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The Guns of Avalon

By Alicia Ann Fox
Page 1 of 1

The authorities made the mistake of sending only a single guard to fetch Jenna Stannis from her cell; a clumsy guard, at that. He fell over her outstretched boot with the satisfying thump of a felled tree. That same boot connected with his helmet at just the right angle, and in moments she was bracing the adjustable stock of his rifle on her arm, peering out into the corridor. Empty. Jenna took her chance and went, with only a slightly quickened step.

Later that evening she sat in a darkened niche of a bar called "The Jerusalem Inn"; the rifle was concealed in the folds of the short green cloak which she had recovered, along with her money, at gunpoint. Her neck-length and unfortunately distinctive blond hair was covered by the voluminous hood of that same cloak, the current fashion among pilots in this sector, ubiquitous in this port city of Samos.

Jenna sipped cautiously at the pale brown liquid in her cup and waited, watching the door. She knew that Jerusalem Inn was often used as a meeting point for rebel gunrunners; a smuggler herself and a pilot of some ability, she felt sure that she could procure passage off the planet.

Her gaze sharpened on a new arrival; a fairly young man, average height (taller than she was), pale brownish hair, pale grey eyes. Perfectly ordinary, down to his itinerant dockworker boots, but Jenna had noted the Freedom Party medallion visible through the unzipped portion of his coverall. That was surprising. She had not realized that the Freedom Party had spread to the fringe worlds before its untimely end on Earth.

The man stopped in the middle of the oval-shaped room, sweeping it with his eyes, and then making a show of checking his chronometer. Apparently the time was satisfactory but what-or who-he saw in the bar was not. He plunged his hands into his pockets and turned on his heel towards the bar in the center of the room; and stopped. He headed purposefully for Jenna's table.

Jenna tensed. Her table was in a wall niche and separated from its neighbors by a partition. This cut down considerably on the lighting and should have rendered her features indistinct; so why had he chosen her?

The man halted before her. "You're a pilot, aren't you." It was not a question. With sudden relief Jenna remembered the significance of the cloak she had chosen because she liked the cut.

"Yes."

He sat down without being invited and folded his hands on the table. "Are your services for hire?"

"It depends. I don't run Shadow." That refusal had gotten her into trouble in the first place.

He looked faintly affronted. "No--that wasn't what I had in mind at all."

Jenna decided to preserve her image. She didn't want to pounce on his offer. "Can you pay?"

"Enough."

"I'm willing to talk business." She pushed her hood back, and he drew in his breath sharply.

"You're younger than I thought--but it doesn't matter. My pilot didn't show up tonight."

"This is an urgent run, then. I won't up the price for you."

He nodded. "Fairly honest. Thank you. My name is Sullivan."

"Jenna Stannis. What's the cargo?"

Sullivan glanced casually around the room and ordered Janx. He waited until the waiter had gone before replying, "Guns. We provide the ship."

Jenna appeared to consider, but in fact was pleased that she had found a way off the planet so easily. "What sort of ship?"

"A Ganymede 90."

"Top speed?"

"Time distort six."

Jenna raised an eyebrow. "At the expense of the life support systems, no doubt."

Sullivan grinned engagingly. "As a matter of fact, no. We have an exemplary mechanic."

Jenna stood and tossed a half-credit on the table to pay for her drink. "Let's have a look at it." Sullivan rose and followed her out, affecting not to notice the gun she cradled under her cloak. "Which way?" He pointed left and they set out. It was as close to full night as it could get on a planet with three moons. Streetlights were few and far between, but Jenna raised her hood once again, tensing each time someone stepped out of a side street or doorway.

Jerusalem Inn was only a short distance from Helios Port, a distance easily covered on foot. Soon Sullivan halted before the ship. The name Percival was painted on the prow. Jenna walked around it, surveying it critically; Sullivan punched in the locking code and allowed her to examine the interior as well. Having flown this class of ship before, Jenna knew exactly what to look for; and she was very pleased with what she found.

"You have a magnificent mechanic," she said warmly.

"Why thank you. I'm the mechanic, by the way," he added quickly, smiling. "You'll take the job, then?"

"I accept the contract at the going rate."

"Good, good. I'll take you to meet our coordinator."

#

The "coordinator" was a very short and stocky man. He could not have stood more than 5'2" without his boots, which were exactly like Sullivan's except for their layer of grime. His coverall was dark brown, and he wore a red cord, thick and braided, tied round his not-quite-flabby middle. "Gerard," he said, extending a hand. Jenna blinked; there was no grease in the creases of his hands, or under his nails. He hadn't been working the docks. It was a good, though obvious, cover for a rebel, however. A dockworker could be seen without being seen.

Gerard ushered Jenna and Sullivan into his room. Had she not been virtually assured of safety, Jenna would never have come to this part of town.

"Bit young for a freelance, aren't you?" he asked jovially.

Now I get pumped. "Old enough. I practically grew up in the pilot's seat of a Skyfire."

"One of those, hmm? Pilot's brat."

"Technician's brat," Jenna corrected. "Does this have anything to do with--"

"No, no. Just curious, young woman. Stannis." He changed the subject. "You have reasonable rates for a high-risk job."

Jenna surprised herself by answering, "I want off the planet."

"Fine, fine...you'll be going to Earth." Gerard stopped and waited for her reaction. Sullivan only smiled irritatingly. Jenna did not answer, and eventually stared them down.

"Fine," Gerard repeated. "You can leave tomorrow, 0900."

"The course program will be sitting on the shelf below the main viewing screen. Good luck."

Jenna found herself wandering down the street, half her payment tucked into an inside pocket. Trusting, aren't they. But she had given her word. Next morning at 0900 on the tick Jenna and the Percival were lifting from Helios Port. Her journey was uneventful save for a brief encounter with three Federation Hermes-class vessels; two she destroyed and the last she escaped. At least I'm earning my pay. They had called the going rate "reasonable"; she called it hefty.

When Jenna landed Percival in a small, dark field--the sensor beams were invisible--she was greeted by a group of eight rebels, dressed in nearly identical fatigues, males and females alike. They helped her to unload the guns and then one, an older bearded man, escorted her to a meeting room, underground as was common among those wishing to hide. Who they found there surprised her. It was not a grizzled old guerrilla, but a woman.

She was youngish, with red hair about the length of Jenna's own, wearing a grey shirt and fatigue jacket, somewhat too large. "You're Jenna Stannis," she said.

"Yes."

"Thank you so much for your risk." She handed over the rest of Jenna's money. "My name is Avalon."

Strange name...code?

"It was good to do business with you, Avalon. Should you ever need a good pilot, keep me in mind."

Avalon looked interested. "You would join the rebellion?"

"Perhaps, someday; just now I'm going to buy myself another ship."

"You have your own kind of freedom, then. I wish you happiness."

"And I you." Jenna was escorted out, feeling strangely troubled. The veiled power and peace in the woman's eyes had drawn her, and she had the feeling she might someday be drawn into the rebellion. But not today. Today was for smuggling in a sleek little ship...perhaps another Skyfire....


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Alicia Ann Fox

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