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Divergence: Lost and Found

By Leia Fee
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Vila and Dayna were sitting in the control room playing a board game when Orac abruptly announced, Program completed.

“Eh?”  Vila turned away from the game.  “What program?”

That information is restricted.

“What?  By who?”

The information is restricted to Kerr Avon.

“Avon.  Well in case you haven’t noticed, Orac, Avon is gone.  And he’s not likely to be back.”

Accepted.  The program allows for the information to be released to a second person in the event of his demise or if he should become permanently unavailable.

“Well I’d say this qualifies,” Dayna said.  “Who’s the other person?”

Vila Restal

“Me?”  Vila frowned.  “Why me?  I couldn’t care less about Avon’ stupid projects.  All right, go ahead Orac.”

Go ahead?  Ahead of what?  the computer snapped.  I must insist you phrase your questions more coherently.

“Just tell me what program Avon was running!”

That is better.  The program was a search pattern to determine the current location of Roj Blake.

“You’ve found Blake?”  Vila paused for a moment not sure how to react.  “Avon was looking for Blake?”

“Servalan told us he was dead.”  Dayna was clearly not convinced.  She moved to the communication panel.  “Soolin, Tarrant, you may want to come up here.”

Vila waited until the other two arrived before asking Orac, “So?  Where is he?”

The trail indicates that Blake is on Gauda Prime.

Soolin frowned.  “You’re certain?”

Of course I am certain. Orac sounded distinctly testy at having his declaration doubted.

“Doing what?”

If I understand your poorly articulated inquiry correctly then the answer is that Blake is working as what is colloquially termed a bounty hunter.

“Blake?”  Now Vila was the one to sound uncertain.  “That doesn’t sound like him.”

Tarrant shrugged, “You’re the one who knows him.  Do you want to try to find him?”

Vila looked startled.  “You’re asking me?”

“It’s not like we have anything better to do.”

“Well.  Um.  Yes, I suppose so

Soolin shook her head.  “I don’t like it.  Chasing ghosts isn’t enough reason for anyone with sense to go visiting G.P.”

“I think it is.  So that’s two for and one against. Dayna?”

Dayna shrugged.  “It can’t be any worse than some of the places we’ve been.”

“Three to one, we go then.  Do you want to stay behind, Soolin?”

She snorted.  “And be stuck here when the rest of you get yourselves killed?  No thanks.  I’ll come.”

 *

 They hadn’t been in orbit round Gauda for more than five minutes when the shooting started.

“Who the hell are they?” yelped Vila.

“It doesn’t make a difference now,” Tarrant said, grimly clinging to the controls.  “We’re falling.”

“We’re going to crash?”

“Well it’s certainly going to be a less than gentle landing.”

Vila looked around frantically.  “Can we teleport off?”

“At this speed?”  Dayna sounded sceptical.

“Well it’s more chance than we’ll have if we hit the ground at this speed,” Soolin pointed out.

“We can get Orac to operate it.  Come on Tarrant, let’s get out of here.”

Tarrant shook his head, “If I leave the controls the ship will flip over.  You need her steady for teleport.  I’m the only pilot here who can hold her.”

“Slave can do it,” Dayna protested.

“Half the automatics are fried.  He can’t do it.  Look, will you just get out of here before we all die?  Take Orac.”

Reluctantly the three of them stepped over to the teleport section, Vila carrying the computer.  “Put us down Orac.”

 *

 “I’ll watch the fire,” Vila volunteered.  Soolin and Dayna stared at him in surprise.

“I’m not sleepy.”

“If you say so.”

Vila sat watching the stove, occasionally adding a few sticks.  Soolin watched him for a while then got up and joined him.  “All right?”

Vila jumped, “Oh, you scared me!”

“Sorry.”

“I was just thinking.  Why was Avon looking for Blake?  He didn’t seem to care.”  Vila paused.  “It still feels strange being here without him.”

“You sound like you miss him.”  Soolin spoke lightly but was watching Vila closely.

“Maybe I do.  We weren’t exactly friends - I don’t think he knew the meaning of the word.  But four years is a long time to know someone and then they’re not there any more.  Or they change.  I never understood him.  It was always so hard to know what he was thinking.”

Soolin was about to answer when a noise from outside made her snap her head round to stare at the door.  Putting a finger to her lips, she motioned Vila to silence and moved to stand behind the door.  Moments later, two armed bounty hunters charged through.  Soolin caught one of them with the butt of her gun as he came through the door and shot the other as he spun round in response to his colleague’s yell of surprise.

“They must have seen the fire.  Stupid of us really.”

The commotion had awakened Dayna who sat up, looking round in confusion, “What happened?”

“We had visitors,” Soolin replied.  “They must have had a flyer.  Orac, can you locate it?”

Certainly.

Well do so then.  What about Blake?”

What about Blake? It was amazing, the level of irritation Orac could convey when it felt it was being asked unreasonable questions.

“Do you know where he is on the planet?”

Of course I do.  I would hardly have claimed to know his location otherwise.

 *

 “This is where Blake is?”  Vila asked sceptically as Soolin landed the flyer at Orac’s directions.

Correct.

Vila left the flyer and looked around, Soolin and Dayna joined him. 

“Which way?” Dayna wondered aloud.

Vila shrugged.  “I’m sure we’ll find someone sooner or later whichever way we go.  Or they’ll find us.”  He chose a corridor and headed down it, casting a worried look at the other two as an alarm started sounding. 

 They emerged into a large control room, to see Tarrant struggling with a technician.  Soolin’s weapon arm flew up and Tarrant’s attacker dropped to the floor. 

“Thanks.”  Tarrant looked away from Soolin to Vila.  “I think he’s here.” 

Vila stared at Tarrant, who looked like he was about to say more.  At that moment however, Blake and an armed woman entered the room.

“Is it him?”  Tarrant asked Vila.

“It’s him.”

“He’s sold us Vila, all of us.”

Vila stared at Blake and gave his head a little shake. 

“No,” he said, in little more than a whisper.  “No.”  A statement and a question and a plea.  “Blake?”

“It’s me Vila.”

“It’s not true?  You haven’t…”  He didn’t want to believe it, but somehow it was all too believable.  Another betrayal?  After the cautious trust he’d offered Avon had been so abruptly shattered over Malodaar he had sworn that was the last time such trust would be given.

Blake held up his hands in a placating gesture.  “Tarrant doesn’t understand.”  He walked slowly forward.  “Trust me, Vila.  You used to.”

Vila snorted bitterly, “I gave up trusting people.  It’s safer.  You wouldn’t be the first person I thought I knew, who’d tried to kill me recently.”

Blake was standing less than a foot away now and he reached out to grasp Vila’s shoulders.  “Trust me.”  His face was earnest and there was a plaintive, hurt look in his eyes that Vila had never thought to see there. 

“Vila…” Tarrant started in a warning tone.

“No, Tarrant.”  Vila cut him off.  “You’re wrong.  Blake wouldn’t give us to the Federation.” 

A broad grin spread across Blake’s face and Vila felt relief wash over him at the familiarity of the expression.  Blake may have changed, but at heart he was still the same person.

“Oh it’s good to see you again!  You don’t know what it’s been like!” Vila babbled, relief and excitement mingling to make his speech fast and loud.

“Well you’ll have plenty of time to tell me.  I set all this up, I…”  Blake was interrupted by the abrupt entrance of a distraught man who yelled, “Blake!  They’ve found us.  The base is under attack!”

Blake spun round in horror as the woman who had entered with him shot the man who had just dashed in.  “Arlen!” Blake cried out in shock.  As Arlen spun round to train her gun on Blake, Dayna reached for her own weapon and, in one movement, had drawn and fired it.  Arlen dropped to the floor. 

“I suppose that means we’re trusting Vila’s judgement about you,” Dayna said wryly, to Blake.  “He had better be right.  Is there another way out of here?”

“Arlen was Federation?” Blake murmured before visibly pulling himself together.  “The way back to the silo should still be clear.  You can escape in the flyer you came in.”

Vila had already turned to head back to the silo when he realised what Blake had said.

“What do you mean?  You’re coming too!”

“I can’t leave.  I’ve still got people here.  I can’t abandon them.”

Vila felt the relief and happiness at seeing Blake again abruptly drain away to be replaced with cold fear at losing him to a Federation massacre and his own idealism.  He raised his voice to shout, “Listen to that!  Anyone left out there is dead!  We’ve got to get out of here.  We’ve got to go now!”

Blake still stood fixed to the spot, shaking his head.  Vila stood and stared at him.  He knew he didn’t have Blake’s gift for persuasion and fear and frustration warred within him as he sought for the right words to change Blake’s mind. 

“Blake, be reasonable.  You can’t help them.  You have to leave.”

“So do we, Vila!” Tarrant shouted.  “Get moving!”

Soolin and Dayna were already at the door, looking back in confusion at the delay.

“Go!” Tarrant shouted at them and strode back across the tracking gallery to grab Vila’s arm.  “Come on, Vila.  What Blake does is up to him.  We’re out of time!”

“No!  Tarrant, let go!”  Vila yanked his arm free, “I’m not leaving without him.”  You want to stay and get yourself killed too? a nagging voice at the back of his mind asked.  He ignored it and repeated, “Blake, please.  You have to come too!”

“Vila!” Tarrant snapped, grabbing him again and giving him a shove towards the door.  “Move it!”

“Leave him alone.”  Blake stepped to intervene.  “It’s all right.  I’ll come.  Vila’s right.  It’s over here.”

Tarrant rolled his eyes.  “Some sense at last.  Let’s get out of here then.”

Together the three of them fled the tracking gallery, hearing shots echo after them as they ran for the flyer.

Soolin already had the power up and running as they boarded but slid aside to let Tarrant take the pilot’s position.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Vila muttered to himself nervously as the flyer lifted off and left the base.

“Shut up and strap yourself in, Vila.  That goes for the rest of you as well.  I’m reading several Federation atmospheric craft and I doubt they’re going to be keen to let us go on our merry way.  This flyer was not designed as a get-away vehicle.  It’s going to be a rough ride.”

Within a few minutes, Vila found himself feeling thoroughly grateful he hadn’t had a chance to eat since arriving on Gauda.  Tarrant was as good as his word and threw the flyer through a series of aerodynamically improbable and immensely uncomfortable manouvres, flinging the small craft through the air in a wild, desperate display of aerobatics.  Shots from their pursuers grazed the hull and detonated all around them, filling the viewscreen with white light.  Tarrant squinted against the glare, flying blind for long moments until the light faded.   Vila, who had made the mistake of opening his eyes at that moment, gave a panicked yelp and closed them again as the ground hurtled towards them.  Tarrant held his course a moment longer before hauling the flyer’s nose up and turning it towards the forest.  The flyer sped along a few feet from the ground, into the dense tree cover, and was soon lost from the view of the attacking ships.

Tarrant levelled off and cut their speed to less alarming rate.

“Do we have a destination in mind?” he asked without taking his eyes from the viewscreen.

“We had a fallback position, near one of the smaller towns north of the base,” Blake said.  He unbuckled his safety harness and moved to Tarrant’s side to point at the navigational display. 

“There.  That’s where we need to go.”


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