Necessary Force
by Nicola Mody

This was written for Multiverse 2011 in response to a request for Vila and Obi-Wan Kenobi.


"And as for you two," said Servalan, "no imprisonment, or death. Nothing that would give the misguided any reason to consider you martyrs or any hope that you might come back to resurrect—" she smiled at Avon, "—Blake's cause. You will just... not be around." She waved a hand towards the grey metal platform. "Do take your places."

Vila stayed where he was despite the insistent gun in his back. "Not till I know what that is."

"I rather think Avon might be able to tell you."

Unwillingly Vila turned to look at Avon, not a sight he wanted to be one of his last. "Well?"

Avon sighed. "It is part of the failed matter transmission project I worked on."

"Failed. Right. Why doesn't that surprise me," Vila said bitterly. "So we're going to be disintegrated."

"No. The subjects were sent somewhere. Just not where they were intended to go."

"And do correct me if I'm wrong," Servalan said, "but they never came back."

Avon was silent.

So there was no escape from this one. Figured. Oh well, it wouldn't hurt, or at least Vila hoped it wouldn't.



And it didn't. What surprised him was that they were still alive, if a bit dizzy and disoriented. Vila sat down abruptly and let out the breath he'd been holding, then slumped and put his head in his hands.

Wonderful. They were in a cell. A very clean one, all shiny white and smooth lines with a well-appointed bathroom through an open door and four comfortable beds (one of which Vila was sitting on), but a cell nonetheless. Or a zoo, now Vila thought of it, what with the clear wall facing onto a corridor where he could see other cells facing theirs. Unless it was a hotel for people who didn't care about privacy. But that didn't seem very likely.

"Just my luck," Vila muttered to himself. "Sent who knows where and it turns out to be a prison."

"Not as much a coincidence as you might think," said Avon.

Vila ignored him. It was the bastard's fault Blake was dead and they'd been captured, and Vila hadn't been on light conversation terms with him anyway since that Malodar fiasco. He got up and looked in the bathroom—there was soap and running water, he found, when he passed his hand under a tap, then came out and did a circuit of the main room. There was a thick metal door set in one end of the clear wall—whatever that was, it wasn't glass—which Vila deliberately ignored.

"If Servalan has been sending people here," Avon continued, "perhaps the inhabitants found it safer to confine them. I would say this was built around where they kept appearing."

Vila gave him a narrow glance. "So you used people in your experiments?"

"Not personally." Avon was still sitting on a bed, looking straight ahead with that same expressionless look he'd worn since their capture.

"That's not what I asked."

"They used convicts."

"And you just followed orders."

"I worked on the technical side."

Vila sighed and wandered over to shelves set into a wall and started opening the containers stored there. "Water and chewy bars, like those Space Fleet ones. At least this place isn't an oubliette." Out of the corner of his eye he saw Avon shoot a surprised look at him before returning to his usual expressionlessness. "A forgettery, where they leave you to starve, if you don't know the word. Or I suppose you didn't think I didn't."

"No," Avon said dully.

Not very informative, that. Was he agreeing or denying it? And what did it matter?

"I notice you haven't looked at the lock yet."

"What's the point?" Vila threw himself onto the nearest bed and bit into a bar. "Don't have any picks and s'all right here, isn't it? Except for the company of course."

"I could say the same thing," Avon said, as if by rote.

Vila shrugged, not wanting to care about how Avon might be feeling. He was about to take a swig of water when a movement out in the corridor caught his eye and he sat upright, startled. There was a man standing there, looking in at them with interest. A monk, by the look of him, what with those long robes and brown hood and cloak. "Oh, wonderful. Landed on another planet of religious nutters, have we?"

"Hello." The man slid his cloak back, showing a pleasant young face. "I'm Obi-Wan Kenobi, the padawan on duty this week. Before I can let you out, I need to know who you are." His eyes went from Avon to Vila, and widened slightly. He tilted his head as if listening, then nodded. "In this case, I think you can let yourself out." He smiled. "Use the Force." He nodded and glided away.

"Hey!" Vila ran to the clear barrier and banged his hands against it. "Come back! What did you mean? What force?"

"Your reputation appears to have preceded you." There was a tinge of amusement in Avon's voice.

"He's never met me! How would he know?"

"He seems to think you can get out." Avon leaned back on his bed and looked at Vila with more interest than he had shown for a while. "Now I think of it, how did you crack some of those locks? Blake—" his face twisted in pain for an instant "—I heard about the physio-psycho lock on Centero. The confirmation from the computer isn't instantaneous. It comes back at a random time interval. How did you know when to intercept it?"

Vila swallowed. "Dunno. It's a knack."

"A knack." Avon said the word as if holding it at arm's length.

"That's right. You get a feel for it."

"Perhaps that is what the Force is."

"Oh, come on! Me, have a force? Go on, that's your cue for a Vila-insult."

"I looked at the schematics for the Federation base while you were down there rescuing the wrong Avalon, and there were Klyber fastenings on the inside of the door you opened. Just how did you disconnect those with a pick?"

Vila looked disconcerted. "Well, if you know what you're doing... Look, they were shooting at me!"

"And you can get through any lock if you're frightened enough, isn’t that what you say?" Avon jumped up and grabbed Vila, and brought his face unnervingly close. "So how about giving it a try? Now."

"Leave me alone!" Vila scrambled back on his bed, bringing the water bottle up between them.

"What are you going to do? Squirt me?" Avon pulled Vila up by his free arm and pushed him at the door.

Vila put his hand on the door lock. As always, he could 'see' the insides, and exactly where to put the pick he didn't have.

"Well?" Avon purred.

"I can't. Don't have any tools!"

Avon leaned in so close that his nose almost touched Vila's, and smiled his most reptilian smile. "Then I will just have to make you, won't I," he said, so softly, Vila could hardly hear him.

He whimpered and turned to the lock, tying to imagine he held the right-sized pick, but failing. What was he supposed to do? And locked in here with someone with a warg-strangler loose on the top floor. Then he remembered how it was on Centero, and later, on Earth at Central Control, and so many other times. He never knew how he did it then; it was a haze and too fast for him to have really used tools. Maybe the thought of spending the rest of a probably very short life with Avon would galvanise him. Pretend he was trapped on the shuttle with him and there was only one way out. He closed his eyes and concentrated. As always, he could 'see' the inside of the lock, a very simple one really; all he had to do this and this and... it was open.

Vila shot out the door and round the corner where Obi-Wan Kenobi was waiting, leaning against a wall.

"That didn't take you long," he said approvingly.

"No," said Avon, following Vila round the corner. "Well done, Vila." There was a strange look in his eyes, almost like fear, then it was gone.

"The force is strong with him," Kenobi said.

"In that case," said Avon, "it's the only thing that is."


"This," said Obi-Wan standing in the centre of an empty youngling practice room, "is a lightsabre. Here, hold it like that and point it away from me. Now turn it on, like so."

Vila leaped back as the thing hummed into life, and dropped it. "Sorry. Gave me a bit of a turn, that did."

Avon, who had been leaning against a wall looking cynical, laughed briefly.

"Yeah, well, I might do better with him following me round like a black cloud," Vila muttered and picked the thing up again.

"Your friend?"

"He's not my friend."

"Oh? He seems to be concerned about you."

"Not bloody likely. He's probably wondering what sort of profit he can make off me and this Force thing," Vila said bitterly, feeling obscurely mean.

"Hmm. I sense a little darkness in him—"

"Ha! Born with a black spoon in his mouth, Avon was."

"—but also genuine affection and a certain amount of guilt."

"Really?" Vila slid his eyes towards Avon.

"Don't you feel it too?" Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. "You're not good at reading people?"

Vila considered this. Yes, he'd always known whether to trust or not, he'd always been able to sense danger, and even now, though he was still angry about Malodar and Gauda Prime, he didn't feel that Avon was going to hurt him. At least not right now.

He shrugged, pushed the thought aside, and made a few experimental swipes through the air. "Very pretty. Sounds a bit electrical. What's it do, though?"

"It's the weapon of a Jedi Knight."

"A weapon." Vila pulled a face and turned it off again. "Might've guessed. Don't see the point, really. I mean I never liked guns, weapons in general really, but you have to admit they've got a better range than a sword made of light."

Obi-Wan smiled. "You're quite right, but that's not all there is to being a Jedi. It's our traditional weapon, yes, but we use the Force in many ways. For example, we often mediate in trade or peace agreements."

Vila looked horrified. "Can't say I'd fancy any of that."

Obi-Wan regarded him thoughtfully. "All right. Consider this a game. See that sphere?"

Vila nodded warily.

"It's going to float round the room and every now and then fire a light charge at you. Close your eyes and listen carefully. Try to sense it, see it in a way. Then use the lightsabre to defect the shot."

"Eh? Shot? OW!"

Avon started to come over, frowning, and Obi-Wan held his hand up to stop him. "Just give it a try, Vila."

Vila squeezed his eyes shut. Listen? The thing didn't make a noise until it fired. But then, neither did computer confirmations in physio-psycho locks. All right, use that knack of his then. Now!

'Very good," Obi-Wan said softly. "You have great potential." He waved the sphere away.

"Bit late though, isn't it? To be trained?"

"Most start as younglings, yes, but I could give you the basics and then place you with a Master who specialises in those who are older. Yoda, for example."

"To be a Jedi Knight?"

"Of course."

"And that's something with, you know, prestige, right?"

"Yes." Obi-Wan frowned.

"Just asking because I've always been just a Delta, you see. But thanks anyway, I'm not really cut out to be a fighter."

"You would be very good."

"As you were on the neutron blasters," Avon cut in.

"Oh yes?" Vila rounded on him. "If I was so good, why'd you take me off them then?"

Avon looked at him for a few moments, his expression unreadable. "Because you had nightmares. Dayna wasn't as accurate but she had the killer instinct."

"Yeah, well, it was a bloody sight worse not having anything to do in a battle but imagine what might happen." Vila turned to Obi-Wan. "See, I'm just not a warrior."

"Not spelled like that, anyway," said Avon, and Vila almost snapped at him but saw a warmth in his eyes he hadn't seen for over a year.

"Ah." Obi-Wan sat down on a bench and patted the space beside him. "Empathy. That can be a problem in the untrained."

"You mean you get rid of it? Don't like the sound of that."

"Of course not; it's extremely useful. However feeling it for someone who is trying to kill you is generally rather counter-productive." He smiled gently.

"It's the trying to kill me bit I'm not keen on, see?"

"Yes." Obi-Wan sighed. "I do see. You will be a loss to us. Your talent is quite well honed though. You must have used often it in some way."

Vila grinned, relieved that he wasn't going to be drafted as a sword-fighter. "Doing what you told me to do when you first met me. Getting through locks and security systems."

Obi-Wan drew back. "A thief?"

"Look, I only stole from rich bastards and corporations, people that could afford it. And deserved it most of the time."

"But why? Why use this gift in such a way?"

"Not much else a Delta can do that isn't hard work. And I happened to be the best."

"For what it's worth," drawled Avon, "he appears to relish the challenge rather than the potential profit." Vila glared at him, and Avon smiled.

Obi-Wan nodded. "I can accept that. I don't sense harm in you."

"Harmless but charming, that's me!"

"However it would be preferable if you found a more legal occupation here," Obi-Wan said dryly.


"A Coruscant taxi driver?" Avon said in disbelief. "This is all you came up with?"

"Why not?" Vila turned to grin at Avon. "Besides, the Jedi High Council said they'd use me if they needed my other skills."

"Look where you're going!"

"Why?" Vila swooped around a bus and past the corner of a tower without taking his eyes off Avon. "Don't have to, do I."

Avon gripped his seat. "Humour me." He relaxed slightly as Vila looked out the front screen at the teeming traffic all around him. "Just tell me, why a taxi driver?"

"Biggest city in this galaxy and I can get across it quicker than anyway. It's fun." Vila stole a quick glance at Avon. "And you see, I happen to be the best."


The end