Jenna entered the flight deck, datapad in hand, and looked around. Gan was sprawled on the bench reading a technical manual, Cally was at Avon's usual place running some practice scans, and Avon and Vila were recalibrating the weapons console. The person she was looking for, however, was nowhere in sight. "Where's Blake?" she asked. "I've got the flight logs he asked for."
Gan looked up from his bookpad. "Down in hydroponics. He should be back soon."
This caught Vila's attention. "Did you say hydroponics?"
"No reason." Vila bit his lip. "Avon, what say we finish this tomorrow?" He started edging towards the port-side exit. "I've just remembered, I haven't finished the parts inventory yet."
Avon eyed Vila speculatively. "It was only due yesterday. Blake won't expect you to have it done for three or four days, yet."
"All the same . . ." The edging became a scuttle.
Suddenly, up the port-side passage came a ferocious stomping and bellowing. Even if he hadn't been the only one absent, it was unmistakably Blake. Nobody else bellowed quite like that. Everyone turned and looked down the passage, stunned. Everybody except Vila, that is, who quickly reversed directions and headed for the starboard exit instead.
"Oh, no, you don't," said Avon, reaching out to restrain him with an arm about the shoulders. "This sounds like it might be interesting." Vila looked at Avon's smile and swallowed, hard.
Seconds later Blake rushed in, as animated as the others had ever seen him. His arms were wrapped around a huge pot containing nothing but dirt and a stumpy, chopped-off stem. He looked around the room wild-eyed, until his gaze fastened on Cally, and his expression changed to one of utter fury. He advanced on her deliberately, and when he spoke his voice was full of unaccustomed menace. "What. Are. You. Doing. With. That. ORCHID?"
Vila tried to shrink behind Avon as Cally reached up to finger the fragile blossom in her hair. "Vila gave it to me for my birthday. He said such presents are traditional among humans?"
"VILA!!!" Blake roared. He advanced on the culprit, brandishing the pot and chasing him around and around Avon, who watched, amused, as Vila tried to keep him between himself and Blake.
"It's all right, Blake, it'll grow back," Vila said, but his attempts at soothing his pursuer were unsuccessful.
"Do you know what this is? Do you know how long I've been growing it? Now look at it! It's ruined! You cut it before the seed pod matured!"
Finally, Avon intervened with a hand on Blake's arm. "What is it, Blake? Why are you carrying on like this about . . ." he grimaced, ". . . a mere flower?"
Blake's expression darkened even further. "It's a vanilla pod! I was growing it to make us some real vanilla ice cream!"
Avon's eyes shot wide and his nostrils flared. He spun to face Vila. "I'll hold him for you, Blake!"
"I'll help," cried Jenna, and the others agreed.
Vila ran for his life.