Jabberwocky - part 11 - OverloadBy Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 15
"We could always kill her," Dayna
suggested as if she were volunteering for the task. It was hard to
believe Dayna was not the original Dayna he'd first met at Gauda
Prime. Jabberwocky had done a superb job recreating her memories, her
attitudes, her very essence. He'd managed to retain her hatred for
Servalan, and Dayna hated the fact that the former president of the
Federation was actually held on their previously secure base. She
made no secret of her distrust for the woman.
"She'll be useful to us in the long run," Blake reminded her. "Avalon's hoping to use her in a prisoner exchange. From the sound of it, we'll be getting the better of the deal."
"Giving them Servalan?" Tarrant asked sceptically. "I can't see it. She's the major threat against us. I don't like the idea of letting her go."
"Neither do I, Blake," Jenna agreed.
"I do not like keeping her here," Cally said more quietly. "If it is true that she got to a guard, what else can she do? If it's true Arpel is prepared to pay highly for her, we ought to consider that."
"Why does he want her back so badly?" asked Hugh. "We've defeated her every time we've encountered her." He grinned suddenly. "Of course if he really does have rebel leanings, he might consider that an advantage. We know her, after all. We know how far she'll go and what she'll do. He could get her back and limit her resources and set her after us. It would look good for him and protect us."
"Of course that depends on whether Arpel's a closet rebel or not," said Soolin practically. "He might just want us to think he is."
Blake had considered that - he had to. He'd spent several intensive hours with Avalon trying to decide just how far the Supreme Commander might be trusted to keep his word in a prisoner exchange and how likely it was that he would give them some degree of support. It hadn't been resolved yet, and Avon, who had also attended the meeting, had been highly sceptical of the entire thing. His open distrust of Servalan had rather amused Avalon, who had reminded him several times that their prisoner couldn't escape. It seemed she had come close to being wrong.
"I don't know which it is," Jabberwocky said, jumping into the conversation. "But I don't trust Servalan at all. Another thing that worries me is that Witt might do something."
"Witt!" echoed Blake in stunned disbelief. A former undercover agent working for Servalan, Witt was a skilled telepath who had infiltrated the crew and taken possession of Jabberwocky. Unable to harm his link-mate, even when he didn't want him, Jabberwocky had finally rid the link of the agent by refusing to filter out the extraneous data that he processed constantly. The influx had come close to burning out Witt, and he had emerged childlike and helpless. Avalon had taken him in, giving him basic tasks to retrain him, and he'd shown no signs of regaining control of his telepathy. Neither had he displayed any loyalty to Servalan.
"Surely not," Cally disagreed. "He couldn't even control his telepathy any more."
"It's been some time," Jabberwocky replied. "He's come out of it a lot. They say he's started to heal again. One thing I know, he was one of the sneakiest people I ever met. If he started to come back, no one would know it. He'd keep it hidden. I think you should have Avalon keep an eye on him. I don't trust him either."
It was something to consider. Blake frowned. "Maybe I should go talk to Avalon again," he decided. "If Servalan nearly got away, we've got to reconsider our plans to guard her." He glanced around. "Hugh, why don't you come too. If we see Witt, you'd be best able to tell if he's faking."
Blake and Hugh found Avon before them in Avalon's office, his face grim. When his crewmates entered, he turned to them and nodded. "So you have heard the latest," he observed.
Blake found himself studying Avon, trying to decide if anything obviously wrong could be detected in his friend's manner, but all he could sense was Avon's annoyance at Servalan's near escape. Avon had always been good at hiding things, but since Avon had 'healed' him twice, Blake felt he knew him better.
Avalon came forward and gave Blake her hand in greeting. "Hello, Blake, Hugh. I take it you've heard the latest."
"Servalan?" Blake asked. "What happened?"
"She had the same night guard for a week. Somehow she managed to win him over to her side. I should have sworn he was loyal to us, but she made him fall in love with her. He had her nearly out of the building before they were spotted and recaptured." She looked irritated, tossing her dark hair back from her face with an impatient gesture. "I should have been more careful. Jenkiss is young and susceptible, though I should have thought him quite dedicated."
"She's locked up tightly again?" Blake asked. "What's the word on the exchange? How much longer do we need to keep her here?"
"We hope to manage the exchange within the week," Avalon replied. She spun around to her desk and began to punch up data on her computer screen. "Arpel says he'll send a small flotilla to meet us at a neutral point of our choosing. He'll take possession of Servalan and give us Ralla and Kit, the two agents they took on Earth last year. Of course any useful information they might have had would be out of date."
"And they will likely be programmed," Avon said sharply. "I do not trust this scheme."
"Then what do you recommend instead, Avon?" Blake asked him.
"Perhaps Servalan should be tried and convicted for her crimes," Avon returned smoothly, though an element of urgency ran through his voice that Blake doubted Avalon would notice. "If she were sentenced to death for her crimes against humanity, no one could complain that she had been killed out of hand, which has always been your reason for refusing to do it. Killing her is the only sensible possibility."
"If we kill her, no one outside our organization will believe we gave her a fair trial," Avalon disagreed. "I want to present us as an opposition government, not a terrorist organization."
"Governments have the authority to execute spies and traitors," Avon insisted coldly. "Letting her live is a mistake. I hope we won't all pay the price for it one day soon." He left abruptly without looking back and Avalon stared after him in some surprise.
"He's been in a black humour for days, Roj. I know he's worried about her being here and this latest debacle with Jenkiss only confirms his suspicions. I wish it were over one way or another. How has he been on the ship?"
Blake chuckled sourly. "He's seldom been on the ship, I'm afraid. I'd half assumed he was avoiding Dayna, but I don't think that's it. I think it has something to do with Servalan. Is there any way we can speed up the exchange?"
"None that won't put the exchange ship at risk. I'm not using Jabberwocky, Blake. For one thing, the mindship is too valuable to risk, and for another, you and the rest of your crew might just be too great a temptation for Arpel and his flotilla. I've contacted Dorn Suliman instead. He's not officially a member of the resistance movement, but his loyalty is with us all the same."
"Jabberwocky won't like that," Hugh replied. Dorn had never fully adjusted to his father's present state, but he was gradually doing better, and he'd come into port two days ago. Since Tarrant - who had graduated in Dorn's class at the academy - was currently Jabberwocky's link-pilot, Dorn was somewhat leery of him but he'd unbent enough to go out drinking with Tarrant and then return to the ship, made mellow with drink, to sit on the flight deck talking with his father. Jabberwocky had been cheerful ever since. No, he wouldn't like the idea of his son taking that kind of risk, not with Servalan.
"I think it's for the best," she replied. She studied the data on the screen. "Everything's under control now. Avon gave me a direct link to Servalan's cell so I can monitor her at any time. See?"
Blake leaned forward to look. Servalan sat on the bench there, clad in prison fatigues that seemed incongruous on a woman Blake was accustomed to seeing in a floor length gown. Since assuming the identity of Sleer, now a Space Commander, she had worn her hair curly as part of her disguise, and it had grown a little longer than he was accustomed to. She was a lovely woman, even in the fatigues, and Blake could understand something of the young officer's temptation, though he didn't feel drawn to her himself. He sometimes wondered how Avon viewed her, but she was one of the few topics that Avon avoided except to plan her downfall. He never spoke of her on a more personal level, and Blake had never asked.
"She doesn't look dangerous, does she?" he asked. "I imagine she could appear quite helpless and put upon to someone easy to manipulate. I hope you mean to keep Witt away from her. Jabberwocky isn't sure the changes in him are permanent."
"Witt! I don't think he's seen her. But you're right, he was in love with her before Jabberwocky finished with him. He might be trouble. I'll put a man on him just to make sure."
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