PandoraBy David D
"Locate and detain any vessel in this sector of space. Destroy only on my express orders."
She barks out another order. "Captain. I want this establishment searched. You are to locate the instrument that has been described to you as O R AX. Deliver it personally to me. Deviation from my orders will be punished by modification."
The Captain halts for a moment before turning away and although his face cannot be seen behind the helmet, he is clearly shaken by the threat.
Meanwhile, light years away from Guada Prime speeds a vessel carrying the fair haired woman and her three charges. The woman is incapacitated due to the injury to her leg. Avon is recovering slowly from the stun grenade, attempting to gather his thoughts and bring his limbs back under his control. The woman is calling out to him:
"Avon, Avon! Listen to me - there may be a chance to save Blake and Vila, get them attached to a life sustainer, AVON!
Avon struggles to get up and walk, but is unable to coordinate his legs.
"ZEN" he cries with slurred speech, "Transport us to the medical unit."
The four appear in the medical unit where Avon manages to plunge the body of Blake into the cold cabinet. "ZEN" he cries. "Do what is necessary to sustain Blake's life".
Avon does the same with the body of Vila as a monotone voice calls out.
"Life signs of Blake closed down. Brain potential recoverable using transported patterning, 50% chance of recovery if immediate hibernation initiated.
"What do you mean Zen?" cries Avon. "Brain pattern recoverable?"
"Transport Blake back into the chamber and during re-manifestation use a previous pattern to recondition the brain. You will then immediately place the body into hibernation. During hibernation the vital organs can be repaired."
"Do it," cries Avon. "Do it with Vila as well"
The bodies of both Vila and Blake disappear from the cabinets, to reappear some seconds later. Avon assists the voice Zen to configure the hibernation chambers. Struggling with a massive headache and aching limbs, Avon then turns to the injured woman, who has been unable to help.
"Jenna," says Avon lifting up her head and shoulders from the floor and looking into her face.
"Avon!" she responds. For a moment the face of Avon looses its hardened defences and he gently kisses the woman tenderly upon her lips. He draws his face back and immediately regains the ruthlessness that has enabled him to survive for a lifetime.
"You're losing blood," he says to Jenna. "We must get you up onto a table."
Making a huge effort he assists the injured girl to her feet and onto an operating table.
Hours later, Avon leaves the medical unit. Jenna is sleeping. Blake and Vila are in hibernation. Avon needs sleep and drags himself to a place where he can comfortably lie down. Soon only the dulled sounds of the ships engines and the creaking of the gantries as they sway in the warped time-field are to be heard above the gentle breathing of the sleeping Jenna, and the mutterings of the almost delirious Avon as he wrestles in his dreams and nightmares with a confusion of feelings of hatred, love, shame, guilt and isolation. As the effects of the stun grenade wear off, he becomes more settled and the ship is at last at peace.
No one hears the voice of Zen as it says. "All systems are recovering. No pursuit vessels have been detected. Slowing from time distort to sub-light speed. Awaiting further instruction. I have brought you back. I did not fail you."
After a period of 24 hours Avon has recovered completely and is in his quarters on what is left of the Liberator eating a meal. Jenna appears using crutches to move about, her leg in a splint.
"You should be resting" says Avon hardly looking up.
"Why did you?" asks Jenna with a cold stare. "Why did you kiss me?"
"I thought I would not get the chance again," says Avon without emotion.
"You won't," says Jenna.
"Go back to the medical bay," says Avon. "You need rest."
"Are you saying that - because you care for me.." begins Jenna but Avon interrupts.
"I need you to be healthy if I am to survive."
Jenna sits down. "The feeling is mutual," she says giving away no feelings and playing the same game as Avon.
Avon feels that they have established a mutual respect and looks up. "The last I heard was that you had been rescued by a freighter after the battle in the Star One sector."
"After the battle with the Andromedans, Blake and I made our way across the galaxy. He was badly injured in the face and we took refuge with a group on Gallia 3 that had declared independence from the Federation. Blake recovered there until we were attacked and scattered. After that we looked for another refuge. I went back to running contraband. Eventually Blake chose Guada Prime but he was no longer sure of who was for the Federation and who against. He lived as a bounty hunter. He became hardened, not the man we first knew. He could shoot a man in the back with no compunction. Guada Prime was a lawless planet. The rule was "kill or be killed". He planned a rebellion but we were just two more criminals living on the edge of the Federation. We didn't have the influence that we had on the Liberator and Blake did not achieve the status he had on Earth and I did not trust him entirely, nor he me.
"Did he betray me?"
"Would he have let you shoot him if he had?"
"Did he betray me?"
"It makes no difference if he did or he didn't."
"He needed you Avon. He knew you had the resources and he believed you would find him and perhaps he thought that together we could recapture what we had, before the intergalactic war."
Avon made no reply but his look was pensive, his eyes staring across the efforts and struggles of the past four years.
Jenna begins to get herself up. "I'm going back to medical,' she says.
"I'll come with you," answers Avon.
Back at the medical bay they look through the perma-window at the body of Blake.
"Zen!" says Avon. "What is the condition of Blake?
"Blake is 24 hours from complete physical recovery and of conscious self-awareness."
"What happened to him when you used the transporter to recondition his brain?"
"The last time Blake was transported, he was escaping from Star One. The pattern recorded then has been reproduced when rematerializing the brain."
"Do you mean that in 24 hours Blake will be the Blake from two years ago? That he will have no memory of what happened since that time?' asked Jenna.
"Correct. The Blake you will meet, will think that he has just beamed up from Star one."
Jenna and Avon look almost horrified at each other.
"But he will not in that case be Blake," said Avon.
"Incorrect." says Zen.
"Can you - bring people back - from the dead?" asks Avon. "Could you materialize for instance a Gan?"
"I have no data for Gan. Memory for the complete profile of a human brain can be held even in my data banks only for two and a half humans."
"So you could materialise another person?" Who else do you have?
"I have data for the person of Cally,' answers Zen.
"My head is spinning with all this," says Jenna. "Let's get Blake back, and see - well just who he is."
Twenty-four hours later Jenna and Avon stand once again in the medical Bay as Zen begins reviving Blake in the hibernation unit. As the perma-screen draws back exposing Blake to the atmosphere of the medical Bay he sits up. Looking around and trying to understand something, he sees Jenna and Avon who both draw their weapons.
"Jenna! Avon!" cries Blake struggling to get up and out of the chamber. Get the Liberator underway we have to hold off the Andromedans until the Federation Fleet gets here." Blake is urgent and struggles to his feet. "Come on" he cries wildly and runs out of the Medical Bay.
"No! Blake wait!" cries Jenna rushing after him, closely followed by Avon. They catch up with him in the control room. Zen is before them as Blake begins searching the navigational and outer sensors for the invading ships.
Avon and Jenna catch hold of him.
"Blake they aren't there, you've been in hibernation. Years have passed since you were on Star One," explains Jenna.
Blake looks into her face and sees the truth of her words. He begins to reel backwards. "What!"
Avon guides him to sit on one of the chairs.
Half an hour later a properly dressed Blake has heard a summary of the whole story since Star One and the battle. He knows of his flight across the galaxy to Gauda Prime, of the loss of the Liberator, of the death of Cally and of the rise of Servalan. He takes it well but is deeply confused, like a man who is out of his own time.
"I need to be alone." he says at last and makes his way out of the control room. Jenna follows him and for the next hour it is Avon who is once again alone.
During this time Avon surveys the Liberator and finds that it is now only the third pod; that is; the part that had detached from the main Liberator just before the explosion that destroyed it. It had been blown away but not destroyed. The rotting biochemical acid that had brought the Liberator to its end was eventually exhausted and the Pod had begun to rebuild itself. It could only do this, as it was able to gain atoms and molecules, which happened gradually as it wandered in space. Zen had begun to re-form inside the pod until fully functioning though with a reduced data capacity. Having gained time-distort drive, it set about looking for its crew. Finally, through communication with Orac it had followed Avon to Guada Prime. Jenna had teleported down to the medical unit just too late to warn Blake of treachery, and so she came to the room, as the federation troops were about to shoot Avon.
Avon looks out at the gantry that would have connected the pod to the main body of the ship.
"Zen" he says. "How long till you are able to fully reform the Liberator?"
"One hundred and fifty years at the present rate of reconstruction." says the voice of Zen.
"Can it be accelerated?"
"Given a source of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen. Titanium, molybdenum, gallium, ..
"Yes Thank you Zen, so how can we best obtain all you require?"
A region of space recently having experienced a supernova, would accelerate the rebuild."
"To what timeframe?"
"A period of fifty years."
Avon says nothing, but gazes out at the glorious star fields and the planet close by.
At that moment the ship's intercom crackles. The voice of Jenna says. "Avon, can we talk? Blake and I are on the flight deck."
Avon arrives at the control room to find both Blake and Jenna sitting at the conference table. He sits with them.
"You wanted to talk?" he says.
"Avon," says Blake. "I have no memory of you shooting me and so whatever happened on Guauda Prime has no relevance to me. It's not like a confusion of forgotten memories. I simply don't feel that I existed then. Yesterday, I remember being on Star One. That is all."
"But I do remember," says Avon. "I did not trust you. I do not trust you. You seemed to have betrayed us and I remember shooting you; killing you in fact. I shot you three times to make sure of it."
"But we can go on," says Blake. "We can continue the fight against the Federation despite what happened there? Jenna. You and I? "
Avon looks at Blake and sees that it is the Blake of two years ago. He has not seen the death of most of his friends. He is ready to fight on. But Avon feels weary of it all. He sneers.
"I have lost my friends," says Avon. "Soolin, Dayna, Tarrant ....Cally. I need a rest from it all. It's over."
"No!" says Jenna, "Cally is here."
"What do you mean?" says Avon alarmed.
"We have used Zen to re-materialize the Cally that last beamed down to Terminal." Avon is seriously alarmed and sits up, but he hears footsteps and as he looks up - there is Cally. Avon cannot take this in and turns pale. He reacts against this bringing back of ghosts from the dead.
Jenna puts her hand on Avon's arm. "It's all right Avon. It is Cally, the real Cally."
"Avon," says Cally, "I am glad to see you again. Jenna has explained everything to me. You have been through many troubles since I left."
"No!" says Avon getting to his feet. "Cally was killed a year ago. You cannot be Cally."
"But I am, she says, "Look at me, touch me, it is me."
"I know this is hard for us all," says Jenna. "It is difficult to take in but we are all here, ready to fight again, and Vila also will be with us soon."
"Only Gan cannot be here," says Blake. "It is the four of us and Zen - and we can recover ORAC. Like it or not Avon, we are together and ready to go on and take the fight to the Federation."
It is an hour later. Avon is alone and deep in thought. He has sat with Cally, and with Blake. It is a Blake and a Cally but he questions what is the soul of a man or woman. What makes a person - in his spirit? Can a computer simply create a Cally? What consciousness makes a personality? If that consciousness is broken; has a gap, can it be the same one? He thinks around the subject and wonders. If Zen dematerialises a person in the transporter and then re-materialises them, is it really the same consciousness, or has one died and another exact copy been born? Avon realises the futility of these questions, but he has questions about Jenna.
"Zen" he says, "I want to know the details of how you rescued Jenna. Show me."
"Details are unavailable," says the voice of Zen.
Avon has almost anticipated this response.
"Jenna was not transported here was she? You were not there when she self-destructed her vessel. You created this Jenna didn't you?"
"There is no data available for the information you are requesting,' replies Zen.
"Zen!" exclaims Avon. "Set course for Guarda Prime. We have unfinished business there."
Avon feels the engine powering up and knows that Zen is carrying out his instructions.
The intercom sounds and the voice of Blake is heard. "Avon What's going on? The Liberator is moving, we're on a course for .. Gauda Prime, why?"
"I'll be with you in a few moments," says Avon.
Avon joins the others on the flight deck and says nothing about his doubts of them being the real Cally, Jenna or Blake.
"When we left Guada Prime,' explains Avon, " Federation troops were there and I have no doubt that Servalan herself was present. She would not dare allow ORAC to fall into other hands. We are going back to avenge our people. We will find her and take revenge."
"But for what reason?" asks Blake. "What will be the point if we all die in a vain attempt to take revenge?"
"Scared?" asks Avon.
"No!" says Blake "But there is no point in a suicide mission unless we are to achieve something really worth while."
"I agree," says Jenna. "We don't know what the situation is there. The place may have been destroyed already. Servalan may have left. We need to have information in order to make a planned attack."
"They are right," says Cally. "I understand your sentiments Avon but.."
Before Cally can finish her sentence Avon laughs and says. "Servalan ..Oh! and she doesn't want to be known as Servalan these days - will be there. I have already sent a message ahead informing the Federation of our imminent arrival. Once there we will talk of a trade. ORAC for our freedom."
"Avon. No!" says Blake.
"Ask ZEN" laughs Avon.
"ZEN what is our course?"
"Our course is for Gauda Prime."
"ZEN! " says Jenna. "Change course, take us to the nearest uninhabited system."
"Unable to comply with new instructions," says ZEN.
Avon laughs. "You see I have blackmailed ZEN. ZEN will do only my bidding, won't you ZEN?"
"How?" asks Blake
"That would be telling," sneers Avon.
"Very well," says Blake. "We'll do it your way. We'll arrive at Guada Prime. You have a plan?"
Avon laughs. "I have a plan? Yes. Servalan, I have a plan," he says rhetorically and with bitterness.
"I'm going to the information console," says Blake. There is some research I want to do."
Blake leaves the control room and Avon watches, aware of what he is probably going to research."
"Are you going to stay in the control room Avon?' asks Jenna. "Cally and I could take a break."
Jenna and Cally make their way to the refreshment bar. They materialise drinks and sit together. "How do you feel?' asks Jenna looking at Cally.
"I feel well. I cannot quite understand that a year has passed, nor can I understand how I can be brought back to life after dying."
"You remember nothing then?" asks Jenna, "about being - well dead."
"No. I see what you are driving at. You think that because I am a telepath, that I may somehow be able to form a link from myself now, to before I was killed?"
"Well you may have an insight that I do not." says Jenna.
"I have no insight. I was transported down to Terminal but materialised here. That is all I can tell you. There is nothing else. No spirit world that I can recall, no floating above my own body, nothing. How did you come to be here Jenna?
"I was piloting my vessel, running contraband into Gauda Prime when I was surprised by a fleet of Federation pursuit ships. I threw the self destruct when I was surrounded, but before the ship blew, Zen transported me out."
"So you had a bracelet on?"
"Yes I always wore a bracelet," but Jenna feels puzzled. "I must have done, or Zen could not have saved me."
"Cally looks strangely at her."
"I must have done." repeats Jenna.
"That is one explanation." says Cally.
"Is there another?"
"I only know that I am here and that you appear to be Jenna. However, I have lost my ability to telepath since I materialised here. So that is something that is not the same. Do you feel the same in every way Jenna?"
"Yes. I am Jenna Stanis."
Cally can see that though Jenna has a memory that appears to be continuous, yet she has some questions and doubts.
"Only Avon has not had an interrupted existence that we can be sure of," says Cally
"Then we must refer to him," answers Jenna.
"Yes. He must be our reference point because we cannot be sure of ourselves."
The girls become quiet, trying to work everything out and looking inside themselves for clues about their existence.
On the flight deck Avon, who has been alone, turns around to find that Blake, Cally and Jenna are entering. Avon feels that they are different; zombie like, returned from the dead. He fingers his laser gun.
"You don't need to do that Avon,' says Blake. "If we are not the original Blake Jenna and Cally, then we are at least very good copies."
"I prefer to be cautious," says Avon.
Jenna makes her way to the navigational console. "We're arriving at Gauda Prime," she says.
"And here is the welcoming committee," says Cally.
Federation interceptors surround the Liberator pod and communications are set up.
"Continue deceleration into a stable, geostationary orbit over the coordinates longitude 51.1 and latitude 321," says the Federation commander in charge of the fleet.
Once this is achieved Servalan begins her own dialogue with Avon and the crew.
Her face appears on a display projected by Zen.
"You should stand in the presence of the Commissioner of the Delta Quadrant of Federation of planets," she says.
Avon puts his feet up on the console and laughs. "You want Orac, and I know where ORAC is." He mocks.
"I could have you blasted out of the sky," says Servalan.
"We are not afraid of death," says Blake.
"Blake!" Exclaims Servalan. "I had hoped you were already dead. What a wonder that ship is. I shall have you modified as my personal fool. Ah! Cally .. and Jenna. Interesting! Cally and Jenna will make nice toys for the troops to play with."
"Enough of this." says Avon. "We've come to trade Orac for our freedom."
"Done" says Sevalan. "So tell me where it is and you can all go free." She says this coldly knowing that they are not going to trust her.
"Orac is at a location on the planet at these coordinates."
Avon relates the details of how to find Orac.
Servalan looks puzzled, but barks out an order to go and search. "You cannot be truthful," she says to Avon. "Whatever you are trying to achieve, you cannot win."
Blake, Jenna and Cally also are looking at Avon and wondering what he is playing at. But they give nothing away to Servalan.
Avon gets to his feet. "When you find Orac we'll talk again and you can fulfil your side of the bargain." Avon turns his back on Sevalan and orders Zen to cut off communications for the present.
"What are you playing at Avon?" cries Blake, "Have you really told them the location of Orac?"
"Sevalan won't just turn us all into space dust as soon as she has it?
"She will not."
"How do you know?"
"She could, but I have a prediction that she will not. If I am wrong then we all die."
"You haven't changed," says Jenna ruefully. "Why not include us in your schemes?
"I don't trust you," answers Avon
Jenna looks at Blake.
"We'll go along with him," says Blake. "Quite frankly there is nothing else we can do."
Hours pass until the voice of Zen crackles into life. "Communication channels have been requested from Federation control."
"Put it on." says Avon after everyone on the Liberator has readied himself or herself.
The face of Servalan appears once again.
"We have Orac," she says with some incredulity in her voice. "Now prepare to be boarded and arrested, or else you can just be destroyed or you can self destruct, it's entirely up to you," she says. "Which would you prefer? Of course the options I outlined earlier are still open to you if you want to live."
"We shall self destruct," says Avon coolly.
"What is this game of bluff you are playing?" says Sevalan and Avon sees that she is unsettled.
"I may have Orac" she says, "but I do not have an instruction book. How do I turn it on."
Avon grins and holds up the on off switch.
"I see," says Servalan. "But this simply takes us back to square one. I am not going to allow you to leave with or without that switch."
"Destroy us then," laughs Avon toying with her.
"My patience is running out," says Servalan. Avon once again laughs. He is really enjoying himself, but suddenly his countenance changes. He leans forwards and says with deadly earnest.
"I want my freedom! I'm fed up with hiding, fed up with running and fighting. I want to be left alone. I propose this. We shall move the Liberator out of orbit and move out of this sector. You will not follow. I will leave the switch in free space and in one half hour beam back the coordinates. In return you will not pursue us and furthermore we will be fully pardoned and given the status of civil administrators within the Federation - your Federation with an income to match."
"Very well you have my word." says Servalan
Avon looks relieved.
"Move the Liberator out of orbit Jenna".
"Blake we can't trust Servalan,' says Jenna.
"We must, and I believe we can," he says and looks at Avon.
"Servalan," says Blake, "I can only beg you to respect human life. I implore you not to destroy life but to use the federation for good."
"We have the same goals Blake," she says. "Order is the first necessity for human civilisation and with civilisation comes peace and prosperity. I shall impose order, but do you really think I want to rule a galaxy of zombies? There must be a strong Federation you must see that. If there is not then there can only be chaos. Go! And enjoy your lives."
Jenna begins to pilot the Liberator away from Guada Prime. Once the communication link is broken Servalan turns to her commander.
"Have the Liberator tracked. Pick up the remaining part for Orac if they really do eject it and then pursue and if possible capture them. You may destroy the liberator if necessary. If there are survivors I want them brought to me before modification."
Hours later Servalan holds the on off switch for ORAC in her hand. She studies it, and caresses it, switching her gaze from it to Orac itself. She gets up and moves across to Orac. Holding the switch just over the receptor she thinks deeply. "Why?"
She draws away her hand and returns to her chair but the temptation to try Orac is strong. "What then?" she asks herself. "Why did he give this to me? Once I have Orac in control I can reclaim the Federation. But it may be a trap, it was too easy. Damn you Avon." She resists the temptation but the more she resists the more the temptation for ultimate power strengthens. "I have only to turn on this machine, and I can become the most powerful person in the universe," she thinks. "Avon must have been weakening. He must have wanted to be free." Servalan is convincing herself that Avon had no ulterior motive because she wants power. She longs to turn on Orac and release the potential. "I must resist until I can be sure it is not a trap' She says.
Meanwhile, Jenna is piloting the Liberator Pod into a planetary system where she can find asteroids and small planets to escape the pursuing Federation vessels.
"There are a couple of comets nearing the star, I might be able to take a ride on one and lose them." She exclaims.
"Just keep them at bay." says Avon.
"Unlike Zen I don't have an inexhaustible power supply', says Jenna pulling the ship into a steep turn in order to avoid some ships that have got ahead of them.
"Are you going to tell us why you have led us into this corner?" asks Blake. "Why give Orac to Servalan knowing that as soon as she had it she would kill us all?"
"I thought that the answer would be self-evident by now. But I was wrong. She is holding out much longer than I thought she would," answers Avon.
Jenna pulls the ship around narrowly missing a squadron of interceptors.
"That was close," exclaims Cally. "Tell us what is going on would you Avon?"
"I can't go on dog-fighting like this much longer," cries Jenna."
"Very well, let's go into time distort. They can only follow us then, but skirt around this sector of the spiral arm. We may have to return to Gauda Prime," answers Avon.
Blake says "What? I may be a facsimile Avon but I value my life. If I am going to die again I should like to know why?"
Jenna boosts the Liberator into time-distort drive and sets an elliptical course.
"Very well," says Avon. "Before I set Orac down in a hidden place inside the dome on Gauda, I gave final instructions. I first asked Orac to predict Servalan's decision; what would she do if she had possession of Orac, but she suspected some sort of double cross?"
"What do you mean? asks Jenna.
"I see," says Blake. "Set up an action for Orac when it is next turned on, and then give Orac to Servalan. But the action would have to be devastating, it would have to be worth the risk."
"Yes" says Avon it would have to be worth the risk of our lives or worse - modification."
"Don't," says Cally, "Nothing is worth that."
"Why not just perform the action yourself?" asks Jenna. "Why is it important that Servalan should do it."
"She betrayed us all to a lingering death on Terminal., and has been the agency for millions of ruined lives, I want her to know that she had brought about the end of her beloved federation. Servalan does not fully understand Orac's potential; She only knows that it is an incredibly powerful computer. She may not know that Orac is in fact at the centre of a galaxy wide network of computer information with access to "all the information of all the known worlds" as Ensor put it, including Zen although Zen does not contain Tariel cells."
"Yes I remember," says Cally. "Ensor told us that Orac could examine any computer containing Tariel cells without a direct link."
"And every computer in the federation does," says Blake.
"I have given instructions to Orac to send out a command - a cyber-space worm, a virus, disease if you like - to every Tariel cell to wipe out all data on a continuous loop," explains Avon. "Normally the protection devices would stop such an attack but Orac will propogate it to all cells virtually instantaneously."
"That will bring the federation infrastructure to a halt; all communications, space travel, the credit system. It may be the end of civilisation as we know it."
"I hope so," says Avon.
"But people, a lot of people may die because of this."
"We've faced that question before on Star One."
A short silence follows.
Avon says; "But Servalan has not yet turned Orac on. Orac projected that she would be unable to resist the temptation despite the risk. Yet she has done. She must be tortured by the desire to use it."
"So you are trying the old Pandora's box test on her?"
"Then we must tempt her more," says Jenna.
"Any ideas?" asks Blake.
"What's going on? Jenna? Blake? Cally? It can't be, I must be dreaming," says a voice from behind them. "The last thing I remember I was shot dead."
They turn to see the familiar figure of Vila.
"And then there were five," says Blake.
"Well four and a half." says Avon.
"You didn't die," explains Cally. "Your heart did stop for a few moments but you were not brain dead."
Avon looks round at Cally with raised eyebrows whilst Vila's face is a picture of confusion. Blake and Jenna see the joke and they all laugh heartily.
"This isn't funny," says Vila.
Blake tries to apologise but is now laughing and allowing himself the indulgence. At last he manages to say: "Sorry Vila. We've all been under a strain in the last few hours."
"Don't mind me," says Vila ruefully as they all continue to enjoy the release.
"I'm sorry Vila,' says Cally, "Let me explain the situation to you.' She sits at the conference table with Vila and talks privately with him.
Servalan meanwhile is once again walking over to Orac and holding out the on-off switch. She swears, curses Avon, withdraws the switch and walks away but her face is troubled because she is on the threshold of great power but unable to use it. She barks into a microphone. "I want an update on the location and actions of the Liberator, and I want it now! In my office."
The door opens and two officials walk in.
Servalan says "Well?"
"The Liberator is being tracked on variable elliptical paths with randomly changing foci within this sector of the spiral arm and therefore we are unable to intercept it but we are tracking by pursuit vessels. We are certain of ultimate success in either destroying them or capturing them, but the vessel is.."
"I am not pleased," interrupts Servalan. "Put more pursuit vessels at the disposal of General Maud."
"Madam!" The only way that is possible is by compromising the activity in Zeral 3 where the population is being subdued after mass rioting."
Servalan says nothing but stares at the man.
"At once, Commissioner. We will have more ships diverted to the pursuit."
The men turn to leave.
"That ship is your priority," says Servalan.
"I understand," answers the man.
Once again Servalan approaches Orac and almost touches the on/off switch against the box but at the last moment withdraws.
On the Liberator Blake says, "She's not falling for it Avon,"
"No! If she had, it would be apparent by now."
"How can we implement Jenna's suggestion and tempt her more?"
"She must already be half mad with the desire to use Orac, but she has the self-will to obey her reasoning. She suspects a trap."
"Instead we are in her trap," says Jenna. "We cannot outrun the pursuit vessels nor can we out-shoot them and more vessels are moving into this sector."
"Zen!" calls Avon. "Can you communicate with Orac?"
"Attempting to set up a communication with ORAC."
A few moments elapse before Avon says "Well?"
"No response has been detected."
"There's nothing we can do if Orac is switched off," says Cally.
"We're out of ideas aren't we?" says Vila. "You did really well to bring me back, don't bother next time."
"Energy levels are beginning to drop," says Jenna. "At this rate we'll come out of time-distort drive in a few minutes, and then we will be at the mercy of the pursuit ships."
"We have to decide what to do," says Blake. "What are the options?"
"Self destruct?" suggests Cally.
"Fight till they score a direct hit?" says Jenna.
"Surrender?" wails Vila.
"That's very selfish of you Vila,' says Avon.
"Because for you modification won't make much difference, but for the rest of us we loose our minds."
"Thanks" says Vila weakly.
"You say Orac predicted that Servalan would not be able to resist the temptation of turning Orac on?" says Cally.
"That's right," says Avon. "But it seems that even Orac can be wrong."
"Yet Orac made that prediction that a sister ship of the Liberator would be destroyed."
"Yes, says Cally, "but not by seeing into the future in some mystical sense, just by putting all the facts and probabilities together and calculating."
"If Orac was right once," says Jenna.
"He is right again," says Cally, "we just don't know the timing,"
"Ever heard of faith?" says Blake.
"What do you mean Blake?" says Jenna.
"I hope you aren't turning to religion?" asks Vila.
"No, says Blake "but faith is putting your trust in the reliability of an authority. It may be a person or a machine. We know that Orac predicted that Servalan would turn Orac on, but she has not, so something is missing. If we have faith in Orac's prediction then under the right circumstances, which are inevitable, she will turn Orac on. Perhaps we are part of those circumstances, in fact we must be."
"I don't like the way this is heading," says Vila.
"You mean," says Avon, "that the circumstances in which she will not be able to resist the temptation may include us in some way?"
"Hold on," says Jenna, "It sounds as though you are talking about some kind of predestination. Predestination is not involved here, if you are right and our faith in Orac is well founded then she will turn Orac on, but it may not be for years. We can't influence the timing."
"Suppose we can?" says Cally. "Just suppose that she is on the edge of the cliff? She may only need a small push to step over the edge."
"You mean she's so close to turning Orac on that we may be able to provide that push," asks Jenna.
"Oh! No!" says Vila, "I want to get off,"
"Avon!" says Blake. "Can you remember exactly the communication between yourself and Orac when you asked it about Servalan? There may be something that will help us."
Avon sits back and thinks hard. After a few moments he begins to relate the conversation as he remembers it.
"We are in the dome. I suspect everyone and everything. So I plan to set a trap for Servalan should Orac come into her possession.
"Orac, I want you to come up with some way I can ensure that if Servalan's voice speaks to you when you are next turned on, that you will implement the federation computer network destruction programme I arranged with you - with these words in my voice. "Well done Servalan, you have just destroyed the entire Federation infrastructure. Enjoy."
Orac: "Very well, I caution you that I will be completely useless once all Tariel cells are operating in a continuous loop."
"I want a prediction?"
Orac: "State the requirement?"
"Will Servalan turn you on if you come into her possession, even if she suspects a trap?"
Orac: "It is an immutable certainty"
"Good, I only wish I could be there to see it."
Orac: "Calculations confirm that you can be and the certainty of this is increased to one hundred percent provided that your choice is to live." "
"So that's why you were laughing in the dome," says Jenna. "You knew you weren't going to die at that moment. You were mocking the Federation, you knew you'd survive at least until you'd seen Servalan turn on Orac."
"And at some point you have to choose to live." says Cally. "If you do Orac has calculated that you will actually watch Servalan destroy the Federation."
"Yeah! but what about the rest of us? And suppose you're modified at the time. You won't be able to enjoy it," says Vila.
"The energy levels are now at critical," cries Jenna. "At any moment we might fall out of time distort drive."
"Don't you see," says Blake. "Orac foresaw that we would be in this position. We have to make a choice, and that must be to survive at any cost, or at least Avon must survive. Orac was actually manipulating the events. He was giving us advice, making our choice for us. We are an integral part of the Federation's downfall through Servalan. The choice we have now is to self destruct or be blown out of space, or to surrender."
"We're risking our minds," says Cally.
"If we surrender," says Vila, "at least we're alive."
"Time distort auto rejection sequence has started," calls Jenna, "we have only seconds to make our choice. Federation ships are virtually on top of us."
"Avon?" asks Blake. "Decision time! You have the final call."
On Gauda Prime Servalan is called out of a meeting to a priority-one videomeg.
"Captain Maud?" she says coldly. "You have permission to speak."
"Prime commander, we have captured the Liberator and arrested the crew."
"You have - who exactly?"
"The prisoners are Roj Blake, Jenna Stanis, Avon, Cally, Oh! and er Vila ."
"I can hardly believe it?" says Servalan. "How did you capture them?"
There was a short fight but after we had demonstrated our superiority by damaging them this Vila made a call and offered to assist us if we allowed him clemency."
"He betrayed them?"
"He will stand trial anyway, show him no favours."
"Good! Before administering the usual drugs I want them brought here to Guada Prime. Once here they are to be brought, to my personal offices. I will make some arrangements before then."
Servalan turns off the viewer and thinks deeply.
On a Federation ship, a fellow officer with captain Maud says, "You didn't tell her that the Liberator blew itself up and took out nine of our ships?"
"We'll tell her the good news first. She is only interested in these captives for some reason known only to her," replies Maud.
Blake, Avon and the others, having been transferred as prisoners to the office complex of the Delta Quadrant Commissioner on Guarda Prime are brought to a holding area, with chords around their ankles and hands secured behind their backs. They are kept for some hours in a cell before they begin to hear a fracas outside.
"That's a laser gun, and grenades.' says Cally.
The sound becomes intense, walls are rocked, shouting and screaming is heard. The ceiling of the holding cells is rocked, debris falls on them and at last a voice is heard.
"We're here," he cries."
Next moment the voice calls out. "Stand back from the door."
The door is blasted open and four rebel commando's enter.
The others are released from their bonds.
"Who are you?" asks Avon.
"Rebel fighters from Zeral 3, they removed a great deal of resources from our planet to get you, so we thought you must be worth rescuing. You are the Blake?" He asks.
"Yes, and this is Jenna, Cally, Avon _ and Vila."
"Follow me, we'll get you out of here".
Blake looks out of a window and sees a terrific battle taking place.
"You have good resources," he says.
"Zeral 3 is in revolt. Come and join us. With you we'll be able to get Zeral 4 and 5 maybe to join us."
"Here! Weapons" says the rebel leader. "Let's go".
"No weapon for Vila,' says Jenna. "You can follow us if you want and we'll shoot you later."
They run out of the complex but are constrained to move deeper into the office area because of the concentration of Federation troops."
"We may be able to fight our way out on the other side.' calls the rebel.
They run through the office complex shooting any federation troopers in the way, pursued by others, crashing over desks, knocking filing cabinets over. They fight for their lives until exhausted they enter a room where they get a sight of Servalan being ushered quickly out of a door. They find themselves on their own inside the room and holding Troopers at bay outside the doors.
"You are completely surrounded." calls a voice from outside. "Surrender immediately."
The rebel leader calls up his forces. "Commander Givic," he calls into his wrist-band.
"Hermander" replies a voice from the wrist band communicator.
"Were in the centre of the complex, can you reach us?"
"Were now at the cellblock where they were being held. Hold on we'll get to you as soon as we can but Federation forces are between us and you."
"Givic" we've seen the Commissioner your priority over rescuing us must be to kill her if you can."
"Negative, commander Handon.' We witnessed a large Space shuttle taking off just now. It's a fair bet she's left already."
"OK Givic. In that case get to us as soon as you can."
"Will do, hang on in there,"
The sound of battle within the complex increases but Vila suddenly calls out. "Look, its Orac."
They all look round and there sitting on a rack is the box of Orac.
Avon examines it carefully. "It is Orac," he says.
"But the switch?" says Jenna.
"It must be here somewhere," says Blake.
They all begin rummaging through the draws, find a safe that they blast open and inside they find Orac's on/off switch.
"This is incredible," says Cally, "we must be in the office used by Servalan herself."
"I'll take that," says Avon grasping the key from the hand of Cally."
"What are you going to do?" asks Jenna.
"I'm going to turn Orac on and get it to disable all local computor data traffic. That should set them back and give us a real advantage. Then I'm going to find out where Servalan is and get Orac to direct her ship into the ground."
Avon walks over to Orac and places the on/off switch into the receptor, but nothing happens.
"What's wrong?" cries Blake.
At that moment all the rebels turn their guns to cover Blake's people.
"Don't move a muscle," says Hermander.
The doors open and Servalan enters with her entourage of personal guards. She looks supremely triumphant. At the same time the sounds of battle in the complex cease.
Servalan stops and hold up another key. She smiles and says. "That one is a fake. I had it made before you arrived."
"So this is all a trap?" says Blake. "But what for? All this damage for what?"
"So she could see what we would do with Orac,' says Avon.
"All this to get us to turn on Orac?' cries Jenna.
"Throw your weapons down" says Servalan. They obey.
"Bind them." says Servalan. "Yes, I needed to know what your uninfluenced reaction would be when you had access to Orac. Not knowing the capabilities of this machine I could take no chances. You may have set some kind of a trap. It may have exploded, or whatever, I don't know, but now I know that turning it on will have no damaging effect. Captain Handon, "Have your men execute them all now, except Avon.
"Thank you" says Avon to Blake as Guns are raised.
In a frenzy of shooting Vila, Blake, Jenna and Cally are shot dead and fall to the ground."
"And now," I shall turn Orac on and you will assist me in describing it's uses," says Servalan.
"Never!" answers Avon.
"Oh! But we have ways," smiles Servalan as she walks over to Orac. She takes the key and places it in the receptor. Orac comes to life as the lights within the box flicker into action.
Servalan looks at it. She turns to Avon. "Well! Is that all? What do I do now?"
Avon stays tight lipped.
"Servalan turns back to the box. "Orac" she says. "I want you to describe to me your general and specific functions, your capabilities and your limitations."
From the box of Orac comes Avon's voice.
"Well done Servalan, you have just destroyed the entire Federation infrastructure. Enjoy."
Sevalan looks confused and angry and puzzled and frightened. She looks around at Avon. "What have you done?" she cries.
At the same time all the federation troopers in the rooms begin knocking their helmets.' A huge crash is heard outside followed by an explosion. The troopers are unable to hear anything because of the buzzing in their earphones." They become incapable of functioning because they are all of a modified human type controlled from a central computer which no longer functions.
Avon is unable to do anything because he is bound.
Sevalan picks up a gun and points it at him but Avon stands tall and proud and begins to laugh. "Well done indeed," he laughs. "We were one step ahead of you all the time. Vila played his part, we played ours and we fooled you Servalan. The Pandora of ancient Greece only infected one world, but you and entire galaxy. Imagine the legends that will be told about you in the future. Enjoy."
As the gun that Servalan holds begins to fire, Avon's laugh is heard throughout the whole of the Federation of Planets. The echo carries on as all the computers all over the galaxy pick up the super virus and are damaged irreparably.
Servalan stands over the body of Avon. Her face is afraid. She hears noises outside and begins to move out of the office area. She keeps moving, seeing that nothing is working. Office people call out to her. "What shall we do?" she shoots one dead as he gets in her way. She finds her way outside the office complex to see carnage everywhere. Men and women are unable to communicate except by voice.
Then she hears Avon's voice repeating from every malfunctioning computor. "Well done Servalan, you have just destroyed the entire Federation infrastructure. Enjoy." Over and over she hears it. She screams but Avon's laugh grows louder and louder.
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