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Mindswap

By Manna
Page 1 of 2

An accident, a mistake made in haste, that is sometimes all it takes to precipitate disaster.

As soon as Cally woke up, she knew something was terribly wrong. She pulled the sheets back and looked down at her body. It wasn't an entirely unfamiliar sight. She'd seen it many times before, made love to it in fact. But it was still unquestionably Avon's body and not hers. There were, after all, some fairly obvious differences.

There was no point in panicking. Assuming this wasn't a dream (and she knew that beyond any question) there was an explanation and therefore, probably, a solution. It was a physical problem, that was all. She, Cally, was intact inside. The Auronar have a very strong self of self; when you share your mind with everyone, it's a necessity.

Still, she couldn't entirely dismiss the hammering of her heart, or the fact that her hands were shaking. She held her hands up and looked at them--strong, square, familiar masculine hands--and then ran them through her thick, straight hair. Then she lay very still and closed her eyes and thought back, trying to work out what had happened.

She remembered only blurred and fragmented sounds. Tarrant's voice, "Neither of them are making any sense yet. Let's put them to bed. Maybe they'll be all right in the morning."

"What if we mixed the minds up? Would they survive, in the wrong body?"

A silence, then Tarrant again, frightened and hiding it with anger. "How the hell would I know, Dayna?"

Vila spoke, more openly scared and saying what everyone else was only thinking. "They *have* to be all right. Ultraworld's gone."

Then the scene blanked out again until she was pulled closer to consciousness by hands lifting her up. She felt unnaturally heavy. "Dayna, can you manage Cally by yourself?"

So Dayna was lifting her? Except that Dayna's reply came from some distance away.

"No problem. She doesn't weigh much."

Tarrant and Vila had undressed her and put her to bed. She'd protested, weakly, but they hadn't understood her.

What else could she remember?

She was starting to sort through the fragmented memories of Ultraworld when there was a frantic hammering on her door. She rose, clumsy in her unfamiliar skin, and wrapped the sheet around herself. She didn't bother to dress because she had good idea of who would be outside.

She was right, and even though she'd prepared herself it was still a shock. It was like looking into a distorting mirror. Her face, with Avon's expression of horror under a desperately thin mask of composure.

They stared at each other for a long moment, then spoke together, simultaneously grasping at the first stupid thing which came to mind.

She said, "I really should do something else with my hair."

He said, "I'm a lot shorter than I thought I was."

There was another silence, then she stepped back from the doorway.

"You'd better come in. After all, it is your room."

He nodded, closing the door behind himself and looking round as if he were seeing the place for the first time. He walked across to the table, picked up a piece of circuitry and Cally was fascinated by every movement, by the picture it presented. It was like seeing herself in a viscast. She was so thin.

Avon stood there, in her body, turning the circuit over and over in his hands. He didn't say anything, but Cally was shocked to realise she could *hear* him. Avon's words, spoken in her mental voice.

There was a fragile calm to his thoughts as he put the circuit back down on the table, very precisely.

He started to turn and before he could see her, Cally said, "I can hear you."

He froze.

Pure panic drowned out his words, washing out of him in waves. Cally was mesmerised by how, despite it, he kept her body so still and contained.

She tried to find the words, reached back to childhood lessons.

"It's my telepathy, Avon, that's all. You can stop it, control it. It's quite easy. There is an inside and an outside. It's no different to speech - only send out the things you want to send."

He nodded jerkily, a puppet with tangled strings. Slowly, the floods of feeling ebbed, stilled. Silence returned to her mind and Cally had never thought she would be so glad of that.

After a moment he said, "Can you hear that?"

"No."

"Good."

But he didn't look round. Only his hands moved, palms stroking over each other quite unconsciously in a familiar gesture that was shockingly out of place.

"It was Ultraworld." He struggled to keep his delivery level, but she could hear the shaking in his voice. Hearing herself so close to panic made her heart start racing again.

"I asked Orac about it. The Ultras put our mind prints into a database, do you remember that? Tarrant had to restore us quickly, because the brain that controlled the planet was failing. Do you remember? He didn't have time to check the tubes. That's how it happened, Cally."

She had never heard him say so much, so quickly, without listening to himself at all. He was looking down at his unfamiliar hands, as she had earlier. Cally spoke without really thinking.

"Tarrant is going to be terribly upset."

Avon spun round, nearly lost his balance, forgetting not to look at her. "*Tarrant* is going to be upset? Tarrant is going to be *dead*."

And from his mind an almost wordless stream of fear.

"You're sending again."

He turned half away again and shut her out, his--Cally's--face pale with helpless fury. She remembered his words to the psychic alien who had copied her body.

'You look so beautiful, when you're angry.'

He was right, she did. Cally watched her body pacing the room, twitching with suppressed rage and concentration. She felt a sudden rush of desire and was startled, then unexpectedly thrilled, by the alien reaction of her body hardening. That was the first sign that the Ultras hadn't emptied Avon's mind entirely of Avon.

"Avon."

"What?" He didn't look round.

"Avon, come over here. Please."

To her surprise, he had come over at once, let her hold him. Enfolding him so completely in her arms was another thrill, a guilty moment of pleasure when he was so distressed.

He spoke into her shoulder. "You're...I'm a lot stronger than you are. I'd never really realised."

His voice held a hysterical edge which frightened her.

"Yes, I know. It's very peculiar. But we'll find a way to undo it, Avon." She said his name deliberately, trying to make him see that he was still himself.

"Ultraworld is gone. There's nothing we can do."

"We'll find a way."

He clung onto her, then suddenly froze under her hands. It took her a second to realise why.

Her erection was pressed against him through the thin sheet.

"Avon, I'm sorry! I'm..."

Her voice died away as he looked up at her. For a long time his expression was utterly blank, then the most amazing smile broke slowly across his face. Her face. Avon's smile on her face.

He was sending again, but this time she thought it was deliberate. Maybe he couldn't have said it out loud. She hesitated.

"Avon, I don't think..."

He started stripping, fumbling with unfamiliar clothes, so that in the end she had to help him. He didn't seem to mind.

It was the strangest combination of sex and masturbation.

It should have been a terribly bad idea. It should have blurred the divisions between them beyond hope. But somehow, to Avon, it didn't. Somehow it helped him redraw his boundaries. Cally could tell all this because he was sending again, unable to stop himself at first, perhaps not even aware he was doing it.

He touched his own body with a fierce concentration, and Cally had to admit that he was good at it. The speed and intensity of her new responses was exhilarating. And it was impossibly weird and exciting to touch him--herself-- in return, and to know how the body she touched would react to every kiss and caress.

Everything was wrong and right and familiar and strange, all at once.

He had only hesitated once, when he had kissed his way down her body, as she often did to him, and touched his lips to the very tip of her--his--penis. With a reflex that hadn't been hers she had reached down and urged him on. He flinched away.

"Cally, it too...I, ah, I don't think..."

She slid her hands further down and pulled him back up the bed, rolled him over so he lay beneath her. Then it had been her turn to hesitate, pull back. It felt like something irrevocable.

"Go on."

He had stilled his mental voice completely, leaving her only physical clues, but his eyes--her eyes--were bright with excitement and wanting. He was smiling the out-of-place Avon smile with her lips.

"Go on." He slid further beneath her, making her aware of how slender and fragile her body seemed from outside. She felt a sudden, irrational fear that she would hurt him.

He pulled her head down and kissed her impatiently. "Go *on*."

Would she have done it if she'd realised what he had begun to plan even then, if perhaps only unconsciously? Probably. She couldn't resist him.

Who hasn't wanted to know what their lover feels when they're making love?

***

Afterwards, Cally rolled over and put her hand on Avon's chest and touched her own breasts there.

Suddenly, he spoke, his voice resonating through her hand.

"Cally?"

"Yes?"

"Let's not tell them."

"What?"

"Let's not tell them what's happened."

"What? No!" A pause. "Why?"

"If we can find a way to reverse it, they need never know."

"That's not the reason." She was a little surprised by her own certainty, because before she'd been sure her intuition had come solely from her telepathy.

"No...no, it isn't."

"What then?"

"I'm not sure but...I feel it would be better for a while? Orac may be able to come up with a solution, given time."

"All right, if you like. Vila would be utterly unbearable, anyway."

"Good. I'll tell Orac."

So, the decision had been made.

***


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