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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.
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