You Must Have Been a Beautiful BabyBy Linda Terrell
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Uh, this is Vila Restal, currently in command of Liberator. Well, not
in command, actually. Sort of in charge because no one else is or can, which
is why I'm putting this into the log. When they all finally remember, I may
not have time for this or the inclination or be physically able. They're
gonna be really angry--"Avon! Put that down! Now!"--because it's my fault.
Well, not all my fault. I mean, no one told me you couldn't ferment those
berries. And they tasted so good, too.|
Hold it, Restal, you're getting off course, here.---"No, you can't play doctor! Blake said no, so take his word for it. He's bigger than the rest of you. And me."--I'm not sure how or when this started. I thought it was because Blake got sick. Not very sick, not at first. We all just thought it was a stomach ache and we all got a kick out of Avon fretting over Blake. For some reason, Avon can't cope with anyone being sick; he gets so guilty, it's funny. Anyways, I thought Blake would pull out of a simple belly ache, but he just got worse. After a while, he couldn't even eat. Nothing would stay down. Nothing.
Well, having him in medical may have been good for Blake, but the rest of us, Including Avon, spent so much time 'checking' on him, that Avon had him brought to the flight deck so that we could all keep an eye on him and not run off station every ten minutes. Fixed him up a cot in the alcove, even.
Avon trying to spoon-feed Blake. That was a giggle, at first. But when nothing would stay in him and he got so pale and lost weight, it wasn't funny, at all. We all began to get a bit desperate. Then, I realized that it must have gone back to something more.
* * *
"Avon, do you think he knows about that tape?" I ventured, which broke Avon's concentration on some hard copy he was studying.
"What tape?" Cally snapped suddenly.
Avon snarled at me under his breath. "Perfect timing, Vila. No one is to know of that. No one!"
"Too late," Cally said, moving in close to us. "What is it that must be so secret? If it is hurting Blake, we should know."
Avon sat back, folding his arms and fixing his face into that mask he puts on when he's tryIng not to care. His eyes go so dark and hard, then, like black diamonds.
"Avon was doing some kind of research. Checking through Blake's file. You can't be surprised at that, Cally. I thought we'd all had a go at Blake's files at one time or another. It helps to know what makes him tick, especially with his mind having been so messed up by the Federation and all, and..."
"I came across some file tapes, Cally." Avon's voice was strangely gentle with that slight purr he gets when he's being really serious, but not threatening. "I found a name in Blake's file that felt familiar and I vas trying to track that person down." He looked right through us with that queer way he has of averting his gaze while talking straight to you. "But it wasn't the same Tarrant." He shifted uneasily, hitting me with a glance so hard, I felt it. "While I was sifting through all of this, I ran across a tape that turned out to be...the execution record...of his family..."
Cally was so disturbed that I actually felt it stab through my head.
Looking truly pained, Avon continued with effort. "Execution is being kind--it was slaughter. They walked off their shuttle and were bludgeoned to death by four guards. If Blake has seen it..."
"Surely, you destroyed it!"
Avon sighed deeply. "No, it is a record, after all. And Blake has a right to see it, eventually. When he's prepared."
"That's what I was trying to say," I said. "What if he's come across it?"
"I hid it under my own voice command code, Vila. Do you think I'd let something like that lay around where Blake could stumble over It? Blake's a time bomb. You know it. I know it. Blake should know it. That tape could open up wounds or conditioning we couldn't hope to deal with."
Cally glanced over at Blake, who was dozing on the flight deck. "Then, you have watched it, on a screen somewhere on the ship?"
"Of course. But I didn't know what it was. It took me totally by surprise."
"Then, you do not know if someone may have been watching it from the stairs."
"Well, no..." Avon went rigid, drawing in a sharp breath. "Damn!" He came to his feet. Whirling on me, teeth clenched, he shot me a glare that fried my eyeballs.
"I let you know I was there, didn't I?" I carefully chose my 'whimper' octave. This often put Avon so off, he'd leave me alone. It wasn't working.
Cally put out a hand to us both. "That is not the point, any longer. Blake may have been nearby. He may have seen it and this illness of his may be his reaction. His emotions have been very disturbing to me. He is hurting."
Avon was away from us and striding over to Blake's sleeping form. Then, he knelt on one knee near Blake's head and shook the man gently.
Blake's eyes flew open and he blinked several times. "Don't try to feed me again, Avon. I don't even want to see food." And he closed his eyes.
"Cally seems to think you may have inadvertently seen something I never meant for you to see."
"Yes, Avon." Blake's voice was frighteningly calm, soft, almost caressing. I'm scared of Blake when he does that. Avon's scared, too, but he never shows it. Not to Blake. "Why did you do it?"
"Why didn't you let me know you were there?" Avon's hand had gone to Blake's arm and rested there, firmly but gently. He never ceases to surprise us at how kind he can be. I sometimes wonder if Avon knows he's doing that.
"It hurt too much, then. I hope you were suitably entertained."
"Don't ever accuse me of that, Blake!" Avon sounded dangerous. "I came across it by accident. I didn't know what it was until it was over and the report codes came up."
Blake actually managed a weak smile. "No, I shouldn't accuse you of that. You wouldn't hurt me...like that. Leave me alone, please."
"I'm too weak to stop you."
"You're too deep in your own self-pity. You've got to stop this!" Avon's voice was ragged and as close to real emotion as I'd ever heard.
Blake raised himself up on one elbow with a lot of effort. "Don't you think I've tried?" He fell back. "I can't stop it. It's like a tidal wave."
Blake closed his eyes again.
Avon looked around at us and at Jenna, who had just entered. "We've got to get him off this ship. Somewhere quiet and preferably uninhabited. A complete change of environment."
"What have I missed?" Jenna demanded. When Cally leaned close and filled her in, Jenna went nearly as pale as Blake.
* * *
Well, we thought that would end it all. But it turns out it was really only the beginning. Avon found us a terrific planet, uninhabited, "pastoral," (he said), and we all put down. We even brought Orac. Oddly, Orac didn't fuss about it. Something about the planet being an anomaly. Being where it wasn't. That confused me. It fascinated Avon.
Blake could barely stand, so we sat him down beneath a tree. Blake is fond of trees.
Later, I found the berries. They were mottled blue, with nubs on them. And when Orac said they were fine as is, we all ate some. Then, Jenna and Cally managed to convince Blake to try a small mouthful. Cally is very good at, um, urging. She can feed some very interesting visions into your head when she's trying to sway you to her side. And Blake had been resting easily for hours. Avon says "getting natural" seems to rejuvenate Blake. Most of us prefer a dome, but Blake likes "natural" planets and enjoys resting in a warm patch of sun. Don't know where a dome dweller got that and he says he isn't sure, either. He sure didn't get it staying with Ushton and Inge. That planet is cold. Or maybe that is why he likes sitting in the sun--after all those cold days. I don't know and Blake doesn't know. Anyway, he seemed to be feeling better. (Avon was skulking around. He was very upset that Blake had seen the tape and more upset that Blake seemed to blame him for its being there. Avon has very convoluted guilt fantasies. He doesn't do anything without a lot of introspection and reasoning and cool calculation. So, when he decides to feel guilty, it can be awfully complicated.)
Well, those damned berries made Blake feel better! Within a very short time, he asked for more, and then, more. He was ravenous from days without food. Then, even Avon broke down and joined us--"Put him down! Now! No, you can't play in the teleport. Jenna, don't kick Blake!"--I'm getting awfully tired of this job. No, that's not true. I think I'm really liking being a baby-sitter. I get to boss them all around. But Orac says if I can get this concoction and soma into them, it'll work and they'll be themselves again-- "Don't touch those buttons! Orac, close the airlock, will you?"--Easier said than done. They're a slippery lot and Blake is big!
I guess this is where it's my fault. Orac said the berries were all right as is. That they had a mild soporific effect and worked on the nerve centers and could even produce pleasant hallucinations if eaten in bulk. So, the berries worked on Blake where soma didn't. But I shoulda remembered that Orac volunteers very little and you gotta ask him directly. So, I brought a whole mess of the berries back and made some wine out of them. It's a hobby of mine, making wine. I like to see what I can make wine out of. I have this goal of making wine out of everything edible in the galaxy. Well, the berries were a success--Blake was nearly himself in a very few days. And Avon returned to tongue-lashing rather than fretting (which I kinda miss--it changes his face and he looks nice). So, when the wine was ready--I got this secret process for speeding up wine--I brought it out for all of us to try. We may be rebels on the run, but we're not an inelegant lot. Avon seems to like the really good wines. Cally likes to experiment. I guess it's because her guerilla diet was so boring. Blake is neutral; if it's there, he'll drink it. Otherwise, he doesn't notice. He's so caught up in his Cause, you know. Well, maybe you don't. I don't know who's going to ever be listening to this.
We all liked the wine. We all liked all of it. And for the first time in memory, they all managed to drink most of it before I could. And that's where all this started.
All of us were pretty laid out and feeling really expansive toward one another. Blake put his arm around Avon's shoulder once and Avon didn't mind, at all. At least, he didn't pull back and snarl. The colours seemed more vivid. That's about all it did for me. I relaxed and enjoyed watching them relax. Then, Blake began acting silly, trying to tickle Avon, and when Jenna tried to stop him, he tickled her. He was giggling. Orac has told me since that the wine affected the one with the most control first. Now, you'd think that would be Avon, but actually, it's Blake who was himself under control the most. He knows his mind's been messed up, but he doesn't know what might set him off, what subliminal conditioning might still be there, so he's in the tightest control all the time. You just don't see it, especially since in Avon, it's more visible. So, I waited for Avon to explode, but he was smiling and seemed to be going along with it. Then, he reached out and pulled Jenna's hair and she kicked him In the shin. Then, Cally leaned over and bit him.
And it went straight downhill from there. Within a very few hours, I was surrounded by four adults with the mental capacity of seven-year-olds. Orac told me it was the wine. Fermenting the berries turned their mild hallucinogen into some kind of uninhibitor. All the "adult" training and maturity in Blake, Avon, Jenna and Cally was suddenly not there, which left children. But it did not affect me. I didn't need Orac to tell me why. After all, all the Federation's horses and all the Federation's puppeteers can't permanently re-arrange my head, so why should a mere wine? Actually, Orac said it was because I didn't have inhibitions and I wasn't an adult, anyway. I told him to shut up and to take control of everything, because Blake was finding the coloured buttons fun to push and leading everyone to different consoles.
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