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Jabberwocky - part 2 - Mind-Rape

By Sheila Paulson
Page 2 of 23

      Avon turned to the rest of the crew and saw Vila, sitting on the opposite couch from Soolin, his face blank and imbecilic as he linked too. Avon was surprised, then he shook his head. Privately, he could admit that there was more to the thief than Vila let on, though publicly he would have denied it categorically. Right now, though, Vila was useless in the test, having no function, and Avon frowned a little; still it would not harm Vila to accustom himself to the feel of the ship in manoeuvres.

      Beside him, Cally was in linkage too, but Avon suspected that in her case it was more for the 'joy' of telepathy than for any useful addition to the test, unless she was monitoring communications from here. As a telepath, Cally could certainly manage that, and theoretically, any of them should be able to function so, whether at their positions or not. For the novice, the position served as a frame of reference, and it seemed to be necessary so far. Already an experienced telepath, Cally might not find it necessary at all, especially since she was in telepathic union with Jabberwocky already. Curious, Avon strode to the communications console and asked Jabberwocky for a readout.

      "Here you go, Avon," Jabberwocky told him without losing any of his linkages, and the display revealed that Cally was indeed running through the program. She had lost none of her customary efficiency either, Avon observed.

      Finally he turned to Soolin, who had distanced herself from the others, a customary position though she now considered herself a member of the crew. Avon felt a tinge of resentment at her isolation, then with a moment of honesty, he wondered if that was how the others viewed him.

      The test came to an end then, and the crew separated into its individual components again. Jabberwocky took the ship, shunting it onto standard maintenance, while the others seemed to awaken as if from sleep. Tarrant stretched comfortably and lazily like a big cat, and his face was glowing.

      "I've never felt anything like that before," he announced. "And I thought I was a pilot."

      "You are a pilot, Del," Jabberwocky told him enthusiastically. "I think we surpassed even my expectations. You can fly me any time."

      "Don't give him delusions of grandeur, Jabberwocky," Vila muttered. "He's bad enough already."

      "I know," the ship replied. "But this is different. I was right. It's going to be glorious when we can fight. Dayna, you did well too. I didn't think you'd come in."

      "Neither did I," she confessed, rubbing her temples. "I've got a bit of a headache, though."

      "So have I," Hugh confessed.

      "That's because you're using parts of your brain you haven't used before," Jabberwocky explained.

      "I think he's right," Hugh agreed. "We're firming up new muscles. How about you, Del? You had the most of it. Do you have a headache too?"

      "I feel wonderful."

      "Punch drunk," Avon said scornfully. "He wouldn't feel an amputation just now."

      "I don't have a headache either," Vila put in, wandering over to Blake's console and staring at Jabberwocky's main display. "Why don't I have a headache, Jabberwocky?"

      "One needs something inside one's head to have a headache," retorted Avon.

      Vila turned and made a face at him.

      "Vila did no work," Jabberwocky explained. "He only observed. That takes little energy."

      "No, and he's had plenty of practice at that," agreed Tarrant. "Ugh. I think I'm coming down now." He had gone a little pale, and he began to massage his temples too.

      "Useful," Avon pointed out. "If five minutes of testing can incapacitate us, we should be remarkably effective if we have to fight or run for hours."

      "It won't be like that, Avon," Blake cut in. "We'll have short practice sessions over the next few weeks and gradually build up. That'd work, wouldn't it, Jabberwocky?"

      "It should, Blake. All you need is practice. Think of a weightlifter."

      "Must I?" Avon asked.

      "You must. At first he will be in pain because he's using muscles for different work. But gradually he can lift heavier and heavier weights and work out for longer periods of time. The more we practice, the better we'll be. Yes, Vila," he added with amused tolerance. "You may have a small glass of adrenalin and soma. Dayna, you too. And you, Del, if you need one."

      "I think I'd like a very large glass," Tarrant retorted, but when they had been passed around, Jabberwocky left them to it. "Blake? How are you feeling?"

      "I don't have a headache," Blake replied. "I'm all right, just tired, and my side hurts a little."

      Avon averted his face at the reminder of Blake's injury.

      //Avon, I'm sorry.//

      It was Blake himself rather than Cally, and Avon raised an affronted brow at the thought of Blake being able to invade his head, boosted, no doubt, by Jabberwocky. Could that damned computer read his thoughts? He wouldn't have it.

      Reluctantly, even angry as he was at the idea, he tried to formulate a silent response to Blake so the others wouldn't be aware of it. //Stay the hell out of my mind, Blake.//

      Whether Blake received it or not, Jabberwocky should be able to pick it up and project it. Blake grimaced and stood up, tentatively rubbing his wound. "It's all right, Avon," he said aloud. "Just a little stiff. I didn't mean to remind you of it."

      "You didn't."

      Blake's eyes caught and held his own. Blast the man; he could always read minds, long before Jabberwocky had come along. He saw far more than Avon wanted him to do or was willing to concede possible.

      "Good," Blake replied to him, smiling a little. "I do know one reaction I have to the test. I'm hungry. Come and get a meal, Avon."

      Avon shook his head, half exasperated, then he laughed. "Why not?"

      "I'm hungry too," Vila offered hopefully.

      "When aren't you," said Avon. "You are not invited, Vila; Blake and I plan to work on the teleport. Unless," he added with a predatory smile, "you want to volunteer to teleport down to a planet to test it."

      "I still haven't forgiven you for threatening to dump me off that shuttle in Cally's dream," Vila retorted, retreating to the couch and flopping down ungracefully. "Keep your tests away from me, you homicidal maniac."

      "You tempt me, Vila."

      "Oh," said Vila uneasily. "Do I?"

      "Keep talking and you might find out."

      "You asked for that one, Vila," Jabberwocky put in cheerfully. "Hugh, why don't you run a quick scan on Blake and Cally. Want to try the mental link once more, or does your head hurt too much?"

      "I think I can manage," Hugh conceded. "We haven't done this out of the medical unit, Jabberwocky. What should I do?"

      "Link. Think you can manage?"

      Hugh closed his eyes, struggled against human nature a minute, then his face smoothed out "Got it," he muttered aloud, mostly for the benefit of the others; Jabberwocky would already know.

      "Good work," the ship praised him. "Okay, Blake, stand in front of my display, if you will."

      Avon was glad that Jabberwocky conducted most of his communication audibly even when he would have had an underlink with the person in question, but on the other hand, the damned ship oughtn't to be so tactful. Watching suspiciously as Blake complied, Avon saw Hugh's face crease with effort and a touch of strain. then it relaxed and a beatific expression replaced the tautness. "That's incredible," he breathed. "Blake, turn a little to your left; there, that's fine. All right I'm done. Cally?"

      She replaced Blake before the display, and Hugh studied her too, then he broke out of the link. "I can't believe it," he said. "It works wonderfully. Cally, you're fine. Blake too, but a vitamin solution wouldn't hurt. I think you're a bit anaemic. Nothing serious, and it's improving, but I've told Jabberwocky to prepare a dose for you."

      "Is it going to taste like your other noxious potions?" Blake asked in dismay, making a face like a little boy.

      "I hope so," Avon told him.

      "I ought to make you drink it with me," Blake retorted.

      Suddenly more at ease, Avon smiled. "I'm not that sorry I shot you, Blake."

      Blake returned the smile. "Come along then. I'm still hungry."

      "You won't be after you've drunk your nice medicine," Avon retorted and followed him from the flight deck.

      


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Sheila Paulson

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