It was early in the morning of Christmas Eve on Xenon base. In one corner of the crew room was a large Christmas tree covered in tinsel and baubles. Underneath it was a pile of assorted presents covered in multicoloured, garishly bright paper. Pinned along one wall were several Christmas cards.
Vila entered the crew room carrying a large box, his face glowing. He switched on the main light and the Christmas tree lights, then placed the box down on a table and put Orac next to it. Vila fitted Orac's activator and it began to hum merrily.
"Morning Orac. Any post for us?" asked Vila cheerily.
"There are three communications awaiting your attention; one proclaiming that we have been chosen to enter a Reader's Digest one million credit prize draw, one final demand for the poll tax for Xenon base, and a message from Space Command Headquarters," replied Orac.
"You can erase the Reader's Digest one and the poll tax bill, but print out the Space Command message," said the excited thief. Vila took and read the message. Happy Christmas, it may be your last. Best wishes and compliments of the season, from Commissioner Sleer and all your friends at Space Command Headquarters.' Underneath it was a picture of a Federation trooper dressed up as Santa Claus. "Nice of them to think of us." Vila grinned, and pinned it up on the wall.
Vila opened his box and began taking bits out and assembling them on the table. "Orac, don't you get bored having to be carried around, I mean, wouldn't you like to be an upwardly mobile computer?" he said with a sly glint in his eye.
"I am not a computer, I am a brain. A genius," snapped Orac indignantly.
"Well, yes, whatever, but, come on. It must be boring, having to rely on one of us to get you around. Just think what you could do with your own set of wheels," Vila said cunningly.
Orac was silent for a few moments as he thought about Vila's statement. "Yes, as the highest intellect on this base, it only seems fitting that I should be self-propelled," he replied.
Vila picked up Orac. He placed him on the contraption that he had been assembling for the last few minutes from the contents of his box, then lowered Orac to the floor.
"What is this strange device?" questioned Orac indignantly.
"You said yourself how you should be mobile, so here you are. I've been working on this as a Christmas present for Avon," said Vila.
"Is it not too small for Avon?" questioned Orac.
"It's to carry you, not Avon. Just shut up and try it out," answered Vila.
"I cannot control it as it is not connected. Insert the circuit board and connector into my casing and I will form a temporary link," said Orac.
"Why can't I put it in the proper place?" asked Vila, inserting the board as Orac had instructed.
"I would much prefer it if Avon were to do the permanent connection," snapped Orac.
Vila placed a tray and a cup of coffee on top of Orac.
"What are you doing?" asked the computer.
"Giving Avon an early morning surprise. You can take this into Avon's room," replied Vila.
"Oh very well," said Orac, lurching forward and spilling some coffee into the tray. Orac trundled precariously through the corridor and turned to the door of Avon's room. He rammed the door and it obligingly opened. The room was small, with a couch at one side and a computer terminal on the other. In front of them, a black clad figure lay asleep on the bed.
"Good morning Soolin," murmured Avon, rolling over.
Orac trundled across the floor and bashed against one of Avon's boots. The impact knocked the cup over and it deposited its contents in the boot.
Avon sat up suddenly, and his eyes widened at the sight of Orac rolling to and fro across his floor. He grabbed his boots and pulled them on over the bright pink knitted socks that Tarrant had given him last Christmas. His foot came into contact with the scalding coffee in one of the boots. "Yeooooow!" he yelled.
Orac rapidly reversed, banged into a chair and fell off the trolley. Vila's grinning face appeared round the door, closely followed by Soolin and Dayna with their guns drawn. Tarrant entered the room and waved his curling tongs menacingly at the assembled crowd.
"What's going on?" questioned Soolin, peering round the door.
Avon emptied his boot into a convenient nearby pot plant and changed his socks.
"Well, what do you think?" asked Vila, bending over the trolley.
Avon resisted the urge to kick him up the backside.
"Vila, what the hell's that?" asked Tarrant.
"Well, Avon's been going on about a mobile Orac ever since Dayna turned Muller's android into a jigsaw puzzle. So, being the season of peace and goodwill and all that, it was the least I could do," Vila said with a sly smile.
Avon was looking thoughtfully at the trolley, while adjusting his black polo neck.
"That is a good idea," mumbled Tarrant, removing his hairnet.
"I know it is," replied Avon, picking up a comb from next to the computer terminal and dragging it reluctantly through his dark hair.
"Hey, don't I get an opinion in the matter?" snapped Orac.
"No!" said everyone else simultaneously.
Dayna walked over to Orac, picked him up and put him on a table next to a three-day old copy of the Federation Times.
"Well, Orac?" asked Avon, tucking the comb into his pocket.
"It would be prudent to connect me properly, if you insist on connecting me at all," snapped Orac.
"I'll go and get the book," said Vila, exiting swiftly.
"Take it to the crew room, we'll meet you there," shouted Avon.
Continued in Star One
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