Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 7: Breakdown
“If revenge is what you want, you’ll have to try very hard to get it,” Avon said resolutely.
“I stand by Avon’s side,” Cally said after she got over the disorientation.
“Yes, you are standing by Avon’s side. How observant of you. But wait— I sense a challenge! A duel perhaps? A duel of minds?”
“We will not participate in your foolish games, Darya,” said Avon.
“I don’t see where you have any choice, Avon!” Darya waved her hand again, and the surroundings shimmered and changed. Avon looked around to see hallways extending endlessly in four directions. He could not see the end of any.
“An illusion,” he muttered.
“Very astute, Avon,” Darya’s voice echoed loudly. “But it’s a very powerful illusion. You can’t ignore it, no matter how hard you try.”
“Cally?” Avon called. She should be next to him, but he could not see, hear, or touch her.
“Avon…” Cally’s voice called faintly from the hallway to Avon’s left. He started down it, but then thought better of it, turning right instead.
The hallway soon curved around, doubling back on his starting point. Avon soon saw Cally wandering just ahead of him.
“Cally! I’m here!”
“Avon?” Cally turned and walked towards him. They were one step from each other when the floor vanished from under Cally. She fell, but grasped the edge of what remained of the floor.
“Quickly, take my hand,” Avon offered as he started to pull her up. As their hands touched, the entire corridor surrounding them vanished, and they fell into an empty void.
“Fight it, Cally! It’s an illusion! You should be able to fight it!”
“I’m trying, Avon! But she’s so powerful! All the hate and anger, everything channeled into trapping us here. It’s overwhelming!”
“We’re practically at her mercy, right now. She’s more powerful than the last time we fought; you saw her teleport you. What we need first is to see through these illusions, fight the battles and put her on the defensive— that’s it!”
“We try to pull her into the illusion with us, make her lose some of her control over it. Then, we’ll have a better chance.”
“I’m working on it.”
At that moment, a steep mountain slope, covered with snow, appeared beneath them. It became more shallow at the base, and they came to a stop after sliding down quickly. The snow melted away, the mountain changing to reveal the terrain of the planet Obsidian, a world that had destroyed itself rather than accept domination by Servalan and the Federation. This was also a world where Avon once hoped to find Blake.
“Obsidian. It looks exactly as I remember it,” Avon said as he stood up and looked around. “Cally, what do you suppose Darya is doing?”
“Toying with us. Trying to confuse us. I can’t say for sure.” As Cally spoke that final word, the ground opened up and she fell through.
“Cally!” Avon jumped in after her, but the hole closed up and he landed on solid ground. “Cally!” He called again. There was no answer.
He walked towards a building he saw several meters away, and the terrain changed. He was no longer on Obsidian, but inside a spaceship, probably a small shuttle. He heard Orac’s voice from around a corner.
Vila weighs seventy-three kilos.
“No,” he whispered. “Not again.” He watched in horror as he saw himself walk down the corridors, calling softly to Vila, enticing him to come out. He apparently was not seen or heard, or even felt, as he learned when he tried to stop the other Avon. He was a phantom observing his past.
“Vila! I need your help, Vila. Please help me.” The soft voice almost drove him mad as he watched the events above Malodaar replayed in every detail.
Before the scene could come to a close, it changed again and he saw the control room of the Gauda Prime base. He saw seven figures in the room, and recognized all of them.
“Is it true? Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me?”
“Avon, it’s me, Blake!” Blake started to walk forward.
“Stand still!” Avon held his rifle firmly, aimed at Blake.
“I set all this up! Avon, I was waiting for you.”
“Yes…” Avon aimed his gun, and pulled the trigger.
“No!” The phantom Avon shouted, racing to stop the Avon with the gun. He tried to push him to the ground, but all his effort produced no more result than a second shot. He tried to knock the gun out of his hand, but it fired a third time. He watched painfully as Blake staggered towards him and gasped his last words, “Oh, Avon!”
The surroundings changed again, and Avon found himself in the hallway outside of his home when he was a child. He watched a young boy, himself at five, stumbling through the rooms of his home. “Mommy?” the boy called. Avon shut his eyes, knowing all too well what would happen next. He did not see the child open the bedroom door, but heard the scream as he found the dead body of his mother, shot three times in the stomach.
“No more!” He cried out suddenly, and the view changed again. He was in the cellar below Councillor Chesku’s home, with Anna. He watched as he shot and killed his former lover, the woman who had betrayed him to the Federation so long ago. And now her brother had been killed by Darya.
Darya. Of course! His head cleared, and he remembered his true plight. “Enough, Darya! You may have tried to hurt me, but you’ll find it takes a lot more than that to break me. No-one’s come even close yet.”
“Really?” Darya’s voice called out as the environment became a formless, gray space. “Then why did you never kill Servalan when you had the chance, many times?”
“I hardly think that matters. I defeated you before and I can defeat you again.”
“But this time, I’m in a living body. It won’t be so easy.”
“I only need to destroy your mind, and I can do that.”
Darya’s form appeared in the emptiness, about three meters from where Avon stood. Or so he judged, having no real reference.
“You can’t really destroy my mind. There is no way you could do that.”
“I may not be able to simply ask you to calculate the last digit of pi, but there are things I know that can destroy you.”
She continued walking toward him. A brief bit of reality was seen behind her as Cally appeared some distance to Avon’s left. She’s distracted and vulnerable. Concentrate all your strength of will on getting that ring! Cally’s voice echoed in Avon’s mind. Darya kept walking.
“There is no possible method a mortal like you could use in this situation to destroy me. I am invincible.”
“No you’re not; you have a weakness. And I know it.”
She finally stepped up to Avon. “Now. What is it you are going to try?” She asked with immense overconfidence.
“This.” Avon raised his hand to reveal her ring on his finger. The force of his will had rematerialized it on his own hand while she had been distracted. She gasped, and he pulled it off and crushed it in his hand. It crumbled as if made of sand. Darya’s scream echoed throughout the desolation as Cally and Avon found themselves once more standing in front of the Revenge, back on the planet Halifax. In front of them was Del Grant’s lifeless body.
They turned away to find Dayna and Tarrant lying unconscious in front of the airlock. They carried Dayna inside and onto the flight deck, where Soolin and Vila were in similar condition. “Darya must have done this to them to keep them out of her way while she had her revenge,” Cally speculated.
As they returned to pick up Tarrant, they noticed another body lying on the rocky surface of the planet. Avon approached and started to turn the body face-up. “She’s dead, whoever she is.”
“It’s Jan!” Cally said as she saw the face, almost identical to her own. “My sister…”
Servalan stepped out of her office and began walking towards the medical lab. She was still annoyed with the time needed for repairs, had lost contact with Blake while trying to deal with a rebellion, and was now vulnerable to blackmail by the President of the Federation. She was not having a good week. With all these problems descending on her at once, the stress was mounting. She had dealt with problems far worse than these before, but usually only one or two at a time.
The continuation of Project Turnabout was of primary importance, but the more immediate problem was the rebellion. She kept telling herself that Blake was handling it, but she’d lost contact with him. Any number of things could have gone wrong. He could have been discovered, or an accident could have separated him from the rebellion and the Federation. Or worse, his conditioning could have broken down. He was due for a follow- up session to reinforce the conditioning, but the fire had delayed it. If something had gone wrong, it could have fallen apart entirely.
She stepped into the room, and one of the technicians approached her. “Good day, Supreme Commander.”
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.”
“Uh, er, yes, Supreme Commander. We’ve just found something you may find interesting: a small explosive device. It would seem the fire was started by arson.”
“Which means one of three things is on this base: A traitor, a spy, or an idiot. I want to know where this came from and who placed it here, and I want to know why it took you this long to find it. The fire was ten days ago! It should have been found a day after the fire, not a week! I want an investigation started now!”
Blake and Taggart sat in the clearing again. They had just finished reworking their attack strategy and were quite satisfied with their work. “The day of liberation is near, my friend. Soon, you’ll be rid of the Federation’s oppression and we’ll all rest easier, knowing that one more world is free.”
“Blake, we’re only talking about removing a military base here. We’re not getting rid of the Federation with this one raid!”
“You don’t quite understand. This attack will encourage all those who want the Federation out of their new homes to rise up and depose them! By the few of us showing that the people can win, the many will follow our example. A small victory creates a larger one.”
“I see. And, of course, the President being there will make it an even greater victory.”
“Of course. We’ve got two days to get everyone ready, and then we have to carry out the attack exactly as planned. If everything is done as we’ve worked out here, we’ll succeed with no trouble at all. The base will be ours, as will Servalan and the President.”
“You really hate Servalan, don’t you?”
“She took away my identity, buried my ideals, and forced me to fight against all I had striven for. Yes, I want to see her suffer for what she’s done to me.”
“There’s a rebellion brewing on Gauda Prime. Jenna, I want you to lead a team of three of our agents in making contact with their leaders. You can advise them in their efforts, give them aid or call back here for it, anything to make sure they succeed. And when they do, I want you to ask them to join us. If we can coordinate rebellions on many different planets, we may become a force that can actually do some damage to the Federation and free the galaxy. It all starts here, Jenna.”
“All right, Avalon, I’ll do it. When do I leave and what ship do I take?”
“You leave in five hours on a Wanderer-class shuttle. We need all the cooperation possible to win this, and I’m sure you’ll handle this well.”
The President of the Federation stepped out of his private shuttle to meet the reception prepared for him. He casually dismissed the formalities, sending all the officers back to their duties, and allowed Servalan to escort him on a tour of the base. At length they came to the damaged laboratory.
“And this is where you are carrying out your Project? Somehow, it doesn’t look that impressive,” he quipped.
“I assume you are aware of the fire which occurred twelve days ago. Our technicians are rebuilding it, as you can see, and they have guaranteed they will have it running again in six more days. Project Turnabout will be back in operation again.”
“What caused this fire?”
“Suspected arson. I assure you, it is being fully investigated.” They continued down the corridor to Sleer’s office.
“So, do you have any examples of your subjects?”
“Not at the moment. The fire occurred too early in the project for many rebels to be conditioned.”
“Of course. Especially after the Scorpio crew escaped, eh?”
“That was an … unfortunate incident.”
“But you had one success: Blake. May I see him?”
“Blake is on assignment.”
“Nonsense. You have absolutely no idea where he is. I can read you like an open book, Servalan. I’ve been playing the game of politics since long before you were born, and I can see when someone’s hiding something.” He was interrupted by the alarm suddenly ringing.
Servalan flipped a switch on her desk console. “What is going on?” she demanded.
A panicked voice shouted over the intercom: “We’re under attack, Supreme Commander. Repeat: We are under attack!”
Blake led a group of ten rebels armed with whatever various guns they could obtain; Blake himself carried a fully loaded projectile rifle, much like the one Avon had brought with him exactly six weeks ago to the same hallways. They raced through the corridors despite the blaring klaxons, one of eleven such teams overrunning the base. An additional hundred men and women waited outside for their signal that the first strike was complete, and another fifty were ready as emergency backup.
They ran into a cluster of six guards, and began firing. One guard fell as one of Blake’s rabble was hit in the arm. The exchange of fire lasted about thirty seconds, and the six guards lay unconscious, dead, or dying on the floor. Two of Blake’s own people had gone down.
“Quickly! To the control center!” Blake directed six of his team. “We can’t let them seal off the corridors! We’ll catch up! Carter, help me here!” The six immediately rushed off, following the floorplan they had studied.
Blake bent over his two wounded comrades, assessing each wound quickly. One was unconscious, losing a lot of blood from a gash in his side where a plasma bolt had torn through. The other had a rent on his upper arm, and was already using his other hand to apply pressure.
Blake tore a strip from the downed man’s jacket and pressed it into the wound. He tore another, longer strip and began wrapping it around his torso, holding the pad in place. If he was lucky, this primitive dressing would stop the bleeding long enough to get him to proper medical facilities.
Meanwhile, Carter checked him for pulse and breathing; both were present, but faint. He pulled out a canteen of water and offered it first to the young rebel with the injured arm, and then poured it slowly into the mouth of the patient.
“There,” Blake said. “That should hold. See if you can manage to carry him out, and help Tiran if he needs it. I hope to see all three of you again.” He raced down the corridor in the direction the other six had gone.
He had got only thirty meters when the bulkhead in front of him began to close. They hadn’t reached the control center yet. He dropped down, pulled his rifle in and rolled quickly under the collapsing barrier.
A voice crackled over the com-link unit on his belt as he continued through the halls. “Blake, this is Dhugal. We’ve reached the control center with Chen’s patrol and together we took control of it. We have the control center.”
“Good. I’ve sent Carter back with Tiran and Roland. Tiran’s not in too bad shape, and I think Roland has a chance to pull through. I’m about fifty meters from the control center now.”
Blake switched the channel: “Michelson, this is Blake. Stage One is complete; the control center is taken. You may send your men in now to secure the base.”
“Roger, Blake. We’re on our way.”
Servalan and the President were running to the landing platform to reach a shuttle. The news was not comforting: the rebels had taken out half of their security and were in control of all the systems in the base. Reports placed the enemy at over one hundred rebels.
“It looks as if Blake didn’t do a very good job, Commander,” the President commented dryly.
Before Servalan could make a reply, a new voice intervened. “On the contrary, I think I did quite nicely.” Blake stepped around the corner to reveal himself and three armed rebels standing in the corridor in front of them.
“An impressive success rate, Commander: Zero percent.”
“That’s Supreme Commander, you—” Servalan caught herself as she started to insult the President.
“What a catch: the Federation President and Space Command’s Supreme Commander. Of course, no matter what happened, we would eventually come face to face. No more masks, Servalan. No more lies.”
A shot was fired from around the corner, grazing Blake’s ear and knocking him off balance, then hitting the President in the heart. As Blake stumbled, Servalan took advantage of the confusion and made a bolt past the guards. She knocked over a short woman holding a gun, sparing no thought to who she might be, and raced down the hallway, trying to dodge the fire from the three rebels as they chased after her.
Rushing around a corner, she spotted a large opening to an air vent in the wall. She pulled the screen out, slipped in, and pulled it back on. Then she began crawling along it. Fortunately, although she did not know why, someone had shut down the ventilation system. The sounds of pursuit dwindled away as they lost her trail. Obviously, Blake must not be with them or he would have thought to look.
Only thirty minutes had passed from the first warning to the brief encounter with Blake. Fifteen more minutes passed as Servalan crawled through the large ducts. It was totally dark except when the shafts opened up near a corridor. At these moments she moved as quickly as she could, and navigated by feel at other times. When she reached a junction, she could feel the open spaces to her sides as she put her hands out into empty space. She guessed as to what directions might take her out of the complex.
Finally, after passing through nine junctions, she reached a screen through which she saw trees. She lifted it off and peered down to see the ground six feet below. She jumped down, landing on the forest’s thick bed of pine needles. Servalan got up, and then disappeared into the woods.
Blake recovered his balance and turned to see the other three rebels chasing after Servalan, guns firing. He saw the President lying on the floor, clearly dead. And then he saw the assassin, a young woman, picking herself up off the floor.
“You!” he said. It was Arlen, the woman who had betrayed him to the Federation nearly two months earlier. She recognized him, paused for a moment, then fled.
He chased after her, about five meters behind, calling on his intercom for other rebels to help him catch her. She ducked down a side passage and he followed. He fired at her and missed, and she fired back. She turned again, but Blake was beginning to close in. The woman ran through a twisted maze of corridors, following a path that would have lost anyone with less skill than Blake, until she reached a dead end.
There was a closed door at the end of the passage, and she immediately started hot-wiring the controls. As Blake turned the corner she opened it, revealing the reinforcements Blake had called for. They all fired at her, until Blake called them to a stop.
“Wait! She’s down!” He leaned over to look at her, then checked for breathing and a pulse. There was none. “Idiots! Do you really think anyone could survive being shot so many times in immediate succession with a stun bolt! She’s dead! She could have told us something, such as why she killed the President!”
“She killed the President?” one of the rebels asked. “Of the Federation?”
“That’s right, and Servalan ran off. A patrol is in pursuit of her right now, and I called for others to intercept. Do you realize what your overeagerness cost?”
“Blake!” a voice called from around the corner. The rebels turned their guns quickly, and then a woman came into view.
“Jenna!” Blake called. He motioned for the rebels to lower their guns, and they complied. “Where did you come from?”
Another rebel called on the intercom. "Blake! They’re attacking the control center!
“I’m on my way!” Blake responded. To the others he said, “Come on!” and then, “What’s five minutes between friends, right?” They all ran in the direction of the control center.
Three hours later, Blake, Taggart and Jenna sat in a former office discussing the situation. After the base had been fully secured and the Federation presence expelled, Jenna had finally arrived at the end of a ten hour journey. The prison cells below were full of Federation troops and officers. The President was dead, but Servalan was still unaccounted for.
“I’m afraid she may have escaped, possibly through the air ducts,” Blake said.
“In our effort to confuse the computer systems,” Taggart explained, “we turned just about everything off. Automatic security systems were down, and the fans were not running, so she would have had a chance to get out by that route.”
“If only I had gone after her instead of Arlen. I would have checked the air vents, I’m sure of it.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Blake,” Jenna consoled. “It’s not your fault. Who was this Arlen person, anyway? I know you said she was the one who killed the President, but how did you know her already?”
"Several months ago, I came here with a computer tech named Deva. We found this facility and he tapped into the computer, and we began to use it as a base to recruit new members to the Cause. Arlen was a Federation officer who posed as a bounty hunter, and I went out and recruited her.
"Then the Scorpio was shot down and I brought Tarrant back here, all the while testing him, making him believe I was a bounty hunter. He escaped, and Avon showed up with the others, and he told him I had sold them all. The way I blundered that, I can hardly blame Avon for shooting me. ‘I set all this up. I was waiting for you.’ I actually made him believe I had betrayed him. He was caught in a corner and took the only way out he could see.
“It was later on, after I broke free of Servalan’s conditioning that I accessed the information about Arlen in the computer’s databanks. She was assigned to facilitate the Federation’s attack on my supporters. I never found out what happened to them all.”
“Well,” Jenna said, “now that we’re all caught up with everything, Avalon wants our group to make connections with yours. Her goal is to unite the rebellions on many various planets as one cohesive movement that can actually injure the Federation. In the past, the one thing that hurt them the most was the Intergalactic War, and they’ve recovered from even that.”
“All right,” Taggart began. “So, where shall we begin? …”
Avon sat alone on the flight deck. He would never lower his guard completely, never be able to trust the way Blake did, but he had found something of the peace which he and others found in such trust. With Dorian and Darya gone, he felt as if he had cast off a burden he had been carrying for far too long. And he had learned something, too. Even without relying totally on other people, it could still help to let them in. If it weren’t for Cally, he might have died on Halifax.
While he was thinking, Cally entered the room and walked up behind him. He expected her to speak, but instead she silently placed her hand on his shoulder, conveying without words or telepathy a message of support. If he ever needed help, he could trust her; he would never be betrayed and could not be mistaken.
“Avon!” Vila came running onto the flight deck. “Blake’s alive! He just led a rebellion on Gauda Prime!”
“Old habits die hard,” Avon commented. Then he and Cally glanced at each other. He reached for the flight controls. “Setting new course for Gauda Prime,” he said for Vila’s benefit. And then he smiled, a relaxed, true smile such as he hadn’t made in years.