The Once and Future LiberatorBy Jackie Speel
Page 2 of 3
'Why so anxious about the suggestion I go to Gauda Prime? To get Servalan's approval for taking over legitimately after her coup?' Blake replied to Avon's unexpectedly vehement comment on the subject.
Del Grant had visited the planet - on business he had not cared to explain - and had made a brief visit to Blake to report what he had found. Images of the planet appeared on the computer screen. Their eerie similarity to the place of Avo n's all but forgotten dream disturbing him - but those of the abandoned base Grant had used showed a totally different place. After finding that several of the places of his dream had been host to viscast stations or marker beacons Avon h ad put it out of his conscious mind - until now.
'Knowing your taste for spectacular acts, I can quite see you going to Gauda Prime n a show of bravado against the last of the old regime - and I would have to rescue you again.'
'Don't tempt me Avon,' Blake replied with a smile. Avon suspected Blake was bored of office. 'As the Cabinet agreed - treat them as if they no longer mattered, while keeping them contained. Though it would have made a good place for us on ce - planet and rebel hideout.'
'One question,' Avon asked after a few seconds. 'Where would you have hidden the Liberator?'
'I would have thought of a way. How are the modifications going?' The best of the Federation space technology was being applied to it, and contact with the System from whence it had come, now with a more liberal administration, had result ed in an agreement on joint space exploration.
'Orac says that it can navigate us through the minefield, and that the developments in powering it could take us through to the galactic satellites.' The computer had expressed its desire to continue its researches on the Liberator so fre quently that Blake had eventually told it that it could do so. It had dismissed Servalan's original plan for it, to take over the functions of Star One as "interesting - for a while" though better suited to such vastly inferior computers as had been previously handling it. Orac made a further comment that that even Servalan had misinterpreted what the term actually meant. The explanation that followed was complex and involved the computers in general deciding that the ins tructions to keep "Star One" inaccessible to those in authority meant that it should not have an actual physical location. It was unclear from what was said whether the complex that had been Star One had persisted.
'I wonder if one day Orac might actually find that even it has limits.'
'Though it will find some explanation as to why they are not limits.'
'For a mere computer it can display remarkably human characteristics.' Blake said with a laugh. 'When will the Liberator be leaving?' he asked wistfully, picking up one of his favourite "ornaments" to play with - Vila had given it to him, as they shared a taste for the particularly obnoxious Bayban the gameshow host. At least, Avon knew, this one would not be given to him, like all the others that Vila could not be persuaded to "steal" from him, in an uncharacteristic dem onstration of good taste.
'When he returns from Lindor.' Sarkoff had come on an antiques hunting trip, and to see his "old friends" now in power. Avon had come to like the man - they shared a similar sardonic view of humanity in general and politicians in particul ar. He had also finally thanked Sarkoff for what he had said on their first trip. The widower had recognised Avon's sense of loss and made a tactful remark when they were alone together, which Avon had been unable to respond to at the tim e - which Sarkoff had understood.
'Are you sure you want Grant with you?'
'If I hadn't wanted him, I wouldn't have made the offer.' Avon snapped. The two of them had talked while Sarkoff had very carefully packed his acquisitions and, as the politician reappeared, Avon had made the offer, slightly to his own co nsternation. He had been surprisingly pleased when Grant had accepted.
Blake raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture - Avon had a momentary flashback to his dream, but his expression showed nothing. 'I would find it useful if you stayed.'
'I want to be free to explore.' Both senses intended, as both knew. 'I kept my promise.'
'I would expect no less. You are one of the few people I have known who has never asked for more. If you want any office, ask now.'
'Even the Presidency?' Avon teased.
'Do you really want it?' The reply was half-serious.
'There are few things I would want less. I wanted your seat on the Liberator, not the one you are occupying now.' Blake nodded. 'Besides,' Avon let his malice show, 'I am not a good enough manipulator of people.'
'You are free to make your choice - I trust you to make the right one.'
Blake looked round the office. 'What shall I do now, Avon?'
'Your appointment book is full.' Avon replied, deliberately misunderstanding. He knew what Blake meant though - whether or not he believed in Blake's cause he had enjoyed the sense of purpose the connection with the rebel movement had giv en him. This mission he was now going on was an attempt to recreate something of that. And it seemed Blake was after the same.
'I have achieved everything I set out to do. What next?'
'You could make Servalan your Supreme Commander and fight her again.,' Blake grinned in response, 'or ask the Andromedans for a rematch.' Who now remembered Travis, Avon wondered. His role in the Andromedan invasion had not been made publ ic. 'Or you could go to the System and ask them for a DSV of your own.' Blake's expression unconsciously indicated his reply, and Avon smiled to himself.
'You're right - this has reminded me of the good old days - or at least the better parts of them.'
'And you've got the most out of it - many of the rebels have returned to anonymity.'
'Which is what most of them wanted. Did you enjoy your time with the computers here on Earth? I understand consultants are usually well paid.'
'I found it most interesting.' Once, it had been his ultimate ambition, to work in the vast computer network on Earth - as the administrative capital of the Federation and thereafter - that existed despite Star One. He had enjoyed losing himself in the physical construct and in making use of its resources. He had also followed a suggestion of Vila, whom he had taken on a tour of the place - to leave messages for future users, showing what had been done till this date. Avo n had enjoyed Vila's joke that perhaps the only way somebody from the distant future would discover the great rebel Roj Blake was from trying to find out more about Kerr Avon "who had checked this part of the system." Avon smiled, and add ed, 'But there is more to the universe than computers - or money.'
'When did you discover that?'
'At some point on the Liberator, when I realised what it could do.'
'Next you will tell me you robbed the bank partially out of curiosity.'
'Perhaps.' A brief memory of Anna - he had not had the heart to find out what had happened to her, though what Del had said implied a more innocuous interpretation.
'You will come back and tell me what you get up to?' Blake repeated.
'Of course. Part of the pleasure of going is telling those who have not what they have missed.' He was teasing Blake - but suddenly realised that Blake was looking for something else, was taking him seriously.
'One last request Avon, before you go.'
'A trip on the Liberator as she now is, or you will stow away?'
Blake reacted almost too fast. 'Yes, Avon, please.'
'Of course - what could I refuse the President - or a friend?' Saying the last word no longer surprised him.
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