Dreams and ThingsBy Kathy Hintze
Page 3 of 3
Dayna sensed the tension between the two men when they arrived on the flight deck. "What happened?" she asked.
"Someone tried to kill Vila," Tarrant informed her.
The girl's eyes widened in surprise. "What?"
Looking at Avon, Tarrant continued, smiling humorlessly. "You haven't heard the best part, Dayna. Avon thinks I did it."
"You?" Dayna looked at Avon. "You can't be serious, Avon."
"Oh, but I am," Avon replied as he walked over to Orac and inserted the key. "Status of my pervious request?"
Orac's lights blinked in response, then the computer answered. "My interrogation of the Defense Computer has produced limited information."
"Limited?" Avon inquired.
"Yes." The computer sounded irritated. "Apparently, my capabilities are known to certain individuals and for purposes of security, only scattered bits of information were placed in the Defense Computer."
"Terrific," Tarrant mused. "So where does that leave us?"
"If I might be allowed to continue," interrupted Orac. "There was, however, enough data to allow for an observation."
"Then let's hear it," Avon cracked. His patience was wearing thin.
"Very well. The new device seems to be designed specifically for use against Liberator. Its potential suggests it is able to mask the presence of up to six ships for an unspecified amount of time, permitting their approach to within 100,000 spatials."
"100,000 spatials?" exclaimed Dayna. "At that range, we'd be sitting ducks."
"If its range is indeed 100,000 spatials," Avon reflected. "Zen, how close were the Federation ships when you detected them?"
+Records indicate Federation ships were at 500,000 spatials when forward scanners detected them.+
"Looks like the system still has a few buts in it," Tarrant said with a grin.
"Luckily for us," added Dayna with a sigh.
"Yes," Avon murmured. "Orac, there was am attempt to remove the crystals from the main weaponry system. Do you have any information on that?"
There was a mad flickering of lights and a loud buzz. "Hmmm," Orac replied in a curious tone of voice. "Preliminary data would indicate an alien presence on board Liberator."
"Alien presence?" Tarrant exclaimed. "But surely Zen would have detected such a presence."
"Perhaps," remarked Avon, his mind swirling in thought. "Zen, scan ship for alien presence."
+Scanning.+ A pause. +There are no alien life forms on board Liberator.+
"Incorrect," Orac stated.
"You're telling me there is an alien on board?" Tarrant demanded.
"Exactly," came the computer's smug reply.
"Something which Zen is unable to detect?" queried Dayna.
"Zen's capabilities are limited to set planes of interpretation whereas mine...."
"Are of an infinitely greater dimension," finished Avon. "Thank you, Orac."
"That doesn't explain what it wants with the crystals," Tarrant muttered.
"When we find it, you can ask," Avon answered, handing Tarrant and Dayna a weapon. "Orac, do you have a location on the alien?"
"Where is it then?" Dayna demanded.
"It is presently located at the entrance to the flight deck."
Whirling around, the trio were confronted by...by Vila. The thief held a strange looking crystal in his hand. He pointed it at them. And Avon didn't hesitate. He fired, striking Vila in the midsection. Vila collapsed to the floor and lay still.
"Avon, have you gone mad?" Dayna screamed. "You've just shot Vila."
"Have I? Look!" Avon said, pointing at the fallen man. But it was no longer a man. Instead, a brown-skinned scaly creature lay in a pool of blue-green fluid on the deck.
"How...how did you know?" it gasped as Avon and the others moved up beside it.
"Subtlety is not one of Tarrant's fine points. He would never have tried poison," Avon stated flatly. "Then, when Vila regained consciousness and insisted he'd seen Kerril, the implication became clear."
"But why? Why did you try to kill Vila?" queried Dayna.
"We studied you all very carefully before making our choice. The man Vila, he seemed the least likely person to be missed. In his form, we would be able to move freely among you without attracting attention and thus secure the crystals."
"It was stupid leaving him in the Rest Room where he could be discovered," Tarrant told the alien."
"A miscalculation," the being admitted. "We had hoped to remove the crystals and be gone before he was found. But...but we...were...." The light in its eyes faded.
"Wrong," Avon finished as Tarrant knelt down and checked it. "Dead?"
"Yes," Tarrant confirmed, standing back up. "Avon, it kept saying 'we'. Where do you suppose the other one is?"
Cally ran up the corridor behind them. "Avon, are you all right? What happened?" Cally exclaimed. Then she saw the dead form on the floor. "What is that?"
"A shapechanging thief," Avon answered her quickly. "What are you doing here? I told you to stay with Vila."
"Tarrant called and said you'd been hurt," Cally replied, looking puzzled.
"I said what?" Tarrant exclaimed.
Avon looked at him and said only one word. "Vila."
"What's the matter?" she called as Tarrant and Avon ran from the flight deck.
As the two men raced for the Medical Unit, a soft voice roused Vila from his slumber. "Vila?"
Vila moaned and opened his eyes. He blinked in surprise, then said, "Kerril, I told them you were here, but they wouldn't believe me. Why did you leave?"
"I had to, Vila," the woman responded. "But don't worry. I'll never leave you again." The creature approached him, drawing its weapon. But Vila saw only that Kerril was smiling, opening her arms to embrace him. He smiled back, waiting.
The door behind her suddenly burst open and Kerril twisted about, only to be struck by simultaneous blasts from Avon and Tarrant's blasters. "Kerrill," Vila screamed, then slumped back on the couch, unconscious. On the floor, Kerril's image faded, revealing the dead alien.
Cally and Dayna arrived a few seconds later and Cally moved quickly to check Vila. She sighed in relief. "He's all right. Just fainted." Looking at the dead being on the floor, Cally asked, "This is what tried to kill Vila earlier?"
Avon nodded. "Yes. Tarrant, you and Dayna take care of the one on the flight deck. We'll manage down here."
Tarrant looked at Avon expectantly. But Avon said nothing more. "Don't you think you owe...." Tarrant began angrily.
"I wouldn't press your luck, Tarrant," Dayna interrupted, grabbing him by the arm. He looked down at her, then back at Avon.
"All right, Dayna. Let's take care of our unwanted guest," Tarrant replied and followed her from the room.
"Did you really believe Tarrant tried to kill Vila, Avon?" Cally inquired after Avon had moved the dead body out into the corridor.
"Someone had. And Tarrant appeared the most likely candidate," Avon admitted. "But when Vila started talking about Kerril, and Dayna said someone had tried to remove the crystals, it made me wonder. Orac's findings merely confirmed my suspicions."
"But what were they? Who were they?" Cally asked him. "And how did they get on board without our knowing it?"
"I don't know," Avon replied. "Neither of them lived long enough to tell us. But I intend to find out."
Cally was with Vila when he came round an hour later. The thief looked up at her with sorrowful eyes. "Kerril wasn't really here, was she, Cally?" he asked mournfully.
She shook her head. "No, Vila, she wasn't. I'm sorry."
"What was it then?"
"One of those horrible aliens you're always going on about," called a voice from the doorway. Avon walked in and looked down at Vila. "It seems we weren't the only ones needing the crystals."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Vila.
"According to Orac, those beings used the crystals much as we do the teleport. That's how they got on board. Orac's theory is they were searching for more crystals, detected ours and tried to take them."
"Without a ship?" asked Vila.
Avon shrugged. "The crystals offer them teleport capabilities which exceed our own."
"How is it that Zen was unable to detect them?" Cally interjected.
"Tarrant found a miniaturized cloaking device on the one I killed on the flight deck. I imagine the one here at the Medical Unit also had one.
"But why did it try to kill me?" murmured Vila.
Avon studied him for a moment before answering. "From what I gather, you were the one person on board whose absence they felt would not be missed."
"I see," Vila murmured, closing his eyes wearily.
"A definite mistake on their part," Cally advised, patting Vila's hand.
Vila's eyes flashed open. "And Kerril?" he inquired. "Why did it take Kerril's shape?"
"I wondered about that, too," Cally remarked. "Avon, those creatures must have had some telepathic abilities as well. How else could they have drawn her image from Vila's mind?"
"That is a distinct possibility, Cally," Avon conceded. He glanced at Vila and added, "But I believe a mind would be required to work with first." But Vila didn't seem to hear him. He was staring blankly into space. Avon looked over at Cally, who shook her head sadly. Avon decided to try another tactic. "Speaking of work, Cally, how long before he's able?"
That caught Vila's attention and Vila let out a terrible groan. "Oh, Cally, I think I'm having a relapse. Oh, it hurts something fierce right here." He doubled over, holding his stomach.
Winking at Avon, Cally carefully probed the area of 'pain' and nodded. "He's definitely ruptured something, Avon." Vila's eyes nearly popped from his head at her words. "And that will probably mean intravenous feedings for at least a week. I doubt if his system will be able to handle anything else."
The thief turned pale. "Intravenous feedings?"
"I'm afraid so, Vila," Cally said, trying to sound serious.
"Uh, I don't really feel all that bad," Vila announced suddenly. "In fact, the pain is nearly gone. I might even be able to manage the next watch without too much trouble."
"Well, Cally?" Avon inquired in an amused tone, cocking an eyebrow. "What do you think?"
"I think everything is back to normal," Cally replied with a smile.
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