Vila and Dayna were sitting in the control room playing a board game when Orac abruptly announced, Program completed.
“Eh?” Vila turned away from the game. “What program?”
That information is restricted.
“What? By who?”
The information is restricted to Kerr Avon.
“Avon. Well in case you haven’t noticed, Orac, Avon is gone. And he’s not likely to be back.”
Accepted. The program allows for the information to be released to a second person in the event of his demise or if he should become permanently unavailable.
“Well I’d say this qualifies,” Dayna said. “Who’s the other person?”
“Me?” Vila frowned. “Why me? I couldn’t care less about Avon’ stupid projects. All right, go ahead Orac.”
Go ahead? Ahead
of what? the computer snapped.
I must insist you phrase your questions more coherently.
“Just tell me what program Avon was running!”
That is better. The program was a search pattern to determine the current location of Roj Blake.
“You’ve found Blake?” Vila paused for a moment not sure how to react. “Avon was looking for Blake?”
“Servalan told us he was dead.” Dayna was clearly not convinced. She moved to the communication panel. “Soolin, Tarrant, you may want to come up here.”
Vila waited until the other two arrived before asking Orac, “So? Where is he?”
The trail indicates that Blake is on Gauda Prime.
Of course I am certain.
Orac sounded distinctly testy at having his declaration doubted.
If I understand your poorly articulated inquiry
correctly then the answer is that Blake is working as what is colloquially
termed a bounty hunter.
Now Vila was the one to sound uncertain.
“That doesn’t sound like him.”
“You’re the one who knows him. Do
you want to try to find him?”
Vila looked startled.
“You’re asking me?”
“It’s not like we
have anything better to do.”
Um. Yes, I suppose so
Soolin shook her head.
“I don’t like it. Chasing
ghosts isn’t enough reason for anyone with sense to go visiting G.P.”
“I think it is.
So that’s two for and one against. Dayna?”
“It can’t be any worse than some of the places we’ve been.”
“Three to one, we go
then. Do you want to stay behind,
“And be stuck here when the rest of you get yourselves killed?
No thanks. I’ll come.”
They hadn’t been
in orbit round Gauda for more than five minutes when the shooting started.
“Who the hell are
they?” yelped Vila.
“It doesn’t make a
difference now,” Tarrant said, grimly clinging to the controls.
“We’re going to
“Well it’s certainly
going to be a less than gentle landing.”
Vila looked around
frantically. “Can we teleport
“At this speed?”
Dayna sounded sceptical.
“Well it’s more
chance than we’ll have if we hit the ground at this speed,” Soolin pointed
“We can get Orac to
operate it. Come on Tarrant,
let’s get out of here.”
Tarrant shook his head,
“If I leave the controls the ship will flip over. You need her steady for teleport. I’m the only pilot here who can hold her.”
“Slave can do it,”
“Half the automatics
are fried. He can’t do it.
Look, will you just get out of here before we all die?
Reluctantly the three of
them stepped over to the teleport section, Vila carrying the computer.
“Put us down, Orac.”
“I’ll watch the
fire,” Vila volunteered. Soolin
and Dayna stared at him in surprise.
“I’m not sleepy.”
“If you say so.”
Vila sat watching the
stove, occasionally adding a few sticks. Soolin
watched him for a while then got up and joined him.
Vila jumped. “Oh, you
“I was just thinking.
Why was Avon looking for Blake? He
didn’t seem to care.” Vila
paused. “It still feels strange being here without him.”
“You sound like you
miss him.” Soolin spoke lightly
but was watching Vila closely.
“Maybe I do.
We weren’t exactly friends - I don’t think he knew the meaning of the
word. But four years is a long time
to know someone and then they’re not there any more.
Or they change. I never
understood him. It was always so
hard to know what he was thinking.”
Soolin was about to
answer when a noise from outside made her snap her head round to stare at the
door. Putting a finger to her lips,
she motioned Vila to silence and moved to stand behind the door.
Moments later, two armed bounty hunters charged through.
Soolin caught one of them with the butt of her gun as he came through the
door and shot the other as he spun round in response to his colleague’s yell
“They must have seen
the fire. Stupid of us really.”
The commotion had
awakened Dayna who sat up, looking round in confusion. “What happened?”
“We had visitors,”
Soolin replied. “They must have
had a flyer. Orac, can you locate
Well do so then.
What about Blake?”
What about Blake?
It was amazing, the level of irritation Orac could convey when it
felt it was being asked unreasonable questions.
“Do you know where he
is on the planet?”
Of course I do. I would hardly have claimed to know his location otherwise.
“This is where
Blake is?” Vila asked sceptically
as Soolin landed the flyer at Orac’s directions.
Vila left the flyer and
looked around, Soolin and Dayna joined him.
“Which way?” Dayna
“I’m sure we’ll find someone sooner or later whichever way we go.
Or they’ll find us.” He
chose a corridor and headed down it, casting a worried look at the other two as
an alarm started sounding.
emerged into a large control room, to see Tarrant struggling with a technician.
Soolin’s weapon arm flew up and Tarrant’s attacker dropped to the
Tarrant looked away from Soolin to Vila.
“I think he’s here.”
Vila stared at Tarrant,
who looked like he was about to say more. At
that moment however, Blake and an armed woman entered the room.
“Is it him?”
Tarrant asked Vila.
“He’s sold us, Vila,
all of us.”
Vila stared at Blake and
gave his head a little shake.
“No,” he said, in
little more than a whisper. “No.”
A statement and a question and a plea.
“It’s me, Vila.”
“It’s not true?
You haven’t…” He didn’t want to believe it, but somehow it was all too
believable. Another betrayal?
After the cautious trust he’d offered Avon had been so abruptly
shattered over Malodaar he had sworn that was the last time such trust would be
Blake held up his hands
in a placating gesture. “Tarrant
doesn’t understand.” He walked
slowly forward. “Trust me, Vila.
You used to.”
bitterly. “I gave up trusting people. It’s
safer. You wouldn’t be the first
person I thought I knew, who’d tried to kill me recently.”
Blake was standing less
than a foot away now and he reached out to grasp Vila’s shoulders.
“Trust me.” His face was
earnest and there was a plaintive, hurt look in his eyes that Vila had never
thought to see there.
started in a warning tone.
Vila cut him off. “You’re wrong. Blake
wouldn’t give us to the Federation.”
A broad grin spread
across Blake’s face and Vila felt relief wash over him at the familiarity of
the expression. Blake may have
changed, but at heart he was still the same person.
“Oh it’s good to see
you again! You don’t know what
it’s been like!” Vila babbled, relief and excitement mingling to make his
speech fast and loud.
“Well you’ll have
plenty of time to tell me. I set
all this up, I…” Blake was
interrupted by the abrupt entrance of a distraught man who yelled, “Blake! They’ve found us. The
base is under attack!”
Blake spun round in
horror as the woman who had entered with him shot the man who had just dashed
in. “Arlen!” Blake cried out in
shock. As Arlen spun round to train
her gun on Blake, Dayna reached for her own weapon and, in one movement, had
drawn and fired it. Arlen dropped
to the floor.
“I suppose that means
we’re trusting Vila’s judgement about you,” Dayna said wryly, to Blake.
“He had better be right. Is
there another way out of here?”
Federation?” Blake murmured before visibly pulling himself together.
“The way back to the silo should still be clear.
You can escape in the flyer you came in.”
Vila had already turned
to head back to the silo when he realised what Blake had said.
“What do you mean?
You’re coming too!”
“I can’t leave.
I’ve still got people here. I
can’t abandon them.”
Vila felt the relief and
happiness at seeing Blake again abruptly drain away to be replaced with cold
fear at losing him to a Federation massacre and his own idealism.
He raised his voice to shout, “Listen to that!
Anyone left out there is dead! We’ve
got to get out of here. We’ve got
to go now!”
Blake still stood fixed
to the spot, shaking his head. Vila
stood and stared at him. He knew he
didn’t have Blake’s gift for persuasion and fear and frustration warred
within him as he sought for the right words to change Blake’s mind.
“Blake, be reasonable.
You can’t help them. You
have to leave.”
“So do we,
Vila!” Tarrant shouted. “Get moving!”
Soolin and Dayna were
already at the door, looking back in confusion at the delay.
“Go!” Tarrant shouted
at them and strode back across the tracking gallery to grab Vila’s arm.
“Come on, Vila. What Blake does is up to him.
We’re out of time!”
Tarrant, let go!” Vila yanked his arm free, “I’m not leaving without
him.” You want to stay
and get yourself killed too? a nagging voice
at the back of his mind asked. He
ignored it and repeated, “Blake, please.
You have to come too!”
snapped, grabbing him again and giving him a shove towards the door.
“Leave him alone.”
Blake stepped to intervene. “It’s
all right. I’ll come. Vila’s
right. It’s over here.”
Tarrant rolled his eyes.
“Some sense at last. Let’s
get out of here then.”
Together the three of
them fled the tracking gallery, hearing shots echo after them as they ran for
Soolin already had the
power up and running as they boarded but slid aside to let Tarrant take the
“Let’s go, let’s
go,” Vila muttered to himself nervously as the flyer lifted off and left the
“Shut up and strap
yourself in, Vila. That goes for
the rest of you as well. I’m
reading several Federation atmospheric craft and I doubt they’re going to be
keen to let us go on our merry way. This
flyer was not designed as a get-away vehicle.
It’s going to be a rough ride.”
Within a few minutes,
Vila found himself feeling thoroughly grateful he hadn’t had a chance to eat
since arriving on Gauda. Tarrant
was as good as his word and threw the flyer through a series of aerodynamically
improbable and immensely uncomfortable manouvres, flinging the small craft
through the air in a wild, desperate display of aerobatics.
Shots from their pursuers grazed the hull and detonated all around them,
filling the viewscreen with white light. Tarrant
squinted against the glare, flying blind for long moments until the light faded.
Vila, who had made the mistake of opening his eyes at that moment, gave a
panicked yelp and closed them again as the ground hurtled towards them.
Tarrant held his course a moment longer before hauling the flyer’s nose
up and turning it towards the forest. The
flyer sped along a few feet from the ground, into the dense tree cover, and was
soon lost from the view of the attacking ships.
Tarrant levelled off and
cut their speed to a less alarming rate.
“Do we have a
destination in mind?” he asked without taking his eyes from the viewscreen.
“We had a fallback
position, near one of the smaller towns north of the base,” Blake said.
He unbuckled his safety harness and moved to Tarrant’s side to point at
the navigational display.
That’s where we need to go.”
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