kerravongenius (kerravongenius) wrote in b7ficandfilk,
kerravongenius
kerravongenius
b7ficandfilk

After Blake: Chapter 7 (PGP)

Chapter 7.

Link to Previous chapter: http://www.livejournal.com/community/b7ficandfilk/10584.html

Servalan looked around her usual office. It was good to be back. The room was white, which drew attention quickly to the figure at the desk, because Servalan wore black. She was trying to decide how best to intimidate a psychostrategist. It was difficult, rather like attempting to out-calculate a computer. His chair was on a lower level than hers, which was a good start. She saw nothing strange in making such preparations before meeting a friend. In Servalan's circles, a friend was simply an enemy who had not yet seen an opportunity. Servalan would have been dead long ago if she had not understood that. She decided to be seated when he came in. If she stood, it would be seen as a blatant attempt to unsettle him, a sign of insecurity. Besides, she did not wish to stand throughout their meeting, and when she sat, she would lose stature. It was better to start in the chair, then stand if she needed to emphasize her authority later.

The Mutoid announced his arrival with typical detachment. Servalan adjusted the cape that hung from the shoulders of her black dress. "Send him in." she said, sitting down in the chair.

The psychostrategist entered, "Commissioner, it is good to see you again."

She smiled an obviously fake smile, "Forgive me, I summoned you here at very short notice. I am sure that you had more important things to do." There, let him squirm his way out of that one, she thought, whatever his answer, I have him at a disadvantage.

"More important than assisting you? Oh certainly not Commissioner!"

She looked surprised, "Are you no longer in demand? You gave me the impression that the highest officials made use of your skills."

He remained calm, "Well, at this turbulent time, subtlety is rarely given much attention. Only the most astute are interested in psychostrategy. When the Federation is more settled, I am sure things will be different."

Servalan nodded, "Let us hope that that happens soon. What is your opinion of the president?"

"Kelbor? Well, he has to be somebody's puppet, doesn't he?"

She leaned forward, "Sit down and tell me why you think that."

The psychostrategist sank into his chair, "He looks the part, he acts the part, but everything in his history shows him to be vain, barely competent and easily led. He is only in power now because Servalan was not there to prevent him from taking her place. The bureaucrats can work whether there is a President or not, and in many ways we would be better off without one."

" I agree with you about Kelbor." said Servalan guardedly, "With his qualities, I fear that he will die in office, or be overthrown and exiled. Do you agree?"

"Yes, my own predictions run along exactly those lines." His faint smile gave nothing away.

The discussion was halted when a young officer brought in some drinks. He looked nervously at the psychostrategist, who laughed. "Yes, I am a puppeteer. No, I do not read minds. You are of no interest to me whatsoever."

The young man looked relieved, and even more so when Servalan waved an impatient hand in dismissal.

She turned back to her advisor, "I am told that you know Carnell."

He gave another brief laugh, "Everybody knows Carnell, Commissioner."

"How is he?"

The psychostrategist looked at her shrewdly, "I was not aware that you had ever met him. He was not seen much in your circles after he fell out of favour with Servalan."

Servalan was angry with herself for that slip, she struggled to bury the matter, "I did not say that I had met him. Enough about Carnell! I wish to discuss Blake's rebels."

He sighed, "Yes, I was told of their escape, it is most unfortunate. However, you will recall that the possibility was allowed for."

"Yes. What I must know is, how would Avon's presence affect them? He was confined on the ship they stole. It was destroyed, but I do not believe that they are dead."

"Neither do I, Commissioner, Tarrant is a resourceful man. As for Avon, his presence could work for us. They will not kill him. Despite their criminal activities, they believe in a kind of justice. Anyway, they will need him. They will not trust him either, although Soolin might, and that will divide them. Avon will try to cut his losses somehow. If they have a ship, he may try to take it."

Servalan disagreed, "I don't know, he does have loyalties."

"Now? I doubt it. Avon is a very selfish man, his survival matters more to him than anything else ever could. Selfish people are easy to predict, you would be surprised how transparent they are, Commissioner. He has loyalties to himself, and that is all."

Servalan wavered, "I know Avon, but I suppose you could be right. I hope so, because unless you want to follow Carnell into obscurity you have got to be right, is that clear?"

"Very clear, Su...Commissioner."

She had suspected that Carnell might find out who she was, now she knew. Carnell had known her as Supreme Commander Servalan, obviously he had told his associate. At this time, it did not matter, she could eliminate both of them, should it become necessary. "You may go, we will talk again soon."

He stood and nodded, "I look forward to it."

She smiled again, a sweet smile which had no place on the face of a calculating ex-dictator like her. She said with an unpleasant edge to her voice, "No doubt."

The psychostrategist left the office happily, he had made his position clear. He would have been grateful to Carnell, but as he had told Sleer, everybody knew Carnell. His esteemed colleague was obviously pursuing ends of his own. He entered his quarters and nodded to his bodyguard, Space Captain Ardath. "How was it?" the younger man asked.

"Much as expected, she is ..." he paused, trying to find the right word.

"Formidable?" asked Ardath.

"Frightening. Don't ever let me turn my back on her. She terrifies me Davor."

"But surely she wouldn't dare!"

"My boy, are you a psychostrategist? There is little that the Commissioner would not dare. I imagine that the words 'President Sleer' are already ringing in her ears. She is backing Kelbor only so that he can be brought down, after which she will take control. I wouldn't trust her if she were tied up, gagged and unconscious." He took the drink that Davor Ardath offered, "Thankyou. Actually, I don't think I'd turn my back on her corpse."

Tarrant was seriously worried. For once they were all together, all sitting in the same recreation lounge, but he could taste the tension. Was he the only one who did not know what had happened? Avon was working on his design notes, staring at the screen as if willing himself not to notice the people around him. Vila and Trilby were sitting together, and Vila was telling Trilby jokes, which were failing to raise more than a brief smile. Dayna was watching Avon, and Soolin seemed ready to draw her gun at the slightest provocation. It was fairly clear to Tarrant that Trilby had somehow upset Avon, that was her own fault, but they could not afford a rift like this. Someone would have to do something, and as usual, Tarrant seemed to be the only man for the job. He decided to approach Avon first, Avon seemed to be less popular than Trilby.

"What's going on, Avon? The ship is like a battleground."

Avon stood up, "I will be in my quarters, alone I hope. Please tell Vila that I will not be very welcoming if he turns up."

Tarrant reached out to pull him back, "Now look here!"

Avon prepared to hit him, but felt Soolin's gun in his back. She spoke very sensibly, "Go quietly to your cabin Avon." She turned to Tarrant, "Let him go." As Avon left she added, "This is getting out of hand."

"I know." said Tarrant.

Trilby spoke up, "It's my fault, I broke into his room."

Tarrant stared at her, "You did what?"

She said, "It was stupid, I'm sorry."

He looked accusingly at Vila, "And you helped her?"

"It was my fault, not Vila's," said Trilby, "I was just curious."

Dayna picked up a glass, "Your curiosity will get you killed."

"Probably, but it's better than dying of boredom."

To Tarrant's surprise, both Dayna and Soolin seemed to agree. He said, "I don't think you know what he is capable of."

"I know that he killed Blake, does it get any worse?"

Vila spoke, "She won't listen." he said wretchedly.

Tarrant said, "Be careful Trilby, please be careful."

Soolin sat beside Trilby, "I think that you now know the limits of Avon's tolerance. Stay within them. You are playing some kind of game, but Avon is deadly serious. We all need Avon. We also want you to survive. Please try not to upset him."

Trilby was grateful for their concern, "I will." she said.

The recreation lounge seemed to relax, but Tarrant knew that it was not over yet. Avon was very angry, and that was bad. He just hoped that Avon would overcome his anger as he overcame all other emotions, but he had to admit that Avon's past record worried him. When Avon was angry, he made people suffer. Tarrant disliked having to regard Avon as an enemy, not least because Avon was ruthless with his enemies. Their best ally was Avon's powerful instinct for self-preservation. If Trilby had made him angry enough to forget that, Tarrant did not even want to speculate about the possible outcome. He looked accusingly at Soolin and Dayna, "Why didn't either of you mention this to me?"

Soolin answered, "All I knew was that there was trouble between those three, I decided to stay out of it."

"Dayna?"

"I saw that Trilby was upset, and Avon seemed angry. There was nothing to tell you. Anyway, I don't tell you everything." she added with a wicked grin.

Trilby stood up, "I think I'll go to my room, I'm tired. Don't get angry with Avon or Vila, I did everything. I manipulated Vila, and what I did to Avon is unforgivable."

After Trilby had gone Tarrant said, "I think Trilby may be getting a little too fond of Avon."

Dayna clapped, "Congratulations, Tarrant, she's well past fond and heading rapidly for infatuated. Thank goodness it's not mutual! We don't need any more surprises from Avon."

He laughed, "A lovesick Avon? Not a pretty picture."

Later that evening Trilby was surprised to hear Avon's voice on her door intercom. "May I come in?"

She kept her voice steady, "It would be unreasonable for me to say no, in the circumstances." she replied, opening the door.

He spoke rapidly, looking at a point somewhere behind her, "My door was locked. You have neither the skill nor the tools to open it. Vila would not be stupid enough to help you, and I would not be stupid enough to let you. You know no more now than you did before, nothing is missing. You never entered my room."

He appeared to have finished his speech. She asked, "Do you always rewrite history?"

He almost looked her in the eye, "History is always one man's point of view. I am giving you a chance, I don't do that often. You may as well tell Vila he's forgiven, he and I have enough grudges between us, it is time that one of us forgave something."

"He might forgive you, if you asked him."

Avon looked sad for a time, "I am afraid that 'sorry' is not a word that comes easily to my lips."

"Pride?"

He turned to go, "I will see you when I have slept. I assume that you will still be working with me."

She smiled, "Nothing has happened, why should anything change? "

He left. Trilby relaxed and whispered, "Actually Avon, I think I know a lot more now."

In the corridor, Tarrant was not at all sure what to think. Avon had just left Trilby's cabin and was heading back to his own. Surely he had not been making things worse? Avon noticed him and said, "Tarrant, Trilby and I have come to an understanding."

Despite his curiosity, Tarrant merely said, "Good." and went on his way. Hopefully, this is the end of it, he thought.

Avon sat on his bed, going through the calculations, the trouble with Trilby had distracted him, but he hoped that that was in the past now. He should really have been expecting her to try something like that. It occurred to him that he had made several very bad mistakes of late. He wondered whether it was a sign that he was losing his reason. He rejected that thought, even Orac had been wrong sometimes, and dear, infallible Blake had made being wrong his trademark. His death could be blamed entirely on his poor choice of words. He filled his head with the figures, leaving no room for thoughts of Blake, Trilby or Vila. He cut himself off from his conflicting emotions and set his mind firmly on the matter in hand.

After a night of little sleep, Avon was in the drive room again. Tarrant was helping him for a while. Tarrant lacked Trilby's almost instinctive knowledge, but he knew his way around a stardrive. It gave Avon a strange sense of satisfaction to see Tarrants usually immaculate clothes smeared with dirt. Tarrant came over to collect a probe, "What do you think of Trilby, Avon?"

Avon answered without looking up, "She is inquisitive, technically competent and very intelligent."

"Yes, but do you like her?"

"Like her?" Avon sounded as if the concept had never occurred to him, "Do you like her, Tarrant?"

Tarrant grinned, "Oh yes, I like her, we all do."

"She fits in well, doesn't she?"

"Yes, that's what it is. Everything seems complete with her here."

Avon glanced up, "An interesting coincidence."

"Don't you think you are a little overzealous in looking for traps?"

Avon stood up, "If one of us had been overzealous in looking for traps, perhaps we would not have fallen into the last one."

Tarrant was not listening, "Trilby is a perfectly normal, helpful..."

"Very beautiful." said Avon.

"Very beautiful girl. She is on our side."

"Did I say that she wasn't?"

Tarrant remained silent for the next thirty minutes, then he went to eat.

Vila was Avon's next visitor. Avon backed away slightly when he entered, then realised that Vila was not armed.. "Avon, I want to talk to you, and I'm not sure how long my nerve will hold, so don't interrupt or do anything violent, alright?" Avon looked down, trying to hide his amusement. Vila edged towards him, looking serious. "Go on." said Avon. "Trilby's a nice girl, she's lovely, and I don't want her hurt. You hurt everyone, or kill them. I don't want you to encourage her."

Avon had a puzzled smile, "In what Vila, electronics?"

Vila replied angrily, "In this strange belief she's got that you have a heart, and that she wants it."

The smile disappeared, "What do you mean?"

"Don't you know?" asked Vila.

"Apparently not."

Vila stepped closer, "You must have noticed, when you're around, she can't take her eyes off you. I don't know what you've got that we haven't but she's..."

"Interested? Inquisitive? Eager to learn? Vila, you are jumping to entirely the wrong conclusion. Besides, are you seriously suggesting that I would take advantage of her delusions?"

"I don't know what you'd do. I never really believed that you'd murder..."

Avon shouted, "Forget Blake! We don't have time for that now."

He moderated his tone, aware that Vila had stepped back, "I assure you, should I see the slightest sign of it, I will do all I can to end this unhealthy infatuation. However, I am quite certain that it is merely your jealousy seeing rivals where there are none. Trilby is far too young for me."

Vila disliked the implications of that statement, because if she was too young for Avon, she was too young for Vila. He looked at Avon, assessing the risk of attack before he spoke, "You know why I can't forget Blake, don't you?"

"Obsessive loyalty, admiration, sentiment."

"I liked Blake, yes, but the main reason is that I might be next. I mean, I am the last now."

"The last of what?"

"The last of Blake's original crew. Blake is dead, Gan is dead ... "

"Killed by Blake as I recall."

"Cally died on Terminal."

"Servalan's fault, not mine." said Avon.

"Tell that to Cally."

"Get to the point, if there is a point!"

"Jenna too, Jenna's dead, Avon. You didn't know that, did you."

Avon shook his head, "No Vila, I did not know that. It is unfortunate."

"I like your choice of words!"

"What do you want me to say? That I can't believe it? I can. That I have lost a good friend? We all lost her a long time ago. That I am saddened by the death of a wonderful, brave human being, whose life might just have shown some glimmer of worth in a largely worthless race? Will that bring her back Vila? Will it?" Avon stopped abruptly, then added in a quieter voice, "How did she die?"

"She was running a blockade, she decided to self-destruct."

"Oh, that was stupid."

"No Avon, that was brave, even heroic. You'd better ask Orac to explain those words to you." Vila walked out, passing Trilby in the doorway.

Avon was beginning to think that he was being picked on. Trilby asked, "Are you busy?"

"No, I always relax by holding two wires together."

She giggled, "That wouldn't surprise me. You're doing that wrong."

"Oh?"

She moved forward, "Not very wrong, but the connection will be weak. Let me do it. I do know how."

He stepped back, she was right. The mindless tedium of such repetitive work had made him careless. He looked down at her glossy hair with a mild interest. "Trilby,"

She looked up, he could see no sign of attraction in her face. "Yes?" she said.

"Why are you here?" he asked.

She finished the connection and stood up, "I wanted your opinion."

He raised an eyebrow, "Of what?"

"Your professional opinion of this." She reached into a pocket and took something out, giving it to him. It was a small rectangular box. The casing was transparent, revealing a cluster of circuitry, and there was a button on top. Avon took it from her, too stunned to speak. She continued, "It has to be some kind of activator, but for what?"

"It's mine. I lost it on Gauda Prime. This is Orac's key."

She did not make any attempt to deny his right to it, she simply asked, "Who or what is Orac?"

"Orac is a very sophisticated computer. You've heard of Ensor?"

"Of course."

"Well, he built it. It can communicate with any computer which uses Tarriel cells, it also predicts probabilities and generally makes itself very useful. I assume that you found this on Gauda Prime, what else did you find?"

She shrugged, "Various things, I'm a bit of a scavenger. Parts, equipment, boxes I haven't opened yet."

He shook his head, "Orac was not in a box. Did you find anything about this big?" He showed her the dimensions. "A transparent case containing circuitry?"

"I don't know, I pick things up without examination usually. I tend to worry about getting caught. It's all in the cargo bay."

He put a hand on her arm, "Show me." The look in her eyes unsettled him, by the law of averages, Vila had to be right sometime. As they walked, he decided to deflect her attentions, "Trilby, what do you think of Tarrant?"

She smiled fondly, "He is kind, handsome, brave and I..." she hesitated.

"Yes?" He should have realised, Tarrant was the one. He felt both relieved and disappointed.

"I think he is exactly like my brother. He reminds me of Deron, that is why I like him." A sad look entered her eyes.

Avon stopped walking, "Are you and Deron close?"

"Yes, we were. He was seventeen when I was born. He was a cadet then. Later he became a Space Captain. He was the only one who ever cared about me. My father saw me as an afterthought, or a disappointment, and Davor, my other brother, treated me with contempt. Deron loved me."

"When did Deron die?"

"He was twenty-eight."

Avon looked at her sadly, as if he shared the pain he heard in her voice, "And you were a child."

"Let's go Avon, before I start crying. I don't want to cry." He could understand that.

The cargo bay was an untidy clutter of bits and pieces. An orderly man himself, Avon was not impressed. Trilby called him over to a pile of boxes, "If it was on Gauda Prime, it'll be with this lot."

He sighed. As a filing system it left a lot to be desired. If she was going to be his assistant, he would need to take her in hand. They began to move the boxes. There was quite a large pile, if Trilby was a scavenger, she believed in scavenging wholesale. Avon tried to be realistic, there was no reason to believe that she had found Orac. The key was an indication that she had been in the right place, but there were no guarantees.

Trilby spoke, "Is this it?"

He hurried over to her part of the pile. He laughed, "That's it!" He felt very happy, even excited. Something had finally gone right! Without any apparent hesitation he inserted the key. The clear casing was suddenly lit by dozens of small lights. "Orac!" he said.

Trilby touched the casing, "Very ornamental, does it play music too?" She sounded casual enough, but her eyes lit up like the dancing lights.

The computer spoke in its usual self-important way, "I am fully capable of producing many sounds, however, I am not intended for that purpose, and it would be incompatible with my more important concerns."

"In other words," said Avon, "Orac considers such things beneath him."

"Beneath it." said Trilby sternly.

Avon spoke to Orac, "Orac, are you fully operational?"

"Of course I am operational!"

Trilby patted the casing, "Isn't it sweet!"

Avon looked at her in complete amazement, "Sweet?"

"He was aboard all the time?" asked Tarrant.

Avon and Trilby stood at a table on the flight deck, with Orac in front of them.

Vila stepped over and said, "Am I pleased to see you Orac!"

The computer replied, "Am I supposed to answer that? It is beyond even my vast capabilities to read your mind."

"Such as it is." Avon muttered.

Vila turned his back on the machine, "I think you have answered my question Orac. Let's hand him over to Trilby and let her dismantle him."

Avon placed his hands on either side of the casing in a proprietorial gesture that seemed to exclude everyone else, "Orac, could you design a teleport system for this vessel?"

"Naturally. However, I would need time to work, without interruption."

Avon turned to Tarrant, "Tarrant, I am taking Orac to my quarters, any objections?"

"No."

"Right, Trilby, do you still want to learn about computers?"

"Yes, and teleport systems."

He lifted Orac with both hands, "Then come with me."

Vila smiled, "Avon doesn't know everything, you know. He didn't know how Trilby felt about him, he wouldn't believe me."

Dayna answered, "Sometimes Vila, I'm not sure he knows how he feels, let alone anybody else."



Servalan looked disapprovingly at the psychostrategist, "Do you really need a guard to speak to me?"

"My apologies, Commissioner, Space Captain Ardath is not here as my guard, he is my son. You did indicate on a previous occasion that you would like to meet him."

"Oh yes, so I did." She smiled at the handsome officer, "What is your first name, Space Captain?"

He stepped forward and snapped to attention, "Davor, Commissioner."

She took his arm, "Oh, do not concern yourself with formality, your father and I are great friends. Are you also my friend Davor?"

"Commissioner, I would not presume..."

"I should very much like you as a friend Davor."

He smiled, and gave a half-bow, "Then I am your friend."

She looked warmly at the psychostrategist, "No doubt your father has told you a great deal about me, all my dreadful secrets."

Davor shook his head, "He has told me how much he admires you, but not much else. He has never told me any secrets, dreadful or otherwise."

She looked him up and down appraisingly, "I understand that you are an exceptional Captain. I expect that you have many ambitions for the future, what are they?" She glanced at Davor's father and saw that he was uneasy. She thought sadly of Carnell, he was a much better psychostrategist, he would never have shown his anxiety like that.

Davor seemed quite calm when he spoke, "I would like to be a Space Commander."

"Nothing more?" He seemed promising, if he was being honest.

He answered well, "I hadn't really considered any further ahead than that, Commissioner."

She released him and turned to his father, "I think that I will take a personal interest in your son's career, Ardath. He could go far, with luck." She had made herself very clear, while Ardath was silent about her identity, Davor's career would advance, but one word would destroy both of the Ardaths.

Now she dealt with the real reason for their meeting, "Did you receive the information about the ship that was sighted when mine was destroyed?"

"I did. There is little doubt in my mind that the vessel was under Tarrant's control. An unarmed freighter was exactly what he needed. Find that ship, and you will have them all."

She nodded, "We have reports of a sighting on Tarisen Station, the ship was there. A security man claims that he saw Restal looking out of an open airlock. They would have had an opportunity to change ships on Tarisen, will they have done so?"

He looked a little uncomfortable, "I cannot say yet, I need more information, my people are working on that. I don't believe that Tarrant would do that, but I would prefer to know for sure, I will tell you soon."

"And then, Ardath, you will tell me where they will go next. I want to be waiting for them. Davor, I may let you assist me in this matter."

"Thankyou Commissioner, it would be a great honour."

Ardath seemed delighted, "I assure you, we will both serve you to the best of our ability. I can tell you one thing, wherever Tarrant goes, he will be running. He is not going to take risks in an unarmed ship. That must be the reason for their visit to Tarisen, they needed parts to boost the performance of the drives, and to fit some kind of armament. That kind of work will take time."

"What about a teleport?" Asked Servalan.

"Impossible. It would take years of work without that computer, even if Avon was prepared to try."

Servalan thanked them both, then dismissed them.

Ardath waited until they were back in his quarters, then he said, "Davor, be careful how you handle this, Trilby is on the freighter, and she used her own name. I don't think Sleer knows, but nothing is certain."

"What does she think she's doing? She could destroy my career. She must be a prisoner, mustn't she?"

"I don't know."

Davor was furious, "Well you're the psychostrategist! She'd better be a prisoner, because if she's with them by choice, I'll kill her!"

Ardath looked grave, "If she is with them by choice, we will both be in trouble. Sleer will be delighted."

Trilby was tired. She sat in the recreation lounge with her meal. Avon was a brilliant man, but he was not used to teaching. He found it difficult to remember that not everyone understood physics and electronics as thoroughly as he did. She had had to ask him to explain several things again. He had been far more patient than she had expected, apparently willing to go over everything three or four times if necessary. He seemed delighted with her enthusiasm. When he explained things, she saw a light in his eyes that was absent most of the time, he enjoyed teaching her. His interest in the subject was obvious. He applied little emotion to his dealings with people, and now she could see why, he saved it for his work. It was Orac who seemed impatient with her questions, not Avon. She liked Orac, it was funny. She enjoyed baiting Orac almost as much as she enjoyed questioning Avon. She looked at her food, she was hungry, but she felt too tired to eat. She yawned.

"May I join you?" asked Tarrant. He had changed his clothes, now he was wearing green.

She smiled sleepily, "You're full of energy, aren't you? Sit down, maybe I'll absorb some. Have you been doing the work in the drive room?"

"Yes. Avon can't be bothered now we've got Orac back. I suppose I'm being unfair, I can do the work and I should really be flattered that he trusts me. It's easier to work alone anyway, if I'd seen his superior grin once more, I think I would have hit him. I'm not an idiot."

She patted his arm, "If you were an idiot, Avon would probably like you more. He finds intelligence that approaches his own threatening. Especially when it's accompanied by all the qualities of leadership."

Tarrant let a grin hover on his face for a time, "Thankyou, I don't think anyone's ever been so nice about me. I'm not sure I believe any of it, but it's nice to hear it said." He looked down at her plate, she had not eaten much. "Are you eating that, or studying its evolution?" he asked.

"I'm tired, I don't really feel like eating."

"Has Avon been working you too hard?"

"No, I have. Avon couldn't have sent me away if he'd tried, and he didn't because I didn't tell him I was tired. I can stay awake and active for as long as he can, never tell him otherwise! I have to have his respect."

"Well, eat something. Please."

She started to eat. After a while she paused, "Avon tells me that you had a brother."

There was sadness in his voice when he answered, "Yes, his name was Deeta."

"My brother was called Deron." She changed the subject abruptly, "Avon is not as bad as you think, Tarrant."

He sighed, "Maybe not, but he has to give us some kind of explanation for what happened."

"Isn't this becoming just a little monotonous?" Avon stood in the doorway, arms folded. "When the conversions are complete, we can continue these tedious discussions. I do not intend to work if you are all going to whisper about me in corners. For now, why don't we try to pretend that we are all in this together, because without me, Tarrant, none of you has a chance. Whatever happened on Gauda Prime, it is irrelevant. I cannot understand why Blake's death should upset you at all. You did not know him. In fact, if you had known him, you would probably be pleased about it."

"As you are?" asked Tarrant.

Avon smiled coldly, "I'll overlook that."

"Because I'm tired?"

"No, because you are stupid. Can we forget this for a while?"

"Alright, but when the teleport is operational...."

"You will interrogate me again. I almost look forward to that." Trilby tried to move so that she was between them. Avon spoke again, "I've been to the driveroom, you've done well, Tarrant."

"Thankyou."

Trilby cheered up, "So you can be nice to each other. I prefer that. Now, Avon, you should drop the scowl, and that nasty smile. Tarrant, stop making him angry, you'll be sorry if you really upset him. I don't expect you to be close friends, but it wouldn't hurt either of you to be polite."

Tarrant was slightly taken aback, "She's got a nerve, hasn't she Avon?"

"I'd dispute that, I have seen no sign of nerves. Nothing scares her."

Tarrant grinned and said, "And if you can't, nothing will."

Trilby watched them and was content, if she could make these quarrelsome men a little less antagonistic, they should all be alright. She knew that if either of them left, the group would lose a vital member. Each of them, and each of the others had unique skills. Her father had once said that the reason for Blake's success had been the people he worked with. She had to agree. Her new friends were a good team, when they could work together. She approached Avon, "I'll see you next work period, goodnight." She touched his shoulder, "You will get some sleep, won't you?"

Avon looked over to Tarrant, who was smiling at Avon's discomfort, "Watch out Trilby, big brother is watching you."

She turned, "Goodnight Tarrant. Tomorrow you can tell me about Deeta."

As she left, she heard Tarrant say, "That reminds me, Avon, how much have you told her about me?" Avon's reply, if any, was inaudible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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