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By Alicia Ann Fox
Page 3 of 6

When Cally trotted onto the flight deck again, Jenna relaxed slightly; and Avon looked up as if she had said something. Tarrant sensed a sudden change in the atmosphere, but could find no reason how the woman with the killer headlock could have effected such a change. Thus he had a rather bemused expression on his face when Cally stopped before him.

"I am Cally," she said. "This is the Liberator, and we fight the Federation. I am wondering what should be done with you."

Avon put down his laser probe and walked around to stand by Cally. "I believe he looks much more stupid than he actually is."

Was that a compliment? Tarrant wondered.

"What did Blake say?" Jenna asked, a trifle wearily.

"He said that he would discuss it later."

"It seems to me the decision is ours," Jenna continued.

"Whatever will we do without Fearless Leader," Avon growled.

Cally sat down, out of Jenna's line of fire, and stared at Tarrant intently for a moment; then her eyes went slightly unfocused. "Cally--" said Jenna.

Cally blinked three times and stood up again. "I think we should keep him," she said calmly.

Avon sneered. "As a pet? Or perhaps as a fancy candleholder near the airlock."

"That is pain speaking, Avon."

"I'm not in any pain. You're going to tell us how your mysticism discovered his good intentions, aren't you? I for one have never believed--"

"Oh, come on, Avon. What do you think? I'd rather not sit here all night," Jenna broke in. Cally took the gun and switched places with her. Avon's glare at Jenna was murderous, but at last he answered.

"Fine, then. I want him watched, but who can say when we might be needing an extra pilot." He turned his glare on Cally and snarled, "I suppose you'll be wanting to consult Vila as well."

Cally ignored him. "Jenna?"

"I trust you, Cally."

"Who put her in charge?" Avon asked the air.

"No one. In case you had forgotten, this is supposed to be a democracy of sorts." Cally rose and carried the gun over to the rack, slotting it neatly in.

They're serious! Tarrant thought.

"Welcome to the rebellion, Del Tarrant," Cally said.

"Ah--thank you."

Avon looked disgusted. Cally grabbed his arm and sat him down, producing regen bandages from the kit she had bought. "Give me your arm."

He uncurled it slowly, making a sharp noise when she accidentally touched a particularly sore spot.

"No, it doesn't hurt, does it?" Jenna said.

"You're next," said Cally, wrapping up the arm. "The stitches should dissolve under the bandage."

Avon's face relaxed as the bandages began their work. With some difficulty he said, "Thank you, Cally."

"A miracle," commented Jenna. "Avon saying thank you. Don't bother glaring, Avon, it won't affect me."

Tarrant watched with interest as Cally set to work on Jenna. He thought, I could have overpowered her easily if she hadn't had the gun. If I'd been able to pull my own. They must be crazy. "Should I--be doing anything? he asked with some trepidation. Avon turned piercing eyes on him again. Tarrant reacted with bravado--a brilliant smile. Jenna saw it and smiled, too; his smiles tended to have that effect.

Avon did not smile. "As far as I know we aren't doing anything except running. We appear to have accomplished Blake's main goal."

"Which is?"

"The destruction of the Federation's central authority." He went over to where a clear box sat, unnoticed, and pulled the something from his pocket. "That is Orac, my computer." He plunked a key on top, and the box made an odd noise, colored lights suddenly flickering within the casing.

*What is it now?*

"Status of the battle, Orac. General terms."

*Very well. Star One has been destroyed by the Andromedan invaders. The Federation fleet has suffered massive damage but has secured several footholds, thus driving out the majority of the alien fleet. Scattered fighting still continues.*

"Any in the vicinity of the Liberator?"

*None within two thousand spatials.*

"Has the Federation taken further action?"

*Currently, no. You will be interested to know that Supreme Commander Servalan has declared herself president.*

"Ah," said Avon. He snatched off the computer's activator and dropped it into his pocket again. "That changes things. We can move more quickly."

"I'm going to tell Blake," said Jenna, as Cally finished her ministrations.

"Don't forget to tell him about our new pet pilot as well," Avon commented.

Tarrant gritted his teeth. He had the feeling that he was not going to get on well with Avon, at least for a while.

Avon returned to his tools. Tarrant looked to Cally, who still sat on the couch. "Why did you decide to trust me?"

"I didn't. I decided to give you the chance to earn my--our--trust. I think you will be worthy. I trust my judgement."

"And that's it? One minute I'm a prisoner and the next you're putting away the gun?"

"You seem to be a reasonable young man. I think you will be useful to us."

"I'm a mercenary, not a rebel."

"You must have had some quarrel with the Federation, since you deserted."

"Yes--the military was a little savage for my taste."

"Then you are in good company. We seek to destroy the Federation which oppresses the people."

Vila entered. "I'm to take Tarrant to see Blake." Tarrant went with him, with a backwards glance at Cally.

"I think that's just about finished, Cally," Avon said, still working with a probe. "Star One is destroyed."

"Servalan is president," she threw back. "If anything, the situation is worse than before."

"That's Blake's problem."

"And not yours?"

"I said that when all this was over I would return him to Earth. Strange as it may seem I am a man of my word."

"It is not over yet, Avon."

"What more do you want?" He put away his probe and sat on the couch again, putting his feet on the table. "The Federation is in a delicate position. What better time for Blake to get to work?"

"I should think you wouldn't be concerned about that."

"I will undoubtedly be safer under a Blake government that under the Federation. Therefore his success makes my survival a good deal more likely."

Cally smiled. "Don't you ever get tired of being logical?"

"No. Logic tells me I should return Blake to Earth and let him fight it out with Servalan--"


"He gave me Liberator, Cally."

"He did not give you us. I would go with him. He needs us. Logically, if you want him to be successful, you will help him."

Avon closed his mouth and pondered. He had talked himself into a hole and Cally's smiling indulgently at him did not help in the least. Finally he said, "Blake could manage on his own. He draws followers to himself easily--"

"Is that what you really think?"

Avon pulled his feet off the table and stood up abruptly. "I promised, Cally."

"'When this is over,' you said. It is not over. You made no stipulation about when you would bring him back; you have a way out."

"What makes you think I want a way out?" Avon said, outraged. "Why I put up with the fool for this long--"

"For the Liberator, of course." Cally smiled again.

"Don't smile at me like that!"

Cally stopped smiling obediently. "You haven't spoken with Blake yet. Why not discuss it with him?"

"There is nothing to discuss."

"Yes, there is. You can't just leave him--he needs us. All of us. Where do you think he would find another computer technician of your calibre?"

"He would manage," Avon said stubbornly, pacing away.

"He won't have the time to look for new people. You said yourself the timing is important."

"I--Cally, what are you trying to do?" Exasperation set in. He stopped in front of her.

"I am trying to keep our group intact."

"What makes you think I--"

"Many things. Your survival is a good deal more likely if you have someone to watch your back."

"Cally--this is ridiculous--I don't need--"

**Concede, Avon.**

"Oh, hell," he said, and turned away. "I care nothing for Blake's cause. Nothing." Cally heard him rummaging in his toolbox.

**Avon--** No answer; he radiated preoccupation. Cally rose and walked over to him. He was buried under his console. A hand came out, reaching for a tool. She stooped and captured the probe's opposite end, tugging until he came out and glared at her. "Avon--"

"What do you want?"

He sounds like Orac, she thought with amusement. "Do you really wish to be alone again?"

"I promised, Cally," he repeated. "I must."

"Oh, Avon, you don't really think he would be angry if--"

"You heard what he said to me!"

Cally knew immediately what he meant. Blake had said he trusted Avon, presumably to keep his word. "Blake might not want to go back. You haven't asked."

"I can't. He would think I was--pushing the bargain."

That Avon was trying to get rid of him. That he really did hate him. "You don't hate him, do you?"

"No. I don't hate anyone."

"Then tell him."


"At least ask--there will be details--"



"Leave me alone, Cally!" They were almost nose to nose.

**He doesn't want to go!**

Avon sat back suddenly, staring at her. "What?"

"He doesn't want to go. He knows it isn't time yet."

"Did he say that?"

"No--but I could tell."

"Auron intuition."

"Just this once, believe me. Talk to him. Please."

"Please? I thought you would have asked for my teeth."

"Will you talk to him?"

"I--all right. Cally, if you're wrong--"

"I'm not."

"Why would I want him to stay?"

"Because if he goes, I go, and so does Jenna--you need a fighter and a pilot. Remember?"

"Just so," Avon said calmly. "I will speak to Blake. I'll do it now." He very carefully and quickly began putting away his probes and scanners, his screwdrivers and wire snippers.

Just so, Cally thought. All he needed was a good excuse....




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