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By Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 18

The interrogation area was nearby, which was only logical. Cattle are usually penned near the slaughterhouse. Blake directed Avon's crew to kill as silently as possible the few guards they encountered. He wanted no warning given to Avon's captors. The last thing he needed was a hostage situation. He still remembered Raiker. He wasn't so sure now that he would surrender to save an ordinary hostage, but Avon was special. He needed Avon.

Blake was the first one through the door into the interrogation room. He took in the room in a brief flash. There were two men and a woman standing near a table. Avon was strapped down on the table, naked and bloody. Blake's vision went black around the edges, and he roared in rage, repeatedly triggering his weapon as he ran forward. The shrill whine of his gun cut short shouts of surprise from his targets. He let the gun drop to hang from the shoulder strap as he reached Avon, kicking aside the woman's corpse in order to reach the table. "Avon! Are you all right?"

Avon looked up at him, but Blake didn't think he saw him. His pupils were dilated black pits in a chalky white face. Avon muttered, "No, no," while shaking his head. Blake examined him quickly, deciding with relief that the injuries were mostly superficial, although undoubtedly painful.

The rest of Avon's crew followed Blake into the room. "I thought we were going to be quiet?" Tarrant asked. He winced as alarms began ringing. "That's done it. Soolin, Dayna, watch the door. Vila, get in here." He limped to the other end of the room to check that there were no other personnel.

Soolin nodded, pulled Vila in by the sleeve and gave him a nudge in Tarrant's direction. She positioned herself where she could easily view both ends of the corridor outside the door. A pair of troopers appeared, running, and she snapped off two shots. They fell, and were still. "Two down."

Dayna ignored Tarrant's orders, coming over to the table to look at Avon. She stopped just before she got there and said, quietly, "It's her. Damn."

Tarrant snapped,"Dayna, help Soolin!" He was out of breath, and holding one elbow tightly against his side while he searched through a drug cabinet.

"In a minute, Tarrant. I just have to make certain." Dayna knelt by the woman's corpse, rolled it over, and touched two fingers delicately just under the left ear for a long moment. "She's dead at last." Dayna pushed the limp head to one side and rose gracefully to her feet. She stared down at the body, then shook her head. "You can rest now, father," she said and turned to the door.

"What?" Tarrant asked, looking up.

"Servalan's dead," she announced. "Blake got her. I wanted to do it." She frowned. "Oh, well, at least I got to see it happen." She took up a position facing one length of corridor, and Soolin eased back to cover the other side.

Tarrant looked at Servalan's corpse for a long moment, then swallowed and shook his head. "Vila, come here and help me."

Vila moved slowly, circling widely around the bodies. He perked up a little when he saw the cabinet Tarrant was trying to open. "Here, you're going at that all wrong." He ran his hands around the cabinet, cocked his head to one side, and tapped hard with the heel of his hand on the edge of the cabinet. The door sprang open.

"Thanks." Tarrant picked up a pair of vials and began studying the labels.

"What are you looking for?" Vila asked. He seemed calmer.

"Stimulants. Something to keep me on my feet." Tarrant glanced at Avon. "I'd give him something too, but I don't want to chance a bad reaction."

"Use this," Vila said, pointing to another vial inside the cabinet. "It's got less side-effects."

"All right. I bow to the expert." Tarrant measured a dose, then rolled up one tattered sleeve to inject himself. He shut his eyes and sighed, then straightened, rolling down the sleeve. "That's better." He looked at the interrogation table, where Blake was still trying to rouse Avon. "Blake. Leave him."

Blake looked up. Tarrant was right. Even if he could get Avon on his feet, the man was too drugged to fight. He touched Avon on the shoulder and said, "Rest, Avon. It'll be all right."

"I wish I believed that," Tarrant said softly , while kneeling near the door to add his firepower without getting in the women's way. "Do you have any idea how many troopers there are on a ship this size?" he commented as men gathered around the corner of the corridor. They were quiet, but their shadows gave them away. If they came en masse, Tarrant and the others were done for, but the first troopers to cross the threshold would die. That had to be discouraging. It would probably be a few minutes before an officer browbeat them into a charge.

"Thirty-five," Blake replied as he located another vantage point. "But we've already accounted for over a dozen." He hefted his gun. "We've faced worse odds, Avon and I."

Dayna and Soolin were too busy to exchange even a brief glance, but their expressions revealed what they thought of Blake's optimism.

Vila asked, "When?"

Blake glanced at Vila. "The worst they can do is kill us. We won't be captured alive, I swear it."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?" Vila said, backing away from Blake in alarm.

Tarrant shook his head. "Let's not jump the gun. Right now, we have to concentrate on them." He waved at the shadows.

A voice called out from the corridor, "This is Space Major Varrick. You haven't a chance."

"Too right," Vila complained softly, moving even further away from the door. No one bothered to glare at him, and he headed for the drugs cabinet.

"What do you want, Major?" Tarrant asked.

"I want you to be sensible and give yourselves up. If you surrender now, I'll see that you'll receive no additional punishment for the escape attempt."

Dayna grimaced while Soolin's lip curled slightly. They knew how much that promise was worth.

"That's very kind of you," Tarrant replied. "But that's not saying much, is it? After all, we're already scheduled for torture and execution. I don't think there's really much you can offer us."

"Just release your hostages, then," the Major said. "Commissioner Sleer has influence. She can get your charges reduced if you cooperate."

Tarrant grinned. "The good commissioner has lost all her influence, I'm afraid. She might intercede for you in hell, though. But you should ask for her under her proper name. She was once known as President Servalan."

"Servalan? But Servalan is dead."

"She is now," Dayna called out. "Blake killed her."

"You're all mad. Blake is dead and frozen in our hold. Just like the rest of you will be." Varrick had dropped his placating tone. Apparently, negotiations were over.

Tarrant looked at Blake. "You're pretty active for a frozen corpse."

Blake shrugged. "They made a mistake." He frowned. "So did I, trapping us in here."

"Um, Blake?" Vila said.

"Not now, Vila," Blake and Tarrant said simultaneously.

"But, Blake, I found some drugs..."

"Then take them!" Tarrant snapped. "You can't even die like a man."

Vila gasped, and went silent, shuffling off to the back of the room.

"That wasn't necessary," Blake said.

"Maybe not, but I haven't time to cater to Vila. Not now. If we survive, I'll apologize." He looked grim.

The crowd of shadows was thickening, and a muffled rattling of guns indicated the troopers were getting their courage up for the charge. Blake said, "I'll go back to Avon."

Dayna reached a hand out to touch him on the sleeve. He paused and she said, "Can you do it?"

Blake gazed into her eyes and nodded. "Yes. It was always a big responsibility, being Avon's friend. This is one last act of kindness I can do for him."

Dayna nodded, one sharp dip of her chin. "Yes, you understand Avon. It's right that you should do it."

"But don't be in a hurry," Tarrant added. "You never know."

Blake went over to Avon and stood over his friend. Avon had lapsed into unconsciousness. It was probably just as well, but Blake wished they had a few minutes to settle things. He rested one hand on Avon's shoulder. Blake calmed, and lifted his head to stare outside the door. It would be over soon.

He couldn't see the troopers, so he watched Soolin. He had gained considerable respect for her skills. She would probably be the one to see the attack begin. Soolin blinked, and yawned then tightened her grip on her gun, looking angry at herself for her lapse. Blake was about to say something to her when she yawned again, and slipped over to her side. Dayna landed on top of her, and Tarrant slid down beside them. "What?" Blake suddenly realized what had happened. "Gas! No!" He looked down at Avon, rested the muzzle of his weapon over Avon's heart and said, "I'm sorry we came to this, old friend." He started to pull the trigger.

"No! Blake, don't! It's all right!" Vila leaped forward, knocking Blake's gun aside, incidentally blowing a tableful of torture equipment to slag. "I did it. I put soma-vapor in the ventilation systems." He slapped a drug-patch on Blake's arm. "Here's the antidote. I already took it."

Blake sighed. "Vila, you never cease to amaze me. But why didn't you say anything?" he asked as he took another patch and applied it to Avon.

"Maybe I want a little respect." Vila shuffled a handful of patches, and went over to his three crewmates, collapsed in the doorway. "I don't know. I kinda like Tarrant this way," he said as he put patches on Soolin and Dayna.

"There are a lot of troopers to take care of before they wake. We'll need all the help we can get," Blake pointed out. He went out into the hallway and wasn't immediately shot, which he took for a good sign.

"True," Vila said. "Wake up, Tarrant, you lazy lout. There's work to do," Vila said cheerfully as he put the last patch on Tarrant.

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