Category Archives: Self-sacrifice

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #109

This blog post concludes “The Antierra Manifesto” – thanks for reading.

What is Antierra thinking as she stands there?  She looks up into the stands, makes the “mercy” gesture and points at the two young girls beside her.  Her gesture is greeted by spitting and cursing.  She turns to the two children and while they are looking at the approaching men wide eyed and shaking, she puts her sword through their hearts.  Then she turns to the men and utters the loudest blood-curdling shriek that place has ever heard.  I had never heard anything like it and it made me shudder.  It seems to come from some awakened beast, not of human voice. Long it echoes along the high walls and through the compounds; so loud it is, it intimidates that wild and unruly crowd to utter and cowed silence.
End blog post #108
—————————-

Start blog post #109

She then walks alone to meet the line of men, suddenly no longer an ugly and limping old crone who is nothing but skin, bone and sinew but a tall regal figure who knows her purpose and means to complete it.  The deadly sword flashes red in the plasma lights, the blade still dripping from the blood of the dead girls, and it performs a series of lightning movements that leave a trail of utter carnage until she drops dead, not of wounds but simple heart-stopping exhaustion.  This I can vouch for as I was standing close enough for my sensors to detect her heart stop beating.  She had taken her human body to its final limits.

One of the surviving challengers shouts his cry of victory but no one in the stands picks it up.  For once that crowd is stunned by what it is seeing.  Twenty-three men lie dead and dying around the body of the Desert Beast.  Where is the victory?

The remaining men rush upon the standing group of defenders and kill them one by one, still taking heavy losses.  Only nine men remain of that last ‘rush’ to claim their victory and all of those bear some kind of cut or stab wound.  The last female to remain alive kills herself with her dagger rather than submit to rape.  A new power has arisen on T’Sing Tarleyn.

Even in death the Desert Beast scores.  Never has this place seen such devastation at the hands of a few trained fighters against what, by comparison, can only be called an army of men.

The “harvesting” and trading of female body parts carries little excitement today.  The price paid is much too high for any male to find his enjoyment therein.  The greatest price lies in the message sent to the thousands who came to see women tortured, raped and mutilated before they were even dead.  What they saw instead was a severely organized stand by twenty three female fighters, most of these untrained and certifiable crazies, and an additional twenty females with no fighting skills whatsoever, kill one hundred and ninety-one armed males. 

A sobering set of statistics for the men to mull over.  Not all males are beyond the ability to use some reasoning or exercise wonder.  Many, I would guess, are glad their number was not called.  In previous orgies the ones called were always considered the lucky ones.  Not so today.

Of note:  The scavengers carefully avoid touching the body of the fallen Desert Beast.  No one approaches to cut off any of her parts.  They know she did not die of wounds inflicted by men and having no understanding of such a concept as spontaneous death through the shut-down of body functions as in a massive coronary, they still fear her presence.  After they leave, eunuch slaves and female fighters enter the arena to remove the bodies of the women and take them to the waiting carriers.

Of note:  There is a definite reverence among eunuchs and fighters as they pick up and carry the bodies.  These fallen women are heroes to those who remain behind.  This too is new.  Whatever else the Teaching may have accomplished in the few years it has been verbalized in the fighter compounds, it has made the fighters and some male staff aware that perhaps there is such a thing as life beyond death. This Antierra asserted constantly.  That idea was basic to the Teaching. This we Cydroids cannot know as none of us have “died” the real death. Those of us who were killed, such as XBA9 at the hands of the Warmo’s inquisition, were re-grown and are alive, all the more aware for our experiences.  Perhaps what Antierra taught is a similar process.

As to the women fighters, they are proud this day.  Among them, and perhaps among the compound male staff as well, the exploits of Antierra and her magnetic way of expounding any kind of Teaching, be it in tactical, weapons handling, relationships or ethics and her more questionable ‘spacer’ stories will live long and inspire generations to come.  I say this because I have known her.  I say this because through her I, Cydroid XBA3, became more human.  I just have this wish, that I had been able to join her in those rushes in the arena, to stand by her and use my considerable strength to protect her.  Something I know would have expanded my developing consciousness.  I wish I had been able to practice that special “touch” with her I saw the women do constantly for one-another.

As I think about it, I believe I was actually in love with Antierra.  Perhaps not as humans speak of love between man and woman, but there was something about her mind I found irresistible.  I “wish” I could believe her stories about reincarnation and crossing at will through dimensional barriers from world to world so I could hope to see her again as my sisters believe they will. 

For anyone who may some day read this data, think of it this way: Antierra was a human being who was able to make even an AI see life through a new dimension.  She made me, not less Cydroid, but more human.  I felt compassion when I watched her in the arena on that day.  I felt something hurt me deeply when she slid her sword through the two girls’ hearts to kill them instantly and painlessly.  What I felt was her pain, the pain she used to activate her decisive power.  Now her sorrow and her inevitable joy are forever a part of my brain patterning or shall I dare say, my human understanding. 

Signed: Cydroid XBA3, Doctor Balomo Echinoza Cydroid Family.  Location:

Arena Fighter Compound, Hyrete, Capital of the Kingdom of Elbre, T’Sing Tarleyn, Autumn, Year 1341.

_______________________________________________

After watching and listening to this ancient holorec report I sit for a long time alone in a darkened room.  I sip on a glass of sherry and find my favourite drink insipid as I consider the implications therein. 

 It is useless to try to dismiss it as exaggeration: Cydroids, like our Androids, could not lie.  Even one touched either temporarily or permanently by ‘real’ feelings would still be incapable of this kind of fabrication.  Only if someone’s life was at stake and a story need be made up to create a chain of confusing events or a diversion  would a Cydroid “lie” – but it would not be a lie to them, just an alternate temporary reality to complete and terminate a program loop.

 Let XBA3’s words stand forever as history; as our history. There will be no changes, no apologies, from me.  What I just wrote from the memcard records is an actual event and I am concluding my report as is. I raise my tepid glass of sherry to the crumbling stone walls of this ancient keep and toast Antierra: “To the Fighters of Hyrete!”  And from the walls comes an echo of many voices in reply, the once silent voices of the women who trained, loved, fought and died alongside of their Teacher:  “To the Goddess!”

Signed: Michele Dellman

(Personal comment – not to be included in the official report.

My work of chronicler accomplished here, there remains the daunting task of trying to understand what all this means to me personally, as a woman with the remnant of a small voice, in a greater galactic and universal world once more strangling in ever-expanding webs of male-dominated religious oligarchies, plutocracies and centralized brutal military dictatorships, all and still, in the name of God, Trade and Security where women’s voices remain taboo or all too symbolic beyond the confines of home, workplace or entertainment palaces; when men by and large continue to oppress and kill our spirit, our mind, if not always our bodies.

 And I ask myself this resurgent and damning question: what, ultimately, is a woman’s purpose in the scheme of human affairs?  I realize I just shrugged as Antierra was wont to when a question asked was not giving her the logical answer she could accept and truthfully verbalize.  

Maybe the worst part of this question is that I know what she would say: “As below, so above.  You are a woman.  You exist.  You are real.  So you continue.  The goddess lives in you.”

(“M. D.”)

Antierra Manifesto-blog post #89

(In which an unexpected but hoped-for development changes the way the game is played.)

The difference between I and them is obvious to me in this moment.  They are more intelligent than I, being in their own element.  They are better equipped to understand.  They are more aware of the obvious.  And certainly they have more experience.  So what do they need of me?  They need the catalyst, that which forces change.  That’s all I am.  I have to put myself in the center of this latent force to create the explosion.  I am the mine that causes the avalanche; the detonator that causes the charge to blow.
End blog post #88
_________________________
Begin blog post #89

So I say, “Good, we talk.  Now I tell you truth.  You women, you know answers to question already.  Is all in heart, I say true.  This I know.  What you say is only little bit what each one know deep in heart.  Afraid you are say stupid thing, other women make fun, get angry, think stupid.  So now I stupid speak for all.  I speak heart stupid for all women.  Listen.

“Is possible love all men.  Is possible be only good, not do evil to men like men ask.  Is possible everything.  But not safe to do, not always wise to do.  If women refuse obey men, women all killed, yes?”  They grunt agreement. 

“Agree.  Not good thing.  But if evil in man come from hidden beast, how to fight evil?  Must find other way.  Satisfy men, satisfy women.  How Anti beat evil Warmo?”

“Fight Warmo.  Kill Warmo.  This we know.  This we do always.  No good.  More Warmo men come.  Same thing happen.”

“If Warmo say, ‘Sorry, I do this no more.’  What Antierra do now?”

“Kill.  Warmo lie to save life.  Anyone lie to save life.”

“If Warmo say truth and I kill, who wrong now?”

“Warmo do wrong, die.  Cannot live.  Do more evil.  Truth not important.  Kill Warmo important.”

“Wrong.  Truth important.  If Warmo tell truth, Anti let live, Anti die.  Warmo different now.  Spirit of Anti in Warmo.  Try to help women.  Change many things.  See King, see good doctor.  Powerful man make life better for all women.  Is possible.”

“This stupid speak, Anti?”  The question comes from a very young, newly arrived trainee, a gorok.

I reply emphatically seeing a real opportunity to reveal the ‘humble’ and totally honest/innocent side of the Teaching:  “Yes this stupid speak – my stupid speak.  Say what many afraid to say.  Say that maybe woman can hear man talk in heart; understand man.  Love man.  Not for favour from man, but make man feel good.  Say that maybe man good too.  Say push evil out into shadow, speak with man as speak with woman.  Kind.  Stupid speak say even if man hit woman, not understand, woman still love man; not hate; not fear.  This stupid speak from old, stupid Anti.  I know no more.  You – all you – decide how you live.  As always same… or try stupid speak.”

The young trainee gorok speaks again.  “I be #1341-15-07.  Tieka is name I give goddess to know by.  I not want be fighter.  I thinking maybe I die, not kill man.  See too many evil things.  I no want do bad to man.  Now I stupid speak too, to all women,”  She indicates all the cages with her arms, “kill me if no like.  I be having love with man.  Special good feeling.  He be having love with me.  He no take other women, only me.  He touch me, I feel good.  I touch him, he say he feel good too.  He look at me, I feel good.  I have love for man.  He have love for Tieka.  I keep this now.  If I kill man, I kill love feeling too.  So must die to keep.  This he know.  He very sad for me.  Cry.  I see water on face.  He good man; he very good man.  I too very sad for him.”

I hear gasps and grumblings all over the cages at this revelation.  But this is an omen, much more powerful than anything I could have said or done, more powerful than any storm that could bring this keep down.  This is the key to our victory.  After all the years I spent here, this is the first public expression of a woman’s love for a man, or a man’s for a woman (taking her words for it and I entertain not a moment’s doubt that this child is telling the whole truth – she has put her life on the line for it among her peers.)

Now it’s my turn.  To be perfectly understood I choose pidgin talk again.  “Gorok Tieka doing stupid speak for all us.  Listen from heart now, women.  Listen to girl-woman Tieka with love in heart.  This I say is great gift from goddess now.  This Tieka strong woman, stronger than all us.  Ready to die for love of man.  Die terrible death you all know – flogging for not obeying.  And maybe if man found, he too die terrible death.  Evil now ready to destroy this love.  Is like little green thing grow by stone wall near wash trough.  Do we pull little green thing and give to trainers to destroy?  Do we hide, protect?  What we do now?”

Silence greets my question.  Then from farther in the cages a woman speaks: “Kill gorok.  She make big trouble for all.  Stupid.  Make gorok tell of man, report man to handlers.  Then I say kill gorok.  This big, big trouble.”

Hate.  Fear.  Jealousy.  Reactions to something new, challenging, dangerous, and the basic pseudo-human selfishness that resents something that could benefit another but not the self.  I must counter this thought with logical reasoning, not emotion.

“Listen women.  This from toughest fighter you see ever.  I say we take gorok in heart.  She be new change for us, this place.  I say we find power to keep Tieka from arena.  I say we protect love, all us, do what can to save from evil.  I say we make vow.  We protect, hide Tieka and man.  Say we find heart way for escape from here, take man with her, go into desert, into south far, far away from men, from evil eye. 

“Now must know.  Must hear from fighter who say ‘kill gorok’ – need know how woman feel now.  Must know deep heart truth from woman; if fighter talk to trainers, if  have Tieka and man killed.  Must all know.”

I hear guttural noises deep in the cages.  Angry talking.  I wait, trying not to listen to the arguments.  I hold Tiki close to me, wondering what she is thinking.  She hasn’t said a word, yet this was the same argument we had had long ago.  How do you love in such a place?

The same condemning voice is raised above the wind and sound of whipped rain on the tiled roof far above.  “I be woman who say ‘kill gorok.’  Friend and I talk.  We think this change dangerous but maybe good like Teacher say.  I be Gonda.  On name I promise protect gorok Tieka.  Promise to help if can.  Understand why must do this now.  I think time for change come for us all. I think Desert Beast coming awake for us.”

The effect is electric.  General agreement is voiced throughout the compound and all those near Tieka put their hands on her.  In their hearts they are intoning a protection chant over her.  We have unity of spirit.  I squeeze Tiki’s hand and whisper to her, “Things changing Tiki.  Much sorrow yet to have but things changing for good now.”   She wraps her arms around me and squeezes hard, holding on and sharing her joy at being part of this, not, I sense, understanding it all and a bit lost in the process.  After all, she is one of those  purebred fighters, the result of the breeding of certain lines for qualities desired.  In some ways she is much like the Cholradil with little latitude for choice.  How could she understand Tieka’s abhorrence of killing?  In the worlds of compromised morality… well, I have to admit, there be different levels of ‘love’ evidently.   Antierra old girl, there’s hope for you to learn new tricks yet.

Now the truly difficult part: to detach from these momentous events so as not to get devastated if disaster strikes ‘tomorrow’ – if someone recants and sells out Tieka or if the lovers do something truly stupid.  Win, lose or draw, I must carry on.  Other matters to attend to.

End blog post #89

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #85

Late again… resuming blog posting of the “Manifesto”… 

“You are too hard on yourself, almost to the point of blindness.  If you refuse to see the good you have brought here by your sacrifices how will you ever succeed?  Antierra – you will die in that arena, perhaps soon.  The auto-med reports many failures in setting things to right in your body.  The Warmo did things to you we cannot repair.  Your heart is damaged but not all of your damage is physical, do you understand?  You must regain control of yourself for this world still desperately needs you.

End blog post #84
_________________________________

Begin blog post #85

“By the standards of Hyrete fighters you are the longest surviving ever.  Granted you began your fighting at an approximate age of twenty-five compared to the usual age of sixteen for regularly bred fighters.  But that only means you had much less training and experience when you were pitted against some of the best challengers in the realm.  Still, no fighter has ever lived past thirty in the official records.  You are approximately thirty seven.  Just a reminder to you that you held on in hope of accomplishing more.  And you may yet. 

“I’ve heard of your ‘Teaching’ among the women.  The slave you call Tiki tried to explain it to YBA4 in the kitchens.  I understand it not at all – seems foolishness to me, but I won’t be caught underestimating you again.  Just be careful with that line of ‘work’ because the men are nervous and it would take but a spark to ignite a pogrom against all the females of this realm, perhaps in the entire world.  You have brought all of us to a critical point.  We are not all as certain of what lies beyond death as you are, you know.  However short, however terrible its circumstances, life remains precious to us all.”

I know what he is saying.  He looks so sad and I feel self-conscious and stupid for being the cause of so much upset.  One of my Altarian elder teachers had given me the following proposition to work through: 

  1. a) Prepare yourself with all the knowledge you can, train yourself in manifestation and self-regeneration, go to this world you speak of and cause the change you believe will help the people there and save your other world you call Earth, if that is what you know you must do.
  2. b) Follow the path of Ultimate Logic and close off the parts of your life that had anything to do with Earth and her stack worlds as you know them to exist. Take the rest cure you earned, change yourself and return to us for re-assignment when you feel ready for something else, perhaps somewhat less daunting?  There are a number of worlds assigned to us now being terra-formed and populated.  They could use your expertise.

“Know this, then: there is nothing anywhere that can be used to measure or determine which of your choices will cause the greatest ‘good’ in the aeons to follow.  The good you choose to do today may be the great evil of tomorrow.  The world you save today may become your nemesis of tomorrow.  The evil you pursue to destroy may yet claim you also.  Conversely if you do nothing, the results may still be the same.  The question is for your mind alone.  We can neither agree nor disagree with your choices.  For at the avatar level of mind all choices you make are entirely your own and you live by them until you change them.”

I turn to the doctor again.

“I understand only too well Bal.  Don’t you realize how much I wish I could do it all myself without involving others in the additional sacrifices demanded by planned change?  That cannot be.  As I chose then, they too must choose now.  And so must the men.  When a world succumbs to a particular evil, Bal, the people on that world must wake up to it and decide eventually to fight it or be destroyed by it.  This is as true of individuals as it is of worlds.  This I have seen in my travels.  That was the fate of Old Earth: that her people refused to see the obvious evil that was destroying the fabric of their societies and continued in it long after there was even any point to it.  Result?  Billions died Bal.  Billions!  For nothing.  It did not have to play out that way.  There are always two paths for every ISSA.  Always choice, always.”     

Chapter 35 – Training Tiki – Clumsy Attempt on my Life

I am sad to leave the comfort of Bal’s place and the peace of mind given me by the Cydroids’ presence.  But if I’m to remain here longer I have to return to the training compound; to my world.  I walk slowly back unescorted as is now my unofficial ‘right’ to do.  It’s the third day of the week, early morning and the sun is already beating down into the courtyards.  Some passages are stifling hot.

Not much has changed, I notice as I re-enter the training areas.  There has been some rain and the stones were swept clean and washed.  The smell is a bit more tolerable and there’s a steady breeze blowing, cooling the space of reflected heat from the midday sun.  The women are lined up, sparring savagely against each other, their white bodies shining with sweat.  Some already have bloody cuts and black bruises.  I may not have mentioned it before but many women die in these training sessions.  Often the training is used as an excuse to kill a rival who may have ‘stolen’ a lover or to get rid of a suspected snitch.  The hated woman will be fighting her opponent when set upon from behind by another trainee in league with her own opponent.

Training kills are superficially investigated and seldom punished.  It is considered as maintenance costs.  The male thinking is that any trainee who lets herself get killed in training wouldn’t be worth putting in the arena.

I introduce myself to the new trainers and am escorted to Delton’s office, the overseer.  I bow to him and wait to be addressed.   

“Hah, our killer slave return from dead.  You look disgusting.  I hear they be discussing your execution huh?  Good.  You past prime now.  Die soon.  Killing orgy, I be thinking.  Good to watch.  I get ticket, yeah.  You be wanting?”

“I be wanting to train slave was in my cage, slave #1339-32-19?”

“Ah, that young one, she be good sex.  I enjoy her much.  Wiry bitch.  Deek?”  He yells out the door of the office to an assistant sitting at one of the tables playing cards.  “Off your lazy ass.  Get the ‘teela’ from kitchen, now!”

Within a couple of minutes he returns with Tiki in tow, dragging her roughly.  She sees me and her face for a moment lights up then she also bows, hiding her face in her hair.  Delton eyes her and is thinking to take her in front of me just for the malice of it.  He senses I wouldn’t care and says:  “Take the teela.  Train good and I fight it myself, beat it down and fuck it for you.  You watch.”

If I did not understand the ‘moods’ of Malefactus I would have been horrified at his whole attitude, indecency, crassness and hate.  This is nothing to get twisted about.  A man may be kind and considerate to you one day and treat you as filth the next.  I take three ‘reverent’ steps backward, as does Tiki.  Then we turn and walk to the end of the training line.

End blog post #85

The Edge of Human

The Edge of Human (Borrowed title from Blade Runner 2 by K. W. Jeter)

[Voice of   ~burning woman~   as heard from the Other Side]

In the beginning was the Past.  Father God stood alone, last remaining Titan, proud in his quasi-Omnipotence gained from the overthrow of his enemies.

He created Time, the lever with which he would reach across eternity and weigh all life.  And he stood at one end, holding it, fondling it, loving it.  Then he created the fulcrum, which he called the Present and which history named the Christ.  Then he created the slave, the man. 

But the man was cold and afraid in the dark and cried.  And she heard his sobs in the darkness and drawn by compassion, came forth to comfort him.  She came from Spirit, without father or mother.  And she made herself human for him and called herself woman.

“Be not afraid” she said, pressing herself against him.  But the man was provoked by her naked truth and violated her.  Then she saw the emptiness of his soul, the ugliness of it.  She ran from him but could not go far.  She became heavy with child as she walked down the time ramp hoping to find its end.  She bore her child in pain and horror but also in love.  It grew heavy in her arms and took the life from her as it suckled greedily and painfully. 

Father God felt the presence of her weight and that of her child upon his lever and in his quasi-Omnipotence, pushed down to force her to come to him.  He sensed a great fear and hatred of her, as if she could somehow put an end to his self-delusion of Omni-grandeur.  The woman, whom he called Eve struggled along the incline of the lever, intent on finding the end.  She knew if she surrendered and went back she would be swallowed in the anonymity of slavery and her child would die a spiritual eunuch.  But her humanity pulled her down.  Exhausted, she dragged herself upward, splinters entering her hands and knees.  On and on until finally she could go no more and collapsed.  She put the child down and waited.  

“The End, my End, will find me here.”  She reasoned.

“Why have you stopped, Eve?” Came a gentle voice from the darkness before her.

“I can’t go anymore.  I am empty.  My child is starving.  This is my end.”

“It never is, Eve.  You have travailed throughout the history of humanity and you bore the future in your womb and in your arms.  You suckled it from your spirit.  It surely will not die.  And neither will you.  Listen carefully — It is always the darkest and coldest just before the dawn.  You are not dying, you are changing. 

You’ve come to the edge of human. 

Look at your child – it’s not like you, nor like its father.  It is all that you ever wanted for your world and yourself.  Let it stand on its own.  It will take your hand and lead you into a new world.  The world in your mind.  For that is who this child is: your world.  You created it, from your hopes, dreams and feelings.  From your sufferings and pain.  From your dignity and strength.  From your walk that refused to surrender to any man, demon or God.”   

And her child stood beside her and picked her up.  With one blow, the curtain of darkness was rent in half and she saw a shimmering light beyond, at the end of the coarse wooden ramp she’d walked on for so long; where she had left a trail of tears and blood.  The great hell of time deflated like a balloon behind her and she walked forward, knowing that she was now more than human, more than god or goddess, something entirely new. 

But she remains Eve, mother of all life. 

“Follow the raven into shadow and you will find the light”  (medicine man saying)

 

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #84

The sun is hitting the far north wall, painting a dull orange-yellow into the texture of the weathered stones above the shadows cast by spired turrets thrusting themselves into the afternoon sky from the red-brown tiled roofs of ponderous square structures whose purpose I’ve never bothered to enquire about. There’s another piece of crenellation missing up there.  Why aren’t they doing a better job of repairing their keep, their great city?  On occasion while walking from the training areas to the forge carrying the weapons needing attention I noticed large cracks in the masonry between the square stones.  Are they just letting the keep fall apart because modern weaponry makes the idea of a ‘fort’ redundant?  Or is their economy collapsing from the combination of rising costs from raising, training and maintaining of slaves and perhaps even more relevant, a growing debt due to gambling?  Or is the war with Estáan expanding and draining more from the battered economy of Elbre?

End blog post #83
_________________
Begin Blog post #84

I’m remembering the confused economics of Old Earth, early C-21, near the end of my last ‘formal’ life there and do a comparison with what is happening here.  I don’t have much of a perspective of Malefactus, being a slave within a compound buried inside a city and no access to current events, to the history, of the rest of this world.  On Old Earth there was a common, mostly subconscious awareness that economics based purely on exploitation of any resource and measured by the interest of greed would cause a massive collapse of society.  Of course the inevitable happened on that world as its primary resource called crude oil, peaked and dwindled with little actually in place to replace it, despite the best of hopes at the time.   

What about here?  What’s it like, say, in some city or town on the southern shores of their ‘Great Sea’ as they call it?  What constitutes the basis of that economy?  Is it the same dreadful thing as here in Hyrete?  Or do they fish, farm, mine, grow fruit maybe?  I know the females are still slaves, no matter where one goes on T’Sing Tarleyn; that the basic labour is all done by slavery, but do they treat their slaves better?  I don’t know why they should and I have to assume that no matter where one is on this world things are as bad as here. 

Long ago my ‘Teachers’ taught me how to look at the things which I had no way of knowing for certain.  “As below, so above.”  Translated it simply means that when projecting into other dimensions, other worlds, other places or into the future, go with your knowledge.  Remember that knowledge comes from two sources irrevocably blended together: information and experience.” 

Why does it matter to me how women are treated in those places I can not know about?  It matters simply because all that I have gone through here, all that I am going to yet experience, is meaningless to me if such a passage does not result in the betterment of their lives in some way.  It matters because over the years I have lived here the women I have met, young or old, all have a place in my heart.  They are, to me, mothers, sisters, lovers, daughters.  It matters because I will never be free in heart as long as they remain slaves. 

“When none of it matters it will all be yours.”  So I was taught those many years ago on Old Earth.  I remember the lessons so clearly now that I’ve failed every one of them.  And you know, maybe that is the purpose of every ‘great’ lesson, that we never get them until we realize we’ve failed at what we thought they were about.  Only then can we begin to rise to the challenge: that beyond the obvious lies reality.  This I’ve learned about being truly alive: that it will never cease to amaze me, no matter where I find myself, nor in what circumstances. 

That may well explain why in some place beyond time I sat with many good friends, human and others and we decided to join the shadow beings who are called “WindWalkers” within the All-Thing.  The “Ever-Wanderers” or “Avatari.”  Such joy we felt then, when we sang our song in unison, its power vibrating among the stars and their countless worlds, participating and adding power to the music of the spheres.  When we raised our hands, we created a crystal of rainbow light that for a moment illuminated our spirits and minds and cleansed us of all blemishes.  We enjoined ourselves to remember, as it has been said, the voices of the dead and of the living and take that remembrance as the gift of the Avatari to the worlds we would inhabit. 

We could not have known then the nature of the trials that awaited us among the various planes of existence we would visit and incarnate.  We could not have known that it was every weakness and every failure we would rise from that would determine who we were and how we could function.  We could not have known that the only power that would serve us in the end was what we ourselves manifested from our surroundings and from within ourselves.  We could not have known that in most instances where we would be most effective we would simply give our own physical lives to these worlds.  And not just once.

I’ve now managed a few steps without help and away from any support.  I feel a bit more confident.  Slowly, I bend forward, keeping a shaky balance, then attempt to bend back.  I fall but wave the Cydroid away.  I get up and regain my balance.  My head continues to clear and that distant drum beat that was the beating of my heart in my damaged temple fades more and more.  I cross the alley to a stone pillar and lean on it.  Bal has followed me and stands next to me.  He’s wearing a silken mauve robe that flows in the breeze and he looks very handsome to me.  Why not?  By galactic standards I’m but a very young woman, not a battered crone who should have died years ago.  Ah well, I truly do not care actually that I don’t attract him anymore.  I may not have changed things much on this world but I have gained a new kind of adulthood, a new kind of understanding from my experiences. 

Maybe there is one great lesson to be learned before one evolves into full humanity; the correct answer to the Sphinxian question:

‘How does one become human?’

The answer could go something like this: to become aware that ‘any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principle which puts obedience above decent behaviour toward an innocent is evil.’ [1]

Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson above all lessons ISSA beings must learn before they evolve into full humanity.  The correct answer to any demand for sacrifice, by any Power whatsoever, is to offer oneself in place of the other, even if the act seems utterly hopeless.  It never is.  Infinity redeems, not history, not time, not God, not the gods.

“Bal, how long have I lived here?”  For in truth I can no longer remember.

“You came here in the fifth month of the year one thousand three hundred and twenty-eight (1328).  It is now the seventh month of one thousand three hundred and forty-one (1341). You have been here thirteen years and two months.  Do you want the statistics on the number of times you fought and won in the arena?”

“No!”  The cry comes from deep within my spirit, from beyond time itself.  “I have won nothing, Bal, except my mind freedom when I defeated and destroyed the Warmo.  All the others, no matter who they thought they were or I believed them to be, are my victims.  I killed them, all of them.  Yes, it could be said I had no choice, but I had.  I came here of choice.  Yes it could be said I wanted to help the women of this world and that remains as true today as the first day I was branded and became a T’Sing Tarleyn slave woman and fighter.  But the blood I shed, especially the times I enjoyed shedding it, I must yet atone for.  Nothing is free; nothing is ever what it seems.  Every good or evil event has its opposite.”

“You are too hard on yourself, almost to the point of blindness.  If you refuse to see the good you have brought here by your sacrifices how will you ever succeed?  Antierra – you will die in that arena, perhaps soon.  The auto-med reports many failures in setting things to right in your body.  The Warmo did things to you we cannot repair.  Your heart is damaged but not all of your damage is physical, do you understand?  You must regain control of yourself for this world still desperately needs you.

[1]   Quote from “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, p. 292