Nobody's Side

Ann Wortham

"It took you long enough to get here." Jenna Stannis frowned up at the cloaked figure as it slid into a chair across the table from her. "I've been here every night for the last two weeks." She swept the dirty, unkempt bar with a disdainful gaze, wrinkling up her nose. "And I must say it hasn't been a pleasure."

The person across from her shrugged. "There were delays; you know the situation out there right now." The voice was smooth, soft, and female. The woman's features remained shadowed by the folds of her over-sized cloak and the dimness of the bar, but Jenna knew who she dealt with. She'd had the same contact for quite a long time now and they'd grown to know each other better than either one would have liked.

"I hope you have a good reason for being here," the woman continued.

Jenna didn't have to see her face to visualize the scowl. "As you said," she made a vague gesture toward the doorway, "It's chaos out there right now. The war has stirred everything up. I wouldn't be surprised if the rebels gain a good foothold in the midst of it all."

Her companion snorted skeptically. "Unlikely."

"I heard that Star One was destroyed, after all..." Jenna's statement was half question.

The hooded head nodded almost imperceptibly.

Jenna sighed loudly. She leaned back in her chair, running one hand up through her hair, pulling the long strands away from her face. "So. Perhaps Blake's rabble will have their chance." She smiled fondly. "I don't think I'll tell him, though."

"You know where he is?" Now the other woman's tone was sharp, almost disbelieving.

Jenna continued to grin. "It wasn't a total loss. I lost the Liberator…," she trailed off, momentarily allowing herself to think back on that beautiful ship, now gone and maybe destroyed. Her smile faded. The greatest pleasure she'd had over the last two years had been the opportunity to pilot Liberator. In some inner corner of her conscience, she often worried that she was just prolonging things in order to keep from having to give up the ship.

Her companion waited expectantly.

"Well, we had to abandon the ship," Jenna said defensively. "I have no idea whether she survived intact or not—"

"The ship survived," the other woman interrupted harshly. "It repaired itself quite adequately."

"And Avon? Vila? Cally?"

"Them too."

"Then the rebels do stand a good chance. If they attack before the Federation forces have regrouped..."

"That's hardly likely. Remember who is in charge of that ship now. Avon cares little for rebellion. They will hardly pose much of a threat."

Jenna shook her head regretfully. "I think you're wrong. You see, Avon made a promise to Blake before we abandoned ship. He promised to carry on the fight if Blake didn't make it back. Avon won't like having to keep that promise, but he'll do it. He always keeps his word. You should know that by now."

"I know it. But think—since Avon won't want to fight, he'll spend his time searching for Blake, in order to avoid having to carry out his promise. If he retrieves Blake, then the promise is cancelled, yes?"

"Yes. But what makes you so certain he'll waste his time looking for Blake? They never got along, you know."

There was a flash of white teeth visible from the depths of the hood. "I have it from my best puppeteers. They've assured me that Avon will look for matter the cost." She paused a moment, then leaned forward across the rough wood table. "Now, tell me: where is Blake? You have him?"

Jenna studied the delicate features now visible to her. "Yes, he's with me. He's a little confused as to why I've insisted we stay here so long." She fished in her pocket and drew out a key. "There's the key to our room. Send your guards whenever you like. I won't be going back; I've got everything from the room that I want to keep already with me." She set the key on the table in front of the other woman.

A dainty hand reached out from the depths of the cloak and snatched up the key, clutching it tight-fisted.

"Will he know I did it?" Jenna asked suddenly, not realizing she would care in the end.

Her companion cocked her head. "Developing a conscience at this late date, are you?"

Jenna shook her head numbly. "Just curious."

"Yes, he'll probably know. But how long do you think he'll remember? He'll be in the hands of the puppeteers by tomorrow. And you'll be headed for your next assignment." A small data block was placed in front of Jenna. "Your orders. You leave Jevron with the troop ship taking Blake back to Earth. We're going to lay a trap for Avon..."

"For Liberator, " Jenna breathed, her eyes gleaming.

The other woman laughed. "I see you know whose side you're really on."

"I'm on nobody's side but my own, Servalan," Jenna said, joining in on the laughter. "I always did want that ship..."

Originally published in Gateway to Time IV

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Ashton Press/Ann Wortham

Leah Rosenthal

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