Memories in the Dust

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

   

Zorro rode the night, the steady rhythmic pounding of Tornado’s hooves on the hard earth soothing his troubled thoughts.  Once again, El Diablo had slipped away.  Zorro was beginning to think that this man might just be the Prince of Devils the peons were whispering he might be.  He had robbed several churches, mostly small ones, but his trail from each one had ended abruptly.  There were no clues.  Absolutely nothing.  The trails, and any tracks ended as abruptly as though a wall had been placed in the way.  And in some cases, the trails had ended in front of sheer rock walls, or at cliffs where he could not remember them being before.  Each time, it had left him feeling a cold sense of foreboding.  Somehow, Zorro felt that this was just a precursor to another, much bigger, raid on the Mission San Gabriel, and he had to find the bandit’s hideout before that happened.  

It had been over four weeks since Bernardo had begun his spying routine but that had garnered them next to nothing.  In those four weeks, he had been unable to capture more than one of the bandit’s followers, and that one would tell him nothing, even when threatened with a sentence in the quicksilver mines.  No hideout, no clues, no trail, it . . . was like the man could disappear into thin air, or that he had a spaceship.

A spaceship? No, impossible! the Rantiri part of his mind said.  His Diego side said the same thing only more vehemently.   But could this insufferable fiend have found something that gave him an advantage?   Perhaps I have been on the wrong track all along.  Maybe I need to look in other directions for my clues, even if they do seem virtually impossible.  Turning Tornado’s head, he sent the stallion racing back home. Bushes and trees swept by and the wind whistled in his ears.  He was continually amazed him at the power and speed with which these animals moved.   As he rode, he realized that if he was right, it couldn’t have gone totally unnoticed, just as the Designated One’s abduction hadn’t.  If a spaceship or any otherworldly device had landed in the vicinity, someone would know of it, even if such an appearance was woven into wild tales that seemed nightmarishly supernatural.

The stallion slowed as they approached the secret cave.  Ducking, they swept under the brush and into the dimly lit, but comfortable interior.  As he took the saddle and bridle off the faithful stallion, Zorro heard steps on the hard stone floor of the cave.  Bernardo pattered into the room, his lantern bringing more light than comfort.  The mute was excited, but his hands were full and he couldn’t communicate.  Setting the lantern down, he proceeded to show Zorro the object that was in his other hand.  It was flat, about the size of a tortilla, a burned and scorched piece of metal, pitted and scratched.  But it was very obviously out of place in this time and on this planet.  

“That comes from a spaceship,” Zorro said out loud, taking the flat piece of metal and examining it closely near the lantern.  A tap on his arm made him realize his mistake. 

‘What do you mean…?’ the mute signed. 

“Nave espacio, Bernardo,” he repeated and then sighed.  How was he going to explain this one? 

Bernardo signed some more.  ‘A ship in the sky, the heavens?’ he asked.  ‘How could that be?’

Pulling down the mask, Diego looked morosely at the ground.  He examined his memories, his feelings and his resolve.  He also examined his own directive on this world and his mind rebelled.  Why do I keep feeling that I need to confide in this man? Is it because in my heart, I believe or hope that the Designated One will come back?  Or does this Earthman have such power to elicit confidence from others? And then his mind did a double take.  The Designated One return?  How could such a thing be?

Another tap… ‘What is wrong?’ the fingers asked.

“Bernardo, a spaceship is a special ship, craft that can ‘sail’ in the sky and into space,” he explained.  But how could the Designated One come back?  And if he did, who would return his memories to him?  He thought furiously, the questions pelting his mind like hailstones.  But he kept coming to the same conclusion – that the Designated One would somehow return.  It was a part of what he had received from the Designated One: that incredible will to triumph, and to keep struggling even under tremendous odds.

Bernardo suddenly remembered a book that Don Diego had brought back from Spain with him; one written by Cyrano de Bergerac that told of a voyage through space in a special craft. He had read it one night, when his patrón was out riding as Zorro, disbelieving every bit of it, but finding the tale intriguing anyway.   Perhaps that is where this notion of a space ship had come from.  He made motions with his hands… an open book.

With another sigh, this one of relief, Diego realized that Bernardo had given him a way out of this most awkward situation.  “Yes, my friend, I read about spaceships in a book.” If there is the slightest chance that the real Diego is able to return, I must be ready to teach him, to give him back what he has lost, he thought, knowing that what he had chosen to do was a complete reversal of the directive he had been given. He brought his mind back to the matter at hand – a spaceship and El Diablo.  “But I believe that such craft exist and this is a piece of one.” 

The mute’s eyes widened in disbelief and he shook his head.  ‘How?  Where did it come from? And what does it mean?’   He signed his questions in quick succession.

“I am not sure.  Call it an educated guess, or just intuition, or both.”  He paused feeling awkward.  He hated deceiving this man who had been totally honest, loyal and devoted. “No, Bernardo, I have done much thinking since my escape, and with the reading that I have done, I feel that maybe the place I was being held in was a spaceship of some kind,” he added.  “As to what it means, I think that may be why El Diablo is able to elude us so well.  If he had a spaceship to hide in….”   He paused again, wishing there was a better way to explain all of this.  Bernardo alternately gazed at him and the charred piece of metal.  His eyes held disbelief, but they also showed a sincere desire to understand what he was being told.

It is so easy to see why the Designated One so quickly trusted this man, and why I, myself, do as well.  He listens, truly listens, with his heart as well as his ears, Diego thought.  “Where it came from, I am not sure, although I feel that it would have to be another world, like this one we live on,” Diego explained.   

‘But how could this be?’ the fingers and face asked.  ‘God created us; he created this world.  I do not understand.’

“Bernardo, if God created this world, could He not have created other worlds?” Diego asked.

Bernardo shrugged, spreading his hands in such a way as to indicate that he really had not thought of such a thing.  Then he nodded and signed his agreement that such might be possible. 

“I have nothing tangible to offer you, no proof, nothing except...maybe this pitted piece of metal.  You must trust me when I say that I believe this is so.”  Bernardo gazed thoughtfully at him, the eyes showing complete and unwavering trust.  “Finish taking care of Tornado for me. I need to check this clue over more carefully.”

Bernardo looked far from enlightened, but he nodded, further indication of the confidence that he had in his patrón.

 

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Jerintas sighed heavily.  He had no idea that he had even been holding his breath as he read the communication from Dr. Klictis on The Galactic Rover.   Then he stood up and slipped the note into Gerol’s eager hands.

“So the Designated One has suffered no permanent effects from his stay on our planet,” Gerol stated with satisfaction after he had read the report. “That is good.” 

“Every blood and tissue sample we have taken from the human, will be kept in their original protective canisters until we find a way to end the radiation.  Dr. Klictis will continue to take more tissue samples through out the voyage.”  Jerintas got up and paced the room.  His agitation was tangible in every stride, in the set of his jaw, in his dark violet eyes.  “How could we be so blind?  How could our scientists not have seen this?”

“How could we know?  It doesn’t affect us as it did the Ancestors, so it was not anything we needed to solve,” Gerol said.  “And since none of our business contacts gave any indication of a problem from the Late Comer, we had no idea that our efforts were in vain.”

“Yes, of course, you are right, Gerol,” Jerintas said bitterly, looking over the papers scattered over his desk, papers sending more units to other worlds to be servants and entertainment units. “What purpose would it serve our customers to have the ‘manufacture’ of units end?  We could no longer be categorized as artificial intelligences under galactic law.  Selling the services of biologically reproduced, or born sentient creatures is tantamount to slavery and it would not be allowed.   Which is another good reason to implement the suggestion of the Committee of Directors immediately.”

“Eliminating the Late Comer?” Gerol asked. 

“Yes,” Jerintas stated. “I want all of our scientific energies diverted to safely removing the small planet.  Even though its orbit is far from ours, the reports that I have been receiving from various scientists indicate that there is a radiation that does not seem to be naturally occurring.  It does not have any similarities with anything known in the universe.  Not only that, it is something that did not even register on our scientific instruments until we had recalibrated them to study the Late Comer.  And what is worse, Gerol, is that it is highly toxic.  Every report that I have read seems to indicate that eventually, it will even begin to affect us.” 

“Perhaps it already has, Director,” Gerol reminded Jerintas.  As the director slid them across the desk, he glanced at the reports received that very morning.

“As you read those, see if you concur with my conclusions, Gerol.  I fully believe that we will eventually begin to sicken and die from the radiation emanating from the Late Comer, much as the Ancestors did.  You, yourself have told me that more unit materials have had to be discarded recently.  I believe that you cited operator carelessness.  I submit that it might not all be Rantiri error.  Therefore we will have to be very careful as we prepare to eliminate the threat of the Late Comer.  We will put the DNA studies on hold until this problem is taken care of.”  Jerintas gazed at his assistant.  “Gerol, I am making you a sub-director.  I want you to personally take charge of dealing with the Late Comer.  I know your work.  I know you can do it."

Gerol blinked in surprise and then sat up straighter in his chair. “I will get on it at once, Director,” Gerol said solemnly, trying to disguise the pride in his voice. 

As soon as the new sub-director left, Jerintas sat down and composed a communiqué to The Galactic Rover. 

 

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Just before dinner, Diego and Minta sat side by side before the ship’s spiritual advisor, whose dark, almost black eyes gazed at them in open curiosity. Minta’s long dark fingers entwined themselves around Diego’s light ones.  “And you wish to become a union?” the advisor asked.  “It is frowned on for a crewman to unite with a passenger.”

“We are both passengers, sir,” Minta said hastily, glancing at Diego’s uniform.  “We are sorry for not warning you, but we came to our decision just this afternoon.  Diego is wearing a uniform because he came on board without any luggage.  Dr. Klictis was kind enough to find a spare uniform for him.”  Her words came out in a rush that surprised Diego.  The normally calm and unflustered teacher was definitely nervous. 

“Ahh,” the advisor sighed, steepling his pale fingers.  He was almost devoid of any coloration, except for the eyes.  His hair was whiter than Minta’s, his skin lighter than Diego’s.  The blue-black tunic he wore made him seem almost ghostly.  “Well, then, by that I can rightly assume that you did not take this cruise for the purpose of a union?”  His lilting speech gave an almost musical, lyrical quality to the translation.

“We cared for one another but did not realize just how much until we came on your spaceship,” Diego explained simply.  “I assume you have the…authority to act for God and form a union?”

“Yes, I have that kind of authority, sanctioned by races from over fifteen planets,” the advisor answered.  “I am curious, however.  It is obvious that you are Rantiri,” he said, pointing to Minta.  “And that you are familiar with the Rantiri,” he added indicating Diego.

Before the advisor could continue, Diego commented, “I am not from Rantir and would prefer more than the Rantiri words of union.  Where I come from there is a . . . ceremony, and afterward . . . celebrations.  As beautiful as the words of the union are, and we do wish to use them, I wanted to have more.”

The advisor nodded, smiling.  “I will be happy to do what I can to accommodate both of you.  First, I will need your names and planets of origin.”

“Diego de la Vega y de la Cruz,” Diego answered, the full name rolling off his tongue without thought, surprising even him.  The advisor moved his fingers over buttons on a small machine.  Looking up, he saw Minta smile in delight.   His remembrance of his name was like the sweet savor of newly opened wine and he rolled it around the corners of his mind until he realized that the advisor was waiting for something else from him. 

“Where are you from, Diego de la Vega y de la Cruz?”

“California,” he answered.

 “That is not a planet I have heard of.  Which quadrant is that in?” the advisor asked. 

Minta stifled a giggle.  “It is not a planet.  California is a colony of Spain,” Diego replied.

“So Spain is your planet?”

“No, Elorim,” Minta interjected, using the universal address of respect for a male humanoid.  “The planet that Diego comes from is called Earth.  It is somewhat remote.”

The pale man nodded.  “Ah, I see.”  He keyed in the command to enter the information that they had given them and began to type in Minta’s name.

“I am Minta Morlif-Brocnor, and I am Rantiri.”  She felt the rightness of using the Ancestor’s name, feeling a kinship with the long dead Minta. 

The advisor paused momentarily as though thinking of something to say.  Minta knew that he was familiar with the Rantiri number designations and she expected him to ask her about her choice of nomenclature.  However, he just shook his head slightly as though he had made a quick mental decision, and then he typed in the information she had given him.  “Very good.  You decide when and just how much you want in the way of celebration and ceremony and I will accommodate your wishes.”

“Gracias,” Diego answered as the pair stood up, their hands still linked.  Kissing her hand lightly, he murmured, “Soon, querida, soon.”

 

 

Chapter Fourteen
Memories Prologue
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