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The Equals

By Susan
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'The caterwauling quartet and entourage are safely down, and there will be a Hedgehogs of the Apocalypse concert tomorrow. I can get a high price for the tickets they gave me - unless anyone here wishes to go.' Avon said on returning to the Liberator's flight deck. Blake was sitting in the well of the flight deck, with Orac on the table. Avon could guess what they had been discussing - and he had his revenge already planned.

'You kept yours?' Blake asked with a smile. Avon had expressed his opinion of the "unmusical" group somewhat forcibly and repeatedly. Blake privately agreed with him - almost.

'To borrow Orac's phrase, I increased the sum of human happiness and obtained the cash alternative - and music I enjoy.' It amazed Avon what some people preferred to money.

'You did not pay sufficient attention. I was quoting Jeremy Bentham.' Orac complained. But they had been listening, and Blake's explanation of some things just now had been very interesting. Now what was the best way to get the humans to do what it wanted them to do? They would be amenable to at least part of its suggestion, going by recent events.

'The Hedgehogs do make a fortune each time they perform Avon,' Blake pointed out. 'Have you ever considered a career move?' Avon reflected he might make a sparring partner out of Blake yet.

'They are probably paid to go away. And I only sing under duress.' In public at least.

'Yours or ours?' Blake asked, smiling in his most infuriatingly winning manner. Avon took out a computer memory unit from a pocket, and gave it to Blake. It was one of two, and the other would be saved until it was most useful.

'What is that?'

'The Hedgehogs apparently felt you so enjoyed that singalong of parodies to popular tunes you had with them that you would wish to have the music,' Avon smirked at Blake, adding, 'and possibly you might make more converts by singing to those you encounter than by your so-called rational arguments. We could also interfere with the news broadcasts so that these are played whenever the appropriate politicians appear therein.'

'That is a gross misuse of my capacities, that almost exceeds the usual standard of this group,' Orac complained, guessing, accurately, what its involvement was likely to be. 'To go from the stimulating intellectual discussions I was having to trivialities such as this'

'With the Hedgehogs?' Avon asked, amused.

'No, Ilye.'

'Whose fifth birthday party last week was a success,' Blake pointed out. Better and better, thought Orac.

'One of the few sorts of "work" Vila enjoys doing and shows a talent for.' Avon replied. He had to stop agreeing with Blake so often: twice in one week was too much. 'Apart from opening locks like nobody's business.'

'Which is the problem.' Blake replied, laughing.

'What were you discussing with Ilye?' Avon asked. Orac had frequently protested when its conversations with the child had been interrupted.

'Where everything comes from, what everything is made of and other such fascinating topics which people on the Liberator normally ignore.' Not for want of trying to get them to do so, Orac thought.

'How old are you Orac?' Blake asked, having never considered the matter before. 'Or when did you become active in the form that you are now?' It was a good thing, Orac reflected, that the humans did not yet recognise the flickering pattern of its lights that indicated laughter. It could justify the answer given - and any of the seven others it might have chosen. It might even see if it could celebrate any of the others.

'In the sense you mean, five years ago next week.' Blake could not quite conceal a smile. A very useful coincidence, which Avon, predictably, ignored.

'Then we could have another party,' Blake said. 'As the last one was such a success' Avon had enjoyed it for at least ten minutes, trying to solve the computer game that Ilye had understood immediately. The games they had got for Avon fro m the same series would keep him amused for at least half an hour. That Avon would promptly devise some form of revenge - probably using another Hedgehog tape - was certain, and would probably be worth it.

'What about the cake crumbs?' Orac complained. It was pleased that so much of the desired result had been achieved with such little difficulty and prompting.

'There weren't any.' Avon said soothingly. Somehow he was not certain that this was quite what Orac meant.

Blake looked at his watch.

'If you are the same age as Ilye then shouldn't you be asleep like him?'

'I am not a child!' Orac retorted, and went into "sulk" mode, though it might use the comment when appropriate in future. Though, it thought, perhaps it would now be taken care of properly, and taken to interesting places, like Ilye had been. Hopeful as always, it started making a list, and considering whether Blake's remark was an example of humour - which was a source of endless discussion among the computers. It was surprising how many were categorised as "silly" even by those sentients making them.

'Sometimes you can be quite witty Blake.' Avon said laughing, even though Blake had beaten him to it in annoying Orac for once.

'Consider how much it explains about Orac.' Blake replied. 'I'll tell Vila to organise the party.'

'I am not a decorative candle holder. Despite what some people considered last time' Orac whined, sensing a possible danger. It had also become stuck with its list of places where it wished to be taken, having thought of only two hundred and fifty three.

'That was a misunderstanding. And nothing actually happened,' Blake replied, amused, before adding, 'What presents would you want?' Even better Orac thought. It might get these humans fully trained to do what it wanted yet.

'Computer games,' Avon said automatically, looking annoyed when he caught Blake's expression.

'As I have missed out on this interesting custom previously, and Aristo has a different year to the Terran standard, it might be best to combine several such instances. I will provide you with a list of information I wish to have. Can I have some party streamers please? And you gave Ilye a windmill. With spangles.'


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