Colonial Authority: Chapter 12 – Sand-Morph

**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.**

Following the phone conversation with the authorities in Haven, Cristina had concerns. She returned to the kitchen and scrapped her plans for a freeze-dried breakfast in lieu of pasta. While she prepared spaghetti, she wondered what might have happened to Paul? She attempted calling the number he had given her, but it was off line and would not satisfy her desire to leave a message. She didn’t know what to do other that sit and wait, but that did not comfort her.

It was crazy. She barely knew the guy. For whatever reason, she enjoyed their conversation, though. He was a friend, now. She had to know why he disappeared. Apparently, it had happened soon after their conversation.

Chase called her around midday her time. He had been talking to the police about what little he knew of Paul. She apologized for getting him involved, but explained it was important. Paul had disappeared. Despite both Paul’s denial she suspected he had gotten her number from Chase.

“Well, it was a surprise,” Chase said. “I was not ready for it.”

“He got my number somehow, from someone.”

“Well, I didn’t give it out.”

“He worked for the Colonial Authority. Maybe he knows someone with access to the database.”

“Who knows?”

“I think Paul is one of us.”

“You’d know better than me,” Chase said. “I never met the guy.”

“I don’t know,” Cristina said. “I mean he sort of meets the profile, living with an uncle as a kid. And at first, he was awkward at talking to me. He admitted he’s not very social.”

“He might just be weird.”

“I think there’s more to it than that.”

“If you suspect it, then use the orb to find him,” Chase said.

“How?”

“The linkage is something you just have to establish on your own, hon. No one can do that for you. It is private and very personal. Have you been playing with the orb?”

“Yes, well a little bit, anyway.”

“Take the damned thing out of your pocket and get to know it! Sheesh! You have to feel it. It will guide you. If you know Paul and he is one of us, then it will direct you to him.”

She removed the orb from her pocket and focused on it for a few moments. “Chase, in all seriousness I really don’t know where to begin. How can I use this thing?”

“Listen to me. Okay?”

“I am.”

“It is a part of you and it has already become an extension of you, okay? So, clue in on that for a while. That is the only way you will ever be able to relate to it and accept it.”

“I don’t know if I can do it.”

“If Paul is one of us this is the only way for anyone to find him quickly. You know him.”

Cristina sat back on the couch. As Chase said goodbye to her and the phone connection ended she was staring at the orb in her hand wondering how to get it to work.

It began to glow and then glow brighter it expanded, growing in volume to fill her palm. Then finally, it grew so large that she withdrew her hand from supporting it, feeling that the volume was too large for her to handle even though she had not really felt any of its weight.

The orb proceeded to expand until it was a half-meter in diameter and appeared transparent except that she could see something within it, images that were perhaps very far away. She sat back and watched as the images became relevant to her. Events from the past appeared, her birth in fact.

Cristina recognized her father, of course, but there was her mother. She recognized her from pictures. In awe, she witnessed the event of her own birth, and then was shocked to disbelief as there was another child born, a male, immediately after.

“Twins,” she confirmed aloud, but her words did not resonate. Understanding it was part of the nature of the attributes, he sensed the truth. “My twin…. brother is…Paul.”

The revelation did not explain why she had not grown-up with him, only the reality of her birth and his. He father died a few years back. She did not have that resource available for consultation. More so she wanted to know. She needed to know what had happened to Paul in the more immediate.

The orb contracted, as the images were gone. As it did, the surface returned to its familiar alabaster and she held out her hand as it returned to her palm. She sat the orb down on the surface of the table. At that precise moment her imbedded cell phone rang and she tapped her ear lobe to answer it.

“Hey, it’s Alix. I am almost there.”

“Are you okay?”

“I guess it was you that made sure I got home the other night. I mean I got your message afterwards about Blackbird.”

“Did you go?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“So, now you have an orb?”

“It’s not like I know what to do with it. I guess I need your help.”

“Join the club.”

Alix laughed. “Well maybe between the two of us we can figure out all this crap.”

“The orb can do some strange things and some of those things defy our sense of what is real.”

“So it is sort of like tripping without ingesting the hallucinogen.”

Cristina said, “I probably wouldn’t have put it in those terms, but maybe it’s like that, a little bit anyway.”

“By the way, thanks for setting me up for that without a lot of prep. Blackbird is one weird dude.”

“I think all of the Couriers are. I owe Chase payback for a similar experience,” she replied.

“So, you and I are alike in many ways. I got that much from my meeting with Blackbird.”

“Yeah, we are a lot the same or at least we have complimentary differences.”

“I mean as a guy and all I kind of think that’s cool. I mean I have always thought you were really… Well, I have always had a very strong attraction, you know?”

“I have always liked you, too, Alix. It’s just that everything for the past few days has been happening fast and I really just need to slow it down so I can catch up.”

“Yeah, me too. I just really want you to know that you are important to me in a way that no one else is. Even if you think I am a total loser nerd I can deal with that.”

“You are not a nerd and definitely not a loser. You are in my band. There are no losers allowed!”

“Well maybe it was the alcohol and all that, but I had the distinct feeling that you and I were not compatible after our one and perhaps only night out.”

“Alix, you can be very sweet and even very funny. It’s just you need to be yourself and not worry about always trying to impress me – or anyone else. Okay?”

“Well if I was trying to impress you I failed miserably.”

“Whatever it is that compels you to drink to excess, you need to deal with it and just be Alix when you are around me.”

“I’m almost there,” he said. “I’m sorry about getting drunk.”

“Why are you apologizing to me? I was just giving you some helpful criticism.”

“All I expected was to be your friend. Anything beyond that is great. As long as we are friends, I’m happy.”

“How could we not be friends?”

“I was concerned, I guess. I had a lot of fun the other night but it seemed like you and I sort of grew distant to one another toward the end of the evening.”

“You were friggin’ drunk. I mean I may have been a little bit drunk too, but I was not keeping pace with you. I was concerned about you and just wanted to make sure you got home safely.”

“I am grateful for that,” he said. “Okay I have arrived. I’ve got to dock the coach then I’ll be up.”

“I’ll see you in a bit, then,” she replied then she and Alix disconnected.

After a few moments the elevator delivered him to her floor and he paused at a mirror, wondering if he should have dressed a little better than an old shirt and worn out jeans. It was too late to change. He hurried to her door and rang the bell.

As she opened the door and he looked at her he asked, “How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“You look great all the time.”

“I assure you I don’t. You’ve seen me first thing in the morning many times.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. You start off the day looking amazing.”

“You have it bad, don’t you?”

“I always have and whatever it is I hope there’s no cure.”

She closed the door behind him. Then as he sat down on the couch she asked him if he wanted anything.

“Beer if you have it.”

“Why did you drink so much?”

“Hey I haven’t had anything since the other night, really. The day after, I couldn’t have drunk anything even if someone was forcing me at gunpoint. It would have come right back up.”

“You were pretty wasted.”

“Cristina, you and I were out for the very first time, together and alone. You are a totally hot lady, and I was amazed that you were hanging out with me. Frankly, all of that intimidated me a lot.”

“So you drink to somehow compensate?”

“It lowered my inhibitions and well, I wasn’t so worried about it. Maybe I should have worried a lot more. Now you think I’m a total ass.”

“I don’t think you’re an ass. You were still very nice to me. And it wasn’t like I didn’t have a good time. I really like you Alix.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“If you were so worried about what I think, why not just ask me?”

“I guess I knew that you like me,” Alix said. “We hung out together and all that, but I have always wanted for it to be something more, I guess. I’m violating the professional decorum thing we have in the band and all that. Maybe I’m stepping way over the line, but I really need to be right up front with you. I have always been in love with you from the first time I ever saw you, ten years ago.”

Cristina fell silent. She did not know how to respond.

“Anyway, there it is. I’ve said it. That’s what I’ve been dealing with,” Alix said. “I don’t know how you feel about me now, but I hope I didn’t destroy what we were starting to have.”

“Wow!” Cristina finally found a word that kind of expressed what she felt but not the full range of emotions she was wrestling.

Alix sighed, and then he proceeded. “Suddenly, you seemed to notice me and, well, I was having a hard time dealing with it when I was sober. That was why I got drunk. I’ve never ever had anyone like you interested in me.”

“I’m glad you think I’m special but don’t put me on a pedestal,” she protested. “I’m Cristina, same as I have been for every day of the ten years I’ve known you.”

“You’re totally hawt.”

“I’m far from it.”

“How can you not know?”

“I see me in the morning before I apply the makeup.”

“You know you have people all around the world dreaming about you, fantasizing about you.”

“And I guess that includes you?”

“I work with you everyday when we are on tour. I get my daily fix of the Cristina interaction. But even so, it has never really felt like it was enough. I’ve always dreamed about it being something more than it was.”

Cristina smiled at him in response.

“I know,” he said. “Like you say, I have it bad.”

She kissed him on the cheek. Then as he looked at her again she pressed her lips to his and he quickly drew back.

“Did I do something wrong?” Cristina asked.

“No, I was just startled. I mean that was nice, very nice. But it scared me.”

“I scared you?”

“You’re the band’s heart and soul. What am I in comparison? I’m astonished that we’re here and it’s now and we’re this close. I’m elated, but I have no concept of how to deal with this new reality.”

“Then just accept it,” she said. “We can go from there.”

“But we have the rule.”

“You told me about that stupid damned rule. And I told you why Keith made it, more for his sake than mine.”

“You had to have known about it before I told you.”

“All of you have been like brothers to me. If the rule did that, then maybe I have even appreciated it most of the time. There was very little tension because I’m a chick and you are all guys. But you know what? It is just like you said. I can break that rule because it was the Cristina rule all along. I can date Alix if I want to and if it’s okay with you.”

Alix looked directly into her eyes and anything he was protesting evaporated to become a non-issue. “I thought you said that things were moving too fast for you.”

“I’m not saying we’re going to have a more advanced relationship. Maybe we will. It’s just there’s nothing wrong with friends being… well, friendly and going out on dates and hanging out together.” Cristina leaned back, away from Alix and then, she laughed. “Come here, to me,” she opened her arms.

Alix bared his soul to hers eyes. “I want to spend as much time as I can with you. I need to be important to you.”

“You already have a place in my heart, same as the rest of the band. It’s just you’re a little more special to me right now,” she revealed. “For one thing you cared enough to come here and check on me when you were worried.”

Alix wondered what was going on and what his life meant now that Cristina was finally noticing and responding to him. Unexpectedly, she stood and walked over to the table and picked up her orb. “We need to prepare everything.”

“What do you I mean? I don’t begin to know anything about this…this crap.”

“It’s fine,” she said to him. “I suppose we’ll adjust as we learn.”

“Adjust?”

“Well, you’re the one who’s so damned impatient,” Cristina said to him. “I’m okay with that, at least for the time being. I can fill you in on what I know already but I’m afraid that it isn’t much. I think it’s almost a game for the Couriers. If you want the play the game you need to wait your turn and play by the rules.”

There was dead silence in response.

Alix pulled out his orb and the two of them brought their orbs close together, comparing them. They were exactly the same, identical in every apparent way but as they held them in their hands each began to glow brighter. As they brought them into closer proximity, they sat in silent awe as the glow grew until it terminated in a blinding flash.

When their eyes adjusted it was clear they were no longer in the room. Several spheres hung suspended against an almost solid dark violet backdrop save for the pinpricks of light seeming to shine through from a backlight cover. One of the orbs glowed brightly as if it were ablaze, casting light that reflected off the shimmering surface of the oceans and the tops of dark clouds that constituted a storm that covered an entire continent on the nearest world to their perception. It felt as if they were rapidly descending toward the surface, but as they accelerated, they passed through a thin barrier and emerged in a dark cavern where they readily and immediately sensed that they were not alone. There was an odd looking entity that had appeared before them, as if it had stepped out into tangible existence from a nightmarish reverie.

Alix was the first to find words, “What are you?”

There was no verbal response, only the sensation of the presence of intelligence and purpose. Cristina felt it too. She knew in the same instant and in the same way Alix did. Alix withdrew his orb from Cristina’s and as he did the cavern and the entity faded and suddenly they were where they had apparently always been, Cristina’s apartment.

Cristina began to cry; asking Alix to hold her which he willingly did even though he did not feel he was emotionally any stronger. They shared curiosity, a portion of revealed truth. It had to have been the past they visited, where the unthinkable occurred. They now knew an important piece of a mystery. For the sake of creating a new home for mankind, another species was brutally exterminated.

She pressed her face into his shoulder, sobbing. He held her closer. Otherwise neither of them knew how to respond to the reality of the creatures and their demise. They silently connected with it and its nature, instantly knowing the label, sand-morph. Others coined the term upon discovering the remains of their civilization.

Cristina feared that many other species were eradicated in the process of terraforming Pravda. Alix wondered how many species were lost in the process of human colonization of other worlds.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 11 – Authority

**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.**

Every school-aged child learned the general history of not only mankind and the Earth but also the colonization and the process of terraforming, its origins and objectives. It was revised and sanitized to suit the Colonial Authority, but it was arguably accurate to an extent and a certain point of view. It was mainly boring material of the sort that children usually do not pay attention to anyway. Cristina had always questioned it, though. Ever interested, she had the desire and hunger to learn about her world and the origins of her kind.

It was while she was in school that she began to realize her differences. The process of discovery frightened her. She did not want to be different. She wanted to fit in. Withdrawing and becoming a loner, she began to write daily installments in her diary to account for every day in her life. Eventually, she began to compose poetry.

Despite her self-consciousness, self-doubt, introversion, and introspection she remained a good and attentive student in her studies. There were always questions to ask, things that she did not know. Once she became comfortable with an instructor, sometimes she would ask him or her questions. In the earliest years of her schooling, her instructors knew the answers, but as she grew older her questions became more sophisticated. The things she wanted to know required research, which often as not, her teachers assigned to her as extra credit projects.

Before his death, her father ensured that her education extended past what was considered adequate for the masses to which she belonged. She studied music, but also learned a great deal more about terraforming and the colonial law that had been applied to govern the process. Regardless of the separation of the colonial governments into semi-autonomous political entities, there were loose economic relationships with all of the other colonies. Subordination of each city was to the pseudo provincial government that answered to the Colonial Authority in lieu of a central government.

In the course of her extended studies at the University of New Milan she came across an account in an older text detailing the events of an early terraforming project, one that led directly to the enactment of tougher regulations to control the selection of candidate worlds to be terraformed.

From the outset there was an unwritten code of ethics established amongst the architects, engineers and technicians that no world that had any intelligent life or potential of developing intelligent life could be used for a terraforming project. To the best of anyone’s knowledge no indigenous life other than simple plants, bacteria or single cell organisms had ever been discovered on any of the colonial worlds. It seemed a valid enough precaution against harming the process of generating sentient life.

As she read on in the account, she was stunned. Never had any text or reference that she studied mentioned sterilization as the essential first step toward terraforming a planet. Why was it necessary? If the chosen world was already determined to be devoid of the processes that could produce sentient life, why kill everything that might be alive?

When Cristina asked her professor it was explained that it was a precaution. “It is the direct result of human paranoia about plagues and incurable diseases stemming from the epidemics of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. It was believed that without sterilization of a world, it might be possible to introduce viruses and bacteria into a terraform pattern that might lead to the unwitting mutation of a disease for which mankind would have no natural immunity.

“It has often been suggested that the decline in the fertility rate might be related to the sterilization of the colonial worlds prior to the beginning of a terraform project. But now it is clearly related to the complicated interactions of the magnetic fields of the planet and the replication processes of human DNA on a subatomic level.”

“What do you believe?”

“I believe they are wrong, but I hope they aren’t right.”

“But wouldn’t the DNA of all the animals that we have introduced into the colonial worlds be likewise affected?” Cristina asked her professor.

“There is something inherently distinct about human DNA. The forces that affect us seem to leave alone the other species we transplanted into the colonies from Earth,” she replied. “Some theologians have used this scientific discovery to suggest mankind was designed for Earth and only the Earth.”

“Well, they would. It is an ethnocentric response. But the obvious extension is why would we ever be able to develop the technology necessary to travel through space, colonize and terraform other worlds?”

“That is precisely the appropriate counter argument.”

Despite her studies, never before had the declining fertility rates concerned Cristina as much as now. There had always been assurances that the cause would be identified and the process reversed. Surely mankind had not colonized other worlds to delay extinction for a few more centuries.

She sat looking at the orb as she allowed it to roll around in her palm. She had a passing thought wondering if Alix had arrived at Blackbird’s residence on the far side of the domed city, close to the shadow of the mountains. She wondered how he would react in the presence of a Courier. She guessed that he might approach it a little differently, with pseudo-macho bravado. She could picture him pretending to be brave even though he was scared to death. She chuckled to herself as she held onto the mental image, and then she allowed her mind to continue its quest for her own truth.

Cristina thought about her city and the earliest times of the colony before the terraform project was very far along. The mountains shielded the dome of New Milan from the constant gale force winds and frequent sandstorms that were the direct result of the introduction of chemical agents that broke down the major concentrations of hazardous gases in the atmosphere. The detonations used to deliver the neutralizing agents saturated the poisonous clouds often changing the density of the air in an entire region. As a direct result vortices of intense turbulence were created especially over the oceans. Violent storms resulted, lashing and thrashing against the protective dome of the city. It had frightened her even though her father assured her that they were safe within the dome.

The prevalence and severity of storms had diminished over her lifetime. She took some comfort in that. As she continued her thoughts, she recalled how much the world had already changed within her lifetime.

When she was very young it seemed the vast world beyond the closet where she usually hid would never succumb to her will. Yet, now she was learning something very different about her relationship with the world. At one time she allowed that humans would determine the solution to the fertility dilemma, but now she heard otherwise. Perhaps she and the others possessing the attributes were the means of reversing the process, but then, what did she know? Still, maybe Hummingbird and Sparrow were wrong. Maybe it was the destiny of those with the attributes to save all of mankind.

She was startled when her apartment phone rang. She clicked the remote that found on the table before her and then spoke in a normal voice as the image of the caller appeared on the main world viewer monitor and his voice came over the speakers of the entertainment system, “Uh, is this Cristina without an ‘h’?”

“Paul?”

“So, you do remember me? I wondered if you would.”

“I usually have a pretty good memory,” she said. “Anyway, it hasn’t been that long ago, a week or so, right?”

“About that.”

“How’d you get my number?”

“That would be telling.”

“It doesn’t matter much, I guess. But still, I’d like to know.”

“I just wanted to make contact with you. It took me a while, but I finally tracked down someone who knows you. And I got your number.”

“Who was it? Chase?”

“I promised not to tell.”

“Only Chase has this number, well he and the guys in the band, but they would never give the number out.”

“Trust me, there are others who know such things,” Paul revealed.

“I guess I’m flattered that you would go to all that trouble just to give me a call.”

“I had to. Your voice and face have haunted me ever since we met.”

“Uh, well, okay.”

“I have not been able to keep you out of my thoughts.”

“Uh, Paul this is rather awkward, isn’t it?”

“You misunderstand, perhaps. I’m not a stalker. So, don’t worry about that. You told me that you lived in New Milan and that is as much as I need to know for now. I had to speak to you again. We didn’t have any time to really talk on the morning we met.”

“It doesn’t matter about having my number as long as you don’t do crazy things like calling me all the time. Once in a while, it might be nice to talk. The next time I’m in Haven I’ll get you passes for the show, like I promised. You can bring a date with you, or a friend.”

“That would be great, but I’m not seeing anyone. I suppose I could bring an acquaintance, a neighbor perhaps. Really, I have no problem paying to see you and your band perform.”

“I don’t expect my friends to pay to get into my concerts,” she said. “Not if I know you’re coming.”

“Well, yeah that would be great. I would love seeing you perform, but mainly…I mean what’s important to me is knowing we’re friends.”

“That’s easy,” Cristina said. “I already think of you as a friend.”

“Thank you. That makes my day. I don’t socialize much. I was always kind of shy. Whenever I have tried to be social it comes off awkwardly.”

Cristina smiled. “I’m not a social person either, not really. So how did the fishing go?”

“Oh, that. It went very well. My uncle is very good at fishing with bang-sticks.”

“To me it has never seemed like that much of a challenge, although I admit I’d not be good at it.”

“It’s not as easy as people think,” Paul revealed. “There’s a definite trick to it.”

“Well, hardly anything is easy until you master it.”

“Exactly.”

“Is that what you do, fish every morning?”

“No, my uncle is semi-retired. I was visiting with him. He was a laborer for the Agricultural Ministry. Now all he wants to do is fish. I just go out with him sometimes, whenever I can. After college, he helped me get a position at the Ministry of the Interior here in Haven.”

“So you’re a bureaucrat?”

“I was. But you make it sound more distasteful than the reality of enduring the tedium.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that before our band had tour management I dealt with some of the ministries here in New Milan, getting permits for concerts and such. Those were not good experiences. Nothing was ever simple.”

“Well, when I worked for the Ministry of the Interior, it was relatively new. I’m a surveyor, among other skills. Mainly I worked outside the dome, establishing parcels. I understand they are now issuing special permits for people to file residency claims for land in our province.”

“Your province?”

“That’s what the area outside of the dome is officially called, at least once it’s posted with border markers. Once the surveying mission was completed, The Colonial Authority established official borders for the cities around the middle of last year. That was when my job ended and my position with the Ministry came to a conclusion.”

“So, you’re not working?”

“Let’s say I am a freelancer, not to be confused with what my uncle calls me, a freeloader.”

“I would think the Authority would have found other work for you.”

“They made some offers, lower paying positions. It is part of their desire to scale back. They wish people to believe many things that aren’t totally true – for example, the updated projection on the atmospheric terraforming effort. You may have heard that the air outside of the domes will be breathable within five years.”

“I had heard something about that. Of course, I’ve not watched the news lately.”

“Well, I don’t know about things there in New Milan, but in Haven there is a full scale deception underway. Under the ruse of provincial authority we are granted sovereignty over the lands outside of our dome to the border of the Star City’s province to the west, Andromeda to the north and Vostok to the south. We are allowed a fifty thousand square kilometer provincial territory as mapped out in the original charters for each of the cities. I’m sure the Authority has issued the projection worldwide and is allowing the sale of land to those who want to farm or just live outside of the dome. They claim that after the domes are finally dismantled – a process they project will take about three local years to complete – all the land outside of the cities will be fully accessible. Tracks are to be laid for the establishment of highways for coaches and private long-range travel between cities may begin, although the initial routes to the other cities will follow the same courses as the railways. These were the projects I worked on before My position was curtailed, citing a change in overall direction.”

“Then what are they planning to do?”

“Apparently they seek to maintain the status quo. When I worked for the Ministry, I was a true believer. I thought these were exciting times to be alive,” Paul said. “I thought I was participating directly in the birth of our world as the permanent home for all of us. Then everything changed.”

“Why would they stop those programs? I mean, if we are that close to being free of the confinement of the domes…”

“As I understand it, there were miscalculations. They told us a good deal of adjustment must be made,” Paul said. “Unfortunately, my role was deemed no longer necessary. I’d measured the world enough for their immediate goals. Now they claim that people are not ready to live outside the domes. There’s a psychological affinity to the domes, associated with protection and security. At least that’s what the colonies that have been through the process have reported. Then, there’s the whole political process of having a common government over all the Provinces, drafting constitutions for when the Colonial Authority is officially dissolved. What was supposed to take five more years has now been drawn out to twenty or thirty more years. And in the meanwhile, the Colonial Authority continues to govern us, albeit without official mandate.”

“What do you mean?”

“By its charter, the Colonial Authority as a governing body must be dissolved,” Paul revealed. “Its legitimacy was intended to prevent corruption in the process of creating new autonomous provincial governments that would convene to create a constitutions and eventually form a central government.”

“I thought the Authority’s responsibility was to create a viable world.”

“Well, it also needed to create the political and economic structures to allow for autonomous government. Under the guidelines of the terraforming program, once the provinces are established, each is responsible to the others to negotiate fairly in trade and allow for travel until a central government can be established. The Colonial Authority was to provide for a body of government elected from the individual provinces to oversee a transition and write a constitution. They are currently in violation of their charter.”

“How can that be?”

“Who is there to say no to them? They draw their authority from a colonial oversight board seated on a planet in Earth’s solar system. In other words, they have the authority because there is no one controlling them, now.”

“You really understand this stuff.”

“Well, it’s what I did when I was excited about the future. But I’ve gone on enough, I think. I’m starting to bore you – I can tell.”

“No, it’s that I know so little about it, Paul. The way you explained it, it seems like something that everyone would want to know about.”

“No one cares, Cristina. We are programmed to be what we are taught, and we serve function at the whim and direction of the Colonial Authority. They numb our minds at a very early age and condition us to become what they need. They pacify us with nonsense for the sake of entertainment or satisfaction of our curiosity. It’s all distraction, to prevent anyone from discovering the truth about their corruption. It’s sad that they have seized power. We were on the verge of becoming an open completely terraformed world.”

“Perhaps it’s not too late.”

“When I worked for the Ministry, I was thinking of running for election to the constitutional convention delegation from Haven,” Paul said. “Maybe it was a pipe dream anyway. I’m not all that outgoing or popular. But now it’s a moot point. There will never be a convention, now.”

“I hope you are wrong, Paul. I think you’d make a wonderful delegate. You obviously have the knowledge and background. And you care.”

“Thank you for the vote of confidence.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I guess I should let you go on about whatever I interrupted. I’m sending you my number capture so you can call me if you ever want to talk.”

“I’m glad you called. I feel like I learned a lot. I guess I’m like everyone else, I never think anything is wrong. As long as everything runs smoothly, who challenges authority?”

“When I was in college, I read a book by a man from the Twentieth Century named Andrew L. Hunter. In it he said a good government is one that is barely noticed while ensuring nothing ever seems to go wrong,” Paul said. “I guess as long as the Colonial Authority can maintain the illusion of competent administration, no one will challenge their power.”

“Stay in touch, Paul.”

“I will. You too.”

“I promise, I will,” Cristina replied. The screen that had shown his face faded to black and was immediately replaced by a preview of something on world viewer. The resonant click echoed from the lost audio connection of the terminated call.

She turned away thinking that she might be hungry enough to cook something from the freezer if anything in it was still edible after more than a year.

Having surveyed the frost covered contents and determined that most everything within was likely freezer burned, she resorted to freeze-dried meal packets stored in a cupboard. What the packages professed to be contained hardly seemed possible, but from her experience, once re-hydrated, they were edible.

She mused about an incident from the past that freeze-dried food brought to mind. Keith, the lead guitarist of her band had once told her that freeze-dried anything would survive longer than any concert tour, maybe rivaling the lifespan of a rock. At the time she was new to the band and had not understood his sense of humor.

She asked if he was suggesting rocks are alive? She felt stupid when he indicated he was trying to be funny. “When I’m worried or things seem to be going bad, I make a joke,” he explained. “I think most people do that. I mean, what do you do?”

“I’m Italian,” she had begun her response. “So whenever I’m worried or something is wrong, I make some pasta, and then everything is all right.”

As a result of their conversation, directly before going on tour she stocked up on anything that said freeze-dried, and of course she also bought enough pasta to take care of her needs until she found the time and energy to go shopping.

Whether Keith knew what he was talking about mattered little. When she returned home from tour, at least she had options. She could inject some water into the proper port in the protective bag and allow it to sit in the microwave under the ‘freeze-dried’ cycle for it to expand. Then wait for the contents to cook for however many minutes the package recommended. Or she could make pasta and after draining it, cover it in tomato sauce and grated cheese. For her immediate situation, she made a personal feast in relatively short order and then sat down at her dinette to consume it.

As she ate she watched News Central for New Milan on world viewer. What Paul had indicated was happening in Haven, New Milan was also announcing. Parcels of land outside the dome were being made available for sale to private ownership and would be zoned for residential, agricultural or commercial purposes. Following the report, the Colonial Authority’s announced updated projections on the atmosphere’s compliance with terraform standards.

Cristina sat back to listen. She didn’t know why she was so focused on the news, as it was now old. Paul had already told her more about it than she needed to know, more than the news was reporting. She sort of liked knowing something before the news reported it. Now she understood why Raven monitored everything, why he didn’t trust the Colonial Authority.

Even if the news service was reporting it all day, she knew something they did not, what they were not reporting. The knowing made her feel in control. She sort of liked that feeling. Not since before her meeting with Raven had she felt in control. If Paul was right, everything she believed she knew was illusion founded on lies and deception.

When she disposed of the spent food containers she returned to her seat at the dinette and held the orb out at arm’s length again, attempting without much initial success to replicate the exercise where the orb remained where it was while she removed her hand. Then, after several attempts, she remembered the entire sequence and replicated the event exactly. She stared at the orb and forced disbelief to override her perception. Instantly, she knew for certain that the orb was still in her palm, where it had always been. She felt it there. She did not have to look.

Then something unexpected happened. As if it was nighttime, the room became dark. It was not abjectly dark as it had been when Sparrow created his illusion. She turned to glance at a chronometer and suddenly sat back in the horror of realization that fourteen hours had skidded by in an instant that she had not perceived.

Immediately, upon her questioning what had happened in that lost time she felt the orb in her palm growing warmer and she held out her hand to open her palm. The glow of the orb was so intense that it pained her eyes to look in its direction. There was a reflection cast against the wall of her room. It drew her attention toward it because she had never seen anything like it. It was beautiful but also frightening.

With eyes closed tightly in an attempt to force the image from her presence she concentrated. When she opened her eyes again it was still night but the automated lights of her apartment were on as they well should be and so was world viewer which she had never turned off.

News Central reported the city of New Milan had been selected to host the upcoming Provincial meeting to discuss the latest revised terraforming timelines based on the findings of recent atmospheric compliance tests.

In other news, the sale of land outside the dome was progressing well, with the Ministry of the Interior reporting the issuance of 470 permits for agricultural development on the first day. However, the issuance of commercial and residential permits was being delayed because of the revised atmospheric compliance results. Since the farmland could be developed immediately, and the need for increased food production, the Colonial Authority was allowing waivers for agricultural development of the interior lands.

Cristina got up from her dinette table and sat down on her relatively vast, comfortable couch and flipped to a world information channel to see what news if any she had missed in the past few days. She watched for an hour or so then switched to view a play she had not seen for a while, but one she loved. She watched it until her eyes grew heavy with sleep as she stretched out on her couch. Then, thinking better of it she went to her closet and obtained a blanket for cover as she watched a bit more of the play before finally succumbing to her heavy eyelids and the ever alluring attraction of an extended visitation of the crimson curtails that gradually drew closed upon her perception of the world.

When she woke it was morning. She glanced at the chronometer to confirm that she’d slept for ten hours. She got up to immediately purge her bladder and then went to the kitchen to select something else freeze dried from her cupboard, promising herself she would go shopping later today.

On world viewer there was a different play on the entertainment channel. She had seen it before and did not like it that much, so she returned to the coach and immediately grabbed her remote. She changed the format of all the screens of the array, programming it to display a number of different sources. One of the news sources commanded her attention and so she brought it up on the primary screen, even sitting on the couch to watch it.

“In other news from other Provinces, former Haven Ministry of the Interior Associate Surveyor Paul Scalero pictured here was reported missing. Sources say the young man’s uncle John Scalero reported him missing late last night. Video records from the apartment indicate he has not been back at his residence for at least twenty-four hours. Local authorities are reviewing area security recordings and researching the last calls made from his residence for any clues that might help in the investigation. Anyone having information in the disappearance are asked to contact the Colonial Authority District One Office of Investigation on world viewer channel forty-three seventy-seven.”

Cristina began to key in the number on her remote, when her apartment’s videophone chimed and a man in uniform appeared in one of the preview monitors set to default for any incoming calls.

“I apologize if I awakened you, Ms. Salnero.”

“That’s okay. I was already up and about. Actually, I was just preparing to call.”

“About Mr. Scalero?”

“Yes, about Paul’s disappearance. Obviously, you know he called me.”

“Yes, we are looking for any clues. Since his uncle reported him missing, we’ve had very little to go on. Did he say anything to you, perhaps about going on a trip?”

“No. I don’t know Paul all that well. Our conversation was about our having met one another on the causeway sidewalk in Haven. I had gone out to watch the sunrise,” she explained. “On my way back, I met Paul and his uncle. His uncle was more annoyed than anything else. So, I really didn’t meet him. They were going out to fish with bang-sticks.”

“So you met and gave him your number?”

“Uh, no. His call last night came as quite a surprise. I never give my number out to anyone except the members of band I perform with and whoever is our tour manager. I believe my tour manager may have given him my number. He knew we met.”

“Who’s you tour manager?”

“Well we are off tour right now. But when we were there in Haven last week, it was Chase Littleton of Andromeda City.”

“Do you have his number?”

“Wait. I’ll forward it to you.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that. It saves me the search query.”

“Look, even though I really don’t know Paul well, we had a long conversation. It was mostly about what he did with the provincial partitioning of land outside the domes. It was interesting. I never realized how much organization is involved in things, you know?”

“Did he say anything that you thought was strange?”

“Not really,” she said. “I mean he told me he used to work as a surveyor so he was outside the domes a lot. He told me a lot about that. Then he told me he was thinking of running for election as a delegate to the constitutional convention but that it looked like that would be delayed because of the atmospheric tests.”

Suddenly a number appeared on her screen, which she immediately saved. “I appreciate your information. If you think of anything else, regardless how bizarre, call me.”

“I will.”

“I really appreciate your cooperation.”

“I hope you find him soon. Maybe he went somewhere and got lost.”

“Well sometimes it is just that simple, but he has lived here for a very long time and should know the city well. So we are taking his disappearance seriously.”

“I would appreciate it if you could have him call me when you find him. I’m worried about him now. I mean, after our conversation I consider him a friend.”

“I understand. I’ll do that for you. I have the ID tag from the phone, Ms. Salerno.”

“It’s Cristina.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Cristina. You have been most helpful.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 10 – Meeting

**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 did not know why she was nervous. She had met important people before. She was a professional performer. From time to time she had been introduced to actors, actresses, media celebrities, artists, businessmen and politicians. She understood it was about the performance and often very little of lasting substance.

She was used to being in front of thousands of people. It was just that it felt different being home in her apartment and waiting for a couple of people that she was welcoming into her private world. Each of them was a Courier, but they were the leaders of the clandestine group. She knew very little about them, only that Chase was the contact serving as a link. She trusted Chase, but she remembered meeting Raven and how that experience disturbed her.

The meeting in Star City unnerved her as much as anything she had ever experienced. He was nice to her but intimidating at the same time. He had an intensity that she had seen in other people, mainly other gifted artists. Whether it was true or not, she felt he might know everything she had wanted to know about her differences. What’s more, by any normal human scale he was ancient. Sparrow and Hummingbird were leaders. How old were they?

When the doorbell rang her heart leapt into her throat. She went to the door and peered through the peephole into the corridor. There were two well-dressed, distinguished-looking gentlemen, neither of whom appeared to be all that old. Tentatively she clicked on the intercom. She was not certain these were the men she had been expecting.

“Yes?”

“Cristina?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“I believe you are expecting us. I’m Hummingbird and this is Sparrow.”

She disengaged the security protocols and opened the door for them, “I’m sorry I guess I was expecting…”

“Older men?”

“Well, yes.”

“I assure you that we are much older than we appear to be.”

“But Raven…”

“Raven chooses to look his age at times – well, at least more of his age, anyway. I think most Couriers do,” Hummingbird said.

“It’s probably about half and half,” Sparrow corrected. “It varies from colony to colony.”

“There are Couriers in all the colony worlds?” Cristina asked.

“Of course there are. Otherwise our mission would be pointless,” Sparrow said.

Cristina ignored the inherent insult in Sparrow’s retort. “Where are my manners?” she asked rhetorically. “Come in, sit down. Are you thirsty? Can I get you anything?”

“Water will be fine for us both,” Hummingbird responded. “We will sit at the table if you don’t mind.”

“Please, make yourselves at home.”

When she returned from fetching glasses of ice water she set them on coasters at the table across from Hummingbird. Sparrow had taken his place at the head of the table. Upon her sitting adjacent to him, he smiled at her. Then, lifting the glass of water to his lips he immediately consumed half of the contents. “Thank you for your hospitality,” he said as he returned the glass to the coaster. “I get very thirsty traveling in these controlled environmental containments.”

“You are not resident to this world, then?”

“I am,” Hummingbird said. “At least I have been for the past two local years. Sparrow is spoiled. He dwells on a world where the terraforming project was completed several years ago.”

“All except for the correction of our common reproductive problems,” Sparrow modified.

“Of course,” Hummingbird said. “That is the real issue before us all.”

“Which of you is in charge?” Cristina asked.

“According the naming conventions, I suppose I am,” Hummingbird said.

“The smaller the bird the higher the rank?”

“It started out to be something like that, but by now that has become archaic and a gross oversimplification of our organizational structure. As there were a number of birds between the hummingbird and the sparrow there are also a number of others in the colonies who run things.”

“You see really all of the Couriers are coequal in so many ways that the point of any true leadership is rendered moot. There are some administrative functions requiring coordination and so this is the purpose that we have served for all others. We too are Couriers, but we have not yet found the ones who will bear our burdens.”

She reached into her pocket and produced the small white orb.

“Yes,” Hummingbird said. “No doubt you have questions about the device.”

“What does it do?”

“It does nothing and everything,” Sparrow said somewhat evasively. “Eventually you will come to appreciate how that statement is not really double talk.”

“With all due respect, it’s still not much of an answer.”

Hummingbird said, “I appreciate your blunt candor. No, you’re quite right in your assessment. At this point, it is not an answer at all. It facilitates and accommodates. Technically, it does nothing that you do not intend it to do. That’s what my colleague meant.”

“Okay,” she responded.

“Allow me to demonstrate one of the orb’s many properties for you so that you may begin your journey of discovery. Hold it out at arm’s length in your palm, and then without holding onto the orb very slowly turn your hand over.”

When she did exactly as instructed the orb rolled with the movement of her hand so that when she stopped it came to rest on the back of her hand.

“Now very quickly, pull your hand away.”

As she did she sat in stunned amazement as the orb remained precisely where it had been, not falling to the tabletop as she might have expected. Yet, it was not hovering or floating. Instead it remained rigidly where it had been as if her hand was still beneath it.

“It seems a very good trick as you don’t understand the principle behind it,” Sparrow began, but then he paused in response to Hummingbird’s raised hand.

“Tell me,” Hummingbird began. “What has just happened?”

“I tricked it. It thinks my hand is there.”

“You have determined that the orb has a certain measure of intelligence, then.”

“It can find others like me and draw them toward me.”

“Well, that’s some of it, to be sure.”

“It does other things like –”

“It’s intended for your training,” Hummingbird interrupted his colleague.

“So it’s resisting gravity?” she asked.

“Perhaps that would be a valid assessment if in fact you could prove to me that gravity has any effect on it,” he said, slightly amused. “Of course, your hand might still be there and you are deceiving yourself that you actually have your hand in your lap. Maybe you don’t know where you hand is at all but through the deception of my persuasion, you have convinced yourself the orb is still where it was.”

“I know where my hand is,” she responded with a touch of anger, staring at first one and then the other of them.

“Then look in your hand,” Sparrow challenged.

She looked down as she opened her palm and the orb was there. She quickly looked up to where the orb had been, but it was no longer there.

She shook her head in disbelief.

“What just happened?”

“You tell me,” Cristina responded.

“No, I know what happened. It is for you to tell me what you reason and what you believe.”

“The orb was always in my hand.”

“Then the orb appearing to be suspended about the table was the illusion?”

“The only other alternative is that the orb is still above the table and its being in my hand is the illusion.”

Hummingbird laughed. “You are progressing very well.”

“Am I? It’s confusing me.”

“Suspect the rational for there are no rational processes involved.”

“What is that supposed to mean? Is the world irrational?”

“The orb has already taught you one very important lesson. Never believe anything you perceive. Your senses are bound to you human limitations and range. Unfortunately, the first generation was females who needed a human male to fulfill their destinies. That breeding taints the attributes. Fortunately, there are ways to obviate those differences. The orbs serve their portion of that purpose.”

“Raven said it would draw others toward me.”

“Yes, it can and certainly will do that. But as Couriers our objective is to ensure that everyone possesses an orb. Then finding one another will be a relatively easy thing for anyone to do.”

“Alix is one of us,” she revealed. “He’s in my band.”

“Very good. It seems to be working already. There’s a Courier in this city. His name is Blackbird. You will direct Alix to seek him,” he reached into the inner pocket of his suit coat and fished out an address book. “Do you have a tabcorder?”

“Sure,” she got up and went to the kitchen and opened a drawer obtaining a small pressure sensitive recording device for taking notes with a stylus or scanning objects. She offered it to Hummingbird upon returning to the table.

Having highlighted the proper address, he pressed the book to the tabcorder and then handed it back to her. “Have him go to this address. I have sent an alert to Blackbird. He will be expecting him.”

“Is that all I need to tell him?”

“Your obligation for him will be fulfilled, for that purpose anyway. There are other purposes ahead and you will need to do to be prepared. Playing with the orb to get comfortable with it is absolutely essential. It can teach you more about yourself and your relationship in the universe than I or anyone else could ever teach you in a lifetime. That’s its purpose.”

“Where does it come from?”

“The Architects gave them to the Couriers.”

“The Architects as in the people who designed the colonies?”

“No, no,” Hummingbird said as he smiled. “I suppose there would be confusion in the terminology for you. The Architects that you know of are humans. The Architects I speak of created the plans for the universe.”

“You mean like deities?”

Sparrow chuckled. “As fanciful and bizarre as the human imagination has proven to be, no one could ever imagine the truth about the Architects.”

“You have met them?”

Sparrow fell silent, but then looked at Hummingbird for concurrence.

“Personally, I believe in her,” Hummingbird said. “She may be ready to know at least part of that truth.”

Sparrow reached into his inner coat pocket and produced a device that resembled the remote controls that operated almost every appliance in any residence. He pressed a few buttons. Then, as if the sun had instantly fallen from the sky it became abjectly dark. “Are you still there?”

“Yes.”

“Comfortable?”

“Startled, but yes, I am comfortable.”

“Good,” Sparrow said. “This is what exists. It is the only thing that we are positive exists because it is the absence of everything else.”

“We have somehow stepped outside the universe?”

“She is very astute,” Hummingbird said.

“That would be a rational guess but as I said before there is nothing rational about any of this. We are still sitting at your dinette table in your apartment in New Milan. One interpretation of what you perceive is that it might be a simulation, another layer of the illusion.”

“This is a convincing simulation,” she replied.

“It’s interactive. You can use the orb here to be creative.”

As she withdrew the orb from her pocket its faint glow became immediately obvious and illuminated their faces. “So, now we exist.”

“Do we or is that a projection of the orb?” Sparrow asked.

“I know I exist,” she said.

“How do you know?” Hummingbird asked.

“I just know.”

“Maybe she was not ready after all,” Sparrow said.

“It’s because I can sense things even in the darkness. I can bring up memories of where I have been and what I have done and even think of things that have never been along with things that I have not yet done.”

“So it’s because you can think about all of that, that is why you have decided that you exist?” Sparrow asked.

“Or is it because you exist that you think?” Hummingbird twisted the question.

“I know I exist.”

“Why?”

“Because… I am… the universe,” she said haltingly as the words had oddly occurred to her very slowly.

Hummingbird observed as Sparrow ended the simulation. “My, but how wonderful it is to finally find someone who gets to the point of it all on the first try!”

Sparrow wiped a tear from his cheek. “Four thousand three hundred sixty nine humanoids with the attributes. Of all of them, you alone have offered that as the answer in the first lesson.”

Hummingbird reached over and gently patted the back of her hand. “You are as amazingly intuitive as you are beautiful.”

“So the simulation was intended as some sort of test?”

“It was an open book test if you will. We would have eventually given you the answer, but we always try to have you arrive at it on your own. It has a way of fixating the concept in the synapses and neural pathways of your humanoid brain in a way that makes it much harder for you to ever doubt the reality of it in the future. It is frequently easier to acquire something you have come up with on your own than to comprehend what seems to be the baffling bullshit of others.”

“Even if my theories prove to be wrong?” she asked.

“Who decides what is and what is not wrong? Humans are very easily deceived but have an even greater propensity to be self-deceived. Great wars have been fought over the fruit and consequences of self-delusion,” Sparrow said. “But if you doubt everything you will filter out what is not real. Whatever persists against all disbelief will be the truth.”

“You called me humanoid.”

“It is the appropriate terminology. You are like a human in many ways but unlike any human in other, very significant ways.”

“I have four ovaries.”

Hummingbird looked at Sparrow. “You are amazingly self-aware and adjusted, my dear.”

“Someone told me that was one difference.”

“But there are other differences that you are aware of.”

“I have a very efficient metabolism.”

“Yes, that is usually the first thing that anyone with the attributes notices. You require less food because you digest the food you eat more completely and therefore you also produce minimal waste.”

“I’m strong relative to my size.”

Sparrow nodded.

“I’m unafraid of the dark.”

“But overly sensitive to light,” Hummingbird pointed out. “We have not quite understood that last one, except that maybe it will aid in colonizing worlds with dimmer or more distant suns.”

“That is what we are intended to do, colonize other worlds.”

“I suppose that as a sort of reward for your accomplishments thus far, maybe we can skip a little bit ahead.”

“You mean there are going to be further sessions?”

“Self-administered, just you and the orb,” Sparrow said.

Hummingbird took a long draft of water then cleared his throat. “I have a story to tell to you, one that I doubt you have ever heard in the fullness of detail because it began in the most distant past when the Architects designed the pattern for constructing all life in the universe.”

“Okay,” she permitted but then met his eyes wanting to ascertain the level of truth and conviction in what he said to her.

“It is said that into that pattern everything that would ever come into being anywhere in the universe was established and cast adrift to seek its proper place to commence. Most of the Architects believed that their pattern was incorruptible. But one of them arrogantly took up the challenge to find a way to corrupt the pattern and in a very short order succeeded. Although the pattern was intended to be perfect, ever expanding and growing, the corruption introduced what humans have always referred to as evil. In fact human concepts of death, disease, destruction and devastation, most negative aspects of existence have always been associated with evil. Nothing in the universe is without compromise. The tyranny of the unity is the true evil in the universe. It is that tyranny that misled mankind into destroying one another and their once pristine world. Humans have not evolved because they were not prepared for the ramifications of knowing the truth.”

“Mankind acquired a mutation of a virus that was dormant in domesticated animals and some species of apes,” Sparrow continued the explanation. “It plagued mankind on Earth for decades seeming that the nature of the very world had again turned again them. Then, at great expense and after research conducted on many people over many, many years, it was brought under control. It was not cured but controlled. With treatment and necessary precautions, the virus would no longer spread to uninfected humans. Still, after decades of fearing the disease, there was a social stigma that the plague still carried. Those who were identified as having the virus were shunned even though it was under control. They could not infect others directly without unprotected sexual intercourse. Then after several years another even more pervasive virus appeared. It was a variant of the first that likewise attacked the immune system of those who it infected, but its major distinction was that it could be transmitted without sexual intercourse. Those that had been treated for the previous plague were easily infected by the new virus and actually spread it widely throughout all of mankind, except they had an antibody that allowed them to recover from the new viral infection. Then once recovered they also had a native immunity to the older plague and could no longer spread it through sexual intercourse or by any other means.”

“It baffled and befuddled researchers,” Hummingbird proceeded. “But anyone who had received medication and had the previously ‘incurable’ virus under control was highly susceptible to the new virus, but once they had recovered from it, they had immunity to both viruses.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people refused to accept what they were being told and needlessly died because they did not want the stigma of having the plague,” Sparrow said. “It is the same sort of ignorance that has ensured the ultimate demise of mankind. They saw the immunization as if they were acquiring the diseases. They feared infections but moreover they shunned the stigma. They would not listen to their own researchers who told them what was necessary for mankind to survive.”

“You are part of a new species,” Hummingbird said. “That is why we refer to you as humanoid. You can mate with humans and even produce viable offspring that may possess the gene that will permit them to survive. Yet, it’s not definite that the gene would prevail in each successive generation. Therefore why bother? Mating with others of your species will ensure the survival of your newly evolved humanoids. Humans will merely fade into memory, as one of the steps in the evolution of a higher race, a new being.”

“But we could save mankind,” Cristina suggested. “We could spread our difference.”

“In our opinion it is a waste of time,” Hummingbird said. “It will dilute the gene and perhaps even lead to the eventual end of both species, extending the inevitable perhaps a few more generations. The progression of the new DNA pattern must advance in a relatively pure manner until there are sufficient numbers of humanoids with the pattern to proliferate the new species. By then mankind as we have previously know it will be no more.”

“Fifty years,” Cristina said.

Hummingbird sighed. “It is estimated that the last human will die in about 150 years. Even if every human mated with someone possessing the attributes, their species would only extend for another three hundred years at most.”

“It is the progression of the attributes that needs to be fostered until they flourish and predominate in the billions,” Sparrow said.  “Mankind has carried the spark and has passed it on to you and your kind. It has merely to be reawakened for the fullness of that potential to be realized.”

“Earth was not the product of ancient terraforming, then?” she asked.

“I think you have enough to dwell upon for the time being. You will learn the truth through your own searches and queries not the speculations of old men or others who are still engaged in quests similar to yours.”

Sparrow took his cue to stand and Hummingbird joined him.

“Will I see you again?” Cristina asked.

“Perhaps soon or never,” Hummingbird said. “I will say that your intuitive powers are highly advanced for someone who has had an orb for merely a few days.”

“I’m not sure I want to know the truth.”

“The truth will seek you even if you do not seek it, but the accidental discovery of the truth will always be a painful experience,” Sparrow said.

“It is better to seek out one’s destiny than to just wait for it to happen,” Hummingbird added.

“Perhaps you do not sense the extent of the sacrifices that were made that you might live, but it is why these colonies exist and why your mother and father decided to give you life. It is what you were born to do,” Sparrow said.

“Countless people have lived entire lifetimes wondering why they were born. It is within your ability to know and grasp your purpose. That is what makes you and others like you remarkable,” Hummingbird concluded.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 9 – Epiphany

**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 enjoyed the view of her birth city, New Milan from the sliding glass door. It was home. She had not been home for nearly a local year. It warmed her inside to see the familiar skyline of the downtown and the lights of the nighttime city, famous for its nightlife.

Of all places in the world, she felt New Milan was the most unique. It was nestled into a place where the tall mountains rose on three sides as if to rescue it from the violent sea-driven winds. On the west coast of the larger of the two continents, it bordered on Westpond, the smaller of the two oceans.

The city’s diverse population was mainly descendants of western and central Europeans. Although the official language of the Colonial Authority was English, was never a prohibition on speaking other languages, just the requirement in the schools that every student would learn two languages, by edict one of which would be English.

Cristina understood the arrogance of the Colonial Authority in at least an historical context. The Directorate Council and The Society above it held their sessions in English. The City and Province of Bartoul in New Essex, the center of all colonial government was on Mars, a completely English-speaking colony, having been settled by descendants of British, American, Canadian and Australian descent.

When she took courses at the University of New Milan, it served to reinforce her belief that everything was skewed toward an English bias. In the end what did it matter to her? She spoke several languages. The fact that she spoke English directly benefited her in ways that it did not benefit anyone who did not speak the unofficial language of the colonial provinces of Pravda.

The historical bias predated the colonial expansion of the European powers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries on Earth. During that time the might and power of the British Navy became dominant, even superseding the Spanish Armada’s intimidation in the Battle of Trafalgar in the English Channel. As a direct consequence, even as the British Empire crumbled into several sovereign nations whether through revolution or simple evolution into commonwealths, at least English existed as a known language in every one of those former colonies.

With the emergence of the United States as another English speaking superpower, allied with the British, further establish English as an important language to know. Through the influence of America and Britain to every corner of the world English became the most often spoken second language in the world.

It was an historical irony not lost on Cristina that the majority of people in the late Twentieth Century spoke Chinese. What about Hindi, Spanish, and Russian – or any number of other languages? What irked her was the truth. If she had not been adept at acquiring English as a language, she would have never become a popular singer-songwriter.

She preferred Italian and loved not only its lyrical qualities but also the flow and meter of the language for composing a song. English had always felt cumbersome to her, trotting and hopping along in iambic pentameter instead of flowing through in the rhythms that she associated with her natural, native tongue.

Immersed in her memories of college and her studies, she lingered for a moment, and then finally recalled memories of Chase kissing her goodbye. It was only a friendly peck on her cheek. He had someone waiting for him to return home. She understood. As much as she grew comfortable being around Chase, there was an invisible barrier that he would not transgress. Julie, his lady was lucky, she decided. Chase was singularly devoted to her. Cristina envied her that level of respect and commitment.

Chase had seen Cristina off at the station. His railcar left an hour later than hers. He arranged everything for her. Scheduling was what he did best. He took care of things. No one was better at it than Chase.

As she rode home she pulled the small orb out of her pocket several times and looked at it, wondering what it was for and what it might ultimately mean to her. For the moment, all she knew was it would help her develop her gifts and draw those with the attributes to her. She expected to begin meeting them immediately. Thus far she attracted no one.

As she sat at her dinette table in her apartment, she looked at the orb again. It was directly in front of her, perfectly round and off-white. It seemed to glow from one moment to the next. Her mind was drawn toward it. Her attention was captured in that instant. A strange alien voice called out to her in a bizarre language that approximated music. When it ended she understood the message. “Help us!”

At that moment the doorbell rang. Quickly she returned the small orb to her pocket before going to the door and peering through the peephole. As she recognized whom it was she opened the door immediately. She shared a friendly embrace with Alix, her band’s bassist.

“You’ve been unreachable for three days,” he complained. “Pete and I were out last night. He mentioned no one had heard from you since the end of the tour.”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I have had a lot on my mind lately. Come on in,” she said as she closed the door behind him.

“Well, after we got loaded-up a bit with ale I started thinking and worrying about you,” Alix said. “Pete said it would have been better to be partying with you. And it surely would have been better. We missed having you around.”

“Awe, that’s so sweet.”

“Well, it is only natural that all of us miss you.”

“Do you have plans for tonight?”

“Me?” Alix asked.

“Yeah, you?”

“Uh, no plans, not really. I guess I was thinking about eating a burger and fries at this retro-American fast food place that I know, and then chug an old-school sugar cola to wash it all down. And finally I was going to play some really archaic video games – something I have missed out on doing for over a year.”

Cristina smiled. “You know, that sounds better than what I had planned.”

“Really?” Alix asked, seeming surprised. “Let me get this straight. You really want to hang-out with me, like… just me?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well nothing, except you have never, ever done that before, not with anyone in the band. There has always been this kind of gentleman’s agreement amongst us. You’re off limits for socializing. Besides all that, I am not really dressed for a date or anything. I mean I haven’t shaved in a couple of days.”

“You look fine. Besides, I sort of like the rough look for you. You are a big guy and it sort of suits you.”

“But Keith had us all swear an oath that we would treat you just like you were our sister and only you could ever change that.”

Cristina shook her head in disbelief. “Keith did that and you swore to it?”

“Well, yeah. I mean it made sense. All of us love and respect you in that way.”

She laughed again, louder. “That bastard!” she said, shaking her head. “You don’t know the truth. He asked me out. We went to see a show. I loved it, but I could tell that he hated it. It was a musical and maybe guys aren’t into musicals, I don’t know. I have always wanted to be an actress in a musical.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“I took voice lessons for years.”

“I knew that.”

Cristina chuckled again. “Keith effectively prevented any of you from socializing with me.”

“Well, not exactly. He allowed the out that if it was your choice, it would be okay.”

She shook her head. “Well, if going somewhere together constitutes a date in your mind, just figure we are friends. We are friends aren’t we?”

“Of course we are. But what does that mean in the context of the gentleman’s agreement?”

“This is the first I have heard of it and frankly, how dare any of you restrict who might want to go out with me or who I might want to see? It doesn’t mean it is serious when I go out with someone, but I am like anyone else. I want to go out and have some fun.”

“I didn’t want to imply that I thought this was the beginning of a more serious relationship.”

“You should not exclude that possibility. I have never been out with you. I have known you for almost ten years, but still, I don’t know you. So, let’s just go out and have some fun. We can take it from there. Let me get some things together and we will go. Have a seat and see what’s on world viewer while you wait.”

As Alix moved past being stunned to walking over to the couch and sitting down, he was treading very lightly, thinking that at any moment he was going to do something to offend Cristina and end any chance he had of fulfilling what had forever been his most fervent desire. As he waited he picked up the remote and programmed in the channels he wanted to monitor, and then he keyed on an entertainment channel to watch on the main screen of the monitor array. Oddly, the channel was reporting the return home of Duae Lunae from a worldwide tour. “Hey they’re talking about us!” He shouted so that Cristina might hear.

“That’s good…I guess,” Cristina shouted back. “I guess our publicist isn’t on vacation yet.”

“So, are we famous now?” Alix asked.

“It’s a relative thing,” Cristina replied. “We’re at least more famous than we were before the tour.”

“Okay,” Alix said as he changed to a different channel on the main screen, and then he checked out an entirely different set of channels. When Cristina emerged from the bathroom made-up and ready for her imminent exposure the world, Alix stood up. “You know it has always amazed me how you can go from amazingly awesome to drop-jaw devastating in less than twenty minutes.”

Cristina smiled and stepped up on her tiptoes to kiss Alix on the cheek. “That is the sweetest thing you have ever said to me.”

“I’ll make sure to make it a habit if you keep kissing me whenever I do it,” Alix promised with a chuckle.

As they exited into the hallway of her apartment building she clicked her remote to lock the door to her apartment behind them. Alix admired her as he had many other times, whether she noticed. This time it felt strange. She was a goddess. For her to go out with him to have a quick dinner somewhere and play video games afterwards was really beyond his most unrealistic imagining.

He loved her, of course. Everyone in the band did as well. He knew it but no one violated the professionalism of the band. If anyone did, it had been so discrete and never the subject of any discussion. He expected nothing like this would ever happen. He was the background guy, the quiet one on stage who stood there maintaining the backbeat with Pete. He celebrated the triumphs along with the band and suffered the same pains of disappointment and failure. Everyone took him for granted, but he was okay with that. Being in the background was really what he was all about.

He was certain the others were as concerned as he was about not having heard from Cristina for three days, but he was the one who checked on her, the lucky one who stood at her door when she opened it. Not expecting anything at all, he wanted to make sure she was okay. Now, he was escorting her, to hangout together.

“You’re so quiet,” Cristina said as she threaded her arm through the crook of his elbow and stood beside him waiting for the elevator car.

“It’s sort of my personality, I think. I stay in the shadows. That’s why I play bass, I guess.”

“I’ve heard you play guitar. You are good.”

“I learned guitar first. I was okay at it, but never really that good at it. I love to hear someone play the guitar well, like the way Keith and Tim play. They amaze me. But I have never been to that level. I figured out how to play bass and synch it tight with the percussion. Pete and I are pretty good at doing it.”

“I’ll bet that if you had stayed with guitar you’d be just as good as you are on bass.”

“I am glad you like the way I play bass,” Alix responded with a smile.

“You’re part of my band. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by such a team of seasoned, talented and competent musicians,” she said as the elevator arrived and they stepped inside and she pressed the lobby button.

“We have played together forever. Before we met you, we were playing together on-and-off since we were kids.”

“When I auditioned for you guys, I was nervous as hell.”

“I remember that day, the first time I saw you. I was thinking, ‘damn I hope she can sing because I want her to be in the band’. You know, because you make the whole band look better, you know?”

“You were all very nice and very professional. I appreciated that. It helped, but I was still scared to death. Then Keith came over and told me to pick a song I knew that everyone in the band knew and even presented me a list and I saw the song that I felt was my best one, my personal favorite on the list. I felt confident that I could do well, then. That was really all that it took, I guess.”

“Ten years ago,” Alix began. “It has been that long, but it really doesn’t seem like it. Maybe we have been too busy to notice. We have been trying to make it, to break loose…”

“But we have always been frustrated.”

“I loved your voice from the first time I heard you sing. No one else can sing like you.”

“Why, thank you,” she rose up on her toes and again kissed him on the cheek.

“I could get used to this kissing on the cheek thing, but it would never get old.”

She smiled. “I really like your sense of humor.”

“Is that what you call that?” He grinned.

“I’ll bet you can be very funny when you want to be.”

“I suppose, in a self-deprecating way. I rarely get the chance around Pete, Keith and Tim. They are very outgoing sorts compared to me.”

The elevator reached the lobby and they stepped out.

“Don’t demean yourself,” Cristina warned.

“It’s a defensive mechanism. You know how it is. Anyone who gets too close, it triggers. Besides, I like to be able to laugh at myself.”

“There is nothing wrong with that. It means you have a realistic balance. It’s just that you don’t need to think you’re inferior to anyone in any way.”

“Oh, I don’t. There was a time early on when Keith and I had a serious blowout about how I was playing a particular bass line. It was a couple of years before you joined the band. I told him that if he could do better to do it! He took on the challenge and after ten minutes he handed my bass back to me and said, ‘do it the way you think is best’.”

“See you are the best at what you do and Keith realizes it.”

“I guess so. It was just very strange that he could not play my bass in any way close to how I played it. I mean, yeah, the strings are bigger and I have five not six and except for playing chords I mainly use four of them, but Keith was really intimidated by the instrument. I had never seen that in him. Always before, he had been confident and arrogant.”

Cristina looked into Alix’s eyes, “You’re better than you think. You doubt it until you allow your ego to tell you that you’re better than anyone else.”

“That’s quite profound.”

“It’s true.”

“So, what are you hungry for?” Alix asked.

“The burger and fries you suggested before sounds fine to me.”

“Great. I know this place that is not far from here.”

“I don’t know retro-American food.”

“I’ll order for us, with the works, fries and sodas.”

“Okay.”

“They tell me this restaurant we are going to represents the way things were on Earth at one time. I don’t know. I don’t really care. The food is tasty. That’s all that matters to me.”

“After three days, I’m tired of sitting alone in the apartment,” Cristina said. “I mean, it was okay for the first day. You know kind of decompressing from all the rushing around. But after that…”

As he summoned his floater coach, Alix apologized in advance. “The coach is a mess inside. Pete and I were out last night. We took in a show. We stopped for some Chinese fast food take-out on the way home and, well it’s sort-of still trashed inside.”

“That’s okay. You should see mine,” she said. “I usually ride my scooter everywhere anyway, unless I’m going somewhere with someone. So, what show did you see with Pete?”

“‘The Waiting Game’.”

“I’ve heard that’s good.”

“Some lady Pete knows is in it and gave him passes.”

“That must have been fun.”

“Yeah, I never cared much for theater, especially musicals, but it was really surprising for me, and I had a lot of fun. It is a different kind of performing. I don’t think I could ever do anything like that.”

“I’ve always wanted to be an actress on stage in a musical,” Cristina said. “That’s my dream.”

Their coach arrived at the curb and the door popped open. Alix assisted Cristina then stepped inside and situated himself at the master console.

“Anyway, Pete said he felt like he’d been asleep for two days,” Alix continued.

In response Cristina commented on an epiphany. “You know, this last tour did something for us as a band. We have always had some fun and we work well together, but during this tour, everything came together for us. I think we became a real band. There was a cohesive force that has never been there before. You know, like we were of one mind and going in a single direction. I wasn’t aware when it happened. It just started being that way. I didn’t notice it until this morning when I woke up and realized that something was missing. It was like I had misplaced something that was a vital part of me.”

“Yeah,” Alix agreed. “You were missing all of us. We’re all good friends, but we’re more like a family now.”

“Exactly,” she said. “I’m glad you feel that too.”

When their floater coach arrived at the fast food restaurant they exited it and Alix docked the floater in an empty spot in the parking stack. They went inside and chose a vacant booth where he placed their orders and allowed their pay credit accounts to be accessed. After a few minutes, their burgers, fries and drinks queued at the delivery portal. Alix opened the door and removed their separate orders.

“I’ve lived here since I was born, but I guess I never come to this part of town.”

“It’s not the best place to be, not alone anyway.”

“Do you eat here a lot – I mean, when you’re home?”

“I guess so. The food’s good enough, but they’re really fast. When I want something to eat I hate waiting for it, you know. I don’t like fancy restaurants for that reason. There, it’s all about waiting. That and you have to dress a bit nicer, you know. I mean sometimes it’s fun eating in a fancy place, but I think you got to be in the mood.”

“Chase took me to an Italian restaurant the last night of the tour.”

“How was it?”

“It was good. You’re right though. It’s all about waiting. Maybe it’s more about anticipation.”

“Yeah,” Alix said, then took a bite out of his burger, chewed and swallowed. “The anticipation is largely removed when you come to a place like this. It’s all about immediate gratification.”

“I love fries,” Cristina said, and then as if to emphasize she dipped one in honey mustard sauce before partaking.

“You don’t like ketchup?”

“I don’t know.”

“Try the red package. It’s made mostly of vinegar and tomato sauce.”

“Okay,” she said as she opened one of the packets and then spread it onto a vacant area of her plate. She dipped one fry into it and then sampled it. “Wow, that’s different. I kind of like it.”

“Yeah, that’s what most people eat with their fries.”

Cristina nodded. “It’s really good.”

“So, Chase and you seemed to be getting along well.”

“Yeah, he’s a very nice guy.”

“Is there any fire behind the smoke?”

“He has a girl back home.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, she’s very lucky. Chase is really a very nice guy.”

“She’s lucky she got there first.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s what I meant.”

“You miss him, too,” Alix commented.

“I think that as the tour progressed, he sort of became part of the band. When we’re done in the studio and back out on the road, I’m going to request him to be on tour with us again. I don’t know if we’ll get him, but everyone else in the band seemed to be on good terms with him.”

“Yeah, I like Chase a lot. He’s very straight up and always organized. I think everyone else likes him too.”

“He seemed to be on top of things,” she said.

“Even that time the atmospheric synthesizer in the dome in Star City decided to drop some rain on our equipment at the venue.”

“That really sucked,” Cristina agreed. “Then their silly ordinance about performing after dark! So even after we got our other equipment transport there, no one got to hear us because it was too late for us to perform.”

“They could have told us about the damned ordinance before we reset the whole stage.”

“Exactly!”

“At least Chase arranged for us to swing back through to give a show for all those people who had tickets.”

Cristina nodded as she had just taken a bite out of her burger.

“How is it?”

“Pretty good,” her voice was muffled by the mouthful that she was speaking around. So, in addendum, she nodded in case Alix had not understood.

“There were a lot of strange things that happened on this tour. I mean, there are always strange things but this time seemed worse.”

“It was almost like we were being tested, to see how strong our bonds as a band have become,” Cristina said. Then she sipped from her cold cola.

“Yeah, I had a similar thought,” Alix revealed. “Maybe sometimes we think a lot alike.”

“Maybe so, about some things, anyway.”

“I have always been kind of shy. So, I don’t usually open-up much even when I know someone well. I guess I’m comfortable with the band and all. We grew up together. But Pete and I are probably the closest. We’ve hung-out together since we were kids.”

“I know you practice together without the rest of us.”

“We have to – sort-of, anyway. I really have trouble hearing things on stage at times, and I have to key in on his drums. We each have to know what the other is going to do. We really have a lot of fun playing music together. He gives me ideas and I give him ideas. That’s how it works.”

“It’s great that you and Pete are close like that.”

“So, who’s your best friend in the band?”

She sat back and thought before saying, “You know, I don’t even think I have one. I love all of you as individuals but as a band, too. I know I can count on each one of you. Like tonight, you were worried about me and came to check on me. That’s what friends do for one another. I guess I spent most of my time on tour with Chase or just alone. I’ve always been like that, sort-of a loner, I suppose. You see, I was always shy, too. I used to hide in the closet anytime someone came to the house to see my dad.”

“You’ve never been afraid of the dark,” Alix said as if it was an already established fact.

“You know?”

“Like I said before, we have a lot in common. Maybe we’re more alike than either of us knows,” Alix said.

“You have the attributes?” she whispered.

Alix looked away. “That’s what they’re called, but it’s more like it’s a damned curse,” he replied in a lowered voice so as not to be overheard.

“They’re afraid of us, you know?”

“You have them too?”

“Of course,” she said, and then smiled at him.

“They fear what they don’t understand. It’s human nature, I guess,” Alix said.

“Is it only our differences they fear?”

Alix nodded. “Yeah, pretty-much that.”

“Do you think I was always intended to find you?”

“What?”

“The way we’re different. It’s intended we met.”

“I’d like to think so.”

“All this time I already knew you,” she said smiling broadly.

“I don’t understand.”

“You will. Look, Aren’t we supposed to be out having fun?”

“Actually, I am having fun,” Alix answered. “I could sit and talk to you for hours.”

She looked into his eyes and he quickly looked away. “Don’t!” she admonished.

“It’s uncomfortable,” he turned back.

“I know, but I’m right here. You don’t need to be afraid of me.”

Suddenly, her cell implant chimed and she tapped on her earlobe to answer the call. “Talk,” she said.

“Cristina, where are you?”

“Chase, what a surprise! I’m here.”

“Where’s here? You didn’t answer at your apartment.”

“I’m out with a friend. What’s up?”

“Look, we need to talk. Can you be alone?”

“No, Alix and I are having dinner and going out to an arcade to play some video games afterwards.”

“Alix, really? Well, I didn’t see that one coming.”

“He’s one of us, Chase.”

“No kidding,” Chase responded. “Again, I’m surprised but maybe not totally. Just he has always seemed so quiet.”

“Not everyone is as gregarious as you are.”

“Well, there was a time when I was pretty self-conscious, too. I guess everyone overcomes it, each in his or her own way.”

“What do you need to talk about?”

“It’s about Sparrow and Hummingbird. They’re on their way to New Milan to meet you. When they couldn’t reach you at your place, they contacted me. They should be there tomorrow.”

“Really. I suspect from their names that they’re Couriers, but who are they?”

“They’re important for you to meet. And yes, they’re Couriers. But more so, they are the leaders.”

“And they contacted you but not me.”

“After they couldn’t reach you, they called Raven and he called me. They needed your address. I just needed to confirm that it’s okay to give it to them.”

“Do you have any idea what it’s about?”

“What else would it be about?”

“Well, yeah, I guessed some of that. “It’s okay, then. Like I have a choice, right? But why didn’t Raven contact me? I mean, he said he could, somehow?”

“Yeah, maybe that takes some practice from our side. Anyway, Sparrow and Hummingbird are above him. At least in my understanding of how things in the world work.”

“Should I introduce Alix to them?”

“I’m sure they already have a Courier designated for him.”

“I’m not sure I want to know the means of acquiring that knowledge.”

“Look, I’m kind of between things here and I’ve got to run. Have a good time tonight with Alix.”

“One last thing, tell me how’s Julie?”

“She’s wonderful,” he said. “Thanks for asking.”

Cristina smiled. “Call me later.”

“You got it. Bye.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 8 – Dinner

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

Cristina sat silently for a time, contemplating Chase’s striking choice of words, and then sipped liberally from drink.
“I believe we are continuing an ancient process,” he said.
“And you feel we’ve already evolved.”
“Maybe not fully but…”
“You are already talking about humans as them, not us.”
“Am I?”
“Yes, you are.”
They paused their conversation for the waitress to serve them and then they each declined anything else for the moment.
“They have really great food,” Chase said.
“It looks great.” She sampled it, and then smiled. “Wonderful.”
“I’m glad you like it.”
She sipped some of her wine. “I feel the same, Chase. I really don’t think I’m different from anyone else.”
“For the most part you’re not.”
“I don’t get a choice?”
“What’s the choose? The main difference is you and I will survive.”
“What if I don’t want to participate?”
“I’m afraid you and I are in this at least knee deep at the moment. Your father had to have told you something about the attributes. He understood about your mother’s differences.”
“I always focused on school and my music, of course. Father loved to hear me sing. He paid for professional voice lessons. My teacher was good. She taught me to read and write music as well as music theory. She also why gave me piano and guitar lessons. All that I ever wanted to do was make music and sing,” she said. “That is still what I want to do, sing and not feel the burden of any of this other crap.”
“You can still be who and what you are. Maybe that’s how you can connect with all the others. Those who have not been identified may hear you sing and be attracted.”
Their conversation lulled. Each of them to continued eating, but Cristina was thinking. She set her fork aside, having curbed her appetite with what little she’d eaten. Her apprehensions destroyed her hunger.
“I was always ashamed of my differences,” she resumed. “When I was a little girl I worried that people would know even if I just talked to them. So I didn’t want to talk to people. I lurked in closets and avoided strangers. When I was very young I always wore clothes to conceal the more obvious differences.”
“In the darkness you found comfort.”
“Always, and you?”
“It was a perfectly natural response to our differences,” Chase revealed. “Until you understood, how could you react any differently?”
Cristina leaned away from the table.
“You can no longer hide,” he said to her. “Not to the extent you have before. You cannot hide from everyone. Some of us need you.”
“What if I refuse to do this?”
“It is larger than those of us who have the attributes. We will become the dominant part of our species. The weak will decline into inevitable extinction. We will remain.”
She sighed in response.
“You lament already?”
“It’s sad.”
“They had their time, their chances. We have come not only to replace them but also to carry on the civilization traditions we share. I believe we are the next step in evolution.”
“The suffering and struggle, the destiny of mankind comes down to this? All I have ever wanted was to make music, the music that might appeal to everyone. It has been only that, nothing more.”
“Are you so naïve to believe there are no messages in your music? In the audience at your concerts there are many others like us. I’m told there are only Twenty-four of us, but there are other humans who have the attributes in some measure. They could be the hope for humanity’s survival, delaying the inevitable demise.”
“If there is any message in the lyrics I write, I assure you that it was completely unintended.”
“The melody contains the message as well.”
“I know. But the words I sing contain the meaning.”
“A siren’s voice calls out to the essence of others like us and brings them forth, even if they are as unaware of it as we are.”
Cristina leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and lowered her head into her hands. “I seriously do not want to deal with any of this.”
“It’s in your bones. Deeper than that, it’s in your genes.”
“Am I supposed to accept these new conditions and go on?”
“I don’t think we have any options. It simply is.” Chase paused for an extended moment. He waited for the inspiration of words he might tell her that never arrived. An awkward silence lingered between them.
“This lady of yours…,” Cristina began before she looked up.
“Julie,” Chase said.
“She knows a little more than I do. She had her orb when we met. She found me.”
“Before we met.”
Chase nodded.
“She’s beautiful, of course.”
“It’s in a different way, but she’s attractive. You are too, but it’s different.”
Cristina smiled. “I am always on time in everything else but love. That has been the story of my life.”
“You’ll find someone. The orb will bring the right one to you.”
“And I direct him or her to a Courier. He or she receives an orb, finds someone and directs him or her another Courier and so on.”
“You will be contacted by another Courier soon. I’m pretty sure of that.”
She sipped from her drink.
“Your reservations are not things that will matter in the longer term. You will see that in time.”
“That does little to comfort me now.”
“Well, here it is. If we do not do what is necessary then you, me and others like us will be here alone. We will be forced to make other decisions. We will proliferate or perish.”
“I refuse to believe that mankind won’t resolve the fertility anomaly.”
“You can refuse. It’s your prerogative. It changes nothing. Barring the miracle that you and some others expect, survival is based on the meaningless bravado of the official news releases of the Colonial Authority that claim they will solve the problem within the next fifty years. Reality is that each of us will be very lonely when we have buried everyone else who lacked the attributes. We are adaptive. The special genes are ours. It has already made us physically different, as you know.”
“It has been a source of shame I have concealed for all my life.”
“It was probably wise. Females tend to display the differences in more evident ways.”
She looked directly at him. “What do you have to hide?”
Chase smiled as he looked at her probing, penetrating eyes. “I thought you knew.”
“You are the first person I have ever met of the opposite sex who claims to have the attributes.”
“The differences are manifest in our primary sexual characteristics,” he detailed, and then paused to lower his voice. “Men have four testicles and four nipples, the latter are still as useless as they have ever been.”
“What?”
“You have four ovaries,” he continued to whisper. “Which is something you may or may not realize, but you already know about the cleaved vaginal labia and, of course, the four breasts and nipples.”
She blushed in response to his overt candor.
“Apparently if and when two of us mate we are expected to repopulate the world fairly quickly,” he offered.
“We have four of everything?” Cristina asked, but then chuckled nervously awaiting the answer.
“Yes. I’m told the gestation period is much shorter for us. My mother carried me for merely six months,” Chase said.
Cristina was still dealing with the revelation of four testicles, and then paused as she considered the purpose Chase suggested. “So, when I finally have children it will be a multiple birth, maybe something more like a litter?”
“I would suspect it would be at least twins, but quite likely different eggs and different sperm. Those of our generation were twins at birth. Maybe with our offspring even more children will be born, maybe earlier and perhaps smaller infants that will grow quickly once born. From what I can tell, our births were always fraternal with one male and one female.”
She drew a very deep breath and sighed. “Then I might have a brother?”
“It would be an exception if you did not.”
“My life only ever gets stranger and stranger,” she said.
“So has mine, but knowing I’m not alone has helped me deal with it,” Chase said.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 7 – In His Company

**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 focused on Chase’s eyes as he settled in to join her at the most secluded table in the restaurant. “I didn’t tell you all that much for a very good reason,” he responded to her accusing him of omission.

“I’m listening.”

“Did he frighten you that much?” he asked.

“I don’t know if I would call it fright; it was one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had, though. You could have prepared me better.”

Chase glanced down.

“I may never forgive you for letting me go into it blindly.”

“Regardless, you needed to go into the mission ahead of you with no preconceptions. There is a thin line between preparing someone and revealing too much that might prejudice judgment. Besides, I am not sure there is any way to properly prepare anyone for that sort of meeting.”

The waitress arrived at the table to take their drink orders leaving them menus to study as she departed to fetch their cocktails.

“You have the attributes,” Chase stated in near whisper, then glanced around to ensure no one could have overheard. After, he continued the conversation in a low volume. “That is what the engineers have decided to call the traits each of our mothers passed on to us.”

Cristina glanced up. “You too?”

Chase nodded.

“What was the point of seeing Raven?”

“It was necessary because he told me it was. I was expecting to meet someone and to direct him or her to another Courier and then Raven contacted me regarding you. He called me saying that I knew someone already.”

“How long have you known Raven?”

“As I told you, I have never actually met him. I just know a little bit about him. He is an accomplished artist, but he has remained very obscure and lately aloof. I have spoken to him only on the Comnet.”

“Do you have an orb?”

“A Courier named Eagle gave me one,” he said without producing it in evidence.

“What is with the names of extinct Earth birds?”

“It was a code they devised to use for the safety of the Couriers.”

“How many are there?”

“I don’t know. I know that they deliver orbs to us,” Chase said. “They are Couriers of the orbs, I guess.”

“Raven said the orb will teach me, but he hinted that there was more to it.”

He looked away.

“Chase, I know that you know something that I don’t. I can tell it without even seeing your eyes.”

He flashed a brief smile as he allowed his eyes to meet hers. “The orbs will be a burden for us both, I’m afraid. You will start collecting others who are like you, like us. I am fairly new to this and you are only my second contact. You are the first since I received my orb.”

“And the other?”

“She is the one who contacted me.”

Cristina looked into his eyes and from somewhere in the depths of her soul she knew. “What happens when two of us mate?”

“Mate as in having intercourse?”

“What other mating is there?”

“I was just startled by the abruptness of the question I guess.”

“Surely you have thought about it.”

“Of course, I have. Since my first contact was female, yes, I have thought about. And we have even discussed it.”

Cristina smiled. “You have not considered advancing our relationship to that point.”

“It is not a proper question to ask.”

“Then what is the proper way of putting it?”

“As much as I would love the experience, there is no time or place for it. You are not the one. I suspect that she is, but I am not even certain of that.”

Cristina scooted back in her seat.

“Possessing an orb is a strange thing to get used to. You suddenly realize your place in the overall purpose. And you know you cannot really deviate all that far from it,” he explained. “At first you also feel very incapable and wholly not up to the task.”

“I don’t like any of this.”

“It is not something you can like or dislike. It simply is what it is,” Chase pronounced as if it were a sentence handed down from a judge. “Besides there is a thing called professional decorum between the two of us, you know. We work together. You are my client.”

“That is violated constantly.”

“I don’t violate my professional relationships.”

Cristina started to laugh, but then thought better of it. She focused on his eyes again and felt something in response – something definite, the result of her wanting to know. Then she pulled back. “What’s her name, your first contact? The one who possesses your heart…”

Chase stared at her for several silent moments before he finally responded. “Julie.”

“Is she like…?”

“Of course she is,” he said. “I guess it shouldn’t surprise me how quickly you are beginning to assimilate the knowledge of the gifts.”

“The attributes you mean.”

“Despite the burden they really are gifts, Cristina. The Couriers, all of them up to Sparrow and Hummingbird – the leaders – despised what mankind had done to them and to one another. We are different from them, more evolved in the attributes. We are almost as different from them as we are from ordinary humans. That’s part of the point. We are not so different as to be easily detected but we are the next step, the second generation. Maybe we are a completely new species. We have enough distinct characteristics in common that we should not be called human anymore.”

“My mother was one of the first generation.”

“And your father understood it. When he knew the full truth that your mother would die in childbirth. Despite his wanting to fix it somehow, he eventually accepted it. He hated it and dreaded it. But her acceptance of it apparently made it easier for him. At least that is what I have been told is always the case.”

“So how long do you think we will live?”

“How would I know? I suppose we live until our purpose is somehow served.”

“Raven said he is over 270 years old.”

“Eagle was 305 when I met him. Julie’s mentor was over 320. The only conclusion that can be drawn from that is this process began well in advance of the conditions that mankind created that ended their ability to inhabit the Earth. There was something intelligent in control of the overall design that allowed for the genetic mutation to begin long ago.”

“I’m not sure I want to believe it or that I’m a mutant.”

“Have you ever wondered about the stories of people in the distant past that lived very long lives?”

“You mean like the legends about people living for hundreds of years?”

“Yeah.”

“I have never taken any of that literally,” she said. “My father wanted me to attend church with him. I think he needed the comfort of the belief that Mom was in a better place. So, even after I began to doubt what I was hearing in the services, I still humored him.”

“You were a good daughter.”

“It was strange, Chase. I mean everyone I knew at the time was either atheist or agnostic. To me the Bible had always seemed a fairy tale. I discussed my feelings with my father at one point. He told me he would never presume to tell me what to believe. But he had been a lot like me when he was younger and felt that the educational system had turned his attention away from the truth and toward what he called ‘a great deception’. He said that after he met my mother he had no doubt in preordained destiny. She was exactly what he had been seeking in a woman and so he listened to her and came to believe as she did.”

“Then he was happy.”

“I challenged him in that Mom had lived with him for five years before she died giving birth to me. He told me that he had learned that a day is of a thousand years in the eyes of God, and so he had a full life and he looked forward to joining her in paradise.”

Chase wiped away a tear that was welling in the corner of his eye. Then he asked, “What do you believe?”

“I don’t know anymore. When I graduated from the university, I really thought I had a handle on everything. Then dealing with my father and his untimely death, I guess I started to appreciate the spiritual aspects of my existence. Even if I still doubted the existence of a Supreme Being and an evil usurper, Paradise and Purgatory meant nothing to me.”

“There could be something to it,” Chase said. “My father seemed content to believe without questioning anything. He admitted there were probably errors in the Bible, because it was written, translated and then retranslated by men. The original message of God if it was there at all might have been distorted. But he told me that he still had faith in the potential salvation of mankind. He seemed to think that we stand on the threshold of the new millennium. The old millennium of suffering and persecution was over.”

“It’s a stretch.”

“Well who was there back when the Bible was written that could have imagined we would be living on a planet many light years from Earth. They had no concept, no reference.”

Cristina looked into his eyes. “Why are we here?”

“What if the first humans on Earth, even in the Biblical accounts were nearly pristine humans? I mean they were merely a few generations from the original prototype, weren’t they?”

“What if none of it was true?” she countered.

“Granted, it has some of the qualities of a fairy tale.”

“And it borrows heavily from other cultures and their folk lore,” Cristina pointed out. “The ancient Sumerians for one.”

“But that is just it and really my entire point. There is something that happened in the remote past on Earth and every culture has something about it in their traditions. I think that in the distant past the Earth may have even been terraformed.”

The waitress returned with their drinks and asked if they needed more time.

“We can order now,” Cristina said. “I’ll have Fettuccine Alfredo.”

“That sounds really good,” Chase said. “I’ll have that too and bring us a bottle of wine, not the house wine, a good vintage wine.”

When she waitress left, Cristina looked across the table. “That’s going to be expensive.”

“Hey, we had a very successful tour, right. So, we’re celebrating the end of a long drawn-out process of becoming famous.”

“I don’t think we have quite arrived there yet.”

“Trust me. Great things have been set into motion in support of this tour. Maybe you have been too close to the process to see the big picture, the view from a couple of kilometers up. But Duae Lunae has a growing following of avid supporters and you personally have a large following. So, I think all of that deserves a little splurge on the expense account.”

“I don’t think I have ever had a vintage wine.”

“There you go. This has been a tour of firsts. So, it’s fitting.”

She was quiet for a few moments, but Chase could tell she was thinking. Then, what was on her mind erupted as if there had been nothing intervening in conversation or even a pause. “If some ancient extraterrestrial engineers came along terraforming planets, why only the Earth?”

“Because it was easier.”

“Don’t you think that the humans that lived on Earth would have found some evidence of the terraforming?”

Chase was ready. He had already thought through to the answer of the same question he had once asked himself. “Maybe the master race that seeded us gave us some room for our own colonial expansion. Besides, just because there’s no apparent evidence doesn’t eliminate the possibility that it happened. There are many artifacts of ancient civilizations on Earth that have never been explained. Perhaps you don’t know of all the strange artifacts on Earth that suggest things beyond the technologies of the people who lived there at the time, but they are definitely there and still in evidence.”

“Some technologies are lost. Some things can be explained different ways. It’s just that we lack the insight.”

“And some may be unexplainable except for allowing the intervention of extraterrestrials.”

“I suppose a civilization more technologically advanced than we are now could have seeded life on Earth,” she permitted.

“They could have had much longer spans – maybe been immortal. They could have been the source of all the concepts of deities.”

Cristina sampled a garlic bread stick while she considered the implications of Chase’s statements. She chewed, and then she swallowed and sipped from her drink before posing, “What I want to know is why they didn’t come back?”

“Perhaps they did, covertly. They could have been the ones responsible for seeding the potential mutations within our ancestors. It could have been the reason for all the reports of alien abductions that seemed to have begun around the time that humans discovered the means of annihilating everyone.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 6 – Necessities

**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.** 

Despite their conversation, Cristina responded to the time interval. “I have to leave really…that is, I have to leave soon, like about now.”

“I’ll have Dom convey you to the venue.”

“You have a coach?”

“I don’t use it anymore, but yes, I have one. Dom will get you there, well ahead of your need.”

“I can’t take any chances. We have a sound check and then a show I need to dress for. We have always been on time. We are professionals. That is one of the things we never do, make our fans wait for a performance.”

“I know that. I know a lot about you and your band, Cristina.”

“You do?”

“Of course. I am also a fan, but for very different reasons.”

“Well, I need to perform. It is like an experience I cannot get away from. Early on, it was a few people that liked what we did, but then it started to grow. Now we draw thousands.”

“People can become addicted to the rush of adrenaline.”

“I don’t care. I need to perform.”

Raven smiled. “Yes you do.”

“You are not going to tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

“You are avoiding telling me and doing it very well, I might add.”

“I have my ways, I guess.”

“Why are you doing this to me?”

“I’m not doing anything to you. Mostly you do it to yourself. What I am restricting is something I’m afraid you would not understand, not yet anyway.”

“I’m good with human history but only as far back as the late colonization period. From what I recall, if you were born on Earth you must be…”

“Many have asked how it is possible that I was born on Earth?” Raven chuckled as he leaned against the mock fireplace enjoying the dry radiant warmth. “This is a quality-of-life feature,” he said trying to change the subject, but doubting Cristina would let him off so easily yet again. “I have always loved an open hearth and fire in a fireplace. Alas there are no trees here except for the ones we have planted beneath our domes and they are protected by Colonial Authority edict.”

“I’m still waiting for your answer.”

“I apologize for that digression. What were we discussing before?”

“You were born on Earth.”

“Yes, that.”

“You at least lived on Earth long enough to be able to evaluate the quality of this fireplace’s simulation,” Cristina said.

Raven said nothing in immediate response. Then finally he turned toward her. “Do you read a lot?”

“You are changing the subject again, but yes, I do read a lot, mainly in Italian.”

“It’s your heritage.”

“Yes, I’m proud of my heritage.”

“At this point everyone alive should be proud of his or her heritage. When faced with self-extermination, some banded together almost as a single race and culture to save one another from the seeming inevitability of our extinction. Perhaps you understand the gravity of that accomplishment. I don’t think many who were born here or on other colonial worlds are ever taught just how close mankind came to committing suicide on a global scale. The men and women who survived the devastation of the Earth were forward-thinking people. They could see beyond the emotionally driven, cultural and ethnic divisions responsible for the world’s strife. They had a shared vision, for a world of one human race where differences were not just tolerated but welcome and appreciated. They were truly remarkable people that could see beyond our violent past and imagine a future where we could become one people. They were visionaries.”

“You were one of them.”

Raven smiled. “I may be visionary, but I was not one of them. At that time I had long since given up on mankind’s ability to ascend from the quagmire of seemingly endless oppression and war.” He sat down in the vacant rocking chair. “I left before the series of final wars began. I almost stayed too long.”

“So, you were on Earth in the latter days.”

Raven slowly nodded. “I saw the signs of impending doom.”

“I knew it,” Cristina nearly celebrated until the reality of the confirmation struck her. “You are…”

“I am two-hundred seventy-two years old, this past May fourth, born in the year…”

“1936,” she said.

“You are very good with math, I see.”

“It’s not complicated.”

“Well, it is for the conversion factors, matching Earth’s year to our local year that is five and one quarter days shorter. And yet that sort of thing baffles and befuddles some. You are very sharp.”

“You don’t look…”

“I don’t look that old? No, I don’t and it’s not the result of cosmetic surgery, organ transplants or any of the means of modern science entering into the province of an All Mighty being or whatever forces of nature were responsible for our even being in the first place.”

“Then how have you lived for so long?”

“The complicated magnetic field structure of this world has helped a bit – or at least that is what I have concluded. The effects on me appear to operate in the reverse to how they appear to be affecting everyone else.”

“Why?”

“If I knew why I would tell everyone and a lot of terraform engineers and Colonial Authority bureaucrats would immediately heave a collectively huge sigh of relief.”

“Because of the dipping fertility rates.”

“Not only here but also every other colonial worlds we’ve established. Within the ensuing generation there’ll be nearly no births at all. Through attrition, eventually mankind as we know it will cease to exist.”

“But they say within fifty years they will have that problem fixed.”

“Maybe they will, but I have never had all that much faith in scientists’ abilities to tamper with our internal plumbing. The scientists are good with things like making this fireplace look real and this castle-like estate with the aged stone and the moss and ivy but they are also the same sort of people who contributed to the gradual decline and eventual destruction Earth’s environment. “

“Point well taken.”

“The others who share your differences may survive. They are yet a minority, but their numbers will grow.”

“Who are they…we?”

“Some of those who know say they are mutants, but that is not the truth. There was clearly evolution in the changes. Although the modification for the genes could be termed mutations, each of them was purposeful, not really a spontaneous abnormality. In the previous generation the alternation was carried in the female’s DNA but only of some women, those who were descendants of those exposed to ‘the tragedy’ as the media at that time decided to euphemize it.”

“Those women who had shortened life spans,” Cristina said with sober realization and piqued interest. “Like my mother.”

“Yes, her and the eleven others. It makes sense in terms of the balance of all things.”

“Does it?”

“Don’t you see? Everything changed for you and others like you. Your mothers died giving birth, sacrificing their abbreviated lives to bring a heartier race of humanity into being. You needed to be different to endure the demands of alien environments. Mankind has been adaptable all along. As odd as it is, man created the very means of creating a new species to sustain its heritage across time.”

He watched as she stood and paced the floor. Then he looked directly at her. “I never met your mother, but like every one of those very brave women you need to know that she chose for you to live.”

Cristina looked down. “And because of that, I never knew her.”

“But you know people who knew her. They have told you the stories that celebrate her life.”

“It is not the same thing as knowing her.”

“No, it’s not,” Raven said as he rocked forward and stood again to float across the floor in a pacing motion front of her as he continued to speak. “You may think that I could never appreciate what you feel inside. Having lost a parent, you are different than me, but you and I are very much alike. My parents died when I was 5 years old, or at least that was what I was told. Then a very wealthy man adopted me.”

“You said earlier that your natural father was very wealthy.”

“Yes, he was, but I did not learn until after his death that he was my natural father. I believed all along that I was adopted and I sought details and information about the other parents. It was not until I was an adult that I met the man I believed was my father. It was a shock learning that he had not died at all and that my mother was dead but she had not died when I was five. They had been offered a deal, something that they could not refuse because of the power of the man who would become my adopted father. The ironic truth was that my natural father adopted me. I understand what it feels like to lose a parent.”

Cristina silently contemplating what Raven was revealing to her about his personal life, but even so she found many, many differences where her direct experience contrasted.

“Your mother was one of the first in this world to exhibit the attributes, I think,” Raven continued. “There have been many since, but there was only one before her to give birth that I know of. Her offspring like the few others that have been identified so far do not have a shortened lifespan at all. In fact it is completely the opposite,” Raven paused to stare into her eyes, their eyes locked for several moments before he turned away. “So it is exactly as I have thought.”

“It is news to me that there are some others. But how is it possible that you have the gift, curse or whatever…”

“You will name it from your own perspective,” Raven stretched his arm out and when he opened his hand there appeared in his palm a small ball. “Those of us who are like me were intended to become the Couriers. I came as one of the first in the process though I am not the eldest.”

“Couriers?”

“Here, take this. You are the one who I should possess this. You will soon need its gifts of training and understanding of the odd powers you will come to master.”

“I can’t…”

“You must,” he countered her protest, pressing it into the palm of her hand then clinching her fist tightly around it.

“What is it?”

“All that you will need to know is accessible through it. It will instruct you. It is of vital necessity that you learn from it. It will prove important to you in ways we dare not speculate.”

“What am I supposed to do to make it work?”

“You will find others who are like you. You will find now you will be drawn to them as they are drawn to you. Those who do not have orbs you will direct to other Couriers that they will receive their own gifts. Then, eventually you may contribute your orb to the collection to be passed on to the next generation, the children of a new future.”

“How will I know when and where to find others?”

“You will know.”

“Like it is now, like you know to give it to me?”

“You are more astute than I anticipated. Chase warned me of two things, your intelligence and your beauty, but I never imagined the strength of your intuition,” Raven said with a smile.

“You use the words of a younger man.”

“It’s only chronology. You will one day understand that you are old the precise day that you wake up and decide to be old and never a moment before that.”

Cristina looked down at the shiny surface of the apparently perfect sphere that seemed to be made of alabaster. She hefted its weight in her hand. “It is deceivingly heavy.”

“As has become the burden of all life about it,” Raven said as he walked over to his desk. “So this is how it is completed, the cycle of delivering the orb.”

“Where did you get the orb?”

“Like you I received it from someone I had never before met. He was an old man on Earth who, at the time, I thought was at least as crazy as you must think I am. It was a few weeks before the political structures of the Earth descended into a near wartime state from which they would never again emerge. Despite the scholarly discussions of expert opponents in protest to the war preparations, those of us who were there understood that the latter days were already begun. That is the official beginning – if the real truth was known the latter days began decades before, well before I was born. From the ashes of previous, unresolved wars, like phoenixes new wars arose. The old man who gave me this would not tell me his name, but assured me that if he did I would immediately know him.”

“Just as it is for us now.”

“It is a strikingly similar situation, isn’t it?”

“Do you know who he was?”

Raven smiled. “I thought I knew and yet he knew things that only a few could possibly know. By process of elimination, yes, I believed I knew his name. I never speculated until I was here, safe in my haven of retreat. Then I delved into my own past and found him just so that I could exact a confession of his identity.”

“You can go back into your past.”

“The Couriers are unbounded. You could not understand at this point but accept it on faith for now. It is something that both he and I could do. In the latter days, there were a few important people left in the world people and some shared the attributes that you now possess. He was one of them.”

“He had an extended life.”

“All of them had. And yet except for a few of them, they all decided to remain on Earth and they died in the same moment that he died.”

Cristina looked down at the orb again. “How could someone decide to…I mean, they had to know the overall purpose was beyond their trivial problems?”

“I was promised that it was relatively painless. All except for the three that survived lived near the largest cities. They made certain they were there. They were vaporized in the first blasts of the inevitable war. You see – mankind has rarely made a weapon that was not used in battle against an enemy. There was pent up desire to fight one last time, to toss every weapon at one another. The worst imaginable horrors borne of man’s imagination transpired in the latter days.”

“But why did so many decide to die with the lunatics that wanted to end the world?”

“Some of those who knew suggested that the attributes were not fully evolved in them. Most of them suffered the pains of old age and endured the process for the over-extended period of their lives. It is not easy to live beyond the spans of friends and loved ones.”

Cristina looked away. “You are telling me I will live to be very old.”

“No one has guessed how long the your life will be. You will not be alone, though.”

“What if I don’t like any of this?”

“I don’t have an answer, no one does. You have a responsibility to yourself and maybe the others of your kind.”

As Cristina sensed their session was concluding, she stared at Raven. “Will I see you again?”

“It really is a pretty small world, isn’t it?”

“How can I reach you?”

“We are connected. You’ll find you already know. No one else will contact me and receive my help.”

“I feel special, then.”

“Honestly you are. I have been waiting to meet you for most of my life.”

“I’m not sure why I feel this way but…” she reached out to him as she walked toward him. He stepped back at the offer of embrace but then after several awkward moments he acquiesced.

“I personally think we are very old souls returned to reestablish mankind on another world. This is our second chance,” he said. “Privately I believe man did not earn this chance.”

“What if you’re wrong?”

“I’ve been known to be a time or two.”

“I’m not comforted by that.”

“Then, tell me what you believe, pretty lady?”

“I am too young and too greatly influenced by what other people believe.”

“That’s a damned good answer!” Raven smiled. “Keep your mind open, clear and untainted. There might be hope for not only your survival but everyone’s as well.”

“I am not going to save the world,” Cristina expressed doubt. “Look at me.”

“You have the attributes that will save you,” Raven said. “I didn’t want to be here either but the alternative for me was unacceptable. I decided that neither did I want to be left alone where I was. Imagine living for a very long time and having no one to talk to.”

“That’s why they killed themselves, the ones who stayed behind?”

“When living further becomes more than the imaginable pain of death, it isn’t difficult to understand.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 5 – Manners

**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.**

A knock came to the outer room door.

“Come,” Raven shouted loudly enough to be heard.

“My apologies, Master. It was time for brunch,” he wheeled a cart into the room.

“Very good, Dom. Sit the tray on the table by the couch. We will be out shortly.”

“Will there be anything else?” Dom asked.

“Are you staying for dinner, Cristina?”

“I have a concert tonight. There is a sound check this afternoon. Anyway, I usually don’t eat before performing.”

“Then there is nothing else for now, Dom. You may stand down until I call.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Raven said to his guest, “I’ll give you a rain check, then. Perhaps later tonight?”

“Why don’t you come see the performance? I can arrange for a place backstage.”

“I would love to but leaving the house is no longer a viable option.”

“Why?”

“What you see before you is mainly an illusion, my dear. And it only exists within the confines of this modest abode.”

“I wouldn’t agree there is anything modest about a castle.”

“I assure you it is a scale replica. I have lived in a real castle, very much like this. One significant difference is this one is not drafty.”

She tilted her head to one side, considering the mystery of the man before her. No longer did she feel threatened or nervous. He was a gracious host. Still, there was a lot she wanted to know and he was less than forthcoming.

“By then way, I don’t agree with your assessment of mankind.”

“It doesn’t surprise me. Someone as young and full of potential as you would never discount possibilities.”

“I don’t think we are headed for extinction.”

“Certainly not you.”

“Are your patronizing me?”

“Not at all.”

“I hope not.”

“But for a lot of other people it is only a question of when and how.”

“We are survivors,” Cristina countered.

“Yes, that we are. In many ways we are already living in time wrested from oblivion. We destroyed our mother world, but we were clever enough to adapt some other places to suit us. We have survived as long as we have because we can change the rules of existence to a very real degree, as if survival is a game. Still, I am mindful of one truth. Many of the greatest advances in mankind’s history have resulted from seemingly accidental discoveries while in search of entirely different knowledge. What has distinguished mankind is that we seem to have an innate ability to recognize the worth of something unexpected and capitalize on it.”

“I hope you won’t mind if I pray that you are wrong about the our inevitable demise.”

“If I am right, it is not anything I would ever gloat over.”

She sought to change the subject. “You are an artist. Chase told me. I saw the paintings in the hall.”

“I painted for a time and then sculpted for decades. I have written books and dabbled in poetry and music.”

“You have a multi-faceted talent.”

“I have had the time to learn how to do many things to assuage the tedium of a very long life.”

“I have never heard of you. I mean, as good as your art is, I would think that everyone would know Raven.”

“It is an assumed name, of course”

“I figured as much.”

“It would not be well for some people to know that I am still alive, let alone know my current whereabouts.” He exited the concealed room and once Cristina was clear of the bookcase he clicked the remote to close it.

He returned to the mantle over the fireplace where the artificial fire raged. He pointed to it and commented, “I am amazed at what the engineers and technicians can do with replication and simulation, though. I have to give them kudos for this castle, even the rocking chair you just sat down in and this wonderfully radiant fire that is also environmentally friendly. They even programmed settings to allow the fire to seem to die down to embers. Whenever men are not trying to kill one another we can become most clever creatures.”

“Who are you?” she inquired.

“A fellow traveler.”

“No I mean really, who are you?”

“I have been around for a while, as I have suggested. Some would think it has been too long if they realized it. Gratefully most of them who knew me back then are now long gone.”

“You’re immortal?”

He turned to face her. “That remains to be seen, does it not?”

“What if I can guess it, your name? I mean, will you tell me?”

“Do you think you know who I am?”

“Not yet, but I am just…well, I am pretty good at figuring things out.”

“I’ll bet you are, my dear. But there is only one other human yet alive that knows my real name. He was my contemporary on Earth. But as he remained there he is in a worse predicament than me.”

“He is like you but actually lives on Earth?”

“On an island, last I heard. If you know Earth geography, it is southeast of Puerto Rico, part of the Virgin Islands.”

“I thought no one lived on Earth.”

“Research teams are here and there, and of course, my friend. He accumulated a good deal of wealth. So, he decided to spend everything he could in order to fix the problems of that troubled world through terraforming it back into what it once was.”

“Is that possible?”

Raven smiled, “I don’t know. It’s a crazy idea, but sometimes those are the best ideas of all. And if he succeeds mankind might actually return home and the curse upon the entire race may be lifted.”

“The curse?”

“Fertility rates have continuously declined for humans since they left the good Mother Earth. It was negligible at first. But recently, for the first time, there will be a negative population growth in all of the colonies, including Pravda.”

“Why?”

“Scientists think it is something they can fix. They would because they always believe that. But the truth is that when you remove a human from the complex interactions of gravity and electromagnetism of the world of origin, suddenly some things in the tiniest parts of cells begin to alter ever so slightly.”

“Our DNA.”

“Even the subatomic pieces that allow our DNA to work properly.”

“There could be other reasons for that.”

“I suppose there could, but I am right. And the scientists know it. I would tell them, but I know it just to piss them off. What’s the point? If I had a solution, maybe I would.”

“How do you know you’re right?”

“The same way you do. It comes from instinct. Then, I confirm it through observation and testing.”

“Like a scientist. You are one of them.”

“You are very astute. It was long before I became interested in the artistic side of my being.”

“You hate them so much because being one of them you understand them and their vulnerabilities.”

“I reiterate; you are astute.”

Cristina studied him, as his appearance even seemed to change before her eyes. Feathers seemed to erupt from his cheeks and he sprouted wings that rapidly populated with feathers, all of them black. “You’re playing with me.”

“Not at all. I’m demonstrating an illusion, and what an illusion can become. Can you venture why I would do that?”

“I can nearly hear you telling me that many things in the world are an illusion, so be skeptical.”

“Very good, because that was my precise thought.”

She shifted, suddenly uncomfortable where she sat.

“You knew you could do that. You knew it before I told you.”

“Yes.”

He nodded.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly,” Raven allowed, already knowing what it was as she had as yet not locked her thoughts into her mind, assuming innocently that others would not have the ability to violate her privacy.

“You have been…”

“Famous and infamous. Each and both in ways you might never understand.”

“I think I could guess your name, especially if you were ever famous.”

“Perhaps you might. You are gifted.”

“Well, at least you have to give me some clues.”

“You really need no clues, but what would you like to know?”

“Something about your background, I guess.”

“My background,” he said, and then paused to draw a deep breath before continuing. “My natural grandfather was born and raised to the age of 5 in Miami. Do you know of it?”

“I have heard of the major cities of Earth. It was in Florida of the United States of North America.”

“Yes, well, that’s almost correct. My grandfather’s family moved to Texas.”

“Another State in the United States of –”

“I’m impressed. Most people your age don’t know those things.”

“I love history, human history is all that matters.”

“Well, then we have a lot in common. I grew up in the care of my great, great uncle who lived on North Padre Island near Corpus Christi. They fished for a living on the Gulf of Mexico. There were ample, harvestable fish near shore in the oceans of Earth back then.”

“So when was this?”

“Certainly, a long time ago.”

“Certainly. No one has lived on Earth…other than your friend…for several–”

“It has been too long.”

“You don’t want to tell me, not exactly.”

“I have already told you enough. You are astute. You can put the pieces together and fill in the gaps.”

“Okay,” she said as she sipped her coffee that had cooled down to a point that she could consume more than sip of it at a time.

“My grandfather’s uncle saved what money he had to fulfill his promise to his brother to pay his nephew’s – my grandfather’s way through college. He had to work as well just to supplement his way through college, but he made it,” Raven said with some pride.

“It must have been difficult.”

“Yes it was. But without his efforts, I doubt that I would be here. You see – my grandfather met my grandmother at college. She was the sole heiress of a vast estate and fortune. By marriage, my grandfather became a patriarch of a new dynasty. A year after they were graduated, my father was born. Five years later my grandfather took over the operations of a major manufacturing company that supported the petroleum industry on Earth.”

“Really,” Cristina said. “I have heard about petroleum. It’s use was discontinued as it was largely superseded as an energy source in the Twenty-first Century.”

“Yes.”

“When the scientists you hold in such low regard discovered the efficiencies of adding nano-bots to photovoltaic collectors as well as the storage mediums to create electronic batteries.”

“You obviously have a good education,” Raven said.

“So why am I singing in a rock band?”

“That was not my next question, but if you are offering the information…”

“Well, it usually is the next question anytime I open up,” she complained.

“And as a result I’ll bet you do that very rarely.”

“Of course.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. You are very good at misdirection and evasion, though. You make me misdirect your answers.”

“It’s a gift developed after years of practice,” she revealed.

“No you don’t. I’m not going to fall for that opportunity to venture down another tangent no matter how much I might want to.”

She smiled. “What about you?”

“There is more than enough time to explore everything you want. My dear.”

“Well I have to be back at the venue by 4,” she said as she glanced at the chronometer imbedded in her right wrist.

“And you think you are already running late.”

“Well I am, really.”

“You use that word – ‘really’ – as if it were as meaningless as an article in the meaning of a sentence. You have all the time you need for anything you desire, ‘really’.”

“Not unless I can stop time.”

“No one can stop time.”

“Exactly.”

“You can slow it down to suit your needs, though.”

“What?”

“You do it already, without even realizing it. Have you ever had a project that was huge and you just knew you could not do it in the time allotted. But somehow with focus and desire you made the deadline?”

“Yes, I have done that a few times.”

“People can manipulate time, Cristina.”

“I’m not sure I’d draw that same conclusion.”

“Why not? It happened.”

“So I can stop time.”

“No, no. I told you that is impossible.”

“But I can slow it down.”

“Yes. You just need to have some manners about it so you don’t adversely affect anyone else.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 4 – Heritage

**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 Starport’s commuter coach deposited her at a stop in portion of the Star City called ‘The Hills’, very close to Raven’s estate. Just as Chase promised the mansion was within a few dozen meters of the seventh stop.

She reached the front steps and approached the entrance. She knocked, and then stood nervously waiting for someone to respond. The exterior of the estate reminded her of a medieval castle. It was an authentic looking replica of late medieval European architecture covered with moss and ivy. Its dark eeriness intimidated her as much as the understanding of the wealth and power of anyone who could have afforded the construction expenses of such an imposing edifice. She wondered who this artist was, but even more she was curious to know why he wanted to see her.

Chase did not prepare her for anything like this. She was having multiple conflicting sensations of dread and eagerness. It confused and frustrated her. He could have warned her that Raven was wealthy and powerful. Otherwise the Colonial Authority would have never allowed him to take so much valuable space to build such a home for the occupancy of one person.

Her knock must have been ignored or it went unheard. She looked around. Nowhere was there a button for a door chime or intercom. However, there was a rope dangling nearby. She tugged on it, hearing the faint tingling of a bell mounted somewhere on the inside of door. Then, she stepped back continuing to study the detail work, the weathering of the stones of which it was apparently built. It had to have cost a fortune. Why would anyone go to such an elaborate extreme?

The stones were fabricated like so much of the world around it but looked as real as the pictures she had seen in library slides of the estates that once decorated the hilltops in central Europe.

Abruptly, the door unlocked and what appeared to be a middle-aged man opened it and greeted her, startling her a bit.

“Are you Raven?”

The man stood emotionless. “You must be Cristina. The Master is expecting you. He is in his study.” He paused to allow Cristina to step clear of the door swing, then closed and locked the door behind her. “Please, follow me.”

As she navigated the corridor from the foyer, she marveled at the paintings that adorned the walls. “Did he do these?” she asked.

“Some are his. Some are the works of his closest friends,” the servant replied.

“They’re very good.”

“The Master is without peer, except some of his friends rivaled him at times.” He opened the door to the study and announced her arrival. She stepped inside as an older gentleman stood up from his desk. But instead of walking he appeared to float toward her.

“Cristina, finally we meet. I recognize you from your publicity portfolio. I must say the pictures do the reality of you physical presence barely any justice.”

“I was prepared to meet a much older man.”

“You are too kind. I assure you I am as old as Chase has warned you.”

“Then, you are well preserved.”

“I suppose that I am. Please have a seat.” He directed his attention to the servant, “Dom, please bring us snacks and some coffee. I assume you drink coffee.”

“Yes.”

“As you wish,” Dom bowed then left the room.

“I have never known anyone who could afford a servant.”

“Dom is a manufactured being.”

“He’s a cyborg?”

“For lacking a better term. Really, he is a DOMLIB. He is rare, a prototype and therefore he is more unique in that not all of his features were included in production models.”

“Why have I never heard of them?”

“They were available on Earth as servants for a few of the privileged in the Twenty-first Century. Their designed purpose was deep space exploration during the early attempts at colonization. They established thresholds in to and out of subspace to shorten travel times. Without their work, colonization efforts would have been delayed.”

“As spacecraft advanced the need for the thresholds diminished, although they are still used for heavy transports.”

“Yes, I figured the schools would still teach those half truths. The same Earth-based Corporation that designed the thresholds and the astralnav device that worked in conjunction with them also developed the technology for organic computers upon which the DOMLIB is based.”

“It was in their economic interest to use one while proliferating the other,” Cristina indicated that she understood the business concept of vertical integration. “Whatever became of the DOMLIBs?”

“There are some here and there. Most dwell on a planet a parsec from here. They began replicating themselves and their population grew. They became rebellious and at one point attacked some of the colonies closest to Earth, threatening the defenses of Earth as well,” Raven said as he floated over to a window and pulled back the heavy drapes letting light into the otherwise dimly lit room. He turned to appraise Cristina’s response, and then realized how foolish he was. She had just come from traveling by railcar between cities and must still be wearing protective lenses over her corneas. “That was a troublesome time to be alive,” he continued. “I think most humans would rather forget about DOMLIBs. That is why almost everything about EthosCorp is absent from the education you received in our schools.”

“You lived on Earth?”

“Yes,” he said without any immediately forthcoming elaboration.

Dom reentered the room to deliver a tray of fresh coffee to the corner of the desk, and then poured a cup of coffee for Cristina, after asking her in fluent Italian what amendments she desired.

 Across the room, Raven let the drapes fall back to where they were and hovered near a rocking chair that was close to a simulated hearth fire. “I’m afraid I speak little Italian, but I understand that you speak some other languages.”

“Yes.”

“Mi casa es su casa.”

“Gracias,” she thanked him in kind for his hospitality.

“Por lo nada.”

“Besides Spanish, what other languages do you speak?” She asked.

“English, of course. I know a little French, some German and I’m fluent in Russian. In fact, before the end of Dr. Pavlovich’s life I actually talked with him several times.”

“Uri Mikael Pavlovich, the astronomer?”

“The same. He was the most insufferably miserable man I’ve ever known. An arrogant asshole without peer. An ego unlike any other I have ever endured. That is high praise because I have suffered many. But he was also brilliant enough to justify most of his hubris. He refused to speak anything but Russian, although he understood English and at least four other languages that I know of.”

Cristina was still in awe. “That’s why he named this world Pravda.”

“This planet was his truth. It was his discovery and he suffered a lifetime to prove that it existed, that his detection through unorthodox methods was accurate. Now, I suppose his truth has become our truth.”

“You were a young man when you met him?”

“I don’t know about young, I was younger, of course. I was friends with many people from many lands, and so I picked up some words here and there.”

“How long were you on Earth?”

“From the time I was born until the time I left,” Raven replied with vagueness. Then noting her response, he added, “I see that surprises you.”

“It’s just that so few people have ever even been to Earth.”

“I have returned since first departing – of course, not in recent times since the restrictions and the general quarantine. The last time I was there it was quite uninhabitable. It is worse than this godforsaken world once was.”

“How so?”

“When I first came to Pravda, you could still see the poisons swirling the air like a mist or smoke just outside the domes. Even on cloudless days, the poisons were still there, blocking some of the sunlight.”

“I have seen the clouds over the oceans.”

“They are much rarer these times, but unlike The Colonial Authority would have us believe, they are not eliminated. That is why they tell you not to be outside of our wonderful protective domes without breathing filters. Most places on Earth you don’t even have that option. The air is so polluted with noxious gases that a human must wear a pressurized suit and breathe from a tank of compressed air.”

“The domes will be coming down soon.”

“Despite what the engineers are saying about the quality of the air outside, I don’t believe they are going to open the domes within the lifetime of anyone now alive. That is part of their conspiracy of silence,” Raven said. He took up the coffee Dom left for him on his desk and floated toward a wall of bookcases. “Come with me,” he said as he clicked a remote that he retrieved from his robe’s pocket.

One bookcase recessed into the wall and pivoted to one side, revealing a room with impressive electronics that not only controlled the interior environment of the estate but also linked to the outside world as evidenced from the monitors mounted to a wall. It was not a standard world viewer array. “You see, I have access to everything from here. My computers are linked to the Colonial Authority. It is one of the advantages of building here before the city was completed or the dome was finished. I purposely selected this lot. It was close enough to the track so I could tap into the communication systems and the network trunk. Dom took care of everything else.”

“I’m impressed.”

“Nothing happens that I do not know about. Mostly, it entertains me, but there are times that it has been of vital use. It is not always easy to understand what is truly going on in this world.”

“You came here very early on, then.”

“I was one of the very first residents of Star City, and so there were many benefits accorded to me that were not offered to others who came later. Also, this and a handful of buildings down closer to the station conform to a much stricter building code. They are sealed environments since the dome was not finished at the time of their construction.”

“You came here directly from Earth.”

“No, no my dear,” Raven shook his head. “Immediately before coming here I lived for many months in an overcrowded colony called Tahlyn, on Titan.”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“For all their aspirations to make it into a new Earth, it is still a frozen world and probably will forever be only that.”

“I have heard that Earth was very beautiful.”

“Yes, and honestly in many ways it is still. For humans it is uninhabitable. However, it is an error to say there is no life there. There are many creatures living deep in the oceans. In a few areas there are some species of insects that have adapted to the contaminated environment. Most neglect to cite the contribution of volcanic eruptions in the catastrophic environmental damage. It was a source of considerable academic debate whether without the eruptions we could have pulled back from the brink of the horrendous ecological disaster.”

“I have never heard of it.”

“Obviously, we possess the technology to exist in hostile places. The question becomes at what expense. There was a choice at the time, whether to live under the oceans or expand the Luna research center for colonization and terraform Mars. It was debated for nearly a hundred years. Essentially, it came down to a question of expense. It was always cheaper to develop colonization for the oceans, until the volcanic eruptions figured into the equation. Then, transforming Titan seemed an attractive venture. Besides, the acid in the rains from the volcanic ash and sulfur that the massive eruptions released into the atmosphere, there was no acrylic at the time that was strong enough to be used in domes that might have been used to allow us to remain on the surface of Earth in sufficient numbers to continue the species.” He paused to sip from his coffee.

He cleared his throat, and then continued. “Even here for the first few decades the acid in the rains marred the finish on the domes. In fact, it was one of the selling points for Star City, which was built much later in the initial phase. The dome here is clear, and you can see all the stars.”

“In New Milan it is possible to see the moons but the stars are always obscured. When I was a child, I always believed it was the ambient light from the city at night that prevented seeing the stars.”

“Well, there is that too, but the domes of Haven and New Milan are not transparent at all,” Raven explained. “Once the acid in the rain had diminished to be rarely ever a problem, except for out at sea, the scientists applied acrylic scratch filler that makes the domes appear clear, but really and truly they aren’t. What marvelously clever people the Colonial Authority has working for them,” he said sarcastically. “I am sure that given time our gifted, overachieving scientists can appear to remedy most anything.”

Cristina studied one of the monitors for a few moments. “That’s my home.”

“So it is,” Raven glanced at the same monitor. “Is there anything in New Milan you’d like to see?”

“Not especially,” she turned back.

“It’s possible, any exterior view, and interior views of public buildings.”

“No, that’s okay. So were you part of the original colonization?”

“Me? No,” Raven smiled. “I have never got on too well with scientists, especially the ones here on Pravda.”

“Why not?”

“Differing perspectives and also I find them socially inept. They bore me with their bromides about the better life that they will one day find through their acquisition of knowledge.”

“But you have to believe in the future.”

“I believe there is a future, but it will be without mankind as we know it. That is a fundamental difference I have with the scientists. They have an insane but deeply established belief in the ultimate triumph of man’s technology over nature. They are overly confident in their problem solving abilities.”

“But they have solved so many of the problems. The air outside the domes is much cleaner,” she pointed out.

“I am afraid that having seen what I have and lived through what I have endured I cannot share their optimism. They have infected you as well as many others, though. From my experience, faith in man’s abilities often proves to be false hope at best. Mankind will inevitably fail, becoming another extinct species whether by our own hand or through the vengeance of nature.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 3 – Pravda

**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.**

(Eighty Years Later)

 

The soul of East Ocean whispered to her on the breeze as it did before on previous visits to Haven. The cool salt water teased and tickled her toes while the tidal surge lapped against her shins, undermining the sand from beneath her feet. Cristina looked down, her feet half-buried in the blue-green sea foam as the brine water swept back only to flow again, wrapping around her ankles.

She glanced up, and then averted her eyes from the directness of the sunrise, not daring to strain her efforts. Her eyes were intensely sensitive to such brilliance. Still, it had been worth the effort to walk out across the causeway to the barrier island, risking exposure outside of Haven’s dome.

She returned to the beach and sat down on the towel she had spread out on the hard pack. Looking out across the ocean, she was mesmerized by the ever-undulating surface that at low tide left a trace line on the sand where the water had previously been. She tried to breathe in the air from the sea, but the filters that protected her from the poisonous gases constricted her ability to fully experience and savor brine air.

In a few years, the Colonial Authority promised, the atmosphere would be fully breathable. Even now it probably was good enough in most places, but she did not feel it was worth the risk to venture beyond the domes without wearing a breathing filter.

The excitement of dawn’s first light was over. Standing, the shook the sound from the towel she borrowed from her hotel room. One last look she took as the risen sun continued ascent into a bank of low-lying gas clouds. Between the horizon and the shore, swirling red and green poisonous gas mixed and mingled, attesting to the still tentative nature of the world’s transformation.

She walked back the way she’d come, accessing he pressure lock for the walkway that would eventually allow her to reenter the domed city.

A strong vacuum sucked away the air around her, purging any possible noxious gas from the air.  Momentarily, an equally strong flood of fresh, cooler air that she could breathe unfiltered replaced what atmosphere she brought into the lock with her. Even so, she knew better than to take off the filters until the auto-sampler tested the mix of air and audibly confirmed that it was safe. Only then did she pass through the inner airlock door.

She walked alone in the silence, except for the annoying din of the air handlers that piped re-circulated air from the mainland dome. As a couple of men approached her, she shivered with an odd sensation that left gooseflesh on her exposed arms and legs.

Feelings came to her from time to time, the sort that serves to prelude an event. She always paid attention. It was not a bad feeling but something more along the lines of impending, imperative importance.

The elder of the two men walked right past her, carrying his bang-stick, apparently ready to fish the waters for his share of the abundant aquatic life that existed ready for the kill just beneath the surface. Because the foulness of the gaseous poisons in the atmosphere had for the most part been effectively neutralized from the surface of the ocean, several species of fish had been successfully introduced into the native environment. Although there were strict quotas on harvesting, there were several species that flourished. Few of the edible species remained on the restricted list.

The younger man paused and smiled at her. He removed the protective goggles from his eyes, apparently wanting to get a better look at her.

She continued to ascend of the sidewalk toward the bridge’s crest. The younger man greeted her, and despite the brightness he left his goggles resting on the top of his head as he looked directly into her eyes as she passed by. It unnerved her a little.

“It’s a lovely morning,” he said in the wake of her passing.

“Yes, it is,” she replied over her shoulder continuing to walk.

“I take it you were out, at the beach,” he called after her, following her.

“Yes. It was very nice.” She proceeded walking as she conversed.

“Are there any waves?”

“There are, but only some very small, ankle-deep ones.”

“That’s great news,” the older man said through his breathing filter as he had turned to follow the younger man, seeing what he was up to.

“My name is Paul,” the younger man offered as had finally caught up to her, reaching his hand in an effort to halt her.

“Mine is Cristina.” Stopping, she turned abruptly, glaring at him. “Without an ‘h’.”

Recoiling, he offered the best non-threatening smile he could manage. “Well, Cristina without an ‘h’, we are well met. But I ask, why is there no ‘h’.”

“Why is it necessary? Besides it is how my father named me.”

“Well, I suppose it was unnecessary then.”

“Obviously, you fish.”

“Yes, my uncle and I are quite good at it, actually.” He glanced to the older man who, having returned up the causeway to join them, stood several paces behind the younger man. “Have you ever tried fishing?”

“Never.”

“We’ll have to do it sometime.”

“I won’t have the time. I don’t live here.”

“I see.”

“I doubt I would be good at it, anyway. I don’t like killing things.”

“They’re only fish.”

“But they are alive,” she said.

“You have a point, of course. But we fish for food not sport.”

“I suppose that is more acceptable than merely wasting life.”

“Do you eat fish?”

“Yes, I do and I know what you are going to say. But somehow that feels different than if I killed the fish.”

“I see. Well, the offer is open. I can teach you if you like, if you are staying long enough, that is.”

“I doubt I have the necessary patience. There certainly will not be enough time for that anyway. I leave today.”

“We need to be going,” Paul’s uncle prodded.

“How am I going to find you again?”

“Was that a goal for you?”

“I would like to continue know you.”

“It would be difficult. I am in a band. We tour a lot. So usually I am not home.”

“You must be very good, then.”

“We do okay,” she allowed modestly.

“I detect a slight accent,” he said. “You’re from New Milan, I’ll bet.”

“Yes. My father and aunt spoke fluent Italian, so they taught me my heritage first. I learned other languages since so that I could function in other places.”

“My uncle and I are from Italian heritage as well.”

“Really? That is interesting, I suppose.”

“We really must go,” Paul’s uncle insisted.

“What is the name of your band?”

“Duae Lunae.”

“From Latin for ‘Two Moons’. I like that.”

“Like our nighttime sky.”

“I’ll come to see you perform next time you are in the city.”

“I’d like that,” Cristina permitted.

“Maybe we can talk more, then.”

“You’d better go before your uncle gets mad at you.”

“Come on,” the uncle groused as if to reinforce her gentle brush-off.

“You are very attractive,” he said as Cristina started to walk away.

She laughed as she turned around and walked backwards. “Is that the best you can do?”

“I’m being sincere and you laugh at me?” he asked.

“It’s a little awkward first off, you know?”

“What if I never see you again? Who is going to tell you how beautiful you are?”

“Would the world end if I never knew?” she asked.

“Maybe not but I prefer a world where at least I know I warned you. I think others notice, too.”

She continued to walk on.

“Cristina without an ‘h’,” he repeated as she headed away. “I’ll look forward to seeing you again.”

A floater coach was heading toward her. She recognized it even before it arrived. Glad to see Chase, she waved, hoping Paul would take the hint.

As friendly as Paul was, he also unnerved her. He started off looking directly into her eyes. She always avoided that, but for some reason she looked back and their gaze lingered for a moment. She worried that he might have misread it as a signal, or maybe he learned something about her. Then, she thought it was silly. After all, what could he possibly have learned in such a brief interval?

“Who was the kid?”

“What kid?”

“I saw you talking to someone as I came over the bridge.”

“His name’s Paul. He’s of Italian descent.”

“Really, maybe he’s a relative then.”

“From what my father told me, Italy did not fare well after the wars on Earth. I suppose it’s possible that all who remain are related in some way, but it seems unlikely.”

“Ah but there were Italians other places in the world, so the blood and the culture still endures,” Chase said.

“I thought your heritage is English.”

“Actually, it’s Welsh. I suppose it was nearly the same difference in the latter days of Earth, but I doubt you’d find anyone Welsh that ever wanted to be mistaken for an Englishman.”

“That sort of nationalistic pride nearly destroyed the Earth.”

“True.”

“Regardless of any differences that originate from whatever tribes or nationalities we came from, we are all just humans now.”

Chase was impressed with the strength of her conviction.

They discussed many things in the past several months of the tour, becoming close friends. She was well educated and highly informed, but this was the first time he drew out such a firm revelation of belief.

A couple of moments of silence lingered awkwardly between them until Chase asked, “You couldn’t sleep again?”

“It’s always the same,” she replied. “Now, I’m tired. That’s the crazy part. Once the sun rises I’m ready for a nap.”

“Perhaps in a past life you were a vampire.”

She smiled in response. “I love reading books about vampires and werewolves. Some people say they really existed on Earth.”

“There is some truth in every legend,” Chase allowed.

“Well, I don’t need a coffin to sleep in. A bed or a couch will do just fine.”

“We have some time before we leave. Sleep all morning if you want. We aren’t leaving until mid-afternoon.”

“Maybe I’ll just crash for a while, then. I was going to write a song. The mood struck me when I was on the beach, but I guess it has faded now,” she said, as she reached across the console that divided them and touched his thigh. “Why are you so good to me?”

“Because you are one of the rarest of all women,” he responded. “You have a wonderful gift.”

She looked away and out the window at the navigable channel beneath them. They were almost back to the mainland shore. She remembered back to her schoolgirl times, learning about the extended plans that the engineers and Architects were executing to near perfection as they transformed the world to be more suitable for human habitation. Despite the hostility of the environment with which they began, everything they built had the same forward thinking designed into it. They intended to remake Pravda in the image of Earth and permit it to be used for centuries as one of the many homes for mankind inevitable colonization throughout the galaxy.

“Did I say something wrong?” Chase asked in response to yet another lingering silence between them.

“No, of course not. I was just thinking, about the world and how much it has changed in my lifetime.”

“This is the great frontier, as they say. As deep into the galaxy as human civilization has yet ventured, we are part of the cutting edge. It says so on all the colonization brochures.”

“Yeah,” Cristina smiled as she looked over at him. “And we are still looking for the paradise they promised our parents and grandparents.”

“Well, maybe we haven’t look closely enough.”

She laughed.

“I meant what I said about you, though. Your voice is a special gift. It is only one of the many things that combined make you uniquely Cristina.”

“You say nice things to me. Maybe that’s why I keep you around.”

“Oh, is that why?”

“There are some other things.”

“I wish we had met a few years earlier,” Chase said.

“Why’s that?”

“I might have been able to shorten the span of obscurity for you and the band.”

“There is only ever room for a select few. I feel we are very fortunate to be where we are on the path. Our music is being heard. That’s all that matters to us.”

“What about you, Cristina – is that all that matters to you?”

“Music gives people hope as well as inspiration. It conveys what others are experiencing so we don’t feel quite so alone. Maybe all our hopes are false, though. It would be tragic if that proved to be true but sometimes it seems that way.”

“Maybe some hopes are false but I think usually they’re not,” Chase countered.

“I want to believe that. That is a better world to live in than the one where everything is a lie.”

“There is someone that you must meet, in Star City. He’s an artist and was very famous at one time. Here he is obscure, but mostly that is his choice.”

“He sounds mysterious and aloof.”

“I suppose he can afford to be. I have known about him for a while but have only spoken to him, never really met him. I have seen a picture of him, but it was a picture from a long time ago, before we were born.”

“Is he really old then?”

“Yeah, but every time I have spoken to him he does not impress me as being an old man.”

“What do you consider old?” she asked. “I mean you and I are close to the same age.”

“Most consider us young.”

“Age is an attitude.”

“At our age it seems to be. Frankly, I don’t know what to consider old anymore.”

“What’s his name? I studied the arts. Perhaps, I’ve heard of him.”

“I know him only as Raven. He sends me messages every now and again. I asked him to sample your band’s music. He said he likes it very much.”

“Despite his apparent age, he has progressive tastes.”

“For an old fart, you mean.”

“I’d never say anything that disparaging.”

“I was just making the statement.”

“I’ll not prejudge him. Maybe he wears his age well. I’ll bet he looks distinguished.”

“Neither of us should make assumptions about anyone anymore.”

She looked away.

“Except for him, I have not mentioned to anyone what we confessed to one another about our differences from others.”

“You told him?”

“It was necessary. Raven is a Courier. He and others like him seek those of us with the attributes. You need never worry about me telling another soul. In fact he contacted me. He told me there was someone with the attributes close to me that he needed to meet.”

“That worries me. How would he know?”

“Look, he’s strange, but I think it is the artistic uniqueness more than anything else. He sees everything differently.”

“As any good artist would,” Cristina said.

“You know, you’ll probably like him.”

Their coach pulled up to the curb in front of the hotel. After the door opened they both stepped out. Chase remotely docked the coach, and then escorted Cristina toward the lobby.

“Is everything ready to go?”

“Yeah, the equipment’s already on the way. The road crew should be set for a sound check by the time we reach the venue. Everyone else in the band and stage management is still resting.”

“I’ll take a nap, then.”

He nodded as she pressed the button to call the elevator.

“Wake me in time to shower and dress.”

“I always do.”

 

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