**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
Cristina settled into the couch in the living room of their temporary residence above the coffee shop. She was tired and her feet ached. Deciding not to use the public transit system to return was not the best idea, but after Paul’s escape, things had become a little dicey in that section of town. She was glad they had not waited around.
Hoofing it wasn’t the best way to get back to the shop, but it was all they had at the time. Cristina was in heels and despite what they believed was the near proximity of the coffee shop, it was actually two and a half kilometers from the detention center. Alix generously consented to carrying her piggyback for at least half the way.
Once inside the apartment, she took off her shoes, careful not to break the blisters. Alix picked the remote and turned on world viewer to the local news channel. “You can… rest here,” He said breathlessly while sitting on the edge of the couch not wanting to drip too much of his sweat on it. “In the interest…of my smell…not offended you, myself…or anyone else, I’ll…shower first.” The physical exertions of the past couple of hours wore his out.
“Thank you for carrying me,” Cristina said. “You go ahead. I’ll watch the news.”
He smiled. “You should have…brought some…walking shoes…to wear after.”
“Yeah, well next time…”
“Let’s hope…there’s not going…to be next time.” On the world viewer screen, the local media was reporting a possible disturbance at the Security Agency detention center, but there were no details. “So, we made…the news, sort of.”
“Let’s hope it stays ‘sort of’ and they don’t put the pieces together and come after us.” Cristina looked at Alix and smiled. “You were phenomenal.”
“It was more luck…and timing…than anything else, except for…your skills…at distracting…a lot of people.”
“Go shower. I need one too. But you need it worse.” Cristina kissed him on the cheek.
“That’s all…I get for carrying you…” he complained, half seriously as he stood up.
“That was for Paul. You gave him a chance. There’s more to come,” she turned to stretch out her legs on the couch where Alix had been sitting, then stretched her arms.
Alix shrugged. “It still…doesn’t resolve…anything…for Paul.”
She leaned arching her back over the couch arm, then scooted down a bit, sinking into the overstuffed cushions. It was a comfortable couch for relaxing as she watched the unfolding news evolve on the main screen of world viewer. “I’ll thank you for the rest little later,” she promised with a wink. “Speaking of rest. That’s all I want to do right now.”
Alix left her on the couch to shed his clothes and take a shower – making the water as hot as he could stand it. Rivaling one of her twenty-minute sessions, he let the hot water cascade down his neck, shoulders and back, hitting the places, other than his legs that hurt him most. When he finished he dried off, put on some fresh clothes and rejoined Cristina in the living room, half expecting her to be asleep. She was rolled over onto her side, watching the coverage. “So what’s happening, now?” he asked.
“They’re reporting many agents are dead, many more are wounded and now all the prisoners who were inside the detention facility are at large.”
“Including Paul, though.”
“They haven’t mentioned him directly but I’m sure he’ll be a priority for them to recapture.”
“So, what did we accomplish?”
“We still need to fix the cause, but we always knew that,” she said as she sat up.
Alix sat on the end of the coach and leaned back. “I guess I need to figure out where I’m going in space as well as time, then.”
“Where are we going, you mean,” Cristina corrected.
“You cannot go,” Alix said adamantly.
“I have to.”
“No you don’t. It’s too dangerous.”
“How do you expect to communicate with them?”
“I don’t need to. I grab one and bring it back. There’s no communication necessary.”
“What if it doesn’t want to come with you?’
“I doubt it will. It will be an abduction. Add kidnapping an alien to our growing list of crimes. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever go to court over that one, though.”
“At least I made you laugh.”
“You have to. It’s either that or cry, right?”
“Alix, I really have to go with you. You need to accept that.”
“I can’t risk that. I don’t want to lose you.”
“‘So you’re risking your own life instead, without me. What kind of sense does that make?”
“Perfect sense for me.”
“Look, it’s necessary. We’re in this together. Besides, I have obviously traveled with you in the past.”
“Yeah well, that was different.”
“How was it different?”
“You were in immediate danger.”
“We are all in danger, Alix. Don’t you see it? The Colonial Authority is stealing what’s left of our privacy. Our lives are not as important as their purposes for them. They see everything in terms of what’s best for humanity, for everyone not what’s just for the individual.”
“That debate has been going on for a long time, hon.”
“It’ll only get worse. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m a prisoner because I’m different, because don’t agree with what the government is doing or what they want – or what the majority thinks is right. The majority isn’t always right because it’s too easy to mislead people. They’re going to put all of us in jail, sooner or later. When the official real prisons are full, they’ll turn our homes and apartments into our cells, calling it for protective custody, for our safety – for the common good.”
“That still doesn’t tell me anything about why you think it is necessary to go back into the past with me.”
“It has everything to do with it. The whole reason we have to go in the first place is bringing a sand-morph here to expose how this insidious lie began, Alix. The Colonial Authority had great visions for Pravda. After the lies and the cover-up…well, it only gets worse from here. Once we expose what’s going on…”
“What makes you think anyone will listen? They’re happy being numb. They have world viewer to keep them pacified,” he made a sweeping gesture with his arm toward the far wall of the room where the screen array hung. “Nothing much will change just from bringing back a sand-morph. They’ll twist and distort that too, making it somehow favorable to them. They have the power, Cristina. That’s all they want and all they need. They’ll do anything to preserve their power, even if they have to kill us in the process.”
“It depends on how we pitch what we do. You turn their own game against them.”
“The use people like us, Alix. While we make music because it’s what we love doing, they pervert it into something crass and commercial. And we go along because it helps us survive while we make more music.”
“That’s how it works, if you’re one of the lucky ones. We’ve only been doing this for thirteen years, ten for you. We’ve struggled a lot. But it’s the system. Without Chase and the tour, where would we be? We’d still be playing clubs in New Milan, maybe going to Haven in the summer. Chase changed all that for us.”
“I know, and he can help us change this too. He’s good with selling and marketing. That’s all we need.”
“And they ban our songs.”
“Which only makes our fans want them more and everyone else more curious. It’s how you spin it, Alix. That’s what works for the Colonial Authority, we can do it too.”
“I don’t think this requires a good marketing campaign, hon. It’s way beyond that.”
“Well, it won’t hurt. Anyway, more directly, we don’t know what we’re dealing with in the past. We only know what we say and what we’ve heard. I know I can communicate with the sand-morphs. Paul and everyone else in The Resurrection seem convinced that the sand-morphs were peace-loving.”
“They could be mankind’s worst nightmare.”
“Exactly, you don’t know.”
“Neither do you,” Alix reminded her.
“But I know I can understand them,” she said.
“The dreams,” he said in response.
Cristina nodded. “I’ll make this work. You just need to get me there, where there are living sand-morphs. That’s your part of it.”
“You and I will have to wear breathing filters, the really heavy-duty ones that no one has needed for decades,” Alix said as he leaned forward.
“Understood,” she said. “We might have them somewhere around here.”
Alix nodded. “So when do we do this?”
“Why not now?”
“Don’t you want to take a shower or something first?”
“Yeah, I can do that first.”
“We can rest.”
“Why do you want to put it off?”
“We have time, Cristina. That’s the thing about time travel, you can always go back further.”
She smiled. “I guess you’re right.”
“I know I’m right. Besides, I really have to spend some time figuring all of this out, okay? There are logistical matters, calculations in multiple dimensions and all that–”
“So you need a day or what?”
Alix shrugged. “I can use that antiquated computer we found in the closet, if it still works. Maybe that’ll help. At least it’ll give me a calculator function. Hopefully there is a programming function, if not I’ll have to write a script to do it and connect this online.” He stood up and walked across the room to the closet. “Maybe two or three days at the most, provided this thing works, more time if it doesn’t. Once I’m there, it won’t take long. I’ll already know where we are here and now.”
“That’s too long to wait for this, Alix.”
“Well I don’t have a faster computer.”
“How about Dom?” Cristina suggested.
“Dom, you mean at Raven’s place?”
“Yeah, Dom. He’s a living computer, perhaps even more advanced than anything else we know about.”
Alix smiled. “Well, yeah maybe that’s a course we could pursue.”
“Sure it is,” Cristina said.
“You want to return to Raven’s estate, then?”
“I think we have to,” Cristina said. “He’ll have the breathing filters, for certain.”
“After you shower?”
“I want to get this done before anything happens to either of us. Okay? We’re maybe the only ones who can pull this off. We’re the only hope for many people.”
“The majority, the one you said that can be wrong, they do not realize what we are doing for them.”
“They probably never will. Even if Paul has escaped, it’s just like you said. They’ll eventually recapture him,” she said. “We’re really his only hope. Doing this is the only way to stop The Resurrection’s plans and expose The Colonial Authority’s cover-up.”
With that she stood up from the couch and went into the bathroom to remove the makeup from her face, take a shower, get dressed and return to a more or less normal appearance. It took about a half hour, but when Cristina emerged from her bedroom she was the lady Alix had grown accustomed to seeing off stage and, more so, learned to love these past several days that they had been together.
It turned out to be some kind of weird vacation. If nothing else, he believed it would make him appreciate recording music in a studio, even if he had never completely enjoyed the experience in the past. He had always hated the repetition part of it. He lived for the creative process, whenever the spark occurred. He could not get used to laying down the same bass lines for fifteen to twenty takes before the producer was good with just one of the tracks.
Her transformation fully completed, dressed in some different, less provocative clothing, she applied band aids to her blisters on her feet and put on comfortable walking shoes. Alix waited patiently for her to finally be ready. When she was finished she stood and he kissed her.
“You like me this way?” She asked.
“I like you everyway, but this one is more like the real you.”
“The real me depends on my mood at the moment,” she said with a laugh. “Let’s go.”
“You’re not tired?”
“I took a nap, a short one while you were showering. I still tired, but this is important.”
“We skipped lunch and it’s almost dinner time,” he stated.
“I don’t think we have the luxury of time. Are you hungry?”
“Not especially. I’ll be fine. I was more worried about you.”
“When we’re on tour I sometimes get busy and forget to eat. I have even missed eating for a while day.”
“I know,” Alix said. “We all watched out for you.”
Cristina laughed. “That’s why you ordered a pizza seemingly as a random thought…”
She shook her head. “What would I ever do without you guys?”
“What would we ever do without you? That was our concern.”
They descended the stairs and said hello to Emma and Arnie as they passed through the kitchen.
“Going out again so soon?” Emma asked.
“We have to go see a friend.”
“Let ‘em be,” Arnie said. “Don’t start treating them like they are our children. You see where that got us. They hardly even see us anymore except for holidays. Only Neville has an excuse. The girls live in this very city!”
“They’re busy too,” Emma defended them.
“They’re too busy to visit any old fuddy-duddies.”
Emma smiled, but decided to refrain from further comment, directing her attention to Alix and Cristina. “You haven’t eaten lunch, though.”
“We’ll eat a big dinner,” Alix said. “We’re going to a friend’s house.”
“I’ll make something for you and leave it upstairs. How’s that?”
“That’d be wonderful,” Cristina said. “But I’m not sure we’ll be back tonight. We may be away for a little while.”
“It wouldn’t be any trouble. It would give me something to do today. It’s been slow what with all the trouble down around the detention facility.”
“It’s okay. We’ll be fine.”
“Isn’t it awful about what’s going on. They say a lot of agents are dead.”
“I hope your brother is okay,” Arnie said.
“Me too,” Cristina admitted.
“We were listening to the news before we came down.”
“It’s awful. Some of those men probably ate in our very shop the other morning.”
“Maybe so,” Cristina said.
“I feel like we may have cursed them,” Arnie said.
“Well, I’ve always believed that people make their own misfortune by the way they choose to live and how they treat others,” Cristina said. “As tragic as it may seem to others, sometimes when people die maybe they deserved it.”
“See, she agrees with me,” Emma said, punctuating it with a wink and a smile projected in Cristina’s direction.
Arnie offered an old fashioned manual key to Alix as he was the one standing nearest to him. It was the type that the outer door lock of the coffee shop still required. “You’ll need it to get inside. It’s one the kids used to use. If you come back after we lock up and go home. Just lock the door back from the inside before you head upstairs for the night.”
Alix looked at the key. He had not seen one since he was a kid but recognized it. “Okay,” he said. “We may be back tonight.”
“If not we’ll lock up anyway,” Emma said.
“Regardless of what happen, at least this way you have the option of coming and going as you please,” Arnie said.
“We really appreciate all of this. You’ve been too good to us,” Cristina said.
“When you get to be our age, honey, you can tell a lot about the quality of people just by talking to them. We knew you needed our help,” Emma explained.
“Well, don’t think we are ungrateful. We will return the favor.”
“We expect nothing,” Arnie said. “We’re happy we can help.”
“Cristina, we probably need to go,” Alix prompted.
She nodded in response.
“We’ll see you later or tomorrow,” Cristina said.
“We’ll be here. This is our life,” Emma said.
Alix and Cristina walked the few blocks to ‘the crosstown’ coach stop, waiting there for only a couple of minutes before a coach arrived to provide them a lift. As Alix and Cristina settled in beside one another in the bench seat they looked around the fairly crowded coach.
“I’ll watch for our stop this time,” Alix said.
Cristina nodded, and then leaned into him and kissed his cheek.
Alix glanced down at his hands. There was a hangnail on his right index finger that was bothering him so he gnawed at it until he clipped it loose with his teeth. Then he checked his other nails just to be sure.
“You chew your nails?”
“Not usually,” Alix responded.
“I hadn’t noticed you doing it before.”
“It bothers you?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“I don’t always carry nail clippers.”
“Maybe most women do.”
“I wouldn’t generalize,” Cristina said.
Alix leaned back, folding his arms across his chest in the classic, insecure, defensive position.
“I’ve made you self-conscious.”
“That was never my intention.”
“Do you watch my every action and scrutinize it?”
“Of course not,” Cristina said, and then she chuckled, “No one could endure such a challenge.”
Alix looked up at the display and map. “Five more exits,” he said.
“You can be so amazingly focused at times,” Cristina said.
“It’s a gift, I guess,” Alix said. “One of several.”
“Are you worried?”
“About what we are doing or that maybe it’s never been done?”
“I guess a little of both.”
Alix shrugged. “We have to do it so I’m just sort of accepting that we have to make it work, I guess.”
“What if you can’t do it?”
“I hope I fail immediately because halfway through would be upsetting.”
Cristina looked at him, receiving a smile from him it response.
“Look, it will be what it is. Whether this is possible or not, there’s absolutely nothing either of us can do anything about. We can only do what we can do.”
Cristina kissed him on the cheek again, but then lingered close to him. “We have to do it for Paul and everyone else.”
“We are working on that,” Alix said. “If we can we will.”
“I feel so helpless.”
“It’s because you are relying on me instead of yourself and I’m not exuding confidence.”
“I know I can count on you whenever you commit to me to do anything but you’re right. The uncertainty has been the source of my recent apprehension and frustration.”
“I can only do what I can do,” Alix said. “I think I can make it work. I’ll not lie to you. This will be extreme as challenges go. That’s why we need exact coordinates.”
“Which Dom can provide.”
“I hope he will.”
“He has to,” Cristina said. “He’ll do it as a favor for me.”
“What’s so funny?”
“An android is smitten by your beauty and stunning physical presence.”
“I don’t think that’s what it is.”
“Then tell me what it is,” Alix said.
“I don’t know what it is,” she said.
“Next stop is ours, by the way.”
She nodded and began her preparations for the impending exit.
When they had exited the coach, it was as they had expected, the coach for ‘the hills’ route was already approaching the stop, minimizing their wait, just as it always had. They boarded into a relatively empty coach. In fact there were only two other people aboard and they exited at the third exit leaving Alix and Cristina alone.
At the seventh exit they stepped off the coach and the headed up the hill toward Raven’s estate. When they arrived on the front porch, Cristina reached up and tugged on the rope to ring the bell. They waited for several moments – beyond a minute and then, finally the door opened. Dom might have seemed glad to see them except his face did not so readily belie any emotion.
“We need your help,” Cristina prefaced.
“You’re seeking my help or the Master’s?”
“Your help, Dom,” Alix said.
“I’m flattered you think I might be of some service.”
“It’s something we feel you’d be particularly good at,” Cristina said.
“We need to go back in time, physically – both of us. About 80 years.” Alix said. “That requires us to know spatial coordinates as well as temporal aspects.”
“Of course,” Dom said seeming to indicate expertise without further elaborating, and then opened the door wider. “Please come in. Just do not disturb the Master. We will go to my working room.”
They followed the DOMLIB down the corridor to the back of the main floor of the estate. There was a small room by human standards, but perhaps perfectly accommodating for Dom, including an array of display screens that were tied into the house’s main computer system as well as the resources of the Colonial Authority.
“Please be seated,” Dom gestured to the four chairs at the worktable, he sat in one, while Cristina and Alix settled into two of the others.
“We’ll be leaving as soon as we know where we’re going and what we’re doing.”
“How is it you know where you want to go?” Dom asked.
“We were practicing with our orbs and brought them close together. We first saw our star system as if we were approaching it from space and then we were in a dark cavern and there we saw a sand-morph. Since there are none in the present world, it had to be in the past, before the world was sterilized.”
“That seems a logical deduction,” Dom said, then added. “Of course, it depends on whether your premise is valid.”
“You mean there may be sand-morphs that survived?”
“It would think it’s almost axiomatic,” Dom said. “Just not in this world.”
Alix’s mind raced as he tried to grasp what Dom so casually revealed as a potential. “There could be other sand-morphs on other planets.”
“Your assumption was they’re indigenous. This planet was far too young to have evolved their live form at the time of terraforming. It is one of the reasons for the oversight.”
“They were colonists like us,” Cristina said.
“That is the most likely conclusion from all the evidence of which I am aware,” Dom said.
“Wow!” Alix expressed the only word he found in his vocabulary to encompass the sum total of how much Dom has just expanded his range of thought.
“I do not have sufficient resources or information to make a definitive determination,” Dom said. “The Master and I’ve discussed it previously. He also tends to agree with the likelihood. It is possible and therefore should be considered in any sort of analysis.”
When Alix emerged from the depths of thought, he looked first to Cristina and then to Dom. “I don’t even know the exact date of the initiation of the sterilization process,” Alix said. “I only know it was in the 2120’s”
“September 9, 2124,” Dom said.
“Then a point in time before that would be good, let’s say September 4, 2124.”
Dom seemed to be completely occupied for several moments. At the conclusion he looked at Alix. “I have the coordinates plotted.” From Dom’s eyes a holographic projection of the immediate star system issued. Overlaid upon it Dom cast the temporal coordinates as well as the spatial coordinates. “I have archived them and printed a copy to your portagraph.
Alix hastily accessed the device he wore on his wrist and usually only used as a chronometer. “Got it.”
“Is that what we needed?” Cristina asked.
“Yeah, well I suppose we should know where to return.”
Dom removed the overlay and pinpointed the present and sent that information to Alix’s device as well. When Alix finished studying the information. Dom closed is eyes and, immediately, the projection terminated. “You will need full mask filters for your journey. There is a pair of operable ones in the front closet in the foyer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other things to attend to for the Master.”
Cristina stood along with the DOMLIB and pressed her hand to Dom’s chest halting him. Then she kissed him on the cheek.
Dom seemed startled but appeared to smile ever so slightly.
“So, now we have everything we need?” Cristina followed Alix and Dom to the front entry. There, Alix opened the closet and found the masks they would need.
“They coordinates are for the cavern where the sand-morph’s were discovered,” Dom explained as he opened the front door to allow them outside.”
“And the return coordinates are here?” Cristina asked. She stepped out onto the front porch to join Alix.
“On this front porch, yes,” Dom replied.
“Thank you, again.”
“You’re welcome,” Dom said as he closed Raven’s front door behind them.
“I know where we are and where we’re going. I just hope there’s a sand-morph nearby.”
“There has to be.”
“It is a huge world.”
“Well, let’s hope for the best. At least we know where to look for them,” she said as donned the mask. Once it was properly fitted she checked as Alix did the same. In each of their hands they allowed their orbs to appear and they brought them closer together. In the balance they created a window into another world, a previous era and set of circumstances. Alix grasped her free hand and in the next instant there was a brief but brilliant eruption of white light. They stepped through and were where they were a moments before.