"Standing by," Blake answered. With his free hand, he drew another bracelet from his belt pack and held it out to Avon with a short, peremptory comment. "Put that on."

Snatching the device, Avon snapped it to his wrist without looking down. His eyes were on Blake, who refused to look back. The little gun moved in his hand, but remained silent.

"Damn you," Avon seethed. "Pull the trigger!"

The reply sounded very unlike the Blake he knew. "Oh no. That would be far too easy..."

Avon thrust out a hand. "Give me the gun, then."

For the first time, Blake spared him a glance, but the gun remained firmly in his grip, a tacit refusal.

"Sixty seconds," Jenna's voice reported.

"You're a fool, Blake. A bloody, idealistic fool." Avon spat the words at him, wishing all the while for the telekinetic ability to retrieve the spanner from the floor -- or barring that, the power to turn time back and aim the missile at Travis' head, the gun and its threat to Blake's life be damned.

"He's right, you know." Travis inclined his head toward Avon, then bared his teeth at Blake in the determined grimace of a man obsessed. "As long as I live, I'll come after you. And I'll keep coming."

"Perhaps." Blake's eyes gleamed with his own obsession. "But Liberator will always be one step ahead of you, faster, more powerful -- and never quite where you expect her to be."

Avon glanced nervously at the door, aware that Travis had been gazing discreetly in the same direction. But the corridor outside remained deserted.

"Thirty seconds," Blake's bracelet announced.

He raised his arm, though he kept the little gun aimed steadily at the man on the floor. "Teleport the instant you're in range, Jenna."

Reluctantly, Avon moved to the rebel's side, and planted his glare on the kneeling Space Commander.

"Blake may be a fool," he snarled, "but I am not. I'm going to kill you, Travis. Remember that."

The teleport took them on the echo of Travis's bitter laugh.

No sooner had they solidified than a grinning Vila darted around the console toward them. He stopped short, noting their expressions and the gun in Blake's hand, and stammered a nervous, "Oh. Er... We're already leaving the system, Jenna said to tell you, and I'm glad you're... that is I'm..."

Whatever sentiment he'd intended to express evaporated in the heat of Avon's glare. Vila swallowed and fled the room without another word.

"Was that necessary?" Blake queried with forced calm.

Avon unclamped the bracelet and dropped it with a deliberate thud into the rack. "I have little tolerance for idiots," he breathed.

"Vila is no idiot."

"I was referring to you." Avon wheeled on him, the anger rushing out in a flurry of words. "Unless I have been grievously misinformed, the purpose of waging war is to defeat and kill one's enemies -- not to shower them with platitudes and spare them to hunt you down another day! Just what kind of moronic game are you playing at? Destroying the Federation, or committing suicide?!"

The rebel glowered at him for a moment, then moved to place his own bracelet in the nearest empty slot, affecting sudden boredom. "You might at least say thank you," he said.

Avon looked at him sharply. "Your rampant displays of stupidity will get us all killed one day. I find it exceedingly difficult to be grateful for that."

Blake slipped the gun into his tunic pocket. "My business with Travis is not your concern," he murmured.

"Oh, but it is." Avon's hand went automatically to the newly-healed ribs, but fell away again in instant denial. "You -- and he -- have made it my concern."

Blake started to say more, but Avon turned and walked out on him. It was a tactic that had effectively ended their arguments before -- with the psychological scales tipped ever-so-slightly in Avon's favor.

He headed for his cabin via little-used corridors, walking his anger out in long, quickened strides. The rapid pace helped, a little, to exorcise his ordeal on Centero, as well as Blake's bumbling interference which had --temporarily -- robbed Avon of his retribution.

Who had once said that revenge was a dish best served cold? Well, perhaps he would test the theory.

One way or the other, he had made Travis a parting promise.

And Avon always kept his promises.  


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