Sticks and StonesBy Kathy Hintze
Page 2 of 8
Vila followed Jenna to the teleport, grabbed a bracelet and stepped nervously onto the teleport skid. "Tell Blake we've less than an hour," Jenna instructed.
Vila nodded and an instant later found himself in a room filled with fragmented concrete and steel. Gan was cutting through a massive piece of steel, while Cally knelt to one side of it. "Blake," he called, picking his way through the rubble. "We have to hurry. Zen's picked up three Federation ships coming this way and..." His voice died as he saw Avon's pale face.
"Help Cally with Avon," Blake ordered. "How's it coming, Gan?"
"Another few minutes, Blake."
Vila nodded slowly and handed Cally the drug. "Thank you. I want you to watch the monitor," she instructed, thankful that Avon had lost consciousness and could no longer argue.
"Is he hurt very badly, Cally?" Vila asked.
The Auron looked up and saw his worried face. "I cannot be certain. He has lost much blood. And until we get him to the ship, there's no way of telling how seriously he has been hurt. Now, watch the monitor."
"All right," Vila murmured, gazing at the drained features next to him.
With practiced ease, Cally slid the ampoule into the hypospray, laid it against Avon's arm, and sent it into his system, watching his face as she did so. He is very pale, she thought, so very pale. "What are the readings now, Vila?"
"It's holding in the safe area," he answered. "He's going to die, isn't he?" The thief's voice trembled with fear.
"I hope not, Vila," Cally murmured softly, looking at him. "I hope not." Then she gazed toward Blake and Gan. "We're ready, Blake."
"Blake," Jenna called through his bracelet. "Zen estimates thirty minutes until Federation ships arrive."
"Confirmed, Jenna. Stand by." Blake watched the laser melt its way through the metal. "Come on, Gan."
The big man nodded, urging the laser to burn faster. Time was running out for them and for Avon. He had heard the fear in both Blake's voice and in Cally's. Hurry, damn you, he thought to himself. Hurry.
On board the Liberator, Jenna grew more and more tense. "Zen, how close are the ships now?"
"5,000,000 spacials and closing," replied the computer.
"Come on, Blake," she muttered to herself. "Come on. We're running out of time."
"That's it, Blake," Gan shouted at last, switching off the laser and laying it aside.
Blake moved to one side of the severed girder. "Now, we must move it carefully. Can't afford any slips." Gan gripped his end and nodded. Blake's hands tightened as he counted. "Together. One, two, three, lift!" Groaning with effort, they slowly lifted the piece of metal free.
Vila gasped. Avon's right leg was covered in blood. Ragged holes in his trousers revealed bone fragments jutting through the skin in a dozen places. Blood dripped down on his left leg which lay partially wedged under the right.
Cally glanced at the monitor. The indicator had dipped into the danger level. Avon was alive, but his condition was deteriorating. His waxen, almost translucent features looked like a statue's and his body was growing cold as Cally draped a thermal blanket over him.
"Blake, we have to hurry," she cried, stepping aside. Gan picked Avon up as carefully as he could, ignoring the blood which stained his tunic, leaving Blake to retrieve the laser while Vila gathered up the med kit and a small metal box he found under the debris.
"All right, bring us up, Jenna," Blake called.
On board one of the incoming Federation ships, Travis was impatiently waiting for the progress report from the garrison commander on Atar. News of the attack and the report of an unusual vessel meant only one thing to him--Blake. Unfortunately, the communication center had suffered damage in the attack and word was now being passed via an emergency transmitter.
A message came in--but it was from Supreme Commander Servalan. "What news?" There was no greeting or formality observed.
"There's been no news from Atar since the first alert was sounded," he replied. "I will be arriving in approximately twenty-one minutes."
"I've seen the preliminary report, Travis. If Blake is there, I want him--alive or dead. I want him and the Liberator."
"If he's there, he won't get away, Supreme Commander," Travis promised.
"Good. I will await your report."
As soon as they were back on board, the crew started en masse toward the medical unit. Cally hurried ahead to prepare the equipment, while Gan carried Avon, still unconscious and wrapped in the thermal blanket to help ward off shock. Blake and Vila followed a few paces behind, their faces taut with concern.
Jenna fell in step with them, using the corridor to head back to the flight deck.
"One of these days, you're going to cut it too fine, Blake," she chastised. "Those pursuit ships are coming in fast."
"Then you'd better take us out of orbit," Blake snapped.
As Gan round the intersection, Jenna caught a glimpse of Avon's face, ashen and drawn. Her hand snatched at Blake's arm. "Is Avon badly hurt?" she asked softly.
Vila answered for him. "I hope not!" he said fervently.
Blake glanced at Jenna. "You'd better get to the flight deck."
Gan lowered Avon gently onto the diagnostic couch and stepped back. The rebel leader quickly connected the computer links to his injured companion. He looked down at the unconscious figure and said, "There's no telling how long this will take."
"I think I can be of more use on the flight deck, now," Gan said. He paused, studying Blake's face. "You worry too much, Blake," he told him confidently. "Avon'll be all right."
Blake stared after him, wishing he could believe that.
Jenna had already taken the Liberator out of orbit by the time Gan arrived. "You certainly waited long enough before...." her voice trailed off as she saw the dark stains on his tunic. "He is badly hurt, isn't he?"
Gan followed her gaze. "It's difficult to tell," he answered. "He lost a lot of blood. His legs looked badly broken. But I've seen worse and the man recovered. And he didn't have the advantages of our medical unit." Gan smiled broadly. "This ship is capable of miracles."
Jenna looked at him curiously before replying. "Let's hope so."
In the medical unit, Blake wasn't so sure. After cutting off the tattered remnants of Avon's trousers, the sight of the actual injury had been staggering. The femur and tibia of the right leg had somehow been jammed into one another, forcing the kneecap through the skin. Only straining ligaments and tendons had prevented its total detachment from the leg.
Blake's shock was mirrored in Cally's face as he looked up at her. "This isn't going to be easy." There was a gasp behind him and Blake turned.
Vila stood looking at Avon, his face white as a sheet. Then he said softly, "You'll need someone to watch the monitors, Blake. I'll do it," he offered.
"All right, Vila," Blake replied, wondering at his behavior. He couldn't stand the sight of blood, and yet here he was volunteering to help. No time to think about that now. "Cally, let's get this over with."
"What do you mean there's no sign?" snapped Travis. "Blake was here, wasn't he?"
"Yes, sir. The prisoners we've taken have confirmed it. He...er...must have slipped out when we were regrouping our forces."
"Slipped out? You mean you let him escape," Travis snarled, backhanding the garrison commander. Turning to an aide, he snapped, "Contact the ship. Have them scan for any vessels leaving orbit. Not that they'll find anything now." The frightened man ran to comply.
"Sir," yelled one of his troopers, rushing in. "We found something." Travis followed the man to a debris-filled room. Near a fallen, partially melted girder was a pool of blood along with tattered bits of bloody blue cloth. "None of the rebels made it this far, sir," the trooper reported. "It had to have come from one of Blake's people."
Travis smiled. The room had housed the complex computers and only one man would have had reason to come there. "I want a sample of this tested. Make sure they run a complete series."
"Send the report to me on board my ship within the hour."
"At once, sir."
A scant twenty minutes after Travis returned to his ship, there was a knock on his cabin door. "Come," he commanded.
The communications engineer entered and saluted. "The test results you requested, sir."
Travis snatched the papers from the man's hands and read the results. He looked up and asked, "They are positive?"
"There is no doubt, sir. The samples are identical to those of Kerr Avon. His particular allergy strain is uncommon among Terran inhabitants."
"Very well. Put in a priority call to Space Command Headquarters," he ordered. "I wish to speak to Supreme Commander Servalan."
You're running out of time, Blake, Travis thought to himself. Then his call came through and he smiled at the image on the screen. "Supreme Commander."
"Commander Travis," Servalan returned. "I presume you have news for me."
"You have Blake."
"Not yet, but it's my belief that we have one less traitor to worry about." He held up a small square of blood-stained cloth.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" she inquired.
"The person who wore this has--or had--a rare blood condition. An allergy, it seems. And only one member of Blake's crew has it."
Servalan's face grew angry. "Don't play games, Travis."
"Your pardon, Supreme Commander. The party in question is Kerr Avon."
"Kerr Avon?" she echoed. "The computer expert?"
"Yes," he replied confidently. "I have the test results to prove it. I have consulted the medical team and they advised that with such a blood loss, he's either dead or soon will be."
"Very well. Keep me posted." Servalan broke the contact and smiled. "And then there were five. Your luck has run out, Blake."
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