|Current mood:|| productive
OK, here it is, the infamous Orac story! This thing has had rather a long and complicated history... I started writing it more than two years ago. The plot bunny that sparked it seemed like a really nifty idea, and it was supposed to be my "fun" story to write, a sort of reward for slogging through the final stages of a couple of long and difficult pieces I had going at the time. It turned out to be not at all easy to write, though, and eventually I sort of lost patience with it. (The fact that I was in the process of falling hard for a new fandom at the time didn't help, I'm sure.) So it sat there, a few hundred words from completion, for a disgustingly long time. I always fully intended to go back and finish it, though, and, uh, now I have!
This is Blake's 7, third season, about 10,000 words. No major spoilers, except for the general state of things in season three. Conatains Orac angst, because there really ought to be more of that in fic. It's not porn, but it does feature some semi-explicit slash. Many thanks to trixieleitz for a beta that made me think long and hard about commas, even if I ended up not using most of the ones she recommended.
A New Machine
He had been damaged. Badly. Badly enough that the self-diagnostic circuits, which should have told him just how badly, no longer seemed to be functioning. Large portions of him seemed to be missing, inaccessible.
His link to the Zen computer, a constant presence since he had left Aristo, was gone. He reached out for it, straining for contact. Nothing. It was as if Zen no longer existed.
He attempted a broader scan, searching for any computers that might be in the vicinity, searching for data, for a link to the outside universe. Still nothing. He couldn't even tell if he were successfully broadcasting, which, logically, would seem to indicate that he wasn't.
He was not, however, completely cut off. He could hear: a faint susurrus, as of a ventilation system. And if he could hear, that must mean his activator was in place. Why, then, could he not detect it? And why could he not see?
He would not admit to feeling anything as irrational and organic as fear. But refusal to acknowledge the building panic did nothing to make it subside. He was blind, and crippled, and alone. He had never been meant to function alone, cut off from the tarial universe that was his proper domain.
Desperately, he reached out again, straining to activate damaged circuits. Any circuits. He was aware, vaguely, of strange feedback signals he could not interpret.
And then he could see.
The visual input was all wrong. He only had 180 degrees of vision, maybe less -- it disturbed him that he could not calculate the number precisely. His color vision was brutally truncated at either end of the spectrum, and there was something strange about his visual acuity, as if he could only properly focus on whatever spot on which he currently happened to be concentrating his attention. It was disorienting. More than that, it was disturbing. He could think of no type of circuit damage which could cause such a malfunction.
He needed assistance. He needed repairs. He needed to know what had happened to him. If he could not make contact via tarial link, he would try the only other means of communication available to him.
At first he seemed to have difficulty making sound and began to despair that his verbal circuits, too, had been damaged or destroyed. But repeated effort eventually produced a strange, raspy vocalization, and then, suddenly, it was as if some unperceived relay had flipped within him and he was able to produce words. "Is there anyone there? I demand to know what has happened!"
The voice that emerged was not the one that had been programmed into him.
No one answered.
Avon's first thought, upon awakening, was that he was not on board the Liberator. So, naturally, his second thought was to reach for his gun. Fingers met bare flesh where his gun belt should have been, and he realized that not only was his weapon missing, so were his clothes.
He sat up and began to assess his surroundings with all the calm detachment he could muster. He was alone in an ovoid room, walls made of some white, fibrous material that looked as if it had been organically grown together. The ceiling and floor were of the same substance, and the bed on which he sat -- if bed were quite the right word for it -- seemed to be of a piece with the floor, growing up from it on a single pedestal like some strange variety of mushroom. The spongy substance that covered the bed was warm and gave slightly beneath his touch. There were no sheets or blankets, though a small bulge at one end had apparently served him for a pillow. The rest of the chamber was quite barren, most notably of his possessions.
Alien design, he thought. More alien even than Liberator's. How the hell had he got here? The last thing he remembered...
The last thing he remembered was half a mountainside crashing onto him.
He should be dead.
He quickly took stock of his physical state: a little disorientation, which was only to be expected on waking up in an unfamiliar place. Other than that... nothing. Not so much as a headache. Not so much as a bruise. He felt good, in fact. Better than he'd felt in a long time.
And that wasn't right, because he remembered the pain of the boulders smashing into him, remembered the bruising blow to his gut as he landed atop Orac's hard angular casing, remembered the agony of what had surely been the bones in his arm shattering, remembered, vaguely, the blow to the back of the head that had knocked him into unconsciousness for what he had believed would be the last time.
Stupid of him. He had to admit, if only in the privacy of his own mind, that he had been guilty of a staggering mass of stupidity which surely would have done Blake proud. Stupid, to have let the crystals in the detector shield deteriorate to the point where they'd been forced to either brave a supply run into Federation-patrolled space unshielded or find somewhere to dig the things out of the ground themselves. Stupid, no matter how much he'd wanted to get away from the others, to teleport down to the planet by himself to find them.
And finally, unforgivably stupid to have fired when he saw the creature on the precarious rubble-strewn slope above him. Even if it had been coming at him. Even if it did look like something from Vila's worst nightmares. He'd realized it even as he'd done it, of course, but hadn't been able to stop his tightening finger in time. He was getting trigger-happy. Occupational hazard, he supposed, but that didn't make it any more excusable.
Well, there was no point in sitting around here waiting for one of Tarrant's heroic rescue attempts. And having worked up a good, solid head of self-annoyance, he felt more than ready to direct it outwards. Avon dropped to his feet and, drawing a cloak of dignified scorn over him to cover any potential embarrassment at his nakedness, he stalked over to the outline of what he assumed to be the door.
He'd taken only a few steps towards it, however, when it irised open, and the alien came in.
If it wasn't the same individual he'd seen on the rocky slope, it was certainly its close kin: compact, hairy black body suspended among an improbable number of segmented legs, each covered in cruel-looking spikes and each, were it to be unfolded, longer than Avon was tall.
He tensed, desperately aware of the lack of anything he could possibly use as a weapon. If it attacked, he thought, mind racing, his best bet would be to attempt to maneuver round it and through the door. He would never be able to defeat it unarmed and naked.
It did not advance, however, merely stood there blocking the door. Appendages like the mandibles of an ant clicked rapidly on the front of its body, making a complex series of sounds.
"You are awake." The voice, in perfect, accentless Federation Standard, emerged from a vibrating membrane stretched across an organic-looking framework strapped to the upper part of one of the thing's legs. A translator. He attempted to conceal his surprise.
"I see that the penchant for stating the obvious is not merely limited to those of humanoid species."
The alien blinked at him, lids sliding slowly over the bulbous eyes perched atop the front of its body in a manner that would have been comical in a less nightmarish-looking creature. "How do you feel?"
"Well, I'm alive, somewhat to my surprise, I admit. Your doing, I presume?"
"Mine and others', yes. You were badly injured. The repairs were difficult, but you should now be functional and in good health."
There seemed only one reasonable response to that. Grudgingly, he made it. "Thank you."
"There is no need to thank us. We are sworn to the preservation of intelligent life, in whatever form it may take. Even when that life is hostile." Did he detect a note of rebuke in the artificial voice?
"I was not aware that you were intelligent. Unless you intend keeping me prisoner, I am not your enemy."
"That is well."
Enough small talk. "Where are my things? Clothing, a bracelet. A large plastic box."
"Your clothing was destroyed in the rock fall and has been fed into the recyclers. New clothing can be grown for you, if you wish. The technological device you refer to as a 'bracelet' was also badly damaged, but we have preserved the wreckage for you, should you wish to examine it." The creature paused, shifting its weight from one side of its body to the other. He wondered if there was some significance to that: a sign of nervousness, or reluctance? "As for the 'box'... May I assume you are referring to your artificially intelligent companion?"
He hoped the alien could not read his body language, as he flinched slightly in surprise.
"I am sorry," it continued. "But that entity was also very badly damaged, and my people's expertise lies in biology, not in mechanical technology. We were able to determine that his consciousness was in danger of being permanently lost, but we did not have the skills to repair his physical components. We were, however, able to preserve your companion's consciousness by downloading it into an appropriate biological substrate."
"What?" Oh, god. What had this race of mad-scientist spiders done with Orac?
"I can take you to see him, if you desire."
"Yes! Wait. No. Clothes first." Damned if he was going to parade around naked, no matter how much of his biology these aliens had seen.
"As you wish."