A Choice of IdentityBy Judith Proctor
Page 1 of 4
The sound of the explosion echoed
deafeningly around the walls of the windowless factory. Blake turned
and ran towards the sound without conscious thought, the serried ranks
of the half completed pursuit ships looming over him in the gloomy
half light. Vila followed, muttering under his breath, wanting
desperately to return to the Liberator, but unwilling to leave without
Blake, both knew they had seconds at most before the security forces
The lights came fully on with a bright blinding glare and Vila seized Blake by the sleeve, tugging at him to stop.
"It's no use, if the explosion didn't get him, the security guards will."
Blake shook him off angrily, "I'm not leaving without Avon." He spoke into his bracelet, "Avon, are you all right?" Tapping it, he tried again, but still without response.
Escape became Vila's top priority as he heard the sound of booted feet approaching down the aisles between the machinery; he ducked behind a stack of tail fins and called the ship, "Cally, prepare for teleport."
Looking desperately around, Blake tried to find a direction with no one approaching, he raced between the brightly lit ships, wishing that the machinery was operating to cover the noise he was making. Running silently was impossible, and he had to find his missing crew member before the guards did. He paused briefly, leaning against the landing gear of a half finished Starburst class vessel to catch his breath and to call Cally to ask if she could locate Avon and bring him up. Her answer gave him no comfort, the teleport could find nothing to lock on to. Whatever had happened to Avon in the explosion must have damaged his bracelet, he could be injured, he could be dead, and they had no way of knowing without getting to him.
He sighted a trooper at the end of an aisle, loosed off a shot and ducked around a paint spraying machine without waiting to see if he had hit anyone. Still heading in the same direction, he started running down a neighbouring aisle, trying to determine as he ran what could have caused the blast. The three of them had been placing mines, the timing had seemed ideal, all shifts in the factory having the day off for the president's birthday. They had evaded the security patrols by teleporting within the outer security perimeter and Avon and Vila between them had managed to deal with the movement detectors and automatic cameras. Splitting up had enabled them to work faster and the job had almost been completed when the explosion occurred. Had a faulty fuse caused a mine to detonate early? If that was the case, then the question was how early? If it had gone off as Avon was setting it, then he had to accept that Avon was dead. If it had gone off a few seconds later, then he might still be alive.
He heard a shout behind him, and turning gun in hand, saw two black clad Federation troopers. He knew he couldn't shoot them both in time, but as they raised their weapons to fire, the factory dissolved around him and re-formed into the teleport booth of the Liberator.
"Thanks Cally, that was good timing."
She was angry with him, and she let him know it,"No thanks to you. If Vila hadn't told me to bring you up, you'd probably have got yourself shot."
Weary now, he allowed her to read the truth of that statement in his face, and waited for the inevitable questions. They wouldn't be long in coming.
Jenna entered the teleport section wearing a long flowing blue robe that accentuated her figure. Even in his current state of mind Blake could admire it, it would probably be the last chance he'd have for some time.
"I don't know if anyone is interested", she reported drily, "but Zen reports that two pursuit ships have just come into range." She looked around, "Where's Avon?"
Servalan looked at the man lying on the hospital bed before her with interest; unconscious, his skin pale from loss of blood contrasted sharply with his dark hair. He wasn't exactly handsome, but his face, even relaxed in sleep looked interesting. Yes, that was the word, interesting. Creases around the eyes suggested a man who smiled a lot, yet there was something in that face that suggested a darker nature.
She shrugged mentally, she was probably imagining it from his dossier. Kerr Avon, computer expert, probably a genius, convicted and transported for fraud on a massive scale; self-centred, a cynic, virtually without friends, reputed to be willing to do almost anything for money. There had been a top flight agent assigned to him until shortly before his capture and some of the notes were intriguing.
"I was assigned to this case in order to determine if there was a political motive behind the bank fraud, a strong possibility in light of Avon's family history. This proved not to be the case, this man has about as much interest in politics as a fish has in breathing air, he is motivated purely and simply by a desire for money and for control over his own life."
"Avon is an unfeeling and unemotional man who doesn't trust anyone except himself."
Later entries in the file had changed their tone slightly.
"Somewhere in him, I think, there is a capacity for obsession. I have a feeling that if he ever let anything or anyone become important to him, it could come to dominate his entire life."
Insights into his personality were remarkably rare in the file after that until the final entry.
"I have lost Avon's trail and am therefore leaving this case. If he ever discovers what I have done to him, he will attempt to kill me, I am for this reason faking my own death."
Fascinating, thought Servalan, that a man on the run could be regarded as so dangerous that an agent of Central Security felt the need to hide. The question with the information, as with all information was how to make best use of it. Blake was the real target, and Avon could certainly be used to trap Blake, the question was how best to do it. Ideally he could be used to gain both Blake and the Liberator.
Walking around to the other side of the bed, she studied the medical report once more, severe shock and trauma, some internal injuries which were recovering under treatment, and a strong possibility of traumatic amnesia when he regained consciousness.
"Why does he stay with Blake?", she asked herself. From his record, there would appear to be two possible motives, the first, and most likely to her way of thinking was that of a criminal on the run, he needed the Liberator and its speed to stay out of the reach of Federation law. The second was that possibility for obsession hinted at in his dossier, if for any reason Blake or the rebellion had become important to him, then that could provide his reason for remaining. She smiled, both possibilities could be covered by the right plan. Money and memory were the keys here. Money would provide the motive for him to do as she wished, and affecting his memory could remove any motive for acting against her. Regretfully there wasn't time to implant a full set of false memories, Blake would suspect a trap anyway, and the more time that passed, the more suspicious he would become as to its nature. A simple memory block would have to suffice. With the possibility for amnesia already present, the doctors should have little difficulty carrying out her instructions.
Blake could feel his crew slipping away from him. Wryly he recalled Avon's warning after Gan had died. "One more death Blake and you'll lose them." He had recognised the truth of the statement, but had never expected that death to be Avon's. They had all concentrated on their tasks long enough to outrun the pursuit ships, but now they were bickering among themselves and largely ignoring him. Everyone except Cally seemed certain that Avon hadn't survived, and even Cally wasn't one hundred percent positive.
Vila wanted to be put down on a populated planet immediately, Jenna thought they had made a sufficient stab at trying to injure the Federation and wanted the Liberator to stick to less dangerous activities such as smuggling arms to resistance groups in the outer worlds. Cally was all in favour of carrying on, but her proposals tended towards the suicidal, as though she simply wanted companions for her death in order to reduce her sense of failure. As for Zen, Zen had no opinion on any subject.
"Information", they all ceased their arguments for a moment and looked up at the computer display.
"There is an incoming message, but the signal is very faint."
Blake's reaction was automatic, "Boost the power gain, draw energy from other systems if necessary." He paced impatiently up and down the flight deck as the message replayed. It was badly distorted by distance, but it was definitely Avon's voice.
"Liberator, this is Avon. Can you hear me? I'm not sure if my receiver is functioning, it's taken me this long to get the transmitter in working order. If you can get a fix on my signal, send someone down with a spare bracelet, I don't want to trust my life to the one I'm using in its present condition. Tell whoever comes down to bend low, I'm hiding in a ventilation shaft, and there isn't much room."
Relief washed over him in a flood, it wasn't just the lifting of the burden of guilt, he'd actually missed Avon as a friend, something he would have thought impossible when he first met the man. Let's face it, Avon wasn't an easy man to like, in fact Blake frequently gained the impression that he didn't actually want people to like him.
"Zen, lay in a course for Dageron, standard by eight."
"Confirmed." came the reply in the computer's monotone.
"Zen", complained Vila, "can't you sound just the least bit cheerful on occasion?"
Jenna eyed him sourly, "You realise it could be a trap? He was out of touch for a day and a half, that's a long time just to fix a transmitter."
Blake nodded, he was aware of the possibility himself, whilst he was convinced that Avon would never willingly aid the Federation, there was always the chance that he was unknowingly being used as bait. "Keep an eye on the long range scanners and look out for ships using Dageron as cover. I want to go in and out as quickly as possible using the teleport at maximum range."
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