Passing Through Fire

By N. Barnard

First Moloch, horrid king besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents tears,
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud
Their childrens cries unheard, that passed through fire
To his grim Idol.
Paradise Lost John Milton

Vila felt good. Well, that wasnt entirely true: he was annoyed and slightly scared of Tarrant. He felt really uncomfortable in the Federation uniform just didnt feel right. The prospect of sleeping outdoors on this misbegotten planet, Sardos, was not filling him with any sense of joyful anticipation, but he was mildly drunk and that made up for a lot. Doran was dragging him somewhere. That seemed to be his lot, lately: pushed and pulled and shoved around. He was fed up with it. Didnt seem to help though. Tarrant never listened and it wasnt as though Vila could do a lot about it except walk away.

I cant believe I walked away from a man pointing a gun to my head, Vila marvelled. I must have been drunk even if it was only Tarrant. Wonder what hes up to now? Do I care? No, not particularly.

The track stretched ahead of them, rough with chalk and flint, all shades of grey and white. Not very cheerful. It almost merged with the sky, another shade of grey, a sort of glowering day, sullen, almost threatening. Or maybe that was just his agoraphobia talking. Dome living didnt exactly encourage the appreciation of open landscape, and the few scrubby saplings dotted about could hardly be called ground cover. Vila shivered a little. At least the singing was cheerful, even if Doran was a bit off key.

Over the rise a shelter came into view. It didnt seem promising, a cobbled together structure that looked like it had been salvaged from bits of troop carrier or possibly its escape pods, going rusty in the weather. Wasnt meant to stand up to the elements, just vacuum. Doran almost seemed to vibrate at the sight of it though.

Got something special for you, Vila, my mate. A present. How long did you say you were on Kalkos? Whats the thing you missed most, Vila old pal?

Um. Booze?

No. After that.


A woman, Vila. Do you remember what they smell like? All sort of flowery and sweet, like a butchers shop. I remember women.

Like women then, Doran?


He marched down the hill like a dog on a scent. Vila watched him uneasily. He liked Doran, felt safe with him, but only because hed met the type before. If you were a mate there wasnt anything too good for you, but anyone else was fair game. Doran had no respect for anything and very little fear. His type made good protectors. Vila knew that from prison. The sounds and smells of a crowded holding cell washed over him for a minute, like someone walking over his grave. The barely contained hysteria and violence, the disinfectant, the underlying sweat and fear. The blood. Fendo whispering in Vilas ear, See that pretty boy? We could have him, Vila, my mate. Nice and sweet for our pleasure. What do you say? He shuddered and the memory was shaken away, skittering off to lurk with all the other hidden things.

Vila! Come on... Doran was at the base of the hill now and beckoning. Hastily, Vila scrambled down the chalk scarp. One or two drops of rain fell, his face felt colder for them. More eagerly now, he ran over.

What is it, Doran?

I told you. I got a present for you. All the lads wanted her but I said, No, shes for my pal Vila. Look, shes a real bit of class.

Doran dragged him round to take a look at the prize. The shelter was open to the weather at its front. Some attempt to make it more habitable had resulted in a couple of furs being scattered about, poor help against the stony ground, Vila thought. And lying on them, cool as ever, all black and silver, and glowering. Like the day was, he thought distractedly. Servalan.

Im in trouble. His first thought as his nerves congealed. Then. Shes in more trouble. You cant reason with this lot. They wont care shes President theyll find it funny. Itll add spice. She cant threaten men who have nothing to lose. He looked at her a bit like a rabbit might look at a poised cat. Her eyes held contempt and a fair measure of exasperation. But they were beautiful. He couldnt help but notice.

Suddenly, he felt a shove in the small of his back. He stumbled, lost his balance and fell onto a thin white fur, bruising his knees.

Well, go on then! What are you waiting for? Dorans face was screwed up in anticipation. He licked his lips. Dont be too long, Vila. I got my own turn coming. He sauntered off with a wink and a leer.

They looked at each other. The contempt in her eyes intensified.

Vila. She paused. Well, come on lets get out of here. I know where theyre holding Tarrant.

He scrambled to his feet and pointed his gun at her. It didnt seem to help. She was unarmed, as if that made her any less dangerous. He watched her as she got up, as though she were some sort of puff adder about to strike.

Dont try anything, Servalan.

Oh, I wouldnt dare. Well, are you coming? She stared at him, hand on one shimmering hip, and arched an eyebrow.

Why would you help me find Tarrant? Assuming I want to find him. Last time I saw him I was looking down the wrong end of his gun.

Then why are we on opposite sides, Vila? Besides... She smiled for the first time, a showing of teeth only. Hell be in the holding area. And theyre holding two of my pilots there as well. I want them back.

Nervously he gestured with the blaster for her to go ahead of him. She glanced down and a genuine smile crossed her features. Calmly she walked across the small space that separated them, her body in its protective silk pressing up to the gun, their faces only inches apart.

Do you really think you will use that, Vila?

Continued in Frobidden Star Two...

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Last updated on 03rd of January 1998.