Demon in a BottleBy Alicia Ann Fox
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|Scorpio jerked from side to side like a badly-handled marionette as the defense systems of Gauda Prime reacted against it. Several times the ship spun around its central axis, proving indubitably to its crew that the artificial gravity was a wreck.|
The shaking grew worse as they plunged through the atmosphere and bits of hardware joined the crew in being tossed about the tiny flight deck. "We'll have to teleport," called Avon, diving aside so as not to be hit by a large piece of debris. There was a yelp from Vila as it hit a glancing blow on his skull.
"No time," shouted Tarrant. "We're about to crash--hold tight--"
Crash they did, fractionally cushioned by the dense trees. Scorpio landed on its belly, scraping away large amounts of dirt as it skidded to a stop. The occupants felt as if they had landed on their stomachs and been booted a few extra feet as well.
Tarrant attempted humor. "Can we walk away from this one?"
Soolin looked at him strangely, not understanding the joke.
"Any landing you can walk away from is a good one," the pilot elucidated. He got up to demonstrate and promptly fell flat on his face.
"It wasn't a good landing," decided Soolin, climbing to her feet. Dayna got up also, somewhat shakily, and made her way over to Avon and Vila. Vila was still unconscious, but Avon had looked at the lump on his head and decided it was not serious.
Tarrant reached a hand and Soolin helped him up. "What next?"
"We go Blake hunting," Dayna said cheerfully. "Do you have any idea where to look, Avon?"
"Orac will find him. We must get away from here first, though. We probably attracted a lot of attention." His eyes were running over the consoles and Slave. "Unless we get a new housing from somewhere, Slave is useless." He checked his gun and headed for the hatch. "Bring Vila."
They made camp less than one-half mile away, as Vila was heavy and beginning to squirm, showing signs of revival. It was already dark, and the tiny campfire they had built, mostly shielded in a cleft of rock, was companionable.
Vila's eyes flew open and he sat up with a jerk, an agonized look on his face. "Avon!"
"What?" asked Avon reasonably, dumping a mound of twigs out of his jacket. He had been using it as a sack.
"Avon, you survived!"
"Did you think anything would have dared land on his head?" Dayna asked.
"Dayna!" Vila's head swiveled, then he clutched it and moaned. "I think I've broken my skull."
"No, you haven't," said Soolin practically.
Vila ignored her. "You're all alive. Where's Blake?"
"Orac is working on it," answered Tarrant, poking at the fire with a stick.
"We haven't found Blake yet."
"I should hate to think he'd been around and we'd missed him," said Dayna. "We crashed in Scorpio and set up camp to wait for Orac to give us the coordinates."
"It was a dream. All a dream."
"What sort of dream?" Soolin asked.
"You don't want to know..." Vila said grimly. "Avon." He did not look at the other man as he spoke. "You owe me a favor."
"Do I?" Avon was staring at Orac.
"Yes. You do remember."
"I--suppose you could be right." The others exchanged looks of shock. "What do you want?"
"When you see Blake--give him a chance to explain. Don't listen to anyone else. Just him."
"I had planned on that." Avon was sarcastic.
"Promise," Vila insisted.
"That's your favor."
Avon sighed. "All right. I promise."
"Thanks." Maybe this time it would all come out right. Vila then pulled his flask from an inner pocket and tossed it into the bushes.
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