Jenna and Atton had just finished a gourmet dinner in the Captain's cabin. She had repeatedly rebuffed his attempts at more social interactions, until now.
Captain Atton studied Jenna over the top of his wine glass before finishing it off. He picked up the wine bottle and asked casually, "Why did you really accept my invitation to dinner, Jenna? I was beginning to think that I wasn't your type."
Jenna placed her hand over her glass when he offered to top it up. "You're not."
Atton started slightly and then he laughed. "I like a direct woman. Alright, what do you want?"
She asked carefully, "Have you considered branching out?"
Jenna was no longer interested in just smuggling. She had a much larger goal in mind. The discovery of the significance of their cargo had given her another purpose.
Planning Avon's demise, while extremely rewarding, was nothing compared to advancing Blake's dream. His plans hadn't worked because the Federation was behind the Terra Nostra. This new criminal group was trying to overthrow the Terra Nostra.
Jenna doubted if they knew that they were really coming up against the Federation and she wasn't about to tell them. This new group was going to be very useful and Atton's foray into the drug trade could be the opportunity she needed to get into contact with them.
Atton filled up his own glass. "You mean carrying different cargo?"
"No. Something very different."
"I've never been good at playing twenty questions, Jenna. Why don't you tell me what you have in mind?"
Jenna leaned forward and asked, "Do you know what you're carrying?"
Atton eyed her with interest, "I'm assuming that you're not referring to this?" He lifted the bottle.
Jenna reached into her pocket and drew out the piece of paper that contained the chemical name of Shade. She handed it to him.
Atton's eyes narrowed as he read it. "You've been busy."
Jenna's senses were sharp. Atton was a cautious man who knew how to gain any advantage that he could get. She told him, "I don't like secrets."
The Captain asked slyly, "Unless they're your own?" Atton was no fool.
"You should appreciate that."
Atton's eyes had an evaluating look. "Just remember that you're on my ship."
Jenna knew she had to tread carefully. "Of course, Captain. But I thought you might welcome a suggestion that could make you more money. Much more money."
That definitely piqued Atton's interest. Greed was one of his greatest strengths and weaknesses. "I'm listening."
Reya and Cally had returned to the ship to work out the details of the new plan with Argus, Avon, Vila and Sester. Marlena, Corinne, and the other teams were coordinating efforts down on the planet.
Reya had a disgruntled look on her face. "I'm not doing it."
At this unexpected declaration, they all stared at her.
Argus asked with concern, "What's wrong?"
"Have you seen these?" From behind her back, she brought around a skimpily dressed figurine and waved it in front of her in disgust. Its flowing red cape flapped around her wrist.
Argus came over and took the offensive object. He looked at the doll carefully. A delighted smile spread across his face. "It's you!"
"No, it's not! It's not even human!" There was clear anger on Reya's face.
Vila scrunched into the couch and tried to make himself smaller. He looked desperately at the exit stairs and wondered if he could make a run for it. It never seemed like that far before.
Argus handed the doll to the curious Avon and said, "But the face looks just like you, Reya. It must be the action figure they were all talking about."
"It's offensive and I refuse to take part in something so…demeaning."
Argus looked at Avon for some help. "I know you don't like the publicity, Reya, but we agreed that it was necessary. That includes…these action figures. That's the way the Chandarans are with their Champions."
Avon turned the doll over in his hands, studying it carefully. The figurine was wearing a revealing, form fitting costume, and a pair of tight red boots. She had a golden band around her head. The ratios of body parts appeared to be extraordinary. "I see what you mean. It would be considered offensive to some people." He handed it back to Argus.
Argus asked in a perplexed voice, "Is there something wrong with it?" He looked carefully at the doll again. He moved its arms and legs. It was a very flexible figurine, capable of a wide variety of poses. It even came with its own weapons, which fascinated him to no end.
Avon gave him a dark stare, one that spoke volumes.
Argus returned a mystified look because he liked the figurine and couldn't understand why everyone was acting so strangely. He was wondering if he could keep this one. He realized that he didn't have any pictures of Reya. This would do nicely.
Reya asked incredulously, "How could you ask that? Just…just look at it!"
Vila cringed and tried to make himself even smaller. It didn't help that Sester was staring right at him and was looking highly amused.
Vila had thought it a brilliant design. He had patterned it after some of the female heroes he remembered from his childhood days. Delta-vids for kids tended to be very colourful. It had been a labour of love to render Reya as one of his favourite heroines. He'd even volunteered to help when the Chandarans asked.
Argus said, "I don't see anything wrong with it. I know you don't like it but…"
Reya was almost shouting, "Argus!"
Argus suddenly felt very guilty, even though he had no idea why he should be. It was obvious that Reya was upset. "I'm sorry. I know it's insensitive but maybe…we can convince them to keep this as a limited edition figurine, that way you won't have to see them everywhere. Have them put more clothes on it. I’m not sure I'd like everyone to see you…like this."
Vila’s vivid imagination began suggesting black market possibilities for the Reya action figures. Nooo. He had to reprimand his over-active mind that he was already in far too much trouble. It was only a matter of time before someone asked the wrong question.
Avon said with strong sarcasm, "It's amazing how dense you can be."
Argus said, "You're not helping, Avon."
"I wasn't trying to be." Avon almost seemed to sigh. "I would recommend taking a closer look at it."
Argus studied the doll again. Reya's face had been reproduced perfectly. It was beautiful. He held the doll up to compare it with Reya, who seemed to be glaring at him. "Could you give me a hint?"
Avon said one word, "Proportions."
Argus looked at the well-endowed figurine. Then his eyes brightened as if a light had suddenly turned on. His cheeks turned slightly red and his jaw dropped open as realization finally set in. "Oh. I mean, it's very…"
Reya said angrily, "It's disgusting!"
Cally, who was as outraged as Reya, said, "It's anatomically impossible for a human female to have these measurements. Unless it's a genetic mutation. Vila, would you like to explain this? I believe that you had a hand in the design."
Vila looked panicked as all eyes turned towards him. How was he going to admit that it was actually his design? As Reya's accusing eyes rested on him, he gulped nervously. "Well…it's like this."
Avon remarked with dry sarcasm, "This will be fascinating."
Vila said with consternation, "Avon, you're not helping."
Avon said irritably, "Does everyone forget that I'm not the helping kind?"
Sester interjected, "You have been slipping lately. I wasn't going to say anything but..."
Avon glared at him, causing Sester to grin.
Reya had crossed over to the couches and seated herself opposite Vila. This made Vila even more nervous. There was no possibility of running now. All she'd have to do was reach out and…
Reya said, "Vila, tell me that you're not the one whose responsible for….this...this thing."
Vila's throat felt very dry and his voice sounded like it was an octave too high, "What if I said…yes? Are you going to kill me?" He looked down at the deck and wondered how easy it was to dig a hole. He could use one right about now.
Reya had a very displeased look on her face. "I will be very disappointed."
Vila grimaced. This was even worse than being killed. In an effort to survive at least until lunchtime he said quickly, "I'll…change it."
Reya could see that beads of sweat were forming on Vila's forehead. She tried to soften her tone, "Whatever possessed you, Vila?"
"Well…I thought it was a good idea at the time. I mean, I see now that it was a bad idea. Horrible. Terrible. The worse idea I've ever had…"
Avon said, "I wouldn't say the worst."
Vila flashed him an irritated look.
Cally regarded Avon curiously. She projected to him, * Avon, are you having fun? *
She could see the corners of his mouth twitch but he didn't respond. There was light amusement in his eyes. Avon was enjoying himself.
Reya asked, "Vila, can you change it? I would appreciate it."
"Well…I can. It won't be as popular."
Reya’s face paled slightly. "Please don't say that they're already being distributed?"
"Well, I could say it, but…" Why was his over-active mind not cooperating when he needed it? Black market thoughts it had plenty of…but ones that could prevent him from losing a few body parts? He would have to have a serious talk to his brain about priorities.
Reya groaned. "Vila..."
Argus tried to help her. "Reya, it's not that bad. I'm sure Vila meant it to be flattering."
Reya gave him a hard look that made him cough and stop talking. She said with great patience, "I'm supposed to be meeting with the Chandarans. The most difficult ones. They're going to be expecting…" Her voice rose, "…that! I'll have their attention all right, but not the right kind. How do you expect them to take me seriously?"
Argus looked mortified, "I…didn't think…"
Avon muttered, "Do you ever?"
This time Cally nudged him in the ribs. * I think you've had enough fun for today. *
Vila felt like he'd let everyone down. "I'm really sorry, I wasn't thinking. I'm…very sorry, Commander."
Cally wasn't happy with any of the four men. She asked, "Avon, why didn't you stop them?" She turned to Sester, "Or you?"
Avon didn't think it was reasonable that he was being included in this debacle when he didn't have anything to do with it. "I was busy."
Sester said, "You know no one trusts me enough to tell me what they're doing. If they had…I would have been able to stop it."
Argus glared at him.
Cally let out a sigh, "It appears that we can't leave the four of you alone."
Argus said immediately, "Just a minute…"
Avon's face was particularly inexpressive as he said, "I don't see how we can be blamed for this when it was Vila…"
Reya said with annoyance, "The four of you are supposed to be friends, aren't you?"
There was a very noticeable silence as the four men stared at each other.
Reya looked at each of them in turn, "If this had been Kerr, Jack, Vila and Charles, and one of you had messed up, would you be acting like this?"
The men looked both rebellious and embarrassed at having this pointed out to them.
She said icily, "You might try growing up." Reya turned around and stalked off the flight deck.
Argus said unhappily, "She's angry."
Avon looked at him and remarked sardonically, "What a brilliant observation."
Sester said to Argus, "I suggest you go after her. Unless…you want me to."
"Don't you dare."
Sester suppressed a smile. "What are you waiting for?"
Argus grimaced and almost raced out after the angry Reya.
Avon said to Vila. "I suggest that you fix the anatomical errors, before the Commander discovers how detailed the reproduction is."
Vila blanched and glanced with panic towards the flight deck steps. He wondered if a spot of doll napping might be in order. "I…should change that right now." Vila rushed off.
My sad attempt at creating a Reya action figure. Not as eye-catching as Vila's version I'm afraid.