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Ficlet Challenge: August 2022
The prompt for this month is ... RED CARPET TREATMENT

And for the second challenge:

One of our beloved characters gets good news and bad news in quick succession - not necessarily in that order Smile

Happy writing!
Travisina insisted so,
The Red Carpet Treatment, Servalan style.

He really should have seen it coming. In fact, she decided, he deserved it for that alone.

The man looked down over the unguarded edge, hundreds of feet down the steep mountainside, to where the figures looked more like ants as they struggled against the unyeielding volcanic deposits. Looking up, above the ledge where he stood the cliff rose again, almost sheer - in some places overhanging. All of it unstable, and they were jabbing at it with their makeshift lances. Another worker, silhouetted against the sky, peered down at him from the next ledge. The wind whipped sand into his eyes, forcing him to look away. His fact-finding mission was turning into a nightmare.

"Why?" was all he could ask. The drone hovered at his head. Through it, from her command position aboard the orbiting cruiser, the woman replied conversationally,

"Oh, my Cultural Attache has reliably informed me that they have valid reasons for what they do here, and for how they choose to do it. I share your concern, of course, but the Federation has no business attempting to alter their culture. That would violate the Non-Interference Directive, would it not? I merely assist their efforts by adding to their work force from time to time."

The visitor surveyed the scene again. Primitive tools. No sign of safety equipment. Most of them didn't even have shoes. The people of this place spent their whole lives taking a mountain apart with their bare hands, for the sand and rock that brought them their pitiful income. A self-imposed regime as harsh as any punishment the Federation gave its wrongdoers.

"But - it's so primitive!" he complained, genuinely horrified, "Do they not even consider their own safety?"

"Apparently not. At least, not in the way that you or I might."

"Surely we should..."

"Interfere?" her tone had hardened. He forced his objections aside.

"How many of them die?" he aked grimly.

"Surprisingly few," she returned brightly, "The local language has not been easy to translate, but as I understand it, there has been only one recorded death of a native worker since this place was discovered almost a decade ago. Half a dozen or so with major injuries plus a number of minor problems, mainly bacterial infections resulting from untreated abrasions."

"But... how?" He struggled to take in what she was saying. Bacterial infections? But they were easily dealt with by inexpensive antiseptics....The sound of a sudden rockfall made him crouch, startled, but apparently it happened intentionally. The men who had caused it seemed unconcerned. They moved in to scrape up the bounty the hill provided.

"Local knowledge, perhaps?" she replied smugly, "I am told they regard experience the best safety measure. They are born here, Doctor. They learn their skills from infancy. It is how they live. Besides, they do not have the resources, or the forethought, to invent what we might consider a bettter way."

"Why have you brought me here?" he demanded, "For that matter, why are the Federation here at all?"
"Because the sensationalised reports I see in the media can only have come from you," she reported calmly, "And as I said, I help where I can. The Federation no longer requires your services, Kees. Given your evident concern, perhaps you will be of more use here. Your medical training might come in useful."

The drone hovered for a moment or two, then vanished upwards.

For reference:
"You're not sulking, I hope?"
Play the hand fate deals you.
Cygnus Bazza
Blimey - another one from M1's Shadowy Dark Room of Roomy Dark Shadows. Top stuff, as always!
He plays racquetball and runs in the rain
Still he's shackled to a platinum chain
Cygnus Bazza

“What about a bit of bicarbonate of soda? Might that work?”

“I’m not sure, Avon. I break into rooms. I’m not in the habit of giving them a deep-clean once I’m in there.”

Avon and Vila stared helplessly at the huge stain, still extending its deep-red tentacles across the rug’s lush cream-coloured fabric, as if the very act of staring might cause the mark to dissolve miraculously before their eyes.

“No, I suppose not. Knowing our luck – or should I say your luck, Vila, as this is technically your problem – it’ll probably be one of those stubborn stains that those adverts are always banging on about.”

“Well, at least it’ll get along well with Blake, then. Peas in a pod, they’ll be. Hey, why don’t we treat it like red wine and chuck some white wine on it? Or should that be the other way round…”

“But it’s not red wine, is it, Vila? It’s cherry soma. Which begs a couple of questions. Firstly, having decided to break into Blake’s sleeping quarters to have a ‘quick snoop’ – CREEPY, by the way – why bring a quart jug of cherry soma with you? Secondly, how did you manage to spill it all over the rug? Blake’ll go bananas. He’s spent months turning this cabin into his ‘love lair’ – CREEPY again, by the way. The very thought’s turned my stomach and nothing I’m seeing is dissipating my nausea…”

“Well, I thought I might need a drink! I was apprehensive about what I’d find in here! I reckoned a snifter would help me deal with the shock. Then I saw…all……this…and I completely lost it! I spun round, dizzy, disoriented, discombobulated, and WHOOSH!”


“Cherry soma everywhere!”

“It went…‘WHOOSH!’?”

“Well maybe not ‘WHOOSH!’. More…sort of…”SELOPPY-SERR-SPLAT!!!”?

“‘SELOPPY-SERR-SPLAT!’? Onomatopoeia really isn’t your thing, is it, Vila? But I can’t say I blame you for being taken aback by…all……this. It’s like a teenager’s bedroom in here. For a start, look at all those discarded clothes littered everywhere!”

“Most of them from Series One, I’d say. Blake probably can’t get into them anymore. But that’s the least of it! Look at all those posters plastered on the wall! That’s what threw me – and, in turn, made me throw the soma…”

“There must be at least a dozen! Blake’s turned his ‘love lair’ into a shrine! He’s developed a total obsession! And a very unhealthy one! But I don’t think I’d mind quite so much if just one of the pictures was of somebody other than Blake…”

“Perhaps he’s planning some sort of official souvenir calendar. One for the hardcore fans… A kind of thank you… A collectible, if you will… I mean, Sir Cliff’s still doing them. Maybe Blake’s planning to go bare torso to bare torso with Cliff this Christmas.”

“Enough, Vila! Bare Blake and Sir Cliff… That’s a mental image I can’t afford to burrow into my brain. Allow me to drag your attention back to the matter in hand – HOW TO TREAT THAT RED STAIN ON THE RUG! Actually…those posters have given me an idea. Quick! Tear them down! We’ll replace them with posters of me! When Blake gets back, he’ll faint with the shock, we’ll rush in, pretend he’s cracked his head and spilt blood on the rug, then whip it away and send it to the dry cleaners. There’s that Sketchley’s in Quadrant Eight. You know – where we bulk-send Gan’s mealtime bibs.”

“Great plan, Avon! But hang on! Where are we going to find a dozen posters of you?”

“Just popping back to my cabin. You see, as chance would have it, I’ve been working for some time on my own official souvenir calendar… One for the hardcore fans… A kind of thank you… A collectible, if you will… Yes, Vila! Two can play the bare torso game! Three if you include Sir Cliff!”

“Just my luck!” Vila moaned dizzily, steadying himself against the wall as Avon rushed from the room. “There’s never a quart of cherry soma around when you need it. Now… I wonder… I wonder if I could actually suck it out of the rug?”
He plays racquetball and runs in the rain
Still he's shackled to a platinum chain
And another contribution from the master of verbal slapstick! Don't give up the day job, CB...oh, too late!
"You're not sulking, I hope?"
Well this month I have managed to combine both prompts and Lurena has done her magic again!

Red Carpet Treatment

Vila always found it difficult to ignore a hard luck story…and the lure of a pair of blue eyes. So he was more than happy to assist the young lady with her problem.
Or rather her people’s problem.
“Unless we can open this box, then we are doomed to wander the Galaxy forever.”
That sounded just like his future. Although his wanderings usually involved getting into serious trouble or facing certain death. Neither of which pleased him.
As it was, he was supposed to be keeping an eye out for any Federation personage who could make trouble. It had been Tarrant’s idea; Avon had overruled him, at first.
“What could he possibly do that will cause trouble?” Tarrant had asked.
“How long a list would you like?” Avon had replied.
So little faith, Vila had thought, but the young lady had put an end to his good intentions.
“I just have to open it?”
She nodded, “We’ve been watching you and we think that you are the one.”
“The one what?”
“The chosen one.”

The small group which had surrounded him let out a joyous cheer as the box opened to reveal the key encrusted with precious jewels.
“And now we can go home,” she smiled, “with you as our King…”

When they arrived ‘home’, Vila found himself being waited on hand and foot. Good food, good wine; the whole red carpet treatment.
‘Yes’ he thought, ‘I could get used to this’.

“I don’t believe this,” Tarrant declared.
“I did warn you,” Avon offered as consolation.
“Looking for your friend?”
They both turned to face the man.
“He’s gone with them. Just like my friend. Oh they’ll make a fuss of him; wine, dine. The whole works. That’s what they do. I tried to tell my friend, but he wouldn’t listen. I got away just in time.”
“Just in time for what?” Tarrant asked.
“The big show.”
“The big show?” Avon repeated, “Explain.”
“It’s some sort of ceremony and I wasn’t waiting around to find out. But that is what they do. Every year, they come here and find some poor gullible idiot. It’s the key that does it.”
“The key?” Tarrant said quizzically.
“Yep. A gold jewel encrusted key; diamonds, rubies, you name it.”
“And what does this key do?”
“It opens the door. I didn’t hang around to see.”
Avon didn’t really want to ask the next question, but he felt impelled to, “And your friend?”
“Dead, I presume. I heard him scream and they all cheered.”
“But you escaped?”
“They only want one victim a year. I was lucky. I had my own ship, but if I had gone with them, on their ship, they would have kept me there.”
“As a prisoner?”
“No. As their king. A whole year of the red carpet treatment. I would have wanted for nothing…and I mean nothing. Until…”
“We’ve got to get Vila out of there,” Tarrant said.
“I suppose we owe him that much,” Avon conceded.

Part Two

First, the Good News…

“How did you find me?” Vila asked.
They looked at him.
“Oh yes, the bracelet, of course. Well, I’m not going back. This is the life for me.”
“No, I have handed in my notice. I am their King and I’m getting the treatment I deserve. Nothing will make me change my mind.”
“Ah yes,” began Tarrant, “their King.”
“And that is the good news,” Avon helpfully pointed out.
“Wined and dined. Everything you’ve ever wanted. I presume the deciding factor was the young lady who approached you back on that Space Port.”
“How do you know about her?”
“We met someone whose friend also fell under her spell.”
“And this someone also told us that she does this every year. It’s a custom.”
“A custom. You mean…”
“Precisely, you are not the first to fall for her obvious charms…” Avon said.
“…And you certainly won’t be the last,” Tarrant smiled.
Vila blushed.
“Okay, so that’s the good news. What’s the bad news?”

Vila was stunned.
“A transmat beam?”
“As far as Orac can tell,” Tarrant explained, “I was all for you holding that key when the main event happened…”
“…but Dayna and Cally disagreed.” continued Avon, “No, they decided that wouldn’t be fair on any future ‘king’.”
“That’s nice of them.”
“No, they are going to be with you when the ‘ceremony’ occurs. It may upset your ‘subjects’, but once they discover that they are free from whatever malevolent being is using their planet to broaden its knowledge of mankind in general, then they may be grateful….including that sweet young lady who lured you here.”
Vila smiled.


Dayna’s guided missile, with the key attached to its back, had done its work. The chamber had opened as planned and the missile had exploded. There would be no more Kings going to whatever fate had in store for them and whoever was responsible for the chamber in the first place would have had a nasty surprise.
It was drinks all round on the Liberator’s Flight Deck and a grateful Vila took a quick gulp of his.
“Well, “Cally asked, “Did the young lady thank you?”
“She did,” Vila said quickly.
“Well, that was good,” Dayna added with a smile.
“And now for the bad news,” Tarrant said.
“What bad news?” Vila queried.
“Your notice to quit,” Avon began, tearing up an imaginary piece of paper, “It’s been rejected.”
“Oh,” Vila sighed. Then a broad smile broke out across his face; in the palm of his hand glistened four jewels, “It’s just as well I managed to remove those jewels from that key then, isn’t it?”
Cold! You don't know the meaning of the word cold!
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of your window!!

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Play the hand fate deals you.
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