by Nicola Mody
“Just what did you put in this, Vila? Ground glass?”
“Just the usual spices. Why? Tastes all right to me.”
“Well, my throat feels as if it’s been scoured by acid. If this is one of your jokes, you’ll live to regret it.” Avon took a drink of water and grimaced in pain.
Dayna and Tarrant put down their cutlery and looked at their curries suspiciously. Only Cally continued to eat.
“Oh now look, nothing but the best veges, spices and cream in that.”
“All the same, Vila.” Tarrant got up.
Dayna did too. “I wasn’t that hungry anyway.”
Vila looked at Cally.
“There is nothing wrong with it as far as I can tell,” Cally said, continuing to shovel it in, pausing only to pull Dayna’s plate a little closer.
“I’ll put the rest in the fridge for us then,” Vila said. “A good emergency snack for us.” He sighed. At least someone appreciated his cooking.
Vila appeared on the flight deck the next morning with less than his usual bounce. “You couldn’t let me have some adrenaline and soma, could you, Cally? My throat’s a bit scratchy and it might soothe it.”
“Got up in the night to get some ice-cream for it, but Avon must’ve scoffed the lot, and I know there was some caramel there yesterday. And some maple and walnut.” Vila looked resentful. “Hope those walnuts hurt on the way down.”
“Not you too, Vila.”
“Me too what?”
“Tarrant and Dayna have sore throats as well.”
“Yeah, if you did put something in that curry, Delta-boy,” Dayna growled, “I’ll pin your ears to the top of your head.”
“Oh come on, I’d hardly do it to myself, would I?”
“Not deliberately, no.” Tarrant looked thoughtful. “Perhaps Cally got your plate.”
“Stop it, the lot of you,” Cally said, exasperated. “You were all down on Sardos and you must have caught something there.”
“You mean a bug!” Vila looked alarmed. “I hate bugs.”
“I don’t suppose they’re that keen on you,” Dayna said.
Vila ignored her. “What is it?” he asked anxiously. “Casarus swamp fever? Fosforon plague?”
“I have consulted the medical computer. You all seem to have the symptoms of the common cold.”
“The what?” Avon came in.
Vila, relieved, took one look at him and grinned with delight. “Fancy you getting something common, Avon!”
Avon attempted to look supercilious but the effect was spoiled by his swollen red nose.
“There was no-one with a cold down there, Cally,” Tarrant said. “How did we catch it?”
“Apparently people are infectious before they show symptoms. You must have all come into very close contact with someone.”
“Oh.” Vila looked guilty, then elaborately casual.
“Ah.” Tarrant pretended to be fascinated by his monitor.
Avon narrowed his eyes at them both, then picked on the closest one. “Vila. Explaid.”
“Um, well, you know how I found Servalan all tied up?”
“Vila! You didn’t!” Dayna was appalled.
“No, of course I didn’t! I didn’t do anything! I just untied her, well, couldn’t leave her there like that, could I, place was full of psychopaths—”
“—and she was very grateful—”
“Oh, come on, I mean Servalan, well, she scares me.”
“And who doesn’t?”
“Now, look. I’d rather kiss a snake.” Vila looked embarrassed. “Thing is, she kissed me. Grabbed me and threw me on the ground and planted a good one.”
“I did put up a struggle.” Vila was beginning to enjoy himself now that he had everyone’s attention, a rare enough occurrence. “Which she might have misinterpreted as passion. She liked it a lot more than I did, honestly, it’s hard to get into the spirit of the thing when you’re terrified. Must’ve been good though ‘cause she came back for another one. In fact she might’ve gone a bit further if she hadn’t realised what was poking into her really was my gun.”
“Ah,” said Avon. “I did fide it puzzlig that she spared your life, worthless as it is.”
“Saved it three times, actually,” Vila said proudly.
Just as well they didn’t know about the e-mails he and Servalan had been exchanging for over a year. Or what she’d said. Why, Vila. Just as innocent and cheeky in the flesh. I should enjoy corrupting you. It gave him the willies just thinking about it, all that fright and delight at the same time.
“What about Tarrant?” he said, to take the heat off himself. “She could have killed him too, but she didn’t.”
“Yes,” Avon said, as silkily as he could manage, which wasn’t much. “What about Tarrad?”
Tarrant looked sulky, then flashed a dazzling smile at them. “What did you expect? Of course we kissed.”
“Tarrant!” Dayna leaped up and scowled at him ferociously.
“She was looking for her pilots in the compound, and when she saw me, she said it was an opportunity she couldn’t afford to pass up.” Tarrant leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, and grinned smugly at them all.
Best they didn’t know what she’d said. This is hello from your uncle Dev. Just passing it on in my own special way, dear boy. They wouldn’t like to know about his family connections, the only reason he thought he was still alive. Well, one of them anyway—that was one hell of a kiss, and it mightn’t have stopped there if there hadn’t been so many people milling around.
Tarrant and Vila looked at each other speculatively.
“You two make me sick.” Dayna turned her back and stalked off the flight deck.
Avon was livid with fury. He had assumed that Servalan's interest in him on Sarran had been an indication of her refined taste, but an idiot thief and a toothy flyboy? He vowed that the next time he saw Servalan he would leave her in no doubt of what she was missing.
“Still doesn’t explain how Avon got a cold, and before us too,” Vila said.
“Yes, what did you do, Avon?” Tarrant leaned on his console, his chin on his hand.
Dayna paused on her way out. “Avon ate an apple.”
Vila screwed up his face. “Is that some sort of euphemism I’m not getting?”
“Certaidly dot! It was a golded delicious,” Avon said with dignity.
Cally shook her head disapprovingly. “You obviously didn’t wash it first. Hygiene is most important, especially on outlying planets. Really, Avon.”