Books, Editing, Publishing, Technology, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 9 – Epiphany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Awe, that’s so sweet.”

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

“Do you have plans for tonight?”

“Me?” Alix asked.

“Yeah, you?”

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

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

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

“What’s wrong with that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t know that.”

“I took voice lessons for years.”

“I knew that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, are we famous now?” Alix asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But we have always been frustrated.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elevator reached the lobby and they stepped out.

“Don’t demean yourself,” Cristina warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s quite profound.”

“It’s true.”

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

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

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

“I don’t know retro-American food.”

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


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

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

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

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

“‘The Waiting Game’.”

“I’ve heard that’s good.”

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

“That must have been fun.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was it?”

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

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

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

“You don’t like ketchup?”

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

Cristina nodded. “It’s really good.”

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

“Yeah, he’s a very nice guy.”

“Is there any fire behind the smoke?”

“He has a girl back home.”

“I see.”

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

“She’s lucky she got there first.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s what I meant.”

“You miss him, too,” Alix commented.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“How is it?”

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

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

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

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

“Maybe so, about some things, anyway.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know?”

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

“You have the attributes?” she whispered.

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

“They’re afraid of us, you know?”

“You have them too?”

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

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

“Is it only our differences they fear?”

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

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


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

“I’d like to think so.”

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

“I don’t understand.”

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

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

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

“It’s uncomfortable,” he turned back.

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

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

“Cristina, where are you?”

“Chase, what a surprise! I’m here.”

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

“I’m out with a friend. What’s up?”

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

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

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

“He’s one of us, Chase.”

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

“Not everyone is as gregarious as you are.”

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

“What do you need to talk about?”

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

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

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

“And they contacted you but not me.”

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

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

“What else would it be about?”

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

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

“Should I introduce Alix to them?”

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina smiled. “Call me later.”

“You got it. Bye.”


Books, Editing, Publishing, Technology, Uncategorized, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 8 – Dinner

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

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

Books, Editing, Publishing, Technology, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 7 – In His Company

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


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

“I’m listening.”

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

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

Chase glanced down.

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

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

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

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

Cristina glanced up. “You too?”

Chase nodded.

“What was the point of seeing Raven?”

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

“How long have you known Raven?”

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

“Do you have an orb?”

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

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

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

“How many are there?”

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

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

He looked away.

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

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

“And the other?”

“She is the one who contacted me.”

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

“Mate as in having intercourse?”

“What other mating is there?”

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

“Surely you have thought about it.”

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

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

“It is not a proper question to ask.”

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

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

Cristina scooted back in her seat.

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

“I don’t like any of this.”

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

“That is violated constantly.”

“I don’t violate my professional relationships.”

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

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

“Is she like…?”

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

“The attributes you mean.”

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

“My mother was one of the first generation.”

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

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

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

“Raven said he is over 270 years old.”

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

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

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

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


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

“You were a good daughter.”

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

“Then he was happy.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s a stretch.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because it was easier.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Books, Editing, Publishing, Technology, Uncategorized, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 6 – Necessities

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

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

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

“You have a coach?”

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

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

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

“You do?”

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

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

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

“I don’t care. I need to perform.”

Raven smiled. “Yes you do.”

“You are not going to tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

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

“I have my ways, I guess.”

“Why are you doing this to me?”

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

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

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

“I’m still waiting for your answer.”

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

“You were born on Earth.”

“Yes, that.”

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

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

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

“It’s your heritage.”

“Yes, I’m proud of my heritage.”

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

“You were one of them.”

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

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

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

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

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

“1936,” she said.

“You are very good with math, I see.”

“It’s not complicated.”

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

“You don’t look…”

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

“Then how have you lived for so long?”

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


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

“Because of the dipping fertility rates.”

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

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

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

“Point well taken.”

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

“Who are they…we?”

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

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

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

“Does it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“I can’t…”

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

“What is it?”

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

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

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

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

“You will know.”

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

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

“You use the words of a younger man.”

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

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

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

“Where did you get the orb?”

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

“Just as it is for us now.”

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

“Do you know who he was?”

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

“You can go back into your past.”

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

“He had an extended life.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What if I don’t like any of this?”

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

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

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

“How can I reach you?”

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

“I feel special, then.”

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

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

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

“What if you’re wrong?”

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

“I’m not comforted by that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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