The Butterfly Effect (2): Out of the Dark

by Kathryn A

Death is an interim state. Interminable. What is the measure of time? Is it the turning of the stars? I could not see them. Is it in the one-note song of a vibrating crystal? I could not hold one. Is it the falling of the sand-grains? There was nothing to fall. Is it measured by the pace of a heart? I had no heart to beat. Is it counted in the rhythm of breaths? I had no lungs to breathe. With none of these, where is the time? Interminable. No time. Only waiting. No time. Only thought. Only tedium. Futility.

Once, I had something to look forward to. Once, I had something to wait for. Once, I knew that this interim state would have an end. It was destined. It was foretold.

But now, nothing. Just the lifeless emptiness of Space.


I became aware, aware of time. Heart beat. Another's heart beat. Just barely there. A trickling of moments, a misty dew from the riverbed of Time.

Then I understood, and hope, wing-footed, came to me. It was her. Her. My lifeline. She was a clone and a telepath. She had been meant for me. I had thought it would be easy, that first time. A telepath alone is incredibly vulnerable; telepaths together can support each other, but one alone, among the head-blind, has nothing to fall back on. They ache for communion. So I gave it to her. I was her balm. She was my anchor. My template.

And then I was cut off at the root.

Though I had failed to complete my form, though I was swept away into the abyss, my connection with her had not snapped as I had thought. It was a bare thread, but it was there. She did not know it, but she was giving me a second chance. She was my anchor to the sea of life. I just had to watch and wait. Wait, and seize the moment when it came. And it would come.

I watched and waited like a putti at a hole, and wove the thread stronger. What I waited for was the spark of new life, that I could cleave to without battle, for I had no machines to help, no energy to draw on. If I had, if only I had... for I could tell, as I wove closer, that something had weakened her. Something had happened, while I was lost in the dark, that made her seek death, to crave oblivion, a self-loathing that made her weaker than any mere desire for communion. And I could not act! Else I would give her what she wanted in a moment; give her the dark, and take the fire of life for myself. She did not want it. She did not want it as much as I.

I waited. Her fire of self grew, but not not greatly. If I had the power...

And then. And then.

Power. An explosion of power, enough to break the walls between the worlds. For a moment it was, but a moment was all I needed, a moment was what I had been waiting for, had fantasized over. I acted without thinking. Poured the power down the thread, poured myself - though it burned like lightening, acid etched down my phantom nerves, but only for a moment.

There was no battle. I merely magnified her death-wish and made it real; gave her a hole to crawl into, locked her in a box without a key. No chances for second thoughts. What was hers was now mine, taken, mine.

A moment.


And then.

Sweet words in my new/old ears. "Cally, are you all right?"

A breath. A sweet, sweet breath. Gravity giving me a down, an up. Pressure. Lying. Lying on my back. Eyelids, shut. Open. Light. Shut. Dark.


Articulate the tongue, the vocal chords; one word: "Dizzy." Open the eyes. Blink. Breathe. Heart, precious heart, beats. Look. Focus.

They gather round me, both strange and familiar. Tarrant, the warrior; Dayna, the minstrel; Vila, the fool. And Avon, the sorcerer, my bane.

A curse upon them, snake-tongued seers! Oh, it wasn't as if they were wrong, not at all. They foretold the means of my deliverance, those who would give me life again - and they foretold my bane. But foretellings are not clear. He who was my bane, I had dismissed as a mere obstacle. Am I not mightier than any mere mortal? What threat could they be? Fear of death was always enough to keep them in line. But he did not fear death. And she would not let me kill him.

My bane, my bane. My enemy. He must die.

I struggled to stand up. "I'm fine," I said.

Avon looked sharply at me, but he had more urgent things on his mind. "Well, we won't be, it we don't do something. Servalan has this whole place booby-trapped."

"How do you know?" Tarrant said sharply.

Avon's eyes hooded. "I found out," he answered. "The base is scattered with bombs on sonic fuses. The ship she left us has a larger bomb which will trigger the others when it goes off."

"I don't want to be blown up!" Vila yelped.

"Then you'll have to do your best to defuse them," Avon returned. "Cally and I will go to the ship. The rest of you look for the bombs here and put Dayna or Vila onto them."

"But Cally fainted-" Dayna objected.

"I'll go," I said, wanting to get away from their prying eyes, not wanting to draw attention to myself. I didn't realize that one might be harder to fool than many. That one, anyway. He will die. He is only a mortal, of course he will die. But I wanted to kill him myself. I wanted him to die by my hand. I wanted him to beg for his life, as I begged for mine. And it would be easier to kill him if we were alone.

He gestured to me. "Coming, then?"

He was running on nervous energy alone, and still they obeyed him. As did I - for the moment.

The air outside the underground base was cold, and there was snow on the ground. We were on a planet, not on their ship, not on the Liberator. He charged me with keeping a lookout for anything hostile, "including links", whatever they were. But after that he said nothing, which was a relief.

I looked around, not wanting to die on a strange planet so soon after being alive on it. The walk helped my coordination, though I knew it would be a while before I was comfortable in this body. And I had to learn to seem to be Cally, had to do it fast, before they became suspicious. Not that it would be hard, I thought, for her memories were still there, I just had to sort them out.

In ages past, after death, my people had been reborn as children, weaving ourselves at the moment of conception, waiting for the growing before we could speak again, before we could share our wisdom and learning again. Of course we were venerated - it was only our due. We were immortal.

A suitable period after one of us died, there would be a Searching - to find the child that the lost one had been reborn into. And there was much rejoicing when he was found.

But as our wisdom and technology grew, we lost patience with the old way, with the uncertainty of it - for sometimes the lost were never found. We investigated cloning, and with it, telepathy, and with that, the technology of psi enhancement. For if we could place ourselves in a body full-grown, or use one as a template, then the waiting and uncertainty would be over.

And we did it. Only we, for we knew well the intricacies of the knitting of soul and flesh. Even force-grown clones have souls - for else they would not live. It was that life we needed to bridge the gap between life and unlife, that we needed to live again. The life of a foetus, or the life of a clone, what matter? The clones were paltry things, hardly alive until we took them.

But here, my destiny had led me into space, with a rendezvous that had been centuries in the making, in the waiting. I had forgotten how to wait. But at last, the wait was over. This time it would work. I had taken her for myself, and this time she could not drive me out.

I rifled though her memories, and found things there that I did not like. The Liberator was destroyed. It must have been that death which freed me. All well and good, but how was I to get home again? My beautiful home, that it would take more than one of their lifetimes to reach, even on a ship such as the Liberator. This body would die before I saw my home again. But it would have anyway, even if the Liberator were whole; these mortals' lives were so short. I would have to cultivate patience - and deception.

For there was another thing that I learned which alarmed me. Avon was a latent telepath. His talent had emerged by accident and then been suppressed again. It was the events around this which had weakened Cally's soul, though I could not understand why. But if his talent emerged again, he could wreck all. Better to kill him as soon as possible.

But not before he had defused that bomb. I had no wish to die sooner than I needed to.

We found a ship, a clunky, clumsy box of a ship, landed on the top of a rise. We entered carefully, Avon pointing out the light-beams that would have triggered the bomb had we broken them in our passage. We half-closed the door to prevent some animal blundering in.

The bomb was near the back of the ship, hard against a bulkhead by the fuel tanks. The ship was so primitive it still used chemical fuel for take-off and landing. It would make a very large explosion.

Avon started work on the bomb; I handed him the tools that he required, like a surgeon and his apprentice. It was that which was my downfall.

When I handed him a cutter, our hands touched. He dropped the tool, and stared, wide-eyed, at me.

Telepathy is enhanced by physical contact.

"Who are you? What have you done to Cally?"

"But Avon," I bluffed, "I am Cally." Even as I spoke, I reached for a weapon, the gun he had given me to keep watch with. Better to kill him now.

But he was faster. Cally was agile, but I had not yet mastered her reflexes. My ways of fighting were different. And he was stronger. The bomb, half-disarmed, was forgotten as we fought. He caught my hand and squeezed. I could not keep hold of the gun, and it clattered to the floor. After a brief struggle, he pinned me to the floor. Worthy opponent. Matching wits before, we fenced, and I lost. What a pity he must die. I will honour him by my memory. The memory that is my people's longest legacy.

For there are other ways of fighting than mere force. Cally was a telepath, and though I was used to the boost our machines gave us, her talent would be enough. Because he was a telepath with no training at all, and I had centuries of experience.

I cast myself off, and plunged into his mind; though the gate into the keep of his soul. Heavy doors clanged shut to keep me out, but too late; I was already inside.

The first move was simple: I told his hands that they were burning. Animal instinct - he let go. I scrabbled for the gun, glancing away from him while trying to find where it had dropped. That was enough. I found the gun, but he had shaken the illusion. When I looked back, he was kneeling next to the bomb, one of his hands in its innards.

"Drop the gun," he said, "or the bomb goes off."

"Why should I care?" I hissed, remembering my wrongs. "I get to see you dead either way."

"You won't see me dead if you're in pieces," he replied.

True, I didn't want to die just yet. And I wanted him to beg. "That," I pointed to the bomb with my chin, "wouldn't kill me. It would just kill Cally."

"She would rather die than -"

"Live?" I interrupted. "That's why it was so easy. She didn't want to live. I gave her what she wanted."

His face went stony cold. Ah, good. I had hurt him. With the truth. Always more effective, the truth. Or the half-truth. "If you don't disarm that bomb, your friends will die. Would they think it was worth it?"

His eyes narrowed. "Probably not." He glanced at the box of tools. "Pass me the tools."

I pushed the box over with my foot. I knew he hadn't given in. He was just stalling.

He withdrew his hand from the innards of the bomb, picked up a clipper, and continued on from where he had been before. Except now I was pointing a gun at him.

He worked away for fifteen minutes, picking out tools from the box himself. He picked out a laser-cutter from the box, as he had done before, turned it on - and threw it at me.

The beam grazed my hand, as he had intended. I jerked, pulling the trigger with a wild shot that damaged a wall. But that was enough distraction for him to use; he launched himself at me and had me on the floor in a moment. We rolled, fighting over the gun. He squeezed my wrist as if he were cracking a nut. I dropped the gun. He pinned me to the floor, his weight heavy upon me.

"Pain," I whispered to his nerves, but he didn't let go.

"Never use the same trick twice," he hissed through gritted teeth. He tried to block my sending, tried to parry it, tried to reflect it back to me, but he was clumsy as a child. Yet, he endured.

"When did you get the Gift back?" I taunted. "Ten minutes ago?"

I told his inner ears that he was spinning. He shut his eyes and quickly opened them again, but he did not let go. He only shifted his grip, pinning my arms together in front. I heaved, to no avail. If only he'd had his hand over my mouth, I could have bitten him.

He bared his teeth in a smile, or a grimace, or a snarl. "Witch," he hissed, "shouldn't you be turning into a snake about now?"

Then he shut his his eyes and sent me blindness. It was a feeble sending. I shook it off and sent him dazzlement.

He sent me suffocation. And I couldn't shake it. I told his lungs he was drowning. He laughed. I sent him the cold of space, and he shuddered, but I couldn't break his illusion.

Then I realized, as the spots came before my eyes, that it was no illusion. He really was choking me!

You're killing Cally!

"Cally is dead," he said, but there was something in the way he said it, behind his words, that said he didn't quite believe it. "You said so yourself."

I could give her back to you.

But my temptation failed. He sensed my desperation.

"Go back into the dark," he said, and the darkness came, the smothering tide of unconsciousness, the deepest sleep of the flesh.

I want to live!




And then I knew that she was dead.

I was back in the dark. Back in the dark of death.

Live! Live, Cally. Live!

The words came with every breath he breathed into her lungs. Four minutes. Four minutes. Breathe, damn you, Cally! Breath, breath. Heart, heart. One, and, two, and...

Clinically dead. He'd had to. The alien wouldn't go until she was dead. But she didn't have to stay dead. Not if he could resuscitate her. One and, two and...

The alien was gone, but that didn't mean that she - it - wouldn't come back. If it returned, he would just have to kill her again. Permanently. If this wasn't permanent already. Don't think, breathe. One and, two and, three and, four and...

He was dizzy with hyperventilation when it happened. The beat. And another. A breath. And another.

He held himself up with his arms on his knees, and whispered "Cally," staring at her unconscious form. Exhaustion hit him like a dumping wave. He couldn't leave her on the floor. And he couldn't keep watch, either; he wouldn't last. He staggered to his feet, and went off in search of the ship's sick bay.

He found it, and found something he could drag Cally's body back with. He managed to get her to the sick bay, and lift her up to the examining table. He stared at her for a moment. She seemed to be breathing normally, but she was deeply unconscious. She might never wake up. Or worse, the alien could return and kill him while he slept.

Then he noticed that the table had restraining straps built in to it. Wearily, he fastened them, and then staggered off to an officer's cabin, and collapsed into the bed, and an exhausted slumber.

Dayna shook him awake. Her anxiety beat on him like a handful of nettles.

"Avon, what happened?" she asked. "What's the matter with Cally?"

Avon gathered his wits together. "Is she awake?" he asked, but he knew the answer before the words formed on Dayna's lips. Telepathy. It hadn't been a dream. Unless this was a continuation of the same nightmare, and he had yet to awaken.

"No, she's unconscious," Dayna's answer came, as he knew it would.

"How long...?" he asked, as he staggered to his feet.

"Five hours," Dayna answered. "When you didn't come back, I came looking. I didn't think it would take you that long to defuse the bomb here - not a bad job, by the way - so we thought there was something wrong. Why didn't you let us know?"

"How?" he snapped back at her, stepping out the door, and heading for the sick bay. Dayna trailed behind him, at a loss for an answer. Avon could hear her thinking as she realized that Avon couldn't exactly have left Cally on her own (whatever had happened) and that he must have been exhausted anyway, but maybe he could have used the ship's radio, except that he wouldn't have known that they'd found the communications controls in the base either.

"But what happened?" she asked as they entered the sick bay.

"Cally was attacked," he answered evasively. He put his hand on Cally's forehead. Nothing. Not a flicker of thought. "I think she's in a coma."

"Then she won't need these," Dayna remarked, starting to undo the straps that held Cally down.

Avon grabbed Dayna's hand. "Leave it alone," he said sharply.

"Why?" Dayna returned angrily. "What is going on? I can't help if you won't tell me! If you hadn't been so keen on secrecy -"

"Then the Liberator wouldn't have been destroyed?" he finished for her. He sighed. "Cally was taken over by an alien. It used the energy of the Liberator exploding to attack Cally."

"When Cally fainted -" Dayna began.

Avon nodded. "Cally fainted, but it wasn't Cally who got up again. It was the alien using her body like a puppet," he said. "When I realized what happened, it tried to kill me. It failed. I defended myself." He nodded at Cally's body on the bench. "It is gone for now, but I don't know if it would come back. Or she could wake up fine, or she could remain like that."

"Or she could die," Dayna said morbidly. "And all we can do is wait."

Avon stared at the still, slow-breathing form of the Auron on the bench. "I'm not so sure," Avon said slowly. He didn't like the idea that had just occurred to him. It was a foolish notion. And yet, he didn't think that Cally's unconsciousness was due to something merely physical. Maybe its cure would be equally intangible.

"None of us are medics," Dayna stated. "And we don't have the Liberator's medical systems any more."

Avon might have taken that as an accusation, but he knew she didn't mean it that way. "See if you can contact the others," he suggested. "The ship's radio may not work of course. She said the ship was badly damaged; I wouldn't be surprised if the damage was all deliberate."


Avon raised one eyebrow. "You don't think Servalan actually wanted us to be able to leave, do you?"

Dayna nodded in agreement. "I'm glad she's dead," she said savagely, "even though I didn't kill her myself."

Dayna left. Avon shut the door and locked it. He didn't want an audience for what he was going to try. He pulled up a chair next to the bench, undid the strap over Cally's chest, took her hand and sat down in the chair beside her.

What do I do now? he thought to himself. I don't know anything about telepathy. I have it, it seems, but I don't know how it works. But it does work, he told himself. When you were fighting It, you didn't have time to think, you just did it. Instinct. What a pity I mistrust instinct, he thought wryly. I much prefer to understand what I'm doing. Unfortunately, this is a luxury I can't afford. You don't have time to analyze it, just do it. He sighed. Do what? he asked himself. Reach Cally, he answered. Bring her out of the dark.

He shut his eyes. Cally, he called. Cally. It was like shouting in a sound-proofed room. Cally! Cally! He tried to get closer to her, but there was nothing to latch on to. Just darkness. The darkness on the inside of an eyelid. The darkness of a plain of night. If you cannot fly, walk, he thought to himself. So, in his mind's eye, he started walking. Walking on that plain of night. Walking and calling, unaware of the passage of time. Cally! Throwing it out like a life-line. Hauling it back, and casting it off again. Cally!

Gradually, imperceptibly, the dark plain became closer, smaller, more closed in, turning from infinite blackness to something merely vast, as a cavern carved by a midnight ocean which had departed long ago to even vaster depths. Then it was only huge, and then large, and then, not even large, and not even a cave. It had direction. It was a tunnel, dark and black as a coal mine, yet he could see. Avon walked along it, still calling. Cally!

Then he saw something on the ground, or the floor, or whatever it was. A rectangular something. A container. A large chest. And then, as he came closer, he could see it was a casket, a coffin with a transparent lid. And inside was Cally, lying as if asleep.

He knelt by the casket and said, "Cally, wake up! It's safe, you can come out now, she's gone."

There was no response.

He tried to open the casket, but the lid was not made to open. There wasn't anything to pry it open with. He hit it with his hands, but all he did was jar his hands. Finally, he found a stone, and smashed the glass. Shards tinkled down and scattered everywhere. They melted when they touched Cally, but him, they cut, until his hands were bleeding from many scratches. He ignored them.

He lifted Cally gently from the casket, and said, "Cally, wake up. Cally!" He shook her. "Wake up!"

Leave me alone. Faint, but undeniably Cally.

"No," he returned, putting the body on the ground, but leaving his hands on its shoulders. "I won't leave you alone. Wake up!"


"No," he said, more softly. "I won't leave you... alone."

Her eyes fluttered open. "Avon? Is it really you? Is this a dream?"

"More like a consensual shared hallucination," he remarked. "But you're the expert on telepathy."

Her eyes widened, and she sat up. "What? Telepathy? Your telepathy returned? But you're not supposed to be here! I'm supposed to be dead! Why couldn't you leave me alone?"

He countered her question with a question. "Why did you want to die? She said you wanted to die. Why?"

She glared at him. "You know why. I am zhekuth-na. I mind-raped you. I am a monster."

He raised an eyebrow. "A month ago, Vila drugged us as a joke, my latent telepathy was triggered, yours was enhanced, you mind-raped me, I went crazy, you became suicidal, we both got cured, end of story." His eyes narrowed. "Now tell me the real reason."

"That is the real reason."

"How many times do we have to tell you? It wasn't your fault!"

"That's what scares me," she answered softly.

"Ah," he whispered, understanding. He always valued his self-control; one reason why he wasn't particularly fond of alcohol. To have no control of one's actions, do things one abhorred...

"I don't ever want to hurt you again," she added.

He couldn't help it - he laughed. "Is this your cure for all the ills of the world?" he said. "Universal suicide?"

"But it could happen again!" she protested.

"Or you could stumble and accidentally stick a dagger into me too!" he answered sarcastically. "Don't be such a fool," he continued. "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something."

"Then why live at all, if all it is is the giving and receiving of pain?" she answered.

He smiled, not a happy smile, more as if he were biting something. "The pain tells you that you're alive. It's when you can't feel it that you might as well die."

And yet you bottle yourself up to protect yourself from pain, to protect yourself from life?

He snorted. "I didn't say you had to enjoy it," he said. "Just endure it."

"And you would endure a zhekuth-na?"

"You are considerably better than the alternative," he said.

Her face paled. She...

"Is gone," he answered. "Now stop sulking and come back."

"You killed her," she said. "You killed her again."

"I killed you too," he said baldly. "You're in a coma."

"A coma? And you are in rapport with me, here? You didn't know what you were doing, did you?" she said worriedly. "Rapport this deep is very dangerous. If I die, you could die!"

Avon smiled, eyes glittering. "Then you had better not die, then, had you?" he said.

She stared at him. "Avon..." Did the walls become almost imperceptibly brighter? Why risk yourself for me?

"If you want one of my own patented rational explanations," he answered, "we can't afford to lose you."

Half-truth, she thought warmly. "Avon -"

He held up his hand to forestall her. "Don't say something you might regret."

She smiled. It became brighter around them. "Regret is part of being alive," she quoted himself at him.

His eyes twinkled. "But make it a small part."

"As you do?"


It was now as bright as a full moon cloaked by clouds. The landscape around them had changed. No longer a cave, it was a valley, at night. A night full of stars - and a clouded moon.

He stood up and pulled Cally to her feet.

"Your hands," she said. "They're hurt."

"I had an argument with a casket," he answered.

"Who won?" she asked.

He looked around at the paling sky. "I think I may have," he answered, pointing. At the rim of the valley, the sun was starting to rise.

"You need to break the rapport," she said. "Or you may not wake, yourself."

He raised an eyebrow. "How?"

"Close your eyes, and listen. Listen to your heartbeat. Concentrate on the beat. Concentrate."

Avon concentrated and listened. At first he could hear nothing. Then he heard it, faintly. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Beat. Breathe. Beat. Breathe.

Then he was sitting in a hard chair, limbs like lead, and the thumping he heard was not his heart, but someone banging on the door.

"Avon, let me in!" It was Dayna. "Avon, answer me!"

He staggered to his feet and unlocked the door.

"Avon, you look terrible!" Dayna exclaimed. "What happened?"

"Everything, and nothing," he answered cryptically, then turned around and went to look at Cally. He put his hand on her shoulder. "Cally, wake up."

Her eyes fluttered open, and she smiled. "Blackmailer," she whispered.

"Warn me the next time you're feeling suicidal, and the measures won't have to be so drastic," he replied.

Dayna had only been a step behind Avon. "What are you talking about?" she asked. "I thought you said she was in a coma. And what about the alien?"

"Dayna," Cally tried to say, but it only came out as a croak. It's all right. she sent. The alien is gone. I'm fine.

"As long as she doesn't try to talk," Avon remarked dryly.

And whose fault is that? she sent pointedly.

"Mine," Avon answered, and he didn't look the least bit sorry.

"What happened?" Dayna asked, frustrated.

I was taken over by an alien, Avon defeated her, I was in a coma, Avon persuaded me to wake up. Cally sent quickly.

"Persuaded you to wake up?" Dayna echoed, looking oddly at Avon.

His telepathy is back.

Avon looked daggers at Cally. Dayna looked daggers at Avon.

"When did your telepathy come back?" she asked suspiciously.

Avon sighed. "When Servalan was trying to delude me that she had Blake, it started to come back then," he answered. "Self-defence."

"That's how you knew about the bombs," Dayna said.

Avon nodded.

Dayna stared at Avon uncomfortably, remembering the last time Avon had been telepathic.

"No, I'm not about to start burbling like a baby," he snapped. "What I am going to do, is sleep."

With that, he returned to the officer's cabin he'd used before, and did just that - he slept.

Hours later, he awoke. The lights were dim, and he wondered what woke him. Cally? He got up, and went to the sick-bay. She was sleeping.

Alone... Cally sent in her sleep.

Avon stood silently and looked at her. "I'm afraid not," he murmured. "Never alone, Cally. Not any more."


It is dark where I am. Dark. The absence of light. Some describe death as cold, but it is not. Cold is a sensation. There is no sensation here. Numb. A place beyond cold, beyond heat, beyond light. Beyond life.

Waiting. Interminable waiting. Time is measured in heartbeats. Heart-beats. Heart beats?

She is alive. He tricked me. He tricked me again. She is alive, and I am lost in the dark.

Not lost. No, not lost. I cannot take her again, that is certain. Not now that she is no longer alone. Not now that she has him. But she is still my link, my anchor. I can wait. There is still the old-fashioned way, the weaving. My liberty, yes, and the sweetest of revenges.

I cannot kill him. I cannot possess her. But I will take their firstborn.

(The first story in The Butterfly Effect series, "A View From the Madhouse", appeared in Gambit 13)