THE HEAVY DATE
"Life Viewed from a Different Angle"
“It’s the loneliest sound you ever did hear,
But in space, no one can hear Velcro rip.”
Silent Velcro by the Hook-n-Loop Fasteners
Vila Restal was seldom a contented man. Happy? Well, yes; occasionally, such as when he managed to smuggle a bottle or ten of his favorite beverage on board, or when he teleported back to the Liberator after a dangerous mission—then, for a short time, Vila Restal would be wildly happy. But he was not at all a man basically contented with his lot in life. “It’s moments such as these that contribute so heavily to my poor morale,” he thought morosely, plastered spread-eagle to the ceiling nine feet above the floor, staring down at the top of Supreme Commander Servalan’s fuzzy head.
“People, people who use Velcro
Are the luckiest people in the world!
For your friends may let you down
Mess you ‘round, give you a frown;
But your hem will never come unfurled.”
Tinkers, Tailors, Blackmailers by Holding Power
The mission to Space Station Omega had started out with typical surliness and foot-dragging, Avon exhibiting the former and Vila the latter, which Cally had chirpily declared “a good sign.” “When you two start off one of your adventures with good manners and eagerness, then I will worry.”
Avon had glowered and muttered dire threats on the life of somebody named ‘Pollyanna’, whoever that was, and Vila had had, he thought, one of his typical flashes of brilliance.
“Well, let’s get on with it then! Come along, Avon, can’t wait to pop down into a crowd of soldiers bristling with armaments! That’s why I joined this little group, to meet new people. Let’s go!”
“Too little, too late, too obvious, Vila,” Blake grinned, adjusting the dial on Avon’s environmental suit. “Avon, are you quite certain you’ve figured out how the suits work?”
“Of course I have!” Avon snapped, slapping Blake’s hand away. “Do you believe for one second I’d be wearing it, let alone staking my life on it, if I hadn’t?”
Vila peered at the control panel on the front of his environmental suit doubtfully. They’d found them in a storage closet near an airlock on one of the lower decks. They were of completely alien design to EVA apparel he’d seen before, even the actual fabric most of the suit was made up of was odd. It looked nubby, like plush terrycloth, not smoothly metallic or plastic as one might expect. Avon had said the suit would instantly mend itself if it were cut open, probably before the wearer even realized there’d been an accident. Vila approved of this design capability heartily, but he wasn’t so sure about the control panel on the chest piece. He’d tried to get Avon to translate some of the little alien symbols labeling the various controls into an understandable language, then tag the pertinent dials and tubes for present-day Liberator crew use, but Avon had rolled his eyes in exasperation. “If you have memory enough to store the sum total of the galaxy’s information on security systems in that tiny cranium of yours, you can certainly remember that the three-symbol word in red on the left side is your back-up oxygen and the five-symbol word in blue on the right is your cooling system control.”
Vila had squinted at the tiny alien script again. “Is that my right, your left or your right, my left?”
Avon had given a strangled cry and thrown a book at the thief, then stalked out. Coming out from under the table, Vila had found that the book was full of Avon’s notes on the operation of the environmental suit, and immediately read it cover to cover. But he’d also wasted an awful lot of time just playing with the suit helmet’s water and snack dispensers. Vila smiled at the memory of an Avon near tears in frustration, then frowned, hoping he’d learned enough from the notes to work the alien environmental suit. He pushed a dial and felt the cool flow of air start up in his suit and knew he’d be okay.
“Close your visor,” Avon told him, closing his own. They both heard Cally’s muffled, “Good luck!” and saw Blake’s encouraging wave, then they were suddenly standing in a darkened laboratory on Space Station Omega.
Space Station Omega was an infamous place. Devoted to pure science, it was here that Federation biochemists did their tests and studies on microorganisms without giving a second thought to what they might eventually be used for. That was why, in the underground newspaper, The Freedom Fighter, the Greek letter “Omega” was usually printed to look like a tiny skull. True, some of their work turned out quite helpful to the human condition, for instance, one experimental bacteria would attach itself to the human pancreas and generate insulin for a diabetic patient—but most were not so benign. The virus that station security dusted the halls with had been created in these very labs. Usually inert, if the virus happened upon someone who had not been given the antidote before exposure, that person would die instantly. It was efficient pest control if a bit of overkill.
One breeding room on the station held a germ the scientist had dubbed “Servalan’s pet” because she had been after them for three months now to complete the testing phase and release it to her for use in the field. Coincidentally, it was into precisely that lab that our intrepid pair teleported.
“I don’t need no Velcro, mama; I got shoelaces on my kicks.
I don’t want no Velcro, mama, I got zippers on my jeans. Dig?
Don’t want that Velcro, mama, why don’t ya hear me when I speak?
That Velcro’s bad stuff, mama, that Velcro will never make my scene. Dig?”
Velcro No Go by The Fuzz
Vila did not like where he was. The wavering glow on the ceiling unnerved him as the breeding light shone through the blue and green muck roiling in the sealed 500 liter tanks that lined the walls. The low rumble of the pumps drowned out the more delicate pssss of his own suit’s air pumps. Avon ignored the churning mess and stepped around a small metal desk in the center of the room to examine the wall of files that stretched from the floor to the ceiling nine feet above their heads. “Just like a morgue,” Vila gulped. Avon ignored him and turned on the view-scan set into the wall, flipping through the titles of the files to be found there. The Federation had recently taken to keeping certain information in hard copy only due to Orac’s known ability to bend any Tarriel cell in creation to his will, hence the necessity for a physical break-in.
“I can scarcely believe it. We are in the correct place, for once. The plague antidote formula we’re looking for is in file 8D in this room. Blake will get to play savior to the Hepasians after all.”
“Uh, Avon,” said Vila, “the way these files are numbered? I think 8D is—top row.”
The two contemplated the top row of files a little over two and a half feet above their heads. Vila was right. “I guess we need a ladder,” he suggested.
“Ye-es, I can see us tapping a guard on the shoulder—pardon me, where might your workmen’s storage area be? Or perhaps you have a footstool or three to loan us?” Avon looked straight up at the ceiling, difficult to see due to the gloom and the wavering light patterns. “Ah, I understand now. This is a space station of the sort designed for biological experiments, some of which must be done in null gravity. Each of the labs is designed with adjustable gravity. This is going to be tricky, Vila.”
“Surprise me, why don’t you? I vote we go home.”
Avon found the grav-controls inset in the metal desk and examined them. “I am going to cut the gravity, Vila; you push off gently—better yet, use the handles on the drawers to bring yourself up to the eighth row. If we had the right boots, you could stand upside-down on the ceiling, but I don’t see any around here.”
“And now you’re not listening to what I have to say. Is this any way to run a revolution?!”
“All right, all right,” Vila sighed, then positioned himself at row D, patted his tool belt to make sure nothing was loose enough to float away, and grabbed the handle in front of him.
“I’m cutting it... now!” Vila’s stomach slowly rose to his gorge as the gravity beneath him slowly leaked away to wherever gravity went when it wasn’t needed. He clung to the wall, fighting nausea. At Avon’s Get moving!, he began using the file drawer handles to “climb” the short distance to the top-most file drawer. The feeling was claustrophobic as his smooth helmet softly bumped the ceiling, which seemed to be carpeted with an odd little forest of tiny, close plastic points. It looked oddly familiar. Mentally shrugging, he examined the lock on the file drawer and began to feel better as he became involved in a new puzzle to solve. Without really thinking about it, his feet slowly drifted up until he had assumed that peculiar baboon-like crouch all humans fall into in null gravity. He gently fiddled with the small lock.
Avon watched him, amused. He wanted to urge the thief to hurry up, but knew Vila was already working as quickly as possible and an interruption now would only serve to distract him. Avon gripped the hand-holds provided on the desk, his attention totally taken up by the sight of the thief at work.
This is undoubtedly why he failed to notice the door easing open behind him.
“She held that piece of paper
Like a gold coin in her hand.
‘Twas the patent rights to Velcro
She owned the rights throughout the land.”
Miss Rich Velcro Bitch by The Commondude Commandos
Several things happened in quick succession, indeed virtually simultaneously.
“Got it!” Vila yelled and flung the file drawer open on its hinges.
“Got you!” Servalan yelled and flung the lab door open, the Federation soldier behind her turning on the lights as she did so.
“Aaugh!!” hollered Vila, blinded and terrified, and he involuntarily pushed himself away from the wall. He hung, struggling, in mid-air.
“Eeeeeek!!” yelped Servalan as her soldiers crowded her into room and she hit the area of zero gravity. She pin-wheeled, ass-over-teakettle, in a most undignified manner. One of her men tried to help her and he, too, joined her in mid-air, bouncing off of her and sending her careening in another direction just as she was about to grab a file drawer handle. Avon clung grimly to his hand-holds, thoroughly unamused and unable to act, still covered by the other soldier at the door. Servalan hit the wall and ricocheted off it, flew up and bounced off of Vila as he struggled in free-fall. He hit the ceiling flat-out.
“YOU!” Servalan pointed at Avon only as best as she could, but it was obvious to whom she was referring. “You, cut in the gravity. SLOWLY. Got that?”
“If I could wash away the sight
I’d bathe my eyes in holy light.
I want to blind my memory
But, like Velcro, the horror sticks to me.”
Velcro Hero by Beatitude
Avon toyed briefly with the idea of cutting the gravity off very suddenly, but knew that the pleasure of watching Servalan fall on her pratt would be a short-lived one. He cut in the gravity slowly and the Federation soldier, by virtue of his training, came to rest on his feet, rifle at the ready. Servalan, by dint of twisting like a cat, managed to land on her hands and knees, then struggled ungracefully to her feet, stepping on the hem of her long gown as she did. Flustered, it was several moments before she realized that the criminal who’d been in free-fall had not fallen with the rest of them. She peered up at him, trying to see who it was through the helmet visor.
“Gaaaaah! Get me down!” Vila was stuck, good and tight, by his plushy environmental suit to the ceiling. He wiggled his fingers, the only part of his body he could move, and suddenly realized what Avon had meant when he said if they’d had the proper boots, Vila could have stood on the ceiling—special, fuzzy-bottomed boots.
“Vila Restal,” Servalan’s voice was pure scorn. “I might have known....” She turned to the suited figure her men were relieving of weaponry and bracelet. “Avon? Is that you?” She tilted her head almost coquettishly and looked into the helmet. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she sing-songed.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just stay in here, thank you.”
“Very wise. For now.” She took one of his computer probes and twirled it between long, elegant fingers.
One soldier produced a pair of binders and fastened Avon’s wrists behind his back, while the other went over to stare up at Vila, pondering the problem of how to take away his gun, teleport bracelet, and tool belt when he could not even be reached.
“We could get a ladder,” said one soldier.
His friend joined him. “He could disappear at any moment, though,” was his comment.
“Oh, for pity’s sake—I’ll dial the grav-controls to one sixth gravity, you can leap up, grab his arms, and pull him down!” said the exasperated Supreme Commander, and she brushed the helpless Avon aside to operate the controls. She pulled the lever towards her, the two Federation soldiers bounced up gracefully, seized Vila’s arms, and, with a loud RRRRRRip!, they peeled him off the ceiling.
It was at this precise moment that Avon did an uncharacteristically stupid thing.
“You can’t do nothin’ but tear up the world with your heart, my love!
In the end, I’ll come by and Velcro it back, back together again.”
Sleep, My Weary Velcro Love by Lin Minmai
Avon threw himself at the grav-controls, throwing his shoulder at the lever, dialing it up as high as it would go: 2 Gee. Suddenly, everything weighed twice as much as it did in earth gravity. One hundred and forty-six kilos of rebel thief smashed down onto the heads of the unprepared Federation soldiers, knocking them cold. Servalan sagged, but retained enough of her strength to brandish the laser probe at Avon, who somehow managed to avoid her slash. He knew he couldn’t dodge for long, and all she had to do was breach the integrity of his suit one time, he’d be a dead man. “Vila!” he called but didn’t really expect any help from that quarter, even if Vila hadn’t been knocked out. Avon moved as a man trapped in a nightmare moves, with a maddening slowness, as if he were wading through molasses.
Servalan lumbered after him.
“V is for the very special looks you give me.
E is for everything you are.
L is for the love, true love you give me.
C means carin’
R means rarin’ to go, but
O, no, don’t ever, ever go!”
Spellin’ It Out by Ermintrude Postelthwaite and the Bee’s Knees
Vila Restal felt tired, and when Vila Restal felt tired, he rested. But the mattress he was lying on was lumpy. He slowly raised his leaden head and thought how odd a hangover it was, the difficulty in movement was there, but his head actually felt pretty okay. “Vila!” a panicky voice—Avon’s—attracted his attention and he raised his head up a bit more to see what it was that could make Avon panicky. His effort was rewarded by a sight he couldn’t have dreamed up in his most entertaining nightmare. A space-suited Avon plodded round and round the desk, closely pursued by a puffing, almost staggering Supreme Commander Servalan. Finally, at the end of his physical limits, Avon came to an abrupt halt and the Supreme Commander ploughed into him, unable to muster up the energy to stop her own momentum.
Fortunately, her arm had long since grown too heavy to brandish the laser probe. The two weary combatants crashed to the floor. Vila, struggling to his feet, missed the sight of Avon, on his back like a turtle, unable to turn over against the weight of his suit. Servalan picked up the probe where it had dropped and clawed a slow and weary way up Avon’s chest. “Now I have you, you bastard, you,” she gasped and panted, raising the heavy probe in her heavy hand, preparatory to plunging it into the exposed control panel on Avon’s chest.
Suddenly, there was a hollow thunk! and Avon found an abruptly very relaxed Supreme Commander draped over his helmet visor. Vila, on his feet at last, had staggered over and bent down to grab Servalan, misjudged the distance and the weight of his helmet, and landed a savage knock on the back of her head.
“What’s going on?” wailed Vila plaintively, his arms wrapped around Servalan as he tried to drag her off Avon. “Why can’t I shift her? Why do I feel so weak?”
“Vila,” came a muffled and tired voice from below. “Go to the desk and set the controls for one-sixth gravity. And Vila?”
“Don’t ask any more stupid questions.”
“All right.” Vila dropped Servalan and ignored the savage groan that issued from beneath her, set the lever for one-sixth gravity and suddenly felt a whole lot better. A few seconds later, he had Servalan wearing Avon’s binders and had draped her unconscious form decoratively over her two equally unconscious but less decorative guards. Avon revived himself courtesy of a few gulps of his backup oxygen supply and he felt much better, too.
“Get the contents of that file into a bag, Vila. I’ll finish up here.”
While Vila jumped up and down as if on a trampoline, gathering folders and record beads, Avon send a virus program of his own devising through the computer system. It was designed to infiltrate, then detonate, destroying information and taking over any mainframe it touched. There was a good chance that, if the virus managed to evade discovery, it might work its way to the station’s trans-info computer and be sent directly to Central Control. If that happened, Avon’s virus could very well wipe out all the germ warfare computers in the heart of the Federation. The only thing he regretted was the pun.
The computer chuckled as if at a private joke and accepted the information.
Vila waited impatiently but silently for Avon to complete his task. He stood, staring into the blue-green mess in the sealed tanks in front of him like a kid in a dentist office waiting room staring into an aquarium. He didn’t know what the stuff was and didn’t want to know, but he knew it had to be nasty. It might kill trees and fish and babies and animals and—well, a whole world.
“Avon? You don’t really believe what Blake says, do you? About how if we destry this station and all the civilians on it, we’re no better than the people we fight against?”
“Oh, I believe it implicitly, Vila, I really do... of course, I also believe that we aren’t any better than the people Blake is so valiantly slaughtering at every turn.” Avon put his hand to the pocket on his tool belt and pulled out a “Cally Special”—one of the black-and-white striped time bombs that could pack a surprising wallop for something so small. Rather like Cally herself, actually.
Vila grinned while Avon affixed the bomb to the back of one of the breeder units. It would explode in thirty minutes.
They teleported out.
“I know you’re tired
And I know it’s late—
Walking a fine line
Between sorrow and hate.
Just remember the Velcro
That sticks to its mate.
Remember that Velcro... always stick to its mate.”
Scattered Love (Brought Together) by the StickyMen
Well, that’s the story. Blake saved the Hepasians with the information Avon and Vila stole from File 8D. He also managed to convince them that their planet had been infected by the Federation. I understand they still celebrate “Blake Day” there. (“Blake-bloody-Day?! Why not Vila Restal Day, eh? Has a nice ring to it!” “We are but puppets in this enterprise or were you too drunk to notice?”) Servalan woke up angry, then raced off to her ship to ‘give chase,’ despite the fact that the Liberator had disappeared a good twenty minutes earlier and would be impossible to follow. Avon always suspected she knew he’d hidden a bomb somewhere and didn’t want to stick around for the fireworks. The bomb blew, but only took out a dozen rooms or so. It did, however, push back Servalan’s plans to destroy Auron by one year. Avon’s virus program did, happily, make it to Central Control, but because of the Federation’s policy of getting everything in triplicate, they were able to repair the damage by way of 258 Gamma-grade secretaries working 12,590 man-hours on a used Xerox machine.
BUT—one of those Gamma grade secretaries accidentally spilled his coffee on one particular file and, instead of taking the blame and putting in another requisition to replace that file, he just dumped the whole mess into his dustbin. That set into motion a series of the most amazing coincidences that were eventually felt in the highest Alpha ruling parties of the Federation, shaking them to their very foundations, let me tell you!
But that’s another story....