Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 1: Escape
Kerr Avon glanced around him, seeing the room for the first time in what seemed like hours. He was surrounded by Federation Security Guards, and the bodies of his fallen comrades lay on the floor of the Gauda Prime Control Center. The woman who had sounded the alarm was still unconscious, leaning over the console. It couldn’t have been more than a minute since he had shot his former leader.
He stepped over the body of Roj Blake and lifted his head. There, in the doorway, he saw Servalan, still masquerading as Commissioner Sleer. He raised his gun, grimaced, and pulled the trigger. But the gun was empty. The guards fired upon him and he collapsed on top of Blake’s body.
“I want him sent to the prison module, along with these others,” Sleer ordered. “Put them in separate cells so that they cannot plan a mass escape. Blake I want sent to a medical building. I need them all alive.”
The guards began carrying the unconscious rebels to the prison cells.
Vila did not resist as the guard dropped him into the cell. He did pick a small object out of the guard’s pocket, but he did not resist or make any sign of consciousness. //I wonder why the stun beam to wore off so quickly. 'Course, it could easily have been set to kill.//
The guard shoved a flimsy plastic bowl into his cell, full of a sticky brown goo. “Here’s some ‘protein pudding,’ thief! You’ll need your strength for what’s in store for you. For one thing, you’ll need to get used to the food! I wish I could see the look on your face when you wake up and taste it!” The guard strode down the hall, laughing.
Vila had to resist the impulse to protest. //Well, it looks like I was right all along. Heroics get you shot!// He picked up the bowl and turned it upside-down in mid-air. The goo remained fixed to the bowl. //I don’t think I’ll try this,// he decided, setting the bowl down. //I wonder how the others are doing right now.//
Soolin woke in a small, concrete cell. The entrance was blocked by bolts of energy that coursed from the top to the bottom about three inches apart. Anyone who tried to go through that would be reduced to a pile of smoking ashes. Her handgun and teleport bracelet had both been taken, and she had nothing else that would help her escape.
Then she noticed the bowl of brownish glop near the energy bars. She scooped a small amount onto her finger and took an experimental taste. She immediately spat it out, surprised to find it was worse than she had imagined. “What is this?” she asked of no-one in particular. //Or do I want to know?//
Tarrant’s eyes slowly focused on the ceiling of his cell. He looked around and soon recognized its design. //This is supposed to be inescapable,// he thought. //I wonder if Vila can lockpick his way out of this…//
Dayna glanced quickly around her cell. //Energy bars.// she thought. //Tricky to escape through. Unless the power source is cut off…//
Vila held his face near the energy bars and looked at the outer edge of the wall. Sure enough, there was a card slot there. He pulled out the card he had lifted earlier, then slipped his arm carefully between the two bolts nearest the edge. With a steadiness of motion held only by surgeons, magicians, and thieves, he avoided touching the bars and turned his hand backwards toward the wall. He slipped the card, still held between his index and middle fingers, into the slot. The bars to his cell vanished.
He waited two seconds to see if they would come back on, still not moving his arm, and then leapt through to the hallway outside. He pulled the card out, and the bars came back on. //I’m free!// he thought. //Not that I’ll get anywhere without Avon and the others.//
He looked down the hall and saw an intersection. He silently crept to it, and saw that left and right branched off into other corridors, and straight ahead led to the exit. He tried left first.
The new corridor went straight for about ten feet, then formed a Y. Again, Vila took the left branch.
This led to Soolin’s cell. Vila walked up to it, motioned to Soolin to be quiet, and slipped the card into the slot beside her cell. The bars shut off, and Soolin stepped out. “I see it didn’t take you long to break out of here,” she said quietly.
“Shhh. The guards might hear,” Vila said in a whisper louder than Soolin’s comment.
They returned to the Y, and, after checking the hall leading to the central intersection, took the other branch. It led to Tarrant’s cell, and Vila repeated the process of using the card in the slot, letting him out, and letting the bars come back on.
The three of them reached the intersection with the main corridor, and checked for footsteps. They crept to the right corridor, found a similar Y, and checked the left branch. It was Dayna. Vila freed her as he had the others.
That left Avon in the right branch. They arrived at his cell to find him unconscious. Vila slipped the card in, and the bars disappeared. Tarrant and Dayna dragged Avon out and set him against the wall.
“Now what do we do with him?” Tarrant complained.
Vila removed the card from the slot, and the bars reappeared, trimming Avon’s fingernails for him and burning his left hand. The pain jarred him awake.
Avon jerked his hand away and looked around at them. “What are you all standing around like idiots for?”
“We’re escaping,” Soolin told him. “Vila got the key, and broke us all out of our cells. Would you care to join us?”
“You think I’d want to stay a prisoner here?”
No one needed to answer the question.
“Avon,” Tarrant asked, “where’s Orac?”
“Leave Orac to me.”
They ran down the darkened corridors. The guard schedule was still chaotic, as the Federation had only taken over an hour earlier. It seemed to be between shifts. At last their luck had held. Soon they reached the control room. The operator’s back was to them, so they slipped into another passage with ease.
Avon removed a panel in the wall and pulled out Orac. They continued walking stealthily through the corridors until they reached the entrance and stepped outside into the night. “We’re through,” Avon said. “Now let us concentrate on finding a spaceship.”
The small group walked into a town that had seemingly sprung up overnight, looking as if they had just survived the crash of a space ship. In fact, they had also been attacked by bounty hunters, shot down by Federation guards, and locked up as prisoners.
“How long has this town been here?” Dayna wondered.
“It wasn’t here when I was,” Soolin answered. “The whole feel of it seems wrong. G.P. isn’t what it used to be.”
“Orac would know,” Vila offered.
“We can check later,” Tarrant interrupted, “when we’re somewhere relatively safe. Let’s just find a way to get off of this miserable planet.” Avon remained silent.
In a few minutes they found a starship dealer.
“They’ve brought everything here,” Soolin said distatefully.
“Vila, look around,” Avon ordered. “See if you can break in.”
“All right,” Vila agreed, mumbling to himself. He checked the main entrance. The door was wired from the inside and protected by a force field, also inside. There were security cameras that would cover every inch of the room. No way in there.
He walked around to the lot where the ships were parked. It was surrounded by a thirteen-foot electrified barbed wire fence. Force-fields lined the inside of the fence. Wide-angle security cameras were placed in positions that would view the entire area. The only safe entrance was a door into the main building.
Vila returned to the group. “There’s no way I could get in there without the owner’s help. Not with what little I’ve got with me. We’ll have to con the ship from them when they’re open.”
“Very well,” Avon said. “We’d better find shelter for the night. With luck, the last place they’ll look for us is the hotel.” He led the group to what seemed to be the only hotel in the city. The lobby was entirely empty, save for the clerk and another patron, whom Vila brushed against as they walked to the front desk.
“Excuse me,” he said as he made a hidden signal to Avon.
“Our spaceship crashed,” Tarrant told the clerk. “We need a place to spend the night.”
“Did you manage to salvage some money?” the clerk asked, suspiciously.
“Yes,” Avon answered, “we were able to save some money and supplies. Now, do you have any rooms we can sleep in?”
“We have several adjoining rooms,” the clerk replied.
“Three, perhaps. How does floor four sound?”
“Good. We’ll take them,” Tarrant quickly agreed.
“That will be ninety-eight credits,” the clerk continued.
“Do you have change for a hundred?” Vila asked as he pulled a paper slip out of thin air.
“Of course,” the clerk answered. The transaction was completed and the clerk gave them their keys.
The guard walked down the corridors to give the prisoners their evening meal. Actually, “meal” wasn’t quite the right term. The swill was made of unwashed carrots boiled in rainwater that had dripped off the pines in the surrounding plantation.
“Hello, fools!” he called as he came to what had been Vila’s cell. “Time to get yer slop!” he laughed cruelly.
Then he noticed that there was no one in the cell. He dropped the tray of bowls to the floor and ran back to check each of the other cells. They were all empty. “They’ve escaped!” he cried as he ran down the corridor to the guard post.
“I’ve searched the rooms for bugs and surveillance cameras,” Avon reported. “They’re clean. But if our escape is discovered before we’re off-planet, we’ll need to be sure we’re safe.”
“Is there another room adjoining the three?” Vila asked. “I could open the door and we could block it from the inside.”
“Yes, there is,” Avon replied. “But it would be too simple. We should enter these rooms, leave by an adjoining one, and stay in a room on the next floor.”
“Well let’s get on with the plan, then,” Soolin commented. “They may have found out already.”
“We’ve searched the entire base, Commissioner. They’re not here.”
“Then find them, Officer Lincoln!” Sleer ordered. “I’ve been chosen to replace the dead Supreme Commander next week! The capture of Blake and his followers would have been good publicity. And what do you do? You let the Scorpio crew get away! And on top of that, you don’t have the slightest idea how they got off the base. You can’t find five injured criminals who couldn’t have gotten farther than one mile in as many hours! Get out of my office! Now!”
“Y-Yes Commissioner,” Lincoln stammered. “I’ll assign patrol teams to different areas surrounding the base.”
“I said get out! Now!” Sleer shouted.
The officer cringed. “Yes, Ma’am, right away, Ma’am,” he mumbled as he hurriedly entered the corridor to the command center.
//At least they followed my orders for Blake,// Sleer thought. //I’d hate to have to recapture him.//
“I’ve locked the door,” Vila informed Avon. “Since this room is nowhere near the three we checked into, nobody will think to look here.”
“That is the idea,” Avon replied. He turned to Tarrant. “I want you and Dayna to block the doors and windows; make sure no one can come in.” Then he entered the bathroom and ran water over his burned hand. It was quite badly burned-- second degree if not third-- but at least it had not been severed from his arm, as it would have had it been closer to the energy bars when they turned on. he wrapped it with a cloth bandage and returned to the main room to question Orac.
Tarrant and Dayna set about moving furniture to block the doors. The chair was used to block the side door. One of the beds blocked the main entrance. They slid a mobile viscast receiver across the closed window. No ordinary person would get past the locked doors without a key. If someone had the key, however, the doors opened inward. They should be able to spend the night in this room safely.
What do you want now, Avon? Orac complained.
“I want you to tap into the base’s computers to see if they’ve discovered our escape,” Avon replied.
Not now, Avon! I’m busy contemplating one of the universe’s vast mysteries.
“And what is that, Orac?”
How do you fools manage to survive? In these three years of study I am no nearer to conclusion than when I was first brought upon the Liberator. Your miraculous survival seems to defy all odds!
“So that’s what you’ve been doing all these years,” Vila realized. “You’ve been studying how we survive…”
“Shut up, Vila!” Avon snapped. “Can’t you see that I’m busy with this machine!”
Vila wandered off, muttering something under his breath. “You didn’t have to shout at him, Avon,” Soolin remarked.
“Go away, Soolin. I’m having more than enough trouble with Orac. I don’t need another argument.” Turning to Orac he said, “Has our escape been discovered?”
This argument proves once more how unlikely your survival is. Since you are constantly at war amongst yourselves–
“Orac!” Avon interrupted. “Tell me now. Has our escape been discovered?”
Very well, Orac reluctantly agreed. I will tell you. You won’t like it though…
“Now, Orac!” Avon warned.
Your escape has been discovered. They’re searching the grounds surrounding the base. I told you you wouldn’t like it, but you insisted. I never can understand–
“Enough!” Avon shouted, removing Orac’s key. “I’m not interested in the opinion of a machine.”
“Commissioner Sleer!” a voice crackled from the intercom in Servalan’s office. “We’ve found their tracks!”
“You’ve what?” she asked in surprise. She hadn’t expected the guards to find even a trace of the prisoners this soon after lecturing the officer. “Where!”
“They lead from the main entrance and head toward the town. There’s a spaceship dealer there, you know. They may have gotten off-planet.”
“Search the town anyway!” she ordered. “Check the spaceport, the food stores, even the hotel: anywhere they may or may not be hiding. They must be found!”
“Orac, tell us what you know of this town,” Tarrant said.
“Briefly,” Dayna added.
“Brevity is the soul of wit, eh?” Vila quipped
Approximately ten earth-years ago it developed as a collection of bounty hunters and other outlaws, and grew into the community of the current size one year ago. Since then, with Gauda Prime being returned to its original status, many of the existing businesses went legitimate. The name Forest Falls was chosen by the new colonists who have arrived since the end of its Open Planet status. Was that sufficiently brief?
“Quite,” Avon said. He switched the computer off and addressed the others. “Oh, I think you all ought to know, Servalan’s here, on this planet. I saw her just before I was shot.”
The room was quiet and empty. Not a sound could be heard. Then there was a loud sound like someone banging on the door. “Open up!” a voice shouted. “This is the Federation Police!”
“The door’s locked! Blast it open!” another voice said. The sound of a rapid-fire projectile rifle rang out through the silence. A series of holes had been blasted around the knob. The door was kicked in with ease.
Now the people could be seen. There were six of them, each dressed in the standard black field uniform. One carried the machine gun used to open the door. The other five carried laser rifles. The antidote for Pylene 50 had been seeded in Gauda Prime’s atmosphere before the drug could be used. They could not drug these people, but they could stun them repeatedly. And they could not afford to let these five escape.
“Sanchez! Carter!” one yelled. “Take the next two rooms in this group!”
“Right away, Jake!” Carter replied, following Sanchez into the next room.
“Joey, open that door!” Jake shouted.
“No problem!” Joey said. He raised his machine gun and blasted a neat ring of holes around the lock. Then he kicked in the door.
“Do you have to kick the door in like that?” another guard asked, seeing that the room beyond was empty.
“Sure. They do it all the time in those viscasts they show of old entertainment from a thousand years ago. Besides, it’s fun!”
“Right,” the guard mumbled sarcastically.
“They’re not here!” Sanchez’s voice rang out from another room. Moments later, he and Carter appeared in the doorway. “There’s no room at the other end of these three. They’re gone!”
“The clerk said five people had taken these three rooms,” the remaining guard commented. “They should be here!”
Avon listened carefully, then heard it again: a clicking sound from the door, clearly audible in the quiet room. Someone was fitting a key in the lock.
He quickly awakened the others. “They’ve found us! Let’s go! Out the window!”
Tarrant and Soolin cleared the furniture from the window while Dayna and Vila helped Avon collect the rope and rings he had set aside an hour before.
The door was being forced against the chairs.
“We’ll use this magnetic fastener to attach the rope to the floor. It can be disengaged by this control device here.” He slipped a small cylinder into his pocket. “Vila! You know how to loop the rope through the rings?”
“Good. We’ll fall just slowly enough not to hurt ourselves.”
In less than a minute, Tarrant was sliding down the rope. Vila followed, then Soolin, Dayna, and finally Avon with Orac. As he stepped out of the window, he heard a loud crash. A plasma bolt smashed the doorway barricade.
“They’re in!” He kept sliding down. “Run!” The others immediately did.
As Avon touched down, he pulled the cylinder out and started backing away. As soon as he saw a figure appear in the window, he depressed the end and ran. The rope fell, as did the figure in the window.
“Come on!” Avon shouted to the others.
“Where to?” Vila asked.
“What about the bounty hunters?” Tarrant asked.
“They’re all out looking for Blake’s rabble,” Soolin answered. “Those who are still here, that is.”
They finally found shelter in a toolshed behind a warehouse. They were undisturbed for the remainder of the night.
“Well, well!” Sleer spoke. “You’re looking much better today, Deva!” She turned to look more closely at the man chained to the wall. “Are you ready to help me now?”
“Give me some food,” Deva said, weakly. “I won’t be any help to you dead.”
“You can eat if you give me what I want.”
“What exactly do you want?” Deva asked.
“I want information,” she answered. “Valuable information. In return, you get to live.”
“I’ll tell you nothing!” he replied defiantly.
“What a pity. I would just hate to see you starve!”
“You think I believe that? I don’t trust you, and with good reason!”
“And what reason is that?” Servalan asked innocently.
“I don’t trust you, Sleer, because I know who you really are. You betrayed the Federation. You betrayed everyone you ever could have helped.”
“And whom exactly did I betray? Name one single world.”
“Auron. You killed everyone there by introducing a plague into their sterile world. They were all killed. An entire race destroyed just so you could clone yourself and take the Liberator. And you failed both goals.”
“And where did you get this idea?”
“I have connections, Servalan.”
Sleer’s face went pale. It was clear that she was shocked.
“I know what you’re thinking, Servalan. You’re wondering whether to keep me for information or to kill me to hide your secret. You’ve lost, Servalan. It’s too late to hide it. You see, before I was captured, I inputted your identity into the computer. Anyone who accessed Blake’s records in the past twenty- four hours already knows who you are. Your secret is no longer safe!”
“Lies!” Servalan screamed. She pulled a gun from her dress and shot him at the highest setting. He died instantly.
Servalan’s next stop was the control room. She asked to see the records. No one had used the records file recently enough to learn her true identity, but it was still there. She quickly removed the incriminating document and made certain it could not be recovered.
She then headed for the medical complex where Blake was being held.
“Commissioner Sleer!” The medical director enthusiastically greeted Servalan. “We weren’t expecting you!”
“I’m sorry, have I inconvenienced you in any way?” she calmly asked, although she was anything but calm.
“Of course not, Ma’am. Are you here to check on Blake?”
“No,” Servalan replied. Then, after a brief pause, she changed her mind. “Yes. But first, I was wondering if you knew anything about the old President.”
“Can’t say I do, Ma’am. But we can look into that subject. Her name Serval or something?”
“Something like that, I’m sure. But don’t worry about it. It was just idle curiosity,” Servalan replied.
“I’m all in favor of curiosity. It’s especially useful to those with political ambitions, no names mentioned.”
“Of course. Now I want to check on Blake. He’ll be no good to me dead. For my plan I need him alive. Alive and vulnerable.”
“This ship’s got six bunks, cabinets for food and luggage storage, and everything you might need on a long voyage. There’s even some lasers built into the hull to protect yourself from pirates!” The salesman was saying. “And it’s on sale for only four million credits!”
“I think we should check it out first and see how it handles,” Tarrant commented, with a silent signal to the others. “If we like it, we’ll take it. If we don’t like it, we’ll leave it.”
“Certainly, folks! Step right in!”
Tarrant entered last of the five. He closed the airlock, locking the salesman out. “We’ll take it!” he said, activating the engines.
The salesman immediately called up the police. “I need to report a spaceship theft, now!”
“Blake? Can you hear me? Please answer me, Blake.”
Roj Blake awoke to see Servalan standing near his hospital bed. Unfortunately, his vision was blurred and his hearing indistinct, so he could not recognize her by sight or voice.
“You had a bit of an accident, Blake,” Servalan told him.
“Accident?” he replied. “You’re joking! Avon shot me deliberately! Three times! And all I wanted was his allegiance!” He coughed. “He’s not the same since we were separated during the War. I wish I knew what had happened to him. It’s been two years since I saw him last.”
“Don’t worry,” Servalan continued. “You can get back at Avon later. You need rest to recover now. I’ll see you later.” She got up and started to leave the room.
“Wait!” Blake cried. “You haven’t told me who you are!”
But she said nothing. His conditioning was proceeding much to her liking.