slammed his fist against the desk in frustration, stood up, turned his
back on the dark haired man and walked to the wall, where he looked, blankly,
at the various notices pinned haphazardly, some warning of danger, some
advertising pleasure, but
none impinging on the rebel's thought patterns. He stayed in that position,
arms loosely hanging by his side, for a minute, perhaps more. The man
at the desk was becoming anxious, fidgeting in his chair, always about
to say something, but not knowing what and so remaining silent. Finally,
Blake turned to face him.
"How did they find
"We don't know," he said. "They must have someone on the inside."
"Impossible," said Blake, anger in his voice. "I know all our people personally;
there's not one I wouldn't trust with my life."
"Oh Roj," said the man,
standing up and walking round the desk. "Don't be so naive. There's no-one
you can trust totally everyone has their price. We have spies in federation
ranks, they have spies among us."
"But hardly anyone knew
about this mission. A select few. If they know about this, they know about
everything, they have someone in the inner circle."
"Not everyone gets checked," said the man. "What about that pilot of yours?
Bit of a loner, so I heard. Used to be a smuggler, do anything for money,
"No, Kanda," said Blake. "Jenna's clean. We've been through a lot together.
I only pick safe people, sometimes I think I'm the only one who can."
"Your naivety runs deep, in that case," said the man. "Such egotism leads
to madness, such trust to death."
Blake smiled. "At times you remind me of Avon," he said. "He had a similar
way with words."
"Ah Avon, another of your
little band, and another strange example of your trust. He and Jenna are of
the same breed."
"Yes they are, and so are you I think," said Blake. "But not in the way you
imagine. But more of this later. I'd better find Jenna and tell her she's
not running that blockade tomorrow. Where's she stationed?"
"On the Mertal station, getting a bit of r&r I expect. You should try
it yourself sometime, you never know, you might even like it."
Blake smiled at him.
"I might just do that," he said. "With Jenna's trip cancelled..."
This time Kanda smiled. "I always thought there was something between you
"We're just friends, said Blake. "Really," he added in response to Kanda's
raised eyebrows and silly smirk.
Blake smiled again, shook his head and, without another word, left the room,
carefully closing the door behind him. He headed for the docking bay. He could
just send Jenna a message, but he rarely passed up the chance for a personal
two: Of all the bars
The bar on the Mertal station was small enough for six people to make it look
crowded, but then that was six more than usual. There were no tables, no little
alcoves for private
chats, just a length of horizontal plastic, about waist height
on an average man, supported by four pillars. In front were three stools,
one with a wobbly leg that had caused a few tumbles from overindulgent customers
during the station's short time in rebel hands.
Today, one of the other two stools was occupied by a young woman with flowing
blond hair; she was on her third glass of a yellowy green liquid. It should
be said at this time that third is relative in that it was the third glass
since Jenna decided she was only going to have one more, and she'd reached
that decision because she'd lost count of how many she'd had until then.
Behind the counter stood a bartender, a glum bartender, a bartender who liked
most days in this bar because no-one came in and he could potter about, watch
films, sometimes pornographic, and basically do what he liked. He was a tall
skinny man wearing baggy black trousers, white shirt and bartender's apron
and hat, the latter two items only donned when he had company, which was why
one customer was one too many, even if all they wanted was a quick drink before
they went on their way. A customer that continued drinking was intolerable.
He wished he could complain, but if he did someone may realise that, as the
only drinks he served were free, there wasn't really a need for a bartender,
and then he might be called on to do something dangerous.
"Give me anosher," said Jenna, pushing the empty glass towards him.
The bartender sighed, picked up the opened bottle and half filled the woman's
glass. He was about to put the bottle back on the shelf when he noticed the
icy glare she was giving him.
"Fill it up," she said.
"It's not real alcohol, you know," he said. "You'll be sober in two hours
no matter how much you drink."
"Don't care, fill it up."
"When you've finished that, if you still want some more I'll give you some."
"Fill it up."
"I think you'd better do what the lady says, and poor one for me while you're
The bartender jumped so suddenly his hat fell off.
"B-b-blake," he said, "I didn't see you come in."
"Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake," said Jenna, jumping up and giving him
a big hug and sloppy kiss.
"What are you doing here?"
"I've come to see you,
what else, and I've got a message," he said, then turned to the bartender,
Jenna still hanging off him. The bartender quickly placed another glass next
to Jenna's and filled them both.
Blake smiled and looked back at Jenna, noticing for the first time the tear
stains on her cheek.
"You've been crying," he said.
Jenna pushed away from him and took a swig from the glass, spilling more down
her front than she managed to get in her mouth.
"I'm mishing my shon," she said.
"Shon? Oh son. You haven't got a son."
"Yesh, I have, don't be shilly," she said, punching him in the shoulder. "You've
"I've never met any son of yours," he said, "well not knowingly."
"I'm mishing Orac," she said.
"I thought you said you were mishing, I mean missing, your son."
"Orac is my son."
Blake smiled. "You're drunker than you look, and that's saying something."
"Drunk, yesh," she said, "but it's true. It's a secret. I'll tell you if you
like, but not while he'sh listening."
Blake became aware that the bartender was leaning forward across the bar.
"Haven't you got something you could be getting on with?" said Blake. "In
there for instance."
Blake pointed at the door to the back room, home to the washing facilities,
where the drinks and glasses were kept.
The bartender looked as if he was about to object, then remembered Blake was
in charge round here and his own position somewhat precarious.
Thanks for reminding me, glasses to clean," he said with a forced smile. "If
you need another drink, just holler. Jones is the name, serving the game."
Jones the bartender turned and sulked off towards the door, opening it slowly
hoping the conversation would restart while he was still in earshot. It didn't.
Part three: Jenna's story
It had all started the day they first boarded the Liberator. Jenna had bonded
with Zen in a way even she hadn't suspected at the time. "Totally known,"
she'd said, and it turned out he had known her even better than she'd imagined.
Only a couple of days later, before they'd even reached Cygnus Alpha, she'd
felt sick. Something to do with the different atmosphere or a reaction to
alien food, she'd thought. But, when the sickness continued, she paid a visit
to the medical
room. The computer scanned her and said she had a mild dose of radiation poisoning.
Zen had lied to her, but she didn't know, and dutifully, over a couple of
weeks, and at the computer's instructions, she finished off the detox tablets.
Blake slammed his fist on the bar. "So it was your fault," he said, interrupting
the story. "I knew it was strange there were no anti-radiation drugs. You,
Avon, Gan, you could have all been killed after Cephlon."
"I know, but I couldn't tell you I was taking them."
"Why, there's nothing wrong with radiation poisoning. How did you get it?"
"You're not listening - Zen was lying, I didn't have radiation poisoning.
Shut up and listen."
Jenna had been suspicious almost at the start of the treatment, which was
partly the initial reason she hadn't told Avon and Blake. She still had to
prove herself and whinging about being ill did not seem a good plan. So she
had tested herself and found she was pregnant. This has been a shock. She
hadn't had sex for nearly a year, even when cooped up on the London in a ship
full of male
prisoners; no privacy anyway. The ultra scan had also shown something strange
about the foetus; it was almost a perfect cube. So she had confronted Zen.
Zen, at last, had seemed to be telling the truth. He'd used nanotechnology
and her biology to create a human-computer hybrid, a computer of immense intelligence
but with a real personality, not an artificial one. The plan had been for
Jenna to give birth secretly, which apparently had been due to happen very
soon, and then she was to place the device in an escape pod. The pod had already
been programmed to seek a computer expert called Ensor, who would raise it,
pretending it to be his own invention. Strict security measures had already
been put in place to keep the federation away.
In one to two years time Orac would manipulate events through control of the
federation computers to bring the Liberator to collect him. Ensor would be
dead by then, Orac would fix that, his usefulness served.
Part four: Square peg, round hole
"Let's get this straight," said Blake, "Zen told you that you were, pregnant,
that he was the father, and you believed him?
"It was the only thing that made sense. I was definitely pregnant; there was
no other explanation. And when you look back on it, Orac did what Zen said
he would. We were all manipulated, Servalan, you, me, Ensor's son, all of
you see, that was why Zen made me finish off the de-tox pills? Zen and Orac,
the perfect puppeteers. Did you know Ensor's son was called Trevor by the
way? Silly name!"
Blake ignored the question. "So, what did you do after Zen told you?"
"I just stormed back to my cabin to think. My head was in a spin, and I didn't
know what to do. I felt so alone Blake. Frightened."
Blake just grunted.
"I don't know if it was the anger, the confrontation with Zen, or if it was
my time anyway, but as I lay in my cabin, I started to feel something. A contraction,
I suppose you would call it, but it was like a low level electric
shock coursing through my abdomen. Like a really bad period pain, only..."
"Ye gods, spare me the gory details woman," growled Blake, starting to wish
he had just sent a message after all.
"Well anyway, the pain was overwhelming," continued Jenna, ignoring Blake's
objection in a style familiar to anyone cornered by a drunk with a story to
tell, "but it passed after a few seconds. I stood, and for a moment I considered
going to medical to get help. But I couldn't face it. I knew how everyone
"Disgust?" suggested Blake, drily.
She looked at him. "Yes, disgust, aversion, contempt, pity even. All the things
I was feeling myself, and worse. I knew then what I had to do. I knew I had
to handle it myself, and that no-one must know. Ever.
"The next few hours were some of the worst in my life. First, the contractions
got rapidly more frequent, and more intense. I had no drugs in my cabin, and
no medical equipment. It was all I could do not to scream out loud.
"And then my waters broke. But it wasn't normal, Blake, it was... the fluid
was full of tiny little things, machines like the microscopic droids in Zen's
auto repair system, or similar. They were small, no bigger than my fingernail,
there were dozens of them. I suppose they had come from Zen, that they had
been building the foetus inside me."
"Oh my god," said Blake, grimacing.
"Anyway, they scuttled away into a service conduit, and when I checked much
later, they'd gone. Back to Zen I presume.
"After that the contractions got even worse, and I could feel myself dilating.
But I was afraid. I'd seen the cubic shape on the scan, and I wasn't sure
whether I could give birth to it in the normal way. I wondered whether I might
have to perform a caesarian and cut it out of myself."
"Perhaps it would have been better that way," said Blake viciously. "You would
probably have bled to death."
She reached out and took another drink before continuing. "Then I felt it
rotating inside me, descending into my pelvis. I knew it was too late for
a caesarian, that I was going to have to give birth to it. I was terrified.
"Another contraction came, and this time I could feel that I was fully dilated."
"Disgusting," muttered Blake, taking another drink himself.
"This time I had no choice. I pushed. The corners of the cube were tearing
me, but I couldn't stop. I carried on pushing, and then there was a brief
pause between contractions. I looked down and I could see it emerging, corner
first, glistening with fluid and blood."
Blake shook his head. "This is truly obscene."
"Oh you haven't heard the half of it yet," slurred Jenna. "With the final
contraction, I screamed. I tried to muffle it but I couldn't help it. It was
agonising. I was ripped open, Blake, there was blood spurting out of me, and
then there he was. My baby."
She paused, becoming a little choked up. Blake regarded her incredulously,
and shook his head.
She knocked back another drink and carried on. "There was an umbilical cord,
too. I pulled on it, and could feel that it was attached to something, but
not to me. So I carried on pulling, and the cord slithered out between my
legs, all bloody and slimy. And on the end was the key, Orac's key. I dragged
myself over to the desk and found a pair of scissors, cut the cord and plugged
the key into its socket. Don't ask me how I knew: a mother's instinct, I suppose.
I just knew it was the right thing to do. And then..." her eyes misted at
the memory... "his little lights started flashing, and he whirred softly to
himself. No ugly crying
like a human baby. It was incredible."
"Incredibly perverse," said Blake, still looking utterly sickened.
"Then I found a needle and cotton and managed to do a kind of rough episiotomy
on myself," she continued, "but it wasn't very easy. It hurt like hell, because
I had no anaesthetic, and it wasn't a particularly tidy job, but it had to
be done. Would you like to see the scar?"
Blake spat out a mouthful of drink. "That's the most repellant offer I've
Jenna shrugged. "Please yourself. That was when the name came to me: Orac.
Do you know what it stands for?"
Blake shook his head, hardly even able to look at her.
"Orribly Ripped A Cunt," she giggled drunkenly.
Blake's face was like thunder, but she continued, oblivious. "And of course
I couldn't deal with the internal injuries straight away; I had to sneak off
to the medlab later and sort those out. And by then they'd started to go a
bit septic, and there were these sort of livery lumps - "
"Would you please skip the unnecessary medical details and tell me what you
did next?" asked Blake, fascinated despite his revulsion.
Jenna's face clouded. "Yes. I was exhausted, of course, and I just wanted
to sleep. But I knew I couldn't. I had to hide him somewhere where no-one
would find him. And then I had to get to the flight deck for my shift and
normal face to the world."
She took another drink, and her hands were shaking. "I cleaned Orac with a
towel, and put him in a carrier box. I put a tray of tools on top in case
I ran into anyone. Then I headed down to the escape pods, and put the box
inside the furthest one. Walking away was hard, really hard, but I knew I
had to do it, for both our sakes."
Part five: Aftermath
Blake sat in shocked silence for a while, trying to take in what Jenna had
just told him. She was crouched over the bar, tears rolling down her face.
Blake noticed a tear form into a droplet at the end of her nose before breaking
off and plopping into her drink. He nearly heaved, after that story everything
about her made him sick; he couldn't believe he'd once liked her, but now,
and the images of a human, Jenna, giving birth to a machine...
He couldn't stay here any longer, he decided, looking at the drunken shape
of someone he had once admired. It was seriously doubtful if he could ever
look at her again.
The scrape of the metal stool on the shiny floor made Jenna start as Blake
jerked himself upright.
"I'm off," he said, bluntly.
"Oh don't go," she said, standing up and trying to put her arms round him.
Blake pushed her off roughly.
"Don't touch me," he said.
Jenna looked hurt.
"Don't ever touch me."
She felt the tears welling up again as Blake headed for the door.
"Wait," she said. "You said you had a message for me."
He turned slowly to face her. Jenna relaxed at the smile on his face; he'd
only been joking.
"Oh, yes," said Blake, "the message? It was nothing really, Kanda just said
to wish you luck running the blockade tomorrow."