Better Be Good To Me

Ann Wortham and Leah Rosenthal

"Vila!" Roj Blake bellowed, his face flushing red. He reached down a hand, gripped the smaller man by the shoulder, and shook him. "Wake up, Vila!"

Vila mumbled incoherently, shifting his position on the Flight Deck couch so that he was curled up into a tight ball. "Whattayawant?" he slurred, his eyes still squeezed shut.

"Where the hell are those figures I told you to have Orac print out for me?" Blake shook him again, his grip tightening painfully.

Vila's eyes flew open, wide, brown, and startled. "Eh?"

"The figures, Vila."

"You forgot? You forgot?! Don't you know how important…oh, never mind." Blake turned away with a snort of disgust. "Go somewhere else if you're not going to contribute anything here," he snapped back over his shoulder.

Vila ran a shaking hand through his thinning light brown hair and stood up, sighing loudly. "All right, all right. I know when I'm not wanted." He started to leave but Blake's hand shot out to grip his arm as he passed by the still-fuming rebel leader.

"Just a moment. Where, is Orac? Fetch him up here before you crawl back into a bottle."

Vila simply nodded—knowing better than to argue with Blake when he was in such a black mood—and he exited the flight deck, rubbing at his eyes with the back of one hand. He stumbled down the Liberator's corridors to the teleport area—the most likely place for Orac to be since he'd seen Jenna there with the little computer unit earlier.

Orac was busily clacking and whirring when Vila entered the room and Jenna was nowhere in sight.

"Come along, Orac," Vila said, leaning down to pick up the Plexiglas box that housed the computer.

*Put me down this instant,* Orac snapped.

Vila eyed the box uncertainly. "Why? Blake needs you on the flight deck… I'll get in trouble…."

*Your petty problems do not concern me. I am busy.*

"Now, look here, you traitorous little—" Vila began to sputter.

"Vila!" What are you doing?" Jenna yelled, running into the room, her blond hair askew and her eyes flashing angrily.

"Blake needs Orac," Vila returned sullenly, backing away from the pilot nervously.

"Well, I'm using Orac right now. Blake will just have to wait. Put him down."

"But, Jenna—"

"Do it, Vila!"

Vila jumped guiltily, flinching. He was still backing up and he lost his footing on the slick floor. He slid to the ground with a thump, Orac landing with a crack across the knuckles of his left hand.

"Yeeoow," he yelped, snatching the injured hand out from underneath the computer and sucking on his throbbing knuckles.

Jenna looked singularly unsympathetic as she moved to his side. For a moment, Vila thought she was actually going to help him up, but instead she grabbed up Orac. Then, she cocked an eye at the hapless thief, the hint of a smile turning her mouth up at the corners.

"Oh, go on to the medical unit, Vila. Cally's there and will look after your hand. I'll call Blake and tell him what happened."

Vila scrambled to his feet and practically ran out of the room; Jenna wasn't very nice to be around when she got annoyed and he had a definite feeling that the ex-smuggler's patience was growing thin.

Cally was obviously busy in the medical unit; she was humming to herself as she poured and mixed various solutions into and out of test tubes. Vila stood in the doorway and shifted from foot to foot for a good five minutes before he finally cleared his throat and moaned a little, clutching his injured hand close to his chest.

Cally glanced up, her eyes narrowing at the interruption. "What do you want, Vila?"

"I, uh, hurt my hand, Cally," he whined. "Orac attacked me."

The Auron girl rolled her eyes and sighed expressively. "That must have been a sight—an inanimate box attacking you. You really must stop being so clumsy all the time, Vila," she said wearily, moving to examine the man's injury. "It doesn't look too bad," she finally pronounced, "in spite of all your whimpering."

"You're heartless, Cally. Just a little adrenaline and soma to dull the pain, maybe?"

Cally smiled, her brown eyes sparkling. "I think some heat treatment and a vitamin solution. In fact, when you're finished here, you can take some of this vitamin solution down to Avon. He's been working on the back-up computers for at least six hours without a decent break."

Vila mumbled in protest but did as Cally told him.

An hour later, Vila trotted toward the back-up computer control room, feeling a little better but still sulking because Cally never would give in and let him sample the adrenaline and soma.

Avon was nowhere to be seen when Vila finally reached his objective, so he flopped down into one of the work station chairs and began to sing a bawdy tune he'd picked up during his misspent youth.

"Will you kindly stop that racket," Avon's voice said in a low growl. "I'm trying to work back here."

"Avon? Is that you?" Vila shot to his feet, cutting off his song and darting his eyes around quickly. "Where are you?" The computer expert's voice had seemed to come out of thin air. Vila began to tremble, the hair on the back of his neck prickling.

"Down here, idiot."

Vila looked down and could see the heels of Avon's black boots poking out from under one of the larger consoles.

"What do you want?" the technician snarled, pushing himself out and rising to his knees to glare at Vila.

"Uh, Cally sent you something to drink and says you're to stop and have a rest."

"Oh, she does, does she? I suppose she thinks the computers will simply repair themselves while I rest?"

"There's no need to bite my head off about it, Avon!" Vila snarled right back. "I'm just giving you a message." He put on his best wide-eyed "I-am-affronted-and-cruelly-abused" expression and slammed the bottle of vitamin solution down on a handy table. "Here it is; don't drink it, then." He turned to leave, but found the door blocked by a glowering Avon.

"One moment," he purred, his voice deceptively and dangerously soft. "I have need of your assistance."

"Well, I like that! After the way you've just—"

"Shut up, Vila," Avon interrupted, his tone dripping acid. "I have a job admirably suited to your admittedly limited talents. I need to know when the transtater is recalibrated properly. You," he pushed the thief in the chest with an open palm, shoving him backwards to the console chair, "sit here and watch the monitor. When the diagram matches the screen," he shoved a paper with a diagram drawn on it into Vila's hands, "let me know."

With that, Avon drank down the vitamin solution and crawled back under the console he'd been working on.

"Stuck up. Alpha!" Vila stared at the blinking VDT a long moment, then glanced down at the incomprehensible diagram Avon had thrust at him.

He watched the screen intently for a little while, but then his attention began to wander aimlessly. Sighing loudly and thinking malicious thoughts about Avon's presumptiveness, indeed about the entire crew's bullying of him, he began to wonder why they all wanted to make his life so miserable. Before long, he was drifting off to sleep, muttering softly to himself, "Things

would be different around here if I was an Alpha and they were all Deltas…."

Vila Restal, famed revolutionary, crack computer technician, top-flight pilot, well-known security expert, genius, and Fearless Leader of men, stood on the flight deck of the most powerful ship in the universe, the mighty Liberator, and surveyed his ship and the crew who followed him out of love, loyalty, self-sacrifice and stupidity. They were a motley lot, at best, Restal thought ruefully. Not a one of them was his equal, although Avon showed signs of a minor ability with computers—in spite of his physical clumsiness and the IQ of a semi-sentient moron.

Restal tried not to sneer, not wanting his slavishly loyal followers to know the contempt he felt toward their inferior class: Deltas, every one of them.

"Ha!" he snorted, turning to cock an eye at Cally, his resident telepath and barmaid. "Be a good girl and bring me some adrenaline and soma," he told her with a sly wink and a lecherous grin.

Cally jumped up from her spot at the communication station and ran to the nearby table Orac was sitting on. The little computer was making soft whirring noises.

*Adrenaline and soma, Orac,* Cally demanded and the computer gurgled as it dispensed the requested drink into a cup she held under a spigot on its side.

"Thank you, Orac."

*I exist to serve,* the computer intoned humbly, its lights flashing on and off.

Cally carefully minced her way back to Restal and offered him the drink.

"Keep 'em coming," he told her with an imperious gesture as he downed it in one long swallow.

The Auron smiled with the pleasure of serving her leader and hurried back to Orac to refill Restal's glass.

*How may I please you?* the little computer asked.

"Jenna," Restal called out to the ex-smuggler, who was busily twining strands of her long blond hair through her fingers. She jumped to attention, eagerly awaiting his commands. "I'm hungry; be a love and fetch me a snack," he demanded.

Jenna giggled excitedly and brought the man a bowl of grapes, which she preceded to peel delicately and pop into his mouth.

"This is the life," Restal sighed in-between mouthfuls. He patted Jenna paternally on one slim, bare shoulder and the girl batted her eyelashes at him adoringly.

+Information,+ the voice of the flight computer, Zen, suddenly interrupted the idyllic scene. "Fifteen Federation pursuit ships are approaching Liberator at a speed of standard by fifteen."

"That's impossible!" Avon remarked stridently from his position at the weapon's console. "They can't travel that fast!"

The ship was violently rocked as the Federation ships came into range and began to fire at the vessel, one of them scoring a direct hit.

"Obviously they can," Restal sneered.

"Oh no," Jenna moaned. "What do we do?" She looked to Restal for instructions. All eyes were on the rebel leader now, glowing with their trust.

"Must I do everything for you Delta ditzes?" he said wearily. "You must recalibrate the transtator, of course, blast a passageway through the ships now ringing us in, then fly through it, leaving the Federation to eat our dust."

"But we can't outrun them!" Cally cried, wide-eyed. "They were doing standard by fifteen!"

Restal rolled his eyes in annoyance. "I have modified the Liberator in such a manner that we can now travel in excess of standard by twenty. I am a genius, you know."

There was a momentary pause as the crew stared at their leader in admiration. Then, Jenna rushed to carry out his orders while everybody else seated themselves around the deck.

"We're all going to die," Avon whined. "You're going to get us all killed." The technician was trembling violently.

Restal spared him a tolerantly amused glance. "Oh, shut up, Avon," he snapped. "Roj, take a memo," he added, turning to his secretary, who sat on the Flight Deck couch, still and silent.

Roj Blake whipped out a notepad and waited, pen poised in hand. As Jenna began moving the Liberator through the thick of the Federation pursuit ships, Restal calmly dictated to Blake, his legs casually crossed, and a fresh glass of adrenaline and soma held in his hand.

"To Supreme Commander Servalan and her pet Delta, Travis: Greetings," he began. Blake scribbled furiously, his expression intent, his brown curls falling forward into his face. "Once again I have outmaneuvered you, my slinky little lovely. If you insist on sending that leather-clad sissy-boy Travis, after me you must expect these little disappointments. However, I am willing to negotiate with you. How about lunch? I know a great little place in Freedom City. In the meantime, catch me if you can." Restal leaned back, feeling extremely pleased with himself.

"Have Orac send that off to Federation HQ," he told Blake.

The secretary nodded wordlessly and scrambled to his feet as the ship began to lurch crazily.

"Jenna!" Restal snapped. "I thought I told you to recalibrate the transtater before you blasted through those ships!"

"I forgot," the blond pilot said in a small voice.

"Forgot?! " Restal waved his arms dramatically in the air, causing the adrenaline and soma he was still holding to spray all over Blake and Cally. He ran to the pilot's chair and pushed Jenna out of the way.

"Must I do everything on this ship?" He worked the controls frantically, trying to bring the ship back under control. "Somebody bring me a drink," he ordered, without glancing up.

All four crew members made a mad dash for Orac but Avon won the race this time. The computer technician picked his way back to Restal as carefully as possible, balancing a large glass of adrenaline and soma, but the ship tilted wildly just as he reached the rebel leader and the entire glassful of liquid spilled across the front of Restal's sumptuous, elegant, one-of-a-kind, suede tunic.

"Uh, oh," Avon said guiltily, backing up. "Oh, help," he added as Restal's face turned red with fury.

"You low-class, ignorant, fifth-grade, Delta oaf," the rebel thundered , wiping the liquid off his face and licking the tips of his fingers. "You've ruined my clothes and wasted good liquor! I've got a good mind to toss you straight out the airlock!"

"No!" Avon wailed, throwing himself at Restal's feet. "Please! Not that. I'm sorry. I'll sew you a new tunic! I'll do anything, but don't throw me off the ship!" He grabbed Restal's foot and began to shower it with kisses.

"You're making a spectacle of yourself," Restal snarled, trying to shake Avon loose. "Quit groveling."

"I'm sorry, Vila!" the dark-haired man continued to sob. "Please, Vila… Vila… Vila!"

Vila gave a gasp of surprise as Avon kicked him in the foot again. He blinked up at the computer expert, still groggy and disoriented with sleep.

Avon was standing over him, glowering.

"You bloody idiot!" the dark-haired man snarled into his face. "You fell asleep again and caused me to misalign the transtator!"

Vila blinked once more then drew himself up, shaking off the hand Avon had gripped his shoulder with. "How dare you touch me? How dare you speak to me in that tone, you… you… you… uh, oh," he trailed off, suddenly realizing what he was saying and who he was saying it to.

Avon was staring at him with an expression of stunned horror—but with just a hint of fascination in the depths of his dark eyes. "What have you been drinking, Vila?" he eventually asked softly, his tone mildly curious.

Vila lowered his eyes. "You'd just better be good to me, is all," he mumbled. "Things could change, you know."

Avon snorted, harrumphing loudly. "You'll never change, Vila. Now, do you think you can stay awake long enough to help me finish this job?" Sarcasm dripped from his words.

Vila nodded, still averting his gaze. As Avon crawled back under the computer console, Vila stared dreamily into the distance. "Someday I'll have my chance," he said softly. "Someday soon…."

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Ashton Press/Ann Wortham

Leah Rosenthal

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