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Trigger Happy

By Helen Patrick
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Dayna bounced cheerfully onto the flight deck, leaving Avon wondering yet again whether her childhood reading would allow her to place a reference to Tiggers. "Why are the cupboards in Blake's rooms locked?"

"How do you know that they're locked?"

"I wanted to look through them," she said.

"That's why they're locked." He wasn't surprised that she'd tried to rummage, he was surprised that she freely admitted it. Did the child have no sense of personal privacy?

"But I wanted to look through them," she repeated. "I want to know who Blake is."

At least it was in the present tense. "If he returns to the Liberator, you'll find out who he is. Until then, you don't need to paw through his personal belongings."

"Why not put them into storage?"

"They're in storage."

"We don't need the cabin," Tarrant said. "Blake's only missing, so we store his belongings until we know his status, and the easiest way is to leave them where they are." He nodded at Avon. "I imagine you sealed the cupboards?"

"As soon as it was obvious that we weren't going to find Blake and Jenna where their last transmissions had placed them." He reluctantly placed a mark on the "pro" side of the mental ledger headed "Tarrant". The boy's military conditioning did have some social merit after all.

"You did check for any non-personal items first?" Tarrant asked. "Just in case either of them had been messing around with ship's equipment?" Then he added hastily, "Not criticising, it's useful for people to get to know their equipment."

"I know that I appear to be in advanced senilityhood from your youthful viewpoint, Tarrant, but in fact I am not yet middle-aged," even if I feel like it, with you two on board, "and I am in advanced self-preservation."

"Just checking," Tarrant said cheerfully. "I didn't think you'd overlook the possibility that Blake was overhauling some component, but then that circuit's been on your desk for the last two weeks while you play with it."

"Thank you for reminding me, Tarrant." He stood up. "I have one more test to run before I put it back."

In fact, he went to Blake's room, not his own. He wanted to check that Dayna hadn't persuaded Vila to open the cupboards for her. Not that there would be any traces if Vila hadn't wanted anyone to be able to prove that he'd opened them, but Vila might have decided that it was easier to give in to Dayna's wheedling, and let Avon deal with her later.

They were safe enough. Just to be certain, he indulged himself, and opened one.

The scent wasn't really noticeable now, not until he actually pushed himself into the cupboard, in amongst the clothing. He carefully closed the door behind him, reluctant to let any escape, then sat down.

It still smelled of Blake in here, faint now, but not just his imagination. How long would it last? He'd been rationing himself in the hope that it would last longer. He'd tried to get Zen to synthesise it, but the result wasn't quite right. It would be better than nothing once this had gone, but it wasn't the same. Smell was a powerful memory trigger, but it had to be the right smell, and what Zen had produced wasn't a close enough match.

Even this wasn't the same, but it was better than nothing. Sitting here in the dark, surrounded by Blake's clothes, he could remember more easily. He could almost see Blake, hear him. Feel him.


He was startled out of his reverie. Not Blake's voice, produced by his imagination, but Vila's, and real.

The mood was broken. He scrambled to his feet, opened the cupboard door, and stepped out.

Vila looked at him solemnly. "She asked, but I wouldn't." His eyes looked distant for a second. "She'd have wanted Jenna's next."

"I did lock the cabin door, didn't I?" Vila finding him was one thing, but if he'd been careless enough to leave it unlocked...

Vila nodded. "I wouldn't have disturbed you, but I went to find you to tell you she'd been after me to do some unlocking, and they said she'd already had a go at you and you'd gone to your cabin. I thought I'd find you here."

"Maybe I should keep the cabin locked permanently."

"I keep Jenna's locked." Vila glanced at the bed. "That perfume she wore helps."

He'd given up on that. Blake hadn't used any sort of distinctively scented things, the room itself had long since ceased to be Blake.

Vila patted the cupboard door. "I'll fix up some better locks, if you want."

"We'd only have to take them off when..." When we know their status. Such a lovely, non-committal way of saying 'when we know whether they're dead'.

"We'll get them back, Avon."

"Yes, we will." And he didn't believe it any more than Vila did. 

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