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

Colonial Authority: Chapter 19 – Back Home

**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.**

During the trip home, Chase nodded off several times. Accustomed to travel, catching some shuteye on the way was what kept him going. Still, when he was at home in his bed he really never seemed to sleep any longer than a few hours.

Although he was not quite sure whether he had slept for more than a few minutes at a stretch, he recalled having at least two dreams.

One of his dreams had bothered him mostly because it was bizarre and seemed unlikely. It had been about crossing the desert in a Puma that malfunctioned and being forced to set out on foot. A sandstorm blinded him so badly that he became lost. He remembered the emptiness he felt in his soul, dealing with the realization he would never see Julie again, never again to hold her in his arms. Even though upon waking it seemed preposterous, there were tears in his eyes. It had taken some time before he dozed again.

The other dream was so vivid that it continued to haunt him. It seemed he had seen Alix and Cristina ducking into an armored vehicle just before it exploded into a huge ball of fire. It felt so real that upon waking he even wondered if Alix and Cristina made it safely to Andromeda. He was concerned about it to the extent of beginning to call Julie with his travelcom. Then he decided that she would have called him before then if they had not arrived.

On the last leg of the railcar’s journey through the mountains that separated Haven from the northeastern eastern desert that surrounded Andromeda the railcar passed through a rather violent storm. Such events were becoming more regular in the eastern portions of the interior desert. As the railcar slowed down for its approach of the outer airlock of Andromeda rain still pelted the windows obstructing Chase’s view of the semi-arid terrain that the terraform engineers touted as ‘pre-agricultural’.

When the railcar entered the airlock the droplets of water were almost instantly swept away and the outside surfaces were dried in the turbulence of the process of cleaning and clearing the railcar of any contaminants before it passed through the second stage of the airlock and entered the dome.

Finally, the railcar pulled into the station and the all too familiar de-boarding announcements played over the railcar’s internal PA. Chase ignored the instructions so that he could gather his things together in preparation to exit the car. He knew from experience that if he followed the instructions, he would be one of the few waiting seated inside the car until everyone else aboard left.

There were maybe forty people on the railcar designed to accommodate a hundred. It was late afternoon. He didn’t know whether that had something to do with the relative emptiness of the railcar. It was the first time that he had noticed the emptiness. Although he usually traveled at night, every other time he traveled between Haven and Andromeda the railcar was nearly packed. The railcar finally halted. The dock platform extended to lock into outside of the car, creating a safe bridge.

Already he was queued to de-board, about half way back in the staged procession. He took his turn in line as one-by-one each of the passengers exited the railcar. Finally he emerged onto the platform. The first thing he saw was Julie’s smiling face.

As he stepped toward her she launched herself toward him. He caught her in mid-flight, taking a step back to absorb the impact. He allowed her kiss to linger as they embraced. “Welcome home,” she said, finally pulling back, though she continued to cling tightly.

He did not want to let her go. In a perfect world they would never be apart. He wished time would stand still and allow them to remain in the warmth and sentiment of that moment. She missed him but he doubted she began to understand how much he missed her. As satisfying and reinvigorating as the extended kiss and embrace was, when it concluded, the emptiness he felt in the dream crashed upon him again, almost forcing the breath from him. Feeling dread as certainly as a premonition, something was about to change, something that might end their happiness.

“Are you okay?” Julie asked, as it must have been obvious he was breathing irregularly.

“Hold my hand,” he said but his voice was unsteady. He took several breaths to resist the anxiety, knowing her hand was real. She was with him. This was not a part of the nocturnal delusion still tormenting him.

It took several moments for his strength and resolve to return. He looked into her eyes and kissed her once more. When their lips parted he laughed. It seemed silly, after all. Why was he worried? Julie was with him. How could he not enjoy the moment?

From his perspective what he did was mainly for her. “I guess I have been running full blast for too long. I seriously need an extended rest.”

“Well, they should have let you be on your vacation when you scheduled it.”

“I know, but this was important. They want to expand the office up here because of the local music scene. And the good news is that they want me to run it.”

Julie’s eyes brightened.

“It’ll be a promotion.”

Julie’s smile broadened.

“I’ll get a raise. We can afford a house.”

Whether Julie was ever going to let Chase progress any further into the station seemed in doubt as Julie kissed him again. Cristina and Alix stayed back, hand-in-hand apart from Julie and Chase so that they could have their time together.

“I guess I should get my luggage,” Chase said, starting for the rack.

“I have room on our cart,” Alix called out his offer.

“Thanks, I appreciate that.” Chase replied offering a handshake. “It’s good seeing you again. Did you have a good trip?”

“Yeah, it was a long ride, same as always, but I was with Cristina so it was fine.”

“Cristina tells me you are one of us.”

“So I am,” Alix said.

“What do you think?”

“The fringe benefit of being with Cristina is the only part of it I like so far.”

Chase laughed. “Yeah, well, I felt the same way at first when Julie found me in one of the clubs here in town. That’s how we met.” He went on to tell a condensed version of the story, and then concluded with, “The rest is history, as they say.”

After Chase picked up the luggage and piled it onto Alix’s cart, they returned to where Julie and Cristina were waiting. Chase kissed Cristina on the cheek. “It feels like we haven’t seen each other in a year,” Chase said.

“Doesn’t it?” Cristina responded. “I miss our conversations.”

“Maybe that’s what it is. We haven’t spoken much since the end of the tour and we used to talk a lot, really everyday. So you and Julie have gotten to know each other?”

“We’ve become fast friends,” Julie said. “We really are a lot alike in many ways, except I can’t sing.”

“You can sing,” Chase corrected “ It’s just you don’t want to do what’s necessary to do it professionally.”

“I’ll bet you have a wonderful voice,” Alix said.

“She really does,” Chase said.

“I’m nothing great,” Julie said. “Yeah, I sound good to myself when I sing in the shower. But then, who doesn’t?”

“Well, anyway welcome yet again to Andromeda,” Chase said. “At no other time when you have been here before did you have a chance to really see the city and understand its total range of artistic culture and influences. I love its unique identity. It is the one city that very often breaks with tradition and the trends of every other city. Julie has lived here all of her life. I’m a transplant, but I’ve been here for most of my life.”

“Julie was telling us a little about the history of the city while we were waiting for you,” Alix said. “It sort of explains the musical rivalry between Andromeda and New Milan.”

“I fixed up your old study as a guest room,” Julie explained to Chase. “You hardly ever work in there anyway. Besides next week you’re not working at all.”

“I have a couple of things…”

“That was part of the deal, Chase. No work, right?”

“Look who’s talking, Ms. Workaholic!” Chase laughed as he grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly as he leaned over to whisper into her ear. “By the way, have I mentioned how much I love you?”

“You’d better appreciate me!” She slapped him playfully, and then chuckled. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else that would put up with your work.”

“Maybe I won’t have to tour so much after this promotion.”

“You’ll still do our tours, though?” Cristina asked.

“Yeah, well, part of the reason for this trip was Global is thinking of expanding the branch here into a major office here, like the one in New Milan. I would be managing an office with scouts, agents and other tour managers. They feel that because of the local music scene it is vital for the company’s long-range plans. That would mean more tour managers and I’d be the one supervising them, mainly from here.”

“I was going to request you for our next tour,” Cristina complained.

“I may still be able to run a major tour, but I would not be able to travel along with the tour. I would have to assign someone to do that, kind of like I had to keep checking in with Josh in Haven and Link in New Milan when we were on the road.”

“Well, I would want to approve of the person you assign to the tour,” she said.

“Of course, I’d do that for you, anyway. I’ll even recruit a lady so you have someone to talk to about all those things we never could.”

Cristina smiled. “I didn’t realize you cared that much about those silly times.”

“They aren’t silly when they affect your singing.”

She smiled at him again.

“Maybe you could hire Julie,” Alix suggested.

“That would be a fine idea except there’s a company rule against such things.”

“I’m not sure I’d want you as my supervisor, anyway,” Julie said. Then she joked. “The one I have is bad enough.”

“Well, it’s settled then.” Chase smiled. Then turned to Cristina he explained, “Obviously, you need to feel comfortable with our management. Personally, I owe some of this opportunity to the success of this recent tour. So, I feel I owe you, both of you and the other guys for making things work. Despite everything that went wrong during the tour, those things were relatively minor and easily fixed because we expected the unexpected and were on top of it immediately. Only once did it affect the fans and we handled it and got some positive attention from it. Everything else was behind the scenes. The fans never knew about the problems we were experiencing. That is how a well managed tour must be.”

“Well, we have never worked with anyone as professionally competent and respectful of the band as you are,” Alix said.

“I appreciate that, Alix. I don’t think we’ve said this many words to one another the whole time we were on tour. I’m glad that you came out of your shell.”

“Me too,” Cristina said.

“In case you guys haven’t been listening to the entertainment world for the past week, on this last tour you graduated into the ranks of a major act, meaning headliner offers and larger percentages of the gate.”

“Even in Andromeda,” Julie said as if to underscore what Chase was saying, though it drew a curious response from him. “We met a couple of fans while we were in the bar waiting for you. They told us the single is number four and all the shops are out of stock on the single and the album.”

“That’s what’s happening all over. It’s the same thing I have seen before. The tour sells the single and complete Mods. Then the next single promotes the new tour while postproduction is done on the next complete Mod. One feeds from the other until eventually it reaches critical mass.”

“Like we talked about,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, I saw it happening toward the end of the tour. The clubs we had booked were selling out so rapidly that they were requesting extra shows to fill the demand. I know that made for a brutal schedule at times, but I had anticipated some of it and designed the schedule to accommodate it, otherwise the pace at the end would have nearly killed you.”

“That’s why we lost some of our scheduled off days,” Alix said as it now made sense to him. “It was rough but it was kind of fun because the crowds seemed to be really into us and what we were doing.”

“Yeah, but even the shows we added earlier or later the same day really worked for you guys as well,” Chase explained. “It meant a lot to people who wanted tickets but couldn’t get them for a sold out show could get tickets for another show.”

“Then it sold out as well,” Cristina recalled.”

“On this tour the word got out about Duae Lunae and how they were fan based and a great live band that was not afraid of adding shows to satisfy the fans.”

“There are some trade-offs. Now only the larger clubs and venues will book us,” she pointed out.

“That’s true, but that comes with success.”

“I was so exhausted by the end of the tour that all I wanted to do was go home and sleep for a couple of days,” Cristina confessed. “But now I kind of miss it. I guess I’ve got the performance bug pretty bad.”

Chase laughed as he paused to hold the door open for Alix to roll the cart through station exit and out onto the loading/unloading area. Julie summoned the floater coach from where she docked it and it queued up in line behind a couple of other coaches then advanced toward them as the traffic cleared.

When it was their turn, Alix and Chase loaded the luggage into the storage compartment in the back of the coach and then all four of them squeezed into the coach. It was cramped and possibly overloaded but everything and everyone fit. Julie took the console and programmed their destination. Slowly the coach left the station and merged with other street traffic.

It was almost evening. Most of the commercial buildings in the downtown area were in shift change or closing from their daytime only operations. There was a good deal of traffic leaving the heart of the city and heading toward the residential zones and suburban estates. Chase and Julie lived in an apartment in an upscale area, but it was still relatively close to downtown. Chase enjoyed it because they were within walking distance of several popular clubs that booked live performances.

As they passed by them, Cristina remembered the names of two of the places they played, The Crosswalk and The Seasons. She remembered that Chase had been able to go home at night from the club and hadn’t booked a room at the hotel that was actually farther away.

It was important time for Chase to share with Julie. The first time he had not seen her for three months and the second time he had not seen her for another four months.

Their last appearance in Andromeda was at a larger club across town so Chase had booked a room for himself in the hotel, but still he had gone home for a few hours. Cristina did not know about Julie, then – not that it really mattered except that she was kind of enamored of him. Chase was organized and always seemed in control, despite the confusion around him. Sometimes, she didn’t want to make the decisions. She came to rely heavily on him and he never let her down.

When the coach arrived at the doorstep of the apartment, Alix and Chase removed the baggage before Julie remotely parked the coach in its designated dock. The men managed the luggage toward the elevator in the lobby and waited with the ladies for the car to arrive.

Once the door opened, Julie held it open for them to hurriedly load their baggage. Then, once Cristina, Chase, Alix and Julie were inside they rode up to the floor. The doors opened and Alix and Chase again worked their magic to off-load all the baggage into the corridor while again Julie held the door open.

It took several minutes for Chase and Alix to negotiate the baggage down the hall to the apartment. Julie went ahead to open the apartment door with her remote access key, letting Cristina inside while Chase and Alix dragged everything into the apartment. As Cristina and Alix were used to packing for traveling, they knew what bags they needed for the first night. Chase said he really didn’t need to unpack until the morning.

It was a two-bedroom apartment. Chase had turned one bedroom into his study but had never removed the bed, so Julie had prepared it for their guests. Chase never seemed to use the study anyway. He worked from a portable computer that most often he used in the dining area because for some reason the wireless global network connection there was stronger and much more stable. Besides, the table gave him room to spread out all the logistical diagrams and city maps he needed for scheduling and managing a tour.

By the time they settled into the apartment, it was night. Alix and Cristina showered first while Chase waited. He needed to shower, too and Julie wanted to freshen up after being out and about.

When Alix and Cristina emerged from bathroom together, wrapped in individual towels, both Julie and Chase shared a shower, something they had not done for many, many months. Because of the novelty they lingered in the shower for longer than might have been expected. They emerged to discover Cristina and Alix were sound asleep in the guest room locked tightly in one another’s embrace. Quietly Julie closed the door and joined Chase who was already waiting for her in their bed.


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

Colonial Authority: Chapter 18 – Arrival

**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.**

Julie arrived at the station a few minutes before the appointed time for the railcar from Haven. Cristina and Alix were aboard.

When they disembarked, Alix was first. She shook his hand as it was offered, but then stepped back. She opened her arms to embrace Cristina.

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing,” Cristina said.

“Me too,” Julie said. “Both of you, really. It’s been very lonely this past week with Chase away and all.”

“So, he’s on his way. You received confirmation?” Alix asked.

“His railcar is coming in later. I was planning to hang out here and wait at the station for the couple of hours until he arrives.”

“We can do that, “Alix said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll sit in the bar.”

“Chase has been telling me stories about the tour ever since he got back,” Julie said.

“You should have come to our shows when we were here.”

“I know. Something always came up. I had even made plans to surprise Chase the last time you were here, but I got called in to work on my day off.”

“You’ll have to come along next time.”

“I couldn’t swing that much time away from my job. Maybe I can come during a vacation and spend a few days at least.”

“It would be a lot of fun,” Cristina promised. “And it would be nice to have someone along to share some girl talk.”

“I’ll get the bags,” Alix said. As he waved his payment wand at a rack of luggage carts and extracted one. He rolled it free of the vending station and towed it behind him to the railcar’s baggage claim area.

“What’s it like on tour?” Julie asked. “I ask Chase and I always get the same response, that it is exciting while the band is playing, but the rest of it is long and boring.”

“Yeah well, it is like that, I guess. Being on tour can be stressful at times. It’s a lot of work, and you are always meeting new people. Sometimes when you play a venue with other bands you get to meet them and know each other. You find out how much everyone in the business is really the same – all the same sorts of internal conflicts and personal problems. By the end of a tour, I can’t wait to get home. Then, within a few days I can’t wait to get back out on tour. This was the first time we were represented well. Chase made it easy for us, but I knew he was working his ass off to make things happen.”

“Yeah, it’s hard to work everything out perfectly,” Julie said as she glanced at her chronometer. “He should be here in less than a couple of hours.”

“In the meantime we get to know one another,” Cristina said.

“Exactly,” Julie said flashing a bright smile. “I’ve heard so much about you and the band that I feel like I already know you.”

“Chase never elaborated much on his personal life. He was friendly and always good to talk to whenever someone in the band was having problems. But he never opened up about himself, you know?”

“That’s Chase. I’ll bet he never even mentioned me until right at the end of the tour.”

Cristina smiled. “He mentioned you, of course. And how much he was looking forward to getting home. But yeah, that was right at the end of the tour.”

“Was that before or after you met Raven?”

“Maybe it was before. I don’t recall. All of that last week or so was a blur. But my point is that Chase never told any war stories. He was absorbed in work, on the phone arranging things or following up. When he wasn’t doing that, he was taking a nap.”

“He hasn’t told me much about his growing up either. I know he was in trouble from time to time, but that’s about the extent of it. He always says it’s ancient history, and he isn’t that way anymore.”

“It’s not like I’m nosey, but it’s just I wonder how he became the way he is.”

“I do too,” she smiled. “All I know is he’s exactly the same no matter what.”

“No surprises.”

“He can be spontaneous, I suppose. But he’s so organized and focused that even when something seems spontaneous it was probably planned weeks in advance.”

Cristina laughed.

“He made sure I knew all about you and what you were doing as a band,” Julie said. “He always does that, but in your case he went a bit overboard. He likes you a lot, all the members of the band, but you personally, Cristina. I think he would have been very attracted to you except that we have a commitment. And his personal integrity prevents him from violating his code about clients.”

“I know he loves you.”

“I do too,” she said, flashing another brief smile.

“I guess we all need to catch up on what’s been going on with you,” Alix said as he returned from gathering the luggage and rejoined them.

Julie smiled at him. “You’re cute,” she said. Then, looking to Cristina as if for her approval or confirmation, she nodded.

“He can be weird at times but he grows on you,” Cristina responded.

“Men are that way,” she generalized. “Chase has been in Haven for over a week. I’m really anxious to see him,” Julie said. “It’ll probably take a while to get used to having him around again.”

“He handles himself very well,” Alix said.

“He’s always been faithful to me. I know he is,” Julie smiled. “He was on tour with you for over a year and–”

“There were ample opportunities with many women, not only me,” Cristina revealed. “He was a perfect gentleman. There was never anything with anyone else, either. For one thing, as busy as he was, he never had the time.”

“Thank you for that.”

“Chase’s a very nice guy, and lovable in so many ways. You’re very lucky.”

Julie smiled broadly, and then she embraced Cristina again. “Thank you for telling me the truth.”

“I kind of think you would have known regardless,” she responded.

“Chase seemed a little surprised about you and Alix.”

“It just happened, sort of. We have known one another for ten years, but then…” she paused. “Alix can be annoying, but in his way he’s every bit as amazing as Chase.”

“What?” Alix asked even though he had heard the words. He just wanted to hear them again.

“I said you’re amazing.”

“So I have advanced from weird but lovable to annoying but amazing?” Alix asked as he bowed, but then, as he came back up, he planted a kiss on her lips.

“See what I mean?” Cristina asked.

“I see,” Julie confirmed, but then continued, “I have not spoken to Chase all that much on this trip. He was in meetings a lot of the time. Even on Sunday, he was out all afternoon and didn’t get in until after midnight. That was when he sent me a message.”

“He’s becoming very important,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, well, I worry about him.”

“He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself,” Alix said.

“I know that, Alix. It’s just he used to always call me, every night.”

“There are time zones involved. Maybe he didn’t want to wake you.”

Julie flashed a smile. “Yeah, I thought about that, too. And I know he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s trying to get promoted. It’s just that…”

“He’s a pretty boy and you worry that someone will be attracted to him.”

Julie said, “At least you realize it, too. He always plays that down.”

“Chase is totally devoted to you, sister. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“You and Cristina could be sisters,” Alix observed. “Really. I mean, if I was in the enviable position of having to choose between the two of you I would probably not be able to.”

Cristina wrapped her arm around Alix’s elbow and pulled him away, whispering, “It’s fortunate that you don’t have to.”

“I was just being honest.”

“Sometimes, honesty can be uncomfortable for others.”

“You’re jealous?”

“No,” she said. Then, she laughed. “Well, maybe I am, just a little bit.”

“The bar is over there,” Julie offered. “They have world viewer imbedded in each table there, so you can see what’s going on while you wait.”

“I think Pete and I have been in that one,” Alix said. “Or maybe it’s just like the ones in other stations.”

“I need to use the restroom first,” Cristina said.

“I’ll come with you,” Julie said as she grabbed Cristina’s hand, leading the way.

“I’ll get us a table,” Alix called out after them, chuckling as he grabbed the handle of the baggage cart and rolled it behind him across the station toward his destination.

The bar was mostly vacant with only a few passengers on layovers or people waiting for a departure or arrival scattered around the room. Instinctively, Alix chose a seat away from the windows knowing Julie and Cristina were just as ultra sensitive to light as he was.

A waitress came to the table to give him a grill menu and took his drink order.

“Just a beer,” Alix said. “Draft is fine. And there will be two more coming shortly.”

“I’ll be right back with your beer. I can take their order when they get here.”

While he waited Alix checked the menu. He wasn’t really hungry, but he could go for some nachos or potato skins.

By the time the waitress returned with his beer, the ladies were entering the bar. Having spotted him they continued toward the table.

“Hello,” the waitress said as she handed them menus. “My name’s Lynda; I’ll be your waitress. I can take your drink orders if you would like some time to study the grill menu.”

“I’m really not very hungry,” Cristina said.

“I was thinking of getting some potato skins for all of us,” Alix suggested.

“Yeah, that sounds fine,” Cristina said. “Why not bring us a pitcher of beer, too?”

“Yes, that sounds great,” Julie confirmed.

The waitress departed to place their order and get the ladies glasses and a pitcher of draft for the table. Alix began sampling world viewer on the small monitor beneath the transparent surface of the table. After a few minutes of ensuring that no major calamity or disaster struck while they were riding in the railcar, he looked up. Julie and Cristina quietly continued a conversation that must have begun in the restroom, not completely ignoring him but not inviting him to join their private dialogue.

The waitress returned to the table and smiled at Alix who was really the only one who looked up and thanked her for the pitcher. “I know this sounds a little strange, like it is a come on, but I assure you that it is not. But you look familiar,” she said to him.

“I’m from New Milan,” Alix said. “I doubt we have ever met, though it is possible, I guess. I’ve been through this station a few times in the past year, but usually I was always with a fairly large group.”

“No, I have seen you before, both you and her,” she indicated Cristina.

“How’s that?” Cristina inquired as she disengaged from her conversation with Julie because she felt the need to be involved. Especially since the waitress was being very friendly with Alix.

“She said we look familiar,” Alix said.

“Maybe you’ve seen us coming and going. We were here about five months ago.”

“Maybe so,” Lynda allowed.

“Are you into music?” Cristina asked.

“Yes, of course I am,” she said. Then, it seemed to Alix and Cristina as if a light brightened her face. “Oh my… that’s it,” she said, then looked around excitedly. “My boyfriend will absolutely die! When I tell him who was in the bar… I mean, he’s so much in love with you, and your voice,” she said to Cristina.

“The line forms right about here,” Alix indicated the area immediately behind his chair.

“I’m a huge fan, too. You’re Alix,” she said excitedly as she looked at him.

“That’s me,” he flashed a smile.

“I guess this must happen to you all the time.”

“Sometimes, but not all that often,” Cristina revealed. “We’re not all that famous.”

“I think you’re great! Are the others coming in later? Are you waiting for them?”

“No, they are safely in New Milan, on hiatus between tours,” Cristina explained. “Alix and I came to visit friends. Julie is waiting for her boyfriend who managed our last tour.”

“Wow, this is incredible! I didn’t even know you and Alix were seeing each other. I mean none of the tabloids have that news.”

“Not that anyone would care to read about us,” Cristina handled it. “Anyway, I guess we are seeing each other, but it’s kind of a recent thing.”

“Well, I won’t tell,” Lynda promised. “I don’t want to bother you or anything but my boyfriend will not believe it was really you.”

“Do you have a framecap?” Alix asked.

“There’s one in my handheld.”

“Then take a picture of us for him.”

“You really don’t mind?”

“Julie can take the picture for you,” Cristina volunteered. “So you can be in it, too.”

“Sure,” Julie said with an understanding smile even if she thought it was a bit silly. Still, she was living vicariously through Cristina. She wanted to know what it felt like to be famous, something that she had dreamed of when she was a shy little girl who bashfully hid behind her father whenever she was around strangers.

“I’ll be right back,” Lynda excused as she rushed to the bar and reached over it to gather her bag from beneath it. Then she hurriedly prepped the framecap application in her handheld as she returned to the table and handing it to Julie, indicating which button to push.

She knelt down between Alix and Cristina. As the three of them smiled Julie took two pictures, both of them turned out well.

“I really, really appreciate this so much, you will never know!”

“We appreciate your support,” Alix responded.

“We’re nothing without our fans,” Cristina added.

“If your boyfriend is close by we are here for a couple of hours. Maybe you can call him and he can come over,” Alix suggested.

“Have him bring one of our recent Mods and we can add digisign to it for him,” Cristina added

“Really, you’d do all that?” Lynda seemed to be considering the logistics of it. “He works kind of near here. Maybe he can come on his lunch, but we live on the other side of town. So I doubt he could go back to the apartment and all that.”

“Well, just have him come over, anyway,” Cristina said. “We like meeting and talking to our fans.”

“Let me check on the other tables and your order, and then I’ll be right back,” Lynda excused as she heard someone at another table calling for her attention. After a several minutes of refilling drink orders, she returned to the table from the bar with a basket of potato skins and set it down in the middle of the table and gave each of them a small plate. “You okay on the beer?”

“Yeah, for now. Did you call him, your boyfriend?”

“Didn’t have a chance yet,” she answered as she tapped her right earlobe and activated the phone function and launched, “Dave at work.”

When Dave answered she tapped her right wrist and his image appeared as a hologram projected onto her right palm. Linda began to talk, “Dave you’ll never believe who’s here at the bar,” then turning her palm and wrist for the embedded sensor to have a view to show him. Cristina smiled and waved, “Hello, Dave.”

“Are you there?” Lynda asked receiving only silence in response as Dave’s vanished. “Dave?” She reiterated. Then turning to Cristina, she suggested, “He probably fainted.”

Cristina laughed. “Tell him I said to get his butt over here right now!”

“Did you hear that?” Lynda asked as she took him off the holographic projector for privacy. “No, she’s serious. She and Alix, the bass player, are here. They’re in town visiting friends. They say they like to meet fans.” She paused for a response. “Well, tell him it’s a friggin’ emergency. It’s not like you haven’t covered enough times for him.” She nodded to Cristina who seemed amused. “Okay. Okay.” Lynda tapped her earlobe again to disconnect. “He says he’s on his way, but his supervisor’s being a total dickhead today, so if he can’t make it he’ll call me back.”

“I don’t want him to get into any trouble,” Cristina expressed her concern.

“No, I know Dave. He’d never forgive himself if he had the chance to meet you and didn’t.”

“I’m flattered,” Cristina said, even wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

“See we’re getting there. We’ll arrive soon,” Alix pointed out. “Maybe next Mod release and another tour and–”

“You can’t be serious,” Lynda said. “You don’t even realize how mammoth you guys are in Andromeda right now?”

“Are we?” Cristina asked, glancing to Julie for confirmation.

“I really don’t follow music that much anymore,” she answered. “My friend, Mindy might know, but she follows the local scene.”

“Your latest single was number four here in stream play last week and every shop and store is out of stock on both the single and complete Mod cards. The only way you can get it is to download it at a premium price from a promo host.”

“Really?” Alix said. “For which we get nothing.”

“Yeah, Dave said the same thing,” Lynda responded.

“We might be higher than number four if they had the inventory,” Cristina said.

“They’re taking pre-orders,” Lynda explained.

“Yeah, well that figures into advance sales. A store ordering the inventory counts as a sale for the charts,” Cristina explained the way new music popularity was ranked.

“That’s what Dave said, too. But they are two weeks out on backorders.”

“There shouldn’t be any supply problems,” Cristina said as she reached for her travelcom. She activated the holographic projection in her palm and paged down through a list of contacts until she found the one she needed. Then, after quickly linking it to the audio only long-distance device, she initiated the call.

After several rings finally there was an answer. “Steve, it’s Cristina… No, no vid this time. I’m in Andromeda. Alix and I came up to see Chase and Julie… You know him, our TM from Global…yeah, him. Hey, look, I’m talking to one of our biggest fans up here and she tells me we’re number four in Andromeda…Yeah, that was news to me, too. What’s bothering me is all the stores up here have us on backorder and have been out of product for a while…Yeah, I didn’t think there was. It kind of shocked me. Can you look into it and maybe even redirect shipments if you have to… Exactly, I mean this is huge for a New Milan band to be doing this well up here…yeah, no kidding. Thanks, Steve.” She disconnected then explained, “Steve is our connection with the Modfab and their distribution. He says there’s no problem with supply as far as he knows, but he’ll look into it.”

“Thanks for the info,” Alix directed to Lynda. “This is really exciting news for us.”

Lynda grinned broadly. “I thought you would know.”

“When we’re on tour we get news in dribs and drabs. Traveling a lot, sometimes it seems like all we do is sleep, eat, play and repeat,” Cristina said.

“I guess the world tour was as much a success as we’d hoped,” Alix suggested, leaning over and sharing a kiss with Cristina.

Lynda smiled. “Like I said before, I never knew you two were dating.”

“It’s been something since we came off tour. We started hanging out together,” Alix explained.

“We’ve known each other for over ten years,” Cristina furthered. “It’s not like we were total strangers.”

“I think it’s great. Look, I have to work the tables some more. When Dave gets here, I’ll come back. He’ll want a picture with all of you”

“I’ll take one of you and him with Alix and Cristina,” Julie offered herself.

As Lynda departed Cristina looked first to Alix and then to Julie. “That was nice. That was a good time. You know, you have fans hit you up for a digisign or a framecap after a show. That’s part of the tour. It’s expected, so you deal with it as it comes. And you’re thankful that you have someone willing to wait after a show to see you. But for someone to recognize you in a public place…I know it’s happened a couple of times before but never outside of New Milan. Our core fan base is there, at home. I never expected anything like this, not here.”

“We’re bigger here than we had ever dreamed we would be,” Alix said. “Every time we were here it seemed the crowds were smaller than they were in other places.”

“Chase kept telling us it was an Andromeda effect, that they call any New Milan band, ‘west coasters’.”

“That’s true,” Julie said. “I don’t remember the last band from another city that was popular here. Maybe it was a New Milan band, but there seems to have always been a rivalry between the music businesses here and there.”

“It’s a one-sided prejudice. There have been dozens of Andromeda bands that have hit in New Milan,” Alix revealed.

Their conversation continued along the subject of local history as Julie attempted as best she could to explain Andromeda’s origins, youth culture, fashion and music to Alix and Cristina. According to what she had learned in school and had pieced together from the thoughts and opinions of her father and his friends, as well as the other kids she knew as she was growing up, it all began when Andromeda rebelled against the moniker ‘Third City’ that the Engineers gave it before its first Colonial Administration had generated a list of suggested names for the then new city.

It had been called ‘Third City’ throughout its construction. Haven and New Milan were constructed virtually at the same time and therefore neither was labeled ‘first’ or ‘second’. No one called Star City ‘Fourth City’ when construction began about two years after Andromeda was completed. Unlike the first two cities that were named even in advance of construction of their domes, Andromeda had been singled out as ‘that other city’. It was the place in between – sort of – as it was not really between New Milan and Haven as it was a good bit to the north of either of them. At the time there was nowhere else to go in the vast continental desert between the coasts.

So, from the outset the city had something to prove, resulting in a huge inferiority complex. It was newer than either of the coastal cities, but at first living in Andromeda was more expensive because of the logistics of supplying it. There was no established rail infrastructure for at least the first five years of its existence. It had been a struggle to get people to move there from either New Milan or Haven because of the expense. Once there the inhabitants were mostly disconnected for an extended period. It was only by edict of the Colonial Council that all newcomers to Pravda must populate Andromeda and remain there for at least five years that the city began to grow and live up to its potential.

None of the other cities in the interior of the continent had suffered anything remotely close to what Andromeda had. For example, by the time that the next city, Star City was established, there were rails connecting it immediately to either coast and also to Andromeda. Thereafter the infrastructure always preceded the construction of any city. The Colonial Council learned a harsh lesson after the painful experience pushing forward the construction of Andromeda. Despite how prosperous Andromeda subsequently became as a center of industry, commerce and art for the entire planet, the city still maintained the chip on its shoulder. It preferred to stand-alone as it had from its earliest days of its existence.

As the discussions of forming a central government were just beginning to get underway, Andromeda seemed very cool to the prospect and appeared to be favoring an autonomous territorial status for its reserved provincial rights under the Colonial Authority’s allocation plans. It was for that reason, the Colonial Authority had relocated many of its key facilities in Andromeda, establishing some precedent for it to become the seat of any central government that might emerge amongst the provinces.

By the time Julie was wrapping up her impromptu presentation of the truths of Andromeda, as she understood them, Dave entered the bar, and immediately found Lynda. The two of them approached the table, Dave behind his girlfriend, shy with apprehensions about meeting celebrities – not only celebrities but people that he privately idolized.

Alix stood immediately at seeing Lydia’s approach. A man was in tow. He extended his hand, “You must be Dave.”

“Alix, this is monumental. This is beyond huge and epic, it’s completely awesome,” he gushed. “I play bass too, nowhere nearly as well as you do, but I work at it, ya know?”

“Really, wow! That’s awesome, dude,” Alix said then the two of them started speaking in a language that neither Julie nor Cristina understood, about bass guitar manufacturers, and different brands of amplifiers and speaker cabinets.

Lynda stood silently pretending to be patient while concealing her irritation. She interrupted by clearing her throat a couple of times. Dave turned, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, well you wanted to meet Cristina, too. Right?”

“Of course,” Dave said reaching over the table for her hand, “I am really sorry. I mean, I’m nervous…well, I don’t know what to say. This is like meeting a goddess.”

“I’m hardly that,” she reacted. “Anyway, I understand some of the talk, one bassist to another.”

“This is really incredible. It’s amazingly huge! I love your voice and your look. Everything about you is incredible.”

Cristina glanced down.

“I’m embarrassing you.”

“A little bit…actually a lot. It’s good to hear, but–”

“I’ve been a fan since the beginning, like ten years ago. You guys came here to perform at the Junk Room Pub. You probably don’t even remember that place, but I was there. I had to sneak in because I was under age.”

Cristina smiled. “No, I remember the place. I think it seated like 200 people or thereabouts and we drew all of 64. That generously included the bartender and the waitresses. So, I can’t believe that I didn’t meet you then. I thought we talked to everybody, probably too much.”

“No, I didn’t meet you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, we made a point to make sure we met everyone in the audience and we personally thanked them for coming.”

“I left before that. A couple of friends told me you did that afterwards. I was envious of them for having met you personally.”

“See, you should have stayed, then.”

“Yeah, well, I guess I was intimidated.”

Cristina shook her head. “I really don’t bite. I haven’t for a long time.”

Dave laughed. “I’d love to stay here all night talking, but I have to get back to work, unfortunately.”

“Let’s do the framecap thing,” Julie said. “I got the secret of Lynda’s handheld down-pat, now.”

“I really, really appreciate this, Alix and Cristina,” Dave said.

“Lynda said you were a huge fan and if you were following us ten years ago you have earned personal attention,” she said as she kissed him on the cheek just as Julie snapped a photo.”

“You got that?” Dave asked.

“Yeah, look,” she showed him.

“Awesome!” Dave turned toward Cristina and embraced her. “You really are the best! Thank you for this,” he said as Julie clicked off another picture, then one that was a little better at showing all of them laughing together as they were now friends.

They took one more posed photo with them all smiling into the camera as Julie snapped it. It also passed inspection.

“You guys are awesome people, not just great musicians,” Lynda praised.

“I really appreciate that,” Cristina responded.

“Ditto for me,” Alix included as he stood and shook Dave’s hand, and then hugged him. Keep playing that bass, my brother!”

“I will never be as good as you are.”

“Yeah, I remember saying that to a guy named Raja. He was the dude in the neighborhood when I was growing up. Nobody played bass like Raja. About five years later, he came up to me at the end of a show and shook my hand and said that he would never be as good as I was.”

“He didn’t even know he was one of your influences, one of your idols?”

Alix laughed. “No, before Duae Lunae, he never knew who I was, but I knew him. That was what mattered to me. When he told me, I knew I must be pretty good or at least I’d overcome whatever it was that I felt was holding me back.”


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Colonial Authority: Chapter 17 – Chase

**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.**

Relocated to Andromeda when he was a child, Chase recalled the conditions of the atmosphere were not much better there. It was only in the last five or so years that the changes had been dramatic. The pockets of poison tended to linger out at sea, over the water. Hardly ever did they come ashore, except during severe climatic disturbances.

He stayed in Andromeda for the better job opportunities. Star City, New Milan and Haven were experiencing economic downturns. Despite Andromeda being in the midst of the desert, surrounded by the most desolate landscape imaginable – except for perhaps Star City – his father had gone there after his mother died because there was work and housing costs were significantly lower than Haven. Despite the Colonial Authority giving breaks on taxes for people to come to Star City to live, Chase’s father still picked Andromeda.

Chase completed an intensive degree program in marketing and promotions at the university. He graduated near the top of his class. He had been offered jobs in Haven, New Milan and Andromeda as well as several less interesting, lower paying positions with financial institutions in Star City. His father tried very hard to sell him on staying in Andromeda. “It is our home. It is where we sank roots. Maybe the entry-level pay here is not as good as Haven or New Milan but people make good money here. You have to work at it, but I think if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

By the time Chase was ready to enter the work force, there were several local job opportunities and most paid well, so he stayed in Andromeda. He chose the job that would lead him everywhere that he had ever been since because it was closer to his home, and he could visit his father. Despite his father’s telling him it was unnecessary he spent almost every weekend at home until his father’s untimely death. After that there was really no reason for him to remain in Andromeda except that there was an active youth culture and a trendy music scene going on, one that rivaled the well-established culture in New Milan for producing innovative music and fashion trends.

Then, he met Julie.

He was scouting a band named Torment at a club called The Left Face. He was seated at the bar, appraising the crowd reaction while listening to the music. Moreover, he was gauging the band’s stage presence. After having listened to their demos his initial sense was the band lacked professional polish. Normally, he would have not given them further consideration for his firm’s representation. Yet, as he sat there he could not deny their loyal following were seriously into their music and the band was playing to the. They were much better live than the studio demo he’d heard.

When first he saw her, Julie stepped up to the bar. Tired of waiting for the waitress to refresh the drinks of her and her friend, she nudged her way through the crowd and demanded not only the bartender’s attention, but his curiosity as well. He was no longer interested in the band. He liked the way she handler herself, the grace she exuded as she excused herself through to offer her payment wand and receive her drink order. Then she turned and for a moment faced Chase.

She paused. In a way, she seemed to be waiting for him to say something. Chase could not help but stare at her. He said hello to her.

“Hi there,” as he reply.

“My name is Chase.”

“I’m sorry. Are you talking to me for some reason?”

Chase shrugged. “I noticed your shoes have real laces, not the faux ones that have become pop lately. So, I guess I wanted to ask, do you know how to tie a shoe lace?”

“Of course I do,” she huffed.

“Well, I just wondered because your right shoe lace is untied. You walk so gracefully, I think it would be a crime if you tripped over it, especially while carrying drinks.”

She glanced down. “So it is,” she said then looked up as she set the drinks on the bar and used a vacant stool to rest her foot while she tied the laces on the shoe.

“So, you were only looking out for me?”

“Yeah well, I must admit that I hoped for something better to come to mind to break the conversational ice, but sometimes you have to take what events offer. So my motives were not completely pure.”


“For telling you your shoe was untied?”

“No, for being honest. But I am left to wonder why were you checking out my shoes?”

“It’s the whole ensemble. You dress very well, dressed to tastefully attract some attention, but it’s certainly not overdone.”

She smiled. “Skillfully expressed. My name is Julie,” she offered her hand to him.

“I’m Chase. I think you might have missed that before.”

“No, actually I caught it. So, are you into Torment?”

“The band, yes. The general concept, no.”

She laughed. “My roommate has all their Mods. She knows a couple of the guys. I don’t know… they are good, but they don’t do it for me.”

“What don’t you like about them?”

“There are things…you know?”

“The shrill vocals or the lame repetitive lead guitar riffs?”

“You nailed it exactly, on both counts.”

“It’s what I do for a living.”

“You’re a critic.”

“God, no!” Chase exclaimed. Then, he laughed before finally explaining, “I do tour promotions. My company was considering representing the band. They sent me to give a listen and watch their live performance.”

“Well, please don’t take my criticism as the basis for rejecting them out of hand. They really are nice guys. I have met all of them and they are really very serious about what they do.”

“I make my own decisions, regardless of other opinions. I’m impressed at how loyal their fans are, though. I have to tell you that based on their demo alone, I would have rejected them.”

Julie looked toward the table where her friend was still waiting. “Look, Chase, maybe you need to be closer to the fray and the band to fully get the full effect. Our table is up right next to the stage. Mindy always gets a table reserved for her here because she knows the band. And since she knows them, she can introduce them to you and you can talk to them on breaks.”

Chase smiled. “Yeah, that sounds fun. Kewl,” he descended from the stool and followed her back toward her table. “Uh, just don’t tell the band or your friend why I’m here.”

“Okay,” Julie said. “I mean it wouldn’t matter all that much. They have a stage manager and all that already.”

“They have never played outside of Andromeda.”

Julie halted, and then turned back to look into his eyes. “You do world tours?”

“That is all my company does do. The last two we did were New Milan bands. I want to score at least one success for my hometown.”

Julie chuckled as she continued toward the table. As she sat down and delivered her friend’s drink, she continued, “Yeah, I mean, maybe Torment is not a good example of our music community. There are a lot of good bands here.”

“Hey,” Mindy protested.

“Well, they aren’t representative of the mainstream. They’re counter culture. That’s what I was saying.”

“Yeah, well okay,” Mindy allowed.

“I know the local music scene very well. I live here,” Chase said. Then, lowering his voice the moment that Mindy looked away to focus on the band, he continued, “The music is an important part of the equation, but on tour the band must be a full package, especially in places that have no following at all.”

“The ability to capture a crowd in a strange place makes or breaks a band,” Julie said but loud enough that Mindy overheard.

“Are you in the business, Mr…?”

“Call me Chase.”

“Chase, you sound as if you know the business. I’m Mindy,” she offered her hand across the table.

“Yeah, Mindy. I’m sorry I should have done the intros. This is Chase,” Julie offered apologetically.

“Nice to meet someone who is so informed.” Mindy shook hands.

“Well, I do what I do and know what I know,” Chase said, glancing to Julie as if to reestablish his warning to her, not to let on. In response Julie smiled. She sipped from her drink as if to quell her urge to reveal who Chase was.

“I know J-hon and Lewis,” Mindy explained. “I mean I know all of the guys, but I went to grade school with Lewis. J-hon and I used to date, but now we’re just like really good friends, you know?”

“I see,” Chase said. “They really have a way of working the crowd.”

“I have all their Mods. They are much better live than on card.”

“Some bands are,” Chase said. “I personally think that’s a gift. Live is the hardest way for a band to make it, but it’s also the only way for a band to make it in the long run.”

“J-hon told me almost exactly the same thing,” Mindy revealed with a smile.

“Then he knows. That’s a good sign.”

The band was preparing to end a song. Mindy predicted quite correctly that it was time for their break. The members left the stage and consumed enough water to satisfy the thirst they poured some water over their heads to help them cool down before toweling off the excess. J-hon and Lewis emerged from the door at the corner of the stage and joined Mindy, Julie and Chase at the table.

“This is Chase,” Mindy offered  “He seems to know a lot about the local music scene.”

“Are you a DJ or a promoter?” J-hon asked.

Chase shrugged at first, but then decided that it didn’t matter all that much anymore as he had seen enough to know what the band had. “You submitted a demo to Global Group.”

J-hon sat back. “And this is our shot?”

“I come unannounced. I watch the crowd and how you work the crowd. I’ll be very open and candid with you. I’m not into your music at all. I thought your demos were flat. But you can work a crowd and that forgives a lot of sins.”

J-hon said, “I like you, Chase. At least you are up front and friggin’ honest. That’s refreshingly rare in this business.”

“I never lie to a band. That’s my credential and I don’t want to ever tarnish it. If I’m promoting you, you are good enough to be promoted. The recordings can be fixed in post-production.”

“So, where do you think we’re failing?”

“Your sound is repetitive, especially the guitar riffs.”


“Your fans are your fans. So, they’ll be fine with that, but on worldwide tour you’ll be crushed for it. You have to innovate, experiment and mix it up.”

“They’re holding me and Lewis back. Lewis writes the lyrics.”

“Who are they?”

“The others in the band. They want things a certain way. A lot of our fan base loves them, though.”

“So you put up with them because they draw some of the crowd.”

“Yeah. Well, at some point, a band becomes a business venture, right?”

“Of course it does.”

“So, what are we doing right?”

“I like the lyrics,” Chase said even as he was offering his hand to Lewis for the first time. “Good stuff, sir. The petty bullshit with the other band members can be fixed.  There are thousands of percussionists and bassists as good as they are. A lot of rhythm section guys would give their right gonad for a chance to play on a worldwide tour. You tell them that. They adapt to a paradigm for success or they’re replaced. I know you can do more than you’re demonstrating. They don’t seem to want to play up to what you expect. “

“Thanks, I appreciate that level of support.”

“J-hon, it’s your band from what I understand. You have to deliver that message. If they give you flack, fire ‘em. I’ll find you replacements. That’s how this is going to work. This is what I need you to do for me,” Chase began, then paused for a few moments before continuing, using that time to finalize his suggestion. “The next set, you need to envision you’re performing before a large venue, beyond ten thousand capacity. You have to satisfy everyone in the crowd, including people who are tired of the same old lead riffs.”

J-hon stood up. “I can do that!”

“I know you can. You just need some horrendous asshole to tell you to do it. I’m that asshole.”

J-hon laughed. “Chase, you’re the man! What happens if I can pull this off?”

“You know how to work a crowd, so that’s not the question,” Chase said.  “If you pull this off, with or without the other guys in the band I’ll make it work for you. Lewis here seems to be onboard, so maybe we replace two people and we’re there. Then we can start rehearsals with new members just as soon as your last contractual obligations in Andromeda are fulfilled. After that, we get you out there on your first global tour.”

As the band returned to the stage, Mindy looked at Julie and then Chase, “You’re going to sign them.”

“I haven’t decided. I need to see what they do, now. If they come together, that’s great. I don’t like breaking up something that works, even if it is not working right. If it can be fixed without sacrificing people who know one another, then that’s the best way.”

“They really are good guys,” Mindy said.

“I know they are. It’s up to J-hon and Lewis to make it work as it is.”

When the evening concluded, Chase signed the band with all present members to a one-year tour agreement. Afterwards, Chase drove Julie back to her apartment, and dropped her off at the curb. As it was late, he remained watching as she entered the lobby just to ensure that she was safe. He called her the next day. He also sent her a card and flowers at her work. He called her that evening and asked her out for that weekend.

Their relationship began.


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Colonial Authority: Chapter 16 – Abiosis

**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.**

Paul led Chase deeper into the caverns, deeper than anyone outside of the organization was permitted to go without escort. “The place we are going is called ‘the sand crypt’. The engineers and researchers that first discovered this place arranged and catalogued the discoveries and created something of a mortuary where a large colony of sand-morphs once dwelled. It is not the largest colony discovered, but it is the first that was significant enough that anyone felt compelled to acknowledge it as a protected cavern, sealed and – under penalty of law – off limits by Colonial Authority decree.”

“Was that designed to assuage the authorities feelings of guilt?” Chase asked.

“More like it was an attempted cover-up. Of course, not all of the researchers agreed that the sand-morphs should be treated with respect and dignity but at least some did. Others were more greatly concerned with the possibility of disease from the rotting corpses. Organic silicon doesn’t seem to decay in the same way are carbon based organisms. Eventually the cellular structure loses integrity, and over time, the sand-morphs revert to a pile of sand. The process takes considerably longer than it takes for us to rot. It was determined that hermetically sealing the bodies in a tomb such as this can preserve the bodies almost indefinitely. Apparently the simple process of evaporation increases the rate of decay for organic silicon.”

“It is your plan to breathe life into this abiotic place.”

“The plan is to attempt the resurrection of one of these sand-morphs and that, if we are lucky, it may retain memory and be able to teach us how to read their language.”

“What if none of that works?”

“The alternative course is to find a viable medium for reconstructing organic silicon, essentially growing a sand-morph from its genetic code.”

“I’m still concerned about what happens if you succeed in bringing one of them back from the dead only to learn that it doesn’t want to be brought back? What if it doesn’t like humans?”

“It doesn’t change what’s right,” Paul said. “We are the interlopers, here. We don’t belong.”

“You were born here, same as me,” Chase said.

Paul turned toward him and pulled the orb from his pocket. “This is what matters to us. Finding everyone else that is like us is the priority so that the Couriers can dispense the orbs for us. We assume their burden, serving out a purpose that we don’t control. I’m not sure I like that, but it is what the Couriers have planned for longer than anyone alive remembers, except for them.”

“You would have all of us join your merry band and defy the Colonial Authority.”

“At least it is a purpose we can understand.”

“I understand what you want to do. It would even be an interesting experiment if in the unlikely event it actually worked. But without the others of our kind, without all of it anything that we do separately is doomed to failure. In an odd way, we are meant to do for humanity what you wish to do for the sand-morphs. We are here to breathe life into a dying species and retain its memories and technology. We are the future of mankind even though we are becoming barely like them.”

Paul sat down on a bench and looked at the wall of sealed tombs. “There are over a thousand of them inside, preserved. The official report stated there were over five thousand bodies found here. The majority were taken to the desert and buried in a mass grave. There is a climate monitoring station near the mountains that was constructed over the spot to prevent it from being disturbed.”

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and sand to sand,” Chase said.

Paul smiled as he looked up. “So, you are not on board with us.”

“No, not at all,” Chase replied. “I’m sorry, Paul. I know what you are trying to do and in a way it is admirable. If it wasn’t for my own goals and sense of purpose, I might join you. All that I can promise is I won’t interfere or sell you out.”

Paul stood. “I’ll see that you are taken back to Haven, at least as far as the outer gate. They’ll return your clothes to you at the climate monitoring station where you will again switch vehicles, of course. He started back up the path that led away from the chamber and through the caverns. Chase followed. When they had reached the outer most of the caverns, he turned to Chase and offered his hand. “I apologize for the level of security and precautions, but I’m sure you understand it is completely necessary.”

“I’m not put out by it. It has made for a very interesting outing.”

“When you speak to my sister, please let her know I’m alive and well.”

Chase nodded. “I wondered if you were aware of the relationship.”

“I was aware shortly after we met,” Paul revealed. “Does she know?”

“At least she suspects it. She is coming with her boyfriend to my place in Andromeda for a visit next week. I wanted for her to meet Julie, another one of us. I’ll fill her in on everything you are doing.”

“Perhaps she will join us.”

“Perhaps she will. It’ll be as it should be, though. She’ll need to make that decision.”

“I’m comfortable that she’ll make the best choice.”

“Her boyfriend is also one of us.”

“For her sake I hope he is the one for her.”

“Maybe he is, but Alix has been in the band with her for ten years and neither of them suspected that they had the attributes in common.”

“They have not been a couple all that long, then?”

“After she received the orb, they discovered the truth about one another.”

Paul laughed. “That would be quite a story to tell children.”

“That is if they are intended to be anything beyond close friends.”

“Yes, provided they are compatible,” Paul modified, and then again offered his hand to Chase.

“It was good meeting you.”

“I look forward to the possibilities of working together in the future.”

“If it’s meant to be.”

Paul nodded in response, and then turned back toward the cavern where the two of them first met.

Chase followed his escorts up to the last checkpoint where he surrendered his temporary security ID. Then, they led him from the cave and at the threshold he allowed the black hood to be placed over his head again before they hurried him on to the awaiting Puma.

On the way back to Haven, Chase had a good deal of time to mull over the conversation with Paul and what The Resurrection intended to do. He didn’t know if it was possible. He wasn’t concerned except that the unexpected always seemed to get in the way of best intentions. His overriding concern was that they were intending to do the right thing for the sand-morphs, but they would prove to be intelligent monsters over which no one would have any control.

As there was no conversation to distract him, Chase easily slipped into sleep. His nap on the return trip to Haven was only interrupted at the climate monitoring station where he changed back into his clothes along with others who he realized served as decoys. Then he was blindfolded. Once he was settled into a different Puma, he returned to his, sleeping until the Puma reached the parking lot on the beach just outside of Haven.

His blindfold was removed. As it was already night, he did not need protective lenses. He stepped out of the vehicle and walked toward the airlock on the causeway.

He didn’t want to go directly back to the hotel, though it was nearby. He hailed a floater coach for hire and rode to a restaurant where he and Cristina had enjoyed a meal during the last stay in Haven. It was a good place – a nice friendly atmosphere and the prices were reasonable for the portions of food.

They had live entertainment from time to time but it was Sunday. Tomorrow was a workday for most everyone in the world, and so there would not be enough of a draw to the restaurant to have a live band playing. It had been much the same with scheduling Cristina’s band the first few weeks of the tour, until they finally reached some cities where they had played before in clubs that remembered them.

When he finished eating he was still not tired. He had rested a lot on the drive home from the mountains. So, he decided to go for a walk.

The streets were quiet. The moonlight was bright enough to compliment the streetlights even in the darker areas between buildings and where the trees blocked the light. He wondered what it would be like once the domes were finally dismantled.

There was a time in his youth when an instructor had promised that at some point in his lifetime he would see that day. He remembered thinking his instructor was crazy. Every morning of his youth he woke to a sky literally filled with green clouds, a few red clouds but the entire atmosphere had a nebulous green tinge to it. His father told him that without the breathing filters he would die within a few minutes from a poisonous gas called di-hydrogen sulfide.

It was now possible to breathe the atmosphere for brief periods without filtering, although no one recommended it. There were still areas of the surface where because of wind currents the concentrations of poisonous gasses were too intense for humans, but there had been reports of some people ‘roughing it’ and surviving.

The Colonial Authority did not recommend or condone such dangerous behavior, but it had become something of a right of passage for the teens. In a way, the public statements of the Colonial Authority were taken as a dare. To prove ‘kewlness’, kids had to go outside the dome for ten minutes, without breathing filters. Once one teen survived, and the word got out, it became something to do, an act of defiance in the face of authority.

Chase figured it was not as grave a risk as the Colonial Authority was making it out to be. Still, no one wanted to risk the news of hundreds of teens dying when a freak wind current swept enough of the poisonous gases their way. He chuckled to himself, feeling a bit older than he really was. Recalling his youth when the poison lingering close to the surface with the morning mists, no one in his or her right mind would have gone out in that without a full protective suit, including mask with goggles and breathing filters. He was born in Haven, in a very different time.