"Trust Is A Dangerous Thing..."
Avon raised his gun and smiled, an ignominious ending, but it would be quick.
Gunfire, not Federation blasters, not his own.
An explosion rocked the base, cutting the power and throwing all onto the floor, including a retreating Servalan.
Avon came to his feet and lunged for cover behind a defunct mainframe. Exorcising Blake's face, accusing, even in death, from his mind, Avon began to fire at the confused troopers. That was a minute ago, his survival was now.
Shooting soon stopped, and the room was silent, except for the groans of the dying. A flashlight seared the darkness. Avon threw himself into the deep shadow.
"Shooting fish in a barrel." a female voice said, accompanied by the distinctive sound of a weapon being reholstered.
"Shut up. We've got to move." replied another woman, her voice strained. "Damn it, Kerr Avon, show yourself, I'm not prepared to wait."
"Why did you even come?" he replied, edging his way around the computer
and bringing his gun to bear on the second woman.
"Because we're the cavalry." the other woman replied. "And," she swung the flashlight around, momentarily blinding him with the beam. "And if you so much as wiggle that gun, you're going to be as dead as your friends. Get up."
"You may have a point." Avon slowly stood up, but made no move to reholster his gun. "You have a ship? Nearby?" There was not time to ask questions. If this woman meant to kill him, she would have already.
"Yes. Come on!" He could not see her outside the flashlight's beam, but the tension was plain in her voice.
"No." a harsh refusal. He wasn't sure about his motives, but this was not the time to think.
"Avon, I'm not going to tell you to trust me, but I'll repeat myself. I have a ship that will get us away from here. Furthermore, there's a whole pile of unpleasantly armed people, who don't like you, heading this way. Decide!"
"I'm coming." said a fourth voice.
Of all the people to survive, thought Avon bitterly. He avoided thinking what Vila's survival suggested about the others. Except Blake, Blake he had felt die.
"If the offer extends to me, that is." He added.
"Fine." Avon's eyes adjusted to the darkness, and saw her nod quickly. She looked back at Avon. "But I've come for you." she looked at Avon.
"No." He repeated.
"You're beginning to bore me." she snapped. "Andriss!" she yelled. The other woman whipped around and before Avon could move, he felt the heavy pain of a stun blast and sank into a void.
Consciousness did not return slowly. Avon was awake. A dull pain thudded in his head, but that could be ignored. Keeping his eyes closed, he tried to evaluate the situation. Obviously a spacecraft, he thought. He could feel the engine's vibration beneath him. The light that filtered through his eyelids was harsh and artificial, and he could hear the quiet murmur of an air conditioner somewhere behind him. And someone breathing.
"You can open your eyes." she said. It wasn't Andriss, it must be the other one. He didn't move. "I know you're awake," she continued. "you just got tense all over." Avon 'awoke' and looked around him. and at the self described cavalry leader.
They were in a cramped space, obviously someone's sleeping quarters. She was sitting across from him, an empty table between them, a gun was at her elbow. Avon reflexively reached for his own. It wasn't there.
"If I'm dangerous, why am I free?" he asked quietly..
"If I considered you that much of a threat, you wouldn't be." Her pose was casual, but her young face was drawn with fatigue. Her blond hair was tangled, and her utilitarian jumpsuit was covered with earth, oil and blood.
"I feel insulted."
"The hell you do."
"True." A pause.
"My name is Edra Yahnna."
"A social call." Avon noted dryly. What the hell is going on?
"As near as dammit. My name is Yahnna, and this is my ship, Hidden Starlight, and I've just saved you. I think."
"I don't need saving."
"Yes you bloody do. Or did." she spat.
"Death is not a thing I'm overly concerned about."
"Is that why you didn't shoot back until the last minute? Did you want to go down in a blaze of glory?" Confusion and anger dominated her features, not the prettiest combination, she knew, but she had to get some response out of him.
There was none. For a moment, she thought he was trying to formulate a reply, but she was only guessing, she realized. Nothing could be read from such a stony expression and those eyes. Cold only began to describe his attitude. She repressed a shudder. The pause lengthened.
"Fine, you have your reasons." she said finally. "I'm afraid I've just ruined them. And I'm not apologizing. Not yet."
"Brave of you." Avon muttered.
"Stupid, more likely." Avon didn't move, but she knew he agreed.
"Why am I here?" he finally asked.
"Why do you think you're here?"
"I don't." The momentary silence was filled with the sound of Yahnna grinding her teeth.
"I'll tell you then, shall I?" She snapped. "Will that make you feel better?"
"I'd feel better if I had the gun."
"I don't blame you. Here." she pushed her weapon towards him.
"Foolish." he took it. It was some kind of blaster, but not a type he recognized. Avon did not put it down, nor did he holster it.
"Desperate." she corrected. "Now if I may continue?"
"Go ahead." Yahnna was not surprised that giving him a gun had failed to make him relax. She shrugged and started talking...
Her name was Yahnna, originally of V'San, a planet that was only remarkable in the fact that it was it the middle of nowhere.
She worked, she told him, with her mother, Effra, a scientist (of what kind, Yahnna did not mention) and life, it seemed, was good.
Techincally speaking, V'San was a Federation planet, but this fact was usually forgotten or ignored by both the Federation and the planet's populace, as it had no important natural resources and a population that had been subjugated decades ago. Occasionally a few self styled rebels appeared, but they lacked finesse. They tended to dissapear quickly.
One day, however, Effra's field of study attracted the attention of the Federation, a lot of attention.
"What was her field?" Avon broke in.
"She was trying to find out if artifically induced telepathy was possible." Yahnna said quickly. "I mean, it already is, but the ten percent of subjects who live through the procedure usually end up as vegtables. She wanted to improve the process."
"Why not? Ever hear of the concept of knowledge for its own sake?" She didn't give him a chance to reply. "Anyway..."
Apparently the Supreme Commander, Servalan (for this was before her fall from grace), had decided that telepathy would be a useful skill for her secret police, and set out to acquire Effra and her data. Effra, however, did not intend that her experiments should be utilized in such a manner and disagreed, rather violently, with the Commander's wishes. This violent disagreement resulted in Effra's death and Yahnna's fleeing the planet.
"I'm still waiting to hear why I'm on your ship."
"I'm getting to that. Shut up."
Yahnna ran to the next system, and holed up with a friend of hers, Feyad, whom she described as "a talented hacker". Feyad made his living by cooking accounts of large companies, erasing criminal records, and industrial espionage. All illegal and extremely lucrative. Breaking into top priority Federation communications was another thing that paid well, and that's when Yahnna first found Avon and the crew of Scorpio.
"You'd be amazed at how long your sheet is."
"No I wouldn't." Flattery will get you nowhere. Get on with it.
"Hmm, perhaps not. Anyway, the upshot of all that is the Feds want you very dead. And along with that, we found a message from that bitch-"
"Servalan, Sleer, whatever the she's calling herself now. The message stated that Roj Blake was on Gauda Prime and she was off with all due haste to that planet in order to catch you when you got there."
"If we got there." Avon corrected.
"She seemed very certain that you would. The letter stated that you would not be able to resist it, that you would have at least been curious."
"I was indeed." Avon betrayed none of the anger he felt at his own foolishness. His curiosity had resulted in too many deaths. Blake...
He didn't want to think about it.
"I'm sorry." Yahnna's quiet voice tore through his introspection.
"I don't intend to aggravate..." she trailed off. Avon frowned, he knew he rarely gave anything away, especially in the presence of a stranger. He decided to let the observation lie, but not for too long.
"Carry on." Yahnna started at the cold control in his voice.
"I read about the trap, and left for Gauda Prime. I would have gotten there sooner but Feyad-" she paused, took a deep breath and continued. "Feyad got picked up by Fed Security, I must have tripped some alarm. I got away alright, but...but it was my fault. I mean, he's obviously dead, or will be. He didn't ever know I broke into that particular file. Shit..." Yahnna paused and composed herself as best she could. "You don't want to hear this. So, I arrived a day later than I intended, another foolish mistake. A lot of..." Yahnna searched for a tasteful euphemism.
"Inconvenience." Avon said shortly.
"Yeah, "inconvenience" would have been avoided. I'm sorry Avon, I really am." Avon found this rather odd, coming from a complete stranger.
Silence reigned again, Yahnna was obviously waiting for some reaction.
"That's a poor explaination." he finally said. "You still haven't said why."
"I occasionally come over all quixotic." she shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea. At the time." she added.
"Yes, there is. You're vital to what's left of Federation resistance-"
"Like it or not, Avon, you're an inherent part of rebellion. If nothing else, you and Roj Blake were a rallying point." her voice grew stronger. "The feats you managed to pull off were amongst the most spectacular in a long time. You and everyone on Scorpio were the standard against which all else were judged-"
"I'm done with the so called resistance!" Avon burst out. "I never was a part of it!"
"My God, I managed to piss you off."
"You and all the other hero worshipers." he continued angrily. "I was essentially a thief, a damn good one, and I made a comfortable living until I got caught. I happen to escape, not an uncommon occurence, and I end up on an admittedly unique ship. I also happened to be with a pack of idealists who seemed to think that a handful of people stood a chance in hell of defeating an entrenched regime that had been succesfully putting down organized revolts for the past two hundred years." he paused for breath. "Blake was an idealist. His fatal flaw, essentially."
"Then why did you stay with them for four years?" Yahnna was genuinely curious.
"I became lazy. Blake was a constant. Constantly optimistic, I could depend on his reactions, the same every time."
"Bullshit. I suspect you're the last person in the universe who thrives on consistantcy."
"I've seen your criminal record. That's how."
"I have a theory." Yahnna finally said. "Want to hear it?"
Avon shrugged. She took it for assent. "You stayed with Blake, for various reasons. I suspect that his predictable nature was one of them. It meant you could control him, if you knew his reactions in advance. Too many of the tales I've heard have your fingerprints all over them. You're also supremely pragmatic-"
"Really?" Rarely had she heard such sarcasm.
"You're still alive. Proof enough. You're pragmatic. Staying on The Liberator offered a more enhanced chance of survival than striking out on your own would have. And your ego was secure because they were dependent on your skills. That and your cynicism-"
"Realism." Avon amended.
"And your realism countered any excessively grandiose schemes that Blake may have thought up."
"Interesting theory." Uncomfortably close to the truth, as well. "And on what do you base this 'theory'?" he continued icily.
"Observation of the way you behave. That and sheer guesswork."
"Very detailed guesswork." he was positively glacial now. Yahnna recognized the danger sign.
"I think there's something I should explain." she admitted.
"I think there is." he agreed.
"When I mentioned that I worked with my mother, perhaps worked on by my mother would have been a more accurate description."
"Go on." Avon didn't like the way this conversation was going.
"She was experimenting with the human psyche. I volunteered. I'm not telepathic," she said quickly, noticing suspicion on Avon's face. "But I had a high empathy to begin with, it's been...enhanced."
"I'll demonstrate." she focused on the gun she had given Avon. The gun became warm and rapidly progressed to blisteringly hot. Avon swore and dropped it onto the table. Yahnna picked it up, apparently feeling nothing.
"There." she said, as if it explained everything. Oddly, she was ashen and shaky, but she regained her compusure a few moments later.
"So you're a telempath." he said cooly.
"Your the first person who's ever guessed that on the first go." she said lightly. Her half smile faded quickly.
"The projection of apparent physical sensation into the mind of the target." Avon continued. "And it causes no physical damage. Is that the extent of your...talent?" Beneath the cool exterior, Avon was seething.
"Just about." she sighed. "I could kill someone, if I really tried, but I'm half dead afterwards as well, it takes a lot of effort. On the whole, it's easier to shoot them. Quicker too, and a gun has a much better range."
"What's your 'range'?" he asked quickly.
"Ten feet or so. Fifteen if I really push it."
"Get away from me." Avon snapped. She moved as far away as the cramped space would allow.
"This is far enough." Yahnna told him.
"It better be, I'll kill you if it isn't."
"I would stand in the corridor, but I'd like to keep this conversation private."
"I have a few more questions." he said harshly.
"You made it from a system adjacent to V'Sam to Gauda Prime in how long?"
"I'm not. This ship is deceptive."
"How can I tell? I haven't even seen it yet."
"I'll show you around later. This was essentially a yacht until I acquired it."
"You can tell Vila all about it."
"I will, as soon as he's out of the auto doc. He was winged by one of those projectile weapons. Ugly things, projectiles. I'm starting to think they wanted to get you alive, if severly wounded."
That possibility had occured to Avon, but he wasn't about to discuss it. "You were telling me about the ship."
"Yes. I stole this from someone who didn't deserve it and upgraded it."
"I replaced the leaky plasma drive with a photonic one. Upgraded the on board computer somewhat, and totally replaced the environmental system. The old one wasn't made for interplanetary hauls."
"That requires a lot of time." Avon observed.
"Time I didn't have, however, I do have a pile of money, which substituted nicely."
"You're a smuggler." he concluded.
"Who said anything about smuggling?" she replied artlessly.
"A fast starship disgused as a slowboat, and a lot of money. It makes sense."
"Indeed it does. You're looking at one of the better gun runners in the galaxy." Yahnna said this not without some pride.
"She's the best. I met her a long time ago, at an underground meeting. She wanted some help, and we decided to team up. She was getting tired of running on her own. But don't let her fool you-"
"I wasn't planning to."
Yahnna shook her head and took a deep breath. "Underneath what I call her 'happy go lucky psychotic' persona," she continued. "she's as hard as titanium. The price on her head is one of the highest."
"What did she do?"
"I'll let her tell you, if she chooses to, it's rather personal. It involves a few high ranking corpses."
"The best kind."
"I think you just made a joke. Amazing."
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