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Tarrant's Blog, Part Two by Clare Juland

Tarrant's Blog
Part Two
Clare Juland

Entry 13
Servalan loves to get the last laugh and this time she certainly did. While the rest explored the underground complex, Avon and Dayna decided to check out the ship she'd told us about. The deviousness of Servalan knows no bounds. She'd set explosives to go off if anyone set foot aboard the ship, which in turn triggered secondary explosions in the base. We were well and truly caught. Cally was badly injured and I tried to pull her to safety, but a further explosion put paid to that. In the end Vila got me out, but not Cally. I'm angry, both at myself for failing her and at Servalan for causing it.

I was able to salvage my water canister, but that was all. We gathered around a makeshift campfire to keep us warm during the cold night, but we were still frozen stiff come the morning. Heading for a piece of higher ground, I felt myself lose consciousness. After that I knew nothing of what happened until Avon stirred me. It surprised me that he came back, although I suspect it was motivated only by his own self interest.

Dorian. Apparently he rescued Vila and Dayna who'd been trapped by a... well goodness knows what it was. I didn't care to ask. We couldn't take the risk of trusting him, not in such a precarious situation. What was he doing on Terminal, and how did he know we were here? We never did find out. His ship, the Scorpio, conveyed us to a planet called Xenon, well outside of Federation space. At least we'd get no trouble from them. Dorian offered us hospitality and a change of clothing, which I was grateful for. We met his companion Soolin too, exquisitely fast with a gun.

Trapped by a security door, Dayna and I looked for an alternative means to access the landing bay. Initially we found ourselves at a dead end, then Dayna discovered that the passageway continued down into a rocky chamber. Evidently during our explorations Dorian revealed his true intentions to Avon. He and Soolin were brought down at gunpoint and we all entered the chamber. Something inside had driven Dayna to the brink of insanity, and I could feel the emanations myself.

What happened next was quite bizarre. It would appear that this chamber had somehow been sustaining Dorian for the last 200 years and that in order to continue he needed us to be consumed by what he referred to as a 'Gestalt'. Quite where Vila had been all during this time I don't know; Dayna and I had left him at the security door. He arrived in the nick of time with a Federation plasma rifle we'd salvaged from Terminal. Avon shot the creature and it, well, disintegrated and took Dorian with it. We were frozen for a moment while the chamber relinquished its hold on us, and I heard Soolin creep away. Xenon base was now ours.

Entry 14
Trapped on Xenon. Sounds like the title of a bad Old Calendar vis-cast, or movie, as they used to call them. But trapped we were. Our former host Dorian had secured the landing bay with a nuclear compression charge. Nice touch. It also appeared that he'd been working on a teleport system and with Orac's help, Avon sussed the missing requirement, a Dynamon crystal.

Off he went, leaving the rest of us to fathom how to get through the security door. However, I suspect that Avon knew all along that sooner or later Vila would figure it out. Events that transpired later confirmed my theory. We knew nothing of Xenon or indeed if it was inhabited. The question was answered the hard way. Avon was taken prisoner by some very rough tribesmen who called themselves Hommiks.

Alerted by a distress call, Dayna and I went looking for him, but all we found was his mangled communicator bracelet. Meanwhile, we apparently had a visitor on the base. Vila babbled on as usual when we returned and the intruder was identified as one of the Seska people. It seems that Xenon had been the subject of a violent conflict and now the populace was reduced to a squabble between the men and women. I was beginning to dislike this place considerably.

The security door would have to wait for the moment. We needed to find out what had happened to Avon. Despite all our disagreements, he is too useful to abandon. I suspect he thinks the same of me - at least, I hope he does. The Hommiks are a force to be reckoned with when they work together. Outnumbered and cornered, the three of us were taken and brought before their leader, Gunn Sar. Not the most pleasant of men. Incredibly, Dayna challenged him. Foolish, even by my standards. The battle ensued and at the time I wasn't certain how she managed to overcome him, but I suspect there was Seska involvement. Dayna was no match for Gunn Sar, if I'm completely honest.

Free once again, we hastened to the base where Vila continued to work on the door. Now the Seska showed themselves. Only two remained, led by a woman called Pella. She used her abilities to make safe the explosive device. However her intentions were not as genuine as we thought. Avon suddenly reappeared and exposed her plot to gain access to the Scorpio. Pella bludgeoned her way to it, murdering her one remaining fellow Seska in the process. With the Dynamon crystal taken from her collar, the circuit was now complete. Avon teleported aboard the Scorpio to save it from Pella's clutches.

So, with our control restored and Pella dead, the base and Scorpio were ours. For the first time we truly tasted freedom. Real freedom, not just the latest escape plan to evade the Federation. Here we were safe beyond their knowledge and reach. Perhaps now I can call Xenon home, although to be honest, the company could be better. Enter Soolin, Dorian's former companion. She had remained in hiding throughout our scuffles. Perhaps she was testing us to see how we'd cope in a desperate situation. Whatever her motives, she seemed to think that joining us was better than fighting.

Entry 15
The Federation. Is there no end to their ambition? Every habitable planet seems to be in their sights. According to Orac's information, several planets had fallen in recent weeks. Their latest acquisition was Helotrix. So how were the Federation doing it? Avon resolved to find out, and there was only one way - we had to go to Helotrix.

Dayna and I prepared to go down and learn about this new secret weapon the Federation must be using. How else could they be conquering planets so quickly? The object of our mission was only to observe, but as we all know, things are never that simple when the Federation is involved. When we were on the surface, it emerged that there was a fault with the communication system. So we were stuck until such time as Avon fixed it.

Finding ourselves in the midst of a roundup of workers, we were lucky to happen across Hunda, leader of the only rebel group still operational. After we had changed clothes with a couple of natives so that we blended in better, he told us that his men were fighting a losing battle. But the reason for that remained unclear until we were introduced us to Leitz, a Federation officer acting as a spy for Hunda. Or so he believed. Leitz gave us the name of the drug, Pylene 50. Once dosed, a subject becomes passive and doesn't resist the Federation invasion. Whole populations were being systematically subdued and with it the Federation ruled like they had never done before. Avon sure picks his moments. Soolin tested the communications system just as a patrol passed nearby. Thankfully we got away without being noticed.

We located the laboratory where we met Doctor Forbus, the inventor of Pylene 50. Apparently, a certain Commissioner Sleer was forcing him to manufacture it for the pacification programme. However, the drug does have an achilles heel. The compound breaks down quickly, which means that it must be manufactured on the world where it is to be used. Forbus gave us the formula for an anti-toxin that would guard against being dosed, but couldn't reverse the effects. At least now we could protect ourselves. He also gave us a supply of the anti-toxin, which we both took after leaving.

Forbus exposed the double agent Leitz - a vile sadist, he called him. The Federation is full of such thugs. How I'd love to have them on the receiving end of my neutron blaster! Hastily we returned to Hunda and supplied him with both the anti-toxin and the revelation about Leitz. It saved his group from certain death, as an explosion tore through the mono-rail they were due to attack.

Servalan! How the hell she survived the Liberator disaster I don't know, but both Dayna and I saw her.

Back aboard Scorpio, Avon was beside himself. I knew he'd be angry because we had stayed down a little longer than anticipated, but it had been necessary. His reaction to the news of Servalan was equally intense. I could have cut the air on the flight deck with a knife. Perhaps it was just his disappointment that once again we'd failed to annihilate her, or was it something else? I can't say for certain, but I know this: I saw a darkness in his eyes that I had not seen before.

Entry 16
The Scorpio, a wanderer class planet hopper, with a drive unit that should be in a museum. Mix this with Avon's plan to use an asteroid as cover to conceal our entrance and departure from the Altern system and you have a recipe for disaster. There are times when I find Vila's flapping utterly irritating to the nth degree, but on this occasion I was inclined to agree with his caution. This was no ordinary asteroid. A fast rate of spin and extremely large size contributed to it having a minor gravitational field. The Scorpio's manoeuvring systems weren't precise enough to keep us from harm. We crashed into it, resulting in a large gash in the stern.

During a systems check, Vila got drunk - again. He seems to have been doing that a lot, recently. I'm beginning to wonder if something isn't bothering him, seriously so - not the usual petty stuff that we all have to contend with. Out of the mouths of drunks - Vila recounted an occasion where a force wall had been used to create a safe working environment for repairs. However, our ship was in a bad way and to risk our oxygen reserve would have been suicide. Avon attempted it nonetheless. Thankfully Slave does occasionally talk some sense and this time Avon heeded the advice.

With an emergency hull repair in place, we started work on the main drive, just as a Federation patrol appeared on the detectors. Avon and I couldn't leave what we were doing and thankfully their course suggested that we were not their target. Then suddenly and mysteriously the patrol ships exploded. That doesn't normally happen without good reason, so limping back to base we set about going through the recorded images. It took hours, and so did fixing the ship. Dayna took the first shift, followed by me and then Soolin. Eventually she found what we were looking for.

The Space Rats. I'd heard of them, but Vila had the most experience. Apparently they had acquired the services of Dr. Plaxton, head of the Federation Space Drive Research Centre, to modify their space chopper craft. Now based on the planet Caspar in Sector Five, the Space Rats' home was to become our next destination. We needed the photonic Drive if we were to stay one step ahead of the Federation.

Avon sent Dayna and Vila down to scout around before we brought the Scorpio in to land. The photonic drive was too valuable to risk putting it through the teleport. It was only a matter of time before Dayna and Vila were captured. Avon was more than happy to use them as a diversion and although I went along with it, I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. Caspar is about as unwelcoming as I imagined it to be; the perfect place for a bunch of ruthless pirates like the Space Rats.

Getting into their base proved easy, it was getting out that worried me. We tracked the energy source to the laboratory and made our way in. Vila wasn't lying when he said the Space Rats fight dirty. Unfortunately, the means of our entry provided ample opportunity for their leader to momentarily overpower me. He used Soolin as a hostage and fled.

We escaped to the Scorpio and left, but knew full well that the Space Rats would pursue us. Evidently the Federation had now also worked out where Dr. Plaxton was and came on our tails as well. With all hell breaking loose, the Doctor fitted the photonic drive to the Scorpio main drive unit. I won't forget what Avon did next for the rest of my days. He set the drive to fire as soon as the final connection was made. I knew he was right when he said she'd be dead either way, but... AVON...!!!

Entry 17
Sometimes Avon has good ideas, sometimes he doesn't. Dayna had mentioned Justin, a scientist she used to know, whose research might prove useful in our battle against the Federation's new weapon, Pylene 50. Avon sent the two of us to Bucol Two to try and find him. Seems he and Dayna had an 'understanding' while he was her tutor. This surprised me a little and bizarrely I found myself feeling protective. Some might have said jealous, but I knew better than that.

While Dayna was on the surface, a Federation patrol appeared. Their impeccable timing never ceases to amaze me. Scorpio was badly hit and I was forced to abandon Dayna. I could only hope that she'd be safe down there. As if I wasn't angered enough by these events, Avon had the nerve to accuse me of being responsible for the damage! There are occasions when I've come close to wanting to finish our disagreements right there and then, and this was one of them.

Back at base and with the damage repairs under way, I agonised over leaving Dayna behind. Vila went into the ballast channels to make further adjustments. Absurdly I joked about him having a hot tub when he'd finished, though to be honest I could've done with one myself. At last the repairs were complete and we headed back to pick up Dayna.

Avon was right when he said the Federation were likely to investigate why we'd been there. Servalan had obtained access to Justin's laboratory and taken both him and Dayna prisoner. It was obvious that she wanted his research for her own purposes, and I'm glad to say we thwarted her plans. However, sadly for Dayna, Justin was killed in the ensuing battle.

These escapades that we find ourselves in are beginning to annoy me. We've made no real progress in gaining ground against the Federation, and won't do so unless we get some powerful allies on our side. Avon doesn't seem interested in that right now, even though we know that very soon we will be forced to relocate out of their range. Their current rate of expansion will bring them within reach of Xenon in the next two years. I can't say as that prospect enthrals me and I know the others share my concern. I wonder quite what Avon has planned, but he certainly isn't prepared to share it right now.

Entry 18
Muller. Avon called him one of the great geniuses in the field of cybernetics. His wife Vena was staying on Xenon base until such time as he could join her. A pleasant enough woman, and friendly too. In fact it was a refreshing change to meet someone that I regard as 'normal' and that includes myself. Strive as we might to retain our humanity, it has to be said that circumstances frequently dictate otherwise.

Vila. *Sigh*, do I need to say more? His manners towards Vena left a lot to be desired. While I'd never prohibit life's little pleasures, he still could have behaved a lot better than he did. Avon's response was to send him along with me to pick up Muller. Naturally Vila was less than pleased and moaned constantly for the first hour of the flight. The journey would take at least 10 hours, so we decided to get some rest en route.

Shortly before arriving, we were contacted by Muller who instructed us to teleport directly into his lab. This was a change of plan and a rather strange request. Had Avon not been so adamant we could trust Muller, I'd have been a lot more cautious than I was. When I got down to the lab, Muller seemed to be in a state of distress, which was heightened by my picking up a box. After Vila teleported him I took it with me. It seemed important enough not to leave behind.

Back on board Scorpio, Muller reacted violently and Vila was forced to overcome him. We thought he was dead, and put him in the cryo-suspension chamber. From then onwards, everything went horribly wrong. Slave started showing signs of malfunction and a power surge in one of the drive units threw us off course. Avon advised us to deactivate Slave and bring the ship back on manual. A little hard work, Vila mocked. Sometimes he just walks straight into them.

Back in orbit around Xenon, the situation didn't improve. Slave was reactivated for circuit checks, but obviously the cause of the problems was still present. The life support systems shut down completely. Vila and I tried to get into our space suits, but it was nigh on impossible in the dark and intense cold. We both lost consciousness and I don't know what transpired from then until I awoke in the medical unit.

At some point Dayna had been attacked, but by what or whom? Muller reappeared, not dead after all - and indeed had not been alive in the first place. In fact we had brought with us the android that Muller had spent his life creating. I felt responsible, but as it had used Muller's actual head, I felt certain Avon would also have been fooled if he'd been in my place. This android was the equal of Orac, but with extras. It fried my sidearm, and Avon's too.

The android wanted to join with Orac, to become one immensely powerful entity. We had to destroy this thing, or be destroyed by it. There was only one way - fit the head containing the restraint systems. But how to disable the android and get the thing in place? Avon suggested running an electrical charge through the metal footbridge, and so we set about our plan. Dayna and I hastened to the power plant while Avon set up the bridge and Vila and Soolin kept the android occupied.

Ultimately, we succeeded and Dayna destroyed the android. Avon reacted angrily, thinking he could have used it - with the restraint circuit in place, of course. I've always believed that technological advances should be regarded in the context of their purpose. If you create the ultimate weapon, it can only be used for one thing. Muller had endowed his creation with human attributes and perhaps after all, humanity will be the undoing of our kind.

Entry 19
A message. One intended to bring about our fate. Evidently Servalan had finally grown tired of our efforts to thwart her plans. The only facts we knew at this stage were: Cancer - a hired assassin, five subjects well, guess who? Domo - a planet in the Sixth Quadrant, and a date. Didn't take much effort to work out that a meeting was being planned.

Orac suggested we should find this Cancer before he found us, so into the maelstrom we went. Vila and Avon teleported down to the surface of Domo, though quite what Avon hoped to achieve I don't know. We've never been successful in eliminating Servalan so far, why should now be any different? While we waited for news, Dayna observed a ship leaving the planet. Curiously, it left us well alone. It was strange, considering most visitors to this planet are either pirates or the scum of space looking to purchase slaves for their masters, none of which would potentially take kindly to our interference.

The plan seemed to work and Avon was taken by the pirates into their base. Presumably he intended to somehow reach Servalan when she arrived for the meeting with Cancer. The next thing we knew, Avon was requesting a spare gun and an extra bracelet. What the hell for, I wondered? Dayna went down and before long they returned with an elderly man. His name was Nebrox and he'd helped Avon to escape. Needless to say, Servalan also escaped, which Dayna was far from pleased about.

We found Cancer's ship motionless in space, just sitting there. A trap? Of course it was, but we went across to it anyway. After a thorough search, the ship appeared empty and not surprisingly Cancer outwitted us. Piri saved our lives and appeared genuine enough. I was certainly grateful for her intervention. Despite her somewhat fluffy nature, I liked her. So did Vila, but there's nothing new about that. She was a slave, or so she led us to believe. And Cancer? Hardly the impressive fellow I'd imagined him to be.

The ship's controls were completely frozen and a game of cat and mouse ensued. Cancer played us one against the other, expertly trying to split us up as we each would be more vulnerable alone. It was Soolin who worked out the truth. Piri had duped us from the outset. And the man we'd believed was Cancer? He was the real slave, murdered by Cancer's hand. Nebrox too. Soolin and I arrived just as Avon was about to join them, and we promptly dealt with the trickster and her 'pet'.

Now Servalan made her move, but left the communications open long enough for us to signal the Scorpio. They arrived in the nick of time and we teleported aboard just as Cancer's ship exploded. Another failed mission. We achieved nothing, but I suppose neither did Servalan. For small mercies we can at least be grateful.

Entry 20
More Federation murder. I wonder if the upper ranks are fully aware of what's going on? Who instigates these convenient accidents? Servalan? Admittedly, she must be responsible for a lot, but even so, there's a limit to the extent of her capabilities.

Having worked on the Scorpio drive systems for well over four hours, I needed some rest, though Avon's interest in the Feldon power generation system inevitably took priority. One of these days we're going to be so exhausted that it proves fatal.

Avon's been communicating with outsiders again. I think he knows we don't approve, but doesn't feel that consulting us would achieve anything. I'd still prefer it if he told us, nonetheless. As for the Feldon crystals, Gerren had been providing Avon with information that would enable us to obtain the already stolen consignment. Typically, something went wrong and we had to change our plans.

Belkov is a trickster through and through. We went down blindly under the auspices of rescuing him, and subsequently the crystals. It seemed simple enough, but as I know only too well, reality is far from that. Accompanying Gerren to the surface of Mecron II, we made our way to the processing plant. The noise of the operation would disguise our surreptitious entry, but Vila unwittingly gave away our presence. Having escaped and already lost contact with the Scorpio, I instructed Vila to remain outside as backup. What other option was there?

Inside we finally found Belkov and, as we suspected, he couldn't be trusted. A double cross was highly likely and it came in the form of being trapped under the launch area. I really must learn to be more vigilant. There was nothing else to do except wait. Gerren elaborated further on Belkov's plan, but to be honest it seemed immaterial now. Ironically, Vila did come to our rescue and the Gambit computer gave us a way out. However, we lost Gerren in the process.

Aboard Orbiter, we worked our way through the challenges in order to reach the Feldon crystals. Despite it making a change to put my piloting skills to good use, the games yielded nothing and with the Federation fleet hot on our heels Belkov attempted to use the crystals to destroy us. Avon thwarted his plan, but as the man said, end game to Belkov.

Entry 21
Virn. Not the most pleasant of worlds. Why was the Federation so interested in it? There was only one way to find out. Can't say as I was looking forward to it, but preventing the Federation from getting their hands on whatever was there outweighed the risks. Orac's interception of the transmissions warned us of the atmospheric effects experienced by the first mission; not that it did us much good when we arrived. A hell of a risk Avon said, but it didn't escape my attention that once again he wasn't taking it. I know I'm the gung-ho one, but that's not really the point.

Braving the teleport down onto the surface, Dayna and I found ourselves in an almost lunar landscape. The place was as barren as Don Keller's report described; green sand everywhere and no trace of recognisable life. Yet Keller's team had registered some form of energy here. Owing to the conditions, we took percussion gun clips, but so had the Federation. It was difficult to move around without giving our presence away and not surprisingly we were attacked. Dayna took the worst of it and I had Avon teleport her back to Scorpio.

What happened next was strange in the extreme. It was as if all my strength had been drained away for no apparent reason. I felt confident enough to handle things, but when the communications packed up, I really was alone. Or so I believed. The base was obviously deserted, but the Federation investigation team had got there first. Investigator Reeve, the man in charge of the team, nearly succeeded in killing me. He mistakenly believed I was one of Keller's crew. Mistake number two was his momentary lack of concentration. It gave me the chance I needed and taking full advantage, I regained the upper hand.

Servalan. What the hell was she doing here, and why? I found out later, but not before we both succumbed to foolish human temptation. Am I proud of it? No. I knew I'd be punished by the others when they found out, and for a time I thought I wouldn't tell them. However, unlike Avon, I felt they deserved the truth. A few lessons learned from this perhaps, but nothing gained. And so back we go to Xenon, empty handed and none the wiser.

Entry 22
I thought Avon may have learned something from the last time we dealt with outsiders, but perhaps not. I've no objection to getting richer, quite the contrary, however if I thought for one minute that it would make us any safer from the Federation, then I'd be rich now. Instead of that, I'm reliant on my fellow crew and so we were off to Zerok to be part of an ill thought out scheme to retrieve a shipment of black gold.

I'm not resentful, don't get me wrong. There are times when I'm grateful for the company of my friends, but I can't deny the frustration either. Frustration at the lack of independence that I used to have before I joined the Liberator; my own fault for staying, of course. I've had more than one opportunity to leave, but then there's always the Federation on my tail. I suppose that's why I'm still here.

Anyway, Zerok and Keiller - an 'old friend' of Avon's, although Avon didn't see it that way. The plan, was an accident waiting to happen, and we went for it. Temptation proving too great? Perhaps. Avon and Soolin went in, backed up by myself and Dayna. Something went wrong, though we never did find out what, exactly. All we discovered was an unconscious Keiller and the remains of two people. Only later did we realise that our comrades had walked straight into a trap. However Avon being Avon meant their survival was not subject to debate. I wonder how much longer his luck will last - or my own, for that matter?

Back aboard Scorpio, we quizzed Keiller until he revealed that he had been instructed to contact us by someone, but did not know their true identity. Of course Avon knew, damn him. There was still a chance to get the gold, so in we went for a second time. I'm not sure whether I would have, if I'd still been operating alone. I probably wouldn't have taken the risk in the first place. So what was motivating Avon to gain this wealth? I didn't know then, and now I don't really care all that much. To tell you the truth, I'm beginning to tire of this hapless struggle for survival. Nothing we've gained since we lost the Liberator has amounted to anything. For that matter, it didn't before, either.

On board the Space Princess, Dayna was given a dose of something to help her feign illness. It was hoped this would create a diversion, during which we would steal the gold. At first the plan appeared to work, but of course nothing is ever that simple and during our escape the alarm went off. We were lucky to get away, none more so than Avon. I found it ironic that he should be the one to fall foul - literally.

Now for the rendezvous on Beta Five, but with whom? I suspected before we got there that Avon knew; clues he'd found earlier in this escapade, but hadn't seen fit to share with the rest of us. There are times when Avon can be too secretive for his own good. Quite what he thinks we'd do with these pieces of what I see as relevant information, I really don't know. Does he suspect we'd run out on him? The others are too reliant on him, he knows that. But I'm not. He knows that, too.

Ahhh Servalan, so that was it. Not that it made the end result anything less than a spectacular failure. This time we were all united in our frustration towards Avon.

Entry 23
I give up. This time I really do give up. My willingness to get involved with Avon's 'grand plan', if he has one, is at best a feeble attempt. What is all this pointless chasing around the galaxy for? Personally, I think we'd be far better off just keeping out of the Federation's way and small time pirating our way to wealth. Steal a purse and hardly anyone notices, rob a bank and you might get chased out of town... but upset the Federation and the whole galaxy will be after you. It's a lesson I've more or less learned, but one that hasn't quite sunk in yet with Avon. Needless to say, each time we formulate a plan, Servalan is ever present to thwart us. She frequently succeeds - or does Avon allow her? I can't be certain any more.

Having put the spectacular failure on Zerok behind us, Avon received a message purporting to be from Egrorian, a scientist at the Space Research Institute. I'd heard of him, having studied there myself, and rumours were rife about his disappearance. Whatever the invitation was about, it must have been very interesting, or Avon would have just dismissed it. It took ten hours to reach Malodar, so I wasn't in a good frame of mind when we arrived. Even then, Avon saw fit to send me down in his place and harangued Dayna, too! I couldn't be bothered to waste my time arguing with the man, so I went along with it, but was very much relieved when Egrorian insisted that Avon go down himself.

On his explicit instruction, I took the Scorpio out of range, having transferred Avon and Vila over to the shuttle. In a way, I was glad of the chance to have a few hours free of the man I'm rapidly losing patience with. Eventually the shuttle returned, and the deal? Egrorian wanted Orac and in return we would get a Tachyon device capable of destroying whole planets. Just another 'ultimate weapon' as far as I was concerned, and although I've never warmed to Orac, I saw our possession of that being worth more than a weapon, powerful or not. Dayna enthused over it, but I was more preoccupied with the report Orac gave on Egrorian. Was there a connection between him and Servalan? If it proved true, then Avon had set in motion a chain of events that was bound to end in our defeat, or perhaps worse. I pointed out the irregularity and thankfully was taken seriously.

Avon formed a plan to provide Egrorian with a duplicate of Orac which could be controlled via a long range relay. This would, if successful, fool the scientist into giving up the weapon, while allowing us to retain the real Orac. It was daring, but provided Vila didn't foul up, had a good chance of working. Amazingly, it did work! Sometimes Vila does surprise me. However, it was too easy by far and it didn't take long for us to realise that something was very wrong. The shuttle was nowhere near the correct course and from our position we could do nothing. Not even the teleport could provide an escape route, given the velocities involved. Soolin took the ship in closer, but it seemed hopeless. At the last minute the shuttle appeared to gain altitude and limped into a shallow orbit sufficient for us to form a link up.

With Avon and Vila back on board, we learned that virtually everything in the shuttle had been jettisoned in order to achieve the orbit. The real culprit was a speck of neutron material. But that's far from my mind right now. It transpired that Avon very nearly disposed of Vila! I feel vindicated. My mistrust of him is well founded after all. I've threatened Vila myself, make no mistake. I find the man intensely irritating, but would I actually go the distance? To be fair to Vila, he's never pushed me that far, and I suspect he won't either; he understands where we stand. Perhaps he feels more certain of me than he now does of Avon. As I'm writing, we're back at base and Vila has retreated to his cabin. He's been shut in there for hours. I venture to suggest that none of us will ever be the same again.

Entry 24
I haven't felt like this since my brother died. Sifting through the wreckage that passes for my cabin, I'm trying to keep myself busy, fight back the emptiness, the desolation. Oh, to hell with it...*sits on bunk* I can't fight any more... I'm worn out... defeated... I apologise to whoever reads this, I simply cannot translate my feelings into words... Damn Avon! He shut his emotions off a long time ago. But I hadn't, I didn't want to be like him. Why should I sacrifice my humanity for the sake of this pointless fight against the Federation? Damn Avon! Shouting 'hurry up' from the crew room... for all I care, he can leave without me... I need to deal with this in my own way, and in my own time.

To begin with, the idea seemed a simple one. I couldn't be certain of the outcome, but then neither could Avon, if he was being honest. The two of us travelled to Betafarl, an independent planet which at their current rate of expansion, was in line to be conquered by the Federation. Their ruler, a pirate by the name of Zukan, had a reputation for brutality to rival that of Servalan. It would have been utterly foolish to travel alone, so someone had to accompany Avon, just in case backup was required. This was going to be a delicate situation and we couldn't afford to misjudge our host. There was no way we could risk sending Vila, who can be unstable at the best of times. By all accounts, Zukan was far from being a ladies' man, so it fell to me. I was by no means happy with the arrangement.

During the trip, we discussed in detail the exact nature of our visit. We were to persuade Zukan to give up his efforts to conquer neighbouring worlds and stand with us to fight the Federation. We had the antitoxin formula for Pylene 50, but not the facility to mass produce it. Zukan had access to laboratories, technicians; it could work. Did I say simple? More fool us. On arrival, we were instructed to wait until summoned into Zukan's presence. Avon reassured me that this was a common tactic among leaders keen to impose their superior status. I think he sounds more like Orac every day. Still, if waiting meant we gained a small amount of respect, then wait we must. I was acutely aware of just how vulnerable we'd be making ourselves, both in coming here and revealing the whereabouts of our base. Zukan was a notorious gangster who could sell us out if he so chose.

Eventually we were granted an audience, and despite his reputation I found the atmosphere to be surprisingly civilised. A dainty figure sat close by, Zukan's daughter Zeeona. Avon had used Orac to obtain as much information as possible, including his family and current level of political support. He wanted to be absolutely certain of every detail. Zeeona caught my eye a few times during the discussions and I sensed her curiosity towards us. Avon had instructed me to take a back seat, since he was deemed to be the leader and I was merely his accomplice. The initial meeting appeared to go well, but a recess was called after only an hour. Avon had not yet finished presenting his plans, but we bowed to protocol so as not to jeopardise our position. We did not see Zukan again for the rest of the day and instead were taken on a tour of the facilities.

I was impressed with what we were shown, although I'm quite certain that it didn't account for every area of research. The labs we saw were well equipped and apparently devoted to the study of Betafarl's natural resources. Being a world of a twin star system, there were times when the orbit gave rise to intense heat and large areas of the planet had already become deserts due to over exploitation. Perhaps this accounted for Zukan's constant invasion of other nearby worlds. Certainly the relations with these outposts were, at best, strained, and called for the need of frequent political posturing, as Avon referred to it. As luck would have it, our visit coincided with one such occasion.

Dinner. It was now that Zeeona was brought into play. Zukan walked alongside her, proudly introducing various dignitaries, emissaries from the various worlds he had conquered, to her delicate charms. Avon and I wisely kept our distance from this political dialogue in which we had no standing. Watching Zeeona from a distance I found myself beginning to like her and every now and then she would again catch my eye. She seemed so different from every other woman I've known, perhaps with the exception of my mother. A kind, gentle soul who had clearly been sheltered from the harsh realities of life under Federation control.

It was obvious that Zukan was reluctant to introduce us and I couldn't help but smile as Zeeona did everything she could to persuade him. Seeing this, Avon needed little excuse to remind me of our mission and did so with his usual lack of diplomacy. However, eventually Zeeona succeeded and her bright eyes twinkled as we shook hands. A spark had been kindled, no doubt. By rights that should have been the end of it, but daringly she asked why we had come to Betafarl. I admired her boldness. Zukan's eyes flashed with displeasure, although he stopped short of reprimanding her in such a public place. I explained as succinctly as possible. Zeeona appeared keenly interested and suggested that her father should give it due consideration. This pushed him to the limit of tolerance and he ushered her away.

The residences were blacked out at 'night' to induce natural sleep, but I couldn't stop thinking about Zeeona. Our mutual affection had, unwittingly, set in motion a chain of events that would prove tragic. The next morning, we were again summoned into Zukan's presence, but Zeeona was nowhere to be seen. After the dinner, she had left in a hurry and had no doubt been told, in no uncertain terms, to keep well away from us. The meeting was brief and although Avon was allowed to finish his presentation, we left with nothing decided and no agreement from Zukan. It was particularly disappointing, especially as Betafarl was the quite probably the best placed to deal with the antitoxin. However, we were summarily dismissed and promptly escorted to the landing area.

Back at Xenon, the conference went ahead as planned and we found ourselves inundated with political discourse. True, it was a great achievement, but it was far from a smooth road and Avon struggled to get the agreement he wanted. Note then our complete surprise when Zukan showed up with a cargo vessel full of equipment and technicians. A further surprise - Zeeona had boarded the freighter and Soolin and I found her helping to unload the equipment. Away from her father, she was a different woman confident and skilled in the field of Biogenetics. In fact, she could prove extremely useful to our cause and I knew that once Avon was made aware of her potential, he would no doubt agree to her staying a little longer. I fully intended to brief him once Zukan was out of the way. But I never got the chance.

Meanwhile, we felt that it was probably better if she kept a low profile, at least until her father decided to leave. Safely settled into a cabin, we formed our own 'entente cordiale' and for a while shut out the rest of the world. I fell in love with her, and for the first time in my life realised what I had been missing, what I had denied myself. Avon is wrong; there are still good people out there, you just have to know how to recognise them. I'm not sure he can any more. Alas, our peace was inevitably going to be disturbed and it was all the more frustrating that Avon was the one responsible. My anger was barely contained by the time we got to the crew room and being forcibly pushed out of the room did nothing to placate it.

Soolin could see that both Avon and Zukan were being ridiculous; she knew I would never harm Zeeona. We were in love, for goodness sake! For the greater good, I kept my distance and helped with the equipment in the freight bay. Soolin came up with a plan. Avon had already told me that I would not be going back to Betafarl and that he was going in my place, so Soolin found a way to accompany both him and Zeeona. She teleported Zeeona back to Xenon and we were reunited, hopefully permanently. Some might interpret my expression of emotion as weakness, but to my way of thinking it takes a far stronger man to be honest with himself than it does to hide and bury one's feelings.

I was right to question the motives of Zukan. Somehow he managed to sabotage our base and we were almost killed in the resulting explosions. Trapped, and with a diminishing air supply, our fate appeared sealed. Added to that, there was some form of radioactive contamination on the loose, which would no doubt reach us if we didn't switch off the life support systems. I later learned that while all this was going on, Avon and Soolin were having problems of their own. Deceived by Zukan, they were captured by Federation guards. Zukan had sold us out after all. Zeeona was beside herself with fear and anger, and looked to me for reassurance, but I had none to give. It had been a fait accompli.

There are times when I could quite cheerfully throttle Vila, and now was one of them. He was of little help in clearing the access tunnel and when we found a Paraflame 5 leak, that means of escape was cut off. We checked the door seals while he drowned his sorrows. His criticism of Zeeona was the last straw, but she stopped me from going too far. It was pointless anyway, the useless waste of space! Eventually we were able to make contact with Avon who found a way to restore our air supply, but perhaps by some measure of ironic justice Zukan's ship had been damaged and exploded. Perhaps Servalan had double crossed him, we never will know for certain.

Back aboard Scorpio we faced the dilemma of what to do with the contamination on the base. Zeeona volunteered to go back down and reverse the offending piece of equipment. No way was I going to let her go down there alone! No way! But Avon insisted and once his mind is made up... Soolin backed him up, which didn't help. We lost contact and desperate to find out what had happened Dayna and I teleported down...

I won't describe what we found because it's too....

So, here I am, alone, and having packed my things on board Scorpio, leaving for the last time. So much of me is back there, with her... a piece of me died today.

Entry 25
I wish I could say this journey was an easy one, but I can't. Avon set the base to self destruct and once safely out of range everything that we left behind on Xenon was destroyed, including memories. It had to be done. If Zukan had revealed our whereabouts to the Federation, it wouldn't take them long to despatch a heavily armed fleet and Scorpio would be no match for them. We're now en route for Gauda Prime, Soolin's former homeworld and apparent location of Blake. I think Avon genuinely believes he can unite the various rabbles that constitute the rebellion. Since when did he get political? At least the plan to keep one step ahead of Pylene 50 made sense, but I can't understand where this latest scheme has come from. He never took an interest before.

Gauda Prime will take over 12 hours to reach and I suspect that when we arrive there won't be time for reflection, so I'm taking the opportunity now. There is still a darkness that haunts me, the memories, the images... I can't escape them. Avon strikes me as beyond caring, he's focussed on our goal and that's all that matters to him. As for me, well once again it seems I'm just along for the ride. I can't seem to place myself in a significant role and I sense the others feel the same. Perhaps I could go back to smuggling arms? Yes, that might work. I look up for a moment, Avon is transfixed by the screen in front of him. He's using Orac to research what information he can, which is sensible enough.

On the long range sensors the planet looms ahead of us... but seems we're not destined to reach our destination unscathed... the alarms are sounding...


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