Colonial Authority: Chapter 31 – The End Times

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

On the cot, his back against the wall, Paul sat as Tam left him alone and sealed the room. How ironic was it that to avoid incarceration Paul needed to exist in a prison-like cell? He sat for a time staring at the opposite wall that seemed close enough that he might reach out and at arm’s length touch it.

After a while, he stretched out on the cot and took a nap. That had been all that he sought from Raven, mere hospitality, but that was denied him. What purpose had it served to allow him to roam the streets of a strange city all night when all he wanted was to avoid detection?

Briefly, Paul sat up to pull the cord and turn off the light. It was as dark as it had been deep in the caverns whenever the artificial light was off. Because he was used to it, the darkness felt friendly and comfortable. Since he was very young he always associated darkness with security. All his other senses seemed greatly and immediately enhanced in the dark. He knew his sight deceived him, confused him, and prevented him from knowing the truth beyond the illusion of the world around him.

In the darkness of the caverns he learned from the orb. It had taught him how to control certain portions of the illusion of the world around him. As a result it seemed as if he did not have to fear anything anymore. Nothing was beyond his ability. He could overcome anything. In his recent experience perhaps he was too ambitious and his conclusions were premature.

He wondered about the sensation of proximity that he had felt, as if Cristina had been nearby back in the alley as he was escorted out. He felt the proximity again, except that this time it was even closer, as if she was almost within his reach, maybe on the other side of the wall. He needed to see Cristina. He needed to talk to her and explain to her what he was doing. If Chase hadn’t already polluted her mind with his doubts and speculations about the dangers that he had felt were inherent in achieving The Resurrection’s goals. Paul felt urgency. It was as if it was now that he needed to act else it would be too late to convince her to join him, act in concert and in harmony.

He knew there was linkage between them. It was far more intimate than the vague sensation sometimes he received whenever someone with the attributes was around. Paul believed there was potential none of them realized. They might act almost as one. They shared the same parents. They were twins. Despite growing up apart and being different genders, they were a lot alike. Had she not attracted his attention immediately, the first time he saw her? There was a thread of continuity between the two of them, connecting them to everyone else possessing the attributes. He believed it was possible through the attributes to connect everyone together as one.

When Paul realized he slept for a while, it bothered him. He was tired. He had every right to sleep. He could smell the recently baked and sliced bread, ham and cheese of a freshly prepared sandwich. He slept so soundly that someone left lunch for him without waking him. That bothered him. In a way he felt violated. It was dangerous that he was not disturbed at the opening of the wall that concealed his hiding place.

He sat up on the cot. It was noon, or maybe fairly late in the morning. It was hard to tell, as there was no light from the outside world. He groped the air and found the string for the light and pulled. Light flickered before becoming steady, forcing him to close his sensitive eyes until they adjusted to the sudden fluorescent brilliance. When he could open his eyes again he reached for the breakfast tray. He sat it in his lap as he ate.

He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Even though the food was only mildly warm, it went down fast and easy. He tried to remember when it was he had last eaten. There were dried meat sticks and energy bars that he had consumed at the last climate station. He had eaten a bit there before resting. Since then, mostly he had been too preoccupied.

When he finished eating he set the tray back near where it had been left for him to find. He couldn’t wait for dinner. He was still hungry but the sandwich helped.

He used the toilet that was closeted at the end of his tiny confinement. When he returned to his desk he pulled out the chair and sat. There was a small chronometer on the desk. He had about five hours before he figured he could expect dinner. He opened the drawer and taking out the infotab he plugged in the memory module and perused the index of books stored on Mods kept in the cube. There were fiction and non-fiction, books that he had read before but some books that he had only heard of. Many were generally unavailable if not outright banned.

He accessed one of the infamous books and began to read about the development of technology in the mid to late Twentieth Century. Certainly, it played a key role in producing the devices to transform the way people lived in what was generally called ‘the end times’ of Earth. Despite the invaluable contributions of technology to modern mankind, the Earth origins of some things were not discussed much in the Colonies. Many devices were banned outright or their usage was taxed heavily and restricted further with licensing fees, effectively preventing them from mass use.

Ostensibly the reasoning was to prevent the same kinds of environmental disasters that killed the Earth. Pristine, terraformed worlds like Pravda needed protection. For example, every vehicle used on Pravda used a certified power source with a neutral environmental impact. Internal combustion engines were banned, as were jet engines, and gas turbines. Synthetic lubricants were used instead of petroleum-derived products. Since the end of commercial development of Earth resources, organic hydrocarbons were prohibitively expensive.

The power generated on Pravda came from very different sources than were used on Earth. With the exception of the cities closest to the ocean, wind and sun generated roughly seventy percent of the power used in the cities. Where the cities could use the tidal forces to capture energy, there was often a surplus of power that was exported along the power transmission lines that ran beneath the railcar tracks connecting the cities. At times, cities like Haven and New Milan could run completely on the power generated from the wave energy baffles installed in the nearby oceans.

In the period of extended draught in the desert, Andromeda, Star City and Delhi generated a surplus of power from vast arrays of photovoltaic generation. The same panels continued to produce power from the light of the two moons although it varied according the phases of the moons. On nights of Double-Full, nighttime generation could account for as much as twenty percent of the total power generated over a twenty-four hour period.

The remainder of the power used in the cities came from various other processes that included differential thermal exchange and proximate quark reaction that combined to produce roughly ten to fifteen percent of the power used in a city. Each city had its own power grid but connected to every other city through the commonly supported supply of power to the railcar system that connected them.

As Paul read the book, the author made a very good case that the pioneering corporations of the late Twentieth Century were profit driven to the exclusion of developing technologies that threatened established industries. Their focus became the cutting edge of technologies that would not adversely affect the status quo of market equilibrium. Such corporations were blamed for triggering the events leading to the demise of the Earth’s ecosystem, ignoring technologies that might have extended the viability of Earth as a home for mankind.

It was also the point of view The Colonial Authority held adamantly. They were unwilling to give the innovations their due. The development and production of the atralnav, the translation device for navigating through sub-space, the organic computer and DOMLIBs that evolved from it were all necessary precedents to colonization. Without certain technologies colonization would not have been as easy and certainly more distant worlds like Pravda could have never been reached in time to make a difference in mankind’s overall survival.

Paul read the book with interest as it advanced several theories for the rapid decline and demise of Earth’s environment in the later Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. It cited the increase in the number of mesospheric clouds during the summers toward the end of the Twentieth and the early part of the Twenty-First Century. A little understood phenomenon at the time, they were a warning signal that the upper atmospheric conditions were changing rapidly. The usual culprits were hydrocarbon emissions from vehicles and factories that were dumping chemicals that polluted the atmosphere, waterways and oceans, killing aquatic life and slowly decreasing the plankton from which a great percentage of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere originated. The defoliation of rain forests not only due to harvesting of the trees but also the effects of acid rains resulting from sulfur emissions and the reduction of grasslands were also cited as reasons for the reduced oxygen in the atmosphere.

Around five in the afternoon he set the book aside. The wall opened and his dinner arrived. He did not say anything except ‘thank you’ to the man who delivered the food. He received a reply of ‘you’re welcome’ as the man removed the tray from lunch. Immediately he turned and without delay the wall closed and once more Paul was sealed away in his room.

He consumed his meal as slowly as he could, trying to make it last longer, but he was also eager to get back to reading about the last decades of Earth. He had just begun a section that dealt with the climatic changes and the increased seismic activity along major fault lines.

When he finished eating and returned the tray to just inside the room where the wall opened, he returned to the desk and continued reading. It was a long time until breakfast in the morning. Based on what Tam promised him, sometime soon he would be able to shower and change clothes. He was looking forward to ridding his body of the pungent sweat smell from all of his exertions.

Paul read about natural disasters with unprecedented death tolls. There were needless wars fought over scarce resources and coveted land. Zealots terrorized the innocent.

There were incurable viruses. The attempts to prolong the lives of those infected were believed to have been the origin of the attributes. There were many with contrary opinions, but it was fact that a super strain of the virus wiped out a third of Earth’s population over a ten-year span. The only people who did not seem affected by the more robust version of the virus were those who had the previous strain and were under treatment with the previous strain of the virus under control.

A cure for the super strain was never discovered.

He read with great compassion for those who had perished because they would not allow their bodies to be infected in order for the associated treatment to build up their immunity to the much more severe strain. There was such fear of the initial virus and such a social stigma attached to it that people died needlessly who could have been readily immunized had they listened to the advice of medical authorities.

Paul began reading a new chapter, focused on wars that began in several places around the world as sovereign nations refused to negotiate away their vital resources. The more powerful nations seized the resources, attacking the weaker nations, invading while professing they had come to liberate the people of the weaker nations from the tyrannical regimes that controlled them – and refused to negotiate away rights to sovereign resources.

As one after another nation was immorally attacked and seized, the risks of the strongest militaries of the world coming into conflict increased. Long held alliances dragged the powerful into positions of defending their friends from attack. In an ever escalating, intrepid game of strategy, the most powerful nations attempted to negotiate between themselves in a last ditch effort to prevent the unleashing of their arsenals of mass destruction.

There were more seismic events that produced even wider devastation, releasing more and more poisonous gas into the atmosphere. It would eventually render the Earth uninhabitable, but for the moment it only exacerbated the catastrophic conditions. Under a truce executed out of mutual interest, the remaining governments on Earth worked deals with the near Earth colonies to accept their refugees.

As more and more people evacuated the Earth, the fragile balance of resources in the colonies was strained as well, resulting directly in the establishment of more distant exploration and research for colonial expansion.

Paul could understand why the book was not popular with the Colonial Authority and had been restricted or even banned. It did not portray mankind in a favorable light. The official view taught in school was human destiny led people to colonize other worlds. It was intended to extend humanity’s wisdom, insight and creativity into the future. Paul already understood as did many others who bore the attributes that humans were certainly not the ever-adapting, ever-evolving, intelligent beings that were destined to rule a remote portion of the Galaxy.

It was very late in the evening by the time that someone came to take him to a shower. Paul had finished reading the book. He had more than enough reading for one day, but the knowledge satisfied him, connecting with pieces of information that he had obtained through other sources. When he returned from his shower and dressed in clean clothing for bed, he stretched out to rest for a while. Because of his overall exhaustion as well as his abject boredom, he fell asleep within moments of his head hitting the pillow.


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Luck of An Only Elgon (Well, I Am Part Irish)

Later this week we will be running a special promotion for FRIED WINDOWS for $2.99 in eBook. It is already discount priced on Pandamoon Publishing’s Facebook Store at $9.99 ($3 off). My publisher and I are doing the promotion on Saturday 3/17/18, St. Patrick’s Day, along with a giveaway for a signed copy. To enter follow me on Twitter @ElgonWilliams or follow me at

Why that date? Funny you should ask:

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only


That happens to be the 6th anniversary of the date I started writing the story. And yes, Fried Windows was the title from that first day. It comes from misreading a headline on a news feed. I read “Fired” and “Fried” (I really should wear my glasses when reading) and immediately wondered how to serve “fried windows”. Why? In a light white sauce, of course.

From the outset, the story was a quirky tale that fit the title well, but I originally envisioned it as a short story only. I posted the first draft on Fanstory, an internet-based writing community, to receive feedback, which was completely positive. Most reviewers wanted to read more about the weird characters.

So, I began writing a series of short stories, 16 of them in all, about the characters. And, except for shared elements, the stories were not linked. Neither did I consider the work a novel in progress, nor envisioned creating a novel.

A year later, I took the original story (about 8,000 words), edited it, sent it to a friend in Ontario for a good second edit. Yes, I know other writers there besides Pandamoon Publishing’s Alisse Lee Goldenberg and An Tran. And then, after receiving the edited copy, I submitted it to a magazine. I expected the mag to buy the story and just knew they were going to be asking for more installments. I was so confident that I was planning where to spend the money.

As I waited for a response from the magazine, I decided to edit the other stories in the collection, just to be ready for the magazine’s inevitable demand. As I did, I noticed some threads of a story arc. But it was only when the magazine rejected my submission that I considered the collection of short stories a viable draft novel.

Naturally, as a writer, I was accustomed to rejection. The response is always the same, revise and resubmit. But in this instance, I just needed some connecting pieces, which I wrote, and created a draft manuscript.

After a few more revisions, I considered self-publishing. I was almost ready to press the submit key with Amazon when I noticed a tweet from Pandamoon about accepting submissions. Since I had a MS ready to go, I submitted it. And the rest you know.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 30 – Concealment

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**


The last time Paul slept for more than an hour or two was a few days ago. He recalled it. He was in the chamber beneath a climate observation station. Had he known then what he knew now, he might still be there, waiting for a better time to execute his ambitious plan of gaining the direct support of his sister.

It was obvious that Jodi betrayed him. He trusted her. Only she knew everything. How could he have been so wrong?

There was no other explanation. The authorities had been waiting for him. All he wanted to do was to reach Cristina and talk to her. He was certain he could recruit her. He’d start by seeking her understanding if not her help. She would support the cause. He was certain of it. Her participation was essential. In retrospect that the first time he met her he knew that, before he knew she was his sister. She exuded the graceful evidence of her greatness for anyone that was experienced in the attributes or cared to see the underlying truth in the world around them.

Paul skulked from shadowy corner to concealed alcove for the entire night, cautiously moving as he progressed through the alleys of the city. Hiding in the nighttime was a relatively easy task requiring only the common sense of staying out of the areas illuminated by streetlights. He felt safe enough at times to even entertain the idea of taking a nap, but he resisted. He was in far too great a danger.

By the approach of the first light of dawn cowered in the back of an alley, trying to hide, looking for a place where he felt safe enough to close his eyes for a little while. He was constantly fighting the urge to sleep. He was exhausted.

Nearly decided he had found a secluded place until there was movement in periphery to his chosen safe haven. He sensed them. In the next moment, they were everywhere, surrounding him. How had he ever allowed himself to get cornered again?

Advancing on his position, one here and one there, hope of escape was impossible. He refused to surrender, though. He would never yield to the authorities. He’d rather die than allow them to pick his brain for whatever information he did not know he had. He had to get behind them. As they drew in, his vulnerability revealed, like a death shroud blanketing him, he felt their smothering proximity, but they did not understand. He could pass through them in less than a thought, parting the veils to emerge where none expected. It was his only real chance. All he had to do was be patient and draw them away. He hoped the trick gave him enough of a head start.

It was time, he decided. There was every indication of potential success. All he had to do was focus and concentrate. Then, suddenly as he transitioned, still huddled down as he was before but now behind a dumpster, he opened his eyes and started to plot his escape even as the others were still closing in on his previous location. He stood up and ran around a corner, slamming face first into a tall man’s chest. Panicked, stepping back, a little addled he rapidly regained his purpose and threw a shoulder into the man, pushing him to one side before the man reached for his collar and grasped it, yanking him back. “We’re on your side, Paul,” he said.

At little dazed, Paul looked up into the man’s smiling face and asked, “Who are you?”

“Tam’s the name.”

“Tam?” Paul inquired.

“Whippoorwill was my Courier,” Tam said as he opened the palm of his hand and revealed a small orb, seeming to have come from thin air. In response Paul did the same. “See, we’re on the same team.”

Paul sought a glimpse of his eyes for their purpose and clarity of the truth, and then offered his hand. “I wish I could say I am glad to see you, but this should not have involved you.”

Tam smiled. “Things happen, especially when you’re betrayed.”

“The others?”

“My team,” he said then made a sound like a bird to recall them. When they were somewhat congregated in the alley around them, Tam introduced them. “As you can see he evaded you. Your attentions were too close and meticulously focused on the immediate moment. It’s easy for someone with Paul’s skills to evade you.”

“I don’t know how,” one of the team leaders responded to Tam.

“Well, I do. As I’ve told you repeatedly, always expect the impossible. If I had not been back here to meet him, you would still be pursuing a phantom.”

“Does all of your team possess the attributes?”

“The vast majority does. Some were pretenders, infiltrators. They were eliminated. Those that remain that do not possess the attributes are sympathetic to our cause.”

“You trust all of them?”

“With my life,” Tam said. “You must do the same.”

“I do not want to know where your operation is based.”

Tam smiled. “That’s good. I wasn’t going to take you there anyway.”

“You’re a man after my own heart,” Paul said.

“I expected you’d understand the precautions.”

“I need to get to Andromeda,” Paul said. “My sister’s there and she is essential to the overall plan.”

“It’s problematic to get you out of this city anytime soon,” Tam explained. “You’re notorious and wanted. The authorities are completely focused on finding you, even going door to door in their searches. They’re risking the complaints for violation of privacy, even those of exempted privilege. The Colonial Authority believes the conspiracy includes some of the wealthy and powerful.”

“I see.”

“You need to lay low and move only when we tell you to move. You must allow your scent fade and your trail to be swept away. That’s the only way we can help you. As for your sister, well maybe you need to wait a little longer for that meeting.”

“It can’t wait. She will return to New Milan and I probably won’t have a chance to see her again until she is on tour next year.”

“On tour?”

“She’s in a rock band.”

“Really, isn’t that an odd profile for one of us?”

“Tam, maybe all along we have been looking too narrowly for others of our kind. The more creative of us have entered into the arts.”

“Obviously, your sister has.”

“Maybe the rest of us, all the ones we’ve sought. There are three in Cristina’s band alone.”

Tam smiled as he considered it. “We are outside of the mainstream. I suppose it is possible.” He turned to his team leaders, “Prepare him. It’s growing far too light. We need to get off the streets.”

Paul stood by patiently as one of the team members blindfolded him. Two other team members grasped his arm and hurried him along. For a brief instant, Paul shared an odd flash of vision that he sensed was from Cristina, as if she was closer than he believed, nearly beside him, but as Tam’s team hurried him along the vision faded.

Twisting and turning in their course they negotiated a maze of streets and alleys. Paul understood the necessity of the circuitous path. Then after twenty minutes or so they deposited him in a room and told him to sit on a chair. Paul complied and in silence he waited for several minutes.

“Stand up,” Tam bade him as he entered the room. Turn around and pick up your chair.

When Paul had done as requested, the hands of two men guided him toward a much smaller room. He could sense from the change in ambiance that it was very close quarters. Then, when he was told to stop he was allowed to remove his blindfold. It was cramped quarters indeed, with an overhead light, a cot with a pillow and a blanket, a small desk with reading lamp and a chair. There was enough room for only him.

Tam stood at the opening, an entrance concealed behind a moving wall. “We will bring meals three times a day,” Tam began detailing the circumstances and instructions. “There’s a restroom through the far end of the wall. It isn’t much but it works. At night you’ll be escorted out and taken to a place where you can shower and change clothes. Otherwise you will remain here. There is an infotab in the desk drawer. It’s also capable of presenting books to be read. There are several books stored on Mods that are contained in a cube. Perhaps you have not read some of them.”

“I’m grateful for your assistance.”

“It’s unfortunate that this is necessary,” Tam said.

“How’d you know where to find me?”

“I’m afraid that must remain my secret for now.”

“What if I need to contact you, or let someone know of an emergency?”

“There will be no contact,” Tam said. “I’ll risk only one person at a time to assist you, someone different each time there is contact. Once this room it sealed you are locked inside. I will tell you only this, the place you’re in isn’t our base, not even close. What we do for you we do at a considerable drain to our resources, but it was requested.”

“Who requested it?”

“Again, that’s not something that I’m allowed to reveal. Once I leave here, I take all the others with me and, no one else is here. The only access is from the outside and only my team and I know how to open the room. By its nature the room cannot be opened from the inside.”

“I could punch through walls.”

“If you can punch through double layers of steel mesh with a solid steel plate between, then have at it.”

Paul nodded, thinking that the precautions were a little extreme, but if the authorities were only just a step behind he had no options. He knew he could sit it out. He also realized there was nowhere else that he knew to go that might not make his situation worse.

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Doings in the Elgon Universe

Sorry if I’ve been mostly absent from blogging and social media lately. Except for a music review a couple of weeks ago and the weekly sampling of a sci-fi story I wrote about 11 years ago, called COLONIAL AUTHORITY, I’ve been mostly absent while still being “being a writer”. You see, I just finished another book!

For the past month of so I’ve been on a crash plan, crafting HOMER UNDERBY, the sequel to BECOMING THUPERMAN. BT was released a little over a year ago. HU (BT2) is due out in Fall 2018, just in time for Back-to-School. The main characters are a pair of precocious eight-year-olds, a boy and a girl, who are inseparable friends. It is set in the summer of 1988 in a mythical version of Normal, IL where the duo is in the process of enjoying summer vacation, playing Little League baseball and discovering that they have emerging superpowers. It may sound like a kid’s book but it’s not. It is kid friendly, though.

As is the case with all my books, there is a lot going on in HOMER UNDERBY, like some mysteries and general strangeness involving Gatekeepers, Fairies and assorted people with Wiccan and wolfcat heritages. It also plugs in nicely with FRIED WINDOWS and the grand universe of WOLFCATS (1st book due out late Summer 2018).

I started building the alternate universe in my books back when I was still in high school. I continued development throughout college, my service in the Air Force and well into my adult life as a father and a retail manager. Writing was mostly a hobby then, but it gradually grew into an obsession.

I’m excited about HOMER UNDERBY. Jessica Reino, the same editor who worked with me on BECOMING THUPERMAN, has consented to work on this project, and I couldn’t be happier. She is an author as well as a fine editor. She served as a key sounding board for some of the ideas that evolved into the Homer Underby storyline. We also mapped out a framework for a third book while we were getting BT ready for its debut. I expect we’ll revisit the third book planning in the process of bringing HOMER UNDERBY to the world. I plan to begin writing BT3 in the next week or so. However, I also plan to begin writing the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, titled CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD.

HOMER UNDERBY is the first book I’ve written since moving into my current place. For some reason, the inaugural book in any residence is a challenge. Oddly, I started writing this one about a year ago while critter-sitting my son’s dogs. BT was just released, and I was planning an April weekend in Chicago to promote BT and FW and meet a half dozen of my fellow Pandamoon authors who were attending C2E2. Also had a chance to see my youngest daughter, Sarah, who lives in Illinois. I hadn’t seen her for years!

Other than that, there was a year’s worth of excuses and some other things that got in the way, such as my other jobs that pay bills. And I may have, for the first time ever, experienced some of what other authors call writer’s block. It’s hard getting comfortable with new surroundings and people. That is necessary for a writer to write.

The best news, though, is now I can get back to initial planning for two new novels while, in the background, I’m reading other authors’ books and catch up on my To Be Read pile. First one up is CRIMSON MOON by Christine Gabriel. It’s a sequel to her CRIMSON FOREST and she also experienced a lot of the same things I did in the process of writing, getting sidetracked with other work and the interruption of everyday life.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 29 – Arresting Plans

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

Unexpectedly, the front door opened as several security personnel stormed into the apartment. The first line took up defensive positions while the second line spread out, taking up positions throughout the apartment.

Immediately upon their forced entry, several men seized Chase and dragged from the apartment. Alix and Cristina ducked into their room. They tried to barricade themselves, huddling together before the unexpected and unexplained wrath of the authorities, but the door was too flimsy. Alix started to use his abilities but Cristina halted him. “We go peacefully. Chase needs our help. Maybe we can learn what it’s all about,” she said.

He tempered his response, not knowing what she was up to, but he was willing to try it her way because he suspected that brute force and fire was too extreme.

She surrendered first and even asked that they not use any force against Alix. Disregarding her request, they persisted in beating him as they forced him to his knees. It angered her, but she suppressed her rage, saving it for the right occasion.

The authorities took them to District Office of Investigation, placing them in separate holding cells to be interrogated separately. As neither Cristina nor Alix knew anything the attitudes of the authorities rapidly became ugly, threatening them separately. Then they brought the two of them together, in the same room. Their interrogators sought to play one off against the other, first striking Alix repeatedly as Cristina gasped, and then they asked Cristina questions in order to obtain information.

Alix sustained enough physical abuse from his previous solo interrogation, but he was willing to take whatever abuse they wanted to deliver just as long as they did not touch Cristina. But then they turned their threats on her.

One of the interrogators struck her across the face. Alix could not sustain seeing a welt or bruise on her lovely face, or the tear shed from the pain as it rolled down her cheek. The second attempt Alix melted his restraints into puddles of molten alloy as he simultaneously launched a fireball toward the man who was prepared to strike Cristina again. As he fell away, Cristina released herself from her bonds and joined Alix as he blew out the door that confined them.

“I had it under control,” Cristina complained.

“No one strikes your face!”

She smiled, and then blew him a kiss as they ran side by side. “Where are we going?”

“We have tickets, right?” Alix asked.

“We don’t have our things.”

“Chase will take care of that.”

“He’s in custody. They took him out first.”

“He’ll get out. He’ll take care of things. He’s good at that. We have each other and our orbs.”

“You’re nuts!” Cristina challenged.

“Well, what makes sense about any of this? We have done nothing wrong. And still we were arrested, interrogated and beaten?”

“Are you okay?”

“Except for wanting to set every friggin’ one of those assholes on fire, yeah, I’m just fine,” he said.

There was a wall of security positioned before them as they exited the building out into the plaza. With a sweep of his arm, Alix sprayed a wall of flame toward them. As they cowered from it, Cristina and Alix were allowed the chance to escape. They continued to run toward an open assault vehicle. They dove inside and closed the doors behind them.

“Do you know how to operate this?” Cristina asked.

“What’s to know?” Alix said as he shot flames toward the circuits that controlled the vehicle and suddenly it responded on manual control. These things all have some sort of manual override for emergencies.”

“The authorities will know we are going to the railcar station, and they’ll find we have tickets reserved. If we make it to the station and board, they will be waiting. Even if we make it out of the city their agents will be waiting for us in Star City.”

“If we make it that far we will have a few hours to sleep on the way. Maybe in that time we can rest and formulate a better plan, but for now we just need to get out of Andromeda.”

“Okay, I’m good with that.”

“Good, just stay with me. I have the plan,” Alix said. “Maybe it’s not much but it’s what I came up with,” he said as he looked back and she met his eyes and they each smiled at one another. “Is this fun for you?”

“Not in the least,” she responded.

“I’ll have to do better then,” Alix said. A wall of flame again halted the immediate pursuit.

“I’ll admit that was pretty good,” Cristina said.

“It’s always good to feel appreciated,” Alix said as he focused on reaching the railcar station. “How long is it until our railcar arrives?”

“We are supposed to depart in about fifteen minutes.”

“We have plenty of time,” Alix said even though he was a little concerned at how slowly the armored vehicle was moving under manual override.

He knew the basic layout of Andromeda but he lacked the specifics. He felt that he knew where the railcar station was, on the south side, where it was in most cities. He recalled it being close to the air locks and since they had approached from the west and south, that meant the station had to be in the southwest corner of the city. Unlike Star City that had an eastern and a western station Andromeda had only the one mega-station. The rails from Andromeda turned almost due south toward Haven. There was nowhere else that anyone might want to go that was east of Andromeda, at least not yet.

Alix piloted the vehicle down the streets drawing fire at times from the layers of security officials assigned to prevent them from reaching the railcar station.

“They know where we are heading, they have us trapped. They have been pursuing us for a while,” Cristina said.

“Are you suggesting that we surrender?”

“I’m suggesting this is suicide.”

“I’m not ready to give up. I learned some tricks from my orb,” Alix said. “It’s just that I’ve never tried it.”

“What tricks?”

“I really don’t know what to call it, but I can decide to be somewhere else.”

“What about me?”

“I believe that as long as I’m holding you, I think we go together.”

“You believe; you think?”

“Hey, I’m totally new to all this crap, okay. I’m pretty sure I can take you with me.”

“If not?”

“I will come back and deal with the same things you have in front of you.”

It was not exactly comforting, but it spoke of Alix’s dedication to the promises that he made to her.

“Oh shit!” Alix said, “Brace yourself!”


“Incoming, armor piercing… duck!”

There was intense heat from an immediate blast. But then, suddenly it seemed very distant. Cristina had closed her eyes in dread preparation for her imminent death, but instantly she was standing in a courtyard.

She heard rumbling reverberations from the explosion as she turned to reassure herself that the hand she was clutching was still attached to the left arm of Alix. He was grinning at her.

“It worked, hon!” he said.

“Where are we?”

“We’re a couple of blocks from where we were and a few blocks further from the railcar station.”

“Why here?”

“I figured it was time for strategy. Maybe they won’t expect us to move farther away.”

“I suppose I understand that in a warped kind of way.”

“Anyway, it worked! We won’t need tickets to board the railcar.”

“How so?” Christina asked.

“We can just be there.”

“I don’t understand.”

Suddenly, there was an explosion that ripped and tore its way through the armor hull of a nearby vehicle behind which they were concealed.

“They found us,” she gasped. Then, she closed her horrified eyes. When she opened them anew, she and Alix were sitting together in seats on a railcar.

“We made it,” Alix said, and the looked around as the railcar began departing the station. “We just barely made it.”

“What…just…happened?” She asked gasping for breath.

“We got here.”

“I can…see that.”

“Don’t worry…okay? I’ll…protect you. I’m…your shield. I’m yours…and yours alone,” Alix said as he leaned over and kissed her.

She looked into his eyes even as she fought to regain her breath and composure. “What we…just did…was impossible.”

“Yeah, well…we did it, anyway…we had to,” Alix said. “You and I…are not like…everyone else. What else…is new?”

Cristina was still struggling to regain her breath, wits and settle her shaken nerves. “They will…be waiting.”

“Maybe not…they think…they got us.”

“We can’t…count on that.”

“No…probably not,” Alix said. “I have some…other plans.”

“I’d hope so.” She continued to clam down. As the railcar increased its speed, she stared out the window. After a while, she stated the obvious. “We’re in a lot of trouble. What are your plans?”

“We rest for now. Then we figure out what we are going to do before we arrive in Star City.”


“I didn’t say they were the best plans. I’m improvising.”

“You are not instilling confidence in me.”

“We can make it. Trust me. I can do it. We are as good as there. First we get into Star City…”

She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. “I know you will do your best. It’s just that…well, that was scary back there.”

“I know it was. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you better.”

“You were amazing.”

Alix beamed. “That was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

“You really have been practicing with the orb.”

“Not as much as I should. Not as much as you’ve been. I don’t have the control of it. When I do something it is still a little wild at times.”

“You got us here.”

“Yeah, well that had to be. Luckily that ended up just about right.”

“Nothing just comes out right, Alix. You did this!”

He shrugged. “I didn’t feel like I was in control.”

She looked up into his face then raised her head a bit more and kissed his cheek.

He smiled in response, and then kissed her lips. Once more she rested her head on his shoulder. “Sleep,” he told her.

“You too.”

“You first. I’ll be here watching. Everything has changed,” he whispered. “We’re fugitives, now.”


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Colonial Authority: Chapter 28 – The Sojourn Begins

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

Cristina was surprised at how quickly her call was answered. She recognized Dom’s voice. “This is Cristina,” she said. “I need to talk to Raven.”

“The Master is expecting your call.”

“Uh, well I’m not sure how? Tell him I need a favor from him, please.”

In the background she could hear Dom walking, and then he knocked on a door and opened it. “Master, Cristina is on the phone.”



“There is something interesting in the symmetry, don’t you think, Dom?”

“As you say, it is interesting, Master.”

“Give me the handset,” he reached out his hand for Dom to deliver it. “Cristina, I wish I could say this is an unexpected surprise, but you wouldn’t understand why it’s not.”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

“You need a favor.”

“I suppose you could have guessed that.”

“You’re right, I could have,” Raven said.

“I thought that maybe you would be able to put Alix and me up for a couple of days. But if it is too great an inconvenience…”

“Consider it already done.” Raven said. “I have more than ample room to accommodate you as well as your boyfriend. I might ask why you are you coming here, but I won’t.”

“As much as I would like to tell you that we are coming to visit with you that would be a lie.”

“Your brother was here, earlier.”

“I was playing with the orb and it showed me what happened at the railcar station.”

Raven sighed. “Perhaps there are things at work that I’m not aware of. Look, you and your boyfriend are welcome here on the condition that you leave me alone unless I initiate the contact and engage the conversation. Dom is more than capable of attending to your every need. He has been with me for more years than I wish to recall. I’m not sure what I would do without him. He can do anything that I would do for a guest.”

“I appreciate your hospitality.”

“It’s an invitation at this point, but also I have committed to it so it is an obligation for me so long as you do not involve me with your brother’s nefarious activities.”

“I won’t. I only want to talk to him.”

“Well, then maybe there’s some modicum of hope left in the world, that the sister can talk the brother into abandoning his ill-conceived plans.”

“I can’t promise anything.”

“Then tell him you are his last hope of reaching his full potential. Maybe he will listen to that. Anyway, you’re welcome to come. You know the way to my place, of course. In Star City there is little need of meeting anyone at the station.”

The call disconnected before Cristina could tap her lobe.

“I’m impressed,” Chase said as all along he was lurking, listening in the background. “I didn’t think you would have any hope.”

“I can be very persuasive when I have to be.”

“I see that. There seems to always be something new about you to marvel at.”

Cristina chuckled. “If I didn’t know better I’d call that a flirt.”

“Julie would kill me.”

“Kill us both, more than likely,” Cristina said.

“Not to mention what I would do,” Alix said as he emerged from the bedroom.

“As sexy as that towel-wrapped look is for you, hon, I think that maybe you should get dressed before you stimulate anyone any further.”

Chase smiled as he looked away while she joined Alix and the two of them walked to the bedroom and closed the door behind them.

“I was being serious,” Alix said.

“You were being a man. I’m okay with that to an extent but there is a boundary that cannot be transgressed when a friend is involved.”

“I know as well as you do that had Chase never met Julie and did not feel the obligation toward her, he would have been all over you.”

“Maybe he fought falling in love throughout the tour. I believe in professional decorum, same as you and the other guys in the band. The more he knew me, the worse it got. Even so, he loves and respects Julie. She became the unassailable barrier. I don’t understand how he has feelings for both of us but he does. The orb tells me the truth. Still, Julie is his first love and the only one he desires.”

“I understand,” Alix said. “When I look at her I see what everyone else does.”

“You’re attracted.”

“How could I not be, but it is probably the same thing Chase feels that prevents it from going any further with you. Now, I realize you are my life, Cristina. Without you I’m nothing.”

When the two of them embraced and kissed, they set about wrapping up the details for their imminent departure.

Alix took a couple of deep breaths before he opened the bedroom door. He felt compelled to say some things to Chase, regarding Cristina. Just he didn’t know how to break that thick ice.

“You ready?” Chase asked.

“Just about.”

“Look, I have to give you some advice, okay. So, just listen. Cristina is beautiful and talented so she’s always going to gain attention.”

“I get that, Chase. It’s not like I haven’t witnessed that for the past ten years.”

“You can’t be jealous of the attention others give to her. If she’s always devoted to you, that’s your answer.”

“I know I have to get used to the way people look at her. I’m jealous and overly protective of her. Maybe that’s understandable in some ways, But it’s also wrong because I fully trust her. We have a relationship that’s continuing to develop and maybe I’m further along in it than she is at the moment. I know I would give my life to save hers. It’s mostly that I don’t trust anyone else but her.”

Chase nodded, and then offered his hand. “You’re the right one to protect her, then,” he said. “She chose the right one.”

Alix accepted Chase’s handshake, but then Alix pulled him in closer. “You ever intrude or do anything to hurt her, it will be the last thing you ever do.”

Chase nodded, but then smiled, “You have not practiced with the orbs. How do you know what you are capable of doing to defend her?”

Alix turned his back on Chase and walking back toward the room where he was packing. As he did Chase’s hair erupted into flames that Chase immediately slapped with his hands in an attempt to smother the flames as he hurried into the kitchen an, leaning over, poured water from the sink’s faucet directly over his head, dousing the flames.

“You’ve been practicing,” Chase called out to him.

“Just a bit,” Alix replied from the bedroom.

“Next time I would appreciate a bit more warning before you light my hair.”

“I can do that,” Alix said as he arrived and door casing. Cristina looked up. “Mainly, I practice when I’m bored or in the bathroom,” he further explained.

“Do what?” Cristina asked as he entered the room, prompting them both to laugh as he realized how what he said could have been taken out of context.

“Playing with the orb,” he said as he closed the door behind him.

“I was worried you were playing with something else.”

Alix chuckled. “Never whenever I’m with you.”

“You better not. It is mine, you know.”

“Yeah, I sort of got that message loud and clear already.”

“I have never seen you playing with the orb.”

“For some reason it feels silly to me unless I’m all confined and alone. Then I can concentrate.”

Cristina nodded. “Maybe I can understand some of that. I thought it was a silly exercise at first.”

“Well, so did I,” Alix said. “But from playing with it, I have learned a lot about me. I have learned a little about you, Chase and Julie – even Pete but most of it has been about me.”

“Pete is one of us, then.”

“Yeah,” Alix confirmed, adding a nod for emphasis.

“He’ll need an orb then. Maybe we can mention him to Raven.”

“They already suspected his differences. I think he has an orb already,” Alix said.

Cristina glared at him, and then recalled a previous conversation that she had with Chase and wondered if Alix was even within earshot. “You told?”

“I believed that I had to,” Alix said. “It really is important to us, all of us not just you and me.”

Cristina sat back.

“You’re angry?”

“I think you should have told me that you did that. Pete is not only your friend! “

In response, Alix hung his head.

“We have to be one team, one mind,” Cristina said. “We’re all one band, one group. That’s what we have to achieve.”

“I hear you,” Alix said.

“You hear, but are you listening?”

Alix took a step back from her. Then in the palm of his hand there emerged a single flame. He looked into her eyes. Startled, she kept glancing down to the flame. “I have not told you the things I’ve learned,” he said as he folded the flame into oblivion, turning away from her.


“Just let me cool off before you tell me how wrong it is that I’ve not told you. There are things that you don’t know about me, okay?”

“Maybe in time we’ll learn more about each other. It’s just I feel like you sidestepped me. That’s why I’m angry.”

“Let it go for a bit. Whatever you’re doing is provoking an unintended response.”

“It’s hard.”

“Relax. Calm down,” Alix told her, but he was saying it as much to himself. He took several deep breaths. “I have way too much rage pent up inside of me.”

Cristina looked at him and understood the truth in his warning. She took deep breaths and closed her eyes. “I’m calming down.”


“I love you too much.”

Alix nodded as he took several more deep breaths, but also he took a couple of more steps back as he still felt the heat of her rage.



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College Hijinx, Personal Hygiene, and Some Ugly Truths

As a rule, guys aren’t all that focused on cleanliness, especially before they start serious relationships with women. Then guys want to smell good, look good and follow everything else they are being trained to do, albeit with some backsliding moments.

You might think that some guys start playing the role at college, but from my experience nothing could be farther from the truth. For example, the frat I belonged to at Purdue was kind of like Animal House with a better-looking building to live in. It has a social area that sort of resembled a Pizza Hut that jutted out from in front of the dorm building. We were in the Tower Acres, which I know sounds really nice and exclusive. In reality, the “Tower” was the campus water tower, which stood atop Slater Hill. My frat house sat on the hillside lot directly beneath it. Of course, we were the black sheep fraternity of the neighborhood.

I fit right in, really. As my first spring semester ended, I moved in from the dorm where I’d lived as a Freshman. There was a dozen or so guys living in the frat house over the summer to attend summer school and/or work. Most of them lived in the frat year-round, I learned. I got a part-time job working at a local hi-fi store. It was convenient. I earned money at the store but turned around and spent most of it on stereo equipment and the latest LPs, which were sold at a record store that was conveniently located next door. Since the store didn’t open until 10 AM, I could sleep in a bit on the days I didn’t have classes. For summer I usually took two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and I worked at the store for the noon hour and in the evening until closing.

Teenage guys also have a lot more stamina about staying up later and such.  I don’t think I ever made it to bed before midnight. Often it was past 3AM.

I’d like to say I spent all that time writing, but usually not. I fancied myself an aspiring author, but I was into that concept of “everything I do is being a writer”. Still, as it turns out the life I led generated several characters for my future writing and created some interesting scenarios to explore as well. So, I guess it is true that a writer is always writing.

The second summer, we had a party over the 4th of July weekend. We bought multiple slip and slides and stretched them down the hill in our frat house’s front yard. At the end we piled some spare waterproof (plastic covered) mattresses to prevent us from tumbling out into the street. Yeah, all that was my idea. And somehow, reaching speed approaching 50 miles per hour while stretched out on your stomach or, worse, trying to surf down the hill standing upright seemed like a lot of fun. I even invited the girl I was dating at the time, she was in my radio production class. It was pretty cool. She and I worked on projects together and had a lot of fun. Little did I know that some of the guys in my frat took exception to be dating a black girl. They never said anything to my face.

It took a while for me to convince her that it was safe to slide down the hill. After showing her how to do it with several practice-runs of my own— and having consumed a couple of beers in the process— she was up for it. But she insisted I go first. So, I did, but toward the bottom of the hill a huge mud puddle had already formed, just in from of the mattresses. As I reached that, my feet came out from under me and I did a summersault with my feet winding up on the mattress and the rest of body, from the knees up were partially submerged in the puddle. into the mattresses.

Already, even before I’d landed, my girlfriend had started down the hill. Seeing that, I scrambled to get up, but slipped and fell backwards again, just in time for her to knock me back down with her bikini clad bottom resting on my face. You can imagine the howling laughter. And, in retrospect it was pretty funny. Both she and I were laughing too, that is until a couple of my frat brothers mentioned chocolate pie.

We remained friends after that and continued to work on projects together for class, though we did it at her place. But we didn’t really date anymore. I blamed those two frat brothers for that. One was nicknamed Cooker and went by his real given name, Larry. I never forgot about that, nor forgave them.

The summer of my junior year, my fraternity Big Brother, Brad, who lived next door to me, was attending summer school so that he could make up a course he’d had to drop earlier in the year. Both of us were a bit overweight. Hey, it happens in college. All the calories from beer and pizza is hard to burn off, you know? So, we decided that every night, around midnight, we’d go for a jog. Then we’d come back, shower and settle in to watch Star Trek reruns that aired around 2AM. As I recall, consuming a six pack before running was fairly common. And sometimes there were a few follow up brews shares while watching the show.

How does all this relate to personal hygiene? Well, you see, I used the same pair of sweat socks all summer— just about, anyway. After jogging, I just hung them over the rail in my closet and let them dry out, ostensibly because I didn’t want the wetness to corrupt the semi-dry clothes in the laundry bag. Sometimes I went for a month between doing laundry. That’s normal for college kids, right?

I guess, I sort of forgot about throwing the socks in the wash, because they were my favorite ones for running. They had thick soles that padded my feet nicely in the New Balance running shoes I wore. After a month of running every night, they became a little crusty and stiff. But once they were on, that went away. Then, somewhere during the second month, after running and showring, Brad came over as usual to watch Star Trek. But he started sniffing and complained about something smelling pretty-bad in my closet, so bad that it was penetrating the door and the pungent odor was saturating the room. After searching for the source, I determined it was my favorite running socks.

“I’ll have to wash them,” I guess.”

“What do you mean? You haven’t washed them lately?”

“They are my favorite socks for running. I only have the one pair.”

“So, when was the last time you washed them?” He asked.

“That would have to be before we started jogging every night.”

“Holy crap! Are you kidding me?”

From the blank expression on my face he knew I wasn’t.

“Look, I’ll buy you another pair. We need to get rid of those.”

“What? Just throw them away?”

“No, something that ripe needs to be put to good use,” Brad said.

“What do you have in mind?”

“You’ve got a master key, right?”

“Yeah, in case the fire department comes for an inspection over the summer.” As the only member staying for the summer who was a fraternity officer (I was social director if you can believe that) the responsibility fell to me.

“You want to get even with your friends from last summer?”

Of course, I’d told Brad about the 4th of July fiasco, so I knew exactly what he was referring to. “Yeah.”

Larry and Cooker shared their room for the summer with John, another brother who, like Brad, was making up a course over the summer but wasn’t a usual year-round brother in residence. They had an air conditioner in their window. Brad and I only had box fans. So there wa a bit of jealousy right there.

“Let’s sneak down there, open the door really quiet like, and toss the socks inside.”

I laughed. “That might actually kill them.”

“No, it won’t but they’ll wake up wondering what did die in their room.”

I continued to laugh.

Around 4AM, Both Brad and I had settled enough that we weren’t laughing in anticipation of what we were about to do. The execution of the plan was flawless. I slipped the key into the lock, opened the door, tossed in the socks, and carefully closed it.

The next day I woke, went to class, then to work, and afterward to my afternoon class before going back to work, just like had been my routine all summer. In the evening, when I came back to the frat, I entered the back stairwell, the one closest to my room. There were two stairwells, the other one was closed off because no one lived on that end of the building for the summer.

What hit me was the smell of many flavors of aftershave, as if multiple bottles had been broken on the floor or something. Having forgotten completely about what Brad and I did on the night before I ascended the stairs two and at time looking for the source of the overindulgent smell. Cooker and Larry’s room was open with a box fan blowing out into the hallway, John was inside.

“What the hell happened?” I said.

“I don’t know where it came from, but there was a really bad smell in the room, this morning. We looked everywhere for it and finally found a pair of rancid sweat socks.”

I nearly lost it, but I held in my guffaw. It hurt, though. And it wasn’t right that John suffered the indignity of his roommates, but over the years, I had a couple of run-ins with him as well. So, I didn’t feel all that bad.

When I regained my composure enough to speak, I asked. “What did you do with them?”

“There in the far stairwell. We tossed them down there and closed to door behind.”

When Brad came home from work and asked me why the frat house smelled like a bunch of teenage boys at their first dance, I told him what happened. And, we never mentioned it or told anyone what we did.

When the other brothers came back from summer and started moving back in to their rooms for the fall semester, the other stairwell was opened, and the socks and their lingering odor was discovered. This time the solution was air freshener… and lots of it.

Greg was another of my frat bros who was an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet, and a little crazy at times, was taking advantage of his GI Bill Benefits to get his degree. He seized the opportunity to don his old camouflage uniform replete with face paint and gas mask, to remove the offensive socks from the stairwell. When I found out, I asked him what he did with the socks.

“It was a successful mission. I used a rake to pick them up and I carried them into the woods next door. There I buried them, fairly deep.”

“Won’t that kill a tree or something?”

“Unfortunately, some sacrifices needed to be made.”

Posted in Blog, College, college life, fun, funny, hijinx, humor, hygiene, life, Uncategorized, uncomfortable, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Music Review of Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires EP (2017)

It’s been a while since I wrote an album review. I think the last one I did was for Them Crooked Vultures, which ironically has a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, in the line up. Anyway, I think that it’s a commentary on how dull and unimaginative most music of late that I haven’t been compelled for critique a band for a while. Have you ever noticed how the mainstream of pop music is pretty-much cookie-cutter, formula-driven drivel? Yes, there are exceptions. And sure, I’m an old fart and as a rule we always say stuff like that. The old farts of my time said the same about the music I grew up with. But the other day I happened upon something kind of exciting and exceptional, in a throwback sort of way. It’s bluesy and hard driving, and what the heck, Josh, the lead singer, sounds more like Robert Plant than the Led Zeppelin front man has for decades.


The band is called Greta Van Fleet. They’re out of a little town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. The name is borrowed from a town matriarch whose real name is Gretna. The octogenarian attended one of group’s concerts and gave the band her blessing on using the modified name. Three members of the band are brothers:  Joshua Kiszka, Jacob Kiszka, and Samuel Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner on drums. The brothers grew up listening to the blues. Their father plays a mean harmonica, from what I hear, and has an extensive vinyl collection that the boys all but wore out as they were growing up.


The band has two current recordings available, the first is a four track EP titled Black Smoke Rising (4/2017) and the second an 8 track EP that combines the previous work with 4 additional tunes, titled From The Fires (11/17). Note, original drummer Kyle Hauck appears on some of the band’s earliest live recordings with the present drummer, Danny Wagner appearing on the most recent studio releases. Most of the songs on the EP are original material, which is exciting, since the band could have easily been a successful tribute band covering Led Zeppelin classics. But the fact they are going their own direction portends good things coming along in the future.

As a diehard Led Zep fan I was taken aback when I first heard a live version of Highway Tune. I’m still not sure whether the studio version or the live version is the best, and that probably doesn’t matter. Have your pick, they’re both tasty. The live track demonstrates the musicianship of the band members, which the studio version only modestly enhances. I get the feeling the band records stuff live, for the most part, because, having watched full concerts available on YouTube, the integrity of the sound doesn’t suffer in live venues.

Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Led Zep’s live stuff, mostly bootlegs, but especially The Song Remains the Same (10/1976), which was the soundtrack of a movie by the same name, that includes tracks recorded during the band’s heyday mid-seventies tours. Led Zep’s studio recordings, especially the later albums, relied heavily on effects and overdubs to achieve the sound and that makes it difficult to replicate in concert. A more recent reworking of TSRTM’s soundtrack with different concert recordings patched in here and there makes the album more listenable, though I question whether the trickery is a fair and honest representation of what the band really sounded like when performing live. Please don’t get me wrong, Led Zep were innovators, especially their early work and they paved the way for a lot of blues-influenced, harder-driving rock bands that followed. And most fans who attended their concerts would quickly argue that the concerts were memorable events driven by excitement bordering of mass hysteria.


What I like best about Greta Van Fleet is the faithful homage to the band’s blues roots. The 8 tracks of the EP include covers of a Sam Cooke tune, A Change Is Gonna Come and Fairport Convention’s gospel-esque Meet On The Ledge. There isn’t a throwaway song in the mix, though my favorites are the aforementioned Highway Tune, Safari Song and Black Smoke Rising. Why no Led Zep covers? That is the elephant in the room with a voice like Josh’s fronting the group. Maybe the band will do one or two songs in the future, but from where I sit it is not necessary and would only confuse the band’s brand that is still forming and gathering a following. Certainly, they could do a set with covers of Rock and Roll, Black Dog and D’yer Mak’er– to name a few and I’d certainly buy in. The band’s musicianship is definitely up to the task.


One question I would have is how Danny Wagner’s percussion work would match up with John Bonham’s original counter-rhythmic, avant-garde style. Wagner is more traditional in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing because the backbeat throughout the EP is solid and driving.


Also, I am sure Jake could cover Jimmy Page’s guitar work but at the risk of offending Led Zep purists who might take exception when he deviates or modifies the original licks to incorporate his own flare and interpretation. So, staying away from what is already a natural comparison of sound and styles and sticking to original work, for the most part, is a much better tact.



Check out the band on YouTube or, if you get the chance, see them live. I think they’re going to be around on the music scene for a while and that makes me happy.

From The Fires EP Tracks:

Safari Song

Edge of Darkness

Flower Power

A Change Is Gonna Come

Highway Tune

Meet On The Ledge

Talk On The Street

Black Smoke Rising

Posted in Blues, Led Zep, Led Zeppelin, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colonial Authority: Chapter 27 – Precondition

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

Cristina sat alone in the dark at the dinette table near the kitchen, her face softly illuminated in the glow from her orb. She concentrated causing it to move first back and forth, and then up and down. Then as she held it stationary with only her mind commanding, the orb began to grow. As it grew its solid surface texture became transparent. She saw her mother and father. They were each holding one of two babies.

As far as she had been told that could not have ever happened. Her mother died in childbirth!

Then she supposed that she understood. Maybe she was seeing her past, as she would have wanted it to be. She sighed and the image faded into the white glow from within the orb. There was an eruption of fire. She felt the heat from a blast as pieces of metal flew through the air. She saw Paul. He was clinging to the shadows as he escaped harm.

“He’s in trouble,” she said to herself.

“Who’s in trouble?” Alix asked as he came into the room to see what she was doing up in the middle of the night.

“It’s Paul. I saw him. I don’t know if the orb is showing me the present, the past or the future. At first it was showing my mother and father holding me and Paul.”

“But both of our mothers died in childbirth.”

“So did everyone else’s: Chase, Julie everyone with the attributes.”

“Then what does it mean?”

“I don’t know. I only know Paul’s in trouble.”

“Where was he?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Maybe I need to linger longer in the images to see something that maybe I would recognize or tell me where he is. Last I knew he was in the mountains to the south of Haven. That’s where Chase said he was. But when I saw him just now he was definitely in a city.”

“Maybe he’s back in Haven.”

“Maybe but I don’t think it’s safe for him in Haven.”

“If he was in trouble, then maybe he’s not safe anywhere anymore. It doesn’t feel that safe here for us anymore. We go out and people recognize us. It isn’t out of control, but it is happening more frequently.”

“It’s what we wanted.”

“Yeah, there is that old saying about being careful what you wish for because it might come true.”

Cristina nodded.

“I like the fans and their attention. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that Lynn and Sheryl were an unexpected anomaly.”

“I thought you were attracted to them,” Cristina said, but then seeing his reaction she laughed. “I was teasing you.”

“I’m thinking that maybe we should go back to New Milan,” Alix said. “I mean the guys will be ready to start working on a new Mod soon. We should probably start working on that too.”

“Have you practiced with your orb?”

“Me, yeah but not much.”

“You should. I mean you need to. I’m finding out all sorts of things.”

“Such as.”

Cristina focused on the orb where it had been hovering and it began to move where she directed it, then it started spinning and became smaller and smaller then disappeared. Cristina opened her hand and in her palm was the orb.

“Good magic tricks. Maybe we should work it into the show,” Alix said.

“That’s probably not wise.”

“I was kidding. Is that all you have learned?”

“No, I’ve learned a lot about my abilities. I can hear thoughts sometimes. I know how someone feels. I know whether they are awake or sleeping. I can tell when someone is not telling the entire truth.”

“Like with me last night.”

Cristina did not respond, just glanced away.

“That’s all useful I guess.”

“You guess?”

“What do you want me to say? You have learned to do some amazing things.”

“Don’t you want to know what you can do?”

“Look where it has gotten Chase and me.”

“I think a lot of that’s related and the two of you brought it upon yourselves.”

“Well, I enjoy my freedom and I kind of like breathing. It seems to me like anyone that resists is going to get themselves killed.”

“What if Paul is doing the right thing?”

“I’m not all that sure I understand what he is doing. It’s something about bringing the sand-morphs back to life. I get that. It may not be easy to accomplish, but it’s straightforward and I understand it. What confuses me comes after that.”

“I thought I heard someone talking,” Chase said as he entered into the room, then went to the kitchen, poured some water, drank some then poured the glass full again before coming out to the dinette to sit.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“I was playing with the orb,” Cristina said.

“Good,” Chase congratulated her.

“How are your ribs?”

“Better I think,” Chase said. “I heal fast. Maybe another couple of days I’ll be good as new,” Chase allowed.

“I saw Paul,” Cristina said. “The orb showed me something. I think he’s in trouble.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. He’s made some powerful enemies.”

“I saw him in a city and he was running away from the authorities. There was a huge explosion, and then I saw him running away,” she said.

“Do you know where?”

“I didn’t recognize anything.”

Chase grabbed the remote and turned on world viewer, seeking news, ran a search for ‘explosion’.

“There,” he brought it up on the main screen.

“That’s the place!” Cristina confirmed, excited at recognizing it.

“…A faulty power transformer near the west-side railcar station in Star City exploded, lighting up the evening sky while cutting the power not only to the railcar station but surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. The railcar station was able to continue operations with reduced lighting while running on backup generators. Authorities did not expect any significant interruption in service at the station but added that it will be morning before power is restored to all the affected blocks. Currently about an eighth of the city is without power.”

“There’s your answer,” Chase said. “He’s in Star City or rather preparing to leave Star City by now if he’s smart, which I assume he is.”

“But they say the transformer malfunctioned.”

“What are they going to say – a member of a clandestine group is still at large after knocking out power to one eighth of the city? Why not just tell everyone there’s a terrorist at large?”

“But why would he be there?” Alix asked. “He’s from Haven.”

“Actually, he was born in New Milan,” Cristina corrected.

“You know what I meant,” Alix countered. “Why would he go there in the first place?”

“To see Raven?” Cristina suggested.

“Raven wouldn’t allow him inside his residence without an appointment. That’s just the way he is. Besides, if he knows about the trouble that Paul’s apparently in, he would never think of getting involved,” Chase said.

“I’m sure Raven knows. It’s what, ten hours from Andromeda to Star City by railcar?” Cristina asked.

“About that, maybe a little more,” Chase said.

“Well I need to find him,” Cristina said.

“Are you nuts?”

“Alix, it’s my brother. He’s in trouble. I’ve met him once and talked to him on the phone once. I don’t want that to be the sum total of my relationship with my brother.”

Chase shook his head. “He’ll be trying to find a means of crossing the desert. He will need his subcutaneous implant reprogrammed and a new payment wand if he goes by railcar. There must be a cell affiliated with The Resurrection operating there in the city. He may know where they are, but most likely he will not. By nature, they’d be careful about preventing too much information to get out. They may find him. If he’s lucky they will connect before the authorities have another lock on his location. The cell could provide him a place to hide until the heat diminishes. Then they could provide him with a Puma and a driver to cross the desert if they feel it’s too risky to travel by railcar.”

“So you think he’s still there, in Star City?”

“The more I consider it, he has not had a chance to escape. He must be trapped there. He has no other options at present. Raven won’t assist him – I doubt that he would even if he could. It’s too far to cross the desert alone regardless where he’s going. He would die in the process and he knows that. So yeah, he’s still in the city.”

“Then we are going to Star City,” Cristina announced. “I’ll book tickets first thing in the morning. We can pack and leave in the afternoon and arrive before the next morning.”

“I can’t go,” Chase excused. “I mean Julie is back at work and all and I’m still recovering from my last close encounter of the authoritarian kind.”

“I understand,” Cristina said. “It’s not your place anyway. Your presence and Julie’s would be welcome, but we all have our lives and obligations.”

Julie was eavesdropping in the bedroom, not hearing everything, but more than enough. She did not want Chase getting involved. She did not want to see him get hurt or imprisoned for something that she felt was the wrong course. She did not believe in the aims of The Resurrection. To her they seemed dangerous and their course ill advised to pursue. She had already decided that she had to be the insider, the one that got Paul arrested, the one that would end the ludicrous plot that she felt would be the end of all mankind, including those like Chase and her who had the attributes.

It was not an easy decision for her but it now seemed that Cristina was going to connect with Paul and take Alix with her. If Cristina began working with The Resurrection would Chase be far behind? She did not want to betray anyone, but she had to protect Chase from his blind sense of obligation to friendships and his own stupidity. She planned that when she arrived at work in the morning, she could store some of the information in the memory device that Yates had given to her, and then download it into her computer and send it to him.

She rolled over and was ready to get some rest when Chase approached. He roused her with an offered glass of cold water. “Thanks,” she said as she sat up in bed and took several sips. She set the glass down on a coaster on the nightstand. “You were talking to Cristina and Alix all this time?”

“Yeah,” he said as he sat next to her. “I got up for some water and Cristina was practicing with her orb. I guess Alix getting up to see about her woke me up, too.”

“I couldn’t sleep either,” Julie admitted.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m just worried about things, about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“You were attacked. Our apartment was ransacked. It’s all because… well, because…”

“Go ahead and say it. It’s because of Paul.”

“Well it is.”

“Paul’s Cristina’s brother. That’s all. I don’t agree with his plans, as little as I know of them. I don’t think Cristina does either, but he’s her brother. She wants to find him.  Maybe she can talk some sense into him.”

“He may be too set in his convictions,” Julie said.

“Maybe he is, but I understand why Cristina needs to see him.”

“It’s very dangerous for her.”

“Alix will be there with her.”

“What if they get arrested with Paul?”

“She knows the risks,” Chase said. “I suppose that’s what lawyers are for, to explain why acting out of your obligations or beliefs compelled you to act in a way that might be perceived as breaking a law. It isn’t like she’s joining them.”

“Not yet.”

“I don’t know. I’ve talked to Cristina enough to know she’s pretty damned sensible. She does some odd things at times. She likes to have fun and maybe that was always the explanation. This is not fun to her. She’s doing it because she’s Paul’s sister. That’s the entire reason.”

Julie leaned into Chase and he kissed her on the forehead. “You have to work tomorrow. You need some rest,” he said to her.

“I know,” she said.

“Do you want me to read to you?”

She giggled like a little girl. “You’re so nice to me.”

“I’m still on vacation. I can sleep in tomorrow. You need to sleep.”

“Yeah, I’d like to hear a story,” she said.

Chase pulled up a book on his infocom reader. He had been reading it for a while. He personally found it intriguing, but apparently reading it to Julie readily bored her to sleep. Then again it was a historical analysis of international relations in the mid to late Twentieth Century on Earth.

Jerry Fitzgerald, one of Chase’s acquaintances had written the digital book. Chase had made arrangements for the promotional tour to sell it and as a favor the author had given Chase a personalized, digisigned copy of the Mod card.

What Chase loved about the book was that it was told from a common man’s perspective. Fitzgerald had done extensive research of personal diaries and archives and even managed to interview people who were still alive that had heard their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents stories about living in the late Twentieth Century. He also managed an interview with Raven, who the author did not identify by name other than to call him a reclusive expert on the early colonial period.

After reading several chapters of the book, Chase had decided that Fitzgerald had also interviewed many other Couriers, even the few that had first hand knowledge of the Twentieth Century.

He started reading a fresh chapter but by the time he reached the end of the chapter, Julie was sound asleep. Chase went on reading the next couple of chapters that detailed the post Vietnam War era of the Cold War and the curious sequence of events that had led to warmer relations between China and the United States as well as the USSR. It was a period in history that Chase had studied extensively, but Fitzgerald had drawn heavily from the diaries and journals of US military servicemen and women who had served in locations that were within minutes of the Cold War borders of North Korea and Eastern Europe.

Chase found the insights enlightening in explaining the apparent paranoia that had existed between sovereign nations that possessed weapons of mass destruction and shared a mutual fear of ever having to use them while knowing it was inevitable.

As he reached the end of a third chapter of the night, his eyelids were inviting his eyes to pay them a closer, more continuous visit. He marked his place in the infotab file and set it on the nightstand then fluffed up his pillow and rolled his face into it. Within a few minutes he too was asleep.

Chase had not rested well for the past few days. He was very surprised that he had slept through the noise and confusion of Julie’s wake-up sequence. She always set two physically separated alarms. When one went off the other always startled her enough to make her get up to shut it off. By mere will power alone, she forced herself to stay up since she was already up. She would disrobe and take a lukewarm shower before getting dressed in underwear and applying make-up. Finished getting dressed with outer garments, she would stop by the kitchen to make something quick to eat on the way to work. Only then would she depart.

Although she tried not to make a lot of noise, she always made enough. Usually it did not matter much as he needed to get ready for work anyway. It was just that he didn’t require quite so elaborate a sequence of events for him to get out the door.

By the time Chase made it out of the bathroom, Alix was up and about, sitting on the couch playing a game while Cristina was sitting at the dinette making reservations for two to go to Star City.

He hailed Alix, telling him the bathroom was free if he needed to do anything.

“After this level,” Alix deferred.

Chase made eye contact with Cristina and smiled as she said she was on hold. He went on into the kitchen and started gathering up the things he would need to make a late morning brunch as a sort of preliminary send off for his guests.

Alix paused and saved the game, and then trotted off to the bathroom to perform his usually morning ritual which always ended in a shower.

Cristina’s call was finally picked up and she engaged in a fairly long discussion about prices and times for departures of railcars to Star City. Having finally arrived as an agreeable time and price, Cristina waved her payment wand at the remote and the tickets were reserved.

Chase was not paying all that much attention to the negotiation but heard enough to be amazed at how meticulous she was. If she were not a performer she would be an excellent tour manager or promoter. He considered it for when her career would inevitably wane. She already knew the business and knew many people in the business. She would be a natural, he thought.

Of course, he had never discussed it with her and it hardly seemed the time now that her career seemed to be climbing. It was something he would keep in the back of his mind to spring on her at the right time, whenever she was ready to go off tour and pursue other projects.

Almost as soon as she disconnected from her call, it rang, telling her she had a saved message. She tapped her lobe to access it and heard a message from Keith. She relayed it to the speaker as it pertained to at least Alix as well. “Hey hon, just haven’t heard from you since you and Alix headed northeast. Pete told me about what’s happened. I think it is very cool even if it came as a bit of a surprise. Frankly, I always thought I was just ahead of him in the line. Maybe I stumbled or got distracted and Alix slipped past me. He’s sneaky like that. Hey, anyway give me a call back when you get the message. I need to discuss the studio schedule. I just got off the phone with the producer and I want to make sure the dates are okay with you and Alix before we reserve them.”

Cristina commanded the phone system to respond to the most recent caller and Keith picked up immediately, “Hey,” he said, obviously seeing the ID from Andromeda and assuming it was she.

She responded in kind to his greeting.

“How’ve you been?”

“Good,” she said. “I miss all of you.”

“Yeah, well the feeling is mutual. How’s Andromeda when you aren’t playing there?”

“Kind of weird. It’s a lot of fun. The clubs are intense, like the creativity is at a higher pitch and pace. The music is hot. You get completely different vibes than you do in New Milan. It’s really funky, you know.”

“I’ll bet Alix likes it.”

“Yeah, he’s had a good time, I think.”

“Three weeks from tomorrow in the studio. Is that okay with you?” Keith got right to business.

“Do you have songs ready?”

“I have two. Tim has two. Pete had two. Alix said he had one or two. Do you have any?”

“I have two,” she said. “I wish I had more but…”

“You have three weeks. You can write a couple of more songs. You had four on the last Mod.”

“One was a collaboration with you.”

“Yeah and that one is a hit. In fact I hear it’s number four up there.”

“You heard about that.”

“Yeah, that has been all over New Milan’s entertainment channel, I guess because of the creative rivalry between the two cities.”

“Yeah, well they have banned sales of our single and complete Mods saying there are hidden messages.”

“Okay, so that’s the secret of how to get a hit single up there,” Keith laughed.

Cristina laughed as well. “Anyway, I’ll work on it. I have a couple of ideas. Alix was working on a song on the ride up here. So maybe he’ll have three. That will give us more than enough so we can pick and choose.”

“Yeah, that’s always better than having come up with a cover of some oldie or something on the spot to fill. Well, I’ll let you go. I just wanted to confirm it was okay.”

“I’m sure Alix will be fine with it. He never complains. Except when he first gets up,” Cristina said.

“Well, that’s true of all of us, isn’t it? Anyway, take care and have a good rest of your vacation.”

As she tapped to disconnect, she wondered if she should have told Keith that they were heading up to Star City for a few days, but then decided that it was inconsequential and maybe unnecessary for him to know. She turned her head toward Chase. “That was Keith.”

“Yeah, I heard?”

“He never changes. Even on vacation he is taking care of things. We go to the studio, three weeks from tomorrow.”

“Great! Then, you’ll need a tour schedule for the fall.”


“We have set a few dates further out already. I mean I was getting offers and requests right up to the last day of the tour. I’m sure we can book some of those, say three or four months out just in case. Then we can fill in closer to the end of the recording sessions, giving you some time off between.”

“That would be nice. Last time it was a mad rush, Cristina commented. “Of course, that was Keith’s fault… and mine. We hated the mix the producer wanted on two of the songs, one of them mine and the other is ironically the local hit that’s banned.”

“About that I called some people and we have some lawyers filing things for you along with your label’s lawyers. I think that embargo will be lifted by the end of the week. They have the burden of proof. And since there is nothing there, they will relent. By the way, based on pre-orders alone, I think it will be number two or maybe even number one by next week.”

“Wow, a number one song in hostile territory,” Cristina said.

“One that you wrote!”

“Yeah, the lyrics anyway,” she laughed. “Maybe that explains why Alix and I are recognized everywhere we go here.”

“I think lately Andromeda is more hostile to me than it is to you,” Chase said. His attempt at humor did not result in any laughs.

Cristina smiled as Alix opened the bathroom door. Except for a towel wrapped around his waist he was naked. “We all set with the tickets?” He asked.

“Yeah, depart 6:33 PM arrive 5:14AM. “


“Best rates I could get on such short notice.”

“It’ll be fine. It gives us plenty of time to pack.”

“Yeah,” Cristina said then turning back to Chase. “Can you take us to the station.”

“You don’t need to ask. I was planning on it.”

She smiled. “I’d better take a shower. When I’m finished I have to look for a place to stay in Star City. I was thinking of imposing on Raven except that after what you said…”

“Raven wouldn’t risk any association with The Resurrection. He’s a total prick to anyone who wants his assistance whenever they’re involved in something he does not agree with. Not that he or any of the other Couriers aren’t up to a good fight, just that they believe it’s time to win our own battles.”

“I see.”

“It’s worth a try, though. I have his number.”

“I have it, too,” Cristina said.

“If he gave you his number, then he’ll accommodate you unless he has something else going on that interferes.”

She looked at the clock.

“Two hours behind us,” Chase answered her unasked question. “Star City is just inside that time zone.”

“Raven should be awake.”

“I’d give it another hour. Even if he is awake, at this time of the morning he’s still cranky. Shower first, get dressed, and then call him.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 26 – Impasse

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

The sirens of security vehicles blared in response to reported alarm indicating a security breech in the dome near the railcar station. Agents of the Colonial Authority were waiting, having been given ample advance notice. They were warned. Paul was unarmed but extremely dangerous. He had already killed in order to escape.

He was practiced in the fruits of the attributes. Penetration of the veils, piercing through the mass illusion of reality, was but one of the many things he’d acquired through the training of the orb. He didn’t enjoy the sensations associated with the experience, but it certainly came in handy during his escape.

His command of the gifts was more useful than he realized. He did not have to use his telekinetic abilities if he could slip through the veils disappearing in one place and reappearing in another. It was just that he had never tested the extreme cases. For example, he wondered whether he could actually slip from one city to another. However, he could pass through from a slow moving railcar as it slowly approached the outer airlock at Star City to the security perimeter inside of the dome.

All that he wanted to do was reach Raven’s doorstep. But it was on the far side of Star City from the railcar station. He realized that he was pretty much trapped, at an impasse. Although the authorities did not know precisely where he was, they were confident he was there.

For the moment, he dared not move. He did not need to give away his position. He needed to regain his strength and wits after his recent use of his gifts. Lying close to the bare ground as he was seemed to aid his efforts.

Paul killed Harold at the relay station. Actually, he facilitated the onset of an impending heart attack. Maybe he had taken a few days off the old man’s life. It would look like a natural death except that the agents were there and they knew that it happened around the time of his escape. They would blame him and call it murder. They were apt to pin everything imaginable on a fugitive. A good scapegoat could forgive many sins. They could easily trump up support for seeking maximum penalties against such a cold hearted, dangerous killer, trying a suspect in the media before all the evidence was collected. The strategic leaking of tantalizing tidbits of half-truths to the ravenous reporters for world viewer’s news-starved all day/all night channels was something the Authority did to perfection.

If they wanted to pin murder on him the agents surrounding him would be authorized to use deadly force. It really didn’t change much since he was already wanted for subversion and sedition. There were already multiple death warrants out for him. The authorities might have already killed him except that they needed information from him to connect the seemingly disassociated pieces of the puzzle, incriminating others in the process. Their mistake was underestimating him, allowing him the time he needed to focus, using his gifts to escape.

The Resurrection might have abandoned him except for his knowledge of the attributes and his connections to others known to possess the gifts in abundance of potential. He didn’t know whether anyone else with the attributes realized as he did that there were certain gifts that came more readily than others. Anyone with the attributes could acquire any of the assorted gifts to use whenever needed, but a few were dominant and specific to each individual.

As he remained quiet and motionless, his attention was drawn toward the shadows to his right. There was movement nearby. The authorities were searching for him or if they had located him, they might be advancing, closing in their perimeter.

“We know you’re here, Paul. You must realize by now you’re trapped,” an amplified voice came toward him but came from several directions simultaneously over a common public address system. “Surrender and it will be much easier for everyone. No one else needs to get hurt.”

Paul closed his eyes, attempting to locate individual sounds of movement, isolating one from another. Surveying for any weakness, an unprotected place that he might hide until he was ready, he could find no gaps in the defense. Completely surrounded, it was only a matter of time before they narrowed in on his location and subdued him. He could fight several of them, but probably not the 40 agents that he sensed – there could be more.

How to create a diversion? He needed to misdirect their focus to the wrong place for a moment. An instant was all he needed.

He focused on the agents’ vehicles, not knowing whether his telekinetic abilities would reach that far. He tried to release the parking safety on the closest coach, but failed. He needed to find something closer, something else that would draw attention away from him.

There was a power transformer enclosed within a protective fence. It supplied power to not only the railcar station, but also to the nearby buildings and streetlights. If he could somehow short it out, it would cause an explosion and knock out the lights in the immediate vicinity. It might work. Although he was dangerously close to it and he really did not know how far the effects of the explosion and the possible shrapnel from the metal case on the transformer would fly. The surrounding fence would contain some of it, enough of it, perhaps.

With his focus and concentration he mentally pictured two of the wires closer together – so close that they arced. A significant discharge of plasma erupted. Then he brought a third wire closer to the other two until there was a shower of sparks and a hum that grew in intensity. Another transmission line arced, followed by a powerful explosion that illuminated the evening. Pieces of debris and balls of flame hailed the open area.

Some agents took cover wherever they could. Others collapsed onto the ground. Then, in the darkness, once the explosion was over they ran toward the transformer, illuminating the area with their hand lanterns. They were looking for Paul, or rather his body, figuring that he had been responsible but could not possibly have survived such an event.

The reaction pattern of the agents produced many gaps. Some were surprisingly wide. Paul seized the chance to exploit one weakness. Under the cover of the suddenly dark sector of Star City, he managed to escape through the authorities’ perimeter.

He stayed to the shadows in the alleys, not wanting to be recognized. Soon enough they would determine that he escaped. They would fan out across the city in pursuit. He was far from safe. He needed to reach the other side of town. Raven had to help him, surely he would.

Wending his way across the southwestern cityscape, ducking into places that were never really intended to be anything more than a narrow gap between buildings. All he really needed to do was get close enough. Several times he had successfully navigated through the strange, oddly bright world of the white light beyond the veils of reality, but only for relatively short distances.

When he reached the downtown Star City, he needed to call Raven but his implant would not work without the travelmod tuned for the city. That was confiscated with his other belongings. Every one of Paul’s contacts in the city would have been compromised when he was captured had he not taken the precaution of a security lockout that would erase all contacts in the event of three attempts to bypass the password. He had a backup of the information stored in a safe place but that was in Haven.

He did not recall Raven’s number, so using a local communication was not possible. Vaguely he knew where Raven lived. It would not be hard to locate once he was in the right section of town. There was only one estate in Star City that would resemble a Medieval European castle, after all. In the entire world Raven estate was unique. It was just that only those with the attributes and the other Couriers knew him as Raven. To everyone else he was a reclusive artist who was rumored to be quite old. Apart from the Couriers, Cristina and maybe a couple of others with the attributes, no one in recent times had seen him.

It was a long shot. Maybe he was expecting more of Raven than he would allow, but Paul had no other option, at least none he was aware.

One of the unique aspects of living in Star City was that from the outset there was a very effective infrastructure for mass transit and as a means of enticing people to relocate to Star City in the charter mass transit granted free to anyone in the city.

Everyone in the world knew about the ‘Starport’ mass transit system. Other cities, including Haven had looked at Star City’s model but had never implemented it, as it was a drain on the city government’s budget. Although the same system might have worked in other cities it remained unique to Star City’s quality of life. No one really needed floater coaches, personal floater pods to get around. A scooter to get to and from the Starport stops was all anyone needed.

People still owned personal vehicles to transport large objects or for business purposes. As a means of transportation they were superfluous to the transit system except that some of the wealthy did not want to live their lives around mass transit schedules.

Starport was efficient, well maintained and hardly ever late. The dependability had become a hallmark of the operation and had lent credibility to Star City’s statements about the quality of life in the city that was in the heart of the continental desert.

A city commuter coach approached a stop that was just ahead of him, out on the main street. He rapidly walked toward the marker and waited the coach to pause, then its door opened and he boarded. There were several other riders, but he said nothing to any of them. None of them seemed inclined to look at him. He consulted a copy of map of routes and after carefully studying the shortest path to get to the far side of the city, he would need to get off at the second stop ahead, then wait for the ‘cross-town’ that would take him to a route called ‘The Hills’.

Paul sat down and quietly tried to relax and catch his breath. His mind whirred with the implications of the events of the last few days. Obviously, he was betrayed. Now he was in Star City and despite all of his planning, the authorities had been waiting for him to arrive.

Paul had been through Star City before but had never lingered long enough to know more than what he learned as a school child. His instructors talked about the history and development of the various cities. As Paul listened he had wondered at the engineers’ decisions of where to build cities. He understood Haven and New Milan. They were close to the coasts and protected to some degree from the gale force winds of the early terraforming history by the mountains that were close to each city. The placement of Star City had never made a lot of sense to him as it was not remotely close to anywhere else. He had wrongly believed that it represented a place to stop on the way to other places. Even if it that logic had served him in his travels, it was not the reason the engineers had chosen the site where Star City rose from the desert.

Regardless of the truth, he had never been more grateful to the planners for building the city where they had than he was at the moment. It was precisely where he needed it to be. Even though as an adult he had learned more about the methodology used in the terraform projects, he still preferred his child-like logic. What did he care that every city within the interior of the continent was placed geographically close to one of the three great continental aquifers?

The sources of abundant water seemed to validate Paul’s childhood theories about why cities had been built where they were. In truth the planners knew that Star City would require abundant water and in the longer term once the desert around it was turned into grasslands, the water would prove essential to ongoing irrigation projects that would transform the entire region.

Paul exited the coach at ‘The Crosstown’ stop. He waited out in the open as he saw his next coach approaching. Maybe it was coincidence but the efficiency impressed him. It was much easier than bothering with a private floater coach having to undock it each time it was used and dock it afterwards. Using Starport, all he had to do was sit back and wait for his interim destination.

As he rode toward ‘The Hills’ stop, he wondered how he would know which stop to get off once he was on the next coach. As the name of the route implied, there were a number of hills that the coach would have to weave its way through. Any stop might be the right stop. Besides, ‘The Hills’ route started well before the stop where he planned to exit ‘The Crosstown’. He didn’t know which direction to go. He might have to ride to the end in one direction before getting onto a coach going in the opposite direction.

He tried to be logical in his considerations. Where would a reclusive sort choose to build an ostentatious estate? Where would the city planners allow such an estate to be constructed when land anywhere under the dome was a scarce and precious commodity? He consulted the route map. There was an area toward the northeastern edge of the protective dome. There were only eight stops in that direction while there were nineteen going the other way. Even if he were wrong, it would take less time to recover from mistakenly riding on an eight-stop route than it would riding the other way.

When he finally reached the stop for ‘The Hills’, he exited. He waited but only for a few minutes before a different coach headed toward him and paused allowing him to board.

There was plenty of room onboard. Except for an elderly lady and a man and a woman who seemed to be engaged in an intimate conversation, he was alone. He paid attention to the houses of each block that the coach traveled. Getting progressively larger and more impressive, first one stop then another passed without an estate that matched the description of Raven’s residence. Then as the coach approached the next to the last stop on that branch of the route, Paul saw it. Just a few hundred meters from the stop, atop a hill stood an estate that reminded him of pictures of historical medieval castles. It had to be Raven’s place.

He exited and quickly ascended the hill. When he reached the doorstep he tugged on a rope that was attached to a bell that rang inside. He waited and waited. Then, as he was just preparing to pull on the rope again the door opened. An odd looking fellow that smelled of solvents and mustiness stood inside the threshold. “Yes?”

“I’m here to see Raven.”

“You do not have an appointment,” it came as a statement not a query. “The Master sees no one without an appointment.”

“Look, tell him it is Paul from Haven.”

“He will not care.”

“He will recognize my name. I’m Cristina’s brother.”

“Cristina,” the servant seemed to smile at the mere recitation of her name. “You will wait where you are. I will consult with The Master.”

“Tell him it’s urgent.”

“Anyone having business with the Master always believes it is urgent, even when it is not.”

“Well this is a matter of life and death,” Paul said as rudely the servant closed the door in his face.

Several minutes passed. Perhaps it was his ego, but Paul expected to be greeted straight away. That had obviously not happened. Still he was self-assured that Raven would see him.

When the servant returned he opened the door. “The Master says that if you are in trouble here that you need to go back home where it is safer. The authorities may not expect you to be there.”

“I can’t. I have to get to Andromeda. Cristina is there. Tell him. All I need is a place to rest, some clothes and, if he can arrange for it, a new identification profile.”

“The master was specific. I am not to allow you in and I am to send you away,” the servant said.

Then as Paul attempted to push past the servant, fully intending to barge his way not only into the residence, but also into whatever room Raven occupied, the servant grasped him about the neck and suspended in the air, feet dangling. “What are you? You’re not a man!”

“I am a DOMLIB,” the servant announced, but it did not dissuade him from continuing to support Paul by his neck, at the end of his extended arm.

Paul was struggling for breath, becoming light headed and feared losing consciousness. He had to do something, anything.

He focused all of his attention into slipping beneath the veils of reality and into the foyer past the front door. When he did, the DOMLIB immediately responded to his disappearance, searching and scanning the immediate vicinity. Having spotted Paul, he turned and immediately pursued him.

“Raven!” Paul shouted. “Help me!”

An older gentleman appeared from a doorway down the corridor, apparently amused at the sight of Paul fleeing his servant. “You were doing so well against a much stronger and quicker adversary. I’m certain you can figure something out. You’re a grown man. And, you’re very resourceful from what I’ve recently observed.”

Paul turned and without laying a hand on the DOMLIB, the servant flew down the hallway toward the foyer where he came to rest. Immediately, the DOMLIB regained his feet and persisted in executing his master’s instructions. Showing no emotions, the DOMLIB approached Paul, intending to remove him from the residence.

“Dom, stand down,” the older man commanded just as the DOMLIB had again reached for Paul’s throat. Obediently, the servant halted and if possible appeared to relax. “See, you are quite capable of defending yourself,” Raven said. “You have no real need of me. Anyone that can take on a DOMLIB and survive is a formidable enough adversary to be highly credible against anyone.”

“I got lucky,” Paul said.

“It was not luck. It was the attributes, the result of you learning how to use your gifts involving no chance at all.”

“I need your help, Raven.”

“Do you really? You have made your own problems. You should be able to come up with your own solutions, preferably ones that don’t involve me.”

“I need to get to Andromeda to see my sister, Cristina.”

“I’m impressed that you know she is your sister. It’s touching that you want to see her. The problem is I don’t see any need to do the sorts of things that you have requested. I won’t tell you why but you will learn soon enough that you never needed to go to Andromeda.”

“Then give me a place to stay for the night. I need clothes and a shower, nothing else.”

“Why should I risk harboring a fugitive?”

“I’m going to fix the mistakes of the past.”

“Really, do you intend to fix every version of everyone’s past or only the ones you connect to? I think I’d love to see you attempt the previous, but I fear you’re too narrowly focused on the latter.”

“What if I could solve all of them?”

“If you have to ask me, then you can’t. You’re just another disappointment in the process.”

“I cannot fix everything,” he confessed.

“Perhaps you could if you really knew what was wrong. But alas we are all myopic, aren’t we? So it goes for each of us into our own petty concerns for the version of the world that only each one of us can personally understand. Not even the truth can grasp our attention once we have determined to tarry down the path of the tyrant’s objectives.”

“The tyrant?”

“Surely you understand that the attributes would not be part of the tyrant’s design. The attributes are intended to serve very different aims, mostly peaceful. You have usurped the powers and are on the verge of bringing war and destruction to the world, terraforming it in a way that is ironically far too Earthlike for my tastes,” Raven said. “I refuse to allow that to happen and so, the only way to prevent it is to ensure that you make your own way in the world and as a result of your hubris you will fail. In that way there is a chance you will learn what you need to know in the process, as that really is the only possible salvation. If not, someone else will take on the responsibilities.”

“You won’t help me then, not even to give me shelter for one night?”

Raven laughed. “You will find your own way, but not while any of the Couriers coddle you. Of all those with the attributes, you alone have mastered the orb to such a high degree that astounds all of the Couriers. Yet you did so in isolation from the others with similar concentrations of the attributes, what the Colonial Authority would call the Twenty-Four. You have learned from the orb and achieved the point of nearly knowing its concealed purpose. How are you ever going to achieve that final goal if you rely on what others can do for you?”

Paul turned away, looking directly at Dom. “No hard feelings.”

“He may not even understand that.” Raven chuckled. “Although he is an organic android he is a machine and has no human weaknesses like emotions.”

“If he is organic he’s alive,” Paul said.

“Yes, that has been a contentious point with them all along,” Raven said. “As for you, Paul, I wish you well in your endeavors. As advice I would say to trust no one and you will not be in this situation again.”

Paul left through the front door, disappointed and disillusioned. He had expected at least some assistance from a Courier. Perhaps they were not all like Raven but he understood that as a group they had a separate agenda in conflict with what he saw as the future. They were adamant in their resolve to give up on the greater numbers of mankind surviving. It was their conviction that the only way to continue the culture, tradition and languages of Earth was to isolate those with the attributes from the general population. They felt that it was risky to even consider diluting the genetic code of those with the attributes with normal men and women. They believed that it would merely extend the inevitable demise of mankind without providing an alternative to extinction. The Couriers believed the attributes must remain pure!

Paul understood their position. He also understood the attributes were the one hope for all mankind to avoid extinction. He didn’t know which he would support. He understood points favoring each course. Regardless of which course was taken, within fifty years the birthrate would fall below the ability to sustain the population except for those with the attributes and their progeny.

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