**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.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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.