Colonial Authority: Chapter 26 – Impasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m here to see Raven.”

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

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

“He will not care.”

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

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

“Tell him it’s urgent.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Raven!” Paul shouted. “Help me!”

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

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

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

“I got lucky,” Paul said.

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

“I need your help, Raven.”

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

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

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

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

“Why should I risk harboring a fugitive?”

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

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

“What if I could solve all of them?”

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

“I cannot fix everything,” he confessed.

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

“The tyrant?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 25 – The Set Up

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

Paul emerged from the caverns for the first time in over a month, but he did not dare tarry far. He wore the same indistinguishable coveralls as anyone who worked outside of the domes. On his head he wore a helmet. There was ample illumination from the two moons for the surveillance satellites. The eyes of the Colonial Authority were everywhere. They were more than capable of identifying him, so he did not look up.

It was a cool evening, due in large part to the elevation of the southern mountains and the low humidity of the high desert surrounding the foothills that lead up from the coastal plain. The air felt sweet and refreshing even if he was breathing it through a filter just to be safe. He longed to enjoy a world without domes, where the air was natural, clean and pure.

Under the relative cover of night he was scheduled to move. It would be soon now. The four pumas were on their way to pick-up Paul and three decoys. It was a flawed system, but so far it had worked well enough to keep his exact whereabouts a mystery from the authorities.

Paul failed his mission. The reason he was recruited and brought him to the mountain was to recruit Chase and through him Julie, Cristina, Alix and Pete the established cadre associated with the attributes. He gave his best pitch. Maybe he had relied too much on emotion, but he had not told a single lie – at least as far as he knew. The only thing he could do now was recruiting his sister directly. Cristina was all-important to The Resurrection’s longer-term plans. Maybe he didn’t need to be successful in recruiting anyone else. She was the empathic one the Architects had foretold to the Couriers. Paul was certain of it. Not only could she communicate without uttered words but also she could feel what others felt. It was The Resurrection’s hope that she could communicate with a sand-morph.

Paul had used the orb to hone and refine his attributes, making them acute and powerful. Amongst them he developed the ability to heal. He believed that with some help from Cristina and perhaps the others he might personally bring a sand-morph back to life. He would rely on Cristina to bring understanding. As the elder race of mankind ceased to be capable of reproduction, the new race of men and women – humans bearing the attributes – would emerge, multiply and thrive. Cristina would bridge the gap between a new mankind and the ancient indigenous race of the world.

As he descended into the cavern one last time, he imagined as he had many times before what it must have been like when the underground community of sand-morphs was bustling with activity. Did they ever go outside at night and look up in the night sky and see the stars and the two moons and wonder what was out there? Did they have a premonition that their world would be invaded by beings from star many light years away?

“I think we’re ready,” Jodi said as she met him on his descent.

“I just wanted to make sure I had everything I’ll need.”

“Good idea. I’ll meet you up top,” she said, and then continued on her way.

It seemed cruel that as a young child growing up in Haven he had not known he had a sister. Feeling alone in the world, different from the other kids at school, he found peace and comfort in solitude. His uncle told him that his father was dead. Now he understood it was the way it had to be. When Paul was twelve, his uncle and aunt left him to stay with friends while they went to New Milan to attend a relative’s funeral. When they returned home he overheard his aunt and uncle talking about how sad it was for little Cristy to be without her father. Later he heard his uncle refer to Cristy as his niece. Paul knew his uncle had a brother and two sisters; his one brother was Paul’s father. But he had met his aunts and knew each of their children as his cousins. So the conversation had seemed strange in light of what he was always told. He began to suspect he did not know the whole truth about his past.

He grabbed a few things and crammed them into a small bag that was sitting at the edge of the hard slab. It served as a firm foundation upon which layers of thick blankets and a sleeping bag became his bed for the past few weeks. He went a little bit deeper into the cave; into the places he experimented further with his orb. Having spotted it, he held out his hand and it appeared in his palm. Then he turned to begin his ascent to the cavern’s mouth. As he passed where he had left the small bag he summoned it. It obeyed, flying toward his outstretched hand. He had a premonition of danger ahead for the cavern while wondering whether he’d see it again. It was a silly thought so he immediately discounted it. He was the healer. He was key in The Resurrection’s plans, so he had to be involved.

He emerged from the cave with three others dressed in exactly the same attire, each of them wearing a black hood to conceal their identities from others. It was intentional. The other members of the clandestine group were not supposed to know the decoys from the real Paul. Each of them was escorted with armed guards to their respective Pumas where each of them handed a plain pouch to the driver containing instructions that were not to be opened until their vehicles were away from the caverns and out into the desert.

Once Paul and each of the others were safely inside respective vehicles they set out single file away from the protected alcove and out into the desert until they were well out of sight. Only then did the drivers open their pouches and read instructions. None of them would know whether they were carrying the real Paul.

The fallacy in their method of concealment was simple. The Colonial Authority resources could track each of their vehicles to its destination. In order to combat the potential danger to some extent the decoys and Paul would change Pumas at a given point and beyond there would be eight not four Pumas to track.

It was a delaying tactic, intended to keep the authorities busy.

Paul told no one except his one trusted friend of his true intentions. He told some of his cohorts that he was going to New Milan and others that he was going to Haven. There was another rumor that he was really going to Emerald. A few who were of the inner sanctum knew Cristina was in Andromeda. They speculated Paul was headed for a rendezvous with his sister while she was visiting Chase.

Paul had no intention of riding a Puma to any city where the authorities might look for him. He had other plans. Having made other arrangements with the only person he felt he could trust, Jodi, he felt everything was set.

When the Puma reached the climate observation station where he was scheduled to change vehicles and suddenly provide another target for the Colonial Authorities satellites to track, there was someone else inside the station, another decoy. The Authority could capture all eight Pumas but there would be no Paul inside any of them.

There was a series of rooms beneath the station. In the past they served as the caretaker’s quarters. Paul intended to live there until he was dark again. Then, he would use a little known tunnel under the desert that had served the engineers as they prepared the cultivated beds of green houses and the hydroponics facilities for providing food to the first colonists. Although still used for research, the area was long since replaced by acres of domed, organically amended agricultural lands to produce high quality fruits and vegetables. Along with the expansive fabrication facilities used to synthesize muscle tissue as a substitute for raising and slaughtering domesticated animals, the hungers of the world were fed.

There were similar facilities that served the needs of each city, the intention had always been to make each city self sufficient in the providing for the basic needs of their populations. In practice there were excesses and deficiencies. A healthy commodities market developed for trade from one city in surplus to another city in deficit.

Jodi ensured that Paul would have everything waiting for him, new identity cards, a payment wand and clothing to disguise him as an agricultural engineer. He took a nap in the safety of the room beneath the station while the Pumas went about their deception, drawing any surveillance away from the real point of interest.

When it was dark, Paul keyed the combination into the cipher lock to access the tunnel that had been sealed for years. Undetected, he advanced through the dimly lit tunnel beneath the old greenhouses. It took nearly all night for him to reach the far end of the tunnel and another locked door. He keyed in the combination again and emerged into another room beneath another climate observation station. Shortly after he arrived, a Puma pulled up outside and two passengers disembarked, both wearing inconspicuous agricultural engineer uniforms identical to Paul’s. Both went inside the station but one of them remained as Paul took his place in the Puma joining the driver and a guard.

While the man who remained behind would back-track Paul’s path and be picked up by a Puma at the station on the southeastern end of the tunnel, Paul would ride in a Puma to a relay station for the railcar system that was closer to Star City than it was to Delhi, the next closest city.

Dressed as an agricultural engineer and bearing an apparently valid AE’s identification and payment wand, his cover story was taking monthly recreation and relaxation break in the nearest city, including complimentary one way railcar transportation. It was a fringe offered for compensation in recognition of the hard work and harsh working environment of the exposed continental interior.

Paul’s plan was working flawlessly. He planned that once he was in Star City he would change into his personal attire and from there he would purchase one-way fare to Andromeda on a different payment wand.

He felt safe as he rode in the Puma across the desert toward the railcar relay station. There was not a great likelihood that he had been tracked. He had been careful and used the same procedure as always except he had added several additional twists. Paul supposed discovery was possible but not probable unless there was a major breech of security. He was meticulous in planning every detail and had not shared his complete plan with anyone except Jodi. He trusted others only to the extent of their relevant involvement as a portion of the overall plan.

There were only a few roads in the desert that the engineers had established for their purposes but they were not connected to anything but other engineering facilities. Pumas were essential as means of transportation across the open, undeveloped sections of the arid interior.

The infrastructure for anticipated travel needs were under construction in places. Thus far none of the cities were connected to one another in any way more economical than by railcar. In fact, a few kilometers from any of the city domes, all signs of construction disappeared. There was no indication to support the widely circulated rumors of roadbeds being prepped for paving to support floater coaches as a means of intercity travel in the near future. The common belief about progress in construction of the infrastructure across the interior was rooted in the Colonial Authority’s lies.

There were higher priorities in the desert, irrigation for one. Again, the illusion of progress supported lies. It was the stated goal of the terraform engineers to establish domed forests. Once the atmosphere was ready, the domes could be dismantled and the forests would thrive, expanding on their own. In other areas soft grasses were grown near the domed cities, allegedly so that once the city domes were dismantled people could establish parks and residential communities.

As he rode, Paul allowed his imagination to project into a different future that he dared to dream, one without the Colonial Authority. Anticipating he would be powerful and important in such a world, he would travel as the wealthy and important did, opting for efficient but expensive hover transportation. Although he could have arranged use of such a vehicle for this trip masquerading as a Colonial Authority official was at least ill advised. The security monitoring around the airlocks for receiving hovercraft in the cities was tight, far too risky for traveling with false credentials.

Paul saw some indications of construction projects but nothing appeared to be currently underway. Although there should be indications of widespread terraforming in the otherwise lifeless desert, vast areas remained untouched. It was a huge continent. In the interior there was a whole lot of sand and no surface water, but there should be some sign of development.

By the time the Puma reached the railcar relay station, it was almost morning again. It had taken all afternoon and all night to cross the stretch of harsh and barely navigable desert. Paul bade the driver and the guard good-bye with no words, only a wave and he exited the Puma. He trotted to the entrance and stood as he waited for his clothes to be sanitized and any contaminants neutralized. Then he entered the small lobby. Went to a ticket counter and stood for a few minutes, even clicking the attendant’s buzzer before an elderly gentleman approached. “Yes sir.”

“AE comp ticket to Star City on the next railcar.”

The gentleman brought up the seating confirmation screen for the next arriving car coming from Delhi. “I guess you are in luck. There are only five empty seats on that one, though. It’s one that originated all the way out in New Milan. I’ll confirm you for it.”

“That’s great.”

“Haven’t seen you before.”

“I just started a few months ago.”

“Well, they’ll pause here for you to board. But you gotta be ready. They’ll only wait for a couple of minutes.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“It’ll be a couple of hours yet.”

“I was expecting a wait.”

“We can talk for a bit. I always have time for conversation. Why in two hours we will be best friends.”

“Unless we run out of things to talk about.”

“That will never happen. I’ve been around a long time. I assure you I have a lot to talk about. What do you want to know?”

“Have you ever been to New Milan?”

“No. I have no use for the west coasters and their ways. I lived most of my life in Haven.”

“I was born in New Milan, but I don’t remember it. My mother died in child birth and I went to Haven to live with my uncle and aunt,” Paul revealed.

“I was born on a transport on the way here. My parents were immigrating from Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. My father was born on Mars. My mother was the daughter of a researcher who worked at a base on Luna. But she made regular trips to Earth back when they were still trying to fix all the things that people broke in that ecosystem. My mother and father met when they were attending The Armstrong-Aldrin Engineering Institute at Tranquility University on Luna.”

“Why’d they ever end up here?”

“My mother and father wanted to come to Pravda because the terraform engineers promised they were making it into paradise. The way they pitched it, this place was already so much like Earth that it seemed like it could be the one world that would convert easily, within a decade or two. Maybe it will be that paradise they promised after you and I are dead and gone. Who knows? You’re the Engineer. You tell me.”

“Agriculture is my expertise,” Paul pointed out. “I take what the enviros give me and try to make things grow.”

The attendant laughed, and then offered his hand across the counter. “My named Harold.”

“Randy,” Paul introduced using his assumed name while accepting the handshake.

“It’s been a lot more complicated than anyone believed,” Harold allowed.  “Even the places where they say terraforming worked, it’s subject to opinion. Mars is the best they got and it is unstable, from what I read.”

“The agriculture there hasn’t been successful, but because of it there have been tremendous advances in hydroponics that were beneficial to the early needs of this world.”

“That’s true. We certainly eat well here.”

“The problem with Mars goes well beyond the soil. It does not have a molten core so it has a very weak magnetic field if it even has one at all. The solar winds tear away as the atmosphere constantly. It creates a wonderful lightshow every night. The terraform engineers have to replenish the gases in the atmosphere periodically and despite their certifying the world terraformed, for safety reasons they have never dismantled the domes.”

“Dad and Mom told me horror stories about Titan. People were cold and starving. The engineers tried orbital reflectors to focus more sunlight onto the planet to thaw the methane oceans and harvest the gases for use to heat the world. They tried all sorts of things to get the ambient temperature even close to what humans feel is tolerable. They got it to the point where it was livable, I guess.”

“We haven’t had a good track record finding a new home,” Paul stated.

“The most successful world so far has been C974, the large moon of one of the gas giants in the Centauri system.”

“I believe you’ll discover that one has issues as well,” Paul said.

“Really?”

“Yes sir.”

“I heard that C974 had a much better atmosphere than here to begin with, denser than Mars, a molten core and a magnetic field. It has some surface water and small seas that could hardly be called oceans but fresh surface water. I thought terraforming was working there.”

“They have severely restricted human colonization,” Paul corrected, having read extensively about the subject when he worked for the Ministry of the Interior. “There is native flora and fauna, but the three cities have domes and humans need respirators if they walk outside. The enviros are attempting to adapt an already complex ecosystem with many species. But they are being extremely careful about introducing people into the mix. If it wasn’t for the indigenous life, it might be everything Pravda isn’t. With the average ambient temperature around fifteen to twenty Celsius, it is a perfect candidate.”

“Why has no one ever named it?”

“I heard someone wanted to name it Babylon,” Paul replied.

“I heard that, too. He had a huge campaign and spent a lot of his personal savings to get everyone to vote for the name. I guess everyone was used to calling the place C974 so that’s why it was never renamed.”

“They haven’t decided whether anyone will live there permanently. There are a lot of challenges making the environment like the engineers want without adversely affecting the environment. So until they say the world works, I doubt they’ll name it. Maybe not then. Once people get used to calling something one thing they usually resist changing to call it something else.”

“Human nature,” the old man agreed. “You know what happened and defined my life?”

“No,” Paul responded. “What?”

“Irony.”

“Irony?”

“Yes, irony. The world is filled with it. Maybe even the universe. I never knew it until I was older and had a chance to reflect on things, but I’ll bet if you did some of that too, you’d see what I see, lots of irony.”

“Okay,” Paul was willing to give Harold the benefit of doubt.”

“I was a toddler by the time the engineers had anyplace habitable on the surface here. It was a horrendous pain in the ass for my mother and father to have to deal with a new baby, being confined to cramped dorms for the first settlers. When Haven was opened, my folks were among the first to set foot there. I was young but I remember some of it. By the time I was in my teens, they finished Andromeda and they started Star City. There was nothing but a few tents and construction sites, but that was a big deal. They started building before the dome was finished. My folks moved there and we lived in an airlock tent until their residence was finished. Star City was offering incentives to have people relocate there and many people who wanted a new start or a fresh start flocked there and suffered for a while. Mom and Dad lived there the rest of their lives always waiting for this world to turn into paradise. I guess I was never as optimistic,” he concluded.

“Who can believe an enviro, right?”

“Well, you would know,” the old man said. “You work with them, right?”

“When necessary.”

Harold laughed. “At least you feed people. So that’s something good.”

“It’s rewarding in a way, but also it is lonely and boring.”

“Are you gonna find a lady friend in Star City.”

“I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s not like I can settle down. Not until they let people live outside of the domes.”

“I never married,” Harold revealed. “On the occasion of my eighteenth birthday my father took me out and was in the process of telling me how to be a man when two ladies came by the bar where we were sitting and, one came up on the either side of me. I didn’t understand what was going on at the moment, but my father backed off and… well, they were very persuasive and I ended up going back to their place.”

“Two of them?”

“Yeah, can you imagine that? My first time, too!”

“Your dad arranged it?”

“Maybe he did. He denied it afterwards. But that was one of the high points in my life, having two ladies at one time.”

Paul laughed. “Well, I guess settling down with one woman after that experience would have been… disappointing?”

“Oh, I had a number of encounters and several girlfriends after that. I may no longer look the part, but in my day I was quite the stud. Everywhere I went I met ladies. We danced. Sometimes we went back to my place. Other times I went to her place. When that got old, I tried to make lasting relationships, but after a while something always seemed to fall apart. I met this one lady named Charmin. She was something else! She had the voice of an angel and the body of a temptress. She wanted it all the time. It wore me out. I thought she was the one, too. But she would have killed me.”

“Two at once and one lady named Charmin could have killed you,” Paul said incredulously.

The old man chuckled, “Yeah, I hear ya but you don’t really know. The two ladies that initiated me into the brotherhood of men liked me a lot. I was a virgin. Neither of them had ever done a virgin. So they shared me; they also shared with me all of the secrets they knew about satisfying the desires of both men and women. They showed me their ways and wiles, how to satisfy anyone in a sexual way. It seemed like a gift from the gods for me, but it proved to be a curse. I could satisfy others, but never really myself,” he confessed.

“That’s sad.”

“I practiced ancient tantric methods, ways of lingering on and on and on to ensure multiple orgasms for my partner. I was doing everything for them, nothing for me.”

Paul stepped back from the counter. “You have had quite a life, my friend,” he said.

“Yeah and the best is still to come,” he said.

“How’s that?”

“Watching a guy get it when he least expects it.”

“What?”

Suddenly, security agents surrounded Paul. He knew from their uniforms they worked directly for the Colonial Authority.

“You did a good job delaying,” one of the agents told Harold.

“He must be pretty damned important for this many of you to come all the way out here and on hover craft to boot!”

“Can we borrow a room back there behind the counter?”

“Yeah, second one on the right has no window, four chairs and a table.”

“Perfect.”

“I thought it would suit your needs,” the old man beamed.

Paul’s hands were restrained behind his back as security guards poked him in the neck and injected a tranquilizer into his blood stream while other agents dragged him down to the room where other agents of the Colonial Authority desired to interrogate him. The guards deposited him harshly onto one of the chairs, and then made some comment about his traitorous acts. They taped his ankles and arms to the chair, and then taped his body to the chair to prevent him from slipping out of the chair onto the floor.

Paul was unconscious for a while. Maybe it was not all that long but it felt like at least an hour had elapsed. Anyway it seemed that the agents were expecting him to come out from under the influence of the drug. Paul wondered how many times had he been in this sort of situation. He had lost count. He sought to avoid any direct contact with the authorities, but ever so often they intersected with his existence and each time it became a more painful experience for him.

He sat there waiting, glancing around the room for any possible chance for escape. There were none obvious, especially with his bound hands and his head still groggy from the effects of the tranquilizer. After several minutes of relative isolation, two more agents entered the room, and then one guard posted inside the door and another outside the door.

“You’ve gone to a lot of trouble detaining the wrong guy. I’m on my vacation.”

“You want to play that game, Paul. Yeah, we know who you are, how you got here, where you were for the past few weeks. We know you’re an integral part of The Resurrection’s plans. We can show you the evidence if you like. What we want from you is an open confession and a commitment to work with us to apprehend the other criminals involved. If you do this, your life will be spared. As you know, what you have done is sedition and treason. That is punishable by death.”

Paul leaned back in his chair. He even smiled. “Et tu, Jodi.”

One of the two men looked up.

“So she’s playing both sides, one against the other?”

“Who’s Jodi?” the agent asked.

“Look, if you want me to be honest with you, you need to be honest with me. I know when you’re lying.”

One of the two men leaned back and sighed while the other stood up and walked toward the door.

“Okay, here it is,” Paul said. “You can let me go now and if you don’t follow me I won’t kill you.”

The agent who was still sitting across from Paul just laughed as he allowed his chair to rock forward. “You’re a pretty funny guy.”

Paul rocked his chair to the front legs and stood bent over for the curve of the chair. He wore a kind of ironic smile as he decided to simply unravel the duct tape that bound his hands together. The two agents looked on in utter amazement, as the tape seemed to be unwinding itself. Then suddenly, Paul disappeared.

“What the…?” The agent who had been sitting leapt to his feet. The other ran over to confirm what his eyes had witnessed. Paul was not there. The two men rushed the door, trying to open it, throwing their weight against it to no immediate avail.

“Get him!” one shouted through the door to the guard outside.

“Where is it?”

“He’s gotta be out there, somewhere. Find him!”

Paul paused at the counter to address the old man. “You know what,” he said as he came up from behind and startled him. “I’ll bet that nothing in your life has ever surprised you as much as this.”

“I do what they want. There’s no point in fighting them. I can’t afford to live if I don’t have this job.”

“Maybe all that other crap about your past was bullshit too.”

“I don’t bullshit. I never bullshit.”

“You lie for the right cause. Is that it?” Paul reached out his hand toward the old man. He backed up at Paul’s advance, fear in his eyes.

Guards came running down the hallway toward them. Paul projected an invisible barrier both men ran into, striking it before falling backwards after knocking themselves out.

“I don’t have to touch you to end your miserable, lonely life.”

“I’m not afraid of dying, only the pain,” the old man said. “I’ve had a good long life. Maybe now I can finally reach paradise.”

“I can set you free, but I’m afraid the your heaven is a lie.”

Paul turned away. As he did the old man clutched his chest and collapsing to his knees and then to the floor. The railcar was just arriving at the station. Paul waited and when it stopped at the dock and its door opened, he passed through the airlock and boarded it. When he sat down and got comfortable, the railcar left the station, gradually resuming its course and speed.

He sat quietly contemplating what he had done. Despite the apparent natural causes of the old man’s death, the agents would surely pin the death on him. As a result he fully expected some confrontation whenever he reached Star City. Obviously, the authorities from Haven would be in contact with their authorities. Paul was ahead of them, though. He may not have expected any of this, but he had anticipated almost every variable, including betrayal.

The railcar progressed toward its destination. Paul had a brief conversation with the lady who was sitting across the aisle. After a time she fell asleep and he was pretty much left to his own diversions and devices, figuring out how he was going to avoid the army of security agents that would descend upon the railcar in Star City.

He mentally calculated the speed and distance of the railcar to the expected arrival time factoring in the two minutes the car paused for him to board and also the pause for the railcar to access the entrance to the dome at Star City. He knew it was iffy, of course, but he had the knowledge to do it.

Paul could put on the breathing filters and exit the train through a maintenance hatch in the back of the railcar before arriving at the dome. Yes, there would be an alarm and maybe it might alert the authorities that he was there, but if he did it close enough to the city, he could enter through one of the remote maintenance ports in the dome, the ones that engineers used whenever they were performing checks on the dome’s integrity.

Of course he should be dressed differently but they had confiscated his bags. He would have to make do with what he had to work with. He hoped that he could seek out Raven once he was in Star City. Maybe the Courier could help him.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 24 – Clubbin’

**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.**

Across the table from her, Cristina’s physical beauty captivated him more than the first time Alix had met her. Her intensity he could feel in the look from her eyes. There was a connection between them, something she offered and willingly he accepted, knowing there could be no secrets between them.

There was nothing left that she could not know. She had but to ask. He’d told her most of it already. He lacked any desire to keep anything from her in the future. What was the point? She could read his mind and he offered it to her anytime her eyes probed. Where ever she delved and whatever she found, when she returned she smiled and the love they shared seemed reinforced.

He was well aware what an act of providence it was, their being together at all. He was completely out of her league. What could someone like her ever see in someone like him? She was the most amazing person he had ever known. She was talented, gifted with a voice that was indisputably one of the key components in the Duae Lunae sound and the band’s popularity.

Though still limited, success did not come overnight. At first there were language barriers. The only languages spoken in New Milan were Italian, Creole, Spanish and English. From the outset the only one in the band who spoke English exclusively was Tim. Cristina and Alix spoke English as a second language. Cristina’s primary language was Italian. She also spoke Spanish. Alix spoke a variant of Creole and English but also could get by conversationally in Spanish and French. Pete knew English as did Keith but they were also fluent in Spanish. Moreover, expect for the band’s ability to communicate in multiple languages, they would have never made it out of the urban subculture of the various ghettos of New Milan. In fact, it was likely the band would have never met one another when all of them except for Cristina were forced to attend the same public school.

Alix waited patiently at their table for Cristina to return from the restroom. He was just beginning to become uneasy about her when she emerged, two people with her, both of them females. She immediately snatched up her purse and obtained a digipen from it and then proceeded to digisign Mods for the two ladies. Then one of them recognized Alix and offered her Mod. “Can I borrow the digipen?” Alix asked Cristina.

“Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated?” She asked him as she handed it to him.

“What’s your name?”

“Lynn.”

“Okay, Lynn. You’re one of our fans, right?”

“Yeah, I’m like maybe the biggest fan in the city.”

“Who’s my best friend in the band?”

She paused thoughtfully, but then smiled. “Well now it’s probably Cristina, but it used to be Pete.”

“Well actually they both are still my best friends. It is just Pete isn’t as pretty as Cristina. He tries hard, but even with a shave and a splash of cologne he still has a long way to go,” Alix said with a laugh.

Cristina joined in the mirth as Alix handed Lynn’s Mod back to her.

“I really appreciate this. It’s always an pleasure to meet someone who likes what we do,” Alix said.

After seeing what Alix put her friend Lynn through, Sheryl was a bit tentative about approaching Alix, but figured since he was in the band as well she needed to get her Mod digisigned as well. Alix looked up at her. “You know me right?”

“Yeah.”

“What instruments do I play?”

It was a trick question and Sheryl realized it. Obviously, in the band Alix only played bass guitar, but as she thought about it she guessed that maybe he played guitar as well.

“He is actually quite good on the guitar,” Cristina said. “He just suffers from an inferiority complex around Keith.”

“Well considering the competition in the band, yeah, I can do bass good enough to get by,” Alix said. “Look, I really appreciate the support. Please keep it up and spread the word. The way things have been going lately we need your support.”

“It’s all a bunch of crap because no one in control of the music industry in this city wants your single to go to number one. The irony is that the measure is based on orders not retail sales,” Lynn said. “I work in a store. I know how many people have bought advance copies. I’ll be very surprised if you guys aren’t number one next week.”

“People are buying air based on a promise,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, well you guys are ‘kewl’ in a huge way,” Lynn said. “That’s why you are a hit here, even if you are not from Andromeda. Your music’s unique. It doesn’t sound like New Milan pop or the commercial crap that’s promoted heavily in the local music community. Your material is cutting edge, trendy stuff like the avant-garde local bands offer.”

“Thank you,” Cristina said with a smile and then hugged first Lynn and then Sheryl.

“We really are fans for life,” Sheryl said.

Alix leaned over and kissed first Lynn and the Sheryl on their cheeks.

“We were just getting ready to leave,” Cristina said. “I mean we’re out on the town in my friend’s coach. We’d like to hit some clubs with live bands.”

“Desperado,” Lynn said. “Overt Expression is playing there. I think you’d like them.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Cristina said. “Let’s go.”

Sheryl looked at Lynn, and then looked to Cristina, “With you?”

“We need to keep abreast of the trends here,” Alix offered.

“Well, yeah, okay,” Lynn said. “I mean, we can show you the way to the club if you want to follow us. It’s on the other side of town.”

When they arrived at the doorstep and docked their coaches, they queued up in line behind ten other people that were waiting to go inside.

“You know none of my friends will ever believe that I was hanging out with you guys.”

“Especially standing in a line to get into a club to see Overt Expression play,” Sheryl said. When she saw the bouncer at the door, she called out, “Karl!”

“Hey babe. Where’s Lynn?”

“Right here,” Lynn waved.

“Come on up,” he said. “I need my hug.”

“What about our friends?”

“We can make room for them too.”

“What about the ten people in line ahead of us?” Cristina asked.

“They have to wait,” Karl said.

“Then we can wait with them,” Cristina said.

“I think Donnie will be pissed if he knows we’re out here,” Lynn said.

“Who are you?” The person directly ahead in line turned to ask her.

“I’m Cristina,” she offered her hand and received a handshake. “And you?”

“Marcia,” she said.

“They’re in a band,” Lynn said.

“Yeah which one?”

“Duae Lunae,” Sheryl revealed.

“No! Really?” She stepped back. “It is you!”

Immediately, the people around them sought framecaps or digisigns from Cristina.

After observing the confusion for a few minutes, Karl waved Sheryl to the front. The two of them talked for a few minutes.

When she returned she explained, “Okay, here is the deal. The four of us can go inside and take four others right now.”

“We’ll wait,” Cristina said.

“His worry is for your safety, Cristina.”

“Maybe he needs to address that with his supervisor. I am sure the club is not close to exceeding the fire code yet. I’ll even bet you could take the next fifty people in line.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“I do,” Cristina said. “Trust me. Tell him everybody in line goes in. Ask Donnie if he has to.”

Sheryl flashed a smile and returned to Karl. After hearing the counter proposal, he waved Cristina to the front of the line. “Are you nuts? I’m trying to keep you safe.”

“I’m safe where I am. Everybody in line is my friend.”

He chuckled. “Here’s the deal: you and your boyfriend with me in a framecap. And I know Donnie will want one too for the wall of fame inside.”

“Everybody in line, then?”

“Yeah, we can do that.”

Lynn and Sheryl separated from them while Cristina and Alix posed for framecaps for Karl and Donnie. Once inside the door, Cristina and Alix attempted to migrate toward the stage, but it was far too congested and so they ended up in the back, sitting on a couple of vacant bar stools as they listened to the band that was playing. After twenty minutes Lynn came to find them.

“Donnie gave us a table up front,” she said.

“Great,” Alix said as he stepped off the stool. Taking Cristina’s hand he followed Lynn as they wended through the crowd. The table wasn’t the best place to view the band, but Alix had observed them playing as he and Cristina approached the dance floor. He could tell they were highly competent musicians. Maybe they were not quite there their lead singer was very good, just as Chase said.

Cristina needed to take a trip to the ladies room. Alix took the opportunity to relieve the growing pressure on his bladder as well. Then they rejoined Lynn and Sheryl at their table.

As Cristina continued her conversation with the two fans she realized they were more than just friends. They were a couple. It was not a surprise for her so much as she wondered why she did not notice earlier. Andromeda had a reputation for being open-minded and tolerant of alternative life styles. As much as Emerald, New London and New Paris might embrace cultural diversity there was no other colony quite like Andromeda. It prided itself in being unique and independent in it’s thinking.

“How long have you been a couple?” Cristina asked.

The query startled Lynn. Sheryl answered, “Two and a half years.”

“How did you know?” Lynn finally asked.

“I see it in your faces, how you look at one another, how you seem to take care of one another. You’re in love.”

Lynn smiled. “We’re a couple but we might entertain a threesome or foursome at times for fun.”

Alix who had been sipping his drink almost choked on it.

“I’ll take that as a no from Alix then,” Sheryl said, and then laughed. “Pity.”

He cleared his throat and then looked up at her. “It was just unexpected,” he offered to her as an apology.

“So, you might be interested, after all?” Lynn asked.

“Never without Cristina,” Alix said.

Cristina looked directly at him, seeming to want a further explanation that was not immediately forthcoming.

Then after a few moments of sitting in Cristina’s glare, he smiled. “I would never turn down the offer out of hand, but I’m totally with Cristina.”

Cristina shook her head at him, and then smiled toward Lynn and Sheryl. “I guess we will decline the offer.”

“It could have been fun,” Lynn said, seeming a little disappointed.

“Alix and I are not all that settled in our relationship, yet. There are still too many surprises ahead of us. We are still learning about one another,” Cristina explained. “Frankly, I am surprised at his response. Maybe after we have discussed the parameters of our relationship we will be more resolute and can better assess different possibilities.”

“You’re both straight,” Sheryl said. “I get that. Guys and gals have completely different perspectives about multiple partners.”

Alix shrugged.

“Well, Alix and I will need to discuss our relationship much further.”

“Understood,” Lynn allowed.

“Regardless, anytime you are in town, the offer is always open,” Sheryl said. “And, of course we can hang out.”

Cristina smiled. “That’s great! I guess we can let you know.”

Alix smiled, but then as he made eye contact with Cristina he could tell she was not really happy with his interest in the two other young women. She was being polite to the fans. She was not in the least attracted to their lifestyle or their offer while at the same time being tolerant.

Immediately, Lynn let out a scream of recognition, hailing a friend who was on the dance floor. She ran out to the floor to say hello and embrace him.

“Her ex,” Sheryl explained. “Oscar and his newest heart throb, Toni.”

“They all seem to be on good terms,” Alix said.

“Well, they’re still friends and she was dating me at the same time as they were still together. He’s been seeing Toni for a couple of months. He’s bisexual too. We all went out together a few times before Lynn broke up with him. It was amicable.”

Lynn brought him and his latest friend over to the table to meet Cristina and Alix. They posed for framecaps and chatted for a few moments before Alix looked at his chronometer. It was not all that late but there were other places he wanted to check out. He was sure he had to broach the subject, but didn’t know how to do it gracefully without offering an invitation to Lynn and Sheryl to join them in going elsewhere. He could tell that Cristina was uneasy about the current situation and probably just wanted to be alone with him. Still, they couldn’t just walk out on Lynn and Sheryl. They were the ones who suggested coming to the club. Maybe now that they were with other friends it was okay.

He recalled a similar uncomfortable situation with fans in Star City. Chase had leaned over toward Cristina, and said just audible enough to be overheard, “I know you have forgotten but…”

At the time Alix didn’t know whether Cristina’s response was rehearsed or spontaneous but it was perfect.

Alix decided to play it the same way

“I haven’t forgotten. We still have time don’t we?” Cristina asked.

“No, we’d better go,” Alix stood and allowed her to say goodnight to the fans and leave that club. The only complication this time was that he and Cristina had been the impetus to come to the club.

“That’s okay. Oscar and Toni are here. We can hang out with them,” Lynn said.

“Yeah, sure,” Oscar said. “It was great meeting you.”

Cristina gathered up her things. “Honestly, I really forgot about the dinner. It’s with our manager and one of his friends.”

“That’s fine,” Lynn said as she reached across the table to shake first Cristina’s then Alix’s hand. Sheryl followed suit.

“It was nice to meet all of you,” Alix said.

“We’ll really have to get together later on or next time you’re in town,” Sheryl said, as she reached into her bag and produced a contact card. “Here,” she offered it to Cristina. “This is how to reach us.”

“Great,” Cristina said as she looked at it. “I’ll send you a note over the global network and you can put me in your address book.”

“That would be great. That way you can let us know when you’re scheduled to appear in Andromeda.”

“We really need to go,” Alix prodded.

“I know, I know,” Cristina said, her eyes sparkling. She locked her arm into the crook of his elbow and allowed him to lead her through the crowd.

Once they were outside, Cristina kissed Alix’s cheek. “That was amazing. I didn’t think you knew that trick.”

“I observe well. I was hoping you’d remember.”

“Where are we going?”

“I was thinking of hitting one of the clubs we’ve played at when we were on tour,” Alix suggested as he summoned the coach from the dock.

“Yeah, that might be fun. I just hope we don’t end up in the same place as any of them.”

“Yeah, that would be awkward,” he said as the coach arrived and the door opened.

“To say the least,” Cristina said as she stepped inside and waited for Alix to slip in at the console.

As they navigated the rather vacant downtown streets, Cristina engaged the subject that bothered her.

“You would have really been okay with a foursome, you, me, Lynn and Sheryl?”

Alix really did not want to answer. She would believe the truth even if he knew how to express it. He did not want her to think he was a total pervert, but he had thought about multiple partners. It was something he had never done, something that he was unlikely to do considering the manifest strangeness of the attributes.

Still the silence extended past a few awkward moments until Alix admitted, “I really don’t know what to say. I mean, I have fantasies about it, but it isn’t like I would ever do it. You know, for some of the same reasons you have I’m sure.”

“I’ve never had fantasies about it,” Cristina stated.

“Their offer took me by surprise, mainly. I’m being honest. I have thought about it. I think a lot of guys do. Obviously, some women do, too. It still doesn’t change who we are or any of that. I’m not going to have multiple partners – unless it is something you want to do. Then yes, I would be okay with it, even if it was uncomfortable at first.”

“And it is only because of our differences from other people.”

“Well that’s a large part of it,” Alix said. “But I don’t want to do anything to hurt you.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 23 – Subterfuge

**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.**

Inspector Yates leaned across the table, staring at Julie. “I was warned that you were pretty.”

“Who warned you?”

“That would be telling.”

“Is that why you brought me here, to flatter me?”

Yates leaned back. “No, it’s the report you filed last night. According to the report, two or possibly three men broke into your apartment using grappling hooks and ropes and escaped the same way. And yet they took nothing. You haven’t found anything missing, have you?”

“There was a lot of damage, but nothing we could tell was missing. The biggest thing is I no longer feel safe there.”

“That’s understandable.”

“Have they found anything from the investigation?”

“Can I be frank with you?”

“I would hope you’d not need my permission.”

“We both know who it was that broke into your apartment, don’t we?”

“Chase, my boyfriend was attacked…”

“Yes, I’ve seen the surveillance files from the club and the equipment all around your apartment.”

“Then you have arrested the culprits?”

“No.”

“No as in not yet or as in never?”

“The surveillance is there to protect the law abiding. Mostly it’s routine. We check the files whenever there is an incident we need to corroborate. We monitor the public areas throughout the city, including your apartment’s hallways and exterior and commercial establishments like the dance club. We are able to solve a lot of mysteries that way.”

“I see,” Julie said.

“Your case is a little different, though. In my line of work, you learn very quickly there is a reason for everything. A few days ago we received a tip from Haven regarding your boyfriend, Chase is his name.”

“And.”

“It seems that while he was in Haven last week, he met with several members of a subversive group called The Resurrection. Has he discussed any of that with you?”

“He was in Haven for meetings and training. His company is thinking of expanding the office here and promoting him to manage the office.”

“Yes, and he did that while he was there, too. But while he was there, he approached Haven authorities asking about a young man named Paul Scalero. The authorities there detained Chase and questioned him about his relationship with the man. Do you know him?”

“I’ve never met Paul. As I understand it he is Cristina’s Salerno’s brother. At least that is what Chase told me last night.”

“Cristina and her boyfriend Alix are staying with you for a few days.”

“Yes.”

“Paul is a members and a suspected leader of The Resurrection. At the time of his detainment, Chase stated that he had never met Paul and yet last Sunday he not only met with Paul, but also spent a good deal of time with him out in the mountains to the south of Haven.”

“Why are you telling me this? I’m not involved with any of that.”

“No you aren’t. Not yet. The reason I’m telling you this is you’re the daughter of a respected civic leader who I knew personally as a friend in school.”

“You knew my dad?”

“We lost touch after school, but we were on the school tennis team together.”

Julie smiled. “He loved playing tennis.”

“Do you play?”

“Of course, but I was never as good as my dad.”

“He was city champion three years running,” Yates said.

Julie nodded. “I saw the trophies. He kept them in a closet. He never bragged about his victories, though.”

“Your dad was a rare individual. Tennis is a sport that allows individuals to perform at their personal best, but it also benefits a team. Your father’s desire was to benefit the team with his play. His personal accomplishments were always secondary. He tried very hard to see our team win the city championship. Really, only he was good enough to win it all. After he took the singles title, we needed to win at least one other title, either the women’s singles, men’s or women’s doubles or mixed doubles. Despite his best effort playing doubles, I was his partner and the weak link. We came close that third year, but I missed returning a ball that 10 times out of 10 I would have returned. We lost service and eventually we lost the match.”

“That must have been hard to take.”

“It was. Even so, your dad never blamed me. He was a class act. I know you miss him more than I do, but he was a good friend and a decent hard working man.”

“I appreciate your kind words, but I’m sure there is a point to all this.”

“So there is. You see – I am doing this as a huge favor to his memory. I can’t sit idly by and see my best friend’s daughter implicated in subversive activities through her associations. I needed to talk to you, alone, off the record. I needed to tell you what is happening around you and give you the opportunity to do what’s right.”

“And that would be what?”

“We need information. We already have a lot of the pieces but we need to connect what we have. That’s where you can be of immense help to us.”

“You want me to spy on Chase?”

“No, no, no. You need to continue doing what you always have done. There cannot appear to be any change. All we want to know is what you personally observe,” he produced a small senscorder device. “You will keep a running log, storing it and then when you come to work you download it into your computer and send the file to me. I will be your contact, your only contact. No one else will know anything about this so that you may actually be able to penetrate some of the defenses of The Resurrection.”

“And if I say no?”

Yates shrugged. “I will be disappointed, but at least I made you the offer. That’s the least I could do for the daughter of a good friend. Eventually, we’ll have the connections we need to break The Resurrection. You will be as guilty as they are if you continue to associate with the people that are in your apartment now.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Sure, but I don’t know what there is to think about. Right is always right. That’s what makes my work pretty damned easy. I’ll tell you what, keep the senscorder. If you decide to work with us, download the file and send it to me from work and that will be your answer.”

Julie gathered up her belongings and also the device. “I assume I’m free to go?”

“Of course. It has been my pleasure to meet you, Julie,” Yates said.

Without further comment, Julie opened the door and exited the room. When she reached the street she glanced at her chronometer and debated whether she wanted to return to the office. She needed to be home by 8 at the latest. She didn’t want to leave Chase alone at the apartment. She promised to relieve Cristina and Alix’s vigil so they could go out.

It was marginal whether she would have enough time. From experience, just entering the office meant dealing with things for an hour that had nothing to do with whatever her personal agenda was. Then, there was the risk of calling her supervisor and begin given something that would required her attentions for at least an hour. She opted to call Kim, her administrative assistant and check in with her, but tell her why she was going home.

“There was an emergency staff meeting called as soon as you left the office.”

“I was at the Colonial Authority office. They called me. My apartment was ransacked last night.”

“I told Mr. Gunther that you went there and that technically you came in to work on your vacation.”

“I’ll bet that went over well.”

“He grumbled. I couldn’t make it out. He always grumbles.”

“I can imagine what he said.”

“Well, things aren’t as smooth as they are when you’re here.”

“It’s because you and I are the only ones that don’t dawdle between meetings while trying to appear busy,” Julie explained.

“Oh, so that’s what we’re doing wrong.”

Julie chuckled. “Look, I have a promise to keep and I don’t dare come there because I’ll get stuck and I’ll be late getting home.”

“I understand, sister. I’ll cover for you as best I can. You’re back tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah, do me a favor. When the meeting notes are posted from whatever they’re discussing forward them to my Global address.”

“You got it.”

“And if anyone asks…”

“You were at the Colonial Authority offices because your apartment was ransacked last night and they called for you to come down.”

“That’s perfect and mostly true,” Julie said. “Thanks,” she added, and then disconnected.

Julie went to where her coach was docked and summoned it to arrive at the curb where she was standing. She had about a half an hour to get home before seven. But she had allowed for eight as the limit for her return. She had to stop and buy some groceries. With two more people in the apartment they were using up basic supplies rapidly.

She also bought soft drinks, beer, snacks and microwaveable popcorn. She selected some steaks because she figured that Alix and Chase would enjoy them. She bought some chicken, fish and some pasta along with garlic bread and Italian sauces as she was considering surprising Cristina.

On the drive home, she considered what Yates told her. It seemed unlikely Cristina and Alix were involved any more than she was. As for Chase, she felt the authorities misconstrued what Chase did in Haven. Surely, they’d figure that out.

When she returned to the apartment Cristina and Alix were ready to leave, they seemed relieved that she was home, having been waiting on her to arrive but lingering as they did not want to leave Chase alone. He was sitting on the couch watching some documentary on world viewer about the early colonial foundations on the planets and moons in Earth’s solar system.

Alix and Cristina helped Julie put away the groceries before they left, apparently before Chase even realized that she was home.

“Was it that interesting?” she asked.

“It was intriguing,” Chase responded. “It was enlightening how the worlds were chosen for terraforming and the processes involved. I have never known the complete process.”

“So this Paul has influenced you that much that now you watch historical documentaries.”

“I don’t know if I would agree with that assessment. The things he told me affected me and made me question a lot of other things.”

“Are you planning on joining his group?”

Chase laughed. “No, not hardly.”

“Good. I’m not sure they’re right.”

“Well, neither and I,” Chase stated. “I’m not in favor of resurrecting something that’s long-since dead, something that I might be inadvertently blamed for killing even if I personally had nothing to do with it.”

Julie smiled as she joined him on the couch. As she settled in beside him she leaned toward him and kissed him passionately.

“What’s that for?”

“Call it a down payment.”

“I’m not sure with my ribs and all…”

“I’ll do all the work. How’s that?”

Chase laughed, “Well, how could I refuse?”

Julie leaned in toward him and lingered with her lips close to his until he kissed her again. “I love you,” she said in response.

He groaned in the effort to stand up, but pulled her up to stand before him. “I think we need to go to bed.”

Julie laughed, “Yeah, I think you’ve got the right idea.”

“I mean we have sometime before Alix and Cristina get back.”

“Not that they would ever intrude.”

“Of course not, it’s just that… well.”

Julie laughed. “Cristina is empathic and maybe even psychic, but she’s at least telepathic.”

“I think so.”

“I know so,” Julie confirmed.

“She told you that?”

“She doesn’t need to.”

He smiled briefly, but then as concern found expression back on his face, he looked at her. “What are we going to do?”

“Call me selfish, but the only moment I care about is the most immediate one. Everything else can wait.”

Chase kissed her, lingering in the passion of the moment. He picked her up, but immediately wincing with pain.

“Are you okay?’

“I’m doing what I have to do,” he said.

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself even worse.”

“I’ll be fine,” he promised as he carried her into their room, gently depositing her on the bed, and then laying down beside her. “I love you, lady,” he said, and then kissed her passionately again. It was the sort of kiss that neither of them wanted to end except that after a while it became increasingly incapable of fully expressing their emotions, especially while still clothed. They paused their kisses and quickly disrobe. Then Chase immediately rejoined what they had been doing before, only this time Chase brought up the bed sheet to cover their nakedness as the apartment’s air conditioning had just clicked on.

It had always been the best whenever Chase came back from a tour or a business trip. Julie always was faithful to him and she trusted that he was always faithful to her. Since returning from his trip to Haven, they had made love twice, one time after another. Last night, of course was different.

Chase lingered in the moment, making it last. It was still early in the evening. They had plenty of time before Alix and Cristina returned home from the clubs. It was good for them to be out by themselves. Maybe they would have a good time dancing together. Andromeda was a fascinating place to be young and out on the town at night.

When finally their efforts achieved climax, Chase forced past the moment to extend ecstasy for a long as he could, but then fell off to the side and laughed a little. Julie rolled over and ran her fingers through the hairs on his chest, even twisting some of them, as she always played with his four nipples. “You really are the one,” she finally said. “I was always looking for you, and when I found you I knew.”

“There can be no one else for me,” Chase said.

“You weren’t attracted to Cristina?”

“She’s attractive,” Chase said. “But I wasn’t attracted. She’s a friend, a close friend I think. We spoke about things that friends discuss. She was always honest and open with me, and I tried to be the same in return.”

“But the subject of me never came up until the end.”

“It never came up because it never needed to. There was a matter of professional decorum and my personal integrity. That served as a barrier. It was at the end of the tour, when our professional relationship was technically over that we even discussed any other sort relationship. That was when I explained to her I was taken.”

“She made a pitch?”

“I perceived it that way. But I immediately told her about you.”

“That’s good,” Julie said. “At least you remembered.”

“Is that what she told you?”

“Yes. Pretty much. I mean she neglected to tell me how attracted she was, but I guess I knew. I’m just glad you didn’t do anything with her.”

“How could I forget about you?”

“Cristina is very pretty.”

“Yeah and she’s funny, witty, insightful, kind, gentle-hearted. There’s a lot about Cristina that’s loveable, endearing and adorable. But I already knew someone with all those same qualities and more. She’s not my type, not after I met you,” he said.

“Who’s prettier?” Julie asked.

Chase started to laugh, then thought better of it. It would be misinterpreted and would only lead to other more serious questions. “There’s no comparison,” he offered, hoping it wouldn’t have to go any further.

“I’m not sure that’s an answer,” Julie called his bluff.

“There are a lot of levels to a relationship.”

“Then you think she’s prettier than me.”

“Julie, you’re asking me to choose between two goddesses. It’s like saying this sunrise if better than that one. There can be no comparison. There should be no competition. I’m totally yours, completely devoted. She has Alix, and he adores her.”

“It’s just that you spent a year with her on tour and you spoke a lot but never once mentioned me.”

“Mostly we spoke about business, the band, the tour, how we were going to add some shows here and there and where we were going to stay. It was logistical stuff. She’s very sharp. She could probably do the organization for the tour all by herself if she had the time. Sometimes she helped me with suggestions. On occasion, she would be in a mood and she would tell me about her childhood, her father, why she started singing. She told me she was always afraid of people when she was young and hid in the closet whenever there were visitors, never afraid of the darkness…”

“And by that you knew that she was one of us.”

Chase nodded, but then he went on. “It surprised me at first. I mean, I was doing my job and suddenly I realized that I have known her all that time and she was the one that I was supposed to direct to Raven.”

“You never suspected Alix?”

“Not really. I mean he was always quiet, lingering in the background. So yeah, in retrospect I see that he fits the profile completely. I guess that maybe Pete, the percussionist is one of us too.”

“We always seem to find one another, don’t we?”

Chase raised his hand and suddenly the orb appeared in his palm.

“You learned that trick, finally.”

“I’ve had it for a year. It would have helped me to hide it out of the way,” Chase said. “Now, I know how.”

Julie brought up her hand and then grasped at the air. Then her orb appeared between her index finger and thumb.

“I’m impressed,” Chase said.

“I’ve been practicing too.”

“What else have you learned?’

She brought the hand that possessed the orb toward Chase’s forehead and then pressed it to the skin. Instantly, what Chase was thinking seemed to become the reality around them.

“This is awkward,” Chase protested.

“There can be no secrets,” Julie said.

“Yeah, well I’m glad I don’t have any, then.”

“Did Paul say anything else that you have not told me?”

“No, not really. I mean this apartment is definitely not the place to discuss him anymore, but he was actively trying to recruit me, actually all of us through me. I just don’t think they are doing the right thing and it concerns me that they’re making the attempt.”

“So you are willing to allow the past to remain as it is.”

“It’s settled. There’s completion. Maybe it wasn’t the right thing, but when it happened we did it out of ignorance. That’s not the best reason, but it’s not really an excuse either. It’s mostly the unvarnished truth.”

“But there has been a cover-up,” Julie said.

“A lot of errors were made. A lot of people were worried about the truth getting out to the public. A lot of people want to do different things as a result. But the truth remains the truth, despite all the subterfuge.”

“So, you’re just going to ignore Paul.”

“I doubt he’ll allow us to ignore him, but if he would that would be fine by me.”

“What do you think he’s going to do about us?”

“I really don’t know. This is very serious. Obviously, some people are very upset. Our apartment was broken into and Alix and I were accosted in a public restroom. I don’t appreciate the threats, but maybe I can understand the basis of the concerns. I can maybe understand what the Colonial Authority was intending all along. If it was not always right, what they did aligns with that overall purpose. What Paul and The Resurrection propose is experimental and hypothetical. It’s radically dangerous. If it achieves the interim goal of bringing one of the creatures back to life, what’s the point?”

“If there was a cover-up, some people want to know the truth.”

“As I see it, exposing everything would severely complicate everything. As a best-case scenario we’ll be faced suddenly with the prospect of sharing this world. In the worse case they may allow us to resurrect all of the ones that we can and bide their time until they can successfully wage war against us.”

“You assume that they are as violent as we are, or at least as mistrustful.”

“I don’t know anything about the sand-morphs, just what Paul told me. I’m not sure his information was all that accurate. It’s based on conjecture, theories and assumptions. That also concerns me greatly. What if the postulates derived from all their research are wrong? We could be resurrecting demons that will haunt our very existence well into the future.”

Julie remained silent, staring up at the ceiling and the swirled patterns that had been applied to it. She had noticed it many times before but had never really studied how in a narrow sense it seemed to be rather random but spread out across the entire ceiling there was a discernable pattern to it.

“What are you thinking?” Chase asked her as he nuzzled closer to her.

“I was thinking about how much simpler our lives would be if it was merely about us – no obligations, no threats, no offers, and no outside suggestions.”

Chase laughed. “The world would never allow that. Maybe if we were isolated on an island somewhere, it would be possible.”

“Let’s find an island then. Let’s run away, just you and me. We’ll never have to want for anything.”

“The world is not ready for that. The atmosphere is not yet that breathable, especially out at sea. Maybe in a few years we could do that. We save up and when the time comes we buy an island and move there.”

Julie rose up and kissed him. “We could start our own colony!”

“There you go,” Chase said.

Julie nodded, but then kissed him again, this time on the cheek as she held him close but gently observing where she hugged so as to not squeeze his bruised ribs.

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 22 – Threatened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alix looked at her, but then lowered his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s one of us,” Julie said.

“He has the attributes,” Chase confirmed.

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

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

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

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

“Exactly,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait, sir.”

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

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

“There was no mistake, hon. Enjoy.”

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

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

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

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

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

“My finger slipped, okay.”

Julie laughed. “Three figure’s worth?”

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

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

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

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

Julie flashed an insincere smile while Alix and Cristina observed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie glared at him.

“What?”

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

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

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

“Yeah, that’ll help.” He hoped.

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

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

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

“The men from the club?” Chase asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s Chase?” Cristina asked.

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

“I can imagine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She went to the office.”

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

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

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

“How do the ribs feel?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What group?” Cristina asked.

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

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

“Not someone, some things.”

“Sand-morphs,” Cristina offered.

“Score!” Chase exclaimed.

“But how?”

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

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

“It was unintentional.”

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

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

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

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

“Why?” Alix asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 21 – Outing

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Global Star seems to think the same thing.”

“It’s all political crap.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie laughed. “Let’s do it then.”

“I need a shower.”

“You first then,” Julie said.

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

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

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

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

“We’re back,” Julie announced.

“Welcome home ladies,” Chase said.

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

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

“So, what did you get?”

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

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

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

“Please, no!” Chase laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Join me,” Cristina invited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But we love Andromeda,” Alix said.

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

“That’s a great idea,” Alix said.

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

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

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

Cristina kissed Alix on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

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

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

“It involves all of us,” Chase said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are we ready to go?” Julie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really,” Cristina said with some mild surprise.

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

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

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

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

“That was a nice coincidence,” Cristina confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina smiled, “Uh, yeah.”

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

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

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

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

“We appreciate that,” Chase said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That would be wonderful,” Mo said.

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Chase said.

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

“You got it.” Mo smiled.

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

“I was just being friendly with a fan.”

“I know flirting when I see it.”

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

Cristina looked away.

“I don’t believe it!”

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

“What’s that about?” Alix asked.

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

“Well, she’s cute. Don’t ya think?”

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

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

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

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

“You’re both stars.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina glanced at Alix, but then looked away.

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

“She’s cute,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

“A new Mod? That’s exciting news!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell you what?”

“You were with them.”

“Them?”

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

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

“What’s going on here?”

“It’s none of yer concern.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ve heard of them.”

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

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

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

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

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

“The floor was wet,” Alix said.

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

“Well it was a restroom, you know.”

“And what about you?” Cristina asked Alix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are they?” Cristina asked.

“Agents of The Colonial Authority,” Julie said.

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

“They can do that?” Alix asked.

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

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

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

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

“This is about Paul, isn’t it?”

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

“He knows.”

“Yeah, he knows.”

“How long?”

“Since just after you met him in Haven.”

“You’ve lost me,” Alix protested.

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 20 – Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can handle that, too,” Julie said.

“I can help, you know.”

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

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

“What’s that?”

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

Julie laughed. “You might be right.”

“I know I am,” Cristina said.

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

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

Julie laughed.

“I mean, seriously.”

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

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

“I’m not Chase’s slave.”

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

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

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

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

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

“What about you and Alix?”

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

“Protect you from what?”

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

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

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

“Well, that’s good.”

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

“So what’s different about Alix?”

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

“Do the others know about your relationship?”

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

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

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

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

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

“But Alix showed up at your door.”

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

Julie laughed.

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

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

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

“Uh hmm,” Chase barely articulated.

“Are you hungry?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 19 – Back Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie’s eyes brightened.

“It’ll be a promotion.”

Julie’s smile broadened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cristina tells me you are one of us.”

“So I am,” Alix said.

“What do you think?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She really does,” Chase said.

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

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

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

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

“I have a couple of things…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled at him again.

“Maybe you could hire Julie,” Alix suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

“Like we talked about,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 18 – Arrival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Was that before or after you met Raven?”

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

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

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

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

“No surprises.”

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

Cristina laughed.

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

“I know he loves you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He handles himself very well,” Alix said.

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

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

“Thank you for that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I said you’re amazing.”

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

“See what I mean?” Cristina asked.

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

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

“Yeah, well, I worry about him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was just being honest.”

“Sometimes, honesty can be uncomfortable for others.”

“You’re jealous?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, that sounds great,” Julie confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

“She said we look familiar,” Alix said.

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

“Maybe so,” Lynda allowed.

“Are you into music?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

“That’s me,” he flashed a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have a framecap?” Alix asked.

“There’s one in my handheld.”

“Then take a picture of us for him.”

“You really don’t mind?”

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

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

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

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

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

“We appreciate your support,” Alix responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina glanced down.

“I’m embarrassing you.”

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

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

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

“No, I didn’t meet you.”

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

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

“See, you should have stayed, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You got that?” Dave asked.

“Yeah, look,” she showed him.

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

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

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

“I really appreciate that,” Cristina responded.

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

“I will never be as good as you are.”

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 17 – Chase

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

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

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

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

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

Then, he met Julie.

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

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

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

“Hi there,” as he reply.

“My name is Chase.”

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

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

“Of course I do,” she huffed.

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

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

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

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

“Thanks.”

“For telling you your shoe was untied?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What don’t you like about them?”

“There are things…you know?”

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

“You nailed it exactly, on both counts.”

“It’s what I do for a living.”

“You’re a critic.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They have never played outside of Andromeda.”

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

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

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

“Hey,” Mindy protested.

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

“Yeah, well okay,” Mindy allowed.

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

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

“Are you in the business, Mr…?”

“Call me Chase.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then he knows. That’s a good sign.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?”

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

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

“Who are they?”

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

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

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

“Of course it does.”

“So, what are we doing right?”

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

“Thanks, I appreciate that level of support.”

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

J-hon stood up. “I can do that!”

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

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

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

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

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

“They really are good guys,” Mindy said.

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

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

Their relationship began.

 

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