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Orbit - The Final Alternative

By Neil Faulkner
Page 1 of 1

Scorpio shook as the shuttle clanged home alongside. Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin got to the transfer hatch just as it was opening. Avon marched out, carrying Orac.

      "Get this ship underway and out of here," he ordered, striding past them on his way to the flight deck.

      Tarrant was the first to move after him. "Just hang on a moment," he called after Avon's receding back. "What about Vila?"

      Avon didn't break step. "What about him?"

      "What about...? Well, where is he, for a start?"

      Avon put down Orac and sat down at the controls, set about disengaging Scorpio from the shuttle. "Vila didn't make it," he said, concentrating on what he was doing. He might have been deliberately trying to avoid facing Tarrant, or any or all of them, but somehow he didn't give that impression.

      Dayna's face fell in horror. "You mean, he's dead?" For a woman who had done so much killing in her short life, she had yet to come to terms with what death could actually mean.

      "How?" demanded Tarrant. When Avon didn't answer, he walked over and forced the man to face him. "How, Avon? How did it happen?"

      Avon looked Tarrant squarely in the eyes. "I killed him," he said.

      Dayna gasped in shocked astonishment. Tarrant found himself unable to speak. Soolin raised an eyebrow.

      "You did what?" spluttered Tarrant.

      "I killed him," Avon repeated. The drives rumbled into life as Scorpio began to move out from Malodaar's orbit. "The shuttle was overweight. Disposing of Vila was the only way I could see of achieving escape velocity. Therefore I shot him and pushed him out through the airlock. Just in time, as it happens."

      Tarrant backed away from Avon as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Just like that? I take it you got rid of the tachyon funnel as well?"

      "Of course. If it's any consolation to your wounded sense of values, Tarrant, we disposed of that first. As it turned out, we needn't have done so. Egrorian had concealed a speck of neutron star material embedded in plastic aboard the shuttle. But I didn't find it until after I'd pushed Vila out. Unfortunate, but then life often is."

      Dayna approached him, her lip trembling. "I suppose that's what you would call the only logical solution to the problem."

      Avon stared fixedly straight ahead. "I didn't kill him on a point of principle." He got up and walked past Tarrant. "But I wasn't prepared to die for one, either."

      "I'd be careful if I were you, Avon," said Tarrant. "One day you just might be the one to suffer from that rational approach of yours."

      "Oh, quite possibly. But so might you."

      He left the flight deck for the cramped confines of the laughable travesty of a crew room. A shadow filled the doorway behind him. Soolin pushed the door shut.

      "I suppose that goes for all of us," she said.

      "I'd be disappointed if you thought otherwise."

      "Give Tarrant a chance to cool down and he'll stop thinking of killing you," she pointed out. "He'll start on working out ways to do it."

      Avon called up a drink from the dispenser. "He's welcome to try."

      Soolin sidled further into the room, arms folded, head cocked to one side. "Just how badly do you need Tarrant?"

      "About as badly as I needed Vila," he replied. "How badly do you need him?"

      "I didn't know I did." She leant against the wall.

      "Tarrant," said Avon, "wouldn't let you down if he could help it."

      "Isn't that his problem, not mine?" She punched up a drink of her own, and when it came, twirled the cup in her hand, studying the way its rim caught the light. "I prefer to stick with the winning side."

      "Vila said that once," remembered Avon.

      "Did he hang around to see who was really winning first?"

      "Not that I recall."

      "Well then." Soolin put her cup down undrunk and sauntered out. The door swished shut as she left. Avon reached into his pocket for Orac's key. He tossed it in the air, shut his fingers tight around it as it came back down, and stowed it away again.

      Then he leant back on one of the rest couches just offline from the door, pulled out the gun he'd used to kill Vila, and settled down to wait.

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