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B7 Advent Calendar 2022
Joe Dredd
This is the thread for Advent Calendar entries.

If you would like to participate, please sign up here: Sign up thread

Please post any comments here: Comments thread

And remember, no peeking behind any of the doors until it's the right day in your part of the world!
Joe Dredd
It's 1st December here in Australia, so I get to look behind the very first door!

It says: "To all my friends and special friends at Horizon, and Blake's 7 fans everywhere"

...and then there's this link: No peeking until 1st December!
Cygnus Bazza
Part 1 (of 2):

So here's a home demo of a seasonal song written and recorded about 15 years ago. I never developed it any further (can't imagine why), so it's pretty much languished in the vaults. But I've suffered for my art - and now it's your turn. (It's not me singing, BTW.)
Edited by Cygnus Bazza on 02-12-2022 09:05
Cygnus Bazza
Part 2 (of 2):


(With apologies to the great M. R. James)

“I suppose I’ll have to try to make sense of this,” the antiquary mumbled as he scanned the title page of the thick, goatskin-bound codex. The dancing candlelight afforded just enough of a watery glow for the ink seemingly to detach itself from the vellum and spell out two words: Annales Liberatoris. Just below, in much smaller script which compelled him to squint hard through his pince-nez, he could dimly discern a subtitle: Fabulae Septem Rebellium et Arcae Ingeniosae.


The antiquary sat back in his chair and pursed his lips. This looked promising. Yes! Extremely promising. Translating the Latin posed no difficulty for a man of such exemplary erudition: Annals of the Liberator – Stories of the Seven Rebels and a Clever Box. Now it was simply a question of going through the codex, leaf by leaf, until he found the information he had sought for so long.

The first fingers of dawn had begun to clasp the winter night sky when, at long last, he came upon what he craved: a clear reference to a hidden hoard of treasure purloined many centuries previously by the notoriously unscrupulous Abbot Avon – a reference accompanied by a tantalising clue to the treasure’s present whereabouts...

* * * *

“Hidden, you say? Hidden in sand? Green sand? My dear chap, are you completely sure of the accuracy of your translation?”

Reverend Parsbury rose from his seat and paced around the rectory’s modestly furnished drawing-room.

“Not that I’m impugning your abilities, of course,” he went on. “It’s just that… Well… It’s just that…”

“…there’s no such thing as green sand?” interjected the antiquary. “Exactly! It’s clearly a clue. A cryptic clue! Harena viridis – ‘green sand’ in Latin. Don’t you see, Reverend? It’s an anagram. An anagram of ‘I, air raven dish’!”

“‘I, air raven dish’? What palpable nonsense is this?”

“Not nonsense at all, my dear Parsbury. My researches inform me that, in your very own church of St Servalan, high up on one of the pillars by the choir loft, there may be found a curious architectural feature just below the capital. An unusual dish-shaped protuberance, embraced by raven wings fashioned from limestone. Yes, a raven dish! Up in the air! And I believe that, behind this feature, I shall finally run to earth the legendary ‘black gold’ of Abbot Avon! With your permission, naturally…”

“Permission granted, my old friend! At all events, I’m away in the morning to the ecclesiastical council, to lend assistance to the planning of this year’s diocesan Yuletide celebrations. So I look forward to very exciting news upon my return!”

* * * *

But when Reverend Parsbury returned to his parish a full three days later, he was met with dread tidings. His antiquarian acquaintance had been removed to an asylum, having quite lost possession of his sanity. And of discovered treasure there was no word that was not entirely perplexing.

“Oh, Master! It were ’orrible! Perfectly ’ORRIBLE, I tell you!” the Reverend’s housekeeper declared. “That first afternoon followin’ your departure, ’e set off for the church with a ladder, a chisel and a strange proddy tool! Yet within but ’alf an ’our ’e came a-rushin’ back, wild-eyed and a-ravin’! Babblin’ he was! Somethin’ about breakin’ into a pillar and feelin’ an un’oly rush of pure arrogance fly out past ’im. Arrogance and conceit – yes! That’s exactly what ’e said! As if ’e’d unleashed some sort of demon – and not just any old demon neither! No, a demon with an absolutely devastatin’ line in belittlin’ put-downs…”

“But what of the treasure?” gasped Reverend Parsbury, deep in shock. “Did ‘e mention findin’ – I mean, did he mention finding any treasure there? Did he say anything about ‘black gold’?”

“Come to think of it, I do believe ’e did and no mistake!” the ’ousekeeper – sorry, housekeeper – replied, reflecting for a moment. “But it didn’t make no sense! ’e said ’e thought ’e saw a big pile of black leather, just sitting there in the big ’ollow space! And as ’e reached out to touch it, ’e ’eard a spectral voice a-sayin’ (in a very sneery, supercilious manner): ‘Touch not my black leather, you spare part! For its value is as gold to me! It’s the only thing I’m sentimental about! And just like my old partner-in-crime Brother Vila, I think you’ll be at your best when you’re…unconscious!‘ Then the demon pushed ’im clean off ’is ladder! Just like that! Banged ’is ’ead somethin’ terrible on the choir stalls, ’e did…”

* * * *

Suffice to say that, as a man little given to primitive superstition, Reverend Parsbury had no qualms about heading straight over to the church of St Servalan, replacing the ladder, retrieving Abbot Avon’s treasure – and selling most of it for alms to benefit the sick and needy of the parish. But one pair of tightly hugging leather trousers he chose to retain for his own personal use, sporting them under his surplice at mass on Christmas morning – to the great consternation of many, but to the even greater delight of a small handful. By no means the least of whom proved to be the one who was wont to call herself (effortlessly combining English and Latin tongues) Susan Parva.

The antiquary, meanwhile, remained in the asylum for the rest of his days. And all he would ever mutter, over and over again, throughout his waking hours, was this: that he wasn’t expendable, he wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t going. But no-one ever succeeded in shedding the slightest light on the meaning of these obscure and curious words – or even suspected their connection with Abbot Avon, whose treasure and trousers had so cruelly shaped the poor antiquary’s fate.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all! And please – don’t have any nightmares before Christmas. Because that's another story altogether.

How many of these* Christmassy items can you find/experience before Christmas Day?

Or maybe design your own ‘card’ and challenge your family or friends.
(click to enlarge)

*for the pedants among you: by ‘these’, I don’t mean the actual images, although that might be an interesting challenge in itself. Do let me know how you get on.
"You're not sulking, I hope?"
While Blake is only interested in his Cause, our heroes nonetheless find some time to frolick in the snow during the Advent season:
Sorry. I meant to do something new, but I am up to my eyeballs in the usual rush of work that simply must be finished by Christmas. So this is a story I wrote a while ago, for a prompt which was 'titles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes'. The is what Never Kill a Boy on the First Date suggested to me.

'Welcome to my pleasure-dome, gorgeous.' Ras Mikulin leered drunkenly and held the door open. Servalan smiled up at him and slipped inside, skillfully evading his hands.

The room was much as she had imagined. King-sized bed (in defiance of regulations for a mere Major) with a covering of faux hellcat skin. Full length mirror opposite. The sheets would be of frictionless silk, probably black, thought Servalan grimly - he really was that obvious. Mikulin flicked a couple of switches and the light changed to a shimmering kaleidoscope of colours, while soft synthesized music filled the air.

'Oh how lovely.' The patent insincerity of her voice would go right over his head. She sank back gracefully onto the bed. 'Why don't you get us something to drink?'

'Ready and waiting, princess,' he smirked. It was too - a bottle of '37 Lune d'Andromache (for those with more money than sense, her father had always said) was waiting in an ice-bucket. He had clearly expected that she would come back with him tonight. Over-promoted cretin, she thought - Don Keller was worth twenty of him. But she looked adoringly into his eyes as she took the glass. 'To us, darling.'

'To us.' He sat down next to her and took her in his arms. She ran one finger over his lips and he leaned forward and kissed her. Murmuring endearments, she pulled him down on top of her.

Things moved gratifyingly quickly after that. In no time at all he was fumbling drunkenly with her clothing, incoherently assuring her of his pleasure and gratitude, promising her that he could do great things for her, that she would not regret this.

'I know I won't,' she sighed, running her fingers though his gelled, scented hair. His hands moved to her legs, pushing her skirt up. Then it was easy - child's play to push the skirt down again, feigning bashfulness, and at the same time to slip the stiletto from her garter. His face buried in her breasts, he did not notice as she poised it over the back of his neck, checked the position, and pressed.

Perfect. One small gasp and he slumped on top of her - dead. With a little exclamation of disgust she pushed him aside and got up, straightening her clothes. A flick of the switch killed the music and lights. Another switch set the deep-cleansing programme to run as soon as she had left. No-one had seen them leave the party. By the time the body was found the room would be sterile, with all traces of her DNA erased.

She smiled. So he thought he could blackmail Don with his attendance at that illegal meeting, did he? Now no-one knew, and Don would get the promotion he deserved. But she would have to have a word with him. Attending Freedom Party meetings, indeed! He needed Servalan to advise him, choose his friends for him, manage his career. Together they would be unstoppable. Surely he would see that?
Joe Dredd
Let's see what's behind door no. 6... oh, it's a snowflake!
Vila's Holiday Jokes, Japes and all around Groaners.

Orac! Obey! I want you to break into the most high-level Federation Red-One Mobilization communications and broadcast this little bit of Holiday cheer to all the Federation Ghouls and Ghoulettes making up that horribly benighted military organization! Right, here we go...

Ho Ho Ho and a very merry Holiday to you all, from Supreme Commander Servalan down to the most put-upon grunt in training at the Federation Military Complex. This is your old Uncle Vila here again to put a bit of merriment into your proscribed Holiday season. You remember having fun? Don't you? Well, these old chestnuts will warm your heart or else make your stomach wretch! I haven't figured out exactly how they'll go down but hey, I try, give me that! So let's not waste a moment that I have before Federation Security figures out how to silence me, and here's goes nothing, and I do mean nothing.

What do you call a boomerang that does not come back? A stick! Hey, I started out slow, it will build up, I promise.

Why was the turkey in the new pop group? He was the only one with drum sticks. HO! Zing!

What do you get when you eat FedMas decorations? A bad case of Tinselitis!

What do they sing at a snowman's birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow! I liked that one!

What did Fed-Santa do when he went speed dating? He pulled a cracker! He pulled a cracker! Get it?

What athlete is warmest in winter? A long jumper. I've got a million of them!

What happened to the man who stole an ancient Advent calendar? He got 25 days. Poor fool, he got caught!

What do Fed-Santa's little helpers learn at school? The elf-abet.

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Don't know? Frost bite! Ha Ha Ha

What's green, covered in tinsel and goes ribbet-ribbet? A mistle-toad. Wow- groan, I know....

I bet you're asking, did Rudolph ever go to school? No, he was elf-taught!

Why does Fed-Santa sometimes visit a liquor store? And it's not just to purchase a few of my favorite presents- He goes so he can stock up on old-calendar Christmas spirit.

Well, Trooper Orac says I only have a short time left as the old Federation Scrooges are about to figure out how we got onto this top secret channel. So I'll leave you with one more zinger. I know, it's sad, but just remind yourself that I will be back next year to annoy.... er... entertain you all at your FedMas holiday.

Why does Father Fed-Mas have three gardens? No? So he can Ho Ho Ho!

Happiest of Holidays to you All and to All a good night! Uncle Vila signing off.......OK, Orac, turn it off..... Oh, hello, Avon! What was I doing just now? Nothing <guilty smile and a sly wink>
Resist the Host

Right, this is my first time attempting something like this, let’s hope it works. I put together a Blake’s 7 Which Character Are You personality quiz, here is the link:

Hm, I don’t know how to put in a hyperlink, you might have to copy and paste that into a search browser. Sorry!
Edited by Brad on 08-12-2022 16:12
The Blake’s 7 section of my blog, where I post fics, art, essays, etcetera.
Well now, what is behind the 9th door?
Why, it's a festive cartoon drawn for me by B7 fan Michael Hather for inclusion in my fanzine Shadow back in 1985.
Which reminds me, I really must scan in Shadow 2 and upload it to my bookshelf!

Now, just how does the tree and its decorations stay put while Tarrant flies all round the Galaxy?

TT will explain later.........
Cold! You don't know the meaning of the word cold!
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of your window!!

Sue's Book Shelf

Rebel Run Video
And for those of you already sick of hearing about Christmas: try Bah Humbug, the Alternative Christmas Album Mix.
"You're not sulking, I hope?"
Here is The Christmas Song performed by yours truly and a Youtube backing track.

Cockatoo? What Cockatoo? I don't see a Cockatoo!
And what is behind the 12th door?
Why it’s a little Xmas tale…..
This is based on a story my dear old Dad used to tell my sister and I every Christmas. I can’t recall exactly how it went but it was over 50 years ago….

A Helping Hand

“It’s snowing!” Vila cried out, “Look on the view screen! And it’s settling!!”
“Snow?” Dayna asked.
“Yes just like that stuff on Terminal…!” Vila’s voice trailed off as he remembered exactly what had happened on that planet.
Soolin smiled, “Race you to the surface.”
“But it’s cold up there,” Dayna replied, also remembering the temperature on Terminal.
“Oh, I’m sure we can think of some way to warm you up…” Vila grinned.
“I’m with you Soolin!”

“That’s not fair!” Wailed Vila as the umpteenth snowball hit him squarely on the chest, “It’s two against one!”
“Well go and get Tarrant or Avon…” Soolin yelled back searching for a nice clean area of snow to pick up…
…then she saw it, the biggest snowball she had ever set eyes on.
“Oh, they’re too busy trying to fix the Scorpio again,” she heard Vila reply.
But she didn’t answer.
The giant snowball had transfixed her and then a door opened up.
By now, Dayna had joined her.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. But I don’t think it means us any harm.”
Vila had also arrived, wondering why the endless assault of snowballs had suddenly ceased.
“A door in the side of a gigantic snowball? I don’t believe it.”
Then they all heard the faint sound of human voice.
“Hello, is there anyone there? Can you help me?”
All three looked at each other.
Vila shook his head as if to say, ‘Not me!’
“Oh my brave hero,” Soolin sighed, “I’ll go.”
“I’ll come with you,” Dayna whispered.

Once inside the giant snowball, they both came face to face with an elderly man, dressed in red and looking very sorry for himself.
“Oh thank goodness, you heard me. I need your help.”
“You do?” asked Soolin suddenly in the thrall of a distant memory.
“Yes, my dear. I’m supposed to be delivering presents to all the boys and girls throughout the galaxy and I’ve managed to break me leg. My…err…snowball had a slight mishap with a meteor.”
“I can imagine, but a snowball?”
“You’d be surprised just how many detectors don’t consider a giant snowball, hurtling through space, a threat. I don’t suppose you know anyone who can fix the onboard computer and help me fly this thing? Do you?”

Tarrant scratched his head. Being called away from the innards of a planet hopper to a giant snowball intrigued him, but he was happy to help, even if he didn’t quite believe who it was he was helping.
Avon, though, seemed less agreeable, but he rebooted the onboard computer anyway.
“You can be on your way now…er.”
“Santa, “the elderly gentleman replied, “as in Santa Claus, or even Father Christmas or maybe St Nicolas. It all depends who remembers from before the new calendar came into force. Now, I was wondering of I could call upon the services of the two gentlemen and ladies. I am way behind schedule and I do have quite a few presents to deliver to all those who have been nice or even naughty. Even Blake agreed with me on that.”
Avon looked up. “You’ve met Blake?”
“Naturally, we are in the same business; bringing hope and joy. Maybe you should try it.”
“I’m afraid we can’t help you. We are very busy…”
“Oh, I don’t know. A few days won’t make a difference,” Tarrant declared, seating himself in the pilot’s seat.”
“Hours my son,” Santa corrected him, “You’re not the only one to have a Stardrive. I borrowed it from those Space Rats. Never been back there to return it. And I have a teleport system…”
“Of course you do,” Avon murmured and then suddenly found himself back in the main control room on Xenon.
He looked at the view screen just in time to see the giant snowball lift gently from the snow covered ground and speed off into space.
He could also hear over the intercom the shrieks of delight from his crew as they went with Santa to deliver all those precious presents.
Still, it could be worse, thought Avon as he wandered into the crew room.
He stopped dead.
The entire room was decked out in garlands and baubles plus another piece of the infernal mistletoe of Vila’s.
He had to make sure he didn’t go anywhere near that…again.
Even the Christmas tree looked inviting and then he saw it... Huddled just under a weighed down branch, a glittering dazzling light hovering over its head.
A teddy.
A small teddy. Just like the one he had asked for all those years ago.
How did Santa know?
As he held it a soft voice came over the intercom.
It was the man himself.
“Merry Christmas, Avon.”
And Avon smiled.

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

Sue's Book Shelf

Rebel Run Video
Cygnus Bazza

A is for…’Assassin’ – robocrab saves the day
B is for…’Blake’ – it’ll all turn out OK…
C is for…Commissioner – to be specific, Sleer
D is for…Deeta Tarrant – not quick enough – oh dear…
E is for…Egrorian – of whose funnel they’re desirous
F is for…Fosforon – hit by a nasty virus
G is for…Gauda Prime – a final scene to make a man blub
H is for…Horizon – the planet, I mean, plus the fan club
I is for…Icy radiation bomb – Del and Avon’s nerves get tested
J is for…pervy Justin – who should have been arrested
K is for…Kasabi – who Blake must save (and pronto)
L is for…Limiter – which stops Gan going tonto
M is for…Moloch – fried chicken’s on the menu
N is for…Nasty sand – Virn = poor vacation venue
O is for…ORAC – even smarter than a Prof
P is for…Piri – who p*sses you lot off (personally, I think she’s hi-LAR-ious!)
Q is for…Q-base – sounds like a DIY store
R is for…Ready…aim…FIRE! – let’s wage galactic war!
S is for…’Sarcophagus’ – what a pitiful load of pap (NB: I've cleaned this one up)
T is for…Travis – someone give Mk II a slap!
U is for…the Ultra – three weirdos with bald bonces
V is for…Vargas – and his THUN-derous res-PONSES!
W is for…Weight – and poor Vila’s is just right…
X is for…it’s an X-treme solution – to the shuttle’s faltering flight
Y is for…the Year ‘82 – where a fifth series might fit
But Z is for…a big fat Zero – zero chance of making it
Meanwhile back in the year one...
Joe Dredd
Let's see what's behind the green door...

It's Shakin' Stevens! "Merry Christmas Everyone!"
Joe Dredd
Whoops, wrong door. Let's try again. Door number 14...
Joe Dredd
Hmm, it's a leaflet for some kind of coffee place. "Looking Lovely Today Enterprises". I wonder who could be behind that? Their motto is "I'm a marvel when I'm out to win." Perhaps that's some kind of clue?

Anyway, it says here that in addition to tea and coffee, they're selling that most festive of drinks...

Warning: May have been processed in facilities that also handle shellfish, nuts, black gold and monopasium 239.
Joe Dredd
And that's not all! It says here:

"You can also collect our special tote bag or t-shirt bearing the image of Og and Og's dog, dOg."

Simply save up five Egg 'n' Og plastic cups, then send £239 to a Mr. T. Travis, and he'll disregard your preferences and send you whatever he grabs first.

"Finally, throw the five cups in the bin. We don't want them, especially now we've found out they're toxic. Apparently a pen-throwing fight we had in the office subjected them to radioactive airborne biros."
Joe Dredd
(Clicking on the photos makes them bigger. Clicking on them again once they're open usually enlarges them further.)

Top Tote!
Joe Dredd
Terrific T!
Joe Dredd
Totally Tiny!

Nope. I still have no idea who is behind this!
Joe Dredd
They have a couple of alternative designs - "Chris Boucher - Bard of Avon" and "Avon - Previous Recursions".
Joe Dredd
You'll feel like a King in your "Chris Boucher - Bard of Avon" t-shirt.
Joe Dredd
And the Avon shirt may even help you solve those little mysteries of life, such as who bent your barbell.
Joe Dredd
Of course, if none of that appeals, this one is like getting a big hug (TM) all day.
“So Orac. What’s going on in the big bad Federation?”

It was a rare quiet time on Liberator. Blake was in his cabin catching up on sleep, having left strict instructions with Zen to wake him if anything untoward happened. Jenna had turned on the automatics and was peacefully reading and Avon was staring at an exposed piece of the ship’s wiring, tapping the probe he was holding rhythmically against his cheek. Cally and Gan, meanwhile, having elected to provide snacks, were busy in the Galley. Vila, well into his third Adrenalin and Soma, wasn’t particularly looking forward to what they might produce – Auron beliefs on what constituted good snacks being… well weird probably covered it. And he was bored! Hence his quizzing of the buzzing box of lights.

“The President has announced further aid to Palmero to boost the production of exotic fruits. Space Command has made it a capital offence to make songs about the Supreme Commander…”

Vila sniggered as Orac’s precise, tight voice droned on…

“… My creator’s friend, Professor Boucher has suddenly passed…”

The clang of a probe hitting the floor startled them and Vila protested as he spilled some of his drink, but when he looked up there was no sign of the man who had dropped it.

“What’s up with Avon?” Gan asked as he entered the flight deck with a tray of little bowls, “He nearly bowled me over in the corridor. If he was Cally, I’d worry he’d been possessed.”

“One of his hissy fits. I expect his probe refused to obey him. He’ll get over it.” Jenna put down her tablet. “Oooh, are those protein cultures? I’ll have a couple of those…”


He didn’t immediately. In fact the next day Avon was more touchy and even less communicative than usual, stonewalling attempts to find out if anything was wrong. Eventually he was left to his own devices, which suited him just fine. It gave him space to remember and, while he did not dignify what he was feeling as mourning- that belonged strictly to Anna - he did acknowledge a sense of loss. As he distracted himself by drawing plans for the development of a detector shield, he allowed his mind to wander back to a time he rarely thought of … the abrupt removal from his family to a Federation Training academy of a very young child who happened to show exceptional promise, and the stubborn elective mutism that was the result.

Of course, by the end of the week, Avon being Avon had made his regret a small part of his thinking, but it continued to affect him more strongly than he expected. After all, how could he not lament the death of a mentor who had taken him under his wing, and through his cynical wit and skilful craft, literally given him his voice?
Play the hand fate deals you.
Joe Dredd
It's the 16th!

Time to open the door and eat the chocolate before anyone else gets it...
Joe Dredd
Nom nom nom nom!
Joe Dredd
Now, what else is in here? It's another advertising leaflet.

It says:


Horizon the Official B7 Appreciation Society realises that it's important to ensure children grow up knowing the magic of B7.

To that end, Horizon are now publishing a variety of books aimed at children of all ages and literacy stages.

Titles include:

* The Lion, the Witch, and the Warg Strangler

* Swallows And Amagons

* Anna of Grant Gables

* Green Eggs & Mangan

* Five Rebels & It

* The Box of Displeasures

* Pippi Longrangedetector (by Colonel Astrid Lindgren)

* The Little Spaceship that Couldn't

* The Digging-est Og

* Go, Og. Go!

* Don't Let the Pigeon Fly the Liberator!

* The Zen in the Den

* Amelia Buddleia

* Casey At The Battle Computer

* Wargstrangler-the-Pooh

* I Can Read Minds with My Eyes Shut!

* Where's Docholli? (Published as "Where's Docaldo?" in some territories)

...and more!

To order any books, simply call Diane between 2am - 3am any day of the year. If no answer, please try again at five minute intervals.
Joe Dredd
The Very Hungry Kairopanner

Click the images to see larger versions. Clicking the photos once they open should also enlarge them again.
Joe Dredd
We're Going on a Blake Hunt
Joe Dredd
Charlie & the Mutoid Factory
Joe Dredd
Plaxton Hears A 'Who?'
Joe Dredd
Saymon's Web
Joe Dredd
The Travis Who Came to Tea
Joe Dredd
Watership Down Safe
Following on from Sue's story from a few days ago, here's a story set early in series 3.

The others left the flight deck, Dayna smiling and calling 'Good night' as she went, leaving Tarrant alone with his thoughts. As he moved round the various stations, checking the readings - all well within normal parameters - his mind returned again to his disappointment with the Liberator's crew. This lot wouldn't last five minutes in Space Command! He had only been here for six days, and already he had realised that there was no discipline whatsoever.

Take Vila, for example. He was a joke - Cally and Avon made that clear enough - tolerated only for his skills as a thief. But the man seemed to have no pride, accepting insults almost without comment. And worse, he was lazy and insubordinate. You gave him an order, he whinged and whined and came up with half-a-dozen unconvincing excuses, and when you insisted, everyone looked at you as though his behaviour was somehow your fault. Yesterday it had been his turn to make dinner, but Tarrant had found Cally cooking instead. Vila had a headache, she said with a smile, and when Tarrant remonstrated with her, she merely laughed and said that it wasn't worth arguing over. Angry, he had said something he had meant to hide: that he was quite sure that someone had been in his cabin that afternoon. Nothing was missing - not even his Federation gun - but several things seemed to have been moved. He had stopped himself before mentioning the collection of small valuables he had found in Vila's cabin when he had searched the empty ship after his arrival, but Cally knew all about it.
'Very probably,' she said. 'He steals from us all the time - but he always gives things back if you ask. It's the challenge he likes - that and pretty things, I think. He wouldn't take the gun - he doesn't like them. Don't lock your door, then he won't bother you. That's what I find, anyway.'

And Cally? What did he make of her? She was friendly, certainly, and did more than her fair share of work - picking up the slack for both men - but there was something odd about her, remote and alien. Her cabin had been full of drawings, landscapes and portraits, often self-portraits. Tarrant frowned. What sort of person would draw herself playing chess with herself?

Avon was even colder, without the excuse of being alien, cold and selfish and arbitrary. He defended Vila against Tarrant, but then treated him like a half-wit himself. He questioned ORAC incessantly about Blake, but three days ago he had abandoned a promising lead to attack a cargo ship - because they 'needed supplies'. Tarrant was beginning to wonder if Avon really wanted to find Blake at all. And he was quite sure that he was only on night shift now - for the third time since his arrival - because Dayna had asked for a second helping of his curry at dinner. Tarrant smiled. Now Dayna was a nice kid - decent and straightforward, not like the rest of them.

Not that he minded the night shift, he thought, settling back into the pilot's position. It was good to be alone with the Liberator. What a ship! So responsive, almost reading your mind - like an extension of your body, rather than a machine you controlled. He could put up with a lot for a ship like this. And Blake - when they found him - would see Tarrant's worth, would know that here was someone he could trust. As for Avon - he remembered what he had found in Avon's quarters, laid lovingly among the neatly folded clothes, and laughed. How much of a threat could a grown man who still owned a teddy bear be?
In last year’s Advent calendar, I posted a story that had nothing to with B7 or Christmas but was at least an SF story set in winter.
This year’s story is not only set in late summer but has also nothing to do with science fiction. On the contrary, it is based on a real-life adventure of my maternal grandfather. So, why do I put this in the B7 Christmas calendar? I only have one excuse: it is my Christmas gift for you.

By the way, while I had to fill in all the details, the reaction of my grandmother has been quoted to me verbatim! And as the story is quite long, I divided it into three parts.

There Is no Word for Horizon – part 1 of 3

The bright singing of the scythes cut through the summer’s day. The air pressed heavily down on the field enclosed by the dark wall of the forest. Working tirelessly, the farmhands pounded the stalks as if they were fighting a battle against an army of wheat warriors. The women tied the fallen grain into sheaves. Insects danced like a shimmering cloud in the sun, attracted by the smell of sweat.

The landowner paused and searched the sky with tired eyes. The sun looked favourably upon them – all too favourably! If only there was a cloud somewhere! But no, not even a tiny cloudlet stood out against the blue sea above the field. Birds were flying in this ocean like little boats, but the cloud ships with their bulging white sails were nowhere to be seen.

But over there in the direction of the town another dark dot hovered above the forest and wandered quietly and steadily across the sky without even the slightest hint of wings moving.

The landowner squinted his eyes to get a better look at the dot. The sound of the scythes beside him died away. The farmhands had also become aware of the apparition and were staring up at the sky and the strange bird approaching them.

The dot swelled and grew into a huge ball under which a basket rocked. Finally, the silhouettes of two men could be made out. Their hasty movements showed that something was wrong aboard. Was that the reason why the balloon was steadily sinking?

Now it skipped over the edge of the forest, only a few yards above the treetops, and approached the workers in the field. A rope fluttered behind the basket like a mouse tail, growing longer and longer.
Full of awe at the vehicle that had come so close and towered so high in front of them, the landowner and the farmhands stepped aside. The balloon whizzed past them no more than a dozen feet above their heads. It sailed over the stubble, passed the women, touched the ground and ploughed across the field for many more yards. Dust swirled up, blowing like a flag behind the contraption. The tow rope slithered through the stubble like a giant snake.

The landowner and the farmhands threw the scythes carelessly down and ran after the balloon. The basket had come to a rest, but it was bouncing and heaving on the spot as if it wanted to break away again at any moment. High above it, the dull green envelope bulged and pressed against the net in which it was tied.
Even the short sprint showed the farmer that he was no longer a young man. The farmhands overtook him with no effort at all. None of them had ever had any dealings with balloons, but they were all convinced that they knew what to do. Without consulting each other, they grabbed the mouse-tail snake and tried to hold on to the aircraft.

One of the two occupants waved at them.

“The tether,” he shouted. “The tether! Not the tow rope!” Gesticulating vehemently, he pointed to another, much shorter rope dangling from the basket.

The men let go of one rope and grabbed the other. They couldn’t tell the difference, but what did they know about balloons? The gas-filled ball still pulled and tugged at the basket, but it now lay much more still on the field, held by the sturdy workers. The more silent of the two occupants dared to climb onto the edge of the basket and inspect the lines above him.

Finally, the landowner reached the vehicle. The man who had instructed the farmhands looked up. He wore a black lounge suit, which seemed far too formal and warm for an outing on such a relentless summer’s day, but as the farmer told himself, it was probably much cooler in the heights the two strangers were travelling. The second occupant of the balloon, now puttering about on the basket rim trying to unwind some tangled lines, was dressed in far simpler and more practical clothes, but just as little summery. He wore knickerbockers and a flannel shirt. It was obvious at a glance which of the two was in charge. The balloonist in the lounge suit also knew immediately that now he was not facing another farmhand but the farmer himself.

“My apologies,” he called out. “We had a slight technical problem and your field lent itself to a stopover to repair the damage. I hope we are not causing you too much inconvenience?”

The beaming faces of the farmhands proved quite the opposite. Their muscles tensed and sweat showed on their faces as they tried to secure the aircraft, but their eyes were glowing with excitement. This was a story they could even tell their grandchildren! A balloon landing in the middle of their field! And they themselves lent a hand to help the aeronauts! In a way, that made them aviation pioneers themselves.
Nevertheless, the gentleman in the lounge suit remained cautious. The landowner might have a different view on stopovers in his field that kept him and his people from working. But the farmer’s lips also showed a smile.

“No problem,” he answered. “And thank you for taking the trouble to fly as far as to the stubble field instead of going down in the middle of the corn.”

He didn’t know whether that had actually been trouble or merely the easiest solution, but he wanted to get on the right side of the stranger. Airmen and people who wore suits like this lived in a world completely different from his own, and he didn’t want to antagonise them. Besides, he couldn’t take his eyes off the dull green envelope that towered high above him, bulging in its net. It conjured up the impression of a predator trapped in a sack, trying to escape.

The man in the flannel shirt had cleared the last line and cast a few searching glances at the construction above him.

“Everything is fine,” he reported. “The net is also intact. Didn’t receive any damage from that bird.” He climbed down from the edge of the gondola and looked expectantly at his companion. “We can go on as far as I’m concerned,” he added.

But instead of answering and giving his consent, the gentleman looked once more over the field that spread out before him and at the people into whose unexciting lives they had burst so suddenly. Meanwhile, the women had also approached and eyed the strange vehicle not with the childlike enthusiasm of their husbands but full of suspicion. The landowner stood there, his eyes betraying amazement and fascination, with one hand unconsciously, almost playfully, placed on the wickerwork of the basket.

“Do you want to fly with us?” the gentleman in the lounge suit suddenly invited him.
There Is no Word for Horizon – part 2 of 3

For a moment, the farmer had a feeling as if the world stood still. He saw the curve of the balloon above him, the tangle of lines holding the basket, the gentle sway of the gondola, the jealous yet cheering looks of the farmhands and the sceptical glances of the women. He saw the wall of the forest that enclosed the half-harvested field, this small world that was his and beyond which he had rarely ever ventured in his life.

“How far?” he heard himself say.

The gentleman in the suit and his companion exchanged a silent glance.

“A little hop?” the balloonist suggested. “To a spot somewhere beyond the village? Do you have a way to get back from there?”

He had two healthy legs, and even if he had to walk all night, he would not let that stop him. Such an opportunity only came along once in a lifetime.

“Gladly,” he replied.

He eyed the edge of the basket and was obviously stumped. The balloonist reached out and helped him climb aboard.

“Thank you, chaps,” the gentleman in the suit called to the farmhands. “You can let go!” Then he turned to the woman, in whom he recognised the spouse of his passenger, and announced with a disarming smile, “Don’t worry, Madame, we’ll bring him back to earth safe and sound!”

He made a sign to his companion, whereupon the man in the knickerbockers began to untie sandbags and let their contents trickle to the ground. The balloon, no longer held by the farmhands, slowly drifted upwards, and the more ballast rained down from it, the faster it rose towards the sky.

The farmer’s wife stood there, her left hand on her hip, the rake still in the other, and looked after her husband as he floated away. It was not joy at his adventure that showed on her face, but anger, which she immediately vented, “We are in the middle of the harvest, and the man just flies up and away!”

Her voice barely reached the landowner’s ear. Mesmerised, he watched the stubble field receding and shrinking below him, the high wall of the forest shrinking as well, the forest turning into a dark blotch, and the patchwork of the surrounding acres and pastures appearing behind it, dotted with the manors, hamlets and villages, in whose windows the sun glistened like on dewdrops.

A soft clink at his side distracted him. When he turned around, he saw that the gentleman in the suit had taken two lead crystal wine glasses and an already opened bottle from a wicker basket. He pulled out the cork, filled both glasses with velvety red wine and handed one of them to his passenger. Carefully he stowed the bottle away and then he raised his glass towards the landowner. A bright chink sounded, finer and more pleasant than the chink of scythes. This really was another world.

“To aviation!” the gentleman in the suit shouted exuberantly.

“To aviation,” the farmer replied politely and took a sip.

The third occupant of the basket remained silent. Did the passenger’s presence not suit him, or was he simply too preoccupied with the technical aspects of the flight? In any case, he was constantly checking some lines, although the farmer could not tell if there was really anything to check, and kept a lookout.

But of course it was a waste to spend time in a balloon watching a fellow human at work. That experience he could have on his fields every day. The glass of unfamiliar wine in hand, the landowner leaned over the edge of the basket and looked outside. The small town that lay beyond the forest had now become visible; and that white, glittering speck over there – was that the county town? He had only been there once or twice, and it had seemed huge to him, but now it lay before his eyes as yet another tiny heap of civilisation among all the other heaps of civilisation trying to hold their own among the gold and brown of the acres and the green of the pastures and forests.

As they sailed over the countryside, a farmstead staggered by below them. Was that old Krautmeier’s estate? It looked so different from up here. Then a golden fleece of wheat spread out below them, and he saw farmhands cutting into it with scythes and the women tying the grain into sheaves, just like in his own field. And he stood up here watching them, a glass of wine in his hand, not feeling the least bit guilty.

When he loosened his gaze and looked up, he saw a new wonder. All around him was the sea of the sky, a blue ocean, and he was floating in the middle of it. In the distance, birds sailed over the land, and now he no longer had to look up at them, but was equal to them. One of them approached the balloon curiously. It hovered at eye level with the landowner, squinted suspiciously at the strange machine and turned away with a fierce flapping of wings.

The gentleman in the suit still gazed directly downwards to the surface.

“The people down there,” he mused. “Like ants, aren’t they?”

“Yes, quite like ants,” the landowner murmured dutifully, although his mind was elsewhere.

His eye sought the horizon, which had always been a fixed boundary for him. Most of the time, he had not even the opportunity to actually see the line where sky and earth met. In the field, surrounded by woods, the rows of trees took its place. It was a frighteningly close horizon that limited his little world. How rarely had he had the opportunity to leave this narrow circle? And how far had he come? As far as the county town with its own very close horizon. Up here, however, this invisible border was far away, and the higher they climbed, the more it receded into the distance.

Again, a few birds dared to approach the eerie vehicle that had so silently and quietly invaded their realm. They circled it, eyed it cautiously and dared to make swift advances towards the basket, which at least contained something familiar – the bipeds, those pathetic creatures, chained to the clod, which they usually watched from above.

What does the horizon mean to them?, the landowner pondered. Does it exist for them at all? Certainly, they saw that line; however, for them it was not a fixed boundary but fluid. The farmer took a deep breath and enjoyed the view. Now he saw with bird’s eyes, and now for him the horizon was also just an illusion. He knew that after landing he would return to the narrow circle of his existence, but here and now he felt the boundless freedom, and he resolved to savour this feeling and preserve the memory of it. It would help him to view the boundaries of his existence as fluid even when they closed firmly around him again.
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