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Ficlet Challenges - March 2015 - Part Two

FICLET CHALLENGES - MARCH 2015 - PART TWO

Set by Purplecleric

The strong response to this month's challenges has once again generated too many stories to fit into one article. Part One of the collection contains the stories inspired by the word prompt Mad. The challenge for Part Two was to complete the following scene:

They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near...



TRAVISINA
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

The footsteps stopped beside the bench. Turning her head slightly, Dayna was relieved to see that the boots were not the heavy black ones of Federation troopers, but softer and tan in colour. The wearer’s trousers were blue.

“It’s Vila,” she told Tarrant, relieved.

"You're doing it all wrong," said Vila conversationally.

"You have no idea what we're doing," snapped Tarrant.

"Neither have you, by the looks of things. That's not the way to hide." Vila leaned down and extended his hand to Dayna, who grudgingly allowed him to help her out from under the bench. Tarrant crawled after her, hitting his head as he stood up.

Vila sighed and rolled his eyes. "Didn't they teach you anything at the Federation Academy?"

"I was taught to fight, Vila, not to hide. Hiding's for cowards."

"Maybe so, but it's a useful skill, especially when Dayna’s grenade doesn’t go off, and you lose your gun. Then if you do have to hide, it’s important to get it right. Look at your surroundings." Vila took in the warehouse with a sweeping gesture. "Anyone searching for you is first going to look at eye level, so don't hide behind anything that's the same height as yourself, right? The next thing they'll do is look down. Gravity, you know."

"What do you mean, gravity?"

"They might drop something that rolls in your direction. Or the arm holding the flashlight gets tired and points downwards. Besides, looking down is less strain on the neck.” Vila tilted his head back. “Look - high shelves, cubby holes, tops of storage units. Those would be the last places they’ll try. Anyway, I've come to tell you that the coast is clear. Avon and Soolin have seen off the remaining guards, and we can start loading Scorpio now."

He took a final look around the warehouse as they made their way out. "High, not low," Vila repeated. "You never know; one day your life may depend on it."

***


PURPLECLERIC - Playing with Fire
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

It had seemed like a good idea; just a bit of fun, a way to slice through the oppressive tension that hung over Xenon base. They had been giggling as they ran through the corridors looking for the perfect place. Tarrant had grabbed Dayna’s hand to pull her into the lab, the abrupt action bringing them close; close enough to feel panting breaths on flushed cheeks, to see eyes shine in the dim light. Usually Avon was the only one who used the lab now Dorian was gone, but it was currently empty as Avon, yet again, was brooding in his room. Sounds of movement in the corridor had them seeking further concealment and, as they huddled close, the excitement had died.

Tarrant was suddenly reminded of his brother, of being in Deeta’s mind as he sheltered in the doorway, listening to Vinni’s taunts. He thought of the duel, of hearing those final words, of feeling Deeta die. He shuddered.

The slow measured tread continued along the corridor and Dayna half-expected to hear an eerie android voice demanding the location of Orac. As the steps continued, she wondered when running and hiding had taken the place of standing up and fighting, when the flames of her youth had been smothered by the relentless struggle for survival, and whether it would ever end.

They were not the only ones listening to the footsteps.

The instigator of this latest folly hugged his knees and tried to hold back the tears. Beads of sweat formed on Vila’s brow as he tried to make himself smaller. His body shook although he knew he was safe in the storage closet, was not on the shuttle listening to Avon’s heavy boots on the metal rungs of the ladder, could not hear the silky voice of betrayal. He slumped in resignation, knowing part of him would never leave that shuttle.

Soolin stalked along the corridor; senses on high alert, eyes darting about, her instincts kicking in. She was not aware of when silliness had become serious, when play had become predation; she only knew the hunt was on, that a lifetime of habit and training had taken over. Stealthily she slid her gun from the holster. A door opened and, with reflexes as sharp as ever, Soolin aimed at the emerging figure.

Avon eyed the gun and one eyebrow quirked as he lifted his gaze to Soolin’s face. They regarded each other in silence until Soolin lowered her weapon, suddenly embarrassed under his cold, hard scrutiny. His voice matched his stare;

“Playtime’s over. We’ve got to set the explosives.”

He swivelled and Soolin watched Avon depart, wondering when he had started looking so old, when he had last played, if he ever had. The sound of his voice had brought the rest of the crew out from concealment and Dayna slapped Vila’s shoulder smartly.

“I told you this was a stupid idea.”

Vila bristled in response.

“Hey! I just provided the booze. The last of it, remember? My private stash. And I wasn’t the only one reminiscing about childhood days, about the games we used to play. And it wasn’t me who suggested...”

His voice trailed off and they turned, as one, to Tarrant, who blushed under the weight of their accusations. His grin lacked its usual confidence as he admitted;

“OK , maybe Hide and Seek wasn’t the best choice...”

***


HUGBOT - Beyond the Horizon
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

They relaxed when the two strangers strolled around the bend. These two people were obviously not dangerous. The middle-aged guy wore black trousers and a black coat, but you could tell by his casual walk that he was not a trained Federation soldier. He sported a grey beard that once might have been red. His companion was a young woman with short curly hair who looked at the flora with expert eyes. Her violet raincoat shone brightly in the sun.

Tarrant and Dayna broke cover. Guns threatening, they challenged the two strangers.

"Who are you?" Tarrant demanded. "Where do you come from?"

The newcomers eyed the rebels with a strange mixture of surprise and anticipation.

"I thought we might meet you," the black-clad guy said with a funny accent, "we were on a location visit and somehow managed to cross the Horizon... and then we found ourselves here."

But Tarrant had already lost interest in the explanations. He only had eyes for the woman. Now this really was the girl next door. He felt the urge to move.

The woman smiled at him encouragingly. "Myosotis," she said.

"I won’t," he promised. "Polygonum orientale."

She blushed and her smile deepened.

Her companion turned to Dayna. "Well, it looks like there is something going on," he said. "Why don’t we all settle down here? One house for these two lovebirds... and another one for us?" His smile was... well, whatever it was, it was more genuine and reassuring than Avon’s. Dayna looked the stranger up and down. It was hard to tell what she thought of him.

"Why should we do that?" she asked.

"If you stay with Avon, you’ll be dead in a few weeks," the black-clad guy answered, "he’ll get you all killed. Here we could all live in peace." He looked back to Tarrant and the botanist who were feasting their eyes on each other and exchanging sweet nothings.

"They seem to like the idea," he commented, "she would love to plant a garden. We can live on its fruits... or vegetables... or whatever."

Dayna was still not convinced. "And you?"

"Oh, I am afraid I am useless at weapons," he admitted, "my expertise is more in hugging. But when you come back from your daily routine of killing and blowing things up, I will have a wonderful meal ready for you and tell you some stories... and if you have any little chores for me in the evening...?"

Dayna pondered the thought. It brought back memories of her childhood idyll, of peace and security. Maybe this was really better than running around the galaxy and chasing Feldon crystals, black gold, teenage crushes and other things that inevitably turned out to be fake and worthless.

But now the black-clad guy frowned. "There’s only one snag," he said, "we don’t have any tools for building houses and gardens."

Dayna produced a spade, a pair of secateurs and a wheelbarrow. "We could start with these," she suggested.

The black-clad guy laughed out loud. "So that’s where you hide them! I’d never thought of that!"

And so they built two cosy cottages and a big garden upon the river bank and lived happily ever after.


***



CLAREBLUES1
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

He knew who it was the moment they stepped into the room. Both he and Dayna had almost finished their laundry, but Avon hated it if anyone else was in the room at the same time and being caught out was not Tarrant's idea of fun.

Peering out from under the bench, Tarrant observed as Avon loaded the machine with his soiled clothes.

The previous day had been a particularly frustrating one, culminating in an explosion set off by Servalan, which caused a large amount of dust and debris to cover them all thoroughly. It had got into everything and everyone was obliged to shower immediately on their return.

Now came the task of cleaning their clothes and the fact that Servalan was behind it made Avon all the grumpier.

Dayna could think of no good reason for hiding from their comrade, but was wise enough to know that Avon was in no mood for a conversation.

Fascinated, they watched as Avon went about his business, but couldn't fail to notice his slightly surreptitious manner.

What's he up to? Tarrant wondered.

Avon emptied the last item of clothing into the machine, but there seemed to be something still inside. Closing the machine, he set the appropriate wash cycle and crossed to the far side of the room.

Straining to see, Tarrant watched as Avon took a small brownish object out of the laundry bag. He placed it carefully into the hand washing basin, normally reserved for those delicate unmentionable items, and poured out a small quantity of warm water. The steam rose and fogged up the mirror-like splash screen above.

Dayna looked at Tarrant. "What's he doing?" she mouthed.

Tarrant shrugged; he couldn't quite see, but whatever it was, Avon was carefully washing it with a generous quantity of detergent. Soapy suds fell into the water and the object was now thoroughly soaked and totally unrecognisable.

Avon repeatedly rinsed the object until all the suds had been washed away. Gently he squeezed the object until most of the water had come out.

Both Dayna and Tarrant wondered what their colleague would do next. Clearly this possession of which Avon was taking great care would need to be dried out, but would it survive the automatic dryer?

The question was answered when Avon placed the object inside another clean laundry bag and put it inside the dryer. He set the machine to its minimum setting and promptly left before anyone else came in.

They waited until they could no longer hear his footsteps and slowly emerged from their hiding place.

"What was all that about?" Dayna whispered.

Tarrant peered inside the dryer. The object had fallen out of the bag, since Avon had forgotten to tie it closed. His eyes widened.

"What?" she enquired and looked for herself.

In sheer disbelief Dayna's mouth fell open.

A small, brown teddy bear was tumbling over and over inside the machine, its nose scratched the glass door causing a loud noise.

"Let's get out of here quick!" Tarrant said before Avon could realise they had discovered his secret.



***


BRADPAULA - Busted
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to her lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

There was a sudden movement of the door knob - a sort of quiet metal jangle as the knob turned first tentatively and then more boldly. Someone besides Tarrant and Dayna was skulking about, it seemed. And if it was Avon, what would they tell him about why they were hiding under the bench in the Xenon Base shower room? Hide and seek? No - they were both together under the bench. The thought vanished from Tarrant’s mind as he heard an audible click and someone opened the door a crack.

Dayna took a deep but silent breath, poised for action, despite having no idea what to say to the interloper as to why they were in their current hiding place. The door opened wider and a shadow appeared in the doorway. Tarrant tensed, waiting for the moment of revelation. And there it was - a stranger, an absolute stranger to them.

The stranger, a tall man, cautiously looked around him. He took out a small device, a personal recording mobile it seemed, and he started to record images of the shower room, slowly making his way around the place. He found the shower pods and opened one of them with interest. He took a quick scan of the pod and then pocketed the device.

Since it wasn’t Avon and this man had obviously infiltrated the base without setting off any alarms, Tarrant’s boldness overcame him and he bounded to his feet, arms held away from his sides, ready for a fight. “Just who in the hell are you?” he shouted. The intruder jumped with fright and swung around to face the curly-haired man.

“You do exist after all!” he exclaimed, obviously excited.

That was a peculiar thing to say after just being found in the shower room of a supposedly well defended base. “What’s your name?” Tarrant asked, using his most threatening voice.

Dayna came out from under the bench just then, her eyes wide with annoyance at the stranger. “What are you doing here and above all, how did you get in? Our defenses are some of the best in Federated space.” She approached the man, and unceremoniously patted him down for weapons, finally reaching into his front pocket and retrieving the mobile recording device.

“Hey, that’s mine!” the man exclaimed. “Give it back.”

Tarrant spoke in a curt staccato voice. “You’ll get it back when you explain who you are, how you got in here and why exactly you chose the shower room to do your spying.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think this old thing would work.” The intruder pulled up his shirt cuff and exposed a Liberator teleport bracelet. “I sort of ‘borrowed it’ from Mat Irvine at Return to Gauda Prime Two. Believe me, I never thought in a million years it would work. But when it did, I decided to have a good look around Xenon Base before I left. The shower room seemed to be a very hot topic on the Forum of late, so that’s where I went first. You aren’t going to hurt me, are you?”

“Just how do you know about our base?” Dayna asked as she inspected his mobile device.

“Everyone on the Forum knows about Xenon Base. We’re all fans you see; hence me with the borrowed teleport bracelet.”

Dayna and Tarrant exchanged confused glances. This didn’t make one iota of sense to the pair, but they persisted in trying to understand.

“Let’s start at the beginning. Who are you?” Tarrant softened his tone seeing this man was no threat to either him or Dayna.

“Well, they call me Trevor - Trevor Travis, on the Forum. They all know me there.”

“OK, Trevor,” Tarrant replied, “and this Forum you speak of… is it a branch of the Federation?”

Trevor gently laughed. “No, we have nothing to do with the Federation. We’re just a bunch of fans that love Blake’s 7 and we post on our site and attend plays and go on location visits...” he trailed off seeing the blank looks on the pair’s faces.

This didn’t make any sense at all to either Tarrant or Dayna. She asked, “You say you are not affiliated with the Federation.” To Tarrant she said, “He wasn’t armed. Only this mobile device which can record images it seems, and this set of old fashioned keys plus a handkerchief and some assorted sweets.”

Trevor Travis seemed to fret for a moment, but spoke up to the warrior Dayna. “I promise I’m not a threat. I just wanted to take a look around, so I can tell everyone about it. I always wanted to check out the shower room here. You see, I have a bit of a crush on Soolin, and I was hoping I’d get a glimpse of her… well… taking a shower.”

Dayna eyed him suspiciously. “You wanted to get an image of Soolin taking a shower, did you? Tarrant - what do you think of that?”

Tarrant blushed as he mused over his answer. He could sympathise with the man, he admitted to himself. “I can’t make any sense of this, Dayna. Perhaps we should call Avon and he can figure it out.”

“No!” Trevor backed away, frightened now. “I want nothing to do with that psychopath Avon.” He tried to explain again. “I didn’t mean to trespass. Honestly, I really thought this was a prop.” He motioned to the teleport bracelet on his left wrist. At least they hadn’t taken that from him. A thought alighted for a second in his mind. “This is the National Trust all over again…” He ignored that notion and decided to keep silent about that subject.

The pilot’s eyes narrowed. “Yes… the teleport bracelet. It’s from the Liberator - now unfortunately destroyed. How do you happen to have one?” Tarrant asked suspiciously.

“Well, you did leave quite a lot of them about, didn’t you?” Trevor mentioned, trying to get a laugh out of the pair, to lighten the atmosphere a bit. It didn’t work. He tried a different tack. “Look, at least hand over my mobile phone. It was quite expensive and I don’t have it completely paid off yet.”

Tarrant nodded to Dayna. “Give it back. It’s not a weapon.” Dayna reluctantly gave it back to Trevor.

“No one will ever believe I made it to Xenon Base- the actual Xenon Base. Do you mind if I take a photo to show my friends SD and Paula?” Before either Tarrant or Dayna had time to reply, Trevor framed the pair and said “Say cheese!” then snapped a photo.

“Just what are you playing at?” Tarrant bellowed.

“Nothing. Just a memento for posterity. Look, I really can’t stay any longer. I’d better go. It’s been great finally meeting you. Amazing really.”

“And where do you think you’re going?” Dayna rounded on him, poised to jump if Trevor tried to run.

“I have to get back to my time as we have a rewatch soon and I don’t want to miss the episode. It features Soolin’s bottom quite nicely.” Trevor blushed, as if he had said too much. Before he hit the communications button on the bracelet he paused. He wanted to pinpoint exactly where into series Derek he had landed. “One last thing,” he announced. “Have you met Og yet?” The look on their faces said it all. Neither of them knew any one or thing named Og. “Well, just watch out for…” (and he stopped abruptly because if he mentioned Justin, Dayna would react and probably not positively towards him) “…if you meet Og’s owner, watch out. He’s a creep.”

Tarrant, in a stage whisper, asked Dayna, “Is this guy all there? I have no idea what he is babbling about.” Dayna shook her head. She didn’t understand half of what he had said either.

“Well, it was very nice meeting you both. Give my regards to Soolin. Tell her she has a fan.” Trevor Travis reached for his teleport bracelet and thumbing the communications button announced, “Teleport now, Orac.”

The members of Xenon Base looked on with exasperation as he disappeared from the shower room. It was obvious now to Trevor that the Orac he had seen on Mat Irvine’s table at the Return to Gauda Prime Two convention had truly been the genuine article - and really worked as it did on screen. He was soon back standing in the middle of his living room, only a bit disorientated by the effects of the teleport. He took the teleport bracelet off his wrist and stared at it. “This thing goes back to Mat tomorrow morning!”

Back on Xenon Base, both Tarrant and Dayna shook their heads in disbelief, as it had been such a freak encounter. “Should we tell Avon?” Dayna asked with obvious hesitation in her voice.

“Of course not, we’d only look like fools. And as for explaining why we were huddling together under the bench in the shower room – well, it doesn’t pay to even think about that,” Tarrant admitted guiltily. They decided to forget the entire episode and return to their respective cabins on the base. Romance could come later - much later, Tarrant thought dourly.

Just then Avon burst through the door of the shower room. “What are you two doing in here?” he blustered.

“Taking a shower?” Tarrant quipped and quickly exited the door for the quiet of his room. Dayna only shrugged and replied, “You’d never believe it if we told you!” and left too. Avon took a quick look around the room then exited.

Back on Earth, in Great Britain, in Oxfordshire, Trevor Travis mused over the whole experience. He suddenly remembered his mobile and quickly retrieved it from his pocket. He had to see if the photo of Tarrant and Dayna was there. It was. He smiled contentedly. “They’ll never believe it on the Forum…” he slyly thought. “Or maybe they will…” He ran to his computer hurrying to download the fabled photo to the Forum. As he worked on transferring the photo he mused, “If only I had caught a glimpse of Soolin…” Sigh.


***


JOE DREDD
Scant minutes after everyone had left, the door to the last showerpod opened by the tiniest degree. Sensing no one about, Soolin emerged fully clothed from her hiding place.

"Just wait until I post this on the Trevor Travis fan forum!" she thought excitedly. "I've seen him for real!!"

Sitting in the crew lounge on Xenon base, Vila poured himself another glass of wine.

"So you say this Tractor Travis was a fan of ours, but now he's gone?"

Dayna shivered. "Yes, but a creepy one, if he goes lurking around the washrooms to find us."

"Well, you know how it is," said Vila, raising his glass to his lips. "Every shower room should have an ex-Tractor fan."

***


ANNIEW
They crouched uncomfortably under the bench. Dayna opened her mouth to speak but Tarrant silenced her with a long finger held to his lips. Her eyes widened as she heard the noise. Ears straining, holding their breath, they listened to the sound of footsteps drawing near.

Three hours earlier...

"He's dead, Vila. You saw him die. There is no way that the dead can come alive again." Avon addressed the cowering thief with controlled irritation, but Vila was not to be dissuaded.

"There's no way I'd have predicted a monster in a weird basement, Avon, or a bloke that could live for over two hundred years, so don't give me that 'no way' stuff. I know what I heard."

"And what was that, then? Tell us, Vila." Tarrant turned to Dayna and Soolin inviting them to join in the joke.

"Oh yes, mock away Tarrant. You won't find it so funny when you hear it yourself."

Avon sat down on one of the couches in the rest area, a look of pained disbelief on his face, while Soolin poured herself some water, cynically amused. Dayna joined Tarrant in Vila-baiting.

"So what did you hear, Vila? It must have been terrifying to frighten someone as brave as you."

Tarrant grinned openly and Soolin turned away in a more tactful attempt to hide her smile. Avon merely grimaced slightly in what could have been amusement or more pain.

"Cheap shot, Dayna!" Vila blasted back, indignantly. "If you'd have heard them your blood would have run as cold as mine, and even laughing boy there would have lost his smile."

"But what was it you heard? You haven't told us anything yet," Dayna persisted.

"Just that you believe Dorian's ghost is haunting the base." Tarrant added.

Vila glared at his crew mates, looked nervously over his shoulder, dropped his voice and explained in a near whisper, "I was in the shower room, just, towelling off, you know, when I heard... footsteps."

"Footsteps?" Soolin let her bafflement show. "Footsteps, Vila?"

"Footsteps," Vila nodded, sitting down on the couch not far from Avon.

"Footsteps? Why on earth would that lead you to conclude we have a ghost here?" Dayna didn't bother to hide her scorn as she offered a plate of reconstituted cakes to Avon, who shuddered slightly and firmly shook his head in refusal. Vila leaned forward and grabbed three of the garishly decorated offerings, cramming two into his mouth.

"'En I 'ooked 'ow 'ere was 'uffing 'ere," he spluttered indistinctly through a mouthful of icing.

Avon's pained look intensified as he fastidiously flicked some of the sprayed cake crumbs from his sleeve. Soolin's bafflement increased.

"Uffing?" she asked, "what do you mean, uffing'?"

"'Uffing 'ere," Vila emphasised loudly. "Uffing at all."

"He means," Avon translated wearily, "that when he went to investigate the source of the footprints there was nothing to be seen. Nothing to explain why they occurred."

"'At's right. 'Uffing." Vila swallowed the rest of his cake, a process that involved much spluttering and choking, then took a huge mouthful of wine and spluttered some more while his crew mates watched on in fascinated repulsion. "I looked everywhere," he continued more clearly, "and I could hear them coming straight towards me but there was no one there. Then everything went cold, like I was in a tomb or something. Like it was when we were in that basement,."

The laughter died on Tarrant's lips and Dayna shivered involuntarily as they both recalled those horrific moments in the dark, the green mist swirling around them and something shapeless moving in the shadows. Even Soolin and Avon were silent for a few moments.

Then, decisively, Avon stood and pronounced, "Well, Vila, although I seriously doubt that we have anything to worry about, I recommend we all stay away from that shower room for the time being."


"It worked, Orac,” Vila whispered, watching with satisfaction from his vantage point in the ventilation shaft above the shower room as Dayna and Tarrant shot out through its door and skidded to a halt in the empty corridor. Footsteps, distinct and purposeful could be heard marching towards them and the temperature dropped abruptly causing them to move together uneasily, looking fearfully around.

Instantly Vila switched off the fan and motioned Orac to cut sound transmission. All was quiet.

"Erm, Dayna," Tarrant muttered in the silence, " I think Avon's right. We'll just avoid this corridor in future, shall we?"

"Good idea," agreed Dayna hastily. "We can always use the shower in Corridor Three, even if it is a bit damp and the water's not so hot. Let's get out of here, shall we?"

"Agreed." Tarrant was already moving swiftly away, looking about him uneasily and Dayna ran to catch up with him, grabbing his arm as they hurried off. "And, Dayna," he continued, "I don't think we need to tell the others about this, do we? Especially Vila."

Dayna's heartfelt, "No way!" hung in the air behind the rapidly retreating couple for several seconds, music to Vila's ears.

Later...

"We agreed one bottle of wine, Vila, and one bottle of Alberan Brandy. Not a crate." Avon's sudden appearance startled Vila so much he nearly dropped the box of booze he was clutching tightly in his arms.

"Oh come on, Avon. Isn't getting exclusive use of the best shower facility on Xenon worth a few bottles?"

Avon paused while he considered this and then his lips twitched wryly.

"Perhaps," he conceded and held the door open as Vila made his way back to his room clutching his prize.

***


The original forum thread with the stories and comments can be found here: March 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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