By Right of PossessionBy Kathy Hintze
Page 3 of 5
"Cally?" The Auron turned and regarded the figure on the couch. "Cally?"
"Yes, Vila, what is it?" she asked, moving to his side.
"Why am I strapped down?" he asked timidly.
For a moment, the sound of Vila's frightened voice brought her hope but as she stared into his eyes, it was not Vila but Restal who looked back at her. *You know why, Restal. You cannot fool me.*
At once, Vila swore bitterly and struggled against the restraints. Cally smiled and moved to the intercom. "Avon, he's come round."
"I'll be right down," came the response and a short time later, Avon entered.
"Still angry, I see," Avon commented wryly, seeing the hate in Restal's eyes. It hurt him to see Vila treated this way but he also knew this was not Vila but someone else, someone who was trying to take him over as surely as Cally had once nearly been. Well, he'd beaten her and he would beat this one, too.
"What do you hope to accomplish, Avon?" Restal shouted.
"So you know me now," Avon remarked, studying the other man.
"Oh, yes. I know you," came the bitter reply. "And I ask again, what do you hope to accomplish?"
"Accomplish?" Avon queried, raising an eyebrow. "Why, the return of Vila, of course. You are neither needed nor wanted on board the Liberator. Vila, however, is."
Cally looked at Avon and smiled. That would probably be the closest thing to admitting he liked Vila that anyone would ever hear.
"Why? To be your pawn? Your private jester to be bullied and shoved around until you or Tarrant get him killed?" Restal shot back and smiled as he read the impact of his words in Avon's eyes.
"That's right, isn't it? You're using him just as Blake did but Blake cared for him. You don't. You don't care for anyone or anything, Avon. If you did, you would not have left Vila there...alone." His voice faltered. "Alone and hurt." The anger faded from his eyes and a frightened look came into them.
Cally saw the fear. "Vila?" she said softly. "Vila, the transmissions we intercepted claimed everyone was dead. Everyone. Then we were attacked. We had to run. Do you understand? We had to leave."
Recognition was there for a split second, then it disappeared and the wariness was back. "Why didn't you come back sooner?" Restal demanded.
Avon answered in a calm, steady voice. "Several of our energy banks were badly damaged. It took time to repair them. If you know anything, you know they require careful handling."
"The auto repairs could have repaired them within 10 hours, Avon," Restal snapped back. "And you know it."
Avon was surprised though he did not show it. The man had a sharp mind, very sharp indeed. "But the auto repair system was also damaged," he countered. "By the time full repairs were completed, the planet was under Federation surveillance. We had to wait until they left."
"That explanation might fool Vila." Restal spoke the other man's name with contempt. "But it does not fool me."
"Restal," Cally murmured, drawing his attention, "how did you escape?" Aside to her companion, she telepathed, *Avon, do not make him angry. Anger will not help us or Vila.*
Vila's face drew a blank at this sudden change of tactics. "I was...trying...trying to contact the ship, when a blast hit right next to me, blew me through an open door and down some steps into some kind of root cellar. When I came to, the ceiling was on fire." His eyes reflected shock, then fear and terror. Plainly, this was Vila and not Restal speaking.
"Some of the pieces fell on top of me, set my clothes on fire. I tried...tried to put the flames out...rolled around but it only set the floor burning. Then the ceiling collapsed. I covered my face with my arms. The next thing I remember was running...running towards some water...a pond or lake. I just jumped in, anything to put out the fire."
"And then?" Avon prompted.
"I'm tired," came Restal's voice. "I want to sleep." The brief contact with Vila was gone.
"Cally," Avon instructed. She nodded and prepared a tranquilizer which she injected into Vila. They watched as Restal's eyes clouded over and finally slid shut. Then Avon said, "Orac, have you come up with anything?"
"Not as yet, but the aspects of this case are most promising."
"Promising?" Cally asked in surprise. "In what way?"
"Vila's period of emergence. Restal may not be as deeply seated as previously thought. When it was Vila speaking, describing the events on Beljyr, certain emotions seemed to break through Restal's hold. The pain, his realization of being left alone seemed to shatter the entity's hold on his mind."
"Recommendations?" Avon asked.
"At present, I have none. Further study must be made. But I strongly suggest that all necessary precautions be taken in view of Restal's evident animosity towards ship's personnel."
"I am touched by your concern," Avon answered sarcastically.
"We cannot keep him drugged and under restraint for the rest of his life," Cally said.
"I don't intend to," came Avon's reply. "Orac, you have constantly harped on your superior intellect, well use it. I want a solution found to Vila's problem and I want it quickly."
To everyone's amazement, Orac made no argument, but merely answered, "I will study the problem."
Dayna was looking at some slides when Vila came round again. Feeling someone's eyes on her, she glanced over and smiled. "Feeling better?"
"Should I be?" Restal snapped.
"You're lucky to be alive."
"Am I?" He glared at her. "And what has your fearless leader planned for me today, hmmm? A little try at electro-shock, perhaps? No? More drugs? Or maybe he's just decided to let you have at me then?"
Dayna tried to conceal the horror she felt. She'd been briefed by Avon and Cally on Vila's condition, but it had not prepared her for the man's acid remarks. She more than welcomed Tarrant's entry into the room a few minutes later.
"Awake, I see," Tarrant said matter-of-factly, then noticed Dayna's expression and wondered at it.
"I should have known that's what you'd say," Restal commented, turning his attention to Tarrant. "The Academy breeds men. What a laugh! Men with walnut-sized brains whose chief thrill comes from bullying the lower grades into doing their dirty work."
Tarrant's face turned scarlet. "I didn't force you to do anything, Vila...er, Restal. You went voluntarily."
"Oh sure. Volunteered I did. What was it you said, I either did it or you'd toss me off the ship, wasn't it? Not your exact words, of course, but we Delta grades receive such a menial education. Not at all like the Alphas who get anything money can buy."
The bitterness behind the words was unbelievable and Tarrant found himself sorely wishing the other man was not tied down. One good punch would wipe that look off his face.
Dayna must have sensed Tarrant's mood for she laid a hand on his arm as much to warn as to comfort him. "You'd better let Cally and Avon know he's come to."
"By all means, by all means," Restal responded, laughing maniacally. "What's there to fear anyway? Surely you aren't afraid of me?"
The laughter grated on both Tarrant's and Dayna's nerves as he moved to the intercom and switched it on. "Avon. Cally. He's awake."
"Very well," came Avon's response. "Tarrant, I need you to take over up here. Zen is running some evasive patterns through the battle computers and I would like you to see them."
"On my way," Tarrant responded thankfully. He didn't want to stay in the medical unit any longer than necessary.
Dayna glared at the man on the couch. "Why did you say those things to him, Vila? Or Restal or whatever your name is? You know how much he has regretted what happened on Keezarn. He didn't know that Bayban was there. It wasn't his fault that...."
"That what, Dayna?" Restal demanded. "That I nearly got killed? That I missed a chance at being free for the first time in my life? Or that I lost someone who wanted me for who I was and not just for what I could do?" He threw her a disgusted look. "Don't waste your breath, Dayna."
"Don't worry, she won't," came a new voice and Restal looked up to see Avon and Cally standing in the doorway. The computer expert glanced at Dayna and saw the unshed tears in her eyes. "Dayna, why don't you see if you can't give Tarrant a hand?"
"Or whatever else you feel like giving," Vila added with a harsh laugh. "I'm sure he would appreciate it."
Dayna did not appear to hear him. She just looked at Avon, nodded slowly and left. Cally moved over and picked up the slides Dayna had been looking at. Avon simply stared at the man on the couch.
"Well, what are you staring at?" Restal exclaimed.
"Nothing," Avon returned steadily, "nothing at all."
The man caught the double meaning and glared at him. Then his eyes wandered over to Cally and he smiled wickedly. "Has Avon bedded you yet, Cally?"
She dropped the slides with a clatter to the counter and turned to look at him, her cheeks flaming. "What do you mean?"
Restal's eyes twinkled, but not with merriment. "Avon knows what I mean, don't you, Avon? It's not like it's any great secret, after all. You've wanted her for a long time. Vila wanted her, too, but he was too much of a gentleman to cut in. Especially since the lady seemed to prefer your company."
Avon said nothing, but Restal went on as if he had. "You see, Cally, it's true. Maybe not the bedding yet but he does want you." He paused, appraising her with his eyes. "I wonder if she's still a virgin." And the expression on Cally's face gave him his answer. "And after all this time! Avon, you must be losing your touch. That is, if you ever had any."
A change came over Vila's face, his eyes dilating slightly. "Stop it." His voice sounded different, softer.
"Shut up," Restal grumbled, then went on. "I wonder what she'd be like to bed."
"I said stop it." The voice was a little stronger this time and it sounded like Vila.
Avon and Cally exchanged looks. It was obvious that a war was going on within Vila's mind, but who was winning?
And Vila's mind was not the only one. Avon's thoughts were in a turmoil, too, because Restal had been partially correct. He had been attracted to Cally for some time. But after his reunion with Anna and her death, he had banished any notions of attachment with another being from his mind. Restal's cruel words had reopened the wound.
For her part, Cally had been equally shocked. She had been drawn to Avon, initially by his intelligence and strength of will. Lately, though, she had felt his need of a companion, someone on whom he could depend. She had tried to fill that need, even as she had sensed Vila had after Blake had disappeared. But since Anna's death, a wall had formed around Avon and neither she nor Vila had been able to penetrate it.
It was both horrifying and yet fascinating to watch the changes come over their companion as the two identities sought control. One minute Vila, the next Restal. One body, but two different voices emanating from it.
"I will not let you hurt my friends," came Vila's voice firmly if a little weak.
"You can't stop me," Restal replied mockingly.
"I can and I will somehow." And the gloating look disappeared from Vila's eyes. Quite suddenly, Vila was there, stammering out an apology. "Avon. Cally. I...I didn't mean...that is, I never thought any of what he said. Never."
Cally was at his side in a moment. "I know, Vila," she murmured softly, brushing the hair from his forehead.
But Vila was looking past her at Avon whose dark eyes were veiled. "Avon, please don't look like that. I've never thought anything like what he said. Please, you must believe me," Vila pleaded.
Avon walked over and gazed down at Vila. "The subconscious can store a great deal of hate, Vila. Along with whatever secret thoughts, wishes...." He paused, looking at Cally. "Or desires a person may dream of."
"But...but I never thought of...I mean," Vila started to say, then stopped. "It is true that I like Cally," he confessed with averted eyes. "But not what he said. Not anything like that."
Cally looked at him, slightly amused. "You would not like to 'bed' me, Vila?"
Vila looked horrified at the thought. "You...me...together?" He glanced uneasily at Avon. "No...no. I couldn't do that."
"You see, Vila," Avon told him quietly, "you do believe Cally is mine." He looked over at Cally and was surprised to find her eyes on him.
"Avon," Vila's voice was growing faint and his face had turned pale. His fragile hold was slipping. "Avon, promise me something."
"If I can," Avon replied in a non-committal tone.
"If...if you can't get rid of...of Restal," Vila licked his lips, "promise you'll kill me."
Whatever else they might have expected him to say, this was not it. It was Cally's turn to look horrified.
"Vila...." Avon began.
"Promise me. I can't...won't live like this." Vila shuddered. "He's cruel, evil, Avon. He enjoys hurting people. Hurting my friends." Vila looked pleadingly up at his companions. "And I don't want them to be hurt." His tone grew serious. "I want your word, Avon."
Avon held his eyes for a moment, then nodded. "If and when I decide Restal cannot be dealt with and only then, Vila."
"Fair enough," came Vila's faint voice and he closed his eyes.
The pair waited for Restal's re-emergence. When there was no sign, Cally administered a sedative, then left for her cabin, drained by what she had seen and heard.
Avon lingered for a while, remembering the emotions he had felt. Desire for Cally, then hatred for the man on the couch. Avon could not think of him as Vila. Vila was somewhere else, being held against his will. No, the man on the couch was his enemy and Avon would do everything he could to destroy that man, and save Vila. Even if it came to killing him.
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