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By Leia Fee
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By Leia Fee

 “Vila, I know you’re here, come out.”  Avon’s voice was calm and perfectly confident. 

Vila remained motionless in the compartment.  Trying to keep absolutely still and quiet though he could feel himself trembling and his breath caught in his throat.  He really does know I’m here, he though in despair.  He’s really going to kill me.  Vila’s nerve broke then and he cried out, “Avon, please!  There must be another way!”

“Ah.  There you are.”  Avon’s voice was followed by the rattle of metal on metal, as the hatch to Vila’s hiding place was torn open.  “Get out.”

“No.  Listen, Avon.  Egrorian must have done something to the shuttle.”

“Very probably, but I’m out of time.  Get out.”

Vila shook his head stubbornly, though his voice trembled.  “No.  If you’re going to kill me you can bloody well shoot me here and drag my body to the airlock.  I’m not going to meekly trot there like a sheep to the slaughterhouse.”

“Move, Vila.  Now!”  Avon snarled, and reached in to haul him out.  Vila fell hard onto the deck, yelping in pain as his right ankle twisted underneath him.  He struggled to his feet and limped a few paces away from Avon. 

“Don’t.  Please,” Vila whimpered.  Avon gestured with the gun and gave him a shove.  “Move!”

Having little choice, Vila obeyed.

 Outside the airlock Vila turned to face Avon. 

“Don’t waste your breath, Vila.  I haven’t got the time to listen to your begging,” Avon snapped before Vila could open his mouth.

“I wasn’t going to,” Vila answered quietly.  “It’s just that,” he swallowed hard, “I don’t want to be awake when the air starts to go.  I don’t want to know.  I want to be dead before you put me in there,” he finished in a rush.

Avon nodded and his voice was unusually gentle as he answered, “Yes.  All right Vila.”  

Vila turned around and closed his eyes.  He felt the cold metal of Avon’s gun touch the back of his neck.  NO!  his mind rebelled, No.  Not like this.  Not like this. 

Vila swung round, ducked under the weapon, and threw all his weight against Avon’s middle.  Avon fell backwards, winded and caught completely by surprise.  Vila snatched the gun and scrambled back to his feet.  He trained the weapon on Avon as he slowly stood up.

“I’m impressed,” Avon drawled.  “I didn’t think you had it in you.”  He stared Vila full in the face and slowly walked towards his until the gun barrel touched his chest.  “Can you actually kill me though?  I don’t think you can.”

Vila didn’t answer.  His hands were shaking and sweat was stinging his eyes, clouding his vision.  Avon shook his head slowly, “I didn’t think so.”  Startlingly fast, his foot lashed out and connected with Vila’s injured ankle.  With a gasp of pain, Vila staggered and Avon snatched the gun from him.  He lashed out, striking Vila hard across the face with the weapon.  Vila crumpled to the deck, blood streaming down his cheek. 

Avon levelled the gun at him and backed away towards the airlock controls.  He was brought abruptly to a halt when his heel struck a clear, plastic cube.  He stopped, puzzled and stared at it.  “Couldn’t possibly be that heavy…”  His eyes widened.  “Neutron material.  Egrorian.  Vila!  You were right!”  Avon shoved the cube, slowly towards the airlock.  “Vila, I need your help to shift it.  Vila!  Get over here.” 

 Vila lay unmoving where he had fallen.  Avon eventually managed to push the cube into the airlock and jettison it.  Leaving Vila where he was, he sprinted back to the flight deck and corrected their flight path.  “Orac, what’s the current position?”

Time to orbit: one minute forty seconds.  Remaining flight time: two minutes.

“We’re going to make it,” Avon sighed in relief.

That is what I said.

“Just pilot the shuttle, Orac.”

With there flight path Avon left Orac at the controls and headed back down to the airlock.  Vila sat leaning against the wall.  He had one hand clamped against his face and there was blood trickling between his fingers.

“Vila?  We’ll reach orbit in a few minutes.  It’ll take another ten minutes or so after that for Scorpio to retrieve us.” 

Vila didn’t answer. 

“It was the neutron material weighing us down.  Egrorian must have planted it aboard the shuttle.  You were right.”  Avon paused again but Vila was still silent.

“Come on Vila.  Aren’t you even going to say ‘I told you so’?” 

No response. 

Avon sighed.  “Let me see your face.”

“Leave me alone,” Vila finally said.  His voice was dull, emotionless.

“Vila, be sensible.  You’re bleeding.”

“So?  What are you going to do about it?  We ditched the medical kit.”

“Just let me see, will you?” Avon snapped.  He grabbed Vila’s wrist to pull his hand away from his face.  Vila resisted for a moment before giving in.  He stared numbly at his red-covered hand as Avon let go.  “Oh, I am bleeding aren’t I?  A lot.”

“Head wounds always bleed a lot, Vila.  It doesn’t look serious.  You’ll be fine until we get back to the ship.”

“Oh.  Good.”


 “That was too close!” Dayna exclaimed as Avon and Vila arrived back.  She stared at Vila, “What happened to you?”  One eye was swollen shut and there was blood all down his face and neck as well as over a lot of his tunic where he had wiped his hand.

“He hit his head,” Avon cut in before Vila could answer.  “Turbulence.”

“Turbulence,” repeated Vila, staring at Avon. 

“So what happened?”  Dayna asked.

“Egrorian had planted a piece of neutron star material on the shuttle.  Its weight was preventing us from reaching escape velocity.  I got rid of it.”

“A neutron star?”  Tarrant asked.

“A microscopic fragment of one.  It's the only possible explanation.  It was unbelievably heavy.”

“So how could Egrorian have planted it aboard?” 

“He must have reprogrammed that automatic landing bay of his.”

“And you moved it on your own?” Soolin queried.

“Vila was unconscious.”


Vila nodded.  “I hit my head.”  He sighed.  “I think I’ll go and get cleaned up.”  He started to limp across the flight deck.  Soolin frowned and caught his arm.

“Here, let me see to that cut first.”  She steered Vila, protesting, to a corner of the flight deck and pushed him on a couch.  “Sit still.”


 Back at Xenon, Vila sat on a treatment couch, fidgeting while Soolin treated his injuries. 

“What happened to your ankle?”

“I fell over.”

“In the turbulence?”


“Is that when you hit your head?”

“I suppose so.”

“Avon’s balance must be better than yours, I suppose?”

“What?”  Vila sounded startled.  And worried.

“Well he hasn’t got a mark on him.  I suppose he managed not to fall over?”

“Yes.  No.  I mean, no, he didn’t fall over.  Can I go now?”

“No.  I want you to stay off that ankle.  I’ll tell Avon you need a few days rest.  He can rearrange your shifts.”

“Thanks Soolin.”  The relief in Vila’s eyes was more than could be explained by his usual aversion to work and Soolin frowned as she left him to get some sleep.  She was coming to some rather unpleasant conclusions about what had happened on that shuttle flight.



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