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By Sheila Paulson
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"It was all a setup, Blake, every bit of it. Servalan was running Governor LeGrand all along," Avon insisted, folding his arms across his chest in an attempt to distance himself from the rebel leader. "If your experience on Atlay has taught you nothing, the same cannot be said for the rest of us. Shivan was never a part of the plan; it was always Servalan's game to insinuate Travis into your supposed triumvirate." He cast a skeptical glance around the room to find some of Blake's zeal evident in Cally's face, naturally. She was a devoted rebel and the thought of Shivan would be sure to arouse in her the same revolutionary zeal it did in Blake. Even Jenna looked interested, leaving Avon with the dubious alliance of Vila, who could be counted on to object to any dangerous scheme until Blake got round him with threats or promises.

"But Shivan might still be alive, Avon," Blake returned reasonably, stroking his throat between his thumb and forefinger. "I want to know one way or the other."

"Neither LeGrand or Van Glynd was surprised to see the false Shivan in such grave condition," Avon reminded him. "If alive, he will be of little use to your precious resistance, and it is highly unlikely he knows anything about Star One. You've been remarkably single-minded about finding it. Now you want to change your mind. I don't know about the others, but I find such inconsistency difficult to swallow...or follow."

"You never claimed to follow me anyway, Avon," Blake returned as he got to his feet and began to pace around the flight deck. "I've been considering it and Shivan might be just what we need. He's nearly a legendary figure and would be a rallying point for any resistance movement. I say we find him. Once we've done that, then we can go after Star One again. If Shivan is alive and at large, Servalan might decide to go after him herself."

"If Shivan were free and at large, she might not have dared risk insinuating an imposter into LeGrand's power play," Avon pointed out.

"He's right, Blake," Jenna joined the discussion. "'What was to stop the real Shivan from appearing and discrediting her plan?"

"The certainty that he is either dead, imprisoned, or too ill to interfere," Avon answered logically.

"Not necessarily." Blake spun back to face them. "She didn't need her false Shivan for long, did she? Most of the time he was here, on Liberator, and we were hardly broadcasting it. The Atlay Summit was meant to be a fait accompli, which means his supposed presence was hardly transmitted on every news viscast in the galaxy. The odds were against Shivan, if he were at liberty and in hiding, ever hearing of it until it was finished. Servalan could take the risk with so much to gain: discrediting LeGrand's plan, capturing us and the Liberator." He met Avon's sardonic gaze stubbornly. "I think it's worth the risk, Avon. If we find he's dead or helpless, all we need do is back away."

"And if he's imprisoned, you'll lead a rescue, be he in the tightest security in the galaxy. As Gan once said, Blake, I want some guarantees that we'll back off if it becomes too dangerous."

At the mention of Gan, Blake's jaw tightened, but he nodded. "Very well, Avon. But I want your word you won't refuse out of hand when the time comes."

"Naturally not," Avon returned with heavy sarcasm. "We will all discuss the ideas to death, and then, we will go anyway. I sometimes wonder at your obsessive zeal. It has guided you to Atlay. I wonder where it will take us next."

"If you mean the Federation is still running me, you're wrong," Blake returned hotly. "Orac has made certain of that."

"And it wasn't remotely pleasant," Jenna replied. "Deprogramming is one of my least favorite tasks. But Orac says Blake's clear of that suggestibility now, and that's what matters."

"Oh, is that what matters?"

"What matters is finding out what has happened to Shivan," Blake insisted. "He may be in grave danger. If Servalan guesses we have an interest in him, it will do him a great deal of harm."

"I suspect Servalan considers him out of our reach," Cally said softly. "But if he is to be found, Orac will tell us so. Let us wait and continue this discussion at that time. Anything else we say now is a waste of our energy."

Vila hailed her suggestion with enthusiasm, proposing they find a planet for some rest and relaxation whilst Orac worked. When no one picked up on his idea, he pretended to sulk. "Well, I think it's a good idea," he mumbled.

"You think anything is a good idea which allows you to be bone idle."

"Avon, is that fair?"

"Orac," Blake cut in, sliding the computer's activator into place. "I want you to locate Shivan. If he is dead, find out when and where, if he lives, get us his present location."

Orac received the order in silence. After a moment, Blake said sharply, "Well, Orac?"

"I am far too busy to engage in such pointless activity. Your search for Star One already takes too much time from my own research."

"Nevertheless," Blake returned, a relentless note creeping into his voice, "you will do it. Is that clear, Orac?"

"Very well. But I have wasted too much time on your petty concerns." It went silent, lights blinking.

"Yell, that's that," Jenna said, reaching past Blake and pulling the key free. "And now, Blake, whilst we wait, I suspect Vila may have had a very good idea. We're all tired. Some rest would do us good."

"Did you hear that?" Vila piped in, his face full of delight. "I had a very good idea."


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Sheila Paulson

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