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Ficlet Challenges - February 2015 - Part Two

FICLET CHALLENGES - FEBRUARY 2015 - PART TWO

Set by Purplecleric

The strong response to the January Ficlet Challenges was more than surpassed by the fantastic variety of stories submitted during the shortest month of the year - too many to fit into one article! Part One of the February collection contains the stories inspired by the word prompt Red. This month's challenges also inspired several poems and silly verses, which appear in Part Three.

The challenge for Part Two was to complete the following scene:

Blake’s feet scrabbled in the loose shale, trying to gain purchase on the slope as he attempted to escape from the strong arms pulling him down. 
“You don’t understand,” he protested...



ANNIEW

Blake’s feet scrabble in the loose shale, trying to gain purchase on the slope as he attempts to escape from the strong arms pulling him down.
“You don’t understand,” he protests, struggling frantically to escape.

The pull on his legs is too strong; his feet are slipping, sliding, gravity taking over and he is plunging straight down the sheer sides of the escarpment, faster and faster...

"Blake." The voice that startles him awake is acidic, sharp, the hand shaking his shoulder surprisingly gentle. "What was it this time?"

"A dream, I think. Could be a memory, how would I know?" Still caught in the sticky threads of sleep, he battles to focus his mind, to recognise the flight deck, and his companion.

"The application of a little logic might help." Avon's tone is dry but not unkind. "What were you dreaming?"

"I was climbing a cliff. Shale. I kept slipping. Something, someone was pulling me down. I was falling when you woke me."

"There's your answer, then. You were living in the domes when they wiped your memories. Precious few shale cliffs under the domes. Therefore it has to be a dream."

"Am I awake now, Avon?" He is still fuddled, caught in the fear of his fall. "How do I know this isn't all a dream?"

"Your dream, my nightmare, Blake. You're awake now."

"What do you mean... your nightmare?"

"You are awake and so you will soon begin to plan our next suicidal mission. I will find my life at risk again while you pursue your dream."

Blake yawns and stretches, looking up at the slighter man, trying to gauge his mood and his meaning. This feels different from the usual Avon complaining. "Are you telling me you're afraid? That can't be true. I can believe it of Vila, not you."

"Of course I'm afraid, Blake." The acid in his voice is sharper now, distilled, bitter. "Only a mind-wiped idealist would not be. Why do you imagine I value my life so little?" He picks up his glass, twirls the contents, grimaces slightly as he downs a mouthful of the green liquid and then places it decisively on the console.

"I... Avon, I get scared too." Blake wonders if this is true even as he makes the statement. Does he value his life? There is so little room in it for anything but the Revolution, so few people alive that he remembers and relates to. He is conscious that his admission is designed to divert Avon. To deny the raw, emotional truth that he can hear in the other man's voice.

"My Fearless Leader feels fear? Well that makes it better, of course. How comforting to know that we plunge into danger quaking in our boots together." Avon rises smoothly to his feet, lifting his glass from the table. Blake sits up straighter on the couch, consciously of his rumpled appearance. Suddenly ashamed of what he has done today and will do tomorrow.

"Avon... I have to..."

"You dream of failure and that scares you more than the reality that we are risking our lives." There is a sad acceptance in Avon's voice that he has never heard before. "I understand, Blake... If you don't fight you're afraid that those memories, the gaps in your mind, will close in until you no longer know what is real. Fighting is what keeps you sane."

"Yes, no... I don't know, Avon. No, that's absurd. I fight because it's the only way to honour all those that have sacrificed their lives for the Cause. I have to stop the Federation, and to do that I have to find Central Control and destroy it. If I don't, all this is meaningless."

He glances at Avon's pale, set face, puzzled by its expression, the sense it conveys that he is the one trapped in a nightmare from which he cannot escape.

Avon peers into his glass as if it contains something he values and his voice is very quiet when he finally speaks. "What about our sacrifices, Blake? We are all forced to climb your cliff with you. Your fear drives us all to take bigger and bigger risks. How long before one of us falls?" He looks up from his glass then, forcing Blake to meet his eyes. "I fear for my life. Each day I do your bidding, climb whatever cliff you have chosen for today's crusade, I have to kill, destroy, maim others, to preserve it. The only safety you have left me is to continue climbing until I die, or until we win. And ironically, while winning guarantees you sanity, I fear the effort it requires will eventually rob me of mine."

Something in those eyes, usually so inscrutable, pleads for recognition, a wish for release which Blake refuses to, cannot, accept. Through the drumbeats of his heart, the nervous tick of Avon's finger against the glass, he hears the incessant voices of his past, crying out, demanding that he completes their struggle for freedom. The realisation that these are the voices he will heed makes him brusque.

"Then we will have to get there quickly, won't we?"

The light leaves those uncomfortably knowing eyes and, for a second, he glimpses murder in their depths. Then the familiar astringent smile quirks Avon's mouth and gracefully he inclines slightly towards Blake, acknowledging the bitter truth of his reply.

In the silence that follows, Blake feels once more those strong insistent hands pulling him down. "You don't understand!" he wants to shout at the departing, rigid back. " I have to win. I have no choice."

But he knows there is always a choice, and his is made.

"Zen. Set a course for Earth. Speed standard by seven."

***


HUGBOT - Citizen Og

Blake’s feet scrabbled in the loose shale, trying to gain purchase on the slope as he attempted to escape from the strong arms pulling him down. “You don’t understand,” he protested. 

At last Deva arrived on the ridge. He could not risk shooting directly at Blake’s adversary but instead fired a plasma bolt into the air. The sound and the flash frightened the creature so that it immediately loosened its grip on Blake and slid back down the slope. Deva stretched out a helping hand and pulled Blake onto the ridge.

Panting with exhaustion, Blake looked back. The creature eyed him warily. It was a strange being, of vaguely human shape, but hairy and horned. Blake felt the blood trickling down his cheek. A horrible scratch ran down from his left eye towards his mouth. He was lucky that the creature’s horns had missed his eye by a hair’s breadth.

“Better go back to the ship and get some medical treatment,” Deva recommended, “you’ll get a nasty scar anyway. You might end up looking like Travis.” He gazed down the pit where the hairy chimaera waited, eager to attack again but frightened of the weapons. No wonder - it had suffered from weapons like these before.

“What happened?”

“I thought he was dead,” Blake explained, “you should have seen his wounds. When I tried to examine him, he suddenly woke up and began to attack me. Understandably, as he must have thought that I belonged to those who nearly killed him. Any luck with the lab?”

“Oh, yes.” Deva finally took his eyes off the creature and addressed Blake. “By the way, you were right. They have been here, this Avon guy and his gang. They seem to have pursued a similar trace as we did. We found some interesting documents in the lab. No wonder that your hairy friend survived his wounds. According to the report files, these creatures were genetically engineered to withstand extreme environmental conditions, even high levels of radiation. A group of super-soldiers for the Federation - dumb, obedient and nearly indestructible. They can recover from wounds that would kill any human being... as you have just witnessed for yourself.”

A scrutinising look crept into Blake’s eyes. “So it is possible to give orders to these creatures?”

“That was the plan, although I think the experiments were never completed.”

Blake stared into the pit, his eyes locking with those of the creature in a silent duel.

“We could finish the experiments,” he mused, “and use these creatures against the Federation. There would be no power that could withstand them.”

Deva drew a deep breath. Oh no, please not another of your the-end-justifies-the-means schemes! Sometimes it became a heavy burden to work with a fanatic like Blake.

“Ah, yes,” Deva retorted, “I remember. I think the general who used his troops to turn the democratic Federation into a military dictatorship said the same.”

“Think, Deva!” There it was again, that unholy messianic fever in Blake’s eyes. “Think what we could do with them!”

“Crushing the Federation,” Deva replied dryly, “and replacing it with another one. A new Federation that uses force, that sacrifices its creature soldiers to gain power, that supresses the rights of its human citizens - and these artificial beings as well.” He pointed to Blake’s eye. Trust this zealot to ramble on about his fight for freedom instead of seeing to his wound! Good grief, that must hurt! Did he feel nothing? At least he squinted his eye in order to keep the blood out. “Who will you be in this formidable new Federation? The new Travis? And he?” Deva looked back to the creature who watched them, poised to attack or to flee. “He will be the new Blake, won’t he? Trying to shake off the chains that you impose on him.”

Blake whirled around, wrath burning in his eyes, but he did not reply to Deva’s mockery. “Let’s get back to the ship,” he croaked, “I have to do something about this wound.”

He turned around and walked away. Deva smiled. Ever the old Blake, never giving a direct answer, never admitting a fault. But there was hope. For once, he really seemed to be worried about what Deva had said. He might eventually take the right decision.

Deva followed him, waving casually down the pit. Og stared at him, full of pain, full of mistrust, full of relief.

***


TRAVISINA - Four Minutes

Blake’s feet scrabbled in the loose shale, trying to gain purchase on the slope as he attempted to escape from the strong arms pulling him down. “You don’t understand,” he protested. "I'm not a deserter!"

He kicked out at the hooded men who were dragging him back down the slope, their knives drawn in readiness to obey the order to kill him.

"Wait! He speaks the truth." The voice was female, the tone commanding. A woman stepped forward, her hand raised. "This man is a new soul for the faith. He has come here of his own accord, and is welcome." She gestured to the men, who reluctantly released their captive and moved away. "Go, Laran!" she likewise dismissed the man at the top of the slope; the one who had given the order for Blake’s death.

Blake got to his feet, brushing the dirt off his tunic. "Thank you."

The woman smiled and took his arm, leading him away. "You were not among the recent arrivals. Yet no other ship has landed...?" 

"I can explain," said Blake, wondering how he possibly could. He also wondered why he was still on the planet's surface; Jenna and Avon should have brought him back by now. Surely four minutes had passed? He glanced down at his wrist to check his watch, and then realised that the teleport bracelet was missing. It must have fallen off when he rolled down the slope or during his subsequent tussle with the hooded men. He stopped walking. "I've got to go back. I've... I've lost something."

The woman did not pause, but drew his arm through hers, pulling him gently until he fell into step with her again. “Whatever you lost is of no longer of any importance. You will find much more here.” She gestured with her free hand. “This is now your planet, your home, your life.” 

Blake suddenly felt dizzy; a wave of nausea swept over him. Could this be an after effect of the teleport? Or was it the sulfurous atmosphere of the planet? He staggered and retched, but the woman kept hold of his arm, supporting him. She was surprisingly strong.

"Do not be afraid," she said. "You are sick, the curse of Cygnus is upon you. But we will cure you. Come." As the woman drew him towards the dark building looming ahead, Blake found that he was weakening. He glanced back over his shoulder, towards the slope where he had lost the bracelet. His thoughts were growing muzzy. Stumbling along beside the woman, he decided that she was right. Nothing mattered any more. He felt too ill to care. 


"Leave it, Jenna!"

"No. Not yet." She was still trying different combinations of buttons, but the teleport bay remained silent and empty.

"How much longer?” Avon spun the probe against the palm of his hand. “We agreed four minutes, it's been over two hours."

"We know Blake got down safely. We must be able to bring him back."

"Must we? Maybe the teleport only works one way."

"Or maybe something happened to him down there – he could have been taken captive, or injured, or... " Jenna smacked the console in frustration.

"We've tried everything. I've taken the whole array apart and reassembled it, and that wretched computer hasn't been any help." He took hold of Jenna's wrist, pulling her hand away from the controls. "We've done our best," he said with quiet insistence. "Blake wouldn't blame us. Come on, Jenna. It's time to go."


The world swam in and out of focus as Blake shivered and burned. He was dimly aware of his fellow former prisoners crowding round the bed, speculating as to how he had got there. He knew he would have to try and explain, but his recollections of a great white alien ship were becoming vague; a fever dream tangled with other memories that he could no longer trust or believe. Blake closed his eyes, succumbing to the sickness, surrendering to uneasy sleep.

Vargas and Kara stood together at the temple window, gazing at the bright new star in the sky. As they watched, its light shrank, grew distant, vanished. The first tendrils of dawn began to creep over the horizon as a new day began on Cygnus Alpha.

***


TREVOR TRAVIS

Blake’s feet scrabbled in the loose shale, trying to gain purchase on the slope as he attempted to escape from the strong arms pulling him down. “You don’t understand,” he protested.

“Oh, I fully understand,” replied Ushton. “You’re trying to sneak up to see Inga. Well, I won’t have it, Roj. She’s only sixteen, and you’re not much older yourself. And you are cousins. Think of the children!”

Blake continued to struggle, so Ushton punched his lights out and dragged him back to the cabin.


Years later, Roj Blake was on the Liberator, the fastest ship in the galaxy.

Even given the tremendous speed of the Liberator, journeys of a week or more were not uncommon. It gave Blake plenty of time for contemplation. And he often thought of Inga.

Of course, he was no longer stuck on Earth. He could visit her any time he liked. The others wouldn’t have put up too much of an argument. They’d be glad of a relatively ‘safe’ trip, instead of an attack on some military installation, or a lightning raid to steal a vital piece of equipment. 

But Blake knew he couldn’t return to Exbar. It was too far into Federation space. Even if he managed to get there and back without being attacked, it would highlight the position of Ushton and Inga to the likes of Servalan and Travis. The rest of his family were already dead. He didn’t want Ushton and Inga to join them. Especially Inga.

But he still longed to be able to see her again. 


Deep inside Space Command Headquarters was Travis’s office. Well, office was perhaps too grand a word – it was more like a large cupboard. But it gave Travis privacy – somewhere where he could plan. He thought over recent events, including Blake’s attack on what he believed was Central Control. Travis realised Servalan had come out of that encounter baying for his blood. It didn’t bode well for his forthcoming trial. 

But it didn’t diminish Travis’s appetite to wreak revenge on Blake. Every time Travis looked in a mirror, or looked at his false arm, he was reminded of that urge. To kill Blake once and for all. 

And now something flickered on the computer screen that intrigued Travis. Could it be?

“So,” Travis whispered to himself. “You do have some family left after all, Blake.”

Travis gleaned all the information possible. Very revealing. Blake had feelings for the girl called Inga. His own cousin. That was slightly icky. It didn’t surprise Travis.

The intercom beeped. “Priority incoming call from Major Thania,” spoke an electronic voice.

Travis turned the computer off. 

One day, he might have to visit Exbar.

***

The original forum threads with the stories and comments can be found here: February Ficlets

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.

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