Turic stood on the hilltop overlooking the vineyard. His eyes followed the lay of the land.
He felt a sudden shallow feeling spreading through his chest, and then he realized his hands
had balled into fists. He was angry. Why...because it was beautiful and peaceful?
Because it was...home? Home to someone, but not him. He had never, in all of his time had a home.
He had been assigned quarters, and had spent many a night in a misfit bed of a woman that meant nothing to him...except for the sex. It seemed to be the only thing that would ever take his mind from his...his what? His job...his mission...his imperative?
His eyes followed the line of the terrain until they came to the Villa. He felt his lips curl into a sneer. Who would have imagined that such an undomesticated lout such as Reza could make such a
comfortable home? Jealously ripped through him. His stomach tightened in pain. He had been here before...to case the place for his employer. It had not affected him then the way it was affecting him now. He tipped his head from side to side popping the bones in his neck, trying to let loose some of
the tension he was feeling. He was here to see the Ezdras woman. The words that she had spoken to him that night at SDS had shaken him profoundly. He had kept it secret. Mandusa had questioned him relentlessly about the moment that their eyes had locked and no words were spoken. Mandusa was certain that they had spoken with their minds...and he wanted in on that conversation. Turic had implied that he had offered himself as her pillow for the night. He knew that Mandusa might discover who she was through his association with the Physician...if the physician chose to allow him this information. He had learned long ago to keep information private. It was a commodity to be used in times of need.
She had said that she was ‘next sister’ to him. She had spoken that Codan-rei was a brother of blood. Codan-rei was a name of Varda. He scoffed. He looked nothing like Varda. It was said that in a breeding, the Varda genetics always overpowered...giving all offspring the physical traits known to their bloodline. It was in that moment he remembered. Hiro was Varda...of Nimm. He had not held with the genetic coding in its purity. He had kept the trait of hair and eye color of the Nimm, but his physicality of height and build had gone the way of Varda. The adrenaline in him surged as he stepped back to hold out his hands to look at them. Why, he did not know. He realized then that this was his physicality as well. The Cobalt blue eyes were a trait exclusive to Nimm...something that he had only just discovered. This had only become known to him when Hiro had learned of his birthright to the Varda name and bloodline. His head was suddenly pounding, and he realized his jaw had locked tight at the realization. He opened his mouth and jiggled his jaw from side to side in hopes of releasing some of the tension. His eyes drew back to the Villa and his mind began to search for hers. In the exact moment that he found her mind, it closed to him. He heard her voice inside his head. ‘You will come here, openly, and we will speak. I am waiting.’ He negotiated quickly. ‘I will have your word as Ezdras that we are on neutral ground.’ There was no pause...no waver to her voice when she said, ‘My word as Ezdras that we are on neutral ground.’ Turic cringed. The last thing that he wanted was to see Reza or to speak in front of him. It was too late to add that little codicil. Her mind was already closed to him. If he was to get the information that he had come for, he had no choice but to go to her as she had instructed. He snarled aloud and then spat on the ground. He suddenly felt vulnerable, like an animal on the defense. Something small inside himself gave in. He wanted the information that she had and he would do whatever it took to get it. Before he even realized it, his feet had begun to move towards the Villa. He had already decided that he would take the chance. Maybe the Ezdras woman would have good enough sense to make their meeting private...away from prying eyes and ears. He realized then that part of the emotions that had been stirring in him since she had first spoken to him was embarrassment. He was embarrassed by the fact that he had never even questioned whom he was or where he had come from.
He found himself standing at the front door. For a moment, he was not exactly certain what came next. Whenever he had wanted entry into a place, he had simply shifted there. He found his knuckles rapping at the door and realized that it almost sounded timid. He rapped again, this time he put power behind it. A few seconds went by before the door opened and a pleasant woman in her mid-thirties smiled at him. He was not certain what to say. She spoke before he could.
“Good day Sire.” A small curtsy was made...then,
“Please follow me. My Lady awaits you in the atrium garden.” She turned to walk. Automatically he followed, his eyes scanning as he went...he searched for Reza’s mind. He knew that he would not find it.
They arrived at the atrium garden room. She was waiting, casually dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, barefoot and beautiful. She made him ache. A sudden formless need began to eat at him. The ‘wouldn’t it be nice if...’ scenario. Again, his stomach twisted in pain. He spoke almost as if angry.
“Tell me what you know Ezdras.” She walked to the woven high back reed chair and sat down, then reached to pick up her lemonade. She gestured for him to sit. He found that he wanted to. He thought that it would be nice if they could just sit quietly and have a casual conversation. Well, maybe not so casual. This was his life that they would be discussing. He found himself sitting down across from her. She gestured to the lemonade on the small wooden table beside him, indicating it had been placed there for him. She asked,
“Tell me what you remember. I will fill in the blanks for you.” She eyed him before adding,
“And there will be blanks...all of your youth as a matter of fact. I am curious at what age your Sulkar next mother...or lover...whatever she was to you...had your memories taken.” His eyes watched her as his mind searched. He followed the path of his conditioning.
“Why should I believe anything that you tell me? This could all be a rouse to get information from me.” She sat back to sip her lemonade, glancing to him. He was handsome. Easily he could be a son of Beau-Dane. Still she could feel a hardness to him...a cavalier sort of posture that cynicism brings. She wondered if he had ever been placed into stasis, or if he truly had a league millennium of hate and mistrust of the Varda festering inside him. He had not answered and she knew that his mind was searching for the information that he so desperately needed. She decided that before she would help him, she would clear the air so to speak.
“Regarding getting information from you...we need nothing from you. I was able to download all of the Physicians records. We know where he has taken Reza’s child. We also know that he knows that we know and has probably already moved her. However, we have found over one hundred and thirty two places that he calls home and another amount equal to this with which he does business. He will be in one of these places. We have already initiated our offensive. So you have nothing that we need Turic. Today we are here just for you.” She watched his expression. His mind still searched for answers. She asked in an effort to assist him,
“What is the first year of time that you remember? Do you remember being a young boy during the Harmonics War or being a grown man when the Third Moon War came?” He shifted impatiently, but she could see the expression on his face was one of extremely angry pained longing. She also sensed that he was in physical pain. She asked,
“Do you know of Beau-Dane of Varda?” She watched as his lips pressed to a tight angry line as he spat the words,
“Beau-Dane is Myth. A creature made up to grant superiority to the bloodline of the Varda. They are not the only ones to possess the shift. I am proof of that.” She smiled, almost chuckled. Yes, he had that little touch of Varda arrogance. She hoped that he could be saved. She decided to take the ‘shock value’ road to enlightenment. She answered bluntly,
“Well then...son of Myth...what would that make you?” She watched as a myriad of emotions played through him. First...a blank moment as he took in her words, then a frantic desperate searching for memories...any memories. She asked, feeling oddly as if she were in an interrogation and was torturing her subject.
“What has the Physician told you about yourself? Let me warn you now that the physician probably keeps your bloodline a secret from Mandusa. I agree with his decision. If Mandusa knew...you would be dead. He would most likely drug you...then while you lay helpless...and fully awake...he would take your head, but certainly not before torturing you.” She paused to sip her lemonade before continuing.
“Mandusa has a healthy hatred of the Nimm, inherited no doubt.” She now began her line of questioning. “How did you come to be? Who are you? Where did you come from? Where were you born? Who are your parents? What is your first conscious memory? Did your parents tuck you into bed at night? Did you have a pet...a favorite schoolteacher? What was your home like...was it comfortable? What world did you call home?” His eyes searched the air as his hands balled into fists. She tried to look into his mind. He was on guard. There would be no peeking.
She wanted to end his misery and maybe even help him. She could not tell him that while she was on Renaj, she and the Nimm sons of KoMahn, along with Torrein, Hiro and Vichon were searching for the controls to the shield of Tyria-talonda. In this search, they discovered the ancient city of Anok-musadi. It was almost perfectly in tact. They had also discovered a secret chamber...and a message had been left there...left behind for Varda...from Sheda of the Sulkar. She could not speak it because this information would put the Fire Rim tribes in mortal danger. So far, no one knew of their existence, and it had to be kept that way, at least for now. She leaned forward to say
“This was discovered in one of the Sulkar ruin temples. Behold.” She reached to a small circular device and activated the control. A holographic image sprang to life.
An image of Sheda, the Swela Queen to the Sulkar, her youthful beauty and curvaceous figure stood as if looking directly at him. She held her head high and her dialog began.
“Emissary of Varda, I welcome you. If you are standing before this image, it means that you have won in your struggle against us…for now. But as your illustrious Grandfather often spoke …all things change. In your pious pursuit of what is right and fair you have had us declared criminals. You have issued bounty for our heads and you have slaughtered our children. A question comes to mind. Who are you to decide the balance of our universe? Do you really believe that once you are rid of us that you will live in peace? There is no such thing. You are to us…what we are to you, a vile plague come to destroy our way of life. Every specie preys on the weak of other specie. It is the way the strong survive.” The image poised itself. With affectation to her voice, she said.
“Do you think that with our extermination, that could mean you are the greatest predator…even above Sulkar? I believe that it does.” She then continued in her normal tone.
“You cull us out as an affliction…as we culled your weak…as food. All creatures must eat. You claim to believe in the Maaz-ra-dune, the Soul of the Universe…the universal life force that creates all things, brings all things to bare that have its purpose. So I stand before you…made from the Maaz-ra-dune. We, the Sulkar, have our purpose. That we existed is proof of this. Unless you be blasphemer you cannot deny this.” The image seemed to be growing agitated. She said,
“I grow bored of this…as I grew bored with your great Grandfather.” The image turned sideways to gesture with her hand and another image sprang to life. Beau-Dane lay chained to a bed…His body without clothing, chains at his wrists and ankles, a control collar around his neck, keeping him from the shift that could have saved his life. His perfect strong body could be seen to have rips and bite marks as blood slipped across muscles and dripped onto the white silk of the sheets. He tried to fight against his constraints but it was obvious that had been poisoned by Sulkar drugs. His movements were slow and unsteady. Turic watched as another image of Sheda walked to him, slid onto the bed and straddled his waist. The holographic image continued to narrate as the images played out,
“I must admit his sex was glorious. He gave himself to me so completely. I have recorded every moment of our passion together, if you should choose to observe. He was truly the best I had ever had. Imagine, if you will, having such a sex slave. A perfect male of Varda as my personal Familiar. But he denied me what I wanted so I denied him of his life. It was difficult to put him down. His beauty was as intoxicating as any drugs the Sulkar have to offer. He held me spell bound just to look upon his glory. But, it seems Varda are a specie unto themselves…their genetics somehow oddly shared with Nimm…who also deny us their genetic…gifts.” Her expression became vindictive.
“But we have solved that little problem. Within a millennium, there will no longer be any Nimm…and we will have denied Varda…what Varda denied us…a perfect blending of our genetics. I know how much ‘family’ means to Varda. And although we could not persuade your grandfather to pass on his genetic traits to Sulkar, he did however pass on the blood of his line to the Nimm we had taken from Tyria-talonda.” She smiled and said ironically,
“Those Nimm…the Nimm of Varda that…that seem to be missing. Where could they be? Oh…No…look they have forgotten to take their minds. I wonder if, without them, they will ever even know that they are Varda. I wonder what would happen if an immortal of a supposedly superior race of beings, raised without the thing you call ‘morals’…I wonder how they would behave? Would they subjugate people? Would they take what they want with disregard for anyone or anything? Would they be good little boys or bad little boys?” She laughed.
“I hope to live to see this game play out, but if I do not…have no worries. Mine will be back to take their place in the universal plan of the Maaz-ra-dune. Light to dark and all that.” She straightened her posture and spoke again.
“I know what you are here for. By now, you have probably discovered that your control room for the shield of Tyria-talonda has no control over the shield. You will not find what you seek. Tyria will die. The male and female of this world have been separated and they can no longer breed and Varda will not blend with these creatures.” Aju watched Turic face as the holograph continued.
“The controls to the shield are out of your reach. I have allotted for several contingencies. Sulkar will return and we will be out of your grasp as well. So…I guess that now that you know you have all this family to you, running around loose with no minds of their bloodline, and no morals to guide them, you will now have to locate them and make sure that they do not do unto others what you have done unto us. Nature versus nurture and all that. Good luck on your journey, mine has just begun as well.” The image of Sheda then held her hand out to gesture, and several young men began their walk towards her. Young men that were Nimm of Varda, children of Beau-Dane. At that, Turic stepped forward to watch more closely. He watched as one took her hand and moved close. Another wrapped his arm around her waist. One leaned in for a kiss as several more moved slowly towards her as she laughed, then to say,
“I have recorded these images as well…should you choose to watch…you Varda of such high moral ground.” Just before the monitor shut off, Turic watched as an image of a young girl moved into view as she too, walked towards the Sulkar Queen. The image wavered and then disappeared. Turic stood almost as if in a trance. She heard him whisper,
“That...that was...me” He stood staring at the space where only a few seconds ago, he had watched himself step forward to embrace a woman he did not remember. Surrounded by young men and a young woman, he did not remember. Clearly, he had seen his image. There was no forgery or trickery involved in what he had just witnessed. Someone was speaking to him but he could not quite make out the words due to the barrage of thoughts and emotions that had just carried him over into the oblivion. Everything that he had ever thought, everything that he had ever been told, everything that he had done...came crashing down around him. Aju waited, as Turic stood frozen to one spot. She asked again.
“Would you like to see it again?” She watched the rise and fall of his chest as she tried to slip into his mind to hear his thoughts. His mind was in chaos as he searched for clues that would help him to not believe what he had just witnessed. He liked his life. He did not want it changed. He hated the Varda...had always hated the Varda. Why? Why did he hate them? Oh yes...they pretend to be superior to others. They did...didn’t they? His mind searched for any personal experiences that he had had with the Varda. He found none. Why did he think that they were his enemy? Oh yes...he had been told that they were. He suddenly felt sick at the prospect that he could be one of those that he hated. He questioned if he felt sick to be one...or too have had that he was one, hidden from him. And to make things worse...he had done unspeakable things against their House...things that they did not even know of yet. Had he betrayed his own bloodline? Was he being used? He pulled back in his thoughts. He could not take this at face value. He struggled to compose himself. Aju worked the control and the image sprang back to life. She sat back and watched him as he watched the message repeat itself. When it came to the image of the young men and the girl as they approached the Sulkar Queen, his eyes narrowed on a slightly younger version of himself as he watched his arms wrap around her. Aju watched as his face distorted in angry disbelief, she heard him growl,
“This cannot be.” The image ended once again. Aju spoke softly.
“Ah...but it is.” Before he could answer, he felt the sting of the dart that came from behind him as it bit into the hard flesh just to the side of the base of his neck. He quickly reached to pull it out. As he turned towards the direction it had come, he reached to pull the blade from the scabbard at his side. He threw it with deadly precision at the figure that strode towards him. Reza moved only a fraction to catch the butt of the blade in his hand, then, to continue his path without missing a step. Turic moved to make the shift. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him as he felt himself drop to his knees. He blinked to clear the fog that was settling in front of his eyes. Aju was suddenly beside him, lowering him to the floor. He whispered.
“Ezdras lies. You promised...neutral ground.” She brushed the hair that had fallen across his face to the side. She smiled, to say.
“It was no lie. This is the first neutral ground that you have ever laid foot on Turic. Welcome home son of Varda.”