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Adjustments

By Leia Fee
Page 3 of 7

Who are you?” Avon demanded of the man on the screen.

“Vila knows,”

“Vila?” Avon asked, turning towards him.

Vila stared at the screen, confusion written all over his face.  He directed his reply to the face on the screen rather than to Avon.

“No, I don’t know who you are.”

“You do know me.  You never knew my name but we spent a lot of time together.”

“Eh?”  Vila face was screwed into a frown of puzzlement.

“I tried to help you once.  You don’t remember it.  That’s very impolite Vila, after all the time I spent on you,” the quiet voice continued.

Vila shook his head hard, the voice sounded oddly familiar and it nagged at his that he couldn’t place it.  He suddenly felt unaccountably afraid of this small, softly spoken man.  

“You were my only failure in 20 years Vila, I find that infuriating, I must fix it.  You understand don’t you?”

“I…” Vila broke off with a gasp.  His vision was swimming, and his hearing seemed muffled.  The world suddenly seemed very blurred around the edges.  He staggered, his knees refusing to support his weight.  His eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled, unconscious to the deck.  Cally hurried across to check him.

“Who are you?” demanded Avon again, “What do you want?”

“I should think you’d be able to figure that out for yourself.  I’ll be back in touch,” responded the man and cut off the communication.

Avon turned to Cally who was still crouched next to Vila.

“Well?”

“We need to get him down to the medical bay.”

“Do it.  Tarrant, help her.”

As Cally and Tarrant left the flight deck carrying the unconscious Vila, Avon addressed Orac.  “Who was that man?”

Checking.  Probability is that he is Sym Reymon, a former Federation doctor specialising in criminal rehabilitation.

Avon snorted.  “Rehabilitation – brainwashing they mean.  Cross-check his files for any link with Vila.”

Checking.  Link found.

“Well.”

You wish me to detail the specifics of the link?

“Yes.”

Then you should have stated as much.

“Orac.”  Avon’s tone became threatening.

Reymon’s case file from six years ago lists Vila Restal, referred on multiple charges of theft.  It indicates that correction was completed successfully although it notes that previous corrections had failed aver time and recommends that the subject be monitored closely on release.  There are further details but I believe you would not find them immediately useful at this time.

“Thank you Orac,” Avon said as he turned and headed off the flight deck.

*

In the medical bay, Cally was standing checking a monitor, while Tarrant, looking most uncomfortable, was watching Vila. 

“You make a less than appealing nursemaid Tarrant,” Avon commented as he walked in.  Tarrant glared at him but made no reply.

“Cally?” Avon queried.

“No change since he passed out on the flight deck.  He’d drifting in and out of consciousness, his adrenalin levels and heart rate are way too high and the few times he has woken up he’s been delirious.  He keeps moaning and crying as though he’s in pain but the scans show nothing which could be causing it.”

“I think I know.  The man who contacted us was in charge of Vila’s reprogramming when he was caught.  Well, one of the times.  That, I imagine, is why Vila collapsed and why he’s delirious now.  It triggered the memories of what happened to him then.”

“Well what are we going to do about it?” asked Tarrant impatiently.

“I don’t know yet.”

*

As Avon walked back onto the flight deck Dayna looked up to ask how Vila was.

“Still unconscious.  Has there been any further word from Reymon?”

“No.  What do you think he wants?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  He wants Vila, he wants another try at correcting his mind.”

“That’s horrible!”

“Hmm, I think there is a rather good chance Reymon is insane.  Orac?”

What? came the impatient sounding reply.

“Is Reymon insane?”

There is a high probability.  The mental profile of people in his line of work is often consistent with high chance of mental breakdown.  In addition Reymon’s profile indicates he is a perfectionist who does not react well to failure.

“When did he leave the Federation?”

He did not.

“You said he was a former Federation doctor.”

Correct.  He is now retired.

“Did any of his other cases fail to remain conditioned?”

Negative.

“Avon.  There’s a message coming in from Reymon.”

“Put it on.”

The main screen blurred for a moment then displayed the face of the slim, elderly man.

“Have you though over my request?” he asked.

“You made no request that I am aware of,” responded Avon.

“Oh let us not play games.  I have your ship.  You can’t leave without my permission.  I ask only for one member of your little band.  The alternative is for me destroy your ship.”

“Why is this so important to you?”

“I took great pride in my work, to have such a flaw in it, walking free and continuing in criminal activity is intolerable.”  His voice rose.  “Give him to me.  You have two hours.”

The transmission terminated.

Avon frowned and headed back to the medical bay.  Vila was still unconscious and under restraints, “He was thrashing about so much we were afraid he’d hurt himself,” Cally explained.

Tarrant had left.  “He was getting underfoot,” Cally informed Avon.

Avon looked vaguely amused at that but quickly looked serious again.

“Wake Vila.”

“Oh I don’t think that’s a good idea.  He’s not coherent even when he is awake.”

“It’s important.  Wake him.”

Cally sighed unhappily and reached for a stimulant.  As she pressed the dose through Vila stirred and moaned.

“Vila.” Avon leaned over and shook his shoulder.  “Vila wake up.”

“Wh…” Vila tossed his head restlessly back and forth, “Where...”

“Vila.  Can you hear me?  You’re on the Liberator.”

“Librtr?” Vila repeated in a mumble.  He sounded confused.

“Cally.  Give him another dose.  He’s still half asleep.  I need him paying attention!”

“Avon, he’s in no state to…”

“Just do it.”

Reluctantly Cally complied.  As the dose worked its way through his system Vila became more alert, though he still looked more than a little woozy.

“Avon?”  Vila peered up at the man leaning over him.  “What happened?  My head feels like someone’s been at it with a laser lance.”

“You passed out during a transmission from a man named Sym Reymon.”  Avon waited, seeing if the name would get a reaction.  When it did not he continued, “You’ve been unconscious or delirious for about an hour since.”

“I don’t remember.  At least...” he paused, “I do remember receiving a transmission, but nothing after that.  Why do I feel so tired?” 

He tried to sit up and an expression of panic crossed his face when the restraints prevented him from doing so.  “What’s going on!”

“It’s okay,” Cally said soothingly, “You were thrashing about while you were unconscious, we didn’t want you to hurt yourself that’s all.”  She undid the restraint and Vila struggled to an upright position.

“Vila.  This Reymon wants us to hand you over to him.  He says he’ll destroy the ship if we don’t.” 

Cally looked stunned then furious at Avon for springing this piece of information on Vila unprepared.  Vila stared blankly at Avon.

“Why?  I don’t even know him.  What does he want?”

“I think you should watch the transmission again, see if you recognise him.  If you do know him you can tell us whether he would really be willing to destroy us.”

“Avon no!” Cally sounded outraged.  She drew Avon aside, out of Vila’s earshot, “You saw what happened last time.  You make him watch that again and who knows what it will do to his mind.”

“Cally, be reasonable.  We can’t hide what happened from him indefinitely.  And I’m not going to get us all killed to soothe Vila’s psyche.”  He looked across to where Vila sat, huddled, on the bed.  “He survived the conditioning itself, he can surely manage to deal with remembering it.”

Cally shook her head.  “He survived by blocking out those memories, you drag them back to the surface and it could drive him over the edge.”

Avon scowled, “Better him than all of us.”

“Avon!”  Cally’s voice changed to a vehement whisper.  “You wouldn’t give Vila to that, that, creature?”

“If that’s what’s needed to save the rest of us.”

Avon turned and walked back to Vila who had been watching them nervously.

“Ready?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Yes.  You could hide in here until we all get blown to pieces.”

Vila sighed heavily.  “Play it.”

---
You do know me.  You never knew my name but we spent a lot of time together.

I tried to help you once. 
---

Vila was already pale and shaking.  Avon paused the playback.

“Vila?”

“I don’t feel well.  What’s the matter with me?”

“Here.” Avon offered him a glass of water.  Vila sipped, shaking so badly he could hardly hold it.  Avon continued the playback.

---
You don’t remember it.  That’s very impolite Vila, after all the time I spent on you.
---

Vila started in fear and dropped the glass.  It smashed on the deck and water and shards of glass fell everywhere.

“Ss s sorry,” he stuttered as the playback continued.

---
You were my only failure in 20 years Vila, I find that infuriating, I must fix it.  You understand don’t you?
---

With an incoherent cry Vila flung himself off the bed and hurtled across the room in blind terror.  Heedless of anyone else, heedless of the glass shards slicing his bare feet or the knocks he got as he collided with the equipment scattered about.  He flung himself down in a corner and curled up, wrapping his arms protectively around his head and rocking himself to and from, while keening quietly.

Cally glared at Avon, who shrugged.  She hurried over to Vila and catching him by the shoulders, shook him gently “Vila! It’s all right Vila, you’re safe, you’re on the Liberator.  No one’s going to hurt you.  Vila!”

Slowly Vila lifted his head, wide, frightened eyes fixed on Cally’s face.

“Safe?” he asked querulously.

“Yes,” Cally reassured him, “Come on let’s get you back up on the bed and see to those feet.”

“Safe?  Really?  No more…” Vila paused with a strangled sobbing sound.

“Yes, safe.  No one will hurt you,” Cally repeated soothingly.

“I’m sorry,” Vila whimpered, “Please, I’m sorry.”  He began sobbing brokenly, curling up on the bed and covering his head once more.

“He’s had enough Avon,” said Cally firmly, “I’m putting him back under.”  Her tone brooked no argument and Avon didn’t protest as she prepared a sedative and sent Vila into a dreamless sleep.

“He didn’t recognise me,” Cally said, her eyes filled with worry.  “It was as though he wasn’t here at all.”

“When will he wake up?”

“I don’t know.  I gave him quite a high dose.”

“Let me know when he does.”

“Avon,” Cally protested, “He needs to rest.”

“Let me know when he wakes up.” Avon repeated.

*

It was, in fact, a little over half an hour before Cally contacted Avon to inform him that Vila had roused.  He lifted his head as Avon entered the room but didn’t bother to try and sit up this time.

“Yes,” he said before Avon could speak.

“Yes what?” Avon responded, taken by surprise.

“Yes Reymon, or whatever his name is, would blow up the Liberator to get to me.  That’s what you wanted to know isn’t it?  Well he would.”

“I see.”

“Will you give me to him?”

Avon heard a tremble in Vila’s voice but was surprised at how collected he appeared given the circumstances, or maybe it was just that he had been terrified out of his wits so often today that a kind of numbness had set in.

“Not if there is another way.  You are still useful to me.”

Vila nodded, appreciating Avon’s truthfulness even if it was put rather bluntly.

“Vila, anything you can remember about Reymon could be helpful.”

Vila shook his head.  “I don’t know.  I don’t remember much.”

“Well what do you remember?”

“Um.” Vila paused.  “Afterwards, um, when they let me go again, I started having nightmares, I don’t remember how long afterwards it was, don’t remember much about while I was still a good little citizen.”

Avon was taken aback by the sudden vehemence in Vila’s tone.

Vila sighed and continued tiredly, “It was like living asleep, like my mind wasn’t quite connected to the rest of me.  Then the dreams started, bad, really…” he trailed off his eyes looking glazed. 

Avon reached over and shook his shoulder.  “Vila.”

“Eh?  Oh.” Vila blinked rapidly several times.  “Bad dreams.  At first I couldn’t remember them when I woke up but then I started remembering bits, fragments, I knew they’d done something to me, but I still thought… they made me think… that it’d been for my own good, that there had been something wrong with my mind and they’d fixed it, I didn’t remember what was supposed to have been wrong.  When the dreams started I thought I was going crazy.  I was frightened and I wanted to tell them I wanted them to fix it but I was too afraid and I didn’t know why I was afraid.  I wasn’t supposed to remember, I think that’s why it didn’t work, they stop you remembering what they did to you.  The other times too I remembered and stuff from before they got me too, remembered things I’d done, but I remembered not remembering them too.  If you see what I mean?”

Avon wasn’t at all sure he did.  Vila’s mind seemed to be wandering all over the place, skipping from one jumbled memory to another more or less at random.  It was difficult to pick sense from it.

“Vila, what about Reymon?”

Vila frowned.  “I…” he stopped and tried again, “I don’t…he…” Vila broke off again, gasping for breath.  “I can’t remember.  My head hurts.” 

“Avon…” Cally began in a worried tone.

“It’s all right.  I’m finished.  It’s quite clear he can’t remember.  Probably part of the conditioning.”  His voice became sarcastic.  “It wouldn’t do for adjusted citizens to start recognising their benefactors on the streets and making a scene would it?”

Vila squeezed his eyes tight shut then opened them again.  “Avon?”

“Yes.  What is it?”

“What other way?”

“What?”

“Said you wouldn’t hand me over if another way, what way?”  Vila was clearly struggling, his speech was stilted and he seemed to be having trouble focusing.

“Reymon has the Liberator held in a traction beam.  If we can break free we can outrun any ship he has.”

“How?” Vila asked.  Avon frowned for a moment before realising Vila was asking how they could break the beam not how they could outrun the ships.

“It’s generated from the planet below.  We will have to go down there.”

“Who?”

Avon paused before answering.  The apprehension in Vila’s question meant he already suspected the answer was not going to be to his liking.

“Well the beam is almost certainly computer controlled.  I should be able to override it and turn it off.  The problem will be getting to the controls.  There is bound to be a security system in place, probably a very expensive, very complex one.”

“You want me to come,” Vila interrupted before Avon could continue.

“Yes.”

Vila swallowed hard “Okay.”

“What?” Avon gaped, caught by surprise for a second time.

“Don’t gawp at me like that.” Vila snapped with a flash of his usual self.  “What’s the alternative?  You won’t let the ship and the rest be destroyed for my sake.  If I go down I might get caught.  If I don’t…” He didn’t bother to finish.  They both knew Avon would hand Vila over rather than be destroyed with him. 

“All right then.  Get ready and meet me at the teleport.”  He turned to walk out when he heard Vila call his name quietly.  He turned back towards him.

“Yes?”

“Um.  One thing.  A favour.  If… ah… if…” He broke off.

“Vila?”

“I don’t, um, I don’t want, I can’t, not again.  If, if we’re caught, going to be caught, I want…I’d rather die, I may as well if he…I wouldn’t be me anymore anyway… and getting shot would hurt less than what he’d do…see?”  Vila stared up at Avon, his eyes pleading, wanting him to understand what he couldn’t quite bring himself to ask.

Avon nodded slowly, “I see.”

“The others…they wouldn’t, even if I asked them.  Avon, please?”

“Alright Vila.  If that’s what you want.”

Vila nodded silently.

*

About ten minutes later Vila entered the teleport section, Cally hovering worriedly at his side.  Dayna stood waiting at the controls while Tarrant checked his weapon and Avon rechecked the coordinates.

“I’m coming down with you,” Cally announced.

“This is turning into a popular outing,” Vila commented.  Avon glanced across at him, noticing that he looked significantly better than he had in the medical bay.  He still looked pale and rather dazed but seemed to be more in control of himself.

“Ready?” Avon asked. 

Cally and Tarrant responded with nods, Vila didn’t answer but he fastened his bracelet and moved into position.

“Put us down.” Avon ordered.

They landed in a nondescript corridor and glanced around quickly.  Avon contacted Dayna quickly to confirm they were down, then rapidly decided on a direction and headed down the corridor, the others hurrying afterwards.  When they reached the end of the corridor Avon gestured at the door barring their way and Vila dropped to a crouch in front of it, reaching for his tools.

“Simple enough to open but connected to trip a silent alarm if forced.  Sneaky,” he commented.  “Take about two minutes.”

The others waited watchfully while Vila manipulated the lock’s circuits.  The promised two minutes later, the door opened at his touch.  They hurried through and continued to a large double door.  Vila scanned it quickly and frowned.  “Open.”

Avon moved to step through but Vila caught his arm.

“Wait.  This isn’t right.”  He adjusted some setting on his scanner and, opening the door, checked the corridor beyond.

“Motion sensors, the alarms will go off the minute we step inside.”  He moved back from the door and located the control panel.  After a few minutes examination he looked up.  “Only take me five minutes to disable, but there’s a problem.  There’s a time delay security switch.  If the sensors are off for more than ten minutes it triggers the alarm.”

“Can’t you disable it?” asked Tarrant.

Vila shook his head.  “Not from here.”

“Well why can’t we switch it back on once we’re through.”

Vila sighed, “Because the minute it’s switched back on it will report to the central system that it was switched off and they’ll know we’re here.”

“Well override it.”

“I can’t, not without a good hours work.”

“Too long.  Ten minutes will have to do,” said Avon abruptly

“Can you disable the beam in ten minutes?” Cally asked.

“I hope so.”

“Less than that,” Vila said.

“What?”

“I still need to open the computer room.”  He pointed down the corridor to the door in question.

“How long?”

Vila shrugged, “It’ll have to be less than ten minutes won’t it?”

As the others waited anxiously, Vila disabled the motion sensors and hurried to the next door.  He worked the lock for a few minutes before the door opened and he cautiously scanned the room beyond for further surprises before nodding and waving the others through.

 Avon quickly located the main console and got started.  Tarrant stood at the door keeping a look out, his weapon at the ready.  Vila watched Avon work for a couple of minutes then began to pace restlessly around the small room.  He wandered over to the door and peered out, then wandered back. 

“Vila, can’t you keep still?  I’m trying to concentrate!” Avon snapped making him jump.

Vila flopped down to sit at the edge of the room leaning against the wall.  He pulled a small coin from somewhere about his person and began playing with it to distract himself.  Cally watched as he ran through a few conjuring tricks with the coin, making it appear and disappear, apparently turn into a different coin and seem to bend and buckle in his fingers.

There were less than three minutes to go when Avon announced, “Done.  Let’s go.”

Vila activated his bracelet quickly.  “Dayna, bring us back.”  A dull hissing sound was the only response.  “No no no,” muttered Vila, fiddling with the bracelet and trying again.  “Dayna!  Answer me!”

By now the others were also trying their bracelets but with no success.

“Come on.  We’ve got to move,” snapped Avon, “This room must be shielded somehow.”

Vila was still staring round the room, panic stricken, and Avon had to grab his arm and pull him along.  They hurried back down the corridor they entered by and stopped in the corridor they’d landed in.  Avon tried again to contact the Liberator but there was no response but white noise.

“He knows we’re here,” wailed Vila, “He’s put up some kind of block because he knows we’re here!”

“Vila, we don’t know that, “Cally tried to reassure him, “It may just be a temporary fault.  If we can just stay out of sight for a while we can still get out of here.”

Vila didn’t seem to hear her and started violently as their ten minutes expired and the security alarms began sounding from all directions.  Moments later the sound of running feet intruded over the sound of the alarms.  Avon caught Vila’s arm as he tried to make a panicked dash away.  “Stay put. Do you want to run straight into them?”

Vila wasn’t listening.  He struggled wildly, flailing at Avon with fists and feet until Avon had to let go.  Vila dodged past Tarrant and Cally and fled down the corridor away from the approaching footsteps. 

“The little idiot’s going to get himself killed!” Tarrant sounded exasperated but followed Avon as he ran after Vila.

“They won’t kill him,” Avon stated flatly, “Reymon wants him alive.”

Cally shuddered, “That’s worse.”

The rounded the corner and stopped at an empty, branching junction.

“We should split up, take one each,” Tarrant suggested.

Before the others could reply, there was a yell and the sounds of a scuffle from the leftmost branch.  They rounded the corner, weapons drawn, and found themselves facing, Reymon and a squad of guards.  Vila was curled on the floor with his arms around his head and one of the guards standing over him, his hand on his gun.  Avon noticed the glitter of blood on the weapon, and the guard himself had a bloodied nose.  Vila had apparently caught him unawares and put up at least something of a fight before being clubbed over the head.  The guards’ attention had shifted immediately to the newcomers as they rounded the corner and weapons were leveled on both sides.

“I have no particular interest in you three,” Reymon said in a calm tone, “but I will not allow you to interfere with my work.”

“Your work?” Cally echoed, disgusted.

“I will not let you have him Reymon,” Avon stated.

Reymon gave a short bark of a laugh.  “Spare me the melodrama.  It should be obvious enough that there is no choice.  You cannot shoot these guards before they shoot you.  What do I care if they get killed in the process?  That is their job after all.”

Vila uncurled his arms from his head with a moan and looked up at Avon, stared directly into his face and mouthed one word.  Please.

Avon lowered his gun slightly.  Reymon’s eyes flickered from Vila to Avon and with realisation dawning he bellowed, “No!”  As Avon fired, Reymon shoved the nearest guard forward, pushing him between Avon and Vila, into the line of fire.  The guard crumpled to the floor, dead, and the rest of the guards opened fire.

*

Avon awoke to find his head pounding, his bracelet gone and Cally and Tarrant staring at him from across a small cell.   They did not look exactly delighted to see him awake.

“What did you think you were doing?” demanded Tarrant, stalking over as Avon sat up.  “You tried to shoot Vila!”

“Yes.”

“Why?  Did you think Reymon would have just let us go?” Tarrant shouted, incredulous and angry.

“Vila asked me not to let Reymon take him alive,” Avon stated calmly.

Tarrant shook his head. “Vila wouldn’t…” he paused and turned to Cally, “You don’t believe this do you?”

Cally sighed.  “I do.  You saw how frightened he was.  How desperate.”

Tarrant shook his head again in denial.  “Vila’s been frightened before, it’s never made him suicidal.”  He didn’t sound very convinced of his own words though and sat back down.

“You were right about one thing Tarrant,” Avon said.  “I do think Reymon will let us go when he has finished.  He was telling the truth when he said he had no interest in us and he could have killed us instead of just stunning us.”

As Avon spoke the door opened and Reymon and a guard stepped through.

“You are quite correct,” Reymon said to Avon.  “When I am finished you may have Vila back and may leave without hinderance.  If you still want him that is.  After all, he is unlikely to be of much use to you and he may be happier back on Earth being the good little Delta he was supposed to be.”

“Of course we’ll take him back!” snapped Cally.  She would have said more but Reymon interrupted her.

“As you wish.  Unfortunately you understand, I must keep you here until then.  I can’t have you running around interfering with pointless rescue attempts can I?”

With this he turned and walked out.

*

It was almost a week before they saw anyone again.  The door rattled and Reymon entered with two guards dragging Vila between them.  He looked pale and terribly thin.  His face and arms were mottled with bruises and his bare feet were clearly too damaged for him to stand.  Blood from unseen injuries was soaking through the thin, grubby tunic he wore.

“He has been surprisingly unresponsive to the usual drugs,” Reymon commented in a tone of voice that suggested he was doing no more than remarking on the weather.  “We had to resort to rather more primitive means of breaking down his resistance.  I believe we are almost ready to proceed with the next stage though.  The process is going more smoothly than I expected.  It will be completed in a remarkably fast time at this rate.”

Reymon turned back to Vila and grasped his chin, lifting his head so his vacant gaze rested on the other three members of the Liberator’s crew.

“Who are these people?” Reymon asked.  There was no response.  Vila gave no indication he had even heard.  Reymon released his hold to slap him squarely across the face.  Vila jerked in the guards grasp and blinked rapidly several times.  Reymon repeated his question.  Vila’s eyes wandered disinterestedly across his shipmates’ faces then went back to staring at the floor. 

“Don’t know.”  His voice was hoarse, strained and completely emotionless.

“You’re sure you don’t recognise them?” demanded Reymon.

“Sure.”

“Good.” Reymon smiled, satisfied, and Vila suddenly looked up at him, something almost like hope crossing his face. 

“Good?” he croaked, quietly.

“Very good.  It won’t be much longer now,” Reymon said confidently.

“Good,” Vila repeated in a whisper.

“Reymon was right,” Avon commented after the guards had carried Vila off again.  “He’s not going to be much use to anyone when they’re through.”

“You’re not suggesting we leave him here!” demanded Tarrant, who looked rather shaken.

“He doesn’t even know who we are,” Avon pointed out, “What’s the point?  He probably would be better off on Earth.” 

“Avon, Vila is still there, I can feel him,” Cally said.  She was looking almost as pale as Vila had.  “He’s frightened and hurt and hiding, curled up somewhere in his own mind, but he’s still Vila.  We can’t leave him.”

“But Reymon hasn’t finished yet has he?”

Cally had no answer to that and fell silent.

“Do you think Dayna is still waiting for us?” Cally asked as they sat in their cell a few days later.

“It depends if she ran before Reymon reactivated the beam.  Vila would have been bound to tell him we disabled it.”

“I’m surprised she hasn’t rushed down here to find out what happened.”

“I would hope she’d have the sense not to.”

The door being opened interrupted this depressing line of conversation.  Reymon stepped through, a satisfied smile on his face. 

“There we are.  All done,” he announced.  “You’re free to go.”

“What about Vila?” Cally wanted to know.

“Oh you still want to take him with you?  He’d be better off on Earth with the other Deltas you know.”

“We’re taking him,” said Cally firmly.

“Oh if you insist.  I certainly don’t care one way or the other.”  Reymon led them to a small room where Vila sat on a low bench, looking at a vidscreen.  He was still far too thin and pale and had dark shadows under his eyes but his more obvious injuries had been treated and he looked quite calm.

“Vila, you’re going with these people to their ship.”

Vila looked away from the screen towards them.  There was no recognition in his face as he looked at them and his voice when he spoke was calm and even and betrayed no feeling. 

“Okay.”  He got up and moved towards them.

“Vila?” Cally stared at him looking for some trace of the man they knew.  He looked back at her, a momentary faint smile crossed his face replaced quickly by puzzlement.”

“Yes?  You know me?”

“Yes Vila, I’ve known you quite a while now.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry, should I know you?  I’m afraid my memory isn’t up to much at the moment.” 

Cally looked at him disappointment in her face

“My fault,” Vila added hastily “I got into some trouble, they had to fix my mind up.  I gather I was up to some very antisocial things.”  He flushed as though with embarrassment.  “Sorry, now I’m rambling on.”

“It’s okay, Vila,” Cally smiled reassuringly.  “Let’s just get back to the ship shall we.”

Vila nodded amiably.  “If you like.”

Reymon had watched their conversation contentedly and now spoke up again.  “I’ve switched off the traction beam and jamming field, your teleport devices should work again now.  He handed them back four bracelets.  Vila stared at his blankly until Cally helped him put it on.

Avon activated his bracelet and called the Liberator.  “Dayna are you there?”

“Avon?  You’re okay down there?  It’s been over a week.  I thought you’d all been killed or captured.  What happened?  Where are you?”

“Not now Dayna, just get us back up.”

“Activating teleport now.”

*

They rematerialized in the Liberators teleport section and Vila staggered, eyes wide, clearly disoriented by the sudden relocation.

“What happened?  How did we get here?” he asked, staring around.

Dayna looked at him, confused.  “What happened to him?” she asked.

“Reymon.” Avon replied.

“He actually did it?  Messed his mind up?  Well does he remember anything?” Dayna stared at Vila who was listening to Cally try to explain about the teleport.

“Not much it seems.” 

“I’m taking him down to the medical unit,” Cally told the others, taking Vila by the arm and leading him out of the door.

Once they were safely away from the planet, Avon headed down to the medical unit. Vila was sat cross- legged on a bed with a plate of food balanced on his lap.  He was gobbling it down so fast Avon was surprised he hadn’t made himself sick.

“Well?” Avon asked.

Cally shrugged, “I don’t know.  Physically he’s more or less fine.  His injuries have been treated.  He needs rest and food more than anything.  As to his mind… I just don’t know.”

“You said on the planet you could feel him still fighting the conditioning.”

“Yes.  But not now.  If the Vila we knew is still in there, then he’s completely submerged by the programming.”

“Suggestions?” Avon asked, looking at Vila who was now curled up on the bed apparently asleep.

Cally sighed.  “His memory came back on its own before.  I don’t think there’s a lot else we can do but wait.  Try and remind him of things that happened before.  Familiar places and things might jog his memory.”  Her words were cut off by the crash of Vila’s plate shattering on the deck.  Cally and Avon spun round, the plate had slipped off the bottom of the bed, Vila having stretched out and kicked it as he stirred in his sleep.

“He needs to rest first though,” Cally stressed, “You can see how exhausted he is.”

*

For a few days Vila did little but eat and sleep.  Slowly the colour came back to his face and he began to put on the weight lost during his time as Reymon’s prisoner.  The others tried not to press him about what had happened and he didn’t seem to have any interest in discussing it.  He clearly had no memory of anything before the conditioning.  He didn’t seem at all concerned about the huge gap in his memory however and his demeanour was happy enough, if a little vague.

“It’s creepy,” Dayna stated as the crew sat on the flight deck about a week later, discussing the situation.  “He’s doesn’t even move like Vila, he doesn’t sound like him.  It’s like someone else in Vila’s body.”

Avon looked at Cally.  “You said he needed time to recover, but we can’t have him wandering about like this indefinitely.”

Cally nodded.  “Physically he’s fine now.  I think it’s time we started trying to help him recover mentally as well.  He’s asleep at the moment but when he wakes up we can begin.”

*

Vila woke to find the rest of the crew standing around the medical unit waiting.  He smiled absently. 

“Hello.”

Cally began.  “Vila do you know what Reymon did to you?”

“Reymon?”

“The man back on the planet we took you from.”

“The doctor?”

Cally frowned but replied, “Yes.”

“He helped me, fixed my head for me.”

“Why?  What was wrong?”

“I don’t know.  I was doing bad things, I didn’t know I was sick, didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to.  I don’t know exactly what I was doing.  I don’t think I want to.  Does it matter?  I won’t do them again now.”

“You don’t know what you were supposed to have done wrong?”

“He didn’t tell me, didn’t want to upset me, it wasn’t my fault.  My mind was damaged.  It’s fixed now.”  Vila was looking nervous now.  “What’s the matter, have I done something wrong?”

“No,”  Cally reassured him.  “We want to help you remember that’s all.  Don’t you want to know what your life was like before?  What you were like?”

“No.  Why would I?  I was wrong, sick, I’m better now.  What’s the point of worrying about what’s past?”

Cally sighed, frustrated and Avon tried instead.

“Do you remember what he did to you?  How he ‘adjusted’ you?”

“No?” Vila looked puzzled, “It doesn’t matter does it?”

“It matters.  It matters because he didn’t do it to help you and he wasn’t exactly gentle in his methods.”

“He did help me.” Vila was frowning now, looking confused and worried.

“He tried to drug you.”

“It was for my own good, I was sick, sometimes curing sickness is difficult, painful,” Vila interrupted.

“And when the drugs didn’t work, didn’t make you docile, confused, pliable enough, then he tortured you.”

“He didn’t want to hurt me, I was stubborn, I didn’t want him to help me, I didn’t know I was wrong.  He had to do it.” Vila’s voice was almost a wail now.

“He enjoyed it, he hurt you and enjoyed hurting you because you had defied him.  He wanted to destroy who you were.  Make you over into a docile, mindless, Federation drone.”

Vila was shaking his head violently.  “No, no, my fault, shouldn’t have fought him, not my fault, tried to be good, my head, he wasn’t angry with me, not my fault he said not my fault I was sick, he would help me but it would hurt because I was stubborn, didn’t want to be, want to be well, it hurt, my fault, no. Nonono no.” Vila curled up on the bed babbling and holding his head.

“He thinks it’s his fault what Reymon did to him,” Dayna exclaimed in disgust.  “He thinks he deserved it.”

“It’s part of the conditioning.  As a good Federation citizen he must believe what the Federation did to him is right so therefore he must be in the wrong, he must deserve whatever they did to him.  Reymon’s telling him he was just sick and it wasn’t his fault and that he could help him get better makes Reymon the good guy and Vila more convinced that what was done to him was for his own good.  Of course this doctor who’s being so nice to him and telling him it’s not his fault he’s in this trouble couldn’t possibly want to hurt him.” Avon explained.

Cally had sat down on the bed trying to calm Vila down but he was close to hysterical and wouldn’t listen to anything else anyone said and finally they left him to sleep.

The next day Cally woke Vila with a cheerful greeting.

“Come on, I’ve got something to show you.”

He looked nervous and wary, clearly still upset by the previous days events.  He did as he was told though, got up and changed into the set of clothes Cally had brought from his quarters for him.  She had hoped seeing some of his own things would help jog his memory but he showed no reaction.  Cally was concerned by how quiet he was.  Vila had always been a chatterer.  They’d always had more trouble getting him to shut up than to talk. 

She led him from the medical unit, talking as they went.  “You don’t really need to stay in the medical unit anymore.  I thought it would be better for you to be back in your own quarters now.”

“My own quarters?”

“Yes.  Wouldn’t that be better than being cooped up in the medical unit?”

“I don’t like being on my own.” Vila sounded afraid, though his voice was low and quiet, quite unlike the shrill, panicked tone Cally usually associated with a frightened Vila.  She tried to reassure him.

“Well you don’t have to stay there all the time.  You’re free to go wherever you want on the ship.”

Vila seemed about to say something else but stopped as they arrived at the door to his quarters.  He stared at it for a moment before reaching out to tap in the lock code to open it.  As the door slid open he snatched his hand back from the panel as though burned and turned to Cally, eyes wide with fear and confusion, “How…” 

Cally smiled, pleased.  She had been afraid getting the door open if Vila had forgotten the code would have been a problem. 

“I told you, these are your quarters.  You remembered the lock code.”

“But I don’t.  I couldn’t tell you it now.  But I knew what buttons to press to open the door.”

“Try not to worry about it.”  Cally said reassuringly.  “Why don’t you have a look round, get settled in again and I’ll come back and see how you are later.”

Panic flashed across Vila’s face.  “Cally!”

She turned round to face him again, her face hopeful, until now he hadn’t called any of them by name.  “What is it, Vila?”

He had clapped his hands over his mouth at his outburst and now spoke very quietly, “I’m sorry, I just, I don’t want to be on my own, could you maybe stay, for a little while?”

She smiled. “Of course.”

She sat herself on the bottom on the bed as Vila wandered round the room, picking things up, putting them down again, occasionally stopping to stare at some item or another for a few minutes.  After a while he came and sat on the bed beside her. 

“Can I ask you something?” he asked tentatively

“Of course.”

“Why do you, all of you, want me to remember about before I was,” he paused, “treated?”

“We were friends before.  We care about what happens to you.  We want to help you be yourself again, not what the Federation have made you.”  Stretching the truth slightly here and there thought Cally but broadly true.  Vila looked like he was going to protest but changed his mind and asked another question instead. 

“What about this ship, it’s so big, where is everyone else?”

So Cally told him how Blake had acquired the Liberator, how each of the crew had come to be there, how they’d found Orac and how they’d lost Blake.  She left out Vila’s own part in the story, deciding it was better for him to remember on his own.  He listened without interruption and when she had finished he remained silent until Cally prompted him.  “Vila?”

“Criminals and rebels,” he said flatly.  “I was part of this?  Is that what I was doing that they had to adjust my mind?”

Cally frowned, “It’s a bit more complicated than that.”

“Oh.”  Vila suddenly looked very tired.  “I want to sleep now.”

Cally nodded and left him to rest.  She headed up to the flight deck to talk to the others.

*

“He doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” she told them with concern.  “I don’t know what else to try.”

Avon looked thoughtful.  “What about the dual therapy we used when Blake’s conditioning resurfaced?”

Cally looked doubtful. “We could try it I suppose.”

*

“I don’t want to,” Vila protested when they told him about the treatment they wanted to try to restore his memory.  He backed away from them shaking his head.  “You want to make me into a criminal again, I don’t want that.  You should have let me go back to Earth, I shouldn’t be here.”

“We only want to help you Vila, this isn’t who you are.  We want to help you get your own life back,” Cally coaxed.

Tarrant sighed impatiently.  “Well there’s no point you remaining on board in this state is there?  If you don’t want us to help you then we’ll drop you off at the next planet and you can do as you want.”

“No!” Vila’s shout of denial made them all jump.  “Don’t put me off the ship, what will I do?  I have nowhere else to go.”  He caught his head and staggered slightly as he finished speaking, when he looked up again he had a small puzzled frown on his face and was looking around in confusion. “Cally?”

Cally looked at Vila, a startled expression on her face.  “Vila?”

Vila stared at her, confusion across his face.  “Well yes me.  Who else?  What’s going on?  Reymon…” he trailed off and when he spoke again if was with difficulty, “He got to me didn’t he?  My head!  I can’t remember.  Help me!”  He was shivering now and had crumpled to the deck his hands pressed against his temples.  His eyes were losing their focus and Cally dropped to her knees and shook his shoulders.

“Vila!  Hold on.  Fight it.  You’ve done it before.”

Vila clutched at her, trying to speak but unable to articulate anything more than a desperate moan.  Cally looked up at Avon.  “He’s still there but he’s losing the fight against the conditioning.  If we’re going to help him we need to start the treatment now.”

*

In the medical unit Vila lay restrained and hooked up to the sensors and monitoring equipment.  At Orac’s suggestion Avon lay on the next bed over, having offered no protest at Orac’s explanation that he had known Vila longer than any of the others and was thus best suited to monitor him.

“Ready?” Cally asked.

“Ready.” Avon confirmed.  Vila didn’t say anything, though he was conscious and only lightly sedated.  Once the conditioning had taken hold again he had resisted their efforts to prepare him for the treatment and Avon and Tarrant had had to hold him down while the restraints were put in place.

Vila cried out as the equipment was activated.  “No!  Let me go!  I don’t want your help, there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Vila, what happened on the planet? Orac asked calmly.  Vila moaned and struggled against the restraints and did not answer.

What happened?  The computer’s tone became more insistent.

“Treated.”

Treated why?

“Sick.  In my mind.”

Untrue.

“No!”

Yes.  Reymon lied to you.

“No!  He helped me. Made me better.”

No.  He hurt you.

“No.”

Yes.

“He had to.”

Had to hurt you?

“Yes.”

Why?

“My fault.”

He told you that.

“Yes.”

He lied.

“No, he wanted to help me.”

Why did he hurt you?

“I fought him, didn’t want him to help me.”

Why?

“I…” Vila broke off.

You knew what he was trying to do to you.  You didn’t want to be conditioned again.

“No.  He wasn’t.  He was trying to help.”

He didn’t help you.  He imprisoned you and hurt you and brainwashed you into thinking it was all for your own good.

“No!”

He did imprison you.

“Y…yes”  Vila’s voice faltered for a moment, “but…”

He imprisoned you, Orac interrupted before Vila could continue, and he hurt you.  Didn’t he?

“My fault.”

Your fault he hurt you?

“Yes.”

So he did hurt you?

“Yes.”  Vila sounded exhausted and didn’t bother to protest further.

They stopped the session there and Avon, looking rather shaken, headed to his quarters to get some rest.  Cally undid Vila’s restraints and helped him sit up.

“How do you feel?”

Vila shrugged and Cally found herself smiling at the familiar gesture.  Vila gave her a puzzled look in response and lay back down, turning onto his side and closing his eyes.  Cally left him to sleep and went to check on Avon.  He responded reluctantly and curtly to her inquiries about his well-being and she left quickly.

Vila was awake and sitting up when she got back to the medical unit.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he said in explanation.  “Bad dreams.”

“Oh?  What about?” probed Cally, remembering Vila’s comment about bad dreams preceding the breakdown of his previous conditioning.  Now he just shrugged however, “Don’t remember.”

He was quiet for a moment, apparently lost in thought, before speaking again.

“There are a lot of things I don’t remember.  Why?”

Cally hesitated, wondering how best to respond. 

“It’s because of what Reymon did to you,” she finally answered.  Vila flinched and looked like he was about to protest but changed his mind.

“Why did he…” Vila began then stopped and started again.  “What had I done?  What he did…hurt.  What had I done that was so bad that…” His voice broke and he turned away from Cally to stare at the wall as he whispered, “So bad that I deserved that?”

“Oh Vila,” Cally sighed and caught hold of his shoulders forcing him to turn and look at her.  “It was not your fault.  You did nothing to deserve what he did to you.”  She stopped and gave Vila’s shoulders a little shake.  “Vila?  Are you listening to me?”

“What had I done?” Vila’s tone was insistent.  “Tell me.  Please?  Was I one of your rebels?  Trying to overthrow the Federation?  No he had you too and let you go, not for being a rebel then, why?  Why won’t you tell me?”  His voice rose.  “Tell me!”  Suddenly a frightened look came into his eyes and his voice dropped to a whisper again.

“I didn’t… did I kill someone?  Is that why you won’t tell me?  A murderer would deserve punishment and correction.”

“No!” Cally interrupted him hastily.  “You’re no murderer Vila.”

“Then tell me what I am.”

“It’s not simple, “ Cally sighed.  “Do you know this wasn’t the first time Reymon had ‘treated’ you?”

“I know.  He told me he tried before to help me but I failed him.  Wwent back to how I was before.”

Cally snorted in disgust, “He failed not you.  All you did was be yourself in spite of what he tried to do to you.”

“But what was I doing that was so wrong?”  He gave a short, humourless laugh.  “Look I promise not to flip out and scream bloody murder if you tell me okay?”

Cally gave him a small worried smile.

“Okay Vila if you’re sure you want me to tell you.”  He nodded and she continued, “The first time you were referred to Reymon on charges of theft.  The reprogramming didn’t work though and after a while you started stealing again.  You were sentenced to life on Cygus Alpha and met Blake and Jenna while waiting to be transported there.  Reymon was furious that his conditioning hadn’t worked and wanted another attempt.  Which he got when he lured us to the planet a few weeks ago.”

Vila had sat silently throughout her explanation and remained silent for a few more seconds after she had finished.

“Theft,” he eventually said in a flat voice.  “Theft.”  Abruptly he let out a shrill, hysterical-sounding laugh.  “Theft!  He did all that to me because I’m a thief?  What the hell did I steal?  Star One?”

Cally had not missed the fact that Vila had spoken of himself as a thief in the present tense but was concentrating more on calming him down.  She was about to reach for a sedative when Vila flopped down on the bed of his own accord.  He looked exhausted.

“Vila?” she asked quietly?  “Are you all right?”

“Um, no, not really.  Could I have a drink?”

Cally handed him a glass of water but he shook his head.  “No I mean a drink.”

Cally smiled.  “That sounds more like the Vila I know.  But really I don’t think it’s a good idea before the therapy session.  Avon should be back down any minute.”

Vila shivered.  “It will make me remember?”

Cally nodded.

“I don’t want to.  It hurt.”

Avon entered as Cally was trying to think of a suitable reply.  She turned to him in concern. “He doesn’t want to have the treatment.”

“Not his choice,” Avon replied curtly.

“Avon!  Of course it is.  We can’t just force him to go through that again.”

“He’s not in his right mind.  He can’t make that choice for himself.”

“He’s not insane.  Just…changed and he doesn’t want to be changed back.”

“Cally.  That is not Vila, it is an artificial personality created by Reymon to be a mindless Federation drone.  It doesn’t get a say.”

Cally looked unhappily from Avon to where Vila sat on the bed.  He was listening to them argue about what was to happen to him but showing no sign of emotion other than resignation.

“Cally, Vila wanted me to kill him rather than be turned into that.  I failed to do that but I can help him now.  If you feel more loyalty to this personality than to the real Vila then leave.  I’ll get one of the others in to help.”

“No,” she finally said.  “I’ll help.”  She turned to Vila.  “I’m sorry.  You’ll understand when you’re yourself again.”  In an undertone she added, “I hope.”

Vila didn’t put up a fight this time, quietly allowing Avon to put the sensors and restraints in place and only whimpering softly when the equipment was activated.

What happened after Reymon took you away? Orac began.

“Slept.”

What happened when you woke up?

“Dizzy, sick, there was a lot of noise, lights, made my head hurt.  Then I slept again.”

And when you woke up?

“Felt sick, was sick, couldn’t keep my balance, kept falling over, kept being sick.  He kept talking to me asking me things, stupid things didn’t make sense but he asked me questions, kept telling me I was getting them wrong, telling me what I should answer but it didn’t make sense and I couldn’t concentrate, just felt sick and giddy all the time.”

Reymon’s drugs made you sick.  They were supposed to affect your mind to make you docile and obedient but they didn’t work.  They made you sick instead.  How long were you sick?

“Don’t know.  He stopped after I got really bad.”

“I think it was about two days,” Avon put in, his voice sounding strained.  “The drugs made me,” he stopped, frowned, then corrected himself.  “Made Vila so sick he couldn’t even keep water down.  Reymon didn’t want him to die of dehydration before he was finished.”

What happened after he stopped the drugs Vila?  Once you were no longer sick?

 “Another room.  Dark.  I don’t like the dark.”

What happened there?

“Left me.”

He left you there?

“Yes.”

Alone?

“Yes.”  Vila had seemed calmer this session but now his voice rose and he struggled to free himself from the restraints.

“Don’t leave me in here!” Avon screamed in unison with him.

How long did he leave you there?

“Don’t know.”  Vila’s voice was hoarse, “Sometimes guards came when I was too noisy.  They…they came…made me be quiet again.”

They hurt you to make you be quiet.  They beat you?

“Yes.  My..my fault though, sometimes, sometimes I screamed on purpose to make them come.  I was afraid in the dark, by myself, that they would forget I was there, let me die there.  Sometimes I wanted to.  Better than the conditioning again but then I’d get scared and scream and they’d come.”

That is sufficient for this session, Orac announced abruptly.  He should sleep now.

Vila was exhausted enough to drop off without much help but Cally gave him a light sedative to make sure, before walking over to help Avon up.

“Are you all right?”

Avon ran a hand over his face and through his hair trying to return some sort of order to the tousled mess.  “Well enough.”  He looked over at Vila, “What about him?”

“I think he’s going to be okay.  This session seemed to go easier.”

Speak for yourself,” Avon said tiredly.  “How long until the next one?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll see how Vila is when he wakes up.”

*

Vila slept long after the sedative wore off and Cally was beginning to get concerned by the time he finally woke up.  He rolled over and groaned, “Oh my head.”

Cally hurried to his side.  “How do you feel?”

“Terrible.  It’s not fair my head hurts this much when I haven’t even been drinking.”

Cally smiled.  “You’re sounding more like yourself.”

“So I bloody well should.  It feels like Orac and Avon have been poking around in my head for days.”

“It hasn’t even been one.”

“I know that.  So much has happened since Reymon first contacted us I can hardly remember what year it is, never mind keep track of days and hours.”

“Well you’ve been through a lot, it’s only natural for you to be a bit confused.”

“Confused doesn’t begin to cover it.  How long have I been back on the Liberator?”

“Almost two weeks.”

Vila looked thoughtful.  “I don’t remember much about it then.  I remember you showing me my quarters and explaining about the Liberator.  Bits and pieces from when you tried to get me to remember what happened with Reymon.”

“Do you remember that now?”

“I think so.  A lot of it anyway.  There are gaps.”

Avon entered and Vila looked up apprehensively.  “Oh not another session?  I’m me now, honest.”

“Well, we’ll wait a bit and see,” Cally said.  “What sort of gaps are you talking about?”

Vila thought for a moment. 

“Well I remember the cell, in the dark with the guards…um…” he swallowed hard before continuing, “Knocking me about.  After a while Reymon stopped them.  He talked to me for a long time, told me things I knew weren’t true but after a while I wanted them to be true – if they were true I wouldn’t get hurt so much.  He had a device he used when I was being ‘difficult’.  It hurt, I can’t explain how much but it was bad.  I would have done anything, said anything to get him to stop.  He didn’t use it often though, didn’t need to.  I wanted him there, wanted him to talk to me even if he did keep asking me questions and punishing me for not believing things I knew couldn’t be true because if he wasn’t there then there was just the dark and the cold and the beatings.”  He stopped to catch his breath and Cally handed him a glass of water that he sipped before continuing.

“Things get hazy there for a while, I guess at some point I did start believing what he told me.  I know I wanted to please him and I got angry with myself because I couldn’t make myself believe the things I was supposed to – that he said I was supposed to.  I don’t remember much about that part from the other times either.  I don’t understand quite how it’s supposed to work but I was so hurt and confused and still kind of sick from the drugs that I just believed whatever I was told.  What he was saying…it seemed to make sense at the time… but now I can’t even remember what it was he said…”  He trailed off, shaking his head.  “It’s just a blur.  I know I didn’t recognise you when you came to take me back here.  Some things are still just fragments.  Do I have to have the therapy again?  It does hurt, it’s like going through it all over again.”

“I don’t know.  You seem to have most of your memory back and you seem to be more or less yourself again.  Orac?”

For once the computer was forthcoming and refrained from pointing out that merely calling its name was not an inquiry.

Vila has regained as much of his memory as is to be expected.  In cases of trauma such as this there is often loss of memory of the traumatic events in question.  If the memories of those events return they will do so when the mind is able to accept them.  Forcing the process will not further aid recovery.  The conditioning has been adequately reversed.

“In only two sessions?” Avon sounded sceptical.

Vila appears to have a high level of natural resistance to the process, as evidenced by the failure of previous attempts.  I assure you my diagnosis of his condition is perfectly accurate. 

Orac sounded testy at being having his pronouncement questioned.

“All right Orac, we believe you,” Cally reassured the machine.  “Vila you’re free to leave the medical unit.  Try and take it easy for a while though alright?”

Avon snorted, “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

Cally suppressed a smile at the habitual sniping and in a stern tone told Avon, “That means you too.  Whether you admit it or not, the therapy has tired you too.  You should rest for a few days as well.”

“Now that will be a problem.” Vila said with a sideways look at Avon.  “He’ll be under everyone’s feet no doubt.  He’ll be bored within a day, you watch.”

“I am perfectly capable of amusing myself without resorting to your company.” Avon shot back. 

Cally rolled her eyes at the pair of them and headed for her own quarters to get some of the rest she has recommended to the others.

Left alone with Avon, Vila grew serious.  “Avon I know you tried to…to do what I asked before Reymon could start on me.  I know you made me have the therapy even when I didn’t think I wanted to.  Um, I know I probably wasn’t too happy about either at the time but… well… thank you.”

Avon only nodded in response and looked rather embarrassed.

Vila’s tone remained serious as he asked.  “What happened to Reymon?”

“Nothing.  He let us leave with you and we left straight away before he could have a change of heart.”

Vila snorted.  “His heart won’t change.”  He paused for a moment then said, “I want to go back.  I want to find him.”

“Why?” Avon’s tone was cautious.

“I don’t want him to be able to do this to me again.  Or to anyone.  I want him dead.”  There was ice in the thief’s voice and Avon didn’t protest. He nodded slowly.

“Can you kill him Vila?  Can you stand there and shoot a man in cold blood?”

Vila’s expression faltered for a moment but he held his head up and answered firmly, “If it’s him.”

Avon looked at him thoughtfully for some time.

“Will you help me Avon?”

“What will you do if I don’t?”

“I’ll get off at the next planet and make my own way back.  I’m pretty sure I can get into the complex and reach Reymon without teleporting.  Getting out… I don’t think my chances are very high.”

“You don’t care if you get killed as long as you take him with you is that it?” Avon didn’t sound convinced.

“That’s it.  I’d rather do it without the ‘me dying’ part though.  Avon, I’m serious about this.  He does deserve to die.”

“I’ll discuss it with the others.  It’s a dangerous thing you’re asking.”

*

“He wants to do what?” Tarrant asked incredulously.

“I don’t blame him,” said Dayna, “I still think we should have blown the place to bits before we left.”

“It doesn’t sound like Vila though does it?” Cally sounded worried.

“Well it was, and if we refuse to take the Liberator back then he intends to leave and go back alone.”

“It’s too dangerous.  We should stay as far away from Reymon as we can.  Vila will get over it.”  Cally was clearly set against the idea.

“It is dangerous,” Avon agreed.  “It puts us all at risk which is why I wanted all your opinions before deciding.  If the majority think we shouldn’t take the Liberator back then we won’t.  However if Vila is still set on going back even without the ship then I am going with him.”

“You are?”  Cally said in a shocked tone, “You’re going to go back with him to help him murder someone?”

“He did the same for me once.”

“Yes and I was opposed to that too!”

Tarrant and Dayna looked uncomfortable, remembering that they too had helped Avon entrap Shrinker.

“He’ll get himself killed if he goes alone.  Would you prefer I let that happen?” Avon snapped at Cally.

Cally glared at him but made no reply.

“Tarrant?” Avon turned to the pilot for his opinion.

“I think it’s a bloody stupid, dangerous idea but marginally less bloody stupid than you and Vila tripping off alone.  Unfortunately neither of you is expendable.”

“Charmed.  Dayna?”

“I say go.  Reymon is scum.  If Vila wants to get rid of him then well done Vila.”

“I’ll let Vila know we’re going back then.” Avon said, leaving the flight deck.

*

Vila and Dayna stood ready to teleport.  Avon was waiting by the controls and Cally was watching disapprovingly, having failed in her final attempt to persuade them not to go through with it.

“Is this going to work?” asked Vila, sounding rather nervous now they were actually approaching the planet.

“It will work.  We drop into orbit; teleport down, then the Liberator leaves again and picks us up afterwards.  It’ll be so quick Reymon’s sensors won’t register the drop off and afterwards he won’t be in a  position to care.  Will he?  The Liberator will stand off behind that moon until we signal her to come in close enough for the pick up.”

“We’re coming into range of the planet,” Tarrant informed them from the flight deck.

“Ready?” Avon asked Vila.

“Ready.”

“Now,” Tarrant announced.

Avon activated the controls sending Vila and Dayna to the planets surface, hopefully right into Reymon’s private rooms.

As soon as he completed the teleport Avon clipped a bracelet onto his own wrist and addressed Orac. 

“Orac, prepare to teleport me to the surface, into the main power facility for Reymon’s base.  Once I’m down, stand by to bring me and the others back up on their signal.”

As you wish. Though I must point out it is a waste of my time and abilities.

“That’s fine with me.”

“Avon, what are you doing?” demanded Cally.

“Setting up a little insurance to make sure this trip isn’t wasted.”  He picked up a small case and told Orac to initiate teleport.

*

Vila and Dayna had waited almost ten minutes for Reymon and were beginning to get jumpy when they heard the outer door open.

Vila shifted his grip on his weapon and stood ready at the door.  The startled fear on Reymon’s face as he took in the scene was a picture Vila intended to treasure.

“Sit down!” Vila ordered gesturing at a chair.  Reymon obeyed and Dayna made sure he stayed sat down by tying his hands behind the back of the chair.

Reymon had regained his composure remarkably fast under the circumstances and was now speaking in a soothing tone.

“Now Vila you don’t want to do this, not after all I’ve done to help you.”

“Help me?  You never helped me!  You tortured me, brainwashed me!  You call that help?” Vila shouted, his voice shaking.

“Oh dear.  What have these ‘friends’ of yours been telling you Vila?  That I hurt you?  Why would I do that?  You were sick.  I made you well.”

“Lies!”

“No Vila, it’s the truth.  You only think it’s lies because you are sick again.  They have made you sick again, turned you against me when I’m the only one who can cure you.”

“Shut up.  I don’t believe a word you’re saying.  I’m not drugged now, not hurting and tired and confused.  I know who I am and what I am and I know you have failed to change that.”

“And what are you?  A petty criminal.”  Reymon’s voice was heavy with contempt.

“What I am,” said Vila slowly and deliberately, “is not like you.” 

To Dayna’s alarm Vila tossed the gun onto the floor before continuing, “Which is why I am not going to kill you after all.  Whatever I am and whatever you did to me, I am better than you.  You failed.  I hope you live a long time with that knowledge.”  Vila turned his back on Reymon and activated his bracelet.  “Liberator, ready for pick-up.”

“Be there in five minutes,” came Tarrant’s voice. 

Vila was silent during the wait and Dayna decided it was best not interrupt his thoughts.

They rematerialized facing Avon, who had apparently also just been teleported back, and Cally, who stood at the controls.

“Avon?” asked Vila, puzzled.  “You went down too?”

“I wanted a second look at the computers controlling that defence system.  Could be useful.  So did you do it?”

“No,” Vila shook his head.  “I don’t want to talk about it.  I’m going to get a drink.” 

Cally remained after Vila and Dayna had left.

“Why are you standing there watching me?” Avon asked.

“To see why you’re waiting here after the others have left.”

“What a suspicious nature you must have.”

“Maybe it’s a learned trait.”

Avon gave a small smile.  “Orac, transmit the signal I gave you to the planet.”

It is done.

Avon nodded and turned to leave.

“Avon!”

“What?”

“What signal? What have you done?”

“I have ‘blown Reymon and his base to bits’ as Dayna so succinctly phrased it.”

Cally looked horrified.  “All those people… It wasn’t just Reymon down there you know.  Why?”

“Vila was right.  Reymon deserved to die.  Also the thought occurred that Vila no doubt babbled all sorts of information to Reymon, which for all our sakes would be better lost with him.  I had a feeling Vila wouldn’t go through with it.  It’s not his nature.”

“Does Vila know what you’ve done?”

“No.  Nor should he.  Sparing Reymon has no doubt given him some sort of comfort and it would be cruel to shatter that wouldn’t it?  After he’s been through so much?”

Cally glared at Avon.  “As if you care about Vila’s comfort.”

Avon shrugged.  “His company is more tolerable when he’s not having a crisis.  The point is that you do care.  So you won’t tell him.  Will you?”

“You know I won’t.”

“So let that be an end to it.  Vila will be all right and there’s one less Federation lackey in the galaxy.  A blow for freedom and so forth,” Avon said his tone growing sarcastic at the last sentence.

“Oh shut up Avon.”


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