Death Is for the DyingBy Kathy Hintze
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|Vila wiped the sweat from his hands, then bent over to check his companion. Best to do it while he was unconscious. Avon certainly wouldn't have let him do it while he was awake. Vila smiled in relief as he pulled back the wadded piece of cloth. The wound wasn't that bad, the blast grazed his left side, but he was sure it smarted from the way Avon favoured it. And of course, once they had started moving, it had begun to bleed.
Damn, Vila thought looking at his companion, for a man who claims he doesn't care about anyone, Avon sure gave a good example of doing just that. If he hadn't shoved me out of the way, it would have been me lying there. Vila adjusted the makeshift bandage, then sat back to wait.
He glanced down at the shaft at the sealed grid. No one would know they were there. Not the way he had sealed it, though it had been damn hard with Avon passing out as he had just as they climbed in. Another complication. Vila hated complications almost as much as Avon did.
It had seemed so easy. Just teleport into the base, pick up the computer disk Blake wanted, then pop back out. The first part had been easy. The safe was so simple even Avon could have opened it, though Vila had not told him that. No sense adding something else to the man's ego when it was already so inflated. Then pursuit ships had arrived and with a very short warning that they'd be back, Blake had taken Liberator out of orbit. Oh they had done that before, mind you, so Vila hadn't been all that worried, but that had been before that guard had shown up.
Federation guards could be so unpredictable. Vila had met some who had simply demanded he surrender, without so much a shot fired. This one though must have been having a bad day as he opened fire without such much as a "Halt!." So much for courtesy nowadays.
"Come on, Blake," Vila muttered, checking his timepiece. Two hours had gone by since they'd teleported down. "Lose those ships and get back here. I'm not a doctor, you know."
"That much is certainly true," murmured a voice from beside him, making Vila jump.
"Oh, Avon, you're awake then."
"No, I always talk to fools in my sleep." Avon sat up slowly, wincing as his jarred his side. He checked the wound and saw the bandage. "Your doing, I take it?"
"Well, I couldn't let you bleed and leave a trail for them to follow," Vila exclaimed.
Even Avon saw the logic in that. He glanced around. "Where are we?"
"Some kind of maintenance shaft," Vila said. "I fixed the grid so it looks like it's been locked from the outside."
"Any word from Blake?"
"No. But he'll be back."
"Unless he's been blasted into a thousand pieces," Avon remarked.
"That won't happen," Vila stated firmly. "Jenna's too good a pilot for that."
"I'll tell her you said that."
Vila scowled. "Why must you always be like that, Avon?"
"Like what?" Avon inquired.
"It keeps Deltas like you in your place," he replied coolly. He maneuvered himself into a more secure position, then said, "We might as well make ourselves comfortable."
"You don't think we'll have to stay here all night, do you?" Vila asked anxiously.
"Who knows?" Avon closed his eyes and tried to relax.
"I don't like this place," Vila mumbled.
"Tell me something new," his companion retorted. His eyes opened a slit. "Why don't you like it?"
"Reminds me of somewhere, that's all," Vila replied, glancing about nervously, then he leaned back against the wall.
"Home?" Avon teased.
"I don't want to talk about it," Vila replied.
"Don't tell me you're afraid of the dark?" Avon chuckled. "A thief afraid of the dark, how novel."
"I told you I don't want to talk about it!" Vila snapped back.
But Avon's interest had been piqued and he was not about to let it pass, especially since there was not much else they could do.
"I don't know why I should be surprised," Avon went on in a matter-off act voice. "After your past record of fears."
"I'm not afraid of the dark," Vila corrected.
"A phobia then?" Avon ventured.
"No, nothing like that. Just let it lie, all right?"
Vila was hiding something and Avon was most curious to find out what. "If it is a phobia, taking about it might help."
"It's not a phobia," Vila snapped. "Just leave it alone, please!"
"Very well," Avon told him.
In the darkness and quiet of the shaft, Vila could not suppress a shudder. "Is it cold in here?"
"Not particularly," Avon advised. He felt a little warm, but that was probably just a reaction to being shot.
"I didn't mean to shout at you." Vila apologized. "It's just that, that I found my father in a place like this, Avon. He was just sitting there, all alone in the dark. Dead."
There was not much Avon could say to that so he said nothing and waited for Vila to continue.
"I was about six. Used to dog my father's tracks all the time. He would always catch me and send me back sometimes with more than a warming but this time, he didn't. He was too occupied with what he had to do to notice me shadowing him."
"He was a thief too, I take it?" Avon asked.
"The best," Vila said proudly. "Blake thinks I'm good, he should have met my father. He could do it in half the time it takes me. A real genius on safes and vaults."
"You do well enough." Avon advised.
A compliment from Avon? Vila wondered. No, he must have imagined it. "There was some uppity Alpha who was being blackmailed by another man he worked with. Anyway, he wanted my father to plant some data tapes in the blackmailer's vault. Something he could use against him."
"That makes no sense, Vila. Why not plant them himself? He obviously had access to the same vault."
"Maybe he was afraid he'd get caught," Vila replied. "Who understands the workings of the Alpha's mind? Not us lowly Deltas."
Avon let that pass. "What went wrong?"
"I'm not sure," Vila said slowly. "The tapes were in the vault. I found them there so I knew he had gotten in and out safely. I think the Alpha didn't like loose ends and my father was one. He must have been waiting and when Dad was finished, he shot him."
"Why not call security?" Avon asked.
Vila shook his head. "I guess Dad got away from him before he could do that. Dad didn't try to go back the way he'd got in. Knew they'd probably be waiting for him there since that's the way the Alpha had insisted he come, so he made his way through a maintenance shaft. He was almost to the end when his strength gave out."
"How do you know this?"
"Because I followed him that night, Avon. I watched and waited and when Dad didn't come back out, I went in looking for him. When I saw the safe, I couldn't resist trying it. Opened like a dream." Vila smiled a little at the memory. "Then I heard someone coming and fled. The shaft grid was partially open, so I climbed in and locked it behind me."
"As you did this time," Avon surmised.
The rest was obvious but Avon let him finish.
"There was a steady stream of fresh air so I started following it. Then I spotted something ahead. It was Dad."
Avon heard a muffled sob and realized it was Vila. "What did you do then?"
"What could I do?" Vila murmured. "I was only six. I couldn't carry him back home."
"You left him there?"
"No, I had a friend. He was older and stronger than me. I followed the shaft to its end and went and got him. He helped me get Dad out and bury him."
"And no one noticed he was missing?" Avon asked.
"Who counts bodies in the Delta Dome?" Vila answered bitterly. "As long as there's enough to do the dirty work for the Alphas, who cares!"
"There are some responsible Alphas," Avon pointed out.
"Oh? Name them."
"My father for one," Avon stated. "He was a diligent man who never stopped trying to improve himself."
"By doing what?" Vila asked sarcastically. "Pushing buttons?"
"He was charge of the Accounting Bureau for the Bakir Foundation. Making sure everything was kept in order."
"The Bakir Foundation?" Vila exclaimed.
"Yes," Avon answered, wondering at Vila's tone and the heavy silence. "Why, what is it?"
"Avon, that's where my father died."
"Impossible!" Avon snapped immediately. "The security system there was top rate."
"So was my father," Vila pointed out.
But Avon refused to believe it. "If something like that happened, my father would have known. He designed the security system himself."
"Maybe he wasn't told about it," Vila ventured. "Or maybe since nothing was taken, Security didn't think it was necessary to tell him."
"There are an infinite number of maybe's," Avon agreed. "But I think it's highly unlikely." He paused a moment. "Did your father ever mention the name of the man he was working for?"
"No." Vila answered. "He always kept his clients confidential. Dad was funny about that. Figured if he was the only one who knew, the axe wouldn't fall on anyone else."
"Clever of him," Avon stated. "And stupid."
"My father was not stupid," Vila snapped. "He was the very best of what he did. No one else could touch him."
"If he had kept a record of his clients, Vila, he could have run himself a very good blackmail operation."
"Blackmail?" Vila exclaimed in outrage. "My father wouldn't stoop to that. He was a master thief, not a backstabber."
Avon smiled to himself. "All right. I meant no insult." He let Vila calm down a bit before he continued. "I gather you never found out who the man was then?" Avon inquired.
"I didn't say that," Vila replied quietly. "I found out and I fixed him, too."
"Like most Alphas, he had a few vices. I just arranged to have a vid disc of some of his more colourful ones on display for public viewing." Vila said smugly.
"Blackmail, Vila? I thought you said..."
"That was my father, Avon. Beside, this was different. This was revenge!" Vila told him firmly.
"And there is a difference, isn't there?" Avon replied sarcastically. "What happened to him?"
"Not as much as I'd hoped," Vila murmured. "His family disowned him, shipped him off somewhere. I was hoping for a little justice. I should have known better. Justice for a Delta in an Alpha world, huh!"
"There is little justice for anyone in the Federation," Avon commented quietly, "Look at Blake."
"What about him?"
"He was accused of child molestation," Avon advised. "Do you honestly think him capable of that?"
"No, of course not!"
"And yet he was found guilty of it," Avon continued. "As I said, there is little justice."
Vila didn't say anything for a while, just sat pondering Avon's words. Then he asked, "Did you really try to steal all those credits, Avon?"
"What do you think?"
"I think you're a greedy person like me. You tried something big and it didn't work."
"That time," Avon amended. "With Liberator at my disposal, the end result will be far different."
"Really." Vila thought for a moment. "I don't suppose you might like a partner, someone to help out, you know?"
Avon took a moment to consider. "Perhaps," he said. "Perhaps."
"Wonderful!" Vila exclaimed, taking Avon's words as acceptance. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Why don't we start planning? I mean it won't take that long for Blake to fix the Federation at the rate he's going and then we'll be free to do what we want, right?"
"At the rate Blake is going, he's likely to get us killed," Avon retorted.
"He wouldn't do that, Avon," Vila protested. "I mean he cares what happens to us. Doesn't he?"
Avon's answer was cut off as both of their teleport bracelets chimed.
"What took you so long?" Avon demanded, answering before Vila could.
"Jenna had a little trouble losing our company." Blake chuckled. "One of the ships seemed very determined to catch us."
"Did they succeed?" Vila asked nervously.
"Only in getting themselves blown into little small pieces," Blake advised, "Now, are you ready to teleport?"
Avon glanced across at Vila who nodded. "More than ready."
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