by Jane Carnall

a sequel to "Quietus"
(because I hate death stories)

"Open your eyes," someone was saying, very politely. Still more than half-asleep, Avon frowned. Surely he was dead? Yes, he remembered giving Vila the poison and taking it himself. He slit his eyelids open a fraction investigatively and concluded that not only was he dead, but everything he had not believed in all his life had turned out to be true.

Two devils were leaning over him. He was, presumably, in hell. Assuming that the stories had got the rest of it right, about now was when the eternal torments should start. Avon sighed. Life just wasn't fair; it shouldn't surprise him that death wasn't either. "All right," he said, feeling utterly exhausted already, "all right. Just not back to that bloody quarry again."

"Is he delirious?" the male devil said to the female devil, who shook her head. "He should not be."

They didn't sound particularly devilish, though they still looked it; long pointy ears, raised slanting brows, and greenish skin. Avon had another thought. "Am I in hell or are you elves?" he suggested weakly.



They looked at him each with one lifted eyebrow. Avon was impressed. He had never met anyone with more devastating eyebrows than his, apart from maybe Vila. Just as he thought of the thief, he heard a groan, and turned over to see the man lying on the next couch. Vila's eyes opened, widened, and he saw Avon.

"Avon! Avon, we're still alive!" A happy grin spread over his face. "We're going to die of exhaustion!"

The two devils looked at each other. The female devil said with almost desperate calm, "Welcome. We rescued you from a base that had just been taken by the Federation on a planet called Gauda Prime. You two were the only survivors."

Vila frowned. "But we shouldn't have been. Hey, Avon, didn't you swop Orac for some poison from a guard? They were going to hang us."

"Yes," Avon admitted, "I don't understand. The guard gave me two tabs of an acid drug -- "

"You have been unconscious for forty-eight hours," one of the elves interrupted, "under the influence of the hallucinatory sedative lysergic drowsin."

"Bloody naive Alphas!" Vila screeched, suddenly seeing it all. "You swopped Orac for a couple of tabs of LSD? Acid!?!"

Avon had turned pale. "It never occurred to me -- "

"We also salvaged a computer," one devil interrupted again. "It says its name is Orac, and if it belongs to you we would appreciate it if you would look after it. It has insulted all our computer experts, and they are refusing to work with it."

"That sounds like the scuzzy little box we know and love," Vila muttered, looking a little less annoyed. He glanced at Avon with a grin and a shrug. "Still, it's a trip I won't forget, Avon."

"Well, as you always say, Vila. You know you are stoned with me."



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