by Jane Carnall
"Vila weighs seventy three kilos, Avon."
Orac's voice hung in the air, the words etching shadows on the minds of two listeners. "Vila," Avon breathed, and stooped to pull out the small gun from where he'd stowed it.
A seventy-three kilo force of terrified Vila hit him in the back, knocking him forward against the control panel. Startled, half-stunned, Avon fought back with instinct rather than skill, each of them grappling for the gun and more than the gun.
No words spoken; only the gasping breath and the smell of fear-sweat --
and a sound, suddenly, a sharp report. Numbness for a moment; and then Avon knew, with utter disbelief, that Vila had shot him. That he was dying.
The thief pullled back, staring down at him with wide dark eyes, the gun dropping from nerveless fingers. Avon managed one last fierce grin. "Never thought... you'd have the guts... Vila...."
Getting Avon's body down the ladder, into the airlock, was something that Vila didn't want to think about; he did it, somehow, automaton-like, and then climbed back up the ladder, shuddering. There was blood on his fingers. Avon's blood. He guided the shuttle into a safe orbit, and waited for Tarrant to guide the Scorpio into rendezvous.
He clambered through the airlock, moving stiffly as a corpse, and went on to the flight deck. Three faces met him; relieved, worried, curious. Oh yes. They'd want an explanation. "Egrorian tried to cheat us. We had to dump the tachyon funnel... and Orac. He overloaded the shuttle somehow. I think you'd better take us back to Xenon, Tarrant."
Standing there, swaying gently, he had no more words. "Where's Avon, Vila?" Dayna asked.
Vila shook his head. "Avon didn't make it."
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