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