Meyers was dead. His part in the theft was unclear, but his body was found at the abandoned campsite. The Pakistani journalist was picked up by the Cubans but the Chinese reporter was still missing. Presumably he has the Stone.
The Pakistani man was adamant that he was trying to prevent the Chinese journalist from stealing the Stone, that his Government had briefed him on a Chinese plot to discover the source of the energy spike and steal it if possible, or information about it. Power is very important to the Chinese, and they are desperate for new sources of energy and new technologies.
So it was revealed that the Pakistani and Chinese journalists were spies, and that meant the rest of us were subject to further scrutiny. The death of Meyers is still a mystery and the Pakistani denied all knowledge of the murder.
Carrie and I took to sitting with Paul in her room, talking about our lives outside of Cuba. I was beginning to think we would never leave. Twice a week they shuttled me out to the Vaktia compound, where I helped focus their harmonic energies. Carrie was intrigued by my experience and asked me to describe the sensation, lamenting that she was of no interest to them. Paul grew increasingly angry as the days passed; it was clear he felt caged and useless for no good reason.
I felt torn. I loved Cuba, its perfect imperfection, but I was an outsider and reminded of that constantly. My position of privilege caused resentment amongst the journalists too, and there was a running joke about me being all hair and no substance. Trapped in the middle, I threw myself into trying to understand the Vaktia, desperately seeking the music within my soul to add to their harmonies.
“What do you think the Chinese want with the Stone?” It was a conversation we’d had a hundred times it seemed, but Paul didn’t want to lay it to rest.
“Power, energy, a collapse of the world order. We’ve been over this Paul.” Carrie sounded irritated, an odd edge to the normally calm woman’s voice.
“They said it can only be used communally, and in great need.” My voice sounded tinny in my ears. The other two looked at me, a faint twist to Paul’s lips.
“Who better to have the Stone then? Imagine all those Chinese, focusing their minds on their Government’s purpose—the great Communist dream.”
I felt uncomfortable at Paul’s intolerance. It was a scary thought though, especially as I was privy to information the other two were not. Carrie noted my discomfort and tactfully changed the subject.
Later that evening my escort arrived unannounced, as I was clambering into bed. Unable to restrain the thrill of eagerness that coursed through me I bounded out of the room and sat through the drive to the compound in silence. The night had a dreamlike quality, and I felt insulated from the noises of the world around me. Everything seemed slow and otherworldly.
Takta greeted me and took my hands. The Vaktia wandered freely now though they mostly stayed within the area of the compound. I was immersed in the Soulweft, more addictive than any drug I’m sure; though all I’d tried was marijuana. My mind noted a difference and I bathed in the wash of the harmonies, seeking the strangeness. Finally I found it, a low bass tone that had not been there last time, and an absence in the mid-ranges. Sekti’s tone had changed, and that filled me with wonder. I filed that bit of information away for when I spoke with the academics next. The Weft surged and dipped and I was acutely aware of my lack when Takta released me. My body ached and was silent. She saw the tears well in my eyes and bowed her head against my pain.
One of the linguist anthropologists hurried to me, spoke a few words to Takta, excusing me I assumed. I was ushered into an alcove and Fernandez appeared after a few minutes. The linguist stared at me expectantly. I sighed.
“The sound has changed…Sekti’s tone has gotten lower. There is a low sound that wasn’t there before.”
The linguist, Susan, nodded excitedly. “From what we’ve gleaned the Vaktia who died held something like an anchor note, a bass note, and the Vaktia were waiting for someone’s tone to naturally descend to replace the anchor. We thought the anchor might mark the leader but they seem fairly egalitarian to us.”
“So Sekti is the leader now?”
“We’re not sure, they don’t treat him any different. What impressions did you gather from your immersion this time?”
“They seem more urgent. There is an undercurrent of fear, and the Stone is in their thoughts first and foremost. I got a sense of restlessness and a desire for a journey. Have they indicated wanting to search for the Stone?”
Fernandez and Susan exchanged a look. Fernandez shifted in his chair and cleared his throat.
“As a matter of fact, they have. We are trying to talk them out of it, the world still doesn’t know anything about them.” He left the fact of the quarantined journalists unspoken. I coughed.
“Then let us do what we came here to do. Let us tell the world about them so they can search. They are more likely to find it than anyone else.”
Fernandez shook his head. “Can you imagine how ordinary people will respond to the sight of a Vaktia? We can’t just let them wander free, outside of Cuba; they would be killed.”
He was probably right. People were intolerant of outsiders as a rule, not an exception. And the Vaktia were well outside anyone’s experience.
“Perhaps a few Vaktia, with some humans…?”
“We have also discussed that possibility. The Soulweft spans great distance, apparently, but the effect weakens. Their ability to detect the Stone would suffer.” He was looking at me with an odd gleam in his eyes. I felt naked beneath his predatory stare. It struck me, then, what he was angling for.
“You want me to go with them. To enhance the effect.”
He smiled. “What an exclusive you’d get from that, Miss Cavendish.”
I shuddered. Wandering around China with Cuban spies and Vaktia did not greatly appeal to me. I was no girl scout. Yet this would be a way to help the Vaktia, and ensure I was in contact with the Soulweft almost continually. My soul craved that contact. Unbidden, the word tumbled from my lips before I had to chance to censor it.