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Ficlet Challenges - April 2015 - Part Two

FICLET CHALLENGES - APRIL 2015 - PART TWO
Set by Purplecleric

The prompt word was Fool. Vila often played it, Avon didn't recognise it... Examples of this abound in B7 - so were the writers inspired by duplicity or tomfoolery? Or maybe even a yummy fruit pudding?

The stories are presented here in order of the season in which they're set.

***

SEASON 1

TRAVISINA - Folly

“…and they call me a fool,” muttered Vila, rooting through Liberator’s kitchen cupboards.

“What was that about a fool?”

Vila whirled round, bottle in hand, to see Cally standing in the doorway. He tried to hide the drink behind his back. “Er… hello, Cally. Were you reading my thoughts?”

“I can't do that. And besides, why would I need to, when you’re speaking them aloud?”

Vila abandoned his guilty attempts to conceal the bottle. “I wanted a drink,” he admitted. “It's been a tough day. Would you like to join me?”

“I came here for a drink too, but I prefer my own.”

They sat at the table, Vila holding a tall glass of soma; Cally’s slim hands clasped around a mug of herbal tea. “You were saying something about fools,” she reminded him.

Vila shrugged. “I’m just fed up with everyone thinking I’m the fool around here, when the rest of you were just as stupid today. The Amagons fooled us by imitating Gan's voice; Jenna fooled us into believing she'd changed sides. Tyce fooled us by not admitting she was Sarkoff’s daughter. And it turns out that Avon fooled me by keeping a lock-pick in his shoe and being able to open doors.”

Cally smiled. “That bothers you most of all, doesn’t it?”

“He should stick to computers,” Vila grumbled. “Locks are my speciality.”

“Yet he was the one you wanted to remove your neckband, after you had freed the rest of us.”

Vila's hand went to his throat, remembering his pounding heart and sweating palms while he talked Avon through the delicate process. “Avon is good when it comes to to circuitry,” he said. “Gan's hands would have been too big, Blake's too impatient and Jenna was busy elsewhere. So it had to be either you or Avon.”

“Didn't you trust me?”

“I trust you, Cally, but I also remembered that you once attacked me while I was wearing this outfit. I don't know what you've got against it - I happen to like it. I didn't want you to be distracted by my tunic.”

“I wasn't aware that I was attacking you at the time, and I do not object to your tunic,” said Cally, finishing her tea.

“That's good to know.” Vila drained his glass. “But Avon has his pride, as well as a strong survival instinct. It wasn't just our lives that were at stake, it was his reputation. He would have found it it terribly embarrassing to die as a result of his failure.”

Cally looked at him keenly. “Perhaps you are not such a fool, after all.”

“That's what I've been saying. And I was right about everything today, wasn't I?” Vila started to reach for the bottle, but Cally picked it up and replaced it in the cupboard.

“On this occasion, you were,” she conceded.

“The whole thing was a foolish venture, but the fool wasn't me. I hope you remember that, next time I have a bad feeling about a mysterious spaceship.”

“I'll try,” said Cally, suppressing a smile. As they headed out into the corridor, she suddenly gave a soft laugh. “Talking of fools...”

“What?”

“I've just remembered something Blake told me, while we were looking for a way into Sarkoff's tower. He said that on Earth, that sort of structure used to be known as a Folly.”



***


SEASON 2

PURPLECLERIC - Fool

Avon’s stomach fluttered with excitement. Freedom City certainly catered to all tastes. He hadn’t felt this alive in years, not since stealing a fortune from the Federation. He had to admit scheming with Vila had been fun.

Almost as much fun as listening to the roulette wheel spin, as listening to the croupier announce another win, as listening to Vila ham it up. He could certainly put on an act. Avon was surprised the others hadn’t seen through him yet, but they seemed content to carry on believing Vila was stupid.

The excitement had soured as Vila pushed for one more spin, too high on success to realise they were drawing unwanted attention. Sometimes that man could be the idiot he pretended to be. It was not about the money, there was plenty in the treasure room and this was far too easy. It was much more about the challenge of beating the system, the opportunity to prove he was not Blake’s puppet, that he still could act independently and in his own interest, that the option remained open to him. Point proved, it was time to move on.

Old boy!

Vila was really pushing it, taking liberties like that. They were not equals, would never be. Vila was merely a resource to be used, admittedly an entertaining one. Vila’s crowing had left a bitter taste in Avon’s mouth so, while he waited for their winnings to be packaged, he sought something to take away the taint. The food here was to be commended, particularly the desserts. Saliva flooded his mouth in anticipation as he tried to decide which he would sample. He was in the mood for something tart but rich, sweet but sour, something complex to stimulate his taste buds unlike the bland food available on the Liberator.

He was just about to order the citrus and dark chocolate torte when he spotted the last item on the menu. He hadn’t had that in years, not since he was a child. These days his palate ran to more sophisticated dishes but he felt a sudden hankering for the simple comfort food of his childhood. He felt a little embarrassed as he dipped his spoon into the sweet pink pudding, a feeling lost as the creamy smoothness melted in his mouth and nostalgia wrapped itself around him like a soft blanket.

Life had been straightforward then, people had been less complicated. His parents, polite and remote, had made their expectations clear, tutors mapped out his learning and computers provided play in the form of puzzles and strategy games. For everything else there was Nanny; illiterate but wise, full of practicalities, puddings and promises always kept.

“...has agreed to challenge the Klute at speed chess.”

Avon spat out the pudding in shock and the memories of childhood with it.

Fool!

He wasn’t sure if he meant dessert, Vila or himself…



***


HUGBOT - Fools of Flesh and Blood and Cardboard

Climbing through the narrow, winding passage up to the side entrance, the Fool left behind not only the tents of Goth but also his former life. In any case, there was nothing left of that life. They were all dead now - even that witch, Tara. As long as the true Charl was alive, the Fool had done his duty and served the usurper, hoping that the rightful monarch would regain his throne. That hope had died with the old man. There was no point in serving the witch. She had been no better than her brothers.

Being a skilled acrobat and conjurer, the Fool had managed to access Tara’s quarters at night. One swift stroke with his knife, and her cackling laughter would never again irritate anyone in the tents of Goth.

This had been his last service for the old man: killing the last of his unruly children. But this deed also ended his life in the tents of Goth. He did not need Tara’s vapours to see the future: the noblemen would fight for the throne, and whoever won this power struggle would secretly thank him for removing the witch, but execute him nonetheless for laying his hands on a royal person. Besides, the noblemen did not need a fool. They were all fools themselves.

The side entrance was half forgotten and unguarded. A few coats and masks hung from pegs in the wall. When the Fool entered the chamber, he reached out for the first mask, but then he hesitated. His hand crawled into the pocket of his jerkin, touching his secret treasure. The old playing card was taken from an ancient deck of cards that did not only comprise the usual set of four series, but also twenty-two trumps with mysterious names. One of them was called The Fool, and it showed a young men in a jester’s costume, gazing dreamily up at the sky, as he walked towards the edge of a cliff. The picture had fascinated the Fool from the very beginning. He knew that his colleague would not fall down the cliff, but would walk across the chasm. The cardboard Fool’s mind was up there in the sky, in the world of song and poetry, in communion with the Gods, so that he could safely ignore such mundane things as height and gravity.

There was no use denying that he actually had spilled royal blood. According to all the laws and commandments that he had grown up with, he was a sinner, marked for death. Would the Gods forgive him?

Turning his back on the coats and masks, he began to walk straight towards the gate. He would try to reach the next settlement without the aid of the protective garment. If he died, that would only be the rightful punishment for killing a member of the royal family. But wasn’t it also possible that he would walk across the chasm, just like the cardboard Fool?

He commended his life into the hands of the Gods.


***


SEASON 3

ELLEN YORK

Vila hummed to himself as he beat the cream, waiting for it to thicken. The Liberator stores had enough concentrates to feed the crew for years, but there was something satisfying about preparing real food. In the Delta levels, most people couldn't afford more than the standard issue concentrates, but his mum had managed to save for the occasional treat and this dessert had been a favorite of hers. The cream had become satisfyingly thick and he paused to lick the whisk (one had to check the quality of the product). Now to carefully swirl in the bright red berries. He was so engrossed in the task that he didn't hear Avon approaching behind him.

“What have we here?”

Vila turned, anticipating the obvious insult. Instead Avon's tone was hopeful.

“Strawberry fool. I hope you are planning to share?”

***



ANNIEW - A Fool’s Poem

She has vanished.
A sun reflection
Swallowed in
Hazy heat.
A trick
Of the heart.

My Anna.

Woman of straw
And sand
Never real
Or really mine.
Even her ghost
Eludes me.

"Do you trust?"
She beguiled; her
Breath scented
With violet.
Oh yes. Sated on lies
I trusted you.

Her skull grinned secretly,
Mocking my faith,
Labelled me 'fool.'

"I let you go," she claimed,
Her eyes
Soliciting desire,
Pleading for life.
My gun gave answer.
No words
Excuse a Judas' kiss.

Love, traced in sand,
My false one.
Scours the heart:
Squeezes its tenderness to
Diamond.

Yet even killing you can't set
Me free.

A fool still hangs here,
Chained to his regret.



***


SEASON 4


ANNIEW

Avon was slipping, Tarrant noted. Slipping up badly. It was getting dangerous.

"Have you noticed?" he asked Dayna.

"I can't say I have, Tarrant. You worry too much, you know. And if he is, well I'm sure it's just a temporary thing. Nothing to worry about."

Frustrated, Tarrant took himself off to find Soolin. He should have known better than to hint a criticism of her beloved Avon to Dayna. Soolin was less emotional. She'd understand his concern.

He found Soolin where he expected her to be - on the shooting range, honing her already formidable skill. He approached cautiously, but even so she swung round so quickly he found himself lying on the ground, staring down the barrel of her gun.

"Sorry," she said unapologetically, when she registered it was him. "You should know better than to creep up on me like that."

With as much dignity as he could muster, he allowed her to help him stand, brushing off the leaves and dirt from his trousers.

"Yes. Well. Never mind that. I need to talk to you, Soolin. It's about Avon. Have you noticed...?"

"Oh no, Tarrant. I'm not interested. You're not involving me in your petty squabbles. It's time you two stopped pawing the ground at each other. It makes life very difficult for the rest of us. Oh, and you have a patch of mud on your backside. You might want to do something about that."

Pawing the ground! Is that how she saw his unappreciated attempts to keep them safe? She was as bad as Dayna. What was it about Avon that had the girls cooing and fluttering as if he was a cuddly puppy instead of the solitary, dangerous wolf Tarrant knew him to be?

"Can't they see it?" he muttered crossly as he brushed off the remaining mud as best he could. "Avon's going to get us killed if he keeps slipping up like this. I must get Vila to understand. If he's frightened enough, he'll help me."

But as he entered the living quarters he noticed the empty wine bottles and heard off-key singing coming from the kitchen. Not much point in talking to Vila, then. He'd have to wait and see if the problem continued.


As it happened, he didn't have to wait long. Avon slipped up during their raid on the food processing plant on Xelon3 to hijack a consignment of oranges. Fortunately, the guards were not very well trained and Dayna had time to set off one of her smoke grenades before they could react and grab him.

He slipped up again when he and Soolin transported down to Hesperon to buy diodes for the base's lighting system and was nearly caught by Servalan who was shopping for shoes. Luckily, Soolin managed to shoot out the lights and get Avon away.

Finally his luck ran out and Dayna discovered him out cold in a corridor on the base. As far as they could tell, Avon had slipped up as he rushed to answer the alarm that Vila had set off when he burnt his toast and had slid head first into a wall.

"Hmm," Dayna mused out loud, "I see what you mean, Tarrant. Avon is slipping. A lot."

"We're going to have to talk to him," Tarrant answered." Get him to make a different choice. There's enough to choose from."

"Yes. Good luck with that," Vila remarked insincerely, slipping off quietly to source another bottle before Tarrant could involve him.

"Dayna?" Tarrant tried hopefully.

"Don't look at me, Tarrant."

"You're on your own with this one," Soolin agreed.


Avon had a headache. A blinding headache. The last thing he needed was to wake from a restless sleep to find Tarrant standing over his bed like an eager Labradoodle.*

"Yes?" he enquired discouragingly.

"Look here, Avon, " Tarrant began, with more bravery than sense, "we've noticed - YOU must have noticed - that you've been slipping up a lot recently. You've noticed that, haven't you?"

"No," said Avon flatly, closing his eyes in the vain hope Tarrant would take the hint and go away.

"It's your boots, you see," Tarrant continued ingenuously, in what he probably thought was an ingratiating tone. "Shiny soles. Easy to slip up when you're wearing them, and as you aren't getting any younger, I thought a nice pair of lace-ups..."

Avon's angry roar could be heard all over the base.


"I could have told him what would happen if he confronted Avon like that, " Vila reflected with malicious amusement. "He's got the subtly of a Warg strangler."

Tarrant, filthy and exhausted from his fourth day of fatigues (unblocking the latrines, this time), gazed with a marked lack of enthusiasm as Vila waved Avon's boot at him, displaying the sole that he had neatly sanded.

"Should do the trick, don't you think?" he exclaimed brightly. "Prevent any further slips."

Tarrant grunted sourly, leaving to seek the shower, which Vila knew would at best, yield a lukewarm trickle, rather than the hot immersion Tarrant's stinky condition warranted so badly.

Serve him right. He picked up the other boot. Better do that one too.

It was time, he thought as he applied the sandpaper to the slippery sole, that Tarrant and Avon learned not to rush into situations without thinking through the consequences, or without wearing the right footwear. That really was something that only a fool would do.




*Historical footnote on Labradoodles. At the time of our heroes, packs of dogs still roamed outside the Earth Domes. Eventually scientists began experimenting with selective breeding, to develop a dog that could be used in dangerous situations. An off-shoot line soon developed breeding docile dogs for domestic use. These were highly prized by rich, spoiled Alpha wives, the Labradoodle being especially popular. Avon's mum had one. Avon couldn't stand it.

***


ANNIEW - The Final Countdown

Why so much blood? Pulsing, gushing from his wounds as he sinks, arms reaching to grasp me as if I could pull him back from death. I hadn't expected the blood. It soaks him, soaks the ground. I don't want to be covered with the stuff. The jerky, backward step I take is instinctive but I still cannot avoid the spatters, so sticky, burning briefly as they spot my skin. Orac, you failed to factor blood into the equation of probabilities. The volume of gore mesmerises me. I cannot close my nostrils to its salty, chemical smell, close my eyes to the slippery mess as his torn chest gapes at me, mouths of red hissing a curse on my name, accusing.

A blame I refuse, with a sharp, upward shrug, to take into my arms. This isn't down to me.

Why wouldn't he stand still? Just for once do as he was asked? Did he want me to kill him? I'm used to being surrounded by idiots but this fiasco was special, even by his misguided standards.

Fool. Fool. Fool. You've never learned have you? Rely on others and they will mess it up for you. Fatally this time, I fear. His death and mine connected as I knew it would be, a doom condemning me to run and run, knowing the faster I move, the more perfect the stasis I will achieve. Inevitable that this pattern of chase and escape, my life since he hijacked it, terminates in our deaths. Unless I find a way to beat the odds.

There must be a way. There has to be. Someway to get out of this alive. Think. Think. What moves am I left with? How do I free myself from this wheel he has bound me to?

There must be something to bargain with. Something to sell, worth the price of my freedom. Those I might have used, my… companions for want of a better title, lie sprawled, ungainly heaps of flesh, dead or dying. Useless.

Does that surprise you, Blake? Did you really fool yourself that I would sacrifice myself for them? You know better now. If someone would stop that damned alarm I might be able to think straight, even come up with a plan. It swamps my brain, this noise, shrieking its warning, calling the tramping feet to rush here, congregate here, their guns raised, visored faces daring me to move.

And then, I have it. It falls into my mind so neatly, a solution so obvious, yet so unexpected, that I am not surprised it has taken me so many minutes to perceive it.

Come on then! Make your move. I'm ready.

I cannot stop a smile of satisfaction as I raise the gun and all fades to black.



***


PELADON - The Fool

Why is it that the more intelligent the man, the more certain it is that he will possess some element of the fool? Some women did too, of course, though it wasn’t a charge anyone could lay at her door, but with men it seemed to be a universal characteristic.

Even him.

She’d always been aware that it was there, just waiting to be shaken awake, but it had never really mattered until Her. Yet she had always known the shade of the fool lurked and that it was a risk. Despite that knowledge, she had seen it coming only just in time to survive that awakening and when it was already too late to deal with it. She had never really stopped blaming herself for that.

For she had loved the embryonic fool in him as much as she had loved the genius, maybe that was why she didn’t blame him. Maybe that was why she was here, because she didn’t blame him. Not even now as he stood with another clever fool dying at his feet and the echo of gun fire fading away.

Particularly not now.

Yet all conventional wisdom said she should blame him, hate him even, for what he had set in train long before the pressures created by the dying fool burned his hope and turned his future to ash. Hated him for what he might have done to her.

She looked at him closely, catching the hint of the man he had been, the one she had known and loved, lurking in the eyes of the man he seemed to have become; even as he stood astride his felled brother in arms, even as he waited for those strangely restrained troopers to surround him and for his anticipated death.

He had not looked for her, but she knew why he hadn’t and even that outrage she found she could forgive him. ‘Kerr Avon’ she thought with a sudden surge of affection, ‘you’ve played the fool for long enough, time for it to stop.’

She moved slightly, coming out from behind the sheltering pillar but staying in the shadows, nodding slightly to the trooper closest to her, warning him to wait as the man in the centre of the room raised the gun and focussed on the person sweeping down the steps.

‘Matters hasten to their close,’ she thought as she watched as the newcomer smiled caressingly at the waiting man. ‘Time to show my hand and save this sorry farce of a day. After all, why else have I followed you, watched over you, for so long?’

Turning to stare at him for a moment longer she felt the joy bubble up in her, the amusement self directed but kind. ‘I should hate you for ever thinking I would let the little whore they sent to beguile you kill me,’ she thought, ‘but we’d been together so long, and I suppose that’s love when it comes down to it. Or maybe I have the weakness of the fool after all and you are its face. Ah well, I always have looked after my own, and who is more my own than my husband?’

She gave the signal.

***


POST GAUDA PRIME


TREVOR TRAVIS – The Survivor

Fool. They’d always treated him as a fool.

And yet they had all died. Every single last one of them. And he’d survived.

It had all begun on the shuttle. That had been a massive wake-up call. Until then he was sure that he was safest sticking around with the crew. In particular, staying with Avon. Avon was a born survivor. What better way of staying alive than keeping close to Avon? Not only that, but they were colleagues, comrades, friends… weren’t they?

Not at all. Who had he been trying to kid? When it came down to it, Avon had been prepared to kill him, to save his own sorry neck.

After that, he’d hit the bottle, harder than ever before. And he became painfully aware of how the rest of the crew saw him. As a fool, a coward and a drunkard. Someone they felt superior to. They treated him like little more than a dog.

He was the one who was supposed to be stupid. Yet he’d been the one, who in a rare lucid moment, had located Blake. Using a decrepit old computer on Xenon Base. Not bad for a fool.

From there, the plan had formulated in his mind, including allowing Orac to find the information and then take credit for it.

It had annoyed him that they had not gone straight to Gauda Prime. Instead there was all that business with Zukan. He nearly got killed during that.

But eventually Avon took the bait.

It happened ten years ago. But he remembered it like yesterday:

That incessant alarm. It was giving him a headache. He wished someone would turn it off.

He was doing a very good job of playing dead, with one eye still half open. He saw Soolin shot down by a Federation guard, followed by Tarrant. He regretted Tarrant’s death. Yes, he could be a dreadful bully at times. But equally there were times he’d shown bravery that had saved them all. Life was going to be very different from now on.

However, he no longer had anything but contempt for Avon. He watched as Avon was surrounded.

Then she swept in the room. Avon raised his gun to fire at her, but he was cut down in a salvo of bullets before he had the chance.

“Well, that’s phase one of our business concluded, Vila,” purred Servalan. “Guards, at ease.”

Vila got up to his feet. He could see Avon was still just about alive. Vila walked over to him and knelt down by his side.

Avon spoke with the greatest of difficulty. “Vila…” he wheezed.

Vila got as close to that hated face as possible. It was Avon’s trick to invade people’s personal space. Time to repay that compliment.

He grinned triumphantly at Avon. “Yes, it was me who betrayed you. Vila, who you always treated like a doormat. Vila, who you treated like a fool. Vila, who you were prepared to throw off the shuttle.” He almost spat the words in Avon’s face. “And yet it was Vila the fool who outwitted you. How does that feel, Avon?”

Those were the last words that Kerr Avon ever heard. Moments later, he coughed and died.

Vila got back to his feet and crossed over to Servalan.

She seductively stroked his arm. “Now then Vila, remind me again why I shouldn’t have you killed here and now.”

Vila wasn’t fazed by her intimidation. “I know the location of Orac’s key. I pickpocketed it off Avon earlier on and it’s now somewhere safe. Very safe. Kill me and you’ll never have it.”

“It can’t be that far from where Avon hid Orac, or the location of the flyer. We have both already.”

“But do you want to take the risk? In any case, you know my terms. I just want the reward for the death of Blake and Avon and the others. You know I’m not a political threat, and you effectively get Orac for nothing.”

Servalan touched his shoulder. “Vila, you know what, once our business is concluded, I will allow you to live.” Vila looked curious. Servalan looked him directly in the eye. “We found we could never keep Blake’s activities secret. Saurian Major, Centero, Kaldor City, one way or another, news of his pointless rebellion always got out.”

She continued. “And sooner or later the whole galaxy will learn of your treachery. Vila Restal, the man who betrayed his friends Roj Blake and Kerr Avon, the biggest coward in the galaxy.”

“Oh, I can live with that. That’s always how people have thought of me in any case. And I’m planning you’ll never hear from me again”.

Servalan raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I’m planning quite a long journey.”


Vila snapped out of his reverie back to the present.

He suddenly realised a woman was in the room. She was carrying a small child in her arms.

“What were you thinking about?” she asked. “You appeared to be in a daydream.”

“Oh, I was just thinking about the old times. The bad times. Before I found you again.”

“I’m so glad you did. My clever Vila, finding his way back to Homeworld.”

Vila kissed Kerril and they, along with baby Olag, went out to enjoy the early morning sun on their paradise world.



***


ANNIEW

She re-reads the source material. It is so familiar she feels she could probably repeat it verbatim, and it has, as usual, sparked a lot of questions for her. But this time she needs to note down the evidence from it that will support the arguments she is expected to present. Any deviation from the official line will be noted and punished. For a second, she contemplates vidding Tal for some ideas, but that really wouldn't be sensible. He might be a Liberator and to be trusted without question, but if they ever found out she had asked for his help with an assignment as easy as this should be, there would be terrible repercussions.

The trouble is, she doesn't want to wrap her mind around the stale old ideas she is supposed to regurgitate monthly to prove her loyalty to the Administration and her worthiness for a university place. Oh stop moaning, she chides herself, just get on with it:

Any act of rebellion may be regarded as prima facie evidence of madness and degeneracy in those that pursue it. Discuss with particular reference to Case Study1: The Blake's Seven rebellion.

Note 1.
A pervert like Blake was unlikely to hold the loyalty of his crew. Inevitably they would turn on him in the end.

But they didn't turn on him, did they? They followed him for at least two years and Avon searched for him for another two. Would they have really done that if the stories of him and little boys had been true?

Note 2.
The madness, incipient in all those who seek to overthrow the established order and ignore the will of the majority, seems finally to have overwhelmed Kerr Avon. Having killed his leader, he then tried to deny this act of betrayal by straddling the dead body and firing indiscriminately at loyal Federation Troopers.

Or was it that you realised you had made a terrible mistake, Kerr Avon, and were determined to die fighting for Blake's cause? Making a gesture so that future generations would realise they had to fight for freedom to the last drop of their blood?

Note 3.
Thanks to the foresight of Servalan, the beloved leader...

Mad old bat. It is rumoured her mind has gone and she no longer remembers who she is. She certainly seems confused on those rare occasions when they wheel her out to bolster the President's waning popularity. And so grotesque in her low cut black dresses with their absurd feather embellishments, revealing unappealing amounts of sagging yellow skin. She'd never have beaten the Seven without Orac's - or rather, Ensor's - help. It was Ensor's hatred of aliens and criminals programmed into the super-computer that had ensured it gave priority to helping the Federation, not the rebels, and the clever traps it designed picked them off one by one. It was amazing they managed to resist for so long.


Task finished, she presses the 'send' button and posts her essay. She thinks she has parroted a sufficient number of official lines to gain her a pass, possibly even a merit. Done enough, anyway, to keep her comfortably under the surveillance sweeps that Orac conducts daily.

Don't they realise, she wonders, those fools in Authority, what a heroic, stirring, tragic story these official accounts reveal? The love, idealism, effort and defeated hopes that can be found hidden within the Federation rhetoric of condemnation? How inspiring the Seven are to the many disillusioned people, sickened by the sordid practices of a corrupt administration, appalled at the suffering it doles out routinely?

Haven't they the sense to work out that by insisting that everyone studies the story of these rebels, they are in fact fomenting the very thing they are trying to suppress?

She switches off her computer and gets herself ready for the next secret meeting of the Liberators where she will again dedicate her life to bring about a happier ending to the Tale of the Seven. To ensure that none of them died in vain.

***


ALTERNATE UNIVERSE


TREVOR TRAVIS

"Where am I?" asked Blake.

"You were dreaming," replied Jenna.

"But all these people in the dentention cell! They were in my dream. That guy over there, Dr Bellfriar. And him, that's Nova, the one next to Deva and Bran Foster. And that thing like a KFC bargain bucket - that's Moloch! And why is the cell door wide open?"

"The Federation has just been toppled. You've got a full pardon and you're the new President!"

Blake and Jenna lived happily ever after in a space cottage called 'Liberator' and had 14 children named after their best friends - Avon, Vila, Cally, Gan, Zen, Dayna, Tarrant, Soolin, Orac, Slave, Servalan, Travis, Grant and Og.

***


ANNIEW

Abruptly, consciousness returned. Strange. His last memory was of pulsing sirens, red flashing lights, Federation Troops. Nothing like this cramped, empty place. No memory explained the hard surface he found himself lying on, its cold dampness creeping through his body; the caustic odour of some chemical, deeper and more oily than the tangy, fresh ozone smell that had pervaded the tracking gallery, prickling his nostrils. Painfully he raised himself on an elbow and looked cautiously around, searching for a clue as to where Servalan might have dumped him.

The light was too dim to see clearly or perhaps the stun shots had affected his sight, but he thought he could make out, through the greyness, the outlines of a several implements hanging from hooks - each with sharp teeth and blades. Torture chamber, that was his best guess. How boringly predictable. Soon they would arrive, subject him to extreme pain and...

Light assaulted his eyes as the door swung open and he cowered away from it, raising an arm in self-protection. For a second he heard a burst of music, a male voice improbably urging him in song not to step on his blue suede shoes carried on a gust of vinegar and fish and then a female voice shrieked loudly, blotting out all other noise. It sounded even more scared than he was feeling.

The spangles and whirling black dots cleared from his sight, replaced abruptly by a wash of vibrant purple.

"My God...It's you!" The fear in the voice segued into avid delight. "Avon, it's really..."

Viciously, a hand tore the page from the notebook, crumpled it into a ball, tossed the offending sheet into an overflowing bin.

April fan fiction challenge not withstanding, even the most ardent, "and then they all survived" apologist was hardly that foolish! They'd never buy a plot that had Orac teleporting Avon from the carnival of slaughter and depositing him in her shed!


***


Part one of the April Collection - Complete a scene featuring Avon and Servalan - 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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