Logo by L. Mundy Undercurrents
By James I. Ide
Chapter 19 Index Page Chapter 21



As soon as the entrance shaft with its ominously curling plume of smoke was within sight, Dayna once again ran ahead of Avon. He didn't try to stop her, he wanted to run himself, but his detachment asserted itself and he went forward slowly, keeping his senses alert for other traps. They should have known Servalan would booby-trap both the ship and the living quarters.

Standing back, surveying the scene, he noticed that the rumbling vibrations of the explosions had stopped and the ground felt steady. Tarrant and Vila were lying on the debris scattered ground, but Cally was nowhere in sight.

Dayna knelt by Tarrant. "He's out cold, but breathing evenly. He doesn't look too bad," she reported. "How's Vila?"

"Vila?" Avon went over and prodded Vila with the toe of his boot. Vila rolled over and sat up. He didn't seem to be injured, but he was shaking and obviously scared out of his wits. "Vila! Where's Cally?"

Vila only looked at Avon. He didn't want to answer. Didn't want to think about Cally, about her cry for help, about not going back down for her...

"All right then, where's Orac?" Avon asked coldly.

"Orac! Where's Orac?" Vila was shocked to his senses by the question. "Who cares where bloody Orac is? Cally's down there!"

"Where, Vila?"

"The medical section."

"And where was Orac?"

"With her," Vila lied.

"Really? I rather thought I left Orac in the control room." Avon tossed the gun to Dayna. "Keep a sharp watch. I'll be back when I've found them."

* * * * *

He found her, just as Vila said he would, inside the medical facilities section. It was a miracle that she was still alive-- that the medical section survived intact with its power functioning was a miracle in itself. The first explosion must have pushed the metal panels over the entrance, protecting it and Cally from the shocks of the subsequent explosions and the searing heat.

She didn't seem to be hurt very badly. She'd had a bloody nose, but there weren't any obvious broken bones; she might have a concussion and she might have some internal injuries and she was shocky, but... not a hopeless case. Avon lifted her cautiously and carried her to the med unit.

She came to as he was putting her down. "Lie still," he said, as reassuringly as he could. She was in pain, but she was conscious now, and she tried to smile. He settled her gently and breathed a sigh of relief when the unit began functioning, allowing her body to sink lower into the padding, surrounding her with healing. "You see? Everything is working just--" His relief turned to panic as readouts began to light up. There was a malfunction in the unit: echoes. For every system monitored there were two differing readouts--

Cally had seen the readouts, too. "It's no... malfunction," Cally said weakly, between quivering breaths, "it's your... daughter."

Avon turned quickly to look at her, in disbelief. "What?" he whispered.

"Your daughter... I... told you... we had a... small problem." Cally wanted to sleep, but she had to know whether the child was safe. "Is she... all right?"

Avon turned to look at the readouts, and, with great effort, forced himself to think. Cally was suffering from shock, slight internal bruising, concussion; the other... person... was... fine. As he watched, the readings began to change as medications took effect.

"Avon?" she asked, a little alarmed by his silence.

"Fine. You'll... both be fine. No permanent damage. Rest." And Cally closed her eyes, relaxing and letting the med unit do its work.

Avon sat and watched the dual readouts, mesmerized by the counterpoint between the rhythms of them, not sure now whether he was glad he had found Cally alive or not.

To avoid thinking about it he went in search of Orac. Unfortunately, Orac wasn't hard to find.

* * * * *

"How did this happen?" Avon's voice was quiet, but he was angry. He'd had hours to think and nothing to take it out on. The pregnancy was so far advanced that it was obvious Cally wanted to be pregnant; otherwise, she would have done something about it long since. Now he wanted answers.

"I hope you're being rhetorical," Cally said, trying to defuse his anger. The med unit had released her and she was sitting up, cautiously testing her physical condition for herself. She could feel his anger, knew it was more than anger, but she wasn't ready to deal with it yet.

"I want to know. Was this-- "

"Intentional? No. I didn't want this to happen, either."

"No?" Avon didn't believe her and she knew it.

"No," she said, evenly, looking him in the eyes. She couldn't read him through the turmoil in his mind, but she sensed that he wanted to believe her, wanted reassurance, and he was willing to listen. "It was the contraceptive," she explained. "We only had one type on board and after a while it didn't... agree with me, started making me ill. I asked Orac to try to work out a different formulation, but he said what I needed couldn't be synthesized from current stores. He worked out an optimal formulation to use in the meantime, and I stuck with it even though-- the way I felt I was sure it was working." She smiled wanly, but won no response from him. "By the time I found out that it wasn't working properly it was too late. I'm sorry."

He was silent for a long time. The anger was draining away, but slowly. "I don't suppose it occurred to you that we could just... stop until you-- or I-- acquired something else?"

Cally looked away, blushing. "I didn't want to. And I didn't want to be a bother."

Another long silence. "Idiot."

"I know." Cally was watching him uneasily, trying hard to understand what was going on in his mind. She had felt his relief when he found her, his fear for her life when he thought the med unit wasn't working, but he had closed himself off now, and she didn't know whether it was only out of anger at her or something else--

"And now," he said, sounding very calm, "tell me, please, why you let it go on. Until now I have never thought you stupid."

Only the truth would do. "At first, I thought that because of the contraceptive, I would have to end it or that it would end by itself, but-- I checked and double checked, Avon," she said, pleading for his understanding, "but, she's healthy-- "

"Why should that have made a difference?"

Cally stared at him for a moment. His emotions were so well hidden she didn't know what to say to him, how to reach him. "I wished for it to end by itself, I hoped it would end by itself, but it didn't-- "

"Answer me. Why didn't you end it?"

Cally didn't answer. Didn't want to tell him.

"Why didn't you end it?" he asked, angry again.

"Because I didn't want to! Because I couldn't destroy-- because she's our daughter, because she's part of you, damn it!" she shouted, tears in her eyes.

"Part of me," he said with a derisive laugh. "Isn't that reason enough to destroy it?"

"No-- " she began to protest.

"I wish I had found you dead."

Cally was angry. Angry with him because he thought so little of himself; angry with herself for feeling guilty. "You should have thought of that while I was in the med unit," she said, fiercely.

"I did."

"Well?" she asked, giving him the fiery look that told him more surely than words that she had never, not for one moment, believed that she couldn't trust her life to him.

He held her gaze, but he knew he had been defeated by her faith in him, by her trust in him-- and he couldn't deal with it. "It's your problem," he said coldly. "Do what you want. Good luck." And with that he turned and headed for the door, picking up Orac as he went.

What he said stung, but Cally was willing to make allowances. He had been through a lot. They all had. Everything would work out; he'd come round. She ran to catch up with him asking, "Are the others all right?"

"Tarrant got knocked about a bit," he answered, stepping carefully through the debris, "but Dayna and Vila were in one piece when I left them."

"What about the ship Servalan left?"

"Do you need to ask?"

"No," she said, looking around at he destruction they were walking through. "And Orac?"

Avon stopped and looked down at Orac, wondering himself whether the computer was fixable. Then he turned to look at her and he couldn't let the questions drop: he had to know. "We're stuck here and there's no telling for how long. What in hell are you going to do now?" She didn't answer and they stared at each other for a long moment until he said nastily, "If I were you I'd go set that med unit for abortion and climb in."

Cally glared. "I can't end it, Avon. I won't. She's our daughter and she's alive," she said, and she grabbed his hand and held it over her womb. "Life is quickening here. Can't you feel it? Feel her life, Avon. You gave it to her. Can you take it back?" she asked, fierce and brave and self-righteous.

He couldn't feel what she felt, couldn't feel anything, but he remembered; he had felt unborn life before: Georgie's child, twisting and turning, alive and impatient to be born; Georgie laughing and catching her breath at the kicks, holding his hands over her womb to feel them, generous in her joy and wanting to share--

"Well? What will it be?"

He pulled his hand away quickly. "Well," he said, pushing thoughts of Georgie aside, unconsciously wiping his hand on his trousers. "It's obvious you've made all your decisions. You've chosen the child. What more do you want from me?"

And Cally didn't know. She could only stare at him.

When she didn't answer him, he shrugged and continued on down the gloomy passageway. She followed.

He didn't want to think about any of it, didn't want to think about what it all meant, but he still needed answers, still wanted to know where he stood. "You must have been planning to leave for some time now," he said conversationally when she caught up with him.

"Yes," she said, slowly, remembering all the plans she had been turning over in her mind for so long.

And that explains why she's been so withdrawn and preoccupied for the last two months, thought Avon. "Just out of curiosity, what were you planning to do-- before all this happened?"

"I was waiting for an opportunity to jump ship-- "

"Jump ship!" Avon went off in peal of harsh laughter. "Just walk away leaving a note saying you're tired of it all and want to quit?"

It sounded so stupid, spoken aloud, but-- "Yes, why not? Who would care?"

"I've no objection, certainly. And I'm sure the others wouldn't mind-- "

"Exactly," she said.

"Don't forget to send your resignation to the Federation, else they won't know to leave you out of the game-- better yet, apply for maternity leave. I'm sure they'll understand. And don't forget to tell them who the father is. Then, when it's born-- "

Cally grabbed his arm, and brought him to a halt with her. "Not it," she shouted, "she-- she, she, she, she, she!"

"She, then!" He shouted back, shaken, feeling his blood run cold. "They can hold her hostage-- twist her to their own uses-- put her on drugs-- make her into a weapon-- " Like Anna--

"If it comes to that, I'll kill her myself-- but it won't! Nobody knows about her but us! I'll keep her safe!"

"Nobody is as naive as you! You can't just disappear for no reason. They'll hunt you down. You can't run or hide forever. They'll find you-- "

"They won't! I told you I'll keep her safe!"

"They will. They'll look for you until they find you. And then you will both be better off dead-- that's when you'll be safe: when you're both dead!"

Cally was angry and frightened and she had enough of arguing and wanted to get away from Avon, away from worrying about everything. And she was suddenly embarrassed to realize that she hadn't actually made any decisions, that she'd only been toying with plans and solutions, hoping that, somehow, her course would come clear, that he--

Silently she turned and began walking back toward the medical section.

"Where are you going?" Avon called out, exasperated.

"Just pretend you didn't find me," she yelled back. "Pretend I'm dead. I'll find my own way off this planet. I don't need you; I don't need anyone! I can take care of myself."

Avon glared at her until she disappeared into the gloom. She'll come up when she cools off, he thought, as he began to make his way towards the adit again. She's stubborn, but she's not an idiot. She knows she can't stay here-- she'd be dead in a matter of days, either from another one of Servalan's surprises or from the links or something else. She hasn't a hope of rescue--

But that didn't mean she wouldn't try to make it on her own. The day they'd met she was preparing to launch a solo assault on Saurian Major! And she hadn't gotten one whit less pigheaded, selfrighteous, foolhardy, or aggravating in all the years since-- and no less fierce or brave, either--

She hadn't a hope of escaping the Federation, even if she did find a way off Terminal. The only way to escape the Federation was to be dead, well and truly dead-- and that's exactly what she would be if she stayed. She'd never find a way by herself-- Damn the woman! She has no idea of what she's getting herself into! And arguing would only make her more stubborn--

A strong dose of reality might just bring her to her senses. Let her get a taste of being "dead" for a day or two, let the reality of her situation sink in, and she'd be ready to end her foolish arguments and do the sensible thing.

A few moments later he set out after her.

* * * * *

Cally sat on the edge of the med unit fingering the controls. She wanted the child, his child, with all her heart, but... it was all so complicated. And yet it all could be so simple, if--

Her heart leapt into her throat when she heard his approach and, as she watched the doorway waiting for him to appear, she hoped with all her heart that now he would say the right words, the words that would make everything all right.

"Tomorrow I'm taking the others south," he said to her, not coming into the room. "This place isn't safe. Follow along and stay out of sight. As of now, you're dead. If you can stay that way, you may have a chance. When we find a way off, I'll do what I can for you." Then, having delivered his orders, he turned to leave.

"No," she said, hurting and hating him for not saying the words she wanted to hear. She didn't know what those words were, she only knew that she wanted to hear them--

"What do you mean, no?" he asked turning back to her, thinking he must have misunderstood.

"Just what I said. No. I've never taken anything from you and I'm not going to start now. I'll find my own way off this planet. I can take care of myself."

"You'll be dead in two days."

"What do you care?"

"I don't. If you want to kill yourself, that's your decision." They glared at each other in complete and painful misunderstanding. "Don't fall behind," he said, "I won't wait for you." And he left.

She listened as the sound of his steps became fainter and fainter. Now that he was gone she knew the words she had wanted to hear: Stay with me.

But those weren't the only words that would have made a difference. As she stared at the empty doorway, hearing only silence, she realized for the first time that she would have done anything he asked. Anything. If only he had asked.

But he hadn't. And now...

Now all the decisions were made and there would be no turning back from them.

"Damn you, Avon," she whispered. "Damn you for not asking."

* * * * *

He may very well have saved Dayna and Vila from certain death-- he could even be a card-carrying member in good standing of the Planetary Boy Rangers, but coincidence couldn't begin to explain the presence of Dorian or his ship on Terminal and Avon wasn't about to make any more stupid mistakes. He kept Dorian in sight and covered every step of the way.

Dorian's ship was in the open, sitting on a rock ledge. Avon would have to draw out the boarding procedure and provide enough distraction for Cally to have time to cross the open and board the ship. But, as long as no one saw her, she'd be able to stow away safely.

"Anyone on board, Dorian?" Avon asked.

"No one."

"All right, open it up," Avon said. Then quietly to Vila, "Keep a sharp eye on how he does it: your life may depend on it." Dorian approached the ship, Tarrant covering him from the side and Avon from the back. Avon signalled Vila into a position out of the line of fire from which Dorian's movements could be observed. Dorian's ship used a simple-looking access panel and within moments the boarding ramp was down.

"How many other accesses does the ship have?"

"Only one. A lift for other cargo to the rear--

"Open it."

"Very nice. Tarrant, Dayna, accompany our host up the ramp, but don't get ahead of him or let him get too far ahead of you, there may be surprises. Stop when you get to the top and wait for my signal. Vila, you take Orac and stay well behind them."

As they started up the ramp, Avon scanned the perimeter trying to catch sight of Cally. After a moment he saw her. She was circling to the right so she could approach the cargo lift. Well enough. This was working out rather nicely, all things considered, he congratulated himself. There was nothing quite as comforting as having a concealed weapon when one had to deal with suspicious types like Dorian. And by the time they got wherever they were going, Cally was sure to have come to her senses. He mounted the ramp to direct the boarding procedure, leaving Cally to stow herself safely.

* * * * *

As soon as she saw the ship she knew what she was dealing with. She would have to find a lifeboat, or find a suit and hope for a short flight: planet hoppers didn't pressurize the cargo area during flight-- unless there was special cargo, and that was too much to hope for. She waited as long as she could before approaching the ship. When she saw the main ramp begin to lift she scrambled to the cargo lift and hit the lift button, hoping it wouldn't make a lot of noise. It didn't. Within moments she was inside the cargo area looking for a hiding place.


Chapter 19 Index Chapter 21

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