This started as a post on the Lysator Blake's 7 mailing list and is very rambling sort of article about the "Avon should have been able to find Vila - there's nowhere to hide in a stripped down shuttle" idea.
I was thinking about this during a game of Combat Hide and Seek (I'd been watching Orbit earlier in the day.)
I do Dark Ages reenactment and "Combat Hide and Seek" is a training game we play in the castle we use to practice in. Combat Hide and Seek is much like normal hide and seek but you have to first find, then kill the people hiding. Once someone is killed they join the seeker's side.
Now it takes about 20 minutes to sweep the castle for hiding places (and that's if you're doing it very slowly and carefully) but one this occasion I was the last one left hiding and it took them over an hour to find me. By the way, the reason I was still hiding for an hour after I was the last person left and had won the game was because I didn't believe the seeker when he was wandering round calling "Leia you're the last one left, you can come out, you've won." Call me paranoid ;-) but it's been used to trick people into giving away their location before. As has shouting out at the start of the game "Are you ready?" - a few people shout back and the seekers can hear where they are.
So I was curled up quite comfy in my hidey hole, thinking about hiding and searching and the way people approach it and I was coming to the conclusion that it's not whether you think it's a good hiding place but whether the seeker thinks so. People will look first in the places they'd hide themselves. And people have different strategies. The people I've played combat hide and seek with, all use one of three strategies...
annoying git'. Doesn't bother to
hide properly at all. Lurks just
around corners and splats the seeker as they come round.
Then legs it to another ambush point.
This only works if you're confident that you are better than the seeker - if you can't beat them even with the element of surprise then there's no point using this strategy.
2) 'The tactical one'. Finds a good defensible spot (preferably with a few mates) and waits. It doesn't matter if it's not a great hiding place - the important thing is that you can hold off the enemy for a long time. For preference, you find somewhere you can retreat from as well.
3) 'The coward'. Finds a really good hiding place where they won't be found for ages. Doesn't matter if it's defensible or not because you're trying to avoid the fight rather than win it. My favourite tactic when I've feeling lazy, and the one that had me waiting for an hour to be found. There's a half filled in alcove in the castle that used to be an arrow loop before the ground level changed. You can still get in by laying down on you back and wriggling in head first, standing up as you go. Once you're in you have to sit on the ledge and tuck your feet up so you can't be seen from the outside. It requires some contortions to get in there and once the seekers figure out where you are, you're stuffed because there is not enough room to move to defend yourself. However you'll survive a long time simply because people rarely bother to look there.
As someone who's spent a lot of time perfecting option 3 I've noticed some odd things about people's searching methods that crop up time and again and can be exploited to the hider's advantage.
1) Heights. The human brain seems to work in a very two dimensional way. If you're hiding above or below someone's eye level they will often not notice you. The hidey hole I was talking about earlier is a good example. The entrance is at ground level. People just don't bother to check round their feet. If they had looked down, then they'd have noticed that I'd scuffed up the ground while I was crawling in. Likewise you can lay along the top of a wall or ledge and be in absolutely plain view if anyone looked up - but they rarely do. In Orbit it does look as though Vila's hidey hole was on a raised level from the angle he drops down out of it.
2) Observation. People are rarely as observant as they think they are. There are hundreds of visual clues to where people are in the castle... wet footprints on the dry limestone, scuffed ground if someone's wriggled up the arrow loop, people forgetting that in certain places their shadow can be seen even if they can't. Even if people are being observant for visual clues they often neglect the rest of their senses... a room with someone hiding in a corner has different acoustics to an empty one and it's very difficult indeed to be completely silent when you're hiding.
I am coming to a point honest...
Avon would almost certainly go for hiding strategy 1. He's not the sort to wait around to be attacked. And if you look at the tactics he uses when he's searching for Vila, the way he carefully approaches corners in case Vila's the other side of them, it would work very well against someone who was also using strategy 1.
Fortunately for Vila he's gone for strategy 3 and found himself a hidey-hole. If Avon found him he'd have no chance, but then the whole point is that he doesn't want to be found. I should think he realises he stands even less chance if he confronted Avon openly.
It would never occur to Avon to hide in such a place, where there's no way to defend yourself and no way to retreat if the defence should fail. His mind works very differently from Vila's and I don't think he understands Vila as well as he thinks he does. If he sat calmly and thought about it maybe he'd realise that Vila's tactic would be very different from his own. But he's not exactly thinking very clearly.
As a lifelong thief I should think Vila has had reason and practice enough to be very very good at hiding. He wouldn't have left any obvious giveaways to his location. He'd be able to sit still and quiet for as long as needed even though he was terrified. He'd be able to find the best hiding place there was. He'd know all the tricks and with his life in danger would use them to full advantage.
In short Vila is better at hide and seek than Avon is!
Here ends my long ramble on the psychology of hiding.
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