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By Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 8

For the next several weeks, Orac worked on the location of both Shivan and Star One, while the crew of the Liberator idled about doing very little. A holiday on an uninhabited and pastoral planet resulted in a bad sunburn for Jenna and a turned ankle for Blake as well as a flurry of activity when Vila managed to falloff a cliff and break his teleport bracelet along with his wrist. With an already-incapacitated Blake, it was left for Avon to climb down to the crumbly ledge where the thief lay curled up in a ball, moaning. Never very fond of heights, Avon snapped the replacement bracelet around Vila's good wrist with some relief and called for teleport.

Still hobbling around with a cane, a healing pad fastened to his swollen ankle, Blake operated the teleport while Jenna and Cally readied the medical unit. Once Vila's wrist was set and encased in a healing pad, Avon turned to confront Blake, who had hovered in the background during the treatment process.

"I do not know about you, Blake," Avon said smoothly, a hint of amusement in his voice. "But I suspect we have had enough of a holiday to last us for the rest of the year."

Blake collapsed into a chair and rubbed his ankle. "I think you're right. We'll stay in orbit here until we're back to par, but we seem to be unlucky down there."

"Unlucky? We're always unlucky," moaned Vila, clutching his injured wrist against his chest. "Falling off cliffs isn't my idea of a lovely holiday anyway, Blake. A place with some good bars, now that's the ticket. Mind you, we'd have to be careful of the Federation. Aren't there any nice non-Federated worlds where we could go and have a regular holiday?"

"Blake needs must commune with nature," Avon said sourly. It was not his idea of the idea holiday, either.

"Oh, come, Avon," Blake put in with a grin. "You weren't entirely hostile to the planet. I saw you enjoying the sunsets more than once."

"There is more to life than sunsets," Avon said through clenched teeth. He had never denied the planet's beauty and had appreciated a few tranquil moments in a beautiful location as much as Cally had. But his tolerance of scenic views for their own sake was rather limited. His idea of a good holiday was to be allowed time to poke about in the innards of the Liberator, unhampered by ignorant fools who did not understand his work. He said so.

"Then use your time here for that purpose," Blake told him. "No one is stopping you, Avon."

"No one was stopping me before, but you dragged me down for a sightseeing expedition and Cally expected me to help her collect various plants for study and Vila wanted rescuing. I refuse to return to the planet, is that understood?"

Blake bit his lip as if to hide a smile. "No one forced you to go down, Avon," he pointed out.

"I have the information you requested," Orac cut in smoothly from its position on a table by Vila's bed. They all turned to the computer in some surprise. Amidst the alarums and excursions of the day, they had all forgotten the two tasks Orac had been set. Now Blake turned to Orac with delight.

"Which information, Orac?" he asked eagerly.

"Which information indeed," sniffed Orac. "I have the location of the rebel Shivan. That I have located it so swiftly is due entirely to my many talents and deserves considerable appreciation."

Sarcastically, Avon gave Orac a hand. "Sufficient?" he asked when Vila and Jenna broke into startled laughter.

Orac ignored him. "Shivan is located on the planet Paternus."

"Paternus?" Blake said in astonishment. "But that's one of the planets we considered for our shore leave."

"Yes, the one we rejected for its inhospitable climate," Jenna reminded them.

"The one with the abandoned Federation base," Vila put in. "And all the snow." His face fell as he realized their next destination would include hostile weather gear, then, abruptly he remembered his injured wrist and his eyes began to twinkle. "You'll have a lovely time down there, Avon."

"1?" Avon was taken aback. He had secretly been enjoying Vila's all too obvious realization that his injury would keep him safe on board, but the thief's words recalled Blake's injured ankle and Jenna's sunburn, which while not serious, was certainly painful and which would mean she would hardly be at her best in a sub-freezing climate. At most it would take them a dozen hours to reach Paternus, and in that time, all three of them would have improved, but would likely need more recuperative time before they were equipped to face a risky situation planetside. Avon grimaced.

"In any case," he remarked. "Paternus is uninhabited."

"That is incorrect," Orac announced. "Paternus is listed as uninhabited, but in actual fact it has one inhabitant. Shivan."

"A prisoner?" Blake asked sharply. "Or in hiding?"

"A prisoner. The Council's orders were to strand him on a planet listed as deserted, a planet with no strategic importance. It was their goal to claim he had died, to make certain he was forgotten completely."

"Then why bring him to our minds now?" Avon asked

"Because all who came into contact with the supposed Shivan were to die or be incarcerated themselves," Orac returned. "We managed to escape and foil Servalan's scheme. Otherwise, none of us would have given Shivan a second thought."

"Now that we have given him a second thought," Cally mused, "Might not Servalan expect us for search for him?"

"Even with Orac, there would be no guarantee of success," Jenna replied, shifting position uncomfortably.

"But it could be a trap," Avon replied, favoring them all with a false smile. "'What fun we shall have--or rather what fun Cally and I shall have searching an entire planet for one man while the Federation breathes down our necks."

"Then the sooner we get there, the better chance we have to beat them to it," Blake returned firmly. He reached for his cane. "I'll go give Zen instructions to get us there as quickly as possible. Orac," he called over his, shoulder, balancing on his cane and his good foot. "Continue your surveillance of Paternus and inform us immediately if there is the slightest evidence of Federation presence there."

Jenna got up cautiously and followed him out.

Once they were gone, Vila lay back with his injured wrist braced carefully across his abdomen. "I don't like the sound of this, not one bit."


Cally frowned, turning from Vila to Avon. "For once, I agree with Vila. I have a...a feeling about it. I know you do not believe in anything so unspecific as a feeling, Avon, but it is very real."

"What kind of feeling?" he asked suspiciously.

"Cally's been right before," Vila put in. "More than once, too." He narrowed his eyes. "Maybe we should tell Blake we don't want to go."

"For all the good that would do," Avon shorted. "Well, Cally, proceed? What mumbo jumbo do you have for us this time?"

She lifted her chin. "It is not mumbo jumbo, Avon. It is simply a sensation of threat."

"A sensation of threat? Seeking someone from the Federation wishes to keep hidden whilst Servalan knows we might think of looking for him? You sense it? It is merely logic with another name."

She shook her head. "I understand the threat you mention, Avon, and I reason it as well as you do. This is something else. Something more personal."

He gave an exasperated sigh. "Does it occur to you that Blake races on and on with this mad game of his and that the longer we continue our involvement, the greater the chance that we will go down with him?"

"Or rise with him, should he triumph," she returned hotly, then she shook her head. "Sometimes I do wonder, Avon. I do not see how we can succeed with this plan to find Star One. So far, Docholi remains elusive. If Blake finds him, we will need to decide what to do next."

"Destroying Star One is foolish," Avon insisted. "Not to mention potentially lethal to a great many people. Better to use it for cur own purposes."

"Blake does not trust other people's purposes," she replied

"With us to go by, I don't blame him," Vila muttered sleepily. "If you mean to argue, do it somewhere else."

Avon gave a snort of laughter. "Far be it for us to disturb Vila's rest." He cast a glance at the thief, who eyed him nervously as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Did I thank you for rescuing me, Avon?" he asked.

"No, but do not worry. I shall remind you of it--at the appropriate moment."

Vila's face fell. "Oh. Will you?"

Sharing a smile with Cally, Avon ushered her from the room.


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