Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 3: Auron Survivors


Jenna woke, expecting to find herself still in Lincoln’s home. But she was somewhere else. Immediately, the door opened. She was amazed to see Avalon step through! //I must have slept through the rendezvous and been taken to Avalon’s base!//

“Hello!” Avalon greeted her. “I see you’re awake! I know you’ve been through a lot, but I think you should remember me. I’m Avalon, the current leader of the Resistance. We met on the Liberator. I was captured and replaced with an android. Oh, Lincoln already told me of Servalan’s identity change. You can watch the viscast of her appointment if you like.”

She flicked a switch and the viscast screen was activated. Nearly every channel was showing the installment of Sleer as the Supreme Commander.

“I feel sick,” Jenna said.

“Avon, haven’t you gotten that thing working yet?” Tarrant asked. “You’ve been working on the teleport for fifty-one hours straight! Shouldn’t you break to sleep?”

“Not until this is working! We’ll need it. You should be doing something, as well! We need to get this ship ready for anything we have a chance of running into!”

“If you won’t sleep, could you at least eat something?”

“I don’t have time! We’ll reach our destination in about ten hours and twenty minutes. I will need all that time to get the teleport operational.”

//That’s exactly what I need! I’ve got a course, speed, present position and time to destination! If I can compute these together—// After Tarrant did some quick calculations, he found the answer: Kaarn, the home of those Auron who survived the Great Plague and Invasion, and settled there to build a new world and repopulate it with their cloning technology and gene stock.

//But why would Avon take us there? It’s been more than a year since we left them.//

It had taken the Revenge longer than expected to make the journey to Kaarn. A comet storm was discovered in their path, and it took days to work around it. And once Avon had finished the teleport, he found other ways to avoid sleep.

“Avon, this drive will be perfectly capable of outrunning Federation ships!” Soolin argued. “You don’t need to make so many alterations!”

“We may later need more power. Having studied Dr. Plaxton’s Photonic Drive, I know how to improve upon this design.”

“But Avon, you haven’t slept in five days! You can’t continue to function like this!”

“I’ve been able to go without sleep for even longer periods of time without difficulty.”

“Even if you could, why alter the star drive?”

“This ship is not as maneuverable as the Federation pursuit ships. We’ll want to be able to keep them from plotting our course directly, and it’s difficult to change direction at those speeds.”

Soolin gave up the argument and left the flight deck. Avon returned to his work.

Now only one day from Kaarn, Avon had finished installing teleport capabilities, improving the star drive, increasing maneuverability, increasing the density and accuracy of the viewscreen, and had finally enlisted Dayna’s aid in adding to the armory stock and improving the ship’s exterior weapons, giving them multidirectional capability and adding several additional classes. Avon had finally run out of things to do.

The airlock and all access panels had high-security systems built by Avalon’s crew. In fact, the original unmodified ship had been quite well-made. But Avon, as well as wanting to avoid the nightmares that came when he slept, also wanted to be able to fight and outrun Federation ships, and to be protected from other threats.

But now, Avon had nothing left to do. His crewmates had already made it clear that he would not be allowed to do any job they could do just as well. And with nothing to distract him, he would simply drift off to sleep. And then the nightmares would come.

Avon made his way to his quarters, where he tried to keep occupied by studying engineering texts. But sleep finally overpowered him, and he drifted out of consciousness.

Avon was locked up in Xenon Base. He had no idea how he got there, but he was there. The base had been repaired; no sign of the destruction they had imposed upon it when they left for Gauda Prime.

Then Blake appeared. He was dressed in a cloth robe with large sleeves, as he had before the War, but with a long scabbard of some sort hanging from his belt. A stark contrast to Avon’s black leather and silver studs.

“So, Avon. We meet again.” Blake spoke to Avon. He had no weapon visible, but Avon was certain one was concealed.

“Why are you doing this?” Avon asked. “Are you going to kill me? If so, why don’t you hurry up and do it?”

“Why do you need to ask? You yourself said you always knew that our deaths would be connected, somehow.”

“How did you know that?” Avon asked. He had never said it to Blake.

“A friend of mine told me. Would you care to meet her?”

At that moment, Servalan stepped in.

“No! This is not be real! Servalan wants to kill Blake, not help him!”

“How can you be certain, Avon?” Blake pulled a long, sharp sword from his scabbard. He waved it around expertly, like a master swordsman.

“This is only a dream!” Avon shouted. “You are not here, Servalan’s not here, I am not here! I am in my quarters on the Revenge!” Avon shouted as if the denial itself would end the dream. It did not.

Blake brought the sword closer. First he sliced Avon’s right leg off. The pain was very real. Then his left leg, followed by his arms. And finally, after dismembering Avon’s limbs, Blake cut off his head with one clean blow.

Avon woke at that, swearing he would never sleep again, almost wishing he hadn’t killed Blake. But he had had no choice but to kill him. Blake had betrayed him. He had had to die.

But Blake wasn’t dead. He really was alive. And he really did want to kill Avon. Sleer’s conditioning had gone beyond the original plan; it was all the technicians could do to suppress Blake’s feelings of hate.

“So how long will it be before he can get out of that bed?” Servalan asked. “I do not have a lot of time to waste. He will need to be trained and briefed on his mission to capture Avon and his crew. And the sooner he begins, the more likely he is to catch them.”

“It will be another week before he has recovered enough to begin training. Beyond that, I cannot tell you.” The technician responded to the Supreme Commander’s question.

“A week!” she screamed. “It may already be too late to catch them, and he can’t even begin training for a week? I don’t have that long!”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we can’t accelerate the healing process any further. It will take a week, no matter what we do.”

“Then I must have someone else track that stolen ship until Blake is ready. I will return tomorrow to review your progress.”

The sound of the intercom beeping roused Avon from his work on the small circuit. He had been using the activity only as a diversion to avoid sleep, but was annoyed when taken from his work. He set the circuit down on the table and pressed the button on the intercom.

“Avon here,” he spoke.

“This is Tarrant. We’ve reached your destination. Why didn’t you tell us we were going to Kaarn?”

“You would have asked too many questions, perhaps some I could not answer. I’ll be on the flight deck shortly.” Avon switched off the intercom before Tarrant could reply.

As Avon headed for the flight deck, he considered for the first time that the rumors could be wrong, that his interpretation of the events was wrong, that Orac had uncovered incorrect information. But he dismissed the thought. Cally must be alive. And if she were alive, she would have come here, to Kaarn, to the place where her people had taken refuge.

He had not had a chance to help her out of the ruins at Terminal before the ceiling collapsed, and he had been certain the collapse had killed her. But he could have been wrong. He wanted to believe that, because the universe seemed to be turning against his crew, against him. He had hoped Blake would set things to rights, but Blake had betrayed him. Cally was his only hope now. If she was not alive, all was lost.

Avon materialized safely on the planet below. Using the teleport on the Revenge felt different from those on the Liberator or Scorpio, or in Xenon Base. But it worked just as well, and indications were that it was compatible with both Scorpio and Liberator bracelets.

After Avon had checked to make sure there were no unfriendly people or devices, he holstered his gun and called the ship.

“Down and safe,” he spoke into his teleport bracelet, one of those salvaged from the Scorpio when they searched the wreckage. “The remainder of the group can teleport now.” Avon had insisted that he be the one to test the teleport, despite the fact that only Vila would have the skill to make the intricate adjustments, using Orac’s instruction, should Avon fail to survive the trip.

After a brief delay Soolin, Dayna and Tarrant stood next to him. They looked around, noting the tall, thin trees growing close together in all directions.

“Are you certain there’s a way out of this clearing?” Tarrant asked. “The trees appear so close together that no one could even hope to squeeze through.”

“There should be.” Avon headed toward the north edge of the clearing. He reached the edge of the trees, and found a narrow path heading east, tangent to the circular clearing. He beckoned for the others to follow.

After the party had followed the path for about fifteen minutes, they came out into a much larger clearing, larger even than many of the domed cities on Earth. Near one end was a fast stream, lined by large rocks and boulders. On the opposite shore was what appeared to be a mine. Based on the types of rock formations near it, Avon decided it must contain large quantities of herculaneum, a theory supported by the large, metal building at the near end.

Avon led the group toward what appeared to be the main entrance to the building. As they stepped forward, they were greeted by a mechanized voice.

Trespassers, you have thirty seconds to identify yourselves, The voice droned.

“I am Kerr Avon, formerly of the Liberator.”

“I am Dayna Mellanby, formerly of the Liberator.”

“I am Del Tarrant, formerly of the Liberator.”

“I am Soolin. The others will vouch for me.”

After a few seconds, the voice returned. Kerr Avon, Dayna Mellanby, Del Tarrant, voiceprint identity confirmed. Soolin unknown. Please confirm identity of Soolin.

“Kerr Avon confirms Soolin’s identity and supports her presence as being non-hostile.”

Soolin identity accepted and entered in memory banks. The door slid open as the voice confirmed its acceptance of Soolin.

Avalon briefly looked through the file containing Lincoln’s latest transmission. It had included a brief report in addition to the information taken from “Commissioner Sleer’s” archives computer. There were also text renditions of several written documents not copied into the computer. She tapped a button, and the computer started scanning all the documents for data, adding it to its memory banks.

Having agents like Lincoln in key positions was a major asset, but, for now, they could only serve for espionage purposes. The rebellion’s knowledge of Federation tactics, people, events and scandals had begun to increase dramatically through this report, and she had eight other agents in positions like this, though none were able to collect information of this magnitude.

The weekly executive meeting was only ten minutes away, and she must bring this knowledge to the commanders of the nine regiments and of the various other departments: scientists, strategists, medics, etc. Key points of this information must be spread to the entire rebellion, and given to certain people outside. When word of Sleer’s true identity got out, the rebellion’s number one enemy would be out of the picture.

After five hours of careful searching, even Avon had to admit that the place was deserted. He knew this was where the Liberator had dropped the Aurons off. He knew they could not be elsewhere on the planet. But no one was there. He had tried to create an alliance to live up to Blake’s ideals and had been betrayed. He had gone to Blake himself for help and Blake had betrayed him. Cally was his last hope, and she was not here. Her people were not here. He had been betrayed again.

Then he remembered Cally’s Auron saying: “He who trusts can never be betrayed; only mistaken.” Perhaps he had not been betrayed after all. Perhaps Cally and her people had gone somewhere else and hadn’t been able to tell him. Perhaps…

They finally decided to contact Vila and teleport back up to the Revenge. From there Avon did a complete scan of the entire planet. Nothing more turned up.

“We must go to Auron,” Avon stated matter-of-factly.

“Why go to Auron?” Tarrant asked. “Servalan’s plague killed everyone off. The pathogens could still be there, searching for someone to infect.”

“Not everyone died,” Avon argued “There must have been some survivors. Those who lived before the policy of isolation would have had enough natural immunity left to live through it. And the plague was over a year ago. Without a host body, the pathogens would have died within a matter of weeks. The Aurons we left here could have returned.”

“Why are you so interested in these particular Aurons?” Soolin queried. “Or would you prefer not to tell us anything at all?”

Avon reluctantly decided he had to tell them. “I’ve been hearing reports that indicate that Cally might still be alive. If she was, she would have come to Kaarn, or to Auron. Orac has evidence that backs up my suspicion.”

“I thought you said you were sure she was dead,” Dayna said coldly.

“She was pinned beneath a fallen beam in the base there on Terminal. Orac was with her. I moved Orac out of the way to make it easier to help her out and was just heading back toward her when the ceiling collapsed. I was certain she had been crushed beneath the rubble, and so I carried Orac out to meet with Tarrant, Dayna and Vila. Only now I realize she could have survived if the rubble was blocked by something, or if I misjudged the area of the collapse.”

“To Auron it is, then,” Tarrant broke the silence that followed Avon’s explanation and began laying in a course on the flight computer.

Ensign Charles Stevenson stood in the Supreme Commander’s temporary office on Gauda Prime. He had received the summons just after he had completed his shift on watch. Sleer apparently wanted him for something.

“Ensign Stevenson! I asked you to be here at 1730 hours, not 1735! The job I’m giving you will require that you react quickly and be punctual on everything. A single second can mean missing a target, losing a trail, or being killed! Do you wish me to go on?”

“No, Ma’am. I will not be late again.”

"Good. You will be assigned to track the spaceship stolen last week from the nearby city. It was discovered in the large Magellanic Cloud, only recently reachable by advanced technology, presumably added by those who stole it. The license number is GP1-3L4S5R-B7. Since the license beacon is an integral part of the spaceship design, it cannot be removed. It will continue to function as long as the ship has power, then run on its own batteries until they are depleted.

"You will be given a shuttle equipped with the Photonic Star Drive created by Dr. Plaxton before her death. The star drive was salvaged from the ruins of the Scorpio, the spaceship previously used by the criminal who stole this one. Presumably, they did not know that the star drive still worked.

“You will report to the hangar at precisely 2000 hours tonight. Bring the basic essentials you will need on the extended voyage. You will be briefed on how to fly using the Photonic Drive and be given instructions for using the flight computer. In one to two weeks, a replacement will rendezvous with you and take up your mission. When that occurs, you are to return here, to Gauda Prime, and be debriefed. Do you have any questions?”

“No, Ma’am, I do not.”

“Good. Remember, 2000 hours tonight. Do not be late.”

Alex Montgomery wrote in his mission log. The hyperspace jump Avon had built turned out to be reusable, after sufficient adjustments. This trip to the Magellanic Clouds appeared to have taken only three seconds, although the intense vertigo, cold and sensory deprivation would never allow it to be practical. But the advantage was there. The Rebellion had technology that the Federation did not, and appeared to be advancing faster.

As Alex wrote, his co-pilot warned him of a new development. “Sir, a fast-moving object is approaching from Gauda Prime. Speed indicates arrival in three hours. Most likely, Federation.”

Alex dropped his logbook and began turning the ship to point toward an inconspicuous star in a direction perpendicular to the Federation ship’s path. The engines roared to life, operating at top efficiency. “We need to repair that hyperspace jump before that object reaches us. Let’s get on with it, now!”

Avon stumbled through the ruins of the Auron Assembly Hall, where the Auron High Council had met in the days before the Great Plague that followed the Intergalactic war.

He found himself looking up at the sky through the shattered roof, so much like that of Earth… But he could never return to Earth. He had only been there twice since his embezzlement scheme had been uncovered and he sent off to Cygnus Alpha. Anna had betrayed him, had been a secret informant. And now Blake had betrayed him.

He had gone to Blake for help, to solve all the problems that had plagued him for the past two years, especially the last one. Blake had been Avon’s last hope, and he had betrayed him, turned him in.

“That’s right, Avon.” Blake’s voice boomed at him, full of anger. And suddenly, Blake was there, sitting in the council chamber. “I betrayed you, but only because you betrayed me!”

“What?” Avon managed to whisper.

“When we split up after the Intergalactic War, escaping from the failing Liberator, you recovered the rest of the crew, but left me alone!”

“That’s not true! I searched for you, and for Jenna! Vila managed to send off a distress call, and happened to meet up with Cally! I searched for you harder than for them!”

“But you accepted Dayna and Tarrant readily into your group. Too readily.”

“Perhaps I should have checked them out more thoroughly, but they’ve proven trustworthy.”

“Has everyone been so trustworthy?” Anna Grant’s voice was now added to the conversation.

Avon turned to stare at Anna, who had now appeared in the chair to Blake’s right. “But you can’t be here. You’re dead. I killed you!”

“You killed Blake, too.” Anna replied. “That doesn’t seem to have stopped him.”

“No!” Avon shouted. “I will not be influenced by traitors anymore! Especially not dead traitors! I trusted you both, and you both betrayed me! I will have nothing more to do with either of you!”

A new voice halted Avon’s march out of the room. “Avon, remember. A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken.”

Avon whirled around to see Cally sitting in the Chancellor’s chair, directly between Blake and Anna.

“But you’re also dead! I saw—”

Anna interrupted. “I suppose you killed her, too?”

“No, I tried to save her, and failed. Cally, I saw you crushed beneath the debris! If I had any idea you were still alive, I would have saved you! After your death, everyone’s lives fell apart!”

“Why do you think I arranged that whole incident on Terminal?” Servalan’s voice sounded from behind him.

Slowly, he turned. Step by step, closer and closer, until he grabbed Servalan’s neck and strangled her to death—

Avon woke to the sound of the sensor warning alarm. He sat up, glanced at his surroundings, and, after realizing that he had fallen asleep on watch, analyzed the sensor readout. The Revenge had finally reached Auron.

“You’re sure? There must be someone!” Avon interrogated Orac.

All the Revenge’s sensors and all calculations indicate no humanoid lifeforms on the planet.

“An entire race can’t disappear like that! They must have gone somewhere else, if they didn’t return here!”

“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Soolin suggested, “as to the location of the planet the Liberator left them on. We could have gone to the wrong planet.”

“Their computer was there. They must have left and gone into hiding somewhere else.”

“Which leaves us no closer to finding the lost Aurons than before,” Dayna observed.

“I have a suggestion,” Vila said. “If you’re looking for Cally, it might be a good idea to start at Terminal.”

“Yes, Vila,” Avon replied, “I must admit you’re right about that. But first we would have to find Terminal.”

“Until we do,” Tarrant explained, “we ought to set up a planetary base from which we could centralize our search and other activities. Orac should be able to recommend an ideal planet to use.”

“For now, let’s just take a course to get away from here,” Avon said. “Until we have a base, we are still on the run.”