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After The Smoke Of Battle Cleared

By Linda Death
Page 2 of 2

So it was not until after Avon and the others had cleaned up and eaten on Jenna's ship and she felt safe enough to leave the flight deck that they finally had the chance to ask their questions.

"Was Blake lying to Tarrant when he said you were dead?" Avon said.

"Not exactly." Jenna settled herself comfortably in her chair. "It wasn't long after Star One that I caught up with Blake. He was keeping his head down while he recovered from his injuries. There were so many casualties, and no records, that no one recognised him. He was shaken by what he saw on the news broadcasts. He had nothing else to do stuck in hospital except watch the broadcasts. The millions of deaths from the lack of control systems on the marginal planets, it really shook him. I thought he might become less of a fanatic and realise that the rest of us had been right sometimes, but he didn't, he became worse. Now he had to win to justify those deaths as well as those of the Freedom Party and Gan. He just wasn't the man we knew in the early days."

"I had wondered how he reacted to the aftermath of Star One's destruction." Avon said quietly. "I expected him to take a while to get back into action, just as he did when Gan died. But when we heard nothing from either of you.... Cally was worried about you both. She made me promise not to give up the search until I found you. And now it seems we've wasted the past few years."

"What happened to Cally?"

Jenna had asked Avon and Vila, but it was Tarrant who answered her. "This idiot," he waved towards Avon, "picked up a message. Supposedly from Blake. Of course it wasn't, but he flew us straight through a cloud of fluid particles that ate away at the *Liberator* faster than the auto repairs could fix. Just so he could make the rendezvous. That's how we lost the *Liberator*."

"Avon, is this true?" Jenna hadn't heard this before. She didn't know Tarrant and couldn't tell how far to believe him.

Avon nodded, "Yes, it's true. We reached the rendezvous and I went down. I told the others not to follow me, but they took no notice. It was a trap. Servalan caught me and induced false experiences that made me believe Blake was there. We were stranded there. If it hadn't been for Vila's quick thinking we'd have lost Orac as well."

Jenna looked surprised at Vila getting compliments, but he just shrugged and said, "Yeah, we were going through a bad patch then. Servalan had just murdered the Aurons with a plague, Avon...well Avon can tell you about that later, and Tarrant's brother had just been killed while we were on Teal. None of us was thinking straight."

"And Cally?" she asked.

This time it was Dayna who answered her. "Servalan had left us a derelict space ship. I went with Avon to check it out, to see if we could repair it. The others were checking the base. One of the locals accidentally triggered a booby trap bomb meant for us. The shockwaves set off the bomb at the base. Vila pulled Tarrant out, but Cally never made it."

It was a few moments before any of them could go on. Soolin was surprised at how much it affected them, talking of Cally's death. No wonder she'd never heard much about her in all their time on Xenon.

Jenna said, "I'm sorry. I never heard what had happened. Word of the *Liberator* just stopped, and there was no mention of Cally."

She shifted in her chair, "Anyway, Blake decided to work under a new name and build up a new group. He uses the name Blake but leads people to believe it's not his real name, that he's trading on another man's reputation. He wanted to stockpile arms and supplies, to have an army almost. That's why he became a bounty hunter-the bounties paid for his supplies. He became so focused on his plans that I began to think he was seeing me more for my bounty than for my piloting. I reached the point when I felt I had to escape from him before he turned me in."

"But you were his friend!" Vila interrupted her. "Blake never abandoned his friends. He took us back to rescue Cally. He wouldn't turn you in. Would he?"

"I thought so. So I faked my death."

"Ouch!"

"I knew that if he thought I was dead he wouldn't come looking for me."

"Why didn't he get word to us when he started up again, Jenna? The contents of the treasure room would have bought him tonnes of supplies." Avon said, angrily. This didn't sound like the man they'd spent so long looking for.

She said, "He didn't want to face you two and Cally because he didn't think he could explain himself to you. Cally had asked him how he could justify all those deaths. You'd said he would be wading up to his armpits in blood. After Star One was destroyed, he had no way to answer you."

"And when did he ever justify his actions to us before?" Avon burst out angrily.

Vila hoped Avon would calm down. He'd thought Avon was wrong to shoot a defenceless Blake, but now it seemed as if the situation wasn't that simple.

"Not often." Jenna admitted. "I don't know if he would have sold you if you could have made contact before you arrived. But I do think that once he had you all in his power on his base this way, he would have. A few million credits buys a lot of arms and people to use them."

"So he had set it all up. It was what it sounded like to Tarrant." Vila said, "I thought that finding Blake would make a difference. That things would get better."

Jenna said, "My trader contacts let me know when you came in-nice flying, by the way, Tarrant."

Tarrant preened himself at this; praise from a pilot with Jenna's reputation was worth having.

"I decided I couldn't leave you to be sold on." Jenna said, "I don't know what you're going to do now, but you'd better know Blake isn't dead. Like most bounty hunters he habitually wears armour. He's lost you, so he's lost your bounty. He may feel as if he's been robbed and want his money back, so make your plans accordingly. It's up to you what you decide to do next."

There was a long pause while they took in everything Jenna had told them. Then Avon said, "It's finished. I know what happened to Blake and Jenna. Even Cally couldn't expect us to continue now. I can use Orac to lose our files in the system and set up new identities for us all, you included, Jenna."

"Thanks, Avon. It'll save the constant worry of working under false papers."

"You know," Avon mused, "there's still a lot of planets trying to get local climate control systems running to replace Star One. They'd probably pay well for someone who can set up their networks. And they won't be shooting at me either."

As they all began to relax, Vila suddenly said, "Do you have any booze on this ship, Jenna? I think we should drink a toast to a quieter future."


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