10th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Mysteries and Discoveries
Introduction: Jenna's story and memories of Blake after Star One.
Jenna sat in her office at the base. She liked to think of it as a rebel base masquerading as a criminal one, though she was the only one who knew that. She pored over reports on her monitor screen. The numbers were good. She was amassing a personal fortune and her growing team of enforcers could easily be transformed into an army.
This was what she had wanted for Blake, but he never had the patience. If he was here, he would already be dragging them out to fight with what they had. He was a man of action who had to be out there destroying the enemy with his own hands. Hit and run guerrilla tactics was Blake's style. He did not have the discipline to build an army or to plan for what came after the battle ended; to take advantage of what the destruction had accomplished. His temperament was not suited to that.
Watch yourselves, Blake's rushing things. I get the feeling he's not giving himself time to think.
Her own voice came to her from the past of Star One. She had never realized until then how much that was true of everything Blake did. And in the days and months afterwards, as Blake led them on one dangerous mission after another, she found herself sounding more like Avon, trying to curb Blake's recklessness, trying to get him to think ahead. But Blake never listened to anyone except himself. And one group after another died. Good people who believed in Blake. And for what?
Jenna formed a fist with her right hand and crashed it down on the table.
Damn you, Avon. You had the ability to help him but you abandoned him. You should have been helping him as I am now; building him the army that he needed to realize his dreams. He couldn't do it, but you could. You could have helped him plan ahead. You saw what was needed. Even at Control, you already knew. You didn't want anything to do with Blake anymore but you tried to help him see what he should do. He always needed you, Avon. He could never see it on his own. But between the two of us, we might have been able to make him see it. We could have built him what he needed.
She hated Avon for that as much as for anything else. All Blake had left now was his legend. The noble reputation of a man who fought the good fight and refused to bow to the enemy. But also a tragic figure of a man who was finally defeated in the end by a friend. Blake deserved more than that. He should have won. He should have gone out in a blaze of glory, dying while fighting his enemies. Becoming the martyr the Federation had always feared rather than the pitiful man who had been fooled by trusting in a traitor.
You killed him, Avon. You made his life and his fight an empty one, but I am going to give him the victory he should have had. And I am going to kill you.
She was looking for someone special to help her with her revenge. A person with a very particular skill set.
Jenna moved restlessly as she slept. Dreams brought her back into the past.
She checked the flight panel of the shuttle that was going to take her and Blake away from Morphenniel. The fuel rods were fully charged. The engines sounded a bit off and would have to be refitted at some point but with everything in chaos, a small shuttle requiring maintenance would be far down on the list of anyone’s priorities. Assuming they had enough credits to pay for any repairs, which they didn’t.
Jenna regretted not nipping into the treasure room before they left the Liberator. They sorely needed the money. She was anticipating that even eating was going become very expensive. There were all manner of crooks who would take advantage of the chaos in order to jack up the prices. It was human nature; something she had very little faith in these days, if she ever did before.
Blake refused to go back to the Liberator. He had her tell Avon that she was fine and didn’t need priority pick up. And he had left Epheron without telling Avon that he had gone or where he was going. He insisted on secrecy because he didn’t want Avon to find him. He had left the ship to him and he was going to keep his promise.
Jenna avoided voicing her doubts that Avon would bother looking for them at all. Avon had always wanted the ship and its treasures. Now that he had what he wanted, he didn’t need any of them. Blake was always naïve about how Avon really felt about him.
Avon’s actions did confuse her. Zen had reported that he was looking for them. It almost seemed like he cared enough to make sure they were fine before he left. Maybe he was not as cold-blooded and self-serving as she thought he was. Though she doubted it.
He did seem like he cared sometimes, especially about Blake, though you could never really tell if it was for some hidden agenda. She believed that he needed Blake enough not to let him die. He might have even cared about Cally, but he was too cold to give her any kind of indication that he did, at least, not when she was conscious.
She remembered the concerned look on Avon’s face and how he had rushed to Cally’s side when she had been knocked out by the Avalon android. The way he had tenderly touched her cheek had surprised her. He seemed like a different person, one who was human.
Jenna shook the memory from her head. Yes, maybe he did care, just a little, enough to make sure they were all safe. She wasn’t happy that Blake had given him the Liberator though. The ship that by all rights should belong to her too. But at least she had Blake.
Blake entered the compartment and settled in the seat next to her. “How’s the ship?”
Jenna replied, “It’s not much of one but she’ll get us to the next planet.”
“That’s all we need. Take her out, Jenna.”
Jenna activated the engines and they came to life with stuttering rhythms. Jenna scowled at the sounds. She hoped it would get them to the next planet. The ship rose from the platform and began rising. “Where are we going?”
“The next planet.”
“That’s obvious. But where after that?”
“I don’t know,” Blake said noncommittally.
Jenna glanced briefly at him. Blake had been uncharacteristically uncommunicative since finding her. His eyes no longer seemed to hold the intensity he once had. He seemed tired. “You really don’t know or you don’t want to tell me yet?”
The muscles around Blake’s eyes tightened in a wince. He asked in a weary voice, “You too, Jenna?”
Jenna had a stab of guilt. “I’m sorry but I’m tired too, Blake. I chose to come with you but I don’t want any more lies. No more secrecy.”
Blake turned to look at her with understanding eyes. “You’re angry that I gave Avon the Liberator?”
“Yes, I’m angry! That ship was part mine. We took it together. But it doesn’t matter. You will always do whatever you want to do. It was always about you and Avon. It was never about any of us,” she said bitterly.
Blake sighed and sank back in his seat. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“It doesn’t matter any more. It’s just the two of us now.”
Jenna set the coordinates and the shuttle moved out of the atmosphere of the planet.
Blake was staring out beyond the view screen. There was a melancholic tone in his voice. “Yes…just the two of us.”
Jenna could tell that he was wishing for something else, maybe someone else. “It’s not too late.”
Blake turned to her. “What?”
“It’s not too late to contact Avon. You can have it all back.”
Blake sat back in his seat again. “No. I promised Avon.”
There was a tinge of cynicism in her voice. “When has that made a difference to you?”
Blake turned to her again with searching eyes, “Why are you with me, Jenna?”
Jenna set the shuttle on autopilot and met his eyes. “Don’t you know?”
Blake turned away from her again and stared at the star field. “I knew.”
There was bitterness in Jenna’s voice. “But you never had the time.”
Blake asked, “You would begrudge me that?”
“No. It was just wishful thinking.”
“Was that the only reason why you stayed with me, Jenna?”
“I had other reasons.”
“Are you going to tell me?”
Jenna hesitated. She had never told anyone about her mother before, but if she was demanding truth from Blake, she had to give it as well. “It’s because of my mother.”
“Your mother?” Blake asked with surprise. “The one that you saw in the sphere?”
“Yes, the Federation killed her.” The pain of her mother’s death was never far from the surface.
“Now I understand. That’s why you wanted to destroy the Federation.”
“It wasn’t just that.” A dark shadow of guilt seemed to hang over Jenna.
Blake’s voice was warm and compassionate. “Tell me.”
Jenna lifted troubled eyes to his. “It was my fault, Blake. She died because of me.”
“Tell me what happened.”
Jenna stared at the moving star field but her eyes were focused on the past. “I had a reputation even before I joined you.”
Blake said, “I remember. Vila said that you were famous.”
Jenna let out a snort of cynical laughter. “Too famous.”
“You must have been very successful.”
“I was the best smuggler in the Near Worlds. I had a fast ship and a good crew.” Jenna remembered those days with fondness. “Then one day, I got word that the Federation had arrested my mother.”
“They were looking for you?”
Jenna could tell that Blake was very familiar with this kind of scenario. She imagined that it had happened to him.
“They tortured her, Blake. But she didn’t know anything. She didn't know where I was. She didn't know how to contact me. But they didn't care.” Tears of anger and guilt welled up at the corner of her eyes. Through blurry vision she could still see the images of her mother being tormented by Federation troopers. She had not been there, but her burdened mind could imagine. “They tortured and killed her because they were looking for me. They wanted to make an example of me.”
Blake put a warm, sympathetic hand on her arm. “It wasn’t your fault, Jenna. It was the Federation.”
“I should have known! I should have protected her!” The tears streamed down Jenna’s face as she felt Blake put an arm around her shoulder in comfort.
He said, “It’s alright, Jenna.” His eyes were understanding and forgiving, the things she desperately needed.
Jenna said fiercely, “It wasn’t alright, but I tried to make it right. That was when I started helping the rebels. I wanted to strike out against the Federation in the only way I knew how. I ran guns and other supplies for them.”
“That’s how you met Avalon?” asked Blake.
“Yes. But I was caught.”
“Fighting against the Federation is a dangerous business.”
“And then I met you on the London.”
Blake said lightly, “And the rest is history?”
Jenna smiled briefly and then she turned serious. “Until then it was enough for me to work against the Federation. It was my revenge…my repayment for what happened to my mother. I worked with the rebels, but I never took up their cause. They didn’t seem that different from anyone else. Just people with their own personal agendas. But you were different. You believed in something. You had a dream. You wanted to bring down the entire corrupt system that murdered my mother. You didn’t seem to have a personal agenda.”
“I’m not that different from you, Jenna. I also had my personal reasons. The Federation murdered my family and friends.”
“But that wasn’t the only reason.”
“No. It was an important reason, but not the most important one.”
“That’s why I decided to follow you. You gave me a dream worth following.”
Blake said, “It’s all over now. Star One is gone. The Federation fleet is destroyed.”
Jenna asked again, “So what do we do now?”
Blake touched her face gently, “I have time now.”