Nothing Ever Goes as PlannedBy Alicia Ann Fox, Michael Driver
Page 1 of 3
|Ultraworld's remains lay far behind them now, and Liberator cruised near the edges of known space. Unsure of the damage done by the giant brain fed by the Ultras, Tarrant was re-calibrating the pilot's controls. Dayna checked the weaponry systems, and Cally the communications console. Vila relaxed in his cabin, as he had been the hero of their recent adventure.
Suddenly Cally ceased her work and went for the portable medical kit that was kept on the flight deck.
"What is it?" Dayna asked, concerned.
"A sudden headache, that's all," the telepath reassured her, even as she shook out a painkiller and swallowed it dry. "I'll rest a few moments." She took a seat on the couch.
"You don't think it has anything to do with what the Ultras did to you, do you?" pressed Dayna. "You look pale, Cally."
"It took us a while to find your mind-tube," Tarrant added. "Dayna could be right. Maybe you should check it out."
Cally was pleased by their concern, and realized that she should have had a medical mode as soon as Liberator was safely away from Ultraworld. "I think I will," she and went to the medical unit.
The scans indicated that her headache was a side-effect of residual hypnotics in her blood as well as her body's reaction to the mind-stress caused by the Ultras' experiment. Cally promptly sought out Avon to see if he had been affected, but neglected to explain; he confessed to a headache after his experience, but it had quickly gone away. So Cally decided her alien metabolism was to blame. Within a few days, the side-effects were gone, and she put the incident out of her mind.
Nothing should have come of this.
However, Avon had lied.
Kerr Avon lay in his bunk, hands clasped tightly to his temples, and reflected on the bare half-ounce of vodka left in the bottle he kept for his private consumption. He'd had that particular bottle since before their trip to Obsidian, but had not delved deeply into it until lately.
The blasted headaches. He attributed them to stress and the resulting insomnia. After all, he'd had the same symptoms before, caused by the same things, and had treated them in the same way; painkillers if he had to work, alcohol if he could afford to sleep. No matter that the symptoms had been more severe this time, they'd scarcely had a break since the plague on Auron, and their most recent encounter with Servalan had been traumatic for all of them, not Tarrant alone.
Unfortunately, he still had the problem of a near-empty bottle. He had been fearful of using too many painkillers since the time he'd not realized he had a broken wrist for more than an hour. He had shrugged it off as stoicism to the others and decided then and there to cut down. It wouldn't do to be seen in weakness.
Blake had been a vodka drinker. Was probably a vodka drinker still, Avon reminded himself sharply. He'd kept it...under the bunk, in the cabinet with the star charts Jenna had coaxed out of Zen.
Avon got to his feet and grabbed a robe, belting it tightly about him, checking the time as he did so: 2430; there wouldn't be anyone about. He stepped across the corridor (the bulkheads had glowed faintly with golden light since he and Blake and Jenna had moved in) and went two doors to the right. His hand was raised to knock before he remembered, and ruefully shaking his head, he pressed the palm-lock.
The door slid open, making a smooth 'whish' noise. He had not set foot inside this cabin since the time Travis had aimed those hypnotic trigger pulse tones at Blake, so long ago. The door slid shut behind Avon as he remembered the frightened look on Blake's face as he and Jenna had explained why Blake couldn't remember the past few days.
Avon slowly sank down onto Blake's lounge chair. The lights brightened automatically as they sensed his presence, and by their light he contemplated the empty cabin. A rumpled blanket was at the foot of the bunk, a leather overshirt on top of it. On the shelf near the head of the bunk were three teleport bracelets and a digital wristwatch. There was nothing else in sight. Deserted in haste, the cabin felt to Avon as if someone had died there.
Briskly he pulled out the remembered half-size bottle of vodka, labelled "Product of Destiny." It figured. Avon left behind the larger bottle from Earth that was nearly empty and escaped to his own cabin.
Cally walked briskly past the teleport bay, past the armory, around a corner, past one of the computer rooms. The door was closed and, the red light indicated, locked, but the unmistakable sound of Avon's voice came through it swearing vehemently. She stopped, pushed her hair out of her eyes, sighed, and walked on.
Inside the starboard second computer room, Avon stood holding a wrench. It was a very small wrench, not much larger than his index finger, and it was intended to unfasten very small bolts that held a very small panel closed and dust-free. Avon swore and tried to accomplish this for the fifth time.
His hand was shaking. After the first twist the end of the delicate wrench snapped off. Cursing violently, he flung it to the floor and slammed his fist into the panel.
"Bloody fucking hell!"
Suddenly he froze, his mouth clamping shut. Then he bent, slowly, and picked up the wrench, and the head of the wrench. He shook his hand a little.
"Damn." Slowly he headed for the flight deck.
Three nights later Avon again had to look for more alcohol, despite the fact that he'd only allowed himself to drink before going to bed, and spent his waking hours snapping at everyone like Blake on a bad day. Now he found himself at the door next to his own.
Vila started out of half-sleep at the preemptory rap on his door. "Coming, I'm coming," he said. The tape screen fizzed greenly at him, because the tape had run out, so he switched it off before tripping the elaborate door lock he had created one afternoon out of boredom. "I wish you wouldn't bang on it--" he complained as the door slid open "--Avon. I'm not really in the mood for chess tonight--"
"No chess," Avon said flatly. "I'm taking you up on that offer of adrenaline and soma."
Vila considered the older man for a moment and remarked, "You look like you want to drink it alone."
Vila paused. "I'll get you a whole flask, I just made a pretty good batch. It's none of my business why you want it, eh?"
"No, it isn't."
"Okay." Vila pulled a stoppered flask from behind the tape-screen, handed it over, and smiled. "Have a nice night."
Avon took the flask and left without thanks, so Vila went back to his viewing apes.
Two hours later Avon had decided that soma was what he'd need, but unfortunately the taste of the synthetic 'adrenaline' was decidedly disagreeable to him. Added to at, the biliously-colored stuff was a milder intoxicant than he would have expected, knowing Vila. He couldn't convince himself to choke down enough to put himself out for the night.
Avon poured the rest of his glass of adrenaline and soma down the sink and stoppered the flask so he could return it to Vila in the morning. He sighed and walked a short distance down the corridor. Arranging his expression, he knocked on Dayna's door. "Yes, come in," she said.
"Good evening, Dayna," Avon replied as he stepped into the room. Dayna was seated on a rug in the center of the deck, adjusting a hand weapon which was held motionless by a clamp she had bolted to the decking. Various mechanical parts and tools were spread about her, at odds with the bow, quiver, and knife displayed on a bulkhead. Avon noted that she'd added a fur throw over her chair since he'd last been here, probably bought with some of the rare minerals they had mined from an asteroid. Dayna did not like delving into the saferoom. "Do I remember you mentioning the spiced wines Vila recommended to you?"
Dayna glanced up for a moment of eye contact before focusing on her project again. "You know, I'd almost forgotten about that. I bought six bottles and haven't had enough special occasions to open any. Why do you ask? Would you like to try some?"
"I thought it might be interesting," he said smoothly, hands clasped behind him.
"Have some, then. It's in that plastic crate under the table."
Avon spent some time at his selection, and asked what she was working on. "Another disintegrator," she said offhandedly. "I think I've got the power consumption just right."
"Ah." Finally Avon emerged with a wine distilled from some ex-tee fruit that was only lightly spiced and fairly highly proofed. "Thank you, Dayna."
"You're welcome.... I'll bring you the gun when it's finished, so you can have a look at it."
Avon congratulated himself on his smoothness as he returned to his cabin and drank himself beyond pain and into sleep.
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