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The Temptation

By Catherine
Page 1 of 4

Blake paused for a moment, his breath coming in heavy gasps. He was exhausted and in pain. His flyer had crashed here on Jevron and he was well aware of the local Federation presence. Only a few days ago, he had been with Avalon before heading for one of the new bases that had been set up in the aftermath of the Andromedan War. His flyer had run into a meteor storm and was badly damaged. Jevron was the closest inhabited planet. But the landing had not been a good one. The ship was badly damaged and so was Blake. His shoulder had only just healed after the damage done by Travis. Now it ached fiercely and he was sure one or two ribs were cracked.

A hand slipped down to press against his ribs as he tried to take shallow breaths so as not to do any more damage. He needed to find somewhere safe to rest. Hell, he needed a medic just as much. Leaning against a tree, he took stock of his surroundings.

Thick forest surrounded him, though he was not foolish enough to think that it would protect him. Heat detectors would pick him up easily at close range. No city dweller would venture out here. The air was cold and damp and it would soon be dark. Blake reached for his blaster, a reassuring solidity. It wouldn't stop a Federation patrol though. His ship's landing would have been noticed, a party sent out for rescue or salvage.

Not for the first time, Blake wished for Liberator and his crew. Teleport would have been a welcome salvation. His old bracelet was still snug against his wrist, hidden by the loose sleeves of a favourite shirt. With a soft sigh, he straightened up and kept moving westward. Fruitless to wish for what he could no longer have. The nearest city was a short distance westward. His best chance was to lose himself there, maybe buy passage on a ship off-planet, hopefully to a non-Federated world, or one with a large rebel network. If he kept his pace up, he might be there by daybreak.

Several hours later, Blake resigned himself to stopping. With the thick canopy overhead, the faint starlight was simply not enough to see by. His progress was halted for now.

Shivering, he broke off several low-hanging branches, building a sort of roof to shelter under. Crawling inside, he rested his back against the tree. He was so tired. He yawned and tried to distract himself, to stay alert. Maybe he'd be lucky and no one would fly close enough to register body heat. But there was nothing he could do about that. Despite his resolve to keep watch, his eyes eventually drifted shut, his tense features relaxing in sleep.

* * *

Sudden pain burst from his ribs, spiraling through his body. Bright spots danced before his eyes as he clutched his injured ribs. His return to consciousness had been heralded by a shout and a blow to the stomach. He'd dropped the blaster that had been resting loosely in his hands in an unsuccessful attempt to protect his ribs. His dazed eyes had immediately identified his assailants as Federation troopers.

A hand reached out, seizing him by the shoulder and hauling him to his feet. A sinking despair clouded his thoughts. If they didn't already know who he was, they would soon. He gasped at the sharpness of new pain as he staggered to his feet. What had been cracked felt broken now. The pain was incredible and Blake's vision swam. Dimly, he felt more hands, their grip a minor discomfort, and heard voices before he slipped into welcome oblivion.

* * *

Blake awoke to darkness and pain. Blinking his eyes, he raised a hand to his head, the other levering himself into a sitting position. It was damp and cold. Absently, he noticed his shirt was missing. No wonder he felt chilled.

The walls round him were metal, the bench he had lain upon the same material. There were no windows and no light escaped past the faint outline of the door.

Blake sighed and tried to move. He was stiff but nothing seemed to be broken except, perhaps, the ribs. He gasped sharply and subsided back to the bench. There really wasn't much point in moving around when he was in no condition to put up any resistance. By now his captors would have identified their prisoner, would know who he was.

Interrogation? he wondered. He was a bit surprised it hadn't started already. At least Avalon and the rest were safe. They had set up a contingency plan shortly after the disaster at Star One. If any member of the rebellion with intimate knowledge of more than one cell was captured or went missing, bases would be abandoned for alternates known only to an individual cell leader.

He was more than a day overdue with no message or distress call. They would assume the worst. The only groups he could betray would be long gone by the time Federation forces broke him and mobilized.

Blake was under no illusions. He would break. An instinctive shiver raced down his spine, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. Well, he knew what the Federation was capable of. Torture and drugs would break any man in the end. And the days of daring Liberator rescues were over. Blake hoped they all survived. He had heard rumours that Avon still had her. He glanced down at his wrist, rubbing at the place where his bracelet used to rest.

A burst of light momentarily blinded him. Strong hands seized his arms, jerking him roughly to his feet. Blake pulled back in pain.

"I can hardly escape, can I?"

"Silence." Blake glared back at the guard who had spoken but he followed, albeit slowly. Did this mean they had discovered his identity?

Determined to remain alert to any opportunities, no matter how small, Blake watched the corridors they passed through. Turn left, right, and then they stopped. The door was ever so charmingly labeled "interrogation.'* It opened and he was unceremoniously shoved through. Stumbling, he somehow managed to stay on his feet. There was another man in the room. His interrogator?

"We know who you are, Blake."

Blake remained silent, staring back at the smaller man.

"What happened to your ship?"

"It crashed." Blake prepared himself for a blow, a little surprised when it didn't come. The other man walked round him appraisingly.

"I thought you'd be more impressive, a leader of rebels and all. You're not."

No response.

"What was your destination?"

Silence.

"What was your point of origin?"

"Earth." Blake replied.

This time the blow came swiftly, though not from the interrogator. One of the guards struck him from behind. He stumbled and was struck again, collapsing to his knees. A kick to his already aching ribs had him gasping for breath, nauseated from the vicious agony.

"Foolish." The words were just loud enough to force their way past the haze of pain. "We will learn what we wish to know with or without your cooperation."

Blake shivered, vision still hazy. Arms lifted him once more, then pushed him down into a metal frame. No! his mind screamed at him. Not again! Faint laughter reached his ears as his world dissolved in pain.

* * *

"He is of no value to me dead."

"No, Supreme Commander." The man positively cringed, bringing a smile to Servalan's lips that didn't reach her eyes.

"Your orders were to have him questioned and wait for my arrival, not to kill him in your petty quest for approval. The information you obtained was useless, the bases abandoned." The base commander wilted before her eyes.

Pausing, Servalan stepped closer to the metal pallet, eyes examining the unconscious man. The base commander thought it was rather as if she stripped the man with her gaze. He wondered briefly if the prisoner wouldn't prefer death by torture to whatever she had planned for him.

"Clean him up. Have a medical officer attend him." The Supreme Commander turned to leave. "I require him in good condition, in my quarters, within two days. He will be accompanied by two of my mutoid guards."

"Very well, Supreme Commander."

This time the smile did reach her eyes though the base commander wasn't reassured.

"Very well, indeed."

* * *


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