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02 January 2008 @ 09:42 am
Rebels and Amagons (G)  
Title: Rebels and Amagons
Author: Vilakins
Rating : Gen
Fandom/claim: Blake's 7 in the style of Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (a classic 1930s British children's novel) though none of the B7 characters are children
Pairings: None
Summary: After the shootout on Gauda Prime, Vila, Avon, Dayna, and Tarrant end up on the shores of a lake...
Note: I have lifted five of Roger's lines from various books and given them to Vila (Roger's similarity to a young Vila was what inspired me), but the rest is mine.

Rebels and Amagons

Vila used his handkerchief to clear a circle on the shed's dirty window and squashed his nose up against the glass. "It looks all right," he said, "but it's full of boat." He gazed out at the water in front of them. "Though maybe we could use it to go somewhere nice and safe."

"It's a lake, Vila," said Avon. "Fed by narrow streams. Where would we go?"

"To that island out there!" Vila pointed. "The one that looks like a kitten crouched ready to pounce." He had always rather fancied the idea of living on an island.

"More like a wild cat, knowing Gauda Prime," said Dayna.

"Actually," said Avon thoughtfully. "I hate to admit it, but Vila might have a point. Flyers can't land on water and there wouldn't be a clearing large enough out there for one, so we'd be safe from anyone without a boat."

"There's only an old padlock on the door," said Vila hopefully.

"Open it! Let's get in and have a look!" Dayna pushed Vila out of the way as soon as he had finished and rushed in. "She's a decent size, but we'll have to get all this stuff out of her first and see if she has a sail and rigging." She began pulling old sacks, canvas, and tarpaulins out of the boat and throwing them behind her, raising clouds of dust.

"It's a bit coughy in here," said Vila.

"Then take yourself and your weak chest outside." Tarrant crouched down beside Dayna, beginning to share her enthusiasm. "She looks sound."

"Can either of you sail?" asked Avon.

"Of course I can!" Dayna look up at him, smiling for the first time in many days. "We didn't spend all our time under the water on Sarran, you know. We used to explore and go fishing, Daddy and Lauren and me." She looked briefly sad, then shrugged and tugged at a brown piece of canvas. "Here's the sail, and it looks as if all the sheets are here."

"Sheets?" asked Vila from the doorway. "That thing looks too small to sleep in."

"That's what ropes are called on boats," said Tarrant knowledgeably.

"Oh yes, you'd know that from all those tunic-rippers I found in your cabin back on the Liberator. Quite a lot were about people on sailboats and wild pirate wenches with even wilder red hair."

"Ships," said Tarrant with dignity. "They were ships. You have to use the right terminology."

"All right," said Dayna joyously. "Let's push her out. She's in jolly good shape even though no one's used her for a long time, and I can sail her though there's no centreboard."

Tarrant looked at her. "What's that? Do we need one?"

"It's a board that goes through a slot in the bottom so you can sail closer to the wind. And not really."

"Just as well then," said Vila. "It'd let water in."

"It's a raised slot, you donkey. I daresay the lake's not that deep in places so this is probably better."

"Very well," said Avon. "You and Tarrant get it ready for sailing and Vila and I will fold the tarpaulins and sacks to take with us."

Vila wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Why?"

"We can use them as tents and for sleeping on."

Dayna nodded. "We have enough spare rope to string them to trees and we can weight the edges with stones." Her eyes sparkled. "This will be fun! I haven't been camping for ages!"

Vila thought that Avon couldn’t say the same, but decided to keep it to himself.

***

"Right then, everybody, get in." Dayna stood in the shallow water, her hand on the side of the eagerly bobbing boat.

"Just a moment." Avon frowned. "Who is in charge here?"

Vila, who hadn't felt much like speaking to Avon for quite a while now, looked at Dayna. "Captain Mellanby, I presume?"

"She is the one who knows how to sail," said Tarrant.

Avon glared at him.

"And why should it be you, anyway? Especially after--"

Avon looked down his nose. "I am the eldest."

Vila rolled his eyes. "Oh let him, Dayna, just to keep the peace."

"After all," said Tarrant, "a captain doesn't have to know how to sail, just to give orders."

"And you'd know," said Avon.

Dayna ignored them. "All right then, I'll be first mate, and Tarrant can be an able seaman."

"What about me?" asked Vila.

She smirked. "Ship's boy, of course."

Vila pulled a face. "Oh now look, I say. I'm a bit sick of being ship's boy." He sighed and decided to make the best of it. "At any rate, I think you ought to name the boat before we go aboard."

"Hmmm." Dayna looked thoughtful. "How about Rebel?" When no one seemed to object, she said briskly, "Rebel it is, then. You first, boy. Up before the mast."

Vila looked doubtfully at the water. "It's not sharky, is it?" he asked nervously.

"Course not!" Dayna grinned. "Sharks don't live in fresh water. There are probably only piranhas."

Vila wished Soolin was here to ask, but she had left them outside Blake's base saying that she'd had more than enough, and he didn't really blame her. "I think I'll keep my boots on, then," he said with dignity and waded out.

"Get in the bow where you're well out of the way of the boom."

"Boom?" Vila looked around, alarmed.

"That great big piece of wood below the sail that swings round when we come about." Dayna grinned. "At head level."

"I can see why they call it that." Vila climbed in and held tightly onto the sides as Rebel rocked.

"Avon and Tarrant, you sit in the middle and be ready to duck." She watched as Avon got in carefully, holding Orac, and Tarrant leaped in the other side, almost causing water to wash in. "Good." She pushed Rebel out and jumped aboard, grabbing the tiller with one hand and a sheet with the other. "Here we go!"

"But not in the right direction," said Vila from the bow where he was crouched on folded canvas and sacking.

"That's because of the wind. We'll have to tack there. Going about!" Dayna shouted gleefully and swung the boom, and Avon ducked just in time.

"Look!" Vila pointed at a houseboat moored in a small bay that had only just become visible. "Now that looks nice and comfy."

"And occupied," said Avon. "Not only is there smoke, but there's what looks like a laser cannon on deck."

"And a skull and crossbones flag!" Tarrant was enchanted. "It's just the sort of place a retired pirate called Captain Flint would live."

They all stared at the cheerful-looking red and green houseboat (and the not so welcoming looking cannon) as they sailed by. There was an angry bellow from inside and a man waved a fist out a window at them. "Keep clear, you louts!"

"I don't think Captain Flint is very friendly," said Vila.

Tarrant, who had his arms on the gunwale and his chin on them, putting his head well below boom-level, closed his eyes as the wind ruffled his hair and imagined himself on the high seas.

Cap'n Tarrant, terror of the Barbary Coast, strode the deck of his clipper as the sails tautened and creaked in the wind above him. There was a distant boom and a closer splash as a cannonball fell short. He threw his head back and laughed. "You'll never catch me, Flint! Hard about, me lads! We're going round the Horn!"

Not that he was quite sure what the Horn was, but it sounded dashing and adventurous.

They ran before the wind...



Dayna's voice interrupted his dreams of spice islands and buried treasure. "We've been right round the island and this looks like the best spot. We can moor behind those rocks and no one will even see us if we lower the sail, not unless they come right in too."

The Rebel nosed into a secluded little inlet under tall trees. "Vila, grab that rope in the bow and hop out, and make it fast."

"I'm going as fast as I can!"

Dayna sighed. "Just tie us up."

And so the Rebel and her rebel crew took possession of Wild Cat Island.

***

It wasn't as bad as Vila had thought it might be. He wriggled into a more comfortable position on his bed of sack stuffed with dry grass and leaves, and gazed up at the slanting canvas roof. The late evening sunlight filtered through one side rather cheeringly, and the dappled shadows of leaves shivered and danced and made him feel unaccountably hopeful. It wasn't even very musty, not with the tent being open both ends and smelling more grassy than anything else. He closed his eyes.

"Vila? Where are you?"

"In my tent, practising being asleep."

"Well, supper's ready."

Ah, now that was another matter. He crawled out to find the others all sitting round a fire in the centre of the camp, built where they had found the remains of old fires. "What is it?"

"Freshly caught fish." Dayna had several on a long sharp stick between two Y-shaped poles. "I know you're a vegetarian, but that's all we have."

Vila thought about how hungry he was and how good the fish smelled. "Well," he said slowly, "the thing is, I couldn't eat anything I could be friends with. But I don't really think fish are all that affectionate." He sat down between Dayna and Tarrant, rather pointedly.

He was on his second piece when he saw a boat out on the water. "Look!"

They all stood up to see. The boat was smaller than Rebel and had a crew of two, both wearing the bright red knitted caps of Amagon women. They were too far away to see clearly, but the evening sunlight caught their blonde hair, the bright white sail, and the flag with its skull and crossbones.

"They're flying a pirate flag too," said Tarrant.

"Yes." Avon frowned. "They're Amagons."

"They're going," said Vila, relieved. They all stood and watched as the Amagons sailed away past Captain Flint's houseboat and eventually disappeared.

"They must have a base up that river," said Avon. He thought for a moment. "Perhaps we should keep a watch."

"Why?" Vila eyed his tent longingly. "There's nothing here but us."

Avon yawned. "No. I suppose not."

***

The next morning after a fish breakfast, Dayna surveyed the camp and the campers with a critical eye. "We really need to buy more food and drink--"

"Provisions and grog," said Tarrant reprovingly.

"All right, provisions and grog, and clothes and cooking things and tools. And more weapons. That town over there--" she pointed to the opposite end of the lake from the houseboat and the Amagons' river "--looks big enough to have what we need."

"And you can teach Tarrant and me something about sailing on the way there and back," said Avon.

"Oh, I say!" Vila was offended. "What about me? I flew the Liberator and Scorpio, by myself, more than once too!"

"Yes, but they had automatic systems. This boat doesn't."

Vila folded his arms and looked cross.

"You can stay here if you like."

"Oh no, I'm coming too!" After all, they might get the wrong sort of grog and chocolate, or buy him clothes with target rings on them.



The town, at the mouth of another river, was called Rio, named by the planet's original settlers. "The word means 'river', said Avon, "which shows a distinct lack of imagination."

"Oh I don’t know. I mean, they could have called it Town," said Vila.

Avon, who happened to know the Portuguese for 'town' because Orac had told him, laughed for the first time in weeks. "Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you."

"Why?"

"'Vila', Vila."

"Oh all right," Vila said sulkily, "if you won't explain the joke..."

"Come on," said Dayna briskly. "Let's get going. I do suppose we've got enough money."

Vila and Avon eyed each other. "Yes," said Avon.

"Enough," said Vila evasively. "But we ought to spend yours seeing it's your fault we're here."

Avon was silent for a moment. "Fair enough," he said.



They met back at the town square at noon, each with large, new, and very well-packed knapsacks. "All right," said Dayna. "I think we've got everything we need for now. Let's go."

"Won't it be easier to carry the food if it's inside?" asked Vila.

Dayna stared at him. "It is inside. In each knapsack."

"Inside us, I meant."

"Vila." She shook her head in exasperation. "Wait till we get back to Wild Cat Island."

"By the way," said Vila as he caught the others up, "I heard two chaps in the tool shop saying they were going to get the fellow who lives on that houseboat. They laughed and said he must be worth quite a bit."

"Probably bounty hunters," said Avon bleakly, and that rather stopped any further conversation.



Their mood was not improved by finding that someone else had been in their camp while they had been away. A piece of board had been nailed to a tree, and a message was burned into it:

GO AWAY.
This is our island.
Leave or be forced to.
AMAGONS

"Must be those girls," said Vila, dropping his knapsack with a clank. He immediately crouched down to ensure the drink--sorry, grog--was all right.

"Hmm." Avon touched the letters with an enquiring finger. "Laser gun, and very precisely done. That's a rather effective threat."

"Well, it's our island now," said Dayna, folding her arms. "If they want a fight, we'll give them one."

Vila selected a bottle, opened it, and had a good swig and a quick look in his tent. His only possession in there, his sack bed, had been moved and turned over. "Oh no!" he cried dramatically. "We've been ransacked!"

"Donkey," said Avon, but not sounding as annoyed as he had been for the last few months.

"It's lucky we didn't have anything for them to take," said Tarrant, turning his knapsack upside-down to empty it out.

Avon nodded, opening his own. "From now on, we can't leave the camp unattended."

What about at night?" Dayna put the cooking gear inside her tent, and started to sort out tins. "I suppose we'll have to set a watch."

Vila, remembering how badly he had done on his last one in that hut in the woods, tried to make himself look unnoticeable.

"No," said Avon. "We're all tired. We can run a rope round the perimeter each night and tie it to a couple of pots."

"What a good idea!" Dayna's eyes sparkled. "That's just the sort of thing you do if you're worried about dragging anchor while you're asleep."

Vila sighed and wondered how long it would take to learn a whole new vocabulary. "Dayna? You did mention eating when we got back."

"I did." Dayna drew her gun and fired a blast into the wood she had piled up that morning. "Right, what would everyone say to potatoes in their jackets, baked beans, some corned beef, an apple, and hot cocoa to follow?"

"I’d say, 'Hello, I'm Vila. I'd like to get to know you better.' Well, except for the corned beef."

Dayna smiled. "Then you can help me do the potatoes."

Vila sighed; there was always a catch. He finished his drink and looked mournfully at the empty bottle. "Only thing wrong with these bottles is that they're not very big on the inside."

***

"Ahoy!"

Vila, who had been in his tent checking that his bed hadn't acquired any new uncomfortable lumps when it had been turned over, crawled out. "What's a hoy?"

"It's those Amagons," said Tarrant. "They're back."

Vila went over to where the others were standing at the edge of the trees, looking out over the water. The Amagon boat was tacking in, its white sail bright in the afternoon sunlight. One of the red-capped girls stood up and waved at them.

"Ahoy, trespassers! You were warned."

"And what exactly are you going to do about it?"

"Avon?" The Amagon almost lost her footing and sat down abruptly.

Vila squinted at them. "You know," he said, "I think that's Soolin."

"Well spotted," said Avon sarcastically.

The Amagons argued, too quietly for Vila and the others to hear except for an occasional angry "Stardrives and gravity wells." Then the other one brought out the oars as their sail lost the wind in the lee of the island.

"And she looks rather familiar too." Vila frowned at her back as she rowed towards them.

"Don't be an idiot. Or at least more of--"

Then the rower brought the boat about and shipped her oars.

"Jenna!" Vila shouted joyfully.

"Well, rattle my rockets! Hello, Vila."

"What's all this about stardrives and rockets, then?"

Jenna grinned. "It's how Amagon women talk. Their ruthless reputation keeps people from bothering us, and it's become a bit of a habit. You do know their women do all the piloting and crewing while they send their men off on the dangerous missions, don't you? After all, they're more expendable."

"Just like on the Liberator, then."

Jenna's grin widened. "That's right."

"Just a minute," said Tarrant. "You can't be Jenna. Blake said--"

"What?" Jenna folded her arms.

"--that you blew your ship up."

She rolled her eyes. "Slosh my glycolene tanks, of course he did. He doesn't much trust people called Tarrant."

"Oh, I say!" Tarrant pushed out his lower lip. "That’s rather unfair. I've got nothing to do with my Uncle Dev. I don't even like him."

"Anyway, the warning stands, "Jenna folded her arms, "and even more so since it's Avon. This is our island and we want you not just off it, but right out of the area."

"But Jenna!"

Her face softened. "I'm sorry, Vila, but after what Avon did? As it is, Blake won't even come out onto the deck of his houseboat and talk to us."

"Blake's Captain Flint?" asked Tarrant.

Jenna stared, then almost smiled. "That's not a bad name for him. actually. He's a lot harder these days." She took up her oars again. "Anyway, don't say you weren't warned. Either Avon leaves, or you all do."

"Wait, Jenna! I heard some people in Rio saying--ow!" Vila glared at Avon, who had just kicked him very hard in the shin.

"Shut up, Vila," Avon said in a low voice.

Vila moved out of range and looked at Soolin reproachfully. "And you, Soolin. Why have you changed sides?"

"It's not a matter of sides, Vila. It's a job. I worked for Jenna once, and I am again."

"You never said!"

"I like to be discreet about my clients."

"That's enough talking," said Jenna sternly. "Pack up and leave while you can."

As the boat turned to sail away, they could see the name Amagon picked out in white paint on its stern.

"Avon? Why didn't you want me to tell them what those fellows said?"

"Because I want to tell Blake myself."

"Patch things up, you mean? Ha! Think that'll be easy, do you?" said Vila bitterly.

Avon looked at him, and for a moment, Vila thought he saw a brief flash of pain in his eyes, but he must have been wrong.

"You didn't even try to put up a fight," Avon said quietly. "Would you have thrown me off?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because there are better things than spending the rest of your life having nightmares about killing a friend." Vila sighed and looked at his feet; yet again he had just chosen the option that frightened him the least.

"Yes," said Avon after a moment, and turned and walked away.

"Avon?" Vila started after him.

"Don't, Vila." Tarrant grabbed his arm. "Leave him be."

"But maybe I should say something. I mean, he almost sounded sorry."

"I think you said enough." Tarrant squeezed Vila's shoulder. "You already called him a friend."

"You know what?" said Dayna heartily. "I think it's time for a cup of tea and some bunloaf. And perhaps even a piece of chocolate."

Vila gave them a small smile. "All right."

***

Avon brought Rebel's sail down and got out the oars some distance away from the houseboat because he did not want Blake to see his as yet less than perfect mastery of sailing. What was it Soolin had called out? Oh, yes. "Ahoy! Ahoy there!"

A face appeared at a window for a moment, then Blake lumbered out onto the deck. "Get away from here, Avon, you brute! All right, everyone knows bounty hunters wear personal armour, but at that range, those bullets went in half an inch! Do you have any idea how much that stung?"

Avon thought that with the excess blubber Blake had acquired, there wouldn't have been much damage. "You said you set me up. That had happened far too many times in the last year or so."

"I said I had set all this up! Not you!" Blake swung the laser cannon and aimed it at Avon. "I wanted to find more criminals like the ones I'd had, and what a stupid idea that was! Now you get moving before I blow that little boat out of the water."

Into it would be more accurate, thought Avon. "Look, I've come to make it up--"

"You can't."

"--by warning you that two men over in Rio--"

"You expect me to believe anything you say? Especially after you've been trespassing on my houseboat?"

"I haven't!"

"Well, Vila then. Someone's been here and you lot are the obvious culprits."

"If Vila had been on your boat," said Avon, "then you wouldn't know it. And I may be many things, but I'm not a liar."

"Why draw the line there?"

Avon went white. "If you don't want to listen to me," he said stiffly, " then I shall leave."

"It took you long enough to get the hint. I suggest you make it fast. This thing is powered up."

Without another word, Avon turned the Rebel, shipped his oars, and put the sail up. Not being very good at it was a lot better than rowing away while facing Blake.

When he got back to Wild Cat Island, he went straight past the camp and up the tie highest point of the island and sat there, staring out at the lake for a very long time.

***

"And I suggest a first strike," Avon said after supper.

"Against the Amagons?" said Vila, looking worried.

"Yes. We attack tonight while they're asleep and hole their boat--"

"Scuttle it, you mean" said Tarrant with relish.

"--so they can't get out here and cause any more trouble."

Dayna, who was clearing the cooking things away, grinned a predatory grin. "And if they interrupt us, all the better."

"Of course, someone will have to stay to guard the camp and light a lamp--" Avon held up one of the three they had bought "--to guide us into harbour when they hear us returning."

Vila looked even more nervous and wished he'd retired to his tent.

"Tarrant can stay."

"Oh, I say!" Tarrant pushed his lower lip out. "Why me?"

"You're the only choice. We need Dayna to sail and I'd rather have Vila where I can keep an eye on him."

"Jolly good; we have a plan." Dayna kicked earth over the fire. "I'm looking forward to seeing some decent action."

***

"Have you got it straight, Tarrant?" asked Avon. "Keep watch, and when you hear us coming back, light a lamp and hang it on that tree."

"How will I know it's you though?"

Avon sighed. "We'll say, 'It's us'."

"But that's always true, no matter who says it," Vila objected.

Avon glared at him. "Very well," he said to Tarrant. "We will call out, 'Rebel arriving'."

Tarrant nodded, satisfied.

"Good. Then we'd better get going."

Vila tucked his hands under his arms. "It's a bit nippy, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." Dayna frowned at him. "You'd better go and put on another layer before you start coughing again. Hurry up."

Vila disappeared into his tent for a few moments, then emerged wearing a second set of trousers and jacket. "Pity we didn't buy any self-heated suits."

"So that you could burn yourself again turning the thermostat on full?" said Avon. "If we're all ready, let's get going."



There was enough wind to get across the lake to the river the Amagons had gone up, but once they moved into it, Dayna had to lower the sail and bring out the oars. She and Avon took one each. "Ship's boy," she said, "you'll have to direct us and keep an eye out for any obstacles."

"Right." Vila widened his eyes till they smarted in an attempt to see more than the softly gleaming water and the dark banks either side--and one was getting rather close. "No! That wasn't a direction! Left a bit!"

"You will have to be more clear," said Avon, rattled because he had 'caught a crab' and drenched his new leather.

Dayna laughed. "This is Vila you're talking about."

Vila scowled unseen. "Something ahead."

Avon rolled his eyes. "Of course there is! Could you be a little more specific."

"No, because I don’t know what they are." Vila squinted at the water. "There are all these white things in the water." He dipped his hand and pulled it back quickly, screwing his nose up. "Ooh, tentacles!"

"Probably octopuses," said Dayna with relish. "Except that they're usually in the sea."

"Octopi," said Avon.

"Actually," said Vila, distracted from his nervous contemplation of the possibility of a white thing climbing over the side to eat him. "I know that one. It's octopodes. People think it's Latin, but it's Greek."

Avon gritted his teeth and wished Vila was within reach of a fast-swinging boom. He dipped his oar and hooked one of the ghostly things, "They're lilies, you donkey. If we don't put the oars in too deeply, we should be able to get through."

After a few minutes, Vila said softly, "There's a house on the right bank. Um, your left. Tarrant's port if he was here. Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind a nice drop of--"

"Vila!"

"And there's one of those boathouses in front."

"Bear starboard for a closer look," said Dayna. "No, Avon, Rebel's starboard."

"I see no point in continuing to use this ridiculous terminology."

"But that's the point. Port and starboard are clear and logical. They're the same sides of the boat no matter which way you're facing."

Avon seethed.

"It's them all right," said Vila. "There's a sign. 'Amagon Property. Keep out on pain of slow death.' Wonderful."

Dayna sculled until they were broadside on to the dark opening of the boatshed, and Avon could turn his torch on and shine it in.

"They're not there!" He snapped it off.

"That's odd," said Vila. "Wonder where they are at this time of night."

They all stared at each other. "On Wild Cat Island, trying to do the same to us, of course." Avon took up his oar again. "We'd better get back, and fast."

"We certainly had." Dayna looked back towards the lake. "It's getting a bit misty out there."

***

At first Tarrant rather liked being alone in charge of the island. He checked that the fire was out, that all the tents were properly taut and weighted down, and that the perimeter trip-wire was unbroken and well attached to all of their pots and pans. When he ran out of things to do, though, he got a bit bored and went to sit by the still-warm ashes of the fire with a mug of Vila's grog and imagined that he was shipwrecked.

The dread pirate Cap'n Tarrant had lost his ship off the Barbary Coast in a storm and had only just managed to make it to a small island by clinging to a plank of wood. He now shivered in the darkness under a coconut palm--did they have those in that part of Earth or was it dates?--and wondered whether any of his crew had survived. When the sun rose, he would walk right round the island, checking for footprints in the sand. Perhaps a native he could call after a day or a month lived here.

Now that would be fun. The native could show him how to live here and would also be a loyal servant who would never question his orders once he'd taught him how to speak Standard. Perhaps he could cut straight to the meeting.

It was morning and the hot sun beat down on Cap'n Tarrant's shoulders and on the glittering turquoise sea as he walked along the beach--and suddenly, there it was! A set of large bare footprints going down to the water and back. He followed them inland, cutting through the thick undergrowth with a machete. (Oh yes, he'd had the machete because he'd been using it to bring the sails down and it was in his hand as he'd been swept overboard and he'd embedded it in the plank that had brought him ashore. After all, it was a useful thing to have.)

He had lost the native's trail, but now he smelled fire and cooking fish. Oh good; the faithful native wasn't eating any of his crew. He pushed creepers and lianas (or were they creepers too?) aside and--

What was that noise? Were they back already? Surely not; they'd have called out as they had agreed, and whoever they were, they were being awfully stealthy. It was only the quiet rustle and crunch of dried leaves that gave them away.

Until they hit the perimeter wire and there was a crash and a clatter of cooking ware.

"Rattle my rockets!" said Jenna.

"It rather sounds as if you have." That was Soolin with her dry, amused voice.

"Help me up, you great galoot."

A torch came on and its beam wavered though the trees. Tarrant slipped towards the opposite side of the perimeter and stepped over the wire with his long legs, grinning to himself.

"You ought to turn that off," said Soolin. "A trip wire means a trap and I bet they're lying in wait for us."

The torch went out and there was a tense silence. Tarrant moved quietly away, testing each footfall before putting his weight slowly on it, working his way round towards where they must have come from. He was on the rocky shore when he heard Jenna's disgusted voice. "Stardrives and gravity wells! There's no one here."

He held his breath.

"We know where they tie their boat up though. Come on!"

Tarrant let his breath out. Amagon was a dark shape on the moonlit lake in front of him, tied to a tree. It didn't take him long to untie it, get into it, and push off from a rock. Afraid it would occur to them to check their own boat, he lay down in the bottom and waggled a single oar out the stern. When he had heard nothing for about five minutes and was well out of reach, he sat up and took the other oar and rowed until he had put Amagon behind a small rocky island. They wouldn't see him here; they'd think the boat was far away. He tied up to a rock and lay down again, feeling very pleased with himself, and looked up at the stars and the moons.

The fire had turned out to be pirates, and Cap'n Tarrant had daringly taken their ship while they were eating, marooning them on the island. But was he quite alone on the ship? There was a noise below, and he crept to the stair, his machete in his hand. A dark face looked up at him.

"Ah. July, I presume."

Hang on. Those stars were getting rather dim and there were wisps of mist across the moons, and it was also getting rather chilly. Tarrant lowered the sail and let its folds cover most of him.

He wished he'd thought to wear an extra layer like Vila.

***

"You don't know where we are do you?" said Avon.

"On the lake." Dayna sounded cross.

"Oh, that's helpful."

Dayna heaved a sigh. "Look, just keep an eye out, you two, and as soon as we see anything we'll tie up till the fog's lifted."

***

Tarrant was dozing when he heard voices approaching over the water; deep ones. He peered over the side but he couldn't see anything. Wait--was that the hum of a grav-sled? Yes, he could see a slight darker shape in the mist now: low, long, and with two lumps. He ducked down again.

"Good night's work," one of the men aboard said. "And I reckon he's the bounty hunter they want. Five thousand good Federation credits each, they said."

"And if anyone realises he's missing before they come to collect him, they can look till they're blue in the face and they'll never find him out there on that little island," the other one said, and laughed. "After all, there's nothing there, is there. Plain as the nose on yer face."

"I think that's earned us a drink when we get back to Rio." The voice faded as the sled got further away. "And a good hot dinn--"

Of course they'd have decent navigation on that thing. Tarrant sat up and stared into the fog after them. Was that Blake they'd been talking about?

***

"It's Tarrant! Ahoy there, Tarrant!"

Tarrant opened his eyes and sat up, blinking in the early morning sun and pushing the sail off himself.

"And you've got their boat!" Dayna grinned at him from Rebel.

"Well done," said Avon.

Tarrant straightened proudly and tried, not very successfully, to look modest. "But I say, where have you lot been all this time?"

"We couldn't see to go out on the lake," said Dayna, "so we tied up to a pier and spent the night there till the sun came up and burned the mist off."

"And it was freezing!" said Vila.

"You had two sets of clothes on." Dayna looked critically at him. "Oh, Vila! You've burst most of your buttons off!"

"Well, you did make me put on two of everything and there wasn't enough room in one of them for the other."

"If you think I'm going to sew them on again, you can think again. You'd better find them all and I'll give you needle and thread when we get back to camp."

Grumbling to himself, Vila began feeling about in the bottom of Rebel. "Ugh! There's water in here."

"Listen," said Tarrant. "You remember those chaps Vila heard talking in Rio? I think they took Blake." And he told them about what he'd seen and heard in the night.

"Oh, come on, Tarrant," said Dayna. "You must have dreamed it. I know you and your stories starring yourself--I've seen your datapad back on the Liberator, remember--and I bet everything that's happened in the last few days got all mixed up in your mind and into a dream."

"But it was so real!"

"All right then, which island was it?"

"They were on their way back to Rio, and a grav-sled would have proper nav on board, so they'd be going straight to it from the island. They passed by me not far from where you are now, so that would make it..." Tarrant twisted on his seat and pointed. "...that one!"

"That rocky little one with the tree." Dayna sounded disbelieving.

Avon barely gave it a glance. "There's no one on it."

"It's the only one that fits," Tarrant said stubbornly. "They did say no one would find him and that was as plain as the nose on your face."

"Any more personal remarks like that and you will live to regret it."

Tarrant gave up. It didn't make much sense after all. Perhaps he had dreamed it.

"Never mind." Dayna grinned at him. "I think the able seaman should sail his prize into port."

Tarrant smiled back at her. "Aye aye, captain!"

"But it's starboard, not port," said Vila, and rubbed his arm resentfully where Dayna thumped him. "Ow, that hurt."



The Amagons were on the shore waiting for them, and behind them a thin line of smoke rose from the camp. "Jolly good show," said Jenna grudgingly. "Slosh my glycolene tanks, but that was a clever trap."

Unwilling to admit that it had been mostly accident, Avon smiled his most crocodile-like smile.

They both watched him warily, Soolin with her hand worryingly close to her gun. "So, what now?" she asked.

"I'd say it was a draw." Avon stepped ashore. "If we can agree to leave each other alone, you can take your boat and leave."

Jenna scowled at him. "Fair enough."

"But you can't!" Vila said to Avon. "It's Jenna! We haven’t seen her for years! And it's Soolin!"

Avon looked at him coldly. "Once more you state the obvious to no apparent purpose."

But the corner of Jenna's mouth had twitched up slightly, and Soolin said, "We do have the fire going for a cup of tea."

"And breakfast!" Dayna said enthusiastically, having folded and secured Rebel's sail. "I could do fried eggs and bacon and toast!"



"Perhaps you two might believe me." Tarrant put his empty mug down and told the Amagons about the grav-sled in the mist.

"He dreamed it," said Avon dismissively.

Jenna frowned. "Is that true, Vila? You heard someone discussing that in town?"

Vila just nodded, his mouth full of fried egg and toast.

"Hmph. Even if Tarrant did dream it, rattle my rockets, but that's a rather a worry."

Tarrant pouted. "I didn't!"

"In that case, what island did they put him on? I know this lake and this is the only one you can hide anyone or anything on."

"Maybe they did mean this one," said Dayna. "And then they made a wide detour to put people off their scent."

"In the fog?" Tarrant objected.

"He's got a point," said Soolin.

"And besides," said Jenna, "we've been all over this one looking for you."

"We can check one thing out easily enough." Avon stood up. "We can go and see if Blake's on his houseboat as soon as everyone's finished breakfast." He looked pointedly at Vila, who had just made himself another toast and egg sandwich.

Jenna narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "We'll all go."

***

As the ship's boy's job was to tie the Rebel up, Vila was the first up the ladder. "The door's not locked," he said, somewhat disappointed.

"Which means it wasn't forced," said Avon, climbing onto the deck.

Jenna was the next on board. "Blake!" she called. "Stardrives and gravity wells, Blake, are you there?"

"It seems not."

She put her hands on her hips. "In that case, it seems your Tarrant is right. Blake would never go off and leave this place unlocked."

Avon frowned.

Vila opened the door and stopped at the top of the steps. "This is nice. Very comfy. Much better than tents."

The houseboat's main cabin was roomy and well furnished, with a series of large windows down each side covered at the moment with cheerful red curtains, and benches with padded seats and backs which could fold out into beds if needed.

"Out of my way, idiot," said Avon.

Vila went down the steps and opened the curtains, letting the sun stream in onto the wooden table in the centre and the little galley by the steps. He nodded at another door at the far end. "I suppose that's his cabin through there."

"He may have known who it was at the door," said Avon thoughtfully, "and just forgotten to lock it."

"No," said Jenna.

Vila found that if he pulled the bright green backs of the seats forward, there were cupboards with sliding wooden doors. "He's got enough here to live on for a month! Tins of baked beans, sardines, plum puddings, crackers, cheese--"

"Get your nose out of there, Vila," said Avon.

"If it was someone he didn't know," said Tarrant from the doorway where the rest were gathered, "he'd have to open the door to see."

Vila shrugged and bit into one of the Garibaldi biscuits on a plate on the table.

"Or he might have thought it was us. Or Avon annoying him again." Jenna looked around, trying to see if anything was out of place, while Avon glowered at her back. "Slosh my glycolene tanks! I think there was a struggle!"

"What do you mean?" said Avon.

"Blake always had a cup of hot cocoa with biscuits before he went to bed. There are the biscuits--"

"No wonder he's the size of a small spaceship. And don't eat the evidence, Vila," Avon added wearily.

"--but where's his mug?" Jenna paused in thought. "He'd have gone to the door with it in his hand, so... Look! There!" She pointed at the floor by the galley. In a dark corner lay a broken blue mug and a dried patch of spilled cocoa.

Denied biscuits, Vila had now discovered that there were drawers under the bench seats. He opened one. Clothes. He tried another.

"So I was right!" Tarrant looked smug.

"Doesn't tell us where Blake is," Jenna said shortly.

"On that little island!"

"That doesn't make sense."

There were clothes in this drawer too, and on top was a large pair of swimming trunks, in a bright blue with little spaceships and planets all over them. "Look!" Vila held them up. "Captain Flint's trunks!"

"Don't be an idiot," Avon said automatically, and the rest were too busy arguing to notice. Vila sat down and looked at the trunks. He couldn't imagine Blake buying them for himself, not the Blake he'd seen in the tracking gallery, but someone had, perhaps Jenna. And Blake had not just kept them but used them; they were in the very top of that drawer. Somehow that was very consoling and hopeful.

No one was looking at him, so Vila folded them and slid them into his jacket.

"We could find those fellows and follow them," said Dayna.

"How? By combing Rio? Well, we're not doing any good here," Avon said. "I suggest that we go back to the camp and work out what to do." And of course that wasn't really a suggestion; it was a command. He barely spared Vila a glance. "Lock up here before you leave."

***

Tarrant went over to Vila, where he was sitting quietly near the fire, looking more contented than Tarrant had seen him for a while, and this diverted him briefly. "What are you looking so happy about?"

"We're back together, at least for a while. All right, not Gan or Cally," Vila said regretfully, "or Blake--yet." He brightened. "But it's a start."

"Speaking of Blake, can I have a word with you?"

Vila nodded.

"Come on, then." Tarrant started to walk towards the trees between them and the little harbour

Curious, Vila got up to follow him.

"You liked Blake, didn't you?"

"That's why I stayed with him."

"So you'll come with me to find him?"

Vila looked at him doubtfully. "To that rocky island?"

"It's all I have to go on, Vila. And if I've got it all wrong, I'll let it rest."

They had reached the boats by now, and Vila looked out over the lake and thought about Captain Flint's absurdly bright trunks hidden in his jacket. "I'm not sure I believe you, but it's worth a try, I suppose."

Tarrant flashed him a smile so dazzling it occurred to Vila that his teeth could be used for the Morse code signalling he'd been going on about over morning tea.



Tarrant tended the sail while Vila, well out of the way of the end of the boom, steered with the rudder, which he worked out very quickly had to go the opposite way to where he wanted to go. "I suppose this makes me an able seaman."

"Don't push your luck." Tarrant pointed. "Bring her alongside that rock and I'll tie up." He leaped ashore and looked around. He had to admit, there was nothing here: just rocks and a dead tree which had run out of soil a long time ago. He sighed. There wouldn't even be any footprints.

"It's like a treasure island in one of your books," said Vila, coming up beside him. "You know, ten paces to the blighted tree, then four paces left."

"Mm." Tarrant looked at the tree. It was the only thing on the island that wasn’t rock. He wasn't very up on trees, but they had roots, and if this island had lost all its soil, there would be a gap underneath. "Come on!" He walked over to the tree and all around it. Between its dead roots was just darkness. He crouched down, took out his gun, and tapped experimentally between them as Vila leaned over to look. There was a metallic clank followed by a faint thumping. Tarrant straightened up, banging his head on Vila's. "He's in there!"

"Ow!" Vila rubbed his head. "But how do we get the tree off him?"

There must be a way. Tarrant looked around. "There! It's anchored there, there, and--" He looked around the other side. "--there."

Sure enough, there was a rusty loop around a root near Vila, and he knelt to have a closer look. "Padlock." He had it open in a couple of seconds and moved to the next.

"Just those two should do it. Good, Now help me pull the tree back."

Vila looked doubtful.

"Get a move on, Vila! It doesn't weigh that much."

They soon had the tree lying on its side, the gnarled roots in the air, and were looking down at the surface of a metal box embedded in the hollow underneath.

"Someone must have knocked out a bigger hole and built this to hide their swag in," said Vila.

"Pirates," said Tarrant, savouring the thought.

"Not our Amagons though. Those blokes I heard talking wouldn't have known about it."

"Don't blather on, Vila, just get it open!"

"I am, I am. Here you go." Vila finished picking the lock and lifted the lid.

Blake was squeezed in like a sardine in one of his tins, squinting up at them. "Is that you, Vila?" he said uncertainly.

"Me and Tarrant, yes." Vila reached down, grasped Blake's hand, and helped him to unfold himself and climb stiffly out.

Blake swayed, blinking in the sun. "About time. It was getting jolly hot in there."

Vila said nothing, still unsure if this was the Blake he had so looked forward to finding again.

"Well done, Vila." Blake patted Vila's arm. "Good man."

Vila glowed with pride. Blake might not have even noticed him in the tracking gallery, but he certainly had now. Then he saw the wistful look on Tarrant's face. "I only got the locks open," he said. "It was Tarrant who knew you were here, and he wouldn't give up even though no one believed him."

Blake looked searchingly at Tarrant. "Well done, you too," he said gruffly. "I misjudged you, lad."

Tarrant smiled, almost bashfully. "People often do. Especially if they've met uncle Dev." He bent to close the lid.

"Wait!" Vila pulled out Captain Flint's trunks and held them up. "Imagine what the Federation will do if they get dragged out here and only find these." He dropped them in and closed the lid.

Blake threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Oh Vila, I've missed you!"

"I missed you too, actually." Vila gave Blake a sudden and brief hug, and stepped back, grinning happily. Yes, this was Blake under the scar and the stubble and the added ballast.

"Then we'd better lock up and leave it the way we found it," said Tarrant. He grinned. "I shouldn't like to be in those chaps' boots."

Blake nodded. "Dead men's boots."

When the tree was upright again, Blake put an arm over Vila's shoulder and the other over Tarrant's. "Well done, you two. Now let's get back to the others."

Vila looked up at him. "Even Avon."

Blake hesitated. "Even Avon," he rumbled.

***

Someone must have seen them because everyone was waiting for them as they came in.

"We found Blake," Vila said unnecessarily.

"I was right!" said Tarrant.

"Yes. I can see that." Avon's eyes were on Blake as he climbed ashore.

Blake stopped in front of him. "Avon."

"Blake."

"And they talk about me stating the obvious," Vila said to Tarrant.

"You said you set it up." Avon looked pale and strained. "Do you have any idea how many times we were--"

"Yes. Soolin told me. That is no excuse for you shooting an unarmed man, even with that stupid popgun you found, or for dragging my crew in to danger."

"Your crew?"

"Vila, then."

"I say!" Vila was unsure whether to be aggrieved, or pleased at Blake's concern.

"I suppose you prefer to keep that your prerogative."

"It's getting a bit nippy," Vila said to no one in particular, hoping to distract them. And it was true. The wind had come up and there were some very threatening-looking dark clouds coming in from over the hills.

"I tried," said Avon. "I tried to carry on your rebellion."

"He did, you know," said Vila, wondering if he could get round them to his tent and his extra layer of clothing.

Blake frowned at Avon, then up at the sky as the wind plucked at his large (and now rather grubby) sleeves.

"Storm coming," said Jenna. "Rattle my rockets, but it's going to be a big one."

"Hmph." Blake stepped past Avon. "Show me your camp."

Avon shook his head in weary acceptance and followed him.

Blake glanced into the tents. "Weighted with rocks. Clever improvisation."

Dayna beamed with delight.

"But it won't hold in a high wind, and the rain will wash everything out."

Dayna's face fell.

"Only one thing for it." Blake put his hands on his hips. "Strike camp and we'll all go back to my houseboat till it's blown over. I've room for all of you."

Vila looked at him in hope. "Even Avon?"

"Yes, Even Avon." And Blake smiled.

And everything was all right.
 
 
 
entropy_houseentropy_house on January 1st, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
Dayna obviously loved camping. :^)
Nicovilakins on January 1st, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
She's an outdoors girl.
Video Deteriora Sequor: snakes7executrix on January 1st, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
I've heard of but never read your source text, so I can't say if it's canon-compliant there, but I found this a very plausible way for PGP to work out for everybody. And Dayna is usually first against the wall, so I enjoyed seeing her have a real contribution to make.

And I'm glad to see Tarrant just the way I envision him--making a complete nuisance of himself. (I don't think I'll ever be able to think of him without seeing your illustrations, especially the Molesworth one.)

Very sweet, funny story, and yay for Amagonian female bonding!
Nico: jenna lionvilakins on January 1st, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

Hello space, hello planets, hello persute ships, he sa, dansing around like a tall drink of pansie water.

Nancy the ruthless pirate (whose piratical expressions I spacified, is one of my favourite characters in the books. Ransome wrote some wonderfully intelligent and tough female characters which makes him really stand out in the field.
Video Deteriora Sequor: outofprintexecutrix on January 2nd, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
It has long been a byword in publishing that girls will read books for boys but boys not only won't read books FOR girls but won't read books with girls in them, so applause to Ransome for rowing upstream.
Nico: booksvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
It paid off for him too: those books are adored classics. He gets into children's minds so well too that there's at least one character any reader can identify with: the tough pirate, the enthusiastic role-player (almost all of them fit that one), the dreamy would-be author, the geek/scientist/engineer (not in this book) etc. Boys love them too for the adventures, sailing, and the outdoor life independent of adults. I was amazed when I reread them last year to find how very well-written they are.
Video Deteriora Sequor: wanttoexecutrix on January 2nd, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that Stephen King was right when he says you never have friends like the ones you have when you're 12, but I bet that even a book-loving adult isn't quite as passionate as a book-loving child, so it's a sad commentary that it should be *surprising* that good writers would write for children.

PS--sjkasabi was talking about Swallows and Amazons stories on Yuletide so I linked this, because I know she's a B7 fan so would get the "other half."
Nico: jenna lionvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
I don't find it surprising that good authors write for children--I raid the YA section at the library because so many grown-up (can't use 'adult') books so lack imagination. I do find it amazing that Ransome wrote such good, strong, quirky females at that time, especially when he grew up in the 19th century.

There are Swallows and Amazon stories in Yuletide? I never even though to look! I shall now.
Vanvan on January 2nd, 2008 01:01 am (UTC)
This is really clever and . . . and cute, in a weird way, if that makes sense. Funny in starts and fits. I love the Avon and Vila octopus thing, and Tarrant being right and Vila trusting him and everything. It's really fun, and has a happy ending and everything! Soolin and Jenna together is just so fantastic. :D Great job!
Nico: callyport tellyvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad it works--to an extent--for people who don't know the source. :-)

I'm hoping a fan of the book will read it because a major plot point was Captain Flint's trunk (singular) and so far no one's got that little (well, large, considering the size of bounty-hunter Blake) in-joke. :-P
Vanvan on January 2nd, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
*chokes* Ahahha, yes. I can see how that would be very funny if you know the source. I am sad I don't! I'm sure the fan of the book will love it though. XD
frothy derision: bibliophagyinvisibleshrew on January 2nd, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
OMG BLAKE IS CAPTAIN FLINT!1!!!!111

Please advise shipping address for delivery of your new internets.

...so I read this on two levels, which was rather head-spinning. One was as a verrrrrry rusty Blakes7 fan, being charmed by lines like this :Vila sighed and looked at his feet; yet again he had just chosen the option that frightened him the least. The other was a rather more up to date Ransome reader (*cough* within the last decade counts as up to date, yes? *cough*) splitting my sides at the way you have mapped one story onto the other.

So very funny - and only very slightly wrong, as these things go ; I'm sure that my childhood will forgive me eventually.
Nico: joyvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 06:49 am (UTC)
Yay, someone who knows the book! [bounce]

I reread most of the series last year (I still have to find them all) and was amazed at how Vila-like Roger is! And jib-booms and bob-stays, but I love Nancy!
azdakazdak on January 2nd, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
I've read the books, but a long time ago (appropriately enough, I did most of my Ransome reading on wet holidays in the Lake District), so I regret to say that I didn't pick up on the trunks/trunk joke, but I still thought Vila realising Captain Flint must be fundamentally decent because his trunks had little rocket ships on them was hysterical.

I thinki it's incredibly clever the way you manage to keep a kind of double vision going throughout - if you twist the binoculars one way, an excellent PGP springs into focus, with the characters struggling to survive, sort out their issues and be reunited with Blake. Twist them the other way, and you've got a bunch of little children playing at an adventure story. At no point does one "vision" dominate at the expense of the other. The voices are simply wonderful (especially Jenna's piratical expletives) and it's extraordinary how convincingly the B7 crew map onto the children. Dayna frankly comes into her own in this story, because of COURSE she'd know all about surviving in the Great Outdoors and would leap at the chance to make fires and catch fish and sleep in tents. Vila, as you say is Roger, and the others work wonderfully well, too. Brilliant work.
Nico: worthwhilevilakins on January 2nd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
It was because they were so ridiculous but he wore them anyway. :-) In the book, Captain Flint's trunk full of the autobiography he was writing was stolen by local thieves but Titty hears them, like Tarrant does, and makes Roger go and find it with her.

especially Jenna's piratical expletives

Jib-booms and bob-stays! Shiver my timbers! I do love Nancy and Jenna fits her well.

Thank you so much. I had enormous fun writing this.
The other Lindareapermum on January 2nd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
A latecomer to the party, but BRILLIANT.

Tarrant was so Titty, he wouldn't quite work as Dot. If you did one of the later books Avon would be Dick, but he worked well as John "I am the eldest.".

And nobody had to be Susan, I always felt Susan was the wet blanket of the family.

And I did spot the trunks.
Nico: joyvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
:-D Thank you!

Yes, Avon would be a wonderful Dick! Dayna did take the Susan spot, but I left her very Dayna (and partially John as she was the one who could sail) because I find Susan so boring and too stereotypically female. However that's just Susan; Ransome writes role-playing Titty, the ruthless Nancy, author Dot, and even understanding Mrs Walker so very well as not at all the usual sort of 1930s fictional females.
The other Lindareapermum on January 2nd, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
Dayna would make a good Daisy, but that's further on in canon. And would mean you couldn't have Dick as well.
Nico: booksvilakins on January 2nd, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
I just decided to stick with the first book--which cut Dick out--though Greg wants 'We Didn't Mean To Go To Gauda Prime'. :-P I refuse. No rescuing kittens from asteroids during a meteor storm. ;-)
DoushkasMumdoushkasmum on January 3rd, 2008 10:26 am (UTC)
I followed a link from sj kasabe, I don't know B7 much (I saw 1/2 an episode once) but I love Ransome and I thought this was great. I got the trunks too. If you write We Didn't Mean To Go To Gauda Prime, I promise to read it!
Nico: boyz on the libvilakins on January 3rd, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :-D

I'm not writing it though. I can't make it fit unless it's an AU because it would have to happen before this one (they're on Gauda Prime now), and Blake would have to be the father figure they meet there. I'd have to make it another planet and that wouldn't be as blackly funny.

I could write 'We didn't mean to go to war' and make it the Andromedan one. It can join the other unwritten (non-Ransome) ideas I have.