A Question of IdentityBy Jackie
Page 1 of 4
What is the point of a society that has no means of
self-defence below complete destruction?|
Servalan was puzzled by the message. She had assumed Travis had perished in the destruction around Star One. Where else would he have gone to, after Goth? She would have - for the power it represented: power was all that mattered.
Not that everybody appeared to think that way - as Avon had shown on Sarran. Something she could not understand.
Avon had not mentioned Travis' death - but that might mean nothing, given their brief contact.
So this could be Travis. But why now, and why refer to the Obsidian affair?
She would wait and see. If it was a one-off, she could ignore it.
If it was not...
She poured herself a drink.
Seeing is believing - or not.
Your records may reveal the secrets of Kairos.
Servalan was by now expecting such cryptic messages from Travis. He seemed to be pursuing her Presidential path, finding out things which nobody should know. Now she would have to find him - he knew too many of her secrets, and there was no knowing to whom he would communicate them.
*What had she missed with Kairos - and how could a computer, especially one like Zen, be fooled? Could she do devise a similar illusion?
*`Are the messages being read?'*
*`Yes. Replies are being sent according to the plan. Military-administrative terminology is fairly standardised.'*
*`And you now have a resident self proclaimed military expert who understands the jargon.'*
*`He is good at what he does.'*
*`It is what he thinks he can do that is the problem.'*
I was put on trial for the massacre at Zircaster.
Will you be tried for what you did to Auron?
Servalan was infuriated by the remark. No one had the right to judge her. Travis would never... Perhaps he was seeking revenge after what she had done to him on Freedom City, and calling him to heel on Goth.
If the messages were really from Travis. Yes, whoever was sending the messages knew things that only Travis was likely to know, but there were some strange gaps. Why? Was Travis - if it was he - somebody's puppet? It would not be the first time a President's position had been destabilised by subtle means - but she had been careful to prevent potential rivals from repeating what she had done.
There must be some way of determining whether the messages came from Travis. Some way that did not require outside help. Servalan had already undertaken one purge in trying to trace Travis's sources of information - paranoia was a survival skill in the Federation's upper echelons. And with the disruptions resulting from the war and the destruction of Star One, there were many individuals acting independently, some with strange agendas. Perhaps Krantor's reach was further than anyone expected. Who else could there be?
*`The messages have been computer-analysed for their correspondence to Travis' written mannerisms.'*
*`Future messages will now reflect his style more closely.'*
All information on the Anna Grant affair had been suppressed, yet still there was a message.
Your checks don't seem to be working do they? They didn't even indicate Sula Chesku's intent - so why do you think they'd find me?
Servalan ordered yet another round of purges - there had to be leaks somewhere - but nothing was revealed. She would ignore the comments about the difficulty in finding replacements - more administrators could always be found - it just took longer these days.
Perhaps it was time to get technical help in extracting more information from the messages themselves...
`The messages have been stripped of all transit information Madam President. Only a computer expert could do this.' The woman had, before the Intergalactic War, been on the replacement staff list for Star One; presumably both trustworthy and expert. But - many like her were seeking work outside the Federation structures. One reason for taking action against the Teal-Vandor grouping.
`Like Kerr Avon the rebel?' The name would be familiar in the computing world.
`Yes,' the computing expert had agreed. `If he had sufficient computer power, like the proverbial Orac.'
`Orac?' Curiosity here was appropriate.
`A term used by computer experts, Madam President: a name used for testing communications. Also a theoretical supercomputer responsible for any otherwise unidentified interference.' There were many such ghost-entities in use, serving diverse purposes, as Servalan knew.
`Could anyone else do this?'
`Someone connected to those involved in the development of the original Star One systems, or capable of handling the more specialist fields of computer networks, such as Ensor, could have the relevant methodology. Or they could give someone such as Travis a method for carrying out the process mechanically...' Technobabble to disguise the lack of concrete information.
`Ensor disappeared so long ago he must be dead.' It was a logical deduction, even if she did not know the truth. Some of Ensor's work had been connected to the intended move of Central Control to Star One, and the means of disguising the links to the latter - and he had disappeared rather than being sent there or killed for his knowledge. The desire for survival was something Servalan could understand. `Find me a better answer.'
`Yes.' The computer expert left.
`She will be on the first ship she can that leaves Earth.'
`She is an irrelevance Carnell - there are others who will serve. Your comments?'
`Only the career soldier Travis, who would probably not have access to the relevant skills, or Blake would use Travis' name. Avon would work under his own name: he is currently operating independently of Blake, and does not appear to be promoting rebel matters. Until this person makes a direct threat, I can tell you nothing more.' He smiled. `No I have had enough of the wine, however excellent.'
`Where is Blake?'
`Again, I require payment in advance. You will also have to decide which Blake.'
`The name has a certain resonance - which others make use of. Look at events on Jevron, for example.'
`That Roj Blake was a sham,' Servalan replied. She had gone to the planet in person - acquiring the Roj Blake would have been one of the crowning achievements of her Presidency. It had proved yet another false trail - one of many. She had kept the details quiet, in case it should prove of future use. Strangely Travis had made no comment on the matter.
The messages from Travis had ceased for a while. Servalan had considered the possibility that one of Anna Grant's group was behind the Travis affair. Or `whoever-it-was' was planning something different. Was it wiser to go to Sardos or to stay near the Federation centre?
Who knows now where the technology perfected on Sardos will spread.
How many computer programs will be copied?
Travis would not have allowed the fiasco on Sardos to develop - in matters other than the Blake affair he was effective. Servalan would have to presume Avon had acquired the copying technology - but would pursue it for his own ends.
President Servalan was very politely "uninvited" from further participation in the Teal-Vandor contest after the deaths of Vinni and the elder Tarrant brother.
Travis' message reached her as the Presidential ship re-entered Federation territory.
Blake would be the rebels' champion - would you be the Federation's?
Servalan was not certain how she would answer the question.
Waiting in the base on Terminal, Servalan contemplated what she would do once she was ensconced on the Liberator in triumph. Kostos and the others here would be eliminated. Her body double, otherwise known as Commissioner Sleer, currently on Geddon to help quell unrest there, would be dealt with too. The Commissioner was beginning to get over-ambitious.
The computer indicated an incoming message.
Have you a plan for what happens should the rebels find someone they can unite behind, familiar to all?
Servalan, disconcerted, poured herself another drink, enjoying the familiar glow.
Who else could Travis be referring to, apart from Blake? Had he discovered something to open up the long cold trail?
Travis had once referred to an empty room diverting attention from the reality - but was what she had created on Terminal Avon's empty room or hers?
Your Commissionership will provide you with a place of refuge - but it could become a prison.
Laconic, like all his previous messages. And, Servalan was now beginning to realise, quite possibly true.
Lacking the ex-Supreme Commander's military skills, Sleer-as-Servalan had died heading the army on Geddon - it was not clear what had happened on the planet, only that Servalan's enemies had exploited the situation. Since then Servalan had been forced to take on the Commissioner's role - a position which made no use whatsoever of her skills and abilities.
The problem was - Travis should not have known of the Commissioner.
There had been a Major who had served the same purpose - Travis had learnt of her existence during the Central Control fiasco, and could have deduced a successor, but how had he learnt of Sleer?
For probably the first time in her life Servalan felt afraid: the danger she now faced was not something she could define or analyse, as in a battle, or plotting to eliminate a potential rival. She needed to relax. The drink she had did nothing to calm her nerves. Travis the commentator on the Presidency was one thing - he had not been in a position to physically threaten her, and she had come to enjoy the almost teasing comments. Now he would be pursuing an agenda that she could not understand - and so could not plan for.
Being a Commissioner was frustrating. Servalan needed power and authority - not having someone like Brierley, her nominal superior, constantly investigating and interfering in what she was doing, blocking her rise through the administration. He was a teetotal killjoy, who would not let her enjoy herself - not that there was much to do in this backwater region.
Servalan had discovered, as a commissioner, the validity of the traditional complaint at the top of the Federation that alcohol - and other diversions - did for the lower administration what suppressant drugs did for the masses. When she returned to power she would "do something" about it. Her drinking was entirely under control, always had been.
She played with her glass - she had had enough for today. Brierley would have to go - joining all her other enemies, and anyone who might recognise her as Servalan. Which now included the survivors of the Liberator - if two had made it to Helotrix, she could assume the others probably had - though she would save Avon - and not just to find the still elusive Blake. Now, it seemed, the several games of cat and mouse would resume. Which she would enjoy more if she could work out who was cat and who mouse.
There were still some people known by the name Roj Blake who had not been traced by the time she had lost the Presidency. If she could locate the real one, her advancement as Sleer would be assured.
Perhaps she would have one last drink...
Back to B7 Top