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The Shadow That Walks Between Us

By Linda Terrell
Page 1 of 7

 

He screamed and scuttled backwards on hands and knees as waves of terror hit him again. A wall caught him and he tried to push through it, battering himself against it. Only a small spark of sanity railed in the darkness of his mind and sought control. He fought it, finding an odd solace in the insanity and desperation.

Yet, some part of him remained detached, watching him writhe and scream and thrash about. That part of him wanted to reach out but now things were coming towards him, surrounding him and taking his air. Their bodies and faces kept changing, becoming demonic, reptilian and spider-like, excreting slimes and fungus. Especially that one!

He couldn't stop the screaming which seemed to come from somewhere else--not a part of him. He didn't want to stop it, it kept the things away.

Hands reached him, holding him firmly but gently, guiding him, turning him to face her as her "voice" penetrated the mists of terror.

"I told you I was the only one who can reach him. Now please stay back!" Cally ordered with uncharacteristic fierceness as Blake sought the comfort of her arms, clinging to her like a tortured child, wide-eyed with fear.

The lithe Auron was showing the effects of her physical and mental struggle with Blake: her hair was wet with perspiration, her tunic askew and ripped and she was breathless. Still, she had depthless compassion for Blake who was now pressing his curly head to her neck, crying harshly, ending with whimpering sobs as she "spoke" to him, calming him by letting him "see" through her eyes what was really surrounding him: Vila, Gan, Jenna and Avon.

Avon made a small move forward and Blake went into spasms of fear, trying to bury himself in Cally's tunic.

When he had entered the teleport room and saw the tableau of Cally holding onto a wild Blake, Avon had instinctively moved toward them, reaching, in a rare gesture, to reassure Blake--and now the man was recoiling in horror.

Avon didn't know how to react or cope and, as usual, locked up in stony silence. But his frozen face showed real hurt.

Right now, Blake knew no one--not even Cally. Only her telepathic abilities allowed her to get close to him. That, and the fact that she had been with him when the nightmares overtook him, a Federation 'gift' to take back its cleared victims years later. Blake, as they knew him, was gone, locked away within himself. It was as if the old conditioning had suddenly been turned on, some subliminal switch closed, leaving Blake a quivering mass as he relived his struggle against drugs, shock, and beatings.

Gan stayed back with his guileless look of benign curiosity and endless understanding that both irritated and comforted. The giant was a well of stoic optimism. His present body language conveyed the very real message that he would be there to help when called upon and if not, he would understand.

Jenna had fled to the comfort of the Flight Deck, finding a distracted solace in the familiar nest of instrumentation. She couldn't bear Blake's agony. Damned nuisance, being in love with your Fearless Leader.

It was Avon who was genuinely rattled at being rejected. His pale face showed it, pinched with shock and hurt. He moved with uncharacteristic reluctance away from Blake, turning abruptly and striding determinedly to his cabin.

Equally as uncharacteristically, Vila did not flinch: His eyes widened as he tossed Cally a look. "Avon's going to be awfully hard to live with--if he even chooses to live with us at all. He can shut himself away for weeks and still be in the same room with you. Just as well, mind you. It looks like I won't have Blake to hide behind."

Cally was getting Blake to his feet with difficulty as he wouldn't let go. "Yes, I know," she grunted. Blake was a large man, solid and willful. Wisely, Vila stood back when Blake glanced around, looking like a stricken rabbit.

"I fear we are going to have to nurture Avon as well as Blake." Blake would not be prized from Cally's hand. "Avon does not deal well with rejection and the last thing he needs now--we need now--is to be rejected by Blake, even knowing Blake's condition. You saw him reach out. That is extraordinary for Avon. He has been opening up lately--this could lose him to us."

"Or bring him to us, Cally," Gan shrugged. "Avon needs to be needed more than he admits. Maybe this will help him see it."

Once again, Cally and Vila could only stare in wonder at Gan's simple wisdoms. He did have a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. Usually, in as few words as possible.

Blake stood shakily, taking this all in, looking warily from Gan to Vila to Cally. His gaze always returned to Cally. He looked woebegone, his eyes tear-reddened and his tunic stained and torn. Even his hair looked forlorn, the curls hanging damp about his face and neck. Vulnerable.

It disturbed Gan deeply to see Blake helpless. He who was naturally graced of tremendous physical strengths had always admired and found courage in Blake's strengths of purpose and vision.

"He could afford to lose some weight," Vila offered lamely when Cally couldn't budge Blake's stubborn solidity.

"We may yet lose him, Vila!" Cally snarled, regretting it when Vila's face crumbled and Blake jumped, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

"Well, I know when I'm not wanted..." Vila stated with his usual false cheeriness.

"But you are needed. I cannot handle all of Blake when he clings like this. He will let you get near as long as I am close."

Vila turned and took a small step, rigid with caution. "You sure?"

"No."

"Oh, I see. No I don't. It's up to me, then isn't it? And Blake." The thief's pout turned to a grin and he came carefully to them, stopping only when Blake had moved to the end of Cally's reach.

Cally directed all the comfort and reassurance she could at Blake until his eyes came into focus with curiosity rather than fear.

Vila chanced taking the man's hand. Blake returned the grip weakly, warily, never letting go of Cally.

"Cally, let go of Blake's hand," Vila directed.

"First, I have to get him to let go of mine." She saw the wisdom of Vila's idea and let her hand slip from Blake's slowly relaxing grip.

Blake remained calm, intently scanning Vila's face while Cally 'talked' to him, telling him Vila was safe.

Yes, Vila was safe, he didn't keep changing like that other one.

"I guess this means we take rotation with Blake," Vila was serious.

"You are right and I thank you for the 'we'...VILA!"

Blake had sagged to his knees, a wave of weakness and nausea overwhelming him. He shook violently and he was rapidly being covered in a cold sweat. His tunic darkened with it and his curls died.

"I think," Vila grunted as he cradled Blake, "we need to work on curing his body before we can deal with his head."

"Yes, but no drugs." Her voice was tight.

"Sure, of course not. Not even soma?"

"No!"

Gan entered pushing a wheeled chair. "Thought you'd need this. He's a large man and large men tend to get larger when they are helpless."

Letting out a near sob of relief for Gan's homely concern and foresight, Cally grabbed the chair from him.

"Thank you, Gan. But you will have to stay back for now, as much as I need you. I do not think it is wise to inflict too many people on Blake just yet. He only just accepts Vila--but I feel he will accept you, probably before any of the others." She smiled wryly at Vila, who replied with a knowing eye roll.

Gan smiled his infinitely patient and knowing smile. "Blake'll come round. He always does. I think he's stronger than me that way. Meantime," he turned to leave, "Jenna needs some hand-holding. So does Avon, come to that." And the giant left.

Vila said, "We're lucky we have Gan. He can be a real calming influence. Now if we could just sic him on Avon.... Come on, Blake, sit here and we'll follow Cally."

Blake seated himself gingerly. "Yes...Cally," he murmured turning on his most charming smile.

"If he'd smiled at you like that a month ago, Cally, I would have said he was trying to seduce you."

"Oh, but Blake is seductive. That is part of his magic, why we follow him. We have all been seduced by him, even Avon." Cally spoke with a far-away look. "It is Avon Blake seems most terrified of. All the rest of you were able to stay, but Blake did not cease going crazy until Avon left. Curious, is it not?"

"You're grasping," Vila warned, but his brain, too, was seeing a perverted logic in Cally's sudden brain-storm. "But it's making sense and I don't like it."

"That the closer he is to someone, the more he rejects them now?"

"Yes, so what does that make us?" Vila was stung, his pout falling into a grimace.

"You are fond of Blake and so am I. I think I get through because my psi talent goes in under Blake's fear and reaches his reason. You are harmless, Vila. You tell us so often enough." She put out a hand and squeezed Vila's shoulder. "But you and I know and must accept that Blake is fondest of another on Liberator..."

"And it isn't Jenna," Vila said under his breath. Deciding against any more cute remarks, Vila pushed Blake on into Medical.

That was a mistake. Blake went berserk at the sight of the instrumentation there. With a bellow that was nearly a roar, he shot up out of the chair and hurled both Cally and Vila aside, running aft.

Vila pulled Gaily up with him. "You know, I've always thought Blake could take Gan to a draw in a fair fight." He tensed to run after Blake.

"No, Vila," Cally restrained him with a gently hand. "If we chase him, he will panic that much more. He cannot get off the ship."

"Not after I tell Zen not to let any of the life capsules launch!" Vila shot back over his shoulder as he ran to the Flight Deck.

Cally berated herself. Sometimes there was very little difference between machines that helped and machines that hurt.

Blake was easily located--after they convinced ORAC to search for him via the teleport bracelet Blake still wore.

ORAC harumphed and sniffed disdainfully at such gross misuse of his talents. But ORAC was a computer after all, and, in the end, had to do as ordered, although as more details were given to him, ORAC seemed genuinely concerned for Blake, especially as patient and guinea pig. ORAC quietly began a search of Federation Puppeteer files.

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