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June 2021 Ficlet Challenge
The phrase prompt for this month is … It’s Not Brain Surgery

And for the second challenge:

One of the crew has started to sleepwalk and it’s causing a few problems...
Cygnus Bazza
It’s Not Brain Surgery

“It’s not exactly brain surgery, you know.”

“Still wittering, Vila? I thought it was well past your bedtime. It’s nearly eight o’clock. Oh go on, then. Unburden yourself – and burden me as a result. Do tell: what exactly isn’t brain surgery?”

“Rocket science. It’s just a bit of ballistics and stuff. Orac told me. Anyone can do it. It’s just a few basic principles. Like ‘what goes up must come down’ – albeit with a bit of a whizz and a bang. The thing is, Avon, if only I’d paid a bit more attention at school…”

“You mightn’t have mislaid your dinner money with quite such depressing regularity. Now could you keep quiet just for the rest of your life, you annoying little man, as this grown-up has some work to finish.”

“Work? That’s not work! That’s – what do they call it now? Oh, yes. That’s reading a book!”

“Reading a book is working.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Can be. It depends on the book.”

“No, it doesn’t. Reading a book is leisure. Recreation. Downtime.”

“DOWNTIME? Some of us abhor the very idea of DOWNTIME. And as for the pitiful likes of you, Vila, well there’s barely such a thing as UPTIME...”

“I just like to pace myself, that’s all. So what’s the book about? Is it a thriller?”

“Not really. Though kind of. As luck would have it, it’s about DIY brain surgery.”

Vila whistled a whistle of admiration. “DIY brain surgery! Wow! That must be complicated.”

“Not as complicated as you might think.” Avon grinned his characteristic mirthless, menacing grin. “In fact, I’d go as far as to say that, well… Put it like this: it’s not exactly rocket science.”

“There’s an irony! Rocket science isn’t brain surgery and brain surgery isn’t rocket science! Amazing! But whose brain are you thinking of surgerying on?”

“Don’t worry, Vila, not yours. No. That would require the finest, most detailed microsurgery just to provisionally locate it and, frankly, I haven’t got the time, patience or interest. No, my plan is this. When Blake’s dead, when he’s chanced his stupid arm once too often and gallivanted into his final cul-de-sac, well… as co-executor of his will (with Orac) I’m going to donate his brain to science. And, on behalf of science, I’m going to gratefully take receipt of the gift, apply the principles of brain surgery to my deceased patient, prod about a bit in a few lobes and the odd cortex, and try to see if there was any underlying physiological or neurological reason why… why… Now how can I put this delicately? WHY BLAKE’S SO BL**DY IRRITATING!”

“Oh. Does Blake know about this? About you surgerying on his grey matter post-mortem?”

“Of course not. At the very most, I might just be able to persuade him to let me have a poke at one of his kidneys while he's still alive, I suppose. Assuming I can up the stakes in one of our regular two-person games of strip snap…”

“My mind boggles…” murmured Vila.

“Well it may,” sneered Avon. “But be assured, I’ve absolutely no intention whatsoever of confirming that surgically…”
Edited by Cygnus Bazza on 03 June 2021 08:38:31
It's been a while since I participated in these challenges!

Green Wrath

Someone had to keep an eye on the scanners while the other one cleared a path through the shrubbery. Given the choice between an Alpha and a Delta, it was clear who would have to do the menial task. Sometimes Vila wondered what all that ‘liberty’ that Blake rambled on about would mean for him.

There was a road leading through the thicket to the Federation outpost but they could not dare to walk there in plain sight. They could not even use the teleport because they didn’t know the layout of the base. And even the way through the woods was not completely safe. Sensors and traps aplenty were lurking in the bushes.

All the way, Avon was focused on his scanners. But when the rhythmical sound of Vila hacking his way through the shrubs suddenly ceased, Avon looked up in alarm.

Vila stood in front of a hedge with branches woven into an intricate pattern. He had dropped his machete and tried to disentangle the delicate web of twigs with his bare hands.

‘Come on, Vila!’ Avon growled. ‘This isn’t brain surgery!’

At first, Vila didn’t answer. It seemed as if he didn’t even listen. But then Avon heard his voice, very faint as if coming from far away, ‘But it is!’

Then he saw the branches move. Vila stood still, breathing slowly, while the twigs carefully felt along his limbs, groping and probing, finding their way to his face and dancing on his skin as if in search for a way to enter his skull. Finally, the movement ceased, and Vila turned slowly around. Avon could see that the twigs had settled on his larynx, his temples, the centre of his forehead and the very top of his cranium.

‘We must not go any further’, Vila said.

Under different circumstances, Avon would have told him off. But now he hesitated.

‘Why?’ he asked in a coarse voice.

Vila pointed down the path he had cleared. ‘The forest doesn’t like it’, he explained. ‘We have injured and hurt it.’ Tenderly he stroked the web of twigs. ‘Fortunately, I didn’t harm the core. That would have made the forest really angry.’

But Avon was not yet prepared to give up their mission.

‘We have a job to do’, he reminded his companion.

Vila shook his head. ‘It is already done’, he said. ‘The Feds burned and hacked their way through the core to build their base. The forest has already taken care of them. They are all dead.’

Avon had no reason to doubt his words. After all, he was sure that it wasn’t really Vila who had uttered them. He finally gave in. ‘Let’s get back’, he sighed and turned away from the hedge, walking in the direction from which they had come.

The twigs slid from Vila’s skin and retreated into the hedge, setting him free.

‘Thank you’, he said.
Ellen York
Yay! Hugbot story Smile I wonder how they explained to Blake that the forest wouldn't let them finish their mission.
Ellen York wrote:

Yay! Hugbot story Smile I wonder how they explained to Blake that the forest wouldn't let them finish their mission.

Thank you! Maybe they just told Blake that they had fulfilled their mission... as convincingly as they told him that they had stayed on the ship, playing a little chess in Gambit...
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Gan usually had a sound sleep. He didn’t even wake up when Blake and Avon had a loud argument in the corridors or when Vila staggered through the ship severely inebriated and singing raucous songs about goblins. The more he wondered when he suddenly found himself awake in the middle of the night surrounded by dead silence.

He didn’t know what had woken him up, but he was uneasy and felt the sudden urge to check outside his quarters.

And there he saw him: Blake, walking up and down the corridor in front of his cabin, only wearing his pyjamas, staring into infinity.

Gan didn’t know what to do, but after a few minutes Blake retired to his own quarters, anyway.
In the morning Blake was his usual grumpy self. Gan decided to say nothing. Blake was walking in his sleep – so what?

The next night, the spectacle repeated itself; if you could call it a spectacle. Again, Gan woke up in the middle of the night although he could not have heard Blake through the metal of the walls. Again Blake walked up and down in front of his cabin, and again he ceased his sleepwalking activities after a few minutes.

This went on night after night, and still Gan did not tell anyone. After all, it felt personal. It was the corridor in front his cabin that Blake kept patrolling, and it was him who woke up regularly as if there was some invisible bond between him and their sleepwalking leader.

However, there was one alarming trend: Blake seemed to become more and more restless. On the sixth night, he began to rub his hands as if trying to wash them, murmurming incoherent nonsense about Neptune’s ocean. What did that mean? There were no oceans on Neptune.

On the seventh night, Gan finally decided to intervene. Blake was grasping the air as if trying to catch some invisible object. As carefully as possible, Gan touched him by the shoulder to snap him out of his sleep.

Blake stared at him, still half asleep, then he screamed in terror and stumbled backwards.

‘Gan!’ he exclaimed. ‘But you are dead!’

‘Well, I am not’, Gan smiled. ‘It was a nightmare.’

Blake blinked and sighed with relief.

‘What ... what am I doing here?’ he asked.

‘You were sleepwalking’, Gan explained. He didn’t have the heart to tell Blake that this condition had already lasted for seven nights.

‘Was I?’ Blake gave a weak smile. ‘I can only remember this terrible nightmare. You were dead, and it was I who killed you. I’m glad that it was just a bad dream.’

‘Better off to bed now’, Gan insisted.

Blake nodded and returned to his quarters. Gan was right: he needed a good night’s sleep. Particularly this night. He had finally succeeded to contact Kasabi. All preparations were made, and tomorrow, they would strike and attack Control.
Wow, Hugbot, those are great! And the second one in particular has such a moody sense of foreboding to it... love the nod to Lady Macbeth, too!
It was now very late, and they were all tired. This had gone on for far too long, but they had reached a critical stage- there was no backing out now.

Everybody was keeping respectfully, terrifyingly quiet. Avon could sense their impatience, their expectations, and the strong urge by someone tall to offer him unwanted advice. The effort of keeping his opinion to himself was practically making Tarrant gag, but the severe glares he was getting from Soolin and Dayna kept him quiet.

Avon wished that he had his probe- this would be done in a fraction of the time. The instrument he was obliged to use instead was so thick and clumsy. If this was the sort of equipment surgeons usually used, it was hardly any wonder Gan’s limiter had malfunctioned. But then, convicted murderers are hardly in any position to demand the best quality workmanship.

His hand trembled and he quickly removed it before he could do any damage. This was too important to mess up, there were 600 credits at stake for just this one component alone. It was a huge risk to take for such a trivial reward. One involuntary movement, one tiny slip, and he was finished. He took a breath, rubbed his eyes and tried again. Around him, everybody seemed to tense. He tried to shut them out, them and that low humming sound in the background that he had never really noticed before. It seemed to get louder, not quieter. He put his tool into the cavity and felt the edges connect to the small, delicate part inside. He took another breath, checked the angle he was working at and, millimetre by millimetre, he began to lift.

The piece was soon level with the outer casing. Only a tiny bit more, now... he was sure nobody was even breathing, the silence was suddenly beautiful, perfect and blissfully sweet to his overwrought mind, so often troubled by all the noises, threats and bickering it was constantly subjected to. If only he could keep this suspended peace for ever...

There was a loud buzz, and the red light flashed up. Avon’s composure snapped instantly and he pushed the board disgustedly away, not caring about finishing the job or even trying to save any face in front of the others. “This is stupid!” He snapped.
“Oh come on, Avon, it’s your own fault,” burst from Tarrant at long last. “I’ve told you about trying to remove them with the tweezers at that angle before-“
“-and we all saw how well that worked on the wishbone-“
“The wishbone is trickier than the brain freeze! I could have done that one with one eye closed!”
“How about doing it with your mouth closed?” Avon shoved the game at him.

The others had by now exhaled and half-laughed in relief that the tension was broken. Tarrant reached for the board, eagerly accepting the challenge, but Dayna halted his arm.
“Not so fast, Dr. Tarrant-“
“Doctor who?” Snorted Vila.
“I think you’ll find I’ve got the specialist card for the brain freeze,” Dayna continued, poising herself perfectly on her chair and taking up the tweezers. The others groaned.
“Oh no, we’re doomed. Can’t we just declare you the winner now and go to bed?” Whined Vila, his head resting on his hand.
“Come on, this is the last piece, let her finish it,” said Soolin. “Don’t worry, she probably won’t take as long as Avon, either.” Avon narrowed his eyes but said nothing.

Dayna made the extraction look infuriatingly easy, but managed to refrain from being infuriatingly smug in victory. She graciously accepted the 1200 credits and the announcement that she had indeed won. A good deal more graciously than Tarrant, who had come last and so would take her next turn on night watch.

Walking towards their cabins afterwards, Soolin asked, “how did you get so good at playing that?” Dayna smirked and shrugged.
“Well, you know what they say... it isn’t exactly-“
“-No...” Soolin interrupted with weary haste. “Don’t say it.”
Edited by GanMiniMe on 13 June 2021 17:24:31
Ellen York
Huggy, you are on a roll this month.

GMM you really had me going in the first part of the story, it seemed like a life-or-death situation. Though I can see that bunch getting overly invested in a game. My cousin had an Operation game when we were kids. That thing was evil.
Well, here's my first little effort. Slightly over the limit....
...and another lovely picture by Lurena of a certain rater nice computer expert.....

Just Walking in the Rain

She hadn’t meant to intrude, but the sound of footfalls outside her quarters for the second night running was too much to ignore. This time she rose from her bed, placed the wrap about her and decided to find out who it was stalking the corridors of Xenon base so late in the night.

Soolin opened her door and stepped outside into the now empty corridor. She knew it would be pointless wandering the base trying to find the owner of the footfalls so decided to go to the main control room.
There she activated the closed circuit television, but no-one came into view.
Then she noticed that one of the surface hatches was open; maybe whoever was skulking around had gone outside? She checked the surface cameras and then…she saw him.

Avon didn’t move.
He was rooted to the spot, staring up into the starlit sky. He was speaking, but she had no idea what he was saying, and then he turned round and made his way back to the warmth of the base.

Soolin went to meet him, but he walked straight by her, his unseeing eyes wide open; deep in a dreamless sleep.

The next evening, Soolin was prepared.
Sure enough, those footfalls came and she went out to meet them, but still Avon walked straight by her.
She was puzzled. Why was he sleepwalking?
This time she decided to follow him out onto the surface of Xenon.

This evening it was raining, yet even the droplets of water did not bother him as he stood in the exact same spot, staring up at the sky.
Soolin stood right by him, hoping to hear his words.
“Where are you?” Avon asked an unseen entity somewhere far above, “Why won’t you tell me where you are?”
The rain fell harder, forming rivulets of water that streamed down his face.
“Where are you?” he asked again.
But no answer came.
He seemed dejected and started to turn round and retrace his steps. For a moment Soolin thought he had suddenly awoken and maybe seen her, but it was a brief moment and she watched as he trudged back, his shoulders slumped.
Soolin realised that she had to get back to the surface entrance before Avon did, otherwise she would find herself locked out in the howling gale that was now developing.

“Did you sleep well last night?” Soolin asked.
Avon looked at her, “Why do you ask?”
“I watched you; out there on the surface.”
“I think you’re mistaken…”
“Am I? How do you suppose your clothes are so wet? It was raining last night out on the surface.”
The look of puzzlement on his face was enough for Soolin to know that Avon was indeed at a loss to explain the damp clothes that he had found in his quarters that morning.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell the others that you are sleepwalking.”
“Thank you.”
She didn’t mention his questioning of the sky; that would be just too much prying.

That night there were no footfalls.
Something had obviously happened that day and Avon was now at peace.
But just who was he speaking to last night?
That could wait. She pulled the sheet around her.
Tomorrow Avon and Tarrant were to leave for Betafarl.
Maybe he would eventually tell not just her, but the others, who it was he was looking for.
But meanwhile she would sleep…
…sleep did not come easily to Avon that night, but at least his secret was safe...for the moment.

Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
I liked that, Littlesue- and, of course, the picture... super as always!

It feels like there should be a part two to this story...
Edited by GanMiniMe on 16 June 2021 20:31:31
GanMiniMe wrote:

I liked that, Littlesue- and, of course, the picture... super as always!

It feels like there should be a part two to this story...

Hm...well now, I'd have to think about that....
Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
And now for the 2nd prompt....Lurena managed to stop laughing long enough to draw a piccie...

Career Change

“It’s not brain surgery,” Avon declared, watching Vila as he tried, and failed, to thread the needle.
Vila mumbled something in reply.
“Vila,” Cally said, “That’s not a nice thing to say!”
“Can’t a man even have a private thought now?” Vila moaned.
“You know I can’t read minds.”
Vila mumbled something again.
“Come on, Cally,” Jenna smiled, “Let’s leave the seamstress alone...”
“I believe the term for one such as Vila, is a tailor,” Avon corrected.
“…all right, a tailor. Cally and I will be on the Flight Deck when you’ve finished.”
“If only you had listened,” Avon began after the two women had left him and Vila alone in the teleport section.
“Look, it’s not my fault…it just needs a slight adjustment, that’s all.”
“I don’t think Blake will agree with that. Meanwhile, will you finish sewing those press studs and Velcro back on my top, and then you can repair both Cally and Jenna’s outfits.”
“If only Blake had allowed me to keep Mother O’Reilly’s kitchen sink just a little longer…I think I could have cracked it!”
“Meanwhile, your efforts to utilise the Liberator’s Teleport facility has resulted in several clothes malfunctions.”
“My fingers hurt...”
“Really, then I suggest you stop complaining about your lot and keep sewing.”
“Couldn’t you turn Orac into something useful…like a sewing machine?”
Suddenly the sound of screaming followed by giggling resounded along the Liberator’s corridors.
“What was that?” Vila asked, midway through threading the so called self threading needle...again, “Perhaps we…you should go and find out.”
“I think we are about to discover the cause of that mirth.”
“Oh,” Vila said, only to pale when he saw Blake standing at the top of the teleport section stairs, his trousers over his arm; his undergarments on display.
“Oh dear…”
“Yes, oh dear indeed,” Blake barked, “your attempt to emulate Mother O’Reilly’s cleaning device has failed…”
“Spectacularly, by the looks of things,” Avon remarked, trying desperately to keep a straight face.
“Not only did the zip fail but so did the fly buttons…in front of Cally and Jenna…”
“Oh that was the reason for all that gig…”Avon stopped as Blake glared at him, “I think I’ll go to my cabin.”
“You do that. Meanwhile, Vila is going to sew every button back on, repair the zip and….”
Vila sighed, “Maybe brain surgery would be easier…”

(You may use your imagination to envisage EXACTLY what undergarments were on display!!!!!)
Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
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