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Blake looked around impatiently|
"Well, where are they?"
"I don't like this, not at all, it gives me the creeps, shouldn't have come"
"Shut up Villa!"
mumbles "Shut up, shut up, that's all anyone ever says these days, unless they want a lock picked, at least with Avon, well, we had a good laugh, well if you can call it a laugh, well actually a scowl, but you know what I mean.."
"You were always moaning that Avon bossed you around, don't have to worry about that now, do you", sneered Jenna
"That was unnecessary Jenna" glared Blake
"Sorry, but I can't say I miss the late lamented Avon. I never liked him when he was alive, why should I be a hypocrite now"
Blake glared at her, thought about saying something, changed his mind, and just sighed instead
Vila fought back a snuffle "He was my friend"
"All right Vila, I know, I miss him too, but its finished, we can't bring him back, and" he said, looking around, "we've got work to do, at least we will have when they arrive. Where the hell are they"
"I knew it was a mistake relying on slavers" Jenna stated, "I thought your morals would prevent you from having anything to do with them"
"Normally they would, but Helgel's the only person who's got what we need and Liberator won't get very far without it"
"I thought it was self sufficient, auto repair and all that" said Vila
"Haven't you been listening to anything we've said?"
"Well yes, I mean no, well I've been preoccupied"
"Drunk you mean"
At that moment, before Vila had chance to reply, they heard a shout, more like a bellow
"Bla..ake, glad to see you, my camp's just over there"
"Why couldn't we have teleported directly there?"
"Now, you wouldn't really expect me to let you simply appear in my camp without a proper escort, a mark of respect you understand"
They were surrounded by twenty armed men, who seemed to appear from nowhere.
"What the".. said Blake
"Now no need to be alarmed. It's not what you're thinking; this really is an escort. Just hand over your weapons and we can proceed to do business"
"And if we refuse"
"You can go on your way of course, but without the crystals"
"Let's get them from somewhere else, Blake, someone we can trust" whispered Jenna
"No Jenna, you know that's not possible, not in time anyway"
"All right" said Blake to Helgel, "but I have something to do first"
raises his arm "Gan , if we're not back in an hour, blast this planet to dust"
Helgel going pale "Blake, that's not necessary!"
"I'm sure it isn't"
"Gan couldn't do it anyway" muttered Jenna quietly
Blake pretended he didn't hear, and slowly handed Helgel his gun. Jenna and Vila followed suit They walked quickly, ten armed men in front, ten behind them, to Helgel's camp.
"Puagh" sniffed Vila, wrinkling his nose "OW!" as Jenna dug him in the ribs
"You don't want to upset our hosts do you?" she hissed
"No but.. it does pong a bit" he muttered
"Blake, over here, lets get to business" said Helgel, indicating him to follow. Vila and Jenna started to follow Blake, but were prevented by a guard
"It's all right, I'm sure I can manage negotiations by myself"
"You are both welcome to enjoy the delights we have on offer in the camp. You never know", Helgel said, eyeing Jenna, "you may take a fancy to one or more of the merchandise we have on offer and decide to make an additional purchase or two, most of them have been fully trained you know"
Jenna felt the urge to hit him, but instead, just put her hand on her hips, bent her head back and roared with laughter. Helgel joined in, as did Blake, though looking more like he was doing it because he felt he should, than because he actually found it as amusing, Vila just stood looking from one to another and back again.
"Go on Vila, Jenna, enjoy the sights; you don't want to disappoint our hosts"
Vila looked doubtful, Jenna just turned and walked to the nearest open tent. As Blake disappeared with Helgel, Vila scrambled after Jenna "wait for me, don't leave me alone with.." looking at the huge, rough, armed guards, who glared at him "well, just don't leave me alone"
Vila found Jenna looking at a display of knives. She picked one up, studying it.
"This is beautiful, the decoration on the handle, the fine detail and" she said, touching the blade "very effective"
"I thought this was only a slave camp" she said, looking at the display
"It is, but the slaves that have not yet been sold are still put to profit, making these, or doing other things" said a tall, rugged, man who had appeared beside her.
"What other things?"
"Oh" he smiled, evilly, "whatever we deem suitable, the pretty ones, well, a man's got to have his pleasures, hasn't he" leering at Jenna.
"I'm not one of you slaves" she said angrily
There was a sudden commotion outside,
Armed men came running from all directions
"What's up" squealed Vila
"One of the slaves has stabbed Neldus" yelled someone
"That was his last chance, he'll suffer now"
"Who's Neldus?" said Jenna
"And what will you do to the slave, or perhaps I don't want to know" said Vila
"To answer the dear lady first, Neldus was the second slavemaster, and as for the slave, we will cut his tongue out" "You can't!" squawked Vila
"That's barbaric" said Jenna
"True, but we have to have discipline and he has been warned"
He walked out of the tent, "want to see?" he said, beckoning for them to follow
"No!" said Vila
"Yes!" said Jenna, glaring at Vila and grabbing his arm, dragging him behind her
"Jenna let go, let go"
"Why" Vila wailed
"Curiosity" she said with an inclination of her head.
Vila noticed she had slipped the knife carefully into her tunic
They reached a circle of men and found Blake and Helgel approaching them
They were having an animated argument.
"It's none of your business Blake. What I do in my camp, with my slaves is no ones concern but mine"
"But it's inhuman" he shuddered
"The man has been warned. He has been nothing but trouble since we got him"
"Perhaps he doesn't like being a slave" muttered Vila
Helgel glared at him "You have what you came here for, there is no need for you to remain here" it was clearly a threat, as more guards appeared behind them
"All right, come on Jenna, Vila"
"But you can't just let them do that"
"Since when have you been interested in anyone but yourself Jenna"
"I don't adhere to your over sentimental morality Blake, but I'm not inhuman"
"Alright, I know, but there nothing we can do to stop it" he said looking at the guards who were now training their weapons on them"
"There's always the threat you made before" said Jenna
"I don't think so" said Helgel, gun pointing to her back "and drop the knife"
Jenna glared and opened her hand. The silver knife dropped to the ground.
"Blake, tell your ship to bring you all up. If you say anything else, she'll be dead before she gets on board"
Blake started to raise his arm
"No!" shouted Vila, "You can't"
"Vila, I know, but there's nothing we can do"
"But LOOK at the slave" he said in a shocked voice
Blake turned and looked, opening his eyes wide in disbelief and horror.
Two men were dragging a naked crumpled man towards the circle. He had clearly been beaten savagely, there were bruises, lacerations all over his body. His swollen eyes were closed, but one opened slowly and obviously with a great deal of pain. He suddenly made an attempt to break free, only to be struck from behind with a large metal bar, which made him fall face down in the mud. One of the guards stood over him, forced his legs apart, and made a disgusting gesture, those around laughed.
"Avon" Blake said in a strangled voice
Even Jenna looked shocked
"Blake, you have to stop them" said Vila, shaking, pointing to some men who were approaching Avon, carrying a sharp implement.
"Get up" someone said, kicking Avon "I said UP"
Avon struggled trying to get to his feet, managed as far as his knees then fell forward again
Two men grabbed him roughly and dragged him to his feet, two others approached and put their hands on Avon's face, trying to part his lips
Avon pursed his lips together fiercely, shaking his head from side to side, a terrified look in his eye
"BLAKE" yelled Vila
Blake abruptly came out of his shocked daze
"Helgel stop this"
"I told you not to interfere"
"You sell slaves don't you? I'll buy him"
"What!" Helgel said startled
"I said I'll buy him"
"All right, but he needs to be made an example of. You can have him when I've finished" he said maliciously
Avon was still struggling, but one of the guards had managed to prise open his mouth a fraction. The implement was being forced in
"I want him intact" said Blake calmly. "Whatever his normal value is I'll pay you double, but he must not be harmed further"
Helgel stood, pausing in thought, stroked his chin. Turning to the men holding Avon he said "drop him. He may have some value after all"
As Avon fell to the ground, Blake let out the breath he didn't know he had been holding
"A thousand credits is what his market value would be"
"Alright I'll get the two thousand and take him back with me"
"I said ten thousand, or would you rather.." he said, gesturing to his men who started to pick up Avon
Blake sighed, "Alright ten thousand"
"Jenna, teleport back, get a spare bracelet and the ten thousand credits"
"That's a lot of credits, I'm not sure if he's worth it, after all, he's not exactly in prime condition is he?"
"Alright" she said, "I'm going"
"Blake" said Vila grinning
"How are you going to explain to Avon that he's your slave?"
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