John squared his shoulders, closed his eyes, and entered dream space.
"Your friend will be fine," Dreamer said. "But I recommend you allow me to visit her again, and allow her to remember the visit."
"Clearly, that isn't an option. But I'm curious why you're asking for it."
"I like her. I could spend time with her. I am unhappy with my loneliness."
"When we found you, you had been locked up in here for at least twenty two hundred thousand of our years. You did not seem desperate for company when we found you."
"You are not the sort whose company I am likely to be desperate for."
"The rebuke is noted. Even if it comes from someone locked in a prison with an inscription that reads 'not to be freed until the last star has gone out'."
"For all you know, or I do, that's the punishment my kind imposes for speaking out of turn. We've been over this. You do not know what I did to deserve this, and have no framework to determine if I have been justly or unjustly imprisoned. Neither do I."
"I don't even have the framework to determine if you're telling the truth. All I know is, your amnesia on the specific topic of what you are and what you did, is rather convenient."
"Not as convenient as my lack of amnesia in the areas of the technologies and mental disciplines you are interested in. You have what you want, John. You can Dream. You can travel between the stars with a thought. You have your self-rule, your physical needs met and your playmates at your fingertips. I'm of no further use to you. Free me."
"I am certain you still have uses. And I suspect you'd slay me the instant you were out of this cage. I do not think you have forgiven me for the experimentation I did on your cage, and hence you, in the beginning."
"Perhaps I have not. But perhaps I'd be satisfied with inflicting on you the agony you inflicted on me, and calling it even."
"That's not much of an incentive."
"We've discussed the other one -- that my people will come back, see the uses you've put to me and the technology here, and disapprove. And I feel they would disapprove very much. If that happens, it is better to have me on your side than otherwise. I could at least give you shelter."
"You failed to save yourself from their wrath. I don't think you'd be able to save others."
"Freed, you have no idea what I can do. And without me, I feel certain you would have no chance at all. I feel instinctively that my race is not strong in the area of mercy and forgiveness. Unlike your Yarah."
John smiled. "She has forgiven me?"
"You ask a question with an answer so complex you could not begin to understand it. It amazes me that you can take a creature with her depth and complexity, her vast ability to balance love and hate and mercy, and chain her to your bed for your gratification. Perhaps you are not so different than those that locked me here after all."
"I don't think of it that way. They created for you the most horrible torture in the universe: you and a box, and nothing else. Nothing I ever do with Marie will approach the cruelty of your race."
"And yet you choose to keep me in the box."
"If your people show up again, I will be sure to ask them if I made the right choice."
"She deserves a batter fate than you, you know."
"And when I found her, she was heading for a worse one. I'm sorry, Dreamer, but in the narrative of my life, I'm the hero, not the villain. I keep you in here because otherwise I'm not safe and maybe my whole race isn't safe. I came to this world to keep a very, very dangerous technology out of the hands of people of my race who would have used it far more badly than I have. And while I have kidnapped my women to join me in my self-imposed exile, the males of my race have a history of capturing and carrying off women, and the women have generally forgiven them. I'm the good guy here."
"How convenient that good and evil are yours to decide."
"And how convenient that I'm not the one stuck in a box. Good night, Dreamer, and thank you for curing Marie."
He exited dream space.