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By Marian Mendez
Page 1 of 7

I am emptied of all my dreams:
I only hear Earth turning, only see
Ether's long bankless streams,
And only know I should drown if
You laid not your hand on me.

The child awoke, screaming. He huddled in the corner of his bed, covers bunched tightly around himself.

His bedroom door opened. Silhouetted against the brightness of the outer chamber was a huge, black giant.

"Well, you've done it again." The giant's hand moved, striking the light control beside the door. With the illumination raised, the fearsome giant transformed into a man of average height with sleep rumpled hair, wearing a haphazardly tied robe over his silken pajamas. Voice and expression alike were weary and irritated. He softened in the face of the child's wide-eyed terror. "It's all right, son. It was only a bad dream." He settled on the edge of the bed and drew the trembling body, blankets and all, into his arms. The screams ebbed, mutating into wild sobbing, then, as the frail body tired, into wet snufflings. Pipestem arms freed themselves from the tangled bedding to latch onto the man's neck. He sighed and stroked the silk soft hair of the head pressed so tightly against his chest. Once more, hot childish tears melted his stern resolve not to pamper the child.

He loved both his sons, but he found himself at a loss to understand his youngest. The boy was spoiled, true, but there was more to it than that. The child possessed the delicate wild beauty of a fawn. That, combined with his extraordinary intellectual potential, guaranteed him preferential treatment. Naturally, he tried to use this to his advantage, and he did have reason to angle for affection.

Holding the unhappy child, the man thought of his wife. She had married him for his wealth and status. He had been so blinded by her bright blonde hair and fathomless brown eyes- eyes that were mirrored in the too serious face of his youngest son- that he had not seen her flaws. She was never unkind to the boys, she simply had no interest in them. He knew her better now, but he remained hopelessly in love and would do almost anything to keep her. He regretted that the children had to share the cost. Not only had their mother no time for them, she insisted that he play politics;traveling and attending social affairs when he wasn't involved in clandestine maneuverings to increase the family's influence. Which left the boys in the care of various competent, indifferent, nurses and nannies. It was no wonder the little one had nightmares of abandonment.

"What was it this time?" he asked gently, once the child had calmed enough

to hear him. The boy stiffened and shook his head, refusing to answer. "Was it the one where your mother and I leave you?" The gasping indraw of breath and near-strangulation grip on his neck was reply enough. "We're not going to leave you, you know that. I love you, son. Don't you believe me?" He felt a faint nod against his chest. "We'll go to the therapist in the morning. He'll show you that there's nothing to worry about, no reason to fear." The child was beginning to relax, exhausted by his crying. He laid the boy back in his bed, tucking the covers snugly around him, for comfort. "Go to sleep, Kerr. Everything will be all right."

Avon woke. He lay flat on his back, analyzing the situation before he would allow himself to move, or open his eyes to reality. That old dream again. Odd, how I see it from my father's point of view. I can't actually remember being that boy- our younger selves are more alien to us than those who are born on distant worlds. He shifted gears mentally, slipping away from the painful recollection of one such alien. My father was wrong. The therapist couldn't make everything all right. He could only teach me to dissect my dreams, searching for subconscious symbolism. Which might be useful for your average `bit of undigested potato' nightmares. But not for the recurring, detailed horrors I call nightmares for lack of a suitably graphic term. Most especially not for the dream where my parents writhing bodies were flung, flaming, from an exploding air-car.

My father's quest to please my mother had inconvenienced certain high officials, who expressed their resentment quite freely. Servalan was hardly unique in her climb to power by way of a pyramid of corpses. Ah, that reminded him why he didn't want to reveal that he was awake. His body was refreshed, but he was too sick at heart to deal with Servalan. A needle-prick in his arm took away his choice. Whatever drug he had been given made his heart pound and muscles spasm against his restraints. Difficult to pretend he slept through that. Avon opened his eyes, to find Servalan leaning over him, a triumphant smile on her blood-red lips.

"Well, Sleeping Beauty arises." When Avon let that sally pass unremarked, the woman continued, "You don't seem surprised to see me this time either, Avon. Did you know that I came to rescue you from your folly?" She toyed with his chest hair while awaiting his reply. When he maintained a stony silence, she said, "Really, Avon, this childish sulking is unnecessary. Now that Blake and your crew are dead, there's no reason why we can't be allies- more than allies, Avon," she purred, watching his eyes closely. "You never were a rebel, Avon, never truly my enemy. Now that you've come to your senses and disposed of Blake for me, I am prepared to reward you, handsomely."

Avon blinked and swallowed, mustering his strength. "I'm not playing any more. Now, go away and let me be."

"Avon, how rude. But, as you wish. Just tell me where Orac is and I'll see that you aren't disturbed." She smiled, mocking, raking her gaze over the nude form secured to the table before her. His years on the run had left their mark, but Servalan liked what she saw, scars and all. He appeared broken, unable to resist. So much the better. While she was prepared to use stringent interrogation proce- dures, she would rather he gave her Orac without a fight. Of course, she might be bored by a spiritless Avon, but he would remain useful, professionally, if not personally. After all, he had the opportunity and the ability to learn Liberator's secrets. No, Servalan would not waste this prize.

"Disturbed?" Avon's voice remained flat. Servalan was irked; a man bound and helpless, totally in your power, should not sound indifferent. "How can you disturb a dead man?" He closed his eyes again.

Dimly Avon heard Servalan cursing him. Superfluous- he was as damned a soul as ever fried on Hell's hottest griddle. He didn't care to listen any longer. There was that trick Cally had taught him...

Servalan turned angrily on the white-tuniced doctor hovering in the background. "What have you given him? I told you I wanted him cooperative. How can he cooperate when you've put him to sleep?"

"But he shouldn't be..." The man came forward and checked the instruments monitoring Avon's motionless body. "I gave him a stimulant, Commissioner." He frowned. "It's not possible that the drug could cause this."

"Oh, Avon, still playing games?" Servalan cruelly tweaked the skin of Avon's inner arm with her sharp nails. She was frustrated by his lack of response. "Look at me, damn you!"

"Please, Commissioner." The doctor had the temerity to touch her sleeve. "I don't think..."

"That's right, you don't," she snapped. "I don't care what it takes, I want him awake, now!"

Avon receded further away from the sound of Servalan's voice. Noisy woman. Always nagging, always demanding, just like my Anna...

Anna shook Avon awake. "Love, you're dreaming again."

"What?" It took Avon a moment to sort his scattered wits into order. He ran a hand through his hair, then pinched the bridge of his nose, forcing the incipient headache back where it belonged. "Sorry, Anna. I did warn you that I'm a restless sleeper. On the occasions when I'm not insomniac."

"I don't mind, Avon, but it sounded like something you'd rather be awakened from. You were shouting."

"Was I?" Avon responded vaguely, hoping that Anna would let the matter drop.

"Yes." She brushed Avon's hands away when he attempted to distract her with their favorite past-time. "No, Avon, I know when you're trying to hide something. You can't fool me. This dream means something to you- the name you shouted, `Blake', who is Blake?"

Avon sighed. "Nothing, nobody. I never met the man."

"I thought I heard the name on the viscasts. Wasn't he some sort of political agitator?"

"It was just a dream, Anna. A man can't be held accountable for his dreams, can he?" The dream had been bad enough, visions of himself performing incredibly foolish and dangerous feats at the behest of a large, curly-headed nuisance who had inexplicably become his responsibility. But to explain his dreams to Anna, expose himself as a freak- no, he refused to do that. Anna wasn't the motherly sort, to cosset a man's weaknesses. Far more likely she'd turn from him in disgust and return to her normal, sane, though unexciting, counselor husband. What Avon had with Anna was too precarious, too precious, to risk. He rolled over, turning his back on Anna and her questions. "I'm going back to sleep, Anna. To hell with Blake, whoever he is."

Anna was silent, but Avon sensed the stifled curiosity in the slender body lying next to him.

Avon woke. Servalan's doctors were doing something unpleasant to his body at the time and he debated returning to the dreams, but Anna hurt worse. No instrument of torture could cut as sharply as her betrayal. Still, the pain was unwelcome. He opened his eyes and said, "Stop that." He was mildly intrigued when they obeyed, enough so that he kept his eyes opened when Servalan approached him again. She had changed into a different outlandish costume, so he assumed that his dream had taken longer than the few minutes it had seemed.

"Avon." Servalan had dropped her mockery, her large eyes full of sympathy.

Crocodile tears, Avon thought.

"Avon, I don't want to hurt you. Tell me where Orac is and the pain will stop."

"You can't stop my pain. Unless, of course, you kill me. That might work."

Servalan waved the torturers aside and stepped closer to him. "Listen to me, Avon. No one is going to kill you. I will not allow that, but you can be made to suffer a great deal without dying. Give me Orac and spare yourself."

"Orac dreams, too, you know," Avon's remark seemed pointless. "He must be as tired of it as I am. I wonder if Orac wants to die?"

Servalan was alarmed. This was not going according to plan.

Avon closed his eyes. "Poor Orac. I should have taught him how to die. It's such a simple human talent..."

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