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Jan 2021 Ficlet Challenges
purplecleric
Happy New Year to you all!

A slight change to the format this year. Instead of a word prompt I'm providing a phrase prompt so kicking the year off:

The phrase for January is ... Money Doesn't Grow On Trees.

For the second challenge:

The crew have come down with a mysterious illness...

Have fun!
 
JustBrad
Cauder pointed to the star chart. “Take that base and we’ll push the Federation clean out of this sector. And with the weapons we’ll capture, we can push them out of the neighboring sectors.

Grant stifled a sigh. “If we could take that base, but we can’t.”

“We can do it. We have the men.”

Grant shook his head. “But we don’t have the equipment. You can’t take a base that size with small arms.”

Cauder persisted. “You did on Albian. And there is no solium device on that Federation base.”

“There was a company on Albian. There’s an entire regiment on that base, with armor. We’ll need bazookoids, neutron canon, and armed drones at the very least.”

Cauder persisted. “You have connections, your smuggler friend for starters.”

“I have connections, but I don’t have the cash. My ‘smuggler friend’ isn’t a manufacturer, she can’t make assault weapons, she can only buy them with the cash we provide, and transport them. We’re not talking about a few thousand credits here, Cauder, we’re talking about millions. That kind of money doesn’t grow on trees. Now get some sleep and try to come up with a feasible plan.”

Grant retired to his ship. As was his habit, he checked for messages before turning in. There was one, and it was marked Urgent.

Avon’s face appeared on the screen. Grant couldn’t recall ever seeing him so haggard, not since his trial. Something had happened.

”Grant, I hope you never see this recorded message. If you do, it means I am dead. I rolled the dice and lost. If I had won, you’d have heard about it soon enough.”

There came a thin, Avonic smile, a dark smile that made Grant nervous as Avon declared, “The whole galaxy would have heard about it soon enough.”

“Grant, you know why I was sent to Cygnus, what I was trying to do. Like the Federation, you probably think I let one little setback, like being exiled for life, stop me. You should know better, particularly as I had a resource like Orac. My mistake was in trying to hack the banking system itself instead of individual accounts, particularly the accounts of individuals who can’t call the authorities if their ill gotten gains are pilfered. Check you account. The one you think no one knows about. You really should have picked a better password. You know what I always said about money.” The dark, Avonic smile reappeared on his lips as the image faded.

Yes, Grant could remember what Avon always said about money, namely that ‘wealth is the only reality,’ and that ‘a fool and his money are soon parted.’

Feeling a cold chill, Grant brought up his secret account and entered his password, A-N-N-A. As he waited for the screen to change, he held his breath, expecting to see a zero.

And he did see a zero. In fact, he saw eight of them, and a seven. Seven hundred million. And then he thought of the other thing Avon always said about money. “You can’t take it with you.”

Grant hit his communicator. “Cauder, meet me in the ward room. Now. And get a secure line to Morphaniel. I have one hell of an order to place.”
Men of Harlech cease your dreaming, can't you see their street signs gleaming...
 
Ellen York
Grant really should have picked a better password (though it probably wouldn't have stopped Avon). Hope he makes good use of the money.
 
JustBrad
Ellen York wrote:
Hope he makes good use of the money.


Probably get himself killed. This IS still B 7 after all. In fact, I almost added a line to Avon's message, "Don't think of this as an apology, or as a gift. I'm sure with this, you will finally get yourself killed." But I was already way over 500 words and I thought the twist was more important.
Edited by JustBrad on 03 January 2021 16:29:44
Men of Harlech cease your dreaming, can't you see their street signs gleaming...
 
Travisina
Great story, Brad! Neatly told.
My views are my own.

VILA: I'm entitled to my opinion.
AVON: It is your assumption that we are entitled to it as well that is irritating.


Twitter: @TravisinaB7
 
GanMiniMe
“All I’m saying is, we all hate the Federation’s greed, but before them, what did people have to be greedy for?”
“Ignore him,” said Avon shortly, his head buried in an open circuit hatch. “He’s been given time to think.”
“But seriously, everybody wants to get wealthy but all the wealth, one way or another, is controlled by the Federation. They control the power, the food supplies, the water, the alcohol, the narcotics, everything! You can’t accumulate credits without going through them. I mean, how did people get rich before the Federation?”
“The same means, I suppose,” Jenna shrugged. She had never really given it much thought- she wasn’t really interested in how people of ages past became rich- she was usually too busy trying to make a living in this one.
“You are correct,” chimed in ORAC. “In the Pre-Federation era much of the wealth came from the profits from selling luxury commodities.”
“What luxury commodities?” Asked Cally, looking concerned. “Not slaves?”
“In many ways, Jenna is right. People used to make huge profits from all sorts of things. Certainly slavery, but also a lot of material things. In the majority of cases slaves were used to help cultivate the crops of these material goods.”
“Crops?” Asked Vila, surprised. “Farming?”
“Sort of,” said Blake. “Not the vegetable sort of farming though. Huge profits were made from tobacco- before the synthetic methods, it was grown in certain parts of the world, dried and ground up and smoked.”
“Indeed. The same applied to drugs such as cannabis and opiates.”
“Opiates?”
“Early narcotics. They were derived from poppy plants. They were originally painkillers but were also highly addictive.”
“It’s a pity you can’t grow alcohol,” said Vila jokingly.
“As a matter of fact, centuries ago you technically could” replied ORAC, before Blake had a chance to stop him. “Many ingredients used in popular alcoholic beverages had to be grown in fields- hops and barley for beer, sugar for rum and sweets-“
“And that is before we consider the fabrics used to make clothes,” added Blake, trying to steer the conversation into safer waters. “Cotton was so widely used, it became a massive industry.”
“Is it true that before credits they had to use solid tokens to pay for things?” Asked Jenna.
“Indeed it is,” replied ORAC, borrowing Zen’s viewscreen to display an old image of a greenish rectangle decorated with pictures, patterns and ornate curly writing. “This is a banknote. First used in ancient China and widely used until the mid-21st century.”
Jenna stood up and went over for a closer look.
“Is that-?”
“-paper? Affirmative.” Vila was frowning with the effort of all he had processed.
“So... all this time... people saying money doesn’t grow on trees...”

“Nonsense.” Said Blake.
 
JustBrad
GanMiniMe wrote:


“So... all this time... people saying money doesn’t grow on trees...”

“Nonsense.” Said Blake.


Grin

Reminds me a bit of Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and the B ark.
Men of Harlech cease your dreaming, can't you see their street signs gleaming...
 
GanMiniMe
Smile
 
littlesue
Well here is the first prompt...
….and a piccie from Lurena.
We wish to point out that no rather nice computer expert was injured during the drawing of said picture.

Windfall


“Money doesn’t grow on trees” they had said, but as Vila surveyed the orchard and it’s burgeoning growth of apples weighing down the boughs of each tree, he couldn’t help but whisper, “Oh yes it does!”

They had returned to the bottling plant and the orchard as fast as Avon could persuade them to go; his concern for the growing number of lost and abandoned robots aboard the Liberator becoming more apparent as the days or even hours passed. Vila couldn’t understand Avon’s dislike of the robots; after all, they were making every one’s life far easier, even trying to help with the ironing, much to Avon’s annoyance. That was his job. He had agreed to do that just to rid him and the Liberator of these infernal machines.

“Daydreaming, Vila?”
It was Avon, suddenly standing right by him.
“How’s it going in there?” Vila asked.
“Your friend Robbie seems to have everything in hand. Repairs to the machines and that floor…” Avon shuddered as he recalled the floor opening up beneath him the first time they were here.
“Oh good. You know, all these apples, seems a pity to see them all go to waste. I wonder…”
“Please don’t,” Avon said.
But it was too late.
“Cider…I could make Cider. Yes, while I’m waiting for all the Brandy ingredients to come…I could make Cider. Robbie…”

“How do you intend to remove all these apples Vila?” Avon asked, “Even with all these robots of yours, it will take ages to pick them.”
“Oh, Robbie’s got the solution to that…”
“It would have,” Avon thought to himself.
“Our danger, danger friend will demonstrate…”
And sure enough, it did.
“Danger: Danger!” it warned, shaking the tree for all it was worth and allowing the apples to fall en mass to the ground...
“Oh dear,” murmured Vila,
Blake arrived, hoping to see exactly what was planned for the orchard, “Where’s Avon? I thought he was out here with you away from those troublesome machines….”
“He was, I mean is,” Vila smiled meekly.
“Where?” Blake asked.
“Well, it’s like this, he totally ignored the ‘danger, danger’ warning…and didn’t get out of the way…”
“And?”
In answer, the large pile of apples under the tree began to heave and Avon ignominiously appeared from under them.
“That does it, Blake. Enough is enough…”
“DANGER; DANGER!”
“Now what!!!!”
As if in answer Robbie appeared driving a machine that literally scooped up all the fallen apples…including a protesting Avon.
“Oh no,” Vila cried, “This could be a disaster. My entire first run of Cider totally ruined...”
“Where is this machine going?” Blake asked breaking into a run alongside the anguished Vila.
“To the sorting and wash…oh no, Robbie…STOP!”

Avon was wet; very wet, but at least the very first crop of apples was on its way into the newly refurbished bottling plant.
“This is going to cost you, Vila,” Avon glared.
“I’ll pay you back from the very first profit I make from this Cider. And then I can truly say that money does grow on trees…can’t I!”

i.imgur.com/xKOSDTx.jpg
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/
 
GanMiniMe
Fab picture, Lurena- as ever!

Great story, Littlesue! It made me laugh, and had the added bonus of a soaking wet Avon- which I imagine to be every bit as sizzling as Colin Firth’s wet shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice!!
 
littlesue
GanMiniMe wrote:

Fab picture, Lurena- as ever!

Great story, Littlesue! It made me laugh, and had the added bonus of a soaking wet Avon- which I imagine to be every bit as sizzling as Colin Firth’s wet shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice!!


Steady......Grin
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/
 
stormypetrel
Playing catch-up this month! Great stories so far, everyone Smile

* * *


“Blake, do I have to take this watch? I’m not well, look...” Vila’s plea stuttered to a halt as he entered the flight deck to find not only Blake, but the whole crew, looking at him expectantly. The hand he was holding out for inspection dropped to his side.

“That answers that question,” said Jenna. Blake nodded.

“Something we’ve all been exposed to.”

“What... I don’t...” Vila stared back at them in horror, realising that they, too, had a peculiar tint. “You’re all...”

“Yes,” said Gan wearily.

“But you can’t just sit there! What if it’s serious? Do something! What if I’m about to die?”

“Do you feel like you’re about to die?” inquired Cally.

“I feel like I’d been drinking all last night.” Vila collapsed onto the end of the central seat, his head in his hands.

“That will be a novelty for you,” remarked Avon.

“Well, I wasn’t. And anyway, it wouldn’t turn me orange, would it?”

“Green does seem to be your preferred colour on such occasions,” Avon agreed calmly, as if he saw nothing of note in the fact that the Liberator’s entire crew were, undeniably, bright orange.

“I think we’re agreed that none of us are feeling our best,” interrupted Blake, before an argument could break out. “What we want to know is why.”

“I don’t suppose it has anything at all to do with you insisting on our visiting that desolate rock in search of something that turned out not to be there? An entirely pointless trip which seems to have given us more than you bargained for.”

“But I was aboard the whole time,” pointed out Cally, “And I seem to be affected much like the rest of you.”

“That’s what I can’t understand,” admitted Blake. “We didn’t bring anything back with us...”

“Didn’t we?” said Avon.

Blake sighed. “Zen. Are there any mysterious illnesses known to originate on the planet Arcturus Minor?”

+Surface conditions are tolerable. Analysis indicates that a chemical reaction caused by non-native vegetable production has rendered the atmosphere injurious to humanoid life.+

“Vegetable production?” Vila looked up, confused.

“Arcturus Minor was a Federation farming colony,” Jenna told him. “It was abandoned years ago. Now it looks like we know why.”

“We’ve been poisoned by ancient vegetables?”

“We may as well know the worst,” said Avon, ignoring this potential explanation. “Zen, is there any information as to what form this ‘injury’ would take?”

+The soil is rich in cyano-carotene. Exposure results in skin discolouration, headache and dizziness. Ingestion may cause irritation to internal organs.+

“I still don’t see how Cally’s been affected,” said Gan.

“Some of us obviously brought the soil back on board,” answered Avon, with a pointed look at Vila.

“I didn’t ask to be teleported into a muck heap, did I? And you needn’t all have been so enthusiastic about brushing me down when we got back, either. You almost beat me to death, and there was dirt going everywhere... Oh.”

“Exactly.”

“At least we know what it is now.” Jenna did not sound entirely reassured. “But what do we do about it?”

“Zen?” Blake glanced at the screen.

+Removal of all contamination leads to eventual reversal of the effects.+

“How eventual?”

+Further information is not available.+

“So we are indefinitely orange,” said Avon. “Wonderful. But it seems a cure is easily effected. We disinfect our surface clothes... and possibly Vila.”
 
littlesue
And now for the 2nd prompt...sorry guys!
And a lovely piccie from Lurena who no longer has to sneak about the meanstreets of her home town...she has acquired her own scanner!!! so no more Pink Panther music!!!

Contagion


“My head hurts,” Vila moaned.
“You too?” Jenna asked, “Both Blake and Avon seem to be suffering the same thing. You all weren’t down there imbibing, were you?”
“If only,” Vila grunted, “Then maybe all this pain would have been worth it…”
Jenna reached for the intercom, “Cally, have you found anything in the sick bay to put a stop to all this moaning. Vila’s complaining now.”
Cally appeared at the top of the stairs leading down to the Flight Deck, “Until we know what we are dealing with it is difficult to prescribe any medication.”
“One man complaining is bad enough, but all three is just too much. Maybe we should pay this spaceport a visit and find out exactly what we are dealing with.”
“I agree.”
“Vila, you can keep an eye on things up here, can’t you?”
“But I’m dying!” Vila insisted.
“Then do it quietly…” Cally suggested.

“So why haven’t you or I been afflicted with this…this…thing?” Jenna asked.
“Maybe someone on this spaceport can advise us.”

The woman leaned back in her chair and smiled.
“I take it that your companions are the male of the species?”
“Does that make a difference?” Jenna asked.
“Oh indeed it does. The question is…how much are you prepared to pay for it?”
“Pay for what?” Cally asked.
“The antidote.”
“The antidote?”
“Well, you can ‘cure’ them now. Or put up with them claiming that they are dying for quite a few weeks. Most visitors pay up immediately.”
“But that’s extortion.”
“No, it’s good business. So what’s it to be; the antidote or 3 men making your lives a misery?”

Vila gratefully downed the sugar cube and sighed with relief.
“So I’m not dying…”
“No,” Jenna replied, handing a glass to Blake.
“But at least you got the antidote. Strange way of doing business though,” Blake pointed out taking the proffered glass.
“And quite a profitable one too” Cally said, handing Avon a glass.
“Profitable?” Avon asked, “Just HOW profitable?”
“It’s best you don’t ask,” Jenna informed him. But it was too late. Avon almost choked on the water, before running off towards the Liberator’s strong room.
Cally sighed, “He is not going to be happy when he finds out just how much it cost us.”
“No,” concurred Jenna, “In fact, I sense a sudden relapse coming on!!”
i.imgur.com/flT6RyP.jpg
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/
 
GanMiniMe
Two great funny stories! Funny how in the current climate we can gain light relief at the idea of a condition that’s worst symptom is turning people orange, or making men feel really ill!

Stormypetrel, how does one disinfect Vila, exactly?? Actually, don’t tell me- in my head I can already hear his complaining at the process!!

Littlesue, surely Avon can respect the enterprising spirit of the women on the spaceport? OK, maybe not...
 
stormypetrel
GanMiniMe wrote:

Stormypetrel, how does one disinfect Vila, exactly?? Actually, don’t tell me- in my head I can already hear his complaining at the process!!

Space Dettol...
 
JustBrad
GanMiniMe wrote:

Stormypetrel, how does one disinfect Vila, exactly??



I think Avon was trying to do it in Orbit.
Men of Harlech cease your dreaming, can't you see their street signs gleaming...
 
GanMiniMe
JustBrad wrote:

GanMiniMe wrote:

Stormypetrel, how does one disinfect Vila, exactly??



I think Avon was trying to do it in Orbit.


Eek!! Sorry I asked!!Angry
 
stormypetrel
“They want a ransom,” said Jenna’s voice clearly, “Of thirty thousand credits. Each.”

The remainder of the Liberator’s crew, crowded round the teleport controls, exchanged glances; but it was Avon who pressed the communicator switch to reply.

“I see,” he said. “Not quite the friendly associates Blake expected, then. Tell them we will need time to consider the matter.”

“You have an hour before they sell us to the Federation.” Jenna cut off abruptly.

“What do we do?” Gan looked unconsciously towards Avon.

“We can’t just leave them.” Cally, too, was worried; but she had hardly finished speaking before Vila answered,

“We’ll have to pay up.”

“Within an hour?” Avon looked scornful. “With what, exactly? Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

In other circumstances, Vila might have pointed out that he was well aware of that; money usually grew in elaborately-locked bank vaults, and harvesting it was a risky business. It could, for example, get you sent to Cygnus Alpha... Given the urgency of the situation, however, he merely blurted,

“But we must have something we can give them!”

“Perhaps they’d consider an exchange,” suggested Avon pointedly. “Let me think.”

“We haven’t much time,” said Gan, earning himself a glare.

“What if they come after us next?” Vila still sounded anxious.

“They’re more likely to try turning to the Federation for a ransom.” Avon frowned, turning to Cally. “Can you put us down just outside the complex?”

“Well, yes, but...”

“Good. Vila, get your kit.”

Vila took a step back.

“Me? What do you want me for?”

“If Blake and Jenna are being held as hostages, they are hardly likely to be roaming free.”

Vila pulled a face, but he went in search of his equipment. Avon, too, rose to go and collect his surface clothes and a gun.

“Are you sure about this?” asked Cally, as they returned and stepped into the teleport bay.

“No,” answered Vila, with a nervous glance at Avon.

“We will hardly get far without a pilot.”

“I don’t know...”

“You very rarely do. Cally, put us down.”

Cally did so; there was a pause, then, unmistakably, Avon.

“Down and safe.”

“You hope.” That was Vila, fainter, in the background.

Gan and Cally looked at one another.

“I suppose all we can do is wait.”

* * *


They waited. Then, just as the hour seemed about to pass, an abrupt message came through.

“Bring us up!”

“That’s Blake!” observed Cally, as she reached for the switches.

Sure enough, four figures appeared in the teleport bay. Fully visible, all of them appeared battered and torn. Jenna’s hair was wild; Avon had a deep scratch down his face; and Blake was dripping blood from one hand.

“What...”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees, he says,” said Vila, setting down his toolbox and fishing awkwardly down the back of his anorak. “But thorns do, don’t they? Look at that!” He withdrew a vicious green point and held it out for inspection. “I do doors...”

“A window’s hardly a big difference,” Jenna told him.

“It is when it’s at the top of a spiky great hedge!”
 
GanMiniMe
Lol Stormypetrel, another thing to add to the list of things Vila doesn’t like!! I feel like there is room for expansion on the concept of enemy thorn bushes. No more stupid a concept than Moloch,or cabbage people, or being pursued by a pair of hairdryers...
 
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