**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.**
The festive mood of the evening was over. The prevailing spirit of the first real night in town rapidly evaporated once Chase and Alix returned from the restroom, each of them obviously stressed and injured. Chase had obviously sustained some lingering harm that would take some time to heal. Except for a cut and a couple of bruises Alix seemed fine.
Julie and Cristina sat and talked to their boyfriends. Alix asked Cristina to dance, maybe attempting to lighten the mood, but certainly to assuage her concerns and demonstrate that he was fine. They danced for nearly thirty minutes while Chase and Julie lingered at the table, talking.
Obviously, Julie was highly concerned. Chase was still bleeding from a cut on his lip and another on his forehead. Otherwise he seemed to be under control. Chase kept trying to reassure her that it was mere intimidation. It was a warning. As long as he didn’t do anything to draw further suspicion, everything would be fine. “It would be paranoia to think that every agent of the Colonial Authority is after me.”
“It’s only paranoia if you’re not being followed,” Julie countered.
Chase considered her words. Maybe he always had been followed. Perhaps all of them had. Each who possessed the attributes had been under some level of surveillance. The Couriers, whoever they were, knew about them. That concerned Julie. Were they involved?
When Cristina and Alix returned to the table, an instant silence greeted them. It seemed as if Julie and Chase had nothing to say to anyone, even between them as they sat there not wanting to profane the air with what was worrying them that the troubles had come once Cristina and Alix arrived.
It could not be coincidence. Long since she decided there were no coincidences. Each of them learned that single lesson over time. Everything happened for some purpose. Since Cristina and Alix came to visit, the weight of world seemed to be descending upon the four of them. That worried Julie. She wanted to protect Chase. Also she wanted to be a good friend to Cristina and Alix, but she believed the immediate situation was largely their blame. People noticed them. The authorities were obviously paying attention to them.
Alix looked across the table piercing the silence as he asked, “What is Paul doing that provoked so much interest, especially in us? I have personally never met the guy.”
“I met him briefly. Then he called me and we talked for a fairly long time. But I would not even begin to claim that I know him,” Cristina said.
“Before a week ago I could not have told you anything about Paul,” Chase explained. “Cristina met him in Haven the morning after our last gig there. I saw the two of them talking as I was coming over the rise in the bridge on the causeway.”
“I have since learned that he is my twin brother,” Cristina said. “The orbs showed me the truth. I had never met him before that morning on the causeway, at least not that I recall. I never knew that he was my brother until after Raven gave me the damned orb. Since that morning, it seems like my whole life has been turned sideways. I’ve not really been the same old me since.”
Alix looked at her, but then lowered his eyes.
“Some things that have changed are okay with me,” she said for his benefit. “Without the orb, maybe we would have never started talking. It’s just that everything else is topsy-turvy.”
“Did Paul say anything to you about what he is doing?” Alix asked.
“I talked to him briefly. It had nothing to do with anything except I had the distinct feeling that he was flirting with me. I get that sometimes. You must get that too, Julie.”
“Yeah, sometimes. But from your brother?” Julie asked.
“He didn’t realize their relationship until later,” Chase offered.
“Neither did I,” Cristina said. “I thought he was kind of cute, definitely Italian. I admit I was attracted to him in some ways.”
“He’s one of us,” Julie said.
“He has the attributes,” Chase confirmed.
Mo checked on them yet again, ensuring that they didn’t need anything before her shift ended. She said goodbye and thanked them again for taking a picture and sending it to her. Another table hailed her for drinks and hopefully tips as she worked her way back toward the bar and the end of her shift.
“I don’t know. Maybe it is me but that could get to be annoying,” Chase commented. “We know her a bit, now but all the attention…”
“She makes absolute crap for wages and she depends on the tips,” Cristina said. “I know. I was a waitress when I was in college. It sucks. And people like us who are just sitting here, taking up a table and not buying anything really do nothing for her.”
“Yeah, we have been hogging her table all night,” Julie said. “But she checked on us regularly. She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.”
“Exactly,” Cristina said.
“I’ll give her a good tip then,” Chase said.
“It needs to be more than the paltry sum you usually dole out,” Julie said.
“Trust me, I got it. Are you guys ready to go then?”
“Yeah, I think this night played out a long time ago,” Alix said.
As the others walked toward the door Chase walked up behind Maureen and tapped her on the shoulder. “We’re leaving. It was very nice meeting you and thanks again for your support of the band. I just wanted to thank you for your attentive service and if you are ready to receive on your end, I’d like to leave you a tip.”
“Uh, yeah okay, thanks,” she said, mildly surprised and then as she paused and looked down at her payment wand. “Okay, I’m all set to receive.”
Chase executed a payment, and then turned and started to walk away.
“Chase,” he reminded her as he turned around.
“I think you made a mistake. I mean really, maybe one zero too many.”
“There was no mistake, hon. Enjoy.”
“Thank you. I mean that’s really generous.”
“You work hard,” Chase said as he turned around. Then speaking over his shoulder “Tomorrow, go treat yourself to something special, something you never would do otherwise.”
She smiled, “Mister…Chase, really I appreciate it. I mean, I feel bad like maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention after you stopped ordering drinks.”
“You were fine,” Chase countered as he joined the others at the exit.
“How much did you give her as a tip?” Julie’s brow furrowed as she asked.
“My finger slipped, okay.”
Julie laughed. “Three figure’s worth?”
He nodded. “Hey, it was on the promotional account. It’ll get buried anyway.”
Alix chuckled. “Next time you come in here, she’ll be all over you with service.”
“Yeah, well the only way Chase is coming in here again is with me,” Julie stated emphatically. “I certainly don’t want Ms Mo throwing herself at my hon.”
“I can live with that restriction. I don’t have fond memories of the place.”
Julie flashed an insincere smile while Alix and Cristina observed.
Julie seized the remote for the coach from Chase and retrieved the coach from the docking station. As it pulled up to the curb outside the club, the door opened inviting them to climb inside. Chase waited for Cristina and then Alix to get seated then he waited for Julie to get situated at the console before he climbed in and sat down.
It was a very short distance back to the apartment. Chase was grateful that he didn’t have to walk. His body hurt whenever he drew a deep breath. He thought he might have a bruised or broken rib. His head ached, but mainly he wanted to stretch out and try not to move for a while.
Julie kept looking across the console at him, concerned that he was being brave and not telling her the extent of his injuries. She hoped he would be okay, but she could sense his pain. Still, she knew him too well. He wouldn’t go to a clinic right away. He’d wait for a couple of days, and go only if he wasn’t getting better. She’d already decided that in the morning if he was not his usual self she would insist he seek professional attention.
In the back seat of the coach, Cristina was resting her head on Alix’s shoulder as they talked quietly. They also noticed Chase’s mood. They had been on tour with him for over a year and knew him well. Chase was always positive, always in control of the situation. Now, there was a difference. He seemed apprehensive and frightened.
They arrived at the curb outside of the apartment building and exited. By the time Julie docked the coach at the apartment’s garage Alix and Cristina were already inside and had summoned the elevator. Chase waited behind for Julie and bit back the pain he felt at opening the door as she approached.
“Are you feeling okay?” She asked him quietly as she took his hand and started toward where Alix and Cristina were waiting.
“I feel great for someone who had the kick shit out of him.”
Alix laughed at how Chase turned the phrase in his effort to marginalize the situation and how much pain he was in.
Julie glared at him.
“That’s it isn’t it? Your ego is bruised at least as badly as your ribs,” Julie protested.
“I kind of think the ribs are a little more bruised at the moment,” Chase offered.
“Maybe you can take a hot bath and soak in the tub.”
“Yeah, that’ll help.” He hoped.
When the elevator reached their floor and all exited, Cristina had an unusual sensation, unlike any that she had before. “Uh, wait,” she warned as at first tugged at Alix’s arm. Then, she proclaimed to the others. “There’s something wrong.”
“What?” Julie turned, and then, after seeing the conviction in her eyes, she halted her advance toward the apartment door.
“I don’t know what it is, but something’s not right.”
“The men from the club?” Chase asked.
“I don’t know,” she admitted.
“Do you get these feelings often?” Julie asked.
“Not often, but sometimes. I always pay attention to them.”
“Look, what say you gals stay right here. Let Chase and I be macho and go check it out,” Alix offered.
“With all due respect for your macho, mine was dislocated a little earlier and I think in the process much of my testosterone in reserve spilled out as well,” Chase said. “Look if Cristina feels something, that’s good enough for me. I think we should call building security, just to be on the safe side. Let the people handle it who get paid to do it.”
Julie agreed and had already activated her implanted phone and the holographic projection in her palm to ring building security. A few minutes elapsed while they waited in the hallway outside of the elevators for security to arrive. Then the doors opened and two uniformed men stepped off the elevator as Julie explained to them that Chase had been accosted in a club. Then, she lied that he couldn’t find his remote that operated all the locks and appliances in the apartment, so they were worried that the men who had attacked him might be in the apartment.
Julie handed one of the security officers her remote and they went to the apartment and clicked the door open. Upon opening the door, both officers ran into the apartment with urgency and lingered for what seemed a long time. Finally, one of them emerged and motioned for Julie to come toward him. He spoke directly to her for a bit, and then went back inside the apartment.
“What is it?” Chase asked as Julie returned to the group.
“There was a break-in. They saw two men leaving from the patio. They called the Colonial Authority to send detectives.
“Great, just great!” Chase groaned sarcastically. “They may as well call the guys who broke in.”
Alix corralled Cristina’s shoulders, hugging her as he said, “You probably saved someone a major ass kicking, maybe me.”
“Or me,” Chase said. “Anyway, thanks.”
“I would like to do something special to those bozos that attacked you,” Alix said. “I mean if they had not blindsided us, I think we could have taken them.”
Chase laughed, but then winced. “I’m afraid there is very little fight left in me at the moment.”
When the officers from the Colonial Authority arrived, they took pictures, checked for fingerprints, and interviewed each one of them. It took a couple of hours. Chase sensed it was intended to be a good show. Even if the officers were not aware of the covert operations of their own agents, there would be nothing found, no evidence to point to the perpetrators. It was a necessary exercise perhaps, but the result was expected. With nothing to go on, searching for the culprits was futile.
The break-in was accomplished from the balcony. There were still ropes and grappling hooks hanging down from the railing. It was pretty obvious whoever broke in was professional, another reason why there would be no clues left behind.
The interior of the apartment was ransacked. Obviously, whoever it was looked for something specific. Nothing had been stolen but a lot of things were ruined.
After the officers left, Chase and Julie worked at putting the apartment back together while Cristina and Alix cleaned up the broken dishes and glasses from the kitchen.
It was the wee hours of the morning before the apartment was back to any semblance of order. Chase and Julie sat at the table talking quietly while Cristina and Alix showered. Then while they were getting ready for bed, Julie and Chase showered. Afterwards, Julie applied a stretch bandage to Chase’s ribs before the two of them also retired for the night.
Because of the events of the previous night it was very late in the morning before anyone woke. All night long Chase found it difficult to get comfortable and sleep. By morning, apparently he was worn out enough to pass out. He was still snoring when Julie got up. She was glad she had taken a few days off from work to spend time with Cristina and Alix.
As she checked and listened to her messages, learning she needed to go to the office to get a couple of things wrapped up, things she believed were completed already but someone above her in the corporate food chain changed something at the last moment.
She called her administrative assistant to find out how everything was going. Of course, it was a disaster because she hadn’t been there for a couple of days.
When she showered and got dressed, she went to the kitchen to fix a quick lunch to take with her and toasted a bagel and spread cream cheese over it just to tide her over on the way. By the time she was done, Cristina was also awake.
“I have to go to work,” Julie said apologetically. “I should ask for a raise. They can’t seem to get along without me.”
“How’s Chase?” Cristina asked.
“He had a rough night, getting comfortable and all. You know?”
“I can imagine.”
“He’s sleeping now so maybe he’ll rest all day. How is Alix?”
“Alix wants to go out tonight, but maybe we shouldn’t,” she said.
“You guys can go wherever you want. I don’t think Chase will be going out for a few days. But that shouldn’t hold you back.”
“Maybe someone needs to be here with him, just in case.”
“Yeah,” Julie nodded. “Anyway, I’ll be back around seven or eight. That should give you two time to go out and have some fun. Don’t let last night bother you. I have lived here all my life and that’s the first time that anything like that has ever happened to anyone I’ve been with.”
When Julie left, Cristina made a simple breakfast of some buttered toast and juice. She sat at the table to enjoy it as she checked world viewer to see if anything was going on in the larger world. After she searched the channels for anything interesting, she opted to listen to some music instead. By then Alix was awake and greeted her with a half intelligible, “G’mornin’,” on his way into the kitchen where he rummaged through the cabinets and refrigerator for something to curb his appetite.
“Do you want me to fix something for you?” Cristina offered.
“No, I got it, hon. I’ll have what you’re having. That’s really all I need.”
When he had buttered his toast and poured juice into a glass he joined her at the table. Before taking a seat he kissed her on the cheek. “After last night it seems very calm and quiet,” he said.
“I’ll take calm and quiet,” she responded.
“Yeah, that was kind of nuts. I’ve been thinking about it. What was the purpose?”
“They’re looking for anything about Paul,” Chase revealed his suspicion as he entered the room. “So, where’s Julie?”
“She went to the office.”
“She has the nerve to tell me to take time off.”
“I’m sorry if we woke you,” Alix said.
“I got enough sleep. You know me, a couple of hours and I’m golden.”
“How do the ribs feel?” Cristina asked.
“Sore as hell,” Chase admitted, “But only when I breathe.”
“Why do you think they would be looking here?” Alix asked.
“They want to know where he is. They think I know. Maybe they suspect you two as well.”
“I’m not sure it’s safe to talk here anymore,” Cristina whispered.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Chase said as he walked into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from a pitcher obtained from the refrigerator. He popped some tablets of painkiller into his mouth. “I have nothing to hide,” he continued after swallowing. “Yeah, so I’ve met Paul. Cristina met him once, talked to him on the phone. Until last week neither of us ever heard of the guy. We have done absolutely nothing wrong. But to them I guess we’re guilty by mere association.”
“What’s Paul doing that is illegal?” Alix asked.
“Actually nothing he’s doing is illegal, just that it is contrary to the wishes of the Colonial Authority,” Chase explained. “Even within the Colonial Authority there is division over the matters that Paul’s group is dealing with.”
“What group?” Cristina asked.
“The Colonial Authority believes he belongs to something clandestine called The Resurrection. I got that news when they detained and questioned me in Haven.”
“That’s an interesting choice of names. I suppose they are interested in bringing someone back from the dead.” Alix said.
“Not someone, some things.”
“Sand-morphs,” Cristina offered.
“Score!” Chase exclaimed.
“They’re silicon-based life, something the engineers never in their wildest imaginations thought to check for when they were surveying the planet for terraform viability.”
“They killed them all the same,” Cristina protested.
“It was unintentional.”
“Regardless of intention, it is still murder,” Alix sided with Cristina. “It only varies by degree.”
“I think the whole thing is well past the time for accusations, recriminations or finger pointing. It was wrong, but I don’t think anyone knew it was going to happen. It was only after the fact the blame got spread around for enough of the Colonial Authority that they are willing to trample what civil rights we have. The reason no one except for a few people has ever heard of sand-morphs expect for childhood myths is the information about them has been suppressed from the public. Some of their bodies have been preserved. You see, they don’t decay in the same way as we do when we die. Apparently their cell structure maintains integrity for a fairly long time. And that may allow them to be brought back to life.”
“Hence the name of the organization,” Alix said.
“I’m not sure what Paul’s group is really called or what else they’re up to, only they intend to bring at least one of the sand-morphs back to life. It frightens me a good bit.”
“Why?” Alix asked.
“What if sand-morphs are not peaceful, tolerant beings?” Cristina asked.
“What if they are like us in that regard, you mean,” Alix said.
“Exactly,” Chase said. “Right on both counts.”
“We don’t have a great record of tolerating one another let alone sharing a planet with a completely different form of life,” Cristina said.
“I’m not sure we should even be thinking of sharing the world,” Chase said. “Wasn’t it their world?”
“They used to call it Manifest Destiny,” Cristina said. “It was used as a doctrine in 19th Century America to justify taking land from the Native Americans.”
“At least the Americans made an excuse and gave it the semblance of a legal doctrine before stealing their land,” Chase said.
“Very little difference than stealing their gold and silver and forcing them into slavery,” Alix said.
“The colonial period on Earth was rarely about fairness and equity,” Cristina said. “Why should it come as a surprise that we are any different? Is it because we’ve had a few hundred years to perfect our excuses?”
“What the Colonial Authority is doing is trying to pretend it never happened at all and hoping the issue will go away. They have imprisoned and deported people just to keep it quiet. They’ve been effective. Until a couple of weeks ago none of us had any idea that anything like this was possible let alone going on just under the surface of daily life.”
“What if they succeed in resurrecting a sand-morph? What’s the point?” Alix asked.
“One of the things the Colonial Authority has wanted to suppress is how advanced the sand-morphs civilization was. They were intelligent. They had a written language. No only are there are indications they lived in tribes, but also they had something of a government amongst the tribes,” Chase detailed.
“Do you have any idea the sort of impact that would have if it became common knowledge?” Cristina asked.
“For the sake of terraforming a place for us to live, we terminated an entire race and their culture, and a lot of other innocent life as well.”
“Even if The Resurrection succeeds in bringing one back to life, would it remember anything?”
“It’s not for certain. It’s a hope. Maybe the language can be learned from them and something about their history. Some people have done a lot of research already. They have been able to make some educated guesses about their language. It’s how they know they lived in tribes and had a government. But there are a lot of things no one knows about them, maybe they knew things people need to know if we’re to survive.”
“Paul wanted you to join them?” Cristina asked.
“He made a pitch. He wants for all of us to join him,” Chase paused then after clearing his throat and taking a deep breath he continued. “I said, no. Not yet, anyway. I’m not sure I agree with their goals or their methods, but I’m sure he will try to recruit both you and Alix, Julie too – everyone with the attributes. He’s convinced this is what we need to do. He sees it as our commonly shared special purpose.”