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Ian D. Sims: Surprise Galore


Mabelle Flower looked at the computer post on the screen. One was a letter from her lover, begging her to come back.  Others were an entertainment bill, an electricity bill, and a few circulars.


She looked at her screen suspiciously.  Just another hoax.  Without thinking, by reflex action, she pressed ENTER and read what the competition was about.  It was an all-inclusive trip to Gram's World.  That name set off a glimmer of recognition; she did not know why.  Where the Malkivan library is!  she suddenly realised.  I've always wanted to go there.  She typed in her answers and e-mailed them off to Excalibur holidays.

 Mabelle gave the e-mail competition no further thought.  She went into the kitchen and put some toast under the grill.  She waited for it to toast whilst she nattered to her friend.  She got so involved in the discussion that when she had finished it was burnt to a crisp.   What a stupid bitch! she thought.

 A week later she received a registered letter.

"Letter for you, ma'am," the postman said.  "Sign here, please."

"Oh, dear, I hope that it is not bad news."  It was her belief that registered letters heralded bad news:  they were such as expensive way of sending information that it was only used for important matters.

 She signed for the letter and went through to the lounge and ripped open the vacuum-sealed envelope.  "You are our lucky winner," she mumbled.  "WINNER?!"  She looked at the piece of paper again.  She had never won anything in her life before!  Mon Dieu, what luck!  There were only six days to the next trip there.

 When she arrived at Boarding Post C an uniformed lady squeezed herself through the gathered crowd.  "Ms. Flower, isn't it?  I am Ms. Jenkin's your tour guide.  I'll get my boys to take your stuff on board."  She snapped her fingers and two naval types flanked her.  "Take the lady's luggage to her cabin."

 She asked Mabelle to follow her and they went to the desk.

 "Captain," Heidi shouted.  "This is Mabelle. You wanted me to tell you when she was on board."  Mabelle smiled at the man shyly.

"Has she been told yet, Heidi?" the man said to Ms Jenkins.

"No sir."

"Could you take her to Debriefing Room 10C.  I shall be along when the machine is ready."

 Heidi took there.  "Wait here, please."

She wondered why they all were calling  her ma'am and acting cordially around her. It appeared to her as if she had landed herself into something a bit bigger than just winning a simple competition.  What is the matter?  Mabelle saw that there was someone else in the room with her.

"Sir, here she is."

"Hello, dear."  A big-bodied man, with dark brown hair, said.  "How are you?  I'm sorry that--" he broke off.  "Doesn't she know?"   With an implied 'yet'.  Heidi shook her head.  "I am your Uncle Peter Bailley.  On the paternal side.  Was the other ID such a change?"  He asked Heidi accusingly.

 An Uncle?  Orphaned at six.  No one.  Who is this man to say that he is my Uncle?  She felt like shouting at him and pummelling him on the chest in anger.

"Sir, you're confusing her.  The Captain will be here soon."

"Oh.  He has to bring that machine doesn't he?"  He said vehemently sighing deeply, as if it pained him to mention the Captain.

 Twenty minutes later the Captain came into the room.  Scowling.  His face was red.  He appeared to be distraught.  "Dead," his voice pent up with emotion.  "All of them.  GONE.  All our family."

"What?"  Gasped Peter Bailley whose familial resemblence became apparent.  "All our family is DEAD."  He whispered it again as to assimilate that fact.  "What happened?"  his tone was now business-like.   His Minesterial role became apparent.

"On the third day of the seventh week of the siege."  The Captain told him entering a monologue.  "It appears as though the rebel forces launched a sneak attack on the manor.  During this attack our father, brother, sister,  your wife murdered.  Now the rebels are hunting down the few surviving members of our family.  So few had survived as it had been the Annual Family Conclave.  Mabelle has to be returned.  Then we can mount a counter attack."

"Me?" Mabelle stuttered hysterically.  Realising some of the implications of what he had said.  "I'm no blooming Heiress."

"But you are.  A direct descendant on the maternal line.  Presently being schooled at the School of Fine Arts on Betelgeuse.  Or so our own rumour says," he paused.  "We had to send you away for your good."

"Come here."  She went over to the machine and the Captain asked her to sit down in a plush chair.  He put a metal ringlet around her head and . . . memories flooded back, like a tidal wave.  Her childhood in the secluded estates on Gram's World.  Being tutored by eminent Professors and teachers that money could buy.  Attending state dinners. The news of her family elected to head the Governmental Conclave.  Being sent  as a different person to a subject planet.  The loss of all that was near and dear to her.   Finally, realisation of the great responsibility which was now hers.  How would she cope?

 "I want revenge."  She got up and knocked a cup over.  The tea dripped unnoticed onto the floor.  "I want to purge their deaths."  She broke down into hysterical laughter.

"We only have five days to make plans in."  The Captain told her.  "We feared spies or moles were on board.  We had to bring you on board discreetly.  The competition seemed the best way.  We spread romours that we were on an undercover mission to bring an object home."  He showed her some jewels to prove his point.

"Show me my room, please."  She felt like she was going to faint under all the pressure.

"This way," her tone showed that she did not envy Mabelle Bailley/Flower her position.

Mabelle went into her room completely aware of the responsibility she had. The responsibility of an entire planet.


Copyright © 1998. Ian D. Sims


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Translated texts:

Interview with Mihaela Velina - read what editor of Futura, only Croatian SF semiprozine, have to say about our SF scene
NOSF (3) - a regular column from issue nr. 7
A glimpse of Croatian SF fandom - another article, made for one Czech SF e-zine
The Highway Quarrel - short SF story