Home RunBy Joolz
Page 1 of 7
|The pair materialized in a quiet hallway far from the main thoroughfares. Avon raised the bracelet to his mouth. “Down safely. Home sweet home.”|
The crackling connection did nothing to hide the concern in Blake’s voice. “Avon, I’ll ask you one more time to reconsider. It’s just too risky.”
“I believe it to be justified. Think of it this way, if anything goes wrong you will be able to say that you were right.”
“I don’t want to be right. I want you and Vila to make it back in one piece.”
Vila interjected irritably over Avon’s shoulder, “If you want me back safely, then bring me up now. I never liked this plan, you know.”
Avon chided silkily, “But Vila, I thought you wanted nothing more than to return to Earth.” He turned his attention again to Blake, “Just make sure you’re here on schedule. That’s all I ask.”
Blake sighed audibly. “We will. Be careful.”
Avon closed the connection and turned away from his companion. “Let’s get started.”
The corridor soon intersected another and the two merged with the flow of pedestrian traffic. This was London Dome, which had been home to both of them before the supposed one-way trip to Cygnus Alpha. Now it was well behind enemy lines.
Anyone knowing them would not recognize them at first glance. To alter Vila’s appearance his hair had been darkened to black, and Avon had applied a follicle stimulator to the protesting thief, resulting in a bushy moustache. Since they would be mainly in the Delta sections, his regularly favoured attire was deemed suitable.
Avon, on the other hand, had been disguised chiefly by a change of clothing. He wore a fawn brown tunic with an open v-necked collar, slightly too large, tied at the waist with a thin cord over baggy grey trousers. The outfit was revenge on Vila’s part for the moustache, but it was also so far from Avon’s usual sartorial armour so as to render him almost invisible. Almost invisible. The eyes were still arresting, even when turned a muddy green by contact lenses.
The external transformation was easy enough, but blunting the Alpha-elite attitude was another matter entirely. Vila had given a bored Avon a quick course on Delta customs and behaviours, but it was yet to be seen how well the lessons had taken.
The technician strode purposefully toward their destination. They were in a section of the dome inhabited by household workers, far from the sector frequented by the labouring classes which had produced Vila. There was less chance of meeting anyone who might recognize Vila here, something which didn’t entirely please the thief.
Scurrying to keep up with Avon, Vila tried again. “Just a quick call from a public vis-fone. Just to say that I’m all right. I don’t have to tell her where I am.”
Avon rounded suddenly to block Vila’s path. Glaring rigidly into Vila’s face, he hissed quietly, “We discussed this. We will do what we came to do and leave. No one must know that we have been here. No one at all. The danger is too great.”
Vila scoffed. “Danger? The biggest danger around here is you. You can’t blend in to save your own life, much less mine!”
Growling, Avon challenged, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Of course you don’t, do you? You would have had to listen to me, wouldn’t you? You would have had to admit that I might know more about something than you do, like how to act like a Delta grade.
“Look at us right now,” he continued. “A Delta would never just hover to intimidate. If you want to get my attention here you have to be a little more direct.”
Avon shoved Vila in the chest, pushing him back against the wall. Grinning, he asked, “Like that? I could get used to this.”
“That’s better. Now stop walking like you’ve got somewhere to go. Look at the others, would you.” Streams of men and women passed them by, not giving them a glance. “They all look like they’re either just getting off a long, mind-numbing work shift, or are on their way to one. Either way there’s no hurry.”
Avon surveyed the crowd and nodded. “I see your point. We must act like we’re brain dead from consuming Delta level suppressants. That should be no problem in your case, but I will have to concentrate. Come.”
They continued on at a slower pace, Avon keeping his eyes on the floor. Vila thought that he just might enjoy making a Delta of Avon, just to see him brought down a notch or two.
Testing the waters, Vila said, “It wouldn’t take long, you know. Just a couple of hours. In and out and no one knows I was there.”
This argument had been going on for some time and Avon knew what he was talking about. “My answer is still no.”
“Maybe you’re right. If I just walked up to Gil and said hello she would probably drop dead from shock. The weak chest runs in the family, it does. Gil was always stronger than me, though. She used to carry me around on her back when I was a lad so I wouldn’t feel left out with all the adults. She taught me to steal combs out of ladies’ hair smooth as silk. Taught me plenty of other useful things, too, like where the good bolt-holes were that adults couldn’t get into.
“Gave it all up and went straight when she got married, though. What a waste. Never ended up having kids, either. I would have liked to be Uncle Vila. A whole new generation to bring into the family business. My sis must be dead worried about me, what with the prison-planet sentence and getting mixed up with rebels. I’m sure it would ease her mind to know that her baby brother was still alive, if not always well. I’d have a story or two to set her hair on end.”
Avon never looked at him. “You will not sway me with your sentimental recitation. We’re here for one purpose, that is all.”
“Well, it doesn’t hurt to try; it being such a little thing to ask. I never want much, do I?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I find you quite wanting at times.”
Vila made a sour face at his companion but fell quiet. There were three days to go. Plenty of time to wear down Avon’s resistance, or to slip away on his own at some point.
Soon they entered an open area with vendor booths and food stalls as far as the eye could see. The smells and sounds reminded Vila of childhood, of home, and he stopped to look around happily. Avon grasped his arm and dragged him forward.
Just as Vila began to protest they came to a halt in front of a row of public compu-vis terminals. Avon reached into the shoulder bag he was carrying and extracted identification and credit cards that Avon had created for them, one for each. There were enough credits in their fictitious accounts to purchase what they might need on this mission, but not enough to arouse suspicion.
Avon handed one to Vila. “Here, Vilem. Don’t spend it all in one place. In fact, don’t spend it at all. I want you to stand outside the booth and warn me if any security forces should approach. Don’t wander off, do you understand?”
“Yes, Perr. Of course, Perr. I’m at your beck and call, your majesty.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it.”
Avon ducked into one of the booths and closed the transparent door. In seconds his hands were flying over the computer controls. Vila leaned against the door and looked around. In this part of the complex the crowd had a little more life. Mums and Dads were out doing their shopping. Groups of chums were strolling about joking and flirting. Children begged for a credit to buy sweets or vegi-burgs.
Vila felt himself relax more than he had in ages. This was where he wanted to be, living with people he had something in common with. Where he would be one of the gang, not the odd man out. Where he could have friends, not just shipmates. But unless Blake’s rebellion was a success, that might not be possible anywhere, and certainly never on Earth. He was a wanted man, and in truth he had lost his chance for a simple life well before joining up with Blake. He had already been exiled when they met, and through his own fault, no one else’s.
This train of thought erased the smile from his face. He was stuck. Trapped. Caught in a mess of his own making with nothing but a bunch of suicidal, obsessive Alphas and aliens for company. Except for Gan, bless him. If it weren’t for the big out-worlder Vila thought that he would have gone insane. Cally was all right, too, for an alien. At least she had a kind word once in a while, not only, ‘Shut up Vila.’
Vila peered in to see what Avon was doing but the vis-screen was at the wrong angle. He sighed. Mister high-and-mighty comp-tech would tell Vila only what he thought Vila needed to know. Bit of a control freak, as Aunt Tila used to say.
He thought about their mission. It was Avon’s project, start to finish. The only other person who thought it was a good idea was Orac, and he wasn’t really a person. No one wanted to do this, but just try saying no to Avon when he’s made up his mind. Not even Blake could do it. But who had ended up here in danger? Vila, the ever-handy thief, that’s who.
It was all Orac’s fault, really. The super-computer had detected a few secret memos within the Federation scientific section, and it and Avon had spent days following them up. It turned out that the Federation was developing a new computer technology of its own. Not the same as Orac but potentially just as powerful. In fact, since it apparently didn’t involve Tarriel cells, it might be impenetrable to Orac. The stuck-up computer couldn’t put up with that, could it? No, it and Avon had devised a plan to steal the specifications for the new system before it could be operationalised. And where were those specs? Why, on Earth, of course. In the middle of a high security tech zone.
Just his luck. First time back on Earth in over a year and it was to pull off a bigger heist than he had ever tried before. No relaxation or socializing. No visit to his sister.
Vila glanced again at Avon. What was taking so long? Sure, Avon was a computer genius, but trip the wrong alarm and security would be on them in a minute. Vila was nervous, but comforted himself with the knowledge that Avon wouldn’t do anything to risk his own safety, so if Vila stuck close to him he should be all right.
Avon finally emerged from the booth and walked away, leaving Vila to trail behind. He inquired with utmost decorum, not a whine at all, “Where are we going now? Avon!”
“My name is Perr. I have acquired a room for us. You are not aware of it but we have been living there for six months.”
“Right. But I’m hungry, Perr. Let’s get something to eat, eh?”
Avon stopped and looked at him consideringly. “All right. You are the guide in this subterranean warren, Vilem. What do you recommend?”
Vila slapped him on the back, determined to make the most of the opportunity, even if the company wasn’t all he could desire.
He assured the other man, “You’re in for a treat tonight. Trust me.”
Avon smirked, “Not in this lifetime,” but he followed Vila’s lead nonetheless.
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