Moonlight and VodkaBy Kathryn Andersen
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|Fix me a drink, make it a strong one|
Hey, comrade, a drink, make it a long one
My hands are shaking and my feet are numb
My head is aching and the bar's going round
And I'm so down, in this foriegn town.
Vila shivered uncomfortably as he sat reluctantly next to an off-duty trooper at the bar. He ordered a drink and sipped it moodily.
It was a mild night on Fingal - the icicles were actually dripping. Business was slow at the Growling Pig; a few off-duty troopers from the biological research station and a number of regulars drinking off the chill. The dimness intended to create a cosy atmosphere was happily relieved by the full moon outside. Dreary piped music did not alleviate the feeling that the Pig, however it growled, resided in a dank, dripping cave. However, the Growling Pig's near monopoly of good hard drinks assured that it did not go out of business.
"It's all right for them," Vila thought. "They're up there in the warm. They're not the ones who have to steal passes and identity papers, and risk getting hauled off..." He checked his teleport bracelet - yes, it was still there. No good trying to use it in the bar, of course. Last thing he wanted to do was attract attention of the wrong kind.
Announcing new customers better than any bell, a blast of freezing air blew in from the opening door - at least it was fresher than the underground smog they were breathing inside. A man entered hurriedly, trying to escape the icy bite of the wind. The newcomer was quite tall, with curly brown hair. He wore a serviceable cloak - practicality ruled, not glamour.
Miserably cold would not be the only words to describe Vila on that entrance. If he could have, he would have calculated wind-chill factors to reproach the others (and most especially Tarrant) when he got back, but he had never been mathematically inclined - apart from the mathematics of modern lock-picking, that is. He took another draught of his drink.
"Not bad," he thought. "Bartender, what's in this House Special?" he inquired conversationally.
The bartender looked as offended as a French Chef would be if asked for his recipe for `beouf et champignion de les allemands' but managed to reduce his retaliation to the cold retort: "If I told you that, it wouldn't be special, would it?"
"Uh, no, I suppose not," Vila spluttered. "Well, another one, of whatever it is..." he continued, smiling weakly. After all, he ought to be getting into the spirit of the thing - if you have to act drunk, you have to drink a little first, don't you? Still, he didn't have to like it. Well, he didn't have to say he liked it... Even if they had said he was indispensable - well, some of them had... one of them had? Tarrant didn't trust him, eh? That curly-headed, egotistical, bullying ex-Federation Space Captain - he wasn't going to think about Tarrant. Do NOT think about Tarrant. Do not even DREAM about Tarrant! (Or should I say nightmare?) Think of something more pleasant instead...
"Another Special," he called.
As the drink plopped down on the dully worn bar top, Vila looked up. A different man was giving him the drink.
"Don't mind old Ted," the man said in a friendly fashion, "the Special's his own baby - wouldn't tell his own grandmother - she told him!" The man gave him a conspiratorial nod, "but one thing I do know - it's got Vodka in it."
"Vodka ?" Vila queried, taking a sip.
"Very old Terran drink - I think we might even have an old-calendar song about it somewhere..." the assistant continued happily, "passed down in the family, along with the recipe, I reckon. I'll see if I can find it..."
Before Vila could tell him not to bother, the man was off. Vila reflected, wondering what off Earth could make a human being so congenial. Maybe he was merely a music lover.
Vila shrugged and took another gulp of his rapidly-diminishing drink.
Tonight there's a band, it ain't such a bad one
Moonlight and Vodka, takes me away
The assistant's handiwork was very soon noticed as a crackling ancient recording came over the air, singing replacing the dull music. It had none of the pristine sharpness which marked the standard memory cube - more like a transfer from the old-fashioned laser-disk. Perhaps the man was right, and it was old-calendar. None of the patrons particularly seemed to care, being engaged in the serious task of drinking, save for the cloaked man, who appeared to be more interested in observation.
This should, perhaps, have prepared him for Vila's staggering progress away from the bar, having finally decided it was time for him to get on with the job. Though the man viewed this with contempt, he was taken by surprise when Vila stumbled and practically fell over him.
"Sorry," Vila mumbled, but appeared as if he would have said the same thing had the cloaked man been a lamp-post. Vila had definitely succeeded in not thinking about Tarrant.
Looking as though he would rather have kicked him into the street, the curly-headed man nevertheless engaged in pro-social behaviour (as the psychotechs would term it) and helped Vila out the door.
The stars outside winked obliviously in the night sky. The full moon smirked unmercifully down at Vila as he tumbled to the ground when the tall man withdrew his support.
The icy wet surface shocked Vila into a semblance of consciousness. "Bring me up," he murmured into his bracelet.
The tall cloaked man had not yet turned away when Vila disappeared: molecule by molecule, brightly sparking away into infinity - or perhaps not quite so far. The tall man stood, starting at the spot where the apparently inebriated Vila had been but a moment before. He paused, stunned, then set off with purposeful strides to the biological research station.
Espionage is a serious business
Moonlight and vodka, takes me away,
"Look, sir," the cloaked man was saying to the doorman on duty, "the man disappeared - I'm telling you the truth !" He was a study in frustrated altruism, well, as altruistic as one can get while furled in a cloak and pacing against the chill.
"Had a drop too much, I reckon," the doorman said, unmoved. "Let's see your identification."
The man felt about under his cloak, attempting to comply but - "It's gone !" he cried,
"He must've stolen it when he fell on top of me. You've got to do something! There's a man wandering around committing terrible crimes in my name! And I am NOT drunk!" he added.
"All right, all right, don't fret," the doorman said amicably. He was a native of Fingal, and thus more easy-going than an outsider would have been. He also had the constitution of the legendary Eskimo, and didn't seem to mind the barely-above-freezing wind that was melting the ice into dirty puddles. "I'll check if there've been any other reports..."
"But there WON'T be any other reports!" the curly-haired man exclaimed, stamping his foot and inadvertently sending a splash in the doorman's direction. "It's too late by now! They've probably been and done it already! If they can disappear, they can reappear - right inside this research station! How would you like that, then?"
"The security is faultless," came the reply. "There are force-screens that prevent any kind of beam-penetration -"
"Then you can't know if everything is all right, not if you can't talk -" the cloaked man interrupted, "I bet your friends inside are all knocked out or dead - and you'll take the blame - All because you didn't listen to me!"
"Very well, I'll prove to you that everything is fine!" the doorman replied with irritation, giving in as much to ease his nagging suspicion as to humour his bothersome visitor. He'd never liked it when put the new system in. He opened the security door...
And didn't know what hit him. That cloak was serviceable - very serviceable for concealing a hand-gun...
Tarrant spoke into his bracelet, "Put Avon down, Dayna - I managed without Vila's talents..."
Which just goes to show - you shouldn't believe everything you hear...
(The song "Moonlight and Vodka" was written by Chris de Burgh, and is on the album "Man on the Line")
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