Blake’s 7: Return to Action
Chapter 2: The Hunted Become the Hunters
Servalan reviewed the report of Blake’s conditioning. “It appears you have been having little trouble, Chief Jenson.”
“That’s right, Ma’am,” the Medical Director replied. “The program to turn Blake against the rebels was easily converted to turn him specifically against Avon’s group. In fact, it’s working out to be even simpler! Having been shot by Avon is more incentive than having been ‘betrayed’ by Arlen!”
“And when he’s recaptured the Scorpio crew, will you be able to condition all of them as well? I need to undermine the rebellion from within, and I need it to be effective on a large scale.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Every rebel brought in can be conditioned in about a month to capture more rebels. And when all the resistance is crushed? Well, that’s up to you!”
“This will be good press for my term as Supreme Commander. But if this fails, I will see that you face the consequences.”
The small space cruiser touched down near the debris of the Scorpio. Avon stepped out first, briefly scanning the area. Tarrant and Dayna followed immediately. Soolin was right behind them.
“I think I’ll stay behind and guard the ship, if you know what I mean,” Vila volunteered.
“Yes, do that,” Avon muttered. He then raised his voice to a normal tone. “Let’s check for anything that might be salvageable. We’re just lucky the locals haven’t searched already.”
Jenna Stannis set her small flyer down near the site where the Scorpio was said to have crashed. Only recently had she tracked down Blake. She had last seen him when they were on Jevran, shortly after the Intergalactic War. Blake had gotten involved in a local civil war, and had nearly died of the resulting wounds while Jenna was held captive by Servalan. But he had recovered and helped her escape. They were separated while trying to escape through the blockade, and their paths had not crossed since.
But all that had happened nearly two years earlier. She had to concentrate on her current task: Search the debris for survivors, search the surrounding area for Blake, and avoid bounty hunters and Federation troops. Yet the latter was more easily said than done.
Jenna awoke in a hospital room. “I see you’re finally awake!” Sleer told her. “You shouldn’t have struggled so much to avoid capture. The soldier had no intention of injuring you.”
“What do you want, Servalan?” Jenna asked.
“I only want to know what you are doing here. And what you know about the seeding of the Pylene 50 antidote. That last problem distresses me so much!”
“I’ll tell nothing to the Federation’s ex-President,” she maintained.
“Now, there is something I really must make clear to you,” Servalan explained. “Ex-President Servalan has disappeared. If I happen to look like her, well, that’s just a coincidence!”
“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?”
“I really don’t understand what your problem is,” Servalan commented. “I generally have no trouble dealing with people who know my true identity. I simply kill them. But your capture fits right into my plans. Just like Blake.”
“What did you do to Blake?” Jenna asked.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m just conditioning him. It’s much easier since he’s been mindwiped before. But I also need to condition you. And your conditioning will begin with a thorough mindwipe.” As she finished talking, she called the doctor over to sedate her captive.
“We’re approaching the blockade,” Avon reported. “I hope you’re ready for evasive maneuvers, Tarrant.”
“I am. I hope the weapons work, though. They’re only simple lasers, nothing as advanced as anything we had on the Liberator or even on the Scorpio.”
“Don’t worry,” Dayna commented. “I checked them myself. They should be effective enough.”
“I just don’t believe our luck with the debris,” Soolin remarked. “Most of the guns and teleport bracelets, still intact and in working order. Even the crystal used to run the teleport.”
“But before we can use it,” Avon explained, “We must build a teleport chamber. That was one important device that was not salvageable. And Slave was also too damaged to restore. We have only a common ship with a normal flight computer. Until we can get something better, it will have to do.”
At that moment a Federation starship fired the first warning shot.
“Please describe the exact circumstances in which the space ship was stolen,” the police officer asked the dealer. “We also need a description of the offenders. Otherwise we will not be able to track them down.”
“Well,” the dealer began explaining, "There was three guys an’ two gals. I remember this one guy had dark hair and wore black leather with studs; he sticks out in my mind somehow. The other two had lighter hair; one of those had curls. Anyway, one o’ the gals was tall and blond; the other was kind of dark- skinned and had black hair.
“They came in here an’ said they was looking for a spaceship. I showed ‘em several, an’ then came to one they seemed ta’ like. The curly-haired one said ‘e thought they should try a test flight, to ‘see how it handles,’ he said. So I says, ‘Certainly, folks! Step right in!’ and they go in an’ lock me out! Then they just blast off an’ leave me here!”
“Exactly when did this incident occur?” the officer continued his interrogation.
“It was nine-o’clock this mornin’. They was my first customers o’ the day.”
“Do you have the license number for the stolen spaceship? Possibly a holograph or photograph of its class?”
“I’ve got all three. Here’s the photograph and holograph, and the number is…” he handed the pictures to the officer and checked the records book. “…GP1-3L4S5R-B7. The GP1 means that it’s from the first spaceship dealer to open of Gauda Prime…”
While the dealer continued rambling on about his establishment, the police officer and his partner set about relaying the information to headquarters and to the Federation Base, currently commanded by Commissioner Sleer. They then received a readout of the identities of the people who had stolen the ship, as well as a confirmation that the ship had been spotted by the blockade.
The ship was hit. The blockade apparently knew who they were. Tarrant banked the ship away from the nearest fighters.
“This is the least maneuverable ship I’ve ever flown!” Tarrant worried. “It’d take a miracle to get past these fighters!”
Connect Wire B-3 to terminal A-5, Orac’s mechanical voice flooded the room suddenly.
“What are you doing?” Soolin noticed Avon working on the panels in the back.
“Orac,” Avon explained, “is aiding me in my effort to convert the ship’s engine chamber to accommodate a theoretical hyperspace jump that might allow us to escape. We will disappear from space here, and reappear at our destination, specifically Avalon’s base on Carloth.”
“Anywhere is better than here right now,” Dayna quipped.
Avon continued. “If it works, it will only work once. Then we’ll need a Photonic Drive, or one like that on the Liberator.”
“Well, you’d better hurry up, then,” Tarrant commented. “We might not last very long, with these fighters attacking us.”
“Then I suggest you do not distract me while I complete my work.”
Tarrant continued trying to evade the fighters, but the ship’s weak force wall was finally pierced. Dayna slipped into place as gunner and began shooting, mostly ineffectively, at the fighters. At last, their ship was hit and sent falling towards the surface.
“I hope you get that hyperspace jump working soon,” Tarrant quipped, “or we’ll soon become the main course at Servalan’s Gauda Prime Barbecue!”
Vila sat in his seat, clutching the edges to brace himself as Avon completed the circuit rewiring. The ground was coming closer, closer…
“Vanished?” Commissioner Sleer almost screamed. “You can’t tell me they simply vanished!”
Officer Lincoln was once again the bearer of bad news to the Commissioner. “Yes, ma’am. We have no other explanation. After they put up a fairly good fight, one of our fighters hit their ship with a plasma bolt. As the ship was falling down to the surface, it suddenly— well, vanished.”
“Can’t you fools do anything right?” Sleer complained.
“We normally can, ma’am, but this particular group has been evading capture for four years, and appears to be living up to that record.”
“Very well,” Sleer forced herself to calm down. “How is progress coming on the conditioning of the captured rebels?”
“Blake’s conditioning is proceeding favorably, but the Stannis woman is still resisting.”
“Still?” the Commissioner was upset again, now. “How can she still be resisting?”
“We don’t know, ma’am. But she hasn’t capitulated yet. She is still in control of her mind.”
“Thank you for your report, Officer Lincoln. You are dismissed now.”
“Thank you, Commissioner.” Lincoln performed a brief salute and marched out the door.
//With what they know about me,// Servalan thought, //I can’t allow them to go free. And yet they continue to elude capture…//
After what seemed an eternity in nothingness, though it was in actuality only three seconds, the stolen starship appeared above the frozen surface of Carloth, slowly gliding in towards the rebel base run by Avalon. Two small fighters closed in to escort the ship, questioning identities and motives. When they were certain the occupants of the ship were cleared for access to the base, the ship was allowed to land in the huge ice cave, converted to a makeshift hangar.
The small crew filed out the airlock to be led by an escort directly to Avalon’s office.
“Avon!” Avalon greeted him. “I haven’t seen you in over three years! Where’s Blake? I thought he was your leader.”
“Blake is no longer with us…” Avon replied, eliciting hostile glances from his crewmates.
“I see you have had changes in your crew.” Avalon continued.
“Yes. We were separated from Blake and Jenna during the Intergalactic War. Shortly afterward, we picked up Dayna and Tarrant.” He gestured toward the crewmembers in question. “Cally—” He paused. “Cally died a year ago, when the Liberator was destroyed. Soolin joined us when we acquired the Scorpio. Yesterday, the Scorpio was forced down on Gauda Prime. We were captured, but we managed to escape.” The bandage slipped from his hand at this point.
“Eeewww… Have you had a doctor look at that?”
“Are you kidding? I’ve just escaped from prison!”
“Well, have Dr. Steinbeck look at it. Maybe he can do something.”
“Back to the reason we came here: our ship is known and easily tracked,” Avon replied, “with less maneuverability, firepower, and speed than the average Federation pursuit ship. We need something new, to keep the Federation from getting too far ahead.”
“Well,” Avalon began, “we do have some new fighters designed for small crews on extended voyages. We even have a place to install a teleport system. Assuming, of course, that we can get it to work. We have enough that you can take one, if you like. On the contingency that you meet with Dr. Steinbeck.”
“We’ll take it,” Avon replied quickly. “Although we will need a chance to transfer our few belongings to the new ship.”
Jenna woke, conscious for the first time in days. //They must have taken me off of those drugs,// she thought. Then she realized she was no longer in the medical complex. She appeared to be in someone’s home.
“Where am I?” she called, though her voice was muffled. //Probably a side effect of the drugs,// she decided.
A man came over to her and explained. “My name is John Lincoln. I’m a secret agent for the rebellion in Commissioner Sleer’s personal guard. When I learned of her plans for using captured rebels to take others, I knew I couldn’t allow it to happen. Since it was too late for Blake, and you were still resisting, I smuggled you out, into my home. I’ve contacted Avalon and will be preparing to meet her representative tomorrow. If you want, I can let you go to her main base.”
“Avalon,” Jenna mumbled. “Yes, I can trust her, if not anyone else.”
“Good. Tomorrow, you get off Gauda Prime for good. You’re too close to Sleer here.”
“Not Sleer. Servalan.”
“Sleer is really Servalan…” The effort was now too much for her in her drugged state. She drifted off into unconsciousness again.
Lincoln looked at the rebel sleeping on his living-room couch. //I can’t believe she was able to resist through three days of drugs and attempted mindwipes. I would have given in after only a few hours. I just hope she’s able to survive…//
After Avon’s crew had moved into their new home and stayed at the base for a few days, they finally left, heading for some distant planet unknown to anyone but Avon. He had gotten the hand looked at by the doctor Avalon had suggested, who had prescribed a treatment that would heal it in just a few days. But just after they left, Avalon received a top-priority transmission.
She walked into her office to watch the transmission. Pressing her palm to the table for identification and to activate the console, she watched as the screen lifted out of the desktop for viewing. As she pressed the activation button, a face appeared on the screen. She recognized it to be one of her agents placed in Commissioner Sleer’s staff.
“I apologize for any inconvenience, Commander, but I needed to call to inform you of recent events. Rebel leader Roj Blake was captured a few days ago and placed in a program run by Commissioner Sleer. The following day, the rebel Jenna Stannis was also captured and placed in the same program. It has come to my knowledge that Sleer is beginning to mindwipe and condition captured rebels to infiltrate the Rebellion and betray it. Blake gave in quickly, but Stannis was able to resist long enough for me to release her. I have been hiding her, and request to meet with your representative at the normal rendezvous tomorrow at noon. This is Lincoln, completing my report.”
The image vanished. Avalon wearily sent back her reply: Yes, she will send a representative to meet him at the stated location. After a few minutes, though, she decided she would have to go herself.
Avon was suddenly aware of his surroundings. He had retired to his quarters long after the others, having left the flight deck on automatic. But now, he had somehow been returned to the Federation base at Gauda Prime. He was handcuffed, and his feet were tied together. Then, Blake stepped into the room, a rifle in his hand, a menacing look on his face.
“No!” Avon whispered, shocked by the sudden appearance. “You’re dead. I killed you!”
“Oh, no, Avon,” Blake replied. “I’m not dead. In fact, I’m quite alive. I survived your attack. But I realized that I was wrong to trust you.”
“Stop!” Avon tried to shout when he saw Blake raise his projectile rifle. But his cry did no good. Blake pulled the trigger three times. All three bullets hit their mark, connecting with Avon’s stomach.
“Blake, why?” he cried.
“Because you betrayed me. I trusted you and you betrayed me. You tried to kill me.”
Avon’s consciousness was slipping away quickly. But he was able to gasp his last words, “But you betrayed me…”
His last sight was of Servalan walking in through the same door, and standing by Blake, watching Avon die.
Avon woke up in a cold sweat. As he glanced around him, he recognized his surroundings to be his new quarters on board the ship Avalon gave him.
//It was only a dream,// he thought. //It was just another dream…//
“How could she have gotten away?” Servalan shouted at the guard who brought her the news of Jenna’s escape. “She was drugged, strapped down, and sedated! There is no way that she could have escaped!”
The guard sighed. //Sleer is in one of those moods today!//
“Call in Officers Lincoln and Roblin! They should have been on watch!”
“Yes, Ma’am,” the guard replied, racing out of the room.
A few minutes later, the officers in question were brought in.
“It has been brought to my attention that a prisoner by the name of Jenna Stannis escaped about five minutes past three last night. She was strapped to a table and kept under the constant influence of sedatives and other drugs. She could not have escaped on her own, and the two of you were supposed to be on watch! I want your reports on the events at that time, starting with Lincoln.”
Lincoln began his carefully-rehearsed reply, doing his best to make it sound not rehearsed. “We exchanged positions at three- o’clock last night. I was now monitoring the prisoner and equipment, and Officer Roblin was watching the door. After a few minutes, I heard a noise behind me. So I got up and turned around, and saw Officer Roblin on the floor. Then I was lying on the floor, the prisoner and three hours gone. That’s when the patrol found us.”
“Thank you, Officer. Now Roblin’s report.”
“We had just exchanged positions, leaving me to guard the door for the next hour-and-a-half. Officer Lincoln was monitoring the equipment. After a few minutes, a noise outside in the hall startled me. I had just started out the door, when this man dressed all in black with a black mask jumps at me and hits me on the head with something. The next thing I know, a guard is waking me up, and it’s three hours later.”
Sleer thought for a minute and made a decision. “From your reports, it appears that neither of you are responsible for any mistakes that allowed the rescue effort to proceed. But from now on, all prisoners participating in this program will be placed under increased security; rather than two officers guarding each captive, there will be five. Guards will patrol the corridors in that section of the building every thirty minutes. You are both dismissed until two o’clock, when you will report directly to me.”
The two officers filed out of the room.
Soolin found Avon working on the teleport. He was using what he knew of the workings of the mechanism, as well as advice from Orac, and using the crystals and bracelets from Scorpio. He didn’t appear to have noticed Soolin’s entry.
“Any luck?” she asked.
“Go away.” Avon muttered.
“I asked, ‘Any luck?’” she repeated.
“I said, ‘Go away.’” he replied.
“Did it ever occur to you that we need to name this ship?” Soolin asked.
“I’m busy,” he answered.
As Soolin left, Tarrant entered the room.
“I just thought of a wonderful name for this ship!”
“Don’t bother me. I’m busy. Go away.”
“My suggestion is—”
Avon loudly interrupted Tarrant. “I asked you to leave. I am working on the teleport!”
Tarrant stomped off the flight deck. After a brief pause, Dayna walked in.
“How is your work proceeding?” she asked.
Avon said nothing.
Dayna resignedly left. After about twenty minutes, Vila walked in with a nearly empty bottle of wine.
“Hi Avon, buddy!” Vila drawled.
//Vila must be really drunk, this time.//
“How’s ya doin’? Ya workin’ on something?”
“Yes, Vila. I’m working on the teleport. Please go away.”
“Okay, Avon, pal! But first, I’d like ta tell ya that Tarrant thought up a neat name for this ship!”
“That’s very nice, Vila. I don’t want to be disturbed now.”
As Vila staggered out the door, he called to Avon, “The name’s Revenge.” He suddenly sounded quite sober.
John Lincoln waited in the abandoned farmhouse with Jenna, who was still unconscious. He had had a difficult time getting out, with Sleer excited about Jenna’s escape. He hoped Avalon’s ship would show up soon. It was already ten minutes past noon, and he would need to be back at home to get cleaned up and into his uniform by one at the latest, if he was to be on time for whatever Sleer wanted him for.
At last, the small shuttle landed. He approached the door and, giving the proper codes, carried Jenna inside. He was astonished when he saw Avalon herself standing in front of him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. “You should have stayed at your base, not taken a small shuttle to the home of the most ambitious politician in the history of the Federation! Servalan’s right here, in command of the Federation base! She’s going by the name of Sleer, and she’s going to become Supreme Commander of the Federation’s military forces in a matter of days!”
“I felt I should be here, at least this time. Jenna Stannis and I have met, on occasion. She was once part of Blake’s crew on board the Liberator.”
“I don’t have a lot of time.” Lincoln spoke rapidly. “I have an important meeting with my superior officer at two o’clock, which gives me only a half-hour before I need to be at home getting ready. Here’s a data disk containing everything pertinent to Sleer’s program, as well as what I know of the events that have occurred over the past week, beginning with Avon’s attack on Blake. I’ve got to run—”
He left Jenna and the data disk in the shuttle, and ran off in the direction of the city. Only then did his final sentence register on Avalon. //Why would Avon attack Blake?//
Tarrant glanced at the course diagram on the panel. Noticing something strange about the diagram compared to the actual reading, he recomputed the diagram. The course was completely different from what he had originally set!
“Avon! Take a look at this course! We’re not heading back to Xenon!”
Avon did not even glance up from his work on the teleport when he said, “I know.”
“Well, where are we going? This course intercepts five different planetary star systems within our range!”
“You’ll find out, eventually.”
“Well, until I do, I will worry, because I have absolutely no idea where we’re going, and I can’t adjust the controls, since a certain unnamed party locked them to his personal command. And when the others find out, they’ll worry too. No one enjoys being in deep space and not knowing where you’re heading!”
“I don’t seem to have any problem with that.”
“That’s because you set the course yourself! You know exactly where the Revenge is going.”
“When did you decide on that name? I don’t recall being involved in the decision.”
“A few hours ago, we took a vote. The vote was unanimous, four - zero. Even counting your absence, we still had a majority at four to one.”
“You should have notified me earlier.”
“We tried. You kept telling us to leave. We finally had Vila pretend to be drunk, hoping you might not throw him out. Not that it did much good.”
Officer John Lincoln once again stood before Commissioner Sleer. Beside him was Officer Dave Roblin. It was two o’clock, two days prior to Sleer’s appointment to Supreme Commander, and he was to be given a new position as well.
“Officers Roblin and Lincoln,” Sleer began, “Your employment is hereby terminated.”
//So much for this plan.//
Then she continued. “As are your lives.”