By Right of PossessionBy Kathy Hintze
Page 1 of 5
|"Don't move," ordered the voice behind him. Avon's hands came up very slowly as a gun jabbed him hard in the back. "Turn around and don't try anything funny either."
"I have no intention of...." Avon's voice trailed off as he turned and saw his captor. The computer expert came very close to not recognizing him. The man's clothing was torn and badly mended in several areas and there were several terrible burn scars on the side of his face, but there could be no mistake.
"What are you staring at?" the man accused, his weapon gripped tightly in his hand.
*Avon, keep him busy. I will work my way behind him,* Cally's silent voice called.
"You remind me of someone, that's all," Avon replied, studying him. "Someone who has been missing for the last two months."
"Whoever it was, is probably dead then," the man replied in a flat tone. "I've been here at least that long. Damn near didn't make it myself."
At that moment, Cally jumped him from behind, grabbing the arm holding the gun. The man twisted around and she caught sight of his face and gasped. "Vila!"
Avon saw his chance and did not hesitate. He brought his hand down hard against the side of the other man's neck. Vila crumbled unconscious to the ground.
Cally knelt down to examine him and sighed. "I do not understand. He did not seem to recognize either of us. Why?"
Avon slowly turned Vila's face and exposed the scars. "I should imagine that's why. Incendiary from the look of it and he was very close to it when it landed."
"A type of shell shock then?" Cally queried.
"Quite possibly," Avon murmured in reply, looking around at the primitive surroundings. "And living like this certainly did not help. Let's get him back to the ship."
"Patient has suffered severe stress and traumatic shock. Third-degree burns on upper portion of the body and face," announced the med computer as Cally cut away the dirty clothing to expose the burn areas.
"I wonder he is alive at all from the look of these," she commented in a worried tone. Vila's chest was a patchwork of scar tissue as was his back, arms and hands.
"Anywhere else and he wouldn't have been," Avon replied, gazing at him. "Beljyr's atmosphere will not support bacterial life of any form. It's a sterile environment."
"Which accounts for there being no infection," Cally surmised. She had run into something within the remnants of Vila's jacket which refused to be cut. She laid the scissors aside to examine the problem. "I always wondered where he kept that hidden," she murmured softly.
"Kept what?" Avon inquired, then smiled as Cally removed from a well-hidden inside pocket a very familiar object--Vila's lockpicking kit. The Auron handed it to him and Avon opened it and examined its contents thoughtfully. "He never goes anywhere without it, it seems," he said aloud. Avon glanced at Vila again, closed the kit and placed it next to the med computer.
Cally nodded, picked up the scissors and finished removing the jacket. "He is lucky." She ran her finger lightly across one of the burns. "The scarring is still soft," she explained and with a surgical instrument, began carefully peeling away the damaged layers of skin.
Twenty minutes later, satisfied that no more of the burned tissue remained, she moved the epidermal regenerator across the ragged wounds. In its wake, there was no evidence of damage, only a slight redness to the area. "When he comes around," Cally murmured in a satisfied tone, "there should be no discomfort, except perhaps for a stiff neck."
Avon looked at her, frowning. "What would you have preferred, Cally? He didn't remember us. As far as he was concerned, we might well have been enemies. We were fortunate he did not shoot first."
"I know, Avon," Cally conceded. "When I saw who it was, I could not believe it, either." She smiled at the unconscious form between them. "And you were surprised as much as I."
"True," he admitted, remembering a very different Vila who had complained bitterly over the mission which had taken them to Beljyr.
"But why does it have to be me?" Vila exclaimed in a trembling voice.
"Because the contact said he knew you, Vila," Avon answered impatiently. "And that he would meet with you and you alone."
"But it could be a trap," Vila shot back.
"Of course, it could be a trap," Cally conceded. "But if it's not, Vila, we could lose our one chance at organizing this quadrant's resistance."
Tarrant and Dayna said nothing but merely watched. They knew Vila would end up going. So did he, but he could not leave without at least putting up some type of argument.
"All right. All right," Vila sighed in defeat. "Where am I supposed to meet with him?"
"The coordinates have already been computed and Orac has them locked into the teleport," Avon told him.
"Very sure of yourselves, weren't you?" Vila snapped.
"Vila," Cally murmured softly, putting an arm about his shoulders. "You know Avon would not expose you to any situation if he did not think it was safe."
"Wanna bet?" Vila ventured. Then he shrugged. "All right, let's get this over with."
Vila had teleported down without any apparent problems, his contact leading him to a heavily forested area.
"Vila," a bear-sized man exclaimed, "it has been long since I saw you."
Vila didn't get the chance to reply as he was embraced in a hug which might have shattered Gan. Finally, he pushed his way free and panted. "Rubin...you...you nearly broke my ribs." Then he smiled. "You look well and prosperous." His eyes touched the dwellings well-hidden in the trees.
"Oh, we do all right," the big man replied thoughtfully. "But I didn't bring you here just to show that. Come on, we have matters to discuss."
With his arm around Vila, Rubin guided him into the largest of the structures and introduced him to several other men who were waiting for him. Never the one to push caution too far from his thoughts, Vila gingerly activated his bracelet communicator.
On board the Liberator, the conversation came through quite well and Tarrant could not suppress a laugh. "I don't think Vila trusts his old friend."
Avon nodded in agreement, though he was secretly pleased by Vila's action. "Or maybe he does not share your belief that the Federation have no bases in this area."
Tarrant's angry retort was drowned out as Vila's voice suddenly took on a fearful note. "Wait a minute. What's that?" There was the sound of gunfire and larger explosions in the background.
"Cally," Avon shouted, activating his console's communicator, "teleport Vila up now!"
But Cally was already ahead of him. At the first sound of fear in Vila's voice, she had activated the controls. But nothing happened. She checked the coordinates and tried again, then called Avon. "Something's wrong. The controls are not responding properly. I can't bring him up."
Vila's voice cried piteously over the communicator. "Avon! Cally! Get me up. Please bring me up. There's Federation troops everywhere. They're shelling the compound. Please bring me...." There was a loud explosion, then static and silence.
Avon's hand flew to the comm button. "Vila? Vila!" No reply. He turned to the others. "Tarrant, check the scanners. Find out where those non-existent Federation ships are. Dayna, monitor communications. If he's been captured, I want to know. I'm going to check the teleport."
The flight deck came alive as each crewmember did as ordered. As Avon left the flight deck, he heard Dayna say to Tarrant, "Those explosions sounded like Fluman missiles. I remember my father saying they could wipe an area so clean, no one would ever know anything ever existed there." And Avon was running for the teleport.
"Cally, have you found what the problem is yet?" Avon asked as he arrived, keeping both his voice level and his face impassive.
"No," she responded in a worried tone. "Everything reads normal. The signal was coming through clearly, and his transmission. But when I tried to bring him up, nothing happened."
"It must be a malfunction in one of the correlation relays then."
"Avon, I've already gone over everything. It has to be something down there affecting it," Cally explained.
Dayna's voice called from the comm. "Avon, I've picked up a transmission from the surface. Here, I'll patch it through."
A few seconds went by, then a male voice said, "All remnants of the rebel activity in this sector have been eliminated, sir. There are no life signs within a mile square area." The transmission dissolved into static.
Then Tarrant came on. "Avon, they've picked us up on their scanners. We have to get out of here."
"But what about Vila?" Dayna's voice echoed. "We can't just leave him down there."
"You heard them, Dayna, everyone is dead. There's nothing we can do. We have to get out of here," Tarrant told her. "Avon? Avon!"
Cally gazed at her companion, reading the pain which briefly flickered in his eyes before he concealed it. "How many Federation vessels are there?" Avon asked Tarrant.
"Scanners indicate at least eight. And they're moving into attack formation. Avon, Vila is dead. Accept it."
"I don't need you to tell me that, Tarrant," Avon snapped angrily. "Take us out of orbit." His hand slammed down hard on the communicator, breaking the connection. Then he looked at Cally. "We cannot stay, Cally."
"I know," she answered, her voice gentle and full of understanding. "I know."
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