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By Marian Mendez
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"Yes, of course we are glad to see you, Gan," Cally said.

"That's right, the Liberator wouldn't be the same without you, would it, Avon?" Vila asked, with a nudge in Avon's ribs when Avon didn't immediately break out in hosannahs of joy. Avon grunted and swallowed several of the handful of electronic chips he was holding in his mouth while both hands were busily rerouting circuitry in the teleport.

Gan leaned over, picked up the gasping, rapidly purpling Alpha, and fisted him hard just below the sternum. Avon convulsed just like one of those little wooden toys where you push the button on the bottom and the giraffe's neck flops to one side. Only in Avon's case, several components flew out of his mouth to splat wetly on the deck. "There, now, that's got it," Gan said stolidly, patting Avon on the back before depositing him on the couch behind the teleport.

"Vila," Avon started to snarl, but his throat was sore and it came out more of a squeak. "You miasmatic product of a mesalliance!"

"Squeeze him again, Gan, I want to see what else will come out," Vila said, stepping agilely back from Avon's lunge.

"Now, Vila, let's all try to be calm and reasonable," Gan said, calmly and reasonably.

Cally gave all three men an exasperated glance for them to share amongst themselves. "This is not helping Blake."

"And Jenna," Vila put in. "She's vanished, too. Well, vanished isn't maybe the right word, after all, we always vanish when we use the teleport, but we don't worry about it because we're still there somewhere. Whereever we are, that is, if you see what I mean."

Gan patted Vila on the top of the head. "We do, Vila. Why don't you go and sit down, too."

Vila beamed, and sat on the couch, unfortunately a little too close to Avon, who got in a couple swift kicks before Cally caught him at it.

"I meant to say that while we are glad to see you, we are also rather puzzled," Cally said, while simultaneously telepathing dire warnings to Avon to mind his manners, or else.

Avon scowled, and crossed his arms. "What Cally really means to say is, why aren't you dead?"

"Avon!" Vila and Cally protested simultaneously.

"No, no he's right," Gan said, gathering his flowing robes about himself, as he began to pace back and forth, his tire-soled sandals flapping as he went. "I have to admit, things did look pretty grim there for a while."

"Blake said half a wall fell on top of you," Avon said, glowering at all of them as he still sounded like a Donald Duck impersonator. "He also said you were dead."

"Well, I wasn't." Gan shrugged. "I guess the fall knocked my limiter loose and I fainted."

"Blake was wrong," Avon said, glee slowly spreading across his face. "Once again." He chortled softly.

This time all three of the others gave Avon an exasperated glance.

Gan went on to say, "I was rescued by a very nice lady who lived in the tunnels underneath Control. Well, what we thought was Control. You see, Astrid Cometkiller came up to complain because her collection of Victorian sauce boats had been damaged in the blast and she found me practically on her doorstep."

"Astrid Cometkiller?" Vila said, visions of six-foot tall blonde Valkyries tumbling athletically in his mind's eye.

"Sauce boats?" Cally said, wondering if they were space vessels, or marine craft.

"Complain?" Avon said, "To Servalan?" Avon's eyes grew round with admiration, picturing a woman after his own hard heart. "This Astrid must be totally fearless."

"Oh, she is, she is. She's very clever, too. She fixed my teleport bracelet," he said, proudly, displaying his bracelet, which was bound around with a half-inch thick layer of black electrical tape.

"She fixed it all right," Avon grumbled, snatching Gan's bracelet off in order to examine it more closely. "It's shorted out the whole system and sent Blake and Jenna to some random destination." Another sly smirk appeared. "We may never find them again." His grin widened.

"Don't worry, Avon," Gan said, patting Avon on the shoulder. He grinned at Avon's flinch. "Astrid said it would be an transient vorticle transference, translocating subsequent interdimensional peregrinators- but the linkage would be reciprocal, albeit delayed."

"What?" asked Vila, gaping.

"I believe he means that he switched places with Blake and Jenna, but they will be along momentarily," Avon said, while staring at Gan. "But how he ever managed to memorize that statement is beyond me."

Gan ran his hand over his head, and beamed brighter than before. "I said the limiter got knocked around. It's stimulating my brain now instead of depressing it. I'm nearly as clever as Astrid."

Avon narrowed his eyes. "It's a pity we won't be meeting this wonder woman."

"Oh, but you will," Gan said. "She made a teleport bracelet for herself, and she's coming up with Blake and Jenna." He looked at his watch. "Any time now."

"What's she like?" Vila asked. "I mean, what does she look like?"

"Well, she's different. Exotic. She has lots of really light-colored hair, and she wears lycra."

Cally frowned in concentration. She was trying to decide whether to be taken over by a homicidal alien before or after Astrid made her big entrance. One flashy blonde was enough competition for male attention on the Liberator.

Vila straightened his jacket and smoothed his own hair, what there was of it. "What do you think my chances are with her?"

"Next to none, I'd say," Avon remarked. "Do you imagine she's coming here in order to socialize?"

Gan smiled. "But she is, Avon. Once her collection was destroyed, she realized what a lonely existence she's led. That's why she wants to join us. She's looking for- what was it she called it- oh, yes, a `soul mate'. She asked me about all of you."

"Oh?" Avon said, as if it didn't matter to him at all.

"Yes. And she was very interested in you. She wanted to know if you'd be willing to show her around the ship, and explain the computers to her."

Avon puffed up, and his eyes developed smug little wrinkles around the corners as he smirked. "Yes, of course, I should be delighted."

Cally turned slowly to eye Avon. He wouldn't show her his work. Pointedly, she turned her back on Avon, and busied herself with checking the charge of her hand-gun. It would be a pity if it accidentally went off when she shook hands with this Astrid creature.

"You promise?" Gan said, ingenuously. "I'd hate to disappoint her, after all, she did save my life."

"Yes, I promise."

"And you always keep your word, don't you, Avon?" Gan said. "I always did admire that about you. Even when you were otherwise being a total ass."

"What?" Avon said, startled.

"Time," Gan said, turning toward the teleport reception area just as the glow of rematerialization filled the room, solidifying into three human forms. "Hullo, Blake, good to see you. Glad you made it all right," Gan said, stepping forward to shake hands with his leader, incidentally blocking the view for those still sitting behind the teleport console..

Blake was as befuddled by Gan as Avon had been, and said, "Gan. You're alive."

"Obviously," Avon said, standing up. "I should thank Gan. He's saved us all a lot of moaning and wailing. Not to mention how difficult it is to come by sackcloth and ashes these days."

"Oh, put a sock in it, Avon," Jenna said. She hugged Gan, and murmured, "I'm glad you made it, big boy."

Blake stared at Jenna, who gave him a blank look rivaling Avon's best. "What?" she asked innocently.

By this time, Avon had wrestled Vila behind him and worked his way around the console. Gan grinned at him. "Avon, I'd like you to meet Astrid Cometkiller."

"Pleased to make your acqua..." Avon spluttered to a halt as Gan shifted, and revealed the woman who'd been hidden by his bulk.

She couldn't have hidden behind anyone smaller, as the fluorescent green lycra poncho draped around her two-hundred pound body made apparent. Astrid had sharp, slanted black eyes, and a clear complexion the color of aged ivory, darkening in the depths of her many wrinkles. She also had masses of silver-white hair, twisted and teased up into a beehive, then topped by a fluorescent orange bowler hat to cumulatively add a foot to her height. She grinned at Avon, showing a great many mismatched teeth. "Oi, yer' the boyo fer me," she said, grabbing Avon by the belt and hugging him breathless. "ee's as cute as yer said," she tossed over her shoulder at Gan as she dragged Avon toward the exit.

"Gan!" Avon screamed, looking like a pebble caught in a technicolor avalanche. "Why?"

"You stepped on my ego often enough. Now it's your turn for a bit of flattery." Gan grinned as Avon's wails diminished in the distance.

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Marian Mendez

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