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The Long Way Back

By Melody Clark
Page 3 of 51

      Change waved all thoughts of that aside. "Tell him he can have whatever he wishes. His blessed government post. His Inner Council. His - Kerr Avon," Change said, as if muttering darkest obscenity. "Whatever. If he will neutralize this situation. This Ago Taro, as he insists upon calling himself now."

      "I will tell him. But I must have permission to tell them the rest of it as well... tell all of them. Give them the common courtesy of their own pasts."

      "I have no problem with the others knowing. Restal may be a problem, but nothing that cannot be handled. However," Change said, regarding Leusip directly, his smoke-coloured eyes foreshadowing his next words, "Avon and Blake must never know about the events of Areopagus. This situation is simply too fragile. That knowledge might lead to greater dangers than even Ago Taro represents."

      Leusip sighed, nodding. "Very well. Agreed."

      Change sent his gaze to the wall. "I will be anxious for your return."

      Leusip reached across the gulf that stood between them, the black plexiglass desk standing in its stead, and placed a hand over Change's. "Be at peace with it. We do what we are capable of doing."

      He tried to smile. "You have never had children, Sentya. You have never known failure. Not really."

      He turned the chair towards the darkened window, passing his hand at the desk sensor. When the glass pane cleared, the sky beyond was darkening, the sun gone down with red fury, like Terra's very heart caught fire and the grey clouds above the horizon were settled piles of ash. "You can go now, if you will."

      "Good-bye, Steavn," Leusip said.

      But when Change turned to say the same, the space where he was, was empty.

      He had gone.

      No doubt to Areopagus, built of the unfathomable genius of his old friend's mind, a place with gates beyond Change's ability to open and beneath Leusip's present disposition to trust.

      It should have been different between them, Change thought, staring out at the red fire fleeing off the side of the very Earth, past clouds now the colour of soot. It could have been. Very different. But all options were long since settled... all doors had long, long, long ago been closed.



      "Which no weak passions e're mislead,

      Which still with dauntless steps proceed,

      Where Reason points the way,

      Put tempers, passions in the scale,

      Mark what degrees in each prevail,

      And fix the doubtless sway.


      The last, best effort of thy skill,

      To form the life and rule the will,

      Propitious Pow'r impart;

      Teach me to cool my passion's fires,

      Make me the judge of my desires,

      The master of my heart..."



Every morning, It lured him out of sleep with the words and each evening It eased his brain cycles with them, from Beta rigor into Delta sleep. And when It distinguished that peculiar flux in attitudinal stasis It was inlaid to read as nervous stimulation in the boy, It would use the words on him again. Sadness, anger, some fleeting shadow of joy, all the emotional perversions of cool, clear analysis were treated to their own standard dosage of prescribed words, composed to stem the endocrine tide.

      But they all began predictably, all appointed with the same damned preamble.

      "Passion is a form of chaos, 104," It would always say.

      Sometimes the words were a lullaby to him, smoothing over a painful kink of resistance, making it easier to accept, to live on. And yet other times, he battled them. Knowing them for what they were, as filters on his vehicles of perception, tuning out the world beyond Standard Increase, degravitating the pull of that world on him, muting his call to life.

      He knew It wanted to hone him, blind him. And no matter how hard he tried to fight It, It persisted with its careful masonry, going right on building a wall around his heart.

      Even in the sleep of his adulthood, mega-spacials away and thirty years in the future, Avon could feel its coldness. Coldness somehow a part of him and apart from him, reaching out to enfold him into the dark of its metallic peace.

      And even as he felt his body turn methodically on the responsive sleep level, heard the filtration rush of the Prometheus' atmosphere exchange system, even then he stood in the dark of Standard Increase, watching the cold light illuming into the two sensor panels.

      Lucid dream, the adult Avon thought with some interest, reaching a hand out to test for sensory response.

      "Good morning, K.A. 104," It said.

      "Go to hell, Mater," Avon replied, just as he had on that morning in real time 'morning' in as much as any sun ever shone on Standard Increase.

      There was a long and important silence, a pause in the Mater 9's concise and flawless repertoire of human speech technique.

      "Mater registers the necessity to again advise Index criteria for acceptable application of masturbatory functions..."

      Well, now, he remembered that morning.

      "...for constructive and simple release of human sexual tension at conservative levels of nervous system excitation and expenditure..."

      It went on and won Its point, as It always won, as It always, always won.

      "We will cover again the appropriate manner for-"


      "K.A. 104, do we have your attention?"

      "Avon," the invading voice said again, a voice calling out to him from the edges of his mind.

      "K.A. 104, do we have your-"

      "Don't listen to it, Avon, let me show you... let me show you how..."

      The hatred for the Mater 9... that low-grade fever of reconciled hatred, the hopelessness {kern 0 0}and despair and homesickness for warmth and greenness and softness, all were swept aside. Mater's mental calisthenic was no match for this.

      Something wonderful poured through him, flowing through each artery, branching outward into veins and capillaries into sinews then down into muscle that awoke each nerve with a tease, with a promise. Phantom hands roamed his body, forging a pathway through the wall... the wall... through the safe, damnable wall...

      "Avon," said the voice again, this time in a whisper of seduction.

      "No!" he screamed silently, trying to tear through the surface of sleep.

      Loud laughter enveloped him, his dream lover dragging him back down. "What are you afraid of?" the voice asked, the phantom hands no longer teasing, but yanking arrogantly at the fastenings of his trousers, the hands plunging through cloth to capture flesh.

      "Avon, my love," He moaned, as He mounted a vicious fucking motion on Avon's cock. "Let me show you how," the hot voice rushed through his ear, the wet mouth claiming his throat, while the hand went on and on and on.

      Too much... this was... too much... this was...

      "The master of my heart," Avon whispered, like the commands he often issued through his computer system, as though it would forge a tempering path from his brain to his heart. But it was useless, an empty plea to the gods of reason.

      "Yes, I am. And I will show you how it really feels. Because I want you, Avon. For all time..." said the feverish voice, the hand pumping harder and harder, a warm, fleshy tongue drawing promises along his ear. "Look at me, Avon. Know the face of the one... the one..."


      "Look at me! For once in our lives, know the truth."

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