The Rizorian Flaw – Chapter Sixteen


English: Cayey Suset at Jajome

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Author’s note:

This is the last chapter of The Rizorian Flaw. I hope you have enjoyed reading this manuscript. The previous chapters 1-15 are all here on this blog. To find them, use the “find” function, using the title The Rizorian Flaw as the search term.

If you have enjoyed this story, please leave me a comment, and consider subscribing to my feed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  —Carole

Sixteen

Something disturbed Miriam’s sleep —again.  This time she got up, but rather than just pace the floor, she stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. She found little relief from the heat; the cool mountain winds that usually made sleep possible moved not at all through the torn banana leaves. Only the biting gnats seemed to have the energy to move around, and Miriam automatically slapped at her arms and legs as she peered into the darkness. But it wasn’t heat, nor the gnats that made her restless.

She sensed something within the fabric of the night that was out of place, a sort of wrinkle, a disturbance. Because her eyes could not pierce the darkness, Miriam released her mind to search for answers. When the calls of the coqui changed suddenly from their soothing songs to urgent cries, her anxiety quickened. The moonless sky cloudless, yet brilliant cast an eerie light and the stars seemingly pressed closer to Earth.

Suddenly, feeling a wave of weakness; she sat down on the step and cradled her head in her arms. Miriam had recognized the feeling of immediate danger that strengthened with each heart beat. It had found her.

Miriam reached into even deeper recesses of her mind to fight off the growing sense of panic, and systematically, she drove those feelings from her until she felt in control once again. The struggle wore her out, but the satisfaction she felt in the victorious outcome renewed her. It was time, she decided, to act.

Once again, she illuminated the darkness with her mind and searched the immediate area. Everything was as it should be, but the annoying undercurrent, the whispers, whose meaning she couldn’t quite make out, told her differently, and she knew that she was being warned.

Puzzled as to the meaning of the warning, she decided to check on the children; it was possible one of them was being menaced. Miriam stretched out her awareness to where each one of the children slept. Discovering they were all well she breathed a long sigh of relief; the collective shield that protected them all was intact. Unaware that anything was amiss, the children slept peacefully, and Miriam decided that there was no reason to disturb them. She strengthened the shield, and prayed it would be strong enough to protect them and her. For the moment, all were safe, but she felt drained of energy, and she knew she had to rest. The shield would maintain itself from the high energy levels of her Adept mind, but in order to replenish her energy, sleep and rest were necessry. It was difficult for Miriam to yield to the much needed sleep, but yield she did, knowing the danger that complete exhaustion would bring.

Just before dawn she awakened. Outwardly, everything appeared normal, but the presence of danger was still there. It grew stronger, more persistant, and finally, it demanded all her attention. Suddenly, she sensed something familiar, something that she could latch on to. The usual mountain breezes were on the prowl again, and with them they brought to her the scent of something that she recognized. It was the source of danger.

********

             Ahja followed the hastily drawn map that the clerk from the bureau of tourism had drawn for him. It led him to the town of Cayey, nestled in a basin in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Ahja would have never believed that it could be so easy. At first, this new mission had seemed to be just about impossible, yet here he was an hour or two away from its completion, with months to spare.

The search had begun when he returned to the place where he had lived for all those years on Earth. In the process of straightening his affairs, and getting established once again, he had paid a visit to his bank. Unexpectedly, it was that visit to the bank that had brought him to the Caribbean Island in search of the cause of his memory loss, and Miriam.

Miriam! Was it possible that she was alive?

At the bank he had discovered that all of his funds had been transferred to a bank in Puerto Rico over a year ago. No memory of such a transfer existed in Ahja’s memory, and yet there was no doubt that it had taken place. The bank clerks had remembered the complex transfer, and they were able to produce the records to verify it.

The money had been transferred to Miriam! Ahja’s hands had trembled when he saw her signature clearly on the computer image. Miriam survived! He shook his head in disbelief, he had seen her die in the Purification Squad lasers, yet there was proof that she lived. Incredible. It was even more unbelievable that he had known, and that he had transferred his funds to her. Ahja knew that his next step was to go to see her; his questions had to be answered, and Miriam was the key.

What would happen, he wondered, when he found her. Minje had reminded Ahja before he had left the ship that he was still under oath to complete the mission at all cost. If one Adept still survived, Ahja was now solely responsible for the elimination himself. The Lord Chairman had warned him that he had failed before, and that he must not again. Ahja had assured Minje that he would not fail, and yet he didn’t know it would be Miriam.

           As Ahja’s car climbed the steep mountain roads, he could feel the temperature drop until he felt almost comfortable. Perspiration no longer dripped down his face, and his glasses no longer slid down the narrow bridge of his nose. The road markers were hard to spot, and at times they were all but obscured by the tall grass, but at last he had arrived at the small general store, where he had been assured of further directions.

Just as Ahja entered the store and prepared to ask for directions, the short, red‑faced store keeper ran from behind the makeshift counter over to him. The man threw his arms around a speechless Ahja, and welcomed him enthusiastically. Abruptly, the store owner ran to the doorway; there he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hey, everybody, look! Ahja has returned!” It wasn’t too long before the store was crowded with people, who welcomed Ahja just as warmly.

           Where did all these people come from? And what was more important, these people knew and liked him! Why had this memory been taken from him?

“Miriam will be so happy to see you again, Ahja,” the red‑faced store owner said. “She told us you would never come back, and I told her that she was wrong. I know true love when I see it. Didn’t I tell all of you that?” he asked of the group of grinning people who crowded around Ahja.

“I have to see Miriam,” Ahja said.

Everyone laughed. There was a festive mood in the store.

“Of course, you want to see her. I’ll send my granddaughter, Milagros to tell her that you are here,” the store owner said.

“No, please, I prefer to go myself,” Ahja protested.

“No, Ahja,” the man said firmly, “all lovers are impatient, but you must give her some time to make herself pretty for you. Go, Milagros, and tell Miriam that Ahja is here!”

Before Ahia could object, the child was out of the store and out of sight. Minutes later, she was back, her cheeks scarlet with the effort of running back up the steep hill to the colmado where Ahja had been forced to wait impatiently.

             “She is so excited!” Milagros laughed as she clapped her hands. “Come, she wants to see you right away!” The child slipped her tiny hand in his and pulled him out of the store.

As he walked alongside the child, Milagros, Ahja cradled the small communicator in his hand. Minje had slipped it into his pocket before he had left the Lodestar. It was his ticket home. One call with the information that he already had, and the security team would come for him, and Miriam too. Ahja was certain that Miriam was responsible for his memory loss. Certainly, all of his troubles were over, but why did he hesitate? Perhaps, it was because he had to see her again to be sure, or because he wanted to see her for no logical reason. Furthermore, things had happened much too quickly, and he needed time to sort things out.

These people knew him, and they had welcomed him as if he were one of them who had returned home. The words of their language, too, flowed effortlessly through his mind, and when he spoke to these moountain people, the Spanish words seemed to caress his lips—like a kiss. They had said that Ahja and Miriam were lovers. If that were true, how could he have forgotten? Why was he forced to forget?

He saw her then. Miriam walked up the steep path to meet him. She smiled broadly, but as she got closer to Ahja, he could tell  she was under great stress, and that her smile was purely a theatrical one. She doesn’t fool me, he thought. I can play this game, too.

Miriam interrupted his thoughts by throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him lovingly on the mouth. Ahja heard a wild cheer, and shouts of encouragement from the people outside the store. Miriam smiled brightly and waved to the small crowd, watching them closely. The child turned and ran back to the main road; Ahja looked deeply into Miriam’s copper eyes, searching for answers.

“Don’t say anything now!” she whispered as she took his hand and led him to the most dilapidated shack that he had ever seen, or remembered seeing. They walked slowly and silently.

They still had not spoken when they went inside of the shack. Miriam sat down on a sofa that dominated the small room. Ahja noticed that its left, front leg was missing. An inverted coffee can held up that end of the sofa, and as Miriam seated herself, the old, and tired furnishing wobbled.

             Ahja stood in front of her feeling awkward, not knowing how to start his questioning. Fighting his feelings of confusion, he glanced around the sparcely furnished room, and chose a wooden, straight back chair that stood in a corner of the room. It was as far as he could get from her without leaving the shack. Ahja couldn’t understand his own silence; there were so many questions that he wanted to ask that were locked up inside of him, yet he was reluctant to release them just then.

Miriam also waited, her eyes round and bright with questions of her own. It would be so easy, she thought, if we linked minds, everything would’ve been settled by now. But Miriam was unsure of Ahja’s reaction should he sense her attempt at a telepathic link, and she had noticed how tightly he held the small metal device in his hand.

“All of those people know me,” Ahja whispered. “I’ve been here before?”

Miriam nodded. It would be wise, she thought, to let him uncover the truth for himself.

“They knew me well?”

“Yes, you had stayed with me for a many weeks. They liked you, and they still like you.

“They say that we were lovers.”

It was not a direct question, and Miriam didn’t comment. Ahja searched her face for some reaction to what he had just said, but her face was impassive, and he could find no answers there.

“If that were true, I would remember, Miriam.”

Silence.

“Aboard the ship, I was told that something, or someone had tampered with my mind, and with my memory. Miriam, talk to me! It’s vital that I find out what happened to me! ”

Ahja clutched the communicator in his hand. A part of him wanted to signal the ship, but he couldn’t, not before he had found the answers to his questions. He got up from his chair, walked slowly across the creaking boards of the room, and he sat down on the sofa next to Miriam. He sat stiffly, his hands gripped his knees, the communicator momentarily forgotten.

“What happened, Miriam?” His voice was controlled, but the features of his face hinted at the suppressed rage. “Do you know who did this to me?”

Her lack of response infuriated him, and he lost the control of which he had been always so proud. He jumped from the sofa, and taking hold of her shoulders, Ahja shook her violently. “Did you steal my memories, Miriam? Was it you?”

Miriam did not flinch from his touch. Serenely, she looked into his eyes, smiled faintly and answered him in a whisper so soft that he could hardly hear her.

“Yes, Ahja, I did do that.”

Ahja dropped his hands to his side. “But why?” he cried.

“Because you asked me to do it, in fact, you begged me to, and that is the only reason why I would’ve even considered it. I did it for you!” Miriam had answered without raising her voice, and while Ahja’s expression grew dark and menacing, her face showed no trace of fear.

“That’s ridiculous! Why would I have asked such a thing of you? Why would anyone?”

“Perhaps the past was too painful, or too dangerous to keep.”

“Don’t answer me in riddles, woman, tell me what I want to know.”

“The truth?”

“The truth, all of the truth.”

“When your people came back for you, you were eager to rejoin them. Your only thoughts were of returning to your home world after your long stay here. Only one thing held you back.”

“And that was?”

“The knowledge that during the debriefing, your people would discover that I had not died at the hands of the Rizorians. There was no way for you to hide that knowledge from the debriefer, and you didn’t want your memories to betray me. You came to me with what you said was the only solution, and asked me to erase those memories.”

Ahja had been ready to tear apart any argument, or any explanation that she might have made, but now he hesitated. While he couldn’t accept her explanation readily, he admitted to himself that it was something he might have done. It could’ve happened that way, but without his memory, how would he know for sure?

“Give me back my memories, Miriam!”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“They no longer exist.”

“But you had access to them, and you remember.”

“Yes, that’s true, but…”­

“Then if any part of them is still alive in your mind, you can give them back. Do that, and I’ll believe you.”

“I can’t, Ahja. You aren’t Adept, and you don’t have the ability to enter my mind. And even if you could, you might cause irreparable damage to me. All I can do is enter your mind, and share my memories with you, but they would be my memories we would share. You would not be satisfied with my recollection, you would reject them as you reject my explanation even now. Ahja. I’ve never lied to you, surely you can remember that much about me.”

“You’re lying now, and you’re hiding something. That’s why you won’t allow me to enter your mind. With your abilities, you could find a way to do it, if you wanted to.”

“Ahja, you’re wrong. But listen, I don’t think that you need to look into my mind to find the truth. I did what you asked me to do because you were desperate, and you wanted to protect me.”

“If I loved you that much, why would I leave you?”

Miriam shrugged her shoulders and smiled at him sadly. “Only you can answer that, Ahja.”

“If you loved me, why did you let me go? Why did you help me?”

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right thing to do,” she answered softly.

Ahja stared at this woman, who showed so little emotion, and who returned his gaze without wavering once. Her voice was soft and quiet, her lips did not tremble, nor were there tears in her eyes. How could he judge what she had said?

The sun was beginning to set, and in the growing twilight Ahja spotted tiny flashes of blue‑green light drift past the open door…

The communicator purred warmly in his hand; it seemed to be alive. Ahja had only to depress one small button to be in instant contact with the Lodestar, just one button, and the link would be established. He caressed it as he held it in the palm of his hand. He seemed to be lost in thought, when suddenly, deliberately, he turned his palm over, and sent the communicator crashing to the floor.

Startled, Miriam cried out.

“Don’t worry, Miriam, it’s nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing? It was your communicator, and I know how important it was to you.”

“It isn’t any longer.” Ahja smiled, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to look away from the spot on the floor where the shattered communicator lay. He had made his decision, and while there were no doubts, or regrets in his mind, he needed a little more time to sever the link completely between him and the ship that might have taken him home.

            After a while, Ahja pushed aside the shattered remains of the little device with his foot, but he did so gently. At that moment, he felt ready to stop looking backwards at what might have been, and surprisingly, he felt relieved.

All the while Miriam had remained silent. watching him closely. She wasn’t certain what his actions meant, and she was afraid to hope.

Ahja took her hand. “I’ll stay on Earth, Miriam. I’ll stay here with you, if you’ll let me.” Ahja frowned thoughtfully before he added in an almost shy, uncertain voice. “It’s alright, isn’t it, Miriam?”

A tremendous swell of joy washed over her as she fought the insane urge to cry, and to laugh simultaneously.

“Ahja,” she whispered as she drew herself closer to him, “the one thing that I had feared and regretted most was that you would never speak those words to me.”

As they kissed and held onto each other, Miriam’s feelings of tremendous joy broke free from the last restraining bonds, fired by the energy of her mind. Her emotions cascaded from her, surged from the tiny shack, reeled and spun uncontrollably into the sleepy countryside, and echoed through the shadows of the mountains.

Maestra? The thoughts tugged shyly at Miriam’s awareness. Maestra Miriam, is everything all right?

           Oh yes, children, everything is fine, perfect. And I have wonderful news. Ahja will stay here with me, with us!

           Pardon us, Maestra, the thoughts carried many conflicting emotions, we are happy for you, and we like him, but will it be safe?

           It will be safe. This man is different as you will see. In time he will know about you, and I know  he will accept you, and help you as I have done. Of this I am certain.

           If you say so, Maestra Miriam. For too long they had distrusted outsiders, but if Maestra Miriam said it was so, they would accept her judgement. It was their way.

           There were many other questions in the minds of the children of the mountain, but they found a shield of privacy strung up between them and the mind of their teacher. Accustomed to her constant and ready attention, they did not like the shield that for the first time separated them from her.

The collective minds of the children retreated slowly and reluctantly. They were not yet powerful enough to break through the privacy shield that Miriam had set up, and years of discipline prevented them from trying.

Knowing there would be other times more appropriate for their questioning, the children turned their attention to their children’s games, and to the ever important task of maintaining their shield against scrutiny from everyone outside.

Miriam closed her eyes and smiled. Her children had learned their lessons well. The men from beyond the stars would never know of their existence.

           They are such good children, she thought, listening to their shrieks of laughter as they ran and played. Carefully, she tested their strength. Without taking time out from their games, the children easily held the network of their shield firmly in place.

Miriam was pleased.

 
 

					
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