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By Jackie Speel
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It was when he remembered his name that he accepted his mind had been tampered with.

I am Kerr Avon. The flashbacks I have are of events that really happened.

Not that he said anything to those around him. He was clever enough to realise that it would be dangerous to do so. Which was why they had wiped his past, rather than destroyed him in any of the unpleasant ways they knew (How did he know that?) His skills, his abilities, were too useful to them for them to obliterate him entirely.

So what would he do now?

For the moment - do his job, and marshal what facts and memories he knew.

He enjoyed his work, and was extremely good at - what use was false modesty? He could afford to spend time considering the puzzle that had been set him, better than the so-called thrillers on the viscasts.

Keeping the mask in front of his new-found knowledge came to him with almost practised ease. (Had he done this before?)

If only the fragments of information were not so disconnected, or he could trust those around him to give him the information he needed, he would have proceeded further, faster. But there were probably spies around him - or those around him would, at the least, think him of unsound mind. He had been blocked for a reason, and not just because they needed his skills.

Others had used what skills he could offer - that he knew without a conscious memory.

Others who were rebels, or might have been. (He had not been a rebel - or had never considered himself such.)

That, he knew, was the truth.

So what did he want to do about it? Try and remember the past, or live his comfortable, enjoyable, life? He had been given enough to keep him happy - a gilded cage, perhaps, but under other conditions the situation he was in would have been a reasonable ambition.

Names hovered at the edge of memory. From his past, or from others' talking. Blake. Mellanby. The latter name, when dropped into conversation elicited blank ignorance, the former, he quickly realised, was not somebody to be talked about.

A non-person. As Avon would be himself, if he persisted in the matter he was given to understand. He now thought of himself by his original name, a small act of defiance which they would not see until he chose it. Other names, faces, surfaced occasionally - someone who could understand locks as he himself could computer programs. A woman both desired and dangerous.

He decided to stir things up, began doing things with the computers that were not entirely legitimate. Such things were tolerated among people with his talents, minor indiscretions, exploring the edges of the system, to prevent them from doing something more serious. He probed the limits of how far he could go, mostly for the fun of it, partially to see what memories of the past he could evoke.

He was living dangerously, and knew it. He had also found himself a new puzzle. Something, or someone, was operating in the system without the knowledge or authorisation of the Federation. Avon felt a certain near-conspiratorial appreciation for this unknown entity, whose traces were so distinctive. Others had come across it too - whether its name was actually Orac, or it had been given that title, was not clear. It had first made itself known a few years ago.

Avon decided he would try and make contact with Orac, left clues - if nothing else did come of it they might amuse his successors. He half convinced himself that what he came across was a response: but when he indicated he would like to meet the mysterious entity there was no clear reply.

Avon became involved in one of the scams of an acquaintance, treating it as a challenge, was discovered. There was a period in which he was under threat, but he managed to convince the authorities that his construct, of a criminal within the official computer staff being in contact rebels or others outside was just an elaborate security exercise. To catch your enemy you have to think like them, was his claim. It was decided to accept this as plausible - he had, after all, revealed several flaws within the system.

There was, however, a price for using his initiative in such a manner. He was transferred to another project, dealing with the teleport project. There had been rumours of certain groups of outsiders, non-Federation ships, having such facilities, and it was deemed essential that the Federation military have the same capacity.

It was extremely interesting work, even if it did not prove successful at this stage. If Avon ever found himself with rebels and others he might sell his research for a considerable amount of money. The thought amused him: if the authorities had but known it, he was carrying out the self-same scam that he had been reprimanded for, but they would never suspect he was playing double jeopardy. He would leave, he decided, because he was bored, and he would enjoy the challenge, but until then he would make use of his opportunities. Where in the galaxy would he go? Should he search for the elusive Orac, go to Freedom City and break the bank, what? It was fun just contemplating the possibilities.

One day a friend asked a favour of him - to look after a visiting sister. The friend had unexpected business, and the sister had heard about Avon, and wished to meet him.

Avon looked at the proffered picture, decided to do so.

Anna Grant was an attractive enough woman to escort around the dome. Might even help Avon in the long run.

The next day at work Avon saw a face, which he knew he had met during the time which was still largely blocked to him, though there was no recognition when he engineered an encounter.

Avon sensed that Roj Blake too had had his mind tampered with, but that there had been no breakthrough yet. Avon began a technical discussion, to see if this was the same Blake as hovered in his own memory.

He decided not to introduce Anna to Blake, despite her interest. Then Blake was moved to another section, which Avon regretted. They might have become friends, given time.

By now Avon was considering how to leave Earth with Anna, how to arrange enough money for the kind of life he would wish to leave.

Besides, he had remembered - Roj Blake was the name of the memory figure. He had been an opponent of the existing leadership.

What was the saying - once a rebel, always a rebel?

Avon had never been, would never become a rebel. He had been involved with the Freedom Party purely in an advisory capacity.

He would get what he could out of the banking system, leave with Anna and then consider the future.

He would only become involved with rebels and others if he was certain of success.

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Jackie Speel

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