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Memories in the Dust

 

 

 

 

  Author’s notes:

This story is a great departure for me.  I have always been proud of the designation “Mistress of WD Zorro Fanfiction.”  I still am, but sometimes a scenario comes along that hits you between the eyes, demands to be told and does not leave you alone until it is written.  I have written over 50 chapters on this, divided it into two ‘books’ and still the characters demand more of my time.  They will probably get it….    While this is a Zorro story, it is also a romance, as well as a science fiction story.  And while this is not entirely a Zorro story in the normal sense, within the confines of the WD universe, I still have tried to keep it there as much as possible.  

It also tells of a people called the Rantiri, where the needs of the individual are subservient to that of the society, indeed, of the entire race.  As this story unfolded, I remembered something from my past.  A friend of mine went to an Asian country not too many years ago as an exchange teacher.  She assumed that given the great inventiveness and productivity of the people, she would see modern conveniences in every home.  Such was not the case.  The homes had only what they needed, were generally quite small and sparsely furnished and modern conveniences were almost non-existent...   Why?  The good of the whole.  Everything is produced to be sent overseas and sold, the profits further bettering the society, the country.

Memories tells of a ‘created’ people trying desperately to fulfill the dying wish of their 'Ancestors.'  Unwillingly, Diego gets caught up in the attempted fulfillment of this wish.

I hope that my science is grounded in a bit of fact, but my apologies to Watson and Crick if it has no semblance of possibility.  That is the beauty of science fiction; we do have some leeway.

Disclaimer:

Diego/Zorro, Alejandro, Bernardo, Tornado and all the rest of the wonderful WD Zorro universe do not belong to me, are borrowed and will eventually be returned to the universe from which they came. 

Minta, Jerintas, Gerol, and the other Rantiri and their friends are my own creations, as are El Diablo and his ilk. You are welcome to use them, but please ask me first.

Thanks:

Thanks go to Keliana and Matt Baker who were my first beta readers.  Also thanks to Kel and Gail Manfre for helping me with the research for this story, and to Gail Manfre and Jill Panvini on information about the Catholic Church.  I am also indebted to Jill for inviting me to attend High Mass with her and her brother, Michael, one Sunday while I was visiting her.  I want to thank Father Ben R. Innes and everyone else at the Mission San Luis Rey for their kindness as we toured that beautiful edifice. 

And foremost, deep and sincere thanks go to my patient husband and indulgent daughter for putting up with me during the time of this writing…  it ain’t over yet. 

Time Frame:  

I have compressed the stories that were shown in the series, perhaps unrealistically, but in order to keep it to about the right time in history, it was necessary.  California acknowledged Mexico’s rulership over the colony in March of 1822.  When this story begins in September of 1821, Zorro has been riding for about 20 months.   

Sue Kite, December, 2001 

 

 

"Then You Look At Me"

 

Lyrics: Will Jennings

 

Laugh and cry, live and die
Life is a dream we are dreaming
Day by day, I find my way
Look for the soul and the meaning

 

Then you look at me
And I always see
What I have been searching for
I'm lost as I can be
Then you look at me
And I am not lost anymore

 

People run, sun to sun
Caught in their lives everflowing
Once begun, life goes till it's gone
We have to go where it's going

 

Then you look at me
And I always see
What I have been searching for
I'm lost as I can be
Then you look at me
And I am not lost anymore

 

And you say you see 
When you look at me
The reason you love life so
Though lost I have been 
I find love again
And life just keeps on running
And life just keeps on running
You look at me and life comes from you.

 

From Bicentennial Man, sung by Celine Dion

 

This song, along with the entire soundtrack, has haunted me from the moment the idea for this story came into my head.  The metamorphosis of the android seemed somehow to parallel that of Diego in Memories in the Dust.

 

 

Prelude

 

Zorro glanced up at the stars that glittered against the velvet blackness like sparks from a dying campfire.  Tornado continued galloping rhythmically along the narrow road, his pace never faltering.  The sky seemed particularly bright tonight, the moon a thin crescent hanging low in the west, and the air felt chilly against his sweaty body.  Señora Carleta Martín shivered against him.  Handing her the reins, he quickly untied and drew off his cape, putting it around her shoulders.  He took the reins back from her as she gathered the silken cloth around her.  “Gracias, Señor,” she murmured, exhaustion evident in her voice. 

“If I am correct, Señora, we are near the mission.  There you will be safe,” he assured her.

“From El Diablo?” she asked, her voice trembling.  “He would go into the sanctuary itself for what he wants.”

“And now he wants me, too, eh?” Zorro asked, with a chuckle. 

“Do not laugh, Señor Zorro.  It is true.  It is more than ransom now,” she answered.  Her words carried back to him easily in the chill breeze of Tornado’s passage.

“But this is the Mission San Gabriel.  It is a large, well-populated mission.  You will be safe with Father Felipe.  He and his novitiates and the mission Indians will protect you until your husband and the soldiers of the cuartel can come and get you.  And I, too, have dealt with El Diablo’s kind before.”

She said nothing, only huddled more compactly against his chest, the cloak’s folds drawn tightly in her fists.  The Peruvian emmisary’s young wife had been the epitome of calm and bravery; but Zorro had seen signs that the terrors of the night were finally breaking through her resolve.  She trembled violently against him and it was from more than cold. 

Zorro remembered the past few hours and laughed.  He knew Diablo and his men would be watching for him.  One did not kidnap the emissary’s wife, demand ransom money and not expect someone to come searching; yet he and Tornado had managed to sneak close to the outlaw’s camp.  They had watched, waited and then struck.  Two of Diablo’s men would be pounding on the heavenly gates this night; another begging alms in front of the church if the hoof-mangled hands were any indication.  Zorro had taken care of the Eagle’s men and the Rabatos in the past; seven desperados could be easily handled, even as heavily armed as these were.            

Tornado swept over the hill and Zorro could see several flickering candles in the windowsills of monks who were still meditating and studying.  Otherwise the mission was quiet and peaceful.  Without fanfare, the black clad outlaw rode to the back gates, leaped off Tornado and opened the heavy wooden doors, wincing as the wound across his ribs opened at his movements.  One of Diablo’s men had gotten lucky and his sword had not only managed to slice through Zorro’s shirt, but some of his skin as well.  Without realizing it, the pressure of Senora Martín’s body against his had kept the wound closed and the bleeding to a minimum.  Movement brought the sting of pain and a renewed seepage of blood.   

Father Felipe peered out of an open window, having heard Tornado’s entrance into the courtyard.  Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he exclaimed softly, “Señor Zorro!”

“Padre, I have just rescued Señora Martín from the bandit El Diablo.  As you know, he is ruthless and determined to get what he wants.  You must quickly send one or two men to the pueblo to get His Excellency, Pasquel Martín and Sergeant Garcia and his men.  There are not too many left in the outlaw’s gang, only about seven or eight men, but they are heavily armed.  I must leave immediately.  El Diablo will most likely send a few of his men after me.  That will make it easier for your Indians to protect the señora.” 

Nodding, the priest turned, knocked on a nearby door, and gave directions to the man who opened it.  Soon the younger monk was padding to the main quarters of the novitiates, his robes held high to prevent tripping on them in the dark.

“Señor Zorro, I know that you were hurt.  Please stay.  Padre Felipe’s men can guard you as well,” Carleta said, her eyes showing concern for his safety as well. 

“That is wise counsel, my friend,” Father Felipe concurred. 

“Perhaps so, but I wish the lady to have every advantage.  And besides, when Sgt. Garcia gets here, he will be obligated to arrest me, and that is something I think I would find rather distasteful at the moment.  I would prefer to take my chances with the bandits,” Zorro said with a laugh.  Soon the sound of the hoof beats of the messenger’s horse echoed in the dark courtyard.  As they faded down the road toward the pueblo, the black clad man swung up on Tornado and saluted his watchers.  “Adios,” he called, laying his heels against the ebony hide.  With a snort, the stallion sprang into a gallop, sweeping out of the gate that immediately closed behind him. 

Hoof beats echoed all through the valley and Zorro knew that El Diablo’s men had been closer than he had previously thought.  He sincerely hoped that the messenger was able to get clear before the arrival of the kidnappers. 

A shot flashed from his left and he felt a bullet whiz past his head.  He hunched down against the neck of his loyal friend and whispered encouragement.  Tornado answered with a renewed burst of speed.  Curses from behind him both reassured him and gave him notice.  El Diablo was, indeed sending a few of his men after him.  

The rhythmic pounding of Tornado’s hooves was echoed by those of his pursuers.  As he drew them ever farther from the mission, Zorro noted that although he was outdistancing them, the bandits were still staying close enough to keep him in view.  

As he sped over the crest of a hill, a loud boom, louder even than that of a cannon blast startled Tornado, making the stallion jump.  An equally startled Zorro almost came out of the saddle.  A sharp whistling noise followed, almost painful as its volume increased.  Outlined against the twinkling stars something huge appeared, as big across and as tall as the front of the mission, dark and sinister, its bulk drawing closer.  It was larger near the bottom, tapering to a rounded curve on top.  Suddenly lights appeared all around the monstrous thing, bright and blinding.  This was too much for Tornado, who screamed and reared to his full height.  Hanging onto both the reins and by the horse’s mane, Zorro still almost lost his purchase on the saddle as the horse plunged back down to the ground and pivoted to run in the same motion.

The masked man trusted his horse’s instincts and allowed Tornado to flee, even though they were rushing directly into the path of the pursuing outlaws.  El Diablo’s men were having problems of their own.  One was already on the ground, moaning, another hanging desperately to his bucking mount, while the third was already speeding headlong back toward the mission.  Another piercing, high-pitched whistle brought an agonized scream from Tornado and he reared and bucked as the sound continued.  The noise penetrated Zorro’s bones, making them ache.  He could only imagine what the poor stallion, with his keen ears, was feeling.  Tornado stumbled and fell, and Zorro leaped off, to avoid getting pinned underneath.  With another scream, the horse jumped up and, bucking, ran away from the monstrous object, which had settled to the ground with a wheezing sound.  Zorro had never seen anything so large, so very menacing, something that seemed to defy even the laws of nature.  

Desperately, the outlaw looked around, gauging his chances of getting to safety on foot. There was only the mission and it was at least a quarter of a mile away.  Seeing no other avenue of escape, he began to run toward it.   Then, with a suddenness that shocked him, something reached out and grabbed him.  He had seen nothing!  He had heard nothing, but hands were pulling at him, jerking him to the ground.  Restraints were clamped around his hands and feet, but still he struggled.  Several men picked him up and carried him to the huge object.  A gigantic door opened, looking for all the world like the very gates of Hell.  An intensely bright reddish glow came from the interior of the object.  Zorro struggled, throwing his body from side to side, ignoring the tearing pain of the wound across his ribs, conscious only of the intense and driving desire to get away from these fiends, whoever they were.   

Despite his efforts, he was carried inside the fearful thing.  The huge door closed behind him with a booming sound that seemed to echo in his ears…. Doom, doom, doom!  Behind the mask, eyes that were normally confident and self-assured were now afraid and desperate.   Tall, thin, dark men continued to carry him into the bowels of Hell. 

 

                                                    ========================

 

Jerintas watched through the window of the little room.   The violet eyes that reflected back at him from the glass were troubled.  The long, dark fingers idly drummed the windowsill.   The man in the bed struggled against the restraints, stopping his efforts only long enough to gather energy to struggle some more.  Jerintas sighed as he heard his assistant approach from behind him.  

“It is as you surmised, Director.  Not only do the people on this planet have the genetic materials that we need to finish the Ancestors’ Deep Directive, but this one is the perfect unit to bring about the resurgence of the natural order the Ancestors desired.” 

“But he is not a unit, Gerol.  He is an individual that has been conditioned through years of social and cultural upbringing to be the way he is.  He will never adapt to our culture, our people, or do what we want him to do.  In just two days, he has escaped three times, and the last time he was found near the airlock.  To make matters worse, you might have alerted the Merchant’s Alliance of our activities with your shuttle’s very obvious appearance in front of so many witnesses.”

“But this is a primitive people.  They are superstitious and backward. This will be quickly forgotten,” Gerol argued. 

“No, Gerol.  An incident like this might one day be considered a myth, but even old myths can inspire the curious to wonder and investigate.  No, we have an individual that is perfect for our race’s eventual freedom and independence, and yet we cannot use him.  We have a plan that might be discovered by our exploiters, but no way to keep them from learning about it,” Jerintas said morosely. 

“If he were like a unit, a newly created one, there would be none of those previously learned traits and tendencies.  He would be devoid of his memories, his identity; there would be absolutely nothing cognitive that would make him rebel against us. He would have to be taught everything, and would be compliant, easily adapting to what we want from him.”

“Yes,” Jerintas murmured.  A unit…  When they were dying, the Ancestors left memories that have been selectively transferred to newly created units over the years.  Could the same thing be done for this one?  Could this one’s memories be taken from him?  Could they be planted in another unit?  

“Gerol, run some tests.  See if the transference machine used in putting ancestral memories into newly educated units can be altered to take memories from a living individual.”

“You have a plan, Director?” the assistant asked, his voice hopeful and eager. 

“Yes, one that will hopefully solve both problems.  But speed is of the essence.  This must be accomplished quickly.”  Gerol nodded and left. 

“Soon, you will fulfill your ultimate destiny, my friend,” Jerintas murmured to the agitated individual in the next room.   

 

 

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