Author's Note: I wrote this story a long time (6 years!) ago, for Ika and Fran. I promised it to another B7 fandom friend (Hi, Val!) who was going to put it into a print zine. Time has passed and as far as I know the print zine never came to fruition, so after a recent review on a B7 fanfic I wrote reminded me of all my stories that never made it to the net, I decided to dig them out.
A silly point of interest: the story was written for Ika and Fran and therefore, Ika did me the honor of using one of my charaters, Sumner, in one of her stories, which, in one of those timing things, actually made it to print while this waited.
Is A Dream A Lie by Morrigan
Avon's head throbbed as he stared at the CADCAM screen. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Another migraine coming on, damn it! I'm almost there. This design is close, but not exactly it. Without opening his eyes he groped in his jacket pocket for the small bottle, eased open the cap, and slid the pill between his forefinger and thumb. He swallowed the pill without water, as was his habit.
Perhaps it was the monitor. With his eyes closed, he could almost see the completed design for the matter transmission system. There is something missing, I know it. I know I know it, but…he winced. The blinding flash heralding the arrival of the migraine chose that moment to descend. A wave of nausea hit and he considered moving to the couch. Perhaps if I turn off the lights?
The knock at the door could not have been worse timed.
"Go away," he muttered through his teeth.
A second knock, louder and more persistent. Without opening his eyes, he growled.
He heard the door open promptly. Whomever it was apparently wanted very much to see him. Heavy boots trod on the soft carpet. Without opening his eyes, he gave warning.
"This is not a good time. Come back later."
"I'm sorry, Avon, that's not possible. I need to speak with you now."
Completely irritated, Avon whirled his chair around to face the intruder as the man shut the door. The swift motion nearly blinded him as his migraine reminded him that stillness was necessary. The trespasser, for it was obviously not a fellow scientist by his attire, was a sturdy man about his own age but quite different in looks. He was a stranger; anyone who knew Avon would have fled when so ordered.
"Look," Avon began savagely, "I don't know who the hell you think you are…"
"Blake," the man interrupted. "Roj Blake." He stared at Avon for a long moment and then smiled sadly. "You don't know me, do you?"
The migraine reasserted itself and Avon closed his eyes in pain. It's the stuffiness in this office, the flickering of the monitor and this damn interloper. I've no time for this; not now.
"Look, whatever your name is, this is not a good time."
Muffled footfalls moved toward him quickly. Avon sensed the man leaning towards him, hovering just over him.
"What's wrong? Avon, Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Go away." Avon opened his eyes warily. "How the hell did you get in here?"
The stranger smiled, again sadly, but backed away. "You'd probably not believe me. Quite a security detail you have for a research scientist."
Oh Christ, not another citizen complaint committee.
"You'll have to take that up with my wife; it's her doing," he snapped irritably and closed his eyes again.
There was blessed silence and Avon hoped that the stranger had made his point and would depart, leaving him to recover. The project was already behind schedule. As lead designer every second of his time was priceless and contending with a migraine and interloper consumed irreplaceable moments.
"Your wife?" the stranger whispered finally. "Avon, you're not married."
"Well now, I suppose that would make the baby a bastard, wouldn't it?"
For some reason this seemed to completely unsettle the stranger. Taking advantage, Avon swung around to face this man.
"Look, Blake or whatever you're called, I don't have time for these games. Come to the point now or I'll have security escort you from here."
Blake straightened, as if he had made a decision.
"The project you're working on. It's matter transmission, isn't it?"
"That's hardly a secret."
Blake nodded slowly.
"You might not understand this now, but you will later. I promise."
Avon watched in confusion as the man pulled a circular object from his pocket. He glanced more closely at it.
"That's aquitar! How the hell…"
Fixated on the object, a bracelet he finally determined, his eyes shifted upward as the man's fist descended, bringing blackness and an escape from the migraine.
Light probed at his eyes and he pulled his head away, wincing.
"You're awake then."
Awake? I'm barely alive by the pounding in my head! Where am I? This isn't my office. That smell? Disinfectant? A medical facility? Avon opened his eyes quickly and glanced around. It's not Dr. Rousert's office. It's not the first aid station at work. He turned his gaze on the woman who had been peering into his eyes. She was attractive, slender with curly hair and a friendly face. He wondered if she was related to that intruder, similar colouring and all, though their builds couldn't be more dissimilar. No, she's radiating kindness while he…difficult to categorise that one.
She smiled at him. She seemed happy, or was it relieved?
"Blake rescued you. You're back on Liberator and I think you'll be all right."
His head was swimming. If he was very careful and stayed perfectly still the light-headedness, that pins-and-needle feeling at the top of his skull would lessen. I'm on some type of medical bed; it's not uncomfortable. Perhaps if I just lie quietly…
"I found these pills in your pocket. Is that what you mean?"
"Those only help the symptoms, the migraines. I require medication for the seizures."
She was staring at him, a blank puzzled look. Really, was it that difficult to understand? It sounds as if Terran is her native language.
"Look, it is rather important that I take this medication regularly. Call Dr. Rousert's office. No, call my wife's office. She can get it delivered to me, wherever I am."
That look of horror of her face was not particularly reassuring. He was having difficulty thinking now, he felt the grey cloud descending. Finally he let his head slip back onto the table and gave into it.
He awoke slowly as he did whenever he had a seizure. Eyes closed, he could feel the monitor leads attached to his chest and temples. Hospital? He couldn't open his eyes yet. From long experience he knew it would hurt too much. It was better to wait a few minutes until the grey vapour had gone. Heart rate? Seems quickened, but breathing sounds normal. Patience, Avon.
Avon's hopes fell. It was the man who hit him. Blake, wasn't it?
"No thanks to you. Was it necessary to strike me?"
He sensed that he had hit a nerve, slightly surprised that he was able to read this stranger's reactions so quickly and with his eyes closed. I'm hardly the people person in the family; well, actually,neither of us is.
"At the time, yes. I am sorry if I hurt you."
It was safe to open his eyes now. Blinking at the large man hovering over him, Avon's quick survey revealed that he was exactly where he had awoken previously. Where am I? What do these people want from me? His addled brain wasn't projecting possibilities particularly well. Silence might be better than giving anything away. He narrowed his eyes at the man, awaiting explanation.
Sighing, the big man pulled a chair towards the bed and straddled it.
"You don't remember me at all, then?"
Repetitive, isn't he?
"I believe we already established that fact."
Blake rubbed his face wearily with his right hand and Avon immediately winced.
That pinch inside my head… Well, without the medication, I suppose the symptoms are more frequent.
"Look, I mentioned to that woman who was here earlier…"
"Yes, right," Avon continued impatiently, "that I need a certain medication. I don't know what you want from me, but without that medication, you will not get it."
You won't get it anyway, but that's for you to figure out.
"Why do you need this medication?"
Blake's head tilted, eyes narrowed as if he was suspicious. He's suspicious? That's rich. He takes me from my office without warning and brings me to this place…this room.
"Is this necessary?"
"I don't know what was done to you and the testing we've done doesn't reveal any physical abnormalities."
Avon blinked. Testing? The monitor leads? What type of testing have they been doing, and why?
"The medication that I require inhibits seizures."
Blake frowned and began to rock the chair slowly, rhythmically.
"Since when do you have seizures, Avon?"
The voice was slow and thoughtful. He says my name as if he knows me. Avon winced again and felt the nausea rising. He fumbled for his pocket: nothing. The bottle was gone. Nearly blind now with the pain, he covered his eyes with one hand. He could hear Blake's voice at a distance, shouting.
He felt a pill pressed into his hand and he swallowed it without thinking. Afterward he realised that the hand had been female. He lay as still as he possibly could, palms pressed to his eyelids in a vain attempt to prevent light from hammering inside his head. Voices murmured in the distance, quietly, harmoniously. Surprisingly, they were soothing and slowly, the blackness receded and he began to breathe normally again.
"Avon, are the questions bringing on these attacks?"
It was the woman's voice, kind and worried. She was safe, not a threat. Don't be a fool; you can't know that.
"Do you know what causes the attacks?"
Again, the voice was gentle and concerned. More concern than he would expect from a stranger that had kidnapped him. Of course, they need me for some reason.
"As I said earlier," he replied with some remaining shred of patience, "the medication prevents them. I don't know why you grabbed me but I'm useless without it."
He opened his eyes, watching her troubled gaze.
"Why did you grab me?"
She reached for his hand and held it gently, holding his gaze with equal gentleness.
"I don't expect you'll believe this now, but Blake rescued you. You belong with us."
Avon winced again as a stabbing light pierced his brain.
"What?" Blake again, demanding.
"Nothing." Avon closed his eyes and gathered his mind. "I'm sorry, you were saying," he said politely to Cally, opening his eyes and giving her his attention.
Cally smiled at him in reassurance.
"You've been gone for over two months."
Gone for two months! He hit me two months ago! Avon's jaw dropped as he stared at her.
"Two months? Where? My wife? My work? I don't understand."
He saw their faces, their uneasiness, and his alarm grew.
"No, Avon. You've been gone from us for more than two months. You are not married and you do not work on the Aquitar Project."
Avon burst out laughing.
"I forgot her birthday again and this is her revenge, isn't it?"
He saw them exchange glances, serious and unhappy glances, and realised to his growing horror that this wasn't going away.
"Whose birthday?" The woman's voice was tentative.
"My wife's of course. Right, you said I wasn't married." He shook his head in disbelief.
Blake glanced at Cally and then back again at Avon.
"And your wife, she wouldn't happen to be named Servalan by any chance, would she?"
Avon glared at him.
"If you know who she is, what kind of game are you playing?"
Cally caught her breath, but Blake pressed on.
"How long have you been married?"
Avon was blinded by another sudden spasm and flinched obviously.
"We've been married three years."
Avon felt a sudden cold draft run through him at the tone of the question.
"One on the way," he answered quietly.
The woman, Cally, stood suddenly and exited the room while Avon watched the man with increasing fear. What do they want from me?
Cally sat on the floor of the corridor, head resting against the wall. She opened her eyes as Blake approached.
"I'm sorry I ran out. I thought I might be ill."
"It's my fault. I should have warned you. He mentioned something like that in his office too."
Blake slid to a sitting position next to her, one large hand covering her small slender one in reassurance.
"It's frightening, isn't it?" he murmured. "He's Avon, but he's not Avon. Somehow I had hoped that his mind might resist it more effectively."
She squeezed his hand in reply.
"How do we reach him, Blake? What worked for you?"
Blake gave a short and bitter laugh. "Cally, I'm no model. There are still large gaps in my memory. I know there are doctors out there, ones that work within the resistance to undo this type of damage. I'm concerned about his physical condition, these migraines and the seizures he mentioned. God knows what they did to him under interrogation."
"How could… They've had him nine weeks. We know that he was under interrogation for nearly three of those weeks and then they moved him to Rehabilitation. How could she…"
"She wouldn't need his co-operation, Cally, nor even his participation. You know that. It may not even be true; it could be just another of the lies they programmed him to believe."
Blake mused that this was going to be bad enough without dealing with hurt and jealousy. Of all the Federation's acts of oppression, rehabilitation is the most destructive, both to the individual and those who care for him. I know why the people on Earth went after the rehabilitation centres after the war, but they lost a priceless opportunity. Vengeance won't overthrow the Federation, but I know how they felt. Right now, I would gladly do it myself.
"Come on, Cally. I'll need to brief the others. I gave him a sedative; he should be out for a while yet."
All right, let's reconstruct. That man, Blake, had a bracelet with aquitar. He knew about the matter transmission project and somehow he got me from my office to here. Where? Avon sat up gradually, sticking the tranquilliser pad on the wall, hands pressing down on the medical bunk. Yes, a steady vibration. A ship? Am I still in Earth's atmosphere or is this a spaceship?
No, go back to the bracelet. He got me from my office to this ship, with an aquitar bracelet. It can't be, but it must. This Blake person must have a fully functional matter transmission system. Remarkable! I have to see it, see how it handles transmitting living organic beings successfully.
If they already have matter transmission, why did they grab me? If they simply wanted to remove me from my project I would already be dead. I'm no use to them…unless it's political. She warned me and I ignored her; I didn't properly evaluate it, I never took it seriously. It made no sense; it still does not. They know she cannot – will not -- change policies or give them anything substantial. I am no use to a rival party; they must know my disappearance or death would only gain the existing administration sympathy. Therefore, these people are not politicians or employed by her rivals. Perhaps they want to use me to trade? That would indicate these people are part of the resistance. I've never met any resisters, besides those at University. I always thought them fools and starry-eyed children that would grow out of it. How could the resistance have a matter transmission system? If they did, I would have known. Certainly it would be classified, but I would have known something of it.
He glanced around and began to explore the medical unit with his eyes. Rising, he detached the monitor leads, coiling them distractedly and dropping the coils on top of each of the monitors, which he switched off. Cabinets: let's see what is in the cabinets. This is some type of scanner I suppose. More of the same. Tranquilliser patches. Interesting looking pads, I wonder about their purpose. Ah, drugs. Let's see if there is any betzulderine? Nothing. I wonder if it can be synthesised? Surely they must have some type of medical computer.
More medical beds, more monitors, bandages, slings, material for casts. Oh, this seems to be an internal communication panel. Here's the medical computer. Should I take a look now or wait for their return? Foolish question, Avon, let's get started.
You can't go home again, or can you? The flight deck, his cabin, nearly every part of Liberator was home, as much home as he'd had in three years. A damn site more comfortable than resistance camps. Sighing, he called them together on the flight deck. Vila had to be woken, sleeping in his cabin this time, not during his watch.
Blake watched this new bunch, Avon's crew really, come together. It may be familiar but it still feels odd. The new faces are only a part of it although I suppose we'll eventually get used to each other, assuming of course that I stay. I thought I'd leave once Avon was back, but I can hardly say that he's back, can I?
Blake stood, moving restlessly while the other draped themselves on the flight deck couches. Tarrant ramrod straight, still a bit too FSA for Blake's comfort. Dayna lounged on the couch, half graceful girl, half predator. Vila sprawled in the corner of one couch, arms resting on its back, his comfort assured. Cally, poor Cally; she perched at the edge as if her nervous energy and worry could restore Avon to himself.
"Obviously the rescue went smoothly, but the rehabilitation seems to have been quite thorough."
Pushing blunt fingers through his mass of curls – I need to remember to get a haircut soon, it's nearly out of control and as long as Cally's – Blake began circling the couch area.
"He doesn't know me. He doesn't know Cally. He apparently doesn't know anything about Liberator or any of us."
Blake paused, pulling at his lower lip.
"As far as he knows, he is Kerr Avon, lead designer of The Aquitar Project, a Federation attempt to construct a matter transmission or teleport system. He believes he's married and expecting a child."
That got them. Tarrant's jaw dropped and the young man worked his jaw around in obvious disbelief while staring at the ground. Dayna's large eyes became enormous and she aimed them in Cally's direction. Vila's face was still, his eyes calculating, processing the information.
"Who's he married to?"
Blake glanced at Vila, the first to respond, and thought Vila probably had already guessed.
"You won't like this."
"Servalan," Dayna spat. "That bitch. How better to control him?"
"A child?" Tarrant sputtered. "Servalan and Avon?"
"Spawn of the devil, isn't it?"
Four pairs of eyes raked Vila soundly.
"Imagine! Pale skin, dark hair, dark eyes, and a twisted devious mind. Could resemble either of them."
"Vila!" A thrown elbow accompanied Dayna's objection. "Blake, what do we do?"
Blake and Cally exchanged glances, each deferring to the other until Blake reluctantly continued.
"First things first, we need to take care of physical problems – migraines that we've seen and seizures that he's mentioned – which could be a side-effect from his interrogation or the conditioning. After that's under control, the best thing – at least in my opinion – is to begin revisiting his real history with him."
Blake frowned and exhaled slowly, underscoring his frustration.
"The major problem that we have is that not only doesn't he know us, he doesn't trust us. Based on the questions he's asked, he thinks he's been abducted. Considering his wife's position, it will be hard to dissuade him."
Dayna gulped, eyes wide, lips curling.
"Do you think they're really married?"
"No!" Blake paused a moment, thinking about the question after he had already answered it. "I suppose it's possible but I think it's just another lie he was fed. As far as the child, I don't know. As I said to Cally, Servalan neither needed his co-operation or participation for that to have occurred and it's a damn effective means of preventing him from hurting her."
"If she's carrying Avon's child, I doubt I could either," Cally added quietly.
"Speak for yourself!" Dayna snapped. "I wouldn't hesitate!"
Tarrant finally raised his eyes from the floor.
"What about doctors? Are there specialists that can help?"
Blake finally sat, next to Tarrant to his own surprise, and rested his elbows on his knees.
"Yes, I've heard of some within the resistance, but I have to admit the idea of another doctor messing with my mind is off-putting. I doubt Avon would like it either and I hesitate to do that to him."
"There's not much choice, is there?"
Practical young Tarrant, things must seem so much simpler at your age than they do at mine. Blake smiled ruefully. Here I am going on as if I'm a grandfather; I'm probably only a dozen, maybe fifteen, years senior to Tarrant. It seems a lifetime since I was his age.
"No, not if we've already assumed the right to make decisions for him," Blake responded quietly. "Bear in mind, Tarrant, there's nothing wrong with his reasoning ability. He can make decisions for himself. It's his memory they've altered. He's not incompetent and I'm not going to force him into something of which he wants no part."
Blake had pitched his voice to its lowest, most serious register. Hear me youngsters and don't think you'll make decisions contrary to mine in this matter. I'll hear your input, I'll gladly accept as much information as you can find, but you won't decide what's right for Avon. I'll do that; with Cally's input, of course.
Nine weeks earlier…