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By Judith Proctor
Page 1 of 5

Blake backed up against the wall as he heard the footsteps of the approaching guard. He held up a warning hand to the woman beside him and she nodded once in silent understanding. As the guard rounded the corner, they moved as one: Shona chopped at the hand holding the gun; Blake thumped hard into the man's midriff. The guard doubled up, letting out a loud whoof as his breath was knocked out of him. The gun fell from his grip, but remained dangling from his arm by its strap. As his hand struggled to regain the weapon, Shona's knife came up and cut his throat.

      Blake watched as the body fell to the ground. Death had less power to move him these days, but there was one death that would be avenged: the death of his closest friend, of his brother - that could not be allowed to pass unnoticed.

      So far, they had been fortunate. The prison had been less well defended than he had anticipated. Perhaps it had been assumed that the prisoner here was the last person that the rebels would want to rescue. Perhaps, now that everyone thought Blake was dead, they no longer expected trouble from freedom fighters. Or perhaps it was just one colossal trap.

      If his information was correct, the murderer should be imprisoned in the next corridor. Without inside help, Blake knew they could never have made it so far. Knowledge of the security systems, the patrol patterns, all had been given them by an informant who was carefully off duty tonight. He picked up the dead man's gun and slung it over his shoulder - it was always useful to have a weapon in reserve. Using his own gun, he covered Shona as she moved down to the corridor intersection. They would have to move rapidly now - they had minutes at most before the body was discovered.

      Shona waved to indicate that the corridor was clear. Blake hesitated. The confrontation ahead was going to be difficult, he wanted to get clear away to the flyer without the prisoner raising any alarm. It would be easier if he wasn't recognised. Making up his mind, he gestured to Shona to wait a moment and began pulling the uniform off the dead guard. Luckily the man had been heavy in build, and Federation uniforms were loose fitting at the best of times. The outfit fitted over Blake's own clothes once he had discarded his jacket. The helmet was comfortable enough over the black balaclava, although the visor made everything look slightly odd. Rationally he knew that it was to protect against the effects of laser flash, but it still made him feel as though he was moving in an underwater world. "Okay," he said quietly, his voice sounding slightly odd through the gas mask.

      If Shona was impatient, she didn't show it. They moved around the last corner, heading for the third cell on the left. If their information was correct, this should be it. Shona silently tapped the key code they had been given, and the cell door swung open to reveal the man Blake had sworn to kill - Kerr Avon.

      Avon was apparently asleep, curled up on the narrow bunk. Blake took an obscure pleasure in the drab prison coveralls that Avon was wearing. For a man so accustomed to dressing well, that must have been yet another indignity.

      Shona moved over and shook the sleeping man roughly by the shoulder. Avon moaned in his sleep, but didn't move. She shook him again.

      "Don't you want to get out of here?"

      This time, Avon's eyes opened, and he sat up slowly, obviously taking them both in. Shona was the slighter of the two, but had an evident strength to her. Her auburn hair was cut in a short crop and her camouflage clothing made no concessions to style.

      "Move." Shona gestured towards the door with her gun.

      Avon remained where he was seated. "I killed Blake," he said evenly. "Why should any member of the rebellion wish to help me?"

      Blake found that calm statement rather unnerving. Could Avon really be so blasť about his death?

      Shona was impatient. "Do you think you'll be any better off staying here?"

      Avon got carefully to his feet. "You may have a point," he said soberly. "I'll come."

      Blake took the lead now, moving ahead along the featureless grey corridors. Shona brought up the rear, checking for pursuit and keeping Avon covered. They moved through the kitchens, empty at this hour of the early morning and out through a service entrance. The gap in the security perimeter lay just ahead. Provided the circuit integrators he'd used around the gap had not yet been detected, they should be able to reach the flyer that would be waiting just beyond. For the umpteenth time, Blake found himself wishing for Vila's talents. Yet another death to lay at Avon's door. He checked his watch carefully. Everything was on schedule so far. The flyer should be arriving in about thirty seconds. As if on cue, he heard the faint sound of an engine on minimum power. Simultaneously, the lighting which illuminated a large section of the fencing, went out.

      "Now!" Blake sprinted forward, trusting the other two to follow his lead. Racing across the open ground, he threw himself under the low cut gap in the fence, nerves tingling for the anticipated electric shock. First Avon, then Shona followed. The flyer was on the ground just ahead. Blake scrambled in through the open door, pulling Avon in after him. Shona launched herself into the front seat, as the pilot lifted them into the air. Pursuit would be on its way soon, but by then, the jamming they had set up should be in effect and local communication blacked out. The first stage of the operation was over.

      Blake watched as Avon fumbled with the clasp of his seat belt. The man's breathing was laboured as through he'd run several kilometers instead of a mere hundred meters. His skin looked an odd colour too, although that was probably just the effect of viewing him through the visor. He said nothing. Blake found it easier to hate him in that silence - Avon made no attempt to justify himself, because there was no justification for what he had done.

      Memories were coming back to him now, not of Avon, but of Roj. After losing so many of his family to the Federation, the discovery of a brother, even a clone created at Servalan's instigation, had been a gift beyond price. In the time they had known each other, they had become firm friends. Their tastes, so similar in many areas, differed just enough to make each of them feel unique. They had laughed together, made plans together, and finally come up with the best scheme of all. If one Roj Blake was a nuisance to the Federation, why not two? If they both acted as the original, then their chances of gaining support were doubled. They had gone their separate ways, but kept in regular contact. The scheme on Gauda Prime had been Roj's idea. It had seemed appropriate somehow, after all, it had been a bounty hunter who had nearly cost him his eye. It had been a scheme that had almost worked. A scheme that would have worked if Avon hadn't betrayed him.

      Blake{\160}glanced at Avon again. Roj would have welcomed you as I would have, he thought. He would have welcomed you, treated you as a valued friend. In return, you killed him. Shot him down in cold blood. The anger was building within Blake now. He felt the urge to kill as he had not felt it for many years. Not the calm dispassionate knowledge that a death was unavoidable to achieve an end, but the cold hard fury that wanted to rend and tear for bitter revenge. He clenched his fists hard, restraining the urge to lash out here and now. Every man, even Kerr Avon, was entitled to a chance to speak in his own defence. They would try him, and then under the due process of law, they would execute him.

      His thoughts were disturbed as the flyer dipped into a clearing. The doors opened automatically as the flyer hovered. "Out!" yelled the pilot.

      Blake slammed open Avon's safety belt and pushed him bodily through the door. Then he jumped out himself, rolling clear as Shona and Hendrix, the pilot, bailed out beside him. The flyer wobbled a moment from the recoil of their jumps, then rose and headed rapidly in a northwards direction under the control of a preset program in the autopilot. Blake came to his feet, and checked his compass by the light of a torch. The caves that led into his base were about ten minutes walk from this point. Everything had been so much simpler in the days when they had had the teleport.

      Had Avon given the Federation the teleport too? He turned round to look at his one time friend. Avon lay sprawled in a patch of mud; presumably he'd landed awkwardly when he fell out of the flyer. Blake felt a moment's sympathy and ruthlessly repressed it. "On your feet," he demanded roughly.

      Avon's face turned to look at him, the expression slightly puzzled. Well, Blake thought, Avon was bound to realise who he was sooner or later. He took the helmet off deliberately, and tucked it under his arm. "You shot the wrong man," he said viciously.

      Avon looked at him, a collection of emotions too fleeting to identify, passing across his face. Finally he spoke. "I'll have to try harder next time, won't I?"

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Judith Proctor

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