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By Judith Proctor
Page 2 of 22

Chapter 1 - Blainau

Avon's head ached abominably. That was the first thing he was aware of - the second was that he couldn't remember what had happened to make it hurt. He struggled through dizziness and disorientation to open his eyes, only to find himself looking up at an unfamiliar ceiling.

"You awake?"

He turned automatically towards the sound of the voice and saw the man he'd been searching for for the last half a year. "Blake."

Blake blinked in slow surprise. "You knew me before."

Before what? This man was older and the voice was all wrong. Yet, he was Blake. If Avon lived to be a thousand, he would never forget that face. "Blake," he insisted.

"Morgan Thomas."

Avon took that in slowly. There were too many questions to ask and for once he was uncertain of where to start. What did he call this man? He denied the name Blake, but offered his own with no indication of which name was to be used. He didn't act like an alpha, but could Avon address any relative of Blake's (and this man had to be a relative) by his first name?

"What do I call you?"

"Morgan." There was a glimmer of amusement, of a sense of humour so dry that he almost missed it. "You already decided that for yourself."

He had? He struggled to sit up, to get a better view of wherever he was, then collapsed back on his side as his head spun and nausea coiled in his throat. There were questions he needed to ask - where he was and how he had come to be here - but his mind refused to allow speech, drawn instead to the more immediate issue of trying to control the urge to vomit. Impressions filtered in gradually: the mattress he was lying on, the light coming gently through each small glass pane of the window, the dark wood of the cupboard standing in the corner beyond the window. The bed he lay on had brass rails at head and foot that gleamed with a gentle shine. Morgan stood beside the bed, watching, a frown creasing his forehead.

"You all right?"

Avon struggled to answer, then gave way to the bile that rose in his throat and spilled out over the plain fabric of the mattress. The action seemed to be something partially detached from himself; he felt dizzy as though he wasn't really there at all.

"I'm sorry," he said, half closing his eyes to shut out the sight of his last meal spread before him in small watery lumps.

"The Old Lady wouldn't have begrudged her bed to a sick man." You could hear the capital letters when Morgan spoke. "You'll be needing a doctor," he added. More of a statement than a question, but with a slight uplift on the last word that left the final choice to Avon.

"No doctor." He was in too much danger if the authorities found him - he still had a price on his head. "Water."

Morgan's brow furrowed, then he left the room. Avon heard the sound of him going downstairs, followed by the running of a tap. Morgan reappeared a minute later, carrying a mug that had seen better days.

"I thought there was still one - cracked you see."

He assisted Avon to a sitting position. In spite of the gentleness of his touch, the motion was almost enough to make Avon vomit again. The mug that was pressed into his hands was indeed cracked, liquid seeping in a slow bead down the outside, but the water itself was cool and eased the burning in his throat. He drank in small sips, relying on Morgan's arm across his shoulders to keep him steady, finally finding the strength to ask:

"Where am I?"


That meant nothing. "What planet?"


"What planet?" Avon insisted.

But Morgan didn't answer. Instead he lay Avon back on the bed and headed for the door.

"I'll be back soon."

Avon felt that he ought to be worried about something, but he was too tired. It was easier just to let his mind wander. There were no clocks here to measure the passage of time. His eyes drifted around the room, slowly taking things in. There was quiet of a quality that he was not accustomed to; he strained to hear the hum of machinery, the motors that circulated air and supplied heat and light, but there was nothing except the harsh call of some kind of bird. Somewhere primitive then? His mind wandered, butterfly-like, from object to object, never stopping long enough to require concentration, but gathering up random thoughts in a ravelled thread. Wood and metal, but no plastics. Furniture for storing things in, but nothing of a personal nature at all except Morgan's jacket lying neatly folded on a chair. There were no pictures, no hairbrushes or combs, none of the trinkets that would normally be associated with a woman's room. No one lived here, unless it was ghosts.

Where was he? It didn't seem to matter terribly. He let himself drift on a sea of silence and dreamed that he was floating in infinite space between the lonely stars.

A sound distracted him, pulled him from the cocoon that protected him from the vacuum, resolved itself into footsteps. He ought to know who they belonged to. Someone had said they would come back for him. Someone was shaking his shoulder gently. Someone with familiar curly hair and brown eyes.


"Morgan." Blake/Morgan sounded tired. "I can't call an ambulance; they've disconnected the phone. I'll have to take you to hospital in the Land Rover. Will you be all right?"

Would he be all right, leaving this room of quiet and stillness to its faded ghosts? To go with this strange Blake clone? "Why not?"

Morgan hesitated. "You haven't told me your name. Can you remember?"

Could he? But Blake should know it anyway. He felt too dizzy to try and sort things out.

"Avon. My name is Avon."

As though speaking his name caused the world to become aware of his presence, everything seemed to rush in upon him, seeking to fill the void that he had become. There was a part of him that was missing, an emptiness that tried to tug him into it while he was too weak to resist its pull. Waves lapped on an endless shore, offering him oblivion in the depths of the ocean. All he had to do was step into the water and there would be peace and total forgetfulness.

"Can you stand?"

That voice. This was the Blake who wasn't Blake. Avon groped for the name through the drowning and found it with a sense of triumph. Morgan.

Could he stand? He tried to sit up, unwilling to show weakness in front of Blake, even if he wasn't Blake. Stars spun around his head in slow, lazy circles and he grabbed at the hand Morgan held out to him.

"Put your arm round my shoulders."

No condescension in that voice, just a solid practicality. Avon obeyed, feeling the reassuring strength under the worn jacket as Morgan helped him to his feet. They made their way downstairs carefully, each narrow step a potential downfall, the wood worn smooth by the passage of many feet. Avon glanced to his right as they came to the bottom. Wooden beams running across the ceiling supported the room above, but in this room below there was nothing: no furniture, no carpet, nothing to show that anyone lived here. Not even ghosts laid claim to this room.

Morgan opened a door a pace in front of them, leading into a small porch. A further door opened to the outside. Morgan methodically locked the door of the empty house and dropped the keys into his pocket. As Avon's eyes adjusted to the brightness of daylight, he stared in astonishment at the antique in the yard before him. Morgan hadn't struck him as a wealthy man, but to own such a vehicle, let alone have the permit to drive it, indicated a small fortune.

"How old is it?" he asked in wonderment.

Morgan looked offended rather than flattered. "She still goes."

Smoke from a dying bonfire drifted across the yard, the wind catching small scurries of ash and blowing them onto the truck. A fragment of a photograph, a child's face half burnt, landed on the ground before him for an instant before being whisked away, curling up and over, weaving a spiral dance with the wind.

When he looked back at Morgan, there was a dog by the man's side. Ears pricked, it watched Avon alertly. He resisted the urge to back away from it. Animals were unpredictable and dangerous; anything might provoke one into an attack. He reached instinctively for the comforting shape of his Liberator gun, but he wasn't wearing it.

"He won't bite," Morgan said with a touch of impatience. He gestured the dog to the open back of what was presumably the Land Rover. "Get in, you clown."

The dog leapt smoothly over the tail gate and sat on its hind legs, waiting.

The creature was intelligent then. A product of genetic engineering?

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Judith Proctor

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