It was all Orac's fault of course. Practically the first thing Blake had done when the supercomputer fell into his hands was to interrogate it about the backgrounds of his crew. He supposed he'd had a vague hope that their convictions might turn out to be invalid. Much though he valued their aid and friendship, he lived under the constant reminder that they were criminals, the sort of people who would be no more welcome in the world he was seeking to create then in the one he was attempting to destroy. Cally of course was a genuine revolutionary like himself. Jenna? Well, it was moderately easy to argue that she merely sought to overcome the restraints of an unfair economic system. Yet he was acutely aware that even under an ideal system of government, there would still be the necessity for some trade restrictions. Some key industries would need protection from outside competition, some substances would be illegal, and so the list grew. Vila was a thief and would always be a thief; his claim that he was immune to adjustment therapy was no empty boast. Blake envied him whatever quirk it was that allowed his brain to survive repeated reprogramming attempts. Gan? Well, the death of his wife was on record, even though it was shown as being due to an accident in the rapid transit system, though the record could have been falsified to ensure Gan's conviction. Even Orac admitted that it could not tell if data had been entered into a system correctly in the first place. But it was Avon who had given Blake the greatest surprise. He'd expected embezzlement, and he'd found it. What he'd also found, tagged almost as an afterthought on the end of the list of charges, was murder: the shooting of a black-market dealer in stolen and forged documents. There was more too, but most of the records of Avon's arrest and trial were locked up in a file codenamed Bartolomew in a format that even Orac had so far been unable to decode. What had Avon done that was so drastic that it required the highest possible security classification?
Damn it all, he needed to be able to rely on Avon, but how could he trust a man who had no moral qualms about stealing and who could kill in cold blood? It was a problem without any solution. He even liked Avon, there was no doubt that a friendship of sorts had grown between them, but how could he continue, knowing what he did. What had Avon done? Had he been a government agent who had reneged on his own people? It was impossible to tell. Blake banged his fist on Orac's casing in frustration.
"I would advice you to be more careful," Orac said in the prissy tones that Blake had already come to associate with it. "While my structure is necessarily robust, there is a distinct possibility that you may cause damage."
"With the kind of information you're giving me, I'm sorely tempted. Why not tell me something useful like how I can trust Avon not to steal Liberator from under me?"
"I fail to see why you are worried by such a trivial problem."
"It isn't trivial to me," Blake said through gritted teeth.
Orac, with typical computer reticence, said nothing. With a sharp exhalation of breath, Blake faced it again. "Orac," he demanded, "how can I be certain of Avon's loyalty?"
"Make him give you his word, of course."
"Do I really need to make myself more explicit? Avon's psych profile is very clear in the matter: where matters of morality are concerned, he does not consider himself bound by the mores of society. However, his own personal code of honour is strict. If he gives his word, he will keep it."
"Thank you, Orac." Blake snatched the key out and left.
It was all very well for Orac to suggest such a thing, far harder for himself to implement it. He could just imagine himself bearding Avon in his lair, "Excuse me, Avon, would you mind giving me your word that you won't try and take over Liberator?" He'd be laughed out of court.
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Last updated on 07th of November 1999.