Logo by L. Mundy Undercurrents
By James I. Ide
Chapter 18 Index Page Chapter 20



Marooned on Terminal. It was aptly named. The end of the line. The end of everything maybe. And if Servalan had lied about leaving them a ship-- if there were no way off-- Avon had certainly landed them in a fine mess this time. Cally was angry and scared to the verge of panic, but she carried on her share of the search to occupy her mind.

* * * * *

Avon kept away from the others, conducting his own search of the facilities. Their anger towards him was almost palpable. And unjust. He had told them not to follow him down; told them to stay put, get out if he didn't report back, but they hadn't--

They couldn't have. Liberator had been lost before they got to Terminal; it had been lost when they flew through that cloud of-- fluid whatever it was. Who'd have thought the stuff would eat away the ship? Well, Liberator was gone now, but there was this consolation: Servalan had been on board when Liberator broke up-- and after she had beaten him on all counts and finally won possession of Liberator, too! Ironic that. And amusing, if only the others could see it.

But they all blamed him--

And he had been a little stupid...

"Well?" Cally asked, glaring from the doorway. She hadn't been looking for him, but now that she'd stumbled across him, her anger wouldn't let her leave until she got an explanation.

"Well what?" he asked.

"What in hell did you think you were doing?"

"I was trying to find Blake." He kept his tone indifferent, but he was angered by her.

"You nearly got us all killed!" she said, coming over to him.

"You nearly got yourselves killed," he said, turning away from her. "I told you-- "

"I heard you the first time: I don't need any of you-- "

"I don't."

"Of course not," she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him around to face her, "you can manage to get yourself outsmarted, outmaneuvered, drugged, and duped without any help from anyone. You walked right into Servalan's trap all by yourself-- "

"That's right. I did," he said, shaking off her grasp. "I walked into it with my eyes open. I knew what I was doing-- "

"And Servalan won."

Servalan. She had won. Because he had been stupid. Even now, knowing Servalan was dead, he wanted to subdue her, overpower her, make her submit to him, physically, emotionally, intellectually-- involuntarily his hands clenched, his whole body tensed, and he tasted blood-- damn Servalan. Damn Cally. "Servalan is dead," he said, turning on Cally, his anger cold and threatening. "Dead," he said again, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her up against the wall. "And I'm not. That means I won." And he smiled a terrible smile at her and kissed her savagely, angrily, pressing hard against her as if she were Servalan and he would have his revenge--

Cally let herself go completely limp, unresisting and after a moment he stopped, and she said coldly, unafraid, "I'm not Servalan."

Avon pushed himself away from her, laughing to cover it, but feeling like a fool, unable to regain his control. He'd been without food or sleep for days. Now he couldn't think straight and the pain of his own stupidity, of losing, was so great that he lashed out at her, laughing at her, saying sarcastically, "No, you're not, are you?"

Cally's anger hadn't abated one whit, but for the first time she realized how close to the edge Avon had pushed himself. She had warned him before about taking care of himself, but sometimes he got so caught up in his mind that he didn't even notice his body's needs until it was too late. Like now. And she felt guilty for not having seen it coming, for not having done anything to head it off, for having failed as his friend. "I'm sorry," she said.

"For what? For not being Servalan?"

"Sorry I let you down," she said, evenly. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the vial of pills she had found. They were Restoratives, much like her own Magic Elixir in effect. She had thought to keep them for an emergency, but-- this was an emergency. "Here," she said, holding it out to him, "take these. They should help."

Avon didn't move to take them, so she reached for his hand and put the vial in it. Then she left.

He watched her go. Cally was angrier than he'd ever seen her, angrier even than that time at Teal-- that had been Servalan's doing, too. He hadn't meant to get so rough, but Servalan always brought out the worst in him--

Damn Servalan and damn the whole lot of you, he thought. I tried to bring you off safe, but you wouldn't listen--

Tired of searching, tired of everything, he sat down, thinking of nothing, mindlessly shaking the vial, watching the pills roll back and forth, back and forth, listening to the faint clacking sound they made, until, annoyed by them at last, he opened the vial and ate them.

* * * * *

Avon could hear voices. Shouting. It sounded like an argument. Cally and Tarrant. He slipped quietly down the passageway to listen.

"And who's fault was that?" Cally demanded.

"We all know who."

"Really? And what would you have done?"

"I'd have gone round it!"

"Would you? Knowing you had a rendezvous to make? Knowing it was your chance to find Blake?"

"But we didn't know!"

"No, we didn't. But why did we need to? Why didn't we just trust him?"

"Trust him! Why should we?"

"Why not?"

"Why didn't he trust us?"

"He did. He trusted us to let him get himself killed. That's a fine thing, isn't it? He expected us to just go off and leave him! And do you know what? If we had, we'd have been safe. He never intended to endanger any of us but himself. How does that make you feel?"

"He says he doesn't need any of us and I believe him."

"Maybe he doesn't. But that doesn't mean-- oh, never mind. You wouldn't understand. You never have. Any of you!"

Cally came into the passageway and Avon drew back out of sight until she went past. He didn't care what the others thought of him, but...

Loyal Cally. Why hadn't he told her? Had she really been withdrawn and preoccupied lately? Or had he just told himself she wouldn't care because it meant so much to him to find Blake himself?

After a while he went looking for her.

* * * * *

Cally was checking out the medical facilities. When she looked up Avon was watching her from the doorway. She was still angry and hurt and worried, but she'd had time to cool off and her argument with Tarrant had made her realize that Avon had been trying to do the right thing-- in his own left-handed way, of course. And it was partly her fault. She'd had a lot on her mind lately and hadn't noticed the signs, hadn't been there to smooth things over. Seeing him now she was concerned for him. "Did you take them?"

Avon tossed the empty vial to her.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine." And it was true, except for a slight headache. Even his mind seemed clearer, his thoughts more optimistic.

"How's your head?"

"My head? Oh-- " suddenly he remembered the reason for his headache. Touching the tender spot lightly, he said, "It's... not serious."

"Sit down. Let me look." Avon sat and Cally expertly checked for concussion. He had a couple of nice lumps on the back of his head, one courtesy of Servalan, but the skin wasn't broken and his skull seemed to be intact. "How many times did they hit you?"

"I don't remember. How many lumps did you find?"

Cally wasn't ready to joke about anything. "What else did they do to you?"

"Just the drugs, I think. They made me believe I saw Blake."

"So I gathered. Anything else?"

"How would I know?"

She gave him a considering look. "How do you feel?"

"Weary," he said, looking up at her. Her face was expressionless, but he knew she was waiting for something from him and that she wouldn't make it easy. He looked away again before he said, "Stupid." The admission hurt, but the honesty was the only amendment he could offer in exchange for her loyalty to him.

"You should," she said, angrily. He didn't look up. After a moment she murmured, "Idiot," under her breath and sat down next to him. "Why didn't you tell us-- me, what was going on?"

"I don't know."

"Well, you should have. Maybe all of this could have been avoided."

"And maybe not. Do you think we'd have gone around that cloud?"

"No. We'd have flown right through the middle of it," she said, stretching out her arm, illustrating the manoeuvre with her hand. "The only difference would be that everyone wouldn't hold you personally responsible." With that she brought her arm around and whacked him with the back of her hand.

Rightly interpreting the whack as her token of forgiveness, Avon put serious thoughts away. "As it turned out, going through that cloud was a piece of good luck. If Liberator hadn't been destroyed, Servalan would now be in possession of our ship and we'd be in a great deal more trouble than we are." He grinned over at her, wanting to share the joke with someone, but she didn't even smile and that was irksome. Determined he'd get a response out of her he said, "And all because you and Tarrant didn't trust me."

"Didn't what?" Cally asked sharply, affronted.

"Didn't trust me," he reiterated, pleased with the effect. "I told you to stay on board. I told you not to follow me. I told you-- "

"Oh, yes. You told us. You told us everything." Angry again, she stood up and faced him, hands on her hips, and let all her grievances against him pour out. "You told us to leave you alone. And we did. You told us it was important. And we believed you. You told us everything except why we should do anything you said. And when we asked you why, you threatened us. Avon," she asked very deliberately, "do you really think that we couldn't have stopped you if we had wanted to? Do you?"

"What could you have done?" Even as he asked he realized that they could indeed have stopped him. But, when it was happening, he had felt invincible--

"Any number of things. But we gave you the benefit of the doubt. And what did we get in return? 'I don't need any of you,' that's what you said. 'Stay on board. I'll shoot anyone who follows me.' You must have been out of your mind to think for one moment that I'd-- "

"If you'd stayed on board-- "

"If we'd stayed on board, Liberator would still be gone! And Servalan would have you and-- " Cally turned away quickly, but Avon knew she had started to cry.

She was exasperating. Why should she cry? Why should she give a damn about what happened to him, anyway? What difference did it make? He watched her for a moment. She didn't cry often, never used tears for effect, but...

"Servalan," he said, trying to divert her thoughts. "She set a good trap, but she slipped up."

"How?" Cally asked, willing to be diverted.

"It was the bait. I wasn't offered only Blake, you see. I was offered treasure, too."

"Treasure?" Cally, in control again, turned to look at him.

"Yes. For some reason Servalan thinks I'm greedy." Avon grinned. "The easiest ones to fool are the ones who think they know you."

"Once a bank fraud, always a bank fraud?"

"Exactly. I knew it wasn't Blake. Not just Blake. And now we don't have to worry about her anymore."

"I wish I believed that."

"She's dead."

"I'm not so sure."

"She couldn't possibly-- "

"I don't feel she's dead, Avon. I just don't feel it."

"Your intuition?"

"My intuition."

"Well then, we'd better get off this planet as soon as-- "

"Yes," she said, cutting him off. "She said-- we'd better go see about that ship she said she'd left. Now." And she turned abruptly, heading for the door, completely preoccupied with her own thoughts.

Avon was surprised by her sudden change of mood and a little disturbed by it. It made him wonder what her intuition really did tell her. In a few quick strides he caught up with her and, grabbing her arm, brought her to a halt. "Cally, what is it?"

"What's what?"

"Whatever you're not telling me."

"It's nothing-- well, nearly nothing. A small problem. It will keep," she said, exasperated by the inconsequentiality and the delay. "Right now we have to find a way off this planet. So, come on," she said, setting off again, "let's go find the others."

"You don't think they'll shoot me on sight?" he asked, falling in beside her.

"No-- unless, of course, they've found a gun. Perhaps you'd better stay behind me."


Chapter 18 Index Chapter 20

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