Blood, Threats and FearsBy Nicola Mody
Page 2 of 5
|Vila lay on his bed, feeling very ill.
When he first got back, he had felt so shaky, he had had a small drink of brandy to steady his nerves, taken off his shoes and surface fatigues, and lain down, curled up, his arms around his stomach where Molok had punched him, and Avon had kneed him not long afterwards. He was sure to have a bad bruise there later, he thought resentfully. Mind you, to be honest, he deserved it; worse probably. He felt slightly nauseous—odd, brandy was supposed to be medicinal—and wondered if he ought to call Cally. No, Cally would be dealing with Avon’s wound, and would hardly have any sympathy for him.
Not long afterwards, Cally had come and tried to speak to him, but he didn’t want to face her, or anybody, and had told her to go away. Strangely enough, it hurt when she did. But why should she care about him; why should anybody? He remembered Avon’s look of utter contempt, and Blake’s lack of interest, and wondered how long he would have to stay out of sight, to give them time to forget how he’d behaved. If they ever did. He closed his eyes in shame at the memory. First Ushton threatened him with a knife—a knife—and then they’d tried to suffocate him, two things out of his worse nightmares. Still, he should have been brave like Blake and Avon, talking calmly as death approached. Never had been though. He sighed and slipped into sleep.
He dreamed of knives, blood, airless darkness. Let me out, Bernid, please...no, it was Travis this time...let me out, Travis, I’ll do anything ...
He woke up, drenched in sweat, and pushed himself into a sitting position, whimpering at the pain in his stomach. How long had he been out? Almost six hours. He slid his legs over the side of the bed, and sat there, fighting the sudden dizziness and nausea. He was so hot and thirsty, maybe he’d feel better if he had a drink. He stood up, leaning heavily against the wall, unzipped his jacket and shrugged it to the floor, then staggered to his bathroom to get a drink of water. He refilled the glass and brought it back with him, spilling half of it on the way, and lay down again, very hurriedly. Perhaps he should call Cally. No, he didn’t think he had the strength to get up again. He’d just have another little nap; he might feel better after that.
When Cally appeared on the flight deck the next morning, Jenna was at her station, Avon was working on one of his gadgets, and Blake was sprawled on the couch.
“Where is Vila?” Cally asked. “Has anyone seen him?”
“I’m glad to say, no,” Avon said without looking up. “We’ve been enjoying his absence.”
“He’s probably sulking in his cabin like he did after that Terra Nostra fiasco,” Jenna said, “waiting for someone to tell him he’s forgiven.”
“He will be waiting a long time,” Avon said.
“Don’t worry, Cally,” Blake said. “He’ll turn up when he gets hungry.”
“He’d better come out in time for his watch,” Avon said sharply.
Cally looked around at them. “Isn’t anyone worried about him?”
“Look, he’s probably still asleep.” Blake said. “He’s been having a lot of nightmares lately, and he was very tired.”
“Oh?” Avon looked up. “And just when were you going to share that little gem of information with us? Or did you think it was quite all right to have a member of your crew wandering around half-asleep as well as half-witted? I took that idiot down as backup, Blake.”
“Vila’s had nightmares before, and it’s never affected his performance,” Blake pointed out.
“Look, something’s wrong,” Cally interrupted what looked like developing into a heated argument. “I can feel it.”
Avon turned his attention to Cally. “I thought you could only read thoughts from other Auronar.”
Cally hesitated. “That is true, but I can sometimes pick up strong emotions and pain from Vila.”
“You never told us this before, Cally,” Blake said.
“It did not seem important.”
That was not really the truth. Cally had often felt isolated in this group of non-telepaths, and she knew Vila felt that way too, for reasons she was unsure of—his Federation grading perhaps? But she had felt his loneliness, particularly since Gan’s death, and his longing for acceptance. She had thought that telling them about his slight gift would only make things more difficult for him.
“You mean Vila is some sort of telepath?” Avon asked incredulously. “Vila, who doubtless has trouble reading his own thoughts?”
“No,” Cally said patiently, “he cannot send or receive thoughts as such. I can sometimes pick up feelings from him, but none of you could. And he is quite sensitive, so I think he is able to read people’s feelings himself, though only at a subconscious level.”
“Thank goodness for that,” Jenna said tartly. “I’d hate to think of Vila rummaging though my mind like he probably does to my room.”
“He’s never done that,” Blake said. “I made him promise not to when he first joined the crew.”
“Oh, and what makes you think he hasn’t anyway?” Avon asked.
“Vila has his own sense of honour, and I believe he would keep his word. Besides,” Blake added, with a slight smile, “I checked with Zen.”
“I had better go and see how he is,” Cally said.
“Wait.” Blake went over to the comms station and keyed in Vila’s room. “Vila. This is Blake.” He paused. “Vila, respond please.” He began to look worried.
“Perhaps he’s not there,” Jenna said.
“Zen, where is Vila?”
"Vila Restal is in his cabin."
“What is his condition?”
"He is unconscious."
Cally left at a run. She heard Blake call to Jenna to stay on watch as he ran after her. She halted at Vila’s door, and hit it, frustrated. “I forgot. It’s locked.”
Blake touched the wall communicator. “Zen. Can you unlock Vila’s door?”
“Why not? The locks are part of your system.”
"The additional lock on Vila Restal’s cabin door is not."
“He added his own custom lock,” Avon said behind them. “Doubtless a very clever piece of work. I’d be surprised if anyone could get through that.”
“We’ll have to cut our way in then,” Blake decided. “Get a laser.”
“Are you sure? That will take at least half an hour.”
“Have you any other suggestions?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. One of us could teleport in.”
“I see no reason why not. It is a destination like any other, except that it happens to be within the ship. It is simply a matter of getting the co-ordinates right. Orac can manage that.” Avon left, walking rapidly.
Blake and Cally looked at each other speculatively. “I suppose he’s right,” Blake said doubtfully.
“We’ll soon know.”
It was not long before they heard a faint rattling, and the door opened and Avon stood there looking disgusted. “He’s drunk.”
Cally could see Vila sprawled across the bed behind him, his pale face glistening with sweat. One hand dangled over the floor beside the small bedside table which held a half-empty glass. Cally pushed past Avon, and stood looking down at Vila. “Are you sure?” She picked up the glass, sniffed it, then took a small sip. “It’s water, Avon!” she said reproachfully, and placed her hand on Vila’s forehead. “He’s burning up. He has a fever.” She patted Vila’s cheek, gently. “Vila? It’s Cally.”
Vila stirred, moaning faintly, and moved his lips. Cally leant forward. “...don’t put me in there...I’ll be good...promise...good boy...please don’t...can’t breathe ...” he muttered.
Cally stepped back, horrified, and leaned against the wall for support.
“What’s wrong, Cally? Are you all right?” Blake held her by the shoulders.
Cally shook her head as if to clear it. “Yes, I think so,” she said shakily. “I got all these images from Vila. Awful things, all mixed up—darkness, suffocation, blood, knives, absolute terror. I’ve never received anything so clearly before. It must be his fever.” She pushed herself upright. “I’m all right now. I’ve blocked my mind against it. Poor Vila.” She went back to Vila, and leaned over him again, stroking his forehead. “Vila, wake up. It’s Cally.”
Vila flickered his eyes open. “Don’t hurt me,” he whispered.
“It’s Cally, Vila. You’re on the Liberator.”
Vila blinked and tried to focus. “Cally?” He looked vaguely round the room at the others. “Why are you all here?...You’re angry with me, aren’t you?”
“No-one’s angry with you now, Vila,” Blake said reassuringly, darting a warning glance at Avon.
Vila sighed and closed his eyes
Cally took his wrist to feel his pulse. Like his breathing, it was light and rapid. “He can’t have caught a virus down there,” she said, puzzled. “Neither of you did. Was he injured at all?”
“Well, one of Travis’s crimos punched him in the stomach,” Blake said. “And then—” he hesitated.
“And then I kneed him there.” Avon said evenly. “Is that what you were going to say?”
“Avon!” Cally was shocked.
“He deserved it,” Avon said coldly. “He could have lost us the Liberator, not to mention got you and Jenna killed.” He turned to go out.
“Where are you going?” Blake demanded.
“To get a stretcher. It does not seem to have occurred to either of you.”
Blake looked down at Vila, who was delirious again, his lips moving silently. “I should have noticed,” he said to Cally. “I was so worried about my own family, I completely ignored him.”
“That is understandable,” Cally said, “and we’re all used to Vila complaining when it is not that serious.” She went to the bathroom and returned with a damp towel, and began to wipe Vila’s face. He stirred, sighed, and said something. Cally thought it might have been ‘mummy’ or ‘mama’.
Avon returned with a wheeled stretcher and helped Blake lift Vila onto it. Despite their care, he cried out with pain. At the surgical unit, when they lifted him on to the operating table, he moaned again and opened his eyes. This time, he seemed to be aware of his surroundings.
“That’s right, it’s Cally,” she said, stroking his hair and reaching with her other hand for an anaesthetic disc.
“Don’t feel very well.”
“I know.” She smiled at him, reassuringly. “But it’s all right now. We are looking after you. You are going to be fine.” As Vila looked up at her trustingly, she slipped the disc onto his forehead.
“Oh, Cally. I hope that wasn’t a lie.”
“What difference does it make, Avon? If he dies, at least his last conscious moments will not be spent in fear.” Cally turned to the medical computer. “Diagnosis?”
"The patient has sustained blunt trauma to the intestines, with internal bleeding and infection resulting from rupture of the intestinal wall. Immediate blood transfusion and surgery are urgently required."
“One of you will have to assist me.”
“I will,” Blake said. “It’s the least I can do.”
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