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Vila Restals E-mails - Year 4

By Nicola Mody
To:               Vila Restal [vila@liberator.rebel.org]
From:           Jandy Restal [jrestal@deltalevel17.londondome.terra]
Subject:       Terminal

Dear Vila,

I’m sorry you lost the Liberator, dear, and that Zen died. I suppose he was a bit past a reboot. Have you been able to repair the ship Servalan left for you? It sounds like a real banger; I do hope you got the better end of that swap.

And I am proud of you that you remembered to take extra clothes and undies with you when you abandoned ship. How clever of you to wear them all at once!

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       Are you still there?

Dear Vila,

You keep doing this to me, Vila! First you get radiation sickness, then Orac predicts you’ll all get blown up, then you get mixed up in an intergalactic war, and now you’re stranded after your ship got eaten up around you. You tell me these terrible things, then you don’t write - you just leave me wondering what’s happened to you. Do you enjoy frightening me? Don’t you know how much I worry when I don’t hear from you? I hope there aren’t any cliffs on that Terminal for you to be lying dead at the bottom of. I do worry so much about you, Vila. You should think of your poor mother sometimes.

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal [vila@scorpio.salvage.com]
Subject:       Cally

Dear Mum,

No, I’m not dead at the bottom of a cliff, but I almost was. And Cally’s dead. She was so nice, friendly and sweet, and she even liked me too. Mostly. I’ve got a really bad pain in my chest like when Gan died, and though I’ve knocked back enough wine to stun a Tarsian warg-strangler, it still hurts. So does my head for that matter. And of course now Cally’s gone, there isn’t anyone to talk to about her. Must be an Alpha thing - don’t mention the dead. Like never saying where you’re going when you want a pee.

BTW Orac can forward our mail to us from our old Liberator addresses, but from now on you should write to the new one. I’m going to bed while I can still stagger there.

G’night, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Cally

Dear Vila,

I am so sorry to hear about Cally. I used to hope she’d come to her senses and see what a much nicer boy you are than that snitty Avon. And drinking yourself legless won’t help. You tell me about it instead.

And what cliff?

Lots of hugs and kisses from your Mum  xxx ooo 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Cally

Dear Mum,

Oh, all right. Avon and Dayna went off to look at Servalan’s crashed ship while the rest of us checked out the underground base for food and supplies. Avon took Dayna because she’s an explosives expert and he thought the ship might be booby-trapped. It was, and so was the base – it all came down on top of us. I wasn’t hurt but Tarrant was unconscious (yeah, you can tell!) so I dragged him out. Almost didn’t get the great oaf up the ladder; I think I’ve put my back out now. I dumped him outside, then went back for Cally. She said “Vila” telepathically, and I yelled I was coming, then started down. There were more explosions, almost throwing me off the ladder, and the hatch started to close. I jumped out just in time and threw myself on Tarrant to shield him – suppose I wanted to protect my investment. Then I ‘heard’ Cally call out “Blake!” and I felt her die. So I wouldn’t have got to her in time.

Why did she call for Blake? Why not Avon? Because Avon’s mistake stranded us here? Or because she thought Blake might make everything all right again, like it once was?

When Avon and Dayna got back I was curled up beside Tarrant, crying. Avon went in to look for Cally, and Dayna looked at me in disgust then tried to wake Tarrant up. Avon came back and stood beside me. I said I was sorry, and I could see his boots right by my face. I thought he’d kick me, but he just said very quietly, “There was nothing you could have done, Vila,” which is maybe the kindest thing he ever said to me. He had Orac with him, and sat down and pretended to try and fix it. I went off to look for firewood till I got myself under control. Shows how much I cared about Cally: there were real hairy aliens – links – about, and some snaky things that had attacked Dayna, but I just didn’t care. Turned out Tarrant got hurt trying to rescue Cally, so she can’t have been far away. I should have looked. She died alone and silent, which is a terrible thing for an Auron. I hope she felt me thinking about her. She sometimes could. Maybe that would have been a comfort, but considering it was only me, I doubt it.

More later when I feel better. And yes. I’ll tell you about the cliff.

Love, Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Dorian

Dear Mum,

Me again. First the cliff. The next morning, Dayna was scouting ahead and I was all alone and getting very nervous, so my bravery of the night before must’ve worn off. Or my shock more like. When I heard Dayna yelling for help, I ran off after her and fell half-way down a cliff (not a very big one) and ended up clinging terrified to a tree root next to her, with a huge wolf-snake thingy at the bottom trying to get at us. Dayna was not impressed. Another daring rescue from that well-known hero Vila Restal…

A guy called Dorian came along and rescued us and was promptly rewarded by Avon pulling a gun on him and taking over his ship, an old rust-bucket of a salvage scow called Scorpio. On the way back to Dorian’s base on Xenon, I made it up to Dayna when I opened the gun locker for her. She was really taken with the cute little guns with all the nifty interchangeable clips in designer colours – laser, plasma, shells, grenades, stun, drugs. We took one each. I went for the stun option, though the drug clips have certain possibilities for the future. Still, I grabbed Dayna’s discarded Fed rifle on the way off the ship. I was nervous, it looked big and mean, and I needed some reassurance.

I was right to be suspicious. They were expecting us. Dorian’s ‘companion’ Soolin was ready with wine – a glass for each of us including Cally (I drank that one). We all had hot baths waiting and new outfits laid out for us in our quarters - all grey except for Avon’s which was black leather with studs as usual, and some white. Which would average out to grey. Dorian obviously knew Avon’s taste well enough. I don’t want to think about what he knew about me - my outfit has targets on it. Only on the shoulders and elbows luckily, not any vital bits! But still. Must have bought in bulk too – there were 5 more the same in the wardrobe.

Soon as I emerged all clean and sleepy from a hot bath, Dayna and Tarrant tried to get me to open the security door to the landing bay. Without proper equipment it was a waste of my time, so when they left to look for another way in, I sodded off to find Dorian’s wine. Excellent stuff, made from real grapes and more than a few months old if I’m any judge. Mean of him though to keep it locked up. I was just getting mellow when I heard Avon and Dorian coming, and hid up the stairs with my gun and bottle (I know my priorities). Dorian had Avon at gunpoint and said he put dummy clips in our guns while we were in our baths. Wonderful. Then the little creep said he was going to feed us all to something in the basement which stopped him ageing, and marched Avon off, and Soolin too. Bet his relationships don’t last long. I came downstairs, saw the Fed gun, considered having another drink for courage, and decided not to – frankly nothing was going to improve my courage, such as it was. I took the gun down to the basement, handed it to Avon and he shot the creature. Dorian aged and turned to dust in seconds, and the creature turned into a young man’s corpse. I thought I’d had too much to drink for a moment, then thought about it and decided what I really needed was some more.

And now I’m ready for a little snooze. Hope I don’t have nightmares.

Love, Vila 



To:               Scorpio Crew [crew@scorpio.salvage.com]
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Dorian and grey clothes

I’ve been thinking, and before you say it, yes, I do sometimes! You know, we should have worked it out. I bet Dorian wasn’t his real name. He must have named himself after that Oscar Wilde story, Portrait of Dorian Gray. It explains why he had a thing about grey too. Can’t be the aesthetic appeal. Give me a nice warm brown or tasteful beige outfit any day!

And how did he know where to find us? And our clothes sizes? Did the creature know? If so, it was the strongest telepath I ever heard of. Or did Servalan tell him in case the bombs, links and snakes didn’t get us? Lucky she’s dead then, or she’d be turning up here next.

Vila 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Kerr Avon [avon@scorpio.salvage.com]
Subject:       RE: Dorian and grey clothes

Well now, it knows about Oscar Wilde as well as the Trojan Horse. The next thing I know, it will be walking upright. Our own little link.

However some of Vila’s brain waves must be reaching the shore. He has a good question. So that you all know, Orac is now fixed and it has determined that Servalan put out a general bulletin that we were on Terminal. Given the bounties on our heads we were lucky it was Dorian who found us first. And doubtless he found our heights and weights on our wanted notices on the Galacnet. If he’d got it wrong, Vila would now be busy altering our clothes with needle and thread.

Avon 



To:               Dayna Mellanby [dayna@scorpio.salvage.com]
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Demolition

Dayna, for your eyes only:

You can surf on some of my brainwaves actually! And here’s one. I heard Dorian tell Avon how to use the basement. Now I plan to live forever or die trying, but not like that. You know me - I’m harmless. Can’t say the same for Avon though, and you know I’d be the first one he’d dump down there, don’t you. We have to blow it up. You’re the expert, but I’ll come too and hold your fuses. Much as I hate explosives.

Dorian must have heaps of them somewhere, ‘cos he was always doing tunnel additions and renovations.

And we can trust each other you know. I’ve got a plan.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       RE: Demolition

And how do you know I wouldn’t ‘use’ you, Vila? It’s quite sweet of you to trust me. But for that matter, can I trust you, even though you’re harmless? And gormless and feckless for that matter.

I think you have a very good point though. Possibly your only one ever. Meet me in the living room and we’ll do it now. And if you dare misinterpret that, Delta-boy, I’ll blow you up with the basement.

Dayna 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Del Tarrant [tarrant@scorpio.salvage.com]
Subject:       Oscar Wilde

I know it shouldn’t by now, but it always comes as a surprise to me that you can read, Vila, let alone that you’ve read so much. There’s a pleasant surprise in store for you! I found Dorian’s library, a very extensive one as you’d expect for a chap who lived for over two centuries. He’s got everything you can think of – the classics, proscribed books, history texts, tunic-rippers, and some stuff that would make your eyes pop out! Or in your case, Vila, embarrass and puzzle you. I can just hear you saying “Eh?” and turning the pictures round to work out what they are, then going bright red! :-)

Or maybe not. Perhaps you have hidden depths now I’ve seen you in handcuffs being chased by Dayna…

Tarrant 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       Drinking

Dear Vila,

I am very worried about you. I know you’re upset about Cally, and that Dorian thing must have been a bit of a shock, but it won’t help getting pie-eyed. And I don’t think that Avon will put up with it. Can he fire you or dock your pay?

You don’t seem to have done any rebelling for months now, and I see your new e-mail address is a dot-com one. Are you going into salvage these days? It might be safer I suppose.

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Explosion

Vila.

Dayna tells me that explosion was your idea. Only you could have been so foolishly short-sighted as to destroy such a valuable asset. I had plans for that basement, you idiot! It was worthy of further scientific study.

You can now straighten the pictures, pick up the pot-plants, put all the books back on the shelves, sweep the broken crockery off the kitchen floor. Now, Vila!

Avon 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Trapped

Dear Mum,

Don’t know what we’ll be doing here, no-one ever tells me anything. And I’m not drinking that much. I admit the first couple of nights here I socked it back, but now I just have a drink at lunch, mid-afternoon, dinner, and a nightcap. A pleasant drop, and it helps dull the pain in my chest a bit. Trouble is, seeing me with a glass in my hand gives people the impression I’m always drinking, but I said to them they can lay off me till they actually find me drunk. And that’s not likely to happen – drugs and drink don’t affect my mind unless I want them too, remember - little old unconditionable me? The old motor functions can suffer a bit though. Anyway, I reckon if I pace myself – a bottle a day – Dorian’s wine will last the year out.

I was worried about his basement though, as I bet Avon had already considered putting me down there for his old age, so Dayna and I blew it up. Dayna had already found Dorian’s weapons and explosives store and I’d been exploring too, jumping at every sound, me dressed as a living target and with Dorian’s blonde gunhand on the loose. I found some excellent tools to replace my lost kit, and some seriously kinky stuff in Dorian’s room. Including handcuffs. Dayna and I were both nervous about each other’s intentions, so I cuffed us both together so she couldn’t whack me one and leave me down there. She was furious but could see the logic. I said the key was in my room and I’d release her when we’d blown up the basement. We set the charges and Dayna used a remote to blow them. The whole base jumped; we probably overdid it but the basement’s been pulverised now. I was so relieved I took Dayna’s cuff off with a lockpick right there at the top of the stairs. “You little weasel!” she yelled. “You said the key was in your room!” Well, so it was, but she was really angry for some reason, and went for me. I yelped and jumped back, then ran for it with the handcuffs dangling from one wrist and my lockpick in the other hand, and Dayna hot-foot behind me, threatening to break all my fingers. I dodged Tarrant in the hallway, but Dayna collided with him, giving me time to get to my room and lock myself in. Of course Dayna just had to tell Tarrant and Avon all about it, to protect her rep I suppose. And mine too for that matter, though it isn’t worth my life to point that out! I mean, I don’t do that sort of weird stuff. Or any sort of stuff really, now I think of it.

Anyway, we’re a bit trapped here. That security door to the landing bay is still locked, and the only other way in is through the hole in the cliff that Scorpio flies into, not that I’m going to mention that. Dorian had some great tools which are now mine, so I’ll have to have another go at that door.

After all, there’s only food for 3 weeks here for the 4 (or 5?) of us. I did suggest the others eat rodents to eke out the supplies, but Avon said a more logical solution was to eat the vegetarian first! “Roast Vila appeals,” he said, “and we could probably serve it cold for a week.” “Nah, Vila cutlets grilled on the barbecue,” said Dayna, licking her lips, “with the leftovers in a Vila casserole.” “I’d prefer crumby Vila schnitzel myself,” Tarrant said and bared his big white teeth at me. I backed up against the wall, and ran to get my tools. Dorian has some nice fortified wines here, and I’ve got to get that door open before Avon thinks of Vila Scaloppini Marsala!

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Trapped

Dear Vila,

I think you should look for a less dangerous job with nicer work-mates, sweetheart. Threatening to put you in the basement or eat you just isn’t on. Can’t you negotiate a new employment contract?

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Pella

Dear Mum,

Yeah, right. Outlaws don’t get a lot of choice about their working conditions.

Anyway, Vila’s off the menu now. I could get through the lock on that door (of course) but couldn’t handle the coded voice-recognition stuff Dorian set up. I was working on the lock when a very nice Seska girl called Pella turned up and offered to help me. I got such a shock, I dropped the lance on my hand and bruised it. Pella stroked it and rubbed some ointment on it, so gently my knees went quite weak. She said I was clever too (for that alone I’d like her) and told me about the nuclear compression charge on the door which goes off if Dorian doesn’t key in his code word every 48 hours. Apart from that wonderful news I was really enjoying the conversation, but when I tried to stop her leaving, she blasted me right across the room against the door. She did say sorry though. Only about the third time in as many years anyone’s said that to me!

Tarrant and Dayna didn’t believe me at first because both entrances to the base were locked. I thought maybe she was another thief like me, and my heart beat a little faster, but Orac worked out she used telekinesis. Turned out there was a war between the Seskas (all women) and the Hommiks (men) and Dorian supplied the Seskas with nutrients for their hydroponics in return for them helping him try to build a teleport. The Hommiks were an uncivilised lot; I bet they ate rodents. We got captured by them when we went looking for Avon and had to watch Dayna fight the chief Hommik to the death. I have to say that’s the last time I handcuff myself to her - I was lucky to get away alive; he didn’t!

In the end I cracked the lock and Pella turned off the compression charge switch with her telekinesis. I was thinking we made a nice team, but she wanted Scorpio for herself. She pulled a gun on us, shot the other Seska girl, slammed the door on us and powered up the drive. Avon used the focussing crystal from the dead Seska to run the teleport system and teleported to the flight deck and killed Pella. Pity. I liked her. And a girl with her talents would have been very useful on the crew, not to mention pleasant company for me. For a change.

Avon told us to teleport too, but I got left behind (teleporter malfunction # 3). I said, “Why is it always me?” and Soolin suddenly appeared and said it was obvious, smirking at me. Marvellous. One of nature’s victims, that’s me. So Soolin’s in the crew now, and true to form I’m still at the bottom of the pecking order. :-(

We went to shop on the local planet Dorian and Soolin used, Onus Two. I found the natives are very sensitive about the way people pronounce that. Lucky it was a weekend and the banks were closed so I could easily withdraw some cash from one of them. Tarrant said I’d proved useful at last, and Dayna said maybe they’d keep me. Then we went to a supermarket for food and other supplies. Avon said I was too extravagant, getting 3-ply toilet paper, but he let me keep it when I pointed out the cost of his overpowering aftershave and his designer shampoos and mousse, and anyway I’d provided the money. We also got some adrenaline and soma, but Avon wagged his finger in front of my nose and said it was for medicinal purposes only and he’d counted the bottles. So I lifted some more when he wasn’t looking. And those fashion plates wonder why I prefer loose tunics to their skin-tight outfits!

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin [soolin@scorpio.salvage.com]
Subject:       Thank you

Vila,

I know you got into trouble for blowing up that basement, but I would like to thank you for it. Good thinking.

I watched you all for a couple of days before I decided to come out, and the others don’t seem to think much of you. I don’t know why – handcuffing yourself and Dayna together was a very logical solution to the mistrust problem. And that bank break-in was very quick, efficient and profitable. You’re obviously not as stupid as you look.

Also, thanks for standing up to Avon about the 3-ply.

Soolin 



To:               Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Thanks

Soolin,

Firstly, you said thanks to me! And I have it in writing! This must be the first time in years! And I’m sorry Dorian tried to kill you, Soolin. I’d be very upset if a friend did that to me. Don’t suppose you want a sympathetic ear, do you?

Secondly, no-one could possibly be as stupid as I look. Might as well get in first before you think of it. :-(

Thirdly, I see the kitchen has an espresso machine I’m looking forward to trying. Care for some of my famous cheesy toast and a cappuccino? Plus some witty and charming conversation? You won’t get any from the others here; they’re not much on small talk.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Espresso machine

Vila.

I don’t know how anyone who can pick complicated physio-psycho locks, crack bank vaults, and disable alarm systems, could possibly plaster coffee grounds all over the ceiling and soak the carpet with steamed milk within a radius of 2 metres of the espresso machine. Clean it up, Vila. And read the manual next time, idiot.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       Thanks again

Vila, I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard. You should have seen your face when the coffee blew. I’m still smiling at the memory of you diving for cover under the table, whimpering with fear and covering your head. You should be a comedian!

You give me hope, you know. In a galaxy full of hard bastards, vicious murderers and humourless thugs (I speak from experience) you’re something completely different – sweet, kind, and so funny. You’re not that stupid either, but I’m beginning to suspect you are as innocent as you look!

Soolin 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Helotrix

Dear Mum,

Planets are falling like ninepins to the Feds right now, and when Avon heard Helotrix had gone too, he decided to find out why they’d fallen so easily. I wasn’t keen on getting that close to the sharp end. It was all right on Liberator with its massive fire-power and long legs, but Scorpio is a slow rusty little planet-hopper with a couple of pitiful pop-guns. Though Avon’s got Orac trying to redesign the short-burn boosters to give us some extra speed.

Tarrant and Dayna were all gung-ho and eager, so they went down and promptly lost contact with us because the teleport comms went on the fritz. (Guess who has to check all the relays and circuits now). The Feds sent up some cruisers after us, and I was terrified Tarrant and Dayna had been caught and told them all about us, but it turned out Orac was using the Helotrix engineering computers to do his calculations, which sort of gave the game away. Even I know how to balance good decent laziness with healthy self-preservation – it’s a fine line I walk every day. Idiot computer.

I had to make a couple of fast visits to the head by the time Tarrant and Dayna called in and teleported back. The Feds are drugging the local populations with something called Pylene-50 which turns them into spaced-out slaves, though it sounds more like a haemorrhoid ointment. The good news is we got the formula for the antitoxin. The bad news is that Servalan was down there. How did she get off the Liberator?

Oh, some other good news. Soolin doesn’t mind me!

She’s had a hard life – her family were murdered when she was 8, and she became a hired gun, and eventually tracked the killers down and whacked them for it. So she’s not the sort you’d think might like me. But when I asked her to tell me what her family was like, she blinked a few times and said it was the first time anyone had ever bothered to ask. They sounded wonderful. I told her about you, and a bit about me, and she said she was amazed I’m the way I am considering I’ve had a hard life too (I told her about the conditioning and the JD wards and CF1). I wouldn’t say she was a friend like Gan or Cally (can’t see Soolin putting an arm round my shoulders like Gan, or hugging me like Cally when I was sad); she’s more an ally.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       Courage under fire

I’ve never seen anyone as scared as you were over Helotrix, Vila. How in the universe did you survive three years on the Liberator? If anyone needs some of that medicinal adrenaline and soma, it’s you. Shall I ask Avon if you can have some?

Soolin 



To:               Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Courage under fire

It was different on the Liberator, Soolin. We were too fast to catch, and I used to be on the neutron blasters. I don’t like being helpless and vulnerable, though I should be used to it by now. Scares me witless. And yes, I know I’ve left myself wide open there.

As for the adrenaline and soma, I have a proposal for you. No no no, not that sort – it’s harmless little me, remember? I thought you’d like to keep in practice with your sharp-shooting, and here’s me with targets on my tunic, and my own little supply of A&S. What say you load some of those drug clips with A&S and shoot to thrill every time you see me? It’ll keep you on your toes and me on an even keel. Don’t take the targets literally though, esp. not the elbow ones – shooting a thief in the elbows is a bit like knee-capping an athlete.

What do you think? ;-)

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: Courage under fire

You really are funny, Vila. You’re on!

Soolin 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Space rats

Dear Mum,

We had to go to Altern 5 to get some dilithium – no, just kidding – selsium to make fuel crystals. This is in Fed space, and I made the mistake of suggesting a way to sneak into the system using an asteroid as cover. Yeah, it breaks my rule of never sticking my head up, but I suppose I was lulled into complacency by being constantly ignored. I never thought Avon would listen to me. And what do you know? Murphy’s law struck. We hit the asteroid. BTW did you know Murphy’s Law wasn’t made up by Murphy at all, but by another fellow of the same name?

We were belly-up and Avon and Tarrant didn’t know what to do. Well, I knew how to fix the hull breach, but I thought: take it easy, Vila, you know who’s going to have to do it. So I pretended I’d got really drunk, and told them about how the skipper of the prison ship did it on the way to CF1. So Tarrant and Avon went off and did the heroic dangerous stuff, and the girls thought it was very funny when they found I was really stone-cold sober. So I finally found out how to make Dayna laugh: act the fool. On purpose, I mean.

We saw a Fed patrol pass by and suddenly blow up for no reason, and when we looked at the recording back at base, it was space rat choppers doing standard by 12. Orac said they must have the new Plaxton photonic drive.

Of course I had to open my big mouth once again and say I knew about space rats. There were three of them on CF1 and their favourite sport was ‘frightening little Vila’. I was the smallest and youngest prisoner there and the two women used to grab me from behind, give me wedgies, dangle me upside down over cliffs (sorry, Mum), threaten to tattoo me, and make me ride tied-up on the front of their land-choppers made of scavenged tractor-parts. The space rat guy was unreasonably jealous and said he’d bend me (their charming slang for kill, usually by dragging behind a vehicle. Or two). The mere thought of seeing any of that lot again gave me the willies. But Avon wanted their star drive, and he said as I knew so much about them, I could check out their base. Dayna and I teleported down. She landed in the right place, but I ended up at the top of a cliff with my arm stuck between rocks (teleporter malfunction # 4). And I dropped my gun again. So I haven’t changed that much after all. :-( Sure enough, we got captured and the space rats were going to bend us till Dayna said we were students of Dr Plaxton. She denied it but we were laying it on thick when the others turned up. We escaped with the photonic drive mark II and Dr Plaxton herself. She was just connecting the new drive up for us when some Fed ships attacked. I didn’t know whether to sit on my hands so no-one would see them shaking or put them over my eyes so I wouldn’t see the final flash when it came. But Avon turned the drive on, so as soon as Dr Plaxton made her last connection it fried her and shot us out of there. When Dayna asked Avon about her, he just said “Who?”

All right, I see his point – her dying instead of the lot of us was logical, but he just didn’t care. He didn’t show any remorse at all. And Soolin told me afterwards that Dayna and I were bait to distract the rats while the others got in. All I can say is, Avon’s a bit of a space rat himself, and I don’t trust him much any more. I hope it never comes to a toss-up between his life and mine.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal [vila@liberator.rebel.org]
From:           Detective Haskell [det_haskell@larcenydiv.law.londondome.terra]
Subject:       On your trail

Vila Restal,

From the similarity between the recent bank job on Onus Two, and your previous form in London Dome, I’d say you’re active again in the criminal world. Given up on the rebel life, have you? After all, there hasn’t been any evidence of your trade-mark signed break-ins at any Federation installations for more than a year. And you’re still wanted for that bank on Sirius Gamma shortly after your escape from Cygnus Alpha. I know it was you, as the Liberator incurred an orbital parking fine the same day.

And I know it’s you this time too, Restal. No-one else can get in and out of a vault with such consummate skill, and fail to take all the money.

My application for permission to pursue you beyond the limits of the Federation has just been approved, and the neutral zone police are willing to co-operate, now they know you’re back in business. You’re about to be nicked, my son.

Detective Haskell 



To:               Detective Haskell
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: On your trail

Oh now look, that’s a bit unfair. I only ever take what I need for a nice comfortable life. Grabbing all the money gets people unreasonably mad at me, and that bank was the Six Systems Agricultural. Don’t want to rob the poor peasants blind, do I?

And you have to catch me first!  :-)

Vila Restal 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Space rats

Dear Vila,

You never told me about those space rats on CF1, dear. Though you did have some nightmares when you got back which I thought were about vermin on that space-ship you high-jacked.

It looks as if I was right about that nasty Avon after all. He seems to do nothing but insult you and send you into dangerous situations. Or are you going to defend him and say it’s all a game? You’re far too nice, you know.

At least Soolin likes you. Perhaps you have a chance there!

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Detective Haskell
Subject:       RE: On your trail

I’ll take that as a confession, lad.

I see your e-mail address has changed. It’s the Scorpio Salvage Company now, is it? Someone called Dorian Gray is listed as director, but the address is false, and so, doubtless, is the name. The Scorpio is on the registry as an old planet-hopper, so you can’t be too far from Onus Two, can you, Restal?

A supermarket check-out operator remembers a group of people buying up very large the day of the robbery. She particularly remembered “the sexy man in leather, the pretty boy with the dazzling smile, the two girls dressed to kill, and the cute little guy with all the discount coupons for adrenaline and soma.”

Anyone you know?

Detective Haskell 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       This lot

Dear Mum,

You’re right – Avon’s changed since Cally died. And maybe since he found out Blake was dead too. He won’t even play chess with me any more. He still insults me, but it’s for real now, not a sort of joke between us like on the Liberator.

Still, Tarrant’s a bit nicer to me now, ever since I was sorry about his brother dying. And saved his life on Terminal. We even discuss some of the books we’ve read, though he laughs at the way I pronounce some of the longer words. Well, I know what they mean, it’s just I often haven’t heard them said, that’s all. Who’d guess it’s indefatigable and not indefatigable? I mean, that’s what you’d expect, isn’t it?

And no hope with Soolin, at least not the way you mean. I just amuse her, which is the best I can hope for really. And I don’t mind – I’d hate to have a domestic with a gunfighter.

Dayna still gets annoyed with me though. I’m a dab hand with the espresso machine now, and she came in yesterday just as I was taking orders. I was saying to Tarrant, “You like a long black, don’t you?” She took it the wrong way and went for me, yelling, “I’ll get you for that, you little creep!” and chased me round the base till I made it to my room and locked myself in. Tarrant had calmed her down by the time I cautiously emerged for dinner. I’ve started making another Restal special lock for my door; I think I’ll need it.

I’ve been thinking. You know, we buried the body of Dorian’s partner outside and put a stone over him saying “He gave his life for his friend,” which amused Avon no end but I thought was a bit off. After what happened to Cally and Dr Plaxton, I’ve been wondering about what my epitaph would be.

I always wanted:

VILA RESTAL
BEST THIEF IN THE GALAXY

but up till I got off Cygnus Alpha, I’d have probably got:

VILA RESTAL
MOSTLY HARMLESS

but given the most common responses to my inoffensive presence, I’ll bet the unanimous decision from this lot would be:

VILA RESTAL
HE FINALLY SHUT UP AND WENT AWAY

But I know they’ll never mention me again. :-(

Oh and BTW, remember that Detective Haskell who was after me for years and finally got me sent to CA? You rather fancied him. Well, they’ve given him permission to hunt the galaxy for me, and he’s getting warm. I’m glad we got that new fast stardrive so we can shop further afield next time.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: This lot

Dear Vila,

I do think that’s a bit morbid, sweetheart, making up your own epitaph. I wonder though, what would you write for your friends?

And I do remember that Detective Haskell. The tall fair one with the cleft jaw. He was a bit of all right. Pity we met the way we did, or I’d have made a play for him.

 Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       You fool

Just what are you up to, Vila? Why are you running about the corridors with an uncharacteristic excess of energy, asking everyone if they’ve seen Soolin recently? And why does Soolin have a calendar in the rec room with a series of ticks - or perhaps they’re Vs - under each day? There seems to be a correlation between the daily total and your emotional state. Given the reaction of most women to your doubtful charms, it can’t be what I first thought it was. Be assured, Vila, I shall work it out.

Oh, and Vila. You’re rostered on meal duty tomorrow. Try to keep to more traditional menus. Curry for breakfast is somewhat excessive, and does not appear to agree with Tarrant.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       Tomorrow’s menu

Vila, can you make sure there’s no curry on the menu tomorrow. I have to go all the way to Bucol Two with Tarrant the day after. Or eggs.

Dayna 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Tomorrow’s menu

Hey, I thought curried eggs on toast was a perfectly good breakfast. Anyway, tomorrow it’s porridge, toast and marmalade for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and soyburgers and chips for dinner with a nice drop of cab sav. All right?

Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Epitaphs

Dear Mum,

Hmm, epitaphs for this lot. Took some thought, but here they are:

KERR AVON
WHO?

DEL TARRANT
GONE FROM US BUT THE MEMORY OF HIS TEETH LIVES ON

DAYNA MELLANBY
EXTINCT LIKE MOST OF HER PREY

SOOLIN
WE MISS HER, BUT SHE NEVER DID

Cheers, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       You half-wit

I’ve finally found you out, Vila. There is only one conclusion to draw when I see Soolin enter the dining room and promptly shoot you in the back, causing you to yelp, jump, drop a tray of toast, and stand there grinning vacantly and foolishly. Or more so than usual.

Drug clips loaded with adrenaline and soma.

I can believe it of you, but not of Soolin. I’m warning you, Vila. If you don’t stop this idiotic game immediately, I shall put something lethal in Soolin’s clips. Or possibly something less than fatal, but designed to improve the performance of recalcitrant Delta-grades. Pylene 50 springs to mind.

Avon 



To:               Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       It’s over

I think we’d better stop our game, Soolin. Avon threatened to spike your drug clips and I’m not calling his bluff these days. It was fun while it lasted, though. Thanks for the pleasant memories.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: It’s over

Pity. I enjoyed using a live target.

Dayna said she used to practise her shooting on the Liberator using targets with your face on them. She said she’s willing to make up some more, but I think not. It’s just not the same.

Would you like a different stimulant? It’s time for an afternoon fluffy cappuccino, and you’re quite good at them now.

Soolin 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Dayna

Dear Mum,

Tarrant took Dayna to Bucol Two to see some genetic scientist guy called Justin she used to know when he tutored her a few years ago. Avon wanted him to design an antidote to Pylene 50. We’ve got the anti-toxin which stops it working, but nothing to reverse it. And personally I be glad if we did, just in case.

From the way Dayna talked about Justin, it looked like they had something going once. She must have been in her mid-teens at the time too; the guy sounds a bit of a perv to me. Tarrant was pretty hacked off about the whole thing. Nothing like an old flame to cool down a relationship, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, just after she teleported down, some Fed ships turned up and attacked the ship; hot-shot pilot Tarrant did a lousy job evading the plasma bolts and limped home for repairs. Guess who had to rewire the exploded consoles? And after all that, the anti-grav gyros were still out, and someone had to go down into the glycolene storage tanks to fix the inertial guidance channels. Yeah, it needed my delicate touch. That stuff stinks, and I get claustrophobic down there, and what do I get for it? Nasty remarks about how bad I smelled when I came out, and the lovely news I had to do it all again, with the promise of half a glass of wine at the end of it.

It’s not just “Shut up, Vila” and “Go away, Vila” these days. It’s also “Roll over, Vila” and “Beg for wine, Vila”. Next thing I know, they’ll have me sleeping chained up in a kennel outside the base.  :-(

When we went back to get Dayna, she came aboard sobbing her heart out. Turned out Servalan was down there too, going by the name of Sleer these days, She had used aversion therapy on Dayna to make her hate Justin and betray him to her, because she wanted the animals he’d developed which were immune to radiation. Justin was killed, but by then Dayna loved him again; it all got a bit confusing. Anyway, when she got back with the others, the poor girl was crying, Avon looked stony, Tarrant looked sulky, and Soolin finally went over to her looking embarrassed, and put her hand on her shoulder. I thought, she needs more than that, and scooted over and gave her a big hug like Cally used to give me when I was miserable. Dayna started howling then and hugged me back, getting me all wet, but I didn’t mind. Knew how it felt, didn’t I? I just held her till she finally stopped. She snuffled a bit, gave me an extra squeeze, and said, “Soolin’s right. You’re really not that bad after all.”

Maybe that can be my epitaph.

Love, Vila 



To:               Kerr Avon
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Some ideas

Avon,

Why don’t we publish the formula to the Pylene 50 on the Galacnet, or at least give it to all the resistance groups?

And we should tell everyone that Commissioner Sleer is really Servalan. She’s a non-person now, so I’m sure the new president would like to either have her hit or have a big show trial.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       RE: Some ideas

Ideas from you, Vila? A contradiction in terms.

No to both, you fool. Knowledge is power. Not that you would be familiar with either concept.

Avon 



To:               Kerr Avon; Del Tarrant
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Shopping

I see you two are doing the next shopping trip. Um, look, it may be a good idea to stay away from Onus Two, seeing as I hit their bank last time. Just a thought.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       RE: Shopping

You have an inflated view of your own importance, Vila.

Avon



To:               Dayna Mellanby; Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Fun

While the sourpuss is away, shall we mice play? I suggest a picnic outside by the river. You both grew up outdoors, and you might not think it, but I used to spend time out of the dome for a bit of peace and quiet, or the occasional quick escape. In fact I had a tan and quite light hair when I got sent to CA, and look at me now.

How about bread, salad, devilled eggs, smoked salmon, chocolate cake, lemon mousse, fruit, and a nice dry white? Followed by a pleasant afternoon taking it easy in the sun.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       RE: Fun

I’d rather not look at you now, Vila.  :-)

But apart from that, it sounds great. If you have plans to get another tan on more than your face though, you’ll be floating on it down the river.

Dayna 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: Fun

A good idea. But I hope the nice dry white refers to wine and not you, Vila.

Soolin 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Wanted

Vila.

Our shopping trip did not go well. As you suspected. It appears that we are now recognisable as the associates of a certain well-known master thief. I do not appreciate being told by a bespoke leather tailor that my custom is not desired. Or being ignominiously chased down the road by an ice-cream purveyor under the impression that I was “one of the Restal gang.” We were able to get all the food on the list, only because the adenoidal supermarket checkout operator seemed incapable of matching our appearances to the wanted posters on the wall right behind her.

Explain, Vila.

Avon 



To:               Kerr Avon
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Wanted

Oh, right. Well, look, with all the pirates, criminals and outlaws (and the occasional rebel) around, the neutral zone banks have pretty good security, good as Fed ones. To get into one, people usually have to use explosives or portable laser cannons; no finesse. Now I pride myself on getting in and out without a trace, except for what’s missing. Could only have been me. Would you prefer me to do a bad job, like breaking lock mechanisms and setting off alarms? Bit dangerous, that, and frankly it would hurt my professional pride.

Anyway, no problem - we’ve got a fast stardrive now so I can hit banks all over the quadrant, which will put them off our trail. In fact I’m happy to do a couple more right now, just to take the heat off around here.

Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Girls

Dear Mum,

Me again! The girls and I went on a picnic yesterday while Avon and Tarrant were away shopping. I was sprawled on the grass relaxing after a nice lunch, when they moved in on me. Dayna said, “Here we are, all alone with Vila. Isn’t this cosy?” and leant right over me. Very closely. Soolin leant over from the other side and said, “Do you think we can get shy little Vila to unbend a little?” I said, alarmed, “Leave me alone, girls, I’m fragile! I bruise easily!” and wriggled out from under, seriously worried. Those girls go around armed to the teeth and you wouldn’t want to tangle with them. They both laughed.

Dayna: “He really is all talk, isn’t he? He never meant any of it.”

Soolin: “I told you he was harmless.”

Me: “Hey, you always knew that. It was only ever a joke, you know!”

Dayna (smiling): “You’re a joke, Vila.”

Soolin (smiling too): “But we like you anyway!”

Dayna (putting her arm on my shoulders): “We’ve decided you can be one of us.”

Me: “One of you?”

Soolin (patting my head): “One of the girls!”

Then they laughed themselves sick and told me they’d more than bruise me if I made another pass at either of them, joke or not.

As I’ve said before, I’ll take what I can get. Even being a sort of pet. But I’m not letting Dayna corn-row my hair or Soolin curl my eyelashes, no matter what they say.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Girls

Dear Vila,

I’m glad you made friends with the girls. But you really shouldn’t have flirted with gunfighters, you know. What is it with you and dangerous women? That Kerril wasn’t your sort either, really.

And as for having to clean out those tanks, it can’t have done your hands much good, and you do have to look after them. I think that if they don’t appreciate you for your professional skills, you should see about getting traded to another rebel team. They could swap you for a maintenance worker. That nice Avalon might like to have you.

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Androids

Dear Mum,

I think asking for a transfer would be a betrayal in Avon’s book. And you know what that means.

And dangerous women are the only ones I know these days. Well, up till yesterday. Avon brought a lady called Vena to the base. I thought, good excuse for a drink, and when I brought the tray out, she said, “Why, how lovely. Thank you, lad.” She looked at Avon and said, “I’ve met the others, but you haven’t introduced this charming young man.” Avon seethed and said through his teeth, “We call it Vila.” She’s about your age, Mum, and when she smiled at me and said hello, she made me feel quite homesick. Besides which, that’s the first thanks I’ve had in ages. So I was just being nice, getting her a stool to put her feet up on, some magazines, the viscast remote (Avon hates anyone else using that), and they all started having a go at me later for flirting. With someone 20 years older than me? I ask you, what do they think I am? Actually, I’d rather not think about that.

Vena’s man Muller works in a Fed cyber lab developing androids. If Avon’s thinking of getting some, I wouldn’t one mind myself. I thought that Avalon one he reprogrammed that time was pretty impressive (and impressively pretty, too), but getting a female one would be just admitting what a loser I am. No, I think I’d go for a Vila android. I could sit back and let it could do all the dirty work round here.

Avon:   Vila, go and top up the glycolene tanks, then unblock the sewers, then get the rust off Scorpio’s bodywork. Now, Vila.

Me:      Vila-copy, that means you. Hop to it, and when you’ve finished, clean yourself up and make me some hot toast and a liqueur coffee. But before you go, just plump up my pillow, there’s a good machine.

Yeah, chance would be a fine thing. But I know I’d just end up feeling sorry for it. :-(

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal, Del Tarrant
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Shopping list

You two will be leaving for Pharos in the morning to pick up Muller. He’s expecting you. I was going to get Soolin to go, but I’d like to get Vila out from underfoot. He can make up for his disgusting fawning around Vena by putting the police off his trail.

Vila: Make a stopover at a suitably distant planet and rob another bank. While you’re at it, pick up the following:

ice-cream
artichokes
aubergines
a good cheese selection
dried shiitake mushrooms (oh, and that’s pronounced she-tar-kay, ignoramus)
some decent port
orzo pasta
half-a-dozen tarial cells
some AAA batteries for the remote
toilet paper

Tarrant: Don’t let Vila out of your sight while he’s off the ship. And count the port bottles.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Androids

Dear Vila,

I didn’t realise you were so homesick, darling. Perhaps you could get a mother android which could give you big hugs when you need them, tell you how sweet, clever and handsome you are, and tuck you up in bed at night with a good-night kiss.

Lots of love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
|From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Headless android

Dear Mum,

Nice thought, but I wouldn’t have an android for anything after what we’ve just been through!

Tarrant and I went to get that Muller guy. We made a big detour and stopped off on the way at Sauros Beta, so I could hit a bank vault to give Haskell something to think about. Tarrant was very nervous, never having done a job before. He was hopping from foot to foot and cursing Avon for making him go with me to keep me out of trouble. Just to pay him back for Keezarn, I took twice as long as I could have, and while I was in the bank, put my half of the loot in my numbered account (approaching 6 mill now!). When we left, he rushed to the nearest public loos, white as a sheet and I took the opportunity to knock back a few quick ones at the pub across the road. Tarrant couldn’t sneak on me to Avon now, as Avon had asked him to watch me all the time, so I convinced him to forget it and loosen up. So we had a few more. Made a lot of friends, buying rounds for everyone. Doing the shopping afterwards was more fun than usual; we both got terrible attacks of the giggles trying to buy Avon’s shit-take mushrooms. Lucky we had a teleport, as I wouldn’t have fancied making orbit in a shuttle with either of us at the controls. We told Slave to set a course for Pharos and hit the bunks. Anyway, Tarrant can’t complain. I split the loot with him 50-50, as he drove the getaway space-ship.

We’d slept it off by the time we got to Pharos. Muller said they were onto him, and Tarrant teleported down to his lab to get him. He came back with a box as well, and when Muller saw it he threw a fit and tried to make Tarrant send it back. At this point I was more concerned with the interceptors coming for us, but once we’d outrun them, I had to club Muller across the shoulders to stop him crushing Tarrant to death.

Number of times I’ve saved Tarrant’s life directly: Two (as separate from group saves like on Ultraworld)

Thanks I’ve got: Nil.

In fact, Tarrant was downright annoyed with me for killing Muller (don’t worry, Mum, I hadn’t really) and after we put him on ice, he made me tell Avon and Vena. I consoled myself afterwards by trying to get into the locked box, but as soon as I touched it, there was a power surge. Same a bit later when Avon asked about it and I had another go, but this time Slave revolted and went into a sulk, and I went right off the whole idea. Tarrant had to fly us back manually and calculate an orbit. Quite fun watching him really being a pilot for once instead of just telling a computer what to do; he didn’t like it much. Then Avon told us we were quarantined up there and asked us to turn Slave back on to find out what was wrong with him. All hell broke loose. He turned off all the life-support, the oxygen, the lights, the heating. The temperature dropped like an asteroid onto a neutron star. We tried to get into our survival suits, and I remember collapsing and Tarrant putting an oxygen mask over my face, and, just before I passed out, the sound of breaking glass. So I suppose that’s only one life-save he owes me now.

When we came round in the resuscitation room on the base, no-one was there to inquire solicitously after our health, so we got up and went looking for our heroes’ welcome, just in time to see Muller crush poor Vena to death and fry Tarrant and Avon’s guns. We ran for it, me with the box. When I finally got a peaceful moment to get it open, it had an android head in it with an inhibitor. We put it all together then – the head in the box, Muller’s white po-face, his ability to influence circuits and heat up guns. An amok robot with a corpse’s head. What fun. Just how I like to spend my days – being chased all over the base and half of Xenon by an insane machine trying to rid the galaxy of innocent harmless little carbon-based life-forms like me. Dayna and Tarrant finally electrocuted the thing on the iron bridge we had our picnic by, then blew it up; the android, not the bridge. Avon was pissed off with them because he wanted it for a weapon, and Orac got angry with him and said he and Muller were dangerously arrogant. Totally agree, but Avon looks so savage, I’m lying low for a while.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal, Del Tarrant
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Shopping

Slave is its normal obsequious self and life support is back, so you two will now complete your mission. Get yourself out of wherever you’re lurking, Vila, and report with Tarrant to the teleport bay. Tarrant: land Scorpio, and Vila: unload the shopping.

Avon 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Sauros Beta Traffic Control [traffic_control@law.space.saub]
Subject:       Traffic fine

Crew of salvage scow Scorpio:

Traffic fine for dangerous use of a space ship in an inhabited system: 500 credits.

Sauros Beta Traffic Authority 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Port

Where the hell are the vegetables, Vila? I was planning a moussaka for dinner. And the port? Tarrant informs me you bought 6 bottles.

And that’s the last time I send you two off together. Tarrant says he was pilot and will pay the fine, but after your little stunt with the Liberator that time, I have my suspicions.

Avon 



To:               Kerr Avon
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Port

The veges turned to mush when they froze, Avon. Hardly our fault. All their little cells exploded. I shovelled them up and threw them out. Bit of a mess, really. You could use spuds instead.

Your shitty-kay mushrooms are all right though.

The ports are with the ice-cream in the freezer. The bottles exploded when their contents froze. If you lag the neck end with a rag so your hands don’t freeze, and have a good lick, they make very nice ice-blocks!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hic!

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       RE: Port

Moussaka with potatoes instead of aubergines would be a travesty, although I can hardly expect a half-wit with your lack of discernment to know that.

And if I catch you licking port ice-blocks anywhere in my sight, you unrepentant sot, I shall conduct an experiment on the relative hardness of frozen port and your skull. Or on how long it takes your little cells to explode at –200 degrees.

Oh, and no more complaints of frostbite, Vila.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Headless android

Dear Vila,

I’m scared to open your e-mails these days, though at least I know you’re alive when I get one. I always worried about you when you were on a job, but this is ridiculous. If I’ve got stomach pains from the stress brought on by the things that happen to you, I can’t imagine how you feel. Can’t you make a run for it with your 6 million?

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Detective Haskell
Subject:       Your latest robbery

I know that was you on Sauros Beta, Restal. Not only did you get through two psycho-physio locks and into a timed vault, and take only half a million, but two men looking very like you and Del Tarrant were seen buying so many rounds of drinks in the pub across the road not long afterwards, that the punters ran wild afterwards, toppling all the statues to Sauros Beta’s founders in the park, trampling all over the grass, and frightening the ducks in the pond. Only the fact that no-one recalls you two at this point prevents me from adding wanton vandalism to your record.

Or drunk in charge of a space ship for that matter. A pity the traffic cops weren’t fast enough to apprehend you and blood test you.

You may be able to run, Restal, but you can’t hide for ever.

Detective Haskell 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       Clothes

Vila,

I am so fed up with wearing the same outfit all the time. Bloody Dorian provided a half-dozen of the things, and I’ve only worn out three of them. Soolin said there’s a good selection in the storage levels as Dorian stocked up big a few years back at a sale on Onus Two. I asked Avon for the keys, but he got very snitty and said not to bother him with such trivia.

I’ve managed to shred two and dissolve most of one doing weapons research. Got any ideas of how to destroy the lot without Avon suspecting anything? I want a change.

Dayna 



To:               Dayna Mellanby
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Clothes

Hmm, see your point. I can break in for you but frankly I don’t fancy crossing Avon these days. I’m down to one outfit myself, due to all the wear and tear doing the manual labour round here and I wouldn’t mind a change from targets. It’s no fun washing the damn thing; I have to lock the laundry and stand shivering in my undies waiting for it to dry. I didn’t get any sympathy from Avon either. In fact he laughed for the first time in months.

Here’s an idea. I used to get seats on the transporters back on Earth by scratching myself frantically. People would move away in disgust and I’d spread myself out for a nice nap. There’s a skill to it though. A nice touch is moving your hand slowly across your body, then doing a quick grab at something, squishing it between your fingers and looking at it in satisfaction. Works every time. The weird thing is that everyone else around you starts to feel itchy too.

We could do it around the base whenever the others see us. When they start to itch too, we’ll have to bomb, no no no, take that back, I mean fumigate the whole place, and launder all the linen and clothes. And somehow all the clothes get shredded along the way.

What do you think?

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       RE: Clothes

Vila, you’re disgusting! But it’s a great idea. Soolin’s in on it too – after all if it’s just us two, they’d think the worst. Of me anyway.

Dayna



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       The old flea trick

Dear Mum,

Not much point in running away – I’d spend the rest of my life waiting for Avon to catch up with me for his revenge. Not much fun, that. Besides, I’m so well-known now, I couldn’t practise my profession in peace. So I’m trapped in a bit of a dead-end job really. And I’m not that nervous these days, surprisingly. More resigned, I’d say.

Still, I have fun sometimes. The girls and I are pulling the old flea lark on the others. A variation this time is that I’ve only put the itching powder in the men’s beds (just a tiny bit, very subtle, slight increase each day; interesting though that Avon uses grey silk sheets, must be Dorian’s) and the girls are acting the part along with me (I want to stay on the right side of those gun-slingers). You should see Avon squirming around in his leathers, trying to stay dignified-looking. Actually it’s a fitting revenge for that nasty crack about me being a philosophical flea that time Blake almost got digested. Tarrant’s getting a bit desperate too, he thinks his curly mop-top is infected and keeps grabbing at it and treating it with vile-smelling liquids. It’s all we three can do to keep straight faces. And if one of the girls starts scratching in earnest, well then I’ll know, won’t I?

Oh, the rebel life is a merry one!

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Vermin

The base appears to be infested with vermin, Vila. Apart from you, that is. See if you can find some insect bombs to fumigate the place. I’m sure Dorian put some in storage; the man must have been an anal retentive.

Avon 



To:               Dayna Mellanby, Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Stage 2

I think we’re ready for the next step, girls. Get me some acid, Dayna, and we’ll put tiny holes in all the clothes in everyone’s closets. Except for me of course – I’ve only got what I’m wearing.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       RE: Stage 2

Oh no, you too, Vila! Don’t worry, I won’t burn you. And we’ll do everything, socks, underwear, the lot. And before you get excited, we three will do our own. I bags Tarrant. Soolin can do Avon’s. You can do all the sheets.

Dayna 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: Stage 2

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Dayna, but why didn’t you just go straight to stage 2, Vila?

Ah, of course. It was a lot more fun this way, wasn’t it? :-)

Soolin 



To:               Scorpio crew
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Fumigation

All right, I’ve found the insect bombs. Ever heard of Sarkian fleas? Looks like that’s what we’re dealing with here. Nasty little buggers, they breed in your clothes and bed, and the babies eat holes in them. Don’t know about you lot, but my stuff’s starting to look like mesh.

What are we going to do, burn all it all outside? I suggest toasting marshmallows and telling scary stories while we’re at it.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: The old flea trick

Dear Vila,

I did laugh about you pulling that old trick on them. Fancy them falling for it!

It was lovely to get an e-mail from you, darling, that didn’t have me reaching for a drink to steady my nerves. Lots of hugs and kisses.

Love, Mum 



To:               Scorpio crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       New clothes

I suggest we all strip completely and get into survival suits while Vila fumigates the place. When he’s done that, we collect all the linen and clothes and leave them outside to burn them later as he suggested. There will however be no marshmallows or barbecues: the smoke will be poisonous, you idiot thief.

We then collect new clothes, bed-linen, towels etc from the storage levels. If any of you thought (please note, Dayna and Soolin) that we’d risk capture swanning around some shopping mall choosing an attractive selection of designer apparel while bounty-hunters and the police of most of the galaxy are after all of us, Vila in particular, then think again. Besides which, it’s either Dorian’s stock or the survival suit you’ll be wearing.

You will find your clothes size on the racks and choose 6 identical outfits, and sufficient other items for your needs. Any colour you like, as long as it’s grey. :-)

Avon 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Hit contract

Dear Mum,

The ‘plague’ worked a treat! The guys didn’t figure it out, we all got a change of clothes out of it, and I got a lot of entertainment. You should have seen Dorian’s storage area – it was like something out of that old vis classic Matrix Part I, but in black and white - everything was grey. Even the undies and socks, sad to relate, so you can’t blame me if they don’t look that fresh. I didn’t do as well as the others with my outfits; the only ones in my size were plain grey, dead boring, but better than targets I suppose.

Talking of targets, we were five living ones a couple of days ago! Servalan put out a contract on us with an assassin called Cancer; lucky I picked up the message. As she was going to meet him at Domo on the 9th, we went there too, as Avon thought killing her first might invalidate the contract. I teleported down with him and watched him get nabbed by pirates. Did you know that they auction their captives off there every three months? I’m glad Avon didn’t, as he might have thought of seeing how much he could get for me. That was a joke, Mum. I think.

Anyway, the whole thing was a set-up. Avon got bought by Servalan (she bid up to 2000 vems for him) but escaped with a nice old guy called Nebrox. We found Cancer’s black ship still in orbit, and Tarrant and Avon teleported over and captured Cancer and rescued a weepy fluffy little girl called Piri that they thought he’d bought on Domo. Nebrox, Dayna and I went over to have a look; Piri said hello very nicely to me, but she reminded me of that Meegat, a bit wet, not my sort at all. Though I think Tarrant was a bit smitten. I went back to Scorpio and had fun entertaining Dayna with my now very successful idiot act (pretending to be an expert on the economy of the region, mixing up all my words and currencies). Poor girl, she had such a sheltered upbringing, she never developed a decent sense of humour.

In the meantime, Soolin worked it all out – Piri was really the assassin, and she’d bought the big guy on Domo and paid him to act the part – but not before poor Nebrox got offed. Avon killed Piri with her own weapon, an automatic spider thing which fired poison. Dayna and I only just rescued the others before Servalan blew Cancer’s ship up. A very sore loser, that Servalan.

I wonder how much she paid Cancer for us? If it was a decent amount, I could add it to my CV with the million-credit bounty. :-)

Love, Vila 



To:               Commissioner Sleer [commiss_sleer@space_fleet.fed.mil]
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Hello again

Hello Servalan, or should I call you Sleer? Couldn’t you have thought up a nicer name than that? Lots of good rhymes for limericks though (I say with a leer).

That was a bit unsporting, old thing, putting a contract out on us. And I thought you liked the personal touch. But I’m puzzled – if you paid Cancer to whack us all, why did you bid for Avon? Trying to cheat Cancer out of 20% of her fee? That’s not very nice. Or did you have something else in mind?

And how much would you have paid for cute little me?

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Hit contract

Dear Vila,

Just as I was starting to relax, you tell me a professional assassin was after you. Still, I suppose it’s a compliment in a way. I don’t know – if I don’t hear from you, I fear the worst, and when I do, I have to steel myself to open your message.

How are you keeping, dear? Are you well? Is the climate on Xenon good for your chest? I hope you’re eating a healthy balanced diet, sweetheart, and dressing warm.

I did enjoy seeing your bank robberies on the news, BTW.

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Commissioner Sleer
Subject:       RE: Hello again

Far too much, probably.

Sleer

 



To:               Scorpio crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Remote

Where the hell is the viscast remote?

Avon 



To:               Kerr Avon
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Remote

Don’t look at me! Have you checked between all the cushions? Anyway, you can always use the old voice commands.

Vila 



To:               Scorpio crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Disgusting

I have found the remote. And I prefer to use the latest technology, Vila. Voice commands indeed. They barely work on you.

While searching, I found the following between and under the couch cushions:

several soft potato crisps

half a pizza, green with mould

3 AAA batteries oozing acid

some melted chocolate
a deck of playing cards, marked (yours obviously, Vila)

And I didn’t even look under the couch. The mere thought of what may be there repels me. From now on, kitchen clean-up duty includes the sitting room, you disgusting lot.

Avon 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Fun and games

Dear Mum,

Sorry about upsetting you. We had another mission – can you handle hearing about it? I’ll try to go easy on you. We went to Mecron 2 to steal some Feldon crystals from a guy called Belkov who’d already stolen them from the Federation. These things are supposed to focus starlight and produce unlimited energy, Avon said infinite. All right, I never went to school past age 12 but I find that a bit hard to swallow. Still, these things are in short supply, and we’d have made a tidy packet flogging them off. Well, I would have.

Mission summary:

Clever things I did: opening a security door dead fast under fire, convincing a very clever and charming computer to give me a circuit board, lifting a Feldon crystal necklace, mounting a one-man rescue of Tarrant, Dayna and Academician Gerren (our contact), getting through a fingerprint lock in seconds flat, and making Avon smile twice. (!)

Stupid things I did: only one - standing up to see how the reduction processor worked and getting us captured with a Mecronian knife on me (found it in a Fed guard).

Bad things that happened to me: breathing in powdered Fed guard (not good for the chest), being shot at, trodden on, nearly captured twice, and almost blown up.

Puzzling things: how do those crystals work, where are the ones Belkov squirreled away, and just what happened to Belkov in the end?

Fun and games: I was almost tempted to challenge Gambit to 3D chess, Soolin out-drew herself in a gun-fight, Tarrant had a play on a flight-simulator (wouldn’t have minded trying that one), and Avon was a poor loser.

Guns dropped: None. In fact I shot a guard (on stun).

Thanks received: None.

Nett profit: None (the necklace I stole was fake).

Never mind. All useful practice, and I came out of it looking pretty good. Wish I could have a computer like that Gambit though. She was a cross between a 197 and a PPC gaming computer with a winning personality, and she’d have been a really good friend.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal, Dayna Mellanby, Soolin
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Shopping

We need to restock the pantry. You three are going shopping this time, as it’s your turn, girls, and Vila needs to get some more money. A decent amount this time, Vila, say a million or so. Soolin: the money you’re owed can come out of that.

And I expect you all to watch each other at all times. No lone excursions. Or bolting.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Fun and games

Dear Vila,

Oh, much better, darling! I like how you glossed over the bits about being shot at and blown up. And you were very clever, dear. But I always knew that.

Love, Mum 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Salaries

I have had some complaints that Soolin is being paid and the rest of you are not.

Vila: You have ample opportunity to steal what you want. No salary.

Dayna: Same rate as Soolin, back-paid to our arrival on Xenon

Tarrant: Yes, I do know you’re a mercenary. Same rate again, but starting now, as I’m sure you split Vila’s last haul with him. If not, take it up with him. And I saw on the news how much it was, so no complaints from you.

If any of you don’t have a neutral zone bank account, set one up and give me the account numbers so I can pay you directly.

Avon 



To:               Dayna Mellanby, Del Tarrant, Soolin
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Boodle

Just a word in your ears. Do not give Avon your account numbers. The bastard was nabbed for embezzling. Just ask for cash, hide it well, and bank it when you get the chance. Me, I’ve got a number-only account Avon’ll never find. Bet you’ve got one too, Soolin. If you haven’t, Dayna, I’ll help you set one up on our shopping trip. Put a warm fingerprint option on it like I did. It’s fool-proof, and even Avon-proof!

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: Boodle

Ah yes, but is it Vila-proof? ;-)

Soolin 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Vila’s big day out

Dear Mum,

We went off to Salaxia 7 on what Dayna and Soolin called a ‘girls only outing’. Soon as we took off, they put their heads together and started giggling. I got a bit nervous, as we all have to stay together on these trips, and I didn’t like the looks they kept giving me.

First we hit the First Interplanetary Bank (never call them Second or Third, do they) where I withdrew over one and a half million credits – one mill for Avon, the rest between me and the girls. Neither had been on a job before – Soolin was fascinated and said it was a pleasure to see a fellow professional in action, but Dayna got very impatient, and said explosives were quicker. Well, they are, but not much compared to me on a roll; they’re also not very subtle, tend to shorten one’s life expectancy, and can damage the loot. She wasn’t convinced, and stood around sucking pensively at her teeth. I remembered some of them were mined, and got a bit nervous then, and told her not to lose her head, then consoled her by suggesting that we gather all of Dorian’s useless stuff when we got back, take it outside, and blow it sky-high. That cheered her up.

We then went to the space-port to find an open bank, set up an account for Dayna, and banked most of our money. It was then that the girls revealed their plans. All-over beauty therapy. I said I’d see them later, but they both hooked their arms firmly round mine and led me off, smiling in anticipation. I did enjoy the envious looks men gave me. And the speculative ones from women.

I paid for it though. They bought a package deal for three, and I had to have everything they had (to their great amusement):

A leg, bikini-line, and underarm wax. The Feds should add this to their conditioning tortures – I was almost ready to swear off crime by the time that was over. Every time I yelled, Dayna and Soolin laughed themselves silly and said I was a compete wimp, but when it was over, they both said poor Vila and patted me consolingly on the head. Almost made it worthwhile.

A relaxation massage. Ahhh, sheer heaven.

A pedicure and manicure. I giggled chronically when the beautician did my feet, and didn’t notice her painting my toenails bright pink, but the hand part was lovely, and I got away with a French polish. Bet I could crack a safe in record time now, my pads are so smooth and sensitive.

A facial (shave, scrub, peel, mask, moisturiser; very nice too).

Shampoo, condition and set. Not that they could do much with my hair, just put a curl on my forehead. I told the girls that when Vila’s good, he’s very very good, but when he’s bad, he’s horrid, and they thought that was just so cute!)

Eyelash tint (brown/black) and curl, and eye-brow tidy. The beautician said I had very nice-shaped eyebrows; she called them elfin.

The girls had makeup, and they tried to talk me into it too, but I know where to draw the line.

When we emerged, Soolin and Dayna looked more beautiful than ever, glowing and absolutely perfect, and they said I looked quite sweet, esp. when I blinked.

We had a meal at an up-market café where I again revelled in the looks we got, did the shopping, and went home.

When we got back, Avon and Tarrant didn’t notice anything different about the girls, but they stared at me. “Fresh air seems to agree with you, Vila,” Avon said. “You look...” he put his head on one side, a bit puzzled. “Even more good-looking than usual?” I suggested, hopefully. “Very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” said Tarrant, and the girls went off, giggling.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Detective Haskell
Subject:       Still after you

So you’re raising your take, Restal. Over a million from that bank on Salaxia 7. Getting greedy, or is the rebellion about to heat up? There’s an all-points galaxy-wide alert out for you now. Witnesses also saw you with two beautiful women. A big spender these days, hmm? Enjoy your ill-gotten gains while you can, lad.

Detective Haskell 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Vila’s big day out

Dear Vila,

Oh, I wish I’d seen you, dear. You must have looked lovely. You had the most adorably long eyelashes when you were little, but I remember you cut them after you were released from the JD wards. Children can be so cruel.

I’m glad you’re having fun again. And I see you’re on the news again with that bank job. It’s nice that you’re back in the public eye. It’s a pity you can’t retire from that silly rebellion business and relax and enjoy your money. If only it was easy for people like me to get an exit visa; you could buy a nice house with a granny flat. I’d like that.

Love, Mum 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Dead rodents

Cleaning duty includes under the couches. I found two desiccated rats and a lot of dust balls there today. No wonder we had fleas.

Avon 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Green vampire sand

Dear Mum,

Yeah, I was riding high for a while. Doesn’t last that long though back here at the base – I sometimes wonder if the spirit of that evil sod Dorian is hanging around. It’s so oppressive here somehow, you realise it when you’ve been away. Avon glowering about the place while we all pussy-foot round him trying not to annoy him doesn’t help either.

When I get a bit down, I start thinking about Blake and Gan and Jenna and Cally, and how it was when they were still around. You know, back on the Liberator with Blake, I used to feel I was worth something (other than money, that is), that I was part of something big, and somehow that there was something better to hope for in the future. Oh well. Next shopping trip I may have another beauty treatment (without the wax and nail polish); that’s something to look forward to.

Been thinking of Cally a bit lately. It started when I was taking orders for espressos, and I had Tarrant down for a long black, Dayna for a latte, Soolin for a cappuccino, and Avon said, “You know I prefer a flat white.” I remembered how Dayna got angry at Tarrant’s order for a long black that first time, and I couldn’t help but think of Cally. I must have looked a bit stricken, ‘cos Avon asked, “What’s the matter with you now, Vila?” I said I wished people would talk about Cally sometimes, and Avon said, “What’s the point in that, you moron? Hurry that coffee up, and if you blubber in it, Vila, you’ll wear it.” Poor Cally. She died alone and in silence, and she still is.

Look, sorry about this. Suppose I’m not feeling the best now because of being attacked by vampire sand. A Fed expedition got wiped out on Virn 5 years ago, and they were sending a team to find out why. Avon wanted to know too, in case there was a weapon in it. I wasn’t keen on going, and he said I could stay behind, but I wouldn’t stay here alone for anything.

We did a power orbit in the upper atmosphere, and Dayna and Tarrant teleported down. Dayna came back pretty quickly with a bullet graze on her arm and quite a bit of green sand. Slave was already acting drunk, we started to get hit by lightning from stirring up the atmosphere, and Orac fell in madly love with us all and we had to turn him off, so to speak. I was beginning to think the base would have been preferable. Then I got very dizzy, and Soolin suggested that we were all, except for her, haunted by some evil influence from the sarcophagus alien who attacked Cally. I got upset and yelled at her, and went over to sit where they couldn’t see how unhappy I was. When I wanted to talk about Cally, I didn’t mean like that. I started to feel so strange I got myself a drink, and when Dayna got annoyed with me and told me to go away, I fell over and said it would be funny if I died, because who’d care? Later, Avon saw I had green sand around me and shouted at me to get up, but at that point I just didn’t care. The girls came over and helped me up, and I suddenly felt as if I was falling down a deep anti-grav shaft. I thought I was dying, and at that point I didn’t mind. I know now it was the sand affecting me. When I woke up, Dayna was dabbing at my forehead and looking very concerned, and she told me I did almost die. She was being so nice and gentle, frankly I thought I had. Mind you, she made up for it later when she told me that when Soolin said my pulse was weak, Avon said it matched the rest of me (oh, very funny), and that the sand decided to kill me because it only needed the best male to breed food stock from with all the females.

Still, if it wasn’t for me dropping my drink on the sand, they wouldn’t have figured out liquid destroys it. Avon took the ship lower to cause a bigger storm which rained the sand out. When we got the computers, the teleport, and Tarrant back, we found he’d been the chosen male down there and had, well, a fairly good go at breeding food stock with Servalan. The girls and I were so disgusted we left the flight deck. That’s when they cheered me up no end by explaining what happened. They thought it was funny about how Avon had bragged about being so superior to me in every way, but what little self-esteem I had left was pretty shattered. I looked so miserable, Dayna said she was sorry she’d told me, and Soolin said she was sorry about what she said about Cally, and they both put an arm around my shoulders. I looked suitably sad and weak and in need of comfort all the way back to base. :-)

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       Blowing things up

Vila, remember your idea that we collect all of Dorian’s unwanted rubbish and blow it sky-high? How about it?

Dayna 



To:               Dayna Mellanby
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Blowing things up

Yeah, why not? I’m at a bit of a loose end. I have some extra suggestions:

You build something like a catapult, or one of those things with a French name I’ve forgotten, to see how far we can throw the old furniture I saw in the storage levels

We fire empty wine bottles in the air for you and Soolin to shoot at

We see what we can actually put in orbit with an initial explosive charge

Mind you, I’m watching all this from a very safe distance.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       RE: Blowing things up

You mean a trebuchet? Forget it, I’m not nailing logs of wood together, and I can’t see you doing it either, Vila. Yes, I could set up a skeet shoot, but I think Soolin’s too good for that.

Nah, let’s just blow things up. I like your last suggestion. I’d love to see Avon’s face when he finds an old paisley armchair in orbit.

And as for all that weird stuff from Dorian’s room, we could use it like grapeshot and see what we can do to that old power station.

Dayna 



To:               Dayna Mellanby
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Blowing things up

All right, let’s get Soolin in on it too. There’s a big trolley down there, some pulleys, and a lift we can use. But I’m not putting my back out lifting heavy stuff, or doing anything dangerous like setting your fuses. Or being a target.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Vampire sand

Dear Vila,

Oh, dear, I’m sorry that you’re feeling so down, but dwelling on the past isn’t going to help, sweetheart. I know you miss your friend Cally, but you have to move on. And do keep away from killer sand. The colour alone should have warned you that something wasn’t right.

Still, the girls seem quite fond of you. But I’d be careful and just stay friends with them. A domestic with an assassin could be nasty, and kissing Dayna with all those booby-trapped teeth sounds a bit risky. I’m sure you’ll meet someone much safer and just right for you one day.

Love, Mum 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Explosions

The next time any of you bloody idiots decide to blow something up, warn the rest of us. I thought the base was under attack.

Avon 



To:               Scorpio Crew
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       More about those explosions

Well now. Just whose bright idea was it to scatter pieces of overstuffed furniture in the day-glow oranges and pinks fashionable last century all over the slopes outside the base? If anyone ever suspects we’re on Xenon, just where do you think they’ll start looking?

And who exploded a container of grey underwear with such force that our radio antennae are festooned with Y-fronts, making them somewhat more noticeable than before?

My evening strolls down by the river, hitherto taken to get a break from you louts, are hardly enhanced by the sight of some of Dorian’s more arcane devices protruding from the power station walls.

I know Vila doesn’t like explosives, but somehow I see his hand in this. A solid week’s duties for both suspects - Vila on laundry, and Dayna on kitchen clean-up.

Oh and Vila. Clean up the stains on the couch where Tarrant spilled his espresso. And I’d also like Orac drained of port and dried out. Now.

Avon 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       Your opinion

Vila.

I’d like your professional thief’s opinion on a proposal made to me by a former acquaintance. My cabin ASAP.

And silk sheets do not require starch.

Avon 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Black gold and waste paper

Dear Mum,

One of Avon’s old acquaintances (since that bastard Tynus double-crossed us, I doubt if Avon claims to have friends any more) contacted him with a very lucrative job in mind. Avon actually asked me what I thought! First time I’ve been consulted, and I used to have a nice sideline once telling people whether their plans would work; I’ve got a feel for these things. And this deal gave me a very bad feeling. I didn’t like the look of that Keiller on the vismail he sent. I said I wouldn’t touch the deal, but Avon just said I never liked any ideas if they involved more danger than getting out of bed (not true – I thought nabbing those Feldon crystals might work), and he was going ahead with or without me.

So I stayed on Scorpio while the rest went over to meet this Keiller on a pleasure cruiser called the Space Princess. The setup was that gold from the Zerok mines was transported secretly on the ship, but wasn’t worth stealing as they changed its atoms in the mines to make it black, and you had to have the right code to change it back. So we had to go to Zerok to tamper with the processor to let an unchanged batch through.

So we followed the Princess to Zerok and Avon and Soolin met Keiller in the mines. Dayna and Tarrant followed to cover them, but when an alarm went off and they got into the processing plant to rescue the others, they found two crisped bodies and Keiller out cold. They brought him back and told me Avon and Soolin were dead. I was angry that Soolin was gone, and that Avon hadn’t listened to me, and I have to admit this: relieved that now I was free, no longer trapped by Avon’s paranoia about betrayal. When Keiller came round, I acted tough and put a scare into him, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him, I mean spacing the creep just wasn’t my style. Then Soolin called in, so stunning me I couldn’t think straight and was a bit slow teleporting them up. Keiller admitted then it wasn’t his plan, but someone else blackmailed him into it, and he figured he could use us to double-cross them. Nice fellow.

Anyway, they still went ahead with the plan. It was to have Dayna pretend to be a sick passenger, the ship’s doctor to put out a distress call, me to turn up answering it, and we sneak the gold across the docking connection in Dayn’s gurney. Worked pretty well too, except for the shootout between the airlocks. Avon was trapped there when
hey disconnected, and yelled for me to teleport him. For just a fraction of a second, I thought, if I was a bit slow again I’d be able to get my life back, but I knew I’d have nightmares for the rest of it

Anyway. Avon and I decided to up the price and sold the gold (and Keiller) to Keiller’s associates for ten billion, making it a nice even two each. Just one guess who was behind the whole thing. Servalan of course. And one more guess whether we made a profit. No of course. We were drooling and dreaming over all that lovely paper when Orac told us that Zerok had ceded to the Federation and their currency was now invalid.

So we put it in the airlock and left a confetti trail behind us on our way back to base.

Sigh.

Still, I’ve got my 7 mill, and that’s hardly peanuts!

Love, Vila 



To:               Commissioner Sleer
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       You dirty rat

You can be really annoying sometimes, Servalan. You can put a crimp in a whole day.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       FW: Stardrive knocking

I have informed Tarrant he may not just borrow you – he may keep you. Pick up some milk and groceries while you’re out.

Avon

----------Original Message----------

To:             Kerr Avon
From:         Del Tarrant
Subject:      Stardrive knocking

Avon, I’ve noticed some knocking in the stardrive. Can I borrow Vila for a test flight, so he can make some adjustments underway?

Tarrant 



To:               Del Tarrant
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Stardrive knocking

Oh and who died and made me your mechanic, Tarrant?

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Del Tarrant
Subject:       RE: Stardrive knocking

Oh don’t be like that, Vila! Avon said we weren’t allowed out together after getting that traffic fine, and this is a good excuse. No-one else enjoys a bit of fancy flying. Dayna gets nauseous and mean with it, and Soolin gets sarcastic about my testosterone levels.

We’ll stop off at a nice planet and you can have a drink at a pub while I’m banking my cut from Sauros Beta. Go on. I’ll let you drive some of the way. :-)

Tarrant 



To:               Del Tarrant
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Stardrive knocking

All right. But no mucking around with asteroids. I’m allergic to those. They make me come over all funny.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Black gold and waste paper

Dear Vila,

I remember you used to do very well out of that consulting racket. What did you call it again? How silly of that Avon not to listen to you when you’re such an expert.

But it’s not at all like you to even think of leaving him on the wrong side of an airlock. I can see how you feel trapped, but why don’t you buy your way out, dear?

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal; Del Tarrant
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       What happened?

What kept you two? And why didn’t it keep Vila longer?

Avon 



To:               Kerr Avon
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: What happened?

I like that! I have to slave away over a hot stardrive, run your errands, and on top of all that, get nothing but abuse. I can stay away a bit longer if you like. How about 50 years?

Vila 



To:              Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Vil and Del’s excellent adventure

Dear Mum,

Yeah, I did do well at that consulting. There was my Flat Fee Feasibility service – 500 credits for me to tell you if your plan would work, and VINO (Vila’s In-N-Out ) Contracting to open locks at a rising charge-out rate depending on difficulty. Brought in a nice steady income. Don’t get anywhere near as much as when you’re in a gang with a percentage of the take (very dangerous, that), but you live a lot longer.

And Avon’s got no idea how much I’ve got saved up. Not telling him either.

Anyway, I had a good time yesterday, with Tarrant oddly enough.  We went to Califeron, the pretty way, via some nice marbly gas giants (‘cos we wanted to play in the gravity wells – that was fun, at least when I was in control) and a very colourful nebula we punched through at standard by 12.

After we did some shopping, we went for a few drinks and a ploughman’s lunch in a pub (what’s a ploughman I ask myself), and had a few rides at an amusement park on the other side of the planet (should have done that in reverse order, really). We went on the Space Station Wheel (you get flattened against the outside walls), through the Andromedan House of Horrors, (didn’t see much, had my eyes squeezed shut, but I heard Tarrant yell a few times), into the Wiggly Worm-Hole (tubes full of water, very wet and lots of fun – I went twice) and on the best ride of all, the reason Tarrant was there. The Ultimate Ride. You get to fly into a sun, through the bored-out core of a planet, into a black hole, and out into another universe where the rules of physics are different. Well, not really. It was all VR. But each person gets to fly themselves and you have to suss out the physics fast enough to avoid what they throw at you, and see how long you can survive. I wasn’t tall enough to go on this ride, but Tarrant flashed his charm and teeth at the girl on the door and said we averaged out to a valid height. Tarrant got the 43rd best score of the day, and I was 127th, which is pretty good out of almost a thousand.

We felt a bit tired after that and had a nap on Scorpio, then went to dinner at a place where you have to sit on the floor and eat the food with little sticks. I think Tarrant was a bit disappointed I managed so well – he sat cross-legged but I got myself into the lotus yoga position Cally taught us once. And I finished up every grain of rice with those little sticks.

Then we went home to bed, tired but happy boys.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Detective Haskell
Subject:       Still on your trail

I see you were on Califeron, Restal. Very stupid of you to register your name against your score on the Ultimate Ride. As no banks have reported any money missing, I assume your visit was for pleasure. Interesting that Califeron is back in the same sector as Onus 2, where I first picked your trail up. Isn’t it now.

Detective Haskell 



To:               Detective Haskell
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Still on your trail

Did you have a go on the Ultimate Ride too? How’d you do? Manage to top 127th? Bet you didn’t!

Vila Restal 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Excess baggage

Dear Mum,

Feel like I’m still on one of those rides – one minute up in the air, the next right down in the dumps.

A guy called Egrorian holed up on Malodaar offered Avon something called a tachyon funnel which can take out planets light-years away. He said Avon had to go down alone to see him by shuttle not teleport, but Avon said as Egrorian had an assistant, he was bringing one too - me. I was in two minds about the whole thing. I didn’t trust the guy, but Avon was in such a good mood, like he had all the aces up his sleeves, I started thinking maybe it could work. Just for a change.

Egrorian was a real nutter, and his assistant Pinder not much better; he called Avon ma’am, worth a laugh though. That Egrorian, what’s worse, took a fancy to me; it was all I could do not to leap out of the chair when he put his hand on my knee, but I could see Avon out of the corner of my eye, looking at me, and thought it was safer to play along. So we said we’d give him Orac for the funnel thing (didn’t look much like one) and went back to Scorpio. Avon was so pleased, I got encouraged and tried to amuse him like the old days by prattling on about the palace I’d have when we ruled the galaxy (diamond floors and a bodyguard of virgins in red fur). He smiled a bit but didn’t bite like he would have once, I mean I left myself wide open there – e.g. “Why virgins, Vila? So they wouldn’t have anyone to compare your doubtful charms with, Vila?” But no. Not a nibble. And diamond floors, they’d be a bit silly too, very bright, no-one looks good lit from underneath, esp. me. And fur would be impractical – makes me sneeze. Very hard to get to these days, Avon is.

Not the girls though, I had them giggling and playing along with an idiot scientist act back on Scorpio. They love that stuff, sad to say.

Back on Malodaar, Avon demoed Orac to Egrorian and poor Pinder and I loaded the tachyon funnel onto the shuttle. In the shuttle on the way back, Avon took great pleasure in telling me Egrorian said he could get really fond of me. Glad Avon didn’t think of throwing me in with Orac. Wouldn’t put it past him now. As for Orac, Avon made a false one a few months ago just in case, and that’s what he gave Egrorian; the real one was in the shuttle with us, just waiting to tell us we weren’t going to make escape velocity. Egrorian had set us up. We stripped that shuttle of everything we could, even the tachyon funnel. Still not enough. Orac said we had to lose 70 kg more. I weigh 73. Well, you can see it coming, can’t you? All excess weight had to go. Including me.

Avon couldn’t find me to throw out. I really thought that was it though. Would’ve been too if Avon hadn’t found the neutronium they planted.

Thing is, it wasn’t personal. I mean, Avon would’ve tried to kill anyone else who was on that shuttle, like with Dr Plaxton. I can understand his point of view – why should we both die when it could be just me – but I just don’t think that way. I suppose I’m not as logical as him.

No, what really hurt was the way he looked at me afterwards when he said I was always safe with him. I know he doesn’t think much of me any more, but that was mean.

Got bad chest pains again, so I’ve locked myself in my room to get drunk. You know me and mind-altering drugs - I have to be in the mood to let myself go, but I think I’ll play a little game and see how many brain-cells I can kill off. Might blur a few memories.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       I know

Vila, please come out. I’ve guessed what happened. We could all see on our screens that Avon had to jettison everything he could to make escape velocity, and I’m glad he couldn’t find you too.

Maybe you don’t want to see anyone, but for what it’s worth, I know what it feels like to be almost killed by someone I trusted, and thought was a friend. Remember Dorian? You can talk to me.

Soolin 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       Come on

Soolin told me what happened. Come on, Vila. We’re friends now, aren’t we? I know we took a while to get used to each other, but we have to stick together the way things are going. Come on, unlock your door. We’ll cheer you up.

Dayna 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Excess baggage

Darling Vila,

How could you describe yourself as excess baggage? After those girls being so nice to you and even getting on with Tarrant after he used to be such a bully last year.

And what are you doing? You should be glad to be alive, not trying to hurt yourself like that. You forget that Avon, he’s not worth it. Friends don’t throw friends out of shuttles. Just be thankful for what you do have – people who like you, and a mother who adores you. Don’t you forget that, sweetheart.

All my love, your Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Del Tarrant
Subject:       Drink?

Soolin and Dayna told me what happened, and I suppose it’s obvious now I think about it. Look, Vila, there aren’t that many places to hide on a shuttle, especially not one you two had already stripped bare. If Avon really wanted to find you, he could have. He was probably hoping till the last minute he wouldn’t have to. Come on, pull yourself together, Vila, and have a drink with us.

Tarrant 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Dayna Mellanby
Subject:       Come on, Vila

This isn’t funny any more, Vila. You’re starting to scare us. If you don’t come out or reply soon, we’ll have to break your door down. We can use a laser cutter, or I can blow it out, but either way, you could get hurt. Vila?

Dayna 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       Game on

Vila, you know if Avon finds out, he’ll be very angry. Do you want that? I found some games in the living room cupboard. You like games, don’t you? Dayna and I will play you. There’s scrabble, you’d be good at that, and something called pick-sticks, and a game with coloured beads. You could teach us, Vila, over a glass of wine or some coffee and hot toast. Sound good?

Soolin 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Sorry

Dear Mum,

Sorry about that. You’re right - I suppose the others do care a bit about me, and I thought I was only good for opening locks and making them laugh now and then.

I drank myself legless (funny how my brain keeps going but the rest of me doesn’t) and passed out. Dayna was going to blow my door in, but Soolin suddenly thought of the teleport. She got Slave to set the co-ordinates for my room and came in and unlocked my door from the inside. They told me I was pretty bad. Tarrant carried me to the resuscitation room and Soolin stayed there till I came round. Wasn’t like with Cally – she’d have given me a big hug - but it was nice her being there. She just smiled and said she was glad I was all right, and would I like something to eat, then pretended to be busy on the other side of the room while I pretended to have something in my eye.

 So don’t worry. I do feel better. But I still feel a bit down. I mean, apart from that shuttle and bloody Orac doing the dirty on me, Egrorian was planning all along to kill us. Seems everything we do goes wrong, everyone we deal with wants to do us in. Whatever we try next isn’t going to work any better. So we’re all just waiting for the next blow. And playing scrabble or pick-sticks, what fun.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Sorry

Dear Vilakins,

Please don’t be so depressed. I’m sure it’s not that bad. What can I say to cheer you up? I know! What sort of underpants do you think the new members of the crew wear?

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Underwear

Dear Mum,

Hmm, all right, let’s see.

Dayna:   stretch animal-print briefs

Tarrant:    posing pouch
Soolin:   grey silk thong

But to tell the truth, I bet they all wear Dorian standard-issue grey knickers. :-)

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Underwear

Dear Vila,

Did that make you feel better, sweetie? Though I didn’t know you knew about such things as posing pouches!

Love, Mum

 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Underwear

Dear Mum,

Didn’t know you did, either!

Avon’s having a go at diplomacy now and trying to get the non-aligned border worlds to make an alliance. Two big problems there: Avon’s no diplomat – he wouldn’t know how to be polite to save himself – and he needs the warlord Zukan to be part of it as he has some plants on Betafarl to make the antitoxin from. And that’s like asking Attila the Hun to play nicely with the other children in the sandpit.

Still, it’s quite nice here at the moment – Avon and Tarrant have gone off to Betafarl to make a deal with Zukan and I’m just taking it easy. Ever since I got dead drunk, the girls make sure I’m never alone (except at night, sad to say). Nice of them really. I’m in the living room now, and Dayna’s here too, wiring up something explosive. Earlier, Soolin was here, reading a book-pad. And when I cook a pizza tonight, one of them will just happen to be in the kitchen too. Then we’ll play a game together afterwards. Still, it’s not like it was back on the Liberator – no teasing or blatant cheating (I can’t get up the energy for either) and somehow everyone’s been a bit subdued since we came back from Malodaar.

Love, Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Free at last

Dear Mum,

I’m about to escape this place finally. Don’t write to me again on this address ‘cos I won’t be here. Just think of me on some nice neutral planet sunning myself on a beach.

Thanks for being the best mother I could’ve wished for.

All my love,

Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Vila is safe

Dear Jandy Restal,

You don’t know me, but Vila was very upset that you would be worrying about him, so I got your address off him and promised him I would put your mind at rest. He also said something about cliffs, but he was a bit feverish, and I couldn’t quite get that.

Vila was wounded in a shoot-out with the Federation, but I assure you, he’ll be fine, and will e-mail you himself when he’s stronger.

My name is Lenya Tamak, and I work with the resistance. We happened to be on a planet called Gauda Prime as the Federation was preparing to take it over, working with Roj Blake’s small group there. We got a call from one of his people that the base had been attacked, so we got there as fast as we could.

When we got to the tracking gallery, we found there’d been a battle with Federation troopers. Kerr Avon was sitting against a wall with Blake on one side of him, dead, and your son Vila on the other. Avon had his arms around Vila, crying. I think he thought Vila was dead, but when we checked his pulse and said he was alive, Avon said we should help him first as he was a hero. They must be very close friends.

Vila was badly hurt, I have to be honest, but he is recovering very well. He’s a favourite with the nursing staff as he’s so grateful for their attention, and unlike the other wounded, thanks them a lot. He’s quite a charmer actually, and very modest for a hero. I’ll enjoy getting to know him; I heard a lot about him and his sharp wit under fire from Blake, and I always wanted to meet him.

All my best, and of course Vila sends his love too.

Lenya Tamak 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Vila is safe

Is that true, Vila? Are you safe? Someone called Lenya e-mailed me about you. She said you were a hero. What happened? Did your escape attempt fail? Please let me know you’re all right, even if it’s just a few words.

Your loving Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Vila is safe

Yeah, I’m all right, really, S’nice here. More later. Bit sleepy right now.

Love, Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Sorry

Me again. Feeling better today. Um, look, I lied about escaping, but the base was half blown up by Zukan and we couldn’t get out, and I wanted you to think I was all right and not dead like I thought I was going to be. Sorry.

Zukan reneged on his deal and booby-trapped the place so we were sealed in with a radio-active virus. You know what? At this point I just didn’t care any more. I’d had enough. Tarrant said I was useless, and he was right. After all that had happened recently, I just couldn’t be bothered when it looked that hopeless. So I sent you a last message and found something to drink.

Zukan didn’t know his daughter Zeeona fell in love with Tarrant when they met on Betafarl and had sneaked in. We were all trapped there together, except for Avon and Soolin who’d gone to get Zukan’s plants. That was a set up too, and on their way back Avon figured out how we could get clean air, and they came back and rescued us with the teleport. Zeeona went down to reverse the contamination and got killed by the virus ‘cos she took her glove off. Don’t know if she did it for shame about her father or if it was just a mistake.

We had to abandon the base as people knew where it was now, so Dayna set charges and we blew it up after we left. Then Avon told us he’d found Blake alive, on Gauda Prime. Don’t think I can talk about Blake now. Or Dayna. Next time. Hurts too much. Thinking about it I mean, not the other kind. Though when it does, the nurses are very nice, they give me painkillers and hold my hand or stroke my head. I think they like me! Especially Lenya. She’s not even a nurse, and she comes to see me quite a lot.

Love, Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Blake

Dear Mum,

I’m getting a lot better. I’m sitting up in bed, well, propped up with lots of pillows anyway.

I think I can tell you some more of it now.

You know, I lost hope things would get better a while ago, but when I heard Blake was alive, I felt all hopeful again. I thought, if we find him, everything will be all right.

Gauda Prime is where Soolin came from, not a nice place to visit. It’s an open planet, no laws, but the Feds want to take it over so the bounty hunters are cleaning it up. Orac said Blake was one. I couldn’t believe it.

We got shot down over GP ‘cos Orac told Slave not to interrupt, so he couldn’t warn us, but I don’t know if it would have made a difference with the peashooters Scorpio has. Had. I suggested teleporting off, so Avon sent me with the girls, and we spent the night in a dusty old shack. I got jumped by bounty hunters on my watch and laid out cold, and I mean cold, it was very nippy (running head injury total: 11, and no, I wasn’t asleep) but Avon turned up then with Orac and shot them. He’d left Tarrant on board to go down with the ship, the bastard. Though it is traditional for a pilot.

We found the bounty hunters’ flyer and followed another flyer back to an underground base. Tarrant was there and told us he’d seen Blake. But if Avon knew this was Blake’s base, why did he shoot the woman who set off the alarm? Everything went wrong then. Blake came in with a woman called Arlen. He didn’t look like himself any more, he was scarred and hard-looking, and he didn’t even look at me, so much for the idea I’d mattered to him and he’d be pleased to see me. Tarrant said Blake had sold us, and Avon asked him if he’d betrayed us. From what he said, it sounded like he had. So Avon shot him down, even though he wasn’t armed. Then Arlen said she was a Fed officer and told us to drop our guns. It was like a nightmare. I did my stupid babble act like I once did to some Fed guards with Blake, hoping to distract her; Dayna went for her gun and Arlen shot her. I could see she was dead. Don’t know why Soolin didn’t shoot, she was faster. I took Arlen out with a move Gan once tried to teach me, the Zephron Clothesline, worked a treat too. Just as I was picking up her gun, I was shot in the back. And me not even running away.

This is hard. I have to keep stopping. Can I finish tomorrow?

Love, Vila 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Me and Avon

Dear Mum,

I’ll try to tell you the rest today. I’d like to get it all over and done with.

Anyway, there I was, lying on my back on the floor, a bit shocked, but it didn’t hurt yet. I’m not sure what happened after that. I could hear shots, then it went quiet and I turned my head to see. Avon was standing over Blake’s body smiling like a madman, with troopers all around him. What I did next I didn’t do for him. That bastard tried to kill me then sneered at me, and he murdered Blake. No, I did it for Dayna and the others. And me. I picked up Arlen’s gun and shot the troopers in the back, while Avon ducked down and fired too. One of the troopers managed to turn around and get me in the chest before Avon shot him. Then it was quiet again. Avon was still standing, the only one, but swaying a bit. He looked at me and said “Oh, Vila. You really are a fool. I thought it was self-preservation at all costs.” I could hardly lift Arlen’s gun by now, but I pointed it at him because I thought I’d be next. Avon lifted his gun too and fired, but at Arlen who’d come round behind me. Then he came over and said “Vila” very quietly and took my gun out of my hand. We both knew I wouldn’t fire it. Avon said, “I won’t hurt you, Vila,” then immediately did so - he picked me up and I passed out from the pain.

When I came round, Avon was sitting against the wall, holding me across him. Oh, right, I thought, I know what’s going on. “Using me as a shield, eh Avon?” I said. “Let me go, you bastard.” If I was in pain, Avon must have been worse because he had tears in his eyes. He just said, “All right, Vila,” and moved me so I was sitting beside him against the wall, but he kept his arm around me, to keep me in place I suppose, though I wasn’t going anywhere. I could see Blake’s legs on the other side of Avon, so he must have really been a loose laser cannon by then to have two people he despised either side of him.

Then we heard footsteps and shouts coming towards us. More Feds, I thought. I always fancied going out on a good line, even if there wasn’t anyone to remember it, so I said, “Think they’ll surrender to us?” and Avon started to laugh. I drifted off then, but I thought it started to sound a bit like sobs as I went.

And that’s it.

I woke up in this hospital on Stryli, a neutral planet where the resistance has a big base. I panicked a bit at first, as every time I’ve been to a hospital, I’ve gone in healthy and come out with nerve-damage and a killer headache, but this is the other kind. They gave me some organ transplants, and when I heard that, I got so upset they thought I was going to hurt myself and had to sedate me. But the spares weren’t from Chenga; they’re vat-grown and coded with my DNA. When I heard that, I said I wasn’t that keen on substandard bits and pieces and couldn’t they find something better, and they seemed to think that was quite funny.

Dayna’s dead like I thought. We’d only just got to like each other in the last few months too. Soolin was even more badly wounded than me but she’s getting better, they say. Tarrant is all right, already out of bed. And Avon too. Physically all right anyway. They’ve got some high-powered psych guy called Carnell in to treat him.

It’s actually quite nice here. The nurses are very kind and they all seem to think I’m a hero. I just have to wince a bit to have them say poor Vila and comfort me and plump my pillows up. Lenya comes to talk to me every day but I like her too much to pull that one on her. She’s got wild bright red spiky hair that falls in her eyes, and she’s not that pretty - she has a sharp pointy little face, but nice and funny and friendly with big brown eyes and a smile that make me feel warm inside. She told me about her planet Ataro, where she lives by the sea. Sounds wonderful.

Oh yes. She also told me about Blake. He didn’t sell us after all. For a while I wasn’t sure which would be worse – if he had betrayed us, or if Avon had killed an innocent man. Lenya and Blake were friends, and she said a lot of bad things happened to him since the Andromedan war (well, he wasn’t the only one) but he often talked about Avon and Cally and me and said he missed us. And I’m glad now that’s the way it turned out, as at least I have my memories of him.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Me and Avon

Dear Vila,

I’m so glad to hear from you, darling. I wish I could be there with you. This may sound odd, but I think you’re starting to sound better and happier in that hospital than you’ve been for a while. I hope that Carnell fellow manages to fix Avon so he’s no longer a danger to anyone. If he’s that good at what he does, maybe you could have a word with him too. After all, you’ve been through just as much as Avon has.

Get well soon, sweetheart,

Love, Mum 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Inspector Haskelll [insp_haskell@larcenydiv.law.calif]
Subject:       The heat’s off

Vila Restal,

I’ve seen a lot about you on the news recently, lad. Nicking you now would be a very unpopular move.

Besides, I’ve left the Federation for a much better job with the Califeron police force. Better pay, conditions, and a great place to live. So I’m not after you any more, not just because you’re a rebel hero, but also because the banks you robbed no longer wish to press charges as it would go down badly with the public. In fact, they’ve found being done by the ‘most famous thief in the galaxy’ has been good for business and attracted new customers, as they say they’re unlikely to be hit again.

Still, do take up a new line of work, Restal. There’s a good lad.

Inspector Haskell

P.S. Still haven’t matched your score on the Ultimate Game. 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Carnell and Lenya

Dear Mum,

Actually that Carnell wanted to see me as he’s always been fascinated by my resistance to conditioning. I got scared and had the shakes so bad at the thought of talking to anyone who fiddles with people’s minds, the doctors said forget it, and anyway they think I’m doing fine on my own. Carnell also wanted to ask me about Avon, because he’s already spoken to Tarrant and Soolin, but I’ve known Avon longer than them. So I gave Lenya my encryption code and told her they could read my e-mails on Orac (we’ve got the traitorous little rat back for what it‘s worth; Avon told them where to find him) and they’d know all about Avon then. After I said this, I wished I hadn’t, as Lenya does data-gathering and information analysis or some such thing, so she’d be one of the people reading me mail, and if did she’d know all about me too, and she wouldn’t like me any more.

Sure enough, she came to see me the next day and said she and Carnell had read my mail. I sighed and said now she knew I wasn’t a hero. She said, “The resistance is just full of macho gung-ho hero-types. They’re all ‘over the top and don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes’. But you’re something quite different, Vila Restal. There aren’t many people around like you.” This doesn’t sound like a compliment, but I think it must have been, because she smiled at me and leant over and kissed me on the cheek. Then she challenged me to any game I fancied. I said how about a spot of chess; it’s been a long time since I had a match.

She’s taking me for a spin in a wheelchair tomorrow.

Love, Vila 



To:               Inspector Haskelll
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: The heat’s off

Congratulations on your promotion, Inspector! And it’s a deal - I’ll stay out of your hair if you stay off my tail.

Vila Restal 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Carnell [puppeteer3@galacmail.com]
Subject:       Thank you

Vila Restal,

Thank you very much for permission to read your e-mails. They have been invaluable in my treatment of Kerr Avon. I am also astounded at the resilience, courage, strength and the buoyant human spirit you have shown. It has been a pleasure to meet you, even at second-hand.

I should like to pass a couple of things on to you which you may find helpful. Firstly, Blake, whom I have worked with on a couple of occasions, once said he fought for people like you, Vila – those who suffered under the Federation, lived hard lives, and still retained their humour, humanity, and hope for a better life.

Secondly, Avon really was deliberately cruel to you in the last year, precisely because he liked you. He thought he had lost everyone he cared about except for you, and was doing his best not to care about you either so that he would no longer have anything left to lose. Everything else discussed under therapy is confidential, but Avon and I felt you deserved to know this at least. I have every hope that he will recover completely. In fact, with your help, he has already made excellent progress.

There is also the matter of Del Tarrant. Once again, you were most perspicacious in your suspicions. Tarrant was consciously loyal to all of you personally, but was captured while deserting from Space Fleet, and conditioned before being released. He was indeed in contact with Servalan, and later in her identity of Sleer, but only when he considered her or the Federation’s security to be at risk. He was quite unaware of this, and has been reconditioned and counselled.

It is also obvious from your e-mails that you have some unrealised telepathic potential, which probably explains your resistance to conditioning. This would be worthy of investigation and perhaps further training to develop it. Though I’d stay away from teleports in future as I infer that your growing mistrust affected the working of such a delicate system, resulting in your ‘accidents’.

If you ever overcome your very understandable caution about psychotherapists, I should be delighted to meet you in person.

Carnell 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Wheelchair shenanigans

Dear Mum,

Lenya took me for a nice sedate wheelchair ride through the hospital gardens this morning, though I can walk all the way to the other side of my room and back now. She said, “Isn’t this lovely?”  I said, “Oh yes, very nice.” She said, “No, it’s a bit boring really. Let’s spice it up.” I wasn’t sure what she had in mind, but it was a wheelchair race. She went off and nabbed one from storage, then we decided to do a circuit of the garden paths, after discussing and rejecting various ideas like attaching knives to the wheels for a Ben Hur chariot race.

So we set off side-by-side, but Lenya was fitter and started to pull away. Then the slope got steeper down towards the duck pond, and we were flying along. I got nervous, you know me, and stopped - only just too - but Lenya kept going. “Oh shit,” she yelled, “the brakes are knackered!” I thought she’d end up in the pond, and I figured a girl who lives by the sea can swim. But she threw herself off onto the grass by the path, and lay there helpless with laughter with the chair beside her, wheels still spinning. A couple of people ran over, very concerned, and Lenya jumped up, looking amazed, and said, “It’s a miracle! I can walk!” Might have worked too, if I hadn’t been doubled up laughing so hard I hurt all the bits they just fixed.

She absolutely creamed me at chess last night too. I’d love to see her take Avon down.

You know, Lenya is definitely my kind of girl. Ataro isn’t that far away and we’ve got each other’s e-mail addresses. I’d like to see her again. But you know how it is. I’m always too scared to make the first move.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Wheelchair shenanigans

Dear Vila,

Lenya sounds very nice, but almost as dangerous as those other two girls. Though I’m very sorry to hear about Dayna. Still, you could have hurt yourself, you silly boy. You’ve always had a weak chest, and it can’t have been improved by you being shot in it.

You are all heroes on the neutral zone news, sweetheart, because that antidote stuff you kept talking about is going into mass production. They didn’t say anything about Avon killing Blake though. They just said he was shot by Federation troopers, like the rest of you. I suppose it’s best kept quiet. Those awful stories about Blake and those children were bad enough. I won’t say anything.

But do be careful, love. You don’t want to strain anything while you’re still recuperating.

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal [vilarestal@galacmail.com]
Subject:       New address

Dear Mum,

I’m just about better now and ready to leave the hospital. I’m not sure what I’m going to do or where I’ll be, but here’s my new e-mail address, on GalacMail. I thought I might have to have a number after my name, but I must be the only Vila Restal. Lenya laughed and said the galaxy couldn’t handle more than one.

Soolin and Tarrant have left already, but they gave me their new addresses before they went. Soolin’s going to do assassinations for the resistance, but they call it surgical removal. Her first target is Sleer / Servalan – that is if the Feds don’t get her first now the truth is out. I suppose they’d call that a Servalanectomy. Tarrant’s been offered one of the best ships the rebels have, not in the class of the Liberator, but he’s happy, and promised me I could take the controls and try some stunts if I’m ever on board.

Avon’s still here but pretty much all right too. He came and saw me yesterday, and he looked just the same as always, almost expressionless except for a slightly sardonic look. He said he saw no point in saying he was sorry as it couldn’t change the past, and if he was in that shuttle with me again, he’d still try to throw me out. I said I knew that, and I was a selfish bastard too, as I’d never jump out to save him anyway. Then he laughed. So I think it’s all right again.

He says he has a scheme to take the Federation down from the inside and he’d like my special skills, almost non-existent as they are. I’m thinking about it.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: New address

Dear Vila,

I’m glad you’re chums with Avon again, love, but don’t go off with him again. You can do better now.

Did you see Servalan’s trial and execution on the news? I have to say, that woman had style. Dressed to the nines, or should I say, dressed to be killed, in black and white, very striking, and only she could carry off that big hat and all those feathers. It would give me a headache and make me sneeze. The way she looked at the firing squad, I wasn’t surprised the officer apologised to her. Of course, she refused a blindfold as it would ruin the look of her outfit.

I must say, black and white was a good choice. Nice contrast with the red blood. I hope you didn’t faint when you saw that, dear. Her lippy was exactly the right shade to match too. Such attention to detail. We won’t see her style again.

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Lenya

Dear Mum,

Yes, I did see Servalan on the viscasts, but I couldn’t look when they shot her. Avon said I could take my hands away from my eyes when it was over. He said I hadn’t changed, I was still a soft-witted half-hearted idiot, or was that the other way round? He sat there for a while afterwards, looking thoughtful. I think he had a sneaking admiration for Servalan. Well, she wrote an entertaining e-mail when she was in the mood, I’ll say that for her.

I decided I’d go with Avon, as I couldn’t think of anything better to do, and we made a good team once, and I think we could again. We were leaving Stryli today, and Lenya and some of the med staff came out to the shuttle to see us off. That Carnell was there too. Honestly, Mum, I’ve never seen a man with more a beautiful face – he’s blonde with blue eyes and long black eyelashes. Bet he got beaten up all the time at school.

When I said goodbye to Lenya, she said, “You know, lately the idea of a nice villa by the sea appeals to me more and more.” Fair enough. Being a rebel can be very stressful, with all that danger and everyone about you totally fearless. I said maybe I’d visit her one day, and she looked a bit disappointed, but I couldn’t work out what I’d said wrong. So I said goodbye and got on the shuttle with Avon. That alone took some courage. And on top of that, the sod had taken the window seat. When I sat down, Avon said, “You’re a fool, Vila.”

I said, “What have I done now?”

Avon said, “How many Ls do you think there are in ‘villa’?”

I thought about it. Did Lenya mean a nice Vila by the sea? I leapt up out of my seat, hit my head on the luggage rack, and fell back, stunned (running head injury total: 12, but not that bad). Avon sighed and called out to the pilot to stop the engines and let me off.

I ran down the ramp and up to Lenya who was still standing there. I was almost too scared to hope. I said, “How many Ls did you mean?”

Lenya grinned and said, “There’s only one in ‘Vila’” and I threw myself into her arms. And I felt so happy and safe, I’d go through it all again for this.

Didn’t even notice the shuttle leaving.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: New address

Dear Vila,

Didn’t I tell you to be patient, and you’d find the right girl? Didn’t I? I knew there was someone for you. Oh, I’m so happy for you, darling.

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Seaside Vila

Dear Mum,

Yes, you did tell me, but you should have said “be a patient and you’ll find the right girl!”

We’re here on Ataro, and it’s more wonderful than I could imagine. We live in a big house on a cliff overlooking a tropical ocean, all turquoise and purple. I have to keep looking in the mirror to check it’s really me here, funny timid little Vila Restal. Doesn’t seem right, somehow. But Lenya looks at me as if I’m someone special.

We’re going to be partners; to do info gathering for the rebellion together. Me being able to get into locked rooms and vaults works out well, and no-one will even know I’ve been there as all we’ll take is data. Pity I won’t be able to sign any locks though, like I used to. We’re also going to contract out to do break-ins for other rebels, but only if it’s not too dangerous. Del Grant’s interested. Avalon’s a starter already, and I’ll give her mate’s rates, but I may make Avon pay full whack.

Lenya likes having fun as much as I do, and has the biggest collection of games I’ve seen. Her favourite though is something she calls “silly buggers”, which is throwing each other in the pool, hitting each other with cushions, or tickly wrestling matches. If Lenya had been on Del Ten, she’d have been banned from that pool like I was.

Anyway, here’s the good news. We’ve decided to be life-time bondmates! We’ll celebrate it when you’re here. The resistance has arranged an exit visa and travel permit for you under the name of Tracy Travis (couldn’t resist that) and I bought you tickets on a Teal-Vandor space liner (much better than the dopey old Space Princess). Lenya says you can live with us if you like, and have the west wing as a granny flat. When I asked if she minded a mother-in-law in the place, she kissed me and said she knows she’ll like you because you had to be part of what made me the way I am.

Oh, almost forgot. Your resistance contact will ask you if you’ve heard of philosophical fleas, and you say you know one.

Love, Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Jandy Restal
Subject:       RE: Seaside Vila

My darling Vila, and Lenya too!

Oh, I’m so excited, I can hardly wait! A cruise on a luxury liner with you at the end of it! But when you said granny flat, did you mean it literally? Shall I buy some little training lockpicks from the Thieves’ Guild to bring with me?

Love, Mum 



To:               Jandy Restal
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       RE: Seaside Vila

Dear Mum,

Um, no. But bring them anyway. Never know what might happen in the future, do you?

See you in a couple of weeks at the spaceport. You’ll like Ataro. It’s an independent agricultural and tourist planet now, bit off the beaten space-ways, but it was a Fed penal colony 300 years ago. Lenya’s descended from Delta-grade thieves (!), smugglers, assorted farmers and colonists, and land-pirates who grabbed everything they could get their hands on.

Love, Vila

P.S. If they give you lots of cutlery at meals on the ship, work your way in from the outside. 



To:               Kerr Avon [kerravon2@galacmail.com];
                   Soolin [barbisoolin@galacmail.com];
                   Del Tarrant [dtarrant2143@galacmail.com]
From:           Vila Restal
Subject:       Invitation

You lot are all invited to the bonding ceremony of:

Vila Restal and Lenya Tamak

at our house on the 28th of next month at 1400 hours. The address is Tamak Hall, not far from Akran City, Ataro. If you’re early you can have a swim in the pool. Or the sea if you don’t mind poisonous jellyfish and cruising sharkoids.

A wide selection of curries, seafood, ice cream, cakes, fine wines, and the best adrenaline and soma provided. Please come.

Vila 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Del Tarrant
Subject:       RE: Invitation

Thank you very much, Vila. I’ll be there. Would you like an atmosphere flypast to rattle the glasses and crockery? It could stun the sealife for you.

Do you know, I’m looking forward to seeing you again. And I never thought I’d say that!

Do you mind if I bring the whole crew along?

Tarrant 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Soolin
Subject:       RE: Invitation

Vila! I’m so happy for you! I’d love to come. That’s cheered me up after I failed to get Servalan before the Feds caught up with her. I’d like to have made the hit for Dayna’s sake. Still, jobs go much more smoothly when there’s no emotional involvement.

I’m doing one for Avon right now. Someone called Dev Tarrant. He’s Tarrant’s uncle, the one who had him conditioned. Apparently he also massacred Blake’s group back on Earth, and Avon thinks it might even the score.

Want anyone taken out? I’ll give you an introductory 50% off.

Soolin 



To:               Vila Restal
From:           Kerr Avon
Subject:       RE: Invitation

I find the sort of maudlin sentimentality normally associated with bonding ceremonies quite repellent. Furthermore, the possibility of you reproducing when you’ve only just learned how to walk upright is unnerving to say the least.

Nevertheless I shall be there, Vila.

Avon


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