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Endings and Closures: Part 1 - Many A Slip by Peladon

Endings and Closures
Part One - Many a Slip

by
Peladon


Evening
It has been a perfect autumn day, in every sense of the word. The sky has been blue and cloudless, the tangy air has been unusually still and even the dark trees of the plantations seem tinged with colour. The omens couldnít be better.

I have walked the perimeter with Knox and then with Deva and then again with both of them. Everything is ready, every weakness explored and covered. But then it has been for a while. We have been waiting for months now for the final player, the missing piece, and today we have it. Making sure of that has not been easy, but now it is in our hands. Now even Deva is sure, and Deva makes a point of being unsure most of the time.

I collected her last evening; it was the right psychological moment just as the darkness deepened and the night became colder. She was exactly where we had expected her to be, and exactly what we had expected her to be. Just as Deva had promised.

Like today, she is perfect.

I can see her now, stumbling through the dusk. Young enough to be certain, old enough to be believed. And she is a believer. Hungry for glory. The zeal in her burning so brightly she could barely hide it, the veiled eyes all too often betraying the direction of her thoughts, if she but knew it.

Oh yes, Arlen is perfect.

Itís getting late. The air is becoming chill and sky is darkening again, the stars showing faintly above the towering trees. I can almost imagine that I see the lights from the ships amongst them. Jenna has already joined them and soon there will be one more. It canít be soon enough, not for me.

Jenna is right; I am in danger of losing myself. Surrounded by too many who take me on trust and belief, I am being swallowed by their certainty and deference. It has always been a risk and I have always known it. Yet that one time I forgot it and that cannot be allowed to happen again. I need an unbeliever to ground me, a truth-sayer to watch my back and my conscience. But it must be one that I can trust, for their sakes.

There is only one of those, and finally he is coming. He promised he would come when she arrived, and he abides by his word, if nothing else. So now he is coming.

One more night.

This time tomorrow it will be over. Jenna will be content, I will be myself again and the next stage will have begun.


Morning
Something is wrong. There shouldnít have been a pilot on the ship, weíd agreed that. Still, itís not a serious problem just as long as he is who claims to be. Or doesnít claim to be. Why doesnít that reassure me?

The destruction was even better than we had hoped for; Jennaís aim was good. And yet he was still there where he shouldnít have been, and still alive. A just cause for being suspicious, I need to be sure and yet I cannot ask. Now of all times I must be sure and yet I dare not risk asking; too much is at stake to take the chance of betraying our plans.

But it can be worked with. Might even make it easier; provide something else to convince her. Tarrantís belief will be real enough to allay any suspicions that she might have.

Deva is looking uneasy, he doesnít like the change. Then thatís Deva, heís never been a fan of improvisation. But itís going well enough. Tarrant has nowhere to run to and she believes in it. Thatís all that matters now. Weíre ready and events must take their course. It's time to start the final stage. I know what's coming, so why do I feel suddenly uneasy? Why do I suddenly wonder if I should have trusted more?

Not that it matters, because we have burned our bridges and thereís no way back now.

God, he looks tired, and more than tired. Iím not the only one whoís seen a glimpse of hell, it seems. My legacy to him? Maybe. Itís going to be a difficult few months if thatís the case. But weíll get through it; together we have a much better chance of surviving. That, if nothing else, will keep him with me.

Tarrant is doing well; itís almost as if he knows. Klyn is already down. He found the gun then; it looks impressive, if nothing else. Just as long as Arlen doesnít get to see it too closely.

That blonde looks as dangerous as he said she was Ė I hope he fixed her gun, we donít want any accidents.

Watch for my signal, as we agreed. Yes, now. One, two, three. Has she taken the bait? I darenít look at her.

Thereís his signal, sheís hooked. I can let go now; leave it to him. Been a long time since I could say that. Hell, that stuff packs a kick, I just hope I got the dosage right.

ďAvon...Ē


Afternoon
Well, I never expected it to be comfortable. Even so, I didnít expect them to dump me down here and in the dark, too. Surely they could have spared a mattress to go with the blanket. What the hell is Deva playing at?

Maybe itís Avonís sense of humour, a small payback for my disappearing for so long.

Three hours. Iíve been out three hours, I must have overdone it! Better move, find out whatís going on.

Why are these things so slow to come when you want them? I donít want to be found here hanging on to the wall. Oh, but it hurts, those charges packed a kick like a horse. Maybe Jenna was right, I shouldnít have been so melodramatic about it, but I didnít want her looking too closely before Knox arrived. Well, Iím paying for it now. I feel like Iíve spent a night trawling the bars of Freedom City.

Three hours. The base will be destroyed by now, the bodies and any other evidence gone with it. Arlen will have fled back to her unit; back to where her loyalties lie, to tell her story. Gauda Prime has been purged; itís back in the fold. Blake is dead and Avon is dead and there is nothing to fear from anything or anyone here any more.

Where the hell is Deva? He had far less, so he must have woken up by now.

Finally! No Federation in sight, so it must have gone as planned. Knox looks a bit shaken though, and why are they all so quiet? Itís more like a wake than a job well done.

I donít like this. Why do they all look so shocked? And where is Deva? Ah, there he is. Looks like the same horse kicked him! My chance to say, 'I told you so'. Why is he looking at me like that?

I know that face, never realised how much Iíd missed it. Vila! You never change, do you? Why the scowl, Vila? Whatís wrong? Whereís Jenna?

Youíre lying. Itís impossible, they canít have. They canít have! Why would they? Jenna knew, Deva and Knox knew, so why would they?

No!


Evening
The sky has blackened quickly tonight and the wind has risen. Jennaís hair is streaming like a ghostly banner behind her. The gentle softness of autumn is losing ground to the harsh hand of winter. Like me, the year is suddenly feeling old.

Deva has lit torches at five points around the clearing; it is a custom of his home planet, apparently. Iím glad of them. They keep the darkness at bay for a little longer. For some of us, anyway. The fire echoes in Jennaís eyes, but her face is as hard and as cold as the sky and not all of it is guilt.

There are just the seven of us. I refused to allow the others to come, they have no right to be here. But then, do I? I should have taken better care. I promised him that they would all be prepared, but I had forgotten how to trust, and I lied.

Deva has said nothing, but I can see the pity in his eyes along with the unspoken ĎI told you soí. And he did, so many times I lost count. I knew better. I learned mistrust the hard way, and having learnt I couldnít put it aside. Not even for this, and it brought us here, the one place I never thought to be.

Jenna produced a silver sheet, a legacy of Liberator I didnít know she had. It makes it tidy, hides the blood and the bruises and the eruptions of shattered bone. I didnít want it, but she insisted, they insisted. Who was I to argue?

But it doesnít make it easier. I canít undo what I have done, I canít un-see what I have seen, un-know what I have known. They are still there beneath the pall of silver, just as the bitter, tortured eyes still stare at me from behind the closed lids.

I dug the grave myself, alone in this clearing as the sun began to sink and the shadows lengthened. There was no lack of offers of help, but I would not permit it. They shall not see his burial as atonement for their acts. Nor shall I.

I made it deep; no predator, human or otherwise, will disturb these ashes. He will have peace; none will trouble him again.

The steady swinging of the pick, the scrape of the shovel, drowned out thought for a while. Until they brought him, his silvery winding sheet catching the last rays of the sun as it filtered through the trees. Thought returned then, and memory. Things half forgotten returned to twist the knife of guilt and grief, things I had hoped to have returned to me, things that now can never be again.

Jenna came to stand beside me, her hand sliding into mine. Forgiveness both asked for and given. I could feel the tremors of her grief, though her face was still as stone. I would have asked her, but her eyes warned me off. That question is forever forbidden, it seems.

They would not let me lay him in the ground. I would have fought for the right but Jenna held me back, her eyes as cold as his skin. In the end I let them have their way.

Tarrant and Vila set him to rest, the womenís guns sent him on his way.

The silver shroud flamed like a small sun at the first salvo. It was still burning when all beneath it was dust.

We all took turns to close the earth over him, then left him to the night and sleep.

Tomorrow we will be gone, but not as planned. I do not know where I will go, but I know I canít stay with those who brought us to this clearing. I do not know who, if any, of those here now will come with me and I cannot ask. Tonight, at least, they are still his.

I will go. My truth-teller will remain here and I know that I am doomed to lose myself.

But I will win, and I will come back.


***


Read on:
Endings and Closures Part 2: The Visitor
Endings and Closures Part 3: Monument


Many A Slip was previously posted on Live Journal in 2008 and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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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