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A Second Chance by Clare Juland

Blake’s 7 – A PGP Serial
Episode 1 – A Second Chance

by
Clare Juland


Gauda Prime

Jenna led the way through dense thickets of undergrowth.

“You call this home?” asked the red haired woman trailing behind her.

Both smugglers had narrowly escaped a Federation raid on Space City, during which the stranger had killed two guards with consummate ease.

"Yes," Jenna replied. "Well, in a manner of speaking."

Her charge sighed and abruptly stopped. "How much further? My feet are aching."

Frustrated, Jenna paused and faced her.

"I think you’ll find you’re much closer than you think," a deep male voice spoke out.

Instinctively the woman reached for her sidearm, but it was quickly snatched from her belt.

"Can she be trusted?" the man asked.

"I wouldn’t have brought her here if I didn’t think she could be useful," Jenna replied. "She’s as crooked as they come, but dealt with a couple of guards rather efficiently and has got quite a price on her head."

The stranger felt her own gun pressing hard against her back.

"That doesn’t guarantee anything," the man added. "Who are you? What’s your name?" he asked sternly and turned her around.

His prisoner was getting tired of being ordered about and shoved against his rough handling.

"Keera," she growled back. "And I earned every credit of that bounty."

"I don’t doubt that," the man replied and lowered the gun. The two stared at each other for several moments until Keera started to laugh.

"I’ve never met a genuine rebel before. You’re much more handsome than the wanted list portrays you." She put her hands on her hips provocatively.

Blake frowned. "So you know who I am?"

"I’d be a fool not to," Keera replied.

"This way. It’s not wise to be out in the open after dark."

Keera was taken to a makeshift camp concealed in a small ravine. "Very luxurious," she complained.

"The aim is not to draw attention to our location," Blake replied. "This planet is crawling with gun runners and the like."

"I can handle myself," Keera retorted.

"I don’t doubt that either."

After Keera had settled in, Jenna handed her a bowl of a kind of vegetable broth. "It’s not much, but it’s very nourishing," she said, hoping to calm their guest’s mood. Keera winced at the first mouthful, but she was too hungry to refuse.

A few days later, Blake took her in the flyer to a remote clearing. Jenna used it as a landing point for her cargo ship. Having travelled the same way previously only on foot, none of it seemed familiar. They had arrived at dusk and one tree looked very like another.

"This is the only blind spot on the planet," Jenna explained. "By maintaining a shallow angle of approach we can avoid the detector beams. However, once above the troposphere the gun ships can pick us up. It takes a lot of nerve to get through them."

Keera stood with Blake and watched as she started to make some minor repairs. "What exactly do you want from me?" she asked and flashed him a seedy look.

"We’re slowly recruiting more people, but a shortage of weapons and ammunition is our main problem," he replied.

Keera clued up and nodded. "You mean, you want to exploit my network of contacts?"

"Yes and no. We’ve been gradually losing our battle with the Federation. We need all the help we can get. Are you prepared to stand with us?"

Keera stepped away a few paces and put her hands on her hips. "Well… can’t say as I’ve got much time for the Federation, but I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as a rebel, either."

Blake walked up to her. "Name your price?"

"I don’t think that’s the kind of question you should be asking her," said another man emerging from Jenna’s ship.

"Derman!" Keera exclaimed and reached for her gun, but Blake had not yet returned it to her.

Derman approached and scowled. "You still owe me two thousand credits!"

"Keera!" Jenna called out, unaware of the tense exchange.

Their newest arrival smirked and started to walk away. "Not a chance," she mocked.

Derman confronted Blake. "Don’t trust her; she’s the most crooked trader I’ve ever met!"

Blake thought for a moment. "Jenna once said that about you."

Derman paused and calmed down. "Alright, alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you."

Over the following months, Keera spent most of her time running the blockades with Jenna. The blonde smuggler found her methods of evading them rather unorthodox, but effective. When they were on Gauda Prime she noted Keera’s close observation of Blake and his leadership of the group. Her increasing fascination with him gave Jenna cause for concern and it soon became apparent that she had a fetish for domineering men and almost no inhibitions. One by one she seduced several men in the group, delighting in their reciprocation. Blake was aware of it and remained aloof; however Jenna was more vocal in her protests, especially whenever Keera made a direct invitation towards their leader.

On one such occasion, Keera and Blake were alone on a very cold night. Sitting down on the far side of the campfire, she turned her back to him and in the flickering light slowly removed her muddied tunic top. Blake was shocked, but not entirely surprised, when he noticed that her back was covered in horrific scars. Evidently she had been subjected to torture at some point in her past. Alongside these were smaller marks that together created the image of an outstretched hand. Was this some kind of identifying symbol of her people? Blake could only speculate, but either way there were clearly a lot of things responsible for Keera’s unique manner.

"A Federation trooper did that to me," she said and wrapped her arms over her chest. Turning around she faced Blake who had started to eat from the small animal cooking over the fire.

"Why?" he asked.

"Do they need a reason?" she countered.

"No," Blake replied. "It’s why I fight them."

Walking over, she crouched in front of him and placed her hands on his knees. "I realise that now," she smiled, and her bright eyes twinkled knowingly.

Her expression left him in no doubt of what she wanted. He frowned as Jenna chose that very moment to return and scowl fiercely when she saw the half naked Keera. Sensibly wishing to avoid trouble, Keera hurriedly put on a clean tunic and left without a word. Jenna folded her arms indignantly as Keera headed outside the safety of the camp. Blake had warned her not to, but she went anyway.

"I’m beginning to regret bringing Keera here," Jenna sighed.

Blake remained silent and cut off a piece of meat for his comrade.

Derman, who had witnessed the incident, followed Keera as she left. He was determined to try and reclaim the debt she owed him.

Slumping on a rock overlooking the camp, she was taking a gulp from her flask when a gunrunner attacked her. Word had spread of Blake’s attractive new recruit and this particular low life had decided to try his luck.

Crouching low, Derman watched as the two struggled for several moments before Keera managed to inflict an injury that caused her assailant to cry out loudly. The noise alerted Blake who rushed over to investigate. He saw Derman and the two ran up the hillside.

When they arrived, Keera was nowhere to be seen, however the badly mutilated gunrunner was lying across the rock. It was a horrific sight and Blake could not imagine what she had done or why.

"I told you that I could take care of myself," Keera said, reappearing from nearby.

Blake frowned. "Was that really necessary… ?"

Keera faced him, clearly feeling no need to explain herself. She tied a strip of bark around the gunman's ankles, dragged the body away and returned empty handed a few moments later.

Blake gestured for her to return to the safety of the camp and noted the excited twinkle in her eyes.

It sent a chill through Derman and he decided not to pursue the matter of his debt any further.

The following day, Keera accompanied Jenna on a supplies run. The cold winter had depleted their food stocks and with their growing numbers extra journeys had to be made. Throughout the outward trip neither said a word and it wasn’t until their arrival at the nearest trading post that the silence was broken.

"I don’t care how you do it, but get your own ship," Jenna said sharply.

Keera didn’t reply and headed off into the throng of people.

Frowning, Jenna set off on her task and wondered if Keera would even come back. Doubts crept into her mind over the harsh reprimand, although she felt it had been entirely deserved.

Keera went straight to one of her contacts to acquire a small hopper type vessel. It would be no good for carrying large volumes of cargo as Jenna’s ship could, but at least she could convey small consignments of weapons. Unknown to Blake, she had stolen a valuable quantity of precious stones from the gunrunner on Gauda Prime. She used now them to purchase her new ship and even had enough left over to acquire a long-range plasma rifle and a modest quantity of grenades. The rifle she intended to keep.

Lounging on the small flight deck, Keera watched as Jenna returned with a cargo loader heavily laden with boxes of food and various other supplies. Resisting the instinct to help for a moment, she realised that right now she could just take off and Jenna would be none the wiser. For the past few months she had devoted her time and efforts to this small band of rebels and for what? She’d made less profit, for certain. The only gains seemed to have been personal ones. And something else, a dark secret that she kept firmly buried, but its presence was enough for her to make the decision.

"This is the last time… friend," she muttered and got up. Slowly approaching, Keera took the other end of a large box.

"Thank you," Jenna said, rather begrudgingly.

"I’ve acquired myself a small hopper," Keera replied coolly and indicated the rather battered looking vessel behind her.

"Just treat Blake with the respect he deserves, that’s all I ask."

"I know you like him," Keera interjected.

Jenna stared at her. "We should get going." Perhaps her companion was more aware of things than she let on. However, she certainly didn’t act with prudence in mind.

In a dark corner, a sly figure observed their activities closely. Jenna’s past had betrayed her, not uncommonly so. However, this time she had failed to notice that she was being watched amongst the crowds of people. The prowler wondered about the identity of the other woman who had obviously been newly recruited to the group. Using a facial profiler, the sordid details spilled onto the small screen. The short, brown haired woman grinned knowingly as Keera’s criminal record was confirmed. "Interesting…" she whispered.

Their return journey was plagued with difficulties. Jenna had to stop twice because of power fluctuations and as they entered the Gauda system a whole fleet of gun ships registered on the long-range detectors.

"Get ready," Jenna said over the communications channel, "this is going to be rough." And she wasn’t joking.

Between them, they managed to hold off the attack for a while, however Keera’s small hopper was no match for that of their assailants. It took a volley of hits and reeled out of control. Jenna watched as it veered away, hotly pursued by two gun ships. In a blinding flash it was gone and Jenna knew her turn would be next.

With time fast running out, she tried to send a signal to Blake just as two blasts struck the aft section. The ship rocked violently and she was thrown from her seat. Injured and alone, she realised there was no hope of reprieve. As the fleet closed in, she activated the self-destruct and managed to send the message.

"Blake, we’re in trouble. Keera’s dead. I’m setting the self destruct… only chance to destroy them… I’m sorry… I love you…" The transmission cut off as the explosion tore the vessel apart.

***

Commissioner Sleer was delighted when she received the news from Gauda Prime. Not only had the figurehead for the rebellion, Roj Blake, finally been eliminated, but also those he’d recruited. Vila had not managed to deal Arlen a fatal blow, and once recovered she wasted no time in betraying the remainder of the group. As for Avon, well what could be said? Relaxing in a comfortable chair, she poured a drink.

"A toast… to a most worthy opponent." She paused as a flicker of emotion momentarily crossed her expression. "Avon… a pity it had to end, but… " Sipping from the glass, emotion was replaced by a cold stare. "I find it interesting that the stain of Blake’s blood should be on your hands. However the rebellion, such as it was, will die with you both."

A light tapping sound on the door distracted her attention. "Enter."

A tall man walked in wearing the uniform of the Intelligence Service.

"Lieutenant Jarran, isn’t it?"

"Yes, Madam Commissioner," he replied. "I understand you have a special mission you wish me to undertake?"

"Indeed. Please do sit down." She handed over the detailed instructions. "I want you to seek, locate and betray the last remaining rebel group in the Gamma Quadrant. But let me make this perfectly clear, they are to be brought to Earth alive."

"Alive?" Jarran queried.

"The reason need not concern you. Carry out my orders, Lieutenant."

"Of course, Commissioner. I shall depart at once." He got up, saluted and left.

For a moment, Sleer was reminded of her one-time ally Travis, but those days were long gone.

Thanks to Zukan’s betrayal, the tenuous allies with whom Avon had conspired were the first on Sleer’s list. While the rebel leadership foundered, she took the greatest pleasure in personally overseeing their subjugation. Her guards rounded up the presidential protagonists while the technicians introduced Pylene 50 into the water supply of each world. As Avon had predicted, there was no protection and no question of it being challenged. Hirriel, Tarl, Khom… all fell under the shadow known as the Federation.

"I demand to know why we have been detained!" Chalsa said harshly.

"I would have thought that was perfectly obvious," Sleer replied, and walked slowly along the line of prisoners.

Boorva knew the moment he’d been taken. "Are we to assume that you have captured Avon?" he enquired and looked at Lod and Mida.

"How very perceptive of you," Sleer drawled. "But that is no longer any of your concern. The planets you once ruled are now where they belong, under Federation control."

"Since you make it quite clear we are defeated, what then do you want from us?" Mida snapped and was shoved in the shoulder by a guard.

Sleer smiled sadistically. "Gentlemen, the fate of your people is quite pleasant in comparison to the punishment for treason."

Lod stood open mouthed. "You are charging us with treason for simply speaking to Avon?"

"Lieutenant, take them away," Sleer instructed.

Lod’s protests echoed along the corridor as the door closed behind them.

Often in the past, such a moment would have been followed by the news of some rebellious act by Avon and his group. Almost out of habit, Sleer sat at her communications console. Five minutes passed, ten. "Perhaps I will miss you after all."

Getting up, she went to one of the viewing ports and her cruel mind found its way on to ambition. There was now the perfect opportunity to reclaim her ultimate goal of power. With the rebellion in disarray, there was little to stand in her way. Her eyes narrowed in sinister coldness as her fist was put down with a hard thud, activating the communicator.

The pilot dutifully responded.

"Set course for Earth, Commander," she instructed.

"At once, Madam Commissioner," he replied.

The pacification programme was now of little concern and she contentedly left it in the hands of her minions.

From her current location, the journey to Earth would take several weeks. Sleer wisely used the time to plan the retaking of the Presidency with meticulous precision. Almost all of her old supporters had either been incarcerated or had left Earth of their own volition. Since gaining political favour would take time, she decided that a more direct approach was required.

The first thing she intended to do was alter her physical appearance, so that there could be no possibility of being recognised, as Leitz had done on Helotrix. For this she intended to enlist the services of Doctor Reater, a retired cosmetic surgeon who she knew would not ask too many questions.

The incumbent Federation President, a capable man by the name of Tollen, rivalled Sleer in being a shrewd tactician. Despite the popular public image he liked to portray, he kept a tight rein on the organisation that had come so close to collapsing during the Galactic War. She spent a lot of time carefully researching her subject and devised a plan to work her way into his team of loyal followers. Politics was simply a game; one she could play to her advantage. The older generation of Councillors were far less matched to her conniving mind and would be easily fooled. Once Tollen’s supporters started to question his leadership, she could conveniently step into the power vacuum and take control. A sinister smile formed on her face.

"A simple matter of clever manipulation to turn the tide in my favour," she gloated.

Having been transferred to a shuttle, the prisoners were taken to the nearest detention centre and locked up.

"What do you suppose happens now?" Lod asked.

"They’re going to kill us," Boorva replied.

"Did you really think we’d be allowed to live?" Mida added.

Chalsa sighed and sat down. "Cause for regret, you said."

"And what would you prefer?" Boorva countered. "Dying with honour or living as a Federation puppet?"

The others looked at him. He had a point, but somehow death was little consolation.

The next morning the question was academic. A heavy mist hung in the air as one by one they were taken outside and shot, their mortal remains left in the dust. No memorials, no honour and no mercy. When the Federation dispensed punishment, there was little room for justice or integrity of character.

"You betray your people if you do not fear the Federation." The outlaw Avon’s words echoed in Boorva’s mind as the shot that took his life rang out.

Silence followed as the guards jumped into their small transport vehicle and left. What hope for freedom was there now? With every last gasp, it died a little more.

***


Avon woke in a small, dimly lit cabin and it took several moments for his eyes to adjust. The dark walls gave nothing away and only served to fill his mind with questions. Pushing any notion of inquisitiveness aside, the more important query on his mind was how he had come to be here, by whom and why.

Getting to his feet, the dizziness was almost overwhelming. When the blurriness cleared, he first noticed a large table on which had been placed several changes of clothing. Beyond this, an open doorway beckoned; clearly an invitation to leave, he thought. While the temptation to venture out was great, he felt a more urgent need to remove his bloodied attire and get cleaned up. There was something symbolic about the act that helped to close a small part of a very uncomfortable and lingering memory of his final moments on Gauda Prime.

As the warm water banished the remains of dried blood, the rawness of it inevitably reminded him of the incident. "Why did I do it?" he muttered, a question for which he had no answer.

Again he saw the pained look on Blake’s face. It was caused by his betrayal not the gun wounds. Of all the things he and Blake had faced, betrayal was the one that neither had fully learned to comprehend or accept. Somewhere deep inside, a small voice of the need to trust cried out in the darkness, but he quickly silenced it.

Sighing heavily, Avon stepped out and while dressing it occurred to him that he’d taken Tarrant on his word, too. Despite their frequent disagreements, he’d quite readily accepted his suggestion that Blake had sold them to the Federation. Blake, of all people! Why would he do something like that, after all they’d been through? Even though he had questioned the man, it still seemed that he couldn’t bring himself to trust his word and had acted with fatal consequences.

Nearby, others of the group were dealing with this new situation in their own way. Dizziness was common to all and Dayna fell off the bunk in her attempt to stand. Like Avon, each felt the need to refresh and change out of the clothing that had a few too many bad memories associated with it. Equally, they readily devoured the food ration that had also been supplied.

Ironic that death could make one so hungry, Tarrant thought.

For Blake, the re-awakening was met with muted curiosity. If Avon too was alive, facing that confrontation for a second time seemed less than appealing.

Returning his mind to more immediate matters, Avon carefully moved towards the doorway, but paused when he realised that he had no weapon. However, it was too late for such concerns. He was here, and whatever challenges lay ahead, he was going to have to face them regardless.

Slowly stepping out into the dark corridor, he looked both ways, uncertain which direction to take. For a moment, the eerie silence dominated until the muffled sound of voices coming from his left abruptly decided his choice of destination.

He was stunned when he realised that the voices belonged to Blake and Dayna. What on earth were they doing here? His own existence was equally incredible and just as difficult to explain. The familiar sounds were emanating from further along the corridor and placing each foot silently he cautiously approached. Reaching a doorway, the light streamed through and shadows flickered on the far wall. Very slowly, he peered around the entrance and could see his old comrades talking. He could have joined them, but instead watched for a moment and received a further surprise when Tarrant walked in via another doorway on the far side.

Dayna called out as he stopped in shock of seeing them alive and well. "Tarrant!"

"I’m alright," he replied anxiously. "What’s going on? Weren’t we just... ?" he asked.

"I don’t know. And yes," Blake replied.

"There’s something about this place that I find creepy," Dayna added, with more than a hint of caution.

Sharing her awkwardness, especially towards Blake, Tarrant gravitated towards her.

Aware of Tarrant’s unease, Blake relaxed, hoping for it to be reciprocated.

"Look, I’m…" Tarrant started to say, but found the words drying up. Despite wanting to atone for his actions, he was partly angry with Blake for his role in the tragedy.

"You don’t have to apologise," Blake replied, "you weren’t to blame. I should have revealed my intentions sooner."

"So why didn’t you?" Dayna asked, equally chagrined. "Things might’ve gone a lot… smoother, shall we say?"

"Indeed," Blake said. Sighing, he looked around in an almost nervous manner. "It was a mistake. One that I deeply regret."

"You have to be alive to feel regret," Tarrant added.

Retreating, Avon made an assessment of the situation. They didn’t appear to be in any immediate danger, however he picked up on Dayna’s wariness and as their conversation continued it was echoed by the others. A latent feeling kept him from entering the room and he chose to listen instead.

"What is this place?" Tarrant asked, changing the subject and curiously noting the strange but oddly familiar emblem on the floor of the otherwise blank room. There seemed little point in focusing on the past, as the future was much more relevant.

"Good question," Blake replied. "I think we’re on board a ship. I felt some movements earlier that suggested we could be in flight."

"Where to, I wonder?" Dayna mused.

Blake was at a loss. "It occurred to me that whoever’s got the technology to bring people back from the dead must be far more advanced than us."

Avon’s eyes narrowed and he agreed with his erstwhile comrade.

"Do you suppose any of the others… ?" Dayna asked, acutely aware of their absence.

Blake and Tarrant looked at each other silently, neither wanting to admit their obvious vulnerability. Past differences would now have to be put aside and like it or not, they would need to co-operate to ensure their continued survival.

"I don’t know," Tarrant said in answer to her question. "But we should work together."

Blake nodded. "Agreed. This is neither the time nor place for recriminations." The comment was clearly aimed at Avon, despite their being unaware of his presence.

Tarrant threw a glance in Dayna’s direction. "Well, we’re not being held prisoner, so I suppose that should tell us something."

"Aren’t we?" Blake asked.

"Not by my reckoning. Why else would we have been allowed to leave our cabins?"

A serious expression crossed Blake’s face. "When you’ve fought as many battles as I have, you learn not to take anything at face value."

Dayna looked around nervously, aware that at any moment they could be faced with their rescuer, friendly or not. The tension in the air increased noticeably for all concerned. Avon clenched his fists in readiness, what else was there to fight with? Tarrant motioned to move away from the doorways, since that is where the trouble was going to come from, if and when it arrived. Blake could see that although lacking in extensive experience, Tarrant was no fool and capable of learning from his mistakes. Dayna meanwhile equally demonstrated her abilities as a fighter. She stood ready to defend herself and the others, if necessary.

Blake actually found himself praising Avon for allying himself with these new faces. Both were little more than names on a wanted list, but now he had met them, he respected their talents. Word had reached Gauda Prime of the destruction of the Liberator and he dared wonder if his old friends were still alive. Cally, however, had not been with them when they were reunited on that ill-fated world. He’d heard a cry one night in his sleep, a voice across the endless vacuum of space. Death clearly had been calling for her.

One other, a slender blonde woman, whose name he did not know. What had happened that brought her together with Avon? Cally’s death, perhaps? Blake realised that his mind was wandering. He would have to seek the answers to these questions some other time - if there was another time. With his focus returned, somewhere nearby a door was opened.

Teeth gritted, fists tightened and reflexes were alerted in readiness against the backdrop of rhythmic approaching footsteps.


To be continued...


Click here for Episode 2: Ascendancy



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.

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