**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.