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Delayed Reaction

By Rebecca Ann Brothers
Page 2 of 13

"They're all there? And the Orac computer?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Proceed as we discussed."

Pleased that she carried out her orders so satisfactorily, Arlen pocketed her communicator.

#

Chased out of medical by Docholli--and where in the worlds had Blake come across him again?--Avon found himself alone with Blake, and not entirely sure what to say or do next. There was a sort of anticlimactic sense to everything, he'd gotten so used to being primed for disaster, that he almost didn't know how to react to not having the rug yanked out from under him.

Blake touched his shoulder. "What are you thinking?"

"That you took a big risk playing games with Tarrant. You came very close to being shot." Horribly close; Avon decided he didn't even want to think about that right now.

"Did I?" Blake said, clearly not believing a word of it. "And have you reached the point, then, where you shoot first and question afterward?"

"I am supposed to be mad."

"You're supposed to be a lot of things; I've never believed half of it."

"Yes, well, you always have chosen to only believe what suited you."

Blake caught and held his gaze. "I've never been wrong, not about you."

Damn it all to hell: scarcely half an hour had passed, and Blake was doing it to him again; if Blake's personality could be processed it would make Pylene 50 look like so much swamp gas. With an effort, Avon looked away, having a severe need for his bearings. "What happens now?"

"Breakfast?"

"Blake--"

"Well, I'm hungry."

"You're also scruffy as a Space Rat."

"Goes with the role. And where'd you ever meet a Space Rat?"

"Long story." Avon wrinkled his nose. "Really, Blake, the aroma is hardly appetizing."

"No?" Blake shrugged. "It's easily solved. C'mon."

#

"Is space really at this much of a premium?" Avon said, looking around the room Blake was proposing they share.

From the bathroom, Blake said, "Yes, it is. I was sharing this with Jenna."

Was? Avon wondered, and wondered then at the presence of two beds; he had no objection, but surely Jenna had. "Is Jenna--"

"She's dead, Avon. Leave it, for now."

Impossible to tell anything from that tone of voice, and Avon decided he would just let it go for now. Sitting on one of the bunks, he concentrated on releasing the tension that had knotted him up. There were still a hundred things that might go wrong, but he felt a mild, unreasonable niggle of optimism. It would, at least, be a novelty for their luck to change.

Looking up as Blake came back into the main room, showered and shaved and wearing clean clothes, Avon said, "I didn't come here empty-handed, by the way."

"No?" Blake sat on the other bunk, furiously toweling his curls. "I won't pretend to not being interested in whatever you're willing to offer."

"Don't think you've made me a convert to your cause, Blake. I simply prefer to live in a galaxy that isn't out to get me."

"As do we all." Inspecting the breakfast trays that had been delivered, Blake said, "So, what've you got, then?"

Finding he actually had an appetite, Avon spoke between bites, telling Blake everything he knew about Pylene 50, the warlord alliance which he thought might yet be salvaged. "And Orac thinks we could come up with some variation on Egrorian's tachyon funnel."

"What's an Egrorian when it's at home?" Blake wanted to know, and Avon wondered how much he needed to tell him about Malodaar.

#

Now this is a considerable improvement, Tarrant was thinking, resting comfortably in the medical center, his injuries seen to, the pain numbed. As it was not his nature to be ungracious, and Avon was inclined to be magnanimous towards Blake, Tarrant had resolved to extend the rebel a benefit of doubt. He meant to keep a close eye on him, however, check out this operation thoroughly...just as soon as he was mobile.

There was something about Blake, he couldn't deny that; anyone who could affect Avon like that had to be pretty extraordinary. It rankled, though, that the rebel had felt a need to put him to a test; nor was Tarrant sure what that said of Blake's confidence in Avon. Was it likely, given Avon's general outlook, that he would have spent more than two years in the company of someone he didn't trust--given him full access to Liberator and Orac? Mind you, it was possible Blake had been suspicious because of the name "Tarrant," and some of the others who owned the name...for which Del could hardly blame him.

"You're looking pensive, little brother. What's on your mind?"

When his heart started up again, Tarrant looked towards the source of that voice, a voice he hadn't expected to ever hear anywhere again. "Deeta...." he whispered, blue eyes wide as his brother emerged into full light, a brilliant smile lighting his usually sober features. "But... but...."

"I'm supposed to be dead?" Deeta said, crossing to the bed, sitting on the edge facing Del. "Reports of my demise were somewhat premature."

Half convinced this was a side effect of medication, Tarrant reached out to touch his brother, finding no spirit but firm, warm flesh under his fingers. "But I was there... I felt you die."

"I know." Deeta's smile vanished. "I wish I could have spared you that, Del. If it's any consolation, it felt awfully real to me at the time."

"But what happened?" Oh, this wasn't fair, how many shocks to the system was a man supposed to take in the span of a few hours?

A worried frown creasing his brow, Deeta said, "Are you sure you're up to this? You look about done in."

"If you think you can waltz in here, announce you're not dead after all, then waltz on out again without any sort of explanation--"

"All right, all right," Deeta held up a hand to forestall any further verbal outrage. "Well, I was dead actually, clinically. It's because of Servalan and dear Uncle Dev that I'm here today."

As Deeta explained how Servalan had had his body spirited away to a trauma unit, where surgeons had been standing by, Tarrant recalled how concerned Max had been about a mix-up in paperwork that had misplaced Deeta's body. It had bothered Del, but there hadn't been anything to do about it right then. Now it appeared the whole thing had been another plot dreamed up by Servalan and Dev. Seems Dev'd had visions of using his nephews as he had once used their father--disposing of them afterwards, as he'd done with their father.

"The idea," Deeta was saying, "was to condition me, turn me into the perfect, albeit unknowing, Federation agent, then use me to get at you--at the whole resistance movement."

Giving his brother a wary look, Tarrant said, "That's not what this is all about, is it, Deeta?"

Smiling, Deeta patted his shoulder gently. "No, Del. I had a bit of luck left me. I was being held on Danarad, at the military base there, and guess who showed up one day, leading a raid on the base?"

"Blake?"

"In the legendary flesh. Right then I was only someone being abused by the Federation, but when he heard my last name he took a very personal interest. Seems he'd had his own run-in with Dev; that was who helped get him sent to Cygnus Alpha."

Tarrant hadn't known that; small wonder, then, that the rebel was careful of Tarrants. "Was Dev at the base?"

"Yes, but he got away."

"Pity about that."

Deeta's smile had a merciless quality now. "I have hopes of that condition being remedied."

Docholli chose that moment to come over and start fussing about Del needing his rest, shooing Deeta away. Deeta promised he wouldn't be far away, and with some reluctance Tarrant finally closed his eyes--half afraid he'd awaken to find this had all been a dream, but also beginning to feel a little better about life in general.

Scary to think how close it had come to being the biggest mistake any of them had ever made, though. For a few seconds there he'd really believed Avon was going to shoot Blake; space knew what that would have done to Avon, given his reaction to killing his Anna, and that Blake might be even more important to him. But unless Roj Blake turned out to be the most consummate liar to come along since Servalan had been hatched, it looked like someone from Avon's past wasn't a fraud. That made a change.

#


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