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Word of Honour

By Michael Miles
Page 1 of 2

Tarrant was in the firing range Dayna had installed, shooting at targets. The targets were coming thick and fast but he was keeping up with them, his score and the time taken for each hit clicking up on the display. Cally sighed he must have been fighting with Avon again.

"There you are I've been looking for you." She said brightly.

"Just keeping my hand in. It doesn't hurt to stay sharp."

"No I suppose not." She paused as Tarrant turned off the targets. "So what was the argument about this time?"

Tarrant opened his mouth to say something and then stopped, giving her his most boyish grin he conceded, " We can't get anything by you can we? It's nothing really. Just Avon being his normal self."

"Have you thought of not acting your normal self? It might make things a bit easier."

"Why would I want to settle for an easy life?" Tarrant asked in that arrogant way of his.

"Well for one thing it would be safer. You shouldn't push Avon to far Tarrant."

"Just who are you afraid for? We all know how you feel about Avon, don't worry if it comes to it I promise to give him an even chance."

"Oh you fool Tarrant." Did he really think Avon would give him an even chance? "Your just a little boy who happens to have grown tall really, aren't you?" With that she walked to the door. Pausing she turned and said. " Avon never practises at all. You might want to think why that is."

"He's that good is he?"

"No, guess again." She called over her shoulder as she left.

Cally found Avon in the teleport section working with Orac. She sat down next to him. "What are you doing?"

"Just a little research. I've got Orac looking for any decent pilots that may be currently unemployed."

"That's not necessary is it?"

"Well we could fly the Liberator with the help of Zen and Orac normally but the sort of situations we find ourselves in it's best to have a good combat pilot on board."

"That's not what I meant. We have a good pilot on board."

"Really? First Tarrant comes up with a scheme to steal a consignment of kairopan, which nearly lost us the Liberator, and then he nearly gets Vila killed by that maniac Bayban. I think it is time to dump Tarrant on the first planet we come to."

"You can't do that"

"You think it would be tidier just to kill him?"

"That's not funny Avon! Tarrant is a good pilot and we need him. Can't you find some way to get along with him?"

"What do you suggest? We get drunk together, do a bit of male bonding."

Cally rolled her eyes in frustration. Honestly men! Sometimes she wanted to knock their heads together. "You wanted to run the Liberator well part of the job is handling the crew, getting the best from them."

"Man management was never one of my strengths." Avon said managing to make the task sound beneath him.

"Blake would have been able to handle Tarrant." She said playing her trump card and was pleased to see the annoyance in Avon's eyes.

"Oh yes I'm sure Blake would only have had to say 'Tarrant I want you to throw your life away on a totally pointless mission that serves no purpose' and Tarrant would fall over himself to do it."

"I know Tarrant can be arrogant and impulsive sometimes but that's not a reason to give up on him." Cally smiled sweetly. "I'm sure you could keep him out of trouble if you wanted to. Your so much cleverer then the rest of us."

Avon sighed and removed Orac's key. When Cally started using sarcasm it was best to give in. "I suppose I'll have to. Since the galactic war there's a galaxy wide shortage of experienced pilots and most of them are employed by Servalan."

Cally tried not to let her relief show. "What are you and Tarrant arguing about this time?"

"An old acquaintance of Tarrant's has made contact with him. He's offering to sell us the transponder codes for all Federation ships. Tarrant, of course, can't wait to do a deal."

"But those codes would be invaluable to us. With them we could locate any federation ship before it got anywhere near us."

"Exactly." Avon said as if his point had been proven beyond argument but seeing the question in Cally's eyes added. " Can you think of any better bait?"

"You think it is a trap? What does Tarrant think?"

"Tarrant thinks, and I quote, 'Tarn knows me, he knows I'd kill him if he tried to double-cross us'. It never occurred to Tarrant that if Tarn succeeds in double-crossing us that wouldn't be a problem."

"But if Tarrant is willing to take the risk..."

"Tarrant is always willing to take the risk. The more stupid, the more dangerous the better. Or haven't you noticed?"

"There must be someway to set this up safely. If we are careful it should be possible to at least see what this Tarn has to offer." Cally began to work trough the possibilities in her head.

"That's what I've been saying all along." Said Tarrant as he entered the teleport section. "We have to make a decision soon, I've just had a message from Tarn he wants to set up a meeting."

Avon got to his feet and started heading for the flight deck. "All right, I think its time I spoke to this Tarn myself."

...............................................

The flyer skimmed across the surface of the hottest, most barren desert on the desert planet of Apacua. Tarrant was piloting, Avon was in the seat next to him checking the non-functional communications set.

In the end the arrangements had been made quite easily, though both sides had warily added more and more conditions, just to show how much they trusted one another. The meeting was agreed but Avon had insisted he would need two days to get to Apacua and then got there in one, to check the place out first. Tarn had refused to let them teleport directly to his location but instead insisted they came down where a land crawler would be waiting for them. The crawler was to scan them and if they had left their teleport bracelets and guns behind it would take them to Tarn's location on auto-guidance. When Avon had insisted on a flyer instead of a crawler, Tarn had claimed he couldn't get one in time but seeing Avon was not going to budge he finally agreed.

Avon closed the panel he had been poking about under. The communicator was useless, half the pieces were missing. He thought about what Cally had said to him just before she teleported them down. They had been alone and she had looked at him as if seeing right into his soul.

"Why are you suddenly so keen on this?" she'd said.

"The codes could be invaluable. You said so yourself." It was true so he didn't know why it felt like a lie.

"Is Tarrant going to meet with an accident down there?"

"If you want a prediction ask Orac."

"I'm not asking for a prediction; I want a promise. I want you to promise me that Tarrant is coming back alive."

A shiver as though someone was walking over his grave brought Avon back to the present and he cursed himself for his lack of concentration; he was going to need his wits about him.

They arrived at the rendezvous point. It was just the same as the surrounding desert, a grid reference, nothing more. Below them they could see a land crawler with a single figure standing near it. Tarrant flew in a wide circle around them.

"It all looks clear, no sign of life for kilometres." Tarrant eased the controls back to begin the decent. " This is why you insisted on the flyer isn't it?"

Avon favoured him with a sour look. " Would you really have just gone in there blind?"

Tarrant laughed. " There's no need to be so nervous. Tarn's not that dangerous, you'll see."

The flyer swooped round in an arc and came to a perfect landing twenty metres from the land crawler. They got out and started walking towards the crawler at the same time Tarn headed for them. They all met halfway beside a large rock that was the only feature in the sea of sand around them.

Tarn was a slight figure with thinning hair, he had a way of never quite looking directly at you that marked him out as a delta. He stopped in front of them, obviously nervous, careful to keep his hands in plain view.

"You've done this like I said, no nasty tricks up your sleeve?" Tarn liked his lips and glanced at the flyer as if he expected someone to jump from it shooting. Seemingly reassured when nothing happened he added. "Have you got the money?"

Tarrant placed a package on the ground between him and Tarn. "Alright now where are the codes?"

"Ah that's the thing." Said Tarn looking up from the package. "I don't have them. Never did as a matter of fact."

Before they could react two Amagons appeared beside Tarn as they turned off their chameleon suits. There was nothing they could do except hold their hands up in surrender. Tarrant glanced across at Avon expecting him to be furious but if anything he was more nonchalant then ever.

Now that they were his prisoners Tarn visibly relaxed. He began giving orders to the two Amagons but they started to argue about something. Eventually Tarrant realised the Amagons wanted to leave in the flyer but Tarn would not let them.

"We stick to the plan." He insisted. " We send the flyer back empty rigged to crash halfway."


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