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