Valuable Asset chapter 7Author:
Teen and upWord Count:
1,350 (this chapter) 12,500 (total to date)Summary:
Set after 'Project Avalon'. 'It's your misfortune to be worth a great deal, Blake. The others weren't." (back to start)
Chapter 7: Blood
Chapter 7: Blood
“What does Charon have to do with anything?”
Avon had just come back onto the flight deck from some task or other that he hadn’t bothered to keep Blake informed about. Liberator’s projected flight path was on screen.
“There’s a secret military base in the twilight zone. They use it for low grav low temp weapons development and training.”
“So why are we going anywhere near it?”
“Liberator can take it out, easily.” Blake tapped on the screen. “We fly between it and Pluto at high speed- it will be destroyed before it can get a message off to Earth.”
“No.” Avon said, flatly. “Zen, reroute flight path. You are not attacking the Charon base.”Incorrect. Roj Blake is correct. Charon base is an appropriate target.
He turned to Blake. “Tell it to stop.”
“Why should I?” Blake was utterly fed up with being ordered around. “Zen’s right- Charon is an appropriate target. We can destroy a Federation military operation at no risk to ourselves. We might as well get something out of this.”
“For the Cause? Forget it, Blake. Liberator is going to Earth. She’s not taking out anyone on the way.”
“Since when did you become a pacifist?” Blake snapped.
“Hardly that. You can teleport down there and massacre the entire staff with your bare hands, if it makes you feel better. But you are not using Liberator to do your dirty work for you.”
Avon was just being contrary, Blake decided. “We’ve used the ship’s guns often enough and you’ve never protested.”
“Not since she became autonomous. Liberator is not a mere weapon in your hand any more. You haven’t ordered Zen to attack Charon; you’ve persuaded it. Even you should be able to see the difference.”
“I certainly can. It means that two of us agree that taking out Charon’s base will benefit humanity. And that means that you’re outvoted, Avon. We are going to Charon.”
“We are not!” Avon’s voice was rising. “You do not encourage a sentient computer to kill humans, Roj Blake! I’m aware that my ethical standards don’t normally meet with your approval but you must see that.”
“What does it matter? After Earth…,”
“Earth isn’t fixed in stone. Liberator might change her mind. She can do that now, remember? Zen is the most dangerous entity that I’ve ever encountered and you want to teach it murder now as well as your stupid politics.”
“It’s not murder! The rebellion is a war, Kerr Avon. It always has been. Zen’s chosen to fight in it, just as I did. I will not deny it the right to act on its beliefs, to do the right thing, just because it’s a computer. I’d rather work alongside a computer with principles than a greedy, selfish, treacherous, egotistical bastard who happens to be human!”
Avon shook his head. “Utter idiocy! It’s not your friend, Blake. It’s not your comrade in arms. It’s an alien machine.”
“And what would you know about friendship, Avon? You’ve betrayed every friend you ever had!”
“I know that if you’d been better at picking yours you wouldn’t be in this mess.” Avon’s voice was scathing.
Blake hit him. Low, in the stomach, to hurt. As Avon staggered backwards he followed it up with a punch in the face, and another. All the fury of the last few days had come to a head. He didn’t even think about the gun at his side; he just hit the man over and over.
He barely registered Zen’s voice echoing around them.Crew malfunction.
Avon half blocked a couple of his blows. He seemed to be trying to yell something at him. Blake took no notice. Another satisfying punch to the man’s jaw, a kick to his shin. Blood everywhere.Crew malfunction. Diagnostic; reason unknown. Risk of damage to other systems; unacceptable.
Doors slammed shut; the lights dimmed.Sterilisation commenced.
That finally got Blake’s attention. He stopped hitting Avon and twisted around. All the doors were closed. A low, unfamiliar hum was coming from the ceiling.
Zen seemed oblivious to the two men shouting at it. The air in the room had become a little warmer.
“I am not malfunctioning!” Blake insisted.Crew malfunction detected
. Zen’s calm seemed almost smug. Sterilisation in progress.
“Try the doors!” Blake called to the other man. Avon’s blood streaked face turned back to him. “Deadlocked. This place is a deathtrap.”
Liberator was going to kill both of them. Even though Blake would have happily killed the other man himself a moment ago it didn’t seem fair. “Kerr Avon is not malfunctioning,” he yelled at Zen. “You cannot kill your operational crew.”One crew malfunction. One crew damaged. Area contains no fully operational crew. Sterilisation in progress.
Zen announced remorselessly. Blake’s clothes were getting soaked in sweat.
“I told you. This is where friendship gets you.” Avon’s face was a mask in red and white. He wiped blood from an eye, turned to face Zen’s lights. “Fuck this. Zen. Access private files Avon 6/48/38 to 6/48/82, excluding 6/48/43, 55 and 56.”Accessed.
“Right. Reference contents within the following contexts; “sex”, “consensual”, “violence”.”
There was a pause. Confirmed.
“Roj Blake was operating within acceptable human parameters. Confirm.”Confirmed. No malfunction. Sterilisation cancelled.
The lights went back up.
Avon staggered back against the console. “I didn’t think that was going to work.” he said to a blank wall. “If there are any more crises you’ll find me with the med unit and a large amount of alcohol.” He pulled himself up again and walked out, limping badly, without a single glance towards Blake.
Blake sat at his usual post, waiting for his heart rate and breathing to slow. Everything non-human on the flight deck seemed to have gone back to normal now that Zen had decided not to kill them. His right hand stung painfully; he’d lost most of the skin covering the knuckles on one hand. Maybe he should use the med unit when Avon had finished with it. Maybe not.
“Zen,” he said slowly, to the lights. “Show me…” He paused, thinking, for long enough that Zen grumbled Command not complete.
“Sorry. Yes. You’d better just show me the flight path again.”
The only thing moving in the room with the med unit was a maintenance robot vacuuming up shards of glass. There was a faint smell of spirits but Avon had gone.
The door to his room was ajar. Blake knocked anyway, but when he got no answer he pushed it open.
Avon was lying on his bed, eyes closed. He hadn’t washed or changed; his face was still puffy and caked with dried blood. The smell of alcohol was a little stronger in here.
“I thought you were using the med unit.”
“I did,” Avon said, without opening his eyes. “Diagnostics. You didn’t break anything.”
There didn’t seem to be any good answer to that. Blake came a bit further inside. “I’ve talked to Zen. We are not going to Charon.”
Nothing. He tried again. “That was quick thinking back there.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”
A slightly strangled snort came from the bed. “I imagine not, no.”
“You did save both of us.”
“Hero of the hour,” Avon’s voice was dry. “How long to Earth?”
“Two and a half hours to teleport range. You can’t teleport down there looking like that.”
“I can.” Avon opened his eyes, sat up and swung his legs off the bed. “But I probably won’t. I’ll be back on the flight deck in a few minutes.”
He limped his way over to the bathroom and disappeared inside. Blake could hear the sound of the shower starting up. He stood for a minute looking at the closed door, going over in his mind some of the things he’d intended to say to Avon just now and hadn’t. Eventually he realised that he couldn’t possibly be found standing here when Avon came out again. There would be other conversations. There would have to be. Blake pulled the door closed behind him and started the walk back to the flight deck through the deserted ship.Next chapter