Always Use a Pen Name
Cathryn Roma

Kerr Avon paused on the sunny suburban street where Orac had teliported him. He checked the address on the slip of paper he held, then looked up at the one-story brick building.Yes, this was the place - the location of one of a group of people that he wanted very much to meet.

These peple were the authors of an outrageous collection of writings: "stories" in which minute and private details of the lives of the Liberator crew were explored. Of all the crew, it was Avon and Blake who were most discomforted by the contents of these stories. Avon was determined to get an explanation.

Seeing no one about, he approached the street-side door. He gently tried it, but it was locked. Slipping around the side, he found a large screen door. It, too, was closed, but was flimsy enough so that a good strong push over-rode the lock. he quietly slid the door open and entered the house.

(Safety Tip #1: If you don't want strange people like him breaking into your house - Gawd! - secure your sliding track doors!)

There appeared to be no one there. he had begun to search the rooms when he suddenly heard a peculiar humming noise. Avon cautiously follwed the sound to a room at the end of the hallway that bisected the house.

Entering the room, Avon saw that the source of the sound was a body, sprawled negligently on its stomach on the floor. It wore a set of headphones connected by a cord to a rack of equipment. THis unknown person was humming in a tuneless manner while furiously scribbling on some loose sheets of paper. Caught red-handed!

He nudged one out-flung leg with the toe of his boot.

"Jerk!" the figure mumbled crossly as it half-rolled over to look, revealing an adolescent girl. She yanked off her headphones and stared in astonishment.

Avon, a little surprised by her young age, nevertheless began his interrogation.

"I want to see that!" he commanded, pointing at the nest of papers.

She looked down to the pile, then back to him. "Huh?"

Obviously a high level of intelligence. vGrimacing with impatience, he reached down and grabbed a fistful of paper. Squinting at the almost illegible scrawlings, he soon saw all he needed to know.

He glared dangerously at the astonished young woman. "What is the meaning of this rubbish?!"

Indignation temporarily overcame shock, and she protested.

"That's not rubbish! That's my story!" she exclaimed, turning a pretty shade of red - a color that would soon deck the walls if Avon didn't get some answers!

"I want to know why you - all of you - are writing this trash, what you hope to gain from it - and I want to know now!"

She blinked, startled. It was obvious that she hadn't quite yet assimilated the fact that he was there.

"I - I mean we - all do it because it's fun!"

"Fun?! What kind of perverted bunch were these people? He crumpled the papers in his fist and shook them at her.

"You call this fun? These perverted, sordid ramblings that you and your kind write? Twisting our lives? Speculating on our private affairs?!"

The girl now looked about on the verge of tears. "H-honest! I - we just do it for fun. It's fun to write. I mean, after all, you're not real."

She stopped, as if struck by what she had said. Her face brightened.

"Ohhh - I get it! Where are the cameras? Am I on TV?" She twisted around, searching the walls and ceilings.

Avon watched her from under half-lidded eyes as she searched and then turned to look at him inquiringly.

There were two possibilities: One, that she was telling the truth as it appeared to her (in which case she was patently unhinged); Two, that she was just stalling for time, was part of a Federation plot to unsettle the rebels by employing the twisted talents of warped writers.

Well, there was one way to find out. When in doubt, intimidate!

He drew his disruptor and leveled it at her head. "This is your last chance. Talk."

This did not have quite the reaction he had hoped for. "Oh, wow - is that the one you used on the show? Can I look at it?"

Avon frowned. He did not seem to be getting through to this young lady. If he understood her correctly, she seemed ot think that this was all a joke.

He turned, scanned the room, and, spotting a suitable object, destroyed it with one well-amied blast.

His hostess jumped up with a shriek. "Ohmigod!" she cried, staring at the pile of porcelain fragments. "How - why did you do that? My mother will kill me!"

Before Avon could say anything in reply, he heard running footsteps. As he swung around, Blake and Vila entered the room.

Quickly taking in the crumpled papers, the broken vase, and the red-faced girl, Blake spoke quietly but firmly to Avon.

"We've talked to some of the others on the list of writers, Avon, and I think we've found the reason for the stories." He paused for dramatic emphasis. "The common thread running through their explanations is that they did it because it was - fun."

"Exactly!" the young writer interjected.

Avon glowered at everyone, but relented enough so that he put away his weapon.

"I know it's hard to believe, Avon, but all these people really do belive what they're saying. I think that they really didn't know the harm they were doing." He shrugged. "There's always the chance that the Federation was somehow influencing them, but..." His face took on a look of eagerness "...a spark of creativity like this in the population is the most encouraging thing I've seen in years!" A little calmer, he concluded briskly: "I don't think we should discourage them."

The girl beamed. Avon glared, but found that his earlier fury had avaporated along with the vase. However, the thought of more stories like those he'd read being produced made him feel distinctly uneasy.

Then he had an excellent idea.

* * *

Supreme Commander Servalan sat behind her polished desk, staring, perplexed, at the package that had arrived that morning through the intra-galaxy mail. It had arrived wrapped plainly, with no return address. It had, of course, been opened and thoroughly tested by security before being allowed upstairs to her. There had been no hidden explosives, no bacteria or viruses, no poisonous gases or powders.

Just a collection of memory tapes.

Frowning, she selected one, inserted it into a reader, and leaned forward.

Five minutes later, she half-rose from her chair, her nostrils flared in outrage.

"Of all the - Travis and me?! Who would dare?!"

Then a realizaton struck her. These tapes had been thoroughly examined. It would be foolish to assume that they had not been read by a whole host of underlings. And the filth that was in these - oh yes, the word would get around. All those laughs at the expense of her dignity...

She had to know the worst. She re-seated herself and resumed her reading. When she finally finished all the tapes, she was coldly furious. She sat for a minute, darkly brooding, then summoned an aid.

"If I ever get my hands on whoever wrote this - this disturbing garbage, they will regret ever having been born," she muttered darkly to herself. When the aide arrived, she ordered him, with as much calmness as she could muster, to begin a full investigation into the tapes' origin. The aide, to his credit, kept a straight face until he was out of her sight.

(Safety Tip #2: Always use a pen name.)

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