**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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”