The second fight has lasted over three hours. Later the doctor tells me it was the longest one-on-one combat fights ever recorded. Even as Torlat still twitches on the ground the King rises, ends the tournament and dismisses the unruly crowd with a show of force from several hundred black-clad uniformed and armoured Hyrete police held in readiness. As the police units file down the aisles in the stands all outbursts cease. The fans file out to consider their staggering losses and a few to rejoice over their winnings. Despite the mounting evidence that female fighters will overcome their male challengers on an average of three to one, these sick men cannot believe the evidence, going with their feelings of revulsion and hate; believing women are weaker than men and continuing to place their bets on the male challengers.
I live another day, and to what end? For the moment, there is but one end: to save Deirdre.
[end blog post #38]
[begin blog post #39]
Chapter 17 – If One Woman Escapes
In the weeks following the fight I am employed, or better said, occupied, strictly as trainer of new recruits. It is a time of reflection and observation. I think about my performance, not in the physical realm – there is not much I could change or improve on that – but in my heart and in my mind. I think about what I thought I would do here, and what I have done instead. In deep and constant retrospection, I analyze my feelings. The killings are now beginning to haunt my thoughts. I feel like a murderer of innocents. Innocents because I realize they are pushed to be what they are. Something drives them, something they have no defence against. I encounter that same feeling of helplessness and frustration I knew so well on Túat Har when I encountered injustice and the various levels of oppression constant in all her societies.
Balomo Echinoza, medical doctor and anthropologist, citizen of the world of Koron, intelligent, educated, aware; an interstellar traveler renowned for his research and writings, after fifteen years on this world is succumbing to the same misogynist force that controls all the men of T’Sing Tarleyn. He falls into moods of uncontrollable rage against a woman if he feels she has slighted him in some way and strikes her without any qualms until the madness recedes and he realizes his act. Then he plunges into deep despair.
How much longer before I too become like other gladiator females and fight simply because I want to live and I have no other choice, or worse, because I want to kill men? I realize now that both the men and women of this world are victims of some Power beyond their will to overcome. Even the rare Cholradil, the natural born empaths, do not see the problem of Malefactus. They see themselves as the problem for being unable to become normal members of their society.
I thought at first the problem was in the local natural stimulant drug made from the chakr root. A simplistic conclusion that was quickly proved wrong. Neither Bal nor I use it and the few times I did, it only made me sick. And why do the Cholradil – both female and male – remain immune to the sickness?
Yes, I did learn that there are male Cholradil on this world. The males never live past the rite of puberty. When confronted by the female he must kill, she invariably kills him, end of story. So, according to Deirdre, Cholradil males absorb large quantities of chakr in desperate attempts to overcome their dreaded affliction – all to no avail. They cannot hurt another, no matter what is done to them and no matter what they do to themselves.
So, does one have to be born a natural empath to be immune to misogyny or can one develop that sense somehow? I have no answer. The only side issue I find from this line of questioning is that I would never want to become a natural empath. To be driven to whatever end by a feeling you have absolutely no control over is a terrible thing. It’s too much like an addiction. On Altaria we are empaths by choice. We choose how we respond to our feelings.
I remember a time when I was going through particular angst over my visions of this world. I entered into an extended fast without food or water. To do this I walked up the green hills of my Altarian home near the valley of the Great Rift we call Shaliant. I got to the top after three days of steady walking, not stopping of day or night – there is seldom any real darkness there because of our binary sun system. I remember my feet being guided to my destination by the very soil and stone of the planet herself during my ascent, for she too is an empath.
At the highest point I sat on a smooth red mound of sun-baked clay, now abandoned, made by travelling swarms of long reddish coloured architect beetles. These creatures build their mounds over long years of endless work, going through a full cycle, then suddenly swarming and taking flight to the very last, travelling hundreds of miles before they must descend again, lay their eggs in the ground and die. The emerging larva then begin their task of building a new mound.
Long I stayed awake through the days and the nights, sitting motionless, thus becoming more aware of life’s movements all around. I knew the fundamental impressions I was taking from my world would keep me sane enough to know when it was time to return, whatever happened to me as a result of my choices. They were the trigger I would use to cause the remembrance of my true self, whatever the dangers, the temptations or seductions put before me.
Allow me to describe this small aspect of Altaria. Mists filled Shaliant in the mornings and gently lift, or fade throughout the day as one of our two suns fill the deep canyons to reveal the sinewy bed of the river Fallouin, longest water course on Altaria. I could hear the dragged-out cries from the majestic osoleys, or sea birds, below the promontory outcropping where I sat and sometimes could see them soaring slowly and gracefully on the thermals far below my vantage point, their grey-blue wingspans up to five times the length of my body. They come in from the sea during their breeding periods that last approximately two years. Their time at sea we measure at seventeen to twenty-one years depending on the species. There are tales on our world of the old sea people (still known as the Mer-people on Túat Har) talking to the osoleys and of their children riding them. I believe these tales have more than a little truth to them.
But I hadn’t climbed to the top of Shaliant to enjoy the beauty of this totally unspoiled natural space, nor to guarantee my return in some future. I had come to rediscover another aspect of myself… and to cry alone. There is an odd flow of intelligent “mind” energy over Shaliant that has the power to block all telepathic connections. It is so strong that you cannot take any flying object over it, but must circumnavigate it. It blocks all flow of information from artificial computers. Only natural life can penetrate the mystery of Shaliant, or survive in it unscathed.
I wanted to block out the protective, empathic love of Altaria that flows naturally through all of us. I wanted to re-experience loneliness, as I had known it on Earth and knew I’d know even more on Malefactus. I remained on Shaliant for over a month. I relearned how to cry within a brokenness of heart. I relearned to allow all my feelings to jumble in and out of mind and heart and throw me in utter confusion. I relearned how to live within the mad cacophony considered normal on non-empath worlds.
It was from these heights that I chose to fade out of my Altarian body, allowing myself to fall over the edge of the Great Rift, plummeting into the maze to re-awaken and manifest physically transformed, on Malefactus.
Speaking of Malefactus, there is more to this world that makes me wonder. I cannot see much of it from the confines of our sleeping and training compound, but in this micro environment some things are obvious. You never hear anyone sing. It is prohibited. Why? There are no visible birds except for the vultures that appear without fail at every killing. There are no animals, wild or domesticated, except for whatever makes that lugubrious call on our walls in the night. You rarely see a blade of grass growing along the base of the great stone walls or in fissures and cracks, though there should be. If one does grow and is found, we are supposed to pull it out and bring it to a trainer to be disposed of… as if a freely growing thing was a sign of disease, or weakness. Of course no one does that. Any green thing we find, that being rare enough, we eat!
No flowers, wild or domestic, are ever seen. No leaf ever blows in from outside, so my guess is there are no tall trees, at least in this part of the world. Tiegli mentioned trees that made tents in the deep south.
Where do the vegetables we eat come from? And the straw we put in our cages? No answer.
I’ve been here several years now and the only thing that has changed is in the amount of sand blowing in and spreading in the yards, in the washing troughs and on the tables and seats. We have to clean it out and sweep constantly. I notice less rain also and on rare occasions our water has been rationed. When I first came here I was aware of a salty sea smell on certain days when the winds blew strong and steady from the north-east, bringing in clouds and rain. Now the smell is brackish and of rotting sea vegetation as on hot days when the tide goes way out in a collector bay. I’m guessing the level of the water is dropping. Is this a natural cycle or an environmental anomaly? Is the entire planet experiencing desertification? I have no answer.
Well no, that is not quite exact. I do have the beginning of vision dreams now. For years I wondered why my ability to dream was gone. I think the same force that causes the misogynist imbalance is also responsible for preventing people from dreaming. I know the women don’t dream, though some have reported seeing things at night akin to nightmares but they “see” their dreams as something happening outside of themselves. They see ghosts wandering around the cages and walking through the walls. They have little sense of creativity and most dismiss “brain images” as nonsense that will get you killed in the arena.
On recurrent dream is an image of the planet imploding, with all of her natural life force simply flowing out of her, leaving her, as if she were dying and sending off seeds of herself to re-grow herself somewhere else. If this is the case, it may come to pass that the sun will also die and all that will remain to light this doomed place will be the cursed Albaral, assuming of course that it is indeed self-powered and its light isn’t just a reflection of the natural sun.
Each time I verbalize the name of Albaral I find myself entering a psychic trance and “seeing” ideas as well as images connected to this artificial sun. This time I see the image of “Melkiar,” not as invading AI’s in spaceships, but as a gigantic artificial life form frozen within an ancient shiny black metallic carapace housing some kind of mind once an ISSA life, now drained of every aspect of its original self. A monstrous entity capable of programming AI’s to destroy all that it once was, as if doing so could erase the memory of what it had been before greed for longevity corrupted it.
Where do you exist now, in space/time, Melkiar? Where are you? What are your plans? Is Albaral one of your observation posts?
Could there be some connection between this world and the invaders of the United Treaty Worlds? For example the doctor’s old auto-medic cannibalized from one of the UTW jump scout ships that was sunk beneath the massive stone walls of Hyrete: how was that embedded under a fifty meter thick foundation supporting a twenty metre stone wall without being damaged? Melkiars could morph from thousands of small armed robots to giant inorganic brains encased in elephantine carapaces that could withstand the most powerful fusion weaponry. The only way we learned to destroy these monstrosities were with triple–headed singularity grenades which create multi-level fusion bursts that “ate” their intended target then “died” before they could expand into an uncontrolled melt-down.
These Melkiar constructs could travel unaided through short distances in deep vacuum space. They could hack their way through the hardest stone, causing havoc in mining communities of asteroid fields. Certainly, if they did penetrate the Malefactus stack world dimension along with the jump scouts, they could have easily taken an auto-medic and placed it here. The question foremost in my mind remains, ‘Why?’ What use would they have for an auto-medic designed to repair biological life forms, namely human bodies when their entire drive was to destroy all biologicals?
What else could they do we know nothing about? Much research into their particular type of life ended with the wars. No one wanted more to do with them. Probably another big mistake. But logically, if there is any logic to this place, why would they hide an auto-medic here in Hyrete? Is it possible there are AI rebels even among the Melkiar who sought to save human lives? Is there a relationship between the Melkiar, perhaps in some of their early penetrations in this Galaxy and the black metal men who defeated the green Desert Beast by blowing her ship out of the sky and subsequently enslaving the women and children of T’Sing Tarleyn? What about the chronology of these events? What happens to “linear time” when crossing dimensions? Could the Melkiars have wandered in this dimension thousands of years ago while at the same non-linear “time” invading our dimension of the Galaxy?
Obviously I’m not yet asking the right questions but I’ll get there.
[end blog post #39]