Home || Fanfiction Menu

Fandom: Blake's 7
Rating: Australian PG, just like the series.
Title: The Web
Series: Tirren Phale
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or situations of Blake's 7. Terry Nation created them, and the BBC brought them to life. I've added Tirren to the mix, and I'm watching to see what happens.
Acknowledgements: Thanks again to pinkdormouse for beta reading this. Further thanks to the cast, crew and creators of the BBC series for giving me such a lot to play with.

The Web

“Tirren, what d'you think?”

Vila's question came as the biochemist was in the middle of decanting chemicals from one vial to another. Not moving her attention in the slightest, Tirren replied. “I can't tell now, Vila. Give me a few minutes to finish what I'm doing, and I'll let you know.”

“All right. I'll be on the flight deck - it's nearly time for my shift there.”

Tirren sighed. Vila had a habit of walking in at awkward moments, wanting her to check things, view things, or discuss the latest ramifications of the scoring system she was using to maintain her sanity.

The past three weeks had been rather fraught, as expected. Cally, while doing her best to fit in (and being welcomed by Vila, Gan and Blake at least) was still treated with a certain amount of caution by both Jenna and Avon. Vila appeared to have accepted the Auron woman due to her exotic appearance; Gan was entirely too trusting (in Tirren's opinion) and thought the best of everyone; while Blake had suggested she stay and therefore couldn't be seen to back down or change his mind. In the case of Avon, his caution appeared to be an automatic reaction to the presence of another person he didn't know - he had treated Tirren in much the same way in her early days on the ship, a sort of polite distance. Jenna, on the other hand, was straightforwardly jealous of the Auron woman.

Cally had volunteered for the task of communications officer (Tirren had surrendered without argument) and as she had some battlefield medic skills, she and Tirren were now sharing the task of medical officer. Positions on the flight deck had been re-arranged, with Avon moving forward to the main computer console near the couches, and Tirren inheriting his former position on the navigation and internal diagnostics console. While Tirren appreciated the additional free time, she still wasn't sure how she felt about Cally as a person.

Rather than try and analyse the whole business, Tirren had moved the scorecard to her new console and started figuring out how to rate the various convoluted social and conversational coups various crewmembers were trying to count against one another. The resultant system was complicated by the discovery of the system, first by Vila (who'd enjoyed the joke), and then by both Avon and Blake. Both of them had been insulted at first, and their current consensus appeared to involve not speaking of the scorecard at all. Of course, their first reactions had let the rest of the crew in on the secret. Gan quite liked the idea, having decided if Blake and Avon were going to feud, the rest of them might as well get something out of it. Jenna appeared to take everything calmly. That might change, Tirren thought, once she'd figured out how to rate the ongoing rivalry between the other two women on board for the attentions of the men.

In an attempt to ease Cally into the crew Blake was spending a lot of time with her, training her in the various functions the crew performed on board the Liberator. According to Jenna, this meant Cally was concentrating her attentions on Blake. From what Tirren could see, it appeared Avon was a more likely target. Certainly Avon didn't appear to be averse to any attempts the Auron woman was making to get to know him better. Vila had tried his luck with all three women, been rejected, and seemed to be taking this rejection in his stride. Gan didn't appear to be interested at all, treating all the crew members much the same.

Tirren supposed it was a function of the limiter he'd been implanted with - a brief scan from the diagnostic unit showed it was set up to cause pain whenever Gan was excited or aroused, and Tirren guessed sexual arousal would be one of the triggers. It fitted in with the Federation mindset, for a start. The same effect could have been achieved by drugs or conditioning, but it seemed whoever had been responsible for Gan's sentencing had decided on the limiter as a one-time expenditure, rather than the ongoing costs of drug treatment. It didn't raise her opinion of whichever minor functionary it had been. Her examinations revealed the implant had been made hastily, and there was evidence the surgery had been clumsy as well. There could be problems later on. However, since the revelation of his limiter, Tirren found she had relaxed around Gan. The implant made it unlikely he could assault her without consequence. Even though the man's sheer physical size was somewhat unnerving, as was his lower social status (he'd been a Gamma class, born on an agricultural world), she could at least share time in the med-unit or a similar confined space with him now without feeling overly anxious.

Cally had been confused by the scorecard. Such things weren't done among the Auronar, or among the rebels she'd known on Saurian Major. The concept of laughing in place of anger or tears seemed to confuse her. Cally had strong opinions of her own regarding a few subjects where Tirren didn't like having her authority questioned, and tended not to understand when Tirren was making a joke. Between the Auron woman's telepathy, and her apparent lack of a sense of the ridiculous, Tirren didn't know what to make of her.

After the decanting was finished, Tirren set to work tidying up the lab. She'd just finished when the communicator chimed.


“Jenna. There's been some sabotage. It looks as though Cally is responsible. Can you get down to the flight deck?”

“Shall do.”

“If you see Vila, warn him.” The communication cut off. Tirren bit her lip, thinking for a moment, then retrieved something from a cabinet. If Cally was sabotaging the ship, a sedative which specifically targeted Auron physiology might come in useful.

Vila proved to be easy to find - he was lying at a junction in the corridors, groaning. A swift examination revealled a large lump on his head.

“All I said was 'what d'you think of the outfit?'” Vila groaned. “She didn't need to clout me.”


“Yeah. Wasn't like I did anything to her.”

“Sounds as though Jenna's right. Let's get you to medical.” Tirren helped Vila to his feet. “By the way,” she said, “the outfit looks very nice.”

There was the sound of a scuffle. Then a slap.

“Whoever you are, it's over,” Jenna was saying to Cally when Tirren dashed onto the flight deck. Cally was being held by Gan, with Avon and Blake assisting. Jenna was facing her, staring into her eyes. All four of them looked angry. Tirren saw Cally slump as Jenna released the Auron woman's face. Avon immediately took over.

“What was all that about?” he demanded, sounding far more angry than Jenna had. There was no response from Cally. Tirren watched the tableau with interest. Avon's anger sounded personal. From the little Tirren had learned of the intensely private computer tech, he didn't give his trust lightly, and once it had been breached, it wasn't likely to be given again. Somehow Cally had breached Avon's trust. Tirren filed the information away for later reflection.

“Better keep her sedated,” Blake said, nodding toward Gan.

“And locked up. Or dumped,” Avon snarled. “Where are the other two?”

“Vila's in the medical unit,” Tirren said. The tech whirled to look at her, looking as though he'd prefer to be sniping about something neutral rather than offering possible insights into his psyche to any of the rest of the crew. Tirren knew if it had been Vila standing here rather than herself, the thief would have been the recipient of a caustic comment. She met the man's gaze, waiting to see whether he'd try to sharpen his tongue on her.

“What happened?” he said.

“She hit Vila over the head. He has a bit of a bump, but he should be fine.” Tirren stepped over to where Gan was holding the now-compliant Cally. There were some large, painful-looking burns on the woman's hand, and she looked shocked. “What caused those?”

“As far as we can guess, shorting out the forward detector links,” Blake said.

“Repair monitors report explosive device attached to primary power channel,” Zen reported.


“Hold three, access duct seven.” Zen sounded calm as ever.

“Can the automatics neutralise it?” Blake asked.


“Why not?”

“There is no damage,” Zen replied.

“Computer logic,” Avon explained. “Until the bomb explodes, there is nothing for the repair systems to repair. Zen, can you reprogram the automatics?”

“Pre-emptive interference in crew activity is forbidden.”

Blake looked furious. “Oh, he'll clean up after us, but he won't stop us making a mess,” he shouted, as he rushed down the corridor toward hold three.

“You made this mess,” Avon retorted, following Blake.

“We're all in it, Avon,” Jenna called after the pair.

Avon's reply of, “Yes, aren't we!” came floating back over the sound of footsteps.

“One to him,” said Tirren. “We'd best get Cally to medical.”

“And locked in,” Jenna muttered. The pilot cast a look over the remaining crew. “Gan, you take Cally,” she said. He was best suited to deal with the Auron if she fought off the sedative. “I need someone to check the detector scanners. We're flying blind at the moment.”

“Right,” said Gan, picking up Cally and heading up the stairs off the flight deck. “What should I do about Vila?”

“Send him here,” Tirren advised as she made her way to Vila's console. “There's nothing serious wrong with him. He can recover just as well on the flight deck.” Tirren looked over the readouts. “There's nothing on the scanners at the moment.”

“Speed's up to standard by ten,” Jenna noted, checking an indicator on her console. She turned toward Zen's dome. “Drive repairs, how long?”

“One point two five minutes,” Zen said.

“We should be able to stop once the drive repairs are complete, shouldn't we?” Tirren asked.

“If we don't hit anything first,” Jenna said. “Forward detectors?”

“Repair monitors are assessing the damage.”

“I could get very annoyed with Zen very quickly,” Tirren muttered. “There's only so much calm in moments of crisis I can handle.”

Jenna flashed her a smile. It appeared the blonde woman shared her point of view. “A bomb was all we needed,” the pilot said.

“What happened?” Tirren asked, in between checking readouts from various scanners.

“I noticed the speed was increasing due to something internal. It looked like a problem with the PN overrides.”

“That explains why Avon was in here,” Tirren said, glancing at the readouts again. “I know he's been looking over Zen's systems every spare moment he gets. Still nothing on scan. Why was Blake here? I thought it was his rest period.”

“I called him in,” Jenna said. “He seems to think of himself as the captain of the ship, so he gets to be notified of these sorts of things.” Tirren smiled wryly to herself. Blake's overbearing manner got on her nerves, particularly when he was declaring what they would do, as though the rest of the crew weren't capable of independent thought. It seemed she wasn't the only one. “He called in Avon, and it was Avon who was able to work out Cally was the saboteur.”

“Hmm. Do we know why?”

“Do we care?” Jenna replied. “Anything on the detectors?”

A loud bang from the direction of the holds coincided with the dimming of the lights, and the arrival of both Vila and Gan from the medical section.

“Major disruption of primary power channel. All systems switched to auxilliary power. All drive units are dysfunctional.” Zen's announcement of the disaster was as calm as ever.

Tirren looked up at Jenna. “Vila, take over here,” she said. “I'd better get down to inner hold three.”

Tirren didn't make it to the inner hold. She encountered Blake returning from it.

“You're both all right?” she queried. Blake nodded. “Right. Here's the situation. We're on auxiliary power, last known speed was standard by ten, there's no forward detectors, and nothing on scan.”

“What's the progress on automatic repairs?” Blake asked.

“Drive repairs were going to be sorted in about one minute, roughly two minutes ago, and the repair systems were assessing the damage to the forward detector links.”

“How's Cally?”

“Gan took her to medical; I presume she's sedated and under restraint there. I'll check up on her and try to find out why she did what she did. There's a few drugs that work well on Aurons.”

“No,” Blake replied. “Don't drug her.” His refusal sounded automatic. Tirren shot him a look, well aware of Blake's near-phobia of drugs. The man wouldn't take even minor pain relief without a lot of nagging. If he was going to expand this to cover the entire crew, her job was going to get much more difficult. Whether Blake liked it or not, in many cases the best therapy was a quick course of one drug or another.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Blake said. “Either we can trust her, or we can't. If we can trust her, interrogation with drugs would ruin that trust. If we can't trust her, she's probably resistant to the drugs anyway.”

When Tirren arrived at the medical unit, she found Cally placed under restraint and knocked out by a high dose of a generalised sedative. Gan had done his job well.

“Zen, get the med computers to supply biometrics readout for Auron standard physiology, please,” Tirren ordered. “Compare and contrast against initial biometric scan for Cally, and current biometric scan for Cally. Report all differences.”

While the med computers and Zen worked to compare physiological results, Tirren checked the Auron woman over. Cally didn't seem out of the ordinary, although her body type would be called painfully thin on a human. There didn't appear to be any implants, receivers or anything else that could supply a reason for Cally's sudden strange behaviour.

“All biometric readings are normal both for subject and for Auron norm,” the med computer announced.

“Hmm... that's interesting.” Thinking back to what she'd heard as she entered the flight deck, Tirren was forced to conclude the problem might be mental. If this was the case, it was something all Aurons would be subject to, and there was very little in the literature about that.

“Med computer: supply any known information on prevalence of psychotic mental illnesses among the Auron people.”

“The Auronar are not subject to psychotic mental illness save in the case of sudden disconnection from their people.”

“Is this a likely diagnosis in the case of Cally?” Tirren asked. On Tirren's suggestion, personal medical information had been entered into the med computer by each crewmember directly instead of being given to Tirren herself. This had the comfort of ensuring both crewmember confidentiality, and that she wouldn't be able to give sensitive information out under interrogation.

“Diagnosis is unlikely.” The cold flat tones of the computer's voice were reassuring, given the context.

“Med computer off.” The screen for the med computer dimmed, and Tirren turned her attention from to Cally's possible psychological issues to the known physical wound. The burn on Cally's hand was a bad one, and took several minutes with the tissue regeneration tools to remedy. Tirren also administered a broad-spectrum anti-infective, as she didn't know what might have come into contact with the burned tissue prior to regeneration.

As she was tidying up, Vila came dashing into the room.

“You're needed on the flight deck. There's something outside the ship,” he blurted.

“I'll be there in a second,” Tirren said. “Can you stay with Cally while she recovers?”

“Do I have to?” Vila asked, looking uneasy.

“It isn't catching, Vila.”

“It brought my head out in lumps.”

“Yes, yes, one for your side,” Tirren said. “Just stay here, would you?” Without waiting for a reply, she set off for the flight deck.

“Ah, Tirren,” Blake greeted her. “Do you have any idea what that is?” He pointed at the strand-like substance visible through the forward visual display.

“I've never seen anything like it before,” Tirren replied. “It looks like spiderweb. Is there any way of getting a sample of it? I could run some tests.”

“Zen?” Blake looked up at the computer.

“State size of sample required.” Zen's response was as calm and unruffled as ever.

“Ten cubic centimetres,” Tirren said. “Extreme quarantine procedure. Deliver sample to laboratory two.”

“Acknowledged.” Zen's display shut down briefly, then re-lit. “Sample collected, and delivered to laboratory two.”

“I'd best get down there and get started,” Tirren said.

“Nobody else is to enter the lab until you say so,” Blake ordered her. “I don't want to risk any chance of infection.”

Tirren frowned. Blake's attitude was getting on her nerves. “Two things, Blake. Firstly, I am well able to handle quarantine procedures. I've been doing biological analysis since I was in secondary school. Secondly, lab two is a secure lab - it has its own internal teleport, and everything in there is run by waldoes. It also has a direct void to vaccuum. Whoever set Liberator up was prepared for every contingency.”

“Except this one,” Blake retorted. “I'd rather not risk the ship.”

“The ship is at risk already, in case you hadn't noticed. Treating me as though I'm incompetent in my primary skill set isn't going to improve things.” Tirren turned deliberately to face Zen's dome. “Zen, provide printout on extreme quarantine procedure to my console on the flight deck, and the console in the bio lab area.” She turned back to Blake. “If you get a spare moment, do read it,” she said, her tone poisonously polite. “I know what I'm doing. Do you?”

Not bothering to wait on his response, Tirren left the flight deck, heading down to the secure lab.

Avon had been willing to leave the automatic systems to handle repairing the main power channel, having determined he'd be unable to complete the job prior to them. Instead, he'd headed to the computer sub-control in the teleport area, and was working to find a way to get them some scans, that being the highest priority at present. The forward detector links had been very thoroughly destroyed, much to his annoyance, and they were in an extremely awkward position to access. He'd have to leave the replacement to the auto-repair systems, or risk similar burns to Cally's.

His irritation at being unable to do anything about the situation wasn't helped by Blake sending Gan to assist him. The large man wasn't technically skilled, and his fine motor skills weren't the best either. In the context of the computer systems, this meant Avon's “assistant” was worse than useless. Even Vila would have been better. At least Vila had a rudimentary understanding of electronics, and enough coordination to be able to solder components to a board. In the end, he'd told the big man to sit down out of the way, and stay there while he worked to bypass the detector computer.

As someone arrived from the flight deck, he looked up. “Ah, Tirren,” he said. Her smaller hands and dexterous fingers might be able to get to the forward detector links with more ease than he could, eliminating a lot of tedious fiddling around.

The biochemist looked at him, but appeared to be in one of her less helpful moods. “Yes?” she replied, sounding extremely annoyed.

“What has our Glorious Leader done this time?” he asked. It had to be Blake. Only Blake seemed to be able to inspire such depth of feeling from everyone. At least Tirren had the sense to be irritated by the man, which in Avon's opinion was the only sane response. Jenna's near-worship was as annoying as the willing obedience of the other three. In this particular case, it seemed he was less than likely to receive any assistance in repairing the forward detector links.

The response Avon got from Tirren confirmed his hypothesis. Certainly the exasperation was audible in her sigh. “That man! He hasn't the first idea of anything I do, but he feels he has to tell me to take basic precautions. As though I were some child!”

“He's probably just worried,” Gan told her. Not a wise move. Tirren wheeled to face the man, as angry as Avon had ever seen her.

“He has every right to be worried,” she snapped. “He has less experience in captaining this ship than I have in biochemical analysis. I am not trying to teach him how to do his job; he can return me the same courtesy.” She stormed out of the teleport area, presumably heading to her laboratory. Avon watched her leave.

“Another happy crewmember,” he commented sardonically. “Blake's leadership skills leave me in awe.”

By the time Tirren got to the lab, she was over her irritation, and starting to regret having snapped at Gan. After all, it wasn't Gan's fault Blake was such an idiot. She turned her attention to the sample of the web material in the secure lab.

“Lab two computer systems: initial report on sampled substance,” she requested. “Printout to screen two.”

She scanned the lines of the printout. The initial report was of a silica-based organic material. It appeared to have a very high tensile strength (which was how Liberator had come to be caught up in it) and to be somewhat adherent and sticky. The comparison to a spider's web might not have been such a poor one. Best get some of the stuff under a microscope, and see what it looked like under magnification. She programmed instructions into the waldoes, and told the computer systems to display the visual on another of the screens. What she saw was intriguing.

“Note: web substance appears to have nodules visible at moderate magnification. Adherent properties appear to be caused by roughness inherent in the strands themselves, which causes them to tangle with each other very readily, and also to snag on any other roughness encountered, such as that of the hull of a ship.” The notes were added to the report on the other screen. The chirp of the communicator interrupted her.

“Tirren,” she said, turning away from the sample to answer.

“Avon. Blake's gone down to the planet. There's something there which has promised to release us from the web if we help it. Jenna said you were working on analysing some of the web. I thought you might want to know.”

Tirren pressed her lips together. Avon's sly tones weren't reassuring. It was likely the tech was stirring the pot to keep people on edge. She considered her options, and came to a quick decision. “Thank you for the information. I'll keep working on the samples. If I can figure out a way of getting us out of this web, Blake's in a better bargaining position.”

“So be it,” Avon replied, and cut the communication. Tirren turned back to the lab, only to be distracted by a second chirp from the communicator.

“Yes?” she said.

“It's Vila. Avon said you were working on the web still. I thought you might like to know - when we shot it with the neutron blasters, we got a hole through it, but it sort of knitted back up again very quickly.”

“Hmmm... interesting. Thank you for that, Vila.” Tirren cut the communication and turned back to the samples. She took another look at the screen. In the short amount of time the two conversations had taken, the display under the microscope had altered. Instead of nodules, there were other small filaments on the strands, which now looked rougher than ever.

“Note: nodules on the strands of the web organism appear to have altered to filaments. Suspect this is a method of reproduction.” The notes appeared on the screen as she spoke them. Tirren watched the main display of the filaments under the microscope, amazed at the speed with which the strands were changing and growing. Within about five minutes, the strands which had once been nodules had nodules of their own. She bit the inside of her lip. Whatever it was, it appeared to have a rapid growth and development cycle.

“Lab computer systems, provide a readout on the atmosphere present inside lab two,” Tirren said. “Printout to report on screen two.”

Hmmm... as she'd thought, the lab was currently in vacuum. What little atmosphere was present was mainly hydrogen, and not much of that. She thought for a moment.

“Vila,” she called over the comm.


“Avon said Blake had gone down to the planet. Is that correct?”


“Did he ask for any checks of the planet before going down?”

“Yeah. Atmosphere and gravity check. Why?”

“Could you get them sent through to the lab area - addendum to the report on screen two, thanks.”

“Okay.” There was a brief pause, and the sound of Avon being exasperated in the background, then Vila's voice came back over the comm. “Done.”

“Thanks.” Tirren looked over the comparison. The planet had a breathable oxygen atmosphere, very similar to Earth's. About the only difference was the proportion of nitrogen: lower by five percent. Gravity was very similar to Earth normal. Tirren considered matters for a while, then set about reprogramming the waldoes with her new requirements.

It took fifteen minutes for her next round of tests to be set up. While she was waiting for the waldoes to complete the setup, there was a knock on the doorframe. She turned to see Jenna standing there.

“May I come in?” the pilot asked. Tirren nodded. “Just so you're aware, the latest from Blake is the people on the planet want two fully charged flutonic power cells. Avon's looking for some now, and checking the charge on them.”

“Interesting,” said Tirren. “I wonder why they want them?”

“Couldn't help you there, I'm afraid. The other news is the detectors are back online. We may well have company - there are some pursuit ships at the extreme edge of the range.”


“It seems so.” Jenna sighed. “Tangled up in this web, we're an easy target. Have you had any luck with the analysis?”

“Well, it's organic, and it appears to be something like a fungus,” Tirren said, summing up what she knew so far. “It grows incredibly quickly, and it appears to try to occupy the majority of space around it. I'm just about to try a few tests on it with different atmospheres. Does it go all the way down to the surface of the planet?”

“Yes, but it's thickest out here, where we are,” Jenna said.

“Ah.” Tirren turned to the computer, and swiftly added the information to the report. “Thank you for that. It may prove useful.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Jenna sounded curious. Tirren mentally braced herself.

“It depends.”

“On what the question is?”

Tirren nodded.

“Why do you stay?” Jenna asked. “I mean, Blake is political from way back, I'm a smuggler, Vila is a thief and Cally is a revolutionary, so we're wanted criminals. Gan says he needs to stay around people he can trust, and Avon doesn't really have a choice, not after participating in the mutiny on the London. But you - you have a skill capable of being taken anywhere in Federation space. All you'd have to do is change your name. Why stay with us?”

“I was given the chance to walk away,” Tirren said. “I chose to stay.”

“We were all given that chance,” Jenna reminded her. “Why did you stay?”

Tirren paused to collect her thoughts. “You're wrong about my skills being saleable. I was a research biochemist; a field based on reputation. Thanks to whoever framed me for murder, I don't have a reputation. Tirren Phale is discredited; no reputable institution will hire me.” The biochemist gave a bitter smile. “Under any other name, I'm an unknown, which means I have to start at the bottom and work my way up again.”

“And you don't want to do that?” Jenna queried. “Why not?”

“I know too much. I'd argue with my supervisors, correct their procedures, make them suspicious. I couldn't help it. It's the same reason Avon couldn't hide as a junior computer tech, and you wouldn't be able to disappear as a spacer. We're too good at what we do, and we don't like watching others do it badly.” Tirren smiled. “I'm well aware if I tried to remake myself under a false name I'd be rumbled within a week. I'm better off on board Liberator rather than trying to become some anonymous lab technician.”

“I suppose so,” Jenna said. “You're just as trapped as the rest of us, aren't you?”

“In my own way, yes,” Tirren agreed. “But being here is better than being on Cygnus Alpha. At least I'm able to exercise my skills, and do what I was trained to do. I'm not expected to settle down and become a brood mare.”

“Even if Blake doesn't appear to appreciate it?”

“Blake may not appreciate what I do, but I know what I'm capable of. Who knows? If I'm lucky, I'll be able to continue a line of research I was considering before I got arrested.” A chime interrupted her. Tirren turned to look at the console. “Ah, it looks as though everything is set up here. I have to get back to the work in front of me. You can stay and watch, if you like, but it won't be interesting.”

“No, I'm better off heading back to the flight deck, before Avon gets too carried away. Oh, speaking of which, Vila says Blake is one point up on the scorecard - and Avon conceded the point.”

“Miracles abound!” Tirren said, grinning appreciatively as she turned back to the samples in the secure lab.

She'd set up the experiment as best she could to try and replicate a few different conditions. The first chamber was the atmosphere of the planet below, while a second chamber replicated the atmosphere immediately outside the Liberator. A third was mixed to Earth dome standards, while a fourth replicated the mixture of gases present outside the domes. Further samples were going into chambers of oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen respectively. The automatic systems inside the lab were set up to inform her when each sample had doubled in size, as well as to provide information about the relative concentration of gases in the various chambers. With any luck, she should be able to figure out the organism's respiratory pattern before Blake returned. If nothing else, suffocating it would be a possible answer to their problems.

Avon was her next visitor. “You've heard?” he asked, gesturing toward the box he held. Tirren nodded. “Do you have any updates on your analysis?”

Tirren gestured toward the console. “Screen two. It's all there.”

“Interesting,” Avon said, after quickly scanning the information. “Well, I'd better get these down to Blake.”

“I hear you conceded a point to him,” Tirren said.

“Yes,” Avon replied, one of his more vicious smiles spreading toothily across his face. “Does it surprise you?”

“Not really,” Tirren told him. “You'd best get those power cells to Blake. Wouldn't want him to get too far ahead of you on the scorecard, after all. Oh, and Avon?”


“Don't try to use me as a pawn in your games with Blake.”

Tirren decided to take the sound of the technician stomping out of the room as agreement.

Gan stopped by briefly, to deliver a drink. Although he seemed to be trying to move quietly, he still made enough noise putting down the tray to draw Tirren's attention to him.

“You didn't have to,” Tirren said.

“No problem. You tend to get wrapped up in things, same as Avon and Blake do. Must be an Alpha trait. I thought I'd just bring you something to drink.” Gan smiled at her. “I'll come back in an hour for the empties. That usually works with Blake and Avon.” Then he was gone, whistling as he went.

Tirren considered what she'd just learned of Gan. For one thing, the big man noticed things about people - he'd brought her kaf just as she liked it, hot and sweet, with no creamer. For another, he'd let her know she wasn't the only one to get obsessed in her work, and she had a vision of him checking on all of the crew, making sure people were all right. She remembered Jenna's comment that Gan needed to be around people he could trust, and found herself wondering whether his caretaking was part of an effort to ensure that trust. It might be worth her while asking Gan what he used to do for a living, before he was arrested, implanted, and deported.

Blake's negotiations proved successful long before the experiments on the web-substance had completed. She'd received a warning they were moving off, resuming course for Centero. Tirren didn't let it distract her. Instead, she kept adding information to her report on the web-substance, watching the progress of various tests and experiments.

The final tests were just about complete when Blake finally made his way to the lab.

“The report's there,” Tirren said. “Just raw data and observations at the moment. I'll do a workable copy later.”

“Thank you,” Blake said. He turned to look at the data she'd gathered. “I should have taken you down with me,” he said. “You might have found the work they were doing interesting. Tissue regeneration, prolonging the lifespan, creating whole new forms of life, even sentient life.”

“From what I've heard from Cally, their work was in genetic manipulation. Far too crude for my tastes,” Tirren replied.

“Crude?” Blake sounded somewhat surprised.

“Have you seen the size of the average DNA strand? Far too large.” Tirren turned to look at Blake, rather than at the display. “As for the creation of new forms of life; even were it practical, the legalities would be problematic, as would the ethical issues."

"You have a point. Saymon thought he could just destroy his creatures - the Decimas - when they got too troublesome. In the end they destroyed him, though." Blake sighed, then faced Tirren with a curious glance. "I didn't know you had a background in genetic engineering."

"I don't," Tirren told him. "I know the theory, though. This web organism has all the hallmarks of having been genetically altered.”

“How can you tell?”

“It's fairly obvious, once you figure out the respiratory cycle on a cellular level. Something which takes in ammonia and nitrous oxides, and excretes hydrogen and water isn't really common in the wild. I've a suspicion they were creating something either to terraform the planet, or to deal with pollutants. They weren't to know their planet was circling in the middle of a methane-ammonia cloud. Or at least, it was originally. In another ten years, Terran standard, the web will most likely have withered away.”

“However did you work that out?”

“It took time. Oh, and by the way - the 'fungicide' they projected in their beam? It was a good strong dose of nitrogen gas. The web lives by breaking up nitrogen-bearing gases. Pure nitrogen works on the web much the same way pure oxygen works on humans - the respiratory function is suppressed, and it eventually suffocates.”

“You mean they tricked us?” Blake sounded outraged.

“I mean they tricked you,” Tirren corrected. “You chose to go into the situation without even the preliminary data I had available. That's fine. I've enjoyed using my skills to analyse this organism, particularly since I've spent the majority of the past year being certain I'd never use them again. But in future, Blake, should you wish to gain the benefit of these skills, I suggest you display a willingness to accept the data put before you. I'll have the report on the console in your quarters in the morning.”

Home || Fanfiction Menu