NOTE Blake 7 characters and universe belongs to whoselever the law says it does - where that is not me I am content.

Crime and Punishment – the crime

It was always the desktop he saw. In flashbacks, in dreams, in half dreams, it was always the desktop. Never his hand holding the pen, and certainly never his hand writing the name that, in that time and place, was all it needed for it to be lawful. He saw the scattered maps and surveys, the discarded notepad, the stack of detectors that didn't work still waiting for his attention, which they never got, and that archaic throwback, the piece of paper whose words he somehow couldn't remember. But he never saw his hand, or the signature that made it possible.

It was there, he knew that; He had written his name, and so the process of Avon's death was begun, and ended.

Sometimes he saw the room, small and cramped, a scuffed floor, it's colour rendered uncertain by the passage of so many feet, the scratched walls and the film of dust shown up mercilessly by the hard light from an ancient luxpanel. That same light had reflected in the surface of the pen, god alone knew in which corner of this derelict warren that treasure had been found, as it lay across that single sheet. A pale ghost of a sheet that had been thrown down crookedly, he remembered that, and that he hadn't wanted to touch it, not even to straighten it, so crooked it had remained even as he signed it.

Sometimes he heard the voices, arguing with him and with each other.

"Blake, it's dividing the troops, something has to be done if your army isn't to fall apart. You have to act."

"What was he supposed to think man? You'd been playing at bounty hunter and he has the richest bounty in the Federated worlds on his head, you should have remembered that."

"I told you not to play those silly games. Why wouldn't he believe Tarrant? You hadn't been in touch for over four years so why would even believe that it was you in front of him?"

"He tried to kill you! It's only luck that you aren't dead. He shot three times for god's sake, no one can say that he didn't mean it!"

"He thought you had betrayed him, and the rebellion, what else could you expect of him? What would you have done to him if you thought he had betrayed us? Would you have waited to have someone confirm it? What would any of us have done in his place?"

"You can't trust him, not now, and if we let him go who knows what trouble he will cause? It's not as if he believes in what we are trying to do, for him it's a personal vendetta and there is no saying where that might take him, or how much damage he might do."

"Some people are starting to ask if maybe he wasn't right. How did the Federation find us? Why were you so determined to bring Arlen in? Why won't you explain it?"

"He might make moves to displace you, and there are some who might listen. You need to act Blake, before others start to think it's guilt that's holding you back. Or that you have something to hide."

"He is a distraction that could ruin everything, leave it unresolved and it could split us, divide us, and divided we are not strong enough to win, you know that!"

It was the last one that decided him in the end. He had come so far, too far to let it fall apart now. That was why he had agreed he told himself, not anger or any desire for revenge, but the need to stay focussed on the greater good. That was why it was necessary.

But there had been anger, and bitterness and a sense of betrayal that he couldn't shake off. Avon hadn't kept faith and in the end that failure had to kill one of them.

Sometimes he could almost recapture the feelings of those days and weeks; the anger that Avon's judgement of him had been so harsh, that at the end Avon hadn't been prepared to believe any longer, that he had been ready to shoot but not to listen.

At first there had been a desperate sadness that Avon had believed him capable of such a betrayal, was willing to believe it so easily and without cause, to he was willing to take Tarrant's word over his. But that sorrow had hardened into anger in the face of Avon's continued belief that he had been justified in his actions. If there had been one word of guilt he hoped, believed, that he would have forgiven.

But there was no sense of guilt to be forgiven, and in time that curdled the sadness into anger and the anger cooled into indifference. Oh yes, Avon regretted his actions, he was honest enough to admit that, but he maintained that in the circumstances there had been nothing else that he could have done, nothing but take his betrayer as a companion for his anticipated death. Blake, deeply saddened by Vila's reports of Cally's death, had seen that as a taunt, a challenge to his right to the moral high ground, and the resentment had set in.

"There are those who think he was right Blake, that you gave him no choice. That it proves his credentials if you like. We can't allow that. He is already too high profile for comfort, his actions against the Federation's expansions are too well known. We need you and we need everyone to believe in you, but they must follow, there can be no challengers. He has to be dealt with."

So, in the end, they had persuaded him. Time was growing short, events were hurrying towards a conclusion, and if it took this one last sacrifice to keep it moving forward then so be it.

So he had signed, first the arraignment and then the death warrant. Avon was removed first to prison and then to a cold clearing on a freezing morning, and finally to an equally frozen grave. Blake's final memory of the man he had waited for was of dark eyes narrowed against a low sun and a smile as sadly contemptuous as any he would ever see. He had locked that memory away and led his army forward to victory.

Avon's crew had not hung around to wait for a pardon, as the same sun that had lit the execution ground climbed above the trees they slipped their guards and left. He heard rumours that the pilot and the women joined Avalon, but he never heard of them again. At least not by those names. Vila simply disappeared.

But he never remembered them. All he really remembered was that desk top, the rattle of the ventilation systems, the dust dancing on the dry recycled air and the name on a piece of paper that he never even read.