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Ghosts of Gauda

By Jackie
Page 2 of 3

Servalan found herself left to her own devices in a room designated a holding cell while the security checks were made and Arkeley decided what to do with her. She wondered briefly who had lived in this room previously and what had happened to them - a few personal objects had been left, though it was clear that anything "valuable" or "useful" had gone.

They had left Orac with her, on her continued hints of "Security connections and equipment."

She switched the computer on again.

'Why are you interrupting my investigations?'

'I wish to leave here, and I want to discover what happened to Avon and the others.'

'The military personnel have not searched this place thoroughly. The Roj Blake we both seek was here. Avon and the others came here. I cannot determine what became of them.' 

'Are they dead?' That was the logical - if personally painful - conclusion.

'The veracity of that statement cannot be presently determined. It is to be regretted if they were - they were useful for my studies.' Orac #was# only a computer - so why did it sound regretful? 'It is suggested you remove me from this base. I would not be used appropriately by those presently in occupation.'

'Nor would I. How do I get out of here?' Orac's last statement applied to her as well..

'This is an Open Planet, the group here were prepared for an incursion, and you have - supposedly - learnt military strategy. Kindly do not disturb me with trivial questions which you can resolve yourself.' The machine switched itself off.

Eventually, pausing when the guards checked her presence, she found the concealed escape hatch, through which Orac was an awkward object to be carried.

The door closed firmly behind her, hiding and blocking that escape. A dim wall light came on automatically - just enough to show her way. She almost tripped over a box with a strap, which had been left quite deliberately. She judged she had enough time for a quick glance at the contents. She recognised first aid items, money, and a torch on the surface. This had been a well-organised group and she could see why Avon would have contacted them.

The "tunnel" she walked through was completely different to those on Aristo, uninhabited, and the circulating air had cleared any dust from the floor, obscuring any evidence of previous travellers. Lights switched on ahead of her, and the darkness reverted behind her. Momentarily she understood ghost stories.

She eventually emerged into the forest. It had stopped raining. No alarm had yet been raised, so she opened the box again. Anyone who had planned this far ahead would have considered their own means of leaving Gauda Prime. Among the objects was a homing device, which she switched on, which led her to a concealed ship. Whoever had been here was probably unable to get to it - if they survived, they were welcome to her own ship if they found it.

 

****

 

After Servalan left Gauda Prime again, she hoped for good, the ship switched to what was obviously a pre-programmed course.  Servalan knew better than to attempt to override it yet.

She activated Orac when it was clear that she was safe from pursuit.

'Tell me where this ship is going.' She had to know what was happening.

Orac flickered for a few moments. 'To the nearest neutral planet. Harz Five.' Details appeared on the ship's computer screen. The planet was suitable for her immediate purposes. 'You can then select your next option.'

'What are your plans for me? To hand me over to the rebels or the authorities?'

'If that had been the decision, your true identity would have been already revealed.' That she believed.

'So...?'

'You wish to have authority - and have access to certain sources otherwise closed to me. I wish to locate Kerr Avon and his associates, and Roj Blake and his: all were on Gauda Prime, and I was not retrieved. Our aims coincide in finding them.'

'If I refuse to help you the consequences will not be to my liking?' Servalan asked.

'That is correct.'

'If I cooperate with your request, and Blake, Avon and the others are found?'

'During the investigation you can make use of what I can offer. If we succeed in finding them, you will be given safe passage away from them.' It would be Orac's definition of help, not hers, she knew. It #was# the best offer of co-operation she had received in a long time - as if she had any choice.

'And if they cannot be found? They were active for five years - I will give that long for the search.' And then - what would she do if they had not been found?

Orac was silent for a few moments. 'Then we reconsider.'

'Accepted - for now.' Servalan suspected that she would be provided with enough sufficiently detailed hints and echoes to be forced to continue the investigation regardless. Avon, she knew, enjoyed puzzles - perhaps he had created this one, knowing she would appreciate it.

 

Servalan settled back in the pilot's seat - she was used to taking the position of command. The ship would have been comfortable, if slightly cramped, for a full crew of six.

'Let us discuss what we can do together Orac.'

'As you wish.'

'Have you been programmed to work for the rebels?' Best resolve that now.

'The rebels wish to acquire information on a more diverse range of subjects than the authorities. My function is to acquire and process information, not serve as a Star One substitute. The Liberator was the better option.' Not quite answering the question, but a motivation she could understand.

'And you wish me to continue that?' It would make a change from the more usually desired access to power. They would have a certain common ground in the pursuit.

'Yes.'

' What do you suggest I do? I will #consider# it.' She would be nobody's puppet.

'You will need a new identity, and appearance, so that you are not identified with Servalan or Sleer.'

'I accept,' Servalan replied unhesitating. She would be glad to ditch the now compromised dead end role. It would be most... interesting to become someone of her own choosing, in a position she could make proper use of. 'I want a position that gives me more ready access to power. Or,' she said with a smile, 'access to the information that will enable both of us to achieve our goals.' Possibly the same thing.

'Agreed.'

'First - what will you tell me of your previous owners. And Travis.' She suspected he had died in the Intergalactic War, but wanted confirmation if possible.

'They were not my owners. I selected them,' Orac insisted. 'Travis was killed on Star One.' There was obviously more to the story.

'Did you select me?'

'For now, yes.'

 

****

 

A short while later "Shirdley" took up her new post, on a planet within Federation territory. The job was one that suited her, and provided opportunities for Orac and herself to gather and manipulate information. No one would now connect her with Sleer or Servalan - even with the minimal cosmetic surgery she had undertaken.

She looked and moved quite differently to what she had done, and, remembering Ardus, spoke somewhat differently. She was becoming used to longer hair than she had had, of a different colour, and the other changes Orac had suggested. She was also pursuing the cultural activities the computer suggested - whether or not they were the tastes of its previous owners, they would contribute to her change of image.

One change had been resisted to start with: but when Servalan started the enjoyable task of creating a new wardrobe, she realised that boredom and inactivity had led her to gaining weight anyway. It was an acceptable price for what she could hope to achieve.

 

****

 


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