Valuable Asset chapter 10 of 11Author:
Teen and upWord Count:
2,200 (this chapter) 18,300 (total to date)Summary:
Set after 'Project Avalon'. 'It's your misfortune to be worth a great deal, Blake. The others weren't." (back to start)
Chapter 10: Mistrust
Chapter 10: Mistrust
Blake ducked under the stairwell after Avon before the security guards could turn round. They waited in silence until the sound of footsteps was gone.
“Follow them?” Avon asked.
“I think so.” Blake had been looking for somewhere good to plant the devices but all they'd seen so far were corridors and empty classrooms. Avon wasn’t moving any better despite the cloth tied up around his knee. They ought to be getting out of here. “Give it a minute, in case the guards stop again. “
He looked across at the crouching figure. “Want to tell me what was going on back on the ship?”
Avon didn't look round at him. “What are you talking about?”
“About how far you were out of it at the end there. I thought you’d have the sense to warn me if you were going under. The last thing either of us needed was you going through some sort of PTSD.”
Avon did look round, startled. “That’s not … I was preoccupied.”
“Preoccupied with what? Not with getting away, obviously.”
“We should go now.” Avon moved back into the corridor and set off in a slow hobble.
Blake caught up with him, slowed to his pace, hissing in frustration. “And why the hell didn't you fix that knee while you had the chance?”
“Will you please stop asking inane questions?”
It wasn't a inane question, Blake thought. He had no idea what was going on in Avon's head. It wasn't as if he knew anything about the man's private life....
At the word ‘private’ far too much clicked into place. Avon had had those video clips for a reason. His first reaction was intense annoyance. “I went through all that just for your gratification?”
Avon turned on him. “That was your idea, remember? Not mine. You didn’t leave me any choice but to play along.”
“You didn't have to enjoy it!” Blake snapped back at him.
“Oh, yes, you wanted me to suffer, naturally. What's the point of beating me up otherwise? I did my best to oblige you on that count and now you're whingeing that I can't run. You're a bloody awkward man to please, Roj Blake.”
“I don't want to be pleased!” Blake insisted. “Not by you! I want to know what crazy notions are going through your head about me. Us. You do know that there is no us? Absolutely not?”
Avon snorted derision. “Don't flatter yourself on that score.”
“So tell me what's going on in your perverted fucking head, then!”
Avon limped along silently for long enough for Blake to start to feel more than a little uncomfortable about the last thing he’d said. He was damned if he was going to apologise over a few careless words, though, to a man who’d betrayed him so thoroughly.
“How about these?” Avon said calmly.
Administration offices. Some were occupied but no-one seemed concerned about the two men walking past the windows. Blake shook his head. “Civilians. And I do need answers, Kerr Avon.”
Avon quickened his pace a little, still silent for several minutes. Finally he sighed. “I have a certain predisposition to respond to violence. I do not however like violent people. If you think my physiological response to being beaten up is some sort of compliment on your personal qualities you are sadly mistaken. That's all it was, a reaction. It won't happen again.”
Blake shook his head, puzzled. “You can't have many satisfactory relationships if you're only attracted to people you despise.”
“What makes you think I have any at all?” Avon stopped abruptly. “This will do, surely?”
The sign on the door read ‘Commander Seraphe Vange, Chief Administrator.’ A legitimate target and far enough from the occupied offices to keep civilian casualties down. There were no windows out to the corridor this time. “Is she in?”
“I can't hear anything.” Avon pulled the door a little way open. “No. Hurry though - she wouldn't leave this door unlocked if she was away for long.”
“Keep watch,” Blake ordered as he knelt being the desk to set the charges. “So how does it work, then, this physiological response of yours?”
“I'm not going to discuss it.” Avon said harshly. “It's none of your business. This whole idea that you and I might get it on might be new and exciting for you but it grew old for me a long time ago. It's going nowhere. Forget it.”
Blake hasn't been thinking anything of the sort. Not with Avon, for God's sake. He just wanted to figure out what was in the man's head. “Set one of the incendiaries back at that last junction. Give it three...” He looked at Avon's knee- “No, four minutes.”
He thought about what Avon had said while his hands worked automatically. By the time Avon returned he had another question. “A long time ago?”
“I said forget it!”
“You were attracted to me?”
“Let's see. You're an arrogant bully with an imposing physical presence and a tendency to treat me like dirt. That pushed a few buttons, yes. It didn't make me stupid enough to want to get involved.”
Blake’s head snapped up but Avon was looking out along the corridor rather than at him. “So that's why you did it.”
Avon leant against the doorway, bent down to adjust the bandage around his knee. He didn’t seem to have heard.
“Avon. That's why you took Liberator and me.”
The other man stood up again, turned around to confront Blake. “You think I kidnapped you out of lust? That is so wrong it’s laughable. I told you, I needed the money.”
“You needed out of the situation. That's what was unbearable. Not the danger. I should have known that a man like you doesn't crack that easily. Look at you now; we could get shot at any moment, you’re as steady nerved as me.”
“I would prefer not to be reminded of just how much danger we’re in.” Avon started down the corridor away from the incendiaries, and him.
Blake raised his voice to reach the limping man. “Everything you disliked about me was everything that made me so attractive, and I didn’t once even have the decency to look at you twice.” He finished with the charges and stood up, swinging his bag over his back. All that he’d been put through, his ship lost, his crew gone, because Kerr Avon couldn’t handle a workplace crush? The stupid man!
“You couldn’t even just leave, could you? Hole up somewhere, change your name, keep your head down and out of trouble? Because I’d still be out there, being the hero, with my big shiny spaceship and my daring exploits and my galaxy wide reputation.
“And,” he shouted at the man now turning the corner a good twenty yards down the corridor, “my adoring and sexually available crew!”
He ran after, slowed down to take the curve and found Avon’s gun pointing at his face.
“If I get out of here, I’ll tell them all you got shot doing something brave and foolhardy. Typically Roj Blake. It will even be true.”
Blake had stopped, eyes on the steady barrel. “The others will come after you.”
“That old song? The others were never going to come after me, Blake. Not that way. They don’t know what happened. All they know is that you, I and the Liberator went without them. With the Liberator destroyed and you dead or captured I can tell them how it was all your idea.” His smile was thoroughly unpleasant. “After all, Kerr Avon would hardly have gone to the trouble of leaving them somewhere safe and with a great deal of money. Everyone knows I’m just not that nice.”
The one thing he’d thought showed that Avon must have a conscience, and it had been a ploy.
“You should have remembered that before you set out to annoy me. Have you anything else clever to say?”
Blake thought about it very quickly. “No.”
Avon’s finger tightened on the trigger, the noise loud in the echoing corridor. At first Blake though that the man had fired at him and missed, but then Avon fired again, and a thump came from behind Blake. He turned to see the two bodies crumpled not ten feet behind him.
The incendiaries exploded, deafening Blake for a moment. “Shall we get out of here?” Avon shouted, raising the gun and hobbling in an approximation of a run, as fast as his injuries would allow.
“How was your day at work, dear?”
Avon grimaced at the poor attempt at humour, tossed his jacket on his bed, dropped his tool box next to it. “I met someone who might be useful.”
“About time.” They had been on Earth for three weeks now, and seemed no closer to leaving it.
“If you’d had the surgery…”
“No.” An argument they’d rehearsed to death. Blake would not change his face. A leader needed to be recognisable, however much trouble that caused right now.
Being recognisable meant, at the moment, mostly staying in the small set of rooms they’d rented while Avon went hunting for passage in his own idiosyncratic way, which apparently involved fixing computers. Everybody had need of a good computer technician and, he assured Blake, he was rapidly progressing up the hierarchy of criminals that ran the blacker parts of the spaceport. Money wasn’t a problem; Avon had stuffed his pockets with Liberator’s wealth, just as Blake had predicted, but money was also not enough. Flashing it around would just make them a target.
Avon picked up the tool box again and stretched up to stow it in the high cupboard above his bed. Blake frowned as his wrists emerged from his black sleeves.
“Where did you get that mark?” There was a red ring around his right wrist.
Avon paused for a second. “The somebody who might be useful.”
It looked like rope burn to Blake. “Business or pleasure?”
Avon slammed the box into the back of the cupboard. “One question too many. What’s for dinner?” He wouldn’t be drawn into any sort of conversation for the rest of the evening.
Blake lay awake that night worrying as he’d done so often over the last few weeks. He only had Avon’s word that he was trying to get them both offworld, rather than, for instance, negotiating a price for Blake’s head. Avon’s word meant very little, if anything at all. Now the man appeared to be quite literally in bed with whoever he was dealing with. Blake was getting less inclined to trust him, not more.
It was time to go it alone. He’d decided that weeks ago, had never quite got round to leaving. He would, tomorrow. Avon could manage perfectly well- better, probably- on his own and Blake would undoubtedly be safer away from him.
After Avon had left next morning Blake spread out their small hoard of possessions on his bed and started to pack. The three teleport bracelets glimmered at him, but he couldn’t think of a use for them. Avon might be able to reverse engineer some of the tech, given the right resources. He’d just decided to leave them behind when they started to flash.
Blake stared at them for a moment then grabbed one. “Hello?”
“Blake! Put it on. We’ve only got a few seconds.”
“Jenna?” Blake was about to clasp the bracelet around his wrist when he realised. “Avon’s not here. I don’t know where to find him.”
“Avon? Never mind him. We’ve got a dozen ships on our tail. Ready to teleport?”
“Can’t leave him. Can you come back later?”
“Zen says no chance. Also six seconds till we start getting hit. Come up, please!”
He thought fast. “We’ll have to meet you somewhere else. Jotunheim. Thirty days.”
“Blake…” There was a fizzle and the bracelet went dead again.
Avon shut the door behind him, held up a small memory chip. “Two tickets to Rainus Three on a fast passenger freighter. We leave in three hours time. What are you doing with those?”
Blake tossed a bracelet at him. “Keep it with you. Can we get from Rainus Three to Jotunheim?”
“It’s a transport hub. We should be able to get anywhere within reason. And Jotunheim’s as good a place as any other as far as I’m concerned; I’ve got contacts there, I could find some real work to do. But why on earth do you want to go there? I don’t think they are exactly ripe for revolution.”
“We’re meeting Liberator there in thirty days time. Jenna’s on board.”
Avon stared at him. “What happened?”
“I have no idea. We didn’t have time to chat. They were only in range for a few seconds; long enough to arrange a rendezvous, that’s all.”
Avon turned the bracelet around in his hands then tossed it back. “You should have gone while you had the chance. I have no intention of going anywhere near that ship again.”
“No. The computer is insane and the crew aren’t much better. The ship is a deathtrap.”
Blake sighed. “We could at least give you a lift somewhere.”
“Like Cygnus Alpha, maybe? I have no reason to trust anyone on Liberator. That’s the downside of betrayal.”
“Will you come to Jotunheim, at least? You said it was as good a place as any other.”
Avon shrugged. “I might. But don’t expect me to set foot on Liberator again."Next chapter