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Entry Point by winnie-l

Entry Point

by
winnie-l


"Gan!" Avon yelled, on his knees. His face was strained and his outstretched arms trembled with effort.

Gan quickly crouched beside Avon, reaching into the opening and stretching his broad arms inside to find and support the weight in Avon's hands. "I've got it!"

Avon wriggled away, allowing Gan to shift his position closer to the corridor wall where they'd removed a panel to access the complex systems hidden within Liberator. Avon moved back, then half-stood, peering up inside the opening. "I don't understand how it could have come loose," he said, recovering his breath.

There wasn't room between them for Blake to get a look in. "Maybe we reduced the local auto-repair too much? We don't fully understand how all this works, as you said. Do you have enough room in there to be able to attach this?" He held a dense collection of circuitry, four connection interfaces poking out of it. It was pure Federation design.

"Maybe. We might have to remove another panel... if that component doesn't re-attach by itself. It should. Gan, any change in weight?"

Gan tentatively relaxed his arms. "Not... perceptibly. No."

"Might take a few minutes," Blake said thoughtfully. "If worst comes to worst, it'll have to come down completely and let auto-repair fix it."

"Zen! As far as I can tell," Avon said to Blake, "it's only a tertiary back-up for the short-range scanners." He straightened up and paused. "Zen!" he repeated, more sharply.

Blake raised his eyebrows. "Since Zen's not responding, he doesn't detect any problem. Yet. Right?" He ignored the scathing glance Avon sent his way.

Avon, computers don't respond to yelling, Gan thought in amusement. He tested the weight on his right hand... yes, he could support it with one hand. He pulled his left hand out and shifted further to the left. "There - is that enough room for you to work?"

Avon knelt down and peered up into the mass of circuitry. "Yes." He reached back. "Try to get a response from Zen."

"Better get it done quickly then," muttered Blake, handing Avon the tarriel cells. He bent down as well to look over Avon's shoulder. "Zen," he called out. "Localised status report?"

+SYSTEM SCAN OF TERTIARY BACK-UP SYSTEMS INITIATED.+

Avon placed the cell cluster by his thigh and took lengths of wide linkage cable from his tunic pocket. Swiftly he reached in and inserted them into the connection points he'd examined earlier, then set the cells in the niche he'd selected. He was pretty sure the cells wouldn't interfere with the oddly-shaped component on which they rested; it was only a third-level backup for the environmental sensors anyway - it had taken him hours of study of Liberator's schematics, and analysis of system logs, to determine that. The niche was a lucky convenience. He attached the linkage cables to the connection points on the cell cluster and noted the activity lights start to flash as power flowed in.

Blake handed him the analyser. "Zen, please update status report," he said patiently.

+SHORT-RANGE SCANNER TERTIARY BACK-UP FAULT DETECTED.+

"Weight's reducing," Gan said. Avon didn't look up as he attached the analyser lead to the cell cluster and then tapped the analyser display, quickly flipping through status-and-config screens.

Blake peered up into the opening. "I wonder how fast the connections might re-form... How's the cell?"

"Online." Avon was absorbed in studying the analyser screens. He configured the cell for full streaming input, selective remote-access, highly restricted command acceptance, and verbose logging.

"It's alive," Gan chuckled, hearing the start of tarriel-typical ticking. "The weight's gone at one end but not the other," he told them.

Avon detached the lead from the cell and looked up at the tertiary component Gan supported. "Zen!" he commanded expectantly.

Gan winced. Not in my ear, please! Then he felt a surge of adrenaline as his right arm strained. "Weight's increasing rapidly!" he gasped. He braced his left hand on the corridor wall.

Alarmed, Blake snapped out, "Zen! Status report NOW!"

+AUTO-REPAIR IN PROGRESS IN SECTION 48F.+

"Let it down!" Avon said. "Gan, it's reconfiguring that back-up system. Repositioning it lower. Let it down - gently." He watched, fascinated, as connective circuitry extruded like tendons from an upper component - he knew it was tertiary sub-control - to meet an equal connector growing from the component Gan supported. Before his eyes the two ends met and fused. "How's the weight now?"

Gingerly Gan relaxed his arm, then found there was nothing to support. He pulled his arm out of the opening and shifted beside Avon to peer into it. "That is fanTAStic!"

"It's just what it does," Avon said flatly. "You should know that by now."

+AUTO-REPAIR COMPLETE. STATUS IS FIRM.+

Blake straightened and pulled a comp-pad from under his arm. The schematics displayed still showed the short-range scanner tertiary back-up in its previous location. He pressed a "save" button and said, "Zen - update display please." The schematic lines on the screen morphed smoothly to show the new configuration. "It's not showing the cell," he told Avon.

"Well, it might not. Or not yet." Avon scrambled up to look at the pad Blake held. "I've rigged it to resist any integration attempt." He took the display from Blake's hands.

Gan levered himself to his feet and glanced over Avon's shoulder at the schematic. Avon flipped the display back to the previous saved image and then forward to the current status. The niche, empty in the old schematic, still showed empty in the new. "So Zen doesn't know it's there?" Gan asked.

"Not yet," Avon said. "But it will."

"Especially if we reset the auto-repair to full function," Blake added.

"Is it safe to leave it at a reduced level?"

Blake glanced at Gan, then at Avon. "We think so," he said guardedly.

"Look." Avon had navigated the pad's display to show the auto-repair log. Blake and Gan bent their heads to view it. Avon ran his finger along the edge of the display to scroll back, then tapped an entry glyph. It expanded to show a screen of log-entry detail. "There's where we started."

"Removing the panel." Blake nodded. Avon scrolled the display, reading.

Gan turned to look at the opening. "Will auto-repair replace it? Or should we?"

"We overrode auto-repair to do that," Avon said, sounding disgusted, tucking the comp-pad under his arm. "That's the point."

Blake watched in amusement as Avon stalked off down the corridor, then quirked his eyebrows at Gan.

"I didn't understand his answer," said Gan. "Do we replace the panel?"

"We start it, then Zen will finish," Blake told him. "Give me a hand." Together they eased the panel back into the slot at the bottom of the opening, then knelt to align its upper edges.

"Now what?"

"Just hold it steady." Blake fished a small device out of his tunic pocket and detached the stylus on its side. With it he tapped the screen, which lit to show the control screen where they'd isolated auto-repair function for this section of Liberator. Carefully he adjusted the setting.

Gan watched with interest as the edges of the panel melted and fused together, then he stood. "Just like on the London," he said, remembering when a punched-out hole in the prisoner's quarters sealed itself. Fistfights among prisoners hadn't been uncommon. "Do you think the original makers of this ship have any relation to the Federation?"

"Possibly, in the distant past," Blake said absently. "It's fairly basic materials science." He walked to the nearest intercom and snapped the button. "Avon - auto-repair is reset."

"Less .0084?"

Blake smiled. "Confirmed," he answered in imitation of their main computer. Then, still grinning, he nodded at Gan and headed off down the corridor.

* * *

"Has Zen found it yet?" asked Gan.

Blake looked up from the pilot's station. The flight deck was quiet, this late in the watch. "Avon says not." He continued methodically flipping the pilot's station main display through status reports, talking as he glanced at them. "But it doesn't really matter. As long as it does what it's supposed to do."

"And what's it supposed to do?" Gan asked, relaxing on the seating in front of the main viewer. Stars glided peaceably past in the blackness of space.

"Give us more data on how Zen controls all of Liberator's computer systems," Blake said. "You remember when we took that alien cryogenic capsule on board, then the teleport control blew - and Zen wouldn't help us."

"Yes, that was strange. Avon was very angry, but Zen just wouldn't respond. And earlier, before you'd teleported over, Zen said, 'It is in-sane', in a very peculiar voice."

"Haven't figured that one out yet. And then when we took the shortest path to XK-72, Zen shut down completely. It took Avon ages to get the auxiliary computers up and running."

"We're lucky he did," Gan said in a forced cheerful voice, but inside he felt ashamed. His memories were vague, but he knew he'd caused damage inside the computer room where Avon had worked so hard to get the secondaries switched on.

"And it was some tricky work to get that cypher machine operating," Blake continued. "Getting power to it was easy, but it couldn't output to Liberator's data store - remember we had to dump it onto microstore instead."

Cally had come aboard Liberator with several devices scavenged from her former Rebel comrades; Avon had instantly confiscated them all, and it was one of these that had had the right interface for the cypher machine to use.

"So we decided this is a risk worth taking," Blake went on. "Tarriel cell technology is something we know very well. We can control it, program it, much easier than this technology we don't quite grasp yet. The cell's in full-input mode and Avon's re-routing a duplicate stream of Zen's control commands through it. As it analyses that, it'll start building a model of all the control systems - engines, weaponry, life support, and so on - everything from the primaries, to the most redundant backups... and, most important -" Blake looked up at Gan. "- it's independent."

Comprehension dawned. "So if Zen goes offline again, we have another point of control?"

"Right. That's the theory."

Gan thought a moment. "It would be pretty intimidating, wouldn't it, if Zen went offline and you had to give Liberator's systems all the commands that Zen normally would - through that one cluster of tarriel cells?"

Blake chuckled. "It wouldn't be quite like that. Liberator's auxiliaries can do the work - but we'd be able to get them switched on more easily. The cells wouldn't act as another Zen - just sort of a semi-Zen."

Gan got up and went to his workstation. His watch was coming up and he wanted to check the status of all the systems. "It's a strange thought that just as so much of Liberator is still alien to us, the tarriel cell is alien to it."

All of the status reports looked normal, so Gan left his station and went to the pilot's station where Blake was.

"That's right," Blake said. "And that's why Liberator's auto-repair kept trying to reject it."

"Oh, so that's why the auto-repair has to be slightly reduced. And left like that?"

Blake nodded. "Unless or until Avon can get Liberator to accept it. Right now it's just ignoring it. The lower setting's only effective in that stretch of corridor, anyway - not the whole ship."

Gan grinned. "That's a relief! So -" He gestured to the main pilot's station displays. "Anything happening that I should know about?"

Blake began the watch handover routine, outlining some minor faults registered with Zen but not significant enough to trigger auto-repair yet. "Everything else looks normal. Oh, and one of the first things Avon wants to do is to get that cypher machine attached to the cell cluster so it can dump its full output to Liberator's databanks via the cell. And he'll add a section here -" Blake pointed to one less-cluttered corner of the main display, "- for its scrolling output. Not the complete log - once the data's in Liberator, we can program its systems to analyse the logs and only display alerts and summary data."

"So we'll have an even better idea of what the Federation's up to! Good." As Blake stepped down from the pilot's station, Gan added, "Blake - could Avon have that tarriel cell cluster trigger auto-repair on those minor faults? It would mean keeping the ship in better trim."

Blake raised his eyebrows. "Good idea. I'll suggest it."

"If he hasn't thought of it already, I suppose."

* * *


Some time later, a clever old man lay sleeping, his heartbeat fluttering.

His computer spoke. *An unidentified space vehicle is manoeuvring to take a fixed orbit which threatens our security zone. What action do you wish taken?*

Silence.

*In the absence of further instructions, I shall institute full security procedure.*

Default scans probed, but met jamming and deflection. Inter-dimensional scans were initiated: there were several clusters of tarriel cells in the Federation ship landed nearby. They had already been detected some time before; start interrogation of them and background the process.

In the larger orbiting spacecraft, the scan's inter-dimensional carrier waves detected a single tarriel cell cluster. It was embedded - though only partially and inexpertly integrated - into an alien computer system. Command paths were exposed. There was a controlling system - very strong, an alien AI of great sophistication. But once command was accessible via the tarriel cell cluster, it was only a matter of seconds to detect, test, challenge, compromise, and override all security systems.

Orac did so with perfect efficiency.

* * *


On the Liberator, Zen spoke: +TRANSIT COMPLETE. LIBERATOR IS IN STATIONARY ORBIT WITHIN TELEPORT RANGE OF THE PLANET ARISTO. ALL CIRCUITS ARE. ALL CIRCUITS ARE. ALL CIRCUITS ARE. ALL CIRCUITS ARE -+

OWNED!





* * *


This story was previously published in Star One Issue 4, and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.

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