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Jabberwocky - part 13 - Revenant

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 19

      "What is that supposed to mean?"

      "The lure of space pales beside the call of young love," Vila replied, smiling. "Your son's got a girlfriend. Just think, Avon, it won't be long before he'll be old enough to marry - and it won't be long after that before we can start calling you 'grandpa'."

      "You're a fool," Avon snapped and abandoned the subject, but he was sure that Vila remembered it and chuckled to himself about it. Irritated at the thought, Avon put it out of his mind and turned to consider the rest of the crew on the flight deck. They were cleared to take off in half an hour - out bound traffic on Dorsa Prime was always heavy, since it was a transportation nexus for this area of space. Until now, it had remained carefully neutral, and all of Blake's rhetoric had not altered that, but beneath the surface, support for the rebel movement was growing. Blake had opened diplomatic relations between Dorsa Prime and the Ryalon Rebel government, secret relations to be sure, but it was a start.

      Without the 'three musketeers' as Vila irreverently dubbed the newcomers, and without Soolin and Dayna, the crew was reduced almost to the Liberator original group with the addition of Tarrant and Hugh. Right now, everyone was on the flight deck, waiting for clearance. The Federation presence on Dorsa Prime was small, but it was there, and everyone felt a slight edge of tension, waiting here in plain sight like a sitting duck.

      The communications' system crackled to life before Avon could complain about the new crew members any more and everyone jumped. "Open a screen, Jabberwocky," Blake ordered, standing up and moving into position to greet the caller.

      It was Dar Kain, the under secretary to President Mittall. "I'm glad I reached you, Blake. Something's come up that I think you'd be interested in. We have an escaping rebel out from Earth who's looking for a ride to Ryalon."

      "We're hardly a passenger ship, Blake," Avon said in an undertone, knowing Blake would find this hard to resist, but concerned that it could be a trap - and probably was. A spy, either from Earth or from the Dorsa Prime government, could do serious damage if he were turned loose on Jabberwocky. They'd had trouble with sabotage before, from a programmed Soolin, and this would be a stranger with no urge to resist or to protect Jabberwocky or the crew. "It could be trouble."

      "It could be a trap," Vila agreed nervously. The thief was good at protecting himself. He didn't care for threats either.

      "It might be someone who needs our help," Hugh intervened. "Why don't we hear what the man has to say before we make our decision?"

      At Avon's side Cally frowned. Avon turned to look at her, aware from the strength of their bond that something troubled her. "What is it?" he asked in an undertone.

      "I feel this is important, Avon," she replied quietly. "I sense... something familiar."

      //Familiar?// he asked, reverting reluctantly to telepathy. Though he and Cally had worked between them to develop his power, he seldom used it with anyone else other than Jabberwocky and that in link mode. //What do you mean? Is Blake setting us up for problems?//

      //I do not know. I only feel we should go along with this.// She looked worried. Precognition was not one of Cally's normal skills, in spite of the one spectacular bout of it after sustaining a head injury on Terminal. He wasn't certain what she was picking up on now. Being a telepath had its problems and this kind of thing was one of them.

      "You mean he wants to ride along with us?" Blake asked. "Do you know him? Can you vouch for him?"

      "No, Blake," Kain replied. "But he says you can. I'll put him on the screen." He gestured at someone to join him and a man walked into the screen pickup.

      It was Olag Gan.

      "Gan!" blurted Vila, his mouth hanging open idiotically as he gaped at the newcomer. "You're alive!"

      "That isn't Gan, you idiot," Avon insisted, though it was hard to dispute the evidence of his own eyes. "Blake said Gan was dead." He turned to Blake, eyes narrowed. "Or is it possible our fearless leader could have made a mistake?"

      "I didn't make a mistake, Avon," Blake replied, his voice hardening in response to the edge that had crept into Avon's. "Don't you think I made sure before I left him there. He wasn't breathing and I couldn't get a pulse."

      "Hullo, Blake. Hullo, everyone," Gan said, and it was his voice as Avon remembered it. "You didn't make a mistake. The medics say the limiter depressed my systems at the time of the injury and created a condition that simulated death. I'd like to talk to you. There's more you need to hear."

      "Such as where you've been for the past few years and why you have avoided contact with us," Jenna suggested.

      "It's Gan!" Vila burst out, staring around at the others in dismay. "He's alive. Can't we get him back first and ask questions later? If he's programmed or anything we can take care of that. Avon does it very well these days. Come on everybody. Let's have him back."

      While it was true that Avon had discovered a means of eradicating programming through his healing skills, it was also true that he had tried it on no one but himself. He had no assurance that it would work on other people, though Orac could be useful there. A part of him warned against allowing Gan to come on board, but the looks on the faces of Blake, Cally, and Vila made it plain that he would have a serious fight if he tried to insist on it. Tarrant looked as if he were inclined to side with Avon, but then he had never known Gan. Hugh, of course, was sympathetic, but that was his nature.

      Tarrant decided to enter the fray, something dark and suspicious in his eyes. "So that's Gan." He surprised Avon by adding, "I think you'd better have him back. I'd say the odds are pretty good that Servalan had him, and who knows what kind of damage she did. If we've got him, at least we can watch him and maybe prevent any problems before they happen. Jabberwocky can watch him, can't you, Jabberwocky?" The open fondness he felt for his linkmate was apparent in his voice.

      Vila looked at him in slight surprise and grinned approvingly. "See, even Del wants him back. What can go wrong?"

      "Would you care for a list?" Avon asked sourly, but the pilot had a good point, and Avon gave him an approving nod, pausing to wonder when Tarrant had stopped being an annoyance to him and started being an asset. They would have to bring Gan on board, but Avon didn't like it. It made him very uneasy.

      He turned to Blake with a throwaway gesture. "You'll do what you like, as always, Blake. Just let it be upon your head when it inevitably backfires."

      "Isn't it always, Avon?" Blake favoured him with a slightly cutting smile. That was one thing Avon liked about Blake. The man never backed down from a confrontation with him. He might be a great bleeding heart rebel who got into trouble right and left, but he never gave ground unless it was actually warranted.

      Blake turned back to the screen. "Send him over, then," he instructed. "We have twenty minutes before we can leave. You can get him here before then?"

      "Oh yes, we can get him there before then," Kain replied.

      "This should be fun," Jabberwocky put in. "Another new crew member. Maybe we can convert part of the hold for cabins. I feel like I know Gan already. I've met him in your thoughts often. I like him."

      "You would," Avon retorted, but without the spite his words might have held were he addressing anyone else. "Just remember we're going to need your help to determine what kind of trap this is - and mark my words, it is a trap."


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Sheila Paulson

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