Sometimes, Blake wasn’t sure about Vila Restal.
Oh, he was very useful, that was certainly true. Not only did he have all sorts of less than legal skills, he also knew all sorts of people, even more than Jenna and Avon’s interesting connections. While they hadn’t really used those yet, Blake was pretty certain that they might come in handy one of these days. There was also the fact that the man was generally pleasant to be around – something of a coward, yes, but Blake felt there was a use for fear. Someone who was afraid could sometimes remind you that you should be afraid too.
Those were all good things. But they were also bad things too. Vila’s pleasantness could be sometimes seem like immaturity, which could be frustrating. He didn’t necessarily know when to stop needling his crewmates – Blake suspected that Vila and Avon would either become friends or kill each other somewhere along the way, it was difficult to tell which. Cowardice could be dangerous for others with you on a mission. If Vila chose to run at the wrong moment or betrayed them … well, that would be unfortunate.
Although in this particular case, Vila seemed to have jettisoned all of his usual cowardice for possibly the boldest tactic that they could imagine.
In theory, it had been a simple mission. Go down to the planet, pick up the supplies, leave again. Unfortunately, there had been some sort of Federation troop manoeuvres going on that they had missed and they had not taken kindly to two men showing up to try and steal things.
Blake supposed that the only good thing was at least the troops didn’t actually know who they were. Otherwise they would be in really big trouble.
Not that they weren’t in quite a lot of trouble already, given that half the troopers on the planet seemed to be after them. They had run and then tried to find a place to find out in the town – and that was when Vila had had his surprisingly non-cowardly idea to get them out of trouble.
Which was why Blake was now standing in the middle of a crowd, brandishing a piece of cloth and surrounded by children who were staring at Vila as though he were a God.
Which to some of them, he probably was, at this current time, given the amount of magical tricks that Vila was pulling off with no preparation at all.
“There, you see?” Vila was saying proudly, holding out a glittering bead to a little girl on the front row, whose eyes widened with amazement. “From nowhere! Now, you hold onto that nice and tight and I’ll show you another trick!”
The crowd around them was growing. Blake hadn’t been really sure about this “hiding in plain sight” idea but at the same time, the Federation guards that were wandering around were only glancing at them, rather than staring. Apparently, they couldn’t imagine that the two wanted criminals would be standing in the middle of a crowd making a lot of noise and showing off their ability to pull things out of ears, juggle and do strange things with cards.
And it had been Vila’s idea. Blake shook his head slightly, watching the man produce coins out of nowhere and juggle them before handing them solemnly to a man and telling him to not to drop so many of them next time. The crowd laughed and clapped and Vila bowed. As he did, Blake heard the chime of his bracelet. Jenna, signalling that they could bring them up safely.
“My next trick will be the greatest of them all,” Vila announced, lifting his hands. “Before your very eyes, my lovely assistant and I shall disappear! Completely and utterly. Yes, it’s true. Some of you might want to be giving us money and so you should do that now, yes, just toss the coins to my lovely assistant, that’s right. Catch them, lovely assistant! Clumsy!”
Blake gave him a look. He did not think that they ought to be taking money from these people, it wasn’t like they needed it. The Liberator had plenty of money on it and they had hardly earned this. The people seemed to disagree though, the amount of coins being pushed into Blake’s hands was quite surprising. Perhaps the people were very, very glad to be entertained.
Something else the Federation didn’t seem to always care about.
“And now!” Vila said dramatically. “Now, when I say the magic word, we shall simply vanish! Teleport!”
He’d pressed the communicator button as he called out and the crowd of people blurred and faded before his eyes to be replaced by Jenna and Avon, both staring at them curiously.
“Where are the supplies?” Jenna asked.
“Why are you holding all that money?” Avon asked.
“Payment for services!” Vila said and bowed. “Oh, no, really, you’re too kind, too kind I say! Any reasonably talented thief with a skill for magic could have done the same!”
“Nobody is being kind because everybody thinks you’re an idiot who is talking rubbish,” Avon said, sounding irritable. “Where are the supplies and why is Blake holding all of that money?”
Vila began to explain with dramatic embellishments. Blake listened, finding himself smiling as he did.
Yes, Vila was definitely strange. Unpredictable. Annoying sometimes, perhaps even sometimes a liability if not handled right.
But he really did have his uses.