Death Is for the DyingBy Kathy Hintze
Page 2 of 2
Cally matched looks with Avon as she bandaged his wound. "It's not bad. Does it hurt?"
"No," he replied, though it smarted very much at that moment.
"Vila said you did it to save him," Cally said, putting away the instruments she'd used.
"Did he now?" Avon slid off the couch and managed not to wince as he jarred his side.
Cally turned about to face him. "Why do you pretend so, Avon?"
He stared at her. "Pretend what?"
"Not to care."
"Anyone who cares is a fool, Cally," Avon retorted. "Be they human or alien." He left without another word and went to his cabin to rest.
Two hours passed and despite his best efforts, Avon could not sleep. Vila's words kept echoing in his mind. His father must have known about the break-in. So why didn't he ever mention it?
Another ugly thought entered his mind. A certain relation of his, an uncle, had left his father's service on rather short notice. Had left without a word of farewell. Avon had always liked the man though his father hadn't. In fact, as memory came back, his father had always spoken of him as if he were some kind of vermin.
And maybe he was, Avon thought. Especially if it had been father he was blackmailing. Avon caught himself. No, that wasn't right. Vila had said his father was supposed to plant evidence in the blackmailer's safe to incriminate him. If that was the case, then my uncle had been the victim and my father...
Avon got dressed. There was only one way he could find out. Have Orac locate the records for the Bakir Foundation. Allowing for what Vila claimed to be his age, he would have the computer run a 5-year spread of all assets and security date, anything and everything the computer would find. He headed for the flight deck.
But he wasn't the first one there. Vila was huddled over a drink, watching Orac's flashing lights with an intensity Avon had never seen before.
"Come on. Orac," Vila snapped. "You said it'd only take a few minutes."
*And it would have, had you not continued to interrupt me with your mindless bantering.* The lights flashed once more and then ceased.
"Well?" Vila demanded. "What did you find out?"
*In answer to your query, the data supplied was correct. Avon's father did in fact install the security system and I find it to be a most impressive one.* That brought a smile to Avon's lips, *For its day. Though it certainly would be obsolete today.*
"I didn't ask you to evaluate it, just tell me what you found out."
"Yes, Orac," Avon spoke up, walking down the stairs and over to Vila. "What did you find out?"
Vila looked as if he would faint or maybe simply melt into a puddle and slide under the flight deck couch. Unfortunately, he could do none of the above. Instead, he put on what he hoped was his best fool's look and said, "Oh, Avon. Didn't hear you coming? Your turn at watch already?" He started to get up but Avon's look set him right back down.
"No, it's not my watch," Avon stated firmly. "As to why I am here, it appears you had much the same idea as I."
"About what?" Play stupid, maybe Avon didn't really hear that much, maybe, but from his look, Vila doubted it.
"We are waiting, Orac," Avon commanded.
*Very well. There is no record of a security breach at the complex, either internal or external. Nor is there any mention of terminations in the complex personnel records during the requested time period.*
"But that's not possible," Avon and Vila said in unison, then took turns looking uncomfortable about it.
"My father was head of Security," Avon pointed out.
*I am well aware of that,* Orac replied. *And as Head, he would have been notified immediately of any such intrusion.*
"But Dad did break in," Vila insisted. "I know he did."
*My findings indicate otherwise,* snapped the computer.
"I don't care," Vila exclaimed. He looked at Avon. "He did break in, Avon."
"Not according to Orac," Avon countered quietly. He held up a hand to stop Vila's outburst. "But there are ways to fool computers." Deleting the entry data was terribly simple, he continued to himself, and as creator of the program, my father would have been in position to do it.
"Such as?" Vila inquired. He was puzzled by the expression on Avon's face.
"Simply deletion of the entire record," Avon replied evenly, sitting down across from Vila. "And there'd be no trace."
"But what about the guards that chased me?"
Avon looked at him. "Are you certain you were being chased, Vila? After all, you were but a child."
"If you survive to age six in the Delta Dome, Avon, you're no longer a child," Vila countered coolly. "Believe me, you learned to tell if someone was after you. You had to."
Avon considered that. "All right then, they were probably bought off or perhaps even eliminated as your father was."
"Three murders and no one suspected anything?" Vila asked.
"It happens, Vila," Avon replied quietly. "Credits carry a great deal of weight. If a few unimportant people should disappear, who's the wiser."
"But their families? Surely they would have said something?"
"The guards at Bakir were all Deltas, Vila," Avon pointed out. "Did your mother file a complaint when your father turned up missing?"
"Of course not. But that was because I...I told her about Dad."
"Very well then. Tell me this. If you had not followed your father and he had turned up missing, what would your mother have done?"
Vila paused, thinking about it. His mother had been a quiet woman, gentle and kind, she had cried for three days when he had told her about Dad but after that, she had gone on, telling their neighbours that her husband had taken a position off-world.
"Well?" Avon asked.
"You know damn well what she did," Vila shot back angrily. "The only sensible thing she could do. Pretend he was away on business."
"And later on, pretend she received word that he had been killed?"
"Yes, damn it," Vila cried.
Avon hadn't meant to cause such pain to Vila. "Vila, as you said, it was the most sensible thing to do."
"So you think the guards were killed then?"
Avon shrugged. "That or sent off-world."
"All right, that solves them then. But what about the computer records being blank? You said your father set them up."
"Yes," Avon replied, suddenly feeling rather cold.
"If that's true, then it had to be him that wiped them, right?"
Avon stood up, ignoring the protest of his side. "Possibly," he said evading a direct answer.
"You know he had to be the one, Avon!"
"I don't know that, and neither do you."
"Know what?" The voice belonged to Blake. He was standing on the landing by the steps, staring at both of them.
"Nothing, Blake," Avon snapped.
"Nothing," Vila said in almost the exact tone as Avon. "Take over, will you, Blake," Vila added, hurrying past him. "I'm...I'm not feeling well."
Avon stared after him only to be stopped by Blake. "You aren't feeling well either, I take it?"
"Blake, I'm in no mood," Avon threatened.
"Oh, but you are, Avon." Blake replied with a hint of a smile. "How's the side?"
"Tolerable," Avon replied tightly. In fact it was hurting very much.
"Good. I have a couple of things to ask you, if you've the time, that is?"
Blake wasn't exactly ordering Avon to stay. One never did that to Avon, but he also was making it perfectly clear that until Avon answered his questions, Blake would keep after him.
"Very well." Avon walked back down the steps and sat down carefully on the flight couch.
"Good. How long before you can decode the disk?"
"The code is proving difficult, but I should have it by morning." In fact, Avon hadn't even begun on it, but he wasn't about to admit that to Blake. "What else?"
Blake studied him, reading signs of weariness and distress. Avon's side had to be hurting. "That's really all I needed to know. Don't let me keep you."
"You said a couple of things, Blake. What else?"
"Did I?" Blake shook his head. "Sorry, I meant one."
"I'm sure you did. I'll let you know when I've broken it."
It took two hours to break the code but finally it was done. Avon paid Blake a call in his cabin, surprising him immensely. He dropped of the transcript without a word and left.
He made one more stop, the Medical Unit where he picked up a sedative. He had always hated medicines but this time he felt he needed one. It didn't provide him with that he wanted most though, a dreamless sleep.
Instead, he keep seeing his father erasing computer records, destroying all evidence that a intrusion had been made in the Bakir facility. His uncle's face appeared, looked as he had the last time Avon had seen him. Pale, his eyes wide with fear. Avon had tried to speak to him but his father would not allow it.
"Forget he ever existed," Avon's father had ordered in a stern voice. "He is dead to you, to all of us." That had been that and Avon had dutifully forgotten about his uncle, until now.
If Vila had gotten his facts straight, then his uncle had been the victim of a blackmailer. Someone he had worked for. At the Bakir Foundation, his uncle had worked for his father. Avon wanted to deny it but things suddenly began to drop into place. His father's monthly allotments of credits doubling without warning, making it possible to send Avon to the finest institutes of computer science. Such things were not inexpensive and while his family had been relatively well-off, Avon knew they had been far from what could be called wealthy. Wealthy Alphas merited seats in the government or on the council. They owned planets or at least the mining rights to them which amounted to the same thing.
My uncle must have gone to Father and confessed what he had done when the guards found no trace of Vila's father, he thought to himself grimly. Then Father took care of everything, making sure nothing was left to be found.
How it must have worried him when his searchers found no trace of Restal. Worried him but didn't prevent him from carrying on business as usual. Why, Father? What made you do such a thing?
The man in Avon's dream heard his words and gazed back at his son. "Money, power, what every man needs and wants, Avon. Isn't that what made you try to steal 5 million credits?"
"I did not resort to murder," Avon protested.
"Neither did I. That was your uncle's doing. He paid for it, Avon. He did that very well."
"As did Vila's father, " Avon pointed out.
"A worthless Delta, a thief by trade. Easily replaced, those Deltas. Sometimes I thought too easily. But..." He sighed.
"You killed the guards, didn't you?"
"Killed, me?" Avon's father looked shocked. "Avon, I have never killed anyone in my life!"
"Then you arranged it," Avon replied coolly.
His father laughed. "I told you. Deltas are an easily acquired commodity."
"I do not look on Vila as being such."
"Then you are a fool, my son. And you will die a penniless one at that."
Avon woke up then, tears of shame streaming down his face. He went to the water basin and washed them away. All a dream, a portion of his mind advised, not all of it, he said back. Too much of it had happened to be merely a dream. A hallucination then, brought on by the sedative. He knew how drugs could affect him. But something told him this way not the case. His subconscious had simply filled in the missing gaps in the picture.
Vila was seated alone on the flight deck when Avon arrived. Apparently, Vila hadn't slept too well either.
"Rough night?" Vila inquired without looking at him.
"I've had better," Avon responded, seating himself across from Vila. "Has Blake been at you, too?"
Vila nodded. "Kept waitin' to know what was up."
"And what did you tell him?"
"I told him nothing," Vila replied somewhat coldly. "Like you did."
"Hmmm. Vila, about your father...."
Vila looked up at him. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry he died the way he did."
"So am I," Vila murmured. "Not really a bad way to go, bleeding to death. I've heard the ancients used to do it a lot. Called it honourable suicide or something like that."
"The Romans, yes," Avon stated with a nod. "Not something I would want to consider though."
"Me either. Leave death to the dying. I'm for living."
Avon actually smiled at him. "That is the most intelligent thing you've said since I've known you."
"It is?" Vila was properly shocked by Avon's announcement.
"What is?" Blake stared at the two men in front of him from the steps.
"Avon just complimented me on my intelligence," Vila said.
"Did he?" Blake fixed Avon with a curious eye.
"Life is preferable to death any day, Blake," Avon told him.
"Hmmm." Avon studied Blake a moment. Something was up. "But you plan to go on placing our lives on the line anyway, don't you, Blake?"
"Not if I can help it, Avon," Blake countered. "Not if I can help it." He paused for a moment. "There is something, however, I should like to take a look at."
"I don't feel well," Vila groaned aloud.
"Somehow, that doesn't surprise me, Vila," Avon replied, glancing at Vila. "Not one little bit."
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