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Sticks and Stones

By Kathy Hintze
Page 1 of 8

"Avon?" Blake struggled to see through the dust-filled room. Avon had been right behind him as they had entered the room, then all hell had broken loose. The dust finally settled and Blake saw him. "Avon!" Blake hurried over and knelt by the unconscious figure of his companion. A five-foot, solid steel girder lay across the man's legs, pinning him to the floor.

"Blake," Vila's anxious voice called over the bracelet communicator. "Blake, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Vila," he replied. "But Avon was caught in the explosion."

"Should I try to teleport him up?"

Blake thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No. I don't want to risk it. If there's internal injuries, the teleport stress might be too much for him."

"Then what are we going to do?"

"Get Gan. Be ready to teleport him down when I give the signal. Blake out." Damn the Underground, he thought. They were to wait until he gave the signal, then attack. But they had attacked too soon, using antique explosives which had brought the ceiling down on himself and Avon.

A groan drew Blake's attention and Avon's eyes were blurred with pain as he opened them. "What...what happened?"

"The fools attacked before I gave the signal," replied Blake.

"No doubt driven by their dedication to the Cause," Avon muttered.

Blake smiled wryly. "No doubt. Let's see about getting you free. Can you move your legs?"

Avon tried, but the effort brought him up short. "No," he managed to get out between clenched teeth. "I think they're broken."

The complex alarm was blaring now, adding its voice to the distant gunfire as the harried members of the Underground tried to make good their escape.

Blake started clearing away some of the smaller pieces of debris, trying to relieve the pressure on Avon's legs when he noticed a stream of blood trickling from under the girder. There was no way to see where the blood was coming from, but it was flowing steadily. He activated his bracelet. "Vila, is Gan there?"

"I'm here, Blake," the big man replied.

On board the Liberator, Vila heard the worry in Blake's voice and asked, "Blake, how bad is he?"

"I don't know. Get Gan down here."

"Teleporting now," Vila murmured.

Seconds later, Gan stood over Avon, concern visible on his face. "What do you want me to do, Blake?" he asked.

"We have to remove the girder and get him back to the ship," Blake explained.

Avon watched the proceedings with quiet eyes, trying to analyze his condition and why he felt so weak. His strength seemed to be melting away, minute by minute, and he couldn't stop the strange numbing sensation which was creeping up his legs.

Gan took hold of one end of the girder and pulled. He'd lifted it no more than an inch or two when Avon screamed. The pain coursing up his legs had hit with lightning speed and Gan nearly dropped the girder in shock.

Catching himself, he lowered it gently back into place while Blake checked on Avon. He had passed out, his pulse irregular. Gan stared down at Avon and said, "Blake, I didn't..."

"It wasn't your fault, Gan." Blake shook his head. "I should have known what releasing the pressure would do."

The man below him moaned and opened his eyes. "Blake?" Avon tried to keep his voice steady. "You and Gan cannot lift that. And Federation troops will be here at any moment. Leave me."

"No."

"Sentiment is for fools, Blake," Avon snapped.

Blake smiled. "A trait you've accused me of often enough before." Motioning to Gan, he said, "Let's try it again. Lift."

Avon was prepared for the pain this time but it never came. The numbing cold had spread to the top of his legs and upward, stealing his strength as it advanced. Finally, too weak to fight it any longer, he closed his eyes and let the darkness and cold take him.

"It's no good, Blake," muttered Gan, lowering his side of the beam. "We can't lift it." Then he noticed the growing pool of blood. "From the look of that, he doesn't have too much time left."

Blake stared at the blood a moment, then raised his bracelet. "Vila?"

"Yes, Blake?"

"Get Cally and have her teleport down immediately."

"I am here, Blake," the Auron called. The thief had notified her as soon as he'd teleported Gan down.

"Good. Bring the portable med kit with you." Blake made no attempt to hide the concern in his voice.

Cally exchanged worried looks with Vila. The kit meant one thing, Avon was in serious trouble. "I will get it."

"Vila, bring Gan up. I want him to get the portable laser unit. We're going to have to cut Avon free."

Gan looked at Blake in surprise. "But that'll take too long, Blake."

"Don't argue, Gan. Get it and come back down with Cally. Bring him up, Vila." As Gan shimmered from sight, Blake checked Avon. His pulse had grown weaker and his skin felt chilled.

Avon stirred under his touch. "Are you still here?" he mumbled.

Blake smiled. "I'm a sentimental fool, remember?"

Avon was trying to find an appropriate answer when Vila announced, "Blake, Gan and Cally are ready."

"Put them down."

#

Blake looked up as the pair appeared. Cally, carrying a small box, hurried to Avon's side while Blake moved to help Gan set up the laser. The Auron's eyes darkened as the medical readouts indicated the seriousness of Avon's condition. "Blake, he's losing blood much too fast. An artery must have been severed."

"Tell him to go, Cally," Avon broke in. "You see the uselessness of this. Gan cannot cut through this in time." He paused, trying to keep his mind clear. "He's endangering all of your lives."

"Blake will leave no one behind," she replied calmly, wiping the dust from his face. "You should know that."

"That's the final link, Blake," Gan said, connecting the laser to the power unit. "Where do you want me to cut?"

Blake looked at the girder. "We're lucky Avon's trapped near the short end. If you trim off the excess, I think between the two of us, we should be able to lift that smaller piece off."

As Gan activated the laser and began his work, Blake walked over to Cally. "How is he?"

Cally looked up. "I cannot be sure. But unless the bleeding is stopped, he will die."

Blake gazed down at Avon and carefully phrased his question. "I know it's dangerous to try, considering Avon's precarious medical history, but isn't there some drug which might safely slow the blood loss?"

Cally's face grew thoughtful. "Yes, there is. Syntice 40. It is used to slow the blood flow during some surgical procedures." She nodded slightly. "Yes, it might work. But, Blake, what if Avon should prove allergic to it? Or there are unexpected side effects?"

"One problem at a time, Cally," Blake answered, praying her fears would be unfounded. "Do we have any on board?"

"There is a small supply in the medical unit. Vila could get it. It is clearly marked," the Auron explained.

"Don't I have anything to say about it?" Avon's voice was faintly sarcastic.

"No!" Blake and Cally answered together. Then Blake raised his bracelet. "Vila?"

"Yes?" The thief sounded very worried.

"I need you to help Cally."

"You want me to come down there?" asked a frightened voice.

"Immediately."

"But who'll operate the teleport?" Vila complained.

"Jenna can," Blake exclaimed, his patience beginning to ebb.

"But...but..."

"Avon's life depends on it, Vila," Blake snapped. "So to the medical unit and find an ampoule labeled Syntice 40. Then get down here."

"All right." Vila ran for the medical unit, his mind in turmoil. Blake sounded terribly worried. Avon couldn't be that badly hurt, could he? he thought. "Syntice 40," he muttered, searching the cabinet. Then he paused and took a small container carefully from its protective case. "Syntice 40 to be used in emergency and extreme surgical cases only," he read aloud. Now he was really worried.

#

Jenna's attention was riveted to her scanner when Vila arrived on the flight deck. "Jenna, Blake wants you to operate the teleport. Avon's in a bad way and he needs me down there."

"I can't leave right now," she replied, adjusting a control. "He'll have to wait."

"But he can't wait," Vila pleaded. "Avon might die."

"Zen has picked up three Federation ships heading this way."

"Jenna, please, we're wasting time."

Jenna looked up at Vila, who innocently returned her gaze. "All right. Zen, keep me posted on the Federation ships and their locations."

"Confirmed."

#


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