The LiberatorBy Jackie Speel
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The Federation was only one of the regional groupings that occupied parts of
the galaxy - their spread meant that there was little contact between most of
them. Most of the groupings were aware of those in their immediate vicinity,
though there was rarely anything more than occasional trade and contact. The
galaxy was still big enough for them to avoid having to progress to any
The regional grouping to which the Tri-Planetary system belonged was a considerable fraction of the galaxy away from the Federation - and was called the '95' after the number of planetary systems involved in the original agreement. It had recently, like the Federation, moved into a more oppressive form, though of a far milder nature. As it did the DSVs began to move away from the region of the '95.'
This was partially because their primary function was to explore. The ships' computers saw an element of truth in the joke that they would still be carrying out that function as the universe finally came to an end. They were also seeking the means to destroy the more oppressive subdivisions within the '95.'
The Tri-Planetary System was one such.
The three planets that comprised it had existed in uneasy peace for generations, but the co-operation regularly broke down, leading to a state of war or continued tension. Then information about the Federation's Space Command and related facilities, including Terminal, trickled through to the '95' and the Tri-Planetary System. The leaders of one planet saw the possibilities in the information, and decided to construct an equivalent to the Federation's Space Command, larger than the space bases already in existence.
It persuaded and coerced the other planets into going along with the idea. The '95' was willing to provide some resources, with the proviso that the Spaceworld created would be able to accommodate the DSVs for repairs and developments. This was done, and a DSV and related resources were assigned to the new component of the Tri-Planetary system. The DSV was already planning to leave, and as soon as it had acquired information about the new Spaceworld it did so. With the completion of the Spaceworld the Tri-Planetary System began referring to itself as the System. The Spaceworld's inhabitants were primarily Altas, faceless guards and slaves, with a minimum of scientists, technicians and others. The guards were regimented, trained to obey orders like the Federation' troopers. The Altas, originally the elite of the society, began to incorporate neural links to Spaceworld's computers, the interface being gradually extended until by the second generation they were effectively merged with those computers. The slaves sometimes argued that, despite the physical hardship to which they were subject, they were, in many senses, freer than the Altas and the guards. The peoples of the three natural planets of the System were subjected to the authoritarian rule of Spaceworld, and would have recognised the similarities with the regime developing within the Federation.
Zen, enjoying its explorations of the galaxy, decided it would eventually return to liberate the Tri-Planetary system from the authoritarian regime now in control, but did not know how. It considered the information it was collecting, and stayed out of view of the authorities of the regional groupings it passed through. Its crew, changing over time, were willing to explore - and install new equipment and means to access further information. None of those who crewed the DSV were suitable to lead a rebellion against the System. There would be only one chance.
Then the DSV encountered a battle in space which led to the crew abandoning ship. While it was considering what to do next it encountered a ship of the local regional grouping, the Federation. The DSV's previous occupants had installed equipment that enabled communication with the local computers. On interrogating the ship's computers - a process which was normally carried out between any two ships within hailing distance, even if their crews did not make contact - Zen found that there was a well known rebel on board, who had caused some disruption.
A short while later the rebel Roj Blake, with, usefully, a pilot, Jenna Stannis, and a computer expert, Kerr Avon, were on board, and others joined later. Zen decided that it might have found the crew it was looking for.
Zen did not tell its crew about the System - though it suspected that Blake would be willing to provide some aid. Nor did it explain why the choice of name, the Liberator, was acceptable.
Having come into contact with the computer known as Orac Zen made plans with it for the small computer to come on the Liberator - a process which took much less time than expected. Which was fortunate, as the System had, by some means, located its wayward ship, and were arranging for it to return "home." Zen made a deal with Orac, which was trying to consider how to get round its prediction that the Liberator would explode, with the resultant destruction of itself.
In return for a resolution to the prediction, Orac arranged for the Alta system to be destroyed and the other DSV's equivalent to Zen to be installed in the Spaceworld's computers.
A message was later relayed to Zen - the Liberator had lived up to its name, and the newly renamed Four Planetary System was something Zen, and Roj Blake, could be proud of.
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