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Completing the Circuit

By Kathryn Andersen
Page 1 of 1

The auto-repair circuits had done their usual efficient job; the damage from the trooper's blaster was all gone -- even the smoke stains had been eliminated. Avon sighed in frustration. Even after all this time, he didn't fully understand how the auto-repair worked. There was only so much he dared do to investigate it, because it was one vital system he dared not break, not without understanding how to fix it first. There was only one Liberator, and it hadn't come with a manual. He glanced over at Zen. Or at least, the manual wasn't very cooperative.

"Wisdom must be gathered, it cannot be given," Avon muttered sarcastically, remembering something that the computer had said not long after they'd come on board. But there was a difference between wisdom and *information*, and Zen seemed to be as miserly with the latter as with the former -- at least as far as the Liberator's workings were concerned. There were still controls that they didn't know the purpose of, and some that they knew only enough of to avoid touching again.

He frowned down at the lower left-hand crew-station, and the green panel which Jenna hadn't been able to remove her hand from, when they first came on board. It had been activated by the second button she'd touched, after that uncontrolled ride from her initial experimentation. They'd thought nothing had been triggered, and then... But how had Zen managed to read Jenna's mind? It wasn't as if it had been injecting nanobots into her through her hand. Yet telepathy operated through the fifth dimension, and while Orac's carrier beams travelled through it (thus bypassing the limitations of the light-barrier) the computer had no awareness in that dimension. *Computers don't do that.* It was the province of *sentient* beings. Telepaths mostly, but even ordinary humans accessed it involuntarily from time to time. So how had Zen done it?

*To be completely known, it's like... innocence.* Those were Jenna's words. But there was no way Avon was going to risk such an invasion of self. No way.

But it wouldn't hurt to investigate the circuitry of the device. Very carefully. He picked up his tools and went down the steps and began.

***

The probe sent a shock through his arm. He only had time to utter a curse before the paralysis hit. What had --?

It was as if he were rooted to the console. In more ways than one; as if he were a tree, or the branch of a tree, grafted onto an alien life; data flowing like sap in his veins, percieved but not understood. And then there was an *awareness*, focused on him. He felt like a gnat on the surface of a pond, about to be gulped by a big-mouthed fish. There was nowhere to hide. There was no *way* to hide.

He was not devoured. He was not even consumed with shame. His life, his existance, was one more piece of data in a world of data, known and examined by a dispassionate intelligence. There was no judgement here. Neither was there warm fuzzy love. Just... acceptance. Even accomodation. Understanding was to be desired, as a facilitator of greater efficiency. Wholeness is desirable. Harmony is desirable.

*We are One.*

Avon sat down with a bump, dropping the probe with a clatter. He absently massaged the hand that had held the probe. Part of him ached for lost communion, and part was relieved to be alone, small, self, solitary again.

"Zen!" he snapped, standing up.

+Yes, Avon?+

"Did you do that on purpose?"

+Circuits were engaged according to their design,+ Zen answered.

"That wasn't what I meant!"

+Confirmed.+

"You --" Avon broke off, and then smiled.

It was after this that Avon began referring to Zen as "he".


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Kathryn Andersen

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