Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 5: Resurrections
Avon wandered through the dark corridors in the depths of some long-forgotten underground complex. He had no idea where he was, but he knew he must find something.
“Avon!” Cally’s voice cried out as if pleading for help. Not something, but someone.
Immediately, Avon was running, following the sound of Cally’s voice. He spared no thought to the fact that she had spoken, and not called with her mind. Soon he could see her. There was a wide chasm into which the corridor ran. Cally’s hands were tightly gripping the edge of the floor; she was hanging down into the chasm.
“Cally!” Avon called to her. “I’m here!” He lay down on the floor, allowing his hands and arms to reach over the edge. He grasped Cally’s forearms and was beginning to pull her up onto the landing, when the picture changed.
Cally’s image changed into that of the alien creature who had tried to return from the dead, that time long ago on the Liberator. The being pulled Avon with her into the chasm.
For an eternity they fell, down into the deepest, darkest caverns imaginable. At last, they hit the bottom, yet they were not injured. The alien stood, arrogant and imposing.
“Remember me, Avon?” it asked, using Cally’s voice. “It was about one and one-half of your years ago. You came upon an alien vessel, a sarcophagus. You found an alien artifact there. And then I appeared, using the powers and image of your friend, Cally. But you ended it all. You destroyed my ring, and you thought you had destroyed me as well.”
“It appears I was wrong,” Avon remarked.
"Oh, yes, you certainly were wrong. When you drove me from Cally, from your vessel, the Liberator, I survived, though not truly living. I eventually took refuge in a massive cloud of gas and liquid floating in space. I was later able to cause this cloud to move directly into the path of the Liberator on its way to Terminal. I then shielded my presence from the Auron and hid in your starship.
“I remained on board when Servalan took control, and I caused the power surge in the teleport which allowed her to survive its destruction. She was set down on a Federation world, and I sent myself to Terminal. I pinned Cally under that beam, and I caused the collapse that killed her. Do you understand this? I destroyed the Liberator, I protected Servalan, and I killed Cally. All for revenge on you!”
“Why? Why need revenge on me?”
“You tried to destroy me, and succeeded in killing me. So I set out to destroy all that was important to you. And now, it is your turn to learn what death truly is!”
With that, she turned and pulled out a dagger, which she threw at Avon with incredible speed and accuracy. Avon twisted quickly to avoid it, yet it still caught his right arm—
The intercom and door chimes beeping roused Avon from his dream. “Wait one minute,” he called to the unknown person at the door. As he got out of bed and reached for his clothes, he noticed a faint scar had appeared on his right arm, at precisely the place where the knife had begun to pierce the skin.
Moments later, Avon opened the door to see Tarrant standing outside. “What do you want?” he asked.
“Orac’s noticed some sort of strange energy activity on the surface. We thought you might want to check it out.”
Avon spared hardly a thought before choosing his answer. “No, we’re leaving. Now.”
“Why leave? We only just got here!”
“It’s difficult to explain. Anyway, Cally’s not here, alive or dead. We must leave, now!” At that, Avon forced himself past Tarrant and walked quickly towards the flight deck.
“Avon,” Tarrant called as he followed on his heels, “it’s always too difficult to explain. I think, for once, you should tell us exactly what’s going on: Where are we going, and why?”
“We’re going anywhere, away from this planet.” Avon touched the panel beside the door and it opened. He stepped in, Tarrant still following.
“Why are we leaving, Avon? Just explain that much!”
Avon started pressing various buttons on the control panel, setting a course for the autopilot. As he worked, he quickly described the situation.
“Just over a year ago, before we were here the first time, we found a space-going tomb. The alien being entombed there tried to live again through Cally’s powers. I thought I had destroyed her, but I was wrong. She’s here, on Terminal. She destroyed the Liberator, and at least tried to kill Cally. I only just put the pieces together. That is why we must go.”
With that concluding remark, he typed the final key in the sequence, and the Revenge headed off to a new part of the galaxy.
Two hundred years earlier, Jonathan Rawlins sat in the pilot’s seat of the Sagittarius, a small salvage ship. His partner, Dale Elsinore, sat in the co-pilot’s seat. John was tall, thin, and blond, and always seemed alert. Dale was slightly shorter than John, and had darker hair, but they could have easily been mistaken for brothers.
The sensors chirped a warning, and the message “UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT AHEAD” appeared on the display.
“John, look at this,” Dale remarked pointing at the sensor readout. “It looks like a large escape pod or something.”
“No, these readings suggest some sort of artificial gravity. Escape pods don’t usually have that.”
“You’re right. So it must be a ship. Why else would it have a breathable atmosphere inside?”
“But no engines?”
“Maybe they’re just hidden.”
“I don’t think so, Dale. I think we should look into this.”
“Another of your ‘psychic impulses’?”
“I tell you, they’re real. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’m close to the power of the Aurons. As if I only had to open a door, and I would have all their powers…”
“O.K. You want to check this thing out, we’ll check it out.” Dale shifted the throttle a few notches higher. Fifteen minutes later, they had come up alongside the alien vessel and docked to it.
“This place is weird,” Dale remarked. “It’s more like a tomb than anything else.”
“You’re right,” John replied. “Hey, look at this!” He moved over to an oblong elliptical artifact set in a rectangular base. When looked at closely, a faint internal glow could be discerned.
“That is definitely weird,” Dale answered. He abruptly changed the subject. “You think there’s anything here we could salvage?”
“Not much, but someone might be willing to buy this thing.”
“Sure. Let’s take this back now.” He then picked it up and they walked back through the airlock to the Sagittarius. What he didn’t know was that John was taking something back with him as well: a narrow, featureless ring.
Three days had passed since the tomb had been salvaged. The room was empty, except for one man and one object: John Rawlins and the alien artifact. He looked towards the door, and noticed it was closed. Good. He looked at the artifact which had occupied his mind almost constantly for the past few days. It was now flashing brightly, the light within pulsating ever more rapidly, until it culminated in one bright flash and disintegrated. Nothing was left of it but dust.
He stood up off the seat attached to the wall, threw back his head, and laughed hysterically. “At last! I’m alive again! After centuries of oblivion, Dorian lives again!”
As the Revenge left Terminal, Avon heard the following message: “You can run, Avon, but I’ll catch up to you, eventually.” He heard it in Cally’s voice, but they were the alien’s words.
Avon pondered these thoughts as he sat on the flight deck. Tarrant had left, and no-one else had entered. He found his thoughts drifting away when he tried to distract himself with engineering texts; he was beyond most of them anyway. He entertained the fleeting notion that he wished there were some ice cream on board. Ever since he had discovered it on Freedom City, he had longed for another chance to eat the dessert.
The door slid open, and Vila walked in. The thief said nothing, only collapsing into the nearest chair he could find, which was right next to Avon’s. He had no glass or bottle, and did not smell even slightly like alcohol or adrenaline and soma. He didn’t even seem drunk, just tired. What could he be tired from, Avon wondered.
They sat there for ten minutes in absolute silence. Finally, Vila spoke up. “I hear that alien that took over Cally is back.”
“Avon, you know what I mean. You’re the one who told Tarrant about it, anyway.”
“I know. I thought it was dead, but I was wrong.”
“Soolin figured it out awhile ago, didn’t she? When we went to check out Virn? You know, the place with the living sand that eats people?”
“Yes, she did. I just don’t understand how I could have missed it then. I thought she was just making wild guesses based on half-facts. It never occurred to me that she might have been right.”
“I know. Terrible, isn’t it, Avon, that none of us ever talks to the others, or listens to the others.”
“It’s how we survived on our own: looking out for our own interests. Living outside the law makes you like that.” At Avon’s words, Vila flinched briefly. “Malodaar?” Avon asked.
Vila nodded. “I didn’t want to do it, Vila. I was looking for any way to avoid it. But I couldn’t let us both die, and lose Orac as well.”
“Sometimes I think we’d be better off without that little box in the first place.”
“Sometimes I’m inclined to agree with you, Vila. Sometimes I’m inclined to agree with you.”
The spacecraft touched down on the cold surface of Terminal. The door opened, and a woman stepped out. Jan was of the same sibling batch as Cally and Zelda, and looked exactly like them. She had heard Zelda’s call for help during the Great Plague, and had tried to return to Auron. But when she got there, it was too late. Her people had died, and the Liberator had not arrived or already left.
Several months ago she had begun to hear the Call. It had started when she was alone and at peace, and she would sense it faintly. It had later grown and become a siren’s song, irresistibly drawing her to it. She had tracked it across half the galaxy, and knew now that it lay here, in the ruins ahead.
A few moments of brisk hiking, and she reached the entrance. It had been an elaborate complex once, possibly as recent as a year ago. But that no longer mattered. The source of the Call was there, inside the ruined maze.
She wound her way deeper and deeper into the maze of ruined corridors, guided by the Call. She eventually reached a room with a fallen beam and a pile of rubble, and was met by an impression of such intensity that the Call became of second importance for an instant: Cally had been here. The memories flashed briefly in her mind, memories of collapse, of becoming trapped, of nearly being rescued, and then being buried alive. But then the Call flooded her mind, and she forgot about her sister.
At the end of the long passage ahead, she could sense it. Behind that door, beyond the threshold, was the source of the Call. After seven months and half a galaxy, she would at last meet it face-to face. As she neared her destination, she stumbled over a small object in her path. She absent-mindedly picked it up and clasped it in her hand. It was a ring.
“So this is the new XL-2000 fighter,” Jenna said as she slid into the cockpit seat of the sleek spaceship. She had heard of them from the other rebels, but had only just been declared fit to enter the hangar by the doctor. She examined all of the controls, instruments, and other equipment in the tiny space, half evaluating, half admiring. Figuring out the controls was not too difficult, as they were much like those of other space- fighters, but each of these craft required an individual code to activate them. Life-support, emergency, and other systems were highly efficient, compact units, mostly stored behind the pilot area.
She then turned her attention to the weapons. Plasma bolts and neutron blasters were both installed, but the former took more energy to use and were less efficient than those on vessels with greater power reserves. Still, this craft was quite versatile. A bomb bay had also been installed, and the high speed and maneuverability of the craft made it possible for several to perform an effective, non-escorted bombing raid on a Federation installation.
The only problem was range. These craft could not carry enough fuel to last for more than a few hours of space travel. Time-distort fields, while alleviating this problem, would also use additional fuel and mass. Time-distort was only efficient if the starship could carry enough fuel for the field to stabilize its own intake.
“It’s very … impressive,” Jenna told Avalon when she had finished looking it over. “I wouldn’t mind flying one of these.”
“You’ll get your chance, Jenna. We’re in need of pilots experienced enough to handle these. To keep it compact and still effective, our engineers had to move the center of gravity back and sacrifice some stability in atmospheric flight. It’s difficult to fly in space, until you’re used to it, and even more puzzling in the air. It’s hard enough just to simulate it for practice!”
“That’s fine. I think I’m up to the challenge, now.”
“All right. Report to the flight training room at 0800 hours tomorrow. You’ll begin practicing immediately. Good luck!”
Something stirred in the ruins of the Scorpio. The binoculars traced the movement across several yards through the wreckage before its cause became visible.
“A raccoon!” a voice exclaimed, as its owner lowered his glasses. “There should be something here, some effect of Dorian’s. He may have been dead for a year, but he’s left something. Probably another ring. They’re crazy about rings.”
The man said no more, and stealthily walked towards the debris. He searched for a while, finding nothing. Then he stumbled upon the metal plate.
It had an inscription, referring to the planet Xenon several times. He pocketed the object, and then disappeared into the woods.
The end of the day on Gauda Prime was not unusual, at first. Shops closed, people went home from work, and the Space Command outpost kept on working as the sun set. But then things changed.
At first, it appeared to be a shooting star. Meteors are just as common in most planetary systems as they are on Earth, and so no-one paid it much attention. Few people even saw it. But some noticed it was brighter than most meteors.
It landed in the middle of Plantation 5, very near the site where the Scorpio crashed. Trees burst into flame as it passed them, and a large crater appeared. It would have been a spectacular sight, if anyone had been near enough to see it. But Space Command did not need to see it. Their radar sensors picked it up, and a team of firefighters was dispatched to fight the blaze.
Far above the site, a solitary spacecraft escaped the outer atmosphere of Gauda Prime. Its single occupant thought of the challenge ahead. There would soon be nothing left of the Scorpio. Now, Xenon could be explored without fear of meddling by others. Dorian’s ring would be found, as well as his other artifacts, and at last his threat would be put to an end.
“Progress report on repairs?” Servalan asked over the intercom. “I want Project Turnabout back in operation very soon, before we need to reinforce Blake’s initial conditioning.”
“We’re working on it, Supreme Commander,” the repair crew chief called back. “Our initial estimate was one month. We’ve been working a week, and expect to have it up and running in only two more weeks, if we don’t run into any surprises.”
“Good. I expect to be informed of your continuing progress every day until the job is finished. Supreme Commander Sleer out.”
Servalan leaned back in her chair, letting out a sigh of annoyance. Those fools should have been watching the lab well enough to prevent the fire. Now she had another two weeks to wait until the project would be running again.
Avon sat in his quarters and pulled an object out of a small, round container he kept on a shelf. He looked at it carefully, noting every detail. He had found the ring shortly after they had defeated Dorian, and had worn it a great deal during the past year. He had always felt like he was struggling against something, but he had assumed it to be guilt over letting Cally die, and kept it to himself, as he always did.
After the group escaped from the prison on Gauda Prime, he had stopped wearing it, and kept it in this box. He tried to avoid going near it as much as possible, and found that he felt much less internal struggle now that he was not wearing it. No- one had really noticed; no-one had noticed when he did wear it. But they had noticed he was making fewer of the mistakes that had characterized the past year. His suspicions now needed only one, final confirmation.
He stared coldly and unwavering at the ring. This would be easier if he were an Auron, but he would also be more vulnerable to the force he suspected was at play. It was working, though; the longer he stared, the more the room around him started to fade, and the ring came into ever-sharper focus. He soon found himself entirely gone from reality, floating in an endless void, only himself and the ring— and another presence.
“You!” he exclaimed, seemingly through telepathy.
“Yes, Avon, it’s me!” the presence thought back. “I’m not gone yet! In fact, Dorian’s been with you all along!”
“I suspected as much.”
“Now, now, Avon! I know you couldn’t have suspected me. You seemed so shocked to recognize me!”
“I suspected another, but it makes sense for it to be you. You tricked me into doing all those things, didn’t you? Trying to steal the gold, killing that scientist? Shooting Blake?”
“That ‘other’ you speak of must be Darya, my ‘sister’ who tried to take over Cally. You should have seen how hard I laughed when Soolin figured it out and you didn’t notice a thing! But, then, I was keeping you busy by driving you insane! You never realized how I was taking control of you! I would have had you if you’d kept wearing my ring after that last fiasco!”
“You mean killing Blake? Now that my mind is clear, I can see he was testing me, but that it was you who shot him, not me. No-one else will believe me, but I won’t have that on my conscience. I do have some morals, after all.”
“I hardly think that matters now, though. Now that you’re here, it will be so much easier to take control!” Dorian moved menacingly towards Avon.
“Wrong,” Avon said, flatly, as he whipped his gun out of its holster and blasted the ring. As the ring dissolved, so did the scene around him, and he found himself in reality once again. The ring was no longer in his hand.
Xenon base was deserted, as expected, and so the exploration fell victim to no interference. The lone searcher found himself at last drawn to a room in the deepest part of the ruined complex. He looked around and saw how the rough hewn chamber connected with others like it, possibly another complex, obviously far more ancient than the base above.
“You are right.” A voice startled him.
“Who are you?” He spun around and saw something stirring on the other side of the room. It was about the size of a man, but its features could not be discerned. It wasn’t just the dim light, it was as if the creature itself was somehow indistinct, as much shadow as substance, perhaps more.
“The being you see before you is called the Gestalt. If you allow it to absorb all your corruption, you will become immortal. Forever young. Undying.”
"Why do you always speak of yourself in third person?
“Self? What is self? What is it more than a sense of identity, a sense which does not apply to many of the ancient things from before your knowledge. To the Gestalt, the very concept is meaningless. It applies to those of your kind, and to him whom you seek.”
“You know I’m looking for Dorian?”
“This being knows where you can find him. He pursues the leader of the Seven, hoping to use him to regain life. He wages a great battle against his mortality by taking lives that need not be taken. He leaves the world of ending in search of a new beginning. With the aid of the Gestalt, you will find him easily.”
“With the aid of the Gestalt, I’ll probably be led straight to hell. But if he’s following Avon, as you say, I’ll finally find him.” Without a glance back, Del Grant climbed up the stairs and into the sunlight, knowing he was closer than ever to finding and destroying his prey.
Blake sat in his room, watching the latest viscast news reports. Leaning back, he began to think of his brother, Rog. The “accident” on Gauda Prime had wiped out most of his memory. He had apparently lost too much blood from the gunshot wounds, causing damage to his brain. Or so the doctors told him.
Why this distrust? Not the doctors, nor Sleer, nor anyone else had given him reason not to trust them. Yet something was off in some corner of his mind, stirring up confusion. He couldn’t quite place it.
Not for the first time, Blake started trying to regain his memories. He searched back, trying to find any scrap of memory before he was shot. Snatches of conversation flashed past quickly?
“I set all this up! Avon, I was waiting for you!”
“Did you learn it from an old smuggler?”
“A young one, actually. Her name was Jenna …”
Where could those have come from? The first and third quotes were his own, but the middle sounded like Del Tarrant, whose voice he’d heard once on a recording. And the name Jenna? He searched back farther, this time for all he could remember of Avon. Two more comments emerged?
“I do know one thing: Change is inevitable.”
“Why else do we fight, Avon?”
The surroundings in that particular memory suddenly appeared and came into something near focus: Blake was sitting on a circular couch, in a large room that may have been the flight deck for an odd spaceship. Sitting next to him was a young woman whose face matched, in his mind, with the name, Jenna. Standing about two meters away was Avon. As he made that comment, the meaning was clear: “Someday, this will be mine, not yours.” The ship could only be the Liberator.
Avon strode onto the flight deck and sat down in one of the seats in such a calm, relaxed manner that everyone was caught off guard. “You seem in high spirits today …” Soolin finally managed.
“I solved a mystery,” he explained, “and laid an old problem to rest. That ring I found after we killed Dorian—”
Dayna cut him off. “What ring? I don’t recall seeing you with a ring.”
“Of course not! You see, that’s one of the clues that tipped me off to it. No-one noticed, except me. Careful inspection of the right record tapes might show it, but its very nature is to be noticed only by its chosen victim.”
“How are we to know you’re not lying, or haven’t lost your mind completely?” Tarrant suggested.
“You’ll just have to try trusting me, won’t you? In fact, that comment is the other thing. When I burned my hand on Gauda Prime, I stopped wearing it for a while. I soon noticed that all our failures and my biggest mistakes occurred while I was wearing that ring. So I made a point of not putting it on. Since then, our luck has been improving, as has my sanity.”
“Yes, you’re right about that,” Vila commented.
“Recently, when we learned Darya was still alive—”
“Darya?” Dayna asked.
“The alien that tried to take over Cally, and took revenge on us, me in particular. I learned her name recently. It occurred to me that this ring was a great deal like hers, so I tried to use some meditation techniques I saw Cally use, and discovered the ring was linked with Dorian!”
“Linked with Dorian?” Soolin wondered.
“Yes! It turns out he’s the same kind of being, and it was he who told me Darya’s name. He spent the last year trying to drive me mad so he could take control of me and live again. My prying had left me open to attack, and I had to destroy the ring to stop him.”
“How convenient that there’s no evidence,” Tarrant commented dryly.
“It does make sense though,” Dayna observed. “This explains all the problems we’ve had this past year. All of us moved closer to the edge, but Avon was falling, and we practically helped push him.”
“Once I thought he’d hit rock bottom, several thousand feet beneath the cliff, you know?” Vila added. “A few months ago, and then again on Gauda Prime…”
“You have to admit, it wasn’t the best possible homecoming for me, but some people had a worse time,” Soolin noted.
“I’m sorry to interrupt all of you, but it appears we’ve reached our destination,” Avon broke through the discussion. “Below us is Xenon, the place that started all this. We may finally get some answers to this puzzle.”
“I was wondering why you made that course change yesterday,” Tarrant mentioned.
“It looks like someone else got here first,” Soolin remarked. “Down there are two spaceships of entirely different design, both near the base.”
“Let’s find out who they are, then,” Avon declared. “We’ll leave Orac up here to work the teleport, and all of us will go down. We’re going to find out what’s going on down there, even if we need all five of us to do it.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Vila commented. “I’ll just stand in the middle, with all of you around me.”
They readied themselves for the excursion, strapping on their guns and teleport bracelets. Orac was switched on and left with specific instructions to bring them up when they called, and they teleported down.
They found themselves near the former entrance to the ruined base, near one of the two ships Soolin had noticed. They watched as the hatch opened, and a short, brown-haired woman stepped out. They stared in disbelief for a few seconds, until Avon asked the obvious question: