**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.***
There was never a reason for how everything seemed to turn out wrong. There was betrayal and from there Paul’s plan deteriorated and so, it seemed unlikely that he was ever going to see Cristina again. The authorities would relentlessly hunt him. He had no delusions. He had no hope of escaping the city. Tam thanked him for the escape but in the very next breath told him he was going to have to do everything from then on by himself.
He set out, heading at first across town toward Raven’s estate. Then on the way he relented what little hope there was in the courier helping him now. He was in worse trouble than before. He realized it was useless. Cristina did not arrive on the railcar. Perhaps the authorities arrested her in Andromeda. He did not expect to find her, especially now, not after all he had done.
Paul crouched down behind a garbage neutralizer in an alley, leaning back against it, feeling the warmth and the vibration as it converted garbage into a fuel source to partially supply the needs of the building whose occupants filled the input hopper. He looked up at the support arch for the dome. He had always marveled at the engineering wizardry involved in making something on a grand enough scale to enclose an entire city.
There was certainly nothing trivial about the amount of planning and effort that went into turning a world into the home of nearly one billion people. The Colonial Authority took pride in pointing out that Pravda was the second most populated colony, only to Mars. It was the most densely populated world that had not yet completed terraforming.
Whether in the seclusion of the mountains or while in the room of concealment behind the wall, Paul spent a lot of time reading, studying histories and scientific documents, especially anything to do with the planning and execution of the terraform process on Pravda. There had been a good deal of investment made just in getting the first settlers to arrive to populate the first two cities, Haven and New Milan.
There were other waves of settlers, who came to populate Andromeda and in time each of the other cities established on Pravda’s two continents. In fact, settlers from nearly every other colony had willingly come to what was being touted as a paradise in the making. It had been decided from the outset that Pravda could be transformed into a new Earth, one that would be better because, through terraforming, it would be created to best suit mankind’s needs. The truth was, Pravda would be a better place to live that it was now, but it would never be a new Earth.
The domes would be removed soon enough. Massive irrigation projects and agricultural ventures into the huge inland deserts would turn the surface green. Great forests would be established, eventually. The increase in foliage was expected to produce enough oxygen to drop the atmosphere’s ambient temperature to no more than 35 degrees Celsius anywhere on the continental landmasses. In most temperate places the mean temperature would be comfortable, ranging between 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.
When he was younger, Paul figured he would see the world transformed, be able to run through fields of tall, soft grass, feel the natural breeze blowing through his hair. It was a promise every school child was taught and fully believed. It was the brainwashing of the Colonial Authority that never told people the ultimate truth. Mankind would perish long before the terraforming of the world was completed.
Paul was exhausted but dared not sleep. He had to stay awake. He had only paused to catch his breath. He knew he would be shot on sight now. He doubted they would risk capturing him again. He was dangerous, uncontrollable and now wanted for the deaths of dozens of agents.
He had to stay concealed but he also needed to keep moving, if for no other reason than to stay awake, maintaining his alert vigil. He needed to find somewhere, off the streets, a safer place away from the probing scanners and security cameras. Since he had no choice about being a target at least he could be a moving one. If they were determined to kill him he would make it a fair challenge.
He was not certain he tapped into every resource and ability. While he was in the caverns in the mountains he learned everything he could about himself and the attributes manifest as his unusual abilities. In addition to telekinesis, he had walked through walls of solid granite. He could decide to be somewhere else and he would appear there instantly. He could appear to be in two or more places at once. And he since leaving caverns he learned to kill without touching the victim.
It was the last that became his greatest woe. It was not like he killed anyone who did not try to harm him first. He spared anyone who surrendered. It was just agents rarely surrender. They were true believers in the Colonial Authority’s cause. They were the instruments of execution and enforcement of Colonial Authority policies, edicts and rulings. No one who opposed the Authority could ever be considered right.
Having rested in one place far too long, Paul stood up, his muscles aching from their previous overexertion, his head throbbing with the stress he was under. His body was still healing itself from the internal injuries he’d suffered during the torturous interrogation sessions. Would this be the day he died or maybe he could stretch his life out until tomorrow. He found hope in the thoughts of seeing tomorrow. Maybe he could find Cristina, see her once more before he died.
Still, he did not want to complicate her life any more than he already had. He did not want her to be a fugitive. She did not have to be like him. He believed in the cause and she was necessary to it. She could communicate with the sand-morphs. He was certain of it. Maybe there were even others like Cristina, with empathic and telepathic abilities. The Resurrection’s plans demanded Cristina’s talents if not her person.
Paul walked out to the end of the alley, peering around the corner to survey the street. It was quiet, maybe too quiet. After all the excitement and confusion of the morning, the evening was a peaceful contrast yet it unnerved him. As he ventured out onto the street he sensed the danger. But it was already too late. He heard a subdued pop, followed by a sudden, sharp, needle stabbing pain in his back. Already he knew the drug intimately. It was what they used before only stronger. It was a calculated risk, an almost lethal dosage. He collapsed to his knees and then fell forward planting his face into the sidewalk, already unconscious before he realized the impact.
When he came around, there was an older lady sitting in a chair beside the bed where he was stretched out to sleep off the effects of the drug.
“And so we finally meet again,” she said as she smiled in response to his opening one eye to survey his whereabouts. It seemed an odd gesture for a guest considering everything that happened.
“I don’t remember meeting you before.”
“You were very young.”
“Who are you?”
“Call me your only friend,” she said. “Maybe I’m your last and only remaining hope.”
Paul looked into her eyes and sensed what he at first doubted but then confirmed with the tingling of ever fiber of his being, “Mother?”
“You always were bright. I could see it in your eyes even when you were first born.”
“But, you are…am I…”
“Neither of us is dead,” she said. “The Colonial Authority has me under observation. They have all of The Twelve as we’re called. Ever since you are Cristina were born, they’ve taken care of us.”
“But my aunt and uncle told me you died…”
“We felt Cristina needed a father. We guessed that you would be very independent and so maybe you could move to Haven and live with relatives,” she said. “It was what we planned all along. As you know, it was normal in my generation for the mothers of children with the attributes to die in childbirth. Fortunately, I was one of a dozen exceptions. All of us who survived have been cloistered away and studied extensively. Even so, the scientists still do not know why we lived. Out of the thousands of women who carried the attributes, we did not die giving birth to our children.”
Paul sat up, looking again into her eyes, still suspicious that it was some sort of trick.
“Hug me. The physical contact will confirm it. Even with the electronics in this room to prevent your acquiring your fullness of senses and power, touching me will confirm everything,” she said.
Paul leaned toward her and embraced her firmly. When he pulled back he was crying, and so was she.
“They have told you about us, Cristina too?”
“I’ve not been completely isolated from the news of the world. I know she’s a gifted singer in a band that’s becoming quite popular. I know you’re a notorious subversive.”
“Famous in my own way, I guess. Certainly, it’s not a way for a mother to be proud.”
His mother stood, and then walked around to a table and sat there. “Bring the chair. Come and sit with me. I’ll explain why I’m here and what the Colonial Authority wants to offer you.”
“They have sent you to make a truce?”
“I suppose in a way it’s a truce. It’s not something you’ll desire at first, but you need to hear me out.”
“Okay,” Paul said as he sat across the table from her.
“As I said your father and I planned even before you and your sister were born to separate you from Cristina. You went to Haven to live with your aunt and uncle. Cristina would remain in New Milan with your father. The Colonial Authority had already approached us well in advance. So once you and your sister were born they made the arrangements. They always knew I carried the attributes. But then when I survived giving birth they came to us again and told me that there was another woman who, like me, had not died. They wanted to study me even as they were studying her. It turned out in that season there were eleven other mothers who, like me, did not die in childbirth. We were all fully prepared for the eventuality and honestly I felt like it was borrowed time I was living. I expected to die at any moment. You father and I discussed it and he agreed it was for the best. I cooperated with the researchers so they could determine what the twelve of us had in common.”
“Do they know?” Paul asked.
“They already knew many things about us. Now they know even more. We’re perhaps the most clinically studied women ever. Still, they do not know what makes us different or why we’re still alive.”
“The others, do I know any of their children?”
His mother smiled, “You met Chase. I know his mother very well. I know Cristina’s boyfriend Alix’s mother. I know all the mothers very well. We are close friends. There is Julie who is Chase’s girlfriend and Pete who is Alix’s friend and he’s also a member of Cristina’s band. There were 24 offspring, every birth of The Twelve produced twins, each a boy and a girl.”
“Okay, I understand that you and the other mothers are alive. So what are the authorities planning to do with me, because if I don’t like it, I’ll not be here.”
“They’ve decided to attempt further sedation. They have some other drugs that might work as effectively, but they’ve not proven to be as effective over an extended period of time. They do not want to risk giving you a lethal dose of what they used on you.”
“What they gave me came very close to killing me.”
She nodded. “This really is your one and only chance, the final offer.”
“Or they kill me.”
“They will, Paul. As powerful as you are or believe you might yet become, they will kill you. They cannot allow you to run free. You’ve killed many people. You’re a high risk.”
“I never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it. That prick Dick was trying to electrocute me!”
“That has all been taken into consideration,” she said. “Paul, listen to me. They came to me. They do not want to execute you. They see your potential. You can do things that amaze them. They realize what you’ve displayed may be nothing compared to what you can do.”
“I know they’re monitoring us.”
“Of course they are. I’ve grown accustomed to that. I really don’t even consider it anymore. I live my life and have my conversations unafraid of what they’ll hear because it’s nothing but boring, everyday chit-chat with my eleven best and only friends.”
Paul sat back. “What sort of truce do they propose?”
“It’s not so much a truce as a deal. For their part, they’ll not kill you. But you’ll come inside.”
“Inside? I don’t understand.”
“It’s a little like what I do for them, but as it has been explained to me they want you to be a lot more active in locating and identifying others with the attributes.”
“So they know where they live when they want to exterminate us?”
“Paul, honey. You’ve been on the outside, dealing with elements of the Colonial Authority who are responsible for maintaining peace and order at any cost. To them you were a direct and present threat. They responded according to their training. By contrast, the elements of the Colonial Authority I’ve been working with want to unravel the mystery about us, why we survived, why you, Cristina and the friends who you know have the attributes are not affected by the invisible forces of this world that are conspiring to make all of mankind except for us sterile.”
“They have told the general public that within fifty years the fertility rate will decline to a point that mankind cannot sustain the population of this world,” Paul said. “That’s a bald-face lie.”
His mother nodded. “The fertility rate is already diminished well past that point. It reached it sometime last year. But news like that would panic everyone.”
“They have also promised to provide a solution within fifty years.”
“We’re the solution,” his mother said. “They’ve always known it. They’ve just been trying to keep tabs on us and track us so they can see what happens when the children of the twelve mate with one another or humans without the attributes.”
“I am told that the attributes are always dominant,” Paul said.
“For the first three generations, so far that holds to be true. There has not been enough time to study it further.”
“There’s fear of dilution.”
“Yes,” his mother said, not surprised her son had already reasoned through many of the most important issues. “They’re concerned the attributes will eventually become latent and the positive effect of the variant genes will be lost. That’s why they want to track those who have the attributes and monitor their offspring and their children’s children and so on. But more urgently, they need to persuade those with the attributes to reproduce whether with one another or with humans lacking the attributes.”
“That’s already happening.”
“Apparently, it’s happening much more slowly than desired,” his mother said. “I have no idea where they come up with the figures and statistics, but from my experience when they say something and provide numbers while stating it, the figures are very accurate and meticulously checked. Within two generations those who lack the attributes will be incapable of reproducing even with those who possess the attributes.”
“So, I fit in to help them find all of us.”
“That’s part of it.”
“And the rest.”
“This is what you’ll not like. The other side of the Colonial Authority wants to know everything about The Resurrection. That’s the only way they’ll release you into a supervised living situation.”
“I don’t know everything. By the organization’s nature we’re not told and we don’t want to know. We each performed a role and did a part. There’s no one who knows everything.”
“Then they need to know what you know.”
“Threats, tearing the hairs out of my head and burning the hair from my privates, then attempting to electrocute me through my nipples and genitalia are never going to loosen my tongue.”
His mother looked away, even shuttering as she dealt with his graphic revelation of the torture her son had already endured. “I know you have been through a lot and you do not trust them.”
“I hate them, Mother. First and foremost they took you from me and have prevented me from growing up with Cristina. I’ve been separated from her for all my life and never knew she existed until a few weeks ago.”
“You knew right away.”
“Shortly after I met her I knew, but not when I first saw her.”
“I understand she’s very alluring in person.”
“There’s no one else like her,” Paul said.
His mother sat back, drew a deep breath, and then sighed. “They will not allow you much time to decide. They’re to the point they feel you’ll need to cooperate or they’ll begin the process to terminate you.”
“This is their offer, my way out.”
“Paul, honey, they know a lot more about The Resurrection than you probably imagine.”
“They’ve agents inside, just as The Resurrection has operatives inside the Colonial Authority. It’s how it works. There are always moles.”
His mother smiled, “I’ve heard the term.”
“I believe in The Resurrection’s cause,” Paul said. “What was done at the very inception of the terraforming of this world was wrong. Despite every effort to ensure there was no life here, life existed and it went undetected. It was and oversight or our ignorance not to even check for silicon-based life forms, but it happened. No one was to blame except for all of us. It was a mistake, an accident. But then there was a grand cover-up. It was wrong well beyond the mistake. The Resurrection seeks to right that wrong.”
“By bringing a sand-morph back from the dead?” His mother asked.
“Cristina can communicate with them. We can learn from them. You have not seen the wonders I have seen, the artifacts of their civilization, their monuments and history recorded in smooth rock walls in characters that we’ve determined are like musical notes. We have discussed that their speech is like music!”
“And Cristina is supposed to render their language into our means of writing down music? Is that your plan for her?”
“My plan for her goes well beyond that. It’s our belief and hope that the resurrected sand-morph will retain its memory. Cristina will be able to learn its language and then teach us the history, experience and culture of the sand-morphs.”
“Then what? Do we share the world with them, you wake up all of the dead that are viable and foment a war for the resources and space on this planet. We’ve transformed this world, Paul. It’s not their world anymore.”
“They had natural filters for the poisons in the atmosphere. It’s not like they’ll miss the poisons. They can breathe the same sort of air we do.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because the air in the caverns is exactly like what we produce to supply the people beneath the domes, within a percentage point here or there. But that’s not even the issue. We have it in our power to maybe correct the error of the past. It was their world not ours.”
“You prefer death to cooperation then?”
“If you believe in a cause and it’s worth belonging to, then it’s worth dying for,” Paul said with firm, adamant conviction.
His mother stood up from the table. “The attributes in you come from me,” she said. “Your stubbornness is completely your father’s curse.”
Paul smiled then stood and embraced his mother, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m glad I finally met you. I only wish we had known each other longer.”
“I had hoped to spare your life.”
“No one will ever know how or when I died. The Resurrection will know from my absence that I’m gone. Maybe they’ll find some encouragement and inspiration that I did not sell them out. I cannot work for the very same organization that suppresses the truth and has condoned my torture in order to extract information. I don’t care that it’s a different part of the organization. If any part of an apple is bad, will not the entire apple eventually turn bad as well?”
His mother looked into his eyes as tears welled in hers. They were tears of sorrow for what she expected as her greatest loss but she was also proud of him. “I’ve not lived through what you have. So I’m not qualified to judge you. Maybe no one is. I can only wish you success, my son.”
Paul saw her to the cell door. Outside there were heavily armed and armored guards. Where he was being held was no ordinary jail. The walls were thick concrete and reinforced steel mesh that was energized. He could not merely pass through such a wall. In fact all the walls, ceiling, floor and the door of his cell were highly energized.
Any hopes he might have entertained of escaping were greatly diminished. They were likely as not going to execute him soon. He would be an unheralded martyr for a cause the mainstream of the population would never know about.
Soon enough he would be no more, no longer a problem for the Colonial Authority to deal with.