Jabberwocky - Part 7 - CloneBy Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 25
"Are you certain about this, Blake?" Avon asked in disgust, glancing
around the flight deck as if seeking support from the
"Yes, Avon, very certain. I've said it before and nothing has changed. I can't leave IMIPAK for Servalan."
"You have no reason to believe she will take the risk, Blake," Avon reminded him. "She's left it until now. She values her elegant hide too much to chance it unless she has discovered a way to cancel the molecular instability the projector induces. If there had been a way to do that, Orac would have discovered it. It has been searching at my command since the incident."
"True, Avon. But since Servalan has been reminded of IMIPAK, I can't ignore it. What of the rest of you? You were willing to come to Serna for it."
"That was when we thought IMIPAK would be used by the Federation," Jenna reminded him. "In the long run, it would have been more risk not to go."
"I see Blake has managed to corrupt you thoroughly," Avon accused. "Is no risk too great for you if your fearless leader commands it?"
"I don't take commands," snapped Jenna. "And I seem to remember you going down to Serna too."
"The threat of IMIPAK is very real," Cally put in from her place at Avon's side. "It must be destroyed. I am willing to go, Blake. But you and Avon should remain behind and let the rest of us handle it. It's suicidal to risk the two of you."
"I could stay and keep Avon and Blake company," Vila offered automatically.
"What? Afraid, Vila?" Dayna asked him. "I thought your recent bravery was a fluke."
"I noticed no such bravery," observed Avon, but Blake saw a quickly suppressed twinkle of amusement in his eyes.
"Going for IMIPAK doesn't require bravery," retorted Vila, strolling nonchalantly toward the drinks dispenser. "It takes lunacy."
"Exactly," Avon agreed. "And drinking won't help."
"Who said I was going to drink?" Vila programmed the machine for coffee and began to pass the cups around, saving his for last. Blake wondered if he'd convinced Jabberwocky to throw in a shot of soma.
Blake returned to the subject at hand. "I see everyone's point about IMIPAK, but I have another reason to go."
"Stupidity," muttered Avon under his breath.
"Probably," Blake conceded with a slight bow to Avon. "But I was thinking of the clone. I owe him something after all."
"I don't understand why," Avon insisted. "From Orac's data, he is a copy, not constructed of your genetic material. If you choose to read obligation into the fact that he was designed to look like you, that is your problem and should scarcely involve the rest of us."
"I never claimed it did. Whether he's technically my clone or not doesn't alter the fact he was created in my image to be used against me. IMIPAK isn't the only weapon the Federation can use against us there. Suppose they reclaimed him. He could do a great deal of damage."
"He was never good at that," Avon pointed out. "I must give him that much. Most of the time he's faced trouble with us - after getting us into it in the first place. Give up, Hugh. It's as effective as arguing with the force wall."
"Or with you," Hugh grinned. Good-natured and open, Hugh seemed to enjoy Avon, opposites attracting perhaps, Interesting how well the cynical computer tech tolerated him in return.
"Then it's settled?" asked Tarrant with a wry grin.
"All but Avon," replied Blake. "You should stay behind, Avon. Spend time with Kyl. Let the rest of us handle it."
"You would be well served if I did exactly that," Avon purred smoothly.
"Why not?" asked Dayna, jumping into the discussion. "You know I'm best qualified to deal with IMIPAK. Stay where it's safe and let us do our jobs."
"It's so nice to be wanted." He turned to Blake. "When do you leave - so I can be off the ship?"
"In two hours."
"That's cutting it fine. What is it, that you wish to be gone before Avalon finds out what you're planning?"
"Avalon doesn't control my actions."
"No?" Avon caught Blake's eye, then he stalked from the flight deck. In a few moments, Jabberwocky reported he had left the ship.
Blake's feelings were mixed. He wanted Avon safe; Avon's safety had always mattered. But a part of him would have liked Avon to come in spite of the danger, and he was disappointed that Avon had chosen his own safety first.
"I think we hurt his feelings," Hugh remarked into the silence.
"Do we care?" That was Tarrant who cared more than he could admit and who sometimes seemed driven to prove he didn't.
"It would be stupid for him to come," Jenna managed to sound slightly contemptuous. Blake knew she didn't much like Avon, but she had respected him. Now she sounded triumphant, and Blake was irked, as he occasionally was with the pair of them for putting him in the middle.
Jenna was more prone to overt resentment than Avon, and sometimes she became slightly possessive, all the more because she sensed Avon had a stronger claim on Blake than she did. Cally, who shared a cautious and tentative intimacy with Avon could accept his undefined feelings for Blake, but Jenna lacked her calm control.
"He's no coward, Jenna," Blake reminded her. "You might rather call me a fool for choosing to go."
"Then why do it? You could leave it to us. Don't you trust us?"
"It's not that. It's the clone. I can't resist the meeting. If there was a replica of you out there, you'd be curious too, wouldn't you?"
"Not enough to risk my life."
"We don't know how much risk it will be," Hugh intervened pacifically. "From what you've said about the incident, Blake's clone opposes the Federation. We just have to get there first."
"You're an optimist," muttered Vila over the rim of his third cup of coffee.
"Maybe," agreed Hugh. "It was the only position open."
Blake had been in his quarters long enough to take a quick shower when the buzzer sounded.
Pulling on a clean shirt, he opened the door to Dayna, who looked upset.
"What's wrong, Dayna?"
"I'd like to talk to you, Blake. Could we leave the ship?"
"Leave the ship? But we're ready to go."
"I know, Blake, but it won't take long. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."
There was concern in her eyes, so he agreed. He and Dayna strolled into the docking cradles.
Once away from the ship, Dayna relaxed. "It's Tarrant," she admitted. "I didn't want to talk where Jabberwocky could hear us. Ever since Serna, Tarrant hasn't been quite himself."
"I understand, Dayna," Blake reminded her. "I've been through a worse separation, and it's hard. Tarrant's strong enough to deal with it. He'll find his feet again soon."
"That's what I thought at first, Blake, but instead he's getting worse. I know Tarrant better than you do, and I thought I could guess at his reactions but he's grown possessive of Jabberwocky. I know he always was, but that was just the pilot in him coming through. This is different. Look how he stalled us two days ago when you suggested a group linkage. He doesn't mind link-mode, but he wants the rest of us no closer than that."
"Jabberwocky backed him, Dayna. He wanted a few more days to sort out the main link. We've done all our normal practice routines."
"Should a few days really be necessary, Blake? When Witt pushed you out of the link, you were urging us into link-mode right away when you got it back."
"True, but we were still learning how to use the ship and..." He broke off, considering. "Maybe you're right. That has nothing to do with it. Jabberwocky never said it was a bad idea. Maybe he's protecting Tarrant. Maybe the separation took him worse."
"Worse then when Witt ejected you from the link?" she asked sceptically. "I've thought about it, Blake. Remember Jabberwocky's problems when he started remembering his past? He has a son out there somewhere. He and Tarrant were doing fine before Kyl arrived. If Jabberwocky is the problem, seeing Avon's son might have reminded him of his own. And that might make Tarrant slightly paranoid."
"Too possessive? Tarrant's still young enough to have his insecurities, though he's best at the link."
"Do people ever outgrow all their insecurities, Blake? And should his skill at linking be the only consideration?"
"Jabberwocky makes people possessive, Dayna. I want him back myself, and I know Cally does too. If Tarrant thinks someone means to interfere with the link, it's natural for him to react like this. What concerns me more is your suggestion that Jabberwocky might have a problem. It's natural for him to think of his own son now. I'll ask Hugh to talk to him, or Avon can when we return. He hasn't had much chance to be a healer lately."
"For which he's probably profoundly grateful," offered Dayna with a twinkle in her eyes.
Blake chuckled. "Well, thanks, Dayna. I'll watch them both. You don't think it could endanger this mission?"
"Well," she said slowly, "I don't think so. I think they'll both do their jobs."
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