- In late Summer, expect Book One of the new epic fantasy series, Wolfcats. Titled THE SPECTRE’S WARNING, we enter the strange world Anter’x with three suns, three moons, and an assortment of fantastic beings. Wolfcats are a humanoid species having the attributes of both wolf and great cat making them powerful and agile adversaries. Historically they warred against the Hovdin Empire though, for many generations there has been peace. The Wolf Pack had prospered under the leadership of Old Tull but many fear what will happen when inevitably he passes on. The story follows two young wolfcats as they mature and assume leadership roles in the Pack.
- HOMER UNDERBY, Book 2 of The Thuperman Trilogy is due out in the Fall. Sandra is grounded pending the outcome of the first game of The Little League season and Will may as well be. But their adventures which began in BECOMING THUPERMAN are just warming up. They are confronted with a new mystery while exploring the old haunted house down the street. They may need the help of an unexpected ally.
- Future releases include: THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA, Book 3 of The Thuperman Trilogy tentative release in Spring 2019, WARRIOR HEARTS, Book 2 of Wolfacts, and CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD, the long awaited sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, coming late 2019. Everything will be released in both eBook and Print through Pandamoon Publishing and made available worldwide with distribution through Amazon and Ingram.
**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.***
Chase shook his head in disgusted disbelief then turned away feeling betrayed. Although Julie did nothing directed at him, she sold out his friends. He refused to look at her as she beseeched him to understand her motivation. “I did it for your sake!” she claimed.
“How could you do something like that to our guests?”
“Since they arrived everything in our lives changed. Don’t you see that?”
“You’re still jealous of her, despite everything I’ve told you.”
“What have you told me? You love us both. But you love me more? What does that mean, Chase?”
“It means you need to trust me.”
“You would have gone with her if you were up to it.”
Chase remained silent. He could not deny he might have because he felt that level of commitment for his friends.
“I know the truth,” she said, swiveling away in her chair.
“I’m not going to deny what I would have done. I’m only telling you I would have been faithful to you and to them regardless of the situation. That’s what friends do, Julie, especially when they need help. I don’t think you even begin to comprehend what’s going on around us. There’s a revolution starting around us.”
“That doesn’t involve us.”
“Maybe it should.”
“All I know is you’re in love with her.”
“Don’t be silly. How I feel about her is different than what I feel for you.”
“How’s it different?”
“There’s nothing physical between Cristina and me. Maybe we kiss on the cheek and hug. That’s it. I’ve never slept with her and I don’t contemplate ever doing that. And even if I did Alix would prevent it.”
Julie continued looking away for few moments while she allowed the silence to endure. Then she turned. “She excites you in a way that I’ve never seen in your eyes. When we’re making love I can sense her image in your mind. Yet you claim your relationship with her was always business, or perhaps a little more friendly – but always platonic.”
“I’ve never cheated on you, not even once. I never will. If you see her image in my mind when we make love then you also see the truth that surrounds a man’s fantasies.”
“I know you’ve thought about it.”
“I admit that completely. Yes, I’ve thought about it but thinking and doing are two very different things.”
“How’s it different if the feeling was in your heart?”
“Because I know it would hurt you and I cannot endure that,” he said.
“That’s weak,” she countered.
“I’m sorry you feel that way. But it’s the truth. I’m also sorry your jealousy compelled you to betray her friendship.”
“It was her common sense,” Yates said as he re-entered the room. “And her intelligence. That’s what drove her to protect you against your own stupidity.”
“Of course you’d be listening in on our private conversation,” Chase said.
“For you there’ll be no more privacy. You lost credibility and trust the moment you agreed to meet with Paul,” Yates explained. “Now, I’m afraid that everything has escalated a great deal. Previously, all we wanted was information. We intended to arrest Paul peacefully. Now, he’s made that impossible.”
“What happened?” Julie asked.
“Yesterday morning in Star City, agents of the Colonial Authority captured hundreds of operatives belonging to the local cell believed to be affiliated with The Resurrection. In a related action – and based on information received as part of the surveillance and eventual capture of the operatives including Tam, their leader – another action was taken late in the morning resulting in the arrest of the fugitive Paul Scalero, wanted for the murder of a relay station administrator. Paul was taken to the central processing facility for the Colonial Authority’s Security Agency. He and the leaders of the local cell were interrogated. Paul was interrogated through multiple sessions for most of the day and as I understand it well into the night. The interrogations resumed this morning.”
“So then, why are we still here? Haven’t we told you everything we know?” Julie asked.
“We’re merely seeking any information you might have about anything, regardless of how trivial it might seem.”
“You still haven’t answered any of my queries about Cristina’s whereabouts.” Chase prompted.
“Well, at present she and her boyfriend are the mystery. I really have nothing to tell you. I have been waiting for something, anything to come back from the field, but it seemed they disappeared into thin air,” Yates said.
“They’ve not found her body,” Chase said.
“No body, no trace. The amour piercing round used against the vehicle they were standing near was powerful enough to have vaporized both of them but we have been over the site with tweezers and microscopes looking for anything, blood, hair, clothing. There was nothing there to indicate they were there at the moment of the explosion.”
“At least there’s hope she’s still alive, no thanks to you. Your people broke into our apartment. I was going to drop her and Alix off at the station, but your agents barged in and seized. Your agents dragged me from the apartment. They put me into a coach and as we were pulling away I saw them bringing Alix and Cristina outside, held at gunpoint.
“They were brought here but they escaped. We know they had reservations for Star City but they never used them.”
“She would have been arrested if she had.”
“What has she done wrong?” Julie asked.
“She has been in contact with her brother, Paul.”
“And that makes her a wanted criminal?” Chase asked. “Is it guilt by association that prompts arrest, now? Isn’t that a violation of our rights? He’s her brother!”
“Apparently Paul was headed here to meet with her. So, I’m not so certain that she is quite as innocent as you believe,” Yates said. “You say that you never met him before he made contact with you in Haven.”
“I knew of him,” Chase said. “I saw him talking to Cristina when I had headed out to the beach to find Cristina. She always loved to watch the sunrise, especially over water and Haven was certainly the place for that. So when I awakened that morning and she was not in her room, I knew where to find her.”
“It was nothing unusual, then?”
“Did she tell you what she and Paul talked about?”
“She seemed to think he was just a guy that was sort of smitten with her looks, trying to put the hit on her – you know. She gets that all the time and doesn’t think much about it. Certainly, she didn’t take it seriously.”
“He told her his name?”
“Yes, and she apparently told him hers.”
“Is it possible they discussed more than that.”
“It’s possible,” Chase said. “I’d doubt it, though. She didn’t know that he was her brother at the time and according to what Paul said about her later on to me he didn’t know she was his sister either until maybe around the time that he called her on the phone.”
“It was just an innocent coincidental meeting.”
“Where we who have the attributes are concerned there are never coincidences, just happenings that at the moment we may not understand,” Chase explained.
“I can understand that. I even believe that. I have to in my line of work.”
“Then you know.”
“Julie,” Yates addressed. “You became close friends with her. You even went shopping together. Did she say anything that might indicate she was working with Paul?”
“No, it was only that she was worried about him, as her brother. She was having experiences using the orb for training that troubled her. She mentioned those.”
“Give me examples.”
“She was seeing events in the past, her mother and father, Paul and her when they were babies. She has also had dreams.”
“Were any of these dreams related to beasts called sand-morphs?”
“What about them?” Chase asked, taking more interest.
“It’s come up before in other instances with The Resurrection.”
“Do they exist, the sand-morphs?”
“I don’t know. Apparently there’s something in the past that we were called sand-morphs. Legends grew from what children speculate about. That’s the extent of what I can say.”
“Cristina had a vision of one, alive in the past, like it was a visit. Alix saw it too. They were both using their orbs at the same time and said that as they brought their orbs closer together they could see into the past.”
Yates sat back. “You told me the orbs come from couriers. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Julie said.
“Do they know where they originate?”
“They say they received them from the Architects, not the colonial ones but the ones who designed the Universe,” Julie revealed.
“So, let me get this straight. You’re telling me intelligent, perhaps even god-like, beings gave these orbs to the couriers to give to you for training in enhancing your abilities.”
“Yes,” Julie confirmed.
“Do you realize how crazy that sounds?”
“Of course, I do,” she said. “But it is the truth.”
“Do either of you know how many people have these orbs?”
“The couriers indicate that there is one for every one of us, but that when our training is completed we are to pass the orbs on to someone else, perhaps our progeny.”
“So there are not an infinite number of these orbs?”
“I don’t know how many there are, just at some point, whenever someone is identified as having the attributes to a strong enough level, a courier meets with him or her and an orb is provided along with the initial instructions.”
“Are there ever mistakes in identifying those who have the attributes?”
“I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t know of any examples. I’d think it’s highly unlikely. Once those of us who have the attributes are given orbs we seem to have enhanced senses. I think it would be very difficult for someone without the attributes to be mistaken.”
“How many couriers are there?”
“I don’t know that either. It seems that each of them has one orb to give and so I would suspect there are as many as there are people with the attributes. Maybe thousands.”
“How do you find them?”
“They find us,” Julie said. “Once we have an orb people with the attributes seem to be attracted to us. If we meet someone who has the attributes, we contact the couriers.”
“So there is a way of contacting them.”
“That depends on the courier. Some are reclusive, some are more sociable,” Chase said.
“None of them think very highly of humans,” Julie said.
“Are they not humans?”
“They were or maybe still are but they’re different. They have extended lives by comparison. There could be other differences, I suppose, but that’s the only thing I know.”
“Maybe they’re the origin of the attributes,” Yates suggested.
“It’s possible,” Chase said.
“I don’t think it’s likely,” Julie said. “The attributes are a potential that all humans have. In us the abilities are unlocked at conception and for whatever reason cause us to develop in slightly different ways than average humans. There’s a slight modification in our genetic code that wakes up latent but inherent abilities.”
“You consider yourselves to be human.”
“We are human,” Julie confirmed.
“Is that your feeling too, Chase?”
“I accept my humanity, my heritage and culture. Otherwise, there are some subtle differences.”
“Yes, you know; you understand,” Yates said.
“I think we both do. You just need to ask the question properly.”
“So are you are you not human?” Yates asked.
“Despite appearances and similarities, we are a fundamentally a new species,” Chase confirmed. We’re probably a different from humans as Cro-Magnon was from Neanderthal.
“I see,” Yates said. “So, your friend Julie here is wrong.”
“Julie’s not wrong. It is only that your question did not lead to the answer you seek.”
“We can have children with humans,” Julie said.
“Even in the way you express it you are separating yourselves. For you it’s already become a world for ‘us’ and ‘them’,” Yates pointed out.
“We may as well be an alien variant – humanoids,” Julie allowed.
“If there even is such a thing,” Yates countered.
“There is alien life. It’s made contact with humans many times, but for whatever reason it’s remained a secret or generally disregarded.”
“You believe you’re the result of those past encounters?”
“There’s a common thread,” Chase said. “That’s all I know. No one told me that, I feel it.”
Julie nodded, indicating she felt it too.
“Why the secrecy?” Yates asked.
“I think the aliens resemble us and maybe shared some of our experiences in the process of our evolution.”
“And if they don’t?” Yates asked.
Julie shrugged as a response.
“You manifest apparently amazing gifts. These are things that training with the orb enhances?” Yates asked.
“Yes,” Julie confirmed. “The abilities are not the same in all of us for whatever reason. Yet I think each of us have the full package. It’s just that we have our strengths and weaknesses.”
“I believe the orbs assist us in identifying and developing whatever interests us most,” Chase said. “We become what we are individually inclined to be.”
Yates’ communicator beeped. He looked at its display. “If you will excuse me,” he said as he stood and exited the room.
“You’re giving away too much information,” Chase accused.
“Don’t you think they know anyway? Yates is just seeking confirmation of what he has already observed or confirmed in other ways. They watch everything we do. It’s like he says, we have no privacy, Chase. Not anymore, thanks to Paul.”
“So how are you such close friends with Yates?” Chase asked her directly.
“He was a friend of my father. He offered to help me stay out of trouble. He knew a lot about us, Chase. He even convinced me that Paul is wrong. What The resurrection seeks to do is very dangerous. You have even said so yourself.”
“But that doesn’t mean you sell all of us out.”
“I haven’t,” Julie said. “I don’t want you attacked again. I don’t want our apartment broken into. I want to go back to having a normal life, living the way we were living.”
“That isn’t possible anymore. You can’t go back once the innocence is lost.”
“Well, I haven’t given up”
When Yates returned his face was a little red. Then he sat down in the chair. “I’m afraid the situation in Star City has grown more serious.”
“Cristina?” Chase asked.
“Your friends Cristina and Alix haven’t been found. The authorities ordered agents to board the railcar at the relay station and join the agents that were already staged onboard. But when they arrived in Star City, Cristina and Alix never boarded the railcar.”
“Then they’re still here, in Andromeda.”
“We’re looking for them, in both cities. People don’t just vanish – not without turning up somewhere else, anyway. We’ll find them. That is not the real issue of the moment. Your friend Paul has escaped, taking all of those who were in custody with him. There have been a lot of casualties, apparently all of them on our side.”
Chase sat back, even attempting to suppress a smile but failing.
“It amuses you that many good agents died and others are barely hanging on to life?”
“No, of course not. It’s the tragic aspect of it to be sure. What amuses me is how one rather insignificant looking guy could do such a thing to well-trained and heavily armed professionals? Don’t they have any idea or even the least bit of cautious respect for what sort of individual they are dealing with?”
“They had him heavily sedated to control him.”
“And our bodies build up tolerance to drugs and toxins! I don’t mind telling you because it doesn’t matter if you know what you’re up against! We have natural immunity to harmful organic substances and diseases. You cannot expect something will control any one of us forever – not even from one day to the next.”
“Then tell me how to control you?” Yates asked boldly.
“Brute force and belligerent threats obviously work for a while but apparently proved to be lethal for the authorities in Star City. Whoever was interrogating Paul – whoever pointed a gun at him is responsible for all those deaths. In Paul’s mind that’s how the game must be played because the Colonial Authority has refused to listen. Instead they proceed with the elaborate lie.”
“They proliferate the cover-up because they fear the truth might become common knowledge. The fact is we killed whatever was living here and seized the planet from them. We didn’t even do what humans on Earth did under archaic doctrines like Manifest Destiny. We did not round up the indigenous life and put them into camps, or force them to labor for us as our slaves. As inhumane as those things of the past were, they were far better than what happened here. We exterminated competing life to make way for our colonial interests. That’s what Paul and the others you label as subversives are fighting to make known. They want the truth to be widely circulated and I agree with him to that extent. The rest of what they advocate is at least a little crazy. They want to bring one of the creatures back to life.”
Yates leaned back in his chair. “How do they propose to do that? It has been a very, very long time.”
“I doubt it is even possible,” Chase said. “But Paul is confident they can do it. He says it’s because their life form is based on silicon, not carbon. That’s why our sensors didn’t detect the life form. We weren’t looking for the right chemicals.”
“Even so, it has been so long that–”
“He said they have well-preserved specimens.”
“Where would they get hold of specimens?” Yates wondered aloud.
“I can’t say?”
“Can’t or won’t,” Yates posed.
Chase looked Yates in the eyes, “They have specimens, plural. That’s what he told me. Does it matter where they came from?”
“It might indicate where they are.”
“Yes, I suppose it might,” Chase said. “If I knew.”
“Chase has tried to answer your questions,” Julie said.
“I know he has,” Yates said. “I appreciate the cooperation.”
“It just seemed like you were implying that he knew something and was withholding it.”
“Oh, I’m sure he knows more than he’s saying. It’s my job to detect that and pursue it, and then, I reassemble all of it and complete the puzzle. But for now, I suppose you can go back home.”
“It is a more comfortable prison than a jail cell,” Chase said.
**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.***
Beginning of Book 2 of The Attributes
The cell door opened. Light flooded into the otherwise dark room. Paul tried to rise up from the bed, wondering when and how he got there. Immediately he discovered his ankles and wrists were restrained, strapped to the sides of the bed. At least two people entered the room and grabbed hold of him. Someone, another one, unfastened the straps allowing him to be yanked upward. Painfully, his shoulders reminded him of how long his arms had been secured behind him. Dragged out of the room and into a bright corridor, the shock of being awake again, the reminder of the pain, the beatings, how long was he unconscious. He did not sleep.
Squinting he struggled to see where they were taking him. Why? Did he expect anywhere else? The torture he remembered. They called it an interrogation. It was anything but that. His knees, lower legs and feet dust mopped the slickly waxed resilient tile floor. He dirt stung the open sores on his lower extremities. Jerking him up by his arms they flung him through an open door. There some other hands latched hold of him, pulling him into an interrogation cell. The rough concrete floor’s surface scraped the scabs hide off of his bare knees, calves and tops of his feet, leaving a slimy trail of his blood behind – not that anyone but him cared much. They were already raked raw, as were other parts of his body.
Into a dark corner they deposited him like so much refuse. The smell of the interrogation cell brought back the excruciating agony of the prior session with the interrogator – the sadistic bastard. Trapped in the corner of a small room with one light, he huddled against the wall. Tears welled in his eyes as he caught the scent of the source of all his recent misery. Hearing his voice made his skin crawl and his heart beat harder in abject panic. He needed to control that.
Hanks of hair plucked from his scalp the pain returned to mind. His pubic area was burned and from the hairs being singed. Nipples, useless as they were, ached from the alligator clips clamped around them for the application of electric shock between beatings until he had lapsed unconscious. He remembered everything in cold, cruel clarity.
Two men entered. From their pungent sweat smell he identified them from the previous sessions. Sometimes they held him during the beatings. Dousing him with ice-cold water forced a scream through gritted teeth. Alertness as the single light illuminated the interrogator. In panic, he struggled to find his feet, only to have them slip out from under him and he fell back, banking his head against the wall. Now, his neck hurt, too. He wondered why it did not hurt before – everything else seemed to.
As he looked up at the man towering over him, there was general laughter from a number of agents who were returning to the room, primed for another session. His mind fused memories of past beating with the present moment until he was uncertain whether he rested at all. Was it his imagination before, the bed in a different room? He crumpled into a lumpy mess of human flesh on the floor as he lay there listening to the jeers and laughter.
“Behold the mighty Paul!” The interrogator mocked him. “Stripped of his legendary status. Here he is, merely a miscreant – another of the mutants. All the wild stories of amazing abilities have been rendered explainable. Just shut down his connection to the source. Now he does not have any kind of command over nature. He cannot kill anyone with mere thoughts alone. A pathetic excuse of a man who the criminals of this world have glorified beyond any reason! We’ll parade you in public and broadcast your image to the world, Paul! This will be a lesson to one and all. No will doubt who’s in charge!”
Hands reached down from around the silhouette of the interrogator, snatching him, violently hauling him up. Dragged again over the rough textured floor and dropped into chair, he felt them holding him there, ensuring he did not fall out onto cold, hard floor.
“So, have you changed your mind?” the interrogator asked.
Paul didn’t respond.
With exasperation, the interrogator struck him across the face. Paul could not see him clearly through his blurred vision. Still, he recognized him, his smell and the knobs ring on his hand, the one that tore into his cheek. With shivers of recollection for each excruciating moment of agony he endured, he knew him too well. Every cell of his body protested in anticipation of more terror. The interrogator was a man who had a demonic soul, Paul decided. He delighted in hearing screams of pain and the horror of anticipating more torment to come. This man promised to keep him alive, though it was only to prolong the torture.
It began the same as the session before, just a continuation. Paul was heavily sedated to deaden his perception of the world. He could not focus enough to gain control over even his sense of balance much less the world around him. Neutralized between the strong drugs and the electronic dampers projected into the room, his gifts failed him. His sensory connection was artificially severed.
“Let’s try it again, shall we?” the interrogator began. “Tell me about your sister, Cristina.”
Paul spat in the direction of the interrogator’s voice and received a backhand swept across his face in exactly the same place as before, already bruised and puffy from previous strikes.
“I’ll keep you alive so you can watch me pleasure myself repeatedly with your sister. I hear she is quite a treat. Maybe she can even get me off with her screams as she begs for the release of death. But I’ll fuck the shit out of her, Paul. That’s what I’ll do! Right up he ass with no lubrication.”
“Sick, perverted bastard,” Paul countered but his voice was weak and it cracked even as he spoke.
“I’m the best interrogator there is, Paul. They brought me here special just to deal with you. Maybe you can take some small pride in that accomplishment. I’m here to dissect you into little pieces. I’ll do it if you want, Paul? Is that the way you want it? Maybe I can fuck you up the ass with a broom handle.”
Paul spat again and received a knuckle punch to his face after which he felt blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and the tip of his nose.
“You know all about your sister, Paul, don’t you? Your parents thought they were so smart separating you shortly after birth. The two of you are monsters. Your mother was a mutant, an aberration of humanity. Mutants are not intended to mate but for some reason your father was turned on by it. You have four nipples and four balls! When I interrogate your sister I have plans for each of her four pretty little teats! That what we have to call them, cause she’d not human. She’s an animal like you, Paul! She doesn’t deserve to live any more than you do.”
Paul struggled but his wrists were immediately pulled back behind him and duct taped to the back of the chair. In the process, his shoulders felt as if they were ripped out of their sockets.
“You are not like real people at all, Paul. You see, you and your sister are really different forms of life altogether. You’re aberrations, what religious people call demons. You appear to be human and in her case a very attractive human from what I have seen and heard. But you can only pretend to be like us. There’s something else inside of you. It possesses you. What amazes me is you think you are better than we are. Look what your arrogance has gotten you. Who has put you in your place? A mere human – li’l ol’ me!” Then he paused to wave his assistants over, “Bind his legs and arms firmly. I don’t want him coming out of that chair!”
When they had finished he hooked up a battery to clips. Using his dirty fingernails he picked off the scabs formed on Paul’s four nipples before he pinched the clips into place. As he flicked a switch, he waited for the electricity to charge the capacitor, then he laughed was the voltage coursed through Paul’s body, enough so that his spasm in the chair caused him to bite his tongue even as he fell backward and crash into the floor. He struck the back of his head full force on the concrete, addling him for a few moments.
Blood and sweat splattered and stuck the pants legs of others standing about him. In response several of them cursed and kick him in the ribs.
Disoriented from the pain he blinked, trying to focus as he drew shallow breaths. He winced with pain from his bruised or cracked ribs. Not all right but he was aware and oddly his focus was returning as if the drugs were wearing off.
A revelation occurred to him. The interference he sensed before was gone. Mentally he was able to grasp the fragments of his recent memories. Safe haven for a level of serenity where he could reside, his thoughts crawled into shelter from whatever this demon spawn and his henchmen were going to do to him.
The assistants hauled Paul back upright for another go at the voltage. Another charge and discharge – the interrogator laughed insidiously as once more Paul fell over backward.
“Again!” he said sadistically. “I can do this all night. I love my job! You see, I know the worst thing possible is to torture you until you die. But if I get no information out of you, what’s the point? So I’ll keep you hanging on and it will only get worse for you. I assure you I’m very good at doing this, Paul. I can prolong your life and your agony until you beg me to end it. But I won’t, not until I have exactly what I need.”
Paul reached a point of novel experience. His body resisted, not only in response to the pain but also the drugs intended to suppress his special abilities. The suppressing effect was gone. He did not know why but he was grateful to whatever providence. It was part of his difference.
His body completed the tolerance negated its effects, bringing clarity to mind. With focus he swept aside the fog. Blurry vision cleared as he stared at the interrogator, and then growled.
“See you are an animal. Animals growl.”
“Animals can rip a man’s throat out.”
“Is that what you want to do, Paul?”
“You can’t imagine what I’m thinking.”
“I don’t need to know what your diseased mind is pondering.”
“Whose mind is diseased? Give me your name, asshole!” Paul demanded.
“You dare speak to me in that way!”
“It would be better for you if you volunteered the information, but I can extract it from you if you prefer. I promise not to be gentle, either.”
The interrogator laughed. “Was it intended as a threat?” He reached for the switch one more, intending to apply a higher level of voltage this time. Paralysis prevented his arm from reaching out. He could no longer use his hand.
Paul turned to the others in the room. “Some of you are young and have young families. You need to think of them when you ask is this worth your life. You may leave now and run clear of the building. In a few moments it will be too late. It’s going to be really messy in here.”
Some of them laughed, taking it as false bravado, but not all.
“How dare you!” the interrogator shouted, trying to move either one of his arms.
“You have told me what I needed to know,” Paul said to the interrogator; then he met his eyes, “Richard. That’s your given name, but you have always embraced the nickname ‘Dick’. You have aspired to be everything negative about what that nickname. Living to those standards, as morally corrupt and despicable as they are, has become your goal in life.”
“I am…unimpressed,” Dick said even though he strained against pain throbbing in his temples, blinking his eyes, wishing he could move his arms. “Guards get him out of here!”
Paul looked at the guards, halting their advance with a thought before he retuned his eyes to Dick. “Unlike you I don’t have the time or the patience to draw death out into a lingering, suffering sort of ordeal. But I will allow you a moment of silence to settle your peace with whatever marker you believe is responsible for your miserable existence.”
Paul terminated the painful pressure he was mentally applying to the interrogator.
“You make me laugh,” Dick said, straining to seem unaffected even if he was visually shaken. Finding that he could move his arms and hand, he grabbed Paul’s head between his hands. “I’m going to make you wish you’d never been born.”
“It’s is you are about to make that wish.”
Some of the tape that secured Paul to the chair began to unravel, seemingly all by itself. Other strip began to tear. Paul stood up, snapping what tape remained, breaking free of his bindings as if it were thin paper or, more so like it was never there at all. He raised his arms, coming up between Dick’s hands, as he quickly broke the interrogator’s grip. He flexed his arms and ripples coursed beneath the surface of his skin.
Several of the assistants scurried out the door. Some others adjusted their positions in defense of Dick, drawing their weapons.
“Stand down!” Dick ordered. “I can handle this shit head.”
“I have issues with some of the others. But most of my issues are with you, Dick,” Paul said. “They were following your orders. Maybe some of them enjoyed seeing me suffer. What you have done here is a travesty. It’s not legal. The planners of the colony never intended it to be this way. The Colonial Authority has grown beyond the scope of its charter. This is a police state. Civil rights are trampled to suppress any opposition.”
“You have no rights, Paul. You suspended those the first time you met with operatives from The Resurrection.”
“You’re nothing but a tool for the for the evil in this world. You’re what is wrong.”
“What’s your plan, Paul? Do you think you can walk out of here and disappear? There’re cameras and sensors everywhere, even places you’d never expect. We control you, Paul. I extract information from terrorists like you. I’m very good at what I do, Paul. Despite your resistance, I think you’d agree.”
“I’m not a terrorist. No one in The Resurrection’s a terrorist. We seek only to reveal the truth. This world’s name is ironic isn’t it? There’s no truth left in this world, only more of The Colonial Authority’s lies.”
“You’ve killed. That creates fear in others and that constitutes terror.”
“I’ve harmed no one who didn’t try to harm me first.”
“What about the old man you killed at the relay station.”
“He sold me out, kept me occupied with his stories while waiting for the agents to arrive. He died from an aneurism, like a ticking bomb in his heart. He would have died within a few days anyway.”
“It’s easy to justify your actions once you’ve crossed the line and gone down the wrong path.”
“I’m not wrong, Dick. The system you serve is what’s wrong. It needs to go.”
“So single handedly you’re going to overthrown the government?”
“I have help.”
“You know the people. You have the names. That’s the information I need, Paul. You refuse to give it to me. That information is what stands between you and more pain.”
“I’m beyond that, Dick. You don’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand. I know exactly what needs to be done. Lock him up!” he ordered the guards.
“Good-bye, Dick!” Paul pointed to the interrogator’s temple and suddenly Dick’s head snapped back. Falling he crashed into the table, his head banging onto the floor with an impact that cracked his skull, splitting it wide open like an overly ripe melon. The body twitched and kicked several times, before lifeless his eyes stared straight up at the light above him.
Turning on the guards. Paul waved an arm, easily brushing them aside. Some agents fired tranquilizer darts at him. With a single glare Paul stopped the projectiles in flight, suspending them in air. Then one-by-one, he snatched them before throwing them at the agents, sticking them in the leg or arm with the strong drug that, to them, would be an overdose. Almost instantly they collapsed to the floor.
Others who were not struck scrambled for the only door, closing it and locking in an attempt to trap him inside. In contrast to the general panic and mayhem around him, Paul was serene. Having found the best place to reside apart from the cares of the world, he proceeded toward the door. The internal pins in the hinges melted and the molten metal ran down the reinforced steel doorframe and to puddle up at the base. By its own weight the door fell into the room, slamming onto the floor.
He emerged from the room. In the wake of his passing, with a slight wave of his hand he flung anyone who threatened him them across the room with immense velocity, breaking backbones and crushing skulls. Without so much as touching anyone he eliminated all opposition.
To the agents, Paul’s body appeared to glow. Several apparent halos formed around him through which he could still be seen but he appeared translucent. From the far end of the corridor a barrage of bullets erupted from numerous flashing muzzles. The trajectories of the bullets deflected once they reached the energized edge of one of Paul’s halos. Some rounds scraped along the floor, others imbedded in the walls and ceiling. Undaunted, Paul continued to advance on the agents. With his mind he imagined they were flying. In response to his vision, agents flew toward walls and windows, but it was only those who fired weapons at Paul. Some of the agents died instantly from the force of the impact, others lingered in agony with their broken backs and limbs. The majority would die. A few sustained less severe injuries. Though incapacitated, they were spared his wrath.
As he walked down the hall he sensed Tam in a holding cell, being interrogated. Forcing the door to open he projected his will, picking up the interrogator, pushing him against the wall and pinning him there. “Where are the others?” Paul demanded as he came closer.
“I don’t have to answer to you.”
“You don’t have to breathe anymore either. Once everyone in this building who refuses to cooperate is dead, I’m sure I’ll find everyone I seek all by myself.”
“Look, I didn’t agree with their treatment of you. I don’t work that way.”
“Has he treated you humanely, Tam?”
“Judging from the looks of you, yeah, I’ve been treated very well. He’s not beaten me.”
Paul allowed Tam’s interrogator to slowly slide down the wall to where he sat on the floor. “Where are the others?”
“You want me to violate my oaths?”
“Are oaths more important to you than seeing Emily or your daughters Keisha and Trisha tonight?”
The interrogator tilted his head to one side. “It’s true what they say about you?”
“Whether it’s truth or lies, does it matter at this point? The only way for you to live is to tell me what I want to know.”
“It’s the door at the end of the hallway,” he said. “You’ll need the keys from the front security office.”
“Come, both of you. You will get me the keys, Rael,” Paul directed to Tam’s interrogator.
The three of them walked down to the security office, both Tam and Rael surveyed the level of carnage. “They’ll never relent in finding you. You know that?”
“It becomes a matter of many more are going to die?”
When Paul led Tam and his team outside of the Colonial Authority building, the few agents who escaped harm stood clear allowing them to pass safely into the shadows of the nearby alley and into night.
“What happened to Cristina?” Paul asked over his shoulder as Tam followed him.
“I don’t know, Paul.”
“Tell me the truth,” Paul paused as he turned and physically grabbed Tam’s shirt and focused in on his eyes.
“I’m telling you the truth! We were there to help her and her boyfriend. We walked into an ambush, at both stations. They were waiting for them but they never showed.”
“I’ve felt her here, her presence is undeniable. They may have her,” Paul said. “Where would they have taken her?”
“Other than where we were, I don’t know – unless they took her out of the city.”
“No she’s here. She did something to save me from the interrogator. I’m sure of it.”
Tam looked to several of his team leaders. “Then, she and her friend are phantoms.”
“I assure you they’re real, as real as you or me.”
“We sort of thought she might have gotten off the railcar before getting to the stations,” Tam suggested.
“Both stations were the same. It was like a trap,” another said.
“Do your guys know what she looks like?” Paul asked.
“Paul, some of us are fans, so, yeah, we know what she looks like,” Tam said.
“Where is she? How can someone like her just disappear?”
“How do you know she was even aboard that railcar?” one of the group leaders asked.
“You saw what he did back there and you can still ask that?”
“Well, he’s asking us questions.”
“It’s professional courtesy,” Tam said. “He won’t read our minds – unless he needs to.”
“She was not on the railcar, not that any of us saw,” the group leader spoke directly to Paul. “Granted, we were all pretty busy fighting off the agents. It could have provided a sort of diversion for her.”
“Maybe her traveling companion helped her escape,” Tam offered.
Paul frowned, concerned as he considered the possibilities. “Where would she go?”
“Does she have friends in the city?”
“Would he give her a more cordial welcome than I received?” Paul wondered aloud.
“How’s that?” Tam asked.
“She knows Raven. We’ll start there.”
**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.***
As the railcar approached the eastern station in Star City, there were only four passengers who remained seated. Upon arrival, Clare disembarked, silently saying goodbye to Cristina’s mind as she passed by. Alix waved good-bye; she reciprocated.
Cristina mentally noted the two others that remained aboard the railcar: the AE who had boarded at the relay station and one large man who sat toward the rear of the passenger compartment since the railcar left the station in Andromeda. Immediately, she suspected them both.
A few other passengers boarded the train at the station, preparing to leave the city. There would be a brief pause for passengers at the far station as the railcar was scheduled to go all the way to New Milan, a fifteen hour journey from Star City counting the interim stops at relay stations and the longer stops at Delhi, New Paris, New London, and the agricultural research institutes at Qad and another one near Emerald.
Cristina had been weighing the options, considering alternatives, not really mentioning anything but her initial concerns to Alix. She could tell that he was devising strategies as well. Even so she knew they were confident they would be arrested the moment they left the railcar if not arrested for not leaving the car at the next station. No option was too far fetched to consider.
Her entire reason for coming to Star City came into question. She needed to see her brother. She needed to understand the connection she felt, the meaning of the dreams she had. Everything that troubled her sense of peace was about Paul, concerning the trouble he was in.
Even if they could get off the railcar, she wondered if it was wise to involve Raven. Perhaps the authorities would be following them. Despite his generous consent, she did know whether it was wise to risk exposing him to the same danger that she felt was imminent.
The railcar left the first station and within a few minutes it slowed and arrived at the far station, on the west side.
“This is it,” Cristina said as she leaned over and kissed Alix first on the cheek and then on the lips.
“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” he said in response even if he only half-heartedly believed it.
As they stood up, for his part, Alix was prepared to act in an instant. He held onto Cristina’s hand not only for the comfort of knowing that she was beside him, but also for the execution of what he planned but hoped not to need. They headed toward the exit, expecting any second to be accosted. Then, when they exited the railcar they again expected to be surrounded by agents and arrested. Every step they took was with the anticipation of attack. They proceeded cautiously toward the station’s exit. Having long since been separated from their luggage back in Andromeda, they had nothing with them except the clothes on their backs.
Amazingly, there was no resistance, no reaction to them at all. No one seemed to acknowledge them. They went out to the street and stood there at a public transit stop waiting for the coach, which arrived within the few minutes. It was the norm for Starport.
“It’s like nothing ever happened back in Andromeda,” Alix said.
“That’s what’s bothering me,” Cristina confessed. She kept probing, seeking anyone that might be following them or monitoring their movements. If there was anyone, they were well out of the range of her senses or deftly concealing their thoughts. As inexperienced as she was with her abilities, she did not know how wide her range was but it did not comfort her that she could not detect anyone who knew about them. It made no sense. They had been approached in Andromeda and detained for questioning. The authorities pursued them for resisting arrest. They escaped only to be shot at and nearly killed by a couple of explosions. They should not have arrived in Star City without having someone waiting for them. They were fugitives, after all.
Because of the confusion she was still very apprehensive about going to Raven’s estate. What if they – the controlling forces that she knew nothing about but yet suspected – were monitoring her from just beyond her perception? What if they were lying back hoping that she would lead them to her accomplice? She could be setting Raven up for unwanted trouble. She did not want to do that at all. She activated her travelcom and tapped her earlobe and then her wrist to execute the holographic projection in her palm to call Raven but then thought better of it. Her implanted phone would surely be monitored.
“You’re really nervous,” Alix whispered.
“Where are they?”
“It isn’t like I have anymore of a clue than you do right now.”
“I know. It’s just…it’s making me crazy. I expect them to jump out at any moment, and maybe, we shouldn’t even be doing what we are doing. I don’t want anyone else to get into any trouble.”
“That’s just it. I’m not sure why we are in trouble. Yeah, so, we ran away but that was after they beat me…us, for no reason, really. Why did they want to arrest us in the first place? Because you know Paul?”
The stop for ‘The Crosstown’ was coming up. As the coach slowed, Cristina took Alix’s hand and led the way to the door. He helped her step down from the coach onto the curb. As Alix glanced down along the street he could already see the next coach for their connection approaching. “We’re really getting lucky.”
“It was like this last time. The Starport system in Star City is amazing,” Cristina leapt at the chance to talk about anything that was not about her imminent concerns.
“And it’s free.”
“It has always been.”
“Why isn’t something like this free everywhere?” Alix asked.
“I don’t know,” Cristina said. “I suppose that every city has something unique that makes it special, maybe even better than any other place in some way. Besides there is nothing free in government services. Somehow Star City figured out how to do it in a way that everyone can appreciate and not care to be taxed for it.”
“I guess I just never knew all that much about Star City,” Alix said. “No matter where you are coming from it is always a long trip just to get here. I guess the city is okay once you get here.”
Cristina wrapped her arms around his right arm, “I’m still really worried.”
“We have been pretty fortunate so far.”
“That’s what’s got me on edge,” she responded.
“On the edge is better than over the edge,” Alix countered, forcing a smile. “Pete always says that.”
“I really miss the guys. Maybe we should just head back home and explain everything to the authorities in New Milan.”
“I’m beyond ready to go home. I would have gone home two days ago, but I thought finding Paul was important to you.”
“It is, but I’m wondering is it really worth it – all the risk to everyone else?”
“If you don’t do this now, you’ll always regret it.”
She looked down.
“You know I’m right.”
“I know,” she admitted.
Alix looked up at the digital display for the streets, showing where they were on an overhead map display. “How much further is it?”
“Not far,” she said. “We get on the east bound coach at ‘The Hills’. Then it’s the seventh exit.”
“So we’re going there anyway?”
“It doesn’t make any sense to me, Alix. It seems like nothing has happened, nothing at all. No one is following us, no one that I can perceive. Everything is quiet in the city.”
“It’s almost eerie.”
“Yeah,” Cristina said.
When they reached their stop and exited from the coach, they were immediately picked up by another coach and delivered to a stop that was only a few dozen meters from Raven’s estate. They ascended the hill, while Cristina begged him to let her do all the talking.
“No problem there. From your description of Raven, I’m not sure I want to even meet him, let alone piss him off by inadvertently saying something wrong.”
Cristina turned and kissed him. “I don’t think I could have done this without you.”
Alix shrugged in response, and then added, “We’re in this together aren’t we?”
Cristina smiled as they reached the front door of the estate. She tugged on the rope and then they waited. She was just getting ready to tug the rope again when the door opened.
“Dom, how are you?”
“I’m fine, Cristina. To my knowledge The Master is not specifically expecting you. Did you make an appointment directly with him that perhaps he forgot to tell me about?”
“He knew that we were coming, but so should –”
“Very well, please wait here, I shall return promptly,” he said, interrupting her and then closed the door.
“At least he remembers you,” Alix offered.
“I doubt that he forgets anyone. He’s a special type of manufactured being, an organic android.”
“They used them to build all the translation thresholds, back when people still lived on Earth.”
Alix nodded as he realized, “He’s a DOMLIB, then.”
“You know about them.”
“Yeah, I heard some things about them, not always good.”
“Well that’s what makes all of this very weird. I spoke to him on the phone as well. He doesn’t seem to recall.”
Presently, Dom returned to the door. “Cristina, the Master says it cannot possibly be you.”
“He said that if it is you, then you would have certainly called in advance because you know how he is about appointments.”
“But I did call,” she protested, and then paused to glance at her chronometer. “It was about twenty-hours ago!”
“He said if it is really you, then you have not come by railcar. He saw a report on world viewer indicating you were seen in Andromeda at a club in town and there has been insufficient time for you to get here by railcar. So if it is truly you, then you have not come by that means. Perhaps you came by other means.”
“But that’s precisely how we came, by railcar. We came as soon as we could. I called Raven yesterday morning.”
“Perhaps the Master forgot. I do not recall the call either and I suspect I would have answered,” Dom said.
“You did! That’s what’s so very weird,” Cristina said. “I mean maybe Raven forgets a few things, but you remember everything.”
“The things the Master has forgotten in the past he sometimes wants to. But you are correct; it is rare. And yes, I remember everything.”
“Look, go back to him and tell him this. It’s certainly me. You know that already. And say that, I know who he is, who he really is,” Cristina said.
“Are you sure?” Dom asked. “I recall the last person who learned his true identity and made it known to him met with an unfortunate incident.”
“Just tell him you’re certain it’s me and I know who he really is.”
“As you wish,” Dom said, even bowing slightly, and then closed the door once again.
“Do you really know who he is?”
“At this point it’s sort of a bluff,” Cristina said. “I have some suspicions, though. It will anger him, maybe enough for us to get past the front door.”
Promptly Dom returned opening the door and allowing Cristina and Alix inside, at least to stand in the foyer.
“Was it any clue that I might have yielded?” Raven said as he floated out of a room at the far end of the hall.
“I reasoned it out, the timing, the birthdates.”
Raven approached the foyer.
“Raven, this is my friend Alix.”
“Well met, Alix,” Raven said as he offered his hand. “So, which one of you is it who manipulated a fold?”
“What is a fold?” Cristina asked.
“Okay, well, I will assume it was Alix, then,” Raven stared at him, making him extremely uncomfortable.
“I’m not familiar with that term, other than taking two sides of a sheet of something and pressing them together.”
Raven laughed. “I am speaking of time, or rather a perception of the passage of time. Since you are obviously here as Dom has confirmed and he never makes a mistake, and to me you appear to be who you claim, I must deduce that since I have no recollection of any prior conversation with you about your coming, then you must be early, earlier than your call, which now I’m expecting in about four hours.”
“You’re saying this is yesterday?”
“No, this is today,” Raven stated. “It’s my today. However that does not mean it is your today. It could well be even earlier than your yesterday. I doubt too much earlier because as impressive as negotiating a fold is, doing it for any interval longer than a day or a two requires some understanding of astral physics and projecting to a point in space and time where the destination was.”
“That’s what Alix was saying earlier,” Cristina said. “I didn’t understand it then, either.”
“The world around us is always in motion, revolving on its axis, orbiting our sun and gradually following its orbital path around the hub of the galaxy.”
“Yes, and I must say I’m very impressed. Your knowledge of astral physics is unanticipated,” Raven praised.
Alix smiled in response. “I studied physics in high school and did a term report on the orbits of the other planets in this solar system. And I studied the electromagnetic spectrum and how it relates to music before I dropped out of the conservatory.”
“You must have done a good deal of research on your own. Your knowledge is well beyond orbital trajectories and the audible range of the EM.”
“Everything is music to me, Raven,” Alix said.
Raven chuckled. “You know, I won’t debate that issue with you because in a very real sense you are completely correct. Music is certainly one of the foundations. Of course, there are further complications.”
“There always are,” Alix said.
“What you haven’t considered is plotting courses and trajectories for dealing with extended intervals of years because there is a slight movement of the galaxy as it seems to be moving away from other galaxies but it is believed that all the while it is orbiting a theoretical point in space/time where everything began,” Raven explained. “The farther one would travel in time, the greater the complexity of the calculations of the space coordinates.”
“Is that possible?” Cristina asked.
“What is not possible? If you lack imagination then the answer seems to be ‘everything’. But as long as you can dream, there is nothing that’s not possible.”
“That’s very close to a quote from a book my father used to read it to me,” Cristina interrupted.
“I’m impressed. I’ll bet you were very precocious as a child.”
“I imagine everyone with the attributes was,” Alix said.
“I’ll bet you know the author,” Cristina suggested. “I’ll bet you know him really well.”
“We have shared many things,” Raven said rather evasively as he glanced toward her, suddenly wondering what Cristina might sense directly. He knew she possessed the skills of a telepathic empath. For one of the few times in his life he was concerned that someone could read his mind without his knowing it.
“I love that book. I always insisted my father read to me from it.”
“The author, Hunter is the third or fourth wisest man I have ever known,” Raven said, more than anything as a way of diverting her thoughts.
“Why the hedging?”
“Well, I knew Terrence Phillip Harper personally.”
“The chief architect,” Alix said. “The father of the photon processor…the man who synthesized organic memory cells.”
“Again, you impress me, Alix.”
“Sometimes I read when we are riding on the railcars on tour,” Alix explained.
“I think most people believe Harper contributed directly to our achievements but also many if not most of our problems and present dilemmas. So the jury is out as to his overall wisdom. Despite knowing him very well, in his latter years I despised him while still respecting his quick mind and all of his scientific accomplishments.”
“Who were the others?” Cristina pursued. “Who was there any wiser?”
“People you probably never heard of. Lao Wei taught me martial arts when I lived in Taiwan for a few years. I was studying advanced Chinese Mandarin there. He is by far the wisest man I ever met.”
“And the others?”
“Well Hunter, as I have said. But also my dearest friend of all, Brent Woods.”
“I don’t recognize the name.”
“And he would be curiously flattered that you don’t.”
“He was an obscure author in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. We met by accident, literally – although I have learned through direct experience there are no accidents? He saved my life that first occasion and then many times after. The situations always occurred in very unexpected ways. I think what I respect the most about him is he truly and honestly does not care at all about money or fame. He does whatever he feels is necessary to help his friends through their personal crises. Including Lee Anders Johnston, a popular Country musician of the late Twentieth Century.”
“Johnston was a poet in his later life,” Cristina said.
“And an theorist,” Alix added. “He contributed greatly to the understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
Raven chuckled. “Lee claimed he sucked at poetry, but still he took stabs at it. Brent said he sucked at it even worse than Lee. Whenever he did what emerged surprised him. Early on, Lee set some of Brent’s verse to music and they became hit songs. One of them won a Grammy.”
“A prestigious award of the time, I assume,” Cristina said.
“It meant you had arrived in the mainstream of popular music culture on Earth,” Raven explained. “In America, anyway.”
“I think I might like Brent,” Cristina said.
“Yes, you would. And I’d bet you could talk about writing lyrics.”
“So, back to our present situation. You don’t know how early we are?” Alix asked.
“We can look at the holographic displays for our phones,” Cristina suggested.
“I have often wondered if the nano-circuits would endure the transition to remain a viable reference?” Raven pondered.
Cristina tapped her earlobe then her wrist.
“It’s the fourteenth, 6:47 AM.”
Raven chuckled. “Well, the conditions of the shift in space and time have no effect on the implants. You are exactly two days and five minutes early.”
“So, what happens in two days? Do we collide with ourselves?” Cristina asked.
“How could you? You’re already here,” Raven said.
“We have created another event stream,” Alix explained. “We carry on as we are because this is how it is. We arrived earlier than expected, before we called. So two days from now there will be no one to arrive when originally expected because we are already here and have been for two days.”
“Precisely right,” Raven said.
“Wait, when I spoke to you on the phone you said a few odd things.”
“My dear Cristina, I cannot speak for what I will say to you in the near future, but I know what I might be feeling under those circumstances. I do not like deceiving friends. I will carefully parse words to avoid it. Because you are already here, when you call to ask permission to come, to me we will have discussed all of this already. I doubt I will say anything other than something vaguely true without revealing the full truth to you.”
“But we just arrived here, so how would you know about all of this before this ever happened? I mean, well not you but the future you?” Cristina pursued.
“That’s just it,” Alix attempted to explain his understanding. “We entered an event stream where this set of circumstances is possible. So of course, it connects directly back to what we have already experienced in our shared past.”
“You’re saying we did exactly what we needed to do.”
“Being us we had no alternative,” Alix said with firm conviction. “We caused this event stream.”
“This is giving me a headache,” she complained. “Especially this early in the morning and after riding a railcar all night. Trying to sleep en route is like finding a comfortable place in a small linen closet.”
Raven sighed. “I have always hated traveling, regardless of the mode of transportations. But my suggestion for the headiness of your situation is to just accept it as I have. I’m prematurely your host for the next couple of days. Dom, please make the necessary preparations for their accommodations and meals. I’m taking them to my study. I have a pitcher of tea in there, so we should be fine. Just bring them some glasses.”
“As you wish, Master.”
When Cristina entered the study she went immediately to the couch where she sat before and settled there in front of the simulated fire that was raging brightly in the fireplace. Alix cautiously sat down beside her, and then as Raven hovered over the same rocking chair where he always sat when entertaining guests, Dom returned with glasses for them and poured everyone ice teas from a pitcher.
Alix started to replay the events of the escape from Andromeda in his mind as Cristina explained, “They arrested us.”
He interrupted. “We escaped because of a trick I learned from the orb. We took an armored vehicle. We expected that they were waiting for us to arrive at the station to depart Andromeda. We evaded them until they locked in on our position and they started shooting at us and setting off explosions around us.” Alix shuddered as he mentally relived the event.
“You wanted to escape from that situation?” Raven asked.
Raven chuckled, “Of course I would.”
“I didn’t know if it would work, but it was something I had done before when I played with the orb. I knew I could be somewhere else in a thought and I hoped that by holding Cristina I would take her with me.”
“You shifted, beneath the veils,” Raven clarified.
“Yes,” Alix said. “I mean I guess you’d call it that. I did it before but on a lesser scale.”
“Is that all?”
“Where we were was fine inside the armored vehicle for a while,” Cristina said. “Then they started attacking with more powerful weapons.”
“An armor piercing round…it exploded just as we shifted again,” Alix said.
“So, you shifted twice?” Raven asked for clarification.
“Yes, the explosion was so close I felt the heat from it as I grabbed hold of Cristina’s hand and suddenly we were sitting aboard the railcar.”
Raven listened intently. Then after some moments for consideration, he looked directly into the young man’s eyes, “Tell me, Alix, what was different about the two shifts?”
“I’m not sure,” Alix said.
“They were not the same.”
“They did not feel the same, no. I figured I was a lot more scared the second time.”
“What were your thoughts, the first time?”
“We needed to get away from the people who captured us.”
“What about the second time?” Raven prodded.
“I really wanted to get out of there, make everything different, and change what was happening. We were in trouble. The authorities were after us. We were fugitives…I never wanted to be that in my life, having to live in fear for the rest of my life, always running away.”
Raven nodded. “There was a very profound difference in your mindset. I assume you do not know how to fold time even though it is a very small step from being able to shift position beneath the veils.”
“Obviously we traveled back in time, whether Alix knew he was doing that,” Cristina stated.
“The concept of traveling is probably not the best term for it. Traveling suggests there was some interval for the process. In this case it was instantaneous. I believe relocating or repositioning in time would be more accurate.”
“This is the past, though,” Alix confirmed to his mind’s peace.
“It depends on perspective and aspect, does it not? For you it is; for me it is the present. It is as I indicated before. As impossible as that might sound, it is the only explanation for how you are here and your chronometer says the date is two days from now. You claim you spoke to me yesterday but that has not yet happened.”
“I’m not comfortable with being in the past.”
“My dear Cristina, what my friend Hunter said more eloquently than I could have is that, if anyone can do it, then it is possible. I have done it many times,” Raven revealed. “Knowledge is powerful, having all knowledge is merely omniscience, but there is the illusion of omnipotence.”
“Do you have that kind of power?”
“I sought to possess all knowledge for a time,” Raven revealed. “I suppose that in a way I was following my heritage, learning the fallacy of my father’s quest. He desired power and realized at some point that information was really the means to gain advantage and obtain of the level of power he sought. It is a very short step from seeking information alone to delivering someone close to omniscience but certainly not to the omnipotence that my father really sought. Knowing everything would of its curious nature make someone inherently impotent.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“To know every possible outcome would restrict you from doing anything that might lead to an undesired outcome. Since in any event stream there will always ben an undesired potential outcome…”
“I see,” Alix said. “That’s astute.”
“It’s why we’re human, not gods,” Cristina offered. “Both you and your father sought to be godlike, but ultimately failed.”
Raven chuckled. “Where were you when I needed your insight and advice?”
“In your future,” she said.
“Obviously,” he responded, but then, after a pause, he continued. “I understood it was an ideal state of being my father sought. He was dealing with the absolute aspects of life and nature. But that did not deter me from a similar quest. At an early age I began to perform tricks that I had acquired in the process of learning to manipulate the universe around me. They amazed my father.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong in my assumption,” Cristina prefaced. “But if we have gone back a couple of days, then couldn’t we go back further in time?”
“You are asking me to speculate on Alix’s abilities and the general possibilities of the universe. Everything is possible! Hunter said it and I don’t dispute it. Whether Alix or perhaps you could accomplish it is another matter.”
Cristina reached over and grasped her boyfriend’s hand. “We could stop what happened right before we left Andromeda.”
“Perhaps, but that sets up all sorts of quandaries that makes even the most learned men and most visionary thinkers have swirling confusion in their thoughts,” Raven suggested.
“Well, actually those are most often self-nullifying,” Raven said. “Changing something in the past modifies an event stream to which the future is thereafter attached. But it is suddenly a very different future than might have been expected before. Depending on how far back you go to change an event, the changes may be more dramatically expressed, but always it is always along a new path.”
“And the closer the change is to the present the less deviation is possible but also the less the impact on everything around it.” Cristina offered.
“What do you propose we do?” Raven asked as he focused on her eyes, knowing she intended something.
“Just some thoughts –” she began to say.
Alix interrupted, “Personally, I might just sit here and wait for this to become the new variant as we will have by then come here a couple of days early and eventually everything will be the same as it would have been anyway.”
“Except that you got here before the authorities could detain you,” Raven countered. “And from what Cristina said it has something to do with Paul.”
“That will not change what we are. We will still eventually become fugitives, “Alix said. “If we make it back to Andromeda, or maybe even call ourselves and explain what is going on…”
“Would you listen?” Raven asked. “Either of you?”
“I know you wouldn’t. The premise is too far outside of your prior experiences.”
“How can you be certain?” Cristina asked.
“Even if you listened it would create yet another event stream, using Alix’s particularly apt terminology. So it would not appear to affect you and Alix of the here and now, but instead create yet another instance deviation from the expected events. You would follow that stream because you created the novelty. But there would also forever be an Alix and Cristina trapped in this present and uncertain scenario,” Raven paused for a few moments before continuing. “One likely outcome of calling yourselves would be that the couple you are in Andromeda of the here and now would think it a prank call of some raving lunatics. It would be just as it was in my day,” he stood up from the chair and floated over to the imitation fire and waved his hand before it. “If it were but real I would have one very, very hot hand.” He left it there for emphasis, allowing the flames to tickle it. I’d be blistering my skin by now, in a lot of pain and perhaps even entering a second degree of burn. Leaving my hand in the flame, as it appears to be, my flesh would rapidly deteriorate until it became cooked, and then charred and blackened. At that point my pain might have turned into brief agony, but I assure you immediately afterwards it would become numbness. That is what it feels like to burn alive.”
Both Alix and Cristina stared at their host.
“Have you endured that experience?” Cristina asked. “Or was that intended to diverting our attentions.”
“I never say anything that is unnecessary, not anymore,” Raven proclaimed. “Look, here is what I know. I can save you a lot of aggravation in the process, if you listen. Of course you could remain here and continue to create thousands of scenarios until one might sort of work out as you intended. But then you’d end up replaying that fiasco many times before the overall accumulation of frustration becomes a critical enough mass to forego any future attempts to change events in the past to suit your tastes and desires.”
“Okay,” Alix said. “I think I follow that.”
“This is what I know,” Raven shared. “People from the future do not routinely call people in the past, not so much as it is impossible but that rarely would work out favorably. According to what you have told me about your version of my future, your brother Paul is apparently on his way to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow morning. He will thwart the authorities attempts to subdue him and will come here for my help.”
“Which you will not do.”
“Why would I get involved in his lunacy?” Raven asked.
“Maybe we can change some of that,” Alix proposed.
“How?” Cristina asked.
“I don’t know yet. I mean we have to think this through. Maybe it is not ‘us’ that we have to change but Paul or his situation.”
“No, the problem is you shouldn’t be involved,” Raven suggested.
“We are or rather were…will be – I guess,” Alix replied.
“I understand that, but I will not participate. It’s not my battle,” Raven said adamantly. “When he arrives here, begging for help, he will already be a pursued fugitive. It is far too risky for any of us to be involved with him. Look where just knowing him has already gotten the two of you.”
“He’s my brother. I have to do something.”
“We have to, “ Alix expressed his support.
“I know that, Cristina,” Raven said. “After he comes here, which you have told me he will do, he will continue until the authorities find him and incarcerate him. Or the affiliated local cell of The Resurrection may find him and seclude him for his own good as well as theirs, which will be like a prison for him in its way.”
“Has anything like this ever happened before to you?” Alix asked.
“What?” Raven asked.
“You sort of indicated that you played with time to correct past mistakes.”
“And it never worked out. It’s a waste of time, more time than you could ever possibly know.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I wanted to save a friend,” Raven looked away from Alix and Cristina. He wandered toward a window and suddenly parted the heavy drapes that normally shut out the light from the outside.
Quickly he turned then met the solemn stares of incomprehension from his guests.
“It would be a very effective test for those who bear the attributes except that you persist in wearing the protective UV lenses…”
“Now, I understand,” Cristina said. “I thought it was an odd quirk until now. Like maybe you somehow felt compelled to bring sunlight from outside into the room for however briefly.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you’re eccentric,” Cristina allowed.
“And the difference between insanity and eccentricity is the ability to afford someone to take care of you at home so that others don’t need to see how crazy the world has made you.”
“You have Dom to look after you,” Cristina said.
“Yes, and I have prevented the authorities from confiscating him for the general good,” Raven was quick to point out.
“Your perpetual friend who spares you from the mundane chores of existence.”
Raven smiled with subdued wryness. “It has never been except for always. If you figure that riddle out, you may eventually know the truth.”
Cristina closed her eyes and focused for a few moments, trying to sort through everything she had just learned and applying it to the knowledge of the orb. Then faintly, she heard a voice, a voice she had heard previously that awakened her from a dream. It was a mental voice as it lacked timber or volume. Yet, she heard its plea, then, “Help us!” Still, hearing did not mean she understood it.
“You said you were coming here to find Paul. We know he will be here tomorrow. I will send him away. He’ll be a wanted man before that. The authorities will be relentless in pursuing him. According to what you told me they accuse him of killing a man. Even if I believe it was a purposeful execution, I know what Paul or for that matter any one of you can potentially do, I do not doubt the accusation.”
“I just need to see him and talk for a few minutes. Maybe it won’t matter much, but I think I know something that he doesn’t and it might persuade him to reconsider,” Cristina requested.
“The Resurrection intends some craziness about bringing a sand-morph back to life,” Raven said as he shook his head.
“If it is possible,” Alix said.
“What may prove impossible is the remedy afterwards,” Raven said. “There is the unknown variable, whether anything resurrected will have memories. If it does not, then it can be trained to learn our languages, perhaps. However, if it does retain memories, The Resurrection will need an empathic person to interpret.”
“That’s why they need me, then,” Cristina said.
Raven nodded slowly as he looked at her. “That is why they are so desperately interested in you. It is why Paul needed to approach you with his personal pleas. You see, empathy is something that all of us have as potential, but you possess the ability at the forefront of your being. You can feel with precision what others feel, sharing the experience, the pain and the thoughts associated with existence. That is a very rare gift, indeed.”
Alix looked to Cristina seeking some confirmation. She nodded in response. “It is also why I can talk without talking.”
Raven smiled, “Telepathy may be associated, but it is not the same thing. You do not need it in order to know how someone feels.”
“Can you read my mind,” Alix asked her.
“Sometimes, especially when your emotions are strongest.”
He looked away.
“I don’t make a habit of intruding.”
“But you have?”
“Never intentionally,” Cristina insisted. “I respect privacy, especially yours.”
“Well I don’t want you in my head. I have enough issues in there already.”
“Fine, I’ll try harder,” Cristina snapped back.
“Look, I just want for this nightmare to be over. I want to get back home, record new music and go back on tour and never again have to worry about sand-morphs or what Paul’s up to.”
“That potential may no longer be possible,” Raven interjected. “According to what you are telling me, Paul will become something beyond the mere man. That demands to be dealt with. If this is not handled properly there may be a grand witch-hunt for everyone with the attributes. Likely as not, it would spread to include even the Couriers. In so doing, the Colonial Authority would guarantee not only their demise but also the end of human culture and achievement.”
To Be Continued In:
The Attributes Book Two
Paul entered his second day of voluntary captivity. After eating breakfast, he began reading another book. Perhaps he would eventually exhaust the contents of the memory cube – at least the Mods containing books he had not already read – before it was deemed safe for him to come out of hiding. Still, he suspected Tam and the others would relocate him soon. As risky as moving him might be it was more dangerous for him to remain in one place.
He had no complaint about the service. It was everything Tam promised. Despite the quarters being cramped it was what it had to be. No one had found him. For the present, he felt safe.
A troubling dream woke him early on in his sleep. Afterwards, he had rested uncomfortably lapsing briefly in and out of other dreams. As vivid as if it were really happening, when he recalled it with wakeful mind he took it as a premonition or a forgone conclusion. What worried him was it involved Cristina. He believed that maybe there were times when it was quiet and he was not otherwise focused and he could see and feel what she was experiencing.
In the dream people were chasing her. There were explosions around her. She was in imminent peril. She needed his help more so than ever before. What could he do? He was in hiding. Helping anyone let alone her seemed unlikely. Then there was another feeling – an odd sensation he did not understand. How could she be in two places at once?
As his mind lingered in consideration, the potentials swirled confusing and frustrating him to the point the only rational way of dealing with it was discounting his dream altogether. Still, there was something very important about Cristina. He had to see Tam. They had to protect her, too. He wanted to at least get the word out to him that she was in danger. But none of the people who brought him meals or attended to him as he showered and changed clothes would permitted to talk to him – aside from polite exchanges of his expressed gratitude.
He didn’t want to go anywhere else. He just wanted to get word to Tam so he would know Cristina might be in trouble. He didn’t know why or when it began but he sensed her presence. If she were not in Star City already, then she would be arriving soon.
He wondered why she would want to come to Star City, but then he had been heading to Andromeda for a single reason as well. Clearly, they both felt it. Their mutual need and shared destiny compelled them. There was something important about the reunion. Something perches on the knife’s edge of lunacy, doubled in this crazy world. It was past his mind’s grasp. Hopefully, she understood it.
The meals came on schedule. At the appointed time so did his shower and change of clothes. He had finished another book, for the most part. He had skipped past a few boring paragraphs on subjects that he already felt that he knew a lot about and skimmed through some portions that were highly scientific in their detail and well beyond his level of interest or comprehension. He was reading about the aftermath of the DOMLIB insurrections in the near-Earth colonies. The author suggested it was a revolt of former slaves, suggesting the manufactured organic beings had acquired human desires for freedom and self-determination.
The book went to great lengths to chronicle and catalogue the destruction and devastation. Yet nowhere did it explain how humans survived the onslaught. To Paul it was like reading a story then getting to the last chapter and finding that the last few pages were missing.
He knew what happened, of course. Every school child learned of the triumph. It had become a legend discussed as a mysterious act of amazing foresightedness. How could anyone have possibly known or even suspected the possibility that would necessitate the inclusion of a failsafe feature designed into the DOMLIBs. Programmed into their essential nature was a command override that would shut them down in the event of malfunction or violation of the essential core programming parameters to serve mankind.
Paul sat on the cot in his tiny, cramped corner of the world and pondered how anyone would have ever thought that the DOMLIBs might turn out to be dangerous. Had it really been intuition or foresight? Could it have been based on information? The later possibility troubled him the most because the source of such information would have had to somehow deliver the warning across the apparently unassailable barrier of time.
In the memory cube there were a few fiction works that he knew were often attributed to Hunter even if there had never been any official confirmation. Hunter had been a famous author of biographies and histories. To anyone’s knowledge he had never published any works of fiction. Yet the mysterious works anonymously penned existed. If they belonged to Hunter why wouldn’t he have claimed them?
The books had established a broad cult following that grew over the decades until the fantasies were regarded as classics. Other authors built upon the well-defined universe proposed in the series to write their own stories of other characters in the strange world across a continuum of concentric spheres called Anter’x.
Some of the speculation stemmed from the use of a common publisher, a company that was at one time owned in part by Joseph Henderson. Even though the publisher had never published fiction before and after refused to accept submissions from other authors, the series of fantasies were printed, distributed and promoted. Over time, and the slow growth of a cult following, the works outsold every other publication of the company, combined.
Hunter was the sole male heir of his industrialist father’s wealth. During the late Twentieth Century Hunter assumed the reigns of the corporate empire. Under Hunter’s direction the corporation developed pioneering technologies that transcended the trends of the times. HenCo, renamed EthosCorp, developed and launched central processing units for computers that were based on photons not electrons. The company integrated control of a worldwide wireless network of communications called Ethosphere and charges licensing fees to use devices that interfaced directly with the global communications network. And they developed the technology for mass production of organic computers, which led directly to the creation of DOMLIBs.
On the morning of the third day of his isolation, Paul was waiting for the man who came with breakfast, begging him to get the message to Tam about Cristina. The man didn’t even respond. There was no indication that he had heard the message as he simply sealed the wall and left.
Paul fell back on the bed and cried out of his frustration. He did not know how it was possible but he felt the truth. Because of him Cristina was imperiled? He had to get out. He had to find her. He had to jump the next guy who delivered food. By then would it be too late?
She would be coming by railcar, if she had not already arrived. He didn’t know which concerned him more – that she was coming or that she might already be in the city. He had sensed her unmistakable presence in the alley as Tam and the others escorted him to his present hiding place. He was certain of the sensation. Even if it made no sense to him why she would be there, he had felt her mind touching and probing. Could he have imagined it? Regardless of his past sensations, he needed to safeguard the possibility of her arrival by railcar.
He got up and paced what floor there was, nervous, anxious, hoping that word would get to Tam in time, but it was futile. It was part of the deal, wasn’t it? There could be no further contact until things settled.
Paul sat down at the desk, and began what had become his daily ritual, reading. He needed to take his mind off of his worries and so he began reading one of the works of fiction that Hunter had allegedly penned anonymously in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.
What often was cited in argument against the theory that the work belonged to Hunter was the fiction works were written in a completely different style. Based on his non-fiction, many scholars did not believe Hunter could have written the works. The only other possibility that ever gained traction in literary circles over the decades of debate was Hunter might have used his influence to arrange for the works of a friend to be published, perhaps even convincing the publisher they were really his attempts at fiction.
Despite Hunter’s wealth and celebrity, early on in the Twenty-First Century he’d become a renowned recluse, carrying on into his latter years. He refused to accept visitors, only family and a select few friends. Many in the inner circle were writers and artists he met and respected enough to develop longer term relationships.
Having read for about an hour, he was attention consumed, it was a story he had heard about but had never found the time to read. There were adaptations of the book rendered into other media over the decades, including a play from which two films were produced. He had seen one of them as a young child.
Set on an improbable world with three suns and three moons, hellish Anter’x was wracked with violent storms and inhabited by wild, magical beings. There were two young creatures called wolfcats. They lived in the more temperate part of the north. They were part wolf, part cat and part human.
“Gene-splicing,” Paul said aloud as he looked up from the text just as the wall opened, in the same way that he had come to expect. It surprised him as his mind had been absorbed in the text. Had the morning passed that quickly? He checked his chronometer for confirmation. Just as he had thought it was too early for lunch. He stood up from the desk, not knowing what he would do, there was nowhere to run if this was the result of the authorities discovering of his hideout.
Then he sighed with his relief as he recognized Tam.
“This had better be the most important thing imaginable.”
“Cristina is either here already or she is on her way here.”
“I have had people at the stations for several days.”
Paul relaxed, and then looking back at Tam, he asked, “Both?”
“Yes, we are covering both.”
Paul relaxed again. “The authorities will be…”
“They will be doing what they always do. We can deal with it. Okay. Is that all there was?”
“Then she is not here yet?”
“No one has seen her. The last railcar from Andromeda was just after Midnight. There is not another railcar from Andromeda before…well about now. I have to be honest with you if there are no authorities at the station my people will not long linger once a railcar arrives.
“She will be traveling with her boyfriend,” Paul said.
“Even if she and her boyfriend arrive in the station, if there is no reaction, my people are out of there. She will never even know they were there.”
“I hope I’m wrong about her coming here or being here already but if I’m right…”
“I have enough people, my best actually. If they find her and her friend I have a place for her and her boyfriend to be safe.”
“Not in this building.”
“Of course not,” Tam said with parsed irritation. “Look this is my operation. For your sake there had better be something going down to make this worth the expenditure of my team.”
“I’m sorry to impose.”
“As well you should be. Frankly, I cannot wait for you to leave town. But I’m committed to ensuring that you are safe. I will honor my promises. This is a favor that had best be remembered.”
“Anything you ever ask of me I will provide.”
Tam nodded. “I trust everything has been according to my promise.”
“Your people are the best.”
“Yes, of course they are. I trained them personally,” Tam said, and then he turned and immediately after he left the wall closed and sealed behind him.
Paul felt more at ease although he was concerned Tam’s arrogance might blind him and his team to unexpected dangers. After all, Paul evaded his team. Then, he had not evaded Tam, but Tam was not with his teams at the railcar stations.
The more his mind raced with the implication and variables, the more powerless he felt. He needed to return to diversion, the story that he was reading to take him mind off the elements of worry that confronted him. He sat down at the desk again and picked up where he had left off reading about a fantastic world and two young wolfcats belonging to a community of humanoid wolves numbering in the ten thousands called the Pack.
As absorbing as the book was his mind kept returning to his concern for Cristina and his worry. Despite Tam’s bravado, he would not be able to protect her. Paul wanted to be there, but maybe it was too great of a risk…for her if not him. He believed that he could handle himself, but he did not want to risk her life in any way.
He had barely noticed, but his lunch was late. He was absorbed in the book again. It told of the culture and civilization of the wolf pack in such detail that he could easily believe they might be real. Then, as the unusual tardiness extended toward an hour, the wall swept open more violently than ever before, startling him as he stood up. Agents of the Colonial Authority held him at gunpoint, ordering him to vacate the hiding place.
When he cleared the wall/door of the hiding place agents swept in behind him, searching everything, confiscating the infotab and the Mods stored in the cube. There was nothing else of any interest in the room. As he began to protest at the obvious attempt to wipe the memory on the cube, an agent struck him in the backs of his legs. As his knees buckled, he felt a sharp jab of a needle in his neck. Another agent struck a fierce blow to the back of his head. He collapsed face first into the floor. Losing consciousness.
When he awakened a cramped holding cell surrounded him, a room hardly bigger than where he had been hiding. It had a water fountain a toilet, bed, desk and chair. His head ached as he tried to sit up. He was seeing double. He closed his eyes and fell back into the bed. His body ached almost as much as his head.
Beaten, although he did not remember any of the interrogation, it concerned him because the authorities were known to use drugs to extract information. What little he knew about The Resurrection may have been compromised.
**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.**
Alix awakened startled, not knowing where he was. It was dark and there was a subdued hum, a slight vibration and sensation of motion. Then, he remembered. He glanced over and confirmed that Cristina was beside him. She was swiveled in her seat and he was concerned at first that she had been asleep until he heard her giggle.
“Something is funny?” he whispered.
“I was talking to Clare.”
“I didn’t hear you say anything.”
“She and I can talk without speaking.”
“Oh,” Alix said, simply accepting it. He had come to realize that where the attributes were concerned almost anything seemed possible. He sat back and looked at his chronometer. He had not wanted to sleep for so long, but apparently Cristina had been occupied and had just let him. He was grateful for the extra time.
He stretched. He was not comfortable but he had been tired enough to sleep despite the cramped conditions inside the railcar. Obviously the Colonial Authority had never taken into consideration that travelers might have to sleep on the railcars, especially when traveling great distances and at night. Perhaps they didn’t care that much. It always seemed like the railcar system was an afterthought borne of the realization that perhaps people might want to travel between the cities.
Certainly the Colonial Authority had never actively promoted travel between the cities. In their original models, the cities were intended to be autonomous and self-sufficient. In reality there were shortages and surpluses in commodities and as other cities were established the new cities recruited heavily for people to migrate from the older cities. Many responded, wanting to start out fresh in another city with another, hopefully better living condition and a higher wage job.
Families were separated by such choices and looked to spend birthdays, holidays and other special occasions as a reunited unit. Even though the railcar system was intended to expedite supplies to new cities, passenger railcars became a revenue generating operation that even rivaled the fees and taxes that the Colonial Authority charged for use of the railcar system in transporting goods.
There were alternatives to the railcar system, but they are prohibitively expensive. Sometimes due to urgency, the additional expense was justified. Smaller products could be shipped through an underground pneumatic tube system that was quick and directly linked each of the cities one to another through a series of relay points. Because of its compact design and the speeds involved, it was inappropriate for transporting humans. Some liquids had to be placed into special containers to prevent spillage as the starts and stops in the tube system were highly abrupt.
Transportation by air required a balance between the weight, size and type of lifting body. During the day, the large solar panels stored the excess photovoltaic generated energy for the motors to use at night when generating power by the moonlight from even two full moons would drive the motors only at twenty percent.
The interior of the lifting body was filled with lighter than air gases stored in chambers that were designed to compress or expand the gas according to the lifting requirements. The combination of lighter-than-air gasses and propellers permitted the transport of significant weights. The system was considerably slower than the railcar system. It could be more efficient and even cost effective because its ability to haul up to four times what a railcar could contain.
Higher speed rotary propelled hover vehicles were the choice of those wanting to get from one city to the next as quickly as possible. They hovered a few hundred meters over the desert and traveled up to three times faster than the railcars when in mid-route. They were fairly roomy and comfortable. They were the preferred means of travel for the wealthy, Colonial Authority administrators and the heads of business that could afford the expense.
There had been proposals to construct large ports for each city and create a more efficient means of air travel but every model yet proposed entailed using devices that would adversely impact he environment and the delicate balance in the atmosphere. One other proposal that was being considered and was based on the astralnav device that had fallen to disuse as very large space transports were developed to travel across interstellar space at speeds approaching light velocity. Such vehicles were far too large to use the transition and translation devices that had been constructed as portals to connect distance worlds.
Micro-thresholds as they were being called could in theory permit almost instantaneous connection between any two translation devices, allowing someone to access another city in the span of the few seconds. It required for the device to power up to full charge, which accounted for almost all of the travel time.
The downside of the technology was the power requirements to effectively produce the necessary gap in space/time. It was also considered a risky venture due to the earliest experiments with similar devices on Earth that had resulted in a complete ban from their use within the atmosphere. Even though the problem resulted from an error in the original equations upon which the devices were based – a miscalculation that did not allow for the presence of common dust in the atmosphere – there was considerable skepticism that the devices would ever be popular enough to make them viable for personal transportation.
Their use to replace the pneumatic system for transporting important documents and parcels seemed unlikely as in most cases it only saved an hour or two in transport time between even distant cities, but at an estimated expense of eight times what the fees were for the use of pneumatic tubes.
Alix looked out the window across the car, then back to his side. The sky was lighter, in anticipation of dawn. In a few hours as light from the nearest star refracted off the atmosphere, and was bent toward the surface as diffused background illumination, it would even be light enough to make out features in the desert landscape outside of the railcar well in advance of the local sun’s ascent into the daytime sky.
When he was younger he had studied light and sound for a while at the Performing Arts Institute in New Milan. One of the required courses was ‘the physics of the electromagnetic spectrum’. Never before that course had he ever considered that sound and light were part of a single spectrum of which humans could only perceive a very narrow visual and aural range. He had an epiphany that everything in the electromagnetic spectrum should have similar properties and behaviors.
The orb taught him more along the same lines, of how to bend back the illusion of reality around him and enter a part of the physical universe that was concealed from humans and how they perceived the world.
“Did you say something?” Cristina asked.
“No. I was just thinking we’ll be there soon, another hour,” Alix responded, not knowing what else to say and certainly not even wanting to venture a guess as to whether she had intercepted some of his thoughts. “It will still be dark but lighter than it is now.”
“You can sleep more.”
“I really can’t,” Alix said. “These seats do not make good beds.”
“No, they don’t,” she said. “Say hello to Clare.”
Alix turned in his seat and rose up enough to see over the back of his seat and observed what he could of the shadow of her face, as she waved at him. He waved back.
“You keep attracting others of us,” Alix said aloud to Cristina.
“Yeah, it’s a gift.”
“She is the only other one on the railcar?”
Cristina nodded, knowing that he meant the only other one with the attributes.
“Three out of forty, that sounds about right.”
‘I’ll talk more later,’ she projected to Clare. Then turning toward Alix, she continued. “She tells me she has friends with the attributes who have had children with average humans that do not have the attributes. Regardless whether it’s the male or female in the pairing that has the attributes, from her experience the child always has the attributes.”
“Then what you were considering as a way of saving everyone may be possible.”
“I mean there would have to be some study of it and especially when one of the offspring had children with another human without the attributes, as that would be the most dramatic effect of dilution.”
“Perhaps there could be a means of establishing the maximum extent of dilution before it would affect fertility.”
“That was my thought exactly,” Cristina smiled.
“That would be wonderful news, though.”
“If we can overcome the barriers of bigotry against us in the general population, then maybe we can save everyone.”
“The people our age and younger will be more receptive to the idea.”
“Then that’s really all we need.”
“Let the ‘old school’ thinkers die off.”
“And by the time we are considered ‘old school’ thinkers the problem will be fixed.”
“Hopefully,” Alix said.
“Yeah, well it has to be that way because nothing else seems right. Honestly, how can we sit back and watch everyone else on this planet die when we have the answer?”
At that moment the railcar slowed at the approach of a relay station, and then came to a complete if fairly brief stop. The internal illumination increased slightly as a gentleman wearing an AE uniform boarded the railcar and took a vacant seat a couple of rows in front of them. Immediately, the railcar continued and the interior lights dimmed. In a few minutes it had regained its previous velocity.
There was nothing in and of itself all that odd about an AE climbing aboard. It had happened on their way to Andromeda. They had a good deal going for their rest and relaxation, but no one could ever deny the hard work they did to earn the free ride into the nearest city. It was just Alix was hypersensitive and suspicious of everything. What if he was an agent from the Colonial Authority?
There was only one of them, or was there perhaps someone else already aboard. Cristina had purchased tickets enough in advance that the authorities had more than enough time to respond. Obviously, they had attacked them, trying to prevent them from getting to the station. They could have planted an agent on the railcar just in case and now that they had confirmed that they were aboard, another agent boards in disguise.
Alix’s mind raced with the possible intrigue lying just beneath the surface. Should he and Cristina dare to enter the railcar station? If there were no agents aboard, still there would be agents all over the station, perhaps waiting for them to see what they were going to do, or who they contacted. Perhaps they would be so direct as to arrest them immediately.
Although they had reserved tickets they had obviously never picked them up. Without tickets they were traveling in violation of the laws of the Colonial Authority. They could be arrested and detained – as if the authorities needed any further reason.
Alix reached for and clinched Cristina’s hand.
“What’s the matter?” Cristina spoke in a voice that only he could hear.
He leaned over and whispered into her ear. “Something doesn’t feel right. It is bothering me.”
“About the guy that just boarded?”
“He has no calluses on his hands. I noticed that when the lights were up. I’m not sure how you can work agriculture and not have calluses.”
“Can you read his mind?”
“That only seems to work with some people, usually other people with the attributes and the same ability.”
“I was just hoping.”
“I mean it could be nothing. Maybe he’s a supervisor.”
Alix squirmed in his seat. “There’s a confrontation impending, regardless of whether there are agents aboard or not.”
“I understand that,” Cristina said.
“Let your new friend know that she probably doesn’t want to be associated with us.”
“I already have. She has other things more important to her right now. She doesn’t want to get involved in any of this stuff.”
“I’m afraid we will all be involved sooner or later, but for now she can ignore what’s going on behind the pretty facades,” Alix said as he looked at his chronometer again. “We have an hour and a half, maybe a few minutes more.”
Cristina nodded. “This is a very long trip.”
“Star City is not close to anything,” Alix said.
“When we were touring we came from Star City to Andromeda.”
Alix nodded. “Always takes a whole a night and the last two times we had a chartered railcar so we could stretch out.”
“I remember that. We left right after our show and traveled all night. When we woke up we were still not there. It was late morning before we pulled into the station.”
“The charter had to exit onto a spur a few times to let scheduled trains pass,” Alix explained.
“You were awake.”
“The first time Pete, Keith, Tim and I were playing cards. We took a nap at the hotel before the show. The second time it was just Pete and I talking most of the night.”
“Whatever about?” she asked.
“About everything and nothing. You know, it started out about the show and what we did wrong and how to fix it by the next show. Then we just talked about a lot of random things. You and Chase were toward the front talking to each other. Pete suggested Chase had a thing for you.”
“Yeah, both of us thought it and frankly it irritated me. Chase admits he still has feelings for you.”
“I had a thing for him, too, for a while. It never went anywhere. The one time I allowed him to know how I felt was when he told me about Julie. He made it very clear to me how devoted he was to her.”
“He loves her.”
“She loves him too. It’s nice to see it when only the love seems to matter.”
Alix smiled, and then sighed before he expressed his wish. “It would be nice if we could be alone, just you and me. No cares, no concerns, no obligations to anyone – just free to do whatever.”
Cristina squeezed his hand. “I think we’ve progressed well past that.”
“Unfortunately, it’s impossible to go back and change things.”
“Maybe it’s possible, but we just don’t know how to do it.”
Alix smiled. “My dearest Cristina, the eternal dreamer.”
“What’s wrong with dreaming?”
“Nothing at all. It’s one of the many reasons why I love you.”
“You remember when we brought our orbs together,” Cristina said. “We saw into the past. Later, I saw both of my parents and they were holding my brother and me.”
“You aren’t seriously suggesting it’s possible to go back into the past, are you?”
“How you got us on the railcar was impossible until you did it.”
“Yeah, well, I practiced a little with doing it before, and I sort of thought it through.”
“Well, think it through, then. Figure it out. It has to be related somehow.”
“Like not only is the real world an illusion, but so is time?” He questioned.
“That’s really kind of out there, hon.”
“Then you explain how we can see the past with the orbs. It has to be accessible to us, somehow. Why else could we see it if it wasn’t important to us to know. Somehow we gotta be able to act upon it!”
“What do you want to do in the past, go back and tell us not to take this ill-advised course?”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe we would have to go back a lot farther than that. You know, maybe back to birth or beyond.”
“All the way back to when they were evaluating the planet for terraforming? Why not just go back to Earth and convince people in the 18th Century that the impending industrial revolution will eventually pollute the Earth making it uninhabitable. Why stop there? Let’s go back and change some key event in the more distant past, maybe it will fix everything.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Cristina countered.
“Am I? If it is possible to go back in time, regardless of what we do, the people in the past will think we are nuts. They will be so myopically focused they will ignore any warning. Why is it any of their concern? Even if they believe us they would rather leave it for the people in the future fix all the problems. It’s the same thing as now. If someone from our future came to us with a solution, would we listen? First and foremost, would we believe them? It is part of being human, focusing on the moment and thinking nothing is more important that what affects you and those who you love. You hope the future is better so you’d resist anyone from the future telling you otherwise as much as you resist the message of the preachers of doom and gloom who surround us now. Some of them claim prophetic visions.”
“I believe some people can see the future. How can I not? I have seen the past – we both have.”
“Well, the people around us expect the future to be better. The Colonial Authority sells them on believing in science and technology, like time has made us wise enough to know which technologies we can use without destroying our civilization. We expect that in the future people will know what we did wrong and before it’s too late we’ll figure out a miracle to fix it.”
“You are carrying it out to an extreme case.”
“How can I not? You’re the one talking about changing the past and you think I’m being ridiculous?” Alix shook his head as he laughed.
“Have an open mind, okay. That’s all I’m saying. There has to be a reason why we can see events in the past.”
“Well, I don’t think it is so that we figure out how to change things. Seeing the past and being there are very different things. In the larger scheme of time, there is a negligible difference between tomorrow and yesterday, where they are in space. We call it today, but to get to anywhere else in time, you have to also move in space to where the world was or where it will be. That’s the hard part of traveling in time.”
Cristina sat in silence for a few moments, not completely following what Alix said.
“Now you are mad at me,” Alix suggested, though he was misreading her quiet consideration.
“No, I’m disappointed you are unwilling to consider the possibilities. It has nothing to do with where the world was in space of going so far back in time that whatever you could change might not matter anyway. It has more to do with destiny. I think some things are going to happen no matter what anyone does. Altering anything might delay the change but it would never prevent it completely.”
“That’s my point, though. If we went back and told ourselves what was going to happen on this trip, do you think you would still not want to find Paul? Knowing one path led to failure, you’d try something different. Maybe you wouldn’t call so early for a reservation on the railcar. Maybe you would not tell Chase and Julie until the last minute or…”
“You don’t think they betrayed us.”
“Cristina, I don’t know what to think anymore. All I’m certain of is very soon we are going to reach Star City and have to get off this railcar and have to deal with whatever is waiting ahead of us.”
“What if we stay on the railcar? There are two stations in Star City.”
“They are expecting us at the nearest one not the furthest one.”
“They wouldn’t be stupid enough not to cover both.”
“I think it is worth a gamble. Besides, I’ve been to Raven’s on the public transit from the other station. It would be easier for us to go from there because I already know the way.”
“Okay, so we stay aboard. What then?”
“We see what happens. If there are agents onboard, then we will know. We force them to reveal themselves.”
Alix sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, trying to sort through the confusion and frustration he felt at not really knowing what to do. Other than staying close to Cristina and helping her, he had no plans. He needed her as much as she needed him, if not more.