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Death Duel

By Catherine Salmon
Page 2 of 3

Morning light found them on the move again. They continued to search the area, looking for any signs of Travis or his unknown companion. Frustrated, Blake stopped by a large tree.

"I'm going to climb up. Maybe I'll be able to see some sign from there."

Avon merely nodded, watching Blake scramble up the steeply sloped trunk with no small degree of amusement. But as Blake settled near the top, Avon decided on a little scouting of his own. Pausing momentarily to assure himself that Blake was firmly perched, he moved off to his right, skirting the edge of a small clearing. Strange, it is quieter here, almost as if ... Sensing another presences, he spun around, ready to fight. A mutoid! He brought up his staff as he opened his mouth to shout a warning but the mutoid's hands closed tightly around his throat as the spear was yanked from his hands. Vision clouding, still he struggled, managing to twist round enough to see Travis standing behind him, spear in hand. The last thing he saw was Travis's knife, as the butt came down on his head.

Blake, meanwhile, descended from his lookout in a shower of bark and leaves. Picking himself up, he called for his companion. When no response was forthcoming, he began to look around, searching for some sign of the tech. Damn it, Avon. It would serve you right if I left you here. Near the edge of a clearing, he stopped. Avon's spear was lying there, broken in two. A cold chill tightened the rebel's chest.

"Blake! Blake, can you hear me?"

His head jerked up. Travis!

"I know you're there, Blake. I know you're close by."

The rebel listened closely, trying to pin point the direction of the voice.

"Hear me, Blake. I have your friend."

Ice washed through Blake's veins, Sinofar's words echoing in his ears, the death of a friend. Cautiously, he headed in the direction of the voice, spotting another small clearing.

"Your friend will die, Blake, unless you give yourself up."

Blake stopped at the edge of the clearing. Avon was there, bound and gagged to the base of a tree. And he was apparently alone. With a quick glance around, Blake rushed over, dropping to his knees, knife out, cutting Avon loose from the tree. But Avon was struggling to speak through the gag, gesturing for Blake to look up. Finally, Blake did.

"Now!" Travis's order was screamed with a kind of triumph as the mutoid released the spiked platform.

Desperately, Blake grabbed Avon and rolled, the spikes driving into the ground where they both had been seconds before. Breathing heavily, Blake rose, sheathing his knife and grabbing his spear.

"I am here, Travis. Let Avon go."

"Oh, come now, Blake. You don't really expect me to do that. Besides my mutoid is getting a little hungry."

The sadistic smile on Travis's face sent a shiver down Blake's spine. He spared a quick glance towards the comp tech as the mutoid approached. In that instant, Travis attacked. The force of his charge sent the rebel leader sprawling on his back. With a snarl of animal passion, Travis leapt upon him, seizing his spear and forcing it down across the burly rebel's throat. Blake struggled against the pressure but in his position he could get no leverage. Travis's weight bore down on him and he began to feel light-headed, his vision cloudy. Faintly, he heard a voice call his name.

"Blake!"

Avon was getting desperate. While Travis and Blake had been struggling, the mutoid had attacked. But Avon was determined not to be defeated by what he considered a machine. He had faced it, kicking out with his bound legs when it tried to approach. It was weakened, by the falls or lack of serum, Avon wasn't sure, but it had him now. Coming at him from the side, it had rolled him over and was straddling him.

"Blake!"

This time the rebel reacted. It was Avon. I can't let Travis win. Not this time. Not Avon. His mind racing desperately, he decided. Relaxing partially, he let Travis cut off his oxygen completely. Ignoring Avon's anguished shout, he held his breath. Travis's legs shifted as he prepared to rise, sure of his final victory. Now! Blake seized Travis by the shoulders, ramming a knee up into his groin. Gasping in agony, Travis doubled up, crumpling to the ground, the spear long forgotten. But not by Blake. Shaking his head, he gained his feet, bringing the spear with him. With grim menace, he placed it against Travis's heart, ready to drive it home.

"Goodbye, Travis."

But he hesitated, unable to do it. And then his attention was captured by Avon's struggle, his name being called in desperation. Snapping his head round, he saw the mutoid kneeling astride the tech. Horrified, he watched the mutoid grip his helpless victim's face, exposing the jugular vein. And then Blake saw the needle. Avon gave a choked off scream as it entered, shocking Blake back to awareness.

"Avon, no!"

With all his strength, Blake threw his spear. He spared no thought for Travis or for Sinofar's words. All he knew was that his friend was in danger and that he was his only hope. And he smiled as the spear hit its target, the mutoid falling away from the still bound tech. Blake breathed a sign of relief. He would not have to experience the death of a friend: Avon's Death. He stepped forward to where Avon lay, blood trickling slowly from the wound in his neck. But at Blake's approach, Avon looked up and yelled.

"Blake! Look out!"

In his relief over Avon's apparent safety, Blake had forgotten his enemy. But Travis had regained his feet and his knife. With sickening certainty, Blake knew the warning came too late. He started to turn when he felt the impact, Travis's knife stabbing deep into his back. He gasped as the shock and agony drove him to his knees. And, faintly, he saw the pain he felt reflected in Avon's dark eyes. Damn, that was stupid. I should have known better than to turn my back on him. He could sense Travis's approach. Well, this is it then. Travis has finally won. Avon, I'm so sorry. I always knew you cared. I just wanted you to admit it to yourself. Clenching his teeth against the pain, he remained on his knees, too exhausted to rise. Unable to resist a final gloating confrontation, Travis stopped behind him.

"It's finally over, Blake. And I've won. But I have one more duty to perform first." He turned away from Blake towards the fallen comp tech, knowing this would be his real revenge. Avon's death would hurt Blake much more than anything else he could do. The ties Blake felt for the tech had been written plainly across his face while he watched the mutoid's attack. And Avon was still virtually helpless, bound as he was, unable to escape.

Blake gasped as Travis turned away.

"No!"

Avon's eyes were wide but resigned. He knew he could not escape death this time. But at least he would not have to watch Blake die, knowing that he could do nothing to save him. He sought Blake's eyes once more. If this was to be the end...

"I'm sorry, Blake."

Travis paused in his approach but a second but the words cut through Blake like a knife. It had all been a lie! Avon never really believed what he had said and he had thought that Avon hated him. He couldn't let Travis kill him. Not now, not ever! Painfully, he drew his knife. One hand braced against his thigh, the other drew back and he threw it, unhesitatingly, with all his remaining strength. His aim was true and Travis fell forward, at Avon's feet, the knife embedded in the back of his neck. Blake sighed his relief, slowly sinking forward into the ground.

"Goodbye, Travis."

Avon worked free of his bindings, rubbing them furiously against the rough bark of the tree, and stumbled over to the rebel's side. Blake was still breathing but he had collapsed on his stomach, the blood pulsing from his wound with every raspy breath.

"Blake?"

Avon touched his neck. The pulse was weak but still... He had won. Sinofar had agreed to free the victor. He removed his jacket. He had to stop the bleeding or Blake would not make it back to the Liberator. He stared at the knife protruding from the rebel's back. It would have to be removed. He touched Blake's shoulder and the big man stirred, flinching at the light pressure.

"Don't... hurts."

"I am sorry, Blake, but I will not let you bleed to death. I am going to remove the knife."

Blake's eyes widened slightly at the determination and honest regret in his companion's voice. But it was just too difficult to answer. He nodded slightly, hands clenching in preparation. Avon leaned over, one hand against the rebel's back, the other gripped the knife. Slowly, so as not to do further damage, he pulled it out, tossing it to the side. Blake had been remarkably silent but his ragged breathing betrayed his struggle. Avon placed his wadded jacket against the wound, using light pressure to slow the bleeding. But even his delicate touch brought a moan from the injured man. Shifting his position, Avon rested Blake's head against his leg. Blake's eyes were open but unfocused. He tried to look up but Avon placed his hand against the too cool face.

"Rest, Blake. Conserve your strength."

A faint smile touched the rebel's lips.

"Too late, but thank you all the same. My friend."

Blake's eyes drifted shut.

"No! Blake!"

Avon's heart seemed to stop. No! You cannot die. The victor and his crew were to go free. He slid his hand down to the rebel's throat. No pulse. He took a deep breath and screamed out his anguish.

"No!"


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