“This is it,” said Maite as she looked over at Kepa. They had left the city early in the morning, driving back to Bizkaia, to Mallabia, where Ainhoa lived with her parents, Martin Goikoetxea and Marta Zabala, who resided in apartment C on the 4th floor. “You ready?”
Kepa gave a slight nod as Maite pushed the buzzer.
“Zer?” answered a male voice from the speaker. “Nor da?”
“We are friends of Ainhoa. Is she home?” replied Maite.
There was a pause before Ainhoa’s voice crackled from the speaker. “Nor da?”
“Ainhoa, it is Maite and Kepa. Can we talk?”
“Maite and Kepa?” replied Ainhoa with surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“We’ll explain everything. Can we talk for a minute?”
“Bai, noski.” Maite and Kepa heard a muffled shout as Ainhoa told her parents she was heading out to the street, that she wouldn’t be long.
Within moments, she was at the front door to the apartment complex. She gave Maite a hug and Kepa gave her a kiss on each cheek.
Ainhoa led them down to the plaza and one of the few bars that was open this early.
“What brings you to Mallabia?” asked Ainhoa as they sat down at one of the tables and ordered a round of coffees.
“We need to talk to Marina,” replied Maite with such sternness that Ainhoa was taken aback before she could parse the request.
“Marina?” she repeated. “I don’t know…” she began but then her eyes glazed over and a flash of light swept across her pupils. She looked exactly the same when she looked back up at them, but there was something different about her eyes, something older, wiser.
“Marina,” said Maite almost nonchalantly.
Ainhoa, or rather Marina in Ainhoa’s body, nodded. “Bai, it’s me.”
“Dammit!” barked Maite as she slammed her fist on to the table, rattling the coffee cups. The few other patrons of the bar looked up. Maite’s shoulders slouched as they returned to their conversations. In a barely audible hiss, she glared at Marina. “You didn’t tell us how dangerous this would be.”
Marina almost shrugged her shoulders. “Would you have agreed to help me if I had?”
Kepa’s eyes widened. “Of course not!”
“Well, there you go. I need help. And if I told you all of the dangers, you would have told me no.” She paused for a moment as she took a sip of her coffee. “Oh, I do so love the coffee from this time. But, I digress. Look at you both. You are both perfectly healthy. What’s the problem.”
“What’s the problem?!?” repeated Maite incredulously. “We’ve now gone on four excursions to retrieve the zatiak from the bubbles. Twice, Kepa has been shot. I’ve been captured and nearly tortured. And I almost died myself…”
“Ah, but you didn’t, did you?” interjected Marina. “You are finding the zatia and gaining power, becoming powerful enough to protect yourselves in the bubble.
“What happens if we do?” responded Maite. “What if we both die? Garuna says…”
“Who is Garuna?” interrupted Marina.
Maite pointed to her head. “The AI I’m stuck with.”
Maite could hear Garuna rumble in her head. “I beg your pardon…” it began, but she ignored it.
“Garuna said that, if we both die – “ she pointed to herself and Kepa “ – we are stuck just watching the bubble from afar, almost like ghosts, until someone miraculously finds the zatia.”
Marina sighed. “I guess that is a possibility, yes.” She looked at first Maite and then Kepa, recognizing the fear and the panic rising behind their eyes. “But,” she quickly added, “it isn’t going to happen. As you grow more powerful, there is nothing that will stop you from finding the zatia and staying out of harm’s way.”
“Has it happened to you?” asked Maite coldly.
“Have you died, only to watch the bubble from the outside?”
Marina shook her head as it drooped. “No. There is always another descendant or ancestor I can occupy. I’m not tethered to a specific body like you are.”
“But you knew it could happen to us?” asked Kepa.
“I knew it was hypothetically possible, but I really didn’t think it would ever happen.”
Maite stood up and turned to leave.
“What are you going to do now?” asked Marina.
“Ez dakit,” replied Maite, her back to Marina. “I don’t know.”
If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write email@example.com if you want to get in touch with me.