Orbital FluctuationBy Kaelar
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|The shuttle wasn't going to make it to escape velocity. They'd
jettisoned everything possible, but were still overweight. "Dump this,"
Avon commanded as he pulled the small cart from its place.
"This? It only weighs about half a kilo. That won't make any difference."
"Just do it, Tarrant!"
The pilot matched stares with Avon for a second, then started towards the airlock.
"What weighs seventy kilos?!" Avon pounded on Orac as the door closed behind Tarrant.
"Tarrant weighs seventy-eight kilos," the computer replied smugly.
Avon stared off into space, then muttered, "Tarrant." He pulled his gun and headed down the ladder where Tarrant had gone just moments before. "Tarrant?" Silence greeted him. "Tarrant. I need your help." The computer tech sidled up to a corner, then leapt into the open, gun aimed. Tarrant was just disappearing around the opposite corner, and Avon fired at him. A cry from the pilot told Avon he'd hit him. He cautiously followed the injured man.
Avon was fully aware of Tarrant's capabilities and didn't underestimate him, even though he was wounded. He made sure the area was clear before kneeling at the small puddle of blood on the floor. Then he stood again, listening carefully. There was a noise near the ladder, and he slowly made his way toward it.
There was no sign of the pilot, and Avon cursed. He was running out of time. Suddenly something landed on his hand--it was a drop of blood. Even as Avon was bringing his gun to bear, Tarrant jumped down from the ceiling structure, landing directly on him.
The gun flew from Avon's grasp and skittered away as he fell. Tarrant quickly swung back his uninjured right arm and hit Avon in the jaw. The tech slumped to the floor as Tarrant stood, breathing heavily. He felt like kicking Avon, but restrained
himself. "I ought to dump you out the airlock," he growled.
"Then why don't you?" Avon was dazed, but not unconscious.
"Don't tempt me," Tarrant warned. He started to retrieve the gun from the corner where it had landed, but stopped abruptly when his foot knocked against a clear object on the floor. He dropped beside it, fingering it thoughtfully. "This shouldn't be so heavy," he said musingly, "unless...Avon!" The computer expert had disappeared, apparently not trusting that Tarrant wouldn't change his mind about putting him in the airlock. "Avon! I've found the problem, but I need your help. Avon!" There was no reply.
Tarrant started pushing the cube toward the airlock, but wasn't having much success. His injured arm was too painful to be of much use. He slowly inched the object forward, sweat dripping from his forehead. "Avon! Where are you!"
"Right here," a voice answered.
Tarrant looked up to see Avon standing over him, the gun once again in his possession. He was preparing to pull the trigger. "It's the cube, Avon," Tarrant explained angrily. "It must have a neutron particle in it; I can hardly move it." Avon made no reply, but his finger tightened on the trigger slightly.
"Well," Tarrant spat out, "You can help me, or you can shoot me. Which is it going to be? We're out of time."
For a split second Tarrant feared that Avon had decided to kill him, then the tech reholstered the gun and knelt beside the pilot. Together they managed to push the cube into the airlock and jettison it. "Come on." Avon grabbed Tarrant and hauled him up the ladder. "If we don't obtain the velocity now, we're finished anyway." He practically threw the wounded pilot into the seat.
Tarrant grimaced with pain but immediately took the controls. Using all his considerable skill, he managed to guide the shuttle out of the planet's gravitational pull. Then he headed back towards Scorpio, pointedly ignoring Avon.
* * *
"So after you fought your way to the shuttle, you managed to take off, only then discovering that Egrorian had planted the extra weight on it?" Vila asked.
"That's right," Avon answered flatly.
"I wouldn't think an old man like that could do so much harm, especially to a fit young man like you, Tarrant," Vila continued.
Tarrant, his arm bandaged, had been uncharacteristically quiet since docking the shuttle on Scorpio. "You'd be surprised at what people will do, when they're desperate enough," he sneered, casting a sidelong glance at Avon. They had, rather grudgingly on Tarrant's part, agreed to keep the shuttle incident between the two of them for the moment, so as not to split up the crew. But Tarrant had made it very clear that once the opportunity presented itself, he was leaving.
"Maybe next time you can go with Tarrant," Dayna said. "To protect him, of course.
"No thanks," Vila declared. "I think I'll just stick with Avon, where it's safe."
Sudden loud laughter filled the flight deck. Everyone turned in surprise to stare at Tarrant, who was still chuckling.
"What's so funny?" inquired Soolin.
"Just remember what you said, Vila," Tarrant warned, suddenly turning very serious. "Because the day will come when you'll rue those words." The pilot refused to comment further, and the look on Avon's face halted any questions directed at him.
The remainder of the trip to Xenon was made in silence.
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