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By Marian Mendez
Page 2 of 7

Avon woke, fear pounding in his throat, thundering painfully in his chest. "Gan," he whispered. He sat up, unwound the tangled silver sheets and twisted on the narrow surface to dangle his legs over the side of his bed. He hadn't had such a vivid dream in months. Ever since joining Blake on this idiotic crusade, the dreams had settled down to their usual level, mostly disconcerting glimpses of danger and distorted images of the people he was now forced to live among. People who were getting altogether too close for his comfort. He liked Gan. The man was a level- headed source of undemonstrative strength, and common sense, a quality sadly lacking in his other companions. Avon clung to one thought, his dreams didn't always come true. It seemed unlikely that a mountain would fall on the man in space.


Avon grimaced. The gentle voice over the intercom was an insistent reminder of his imperiled privacy. Not that Cally would intrude where she was not wanted, but he could not stop himself from broadcasting his distress to her in his dreams.

"Yes, Cally," he replied.

"May I come in?"

Avon sighed. She would go away if he asked, but then she'd spend the next day watching him; pitying him. It was better to get it over with now. "Yes, Cally."

She didn't give him time to change his mind. The Auron was in his room and at his side before he could rouse himself to fetch his robe. As they were in a remote, sparsely inhabited region of space where emergency calls to the flight deck were unlikely, he had allowed himself the luxury of sleeping nude. It didn't affect Cally, she'd patched him up more than once and maintained a physician's detached interest in his physique, or so she said. Well, it bothered Avon. He drew up the covers around himself and gave her a sour look. "I've disturbed you again, Cally. Please, accept my apologies. I wish I could assure you that it won't happen again, but..."

"Avon, don't be ridiculous. You act as if you had made an impolite noise at a dinner party. This is serious." Cally sat on the bed beside Avon, deliberately entering his personal space to take his hand. "You're still shaking, Avon. These dreams are more than the after-effects of life in the drug-suppressed domes on Earth; more than a response to fighting in a war you claim to despise. What is it, Avon?"

Avon shook his head, not denying her, denying his dreams and the importance he placed on them. "I've always dreamed, Cally."

"What of it? Everyone dreams, Avon."

"Do everyone else's nightmares come true? Does everyone else wake up knowing how their friends are going to die? Not when, not where, not anything that might help to avoid it, just the scenes of the dying, over and over? Does that haunt your nights, Cally?" Avon hadn't intended to say so much, but once released the words acquired an unstoppable momentum, pouring out in flood.

"Avon." Cally dropped his hand and placed her hands on either side of his face, gently urging him to meet her eyes. "I don't have that gift."

"Gift? Curse, you mean."

"True foreseeing can be either a curse or a gift, Avon, depending on the use you make of this knowledge."

"You still don't understand, Cally. I never see the good that lies in the future. Only the pain, Cally, ever and only the pain."

"Let me help, Avon."

"How? Can you teach me how not to dream? Or to have nothing more than the pleasant fantasies that Vila relates around the breakfast table? I would like to fill my nights with harmless nonsense."

"I can't do that, Avon. I can only teach you how to live with it, how not to let it overwhelm you and eat at your soul."

"I don't believe I have a soul," was Avon's automatic response.

"Then share mine."

Cally's understanding and support helped more than the Auron techniques for emotional control and ways to turn aside the mind from unbearable subjects.He grew adept at the latter, but, without her acceptance, Avon would surely have left when Gan died, crushed under a mountain of rubble.

Despite his better judgment, Avon had come to care for Cally, and Vila, too. If he left them to Blake's tender mercies, how long would they survive? He doubted that running away would stop the dreams; at least, as long as he stayed he could attempt to counter the dreams.

Then he dreamed of Cally, under the mountain beside Gan.

Avon woke. He was still under restraints, but this time he was lying on a comfortable bed. He was still connected to assorted machines by tubes and wires, but none of the machines were inflicting pain on him. His body ached, but it was the dull sort of ache that arose from inactivity, too long spent in the horizontal, inert and unmoving. As if in response to his thought, his left leg displayed its resentment of its confinement by spasmodic contractions, muscles knotted into hard lumps.

At Avon's involuntary gasp of pain, a pretty young woman rose from a chair set beside a rank of monitoring equipment. She smiled at him and pressed a button on the wall. "Commissioner, he's awake," she said.

Avon had no need to ask which commissioner. Changed though the outward appearance might be, he recognized this dream. The young woman released the straps from his afflicted leg and began kneading the taut muscles with skilled, strong fingers, driving away the pain. She continued to smile at him, and spoke soothingly. She had a sweet voice and clever hands; Avon decided there was no hurry to flee back into his dreams, yet. He'd discerned the pattern- he was going to relive his life until he reached the present, at which point he sincerely hoped he would be permitted to die. Since he had never had any prophetic dreams of any event beyond this point, it seemed a reasonable hope.


He could have turned his head at Servalan's voice, but he preferred to watch the woman massaging his leg. She was an enemy, too, but she was easing his pain. Whatever her motive, that was something rare enough for him to appreciate.

"Avon, look at me, please."

Servalan saying please? And in a gentle, concerned tone of voice? The novelty made Avon forget his attractive masseuse. He obeyed Servalan, shifting his head slightly to do so. She was dressed in white, flowing white, simple and unadorned as an angel's robe. His eyes tracked slowly up to her face. "You look tired, Commissioner." Considering Servalan's habit of eliminating those who learned her previous identity, it was pure gallantry on his part not to speak her name in front of the masseuse. He preferred to think of it as a small act of control over his environment, probably the last he'd ever have.

"I've been worried about you, Avon. My physicians tell me you're quite ill. They think you need help, Avon. I want you to get well. I don't enjoy seeing you suffer this way."

"Is there some other way in which you would prefer me to suffer?" As long as the torture was to be delayed, Avon was willing to listen to her. Of course, it was all lies, but she said them so beautifully, with such conviction and art.

Servalan smiled. "That's my Avon. No, dear, I don't want you to suffer in any way. On the contrary. Nurse," she said, turning to the woman who was about to redo the strap across Avon's leg, "Release him. I'm sure he will be more comfortable without those restraints. And they aren't necessary, are they, Avon?"

"Not to me." Avon made no attempt to move after the last band was undone. There was no place to go and nothing he wished to do. He looked at Servalan. Once, he recalled, he would have wanted to kill her with his bare hands. That desire was now no more than an academic notation.

Amusing, really, to be totally in her power and yet totally safe. There was literally nothing she could do to harm him. If he wished he had an infallible bolt-hole waiting just behind his eyelids. The next part would be dreary, though. The Blake-less, Cally -less years had been tedious the first time, when they still possessed some novelty value.

"Don't go to sleep on me, Avon," Servalan's voice went sharp with alarm when he yawned and stretched slightly. "You've slept for five days already. You can't possibly still be tired."

"Can't I? I have a weariness so great that I believe it will only be cured by an endless rest. Fortunately, that is readily available."

"I forbid it!"

Avon laughed inwardly, enjoying Servalan's frustration. "I never swore to obey you, Commissioner. Quite the contrary." He blinked and yawned again. It had been diverting, baiting Servalan, but he really ought to get back to the serious business of dreaming. He was determined to finish this life and find peace. This time he would not run from the pain until it was over.

Servalan turned aside from the sleeping man, holding her temper barely in check. She left the nurse to monitor Avon while she returned to her office to brood and scheme.

Simply marvelous! All those highly-reputed, learned doctors she'd had consulting on Avon's case had advised her that he was suffering from `severe reality shear', whatever that bogus bit of mumbo-jumbo was supposed to mean. They swore up and down that he wasn't catatonic, was in fact perfectly capable of answering her questions.

They recommended she halt the physical persuasion, which, she had to admit, was singularly ineffective on a man who slept as soundly as Avon. She'd had him dosed with anti-depressants and his body healed. She even selected a nurse matched to Avon's deepest desires, according to those same doctors' study of Avon's psych- files and history.

All to this result- Avon deigns, after five tediously long days on this primitive hell-hole of a world, to awaken just long enough to infuriate her - not that she disagreed with the doctors. She'd deduced the reason for Avon's care in addressing her. He felt mildly protective of the nurse, but his response also told her that while he might be mad, he had not suddenly become stupid. The wits might be warped, but they were still sharp.

Let Avon sense that he was being manipulated and she'd have lost the little progress that had been made. He always had a fierce resentment of manipulation. It was apparently the aspect of his relationship with Blake which had irritated him the most. Blake...

Servalan activated a monitor, tapping the glass with her fingernails while she toyed with an idea. In time, Avon might become sufficiently attached to the nurse for her to worm Orac's location from him. But Servalan hadn't got this far by waiting for might-bes. Not when she had better material to hand.

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