The Rap-Up

Leah Rosenthal & Ann Wortham

"He sold us, Avon," said Tarrant, his face twisted with disillusioned disgust. "All of us. Even you."

"Is it true?" Avon cried, the customary coldness of his features beginning to shatter as he stared at the man before him.

"Avon—" Blake stepped forward. "Avon, it's me. Blake."

"Stand still!" Avon nearly quavered, the gun clutched in white-fingered hands. "Is it true? Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me!"

"Tarrant doesn't understand," Blake began impatiently.

"Neither do I, Blake!"

Blake took a deep breath. "I set all of this up."

Avon's eyes widened and he blinked. "You set what up?"

Blake looked about in confusion and spread his hands wide.

"This."

"This what?" Avon persisted. "Explain yourself, idiot. This floor tile? This birthday party? This high-yield, interest bearing market account? What did you 'set up'?" His voice was growing ever more strident.

Blake blinked, his mouth slightly agape. "You've gone barmy."

"I've gone barmy? I've gone bloody barmy?!" Avon yelled in near hysteria. "I come in here expecting…well, I'm not sure what I was expecting, given that Tarrant has the brains of an euglena and the perception of a mole and what do I find? A former colleague who can't seem to remember how to communicate coherently. Now let's—" Avon's gun suddenly went off, the projectile shearing narrowly past Blake's head and causing him to jump before it impacted with the woman behind him. Knocked out of her place of concealment, Arlen spun, gurgled and fell, stone cold dead on the floor. "—get this straight before we get rudely interrupted by yet another well-known Federation officer in camping gear. Exactly what did you set up?"

"Uh…um, this whole base thing. Isn't it obvious?" Blake's confusion was almost pathetic. "You know, the old phony bounty hunter trick? The message to Orac to get you here…the hidden base…this."

"THIS WHAT?!?!?" Avon bellowed, nearly foaming at the mouth. "This BETRAYAL?!?"

"Well of course not," Blake huffed, planting his fists on his hips. "Why would I do a thing like that?" He was genuinely peeved now.

"It would make a helluva story," Vila piped up from the fringes.

"Shut up, you stupid little git," Avon snarled without a backward glance. "I'm having trouble enough getting sense out of the Frontiersman, here."

"Better a woodsman than a heavy metal biker," Blake snapped back. "You might look macho to the general public, but I still remember the wussy little computer tech who couldn't cut it as an embezzler."

"This is the guy Avon's been trying to find for two years?!" Dayna gasped.

"Blake?!" Deva sped into the room and skidded to a halt. "Arlen!" He stared at the woman's dead body, shocked into immobility. "What happened?!"

"I'm bloody well spending the rest of my life trying to find out!!" Avon bellowed. "Answer the question, Blake: have you betrayed us all? Am I going to have to kill you?!"

"Jesus, Avon, do you expect an honest answer to a question like that, if I really was a Federation agent?" Blake bellowed right back. "I mean, what do you want me to say in order to save my hide? I'11 say it. 'Yes, Avon, this is all a secret rebel base full of honest rebels but I'm secretly a Fed officer, just waiting for you to waltz in so I can turn you over to a battalion of troops. Then they can grab me, too, for good measure, since I'm a notorious rebel who can't be permanently conditioned for longer than two years before I revert back again!' Is that what you need to hear? Or maybe the story goes 'Oh, Avon, I didn't know anything about Tarrant the doik because Tarrant the doik kept his trap shut for the first time in his entire doiky life?!' Or perhaps you want something more creative: 'I didn't set this up, but I'm just telling you I did because I have this secret death wish and martyr complex and I can't stand being without all those neat Liberator pirate outfits so I'd rather be dead…shoot me!' "

Avon obligingly fired…but not at Blake. Once more, his shots went beyond the rebel leader to impact with the Federation officers that had suddenly arrived. Avon and the rest of his crew opened fire and bodies began to fall everywhere. Blake dropped to the floor in a desperate attempt to get out of the line of chaotic gunplay. Deva was not so fortunate. He got in the way of a badly-aimed charge from Vila's gun and slumped to the deck, clutching at his foot. Federation personnel fell in heaps and the room filled with the sound of explosions and the smell of acrid smoke.

Then it was over.

"Before we are interrupted again, " Avon said coolly, pinning an intent gaze on Blake, who was still laying on the floor, "did you set this up?"

"No."

"There you go, Blake," Avon smiled. "A simple answer would have sufficed all along."

"It would have?" Blake gawked up at him.

"Of course." Avon mildly waved his hand to clear the smoke and then gestured at the bodies of the Fed officers strewn about them in disarray. "Two years ago you told me you trusted me. From the very beginning." He glanced around at his stunned crew members and slammed a new clip into his rifle. "I presume you meant that you also trust me to the very end."

"I thought you didn't trust anybody," Soolin protested.

"I don't," Avon replied. "But of all the people I know, I distrust Blake the least. And as you can see from all of this, I was correct."

"All of this what?" Blake began.

"Please!! Don't let's start that again!!" Vila groaned.

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Ashton Press/Ann Wortham

Leah Rosenthal

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