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Ask Me No Questions

By Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 3

Blake looked up as Cally entered the flight deck. "Right, Jenna." He nodded, approving the course she'd set. Once they were finished on Silas, he didn't want to waste time getting to their next mission. Cally looked preoccupied, so he asked, "Is there something wrong? Have Avon and Vila called in?" He had returned to the ship early. The Silasians were efficient at their own business, and had arranged the shipments with far less than the usual red tape. Avon and Vila still had an hour left of the time allocated for their mission. Of course, he had counted on Avon finishing sooner than planned.

"No. But," the Auron said, "I can sense..."

"What?"

"It is foolish, I know. I can not receive thoughts from a non-Auron. But Vila- his feelings are unusually strong. I am getting- impressions- from him." She seemed puzzled. "He is not in pain, but he is very confused- and...Blake, I keep seeing images of bottles of beer? On a wall?"

"What! If Avon let Vila get drunk and spoil such a simple mission..." Blake grumbled. He hit the intercom. "Gan, will you call Avon? See if he needs any help."

"Right, Blake."

"Blake," Gan's voice came back in a few moments, worried. "I couldn't get an answer."

"Teleport them, Gan," Blake snapped, already on his way to the teleport chamber.

Gan was alone and upset when Blake arrived. He moved the switches once more while Blake watched, but no one appeared on the platform. "I don't think I did anything wrong."

"You didn't. It's no good, Gan," Blake said sharply. "Either they took off the bracelets..."

"Or something has happened to them," Cally said. She had followed Blake silently, stopping off to retrieve a pair of guns. She strapped hers on and handed the other to Blake. "We shall have to go down and find them." She headed for the teleport bracelet rack.

"Not blindly, Cally. Wait a moment while I consult Orac." He slipped the activating key on the computer. "Orac, where are Avon and Vila?"

"Really, it is not my function..."

"Orac, they may be in trouble," Cally said. "Now be a good computer and answer Blake."

"Oh, very well." The computer buzzed for a moment, then said, "They are being held in custody on a charge of attempted petty theft. Anticipating your further demands, I have fed the coordinates of the holding cell to which they were assigned directly into the teleport. Now, if you will kindly..."

"And thank you, Orac." Blake pulled the key. "Petty theft?" Despite the situation, he grinned. "They'll never live it down. Gan, tell Jenna to be prepared for a fast exit. Just in case."

Blake and Cally arrived, crouched for battle, guns drawn. They materialized in a dimly lit, rank-smelling, stone walled cell.

"...eventeen bottles ..." Vila trailed off as they appeared. He beamed and tugged at Avon's arm, pulling the tech's hands away from his ears.

"Vila..." Avon glared, then stopped. He looked at the rescue party and growled, "About time. Get us out of here. Vila, don't!" he snapped, as the other opened his mouth. "Don't ask, Blake, just get us out of here."

Gan was glad to see his fellow crew back. Vila looked all right, but Avon arrived lying down and made no move to get up. "Jenna, they're back," he announced over the intercom.

From the flight deck came her reply, "Fast exit, Blake?"

Blake looked at Avon who shook his head, then went sheet-white. Avon said, "No, Jenna. I don't think there'll be any pursuit." He still made no move to get up.

"Are you hurt?" Blake asked, concerned. When Avon said, 'No,' Blake offered a hand, but Avon refused to take it. Avon frowned, hating to have to admit to weakness. "I was drugged. My balance is shot. And head movement is definitely out of the question."

"Nausea?" Cally asked briskly, kneeling by Avon to check that he had no other injuries he wasn't mentioning.

"Yes," he admitted. "It is rather inconvenient." He closed his eyes against another wave of vertigo.

"Gan, take Avon to the medical unit," Cally directed. "Try not to move his head."

Avon would have preferred to crawl before being carried like a child. Except that he didn't dare move on his own. His stomach muscles were as stiff and sore from spasms as if he'd been beaten by club-wielding primitives. There hadn't been anything left to come up for hours, and he was willing to do almost anything to avoid another attack of dry heaves. Even be embarrassed in front of Blake.

While Gan picked up Avon, Cally turned her attention to Vila. She noted the thin line of dried blood on his neck with alarm. "Vila, you are injured." It was only a scratch, but for Vila not to make a fuss over any wound was so unnatural that it worried her. "Are you hurt elsewhere?"

Vila smiled at Cally and sang, "Bullet in my shoulder!" loud enough to make the woman blink and back up. "Blood! Runnin' down my vest. Twenny inna posse," he got louder, deepening his voice, "An they're neva gonna let me rest! Til I became a wanted man, I neva even carried a gun! Now- they hunt me lak a mountain cat. And I'm always, allllways, allllllways- on the run!"

There was shocked silence for a moment. Avon wished he could turn his head enough to see the look on Blake's face. He muttered, "Aren't you sorry you asked?"

"Just lie still, Avon." Cally hooked him up to an intravenous drip while he lay, stiff with annoyance, on a med-unit bed. "It will take time to counteract the reaction. Your inner ears are inflamed which affects your balance and worsens the nausea." She patted him on the shoulder. "There will be no permanent damage, but it must be corrected slowly. Too much of the counteragent would also make you ill. I will have to monitor your progress."

"For how long?" Avon stared at Vila in a distinctly unfriendly fashion. Cally had given him an antidote that worked immediately and the thief was free to leave whenever he chose. So he chose to stay, purely to irk Avon.

"No more than two hours, I should think. But you will have to remain still." She set restraints to immobilize both his arms, then prudently took herself out of his range of sight.

Blake was relieved. When he'd seen Avon lying on that cot, ash-white and shaking, he'd thought the man was dying. "No harm done, then. You and Vila are both all right and Orac has the records we need. He says he can cure the diseased wheat. I'm going to the flight deck to transmit the information to the affected planets so they can get started." He grinned and left before Avon could come up with a suitably withering remark.

Frustrated, Avon turned his annoyance on Vila. "No harm done? Hours of listening to you mangling the most inane collection of nonsensical doggerel disguised as songs? Even without the drug, I would have been nauseated."

Vila shrugged. "It wasn't my fault. It's not as if I got drunk by meself." A wicked grin spread across his face. He leaned closer to Avon. "Cally put those restraints on kind of tight, didn't she? Good idea, wouldn't want you to forget and pull anything loose. Or damage anything. Or anybody. " Vila drew a deep breath.

"Don't you dare," Avon said, sensing what was coming. He clenched his fists uselessly.

"One last little bit of doggerel, Avon. 'Oh,the liquor was spilled on the barroom floor and the bar was closed for the night - when a little mouse crawled from a hole in the wall by the shadows of the pale moonlight. He lapped up the liquor on the barroom floor and back on his haunches he sat. And all night long you could hear him roar- 'Bring on the god-damn cat!'

'Then a black cat came from under the bar and gobbled up the little white mouse. And the moral to this story is: Don't never take a drink on the house'."

Author's note: I invented none of the songs, although I may have mis-remembered the lyrics. They came from TV ads, episodes of It Takes a Thief & Wild Wild West, YMCA day camp, my grandmother (after a wedding reception with a fair amount of celebrating), An English play 'Billy Liar', a Frankie Laine record, bits heard over the radio and an old folk songs guitar book.


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