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Mistaken Identities

By Nicola Mody
Page 3 of 3

Vila smiled. "My pleasure."

***

"Just like last time," Cally said. "Remember, Jenna?"

"I'm not Jenna," said Jenna, working a probe loose from a tunic pocket. "And for another thing, this time I'm going to be the first one free instead of the last. You know how much fun it was taking that damned Amagon collar off looking in a mirror? Just about went cross-eyed." She unlocked her handcuffs with a flourish. "Call that a restraint? They should be ashamed of themselves."

Avon smiled. "All right, Vila, we know you're a genius," he said mildly. "I'm next. And do be quick about it."

Jenna sighed. "Form an orderly queue."

***

"...and for an Immelman roll, this is what you do."

"Oh, very nice." Golder watched Vila's actions intently as the starfield shown on the wall display rotated.

"Now you try." Vila stood up and Golder took his place. "I'll just show Rossi how to target the neutron blasters during evasive manoeuvres." He quickly pointed out the basic controls to Servalan's gunner. "Would you like to pick a target? There's a legion of them. Do you have any ships you'd like decommissioned?"

Rossi laughed, then sobered at a look from Servalan.

"They're out of range anyway. Just fire at one of the moons." Vila stood back unobtrusively as Golder and Rossi put the Liberator through its paces, watched avidly by Travis.

***

"The door's unlocked." Jenna grinned and blew on her fingernails. "Three seconds flat. Bit better than half an hour, wouldn't you say?"

Avon laughed. "Just as well the real Avon isn't here to take umbrage."

"Not that he needs any; he's got plenty of it already." Jenna stood aside, and bowed ironically. "After you."

"You're too kind, Vila." Avon looked at the others. "Ready?"

Gan bent to pull a knife from Cally's boot. "Yes."

Avon swung the door open and he, Cally and Gan rushed out. Avon and Cally took the guard to the left of the door, Gan the one to the right. Gan's great fist floored the man, then he raised his knife for the kill and froze, his eyes rolling up. "Ow, my head!"

Cally pushed in front and smiled at the groggy trooper. "He has a limiter. I don't. I can do what I like and I'm looking forward to it," she said conversationally. The man hastily raised his hands in surrender.

"Vila, cuff them," Avon said.

Jenna poked her head cautiously round the door and emerged with the handcuffs. "All right, face each other," she said. "Hold hands nicely like good little troopers. There. Now don't fight over who wants to lead."

***

Vila had edged back behind Travis, who was still intent on the Liberator's controls. He moved slightly onto the balls of his feet, ready for action.

"Now!" yelled Avon.

Vila chopped Travis on the back of his neck, dropping him, whirled to kick Golder off his seat, ducked down and grabbed the gun taped under it, and came up with it aimed at Rossi, who was half out of his chair, reaching for his own gun. "I wouldn't," Vila said, jerking his head towards the entrance.

The rest of the crew stood there, handguns levelled at the boarding party, Jenna's a trifle unsteadily. Rossi sighed and raised his hands.

Servalan jumped up, white with fury. "How did they get out?"

"One of us has hidden talents," Avon said. "Drop your guns, all of you, and get down on the lower deck. Cally and Gan, cover them."

Servalan ignored the order and sat back down with as much dignity as she could muster, smoothing her white gown over her thighs. Blake sat down beside her and bestowed an icy smile on her.

"What about Travis?" Vila stirred the unconscious body with his foot.

"Disarm him." Blake said.

"But he doesn't have a gun."

Blake sighed. "Literally, Vila." When Vila just looked at him, he remembered that he did not possess his usual delicate touch. "Squeamish, are you? All right, Jenna, you do it."

Jenna approached nervously. "You sure he's out?"

"Like a light." Vila smirked as he reclaimed the pilot's seat.

"Wish he had an off-switch like one, just so I could make sure," Jenna grumbled, taking out her tools.

"And now," Avon touched his gun to Servalan's head and turned on the comms in front of her, "you will inform the Fifth Legion that we are about to leave as planned, and order them to clear a path for us, on the bearing shown on the board. Your own ship will accompany us as escort." He stepped back so that he was out of view. "When you've done that, order them to dock for an exchange of personnel."

Servalan looked at his levelled gun and that of Vila, pursed her lips, then obeyed.

Avon turned off the comms. "All right, break orbit. Nice and slow, standard by three."

As Vila started the Liberator slowly turning towards the break in the Federation cordon, Jenna stood up with Travis's arm held fastidiously out at arms-length. "What do I do with this thing?"

"Give it here," Blake said. Jenna brought it down to him and dropped it in his lap with a shudder. He immediately took out a laser probe of his own and began to poke at the relays. "Hmm. Interesting."

"Right." Avon clapped his hands. "Get our unwelcome visitors to the airlocks. As soon as they're on that cruiser, we leave."

Jenna slipped out, muttering something about collecting her waltzing Matildas.

Blake looked up from his investigation of the laseron weapon. "Your bleeding heart will be the death of us one day," he said coldly. "Why not just space them?"

"That is not my way," Avon said stiffly.

"No, you seem hell-bent on being the honourable vidshow hero who never shoots the enemy when he has the chance." Blake suddenly caught sight of Travis getting to his feet behind Vila, his one fist raised to punch him. He lifted Travis's arm and fired; Travis screamed and fell back, his face a mass of burns. "I on the other hand, am not."

"Oh, good shot," Avon said. "At least, I assume you were aiming for his head this time?"

"Yes, but the damned thing seems to on a low power-setting."

"'Armless, is it?" Jenna was back with two embarrassed-looking troopers in tow.

Blake gave her a withering look and removed the power pack. "It is now." He handed the weapon to Servalan. "Take that with you, and don't forget its owner. In polite society it's always good manners to clean up after yourself."

***

As soon she reached the Vindictive's bridge, Servalan screamed, "Fire! Destroy them!"

"They've gone, Supreme Commander. Time distort twenty at a guess."

"But they could only do... They tricked us!" Servalan sank into the command chair. She could have sworn she had the upper hand, but none of them had behaved quite the way the psychostrategist reports had predicted. It was most puzzling.

"I'll get Blake for this," Travis croaked through his ruined lips.

"So will I."

"No...he's mine."

Servalan winced. "Oh, do shut up, Travis. You sound most unattractive, as indeed you are. Someone take him to medical. And you—" she turned to the comms officer, "—put in a call to Chenga. He will need extensive skin grafts. Oh, and ask about an eye."

***

"You sure this is going to work?" Jenna said nervously. "I hate to think where I'll end up if it doesn't."

"I can't imagine why you're worried." Blake flashed a brilliant smile at her. "Anywhere would be better than where you started."

Jenna looked hurt. "Not to me it wouldn't. I mean, a change is as good as a holiday, but there's no place like home. I'm used to me."

"As are we all."

Jenna looked at him doubtfully, wondering how to take it. It probably meant they were all attached to their own bodies, if not literally at present, but then again, Blake had that warm look Avon sometimes got in his eyes. She smiled back at him.

"Orac assures us it will work," Blake said, more gently.

Avon looked up from his station. "Right. We're in position, Jenna. Do it."

Vila pressed the button.

***

"There's a message back from Chenga, Supreme Commander. They've got a special on complete face transplants this week. They said it's quicker than a face and neck skin graft, and they'll throw in new vocal cords at a discount."

"And the eye?"

"Almost doubles the price because of the demand, and they only sell them in pairs."

Servalan tapped her finger to her cheek. "I think not, then." As it was, it was hard getting her clothing expenses past the Space Fleet accountants. "Accept the face deal and see if they'll knock ten percent off for prompt payment. And charge it to my equipment running expenses account."

***

Everyone blinked, looked down at themselves, and heaved a collective sigh of relief. Except for one.

"Vila!" shouted Vila.

The crew tensed and stared at each other, speculatively. Which one was Vila?

"Vila!" Vila said happily, and flung his arms around himself. "I missed you, Vila. Oh, did you, Vila? I missed you too!"

Avon's lips twitched as he tried to hide a smile "I'm glad you're pleased. No one else would be."

Blake strode down to the lower level. "Zen, resume our previous course, standard by seven." He contemplated his fist and took a big satisfied bite of knuckle. Vila was right; it was good to be back. He looked at Avon, who was on the couch regarding his own fingernails with an affronted expression, and up at the rest of his crew. "Right, get to your correct places, everyone."

"Already am," Vila said. "Oh, see what you mean."

As he and Jenna passed each other, she said softly, "You're not all that bad, Vila."

"Oh?" Vila's face lit up. "Look, you think—"

"Don't push it." Jenna frowned and removed several tools from inside her tunic. "Yours, I believe?"

Vila took them and held them, feeling her warmth on them. He looked at her looking at Blake and sighed. Well, he wouldn't want to be wanted just for his body anyway.


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