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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Colonial Authority: Chapter 2 – Bug Out

**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.**

After sleeping and eating a freeze-dried meal, Timmel and Jove descended into the caverns, going deeper than before. Chess and Lyle maintained the uplink to stream the remote Enviros telemetry real time as they continued their deeper explorations. Lyle sat back in his butterfly sling chair, taking a break from monitoring the data. “Hell of a life we got, hey?”

“It’s better than being just another number in the system back home.”

“That all depends on where you think home is. I haven’t called anywhere home for a while.”

“You got a point, I guess.”

“This is frontier living.”

“The Enviros have some grand plans for this place,” Chess commented. “And we’re their chauffeurs. At least we get to see it right?”

“I suppose. If we don’t decide to follow the frontier to the next hell hole.”

“Not me. I’m headin’ back home,” Chess revealed. “A research group needs a pilot.”

“For what planet?”

“Earth.”

“No shit?”

“Apparently, some rich guy has a crazy idea about terraforming Earth to fix all the environmental issues.”

Lyle shook his head. “How ironic is that?”

“Anyway, the pay’s better. Besides, I haven’t been to Earth since I was a little kid. My dad took me on one of those natural wonder package tours, places so beautiful they hurt my eyes.”

“Jove was telling me before the mission brief that they expect to begin construction of domed cities here within a few local years.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Now, he thinks the discovery of a natural source of oxygen is very promising.”

“I hope they know what they’re doing.” Chess sighed, and then stood up, stretching before he started to check on Ave and Dar’s progress.

“Hang on,” Lyle said as he responded to a signal from the platform. “Lyle here.”

“Lyle, are you with Chess?”

“We’re right here, monitoring the data stream.”

“Is anyone else there?”

“Dar and Ave are setting up the power generator, about ten meters from us,” Chess said.

“What’s up?”

“The storm’s getting worse and its  center is headed your way.”

“Do we need to scrub the mission?”

“If you try staying much longer, you’ll be stranded for a long while.”

“What’s a long while?” Lyle asked.

“This storm’s already going on four months, so, how the hell would I know?”

Chess looked at Lyle, receiving a shrug. “Okay then. So that settles is. We recall the Enviros, button this up and go back home.”

“It’s a shame. We’re receiving some really good data.”

“Look, I just carry the nerds to and from the rocks,” Chess said. “I’ve survived this long because when someone tells me to bug out, I listen.”

“We’re signaling Timmel and Jove, now. Pity we have to, the remote relays are working so well. You did a nice job setting things up, guys. We’re even receiving still pics, quite detailed.”

“We aim to please,” Lyle said.

“The wind is getting worse by the minute.”

“Looks like its beers in the bar tonight after all.” Lyle stood and began gathering his gear together to don his pressure suit again.

“I could use one right about now.”

“After that ride down, I could have used something a lot stronger. I swear if I wasn’t the best pilot in the service, we’d have bought it.”

“Hey, I made it here before you,” Chess countered, as he continued to suit up.

“Well I’ll allow that you’re the second best pilot in the service, but the storm got worse by the time I was coming through.”

“I see how it is,” Chess said with a laugh. “Punching through this mess ain’t going to be any better.”

“I hear that.”

Timmel and Jove had just reached a vast chamber and detected not only the sounds of water but also the evidence of increased humidity. They had just set up their instruments to detect a wider range of possible organic compounds when they received the abort signal. They signaled their individual acknowledgements of the recall order and quickly left their deployed sensors before beginning the climb.

“We found fresh water!” Timmel called up the telemetry pipeline, knowing the voice over data would be received at the command center on the orbital research platform.

“Are you two sure?” A voice came back through their internal communications link.

“Positive. Heard the echoes of dripping and sensors confirmed it.”

“Okay, yes we see that. Great job, Timmel and Jove. The mission wasn’t a complete failure after all. Sensors are showing a substantial amount of subsurface water, actually a lot of water, maybe a lake or river. Establishing temporary colonies in the caverns may be an option after all.”

Timmel smiled as he and Jove exchanged a gloved handshake.

“Wait!” Jove said as he consulted his right cuff that contained fifteen different life sign sensors.

“What?”

“I don’t know, an echo, maybe. I’m picking up movement, though.”

“I got that a couple of times, too. Every time I did, it turned out to be nothing.”

“It’s nothing, I guess,” Jove decided. “Do you see the oxygen levels?”

“Yeah,” Timmel said. “Nearly breathable if it weren’t for the concentration of di-hydrogen sulfide.”

“So the place smells like a fart!”

“A killer one.”

“Store our data so they know who found it, and let’s get to the surface.”

“Yeah, why let the remote observers get all the credit.”

“Exactly.”

“We’re the ones who risked our lives,” Timmel said.

They ascended while Chess, Lyle, Ave and Dar were finishing making everything as stable and self-functioning as possible for any future missions.

“We found water and the levels of oxygen increased the deeper we went,” Jove told Chess and Lyle as he arrived.

“Weren’t you lookin’ for that?” Chess asked in response.

Lyle forced the issue nudging Jove off to the side. Chess took Timmel by his pressure suit’s sleeve. “I don’t think you understand the urgency of the recall.”

“The storm must have intensified and it’s coming this way.”

“Okay, maybe you do understand,” Chess said. “Lyle and I decided we’re bugging out!”

“It’s your call.”

“Well, we don’t have enough supplies and up top they don’t know how soon they can send anything to us.”

“Understood. Jove and I are ready. We answered a couple of the major questions, I think.”

“Let’s go, then.” Chess commanded.

By remote command the Pumas’ hatches opened, allowing them immediate entry. Once aboard, the hatches sealed and the occupants strapped in. “Purge!” both Chess and Lyle said simultaneously over the intercom.

“It’s urgent then,” Ave said while he watched as the interior air was blown out of the vehicle and replaced with fresh air from reserve tanks.

“The storm has grown,” Chess explained. “At its center it’s over two hundred knots gusting to two-fifty. Before we set out, they were thinking that was going to pass to the north of us, but now I guess it’s moving toward us.”

“The pod can’t handle that,” Ave warned.

“It was all I could do to land it in a hundred twenty knot winds.”

“So we’re screwed,” Ave said.

“Not if we can get out ahead of the storm,” Timmel said.

“The hover pod is designed to compensate for drift and external forces,” Chess pointed out.

“With all due respect for your piloting abilities, no one can control a pod in winds in excess of two hundred fifty knots. That far exceeds design limitations.”

“Well let’s hope I don’t have to be the first to disprove that,” Chess said.

“Talk to me, Chess,” Lyle said.

“I’m here.”

“This shit’s bad.”

“I see it.”

“Are we nuts for thinking we can get through this?”

“Weren’t you just telling me how good you are?”

“I’m the real deal, my man, but I’m no fool. I mean, the center of this storm hasn’t even arrived yet and it’s already making my Puma walk sideways.”

“It’s the same here. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“So, remind me again, why are we doing this?”

“‘Cause no one else can,” Chess replied.

“It’s more like no one else will.”

“We signed on to do this.”

“I used to take stupid dares when I was a kid. I guess I never outgrew that.”

“We both have that problem.”

“This is where we leave you, my friend,” Lyle said.

“Looks like I got the head start. Pod just ahead.”

“See you up top.”

“I’ll hold a seat for you at the bar.”

“We got our pod next to us, too. So, I guess it’s brews for two on you if you lose.”

“I’ll take that action,” Chess said.

Static was the reply.

“I can’t find him anymore,” Ave looked up from the screen. “Maybe he’s behind the mountains.”

“He’ll make it. All joking aside, he’s the best pilot I know. He always comes through.”

“What about us?” Ave asked.

“I’m better than the best, I guess.”

“Machismo aside, we are going to make it off this sandblasted rock, right?” Ave asked.

“Yeah, no problem. Just a bit of a storm we got to punch through.”

The Puma creaked and moaned. “At least the pod’s still here and chirping away. The way home is right there.” He pointed to the flashing dot on screen map for emphasis.

“Storm front is damned close,” Ave observed.

“Yeah, no time for the usual safety protocols, guys. We’re going to use the Chess modification to the checklist. We’ll leave this damned Puma running. I’ll remotely direct it away from our blast zone so there are no unexpected explosions during our lift off and ascent.”

“Good idea,” Ave said.

“We all exit through one hatch tethered together. We blow the pod’s outer hatch. We’ve only got twenty seconds to get inside. Once we purge, climb up and strap-in. We fire the main and it’s straight up, hopefully straight. There are no second chances.”

“Has this ever been tried?” Timmel asked.

“I don’t know. Anyone who’s failed obviously didn’t make it to the debrief.”

“How do you know it will work, then?”

“‘Cause it has to.”

“Alrighty, then,” Ave said, then drew a deep breath..

“It’s a good plan,” Chess said, as he pulled in as close as possible to the pod and prepared to open the hatch. “Hook up the safety line.”

“It’s pucker time.” Ave squirmed in his seat, preparing to disembark.

“Watch the blow out from the pod’s hatch, approach from the side. On three, out my hatch. Ready?”

“Ready!”

“One, two, three!” Each of them in turn exited from the Puma through the pilot’s hatch.

Chess led them toward the pod’s hatch stepping aside as it blew outward, caught by its hydraulics it slowly started its twenty-second closing cycle.

“Get in!” Chess commanded and he clutched the door as if he could slow it from closing.

“Go, go, go!”

First Ave, and then Timmel scrambled through the hatch. Chess dove through the ever-narrowing opening. Moments later, the hatch sealed behind him. “Hold-on for the purge!”

Each of them gripped onto anything that they could cling to until the purge ceased. Chess was first to detach the tether that had secured him to the others. He ascended the ladder and upon reaching the flight controls he slid into his seat and strapped in for what he knew would an extreme ride against the odds.

“Strap in! There’s no countdown.” Chess remotely directed the Puma away. “If you two want to live, don’t say a word.”

“You got it, Chess.”

“We’re in your hands,” Timmel added.

“Don’t remind me!”

All thrusters fully charged and the reactor online, Chess fired the main engine, executing the emergency launch. The small pod shuttered as the g-forces combined with the wind turbulence diverting it from its preprogrammed trajectory. The pod buffeted as it push away from the surface. Chess compensated for the wind, glancing at radar and the anemometer. “Holy crap!”

Ave glanced at the reading, and then quickly looked away, “I hope Lyle’s in a better situation.”

“What does that mean?” Timmel asked.

“I thought I asked you to be quiet.”

“Well,” Ave said, “Wow!”

“Huge differential.” Chess’ hands trembled as he gripped the controls.

“Hull integrity forty-seven point five percent,” the onboard alarm warned.

“Can you kill that for me, Ave?”

“Sure boss.”

“Hull integrity thirty-nine…”

“Sorry,” Ave apologized.

“We’re almost through it.” Chess checked the coordinates against positioning. “Damn, I’m good. Only thirty-four klicks down range.” He made some quick course adjustments.

“Ceiling in about five, four, three, two and…break,” the pod erupted from the clouds, emerging into the stratosphere of Pravda. Through the windows, they could see the sprawl of the intense storm below and its swirling pattern about the storm’s center.

“Chess, hull integrity is spotty, at twenty-two in some places,” Ave announced, concern in his voice as he stared at Chess to appraise the Chief’s reaction.

“Twenty-five is bare minimum for entering space,” Timmel warned. “A rupture might cause a reactor implosion. Of course, we’d be dead before that –”

“How’s seal integrity?” Chess interrupted to ask.

“Forward and aft at thirty-seven percent and thirty-five percent respectively. Starboard and port at…” Ave paused. “Chess, we’ll be pushing it if we commit.”

“What are the readings?”

“Twenty-five percent and twenty-four percent respectively.”

“Borderline.”

“The point’s moot. The hull is below minimum.”

“What are you suggesting we do, Timmel? Do you want us to go back down into that soup? Even if I could pull a miracle rabbit out of my ass and land this thing in three hundred knot winds. We’d not survive the night with this hull integrity.”

“I’m just informing you of the facts.”

“We have to go for it,” Ave defended Chess.

“Chess, Lyle here. I see you on the scope.”

“We both made it, Lyle.”

“Well we’re beat up pretty bad.”

“Hull integrity is twenty-two here.”

“Nineteen and a half here.”

“Wow!” Ave expressed.
“Yeah, it’s what it is. We’re reinforcing the weak spots, but all we have is duct tape and some rods to prop against the walls.”

“I hear ya,” Chess responded, checking his screen for the proximity readings.

“We’re unanimous to go for it. It’s not like there’s another option.”

“Good luck, my friend.”

“If I don’t make it…”

“Don’t tell me you’re reneging on our bet.”

“There are always margins of error, right?”

“Yeah, Lyle, we’ll both be fine.”

“I never fly by the damned book, anyway.”

Chess watched on the scope as his friend climbed out of the atmosphere, hoping for the best.

“They can’t make it,” Timmel said solemnly, as if pronouncing a death sentence. “Their hull is too thin now. We’ll not make it either.”

“Then we all die together right?” Ave shrugged.

“How about the seals?”

“In tact and holding, no further deterioration.”

Immediately ahead of them, there was a bright flash, the signature of a fusion reactor implosion.

Chess sat back. “Lyle!” he called over the radio, but he did not expect response. The others sat in sober silence contemplating the truth, that likely they would suffer the same fate.

“Raise the interior pressure.” Chess commanded.

“What good will that do?” Ave asked.

“I remember reading something about it artificially making the hull stronger.”

“It can, but only in a very narrow range of values,” Timmel admitted. “If it’s too high it will blow the seals.”

“The platform is in range.” Ave maneuvered a viewer closer to his eyes. “I got long range visual.”

“Hull integrity?”

“Holding at twenty-two percent. Interior pressure now at one-oh-five.”

“Raise it to one fifteen.”

“That’s dangerous, not just for the hull but our ears.” Timmel voiced his concerns.

“What’s to hear if we’re dead?” Chess asked rhetorically as they ascended beyond the last vestiges of atmosphere. “Today, we defy all odds, gents.”

“Hull holding, platform has a lock on us, switching to onboard guidance,” Ave reported, and then checked his harness, ensuring it was locked.

“Control, Seven Xray Bravo One requesting confirmation of visual.”

“Seven Xray Bravo One, we have you on long range.”

“Roger that, advising you our hull is weak. Request no tractor, repeat, no tractor.”

“Roger, Seven Xray Bravo One. Tractor is off. You call the ball, Chess.”

“I have a warning light,” Ave reached toward the panel and flicked his finger against it, hoping it was an error. “We have a leak in two of four seals.” He reported from the environmental control display.

“Control, Seven Xray Bravo One is coming in hot. Request emergency protocols. Seals and not in tact.”

“Roger, understood. Fire crews alerted. Will begin bay door close when you pass the outer marker. Maintain approach speed.”

“Roger, Control.” Chess turned to address the other two of the crew. “Get in the tub.”

“This is highly unusual and risky at best.”

“Do you want to fly this bitch, Timmel?”

“No sir.”

“Then get in the damned tub and shut the fuck up!”

“Come on.” Ave unbuckled and climbed down into the protected escape tub. “Don’t complain about my body odor and bad breath. It’s a tight fit in there.”

As the pod continued on approach, Chess made a visual of the landing bay. “Control, Seven Xray Bravo One, I see the beacons. Platform’s just ahead,” Chess announced.

“Passing outer marker.”

“Roger, that. Call the ball.”

“Control, this is Seven Xray Bravo One, I have the ball, am I cleared for final?”

“Seven Xray Bravo One, it’s all yours.”

“Tail hook down!”

“Emergency Cables deployed and locked.”

“Roger, Control.”

“Welcome home, Chess.”

The pod passed the outer lock as the receiving bay doors were already closing. Chess dipped the stick, forcing the pod’s tail hook down, snagging one of four possible cables, throwing Chess forward in his seat. The restraints were tested as the pod slipped through foam intended to minimize sparks as it lost momentum and came to an abrupt halt.
This time, there was no fire. The emergency escape tub was not put to the test.
“Outer door sealed, bay pressure at sixty-five percent.” Ave read the external environment screen as he returned to his seat.

“Sorry for that back there, Chess.” Timmel apologized.

“Forget it. My nerves were frayed. We were all dealing with the pressure.”

“Thanks, Chess. That was some flying.”

“Making it to and from the rock is what I do. We made it one more time.”

“Making paradise from chaos is what I do.” Timmel gathered his gear together and prepared to exit.

“I guess we’ll see how that goes.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 1 – The Caverns

Author’s introduction: I began writing Colonial Authority on June 6, 2007. At the time I was out of work. It was a rough period for my family, but I had a severance package and a little money set aside. No one starved. Other than looking for work, I had a lot of time on my hands, which felt like an incredible gift for the writer inside of me and, of course, my latest muse.

As if often the case, the story started out to be something other than it eventually became. I wanted to write a birthday story dedicated to a friend, Cristina (no ‘h”). Like the main character in this story she is a front vocalist for a rock band and she is Italian. But, then, the story grew and it evolved into two novels.

I wrote this at night, days off or in my spare time during the summer and continuing well into the fall of 2007. After I found a job, I was barely getting by as a car salesperson. The creative process kept me relatively sane as my family burned through my severance and savings. Eventually the car dealership downsized before going out of business. It was one of the first casualties of the major economic downturn that some have since called the Great Recession. By then, I had a lead on another job that I would work until just before writing the first draft of Fried Windows, my first novel with my present publisher, Pandamoon.

In 2012, I published The Attributes, of which this is one part, on Amazon for Kindle only. It has since been modified here and there but it was not professionally edited. I’ve gone through it as a revision and am offering it here in installments as a sample of my science fiction storytelling. As such, it is much more akin to what I was writing when I composed The Wolfcat Chronicles, which will begin with the first episode published in Early 2018. The Attributes serves as a kind of capstone for all my fantasy and sci-fi plot threads, though it does not spoil any of the many stories that lead into this strange world. It takes place in a distant future. The Earth has been abandoned in lieu of new worlds, the colonies on other planets in the solar system and now into another star system. Pravda is the first world to be chosen for the full terraforming treatment.

Enjoy it. And please, let me know what you think.

E

***

Silicon beads swirling in the wind tore at the thick shielding on the hover pod’s hull. Ave waited, hoping for a lull in the wind, knowing it was unlikely. The present storm had gone on for more than three and a half local months.

“Are we ready to go?” Chess asked as he looked at the others, receiving nods. He deployed the Puma, waiting for the control panel light’s confirmation of surface contact. Once completed, he pointed to the door. “Okay guys, this is not a drill.”

“Ready, Chief.” Ave positioned himself as close to the door as possible.

“We have a minute – max for egress. Once outside we board the Puma as quickly as possible. Suits and respirators at all times, even inside the Puma.”

“Understood, Let’s do this!”

“Apparently, the mission’s importance trumps safety considerations.”

“Our suits aren’t made to stand up to this crap,” Timmel said, but receiving no immediate feedback, he looked to Ave, pointing to the side of his helmet directly over his ear.

“Can you hear me?” Ave asked.

Timmel shrugged.

Ave reached for the controls mounted on Timmel’s pressure suit, flicking back the reset switch cover on the wrist and activated the button. “Can you hear me, now?”

“Five by,” Timmel responded. “I was saying these suits aren’t made for this storm.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Ave turned his back on the engineer. “Damned Enviros,” he muttered.

“Hey,” Timmel complained. “So, I suck at electronics.”

“Cut it,” Chess ordered. He forced the hatch release down and armed it. “Ave and I have done this drill a hundred times. Follow our lead.”

“Understood.” Timmel acknowledged as he and Ave gripped the wall handles.

“Give me a countdown.”

“On my mark.” Ave glanced at his chronometer, commencing. “And that’s five, four, three, two…”

“Blow!” Chess shouted.

Once outside the pod, both he and Ave threw their shoulders into the hatch, keeping it from closing until Timmel stepped through and immediately suffered the storm’s abrasive violence. Struggling to attach a safety tether to the outer hull of the pod, the gale forced him to step back a few paces. He hooked another tether onto the hatch door and fastened the other end to the pod’s hull, effectively holding it open so the others could release it. Then turning he aimed a high-pressure discharge gun in the Puma’s direction, shooting another line with a magnetic latch on its end.

“Okay, Chess. We have a temp rope guide.”

Remotely, Chess commanded the Puma’s magnetic arm to acquire and anchor the safety line while Timmel assisted Ave in keeping the door open. They waited for Chess to step through the hatch, the last of the crew to make it outside.

“Okay!” Timmel severed the taut tether and the hatch’s hydraulics took over, continuing to close. “Go, go, go!”

As Chess and Ave scrambled away from the hatch, each of them grasped the safety line that Timmel had anchored to the Puma. First one and then the other climbed through the vehicle’s door and maneuvered around inside, Timmel taking one of the back seats, while Ave reached back through the pilot’s hatch and helping Chess climb inside.

“Good job, Timmel,” Chess said as he and Ave settled into the swivel, bucket-style seats and closed the hatch behind him, sealing the Puma’s cabin.

“Not bad for a damned Enviro, hey?” Timmel directed to Ave, patting the co-pilot’s helmet.

“I guess I deserved that,” Ave allowed.

“Apology accepted.”

“The bitch is buttoned-up. Purge all the sand,” Chess directed.

“Already on it, Chief.” Timmel leaned forward, reaching past Ave to press the button on the environmental panel, creating a few seconds delay while he strapped in.

“Stiff breeze out there.” Ave finished strapping in, and braced for the five seconds of extreme suction.

Chess chuckled. “At this morning’s briefing, they promised me this is one of the calmer days of the past month. They claim the initial seeding of the upper atmosphere has begun to calm the winds.”

“You couldn’t prove it by me,” Timmel commented. “That’s the strongest wind I’ve ever felt. I’m not so sure this rock qualifies as Earth like.”

“A hundred seventeen knots,” Chess read from the Puma’s anemometer, “Gusts to one twenty-five … excuse me, one-forty.”

“It’s getting worse. We have to find cover for the Puma, rock outcroppings or a cave that’s out of this wind,” Timmel explained.

“Understood.” Chess clicked a magnetic release switch as the Puma’s tethers dropped away from its hull. “The real question is whether there will be a pod to return to.”

Ave growled in the background. “What? Did you misunderstand the meaning of the word suicide that was stamped on top of mission on our orders?”

“Guess I didn’t see that, not that it matters much. They need to know whether the caverns that the droids discovered can be made into temporary shelters for colonists,” Chess explained.

“The first hundred are already on their way,” Timmel revealed. “Arrival early next spring with more to follow. They stay on one of the platforms until they have a place ready for them down here.”

“Are they nuts?” Ave protested.

“Do they have a choice?” Chess asked. “This is the next best thing we’ve got to Mother Earth. Terraforming this bitch is the only answer.”

“That will be problematic,” Timmel stated. “Despite today’s weather, this environment is workable, though. It’s just going to take a few years to complete the process.”

“On Earth storms didn’t linger for months or have this kind of punch,” Ave offered.

“Earth’s mature. This planet is about two and a half billion years younger.”

“So it’s a baby throwing an extended tantrum.” Ave swiveled his seat to make eye contact with the environmental engineer.

“Not a bad analogy. Pravda needs some maturing. There’s still a lot of volcanic activity and poisonous gasses released into the atmosphere. The initial colonists will have to live in caverns.” Timmel indicated a direction that seemed the same light brown as every other direction. “Our internal navigation is fixed on the last known coordinates of the droids. The caverns they reported finding seem the most promising yet.”

“So, this is the promised land?” Ave visually searched the horizon for any indication of daylight, and then returned his attentions to the instruments.

“That’s what they say.” Timmel chuckled. “Apart from the uber intensity of the sandstorms, this is really a lot like Earth.”

“It looks nothing like the travel brochure,” Ave joked.

“When the terraforming is completed Pravda will resemble the more arid regions of Earth. Longer-range, say in about eighty or so years, we’ll be irrigating and harvesting vegetation grown in the local soil. There’ll be cities without domes connected by rail and highways. Millions of people will relocate here to relieve the population pressure from the other colonies. All of that begins with us. We’re here to determine whether there is ample subsurface water in the caverns. We know there are aquifers. Our readings indicate the presence of at least three on this continent, but we need confirmation of an ample fresh water source to establish our first colony.”

“How in the hell are we supposed to do any of that while working in this soup?”

“That’s definitely the challenge. Visibility is zero,” Timmel confirmed.

“My point exactly. And we’re here to conduct a survey? How do we do that, by Braille?”

“Breaker, Team One, Team Two leader here,” the radio squawked.

“Team One here, on ground and moving. How ya lookin’ Lyle?”

“Lookin’ for you Chess. Where you at?”

“The positioning satellite tells me I’m a klick to your east.”

“Okay. Where’d you say my east was again?”

“There’s a strong magnetic field, Lyle. It screws-up instruments. Recalibrate your handhelds. Then lock in on our beacon.”

After a few moments, Lyle responded, “Okay, there you are. Uh, Chess how are we supposed accomplish anything? This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

“We establish shelter and a camp in the caverns, just like they told us. Let the Enviros do their thing and await further instructions.”

“And hope this is as bad as it gets?”

“It’s worse when there are rain clouds that mingle with the sand. It’s like being pelted with wet concrete at a hundred knots,” Timmel pointed out.

“Well, that’s something to look forward to.”

“It’s not that bad,” Jove, the Team Two Enviro allowed.

“Well, don’t I feel all better, now?” Ave reacted with sarcasm.

“Lose it,” Chess warned. “This is what we do, Ave.”

“Mars was a kitten compared to this!” Lyle said. “Oh, shit! I just lost a thruster.”

“Cycle the power and purge it,” Chess suggested. “Your intake is clogged.”

Following a few moments of silence, Lyle reported, “Back online. Nice trick, Chess.”

“I’ve been down here in it a few times.”

“I served my penance on Titan. Methane ice storms there. Can’t say it was better or worse. Hell is hell as far as I can tell.”

“Sorry, I resurrected any of those memories,” Chess said.

“I’m over it, sort of – just never thawed out since.”

“There are mountains three klicks to the east of me. It looks like you’re closer, Lyle.”

“Got ‘em on the range finder,” Lyle said. “Gotta go around a ridge line, though. You’ll probably get there quicker.”

“I see the ridgeline on radar. You see the pass?”

“Yeah, we’re on it.”

“Droids found caverns. I don’t know how that happened. It looks like nothing but a wall of rock ahead.”

“They claim there’s a notch in there somewhere,” Lyle said.

“Yeah, well when we find it, we fabricate an airlock at the cavern’s entrance and we’re golden. That’s the official plan, minus all the unforeseen stuff, of course.”

“Yeah, they never seem to figure in enough time for all the ‘everything else’.”

“Turn East South-east,” Ave said. “I got a beacon.”

“No kidding,” Lyle said. “There is it. “Thanks for the help, guys.”

“I don’t know how much more abuse the Puma can take,” Ave complained. “The skin’s wearing bad.”

“Without this Puma your suit would last about twenty minutes,” Timmel said.

“Thanks for the safety tip,” Ave groused. “I’ll keep that in mind if we breakdown.”

“The local atmosphere is about ten percent oxygen but there’s a cocktail of poisons that would kill us in four to five minutes— rather painfully, I might add,” Jove stated.

“So, once the suit goes, I’m not far behind,” Ave said. “Gotcha. Just, I don’t recall reading that in the travel brochure, either.”

Chess used the Puma’s filtered radar to isolate the Doppler effect of the fast-moving sand from the stationary formations of the mountains ahead. “Okay, there’s the notch and I have an echo behind it, an alcove, kind of narrow, but I think the Puma will make it in.”

“There’s good news,” Lyle said.

“We’re almost there,” Chess said. “Are you still dawdling, Lyle?”

“I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other. I hate navigating by radar alone, especially on the ground. Anything smaller than a hundred-pound boulder is invisible.”

“Good news, we detect caverns behind the notch.”

“Tracking on you, Chess. Show me the way.”

“When we get there, Ave and Dar can set up camp, while Jove and I explore the caverns,” Timmel said.

“Who died and made you boss?” Ave asked.

“Once we stop, Timmel’s in charge,” Chess explained. “All orders come from him or up top.”

“Great, just great.”

“If there is any wind shear near those mountains it may be swirling and worse than what we are experiencing out here in the open,” Dar said.

“Now you tell me,” Ave groused.

“Hey, it’s worth a shot,” Lyle said.

“I think so,” Chess agreed.

 

The alcove proved to be a relative haven, greatly diminishing winds, which was welcomed as Chess parked the Puma as close to the mountain as possible.

“Do we wait for Lyle and the others?” Timmel asked.

“Right behind you,” Lyle said over the coms link as his Puma loped into the alcove, settled on its legs and parked beside Chess and the others. Jointly they directed the others to offload the sealed cases containing sensors and other delicate instruments as well as the airlock kit that would be necessary for them to accomplish their mission.

Team one was Ave and Dar who established artificial lighting inside the threshold of the cavern. Team two was Chess and Lyle who began assembling an airlock and air purification system. Timmel and Jove took a portable sampler, data recorder and flashlights as they descended into the network of caverns. From the readings, they confirmed previous reports from the droids that deeper into the caverns the air quality improved dramatically.

When everything was unpacked Chess and Lyle deployed a communication mast, anchoring it to the rocks just outside the cavern. Lyle searched for a satellite link to relay the signal via a particle beam to the orbiting platform.

“There you are,” Chess said as Timmel and Jove reappeared from the lower chambers of the cavern. “How’s the air down there?”

“Better, not breathable, but it is better the lower we go into the caverns.”

“Is that normal?”

“It’s unusual,” Timmel admitted. “Jove and I have a couple of working theories. At least it confirms the telemetry the droids relayed before the wind and sand destroyed them. We found the redundant archive and downloaded the memory into our data recorders. We also accessed the recorders they positioned and retrieved the data to present.”

“Are they still functional?” Lyle asked.

“Their batteries are low. We tried to restart the internal reactors, but apparently, they depleted their duel cells. The reactors are cold.”

“So, the answer’s no,” Chess said.

“Yeah, we’d have to recharge the fuel cells and maybe repack the reactors with new rods. It’d be a minor overhaul, if we had the equipment.”

“How far have you explored?”

“Four-hundred meters down. It’s odd. The caverns seem dry and not all that cold,” Jove responded.

“A dry heat source?” Chess suggested.

“Nothing we’ve found, And, so far there’s no water,” Timmel said.

“Any indication of life?”

“None,” Timmel said. “Of course, we haven’t expected to find any, except maybe something microbial, single cells…of course we haven’t done much testing in the oceans yet. At a similar point in Earth’s development, life on the land might have been difficult to find.”

“Earth had more water, right?” Ave stated as he joined the others.

“Yes, still does,” Timmel answered. “But like Pravda, most of it is in the oceans. There’s some water locked up in polar ice caps here. The tidal effects of the two moons help create weather patterns like what we’ve just experienced, more violent than anything we’ve seen in any extra-terrestrial ecosystem.  We’re all learning at this point.”

“What if we don’t figure it out,” Ave said.

“We don’t have a choice,” Timmel responded.

“What?” Ave asked in response to Chess’ silent, visual chastisement.

“We’ve also discovered peroxide in some rock formations,” Jove said.

“Where would that come from?” Chess asked.

“We don’t know yet, but if there is some reactive process in the planet’s chemistry, it could explain why there’s more oxygen in the air as you descend into the caverns,” Jove said. “And the oxygen in the atmosphere despite the lack of vegetation.”

“It’s a significant discovery, then?” Dar asked.

“Our assumptions about this planet have been in error,” Jove said. “Actually, many times over our theories have needed adjustment.”

“Data transfer complete,” Timmel announced.

“Mine too.” Jove began disconnecting his portable equipment.

“Time to seal and pressurize the airlock,” Chess announced.

“I’ll break open the mess packs,” Ave offered.

“Dar, go ahead and unpack the sleepers.”

“I’m tired enough that it could be continued on the next two men.”

“Getting this suit off is my present priority. I’ve needed to scratch an itch for the last hour.” Ave revealed.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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Becoming Thuperman Coming FEB 2017

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So, I can’t tell anyone the exact date of release just yet because BECOMING THUPERMAN has not yet passed through the critical milestone of substantive  edits. But I can say that the final sub edits were submitted yesterday to Pandamoon Publishing and copy edits should begin in the next couple of days. Copy edits usually take a week, then proof reading and a final-final read through. All that should take about a week and a half. Also the book will be on Pre-order very soon. You do the math.

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During the substantive phase of editing for BECOMING THUPERMAN, Jessica Reino, my editor, served as a sounding board for fleshing out some ideas that became part of the mystery element of the book. It was through this collaboration, something that is a hallmark feature of the Pandamoon Publishing creative community, that the story became much stronger than what was presented in draft.

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My best friend and publicist, Christine Gabriel is releasing CRIMSON MOON, the next installment in the Crimson Chronicles on the same day as BECOMING THUPERMAN. She is nearly done with her book’s editing. So we are definitely on target to release two book in one day at Pandamoon Publishing. Both Christine and I are Alpha Pandas, part of the initial class of authors signed. We’ve seen lots of change and growth over the past four or so years since we were signed. And I can say the quality of stories and the finished product has never wavered. Our publisher continues to attract great talent and product incredible reads.

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CRIMSON MOON continues the mystery and intrigue surrounding a strange Midwestern forest and its paranormal inhabitants that began in CRIMSON FOREST, Christine Gabriel’s bestselling, award-winning, debut novel.

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BECOMING THUPERMAN is about two 8-year-olds, a boy and girl, who share vivid imaginations and burgeoning superpowers. Over the course of a week of one summer their world changes dramatically. The pair become little league baseball pitchers and an effective crime fighting duo, while puzzling through a mystery that will continue into the next book of the series and beyond.

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BECOMING THUPERMAN is an urban fantasy that takes place mainly in the real world portion of the special universe introduced in FRIED WINDOWS. Although the characters are unique to this series (for the moment, at least) readers may expect some overlap of characters as both series continue. And in my next series, WOLFCATS, which debuts in the fall of this year from Pandamoon Publishing, is more of an epic fantasy. It begins to tell the historical past of the Inworld, the fantasy universe described in FRIED WINDOWS.

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The other book coming out this month from Pandamoon, HELLO WORLD by Alexandra Tauber & Tiffany Rose is launching on February 21st. It is about crusading hackers in a not so distant future that is dominated by computer technology.

Lots of other stuff coming soon as well. In my next blog post we’ll mention some of those books and feature a few of the recent Pandamoon Publishing releases from the genres of sci-fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers and Women Fiction/Romance.

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It’s been a while…but it’s all good!

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I haven’t posted to my blog for some time. There are reasons. They might come off as excuses so we’ll not go there. I’ve been busy doing things other than posting to my blog, obviously.

Anyway, some of what I’ve been up to is helping other people become famous. That’s a work in progress, of course. Interestingly, the process of doing publicity stuff for other people sort of contributes to the overall credibility of my writing platform. I kind of like that. You gain from helping others.

There’s plenty of news to catch up on. Foremost, I’m branching out on social media. I’ve had accounts on the various platforms for quite a while but have focuses mainly on Facebook and Twitter. You might notice I have multiple accounts on Facebook. That kind of just happened. When I started out I actually created both accounts by accident. Long story that isn’t interesting to tell. I used a moniker from an IRC chat server so that account was mainly used for people I had connected with from that part of my past. Some of the other social media accounts use the same moniker, though. SO, if you see my picture attached to an account under the user name “elgonewolf”, that is me.

As I have mentioned previously in this blog, having a name like Elgon can be a challenge. And I have, at times, used “elgone’ as a user name, kind of as a joke because that is often the best rendering of my name’s pronunciation that most people can manage, until they know me for a while and know me well enough that I have corrected them on the pronunciation. It isn’t hard. L-GUN. But over the year many have called me L-GONE.

The “wolf” ending to the moniker comes from the IRC chat where each of us pretended to be members of a wolf pack. Once initiated, you were allowed to tag on wolf to your username. There were a couple of hundred of us on that server. And for a few months we had fun creating adventures. There were a lot of former D&D people in the mix, as you might expect.

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I bring all of that up because something special and related to it is coming next fall (2017). You see, I kept copious notes and records of all the adventures I created in those months. I mean, I am a writer. During a 13 week period in the summer of 2000 I generated the basic kernel of a plot and write 400 or so pages of story that was based on those notes. After seven additional years of revisions, additions, deletions, and such, THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES began taking shape.

WOLFCATS was written from the middle out. One of the best ways I’ve ever found for overcoming writer’s block is to just start writing. Where I start is somewhere in the middle of a story. Sometimes that’s a climax. Then the process of writing the story becomes more like assembling a huge jigsaw puzzle. You have the first few pieces together and you just need to fill in the details by finding the other pieces that connect – like how did the characters get into the situation they are in. I do a lot of that with conversations between my characters. Now, not all those conversations make it into a book. Some are just day-to day things that may be nice to know stuff and provide oodles of background for the character’s development but it may not be relevant to the story. In other words, I ended up with a lot of unused background story. Some of it was beneficial later on in the process of creating the rest of the series.

With WOLFCATS the middle part of the story  composed between May and July 2000 eventually evolved, over the next four and a half years, to span 5 books. Concurrently I was writing parts of ONE OVER X that are still unpublished. And, I was helping a friend with a children’s book. I’ve always had lots of trouble writing an ending that doesn’t lead to something else. That why I write serials. And so, even as I was bringing the original storyline of WOLFACTS to a conclusion I was already beginning to tell the next part of the story. In what became an extended series of chapters that I decided were anticlimactic to the original storyline, the characters we leading me into a much more complicated and intriguing set of circumstances that also connected in some rather warped ways with ONE OVER X.

I continued writing about my characters in a separate book (book 6). It became clear that I had a lot more story left to tell than would fit into one book. And so I wrote another book. Half way through that one I realized that I needed a hell of a lot more information about my characters, their origins and relationships.

I had just finished a collaborative editing of the aforementioned children’s book and my publisher at the time suggested that I might try writing a children’s book of my own. I told him I write hard sci-fi and fantasy. He reminded me that J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS is prefaced by THE HOBBIT, a book originally intended to be a story about Middle Earth for his children.

With my notes about the characters and their background stories from the original 5 books of the WOLFCATS, I began writing a nice little children’s story about the two main characters of THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES when they were young. Within a few writing sessions it became clear that what was emerging was not a children’s story at all. Instead it was the missing material I needed to complete the conclusion of the series. And so, As I concurrently wrote final book and a half of the story I was also composing  what became the first two books of WOLFCATS, for first of which will be officially published in late 2017.

Currently I’m waiting for my substantive edits to come back for BECOMING THUPERMAN, which is my next book, to be published in February 2017. BT is the story of two kids and one week of their summer vacation. Besides playing baseball in the city park and riding their bikes everywhere they avoid a neighborhood dog with a bad attitude that guards reputed haunted house of the neighborhood. BT is being kids and the adventure of creating a new world for each day while, in the process, they discover that they have superpowers and the world in which they live is not entirely as “Normal” as the name of their city might indicate. Oh yeah, and there is an old maid who may or may not be a witch and her brother with whom she lives who looks like he might not be among the living.

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