Deadly ReflectionBy Kathy Hintze
Page 1 of 4
|Vila groaned and rolled over, right off the edge of the cell cot. He landed with a dull thud on the floor, much to someone's amusement.
"What's so funny?" Vila moaned, opening his eyes. They bulged in shock as he identified the culprit.
"You look surprised to see me, Vila," the man replied. A man who was the perfect mirror image of Vila.
"Surprised is hardly the word, Miles," Vila commented slowly, getting back up onto the cot. The thief brushed the hair back out of his eyes and winced. Gingerly, he felt the back of his head. Sure enough, his fingers encountered a rather sizeable lump. And that was not the only thing he noticed. While he was unconscious, someone had removed his clothes. The thief was now wearing standard Federation prison garb.
"That's right," Miles advised him. "You were slugged." He looked disgustedly at Vila. "You certainly have gotten sloppy, letting them take you that easily. Not like the old days."
"These are not the old days," Vila retorted irritably. "Now, brother dear, what is it you really want?" He gazed around the cell and spotted the camera immediately. "Or should I say what is it you want, Madame President?"
Miles frowned. His brother had not quite become the fool he'd been led to believe. "From you, Vila, we want nothing. You've already given us what we want."
"We? You've taken on a partner then?" Vila queried curiously, thinking back. The Liberator had received a message from Melvyrn's underground. From what they could make of it, the local planetary base was being used for one of Servalan's pet projects and Avon liked nothing better than destroying them. So he had sent Tarrant down to the planet to meet with the rebellion leader and secure information on the base. Vila went with him to take a look at a mock-up of the special security vault housing Servalan's new plaything. But their contact had been late and Tarrant had elected, despite orders to the contrary, to go looking for him with Vila remaining at the rendezvous point in case the man showed. What about Tarrant? Vila wondered suddenly. Had they captured him too?
"I mean my employer," Miles continued. "The Federation has been waiting for a chance to catch you and your companions. And now you've provided them with one: an excellent one.
"It's been tried before," Vila advised him. He closed his eyes momentarily as a stab of pain swept through his head. When he re-opened them, Miles was sitting beside him.
"It's been tried before." Miles imitated his voice perfectly; so perfectly that Vila blinked.
"So that's it! That's the reason for taking my clothes and all this," Vila exclaimed. "You mean to take my place and...."
"Capture your friends and take control of the Liberator," Miles finished for him with a wicked smile.
"And you think I'm dumb!" Vila told him. "Avon will know the minute you come on board. You don't know the layout of the ship, where to go, anything." The thief didn't mention the fact that Zen would also know he was an imposter. Everyone's voice pattern had been registered with the computer as a precaution against such things. The first time Miles tried anything, Zen would alert the others. But Vila saw no reason to give that information to Servalan.
"You forget, dear brother, we're identical. In every way. I think I know you well enough that for the short period of time necessary, not even you would know the difference. As for finding my way around, I'll just stick close to your friends."
"Miles, you're crazy," Vila warned him.
"Hardly," his brother countered, standing up. "I can walk out of here free and easy. While you...." Miles gave him a pitying look. "You really should have taken up a more honorable profession, Vila. Thievery is so...so petty."
"And being an assassin is such a grand thing?" Vila challenged. "You actually enjoy murdering people, don't you, Miles? No matter what the reason, you've always enjoyed killing."
"Killing is such an ugly word, Vila," Miles replied with a smile. "I prefer 'elimination.' It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" He glanced up and noticed that a small light was flashing beneath the camera. He gave a brief nod and the blinking ceased. "Now I have to run along, Vila. It would not do to keep your friend, Tarrant, waiting." He walked to the door, stopped and turned around, a sudden cold, menacing look on his face which sent a shiver down Vila's spine. "I will see you later, brother," Miles advised, then left the room.
"Not if I can help it," Vila muttered softly to himself and tried to think of a way to get out of the cell and warn the others.
"Vila, where the hell have you been?" Tarrant exclaimed angrily, stepping from behind a large tree and grabbing the other man by the arm as he walked past.
Miles, with his honed instincts, had sensed Tarrant's presence and knew exactly how to react. He flinched. "When you didn't come back, I went looking," the bogus thief stammered in reply. "I thought you'd been caught."
"Never mind," Tarrant snapped. "Avon's furious." He activated his bracelet. "All right, Dayna, I found him. Bring us up."
From her hiding place a short distance off, Servalan smiled. Shortly Avon and his band of malcontents would be eliminated and the fastest starship in the Universe would be hers to command. The Presidency was already in her grasp. Presidency? Such a masculine sounding title. Why not Empress? That sounded better. Soon, she would be Empress Servalan I, ruler of the Universe. Provided, she cautioned herself, that Miles was able to pull off his masquerade.
She laughed quietly and walked back to her waiting vehicle.
Vila stood in the center of the flight deck, his head down, by all appearances bearing up as best as he could with the torrent of angry remarks being flung at him by Avon. When the computer expert had finished, Miles retired to a nearby couch to bide his time.
'Why does that fool Vila put up with such a man?' the assassin wondered, staring down at his hands. 'The first time Avon said something like that to me, I would have killed him. Then again,' Miles reminded himself, 'Vila has always been a coward, even as a child.'
"Vila, are you all right?" The voice was soft and gentle. Miles looked up and saw a dark-haired woman standing in front of him. He identified her from his Federation briefing as the alien known as Cally.
"Yes," he sighed, returning his eyes to his hands.
Vila certainly did not look all right to Cally. She sat down next to him and put an arm about his shoulders in comfort. He tensed ever so slightly and Cally wondered at it. Did he think she would hurt him?
"Avon did not mean what he said," she soothed. "You know how he is."
"I sometimes wonder," Miles replied, hoping it was the right thing to say.
It was, for now Cally sighed. "We've contacted the underground and they've set up another meeting." She hugged him again, this time he seemed to relax. "Avon will need you to get into the base, Vila."
"I know," the imposter murmured. "I know."
The meeting with the underground went off without a flaw and the necessary information on the complex was delivered safely into Avon's hands. He and Tarrant went down this time, insuring there would be no more fiascos such as before.
"Orac has set the co-ordinates to teleport us down within a short distance of our objective. From all available data, the base has only a small security force on duty," Avon explained. "Servalan apparently does not want to attract too much attention to it and that makes me wonder why."
"Who else is going down besides you and Vila?" Dayna inquired.
"Why?" Avon asked, curiously. "Are you volunteering?"
Dayna smiled. "I had ship watch last time, remember? I'd appreciate some action for a change."
Avon nodded with a slight smile crossing his lips. "This time, we all go."
"All of us? Tarrant was plainly surprised. "That's a bit of a risk, isn't it"?"
Avon looked at him challengingly. "What's the matter, Tarrant? I thought you were tired of running and wanted a little action?"
"That's not the point, and you know it, Avon," Tarrant snapped back. "We need someone up here to run the teleport in case there's trouble."
"We have someone up here as you put it," Avon countered. "Orac is a good deal more reliable that a human being." He glanced at Cally and knew there would be no argument from her. His eyes traveled on to Vila. "Any more complaints?" he asked, waiting for Vila's usual outburst.
Only there wasn't any. Instead, Vila got to his feet and said, "All right, let's get this over with."
The others glanced at him strangely, then headed for the teleport. And Miles felt a little uneasy. Had he betrayed himself somehow?
//Vila.// A voice suddenly spoke in Miles' mind and he jumped. //Vila, are you sure you're all right?//
"I'm fine, Cally," Miles answered. He'd forgotten she was telepathic. "I just want to get this over with and get out of here."
She smiled reassuringly. That sounded more like Vila. //Don't worry. Everything will soon be all right.//
Orac's teleport coordinates deposited them in a dimly lit storeroom just off the main corridor, a scant 50 feet from their objective.
"Vila, get the door open," Avon whispered. The imposter nodded and moved to obey. The door was not locked, but Miles pretended it was. Even if it had been locked, he could have opened it. There were many things an assassin had to learn in his profession, opening locked doors not the least among them.
"It's open, Avon," he whispered and stepped back into the shadows, drawing his weapon as he did so.
"Then let's get going," Tarrant said and opened the door. He stepped out right in line for a trooper's stun gun and dropped without a sound to the floor. Dayna yelled a warning and tried to drag the pilot back inside; then she was felled from behind. Avon whirled, his gun in hand, and saw Cally sliding limply to the floor.
He turned in response to his name just in time to see Vila smile coldly and fire.
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