**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.***
Paul 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.