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Jabberwocky - part 14 - Malodaar

By Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 32

Malodar

"I'm not going. I don't care what you say, I'm not going and that's final." Vila Restal folded his arms across his chest and glared around Jabberwocky's flight deck with an impartial scowl, though it darkened slightly when his eyes came to rest on Avon.

      "But Vila," Cally protested. "Just because Egrorian and the tachyon funnel were part of my prophetic dream doesn't mean Avon has any intention of pushing you out of the shuttle over Malodar. Avon is quite different now, and you know it. Besides, my dream did not always parallel reality."

      "I don't care," Vila insisted. "I don't mean to complain or anything, and Avon's changed, we all know that, but I always say don't press your luck. Malodar was a trap in Cally's dream after all. Why should we believe it's safe now just because Egrorian's been sending little love notes to Avalon and the resistance?"

      "He does have a point," Avon observed dryly, though his eyes were darker than usual. "After all, in the old calendar they used to say a leopard couldn't change its spots. Why should Vila trust me?"

      Perren, the group's psych tech, skewed around in his chair and stared at Avon with the kind of fascinated interest an extinct leopard might have shown its prey, but he didn't say anything. Noticing the look, Avon returned it through narrowed eyes, then pointedly turned away.

      "What is a leopard?" Cally asked with interest.

      "An undomesticated feline, presumably a spotted one," Tarrant replied. The pilot seemed to know a number of esoteric historical facts and tended to spout them on occasion, but possibly Jabberwocky might be prompting him. Such information might well be contained in their ship's data banks.

      "It's a big, nasty cat," Gan put in unexpectedly.

      When everyone stared at Gan for his display of information, he grinned, spread his hands in a deprecating fashion and explained, "I saw a viscast, a historical play about life on the frontier when Earth still had them - frontiers, I mean. Wild animals attacked the settlers from time to time."

      "See," Vila put in. "I always said unsettled planets were dangerous, didn't I, Avon? Didn't I, Blake?"

      "Repeatedly, Vila," Blake replied, a grin on his face.

      "But then you think everything is dangerous, Vila," Avon pointed out. "So why should an unsettled planet be any more dangerous than a top security Federation base - or indeed, a shuttle with me?"

      "But Cally dreamed it."

      "It wasn't always exact, was it?" Tanz asked from his position beside Dayna. "I mean, I went over the crew logs and studied all the instances that tied to Cally's dream. Dr. Plaxton was a woman in the dream and died, and our Dr. Plaxton's a man, and he's alive and well. Servalan never was a commissioner, and Blake wasn't killed on Gauda Prime, and the Scorpio blew up and you never had to take on that Dorian character. So this will probably be different, too. Besides I want to see the tachyon funnel. Think what we could do if we had one. It'd be incredible."

      Cally had dreamed of Egrorian, a renegade Federation scientist, who, while in exile on the planet Malodar, had developed a tachyon funnel, a device that would destroy matter instantly at any range. In the dream, Egrorian had set a trap for them and Avon and Vila had found themselves with the tachyon funnel on a shuttle too heavy to escape the planet's gravitational pull. Avon had sought Vila through the ship with intent to toss him out to lighten the load. Though this had never happened, and though Avon had never descended to the depths of his counterpart in Cally's dream, Vila had always hated that part of the dream. Since getting Jabberwocky and learning the crew could, for brief periods, be drawn into a telepathic linkage with each other through Jabberwocky's artificially created telepathic powers, trust had blossomed amid the crew, and they were closer than ever before. Vila knew Avon wouldn't try to kill him now, but he didn't like to take unnecessary risks. Why strew temptation in Avon's path, after all?

      "I admit the tachyon funnel would be useful, and even if we never used it, I wouldn't want it to fall into Federation hands," Blake said thoughtfully, massaging his chin as he paced back and forth between the two rows of seats at the front of the flight deck. "But don't worry, Vila. You won't be the only one there. I shall come as well."

      "So will I," volunteered Perren unexpectedly. When Avon looked at him in surprise, he grinned. "I'm the closest thing you've got to a puppeteer. If anybody can read Egrorian and reason out what games he's up to, I'm your man. Besides," he added, grinning even more widely, "it will irritate Avon to have me along, and that's one of my joys in life."

      "Perhaps I should go as well," his friend Edge remarked. "After all, I am a physicist, the only one you've got."

      "Exactly," said Perren. "I'm not sure we need to risk you."

      "I will be able to determine whether or not the tachyon funnel is what it seems," Avon said. "Besides, I took one thing from Cally's dream. I designed the false Orac I had in it as a contingency plan. Since it seemed likely we might encounter Egrorian, I felt it would be a practical solution. It will prove particularly useful. I can use it to relay specifications to this ship which Edge can assist to interpret. The fewer people down there the better. I don't know if you're needed, Vila. You may rest easy, safe on the ship. We can have you teleport if necessary. I'm not sure why you should go either, Blake," he said, frowning at their leader. "Except, of course, to prove you won't send one of us where you won't go."

      "I'm going because Egrorian asked for me specifically, Avon," Blake explained, smiling at the computer tech. "As you'll remember, I wasn't present in Cally's dream until the end. Egrorian could hardly send for me within its limitations. This time he has. I think you, Perren, and I should make an excellent team with Edge standing by on Jabberwocky to read Orac's information."

      "So do I," Vila agreed brightly.

      "Some of us will need to stay on base because of the second mindship," Jenna put in. "Cally in particular."

      The Auron nodded. "Once the ship is fully functional, my telepathic skills will not be needed but until it is completely ready, I am the only one who can reach the pilot telepathically besides Avon, and Avon is needed on the mission." She did not add what all of them knew, that Cally was better able to deal sympathetically with the man who had volunteered to donate his brain for the second mindship, a man so gravely injured only his brain still lived. "However, I must be here to complete the work." She looked at Perren. "Since you must go to assess Egrorian, I am needed here the more."

      "I should stay, too," Tanz volunteered reluctantly. He, Edge and Perren were closer than brothers and none of the three enjoyed being separated by missions. "One of the three of us needs to be here to run tests on the psi linkage." He turned to his two friends. "You two watch yourselves."

      "Yes, without you there we'll undoubtedly fall into dire peril," Perren teased. "Don't worry, buddy. We're as prepared for this as we can get."

      "I will stay as well," Jenna volunteered. "I have tests scheduled with the crew of the second mindship. They need a pilot, and Tarrant must accompany you because of Jabberwocky. I can work with the proposed pilot; we've put in a lot of time so far, and I want him to keep his hand in. You will need to be careful, Blake."

      "We will," Avon said pointedly. "Is there anyone else who wants off."

      "On the contrary, Avon, there is someone who wants on," Jabberwocky interrupted. "Since we are not scheduled to leave for three hours, Kyl has asked permission to come aboard."

      "If he thinks to go on the mission..." Avon began, knowing his son often tried to wheedle his way along on Jabberwocky's missions and determined not to permit it this time, since the mission in Cally's dream had been so dangerous.

      "No such luck, old man," Vila teased as if in an attempt to atone for his earlier wariness. "Pry him away from his new girlfriend? Not likely."

      "Have you met her yet, Avon?" Hugh Tiver asked. "A very nice girl. She's been through a lot, escaping from a prison planet where she was sent when someone in her family was convicted as a resister. She's a devoted rebel. You'd like her, Blake. I think Kyl is good for her."

      "Yes, I've met Cella," Avon replied. It still stunned him to believe his son was old enough to be attracted to the opposite sex, though it shouldn't. Kyl was sixteen. "Hugh is correct. You'd like her, Blake. She is rather obsessed with the idea of rebellion. Now who does that remind me of?" he queried whimsically.

      "I haven't seen her," Blake replied. "If Kyl wants to bring her aboard, that's fine, but the visit will need to be short. What about you, Vila? Coming along for the ride?"

      Vila hesitated, eyeing Avon out of the corner of his eye, then he shrugged elaborately. "Oh, all right, I'll come, even if I won't go down to the planet. But don't say I didn't warn you, everybody."


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