Roj Blake, Servalan, Kerr AvonRating:
For the prompt; Blake and Servalan have to work together or at least be confined together for some reason - either political or they have to escape together. Anything that put these two into close contact for some time to argue their differing philosophies and generally hate each other. Notes:
Written for aralias
for Blakefest, with thanks for her long patience!
He couldn’t help it. He barked a laugh aloud, and his superior officer looked up from his own console.
“Something funny, Mawl?”
Blake didn’t lie unless absolutely necessary; it was much easier to maintain a deception that way. “A report on a raid by that bunch on the Liberator. They ran rings round local security on Artor.”
“That Roj Blake’s old lot?” Geret shook his head. “Not our department any more. Pass it on to Criminal Investigations.”
“Will do.” Blake returned to the reports filtering through to his console in the Security Analysis (Insurgent Division 5). It was his job to classify and assign them to different analysts; a dull task that his fellow officers had been happy to hand over to the newish recruit with the solid credentials once he’d demonstrated some basic competence at it.
The bell sounded for the end of the working period and he kicked his chair back and stretched. “Done. Anyone coming out for a drink at Hecate tonight?”
Tonight it seemed that the others were all busy. Most of his colleagues had family commitments. He wished them all a good night and strolled out past the security guards. No-one stopped him, as usual. He’d been searched regularly when he’d arrived but he’d been working in the Mars office for nearly a year now and everyone knew Mawl; a good worker, fond of a drink but not to excess and generally a straight up Federation employee. The microdrive hidden in the lining of his sleeve went undetected.
Blake opened the door to his small single apartment and glanced round. Nothing disturbed. The searches of his flat had stopped at around the same time as the searches at work; after three months he’d clearly passed some security test. He’d left it another three months before he’d started to bring the files he needed home.
His report was nearly complete. He opened the microdrive, attached the documents and finished off, then sent it, encrypted, to the usual address, signed with his codename Ronin. If it went as usual he wouldn’t get a reply but in the next few days another senior Federation official would be arrested.
Blake deleted all copies of his report on his own console then gazed at the blank screen, sighing to himself. Cleaning up corruption within the higher echelons of the Federation certainly wasn’t what he had infiltrated the security services to do but it was a small blow against the worst excesses of the system, and his reports would have disappeared without trace if he’d sent them through official channels. He still wasn’t getting far with his primary objective but he’d finished the report and best still had some up to date news of Avon and the Liberator. The report had only referred to Avon by name but he was sure that one of the descriptions was of Vila. The last news, months ago, had referred to Cally. There were at least two newcomers on board as well but still no word of Jenna.
A message alert startled him out of contemplation of the fate of his old companions. It was probably one of the guys about that drink. He glanced down at the screen and froze.
It came from the address that he’d sent the report to, and said merely “I have a commission for you.”
Blake looked around, instinctive caution, then back at the screen. He knew nothing about his correspondent except that they had the means and the will to act on his reports about corrupt Federation officials. That made it someone far senior to his own bosses. It could be a trap, but why would his ally of the last few months try to entrap him?
“Sorry,” he typed back. “I’m not for sale.”
“Of course not. We do however share a common cause,” came the reply.
Blake paced round the room, racked with indecision. What cause? That of seeing that corrupt officials were brought to account, or something much wider? If there really was a rebel sympathiser high up in the Federation was this an opportunity that he could afford to miss? Yet the risks…?
After twenty minutes of pacing he came to stand in front of the console, jabbing at the keys.
“I’m not willing to take that on trust. If you want my help I need to talk to you first. Face to face.”
A pause of a few minutes.
“What is your current location?”
Another dilemma. His correspondent must have figured out from the reports that he worked in Security Analysis. On Mars that was a mere three hundred people or so. At any hint that someone had been leaking confidential material, for whatever reason, the Federation was quite capable of arresting and interrogating all three hundred. That was one risk too far.
“I’ll meet you on Earth.” Inspiration struck. “Choose a Dome and I’ll choose a meeting point.”
Blake called up the detailed map of Earth that he'd "borrowed" from work. Eight was in the far North. He could get there in two days but first he'd need to arrange time off work. He had holiday due but rushing off world too suddenly would be suspicious. *One week. I'll transmit the location when you get there. Come alone."
Dome Eight, when he reached it, turned out to be very similar inside to the one that Blake had been brought up in. He spent a day or so in reconnaissance, talking to some of the people in the crowded and impoverished sections for the unskilled and unwanted. It wasn't hard to find what he needed. People left the dome for all sorts of reasons here and none of them wanted security to know.
Blake transmitted the location of the small hut to his correspondent. He had bought a dirty and barely functioning face respirator on the black market, repaired and cleaned it, and now he bundled himself up in furs and went outside to finish his preparations and wait. The air outside was breathable but he’d already discovered that it was painfully cold without the mask.
A single figure emerged from the dome at the expected time, gleaming silver in a full environmental suit. Blake waited for a while to check for followers but the person was alone. He followed the figure to the tiny hut, checked again for any surprises in the surrounding area then activated the electronic systems and went in.
The figure - clearly short and slim, a woman, most likely - was facing him, gloved hands at the clasps for her helmet. She nodded at him - you first. He put his own hands to his neck and stopped. It seemed ridiculous after coming all this way to meet her, but he felt a very strong desire not to expose himself to that glittering mask. Something about the shape in front of him... when he paused too long she threw up her hands in clear exasperation and pulled her own mask off.
"It's a little late to be shy, Ronin or whoever you are." A gun had appeared in her hands but that wasn't what Blake was staring at. Too late to run; he pushed the respirator off his face so he could speak.
"You're really not the ally I was hoping for, Servalan."
For a second her surprise showed clear. "You’re alive! What have you done with my security agent, Blake?" she demanded.
He let her work that one out for herself while he knelt to set the fire alight in the antique hearth. The air in the single room was almost as cold as the outside but the stone walls and glazed windows were thick. It would warm up soon enough.
"It was you?" She laughed. "I ought to have guessed. I knew I was coming to meet an overzealous, idealistic fool. All that time preparing those reports, cleaning up the Federation. They were good reports. Very thorough. I could have used Ronin, if he had been anyone else."
"Why did you act on them?" Blake was baffled. "What possible interest could you have in discrediting your own officials?"
“They were all politicians from the old regime. I need my own people in place. Besides,” she tapped an elegant finger against the side of the gun, "I have a personal objection to corruption in high places. Have you really come unarmed, Blake? How careless.”
She picked up her transmitter in her free hand, frowning at the screen.
Blake smiled. “There’s a scramble field. No locator, no radio contact. You’re on your own this time, Madam President.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she hissed. “I can incapacitate you and fetch my guards myself.”
“No.” Blake jerked his head at the doorway. “See the keypad? There’s a code to open the door. If you type the wrong number, or if anyone tries to break in from outside, the place floods with poisonous gas.”
“You’ve never struck me as the suicidal type.”
“How well you think you know me,” he said cheerfully. “There’s an antidote, naturally. I took it before I left the Dome.”
“And if I shoot you?”
“No-one can open the door, obviously.”
She took a deep breath, flickered an unconvincing smile. “You’re very suspicious of your ally.”
“I was tortured, brain wiped and framed by you and your friends, if you remember. My correspondent was clearly a highly placed member of the Federation. Trust was never going to be an issue.” He was truly thankful that he had come prepared. Servalan was worse than his most pessimistic expectations.
She was watching him, obviously thinking. "All of your precautions have one thing in common. They don't involve anyone coming to help you. You're on your own, Blake. What happened to your friends?"
Help. That was ironic. He'd come all the way to Earth in search of help and it had got him Servalan and a gun in his face. Blake shrugged. "I can achieve more getting my hands dirty. Sailing around in Liberator - the sense of power was seductive but what use did I actually make of it? Revolutions start on the ground, at grass roots level. You might as well put that gun down. You're not going to shoot me with it. "
"You can't start a revolution on your own, Blake. You certainly can't start one dressed up in a Federation security uniform." She placed the gun down carefully at her side. "I've met your old friends a couple of times since you abandoned them. Or would it be fairer to say that they abandoned you? The last time was barely two weeks ago. Would you like to know what Kerr Avon thinks about you now?"
That was a pang that he couldn't entirely hide. Avon... "Not particularly. You're no doubt going to tell me anyway."
She shook her head. "Unfortunately I can't. Your name didn't come up. His ship... he mentioned that. His crew. His plans for the future. But Roj Blake? No." Her smile was tight and cold. "Liberator's his now. And Avon's not going to use it to overthrow the Federation. He and his new boyfriend just intend to get rich."
Blake managed what he hoped was a convincing snort of ridicule. "Del Tarrant? The smuggler? Don't tell me you think that's anything but a partnership of temporary convenience?" He'd pulled up a photo and the man's record months ago. Just the sort of irritatingly cocky troublemaker that would drive poor Avon to distraction. (Good looking, though. Not that Avon had ever shown any signs of susceptibility to a pretty face.)
"I quite agree with you there." She showed her teeth, pleased with herself. "I just wanted to see if you cared about whether he still sleeps alone."
Blake was seriously uncomfortable with the idea that Servalan might think that there was.. had ever been... No. She was just aiming for a reaction. He'd rather have the gun at his head, to be honest, than her sharp little barbs.
"If Avon's out to make serious money it will take more that your people to stop him." He threw a sizeable log onto the fire from the pile next to it and sparks flew.
"You talk as if you're almost proud of him." She tilted her head, curious. "Is that really all you wanted Liberator to stand for? I'm surprised that he hasn't renamed it by now. Something more appropriate for a bunch of desperadoes on the make."
Blake stared straight at her, expressionless, determined not to let any of the pain show. Of course he'd wanted more from all of them. He'd wanted them to care, not just to do what he'd told them to. He'd wanted them to feel that the revolution was something for them all, not just his personal campaign. He'd thought that maybe even without him they'd carry on but they'd lost Jenna, picked up a new crew member no better than a pirate and gone on a rampage of lawlessness and greed. Geret had been right; Liberator was a ship of criminals now, not insurgents, and there could be only one person to blame for that.
"Liberator means nothing to me now. I gave her up. What Avon chooses to do with her is his concern, not mine."
"Spoken like a man utterly betrayed." Servalan pulled her gloves off. "How will you lead a revolution when even your closest friends get distracted by the prospect of money and power as soon as you leave the room?"
He was more concerned with how he would leave this particular room in one piece, or so he told himself. “Is Kerr Avon the only topic of conversation you have?”
Her smile was sharp. “Most of our other mutual acquaintances are dead. Something of an occupational hazard for both of us. Very well then. Another topic. What are you doing in Mars Security Analysis?” She raised an eyebrow at his surprise. “You have a Mars Dome complexion, Blake. I will have the entire Mars internal security section executed, when I get back.”
“You need not bother,” he told her. “I’ve not found out much of any use. I was thinking of applying for a transfer to Earth.” If they both got out of here his cover was totally blown; if one of them didn’t it wouldn’t matter what he told her.
“And what will you be doing there? Sabotage?”
“Perhaps.” He was looking for promising rebel groups that he could help, but even in these unusual circumstances he was reluctant to tell her too much.
“If you won’t talk to me about what you’re up to, we have a conversational impasse again.”
“Probably,” he agreed. There was little to do in the bare room now that the fire was lit. Servalan had moved from the table to the only chair and lounged back in it, watching, as he checked the old wooden cupboards. Nothing there but a couple of ragged blankets, an empty tin box that might once had contained biscuits and something small that scurried into a hole in the wall. A mouse, perhaps, or a cold climate equivalent. Blake had never been this far north on Earth before.
“If it were Avon here instead of you, I could think of some entertaining ways to pass the time.”
“Really?” Blake resisted the urge to pretend that he didn’t know what she meant. He needed to get to that gun and any opening was better than none. “I thought your preference was for young, stupid and enthusiastic. Avon’s none of those.”
She smiled. “I would say that he’s been quite enthusiastic the last couple of times that we’ve met.”
What on earth was Avon playing at? Blake felt a moment of guilt for wrecking some scheme, but Avon had Liberator and he was desperate here. “And you fell for that? Your judgement is failing, Servalan. Avon can fake enthusiasm when he needs to but he doesn’t feel it.”
“I imagine not in your presence, no. There’s nothing like political fanaticism to dampen ardour. Would you have liked him to be a little more enthusiastic about you?”
“ Why are we talking about him again? I’m starting to think that you’re a little obsessed with Kerr Avon.”
“He has Liberator,” she reminded Blake. “He’s significant now. You aren’t.”
And yet she’d dismissed Avon a few minutes before as no more than a greedy criminal. Blake felt an acute desire to talk to the man again. Things tended to be clearer with the computer tech around. Not always better, but usually clearer.
Those days were gone. Whatever Servalan might insinuate, he had no desire to have anything do with Liberator any more, or its crew. “So what are your plans, now that you’re President of the Federation? Resting on your laurels at last?”
“The Federation will expand,” she told him. “None of these so called independent systems will be viable for long and none can stand up against the alien threat. The only future for anyone in this galaxy is in the Federation.”
“You’re wrong,” Blake said. “As long as the people are struggling against an imposed government their resources and their efforts are being wasted. Co-operation between independent systems- that’s the future. The Federation is a dead end.”
“People don’t co-operate. They don’t work together for a common good. They’ll follow a demagogue like you for a while, but leave them to their own devices and they lapse into self interest. Look at Liberator. There’s the failure of your philosophy right there.”
For a moment Blake wondered if she was right. No. She couldn’t be. He opened his mouth to argue further and a familiar hum filled the room. Servalan had seized the gun again, was pointing it at the blurred air. Blake dived for her arm and the gun fell to the floor and skidded under one of the cupboards.
“Blake!” Avon’s eyes and his gun barrel were flickering between him and Servalan. The curly haired man behind him had to be Del Tarrant. His gun was very definitely on the president.
“What are you doing here?” Avon demanded. “We thought you were dead.” And, slower and colder, “I don’t much like your company. Care to explain?”
“It’s quite complicated,” Blake told him. “Basically she and I both thought we were meeting someone else. She had a gun, I had a booby trap so we were both having some trouble leaving. What about you? Kidnapping the President for ransom, or is this a social visit?”
“I need some information from her.” Avon apparently hadn’t yet decided who he was thinking of shooting. “We don’t have much time. This place is surrounded and there are technicians crawling all over it defusing what I presume is your booby trap.” He glanced back at Tarrant. “We should…”
There was an explosion and the whole cabin shook. The logs in the fire sparked furiously.
“We need to get out now!” Tarrant shouted over the rumble. He looked between Servalan and Blake in indecision. “We’ve only brought one…”
Another explosion. Part of one wall crumbled, and Blake could see soldiers advancing through the rubble.
“Damn,” Avon said and seized the spare bracelet from Tarrant, tossed it to Blake. “Now!”
Blake clamped it around his wrist and the collapsing cabin disappeared from around him.
Avon was sulking, supposedly because Blake had screwed up his one attempt to capture Servalan. He wasn’t saying what information he’d wanted from her. Something, Cally thought, to do with Federation interrogators, but she couldn’t be specific.
Blake thought that maybe Avon’s sulk had more to do with his reappearance generally and now his presence on Liberator. They’d had a year without him, doing what they liked with the most powerful ship in the Galaxy. Blake hadn’t made any attempt to take charge; he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to stay. He’d keptb away for a reason, after all. Still, Avon was definitely sulking.
Cally was pleased to see him. Vila might have been. It was always a little hard to tell. The new people seemed to be taking their cues from Avon; there was a lot of suspicion from Dayna, a lot of airy high handedness from Tarrant. It wasn’t the most comfortable environment that Blake had been in. It didn’t feel much like coming home.
After a couple of sleepless nights in his old quarters, Blake had made up his mind. He faced the others over breakfast. “I didn’t intend to come back,” he told them. “I’m grateful that you saved my life, and I don’t want to repay that by taking over your ship.”
Avon shifted, as if about to say something, but when Blake looked at him enquiringly he just looked back.
“Right. So. If you want to drop me off somewhere. I’ll talk to Orac about suitable planets.”
“That’s it?” Avon demanded.
“Twelve months we’ve been looking for you, and you’re just going to sod off again? What happened to your precious revolution?”
Blake stared at him, confused. “You’re not interested in the revolution.”
It was Cally who frowned at him this time. “What do you mean? What do you think we’ve been doing all this time?”
“Stealing things, mainly.” Blake told her. “I thought you were just trying to get rich?” Saying so to Cally felt wrong, somehow. For the first time he wondered what she was doing still on board.
Avon gave him a thoroughly disgusted look and walked out. Cally shook her head. “We’ve been trying to keep the revolution going, Blake. It’s not been easy without you. But if you don’t want to be involved any more…”
“Of course I want to be involved!” He was thoroughly confused by now. “I just didn’t think…”
“That much is obvious,” Tarrant said. “Avon’s been searching the galaxy for you ever since I came aboard. You could be a little more grateful now you’ve been found.”
“Right.” Blake said. “I think… I think I’d better have a word with Avon.” He nodded to the others and went off at a run.
He caught Avon in the corridor, just outside the science labs. The man turned to look at him.
“Avon. I think I may have misunderstood the situation.”
“Really?” Avon sounded unfriendly.
“Yes. I…” He couldn’t quite bring himself to tell Avon what he’d believed. “I’ll stay If you want me to. I want to stay. If, that is…”
“If what?” Avon was still being unhelpful. Blake had suddenly had enough of contrition. He smiled.
“If you wouldn’t prefer Servalan. She tells me that you and she have something going.”
Avon sighed in irritation. “One bracelet. If I’d wanted Servalan I’d have taken her.”
“There is that,” Blake agreed. “So, thank you for looking after my ship and can I have her back now, please?”
“With pleasure,” Avon told him. “She’s not as much fun as I imagined. I blame the crew.”
“I don’t know. I’m rather fond of the crew. Some of them, at least.” He started back towards the flight deck. Avon at his side. “You’ll have to fill me on everything you’ve been up to. Especially the Servalan bits.”
There was a snort from beside him and he smiled.