Last week's b7friday topic was masks. Set in season 1; 500 words.
The Games People Play
"Set a course for Centero," Blake said. "Speed standard by two."
Blake sat back and stretched. He had his crew. The newcomer, Cally, was a real asset with her telepathy and fiery resolve. They all were in their own ways, even Avon and Vila who were sniping at each other yet again. Avon was argumentative and arrogant, but he would do his job well out of sheer pride. Vila was another matter. He'd opened that lock down on Saurian Major impressively quickly, which was at odds with the image he seemed bent on projecting. To get through the sort of security in a Federation communications centre took a lot of technical skill, and a fair amount of computer knowledge too.
Not long after Vila had come aboard, Blake had found him exploring the flight deck controls, his face intent and alive with intelligence. As soon as he heard Blake, Vila had whipped his hands off the buttons and assumed a blank look. "Just fiddling."
"Hmm," Blake had said noncommittally.
And then there was his pretence today, Blake suspected, that he didn't know that 'anti-orbital posture' was another term for stationary or geo-synchronous orbit. It was an unusual and old-fashioned term and if Avon had said it, it would have been a sneer. But Vila, in direct contrast to Avon, didn't want to appear bright. Why? To get out of work? Avoid responsibility? Because it was safer for a Delta not to stand out from the crowd? Even at Blake's Alpha school, those who did well in class weren't popular.
Blake wondered. How much did Vila actually know?
Blake watched Vila and casually assigned him tasks that required quite a bit of technical knowledge, and was careful never to show surprise. By the time they were caught in the silicon web, Blake was pretty sure that Vila was not just a quick learner, but also quite familiar with ships. He'd plotted a course away from the gravitation field without any prevarication and had done a very quick and efficient atmosphere and gravity check. Of course, their lives had depended on it.
"He's not as stupid as he looks," Blake remarked to Avon afterwards.
"Of course he isn't," said Avon.
Blake preferred not to explore the various possible meanings to that statement, so he ignored it.
Avon looked, bemused, at the pile of games Vila had acquired on Destiny. "I know everyone plays Galactic Monopoly and Pyramids, but chess? Perhaps he thought the pieces were attractive."
"I bet he knows how to play," Blake said.
"It's worth a try. He might like to conceal his nature, but he wouldn't be able to resist the pleasure of a game."
"Hmm." Avon set up the board, then waited until Vila wandered by, stopping to look. "Black or white?"
A series of looks passed over Vila's face: interest, delight, wariness, blank idiocy, then anticipation. "White." He sat down.
So did Blake, watching them. Both of them liked playing their games.