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By Sally M
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An old-fashioned funfair... too faded and decayed to be much fun, but in the grim outer towns of Gauda Prime it had always been better than nothing. Soolin remembered several such travelling shows from her childhood, only the galleries, the lightshows and the cheap pleasure machines changed. The food certainly didn't.

As far as she knew, the others were dead, had died in that disaster ten days, eleven days, a lifetime ago. The thought caused a faint, cloudy sense of pain, but she pushed it away. She'd left in the confusion, left without finding out, and had no intention of going back.

She sucked on a goldfruit - bought by her new partner, only a few degrees slimier than Dorian and certainly stupider - and gazed around. She had blended into the crowds quickly - cut her hair and coloured it, swapped her practical grey for pink showgirl tights sewn with bobbles, and now played the marks at the shooting games, doing as well with the substandard laser pistols as anyone could.

Well enough to win, take the marks' money, and split it with her new partner. Who didn't know she was saving for a better gun of her own, or what her plans were when she got it.

If bounty hunting would pay better, bounty hunting was the next plan. Soolin had made it off Gauda Prime once, she'd do it again.

Her resolution, as the year of the Old Calender died around her in a cloud of cheap laser displays, fake holographic fireworks and tinselly laughter and screams, was simple: get off this planet, again, and never look back.



Nice bar, this is. Soft, warm colours, crimson and gold and candlelight like one of those interstellar bordellos we all hear about, and that's is probably upstairs anyway, but for now I'll just stay here in the nice bar and drink a bit more, and watch the locals celebrating the New Calender's New Year, just like they're doing all over the galaxy.

I can't drink too much, though. Don't want to end up talking too much. Dunno if anyone's looking for me, but I can't be too sure. I got away clean - played dead, waited till the real battle started, then got out through a locked and barred door I didn't even know was there. Amazing what you can unlock and unbar when you have to.

Ran back to the flyer Avon brought us here in. Didn't look back once - didn't want to see - what I knew I'd see. Already saw Blake dead, not Avon and the rest as well. Managed to get it flying and get away from them all without looking back.

As far as I knew, the others are dead. It was - hell, it was last year, wasn't it? No point in trying to find them now, and it'd be stupid to get myself killed now when I'm the only one who didn't get myself killed then none .

The bar tender looks friendly - well, friendly for a native Gaudan, or for a demented spacehog with toothache, one of the two. She sort of reminds me of Kerrill, even if the resemblance is just the blond hair and bad attitude. And that she's female. Sort of female, anyway.

She pours me another drink. I have enough money for the drinks, and for my room for  the next week - there was quite a stash of money in that flyer, probably from the previous owners, and I can always sell the thing if I need more. I can use the time to try and blend in, make some friends, learn more about this place. If I'm going to have a career here, I need to know how to steal it.

She gives me what she thinks is a smile - god, she's got more teeth than Tarrant, only sharper. And yellower. But she looks all right, and I think I could make a friend of her. After all, man like me needs friends.

Resolutions are for fools, perhaps. This fool resolves going to stay here, stay hidden, and stay alive, that's enough for now.



It must have been a stungun. That was the reason she'd lived.

She couldn't remember, just smoke, blood-red light, and a lot of screaming of alarms and dying people, and the big, square hand of a man in a tattered leather jacket being held out to her. He must have gotten her out of the hellhole, though what happened to him then, she didn't know.

Perhaps she had left him there. She had the jacket, and the gun he carried, and... and nothing else but the memory of a voice... "have you betrayed me?" a voice she couldn't put a name to. And three shots...

There had been others. There must have been others, and they had to be dead. She couldn't remember.

Three days it had taken to get here, even after she'd stolen a groundcar from an outlying settlement. Now she was here, she wasn't sure what to do. She wandered through the small town square, glancing at the shops and bars, just trying to remember, anything at all.

A brightly lit banner outside the newsshop caught her eye. NEW YEAR ON GAUDA PRIME... A BETTER YEAR FOR ALL UNDER FEDERATION RULE... COMMISSIONER DELAYED...

Commissioner? She stepped closer.

COMMISSIONER SLEER ARRIVING NEW YEARS DAY... and a picture of a gaunt, vain, vampire-eyed woman in black.

Dayna couldn't remember why... but she resolved to kill.



It was officially New Years Day throughout the Federation, but Tarrant's evil-tempered new boss would hardly thank anyone for honouring Federation ties. Not even to the extent of a cheap glass of soma or two.

Blockade-runners couldn't be choosers, and neither could dead men. Tarrant lay back on the bunk, running hands through his conscript-short hair, and tried to ignore how uncomfortable the paperthin mattress was, even worse than the Scorpio's aging, lumpy 'bunks'.

Ignoring the ever-present ache in his leg was harder, but he'd learn to live with it. He'd got away from Avon's fiasco by the skin of one broken tooth - well, and a broken arm and not-as-badly-burned-as-he'd-thought leg, managed to steal the flyer Blake had brought them here in, managed to get away without being shot out of the sky, and managed to get back to the Scorpio.

Tarrant grinned to himself, gazing down at his faulty, barely adequate and badly  altered ID. Olag Bram. What a name, but it would do, for now.

Tarrant hadn't known, when he took it, about the fake IDs that Avon's precious Blake had in his flyer. But then Blake hadn't known, when flaunting those jewels, about the cash and credits Avon had hidden in the Scorpio wreckage. With both, buying a berth on a illegal blockade runner - as a general hand with some piloting skills and no morals - was easy.

The others were dead. They had to be - though it hurt, more than he though it would - because there was nothing he could do for them if they weren't.

He'd been a mercenary once, and could be one again. Gazing out to a starscape bleak and sparsely dotted with points of pallid light, and at Gauda Prime's ugly little sphere dwindling into another lesser point, he made a resolution. No more heroics... ever.




"What -?" A hand automatically curling round the stem of the glass.

"Soma and adrenaline - with faux champagne flavouring." Amusement in the deep, pain-roughened voice. "It's New Years Day, Avon."

"In the F-federation, yes." Half-bitter, half-satiric - an odd, cold, sweet-sour blend. "Don't tell me you of all people follow their rules?"

"Occasionally, when I want to."

"Of course, I'd forgotten. You do as you see fit -"

"- whatever the Federation -"

"- or anyone else -"

"- dictates."

A silence.

"We could try and find them for you."

"Generous, but not necessary. I do not need any of them. Even if," a pause, a caught breath, a half-twist of smile, "any of them lived. Which they almost c-certainly - which they certainly - did not."

"Orac can try."

"Orac has better ways to waste its time. They. Are. Dead."

"As you thought I was."

"As I thought we both were. And as you n-nearly were." Watching the knuckles around the glass stem turning white. "I have no wish to try another search for the missing, B-blake. The last one did not go well, you'll agree."

"Do you regret it?"

"I have not - quite decided that yet. Maybe at the end of this year - I'll know."

That will do for a resolution, then," and there's an echo of old laughter in the words. "Drink, Avon, say goodbye to the old year, and go to sleep. We'll talk in the morning."

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