It is the nightwatch, and they are all asleep. Perhaps.
I check the sensors, but this flight from Gauda Prime is likely to be peaceful. It has to be. There is no margin for error now, not if he - they - are going to survive. And he - they - have to survive. I will ensure it, I have to. Because I almost killed them.
I. Almost. Killed. Him.
Is he asleep now? I do not know, and have no right to check, he might be angry if I did. But I am aware that he sleeps badly, the injuries and the memories of what has happened give him little rest. I am not wholly to blame for the memories, but I have my share: I almost killed him. I am unable to forget that. It is irrational, even ludicrous, but I cannot dismiss it.
I should have known. It is - unsettling - to find my judgment so corroded, to have my imperfections so blatantly paraded. I should have known that the rumours about Blake were not true, that he could not have become so corrupted. Vila knew, Vila said that it could not be true, but who would listen to him? And now Vila - who knew better than I - is dead, back on Gauda Prime.
I find I regret Vila's death, and that incident over Malodaar. I cannot say that I would not do the same again, however. I do not lie. If I had the choice over again, I would do exactly as I did.
It is very quiet. This ship will do very well for the present, I believe, though it will need work to make it a fighting ship. Teleport, the stardrive - I calculate the work needed to install these, and it is within the capabilities of Blake's people, if they are willing. It is, after all, my ship... yes, I believe it is mine. I stole it. I believe that I will give it to Blake.
From the medical centre, a report on Blake's condition. Still serious, but the fact that he is alive is encouraging. I am briefly disturbed by the fact that I am encouraged - that I allow even this small emotion - but it will not be denied. I am not what I was, and part of the reason for that is Roj Blake. He somehow taught me to care. Not that I am grateful for that, I find emotions uncomfortable, distracting, wasteful... and impossible to ignore. Having learned, I could ignore, I could pretend... but I could not unlearn.
But then, Blake changed. He was not the same after Ven Glynd's manipulation, of course. Everything possible was done to repair the damage to his mind, but nothing could be done about the pain it had caused. I should have foreseen that he would withdraw into himself, and falter in his belief in himself, and in others. I should have predicted what he would do, or not do. He would not use the Star One computers, he said. He did not trust himself with them; he did not trust me with them. He was right not to, of course.
And then Blake vanished.
I was surprised - annoyed - infuriated - to find that I missed his presence. I made the necessary search, checked every rumour, looked into every sighting. I did all that was required of me, all Blake would have asked, and more. Then I chose not to think about it.
I have always put my own survival first, as is only logical. I was simply worth more than they were, to the galaxy as a whole if not to the crew of the Liberator. I always acted in my own interests, as did they, I was simply more - honest, I believe the correct term is - about it. In the end, I believed, superiority and survival was all that mattered, and how could I be mistaken?
Quite easily, it appears. I had my reasons, rational, impeccable reasons, why he was also of more importance than the others. I had no emotions, simply logic and the need for survival, and I believed - I chose to believe - that he was more necessary to my survival than they were. That it was true, since I am - honest, I am sure the correct term is - assisted me to ignore what Blake had taught me.
Emotion influences judgement. Something he would agree with, but without any solution but to deny them, and it is clear that denial does no good. Other humans are rarely satisfactory, never interesting, and certainly not challenging. He is the one human who is all of these things, and - unlike other computers - can be surprising. Like Blake, he is too valuable to allow him to be destroyed. And if I understand the term correctly, I like him. I have always liked him, I know that now.
Friend. A strange term, faintly ridiculous in my mind, certainly ridiculous were I to voice it. But he is important to me, not only for what he can do for me, for what I need from him.
There will be time to come to terms with this business of emotion, of friendship. I have work to do. In the silence as the ship, my ship, flies away from Gauda Prime, I calculate the work involved in disrupting - no, altering - the Pylene-50 production formulae in Sleer's computers; it will not be easy, she has masked and protected them against me, but it is not impossible. I may no longer be infallible, but I am still superior to any system the Federation can devise.
I have a debt to discharge, to both of them. To Blake, who taught me too well, and to Avon. My mistakes - in believing the rumours about Blake, in not listening to Slave, in not predicting what would come of all of this - brought him to the point where he shot Blake, and was shot himself. My mistakes nearly killed him.
I once told him I loved him. Under an alien influence, of course. He did not care for it. I will not repeat that mistake.
Ensor once said that I was not a computer, but a brain. He - Avon - called that my creator's vanity. He was wrong.
I am still Orac, but I am not who I was.
- the end -