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By Alicia Ann Fox
Page 2 of 6

On the flight deck, Vila had produced a bottle of adrenalin and soma from which he took a healthy swig. "Want some, Jenna?"

Jenna weighed her options and finally nodded. "Do you have any glasses?"

"I don't have germs," he protested, but came up with glasses anyway. Jenna tossed the drink back like a smuggler (which of course she was). Vila was suitably impressed. Balancing the bottle on his arm and carrying two more glasses, he made his way over to Cally, just finishing her ministrations to Avon's arm. "Does anybody want any?"

Cally shook her head as she exited. Avon looked dubious. "What is it?"

"Adrenaline and soma. It's good for you."

Avon half-shrugged and mutely stuck out his hand for a glass. At that moment Tarrant wandered onto the flight deck, then stopped short when he saw Vila slowly standing up. Vila thought, oh hell. He's Federation. We're going to die.

Tarrant decided to try and brazen his way out of what looked to be a nasty scrape. After all, one of these people had probably shot the man in the corridor. But if that were true, then why the bandage? Never mind. They could be dangerous. "Captain Del Tarrant," he said, crossing his fingers behind his back.

Avon set the now half-empty glass down quickly but Vila spoke first. "Space Captain, hey? You were in the battle then? This is Deathwish, an experimental vessel--the frontiers of Federation science--we'd been out testing our weaponry systems when we heard about the battle. Would you like to have a seat?"

Numbly Tarrant crossed the flight deck. Oh hell. They're Federation. I'm going to die. The man seated on the deck looked up and Tarrant was followed every step of the way by piercing dark eyes; when he seated himself on the couch, tucking away his gun in the hope that they wouldn't notice it, the blond woman--pretty--watched him as though he were a particularly nasty insect. "My ship was damaged--" that much was true "--the crew killed. I happened to come across your ship and--"

"Thought we, being loyal Federation citizens, could give you sanctuary," interrupted Vila in his best parade-ground voice. "Well, you're wrong. This is a science vessel and we--"

Vila was interrupted in his turn by Cally, who ran onto the flight deck and said urgently, "I've found Blake!" before stopping just before the steps to stare at Tarrant.

Tarrant was trying in vain to close his mouth. Oh damn. They're terrorists. I'm going to die.... He had realized just who it was he had fallen over in the corridor.

"Who is he?" Cally asked, her tone hostile, advancing.

The situation was too far gone for Vila to salvage. Cally ignored his attempts, strode forward, and got Tarrant in a headlock. Surrounded by bloodthirsty terrorists, and immobilized anyway, he didn't even try to struggle. "Who are you?" she demanded.

Truth or consequences.... "Del Tarrant," he said quickly. "I used to be a Federation space captain but I became a mercenary...I thought this was a Federation vessel, so I decided to use the uniform to my advantage."

**Vila, get a gun and give it to Jenna.**

Tarrant said, in a strangled voice, "This is the Liberator, isn't it. That was Blake I tripped over in the corridor. Blake the rebel."

"Yes." **Guard him, Jenna.**

Jenna took the gun and trained it on Tarrant's belt buckle. "That was Blake the rebel. And I'm Jenna Stannis the crack shot."

Cally released her hold and took Vila's sleeve, leading him out. She scooped up the medical kit on the way, from where it lay next to Avon. He hadn't bothered to move. "There aren't any more regen bandages in there," he said.

"I'll get some from the med unit--it should be accessible by now." She stopped and peered at the bottle, then at Avon's glass. "Finish that." Then she and Vila exited to see to Blake.

Some minutes later, Zen flickered back to life. +Information. Auxiliary power banks are fully recharged+

Tarrant jumped. Jenna very slowly relaxed her gun hand. Avon pulled himself to his feet and wandered over to Zen, flashing a brief brilliant smile to Jenna on the way. "Zen--status of life support systems."

+Life support systems are fully operational.+

"Medical unit status?"

+Medical unit is fully operational.+

"Status of main power banks."

+Banks one and three are fully recharged. Bank two is at one-fifth of capacity. Bank--+

"Stop. Have we enough power to maneuver?"



Without moving her gun or her gaze from their prisoner, she said, "Zen, engage autopilot functions. Give current orientation on the main screen."


"Avon, take the gun." He did so, and took her place as she rose and studied the screen carefully. "Escape route Gamma, standard speed. Engage."


"What if we're attacked?" asked Avon. "Can you pilot?"

"I suppose...." She took the gun back and Avon wandered back over to Zen.

"I can pilot," ventured Tarrant. "If it gives my life any more value."

"I know you're a pilot," said Jenna. "I do keep up with these things."

"You can identify us. Your life is in a precarious position." Avon was not looking at Tarrant as he spoke.

"Not if you need a pilot," Tarrant retorted.

"We have a pilot."

"My word--"

"As what? I trust no-one's word."

"Then why not kill me now?"

Avon turned to face him. In a conversational tone he said, "Jenna, do you remember the bargain that Blake and I made?"

"Yes. Both sides. Are you serious, Avon?"

"Of course. This is my ship. Not Blake's. If I killed Tarrant now, Blake need never know."

"I would tell him."

"I know. That is why you're still alive, Captain Del Tarrant. I don't want to listen to Blake's moralizing."

Dangerous, thought Tarrant, very dangerous. Stannis the smuggler I was sure of. Seems Avon is dangerous, too--and of course the one with the killer headlock. I wonder what her crime was...none of them needs to be a criminal any more, that's for sure. This ship is incredible...wish it were mine. Avon seems to think it's his, he must have a power struggle going with Blake, and I'm stuck right in the middle.

"Avon, what are you doing?" Jenna asked, startling Tarrant. Avon was carrying a box, held tightly to him with his right hand, and heading for one of the consoles.

"I need to work on my station. Some of the modifications I installed are not yet attuned to the regeneration circuitry."

Tarrant pricked up his ears. Regeneration circuitry. Fantastic.

Jenna shrugged, then winced as if it had been a bad move. "What comes next?"

"We wait, until the ship is in proper working order."

"And then?"

"Liberator is mine," Avon said absently, surveying the scorched remains of an inset video screen. "None of these overloads should have occurred," he continued in a more positive tone. "Explosions, fires...some of these circuits should have fused before they did anything of the kind...perhaps a result of the low power reserves...."

Jenna did not ask again. She knew artistic reverie when she saw it. Instead she spoke to Tarrant, though her gun did not waver. They discussed technical matters for some time; there was little else they could do, except wait.




"Blake," Cally's voice said urgently. "Blake, wake up."

Blake growled softly at the hand which was shaking his uninjured shoulder. "Mrph."

"C'mon, Blake," Vila said. "You're too heavy to carry." This had more effect; Blake opened his eyes and studied them carefully.

"It's very quiet."

"We're out of the battle now. We were badly damaged and are drifting. You need to be in the medical unit, Blake."

"I--think you're right." It took some time to maneuver around the bits of debris in the corridors, but at last Blake was settled, and Vila--he was apparently ambidextrous--removed the old bandage. "Tell me what's been happening."

Cally catalogued the injuries of the crew, and then told him about Tarrant. At some point during this Vila sat down to the side and Cally re-bandaged Blake's injury.

Blake did not comment for several minutes. Finally he said, "Mmm." And, "Has Avon said anything about our bargain?" He was not ready to go to Earth...not alone....

"Bargain?" Vila asked, arm propped on his chest, seemingly with every intention of staying in the medical unit. "What do you mean?"

"About the Liberator, he means," said Cally. "No, he has said nothing. Nor has he mentioned the promise he made to you."

"Oh," said Blake. Cally was buttoning yet another clean shirt for him. "How many have I bled on?" he asked.

She began hooking up an iv of fluids. "Just the two."

He leaned back again and closed his eyes. "Tell him--no. Later." Within moments he was asleep.




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Alicia Ann Fox

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