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Cold Comfort

By Nicola Mody
Page 2 of 3

A muffled explosion almost made Vila drop his adrenaline and soma. “What was that?”

“Zed! Scadders!” Avon snapped.

Zen remained silent.

“Log rage scadders!”

“I don’t think he understands.” Vila, still clutching his glass, made for the weapons station. “Zen, force wall up and scan for hostile ships.”

“Confirmed.”

Vila drained his glass with one hand as he powered up the neutron blasters with the other.

“Sorry,” Dayna said, coming in. “That was me. I sneezed.”

“I’m amazed you didn’t blow your brains out your nose then,” Vila said, impressed. “Loudest one I ever heard.”

“I dropped a grenade I was working on.” Dayna threw herself onto the couch. “I feel terrible. Has Orac come up with a cure yet?”

“If he has,” Avon said, “we’ll bake a fortude. There is doe cure.”

“Avon is right, but we can treat the symptoms,” Cally said, bringing in a tray of vials and syringes. “This will make you feel much better, but you will have to get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids.”

Vila brightened. There could be compensations.

“Avon, you first.” Cally worked her way around the flight deck, injecting each crewmember in turn. “This should fix your sore throats, allow you to breathe freely, and stop you sneezing or coughing. It will not cure the cold though. You should try to relax and allow your bodies to deal with it. I recommend Auron meditation exer—”

Avon made a strangled sound.

Cally sighed. “Oh, Avon. You did not look ridiculous in that position. Blake and Jenna found them quite beneficial and—”

Avon pitched forward, landing flat on his face.

“What d’you call that one then?” Vila said. “The prone prat?” The grin disappeared from his face when Avon failed to respond. “Uh, Cally? I think I’d rather have the cold...”

Cally pushed him aside and knelt by Avon, feeling for his pulse. “He has anaphylactic shock. He must be allergic to something in the medication. Quick, help me get him to the medical unit.”

Vila put one of Avon’s arms across his shoulder while Cally took the other. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?” he asked anxiously.

“Don’t worry, Vila. Of course he will be.”

“Worry? I’m not worried.”

“No, Vila. No more than he would be about you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Shouldn’t we go a bit faster? Are you sure he’ll be all right?”

“He will be soon.” Cally kicked the door to the medical unit open. “Help me get him onto the bed. That’s right.”

“He looks a funny colour. Bit like that yoghurt I forgot about for a month.”

Cally quickly prepared a syringe and pulled Avon’s sleeve up.

“What’s that stuff?”

“Adrenaline.”

“Without the soma? Doesn’t seem right, somehow.”

“There. That should do it.”

“He looks a bit pinker now,” Vila said hopefully. “He really is going to be all right, isn’t he, Cally?” He leaned over and peered at Avon, so closely their noses almost touched.

Avon’s eyes flickered open and he flinched so violently he almost fell off the bed. “What the hell are you doig, Vila? The sight of your face loobig over bide is hardly codducive to recovery. And just what are you griddig at?”

***

“Poor Avon,” Vila said, leaning back on the couch. “And poor Avon’s nose. Just look at it.”

Avon was sitting at a table in the far corner with an inflamed dripping nose, his latest gadget, his tools, the Sopron, a large box of tissues, and an even larger pile of used ones. He sneezed extravagantly.

“Gesundheit!” Tarrant said.

“Nothing worse than a tight gesund,” said Vila, pouring them another drink.

Tarrant laughed and lifted his glass to Vila. “I never thought I’d ever see you drinking water.”

“Nothing wrong with it, especially with a bit of carbon dioxide in it to give it some fizz. Best drink there is for thirst. Relaxing or having fun though, that’s another matter.”

“Talking of relaxing, surely those Auron exercises aren’t that bad.”

“Dunno really. I was banned for laughing at them all. I mean, you should’ve seen it. Avon with his head on the floor and his bum up in the air, and Blake grabbing at his ankles from behind.”

“Avon’s?” Tarrant looked startled.

“Nah, his own. Jenna looked all right though. Lying on her front with her, um, front sticking out in front. She got annoyed with me too, dunno why. Cally—” Vila got into the lotus position, “—Cally was like this.”

Tarrant raised his eyebrows. “What a flexible little chap you are. Perhaps that explains it.”

“Eh?”

“Servalan. I can quite see why two attractive people should be unable to resist a good opportunity, but that doesn’t explain you.”

Vila looked hurt. “I have my own charm. I’m witty and very cuddly. And anyway,” he grinned smugly and raised two fingers, “that’s how many kisses I got. One more than you.”

Tarrant smiled brilliantly back. “She only needed the one from me.”

“Oh, shut up you two,” Avon said. He sank his head in his hands. His only consolation was that the Sopron had a worse cold than he did.

There was a distant explosion, closely followed by a second one.

“I didn’t think Dayna was sneezing any more,” Vila said.

“She isn’t,” Tarrant said. “After what happened with Servalan, she made up some targets that look like us.”

“She using cheat-seeking missiles in your case?”

Tarrant looked uncomfortable. “There was never anything between us but friendship.”

“Just your clothes and an explosive tooth on Ultraworld from what I heard.”

“I shall recobbedd to Dayda that there is doe substitute for live targets,” Avon said, gingerly dabbing at his swollen and tender nose. “Id fact at this poid I would be happy to assist her.”

“Ah, there you are, Avon,” Cally said, entering. “I have consulted Orac for natural remedies and made some up.” She held up a small jar. “This is a decongestant containing eucalyptus. Come with me so that I can apply it.”

“Apply it?” Avon said suspiciously.

“Yes, rub it onto your chest. The heat generated will help your lungs, and the fumes should clear your airways.”

“Fubes?” Avon looked appalled.

“Don’t worry, Avon,” Vila said brightly. “You can’t smell anything anyway.”

Cally sighed “Come now, Avon. It should help.”

“Certaidly dot.” Avon drew himself up, offended, the effect spoiled by the drip on the end of his nose. He snuffled miserably.

“You’re a snivelling coward, Avon,” Vila said gleefully. “Cally can rub my chest anytime with whatever she likes.”  Both Avon and Cally glared at him, and he put on a mournful look. “And she should. I’ve got a weak chest you know. It needs to be looked after. I’m prone to bronchitis.”

Cally frowned and went over to him. “Are you having difficulty breathing?” she demanded.

“No,” Vila admitted.

“He will sood,” Avon said, glowering.

Cally, taking a closer look at Vila, softened. “Why, Vila. You are taking my advice after all. In a relaxing and healthy position and drinking water. Well done. Avon, you should follow Vila’s good example.”

Avon gritted his teeth and decided that being treated like a child by Cally was preferable to the infuriatingly smug look on Vila’s face. He tried to gather a few shreds of dignity. “Zed. Codfirb course seved zero dide.”

Zen remained obdurately dark. Vila spread his arms along the back of the couch, put his feet up on the table, and said languidly, “Course seven zero nine, Zen, there’s a good fellow.”

“Confirmed.”

Avon glowered and followed Cally out sulkily.

Vila looked a little guilty. “Zen?”

Zen’s lights flickered.

“Avon’s nose is stuffed, in more ways than one come to think of it, so he can’t say some consonants. All his Ns are Ds and his Ms are Bs. If you know that, can you understand what he says?”

Zen’s lights sped up in thought, then he said, “Confirmed.”

Tarrant looked at Vila in surprise. “That was kind.”

“Well,” Vila wriggled, embarrassed. “Felt a bit sorry for him.” A mischievous look crossed his face. “However...Zen, I think Avon would feel a lot better if you responded to him in the same way.”

“Confirmed.”

***


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