Vila was supposed to be checking out the weapons calibration on his Liberator console, but he found it hard to keep his attention, and especially his eyes, on his work. Dayna was in the lounge area right below him, tinkering with some new deadly device. Vila had just discovered that if he leaned forward a little he could practically see right down her cleavage. He knew it was not good manners to stare, but if she didn't want men to look, she shouldn't wear things like that blue and gold jump-suit she had on today. It was an all-in-one outfit that that outlined her graceful shape and long limbs. The bit that Vila really liked was the keyhole cut-out at the front that partially exposed her breasts. He wished for a moment that he could do more than just look. Vila gave an involuntary sigh.
Dayna heard him, glanced up suddenly and caught him staring. She frowned momentarily before realising what his attention had been on.
"Vila !" She leapt gracefully to her feet, one hand instinctively moving to cover herself better.
He jerked back from the console, guilt written across his face.
"You little worm !" Dayna exclaimed. Her dark eyes flashed angrily as she turned fully to face him. "How dare you gawp at me in that way !"
"I'm sorry. I couldn't help it," Vila protested hastily.
Dayna glowered. "I thought the stories I'd heard about Delta manners were exaggerated, but obviously they're not." Her voice dripped with disgust.
Rather to her surprise, Vila didn't keep babbling apologies but instead stepped down from his console and walked round the horseshoe of padded seats. "My grading has nothing to do with it," he retorted. "And I'm fed up with Tarrant and Avon and everyone else going on about it. You all like to look down on me but underneath we all have the same instincts. We're all human, no matter how much or how little education anyone's had. I'm afraid you just don't know very much about how the galaxy really works, Dayna, especially men." He rested his hands on the backs of the seats, leaning towards her in an unusually assertive pose.
"What do you mean by that ?" Dayna asked. She still often felt out of her depth here on the Liberator, among a bunch of people who were essentially strangers. Vila's unexpected reaction confused her, and she hated not feeling in control of the situation.
"I mean that you've had a very sheltered life so far," Vila explained. "Had you actually met any men before you left Sarran, apart from your father ?"
"One or two," Dayna answered defensively. "My father brought in trusted friends as tutors."
"That's exactly it," Vila said with satisfaction. "They were your father's trusted friends."
"I still don't get it," Dayna said, moving from the lounge area.
"Dayna, you're a woman." An unintentionally lecherous look flashed across Vila's face. "Your father's friends couldn't respond to you as men, because they were your father's friends and it wouldn't be polite. But men like women, They like to look at women and to think about them."
Dayna stopped short. "You mean you just like to leer at women," she said irritably.
Vila was nettled by her remarks about his behaviour, but he continued trying to explain in a reasonable manner. "Look, Dayna. Men are just different to women. No matter how much we like and respect you as people, and I do respect you," he added hastily, as he moved a little closer. "Men just can't help seeing women from a sexual point of view as well. I bet Tarrant's been wondering what you look like without any clothes on."
Dayna had never been in a situation like this before. It had simply never occurred to her that men might view things so differently to herself and she was shocked. Vila's downright attitude had to be some kind of aberration and he was trying to take advantage of her ignorance. Anger and disgust were written across Dayna's face. "Just because you're so..." She gestured vaguely as the words failed her. "You don't need to accuse other men of thinking like you do."
"It's a fact of life," Vila snapped, irritated at what he assumed to be another critical reference to his Delta grading. "As you'd know if you'd had any kind of life other than being cooped up on some planet with a load of hairy savages."
"My father was trying to keep me safe." Dayna's voice rose. The pain of his murder was still very real.
"If he wanted to keep you safe he should warned you not to wear clothes like that unless you want men to gawp at you," Vila raised his hand to point at the keyhole front of her jump-suit.
Dayna saw the movement, saw him reaching towards her. Alarmed and angry as she was, sheer instinct took over. Dayna grabbed Vila's arm, twisted and threw him with her full strength. Taken completely by surprise, Vila crashed head-first into the central console. As Dayna spun, crouching ready to attack or defend, she saw him slump to the floor. She froze a moment, regaining her self-control before going towards him.
"Vila ?" Dayna crouched gracefully by his side. "Vila ? I'm sorry."
He wasn't responding and as she leaned further over him, Dayna saw the blood spreading on the floor beneath him.
"Oh no." Dayna almost roughly pulled Vila over on to his back. There was a nasty gash by the hairline over his left temple where he'd hit the edge of the forward console. Blood was smudged across his forehead and soaking into his hair. Dayna pressed her hands frantically against his chest and throat. He was still breathing at least. She scrambled to her feet, lunging for the intercom control on the console.
"Cally ! Avon ! Please come to the flight deck. There's been an accident !"
A few moments later, Dayna was back at Vila's side and rolling him into the recovery position.
Avon was the first to arrive, coming down the corridor at a run. He hurried across the flight deck to where Dayna was kneeling beside Vila and keeping a check on his pulse.
"What happened ?" Avon asked. "Did Vila have one drink too many and finally manage to fall and knock himself senseless ?" Although the words were harsh, his hands were gentle as he pushed back Vila's hair to examine the wound.
"It was my fault," Dayna blurted. "I didn't mean to throw him against the console though."
Avon twisted to glare at her. Dayna recoiled from his gaze, her eyes already bright with tears. Avon bit back his first thoughts and turned his attention to Vila again.
"Fetch the medkit," he ordered.
When the circular pad was pressed against his head, Vila responded with a faint, inarticulate sound. Avon leaned closer and called Vila's name sharply. Vila's eyes opened briefly and he tried to move his hand.
"Just lie still." Avon caught Vila's wrist and held it steady.
Cally appeared at that moment. Dayna moved over to make room for her to join Avon, and stood unhappily aside.
"Head injury and shock." Avon's voice was even and quiet but he didn't take his eyes from Vila to acknowledge Cally's arrival.
Vila stirred again, drifting between consciousness and coma. His breathing was fast and shallow like his pulse.
"I'll give him a stim shot now, then we'd better get him straight to the surgical unit," Cally said, reaching for the emergency kit.
Avon kept the coagulant pad in place against Vila's head with one hand, and let the other rest reassuringly on Vila's arm.
"Just stay with us. Vila," Cally said, broadcasting with her telepathy as well as speaking aloud.
Vila opened his eyes but there was no sign of recognition, and a few moments later he slipped back into unconsciousness. There was no apparent reaction as Cally pushed up the sleeve of his grey tunic and administered the stim shot.
"Let's move," Avon ordered. He and Cally lifted Vila's limp weight between them, getting a practical reminder that Vila was physically larger than he often seemed to be. Tarrant's strength would have helped, but he was off-duty and asleep. "Bring Orac," Avon told Dayna. Then he braced himself to the task of carrying Vila to the Liberator's surgical unit
Vila started to regain consciousness as Cally was scanning the wound with the radio sensor.
"Lie still," she told him, needing both hands to manipulate the heavy device.
Dayna moved closer and steadied Vila's head, glad to be doing something useful. She was surprised at how soft Vila's hair was to touch. Avon was watching the black and white scanner display, wishing that there was a trained doctor on board Liberator. A knowledge of first aid and all the data in the computers' banks were no substitute for expert, hands-on knowledge. The scanner showed a hair-line skull fracture and some damage to the underlying tissues that he couldn't properly interpret on his own. Avon scowled, absently noting the smudges of drying blood on his own jacket. He brushed at the fabric with one hand as he turned to Orac for help.
Vila blinked, his gaze wandering around the functional room. "Hurts," he muttered.
"We're taking care of it," Cally said calmly. She put the scanner back in its place and moved to confer quietly with Avon and Orac.
Dayna wanted to say something but her throat was tight with suppressed fear. She kept silent and took Vila's cold hand between her own. He slowly turned his attention to her, his brown eyes bewildered.
"Wan' go home," he mumbled, slurring the words. "Hate this place. Change me."
Dayna found her voice. "We're trying to help you, Vila."
Vila's eyes closed. "Don't wan' help." The last word faded as he passed out again.
Cally and Avon moved back to the bed. Avon's hand rested on Vila's shoulder as he spoke to Dayna.
"You'd better wake Tarrant, tell him and have him take over on the flight deck." His voice was controlled but his eyes promised harsh questions would be asked later.
"We'll take care of Vila," Cally added. "The internal haemorrhaging isn't as bad as I feared. We can stop the bleeding now and control the pressure on his brain. The injury is nasty but hopefully not too complicated."
Dayna nodded and fled, her thoughts churning over Vila's rejection of her help. It was no more than she deserved.
Vila woke slowly and reluctantly to a throbbing headache. He shivered, tried to control it, and found he couldn't. Something had gone wrong. The fear of that, and of not knowing what was happening to him, only made things worse. Then he felt someone gently tucking a blanket around him.
"It'll be all right, Vila. Don't panic."
It was a woman's voice, as kind as the hands smoothing the silvery blanket over his shoulders. Vila opened his eyes, blinking until she came into focus. She was pretty and slim with green-brown eyes and soft brown ringlets. And she was smiling at him, which was rare enough in this place.
"You'll feel warmer in a minute," she said.
It was true; the convulsive shivering was dying away. Vila relaxed a little and watched the woman walk over to a metal trolley with dishes and a brown jug on it. She wore a red and fawn tunic of some kind with trousers. It wasn't at all like the uniforms the other orderlies wore.
"Where...what happened ?" Vila asked. He felt amazingly weak and it was difficult to think properly.
"There was an accident and you hit your head," she told him, returning to the bedside. "Now take this." She offered him a pill and a glass of water.
"No drugs," Vila muttered, turning his head away. "Make me feel funny."
"It'll ease your headache," she insisted.
Vila's head did hurt. The woman seemed kind and he had a feeling he could trust her. "Only for headache ?" he asked. It was getting harder to find the words he wanted.
"Just the headache," she reassured him.
There was no point in fighting her. Vila had found that if he refused to take the drugs, or palmed them away, the doctors would just give him injections instead. He nodded and obediently took the pill she fed him.
When that was over, the woman moved to examine one of the displays on the medical equipment, and Vila looked about the room. It was functional, almost stark, and lacking in colour. Some walls were dark grey and others had strange white panels. The door was dark grey too and a funny shape, more like a stretched hexagon than a rectangle. It wasn't like anything Vila had seen before and he got scared again. "Where ? Have you moved me ?" he asked anxiously. He lifted his head, trying to see a window or something familiar, but a wave of dizziness made him fall back.
The woman hurried back to his bedside. "You're just in the surgical unit."
"Not Doctor Zombie ? Brain place ?" Vila was still violently dizzy; his vision had almost blacked out which only fuelled his panic.
"No, Vila; you're quite safe here." She bent over, resting her hands on his shoulders. "No one's going to hurt you."
Vila was still scared but it was getting harder to think clearly There was nothing he could do except trust her.
"Just go back to sleep again," she said, stroking his hair. It was the most comforting gesture he'd felt in a long time.
Vila closed his eyes and let himself slip into blackness.
As soon as she was sure she wouldn't disturb him, Cally called Avon on the communicator and arranged for Dayna to take over in the surgical unit. A few minutes later she joined Avon and Tarrant on the flight deck. Avon had changed into a khaki green jacket with ribbed sleeves that she hadn't seen him in before and was relaxing with a glass of something green.
"Well, the good news is that Vila just woke for a few minutes," Cally said.
"There must be some bad news," Avon commented dryly.
"He didn't recognise me at all," Cally answered. She joined him in the lounge area. "He was very confused."
"Vila is always confused," Tarrant snorted impatiently. He was above them at the pilot's console, leaning forward to join in the conversation.
"Even on his good days," Avon agreed. "And this is certainly not one of them. Besides, amnesia and confusion are common enough after head injury."
"He said some very strange things," Cally persisted, wishing Avon would take the situation more seriously.
"Also common enough from Vila," Avon answered, taking a drink.
Cally resisted the temptation to blast a telepathic curse right into his uncaring head and restricted herself to telling both men what had happened.
"Doctor Zombie ?" Tarrant queried. "It sounds like something from a cheap viscast."
"Vila was scared of him, whoever he is," Cally said. She was looking up towards Tarrant but her attention was on Avon.
He was sitting back on the long seat. "Vila is scared of shadows," he remarked, but his voice and face were so controlled that Cally couldn't tell what he was feeling. "And as I said, anterograde amnesia is expected with a head injury."
"He didn't recognise me at all," Cally insisted. "That's over three years worth of memory loss."
Avon's expression remained stern but Cally suddenly understood that he was hiding his anxiety. "I offered Vila a painkiller but he didn't want it," she continued. "He said the drugs made him feel funny."
"I thought that was the entire purpose of the drugs that Vila prefers," Tarrant quipped.
Both Cally and Avon turned to glare at him.
"To refuse a drug or relaxant is most uncharacteristic for Vila," Avon said.. He paused before continuing. "I don't see that there is any action we can take, other than continuing to monitor his condition. I suggest that either you or I should be with him when he wakes," he told Cally.
"He has more memories of us," she agreed. "I'll rest now, and you can take over from Dayna in a couple of hours."
Avon nodded agreement and also stood up to leave. "I'll go and tell Dayna now," he said.
"You might find out what happened," Tarrant suggested. "Though I bet Vila was chasing her around the flight deck and fell over his own feet." Tarrant smiled broadly at the idea.
Cally was about to dismiss the idea rudely when she saw something in Avon's expression that stopped her. They left the flight deck together but Avon made no comment on Tarrant's idea so Cally resigned herself to learning more later.
Avon passed the time in the surgical unit by studying the schematics for one of Zen's minor library sub-routines. Engrossed as he was, he missed the first slight movements as Vila regained consciousness.
"A..Avon ?" Vila's weak voice broke the silence. Dropping the hard copy on to a trolley, Avon got up and crossed to the bed. "Back with us, Vila ?" he asked.
Vila was pale and looked frankly sick. The infra-sonic healer had done its job well on his skin, leaving nothing more than yellow-green bruising around the dark scab on his temple. In spite of that, Vila still looked weak and vulnerable.
"Here, try and drink some of this," Avon fetched a glass of nutrient fluid. He lifted Vila's head carefully to let him sip the dark red drink.
Vila's reactions were slow, but he obediently sipped at the glass. "What happened ?" he asked between sips.
"An accident," Avon said, keeping his voice even and calm. "No one else is hurt and we're not in any danger. You banged your head."
Vila frowned, trying to remember something. "Blake ?" he said generally.
"Fine, so far as I know," Avon answered ambiguously. He wasn't too surprised at Vila's question. The Galactic War had only been over for a matter of weeks really; that much confusion wasn't too worrying. He encouraged Vila to take a little more of the fluid.
Vila obeyed but his attention seemed to be sliding away from his surroundings. Avon let him rest back again.
"I want to go home," Vila murmured.
"That's not possible," Avon answered automatically, putting the half-empty glass on the trolley. A moment later the oddity of the remark struck him. "I know," Vila muttered. "My sentence." His eyes were closing again.
"Just let yourself sleep," Avon answered, wondering what Vila had been talking about. He stood by Vila's bed, one hand on his friend's shoulder, and watched Vila slide back into unconsciousness.
Fetching the diagnostic analyser, he pressed it gently against the wound. The disk hummed as it took readings. A light glowed red on the output console.
"Diagnosis ?" Avon asked, reaching over to flick the switch.
"Minor surface injury to epidermis and underlying tissues," the machine answered tonelessly. "Associated haematoma. Haemorrhage in cerebral cortex zone one-fifteen."
Avon didn't need the machine to tell him that much. "Prognosis ?"
"Tissue damage will heal within approximately twenty four hours."
"What about side effects ?" Avon demanded. "He appears to be suffering from memory loss and confusion."
"Insufficient data for full prognosis," the machine droned. "Degree of brain damage correlates well to length of post-traumatic amnesia. If normal, continuous memory does not return within twenty four hours, then cognitive defects and affective disorders are probable."
Avon jabbed sharply at the machine's off-switch. If Vila was slow to recover from his head injury, the Liberator would be no place for him and his problems could put them all at risk. Striding across to the communicator, Avon called Cally.
"What is it ?" she answered sleepily. "Has Vila got worse ?" Her voice sharpened as she woke more.
"Not really," Avon answered, looking at the sleeping man. "He woke for a few minutes and recognised me but his thoughts were disjointed. His last remarks made no sense to me, but I believe he was following some logic of his own."
"It's possible," Cally agreed.
"Could you reach him and find out what he's thinking ?" Avon asked.
Cally sighed into the communicator. "I'm a telepath, Avon, not an empath. I can speak to you but your minds are silent to me."
"But you can sometimes sense things," Avon persisted. He raised one hand as if making a point in a lecture "Blake said that you sensed hostility aboard that ancient ship near Fosforon."
"I can't explain that," Cally answered sharply. "And before you ask, I can hear the moondisk because it is telepathic and can project to me. Vila is a normal Earth human and has no psi ability whatsoever. I cannot read his mind."
Avon's mouth narrowed. It was the answer he had expected but he had asked anyway.
Cally spoke again. "I would suggest that you are the one most likely to understand Vila as you have the most in common with him.
Avon could hear the smile in her voice. "I have about as much in common with Vila as the Liberator does with a solid fuel rocket," he replied.
"But you are much the same age and from the same region of Earth," Cally explained. "Dayna grew up on Sarran and Tarrant is younger, besides having a narrower, military background. If Vila mentions a place or name, you are more likely to recognise it than anyone else."
Avon couldn't avoid her logic. "All right," he agreed eventually. "We'll wait and see what happens."
Vila woke twice more in the next twelve hours. His body was recovering from the shock of the accident and he managed to eat a little food though his reactions were slow and muddled. He recognised Avon once but he was still disorientated. Vila was caught in a haze of confusion, unable to either relate properly to his surroundings or to explain his drifting thoughts.
The third time he woke, he was obviously stronger but still failed to recognise Cally. She bit back her disappointment and helped him to sit up. Vila gingerly touched his head, finding a small ridge by the hairline over his left temple.
"There was an accident ?" he said.
"Of course," Cally answered, watching him anxiously. "What else could have happened ?"
Vila looked at her warily. "I've been feeling funny."
"Before the accident ?" Cally asked.
"Ever since they." Vila shut up suddenly, his face turning stubborn. He turned away from her and stared at the grey wall.
Cally gently touched his arm. "I think you'll feel better if you have something to eat. Will you be all right if I get you something ?"
Vila nodded, unwilling to speak.
She left him alone, working off her anxiety by walking faster than necessary. His continued failure to recognise her was worrying. Cally was equally anxious about his moodiness. Vila normally complained about even minor injuries and demanded attention like a child. But now he kept looking at her as if he expected her to shout or hit him. In the galley, she selected one of Vila's favourite dishes. She leaned against the wall as she waited for it to be dispensed, drumming her fingers idly. When she returned to the surgical unit, Vila had curled up in his bed, the silver blanket drawn protectively around himself.
"Are you tired again ?" Cally asked.
He didn't answer so she bent over, peering at him. Vila blinked and closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep.
"Come on, Vila," Cally put the tray on the nearest trolley and helped him sit up again. "This will do you good."
He obeyed her and stayed still as Cally wheeled the trolley over and swung it across his lap. "What's in it ?" he asked.
"Just the usual mix. All stuff you like," she answered. There was a slice of braised meat in gravy and some steamed, mixed vegetables.
Vila picked up the fork and poked the vegetables suspiciously.
"Come on now, eat some," Cally said firmly.
She waited until Vila made a start, then busied herself tidying the dishes and other oddments from the other trolley. Every instinct told her that something was badly wrong with Vila, but she didn't know what it was or how she could help him. His sullen, suspicious looks were hurtful. Cally tried to distract herself with make-work. She ran a cloth over the surface of the chrome trolley, stacked a couple of metal dishes neatly together and tidied away the print-out from the vor-scan unit. After pushing one of the chairs back into its corner, she checked on the drugs cabinet. It was locked, a rather unnecessary precaution as all the crew members knew the combination and the Liberator rarely carried passengers. Cally did wonder if Vila had been helping himself when he was left alone, but a careful count reassured her that all was in place. She considered changing the key code but decided it was a pointless exercise. Having passed a couple of minutes, she turned to see how Vila was getting on with his meal.
He was sitting upright, the trolley and food forgotten. He had pushed the left sleeve of his loose shirt up and the forearm was marked with thin red lines. As Cally watched, Vila very deliberately drew the knife across the back of his own wrist. A string of blood sprang up in its wake, oozing gently across his skin. He watched it intently, almost angrily, with no more than a faint grimace as he cut himself. Cally stared in a daze, unable to understand what she was seeing. Vila turned his arm slightly and put the blade of the knife to it again.
Cally suddenly broke through her shock. She leapt across the room, seizing the knife and wrenching it from his grasp. It clattered into a corner of the room. Vila didn't fight her, just gazed at her with a hurt and miserable expression. As she had told Avon, Cally wasn't a true empath. However, when she leaned over Vila, Cally gasped at the intensity of the misery and desolation she felt from him.
Avon ! Come here now she telepathed, too shaken and bewildered to think of using the communicator. She was holding Vila's hands, feeling warm blood under her fingers as it trickled sluggishly around his arm. "What were you doing ?" she exclaimed aloud.
"It hurts," Vila mumbled.
"Of course it does !" Cally pulled herself together sufficiently to look at the injuries. The cuts were shallow, insignificant in themselves, but she didn't understand how Vila could have sat there so calmly, cutting his own arm. "Lie down again," she said.
Vila gave her a single, bitter look, and did as he was told. Cally had to fight down the urge to flee from the despair she was feeling from him.
Avon arrived within a minute, slightly out of breath from running. Cally was still standing by Vila's bed, holding his arm. She hadn't dared to leave him for fear of what he might do.
"How did this happen ?" Avon asked, picking up a dish and some sterile wipes. He spoke evenly though his eyes betrayed his shock.
"I only took my eyes off him for a minute," Cally said. "I didn't think he'd do something like this."
Avon paused, holding a moistened cloth over Vila's arm. "Self-inflicted ?" He frowned.
Cally nodded mutely. The powerful feelings she had been getting from Vila had faded, but it was still hard for her to concentrate on other things.
Avon set to work cleaning up the wounds. "We'll discuss this with Orac. He can access Vila's medical records for us and consult an expert system."
"Orac will feel insulted if you suggest that there's a topic he's not an expert in himself," Cally said rather shakily. Avon's calm and common sense were reassuring. She looked down at Vila, who was lying passively as Avon treated his injuries. He didn't respond even when Cally lightly brushed his golden brown hair.
Is he ever going to get better ? she asked Avon silently.
He glanced at Vila's face. Avon didn't answer aloud, but Cally saw a grim determination that was comforting. Vila would get whatever help they could offer him.
Avon leaned over the small computer's table. "Orac, I want you to access all medical and psychological files on Vila Restal."
The other three crew members sat nearby, waiting for Orac's response. Vila had been sedated and left to sleep. Avon had set up a visual monitor in the surgical unit which relayed pictures to the secondary screen on the flight deck so they could keep an eye on him without disturbing him. Avon treasured his own privacy and accorded similar respect to others. He had never used Orac to access files on his companions before, and didn't relish the prospect of sharing Vila's past with others, especially relative strangers like Dayna and Tarrant. On the other hand, he realised that their more emotional responses might give them a quicker understanding of Vila's behaviour than he had himself.
"There are an extensive number of files," Orac reported, his lights working busily.
"Ignore, for now, anything compiled by Central Security since his escape from Cygnus Alpha," Avon directed.
"There are still many files," Orac said. "Vila was the subject of a great deal of psychological testing since his first standard IQ assessment at age seven."
"They started on him early," Dayna remarked.
"All Earth children are given tests at seven, eleven and fourteen," Tarrant explained casually. He was leaning back with his arms spread along the top of the bench and his legs crossed.
"Vila's first tests showed an unexpectedly high IQ rating," Orac went on. He almost sounded amused. "His test was a full five points higher than yours, Avon."
Avon carefully didn't look at the computer or his crew mates. "That is irrelevant to our current problem," he said. "I want to know whether Vila committed any acts of non-fatal self-harm while on Earth."
Cally winced at the bland description that conveyed so little of what she'd recently seen or felt. Dayna sympathetically patted her shoulder.
"Most interesting," Orac commented. He was silent a moment, searching for data. "Yes. He lacerated his arms with a stolen knife while receiving treatment at the Europdome Criminal Rehabilitation Centre."
"But that seems so wrong for Vila," Cally protested. She leaned forward on her seat as if to challenge Orac.
"It is," Orac agreed. "It was a result of the depression he was suffering as a side-effect of an unsuitable drug treatment."
"Treatment for what ?" Dayna asked.
"For his compulsion to steal, of course," Orac told her. "Vila was first arrested at the age of nine and was continually in trouble with the Federation authorities from that time on. He underwent psychological assessment and counselling at the age of twelve but the reports concluded that his problem was pathological and could not be solved by the conventional methods."
"What did they do to him ?" Dayna asked fearfully. Neither her father nor her tutorials with the computer had mentioned anything like this.
Orac continued explaining. "Vila was committed to an adult institution for advanced therapy."
"When he was twelve ?" Tarrant queried. "A minor can't be sent to an adult centre."
"Vila was then thirteen," Orac said. "The case psychologist asked for an exception order as the only alternative to jail. Unfortunately, the drug-based treatment programme was designed for adults, not adolescents. The drugs that Vila was given, and the high levels of natural hormones that arise in puberty, combined to produce unpredicted side-effects. The first drugs prescribed led to depression and self-harm. The next attempt at treatment created irrational bouts of aggression. A drug-based cure was abandoned."
"So they sent him to jail ?" Tarrant asked. He dropped the relaxed pose and leaned forward, his expression becoming intent.
"In a manner of speaking," Orac told them. "The authorities were already aware that Vila's talents extend to letting himself out through security systems as well as getting into them. The court ruled that he should be sent to a low-grade penal colony for five years, when he would be old enough for the drug treatments to be tried again if necessary. Vila was deported from Earth at the age of fourteen."
"That's barbaric !" Cally exclaimed. "They sent a child for treatment among adults, and them exiled him along with a bunch of criminals !"
"It was kinder than the alternative," Avon said. His face was almost expressionless but disgust showed in his eyes. "If drug treatments can't cure a problem, the next step is usually surgery. The patient is no longer a nuisance to society when he can barely think for himself any more."
"Doctor Zombie," Tarrant muttered, shaking his head.
No one else spoke straight away. Dayna was painfully aware of just how sheltered her life on Sarran had been. Vila had been closer to the truth than he knew. Dayna got up and prowled around the flight deck, haunted by her conscience. Tarrant watched her absently, shaken by Orac's revelations. He'd thought that his school and the Space Academy had been tough but he'd always had the choice to stay or leave. Vila had been denied that freedom. Avon was equally disturbed by the report. His strong sense of self rebelled against the Federation's attempts to alter Vila's personality and the changes they had inflicted on him in their efforts. Cally was thinking against of the loneliness and despair she'd picked up. Vila must have lived with that for months, if not years. She also got up and walked over to the secondary screen which showed Vila still sleeping. He seemed peaceful enough, but he was lying curled on his side with the blanket almost up to his ears, as if hiding.
Dayna strode back to the lounge area and broke the silence. "What happened when Vila was brought back to Earth ?" she asked.
"He was assessed again, of course," Orac informed them. "His intelligence test showed a lower than normal rating, though one counsellor entered a note to the effect that she believed Vila had faked the results. All psychologists consulted on the case agreed that the time spent in the rehabilitation centre and the penal colony had inhibited the development of normal adult social skills."
"Adult social skills ?" Dayna asked, confused by the jargon.
"He means that Vila is inclined to be childish, inconsiderate and impulsive," Avon told her with a touch of grim humour. "As we already know."
"Nevertheless," Orac interrupted testily. "As the tests indicated a passive and non-aggressive character, the court decided to release him without further treatment. Vila almost certainly went straight back to crime, but his skills had improved on the penal colony, and he was not apprehended again for over ten years. The court was told that no non-intrusive treatment would cure his compulsion to steal. As Vila has no other skills that might be useful to Federation society after corrective brain surgery, he was sentenced to permanent exile on Cygnus Alpha instead."
"They couldn't leave him as he was, and he would be no use to them after they made him into a zombie, so they just decided to dump him on a miserable planet and never mind if he lived or died !" Dayna exclaimed.
"Sacrificing the individual to protect the interests of the many," Avon said wryly.
Cally glared at him but Tarrant interrupted before an argument could start.
"Well, it seems a reasonable guess that Vila thinks he's in the treatment centre. The question is, how do we help him regain his memory ?"
Avon turned away from Cally to face Orac. "Any suggestions ?"
"Time is the great healer," the computer responded briskly. "Drug treatments are not recommended in this case, given the degree of mental confusion already existing. There is also the possibility that administration of drugs would reinforce Vila's delusion."
The crew looked at one another, searching for ideas.
"The surgical unit doesn't have a homely atmosphere," Dayna pointed out. "Maybe we should move him back to his cabin ?"
Cally glanced at the screen again, then crossed back to the others. She nodded in agreement. "His physical condition is quite stable."
"Then we'll do it now," Avon decided. "Before the sedative wears off." He stood briskly, straightening his jacket. "Come on," he gestured for Tarrant to help him. The men left together.
Cally squeezed past Orac's table and sat opposite Dayna. "I never heard of deliberate self-harm before," she said quietly. "On Auron, if anyone felt so desperate, it would be picked up by others and they would respond with warmth. Is this self-harm so common amongst humans ?"
"I don't know," Dayna answered honestly. She leaned forward, her body language awkward. "As Vila pointed out, I've had a very sheltered life."
Cally looked at the young woman, reading the discomfort in Dayna's dark eyes. "What did happen ?" she asked kindly.
Dayna studied her boots. She had only told Avon that there had been a mutual misunderstanding between herself and Vila, and she had been thinking about her father and had got upset. Avon had tactfully let the subject drop. Dayna couldn't bring herself to ask him whether Vila's comments about men might be true. In any case, the blue and gold jumpsuit had gone to the back of her cupboard and she was wearing a long-sleeved red and black outfit.
"I caught him looking at me," Dayna confessed quietly. "Well, staring...down my front." She gestured at the area she meant.
"An unnerving experience for any woman," Cally said.
Dayna looked up. "Vila did apologise. But he talked about men seeing things differently to women, and told me I'd been very sheltered."
Cally repressed a sudden urge to smile. Dayna had obviously been upset by the discussion, but the image of Vila giving anyone a paternal lecture on sexual behaviour was irresistibly comic. "There is often a degree of truth in what Vila says about things," she advised. "And he's certainly better equipped to understand male reactions and feelings than either of us."
"Yes, but Orac said his development had been affected by his treatment periods."
"His socialisation was affected by the isolation and inappropriate society," Cally corrected. "I suspect that Vila's reactions to a pretty female are much the same as other men's. Vila is just more open about it."
Dayna's skin hid her blush. "Cally ? Am I pretty ? Father always said I was, but then fathers do, don't they ?"
Cally smiled at her. "You are very pretty," she said. "It's the most normal things in the world for Vila, or any man, to enjoy looking at you."
The sparkle came back to Dayna's eyes. "I like to look nice. I'm just not used to it actually having an effect on anyone."
"Well it will. But you'll have to make up your mind about how prepared you are to cope with those effects," Cally advised. "I find some gentle teasing and the word 'no' are often best."
"Thank you," Dayna said, standing and stretching gracefully. "I'm going to get something to eat."
"Good idea." Cally rose too. "Would you like to hear about the time Vila slipped some adrenaline and soma into Avon's drink and then trapped him in the hold with Jenna ?"
They left the flight deck together, laughing.
Vila woke softly and gently, finding himself stretched comfortably out. Even before he opened his eyes he could hear a muffled noise, like music. Curious, he turned his head and saw that he was in his own cabin. The red toolkit was in its place by the door. Practice locks, more tools and printouts littered the work surface. A handful of bright silk scarves were stuffed into a tall glass on the table. The fool's cap from Goth was in its place hanging from the chair back. The reassurance of familiar things was astonishing. Less familiar was Cally sitting by the table, listening to jazzy music on her headphones. Vila wondered why she was in his cabin, then was hit by a rush of confused memories. He raised his hand to his head, finding the faint traces of a scar where he remembered it should be.
Cally saw the movement and pulled the headphones off. She came over, smiling, and sat on the edge of the bed. "How are you, Vila ?"
"There was an accident ?" he checked his memory.
Cally nodded. "That's right. You've been suffering from amnesia and confusion."
Vila tried to sort through the tangle of thoughts. "Treatment," he said. He'd been in a dull, sparse room, with someone looking after him. They'd been giving him drugs. The despair rushed back; all the misery and fear
He jumped at the sound of her voice in his mind. Cally was holding his arms.
You're on the Liberator. You're safe
"Cally ?" Vila barely knew what he was saying.
That's right. You're safe on the Liberator. You've been dreaming that you were in the Criminal Rehabilitation Centre but you're not. "You're here in your own cabin, see?" she added aloud.
Vila gazed anxiously round the cabin again. His gaze lingered on each item, recalling it and getting the memories straight. He took a deep breath and sat up in bed, trying to act normally. "Liberator," he said firmly to himself.
Cally patted his hand approvingly.
Vila glanced down, half-smiling, and saw the network of thin cuts across his forearm. The smile faded away. He snatched his hand from Cally's and raised it. The Liberator's infra-sonic therapy pads had already healed the shallow cuts to nothing more than white lines but they were clear enough.
"I was in there !" he exclaimed. "The drugs made me mad !"
"No, Vila !" Cally grabbed his shoulders, forcing him to look at her. "The accident caused memory confusion and you believed you were in the Rehabilitation Centre. You've been experiencing it again, but you're not really there."
Vila swallowed.. "Cally." He was pleading, desperate not to be back in that bleak life.
"That's right, Cally." She spoke more gently.
Vila swallowed nervously again, but his breathing was slowing. "Liberator. Blake," he muttered. He looked at his hand again, but more calmly. Then other memories asserted themselves. "I never told you about that. I never said anything about being in there," he said fiercely.
"We didn't know what was wrong with you, Vila," Cally tried to explain. "I was supposed to be watching you and you suddenly started cutting yourself. None of us could understand why. Avon asked Orac to access your past medical records so we could try and help you."
Vila tucked his left hand out of sight beneath the rumpled covers. He turned his face away in shame and closed his eyes.
Vila ? Cally reached out to him.
"I hated it. Hated it," he said bitterly. "The other people in there were grown ups and I was just a kid. Most of them were on anger-management therapy. They hit me and teased me and... When they knew I could steal, they wanted me to take things from the doctors and the orderlies; drugs mostly or keys or anything, just because they could make me do it. If I didn't, they used to hit me, and if I did steal, the staff always knew it was me and they'd put me on punishment." Vila shivered; the memories were unfairly vivid, even after all this time. "I was glad when they sent me away. At least there were more places to run and hide, and some of the people there weren't so bad. Goff was a political exile and he was all right, but the Space Rats...." His voice broke as he struggled to block off the unwanted feelings.
"Oh, Vila," Cally said softly. She leaned over to wrap her arms around him.
He couldn't stop himself trembling; his eyes stung with tears as he fought to stay in control. "I wanted to pretend it didn't happen," Vila said stubbornly. "I don't want to remember it."
"So you repressed the memories," Cally said with sad understanding. "It's all right to be upset," she soothed. "You need to accept it."
Vila was desperate, unable to cope alone any longer. He turned to Cally and simply clung to her, burying his face in the soft warmth of her tunic. The powerful animal reassurance of touch broke through the rags of his self-control. He began to cry. He was aware of Cally touching his hair, hugging him and making soothing noises but he couldn't stop himself.
After a few minutes, the storm of emotion began to calm. Vila pressed his face against the silky feel of Cally's green tunic, noticing that it was damp from his tears. He just clung to her for a little while longer, then suddenly pulled away, embarrassed.
"I'm sorry." He wiped the back of his hand across his reddened eyes.
She smiled at him. "Don't be. You needed to let that out. And it's nice to be a friend that someone needs."
"I didn't have many friends I could rely on that much," Vila said, unable to hide the flash of bitterness. "Back on Earth, they all knew where I'd been for treatment. I could always get work, because I'm the best, and they let met hang out with them afterwards, but they used to look at me funny sometimes."
"It's hard being something they don't understand," Cally agreed.
Vila realised what she meant and looked at her in concern. "You. Not being human."
"There's nothing I can do about it," she answered.
The conversation was interrupted by a growl from Vila's stomach.
Cally laughed. "Why don't you get up and dressed while I fetch something to eat ?"
"All right." Vila surprising himself by smiling.
Cally got up and went to the door, pausing to look back at him. Vila felt as rumpled as his bed, and his face was sticky with tears, but he was somehow lighter in his heart.
"Thank you, Cally," he said.
"Glad to help," she answered simply, and left.
Vila's mental confusion cleared after that but his memory for recent events remained hazy. Only when he asked why Blake wasn't visiting him, did Avon tell him that Blake and Jenna had gone missing after the Galactic War. Vila's disappointment was eased by a visit from Dayna, who had come to apologise for hurting him.
"You did ?" he asked, gazing at the lovely, athletic girl. Quite a different type to Jenna, but equally easy on the eye, he thought.
Dayna was well aware of his scrutiny but somehow it bothered her less. It was almost worth it to know that she hadn't done any lasting damage to him. "I did," she answered, flashing a smile at him. "I'm far more dangerous than I look. In fact Avon's got me working on a remote controlled mobile explosive. The control systems are quite a challenge."
Vila's interest faded rapidly. "Nasty things explosives."
"I like playing with dangerous things," Dayna enthused, a wicked look in her eyes
. "I prefer something less exciting, myself," Vila grumbled.
Dayna laughed. "Sometimes it's better to have dangerous things on your own side, Vila. I promise to fight with you, not against you."
He cast her a faintly wistful look. "I bet you wouldn't want to start teaching me to wrestle ?"
"You're right, I wouldn't," she answered and stood up. Making her way to the cabin door, she paused to look back. "Tarrant might help out. He says he's an expert in all sorts of combat skills."
Vila shuddered theatrically. "No way. Not if I remember that great goon all right. He'd plait me into one big knot and stand there laughing."
"You do remember Tarrant correctly," Dayna laughed. "It's good to have you back with us, Vila."
He smiled suddenly. "There's worse places to be than here."
As Dayna left, Vila looked about his Liberator cabin. Just for once, he couldn't think of anywhere he'd rather be. Unless he could persuade the others to join him on that pleasure planet, of course. He wondered whether he could convince Cally that he needed a holiday after his traumatic experience. As the best Federation psychologists had discovered, there were some things about Vila that simply couldn't be rehabilitated.
DISCLAIMER: Blakes 7 and all associated characters and concepts are copyright to the BBC and the estate of Terry Nation, and are merely borrowed here, with no commercial intent. This story is my own work: do not copy, print or post anywhere, in any form, without my permission.