Disclaimer: Blake's 7 was created by Terry Nation
I make no monetary profit from my fanfic.
Summary: Avon meets an old 'friend'
AVON CALLING ...
Agitated, Avon paced around the bridge of the Scorpio. He hadn't been this agitated since - even he didn't know when.
"Why don't you sit down, Avon? If the ship had a carpet, you'd've worn it out by now."
Avon spun around. "Did I ask you, Vila? If I wanted your opinion, which I is quite rare, I would've asked for it."
"So-rry," Vila looked back to his station, ignoring Avon's acidic glare, which he had become quite used to by now.
"They're up to something - I know it..." Avon said to himself more than anyone else. "It's been quiet lately - too quiet."
"Begging your pardon, Master," interrupted Slave, the ship's monotonous computer, in his sluggish voice, "but I have found something which may be of interest to you."
"It's about time. What?"
"I've detected a Federation ship heading toward Lovina 4."
"Lovina 4 ..." Vila repeated.
"When did this ship acquire an echo?" Avon asked.
"That world was raided by the Federation seven years ago," Dayna said. "And when they discovered it had no ore - or anything of value, they left."
"Laying nothing but devastation in their path. They didn't leave a single person alive," Soolin added, acid in her voice.
"Are we closer than them?"
"Affirmative, Master. At maximum speed, we will arrive a few days before they do."
"Oh, do be precise!" Orac scalded. "Some computers are just so inefficient. Really! Two days, two hours and twenty seven seconds."
Avon gave Orac an 'I really don't care' look. "Set course for Lovina 4, maximum speed."
"If I may be so bold," Orac said, "why are we all of a sudden en route to Lovina 4? Everyone knows it's now just a hunk of rock."
Avon rolled his eyes. For a computer, Orac sure seemed persistent. "Very scientifically put, Orac," he said with a half smile. "Desolate mud ball it may be, but the Federation doesn't waste time, energy and money on nothing. There must be something they want there and if they want it - we don't want them to get it."
"It's also a safe bet they've detected us," Dayna said.
"Agreed," Tarrant nodded. "I suggest we keep a low profile."
"Make it so," Avon said, sitting at last.
The green planet grew larger on the Scorpio's view screen.
"There it is..."
"Really?" Avon said. "If you hadn't've said so, I would have missed it."
Vila gave him a dirty look, but knew that was just Avon's way.
"Avon," Dayna said, "sensors are detecting small mammals and a single human female on the planet."
"A human?!" Soolin's voice was raised in obvious astonishment. "Are you sure?"
"Human all right," Dayna replied. "I've triple checked."
"This could prove to be interesting," Avon said. "They must want her, but for what purpose?"
"Maybe we should teleport her aboard?" Vila suggested.
Avon whirled around. "What? Have you learned nothing?! What if it turns out she's a Federation spy - that this is a trap?"
"Sorry I opened my mouth, All Powerful, Illustrious Avon, Sir." Vila replied airily and turned away.
Avon ignored him and turned to the others. "I'll teleport down to the location of the woman. The rest of you stay here and keep the Federation ship at bay. If it's a trick we'll know soon enough."
"That inspired confidence," Dayna said as Avon walked to the teleporter.
"We'll just fly by the seat of our pants, like we always do," Soolin called after him, knowing Avon heard the hint of anger in her voice, but as usual, he chose to say nothing.
Avon stood on the teleport platform.
"Beam me down, Scotty," he said, dead-pan.
Del Tarrant half smiled as he activated the teleporter.
Night had fallen on this part Lovina 4. Avon materialized in a dense forest. In the near distance he could see a faint light, consistent with fire and began heading in that direction, neutron blaster in his hand, ready for anything.
As he got closer, Avon made out a primitive hut, constructed from mud, leaves, wood, glass pieces and stone. He approached it and then stood flat backed to the outer wall. He could hear someone in the dwelling, and could feel the heat of the fire. Whatever was cooking smelled good and made Avon realize he had not eaten for quite some time. He forced the thought of food from his mind. He was here to stop a probable threat to the rebellion against the Federation. His stomach would have to wait. Avon edged closer to the window and took a quick peek inside. He saw a slight woman clad in a dirty home cut off white dress, dancing as she prepared a meal. He recognised her as Illine Gromer, a Federation Troop Commander, and his face became a snarl. He turned from the window and edged toward the roughly cut wooden door and clasped his hand around the awkward handle. He waited until he saw Illine turn her back and flung it open.
"Freeze!" he bellowed, causing Illine to scream, dropping her bowl of food. Avon looked at her and smiled. "Avon calling .... Clumsy ... Losing your touch, Gromer."
Illine had indeed frozen and she kept her hands where Avon could see them.
"Don't shoot," she said.
"Why not? You would if our positions were reversed."
Illine shook her head. "No. Not now - not anymore."
"Sentiment? From a Federation Officer, oh puh-leese."
"I am not a Federation pawn anymore!" Illine snapped. "I threw in the trowel two years ago. I'm through with the Federation!"
"And I'm supposed to believe you? Really."
"We'll see." Avon pulled out a communicator. "Avon to Scorpio."
"Scorpio here," came Dayna's voice. "Are you all right?"
"No, I'm dead. This is my ghost speaking. I need to speak to Orac."
"I'm here. What do you need to know?"
"Illine Gromer. Did she defect from the Federation?"
Illine took in a breath and hoped Orac's records were up to date if not, she would be at Avon's mercy.
"Affirmative," came the answer. "Two point nine years ago. She fled aboard a stolen Federation vessel. Location unknown."
"Well," Avon said. "I've solved that mystery."
"Illine Gromer is down there?" Soolin asked, her voice raised in surprise. "Be careful, Avon."
"Yes, mother," Avon said, his sarcastic remark hiding his appreciation his crew's concern. "I'll keep in contact. Avon out." He turned to Illine.
"I was telling you the truth. Do you believe me now?"
"This could still be a Federation trick - a false defection, false records ...."
"My, you are suspicious .... Would you put that thing away? Scan the room. I have no weapons here - unless you count the kitchen utensils I made."
Avon pulled out his scanner and took a reading. "I'm satisfied." He holstered his weapon.
"Good," Illine said, trying to hide her exasperation to which Avon smiled.
"At first I thought you were a Federation Officer come to kill me."
"I still might."
"They'll find me, eventually - if you kill me, it'll save them the trouble."
"You weren't that composed when I came knocking."
"Knocked indeed! Besides, you gave me a shock and you can help me clean up this mess."
Avon gave a smile as he helped her clean the food mess off the floor, and the broken clay bowl. She took the food into her hackneyed kitchen and put it into another bowl.
"You'll forgive me if this puts you off, but food doesn't come easy here. The only life forms the Federation left here are Simiona, and not too many of them. Hamster-sized furry mammals. Hard to catch, very tasty and filling. I'm fortunate this night I was able to catch eight so I can store some. Fortunately the trees and shrubs bear edible fruit, vegetables and berries most months and there is a clear water stream a mile from here." Illine turned back to her food preparation. "Not much of a kitchen either, is it? Well, it's home to me. The house It took me quite a while to build and it serves me well."
"Not a bad job," Avon said, trying not to sound too impressed.
"I hope you will forgive me. I was not expecting company and I've only prepared food for one."
She turned, knelt down to a corner in the kitchen, and took away a thick cover, made of leaves and dried vegetation to reveal some raw meat and greens.
The stream water is very cold, especially at this time of the year, which is good for keeping food fresh for at least a month and why I refrain from bathing in it fully. It's just to damn cold."
"I wouldn't've noticed. You smell fine."
Illine half smiled. "I do wash the necessary parts, but after I collect water and warm it up."
Illine began slicing the raw Simiona meat and some vegetation, then put it in a pot and began to cook it over the fire which was contained in a clay cylinder in the center of what could be called the dining room. Avon's mouth was already beginning to water.
"The Simiona meat creates its own juices when cooked," she said. "A very pleasant taste."
Before long, the food was cooked. Illine served it to him in a bowl. As hungry as he was and as good as the food smelled, Avon restrained himself.
"I didn't say I trusted you."
"You watched every move I made. Did you see me place any poison into the food?"
"You may have before hand - poisonous vegies, perhaps?"
"Oh, you really are impossible!"
"In my business trust and gullibility can mean death."
Illine grabbed a crude fork she had no doubt carved, stuck it into the food, mixed it around and helped some of it into her mouth, chewed and swallowed and gave the fork to Avon.
Avon smiled again, that trademark smile of his. "Yes, thank you."
"Good - I do understand your suspicions, Kerr Avon and I guess I'd have the same doubts if our positions were reversed."
"I'm satisfied that there's no poison in this food - but you have to do more than that to convince me that this isn't some elaborate hoax."
"Let's eat," Illine said, curtly.
Avon sat down on a the clay stool, opposite her and at last began to satisfy his stomach. He chewed on the meat, pleasantly surprised by the warm, smooth texture and slightly tangy, but delicate taste. He swallowed his first mouthful, and began on the next and the next, at first a little faster than he would have liked, then slowed down and completed his meal.
"My pleasure," Illine said, taking both bowls into the kitchen, using as little water as possible to clean them and the cooking pot, then she came into her dining room and looked Avon in the eye.
"They're coming, aren't they?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because you wouldn't've come here otherwise. You weren't looking for me. You didn't even know I'd varmoosed - this sudden appearance at my doorstep, hardly an unexplained coincidence I would say. The Federation has discovered me and you went to investigate what the hell was down here."
"A woman who wastes little time I see - and you're not even telepathic."
"How long have I got?"
"You make it sound like I'm your doctor ... We arrived here a little over two days before the Federation ship was due to reach orbit."
Illine bit her lower lip.
"You said you knew they would eventually find you."
She nodded. "Yes, but .... it's like knowing you have some fatal disease, and knowing that it will kill you someday - and then finding that you have only two days left ..."
Avon found himself wanting to believe her, but his instincts told him to stay weary. He hadn't lived as long as he had, over thirty years by believing everything everyone said, no matter how convincing they sounded.
"I would sympathise," he said, "if I were certain that you were not still with the Federation."
"I don't know about you, but I'm pooped. I've been running around all day chasing wild Simiona, cleaning, then being scared out of my wits, cooking for a suspicious stranger and finding out that I only have two days to live! Well you know what they say. No peace for the wicked."
"It must've been exhausting," Avon said, with an innocent look.
Illine glared at him. "Men!"
Avon smiled, then looked at her.
"Nature's calling. I don't suppose you have a lavatory?"
Illine smiled. "Yes, I do. Behind the tree outside. Men on the left, women on the right."
Avon gave a wry smile and walked outside, behind the tree.
"Avon ...." came Del Tarrant's voice. "We're having problems with the teleporter."
"Hang on, Tarrant ..." A few moments later, "...you were saying?"
"I can't ascertain what the problem is and I won't be able to get you back until I have it repaired."
Avon made no attempt to hide his feelings. "Great. Vila! I told you to have the teleporter undergo a routine maintenance check at our last stop on Omicron Theta."
"Uh, sorry, Avon. Slipped my mind."
Avon looked up to the sky. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Are you all right, Avon?" came a concerned Dayna's voice.
"And Illine Gromer?"
"She's here, trying to convince me that she has truly defected from the Federation - and I'll make my own decision. Keep working on that teleporter. Avon out."
He returned quickly to Illine's house, which has considerably warmer.
"I heard. You're lucky I have a spare bed. Don't ask me why I made one, but I did - over there." Illine pointed to a flat surfaced oblong slab, protruding from the wall, adjacent to the door. She threw some blankets at him.
"Make yourself at home - since you can't teleport back to your luxury star ship."
Avon smiled at her sarcasm. "Why, thank you, Illine Gromer."
"Please - just Illine. I have no ties to that sir name any longer. My real sir name is Gayad. It's my mother's maiden name."
Avon almost smiled. There was obviously more to this woman than he had thought initially.
And aboard the Scorpio ...
"Why is it always my fault with him?" Vila complained. "Something goes wrong and it's 'Vila, why didn't you check this? - Vila, why didn't you check that? - Vila get this done - Vila get that done - Vila shut up - Did I ask you, Vila? - Vila don't breathe, you're wasting air - Vila -"
"Vila, shut up!" Soolin snapped.
"Now you're doing it!"
"Listen, if we don't get this damn teleporter repaired, Avon'll send you in for a maintenance check!"
Vila shuddered visibly at the thought and began to help the crew repair the teleporter.
Meanwhile, on Lovina 4 ...
Avon lay beneath the hand woven blankets on the crude bed, not wanting to admit how tired he felt. He lay on the hard bed, closed his eyes and listened to the movements Illine made. If she went for him he would be ready.
Illine looked at him, shook her head and smiled. She walked into the kitchen and packed the food which had not been consumed into her cool water compartment.
The fire in the center of the house had died down, but shed subtle warmth and comfortable light. Illine walked to her bed built into the far end of the house - another hard oblong, her rough looking pillows at the top, the top side being between the kitchen wall and the far wall. Illine sat on the covers. She began removing her soiled dress. She placed in into a bucket of water and began quietly to wash it.
The gentle noise of the water was enough to stir Avon and wake him. He turned to his side and opened his eyes. Illine didn't notice him, nor did Avon make any sound when he saw her kneeling, naked by the bucket. In fact he paid little attention to her and looked at the ceiling. Illine finished washing her dress and wrung it out, then draped it over a stool. She took the bucket outside and threw the water into the forest, then retreated back inside and closed the door.
"You should put something on," Avon said. "You'll catch cold."
"How sweet," Illine said with a smile. "Concern from you, - I'm honored." She didn't seem embarrassed by her nakedness, as she dressed in a thick, black night dress. "If I didn't know better, Avon I'd say you were gay."
There was a pause.
"I had a wife," Avon said. "Once."
"She died," Illine said, judging by Avon's voice. "I'm sorry."
"It was a long time ago."
"You still think about her?"
"Sometimes, but it's futile and often fatal to dwell on what might have beens."
Illine gave Avon a look of pity as she climbed into her bed. Avon kept his eyes open for a little while longer, wondering about Illine and how she had managed to survive and grow accustomed to her new life on Lovina 4. Obviously a hard struggle - no feat for the weak. She was obviously quite intelligent, and not easily deterred. Avon admired her for that, although he was still not entirely sure of her true intentions.
Sometime later during the night, Illine was up.
"At least he doesn't snore."
Illine did not notice a small smile from Avon. She walked to him and ever so carefully reached into the covers, slowly peeling them away from Avon's sleeping form. She saw his hand, placed near his blaster and carefully tried to pry it from its holster. She felt a hand clasp on hers. Illine jumped with initial shock, then relaxed.
"I'm a light sleeper," Avon said. "Another survival tactic in my business."
Illine looked at him. "I wasn't planning on making a midnight kill."
"Neither was I."
"It wasn't you I was planning to use that thing on. The Federation is coming here - I'm going to need it. That's my survival tactic. I'm afraid neither names, sticks or stones will break their bones. Sorry if I startled you."
Avon shook his head. "Not at all. I can snore if you like."
Illine smiled. "My, my - you're full of surprises."
"I could say the same for you, my dear." Avon sat up in bed.
Illine perched herself on a clay stool. "We're so much alike, you and I ... it's such a pity we didn't meet years ago ... and we fought on opposing sides."
"The past is the past," Avon said, "as hard as it may be to accept and impossible to change."
"But what of the future?" Illine said.
"What of it? In my experience you take it as it comes - whatever it throws at you and ... well you know what they say - any landing you can walk away from-"
"Is a good one ... I couldn't've said it better myself ... but it seems so uncertain."
"That's life, I'm afraid," Avon said.
Illine nodded, then stood and sat on the bed. "Oh, Avon ... why did we have to meet under these circumstances? ... It seems so cruel..." and she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand, to which Avon smiled and took her hand in his.
"What made you want to join the Federation?"
Illine shook her head. "It's a long story ... one I'm not proud of ... nor am I proud of joining the Federation."
"You sound pretty mixed up."
Illine nodded. "Felt that way, until I came here .... My mother, Jaya, died when I was a little girl. My father didn't even give me time to mourn her, before he started ... abusing me - saying everything was my fault. I lost count of how many times he raped me."
Avon listened to her, understanding that she had obviously kept this bottled up for so long she felt she had to tell another. "Go on," he prompted gently.
"Eventually, I couldn't stand it anymore. I taught myself how to pilot a shuttle craft, stole one and joined the Federation. I rose through the ranks as one of their most ruthless officers, bar Servalan."
Avon smiled. "Now that would take some doing."
"When I finally made Troop Commander, the first thing I did was raid my home planet, Elwiyad. I tortured my father to death. Hearing his screams and pathetic begging made me feel wonderful and more powerful than ever. The more he screamed, the more delighted I became and when he finally died the only thing I was sorry about was that I could hear him scream no longer. At the time I didn't care about the millions of innocent people who were slaughtered on Elwiyad. Revenge was mine for the hell that bastard put me through and my hatred for him made me seem more powerful, but many more millions of innocent lives were lost on many other planets - before I realized what I was doing. I saw the devastation my orders had caused - saw dismembered bodies of innocent men, women and children, and the survivors screaming and crying to find their homes and loved ones destroyed. I wanted to die myself. My revenge had changed me into a monster and I wanted to die. I did not know what had become of me. I didn't know myself anymore. I left the last world my troops had raided. I killed them all and gave an apology to the devastated planet - for all the good it did for those peoples lives I destroyed... I fled in the star ship and eventually settled here on Lovina 4. To avoid Federation detection, after I landed, I put the ship on autopilot and set the timed self destruct. The ship took off, left orbit and exploded. I wanted nothing more than to be left here and die here alone, if the Federation didn't find me first. Perhaps I should let them kill me. I deserve to die."
Avon gave her hand a slight squeeze. "We all make mistakes. I've killed before too - and regretted it afterward."
"Yes - but you haven't killed not as much as I have - not innocent children, Avon."
Avon saw tears in Illine's eyes and watched as they ran down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry," she almost wailed.
"Don't be - seems you needed to get it out."
Illine nodded. "Doesn't seem to make it any easier. I always think of my mother ... how disgusted and disappointed she would be with me."
There was a long pause.
"Thank you Avon."
He looked at her.
"You've made me realize the true me. No matter how far I've come, I'm still Barbaric, Monstrous Federation Troop Commander Illine Gromer."
"That's not true and you know it. Look at what you've accomplished here - you built your house with your own two hands - learned how to survive on this barren world, made your own clothes, utensils, fire. How many Federation Officers can say they gave up a life of luxury to live in a place like this?"
Illine was silent for a few moments. "It was a hard struggle. At first I built a house near the river, which was washed away, then one out on the plain which crumbled in the sunlight, and then this one. The only 'modern' things I kept was a half length mirror and some glass pieces from the ship. Food is hard to come by in the colder months and it's always cold at night in all seasons, but as you said, I can't change the past - it is hard to accept that I could have ever been that merciless, cruel and blind and impossible to change. Who in the universe would forgive me? I'm a traitor to the Federation and everyone else despises me - thinks I'm a merciless murdering monster."
Illine looked quizzical.
"You've impressed me, Illine Gayad, not an easy feat."
Illine smiled. "Thanks for your confidence. At least my life's not a total loss."
"Do I detect a little sarcasm there?"
Illine smiled. "My you have an eye for detail."
"A necessary skill in my business, unless you want to end up dead."
"A dangerous business, isn't it?"
"Life is a dangerous business."
Illine nodded. "You're telling me."
Avon gently wiped a tear from her cheek, then he kissed her. Surprised at first, Illine jerked, but then relaxed and allowed Avon to place his arms around her and she did the same.
Avon opened his eyes and smiled. It had been a long time since he had felt this way toward another - and it was a wonderful feeling. His wife had died, so long ago.
At first Illine had been frightened. Her father had touched her in this way and she had felt dirty and violated, but now she was astonished to discover she did not feel this way with Avon. She allowed his hands to explore, as did hers and found joy in what she once feared. Avon's touch was gentle, but firm, he too finding joy he had missed for so long.
Meanwhile, on the Scorpio ...
"I can't figure out what's wrong with this damn thing!" Tarrant's head popped up from behind the teleportation console, wearing an annoyed, frustrated frown.
"Great .... Avon's going to have my guts for garters..." complained Vila.
"It's not your fault, Vila," Dayna said. "You know what Avon's like."
Vila rolled his eyes. "Yeah. I'm his blaming bag when anything goes wrong."
"Vila .... don't start..." Dayna stood, walked to Tarrant and took a look at the teleporter. "I'll check the platform." She walked over to it and scanned it. "Nothing out of the ordinary."
"I don't understand," Tarrant said, obvious frustration in his voice.
"Keep at it," Soolin said. "We may have to teleport Avon back in a hurry if things get ugly with the Federation."
Vila looked at her. "Did you have to say that..."
Illine gently caressed Avon's hand and he did the same to hers and he smiled. It felt awkward at first. Not that smiling was alien to him - far from it, but it was so long since Avon had smiled with gentle pleasure, not sarcasm or snide, and he allowed himself to be free. Illine allowed Avon's hands to venture and explore her body, without feeling violated or defiled. She began to release the guilt and anger she had bottled up inside for so long. She would never be proud of what she did, but was beginning to accept it.
"Thank you, Avon."
He looked relaxed, but perplexed. "What for?"
"For setting me free."
Avon smiled again, this time one of understanding. "It's always difficult to express one's feelings when you're so used to keeping them from everyone else. Believe me, I know. I should thank you."
Illine smiled, knowing how hard it had been for Avon to admit that. Avon began to undo her night dress as she unzipped his jump suit. Before long the clothes were strewn on the floor.
Their mouths touched in a passionate kiss and their hands explored each other's bodies wildly. They had both never felt so free. Illine let out a gasp as Avon enterd her.
"Still noting!" Tarrant exclaimed in utter frustration.
"The Federation ship's almost here..." Soolin said, her voice laced with worry.
"Why do I always get myself into these situations?" Vila muttered. "I should've listened to my mother and become a nurse..."
"Keep at that teleporter, Tarrant," Dayna said. "We'll worry about the Federation ship when it gets here. Judging by these scans it's only a small one. We should be able to handle it."
Villa looked quite relieved.
"How long till they reach us?" Soolin asked.
"Did you have to ask?...." Vila looked nervous again.
"At their current speed, the Federation ship will reach orbit of Lovina 4 in ten hours and thirty-eight seconds," Orac replied.
"Don't even think about it, Vila." Soolin glared at him.
"Did I say anything?"
Avon smiled at her.
"Well, after that, I'd say we'd better be getting some sleep."
"I quite agree. It gets light early here. If we're lucky, we might find some yellombs. They're pretty little yellow flowers that open early some mornings. They're nice in just about everything, salads, soups - you name it, but they don't stay open for long and you have to pick them when they're open, otherwise they taste gross and make you sick."
"Sounds delicious." Avon turned around and pulled up the covers. "Is it just me, or is it getting colder in here?"
Illine smiled. "Seems like it, doesn't it."
She settled on her bed and pulled up her covers. "I have to wash these things someday. They're getting rather grotty."
Avon gave a small smile, before dressing and falling asleep and Illine wasn't long to follow.
Vila, aboard the Scorpio checked his console.
"It's strange that the Federation ship hasn't armed any of its weapons. I mean it's good, but don't you guys think it's weird?"
Dayna nodded. "It's almost as if they're not interested in us at all."
"Good," Vila said.
"They seem more interested in Lovina 4," Dayna continued, ignoring him. "I'll bet they're after Illine. What's Avon been doing down there all this time?"
"It's none of our concern," Tarrant said. "But we'd better warn him. They've obviously detected us and no doubt scanned the planet. They know someone else is down there and I doubt they're going to play favorites."
"Agreed," Dayna said.
Del Tarrant activated the ship's communicator. "Tarrant to Avon."
A few moments passed and there came no reply.
"Tarrant to Avon."
When still no reply came, Del checked the communicator. His face twisted into an angry snarl and he bashed the console.
"Damn! They're jamming communications! We can't contact him!"
"Is there any way we can sever their control?"
"Not that I can see," Tarrant replied. "Come to think of it they've probably jammed the teleporter first."
"This situation gets better all the time, dunnit?..."
"Vila ..." Tarrant complained. "Soolin, take the weapons console. You're the best shot. If things get ugly - we'll need everything we've got."
Vila shut his eyes, and said a silent prayer. He knew his comments weren't welcome, but also knew his friends were as scared as he was - just they were to be better at handling it.
The Federation ship remained something of an enigma, and their Commander wished it to remain that way, as it neared Lovina 4.
Morning had broken on Lovina 4. Illine opened her eyes to the early morning sunlight streaming through the window. She smiled and stretched, then sat up on her bed. She took off her night clothes and put on her thick off white colored dress, which looked much cleaner and was dry. Illine looked around. Avon was nowhere to be seen and she became worried, then the front door opened.
"Glad you're up, sleepyhead," Avon smiled. "I got some of those yellow things."
Illine smiled. "Don't scare me like that! ... My ... you are an early riser."
Avon smiled and walked to the kitchen and placed the bunch of yellow flowers on the ledge.
"I'll make us a salad," Illine said. "It's quite delicious, but first we need some firewood. It looks like it's going to be another cold day."
Illine walked outside, and began gathering some dry wood and twigs, which she took into the house and placed in the clay cylinder. There she began to light the fire the traditional way. "It used to take me longer, but once you get the hang of it, it happens in a snap. Now, let me get to that salad."
"I can't wait," Avon said with a smile. He rescued one flower and placed it in Illine's scrawny longish blond hair.
Illine smiled and began chopping the green stems off the yellombs, but saved the small green leaves. She placed the flowers and leaves in a large bowl, added some water, then took out a bottle from the cool water closet.
"This is well .... salad dressing. It's made from the leaves of the Yakkanga tree. It's a large tree with the pastel green leaves. You soak the leaves for a day in water, and then mash them up and they make this delightful dressing. It's also best if you put some fresh leaves in after you've made it for taste."
Illine smiled and poured some on the salad and mixed it around.
"Now for the final touch," and she added a brown powder-like substance. "It's like pepper."
"You should write a cook book."
Illine smiled. "I know a lot about this place. I studied it before I came here. It's my home now and it's given me so much."
"Like yellomb salad?"
Illine smiled. "Yes, but so much more ... and now I feel like it's all slipping away."
Sadly, Illine dished up two servings of the salad.
"Come back with me," Avon urged.
Although the words registered, Illine seemed unsure. "I'll miss this place ..."
"They'll kill you - you know that."
Illine nodded. "I know - but if I escape with you, they'll hunt me down like a dog."
Avon smiled. "You'll get used to that. I have."
Illine let out a short, but quiet laugh. "Why does life have to be so damn hard?!"
"If only I knew the answer to that question. C'mon let's eat this salad before it goes off."
Illine smiled and handed Avon a bowl of salad and a spoon, and they began to eat.
"Mmmm.... you weren't kidding. This really is delicious."
Illine smiled. "Nice try, Avon, but it's going to take more than that to get my mind off my impending fate. I just don't know what to do."
"Time is running out. They'll be here any minute."
"I don't want to leave here, Avon, but I don't want to die at the hands of the Federation here either."
Illine shot him an angry look. She put down her spoon.
"Sorry," he smiled.
"They've reached orbit!" Tarrant exclaimed.
"Their weapons still aren't armed, thank God," Vila said.
"They're still jamming our teleporter and communications!" Soolin said, bashing her console. "We can't help Avon!"
"Scorpio," came a cold voice they knew only too well. "If you interfere - you will be destroyed. We have come for the traitor. We will deal with you another time."
Vila spat the name of the owner of the voice.
"You remember me ... Why I'm flattered .... I warn you again - Do not interfere."
And the communique ended abruptly.
"Well what do we do?" Vila asked.
"There's noting we can do," Soolin said. "If we try to stop them, we risk losing Avon and the Scorpio."
"But I hate sitting here so helpless!" Tarrant exclaimed. "There must be at least something we can do."
Dayna looked at him. "There is."
"Oh, that's great ..." Vila complained. "They'll probably kill us all anyway ..."
"They want Illine. After they've got her, then we can attend to the more urgent matters."
"Like the Federation kicking our asses across the galaxy?"
Meanwhile, back on Lovina 4, Avon had managed to coax Illine to finish her salad.
"Oh, Avon ... I want to leave with you ... but..."
"Don't worry - we'll find a way to make yellomb salad again."
Illine smiled. "We might even be able to return here again."
"Perhaps," Avon said.
"The decisions one has to make in life ...." Illine shook her head. "But there are a few things I would like to take with me."
"Be my guest."
"Hey..." Illine nudged him. "You're my guest, remember?"
Avon just smiled.
Illine began to gather a few of her belongings - some things she had made in her time here, a few woven bags, blankets and clothes and two sculptures. She placed them all in a largish woven bag.
"There's a large clay deposit no t far North of here. I like this one best." Illine held up an interesting looking sculpture. "I call it 'Freedom.'"
Avon smiled genuinely. "It's lovely."
Illine smiled back at him. "Thank you. I used to be good at sculpture when I was a little girl and was glad to discover that I still had it in me."
Illine put the sculpture in her bag of belongings and stringed it up. "Well, we'd better varmoose."
Avon nodded. "Agreed ... Avon to Scorpio. Two to teleport."
There came no reply.
"Avon to Scorpio? Is everyone asleep?"
Still no reply.
"Damn ... communications and teleporter down." A grave look came over Avon's face. "The Federation ... they're jamming the ship ..."
Illine put her bag down and looked worried.
"Damn it!" Avon said, punching the wall.
At that moment the front door blasted open. Illine gave a short screech. The dust cleared revealing two burly Federation guards in full body suits. In front of them stood a tall, slender, short dark-haired woman, clad in a figure hugging white gown.
"Avon ... so nice to see you again."
"Always a pleasure, Servalan."
"But I haven't come to frolic with you," and her gaze turned to Illine. Servalan sighed and shook her head. "Such potential ... I'm disappointed in you Illine Gromer - Gayad - names make no difference to me."
"Get on with it, Servalan."
"Such impudence ...." And she smiled. "Really ... what happened to you? ... Got soft ... how pathetic ..."
"You know my past - you should've known that I couldn't keep on with the destruction - the loss of innocent lives -"
"Oh, Please. Spare me."
Avon took advantage of the situation and began to draw his blaster. He had drawn it fully, when he felt a white hot blast hit his hand, rendering his weapon useless. Avon grunted and grabbed his injured hand. Servalan looked at him.
"Losing your touch, Avon? I detected your ship after you had changed course for Lovina 4 and I had prepared for interference. Now - what we came here for."
"Leave her," Avon said. "She can do no harm to the Federation here."
Servalan turned to him. "Compassion? From you, Avon? I'm disappointed."
"I'm so sorry ..." He cursed himself for that slip - admitting a weakness to Servalan.
"She is a traitor and she must be destroyed."
Illine began reaching in her bag.
"It's you who must be destroyed, Servalan, if this universe is to be safe!" Illine grabbed a knife and hurled it at Servalan.
Reflexes as quick as lightning, Servalan blasted it. The object melted in mid air, and fell, a molten mess sizzling on the ground. Servalan's next blast hit Illine in the stomach.
She gasped in pain as the and the blast sent her crashing into the far wall. Avon's head spun around and he exclaimed her name. Illine flopped down, on the bed. Avon rushed toward her and turned her over.
"Illine ...." He didn't give a shit what Servalan thought now.
"Meant ... to happen ..." she rasped. "Must pay for ... past ... See you in .... Afterlife ... Avon..." Her consciousness slipped away.
"No!" He turned and glared at Servalan. A guard blasted at him. Avon swerved, but the force of the blast caused him to slip and fall to his knees. He never took his glare off her. She stood unfazed, then smiled. "I always knew you'd fall for me, Avon."
Servalan's smile broadened. "Why, Avon ... I'm flattered. I'm a woman who always gets what she wants."
"So I've noticed."
"Can we kill him?" asked one of the guards, his voice eager.
"Another time," Servalan replied.
Servalan whirled around in anger. "Do not question me!"
"S... sorry, Mistress ... I just thought-"
"I didn't order you to think!"
She aimed her blaster.
"No, Mistress! I-"
Servalan blasted him in the head. The guard reeled backwards and fell down dead. "And you?" She turned to the other burly guard.
"No argument from me, Mistress." The voice was gruff, but definitely female.
Servalan turned back to Avon. She knelt down, stroked his cheek.
"Parting is such sweet sorrow ... Cheer up, Avon you know what they say - no peace for the wicked."
Avon grabbed her hand and Servalan wrenched it free. She touched her silver belt. "Servalan to Apocalypse. Release your hold on the Scorpio. Three to teleport. We have accomplished our mission."
"As you command, Mistress."
Servalan, and living and dead guard disappeared in the teleport beam.
On the Scorpio ...
"Communications are back!" Soolin exclaimed. "And the Federation ship's departing."
"Without a blast goodbye," Vila said. "That's a relief."
"Hah - they probably don't have enough energy for an attack," Dayna scoffed.
"That's nice," Vila said.
"I'm only picking up one life sign... down there..." Dayna's voice was worried. "Male.... It's Avon!"
Tension subsided on the Scorpio.
"Scorpio to Avon."
"Scorpio to Avon."
"Not now!" Avon snapped into his bracelet as he carried Illine's body outside. Avon hesitated. "I'm sorry ..." was all he could say to Illine. "First I lost my wife ... then Anna ... and now you..."
He took in a deep breath and carried Illine into a crevice in the forest. He placed her inside and covered her body up with dirt and leaves.
"I'm not a religious man, but I hope you've found your peace."
And with that he stood. Avon walked back into the house. It seemed so empty and cold now, even though the fire burned bright. He decided to leave it burning in Illine's memory. He walked to the bed, reached inside her bag and pulled out the clay 'Freedom' statue, and saw another one behind it. This one too was lovely, and clearly had the word 'Innocence' engraved on it. Avon took them both outside and carefully placed 'Freedom' on Illine's grave.
"Avon to Scorpio, one to teleport."
Avon appeared on the teleport platform.
"Are you all right Avon?" Soolin came to him, concerned.
"I'm fine," he said. "Just fine."
"You don't look fine," Tarrant said.
"What happened to you down there?" Dayna asked.
Avon tried to compose himself.
"I think you'd better sit down," Vila said.
Avon nodded and sat. He placed 'Innocence' before him and managed a small, sad smile. Vila brought him a cup of hot tea, which Avon accepted.
"Thank you, Vila."
To Vila's surprise, the reply was void of all sarcasm and arguably the nicest thing Avon had ever said to him.
"Pleasure," he said, a tad awkward.
Avon slowly sipped the not too hot tea, deep in thought. This universe held so much mystery, so much beauty. It was tragic when that beauty was destroyed or taken away. Avon looked out at the stars. He rarely paid attention to how beautiful, tranquil and perfect they looked. It was as if a new world had opened up to him and he was grateful for that. Perhaps there was more to death than constant nothingness - perhaps when the beauty in the universe was taken away, it lived on somewhere else.
The crew looked at Avon and regarded him with friendship and concern. Obviously something significant had transgressed down the planet - something that Avon may tell them about in time, when he was ready, but that would not be for a long time to come.