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Mistaken Identities

By Nicola Mody
Page 2 of 3

Vila looked thoughtful. "He might really be hot. Vila's always felt the cold and I don't."

Jenna grinned. "That makes sense, I mean, I always thought you looked—"

"Stop while you're ahead, Vila."

Jenna put her head on one side. "And you know, from here I don't look bad, either. In fact, I think I'm rather cute." She sauntered over to Vila and ruffled his hair playfully.

Vila pulled his head away. "Don’t."

"Why not?"

"I don't care if it's your hair, I'm wearing it. Speaking of which," Vila looked sideways at Jenna. "I have to say, that outfit looks good on me. At least it would if you weren't slouching. Stand up straight and turn around." He smiled at Jenna's rear view. "Yes, nice fit if I say so myself."

Jenna put her hands on her hips and gave a little wriggle.

Vila sighed. "Put that back in its seat, Vila. It's wasted on me."

Jenna sat down, muttering to herself, "It's wasted on everyone around here except me."

"What was that, Vila?"

"Nothing," Jenna said hastily.

"Information," Orac said dolefully. "Three Federation pursuit ships detected."

"Can we take evasive action?" Avon demanded.

"Negative. Maximum speed at this time is standard by three."

"Two hundred spacials and getting closer," Gan said. "They've detected us."

"Of course they have," Jenna grumbled, hands hovering over the weapons controls. She looked up, eyes wide with worry. "Plasma bolt launched."

Avon stood, legs apart, hands on hips, and eyes on the display which now showed the approaching ships. "Return fire, Vila!"

Jenna zeroed in on the nearest ship, dropped the force-wall briefly and hit the flank neutron blasters. "Got him!" Her fingers flew over the controls. "Missed us!" She fired again. "Hah! But I didn’t, and what's more, I won't miss you either."

"The third one's getting away," Cally said.

"Out of range." Jenna leaned back in her seat, reaction setting in. "That was close. I think I need a drink."

"No, you don't," Vila said severely. "I want that body back in working order."

"Damn!" Avon paced the deck. "That ship will be back with more. Zen, Orac, whoever you are, take us out of here at standard by ten."

"Negative," Orac said. "The recent use of the force wall and neutron blasters has further depleted energy reserves. Maximum speed is standard by three."

"Very well—"

"No, Blake!" Blake got up and went down to stand in front of Avon, "We need to remain here to recharge as quickly as possible. What is more, we need full power reserves to engage the antimatter drive again, and to reverse what has happened to us, we shall have to retrace our route through that energy nexus exactly."

"You don't know that!"

Blake tried to raise just one eyebrow and failed, to his brief annoyance. "Orac?"

Zen's fascia lit up. "What is it now? These are most fascinating phenomena, both that of my translation to another location, and the behaviour of the crew. They require study. I haven't time for your petty—"

"Orac, am I correct?"

"You are," Zen said sulkily. "And now, I—"

"And the remaining recharge time?"

"That is not my area. Ask Zen."

"Information," Orac said obediently. "Time remaining until full power is restored is now six point four nine hours."

"And until then we're helpless." Avon resumed pacing.

"Not quite." Blake sat down on the couch and spread his arms along the top, smiling up at Avon, who stopped in front of him and looked at him.

"Oh?"

"We do have some advantages."

"Yes?"

"Six, to be precise."

Avon narrowed his eyes. "You have a plan?"

"Oh, yes." Blake looked smug.

"Are you going to let the rest of us in on it?"

"Well now. All you had to do was ask."

***

On the Federation heavy cruiser Vindictive, Supreme Commander Servalan smiled. The Liberator was just where it was reported to be; it was obviously in some sort of trouble. She feasted her eyes on its elegant lines. Whoever had built the ship soon to be hers had a sense of aesthetics sadly lacking at Space Fleet. "Hail them, Travis."

"This is Space Commander Travis calling the Liberator on open channel."

Blake's face appeared on the screen. "This is the Liberator. Put your employer on. I dislike dealing with flunkies."

Travis flushed angrily, but swung the screen towards Servalan.

"Hello, Servalan. I thought you'd turn up."

"Blake." Servalan's smile widened. "Having a little trouble?"

"Not at all."

"You soon will be."

"I think not."

Servalan dispensed with her smile. "You are obviously disabled or low on power. You will allow us to board, or we shall fire on you until your shields fail. Followed very quickly by your life support."

"Ah, but that cuts both ways, Servalan. Your ships are not built for these conditions; the Liberator is. You'll cook long before our shields go down."

Servalan briefly compressed her lips with annoyance at the failure of her bluff. Damn the man for knowing that. No matter. "Very well," she purred, "try this. The Fifth Legion has surrounded this star in a sphere 16 million spacials in radius. Do feel free to check."

Blake raised his eyebrows and turned to his motley crew, visible at their positions behind him. "Long range sensors, Gan." He looked down quickly at the controls beside him, then back at Servalan, faintly amused. "I'm flattered."

Unwilling to be outplayed, Servalan inclined her head gracefully. "It is only your due." Her voice hardened. "You're trapped. Allow us to board and take possession, and I may be lenient."

"On one condition."

"Name it."

"Let the crew go free."

"Done." Servalan bestowed her most charming and insincere smile on Blake, and was disconcerted to receive a very similar one in return.

"I shall want your word as a Federation officer." Blake narrowed his eyes. "In return, you may have me and the Liberator—once the others have been put down, alive and healthy, on a habitable and inhabited planet well outside the Federation's borders."

"Very well." Travis raised a hand in protest, and Servalan quelled him with a look. "The crew hardly matters, Travis," she said. "Not compared to that ship and the technology it contains. And Blake of course—" she turned back to the screen with a wide smile, "—to mindwipe and publicly parade as a good little citizen."

She was interested to note that although Blake seemed unmoved by her threats, Avon growled low in his throat and half-rose from his seat. So Avon cared about what happened to Blake. Now, that was an interesting little fact to store away in case it came in useful.

"Meet me at the docking bay, Blake, and have the crew waiting on the flight-deck." Servalan closed the channel and stood up. "Assemble a salvage crew, Travis. Oh, and put that arm on low power, would you? I should like live trophies."

***

Blake was waiting just inside the airlock, leaning nonchalantly against a bulkhead. "I'd welcome you, but that would be considerably less than the truth."

Servalan regarded him suspiciously. "Put your hands on your head."

Blake complied, almost mockingly.

"Where is the crew?"

"On the flight-deck, as you specified."

"Very well." Servalan swept her eyes over her people: Travis, the pilot Golder, gunner Rossi, and four troopers. "Keep an eye on him, all of you."

Travis gave her a glowering look, then decided it was merely a figure of speech.

"Lead on," Servalan said, waving a graceful hand at Blake.

"Before I do, a word to the wise. Do look after the crew. Orac and Zen are programmed to obey only their commands, and should they be hurt, killed, or put off the ship early, Zen's automatic defences will be activated. You do know about those from the reports submitted by the London, I assume?"

Servalan did. "And if your conditions are met?"

"Then I will turn the ship and computers over to your command as promised."

Once again she could see a flash of amusement in Blake's eyes as he turned to lead the way to the flight-deck. Frowning, she followed. She would have to be very careful.

 

The crew were sitting meekly at their positions.

"Stand up, all of you, hands on heads," Travis ordered. "And get down here where I can see you."

They did so, shuffling miserably with their eyes down.

"Wonderful. Takes me back to the London, this does," Jenna muttered, subsiding at a swift kick from Cally.

"Guards, cuff them and lock them away," Servalan said. "No, not that one." She pointed to Vila. "Vila is quite capable of escaping, and he will be useful here." She beckoned him over. "He will be much more amenable then the others in any case. Vila will show us around, won't you, Vila? Oh, dear. Cat got your tongue?"

Vila glared at her.

"I should hate to see you hurt, Vila."

Servalan patted his cheek, and Vila's eyes flashed with what looked like fury, but must have been fear, for he then cringed. "All right, all right, whatever you say. I'm fragile you know. I bruise easily."

"Oh, come on!" Jenna said indignantly. "I'm not that ba—"

Cally kicked her again.

"Take them away." Curiously, Servalan watched them leave, escorted by two armed troopers. Cally and Jenna seemed surprisingly graceless, and unlike most large men (despite the conventions of popular fiction) Gan looked oddly light on his feet. She shrugged and turned back to Vila. "Can you fly the ship?"

Vila said nothing, but Blake answered for him. "We all can. And despite what you may have heard about Vila, he's much cleverer than he would have people believe."

"I have read his file. Break orbit, Vila. And Golder, watch what he does."

"I can't." Vila stayed where he was, armed folded and a truculent expression on his face. "Our power is still too low."

Servalan narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. "Show Golder the energy readings."

Vila shrugged, went to the central position, and displayed some data which satisfied Servalan's pilot, who nodded at her.

"Very well." Servalan sat down on the couch and crossed her legs gracefully. "You will execute some manoeuvres in the local area to demonstrate the controls."


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