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May 2020 Ficlet Challenge
purplecleric
‘Prisoners? New souls for the faith.’ - Kara, Cygnus Alpha

The word prompt this month is … FAITH

A complete trust or confidence in someone or something, or a strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

For the second challenge: the crew discover there is a stranger aboard…


My apologies for the late posting.

Edit - I don't know what year it is - oh, dear.
Edited by purplecleric on 04 May 2020 12:14:37
 
trevor travis
“Where are we?”, asked Vila. “And where did the Liberator disappear to?”

Avon snarled. “Blake, I told you it was a stupid idea to go straight through the middle of that red wobbly thing in space. It was a portal to another point in time and space. I just hope it isn’t a backwards dimension.”

Jenna was fed up of Avon’s moaning. She walked up to him, moved her hands to the buttons on his chest and pressed the second on the right. “Cappuccino, with two sugars”, she requested. An opening appeared in Avon’s stomach and she took the cup and gulped down the drink. “We need a less argumentative Avon android”, she told Blake.

Suddenly they heard a scuffle in the alleyway they had appeared in. There were three burly men and one smaller young woman, who seemed to be aged around 17 or 18.

“We should help her”, said Cally.

“I think she’s coping OK herself”, remarked Jenna.

Jenna was spot on. The young lady was handling herself remarkably well. There was also something strange about the faces of her assailants. She suddenly produced a piece of sharpened wood from her leather jacket and within seconds, she had thrust it into the heart of all three of the guys, turning them into dust. She faced to turn the Liberator crew.

“Who are you?”, asked Blake.

“I’m Faith The Vampire Slayer. And who the hell are you?”

“Nice outfit”, said the Avon Android.
 
Barundar
Ok.. lol.. I got my April ficlet mixed with my May ficlet. That was strike one. I also went over 500 words a little, strike two. But dialogue takes up lines! Ah, well. It is what it is. I liked it and didn't want to re-write, so next month I will get it right. Hope you enjoy the scene!


Avon and Vila stood together just behind the robed figure, guns drawn and ready to fire. Yet the figure remained kneeling before the altar unmoving. Vila looked at Avon with his usual 'what do we do now' expression on his face then quickly turned to watch the tunnel behind them.

Avon walked to the side of the figure, assuring he would be seen, but the figure remained still where it knelt hood still drawn over head. Avon put his gun back in the holster and Vila quickly followed suit.

"What do we do now, Avon? Those Federation Troopers are bound to find us sooner or later."

"We wait." Avon was stern as he walked to look down the tunnel for signs of pursuit.

"For Blake and the Liberator to come back?"

"For an opportunity."

"Blake will come back for us Avon, you know he will."

"You'll forgive me if I don't share your faith in Blake." Avon walked back towards Vila looking him in the eye the entire time.

"Faith?" The robed figure began to stand up. "You speak the holy word. What do you know of faith?"

"Outside faith in myself, I haven't had much use for it." Avon sneered as he turned away from the figure.

"An unbeliever?"

"A realist." Avon replied quickly with disgust. "Faith usually requires belief in an external force for salvation. I prefer to be that force instead."

The figure chuckled. "And you?" Turning to Vila, "What is your faith?"

"I believe in anything that keeps me alive!" Vila spout.

"And that's exactly what will get you killed one day." Avon replied to Vila, Blake being the underlying theme.

"Right now I just want to believe in getting out of this mess, Avon." Vila walked up to the robed figure. "I don't suppose there is a back door?" A quizzical look on his face.

Though there was no answer, Vila already guessed there was none. He glanced at the altar. It was a plain table with a few pieces of decor on it. Behind and above it was a carving of a large star, presumably some sort of worship focus for the priests. In its center a large green gem that reflected a tiny glint of light from Vila's eye as a smile grew on his face.

"No Vila." Avon quickly snapped that thought from Vila as he walked back to the priest. "And your faith?" He asked.

"We follow the One Star. That which keeps us safe. That which keeps us all safe."

"And are all of your faith robots?"

Avon's question stunned Vila. He missed the signs. The stillness, the precise movements, it was all there but Vila didn't notice due to his nerves. "Robots??"

"Yes." The priest answered Avon. "But our faith is not."

The Federation Troopers were getting close now. Avon was getting angry. He pulled his gun and put it right to the priest's face.

"Faith is just another kind of program."

"It is all you have left Avon." The priest replied.

"I believe in Blake and the Liberator!" Vila shouted.

Just then their communicators lit up. "Avon, Vila come in." It was Blake. "Prepare for teleport."

Avon smiled at the priest as he put his gun down. "Faith wins, this time."

Avon stood with Vila ready to go. Vila spoke, "I guess it takes a robot to spot one, huh Avon?"

"Yes, Father." Avon replied with venom as they teleported.
 
stormypetrel
Lol, TT!

And hello Barundar, nice to have a new entry.
 
stormypetrel
Oh, dear. What have I done? Trying to link all these prompts together seemed like a good idea at the time, but look what it’s led to... it’ll all work out in the end, though. Won’t it?

Avon looked up as Cally returned to the flight deck. “How is he?”

“Quieter now. But I’m not sure that’s a good sign. Orac still can’t work out what he’s been given.”

“I don’t see why he’s been given anything at all,” said Dayna. “If they wanted to poison one of us, why pick Vila? It’s not as if you could call him dangerous.”

“Vila is the only one stupid enough to drink anything put in front of him...” Avon sounded angry, whether with the object of his derision or not; but Tarrant looked up, risking his wrath by breaking a chastened silence.

“He wasn’t picked. It was just bad luck.” Faced with blank looks, he carried on, “Think about it. They only needed one of us to fall ill during that hunt Servalan had arranged- it didn’t matter who. We’d have had to give up. We couldn’t have carried on and left him...”

“That shows an astounding faith in our sense of chivalry,” said Avon, sounding as if he thought such faith was severely misplaced.

“Well, you wouldn’t...”

“Wouldn’t I?” Avon turned his back on Tarrant and addressed Cally. “Is Orac likely to come up with any further information?”

“I don’t think so.”

“We don’t know that it isn’t something designed to wear off in a few hours,” pointed out Dayna. “If the plan was to handicap us for Servalan’s stupid hunt...”

“If it was her idea, I doubt that will be the case.” Avon’s expression was grim.

“It might have been Purnell’s idea,” suggested Tarrant.

“Your trustworthy associate, yes.”

Tarrant flushed. “How was I to know...”

“A glance through his file, perhaps?”

“I thought...”

“Did you? Now that is a relief. Imagine how things could have turned out if you hadn’t.”

What was threatening to become an argument was halted by the sudden appearance of Vila, swaying in the doorway.

Cally was the first to notice. “Vila! What are you...”

“It hurts,” he complained desperately.

“I suppose it was too simple to tell us that via the communicator?” suggested Avon, resignedly going to steady him.

“And Orac won’t shut up,” mumbled Vila, allowing Avon to walk him to the couch. “I told him... I don’t want to know the number of lethal poisons in the galaxy...” He curled up where Avon sat him and buried his head between his knees. “And it’s cold...”

“He is cold,” agreed Dayna, checking. Cally unearthed a space blanket from one of the flight deck cubbyholes, and brought it over; Vila accepted it gratefully, shivering under the foil.

“If Orac can’t work it out, then we’ll have to,” announced Tarrant. “I’ll go back and get the answer out of Purnell; it’s all we can do...”

“That is your plan?” Avon sounded unimpressed. He gave a cynical smile. “Perhaps faith is to be rewarded after all...”

“Do you have a better one?”

“As it happens, no.”

“I’m going to die,” moaned Vila.

“No, you’re not,” Cally told him firmly. “Avon is right. You just need to have a little faith.”

“In Tarrant’s saving me?” Judging by Vila’s tone, his faith was sorely lacking. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
 
Sally1958
Barundar wrote:


Avon stood with Vila ready to go. Vila spoke, "I guess it takes a robot to spot one, huh Avon?"

"Yes, Father." Avon replied with venom as they teleported.


terrific to bring in a nod to BF The Turing Test.
I enjoyed that and this.
musings from Nanna Sally
 
Barundar
Sally1958 wrote:

Barundar wrote:


Avon stood with Vila ready to go. Vila spoke, "I guess it takes a robot to spot one, huh Avon?"

"Yes, Father." Avon replied with venom as they teleported.


terrific to bring in a nod to BF The Turing Test.
I enjoyed that and this.


I thank you. I knew the reference would not go unnoticed here!
Many shows like Blake's 7 have come and gone in the intervening years, whose last episodes did not stand out. There are few people, however, who saw the final episode of Blake's 7 and can’t tell you what happened, even now over three decades on. ~Rob Emery
 
Vanessa Doffenshmirtz
Vila realised he had long put his faith in the wrong people. First was his long-time thief partner, Dav who had scampered when he heard the rozzers.

Next was his feeble excuse for a lawyer. That drunken sot had never turned up for his trial.

Then Blake who was going to get them the London. In a rare fit of honesty, Vila acknowledged it was in part his fault they had lost.

He could hardly be faulted for trusting those monks. They promised they could cure this “Curse of Cygnus”. They brought food, water and medicines. Maybe Cygnus Alpha wasn’t going to be too bad.

The return of Blake meant he had to decide. He opted for Blake. He didn’t want to die here if he could help it. This time Blake messed up. A pitched battle in the temple had ended up with Blake, Vargas, Gan, Arco and many more dead.

He didn’t bother putting any trust in Avon. He’d tried several times to contact Blake’s ship but had got no response.

So Vila stopped taking the pills and settled down to die. Much to his surprise, he didn’t die. So one night he picked the prison door lock and went looking for something. Anything. An answer to his puzzle. During his wanderings, he found Vargas’s personal quarters. He found Vargas’s books, Blake’s weapons and the pills. He also found faith. Faith in himself to run this penal colony. Vila’s coup was brief and not very violent. The monks were still nursing their wounds from Blake’s attack. So Vila was acclaimed the new prophet.

A year later Kara spoke to him, “My Lord, we have a daughter. What name will you bestow on her?”

Vila smiled, “Faith. We shall call her Faith.”
I used to be such a sweet sweet thing
Till they got a hold of me.
 
stormypetrel
There was a faint rustle from somewhere on the flight deck as Avon entered.

“Good morning,” he said stiffly, reluctance tempered by the fact that there was nobody about to see him.

The moon disk shuffled in pleasure; he glanced warily at it. You have to talk to them, Cally had said. Well, that was no reason to overdo things. Cally spoke to it, he was aware; and he had caught Vila talking to the thing once or twice, as if it might answer...

“At least it listens,” had been Vila’s uncharacteristically fierce retort, when Avon had pointed out the moon disk’s continuing silence.

Silence.

It had made a noise when he came in. He was sure of it. Slowly, he walked over to the tray and observed it. The moon disk itself looked the same as it had since Cally brought it on board; the tray, however... Avon looked up at the sound of footsteps.

“I believe we have a stranger on board,” he remarked, as Jenna came in. “Well, strangers, to be precise.” He gazed into the tray once more; Jenna, looking mystified, came to join him. She followed his gaze, and blinked.

“Oh.”

“Indeed.”

“Maybe... Cally...?” she suggested.

“She would seem the best equipped to deal with the situation.” Avon walked to the communicator and flicked the switch. “Cally, I think you may be required on the flight deck...”

His tone must have been sufficiently urgent, for Cally joined them a few moments later.

“What is it?”

Avon pointed to the tray. Jenna was still watching the contents in fascination.

“Oh!” exclaimed Cally, joining her. “I didn’t expect that!” She held out her hand to the moon disk. It came closer... as did its hatchlings.

“Eight of them,” said Jenna, looking quizzically at Cally.

“No wonder it wanted conversation!”

“Conversation?” said Avon disbelievingly.

“They need the mental stimulus in order to reproduce successfully.”

“Mental stimulus? You realise Vila has been talking to it?” Avon came back for a second look at the tiny moon disks. “I should have thought the species was disadvantaged enough as it was.”

Cally smiled. “That is not quite how it works.”

“Then how does it work? Would you care to enlighten us? Preferably before engaging in sufficient conversation to unleash a plague of the things on the Liberator.”

Jenna looked suddenly concerned at that. “Could that happen?”

“They are not old enough to mate yet. She must have done so on Zonda. Talking to them feeds them, and allows the young to grow. That is all,” explained Cally.

“And when they are old enough?” asked Jenna.

“Then they will probably breed.”

“A breeding colony of moon discs. Just what we need.” Avon looked at the little things, which seemed to be chirruping quietly. “So what do you suggest we do with them?”

“Do with what?” Intent on the new arrivals, nobody had noticed Blake appearing. He came to see what they were looking at, then gave Cally an enquiring glance. She explained. He winced, but made the pronouncement anyway.

“I’m sorry, Cally. But they’re going to have to go.”
 
Ellen York
Baby moon disks!!!!! But I hope they don't breed like tribbles.
 
stormypetrel
It’s not that I have time on my hands, or anything, but guilt compelled me to try and smooth things over from where I left them in my first ficlet this month. Have I managed it? No.

They weren’t quite sure how it had happened.

Tarrant had teleported down, alone, after declaring it was his responsibility to find their treacherous contact on the planet below. He had set up the fatal meeting- Vila groaned pitifully at the mention of ‘fatal’- and he would fix the consequences. Nobody argued.

Dayna stood waiting in case Tarrant should call for back-up; Cally sat at the teleport controls. The call, when it came, was simpler than they had expected.

“Bring me up.”

Cally did; but it was not Tarrant who materialised in the teleport bay. She half-rose from her seat at the sight of the stranger; Dayna was quicker.

“You’re not Tarrant,” she observed dangerously, drawing her gun.

“No,” he agreed. “There was a sort of altercation... it wasn’t my fault. And if you shoot me I can’t help you get him back.”

“We don’t need your sort of help,” said Dayna. She glanced at Cally, who was watching in confusion. “This is Purnell. You’d better get Avon.” Turning back to the intruder, she said deliberately, “I’ll stay here.”

Cally, with a dark look for Purnell, hurried to the flight deck. She quickly returned with Avon, who lost no time in taking over from Dayna.

“What is he doing on board? And where’s Tarrant?”

“I can explain!” Purnell looked as if he preferred Dayna’s threats to Avon’s menacing look.

“We’re waiting.”

“And while you explain, you can tell us what you’ve given Vila,” added Cally.

“Oh. That. It won’t really hurt him; she wanted you all alive...”

“I think Vila might disagree,” remarked Avon. “He seems to be finding it an exceedingly painful experience. As will you, if you don’t start talking.”

“He’ll be fine! Really! It wears off in a day or two... I had to do something, she said she’d murder me if they couldn’t catch you...”

“There are worse fates.”

Purnell gulped. “I wouldn’t kill anyone!”

“Just deliver them for Servalan to kill instead?” Dayna suggested. “Is that what you’ve done with Tarrant?”

“No... No! I just- er- borrowed this.” He held up his wrist to display the teleport bracelet. “He said you wanted to talk to me,” he wheedled. “And you haven’t got that relay connector yet. You still want it, don’t you? I can still tell you how to get in. Just please don’t put me back down there. You don’t know what it’s like, being hunted for your life...” Purnell hurriedly amended this dubious claim. “Not all alone, anyway, and I didn’t want to help her, I had no choice...”

Avon remained unmoved. “Where is Tarrant?”

“Where I left him. Look, I was desperate... I haven’t hurt him. I don’t think. And I definitely haven’t hurt your other friend, at least not permanently... you’ll help me, won’t you? You have to help me! I only got involved because you wanted that connector... and I can still help you get it...”

Avon took a step forwards; Purnell took a corresponding one backwards, into the teleport bay.

“Cally...” Avon waited just long enough for Cally to reach the controls before giving Purnell his answer. “Now get off my ship!
 
GanMiniMe
After the ritual, the mourners slowly filed away. There was to be a gathering to share stories and memories of the two who had passed away- and, of course, no observance would be the complete without food. There was little of it to be had in the near-barren land, but in order to afford the dead a decent send-off, many gave up their rations; to compensate for this indulgence, they would have to go without food for three or four days afterwards.

At the back of the crowd trailed a girl of about fourteen or fifteen, her face wearing a stony bitterness. One of the dead had been her teacher. As they passed back through the cave network, she left the others and headed for the back gate. She had anticipated the sight of the other lone figure before she had turned the corner, sitting by the hatch.

“You couldn’t leave your watch for one hour?” She asked. The sitting figure hardly turned her head at the voice.
“He may come at any time,” she replied. The first girl snorted.
“The litany that has had us in thrall for centuries. I don’t know what else I expected, you used the same excuse to stay away from our mother’s death ritual..”
“It was no excuse.”
“For your own life’s sake, Meegat, how long are you going to sit by this door?”
Meegat turned. “For as long as it takes. The prophesy says he will come.”
“When?”
“I do not know,” she replied patiently. Indeed, as patiently as she had replied the first time Seskit had asked; and the second; and the tenth. “The prophecy does not say when he will come, only that he will, and he will be-“
“I know what he will be,” snapped Seskit. “Every child on this planet knows the story; the difference is that most of us have grown out of it.”
“It’s not just a story, it is the way in which our people shall be saved. And it will happen.”
“Well, it had better happen soon. Langretil and Shilljin are both dead-“ she paused to swallow the lump that had suddenly come to her throat- “how many more people do we have to lose? Have you ever wondered what will happen if we all die before your Great Hero comes to save our species from extinction? What if he never comes at all?”
Meegat smiled. “He will. I know he will.”
“And you’re prepared to sit by this gate for the rest of your life? You’re only seventeen, are you going to stay here till you’re grey and old?”
“As many others have done before us; as our great aunt did; as our descendants will; and one day one of us will open the door. It is the prophesy.”
Seskit gave up. As she turned to go, the cool voice from the doorway made her stop.
“And my absence from their graveside does not mean that I dishonour the dead. As you may see for yourself.”
Seskit turned around, slowly. What she saw made the tears spill over her eyelids onto her cheeks. She turned once again and hurried away.

In the dark of the passage, the hatch door was just visible by the light into which Meegat was gazing. The light which came from the two new candles.
 
Anniew
The stories have been brilliant this month. I have enjoyed them all. But Ganminime that is such a moving, deceptively simple, beautifully written response, and so apt, that I’m lost for the words to do it justice.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
GanMiniMe
Awww, thankyou so much, Anniew! I am glad you liked it- and high praise indeed, given what a good writer you are too!

Stormypetrel, please tell me Blake doesn’t make Cally give up her moon disc and its babies!! Surely scope for a ficlet about a rescue centre for moon discs!!
 
stormypetrel
GanMiniMe wrote:
Stormypetrel, please tell me Blake doesn’t make Cally give up her moon disc and its babies!! Surely scope for a ficlet about a rescue centre for moon discs!!

I find it highly entertaining that I can half-kill any of the Liberator crew, and nobody bats an eyelid, but one mention of a baby moon disk... do you think Servalan and Travis would go all gooey over them, too? Grin

I’m sure Cally will make Blake find a nice moon disk-inhabitable planet to leave them on. It would, after all, explain the moon disk’s disappearance after Shadow!
 
GanMiniMe
stormypetrel wrote:

GanMiniMe wrote:
Stormypetrel, please tell me Blake doesn’t make Cally give up her moon disc and its babies!! Surely scope for a ficlet about a rescue centre for moon discs!!

I find it highly entertaining that I can half-kill any of the Liberator crew, and nobody bats an eyelid, but one mention of a baby moon disk... do you think Servalan and Travis would go all gooey over them, too? Grin

I’m sure Cally will make Blake find a nice moon disk-inhabitable planet to leave them on. It would, after all, explain the moon disk’s disappearance after Shadow!


Yes, it would explain the moon disc’s disappearance, it’s true. And a better ending than being left on board the Liberator to be destroyed at the end of series 3, I suppose... but I still don’t like the idea of their being abandoned! They are innocent! Innocent, I tell you! Think of the children!! *sobs and wrings an imaginary handkerchief*
 
stormypetrel
All right; before you cause a flood with that imaginary handkerchief, GanMiniMe... I wouldn’t like to raise anyone’s stress levels that much, after all...

* * *


“We’ve lost one.” Blake looked suspiciously at his crew as he counted the small moon discs; Vila squirmed, and shook the missing one out of his sleeve.

“I think he likes me,” he explained awkwardly.

“No doubt it finds your intelligence levels comforting.” Avon removed the tiny chirruping thing from Vila’s hand and returned it to its mother. “Shall we get on with this?”

“You are sure Zen was correct about the atmospheric conditions of this planet?” Cally was still reluctant.

“If it’s not suitable, we’ll try again somewhere else,” Blake assured her. She nodded sadly, picking up her moon disk to the accompaniment of agitated whispering from its offspring. Vila went to help collect them up; Blake stepped in his way. “You can stay here.”

“But...”

“We don’t want any accidents, do we? Such as any of them finding their way back on board again.”

“I wouldn’t... Don’t you trust me?”

“You can operate the teleport.”

“Oh. That’s a ‘no’ then.”

In answer, Blake fixed him with a look suggesting Vila’s memory loss regarding his trip to Space City was not yet shared by everyone else. “Avon and I will come with you, Cally.”

Wordlessly, Cally allowed Avon to lift the tray. They filed into the teleport bay.

“Right, Vila.”

“Oh. Yes.” Vila reached for the controls. “Er... ’bye, then.” There was an audible chirp from the tray, as if in answer; then they were gone.

The planet Zen had found was similar to the surface of Zondar. Cally instinctively shielded the moon disks from the sun’s rays as she looked round their arid surroundings.

“We are not alone,” she observed.

“I can’t see anyone.” Blake, too, glanced round.

“But there is someone here,” Cally insisted. “They are afraid.”

“Of us?”

Cally nodded, concentrating; then her face lightened as there was a movement from a sand hillock some distance away. A figure cautiously approached.

“She will not harm us,” she said hurriedly, seeing Blake’s hand twitch towards his gun. He stopped, although he watched the newcomer warily. She was humanoid, if not entirely human; her skin was unfeasibly pale given the desert conditions. Cally held her hands out in greeting; the figure stopped at a safe distance, observing them.

“All right; we won’t hurt you,” Blake called. She ignored him, instead looking directly at Cally. There was a pause before Cally explained.

“She doesn’t speak Terran. Her people communicate entirely by telepathy; she doesn’t understand you, Blake, or Avon.”

“No doubt she understands you,” Avon remarked.

“Yes. She says her name... I suppose, in Terran, it would translate as ‘Faith’. Her people have lived here for centuries.”

Faith watched this translation; then she spotted the moon disks, and excitedly took a step closer.

“She recognises them,” said Cally. “They communicate the same way.” Avon watched uncomfortably as Faith began to stroke the creatures in the tray; they responded with excited whispering.

“Could she take care of them?” asked Blake. There was another silent pause, then Cally nodded.

“She says her people, too, keep to the shade, and they could talk to them. She understands that they must keep them safe, although she says they have never heard of the Federation.”

“Lucky them,” said Avon laconically. He offered Faith the tray; she took it hesitantly, her pale eyes shining. Cally, with one last sigh, returned the mother moon disk to her offspring, and stepped back to join her companions.

“All right, Vila. Bring us up.”
 
Travisina
Oh StormyP, that's beautiful! Sigh.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
A statement of fact cannot be insolent
 
GanMiniMe
*Sob* Thankyou, that is a nice ending for them. Funnily enough, in my own head I was imagining them being taken in by an old woman somewhere- like a futuristic, telepathic version of a cat lady. Your version is lovely- and what a great way to work in the keyword, too!

And do we see a tiny glimmer of Avon’s notoriously reclusive sentiment??
 
ServalansGran
Faith

Before heading off to get kitted up, Blake had outlined his plan to the others. Then he had left the flight deck, fully aware that contrary opinions would then be freely aired. And this was a good thing, Blake decided. He needed to have faith in his crew; and they needed to have faith in him.

Faith that Avon, for one, was singularly lacking. And those weren’t even his words. For days, it seemed, Vila had been needling Avon about his lack of faith. Even Gan had chimed in.

***

Soolin had a plan. Now all she needed was a man.

Coll was the final name on her list. Evidently, he’d left Prime years before, and was living off his illicit gains in a former spaceport, now just a broken-down fence surrounding a few rusting hulks. The port was surrounded by open ground on which the marks of scarring and burning could still be seen.

It was a warm and sultry evening. A man and a woman drove to within 30 or 40 yards of the perimeter fence. They were casually observed by the pair of security guards on their round.

It soon became apparent why the couple had sought out this quiet spot. The guards continued to casually observe - just doing their job.

Then a scuffle broke out in the vehicle. The female was struggling to get free. Eventually, she was pushed out of the vehicle, head first, landing in a heap, dazed. A few coins rattled down beside her, unheard over the sound of the engine as the man roared off, abandoning her.

Phase one of the plan was complete. Now it was up to the guards to take pity on her. Which they did.

And it might have saved their lives. Though icily indifferent to their fates, Soolin was a pro. Ideally, there would be just one death tonight.

She found Coll - but he was not alone. Two men were with him. One, in striking black leather with silver studs, buttoned up to the neck, giving nothing away. The other, also in leather, but with voluminous sleeves over a large, open-necked collar; the ensemble suggesting expansiveness, openness, trust.

The two men reacted to the sight of Soolin in different ways: the first reached for his gun, but was too late. Soolin shot his weapon out of his hand. The second responded with an intuitive grasp of the situation that lead him to shuffle himself and his companion away from Coll. Whatever these men were or were not to Coll, they were clearly leaving him to his fate.

***

‘I admit it. A fiasco,’ said Blake. ‘Lucky to come out of that alive.’

‘But we did meet someone down there you’d have liked, Vila,’ said Avon.

‘Blonde?’

‘Yes. To die for.’

‘And Coll?’

‘Coll’s dead.’

‘Too bad. And the blonde?’

‘The name’s Soolin,’ said Avon. ‘And this might interest you. Orac, what is the etymology of the name Soolin?’

‘The name Soolin is first attested amongst the earliest farmer-settlers of Gauda Prime, deriving from the root sool, meaning faith. It -

Avon detached the key.

‘Thank you, Orac. I rest my case.’
 
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