Memories in the Dust
A quickly constructed unit lay on one of the
surgical tables dressed in a thin, white hospital gown.
It looked around, but appeared totally disinterested.
Jerintas was pleased. The
unit, created using some DNA material from the designee, mainly that of
eye, skin and hair color, as well as hand formation, had exceeded the
director’s wildest expectations.
The unit on the table was a virtual duplicate of the ‘selected
one,’ at least outwardly.
A door on the far side of the room opened and
the bound form of the chosen one was wheeled into the transference room.
He lay on the gurney, also clothed in a knee length white
hospital gown. He did not
struggle, but looked around him, his eyes surveying the entrance as well
as every other part of the room. He
looked at the machinery, his eyes widening at the array of technology
surrounding him. Knowing of
the primitive state of this man’s society, Jerintas could only imagine
how much the sight and sound of such a vast collection of machinery
would overwhelm him.
Only once had Jerintas seen fear in the eyes
of the man before him. During
the capture, the eyes behind the mask had shown a burst of fear, before
it was controlled. At the
time, Jerintas had wondered about that mask and the costume that seemed
to cloak the designee in mystery, but there was no time…precious
little time, and the alien had refused to say anything to them that
would allow a translator to assimilate his language.
Since that unguarded moment of the capture there had been anger
and frustration, and a great deal of determination.
Jerintas noticed the slight staining of the light colored
material that had been given to the young man.
Or should he say forced on the alien.
It had taken three medical technicians to get the man’s black
outfit off of him after his third escape attempt.
They had not tried to put the hospital gown on him, choosing
rather to let the captive remain naked if he chose not to put on the
garment that had been left for him.
The alien had continued to refuse to let anyone touch him;
therefore his wound had not been tended to in the ten-day cycle that he
had been on board ship. That
worried the director, but, like everything else, he would take care of
it as soon as the transference was made.
The alien’s gurney was placed near that of
the unit. The Designated
One looked toward the unit and made a soft cry of surprise, rising up
against the straps holding him in place.
He seemed unable to take his eyes off the unit, horror replacing
the cold scrutiny.
Might as well get this over with, Jerintas thought, slight twinges of conscience tickling his mind. In the writings on several worlds, he had read statements declaring that the greater good of the group was more important than the good of the individual. The Ancestors’ Deep Directive must be carried out, despite the rules of conduct that the Ancestors had left. It was simply too important and there might never be another opportunity like this one. Too many years had passed with too little effort toward reaching their goal, and far too little success in what they had been attempting.
He motioned to the technicians, who wheeled
the transference machine near the two men. The unit just glanced at the
machine, but the designee stared at it, the anguished look in his eyes
he suspect?’ Jerintas wondered fleetingly and then pushed the
idea away, feeling ridiculous for even considering it.
He took a syringe from an assistant and grasped the arm of the
Designated One, quickly plunging the point of the needle into the flesh
and releasing the relaxant. Eyes
filled with despair turned toward Jerintas.
The Designated One opened his mouth and said something quite
unintelligible to him, “Por qué quiere dañarme?”
Then as the muscles relaxed and the eyes closed, Jerintas heard
several more words, softer this time, almost in supplication, “Valgame,
jerked up in his bed, suddenly awake, the dream/remembrance of the time
just following the capture of the Designated One still fresh in his
memory. Reaching over
to his nightstand, he touched the small lamp and was relieved at the
soft warm light that dispelled the shadows.
He just wished he could dispel the shadows of his mind and the
dream that had lingered in his mind the past few nights.
What was it that the Designated One was saying? the
director wondered. He knew
that there would be no more sleep for tonight.
Throwing back the covers, he slipped out of bed and grabbed a
towel on the way to the shower.
The needs of the race far outweigh the needs of the
individual, he kept telling
Later, in his
office, he turned on his computer and brought up a decoding program.
He added the words that he had heard, typing them phonetically.
The program asked him questions and he answered them.
Finally, after several hours of frustrating detective work the
screen flashed and two sentences came up.
“Why do you want to hurt me?” was the first, and “God place
some value on me,” was the second.
Jerintas sighed and bowed his head.
The needs of the race….
As he was
deleting the words from his screen, a knock sounded at his door. “Enter,” he called out absently, still trying to get the
accusing eyes out of his mind.
with a small packet of papers. “Director,”
he began and then waited for his superior to look up.
himself and gave his assistant a warm smile.
Gerol really was an excellent researcher, as well as an
enthusiastic follower of the Ancestor’s directives.
His experiments had given hope for progress, slow though it was.
But the doctor wondered if their latest adventure was going to
backfire, doing more harm than good.
On top of the almost botched capture of the Designated One, there
had been the crash of a small surveillance shuttle.
He had not even learned of it until they had sent the duplicate
of the Designated One on his way and were back in orbit around the
planet. Jerintas had been
assured that the craft had been demolished.
Mentally shaking himself from his sullen thoughts, he pushed any
ideas of failure from his mind. They
had already turned on this path; they had to continue to the end of it.
He sighed mentally; there was so much more to the viability of
the Rantiri race, the fulfilling of the Ancestors directives to become a
people capable of procreation, then seeing what was needed and then just
Gerol repeated. “I have
the reports for the ‘new unit’ here and they seem very sparse to me. Are you sure you picked the right teacher for him?”
went over the records of teachers from all over this continent and chose
Minta 246 because of her qualifications and success rate. Perhaps she doesn’t write much because she doesn’t have
that much to write about.”
just it, in her previous cases, she has been very detailed about every
aspect of a unit’s progress, to the point of boring the reader with
minutiae. This report has
only the barest of essential data,” Gerol protested.
“I will read
what you have and if it is warranted, I will investigate personally,
Gerol,” Jerintas said soothingly.
Seeing his assistant’s anxious look, he added, “Gerol, I
understand your concerns. They
are valid; this is too important to treat lightly.
I promise that I will look into the designee’s welfare.”
forget the export committee meeting.
The delegation from the Huperis system will be there to negotiate
for more units for their pleasure ships,” Gerol said.
forget that, either, Gerol,” Jerintas said with a frown.
He hated authorizing the creation of new units to be sent to
other worlds to serve arrogant and self-serving races and their
indulgent tastes. Only
because of the need to fund the research did he allow it, but it still
left a bad taste in his mouth.
“I will keep
you updated on the DNA study, Director,” Gerol stated as he left the
papers in front of Jerintas and turned to leave.
Gerol. I really do
appreciate all of your work.” Jerintas
saw the slightly smaller man beam with pleasure as he pulled the door
shut. Looking at the
papers, neatly placed in chronological order, he saw what the assistant
was talking about. The
information really was sparse, and yet it was almost impossible to hide
the fact that the Designated One was progressing faster than a normal
unit. Could this be a
product of his being a member of another race?
Jerintas read on.
His secretary brought in more papers as he was reading.
Making a cursory glance toward the pile, he saw that there was a
paper from Minta 246. Picking
it up, he looked it over and saw that it was a request to take her
charge for an outdoor excursion. Startled,
he glanced at his calendar. That
was awfully soon to be taking a ‘new’ unit out of its room.
Normally units were still learning how to take care of their
basic needs after just a week and a half, walking, eating, bathing, and
things like that. Essentially
the designee should have been no different than any other unit.
Looking again at his calendar, Jerintas saw that he had a free
afternoon in two days. With
a quick flourish, he put his initials on the sheet to approve the
request. He was curious to
see just what progress the Designated One had made.
Two days later,
Jerintas sat unobtrusively on a bench in the middle of the park adjacent
to the hospital, watching for the arrival of the teacher and her ward.
It took him a few minutes to realize that the Designated One had
already arrived. They were
near the pond, he gazing around him in undisguised amazement, she
pulling food and drinks out of a picnic basket. The ‘unit’s’ back was to him, so while they conversed
at times, Jerintas could not hear them.
He decided to move closer and took up a position on a bench
closer to the pond. While
he seemed to be somewhat further along in progress than most new units
of two weeks, the Designated One didn’t seem overly advanced.
had trouble understanding the conversation, but knew he couldn’t get
any closer without looking arousing suspicion.
He did notice, though, that most of the people nearby took the
time to gaze at the light skinned unit, so he did the same.
His jaw dropped in shock as the designee turned in his direction.
The face had been shaved with only a thin strip of hair left on the
upper lip. He looked
exactly as he had at the time of capture.
Jerintas’ thought furiously, coming up with and discarding
ideas right and left. He
could come to only one conclusion… the ‘unit’ was not wiped clean
continued to stare unabashedly, pondering this new development. At the moment, he was very glad that he was a fairly private
individual, not prone to public appearances on the telecasts.
Minta glanced around her, looking in his direction several times,
but not recognizing him. The director returned to the problem of the Designated One.
Were his memories partial?
They had to be, or he would have tried to escape as he had on the
star cruiser. But how?
Theoretically there should have been no memories.
Theoretically. . . a word that could cover a world of discoveries
as well as mistakes. And
the process of stripping memories, like that of kidnapping aliens from
their worlds was a new one. That
hair on his lip seemed to be the only manifestation of memory.
I wonder if that is why the Designated One seems to be learning a
bit faster than a normal unit? This
would bear a bit closer scrutiny. Jerintas watched for a little longer, before leaving and
returning to his office.
Why Diego? Where did
that name come from? How do
you know?” Minta
stared at Unit…no, Diego, in shock.
It was inconceivable, unless one of the other teachers had gone
ahead and created a name for him. But
why would they do that?
my name. That I know.
Why? I do not know
that,” he said, looking at Minta’s shocked face.
“Do you not like it?"
“But… but who
gave it to you?” she asked, still in shock from the revelation.
“The face I saw
in the cup,” Diego stated simply.
He wished he could have seen more.
He wished he knew who this older man was.
It was someone he should know, he just couldn’t remember.
What are you talking about, U…I mean Diego?"
“The drink you
gave me. It…there was
something about it. I
looked in the cup and saw the face of a man like me.
Only he was older. His
hair was white. Even the
hair on his chin was white. He
was holding something in his hand and saying something.
I could not understand anything he said, except when he said
‘Diego.’ I knew he was
saying my name. And he had
a great…liking for me.”
Minta had been
slowly calming herself down. There
had to be an explanation for all this.
“And you don’t know who the man was?
Could he have been a teacher, like me?”
Diego shook his
head. “He was white, like
me. I am the only white
unit I have seen.”
chided herself. Yes,
he had said that, but I hadn’t been listening.
How in the world could he be seeing something that didn’t exist
here? Diego is the only
white unit I have ever seen; the only one I have ever heard of.
And the name Diego. . .such a strange name, and yet so
distinctive. Where could it
have come from? It could
only have been a name given by another teacher. “Diego?” Minta began and then paused. “Diego, did you have a teacher before me.
Or did one of the other teachers tell you your name?”
flashed in the first sign of irritation that she had seen from him.
“No, Minta. None
of the other teacher’s gave me that name. The old man gave it to me.
And no, I did not have a teacher before you,” he said
vehemently and then stopped and stared at the sky.
“At least I don’t remember another teacher.”
He looked in the cup again, willing the old man to return, to
bring him comfort. “Things
are wrong. I wish I knew
what it was. The sky is
wrong. The trees are wrong. The
ground is wrong. Even the
water is wrong. In my
dreams I see a blue sky, clear blue water, trees that have limbs going
up to the sky. There are
animals, powerful animals that can be ridden.
They are very beautiful. I
do not know what to think, Minta. I
am…” Diego shook his head, got up and walked down to the edge of
Minta got up and
stood beside him. “You
are confused. That is the
word you are looking for. I
wish I knew why. I wish I could tell you the things that would help you feel
better.” She laid
her hand on his arm and they watched the fat water birds skim the
surface of the water, calling softly to each other as they flew.
Minta didn’t go
straight home that night. She
stopped off at the archives. Rubbing
her eyes, she wanted to pound the screen that kept telling her
“Impossibility” whenever she put in the data about Diego.
Never in the history of the people had there been a unit with
racial memories. But what
could it be? Did someone
make a mistake and use the transference machine before his first
inspiration, Minta put in the Diego’s unit code and waited for the
creation data. The
information that flashed on the machine a moment later showed only his
date of arrival at the new unit’s wing.
There was no creation data.
Odd, she thought.
Just to check out the reliability of the computer, she keyed in
the code for her previous unit. The
data sheet that flashed up on that one was complete.
Date the order was initiated, date the unit creation process was
begun and the date it was completed.
Why was Diego’s so lacking in information?
She clicked on the number in the lower page of Diego’s data
sheet. That would at least
provide the name of the individual who had completed the form.
For a few minutes the machine quietly hummed and purred, almost
soothing her into light sleep. She
was so tired.
A beep jerked her
back into full wakefulness. The
screen was flashing a name. Jerintas
What did the director have to do with individual units? Jerintas had only recently come back from an
interstellar trip just before she had been assigned Diego.
It was rumored that it was to find new DNA materials to improve
the race of units. Could
Diego be a result of that DNA search?
Could he be a unit created from DNA culled from an alien race?
That would explain the skin, hair and number of digits.
But there was still no record of his creation.
Klissa was on board that ship. She
had been so excited at having been assigned to an interstellar research
ship that she had sent word of her good fortune in big bold letters. Her friend would be able to tell her about the director’s
latest trip. As soon as she
arrived at her residence, Minta contacted Klissa.
A weary voice answered on the other end of the line and Minta
watched her rub sleep from her eyes.
How are you? I heard that you got back from your voyage recently.
How was life among the stars?” Minta bantered.
Do you realize what time it is?” Klissa murmured.
“Yes, I know
you’re half a continent away, but I really need a favor,” Minta said
apologetically, hoping her dearest friend from the training facility
would still be as patient now as she had been during their secondary
know I could never refuse one of your plaintive pleas for help. What is it this time?” Klissa asked. Minta pressed the security transmission button.
After a moment, Klissa did the same thing, looking at her friend
in surprise. “What’s
“Klissa, I am
teaching a unit that is not normal.
Not that I haven’t had units that are different from the norm
before, but there is no creation data on this one.
It was as though he was dropped from the sky.
I was given so very little to go on, he is so different and I
want to know some background on him.
I don’t believe I can effectively teach units if I don’t have
all the facts,” Minta said, quickly.
“Wait a minute,
Minta. What does the
teaching of units, normal or abnormal, have to do with me?”
have Director Jerintas’ number on them.
He personally filled them out.
I was assigned this unit just a day after you got back.
I have also heard rumors that the main reason for your trip was
to gather DNA. Is that what
Jerintas was doing?” Minta replied.
Her friend just stared at her and there was a silence that seemed
to head into eternity. “Klissa?”
“Yes, it was,
Minta, along with the source of that DNA.
I have said more than I should and that is only because you are
my friend. Maybe you should
look at the Ancestor’s directives,” Klissa said in a soft voice.
Minta could have sworn that she could hear a fearful tone in her
friend’s voice. “I have
to go now. You take care, and take care of that unit.
If he is who I think he is, then you are dealing with a special
unit.” The screen went
Minta sat staring
at the dark communicator for a moment before putting it down.
What in the world did she mean, ‘along with the source
of the DNA?’ As
far as she knew, most of the Ancestors’ Directives dealt with
continuing the people… creating units.
But did the Ancestors want the people to deviate so much from
what was normal? And why
did Diego ‘remember’ so many things? Units were empty shells, individuals that had no memories.
But Diego had never been an empty shell; he had remembered the
basic things, had been so much more advanced than most new units.
Then it hit her; the source of the DNA would be with the people
in whom it was contained. Jerintas
had not only gathered new DNA, he had also gathered those that contained
ancestors,” she moaned. Diego
is not a unit; he is an alien!
He was a biological entity kidnapped from another world!
But he also acted like a unit.
He could only remember bits and pieces.
Had they taken his memories from him?
What have my people become--to resort to taking other beings
from their homes, stripping them of their identities and then using them
in our genetic experiments?
Minta put her face in her hands and began crying.
She cried for herself, for her people, but mostly she cried for