Colonial Authority: Chapter 35 – Across A Folded Moment

**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.***

As the railcar approached the eastern station in Star City, there were only four passengers who remained seated. Upon arrival, Clare disembarked, silently saying goodbye to Cristina’s mind as she passed by. Alix waved good-bye; she reciprocated.

Cristina mentally noted the two others that remained aboard the railcar: the AE who had boarded at the relay station and one large man who sat toward the rear of the passenger compartment since the railcar left the station in Andromeda. Immediately, she suspected them both.

A few other passengers boarded the train at the station, preparing to leave the city. There would be a brief pause for passengers at the far station as the railcar was scheduled to go all the way to New Milan, a fifteen hour journey from Star City counting the interim stops at relay stations and the longer stops at Delhi, New Paris, New London, and the agricultural research institutes at Qad and another one near Emerald.

Cristina had been weighing the options, considering alternatives, not really mentioning anything but her initial concerns to Alix. She could tell that he was devising strategies as well. Even so she knew they were confident they would be arrested the moment they left the railcar if not arrested for not leaving the car at the next station. No option was too far fetched to consider.

Her entire reason for coming to Star City came into question. She needed to see her brother. She needed to understand the connection she felt, the meaning of the dreams she had. Everything that troubled her sense of peace was about Paul, concerning the trouble he was in.

Even if they could get off the railcar, she wondered if it was wise to involve Raven. Perhaps the authorities would be following them. Despite his generous consent, she did know whether it was wise to risk exposing him to the same danger that she felt was imminent.

The railcar left the first station and within a few minutes it slowed and arrived at the far station, on the west side.

“This is it,” Cristina said as she leaned over and kissed Alix first on the cheek and then on the lips.

“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” he said in response even if he only half-heartedly believed it.

As they stood up, for his part, Alix was prepared to act in an instant. He held onto Cristina’s hand not only for the comfort of knowing that she was beside him, but also for the execution of what he planned but hoped not to need. They headed toward the exit, expecting any second to be accosted. Then, when they exited the railcar they again expected to be surrounded by agents and arrested. Every step they took was with the anticipation of attack. They proceeded cautiously toward the station’s exit. Having long since been separated from their luggage back in Andromeda, they had nothing with them except the clothes on their backs.

Amazingly, there was no resistance, no reaction to them at all. No one seemed to acknowledge them. They went out to the street and stood there at a public transit stop waiting for the coach, which arrived within the few minutes. It was the norm for Starport.

“It’s like nothing ever happened back in Andromeda,” Alix said.

“That’s what’s bothering me,” Cristina confessed. She kept probing, seeking anyone that might be following them or monitoring their movements. If there was anyone, they were well out of the range of her senses or deftly concealing their thoughts. As inexperienced as she was with her abilities, she did not know how wide her range was but it did not comfort her that she could not detect anyone who knew about them. It made no sense. They had been approached in Andromeda and detained for questioning. The authorities pursued them for resisting arrest. They escaped only to be shot at and nearly killed by a couple of explosions. They should not have arrived in Star City without having someone waiting for them. They were fugitives, after all.

Because of the confusion she was still very apprehensive about going to Raven’s estate. What if they – the controlling forces that she knew nothing about but yet suspected – were monitoring her from just beyond her perception? What if they were lying back hoping that she would lead them to her accomplice? She could be setting Raven up for unwanted trouble. She did not want to do that at all. She activated her travelcom and tapped her earlobe and then her wrist to execute the holographic projection in her palm to call Raven but then thought better of it. Her implanted phone would surely be monitored.

“You’re really nervous,” Alix whispered.

“Where are they?”

“It isn’t like I have anymore of a clue than you do right now.”

“I know. It’s just…it’s making me crazy. I expect them to jump out at any moment, and maybe, we shouldn’t even be doing what we are doing. I don’t want anyone else to get into any trouble.”

“That’s just it. I’m not sure why we are in trouble. Yeah, so, we ran away but that was after they beat me…us, for no reason, really. Why did they want to arrest us in the first place? Because you know Paul?”

The stop for ‘The Crosstown’ was coming up. As the coach slowed, Cristina took Alix’s hand and led the way to the door. He helped her step down from the coach onto the curb. As Alix glanced down along the street he could already see the next coach for their connection approaching. “We’re really getting lucky.”

“It was like this last time. The Starport system in Star City is amazing,” Cristina leapt at the chance to talk about anything that was not about her imminent concerns.

“And it’s free.”

“It has always been.”

“Why isn’t something like this free everywhere?” Alix asked.

“I don’t know,” Cristina said. “I suppose that every city has something unique that makes it special, maybe even better than any other place in some way. Besides there is nothing free in government services. Somehow Star City figured out how to do it in a way that everyone can appreciate and not care to be taxed for it.”

“I guess I just never knew all that much about Star City,” Alix said. “No matter where you are coming from it is always a long trip just to get here. I guess the city is okay once you get here.”

Cristina wrapped her arms around his right arm, “I’m still really worried.”

“We have been pretty fortunate so far.”

“That’s what’s got me on edge,” she responded.

“On the edge is better than over the edge,” Alix countered, forcing a smile. “Pete always says that.”

“I really miss the guys. Maybe we should just head back home and explain everything to the authorities in New Milan.”

“I’m beyond ready to go home. I would have gone home two days ago, but I thought finding Paul was important to you.”

“It is, but I’m wondering is it really worth it – all the risk to everyone else?”

“If you don’t do this now, you’ll always regret it.”

She looked down.

“You know I’m right.”

“I know,” she admitted.

Alix looked up at the digital display for the streets, showing where they were on an overhead map display. “How much further is it?”

“Not far,” she said. “We get on the east bound coach at ‘The Hills’. Then it’s the seventh exit.”

“So we’re going there anyway?”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, Alix. It seems like nothing has happened, nothing at all. No one is following us, no one that I can perceive. Everything is quiet in the city.”

“It’s almost eerie.”

“Yeah,” Cristina said.

When they reached their stop and exited from the coach, they were immediately picked up by another coach and delivered to a stop that was only a few dozen meters from Raven’s estate. They ascended the hill, while Cristina begged him to let her do all the talking.

“No problem there. From your description of Raven, I’m not sure I want to even meet him, let alone piss him off by inadvertently saying something wrong.”

Cristina turned and kissed him. “I don’t think I could have done this without you.”

Alix shrugged in response, and then added, “We’re in this together aren’t we?”

Cristina smiled as they reached the front door of the estate. She tugged on the rope and then they waited. She was just getting ready to tug the rope again when the door opened.

“Dom, how are you?”

“I’m fine, Cristina. To my knowledge The Master is not specifically expecting you. Did you make an appointment directly with him that perhaps he forgot to tell me about?”

“He knew that we were coming, but so should –”

“Very well, please wait here, I shall return promptly,” he said, interrupting her and then closed the door.

“At least he remembers you,” Alix offered.

“I doubt that he forgets anyone. He’s a special type of manufactured being, an organic android.”

“A what?”

“They used them to build all the translation thresholds, back when people still lived on Earth.”

Alix nodded as he realized, “He’s a DOMLIB, then.”

“You know about them.”

“Yeah, I heard some things about them, not always good.”

“Well that’s what makes all of this very weird. I spoke to him on the phone as well. He doesn’t seem to recall.”

Presently, Dom returned to the door. “Cristina, the Master says it cannot possibly be you.”

“What?”

“He said that if it is you, then you would have certainly called in advance because you know how he is about appointments.”

“But I did call,” she protested, and then paused to glance at her chronometer. “It was about twenty-hours ago!”

“He said if it is really you, then you have not come by railcar. He saw a report on world viewer indicating you were seen in Andromeda at a club in town and there has been insufficient time for you to get here by railcar. So if it is truly you, then you have not come by that means. Perhaps you came by other means.”

“But that’s precisely how we came, by railcar. We came as soon as we could. I called Raven yesterday morning.”

“Perhaps the Master forgot. I do not recall the call either and I suspect I would have answered,” Dom said.

“You did! That’s what’s so very weird,” Cristina said. “I mean maybe Raven forgets a few things, but you remember everything.”

“The things the Master has forgotten in the past he sometimes wants to. But you are correct; it is rare. And yes, I remember everything.”

“Look, go back to him and tell him this. It’s certainly me. You know that already. And say that, I know who he is, who he really is,” Cristina said.

“Are you sure?” Dom asked. “I recall the last person who learned his true identity and made it known to him met with an unfortunate incident.”

“Just tell him you’re certain it’s me and I know who he really is.”

“As you wish,” Dom said, even bowing slightly, and then closed the door once again.

“Do you really know who he is?”

“At this point it’s sort of a bluff,” Cristina said. “I have some suspicions, though. It will anger him, maybe enough for us to get past the front door.”

Promptly Dom returned opening the door and allowing Cristina and Alix inside, at least to stand in the foyer.

“Was it any clue that I might have yielded?” Raven said as he floated out of a room at the far end of the hall.

“I reasoned it out, the timing, the birthdates.”

Raven approached the foyer.

“Raven, this is my friend Alix.”

“Well met, Alix,” Raven said as he offered his hand. “So, which one of you is it who manipulated a fold?”

“What is a fold?” Cristina asked.

“Okay, well, I will assume it was Alix, then,” Raven stared at him, making him extremely uncomfortable.

“I’m not familiar with that term, other than taking two sides of a sheet of something and pressing them together.”

Raven laughed. “I am speaking of time, or rather a perception of the passage of time. Since you are obviously here as Dom has confirmed and he never makes a mistake, and to me you appear to be who you claim, I must deduce that since I have no recollection of any prior conversation with you about your coming, then you must be early, earlier than your call, which now I’m expecting in about four hours.”

“You’re saying this is yesterday?”

“No, this is today,” Raven stated. “It’s my today. However that does not mean it is your today. It could well be even earlier than your yesterday. I doubt too much earlier because as impressive as negotiating a fold is, doing it for any interval longer than a day or a two requires some understanding of astral physics and projecting to a point in space and time where the destination was.”

“That’s what Alix was saying earlier,” Cristina said. “I didn’t understand it then, either.”

“The world around us is always in motion, revolving on its axis, orbiting our sun and gradually following its orbital path around the hub of the galaxy.”

“Yes, and I must say I’m very impressed. Your knowledge of astral physics is unanticipated,” Raven praised.

Alix smiled in response. “I studied physics in high school and did a term report on the orbits of the other planets in this solar system. And I studied the electromagnetic spectrum and how it relates to music before I dropped out of the conservatory.”

“You must have done a good deal of research on your own. Your knowledge is well beyond orbital trajectories and the audible range of the EM.”

“Everything is music to me, Raven,” Alix said.

Raven chuckled. “You know, I won’t debate that issue with you because in a very real sense you are completely correct. Music is certainly one of the foundations. Of course, there are further complications.”

“There always are,” Alix said.

“What you haven’t considered is plotting courses and trajectories for dealing with extended intervals of years because there is a slight movement of the galaxy as it seems to be moving away from other galaxies but it is believed that all the while it is orbiting a theoretical point in space/time where everything began,” Raven explained. “The farther one would travel in time, the greater the complexity of the calculations of the space coordinates.”

“Is that possible?” Cristina asked.

“What is not possible? If you lack imagination then the answer seems to be ‘everything’. But as long as you can dream, there is nothing that’s not possible.”

“That’s very close to a quote from a book my father used to read it to me,” Cristina interrupted.

“I’m impressed. I’ll bet you were very precocious as a child.”

“I imagine everyone with the attributes was,” Alix said.

“I’ll bet you know the author,” Cristina suggested. “I’ll bet you know him really well.”

“We have shared many things,” Raven said rather evasively as he glanced toward her, suddenly wondering what Cristina might sense directly. He knew she possessed the skills of a telepathic empath. For one of the few times in his life he was concerned that someone could read his mind without his knowing it.

“I love that book. I always insisted my father read to me from it.”

“The author, Hunter is the third or fourth wisest man I have ever known,” Raven said, more than anything as a way of diverting her thoughts.

“Why the hedging?”

“Well, I knew Terrence Phillip Harper personally.”

“The chief architect,” Alix said. “The father of the photon processor…the man who synthesized organic memory cells.”

“Again, you impress me, Alix.”

“Sometimes I read when we are riding on the railcars on tour,” Alix explained.

“I think most people believe Harper contributed directly to our achievements but also many if not most of our problems and present dilemmas. So the jury is out as to his overall wisdom. Despite knowing him very well, in his latter years I despised him while still respecting his quick mind and all of his scientific accomplishments.”

“Who were the others?” Cristina pursued. “Who was there any wiser?”

“People you probably never heard of. Lao Wei taught me martial arts when I lived in Taiwan for a few years. I was studying advanced Chinese Mandarin there. He is by far the wisest man I ever met.”

“And the others?”

“Well Hunter, as I have said. But also my dearest friend of all, Brent Woods.”

“I don’t recognize the name.”

“And he would be curiously flattered that you don’t.”

“Why?”

“He was an obscure author in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. We met by accident, literally – although I have learned through direct experience there are no accidents? He saved my life that first occasion and then many times after. The situations always occurred in very unexpected ways. I think what I respect the most about him is he truly and honestly does not care at all about money or fame. He does whatever he feels is necessary to help his friends through their personal crises. Including Lee Anders Johnston, a popular Country musician of the late Twentieth Century.”

“Johnston was a poet in his later life,” Cristina said.

“And an theorist,” Alix added. “He contributed greatly to the understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Raven chuckled. “Lee claimed he sucked at poetry, but still he took stabs at it. Brent said he sucked at it even worse than Lee. Whenever he did what emerged surprised him. Early on, Lee set some of Brent’s verse to music and they became hit songs. One of them won a Grammy.”

“A prestigious award of the time, I assume,” Cristina said.

“It meant you had arrived in the mainstream of popular music culture on Earth,” Raven explained. “In America, anyway.”

“I think I might like Brent,” Cristina said.

“Yes, you would. And I’d bet you could talk about writing lyrics.”

“So, back to our present situation. You don’t know how early we are?” Alix asked.

“We can look at the holographic displays for our phones,” Cristina suggested.

“I have often wondered if the nano-circuits would endure the transition to remain a viable reference?” Raven pondered.

Cristina tapped her earlobe then her wrist.

“It’s the fourteenth, 6:47 AM.”

Raven chuckled. “Well, the conditions of the shift in space and time have no effect on the implants. You are exactly two days and five minutes early.”

“So, what happens in two days? Do we collide with ourselves?” Cristina asked.

“How could you? You’re already here,” Raven said.

“We have created another event stream,” Alix explained. “We carry on as we are because this is how it is. We arrived earlier than expected, before we called. So two days from now there will be no one to arrive when originally expected because we are already here and have been for two days.”

“Precisely right,” Raven said.

“Wait, when I spoke to you on the phone you said a few odd things.”

“My dear Cristina, I cannot speak for what I will say to you in the near future, but I know what I might be feeling under those circumstances. I do not like deceiving friends. I will carefully parse words to avoid it. Because you are already here, when you call to ask permission to come, to me we will have discussed all of this already. I doubt I will say anything other than something vaguely true without revealing the full truth to you.”

“But we just arrived here, so how would you know about all of this before this ever happened? I mean, well not you but the future you?” Cristina pursued.

“That’s just it,” Alix attempted to explain his understanding. “We entered an event stream where this set of circumstances is possible. So of course, it connects directly back to what we have already experienced in our shared past.”

“You’re saying we did exactly what we needed to do.”

“Being us we had no alternative,” Alix said with firm conviction. “We caused this event stream.”

“This is giving me a headache,” she complained. “Especially this early in the morning and after riding a railcar all night. Trying to sleep en route is like finding a comfortable place in a small linen closet.”

Raven sighed. “I have always hated traveling, regardless of the mode of transportations. But my suggestion for the headiness of your situation is to just accept it as I have. I’m prematurely your host for the next couple of days. Dom, please make the necessary preparations for their accommodations and meals. I’m taking them to my study. I have a pitcher of tea in there, so we should be fine. Just bring them some glasses.”

“As you wish, Master.”

When Cristina entered the study she went immediately to the couch where she sat before and settled there in front of the simulated fire that was raging brightly in the fireplace. Alix cautiously sat down beside her, and then as Raven hovered over the same rocking chair where he always sat when entertaining guests, Dom returned with glasses for them and poured everyone ice teas from a pitcher.

Alix started to replay the events of the escape from Andromeda in his mind as Cristina explained, “They arrested us.”

He interrupted. “We escaped because of a trick I learned from the orb. We took an armored vehicle. We expected that they were waiting for us to arrive at the station to depart Andromeda. We evaded them until they locked in on our position and they started shooting at us and setting off explosions around us.” Alix shuddered as he mentally relived the event.

“You wanted to escape from that situation?” Raven asked.

“Wouldn’t you?

Raven chuckled, “Of course I would.”

“I didn’t know if it would work, but it was something I had done before when I played with the orb. I knew I could be somewhere else in a thought and I hoped that by holding Cristina I would take her with me.”

“You shifted, beneath the veils,” Raven clarified.

“Yes,” Alix said. “I mean I guess you’d call it that. I did it before but on a lesser scale.”

“Is that all?”

“Where we were was fine inside the armored vehicle for a while,” Cristina said. “Then they started attacking with more powerful weapons.”

“An armor piercing round…it exploded just as we shifted again,” Alix said.

“So, you shifted twice?” Raven asked for clarification.

“Yes, the explosion was so close I felt the heat from it as I grabbed hold of Cristina’s hand and suddenly we were sitting aboard the railcar.”

Raven listened intently. Then after some moments for consideration, he looked directly into the young man’s eyes, “Tell me, Alix, what was different about the two shifts?”

“I’m not sure,” Alix said.

“They were not the same.”

“They did not feel the same, no. I figured I was a lot more scared the second time.”

“What were your thoughts, the first time?”

“We needed to get away from the people who captured us.”

“What about the second time?” Raven prodded.

“I really wanted to get out of there, make everything different, and change what was happening. We were in trouble. The authorities were after us. We were fugitives…I never wanted to be that in my life, having to live in fear for the rest of my life, always running away.”

Raven nodded. “There was a very profound difference in your mindset. I assume you do not know how to fold time even though it is a very small step from being able to shift position beneath the veils.”

“Obviously we traveled back in time, whether Alix knew he was doing that,” Cristina stated.

“The concept of traveling is probably not the best term for it. Traveling suggests there was some interval for the process. In this case it was instantaneous. I believe relocating or repositioning in time would be more accurate.”

“This is the past, though,” Alix confirmed to his mind’s peace.

“It depends on perspective and aspect, does it not? For you it is; for me it is the present. It is as I indicated before. As impossible as that might sound, it is the only explanation for how you are here and your chronometer says the date is two days from now. You claim you spoke to me yesterday but that has not yet happened.”

“I’m not comfortable with being in the past.”

“My dear Cristina, what my friend Hunter said more eloquently than I could have is that, if anyone can do it, then it is possible. I have done it many times,” Raven revealed. “Knowledge is powerful, having all knowledge is merely omniscience, but there is the illusion of omnipotence.”

“Do you have that kind of power?”

“I sought to possess all knowledge for a time,” Raven revealed. “I suppose that in a way I was following my heritage, learning the fallacy of my father’s quest. He desired power and realized at some point that information was really the means to gain advantage and obtain of the level of power he sought. It is a very short step from seeking information alone to delivering someone close to omniscience but certainly not to the omnipotence that my father really sought. Knowing everything would of its curious nature make someone inherently impotent.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“To know every possible outcome would restrict you from doing anything that might lead to an undesired outcome. Since in any event stream there will always ben an undesired potential outcome…”

“I see,” Alix said. “That’s astute.”

“It’s why we’re human, not gods,” Cristina offered. “Both you and your father sought to be godlike, but ultimately failed.”

Raven chuckled. “Where were you when I needed your insight and advice?”

“In your future,” she said.

“Obviously,” he responded, but then, after a pause, he continued. “I understood it was an ideal state of being my father sought. He was dealing with the absolute aspects of life and nature. But that did not deter me from a similar quest. At an early age I began to perform tricks that I had acquired in the process of learning to manipulate the universe around me. They amazed my father.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong in my assumption,” Cristina prefaced. “But if we have gone back a couple of days, then couldn’t we go back further in time?”

“You are asking me to speculate on Alix’s abilities and the general possibilities of the universe. Everything is possible! Hunter said it and I don’t dispute it. Whether Alix or perhaps you could accomplish it is another matter.”

Cristina reached over and grasped her boyfriend’s hand. “We could stop what happened right before we left Andromeda.”

“Perhaps, but that sets up all sorts of quandaries that makes even the most learned men and most visionary thinkers have swirling confusion in their thoughts,” Raven suggested.

“The paradoxes.”

“Well, actually those are most often self-nullifying,” Raven said. “Changing something in the past modifies an event stream to which the future is thereafter attached. But it is suddenly a very different future than might have been expected before. Depending on how far back you go to change an event, the changes may be more dramatically expressed, but always it is always along a new path.”

“And the closer the change is to the present the less deviation is possible but also the less the impact on everything around it.” Cristina offered.

“What do you propose we do?” Raven asked as he focused on her eyes, knowing she intended something.

“Just some thoughts –” she began to say.

Alix interrupted, “Personally, I might just sit here and wait for this to become the new variant as we will have by then come here a couple of days early and eventually everything will be the same as it would have been anyway.”

“Except that you got here before the authorities could detain you,” Raven countered. “And from what Cristina said it has something to do with Paul.”

“That will not change what we are. We will still eventually become fugitives, “Alix said. “If we make it back to Andromeda, or maybe even call ourselves and explain what is going on…”

“Would you listen?” Raven asked. “Either of you?”

“Maybe not.”

“I know you wouldn’t. The premise is too far outside of your prior experiences.”

“How can you be certain?” Cristina asked.

“Even if you listened it would create yet another event stream, using Alix’s particularly apt terminology. So it would not appear to affect you and Alix of the here and now, but instead create yet another instance deviation from the expected events. You would follow that stream because you created the novelty. But there would also forever be an Alix and Cristina trapped in this present and uncertain scenario,” Raven paused for a few moments before continuing. “One likely outcome of calling yourselves would be that the couple you are in Andromeda of the here and now would think it a prank call of some raving lunatics. It would be just as it was in my day,” he stood up from the chair and floated over to the imitation fire and waved his hand before it. “If it were but real I would have one very, very hot hand.” He left it there for emphasis, allowing the flames to tickle it. I’d be blistering my skin by now, in a lot of pain and perhaps even entering a second degree of burn. Leaving my hand in the flame, as it appears to be, my flesh would rapidly deteriorate until it became cooked, and then charred and blackened. At that point my pain might have turned into brief agony, but I assure you immediately afterwards it would become numbness. That is what it feels like to burn alive.”

Both Alix and Cristina stared at their host.

“Have you endured that experience?” Cristina asked. “Or was that intended to diverting our attentions.”

“I never say anything that is unnecessary, not anymore,” Raven proclaimed. “Look, here is what I know. I can save you a lot of aggravation in the process, if you listen. Of course you could remain here and continue to create thousands of scenarios until one might sort of work out as you intended. But then you’d end up replaying that fiasco many times before the overall accumulation of frustration becomes a critical enough mass to forego any future attempts to change events in the past to suit your tastes and desires.”

“Okay,” Alix said. “I think I follow that.”

“This is what I know,” Raven shared. “People from the future do not routinely call people in the past, not so much as it is impossible but that rarely would work out favorably. According to what you have told me about your version of my future, your brother Paul is apparently on his way to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow morning. He will thwart the authorities attempts to subdue him and will come here for my help.”

“Which you will not do.”

“Why would I get involved in his lunacy?” Raven asked.

“Maybe we can change some of that,” Alix proposed.

“How?” Cristina asked.

“I don’t know yet. I mean we have to think this through. Maybe it is not ‘us’ that we have to change but Paul or his situation.”

“No, the problem is you shouldn’t be involved,” Raven suggested.

“We are or rather were…will be – I guess,” Alix replied.

“I understand that, but I will not participate. It’s not my battle,” Raven said adamantly. “When he arrives here, begging for help, he will already be a pursued fugitive. It is far too risky for any of us to be involved with him. Look where just knowing him has already gotten the two of you.”

“He’s my brother. I have to do something.”

“We have to, “ Alix expressed his support.

“I know that, Cristina,” Raven said. “After he comes here, which you have told me he will do, he will continue until the authorities find him and incarcerate him. Or the affiliated local cell of The Resurrection may find him and seclude him for his own good as well as theirs, which will be like a prison for him in its way.”

“Has anything like this ever happened before to you?” Alix asked.

“What?” Raven asked.

“You sort of indicated that you played with time to correct past mistakes.”

“And it never worked out. It’s a waste of time, more time than you could ever possibly know.”

“Why did you do it?”

“I wanted to save a friend,” Raven looked away from Alix and Cristina. He wandered toward a window and suddenly parted the heavy drapes that normally shut out the light from the outside.

Quickly he turned then met the solemn stares of incomprehension from his guests.

“It would be a very effective test for those who bear the attributes except that you persist in wearing the protective UV lenses…”

“Now, I understand,” Cristina said. “I thought it was an odd quirk until now. Like maybe you somehow felt compelled to bring sunlight from outside into the room for however briefly.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you’re eccentric,” Cristina allowed.

“And the difference between insanity and eccentricity is the ability to afford someone to take care of you at home so that others don’t need to see how crazy the world has made you.”

“You have Dom to look after you,” Cristina said.

“Yes, and I have prevented the authorities from confiscating him for the general good,” Raven was quick to point out.

“Your perpetual friend who spares you from the mundane chores of existence.”

Raven smiled with subdued wryness. “It has never been except for always. If you figure that riddle out, you may eventually know the truth.”

Cristina closed her eyes and focused for a few moments, trying to sort through everything she had just learned and applying it to the knowledge of the orb. Then faintly, she heard a voice, a voice she had heard previously that awakened her from a dream. It was a mental voice as it lacked timber or volume. Yet, she heard its plea, then, “Help us!” Still, hearing did not mean she understood it.

“You said you were coming here to find Paul. We know he will be here tomorrow. I will send him away. He’ll be a wanted man before that. The authorities will be relentless in pursuing him. According to what you told me they accuse him of killing a man. Even if I believe it was a purposeful execution, I know what Paul or for that matter any one of you can potentially do, I do not doubt the accusation.”

“I just need to see him and talk for a few minutes. Maybe it won’t matter much, but I think I know something that he doesn’t and it might persuade him to reconsider,” Cristina requested.

“The Resurrection intends some craziness about bringing a sand-morph back to life,” Raven said as he shook his head.

“If it is possible,” Alix said.

“What may prove impossible is the remedy afterwards,” Raven said. “There is the unknown variable, whether anything resurrected will have memories. If it does not, then it can be trained to learn our languages, perhaps. However, if it does retain memories, The Resurrection will need an empathic person to interpret.”

“That’s why they need me, then,” Cristina said.

Raven nodded slowly as he looked at her. “That is why they are so desperately interested in you. It is why Paul needed to approach you with his personal pleas. You see, empathy is something that all of us have as potential, but you possess the ability at the forefront of your being. You can feel with precision what others feel, sharing the experience, the pain and the thoughts associated with existence. That is a very rare gift, indeed.”

Alix looked to Cristina seeking some confirmation. She nodded in response. “It is also why I can talk without talking.”

Raven smiled, “Telepathy may be associated, but it is not the same thing. You do not need it in order to know how someone feels.”

“Can you read my mind,” Alix asked her.

“Sometimes, especially when your emotions are strongest.”

He looked away.

“I don’t make a habit of intruding.”

“But you have?”

“Never intentionally,” Cristina insisted. “I respect privacy, especially yours.”

“Well I don’t want you in my head. I have enough issues in there already.”

“Fine, I’ll try harder,” Cristina snapped back.

“Look, I just want for this nightmare to be over. I want to get back home, record new music and go back on tour and never again have to worry about sand-morphs or what Paul’s up to.”

“That potential may no longer be possible,” Raven interjected. “According to what you are telling me, Paul will become something beyond the mere man. That demands to be dealt with. If this is not handled properly there may be a grand witch-hunt for everyone with the attributes. Likely as not, it would spread to include even the Couriers. In so doing, the Colonial Authority would guarantee not only their demise but also the end of human culture and achievement.”

 

To Be Continued In:

The Resurrection

The Attributes Book Two

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 34 – Confrontation

**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 entered his second day of voluntary captivity. After eating breakfast, he began reading another book. Perhaps he would eventually exhaust the contents of the memory cube – at least the Mods containing books he had not already read – before it was deemed safe for him to come out of hiding. Still, he suspected Tam and the others would relocate him soon. As risky as moving him might be it was more dangerous for him to remain in one place.

He had no complaint about the service. It was everything Tam promised. Despite the quarters being cramped it was what it had to be. No one had found him. For the present, he felt safe.

A troubling dream woke him early on in his sleep. Afterwards, he had rested uncomfortably lapsing briefly in and out of other dreams. As vivid as if it were really happening, when he recalled it with wakeful mind he took it as a premonition or a forgone conclusion. What worried him was it involved Cristina. He believed that maybe there were times when it was quiet and he was not otherwise focused and he could see and feel what she was experiencing.

In the dream people were chasing her. There were explosions around her. She was in imminent peril. She needed his help more so than ever before. What could he do? He was in hiding. Helping anyone let alone her seemed unlikely. Then there was another feeling – an odd sensation he did not understand. How could she be in two places at once?

As his mind lingered in consideration, the potentials swirled confusing and frustrating him to the point the only rational way of dealing with it was discounting his dream altogether. Still, there was something very important about Cristina. He had to see Tam. They had to protect her, too. He wanted to at least get the word out to him that she was in danger. But none of the people who brought him meals or attended to him as he showered and changed clothes would permitted to talk to him – aside from polite exchanges of his expressed gratitude.

He didn’t want to go anywhere else. He just wanted to get word to Tam so he would know Cristina might be in trouble. He didn’t know why or when it began but he sensed her presence. If she were not in Star City already, then she would be arriving soon.

He wondered why she would want to come to Star City, but then he had been heading to Andromeda for a single reason as well. Clearly, they both felt it. Their mutual need and shared destiny compelled them. There was something important about the reunion. Something perches on the knife’s edge of lunacy, doubled in this crazy world. It was past his mind’s grasp. Hopefully, she understood it.

The meals came on schedule. At the appointed time so did his shower and change of clothes. He had finished another book, for the most part. He had skipped past a few boring paragraphs on subjects that he already felt that he knew a lot about and skimmed through some portions that were highly scientific in their detail and well beyond his level of interest or comprehension. He was reading about the aftermath of the DOMLIB insurrections in the near-Earth colonies. The author suggested it was a revolt of former slaves, suggesting the manufactured organic beings had acquired human desires for freedom and self-determination.

The book went to great lengths to chronicle and catalogue the destruction and devastation. Yet nowhere did it explain how humans survived the onslaught. To Paul it was like reading a story then getting to the last chapter and finding that the last few pages were missing.

He knew what happened, of course. Every school child learned of the triumph. It had become a legend discussed as a mysterious act of amazing foresightedness. How could anyone have possibly known or even suspected the possibility that would necessitate the inclusion of a failsafe feature designed into the DOMLIBs. Programmed into their essential nature was a command override that would shut them down in the event of malfunction or violation of the essential core programming parameters to serve mankind.

Paul sat on the cot in his tiny, cramped corner of the world and pondered how anyone would have ever thought that the DOMLIBs might turn out to be dangerous. Had it really been intuition or foresight? Could it have been based on information? The later possibility troubled him the most because the source of such information would have had to somehow deliver the warning across the apparently unassailable barrier of time.

In the memory cube there were a few fiction works that he knew were often attributed to Hunter even if there had never been any official confirmation. Hunter had been a famous author of biographies and histories. To anyone’s knowledge he had never published any works of fiction. Yet the mysterious works anonymously penned existed. If they belonged to Hunter why wouldn’t he have claimed them?

The books had established a broad cult following that grew over the decades until the fantasies were regarded as classics. Other authors built upon the well-defined universe proposed in the series to write their own stories of other characters in the strange world across a continuum of concentric spheres called Anter’x.

Some of the speculation stemmed from the use of a common publisher, a company that was at one time owned in part by Joseph Henderson. Even though the publisher had never published fiction before and after refused to accept submissions from other authors, the series of fantasies were printed, distributed and promoted. Over time, and the slow growth of a cult following, the works outsold every other publication of the company, combined.

Hunter was the sole male heir of his industrialist father’s wealth. During the late Twentieth Century Hunter assumed the reigns of the corporate empire. Under Hunter’s direction the corporation developed pioneering technologies that transcended the trends of the times. HenCo, renamed EthosCorp, developed and launched central processing units for computers that were based on photons not electrons. The company integrated control of a worldwide wireless network of communications called Ethosphere and charges licensing fees to use devices that interfaced directly with the global communications network. And they developed the technology for mass production of organic computers, which led directly to the creation of DOMLIBs.

On the morning of the third day of his isolation, Paul was waiting for the man who came with breakfast, begging him to get the message to Tam about Cristina. The man didn’t even respond. There was no indication that he had heard the message as he simply sealed the wall and left.

Paul fell back on the bed and cried out of his frustration. He did not know how it was possible but he felt the truth. Because of him Cristina was imperiled? He had to get out. He had to find her. He had to jump the next guy who delivered food. By then would it be too late?

She would be coming by railcar, if she had not already arrived. He didn’t know which concerned him more – that she was coming or that she might already be in the city. He had sensed her unmistakable presence in the alley as Tam and the others escorted him to his present hiding place. He was certain of the sensation. Even if it made no sense to him why she would be there, he had felt her mind touching and probing. Could he have imagined it? Regardless of his past sensations, he needed to safeguard the possibility of her arrival by railcar.

He got up and paced what floor there was, nervous, anxious, hoping that word would get to Tam in time, but it was futile. It was part of the deal, wasn’t it? There could be no further contact until things settled.

Paul sat down at the desk, and began what had become his daily ritual, reading. He needed to take his mind off of his worries and so he began reading one of the works of fiction that Hunter had allegedly penned anonymously in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.

What often was cited in argument against the theory that the work belonged to Hunter was the fiction works were written in a completely different style. Based on his non-fiction, many scholars did not believe Hunter could have written the works. The only other possibility that ever gained traction in literary circles over the decades of debate was Hunter might have used his influence to arrange for the works of a friend to be published, perhaps even convincing the publisher they were really his attempts at fiction.

Despite Hunter’s wealth and celebrity, early on in the Twenty-First Century he’d become a renowned recluse, carrying on into his latter years. He refused to accept visitors, only family and a select few friends. Many in the inner circle were writers and artists he met and respected enough to develop longer term relationships.

Having read for about an hour, he was attention consumed, it was a story he had heard about but had never found the time to read. There were adaptations of the book rendered into other media over the decades, including a play from which two films were produced. He had seen one of them as a young child.

Set on an improbable world with three suns and three moons, hellish Anter’x was wracked with violent storms and inhabited by wild, magical beings. There were two young creatures called wolfcats. They lived in the more temperate part of the north. They were part wolf, part cat and part human.

“Gene-splicing,” Paul said aloud as he looked up from the text just as the wall opened, in the same way that he had come to expect. It surprised him as his mind had been absorbed in the text. Had the morning passed that quickly? He checked his chronometer for confirmation. Just as he had thought it was too early for lunch. He stood up from the desk, not knowing what he would do, there was nowhere to run if this was the result of the authorities discovering of his hideout.

Then he sighed with his relief as he recognized Tam.

“This had better be the most important thing imaginable.”

“Cristina is either here already or she is on her way here.”

“I have had people at the stations for several days.”

Paul relaxed, and then looking back at Tam, he asked, “Both?”

“Yes, we are covering both.”

Paul relaxed again. “The authorities will be…”

“They will be doing what they always do. We can deal with it. Okay. Is that all there was?”

“Then she is not here yet?”

“No one has seen her. The last railcar from Andromeda was just after Midnight. There is not another railcar from Andromeda before…well about now. I have to be honest with you if there are no authorities at the station my people will not long linger once a railcar arrives.

“She will be traveling with her boyfriend,” Paul said.

“Even if she and her boyfriend arrive in the station, if there is no reaction, my people are out of there. She will never even know they were there.”

“I hope I’m wrong about her coming here or being here already but if I’m right…”

“I have enough people, my best actually. If they find her and her friend I have a place for her and her boyfriend to be safe.”

“Not in this building.”

“Of course not,” Tam said with parsed irritation. “Look this is my operation. For your sake there had better be something going down to make this worth the expenditure of my team.”

“I’m sorry to impose.”

“As well you should be. Frankly, I cannot wait for you to leave town. But I’m committed to ensuring that you are safe. I will honor my promises. This is a favor that had best be remembered.”

“Anything you ever ask of me I will provide.”

Tam nodded. “I trust everything has been according to my promise.”

“Your people are the best.”

“Yes, of course they are. I trained them personally,” Tam said, and then he turned and immediately after he left the wall closed and sealed behind him.

Paul felt more at ease although he was concerned Tam’s arrogance might blind him and his team to unexpected dangers. After all, Paul evaded his team. Then, he had not evaded Tam, but Tam was not with his teams at the railcar stations.

The more his mind raced with the implication and variables, the more powerless he felt. He needed to return to diversion, the story that he was reading to take him mind off the elements of worry that confronted him. He sat down at the desk again and picked up where he had left off reading about a fantastic world and two young wolfcats belonging to a community of humanoid wolves numbering in the ten thousands called the Pack.

As absorbing as the book was his mind kept returning to his concern for Cristina and his worry. Despite Tam’s bravado, he would not be able to protect her. Paul wanted to be there, but maybe it was too great of a risk…for her if not him. He believed that he could handle himself, but he did not want to risk her life in any way.

He had barely noticed, but his lunch was late. He was absorbed in the book again. It told of the culture and civilization of the wolf pack in such detail that he could easily believe they might be real. Then, as the unusual tardiness extended toward an hour, the wall swept open more violently than ever before, startling him as he stood up. Agents of the Colonial Authority held him at gunpoint, ordering him to vacate the hiding place.

When he cleared the wall/door of the hiding place agents swept in behind him, searching everything, confiscating the infotab and the Mods stored in the cube. There was nothing else of any interest in the room. As he began to protest at the obvious attempt to wipe the memory on the cube, an agent struck him in the backs of his legs. As his knees buckled, he felt a sharp jab of a needle in his neck. Another agent struck a fierce blow to the back of his head. He collapsed face first into the floor. Losing consciousness.

When he awakened a cramped holding cell surrounded him, a room hardly bigger than where he had been hiding. It had a water fountain a toilet, bed, desk and chair. His head ached as he tried to sit up. He was seeing double. He closed his eyes and fell back into the bed. His body ached almost as much as his head.

Beaten, although he did not remember any of the interrogation, it concerned him because the authorities were known to use drugs to extract information. What little he knew about The Resurrection may have been compromised.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 33 – Impending

**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.**

Alix awakened startled, not knowing where he was. It was dark and there was a subdued hum, a slight vibration and sensation of motion. Then, he remembered. He glanced over and confirmed that Cristina was beside him. She was swiveled in her seat and he was concerned at first that she had been asleep until he heard her giggle.

“Something is funny?” he whispered.

“I was talking to Clare.”

“I didn’t hear you say anything.”

“She and I can talk without speaking.”

“Oh,” Alix said, simply accepting it. He had come to realize that where the attributes were concerned almost anything seemed possible. He sat back and looked at his chronometer. He had not wanted to sleep for so long, but apparently Cristina had been occupied and had just let him. He was grateful for the extra time.

He stretched. He was not comfortable but he had been tired enough to sleep despite the cramped conditions inside the railcar. Obviously the Colonial Authority had never taken into consideration that travelers might have to sleep on the railcars, especially when traveling great distances and at night. Perhaps they didn’t care that much. It always seemed like the railcar system was an afterthought borne of the realization that perhaps people might want to travel between the cities.

Certainly the Colonial Authority had never actively promoted travel between the cities. In their original models, the cities were intended to be autonomous and self-sufficient. In reality there were shortages and surpluses in commodities and as other cities were established the new cities recruited heavily for people to migrate from the older cities. Many responded, wanting to start out fresh in another city with another, hopefully better living condition and a higher wage job.

Families were separated by such choices and looked to spend birthdays, holidays and other special occasions as a reunited unit. Even though the railcar system was intended to expedite supplies to new cities, passenger railcars became a revenue generating operation that even rivaled the fees and taxes that the Colonial Authority charged for use of the railcar system in transporting goods.

There were alternatives to the railcar system, but they are prohibitively expensive. Sometimes due to urgency, the additional expense was justified. Smaller products could be shipped through an underground pneumatic tube system that was quick and directly linked each of the cities one to another through a series of relay points. Because of its compact design and the speeds involved, it was inappropriate for transporting humans. Some liquids had to be placed into special containers to prevent spillage as the starts and stops in the tube system were highly abrupt.

Transportation by air required a balance between the weight, size and type of lifting body. During the day, the large solar panels stored the excess photovoltaic generated energy for the motors to use at night when generating power by the moonlight from even two full moons would drive the motors only at twenty percent.

The interior of the lifting body was filled with lighter than air gases stored in chambers that were designed to compress or expand the gas according to the lifting requirements. The combination of lighter-than-air gasses and propellers permitted the transport of significant weights. The system was considerably slower than the railcar system. It could be more efficient and even cost effective because its ability to haul up to four times what a railcar could contain.

Higher speed rotary propelled hover vehicles were the choice of those wanting to get from one city to the next as quickly as possible. They hovered a few hundred meters over the desert and traveled up to three times faster than the railcars when in mid-route. They were fairly roomy and comfortable. They were the preferred means of travel for the wealthy, Colonial Authority administrators and the heads of business that could afford the expense.

There had been proposals to construct large ports for each city and create a more efficient means of air travel but every model yet proposed entailed using devices that would adversely impact he environment and the delicate balance in the atmosphere. One other proposal that was being considered and was based on the astralnav device that had fallen to disuse as very large space transports were developed to travel across interstellar space at speeds approaching light velocity. Such vehicles were far too large to use the transition and translation devices that had been constructed as portals to connect distance worlds.

Micro-thresholds as they were being called could in theory permit almost instantaneous connection between any two translation devices, allowing someone to access another city in the span of the few seconds. It required for the device to power up to full charge, which accounted for almost all of the travel time.

The downside of the technology was the power requirements to effectively produce the necessary gap in space/time. It was also considered a risky venture due to the earliest experiments with similar devices on Earth that had resulted in a complete ban from their use within the atmosphere. Even though the problem resulted from an error in the original equations upon which the devices were based – a miscalculation that did not allow for the presence of common dust in the atmosphere – there was considerable skepticism that the devices would ever be popular enough to make them viable for personal transportation.

Their use to replace the pneumatic system for transporting important documents and parcels seemed unlikely as in most cases it only saved an hour or two in transport time between even distant cities, but at an estimated expense of eight times what the fees were for the use of pneumatic tubes.

Alix looked out the window across the car, then back to his side. The sky was lighter, in anticipation of dawn. In a few hours as light from the nearest star refracted off the atmosphere, and was bent toward the surface as diffused background illumination, it would even be light enough to make out features in the desert landscape outside of the railcar well in advance of the local sun’s ascent into the daytime sky.

When he was younger he had studied light and sound for a while at the Performing Arts Institute in New Milan. One of the required courses was ‘the physics of the electromagnetic spectrum’. Never before that course had he ever considered that sound and light were part of a single spectrum of which humans could only perceive a very narrow visual and aural range. He had an epiphany that everything in the electromagnetic spectrum should have similar properties and behaviors.

The orb taught him more along the same lines, of how to bend back the illusion of reality around him and enter a part of the physical universe that was concealed from humans and how they perceived the world.

“Did you say something?” Cristina asked.

“No. I was just thinking we’ll be there soon, another hour,” Alix responded, not knowing what else to say and certainly not even wanting to venture a guess as to whether she had intercepted some of his thoughts. “It will still be dark but lighter than it is now.”

“You can sleep more.”

“I really can’t,” Alix said. “These seats do not make good beds.”

“No, they don’t,” she said. “Say hello to Clare.”

Alix turned in his seat and rose up enough to see over the back of his seat and observed what he could of the shadow of her face, as she waved at him. He waved back.

“You keep attracting others of us,” Alix said aloud to Cristina.

“Yeah, it’s a gift.”

“She is the only other one on the railcar?”

Cristina nodded, knowing that he meant the only other one with the attributes.

“Three out of forty, that sounds about right.”

‘I’ll talk more later,’ she projected to Clare. Then turning toward Alix, she continued. “She tells me she has friends with the attributes who have had children with average humans that do not have the attributes. Regardless whether it’s the male or female in the pairing that has the attributes, from her experience the child always has the attributes.”

“Then what you were considering as a way of saving everyone may be possible.”

“I mean there would have to be some study of it and especially when one of the offspring had children with another human without the attributes, as that would be the most dramatic effect of dilution.”

“Perhaps there could be a means of establishing the maximum extent of dilution before it would affect fertility.”

“That was my thought exactly,” Cristina smiled.

“That would be wonderful news, though.”

“If we can overcome the barriers of bigotry against us in the general population, then maybe we can save everyone.”

“The people our age and younger will be more receptive to the idea.”

“Then that’s really all we need.”

“Let the ‘old school’ thinkers die off.”

“And by the time we are considered ‘old school’ thinkers the problem will be fixed.”

“Hopefully,” Alix said.

“Yeah, well it has to be that way because nothing else seems right. Honestly, how can we sit back and watch everyone else on this planet die when we have the answer?”

At that moment the railcar slowed at the approach of a relay station, and then came to a complete if fairly brief stop. The internal illumination increased slightly as a gentleman wearing an AE uniform boarded the railcar and took a vacant seat a couple of rows in front of them. Immediately, the railcar continued and the interior lights dimmed. In a few minutes it had regained its previous velocity.

There was nothing in and of itself all that odd about an AE climbing aboard. It had happened on their way to Andromeda. They had a good deal going for their rest and relaxation, but no one could ever deny the hard work they did to earn the free ride into the nearest city. It was just Alix was hypersensitive and suspicious of everything. What if he was an agent from the Colonial Authority?

There was only one of them, or was there perhaps someone else already aboard. Cristina had purchased tickets enough in advance that the authorities had more than enough time to respond. Obviously, they had attacked them, trying to prevent them from getting to the station. They could have planted an agent on the railcar just in case and now that they had confirmed that they were aboard, another agent boards in disguise.

Alix’s mind raced with the possible intrigue lying just beneath the surface. Should he and Cristina dare to enter the railcar station? If there were no agents aboard, still there would be agents all over the station, perhaps waiting for them to see what they were going to do, or who they contacted. Perhaps they would be so direct as to arrest them immediately.

Although they had reserved tickets they had obviously never picked them up. Without tickets they were traveling in violation of the laws of the Colonial Authority. They could be arrested and detained – as if the authorities needed any further reason.

Alix reached for and clinched Cristina’s hand.

“What’s the matter?” Cristina spoke in a voice that only he could hear.

He leaned over and whispered into her ear. “Something doesn’t feel right. It is bothering me.”

“About the guy that just boarded?”

“Yeah.”

“He has no calluses on his hands. I noticed that when the lights were up. I’m not sure how you can work agriculture and not have calluses.”

“Can you read his mind?”

“That only seems to work with some people, usually other people with the attributes and the same ability.”

“I was just hoping.”

“I mean it could be nothing. Maybe he’s a supervisor.”

Alix squirmed in his seat. “There’s a confrontation impending, regardless of whether there are agents aboard or not.”

“I understand that,” Cristina said.

“Let your new friend know that she probably doesn’t want to be associated with us.”

“I already have. She has other things more important to her right now. She doesn’t want to get involved in any of this stuff.”

“I’m afraid we will all be involved sooner or later, but for now she can ignore what’s going on behind the pretty facades,” Alix said as he looked at his chronometer again. “We have an hour and a half, maybe a few minutes more.”

Cristina nodded. “This is a very long trip.”

“Star City is not close to anything,” Alix said.

“When we were touring we came from Star City to Andromeda.”

Alix nodded. “Always takes a whole a night and the last two times we had a chartered railcar so we could stretch out.”

“I remember that. We left right after our show and traveled all night. When we woke up we were still not there. It was late morning before we pulled into the station.”

“The charter had to exit onto a spur a few times to let scheduled trains pass,” Alix explained.

“You were awake.”

“The first time Pete, Keith, Tim and I were playing cards. We took a nap at the hotel before the show. The second time it was just Pete and I talking most of the night.”

“Whatever about?” she asked.

“About everything and nothing. You know, it started out about the show and what we did wrong and how to fix it by the next show. Then we just talked about a lot of random things. You and Chase were toward the front talking to each other. Pete suggested Chase had a thing for you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, both of us thought it and frankly it irritated me. Chase admits he still has feelings for you.”

“I had a thing for him, too, for a while. It never went anywhere. The one time I allowed him to know how I felt was when he told me about Julie. He made it very clear to me how devoted he was to her.”

“He loves her.”

“She loves him too. It’s nice to see it when only the love seems to matter.”

Alix smiled, and then sighed before he expressed his wish. “It would be nice if we could be alone, just you and me. No cares, no concerns, no obligations to anyone – just free to do whatever.”

Cristina squeezed his hand. “I think we’ve progressed well past that.”

“Unfortunately, it’s impossible to go back and change things.”

“Maybe it’s possible, but we just don’t know how to do it.”

Alix smiled. “My dearest Cristina, the eternal dreamer.”

“What’s wrong with dreaming?”

“Nothing at all. It’s one of the many reasons why I love you.”

“You remember when we brought our orbs together,” Cristina said. “We saw into the past. Later, I saw both of my parents and they were holding my brother and me.”

“You aren’t seriously suggesting it’s possible to go back into the past, are you?”

“How you got us on the railcar was impossible until you did it.”

“Yeah, well, I practiced a little with doing it before, and I sort of thought it through.”

“Well, think it through, then. Figure it out. It has to be related somehow.”

“Like not only is the real world an illusion, but so is time?” He questioned.

“Yeah.”

“That’s really kind of out there, hon.”

“Then you explain how we can see the past with the orbs. It has to be accessible to us, somehow. Why else could we see it if it wasn’t important to us to know. Somehow we gotta be able to act upon it!”

“What do you want to do in the past, go back and tell us not to take this ill-advised course?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe we would have to go back a lot farther than that. You know, maybe back to birth or beyond.”

“All the way back to when they were evaluating the planet for terraforming? Why not just go back to Earth and convince people in the 18th Century that the impending industrial revolution will eventually pollute the Earth making it uninhabitable. Why stop there? Let’s go back and change some key event in the more distant past, maybe it will fix everything.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Cristina countered.

“Am I? If it is possible to go back in time, regardless of what we do, the people in the past will think we are nuts. They will be so myopically focused they will ignore any warning. Why is it any of their concern? Even if they believe us they would rather leave it for the people in the future fix all the problems. It’s the same thing as now. If someone from our future came to us with a solution, would we listen? First and foremost, would we believe them? It is part of being human, focusing on the moment and thinking nothing is more important that what affects you and those who you love. You hope the future is better so you’d resist anyone from the future telling you otherwise as much as you resist the message of the preachers of doom and gloom who surround us now. Some of them claim prophetic visions.”

“I believe some people can see the future. How can I not? I have seen the past – we both have.”

“Well, the people around us expect the future to be better. The Colonial Authority sells them on believing in science and technology, like time has made us wise enough to know which technologies we can use without destroying our civilization. We expect that in the future people will know what we did wrong and before it’s too late we’ll figure out a miracle to fix it.”

“You are carrying it out to an extreme case.”

“How can I not? You’re the one talking about changing the past and you think I’m being ridiculous?” Alix shook his head as he laughed.

“Have an open mind, okay. That’s all I’m saying. There has to be a reason why we can see events in the past.”

“Well, I don’t think it is so that we figure out how to change things. Seeing the past and being there are very different things. In the larger scheme of time, there is a negligible difference between tomorrow and yesterday, where they are in space. We call it today, but to get to anywhere else in time, you have to also move in space to where the world was or where it will be. That’s the hard part of traveling in time.”

Cristina sat in silence for a few moments, not completely following what Alix said.

“Now you are mad at me,” Alix suggested, though he was misreading her quiet consideration.

“No, I’m disappointed you are unwilling to consider the possibilities. It has nothing to do with where the world was in space of going so far back in time that whatever you could change might not matter anyway. It has more to do with destiny. I think some things are going to happen no matter what anyone does. Altering anything might delay the change but it would never prevent it completely.”

“That’s my point, though. If we went back and told ourselves what was going to happen on this trip, do you think you would still not want to find Paul? Knowing one path led to failure, you’d try something different. Maybe you wouldn’t call so early for a reservation on the railcar. Maybe you would not tell Chase and Julie until the last minute or…”

“You don’t think they betrayed us.”

“Cristina, I don’t know what to think anymore. All I’m certain of is very soon we are going to reach Star City and have to get off this railcar and have to deal with whatever is waiting ahead of us.”

“What if we stay on the railcar? There are two stations in Star City.”

“So?”

“They are expecting us at the nearest one not the furthest one.”

“They wouldn’t be stupid enough not to cover both.”

“I think it is worth a gamble. Besides, I’ve been to Raven’s on the public transit from the other station. It would be easier for us to go from there because I already know the way.”

“Okay, so we stay aboard. What then?”

“We see what happens. If there are agents onboard, then we will know. We force them to reveal themselves.”

Alix sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, trying to sort through the confusion and frustration he felt at not really knowing what to do. Other than staying close to Cristina and helping her, he had no plans. He needed her as much as she needed him, if not more.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 32 – Continuity

**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.**

Alix fought the urge to close his eyes. It wasn’t easy in the night-darkened railcar. He was tired, but he knew he had to stay alert. He trusted no one, except for Cristina. She trusted him enough to be resting beside him, leaning her head on his shoulder and her shoulder against his side as his arm was wrapped around her. She used his broad chest as her pillow.

Every once in a while she would jump. Perhaps the memories of recent events were intruding upon her dreams. In a soft voice he would tell her everything was fine, reassuring her until the tension left her face and she slipped back into slumber, however uneasy.

Why were the authorities chasing them? Was Paul that dangerous? They were merely looking for him, but now they were treated as if they were dangerous criminals. Now, they were fugitives, too.

He couldn’t imagine any way of entering Star City undetected. The problem with entering a domed city was that everyone came and went through the same few airlocks. Paul had experienced an ambush when he arrived in Star City. He was certain of it. Paul must have developed his control of the attributes to the point of having willed the transformer to explode. It was a diversion. If he was still at large, he had the attributes to thank.

Alix knew their escape was the product of luck, timing and spontaneous innovation. There was no planning involved. Someday, when this was over he would confess that to Cristina. For the moment it served no purpose to undermine her faith and confidence in him. Still, he worried. He could not fail her. He would not. She was too important to him.

Before their escape he never tried anything to the extent of what he did to ensure their escape. He had toyed around with the gifts he discovered as part of the attributes, slipping from one part of a room to another. He considered it a mere novelty, as in an instant he could be somewhere else. Intuitively, he knew it was how to explain where the orb went whenever it seemed to disappear. He had played with the veils just never with anyone else along for the ride.

There were only those two times he went beyond what he knew was possible. When the situation forced him to act he had no choice. He did the only thing he thought might work. What amazed him was the distance they negotiated. He was glad it worked. The alternative was unacceptable.

A few hours into the ride, while Alix was staring out the window at the emptiness of the desert in the moonlight, Cristina roused and stretched. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know. We are out in the desert, still on the way.”

“How much longer do you think it will be?”

“I’m not sure,” Alix said, then looked at his chronometer. “We’re not even close to half way. Go back to sleep.”

“You need sleep. I can keep watch for a while.”

“They wouldn’t do anything while the railcar is in motion,” Alix said. “It would be too messy. It would involve too many people and their families.”

“Then we both can rest,” Cristina suggested.

“I still don’t think that’s wise.”

“The new paradigm for us is sleep sparingly and never too soundly.”

“A lot has changed.”

“They have been watching us for a while, Alix. They may be watching Pete as well, maybe everyone in the band.”

“It’s obvious from the attack and the break-in, they were watching Chase and Julie as well.”

“Exactly,” Cristina said. “They were after something, whether it was information, evidence or anything linking us to Paul, and his organization.”

“They planted bugs.”

“I’m sure of it.”

“Chase didn’t seem to care whether they had.”

Cristina nodded. “Maybe they were in on it.”

“What?”

“Just something creepy I feel. They took Chase out first.”

“But he was beat up in the restroom.”

“I don’t know. Maybe that scared him into cooperating.”

Alix looked out the window, staring at nothing in particular.

After several moments, she asked. “What is so important out there?”

“It’s nothing really. It was just while you were sleeping I was imagining what it would be like seeing lights of small towns and farms as we pass them by. I read about how Earth used to be. Riding by train was not so different than being in a railcar. In a future time, maybe Pravda is going to be like Earth used to be.”

“We may not live to see it.”

“They say we can live for a very long time.”

“My recent experience screams otherwise.”

Alix forced a smile but its insincerity also showed in the dimness of the subdued dome lights in the railcar.

“My brave Alix,” Cristina kissed him for his smile anyway. “We’ll make it through this. Do you know why?”

“Because we have to?”

“Yes.”

“I want to see our children playing in the playground, while you and I sit side by side on a park bench eating a lunch we made to bring with us. I see us there beneath a clear blue sky, not an acrylic dome, breathing the fresh air carried on a gentle sea breeze.”

“I want to sit on the bench with our children while we watch our grandchildren playing in the soft green grass.”

Alix leaned over and kissed her.

“Then maybe three generations of our family watching the newest generation playing in the peaceful world that somehow we provided for them.”

“It seems a long ways off,” Alix said.

“I believe it can be. ‘Dreams are mere potentials, shadows without form or substance. To make them reality you need the means, know the way to begin the journey and never stop believing until you arrive’.”

“Who said that?”

“A writer named Andrew L. Hunter. My father loved to read that book to me at night. He told me that at one time Hunter had the potential for an idyllic life but he gave it up to pursue the love of his life. But she was as much an illusion as the dream he had of being together with her.”

“What happened?”

“No one knows that happened to Hunter. He stopped writing – or at least he stopped publishing what he wrote. I’m not sure a writer has it in him or her to just stop writing. It would be like losing our music. Or deciding not to breathe.”

“Did he ever find the love of his life?” Alix asked.

“Father said he always wanted to think that the reason no one ever heard from Hunter was that he found a way to be with her.”

Alix smiled. “You father was a romantic.”

“That he was,” Cristina said. “And a dreamer too.” She wiped a tear from her eye.

“I think I would have liked your father.”

“I think he would have approved of you. He always loved music. That’s why I sing, I guess. Even when I was an awkward little girl, he told me my voice was my most amazing gift. He paid to have an instructor give me singing lessons, singing opera of all things,” she laughed.

“I can’t imagine you singing like that.”

“Well then my voice deepened a bit as I matured and my vocal range slipped from soprano to mezzo-soprano and finally to contralto.”

“It’s better suited for our band.”

“I have had this voice ever since.”

“I love your voice,” Alix said. “I think that all of us in the band have loved your voice from the first time you auditioned for us. In fact you don’t know this because we never told anyone, but after we were together for a couple of years, Pete and I were offered places in another band that at the time was doing really well in New Milan. Pete spoke for both of us knowing what I would say.”

“Obviously, he said no.”

“He told the other guys that we were in the right band already.”

“We have always had a good chemistry in the band. I see other bands changing people all the time, but we had it right to begin with,” Cristina said. “Maybe it was luck.”

“Or destiny.”

“No, destiny was when we finally got together after knowing one another for ten years.” She kissed him. “Get some rest. I’ll be up for a while.”

“Wake me if you start getting sleepy,” Alix said as he leaned his head against the window.

“I will,” she promised.

At first she didn’t know what to do except stare straight ahead. Only the exit lights and some tiny lights indicating the path of the aisle along the floor were illuminated. Still her eyes were sensitive enough to make out some very subtle details even in the dark. She could see ashen faces of some people toward the front who were talking quietly. One row back from the front a young man was reading text from an infotab, the preferred way of reading text. Three rows back from him there was another couple, using one another for support as they slept. A businessman was behind them, apparently stretched out as best he could across the two seats and sleeping – the snoring was coming from his direction.

Then there was a distinct difference. It startled her at first. Cristina fought the urge to turn and look. She felt uncomfortable with what intimate secrets she perceived. The girl’s name was Clare. She was going to see her boyfriend of five years. Last year he had gone away to Star City to find work when no one in Andromeda seemed to need his talents or wanted to hire him for any other position. Even though he had told them he needed a job, no one seemed to care.

He answered an on-line ad from Star City. Although it had been painful for them both, Clare kissed him goodbye at the railcar station. He promised to save up and send for her, and then they could restart their life together in Star City.

After a year he had not sent for her. At first and for several months thereafter he had been good about sending messages across the global network. Then the messages became less frequent until now she received no response to her messages.

Clare was going to Star City unannounced and not for any purpose other than to break-up. She suspected he found someone else and just didn’t know how to gracefully end his previous relationship. She had been faithful to him, but it was becoming increasingly hard.

A heartthrob from her school days had been asking her out. He had a very good-paying job downtown and was living in a nice apartment in a great part of town. He let her charge the railcar tickets on his payment wand because she could not afford the trip.

Why was Cristina privy to so much of Clare’s deeply private information? There was no purpose she could perceive. They had never met. And yet of all the people aboard the railcar, the two of them were somehow connected in thought. She knew what Clare was thinking and feeling. She understood Clare’s anxiety about seeing her boyfriend again after being apart for a year. What did Clare have to do with anything that involved anyone but herself and her soon to be ex-boyfriend?

Cristina focused, trying to disconnect from Clare but couldn’t. She needed a distraction, something to force her mind away. Maybe Alix could serve that purpose, but she didn’t want to disturb him so soon after he fell asleep.

She tried staring straight-ahead, focusing on the back of the seats where the businessman was sleeping, still snoring. At first it seemed to be working. She was forcing Clare’s internal monologue out of her immediate consciousness. Then, abruptly Clare barged in again. “Who do you think you are?”

It was clearly a directed comment, direct in thought to her. Clare was aware.

‘You have the attributes?’ Cristina projected her query.

‘It’s what they call them. You do as well.’

‘I had no intentions of violating your privacy.’

‘I didn’t notice until you tried so hard not to… I’m sure you know everything by now.’

‘Maybe not everything,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t disengage.’

‘When I need to, I have to pinch myself, really hard. I have bruises all over my arms from it.’

Cristina turned around as much as she could in the seat and saw Clare for the first time. Even in the darkness she could tell that she was much prettier than the mental self-image she projected. ‘We are still connected.’

‘I know. Maybe that’s my fault. I was lonely and bored and I was thinking that it might be nice to just talk to someone.’

‘Telepathic conversations are not normal.’ Cristina focused as best she could on Clare’s eyes. ‘I guess I’m kinda new to all this and you are more experienced in using your gift –’

‘Curse,’ Clare interrupted her thought.

‘However it seems to be, I really did not intend to intrude.’

‘Well since you probably know all about my relationship, what is you opinion?’

‘You’re asking for my advice?’

‘Yes, I think that was what I was doing.’

Cristina shook her head as if for emphasis whether Clare could see it or not. ‘I would not pretend to know the answer to your dilemma. I suppose that if he has found someone else then you are free to do as you seem to desire.’

‘What if he is not seeing someone else? What if he really is in love with me and still trying to save up…?’

‘Then why the silence?’

‘That is what worries me.’

‘You have been intimate?’

‘Yes, he knows about my differences.’

‘You have been intimate with your new boyfriend?’

‘No, not yet. I have been faithful. It’s just…well, it’s getting hard to deal with it.’

‘I understand.’ Cristina felt for Clare’s situation. “I guess you really have to play it as it comes. I do not envy you this.’

‘Yeah, well maybe it was good just to talk about it with someone else, someone who knows what it’s like to have the attributes.’

‘You realize that you have someone that you will eventually meet who also has the attributes.’

Clare laughed out loud. ‘You offer me that as hope.’

‘My boyfriend has the attributes. Other than Alix, my best friends are a couple who have the attributes.’

‘Some of my friends in school had the attributes. It took forever for us to really admit it because as small children we were ashamed and hid from other people.’

‘We all experienced it, I think.’

‘It was really odd though. I guess in a way it was funny. Everyone who had the attributes sort of formed a clique in school, boys and girls. We formed it even before everyone knew we all had the same differences. We were just like each other and all of us were different from the ‘norms’. Some of them had ‘norm’ friends and some of them knew about the differences, but it didn’t matter to them so it was very ‘kewl’.’

‘I have very close friends who are ‘norm’ as you call it. Some of them are in my band.’

‘Your band? You mean like musicians?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Wow, that’s very, very ‘kewl’. You perform on stage and everything.’

‘Record Mod cards, hit songs hopefully, and we just finished touring.’

Clare strained to look at her. ‘I’m pretty much up on music. Listening helps me get through the day. The whole scene in Andromeda –’

‘My band is from New Milan.’

‘Not Duae Lunae!’

‘You say it like it is a bad thing.’

‘I saw your band perform live. You have…I mean, your voice is simply amazing. I really love your music.’

‘Thank you.’ Dealing with telepathic embarrassment for the first time was as much of a new experience for Cristina as mentally projecting modesty.

‘Uh, now I don’t know what to say. I mean I have met some of the local bands, I know a couple of guys from school who now play in one of the bands. One of my best friends is like you. She sings and writes songs. She plays guitar but not on stage, just when she writing music.’

‘I’m okay playing some instruments, but the guys are so much better. But, yeah I play guitar too,’ Cristina revealed. ‘So does Alix, but he plays the bass in the band.’

‘I don’t know. Maybe we are a lot more alike than not, all of us. I mean I played in the high school orchestra.’

‘I’ll bet you were good.’

‘I was okay. I played alto and tenor saxophone. I just lost interest. I started focusing more on drawing, line drawing and then I started doing water colors and painting with acrylics.’

‘You are good at it.’ It was a statement borne of capturing some of the mental images of her work that Cristina received.

‘I love it. It’s just very hard to get recognized.’

‘But if you do what you love you will be happy and maybe if you are fortunate people will accept you for what you are and what you do.’

‘I hope,’ Clare said.

‘You’re young. You have time to become better than you are now. Very few artists ever start out producing a masterpiece.’

Clare laughed, both mentally and out loud. ‘One of my friends from high school had some of her pieces exhibited. She’s into sculpture. She’s very good. She’s one of the lucky ones I guess. She met a guy her first year at the Andromeda Art Institute. He was studying to be an instructor and was two years older than she was. He helped her a lot and introduced her to people he had met. They were married last year and have twins on the way.’

‘Wow,’ Cristina replied mentally. ‘She has the attributes?’

‘She does; he doesn’t. Actually, I have a lot of friends who are like that. I jokingly call them mixed marriages.’

‘Actually, that’s probably what to call them.’

‘Well when they were dating they were lucky enough to find guys or gals that loved them despite the physical oddities. A few of them have children.’

‘Their children have the attributes?’

‘Of course.’

‘So, apparently having the attributes is a dominant trait.’ Cristina thought more to herself than she projected.

‘Regardless of whether the partner with the attributes is the man or the woman, the children always have the attributes.’

‘Interesting,’ Cristina considered.

‘Is that more significant than it seems?’

‘Have you ever met a Courier?’

‘A what?’

‘I’ll take that as a, no,’ Cristina paused, wondering how to explain someone like Raven to her. Then she began, ‘There are these very wise and fairly old men – I don’t know of any that are women yet but there could be I suppose. They are the Couriers. When they identify us they give us a small orb that helps to train us in how to develop our abilities.’

‘How do I meet one?’

‘I can arrange it,’ Cristina said.

‘Thank you.’

‘They believe the attributes will be diluted in mixed marriages and eventually if allowed to continue, the attributes will be rendered useless after several generations and mankind will perish.’

‘I don’t believe that,’ Clare said. ‘I think the attributes predominate. After a while everyone will display them.’

‘I hope that’s the case,’ Cristina said.

‘Obviously, it is.’

‘At least for the first generation it is.’

‘Yeah, I see your point. What if the children with mixed heritage conceive children with ‘norms’?”

‘Exactly.’

‘Or even with each other.’

‘There are all sorts of possibilities. The Couriers believe we are intended to become the succeeding race of mankind and that we risk the purity of our genetic codes if we cross-breed with those who lack the attributes.’

‘But as I understand it, unless the decline in the birthrate isn’t fixed within fifty years, mankind will not be able to sustain the population.’ Clare countered.

‘That is true. Introduction of the attributes into the genetic code will correct the fertility problem. But the question is for how long with the succeeding generations of dilution. We may only be extending fifty years into a few hundred years.’

‘But that might give the scientists enough time to figure out how to combat the decline in fertility rates.’

Cristina sat back in her seat thoughtfully considering the entire argument about maintaining the purity of the attributes and how it was somehow destined to produce another version of mankind while the elder race of men declined into oblivion. She had never liked the feeling of despair that gave her. Why were the bearers of the attributes chosen? Why should only they survive? It was the root of all the emptiness she felt. It was not enough merely carrying on the continuity of the amassed knowledge, culture and art of mankind.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 31 – The End Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cure for the super strain was never discovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Later this week we will be running a special promotion for FRIED WINDOWS for $2.99 in eBook. It is already discount priced on Pandamoon Publishing’s Facebook Store at $9.99 ($3 off). https://www.facebook.com/pandamoonpublishing My publisher and I are doing the promotion on Saturday 3/17/18, St. Patrick’s Day, along with a giveaway for a signed copy. To enter follow me on Twitter @ElgonWilliams or follow me at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001K8TYXU

Why that date? Funny you should ask:

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 30 – Concealment

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tam’s the name.”

“Tam?” Paul inquired.

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

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

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

“The others?”

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

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

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

“Does all of your team possess the attributes?”

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

“You trust all of them?”

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

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

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

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

“I expected you’d understand the precautions.”

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

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

“I see.”

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

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

“On tour?”

“She’s in a rock band.”

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

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

“Obviously, your sister has.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m grateful for your assistance.”

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

“How’d you know where to find me?”

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

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

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

“Who requested it?”

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

“I could punch through walls.”

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

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

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Doings in the Elgon Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 29 – Arresting Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I had it under control,” Cristina complained.

“No one strikes your face!”

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

“We have tickets, right?” Alix asked.

“We don’t have our things.”

“Chase will take care of that.”

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

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

“You’re nuts!” Cristina challenged.

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

“Are you okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, I’m good with that.”

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

“Not in the least,” she responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you suggesting that we surrender?”

“I’m suggesting this is suicide.”

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

“What tricks?”

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

“What about me?”

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

“You believe; you think?”

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

“If not?”

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

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

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

“What?”

“Incoming, armor piercing… duck!”

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

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

“It worked, hon!” he said.

“Where are we?”

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

“Why here?”

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

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

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

“How so?” Christina asked.

“We can just be there.”

“I don’t understand.”

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

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

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

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

“We got here.”

“I can…see that.”

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

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

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

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

“Maybe not…they think…they got us.”

“We can’t…count on that.”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“You are not instilling confidence in me.”

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

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

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

“You were amazing.”

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

“You really have been practicing with the orb.”

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

“You got us here.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You too.”

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 28 – The Sojourn Begins

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

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

“The Master is expecting your call.”

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

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

“Really?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

“You need a favor.”

“I suppose you could have guessed that.”

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

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

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

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

“Your brother was here, earlier.”

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

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

“I appreciate your hospitality.”

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

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

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

“I can’t promise anything.”

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

The call disconnected before Cristina could tap her lobe.

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

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

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

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

“Julie would kill me.”

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

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

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

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

“I was being serious,” Alix said.

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

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

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

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

“You’re attracted.”

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

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

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

“You ready?” Chase asked.

“Just about.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pete is one of us, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina sat back.

“You’re angry?”

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

In response, Alix hung his head.

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

“I hear you,” Alix said.

“You hear, but are you listening?”

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

“Alix?”

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

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

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

“It’s hard.”

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

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

“Good.”

“I love you too much.”

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

 

 

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