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Jabberwocky - part 2 - Mind-Rape

By Sheila Paulson
Page 1 of 23

"All right," said Blake, raking weary hands through his curly hair. "We'll try it one more time. Avon, this time, you take Tarrant's position."

      Avon and Tarrant obediently switched places, the pilot relinquishing his console to Avon who sat down and let his fingers hover expectantly over the controls.

      "Link up," Blake instructed.

      Avon only looked at him. His face was scornful and rigid, but when he spoke, he sound almost defensive. "Blake, you know that is impossible."

      "Is it? Tarrant managed it."

      "Tarrant's piloted this ship in linkage before."

      "He can't do it right without physical contact," Dayna replied. "I can manage it in the weapons' position, but I'm not sure I can do it elsewhere, and I think you're expecting too much of us, if you keep switching us around."

      "Dayna's right," agreed Soolin.

      "l don't think so. It's just that we aren't used to linking with Jabberwocky yet without Cally boosting. We've got to let him do his work, not block him."

      "I should think that would be impossible, Blake." Avon removed himself from the pilot's position and returned to his own, the one that controlled computer linkages, the detector shielding and the force wall.

      Cally rose from her seat on one of the couches at the front of the flight deck. "Avon, you have linked before. Why should this be different?"

      Cally was still regaining strength after her injuries on Terminal, though she was far better than she had been at first. Blake was not yet fully recovered from Gauda Prime but he was improving daily and Hugh had said he should be fit for action within the week.

      Avon gave Cally an unfriendly look. "Perhaps it is different because in past linkages, there had been physical contact. You are the only telepath on board."

      "But it's not like that, Avon," Vila interrupted. "Jabberwocky's like a telepath himself, and he'll do all the work. You have only to let him."

      Avon remained sceptical. "Obviously it doesn't work that way, Vila," he pointed out.

      "But it should," Jabberwocky remarked. "You should be able to manage it, Avon. It's true you have high walls, but after all, you're my father, and you should understand how I work better than anybody but Cally."

      "For the last time, I am not your father, and I would be gratified if you would refrain from that form of address in future."

      "Or you'll blast me?" Jabberwocky chuckled in that disconcertingly human way of his. "Wrong, Avon. I could force linkage with you, but I won't. Think about it, my friend. That's a part of your programming. You must have expected that we would meet one day."

      "It was my original intention."

      "But it's not your present one? I'm really crushed." Jabberwocky had a lamentable tendency for colloquialism, as far as Avon was concerned. Jabberwocky could be as precise as Orac when called for, and he was more formal while performing manoeuvres, as he would be in battle. But he was also programmed - if that were the right word, thought Avon sceptically - to interact with the crew in a relaxing and personal manner. Avon found it disconcerting.

      "Avon, I could assist you," Cally said softly, coming to stand facing him. "I could transmit the initial contact with Jabberwocky to you."

      "No, Cally," Blake objected. "If we can't all tie in with Jabberwocky for our assigned functions then we can't make this work. I don't expect it to come easy, Avon. It's going to take a lot of effort. We didn't learn to handle Liberator in a few days. It took experimentation too. Right now, without the linkage, we can handle the ship adequately, but it will boost us and make us that much more efficient if we link up. Isn't that right, Jabberwocky?"

      "Right, Blake."

      "So I want to keep at it until we've got it down."

      "You've got a century or two to spare?" Tarrant asked sceptically. "We're human, remember?"

      "So was Jabberwocky. So is Avon."

      "Are you sure of that?" Vila asked, ducking behind Hugh as he spoke.

      Avon threw a scornful glance at Vila, but he did not object because they were the very words he would have chosen to use himself. He knew, though he chose not to make it public, that it was his reluctance to open up to Jabberwocky that was preventing this test from succeeding. He could join the link when touched, but there was a portion of his mind that would not let himself yield without that impetus. Though he had tried to do it, he had also 'choked up' whenever he started.

      As if he realized that - which he probably did - Blake said, "All right, then there's no hurry. Tarrant, take back your station and we'll try it with you there. After that, we'll let Hugh try."

      Hugh had initially attended the Federation Space Academy to train as a pilot, and while nowhere near the pilot Tarrant was, he knew enough about Federation ships to be able to handle the task competently. He said now, "I'm willing to try it, Blake."

      Once Tarrant was in his position and Hugh had changed places with Avon, who retired to the couch beside Soolin, Blake closed his eyes, feeling his way into the link he held in his brain with Jabberwocky. He still looked uncomfortable sometimes in such a position, but he was getting better at it.

      "All right, Tarrant, link," Blake ordered.

      Tarrant hesitated, then he went into link mode while Avon watched sourly. Pulling his hands back from the controls, Tarrant was now seeing the readouts inside his head and interpreting them almost as rapidly as Jabberwocky did. It was the ship's responsibility to focus out non-essential stimuli, to keep the pilot-link's brain from being burned out by an overwhelming influx of data, and to sort through everything available and present what was needed to Tarrant instantaneously enabling him to interpret it without hesitation. Then he could manoeuvre the ship through the link without having to resort to the longer process of pushing buttons and handling levers or even speaking orders into the computer/receptor. Once accustomed to such control flexibility, the pilot could outmanoeuvre any other ship in existence, except for another mindship. And since Jabberwocky was, so far, the one and only such ship, once the crew learned to utilize it to its full capabilities, they should be able to take on any ship in the entire Federated Worlds.

      Jabberwocky now had the rudiments of a functioning teleport as well. Avon had worked at it with Orac and Jabberwocky, and when Blake had come, he had joined in as soon as he had recovered enough from his wounds to be allowed up long enough to be some use. At present, the teleport only wanted fine tuning and testing before it was pronounced fit for use. Then, given the adaptation of a photonic drive, Jabberwocky's dream to complete his modifications, the ship would be ready to confront the Federation.

      Avon grimaced at the idea. Fighting the Federation was not at the top of his list of priorities, but even he was willing to admit that he did not like the Federation, and he had agreed to Blake's plans. Someday, perhaps, he would teach himself how to link properly, and then it would be his ship, as it was obviously meant to be. Until then, he could endure Blake's plans. That he was glad to have Blake back with them again was something he had admitted with extreme reluctance, and then only to himself, though he was reasonably certain that the others knew. Sentiment could not be allowed to interfere with his plans, however. This morning's failure had set him back, it was true, but his time would come, and this would be more his ship than Liberator could have ever been.

      Tarrant took the ship through a series of complex manoeuvres, and Avon could see that Blake, in his control position, was linked with him and perhaps making suggestions for Tarrant to carry out, though the bulk of the display would come from Tarrant's piloting skills. In Avon's position, Hugh was linked too, and, curious, Avon got up and went round to peer over Hugh's shoulder, watching the force wall come on and shut down again without Hugh lifting so much as a finger. The detector shielding ran through its paces too, with a readout visible on the screens, though Hugh would be receiving it directly inside his head. Avon was gratified to see that his alterations to the shielding were as effective as he could have hoped.

      Now the weapons test was proceeding, and Avon turned to look at the main screen as the small asteroids they had agreed to use as targets for testing began to detonate before his eyes. Spinning around in surprise, he saw Dayna, an expression of pure bliss on her face, drawn into the linkage despite her scepticism, running through every weaponry test she could think of.

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Sheila Paulson

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