Ficlet Challenges Archive: April - June 2021
April 2021 Ficlet Challenges by PURPLECLERIC

The phrase prompt for this month is … The Elephant in the Room

And for the second challenge:

The crisis is over and the crew can finally relax - or that’s what they thought.

GANMINIME - White Elephant, Part One

“Are you feeling better, yet?” Blake asked, coming onto the flight deck.
“Yes, much,” replied Gan.
“Speak for yourself. I still feel like I want to throw up,” moaned Vila.
“The decontaminants will take a few hours to work fully,” said Avon, eyeing Vila’s rather unconvincing pretence at having a headache.
“Well, I need somebody to help me carry ORAC to the deck. I don’t want it left unattended in the teleport bay.” At Blake’s words, Gan obligingly got to his feet and went with him. They returned carrying the cumbersome silver case.
“Shall we take a look?” asked Avon, trying to sound as if he wasn’t excited. Blake shook his head. “We’ll wait for the others, first. They shouldn’t be long.”
At that moment Cally appeared, looking worried.
“Where’s Jenna?” Asked Blake.
“In the medical bay, she’s still very sick,” she replied, “She seems to still be getting worse; she’s starting to become confused. I think she might need a second dose.”
“Does that mean we’ll all need another one?” piped up Vila, anxiously, “What if there aren’t enough to go round?”
“Jenna was on Cephlon’s surface for longer than we were,” said Avon, “Add to that the fact that Vila, Gan and I spent more time inside the hill, the lining of those chambers may have offered us some protection from the radiation. It would be logical to assume that Jenna has been more badly affected.”

At that moment Jenna’s voice from the doorway made them all turn round.
“Why aren’t you lying down?” exclaimed Cally, running over to her. Jenna was leaning against the wall, a sheen of cold sweat on her skin, which had turned a nasty shade of seasick grey. She could barely stand.
“You weren’t there... I thought you’d- you need me- we have to get out of here... the Federation will be coming...”
“Don’t worry about that just now-“ said Blake firmly, but stopped as Jenna’s knees buckled and she began to slide to the floor.
“Get her back to the medical bay,” barked Avon.
Cally tried to help her back up. Gan jumped up and hurried over to help, but as he stooped to lift her Jenna flung up her arms and groaned,
“No, Gan, no-“
“Get away from her!” snapped Cally, stepping in front of her with her dark eyes blazing. He stopped, his hands half-raised in a gesture of astonished surrender. The sharpness and anger in Cally’s voice momentarily caused a shocked silence. Gan helplessly turned to the others, unsure what to do.
“Vila, help Cally get Jenna back to bed,” ordered Blake coolly. Vila briefly looked like he would have liked to protest, but thought better of it. “Give her a second dose, and don’t let her get up again until she’s able to stand and think straight. Zen, get us out of here.”


Without a word, Cally and Vila got Jenna back to the medical bay. A couple of times Jenna tried to say something but Cally shushed her. Vila risked a couple of searching sideways looks at the pair of them, wondering if it was safe to speak yet, and quickly concluded it wasn’t.
They got her back on the bed and gave another dose of decontamination, and a little light sedation for good measure- Jenna was still pale and shaking, jumping at any unexpected noises.
“His limiter’s fixed now, you know -“ Vila began, awkwardly. He checked abruptly at a sharp telepathic reprimand from Cally. He gave his own voiceless reply with a wince and a resentful look - he hated it when she did that.
“I know it wasn’t his fault.” Jenna managed to say, but there was no softness in either her voice or face.

“My head still hurts,” Vila grumbled, rubbing his temple. “I’m going to lie down.”
“Good idea,” said Cally, not looking up. He made for the door. On the way out he paused briefly.
“He was just trying to help,” he reproached, before leaving. Jenna closed her eyes and turned her head away.
Halfway to his cabin Vila heard Cally’s voice inside his head again- softly, but emphatically. He didn’t want to listen but he really had no choice.

'Vila, I know he couldn’t help it. But if you had a friend, who you cared about and trusted, and then in a heartbeat they turned on you- and you could see in their eyes that they wanted you dead... would you be able to trust them again?'

White Elephant, Part Two

Shortly after Vila pleaded a headache, on the flight deck Gan made the same excuse to Blake and Avon, and went towards his own cabin. Neither of them had said anything, but he had felt the look they exchanged as he got to his feet as keenly as a sudden cold draught from a partially-open window.
He was not afraid of what they would say once he had left- neither of them was much of a gossip, and Avon rarely had enough concern for other people’s feelings to wait for their backs to be turned before indicting them with his cutting remarks. In a back-handed way, that could sometimes be reassuring, but if Avon had held his tongue this time it was not through tact or empathy - it was simply because it was pointless to voice aloud what he knew everybody else was thinking.

After the surgery to repair his limiter, the others had laughed and joked, clapped him on the shoulder and said how glad they were to have him back. It wasn’t talked about, nothing seemed to have changed outwardly, but he had the uneasy sense of a slight shift in their attitude towards him- the feigned bonhomie of people trying to pretend that it hadn’t happened.
Cally’s instinctive reaction to him had just smashed through that brittle facade, and everybody knew it - they had all frozen in horror at that instant, as if snapped out of some strange collective hypnotism that had made it bearable to spend time with him.

He couldn’t blame her. He was still fighting his own mortification at what he had done. All his life people had marvelled at his strength, but where had his strength of will been, when the implant failed? He hadn’t even been strong enough to control his own brain. He still wasn’t: the unspoken awkwardness between himself and Jenna had made him abandon her on the surface of Cephlon.

“I’ll go. You stay here...” he had said as he walked away.

He had sensed her apprehension at being alone with him, and he had felt a tug of shame that she would have felt safer on this unfamiliar, radioactive planet by herself. In his absence she had been attacked, and his assertion that she had been right behind him had plagued him ever since. He seldom lied, but he recognised the way it felt when he did - that stiff, stale taste in his mouth like old bread.
For the second time in the space of a few weeks, he had nearly been the cause of her death.

The limiter inhibited his ability to kill, but it did nothing to his memories - he could still remember the malfunction, and what he had done to her, to all of them. And he remembered how it had felt, too. Cally had never been anything but compassionate, but at that moment he had detested it, loathed that sickly smear of pity in her attitude towards him, as he had lain on that bed. And his rage, at being seen as a victim, another enfeebled, damaged, unfortunate misfit cast out by the system... he had enjoyed that one glorious moment of throwing it all off. At that second, all he had wanted to hear was her last, terrified gasp; all he had wanted to feel was her neck break.

And he was so ashamed. These people had saved him more than once, and got him help at huge personal risk to themselves - and he would have killed them all, and relished doing it.

He couldn’t wipe that from his mind, he couldn’t forget it, and it was now clear that neither could they. He wished he hadn’t had the opportunity to join Blake; he wished they’d left him on Cygnus Alpha to rot; if he was entirely honest with himself, that was all he had deserved. Now, he was nothing but a liability. They may have helped him this time, but what about next time?

He had reached his cabin, his mind made up - he couldn’t stay here. Somehow, he would have to find a way to leave Liberator and its crew. He knew Blake wouldn’t hear of it, and the others would protest that it wasn’t necessary; maybe they didn’t realise it yet, or maybe they simply didn’t want to admit it, but for their sakes he had to: if it had happened once, it could happen again. He wasn’t worth them risking their lives for.

He sat down on the edge of the bunk, and covered his eyes with his hands. He did nothing to fight back the broken sobs, or to stop the despairing tears from leaking between his strong fingers.

LITTLESUE - A Garden of Delights, Part One

(This month I have somehow managed to combine both prompts into a two-parter. And I think Lurena may have had just a little too much fun creating the picture this time!
I would also like to thank Lurena for coming up with yet another alcoholic beverage!!)

“What is this place?” Cally asked.
“According to the sign, Zoological Gardens,” Avon replied, studying the well weathered board in front of them.
“So where are the animals?” Blake pondered, surveying the area.
“More to the point, where are these life signs coming from?”
“Zen definitely said in this area,” Cally murmured.
“Hmm, I beginning to wonder what sort of life signs,” Avon queried, as he wandered off to the first enclosure.

He pressed a button and a very hazy striped animal appeared in front of him.
“What’s that?” Blake asked.
“It’s supposed to be a hologram, of a tiger…and not a very good one. The image is buffering. Lack of maintenance I suppose.”
“Can we do anything about that?”
Avon gave Blake a bored look,
”We are not here to play…”
“Look, somewhere around here Zen picked up some life signs. All right this may not be them, but I’m intrigued by this place. Maybe that building may have the answers…”
“You’re intrigued?”
“Yes I am…I think you are too. It wouldn’t hurt to find out…would it? Cally, keep looking and see if you can find what it is Zen detected down here.”

Avon was deep inside a computer console and was not best pleased when Blake idly asked,
“Any luck?”
“Luck does not enter into the equation. However, a total lack of maintenance does. Why the interest in getting this Zoological Garden back on line?”
“Maybe I’m sentimental.”
Avon’s response was inaudible…

Cally found them. A small group of four legged creatures standing by the enclosure’s fence, as if waiting for something or someone.
“You’re not holograms, are you?” she asked, reaching out a hand to the inquisitive animals.
She smiled. Then as she went to contact Blake, the smallest one suddenly reached out and took the bracelet from her wrist.

“That’s Cally! “
“She’s in trouble….Gan!”

But Gan had already reacted and had activated the teleport.

He was staggered as what came out of the teleport bay wasn’t Cally, but some creature he had never seen before. And before he could do anything, the creature bolted up the stairs towards the rest of the ship…

She was gently stroking his face and blowing in his ear.
Vila smiled.
Time to open his eyes and see who was caressing him -
“What the? Blake, Blake…”

Blake was on the Liberator Flight deck.
“Zen, where did this creature go?”
“….Blake…There’s an elephant in the room!”
It was Vila.
“In my cabin. An elephant…”
“Zen, belay that order. I think we’ve found our intruder.”

Garden of Delights, Part Two

Vila was not happy.
He had hoped that the baby elephant could stay on board.
“But he was so cute,” he moaned, “Why couldn’t I have kept him? Cally’s got her Moon disc.”
“Vila, there is an enormous difference between a Moon disc and a baby elephant,” Blake said slowly, “For one thing, those baby elephants grow. You saw the size of its parents…and the entire herd.”
“Yes, but…”
“Besides,” Jenna began, “it would have been unkind to keep that little sweetie here, all by itself. It needs its herd.”
“I suppose so.”
“Look, this planet that Orac found will be ideal,” Blake said, “That entire herd will be safe now, it will have plenty of room, plenty of food. Just think what would have happened if we hadn’t come along? That Zoological garden was deserted, they would have died. But now they have a chance.”
“If it makes you happy, we can even come back and visit,” Jenna smiled, “Now drink your drink and let’s celebrate a job well done.”
“He was cute though,” Vila said, wistfully.

It had taken a while to teleport the rest of the elephants straight up to the main hold of the Liberator, but with Cally to soothe them, it had all gone as planned.
And later, they had all been teleported down to their new home.
Cally waved as the herd trundled off to explore their new surroundings and tried not to laugh as the smallest elephant, Vila’s new friend, had planted a large wet kiss on Avon’s face.
He was not best pleased.

Back on the Liberator, Gan was satisfied with a job well done.
“I think that planet will be a better place than that old garden. Real creatures deserve real surroundings. Although Vila isn’t very happy.”
“And I have an idea why he wasn’t happy. Apparently our entrepreneur had asked Orac for some advice.”
“Advice on what?” Gan asked.
“An interesting drink called Indlovu Gin.”
Cally and Gan looked at him quizzically.”
“It requires a great deal of elephants,” Avon smiled.

“Well done, Avon. Everything went all right?” Blake asked.
“Naturally. Vila, you didn’t seem very happy about the outcome?”
“Didn’t I?”
Avon sighed,
“Much as I admire your zeal when it comes to creating wealth…”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Vila asked indignantly.
“To make Indlovu Gin you require a great deal of food and fresh fruit for the elephants, something that not even the Liberator’s facilities could provide. I’m afraid your scheme was doomed from the start and you would have suffered a great financial loss.”
“Oh,” Vila said, his shoulders slumped.
“Which leaves us with one other problem, one that you can solve.”
“I can?”
Vila turned round to see Avon and Gan with a space suit and spade in hand.
“What’s that for?”
“I think you already know the answer to that. It’s in the main hold. All of it.”
“Don’t worry,” Gan put in, “I’ll help you.”
Vila was crest fallen.
“Well,” Avon continued, “You did say that you would do anything to keep that animal aboard…and now you can find out why that wasn’t a good idea.”
“All right…on condition that I have a glass of Adrenalin and Soma when it's finished.”
“And a shower,” Avon added.
“That,” Blake grinned, “goes without saying!”
Link to Lurena's illustration

Indlovu Gin? Google it


“It’s an elephant,” said Blake, with the assurance of someone who had owned a copy of ‘Ancient Earth Mammals’ as a child.

“Yes.” Apparently Avon had owned the same book, but he remained unimpressed, “But what is it doing here?”

They both stared at the large grey animal occupying the inner hold: it gazed back at them.

“I don’t suppose it would fit on the flight deck,” Blake observed. Avon looked more unimpressed than ever. Blake edged closer to the elephant; it tapped him on the shoulder, a teleport bracelet sliding down its trunk as it did so. “Well, we know how you got here, at any rate.” He took the bracelet and handed it to Avon.

“Someone... has teleported... an elephant,” Avon sounded disbelieving, “Was there a particular reason to try and prove what I have always said about the intelligence levels on board this ship?”

Blake ignored the sarcasm,
“We’d better find out who, hadn’t we? I’m fairly sure Cally would have mentioned it if...” He paused, and looked more closely at the elephant, “...she had appeared while she was at the teleport.” He flicked the communicator switch, “We’re going to need the rest of you down here. The problem seems to be bigger than we were expecting.”

The elephant was getting restive: she began to explore the studs on Avon’s tunic with her trunk. Avon glared at her. She sighed, but carried on until the others appeared in the doorway, when she turned her head as if in expectation.

Jenna and Cally halted in amazement.

“What is it?” asked Cally.

“An elephant.”

“You were on teleport duty,” said Avon, “Didn’t you notice it arriving?”

Cally looked more amazed than ever,
“Teleport... but it would never fit!”

“Well, it has.”

Blake, seeing that neither Cally nor Jenna were responsible for the stowaway, broke in.

“Where’s Vila?”

“I haven’t seen him since we were down on the planet,” answered Jenna. She looked at the elephant. “You don’t think...”

“It could be an improvement,” said Avon speculatively.

“Vila went to rest,” Cally told them, “He was complaining of a headache. I went to get him something for it, but when I went back to the teleport section he had gone.”

“He’ll have a headache if he’s responsible for this!” The elephant had started blowing insistently on Blake’s hair; he stepped irritably to one side, and called into the communicator, “Vila! That includes you!”

They waited; eventually, Vila appeared, looking somewhat the worse for wear. The elephant trumpeted a loud greeting: he winced.

“Well, she seems to know you,” remarked Jenna. As if to prove the point, the elephant trumpeted again.

“Can’t you do that quietly?” protested Vila, clutching his head.

“Did you teleport this elephant?” demanded Blake, almost as loudly as the elephant itself.

“I didn’t... well... not exactly... yes.”


“There was this man at the bar...”

“You bought an elephant from a man in a pub?” Jenna sounded incredulous.

“I didn’t buy her!” He sounded indignant, “I won her. It was a bet. They were trying to breed woolly mammoths, to stop the planet overheating...”

“How much had you had to drink?”

“And it didn’t work...”

“Really,” said Avon meaningfully.

“And she was left over...”

“You rescued the elephant?” inquired Cally. Vila looked gratefully at her.

“That’s it!”

Blake stared from Vila to the elephant and back again. Finally, he spoke.

“And what are we supposed to do with it now?!”

May 2021 Ficlet Challenges by PURPLECLERIC

The phrase prompt for this month is … Everything but the Kitchen Sink

And a sound prompt Link for the second challenge.

M1795537 OC Virn - Heartbeat (aka: A slower way to kill)

(I imagine Link playing in the background as you read...)

The console bleeped. President Servalan turned from the viewscreen, where she'd been watching the destruction of another rebel base.
"Yes?" she asked, opening the channel.
"Ma'am, Security here. One of the wounded prisoners is asking for you, Ma'am."
"For me - by name?" Servalan was surprised: why would a rebel want to talk? It was probably a trap.
"Er, yes, Ma'am. She says the matter is urgent and personal."
Indeed, the chance to kill the President would be very urgent, and extremely personal. Servalan was about to order the prisoner's execution when she paused. Perhaps they had useful information? She asked,
"A female? Did she give a name?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Keller."
It was a good thing the call was voice-only, the President reflected, feeling herself blushing. She stumbled to her chair, needing its support. Keller? After all this time - and knowing he was long dead - what did this woman know of her relationship with the man whose rejection had fuelled her thirst for power? Perhaps the prisoner simply hoped that the name would gain access: this had to be an assassination attempt. Yet despite herself, Servalan wanted to know more. She made the decision.
"Very well. Bring her."
"Er, apologies, Ma'am, but the medics say she cannot be moved: her injuries are terminal."
"Then I will require a full escort. Immediately."

The holding cells were unpleasant - deliberately so - and not only for the inmates. The prison guards drew back in surprise as the President swept past, a glamorous apparition in dazzling white, flanked by bodyguards.
She was shown into a room where an old woman lay on a cot, blood still seeping from her injuries. The smell was offensive, a mixture of the metallic tang of blood and the sickly floral odour of death.
Servalan stared without recognition at the body on the bed, anticipating danger. The woman was too far gone for anything but a suicidal implant - explosive or poison?
"Has she been scanned?" the President demanded.
"Yes, Ma'am. She's clean," the guard answered.
Servalan nodded acknowledgement, taking a step closer to the bed. She turned, ordering,
"Leave us: there is to be no record of this meeting: is that understood?"

The woman opened her eyes.
"Servalan?" her voice was barely above a whisper. Servalan bent closer.
"The child," the woman told her, struggling to breathe. Each word was a separate effort.
Servalan's eyes narrowed: what was this about?
"You mentioned Keller," she began, "What do you -"
"My son's child," the voice interrupting her was even weaker now, "And yours. I could not let her die."
The President sprang away, shaken. Who was this woman? And ...a child? Her thoughts flew backwards almost a dozen years.....The stillbirth had never been made public: they'd assured her the baby died...
"Elisabeth," the dying woman breathed, "Take her."

A day passed. The President waited in her office.
A mutoid brought in the struggling child. She seemed very young: a wiry bundle of arms and legs.... but when Servalan met her eyes, the likeness was undeniable. Hazel, like her own, backed by a keen mind and fierce determination. For a timeless moment they shared a contact that startled them both.
"So I have a daughter," Servalan admitted to herself unwillingly, "What does the President of the Federation want with a daughter?" But this was Keller's child, she reminded herself. The product of something that had once meant everything to a naive Space Force cadet.
The girl stared back, overawed at meeting the President, not understanding what was happening.
"Yesterday, I destroyed everything she had," the woman thought, "Yet she survived. Again." The only safe course of action was to have the girl killed. But having seen her, it was impossible. Could she even bring herself to send the child away? They had stolen her baby! The feelings for Keller had been extinguished long ago, but this helpless infant was proof that they had existed, proof that the impervious President that she had become, had once been capable of love.
Love that threatened to return at the sight of those bright, uncompromising eyes. And the name, of course. She had chosen it herself, at that first scan, hearing the heartbeat for the first time....
"I'm not scared of you," Elisabeth lied desperately, breaking the tense silence, "Leave me alone."
Servalan pulled herself together. Nobody ordered the President around... and no, she would not leave her child alone. Not again.
"I see I shall have to teach you better manners," she announced briskly, "I am your mother. You live with me now."

GANMINIME - Stainless Steel

Cally paused. She shook her head slightly. It didn’t help. As an acid test, she glanced around at Tarrant- he seemed oblivious. That meant that it was in her head, then. She stayed still and listened.

It was a strange, slow, whooshing sound not unlike white noise. It shifted, overlapped, came and went, like waves upon a beach, underpinned by a low pulsing sound. It was almost musical, organic, but had an odd electronic quality.
Underneath the sound she could hear echoes of voices- whose voices? They were too indistinct to recognise- fragments of discussions, conversations... commands? Questions? She listened.

It seemed to grow louder, the pulsing rhythm a little faster, but Cally did not say anything about it. She knew there was no point, Tarrant clearly couldn’t hear it, and had come to regard her telepathic abilities as a liability. She didn’t want to arouse his mistrust of her, and her instinct assured her that whatever this sound was, it wasn’t a threat. Quite the opposite- something about it seemed to call out to her, to ask her to hear it. So, she stayed quiet and heard it.

Dayna hurried onto the flight deck and went straight to Vila.
“I got them-“ she began, but the hand he quickly raised silenced her.

He was listening. Zen’s voice was wavering and slurring.


“He never referred to himself before. He never once used the word ‘I’ ,“ Vila’s own voice was a mixture of surprise at this realisation and dawning despair.


On the planet’s surface, the sound in Cally’s head became distorted, fuzzy and gradually faded into silence.

Later, they all stood around the view screen and watched as the Liberator began to break up. It was only seconds in reality, but it seemed to take an extraordinarily long time. Finally, one huge explosion blasted that beautiful ship into smithereens. Dust, smoke and and detritus filled the screen.
Tarrant said something to the others and, one by one, they turned, gave Avon a long look and walked away from him. He was still watching.

As the view began to clear, he could make out huge pieces of shrapnel and debris - all twisted by the impact, burnt, none of it salvageable or recognisable.


Was that...?

It was. Among the wreckage now floating out across the planet’s outer orbit, was one part Avon recognised. As he turned away from the screen and followed the others out, he couldn’t resist the grin that his naturally black humour prompted.

The most technologically advanced ship in the galaxy, with capabilities that outstripped anything the Terran Federation had ever seen had been reduced to slime by one of the most basic life forms in the known universe: enzymes. And those enzymes had destroyed everything.

Everything but the kitchen sink.

LURENA - The Auron Farewell

(For a while now I have been thinking about how it was possible for Cally and Zelda to make telepathic contact over such a very long distance. I suspect there had to be an amplifying factor somewhere.
Tissue warning , on Littlesue's advice after beta-reading my story.)

*|You must get out of there,|*
Cally cried out telepathically, *| Zelda. Put the bracelet on! |*
*| Even Servalan's children must have a chance, Cally! |* Zelda had replied.
*| Cally! ...|* followed by a silent scream heard only by Cally.
Then nothing …
In the safety of the Liberator’s teleport section, Cally fainted …

Cally had retreated to her cabin after that unfortunate confrontation with Avon on the flight deck.
"Affection for him!" she had sneered to indicate how insensitive he was, but also to disguise her own weakness, her homesickness for Auron.
Homesickness. She had already expressed that word sarcastically to Vila; at that time also to cover her own feelings. Vila clearly admitted that he longed for Earth, to go home. She wished it had been so easy for her.

Now she was alone in her cabin, overcome with melancholy .
The Moon Disc moved towards Cally's hand.
She gently stroked her hand over the Disc, but this time the xerophyte did not bring her any comfort.
Instead she was consumed by homesickness for Auron, her siblings and her most beloved sister Zelda.

A mental trembling went through both the Moon Disc and Cally.
A sense of general unwellness engulfed Cally; her gaze became blurry as in her head an eerie telepathic sound echoed and buzzed.
Auronar! … What was going on?
Rhythms of life, heartbeats, sounds of so many. Pulses accelerating and slowing down, echoes of death, sounds that faded...

With difficulty, Cally stumbled through the long corridors of the Liberator to the flight deck.
The others, she had to reach the others. What others? Who? She couldn’t get her mind clear.
She just managed to bring out in a soft voice,
“Death. Dying.” She felt Avon grabbing her by the arm,
“Cally! … Cally!” Vaguely, she heard Dayna ask,
“What's wrong with her?” But she could only explain,
“They're dying ... all dying.” And Avon’s voice insisted,
“Who? Who is dying?” Yet, in her desperation, she turned to Dayna,
“They're all dying. Dayna, they're all dying.”

It took some effort to convince Avon to postpone his mission to Earth.
Fortunately, Dayna and Tarrant stood up for Cally, followed a little later by Vila, who first had to overcome his homesickness, which he disguised nicely by saying that he likes to be on the winning side.
Avon had frowned on that, which had briefly given Cally a sense of triumph and a lot of strength.
*| I'm coming, Zelda. I'm coming home. |* she telepathed relieved and happy, *|I'm coming home.|*

That joyous homecoming was not to be.
Cally lay in the quiet of her cabin and even pretended to be asleep when Avon and Tarrant came to see how she was.
But as tired and broken she was, sleep wouldn’t, couldn’t come.
Many of her people had died, but for Cally the loss of her beloved sister Zelda was too hard to bear.
The sounds had faded.
It was so quiet.
Too quiet.
Cally got up and extended her hand to her Moon Disc ...

Link to Lurena's illustration

LITTLESUE - That Sinking Feeling

And here is my little effort with piccie by Lurena.

“What is that?” Blake asked as the main view screen showed a small ship seemingly towing a jumble of household items behind it.
Jenna was slightly taken aback by the scene.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said, ”It seems to be everything but the kitchen sink.”
“The what?” Blake said in all seriousness.
“We’re being hailed.”
“From what? That ship? But who…?”
“This is Mother O’Reilly…”
“Really,” said Blake absently.
“…no, O’Reilly. Do you have a Vila Restal aboard?”
“What do you want with him?”
“Look, sonny, he asked for my help and I said fine, as long as he could help me. I think my tractor beam is buckling under the strain. Now, can I please dock alongside your ship?”
Blake looked at Jenna, who could only shrug.
“Permission granted,” Blake replied, “What has Vila been up to now?”

“Laundry?” Blake asked, perplexed.
“Yes. It’s all Avon’s fault,” Vila began to explain, “He made me put that spacesuit on to clear up…the hold after our rescue mission for those elephants and no matter how many times I put it through the Liberator’s cleansing programme it still came out…rather smelly. So I asked Orac to find out the best place to take it to and he came up with Mother O’Reilly’s Mobile laundry…”
“And here I am sonny.” A rather old, scraggily grey haired old woman appeared at the hatch,
“You needn’t look so shocked, how else do you think some of the deep space travellers keep their clothes clean? Me, that’s how.”
“But why all that paraphernalia towing behind you?” asked Jenna.
“That, young lady, is all my worldly goods. You don’t expect me to keep it aboard, do you? It would be rather cramped.”
“And the kitchen sink?” Blake asked absently.
“That, me lad, stays aboard. That is my most valuable possession. Now where is this expert who can fix my rather tired tractor beam?”

Avon protested, of course, but eventually he was persuaded to do Mother O’Reilly’s bidding.
”Hm. Who cleans your leather outfits?”
“Well, whoever it is isn’t doing it proper. Now get that red leather suit off.”
“It will be payment for sorting out me tractor beam.”

“Well now I’ve seen everything…including the kitchen sink,” Blake murmured.
“That wasn’t any ordinary kitchen sink,” Avon explained, now suited in his resplendent newly laundered red outfit, “From what I could make out it was a type of teleportation device. She put an article of clothing in: it dematerialised and when it reformed all the dirt, dust and other unwanted atoms were removed. It was most thorough.”
“A teleport device?” Blake asked.
“And quite a money making device,” Avon added, “Where’s Vila?”
“In the teleport section,” Cally informed them.
Gan smiled,
“He said something along the lines of ‘Who needs a kitchen sink?’”

“No!” Blake was quite firm about the matter.
“You…we, are not going to become the Liberator Laundry Service!”
“Vila, I am supposed to be organising rebellions against the Federation…not doing their washing! What’s that doing here?”
Blake pointed to the kitchen sink sitting on the seat, next to Vila, partly hidden from view.
“I borrowed it. Just to see how it works, you understand.”
Blake looked heavenward, then let out a deep sigh before pressing the communicator button.
“Jenna, contact Mother O’Reilly. Tell her she’s got everything BUT her kitchen sink!!”

Link to Lurena's illustration

CYGNUS BAZZA - untitled

Avon had combed every cubic angstrom of their glittering new craft, but entirely without success. He turned to Blake with a scowl.
"So where the hell are we supposed to do the washing-up?"

June 2021 Ficlet Challenges by PURPLE CLERIC

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…”

HUGBOT - 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.

"It is already done," Vila shook his head, "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.

HUGBOT - Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Gan usually had a sound sleep. He didn’t even wake up when Blake and Avon had a loud argument in the corridors or when Vila staggered through the ship severely inebriated and singing raucous songs about goblins. The more he wondered when he suddenly found himself awake in the middle of the night surrounded by dead silence.

He didn’t know what had woken him up, but he was uneasy and felt the sudden urge to check outside his quarters.

And there he saw him: Blake, walking up and down the corridor in front of his cabin, only wearing his pyjamas, staring into infinity.

Gan didn’t know what to do, but after a few minutes Blake retired to his own quarters, anyway.
In the morning Blake was his usual grumpy self. Gan decided to say nothing. Blake was walking in his sleep – so what?

The next night, the spectacle repeated itself; if you could call it a spectacle. Again, Gan woke up in the middle of the night although he could not have heard Blake through the metal of the walls. Again Blake walked up and down in front of his cabin, and again he ceased his sleepwalking activities after a few minutes.

This went on night after night, and still Gan did not tell anyone. After all, it felt personal. It was the corridor in front his cabin that Blake kept patrolling, and it was him who woke up regularly as if there was some invisible bond between him and their sleepwalking leader.

However, there was one alarming trend: Blake seemed to become more and more restless. On the sixth night, he began to rub his hands as if trying to wash them, murmurming incoherent nonsense about Neptune’s ocean. What did that mean? There were no oceans on Neptune.

On the seventh night, Gan finally decided to intervene. Blake was grasping the air as if trying to catch some invisible object. As carefully as possible, Gan touched him by the shoulder to snap him out of his sleep.

Blake stared at him, still half asleep, then he screamed in terror and stumbled backwards.

"Gan!" he exclaimed, "But you are dead!"

"Well, I am not," Gan smiled, "It was a nightmare."

Blake blinked and sighed with relief.

"What ... what am I doing here?" he asked.

"You were sleepwalking," Gan explained. He didn’t have the heart to tell Blake that this condition had already lasted for seven nights.

"Was I?" Blake gave a weak smile, "I can only remember this terrible nightmare. You were dead, and it was I who killed you. I’m glad that it was just a bad dream."

"Better off to bed now," Gan insisted.

Blake nodded and returned to his quarters. Gan was right: he needed a good night’s sleep. Particularly this night. He had finally succeeded to contact Kasabi. All preparations were made, and tomorrow, they would strike and attack Control.

GANMINIME - untitled

It was now very late, and they were all tired. This had gone on for far too long, but they had reached a critical stage- there was no backing out now.

Everybody was keeping respectfully, terrifyingly quiet. Avon could sense their impatience, their expectations, and the strong urge by someone tall to offer him unwanted advice. The effort of keeping his opinion to himself was practically making Tarrant gag, but the severe glares he was getting from Soolin and Dayna kept him quiet.

Avon wished that he had his probe - this would be done in a fraction of the time. The instrument he was obliged to use instead was so thick and clumsy. If this was the sort of equipment surgeons usually used, it was hardly any wonder Gan’s limiter had malfunctioned. But then, convicted murderers are hardly in any position to demand the best quality workmanship.

His hand trembled and he quickly removed it before he could do any damage. This was too important to mess up, there were six hundred credits at stake for just this one component alone. It was a huge risk to take for such a trivial reward. One involuntary movement, one tiny slip, and he was finished. He took a breath, rubbed his eyes and tried again. Around him, everybody seemed to tense. He tried to shut them out, them and that low humming sound in the background that he had never really noticed before. It seemed to get louder, not quieter. He put his tool into the cavity and felt the edges connect to the small, delicate part inside. He took another breath, checked the angle he was working at and, millimetre by millimetre, he began to lift.

The piece was soon level with the outer casing. Only a tiny bit more, now... he was sure nobody was even breathing, the silence was suddenly beautiful, perfect and blissfully sweet to his overwrought mind, so often troubled by all the noises, threats and bickering it was constantly subjected to. If only he could keep this suspended peace for ever...

There was a loud buzz, and the red light flashed up. Avon’s composure snapped instantly and he pushed the board disgustedly away, not caring about finishing the job or even trying to save any face in front of the others.
“This is stupid!” He snapped.
“Oh come on, Avon, it’s your own fault,” burst from Tarrant at long last, “I’ve told you about trying to remove them with the tweezers at that angle before-“
“-and we all saw how well that worked on the wishbone-“
“The wishbone is trickier than the brain freeze! I could have done that one with one eye closed!”
“How about doing it with your mouth closed?” Avon shoved the game at him.

The others had by now exhaled and half-laughed in relief that the tension was broken. Tarrant reached for the board, eagerly accepting the challenge, but Dayna halted his arm.
“Not so fast, Dr. Tarrant-“
“Doctor who?” snorted Vila.
“I think you’ll find I’ve got the specialist card for the brain freeze,” Dayna continued, poising herself perfectly on her chair and taking up the tweezers. The others groaned.
“Oh no, we’re doomed. Can’t we just declare you the winner now and go to bed?” whined Vila, his head resting on his hand.
“Come on, this is the last piece, let her finish it,” said Soolin, “Don’t worry, she probably won’t take as long as Avon, either.” Avon narrowed his eyes but said nothing.

Dayna made the extraction look infuriatingly easy, but managed to refrain from being infuriatingly smug in victory. She graciously accepted the twelve thousand credits and the announcement that she had indeed won. A good deal more graciously than Tarrant, who had come last and so would take her next turn on night watch.

Walking towards their cabins afterwards, Soolin asked,
“How did you get so good at playing that?” Dayna smirked and shrugged.
“Well, you know what they say... it isn’t exactly-“
“No...” Soolin interrupted with weary haste, “Don’t say it.”

LITTLESUE - Just Walking in the Rain

(Well, here's my first little effort. Slightly over the limit....
...and another lovely picture by Lurena of a certain rather nice computer expert.....)

She hadn’t meant to intrude, but the sound of footfalls outside her quarters for the second night running was too much to ignore. This time she rose from her bed, placed the wrap about her and decided to find out who it was stalking the corridors of Xenon base so late in the night.

Soolin opened her door and stepped outside into the now empty corridor. She knew it would be pointless wandering the base trying to find the owner of the footfalls so decided to go to the main control room.
There she activated the closed circuit television, but no-one came into view.
Then she noticed that one of the surface hatches was open; maybe whoever was skulking around had gone outside? She checked the surface cameras and then…she saw him.

Avon didn’t move.
He was rooted to the spot, staring up into the starlit sky. He was speaking, but she had no idea what he was saying, and then he turned round and made his way back to the warmth of the base.

Soolin went to meet him, but he walked straight by her, his unseeing eyes wide open; deep in a dreamless sleep.

The next evening, Soolin was prepared.
Sure enough, those footfalls came and she went out to meet them, but still Avon walked straight by her.
She was puzzled. Why was he sleepwalking?
This time she decided to follow him out onto the surface of Xenon.

This evening it was raining, yet even the droplets of water did not bother him as he stood in the exact same spot, staring up at the sky.
Soolin stood right by him, hoping to hear his words.
“Where are you?” Avon asked an unseen entity somewhere far above, “Why won’t you tell me where you are?”
The rain fell harder, forming rivulets of water that streamed down his face.
“Where are you?” he asked again.
But no answer came.
He seemed dejected and started to turn round and retrace his steps. For a moment Soolin thought he had suddenly awoken and maybe seen her, but it was a brief moment and she watched as he trudged back, his shoulders slumped.
Soolin realised that she had to get back to the surface entrance before Avon did, otherwise she would find herself locked out in the howling gale that was now developing.

“Did you sleep well last night?” Soolin asked. Avon looked at her,
“Why do you ask?”
“I watched you - out there on the surface.”
“I think you’re mistaken…”
“Am I? How do you suppose your clothes are so wet? It was raining last night out on the surface.”
The look of puzzlement on his face was enough for Soolin to know that Avon was indeed at a loss to explain the damp clothes that he had found in his quarters that morning.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell the others that you are sleepwalking.”
“Thank you.”
She didn’t mention his questioning of the sky: that would be just too much prying.

That night there were no footfalls.
Something had obviously happened that day and Avon was now at peace.
But just who was he speaking to last night?
That could wait. She pulled the sheet around her.
Tomorrow Avon and Tarrant were to leave for Betafarl.
Maybe he would eventually tell not just her, but the others, who it was he was looking for.
But meanwhile she would sleep…
…sleep did not come easily to Avon that night, but at least his secret was safe...for the moment.

Link to Lurena's illustration

LITTLESUE - Career Change

(And now for the 2nd prompt....Lurena managed to stop laughing long enough to draw a piccie...)

“It’s not brain surgery,” Avon declared, watching Vila as he tried, and failed, to thread the needle.
Vila mumbled something in reply.
“Vila,” Cally said, “That’s not a nice thing to say!”
“Can’t a man even have a private thought now?” Vila moaned.
“You know I can’t read minds.”
Vila mumbled something again.
“Come on, Cally,” Jenna smiled, “Let’s leave the seamstress alone...”
“I believe the term for one such as Vila, is a tailor,” Avon corrected.
“…all right, a tailor. Cally and I will be on the Flight Deck when you’ve finished.”
“If only you had listened,” Avon began after the two women had left him and Vila alone in the teleport section.
“Look, it’s not my fault…it just needs a slight adjustment, that’s all.”
“I don’t think Blake will agree with that. Meanwhile, will you finish sewing those press studs and Velcro back on my top, and then you can repair both Cally and Jenna’s outfits.”
“If only Blake had allowed me to keep Mother O’Reilly’s kitchen sink just a little longer…I think I could have cracked it!”
“Meanwhile, your efforts to utilise the Liberator’s Teleport facility has resulted in several clothes malfunctions.”
“My fingers hurt...”
“Really, then I suggest you stop complaining about your lot and keep sewing.”
“Couldn’t you turn Orac into something useful…like a sewing machine?”
Suddenly the sound of screaming followed by giggling resounded along the Liberator’s corridors.
“What was that?” Vila asked, midway through threading the so called self threading needle...again, “Perhaps we…you should go and find out.”
“I think we are about to discover the cause of that mirth.”
“Oh,” Vila said, only to pale when he saw Blake standing at the top of the teleport section stairs, his trousers over his arm; his undergarments on display.
“Oh dear…”
“Yes, oh dear indeed,” Blake barked, “Your attempt to emulate Mother O’Reilly’s cleaning device has failed…”
“Spectacularly, by the looks of things,” Avon remarked, trying desperately to keep a straight face.
“Not only did the zip fail but so did the fly buttons…in front of Cally and Jenna…”
“Oh that was the reason for all that gig…”Avon stopped as Blake glared at him, “I think I’ll go to my cabin.”
“You do that. Meanwhile, Vila is going to sew every button back on, repair the zip and….”
Vila sighed, “Maybe brain surgery would be easier…”

Link to Lurena's illustration

(You may use your imagination to envisage EXACTLY what undergarments were on display!!!!!)