A Good Enough Reason
By Leia Fee

AVON:  Why do you stay with Blake?
VILA:  I like him.
AVON:  That isn't a good enough reason.
VILA:  It is for me.
                -Breakdown

I've been thinking about it ever since Avon asked me why I stayed and I did tell him the truth.  It comes down to the fact I like Blake.  I think I can trust him and I don't trust many people.  He's about the only Alpha I've ever known who didn't treat me like I was beneath contempt, or like a piece of equipment to be used then discarded.

I knew there was something different about him right from the first time I met him.  Jenna liked him from the get go, and she's not one who gives her trust easily either.  I wasn't much interested in analysing his personality though.  I had more immediate concerns.  Like being packed off to Cygnus Alpha for a start.  So far the trip was not looking like it was going to be a lot of fun, the guards were the wrong sort, even there on Earth before we got to the London.  Sometimes you can jolly them along if you're harmless enough and amusing enough, but these guards worried me.  The other prisoners were not a nice bunch either.  Real hard cases, mostly violent crimes.  A couple of politicals, and me and Jenna.  I don't know how she ended up with a life sentence just from a bit of smuggling, I never asked her.  Me they just didn't know what else to do with I suppose, so they disposed of the problem.  It could have been worse I suppose. They've killed people for less.

Then Blake gets dumped in our cell, out cold, drugged I guessed.  I stole his watch, just for practice, or out of habit, whatever.  It wasn't any use to me really, the guards were not the bribeable sort and it wasn't the sort of thing that's good for trade among the prisoners.  I was going to check for more useful stuff but he woke up.  He clearly had no idea of where he was headed or what that meant.  I thought it must be his first time and wondered what he did to get life for a first offence.  He didn't look like one of the hard cases and the politicals were usually younger and more starry eyed.  I introduced myself and made friendly with him.  He was big enough to be a useful ally and you need allies in a place like Cygnus otherwise you're just fodder.  I was careful to drop in about my conditioning, just in case - if anyone's going to give you trouble that tends to make them think twice - they worry about what you might do.

When his lawyer came round we found out he was a political but apparently that wasn't what he was locked up for.  He was insistent that he was innocent - but then most people talk it up whether they are or not.  He wanted out badly, and was sure he would be released - terribly na´ve.  The rest of us were pretty resigned, though I admit I was getting pretty jumpy by the time they got us on the ship.  There's nowhere to go on a ship like that if you upset someone and I seem to be pretty good at opening my gob when I'd have done better to leave it shut.

I heard Blake as we left, telling the guard he'd be back.  I remember thinking he was mad, a melodramatic line like that.  No one had ever come back from Cygnus.  Once we got going Raiker came and did his spiel about doing what we were told or else.  I knew he was going to be trouble, was probably looking forward to someone putting a foot wrong so he could punish them.  Jenna annoyed him right away even though she could see what he was like, Alpha pride I suppose.  I told her she should keep him happy but when does anyone ever listen to me?

Anyway I hung around after Raiker dismissed us and Blake didn't budge.  I wanted to hear what they had to say to each other.  Blake was going to be stubborn I could tell, and I was having second thoughts about his use as an ally - it's usually not good to be round people the guards dislike.  It gets you noticed and I did not want to be noticed.  It was then I found out what the charges against him were.  I was pretty shocked, he certainly didn't seem like the type.  But then he was a political so it was perfectly plausible that he'd been set up.

Right from the beginning Blake was thinking about escape.  That first day out he was asking me about the door locks.  I told him I couldn't work them.  A lie, but I had no desire to get myself 'killed while attempting escape' before we even reached the colony.  As soon as he met Avon he was trying to enlist him.  Now Avon really is a prime example of an Alpha.  So self confident as to be insufferably arrogant, intelligent no denying, but smug with it, and looks with the appropriate disdain on anyone lower in the hierarchy than himself.  I still wonder if he would have helped the ship's crew dump us and fake the logs if he could have got away with it.  I really don't know the answer.

It was obvious from pretty soon into the trip that the food was thoroughly doped, most of the rest were out of it.  The drugs have never really worked properly on me for some reason.  I got to know which of the guards could be worked with and which to avoid.  Raiker, as I expected was a nasty bit of work, enjoyed his job far too much.  That sort always find someone to amuse themselves with and like I said, there's nowhere to hide on those transports.  He'd have liked Jenna to be his new plaything but she put up too much of a fight and I got the impression the captain didn't approve.  He found other ways to amuse himself though.  I don't know why he had to pick on me, my luck has never been good, but I usually manage to slip beneath people's notice.  Not this time though.  I think he saw me and Jenna talking together, maybe he was jealous, maybe he thought there was more going on there - I should be so lucky!  Whatever the reasons, I got the worst of it.  Nothing I couldn't survive, it's not like it was the first time I'd been roughed up by a prison guard or the rest of it for that matter and I never put up enough of a fight to antagonise him into hurting me badly.  Even so it was a pretty miserable few months.

Blake hadn't shut up about trying to escape for the whole first half of the trip.  I kept telling him I wasn't interested.  Things were bad enough without getting caught trying to escape.  He didn't give in though.  I don't know who it was who told him about my particular expertise but somehow he found out I probably knew more about the locks on the London than I was letting on.

It must have been quite late in the evening, ship-time, I'd had a 'visit' from Raiker and gone to bed early.  I wasn't asleep, just laying on my bunk, still sore and feeling sorry for myself.  It was dark.  Raiker put the light out because he knew it bothered me, and I didn't have the energy to move to put it back on.  When I heard someone come in I pretended to be asleep  Everyone else was still in the rec room or mess and I wasn't in the mood for company.  Blake can move amazingly quietly.  I didn't hear him until he was right next to me and nearly jumped out of my skin when he shook my shoulder.  I was still pretty bruised there from Raiker's ministrations anyway.  I gave quite a yelp with fright and he put his hand over my mouth to shut me up.  Oh I know now he just didn't want the guards to come and overhear us but at the time it was dark, I was frightened, hurt, belly down on the bed with someone holding my shoulder and a hand over my mouth.  I recognised Blake's voice as he told me to be quiet.  I remembered the charges against him that I'd overheard and jumped to what seemed like the obvious conclusion, after all a man who would molest kids would hardly baulk at using a Delta the same way.  A lot of the Alphas think they can do what they like to the lower grades and get away with it, and they're usually right.

Still, I felt betrayed somehow.  I had been pretty much convinced the charges were false, and allowed myself to like him, even start to trust him, even if he did keep nagging me to help plan an escape.

"Are you going to be quiet?" he asked me.  "I don't want the guards coming."

I nodded, resigned, and he let go of me and sat on the edge of the bunk.  I lay still.

"I think you lied to me about the locks, Vila."

I was confused, this wasn't exactly what I'd expected.

"I've been talking to some people and I think you may be more useful than you pretend to be."

I was still confused but I thought he must be angry with me for lying to him, that maybe this was his way of punishing me.  I wished he'd get on with it if that was what he had in mind.  The waiting was doing my nerves in worse than the actual thing would have.  I was shivering now and he must have felt it, he put his hand on my shoulder again and I flinched away.  I didn't mean to, it annoyed Raiker when I tried to get away from him and just made things worse but I was so jumpy by this time I couldn't help myself.

"Vila, what's wrong?"  His voice was gentle but I just thought he was making fun of me.

"Are you sick?  What's the matter?"

I started babbling then telling him to just get on with it, that I'd do whatever he wanted if he'd please not hurt me.

"Vila, I'm putting the lights on."

I sat up then as he moved from the bunk.  I wasn't wearing very much of anything - Raiker liked to see the results of his handiwork and I sat in a huddle at the corner of the bunk with the cover up to my chin.  I was pretty close to hysterical by now.

"Don't hurt me," I said, not that I expected him to take any notice of that.

"I won't."  He reached to shake my shoulder again, "Vila?  Are you listening to me?  I'm not going to hurt you."

I don't know how many times he repeated that before I heard him and understood what he was saying.  I'd worked myself up into quite a state.  Eventually I lifted my head to look him in the face though, "You won't?"  He shook his head.  "I won't."  He looked at the traces of blood on the cover then back at me.  "What happened?" he asked. 

I shook my head.  I was not to tell anyone about Raiker's visits.  He'd made it clear what would happen if I did.

I was still clinging to the cover, my hands holding it under my chin.  Blake reached to push my hands down so he could see the bruises on my arms and shoulders.

"What happened?" he asked again.  "Who did this?"

I shook my head again but he kept asking and I had no energy left to put up much of a fight.

"Raiker," I finally said, and added, "You mustn't tell.  Please.  He'll hurt me if he knows I told you."

Blake looked angrier than I'd ever seen him.  "He already hurt you!"

"Please," I repeated.  "There are worse things than a beating and..."  I stopped there.  Blake looked sick enough at the bruises, I couldn't bring myself to tell him the rest.  Despite everything, he'd still for the most part had the sheltered life of an Alpha and probably had no idea such things went on in Federation facilities. 

Maybe he guessed, I don't know.  Maybe he figured out what I was afraid he'd wanted that night.  I do know that he didn't keep quiet about it, that he confronted Raiker.  I don't know what went on between them but I know that when Blake was around Raiker left me alone after that.

No one had ever put their own safety at risk for my sake before.  The least I could do in return was distract the guards now and then and open a few doors.  I drew the line at crawling through service tunnels though.  Not my idea of fun, wriggling through the dark with who knows what the other end - guards with guns most likely.  I hate guns.  How I ended up looking for the armoury and waving a gun around I'll never know.  It didn't work of course.  I told them it wouldn't, not that I expected them to listen.

After Blake, Avon and Jenna legged it on the Liberator things were pretty dismal.  At least there was no Raiker, but the guards I'd been working on, knew I'd been involved in the escape attempt so that was my chances of getting cut some slack out the airlock.  The other prisoners were no company, doped to the eyeballs.  By the time we got to Cygnus I was almost looking forward to it.  I'd been in prisons before, how much worse could it be?

It was worse.  Not so much the planet, though it was pretty rough living and controlled by those loony religious types, but I got sick almost immediately.  Everyone did.  They told us we needed their drug to survive it.

I couldn't believe it when Blake turned up.  I couldn't understand why he'd bother to come back for us.  I don't know how he persuaded everyone to fight the priests, we were ready to just go along with them but Blake somehow had them all willing to fight and die on his say- so, Selman, Arco, even me.  I stabbed that priest.  I'd never killed anyone before in my life.  I didn't know what to do.  I don't know how long I'd have just stood there if Blake hadn't shouted at me to run.  And after all that, he went back in, told us to get away without him.  I'll never understand him.  Me, I'd have been running for my life.  Well, no, that's not true.  I just wouldn't have come back in the first place.

I don't understand him, but I do trust him.  I like him.  And so I'm still here.  Even though it's probably going to get me killed.


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