Living in HarmonyBy Alicia Ann Fox
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|Vila watched in astonishment as Avon put away a six-course meal. He himself had stopped at three and was feeling a little stuffed. "Where do you put all that?" he asked, genuinely curious.|
Avon must have been feeling unusually affable, because he replied, "I exude it as charisma," and took another bite. They were enjoying the expensive cuisine at the Biko, a restaurant on the holiday world Security. It was the end of the three-day break Blake had been coerced into declaring. Avon was the first member of the crew Vila had seen since teleporting down, except in passing as he went up to Liberator to stand his watch. He knew that Cally and Jenna and Blake had all gone together, but he, Avon, and Gan had elected to go alone. The separation had done Avon good, thought Vila; when he had accidentally encountered the older man in a casino, Avon had cheerfully invited Vila to eat with him, with only a minimum of insults. Now Vila wondered why Avon had asked him along; in his opinion, Avon had inhaled enough food for two people by himself.
"Say, Avon," he began, toying with his glass and the small amount of beer in the bottom. "Isn't it your turn to entertain us all, tonight?"
"I thought that was your duty," Avon replied dryly.
"No. I already have done. I went after Jenna and before Gan. It's your turn--you're the only one left."
"I thought we had given up that ridiculous game."
"It's not ridiculous," Vila protested. "More fun than watching stars go by. I'll bet you didn't know Gan could sing before this."
"Nor did I care." He rose and picked up the check. "I'll pay."
How generous, Vila thought. As if all our money didn't come from the same place.
They left the Biko and strolled down the tree-lined street, listening to the sounds of revelry coming from within the eating and drinking establishments along the way. Vila, for once, had no urge to enter. The bag he carried held several well-cushioned bottles with alcoholic content, and he didn't want to risk having them broken.
When they reached a dark corner they stopped, and snapped on teleport bracelets. "Bring us up, Gan." They materialized in the teleport room, the bright light a shock to their eyes; on Security it had been dark for some hours. Gan greeted them, but was interrupted by Jenna's voice over the communicator.
"Liberator, three to come up." They watched as the remaining crewmembers materialized. Jenna and Cally each had an armful of packages and Blake clutched two unopened bottles of vodka. He beamed at all of them expansively.
"Our holiday will be properly finished off with an exhibition of Avon's talents, don't you think?" Avon scowled. He had obviously been hoping he could somehow wriggle out of the embarrassment, but now it looked as if that would not be possible. "Oh come now," Blake continued. "Everyone else has taken a turn. You're the last. We'll meet on the flight deck in half an hour."
Vila sniggered. Jenna smiled winsomely at Avon, and Cally sent some thought that caused his scowl to deepen before he stalked off in the direction of his cabin. "Maybe we shouldn't force him," said Gan. "He seems pretty angry, and this is only a little thing."
"Nonsense," said Blake. "Avon is a part of this crew, much as he tries to deny it. He needs to do his part, for harmony's sake if nothing else." With these words he headed for his cabin, still holding his bottles. Gan shrugged and went back to his watch. Jenna and Cally disappeared together so Vila, left alone, checked the safety of his own bottles again and trudged off for a hot shower.
Everyone gathered on the flight deck at the appointed time. Everyone except Avon. After five minutes had passed and he had not appeared, Blake stood up from watching Vila teach Cally to cheat at cards and announced, "I'll go and fetch him."
"No need," Avon said flatly, from the doorway. "Here I am, to do your bidding." His voice held no emotion whatsoever, but his eyes flashed angrily under his lids.
"Not my bidding," Blake answered quickly. "We all decided."
"You were outvoted," said Jenna.
"What does it really matter, anyway?" broke in Vila. "Come on, Avon, don't be a spoilsport. What can you do?"
"Surely you can do something interesting with computers. Do you know any games?"
"Several," Avon confessed. "But," he smiled coldly, "computers are my field of expertise. That is against the rules."
"I wouldn't mind," said Gan. An angry Avon made him nervous. Jenna shrugged, half agreeing. In this kind of mood, Avon was absolutely no fun to tease. A stray thought crossed her mind: I wonder if he's even ticklish? She quickly stowed the question away under don't-even-think-about-it. Blake was looking obstinate, and opened his mouth to say something.
Avon interrupted him. "Shall we get on with it?"
"You have an idea?" asked Jenna with slight relief. He ignored her, rummaging in the pockets of his jacket, the rather nice one he had worn out to dinner on Security. He stepped over to his console and laid on top of it some small change; a foldable knife; a miniature screwdriver; a die; two twists of wire, one silver and one copper-colored; three unidentifiable mechanical components; and a long piece of string.
My God, thought Vila. What did he need all that for? Then he sheepishly remembered the tiny probes, scanners, and lockpicks stashed about his own person.
Avon had tied the ends of the string together to form a loop. He balled it up in his fist and gestured for everyone to sit on the couch. He waited until they were settled before stepping in front of them and shaking out the loop. "I shall do this once. Once only, Blake." Blake inclined his head in acknowledgment, mystified.
Avon wrapped the string over his thumbs and little fingers, said, "Watch closely," and with blinding speed and inexplicable methods created a succession of intricate designs, each fading into the other. He stopped and held the last one for almost two full seconds before giving simultaneous tugs to the sides of the creation and making it a plain loop again. Looking at their stunned faces with amusement, he wadded the string again, tossed it neatly into Blake's lap, and strode out, followed by a thought from Cally: //You amaze me, Avon,// and a mental giggle.
Vila picked up his cards and headed out, humming to himself. Blake looked at Jenna. He looked at Gan. He looked at Cally. They smiled at him. He sighed, remembering his own ill-fated paper flyers.
"Jenna," he asked conversationally, "Would you like some vodka?"
"I thought you were going to save it," said Cally.
"No, not really," Jenna answered.
"Mutiny," sighed Blake.
"But I'll come anyway," she added.
"It's all right, Blake," said Cally. "Perhaps some day...."
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