LocusBy Rebecca Ann Brothers
Page 1 of 1
Sinking back in the pilot's seat, Blake watched Avon retrieve Orac from its hiding place. The rebel leader let out a heartfelt sigh of relief. Not that he'd had any serious doubts about the outcome--but whatever else Egrorian was, he was not an idiot. With a little earnest fiddling he could have twigged that he'd been handed nothing but a box of blinking lights.
"That went well, don't you think?" he said as Avon sat down.
"I'll believe it went well once we're back aboard Scorpio."
"Well, that shouldn't be very long. What's the escape velocity of this thing?" Truth be told, Blake wouldn't mind having them back safe and sound on Scorpio as soon as possible. He didn't entirely share Avon's conviction that Servalan was mixed up in this, but Egrorian was quite enough to make a person uneasy.
"Why don't you ask Orac?" Avon suggested, and for the once the computer responded without prompting:
"The escape velocity of this vehicle is now confirmed at mach fifteen--and unattainable."
Avon sat up straight. "What do you mean, unattainable?"
"Mach fifteen is unattainable on the present flight configuration." Blake met Avon's nonplussed gaze. "Any ideas?"
The most sensible place to start was to switch to manual power, as either of them would be able to maneuver the craft into docking position with Scorpio. Busy with circuit boards, Avon said, "This had better work." If it didn't, Avon observed grimly to himself, they wouldn't have a lot of options left.
"Have you cleared the governors?" Blake said.
"Switching to manual, maximum power on all drives."
Avon came back around. "What's the position now, Orac?"
"Escape velocity still unattainable," responded the computer. "Elapsed flight time: nine minutes. Remaining flight time: twelve minutes." Blast!
"Fuel?" Blake asked.
Checking, Avon shook his head. "It's no good. We're not going to get out of the one, Blake. Egrorian set us up."
"Yes, but how?"
"Does it matter?" Avon sat back, resigned, arms folded over his chest.
"Yes, it does. If I'm going to die I'd like to know why." Not to mention the fact that the motive seemed a bit abstract. "Why make the appearance of letting us go?" he wondered aloud. There had to be something more to this, something they weren't considering. It might well be a moot point, but he couldn't just give in. There had to be something he could do.
"Remaining flight time," Orac piped up, "ten minutes."
"And another five minutes before we hit," Avon said, sending Blake a brief ironic look. "How do you spend your last fifteen minutes?"
Not sitting around waiting to die, that was for damned sure. "Working, Avon! Working like we have never worked before. It's gravity that it holding us down, right? We haven't enough engine power to lift us free. We must lighten the load."
"It's a waste of time, Blake."
"Well then, it'll be the last time we ever waste. We can at least make the effort," Blake said, reaching over to haul Avon to his feet. "Come on!"
Avon clearly didn't believe this would make enough of a difference, but pitched in anyway--and pitched out whatever presented itself. He'd balked when Blake made to put the tachyon funnel out the airlock, but really, it was hardly vital equipment under the circumstances. Back on the flight deck, Blake was scrounging for something more to jettison as Avon checked in with Orac.
"What's the position now, Orac?"
"Remaining flight time: five minutes, forty seconds."
"How much more weight must we lose before we can achieve escape velocity?"
"Seventy kilos, Avon."
"Only seventy kilos. What weighs seventy kilos..?
Blake was halfway out the hatch with an armload of items as he heard Orac's reply:
"Blake weighs ninety kilos."
The hatch slid closed, and Blake stood there for a long moment, considering. Orac was absolutely right, of course. It wasn't something that would have normally occurred to him, but now it had been brought up, it couldn't be easily banished.
Halting before the airlock hatch, Blake looked at the paltry collection of things he held. Putting these few odds and ends out the airlock really would not do that much good, but if he were to sacrifice himself that could mean the difference between Avon's life or death. Still, it was a difficult decision, despite the risks he was prone to, despite the seconds that were literally ticking away. It was worth it, though; Avon would do as much for him.
Blake reached for the hatch release--
--and was bowled over by Avon, both of them tumbling to the deck.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Avon demanded, straddling Blake and holding him down.
Pulling his wrists free of Avon's grip, Blake used his superior weight to gain some leverage and heave Avon off. "Saving your life, dammit!" he shot back, trying to keep Avon pinned down and maneuver over to the airlock at the same time. Desperate, Blake shoved Avon, hard, sending him sprawling along the deck. Then he had the hatch open, was almost in the airlock, when Avon was on him again, grasping him around the waist, hauling him back, wrestling him down. Trying to get free again, Blake rolled them over, and over again, getting further and further from the airlock. Suddenly Blake froze in position as Avon cried out. Apparently, his head had struck something.
"Avon?" Blake rocked back on his heels, reaching out a hand to Avon's shoulder, helping him sit up. "Are you all right?" he asked as Avon gingerly rubbed the back of his head, looking around for whatever he'd whacked into.
"Blake, look at this." Avon moved away, kneeling beside what looked like a lucite cube, pushing at it, frowning when it didn't budge.
"What is it?" Blake said, joining him, also reaching to give it a nudge. It was incredibly heavy. Why would it--wait a minute. "Avon. Egrorian said something about neutron stars--"
Avon nodded. "When Pinder was loading the tachyon funnel he could have also planted this--"
"With a particle of neutron star embedded in it. No wonder we can't reach escape velocity!" All thoughts of going out the airlock forgotten, Blake put his muscle behind Avon's, and with nerve-wracking slowness they inched the cube over and into the airlock. Stretching up, Avon hit the eject button, then collapsed breathlessly beside Blake as the cube was sucked out into space.
Feeling the shuttle shift and gain momentum, the pair exchanged half-rueful smiles as they sat up.
"It worked," Blake said, his smile becoming a grin.
"So it seems. Perhaps we should get back to the flight deck?"
Blake nodded, getting to his feet and reaching down a hand to Avon. "One thing about it, Avon, I'm always safe with you."
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