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The Stuff of Legends

By Nicola Mody
Page 3 of 7

Dayna ran towards the next turret where she had seen a flash of movement as someone disappeared around it. She flattened herself against the sun-warmed stone and peered around. It was Servalan; she would know that lithe walk and close-cropped black hair anywhere. As usual, the woman was dressed as if for the opera, and was wearing ridiculously high heels. In her excitement, Dayna almost forgot Avon’s order. She said hurriedly into her bracelet communicator, “Avon, Vila. Servalan’s down here. Warn Tarrant and the others too if they call in. I’m going after her,” and did not bother to wait for an answer. She bared her teeth and aimed her gun, tightening her finger on the trigger, then changed her mind. She wanted Servalan to know who was killing her. She stepped out of cover, gun still ready.

“Servalan!” she called.

Servalan turned regally. “Yes? Oh, it’s the, uh, Mellanby chit, isn’t it?” Even though she had almost reached the far end of the castle wall, her voice carried perfectly.

“The name is Dayna. And my father’s name was Hal. Remember him?” Dayna fired. The bright beam of her Liberator weapon hit Servalan in the centre of the chest, and she staggered, then turned and started to run clumsily in her impractical shoes and clinging black silk towards the trees. Damn, thought Dayna, at that distance I just scorched the bitch. She took off in pursuit, her face exultant and her pulse racing at the thrill of the chase. Gaining ground, she fired again, but Servalan dodged behind a tree, though Dayna was certain she had hit her. Servalan’s face appeared briefly but was gone as Dayna fired. Furious, she set her gun to maximum and blasted at the tree in an attempt to panic Servalan into running, sending bits of wood flying.

“Why, Dayna. You really must not let your temper get the better of you.”

Dayna gritted her teeth and began to circle around Servalan’s position. The cow would have to make a run for it or be outflanked. Dayna removed a heat-seeking projectile from a pouch on her belt and fitted it into its miniature launcher, keeping her eyes on Servalan’s tree. There—she had bolted. Dayna fired, there was a bang and a flash, and Servalan fell, then sat up, staring in almost comical surprise at the smoking stump of her left arm. The grin disappeared from Dayna’s face as Servalan got up and brushed the leaves from herself with her remaining arm.

“You are beginning to annoy me now. You have quite spoiled the look of this outfit.”

Dayna blinked. Perhaps the damned woman was in shock. She primed and threw a grenade, but amazingly, Servalan’s one hand snapped out, caught it, and returned it. Dayna threw herself flat as a tree behind her disintegrated. From her prone position, she fired her gun again, hitting her unbearably smug-looking prey in the décolletage. Servalan staggered back, and Dayna fired again and again. Servalan fell against the tree behind her and slid to the ground, managing to make even that look graceful.

“You are persistent, aren’t you,” she said. “Has anyone told you it’s not your most attractive quality?”

Dayna got up and walked towards her. This was not working out how she had imagined it so often. Servalan should be afraid, begging for her life. Dayna stopped in front of her. “You’re helpless, just like my father was. How does it feel?”

“I know you were brought up in social isolation, dear, but someone should have told you by now that spitting during conversation is not considered polite.” Servalan delicately wiped her cheek with her little finger.

Dayna snarled and stepped forward. Servalan kicked out suddenly, knocking Dayna’s feet out from under her, and rose so fast she almost blurred, snatched Dayna’s gun, threw it aside, and grabbed her by the throat, all before the girl could react. Dayna choked and pulled ineffectually at Servalan’s fingers, then fumbled at her belt.

“I wouldn’t. All I have to do is increase the pressure just a little.” Servalan demonstrated and Dayna saw spots in front of her eyes. She sagged and Servalan dropped her, bent over, and whipped her weapons belt off.

Dayna finally figured it out. “You—you’re an android,” she croaked, “like that Vinni.”

“Yes, I am. And a most attractive one too,” ‘Servalan purred, and hit her efficiently and effectively over the head.

 

Dayna came around strapped to a chair to see two Servalans sitting across from her, one somewhat battered, and the other as well-groomed as ever.

“You caused a lot of damage to a very expensive item,” the original said. “I gave a lot of thought to your prey. Something from Sarran? Something rare, perhaps a Caldonian tiger? But then I thought of the perfect answer.” She smiled. “Perfect in every way.”

“You should be flattered, Dayna,” Avon’s voice said to her left. “She spent a lot of money to trap you.”

Dayna turned to see Avon looking as cool as ever, and Cally beyond him, looking rather anxious.

“Oh, I don’t knew,” Servalan said. “I shall have it repaired. I’m sure it will come in useful and it is such a beautiful thing.” She stroked the android’s cheek, and they smiled identical smiles.

You had Vinni made?” Dayna asked.

“Yes, and I was rather annoyed about his early demise. He was very advanced. He thought he was human, and in fact he could perform all the natural functions—” Servalan lowered her lashes at Avon, “—most adequately. A great pity he was destroyed after such a short period of...use.” Servalan sighed, then shrugged and picked up a glass of red wine. “Refreshments, anyone? But no, I see you are somewhat tied up.” She sipped delicately. “And now we wait for Tarrant. Or does anyone think Vila is more likely? No, I rather thought not.”

***

“—I’m going after her.”

Servalan! So it was a trap. Vila called Tarrant on the flight deck.

“Tarrant? Dayna said Servalan’s down there, and Avon and Cally are in that castle and I can’t get them ‘cause it’s shielded. I hope you’re looking out for pursuit ships.”

“I know my job, Vila. You keep to yours, and stay awake.”

Vila rolled his eyes. “Look, do we still wait an hour before doing something?”

“We? Are you volunteering to come down with me?” Tarrant sounded amused.

“Avon said one of us had to stay on board.”

“Oh, of course he did, Vila,” Tarrant said gravely. “All right, let’s wait a few minutes and see if Dayna calls back. You never know, she might succeed in bagging Servalan.”

Vila was struck by a sudden image of Servalan’s head mounted on a flight deck wall, and shuddered. Her glassy eyes would probably follow him around the room and give him nightmares. He blinked and shook his head. Concentrate, Vila. If Tarrant went down to the planet, he’d be left alone on the Liberator. And Servalan would have ships hidden somewhere in the area—what if she attacked then? And what if he had to try to rescue the others? Well, he had done before, but not all at the same time as dodging plasma bolts and trying to shoot back all by himself. Pity there was no-one else...

But then he remembered Blake had counted Zen as a crewmember right from the start. That made Orac one as well, and fair enough too. Despite what Avon said, Vila thought of them both as living beings, even though Zen never called himself ‘I’ and needed orders to act on. Orac didn’t, but according to Avon, he did have to obey an outright order. Hmm. With Orac to help, it might be possible to beat off an attack, at least until the force wall and neutron blasters drained the energy banks. Vila sighed. They all sneered at him for being a coward, but he hadn’t run back there at Ultraworld. And he wouldn’t this time, not with the others down there. Still, it didn’t stop him wishing he could get out of there, and as fast as possible.

Vila sat up straight and grinned. That was it! All he needed now was—

Tarrant interrupted his thoughts. “Vila, has Dayna called back yet?”

“No, but I’ll try to get her.” He flipped the bracelet circuit open. “Liberator to Dayna. Respond please.” Nothing. “Liberator to anyone?” Still nothing. “No-one’s answering, Tarrant.”

“All right. I’ll come through.”

When Tarrant appeared, he was carrying a gun and wearing a bracelet. “Staying up here waiting for something to happen is only wasting time,” he said, going to the teleport bay. “Put me down in the same place as the others.” He paused and looked at Vila suspiciously. “You don’t seem that worried. I thought you’d be having a fit of nerves by now.”

“I’ve been worried all along. After a while I get worry-overload.”

Tarrant grinned.

“Good luck,” Vila teleported him.

His explanation had some truth—you can only keep up a decent level of fear for a limited time—but he had always felt calmer when he had something challenging to do. He routed the teleport communications to the flight deck and, picking up Orac, headed there. Just as well Orac could operate the teleport from anywhere in the ship as he’d shown at Space City. “All right, listen, Orac,” he said, tying the computer securely to the table. “If a Liberator crew member, and only a Liberator crew member, calls for teleport, bring them up immediately. If anyone else appears, send them straight back. Now is that clear?”

“Your orders are surprisingly specific.”

So far, so good. Now for the rest. Vila would have to be very careful as Orac was a slippery bastard. Still, it helped if he thought of the conditions and matching orders as being like a complex lock, where everything had to be done in the right sequence or it would blow up in your face. “Uh, right. Now listen, Orac and Zen...”

***


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