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Colonial Authority: Chapter 15 – Paul

**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.**

Escorts led Chase to a cave entrance. Once inside it looked like most any other cave, except one of the guards waved his hand over a series of innocuous rocks in some special sequence. Immediately, one of the walls that had appeared to be solid rock opened revealing a security checkpoint staffed with several heavily armed men.

Once Chase and his party were progressed through they walked down a very long and constantly descending corridor that terminated in a junction of many other corridors. All but two of the corridors ascended from that point. In the confluence there was another security checkpoint that two ladies staffed. One of them stood and upon challenge, the escorts offered their profiles, which she scanned. Then she turned toward Chase. He held out his thumb where his ID implant was embedded and she scanned it. She issued him a temporary profile card that she clipped onto the collar of his shirt.

Beyond the inner checkpoint they headed down another even longer corridor that burrowed deeper into the roots of the mountain. At its end there was a large chamber that subsequently opened into a cathedral sized cavern, replete with everything one might expect a cavern to have from stalactites and stalagmites to dripping water. Chase assumed the local aquifer was nearby or the water came from thawing snow that at times accumulated in the highest elevations of the mountains south of Haven. The effect of the lighting against the natural formations of limestone created intimidating illusions of relief as well as deep shadows. The overall effect was strikingly beautiful.

“Welcome,” a voice echoed as someone emerged into the open from across the chamber. Chase’s focus drew upon the speaker.

“Hello,” Chase responded. Then squinting as the stranger walked closer, Chase finally removed his protective lenses to get a good look at who hailed him. “Paul?”

“I hear you have been looking for me.”

“Really, it was Cristina who was concerned. You and I have never met. I’m Chase.”

“Now that we’ve met, tell me, how is she?”

“Worried,” Chase said as he continued to close the distance between them.

“I thought she might be,” Paul said, offering his outstretched hand toward Chase, which he accepted and pull up to a rock ledge upon which Paul was standing. “It was unintentional. Sometimes the unexpected happens and everything changes. So, what do you think of my new but hopefully temporary abode?”

“I never knew your old abode. But this is quite an organization. Are you their leader?”

“Hardly,” Paul said with a laugh. “There are no leaders per se. There are rules and structure, but it is not prudent to designate leaders. Leaders are captured and organizational structures suffer as a result.”

“You were not abducted, then.”

“I suppose they spared me the indignity,” Paul said. “They called it recruitment. Yet, from what I have since learned, my present concern is that Cristina may be in more danger than she realizes.”

“The authorities have questioned her.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“You have people on the inside.”

“Why not? The reach to New Milan is a stretch locally,” Paul explained. “We have allies there, though – a different group with similar aims. For the present they watch her. They assure me she is not in need of protection, yet. It would assume it is only a matter of time.”

“Why would she be in danger? She’s innocent.”

“Sooner or later they will bring in everyone associated with the subversive outcast, namely me. One thing I have learned in my life is that we are all guilty of something, Chase. At the moment she is unaware of the crime. Come, you and I have a lot to cover. As I hope to return you for your Monday meetings, we have very little time to accomplish it.”

“I appreciate knowing that I will be going back.”

“You are one potential key in what we need to do. That is if you decide to join us.”

“Join you?”

“You have been highly recommended. Some of your childhood friends have praised your loyalty as well as your innate skills at evading capture.”

“I don’t know about that. I seem to recall being captured a lot,” Chase said. “I would not call that having skills. I suppose that over time I got better at evasion and maybe harder to catch.”

“Loyalty matters most. Tell me, Chase, what do you know of the sand-morphs?”

“Only the stories I’ve heard, mainly unconfirmed rumors and legends. You know, the things kids hear about from other kids that heard stories from someone else, but you sort of doubt the credibility. Cristina and Alix believe that they saw one as an image their orbs conjured from the past.”

“That’s interesting.”

“I’m not sure what they saw or how they did it. They brought their two orbs close together and…”

“That is possible, opening a portal.”

“I see.”

“Anyway, the sand-morphs were real, I assure you. We know some things about them. No one knows what they’re called, really. We have found evidence of their language and artifacts of their technology. Come,” he said as he turned and led the way into deeper chambers. “We have determined that the sand-morphs did not see in the same way we do. Therefore their written language is very different from something you would simply read. It is more akin to music, we think. Highly complicated communication involving multiple senses.”

Chase pulled up short and looked at the highly polished and reflective surface of a wall. It was uniformly smooth except for the symbols etched into the polished, glassy surface.

“They were intelligent and very much alive, Chase. It was probably the result of a huge misunderstanding on our part. The primary and secondary scans as required by regulations never once detected them. It was during the tertiary scans that there was some motion detected within this very chamber. It was investigated to the best of the abilities of the researchers. The findings, though inconclusive delayed the sterilization for two local months. So, it wasn’t arrogance or complete disregard for regulations and procedures that resulted in the egregious errors. It is just that no one was looking for anything except carbon-based life.”

“Sand-morphs are silicon-based,” Chase ventured.

“As you might expect from the moniker the lady who first discovered them awarded posthumously. Now, we have the benefit of eighty years of hind sight.”

“Are they all gone?”

Paul lowered his head, “Yes, the sterilization methods were highly effective in eradicating a variety of life and near life manifestations, even silicon-based life which is why it troubles me that we had no means of detecting them in the first place. This was their world. They belonged here, Chase. We don’t.”

Chase found a place in the cavern that seemed as close to a seat as any and he parked his posterior. “I assume your group is The Resurrection?”

“Our infamy precedes us.”

“The authorities accused me of belonging.”

“They were premature, perhaps. Now you have the option to join. So the point is rendered moot.”

“What if I don’t want to join?”

“I think you will because we’re right. And we have a plan that is just, and it may work. You see unlike carbon-based life, silicon-based life allows for re-composition. All you need are the details of the code sequence for their equivalent structures that roughly correspond to our DNA. There are researchers sympathetic to our cause working on decoding the organic-silicon genome. The sand-morphs were not the only life form that was eradicated. They were, however, the only life form that appeared to have been self-aware.”

“You can bring them back?”

“We believe so,” Paul said.

“But the world is now very different than it was. Maybe it is no longer conducive to their form of life.”

“They breathed air. They may utilize different gasses in the basic chemistry of respiration, but the basic composition of the atmosphere has not changed, except for the removal of poisons and a corresponding balances in the levels of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.”

“What if they actually need those poisons?”

“Then that is something we will discover and deal with,” Paul said. “We believe their bodies had internal filters that neutralized sulfur based poisons for the most part. From what we have found in these caverns, it appears that they did not live outside of the caves and ventured out only when necessary. This indicates they had issues with the atmosphere and preferred the cooler, damper cave environment. As for the air inside these caverns, there is no trace of di-hydrogen sulfide. The sand-morphs had a curious system of baffles and recirculators that served as filters for the air and created over pressuring as a form of airlock. We have not figured out how it worked yet. There is evidence, however, of a temporary airlock that was apparently installed at the entrance of this very cavern.”

“So, humans were here, in the earliest of times, before the terraforming.”

“Yes. That mission was documented as it discovered the possible existence of water here.”

“What doesn’t make sense is how the poison couldn’t get inside the caverns but the sterilizing agents could.”

“That’s part of the mystery. The answer will solve the riddle of the world-wide catastrophe that eliminated a form of intelligent life.”

“It has to do with the terraforming process, I’m sure,” Chase said.

“Of course it does, but the question remains, how? That is why we need to bring them back to life and find out the truth.”

“Once they know our origins and history and what happened to them because of us, they may not like what we did to their world.”

“But as long as they can breathe the same atmosphere as we do, we could co-exist.”

“Like humans have ever coexisted with a rival species. We have not had a good history of tolerating even the relatively minor racial differences within our species.”

“Your point is well taken. But humans are of little real concern for people like us. We have the attributes. In less than fifty years the presence of whatever humans remain will be an inconsequential annoyance to us and our progeny.”

“Why has the knowledge of the sand-morphs been suppressed?” Chase asked.

“What we have discerned and gleaned from references is that initially, our human arrogance caused the researchers to wrongly believe that the sand-morphs were unintelligent animals. It was considered a tragic oversight, but the engineers accepted it and moved on with the terraforming projects. Some of the researchers did autopsies of the first sand-morphs. Those records have been recovered. The methodology was crude as one might expect when dealing with a life form as radically different from us as the sand-morphs. Still, the data and conclusions contradicted the assumption that they were animals. As the researchers explored other parts of the planet, like these caverns and discovered the evidence of language there was a growing interest within the Colonial Authority to conceal everything about the sand-morphs and suppress all the research findings. In an effort to cover-up the horrendous mistake, all the records were sealed but not until some meticulously accurate copies were made. We have access to those records.”

“I see.”

“Very early on in the project of transforming this world into a home for mankind, much earlier than anyone had ever imagined, researchers had determined that sand-morphs were intelligent and had even stored a history of sorts in symbols like these etched into rock. The autopsy also indicated the natural filtering of the air that I mentioned earlier. And what was completely amazing to us was that the researchers apparently knew they could be resurrected, it was just that they did not know the precise procedure.”

“And you believe that you have that knowledge now.”

“Yes,” Paul said emphatically.

“So let’s say we can bring them back, what then?”

“They will need to start fresh. Their civilization and culture are gone. Perhaps they can reclaim some of the lost knowledge from their archives but very likely we know more about their past than they will at first.”

“Or ever will know.”

“Well, yes,” Paul said. “But if they learn from us, we can teach them what we want them to know.”

“Sampling their symbolic language and processing it through our transliteration indices, we have arrived at some meanings for the repeated symbols,” one of the men standing close to them said.  “It is still highly speculative. It depends a good deal on how their thought processes worked relative to our own. We have assumed for the sake of argument that they were rational and could sense the environment around them. We know they could retain and record memories.”

“We have been operating from the assumption that codes and symbols would not vary much in structure from one of their lairs to another and so far we have not been disappointed. That one assumption has led to a number of landmark discoveries, such as they had families and a form of government to settle conflicts between families. We are fairly confident their language behaves a lot like languages with which we are familiar, but it had a good deal more layers of communication possible in a very short interval. There are musical and mathematical components that we have already identified as part of the syntax of the written language. Locally they seemed to have a tribal form of organization but in many ways it was a good deal more advanced than any such structure we are familiar with as humans. There is evidence that there was at least a loose confederation of tribes and a central authority of some sort. Still, what we know is highly speculative.”

“Your assumptions could be wrong,” Chase suggested.

“Some of them may prove to be, but we are pretty confident in what we have determined so far. They were not animals. In fact they were very advanced,” the other man said.

“The travesty in all this was the suppression of the truth for all the wrong reasons. It has evolved into a huge cover-up. The Authority does not want anyone to know of the sand-morphs,” Paul stated.

“Pravda was made for man by man,” Chase said.

“How ironic is the choice of name for this world?” Paul pointed out. “We have build a lie upon a lie and named it truth.”

Chase stared at Paul.

“We have found a series of symbols that we believe were the sand-morphs’ name for their species,” Paul continued. “We have also found symbols that we believe represent their concept of the world. If we could decipher them and render their sound, we might be able to at least rename this world if not give a proper name to the species. Sand-morph is something the first one to discover a body in the sand decided. To her it seemed a clump of sand that had the properties and integrity to have been a life form.”

“Obviously she was right.”

“She was also ostracized for her beliefs and sent back to the orbital platform. She was persistent, though. She had discovered the evidence of life on the world that had been exterminated as part of the sterilization. Her reward was incarceration. She died a few years ago in prison. The sad truth of her later life was all intended to suppress her knowledge and what the Colonial Authority had conveniently labeled subversion.”

“The Authority does it because they can,” Chase said. “There is no constitution. If an emergency is declared, rights no longer have to be respected.”

“You are quite right,” Paul said. “The colonies operate under a form of martial law until there is a formal constitution. Even after a constitution is ratified, it does not mean that the Colonial Authority is completely removed. There is a transition period that can last for many years. Under martial law the rights of every individual will be respected but may be sacrificed for the good of the whole.”

“When you have autocratic leaderships as most of the cities of this world do, you have the seeds for violating even the simplest of civil rights.”


Books, Editing, Future, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Uncategorized, Word, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 14 – The Detainment

**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.**

Chase didn’t get it. Why were they detaining him? What did he know that they could possibly want to ask him about? He looked around the detention cell. Regardless of the city, the interrogation areas that he had been in appeared the same: four bare walls, a table and two to four chairs.

It had been a while since the last time. He was a punk kid then even if at the time he thought he knew everything. Why was he being detained now? He hadn’t done anything wrong. All he wanted to know was what he asked them. Had there been any progress on located Paul? He had never met the guy. It was someone Cristina met. Someone she barely knew either although at least the two of them had a couple of conversations, one was apparently an extended phone conversation.

Presently the electronic lock on the sliding door clicked and opened briefly, only to allow the entry of two men. One of them was carrying Chase’s orb, which they had taken from him along with his other belongings. “Am I under arrest?”

“Let’s term this a detainment for questioning,” the man with the orb said. “Where did you get this?”

“It was a gift, from someone named Hawk.”

“That’s an odd name, isn’t it?”

“It is a nickname I’m sure. It’s how I know him.”

“I suspect he’s a member of some clandestine group.”

“I wouldn’t know about that. They say that they are Couriers.”

“And what is it that they deliver?”

“Small orbs, like that one.”

“I see,” he said as he cleared his throat before continuing. “You see, we have found one of these orbs in the possession of others who belong to clandestine groups. In fact, we recently questioned your friend Paul. He had an orb as well. We have since been able to link him with clandestine operations and an affiliation with a certain subversive element that the Colonial Authority has deemed dangerous.”

“I assure you that I’m not involved in anything like that.”

“Yet, you have a pretty thick juvenile record.”

“In my youth I was full of myself, which turned out to be a load of crap,” Chase said. “I turned all that around a very long time ago.”

“Tell me what you know about The Resurrection.”

“You mean the thing in the Bible about people rising from the dead?”

“No, I am speaking of the subversive group that calls themselves The Resurrection.”

“Well, obviously you know about them and I don’t.”

“If you have no knowledge of them, then why are you looking for Paul?”

“He’s missing. He was someone that a friend of mine who lives in New Milan met when she and I were in Haven a short while ago. She’s concerned because she was called and questioned when he turned up missing. Apparently she was the last one he was known to have spoken with. Your agency even called me to see if I knew anything simply because I had seen him when she had spoken to him.”

“And where did that happen?”

“As I told your organization before, it was out on the beachside of the causeway. I have seen the guy once, from a distance of a few meters when I was within a coach but we have never spoken to one another.”

“Okay, let me tell you what we know already so that we are beginning on the same page. First, Paul is unquestioningly involved with The Resurrection. We do not know the full extent but we are certain of the connection. You see, like you, Paul has a thick juvenile record. But unlike you he never turned it around. He has been in a bit of trouble almost since he came to Haven, in fact.”

“He was not born here?”

“He came here to live with his aunt and uncle. It was apparently when he was a toddler. His mother and father died. By the time he became an adult, he had several very interesting associations with other juvenile delinquents as well as some adults who were petty criminals. He has never been into anything serious like this before, still it’s a trend, as I am sure you know. For the moment you appear to be one of the exceptions to the rule.”

“Other than inquiring about him on behalf of my friend, I’m not sure why I’m being detained.”

“Paul has gone from a missing person to a suspect and possible fugitive. You were asking about him and when you were detained and searched you have the same sort of strange ball that he had.

“Just because one or even several members of a group have one of these orbs does not necessarily mean that everyone that possesses one of the orbs is part of the subversive group.”

“That was not my suggestion. I’m cognizant of set theory and the flaw in that logic. You say that you aren’t a member and for the time being we will trust your word, until proven otherwise. Your friend in New Milan, is she a girlfriend?”

“She is a client. I was stage manager for her band when they were on tour earlier this year.”

“You indicated that your tour passed through Haven.”

“Of course.”

“I see.”

“The band has played Haven on five occasions, different venues and different times in the tour schedule. It was a yearlong world tour and frankly, it is a small world. It was a frantic pace and I do not remember many of the events as distinct from another.”

“I see. And your friend met Paul during which appearance.”

“It was on the morning after the fifth appearance in the final venue before we left the city. That’s why I recall it clearly.”

“It was not during the actual concert and not immediately afterwards?”

“No, it was afterwards, but it was just after dawn. She had gone out to watch the sunrise. From my direct experience she does that a lot, especially when we were close to the ocean. I went out to find her. I knew where to look so it wasn’t hard. When I found her, she was actually on her way back, on the causeway, just inside the containment but past beachside of the bridge. She was talking to Paul and his uncle. They appeared to be going fishing. From what I could tell they were carrying bang-sticks.”

“Bang-sticks was it? Do you fish?”

“I have a few times, when I was in my teens. It was a novelty to harvest anything from the ocean back then.”

“You indicate you are from Andromeda.”

“Yes, that is where I live. I have lived there for most of my life. Well, you know that already. I was not born there.”


“Yes, I was born in Haven. My father and I moved to Andromeda when I was pretty young but I still have some relatives here in the city. I have a couple of cousins and an aunt that is still alive. I lost my uncle a few years back. He was the one who took me fishing. I stayed the summer with my aunt and uncle and played with my cousins. My dad thought the change of scenery would be good considering how much trouble I had been getting into in Andromeda.”

“It must have worked to some extent. You have no record here, only in Andromeda.”

“I stayed pretty busy while I was here. So yeah, I didn’t do anything wrong because I didn’t have the time to get into trouble.”

The interrogator turned to his colleague. “Do you have any questions?”

“What was the name of your friend, the one who actually met Paul?”

“Cristina. I’m sure you have all the information somewhere. You called her after his disappearance.”

“And this orb as you call it – what does it do?”

“May I?” Chase held out his hand.

The interrogators looked at one another then the one in possession of the orb delivered it into Chase’s outstretched hand even as he warned them, “Watch.”

In utter amazement the two men sat in silent awe, as the orb remained precisely where Chase quickly withdrew his hand from beneath it.

“It’s some cheap magic trick,” the first interrogator said.

“It’s not yet finished,” Chase said as he looked at the both men until they stared into his eyes. Then suddenly one of that gasped. “Where did it go?”

Chase brought his hand up from beneath the table and opened his palm and there the orb was.

“That’s quite a trick. So all of this is for entertainment?”

“It can be used for amusement, I suppose,” Chase said. “It teaches about the true nature of the illusion that surrounds us. That’s its purpose.”

“I see. So you’re telling me that everyone who has one of these is a magician of some sort.”

“I’m telling you that everyone that has one of these knows that one trick. If not he or she soon will. I do not know what anyone else does or does not do with the orbs. They have a good deal of potential that’s still largely a mystery to me, probably to almost all of us that possess them.”

The second interrogator looked at his partner then smiled. “We appreciate your candor and cooperation. When are you leaving town?”

“Next week.”

“For Andromeda?”

“Yes, I’m going home.”

“You can be reached there, at the numbers you provided.”


The second interrogator stood. “I suppose we’re through with this for now. If you’ll wait at the front desk I’ll see that your belongings are returned to you.”

Chase stood, then after slipping the orb back into his pocket he shook hands with both the interrogators. The door clicked unlocked and slid open. Chase ventured out into the corridor and down toward the front desk where he was immediately allowed past the security gate. The videophone on the desk rang and the clerk nodded to the image of one of the investigators on the screen before her. She rolled her chair back toward a low tub-style filing cabinet and obtained the sealed package containing all of Chase’s belongings. She retrieved it and offered it up onto the counter between them and requested he verify and sign that he has everything returned to him.

When he exited the station he assumed he was being followed. They might have put some homing device amongst his belongings. It was what the authorities were expected to do with ongoing investigations. For the moment he was free and he would be late for his evening appointment if he did not get back to his room at the hotel immediately, shower and change into more formal attire.

As much as he wanted to call Cristina and tell her there was no real news about Paul, he figured it could wait. He really didn’t have the time and he suspected that all of his calls would be monitored anyway.

When he had finished his shower and changed clothes, he was just getting ready to leave his room when the room’s videophone rang. No one knew where he was, except Julie and so he hurried to pick it up.

“Chase, you don’t know me but we need to meet.”

“Who is this?”

“That’s not important. I know you have meetings and plans all week, but this weekend you are free for a few hours, I’m sure.”

“What’s this about?”

“We can talk then. I’ll meet you.”


“Just leave the hotel on Sunday afternoon. Regardless of the time, I’ll send for you.”

“You’re watching me.”

“Not really watching so much as I know where you are.”

The phone disconnected but Chase held onto the receiver for a few moments before finally returning it to the charging cradle. “It gets weirder and weirder,” he muttered to himself as he gathered his things and headed for the door.

Once he was outside of the hotel he had the distinct feeling that he was being watched, but he did not want to clue in anyone that he was suspicious. He went on about his business, making it to his meeting with a few minutes to spare. In the course of the meeting he attempted to forget about the strangeness of the afternoon interrogation.

When the meeting adjourned, a couple of the others who had attended invited him to a local pub to throw back a few and he obliged, but only after calling Julie to tell her how much he missed her.

By the time he made it back to his hotel it was well past midnight. Even though it was still a decent hour where Cristina lived, he resisted calling her. He wanted to have better news. He did not know what was going on, but was hopeful that on Sunday he would find out something as he suspected the mysterious call had come from Paul.

Chase had meetings all day Friday and all morning Saturday. After his last meeting he went to lunch with a couple of people that he knew very well past arrangements and meetings. Afterwards they went out to an afternoon performance of a play that he had never before seen. He returned to his hotel just before dusk.

Again he resisted calling Cristina. He had no news to tell her anyway and even though it might have been nice to just talk to her he still held back. Instead he watched world viewer in his room and after taking a shower he went to bed fairly early.

Sunday he slept in. Traditionally it was his day off, except for when he was accompanying a tour and there were engagements scheduled on Sunday. Ordinarily, late for him to get up on a Sunday was mid-morning. It was nearly midday by the time he hit the shower and tried to get ready to go out for the mysterious meeting. He was anxious for answers so he wanted to do it as soon as possible, the earlier the better. He didn’t want to be all day about it.

Once Chase dried off and dressed, he checked his messages on his phone. He was thankful there were none. Then he stepped out into the hallway. It was afternoon, he confirmed by glancing at his embedded wrist chronometer.

He rode the elevator to the lobby and assigned funds from his payment key to cover an hour of time with a news tablet to read as he sat outside on a bench. As he read he did not feel that anyone was watching him. In fact he felt very much alone. He took his time digesting the few stories that were of any interest to him then, when he was finished he returned the tablet to the desk clerk inside.

He exited the hotel once more, but this time he went for a walk. He headed toward a nearby park he had seen when he was traveling to and from the hotel between his meetings for the past few days. He walked into the park and found a place to sit down, close to a sandbox, swing set and slide.

There were several children playing there and parents or adult relatives of the children occupied some of the neighboring benches. A few of them eyed him suspiciously as if they were appraising his intent. He tried to be inconspicuous and after a while they all seemed complacent with his presence and ignored him.

He had been in the park for about forty minutes before a couple of young men approached him, seeming to be soliciting, wanting him to buy a subscription for a news blast that he could receive on his implanted cellular phone’s holographic interface imbedded in his wrist.

“I’m not interested,” Chase said.

Then, one of the two men produced a small orb from his pocket. “Perhaps we can interest you in something else?”

“You’re Paul?”

“Of course not. I don’t know where he is,” the man said. “Let’s walk.”

“I am…”

“Names are unnecessary with us,” he interrupted. “We know who you are. It’s best we maintain some level of silence. There are ears everywhere in Haven.”

“I have gotten that impression.”

“Do you have a breathing filter and UV lenses?”

“I didn’t know we would be going outside.”

“We have spares. The lenses are in frames, not contacts. You won’t need them for a time. The secrecy of our operation requires that you be blindfolded.”

“That’s fine. After that the frames will be fine. I’m not a huge fan of contacts anyway.”

“Me neither but it does help conceal our weaknesses from the damned.”

“The damned?”

“The humans. You know, as in condemned.”

“I understand the meaning of the word.”

“Well that’s a start then, isn’t it?”

“We are going outside but to where?”

“There’s a place we go and others meet us there. It is much safer this way.”

“No place is safe,” the other one said. “But it’s trouble to follow us outside the domes.”

“Not anything else until we are outside of Haven,” the other one warned.

“Fine,” Chase responded.

Chase followed them to their coach where they applied a blindfold to him, and then he rode with them to what he assumed was a parking area near one of the causeways, perhaps a different one than Cristina had used in order to access the barrier island and the beach.

He applied the filtering to his nostrils and mouth and adjusted the blindfold, using it in lieu of the UV glasses to protect his eyes before stepping out of the coach. Once they had passed through the airlocks and were outside, another vehicle approached them. He was ushered into it. It was a larger, roomier vehicle that he assumed was a special vehicle the engineers used for traveling in the desert and negotiating a variety of terrains.

“I have never ridden in a Puma,” Chase offered. “If that is what this is.”

“You’re very good at guessing,” one of the two said as he checked the blindfold, making it a little tighter. “Consider this a rare treat, then.”

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere that is away from here. That’s all you need to know for now.”

He sat in quietly contemplating what he was getting into, not knowing if he would be returned or whether he would make his Monday morning meetings. Beyond that, he wondered whether he would see Julie again. As the Puma ventured out past the last vestiges of pavement, Chase could feel the change as they entered the desert, probably to the northwest of the city dome.

They drove for over an hour before they reached a stopping point. There, two men escorted Chase out of the Puma and into a small building. One man removed the blindfold and started to unzip Chase’s jacket.

“I got this,” he protested. “Everything off, I guess?”

The man nodded.

Once his clothes were removed they were checked meticulously for any electronic signatures. Then a man with a detection wand swept it slowly over Chase’s naked body while Chase looked around.

“A climate monitoring station,” Chase suggested.

There was no response. One of the men handed him new clothes to wear and turned to walk away as Chase began getting dressed again. Others who were his approximate height and build appeared from another room. They were wearing exactly the same clothing as he was putting on. When he zipped up the new jacket, completing the process, hoods were placed over not only his head but also they others who were dressed like him. The man with the wand scanned each of them in turn and pronounced each, “Clean!”

He and the others were escorted back out into the hot afternoon sun and quickly put inside a Puma. He could tell from the smell that it was a different vehicle, with a different driver and different attendants. Outside the vehicle he could hear the sounds of at least two other Pumas as they departed before the vehicle he was in went off in, apparently a different direction as the sounds of the other vehicles faded to inaudibility.

No one said anything at all, not once they well were underway. He assumed they were driving toward the mountains in the south. They drove for what felt like two hours. Chase nodded while resisting sleep before finally the Puma pulled into a narrow notch. He could hear the sounds of the walked vehicle reverberating off of rock walls close to the vehicle. They were entering a concealed place, the thought.

Finally, the vehicle came to a halt and all the doors opened. Chase was ushered outside and quickly to a clearing. They handed him protective lenses then removed the hood from his head. He squinted as he waited for his eyes to adjust, and then looked around. There was really nothing to see other than the towering mountains that surrounded the clearing on three sides and the very narrow path between two sheer cliffs through which they must have entered.

As Chase looked up he saw the level of defense the place had, including rocket launchers and guards armed with sonic cannons, rail guns and thermal rifles.

“Quite a place you have here,” Chase said.

“If you like it, it could be your home, maybe your journey starts today,” one of his escorts replied.

“I have meetings in the morning.”

“People have been known to miss meetings and simply disappear.”

“Like Paul?”

One of the escorts laughed. Another said, “He’s your present benefactor. You wouldn’t be here if not for him.” Then he paused, waiting for Chase to settle. “Come, we have a good many things to take care of.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 13 – Opening

**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 outside on the patio of her apartment. It was dark except for the glow from the courtyard lights below. One of the two moons hovered above the horizon, in half phase. The other moon had yet to make an appearance. It was a clear night in contrast to the haze that had dominated the day. Even though the engineers kept promising that the green color of the clouds would soon disappear, Cristina could not discern any difference. She had always seen green clouds in her sky. If that changed, it would seem strange.

Inside the apartment Alix was napping on her couch. He drank a few beers but only a few. They had spent most of the afternoon talking, discussing their shared experience, and lamenting the loss of life for which they felt responsible. It happened long before either of them was born, but they felt responsible.

Alix was sensitive. There was nothing wrong with that. She found it endearing. How could she have been in the same band with him for ten years and not known what a truly remarkable person he was?

In the distance, just above the horizon she could see the telltale fireball from the friction of a shuttle’s descent from orbit, ferrying passengers to New Milan from the orbital platform where interstellar transports docked.

During the last tour Chase suggested promoting their music in other colonies and going on tour in support. She was not averse to the idea, but it seemed a tremendous expense when they were not all that popular on Pravda. Cristina wanted to ensure that their fan base at home could endure their extended absence. Chase thought in the longer term, though. Even if they were going to focus on the nearest colony, it would take more than a local year to accomplish a full tour. They could lose popularity at home in that time.

Cristina turned back toward the open patio door. It was a cool evening. The engineers had installed additional air handlers recently. It seemed an improvement in overall efficiency. Even at the peak of the sun’s heat outside the dome, it was much cooler than she was accustomed. She used to never go out in the heat of the afternoon, but today she had done so. In the middle of the afternoon it was comfortable.

She put on her protective UV lenses and went out to buy more beer. By the time she came back, there was evidence that Alix had been awake, changed some settings on world viewer and having succumbed to the boredom of watching a news show on world viewer, went back to sleep. She put the beer in the refrigerator and went outside on the balcony. There she remained for the rest of the afternoon.

As she stepped back inside the threshold, the apartment phone rang. She reached for the remote to answer it as Alix stretched and then sat up. “It’s Chase,” she said as she read his ID confirmation, wondering why he would be calling again so soon.

“Hey, Cristina and Alix. I wondered if you had heard anything about Paul?”

“Nothing,” Cristina responded.

“I am traveling to Haven tomorrow on business. I’ll check with the authorities while I’m there.”

“I appreciate that,” Cristina said.

“Julie was saying that you should come up for a few days, maybe after I get back from Haven. Of course you’re invited too, Alix.”

“That might be fun,” he said. “There are a lot of good bands and a healthy music scene in Andromeda.”

“It’s why I’m based here”

“Well, I’m all in favor.” Alix looked toward Cristina.

“I’d like to meet Julie.”

“She’s a huge fan of the band and you in particular, Cristina. She loves your voice, but then everyone does.”

“We’ll see. I mean, I have a lot of things on my mind lately.”

“Yeah,” Alix agreed. “We were playing with the orbs earlier.”

“Both of them together?” Chase asked, seeming concerned.

“Yes,” Alix said. “Is that a problem?”

“Well, maybe not after you know how to use them.”

“We saw something,” Cristina said. “It was something disturbing… from the past.”

“What do you know about sand-morphs?” Alix broached the subject.

“Enough to know we shouldn’t discuss them right now. Maybe when you come up we can go out where we can be alone and I can tell you a story or two. But Raven would be the real one to ask.”

Behind him there was movement, and then as she came into focus, Cristina assumed it was Chase’s lady. “Hello, Julie.”

“Hello, Cristina it is nice to finally get to meet you, even if it is via phone. So you’re going to come up for a visit?”

“I am seriously considering it,” Cristina said. “Just I’m still a little tired of traveling and trying to recover.”

“You never recover. You adapt,” Chase offered his seasoned perspective.

Cristina smiled in response. “When are you going to be back from your trip to Haven?”

“The latter half of next week, I’ll give you a call when it’s definite and you can make plans accordingly, how’s that?”

“Okay,” Cristina said. “I should be ready by then.”

“I’ll call you regardless. I’ll let you know what I find out about Paul. Take care.”

“We’ll see you soon,” Julie said.

“Bye Chase; good to meet you, Julie,” Alix said.

Cristina smiled and waved as the call automatically disconnected upon termination from the other end.

“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Alix said as he stood up. “I should get back home.”

“I don’t want to be alone tonight,” Cristina said.

Alix took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I need to shower and change clothes.”

“Go gather some things and hurry back. We’ll sit on the couch and maybe watch a movie,” she said. “I can make some popcorn.”

“I’d like that.”

“It will be fun.”

“I’ll be right back, then,” he said as he reached the door.

“Hurry. I’ll have everything ready,” she said as she stood there in the open doorway.

“Give me an hour,” he said, starting to leave, and then thinking better of it he turned back and kissed her once more before departing.

She watched him down the hall to the elevator and then as the car arrived for him she closed her door. She returned to the patio.

Outside the dome the night had grown darker. The lights from the streets below had become a more relevant source of light than the two moons in their different phases. It would be three more months before they reached full phase at the same time.

She’d learned in school that although the two moons of Pravda were smaller than Earth’s moon, each of them reflected much more light, due in great part to the presence of highly reflective, white ice crystals covering much of the moons’ surfaces. As a result, except for the periods of no moons or times when each were greatly waned, it was relatively bright at night.

There was a sort of unofficial holiday status given to the nights of the ‘double-full’. On such occasions she enjoyed being out until both the moons set. The brightest of nights were more intense than she might have preferred it but she could endure it. It seemed as if she could see the world in greater detail than during the day, but what was best she did not need UV lenses on her eyes.

On tour they had performed outside on a couple of ‘double-full’ nights. Because of the meaning their band’s name, Chase played it up in promotional efforts. As a result the crowd seemed to be different on those nights, more enthusiastic, in a better mood, maybe a little crazier, and a lot wilder than on any other night. Even the other members of the band had seemed to step it up a notch, doing things that pushed the limits, taking the entire performance to a different level. Likewise, Cristina was guilty of over-indulging her special mood.

She lingered on the patio enjoying the coolness of the evening until Alix called her to say he was on his way back. She began preparing popcorn. When popped she dumped it into a large bowl before continuing with the next batch. When she finished filling the bowl, she set it down on the coffee table in front of the couch. Into large tumblers she poured out sodas and sat the drinks on coasters to either side of the bowl.

Using the pass code Cristina had given him, Alix let himself in. “It smells wonderful.”

“There is nothing that smells quite like fresh popcorn,” Cristina agreed.

He went to the directory on her screen. “You want to see something you have or download something new?”

“You choose,” Cristina said.

“Well there’re a ton of movies neither of us have seen.”

“I know,” she said.

“There has to be something you want to see.”

“That one movie – I don’t remember the title. You know the one about that guy who gets lost in his past on Earth.”

“Oh, I know, I know,” he flipped through the download menus, then finding it. “There, this one.”

Cristina looked at the summary, read a bit of it. “Yeah, that’s it. I heard that is pretty good. Some of it was actually shot on Earth.”

“I didn’t know that.” Alix clicked to download it then after he staged the order, he handed the remote to her. “It need’s your code.”

Cristina leaned over and keyed in her ID sequence and almost immediately the download began.

“Do you want to save it?” Alix asked as he resumed control of the remote.

“Yeah,” she said. “Go ahead. We’ll probably watch it again.”

Alix turned up the volume for the sound system then set the remote to one side. Cristina sat the bowl of popcorn between them on the couch as the movie began to stream.

“This is a really good idea,” he said.

“Thank you, for being here for me,” she responded. “I didn’t feel like going out, but I didn’t want to be alone tonight.”

They exhausted the popcorn while occasionally sipping their sodas as the movie progressed. After about an hour, Cristina had removed the bowl from between them and snuggled in closer to Alix, resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. He smiled broadly. There was no other place in the world that he would have rather been.

Cristina opened first one eye then the other, before realizing that at some point the two of them fell asleep, missing the ending of the movie. She tried not to disturb Alix, but as she sat up he stirred and opened both eyes. Surprised at first, then realizing where he was, he smiled. “I guess it’s a good thing we saved the movie,” he said.

“Are you thirsty?” she asked.

“I could use a glass of water.”

“Me too. I’ll be right back,” she said, punctuating it with a wink.


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Colonial Authority: Chapter 12 – Sand-Morph

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

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

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

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

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

“He got my number somehow, from someone.”

“Well, I didn’t give it out.”

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

“Who knows?”

“I think Paul is one of us.”

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

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

“He might just be weird.”

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

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


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

“Yes, well a little bit, anyway.”

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

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

“Listen to me. Okay?”

“I am.”

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

“I don’t know if I can do it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, it’s Alix. I am almost there.”

“Are you okay?”

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

“Did you go?” she asked.


“So, now you have an orb?”

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

“Join the club.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How could we not be friends?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do what?”

“You look great all the time.”

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

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

“You have it bad, don’t you?”

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

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

“Beer if you have it.”

“Why did you drink so much?”

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

“You were pretty wasted.”

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

“So you drink to somehow compensate?”

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

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

“Well, that’s a relief.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re totally hawt.”

“I’m far from it.”

“How can you not know?”

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

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

“And I guess that includes you?”

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

Cristina smiled at him in response.

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

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

“Did I do something wrong?” Cristina asked.

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

“I scared you?”

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

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

“But we have the rule.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

There was dead silence in response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Colonial Authority: Chapter 11 – Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you believe?”

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

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

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

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

“That is precisely the appropriate counter argument.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“About that.”

“How’d you get my number?”

“That would be telling.”

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

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

“Who was it? Chase?”

“I promised not to tell.”

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

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

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

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

“Uh, well, okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“So you’re a bureaucrat?”

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

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

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

“Your province?”

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

“So, you’re not working?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Then what are they planning to do?”

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

“How can that be?”

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

“You really understand this stuff.”

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

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

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

“Perhaps it’s not too late.”

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

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

“Thank you for the vote of confidence.”

“You’re welcome.”

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

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

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

“Stay in touch, Paul.”

“I will. You too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“About Mr. Scalero?”

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

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

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

“So you met and gave him your number?”

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

“Who’s you tour manager?”

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

“Do you have his number?”

“Wait. I’ll forward it to you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I will.”

“I really appreciate your cooperation.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s Cristina.”

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


Books, Editing, Publishing, Technology, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 10 – Meeting

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

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

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

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

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



“Yes,” she replied.

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

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

“Older men?”

“Well, yes.”

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

“But Raven…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please, make yourselves at home.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The smaller the bird the higher the rank?”

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

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

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

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

“What does it do?”

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

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

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

“Okay,” she responded.

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

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

“Now very quickly, pull your hand away.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It does other things like –”

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

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

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

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

“Then look in your hand,” Sparrow challenged.

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

She shook her head in disbelief.

“What just happened?”

“You tell me,” Cristina responded.

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

“The orb was always in my hand.”

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

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

Hummingbird laughed. “You are progressing very well.”

“Am I? It’s confusing me.”

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

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

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

“Raven said it would draw others toward me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that all I need to tell him?”

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

“Where does it come from?”

“The Architects gave them to the Couriers.”

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

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

“You mean like deities?”

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

“You have met them?”

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

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

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



“Startled, but yes, I am comfortable.”

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

“We have somehow stepped outside the universe?”

“She is very astute,” Hummingbird said.

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

“This is a convincing simulation,” she replied.

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

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

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

“I know I exist,” she said.

“How do you know?” Hummingbird asked.

“I just know.”

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

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

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

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

“I know I exist.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You called me humanoid.”

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

“I have four ovaries.”

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

“Someone told me that was one difference.”

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

“I have a very efficient metabolism.”

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

“I’m strong relative to my size.”

Sparrow nodded.

“I’m unafraid of the dark.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fifty years,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

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

Sparrow took his cue to stand and Hummingbird joined him.

“Will I see you again?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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