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I don't like the looks of this. Vila was sitting at a table with Argus, Tess Smith his blond companion from the Biliaran robbery, plus a handful of others. Having been 'persuaded' to help them in their next venture, Vila had been introduced to the larger rebel group.
The dynamics of the group created an easy creative atmosphere. It was clear that they had all worked together before and were comfortable with each other. Argus's presence provided an intensity which helped them to focus on the seriousness of their task.
Projected above the table was a detailed holo-print of the building they were going to break into; the Federation Medical Research Centre, Department Four on Tingash in the Singoa system. It was not a triple-A security installation but it was still categorized as an A-level.
Once decoded, the data crystals from Biliar had revealed a dangerous new bio-weapon; a genetically-engineered nano-virus which was even more dangerous than Pylene-50. This was no simple pacification drug; not only did it have the same usefulness but it was also a programmable virus which could be triggered to destroy any host when a specific coded signal was sent.
Vila shuddered; this was just as bad as IMIPAK, the projector weapon the Liberator crew had run across years ago. The Induced Molecular Instability Projector and Key had the potential of instantly killing anyone at anytime who had been physically marked for death by the unit.
The group was meeting in Tess's apartment, a large residence in a posh corner of Commerce City where the spoiled children of the rich and powerful held court. Strange goings on at all hours were normal, and the security forces had learned to turn a blind eye. Questioning the actions of the rich, or their children was not a career-enhancing move, which was perfect for the rebels.
On the surface Tess was the pampered younger daughter of a board member, of one of the largest neutral arms cartels. This was borne out by the lavishness of her apartment, and the numerous toys strewn about which only the rich could afford and only a privileged few had access to. She was much more than that though, many of the group's actions were financed by her patronage. She was also not one to shrink from getting her hands dirty as was proven by her participation in the Biliaran operation. She was vibrant, bold, highly intelligent and also served as the group's computer expert.
The group was listening intently as she went over the details of the part of the operation her tech group was responsible for.
As he listened, Vila had the impression that it was not serious to her; it was more like a game, an exercise. She was thrilled by the danger and loved the challenge.
Vila had always been of the opinion that you could never trust genius because you never know what they are up to; and the trouble with those who think they are geniuses is that what they are up to, will also most likely get you killed.
Breaking into a secure Federation building was only reserved for heroes and fools. This band of rebels had both in abundance. The crew of the Liberator had had both as well, but they also had Avon. Vila's headache returned. Avon the Betrayer. Even before they had ORAC, Blake had been able to achieve greater damage with just six people then he had in all those years of planning rebellion on Earth. The difference had been Avon.
Part of any endeavor Blake undertook against the Federation inevitably began with trying to convince Avon to help them.
Blake and Avon, with the annoyingly superior sentient computer ORAC, and the advanced Liberator ship as tools, had almost brought down the entire Federation.
But Avon had betrayed them in the end.
You can never trust genius, can you, Avon?
Vila had only been half paying attention to the group's plan but now they were turning to his role. Argus took over from Tess and to Vila's great embarrassment and horror said, "I would like to introduce you all to Vila Restal. Those of you who followed Blake's incredible history and that should be all of us should know who he is."
The entire group turned towards him as one; he could feel their awe.
Oh wonderful. I've been trying to stay under everyone's detectors, and now I'm a living legend. Why can't I find some safe criminal organization that doesn't have any political agenda?
At the end of the meeting, the group split up and went their separate ways. They would not meet or speak to each other again until the operation in two standard weeks' time.
"Vila, stay for a few minutes, we have some things to talk over, " Argus requested, "and there is someone who wants to see you."
"Can this wait until next time? All this conspiring takes it out of me."
The door buzzer went off.
"Our visitor is early," said Tess as she checked the vidscreen on her desk and then pressed the door control.
"Jenna!" Vila shouted out in surprise as his former crewmate from the Liberator entered through the opened door.
Jenna was beautiful as ever. Normally mid-length blond hair had been cut short; she was wearing a dark burgundy leather jump-suit with a flower pattern over the shoulders. Her taste in clothes had not changed; Vila had always admired her fashion-sense.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, Vila." Jenna smiled warmly and hugged him. "You look good."
"And you look alive." Vila still couldn't believe his eyes. "Why are you alive?"
"That's a fine welcome for a former partner in crime."
"I mean, I'm thrilled you're alive, but…, " words failed him and all he could do was repeat, "why are you still alive?"
"What gave you the impression I was dead? Zen should have been able to tell you that I survived the alien attack at Star One and I was rescued by a cargo ship heading to Morphamel."
"Zen did tell us that; that was three years ago. But this was more recent. People said you were dead; that you'd run into trouble at a Federation blockade and self-destructed your ship. They said your ship took half a squadron with you."
"Oh that. That was a story Blake sometimes told to people he was testing, just to gauge their reaction. I've been operating undercover for a year out in Sector Ten; it was more useful that people believed I was dead."
Dead. They both fell silent. There was a topic that had to be dealt with.
Argus signaled to Tess, and then he turned to Jenna and Vila and said, "We'll leave the two of you alone to reminisce."
Vila had almost forgotten they were not alone.
"Yes help yourselves to drinks, we'll be back later," Tess told them. She and Argus exited the apartment.
Jenna started. "What happened on Gauda Prime, Vila? Other than the Federation forces only you and Avon survived. There were all kinds of rumours but we never could get a clear picture of what really happened; only the official story that Avon betrayed all of you and killed Blake. I never trust official news; I need to know the truth Vila."
"Avon killed Blake," he said simply. His stomach knotted.
"So the rumours are true." Jenna was both shocked and not surprised at the same time. Until Vila had confirmed it, a small part of her was not willing to completely believe it.
She of everyone onboard Liberator had been the most like Avon; so she knew what a self-serving, self-protective person he was, like she was until she joined Blake.
Life onboard the Liberator had been interesting. None of them were ever sure how Avon would react or how far they could trust him; but from the very beginning, even on the prison ship when they were all being transported to the penal colony on Cygnus Alpha, Blake recognized that they could get much further with Avon's help than without him.
Blake had always trusted Avon. Not completely, but in a way which Jenna did not understand; and seemingly in spite of himself, Avon had never let them down.
After the alien attack at Star One and after Blake and Jenna left the Liberator, they had followed the actions of Avon and the Scorpio crew with interest. What Avon's group had achieved against the Federation, and Servalan in particular, had taken the heat off their own activities in organizing the various rebel factions. Jenna thought it was unlike Avon to be the crusader; Blake had disagreed. And now Blake was dead, betrayed by the man he had trusted.
"Tell me how it happened. How was the Scorpio destroyed?"
"After the Xenon summit conference was destroyed, Avon said we needed a new figurehead to lead the rebel alliance; then he told us that ORAC had found Blake working as a bounty hunter on Gauda Prime. So we went looking for him, but the moment we reached orbit over G-P, we were attacked without warning. Dayna, Soolin and I escaped by teleport."
"You had teleport ability on the Scorpio?"
"Yes, Avon developed it with ORAC's help."
They both looked at each other. Avon. Damn. Like ORAC he had always been too useful to be gotten rid of.
"Tarrant went down with the Scorpio and Avon escaped by teleport. He left Tarrant to die on the ship, "Vila said bitterly. Avon had deliberately never answered his question about what happened in the final moments on the Scorpio and why Tarrant ended up going down with the ship.
Vila could almost feel Jenna's anger grow as she had heard his account of the events on Gauda Prime.
"But Tarrant survived and was rescued by Blake. Avon found me, Soolin and Dayna and we all followed a flyer to an underground silo. The moment Avon saw Blake though, he shot him. Three times" Vila said angrily, "Blake didn't even have time to defend himself. Tarrant tried to stop Avon but then Federation troops came in and everything went to pieces. We didn't stand a chance. Everyone died: Soolin, Dayna, and then I was shot and blacked out; we managed to take out most of the soldiers though. Everything is a blur after that. I woke up in a prison hospital. Servalan was there. They questioned me but I didn't really know anything. A couple of weeks later, I escaped. I've been in hiding ever since, until your friends found me."
"I'm sorry about that. Argus can be somewhat forceful when he has a goal."
"Jenna, I cannot get the image of Avon standing over Blake's body out of my head."
Vila's headache was gone.
"Do you know where Avon went to after Gauda Prime?"
"No. Only the same rumours you've probably heard."
"What about ORAC?"
"Avon hid ORAC before we went into the underground silo, none of us knew where. I know the Federation troops searched all over and couldn't find it. That was one of the questions they kept asking me in the prison, over and over but I didn't know. Only Avon knows; but if Avon was working with the Federation, wouldn't he have given them ORAC already?"
"Avon is much too smart to give anyone ORAC."
"Well with all that money and ORAC it's going to be hard to find him."
"Don't worry Vila, our time will come. He can't remain hidden forever."
As the two caught up on the last few years and reminisced about the past the hidden tracer embedded in Vila's back, silently activated in response to a short burst signal sent by an orbiting security satellite. It stayed on for thirty seconds, and turned off again. The rebel group had been ultra-cautious about security, sweeping the entire apartment and all the attendees before the meeting began. But they had not picked up the tracer because it had not been active. The device was also smart enough not to activate while sweeper beams were in the vicinity but the Central Security computers would have registered the sweeper activity from the tracer and flagged it in a report to the responsible parties.
Unknown to the security program which logged this activity, something else had also been monitoring the flags from this particular tracer. At the moment its attention was on the group which Vila Restal had joined. Something in the group's movements indicated another possible person of interest.