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White Mutiny

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 1 of 4

For Bryn Lantry who gave me the beginning, and M.Fae Glasgow who helped me work out where it was going to end.{"Sub-Heading" on}{"Main Heading" on}{"Sub-Heading" off}{"Main Heading" off}

      

      "No," Avon said flatly.

      Something inside Blake snapped. He wrestled Avon backwards onto the bed and pinned him with a firm grip on each wrist. "Not a chance," he said roughly, "you've been asking for this all week, and now you're going to get it." His body screamed at him, demanding he take the risk, needing to venture where only imagination had gone.

      Avon glared up at him, eyes sultry and dark, the harsh sound of his breathing suddenly audible over the faint sussurusation of the air circulation.

      "Do this, and you won't live to regret it."

      The memory of Orac's information was suddenly all too vivid. Looking into those eyes, seeing the cold-blooded passion there, Blake believed. Avon could do it - because Avon had killed before. Forget the heat of Avon's body under him. Forget the lure of Avon's lips and the way their slight parting virtually demanded a kiss. Forget the fact that he could feel Avon's cock swelling and pressing against his own. Avon was refusing him, and Avon was deadly serious.

      "Why?"

      "You don't command here. Even you cannot claim that the safety of the ship will be compromised if you can't screw me."

      So that was it: Avon's revenge. He knew the precise moment that the understanding registered in his face, because Avon smiled. Soft, seductive, charming - and triumphant.

      

      It was all Orac's fault of course. Practically the first thing Blake had done when the supercomputer fell into his hands was to interrogate it about the backgrounds of his crew. He supposed he'd had a vague hope that their convictions might turn out to be invalid. Much though he valued their aid and friendship, he lived under the constant reminder that they were criminals, the sort of people who would be no more welcome in the world he was seeking to create then in the one he was attempting to destroy. Cally of course was a genuine revolutionary like himself. Jenna? Well, it was moderately easy to argue that she merely sought to overcome the restraints of an unfair economic system. Yet he was acutely aware that even under an ideal system of government, there would still be the necessity for some trade restrictions. Some key industries would need protection from outside competition, some substances would be illegal, and so the list grew. Vila was a thief and would always be a thief; his claim that he was immune to adjustment therapy was no empty boast. Blake envied him whatever quirk it was that allowed his brain to survive repeated reprogramming attempts. Gan? Well, the death of his wife was on record, even though it was shown as being due to an accident in the rapid transit system, but it was possible the record could have been falsified to ensure Gan's conviction. Even Orac admitted that it could not tell if data had been entered into a system correctly in the first place. But it was Avon who had given Blake the greatest surprise. He'd expected embezzlement, and he'd found it. What he'd also found, tagged almost as an afterthought on the end of the list of charges, was murder: the shooting of a black-market dealer in stolen and forged documents. There was more too, but most of the records of Avon's arrest and trial were locked up in a file codenamed Bartolomew in a format that even Orac had so far been unable to decode. What had Avon done that was so drastic that it required the highest possible security classification?

      Damn it all, he needed to be able to rely on Avon, but how could he trust a man who had no moral qualms about stealing and who could kill in cold blood? It was a problem without any solution. He even liked Avon, there was no doubt that a friendship of sorts had grown between them, but how could he continue, knowing what he did. What had Avon done? Had he been a government agent who had reneged on his own people? It was impossible to tell. Blake banged his fist on Orac's casing in frustration.

      "I would advice you to be more careful," Orac said in the prissy tones that Blake had already come to associate with it. "While my structure is necessarily robust, there is a distinct possibility that you may cause damage."

      "With the kind of information you're giving me, I'm sorely tempted. Why not tell me something useful like how I can trust Avon not to steal Liberator from under me?"

      "I fail to see why you are worried by such a trivial problem."

      "It isn't trivial to me," Blake said through gritted teeth.

      Orac, with typical computer reticence, said nothing. With a sharp exhalation of breath, Blake faced it again. "Orac," he demanded, "how can I be certain of Avon's loyalty?"

      "Make him give you his word, of course."

      "Of course?"

      "Do I really need to make myself more explicit? Avon's psych profile is very clear in the matter: where matters of morality are concerned, he does not consider himself bound by the mores of society. However, his own personal code of honour is strict. If he gives his word, he will keep it."

      "Thank you, Orac." Blake snatched the key out and left.

      It was all very well for Orac to suggest such a thing, far harder for himself to implement it. He could just imagine himself bearding Avon in his lair, "Excuse me, Avon, would you mind giving me your word that you won't try and take over Liberator?" He'd be laughed out of court.

      

      

Deep in thought, Blake traversed the alien corridors. The strangeness of the ship had become familiar to him now, yet Avon, from his own home planet, remained as incomprehensible as ever. He took a final turn through a honeycomb doorway where, high arched and graceful, the flight deck appeared before him. Banks of monitors swept in a wave down to the white leather couch where Avon reclined in perfect black contrast. Irritation swept through him; ignoring Jenna and Vila, Blake pressed angrily forward to the elegantly raised eyebrow awaiting him.

      "What's the hurry?" Avon inquired lazily. "Who died?"

      Why did Avon always try to irritate him before they'd even started a conversation? "You're supposed to be repairing the secondary comm links."

      "Ah, now I know who it was." Avon paused for effect, twirling a laser probe between his fingers in a twisting display of casual competence.

      "Who? What?"

      "Your last slave," he explained. "Died of overwork."

      Someone sniggered.

      Blake glared upwards, only to see Vila grin cheekily at him.

      Avon said, "I came off duty half an hour ago." The laser probe whirled suggestively. "Unless, of course, you rewrote the watch schedule without telling anyone."

      Blake took an involuntary step forward. The mental image of Avon choking to death as Blake slowly strangled him was incredibly attractive. The probe in Avon's hand tilted casually, not exactly pointed at him, but certainly in his general direction. In the right hands a useful tool, in the wrong, a deadly weapon. And which were Avon's? Damn it, he'd never let Avon win a showdown before, and he certainly wasn't going to start now.

      "Those secondary comm links could be be critical. It isn't so much the links themselves, but the fact that the failure indicates a fault in the auto-repair system. Can't you see that?"

      "Oh, I can see it, Blake," Avon said softly, "and I can also see that you've decided to set yourself up as a worse dictator than Servalan."

      Vila and Jenna exchanged glances on the fringe of his peripheral vision. They were all slipping through his fingers, and it was entirely Avon's fault.

      "Are you, or are you not, going to check out those detectors?"

      "Not. I'm going to have a cup of coffee. Coming, Vila?"

      "Sure. Erm..." Vila glanced at the thunderstorm brewing in Blake's face. "Maybe not."

      "Dance to Blake's tune if you must. I am a free man."

      Avon walked across the flight deck and up the steps, every movement somehow managing to convey disdain and indifference.

      A shroud of utter silence settled on the flight deck, none daring the words that would confess to Avon's departure. If it was not acknowledged, then it could not have happened, and for it to have happened was unthinkable. For if Avon had defied Blake's authority, then any of them could; and if Blake had no authority over them, what were they doing out here in the vast empty reaches of space? If Blake was not their leader, then the dream crumbled and they were nothing more than a group of criminals on the run.

      Blake stared at the empty archway which seemed to have grown larger simply by having Avon walk through it. Its emptiness echoed the fragmentation of his dreams. Avon simply didn't care. United we stand, divided we fall - but Avon chose to face the world alone and to neither accept support nor to lend it. Freedom as Avon saw it was freedom for himself alone and the devil take the hindmost. Blake balled his fists and felt the forgotten edge of Orac's key bite into his fingers.

      And that was another thing...


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