Memories in the Dust
You think that Diego will come home?
But you said that the thing which kidnapped him was a spaceship
and that he was taken away.” Hope
flared up in Alejandro’s heart as he tried to understand everything he
had been told. It was
impossible. The only thing that really mattered were the words, ‘Diego
As Diego used his legs to push himself more
upright, Bernardo and Alejandro leaned over and helped him. Even this seemed to exhaust him and he laid quietly, his eyes
half closed. After a short
pause, the wounded man motioned for some more wine.
Bernardo quickly accommodated him.
He laid his head back on the pillow, eyes closed, resting.
After a moment, the face became more peaceful and relaxed.
“Do you feel up to having some beef broth?”
Alejandro asked after a long hope-filled silence. He wanted to demand
further explanation, cry out for more information now, but he had to be
patient. The man had been shot in the back only twelve hours before.
“It would probably give you strength.”
Diego opened his eyes and nodded, studying him intently.
Bernardo left the room immediately, not needing any further
the part of me that is your son, tells me that he will someday come
home. I was hoping to
remain here, in this role until that happened.
I was hoping to be here to give him his memories back…”
Dread again found residence in his chest.
Alejandro walked to the balcony door and stared at its wooden
panels for a moment, his eyes following the grain of the wood.
So many emotions were churning inside him, fighting for
ascendancy, bringing him hope one second, throwing him into the deepest
pits of hell-spawned despair the next.
Dios, please help me to understand this. Santa
Maria, watch over my son! he cried out in his mind.
His thoughts were bleak and despondent.
Drawing in a ragged breath, he turned to the man on the bed, not
wanting to ask his question, but knowing he had to. “Give him his
memories back? What do you
“Diego did not adapt well to his captivity.
He broke out of his room three times in the two days after he had
“No, Diego never did like being shut in, whether
it was in the house during inclement weather or at times when he was
arrested falsely,” Alejandro commented morosely, aching for the
suffering of his son. Diego
would never have submitted willingly to such captivity.
How could they expect otherwise?
“And he would have tried anything to escape what he considered
the pits of hell.”
“Yes, I know.
I have his memories. I
have the memories of the Rantiri leader as well.
They were given to me when I was created.
Your son’s memories were excised directly from his mind and
given to me. This was done
so that he would have no prejudices or prior experiences that would keep
him from adapting to Rantir, so that he would remain sane and serve the
purpose for which he was selected,” Diego commented sadly.
Horror crept in to reside at the same place in his
heart with the anger and despair. Diego
would remember nothing of his life, of his growing up, his mother or
himself? How could they
be so cruel? How could they
do that to my son? Holy
Blessed Virgin! his thoughts screamed, wanting release.
He looked down and saw his fists clenching and unclenching. “You…you mean if Diego returns, he will not remember his
past, or anyone he knew?” he asked, hearing a quavering note in his
voice. He did not want to
hear what he knew this Rantiri was going to tell him.
“Yes, he would remember nothing; he will have
been taught to live with my people.
I am sorry. That is
one of the reasons why I disregarded the directive I was given and was
awaiting his return. As to
why I feel that Diego, the Designated One, who has no memories of his
past, would still make it back home, I cannot say for sure, only that
the part of me containing your son’s memories and feelings tells me
that it is so. Somehow he
will return. Something deep
inside him, something beyond his memories will guide him back.”
Alejandro stared deeply into the Rantiri’s eyes.
There had to be something there, something that could give him
hope, something that would help him to understand these people who
ripped part of his life away from him. Only this man held the answers, this man who held the image
and the…the soul of his son. He
saw deep concern in those eyes, along with respect, and, yes, caring for
those he had been serving these past months.
Indeed, there was definitely a piece of his son in this
look-alike. He felt the
prickling of hot tears in the corners of his eyes and he turned away
again, this time to stare at the fireplace.
He blinked several times, feeling the confirmation of what this
Diego was telling him. Yes,
if there were any way possible, Diego would return.
Sudden hot and flaring anger at the people, these Rantiri, who so
easily used whomever they chose to use and then discard them when done
with them rose in his chest. How
dare they feel they could pick and choose, take what they wanted without
regard to those they were taking from!
He looked down and saw his hands trembling.
He had to regain control.
Diego watched Alejandro de la Vega intently.
He saw the intense hurt, the anger and despair waging war with
hope in the man’s countenance. Hope
seemed to be completely outnumbered.
This man, for whom he felt a son’s love, hurt terribly and
there seemed nothing he could do about it.
Guilt for his own role in that hurt dug at him and caused him
pain far exceeding that of his physical discomforts.
The door clicked open and Bernardo entered with a
large bowl of beef broth. Alejandro
turned and gazed at Diego briefly.
“I will be right back. You
eat this and rest,” Alejandro said woodenly, walking toward the door
without waiting for an answer. He
had to go somewhere else and think and try to understand all of this.
“Wait, Don Alejandro, there is one other
thing,” Diego called out softly.
Alejandro turned. “We
have to cover for Diego. There
has to be an alibi for his absence, perhaps an extended absence.”
Alejandro just gaped at him, speechless. “ ‘Diego’ has to leave in the sight of the servants.
He has to supposedly go somewhere far enough away that a
prolonged absence will not be questioned.”
Diego paused, trying to gather his thoughts.
He felt much more comfortable, was in slightly less pain, and was
able to breathe easier, but he was still so tired.
He just wanted to sleep, perhaps forever.
Bernardo sat down on the edge of the bed, the bowl
of broth in one hand and a spoon in the other.
The rich aroma of the beef cut through Diego’s lethargy and he
eagerly took several spoonfuls before he explained his plan. “Later this afternoon I will leave as Diego, telling any
curious servants that Zorro has already left on his own. That will help curb any talk that Zorro is seriously hurt.”
Bernardo shook his head and frowned, holding the spoon in front
of his face again. Diego
acquiesced and took some more.
“You can’t be serious!
You are in no shape to do something like that!” Alejandro
“It has to be done.
For your protection, for Diego’s when he returns, for
Bernardo’s and for all of the servants in this hacienda.
It would be devastating if Diego’s secret was revealed.”
“Maybe so, but you are too weak.” Alejandro paced in the confines of the room.
“Ahh, you were always stubborn,” he exclaimed and then
stopped and looked up, a stricken look on his face.
“Will there be any of this left in my son?” he asked pointing
to his heart.
“I cannot say for sure, but I think there will
be. We have to protect
that,” Diego said vehemently, ignoring the ever-present spoon.
“Let me rest this afternoon, regain a part of my strength.
Bernardo can prepare my riding clothes and my saddlebags.
The servants can get my horse ready.
When it is time, I will only have to walk down the stairs, talk a
bit, mount and ride a short distance.
Bernardo will have a carriage waiting in a safe place and he can
drive me to the curandera’s house, in the guise of Zorro, of
Alejandro’s puzzled look, he continued.
“She is discreet, she is a healer and she is remote.
I think she can be trusted.
She does not like the local authorities very much since some have
harassed her in the past.”
“I do not like this,” Alejandro said.
“I do not like the idea of you riding, nor of you going to the curandera.
She might be trustworthy, but if you…”
“If I died?”
“Yes!” Alejandro said harshly, almost shouting,
but restraining himself. Despite
his anger and despair, this man had part of his son inside him and he
cared for him. “She would
wonder about Zorro’s death and someday she would say something, and
that’s if she doesn’t give in and see who it is behind the mask.
And when Diego comes back, she would wonder about the appearance
of another Zorro. At least
Dr. Avila held out a bit of hope for your recovery.
He can continue in that belief.”
He paced back and forth. “First
of all, Bernardo always goes with you whenever you go on trips.
He is your mozo, remember?
Secondly, if you go anywhere, it needs to be the secret cave.
We can fix a place off of the floor where you can recuperate.”
He looked at the man on the bed and saw that he was too exhausted
to even hear everything he was saying much less argue with him.
Bernardo’s persistence paid off and Diego took
another spoonful of broth. “I
do not like it either,” Diego finally said, his voice heavy with
will…think on what…you have said.”
He paused again. So tired, he thought, so very, very
tired. “If I can
sleep for a few hours, I will be fine….”
Diego finally gave in to his body’s demands and let his eyes
close. Bernardo put the
bowl of soup aside and pulled the blanket up around Diego’s chest.
Alejandro looked at the servant. “He’s right, Bernardo, it has to be done.
But there will be modifications to his plan.
You will leave the hacienda with him, but then you will
bring him to the secret cave, whether he agrees to it or not.
I believe that he will not be in any position to argue.”
Minta watched Diego as he worked out on a mat in a
far corner of the exercise room. He
had what he called a practice foil and was going through various
motions, which seemed learned or rote, but were nevertheless graceful.
The printout in her hand was all but forgotten as she watched his
lithe body movements that showed brisal-like agility.
Occasionally he would make small cries and leap forward with his
foil outstretched, and then just as quickly, step back.
Finally she was standing not too far from the edge
of the mat, but such was his intensity that he didn’t notice her
presence. Sweat glistened
on his face, and caused his exercise suit to stick to his body,
accentuating the lines of his lean frame.
She felt the excitement growing in her as she gazed at him,
enraptured. Minta felt the
presence of someone behind her and turned to see Dr. Klictis behind her,
his large red eyes focused on Diego as well.
His mandibles began clicking softly.
“What is Diego doing?” he asked.
“He calls it fencing.”
“It appears graceful, but between two people I
can imagine it could be a very deadly form of fighting,” the doctor
Minta thought of Diego’s comments about Zorro and
felt that this was practice for his role of the masked vigilante.
In her mind she tried to picture someone fighting against Diego
with one of those foils and she shivered slightly.
Would she be able to hold up every night when Diego was out
helping his…no, their people? She would have to, because this Zorro was as much a part of
him as Diego was. He would
never be able to sit idly by and see others suffer.
Raising her chin, Minta determined that she would help him in any
way she could, even if only by giving her loving support.
Finally Diego lowered the foil, took a deep breath
and walked to the furthest edge of the mat where a towel and a carafe of
water sat. Behind her Minta
heard soft acclamations of appreciation and she turned to see that
several other passengers had gathered to watch. As though suddenly
realizing that he was not alone, Diego turned and saw his audience.
His look of surprise changed to appreciation and he made a short
salute to his watchers and a wink to her.
His smile was one of realization of a task well done
Walking up to her, Diego took her hand and kissed
it lightly. “Querida
mia, how long have you been here?” he asked, his breathing only
“Not too long.
That was magnificent, Diego…Eso era magnífico!” she
repeated in Spanish.
“Ah, mi amor, you said that
beautifully,” Diego said softly.
“You will be speaking perfect Español within a week.”
“Sir,” a sibilant voice called.
Diego turned and saw an individual who stood about
a head shorter than him, with blue downy hair sticking up on his head
and round amber eyes gazing at him. “Yes?” Diego asked.
His translator hanging from his belt clicked on of its own
“I am Wis and where I come from we have a sport
called Hurfix that is somewhat similar to what you were doing.
I am disembarking in seven day cycles, but I would like to
practice with you before we leave the ship, if you are so inclined,”
the alien said. “Perhaps we can teach each other.”
“I would be honored, señor. I believe that we are leaving this ship at that time as
well,” Diego answered, delighted to have some real practice. “Let us decide on a time that is best for both of us.”
Wis bowed. “I
will contact you…you are?” he paused, waiting.
Diego gave Wis his name, and with a bow of his own,
excused himself, putting his arm around Minta’s waist and walking with
her out of the room. “You
have a note in your hand. Is
it anything important?”
“A communication from Jerintas. Apparently he had decided that someone should take your place
to dispel any hints of otherworldly visitation.”
“Take my place?” Diego asked, confused.
“How could someone….?”
Diego suddenly stopped, his face becoming pale.
“Diego, what is it?”
Minta saw a brief flash of the same panic that had struck him at
the spaceport. “Diego,
please, what’s wrong? What
are you seeing?” She
guided him to a small table where they sat down.
He seemed oblivious to his surroundings.
His eyes were focused elsewhere, had a haunted look in them.
When he began speaking, it was in a voice only slightly above a whisper. “I remember . . . wh . . . when I was kidnapped, there was a room with many machines. Some of your people were there. I was tied to a moving table or metal bed. There were lights, bright lights. There was someone in charge who stood over me. Then there was another moving table brought into the room and put right next to mine. I looked at the person who was lying there and saw . . . myself. He was like a twin. He looked exactly like me. He just stared at the ceiling, not moving, not blinking his eyes, not saying a thing.” Diego finally looked into Minta’s eyes. “That was when I knew there was no hope. I was helpless to do anything. I knew I would be just like that….”
“Oh, Diego,” Minta murmured. “A unit was
created that looked just like you.
He didn’t have your memories in him yet.”
She took his hands and laid them against her cheek.
He had known even then. Deep
inside he had realized that the life he had known was about to end.
Tears sprang to her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
“Then the person in charge stuck a needle in my
arm and I felt sleepy. I
don’t remember anything else until I met you,” he concluded.
He looked up into her eyes, saw her tears and pulled himself from
his horrific memories. Pulling
one hand out of Minta’s grasp, he wiped away her tears.
“But then I met you…”
he said, his voice still soft, but less morose, more happy. Leaning over, Diego kissed her tenderly, then as she moved
into his kiss, he kissed her more passionately.
“And we will meet this twin?”
“No, he was given the directive to allow himself to die when his job was accomplished. We will be going back to a place that thinks you are dead,” Minta told him reluctantly.
Diego’s stricken look told her that he fully understood the implications of that directive. “No! Father and Bernardo will think I’m dead. They will be suffering believing that they buried me!”