Colonial Authority: Chapter 22 – Threatened

**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 festive mood of the evening was over. The prevailing spirit of the first real night in town rapidly evaporated once Chase and Alix returned from the restroom, each of them obviously stressed and injured. Chase had obviously sustained some lingering harm that would take some time to heal. Except for a cut and a couple of bruises Alix seemed fine.

Julie and Cristina sat and talked to their boyfriends. Alix asked Cristina to dance, maybe attempting to lighten the mood, but certainly to assuage her concerns and demonstrate that he was fine. They danced for nearly thirty minutes while Chase and Julie lingered at the table, talking.

Obviously, Julie was highly concerned. Chase was still bleeding from a cut on his lip and another on his forehead. Otherwise he seemed to be under control. Chase kept trying to reassure her that it was mere intimidation. It was a warning. As long as he didn’t do anything to draw further suspicion, everything would be fine. “It would be paranoia to think that every agent of the Colonial Authority is after me.”

“It’s only paranoia if you’re not being followed,” Julie countered.

Chase considered her words. Maybe he always had been followed. Perhaps all of them had. Each who possessed the attributes had been under some level of surveillance. The Couriers, whoever they were, knew about them. That concerned Julie. Were they involved?

When Cristina and Alix returned to the table, an instant silence greeted them. It seemed as if Julie and Chase had nothing to say to anyone, even between them as they sat there not wanting to profane the air with what was worrying them that the troubles had come once Cristina and Alix arrived.

It could not be coincidence. Long since she decided there were no coincidences. Each of them learned that single lesson over time. Everything happened for some purpose. Since Cristina and Alix came to visit, the weight of world seemed to be descending upon the four of them. That worried Julie. She wanted to protect Chase. Also she wanted to be a good friend to Cristina and Alix, but she believed the immediate situation was largely their blame. People noticed them. The authorities were obviously paying attention to them.

Alix looked across the table piercing the silence as he asked, “What is Paul doing that provoked so much interest, especially in us? I have personally never met the guy.”

“I met him briefly. Then he called me and we talked for a fairly long time. But I would not even begin to claim that I know him,” Cristina said.

“Before a week ago I could not have told you anything about Paul,” Chase explained. “Cristina met him in Haven the morning after our last gig there. I saw the two of them talking as I was coming over the rise in the bridge on the causeway.”

“I have since learned that he is my twin brother,” Cristina said. “The orbs showed me the truth. I had never met him before that morning on the causeway, at least not that I recall. I never knew that he was my brother until after Raven gave me the damned orb. Since that morning, it seems like my whole life has been turned sideways. I’ve not really been the same old me since.”

Alix looked at her, but then lowered his eyes.

“Some things that have changed are okay with me,” she said for his benefit. “Without the orb, maybe we would have never started talking. It’s just that everything else is topsy-turvy.”

“Did Paul say anything to you about what he is doing?” Alix asked.

“I talked to him briefly. It had nothing to do with anything except I had the distinct feeling that he was flirting with me. I get that sometimes. You must get that too, Julie.”

“Yeah, sometimes. But from your brother?” Julie asked.

“He didn’t realize their relationship until later,” Chase offered.

“Neither did I,” Cristina said. “I thought he was kind of cute, definitely Italian. I admit I was attracted to him in some ways.”

“He’s one of us,” Julie said.

“He has the attributes,” Chase confirmed.

Mo checked on them yet again, ensuring that they didn’t need anything before her shift ended. She said goodbye and thanked them again for taking a picture and sending it to her. Another table hailed her for drinks and hopefully tips as she worked her way back toward the bar and the end of her shift.

“I don’t know. Maybe it is me but that could get to be annoying,” Chase commented. “We know her a bit, now but all the attention…”

“She makes absolute crap for wages and she depends on the tips,” Cristina said. “I know. I was a waitress when I was in college. It sucks. And people like us who are just sitting here, taking up a table and not buying anything really do nothing for her.”

“Yeah, we have been hogging her table all night,” Julie said. “But she checked on us regularly. She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.”

“Exactly,” Cristina said.

“I’ll give her a good tip then,” Chase said.

“It needs to be more than the paltry sum you usually dole out,” Julie said.

“Trust me, I got it. Are you guys ready to go then?”

“Yeah, I think this night played out a long time ago,” Alix said.

As the others walked toward the door Chase walked up behind Maureen and tapped her on the shoulder. “We’re leaving. It was very nice meeting you and thanks again for your support of the band. I just wanted to thank you for your attentive service and if you are ready to receive on your end, I’d like to leave you a tip.”

“Uh, yeah okay, thanks,” she said, mildly surprised and then as she paused and looked down at her payment wand. “Okay, I’m all set to receive.”

Chase executed a payment, and then turned and started to walk away.

“Wait, sir.”

“Chase,” he reminded her as he turned around.

“I think you made a mistake. I mean really, maybe one zero too many.”

“There was no mistake, hon. Enjoy.”

“Thank you. I mean that’s really generous.”

“You work hard,” Chase said as he turned around. Then speaking over his shoulder “Tomorrow, go treat yourself to something special, something you never would do otherwise.”

She smiled, “Mister…Chase, really I appreciate it. I mean, I feel bad like maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention after you stopped ordering drinks.”

“You were fine,” Chase countered as he joined the others at the exit.

“How much did you give her as a tip?” Julie’s brow furrowed as she asked.

“My finger slipped, okay.”

Julie laughed. “Three figure’s worth?”

He nodded. “Hey, it was on the promotional account. It’ll get buried anyway.”

Alix chuckled. “Next time you come in here, she’ll be all over you with service.”

“Yeah, well the only way Chase is coming in here again is with me,” Julie stated emphatically. “I certainly don’t want Ms Mo throwing herself at my hon.”

“I can live with that restriction. I don’t have fond memories of the place.”

Julie flashed an insincere smile while Alix and Cristina observed.

Julie seized the remote for the coach from Chase and retrieved the coach from the docking station. As it pulled up to the curb outside the club, the door opened inviting them to climb inside. Chase waited for Cristina and then Alix to get seated then he waited for Julie to get situated at the console before he climbed in and sat down.

It was a very short distance back to the apartment. Chase was grateful that he didn’t have to walk. His body hurt whenever he drew a deep breath. He thought he might have a bruised or broken rib. His head ached, but mainly he wanted to stretch out and try not to move for a while.

Julie kept looking across the console at him, concerned that he was being brave and not telling her the extent of his injuries. She hoped he would be okay, but she could sense his pain. Still, she knew him too well. He wouldn’t go to a clinic right away. He’d wait for a couple of days, and go only if he wasn’t getting better. She’d already decided that in the morning if he was not his usual self she would insist he seek professional attention.

In the back seat of the coach, Cristina was resting her head on Alix’s shoulder as they talked quietly. They also noticed Chase’s mood. They had been on tour with him for over a year and knew him well. Chase was always positive, always in control of the situation. Now, there was a difference. He seemed apprehensive and frightened.

They arrived at the curb outside of the apartment building and exited. By the time Julie docked the coach at the apartment’s garage Alix and Cristina were already inside and had summoned the elevator. Chase waited behind for Julie and bit back the pain he felt at opening the door as she approached.

“Are you feeling okay?” She asked him quietly as she took his hand and started toward where Alix and Cristina were waiting.

“I feel great for someone who had the kick shit out of him.”

Alix laughed at how Chase turned the phrase in his effort to marginalize the situation and how much pain he was in.

Julie glared at him.

“What?”

“That’s it isn’t it? Your ego is bruised at least as badly as your ribs,” Julie protested.

“I kind of think the ribs are a little more bruised at the moment,” Chase offered.

“Maybe you can take a hot bath and soak in the tub.”

“Yeah, that’ll help.” He hoped.

When the elevator reached their floor and all exited, Cristina had an unusual sensation, unlike any that she had before. “Uh, wait,” she warned as at first tugged at Alix’s arm. Then, she proclaimed to the others. “There’s something wrong.”

“What?” Julie turned, and then, after seeing the conviction in her eyes, she halted her advance toward the apartment door.

“I don’t know what it is, but something’s not right.”

“The men from the club?” Chase asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

“Do you get these feelings often?” Julie asked.

“Not often, but sometimes. I always pay attention to them.”

“Look, what say you gals stay right here. Let Chase and I be macho and go check it out,” Alix offered.

“With all due respect for your macho, mine was dislocated a little earlier and I think in the process much of my testosterone in reserve spilled out as well,” Chase said. “Look if Cristina feels something, that’s good enough for me. I think we should call building security, just to be on the safe side. Let the people handle it who get paid to do it.”

Julie agreed and had already activated her implanted phone and the holographic projection in her palm to ring building security. A few minutes elapsed while they waited in the hallway outside of the elevators for security to arrive. Then the doors opened and two uniformed men stepped off the elevator as Julie explained to them that Chase had been accosted in a club. Then, she lied that he couldn’t find his remote that operated all the locks and appliances in the apartment, so they were worried that the men who had attacked him might be in the apartment.

Julie handed one of the security officers her remote and they went to the apartment and clicked the door open. Upon opening the door, both officers ran into the apartment with urgency and lingered for what seemed a long time. Finally, one of them emerged and motioned for Julie to come toward him. He spoke directly to her for a bit, and then went back inside the apartment.

“What is it?” Chase asked as Julie returned to the group.

“There was a break-in. They saw two men leaving from the patio. They called the Colonial Authority to send detectives.

“Great, just great!” Chase groaned sarcastically. “They may as well call the guys who broke in.”

Alix corralled Cristina’s shoulders, hugging her as he said, “You probably saved someone a major ass kicking, maybe me.”

“Or me,” Chase said. “Anyway, thanks.”

“I would like to do something special to those bozos that attacked you,” Alix said. “I mean if they had not blindsided us, I think we could have taken them.”

Chase laughed, but then winced. “I’m afraid there is very little fight left in me at the moment.”

When the officers from the Colonial Authority arrived, they took pictures, checked for fingerprints, and interviewed each one of them. It took a couple of hours. Chase sensed it was intended to be a good show. Even if the officers were not aware of the covert operations of their own agents, there would be nothing found, no evidence to point to the perpetrators. It was a necessary exercise perhaps, but the result was expected. With nothing to go on, searching for the culprits was futile.

The break-in was accomplished from the balcony. There were still ropes and grappling hooks hanging down from the railing. It was pretty obvious whoever broke in was professional, another reason why there would be no clues left behind.

The interior of the apartment was ransacked. Obviously, whoever it was looked for something specific. Nothing had been stolen but a lot of things were ruined.

After the officers left, Chase and Julie worked at putting the apartment back together while Cristina and Alix cleaned up the broken dishes and glasses from the kitchen.

It was the wee hours of the morning before the apartment was back to any semblance of order. Chase and Julie sat at the table talking quietly while Cristina and Alix showered. Then while they were getting ready for bed, Julie and Chase showered. Afterwards, Julie applied a stretch bandage to Chase’s ribs before the two of them also retired for the night.

Because of the events of the previous night it was very late in the morning before anyone woke. All night long Chase found it difficult to get comfortable and sleep. By morning, apparently he was worn out enough to pass out. He was still snoring when Julie got up. She was glad she had taken a few days off from work to spend time with Cristina and Alix.

As she checked and listened to her messages, learning she needed to go to the office to get a couple of things wrapped up, things she believed were completed already but someone above her in the corporate food chain changed something at the last moment.

She called her administrative assistant to find out how everything was going. Of course, it was a disaster because she hadn’t been there for a couple of days.

When she showered and got dressed, she went to the kitchen to fix a quick lunch to take with her and toasted a bagel and spread cream cheese over it just to tide her over on the way. By the time she was done, Cristina was also awake.

“I have to go to work,” Julie said apologetically. “I should ask for a raise. They can’t seem to get along without me.”

“How’s Chase?” Cristina asked.

“He had a rough night, getting comfortable and all. You know?”

“I can imagine.”

“He’s sleeping now so maybe he’ll rest all day. How is Alix?”

“Alix wants to go out tonight, but maybe we shouldn’t,” she said.

“You guys can go wherever you want. I don’t think Chase will be going out for a few days. But that shouldn’t hold you back.”

“Maybe someone needs to be here with him, just in case.”

“Yeah,” Julie nodded. “Anyway, I’ll be back around seven or eight. That should give you two time to go out and have some fun. Don’t let last night bother you. I have lived here all my life and that’s the first time that anything like that has ever happened to anyone I’ve been with.”

When Julie left, Cristina made a simple breakfast of some buttered toast and juice. She sat at the table to enjoy it as she checked world viewer to see if anything was going on in the larger world. After she searched the channels for anything interesting, she opted to listen to some music instead. By then Alix was awake and greeted her with a half intelligible, “G’mornin’,” on his way into the kitchen where he rummaged through the cabinets and refrigerator for something to curb his appetite.

“Do you want me to fix something for you?” Cristina offered.

“No, I got it, hon. I’ll have what you’re having. That’s really all I need.”

When he had buttered his toast and poured juice into a glass he joined her at the table. Before taking a seat he kissed her on the cheek. “After last night it seems very calm and quiet,” he said.

“I’ll take calm and quiet,” she responded.

“Yeah, that was kind of nuts. I’ve been thinking about it. What was the purpose?”

“They’re looking for anything about Paul,” Chase revealed his suspicion as he entered the room. “So, where’s Julie?”

“She went to the office.”

“She has the nerve to tell me to take time off.”

“I’m sorry if we woke you,” Alix said.

“I got enough sleep. You know me, a couple of hours and I’m golden.”

“How do the ribs feel?” Cristina asked.

“Sore as hell,” Chase admitted, “But only when I breathe.”

“Why do you think they would be looking here?” Alix asked.

“They want to know where he is. They think I know. Maybe they suspect you two as well.”

“I’m not sure it’s safe to talk here anymore,” Cristina whispered.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Chase said as he walked into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from a pitcher obtained from the refrigerator. He popped some tablets of painkiller into his mouth. “I have nothing to hide,” he continued after swallowing. “Yeah, so I’ve met Paul. Cristina met him once, talked to him on the phone. Until last week neither of us ever heard of the guy. We have done absolutely nothing wrong. But to them I guess we’re guilty by mere association.”

“What’s Paul doing that is illegal?” Alix asked.

“Actually nothing he’s doing is illegal, just that it is contrary to the wishes of the Colonial Authority,” Chase explained. “Even within the Colonial Authority there is division over the matters that Paul’s group is dealing with.”

“What group?” Cristina asked.

“The Colonial Authority believes he belongs to something clandestine called The Resurrection. I got that news when they detained and questioned me in Haven.”

“That’s an interesting choice of names. I suppose they are interested in bringing someone back from the dead.” Alix said.

“Not someone, some things.”

“Sand-morphs,” Cristina offered.

“Score!” Chase exclaimed.

“But how?”

“They’re silicon-based life, something the engineers never in their wildest imaginations thought to check for when they were surveying the planet for terraform viability.”

“They killed them all the same,” Cristina protested.

“It was unintentional.”

“Regardless of intention, it is still murder,” Alix sided with Cristina. “It only varies by degree.”

“I think the whole thing is well past the time for accusations, recriminations or finger pointing. It was wrong, but I don’t think anyone knew it was going to happen. It was only after the fact the blame got spread around for enough of the Colonial Authority that they are willing to trample what civil rights we have. The reason no one except for a few people has ever heard of sand-morphs expect for childhood myths is the information about them has been suppressed from the public. Some of their bodies have been preserved. You see, they don’t decay in the same way as we do when we die. Apparently their cell structure maintains integrity for a fairly long time. And that may allow them to be brought back to life.”

“Hence the name of the organization,” Alix said.

“I’m not sure what Paul’s group is really called or what else they’re up to, only they intend to bring at least one of the sand-morphs back to life. It frightens me a good bit.”

“Why?” Alix asked.

“What if sand-morphs are not peaceful, tolerant beings?” Cristina asked.

“What if they are like us in that regard, you mean,” Alix said.

“Exactly,” Chase said. “Right on both counts.”

“We don’t have a great record of tolerating one another let alone sharing a planet with a completely different form of life,” Cristina said.

“I’m not sure we should even be thinking of sharing the world,” Chase said. “Wasn’t it their world?”

“They used to call it Manifest Destiny,” Cristina said. “It was used as a doctrine in 19th Century America to justify taking land from the Native Americans.”

“At least the Americans made an excuse and gave it the semblance of a legal doctrine before stealing their land,” Chase said.

“Very little difference than stealing their gold and silver and forcing them into slavery,” Alix said.

“The colonial period on Earth was rarely about fairness and equity,” Cristina said. “Why should it come as a surprise that we are any different? Is it because we’ve had a few hundred years to perfect our excuses?”

“What the Colonial Authority is doing is trying to pretend it never happened at all and hoping the issue will go away. They have imprisoned and deported people just to keep it quiet. They’ve been effective. Until a couple of weeks ago none of us had any idea that anything like this was possible let alone going on just under the surface of daily life.”

“What if they succeed in resurrecting a sand-morph? What’s the point?” Alix asked.

“One of the things the Colonial Authority has wanted to suppress is how advanced the sand-morphs civilization was. They were intelligent. They had a written language. No only are there are indications they lived in tribes, but also they had something of a government amongst the tribes,” Chase detailed.

“Do you have any idea the sort of impact that would have if it became common knowledge?” Cristina asked.

“For the sake of terraforming a place for us to live, we terminated an entire race and their culture, and a lot of other innocent life as well.”

“Even if The Resurrection succeeds in bringing one back to life, would it remember anything?”

“It’s not for certain. It’s a hope. Maybe the language can be learned from them and something about their history. Some people have done a lot of research already. They have been able to make some educated guesses about their language. It’s how they know they lived in tribes and had a government. But there are a lot of things no one knows about them, maybe they knew things people need to know if we’re to survive.”

“Paul wanted you to join them?” Cristina asked.

“He made a pitch. He wants for all of us to join him,” Chase paused then after clearing his throat and taking a deep breath he continued. “I said, no. Not yet, anyway. I’m not sure I agree with their goals or their methods, but I’m sure he will try to recruit both you and Alix, Julie too – everyone with the attributes. He’s convinced this is what we need to do. He sees it as our commonly shared special purpose.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 21 – Outing

**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 had been on the phone with this or that party for most of the morning, talking to her contacts and trying to get through to someone at Global Star, even if it was in the wee-hours of morning back in New Milan. When she finally reached someone, an underling of someone that she usually dealt with, he promised her that they were working with the Andromeda authorities that had imposed the embargo. At present they were intransigent on the issue, completely convinced that there were hidden messages in the music.

Cristina volunteered to meet with the local officials as she was already in their city, but the distribution company wanted her to hold off for the time being on any private efforts until they had exhausted all of their efforts and had discussed the legalities of the embargo. Global Star seemed to think it was more about New Milan vs. Andromeda than anything else.

When Alix woke he was elated that he had pancakes and sausage links waiting. He drank coffee and then some juice before plopping down on the couch along side Chase as the two of them engaged in a racing challenge video game on the main world viewer screen.

Julie shook her head as Cristina tapped her earlobe disengaging from her call and came into the kitchen to help her clean up from breakfast. “I’m sorry I have not been much help.”

“No, I completely understand. It’s such bullshit that they have banned sales of your music locally. I’m sure the root of it is our history and I’m personally sorry that it’s affecting you.”

“Global Star seems to think the same thing.”

“It’s all political crap.”

“My real concern is that the bullshit will spread to other cities and all of a sudden we will have a reputation that we don’t deserve and because of it we’ll cease to be a band.”

“Or the publicity will work in your favor, making you even more popular because you’re banned. The bad publicity can be spun to your advantage without allowing for any guilt,” Chase said from the other room.

Julie looked at her, and then lent her the support of a friendly hug. “I’m sure everything will work out. It’s just someone with a wild hair up his or her you-know-where.”

“I know but I feel so impotent here. It’s like whatever I do won’t matter. And they tell me to be patient, because they’re working on it and I know they are. But I know as well as any of them that the longer this goes on, the more harm it can do to our success.”

“Unless someone spins it in a favorable way,” Chase suggested, again from the other room.

“My fear is that after all the hard work we’ve done and the years the band has been performing together our fame will be fleeting, Chase. Regardless the spin, we haven’t established our reputation. Most people think we’re a new band and have only been together for a short while. It’s not fair that some bureaucrats want to take the potential of our fame from us over some stupid rivalry between two cities.”

“Let the guys and gals that are the experts in publicity take charge of it,” Chase countered. “You have the best people in the world working for you. You also have the best legal team to negotiate with all the bureaucrats.”

“We need to go out, do something to take your mind off of it,” Julie suggested. “Leave the boys here playing their game while we go shopping.”

Cristina laughed. “Well, I could use some new shoes. I know that is cliché but I really do need some new shoes. Touring with a bunch of guys for a year, when did I ever have a chance to shop for shoes?”

Julie laughed. “Let’s do it then.”

“I need a shower.”

“You first then,” Julie said.

It was not far from the apartment building to the nearest shopping square. Still, Julie decided to take the floater coach, in case they bought things that would be a burden to carry home.

It was a weekday. The square was not crowded. Almost every shop was busy but not nearly like it would have been on a weekend. The ladies went to five shoe stores before Cristina found a pair that fit perfectly. They were expensive but as she had not bought shoes for over a year. She felt she was over due.

They continued shopping, looking at the latest fashions from Emerald, New Paris, New London and of course Andromeda which in recent years had become associated with trends and fashion for the younger set. Julie and Cristina spend most of the afternoon trying on different dresses and ensembles, not buying but considering. Toward the end of the day they returned to one shop where both of them found a couple of dresses they liked and asked them to be held. They made their purchases and, because of the time, decided to call it a day and return to the coach to drive back to the apartment.

When they arrived Alix and Chase were still dueling with one another in the twenty-fifth round of the simulated racing game.

“We’re back,” Julie announced.

“Welcome home ladies,” Chase said.

“You’re missing it, “Alix directed to Cristina. “I’m killing Chase on points.”

Cristina leaned over the back of the couch and kissed Alix on the cheek.

“So, what did you get?”

“Shoes and a dress,” she replied. “I’ll put them on for you if you like.”

Alix laughed. “That would be like about the only thing I can think of that might end this duel.  It might distract me just enough for Chase to win.”

“Well maybe I should put on my new dress too, then,” Julie said. “Just to be fair.”

“Please, no!” Chase laughed.

“Well if you plan on playing that game all night, we need to interrupt you somehow. Then you guys need to take us out, dancing.”

Chase glanced at Alix and received a smile in response. “Uh, I don’t dance,” he said to Julie.

“You can dance, it’s just you have to be drunk to be brave enough to do it,” Julie corrected.

“What the hell, it will be fun,” Alix said, looking into Cristina’s sparkling eyes. “It will be a chance for you to show us this awesome music community that supposedly exists here.”

“Oh, it exists,” Chase said. “I think you will be mildly surprised at how good our local bands are.”

“But if we are going dancing,” Julie said.

“The clubs with bands can wait for another night,” Chase agreed.

Alix paused the game, saved the status and removed the interface module from his head as he stood and stretched. I probably need a shower.

Chase did likewise. “You can go first,” he permitted.

“Join me,” Cristina invited.

Alix laughed, and then focused on her eyes. “Why would I ever refuse an offer like that?”

When they emerged from the bathroom dressed in towels wrapped around them to conceal their private parts, Chase and Julie took their turn at the shower. Cristina and Alix dressed in the guest room. Then, he went out into the living room while Cristina worked on her makeup in the bedroom.

Once Julie and Chase finished with bathroom, Julie went to her bedroom to fetch her makeup kit to work with it at the bigger mirror of the bathroom. When Chase was dressed, he went into the living room and joined Alix on the couch, taking over the remote to search the news channels.

By the time that she was finished, Cristina ventured into the living room, pausing until both Alix and Chase stood, looking at her and commented on her new dress and shoes. Alix complimented her on how wonderfully the dress accented her perfect figure. Chase returned to the couch sampling the news and entertainment channels, seeking anything about the embargo on Duae Lunae’s music.

“As far as I can tell, nothing has changed,” Chase said to Cristina as she sat down on the couch between him and Alix.

“I’m not sure what I can do. The distributor told me to let them handle it.”

“Then by all means let them handle it. They deal with this sort of crap all the time,” Alix said. “They have the experts working on it, just like Chase says.”

“Why us? Why now? No one else suffers embargos.” Cristina shook her head.

“Maybe this is extreme, but it is their thing not yours,” Chase explained.

“But they’re saying things about me and the band that simply aren’t true. That’s what pisses me off,” Cristina stated.

“It’ll blow over,” Chase promised. “I think it is just the local community is fearful of outsiders penetrating the music scene.”

“But we love Andromeda,” Alix said.

“I know; I know. But the city as a whole doesn’t know how great you are,” Chase replied. “We’ll just have to make sure we debut the next album here and begin your next tour here. Maybe it will even seem like Andromeda is your adopted home, then.”

“That’s a great idea,” Alix said.

“Except our fans in New Milan may take it the wrong way,” Cristina pointed out.

“Maybe we should record some of it here, then,” Alix suggested. “Maybe arrange to record a couple of live tracks in a club. We could feature some local talent as well.”

Chase smiled. “That could work well. Collaborating with some of the more popular bands here that are almost ready to break it huge… We could coordinate a promotional tour.”

Cristina kissed Alix on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

“For listening to me rant and caring about my concerns and coming up with a great idea.”

“How could I not care?” he asked. “It involves me too.”

“It involves all of us,” Chase said.

“You both were so involved in the game earlier that I wasn’t sure.”

“Games are games,” Chase defended them both. “Just because we were involved in the game doesn’t mean we were oblivious to all of that bullshit you were dealing with all morning.”

Cristina kissed Chase on the cheek. “At least you guys appreciated what I was up against and what I was trying to accomplish. I didn’t think you knew.”

“I think it’s a little bit of an over-reaction, and premature at this point,” Chase said. “But, having said that, if I was in your place maybe I would see it the way you do. Still, you really have to give the pros the time they need to work their magic with it.”

Julie finally emerged from her bathroom makeup session. She entered the living room, dressed in semi-formal attire and made up for a night on the town, having put on the special-occasion, pretty-face that Chase had been privy to only a few times, the few times that they had gone out to dinner at a formal restaurant.

“Wow!” Chase said only a fraction of a second before Alix joined in chorus.

“Are we ready to go?” Julie asked.

Alix hopped up, pulling Cristina to her feet by her hand. Chase rocked forward and stood, “Let’s go,” he said.

They took Chase’s floater coach because it was a little bit larger than Julie’s. Even if the club that they were going to was really within walking distance, they wanted to have the luxury of piling into a coach and allowing the auto drive function to guide them home.

When they pulled up at the common facility that served many different businesses in the area, Chase docked the coach and they walked directly to the club and waited for a few minutes at the door while the bouncer scanned their ID implants, and then after a few more minutes he allowed them to post the cover charges on their payment wands and enter.

The club was called ‘Options’, a place that rarely hosted live bands. It catered to people who wanted to dance to the current music of the times. As they entered the club Cristina paused, stunned to hear her own voice, their bands latest hit remixed especially for dancing, playing over the speaker system in the club.

She appraised the mood of people in the club who were dancing to a Duae Lunae’s single. As Alix grabbed her hand and led her in the direction of a table that Julie had spotted that was close to the dance floor.

“This is awesome,” Cristina said as Alix pulled her along behind him. Before they reached the table Julie was holding for them they were already heading for the dance floor. Caught up in the emotions of the moment, they were dancing to their own music.

The dance floor was packed with people having fun. Everyone enjoyed the fruits of something they had worked hard to capture in the studio over a year and a half ago. It was a song that Cristina and Keith collaborated to write. Alix recalled complaining about a couple of transitions, which, for whatever reason, were nearly impossible for him. Now, after having played them nearly every day or night and sometimes twice a day while on tour, he could play the entire song almost without thinking about it.

It was surreal in a special way that both Alix and Cristina enjoyed but did maybe could not fully appreciate. The local authorities had banned the sale of their song whether on single or complete Mod cards. Yet people were excited about it and dancing to the music.

Julie embraced Cristina as the song ended and they started to leave the dance floor. “See, they love your music.”

Alix grabbed Cristina’s wrist. “Stay, we can dance for a bit.”

“Really,” Cristina said with some mild surprise.

“Yeah, this is pretty damned cool.” He indicated the lighted dance floor that even responded to where each foot was placed, with different colors and effects.

Chase pulled Julie toward him, away from Cristina and Alix, seeking privacy for a few moments to kiss her and sit at their table. As the next song began, the foursome met again on the dance floor, continuing to dance to a song from Andromeda’s band, Overt Expression. Julie shouted over the music to tell Cristina that this band was reputed the best in the city. Cristina nodded, but then paid particular attention to the music, its structure and the transitions. After listening for a few minutes while she danced, the song was ending. She decided Overt Expression did things a little differently in shaping their sound, but she liked what she heard. She especially liked the singer’s voice and thought he might be a good candidate for collaboration like Alix suggested, perhaps singing in duet.

Chase had already headed for the table that Julie reserved in passing. It was along a wall, close to the dance floor. First he and then Julie sat down to catch their breaths. He waved to Alix and Cristina who seemed to be searching for the table. As the four of them gathered at the table, a waitress arrived, introduced herself as Maureen, Mo for short and took their drink orders.

“This is a pretty cool place,” Alix said. “I mean how cool was it that they were playing our song when we entered?”

“That was a nice coincidence,” Cristina confirmed.

“You have to be a major act to get played in a dance club like this,” Chase said. “And to have someone remix the song for a dance version…well, that’s at least flattering, I think.”

“It means you’ve arrived in the local scene,” Julie amplified Chases words. “And all this crap about the embargo will only increase your fame.”

“It gives us a bad reputation,” Cristina protested.

“Which is not a bad thing with the counter culture, especially in this city. You know, your Mods are probably the hottest thing in town right now because no one has it and can’t get it because of the ban.”

“Someone will go on the railcar to New Milan or Star City and buy some copies and bring them back here to resell them at a scalped price,” Cristina offered her concerns. “Or worse for us, they’ll bootleg them and black market them.”

Chase nodded his concurrence then added. “But that happens anyway. The true fans that support the band don’t get their music that way. They never have. But in this instance, the embargo will force even the fans to get the music through illegal means. They authorities are taking some kind of strange stand for whatever reason. We need to know why they are doing it, but it really is pretty-much token as far as killing the song. The single and complete Mods have already sold well and will be played in clubs regardless of their efforts. They have to know that. As for the publicity, you couldn’t buy this level of attention.”

The waitress returned with their drinks and lingered for a few moments, seeming to be staring at Cristina. Then she turned away and started to go back to her duties, but abruptly wheeled around, whether from finally recognizing her or gaining the nerve to ask, “You’re her, aren’t you? You’re Cristina!”

Cristina smiled, “Uh, yeah.”

“I knew it! I friggin’ knew it!” Then she looked at Alix, “You’re that guy…the bass player!”

“That would be me.” Alix confessed. He was used to the relative anonymity of the role as well as the instrument he played in the band.

“I heard on the news you were in town,” she said.

She turned around looking for someone to tell, wanting to trumpet her find, but then decided that maybe that was not such a good idea. She turned back. “Look I’ll keep your secret because if I spread the word this club would erupt and chaos will ensue.”

“We appreciate that,” Chase said.

Cristina looked directly into the waitresses eyes, “We are just here to dance and have some fun. We appreciate your discretion.”

Alix leaned toward the waitress and took her hand. In his palm was a promo card with the band’s pictures and global network message addresses. “This is how to reach the band or us individually. Send us a note and direct it to me or Cristina and we’ll respond to you directly.”

She smiled in response. “No one is going to believe this. But it’s pretty cool. I’m such a fan!”

Julie pulled out a framecap from her bag and pointed it at Maureen, “Here, the three of you stand together.”

“Great!” Mo exclaiming, and then looked around to make sure she was not needed.

“I’ll send the picture directly to your Global network address,” Julie said as she captured two images.

“That would be wonderful,” Mo said.

“Here,” Julie offered the plane to her, “Key in your address.” When she had finished, Julie clicked send. “There you are. It should be waiting for you.”

“This is really nice of you, all of you.”

Cristina smiled. “I’ve known four other ladies named Maureen and every one of them was a good person and great friend.”

“I have to get back to tables,” Mo said. “I’ll be right back. Are you okay with the drinks?”

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Chase said.

“You can bring refreshes when you come back,” Alix said.

“You got it.” Mo smiled.

Cristina eyed Alix as the waitress walked away from the table. “You were flirting with her.”

“I was just being friendly with a fan.”

“I know flirting when I see it.”

“You’re jealous?” Alix laughed. “I don’t believe you’re jealous. Like there is anyone that could ever compete with you!”

Cristina looked away.

“I don’t believe it!”

“Come,” Julie said as she stood up and grabbed Cristina’s wrist. “We’ll be right back,” Julie said to Chase and Alix.

“What’s that about?” Alix asked.

“You were coming on a little bit strong to Mo, there.”

“Well, she’s cute. Don’t ya think?”

“Women always seem to be able to tell when a man is flirting. If the girl is cute it is always a very bad thing. That turns it into a threatening situation that you can’t win. And then you sort of denied it while playing incredulous that Cristina would ever think anyone could compete with her. That just compounded the wrongness of what you did.”

“I’m not used to being the focus of attention, I guess. I kind of like it, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s just I’ve never been famous. Maybe I’m not now, not yet or whatever.  But I was feeling that, mostly. I’d never think of hurting Cristina.”

“Well, when the girls get back you need to explain that to Cristina,” Chase advised.

“I’m fortunate,” Alix said. “I mean look at me. Who would ever imagine that Cristina would be with me? She’s the star. I’m just someone in the background.”

“You’re both stars.”

“Chase, even the waitress knew Cristina’s name. She called me the bass player. I’m okay with it because I understand it and I’m used to that. At least she got that much right, you know? So, that’s how it is. Cristina is the focus of the audience whenever she sings. I get it. I’m focusing on her when I’m playing. Hell, look at her! Who’s not focused on her? Even you, Chase.”

“It is hard to tear my eyes away from Julie,” Chase confessed. “But when I do Cristina is where they end up.”

“I’m afraid to go to sleep. I fear waking up from this dream I’m living. If I open my eyes will it be just as it was before? Before a few days ago, Cristina hardly acknowledged me except when it was something pertaining to the band and my playing bass. I was content with that much attention. For ten years that was the extent of my relationship with her. But now that there has been something more, how can I ever want to return to how it was?”

Chase sat silent, feeling for Alix’s sentiments. He too was in love with Cristina, but at least he had another love in his life. Julie captured his heart before he met Cristina, and so he was immunized enough to the effect of Cristina’s charm. The attraction he could resist, and he had resisted, to his own amazement.

When Julie and Cristina returned to the table, they were both silent.

“I’m sorry I was flirting,” Alix said. “I’m not used to getting attention like that. Even so she didn’t know my name, so that’s how important I am to her.”

Cristina glanced at Alix, but then looked away.

“Look, I was having fun. That’s all it was. There’s nothing intended by it. She doesn’t begin to compare to you.”

“She’s cute,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, she is,” Alix admitted. “But I’m in love with you.”

Mo returned to the table with refills on their drinks, and set them down on the table and then collected the payment wand transmissions for them. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, where’s everyone else?”

“They are chillin’ in New Milan,” Cristina said. “We are taking a break before heading into the studio to record a new Mod in a few weeks.”

“A new Mod? That’s exciting news!”

“Most of the songs are written. We really just have a couple we need to hammer out the final details on. Everyone’s resting up for that.”

“I can’t wait to hear it. My boyfriend and I are huge fans,” she said. “We were both excited when we heard you were in town.”

“Yeah, well we met a couple at the airport. They were fans too. It’s nice to know we have support here. Apparently she or her boyfriend decided to spread the news that we were in town.”

“I’d never do that. You’re my friends, now.” Mo flashed a smile.

“Not that it is entirely a bad thing,” Chase said. “Considering what all is going on, being in the city is a good thing for the media to focus on and speculate.”

“Maybe it has some people worried,” Julie said.

“Hey, it’s what it is,” Alix said. “I have no problem with people knowing that we’re in town. I just have a problem with the town thinking we have done something in our music that we’ve not.”

“Yeah,” Mo said. “That’s total crap and the direct consequence of local paranoia. The youth scene scares older people. They think that it’s all the result of outside influences, like it carried subversive messages through music and the arts.”

“They think that a New Milan band cannot possibly be popular here unless they are doing something unusual and strange,” Chase offered his analysis. “So someone thinks that maybe they heard something strange in a song and mentions it to someone. Eventually the rumor spreads and the uninformed who have probably never heard the song decides to create an embargo, just in case.”

“There’s nothing hidden in the music,” Cristina stated. “I promise.”

“I know that,” Mo said. “I think most of the people who are into your band know that as well. It’s just a bunch of overly paranoid people stirring up trouble.”

“Thank you for understanding,” Cristina said and she slipped down from her stool and embraced Maureen, lingering for a few moments then as they parted Cristina smiled at her.

“You’re real people and that is friggin’ awesome!” she said as she laughed.

Cristina looked at her. “Of course we’re real people. What else would we be?”

“Well, I don’t know. It’s just I’ve never met anyone famous before.”

“We really appreciate you being a fan,” Alix said. “Even though I don’t think we’re quite as famous as you think.”

When Mo left to tend to other tables, Chase said had to go to the restroom and he excused himself from the table. As he walked he was still thinking about how close Alix came to straining his relationship with Cristina and how he would never want to do that with Julie. He entered the restroom, but immediately sensed something was unusual and inappropriate. Before he could react or take flight, two men seized him. They pressed him up against the cold porcelain tile wall, while a third man pounded a solidly delivered fist into his stomach. Then all three stepped back allowing him to collapse onto the hard tile floor.

“What…the…fuck?” Chase asked while struggling to regain his breath.

“You know what we need. Tell us what you know,” one of the three said. Chase looked up through sweat and tears, but he could not tell which one of his assailants had actually spoken.

“Tell you what?”

“You were with them.”

“Them?”

Two men grabbed him and again pinned him against the wall. “The Resurrection,” the third man said.

Suddenly, Alix entered the restroom. Immediately the third man turned and warned him, “Get out!”

“What’s going on here?”

“It’s none of yer concern.”

“Chase is my friend, so I guess that makes it my concern.”

“Have it your way then,” the third man slugged Alix up the side of his head, sending Alix flying back against a wall of urinals. Alix looked up at his assailant from the floor, rage filling him as he tried to stand up but received a kick in the stomach.

Suddenly, flames erupted from the hair of all three men. Individually they panicked as they attempted to apply water from sinks to douse the fires. In the meanwhile Alix crawled over to Chase and checked to see if he was okay before standing up and facing the three men, who having extinguished their hair now squared off before him. “Gentlemen, this is not over. We’re watching – both of you.”

They hurried out of the door, leaving Alix and Chase alone. “I guess growing up as a street urchin has some benefits, after all. I know how to bluff,” Alix said, and then laughed as he reached down, offering his hand to assist Chase in getting back to his feet.

“Thanks.” Chase stared at Alix. “The flames?”

“Yeah, well…I was playing with the orb the other day and a flame started dancing in the palm of my hand. I had no idea I could ignite hair. I guess it was the heat of battle so to speak. Literally.”

“Well, regardless of how, it came in handy. I’m glad you came along when you did.”

“What was that about?” Alix asked as he assisted Chase to the sinks where Chase washed his hands and splashed some water on his face even as Alix did the same.

“They think I’m involved in something I’m not. Have you ever heard of The Resurrection?”

Alix looked away then looked back. “I assume you mean the covert group.”

“You’ve heard of them.”

“Yeah, they are part of the underground,” Alix said. “You know how it is: music, counter-culture, being young and all that. Somehow a few people you know are interconnected, usually people you grew up with.”

Chase continued to clean up, using a damp towel to blot blood from his slacks and shirt. “You’re involved?”

“Me, no. There’re a couple of guys Pete and I used to hang out with when we were kids. They’re in a clandestine group, but it is not The Resurrection. But their group was approached for a sort of alliance.”

When they emerged from the restroom, Chase paused at a water fountain, and then swished water around inside his mouth and spat out bloody saliva into the drain. He consumed several gulps of water afterwards. Then, after Alix had done the same they both returned to the table.

“What happened to you?” Julie asked as she took a closer look at the bruises and cut on Chase’s face.

“The floor was wet,” Alix said.

“I don’t believe that,” Julie growled.

“Well it was a restroom, you know.”

“And what about you?” Cristina asked Alix.

“Muggers,” Alix admitted. “Three of them, but Chase and I fought them off.”

“No,” Chase said. “That’s not exactly what happened. Alix saved my ass.”

“It’s kind of hard to tell that. He looks almost as bad as you do,” Cristina said as she used a napkin to blot blood from a slight cut on Alix’s forehead.

“Did they take your payment wand?” Julie asked.

“No, I wish it was that simple,” Chase said.

“I think you need to explain,” Julie suggested as she was reaching for her purse to see if she had anything better than a napkin to treat a cut.

“What’s going on?” Cristina asked, first looking at Chase and then Alix.

“This is probably not a good place to discuss this, but I doubt there’s a better place. For all I know they have us under constant surveillance,” Chase prefaced, then paused.

“Who are they?” Cristina asked.

“Agents of The Colonial Authority,” Julie said.

“Yeah,” Chase agreed. “They’ve been following us for sometime now.”

“They can do that?” Alix asked.

“In their warped minds they think they have probable cause. But even if they didn’t, they can do whatever they want and justify it afterwards. We have no rights where they’re concerned. All they have to claim is that it’s a matter of colonial security and the public is threatened,” Julie said.

“And now we’re on their list too,” Alix said.

“It wasn’t like we weren’t already on it,” Cristina said.

Chase nodded. “I didn’t want to speculate, but now I think that the embargo has something to do with this.”

“This is about Paul, isn’t it?”

“It goes well beyond him,” Chase replied to Cristina’s query. “He sends his love, by the way.”

“He knows.”

“Yeah, he knows.”

“How long?”

“Since just after you met him in Haven.”

“You’ve lost me,” Alix protested.

“You know. Paul’s my twin,” Cristina said.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 20 – Breakfast

**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.**

In the morning, Julie was first to awaken which did not really surprise her. Everyone else was exhausted from traveling. What surprised her was that Cristina awakened next. Julie had actually figured she would have a few hours to converse with Chase after he awakened.

She was alone in the kitchen with Cristina who looked beautiful without any makeup. She envied her that gift. Chase frequently assured Julie that she had the same kind of natural beauty, but she did never seemed to see it whenever she looked in the morning mirror.

“If you are hungry I have all sorts of things for breakfast: eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, toast, bagels – I can make waffles, pancakes just about anything you might want,” Julie told her.

Cristina tried to suppress a yawn but failed. “I really want a toasted bagel with cream cheese, if you have it.”

Julie laughed. “I think I can accommodate that.”

“Alix will want pancakes or waffles and sausage,” she warned.

“I can handle that, too,” Julie said.

“I can help, you know.”

“Well, I didn’t want to ask, but yeah, it would be appreciated.”

Cristina smiled. “You know what you and I need to do?”

“What’s that?”

“Just go out together, get drunk and stagger back to the apartment. After that, I sort of think we’ll understand one another a whole lot better.”

Julie laughed. “You might be right.”

“I know I am,” Cristina said.

“The problem is pulling it off when all the guys are around.”

Cristina focused on her. “Let them go out on their own, do the ‘man’ thing, whatever that is.”

Julie laughed.

“I mean, seriously.”

Julie silently acquiesced. “Well, I just don’t like being away from Chase. It was necessary for the tour and these silly meetings he had last week, but when we’re apart I feel like I have lost something important. It’s time we’ll never have again.”

“Chase is very capable of handling things. I know you like to feel indispensable to him in what you can do, but that’s also the source of your enslavement.”

“I’m not Chase’s slave.”

“Maybe not in the classical sense, but he relies on you to do things that he could do.”

“Well, yeah. Of course, he does. We work together, though. It’s a relationship. It’s a partnership. He does all sorts of things for me, too.”

Cristina stepped back both physically and mentally. “I’m sorry. I have no idea where your relationship is with Chase. Maybe I’m out of line. It’s just I’ve seen relationships that are all one-sided and that’s harmful to both people.”

“I love him,” she began. “I think probably he’s the only guy I could ever love. I want to bear his children. That’s a bizarre thing for me to say. I never wanted to have children before meeting him,” Julie revealed.

“I can understand that. I’ve never wanted children either. But lately… I don’t know.”

“What about you and Alix?”

“I feel like I have known him for all my life. We’ve known one another for ten years, but it’s different now. Before a few days ago, he was just like the rest of the band. They sort of made this mutual pact amongst themselves to protect me.”

“Protect you from what?”

“Apparently from them but also others. They always looked out for me on tour, especially whenever we were playing in a club in a rough section of town. You probably know how it is to some extent. You play a small club, where you can touch the crowd. The intimacy of the environment and the consumption of alcohol lead to inflated egos and some bold propositions from the crowd.”

“It’s good they protected you from guys hitting on you.”

“Yeah, it was like having four brothers, really. Sometimes, I would meet a guy after a show and we would sit down and talk and have some drinks together. They were always keeping an eye on us, though. If I didn’t feel safe with the guy they would step in. To their credit, they always let me have a social life if I wanted.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Yeah, except the guys in the band always kept their distance from me. That sort of bothered me. I could tell that sometimes they felt attracted to me, but they always held back.”

“So what’s different about Alix?”

“Nothing, even after we went out together the first time he was holding back. I think it led to him getting drunk in an effort to deal with what he felt. Maybe he wanted to let go and thought the alcohol would help that, but he didn’t let anything get out of control. It was nice in a way, but in another way it was frustrating. He was waiting for me to initiate something or tell him it was okay. Now, he is my boyfriend and so it has evolved, but getting the relationship to that point was an effort.”

“Do the others know about your relationship?”

“Pete does. Pete is Alix’s best friend. I would suspect that the others know by now, from him if no other source. I can understand completely. The reluctance to have a relationship within a band is nothing new. If the relationship goes sour, usually the cohesion in the band is adversely affected. We have to continue on as a band and be professional, but on a personal level there’s some enmity lingering between two of the band members and that’s not a good thing. I certainly didn’t want to get into the habit of dating the guys in the band. If I had a relationship with one and then we broke up – even if it wasn’t all that serious – and then I had a relationship with another guy, and then another…it is like I’d feel like the band slut or something. That’s definitely not me or how the band wants me to be. I like to have fun just the same as anyone else, but I’m not going to be anything that I’m not.”

Julie continued her preparations for making pancakes while Cristina thawed the sausage links in the microwave. Silence lingered for a few moments until Julie broke it, “The other members of the band, are they like us?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “It is not like that sort of thing comes up in conversation. I didn’t know about Alix until he came over to my apartment to see about me because he was worried that no one in the band had heard from me.”

“No one else checked up on you, just him?”

“Well Pete and Alix were out the night before and Pete mentioned that no one had heard from me. So everyone noticed and I think they were concerned, but I have always been a very private sort of person, especially when we’re home. So maybe it was more about not wanting to disturb me”

“But Alix showed up at your door.”

“Yeah, he was that worried about me,” she smiled. “At first he was worried that I was annoyed, but really I was flattered.”

Julie laughed.

“I think Pete might have the attributes. Alix and Pete have always hung-out together. They practice together, just the two of them. So I would suspect that Pete might have the attributes. But I have not spoken to him since we left tour. Since Alix and I started seeing one another, he spends less time with Pete.”

Chase came into the kitchen, ostensibly for a glass of water, fully intending to go back to bed afterward. Zombie-like, he mechanically leaned over and kissed Julie on the cheek.

“G’morning, hon,” she said. “We’re having sausage links and pancakes for breakfast.”

“Uh hmm,” Chase barely articulated.

“Are you hungry?”

“Uh yeah, a little,” he said, and then cleared his throat.

“Well it’ll be ready in a few minutes. Why don’t you sit down at the table and see what’s happening on world viewer.”

“Uh…okay,” Chase groaned as he took his glass of water with him, and then left the cramped kitchen to the ladies. He ended up at the table where he plopped on a chair and picked up the remote and programmed in a variety of channels to scan, and then brought up the local entertainment channel. “Uh, I was thinking we should go out to a club and show Alix and Cristina the real Andromeda.”

“Yeah,” Julie said. “That would be fun.”

“I’d like that,” Cristina said. “I know Alix will be all about doing it.”

“Good,” he said as he checked what bands were playing where, and then noticed a channel where the latest Duae Lunae Mod cover drew his attention. “Hey check this out,” he rewound the stream-fed drive to the start of the report then hit play.

“There are reports coming from the ministry of commerce that the fourth Duae Lunae Mod card which was released last year has been put under a trade embargo by Andromeda authorities due to unconfirmed reports of hidden messages in a number of the tracks. The New Milan-based band appeared in Andromeda live on several occasions within the last year. Currently they have the number four song on local stream charts. There has been no response from Global Star, the band’s distribution agents, but it seems certain the embargo will adversely affect the sale of single and complete Mod cards for at least the near future.”

“That’s total bullshit,” Cristina erupted indignantly.

“In a related story, two band members of Duae Lunae reportedly have arrived in the city and are staying with friends. Sources say that the band members were seen at the railcar station downtown along with at least one Andromeda resident. It is not known at this time whether the arrival of the two band members is in any way related to the local embargo on their music.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 19 – Back Home

**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.**

During the trip home, Chase nodded off several times. Accustomed to travel, catching some shuteye on the way was what kept him going. Still, when he was at home in his bed he really never seemed to sleep any longer than a few hours.

Although he was not quite sure whether he had slept for more than a few minutes at a stretch, he recalled having at least two dreams.

One of his dreams had bothered him mostly because it was bizarre and seemed unlikely. It had been about crossing the desert in a Puma that malfunctioned and being forced to set out on foot. A sandstorm blinded him so badly that he became lost. He remembered the emptiness he felt in his soul, dealing with the realization he would never see Julie again, never again to hold her in his arms. Even though upon waking it seemed preposterous, there were tears in his eyes. It had taken some time before he dozed again.

The other dream was so vivid that it continued to haunt him. It seemed he had seen Alix and Cristina ducking into an armored vehicle just before it exploded into a huge ball of fire. It felt so real that upon waking he even wondered if Alix and Cristina made it safely to Andromeda. He was concerned about it to the extent of beginning to call Julie with his travelcom. Then he decided that she would have called him before then if they had not arrived.

On the last leg of the railcar’s journey through the mountains that separated Haven from the northeastern eastern desert that surrounded Andromeda the railcar passed through a rather violent storm. Such events were becoming more regular in the eastern portions of the interior desert. As the railcar slowed down for its approach of the outer airlock of Andromeda rain still pelted the windows obstructing Chase’s view of the semi-arid terrain that the terraform engineers touted as ‘pre-agricultural’.

When the railcar entered the airlock the droplets of water were almost instantly swept away and the outside surfaces were dried in the turbulence of the process of cleaning and clearing the railcar of any contaminants before it passed through the second stage of the airlock and entered the dome.

Finally, the railcar pulled into the station and the all too familiar de-boarding announcements played over the railcar’s internal PA. Chase ignored the instructions so that he could gather his things together in preparation to exit the car. He knew from experience that if he followed the instructions, he would be one of the few waiting seated inside the car until everyone else aboard left.

There were maybe forty people on the railcar designed to accommodate a hundred. It was late afternoon. He didn’t know whether that had something to do with the relative emptiness of the railcar. It was the first time that he had noticed the emptiness. Although he usually traveled at night, every other time he traveled between Haven and Andromeda the railcar was nearly packed. The railcar finally halted. The dock platform extended to lock into outside of the car, creating a safe bridge.

Already he was queued to de-board, about half way back in the staged procession. He took his turn in line as one-by-one each of the passengers exited the railcar. Finally he emerged onto the platform. The first thing he saw was Julie’s smiling face.

As he stepped toward her she launched herself toward him. He caught her in mid-flight, taking a step back to absorb the impact. He allowed her kiss to linger as they embraced. “Welcome home,” she said, finally pulling back, though she continued to cling tightly.

He did not want to let her go. In a perfect world they would never be apart. He wished time would stand still and allow them to remain in the warmth and sentiment of that moment. She missed him but he doubted she began to understand how much he missed her. As satisfying and reinvigorating as the extended kiss and embrace was, when it concluded, the emptiness he felt in the dream crashed upon him again, almost forcing the breath from him. Feeling dread as certainly as a premonition, something was about to change, something that might end their happiness.

“Are you okay?” Julie asked, as it must have been obvious he was breathing irregularly.

“Hold my hand,” he said but his voice was unsteady. He took several breaths to resist the anxiety, knowing her hand was real. She was with him. This was not a part of the nocturnal delusion still tormenting him.

It took several moments for his strength and resolve to return. He looked into her eyes and kissed her once more. When their lips parted he laughed. It seemed silly, after all. Why was he worried? Julie was with him. How could he not enjoy the moment?

From his perspective what he did was mainly for her. “I guess I have been running full blast for too long. I seriously need an extended rest.”

“Well, they should have let you be on your vacation when you scheduled it.”

“I know, but this was important. They want to expand the office up here because of the local music scene. And the good news is that they want me to run it.”

Julie’s eyes brightened.

“It’ll be a promotion.”

Julie’s smile broadened.

“I’ll get a raise. We can afford a house.”

Whether Julie was ever going to let Chase progress any further into the station seemed in doubt as Julie kissed him again. Cristina and Alix stayed back, hand-in-hand apart from Julie and Chase so that they could have their time together.

“I guess I should get my luggage,” Chase said, starting for the rack.

“I have room on our cart,” Alix called out his offer.

“Thanks, I appreciate that.” Chase replied offering a handshake. “It’s good seeing you again. Did you have a good trip?”

“Yeah, it was a long ride, same as always, but I was with Cristina so it was fine.”

“Cristina tells me you are one of us.”

“So I am,” Alix said.

“What do you think?”

“The fringe benefit of being with Cristina is the only part of it I like so far.”

Chase laughed. “Yeah, well, I felt the same way at first when Julie found me in one of the clubs here in town. That’s how we met.” He went on to tell a condensed version of the story, and then concluded with, “The rest is history, as they say.”

After Chase picked up the luggage and piled it onto Alix’s cart, they returned to where Julie and Cristina were waiting. Chase kissed Cristina on the cheek. “It feels like we haven’t seen each other in a year,” Chase said.

“Doesn’t it?” Cristina responded. “I miss our conversations.”

“Maybe that’s what it is. We haven’t spoken much since the end of the tour and we used to talk a lot, really everyday. So you and Julie have gotten to know each other?”

“We’ve become fast friends,” Julie said. “We really are a lot alike in many ways, except I can’t sing.”

“You can sing,” Chase corrected “ It’s just you don’t want to do what’s necessary to do it professionally.”

“I’ll bet you have a wonderful voice,” Alix said.

“She really does,” Chase said.

“I’m nothing great,” Julie said. “Yeah, I sound good to myself when I sing in the shower. But then, who doesn’t?”

“Well, anyway welcome yet again to Andromeda,” Chase said. “At no other time when you have been here before did you have a chance to really see the city and understand its total range of artistic culture and influences. I love its unique identity. It is the one city that very often breaks with tradition and the trends of every other city. Julie has lived here all of her life. I’m a transplant, but I’ve been here for most of my life.”

“Julie was telling us a little about the history of the city while we were waiting for you,” Alix said. “It sort of explains the musical rivalry between Andromeda and New Milan.”

“I fixed up your old study as a guest room,” Julie explained to Chase. “You hardly ever work in there anyway. Besides next week you’re not working at all.”

“I have a couple of things…”

“That was part of the deal, Chase. No work, right?”

“Look who’s talking, Ms. Workaholic!” Chase laughed as he grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly as he leaned over to whisper into her ear. “By the way, have I mentioned how much I love you?”

“You’d better appreciate me!” She slapped him playfully, and then chuckled. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else that would put up with your work.”

“Maybe I won’t have to tour so much after this promotion.”

“You’ll still do our tours, though?” Cristina asked.

“Yeah, well, part of the reason for this trip was Global is thinking of expanding the branch here into a major office here, like the one in New Milan. I would be managing an office with scouts, agents and other tour managers. They feel that because of the local music scene it is vital for the company’s long-range plans. That would mean more tour managers and I’d be the one supervising them, mainly from here.”

“I was going to request you for our next tour,” Cristina complained.

“I may still be able to run a major tour, but I would not be able to travel along with the tour. I would have to assign someone to do that, kind of like I had to keep checking in with Josh in Haven and Link in New Milan when we were on the road.”

“Well, I would want to approve of the person you assign to the tour,” she said.

“Of course, I’d do that for you, anyway. I’ll even recruit a lady so you have someone to talk to about all those things we never could.”

Cristina smiled. “I didn’t realize you cared that much about those silly times.”

“They aren’t silly when they affect your singing.”

She smiled at him again.

“Maybe you could hire Julie,” Alix suggested.

“That would be a fine idea except there’s a company rule against such things.”

“I’m not sure I’d want you as my supervisor, anyway,” Julie said. Then she joked. “The one I have is bad enough.”

“Well, it’s settled then.” Chase smiled. Then turned to Cristina he explained, “Obviously, you need to feel comfortable with our management. Personally, I owe some of this opportunity to the success of this recent tour. So, I feel I owe you, both of you and the other guys for making things work. Despite everything that went wrong during the tour, those things were relatively minor and easily fixed because we expected the unexpected and were on top of it immediately. Only once did it affect the fans and we handled it and got some positive attention from it. Everything else was behind the scenes. The fans never knew about the problems we were experiencing. That is how a well managed tour must be.”

“Well, we have never worked with anyone as professionally competent and respectful of the band as you are,” Alix said.

“I appreciate that, Alix. I don’t think we’ve said this many words to one another the whole time we were on tour. I’m glad that you came out of your shell.”

“Me too,” Cristina said.

“In case you guys haven’t been listening to the entertainment world for the past week, on this last tour you graduated into the ranks of a major act, meaning headliner offers and larger percentages of the gate.”

“Even in Andromeda,” Julie said as if to underscore what Chase was saying, though it drew a curious response from him. “We met a couple of fans while we were in the bar waiting for you. They told us the single is number four and all the shops are out of stock on the single and the album.”

“That’s what’s happening all over. It’s the same thing I have seen before. The tour sells the single and complete Mods. Then the next single promotes the new tour while postproduction is done on the next complete Mod. One feeds from the other until eventually it reaches critical mass.”

“Like we talked about,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, I saw it happening toward the end of the tour. The clubs we had booked were selling out so rapidly that they were requesting extra shows to fill the demand. I know that made for a brutal schedule at times, but I had anticipated some of it and designed the schedule to accommodate it, otherwise the pace at the end would have nearly killed you.”

“That’s why we lost some of our scheduled off days,” Alix said as it now made sense to him. “It was rough but it was kind of fun because the crowds seemed to be really into us and what we were doing.”

“Yeah, but even the shows we added earlier or later the same day really worked for you guys as well,” Chase explained. “It meant a lot to people who wanted tickets but couldn’t get them for a sold out show could get tickets for another show.”

“Then it sold out as well,” Cristina recalled.”

“On this tour the word got out about Duae Lunae and how they were fan based and a great live band that was not afraid of adding shows to satisfy the fans.”

“There are some trade-offs. Now only the larger clubs and venues will book us,” she pointed out.

“That’s true, but that comes with success.”

“I was so exhausted by the end of the tour that all I wanted to do was go home and sleep for a couple of days,” Cristina confessed. “But now I kind of miss it. I guess I’ve got the performance bug pretty bad.”

Chase laughed as he paused to hold the door open for Alix to roll the cart through station exit and out onto the loading/unloading area. Julie summoned the floater coach from where she docked it and it queued up in line behind a couple of other coaches then advanced toward them as the traffic cleared.

When it was their turn, Alix and Chase loaded the luggage into the storage compartment in the back of the coach and then all four of them squeezed into the coach. It was cramped and possibly overloaded but everything and everyone fit. Julie took the console and programmed their destination. Slowly the coach left the station and merged with other street traffic.

It was almost evening. Most of the commercial buildings in the downtown area were in shift change or closing from their daytime only operations. There was a good deal of traffic leaving the heart of the city and heading toward the residential zones and suburban estates. Chase and Julie lived in an apartment in an upscale area, but it was still relatively close to downtown. Chase enjoyed it because they were within walking distance of several popular clubs that booked live performances.

As they passed by them, Cristina remembered the names of two of the places they played, The Crosswalk and The Seasons. She remembered that Chase had been able to go home at night from the club and hadn’t booked a room at the hotel that was actually farther away.

It was important time for Chase to share with Julie. The first time he had not seen her for three months and the second time he had not seen her for another four months.

Their last appearance in Andromeda was at a larger club across town so Chase had booked a room for himself in the hotel, but still he had gone home for a few hours. Cristina did not know about Julie, then – not that it really mattered except that she was kind of enamored of him. Chase was organized and always seemed in control, despite the confusion around him. Sometimes, she didn’t want to make the decisions. She came to rely heavily on him and he never let her down.

When the coach arrived at the doorstep of the apartment, Alix and Chase removed the baggage before Julie remotely parked the coach in its designated dock. The men managed the luggage toward the elevator in the lobby and waited with the ladies for the car to arrive.

Once the door opened, Julie held it open for them to hurriedly load their baggage. Then, once Cristina, Chase, Alix and Julie were inside they rode up to the floor. The doors opened and Alix and Chase again worked their magic to off-load all the baggage into the corridor while again Julie held the door open.

It took several minutes for Chase and Alix to negotiate the baggage down the hall to the apartment. Julie went ahead to open the apartment door with her remote access key, letting Cristina inside while Chase and Alix dragged everything into the apartment. As Cristina and Alix were used to packing for traveling, they knew what bags they needed for the first night. Chase said he really didn’t need to unpack until the morning.

It was a two-bedroom apartment. Chase had turned one bedroom into his study but had never removed the bed, so Julie had prepared it for their guests. Chase never seemed to use the study anyway. He worked from a portable computer that most often he used in the dining area because for some reason the wireless global network connection there was stronger and much more stable. Besides, the table gave him room to spread out all the logistical diagrams and city maps he needed for scheduling and managing a tour.

By the time they settled into the apartment, it was night. Alix and Cristina showered first while Chase waited. He needed to shower, too and Julie wanted to freshen up after being out and about.

When Alix and Cristina emerged from bathroom together, wrapped in individual towels, both Julie and Chase shared a shower, something they had not done for many, many months. Because of the novelty they lingered in the shower for longer than might have been expected. They emerged to discover Cristina and Alix were sound asleep in the guest room locked tightly in one another’s embrace. Quietly Julie closed the door and joined Chase who was already waiting for her in their bed.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 18 – Arrival

**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.**

Julie arrived at the station a few minutes before the appointed time for the railcar from Haven. Cristina and Alix were aboard.

When they disembarked, Alix was first. She shook his hand as it was offered, but then stepped back. She opened her arms to embrace Cristina.

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing,” Cristina said.

“Me too,” Julie said. “Both of you, really. It’s been very lonely this past week with Chase away and all.”

“So, he’s on his way. You received confirmation?” Alix asked.

“His railcar is coming in later. I was planning to hang out here and wait at the station for the couple of hours until he arrives.”

“We can do that, “Alix said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll sit in the bar.”

“Chase has been telling me stories about the tour ever since he got back,” Julie said.

“You should have come to our shows when we were here.”

“I know. Something always came up. I had even made plans to surprise Chase the last time you were here, but I got called in to work on my day off.”

“You’ll have to come along next time.”

“I couldn’t swing that much time away from my job. Maybe I can come during a vacation and spend a few days at least.”

“It would be a lot of fun,” Cristina promised. “And it would be nice to have someone along to share some girl talk.”

“I’ll get the bags,” Alix said. As he waved his payment wand at a rack of luggage carts and extracted one. He rolled it free of the vending station and towed it behind him to the railcar’s baggage claim area.

“What’s it like on tour?” Julie asked. “I ask Chase and I always get the same response, that it is exciting while the band is playing, but the rest of it is long and boring.”

“Yeah well, it is like that, I guess. Being on tour can be stressful at times. It’s a lot of work, and you are always meeting new people. Sometimes when you play a venue with other bands you get to meet them and know each other. You find out how much everyone in the business is really the same – all the same sorts of internal conflicts and personal problems. By the end of a tour, I can’t wait to get home. Then, within a few days I can’t wait to get back out on tour. This was the first time we were represented well. Chase made it easy for us, but I knew he was working his ass off to make things happen.”

“Yeah, it’s hard to work everything out perfectly,” Julie said as she glanced at her chronometer. “He should be here in less than a couple of hours.”

“In the meantime we get to know one another,” Cristina said.

“Exactly,” Julie said flashing a bright smile. “I’ve heard so much about you and the band that I feel like I already know you.”

“Chase never elaborated much on his personal life. He was friendly and always good to talk to whenever someone in the band was having problems. But he never opened up about himself, you know?”

“That’s Chase. I’ll bet he never even mentioned me until right at the end of the tour.”

Cristina smiled. “He mentioned you, of course. And how much he was looking forward to getting home. But yeah, that was right at the end of the tour.”

“Was that before or after you met Raven?”

“Maybe it was before. I don’t recall. All of that last week or so was a blur. But my point is that Chase never told any war stories. He was absorbed in work, on the phone arranging things or following up. When he wasn’t doing that, he was taking a nap.”

“He hasn’t told me much about his growing up either. I know he was in trouble from time to time, but that’s about the extent of it. He always says it’s ancient history, and he isn’t that way anymore.”

“It’s not like I’m nosey, but it’s just I wonder how he became the way he is.”

“I do too,” she smiled. “All I know is he’s exactly the same no matter what.”

“No surprises.”

“He can be spontaneous, I suppose. But he’s so organized and focused that even when something seems spontaneous it was probably planned weeks in advance.”

Cristina laughed.

“He made sure I knew all about you and what you were doing as a band,” Julie said. “He always does that, but in your case he went a bit overboard. He likes you a lot, all the members of the band, but you personally, Cristina. I think he would have been very attracted to you except that we have a commitment. And his personal integrity prevents him from violating his code about clients.”

“I know he loves you.”

“I do too,” she said, flashing another brief smile.

“I guess we all need to catch up on what’s been going on with you,” Alix said as he returned from gathering the luggage and rejoined them.

Julie smiled at him. “You’re cute,” she said. Then, looking to Cristina as if for her approval or confirmation, she nodded.

“He can be weird at times but he grows on you,” Cristina responded.

“Men are that way,” she generalized. “Chase has been in Haven for over a week. I’m really anxious to see him,” Julie said. “It’ll probably take a while to get used to having him around again.”

“He handles himself very well,” Alix said.

“He’s always been faithful to me. I know he is,” Julie smiled. “He was on tour with you for over a year and–”

“There were ample opportunities with many women, not only me,” Cristina revealed. “He was a perfect gentleman. There was never anything with anyone else, either. For one thing, as busy as he was, he never had the time.”

“Thank you for that.”

“Chase’s a very nice guy, and lovable in so many ways. You’re very lucky.”

Julie smiled broadly, and then she embraced Cristina again. “Thank you for telling me the truth.”

“I kind of think you would have known regardless,” she responded.

“Chase seemed a little surprised about you and Alix.”

“It just happened, sort of. We have known one another for ten years, but then…” she paused. “Alix can be annoying, but in his way he’s every bit as amazing as Chase.”

“What?” Alix asked even though he had heard the words. He just wanted to hear them again.

“I said you’re amazing.”

“So I have advanced from weird but lovable to annoying but amazing?” Alix asked as he bowed, but then, as he came back up, he planted a kiss on her lips.

“See what I mean?” Cristina asked.

“I see,” Julie confirmed, but then continued, “I have not spoken to Chase all that much on this trip. He was in meetings a lot of the time. Even on Sunday, he was out all afternoon and didn’t get in until after midnight. That was when he sent me a message.”

“He’s becoming very important,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, well, I worry about him.”

“He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself,” Alix said.

“I know that, Alix. It’s just he used to always call me, every night.”

“There are time zones involved. Maybe he didn’t want to wake you.”

Julie flashed a smile. “Yeah, I thought about that, too. And I know he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s trying to get promoted. It’s just that…”

“He’s a pretty boy and you worry that someone will be attracted to him.”

Julie said, “At least you realize it, too. He always plays that down.”

“Chase is totally devoted to you, sister. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“You and Cristina could be sisters,” Alix observed. “Really. I mean, if I was in the enviable position of having to choose between the two of you I would probably not be able to.”

Cristina wrapped her arm around Alix’s elbow and pulled him away, whispering, “It’s fortunate that you don’t have to.”

“I was just being honest.”

“Sometimes, honesty can be uncomfortable for others.”

“You’re jealous?”

“No,” she said. Then, she laughed. “Well, maybe I am, just a little bit.”

“The bar is over there,” Julie offered. “They have world viewer imbedded in each table there, so you can see what’s going on while you wait.”

“I think Pete and I have been in that one,” Alix said. “Or maybe it’s just like the ones in other stations.”

“I need to use the restroom first,” Cristina said.

“I’ll come with you,” Julie said as she grabbed Cristina’s hand, leading the way.

“I’ll get us a table,” Alix called out after them, chuckling as he grabbed the handle of the baggage cart and rolled it behind him across the station toward his destination.

The bar was mostly vacant with only a few passengers on layovers or people waiting for a departure or arrival scattered around the room. Instinctively, Alix chose a seat away from the windows knowing Julie and Cristina were just as ultra sensitive to light as he was.

A waitress came to the table to give him a grill menu and took his drink order.

“Just a beer,” Alix said. “Draft is fine. And there will be two more coming shortly.”

“I’ll be right back with your beer. I can take their order when they get here.”

While he waited Alix checked the menu. He wasn’t really hungry, but he could go for some nachos or potato skins.

By the time the waitress returned with his beer, the ladies were entering the bar. Having spotted him they continued toward the table.

“Hello,” the waitress said as she handed them menus. “My name’s Lynda; I’ll be your waitress. I can take your drink orders if you would like some time to study the grill menu.”

“I’m really not very hungry,” Cristina said.

“I was thinking of getting some potato skins for all of us,” Alix suggested.

“Yeah, that sounds fine,” Cristina said. “Why not bring us a pitcher of beer, too?”

“Yes, that sounds great,” Julie confirmed.

The waitress departed to place their order and get the ladies glasses and a pitcher of draft for the table. Alix began sampling world viewer on the small monitor beneath the transparent surface of the table. After a few minutes of ensuring that no major calamity or disaster struck while they were riding in the railcar, he looked up. Julie and Cristina quietly continued a conversation that must have begun in the restroom, not completely ignoring him but not inviting him to join their private dialogue.

The waitress returned to the table and smiled at Alix who was really the only one who looked up and thanked her for the pitcher. “I know this sounds a little strange, like it is a come on, but I assure you that it is not. But you look familiar,” she said to him.

“I’m from New Milan,” Alix said. “I doubt we have ever met, though it is possible, I guess. I’ve been through this station a few times in the past year, but usually I was always with a fairly large group.”

“No, I have seen you before, both you and her,” she indicated Cristina.

“How’s that?” Cristina inquired as she disengaged from her conversation with Julie because she felt the need to be involved. Especially since the waitress was being very friendly with Alix.

“She said we look familiar,” Alix said.

“Maybe you’ve seen us coming and going. We were here about five months ago.”

“Maybe so,” Lynda allowed.

“Are you into music?” Cristina asked.

“Yes, of course I am,” she said. Then, it seemed to Alix and Cristina as if a light brightened her face. “Oh my… that’s it,” she said, then looked around excitedly. “My boyfriend will absolutely die! When I tell him who was in the bar… I mean, he’s so much in love with you, and your voice,” she said to Cristina.

“The line forms right about here,” Alix indicated the area immediately behind his chair.

“I’m a huge fan, too. You’re Alix,” she said excitedly as she looked at him.

“That’s me,” he flashed a smile.

“I guess this must happen to you all the time.”

“Sometimes, but not all that often,” Cristina revealed. “We’re not all that famous.”

“I think you’re great! Are the others coming in later? Are you waiting for them?”

“No, they are safely in New Milan, on hiatus between tours,” Cristina explained. “Alix and I came to visit friends. Julie is waiting for her boyfriend who managed our last tour.”

“Wow, this is incredible! I didn’t even know you and Alix were seeing each other. I mean none of the tabloids have that news.”

“Not that anyone would care to read about us,” Cristina handled it. “Anyway, I guess we are seeing each other, but it’s kind of a recent thing.”

“Well, I won’t tell,” Lynda promised. “I don’t want to bother you or anything but my boyfriend will not believe it was really you.”

“Do you have a framecap?” Alix asked.

“There’s one in my handheld.”

“Then take a picture of us for him.”

“You really don’t mind?”

“Julie can take the picture for you,” Cristina volunteered. “So you can be in it, too.”

“Sure,” Julie said with an understanding smile even if she thought it was a bit silly. Still, she was living vicariously through Cristina. She wanted to know what it felt like to be famous, something that she had dreamed of when she was a shy little girl who bashfully hid behind her father whenever she was around strangers.

“I’ll be right back,” Lynda excused as she rushed to the bar and reached over it to gather her bag from beneath it. Then she hurriedly prepped the framecap application in her handheld as she returned to the table and handing it to Julie, indicating which button to push.

She knelt down between Alix and Cristina. As the three of them smiled Julie took two pictures, both of them turned out well.

“I really, really appreciate this so much, you will never know!”

“We appreciate your support,” Alix responded.

“We’re nothing without our fans,” Cristina added.

“If your boyfriend is close by we are here for a couple of hours. Maybe you can call him and he can come over,” Alix suggested.

“Have him bring one of our recent Mods and we can add digisign to it for him,” Cristina added

“Really, you’d do all that?” Lynda seemed to be considering the logistics of it. “He works kind of near here. Maybe he can come on his lunch, but we live on the other side of town. So I doubt he could go back to the apartment and all that.”

“Well, just have him come over, anyway,” Cristina said. “We like meeting and talking to our fans.”

“Let me check on the other tables and your order, and then I’ll be right back,” Lynda excused as she heard someone at another table calling for her attention. After a several minutes of refilling drink orders, she returned to the table from the bar with a basket of potato skins and set it down in the middle of the table and gave each of them a small plate. “You okay on the beer?”

“Yeah, for now. Did you call him, your boyfriend?”

“Didn’t have a chance yet,” she answered as she tapped her right earlobe and activated the phone function and launched, “Dave at work.”

When Dave answered she tapped her right wrist and his image appeared as a hologram projected onto her right palm. Linda began to talk, “Dave you’ll never believe who’s here at the bar,” then turning her palm and wrist for the embedded sensor to have a view to show him. Cristina smiled and waved, “Hello, Dave.”

“Are you there?” Lynda asked receiving only silence in response as Dave’s vanished. “Dave?” She reiterated. Then turning to Cristina, she suggested, “He probably fainted.”

Cristina laughed. “Tell him I said to get his butt over here right now!”

“Did you hear that?” Lynda asked as she took him off the holographic projector for privacy. “No, she’s serious. She and Alix, the bass player, are here. They’re in town visiting friends. They say they like to meet fans.” She paused for a response. “Well, tell him it’s a friggin’ emergency. It’s not like you haven’t covered enough times for him.” She nodded to Cristina who seemed amused. “Okay. Okay.” Lynda tapped her earlobe again to disconnect. “He says he’s on his way, but his supervisor’s being a total dickhead today, so if he can’t make it he’ll call me back.”

“I don’t want him to get into any trouble,” Cristina expressed her concern.

“No, I know Dave. He’d never forgive himself if he had the chance to meet you and didn’t.”

“I’m flattered,” Cristina said, even wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

“See we’re getting there. We’ll arrive soon,” Alix pointed out. “Maybe next Mod release and another tour and–”

“You can’t be serious,” Lynda said. “You don’t even realize how mammoth you guys are in Andromeda right now?”

“Are we?” Cristina asked, glancing to Julie for confirmation.

“I really don’t follow music that much anymore,” she answered. “My friend, Mindy might know, but she follows the local scene.”

“Your latest single was number four here in stream play last week and every shop and store is out of stock on both the single and complete Mod cards. The only way you can get it is to download it at a premium price from a promo host.”

“Really?” Alix said. “For which we get nothing.”

“Yeah, Dave said the same thing,” Lynda responded.

“We might be higher than number four if they had the inventory,” Cristina said.

“They’re taking pre-orders,” Lynda explained.

“Yeah, well that figures into advance sales. A store ordering the inventory counts as a sale for the charts,” Cristina explained the way new music popularity was ranked.

“That’s what Dave said, too. But they are two weeks out on backorders.”

“There shouldn’t be any supply problems,” Cristina said as she reached for her travelcom. She activated the holographic projection in her palm and paged down through a list of contacts until she found the one she needed. Then, after quickly linking it to the audio only long-distance device, she initiated the call.

After several rings finally there was an answer. “Steve, it’s Cristina… No, no vid this time. I’m in Andromeda. Alix and I came up to see Chase and Julie… You know him, our TM from Global…yeah, him. Hey, look, I’m talking to one of our biggest fans up here and she tells me we’re number four in Andromeda…Yeah, that was news to me, too. What’s bothering me is all the stores up here have us on backorder and have been out of product for a while…Yeah, I didn’t think there was. It kind of shocked me. Can you look into it and maybe even redirect shipments if you have to… Exactly, I mean this is huge for a New Milan band to be doing this well up here…yeah, no kidding. Thanks, Steve.” She disconnected then explained, “Steve is our connection with the Modfab and their distribution. He says there’s no problem with supply as far as he knows, but he’ll look into it.”

“Thanks for the info,” Alix directed to Lynda. “This is really exciting news for us.”

Lynda grinned broadly. “I thought you would know.”

“When we’re on tour we get news in dribs and drabs. Traveling a lot, sometimes it seems like all we do is sleep, eat, play and repeat,” Cristina said.

“I guess the world tour was as much a success as we’d hoped,” Alix suggested, leaning over and sharing a kiss with Cristina.

Lynda smiled. “Like I said before, I never knew you two were dating.”

“It’s been something since we came off tour. We started hanging out together,” Alix explained.

“We’ve known each other for over ten years,” Cristina furthered. “It’s not like we were total strangers.”

“I think it’s great. Look, I have to work the tables some more. When Dave gets here, I’ll come back. He’ll want a picture with all of you”

“I’ll take one of you and him with Alix and Cristina,” Julie offered herself.

As Lynda departed Cristina looked first to Alix and then to Julie. “That was nice. That was a good time. You know, you have fans hit you up for a digisign or a framecap after a show. That’s part of the tour. It’s expected, so you deal with it as it comes. And you’re thankful that you have someone willing to wait after a show to see you. But for someone to recognize you in a public place…I know it’s happened a couple of times before but never outside of New Milan. Our core fan base is there, at home. I never expected anything like this, not here.”

“We’re bigger here than we had ever dreamed we would be,” Alix said. “Every time we were here it seemed the crowds were smaller than they were in other places.”

“Chase kept telling us it was an Andromeda effect, that they call any New Milan band, ‘west coasters’.”

“That’s true,” Julie said. “I don’t remember the last band from another city that was popular here. Maybe it was a New Milan band, but there seems to have always been a rivalry between the music businesses here and there.”

“It’s a one-sided prejudice. There have been dozens of Andromeda bands that have hit in New Milan,” Alix revealed.

Their conversation continued along the subject of local history as Julie attempted as best she could to explain Andromeda’s origins, youth culture, fashion and music to Alix and Cristina. According to what she had learned in school and had pieced together from the thoughts and opinions of her father and his friends, as well as the other kids she knew as she was growing up, it all began when Andromeda rebelled against the moniker ‘Third City’ that the Engineers gave it before its first Colonial Administration had generated a list of suggested names for the then new city.

It had been called ‘Third City’ throughout its construction. Haven and New Milan were constructed virtually at the same time and therefore neither was labeled ‘first’ or ‘second’. No one called Star City ‘Fourth City’ when construction began about two years after Andromeda was completed. Unlike the first two cities that were named even in advance of construction of their domes, Andromeda had been singled out as ‘that other city’. It was the place in between – sort of – as it was not really between New Milan and Haven as it was a good bit to the north of either of them. At the time there was nowhere else to go in the vast continental desert between the coasts.

So, from the outset the city had something to prove, resulting in a huge inferiority complex. It was newer than either of the coastal cities, but at first living in Andromeda was more expensive because of the logistics of supplying it. There was no established rail infrastructure for at least the first five years of its existence. It had been a struggle to get people to move there from either New Milan or Haven because of the expense. Once there the inhabitants were mostly disconnected for an extended period. It was only by edict of the Colonial Council that all newcomers to Pravda must populate Andromeda and remain there for at least five years that the city began to grow and live up to its potential.

None of the other cities in the interior of the continent had suffered anything remotely close to what Andromeda had. For example, by the time that the next city, Star City was established, there were rails connecting it immediately to either coast and also to Andromeda. Thereafter the infrastructure always preceded the construction of any city. The Colonial Council learned a harsh lesson after the painful experience pushing forward the construction of Andromeda. Despite how prosperous Andromeda subsequently became as a center of industry, commerce and art for the entire planet, the city still maintained the chip on its shoulder. It preferred to stand-alone as it had from its earliest days of its existence.

As the discussions of forming a central government were just beginning to get underway, Andromeda seemed very cool to the prospect and appeared to be favoring an autonomous territorial status for its reserved provincial rights under the Colonial Authority’s allocation plans. It was for that reason, the Colonial Authority had relocated many of its key facilities in Andromeda, establishing some precedent for it to become the seat of any central government that might emerge amongst the provinces.

By the time Julie was wrapping up her impromptu presentation of the truths of Andromeda, as she understood them, Dave entered the bar, and immediately found Lynda. The two of them approached the table, Dave behind his girlfriend, shy with apprehensions about meeting celebrities – not only celebrities but people that he privately idolized.

Alix stood immediately at seeing Lydia’s approach. A man was in tow. He extended his hand, “You must be Dave.”

“Alix, this is monumental. This is beyond huge and epic, it’s completely awesome,” he gushed. “I play bass too, nowhere nearly as well as you do, but I work at it, ya know?”

“Really, wow! That’s awesome, dude,” Alix said then the two of them started speaking in a language that neither Julie nor Cristina understood, about bass guitar manufacturers, and different brands of amplifiers and speaker cabinets.

Lynda stood silently pretending to be patient while concealing her irritation. She interrupted by clearing her throat a couple of times. Dave turned, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, well you wanted to meet Cristina, too. Right?”

“Of course,” Dave said reaching over the table for her hand, “I am really sorry. I mean, I’m nervous…well, I don’t know what to say. This is like meeting a goddess.”

“I’m hardly that,” she reacted. “Anyway, I understand some of the talk, one bassist to another.”

“This is really incredible. It’s amazingly huge! I love your voice and your look. Everything about you is incredible.”

Cristina glanced down.

“I’m embarrassing you.”

“A little bit…actually a lot. It’s good to hear, but–”

“I’ve been a fan since the beginning, like ten years ago. You guys came here to perform at the Junk Room Pub. You probably don’t even remember that place, but I was there. I had to sneak in because I was under age.”

Cristina smiled. “No, I remember the place. I think it seated like 200 people or thereabouts and we drew all of 64. That generously included the bartender and the waitresses. So, I can’t believe that I didn’t meet you then. I thought we talked to everybody, probably too much.”

“No, I didn’t meet you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, we made a point to make sure we met everyone in the audience and we personally thanked them for coming.”

“I left before that. A couple of friends told me you did that afterwards. I was envious of them for having met you personally.”

“See, you should have stayed, then.”

“Yeah, well, I guess I was intimidated.”

Cristina shook her head. “I really don’t bite. I haven’t for a long time.”

Dave laughed. “I’d love to stay here all night talking, but I have to get back to work, unfortunately.”

“Let’s do the framecap thing,” Julie said. “I got the secret of Lynda’s handheld down-pat, now.”

“I really, really appreciate this, Alix and Cristina,” Dave said.

“Lynda said you were a huge fan and if you were following us ten years ago you have earned personal attention,” she said as she kissed him on the cheek just as Julie snapped a photo.”

“You got that?” Dave asked.

“Yeah, look,” she showed him.

“Awesome!” Dave turned toward Cristina and embraced her. “You really are the best! Thank you for this,” he said as Julie clicked off another picture, then one that was a little better at showing all of them laughing together as they were now friends.

They took one more posed photo with them all smiling into the camera as Julie snapped it. It also passed inspection.

“You guys are awesome people, not just great musicians,” Lynda praised.

“I really appreciate that,” Cristina responded.

“Ditto for me,” Alix included as he stood and shook Dave’s hand, and then hugged him. Keep playing that bass, my brother!”

“I will never be as good as you are.”

“Yeah, I remember saying that to a guy named Raja. He was the dude in the neighborhood when I was growing up. Nobody played bass like Raja. About five years later, he came up to me at the end of a show and shook my hand and said that he would never be as good as I was.”

“He didn’t even know he was one of your influences, one of your idols?”

Alix laughed. “No, before Duae Lunae, he never knew who I was, but I knew him. That was what mattered to me. When he told me, I knew I must be pretty good or at least I’d overcome whatever it was that I felt was holding me back.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 17 – Chase

**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.**

Relocated to Andromeda when he was a child, Chase recalled the conditions of the atmosphere were not much better there. It was only in the last five or so years that the changes had been dramatic. The pockets of poison tended to linger out at sea, over the water. Hardly ever did they come ashore, except during severe climatic disturbances.

He stayed in Andromeda for the better job opportunities. Star City, New Milan and Haven were experiencing economic downturns. Despite Andromeda being in the midst of the desert, surrounded by the most desolate landscape imaginable – except for perhaps Star City – his father had gone there after his mother died because there was work and housing costs were significantly lower than Haven. Despite the Colonial Authority giving breaks on taxes for people to come to Star City to live, Chase’s father still picked Andromeda.

Chase completed an intensive degree program in marketing and promotions at the university. He graduated near the top of his class. He had been offered jobs in Haven, New Milan and Andromeda as well as several less interesting, lower paying positions with financial institutions in Star City. His father tried very hard to sell him on staying in Andromeda. “It is our home. It is where we sank roots. Maybe the entry-level pay here is not as good as Haven or New Milan but people make good money here. You have to work at it, but I think if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

By the time Chase was ready to enter the work force, there were several local job opportunities and most paid well, so he stayed in Andromeda. He chose the job that would lead him everywhere that he had ever been since because it was closer to his home, and he could visit his father. Despite his father’s telling him it was unnecessary he spent almost every weekend at home until his father’s untimely death. After that there was really no reason for him to remain in Andromeda except that there was an active youth culture and a trendy music scene going on, one that rivaled the well-established culture in New Milan for producing innovative music and fashion trends.

Then, he met Julie.

He was scouting a band named Torment at a club called The Left Face. He was seated at the bar, appraising the crowd reaction while listening to the music. Moreover, he was gauging the band’s stage presence. After having listened to their demos his initial sense was the band lacked professional polish. Normally, he would have not given them further consideration for his firm’s representation. Yet, as he sat there he could not deny their loyal following were seriously into their music and the band was playing to the. They were much better live than the studio demo he’d heard.

When first he saw her, Julie stepped up to the bar. Tired of waiting for the waitress to refresh the drinks of her and her friend, she nudged her way through the crowd and demanded not only the bartender’s attention, but his curiosity as well. He was no longer interested in the band. He liked the way she handler herself, the grace she exuded as she excused herself through to offer her payment wand and receive her drink order. Then she turned and for a moment faced Chase.

She paused. In a way, she seemed to be waiting for him to say something. Chase could not help but stare at her. He said hello to her.

“Hi there,” as he reply.

“My name is Chase.”

“I’m sorry. Are you talking to me for some reason?”

Chase shrugged. “I noticed your shoes have real laces, not the faux ones that have become pop lately. So, I guess I wanted to ask, do you know how to tie a shoe lace?”

“Of course I do,” she huffed.

“Well, I just wondered because your right shoe lace is untied. You walk so gracefully, I think it would be a crime if you tripped over it, especially while carrying drinks.”

She glanced down. “So it is,” she said then looked up as she set the drinks on the bar and used a vacant stool to rest her foot while she tied the laces on the shoe.

“So, you were only looking out for me?”

“Yeah well, I must admit that I hoped for something better to come to mind to break the conversational ice, but sometimes you have to take what events offer. So my motives were not completely pure.”

“Thanks.”

“For telling you your shoe was untied?”

“No, for being honest. But I am left to wonder why were you checking out my shoes?”

“It’s the whole ensemble. You dress very well, dressed to tastefully attract some attention, but it’s certainly not overdone.”

She smiled. “Skillfully expressed. My name is Julie,” she offered her hand to him.

“I’m Chase. I think you might have missed that before.”

“No, actually I caught it. So, are you into Torment?”

“The band, yes. The general concept, no.”

She laughed. “My roommate has all their Mods. She knows a couple of the guys. I don’t know… they are good, but they don’t do it for me.”

“What don’t you like about them?”

“There are things…you know?”

“The shrill vocals or the lame repetitive lead guitar riffs?”

“You nailed it exactly, on both counts.”

“It’s what I do for a living.”

“You’re a critic.”

“God, no!” Chase exclaimed. Then, he laughed before finally explaining, “I do tour promotions. My company was considering representing the band. They sent me to give a listen and watch their live performance.”

“Well, please don’t take my criticism as the basis for rejecting them out of hand. They really are nice guys. I have met all of them and they are really very serious about what they do.”

“I make my own decisions, regardless of other opinions. I’m impressed at how loyal their fans are, though. I have to tell you that based on their demo alone, I would have rejected them.”

Julie looked toward the table where her friend was still waiting. “Look, Chase, maybe you need to be closer to the fray and the band to fully get the full effect. Our table is up right next to the stage. Mindy always gets a table reserved for her here because she knows the band. And since she knows them, she can introduce them to you and you can talk to them on breaks.”

Chase smiled. “Yeah, that sounds fun. Kewl,” he descended from the stool and followed her back toward her table. “Uh, just don’t tell the band or your friend why I’m here.”

“Okay,” Julie said. “I mean it wouldn’t matter all that much. They have a stage manager and all that already.”

“They have never played outside of Andromeda.”

Julie halted, and then turned back to look into his eyes. “You do world tours?”

“That is all my company does do. The last two we did were New Milan bands. I want to score at least one success for my hometown.”

Julie chuckled as she continued toward the table. As she sat down and delivered her friend’s drink, she continued, “Yeah, I mean, maybe Torment is not a good example of our music community. There are a lot of good bands here.”

“Hey,” Mindy protested.

“Well, they aren’t representative of the mainstream. They’re counter culture. That’s what I was saying.”

“Yeah, well okay,” Mindy allowed.

“I know the local music scene very well. I live here,” Chase said. Then, lowering his voice the moment that Mindy looked away to focus on the band, he continued, “The music is an important part of the equation, but on tour the band must be a full package, especially in places that have no following at all.”

“The ability to capture a crowd in a strange place makes or breaks a band,” Julie said but loud enough that Mindy overheard.

“Are you in the business, Mr…?”

“Call me Chase.”

“Chase, you sound as if you know the business. I’m Mindy,” she offered her hand across the table.

“Yeah, Mindy. I’m sorry I should have done the intros. This is Chase,” Julie offered apologetically.

“Nice to meet someone who is so informed.” Mindy shook hands.

“Well, I do what I do and know what I know,” Chase said, glancing to Julie as if to reestablish his warning to her, not to let on. In response Julie smiled. She sipped from her drink as if to quell her urge to reveal who Chase was.

“I know J-hon and Lewis,” Mindy explained. “I mean I know all of the guys, but I went to grade school with Lewis. J-hon and I used to date, but now we’re just like really good friends, you know?”

“I see,” Chase said. “They really have a way of working the crowd.”

“I have all their Mods. They are much better live than on card.”

“Some bands are,” Chase said. “I personally think that’s a gift. Live is the hardest way for a band to make it, but it’s also the only way for a band to make it in the long run.”

“J-hon told me almost exactly the same thing,” Mindy revealed with a smile.

“Then he knows. That’s a good sign.”

The band was preparing to end a song. Mindy predicted quite correctly that it was time for their break. The members left the stage and consumed enough water to satisfy the thirst they poured some water over their heads to help them cool down before toweling off the excess. J-hon and Lewis emerged from the door at the corner of the stage and joined Mindy, Julie and Chase at the table.

“This is Chase,” Mindy offered  “He seems to know a lot about the local music scene.”

“Are you a DJ or a promoter?” J-hon asked.

Chase shrugged at first, but then decided that it didn’t matter all that much anymore as he had seen enough to know what the band had. “You submitted a demo to Global Group.”

J-hon sat back. “And this is our shot?”

“I come unannounced. I watch the crowd and how you work the crowd. I’ll be very open and candid with you. I’m not into your music at all. I thought your demos were flat. But you can work a crowd and that forgives a lot of sins.”

J-hon said, “I like you, Chase. At least you are up front and friggin’ honest. That’s refreshingly rare in this business.”

“I never lie to a band. That’s my credential and I don’t want to ever tarnish it. If I’m promoting you, you are good enough to be promoted. The recordings can be fixed in post-production.”

“So, where do you think we’re failing?”

“Your sound is repetitive, especially the guitar riffs.”

“Yeah?”

“Your fans are your fans. So, they’ll be fine with that, but on worldwide tour you’ll be crushed for it. You have to innovate, experiment and mix it up.”

“They’re holding me and Lewis back. Lewis writes the lyrics.”

“Who are they?”

“The others in the band. They want things a certain way. A lot of our fan base loves them, though.”

“So you put up with them because they draw some of the crowd.”

“Yeah. Well, at some point, a band becomes a business venture, right?”

“Of course it does.”

“So, what are we doing right?”

“I like the lyrics,” Chase said even as he was offering his hand to Lewis for the first time. “Good stuff, sir. The petty bullshit with the other band members can be fixed.  There are thousands of percussionists and bassists as good as they are. A lot of rhythm section guys would give their right gonad for a chance to play on a worldwide tour. You tell them that. They adapt to a paradigm for success or they’re replaced. I know you can do more than you’re demonstrating. They don’t seem to want to play up to what you expect. “

“Thanks, I appreciate that level of support.”

“J-hon, it’s your band from what I understand. You have to deliver that message. If they give you flack, fire ‘em. I’ll find you replacements. That’s how this is going to work. This is what I need you to do for me,” Chase began, then paused for a few moments before continuing, using that time to finalize his suggestion. “The next set, you need to envision you’re performing before a large venue, beyond ten thousand capacity. You have to satisfy everyone in the crowd, including people who are tired of the same old lead riffs.”

J-hon stood up. “I can do that!”

“I know you can. You just need some horrendous asshole to tell you to do it. I’m that asshole.”

J-hon laughed. “Chase, you’re the man! What happens if I can pull this off?”

“You know how to work a crowd, so that’s not the question,” Chase said.  “If you pull this off, with or without the other guys in the band I’ll make it work for you. Lewis here seems to be onboard, so maybe we replace two people and we’re there. Then we can start rehearsals with new members just as soon as your last contractual obligations in Andromeda are fulfilled. After that, we get you out there on your first global tour.”

As the band returned to the stage, Mindy looked at Julie and then Chase, “You’re going to sign them.”

“I haven’t decided. I need to see what they do, now. If they come together, that’s great. I don’t like breaking up something that works, even if it is not working right. If it can be fixed without sacrificing people who know one another, then that’s the best way.”

“They really are good guys,” Mindy said.

“I know they are. It’s up to J-hon and Lewis to make it work as it is.”

When the evening concluded, Chase signed the band with all present members to a one-year tour agreement. Afterwards, Chase drove Julie back to her apartment, and dropped her off at the curb. As it was late, he remained watching as she entered the lobby just to ensure that she was safe. He called her the next day. He also sent her a card and flowers at her work. He called her that evening and asked her out for that weekend.

Their relationship began.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 16 – Abiosis

**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.**

Paul led Chase deeper into the caverns, deeper than anyone outside of the organization was permitted to go without escort. “The place we are going is called ‘the sand crypt’. The engineers and researchers that first discovered this place arranged and catalogued the discoveries and created something of a mortuary where a large colony of sand-morphs once dwelled. It is not the largest colony discovered, but it is the first that was significant enough that anyone felt compelled to acknowledge it as a protected cavern, sealed and – under penalty of law – off limits by Colonial Authority decree.”

“Was that designed to assuage the authorities feelings of guilt?” Chase asked.

“More like it was an attempted cover-up. Of course, not all of the researchers agreed that the sand-morphs should be treated with respect and dignity but at least some did. Others were more greatly concerned with the possibility of disease from the rotting corpses. Organic silicon doesn’t seem to decay in the same way are carbon based organisms. Eventually the cellular structure loses integrity, and over time, the sand-morphs revert to a pile of sand. The process takes considerably longer than it takes for us to rot. It was determined that hermetically sealing the bodies in a tomb such as this can preserve the bodies almost indefinitely. Apparently the simple process of evaporation increases the rate of decay for organic silicon.”

“It is your plan to breathe life into this abiotic place.”

“The plan is to attempt the resurrection of one of these sand-morphs and that, if we are lucky, it may retain memory and be able to teach us how to read their language.”

“What if none of that works?”

“The alternative course is to find a viable medium for reconstructing organic silicon, essentially growing a sand-morph from its genetic code.”

“I’m still concerned about what happens if you succeed in bringing one of them back from the dead only to learn that it doesn’t want to be brought back? What if it doesn’t like humans?”

“It doesn’t change what’s right,” Paul said. “We are the interlopers, here. We don’t belong.”

“You were born here, same as me,” Chase said.

Paul turned toward him and pulled the orb from his pocket. “This is what matters to us. Finding everyone else that is like us is the priority so that the Couriers can dispense the orbs for us. We assume their burden, serving out a purpose that we don’t control. I’m not sure I like that, but it is what the Couriers have planned for longer than anyone alive remembers, except for them.”

“You would have all of us join your merry band and defy the Colonial Authority.”

“At least it is a purpose we can understand.”

“I understand what you want to do. It would even be an interesting experiment if in the unlikely event it actually worked. But without the others of our kind, without all of it anything that we do separately is doomed to failure. In an odd way, we are meant to do for humanity what you wish to do for the sand-morphs. We are here to breathe life into a dying species and retain its memories and technology. We are the future of mankind even though we are becoming barely like them.”

Paul sat down on a bench and looked at the wall of sealed tombs. “There are over a thousand of them inside, preserved. The official report stated there were over five thousand bodies found here. The majority were taken to the desert and buried in a mass grave. There is a climate monitoring station near the mountains that was constructed over the spot to prevent it from being disturbed.”

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and sand to sand,” Chase said.

Paul smiled as he looked up. “So, you are not on board with us.”

“No, not at all,” Chase replied. “I’m sorry, Paul. I know what you are trying to do and in a way it is admirable. If it wasn’t for my own goals and sense of purpose, I might join you. All that I can promise is I won’t interfere or sell you out.”

Paul stood. “I’ll see that you are taken back to Haven, at least as far as the outer gate. They’ll return your clothes to you at the climate monitoring station where you will again switch vehicles, of course. He started back up the path that led away from the chamber and through the caverns. Chase followed. When they had reached the outer most of the caverns, he turned to Chase and offered his hand. “I apologize for the level of security and precautions, but I’m sure you understand it is completely necessary.”

“I’m not put out by it. It has made for a very interesting outing.”

“When you speak to my sister, please let her know I’m alive and well.”

Chase nodded. “I wondered if you were aware of the relationship.”

“I was aware shortly after we met,” Paul revealed. “Does she know?”

“At least she suspects it. She is coming with her boyfriend to my place in Andromeda for a visit next week. I wanted for her to meet Julie, another one of us. I’ll fill her in on everything you are doing.”

“Perhaps she will join us.”

“Perhaps she will. It’ll be as it should be, though. She’ll need to make that decision.”

“I’m comfortable that she’ll make the best choice.”

“Her boyfriend is also one of us.”

“For her sake I hope he is the one for her.”

“Maybe he is, but Alix has been in the band with her for ten years and neither of them suspected that they had the attributes in common.”

“They have not been a couple all that long, then?”

“After she received the orb, they discovered the truth about one another.”

Paul laughed. “That would be quite a story to tell children.”

“That is if they are intended to be anything beyond close friends.”

“Yes, provided they are compatible,” Paul modified, and then again offered his hand to Chase.

“It was good meeting you.”

“I look forward to the possibilities of working together in the future.”

“If it’s meant to be.”

Paul nodded in response, and then turned back toward the cavern where the two of them first met.

Chase followed his escorts up to the last checkpoint where he surrendered his temporary security ID. Then, they led him from the cave and at the threshold he allowed the black hood to be placed over his head again before they hurried him on to the awaiting Puma.

On the way back to Haven, Chase had a good deal of time to mull over the conversation with Paul and what The Resurrection intended to do. He didn’t know if it was possible. He wasn’t concerned except that the unexpected always seemed to get in the way of best intentions. His overriding concern was that they were intending to do the right thing for the sand-morphs, but they would prove to be intelligent monsters over which no one would have any control.

As there was no conversation to distract him, Chase easily slipped into sleep. His nap on the return trip to Haven was only interrupted at the climate monitoring station where he changed back into his clothes along with others who he realized served as decoys. Then he was blindfolded. Once he was settled into a different Puma, he returned to his, sleeping until the Puma reached the parking lot on the beach just outside of Haven.

His blindfold was removed. As it was already night, he did not need protective lenses. He stepped out of the vehicle and walked toward the airlock on the causeway.

He didn’t want to go directly back to the hotel, though it was nearby. He hailed a floater coach for hire and rode to a restaurant where he and Cristina had enjoyed a meal during the last stay in Haven. It was a good place – a nice friendly atmosphere and the prices were reasonable for the portions of food.

They had live entertainment from time to time but it was Sunday. Tomorrow was a workday for most everyone in the world, and so there would not be enough of a draw to the restaurant to have a live band playing. It had been much the same with scheduling Cristina’s band the first few weeks of the tour, until they finally reached some cities where they had played before in clubs that remembered them.

When he finished eating he was still not tired. He had rested a lot on the drive home from the mountains. So, he decided to go for a walk.

The streets were quiet. The moonlight was bright enough to compliment the streetlights even in the darker areas between buildings and where the trees blocked the light. He wondered what it would be like once the domes were finally dismantled.

There was a time in his youth when an instructor had promised that at some point in his lifetime he would see that day. He remembered thinking his instructor was crazy. Every morning of his youth he woke to a sky literally filled with green clouds, a few red clouds but the entire atmosphere had a nebulous green tinge to it. His father told him that without the breathing filters he would die within a few minutes from a poisonous gas called di-hydrogen sulfide.

It was now possible to breathe the atmosphere for brief periods without filtering, although no one recommended it. There were still areas of the surface where because of wind currents the concentrations of poisonous gasses were too intense for humans, but there had been reports of some people ‘roughing it’ and surviving.

The Colonial Authority did not recommend or condone such dangerous behavior, but it had become something of a right of passage for the teens. In a way, the public statements of the Colonial Authority were taken as a dare. To prove ‘kewlness’, kids had to go outside the dome for ten minutes, without breathing filters. Once one teen survived, and the word got out, it became something to do, an act of defiance in the face of authority.

Chase figured it was not as grave a risk as the Colonial Authority was making it out to be. Still, no one wanted to risk the news of hundreds of teens dying when a freak wind current swept enough of the poisonous gases their way. He chuckled to himself, feeling a bit older than he really was. Recalling his youth when the poison lingering close to the surface with the morning mists, no one in his or her right mind would have gone out in that without a full protective suit, including mask with goggles and breathing filters. He was born in Haven, in a very different time.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 15 – Paul

**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.**

Escorts led Chase to a cave entrance. Once inside it looked like most any other cave, except one of the guards waved his hand over a series of innocuous rocks in some special sequence. Immediately, one of the walls that had appeared to be solid rock opened revealing a security checkpoint staffed with several heavily armed men.

Once Chase and his party were progressed through they walked down a very long and constantly descending corridor that terminated in a junction of many other corridors. All but two of the corridors ascended from that point. In the confluence there was another security checkpoint that two ladies staffed. One of them stood and upon challenge, the escorts offered their profiles, which she scanned. Then she turned toward Chase. He held out his thumb where his ID implant was embedded and she scanned it. She issued him a temporary profile card that she clipped onto the collar of his shirt.

Beyond the inner checkpoint they headed down another even longer corridor that burrowed deeper into the roots of the mountain. At its end there was a large chamber that subsequently opened into a cathedral sized cavern, replete with everything one might expect a cavern to have from stalactites and stalagmites to dripping water. Chase assumed the local aquifer was nearby or the water came from thawing snow that at times accumulated in the highest elevations of the mountains south of Haven. The effect of the lighting against the natural formations of limestone created intimidating illusions of relief as well as deep shadows. The overall effect was strikingly beautiful.

“Welcome,” a voice echoed as someone emerged into the open from across the chamber. Chase’s focus drew upon the speaker.

“Hello,” Chase responded. Then squinting as the stranger walked closer, Chase finally removed his protective lenses to get a good look at who hailed him. “Paul?”

“I hear you have been looking for me.”

“Really, it was Cristina who was concerned. You and I have never met. I’m Chase.”

“Now that we’ve met, tell me, how is she?”

“Worried,” Chase said as he continued to close the distance between them.

“I thought she might be,” Paul said, offering his outstretched hand toward Chase, which he accepted and pull up to a rock ledge upon which Paul was standing. “It was unintentional. Sometimes the unexpected happens and everything changes. So, what do you think of my new but hopefully temporary abode?”

“I never knew your old abode. But this is quite an organization. Are you their leader?”

“Hardly,” Paul said with a laugh. “There are no leaders per se. There are rules and structure, but it is not prudent to designate leaders. Leaders are captured and organizational structures suffer as a result.”

“You were not abducted, then.”

“I suppose they spared me the indignity,” Paul said. “They called it recruitment. Yet, from what I have since learned, my present concern is that Cristina may be in more danger than she realizes.”

“The authorities have questioned her.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“You have people on the inside.”

“Why not? The reach to New Milan is a stretch locally,” Paul explained. “We have allies there, though – a different group with similar aims. For the present they watch her. They assure me she is not in need of protection, yet. It would assume it is only a matter of time.”

“Why would she be in danger? She’s innocent.”

“Sooner or later they will bring in everyone associated with the subversive outcast, namely me. One thing I have learned in my life is that we are all guilty of something, Chase. At the moment she is unaware of the crime. Come, you and I have a lot to cover. As I hope to return you for your Monday meetings, we have very little time to accomplish it.”

“I appreciate knowing that I will be going back.”

“You are one potential key in what we need to do. That is if you decide to join us.”

“Join you?”

“You have been highly recommended. Some of your childhood friends have praised your loyalty as well as your innate skills at evading capture.”

“I don’t know about that. I seem to recall being captured a lot,” Chase said. “I would not call that having skills. I suppose that over time I got better at evasion and maybe harder to catch.”

“Loyalty matters most. Tell me, Chase, what do you know of the sand-morphs?”

“Only the stories I’ve heard, mainly unconfirmed rumors and legends. You know, the things kids hear about from other kids that heard stories from someone else, but you sort of doubt the credibility. Cristina and Alix believe that they saw one as an image their orbs conjured from the past.”

“That’s interesting.”

“I’m not sure what they saw or how they did it. They brought their two orbs close together and…”

“That is possible, opening a portal.”

“I see.”

“Anyway, the sand-morphs were real, I assure you. We know some things about them. No one knows what they’re called, really. We have found evidence of their language and artifacts of their technology. Come,” he said as he turned and led the way into deeper chambers. “We have determined that the sand-morphs did not see in the same way we do. Therefore their written language is very different from something you would simply read. It is more akin to music, we think. Highly complicated communication involving multiple senses.”

Chase pulled up short and looked at the highly polished and reflective surface of a wall. It was uniformly smooth except for the symbols etched into the polished, glassy surface.

“They were intelligent and very much alive, Chase. It was probably the result of a huge misunderstanding on our part. The primary and secondary scans as required by regulations never once detected them. It was during the tertiary scans that there was some motion detected within this very chamber. It was investigated to the best of the abilities of the researchers. The findings, though inconclusive delayed the sterilization for two local months. So, it wasn’t arrogance or complete disregard for regulations and procedures that resulted in the egregious errors. It is just that no one was looking for anything except carbon-based life.”

“Sand-morphs are silicon-based,” Chase ventured.

“As you might expect from the moniker the lady who first discovered them awarded posthumously. Now, we have the benefit of eighty years of hind sight.”

“Are they all gone?”

Paul lowered his head, “Yes, the sterilization methods were highly effective in eradicating a variety of life and near life manifestations, even silicon-based life which is why it troubles me that we had no means of detecting them in the first place. This was their world. They belonged here, Chase. We don’t.”

Chase found a place in the cavern that seemed as close to a seat as any and he parked his posterior. “I assume your group is The Resurrection?”

“Our infamy precedes us.”

“The authorities accused me of belonging.”

“They were premature, perhaps. Now you have the option to join. So the point is rendered moot.”

“What if I don’t want to join?”

“I think you will because we’re right. And we have a plan that is just, and it may work. You see unlike carbon-based life, silicon-based life allows for re-composition. All you need are the details of the code sequence for their equivalent structures that roughly correspond to our DNA. There are researchers sympathetic to our cause working on decoding the organic-silicon genome. The sand-morphs were not the only life form that was eradicated. They were, however, the only life form that appeared to have been self-aware.”

“You can bring them back?”

“We believe so,” Paul said.

“But the world is now very different than it was. Maybe it is no longer conducive to their form of life.”

“They breathed air. They may utilize different gasses in the basic chemistry of respiration, but the basic composition of the atmosphere has not changed, except for the removal of poisons and a corresponding balances in the levels of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.”

“What if they actually need those poisons?”

“Then that is something we will discover and deal with,” Paul said. “We believe their bodies had internal filters that neutralized sulfur based poisons for the most part. From what we have found in these caverns, it appears that they did not live outside of the caves and ventured out only when necessary. This indicates they had issues with the atmosphere and preferred the cooler, damper cave environment. As for the air inside these caverns, there is no trace of di-hydrogen sulfide. The sand-morphs had a curious system of baffles and recirculators that served as filters for the air and created over pressuring as a form of airlock. We have not figured out how it worked yet. There is evidence, however, of a temporary airlock that was apparently installed at the entrance of this very cavern.”

“So, humans were here, in the earliest of times, before the terraforming.”

“Yes. That mission was documented as it discovered the possible existence of water here.”

“What doesn’t make sense is how the poison couldn’t get inside the caverns but the sterilizing agents could.”

“That’s part of the mystery. The answer will solve the riddle of the world-wide catastrophe that eliminated a form of intelligent life.”

“It has to do with the terraforming process, I’m sure,” Chase said.

“Of course it does, but the question remains, how? That is why we need to bring them back to life and find out the truth.”

“Once they know our origins and history and what happened to them because of us, they may not like what we did to their world.”

“But as long as they can breathe the same atmosphere as we do, we could co-exist.”

“Like humans have ever coexisted with a rival species. We have not had a good history of tolerating even the relatively minor racial differences within our species.”

“Your point is well taken. But humans are of little real concern for people like us. We have the attributes. In less than fifty years the presence of whatever humans remain will be an inconsequential annoyance to us and our progeny.”

“Why has the knowledge of the sand-morphs been suppressed?” Chase asked.

“What we have discerned and gleaned from references is that initially, our human arrogance caused the researchers to wrongly believe that the sand-morphs were unintelligent animals. It was considered a tragic oversight, but the engineers accepted it and moved on with the terraforming projects. Some of the researchers did autopsies of the first sand-morphs. Those records have been recovered. The methodology was crude as one might expect when dealing with a life form as radically different from us as the sand-morphs. Still, the data and conclusions contradicted the assumption that they were animals. As the researchers explored other parts of the planet, like these caverns and discovered the evidence of language there was a growing interest within the Colonial Authority to conceal everything about the sand-morphs and suppress all the research findings. In an effort to cover-up the horrendous mistake, all the records were sealed but not until some meticulously accurate copies were made. We have access to those records.”

“I see.”

“Very early on in the project of transforming this world into a home for mankind, much earlier than anyone had ever imagined, researchers had determined that sand-morphs were intelligent and had even stored a history of sorts in symbols like these etched into rock. The autopsy also indicated the natural filtering of the air that I mentioned earlier. And what was completely amazing to us was that the researchers apparently knew they could be resurrected, it was just that they did not know the precise procedure.”

“And you believe that you have that knowledge now.”

“Yes,” Paul said emphatically.

“So let’s say we can bring them back, what then?”

“They will need to start fresh. Their civilization and culture are gone. Perhaps they can reclaim some of the lost knowledge from their archives but very likely we know more about their past than they will at first.”

“Or ever will know.”

“Well, yes,” Paul said. “But if they learn from us, we can teach them what we want them to know.”

“Sampling their symbolic language and processing it through our transliteration indices, we have arrived at some meanings for the repeated symbols,” one of the men standing close to them said.  “It is still highly speculative. It depends a good deal on how their thought processes worked relative to our own. We have assumed for the sake of argument that they were rational and could sense the environment around them. We know they could retain and record memories.”

“We have been operating from the assumption that codes and symbols would not vary much in structure from one of their lairs to another and so far we have not been disappointed. That one assumption has led to a number of landmark discoveries, such as they had families and a form of government to settle conflicts between families. We are fairly confident their language behaves a lot like languages with which we are familiar, but it had a good deal more layers of communication possible in a very short interval. There are musical and mathematical components that we have already identified as part of the syntax of the written language. Locally they seemed to have a tribal form of organization but in many ways it was a good deal more advanced than any such structure we are familiar with as humans. There is evidence that there was at least a loose confederation of tribes and a central authority of some sort. Still, what we know is highly speculative.”

“Your assumptions could be wrong,” Chase suggested.

“Some of them may prove to be, but we are pretty confident in what we have determined so far. They were not animals. In fact they were very advanced,” the other man said.

“The travesty in all this was the suppression of the truth for all the wrong reasons. It has evolved into a huge cover-up. The Authority does not want anyone to know of the sand-morphs,” Paul stated.

“Pravda was made for man by man,” Chase said.

“How ironic is the choice of name for this world?” Paul pointed out. “We have build a lie upon a lie and named it truth.”

Chase stared at Paul.

“We have found a series of symbols that we believe were the sand-morphs’ name for their species,” Paul continued. “We have also found symbols that we believe represent their concept of the world. If we could decipher them and render their sound, we might be able to at least rename this world if not give a proper name to the species. Sand-morph is something the first one to discover a body in the sand decided. To her it seemed a clump of sand that had the properties and integrity to have been a life form.”

“Obviously she was right.”

“She was also ostracized for her beliefs and sent back to the orbital platform. She was persistent, though. She had discovered the evidence of life on the world that had been exterminated as part of the sterilization. Her reward was incarceration. She died a few years ago in prison. The sad truth of her later life was all intended to suppress her knowledge and what the Colonial Authority had conveniently labeled subversion.”

“The Authority does it because they can,” Chase said. “There is no constitution. If an emergency is declared, rights no longer have to be respected.”

“You are quite right,” Paul said. “The colonies operate under a form of martial law until there is a formal constitution. Even after a constitution is ratified, it does not mean that the Colonial Authority is completely removed. There is a transition period that can last for many years. Under martial law the rights of every individual will be respected but may be sacrificed for the good of the whole.”

“When you have autocratic leaderships as most of the cities of this world do, you have the seeds for violating even the simplest of civil rights.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 14 – The Detainment

**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.**

Chase didn’t get it. Why were they detaining him? What did he know that they could possibly want to ask him about? He looked around the detention cell. Regardless of the city, the interrogation areas that he had been in appeared the same: four bare walls, a table and two to four chairs.

It had been a while since the last time. He was a punk kid then even if at the time he thought he knew everything. Why was he being detained now? He hadn’t done anything wrong. All he wanted to know was what he asked them. Had there been any progress on located Paul? He had never met the guy. It was someone Cristina met. Someone she barely knew either although at least the two of them had a couple of conversations, one was apparently an extended phone conversation.

Presently the electronic lock on the sliding door clicked and opened briefly, only to allow the entry of two men. One of them was carrying Chase’s orb, which they had taken from him along with his other belongings. “Am I under arrest?”

“Let’s term this a detainment for questioning,” the man with the orb said. “Where did you get this?”

“It was a gift, from someone named Hawk.”

“That’s an odd name, isn’t it?”

“It is a nickname I’m sure. It’s how I know him.”

“I suspect he’s a member of some clandestine group.”

“I wouldn’t know about that. They say that they are Couriers.”

“And what is it that they deliver?”

“Small orbs, like that one.”

“I see,” he said as he cleared his throat before continuing. “You see, we have found one of these orbs in the possession of others who belong to clandestine groups. In fact, we recently questioned your friend Paul. He had an orb as well. We have since been able to link him with clandestine operations and an affiliation with a certain subversive element that the Colonial Authority has deemed dangerous.”

“I assure you that I’m not involved in anything like that.”

“Yet, you have a pretty thick juvenile record.”

“In my youth I was full of myself, which turned out to be a load of crap,” Chase said. “I turned all that around a very long time ago.”

“Tell me what you know about The Resurrection.”

“You mean the thing in the Bible about people rising from the dead?”

“No, I am speaking of the subversive group that calls themselves The Resurrection.”

“Well, obviously you know about them and I don’t.”

“If you have no knowledge of them, then why are you looking for Paul?”

“He’s missing. He was someone that a friend of mine who lives in New Milan met when she and I were in Haven a short while ago. She’s concerned because she was called and questioned when he turned up missing. Apparently she was the last one he was known to have spoken with. Your agency even called me to see if I knew anything simply because I had seen him when she had spoken to him.”

“And where did that happen?”

“As I told your organization before, it was out on the beachside of the causeway. I have seen the guy once, from a distance of a few meters when I was within a coach but we have never spoken to one another.”

“Okay, let me tell you what we know already so that we are beginning on the same page. First, Paul is unquestioningly involved with The Resurrection. We do not know the full extent but we are certain of the connection. You see, like you, Paul has a thick juvenile record. But unlike you he never turned it around. He has been in a bit of trouble almost since he came to Haven, in fact.”

“He was not born here?”

“He came here to live with his aunt and uncle. It was apparently when he was a toddler. His mother and father died. By the time he became an adult, he had several very interesting associations with other juvenile delinquents as well as some adults who were petty criminals. He has never been into anything serious like this before, still it’s a trend, as I am sure you know. For the moment you appear to be one of the exceptions to the rule.”

“Other than inquiring about him on behalf of my friend, I’m not sure why I’m being detained.”

“Paul has gone from a missing person to a suspect and possible fugitive. You were asking about him and when you were detained and searched you have the same sort of strange ball that he had.

“Just because one or even several members of a group have one of these orbs does not necessarily mean that everyone that possesses one of the orbs is part of the subversive group.”

“That was not my suggestion. I’m cognizant of set theory and the flaw in that logic. You say that you aren’t a member and for the time being we will trust your word, until proven otherwise. Your friend in New Milan, is she a girlfriend?”

“She is a client. I was stage manager for her band when they were on tour earlier this year.”

“You indicated that your tour passed through Haven.”

“Of course.”

“I see.”

“The band has played Haven on five occasions, different venues and different times in the tour schedule. It was a yearlong world tour and frankly, it is a small world. It was a frantic pace and I do not remember many of the events as distinct from another.”

“I see. And your friend met Paul during which appearance.”

“It was on the morning after the fifth appearance in the final venue before we left the city. That’s why I recall it clearly.”

“It was not during the actual concert and not immediately afterwards?”

“No, it was afterwards, but it was just after dawn. She had gone out to watch the sunrise. From my direct experience she does that a lot, especially when we were close to the ocean. I went out to find her. I knew where to look so it wasn’t hard. When I found her, she was actually on her way back, on the causeway, just inside the containment but past beachside of the bridge. She was talking to Paul and his uncle. They appeared to be going fishing. From what I could tell they were carrying bang-sticks.”

“Bang-sticks was it? Do you fish?”

“I have a few times, when I was in my teens. It was a novelty to harvest anything from the ocean back then.”

“You indicate you are from Andromeda.”

“Yes, that is where I live. I have lived there for most of my life. Well, you know that already. I was not born there.”

“Haven.”

“Yes, I was born in Haven. My father and I moved to Andromeda when I was pretty young but I still have some relatives here in the city. I have a couple of cousins and an aunt that is still alive. I lost my uncle a few years back. He was the one who took me fishing. I stayed the summer with my aunt and uncle and played with my cousins. My dad thought the change of scenery would be good considering how much trouble I had been getting into in Andromeda.”

“It must have worked to some extent. You have no record here, only in Andromeda.”

“I stayed pretty busy while I was here. So yeah, I didn’t do anything wrong because I didn’t have the time to get into trouble.”

The interrogator turned to his colleague. “Do you have any questions?”

“What was the name of your friend, the one who actually met Paul?”

“Cristina. I’m sure you have all the information somewhere. You called her after his disappearance.”

“And this orb as you call it – what does it do?”

“May I?” Chase held out his hand.

The interrogators looked at one another then the one in possession of the orb delivered it into Chase’s outstretched hand even as he warned them, “Watch.”

In utter amazement the two men sat in silent awe, as the orb remained precisely where Chase quickly withdrew his hand from beneath it.

“It’s some cheap magic trick,” the first interrogator said.

“It’s not yet finished,” Chase said as he looked at the both men until they stared into his eyes. Then suddenly one of that gasped. “Where did it go?”

Chase brought his hand up from beneath the table and opened his palm and there the orb was.

“That’s quite a trick. So all of this is for entertainment?”

“It can be used for amusement, I suppose,” Chase said. “It teaches about the true nature of the illusion that surrounds us. That’s its purpose.”

“I see. So you’re telling me that everyone who has one of these is a magician of some sort.”

“I’m telling you that everyone that has one of these knows that one trick. If not he or she soon will. I do not know what anyone else does or does not do with the orbs. They have a good deal of potential that’s still largely a mystery to me, probably to almost all of us that possess them.”

The second interrogator looked at his partner then smiled. “We appreciate your candor and cooperation. When are you leaving town?”

“Next week.”

“For Andromeda?”

“Yes, I’m going home.”

“You can be reached there, at the numbers you provided.”

“Yes.”

The second interrogator stood. “I suppose we’re through with this for now. If you’ll wait at the front desk I’ll see that your belongings are returned to you.”

Chase stood, then after slipping the orb back into his pocket he shook hands with both the interrogators. The door clicked unlocked and slid open. Chase ventured out into the corridor and down toward the front desk where he was immediately allowed past the security gate. The videophone on the desk rang and the clerk nodded to the image of one of the investigators on the screen before her. She rolled her chair back toward a low tub-style filing cabinet and obtained the sealed package containing all of Chase’s belongings. She retrieved it and offered it up onto the counter between them and requested he verify and sign that he has everything returned to him.

When he exited the station he assumed he was being followed. They might have put some homing device amongst his belongings. It was what the authorities were expected to do with ongoing investigations. For the moment he was free and he would be late for his evening appointment if he did not get back to his room at the hotel immediately, shower and change into more formal attire.

As much as he wanted to call Cristina and tell her there was no real news about Paul, he figured it could wait. He really didn’t have the time and he suspected that all of his calls would be monitored anyway.

When he had finished his shower and changed clothes, he was just getting ready to leave his room when the room’s videophone rang. No one knew where he was, except Julie and so he hurried to pick it up.

“Chase, you don’t know me but we need to meet.”

“Who is this?”

“That’s not important. I know you have meetings and plans all week, but this weekend you are free for a few hours, I’m sure.”

“What’s this about?”

“We can talk then. I’ll meet you.”

“Where.”

“Just leave the hotel on Sunday afternoon. Regardless of the time, I’ll send for you.”

“You’re watching me.”

“Not really watching so much as I know where you are.”

The phone disconnected but Chase held onto the receiver for a few moments before finally returning it to the charging cradle. “It gets weirder and weirder,” he muttered to himself as he gathered his things and headed for the door.

Once he was outside of the hotel he had the distinct feeling that he was being watched, but he did not want to clue in anyone that he was suspicious. He went on about his business, making it to his meeting with a few minutes to spare. In the course of the meeting he attempted to forget about the strangeness of the afternoon interrogation.

When the meeting adjourned, a couple of the others who had attended invited him to a local pub to throw back a few and he obliged, but only after calling Julie to tell her how much he missed her.

By the time he made it back to his hotel it was well past midnight. Even though it was still a decent hour where Cristina lived, he resisted calling her. He wanted to have better news. He did not know what was going on, but was hopeful that on Sunday he would find out something as he suspected the mysterious call had come from Paul.

Chase had meetings all day Friday and all morning Saturday. After his last meeting he went to lunch with a couple of people that he knew very well past arrangements and meetings. Afterwards they went out to an afternoon performance of a play that he had never before seen. He returned to his hotel just before dusk.

Again he resisted calling Cristina. He had no news to tell her anyway and even though it might have been nice to just talk to her he still held back. Instead he watched world viewer in his room and after taking a shower he went to bed fairly early.

Sunday he slept in. Traditionally it was his day off, except for when he was accompanying a tour and there were engagements scheduled on Sunday. Ordinarily, late for him to get up on a Sunday was mid-morning. It was nearly midday by the time he hit the shower and tried to get ready to go out for the mysterious meeting. He was anxious for answers so he wanted to do it as soon as possible, the earlier the better. He didn’t want to be all day about it.

Once Chase dried off and dressed, he checked his messages on his phone. He was thankful there were none. Then he stepped out into the hallway. It was afternoon, he confirmed by glancing at his embedded wrist chronometer.

He rode the elevator to the lobby and assigned funds from his payment key to cover an hour of time with a news tablet to read as he sat outside on a bench. As he read he did not feel that anyone was watching him. In fact he felt very much alone. He took his time digesting the few stories that were of any interest to him then, when he was finished he returned the tablet to the desk clerk inside.

He exited the hotel once more, but this time he went for a walk. He headed toward a nearby park he had seen when he was traveling to and from the hotel between his meetings for the past few days. He walked into the park and found a place to sit down, close to a sandbox, swing set and slide.

There were several children playing there and parents or adult relatives of the children occupied some of the neighboring benches. A few of them eyed him suspiciously as if they were appraising his intent. He tried to be inconspicuous and after a while they all seemed complacent with his presence and ignored him.

He had been in the park for about forty minutes before a couple of young men approached him, seeming to be soliciting, wanting him to buy a subscription for a news blast that he could receive on his implanted cellular phone’s holographic interface imbedded in his wrist.

“I’m not interested,” Chase said.

Then, one of the two men produced a small orb from his pocket. “Perhaps we can interest you in something else?”

“You’re Paul?”

“Of course not. I don’t know where he is,” the man said. “Let’s walk.”

“I am…”

“Names are unnecessary with us,” he interrupted. “We know who you are. It’s best we maintain some level of silence. There are ears everywhere in Haven.”

“I have gotten that impression.”

“Do you have a breathing filter and UV lenses?”

“I didn’t know we would be going outside.”

“We have spares. The lenses are in frames, not contacts. You won’t need them for a time. The secrecy of our operation requires that you be blindfolded.”

“That’s fine. After that the frames will be fine. I’m not a huge fan of contacts anyway.”

“Me neither but it does help conceal our weaknesses from the damned.”

“The damned?”

“The humans. You know, as in condemned.”

“I understand the meaning of the word.”

“Well that’s a start then, isn’t it?”

“We are going outside but to where?”

“There’s a place we go and others meet us there. It is much safer this way.”

“No place is safe,” the other one said. “But it’s trouble to follow us outside the domes.”

“Not anything else until we are outside of Haven,” the other one warned.

“Fine,” Chase responded.

Chase followed them to their coach where they applied a blindfold to him, and then he rode with them to what he assumed was a parking area near one of the causeways, perhaps a different one than Cristina had used in order to access the barrier island and the beach.

He applied the filtering to his nostrils and mouth and adjusted the blindfold, using it in lieu of the UV glasses to protect his eyes before stepping out of the coach. Once they had passed through the airlocks and were outside, another vehicle approached them. He was ushered into it. It was a larger, roomier vehicle that he assumed was a special vehicle the engineers used for traveling in the desert and negotiating a variety of terrains.

“I have never ridden in a Puma,” Chase offered. “If that is what this is.”

“You’re very good at guessing,” one of the two said as he checked the blindfold, making it a little tighter. “Consider this a rare treat, then.”

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere that is away from here. That’s all you need to know for now.”

He sat in quietly contemplating what he was getting into, not knowing if he would be returned or whether he would make his Monday morning meetings. Beyond that, he wondered whether he would see Julie again. As the Puma ventured out past the last vestiges of pavement, Chase could feel the change as they entered the desert, probably to the northwest of the city dome.

They drove for over an hour before they reached a stopping point. There, two men escorted Chase out of the Puma and into a small building. One man removed the blindfold and started to unzip Chase’s jacket.

“I got this,” he protested. “Everything off, I guess?”

The man nodded.

Once his clothes were removed they were checked meticulously for any electronic signatures. Then a man with a detection wand swept it slowly over Chase’s naked body while Chase looked around.

“A climate monitoring station,” Chase suggested.

There was no response. One of the men handed him new clothes to wear and turned to walk away as Chase began getting dressed again. Others who were his approximate height and build appeared from another room. They were wearing exactly the same clothing as he was putting on. When he zipped up the new jacket, completing the process, hoods were placed over not only his head but also they others who were dressed like him. The man with the wand scanned each of them in turn and pronounced each, “Clean!”

He and the others were escorted back out into the hot afternoon sun and quickly put inside a Puma. He could tell from the smell that it was a different vehicle, with a different driver and different attendants. Outside the vehicle he could hear the sounds of at least two other Pumas as they departed before the vehicle he was in went off in, apparently a different direction as the sounds of the other vehicles faded to inaudibility.

No one said anything at all, not once they well were underway. He assumed they were driving toward the mountains in the south. They drove for what felt like two hours. Chase nodded while resisting sleep before finally the Puma pulled into a narrow notch. He could hear the sounds of the walked vehicle reverberating off of rock walls close to the vehicle. They were entering a concealed place, the thought.

Finally, the vehicle came to a halt and all the doors opened. Chase was ushered outside and quickly to a clearing. They handed him protective lenses then removed the hood from his head. He squinted as he waited for his eyes to adjust, and then looked around. There was really nothing to see other than the towering mountains that surrounded the clearing on three sides and the very narrow path between two sheer cliffs through which they must have entered.

As Chase looked up he saw the level of defense the place had, including rocket launchers and guards armed with sonic cannons, rail guns and thermal rifles.

“Quite a place you have here,” Chase said.

“If you like it, it could be your home, maybe your journey starts today,” one of his escorts replied.

“I have meetings in the morning.”

“People have been known to miss meetings and simply disappear.”

“Like Paul?”

One of the escorts laughed. Another said, “He’s your present benefactor. You wouldn’t be here if not for him.” Then he paused, waiting for Chase to settle. “Come, we have a good many things to take care of.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 13 – Opening

**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 outside on the patio of her apartment. It was dark except for the glow from the courtyard lights below. One of the two moons hovered above the horizon, in half phase. The other moon had yet to make an appearance. It was a clear night in contrast to the haze that had dominated the day. Even though the engineers kept promising that the green color of the clouds would soon disappear, Cristina could not discern any difference. She had always seen green clouds in her sky. If that changed, it would seem strange.

Inside the apartment Alix was napping on her couch. He drank a few beers but only a few. They had spent most of the afternoon talking, discussing their shared experience, and lamenting the loss of life for which they felt responsible. It happened long before either of them was born, but they felt responsible.

Alix was sensitive. There was nothing wrong with that. She found it endearing. How could she have been in the same band with him for ten years and not known what a truly remarkable person he was?

In the distance, just above the horizon she could see the telltale fireball from the friction of a shuttle’s descent from orbit, ferrying passengers to New Milan from the orbital platform where interstellar transports docked.

During the last tour Chase suggested promoting their music in other colonies and going on tour in support. She was not averse to the idea, but it seemed a tremendous expense when they were not all that popular on Pravda. Cristina wanted to ensure that their fan base at home could endure their extended absence. Chase thought in the longer term, though. Even if they were going to focus on the nearest colony, it would take more than a local year to accomplish a full tour. They could lose popularity at home in that time.

Cristina turned back toward the open patio door. It was a cool evening. The engineers had installed additional air handlers recently. It seemed an improvement in overall efficiency. Even at the peak of the sun’s heat outside the dome, it was much cooler than she was accustomed. She used to never go out in the heat of the afternoon, but today she had done so. In the middle of the afternoon it was comfortable.

She put on her protective UV lenses and went out to buy more beer. By the time she came back, there was evidence that Alix had been awake, changed some settings on world viewer and having succumbed to the boredom of watching a news show on world viewer, went back to sleep. She put the beer in the refrigerator and went outside on the balcony. There she remained for the rest of the afternoon.

As she stepped back inside the threshold, the apartment phone rang. She reached for the remote to answer it as Alix stretched and then sat up. “It’s Chase,” she said as she read his ID confirmation, wondering why he would be calling again so soon.

“Hey, Cristina and Alix. I wondered if you had heard anything about Paul?”

“Nothing,” Cristina responded.

“I am traveling to Haven tomorrow on business. I’ll check with the authorities while I’m there.”

“I appreciate that,” Cristina said.

“Julie was saying that you should come up for a few days, maybe after I get back from Haven. Of course you’re invited too, Alix.”

“That might be fun,” he said. “There are a lot of good bands and a healthy music scene in Andromeda.”

“It’s why I’m based here”

“Well, I’m all in favor.” Alix looked toward Cristina.

“I’d like to meet Julie.”

“She’s a huge fan of the band and you in particular, Cristina. She loves your voice, but then everyone does.”

“We’ll see. I mean, I have a lot of things on my mind lately.”

“Yeah,” Alix agreed. “We were playing with the orbs earlier.”

“Both of them together?” Chase asked, seeming concerned.

“Yes,” Alix said. “Is that a problem?”

“Well, maybe not after you know how to use them.”

“We saw something,” Cristina said. “It was something disturbing… from the past.”

“What do you know about sand-morphs?” Alix broached the subject.

“Enough to know we shouldn’t discuss them right now. Maybe when you come up we can go out where we can be alone and I can tell you a story or two. But Raven would be the real one to ask.”

Behind him there was movement, and then as she came into focus, Cristina assumed it was Chase’s lady. “Hello, Julie.”

“Hello, Cristina it is nice to finally get to meet you, even if it is via phone. So you’re going to come up for a visit?”

“I am seriously considering it,” Cristina said. “Just I’m still a little tired of traveling and trying to recover.”

“You never recover. You adapt,” Chase offered his seasoned perspective.

Cristina smiled in response. “When are you going to be back from your trip to Haven?”

“The latter half of next week, I’ll give you a call when it’s definite and you can make plans accordingly, how’s that?”

“Okay,” Cristina said. “I should be ready by then.”

“I’ll call you regardless. I’ll let you know what I find out about Paul. Take care.”

“We’ll see you soon,” Julie said.

“Bye Chase; good to meet you, Julie,” Alix said.

Cristina smiled and waved as the call automatically disconnected upon termination from the other end.

“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Alix said as he stood up. “I should get back home.”

“I don’t want to be alone tonight,” Cristina said.

Alix took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I need to shower and change clothes.”

“Go gather some things and hurry back. We’ll sit on the couch and maybe watch a movie,” she said. “I can make some popcorn.”

“I’d like that.”

“It will be fun.”

“I’ll be right back, then,” he said as he reached the door.

“Hurry. I’ll have everything ready,” she said as she stood there in the open doorway.

“Give me an hour,” he said, starting to leave, and then thinking better of it he turned back and kissed her once more before departing.

She watched him down the hall to the elevator and then as the car arrived for him she closed her door. She returned to the patio.

Outside the dome the night had grown darker. The lights from the streets below had become a more relevant source of light than the two moons in their different phases. It would be three more months before they reached full phase at the same time.

She’d learned in school that although the two moons of Pravda were smaller than Earth’s moon, each of them reflected much more light, due in great part to the presence of highly reflective, white ice crystals covering much of the moons’ surfaces. As a result, except for the periods of no moons or times when each were greatly waned, it was relatively bright at night.

There was a sort of unofficial holiday status given to the nights of the ‘double-full’. On such occasions she enjoyed being out until both the moons set. The brightest of nights were more intense than she might have preferred it but she could endure it. It seemed as if she could see the world in greater detail than during the day, but what was best she did not need UV lenses on her eyes.

On tour they had performed outside on a couple of ‘double-full’ nights. Because of the meaning their band’s name, Chase played it up in promotional efforts. As a result the crowd seemed to be different on those nights, more enthusiastic, in a better mood, maybe a little crazier, and a lot wilder than on any other night. Even the other members of the band had seemed to step it up a notch, doing things that pushed the limits, taking the entire performance to a different level. Likewise, Cristina was guilty of over-indulging her special mood.

She lingered on the patio enjoying the coolness of the evening until Alix called her to say he was on his way back. She began preparing popcorn. When popped she dumped it into a large bowl before continuing with the next batch. When she finished filling the bowl, she set it down on the coffee table in front of the couch. Into large tumblers she poured out sodas and sat the drinks on coasters to either side of the bowl.

Using the pass code Cristina had given him, Alix let himself in. “It smells wonderful.”

“There is nothing that smells quite like fresh popcorn,” Cristina agreed.

He went to the directory on her screen. “You want to see something you have or download something new?”

“You choose,” Cristina said.

“Well there’re a ton of movies neither of us have seen.”

“I know,” she said.

“There has to be something you want to see.”

“That one movie – I don’t remember the title. You know the one about that guy who gets lost in his past on Earth.”

“Oh, I know, I know,” he flipped through the download menus, then finding it. “There, this one.”

Cristina looked at the summary, read a bit of it. “Yeah, that’s it. I heard that is pretty good. Some of it was actually shot on Earth.”

“I didn’t know that.” Alix clicked to download it then after he staged the order, he handed the remote to her. “It need’s your code.”

Cristina leaned over and keyed in her ID sequence and almost immediately the download began.

“Do you want to save it?” Alix asked as he resumed control of the remote.

“Yeah,” she said. “Go ahead. We’ll probably watch it again.”

Alix turned up the volume for the sound system then set the remote to one side. Cristina sat the bowl of popcorn between them on the couch as the movie began to stream.

“This is a really good idea,” he said.

“Thank you, for being here for me,” she responded. “I didn’t feel like going out, but I didn’t want to be alone tonight.”

They exhausted the popcorn while occasionally sipping their sodas as the movie progressed. After about an hour, Cristina had removed the bowl from between them and snuggled in closer to Alix, resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. He smiled broadly. There was no other place in the world that he would have rather been.

Cristina opened first one eye then the other, before realizing that at some point the two of them fell asleep, missing the ending of the movie. She tried not to disturb Alix, but as she sat up he stirred and opened both eyes. Surprised at first, then realizing where he was, he smiled. “I guess it’s a good thing we saved the movie,” he said.

“Are you thirsty?” she asked.

“I could use a glass of water.”

“Me too. I’ll be right back,” she said, punctuating it with a wink.

 

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