By James I. Ide


Cally's dream woke her early. In the dream she was in her room, Marian's guestroom, and Tarrant and Dayna and Vila were all calling to her through the teleport bracelet to put it on, but every time she reached for it, it moved out of her grasp, or changed shape and slithered away, or it stuck tight and she was getting more and more frustrated, feeling closer and closer to tears, and Avon was watching her and laughing--

She decided she'd had enough sleep. The dream was unsettling and she wanted to talk about it-- wanted to talk with Georgie. Talking with Marian the psychologist would be the sensible choice, but talking to Georgie was easier... and... well, the dream was perfectly understandable and nothing to worry over... and she just wanted to talk to a friend.

It was Avon she ran into at breakfast.

"Good morning," she said, civilly. Avon was sitting at the counter, the only one in the kitchen. "Is Georgie up?"

"I haven't seen her. I believe she was up quite late last night."


"It seems it was a late night for almost everyone." The note of sarcasm wasn't entirely intentional, but though the imaginary tirade he called down upon her in the dark last night had alleviated most of his irritation and resentment, it left an edge in his voice and she heard it.

"Spying again, Galen?" The words were out before she could stop them. Cally didn't want to argue with him, she was tired of arguing, but-- the food warmer's timer chimed softly.

"I heard the flitter," he said, mildly, deciding to let it drop. He leaned over and removed his breakfast from the warmer, then, ignoring her, he began to eat.

Cally had almost decided to postpone her breakfast, but the sight and smell of the warm food made her too hungry to leave, so she stayed and began to prepare her own breakfast. As she worked she began to think about her dream again, and of Liberator. "Avon..." she asked quietly, tentatively, "has there been any word... about..."

"Do you care?"

"Of course I care."

"I never would have known. Six days and this is the first time you've asked."

"The first time I've asked you," she said, testily. "If you haven't heard anything, just say so."

"At liberty the last I heard." He sat for a moment watching her, wondering what had happened last night with Wes, wondering what she was thinking, wondering what decisions she had reached. "Tell me, just what are you going to do when Liberator returns?"

That touched the raw nerve. She didn't know. And the dream was still fresh in her mind and the question made her angry. "Avon, just you tell me one thing: what is the point?"

He didn't answer, didn't want to be drawn in to an intense discussion at this hour.

"Exactly," she said, glaring at him. "You don't know. I don't know. Blake is gone. We can't find him and he can't be looking very hard for us. So why do we bother?"

"You should know. You're the high-minded idealist, not me."

"Right. I forgot. We're saving the universe. We go mucking about, playing pirates, thumbing our noses at the Federation, killing people, pretending we're in the service of some Noble Cause-- "

"And you no longer care to see the Federation destroyed?"

"Oh, yes, I do," she said, passionately. "And we're going to kill them all, one by one. How much longer do you think that will take?"

Avon kept silent, but his expression of insolent indifference was eloquent and it only added to Cally's fury.

"We've no leadership, no plan. All we ever seem to manage is to get innocent people killed."

"How many have been killed by the Federation?"

"Does that make us better? We're worse! We're supposed to be the champions-- the paladins-- the good guys! Maybe we should just stop. Now. Before we do any more damage."

"Maybe we should stop before Blake gets us killed."

"Blake-- ?"

"Yes," he said, pleased to see he had brought her up short and beginning to grin in anticipation. "Hasn't it occurred to you that he may be using us, that he may be out there going about the real business of organizing the Rebel Alliance while we're being used to distract Servalan? Hasn't it occurred to you that we're expendable?" The thought that Blake was using them all, making fools of them, had occurred to him months ago and, if it were true, the irony would be exquisite. But right now, the look of shock on Cally's face was eminently satisfying.

"Blake wouldn't do that. He's not like that."

"Isn't he? Why hasn't he contacted us? He said he trusted us. Trusted us to do what?"

"To keep on, of course. To do our parts."

"Yes, but what I'd like to know is what parts are we playing?"

Suddenly, Cally was exasperated with herself. She had no reason to doubt Blake-- and Avon had no right to try to make her do so. "Do you know what your problem is, Avon? You think everyone is as selfish and manipulative as you are! You can't believe that anyone-- "

"When we find Blake, we'll ask him, shall we?" Neither of them moved, they just glared at each other, until Cally looked away and went back to making her own breakfast. Then Avon picked up his plate and utensils and put them in the washer and said, at his sarcastically punctilious best, "If you'll excuse me, I have some errands to do in town."

Watching him out of the corner of her eye, Cally felt her resentment growing: he made her feel so stupid and frustrated and-- she wanted the last word, at least. As he left the kitchen she called, "Don't forget to take your bracelet-- or are you going to stay, get married, raise a family, and live happily ever after?"

There was the slightest hesitation in his stride, but he kept going. He knew if he turned back he would try to strangle her.

And all Cally wanted to do was cry. So she did.

* * * * *

Avon closed the teleport bracelet and wedged the message cartridge within the circle of it, then he set it, on edge, on the chest of drawers. It was operable and if-- when Liberator came back, they'd have a fix on the bracelet's position even if they didn't choose to bring it up to see who was wearing it. The message said, in effect, we're safe; we're here in a private home among friends; we just can't wear our bracelets openly; come and get us quietly, we will be nearby.

It was nearly the same message as the one wedged inside Cally's closed bracelet, which was sitting on edge in the top drawer of her chest of drawers. But her message was a day older.

He hoped Liberator would come for them soon, but, if not, there were preparations to make.

* * * * *

"Why whatever is the matter now?" Georgie asked coming into the kitchen.

"Oh, Georgie, I'm turning into a watering pot."

"So I see. But why?"

"I don't know. Everything, nothing... Avon."

"You stay away from him then. Just keep out of his way. Now, sit down and let me get you some breakfast," she said busying herself, quickly and efficiently putting together three breakfasts and popping them into the warmer. As she set the timer she asked, "Cally, how much have you got left on that debit chit?"

"Quite a lot."

"Good. After breakfast, we're going shopping."

"What for?"

"For something special for you to wear to Doc's party."

"I can wear the dress she loaned me."

"No," she said decisively. "For this party you need something special."

Something special? Well, there was that creamy silk dress... and the pretty gold sandals.

* * * * *

Avon went to the Traveler's Exchange.

The repairs to Liberator hadn't been nearly as expensive as expected and there had been a substantial amount, in gems, returned to him when he closed their account. If he bargained carefully, he should have more than enough wherewithal to buy himself passage off Barram and to find his way back to Liberator-- that is, if Tarrant hadn't managed to get it captured or destroyed.

He kept the four largest and best gems and traded the rest for smaller ones of lesser values (the microscopic certified appraisals affixed to each would facilitate future negotiations), and for a quantity of gold coins of indisputable face value.

Buying a passport would be difficult here, but if one found the right ship, there would be no need of a passport. And finding the right ship was merely a matter of discretely visiting the spaceport daily until that ship arrived.

The Exchange was across the park from the spaceport, a distance of a kilometer or so, and it was a beautiful, warm day. Avon decided to walk.

* * * * *

"Georgie, we have too many packages; let me call a flitter."

"No. I'm not an invalid and the packages aren't heavy-- besides, there's the concourse; we're nearly there-- Look!"

Cally looked where Georgie was looking, and to her consternation, she saw two Federation officers. Their backs were turned and she had just grabbed Georgie's arm to try to drag her in the other direction when--

"Well!" Georgie exclaimed, her voice vibrating. "Of all the nerve-- !"

Cally looked uneasily at the officers, then back at Georgie, wondering what she had seen. "What is it?"

"They're taking pictures of Galen!".

Cally looked again, and sure enough, up ahead, there was Avon, strolling along towards the concourse, completely unaware-- "Oh, no! What shall we-- "

But Georgie was already well ahead of her, saying, "We'll see about that!" And Cally had to run to catch up.

"Lieutenant Krager," Georgie said brightly, "Lieutenant Elston, how nice to see you again."

Krager turned quickly, recognizing the voice. "Good day to you, ah... ladies," he said, beaming on them both. Elston continued taking pictures until Krager nudged him saying, "Elston, look who's here. It's Georgie and-- ?"

"Leah. Leah, Lieutenants Krager and Elston."

"How do you do?" Cally said, favoring them with what she hoped was a pleasant smile.

"Very well," Krager said, "Very well, indeed. Lovely day isn't it?"

"Beautiful," Georgie said, "Taking pictures, are you?"

"Yes. Elston here is just trying out his new camera."

"Oh. It's a lovely day for pictures," she said smiling on Elston. "But warm. Too warm to carry all these packages-- we should have called a flitter, Leah."

Cally stared at her for a beat, then said, "Yes, I'm sorry, Georgie. I should have realized-- "

"It's not your fault. I never should have insisted on walking," she said, sighing and managing to drop one of her packages. "But it is such a lovely day." Elston stooped quickly and picked the package up. And Georgie, reaching for it, promptly dropped another one. "Oh! So clumsy of me," she said. Elston picked the other package up, too. "Thank you," she said, but as she reached to take the packages, she exclaimed, "Oh-- " and dropped the rest of them. "Oh, Leah," she said faintly, "I think I should sit down."

Cally, quickly shoving her packages into Krager's arms, grabbed Georgie's arm and guided her solicitously to a nearby bench. Krager and Elston followed with the packages and deposited them on the bench next to the ladies.

"Is there anything we can, ah... do?" Krager asked, eyeing Georgie nervously. "It's not, ah-- "

"Oh, no," Georgie said, laughing. "Thank you. I'll be fine in just a minute."

"Are you sure, Georgie?" Cally asked.

"Oh, yes. It's just so warm." Georgie sat quietly for a moment, seemingly composing herself, while everyone else watched her anxiously. "That's a very fine camera," she said suddenly to Elston. "May I see it?"

Elston glanced at Krager and, receiving only a very slight shrug, he reluctantly handed the camera to Georgie.

"Very nice," she said, examining the controls. It was one of the newest models, a clear rectangle surrounded by a thin black frame and the controls were so subtly incorporated that she couldn't figure out how to get it to erase. "Doc's been wanting a camera... and we should have one for when the baby arrives..." She held the camera up, pretending to sight through it, but trying to read the controls. She hit the zoom by accident and as she sighted the fountain on the concourse, her attention was caught-- "Oh, look, there's Rafe waiting for us. If you gentlemen would be so kind as to give us a hand with the packages...?"

"Well, ah..."

"Thank you," she said, smiling on them. "Leah, lend me your hand please." Cally got Georgie to her feet and they promptly set off, still in possession of the camera, leaving Krager and Elston to gather up the packages and follow as quickly as they could.

* * * * *

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