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Jabberwocky - Part 5 - Decoy

By Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 18

      "You're a fool, Blake," Avon snarled viciously. "Going to Serna is a suicidal risk. Or are you so obsessed with defeating the Federation that the rest of us have become so much fodder for destruction?"

      "You're exaggerating, Avon," Blake said stiffly. "Serna may be a Federation world but I wouldn't go there without a good cause."

      "Of course that makes all the difference." Avon glared at Blake. "Merely going to Serna will get us captured before we've had time to do more than teleport down."

      "I hate to agree with Avon, but I think he's right," Tarrant interjected. "Blake, I've been to Serna. It was before the Andromedan War, true, but it was a major Federation stronghold. There's a huge base and enough ships to make our going there too big a risk. Not even you could hope to do enough damage there to make it worthwhile, and I don't like the idea of a suicide mission."

      "Suicide mission?" Vila echoed in dismay. "Who's talking about suicide missions? I'm much too young to die."

      "You've told us that so often that the idea of silencing you has become curiously attractive," muttered Dayna, the only other crewmember on the flight deck now. "Blake, there's obviously something you're not telling us. I don't think you'd take us into a trap without a good reason."

      "Unless he thought he had a good reason," Avon reminded her. "Which is not the same thing. Blake, I find this latest scheme of yours highly questionable, and if the rest of us have any say in the matter, I am against it. I suggest you get the rest of us up here and put it to a vote."

      "Surprisingly democratic of you, Avon," retorted Blake. "But I've got an urgent reason to go."

      "Oh, wonderful," Vila murmured. "At least we'll die in a good cause. Blake, why can't we go somewhere nice like a pleasure planet. We need a holiday, we do. Ever since we got Jabberwocky, we've been scurrying around getting into trouble. The pressure's getting to you. Let's relax and forget about suicide missions. Please, Blake."

      Blake got up and stood before the screen, turning to face them. "I'll tell you. Jabberwocky, put it on the main screen."

      "All right, but they could be right, Blake. Listen to them." For a change, the voice of their computer sounded rather subdued.

      "If Jabberwocky's against it, then I know it's wrong," Tarrant declared. He was still Jabberwocky's link-mate, and he didn't like the idea of risking that. //Jabberwocky?// he prodded within the link. //Just how dangerous is this?//

      //Very dangerous,// Jabberwocky replied. //But you've taken risks before, Del. Hear him out. I'm only a poor computer and I can't judge. It might be worth it.//

      //Poor computer,// Tarrant scoffed fondly. //I know better.// He turned his attention to the screen.

      Blake inserted Orac's key. "Orac, describe the situation on Serna if you would."

      "Oh, very well. As I have made abundantly clear in the past, I can be put to better use than a viscast relay. The following message was sent to the Federation governor on Serna two days ago."

      Hugh and Soolin strolled onto the flight deck just then and both of them stopped. Hugh seemed to sense the tension on the flight deck. "What's going on?"

      "Trouble," Avon replied. "Blake, the others should be here."

      "Jabberwocky, send for Cally and Jenna," Blake said impatiently, running a hand through his curly hair. "But you'll see I'm right, Avon. It's dangerous though. I admit it. It's more dangerous for you and me than it is for the others, but it's a risk we'll have to take."

      "So you would have us believe." Though Avon had mellowed a bit since coming on board Jabberwocky, he showed no sign of it now. He wore his suspicion like a banner, and Blake's words did nothing to dissipate it. Tarrant wondered if Avon was reacting like this to keep his hand in or because he knew Blake well enough to be suspicious of him. They'd taken on dangerous missions before; on Liberator, the others had gone to Earth to look for Central Control, right in the heart of Federation power, and they'd gone looking for Servalan once in her actual palace, though they had found Anna Grant as well. Could this be any riskier than those missions?

      But why should it be riskier for Blake and Avon than the rest of them? Tarrant didn't know what was going on, but Avon knew Blake well enough to be suspicious. //What do you think, Jabberwocky?// Tarrant asked.

      //Well, maybe it's a foolish risk, but it's too big a danger to ignore.//

      //Tell me about it.//

      //It'll come better from Blake. But don't worry, Del. We're the best ship and crew in space. If anybody can pull this off, we can. It might even be fun.//

      In his typical gung-ho fashion, Jabberwocky had convinced himself that it was worthwhile. Tarrant wasn't convinced but he dropped out of link-mode, just as Cally and Jenna arrived. Sensing the mood, both of them halted and Cally went to stand at Avon's side. He hardly seemed aware of her, but when she put out her hand, he took it without looking. Telepathy?

      "Very well, we're all here." Blake's patience seemed forced. "Avon insists that all of you hear my latest plan. I know that what I'm suggesting will sound risky but when you hear the facts, I think you'll be willing to follow through."

      Avon detached himself from Cally and went to confront Blake, folding his arms across his chest. "Convince us."

      "Play the tape, Orac."

      "Oh, very well."

      The screen came to life and a Federation Space Commander appeared. "To Governor Relk, Serna, greetings from the Supreme Commander. You have been chosen because of your extreme loyalty to receive and hold a Federation secret weapon of vital importance. This information must not be revealed, even to your most loyal staff members. Serna was selected because of its security. Your vast complex will be an appropriate housing for a dangerous tool that must never leave Federation hands. The delivery will be made to you personally three days from now. The code phrase will be 'The brave man with a sword.' When that phrase is spoken to you, you will secure what is given to you."

      "Oscar Wilde," muttered Avon sotto voce. Tarrant shot him a surprised look. Avon could always be counted upon to come up with obscure references. Tarrant found the context intriguing.

      "The device will protect itself," the Space Commander's recorded voice continued. "You will have nothing to do with it. It is called IMIPAK, and it is to be protected at all costs, even with your life if necessary. Rather than let it fall into enemy hands, it must be destroyed. By accepting this task, you prove your loyalty and the Supreme Commander will expect success. He acknowledges his debt to you."

      "IMIPAK!" Avon sounded furious. "Even you could not be that stupid, Blake. You can't go after IMIPAK. Neither you or I can go near the planet."

      "That might be true if anyone on the planet knew and understood IMIPAK's function."

      "What's to stop Relk from experimenting?" Avon demanded. "Blake, we cannot risk this."

      "We cannot risk Servalan finding out about it. She does know the working of IMIPAK, although she's been marked too and probably won't take the risk."

      "She might take that risk, knowing she has a chance to either destroy us or the weapon," Avon pointed out. "Blake, you're a fool."

      "Perhaps," Blake replied. "Do you really want IMIPAK loose in the galaxy, Avon? We'll have no safety while it exists. When it was hidden, we could ignore it, but no more. We must destroy it."

      "And die in the process? Either way the weapon wins."

      "Just what is IMIPAK?" Hugh asked pacifically. "Maybe the rest of us could offer an opinion if we knew what you were talking about."

      "IMIPAK was a weapon developed by a Beta grade technician named Coser," Blake explained. "It stands for Induced Molecular Instability Projector and Key. The weapon causes a point of molecular instability in its victims, then, with the key, the possessor of the weapon could trigger that instability and kill the victim, at any time, at almost any distance. If someone used the key while Avon and I were in range, we'd be killed."

      "Entirely by accident," Avon added sourly. "Servalan can't be involved in this, Blake. She, too, has been marked. She would never risk it."

      "If the weapon was taken from its resting place and she discovered it, she might manipulate it," Blake insisted. "She couldn't go near it, but she could let its whereabouts be known in hopes of luring us in close."

      "Oh, thank you," Avon said facetiously. "You've convinced me. We must go at once. Blake, give it up. We will gain nothing but our deaths."

      "We can gain IMIPAK's destruction."

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Sheila Paulson

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