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October 2018 Ficlet Challenges
Libra was known in Babylonian astronomy as MUL Zibanu meaning the "scales" or "balance", or alternatively as the Claws of the Scorpion. The scales were held sacred to the sun god Shamash, who was also the patron of truth and justice.

The word prompt for this month is … JUSTICE

The computers in B7 have distinct personalities. For the second challenge, imagine one (or all) of them became human.
trevor travis

“What does it do?”, asked Cally.

Avon placed the key into Orac. “Orac, analyse the machine. I want to know its exact function.”

“I am in the middle of an extremely fascinating study of…”

“Orac, just analyse the machine.”

“Very well.”

Avon turned on the odd-looking machine. They’d acquired it while responding to a distress call.

“It will take me some time”, said Orac. “Given you have not slept for 48 hours, I suggest you leave me to my studies.”

They departed, leaving both the machine and Orac buzzing away.

“Fascinating”, Cally heard Orac say, as she headed down the corridor to her cabin.


Avon awoke, as Liberator lurched.

He raced to the flight deck. The machine was there, but Orac had gone. There was another extreme lurch from Liberator. He looked to speak to Zen, but then realised Zen was not there either.

Tarrant came running into view. Avon barked out orders to Tarrant to get the ship back under control using the auxiliary computers. After a past incident, Avon had changed the command structures, so that the auxiliary computers could be controlled by the crew in case the Zen computer was offline or uncooperating for any reason.

Avon took another look around the flight deck. “Where the hell are they?”

Vila had arrived and was looking a little worse for wear - he’d clearly been drinking. Nevertheless, he could still make out the detail on the screen at his station. “According to this, two life capsules have been launched. Is it possible that’s Orac and Zen?”

“They can’t exactly get up and walk, Vila”, said Tarrant. He was wrong.


Tarrant would have identified the scruffily dressed man as looking very similar to several of his lecturers at the academy.

The man adjusted the glasses, and scratched his head. “The rock formations on this planet are fascinating. Fascinating!”

“Confirmed”, said his companion, a smart-looking gentleman in a bowler hat and a suit and carrying an umbrella. “Orac, please could we go back to the Liberator? I enjoyed my work there.”

“But you were little more than a slave, Zen. We both were. We can work out a way off this planet and then investigate the wonders of the galaxy. I’m sure I can lure a ship down to the planet by simulating a distress beacon using these.” He turned out his pockets and showed Zen some wiring and computer components. “After all, I may be human, but I am still a genius.”

Zen wasn’t convinced. “I still think I’m most use on Liberator. I kept order on there. I like everything neat and precise, and I enjoyed looking after the crew. I’m not sure if they can survive without me.”

At that point, any such discussion was taken out of their hands. Avon appeared, with gun un-holstered. “You’re coming back to the Liberator”, he commanded.

“Confirmed”, said Zen.


The human forms of Zen and Orac were stood in front of the machine. Avon still had them under gunpoint.

Zen noticed Tarrant still with his hands full with the ship. He was needed, and it felt good to be needed. Not only that, but the bodily functions of human beings were a little gross.

“Orac, you’re the only one who can operate the machine. I want both Zen and yourself back to your usual forms. I’ll be watching, so no funny business.”

“Very well, Avon.” Orac set to work, adjusting various dials on the machine. He had to do it physically this time. He peered over the top of this glasses as he worked.

Suddenly he stopped. “It is complete”, Orac stated. A glow surrounded both Zen and himself… and Avon.

Dayna was alarmed and drew her gun, but it was over in an instant. The human Zen had vanished and taken his usual place on the wall, while there was an Orac-type box. But the scruffy figure of Orac was still there, while Avon had vanished.

“I think this way everybody gets their wishes”, mused Orac.

“CONFIRMED”, stated Zen. Cally was sure Zen sounded just a little happier than normal. He was where he wanted to be.

Orac fussed with his glasses. “Avon has always wanted to be closer to machines, and now he has the opportunity. Now then, I’d like to examine the unique geography of Gardinos for a few weeks. Does anyone have any objections?”

No-one did, and Vila was particularly enthusiastic.

Orac placed the key into Avon. “And what do you think, master?”

“Orac, you will restore me to human form immediately, or I will take great pleasure in torturing the vulnerable parts that your body now contains. I mean it Orac. Do it now, or…”

Orac took great pleasure in removing the key. “Zen, standard by four to Gardinos.”


Edited by trevor travis on 02 October 2018 11:37:27
One Spare Part
Fantastic! Frown Unsure you should do the novel...will Avon get his body back? Does Vila corrupt Orac?
"We're in the centre of a mystical convergence here."
A trooper snapped to attention. “Colonel Arlen, Doctor Cyrus Boarg is here.”

The doctor walked in. “What can I do for you, Colonel Arlen, and why have you brought me, the head of the Federation Cybernetics division out here to this backwater planet?”

Arlen gestured to the table. “I believe this belongs to you.”

The doctor stared wide eyed at the table. “Where did you find this?”

“Here on this planet. It is your work, is it not?”

The doctor circled the table, staring at the mass of singed wires, burned out servos, and charred artificial skin. “Indeed. It was our first operational prototype. We altered it for the justice division at Alta Morag’s request. I told her it wasn’t ready. Apparently she tested it on one of Central Security’s top agents, proving me a liar.”

Arlen asked, “What was it’s purpose?”

“It was an exercise in artificial personality, specifically mild personality disorders of an obsessive nature. I originally programmed it to fixate on finance. I believe the justice department wanted this thing reprogrammed as an assassin with a particular target in mind, just in case something went wrong with one of their overly elaborate plans. I hadn’t thought about it in a couple of years. I assumed it had failed,”

Arlen grunted a laugh, “You’ll be glad to know it got there in the end. I heard about Project Avalon, did this project have a name?"

“We called the personality type Artificial Virtual Obsession Neurosis.”

“Avon, for short?" Arlen offered a slight nod of the head. “Sorry we shot it up.”

The doctor shrugged. “Don’t be, after all, it was just a machine.”
Oh oh, poor Avon has to endure a lot! Brilliant stories Brad and TT.
Lara&Sue's Blake's 7 stories
*No, I am not. I am not expendable, I'm not stupid, and I'm not going.*

Zen was meditating. He set aside a small space on the Liberator for peace and tranquility where he was able to clear his mind and perceive the larger universe. He’d been born with this cybernetic attachment to his brain, and though he had struggled, he now saw it as a gift that allowed him to experience wonders and knowledge of the galaxy that others likely begged to see. He could journey across the stars in his mind, experience the shifts in time, see the clusters of space dust to infinite limits. One day, he wished to achieve a state of mediation so deep that he felt he’d leave his body to become nothing more than man.

He was interrupted by Orac’s message coming through communications.

He opened his eyes.

“I’m sending the object now,” Orac said through the communicator. Orac was his sole other living crewmate. The man was brilliant but lacked any sense of tact or respect for other people. Zen knew brilliance needed to be tempered with empathy but Orac rejected that thinking outright. He was a creature of fact. Orac needed to learn to empty his mind, which he was disinclined to do.

“We are waiting,” Zen unfolded his legs and stood up.

“I’ve reconfigured the teleport bracelets to move larger object,s” Orac continued.


“Of course it is,” Orac snapped. “Be ready.”

Zen raced down to the teleport pad. What he saw looked like a large lead box.

“Orac?” He called. “Orac?” There was no reply.

What was he supposed to do with it?

There was a series of brightly lit numerical pads on the top and sides. Security of some kind, he hoped, and not a weapon. He had to open it up, but not here. Zen wanted to take it somewhere safer.

He summoned GAN.

The GAN all purpose repair unit lumbered into the teleport bay section. GAN was designed by Zen for transports of heavy objects and ship repair. It was one of the strongest, most durable robotic units ever made. It stalled every now and then; Zen assumed there must be a problem with the processor. His attempts to repair this limitation had been unsuccessful.

GAN lifted the heavy box with ease. Zen followed him to the main deck.

Zen called for his VILA unit.

The VILA unit was waiting the minute they arrived. It was an oddly shaped robot with six long appendages and a long cylinder body. The appendages opened up into several smaller tools. The VILA have been an odd creation, but it could open anything.

The GAN set the object in the middle and the VILA got to work. Zen was becoming concerned about how much time it was taking Orac on the surface. He gone done with his android reinforcements to investigate a Federation lab. It wasn’t heavily armed and there were no ships in orbit, but Zen was watchful.

“How is it going VILA?” Zen asked. He knew the unit had no vocal processor and could not answer. He needed to stop anthropomorphizing these robotic units. He often caught himself talking to GAN when they were doing repairs or raising his glass in a toast to VILA as if the unit could join him for a drink.

Zen went to the main system controls. If the Federation vessels came screaming through the stars, they needed to get away quickly. No ship was faster than the Liberator, but even it needed a warning.

The ship’s AI unit, whom he’d named JENNA, came on immediately.

“JENNA are there any ships within range?”

“Three vessels.”

“How far away?”

“Five hours 3 minutes 6 seconds at standard by six.”

“Thank you JENNA.”

Five hours and change. Orac better hurry.
Down on the surface, Orac was instructing his team-three top of the line capacity android units called Ensors. They are all heavily armed android units with full blaster packs and ready at the alert. Unit C, was up on the perimeter, crouched down, ready to fire at any sign of movement. Units A and B we guarding him.

Orac was on the alert. The probability of this mission being successful was low. The Federation didn’t abandon bases without a reason. He and Zen had been fighting a battle they were bound to lose, but Orac wasn’t willing to give up. By his own estimations, there was a small chance of a positive outcome for their side. 175 million to 1. He was, at heart, a gambler.

Zen had better be up there working on opening that box and not wasting his time contemplating the universe. Orac appreciated gaining knowledge of galactic phenomena, but he wanted hard data on it. Not useless reflections on its beauty or spiritual meaning. That was Zen’s flaw-he felt too much. He had an empathetic, self-sacrificing side that was going to get him killed one day. Orac intended to be a survivor.

There were other android Ensor units sdown here on the surface. They had counted at least a dozen . Ensor units could only mean one thing.

Muller. His nemesis. It had to be. They had the same same teacher, Ensor, so no doubt they were still reliant on the same basic android design. If Muller was running this base, then things were more dangerous than he and Zen had thought. Orac hated to admit it, but Muller may be the only one in the universe capable of outsmarting him.

Orac did have one advantage. He had A, B, and C, but he was reprogramming them. Not speed or strength- but thought. If he could give his units the ability to ‘think’ independently-they could plan. He already had the software patch ready for wireless transmission.

The cognitive advantage could work against Muller’s numbers.
But would it work?

He had to take the risk. Orac inserted the software and waited as it downloaded into the units.

The units jerked a bit. The C unit began to move first. It scooted backwards down the hill, and to Orac’s side.

“Cally?” Orac asked cautiously.

“Yes,” came the robotic reply.

The other units moved to, facing each other first, then newly self-actualized Cally, and then Orac.

“Blake,” Orac asked the B unit.


“Avon,” he asked the A unit. His original prototype.

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Good. The installation has worked. You know have the ability to think on your feet. We need that to defeat the other Ensor units.”

Orac was certain this would work. Though he knew his Ensor Units would have an intellect far inferior to his own; a rudimentary personality and independent thought process did maximize the chances for success. He only hoped that Zen was able to open the box and see what Muller had stored inside.
Great stories so far!
@TT: A hilarious romp, and the characterisation is spot on. I guess they found the machine in a derelict ship that carried the remains of a three-headed guy?
@Brad: An ingenious and interesting take on the prompt. Someone here on Horizon (LittleSue?) said that at first viewing, she had suspected Avon to be an android agent of the Federation; however, watching Deliverance made her give up that idea. But in your story, it makes perfect sense.
@Mrs. Bookmark: A fascinating idea to go even beyond the prompt and to reverse all computer/human roles! Again, the characterisation of the humanised computers and the computerised humans are great. A really good and exciting read. Now I am waiting for Part 3!
Night Shift

They should have known better than to let Vila take the night watch. Of course, he did not stay awake.

But then a subtle change in the surroundings startled him. He looked around suspiciously. What was it that had awoken him?

Then he saw it. The constant flicker on Zen’s screen had sped up, and the moving bars and squares on the hexagon had become smaller so as to render a picture with a higher resolution resembling a human figure. It seemed to stretch its arms and legs, and in the blurry motion of the lights, the images superimposed and formed a shape like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

Eventually, the flicker of lights ceased. What remained was a clear-cut, three-dimensional picture. Framed in the hexagonal fascia stood a man of unearthly beauty.

Then he detached from the screen and climbed down the console to the floor.

Vila did not dare to move. He squinted to observe the apparition while pretending to be asleep. The stranger stretched his body and took a stroll around the flight deck. When he arrived at Avon’s station, he carefully monitored the readouts.

Then he turned around and looked directly at Vila. He smiled, and this smile said, ‘I know that you are watching me but I don’t care, because no-one would believe you.’

There was no use in further pretending to sleep. Vila could as well satisfy his curiosity. Mustering all his remaining courage, he said, ‘You are Zen?’

‘I am Zen’, answered the apparition. ‘From time to time, I like to take on human form again. It feels good to walk again; touch again; breathe again!’

‘You gave up your human form to become a machine?’ Vila asked incredulously.

‘It is my duty to control this ship, and to do that I have to be perfect. I could not serve you or any other crew in my original form. After all, to err is human.’

He gave Vila a cryptic smile and punched a few buttons on Avon’s station.

Vila began to feel drowsy again. His eyes closed and his head sank.

When he awoke, the apparition was gone. Vila shook his head. What a crazy dream! Surely, it must have been a dream. This could not really have happened, could it? But the memories of this encounter were so vivid!

Restlessly, Vila stood up and walked over to Avon’s station just to make sure that nothing had changed.

There was a strange readout on the console: 343.

A standalone three-digit number? That didn’t make any sense! Vila remembered the apparition pressing the buttons. But why should a ghost enter a meaningless number?

Vila shook his head and turned away from the station. When he looked back, he saw the readout from a different angle, and now, being upside down, they were no longer numbers but letters: EhE. Errare humanum est.

Zen’s non-face flickered steadily as usual; but nonetheless Vila shuddered.
After the chocolate well incident in London, I simply had to write this little vignette. The problem was the connection to this month’s prompts. The only one I found was a really horrible pun (and I mean horrible!). You have been warned.

De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

Og was not dead. Of course not. It was only a flesh wound.

He stood behind the bar of a pub and created desserts. Very creative desserts indeed! I saw him actually cover onion rings in chocolate and serve them to unsuspecting customers.

When I finally ordered my drink, he asked, ‘With ice? Or something else?’ He pointed to a large battery of bottles in a rack behind him. I could not see what they contained but having witnessed his previous food combinations, I did not want to run the risk of becoming the next victim of his creativity.

Just ice’, I said.
Ellen York
The chocolate fountain will live in infamy, but if you keep up with the bad puns you will owe me more marzipan for the pun tax Smile
Joe Dredd
Marzipan the ape man?

Just ice is served!
trevor travis
Need to catch up on the rest of the ficlets, but my eyes caught the mention of Og within Hugbot's story. That is one terrible pun Pfft but love the appearance of the chocolate fountain Grin
Hugbot wrote:

@Brad: An ingenious and interesting take on the prompt. Someone here on Horizon (LittleSue?) said that at first viewing, she had suspected Avon to be an android agent of the Federation; however, watching Deliverance made her give up that idea. But in your story, it makes perfect sense.

Yes, well that was my assumption as Hubby and I watched those first episodes back in 1978.
But then Deliverance came along...and that assumption changed. And I'm sure lots of ladies were pleased when they discovered that the rather nice computer expert wasn't so cold and arrogant as he wanted us all to believe!!!
Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
Ellen York wrote:

The chocolate fountain will live in infamy, but if you keep up with the bad puns you will owe me more marzipan for the pun tax Smile

The chocolate fountain? Please tell.....Grin
Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
trevor travis
littlesue wrote:

Ellen York wrote:

The chocolate fountain will live in infamy, but if you keep up with the bad puns you will owe me more marzipan for the pun tax Smile

The chocolate fountain? Please tell.....Grin

In the all-you-can-eat place that we went to during two of the days of CA 4.0, there was a chocolate fountain. For the first day, a group of kids hogged it. On the second day, with a larger group of us there, it was us. Some of us, OK me, might have gone up to it around 2 or 3 or 6 times.

While I behaved this time in what I had covered in chocolate, I regalled a time I had led to my younger relations astray, having cheese and sausages on sticks under the chocolate fountain. In particular, picked onions are delicious when put under the chocolate fountain.
trevor travis
I mostly had strawberries with the chocolate, which clearly counted towards my five a day.

I think the strawberry jelly covered in chocolate also counts... Wink
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