I woke up off and on throughout the night. Yachacheq was always there, patient, waiting- ready to take care of me if need be. Sometimes Pacal was with him, sometimes he was by himself. When I was awake he was attentive and gentle. After seeing to my needs he would urge me to rest- and I would.
Once I woke up screaming. He was there instantly holding me gently, protectively. He would pat my back and wait for me to snap out of it. His eyes showed only concern and sympathy. When I tried to apologize, he would shake his head.
"No. This is not your doing. I fear I must apologize for what my countrymen have done to you."
His voice was sad, but there was something about the way he said 'countrymen' that made me feel like he was an outsider- even in his own country.
I asked him about it and he just smiled. "It is a long story Jessica Miller- and right now, you should sleep."
That seemed to be his answer to just about everything. It was practically noon before I really woke up.
This time, there was no sign of Pacal or Yachacheq, but in there place, Janna sat patiently watching over me. Sitting in her lap, watching me was the girl. She smiled when I opened my eyes and tried to sit up.
"Do you need anything?" Janna asked, resting her hand gently on my shoulder.
"The number of the truck?" I asked half jokingly.
I looked at them both. Janna looked like she had slept off a major hangover. I guess it took a lot out of her to heal that woman last night. The little girl seemed both younger and older than she did the other night.
Physically, she looked like she was nine or ten- a little on the small side, but her eyes. Her eyes held an infinite sadness to them.
"Hola," I greeted her.
She smiled slightly and yet seemed... afraid. That look struck me to the core. I looked at Janna and then back at the little girl.
"Todo esta bein," I assured her. Everything is all right.
She nodded, but hid slightly behind Janna. Janna put an arm around her and held her protectively. She whispered something to her, her voice soft and gentle. Finally the girl nodded and moved forward slightly. It was then I noticed her ears. She was an elf.
Janna nodded and spoke again. "Pacal and Yachacheq had to check out a few things. They thought it best we stay here with you.
Janna smiled and was about to answer when he poked his head in the doorway. "Just standing guard." he assured me.
I settled back down. Everyone was accounted for.
It was a while before Pacal and Yachacheq returned, and in the mean time I found out the girl's parents had died when she was very young. She'd survived on handouts, but more often than not she was either chased away or had to work for the meager food she was given. In the case of the priest she paid for her food in blood and energy. She had given up hope- all but forgotten her parents.
Still somewhere inside she remembered the love, and the language. We had brought that back to her. More the point Janna had. Janna had also given her something else that had been missing- a name, Ayana.
Ayana smiled at me shyly and called me something in Sperethiel. I looked up at Janna for the translation.
"Its not quite mother... more like... Godmother..." she explained with a smile. I could tell she was quite fond of Ayana already.
I paused, trying to get a hold of my emotions. "How would I respond to that?"
Janna smiled and taught me how to call Ayana my 'Goddaughter'.
Ayana rewarded me with a big smile and a hug.
In the afternoon, several of our 'hosts' let the three of us to a small pond. Emmory tried to come along and was told this was just for the women. Comminucating was slow. The Kachakashqa Amaru spoke only Atzlaner Spanish, Ayana spoke that and Sperethiel, and then Janna would translate it all into English.
Still they gave us our privacy and in the end... we were clean! I combed out Ayana's hair while she worked on Janna's. It probably looked like some scene from a chick flick, but I didn't care- it felt good to be clean again. To be honest, I felt alive again and Ayana seemed to blossom under all the attention.
Pacal and Yachacheq returned early this morning with no real incident. They told us that they were going to need to escort us back to Tepic. Things were getting too volatile between the different factions of 'Freedom fighters'.
That's another thing that has always amazed and amused me. If you fight against the establishment, the establishment calls you a 'terrorist' if you're the one doing the fighting, you're a 'freedom fighter'. Then again, if you win, it's a revolution if you fail it's a revolt. It all depends on your point of view.
The Kachakashqa Amaru aren't all that different and yet, they are. From what I've seen they're made up of teachers. Even their leader, Yachacheq... his name means 'Teacher' or 'professor.' It turns out Pacal was educated at Harvard- It just doesn't make sense.
They seem to care about their people and what happens to them, and yet... they were willing to allow the priest to sacrifice Ayana in order to heal another.
Pacal had said she was 'nuk', nothing. And yet- I've seen the way he and Yachacheq look at her when they don't think we see them. They're glad she's alive... that we saved her.
Sometimes I just don't get people.
Sometimes I wish I could just accept the government drek about how the 'rebels' are just a bunch of superstitious, uneducated heathens that are out for blood. It would be so easy if they were.. Or if I believed they were.
Funny thing is- they think I'm complicated. It's not really all that difficult. Life is sacred. You do what you can to protect it.
A few hours after Pacal and Yuchacheq returned, we heard gunfire coming from down below. When we tried to find out what was going on, we were herded back into the cave.
"You must stay here," Yuchacheq told us. He didn't tell us why, but something in his tone of voice said it wasn't safe for us.
The shooting lasted less than an hour, but that was more than enough. Several of the Kachakashqa Amaru headed down the mountain to do what they could for the survivors.
They returned with twenty wounded. We were out and working before anybody could even ask. Ayana stayed away, her back against the wall to the cave, not that I can blame her. Near as I can tell, anytime something like this happened, she was the one to suffer.
I wanted to tell her it would be all right, but we couldn't. Not until everyone was taken care of. And it was a good two hours before we even came close to that. The twenty turned into twenty-six then thirty. The final count was thirty five by the time we'd finished. We lost seven, but were able to save the rest. Most of them were 'freedom fighters' several were government troops.
By the time we were done, it was clear we couldn't stay here much longer. We were herded back into the cave, but I could tell it was mostly show for the surviving soldiers. Just so it couldn't be said that were conspirators.
News from home just isn't what it used to be.
A messenger arrived with the news from Tepic. Seems we've been killed by the dreaded terrorist organization Kachakashqa Amaru.
That changed everything. The government wasn't saying we were missing, or assumed dead. They were saying we'd been executed. They were really playing it up too. Pictures of the three of us, our profiles... and then a description of how these three 'kind hearted rescue workers had been brutally butchered in the mountains near 'disaster stricken' Tepic.'
It meant we had to get back, but it also meant we couldn't go back to Tepic. We were dead... fire to be used against the freedom movement. There was no way to get a message through- the government was monitoring everything and if they knew where we were- you can believe we wouldn't d alive for long.
Pacal and Yachacheq began planning our 'escape'. We would have to be smuggled out of Atzlan. The northern border was too far and way too dangerous anymore. If we were to escape, we would have to head south west- over the mountains to Puerto Vallarta.
From there we would have to rely on the smugglers (read pirates) available. It didn't sound very encouraging. I was surprised when Yachacheq announced that he would be coming with us.
"Pacal will try to draw them away while a smaller group will escort you to safety," he told us. His tone was reassuring and held the promise of protection.
I looked at Janna and then at Ayana. Janna nodded. Ayana was coming with us.
I don't think I fully understood the phrase bone-weary until today. We were up and moving before dawn. We hiked, marched, walked... climbed.... swam...
You get the idea. We'd march along until I didn't think I could take another step and then we'd rest. When I was walking I'd look forward to resting, but when the time finally came, my protesting muscles would start cramping up. It got to the point that I needed to move- even when I was resting.
The rest of weren't doing much better. Even Yachacheq's people were tired- but we all knew that the sooner we were in international waters, the better off we'd all be.
Janna had gotten to the point that she'd just flop down when a halt was called. Emmory was stoic, and just kept plodding along.
Ayana was quiet, but I could see how tired she was. I think she was afraid that if she let us know she was tired, we'd leave her behind. Emmory took care of that. When he noticed how tired she was and that she was starting to stumble- he hoisted her up and gave her a piggy back ride.
This made Yachacheq smile, but it didn't last for long.
As we got closer to civilization, our stops became more frequent. We were hiding from just about everybody. The Government couldn't afford to have us show up alive- at not without a minimal government debriefing. Yeah, I know... good one hu?
Even the local's couldn't be trusted. There was no way of knowing who was on who's side. Even the Kachakashqa Amaru weren't sure who to trust. There were just too many variables. Military troops, police and villagers seemed to all be trying to find us.
By the time we stopped for the night, we were all exhausted, cold, wet and tired. The one bit of good news was Yachacheq's assurance that we should be in Puerto Vallarta by this time tomorrow night.
This morning I could barely move. Between walking to the point of exhaustion and sleeping on the cold hard ground I don't think there was a part of me that didn't either ache of refuse to function.
When I tried to get up, it was like my legs had a mind of their own. The only one who didn't seem effected was Ayana. It's amazing what she's been through and that she just keeps on plugging along. If anything she seems happier and stronger each time I look at her.
We did the best we could, but I don't think any of us were at our best. Yachacheq did his best to assure us that the worst of the walking was over, but as we started up the next hill, I knew better. Even a walk through Kobe Terrace Park would have been too much for me.
We got up and followed as best we could, but I could feel my muscles protest after each step. After a few hours it felt better, but only as long as we were moving. We were doing a lot more hiding now-- hiding and running.
It was clear that the government had figured we'd have to come this way. They almost caught us once, they'd heard us and demanded that we come out and show ourselves. Before anybody could do anything Ayana stumbled out and began begging and pleading.
I held my breath as one of the soldiers threatened to backhand her. I could feel Janna's hand on my arm- she knew how I felt, but it was Ayana's show.
The man sighed, then prodded her down the trail, telling her to stop wasting their time. She stumbled off towards the city and the soldiers continued on their way.
When we caught up with Ayana all I could do was hold her and try and tell her that she shouldn't risk herself like that. She looked at me and smiled, saying something in Sperethiel and hugged me again.
Janna translated with a proud smile.
"I only did what you would have done godmother."
How can you argue with something like that?
True to his word, Yachacheq got us to Puerto Vallarta by nightfall last night. We haven't moved since.
At least we're within the cordoned off perimeter. Most of our enemies are waiting for our arrival a few miles from town- but that doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet- as a matter of fact we are still in the woods- literally.
I'm nervous all the time now. With every sound I expect to be discovered- then it will all be over. I almost wish it would happen... at least then I'd know what was going to happen. Not knowing is the worst.
Not knowing if I'll ever see my friends and family, wondering if this is what happened to the boys, wondering if I'll just 'disappear' ... not knowing who my friends are... not knowing who to trust...
I feel it all in the pit of my stomach. I can see it in the others' faces too. Janna... her eyes seem to follow every sound, expecting any moment to hear someone bearing down on us... Emmory- he looks almost as shell shocked as I felt.
Yeah, he's used to trouble- he's also used to backup with enough firepower to stop a small army. Now he's the one in need of an HTR. I don't know if this is how it ends or not... or if anybody will ever read it... still...
I'm sorry it ended like this. I really wanted to go camping with you guys. Guess I've really blown it this time hu? I'm sorry to dump all this on you- but I don't know who else to ask...
Please... try to find out what happened to the boys. Don't make the mistakes I have... and don't throw away your life for it. Its not worth it. I guess, what I'm trying to say is... I love you and I'm going to miss you.
Listen to your dad. He's got a lot of wisdom to offer. I guess I'll never know what you two were up to. Sorry.
In the condo... there's a guitar... I'd like you to have it. I didn't get to play it much, I hope you do- life's too short to be waiting for the 'right time'-- you've got to make it. Figures I'd learn that one now.
Will you please look after Case for me? I know you care about him- don't let him wall himself away... don't let him go overboard on any of this- its just the way things are. Please... try and help him see that.
I know I don't have to ask, but... the cats... Please take care of them.
I wish I had more time. All the things I would have... should have done. Now there isn't anymore time. I love you like a father and I'm sorry for all the grief I've caused.
You hang on to Jonathan- he's a keeper. Don't be afraid to trust... find someone to help out at the clinic- they're not all bad... just have Mom Walker check them out first.
Mom- thank you for everything you've done. You gave me a lot more than I can ever say, or repay. You helped me find myself and accept what happened.
God, I'm sorry. I'm going to miss you. I don't know where I'm going but at least I'm pretty sure no one's going to be shooting at me. You're a wonderful young man, and I proud to have called you my brother.
Take care of the 'kids' for me. It's a worthwhile cause- don't give up!
Take care of each other- it's the only thing I can really ask. I'm going to miss you all.
Once again, everything has changed- this time, finally, for the better.
I woke up in the middle of the night bathed in bright lights. A drone overhead lighting my hiding place with a search light. I was trying to move- make sure the others were still hidden when I saw the figures moving towards us.
"Charlie Foxtrot Seven, we have acquisition." The voice sounded vaguely familiar. When it called out my name I couldn't believe my luck. It was Nick.
My heart finally started beating again. "We need to move," I managed to answer.
"I know that 'hon'," Nick answered. "We've got transport out for you and your people."
I smiled. Even as I tried to assure the others it was all right, Yachacheq was giving orders. His people faded into the woods as Emmory, Janna and Ayana moved forward.
Nick looked at Ayana for a moment and sighed. "The brass isn't going to like this," he sighed.
I had to grin. At least he knew better than to argue with me on the matter. I looked questioningly at Yachacheq and he shook his head. "You will be safe soon- I must return to my people."
I nodded, then watched as he knelt before Ayana and handed her a rainbow colored feather. He said something to her and then kissed the top of her head. He looked from Janna to me as he stood.
"She is a child of your people," he told Janna. "But she is also of this world... she is Mayan and someday... she will seek out her people..."
Janna and I both nodded. "We'll do whatever we can for her," I answered.
He turned and nodded. "That is good.."
He looked away as gunfire announced the return of the government troops. "There is no more time, go..."
As we moved away I heard the rustle of wings, and the moon was blocked for a moment... it was the first time I'd seen a Coatl.
Then we were moving, keeping between Nick and his team, following orders. It was harrowing getting back to the 'ship.' Navy drones fought with Atzlan military hardware overhead as Nick and his teammates skipped the breakers with their rubber boats. I clung to the bottom of the boat, fighting to hold onto it and to Ayana.
The boat finally stopped, coming into a sheltered area of the ship, a submarine actually.
"We're home," Nick announced as he helped us all out of the bottom of the boat. I looked around and realized we were on the UCAS Kamehameha, a Benjamin Franklin class submarine.
I'd like to say that I took everything in stride, but I was too relieved and exhausted. By the time I woke up we were well into international waters, and halfway back to Puget Sound.
Food was waiting for us... it turns out only Emmory managed to stay awake long enough to get to the bunks by himself- the rest of us needed 'assistance.'
We were told to take it easy, and that we would be debriefed once we reached the Sound.