Login

Username

Password



Not a rebel yet?
CLICK HERE to register.

Forgotten your password?
Request a new one from Orac HERE.

Current User Info

· Lurkers Lurking: 4

· Rebels Active: 0

· Total Rebels: 908
· Newest Rebel: TheElfandherFriends

Login Help

If you are having problems logging in, please bear in mind that if you originally registered at the site before 8th January 2014 and you haven't re-registered since that date your old login details will no longer work. If this is the case, please re-register, preferably with your former username. If you are having trouble with the registration process itself, try looking HERE and HERE for help and advice. If you need further assistance, please do CONTACT us.

Current Poll

Who is your Favourite Guest Rebel?

Avalon - (Project Avalon)
Avalon - (Project Avalon)
18% [17 Votes]

Selma - (Horizon)
Selma - (Horizon)
5% [5 Votes]

Tyce - (Bounty)
Tyce - (Bounty)
15% [14 Votes]

Norm One - (Redemption)
Norm One - (Redemption)
2% [2 Votes]

Bek - (Shadow)
Bek - (Shadow)
6% [6 Votes]

Kasabi - (Pressure Point)
Kasabi - (Pressure Point)
19% [18 Votes]

Hal Mellanby - (Aftermath)
Hal Mellanby - (Aftermath)
14% [13 Votes]

Hunda - (Traitor)
Hunda - (Traitor)
5% [5 Votes]

Deva - (Blake)
Deva - (Blake)
9% [9 Votes]

Other
Other
6% [6 Votes]

Votes: 95
Login to vote.
Started: 09 July 2016

Polls Archive

Forum Activity

Newest Articles

B7 Images

+ Cookies +

The Horizon website uses cookies to allow user log-in and navigation. The site does not host advertising that requires the use of third-party cookies. Registering as a member of this site implies your consent to the use of cookies.

A Time for Every Matter by Anniew - PART TWO

A TIME FOR EVERY MATTER

by
Anniew

PART TWO (Click HERE for PART ONE)

AUTUMN
The drainage ditch Avon's guided them to is lined with an unpleasant quantity of mud, but is deep enough to provide good cover, provided they inch along it on their elbows. It feels like they're on the sort of mission Blake used to arrange and Vila would be just as happy - happier, actually - to have stayed at home. It's clammy and cold and the mud is unpleasant to crawl through, but he copes easily enough, despite the tool bag he carries. Avon is a little behind. He's just driven a small metal plate at an angle into the bank above and now is struggling to catch them up, his shoulder making his progress awkward and slow. But it's more than their lives are worth to ask him if he's alright.

They are all plastered a blotchy brown from the mud. The stuff stinks and pulls as it dries, but according to Soolin, this makes for effective camouflage. That's good, although unnecessary, in Vila's opinion. There doesn't seem much going on at the silo; when he peers cautiously over the top of the ditch, the only security seems to be a couple of young men in stained, scruffy fatigues, squatting by the entrance. They're so relaxed they're playing at dice.

"Rebels," states Avon, wriggling forward awkwardly alongside Vila and training a small spy glass on them. "Not a particularly disciplined group, it would seem. I wonder who is in charge?" He twists onto his back with a grunt of pain, looking towards Soolin. "You'll still need to take care."

"Mmm," she nods in agreement. Never one for unnecessary speech, Soolin.

"And remember," Avon continues, "they are rebels, not Federation. Idealistic youngsters. Don't kill them."

She grins at him, and then crouches lower, wriggling further along the ditch. Vila watches her use the scrubby brush as cover to work her way round until she is within attack distance of the guards, but out of sight of their current position.

It's a simple plan she and Avon have come up with. Too simple, in Vila's opinion, and relying on luck. But as Avon predicted, security is lax because "...whichever side is in charge now, they will have destroyed the opposition. And since I hid it, Orac has been disrupting the systems of any ship that comes near the planet. The good citizens of Gauda Prime may no longer enjoy fresh pineapples, but at least they are not in danger from outside attack."

Still, Vila thinks, an experienced pair of guards might be more suspicious. But their luck holds and he's beginning to trust in it.

From her position in the brush, Soolin throws a stone and when one of the youths comes to check it out, she waits, crouched, until he is almost on top of her. Her attack is brutal and quick. She grabs his ankles, upends him and injects him with the fast acting sedative that came with the medi-kit before he gets a chance to yell out a warning. Then she shrugs on his jacket and cap, takes his weapon and walks back in sight of his mate, waving the gun as if communicating: 'All's well'.

As she begins to get close enough to the youngster for him to spot the deception, Avon initiates phase two, shining a laser probe on the metal plate he planted. The kid swings towards the reflected flash and Soolin immediately begins a soft-footed run. In a second, she has reached and injected him. It's so slick.

"Move, Vila!" Avon snaps and he follows quickly, scrambling towards the silo hatch, his bag flapping against his legs. They slip through into the base, and he quickly attaches Avon's disrupter gadget to the wall. If it works, all the computer systems in the base will crash instantly, giving them at least half an hour to find the fusion chamber. If it doesn't, their lives may be short. Soolin covers them with professional ease, leaving Avon to seek out the chamber.

Except he's not doing that. Instead he's backed against the wall, breathing too hard, clutching his shoulder, the rigid horror on his face that of a man trapped in a recurring nightmare.

"Avon. Avon!” Vila frantically tries to bring him out of his trance, but wherever Avon's gone to in his head, he's not listening. "Soolin, what's the matter with him? We've got to get Orac and get out of here. Do something before they suspect something's wrong and come looking!"

She remains cool, almost casual, and moves closer to Avon, careful not to threaten him. Vila, beyond fear, watches with fatalistic calm as she takes his arms firmly, imprisoning him with her own and then kisses him tenderly. Avon shudders, sways and then sanity floods back to his face and he nods at her sternly as she releases him. Now he is all business.

"There, Vila." He points imperiously down the corridor and moves quickly, Vila scrambling behind him. He pauses briefly, turns left and skids to a halt in front of an unremarkable grey door. "Here," he says. There is no sign of any lock, just a sheet of metal confronting them.

Vila hands his bag to Avon, extracts a detector and runs it over the smooth surface. After a minute, Avon asks impatiently, "Well? Can you do it?"

Vila ignores him, mentally assessing the evidence. Disguised. Probably a thermal lock hidden inside the metal, wired to a trigger relay and set to explode if not deactivated. Triple A. They'd need a sensor key to open it safely. Which they haven't got. Anxiously, he strokes the tips of his fingers over the metal. Nothing. He runs the detector once more, and again strokes the metal, sighing in relief as he registers a spot slightly warmer than the rest of the door. He signals to Avon, who instantly passes him an aerosol can which he sprays around the spot. The foam dries at once, forming a crust which will cool and temporarily immobilise the system. Vila and Avon work together like a well-oiled machine. Vila laser-cuts the metal, exposing hidden circuitry, while Avon selects and passes him a probe. Within seconds, Vila has isolated two wires. He grabs cutters to sever them, and then pushes his hand behind them into the cavity, to find the hidden trigger.

"I can hear something," Soolin warns urgently. "Better hurry!"

Galvanised by fear, Vila fumbles frantically. The door suddenly begins to beep and Avon swings round, staring. The beeps rise in intensity and Vila's fingers seek desperately, fierce concentration on his face. Time stops and then... he finds it, pulls, twists and the beeping cuts off. There is a grinding sound and the door starts to open. Oh yes! He's done it! The master's done it again!

Apart from fusion generators, Vila can see nothing inside the room, but Avon moves to a panel in the casing at the base of one of the green, deadly cylinders and opens it up.

"It is about time, Kerr Avon." That voice, as precise and pernickety as ever. "I had concluded you were dead."

"Orac," Avon replies suavely. "I'm pleased to see you, too. Vila - get in there and grab it, and let's get out of here!"

"Why me? He's heavy and I've got my bag as well. Can't Soolin do it?" Vila's complaint is almost a reflex, as is Avon's sharp reply.

"I am assuming you want to get out of here alive? So do as you're told and pick up the case."

"Why do you get to order me about? I've got rights, you know! If it wasn't for me you'd have never..."

"I assume," Orac breaks in waspishly, "that you are planning on leaving? Or do you wish to remain here arguing until we are captured?"

Avon's laugh is interrupted by Soolin's sharp warning: "They're coming!"

A siren sounds. Suddenly Orac seems as light as a feather. Vila picks it up and races for the exit, the sounds of random shouts and the thumps of pursuing feet getting ever nearer.

As they approach the outer door, Avon commands: "Now, Orac!" and the little rat emits a high pitched, continuous buzz. They exit into the sunshine, blinking in the light. A heavy metal grid slides down in front of the door as it begins to close behind them, and the entrance is sealed.

Sirens start shrieking and a rumble of trucks in the distance announces that help is on its way, but they clear the ditch and disappear quickly amongst the trees. They are out and safe.

***

"For the moment," snaps Avon, "only safe for the moment!" They have taken a circuitous route back to the farm to throw the rebels off their track and are all very tired. Avon has an unhealthy sheen of perspiration on his face and fatigue hasn't improved his temper. "They'll be searching for us now, we have to be quick. Orac, can you strengthen the warning system, prevent anyone from getting in until I have all the evidence ready...?" He stops abruptly, as his exertions over the past day catch up with him and his face pales as he supports himself against the table.

"Of course I can, provided you can wire me up to your existing system and a power source I can use to boost it. Energy cannot be created, Avon. I am surprised you seem to have forgotten this."

Wearily Avon rouses himself, straightens and gestures abruptly to Vila. He seems to be finding reserves of energy from nowhere in a direct contradiction of Orac's assertion. "Bring it," he orders tersely, jerking his head towards Orac. He holds open the door of Ma's bedroom, so that Vila can enter the room and position the computer on top of a console.

Avon begins connecting wires, while Vila hovers irresolutely, unsure whether he is supposed to stay or go. But Avon seems totally unaware of his presence, muttering to himself as he checks each connection, so after a few minutes he sidles quietly out. As he shuts the door, he can hear Avon instructing, "...and when that is complete, Orac, I need a full scan..." The door swings to, cutting off the voice.

So what to do now? Soolin is nowhere to be seen - she's probably setting up additional security traps - and Vila realises he is both bored and tired. He makes his way to the couch, curls up on it and drifts comfortably into sleep.

"Where's Avon?" Soolin interrupts a pleasant dream involving appreciative young ladies, and as Vila shakes off the remains of his slumbers, he is surprised to realise that the light has faded and it's nearly dark.

"I left him talking to his chum," he tells her sleepily.

"What, he's still with Orac? What's he doing in there? It's been hours. You should have made him rest." There is an edge of accusation in her voice and she slings a bag of equipment on the table and makes for the bedroom door.

"As if he'd listen to me," Vila defends himself. "I'd think twice about interrupting him, if I were you. He and Orac have a lot of catching up to do." He straightens with an effort and is stretching out an arm that he's been lying on when she calls, "Vila!" from the bedroom, her tone so sharply concerned that he has obeyed her and reached the door before he registers he has moved.

It is dark in the room, but Orac, now connected to the alien matrix by an intricate series of wires, is flashing manically and providing enough light for Vila to see that Soolin is kneeling beside Avon. He is slumped awkwardly on the floor, half caught in the chair he was sitting in, seemingly unaware of her presence.

"Help me get him up," Soolin orders urgently and he rushes to untangle Avon's legs from the chair and move it out of the way so they can lift him.

"Careful!" she hisses at him angrily and unfairly. "Watch what you're doing."

But he's too alarmed by the sight of Avon's pasty-white, unresponsive face to take offence. Together they manage to pick him up and lie him on the bed. A quick examination of his injured shoulder reveals ominous red lines radiating from the wound, which seems puffy and discoloured.

"Orac." Soolin moves quickly from her examination of Avon towards the computer and lays her hand on it. "What's happened here?"

"Fascinating, Soolin!" it replies, its prissy voice suffused with excitement. "I have discovered a technological wonderland! The data networks, the complexity of the sensors, the muliplexers. So many technologies here with which I was hitherto unfamiliar. It's imperative I study this system throughly."

"She means, what happened to Avon, you electronic cretin!" Vila shouts, interrupting its ecstatic burbling. "What's going on with Avon?"

"Then that is what she should have said. I cannot remember the number of times I have begged you all to be more precise in your formulation of questions. If you would only...."

"Orac," Soolin puts a restraining arm on Vila, who has become incoherent with exasperation. "What has happened to Avon?"

"He is unconscious. That should be obvious."

"It is, but I need you to tell me why. What is happening to him?"

"I would need to scan him if I am to formulate a diagnosis."

"Then scan him. Now!"

"All my circuitry is currently engaged in researching the technology here. I estimate I will be able to satisfy your request in two point four hours."

Vila is nearly dancing with frustration but Soolin remains icy calm, despite her obvious worry.

"Orac!"

He wouldn't have thought it possible for anyone to project so much menace into a single word.

"Listen to me carefully," she continues. "I have no interest in your research and I will have no tolerance if you fail to follow my instructions. I will dismantle you in a heartbeat if you do not scan Avon immediately and tell me whether you can help him."

"Well, of course it is within my capabilities to help Avon, but as I have just explained, you must be specific about the help you wish me to give, if you expect our communications to be successful."

Vila could swear the rat was being sarcastic. Soolin takes a threatening step towards it and he jumps in hastily before she damages it. "What kind of help do you think, you moronic box of circuits? What's wrong with Avon? How sick is he? That sort of help!"

"Oh, very well." Orac's circuits whirr and flash for a while and then in his most pedantic tone he states, "I have completed my scans, and I have to inform you that you are incorrect. Kerr Avon is not sick. My data banks indicate the term that would most accurately describe his condition is dying."

"What? What do you mean dy....? He can't be dying! He was fine an hour ago. Well, not fine, perhaps, but running about, biting my head off, giving orders - normal Avon, in other words. How can he possibly be dying, you stupid machine?"

"Vila." Soolin is surprisingly gentle, laying her hand on his arm, and he falls silent. "Explain, Orac," she continues in a steady tone that contrasts sharply with the haunted expression in her eyes.

Orac's factual, dispassionate voice is so at odds with the information he is conveying that Vila is hard-pressed not to snatch its key and smash it against a wall. "Kerr Avon was injured by an electronic pulse gun, an experimental device designed to kill even if the user fails to make a killing shot. It targets the osteocytes within the bone matrix." Orac launches fussily into full lecturing mode. "Osteocytes have a vital role in detecting infections that occur when bones are damaged and then stimulating the body's chemical responses to them. Kerr Avon has a deep bone infection which his immune system has failed to identify and combat. Despite the antibiotics, it has spread and has now reached a point where it is threatening his life."

In the ensuring silence, the laboured sound of Avon's breathing and the tiny, muffled gasp from Soolin seem as loud as a shout. She is the first to pull herself together.

"Can you help him, Orac? Surely a machine as advanced as yourself can do something?"

"It is possible. I would need to set up a modulated phase pulse which should have the effect of destroying the infection. The services of a suitably qualified medic would also be required at a later date, both to perform reconstructive surgery and to implant healthy bone marrow to restore the proper functioning of the bone."

"Well, get on with it!" Vila's exasperated by all the talk. "Set up your phase pulse thingy. Avon hasn't got much time, has he?"

"There is a difficulty, Vila Restal. I will need to be connected to resonating image equipment so I can accurately scan the injury and generate and focus the phase pulses before I can initiate this course of treatment. Devices suitable for these procedures are located in this room. You will need to create a link between me and their matrix if I am to implement a suitable healing programme."

Oh hell. That'll be the equipment that Travis has booby trapped. The equipment that only Avon knows how to use safely. "That could be a problem, Orac. Turning this lot on might be the last thing we do."

"It is not your only problem," Orac continues. "Rebel forces are on your trail and I estimate you have no more than forty eight hours before they find you."

***

"Vila, you're going to have to do it!"

They've turned Orac off while they talk. Soolin hovers anxiously over Avon, who is running a high fever and tossing and turning restlessly. She moistens his lips with a little water and bathes his forehead. He opens his eyes at her touch, but there is no recognition and he frowns as she moves and the moonlight falls onto his face. Fretfully he raises a hand and lets it drop. His eyes close again.

"I can't!" Vila can feel the beginnings of that familiar pain in his stomach that always starts when he's terrified. "What if I make a mistake?"

"If you don't, Avon will die," she tells him flatly.

Yes, thank you. He's aware of that. But there's nothing he can do about it. "Look, if I muck about with it and get it wrong, it won't just be Avon who dies. I'm quite keen on staying alive too, you know," he says aloud.

Soolin rises and pulls the curtain more tightly across the window, blocking out the thin sliver of light that is bothering Avon. She keeps her back to Vila but her voice is challenging.

"It's time you grew up and stopped making out that you're useless. You've watched Avon working on all this." She turns slightly, gesturing at the banks of switches and monitors in the room. "I've seen you watching him, listening to him, claiming it's beyond you. That you don't understand. I also know you're not the Grade A idiot you pretend to be. And I trust your instincts. They've helped you to survive this long, so they must be good."

Pretending? Vila's incensed at the accusation. Doesn't she know what he's asking of him? He can feel his panic rising. She's dangerous if crossed and she is not going to let him he play his usual games. But he can visualise so clearly the moment when he throws the switch and the room explodes, that he fears he may be sick. There's no way he's going to do as she asks.

"Look, Soolin," he explains as persuasively as he can. "I'm no genius. I'm not like Avon. Yes, I admit he did tell me a little about how to by-pass the traps. I listened to what he said. I was even there when he started working on them. But I'm no expert like him. I probably misunderstood him. You'd have as good a chance as I would. It's just too risky. One wrong move, and bang!" He waves his arms, graphically indicating the explosion he fears. "If you don't believe me, ask Orac."

She ignores that. Instead she says simply, "He's getting worse." Her voice is as unemotional as ever, but as she moves back to Avon and seats herself by him, he can see how anxiously she watches his breathing as if she fears it may cease at any moment. "You'll have to risk it," she concludes decisively. "There's no other option, Vila."

The pain roils again in his stomach but now he's angry. No other option? Yes, he hates seeing Avon lying there, muttering incoherently. The two people he relies on for security, both apparently helpless. But her calm assumption that he'll risk his life for them is typical, and he's fed up with being bullied and coerced. How dare she put all this on him?

"No, I don't! I don't have to help. I don't have to do anything. I've helped enough," he protests angrily. "Why should I risk my life for him? Avon's made it clear enough that if it comes down to a choice between his life and mine, he'll always choose his. Why shouldn't I do the same? He was going to kill me on that shuttle, he was hunting for me with a gun!” His voice rises as he remembers. "I don't owe Avon anything."

He throws the words at her like so much shrapnel, but she doesn't respond at first. Doesn't give any hint that they've touched her. She just sighs deeply, wearily and rises slowly from her chair fixing him with her steely eyes. Coldly, she tells him, "I can kill you, you know. It only takes the smallest movement..." She moves fractionally and her gun is in her hand.

Vila's head swims with terror and an icy chill runs from the back of his neck to the small of his back, but he's not so easily intimidated these days. He summons all the bravado he can and faces the gun squarely. "Go ahead then," he challenges. "Kill me. It won't make any difference to the situation. I'll be dead and so will Avon when the rebels get here. You can't make me do it, Soolin."

With a frustrated snarl she holsters the gun. "Get out then," she tells him. "If you haven't the guts to help us, then just get out and save your miserable little neck. "

He stares at her, blinking stupidly at this change of tack.

"Just leave, will you? Stop looking at me like an idiot, and save yourself. You needn't worry; I won't shoot you in the back," she adds, with just the hint of a smile. "You'll have to get as far away as you can, before the rebels arrive." He continues to gaze at her bewildered, and she adds more urgently, "If you won't try to save his life, then at least save your own. That way one of us gets the chance to survive. Avon is the last person who could blame you for putting yourself first."

Vila can't remember ever feeling so terrible. She's letting him go. Giving him a chance. It only needs Avon to mutter deliriously that he's sorry for Malodar to make him feel worse. He knows if he runs he will be leaving her alone to face a probably horrific death, but it's not enough to change his mind. It would be idiotic, suicidal, to fiddle around blindly with technology so alien - he'd kill them all if he tried it. The only life he can save is his own. Unless... a sudden thought strikes him and he moves quickly to Orac, inserting the key.

"Orac," he asks, "did Avon just consult you about where Travis had placed his booby traps?" He gestures towards the monitors and consoles.

"Of course."

"Do you know where they are?"

"Of course I do."

Soolin looks up quickly, catching his line of thought, eagerly hopeful. "Then you could help Vila locate the traps and dismantle them. You could do that, couldn't you Orac?"

"That information can only be divulged to another at Kerr Avon's personal command. His instructions prevent me giving any information about the alien system in case, as he put it, "Some bumbling idiot who knows nothing about computers decides to gamble on activating it, and blows us all up in the process." A sentiment I endorse, although of course, I would express it less colourfully."

Vila and Soolin groan collectively at this latest example of Avon's paranoia and he is distressed again to see the hope drain from her face and the bleak despair that replaces it. He turns away so he will not have to see her reaction when he leaves and says awkwardly, "Well that's it then. I'd better get my things. Get a move on before the rebels get here." He is tempted to ask her to go with him, but he knows that it would be futile to do so. She will stay with Avon to the end.

"Yes," she answers dully and bends her head gently, like a fading flower, until it is resting against Avon's chest.

Vila's nearly at the door when unexpectedly another thought strikes. Of course. It's obvious. Why didn't he think of it before? Excited, he turns back towards the box of lights. "Orac," he says carefully, "Avon only instructed you to not to give anyone information about the system. So if I tried to activate it, would you be able to tell me if I was about to make a mistake? If I asked you, that is?"

The whirring and burbling as Orac consults his programming seem to take forever, but in reality it is only few seconds before it replies, "I would."

"And would you," Vila continues, thinking it through, "be able to tell me if I was right about which relays I would need to deactivate? You know, the order to do it; whether I was planning to cut the correct wires. That sort of thing?"

"I cannot volunteer information, but you are correct in assuming I could answer your questions."

It must be his imagination, but Vila could swear the little rat is happy that it may be able to help.

Soolin raises her head and looks fully at him, a question that she does not want to voice in her steady gaze.

"What are the odds I might be successful, Orac?" he asks. Better to know the worst before he commits himself one way or another.

"I estimate the odds of you succeeding are 62.99 percent recurring, provided you ask the right questions."

Better than I expected.

Soolin grins at him. It's a grim smile, but so hopeful that against his will he finds his heart softening.

Oh what the hell! He would probably never forgive himself if he walked away now, not when there's at least a chance he might succeed.

He nods his acceptance of the unwelcome responsibility.

"Make sure you ask the right questions," she warns him.

"Okay, okay, okay..." he says roughly, irritation disguising the fear that threatens to overwhelm him. "But, Soolin, if I get it wrong..."

"I know." Her face is tired, dirty, taut with worry but that grim smile illuminates it once more, making her briefly beautiful. "You'll tell me you told me so. But you'll have to speak..."

"Loudly and quickly," he finishes for her, managing also to raise a faint grin at this echo from another, insanely risky day. "I'll go and get my tools."

***

WINTER
"It was a trap." Gaunt after his recent brush with death and leaning heavily on an ebonised stick, Avon faces the group of rebel leaders that Orac has persuaded to attend this Rebel Alliance conference. "Blake was not supposed to die; I was not supposed to kill him."

"Three times at point blank range and he was not supposed to die?" A slight, red haired man, who Vila vaguely remembers being in the tracking gallery, glares at Avon in angry disbelief.

"And you shot me, as well." The pretty, plump woman sitting with him doesn't attempt to hide the accusation in her voice.

"I did. I shot you and I killed Blake." Avon sways slightly as he makes this admission, but Soolin steadies him with her hand, and he continues strongly. "But you have to understand that I was as much a victim as you both were. My trust was unwittingly betrayed."

An uncomfortable buzz of questioning disbelief sweeps round the room. Vila remembers that other conference on Xenon. Soolin's dispassionate assessment, "It's not going well," and his own sardonic: "Avon's idea of diplomacy is like breaking your leg and then telling you, 'Lean on me'." Why have they placed their head in the warg's mouth a second time? What on Earth's so bad about hiding for once?

Avon is talking again, the ragged quality of the recently ill detectable in his cold voice.

"It was a set-up between us, Blake and me. It was intended to flush out the Federation mole he knew had infiltrated his base. But Blake got it wrong. He suspected you, Deva..." Avon turns towards the red haired man, who has half risen from his seat, angrily protesting "... I'm sorry, but it's true. It was a mistake that cost him his life."

Uproar, shouting, chaos. Del Grant's voice commanding silence. King Ro's bodyguards rising in consternation. Avon sinks into his chair. Like Vila, he is assessing his audience: Avalon thoughtful, not rushing her judgements. That young kid, Kasabi's daughter, out of her depth. Hunda, battle-hardened, decent - Vila likes him. Bek, now a confident leader, Cauder from Albion, staunchly on Avon's side. All of them have been persuaded by Orac to come here on the promise of a share of the technology incongruously hidden by a traitor in the bedroom of an old woman, and which now promises an end to years of weary fighting against oppression. If only they can agree on how to use it.

Orac has taken over from Avon, testily explaining, confirming, answering queries; irritated that its search for knowledge is once again interrupted by these reckless humans. But aware that if it doesn't comply, Soolin will certainly keep her promise to reduce it to its component parts and throw each separate piece into the pond.

Vila slips away, unbearably wearied by the arguments, glancing back at the round table that Orac insisted they purchase for the conference and around which the delegates are now seated. He remembers Avon's embarrassed protests and Orac's pedantic explanation: "The power of myths should not be underestimated on occasions like this. All Earth cultures have versions of the Arthurian legend in their pre-history, and the representation of Blake as their once and future saviour will be a potent one."

A round table. Avon, Blake's heir, tricked into killing him by an evil witch - Arlen or Servalan, take your pick. A powerful alliance between knights united by their quest for the Holy Grail of freedom. Aided by an all-knowing computer, able to access the past and predict the future, and alien technology that might as well be magic for most of them. It makes a kind of sense, Vila supposes, yet he is uncomfortable that their all too human tale of misunderstanding, loss and struggle is to be elevated to such fantastic heights.

"Why didn't you tell me before?" he asked Avon, when he at last learned why Blake had died. He was appalled by the tragedy of good intentions and misplaced trust.

"I didn't think you'd believe me unless I had Orac to back up my story," Avon replied simply. "Not after Malodar."

Vila's not sure he believes it now. He pictures it in his mind. Blake so desperate to expose the mole that he arranges a mock assassination, but then makes the fatal mistake of sharing the details with Arlen, of all people. Discovering to his horror that the Federation has blockaded the planet, but that he is unable to warn Avon because they are jamming the frequency. And Jenna, poor brave Jenna, dying in a last ditch attempt to get the warning through to them.

"I found the gun, where Blake had left it." Avon rhythmically, hypnotically, stroked one hand back and forth across the other as he talked. "It was all going to plan and I shot Blake that first time as we had agreed. I had no idea the gun was loaded with anything other than blanks. I suppose Arlen switched it - a back up plan in case we beat the blockade. When I saw the blood, I knew we had been betrayed. I had to prevent Servalan from getting her hands on Blake, so I shot him twice more to be sure he was dead."

That voice, so calm and steady, but his eyes - the look in his eyes!

"It was a crazy plan, in retrospect. We had both reached our wall. I had been... less than sane for some time. Blake was paranoid, worn out by the struggle. It seemed like the only way forward. And Tarrant and Dayna paid the price for our mistake... as did Blake."

And you, Vila thinks. You didn't get off scot-free, did you?

It's quiet outside, warm for November, and he seats himself on a log, watching the frogs. He thinks of Ma, sold into slavery with her kids, just because the Federation had failed to get their hands on Orac. He thinks of the delegates around the table, each with their own bitter story of Federation cruelty. He thinks of Avon, shooting his friend out of mercy, desperate to prevent him falling into their hands again. Blake was right, he acknowledges, making the admission wholeheartedly for the first time. We need to stop them.

He thinks too of all the coincidences that have brought them to the brink of victory, the fortunate and the tragic. Is luck always the difference between failure and success? Because recently they have been very lucky. He can almost believe that there's been a hand, guiding them here; that this moment was destined to occur and that Orac's deceitful trick to make them part of an old legend, once and future fighters, is no fiction but a mysterious truth. It seems possible - even likely - that everything they have been through was meant to happen, was part of a larger plan.

"Only an idiot mistakes coincidence for fate." He imagines Avon's dry, disbelieving response. "Show me a man who believes, and I will show you a fool."

Okay, Avon. That's okay. Because Vila's comfortable with himself at last. Happy to be the fool.

"Are you coming to eat?" Soolin breaks into his thoughts as she slips quietly, like the assassin she is, to stand at his side. So quietly that even the frogs show no reaction to her appearance.

"Yes." He realises he is hungry. Must be all the thinking he's been doing. "How's Avon holding up?" he asks, as he levers himself to his feet.

"He's asleep," she tells him matter-of-factly.

"Holy Zen, Soolin! How'd you manage that?"

"I insisted." She smiles grimly at Vila.

"Oh." He'd have given money to witness that battle of wills. "I suppose it's going alright then, or he'd never have agreed," he adds.

"Yes. The Alliance is on. It's obvious, really. They have so much to gain from it, and now they trust us, nothing to lose. Avon and I are to stay here with Orac and co-ordinate the attacks. Grant will probably stay until Avon is stronger, and a few from each rebel cell will form a permanent guard of the facility. By Orac's estimation, we should have won by Spring.

Won. By Spring. Unbelievable.

"And me? What about me? Where do I fit into all this?"

"You can stay here and help us if you like. You're good with people, and as Avon says, you're not always the idiot you pretend to be. "

"Thanks for that… I think," he says dubiously.

"But if you don't want to, you're a free agent," she continues brusquely. He should know better than to expect any sentiment from her. "Any of the rebel cells would be glad to have you join them. You're one of Blake's 'Original Seven'," she tells him ironically. "Or you could just retire." Then, in apparent non-sequitur, "I think Klyn may be staying as well, if she can bring herself to forgive Avon for shooting her. She's a communications expert, so her skills will come in handy."

"Klyn? Is she the plump, pretty one? I hadn't really noticed," he remarks casually.

"We've all seen you not noticing, Vila."

"What do you mean by that?" he challenges, but she just looks at him and shakes her head as she moves ahead of him. It's the nearest she will come, he knows, to hinting that she would like him to stay.

"It better not be stew again," he calls after her. "I'll need to be properly fed if I'm going to hang around."

"Get a move on then," she bites back, "or it will all be gone, and you'll never know."

***

SPRING
"Olag Gan, Cally of Auron, Jenna Stannis, Del Tarrant, Dayna Melanby, Roj Blake."

Avon stands before the huge block of Purbeck Marble, which has been carved with the symbol of an upraised sword at Orac's insistence, and brought at great expense from Earth to this quiet place among the trees of Gauda Prime. Deliberately, Avon articulates each name. These names are already recorded on the stone, but hearing them spoken aloud gives each one a special resonance. Vila thinks he sees his friends and fellow travellers appear, one by one among the carpet of pale purple flowers. He gravely salutes them all. Last comes Blake, smiling, proud: "I always trusted you, Avon, from the very beginning." And he was right to, Vila thinks, raising his hand in tribute to this scarred, brave fighter. Of all the gladness of this glad, glad day, the certainty he feels that Avon truly values him, and that he, in turn has managed to forgive Avon for his actions on the shuttle, is the greatest.

Soolin, beside him, her blonde hair long once more and intricately braided, has a trace of tears in her eyes for the third time since he has known her. "You did it, Vila." Tears of joy that Avon would live, but also perhaps that she recognised what it had cost Vila to put aside his life-long fears and step forward as a hero. "Blake would have been proud of you," she had said, and there followed no echo of the dismissive, "but then he was never very bright," not even from Avon. Today her tears are for her family, and she steps forward naming them in her cool, steady voice: "Lars Ahlgren, Solveig Ahlgren, Sonia Ahlgren, Luka Ahlgren." She steps back, and it is Vila's turn.

"Elaran Marryat. Ma."

They will never know the extent to which she supported Federation brutality before it turned on her. Whether she was too frightened to oppose it or revelled in the power it gave her family. Whichever it was, she paid heavily for it, her children dragged from her, their fate unknown, the years of abusive slavery that broke her mind. It is fitting they remember her today and acknowledge that there is not as much difference between them and the Federation as they might like to think, as Avon, at his most sharply cynical, had recently reminded the rebel leaders.

"Oh, by all means let us celebrate winning the fight for freedom. Delivering the masses from slavery, whatever that may mean. Hooray for us. But returning power to the honest man? Unfortunately, the odds favour us replacing the Federation with something much worse. And unless we are mindful of this, we may yet turn out to be just another in a long line of butchers, up to our armpits in other people's blood."

That had put a dampener on things.

Still, despite Avon's misgivings, there are feasts and partying to enjoy tonight and it is right that the youngsters get their chance to raise a bit of hell after their recent struggles.

Each rebel cell leader now steps forward and places a scroll against the stone megalith, inscribed with the names of all who lost their lives fighting. Later these will be carved on the two massive curved walls which embrace the central stone. But for now the Ceremony of Remembrance is over. Avon places a hand briefly on the stone in a private farewell before turning clumsily away. He has refused to use his stick (the discussion about this had been so lively that even Grant had fled from it) and is now glad of Soolin's supportive hand to prevent him falling over as they make their way back towards the house.

Their progress is halted by one of the keen young media consultants Avalon has brought in to record the ceremony and broadcast it simultaneously to the known worlds. Despite Soolin's discouraging expression, she addresses them both, waving her vidcam eagerly. A terse exchange later and Soolin shepherds Avon away, leaving the girl nonplussed and probably a little scared. Bravely she looks around for other victims. Poor old Hunda is too polite to brush her off.

So what now? What does the future hold for them now the fighting is over? Will they all stick together, or go their separate ways? Vila wonders idly if Avon is right, and that winning guarantees only safety, not change. Or perhaps the real challenge is just beginning. It seems that Blake's conviction that his ill-sorted bunch of thieves, fraudsters, assassins and deserters could bring about a new era for Earth and its colonies was justified all along. But Blake would have relished the task of masterminding this brave new world: Avon and Soolin are cast from a different mould.

Thankfully, reshaping Earth's political structure is not Vila's problem. His own plans are much more modest. If the young media consultant had asked him, he would have told her that his immediate priority is to locate a very large glass of adrenaline and soma for old times sake and once he's downed it, to go and look for Klyn. Maybe he'll invite her to go for a walk with him.

Vila's pretty sure he's finished with rebellion and its aftermath, and ready to enjoy the novelty of waking up each day free from the need to keep on running.

But then again, he's learned from experience to take nothing for granted.

***

Illustration by Lurena

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.

Ratings

Rating is available to Members only.

Please login or register to vote.

Awesome! Awesome! 0% [No Votes]
Very Good Very Good 100% [1 Vote]
Good Good 0% [No Votes]
Average Average 0% [No Votes]
Poor Poor 0% [No Votes]
Orac rendered this page in 0.20 seconds
9,102,618 unique visits since 8th January 2014