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Colonial Authority: Chapter 28 – The Sojourn Begins

**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.**

Cristina was surprised at how quickly her call was answered. She recognized Dom’s voice. “This is Cristina,” she said. “I need to talk to Raven.”

“The Master is expecting your call.”

“Uh, well I’m not sure how? Tell him I need a favor from him, please.”

In the background she could hear Dom walking, and then he knocked on a door and opened it. “Master, Cristina is on the phone.”



“There is something interesting in the symmetry, don’t you think, Dom?”

“As you say, it is interesting, Master.”

“Give me the handset,” he reached out his hand for Dom to deliver it. “Cristina, I wish I could say this is an unexpected surprise, but you wouldn’t understand why it’s not.”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

“You need a favor.”

“I suppose you could have guessed that.”

“You’re right, I could have,” Raven said.

“I thought that maybe you would be able to put Alix and me up for a couple of days. But if it is too great an inconvenience…”

“Consider it already done.” Raven said. “I have more than ample room to accommodate you as well as your boyfriend. I might ask why you are you coming here, but I won’t.”

“As much as I would like to tell you that we are coming to visit with you that would be a lie.”

“Your brother was here, earlier.”

“I was playing with the orb and it showed me what happened at the railcar station.”

Raven sighed. “Perhaps there are things at work that I’m not aware of. Look, you and your boyfriend are welcome here on the condition that you leave me alone unless I initiate the contact and engage the conversation. Dom is more than capable of attending to your every need. He has been with me for more years than I wish to recall. I’m not sure what I would do without him. He can do anything that I would do for a guest.”

“I appreciate your hospitality.”

“It’s an invitation at this point, but also I have committed to it so it is an obligation for me so long as you do not involve me with your brother’s nefarious activities.”

“I won’t. I only want to talk to him.”

“Well, then maybe there’s some modicum of hope left in the world, that the sister can talk the brother into abandoning his ill-conceived plans.”

“I can’t promise anything.”

“Then tell him you are his last hope of reaching his full potential. Maybe he will listen to that. Anyway, you’re welcome to come. You know the way to my place, of course. In Star City there is little need of meeting anyone at the station.”

The call disconnected before Cristina could tap her lobe.

“I’m impressed,” Chase said as all along he was lurking, listening in the background. “I didn’t think you would have any hope.”

“I can be very persuasive when I have to be.”

“I see that. There seems to always be something new about you to marvel at.”

Cristina chuckled. “If I didn’t know better I’d call that a flirt.”

“Julie would kill me.”

“Kill us both, more than likely,” Cristina said.

“Not to mention what I would do,” Alix said as he emerged from the bedroom.

“As sexy as that towel-wrapped look is for you, hon, I think that maybe you should get dressed before you stimulate anyone any further.”

Chase smiled as he looked away while she joined Alix and the two of them walked to the bedroom and closed the door behind them.

“I was being serious,” Alix said.

“You were being a man. I’m okay with that to an extent but there is a boundary that cannot be transgressed when a friend is involved.”

“I know as well as you do that had Chase never met Julie and did not feel the obligation toward her, he would have been all over you.”

“Maybe he fought falling in love throughout the tour. I believe in professional decorum, same as you and the other guys in the band. The more he knew me, the worse it got. Even so, he loves and respects Julie. She became the unassailable barrier. I don’t understand how he has feelings for both of us but he does. The orb tells me the truth. Still, Julie is his first love and the only one he desires.”

“I understand,” Alix said. “When I look at her I see what everyone else does.”

“You’re attracted.”

“How could I not be, but it is probably the same thing Chase feels that prevents it from going any further with you. Now, I realize you are my life, Cristina. Without you I’m nothing.”

When the two of them embraced and kissed, they set about wrapping up the details for their imminent departure.

Alix took a couple of deep breaths before he opened the bedroom door. He felt compelled to say some things to Chase, regarding Cristina. Just he didn’t know how to break that thick ice.

“You ready?” Chase asked.

“Just about.”

“Look, I have to give you some advice, okay. So, just listen. Cristina is beautiful and talented so she’s always going to gain attention.”

“I get that, Chase. It’s not like I haven’t witnessed that for the past ten years.”

“You can’t be jealous of the attention others give to her. If she’s always devoted to you, that’s your answer.”

“I know I have to get used to the way people look at her. I’m jealous and overly protective of her. Maybe that’s understandable in some ways, But it’s also wrong because I fully trust her. We have a relationship that’s continuing to develop and maybe I’m further along in it than she is at the moment. I know I would give my life to save hers. It’s mostly that I don’t trust anyone else but her.”

Chase nodded, and then offered his hand. “You’re the right one to protect her, then,” he said. “She chose the right one.”

Alix accepted Chase’s handshake, but then Alix pulled him in closer. “You ever intrude or do anything to hurt her, it will be the last thing you ever do.”

Chase nodded, but then smiled, “You have not practiced with the orbs. How do you know what you are capable of doing to defend her?”

Alix turned his back on Chase and walking back toward the room where he was packing. As he did Chase’s hair erupted into flames that Chase immediately slapped with his hands in an attempt to smother the flames as he hurried into the kitchen an, leaning over, poured water from the sink’s faucet directly over his head, dousing the flames.

“You’ve been practicing,” Chase called out to him.

“Just a bit,” Alix replied from the bedroom.

“Next time I would appreciate a bit more warning before you light my hair.”

“I can do that,” Alix said as he arrived and door casing. Cristina looked up. “Mainly, I practice when I’m bored or in the bathroom,” he further explained.

“Do what?” Cristina asked as he entered the room, prompting them both to laugh as he realized how what he said could have been taken out of context.

“Playing with the orb,” he said as he closed the door behind him.

“I was worried you were playing with something else.”

Alix chuckled. “Never whenever I’m with you.”

“You better not. It is mine, you know.”

“Yeah, I sort of got that message loud and clear already.”

“I have never seen you playing with the orb.”

“For some reason it feels silly to me unless I’m all confined and alone. Then I can concentrate.”

Cristina nodded. “Maybe I can understand some of that. I thought it was a silly exercise at first.”

“Well, so did I,” Alix said. “But from playing with it, I have learned a lot about me. I have learned a little about you, Chase and Julie – even Pete but most of it has been about me.”

“Pete is one of us, then.”

“Yeah,” Alix confirmed, adding a nod for emphasis.

“He’ll need an orb then. Maybe we can mention him to Raven.”

“They already suspected his differences. I think he has an orb already,” Alix said.

Cristina glared at him, and then recalled a previous conversation that she had with Chase and wondered if Alix was even within earshot. “You told?”

“I believed that I had to,” Alix said. “It really is important to us, all of us not just you and me.”

Cristina sat back.

“You’re angry?”

“I think you should have told me that you did that. Pete is not only your friend! “

In response, Alix hung his head.

“We have to be one team, one mind,” Cristina said. “We’re all one band, one group. That’s what we have to achieve.”

“I hear you,” Alix said.

“You hear, but are you listening?”

Alix took a step back from her. Then in the palm of his hand there emerged a single flame. He looked into her eyes. Startled, she kept glancing down to the flame. “I have not told you the things I’ve learned,” he said as he folded the flame into oblivion, turning away from her.


“Just let me cool off before you tell me how wrong it is that I’ve not told you. There are things that you don’t know about me, okay?”

“Maybe in time we’ll learn more about each other. It’s just I feel like you sidestepped me. That’s why I’m angry.”

“Let it go for a bit. Whatever you’re doing is provoking an unintended response.”

“It’s hard.”

“Relax. Calm down,” Alix told her, but he was saying it as much to himself. He took several deep breaths. “I have way too much rage pent up inside of me.”

Cristina looked at him and understood the truth in his warning. She took deep breaths and closed her eyes. “I’m calming down.”


“I love you too much.”

Alix nodded as he took several more deep breaths, but also he took a couple of more steps back as he still felt the heat of her rage.



Blog, College, college life, fun, funny, hijinx, humor, hygiene, life, Uncategorized, uncomfortable, Writing

College Hijinx, Personal Hygiene, and Some Ugly Truths

As a rule, guys aren’t all that focused on cleanliness, especially before they start serious relationships with women. Then guys want to smell good, look good and follow everything else they are being trained to do, albeit with some backsliding moments.

You might think that some guys start playing the role at college, but from my experience nothing could be farther from the truth. For example, the frat I belonged to at Purdue was kind of like Animal House with a better-looking building to live in. It has a social area that sort of resembled a Pizza Hut that jutted out from in front of the dorm building. We were in the Tower Acres, which I know sounds really nice and exclusive. In reality, the “Tower” was the campus water tower, which stood atop Slater Hill. My frat house sat on the hillside lot directly beneath it. Of course, we were the black sheep fraternity of the neighborhood.

I fit right in, really. As my first spring semester ended, I moved in from the dorm where I’d lived as a Freshman. There was a dozen or so guys living in the frat house over the summer to attend summer school and/or work. Most of them lived in the frat year-round, I learned. I got a part-time job working at a local hi-fi store. It was convenient. I earned money at the store but turned around and spent most of it on stereo equipment and the latest LPs, which were sold at a record store that was conveniently located next door. Since the store didn’t open until 10 AM, I could sleep in a bit on the days I didn’t have classes. For summer I usually took two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and I worked at the store for the noon hour and in the evening until closing.

Teenage guys also have a lot more stamina about staying up later and such.  I don’t think I ever made it to bed before midnight. Often it was past 3AM.

I’d like to say I spent all that time writing, but usually not. I fancied myself an aspiring author, but I was into that concept of “everything I do is being a writer”. Still, as it turns out the life I led generated several characters for my future writing and created some interesting scenarios to explore as well. So, I guess it is true that a writer is always writing.

The second summer, we had a party over the 4th of July weekend. We bought multiple slip and slides and stretched them down the hill in our frat house’s front yard. At the end we piled some spare waterproof (plastic covered) mattresses to prevent us from tumbling out into the street. Yeah, all that was my idea. And somehow, reaching speed approaching 50 miles per hour while stretched out on your stomach or, worse, trying to surf down the hill standing upright seemed like a lot of fun. I even invited the girl I was dating at the time, she was in my radio production class. It was pretty cool. She and I worked on projects together and had a lot of fun. Little did I know that some of the guys in my frat took exception to be dating a black girl. They never said anything to my face.

It took a while for me to convince her that it was safe to slide down the hill. After showing her how to do it with several practice-runs of my own— and having consumed a couple of beers in the process— she was up for it. But she insisted I go first. So, I did, but toward the bottom of the hill a huge mud puddle had already formed, just in from of the mattresses. As I reached that, my feet came out from under me and I did a summersault with my feet winding up on the mattress and the rest of body, from the knees up were partially submerged in the puddle. into the mattresses.

Already, even before I’d landed, my girlfriend had started down the hill. Seeing that, I scrambled to get up, but slipped and fell backwards again, just in time for her to knock me back down with her bikini clad bottom resting on my face. You can imagine the howling laughter. And, in retrospect it was pretty funny. Both she and I were laughing too, that is until a couple of my frat brothers mentioned chocolate pie.

We remained friends after that and continued to work on projects together for class, though we did it at her place. But we didn’t really date anymore. I blamed those two frat brothers for that. One was nicknamed Cooker and went by his real given name, Larry. I never forgot about that, nor forgave them.

The summer of my junior year, my fraternity Big Brother, Brad, who lived next door to me, was attending summer school so that he could make up a course he’d had to drop earlier in the year. Both of us were a bit overweight. Hey, it happens in college. All the calories from beer and pizza is hard to burn off, you know? So, we decided that every night, around midnight, we’d go for a jog. Then we’d come back, shower and settle in to watch Star Trek reruns that aired around 2AM. As I recall, consuming a six pack before running was fairly common. And sometimes there were a few follow up brews shares while watching the show.

How does all this relate to personal hygiene? Well, you see, I used the same pair of sweat socks all summer— just about, anyway. After jogging, I just hung them over the rail in my closet and let them dry out, ostensibly because I didn’t want the wetness to corrupt the semi-dry clothes in the laundry bag. Sometimes I went for a month between doing laundry. That’s normal for college kids, right?

I guess, I sort of forgot about throwing the socks in the wash, because they were my favorite ones for running. They had thick soles that padded my feet nicely in the New Balance running shoes I wore. After a month of running every night, they became a little crusty and stiff. But once they were on, that went away. Then, somewhere during the second month, after running and showring, Brad came over as usual to watch Star Trek. But he started sniffing and complained about something smelling pretty-bad in my closet, so bad that it was penetrating the door and the pungent odor was saturating the room. After searching for the source, I determined it was my favorite running socks.

“I’ll have to wash them,” I guess.”

“What do you mean? You haven’t washed them lately?”

“They are my favorite socks for running. I only have the one pair.”

“So, when was the last time you washed them?” He asked.

“That would have to be before we started jogging every night.”

“Holy crap! Are you kidding me?”

From the blank expression on my face he knew I wasn’t.

“Look, I’ll buy you another pair. We need to get rid of those.”

“What? Just throw them away?”

“No, something that ripe needs to be put to good use,” Brad said.

“What do you have in mind?”

“You’ve got a master key, right?”

“Yeah, in case the fire department comes for an inspection over the summer.” As the only member staying for the summer who was a fraternity officer (I was social director if you can believe that) the responsibility fell to me.

“You want to get even with your friends from last summer?”

Of course, I’d told Brad about the 4th of July fiasco, so I knew exactly what he was referring to. “Yeah.”

Larry and Cooker shared their room for the summer with John, another brother who, like Brad, was making up a course over the summer but wasn’t a usual year-round brother in residence. They had an air conditioner in their window. Brad and I only had box fans. So there wa a bit of jealousy right there.

“Let’s sneak down there, open the door really quiet like, and toss the socks inside.”

I laughed. “That might actually kill them.”

“No, it won’t but they’ll wake up wondering what did die in their room.”

I continued to laugh.

Around 4AM, Both Brad and I had settled enough that we weren’t laughing in anticipation of what we were about to do. The execution of the plan was flawless. I slipped the key into the lock, opened the door, tossed in the socks, and carefully closed it.

The next day I woke, went to class, then to work, and afterward to my afternoon class before going back to work, just like had been my routine all summer. In the evening, when I came back to the frat, I entered the back stairwell, the one closest to my room. There were two stairwells, the other one was closed off because no one lived on that end of the building for the summer.

What hit me was the smell of many flavors of aftershave, as if multiple bottles had been broken on the floor or something. Having forgotten completely about what Brad and I did on the night before I ascended the stairs two and at time looking for the source of the overindulgent smell. Cooker and Larry’s room was open with a box fan blowing out into the hallway, John was inside.

“What the hell happened?” I said.

“I don’t know where it came from, but there was a really bad smell in the room, this morning. We looked everywhere for it and finally found a pair of rancid sweat socks.”

I nearly lost it, but I held in my guffaw. It hurt, though. And it wasn’t right that John suffered the indignity of his roommates, but over the years, I had a couple of run-ins with him as well. So, I didn’t feel all that bad.

When I regained my composure enough to speak, I asked. “What did you do with them?”

“There in the far stairwell. We tossed them down there and closed to door behind.”

When Brad came home from work and asked me why the frat house smelled like a bunch of teenage boys at their first dance, I told him what happened. And, we never mentioned it or told anyone what we did.

When the other brothers came back from summer and started moving back in to their rooms for the fall semester, the other stairwell was opened, and the socks and their lingering odor was discovered. This time the solution was air freshener… and lots of it.

Greg was another of my frat bros who was an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet, and a little crazy at times, was taking advantage of his GI Bill Benefits to get his degree. He seized the opportunity to don his old camouflage uniform replete with face paint and gas mask, to remove the offensive socks from the stairwell. When I found out, I asked him what he did with the socks.

“It was a successful mission. I used a rake to pick them up and I carried them into the woods next door. There I buried them, fairly deep.”

“Won’t that kill a tree or something?”

“Unfortunately, some sacrifices needed to be made.”

Blues, Led Zep, Led Zeppelin, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized

Music Review of Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires EP (2017)

It’s been a while since I wrote an album review. I think the last one I did was for Them Crooked Vultures, which ironically has a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, in the line up. Anyway, I think that it’s a commentary on how dull and unimaginative most music of late that I haven’t been compelled for critique a band for a while. Have you ever noticed how the mainstream of pop music is pretty-much cookie-cutter, formula-driven drivel? Yes, there are exceptions. And sure, I’m an old fart and as a rule we always say stuff like that. The old farts of my time said the same about the music I grew up with. But the other day I happened upon something kind of exciting and exceptional, in a throwback sort of way. It’s bluesy and hard driving, and what the heck, Josh, the lead singer, sounds more like Robert Plant than the Led Zeppelin front man has for decades.


The band is called Greta Van Fleet. They’re out of a little town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. The name is borrowed from a town matriarch whose real name is Gretna. The octogenarian attended one of group’s concerts and gave the band her blessing on using the modified name. Three members of the band are brothers:  Joshua Kiszka, Jacob Kiszka, and Samuel Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner on drums. The brothers grew up listening to the blues. Their father plays a mean harmonica, from what I hear, and has an extensive vinyl collection that the boys all but wore out as they were growing up.


The band has two current recordings available, the first is a four track EP titled Black Smoke Rising (4/2017) and the second an 8 track EP that combines the previous work with 4 additional tunes, titled From The Fires (11/17). Note, original drummer Kyle Hauck appears on some of the band’s earliest live recordings with the present drummer, Danny Wagner appearing on the most recent studio releases. Most of the songs on the EP are original material, which is exciting, since the band could have easily been a successful tribute band covering Led Zeppelin classics. But the fact they are going their own direction portends good things coming along in the future.

As a diehard Led Zep fan I was taken aback when I first heard a live version of Highway Tune. I’m still not sure whether the studio version or the live version is the best, and that probably doesn’t matter. Have your pick, they’re both tasty. The live track demonstrates the musicianship of the band members, which the studio version only modestly enhances. I get the feeling the band records stuff live, for the most part, because, having watched full concerts available on YouTube, the integrity of the sound doesn’t suffer in live venues.

Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Led Zep’s live stuff, mostly bootlegs, but especially The Song Remains the Same (10/1976), which was the soundtrack of a movie by the same name, that includes tracks recorded during the band’s heyday mid-seventies tours. Led Zep’s studio recordings, especially the later albums, relied heavily on effects and overdubs to achieve the sound and that makes it difficult to replicate in concert. A more recent reworking of TSRTM’s soundtrack with different concert recordings patched in here and there makes the album more listenable, though I question whether the trickery is a fair and honest representation of what the band really sounded like when performing live. Please don’t get me wrong, Led Zep were innovators, especially their early work and they paved the way for a lot of blues-influenced, harder-driving rock bands that followed. And most fans who attended their concerts would quickly argue that the concerts were memorable events driven by excitement bordering of mass hysteria.


What I like best about Greta Van Fleet is the faithful homage to the band’s blues roots. The 8 tracks of the EP include covers of a Sam Cooke tune, A Change Is Gonna Come and Fairport Convention’s gospel-esque Meet On The Ledge. There isn’t a throwaway song in the mix, though my favorites are the aforementioned Highway Tune, Safari Song and Black Smoke Rising. Why no Led Zep covers? That is the elephant in the room with a voice like Josh’s fronting the group. Maybe the band will do one or two songs in the future, but from where I sit it is not necessary and would only confuse the band’s brand that is still forming and gathering a following. Certainly, they could do a set with covers of Rock and Roll, Black Dog and D’yer Mak’er– to name a few and I’d certainly buy in. The band’s musicianship is definitely up to the task.


One question I would have is how Danny Wagner’s percussion work would match up with John Bonham’s original counter-rhythmic, avant-garde style. Wagner is more traditional in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing because the backbeat throughout the EP is solid and driving.


Also, I am sure Jake could cover Jimmy Page’s guitar work but at the risk of offending Led Zep purists who might take exception when he deviates or modifies the original licks to incorporate his own flare and interpretation. So, staying away from what is already a natural comparison of sound and styles and sticking to original work, for the most part, is a much better tact.



Check out the band on YouTube or, if you get the chance, see them live. I think they’re going to be around on the music scene for a while and that makes me happy.

From The Fires EP Tracks:

Safari Song

Edge of Darkness

Flower Power

A Change Is Gonna Come

Highway Tune

Meet On The Ledge

Talk On The Street

Black Smoke Rising

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

Colonial Authority: Chapter 27 – Precondition

**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.**

Cristina sat alone in the dark at the dinette table near the kitchen, her face softly illuminated in the glow from her orb. She concentrated causing it to move first back and forth, and then up and down. Then as she held it stationary with only her mind commanding, the orb began to grow. As it grew its solid surface texture became transparent. She saw her mother and father. They were each holding one of two babies.

As far as she had been told that could not have ever happened. Her mother died in childbirth!

Then she supposed that she understood. Maybe she was seeing her past, as she would have wanted it to be. She sighed and the image faded into the white glow from within the orb. There was an eruption of fire. She felt the heat from a blast as pieces of metal flew through the air. She saw Paul. He was clinging to the shadows as he escaped harm.

“He’s in trouble,” she said to herself.

“Who’s in trouble?” Alix asked as he came into the room to see what she was doing up in the middle of the night.

“It’s Paul. I saw him. I don’t know if the orb is showing me the present, the past or the future. At first it was showing my mother and father holding me and Paul.”

“But both of our mothers died in childbirth.”

“So did everyone else’s: Chase, Julie everyone with the attributes.”

“Then what does it mean?”

“I don’t know. I only know Paul’s in trouble.”

“Where was he?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Maybe I need to linger longer in the images to see something that maybe I would recognize or tell me where he is. Last I knew he was in the mountains to the south of Haven. That’s where Chase said he was. But when I saw him just now he was definitely in a city.”

“Maybe he’s back in Haven.”

“Maybe but I don’t think it’s safe for him in Haven.”

“If he was in trouble, then maybe he’s not safe anywhere anymore. It doesn’t feel that safe here for us anymore. We go out and people recognize us. It isn’t out of control, but it is happening more frequently.”

“It’s what we wanted.”

“Yeah, there is that old saying about being careful what you wish for because it might come true.”

Cristina nodded.

“I like the fans and their attention. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that Lynn and Sheryl were an unexpected anomaly.”

“I thought you were attracted to them,” Cristina said, but then seeing his reaction she laughed. “I was teasing you.”

“I’m thinking that maybe we should go back to New Milan,” Alix said. “I mean the guys will be ready to start working on a new Mod soon. We should probably start working on that too.”

“Have you practiced with your orb?”

“Me, yeah but not much.”

“You should. I mean you need to. I’m finding out all sorts of things.”

“Such as.”

Cristina focused on the orb where it had been hovering and it began to move where she directed it, then it started spinning and became smaller and smaller then disappeared. Cristina opened her hand and in her palm was the orb.

“Good magic tricks. Maybe we should work it into the show,” Alix said.

“That’s probably not wise.”

“I was kidding. Is that all you have learned?”

“No, I’ve learned a lot about my abilities. I can hear thoughts sometimes. I know how someone feels. I know whether they are awake or sleeping. I can tell when someone is not telling the entire truth.”

“Like with me last night.”

Cristina did not respond, just glanced away.

“That’s all useful I guess.”

“You guess?”

“What do you want me to say? You have learned to do some amazing things.”

“Don’t you want to know what you can do?”

“Look where it has gotten Chase and me.”

“I think a lot of that’s related and the two of you brought it upon yourselves.”

“Well, I enjoy my freedom and I kind of like breathing. It seems to me like anyone that resists is going to get themselves killed.”

“What if Paul is doing the right thing?”

“I’m not all that sure I understand what he is doing. It’s something about bringing the sand-morphs back to life. I get that. It may not be easy to accomplish, but it’s straightforward and I understand it. What confuses me comes after that.”

“I thought I heard someone talking,” Chase said as he entered into the room, then went to the kitchen, poured some water, drank some then poured the glass full again before coming out to the dinette to sit.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“I was playing with the orb,” Cristina said.

“Good,” Chase congratulated her.

“How are your ribs?”

“Better I think,” Chase said. “I heal fast. Maybe another couple of days I’ll be good as new,” Chase allowed.

“I saw Paul,” Cristina said. “The orb showed me something. I think he’s in trouble.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. He’s made some powerful enemies.”

“I saw him in a city and he was running away from the authorities. There was a huge explosion, and then I saw him running away,” she said.

“Do you know where?”

“I didn’t recognize anything.”

Chase grabbed the remote and turned on world viewer, seeking news, ran a search for ‘explosion’.

“There,” he brought it up on the main screen.

“That’s the place!” Cristina confirmed, excited at recognizing it.

“…A faulty power transformer near the west-side railcar station in Star City exploded, lighting up the evening sky while cutting the power not only to the railcar station but surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. The railcar station was able to continue operations with reduced lighting while running on backup generators. Authorities did not expect any significant interruption in service at the station but added that it will be morning before power is restored to all the affected blocks. Currently about an eighth of the city is without power.”

“There’s your answer,” Chase said. “He’s in Star City or rather preparing to leave Star City by now if he’s smart, which I assume he is.”

“But they say the transformer malfunctioned.”

“What are they going to say – a member of a clandestine group is still at large after knocking out power to one eighth of the city? Why not just tell everyone there’s a terrorist at large?”

“But why would he be there?” Alix asked. “He’s from Haven.”

“Actually, he was born in New Milan,” Cristina corrected.

“You know what I meant,” Alix countered. “Why would he go there in the first place?”

“To see Raven?” Cristina suggested.

“Raven wouldn’t allow him inside his residence without an appointment. That’s just the way he is. Besides, if he knows about the trouble that Paul’s apparently in, he would never think of getting involved,” Chase said.

“I’m sure Raven knows. It’s what, ten hours from Andromeda to Star City by railcar?” Cristina asked.

“About that, maybe a little more,” Chase said.

“Well I need to find him,” Cristina said.

“Are you nuts?”

“Alix, it’s my brother. He’s in trouble. I’ve met him once and talked to him on the phone once. I don’t want that to be the sum total of my relationship with my brother.”

Chase shook his head. “He’ll be trying to find a means of crossing the desert. He will need his subcutaneous implant reprogrammed and a new payment wand if he goes by railcar. There must be a cell affiliated with The Resurrection operating there in the city. He may know where they are, but most likely he will not. By nature, they’d be careful about preventing too much information to get out. They may find him. If he’s lucky they will connect before the authorities have another lock on his location. The cell could provide him a place to hide until the heat diminishes. Then they could provide him with a Puma and a driver to cross the desert if they feel it’s too risky to travel by railcar.”

“So you think he’s still there, in Star City?”

“The more I consider it, he has not had a chance to escape. He must be trapped there. He has no other options at present. Raven won’t assist him – I doubt that he would even if he could. It’s too far to cross the desert alone regardless where he’s going. He would die in the process and he knows that. So yeah, he’s still in the city.”

“Then we are going to Star City,” Cristina announced. “I’ll book tickets first thing in the morning. We can pack and leave in the afternoon and arrive before the next morning.”

“I can’t go,” Chase excused. “I mean Julie is back at work and all and I’m still recovering from my last close encounter of the authoritarian kind.”

“I understand,” Cristina said. “It’s not your place anyway. Your presence and Julie’s would be welcome, but we all have our lives and obligations.”

Julie was eavesdropping in the bedroom, not hearing everything, but more than enough. She did not want Chase getting involved. She did not want to see him get hurt or imprisoned for something that she felt was the wrong course. She did not believe in the aims of The Resurrection. To her they seemed dangerous and their course ill advised to pursue. She had already decided that she had to be the insider, the one that got Paul arrested, the one that would end the ludicrous plot that she felt would be the end of all mankind, including those like Chase and her who had the attributes.

It was not an easy decision for her but it now seemed that Cristina was going to connect with Paul and take Alix with her. If Cristina began working with The Resurrection would Chase be far behind? She did not want to betray anyone, but she had to protect Chase from his blind sense of obligation to friendships and his own stupidity. She planned that when she arrived at work in the morning, she could store some of the information in the memory device that Yates had given to her, and then download it into her computer and send it to him.

She rolled over and was ready to get some rest when Chase approached. He roused her with an offered glass of cold water. “Thanks,” she said as she sat up in bed and took several sips. She set the glass down on a coaster on the nightstand. “You were talking to Cristina and Alix all this time?”

“Yeah,” he said as he sat next to her. “I got up for some water and Cristina was practicing with her orb. I guess Alix getting up to see about her woke me up, too.”

“I couldn’t sleep either,” Julie admitted.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m just worried about things, about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“You were attacked. Our apartment was ransacked. It’s all because… well, because…”

“Go ahead and say it. It’s because of Paul.”

“Well it is.”

“Paul’s Cristina’s brother. That’s all. I don’t agree with his plans, as little as I know of them. I don’t think Cristina does either, but he’s her brother. She wants to find him.  Maybe she can talk some sense into him.”

“He may be too set in his convictions,” Julie said.

“Maybe he is, but I understand why Cristina needs to see him.”

“It’s very dangerous for her.”

“Alix will be there with her.”

“What if they get arrested with Paul?”

“She knows the risks,” Chase said. “I suppose that’s what lawyers are for, to explain why acting out of your obligations or beliefs compelled you to act in a way that might be perceived as breaking a law. It isn’t like she’s joining them.”

“Not yet.”

“I don’t know. I’ve talked to Cristina enough to know she’s pretty damned sensible. She does some odd things at times. She likes to have fun and maybe that was always the explanation. This is not fun to her. She’s doing it because she’s Paul’s sister. That’s the entire reason.”

Julie leaned into Chase and he kissed her on the forehead. “You have to work tomorrow. You need some rest,” he said to her.

“I know,” she said.

“Do you want me to read to you?”

She giggled like a little girl. “You’re so nice to me.”

“I’m still on vacation. I can sleep in tomorrow. You need to sleep.”

“Yeah, I’d like to hear a story,” she said.

Chase pulled up a book on his infocom reader. He had been reading it for a while. He personally found it intriguing, but apparently reading it to Julie readily bored her to sleep. Then again it was a historical analysis of international relations in the mid to late Twentieth Century on Earth.

Jerry Fitzgerald, one of Chase’s acquaintances had written the digital book. Chase had made arrangements for the promotional tour to sell it and as a favor the author had given Chase a personalized, digisigned copy of the Mod card.

What Chase loved about the book was that it was told from a common man’s perspective. Fitzgerald had done extensive research of personal diaries and archives and even managed to interview people who were still alive that had heard their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents stories about living in the late Twentieth Century. He also managed an interview with Raven, who the author did not identify by name other than to call him a reclusive expert on the early colonial period.

After reading several chapters of the book, Chase had decided that Fitzgerald had also interviewed many other Couriers, even the few that had first hand knowledge of the Twentieth Century.

He started reading a fresh chapter but by the time he reached the end of the chapter, Julie was sound asleep. Chase went on reading the next couple of chapters that detailed the post Vietnam War era of the Cold War and the curious sequence of events that had led to warmer relations between China and the United States as well as the USSR. It was a period in history that Chase had studied extensively, but Fitzgerald had drawn heavily from the diaries and journals of US military servicemen and women who had served in locations that were within minutes of the Cold War borders of North Korea and Eastern Europe.

Chase found the insights enlightening in explaining the apparent paranoia that had existed between sovereign nations that possessed weapons of mass destruction and shared a mutual fear of ever having to use them while knowing it was inevitable.

As he reached the end of a third chapter of the night, his eyelids were inviting his eyes to pay them a closer, more continuous visit. He marked his place in the infotab file and set it on the nightstand then fluffed up his pillow and rolled his face into it. Within a few minutes he too was asleep.

Chase had not rested well for the past few days. He was very surprised that he had slept through the noise and confusion of Julie’s wake-up sequence. She always set two physically separated alarms. When one went off the other always startled her enough to make her get up to shut it off. By mere will power alone, she forced herself to stay up since she was already up. She would disrobe and take a lukewarm shower before getting dressed in underwear and applying make-up. Finished getting dressed with outer garments, she would stop by the kitchen to make something quick to eat on the way to work. Only then would she depart.

Although she tried not to make a lot of noise, she always made enough. Usually it did not matter much as he needed to get ready for work anyway. It was just that he didn’t require quite so elaborate a sequence of events for him to get out the door.

By the time Chase made it out of the bathroom, Alix was up and about, sitting on the couch playing a game while Cristina was sitting at the dinette making reservations for two to go to Star City.

He hailed Alix, telling him the bathroom was free if he needed to do anything.

“After this level,” Alix deferred.

Chase made eye contact with Cristina and smiled as she said she was on hold. He went on into the kitchen and started gathering up the things he would need to make a late morning brunch as a sort of preliminary send off for his guests.

Alix paused and saved the game, and then trotted off to the bathroom to perform his usually morning ritual which always ended in a shower.

Cristina’s call was finally picked up and she engaged in a fairly long discussion about prices and times for departures of railcars to Star City. Having finally arrived as an agreeable time and price, Cristina waved her payment wand at the remote and the tickets were reserved.

Chase was not paying all that much attention to the negotiation but heard enough to be amazed at how meticulous she was. If she were not a performer she would be an excellent tour manager or promoter. He considered it for when her career would inevitably wane. She already knew the business and knew many people in the business. She would be a natural, he thought.

Of course, he had never discussed it with her and it hardly seemed the time now that her career seemed to be climbing. It was something he would keep in the back of his mind to spring on her at the right time, whenever she was ready to go off tour and pursue other projects.

Almost as soon as she disconnected from her call, it rang, telling her she had a saved message. She tapped her lobe to access it and heard a message from Keith. She relayed it to the speaker as it pertained to at least Alix as well. “Hey hon, just haven’t heard from you since you and Alix headed northeast. Pete told me about what’s happened. I think it is very cool even if it came as a bit of a surprise. Frankly, I always thought I was just ahead of him in the line. Maybe I stumbled or got distracted and Alix slipped past me. He’s sneaky like that. Hey, anyway give me a call back when you get the message. I need to discuss the studio schedule. I just got off the phone with the producer and I want to make sure the dates are okay with you and Alix before we reserve them.”

Cristina commanded the phone system to respond to the most recent caller and Keith picked up immediately, “Hey,” he said, obviously seeing the ID from Andromeda and assuming it was she.

She responded in kind to his greeting.

“How’ve you been?”

“Good,” she said. “I miss all of you.”

“Yeah, well the feeling is mutual. How’s Andromeda when you aren’t playing there?”

“Kind of weird. It’s a lot of fun. The clubs are intense, like the creativity is at a higher pitch and pace. The music is hot. You get completely different vibes than you do in New Milan. It’s really funky, you know.”

“I’ll bet Alix likes it.”

“Yeah, he’s had a good time, I think.”

“Three weeks from tomorrow in the studio. Is that okay with you?” Keith got right to business.

“Do you have songs ready?”

“I have two. Tim has two. Pete had two. Alix said he had one or two. Do you have any?”

“I have two,” she said. “I wish I had more but…”

“You have three weeks. You can write a couple of more songs. You had four on the last Mod.”

“One was a collaboration with you.”

“Yeah and that one is a hit. In fact I hear it’s number four up there.”

“You heard about that.”

“Yeah, that has been all over New Milan’s entertainment channel, I guess because of the creative rivalry between the two cities.”

“Yeah, well they have banned sales of our single and complete Mods saying there are hidden messages.”

“Okay, so that’s the secret of how to get a hit single up there,” Keith laughed.

Cristina laughed as well. “Anyway, I’ll work on it. I have a couple of ideas. Alix was working on a song on the ride up here. So maybe he’ll have three. That will give us more than enough so we can pick and choose.”

“Yeah, that’s always better than having come up with a cover of some oldie or something on the spot to fill. Well, I’ll let you go. I just wanted to confirm it was okay.”

“I’m sure Alix will be fine with it. He never complains. Except when he first gets up,” Cristina said.

“Well, that’s true of all of us, isn’t it? Anyway, take care and have a good rest of your vacation.”

As she tapped to disconnect, she wondered if she should have told Keith that they were heading up to Star City for a few days, but then decided that it was inconsequential and maybe unnecessary for him to know. She turned her head toward Chase. “That was Keith.”

“Yeah, I heard?”

“He never changes. Even on vacation he is taking care of things. We go to the studio, three weeks from tomorrow.”

“Great! Then, you’ll need a tour schedule for the fall.”


“We have set a few dates further out already. I mean I was getting offers and requests right up to the last day of the tour. I’m sure we can book some of those, say three or four months out just in case. Then we can fill in closer to the end of the recording sessions, giving you some time off between.”

“That would be nice. Last time it was a mad rush, Cristina commented. “Of course, that was Keith’s fault… and mine. We hated the mix the producer wanted on two of the songs, one of them mine and the other is ironically the local hit that’s banned.”

“About that I called some people and we have some lawyers filing things for you along with your label’s lawyers. I think that embargo will be lifted by the end of the week. They have the burden of proof. And since there is nothing there, they will relent. By the way, based on pre-orders alone, I think it will be number two or maybe even number one by next week.”

“Wow, a number one song in hostile territory,” Cristina said.

“One that you wrote!”

“Yeah, the lyrics anyway,” she laughed. “Maybe that explains why Alix and I are recognized everywhere we go here.”

“I think lately Andromeda is more hostile to me than it is to you,” Chase said. His attempt at humor did not result in any laughs.

Cristina smiled as Alix opened the bathroom door. Except for a towel wrapped around his waist he was naked. “We all set with the tickets?” He asked.

“Yeah, depart 6:33 PM arrive 5:14AM. “


“Best rates I could get on such short notice.”

“It’ll be fine. It gives us plenty of time to pack.”

“Yeah,” Cristina said then turning back to Chase. “Can you take us to the station.”

“You don’t need to ask. I was planning on it.”

She smiled. “I’d better take a shower. When I’m finished I have to look for a place to stay in Star City. I was thinking of imposing on Raven except that after what you said…”

“Raven wouldn’t risk any association with The Resurrection. He’s a total prick to anyone who wants his assistance whenever they’re involved in something he does not agree with. Not that he or any of the other Couriers aren’t up to a good fight, just that they believe it’s time to win our own battles.”

“I see.”

“It’s worth a try, though. I have his number.”

“I have it, too,” Cristina said.

“If he gave you his number, then he’ll accommodate you unless he has something else going on that interferes.”

She looked at the clock.

“Two hours behind us,” Chase answered her unasked question. “Star City is just inside that time zone.”

“Raven should be awake.”

“I’d give it another hour. Even if he is awake, at this time of the morning he’s still cranky. Shower first, get dressed, and then call him.”

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 26 – Impasse

**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 sirens of security vehicles blared in response to reported alarm indicating a security breech in the dome near the railcar station. Agents of the Colonial Authority were waiting, having been given ample advance notice. They were warned. Paul was unarmed but extremely dangerous. He had already killed in order to escape.

He was practiced in the fruits of the attributes. Penetration of the veils, piercing through the mass illusion of reality, was but one of the many things he’d acquired through the training of the orb. He didn’t enjoy the sensations associated with the experience, but it certainly came in handy during his escape.

His command of the gifts was more useful than he realized. He did not have to use his telekinetic abilities if he could slip through the veils disappearing in one place and reappearing in another. It was just that he had never tested the extreme cases. For example, he wondered whether he could actually slip from one city to another. However, he could pass through from a slow moving railcar as it slowly approached the outer airlock at Star City to the security perimeter inside of the dome.

All that he wanted to do was reach Raven’s doorstep. But it was on the far side of Star City from the railcar station. He realized that he was pretty much trapped, at an impasse. Although the authorities did not know precisely where he was, they were confident he was there.

For the moment, he dared not move. He did not need to give away his position. He needed to regain his strength and wits after his recent use of his gifts. Lying close to the bare ground as he was seemed to aid his efforts.

Paul killed Harold at the relay station. Actually, he facilitated the onset of an impending heart attack. Maybe he had taken a few days off the old man’s life. It would look like a natural death except that the agents were there and they knew that it happened around the time of his escape. They would blame him and call it murder. They were apt to pin everything imaginable on a fugitive. A good scapegoat could forgive many sins. They could easily trump up support for seeking maximum penalties against such a cold hearted, dangerous killer, trying a suspect in the media before all the evidence was collected. The strategic leaking of tantalizing tidbits of half-truths to the ravenous reporters for world viewer’s news-starved all day/all night channels was something the Authority did to perfection.

If they wanted to pin murder on him the agents surrounding him would be authorized to use deadly force. It really didn’t change much since he was already wanted for subversion and sedition. There were already multiple death warrants out for him. The authorities might have already killed him except that they needed information from him to connect the seemingly disassociated pieces of the puzzle, incriminating others in the process. Their mistake was underestimating him, allowing him the time he needed to focus, using his gifts to escape.

The Resurrection might have abandoned him except for his knowledge of the attributes and his connections to others known to possess the gifts in abundance of potential. He didn’t know whether anyone else with the attributes realized as he did that there were certain gifts that came more readily than others. Anyone with the attributes could acquire any of the assorted gifts to use whenever needed, but a few were dominant and specific to each individual.

As he remained quiet and motionless, his attention was drawn toward the shadows to his right. There was movement nearby. The authorities were searching for him or if they had located him, they might be advancing, closing in their perimeter.

“We know you’re here, Paul. You must realize by now you’re trapped,” an amplified voice came toward him but came from several directions simultaneously over a common public address system. “Surrender and it will be much easier for everyone. No one else needs to get hurt.”

Paul closed his eyes, attempting to locate individual sounds of movement, isolating one from another. Surveying for any weakness, an unprotected place that he might hide until he was ready, he could find no gaps in the defense. Completely surrounded, it was only a matter of time before they narrowed in on his location and subdued him. He could fight several of them, but probably not the 40 agents that he sensed – there could be more.

How to create a diversion? He needed to misdirect their focus to the wrong place for a moment. An instant was all he needed.

He focused on the agents’ vehicles, not knowing whether his telekinetic abilities would reach that far. He tried to release the parking safety on the closest coach, but failed. He needed to find something closer, something else that would draw attention away from him.

There was a power transformer enclosed within a protective fence. It supplied power to not only the railcar station, but also to the nearby buildings and streetlights. If he could somehow short it out, it would cause an explosion and knock out the lights in the immediate vicinity. It might work. Although he was dangerously close to it and he really did not know how far the effects of the explosion and the possible shrapnel from the metal case on the transformer would fly. The surrounding fence would contain some of it, enough of it, perhaps.

With his focus and concentration he mentally pictured two of the wires closer together – so close that they arced. A significant discharge of plasma erupted. Then he brought a third wire closer to the other two until there was a shower of sparks and a hum that grew in intensity. Another transmission line arced, followed by a powerful explosion that illuminated the evening. Pieces of debris and balls of flame hailed the open area.

Some agents took cover wherever they could. Others collapsed onto the ground. Then, in the darkness, once the explosion was over they ran toward the transformer, illuminating the area with their hand lanterns. They were looking for Paul, or rather his body, figuring that he had been responsible but could not possibly have survived such an event.

The reaction pattern of the agents produced many gaps. Some were surprisingly wide. Paul seized the chance to exploit one weakness. Under the cover of the suddenly dark sector of Star City, he managed to escape through the authorities’ perimeter.

He stayed to the shadows in the alleys, not wanting to be recognized. Soon enough they would determine that he escaped. They would fan out across the city in pursuit. He was far from safe. He needed to reach the other side of town. Raven had to help him, surely he would.

Wending his way across the southwestern cityscape, ducking into places that were never really intended to be anything more than a narrow gap between buildings. All he really needed to do was get close enough. Several times he had successfully navigated through the strange, oddly bright world of the white light beyond the veils of reality, but only for relatively short distances.

When he reached the downtown Star City, he needed to call Raven but his implant would not work without the travelmod tuned for the city. That was confiscated with his other belongings. Every one of Paul’s contacts in the city would have been compromised when he was captured had he not taken the precaution of a security lockout that would erase all contacts in the event of three attempts to bypass the password. He had a backup of the information stored in a safe place but that was in Haven.

He did not recall Raven’s number, so using a local communication was not possible. Vaguely he knew where Raven lived. It would not be hard to locate once he was in the right section of town. There was only one estate in Star City that would resemble a Medieval European castle, after all. In the entire world Raven estate was unique. It was just that only those with the attributes and the other Couriers knew him as Raven. To everyone else he was a reclusive artist who was rumored to be quite old. Apart from the Couriers, Cristina and maybe a couple of others with the attributes, no one in recent times had seen him.

It was a long shot. Maybe he was expecting more of Raven than he would allow, but Paul had no other option, at least none he was aware.

One of the unique aspects of living in Star City was that from the outset there was a very effective infrastructure for mass transit and as a means of enticing people to relocate to Star City in the charter mass transit granted free to anyone in the city.

Everyone in the world knew about the ‘Starport’ mass transit system. Other cities, including Haven had looked at Star City’s model but had never implemented it, as it was a drain on the city government’s budget. Although the same system might have worked in other cities it remained unique to Star City’s quality of life. No one really needed floater coaches, personal floater pods to get around. A scooter to get to and from the Starport stops was all anyone needed.

People still owned personal vehicles to transport large objects or for business purposes. As a means of transportation they were superfluous to the transit system except that some of the wealthy did not want to live their lives around mass transit schedules.

Starport was efficient, well maintained and hardly ever late. The dependability had become a hallmark of the operation and had lent credibility to Star City’s statements about the quality of life in the city that was in the heart of the continental desert.

A city commuter coach approached a stop that was just ahead of him, out on the main street. He rapidly walked toward the marker and waited the coach to pause, then its door opened and he boarded. There were several other riders, but he said nothing to any of them. None of them seemed inclined to look at him. He consulted a copy of map of routes and after carefully studying the shortest path to get to the far side of the city, he would need to get off at the second stop ahead, then wait for the ‘cross-town’ that would take him to a route called ‘The Hills’.

Paul sat down and quietly tried to relax and catch his breath. His mind whirred with the implications of the events of the last few days. Obviously, he was betrayed. Now he was in Star City and despite all of his planning, the authorities had been waiting for him to arrive.

Paul had been through Star City before but had never lingered long enough to know more than what he learned as a school child. His instructors talked about the history and development of the various cities. As Paul listened he had wondered at the engineers’ decisions of where to build cities. He understood Haven and New Milan. They were close to the coasts and protected to some degree from the gale force winds of the early terraforming history by the mountains that were close to each city. The placement of Star City had never made a lot of sense to him as it was not remotely close to anywhere else. He had wrongly believed that it represented a place to stop on the way to other places. Even if it that logic had served him in his travels, it was not the reason the engineers had chosen the site where Star City rose from the desert.

Regardless of the truth, he had never been more grateful to the planners for building the city where they had than he was at the moment. It was precisely where he needed it to be. Even though as an adult he had learned more about the methodology used in the terraform projects, he still preferred his child-like logic. What did he care that every city within the interior of the continent was placed geographically close to one of the three great continental aquifers?

The sources of abundant water seemed to validate Paul’s childhood theories about why cities had been built where they were. In truth the planners knew that Star City would require abundant water and in the longer term once the desert around it was turned into grasslands, the water would prove essential to ongoing irrigation projects that would transform the entire region.

Paul exited the coach at ‘The Crosstown’ stop. He waited out in the open as he saw his next coach approaching. Maybe it was coincidence but the efficiency impressed him. It was much easier than bothering with a private floater coach having to undock it each time it was used and dock it afterwards. Using Starport, all he had to do was sit back and wait for his interim destination.

As he rode toward ‘The Hills’ stop, he wondered how he would know which stop to get off once he was on the next coach. As the name of the route implied, there were a number of hills that the coach would have to weave its way through. Any stop might be the right stop. Besides, ‘The Hills’ route started well before the stop where he planned to exit ‘The Crosstown’. He didn’t know which direction to go. He might have to ride to the end in one direction before getting onto a coach going in the opposite direction.

He tried to be logical in his considerations. Where would a reclusive sort choose to build an ostentatious estate? Where would the city planners allow such an estate to be constructed when land anywhere under the dome was a scarce and precious commodity? He consulted the route map. There was an area toward the northeastern edge of the protective dome. There were only eight stops in that direction while there were nineteen going the other way. Even if he were wrong, it would take less time to recover from mistakenly riding on an eight-stop route than it would riding the other way.

When he finally reached the stop for ‘The Hills’, he exited. He waited but only for a few minutes before a different coach headed toward him and paused allowing him to board.

There was plenty of room onboard. Except for an elderly lady and a man and a woman who seemed to be engaged in an intimate conversation, he was alone. He paid attention to the houses of each block that the coach traveled. Getting progressively larger and more impressive, first one stop then another passed without an estate that matched the description of Raven’s residence. Then as the coach approached the next to the last stop on that branch of the route, Paul saw it. Just a few hundred meters from the stop, atop a hill stood an estate that reminded him of pictures of historical medieval castles. It had to be Raven’s place.

He exited and quickly ascended the hill. When he reached the doorstep he tugged on a rope that was attached to a bell that rang inside. He waited and waited. Then, as he was just preparing to pull on the rope again the door opened. An odd looking fellow that smelled of solvents and mustiness stood inside the threshold. “Yes?”

“I’m here to see Raven.”

“You do not have an appointment,” it came as a statement not a query. “The Master sees no one without an appointment.”

“Look, tell him it is Paul from Haven.”

“He will not care.”

“He will recognize my name. I’m Cristina’s brother.”

“Cristina,” the servant seemed to smile at the mere recitation of her name. “You will wait where you are. I will consult with The Master.”

“Tell him it’s urgent.”

“Anyone having business with the Master always believes it is urgent, even when it is not.”

“Well this is a matter of life and death,” Paul said as rudely the servant closed the door in his face.

Several minutes passed. Perhaps it was his ego, but Paul expected to be greeted straight away. That had obviously not happened. Still he was self-assured that Raven would see him.

When the servant returned he opened the door. “The Master says that if you are in trouble here that you need to go back home where it is safer. The authorities may not expect you to be there.”

“I can’t. I have to get to Andromeda. Cristina is there. Tell him. All I need is a place to rest, some clothes and, if he can arrange for it, a new identification profile.”

“The master was specific. I am not to allow you in and I am to send you away,” the servant said.

Then as Paul attempted to push past the servant, fully intending to barge his way not only into the residence, but also into whatever room Raven occupied, the servant grasped him about the neck and suspended in the air, feet dangling. “What are you? You’re not a man!”

“I am a DOMLIB,” the servant announced, but it did not dissuade him from continuing to support Paul by his neck, at the end of his extended arm.

Paul was struggling for breath, becoming light headed and feared losing consciousness. He had to do something, anything.

He focused all of his attention into slipping beneath the veils of reality and into the foyer past the front door. When he did, the DOMLIB immediately responded to his disappearance, searching and scanning the immediate vicinity. Having spotted Paul, he turned and immediately pursued him.

“Raven!” Paul shouted. “Help me!”

An older gentleman appeared from a doorway down the corridor, apparently amused at the sight of Paul fleeing his servant. “You were doing so well against a much stronger and quicker adversary. I’m certain you can figure something out. You’re a grown man. And, you’re very resourceful from what I’ve recently observed.”

Paul turned and without laying a hand on the DOMLIB, the servant flew down the hallway toward the foyer where he came to rest. Immediately, the DOMLIB regained his feet and persisted in executing his master’s instructions. Showing no emotions, the DOMLIB approached Paul, intending to remove him from the residence.

“Dom, stand down,” the older man commanded just as the DOMLIB had again reached for Paul’s throat. Obediently, the servant halted and if possible appeared to relax. “See, you are quite capable of defending yourself,” Raven said. “You have no real need of me. Anyone that can take on a DOMLIB and survive is a formidable enough adversary to be highly credible against anyone.”

“I got lucky,” Paul said.

“It was not luck. It was the attributes, the result of you learning how to use your gifts involving no chance at all.”

“I need your help, Raven.”

“Do you really? You have made your own problems. You should be able to come up with your own solutions, preferably ones that don’t involve me.”

“I need to get to Andromeda to see my sister, Cristina.”

“I’m impressed that you know she is your sister. It’s touching that you want to see her. The problem is I don’t see any need to do the sorts of things that you have requested. I won’t tell you why but you will learn soon enough that you never needed to go to Andromeda.”

“Then give me a place to stay for the night. I need clothes and a shower, nothing else.”

“Why should I risk harboring a fugitive?”

“I’m going to fix the mistakes of the past.”

“Really, do you intend to fix every version of everyone’s past or only the ones you connect to? I think I’d love to see you attempt the previous, but I fear you’re too narrowly focused on the latter.”

“What if I could solve all of them?”

“If you have to ask me, then you can’t. You’re just another disappointment in the process.”

“I cannot fix everything,” he confessed.

“Perhaps you could if you really knew what was wrong. But alas we are all myopic, aren’t we? So it goes for each of us into our own petty concerns for the version of the world that only each one of us can personally understand. Not even the truth can grasp our attention once we have determined to tarry down the path of the tyrant’s objectives.”

“The tyrant?”

“Surely you understand that the attributes would not be part of the tyrant’s design. The attributes are intended to serve very different aims, mostly peaceful. You have usurped the powers and are on the verge of bringing war and destruction to the world, terraforming it in a way that is ironically far too Earthlike for my tastes,” Raven said. “I refuse to allow that to happen and so, the only way to prevent it is to ensure that you make your own way in the world and as a result of your hubris you will fail. In that way there is a chance you will learn what you need to know in the process, as that really is the only possible salvation. If not, someone else will take on the responsibilities.”

“You won’t help me then, not even to give me shelter for one night?”

Raven laughed. “You will find your own way, but not while any of the Couriers coddle you. Of all those with the attributes, you alone have mastered the orb to such a high degree that astounds all of the Couriers. Yet you did so in isolation from the others with similar concentrations of the attributes, what the Colonial Authority would call the Twenty-Four. You have learned from the orb and achieved the point of nearly knowing its concealed purpose. How are you ever going to achieve that final goal if you rely on what others can do for you?”

Paul turned away, looking directly at Dom. “No hard feelings.”

“He may not even understand that.” Raven chuckled. “Although he is an organic android he is a machine and has no human weaknesses like emotions.”

“If he is organic he’s alive,” Paul said.

“Yes, that has been a contentious point with them all along,” Raven said. “As for you, Paul, I wish you well in your endeavors. As advice I would say to trust no one and you will not be in this situation again.”

Paul left through the front door, disappointed and disillusioned. He had expected at least some assistance from a Courier. Perhaps they were not all like Raven but he understood that as a group they had a separate agenda in conflict with what he saw as the future. They were adamant in their resolve to give up on the greater numbers of mankind surviving. It was their conviction that the only way to continue the culture, tradition and languages of Earth was to isolate those with the attributes from the general population. They felt that it was risky to even consider diluting the genetic code of those with the attributes with normal men and women. They believed that it would merely extend the inevitable demise of mankind without providing an alternative to extinction. The Couriers believed the attributes must remain pure!

Paul understood their position. He also understood the attributes were the one hope for all mankind to avoid extinction. He didn’t know which he would support. He understood points favoring each course. Regardless of which course was taken, within fifty years the birthrate would fall below the ability to sustain the population except for those with the attributes and their progeny.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 25 – The Set Up

**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 emerged from the caverns for the first time in over a month, but he did not dare tarry far. He wore the same indistinguishable coveralls as anyone who worked outside of the domes. On his head he wore a helmet. There was ample illumination from the two moons for the surveillance satellites. The eyes of the Colonial Authority were everywhere. They were more than capable of identifying him, so he did not look up.

It was a cool evening, due in large part to the elevation of the southern mountains and the low humidity of the high desert surrounding the foothills that lead up from the coastal plain. The air felt sweet and refreshing even if he was breathing it through a filter just to be safe. He longed to enjoy a world without domes, where the air was natural, clean and pure.

Under the relative cover of night he was scheduled to move. It would be soon now. The four pumas were on their way to pick-up Paul and three decoys. It was a flawed system, but so far it had worked well enough to keep his exact whereabouts a mystery from the authorities.

Paul failed his mission. The reason he was recruited and brought him to the mountain was to recruit Chase and through him Julie, Cristina, Alix and Pete the established cadre associated with the attributes. He gave his best pitch. Maybe he had relied too much on emotion, but he had not told a single lie – at least as far as he knew. The only thing he could do now was recruiting his sister directly. Cristina was all-important to The Resurrection’s longer-term plans. Maybe he didn’t need to be successful in recruiting anyone else. She was the empathic one the Architects had foretold to the Couriers. Paul was certain of it. Not only could she communicate without uttered words but also she could feel what others felt. It was The Resurrection’s hope that she could communicate with a sand-morph.

Paul had used the orb to hone and refine his attributes, making them acute and powerful. Amongst them he developed the ability to heal. He believed that with some help from Cristina and perhaps the others he might personally bring a sand-morph back to life. He would rely on Cristina to bring understanding. As the elder race of mankind ceased to be capable of reproduction, the new race of men and women – humans bearing the attributes – would emerge, multiply and thrive. Cristina would bridge the gap between a new mankind and the ancient indigenous race of the world.

As he descended into the cavern one last time, he imagined as he had many times before what it must have been like when the underground community of sand-morphs was bustling with activity. Did they ever go outside at night and look up in the night sky and see the stars and the two moons and wonder what was out there? Did they have a premonition that their world would be invaded by beings from star many light years away?

“I think we’re ready,” Jodi said as she met him on his descent.

“I just wanted to make sure I had everything I’ll need.”

“Good idea. I’ll meet you up top,” she said, and then continued on her way.

It seemed cruel that as a young child growing up in Haven he had not known he had a sister. Feeling alone in the world, different from the other kids at school, he found peace and comfort in solitude. His uncle told him that his father was dead. Now he understood it was the way it had to be. When Paul was twelve, his uncle and aunt left him to stay with friends while they went to New Milan to attend a relative’s funeral. When they returned home he overheard his aunt and uncle talking about how sad it was for little Cristy to be without her father. Later he heard his uncle refer to Cristy as his niece. Paul knew his uncle had a brother and two sisters; his one brother was Paul’s father. But he had met his aunts and knew each of their children as his cousins. So the conversation had seemed strange in light of what he was always told. He began to suspect he did not know the whole truth about his past.

He grabbed a few things and crammed them into a small bag that was sitting at the edge of the hard slab. It served as a firm foundation upon which layers of thick blankets and a sleeping bag became his bed for the past few weeks. He went a little bit deeper into the cave; into the places he experimented further with his orb. Having spotted it, he held out his hand and it appeared in his palm. Then he turned to begin his ascent to the cavern’s mouth. As he passed where he had left the small bag he summoned it. It obeyed, flying toward his outstretched hand. He had a premonition of danger ahead for the cavern while wondering whether he’d see it again. It was a silly thought so he immediately discounted it. He was the healer. He was key in The Resurrection’s plans, so he had to be involved.

He emerged from the cave with three others dressed in exactly the same attire, each of them wearing a black hood to conceal their identities from others. It was intentional. The other members of the clandestine group were not supposed to know the decoys from the real Paul. Each of them was escorted with armed guards to their respective Pumas where each of them handed a plain pouch to the driver containing instructions that were not to be opened until their vehicles were away from the caverns and out into the desert.

Once Paul and each of the others were safely inside respective vehicles they set out single file away from the protected alcove and out into the desert until they were well out of sight. Only then did the drivers open their pouches and read instructions. None of them would know whether they were carrying the real Paul.

The fallacy in their method of concealment was simple. The Colonial Authority resources could track each of their vehicles to its destination. In order to combat the potential danger to some extent the decoys and Paul would change Pumas at a given point and beyond there would be eight not four Pumas to track.

It was a delaying tactic, intended to keep the authorities busy.

Paul told no one except his one trusted friend of his true intentions. He told some of his cohorts that he was going to New Milan and others that he was going to Haven. There was another rumor that he was really going to Emerald. A few who were of the inner sanctum knew Cristina was in Andromeda. They speculated Paul was headed for a rendezvous with his sister while she was visiting Chase.

Paul had no intention of riding a Puma to any city where the authorities might look for him. He had other plans. Having made other arrangements with the only person he felt he could trust, Jodi, he felt everything was set.

When the Puma reached the climate observation station where he was scheduled to change vehicles and suddenly provide another target for the Colonial Authorities satellites to track, there was someone else inside the station, another decoy. The Authority could capture all eight Pumas but there would be no Paul inside any of them.

There was a series of rooms beneath the station. In the past they served as the caretaker’s quarters. Paul intended to live there until he was dark again. Then, he would use a little known tunnel under the desert that had served the engineers as they prepared the cultivated beds of green houses and the hydroponics facilities for providing food to the first colonists. Although still used for research, the area was long since replaced by acres of domed, organically amended agricultural lands to produce high quality fruits and vegetables. Along with the expansive fabrication facilities used to synthesize muscle tissue as a substitute for raising and slaughtering domesticated animals, the hungers of the world were fed.

There were similar facilities that served the needs of each city, the intention had always been to make each city self sufficient in the providing for the basic needs of their populations. In practice there were excesses and deficiencies. A healthy commodities market developed for trade from one city in surplus to another city in deficit.

Jodi ensured that Paul would have everything waiting for him, new identity cards, a payment wand and clothing to disguise him as an agricultural engineer. He took a nap in the safety of the room beneath the station while the Pumas went about their deception, drawing any surveillance away from the real point of interest.

When it was dark, Paul keyed the combination into the cipher lock to access the tunnel that had been sealed for years. Undetected, he advanced through the dimly lit tunnel beneath the old greenhouses. It took nearly all night for him to reach the far end of the tunnel and another locked door. He keyed in the combination again and emerged into another room beneath another climate observation station. Shortly after he arrived, a Puma pulled up outside and two passengers disembarked, both wearing inconspicuous agricultural engineer uniforms identical to Paul’s. Both went inside the station but one of them remained as Paul took his place in the Puma joining the driver and a guard.

While the man who remained behind would back-track Paul’s path and be picked up by a Puma at the station on the southeastern end of the tunnel, Paul would ride in a Puma to a relay station for the railcar system that was closer to Star City than it was to Delhi, the next closest city.

Dressed as an agricultural engineer and bearing an apparently valid AE’s identification and payment wand, his cover story was taking monthly recreation and relaxation break in the nearest city, including complimentary one way railcar transportation. It was a fringe offered for compensation in recognition of the hard work and harsh working environment of the exposed continental interior.

Paul’s plan was working flawlessly. He planned that once he was in Star City he would change into his personal attire and from there he would purchase one-way fare to Andromeda on a different payment wand.

He felt safe as he rode in the Puma across the desert toward the railcar relay station. There was not a great likelihood that he had been tracked. He had been careful and used the same procedure as always except he had added several additional twists. Paul supposed discovery was possible but not probable unless there was a major breech of security. He was meticulous in planning every detail and had not shared his complete plan with anyone except Jodi. He trusted others only to the extent of their relevant involvement as a portion of the overall plan.

There were only a few roads in the desert that the engineers had established for their purposes but they were not connected to anything but other engineering facilities. Pumas were essential as means of transportation across the open, undeveloped sections of the arid interior.

The infrastructure for anticipated travel needs were under construction in places. Thus far none of the cities were connected to one another in any way more economical than by railcar. In fact, a few kilometers from any of the city domes, all signs of construction disappeared. There was no indication to support the widely circulated rumors of roadbeds being prepped for paving to support floater coaches as a means of intercity travel in the near future. The common belief about progress in construction of the infrastructure across the interior was rooted in the Colonial Authority’s lies.

There were higher priorities in the desert, irrigation for one. Again, the illusion of progress supported lies. It was the stated goal of the terraform engineers to establish domed forests. Once the atmosphere was ready, the domes could be dismantled and the forests would thrive, expanding on their own. In other areas soft grasses were grown near the domed cities, allegedly so that once the city domes were dismantled people could establish parks and residential communities.

As he rode, Paul allowed his imagination to project into a different future that he dared to dream, one without the Colonial Authority. Anticipating he would be powerful and important in such a world, he would travel as the wealthy and important did, opting for efficient but expensive hover transportation. Although he could have arranged use of such a vehicle for this trip masquerading as a Colonial Authority official was at least ill advised. The security monitoring around the airlocks for receiving hovercraft in the cities was tight, far too risky for traveling with false credentials.

Paul saw some indications of construction projects but nothing appeared to be currently underway. Although there should be indications of widespread terraforming in the otherwise lifeless desert, vast areas remained untouched. It was a huge continent. In the interior there was a whole lot of sand and no surface water, but there should be some sign of development.

By the time the Puma reached the railcar relay station, it was almost morning again. It had taken all afternoon and all night to cross the stretch of harsh and barely navigable desert. Paul bade the driver and the guard good-bye with no words, only a wave and he exited the Puma. He trotted to the entrance and stood as he waited for his clothes to be sanitized and any contaminants neutralized. Then he entered the small lobby. Went to a ticket counter and stood for a few minutes, even clicking the attendant’s buzzer before an elderly gentleman approached. “Yes sir.”

“AE comp ticket to Star City on the next railcar.”

The gentleman brought up the seating confirmation screen for the next arriving car coming from Delhi. “I guess you are in luck. There are only five empty seats on that one, though. It’s one that originated all the way out in New Milan. I’ll confirm you for it.”

“That’s great.”

“Haven’t seen you before.”

“I just started a few months ago.”

“Well, they’ll pause here for you to board. But you gotta be ready. They’ll only wait for a couple of minutes.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“It’ll be a couple of hours yet.”

“I was expecting a wait.”

“We can talk for a bit. I always have time for conversation. Why in two hours we will be best friends.”

“Unless we run out of things to talk about.”

“That will never happen. I’ve been around a long time. I assure you I have a lot to talk about. What do you want to know?”

“Have you ever been to New Milan?”

“No. I have no use for the west coasters and their ways. I lived most of my life in Haven.”

“I was born in New Milan, but I don’t remember it. My mother died in child birth and I went to Haven to live with my uncle and aunt,” Paul revealed.

“I was born on a transport on the way here. My parents were immigrating from Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. My father was born on Mars. My mother was the daughter of a researcher who worked at a base on Luna. But she made regular trips to Earth back when they were still trying to fix all the things that people broke in that ecosystem. My mother and father met when they were attending The Armstrong-Aldrin Engineering Institute at Tranquility University on Luna.”

“Why’d they ever end up here?”

“My mother and father wanted to come to Pravda because the terraform engineers promised they were making it into paradise. The way they pitched it, this place was already so much like Earth that it seemed like it could be the one world that would convert easily, within a decade or two. Maybe it will be that paradise they promised after you and I are dead and gone. Who knows? You’re the Engineer. You tell me.”

“Agriculture is my expertise,” Paul pointed out. “I take what the enviros give me and try to make things grow.”

The attendant laughed, and then offered his hand across the counter. “My named Harold.”

“Randy,” Paul introduced using his assumed name while accepting the handshake.

“It’s been a lot more complicated than anyone believed,” Harold allowed.  “Even the places where they say terraforming worked, it’s subject to opinion. Mars is the best they got and it is unstable, from what I read.”

“The agriculture there hasn’t been successful, but because of it there have been tremendous advances in hydroponics that were beneficial to the early needs of this world.”

“That’s true. We certainly eat well here.”

“The problem with Mars goes well beyond the soil. It does not have a molten core so it has a very weak magnetic field if it even has one at all. The solar winds tear away as the atmosphere constantly. It creates a wonderful lightshow every night. The terraform engineers have to replenish the gases in the atmosphere periodically and despite their certifying the world terraformed, for safety reasons they have never dismantled the domes.”

“Dad and Mom told me horror stories about Titan. People were cold and starving. The engineers tried orbital reflectors to focus more sunlight onto the planet to thaw the methane oceans and harvest the gases for use to heat the world. They tried all sorts of things to get the ambient temperature even close to what humans feel is tolerable. They got it to the point where it was livable, I guess.”

“We haven’t had a good track record finding a new home,” Paul stated.

“The most successful world so far has been C974, the large moon of one of the gas giants in the Centauri system.”

“I believe you’ll discover that one has issues as well,” Paul said.


“Yes sir.”

“I heard that C974 had a much better atmosphere than here to begin with, denser than Mars, a molten core and a magnetic field. It has some surface water and small seas that could hardly be called oceans but fresh surface water. I thought terraforming was working there.”

“They have severely restricted human colonization,” Paul corrected, having read extensively about the subject when he worked for the Ministry of the Interior. “There is native flora and fauna, but the three cities have domes and humans need respirators if they walk outside. The enviros are attempting to adapt an already complex ecosystem with many species. But they are being extremely careful about introducing people into the mix. If it wasn’t for the indigenous life, it might be everything Pravda isn’t. With the average ambient temperature around fifteen to twenty Celsius, it is a perfect candidate.”

“Why has no one ever named it?”

“I heard someone wanted to name it Babylon,” Paul replied.

“I heard that, too. He had a huge campaign and spent a lot of his personal savings to get everyone to vote for the name. I guess everyone was used to calling the place C974 so that’s why it was never renamed.”

“They haven’t decided whether anyone will live there permanently. There are a lot of challenges making the environment like the engineers want without adversely affecting the environment. So until they say the world works, I doubt they’ll name it. Maybe not then. Once people get used to calling something one thing they usually resist changing to call it something else.”

“Human nature,” the old man agreed. “You know what happened and defined my life?”

“No,” Paul responded. “What?”



“Yes, irony. The world is filled with it. Maybe even the universe. I never knew it until I was older and had a chance to reflect on things, but I’ll bet if you did some of that too, you’d see what I see, lots of irony.”

“Okay,” Paul was willing to give Harold the benefit of doubt.”

“I was a toddler by the time the engineers had anyplace habitable on the surface here. It was a horrendous pain in the ass for my mother and father to have to deal with a new baby, being confined to cramped dorms for the first settlers. When Haven was opened, my folks were among the first to set foot there. I was young but I remember some of it. By the time I was in my teens, they finished Andromeda and they started Star City. There was nothing but a few tents and construction sites, but that was a big deal. They started building before the dome was finished. My folks moved there and we lived in an airlock tent until their residence was finished. Star City was offering incentives to have people relocate there and many people who wanted a new start or a fresh start flocked there and suffered for a while. Mom and Dad lived there the rest of their lives always waiting for this world to turn into paradise. I guess I was never as optimistic,” he concluded.

“Who can believe an enviro, right?”

“Well, you would know,” the old man said. “You work with them, right?”

“When necessary.”

Harold laughed. “At least you feed people. So that’s something good.”

“It’s rewarding in a way, but also it is lonely and boring.”

“Are you gonna find a lady friend in Star City.”

“I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s not like I can settle down. Not until they let people live outside of the domes.”

“I never married,” Harold revealed. “On the occasion of my eighteenth birthday my father took me out and was in the process of telling me how to be a man when two ladies came by the bar where we were sitting and, one came up on the either side of me. I didn’t understand what was going on at the moment, but my father backed off and… well, they were very persuasive and I ended up going back to their place.”

“Two of them?”

“Yeah, can you imagine that? My first time, too!”

“Your dad arranged it?”

“Maybe he did. He denied it afterwards. But that was one of the high points in my life, having two ladies at one time.”

Paul laughed. “Well, I guess settling down with one woman after that experience would have been… disappointing?”

“Oh, I had a number of encounters and several girlfriends after that. I may no longer look the part, but in my day I was quite the stud. Everywhere I went I met ladies. We danced. Sometimes we went back to my place. Other times I went to her place. When that got old, I tried to make lasting relationships, but after a while something always seemed to fall apart. I met this one lady named Charmin. She was something else! She had the voice of an angel and the body of a temptress. She wanted it all the time. It wore me out. I thought she was the one, too. But she would have killed me.”

“Two at once and one lady named Charmin could have killed you,” Paul said incredulously.

The old man chuckled, “Yeah, I hear ya but you don’t really know. The two ladies that initiated me into the brotherhood of men liked me a lot. I was a virgin. Neither of them had ever done a virgin. So they shared me; they also shared with me all of the secrets they knew about satisfying the desires of both men and women. They showed me their ways and wiles, how to satisfy anyone in a sexual way. It seemed like a gift from the gods for me, but it proved to be a curse. I could satisfy others, but never really myself,” he confessed.

“That’s sad.”

“I practiced ancient tantric methods, ways of lingering on and on and on to ensure multiple orgasms for my partner. I was doing everything for them, nothing for me.”

Paul stepped back from the counter. “You have had quite a life, my friend,” he said.

“Yeah and the best is still to come,” he said.

“How’s that?”

“Watching a guy get it when he least expects it.”


Suddenly, security agents surrounded Paul. He knew from their uniforms they worked directly for the Colonial Authority.

“You did a good job delaying,” one of the agents told Harold.

“He must be pretty damned important for this many of you to come all the way out here and on hover craft to boot!”

“Can we borrow a room back there behind the counter?”

“Yeah, second one on the right has no window, four chairs and a table.”


“I thought it would suit your needs,” the old man beamed.

Paul’s hands were restrained behind his back as security guards poked him in the neck and injected a tranquilizer into his blood stream while other agents dragged him down to the room where other agents of the Colonial Authority desired to interrogate him. The guards deposited him harshly onto one of the chairs, and then made some comment about his traitorous acts. They taped his ankles and arms to the chair, and then taped his body to the chair to prevent him from slipping out of the chair onto the floor.

Paul was unconscious for a while. Maybe it was not all that long but it felt like at least an hour had elapsed. Anyway it seemed that the agents were expecting him to come out from under the influence of the drug. Paul wondered how many times had he been in this sort of situation. He had lost count. He sought to avoid any direct contact with the authorities, but ever so often they intersected with his existence and each time it became a more painful experience for him.

He sat there waiting, glancing around the room for any possible chance for escape. There were none obvious, especially with his bound hands and his head still groggy from the effects of the tranquilizer. After several minutes of relative isolation, two more agents entered the room, and then one guard posted inside the door and another outside the door.

“You’ve gone to a lot of trouble detaining the wrong guy. I’m on my vacation.”

“You want to play that game, Paul. Yeah, we know who you are, how you got here, where you were for the past few weeks. We know you’re an integral part of The Resurrection’s plans. We can show you the evidence if you like. What we want from you is an open confession and a commitment to work with us to apprehend the other criminals involved. If you do this, your life will be spared. As you know, what you have done is sedition and treason. That is punishable by death.”

Paul leaned back in his chair. He even smiled. “Et tu, Jodi.”

One of the two men looked up.

“So she’s playing both sides, one against the other?”

“Who’s Jodi?” the agent asked.

“Look, if you want me to be honest with you, you need to be honest with me. I know when you’re lying.”

One of the two men leaned back and sighed while the other stood up and walked toward the door.

“Okay, here it is,” Paul said. “You can let me go now and if you don’t follow me I won’t kill you.”

The agent who was still sitting across from Paul just laughed as he allowed his chair to rock forward. “You’re a pretty funny guy.”

Paul rocked his chair to the front legs and stood bent over for the curve of the chair. He wore a kind of ironic smile as he decided to simply unravel the duct tape that bound his hands together. The two agents looked on in utter amazement, as the tape seemed to be unwinding itself. Then suddenly, Paul disappeared.

“What the…?” The agent who had been sitting leapt to his feet. The other ran over to confirm what his eyes had witnessed. Paul was not there. The two men rushed the door, trying to open it, throwing their weight against it to no immediate avail.

“Get him!” one shouted through the door to the guard outside.

“Where is it?”

“He’s gotta be out there, somewhere. Find him!”

Paul paused at the counter to address the old man. “You know what,” he said as he came up from behind and startled him. “I’ll bet that nothing in your life has ever surprised you as much as this.”

“I do what they want. There’s no point in fighting them. I can’t afford to live if I don’t have this job.”

“Maybe all that other crap about your past was bullshit too.”

“I don’t bullshit. I never bullshit.”

“You lie for the right cause. Is that it?” Paul reached out his hand toward the old man. He backed up at Paul’s advance, fear in his eyes.

Guards came running down the hallway toward them. Paul projected an invisible barrier both men ran into, striking it before falling backwards after knocking themselves out.

“I don’t have to touch you to end your miserable, lonely life.”

“I’m not afraid of dying, only the pain,” the old man said. “I’ve had a good long life. Maybe now I can finally reach paradise.”

“I can set you free, but I’m afraid the your heaven is a lie.”

Paul turned away. As he did the old man clutched his chest and collapsing to his knees and then to the floor. The railcar was just arriving at the station. Paul waited and when it stopped at the dock and its door opened, he passed through the airlock and boarded it. When he sat down and got comfortable, the railcar left the station, gradually resuming its course and speed.

He sat quietly contemplating what he had done. Despite the apparent natural causes of the old man’s death, the agents would surely pin the death on him. As a result he fully expected some confrontation whenever he reached Star City. Obviously, the authorities from Haven would be in contact with their authorities. Paul was ahead of them, though. He may not have expected any of this, but he had anticipated almost every variable, including betrayal.

The railcar progressed toward its destination. Paul had a brief conversation with the lady who was sitting across the aisle. After a time she fell asleep and he was pretty much left to his own diversions and devices, figuring out how he was going to avoid the army of security agents that would descend upon the railcar in Star City.

He mentally calculated the speed and distance of the railcar to the expected arrival time factoring in the two minutes the car paused for him to board and also the pause for the railcar to access the entrance to the dome at Star City. He knew it was iffy, of course, but he had the knowledge to do it.

Paul could put on the breathing filters and exit the train through a maintenance hatch in the back of the railcar before arriving at the dome. Yes, there would be an alarm and maybe it might alert the authorities that he was there, but if he did it close enough to the city, he could enter through one of the remote maintenance ports in the dome, the ones that engineers used whenever they were performing checks on the dome’s integrity.

Of course he should be dressed differently but they had confiscated his bags. He would have to make do with what he had to work with. He hoped that he could seek out Raven once he was in Star City. Maybe the Courier could help him.