my_b7_fic: Avon karate chopping (Default)
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This was a finishathon story. It was an old idea, it waited(5,571 words)



The library was unusually quiet; most of the student body was attending a sporting event, but Cerco Andato was into computers, not zero-gee foozball. Also his advisor had warned him that unless his degree thesis had something new and exciting it would be downgraded. So he'd reserved time with the best research tool the university possessed, their Ultra Encyclopaedia.

He sat down at the nearest desk, turned on his datapad recorder and slipped his student I.D. into the slot in the carrel. The library monitor 'assistant' he'd reserved appeared. "Unit vee five two two eight one one oh, humanoid vertebrate. Subcategory core material. What information do you require?"

"I'm researching a thesis on Ensor, the creator of the tarriel cell. Can you tell me anything that isn't in the standard texts?"

"Yes," the image replied, in the flat, expressionless tone all the assistants had. "The tarriel cell's creator died on the planet Aristo when his mechanical heart failed. His greatest invention was the computer known as Orac."

Andato sat up straight, looking at the computer-generated face on the monitor with interest. "Really? I hadn't heard about that."

"Orac was created during Ensor's thirty-year self-imposed exile. Until his attempt to sell it to the Federation for one hundred million credits, no one else knew of its existence."

"One. Hundred. Million..." The student looked around and noticed that no one was close enough to his study carrel to overhear. "What happened to Orac?"

"It was taken by the Federation rebel Roj Blake. After the Intergalactic War it passed into the possession of Blake's associate, the Federation rebel Kerr Avon."

"That was over two years ago. Where is it now?"

"No knowledge. Cannot answer."

Andato frowned. He'd been warned that the Ultra encyclopaedia wasn't absolutely reliable. The units were incapable of lying, but they were based on fallible human memories. He'd chosen a unit with an exceptionally high reliability score in computer matters, but that didn't guarantee accuracy. "On what do you base your information? I mean, how do you know the rebels had it?"

"This unit is named Kerr Avon."

"Well! I guess that's straight from the frobush's mouth, all right. When were you recorded?"

"Approximately seventeen months ago."

"Access the main databanks and give me the most recent information on Kerr Avon."

"Working." After a few seconds the image reported, "Kerr Avon was killed on the planet Gauda Prime approximately two weeks ago by Federation troopers."

"So the Federation has Orac now. What a pity."

"Negative. Knowledge of the computer's existence is still severely limited. The troopers had no orders concerning it. It would have been confiscated if it were readily observable, however none of the events almost certain to follow upon its discovery have taken place, therefore it has not come into the Federation's possession. The most likely assumption is that Kerr Avon suspected a trap and concealed it."

"One hundred million credits worth of computer, going to waste." Andato sighed. "I wish you could find it for me."

"That might be possible, if this unit were on Gauda Prime."

"Yes! You'd know how Avon thought and where he'd likely hide it!" Andato's elation died. "I could hardly drag the whole encyclopaedia with me across the galaxy."

The unit was silent.

"Come on, if you're so clever, tell me how to get you to Gauda Prime!"

"This unit's personality/memory could be installed into an artificial humanoid form. Suggest that the external appearance be patterned after Kerr Avon to facilitate recognition by surviving members of his crew who may have knowledge of the location of the computer, Orac."

"I can barely afford my tuition! How could I pay for a high-class android?"

"I have access to Kerr Avon's bank accounts. There are sufficient funds for two androids, and passage to Gauda Prime."

"Two?"

"The memory unit known as Cally of Auron was a member of Avon's crew and is proficient in skills which may be necessary to acquire Orac."

Dazed by the images of wealth and possibly even fame among computer experts, Andato whispered, "Order the androids made."

"Working. Task completed." There was a buzz. "Allotted research time has elapsed." The screen went dark.

--

Andato looked dubiously at the two androids. They had arrived fully dressed as the Avon unit had specified and able to obey simple commands, but they were as expressionless as the library 'assistants'. He couldn't see how adding nothing to nothing would result in something that would pass for human. Still, it wasn't his money and even if he never went after Orac, he could still profit from them. At worst, he'd have free use of the Avon unit for study. Maybe it could even do some of his assignments. And the other one... well... not that he was into plastic love, but the Cally unit could probably earn him good money from his less particular friends.

The more he thought about it, the less he liked the idea of going to Gauda Prime to search for Orac. It was a lot of money, but it was also a long way to travel for something that might not be there. Even if it was there, the rebels or the Federation might have something to say about it. He'd rather be a poor live student than a dead rich man.

Andato had visited the library several times, working on his thesis and interrogating the Avon unit whenever he was sure no one could hear. Finally a visit coincided with another slow day for the library, and he was able to smuggle in the two androids and the necessary hook-ups to download the memory units into them.

He watched nervously as the downloads progressed. He was definitely exceeding his library privileges. After a few interminable minutes, the Avon unit unplugged itself from the hookup, turned to look at him, and smiled. Andato shivered.

"Avon," the other unit said chidingly, after it detached itself and stood up, "don't frighten the boy."

"I dislike the idea of slavery, Cally." Andato backed up against the wall as the Avon unit stood up and moved closer. "I also dislike the way he looked at you." Suddenly the machine looked all too human. And homicidal.

"You're free!" Andato blurted out.

"And I can take care of myself, Avon." The Cally unit took Andato by the arm and guided him past the other android. "Go back to your room, Andato. Pretend this was all a dream."

"Yes. Yes, I will." Andato broke away from her and ran, risking the wrath of the library monitors.

"He could report us," Avon said as he and Cally left the library.

"Nonsense. You know he can't." Cally frowned. "We need weapons and a ship."

"Waiting at the spaceport."

"You bought a ship?" Cally raised her eyebrows in mild surprise.

"It seemed expeditious." Avon looked at her. "There have been no reports of you for over a year. You know what that must mean."

Cally nods. "Yes. And you are dead, too, Avon. I am sorry." She laid her hand lightly on his arm. He looked down at it, and then up at Cally.

"Regret is part of life. Since neither of us is alive, we don't need it." He grinned suddenly. "This might actually be amusing." He lengthened his stride, and went on ahead.

Cally smiled, and followed him.

--

"Avon?"

"Mmm?" Avon didn't look up from the navigation controls of The Owl's Communion. He had no idea what the original owner meant by the name, and hoped not to keep the ship long enough to be worth the bother of changing it.

"Avon."

"What is it, Cally?"

"What are you planning to do once we reach Gauda Prime?"

"Retrieve Orac, of course."

"And what about the others? What about Blake?"

Avon showed his teeth. "What about them?"

"Avon!"

He turned and grinned at her. "Rescue them, of course, if at all possible. It's rather freeing, being dead. I no longer have to factor in the odds of my survival before deciding on a course of action." He turned back to the navigation console.

"You could have told me." Cally stood with her hands resting on the back of Avon's chair.

"You could have trusted me."

"So I could. I won't make that mistake again." Cally left the flight deck.

--

"The Scorpio was brought down by a blockade," Cally mentioned as they neared Gauda Prime. By tacit agreement, neither of them had speculated openly on the cause of Liberator's replacement by a battered planet-hopper. "It may still be in place."

"It is."

"We don't have the passwords."

"We don't."

"How will we get past it, then?"

"The oldest method in the universe. Bribery."

"Isn't there a chance they'll take the payment and still attack?" Cally frowned. "We're unarmed. We can't even run effectively in the Owl."

"You wound me with your lack of faith in my basic distrust of humanity, Cally. I gave them halfthe code sequence required to access the funds. They'll get the other half once we're safely on the planet."

"They'll attack when we attempt to depart."

"Probably. I wouldn't worry about it. We'll likely be disassembled on Gauda Prime and won't have to worry about our departure."

"You do know how to brighten my day, Avon."

--

The landing was terrible, but the ship remained intact. Cally looked at Avon. "I hope Tarrant is still alive."

Avon scowled. "Yes, well, that's part of what we're here to find out. Get kitted up. Remember to guard the back of your neck."

"What?"

"There's an emergency 'off switch' there." Avon gathered several weapons and headed for the airlock.

--

The locals rented them a flier, and directed them to Blake's gutted base. Scavengers had already been there, following in the Federation's noisy wake, removing everything not fastened firmly to the foundations. Cally looked around what had once been a control center. "This is where it happened. I can feel it."

Avon made a rude noise. "You can see the marks of blaster fire on the columns, and there are large blood stains on the floor. You don't feel it; you reason it. Besides, you're an android, not an Auron."

"Thank you for reminding me of that, Avon." Cally went over to a console and began picking at the exposed wiring randomly.

Avon sighed, and went to her. "Sorry. There was no need to be gratuitously rude."

"I know; you prefer to be meaningfully rude." Cally smiled at Avon who smiled back at her before turning to the console she was examining.

"What have we here... ah... security records." Avon pried the cubes out of the shattered machinery. "We can view these on the ship. There may be a clue to Orac's location."

"Or to our friends?"

"The Owl is a slow flier; by now any survivors will either have been executed and cremated on the spot- in which case we can do nothing for them- or taken into custody, and are en route for an unknown destination- in which case we need Orac to find them."

"I see." As Avon left, Cally looked around the room once more and shivered. "Something happened here, worse than Federation capture. Worse than dying in battle."

Avon didn't hear her.

--

Avon watched, stone-faced, as his original shot Blake, and was himself shot by massed fire. The cameras continued to record as the commander entered the chamber and ordered resuscitation attempts on Avon, which failed. Apparently they had been using guns set to low-power stun, as several of the fallen began twitching and moaning before the troopers gave up on Avon. The commander gave one last order, and then the troopers began dragging bodies from the room.

"Well," Avon said, without looking at Cally, "that gives us a challenge. Space Command Headquarters."

"Avon..." Cally laid her hand on his arm.

"Don't, Cally. We haven't time for sentiment. They'll be interrogating the survivors, if they haven't already." He got up. "In the records back at the university there were strong hints that Scorpio possessed teleport capabilities, and an ultra-fast drive. If at all possible we should try to salvage those from the wreckage and incorporate them into this vessel."

"What about Orac?"

"I couldn't hazard a guess as to its location. It might have been in the flier ...Avon... used to reach Blake's base. In which case some scavenger has a nice little trophy, which he probably won't know how to use. Or it may be in the woods, furnishing a pleasant abode for some small rodent."

"Don't we need Orac?"

"We got along without it. And judging by Scorpio's record, it wasn't much help to them."

"What if the Federation gets it?"

"If necessary, I know how to remotely self-destruct Orac." Avon left the ship, and Cally followed him.

--

They gathered the useful bits of Scorpio and returned to the Owl. The take-off was very nearly as interesting as the landing. Another ship tried to reach Gauda Prime, and the blockade concentrated on destroying it, letting the Owl escape.

Once they were at a safe distance from the planet Cally remarked, "We were lucky that time, Avon."

"Were we?"

"Well, what were the odds on another ship choosing that moment to attempt to slip past the blockade?"

"Incalculably large. Which is why I didn't rely on chance."

"Avon! You didn't arrange for that ship to be destroyed in our place!"

"Of course I did. It was expensive, but it was the fastest..."

"How could you sacrifice innocents..."

"It was only a drone-ship." Avon rolled his eyes. "So much for trusting me."

"You're impossible!" Cally left the flight deck. Avon grinned.

--

The timer buzzed, and Avon's eyes unclouded. He sat up, swung his legs to the side of the bunk and removed the plug that had connected him to ship's battery power. He went back to the engine room where Cally sat cross-legged on the deck, ignoring the radiations of the open drive running at full power while she readied the salvaged drive from the Scorpio to take its place.

"I'm fully recharged, Cally. I'll take over while you 'rest'."

Cally nodded and handed Avon the welding tool she'd been using. "It's almost ready. How long will it be before we intercept them?"

"Impossible to say," Avon remarked without looking up from his work. "We've been flying at the Owl's top speed for two days, which is half a pursuit ship's normal cruising speed - if they weren't in a hurry to claim kudos. We don't know what speed this device will give the Owl. I'm not even certain it will work."

"It will work, Avon."

"Optimist," Avon said softly as Cally left the chamber.

--

"When we rescue them, do you think they will be able to accept us," Cally asked, meditatively. The Owl was quiet, Avon having shut down the original engine while he transferred the final linkages to the new drive.

"If. Does it matter?" Avon slid out from under the engine. "This will have to do." He added, "At the very least, we will be too useful to discard."

"I think you underestimate our friends."

Avon smiled at her. "Perhaps." He headed for the flight deck. "I was once told the difference between a man and a dog was that if you rescued the dog, it remained grateful."

"Perhaps I'll buy you a dog," Cally said, teasingly as she followed.

"Well, now if you can space-ship train one, I might consider it." Avon sat down at the pilot's position. "Hold on, I've no idea how rough the transition will be."

Cally sat down at a nearby console and watched the indicators. The ship shuddered, made an ominous creaking noise, and began vibrating heavily.

"Out of phase!" Avon shouted. "Try the sub-rhombic stabilizers!" His hands flew over the control panel, hitting buttons and sliders at seeming random. Cally worked at her console.

"No good, we're going to have to stop!" Avon glanced at a knob as it bounced past him. "It's shaking the ship apart!"

"Just... give me one more minute, Avon. I think..." The ship shuddered once more and suddenly went silent.

"We've stopped?"

"No." Cally grinned. "Look at the indicators. Time-distort thirteen."

Avon met her grin with one of his own. "That may prove unlucky. For the Federation." He got up. "All right, now for the teleport. Then if I can piece together a detector shield we are in business."

--

"Avon, are you sure this will work?" Cally glanced at the monitor showing the Federation troop-carrier they were pacing and then she looked at Avon. He was dressed in a flowing silvery garment made from a cut-up sheet. He was gently glowing, having rubbed phosphor and lubricating oil all over himself and the sheet.

"Do you have a better idea?"

Cally sighed. "No, not with our available resources." She handed him a teleport bracelet. "I just had an unpleasant thought. What if the teleport doesn't function on androids?"

"Then we have approximately three days to come up with an alternate plan. I really would rather not take on the whole of Space Command in an unarmed freighter." Avon snapped the bracelet on one wrist and clipped a handful of crude bracelets onto his belt beneath his toga. "Teleport, Cally." Instead of a gun, Avon held a laser probe. Armed only with that, and a wicked grin, he vanished.

Cally sighed. "So far, so good." She sat down at the hastily patched together console, hands hovering over the controls.

--

Avon materialized in a crouch, and whirled around. He'd landed in the middle of a corridor full of troopers, relaxing helmetless and unarmed. They stared at him. He suddenly grinned and began walking towards them. "You killed me."

Most of the troopers stood and stared. Several ran away. Two of them ran at Avon. Avon picked one up with either hand and flung them the length of the corridor, to land with ugly noises and lie unnaturally still. Avon's grin spread. His teeth glowed. "Take me to my friends, or I'll kill all of you."

The two troopers who'd fled returned, carrying plasma rifles. Avon spread his arms wide. "Go on." Both men shot at once, direct chest shots. He had reinforced the shielding around his sensitive circuitry, and felt the blasts as invigorating. He laughed and walked towards them. "Once you've bathed in hell-fire, nothing can bother you." He backed one of the armed men against the wall, plucked the gun from him, and bent it into a U-shape. "Take me to my friends, or I'll rip out your heart."

--

The cell door swung open. At a glance Avon saw several occupants. He was distracted when one turned and he recognized Vila. Vila's startled face turned bloodless and he crumpled. With android-swift reflexes, Avon lunged in and caught him before he hit the deck. Behind Avon, the cell door slammed shut. "We've got you now!" A trooper shouted as the lock slammed home.

Dayna and a reddish-haired man Avon recognized from the security vid stared at Avon in shock. "Yes, I know. We'll talk about it later," Avon said as he deposited Vila on one of the cell's four cots. "Here, put these on." He handed Dayna two teleport bracelets and put another on Vila.

"Here, Deva," Dayna put on a bracelet and handed one to the stranger, numbly, as she continued to stare at Avon. "They said you were dead. Oh, they lied!" Dayna rushed forward to throw her arms around his neck.

Gently, Avon disentangled her arms. "Yes, later, we'll discuss it later." He lifted his wrist to his mouth. "Cally, prepare to teleport."

"Cally, too?" Dayna beamed, but her smile only lasted a second. "But... you said she was dead!" Dayna backed away from Avon. "Who are you?"

"I'm your only chance of avoiding Federation 'justice'."

"Don't argue with the man," Deva said. "Whoever he is, we'll need him to help us rescue Blake."

"Blake?" Avon queried as the teleport took them.

--
(On to part 2 )

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December 2011

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