Memories in the Dust

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

That night as she traveled home, Minta again stopped by the archive center to do more research.  This time she decided to follow Klissa’s advice and look up the Ancestor’s directives.  She found herself digging farther and farther into the past, back beyond the mythos of the Ancestors and into some of their actual writings.  

It is such a hard thing to find oneself alone,’ one old paper began.  The name at the top, Dr. Morlif-Brocnor was one she recognized.  He was one of the Creator Ancestors.  Knowledge of him was transferred into most units during their secondary training.   The document, dated five hundred years in the past, had been listed under the topic ‘soul-searching.’  Startled to see that strange word again, Minta had immediately begun reading the document.  Midlis and Wernt are wonderful companions, but they cannot take the place of my beloved Minta.’ 

The Creator Ancestor’s mate’s name was Minta?  Startled, she quickly suppressed the sudden flush of pride and returned to the document.  ‘At the end it was so painful to see her suffer and die of the sickness.  I could not get her to eat and when she did, it made her even sicker.  Oh, my poor Minta!  If only I could have taken that suffering away from her.  If only I could have figured out a cause for this malady that has destroyed us.  If only I could have found a cure.  It struck so quickly. By the time we realized the danger, our birth rate was zero, our population sterile.  And by then, most of my people were too sick to understand what had caused it, too sick to stop it even if we had known the cause.  A few of us are apparently more hardy then the rest.  We are the only survivors of a once vital, proud and prosperous race.  I used to keep in contact with my few surviving comrades, but one by one, they have stopped responding to my electronic inquiries.  And most of the time now I feel so very tired, even though there is still so much to do.      

‘If it were not for my wonderful units, I would be so lonely, so very alone.  I created them, using scientific research I had done before the disaster.  The idea of intelligent life in a manufactured biological being is fascinating to me, but by the time I actually created my first two units, I was more in search of companionship.  They are so much more than I would have thought possible.  Although they were more like babies at first, having to be taught all they needed to know to take care of themselves, they are so very independent now, inquisitive and intelligent.  They take care of me, treating me almost as a god, although I try to discourage it.

‘I am glad that I gave them the ability to replicate themselves. In fact with my help, they created a female unit using tissue samples that I had taken from my beloved before she became ill.  Although the technology would allow a perfect duplicate of my dear Minta, I would not allow it.  I could not have stood it!  So the units are similar to Minta and myself, but there are differences, since I used DNA samples that were taken from other Rantiri.

‘I have been talking with Wernt, who seems to be most capable of understanding about the power of creation.  I hope that he and his fellow units use that power wisely.  I am astonished how intelligent these units are, and how they feel complex emotions.  It is almost as though they are possessed of souls.’ Minta paused as she read the strange word again. 

But perhaps they do have souls, because they do feel, they reason, they hurt for me; I can see it in their eyes.  I have told Midlis not to feel sorry for me.  My life was full and rich, but he pities me anyway, telling me that he wishes there was something he could do to save me and the few others who are left.  I told him and Wernt, just today, that I want them and all units after them to always search for the power of procreation.  Bless their hearts, they didn’t quite understand what I was talking about, but I am going to write a paper with specific ideas for them and their successors to strive for.  The units were created with most of our features; they look like us, they think like us, but we couldn’t give them the power to create new life inside of themselves, to reproduce biologically.  I hope a future unit can do that.  Then they will become us.  That is my deepest desire.  There can be no greater happiness than to create life in that way.  I want my ‘children’ to always strive for that.  But most importantly, I want them to keep this soul that they have inside them now.  Then they will be even better than we ever were.’

Minta looked at the final words, feeling tears trickling down her cheeks.  Then she read earlier words, most of which seemed to deal with his day to day life with his beloved Minta, and his children, who died before his beloved.  She felt close to this Ancestor.  His words seemed to pierce deep into her heart.  Anxious to see this paper with specific plans, she continued looking into the database.

What she finally found appeared to have been originally scrawled on a sheet of paper.  Directives for the Rantiri Units--  1. To create units to perpetuate a semblance of the Rantiri race, 2. To place in those units memories of the Rantiri, so that we will never die out.  3.To strive, while creating, to remember that the ultimate goal is the rebirth of our race.  Some physical deviation is permissible, but the inner soul of your creators must be kept intact, as much as is possible.  The inner soul, that which makes the created most like the creators, is reflected in the following directives:  a. Never cause intentional hurt, b. Seek peace.  Avoid, at all costs, dissension and discord, and c. Please others before you please yourself.  In so doing, there is self-satisfaction.  When you have created units with those qualities, who follow the directives and can procreate biologically, then you will have become us, the creators.  That is your deep directive.

Minta leaned back in the chair, the words of Ancestor Dr. Morlif-Brocnor burning in her mind.  Now she understood why Director Jerintas had wanted to kidnap Diego, but clearly he had ignored the rest of the Deep Directive.  As she got up stretching, she printed the Ancestors’ writings to a hard copy.  When she walked out of the archive, she felt the papers crinkle softly, reassuringly inside her carryall.  She had to figure out a way to get Diego back to his home.  She had to.  There was too much inside of him, too much of his own world’s ‘soul’ for him to ever be happy here with the Rantiri units.  Even if he were the key to their becoming one with the Ancestors, it was not right for him to be forced to stay here.  It was not right to use him simply as the means for making the units biologically complete.  Minta stared out the window of the public commuter, gazing at the darkening landscape.  Her amethyst eyes stared back at her, tears forming and threatening to spill down her cheeks.  She blinked hard, trying not to show her emotions in public.  She glanced quickly to each side, but she was thankful that no one was paying attention to her. 

Minta remembered researching the topic of babies during her internship as teacher.  The innocence of a newly born entity was somewhat similar to that of a newly created unit, but a baby already had things that gave it personality, made it unique.  She watched films of babies; she had even had a pet brolar, a distant relative of the brisal.  It was a baby and she loved the way it cuddled in her lap and rubbed against her cheek.  She loved the way it depended on her, not only for its needs but also for affection.  How she wanted to see, hold and feel a real baby, but it had to come in some other way, not the way that Jerintas had envisioned.   

 

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As they perused the pages of yet another book she had brought, and while Minta was thinking about her student’s insatiable thirst for knowledge, Diego’s finger paused at one of the pictures.  His eyes widened with wonder and she leaned over to see what it was that had so engrossed him.  It was a picture of a small commuter vehicle, one that accommodated four people.  The look on his face was one of disbelief and she almost began laughing, then realized that such a conveyance would be totally foreign to him, even with all of his memories intact.  His world was just beginning its industrial age.

“I see people inside and it is on a road, but there is nothing pulling it, Minta,” Diego finally said, examining the accompanying text without success.  Several times during the past few days he had asked her to teach him to read, but except for a few words, such as their names and the place where he resided and a few words that he had picked up on his own, he was pretty much illiterate.   Still, Minta had hesitated to teach him, determined that she would much rather return him to his own world, where knowledge of the Rantiri language would not be necessary. 

“It is a commuter, a small one for just a few people.  It runs on. . .electricity. . .”  She paused, seeing the confused look on Diego’s face.  “Um, it is like a fuel that feeds the engine that runs the commuter,” she explained.  

“Electricity?  Fuel?  Engine?” 

Now Minta did laugh.  This was a case where the more she explained, the deeper she figured she would get.  “I’m sorry, Diego, I am not laughing at you, really.  It is just so hard to explain something so complicated, something that I don’t totally understand myself.  And the look on your face. . .” 

“It does not matter if you are laughing at me, Minta, because I know you…you are kind. You have helped me learn so much.  I am just glad you are here, helping me to understand.  I want to know about these things; I want to understand.  I do know that I will not be here in this place much longer, but when I go to this secondary learning I do not want for others to laugh at my…unknowing.”  Diego stopped, looking at Minta’s thoughtful countenance. 

This was one of Diego’s longer speeches and she was gratified that he was becoming so fluent in such a short time.  At the same time, though, it saddened her that he felt this sense of time-flow and impending separation. 

“Electricity is what makes the light over your bed glow.  It is the power that made the bed move up and down when you figured out the control buttons last week.”  They both laughed recalling his wonder and amazement at the mechanical bed and how it seemed to magically move.  He had pressed both the buttons, one after the other, making the bed rise and lower repeatedly.  “Fuel for you is what you eat and drink each day.  Food keeps your body moving,” she said, trying for an analogy he could understand.

“Then my body is like this engine.  Ah, I think I understand.  But to have a coche that does not need a caballo, that is truly an unbelievable thing,” Diego said, his face actually registering amazement more than understanding.

“Coche?  Caballo?”

He paused.  “They are words and pictures that seemed to come just now from my mind.  Coche is what you ride in.  Caballo pulls it or you can ride on one.  They are beautiful animals.  I see them often in my dreams.  I ride them in my dreams and feel the wind in my face.  I feel so… I cannot think of more words, Minta.  I do not have enough words to talk about my dreams.”  There was a longing on his face that almost made Minta cry. 

“Diego, it is a wonderful thing that you remember your dreams.  They help you learn about yourself and who you are.  Most of the time when I wake up, I don’t remember my dreams at all.  They are gone like the clouds that you describe, blown away by the wind,” Minta said. 

“I see many things when I sleep and sometimes when I am awake, but sometimes they confuse me, too.”

“Give it time, Diego and I think you’ll be able to understand,” Minta said simply, not knowing what else to say to him that wouldn’t confuse him further.

He nodded and looked down, studying the picture some more.  “It looks like a coche,” he finally said, as he got up and walked to the door and back.  His movements reminded Minta of a caged brisal, a large and powerful predator of the mountains.   In a cage, its power was only partially understood by those who watched.  Only when it was free could one comprehend its real beauty and power.  She wondered what Diego was like on his own world, filled with his own memories, a part of a whole, vibrant society and in control of his actions.  “When we were having the picnic a week ago, why did my eyes see one world outside and my mind saw another one?”  He had turned and asked suddenly, his green-brown eyes intense and troubled.

“I don’t know how to explain this, Diego,” Minta said softly, aching at the frustration and confusion that she saw in his face.  Finally she took his hand and looked deeply into his expressive eyes.  “Do you trust me?” she asked.

“Yes, I do, Minta,” Diego said fervently, without any hesitation at all. 

“I know where ‘your outside’ is and I am trying to find a way to get you back there.  You don’t belong here and you are not happy here.  I doubt you would ever be happy here.”

“I might if you could be with me all the time,” he replied with a coy smile. 

Minta’s heart filled with joy at his simple pronouncement and she smiled in return.  “Thank you, Diego, for your confidence.  I just haven’t figured out a way yet, but I will.” 

“Perhaps in one of your ‘commuters?’” he suggested. 

“No, Diego, it is more complicated than that,” Minta answered. 

“I am thinking that it should be… um, figured, that is the right word is it not?” he asked and then continued at her nod, “figured soon.  I do not think that I am … I think that one of the other teachers knows how much I know.  I cannot act as a new unit anymore.”

“What?” Minta asked, her heart leaping in alarm.  “How can you tell?”

“She wrote a great many words on the chart,” Diego answered.  “Then she wrote on a different paper and put it in her pocket.  As she wrote, she looked at me a lot.  I could tell by her eyes.” 

With the beat of self-recrimination in her mind for so neglecting the progress reports, Minta hastily looked over the past several days’ notes.  What she saw appalled her.  Tris definitely thought Diego was ready for the next phase.  “Tris wrote this yesterday,” she said.  “You are right, Diego.  We have to do something soon.”  She thought furiously and then jotted down a note to the director.  Her fragmented ideas weren’t much yet, but they were the best she could think of for the moment.  She hoped Jerintas would get an idea of Diego’s progress, without becoming overly suspicious of the differing notes or suspicious of Diego’s real progress. 

“Diego, just be ready to do whatever I ask at a moment’s notice,” she said.

“Of course,” he replied.

 

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Jerintas looked at Gerol with carefully disguised amusement, not wanting to hurt the researcher’s feelings.  Gerol was highly agitated now, his eyes filled with anger.  “And Tris 385 says that Minta 246’s feelings are more than those of a teacher toward a unit.”

“I read it, Gerol.  I have been keeping up with the reports, all of them.  I know what is going on.  I do appreciate your concern, but at the present, I wish to let Minta continue to teach the Designated One.  She is doing him much more good than harm, no matter what her feelings are toward him.”

“But… but, Director…” 

With a wave of his hand, Jerintas cut off further argument.  “Gerol, you must trust me.  I think I know what I am doing, at least for now.” 

“Very well, Director,” Gerol acquiesced, and then he turned and left. 

Then Jerintas glanced down at Gerol’s other notes and became very excited.  After so very many setbacks, this was much more than he could hope for.  He had long thought that there were other factors beside the DNA that made the unity of two entities possible.  For centuries, he and his predecessors had sought for just the right kind of DNA.  And they had experimented, trying to find the right elements that would allow reproduction, but to no avail.  Now he saw in Gerol’s report something that everyone had missed. 

It was more than DNA!  It was also various biochemical emissions in the body that made opposite sexes desirable to one another.  When the Designated One was in close proximity to the unit Minta various readings seemed to bear that out.  Jerintas studied the charts closely.  Yes, all of those bio/chemical secretions could be duplicated if need be.

That Minta was drawn to the Designated One in more than a nurturing way just proved his theory and pleased him greatly.  It also proved they had picked the right alien.  He could see by Minta’s reactions to the Designated One that the Rantiri may just be ready for the final journey toward fulfillment of the Deep Directive. While he regretted what they had done, he felt that the outcome would justify his decisions.  There would have been no way to discover these new findings without the Designated One.  The Director was ready to see this experiment to the end. 

Then as he smugly glanced over the charts one last time, Jerintas noticed something else--something that caused him to sit up in his chair in alarm.  Checking the recent blood test results more carefully and then comparing them to ones that had been performed the previous week, he saw enough to write an order to have the Designated One retested immediately.  If there was a pattern to what he saw, there might be serious problems. 

He continued to work throughout the morning while waiting for the results, signing releases for shipment of units to other worlds, feeling the same disgust he usually felt at sending Rantiri into servitude under alien masters.  Then he kept his appointments with representatives from other systems, arranging for even more units to be created and sent away.  The negotiations left him feeling foul, more like a breeder sending animals into harsh servitude than the leader of a race of independent people.

Later in the afternoon, he received the results of the Designated One’s most recent blood test, and with a groan, laid it down on his desk.  Every wave of guilt he had ever felt concerning the abduction of this alien entity came crashing back down on him.  First the kidnapping in front of witnesses, then the erasure of the alien’s memories, then there was the crash of the surveillance shuttle on the Designated One’s planet and now this.  Perhaps this is the retribution I get for overriding some of the Ancestor’s directives?

With a sigh, Jerintas looked at the note in his other hand, the one he had received only moments before Gerol’s arrival and had left unread until now.  It was from Minta, requesting another day out with the new unit.  She cited his increased learning after his previous excursion as the reason.  Jerintas initialed his approval immediately and sent it through the instant electronic messenger service.  The message told him that Minta 246 had figured out Tris 385’s private notes.  From her attachment to the Designated One, as well as her planned destination for her latest excursion, it was also obvious that she planned on trying to get him back to his planet.  It would be very interesting to see how she would accomplish it.

Glancing back at the reports, he thought that if what he had just discovered turned out to be correct, he might want Minta to succeed. 

 

 

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