Words in the Dark

by Kathryn A

Challenge: b7friday (of 3rd September 2004) theme of two people stuck in a cave or other close confined space.

The lift halted with such a jerk that Servalan nearly lost her balance. The lights flickered and died. Total darkness surrounded her and the only other person in the lift, an anonymous trooper.

She stabbed her finger at the remembered position of the emergency contact button. "Section 5, section 5, one of your lifts has broken!" The speaker emitted a garbled squawk and died.

Silence. Darkness.

There was a clatter as the trooper threw off his helmet. "Can't breathe," came the harsh whisper, and then a quick gabble of words: "Bring me up, I'm stuck in a lift with Servalan and it's dark!"

There was something vaguely familiar about the voice.

Then there was a sound as from a small, tinny speaker, mixed with static. "...can't, Vila."

"Vila!?" Servalan exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Don't tell me-- you were going to steal something."

"Nothing personal, I assure you!"

"Make yourself useful," Servalan demanded. "Open that door." She pointed in the direction of the tightly closed lift doors.

"Can't, it's too dark," came the reply. "Besides, I don't want to plummet a thousand feet to my death, do you?" There was a gasp, and a muttered, "Oh no, why did I have to say that?"

"Afraid of heights as well as the dark, Vila?"

"Have you ever seen someone after a fall down a lift-shaft? They go splat!"

"They do not," Servalan retorted. "You are such a coward, Vila."

"It's kept me alive so far."

"You know you wouldn't be in so much danger if you'd kept to the straight and narrow."

Vila snorted. "I tested into the FSA. How long do you think my life-expectancy would have been there?"

Her estimate of the thief rose several notches. It would take a high IQ and good reflexes for a Delta-grade to test into the Space Academy. "It is an honour to serve the Federation."

"Too ruddy dangerous! Lots of people firing at you; no, I was going to do some nice, quiet thieving."

"And still you ended up with lots of people firing at you."

"It's better than Cygnus Alpha."

"Your life wouldn't have been in danger there."

"You kidding? It was ruled by a fanatical madman who liked sacrificing people to his god. At least when people are firing at you you can fire back."

"Exactly! Which is why you should have joined the FSA." I can't believe I'm having this conversation, Servalan thought.

There was a pause. "No, I still think I'd rather be a thief."


"Because I'm the best."

Silence. Darkness.

A thought insinuated itself into Servalan's head, was dismissed, and came back for a second look.

"You could still be the best if you worked for me."

"What?" Vila squawked.

Servalan wished she could see his face. "I appreciate talent, Vila. I could give you a Presidential pardon, give you status as a special operative. Your life would no longer be in danger, and you'd be well-paid. All you'd have to do is work for me."

"Doing what?" Vila said suspiciously.

"Stealing from my enemies."

"I won't betray my friends."

She really wished she could see his face. "I wasn't asking you to," she said soothingly. "But, really, how long can you last on the Liberator, with the whole might of the Federation against you? I'm offering you a much better deal."

The silence was pregnant with expectation.

Then Servalan made a fatal mistake. "They aren't really your friends, you know," she said. "They're just using you."

"And you wouldn't be?" Vila said sharply. "You... you wouldn't know a friend if he died for you!" He breathed harshly. "Gan-- Gan died for us. You killed him. I could never work for you."

"I didn't kill him, it was Travis-- against my orders." But she knew it was a lame excuse.

Vila knew it too. "But it might have been with your orders on some other day, wouldn't it?" He sighed. "Blake was right. The system stinks."

"Would you prefer chaos? Famine? Disease? Under the Federation there is order. That order must be maintained. Unity through strength."

"You actually believe that stuff? You're as crazy as Blake."

Servalan wasn't sure whether to be insulted or amused by the remark. "What refreshing honesty, Vila."

"Got nothing to lose, have I?"

At that moment, the lights flicked on; bright compared to the previous darkness, but only a feeble glow compared to their full strength. Vila and Servalan stared at each other.

Then Vila's teleport bracelet chimed. He stabbed at one of the buttons. "Bring me up, bring me up now!"

He vanished in a flash of light, and there was nothing left to show he'd been there, except the trooper's helmet on the floor.