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Careless Whispers

By S. Lewis
Page 1 of 31

"Who will free me from this turbulent priest?"

Henry II

My thanks go to old King Henry, whose above remark inspired this whole venture. Inspiration is a very funny thing....

And deep gratitude to the FBS, as warped a group of women as one could hope to find, whose literary criticisms ("more angst, more angst!!) and thoughtful commentary ("this is making me hot!") proved invaluable in the writing of this work.

ADDITIONAL CREDITS:     

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay

*****

MY HERO BARES HIS NERVES

My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait:
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from this box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves
And the hunger's emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

*****

Chapter 1

Not a day went by that Kerr Avon did not think, at least fleetingly, about taking his leave of this place. This place, the people who populated it, and their duly elected President who reigned over the galaxy beneficently.

Most especially that President.

The reasons for leaving were numerous and eminently logical and entirely to the benefit of himself.

To wit:

He hated the planet itself. Earth was a very long way from being Paradise, no matter what sentimental Spacers chose to believe.

To wit:

He despised the people. There were too many of them, in the first place, and each one seemed to be a bigger idiot than the last, in the second place.

To wit:

He loathed the President. This particular antagonism went back so far that it needed no further elucidation.

Balance all of that against his reasons for staying.

Rather, his reason for staying.

To wit:

President Roj Blake

It might have been a laughable contradiction, had not Avon lost his sense of humor on that particular subject a very long time ago.

Most often, his wistful thoughts of departure were, indeed, fleeting. The notion was here and then gone, and he would turn his attention to whatever piece of imbecilic business next required it. He was, after all, a being of some importance within the government. Which meant, unfortunately, that imbecilic pieces of business were forever being placed in front of him.

On other days, most often after a particularly bruising battle with the Most Exalted Ruler of the Glorious Refederation, Avon would give more serious consideration to the idea of fleeing this life.

Once, he even went so far as to visit the Spaceport and make inquiries about outbound passage. To anywhere. Armed, then, with a sheaf of itineraries and fare rates, he retreated to his spartan quarters a few blocks from the palatial presidential residence and gloated.

He could escape.

It was possible.

He could simply vanish out there into the vast galaxy, and no one would ever know where he had gone.

Or why.

With Avon's usual luck (bad), Vila showed up as he sat at the table surrounded by the blatant evidence of his future betrayal.

Ahh, now, he objected to that word as a description of what he was planning. Strongly objected, even if the word had come from his own mind. Who or what, pray tell, would he be betraying?

Vila eyed the detritus that covered the top of the table. He shook his head. "Poor Avon," he said.

On principle, he disliked receiving pity from this man. "What are you talking about?" he snarled.

Vila did not answer immediately, being very busy fetching glasses and a bottle of quite fine liqueur that Avon had certainly not intended to share with him. (And with whom had he intended to share it? He dismissed the question impatiently.)

When drinks had been poured, Vila finally joined him at the table. He surveyed the papers knowingly. "Still looking for a bolthole, are you?"

Avon answered by taking a sip of the liqueur.

Vila smirked. "Nearly ten years now you've been plotting an escape from Blake. Ever think maybe it's time you stopped fooling yourself?"

The liqueur was every bit as good as he had anticipated it would be. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said loftily. "And I doubt if you do either."

'That's what makes it so sad," Vila replied. "You really don't have any notion of what it is I'm on about."

Avon was sometimes given to think that all of the alcohol that Vila had consumed over the years was starting to affect his brain. Such as it was. "Nothing wrong with a man planning a trip, is there After all, President Blake does not hold us prisoner here."

"Not all of us," Vila muttered obscurely.

The concept of Vila Restal being obscure called for another swallow of the liqueur.

"I heard about the brouhaha between you and Blake at the Council meeting this morning," Vila went on. 'You two just never quit, do you?'

"The man is an idiot."

Vila sighed deeply. "So you have been saying for what seems like most of my life."

Avon brooded into his glass. "Truth is, he does not realize just how many enemies he has out there. Blake simply goes blithely on doing good, and being the bloody hero of the people, and the bastards lurk.

"Isn't it lucky he has his own bastard, then, watching out for the lurkers. Meaning you, of course."

"Who else?" Avon replied in a glum voice. Then his gaze lifted from its introspection and pierced Vila. "I never intended to spend my life nursemaiding a fool."

Vila snickered. "Not even a noble fool?"

"Especially a noble one," Avon said darkly.

Vila indicated the papers.  "So you hide in this room and plot your escape."

"Yes." Avon set his glass down with a crash. "It is not a betrayal," he said sharply.

Vila looked surprised. "Who said it was?"

Avon blinked. "Well, you were undoubtedly thinking something like that," he countered weakly.

"Taken up mind-reading now, have you?"

When Avon simply declined to continue the absurd conversation any longer, Vila just finished his drink and got up to leave. He paused by the door. "If you weren't such a dope, Avon, and a dope with a vile temper, I could tell you the facts of life."

"You?" Avon said with a sneer.

"Oh, yes," Vila said. "Me. Surprising, ain't it?"

Avon just nodded.

Vila bid him a cheerful good-bye and departed.

Alone, he poured himself another glass of the liqueur (after all, there really was no point in saving it, was there?), and stared at the mass of information that could help him escape from the trap his life had become.

Rate schedules and flight itineraries.

Lifelines for a drowning man.

For some reason, however, his enthusiasm for the entire project had evaporated. He used one arm to push the whole pile of paper into the waste receptacle.

Then he took his drink over to the window.

From here, he could stand and watch the lights of the Presidential mansion. He stayed there, sipping the mellow liqueur slowly, and staring at the large house until all the windows went dark. Including those on the third floor.

The President of the Refederation was, it seemed, safely in bed for the night.

Avon drained the glass and left it on the windowsill. He turned off the lamp and went to bed as well.


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