I'd say this was a WiP, but it never got further than the prologue and the first chapter, and mostly it isn't mine, and anyway you know what happened next.
Back in 1987, I had the idea for a Blake's 7 novelisation that would tell the story of the series (well, at least the first two seasons) from Travis's point of view.
The intent was to adapt the novel from the scripts for Seek-Locate-Destroy, Duel, Project Avalon, Deliverance, Orac, and Pressure Point, by Terry Nation; Weapon, Trial, and Star One by Chris Boucher; Hostage and The Keeper by Allan Prior; Voice From The Past by Roger Parkes; and Gambit by Robert Holmes.
It turned out to be harder work than I'd envisaged, and I got Seek-Locate-Destroy done and then moved on to easier things that didn't entail sitting in front the TV with a notebook to write down the dialogue, getting sore fingers from the pause and rewind buttons.
by Jane Carnall
The Federation. Begun in the 22nd century with high hopes and dreams; by the 24th century, uniting human and nonhuman species through a vast segment of the galaxy. Many historians point to that period as the flowering of the Federation of Planets; for from that period the hand of the military forces became stronger and stronger. The right to secede peacefully began to be called rebellion; and rebellion was put down with blood and lasers. The Federation had to expand; must expand to survive; and in the wake of expansion came genocide, totalitarianism, and military rule. Still, there was opposition, war even touching Earth, killing millions and forcing the survivors to live in sealed domes. And in 2871 a coup took the High Council, splitting power between the President and the Supreme Commander, filling the Council with their followers. That year became the first of the second calendar; and any who objected to the new regime soon found it safest to whisper, or better yet, forget that the Federation had once taken its power from cleaner hands than torturers and terrorists.
And, too, the Federation grew strong. For those who cooperated, it was a good; many billions of people lived out their lives and died peacefully, because the Federation existed. There were no wars; there was rule of law; taxation, while sometimes high, was fairly rated and brought visible benefits.
In the second century of the new calendar the Federation was at its height. In the history of the galaxy there has never been so great a dominion, over so vast a space. Children lived who might have died; scientists worked with greater resources than they ever could have had under a lesser power; artists created music, visuals, things of pleasure and delight.
But go to the heart.
A wheel, turning in hard vacuum, in space, in no star's system, in absolute zero. Space Command Headquarters. Where the children come, to be trained as soldiers, to go out and kill. Where the fruits of scientific research come; destructors, poisons, clever interrogation devices. Where the artists would rather forget exists.
In the wheel, a room. A white, hard, clean-lit room; and a woman, dressed in white, pale-skinned, black-haired, dark-eyed; the Supreme Commander of all the Federation military power; High Admiral of the Galactic Fleets, Lord General of the Six Armies, and Defender of the Earth. She is a graduate of the Federation Space Academy; staff officer material from the start, with political ambitions, but unlike most staff officers, she has a healthy appreciation of the real power of the military, and how and when it should be used.
One vulnerable, lucky, man, has -- for the moment -- squirmed out from under the crushing might of Federation law. It is time for the might of the real Federation, her Federation, to be demonstrated.
There is another man, less vulnerable, equally lucky, who will demonstrate it. He is ruthless; committed. He does his duty as he sees it, and he sees it clearly. He has never had time for the grey areas of politics; he is an advocate of total war. An enemy remains an enemy even after surrendering; he has been accused of causing (and undoubtedly did cause) several thousand civilian deaths on Oros after surrender. So there are those among the staff officers who consider him an assassin, not a Federation officer; those who have said openly they will not serve with him, nor take orders from him.
But the Supreme Commander is a realist; this man, fuelled by hate, already the subject of a military enquiry and stripped of his rank and authority, at risk of being dismissed the service, this man who obeys orders with meticulous thoroughness; this man will solve the Blake problem; and with his usual swift efficiency. It is necessary that hope die soon. So she has restored Space Commander Travis to his rank and authority, and appointed him a senior executive officer of Space Command Headquarters; and Blake's time is running out. His time, and his luck. For Space Commander Travis has never been defeated.
Travis docked at HQ at 18:23, nearly an hour late. Some subordinate who didn't look as if he'd ever been in battle in his life tried to tell him to wait until he was sent for, but he pushed past the man and went straight on. He had been in the Supreme Commander's office once or twice before; though he had never met this Supreme Commander face to face.
She leant back and smiled warmly. "Space Commander. It is good to see you."
"Your aide said I was to wait. He was obviously mistaken. He doesn't realise the urgency of the matter." Travis had a quiet voice, startlingly so until he chose to raise it: incongruous, Servalan thought, coming out of that face; the face of a brute beast, but one that thought; the face of a psychotic, but one with judgement. And bionic rebuild, crude and serviceable, over almost a quarter of the face, where one eye would have been.
Now he looked at the Supreme Commander, making it clear he knew it had been no mistake, deliberately offering her the facesaving way out.
She picked up the envelope with a formal print-out, and passed it to Travis.
He opened it, grinned. Four words. "These are your orders?"
Seek, locate -- "Destroy Blake."
"Depend on it."
Blake's last attack, a mere few hours ago, had been on the communications base at Centero. There was the first place to go.
Priority spacewave and flight-clearance; The Supreme Commander requests that all personnel give maximum cooperation to the incoming officer, Space Commander Travis.
The code room was mostly wrecked; hardly even rubble left, mere twisted pieces of metal, scored by blast. White-clad technicians were at work, clearing the place up. Travis yelled in the tone he used for drunken troopers, "STOP!"
Trell, the technician in charge, looked at him nervously. A man easily made nervous, Travis judged, and asked more quietly "What are these men doing here?"
"Well, I didn't think it would matter if we made a start on clearing up the worst of the damage."
"My orders were that nothing was to be touched in this room. Nothing." Turning from the intimidated Trell, he raised his voice again. "Get out! OUT!"
As the technicians scurried from the room, he looked again, briefly, at the other man. "Go through the sequence of events."
"From the beginning, sir?"
"Well, naturally," Travis said, laden with contempt. Civilians came below staff officers in his scheme of things -- a long way below.
"Well, two men came through the door -- from the description you gave me, one was certainly Blake." He paused hopefully.
"Well, we were made to stand against the wall, and a minute or so later, three more of them just appeared."
"Well, materialised, sir. My men and I were taken out by a man and a girl. It was the girl who kept us prisoner in the equipment store. Well, we overpowered her, but the demolition charges went off, sir -- well, we were lucky to get out alive."
"How long were Blake and his men in here?"
"Five, ten minutes -- not more."
"Five or ten minutes? They could have set demolition charges in thirty seconds." Travis was thinking aloud now. "What were they doing in that extra time?"
"Perhaps they had trouble getting them to work, sir."
"And why did they take you and your men out of here?"
"I suppose they thought it was safer with us out of the way."
"No. No. There's something missing. I'm missing something." He was silent for a few seconds. "Do you still have the original construction plans for this room?"
"They'll be on record, sir."
"And detailed diagrams of all the circuits?"
"Good. I'm sending in a forensic team. I want a full catalogue of every item in this room."
" -- but sir!"
"Everything must be accounted for." Travis turned to leave.
"But sir -- sir!"
On the offchance that the civilian had an important point to raise, the Commander turned back.
"It could take months, sir. If it's possible at all."
"Trell. If I were you I'd make it possible. I want that catalogue in twenty hours."
"Sir." As Travis was leaving, Trell's communicator buzzed. "Yes. Right."
"What is it?"
"They've found someone, sir. Under the rubble. I think you'd better come along."
The equipment store had only been wrecked by blast; no demolition charges had actually been set inside. Travis added that to what he already knew of Blake, with a sour flash of humour. A merciful man. There was one dead trooper, lying under a metal beam; Trell demanded "Where is it?" of the technician examining him, who gestured "Over there."
Trell scrambled over. "It's the girl who was holding us prisoner, sir."
"I'll check sir."
"We found this, sir." The technician handed Travis an odd hand gun. It conformed to no design he had ever seen before; but the grip was good, and the gun hefted easily in his hand. Travis smiled. He appreciated good weapons.
Travis jerked out of his contemplation of the gun, and snapped to the other technician "You. Get a medical squad. MOVE!"
"Yes sir," the man said, after a frozen instant, and ran.
Trell came over. "She'll pull through all right, sir. She's lucky."
"No, we are," Travis said absently. "Her luck ran out when she didn't die." More briskly, he added "The medics are to give her emergency treatment, and put her in a life-support capsule. I take off for the station in one hour."
Before he had left HQ, Travis had demanded every scrap of information in the records about Blake, and about any others he might have in his crew; when he returned to the station, there was a message waiting from the Supreme Commander.
He went straight to her office. "Is the information not yet available?"
"Much of it is top security, Space Commander. I only obtained it with my guarantee that it would not be accessed out of my sight. You'll have to use the viewer in my office." She handed him the control, and went back to her desk; Travis seated himself in front of the screen, and began to work through the files and records.
Blake's personal files, the record of his life, both his trials, personal reports from supervisors... and ending with being shipped off on the London.
But that hadn't been the end. There was the log of the London's voyage, with an account of the mutiny; put down with brutal efficiency by an officer called Raiker, who was wasted as a civilian. Except that he should have killed the three ringleaders, with or without the orders of Captain Leylan. Instead, Leylan had used them as test animals for a hostile, deserted ship, adrift in space. And -- naturally enough -- they'd taken the ship. Criminally stupid. Leylan would never work again; but, Travis thought, he deserved to be downgraded and drafted on a Delta worksquad.
So. Blake had the ship; and with him for certain, the two other ringleaders of the mutiny; a smuggler called Jenna Stannis and a computer technician called Kerr Avon. From the descriptions Trell had given, it had been Blake and Avon in the raid on Centero, along with two other men. One was almost certainly Olag Gan, a Delta from Zephron, who'd been on the London; the fourth man, nondescript, could have been almost anybody. The list of convicts from the London was no real guide; they could easily have recruited more from Cygnus Alpha -- or for that matter, any free planet.
The girl, though, was completely unidentifiable. She wasn't on any Federation record; Travis had had retinal and genetic scans done, and come up negative. From the technician's reports, she might not even be human.
He turned back to the shots of Blake in prison, under torture, flicking through them like pornosnaps. The man's face was compelling.
Glancing at the chronometer, he realised he'd been sitting there for six hours straight, just as the Supreme Commander said neutrally, "Shouldn't you rest now?"
"Is this all the information we have on Blake?"
"I checked with Intelligence personally. It's all there."
"Have you approved my requisitions for personnel and equipment?"
"The ships you want. The Starburst class. I'm not sure I can get them."
Travis swung his chair round. "What?"
Shock and outrage, Servalan noted. Never get between a monomaniac and his obsession. "There have only been three of them built so far, and they've already been assigned to the Galactic Eighth Fleet," she said, sweet and reasonable.
"Well, get them reassigned to you!" Travis became aware that he was hectoring, and said, more reasonably, "Look, from what we already know about Blake's ship, it's vastly superior to anything we've got. If I'm to stand even a reasonable chance of taking them, I need those three high-range pursuit ships!"
The Supreme Commander nodded. "You'll have them."
"What about my crew?"
"Already assigned. Why mutoids, particularly?"
In a better humour, now he was certain of the ships, Travis almost grinned. It was a question he was used to. "Why mutoids? I've always felt that individuals with a high bionic rebuild were more reliable, less likely to let emotion interfere with judgement, or duty. I'd give a mutoid priority over a man, every time." He raised his left hand, tapped it. Gloved like the right in black leathertype, nothing about it looked odd, except that he wore a single ring, non-regulation, with a large gold jewel. "Or perhaps it's this that gives me a fellow feeling."
Her face did not change. She had, Travis thought, immense control. She should have been a field officer. "Does it still trouble you?"
He was about to answer, yes, and then realised. "Oh, not in the way you mean. The surgical mechanics did a perfect refit. I had the weaponry devision make a few adaptations. They built in a laseron destroyer, more powerful than any sidearm. No, the hand is fine." He almost smiled. "Better than the original. It only troubles me because it's a constant reminder that the man who caused it is still alive."
"Blake. That's why I chose you."
"I read all the reports, of course. But none of them said what happened. None of them explained about your face."
It was her first reference to it, by word or look. "What about my face?"
"It was patched up by a field medic."
"Man saved my life."
"But why did you never let the surgeons finish the job?"
"What are you suggesting? Cosmetic surgery?" Travis said with angry amusement. He'd thought better of this woman. "I'm a field officer, not one of your decorative staff men."
"You're certainly not decorative."
"You find it repulsive?" He seemed to like the idea.
"I find it...unpleasing."
"But memorable. You wouldn't mistake me for anyone else."
"Neither will Blake. Even after all this time, he'll know me, and remember what happened at our first meeting."
It was an order, of course; but something of Travis wanted to tell the story. Even hatred hoarded needs an occasional outlet, if it is not to waste and die. "It was quite early on. Blake had only been involved with the dissidents for a short while. But he already had a following. He organised some attacks against some of our political rehabilitation centres. Released some of the prisoners who were having indoctrination treatments.
"I was assigned to deal with the matter. We got information that Blake was planning another raid. We knew the location of the meeting point. I made my plans well in advance.
"The group had arranged to meet in a sub-basement; there were about thirty of them. He had people watching all the exits and entrances for a full twenty-four hours before the time of the meeting. So I gave orders for none of our forces to go anywhere near the place in that time.
"My men and I were waiting there for two days. We came out as soon as all the insurrectionists were present. They hadn't a chance. Blake told me that they'd offer no resistance. But I've never seen any point in trying vermin. I had orders that Blake was to be taken alive for reprogramming, but none about his followers, so I ordered my men to open fire. I remember seeing Blake running -- straight into a guard -- and moments later, I was hit. He'd grabbed the gun from the man. I imagine he thought he'd killed me."
Travis said nothing of the moment, when, as he was supervising the carnage, he had looked straight at Blake, and for one frozen stretched instant, their eyes had met. He had seen Blake bringing the gun up, heard the sound of firing, but stretched into infinity by the molten hatred in those brown eyes.
"Ten of the scum lived," he added. "A pity I had orders to spare Blake. Now it's all to do again."
The Supreme Commander smiled. A very pretty, very charming smile, showing pretty white teeth. "I wouldn't have given those orders."
The girl had been left on Centero. The ship he used had no room for a life-support capsule. Fortunately, all good interrogation rooms -- and the base on Centero was as well equipped as any Federation base -- have good long-distance holograph units; while the technicians must be physically present, the questioner may be -- may have to be -- several parsecs away.
She lay in the capsule, a black mask covering most of her face; but when a white-coated medical technician removed it, the bruising had gone. She was narrow-faced, skinny, with pronounced thin bones. All within the human norm, but on the edges of it. Perhaps she was not human.
"What's her condition?"
"There's some superficial bruising. A slight respiratory problem. Other than that, she's virtually unharmed. There's virtually no need for her to remain in the life support capsule."
"No, she'll stay where she is for the moment. It'll make her more responsive to interrogation later."
"She's really not well enough to submit to intensive questioning." The man's voice shook over the word. One of those medics who were squeamish about torture. "She must have rest -- "
Travis cut in over him. "Yes, thank you very much indeed, Doctor, you're relieved of your responsibility for the prisoner. She is now the property -- the concern of the interrogation division."
The medic went without further protest. Squeamish and cowardly.
The girl's eyes had opened; she was blinking, perhaps with confusion. Travis made his voice caress. "We want to know about Blake, his ship, his crew, his plans."
"Your words are meaningless to me. Who is Blake?" Her voice was cold, clear.
"I think you'll remember. Quite soon. Oh, there may be a little pain, a little discomfort -- but you will remember."
"I will tell you nothing."
"I'll come back later. By that time you may have answered my questions." He nodded to the waiting interrogation technicians. "You may begin."
The message came through while he was again in the Supreme Commander's office, finishing another scan of the files. A priority message delivered by a category one courier. Thorough check of salvage material reveals no trace of parts used in manufacture of component 1430. It is virtually certain, therefore, that the instrument was removed before the explosion. Component --
But Travis had already got the message. He switched the machine off. "Blake got the cipher machine."
"He's able to read everything we transmit. Forward planning movements, security -- everything!"
The Supreme Commander was uncharacteristically, visibly agitated. "I'll advise Central Security. We have to introduce a new code system immediately."
"No," Travis snapped, "no! If the code system is changed, Blake will know we're on to him!"
"That's not important. What matters is that our security is wide open." She reached for the communicator switch. Travis snapped his hand down on to hers, holding it.
"Listen to me. We know that Blake is reading us. If we transmit a message, in the normal, routine way, he'll intercept it, hm? Now, what if that message was something he wanted to know? Something that we know would bring him to a particular place? Hm?"
Slowly, the Supreme Commander sat, staring at him. "A place where we would be waiting for him!"
Space Headquarters priority: injured female prisoner taken after attack on communications base planet Centero to be held for treatment and interrogation.
The room was small, with a single table and two chairs, lit by one lamp. Travis was seated at the table, focussing on the tablet he held, making minute notes with a stylus. He barely noticed the man coming in.
"Base Commander Escon reporting, sir."
Travis looked up. "Yes, Base Commander?"
"I've escorted the prisoner to the interrogation room. And my men have been briefed to keep out of sight until you give the signal."
"Good. Blake is to get right inside the building before anybody makes a move."
"Sit down, Base Commander." With a mutter of thanks, the man obeyed. "How are your units deployed?"
"We have the whole area circled. Squads on every roof. Destructors with wide-firing spread around every wall. Once they're inside, there's no way they're going to get out again."
"Good. Spacewatch reports?"
"An unidentified ship entered our upper atmosphere about an hour before you arrived."
"Blake's?" Travis leant forward, unable to control his eagerness.
"We assume so."
"Because it came in close and then raced back out again. Our guess is that it was doing a fast ground survey."
"Seems reasonable. Where is it now?"
"In fixed orbit, about a quarter of a million out."
"Quarter of a million? They won't be able to use their teleport at that range, they'll have to come in closer. And they can't do that without our knowing it, which leaves just one chance factor -- exactly where they'll teleport down. The odds are against their being able to zero in on the interrogation room."
"I think we have that beaten too, sir."
"My research people have rigged up the entire complex with an MSD."
"A molecular shift detector, sir. Apparently there's an enormous kinetic potential set up by teleport communications. A rough analogy would be the static buildup during an electrical storm."
"Yes, well I'm always grateful for a rough analogy. What exactly does it do?"
"It tells us exactly where and when they land."
Travis almost smiled. "It's perfect."
"They still may not come," Escon said diffidently.
"Oh, he'll come. He wouldn't abandon the girl. Not Blake."
Travis was almost murmuring; the other man watched him with a degree of apprehension. The completely efficient, ruthless soldier he could understand, even admire; but this one weakness, this obsession with the rebel Blake, was strange; and what was strange, to any good Federation soldier, was frightening.
Crisply, Travis added "Right, it starts now. Get under cover."
Escon stood. "Yes sir."
"Oh, and Base Commander, remember, Blake is to get right inside the building. Let him find me and the girl before anybody makes a move. Is that clearly understood?"
"Understood, sir." Escon snapped off a salute, but Travis was gone before him; to the interrogation room.
The woman had been locked into a question-chair, as Travis had ordered. He smiled at her, his triumph pleasing him. "I hope you're not too uncomfortable. It won't be long now."
Her voice was still clear, and she still showed spirit. Travis liked that in an opponent. "You are wasting your time. Blake will not risk his ship and his crew, not for me."
"I've studied that man till I know him better than I know myself. He has one reliable flaw. Loyalty. He'll come for you -- I'll stake my life on it." A communicator on the wall beeped, and Travis went to it. "Yes."
"No movement yet from Blake's ship. Still holding fixed orbit."
"Let me know the minute it starts in."
He turned back to the woman, saying pleasantly, "I'm sorry about this, but I don't want you doing anything foolish, like shouting for help." He reached for a switch. "Now this won't hurt." As he touched it, the woman appeared to galvanise, one short yelp wrung out of her, and then remained paralytically still. Travis went back to the corridor, stepped outside into the open air, and looked around, then up. No soldiers were visible, but he knew they were there. He returned to the silent interrogation room, and reached to swing the chair around, preparing a grinning comment.
The chair was empty. Empty.
And an arm was round his throat and a gun against his neck and a hated, familiar voice said "A trick I learned from you, Travis. I got there first. Take his gun, Cally."
The woman came and removed his gun, pointing it at him. "Know this," she said, smiling, showing most of her teeth. "Know this. Your interrogators caused me much suffering. I should like a reason to kill you. One small movement will be enough."
Travis stood still. He could hear Blake saying to a communicator, "I got her, Jenna. Bring the ship into teleport range." A woman's voice, presumably that of Stannis, answered "On our way."
Blake looked at him again, and in the molten eyes Travis saw his own hatred mirrored. "Now, Travis, your turn. You sit in the chair."
Obediently, he sat, fingering his ring casually. "You're not out of this yet."
The communicator beeped. "Blake's ship is moving!" it said urgently. "Coming in very fast!" The woman, Cally, clipped down the chair's cuffs. He had never been in one of these before, but it didn't matter. He could still move his fingers.
"We'll be leaving in about three minutes," Blake said. "I should use the time to think of an excuse for your failure."
"You'd better kill me, Blake. Until one of us is dead, there'll never be a time when I won't be right behind you."
"If not you, then somebody else. Killing you will change nothing. You don't matter enough to kill, Travis."
He had been taught how to control, how to contain his anger. But fury was bubbling inside him, boiling with the urge for release. Failure. You don't matter. Failure. You're wrong, Blake! The rebel had turned his back, was checking the corridor outside; Travis had a clear shot. He shouldn't have forgotten the woman. That was a mistake. Preparing to fire, he heard the woman yell "Blake! Get down!" and the laserbolt missed.
Blake swung around, his face a mask of total fury and hatred, lashing out, striking with obscene practicality at the weakest point; Travis's trapped hand. It smashed in a flare of white light, and he cried out in agony.
Through the burning, crippling pain, unable to move, he heard Blake say "Door, Cally, they'll be coming!"
"Ninety seconds," said somebody else.
"Make it faster."
The woman called "They're coming," and Blake shouted "Get down!" He heard gunfire, and the door fell in, and summoning all his control he snarled through the pain "Take them! It doesn't matter about me! I order you to take them!"
The soldiers hesitated too long. Later, he would have them broken for it. As the two of them teleported out, he snapped "Don't stand there, you idiots! Launch the interceptors!"
The interceptors failed. Blake's ship was too fast. It would be a long hunt, but Blake was wrong. He should have killed Travis, for no one else would have the same dedication to the chase, the same fuel of hatred that burned cold inside. Freezing cold. A technician, not military standard, was trying to fix his hand; he shorted two circuits, causing a flash of pain, and Travis snarled and struck him away. He could endure the pain until he reached HQ. Looking up at the ceiling, he said softly, and a listener could not have told whether he spoke to a lover or an enemy, whether his voice thickened with desire or hate; "Run, Blake. Run. As far and as fast as you like. I'll find you. You can't hide from me. I am your death, Blake."
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