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Nothing Ever Goes as Planned

By Alicia Ann Fox, Michael Driver
Page 3 of 3

"Do we know when the next message is due?" Dayna asked.

+One point seven hours.+

"Thank you, Zen," she said, surprised. "When we get there, we get another message, and so on?"

"We're flying blind," commented Tarrant uneasily.

"And we have no idea how long it will be before we reach our mysterious destination," Dayna added.

"But there is a possibility that we will find Blake." Tarrant's tone made it clear it although he recognized the risk, he intended to go along.

"Yes," Cally said.

Dayna smiled broadly. "Is sounds all settled to me."

From the weaponry station, Vila spoke up. "I think we have a problem. I don't think Avon will be awake in one point seven hours."

"Then we will test for subliminals the next time."

"Or the next," Vila said glumly. "We won't know until we're even farther down the lion's throat...."

In fact, the spaces between the messages grew longer each time, so even after the third message, when Avon had awakened, there was a long wait before the subliminals theory could be tested. Also extra travel time was added when Liberator was forced to around an area of space that Zen classified as possibly dangerous to the ship. Avon's consent to be a "guinea pig" had been given grimly end with faint signs of trepidation; yet he had given his consent nonetheless. He did not like the thought of manipulation any more now than he had when he'd first boarded the Liberator.

There was twenty minutes before the next message, the fourth, was to arrive. Tarrant and Avon sat on the flight deck couch, for once not saying anything at all to each other. Vila slept in his cabin. Cally went to visit Dayna with a very specific purpose in mind.

"I need a stunner. Hand-held. Small enough to fit in my pocket."

Dayna eyed her narrowly. "You'll use it if you have to, won't you?"

"Yes."

"I thought so. Good." She took something from a drawer and pressed it into Cally's hand. As all of Dayna's creations of the past year were, it was an aesthetic weapon. The stunner was molded into the most comfortable handgrip Cally had ever held.

"Thank you," she said solemnly. "I'll return it soon." Then she returned to the flight deck, to join Tarrant and Avon. Time passed in silence.

Cally had been watching a countdown on the wristwatch she'd donned, so was prepared when the burst of computer noise filled the flight deck. Used to the sound after two repetitions, Tarrant wasn't surprised either; however, the effect on Avon was startling if not unexpected. He had been sitting, toying with a light-pencil, but with the onset of the sound got to his feet automatically.

+Arrival confirmed.+

"We're there," Tarrant said, then stopped and stared at Avon.

"I've got to go," Avon muttered to himself. "Go down there. Of course. I'll go down. I've got to go down...."

Tarrant said to Cally, "This is a bit more extreme than I'd expected."

"Avon?" Oblivious, and still intently muttering that he had to go, Avon began walking off the flight deck. Cally followed, shouting back, "I'll handle this. Tarrant, call the others."

"Teleport. Go to the teleport and teleport down."

"Avon, you don't have any coordinates!" Then she realized that he probably did; she'd seen him translate computer "spoken" language before. She hurried after him.

"I must do this."

"Listen to me, Avon. You're being controlled." She sent telepathically, **Listen to me, damnit!** Mechanically, Avon slapped on a teleport bracelet and stepped towards the console.

Cally shot him.

She pressed the intercom button and asked for Tarrant. "I think I need help to move him."

#

Vila shifted from foot to foot in the teleport bay and looked hopefully at Dayna, who was manning the controls. Smiling, she shook her head. "I'm sorry, Vila, but I don't think there's any way I could be mistaken for Avon." Her feral grin grew more compassionate as she continued, "Besides, neither Tarrant nor I have ever seen Blake in person."

Vila sighed. "Looks like it's up to me again." He fiddled with his teleport bracelet to make sure it was safely secured, checked his gun to be sure it was charged, and felt for the two extra teleport bracelets he'd concealed in separate pockets. One of Dayna's little blasters was tucked in his boot.

"Ready?" Dayna asked.

Unhappily, Vila nodded.

"Don't forget to leave the intercom channel on your bracelet open, so Orac and I can hear if you're having any problems."

"Well, put me down."

Dayna did so. Vila materialized, stumbled on uneven ground, righted himself. "I hope Terminal isn't what I'm going to be," he commented to a bush, and started walking.

A short while later he faced en obnoxious floating sphere, which demanded that he prove his identity as Kerr Avon. "Smeg," Vila cursed.

"I heard that," Dayna laughed over the comm channel. "Don't worry, Orac is taking care of it."

True to her word, soon the sphere began moving, and Vila followed, at last reporting, "I have to go underground."

"I might still be able to manage communications," Dayna said, "but teleport probably won't work."

"Wish me luck?"

"Luck, Vila."

The thief descended into the bowels of Terminal.

#

In the medical unit of Liberator, Kerr Avon blinked muzzily at the ceiling.

"Are you awake?" someone asked. After some thought, he identified Cally.

"Yes," he said. "Are we there yet?"

"Yes," Cally replied slowly.

Avon felt strange. He pondered this for a few moments, then concluded that he felt much better. The buzzing he'd felt..when? Why was he in the medical unit? "Cally--"

She placed her hand over his mouth for a moment. "You don't remember, do you?"

Avon thought, and slowly broken bits of memory began to surface. However, he couldn't quite put them together. "I remember a buzzing sound...."

"Avon, you remember the messages."

"From Blake, yes."

"There were subliminals in the messages. Meant for you."

Something was wrong. "What did I...do?"

"You seemed to want to go down to Terminal very badly," Cally said matter-of-factly.

"Terminal?"

"That is the planet we are orbiting," she explained.

"How did you keep me from teleporting down?"

"I shot you."

"Oh." Pause. "I feel much better."

"The computer instructed us to give you an antipsychotic drug, as your symptoms seemed to warrant it. You should be fine." She added, "You had reacted so positively to the subliminals because of the Ultras' drugs. It won't happen again."

"No, it won't," Avon replied firmly. "What's been happening?"

Cally pulled up a chair. "We sent Vila down...."

#

Vila descended the last rungs of the ladder, stepped quietly to the floor, and nervously looked around. No-one was in sight. He listened and heard nothing, then lifted his arm and pressed a button on his teleport bracelet. "Are you there, Dayna?" he whispered.

The answering chime almost made him leap out of his skin. "Yes. Don't forget to leave the channel open."

"Done," Vila replied. "Here I go."

The tunnels were deserted, but the sound of machinery within the walls made them seem to be the innards of a living creature. Vila shivered, remembering childhood nightmares, and moved more quickly. The sound was like a heartbeat, he decided. If Blake had been behind this, he surely would have indicated which direction to go in. Therefore this probably was a trap, and Vila would have to avoid being caught in it before he could ascertain whether or not Blake was being held prisoner here.

"Still alive," he whispered into his bracelet, and peered around a turning in the corridor. He took a cautious step, then stared, astonished, at the miniature dart in his hand before collapsing.

Mist. The room Vila stood in was filled with mist, and it was cold. Blake lay on table before him, covered with a white sheet. Blake's face was bearded, and he was trying to speak to Avon.

"Vila," Vila said. "I'm Vila."

Blake vanished. Vila was staring at an unfamiliar ceiling, and his feet were cold. Unsteadily he dropped to his feet, banging his head on some knobby protuberance, then staggered out into the corridor, fighting the muzziness with every cell in his body. It was several minutes before he realized that his teleport bracelet was gone, and with it his gun, the extra bracelets, and the blaster in his boot. Mechanically he cursed, standing swaying in the middle of the corridor.

Without warning he was seized from behind, and a gun shoved into his kidneys. He was unable to make effective resistance and was soon marched through a door. His captor pushed him into the center of the room and departed. Vila staggered, then straightened. The swift forced walk had cleared his head.

"So it was you, all along," he said, appraising Servalan's silver-polished nails. Probably poison under them, he reflected. "Vila," she said smoothly. "Whet a surprise."

Strangely, he still felt no fear. "You were expecting maybe Avon?"

Servalan, rising gracefully and walking toward him, said, "Where is Avon? Surely he would not have sent you to regain Blake."

"Oh, you mean because of the subliminals?" Innocently Vila smiled. "We twigged that right off." He thought, I won't tell you what else I've twigged!

"However, you still came," Servalan said. "Blake is all the hold I need." Her eyes suddenly widened in momentary surprise and she turned to the entrance.

Vila almost groaned when two guards clad in silver and red hustled Dayna and Tarrant through the doorway, but he bit it back long enough to collect his thoughts. "I'm sorry, Vila," Dayna said wearily.

"You ought to be sorry," Tarrant snarled, causing Vila to blink in surprise. "It was your bumbling--"

"My bumbling--"

Vila caught on. Miraculously, Servalan didn't appear to. "If you're going to try and rescue someone, you shouldn't march right in like a herd of elephants!" he shouted.

"He's the one with big feet--"

"At least I'm quiet on them--"

Simultaneously Dayna and Tarrant turned on their captors, Dayna's going down almost immediately. Vila quickly stepped back as the women who had been guarding him went for Dayna. Events were going much too quickly for him to follow.

Tarrant leaped for Servalan like a young lion once he had managed to dispatch his opponent and grab the fallen weapon. He should have shot her immediately, Vila thought as the young pilot drifted to the ground, one leg curled to him in agony.

Without knowledge of his method, Vila found himself staring into Servalan's amazed amber-colored eyes from a distance of centimeters, and his hands tightly locked about the gun she'd wrested from Tarrant. He supposed she stepped on his foot, but the pain only gave him fresh strength, and he fought her desperately for the weapon, gasping with terror. Disconcertingly she hissed at him; he pulled back in shock; the gun went off.

Silence.

"Vila?" asked Dayna.

Vila's eyes were closed as he waited to die. When he felt no change in his existence, only an intensified throb in his foot, he opened his eyes slowly. His hands were clenched around the gun, which was pointed at Servalan, whose eyes gaped wide. Vila's hands shook violently and he pushed the gun away, causing the President's corpse to collapse on the floor. He took three rapid steps backward and wrapped his arms tightly around his body.

"Damn," said Dayna. "I wanted to do that."

"Is...is that it?" Vila stammered. "That's all there is?"

"It was well done," said Tarrant as he slowly sat up on the floor. He added tightly, "I think she broke my shin."

#

On the Liberator, the crew had been forced by circumstances to gather in the medical unit. Dayna was running a regenerator over Tarrant's leg while Cally checked the results of Vila's bloodtest and injected him by pressure needle with the necessary antidote. Avon leaned against a bulkhead, arms crossed, very much in control. He would have to continue with the drug Cally had given him for a short while longer, but didn't particularly care now he knew the hypnotics would wear off.

He said, continuing from a moment earlier, "There was no sign of Blake."

"Not a sniff," said Vila, apparently recovered from his ordeal. "She might have had him once, might have him still, but not on Terminal."

"If we knew where she got his voiceprints," Tarrant suggested.

"I would like to know that very much," said Avon intently. "Particularly after Orac sends word to the Federation that their President is dead. In a week or so."

"Avon, you're joking--" began Vila.

"Oh, no. We haven't been very diligent in our search for Blake of late. I think we should intensify our efforts."

"I agree," said Cally quickly. "There will be a struggle for Servalan's power, and Blake could take full advantage of it."

"I vote yes," grinned Dayna.

"We'll have to begin immediately," said Tarrant.

"Good." Avon smiled a small brief smile. "Long live the rebellion."

"Cally," complained Vila, "I thought that stuff was supposed to keep him sane?!"


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