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Windows of the Soul

By Kathy Hintze
Page 1 of 5

"Jenna, bring us up quickly!"

The urgency in Cally's voice wasn't really necessary. Zen had already warned Jenna of the approach of four Federation pursuit ships and she'd been about to contact her companions when Cally signalled. What she was unprepared for was the sight of Blake supported between Cally and Avon, unconscious, with blood trickling down the side of his head.

"What happened?" Jenna exclaimed, rushing forward to help them.

"He didn't duck fast enough," Avon advised after depositing Blake on the teleport couch. He activated the computer voice linkup. "Zen, take us out of orbit. Standard by ten."

+Confirmed.+

"But what about Vila?" Cally cried.

"If he's not dead, he soon will be." Cally glared at Avon. "I'm not Blake, Cally," he continued coolly. "If you want to go back down and risk your neck looking for him, go on."

"It's a little late for that now, Avon," Jenna said, checking Blake. "We're already out of orbit." She sighed with relief. "Looks like just a laceration on the scalp. Take him down to the medical unit. I've got to get back to the flight deck and lose our unwelcome friends."

#

Blake awoke with a headache and double vision. Somehow seeing two of Avon didn't make him feel any better. Then Cally stepped into range and things settled into their normal perspective.

"How do you feel, Blake?" she asked quietly.

"I'm a little dizzy, Cally," Blake murmured back. "And my head hurts."

"You're lucky you've a head left," Avon retorted.

"All right, Avon," Blake admitted with some reluctance. "You were right. We shouldn't have tried going through the tunnel." He studied the other man's face. "That is what you wanted to hear, isn't it? Well, now I've said it."

"So you have," Avon conceded with a thin smile. "We were fortunate...this time."

"Fortunate?" Cally demanded, her eyes flashing. "Just what do you consider fortunate, Avon?"

Blake looked from one to the other. There was something wrong. Something he'd missed out on during his unconsciousness. "What's the matter, Cally?" Cally turned away from him, hiding her face. Blake grew uneasy. "Avon?"

Avon regarded him a moment, then said simply, "Vila is missing."

"Missing?" Blake thundered. "What do you mean he's missing?" He winced. Shouting made his head hurt more.

"He wasn't with us when we came back up, Blake," Cally explained. "And we didn't have time to go back down and look for him."

Blake didn't miss the look which passed between Avon and Cally. "Didn't or wouldn't?" he demanded.

"With four pursuit ships closing in on us, Blake," Jenna announced from the medical unit's doorway, "we didn't have a choice." She smiled and walked in. "How's the head?"

"Still here," Blake replied wryly. He glanced over at Avon and added, "Thanks."

"You had the charges," Avon replied matter-of-factly. "If you'd been hit, they might have gone off." Blake studied him again, wondering if that had indeed been the reason. Or was there something else?

"What are we going to do about Vila?" Cally broke in.

"Don't worry, Cally," Blake answered. "If he's alive, we'll get him back." He looked at Jenna. "Have we outrun those pursuit ships yet, Jenna?"

She nodded. "About an hour ago."

Blake sat up tentatively and smiled. The room held steady and the dull throb in his head was fading. "Good. Then I think it's time we checked up on our thief, don't you?"

#

"Don't play games, Restal," a deep voice rumbled. "I know that you're conscious."

Vila reluctantly opened his eyes and found himself strapped down on some kind of examination table, a man dressed in a physician's garb bending over him. "Where...where am I? Who are you?" he whimpered. Vila remembered seeing Blake fall beside Avon and hearing Cally call for teleport. Then he'd been hit by a stun gun. Where were the others? he wondered. Had they gotten away?

"You're in the base interrogation unit." His captor answered his questions in order. "My name is Devlan. And I ask the questions here."

"Then you're out of luck," Vila returned weakly, closing his eyes. "I don't know anything."

Devlan glared at him. "I don't believe that. You've been with Blake for over a year. You've access to all sorts of information and I intend to get it."

Vila opened his eyes and looked at Devlan. "No one ever believes me," he murmured as his interrogator reached for a tubular shaped cylinder lying on a tray beside the table. "Blakes's never told me anything. I'm unreliable," he added, stammering. "Totally unreliable, you see. There's nothing I can tell you...."

His babbling was cut off abruptly as Devlan activated the cylinder and held the humming device up for Vila's inspection. "Do you know what this is?" he asked Vila.

"No," Vila lied. He'd seen one of those before on Earth and he knew all too well what it could do.

"This is a neural disruptor," Devlan explained. "When placed over a nerve center in the body, it can block that center's electrical impulses completely."

Vila stared at him with a blank expression and the man smiled. "In layman's terms, it causes paralysis. Whether it's temporary or permanent depends upon the length of the treatment." He studied Vila for a moment. "And it has been known to cause death if placed directly above the heart. Allow me to demonstrate."

The interrogator held the disruptor inches above Vila's right hand and he felt an immediate numbness. He tried to move his hand but it would not respond. Then Devlan moved the device away. A few seconds later, his hand felt as if it were being stuck by dozens of heated pins. Ignoring the pain, Vila tried to move it again and found to his relief that he could.

"Now that you see what I mean," Devlan continued with a smile, "you will answer my questions. Or must I use this?" He held the disruptor in front of Vila's face.

"But I don't know anything!" Vila cried.

"Have it your own way then," Devlan sighed. "Guard!"

"Sir?" came an inquiry from outside the lab.

"I shall require your assistance for a moment," Devlan advised.

"Yes, sir." A large, burly-looking man in a Federation uniform stepped into the room.

"Stand over there and watch him," Devlan ordered, indicating the other side of the examination table. The guard pulled his gun and moved to obey. Then the interrogator bent over Vila, who felt the restraints begin to loosen.

Vila's mind whirled. The guard looks awfully big but if I don't make a run for it now, it will be too late, he thought to himself. But even as a plan took shape in his mind, he felt something cool touch the base of his neck.

"Oh, no, Restal," Devlan laughed. "You're not getting away that easily. Not until we've had that little chat, you and I."

For Vila, it was like a nightmare. There was no sensation anywhere; it was as though his mind had been isolated, cut off from the rest of his body. He could still hear and talk...and cry; the last of which he began doing almost immediately.

#

For over an hour, Devlan questioned him ruthlessly about his companions and Liberator, but Vila managed to avoid giving him a direct answer. For all of his Federation training, Devlan was a fool and thought Vila an equal one.

"I think that's all the questions I have for now, Vila," he told Vila at length. "Yes, you've been most cooperative."

The unit's communicator chimed and Devlan gestured for the guard to answer it. "It's the commander, sir. He wants to see you."

Devlan sighed. "Watch him," he instructed and left the room.

Vila looked at the guard and wondered what was going on. "Can I have something to drink?" he asked. The guard remained silent. "Talkative type, aren't you?" Vila mumbled.

There were footsteps in the corridor, then Devlan walked back into his range of vision and smiled. "Ah, things are about to become interesting, Restal. More than you can know."

Vila didn't like the way he said that nor the smug look on the interrogator's face. "Can I go to my cell now?" he asked plaintively.

"Cell?" Devlan replied, feigning surprise. "My dear Restal, surely you want to be available to your friends since they've come back to rescue you?" He smiled benevolently. "Yes, of course you do."

Something in the man's voice warned Vila but he could do nothing but watch with terror-filled eyes. Devlan touched the disruptor first to his throat, then passed it lightly over Vila's forehead, bringing darkness to Vila's mind.

#


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