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Rest in Peace

By Judith Proctor
Page 1 of 1

Avon tossed in fevered delirium on the floor of the shuttle.

      "Blood, too much blood - will I never be free of it?"

      Somehow he had achieved the impossible. In spite of the pain from his injuries when captured, he had escaped from his cell on Gauda Prime, dug Orac up from his hiding place in the forest and stolen the shuttle.

      "They're all dead. I killed them." Guilt and pain filled his voice and his nightmares.

      The deep wound inflicted by a bounty hunter as Avon fled, had done the final damage. When he had collapsed from loss of blood, Orac had taken control of the shuttle and piloted a course out of the system. Now the computer awaited further instructions.

      "What destination do you wish?" it enquired in an irritated tone, sounding remarkably like Ensor its creator.

      Sanity returned to Avon's face for a brief moment. "Does it matter?" he asked roughly. "Everything I touch turns to death and destruction. Is there anyone, anywhere, who has benefited from my life, who actually cares if I live or die?" He laughed ironically. "It doesn't really make any difference does it? I'm dying anyway."

      "That is correct," replied the machine neutrally. "Where do you wish to go?"

      "Take me somewhere where I can die in peace," the dark man answered, and then the fever took him once more.

      Lights flashed in circles and apparently random patterns as the computer considered the request. It had, Orac felt, been most imprecisely phrased. However, given the limited amount of data available it proceeded to consider what Avon might evaluate as peace and began to search its memory, recalling not only what it knew from personal experience, but also what it had learnt of Avon from Zen and Vila. The task turned out not to be as simple as originally envisaged, but Orac was satisfied with the result. If the final choice was slightly influenced by Orac's own desires, it didn't think that Avon was likely to either notice or care.

      Orbit established around its chosen destination, Orac scanned the surface carefully to find what it needed to fix a landing point. Locating the survival capsules took a little time, but the metal composition was unique and had survived the years well. With casual skill, Orac set up the program to land the shuttle.

      

Avon regained consciousness to the feel of something cool on his forehead and the sound of a voice softly singing. He opened his eyes cautiously.

      "My Lord Avon," said a gentle voice that he knew from somewhere. "You have returned to us."

      He gazed into the face of the woman bending over him. Older now, but the years had been kind to her, and the gentle innocence that had worked its way past his own hard bitten sarcasm was still there.

      "I'm dying," he told her quietly.

      "I know, my Lord. Your talking box told us. It is fitting that you should return to us. You are the saviour of our race, and we are your people."

      Avon struggled to place a hand on her arm. "When I am gone, take the box. Its name is Orac, and it may be of more use to your people than you realise." Talking was a strain, he knew he would be unable to say much more. "It is not a god. Use it, but don't worship it - and Meegat..."

      "Yes, my Lord?"

      He closed his eyes before speaking. "Thank you."

      

They buried him in the rocket silo under a great cairn of stones, and it stands there as his monument from that day to this. And if another cairn appeared shortly afterwards over the grave of Ensor's son? Well, who is to say that computers cannot have feelings too?


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Judith Proctor

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