Shadow - NovelisationBy Murray Smith
Page 4 of 8
Cally returned to the Liberator's flight deck and found no one there. "Vila?
Vila?" she called, knowing that he was up to no good. "Zen, where is he? I
left him on watch."|
He is no longer on the ship.
"But he must be." Cally did not understand.
He teleported into the city with the assistance of the one called Orac.
"I forgot about Orac," was Cally's rueful reply. She inwardly cursed herself for not thinking about that computer.
The one called Orac is not concerned for the safety of the Liberator. Zen sounded critical, the first time Cally had heard him express anything like an emotion; but she had no time to ponder this phenomenon.
"Well, where is Orac then?" she impatiently demanded of Zen. "He's not in the teleport section; I just came from there."
In return for the remote activation of the teleport system, Vila conveyed the one called Orac to another part of the Liberator.
"Which part, where?"
"Be silent." It was Orac's voice, but with an unfamiliar intonation: curt, emphasising all the words, expecting that all of them would be obeyed by the listener. It was almost as if he had had some kind of new personality, or something or someone was using his voice to communicate. The flight deck and Zen went dark for a few seconds. The former's lights then came back on; but Zen's did not.
"Orac? Zen? Zen!" Cally was now extremely worried. She went over to the central console and opened a communications channel. "Vila, this is Cally. Come in please. Vila!"
Vila's voice sounded sleepy. "What do you want, Cally?"
"I want you back here. Get ready to teleport."
Vila was not interested. "Wasting your time, Cally. I'm not wearing a bracelet. I'm not going to be snatched away in the middle of...in the middle of anything. Sightseeing. And you should see some of the sights I'm seeing." He then reconsidered his former statement. "No. Perhaps you shouldn't."
He was probably right, thought Cally. Some of the advertisements were bad enough. If he wanted to stay there, he could at least tell her where to find the missing computer. "Where is Orac?" her face took on a determined look that would have frightened Vila had be been there to see it.
"Promised not to tell," Vila explained, as if to a child. "I never break a promise."
"Oh yes, you do." Cally realised much later that she had sounded like a child.
"Almost never. Orac's all right. He can't run away."
"Oh, you fool, Vila." Cally was inwardly seething at his inability to control his hormones.
Vila attempted to pacify her. "Stop worrying, Cally. I'll be back soon. Tell you what, I'll bring you back a present. What would you like, Cally? Name it and it's yours."
Cally glowered in reponse. "A necklace, Vila, made from your teeth!" she snapped. She closed the channel and began to leave the flight deck, determined to start the search for Orac. The starboard corridor in front of her darkened in response. "No," ordered Orac, again in that strange intonation.
"Orac?" Cally was now sure that something had taken over the computer. At least it makes a change from Jenna and me, she thought, promising to be amused by it much later.
"I will destroy the life support system if you attempt to find me," the computer's voice promised.
"Why are you doing this?" asked Cally, a question to which she received no reply.
In a compartment in Space City, Avon and Gan finished their examination of the door, the latter admitting defeat and speculating about their future. "I don't think even Vila could open that. I wonder what they'll do?"
"A pro keeps it simple." Avon recalled Largo's words. "I imagine they'll kill us. You can't get much simpler than that."
"Sorry, Avon." Gan apologised for his failure to rescue him and the others.
"That makes all the difference." Avon was not as critical as he could have been; Gan had been correct about it being a bad thing to deal with the Terra Nostra, if only on moral grounds.
"I don't know how they spotted me," Gan said ruefully.
"'I don't know how they spotted me.'" Bek mocked Gan's last remark, provoking Hanna to giggle. Both were sitting on the floor of the compartment; but they had made no earlier attempts to talk to the other two.
Avon went over to Hanna, and knelt by her. "Something amuses you?" he inquired.
Bek spoke scornfully for them both. "You were using him as a lookout? I mean, he'd really blend into the background, wouldn't he? What did you do, put up a sign?"
Avon changed the subject to him and his sister. "Is that what you did or is Largo keeping you here as a favour?"
"We made a fool of him," Hanna explained.
"That's why we haven't been killed yet. He's making an example of us." She smiled, almost with pride.
"Oh, shut up Hanna; it's none of their business." Bek rebuked his sister.
"Isn't it?" asked Gan. "I mean if they're making an example of you..."
"It's not for outsiders," cut in Bek. "You don't know much about the Terra Nostra, do you?"
"Do you?" retorted Avon, the obvious insinuation being, If you know so much, why are you here?
"Leave her alone," Bek defended his sister, then attempted to be polite, explaining their situation. "We are an object lesson for their own people. Largo's on his way up in the Organisation. One sign of weakness and he'll be on his way down again, probably minus his head."
"Now there's a happy thought," observed Gan.
Avon got to his feet. "It's a pity we won't live to see it," he added.
"We're not dead yet."
Avon gave an explanation for this. "Largo hasn't got what he wants yet."
On the Liberator's flight deck, the communicator chimed, followed by Blake's voice. "Liberator, this is Blake. Come in please." Cally moved to answer him. "Blake, this is Cally. We have a problem."
Blake cut her short. "Later, Cally, this is more important. We've made a deal but we need the rest of the money as a demonstration of good faith. They don't entirely trust us yet. Have...Zen collect it and bring it across."
Gan and Vila were right after all, thought Cally, who tried to buy some time. "All the money?"
"Yes, Cally, all of it," emphasised Blake, speaking into a teleport bracelet held by Largo.
The latter, correctly suspicious, turned to the enforcer. "Ah, it's a trick. Kill him." The enforcer raised his gun.
"Wait a minute," protested Blake. "Why do you think it's a trick?"
Largo was impatient. "You think I'm a fool. Zen can't leave your ship. Your shuttlecraft's here in the city."
"We carry more than one shuttle," Blake explained, glad that Largo had not bothered to check if they had come by shuttle in the first place.
"Four," repeated Largo, who then spoke into the bracelet. "Cally, this is Largo."
"Shall we send your shuttle back or one of ours?"
"Neither. It is not necessary." Cally tried to give an innocuous answer.
"We have another shuttle."
"Another shuttle. Quite a ship," observed Largo. "How many shuttles do you carry?"
"He's testing me," Cally said to herself, all too aware now that that if she got the test wrong people she cared about would die. "Probably too far away." She decided to use her telepathy despite misgivings, touching her forehead. "Blake, Blake, I shall count. When I reach the right number, call my name. One, two, three, four."
"Cally, are you still there?" asked Blake.
"Sorry, what did you ask?"
Largo intervened. "I was just wondering how many shuttles you carry."
"Four. Does it matter?"
Largo was satisfied with her answer. "We'll be expecting your man, Zen."
Largo closed the channel. "And he won't be expecting us." He then spoke to the enforcer. "We shan't be needing his other two friends after all. Kill 'em."
"What about her?" asked the enforcer, his gun now pointed at Jenna.
"We'll...keep her till we're sure."
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