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Jabberwocky - part 1 - Link-up

By Sheila Paulson
Page 1 of 26

The troopers surrounded Avon as he straddled Blake's body. Protectively? Now that Blake was dead at his hand, by his error, was he trying to protect him as he had often done in life? He raised his gun and he smiled. Then everybody fired at once. Avon dropped, hit by a dozen shots.

      She screamed, sat bolt upright in bed, and went on screaming.

      There were comforting voices at once, hands easing her back against the pillow, and several of the voices were familiar, but she was too weak, and she let them soothe her back into sleep. Avon's voice was not one of them, but that was right; Avon was dead. Blake had died at his hand and then Avon had forced the troopers to kill him. An elaborate suicide, perhaps, or had he simply run out of options? There are limits, times when a person no longer has the strength to fight. From the look on Avon's face as he stared down at Blake's body, he had reached his limits a long time ago. He'd been going on by momentum alone, like a dead man looking for a place to fall down. Tears leaked from behind her closed eyelids and she cried for Avon, who would never thank her for it, for Blake who had dared to try so much, who had discovered that caring and trying led only betrayal and death, for the others, caught up in something they had never quite understood. Poor Vila, he'd been as trapped as any of them. Perhaps more than any of the others, he had let himself care for Avon in a safe, undemanding way, only to have Avon turn on him over Malodar. Maybe Vila could have done more for Avon than he had, but Avon would never have let him try, and Vila had known that. After Terminal, he had simply let himself go with the flow, no longer able to guide his destiny.

      Then there was Tarrant. She wasn't sure why Tarrant had stayed, particularly after the loss of the Liberator. Maybe Dorian had been right, that their experiences had made them a part of each other. Maybe there had been simply nowhere else to go.

      Dayna might have felt some loyalty to Avon, but it seemed her desire for Servalan's death had driven her more than her friendship with the crew of Scorpio. As for Soolin - well, when there is nothing left to strive for, one place is as good as another. Soolin was little more than a cipher to her, and she felt no understanding or companionship toward her.

      Avon had seemed, if not less sane, certainly less pleasant as time passed. His choices might have been appropriate, but the results were all so appallingly negative. It would be no wonder if he had indeed become mad by the end. Certainly he had been teetering on the brink when he had confronted Blake in that control room on Gauda Prime. "Have you betrayed me?" Her heart bled for that desperate entreaty, and though Blake had muffed it, Avon would have turned aside at the slightest reassurance. There had been no reassurance, no margin for error, and now they were all dead.

      Or were they? The voices that comforted her as she tossed and turned restlessly were familiar voices. She was cared for far too tenderly to be attended by strangers, too gently to be a prisoner. It made no sense to her, but gradually she began to be curious.

      The final scene played itself over and over in her head like a merciless tape loop, and she shivered away from it, finally breaking free of it, opening her eyes to a bare, white ceiling. Too weak to call for assistance, her eyes traced the weld lines, and she counted the bolts there waiting.

      "She's awake!" Elation filling his voice, Vila scampered over to the bed and peered down at her. Vila? But Vila was dead. She had seen him fall. Frowning, she studied his face; it was tired and there might be a new line or two, but his eyes were unshadowed, and he looked delighted to see her. "Cally? Don't try to move yet. Wait till the surgeon comes."

      Vila was dead. No, that wasn't right. She was dead. She had felt the explosions rock the building, had screamed Blake's name inside her head as she died. If she were alive and Vila was here, had he escaped from Gauda Prime and come to find her? Or - thoroughly perplexed, she shook her head, wincing at the pain the unwary movement caused her, and tried to find her voice. "Vila? Where...?"

      "It's a long story, Cally," said Vila quickly. "And Avon'll have my hide if I make you too tired. We're all safe. We're off Terminal, and you'll be all right. There's nothing to worry about, at least nothing more than usual. Avon's still glooming around. I think he knows it's his fault, but you know what Avon's like. He'll never admit it. Tarrant keeps rubbing it in too. I think Tarrant was maddest about Terminal. He always is, isn't he?

      Terminal? But what of the time and events since then? Cally closed her eyes again. "Vila." Her voice was barely audible. "Avon. I must see him."

      "Not yet, Cally. You're not well enough for visitors."

      She struggled to reinforce her insistence with a mental command. //Vila, please. I must see Avon.// But Vila did not respond. He gave no sign that he was aware of any telepathic contact. //Vila// She tried desperately, and her head began to hurt with a great, vicious pain that brought unwilling tears to her eyes and stark terror to her heart. Had she lost her telepathy?

      Either something got through after all or Vila guessed what she was thinking, for he said quickly, "Cally, it's all right. You're not to try to use your telepathy yet or even to talk much. You've been very sick. It'll come right, the surgeon says it will come right, and he should know, but not quite yet. It will take time."

      She lay there staring at him, feeling a vast and echoing emptiness inside where once a part of her being had lived. If she had lost her telepathy, her very essence was gone. She had come to accept life among non-telepaths, though the loneliness had almost killed her at first, but this was even more basic, more unacceptable. Could she even live without telepathy? Vila's insistence that it would come back was well meant, but how could he know? He was a Human, he wouldn't understand how it felt to be so alone. If this was what humans lived with, this blank, echoing wall within their heads, how could they survive? How could anyone survive this? She felt less than a whole person, some weak, diminished creature. Even more than her five senses, Cally's telepathy had been a part of her basic make up. Frightened, desperate, she tried again. //Vila, hear me.//

      The pain was suddenly everywhere, bathing her nerve endings in white hot light. She cried out. Then, because it was easier than the pain and the utter aloneness of being trapped silent inside her being, she fainted.


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Sheila Paulson

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