(continuing with the Manifesto… )
By mid-morning the twins return. One has a long slash on her left arm which she holds as blood drips from the fingers of the limp hand hanging down. The other woman is limping, but they have returned from their first fight and there is a look of triumph on their faces. They have done what they swore to do and thought they’d never get the chance. Two men died to pay for whatever horror other men did to these women. They will survive their wounds and will go on to kill many more. Their hate will never abate, that I know. They have become killers of men. They will never be anything less or more than that, until they are killed in turn. By permission now long granted I escort and turn them in to the medics’ rooms for patching up and brief observation, the costs of such medical treatments having been paid by their owners. Deirdre accompanies me and is permitted to attend to their wounds, thus leaving the medics to just sit and watch, doing nothing.
Expensive fighting animals taken to the vet after the fight: it is the way of it.
[end blog post #41]
[begin blog post #42]
I retrieve their weapons from the handlers and as I clean the long sword and bloodied axe, I shudder again.
Such waste! Such terrible waste. No wonder this world is dying. The black hole my friend the doctor is looking for – look no farther than into the heart of every person on this world. Look at the blackness there. That’s your problem, doc! That and whatever Force is pushing the buttons of Malefactus. That outside Force you won’t consider to exist. You bastards who control this world from the spy-moon of Albaral, I’ll find you and expose you yet, I swear it!
‘And when are you going to get Deirdre out of this hell-hole, doc my very good friend?’ I my mind and heart I exude sarcasm and bile.
My thoughts jump naturally to Deirdre and Balomo. I have to have someone to beat up on in my head at this moment, or I feel I’ll go stark raving mad, make a mad rush into the arena where the organized killing is still going on for the entertainment of thousands of brain-dead boneheads, and “go postal” as they used to say on Old Earth.
I grab the weapons tightly, one in each hand and walk down to the forge to have their cutting edges re-done, hissing my anger between my teeth, imaging this entire stone “fort” blowing itself to dust and joining the rest of the growing desert. The blacksmith approaches me with his expectant erection and I make a gesture that says: ‘now would definitely be a good time to practice abstinence.’ Fortunately for both of us he understands and laughs his hearty old pirate’s laugh. He won’t go without. Some other girl will be available to him shortly.
On the way back I’m greeted silently by a Cydroid disguised as a handler. As he pretends to escort me he whispers, more into my mind than ear, lips never moving:
“We have secured permission to take your friend to Koron as a special case study, not as a refugee. You will have to perform your end of the bargain, covering for us, and her. Are you ready and willing to do so?”
“I have been ready for over a year! Yes, do it. When is it happening?”
“Two days. Dark night of clouds forecast. The “King” has arranged to have many of the usual complement of guards busy at the court for his personal “protection” while we take her through the gates and alarmed sectors. You will follow us until we cross the walk bridge across the moat and you will wander away along the water’s edge, then walk in and swim to the other side to make imprints there. Then return immediately before the alarms are reset and the doors close. You will have twenty three minutes. Can you calculate that without chrono?”
“I’ll be swift, never fear. I’m ready.”
“You cannot speak of this to the Cholradil, you understand? She will be sedated when we take her. There is no other way. You will not say goodbye to her even though you won’t see her again. You must not let her know something is going on. Use anger to cover your feelings. That works for us. And above all, you must trust us to do what we promise to do. You must never worry about her safety. In time, the doctor will let you know how we fared and how she is doing and adapting.”
“You sound so confident… I wish I could be as much.”
“Be. You must.”
“Thank you so much, sir.”
But he walks away as if he did not hear me. I know he did. It’s not their way to bandy or accept thanks, praise or blame. They do what they program themselves to do until it is done or they reprogram themselves. Now my mind fills itself with the risks of this enterprise. Yes, the false king is on our side, of course, but he is only a figurehead in the whole gamut of Malefactus politics and economics. His word is law only because some greater Force upholds it. The position of King is used to control the people only. But the real government of Malefactus resembles more the organization of a secret society. Its ruling aristocracy is but a front. There is a tight-knit secret oligarchy pulling the strings on this world. Who are they and what do they want?
The questioning that will arise from Deirdre’s disappearance will not come from the courts, but from the dark, dreaded official inquisition. Even the King is subject to the Force that instituted the inquisition. This much I learned from Bal. I know now that my greatest trial on Malefactus has begun and won’t end even long after she is gone, if I survive that long. How much will I feature in their investigations? What will it cost me? How much do I love you Deirdre? Never enough, I know, but in this just enough to see you off this world. The rest is the rest.
I step lively back to the training, involving myself in a bunch of details I’d let slip. I upbraid a couple of fighters for sloppiness, striking one hard on the side of the head to demonstrate how easily one dies. She flinches and rubs her head and I hit her again on her unprotected side. She goes down and I jump on top of her, ready to spit her. There is a look of pure terror in her eyes.
I step off of her and growl for her to stand.
“Pick up your ‘fucking’ staff and fight me, damn you. Fight me! You call yourself a gladiator? You’re nothing but ‘pess.’” (In our world the term means a combination of excretion of piss and sweat. It is always used insultingly.)
And I drive her hard until her fear changes to anger and she begins to return the blows in earnest. Too late, of course, but an improvement. Maybe she will last more than a couple of bouts if her challengers are drugged, or certifiable idiots. We do get those. Some people get lucky. Will this one?
“Is there something wrong with your head?” I ask her.
“No sir!” protocol – if I’m trainer, I have to be ‘sir.’
“Well if you’re not stupid, is it laziness? Do you want to die on your first round?”
“Then FIGHT! Attack me, not to tickle me, but to KILL ME!”
I say it so loud the sounds echo against the great walls and everyone stops to listen. Trainers come running to me and I take a stance of humility.
“What is going on here?”
“Something new, sirs. I have discovered that certain words help people respond to attack. Perhaps we could be permitted to test my idea?”
“It will be taken into consideration. One more outburst and it’s a flogging – for both of you.”
“I’m sorry sirs. No more outbursts.” And I watch them return to their brew and dice. In this instance the threat would not be carried out but protocol was served. They did their job.
I turn viciously to the trainee and use the ‘high’ language, not their pidgin.
“Do you understand now, girl? You have some power you can use. I just demonstrated how easily you can die, one from weapons in the arena, the other by violating rules. The only reason we are not being flogged to death at this very moment is because of who I am, do you realize that? I put your life in danger because I seek to save your life. You owe me this: to listen carefully and to throw yourself body and mind into our training. There is nothing else here for you. No escape. No miracles. No fairy tales. You will fight to the death every time you enter that arena.
“Turn around.” She obeys immediately. I read her brand for her ‘age.’
“You have approximately one year left to prepare for these ordeals. They will not end until you are killed.
“If you do not wish to survive, tell me now and we won’t waste time I can best spend on those who wish to live longer. You will go into your first fight and you will be tortured to death, not killed outright. They will soon realize you don’t know how to attack, or even defend yourself. And they will toy with you, disgrace and dishonour you and you will make the status of all women on this world even less than it is because of your lack of courage.
“We don’t fight only for ourselves. We fight for all the women on this world. The others only suffer and have no means to fight back but we do! We are the gladiators! We have weapons and we can learn how to use them. It’s how we make our way. You girl are not just one girl; you are all of us when you fight them. Are we then all lazy, stupid, or cowards, as they like to think? Or will you show them something different?
“Every one of you youngsters has the potential to be the greatest female fighter ever to enter the arena. Everyone. All you need to do is find the key that opens the door to that new idea and believe you can do it. Realize that if you can think it, you can do it. Just follow through with nothing to look back on, nothing to lose. This world hangs by a thread and the end of that thread is just within your grasp. There is only one thread. The men want to cut it. You are the one called to prevent this from happening. You get me?”
Does she ‘get’ me? I fear not in the least. There is yet no understanding of philosophy, of any sort of personal power one can tap into from within. With these poor people, everything is physical and external. If you have a weapon; if you are given permission; if you are challenged; if you are allowed; if you are physically able – you can fight against a man and maybe kill that man before he kills you. But you gain nothing by it. You just live to fight another day, that’s all. You cannot improve yourself in any way.
It is the way of it.
And I’m sick to death of hearing that damned expression that says it all for all of us. How can I communicate abstract ideas to these people? They express white noise for thoughts and they have the limited vocabulary of a three year old Earthian child, exceptions noted.
[end blog post #42]