(from the last post: )His entreaty is genuine. I reply, “You’ve given me two reasons to come out alive sir. Deirdre and you. To be cared for as a slave woman in this place is truly the ultimate gift. To be cared for by a man? If I did not honestly believe that all things are possible I’d say to myself, ‘this is impossible; it’s a trick.’ But I believe you. I want to believe you doctor. I need to believe you.”
[end blog post #36]
[begin blog post #37]
Chapter 16 – To Save Deirdre
“Let me introduce myself properly to you. My name is Balomo Echinoza. My close friends call me Bal for short. Can you find it in your heart to call me what my friends call me, without fear of reprisal?”
“Doctor Echinoza: that is a beautiful name sir. It is difficult for me to call a man by a first name. But I will do it, even if it brings up your anger against me later.” My words cut him, I know, and I wish I hadn’t said them but the pain of being struck so viciously across the face, and by someone you thought you could trust, a medical doctor, is not so easily dismissed, even now.
“Doctor Echinoza, I have a question I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind for years now. Why, when I entered my first fight those years ago, did you say to me, ‘We want you to kill him,’ of the pompous dandy who made the challenge? Can you now tell me who he was and who ‘we’ were, or are supposed to be? I know that in my own small way I’m part of a subversive process in this society which I understand, but what else am I involved in with you I have no idea what it’s all about?”
He consults his chrono wrist-com. “We still have a bit of time before the end of your rest break; yes, I can answer your question. It was discovered by my Cydroids, and related to the King by me that the man was a spy working with his brother to overthrow the legitimate King and install the brother in his place. This was, of course, before we made the royal switch at the castle.
“This was an opportune time to get rid of the spy without letting the brother know we were onto his intrigues and conspiracy. You served us well, without knowing. It was of course not possible for the King to even think in such terms since to them you can only be a fighting animal of high calibre; a wise investment perhaps, but one which he would have soon tired, not having the brother to contend with. In the course of time you would have been re-sold, certainly as soon as you showed any signs of slowing down. The high ones like their fighters not only powerful and agile, but also sexually attractive. Your efforts to put some entertainment value in your fights have paid off for you and we are grateful.
“Things have changed somewhat now. Nevertheless “our” king must demonstrate similar traits to the original, and you mustn’t take anything for granted. I already said the Cydroids can be literal. Despite their training and understanding of life, they can be as ruthless as any other man here, circumstances demanding. The pattern to keep for the cloned King is that he readily tires of his concubines and fighters. He could order your death should that serve his ends. Now that you have accepted to join us in our attempts to resolve some of the problems of T’Sing Tarleyn, you are part of the “we” I mentioned at the beginning.”
He frowns as he turns away from me to add, “You may have to die for us yet. What of that, Antierra?”
My own reply comes instantly, as if I’d though about this much. “I have known of this likelihood from before the time I arrived on this world and became a slave in Hyrete. I will die here of a violent death. I would not be here if I had any doubts about this. But I did not come here just to die. I came here as a change agent, a catalyst. I came to introduce an idea that may grow and change how the women view themselves in relation to men. You see, I think the sickness you know of does not affect the women. They are free to change once they understand they are not the ones who are cursed.
“As for you and your people then, it is my understanding that you came here to probe this planet’s energies to discover why this world is apparently “imploding” upon itself, both socially and physically?”
He looks at me in a new way. He realizes I am two people, a simple slave woman or gora, as caught in the gears of Malefactus as any other woman of this world, and the inscrutable dimension-hopping avatar called Al’Tara and considered by a few of the fighter women to be the reincarnation of their Desert Beast of T’Sing Tarleyn’s ancient lore. He knows also I am as trustworthy as any member of his Cydroid family or the Cholradil. But he also knows I possess no superhuman physical abilities apart from the changes he made to my anatomy, that my body and brain functions can be twisted, destroyed.
He concludes, “Your conclusions about our purpose are quite correct, as I touched on before. We are concerned and we do want to prevent a total collapse of this world. I will endeavour to find a way to discuss this with you at length at some future time. Now remember I have told you these things in complete confidence. I must trust you now to keep them to yourself, whatever happens between us, whatever is done to you to make you reveal our discussions if my work here is discovered. You understand?”
“Yes I do Bal,” saying the name thus almost makes me choke with fear, “I will remember. I know I cannot survive Malefactus but what’s in my mind I will keep. I won’t let anyone have it. No force will take it. I’ve been under torture before, though not by neuro-inductor but we have a way on Altaria to shift our knowledge into parts of our minds that even we cannot access during times of stress or under duress. It may be the memory of this power will come to me should I need it and I won’t be lying when I say, “Je ne sais rien.” I do understand that strange ability to lock information possessed by the Cholradil on this world.”
[end blog post #37]