Let There Be LightBy Nicola Mody
Page 3 of 4
“Information. Three Federation pursuit ships detected.”
“Standard by seven, Zen,” Blake ordered.
“Three hundred spacials and closing,” Cally said.
“Force wall up!”
“Two plasma bolts launched,” Vila called, and clutched at his console as they hit the force wall and the Liberator rolled with the impact.
“Evasive action, Jenna. Vila, fire!”
Vila’s hands raced over the controls, dropping the force wall just long enough to fire the neutron blasters. “Got one!”
“Lose them, Jenna.”
“They’re firing again.” Vila was almost thrown from his seat as Jenna wrenched them out of the bolts’ path. He readied himself to fire back, but the second ship had disappeared from the scanners.
“They’re lost.” Jenna grinned, tossing her hair back.
Vila, still riding high on adrenaline, laughed. “They really want that plastic box back, don’t they? No chance! Best getaway ship in the galaxy, this.”
“Eh?” Vila’s hand automatically went to the weapons controls before he realised it was Zen who had spoken.
The same conclusion hit the others, but Vila was well in the lead in the dash to his cabin, grabbing a fire extinguisher on the way.
“Bloody hell,” Blake said from behind him as he sprayed the small pools of burning oil on his desk and floor.
“That,” Avon said, “is not a menorah. It is a bank of molotov cocktails.” He waited till Vila had finished, then stepped forward and almost lifted him off the floor as he shook him. “Orac predicted the destruction of this ship, and we all know why now, don’t we?”
“Let him go, Avon.” Blake brought his face right up to Vila’s. “Vila,” he said, speaking slowly and clearly. “No more naked flames on this ship. Do you understand?”
“No candles. No lamps. No incendiary devices. No bombs. Nothing.”
Vila shook his head.
“Do you promise me?”
That evening, Vila attached nine small LEDs to a small jury-rugged control board. He had spent two hours making it with its very clever eight-way switch in front of the middle light, successfully distracting him from the lingering symptoms of radiation sickness. He turned on the power, lighting the middle LED, then manipulated the switch to light the four on the left, one by one, then the first of the right-hand ones.
Not really the same as candles or lamps, but he’d done something similar for the front door at home when he was a kid, while his mum was alive. Silly really, doing it now, hadn’t bothered for years, even though the festival was the best time of the year. He’d preferred to spend it out in the street, immersed in that infectious fizzing intoxicating joy.
But this year, seeing Meegat’s candles had reminded him of evenings with his mum, and lying in his cabin on the way to Aristo, hoping he wasn’t going to... well, he’d thought a lot about things, that’s all.
“You know,” Gan said, making up a sandwich the size of a doorstep, “I’m starting to get my appetite back, especially thinking about festival food. I could go for a nice mince pie to finish up with.”
Vila pulled a face.
“Fruit mince. You’d like it, Vila. It’s soaked in liquor for a week.”
“One of his ambitions, no doubt,” Avon fastidiously spread some tapenade on a thin slice of bread.
“Do you eat special food at your festival, Vila?” Cally asked.
“Yeah, it works up to a blow-out meal on the ninth day, veges, potatoes, a nice nut-roast. Or some chicken if you eat that sort of thing.” His mum always shaped her roast into a bird in flight, and made it into a joke—would you like a wing, Vila darling?
“A bit small for our family,” Gan said. “We always had a whole cow on a spit.”
Vila blanched, and tried to think of something else. “And there’s special stuff in the first eight days. I was famous for my latkes and doughnuts.”
“I’ll bet you were.” Jenna got up from the table. “We were talking about food.”
“Fried potato pancakes and little sweet cakes with jam,” Vila said with dignity. “I was very good at them.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t think I’m quite ready to think about fried food yet,” Jenna said reflectively. “I’ll be on the flight deck with Blake.”
Vila gave Gan a knowing look as she left. Fat chance. Jenna would have to dress herself in a revolutionary flag to get Blake to take a second look. It was an idea though. One shoulder and one leg bare right up to the hip...
“What else did you do?” Cally asked.
“She means as opposed to trying to burn down the Delta levels and eating yourself to bursting point,” Avon said.
Vila gave him a speculative look. “There’s the turny-top game. Wouldn’t take me long to make one. It’s got four sides with different marks on, and you play for the pot.”
“Ah, a cut-down version of roulette suitable for the limited Delta intellect?”
“Gambling, then,” Shaking her head disapprovingly, Cally got up.
“We played for points or sweets,” Vila told her. “Little chocolate credits.” His eyes narrowed as he turned back to Avon. “We could make it more interesting if you like.”
“Indeed? What do you suggest?”
Vila watched Cally leave, then leaned forward. “You got into that treasure room before you got to Cygnus Alpha, didn’t you?”
“And you’re suggesting you haven’t?”
“Blake made me promise not to.”
“More fool you. So I’m expected to provide the pot, am I?” Avon stood up. “No dice, Vila. So to speak.” He went out.
Vila turned to Gan, looking hopeful. “What about you, then?”
“I don’t like gambling.”
“Just for points, then? Just a bit of fun?”
Gan’s eyes crinkled. “All right, Vila. But no cheating.”
Vila’s face lit up.
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