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: [presenting a data card
] Orac has just come up with the computation and attack strategy that he asked for. Olag Gan
: What attack strategy? Kerr Avon
: Exactly. Another of Blake's little schemes he hasn't thought fit to tell us about. You are not going to believe the target he has in mind.
[Avon tosses the card down
: [without picking it up
] The Federation Weapons Development Base? Kerr Avon
: That's right. Jenna Stannis
: [inspects the card
] He obviously thought fit to tell *someone* about it. Cally
: Well, not exactly. I suggested it to him. Jenna Stannis
: *You* suggested it to him. That's very keen of you. Vila Restal
: Why didn't you suggest it to us? Cally
: Because I knew how you'd react. Kerr Avon
: Auron may be different, Cally, but on Earth it is considered ill-mannered to kill your friends while committing suicide.
: Someone must have made an attack on the base. Vila Restal
: Who'd be stupid enough to do that? Kerr Avon
: [snaps his fingers
] Justify: "stupid".
: [entering carrying Orac
] Here we are. He wasn't very happy at being interrupted. Roj Blake
: I'll apologize later. Orac, your information on the Weapons Development Base is unsatisfactory. Orac
: Define "unsatisfactory". Roj Blake
: I was about to. Your strategic computations start from the premise that the base is on maximum security alert. Orac
: Computer communications traffic indicates that it is. Jenna Stannis
: Not permanently? Orac
: It is not a practice drill. Cally
: So what is it? Orac
: Clearly, some occurrence which is a real or apparent threat. Jenna Stannis
: Thank you, Orac. I'm sure we'd have never worked that out for ourselves. Orac
: It is therefore the case that security in the immediate future will be sensitive and alert. Roj Blake
: A fact to be included in strategic computations. Moral: Kerr Avon
: Never argue with a computer. Roj Blake
: We're below horizon now. Olag Gan
: Then she's lost! Kerr Avon
: Only us. She got what she really wanted. Vila Restal
: I thought that *was* us. Roj Blake
: IMIPAK. And she beat us to that all right. She seemed to know every single move we were making. It's almost as if we were on strings and she was the puppeteer. Cally
: What is IMIPAK? Is there a defense against it? Zen
: Detectors report two Federation pursuit ships leaving stationary orbit on intercept course. Roj Blake
: Take us out of here, Jenna. Speed: standard by eight. I want a lot of space between us and that planet. Olag Gan
: [to Avon
] Is there a defense against IMIPAK? Kerr Avon
: Of course there is! It's called slavery!
: [draws on the main screen by remote
] Zen's best guess is that he's here. Offers? Olag Gan
: Let's go and get him. Kerr Avon
] Gung ho. Vila Restal
: *You* go and get him. We're already too close to the security zone for my taste. Roj Blake
: Jenna? Jenna Stannis
: If we know he's there, chances are Federation Security know it, too. Cally
: Zen may have been wrong. Kerr Avon
: In which case going there would be safe, but pointless. Vila Restal
: Now that I wouldn't object to. Jenna Stannis
: Be quiet, Vila. Vila Restal
: Why ask my opinion in the first place? Cally
: Actually, nobody did. Vila Restal
: [to Cally
] That's the last time I stand up for you.
: I think we should go and get him. Always assuming that he is there, and Federation Security are not. Jenna Stannis
] "Gung ho"?
] Kerr Avon
: [pointedly ignoring having his words thrown back at him
] We do not know what IMIPAK is. Roj Blake
: Exactly. The least we've got to do is find out what it does. Vila Restal
: Why have we? I can live without it. Roj Blake
: It's just conceivable that you can't. Kerr Avon
: Unless of course you want your last words to be, "So *that's* IMIPAK." Vila Restal
] I think my brain must be furring up. Olag Gan
: [from across the bridge
] IMIPAK might be something they can use against *us*, Vila! Vila Restal
: [and back again
] Only if it can run faster than we can!
: Zen, report status. Zen
: Liberator is stationary and is stabilized in an anti-orbital posture. Vila
: Whatever that means. Blake
: It means we got it right. Jenna
: Together we can fly this ship manually. Gan
: I think we make a good team. Avon
] Well hooray for us.
: Together we can fly this ship manually. Olag Gan
: I think we make a good team. Kerr Avon
: Well, hooray for us.
: We've lost them. Vila Restal
: So much for federation pursuit ships. Olag Gan
: At least we know we can outrun them. Vila Restal
: Outrun them? In this we can out stroll them!
: They've built a vast transceiver complex there. All Federation signals and navigation controls are beamed into Saurian Major, boosted and redirected. It's a vital nerve center in the Federation space control system. Destroy that, and you blind, deafen and silence them. That's what we're going to do. Kerr Avon
: A blow for freedom. Olag Gan
: Yes, our freedom. For a clever man you're not very bright. Deaf, dumb and blind how are they going to catch us? Kerr Avon
: I'm sure Blake will manage it somehow.
: So much for federation pursuit ships. Gan
: At least we know we can outrun them. Vila
: Outrun them? In this we can out stroll them. Blake
: Don't get too relaxed about it. They'll keep on coming. Vila
: We have the whole universe to hide in. Blake
: Except that we're not going to hide. Very soon now the Federation ships will know exactly where we are. Or at least, where we've been. Vila
: [somewhat confused
] I don't follow you. Avon
: Oh, but you do. And that's the problem!
: I keep wondering whether it wouldn't be better to opt out of all this. Find a safe planet. Hide. Gan
: They'd still find you. Jenna
: I suppose. Gan
: But if you wanted to leave, you know Blake wouldn't try to stop you. Jenna
: No, I know. What about you? Are going to stick with him? Gan
: I have to. I want to stay alive. And to do that I need people I can rely on. I can't be on my own. Jenna
: What do you mean?
: Gan? Gan
: I killed a security guard. They said it was murder. But he had a gun. I was unarmed. You see, he killed my woman.
: I don't know how they spotted me. Bek
: [to Hanna
] "I don't know how they spotted me." Hanna
] Kerr Avon
: [crouches, to Hanna
] Something amuses you? Bek
: [to Avon
] You were using him as a lookout? I mean, he'd really blend into the background, wouldn't he? What did you do, put up a sign?
: Any luck? Olag Gan
: Can't find Orac. Even tried calling his name. Kerr Avon
: Oh, I'm sorry I missed that. It's the kind of natural stupidity no amount of training could ever hope to match. Roj Blake
: You found Orac? Kerr Avon
: No, but then I never really expected to. It is one of Vila's more elaborate practical jokes.
: We chose the wrong approach, that's all. Olag Gan
: Is that all? I thought maybe we'd chosen the wrong people to get involved with. Kerr Avon
: "*We* chose the wrong approach"? Roj Blake
: *I* chose the wrong approach. Does it matter? Kerr Avon
: Yes, it does. Roj Blake
: All right, Avon. You were right and I was wrong. You said persuasion wouldn't work and it didn't. So now we use force. Kerr Avon
: Force? Yes, of course. Law makers, law breakers, let us fight them all. Why not?
[the tired crew are watching the screen. Avon, bored, activates a tool for moment to break the silence, then gets up to leave.
] Vila Restal
: Have you thought of another plan? Kerr Avon
: Yes: I'm going to get some sleep. Vila Restal
: How can you sleep with all this happening? Kerr Avon
: With all what happening? Blake is sitting up in a tree; Travis is sitting up in another tree. Unless they're planning to throw nuts at one another, I don't see much of a fight developing before it gets light. Olag Gan
: You're never involved, are you Avon? You ever cared for anyone? Vila Restal
: Except yourself? Kerr Avon
: I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care, or, indeed, why it should be necessary to prove it... at all.
] Vila Restal
: Was that an insult or did I miss something? Cally
: You missed something.
: You're never involved, are you Avon? Have you ever cared for anyone? Vila
: ...Except yourself? Avon
: I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care. Or indeed why it should be necessary to prove it - *at all*.
: Was that an insult, or did I just miss something? Cally
: You missed something!
] I get the distinct feeling I offended Zen's professional pride then. Avon
: It's just a machine, Blake. Vila
: And he should know. Gan
: Well Avon is the expert. Vila
: That's not what I meant. Avon
: No, he was calling me a machine, but since he undoubtedly defines himself as a human being, I shall choose to accept that as more of a compliment than anything else.
: I'm going down. Vila Restal
: You can't do that, Cally. Cally
: They are in trouble. Someone must go down! Olag Gan
: I'll go. Vila Restal
: Gan'll go! Olag Gan
: And Vila will go with me, won't you Vila? Vila Restal
: Will I? Olag Gan
: Well, it'd be stupid to go on my own. And you wouldn't want to send Cally in your place, would you? Vila Restal
: Probably not.
] Vila Restal
: What about you? Kerr Avon
: What about me? Vila Restal
: Why don't you go? Kerr Avon
: *You* are expendable. Vila Restal
: And you're not? Kerr Avon
: No, I am not. I am not expendable, I'm not stupid, and I'm not going. Olag Gan
: I'll get the guns.
[Orac is teaching Gan something when Cally enters
: How is the lesson? Gan
: Difficult. Cally
: Well, Orac isn't exactly the ideal teacher. Gan
: Well, I'm not exactly the ideal pupil. Orac
: That is because you are too easily distracted.
: What are you trying to do? Avon
: Bypass the detector comp and use another of the systems to receive the signal. Olag Gan
: Can it be done? Avon
: Some of this technology is a little more advance to that which I'm used. I'm having to guess at some of it. Olag Gan
: What about the automatic repair system? Avon
: Oh, it'll do the job. Eventually. It's very methodical. It starts at the beginning and it works its way through. It's slow. You should appreciate that problem.
[Avon throws a switch. A whole panel shorts out and burns
: No, that wasn't the one. Olag Gan
: It'll take *days* to repair that. Avon
: On any ordinary computer system. But this isn't any ordinary computer system. A malfunction of that size would have registered on the autorepair. It should cut in about five seconds. Watch. It will be cutting in about... now.
[Autorepair restores the circuitry
] Olag Gan
: [in awe
] That is fantastic. Avon
: Yes, isn't it.
[Avon disconnects his patch wire
: As a matter of fact it is.
: We could make a fortune with it if it wasn't for Blake. Olag Gan
: In what way? Avon
: There's always a market for technology like this. Olag Gan
: I don't think Blake would agree to that. Avon
: There will come a time when he won't be making the decisions.
: It could be a trap. Gan
: It's not a very good one, then. We're suspicious of it already. Avon
: The test is not whether you are suspicious but whether you are caught.
: [to Jenna
] I don't think I feel very well. Olag Gan
: [retrieving the neutrotope box from the floor
] I hope nothing's been broken. Roj Blake
: So do I.
[Blake keys the combination and opens the box. It's empty
] Roj Blake
: It's still on the Ortega! We've got to get back to them! Vila Restal
: [to a stunned Jenna
] Now I *know* I don't feel very well.
: [of an abandoned building
] What is this place? Roj Blake
: A church. Olag Gan
: A church? Roj Blake
: Place of religious assembly. Olag Gan
: Must be ancient. Roj Blake
: The Federation had them all destroyed at the beginning of the New Calendar.
[two guards turn the corner; Gan grabs them by their gun arms
] Olag Gan
: Grab the guns!
[Vila and a prisoner each grab a gun as two more guards turn the corner
] Olag Gan
: [to two new guards
] Stay right there, or we'll kill them. Drop your guns!
[Vila promptly throws down his gun to everyone's surprise
: [opportunistically shoots the armed prisoner, then covers Gan
: Move, and *you're* dead! Olag Gan
: [releases the first two guards and, when prompted, stands in surrender
] Olag Gan
: Vila! Vila
: I got confused.