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Ficlet Challenges - April 2015 - Part One

FICLET CHALLENGES - APRIL 2015 - PART ONE
Set by Purplecleric



The challenge was to complete the following scene:

Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me?”







HUGBOT - Eye of the Beholder
Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me?”

A smile appeared on his face. “Haven’t I?” He glanced around as if to draw her attention to the room where they were gathered. “I tricked you into coming here," he reminded her, “and now I have trapped you. You can’t leave this place. And no one knows where you are.”

“It is a bit more complicated than you think,” she smiled. She had relished the situation for quite a while, but now it was time to let the cat out of the bag.

“You see,” she explained, “this place is not real. It is just a fantasy. An artificial reality. It is you who is trapped.”

Avon leaned back comfortably in his chair. “You are right,” he said, “it is an artificial reality. But it is not yours, it is mine. I have trapped you here. It was quite amusing to watch you continuing with your usual ploys. I had a good laugh when I realised that you tried to trap me in an artificial reality inside this artificial reality.”

She nodded approvingly. That was a clever retort, aimed to unsettle her. But of course he could not dupe her with such a silly story.

“Oh, Avon,” she laughed. She wanted to congratulate him on this manoeuvre, but then she saw the expression of seriousness on his face and the confidence in his eyes. She could not help but feel a shiver running down her spine. This could not be true. Of course he was bluffing. Or wasn’t he?

She stared at him. He stared back, smiling.

***



LITTLESUE & LURENA - Dream Time
Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon, who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me?”

He didn’t answer.

“Perhaps you didn’t hear me…”

A door in the far wall swung open and Servalan knew that now was not the time. She reluctantly withdrew her hand, so lightly resting on his shoulder, and silently walked towards the door; just momentarily pausing to turn and look at him.

“Such a pity…”

The Technician looked down at Servalan, who was momentarily disoriented. “I trust Madame President found the experience… interesting?”

“You will guard your words,” Servalan replied sharply.

“There is no-one else here, Madame President. What happens here is known only to me. And what happens inside there is known only to you.”

The chubby-faced woman, her dull hair pulled back into a clinical bun, pointed at the panel immediately behind Servalan’s head. Servalan, for her part, lay quite still. The Perspex body mould that had covered her from head to toe was now open, and she seemed to find it and its distinct possibilities, strangely alluring.

“I see… yet I felt as though I was there… with him. It was all so real.”

“Every part of this body form is covered with tiny receptors. We - I can make the subject feel whatever you wish and I can see exactly what the subject is experiencing. You believed that you were with that rebel called Avon, and did he look real to you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Then you are satisfied?”

“To succeed, it will be necessary for speech to be heard; exact phrasing, timbre and so on and so forth.”

“Easily done.”

“And then I will require you to take this device to a location of my choosing, where we will see if it performs exactly as you promise. It will require your own staff and a selected armed guard. No-one else must know of this. There must be no communication at all, because then he may know. I want this to fool him, completely.”

“Madame President, it will. Of course, it will be a little different for him, with the added refinements. Once this device has finished with him, he will no longer know what is real or what is a drug induced electronic dream. You have my word.”

“Good. But first the voice. You have a sample taken from his interrogation all those years ago. I think that would be more than sufficient.”

“You wish to conduct another experiment?”

“Only to be completely satisfied, you understand.” Servalan smiled up at the stone-faced Technician. “And this time, I will decide when it is over. Do you understand?”

She pushed the door ajar.

The room was the same; the long highly polished table, the subdued lighting, but he was gone. The seat was empty. For a moment, she was stunned. A wave of dejection and disappointment washed over her… but then the door closed behind her. She turned and he was there. Smiling at her, just as he had done on Sarran.

“Welcome back,” he said softly. “We were interrupted just as things were beginning to get… interesting.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“You were saying something about me outwitting you.”

“And have you?”

“You are here again. So what does that say about your proclivities?” Servalan allowed herself a radiant smile. She thought about the cold, sterile room and the ashen-faced Technician; but only for a moment.

Here, it was different; very different. Once everything was in place, he would be experiencing this. But he wouldn’t know the truth. She knew ,and that knowledge would be her trump card. Servalan considered his question.

“Well?” he asked.

She allowed her elegant right hand to stray to his shoulder.

This time her smile was one of triumph. “Everything."

***


TRAVISINA - A Worthy Enemy
Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon, who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me? I've been ahead of you, every step of the way."

Avon stared silently ahead, his face devoid of expression. He might have been carved of stone.

"Thanks to you," Servalan continued, "I have wealth, and I have power. The gold you so kindly procured on my behalf has enabled me to restore my position and my good name. No more hiding behind ugly pseudonyms – I am once again Servalan, President of the Terran Federation!" She raised her arms in triumph.

Avon made no response. His hands were clasped on the table in front of him; only his dark eyes moved, following Servalan as she paced the length of the room, turned on one elegant heel, and returned to his side. "The pacification programme is proceeding well," she stated with satisfaction. "The rebel alliance has disintegrated, Zukan is dead and there will be no antidote to Pylene 50."

She smiled at him, a warm, wicked smile. "Your not-so-secret base has been reduced to rubble, your ship is beyond repair, your former comrades are dead. And oh, Avon, how delightful that you not only led me to Blake, but executed him yourself! Another show trial would have been so tedious, don't you think?"

Avon remained silent as Servalan gestured to the perspex box that took up part of the table. "I now have everything I need," she said. "Wealth, power - and Orac. All that is lacking is the computer's activator key, which you will give me." She held out her hand.

"Will I?" Avon's voice was low and hoarse.

"Ah, you can talk. I'm glad. I was afraid that recent events may have affected your ability to communicate. It's all been a bit of a shock, hasn't it?" The mock concern in her voice was sweetly poisonous. "Yes, you will give me Orac's key. After that, I’ll consider whether you should live or die. You have been a worthy enemy, and could make an even more worthy ally."

She bent close to him, and ran her hand through his hair. “After all, we are not so very different, you and I,” she murmured, and kissed his forehead. Then she took a step back, her expression puzzled. She studied the carmine smudge left by her lipstick, and rubbed her thumb across it. She stroked the contours of his face with her fingers, lingering as she traced the outline of his mouth. “Avon…?”

He looked up at her, at last meeting her eyes, silently answering her unasked question. Suddenly and savagely, she scratched his face, her nails raking deep gouges into his cheek. No blood appeared; just a jagged tear that revealed fine circuitry beneath a layer of synthetic skin.

"I do not have Orac’s key," he said. "It is still in Avon's possession. He and Blake – who despite appearances is still alive – are far from here. I do, however, have this -" he reached inside his jacket and drew out a glowing purple sphere, holding it up between his thumb and forefinger. "I believe you know what this is?"

Servalan blanched as she recognised it, and ran to the door, frantic to get away.

"The door is locked," said the android calmly. "You cannot escape. I will not be affected by contents of this phial; nor will Orac. But you will die.” With a swift, firm movement, he crushed the ball. Tiny shards of glass fell like amethyst rain on to the polished table. “And the answer to your question, Madam President, is yes.” The android smiled Avon's smile. “He has indeed outwitted you."



***


ANNIEW - Have Done With Losing
Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me?”

The image on the vid screen faded with an unusual whining sound and the legend Space Challenges 1 - a fully interactive adventure mystery game appeared in bold letters. The sultry, dangerous tones of the elegant woman were replaced by a deeper, rich, yet mannered male voice announcing, "Your mission, gallant rebel, should you choose to accept it, is to help the crew of the space cruiser Freedom in their ongoing battle against the President of the brutal Terran Alliance Party. Can you succeed in outwitting her, where the crew have failed?"

A line of text: Other levels available for purchase from NOVACARO ENTERPRISES GAUDA PRIME 4728.com flashed on to the screen.

The boy turned away from the monitor with its pulsing blue and green lights, examining his pocket in the vain hope a credit or two might be lurking in a corner. Nothing. If only he hadn't already splashed out on that model kit of a spaceship! Admittedly it was the most beautifully designed model he had ever seen, but buying it had taken all his money. He rummaged again and this time, among the string and sweet wrappers he unearthed a single coin. One credit! Ever hopeful he looked around for the proprietor; the elderly white haired man dressed in black who had served him earlier, intending to ask him if he could pay for the game in instalments but the man was nowhere to be seen.

The boy had only noticed the shop that morning. The rest of the street was derelict. The whole area had recently been purged by the Administrators and most of its shops and apartments forcibly emptied of their occupants, and then trashed. Broken windows stared blankly at him as he explored the wrecked buildings, their doors swinging and creaking eerily in the wind. The detritus of many personal histories whirled around, tossed about on gusting currents of air. He spotted unpaid bills, hair ties, a page from a diary, a tiny doll's dress, even a gauzy scarf. Young as he was, he felt a sense of sadness at this pitiful evidence of the destruction of lives, even if those lives were only SUBs.

"But does it really matter whose lives they were? Aren't SUBS living beings?" a voice oddly inflected, seemed to query softly, but when he looked around there was no-one about. He must have imagined it.

It was a surprise when he found the shop intact, the sign above the door spelling out in multi coloured lights: Novacaro Emporium. Why had it been left standing when everything else around it had been destroyed? But the boy soon forgot his questions in his delight at the display in its windows: model flyers; something that looked like a communicating device, grey and sleek; a small perspex box with lights - maybe a computer, but pretty basic by the look of it; several cool-looking guns; two entwined Möbius strips of crystal forming a rod mounted on a black handle and attached to what looked like its own charger - a light emitting device, perhaps? And right at the back of the window, something he just had to own if it took every penny of his saved credits. It was labelled DSV Model 1.

The boy knew that the initials stood for Deep Space Vehicle but its design was nothing like a conventional space ship - like no space ship he'd ever imagined. Its control centre was a ridged, bulbous oval, illuminated by a strange green glow and it had four forward-pointing nacelles shaped like turrets with what looked like lightening rods projecting from them. It was more like an elven castle than something that might fly.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" The coldness of the voice coming suddenly from behind his left ear made him shiver, but it contained a strange longing, too. "Would you like to own it?"

"Oh yes," he breathed, "but what will it cost me?"

"Everything." The voice caught on a bark of laughter and then continued prosaically. "Thirty-six credits."

He was amazed to find he had exactly the right money.

"Here," he said, fumbling in his pocket and extracting the credits, eager to hand them over in case the proprietor changed his mind.

The hands that reached out for them were, he was disturbed to see, deeply scarred, their knuckles large and prominent, the fingers crooked, fused into claws. He sneaked a glance at the man who was half hidden in shadow and it seemed to the boy that a flickering nimbus outlined the thin, bony frame. Catching his puzzled look, the man's teeth bared in a ferocious grin and the boy quickly looked down, focussing again on the twisted hands that awkwardly gestured he should place his credits on the table.

He'd picked up his prize when a peculiar, burbling whine captured his attention and he turned from the man noticing for the first time a large vid screen attached to the back wall of the shop, which was displaying an interactive game on a continuous loop. Space Challenges 1 - a promising title. He liked the premise too; that he would have to plot and scheme to outwit the lady with the cropped black hair. He sensed that she would be a pretty challenging opponent and he didn't really like her. Defeating her brutal regime would be cool. If only he had sufficient credits to buy the game!

"You have to be sure you really want it. That you want to play to the bitter end."

The boy jumped. The elderly Proprietor seemed to materialise at his side, as if out of thin air, and again he felt that disturbed shiver in his presence, but his words seemed kind - if a little strange.

"I do want to play," the boy confessed, "more than anything. But I'm not sure I have enough credits to pay for it."

"You give what you can afford. It's the only way to play this game and win. I found that out to my cost," the man replied, a deep vein of sadness adding layers of meaning to the simple words. "You will find you have paid enough for it by the time it is finished."

"I have a credit. I can afford that," the boy said eagerly, sensing but not really understanding the sadness and the man laughed again but this time lightly, without bitterness.

"Then the game is yours," he said. "Play it well."

Avon watched the boy leave the shop on the monitor in his underground quarters on Gauda Prime, so far away from the boy and his home planet. Watched as his own figure, projected onto the entrance to the shop, winked out. Watched as the outline of Novacaro Emporium wobbled like jelly and then disappeared. Wincing with pain, he fumbled for the switch with his maimed hands and sat gazing at the screen for a few moments longer as it faded slowly to black.

“Satisfying,” Orac observed, from his position next to the monitor. “The plan continues to work well. The game, as you surmised, is proving an effective propaganda tool. If we continue at this rate we should have stirred up enough rebellion throughout the known worlds to topple Servalan and her corrupt administration within the next fifteen years.”

"Yes," Avon conceded tersely. "Though they won't always be as keen as that one. He reminded me of..."

“Roj Blake? I concur. The boy was all heart. An idealist. He will inspire others to fight.”

"Oh, yes." A sigh filled with a melancholy sadness, an unwilling acceptance. "They will fight for him alright! Perhaps this time they might even win."

Awkwardly, Avon manoeuvred his hover chair away from the monitor.

"That's it for today, Orac. I am tired. But thank you. A brilliant scheme."

He reflected as he made his way slowly to his room whether Servalan would have thought her revenge quite so complete if she had realised that she had imprisoned him in the very part of the base where he had hidden Orac before embarking on his fateful meeting with Blake.

That despite appearances, he had at last outwitted her.



***


PURPLECLERIC
Servalan moved with feline grace towards Avon who remained seated. Her immaculately manicured nails slid across the smooth polished surface of the table before trailing across his face. She stopped behind him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as she lowered her head to speak softly in his ear.

“Did you really think you could outwit me?”

Avon twisted as he rose abruptly from the chair and they stood toe to toe. He looked into her dark eyes that were full of danger and desire, power and promise, and saw himself reflected there. He dipped his head until he could feel their breath mingle, could see her painted lips part. His voice was just as quiet as hers had been, but there was no softness, only steel.

“And did you really think I could be distracted?”

Avon clasped her to him, claiming her mouth in a fierce kiss, before breaking away so suddenly that Servalan sagged momentarily at the loss. She recovered quickly, striking an elegant pose.

“Distracted?”

Wiping the lipstick from his mouth with the back of his hand, Avon wondered how she could seem so invincible while wearing a thin slip of silk. He felt oddly exposed in contrast, despite his heavy layers. He bolstered himself with a snarl.

“Do you think I would not see through such obvious deceptions of alternate realities and manufactured dreams?”

His voice took on a more strident tone.

“Or that convoluted tales of small storage buildings and utility closets, infantile games and dessert would divert my attention from the truth? “

Avon took a deliberate step forward, then another. There was something in his manner that exuded menace and Servalan felt the urge to back away. He continued:

“I know the truth. I know –“

It was Servalan’s turn to inject a note of scorn into her voice, a valiant attempt to regain lost ground.

“Just what do you think you know?”

“I know he's dead. I know they're all dead. I cannot refute the evidence of my senses; the sight, the sounds, the smell. The feeling as the blasters tore..." Avon faltered, but quickly recovered. "I am dead. And so, my dear outwitted Servalan, are you. It's the only logical conclusion."

Servalan's mind reeled. Questions, there were so many questions. Never one to dwell on the past, she shoved aside the 'hows' and 'whys' and asked;

"Then where are we? Hell?"

Avon smiled; a chilling smile, an echo of his final living smile.

"Much worse...” His voice dropped to a whisper and despite herself, Servalan leaned closer to catch his words. “We're in the mind of a fanfic writer.”



***


Artwork by Lurena

Part Two of the April Collection - Word Prompt 'Fool' - is HERE.


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