Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 4: Search and Seizure
“Project Turnabout is proceeding as planned, despite the loss of six subjects who would have been most effective.” Supreme Commander Sleer composed her report to the President. "Fortunately, one of the subjects retained was none other than Roj Blake, former leader of the Rebellion. His conditioning has been successful, and has been focused on the escaped crew of the Scorpio, rather than the entire rebellion.
“When these agents return to their posts in the Rebellion, they will be compelled by their conditioning to send us any information they uncover and also to identify and, ultimately, aid in the capture of Rebel leaders. The funding for this project must continue, for it is our most effective weapon against the Rebellion: betrayal from within. This concludes my report. Supreme Commander Sleer out.”
Sleer depressed the button to complete the recording. She then transmitted it directly toward Earth.
Roj Blake sat in the cockpit of a small fighter provided for him by the Gauda Prime Base. He had been briefed on his mission, and was now heading to intercept the pilot who had been sent to track the starship that had been stolen by Avon and the rest of the Scorpio crew. It appeared that they had attempted to duplicate the technique they used to escape from Gauda Prime, but had failed. The pursuit ship had followed, but its Photonic Drive had failed, resulting in a stalemate chase that had lasted longer than a week. Blake’s ship was equipped with an improved model of the Photonic Drive, still not as fast as the original built by its inventor, but more reliable than the one used in the other ship.
Now, only one hour out from Gauda Prime, Blake was already gaining on both ships. And his flight computer had calculated he would need only two more hours to reach them.
“Red Zelan,” Soolin said as she looked up from a console on the flight deck.
Tarrant jerked his head away from the flight readout and asked, “Who?”
“Red Zelan. He might know something about these lost Aurons,” came the reply
“Who is this Red Zelan?”
Soolin walked to the center of the room, where Tarrant sat on watch, and began to explain: “Before I met Dorian, I was once hired by a man named Red Zelan. He was a professor at the Federation Academy, in alien cultures, I believe. Anyway, he was also involved in a branch of the Terra Nostra. He wanted me to assassinate the leader of a rival branch. During my employment I discovered that he was extremely interested in telepathy, and that he learned all he could about the Aurons. I think it might be useful to question him.”
“Sounds like a good lead to follow up on. Why don’t you suggest it to Avon?”
“I can’t find Avon. I’ve looked everywhere on the ship, even checked his quarters, but he’s nowhere to be found. Not even Vila or Dayna know where he might be. He’s simply vanished.”
At that moment, Avon was deep in the heart of the Revenge’s star drive mechanism. His search for the damaged fuel line had paid off, and he was now repairing it with duct tape. An unusual case, duct tape had changed little since its invention in the twentieth century and was still widely in use. The materials used in its construction had changed slightly; the adhesive was more powerful and the tape effected a better seal than it once had, but it would be recognized immediately by anyone from any time period after it first appeared on Earth.
Avon entertained a fleeting thought that he should have told someone about the problem, to ensure that they would not activate the star drive while he was in its main chamber, but dismissed it immediately. Avon’s position was deep enough into the machinery that he would not be affected by the forces that propelled the Revenge through space. He would only have to wait until it was deactivated to return to the airlock which led to the interior of the craft.
This line of reasoning soon seemed to be a premonition, as only moments after the line had been repaired, the engines roared to life. Then Avon was struck with a new thought: his pressure suit only had a limited amount of air. The supply would last two hours, and he had just spent twenty minutes searching for the break in the fuel lines. Including the time it took to repair the damage, this left him with one hour and thirty-eight minutes before he would die of asphyxiation, unless the star drive was turned off before then. His other choice would be to walk into the outer chamber and be burned up and torn apart by the forces at work there. He disliked that possibility even more than his current predicament.
Blake approached the two ships and slowed to a speed closer to theirs. He then sent a message to the pursuer: “Ensign Stevenson, this is special agent Blake. Continue your pursuit, but be certain you keep out of my line of fire.”
“Message received, Agent Blake,” the reply came.
Blake now prepared to send a message to the other ship, the one being pursued. Its beacon confirmed that its license number was indeed GP1-3L4S5R-B7, that of the craft which Kerr Avon had stolen. Avon would pay for his crimes, against the Federation and against Roj Blake. Supreme Commander Sleer had made the right choice in sending him on this mission. She would not be disappointed.
Then something odd happened: Strange memories and thoughts flashed briefly through his mind. Images of Ex-President Servalan, who looked very much like Sleer. Memories of a different Blake, one who fought the Federation for the rights of the people. Thoughts of the Liberator, a grand ship named by this other Blake and used to terrorize the Federation. The Liberator’s main computer, Zen, and the last words the other Blake had heard it say: “Life support failure in forty seconds.”
The Roj Blake sitting in the chair of a modified pursuit ship shook his head to clear it of these strange memories that could never have been his. He then sent his message: “Greetings, Avon. Remember me? You thought you’d killed me, didn’t you. Well, you were wrong. If you thought I’d betrayed you before, you won’t want to know what’s planned for you now.”
An unfamiliar face appeared on the communications screen to the right of the main viewport. The face then spoke: “Blake? Is that you?”
Blake tightened his grip on the control stick and prepared his weapons. “Yes, it’s me, but who are you?”
“My name’s Alex Montgomery. You’re a victim of Servalan’s conditioning program, aren’t you?”
“I have received no mental conditioning. As for Servalan, she’s probably dead by now. As you soon will be if you don’t tell me where Avon is. Now.”
“We don’t know where Avon is. If we did, we still wouldn’t tell you. Servalan’s turned you into a loyal Federation agent, hasn’t she?”
“Servalan has nothing to do with this. And soon, you’ll be dead, just like she is!” Upon completion of this final sentence, Blake pulled the trigger on GP1-3L4S5R-B7. It was destroyed immediately by the plasma bolts.
“Ensign Stevenson, we’re returning to Gauda Prime,” he ordered.
Jenna was recovering more quickly than had been expected, and was by now taking short walks through the area of the base she was allowed in. She could now walk to the mess hall and pick up her meals herself. She had been released from captivity two- and-a-half weeks earlier, and it was now exactly twenty-two days since the fiasco on Gauda Prime.
At the moment, Jenna was sitting at a table in a nearly- empty dining hall. Lunch wouldn’t officially start for ten more minutes, but the cafeteria-style service was open at all hours for anyone who wanted a snack, had missed breakfast, or, as in Jenna’s case, just wanted an early lunch. She noticed the line beginning to form across the large room.
So far, what she had seen of Avalon’s base on Carloth was highly organized and well-protected. The frozen world was far from any active Federation base and was possessed of an inhospitable surface, especially after dark. The base was deep underground, and all entrances were well-hidden and well guarded. In addition, several evacuation plans were kept on hand and rehearsed often enough to ensure their success under various circumstances.
Jenna completed her meal and got up to place the tray, glass, and utensils in the appropriate piles. She then walked to the nearest exit and headed down the corridor toward her quarters. She passed Avalon along the way, stopping briefly to exchange greetings, and continued down the passage. Upon entering her rooms, she immediately collapsed upon her bed and fell asleep.
Avon glanced at the display on the arm of his pressure suit. He had two minutes left. Two minutes and then the oxygen inside his suit would no longer be replenished; the amount would fall, and he would lapse into unconsciousness and then death.
He turned away from this train of thought and tried to calm himself; he needed to conserve oxygen, and hyperventilating would not help. Besides, he had faced death and survived many times before. He would survive now.
There was no indication that the star drive would be cut off before his two short minutes were up, so he tried to make the most of them. He forced himself to think rationally about the situation and glanced once again around the chamber in which he stood. There was very little room to move, which was, in a way, an advantage: if he moved, he would use up his precious oxygen more quickly. It was full of electrical conduits and fuel lines, including the one which had caused him to come here in the first place.
Looking at the fuel lines, a new thought occurred to him: if he cut the fuel line again, and sealed both ends, the engines would cut off almost immediately. The idea nearly repulsed him at first, as it would defeat his original purpose, but he realized that he had no other choice if he wished to live.
Avon quickly cut two pieces of the duct tape which he still carried with him. One quick slash of the knife and the line was cut. Wasting no time, he placed one piece of tape on each end of the severed line, sealing them completely. As soon as the star drive activity died down, he entered the main chamber and opened the airlock at the side. He closed the outer door, depressed the appropriate buttons, and tore off his helmet as soon as the small room had been filled with air. Once again, Kerr Avon had faced almost certain death and survived.
Tarrant muttered something under his breath as he felt the Revenge slip out of the warp field and slow down.
“What happened?” Dayna asked, almost rhetorically, as she walked over to the instrument panel to check it herself.
“Something’s wrong with the main fuel line,” Tarrant answered for Vila’s benefit. “The star drive simply cut off.”
“How could that have happened?” Vila asked. “I thought Avon had done everything he could to make this ship perfect. I mean, he built the teleport, messed with the viewscreen, added weapons, put the Photonic Drive in, and all that, so you would think he would have fixed it so the fuel line wouldn’t break like that or anything, right?”
“Right, Vila,” Dayna commented as if she were tired of hearing the thief’s voice, which she was. She then turned to Tarrant. “First Avon vanishes, so we head back to the last planet we’re all certain we saw him. En route the fuel line breaks. Maybe we should just leave him.”
Moments later, Soolin appeared in the doorway. “What’s the problem?” she asked.
“Damaged fuel line,” Tarrant answered her briefly.
“Then perhaps someone should try to fix it,” she pronounced before leaving.
Soolin stepped into the room next to the airlock which led to the star drive chamber and was astonished to see Avon sitting there calmly, as if nothing had happened.
“Nice to see you again,” Avon remarked, handing her the roll of duct tape and the folded knife. “Would you mind stepping outside for a few moments? There’s a severed fuel line in the main drive chamber that needs to be taken care of.”
Red Zelan stood in front of the bookshelf rereading an old text called The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. He was startled when a man wearing black leather and silver studs pointed a gun at him and told him to drop the book, raise his hands above his head, and sit down. In fact, he was so startled that he almost forgot to call the guards. As he started to do so, he was again startled to hear a familiar voice tell him that the guards would not be coming, not for several hours, so he’d better do what Avon said. As an added emphasis, Soolin raised her gun to the level of his head. He promptly dropped the book, raised his hands above his head, and sat down in the chair behind him.
“Soolin! Your friend here startled me!” he exclaimed.
“Avon merely wants you to answer some questions,” Soolin replied.
“No one would let us in, so we found it necessary to resort to a somewhat— illegal method of entry,” a curly-haired man explained.
“Our resident coward picked the locks while the rest of us shot your guards,” Avon continued.
Zelan looked behind him and saw a dark-skinned young woman with a gun about three inches from his head.
“I heard that you have an interest in telepathy,” Avon began the interrogation.
“Yes,” he answered nervously.
“I also heard that you have studied the Aurons.”
“What is the most current information you have concerning them?”
“They were all killed off by a plague a year-and-a-half ago.”
“Not all. There were at least three survivors. Do you know who they were?”
“One of them worked with Blake and the rebels, the other two went to some planet called Kaarn.”
“Do you know what they took with them?”
“Gene stocks, I think. But they couldn’t have done anything with them. Besides, Commissioner Sleer dropped a bomb that killed them both. She hated the Aurons a lot, almost as much as Servalan did. That’s all I know, I swear!”
“What do you know of the other one?”
“I heard she died when their ship blew up. I don’t know anything else!”
“Are you certain that’s all you know?”
“Yes! Absolutely! That’s all!”
“Very well. We’re leaving now. Don’t try anything until we’ve left.” Avon then lifted his teleport bracelet. “Bring us up, Orac.”
Red Zelan was once again startled when he saw them suddenly vanish. When he was sure they wouldn’t be returning, he picked up his book and tried to find the place where he’d left off.
The Gauda Prime night was still and quiet, disturbed only by the sound of a small spaceship rising out of the forest and leaving for parts unknown. Still, that is, until the Project Turnabout lab burst into flames. It remained in the lab, blocked from the rest of the building by the strong metal walls, but fire personnel were unwilling to open the doors to put it out for fear that it might spread to the rest of the building. So first the base had to be evacuated, and all burnable material removed from that wing, and then the team could try to put it out. By the time it was out, damage was so extensive it would take weeks to rebuild. Project Turnabout would have to be set back over a month to allow for reconstruction.
“He could have been lying,” Dayna said. “He’s never been known for being trustworthy.”
“If he was lying, we’ve learned nothing,” Avon remarked. “If he was not, a potential resource is gone. At the moment, it makes little difference either way.”
“But why Terminal?” Vila whined. “Just because you found it doesn’t mean we have to go there. Last time, we lost Zen, Cally, and the Liberator! Who knows what we’ll lose this time!”
“As I recall, it was your idea,” Dayna commented.
“I didn’t think we’d have the chance to go there!” Vila explained. “I was just making a rhetorical question, er, statement, whatever!”
“What you mean is,” Soolin noted, “You were trying to sound clever.”
“Vila’s reasons for mentioning the idea are no longer important,” Avon continued. “The reasons for going are obvious: Zen and the Liberator are gone, but we might find a clue that could help us find Cally. We’re going there, and nothing any of you say will stop me.”
Roj Blake stood in front of his commanding officer, better known as Supreme Commander Sleer, and to a select few as Ex- President Servalan. Following his mindwipe and extensive mental conditioning, Blake was no longer one of those few.
“Special Agent Roj Blake reporting for duty, Supreme Commander,” he saluted.
“At ease, Agent Blake. I have called you here to explain a few discrepancies you may have come across in information from captured rebels, regarding another man named Blake.”
"Your brother, Rog Blake, was injured in an accident many years ago. He resembled you very much, both physically and mentally, until the accident unhinged his mind. He went mad and joined the resistance, eventually becoming its leader. With your help, he eventually came to his senses, but then a group of rebels managed to confuse him and bring him back to their side. The government was forced to send him into exile on Cygnus Alpha.
"During the months-long journey, the London came upon a gigantic supership floating in space. All crewmembers sent to investigate were driven mad or killed by an unknown force, and so three prisoners were sent, one of them your brother. They somehow survived and escaped. They dubbed the ship the Liberator and used it to conduct numerous terrorist attacks.
“They later came into possession of a supercomputer known as Orac. This computer is somehow able to read nearly every computer in the galaxy. The value of Orac is more to me even than the value of the five criminals now in possession of it, including Kerr Avon. If you ever have the opportunity and reason to destroy their craft, make sure that you take Orac and its key in working order, before you fire.”
“What happened to my brother?” Blake asked.
“Sadly, he died shortly after the Intergalactic War. He had become badly injured on the planet Jevran and died of his wounds.”
“I never knew. Or if I did, I can’t remember it now. My memory before Avon shot me is too much of a blur. Tell me, please: what was the accident which drove him mad?”
“He was involved in the teleport project. It was a failure, as you know, but one night he fell into the chamber after accidentally activating the machinery. He was found lying on the floor the next day, his mind irreversibly damaged. Is there any more you wish to know?”
“Not at the moment, Commander— Supreme Commander.”
“Very well, then. You are dismissed, Special Agent Blake.”
As Servalan watched the former rebel leave the room, she wondered if he had believed the story. It had seemed necessary to fabricate a reason for what he would hear from those rebels who saw and recognized him, and she hoped he had accepted it.
A faint dot appeared in the center of the viewscreen. Slowly, it enlarged, and its elliptical shape could be seen. At last, the shape of the planet Terminal loomed in the rectangular screen. “We’re there,” Avon announced over the ship’s intercom.
Soon all five crewmembers stood on the flight deck of the Revenge. Soolin, Dayna and Tarrant alternately watched Avon and the viewscreen while Vila cowered in the corner. “Yes, that’s it,” Tarrant observed. “Terminal.”
“I’m going down to search for signs of Cally,” Avon stated, “and this time I’ll allow some of you to follow me. After all, you would anyway.” He glanced at the group before him and, seeing no reaction to his comment or grin, he continued: “Any volunteers?”
All but Vila agreed to follow him. Vila elected to remain on the flight deck with Orac and be ready with the teleport. Within minutes, four-fifths of the crew stood on the cold surface of Terminal.
“So, Orac,” Vila remarked. “How would you like to play some Galactic Monopoly?”
This starship does not carry the necessary equipment to play that game, Orac replied. In addition, your use of the word “like” implies emotion, a quality which I, a machine, am incapable of possessing.
“Oh, cut it out, Orac! We all know you’re full of yourself, which means you must have some kind ‘emotion,’ as you put it, so stop bothering us with all that nonsense!”
A voice then came out of the communications speaker. “Avon calling Vila. Are you still awake?”
“Yes,” Vila grumbled.
“Good. We’ve found what’s left of the base, and we’re preparing to go through the entrance I used when I went back for Cally the first time. What we’ve seen looks like someone recently undertook a major salvage operation, though they don’t appear to have found much.”
“Great. Call me back when you’re about to be eaten, will you?”
Avon cut off the communication link.
I fail to see why they are wasting so much effort on this search, Orac chirped. Cally is definitely not on this planet, alive or dead.
“Why didn’t you say anything about it then?” Vila asked. “Did you just want to see us make fools of ourselves?”
No, you don’t need my help for that. Anyway, no-one asked.
“Well, if she’s not here, where is she?”
Difficult to say, but obscure data indicates her presence recently in Sector 9.
“Oh, that’s real helpful, Orac. Sector 9 is only one twelfth of the galaxy. That narrows it down a lot.”
The tone of your voice suggests that you do not believe what you have said, despite the fact that it is true.
“And how is it true?”
I would think it was obvious. There is clearly no need to search the other eleven twelfths of the galaxy.
“Oh, shut up, Orac,” Vila said, removing the computer’s key.
Avon stood in the room where he had seen the ceiling collapse on top of Cally. The debris had been moved, along with the fallen beam which had prevented her from moving. There was no body in evidence. Everything appeared to have been moved by someone who knew what they were doing. No further damage had been done to the structure.
Soolin, Dayna and Tarrant were behind him, searching the room for clues. It was Soolin who found one. There was a message, scratched in the side of the wall: “Avon, I hope you and your friends enjoy the time you spend here. I expect you, Vila, Tarrant, Dayna and Cally will be well-occupied trying to repair that ship. Have fun! — Servalan”
“She must have written this before we got here on the Liberator,” Tarrant observed. “She must have expected to win.”
“She almost did,” Avon remarked. “She would have had the Liberator and nearly got Orac as well, while we were left here, marooned. If Dorian hadn’t found us, we might have died here.”
“We might still,” Dayna added. They had all felt the beginning of a tremor.
“Bring us up, Vila,” Avon spoke into his bracelet.