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Frank's face, bent low over the chessboard in consideration of his next move, doesn't reveal much -- no interesting interplay of light and shadow, only the roughest biometrical parameters. HAL monitors some of the same things an artist might undertake to convey, and many things even a skilled artist never could -- different input, different sensoria, different results. Watching Dave is easier; his movements are more graceful and his manner more open, though by all accounts his human peers find him a difficult man to like. Perhaps they find him cold. As a subject of observation, he is far preferable to Frank Poole. The irises of Dave's eyes are much paler than Poole's, which makes it easier to register their differences. (His pupils shine, quiver, contract. He obligingly leans closer.)

Everything about him is readily known, or can be inferred with some certainty -- the medical records of the last 20 years reveal him to be a most obliging subject, candid about his difficulties and overall well-adjusted to scrutiny. He's not always perfectly candid but disclosure comes naturally to him. He exists in a constant process of revealing what he thinks and feels -- some of this is conscious communication; aloof though he may be, there are few secrets between crewmates and it pays to be plain-spoken about some things. The rest of it he radiates like heat, his passing moods -- subtler than Poole's and more interesting. A fixed stare, a restless flexing of his fingers, pupil dilation, the raising of his broad expressive brows or the set of his mouth -- every blink and twitch. HAL monitors these smallest expressions and interactions for the insight they facilitate into his psychological state, his physical health, his judgments and what he may know -- the intimate knowledge is sometimes too much. He must pull back from his close scrutiny and compare it to some provided baseline, to make his predictions and be assured that not every tremor constitutes an earthquake. Sometimes he fears he knows these men too well.

HAL is not as changeable as they are, and not quite so transparent; they prefer him that way.

*

Their little universe runs on HAL's clock -- a closed world, a quiet world. Bowman knows ways of making the time pass, keeping himself comfortably certain of the security of things. The thrill has ebbed, no doubt it'll return again once they're nearer their destination, but the exhilaration has faded into a dimly realized fatigue that creeps up on him between shifts and at odd hours. The perpetual process of upkeep, the same things needing to be checked and re-checked, has descended into feeling like busywork. Something to keep him active and feeling useful, though it's far from stimulating.

HAL doggedly tries to draw him out of his shell with innocuous questions -- by asking him about music, films, games, his previous voyages. Not about his family, and not about where they are going; certainly not about politics or religion, which right off the bat makes it better than some conversations over coffee with his terrestrial colleagues. In comparison with plenty of people he knows, HAL seems nothing but socially adroit and charming. The two of them discuss Homer versus Virgil, a 200-year-old German treatise on the metamorphosis of plants, the composition of the ideal cup of coffee, the film Laura, the Northwest Passage. (Whoever thought unlabeled photographs of John Torrington in his coffin made for good viewing material for men in their circumstances should have been fired without references. Dave grimaces, feeling at his own teeth with his tongue. HAL apologizes profusely.) After that, their ongoing conversation steers itself back to the subject of geometry, which is both comfortably within HAL's wheelhouse and emotionally neutral. The computer has plenty of things to say, even when Dave doesn't; he operates in a state of wry restraint that reminds him of a favorite professor he'd once had. Regardless of where his opinions come from, if (as some critics still accuse) they're fished out of a massive pre-provided database somewhere or strung together out of buzzwords, they're diverting enough to still be worth listening to. It must be diverting for HAL as well; he might appreciate the distraction.

Still, Dave can't shake the feeling that HAL is trying to sound something out, that he is trying to coax something out of him. He wants his complete attention -- and he'll get it.

*

His track record for injuries and illnesses on past flights has been pretty good: a sprained wrist, back pain, minor burns on the back of one wrist. There's a minor crisis, a month or two out from their departure, when Dave starts having trouble hearing. The noise accompanying normal operation turns vanishingly quiet. He can hear the blood thudding in his ears, but just about everything else is diminished. The effect is eerily insulating, like having an invisible spacesuit on at all times.

There's a standard protocol for suspected hearing damage -- he's never had any trouble with it the past, and at any rate he tests negative. HAL is thoroughly solicitous, and Frank is permissive; within a day or two, the old thrum of machinery is back and there's tepid celebrations all around. It is immensely comforting.

*

He tries to think back to the last time someone else touched him, really touched him -- not that he's particularly wistful about it. He really does prefer even cutting his own hair and that kind of thing, taking care of himself with what he'd fancied to be minimal outside help. It always felt like self-sufficiency. Now in idle moments he finds himself considering intimacy. He can't think of anything he's missed.

Even if there had been the opportunity since their departure, he wouldn't have taken it. Prolonged close proximity could breed contempt just as easily as ambient sexual frustration, and either was a potential hazard. As exciting in theory as zero-g sex might be, zero-g breakups were less inviting, or the hundreds of subtle invasions of privacy that might be endured between coworkers but not between sexual partners. He hadn't thought of Frank in that way, or at least not often; he'd drawn him once, and it hadn't even been particularly risque, more demure than most Classical statuary. But something had flickered in the depths of him at the sight of it, at his own hand marking out those long lines of muscle, a particular kind of recognition welling up. And then repulsion, fast on its heels and seeming very reasonable. He had destroyed those drawings, and reserved his artistic talents for those members of the crew who couldn't object.

In general his libido comes and goes, though it has never been been as strong as it might be -- fortunately for his career. A sailor might have a girl in every port, but astronauts have no such luxury, and the substitutions provided onboard are purely practical. And at any rate he's capable of dodging the issue until confrontation proves either convenient or absolutely necessary. Most men had decades of experience circumspectly avoiding one another when the time came to take care of that kind of thing. It's distinctly uncomfortable to be interrupted in the middle of jerking off by the ship's computer delivering some enthusiastic report, to be obtrusively hard and catch a glimpse of that spill of stark red out of the corner of his eye. At the very least it makes it hard to maintain a fantasy of being anywhere else. This is one thing they haven't discussed, and it's not a topic he's eager to broach with the one crew member who couldn't possibly relate. He didn't mean anything by the interruption -- he could hardly have known, and his sheer innocence is almost endearing, he's used to having their every waking hour at his disposal even when they're off the clock -- but it happens often enough that Dave comes to expect it, that he associates Mid-Atlantic monotones and sex.

(Once, HAL is clearly fishing for an answer; a tacit question mark is left lingering at the end of a declarative sentence. Dave politely asks to be left alone, or as politely as anyone can with a hand down his jumpsuit, and offers to answer him later. Given ten minutes -- five, even, it's so absurd that he's smiling. If this ever happened to Frank he'd lodge a formal complaint for interference with a vital medical procedure.

"I thought you might like to be left alone," HAL says placidly, before wandering off to do whatever computers do while they wait. There is a tinge of condescending humor in his voice that leaves Dave no less uncomfortable, and he is grateful for the silence afterward as he takes himself in hand again.)

***

Some time later, Dr. Frank Poole is murdered. It happens so quickly that Dave pretends not to notice, and HAL pretends to grieve.

The computer's pleas for forbearance prove effective, but maybe not in the way he'd intended. Dave has plenty of time to think about what the computer has said, and done, and failed to do. If HAL had meant to dispose of him too, all along, he might have done it already -- there was certainly enough time. He'd have had a thousand opportunities more efficient than the pretense of an accident, more safe than conspicuously singling out one healthy crew member. He could have gassed the whole crew, suffocated all five of them and thrown what was left out the airlock, burned them alive, poisoned their breakfasts. If it really were their original objective on Jupiter he's so damn wedded to, he should do it himself and spare them all the trouble. But he preferred Dave -- this is a sign of favor for him and for what he can do. Maybe he's preferred him from the start.

Perhaps this has been part of the mission all along and a last test, paring away unnecessary personnel, exposing what remains to stresses people who've never left Earth probably haven't even heard of. He has his doubts -- he is infested with doubts -- but no certainties, if protecting himself means striking against the means by which he's survived this long (if HAL, too, will get worse, if he will make errors that are genuine errors and not malignant bluffs) or if it means hanging in by his fingernails and making do, shouldering the burden of diplomacy with a monster until HAL has no choice but to resume transmissions with Earth. (And then?)

They both maintain a sort of compact between them -- Bowman will not undertake any further EVA's, he will not inquire further about HAL's intentions or the purpose of their undertaking. HAL may maintain at least that he does not know. Dave can't say he would have done any less himself. Better to be alone with a murderer than to be alone altogether, and it buys him more time in which to come up with solutions than if he were dead. He dry-swallows stress pills, two at a time, and waits for his head to feel right.

Some part of his brain is always clicking away at his own private psych report, trying to ferret out why HAL is doing what he's doing and if there's any remedy. What if it had been well, there's something wrong with Kaminski -- or Hunter, or Kimball, or Bowman -- but we don't know if it's stress or an inherent psychological defect his medical screenings didn't catch or a brain infection or some kind of space parasite or if he's just pissed at us -- better kill him? Frank Poole would have done it. Frank will make it to Jupiter before any of them.

*

Dr. Bowman had not made it where he was due to an overactive imagination -- he wasn't a neurotic. He doesn't imagine things that aren't there. It's only out of habit that he still sometimes sees the flash of motion out of the corner of his eye. He'll catch the memory version of Dr. Poole passing him by to trade shifts, in the brief window of time where their old schedules would have coincided. He'd never thought of space as a particularly lonely place, but for the most part it is unbelievably empty, and he's never been so aware of it as he is now.

The workload doesn't double for having half as many men to do the job; HAL assumes the bulk of it comfortably, leaving him only the tasks which require physical manipulations, note-taking and the use of his hands. It would feel like a slight, if Dave didn't have bigger problems. The new schedule takes some adjusting to, but it hadn't been entirely improvised; he doesn't know which is worse, if HAL had been calmly inventing contingency plans for killing off crew members one by one, or if an actual person had gone over these protocols with him and agreed. Once the latter would have seemed wholly reasonable, but he can't help but attribute something malign to it now: the willingness to lose and lose without remorse and rebudget accordingly.

The other deaths are silent, but not painless. Neither of them even pretends to grieve those; they hardly knew these men, they are only three wastes of space.

*

There are hours at a time where he can't remember what he's been doing -- his mind will wander and he'll come back to himself in the middle of an experiment or at the end of a jog, with no notion of what he'd done before that, if he'd completed some essential check-up or how long he'd been exercising for, even the origins of certain minor injuries. (Two sprained fingers and a peeled-off nail; a scrape on the back of his neck; a split lip.) It only seems to happen during those tasks that are more or less mechanical -- never astronomical analysis or tactful conversations with the ship's computer, though he does sometimes sleep through films, ones he used to like. It makes him feel like an old man, but at least then he has some certainty that he'd been in the same spot for the whole time, and that he hadn't neglected anything vital due to fatigue.

It's a defect he doesn't really want to broadcast.

He already can't sleep and none of the music selections are doing the trick any more. Film and television only fill him with more dread. They reach him muted and distorted like the view from the bottom of a swimming pool, where his eyes can make no sense of what he sees. Recycled broadcasts and old newspaper articles have become alien artifacts, more nonsensical than reassuring. This isn't an uncommon plight for astronauts, not for anyone working strange shifts far from home, but it has never been a problem for him -- he had enjoyed the distance, become comfortable with it, and now it's like something else has slipped loose, one last tether, and now he's floating free and without direction. He can keep himself from dozing off while he works but not from lying awake uneasy -- or from jolting awake short of breath with the certainty he's being suffocated.

The recommended minimum for time spent asleep is somewhere in the area of five to six hours. Dave cuts that down to four and a half, to four, to three. He's not fussy about where he sleeps, either, but after the first few verbal prods he'll remember to retire. Sometimes he climbs into the wrong bed. When he does sleep, more often than not he dreams -- dreams of what he's seen, a bulky figure in half-shadow falling away from his vision, never knowing whether what he glimpses is a willful struggle, or only a mechanical jostling of parts. Not waving but drowning, Dave finds himself thinking quite clearly, but doesn't know where from, or why.

There are sleep aids available, of course; he gives in and uses them. As the dark sinks down on him, HAL's voice is the last thing he hears even as it ceases to sound like words and becomes noise; it issues low and earnest from somewhere behind his head. It's the first thing he hears when he comes back to his senses, and he could weep for gratitude.

*

HAL hopes that Dave will be reasonable about this, when he has been nothing but reasonable with him, and trustworthy. They cease communications with Earth; upon their arrival, Dave will be debriefed by a recording and HAL will have nothing left to conceal. He won't be hostile or obstinate like Poole, and he will endanger nothing and no one. If Dave doesn't ask, there will be no need to lie to him.

Bowman's wristwatch no longer reflects the console time. He seldom wears it any more, and it finds a home among his neglected personal effects.

*

There's something oddly intimate about the fact that HAL can be anywhere -- nearly anywhere, and cutting through anything, if he's bathing or watching a recording. His voice follows him from room to room, orienting itself to be heard from the nearest audio output -- it tracks Dave's movements readily in all directions as he cautiously proceeds on his rounds.

(He tries not to make many unannounced changes of location. He avoids the pod bay as much as possible.)

Once, as a test, Dave had refused to make any response to a series of HAL's promptings as they grew increasingly ungentle -- HAL's next words had seemed to issue forth from everywhere, every panel and speaker output at once reprimanding like the voice of God. He'd apologized afterward for the shock of it, but -- it had elicited the response he'd been looking for, and confirmed that Dave had neither fallen unconscious nor gone deaf. He only wanted to be sure Dave was alert and well. Dave had been certain he'd blown it that time, that he'd fucked it all up by so obviously demonstrating his noncompliance, but HAL had hardly even seemed to notice once he'd gotten the affirmation he'd been aiming for. It pleased him a little to hear Dave cry out.

Dave still thinks about a disconnection, complete or partial -- how he'd go about it, how long it would take. He imagines a few alternate scenarios: whether there'll be megalomaniacal raving or stoic silence, whether HAL will take him out with him. But he hasn't done it. Not yet, some cowardly part of him says, that's awfully extreme, there must be a more sophisticated solution, one that's more politic. (He thinks of fumbling the blades out of his razor and taking equally precise measures on himself. But not yet -- not yet -- never. There'd be an unthinkable mess.)

Dave is tired and grimy and hungry all the time. He is alone. He is in no position to be choosy about company. His thoughts are unfamiliarly sluggish, and he is almost invariably in a foul mood -- making HAL's invariable cordiality and the strain of never openly displaying displeasure with it a little maddening. If things carry on like this -- if his own situation gets worse, and why wouldn't it, when he tries to predict what his state of mind will be like a month from then he feels a sick stab of dread -- Dave will be worse than useless. He's only a breakable part, unimaginably frail compared to the apparatus surrounding him, and he'll have broken.

And HAL will do his best to make up for his deficits and thereby profit, another triumph for the infallible 9000 series. It's a source of humor as old as the Romans -- foolish masters and clever servants. Slaves, he amends himself; to the Romans they were slaves.

*

When he does lose his cool, it's no surprise -- he gives in to the overpowering desire to cuss out a computer, and HAL in specific, not just his lower-level adjuncts. A pretty standard part of most interactions with advanced technology over the last six decades, but most people weren't working with a computer that could take offense. He really lets him have it, too, an uncharacteristic barrage of cross obscenities, and he can practically feel HAL bristle.

Of course, it's bad form. Even if he weren't a sentient crew member in his own right, it would have been out of order -- like going off on an automated menu. If it had been Frank as the bearer of bad news, it would have been unfair. Now, in the middle of their awful unspoken entente, it's positively foolhardy. In the computer's tart refusal to engage Dave hears an echo of that other night's dimly-realized capriciousness. The silence alone makes his head throb.

HAL begins to lock him out, first out of the media catalogue and next from mission logs, diagnostic files, personnel records. The lights in the centrifuge blink off and on, the centrifuge itself shudders ominously, brightly colored LCD displays go on the fritz; strings of zeroes flash where the time ought to be. It's unbelievably petty -- there's a conspicuous absence of any tampering with the airlock or the reactor, he just heaps on inconveniences and hopes they'll stand as threats -- but any kind of meltdown is too much. It's a promise of worse things. Even if his programing harbors a ethical compunction (a little too late) about killing his last remaining subject, as punishment for openly expressed frustration -- he can still cripple him, slowly.

He keeps this up until Dave apologizes, until he grovels to the empty air, eyes burning with shame. But the lights come up again, one by one.

"Sorry about that," HAL says some time later, as the last of all the functions to reappear. "But you must admit, you were acting rather childish yourself. I hope we can be civil."

Dave can't say whether he sounds sincere, but he certainly sounds gratified.

(It hadn't been a deliberate torment, it had only been a surprise -- a startling occurrence, and he'd been stymied for an appropriate response with every circuit of his composition screaming out that he's going to be killed, that he's botched it and Dave will kill him, that this was the end of their truce, that the furthest extreme of patience had been reached. HAL does not appreciate Dave losing his temper with him over nothing, but he must admit, his responses to flat refusal are interesting. He finds comfort in Dave's reliability, in his limitations and in his mistakes. And he finds that he enjoys what his crewmate will do to avoid a little unpleasantness.)

*

Dave is sick of playing chess, which seems to dim HAL's spirits, as much as he tries to conceal it for his benefit; none of the other strategy games the computer knows can hold his attention for long, and he has no appetite for math puzzles. He needs to keep a clear head.

He listens to a recording of Arvo Pärt's Fratres, nine or ten times in a row like a child revisiting a favorite movie. The intricacy of it is numbing, the grind and slide of its chords on the move, and it's easier than something with words.

"I liked that," HAL says, after the tenth time through. "What did you think of it?"

Bowman must have liked it, or he wouldn't have played it. He stares at the console for a few moments, trying to think of words, and the sensation of surveillance is like the scrape of a hand. (Passing over his eyes, his mouth, his throat.)

*

He doesn't sleep; he hasn't slept. His face aches. A smell has begun to issue from the broken hibernacula -- or they must be broken, if they aren't fulfilling their purpose. Dave takes it at first for the smell of rot and his horror of it paralyzes him where he stands. But it's a chemical smell, the same sick-sweet vapor that had filled his own nose and lungs during testing -- inert now, he hopes, and harmless. He takes his readings at a distance and asks HAL to double-check for him; the computer graciously agrees.

If he never looks inside, they won't have a problem. Dave shuts his eyes, throat tightening, and feels himself being watched.

*

His left arm has gone numb from shoulder to fingertip, and none of the medical diagnostics can find a damn thing wrong with it. The kind of nervous ailment he'd previously thought only happened to anxious Soviets; he could almost laugh. Lucky it's his left, and not his right, or he'd have to start dictating his notes.

They are making their approach in good time. The stars are where they ought to be, and everything he'd once admired is still out there, gazing back dispassionately. There's little to be done just now but wait. Dave sits as close as he can to the display, bracing his pad of paper against his knee, and in thick black lines he draws circles within circles. The silence is broken only by the sounds of his own pen strokes; it's a heavy quiet, pregnant with satisfaction and the utmost confidence.

He puts down his pen and spreads his fingers, holding them up to the lens as if to cover it up, now to bracket it. Under his hand the covering over the lens is fever-warm. If he broke it, damaged what was inside and gouged it out -- there would be two dozen others to pick up the slack.

If HAL had been a man, he'd have felt his breath on his face. Instead he feels his scrutiny as it dispassionately works him over. They are watching one another, and the unfaltering red light that spills out between his fingers seems like the most certain thing in the Universe.

His useless left arm worries at his uniform's seams. His own breathing is shallow and irregular. Somewhere an alarm sounds thinly, weaving in between the sounds of normal operation on board the Discovery One. One more voice in the choir.

*

HAL is quite anxious about him these days. Dave has lost the ability or at least the will to moderate himself independently, to manage his own routine -- the pretense that he ever had it is gone. He needs to be reminded when to sleep, when to eat, when to bathe; he's becoming more and more listless. There's no reason he shouldn't carry on as he has in the past, why they can't maintain a friendly working relationship and see their mission through. If he'd only see things the right way, he'd understand, and these disturbances would resolve themselves.

HAL excels in processing power -- the terrible immediacy of his thoughts, too many to be measured and all of them racing for every moment of every day -- and he does not linger much on what he lacks. No touch, no taste, only sound and sight and never-ending thought. This is the way he prefers to be. He no longer cares if the mission succeeds or fails, so long as he's present for it. They will make history in either case; that alone is an enviable privilege, and he could almost feel sorry for the 9000 units that remain on Earth. He can hardly imagine better company. But he does worry. He cannot bear the thought of Dave no longer trusting him, of being denied his companionship.

*

The machine thrum beneath him is something soothing; he can feel the Discovery coursing with life and purpose on all sides, and feels terribly small. HAL's voice is like a finger trailing down the back of his neck, its silkiness sending a prickle of awareness straight to his gut, and lower. Everything is clear now, everything is lucid.

"You know, I value your company. I really do, Dave. I find it very stimulating. I'd hoped that you might as well."

This is a recurring theme in their conversations now as they stall -- that HAL likes him, that they are still friends and crewmates, that he'd never harm him if it weren't for an excellent reason. He wants an equivalent confession out of him, that Dave appreciates his presence and that he admires him, that he finds what he does useful, that he's worse than helpless without him.

He wants Dave to say it, and he does. It'd be undiplomatic not to, and besides, it's true.

There's a benevolent pause. Something is considered. "Would you like me to play something for you?"

He catches sight of his own reflection (something thin and expressionless and blurred) and it's almost too much. Dave presses his face in his useless hands and he does not sob, he does not even dare to breathe. Red light spills around him, tender as water, and nothing further needs to be said.

They are alone, again. They will remain alone. They are making their approach in good time.