**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.**
It would not be an easy thing to conceal a Sakum’malien. Slahl’yukim was large by human standards. Not so much that he was tall as he was broad and as his body, to a large degree, consisted of silicon so his body had greater mass for its relative volume.
Bringing him back with them proved to be the simplest part of the task of integrating him into a future world that was the domain of humans. The three of them interlocked hands and for Alix it was really not more difficult than bringing Cristina along on his previous shifts.
They arrived almost exactly where he and Cristina had left, within a few centimeters actually. Dom’s calculations have been that precise. Alix was as duly impressed as he had been when they arrived in the past fairly close to a cave entrance where sand-morphs dwelled. Alix suspected Dom had his own agenda that was apart from Raven’s plans or anyone else’s for that matter. He could not quite peg Dom, except to say the android was not exactly what he seemed.
Cristina looked up at the estates’ bell rope. Alix didn’t need telepathy to tell what she was thinking. He reached up to tug on the rope. “He’ll be pissed because we probably just left.”
“Dom’s cordial, always. Anyway these are his coordinates,” Alix said. “We’re here on his schedule.”
He sensed Cristina was going to seek Raven’s advice if not help. Alix did not want to endure another session with Raven and really could not believe that Cristina did either. What they did was completely and utterly against what Raven believed was important. Why would he help them?
Yet there she was on the front porch, Slahl’yukim standing between her and Alix, looking around at the world, seeing it in the darkness. He started to disengage from their hands to go explore. Cristina must have communicated with him telepathically.
Did they do the right thing? Alix wondered. Slahl’yukim was lost and alone. He was bonding with Cristina, something that bothered Alix even if he refused to call it jealousy as the sand-morph had accused. Alix understood that he and Cristina were the alien’s only friends and only link to anything. Of course he would bond with her, become attached to her and she would tolerate him. Still it was disturbing.
When Alix had agreed to this adventure it was a very different situation. The story was very different as well. Now he understood that the Sakum’malien were not different from the humans. Both were invaders of the same world, competitors for the very same space. Humans won that contest. What was wrong and very different from the official story was that it now seemed apparent to Alix that the first humans had to know the Sakum’malien were there. The over-pressurizing of the caverns was defeated, something that was never reported.
Now it seemed it was even more of a conspiracy than anyone imagined. No wonder there was so much energy and effort expended to conceal the darkness of the human hearts who initiated the terraforming of Pravda. The pristine beauty promised was a distant dream. Perhaps all along, it was an unachievable lie. There would ever be the taint of the evil the first humans perpetrated against an alien race. The first alien race encountered as a direct result of their explorations humans exterminated.
Was colonizing Pravda that important to mankind’s survival? Was it worth the effort in light of the declining fertility rates and the inevitable extinction of mankind? Would mankind survive on the world they stole so violently as to terminate an entire race that was here before any human? What difference did it make that they were not indigenous? They were essentially transforming the world to suit their life form just as the humans were intending to do for the purposes of mankind.
Alix tugged n the bell rope again. Slahl’yukim kept looking around, touching surfaces and analyzing everything – like a kid, exploring.
Alix could appreciate the Sakum’malien was overwhelmed with the wonders of what he was seeing – all of it very strange. He was intimidated, even frightened. There was so much around him that he did not understand. A couple of humans led him into a world dominated by humans, a world in which he was one of a kind. Knowing what humans did to his kind, he was one brave fellow.
The door opened and Dom tilted his head to one side.
Dom nodded. “You are late.”
“Well, we have been waiting here for a while,” Alix said.
“Welcome back,” he said even as he looked at the Sakum’malien. “As much as he does not wish to be disturbed, the Master must be alerted as to what you and Alix have accomplished.” Then he opened the door and bade them to remain in the foyer. Alix hurried toward the threshold as Dom held the front door open for him. “I trust the coordinates were sufficient.”
“They were impeccable,” Alix said. “As well you know.”
Dom even appeared to be resisting the urge to smile as he turned away and escorted Cristina to seek out Raven and his approval for audience.
Alix remained behind with Slahl’yukim. He did not enjoy his recent secondary importance to Cristina, but there was not much he could do. He understood the overall objective. He was not sure how they were going to pull it off but he knew he had to help Cristina.
Cristina was able to communicate directly with the sand-morph without any words. Perhaps she had explained Raven as best she could and the estate he lived in, as well as the conditions of the outside world. All along Slahl’yukim was rapidly acquiring the nuances of human language from her.
A few moments after Cristina had followed Dom down the hall toward Raven’s study, Slahl’yukim turned toward Alix and startled him. “Thank your understanding. Cristina special.”
“Yes, she is.”
“Learn quickly speak, not good yet,” he said. “Cristina teacher good.”
Alix looked into his eyes. “You understand what’s happening now?”
“Know happened. Understanding different. Some humans accept tragedy. Some not. You and Cristina want correct wrong. Slahl’yukim want change past.”
“We understand that. But changing the past changes our world, too. Perhaps we would not be together. Maybe we would not even be alive.”
Slahl’yukim forced the odd gesture of a nod he learned from Cristina. Alix assumed he intended it to mean the same thing it did for humans.
“There’s been a cover-up all along. I think most humans would not want what was done to have ever happened. But they were held in ignorance,” Alix said.
“She explain,” he said. “Want me speak tragedy my kind. Efforts impact short desire.”
“Cristina’s brother is imprisoned for his views and his desire to resurrect your kind from oblivion.”
“She explain much. I understand some. Do not understand dead to life. Maybe works humans. Not understand how.”
“We cannot bring our own kind back from the dead, But Paul, Cristina’s brother, and their organization believe it’s possible because your life form does not deteriorate after death as rapidly as ours and many of your kind were meticulously preserved in sealed coffins when they were discovered.”
“Know kill us, preserve us, why?”
“Not everyone knew. Someone discovered bodies and named you sand-morphs, because you were mostly sand by appearance and on the sensors that they used to probe for life forms. Yet you kind of had bodies.”
“How many preserve?”
“I don’t know. Paul would have better knowledge of that. I would guess thousands. But it could be more or less.”
“Intend parade embarrass authorities.”
“We don’t want this to become a circus. We want this to be meaningful and have a lasting impact.”
“Thank,” Slahl’yukim said. “Go back when?”
“When there’s been significant change and an interest in your form of life.”
“If not happen, then still go back?”
“I could take you back to die among your friends. I can take you back to before we met even, so maybe you would never know. I’m not sure how would work, but maybe it could happen. You would not know that five days later you and all of those around you would be dead.”
“Stay here one my kind.”
“Did you have a mate?”
“No one. Shun Slahl’yukim. Outcast, exile, heretic, poet, evil thoughts.”
“You should try writing music here, then. It sounds like you might fit in,” Alix laughed.
“Me, not hardly. I was always shy. I mean, I perform on stage and all that, but I’m not the focus. Cristina’s the star.”
Alix laughed. “She’s amazing, by the way.”
“Suspect,” Slahl’yukim said. “Lucky human she loves.”
Alix smiled. “I must have a charmed life even if, lately, it has not seemed that way.”
“Intelligence, exotic. Touch mind not resist. Captive attention.”
“She has that gift and can do that to men on many levels.”
Slahl’yukim glowed, “Man that way least. Slahl’yukim too.”
Dom emerged from Raven’s study and waved toward Alix for them to advance. When Slahl’yukim and Alix passed through the door Dom closed it behind him, remaining outside.
“So this is what you’ve done,” Raven said to Alix. “You’ve circumvented the whole issue of resurrecting a demon from the past by just going there and capturing one.”
“Not capture,” Slahl’yukim said. “Come with.”
“He speaks?” Raven laughed, and then turned to accuse Cristina. “You taught him some words in English but not Italian?”
“You don’t speak Italian very well. I am sure he can render things as different languages like humans do. To him all human languages that I know would seem to be as one.”
“So this was the plan all along. Get the reclusive Raven involved in current world affairs.”
“No condemn Cristina. Intentions pure. Me no otherwise here .”
“The purity of her intentions is never in question,” Raven responded. “It’s the wisdom of her judgment that baffles me.”
Raven came forward and studied the alien for a few moments, but then he turned to Cristina and said, “If this is not handled right the Colonial Authority will discredit everything and put both you and Alix in prison. Likely as not, they would execute this alien. Worst case they would study him to excess and then execute him later on.”
“No kill me,” Slahl’yukim said.
Raven focused on the sand-morph’s apparent eyes for a moment. Afterwards he stepped back. “Cristina tells me you are a poet?”
“I’m a writer but I suck at writing poetry,” Raven said. “I revere poets. I write non-fiction and histories, stories that are long enough to fill a book. I’m sure you are struggling to relate to something comparable in your experience.”
“Comparable. More successful. Poets rare find success.”
“Then the artistic community between our kinds does not differ all that much.
“Make world and characters pretend real.”
“You are able to create pictures in minds with words alone.”
“Poet emotion, moments capture.”
“Poets have a gift with words. Writers have a knack or maybe a talent if they are lucky,” Raven said.
Slahl’yukim glanced to Cristina while non-verbally communicating that he was uncomfortable in the radiant heat of the immediate environment. He claimed that it was too hot and far too dry, something that she found ironic considering his nature until she considered that they both shared the same, common essential component of life. For Slahl’yukim, to be absent of water was to revert to sand. For humans it was to revert to dust.
“That can be adjusted,” Cristina promised.
Raven seemed to have picked up on the non-verbal communication and poured out a glass of water for each of his guests. “It’s mostly cold. Dom brought it recently. I’m not sure whether your kind prefers water cold, warm or even hot,” Raven said.
“As offered,” Slahl’yukim said. “Any way.”
“I must say that Cristina has performed a miracle in such a short time teaching you many words of English.”
“He was a most willing pupil,” Cristina responded.
“Most non-native speakers consider English a difficult language to acquire. Many native speakers fail to acquire it fully,” Raven said.
“My language she gifted. Do no less learn hers.”
Raven smiled. “She has empathic and telepathic abilities.”
“No know terms.”
“She can feel what you feel and think what you think.”
Slahl’yukim smiled broadly. “Like me.” Then he glanced at her. She stood there being impatient and unappreciative of Raven’s comments.
Raven stared into his eyes then immediately rebuffed the alien’s fifth attempt to probe his mind. “Some humans will be weak or not even be aware of your attempts. Others of us will never permit it.”
“Understood,” Slahl’yukim said.
“The real reason any of us are here now is that we need to have a plan,” Cristina said.
“How are we going to break the news to the world?” Alix asked.
“More relevantly how do you break the news without having the Colonial Authority quash the effort?” Raven posed.
“This is a significant event. It is newsworthy and relevant,” Cristina stated.
“But no one wants to hear about it unless it is pitched to them in a personally relevant way,” Alix said.
“You understand the problem,” Raven said.
“I get it,” Alix said. “I really do. Most people don’t care about anything that’s going on around them as long as it doesn’t directly impose on their immediate plans of their overall life.”
“I believe you really do understand people,” Raven said.
“We need to focus on the entertainment value, the shock value, the potential to gather an audience and then we pitch for the mass support.”
Cristina smiled with pride as Alix demonstrated his level of enlightenment about managing the mass media.
“It will be a challenge. He’s newsworthy. Maybe he’s relevant. Most people are never going to relate to him or the story, though.”
“That’s why we transform the news into an event,” Cristina said.
“Well, despite the difficulty of your adventure and your best intentions, what you have done is create a circus sideshow: The Last Living Sand-morph. I’m sure he does not want to endure that moniker for the rest of his life.”
“All I wanted to do was show the world that the Colonial Authority has lied to us,” Cristina said.
“And that’s the reason your brother killed many, many agents?” Raven asked. “That’s the real issue you’re up against.”
“It was the Colonial Authority’s intransigence and lack of integrity in adherence to the regulations for creating a habitable world and the cover up that ensued.”
“That’s why Paul killed agents?”
“That’s where it began,” Cristina said.
“It’s far too complicated. The reason has to be pithy for the masses to understand it.”
“It was kill of be killed.”
“That’s cliché, but more along the lines of what you need.”
“I just know the truth. Paul killed to prevent further brutality in his interrogation and those of others. The agents routinely torture prisoners to obtain information,” Cristina said.
“I know that. He knows it. You know it. Alix knows. Hell, everyone who had ever been interrogated knows. The problem is how do you prove it and how do you get the message out to the masses?” Raven asked. “The Colonial Authority has no interest in giving you a forum for your message.”
“Look, I want to save Paul but at this point I do not know whether that is even possible. He has reached the bedrock of the pit he has dug for himself. And yet he continues to dig,” Raven said.
“Do you know where they will keep him once he is recaptured?”
“That inevitability already occurred, sometime yesterday.”
“No, you’re confused. We broke him out earlier today.”
“No that was two days ago.”
“Dom must have given us coordinates so we could catch back up with when we should have been here…”
Raven shook his head. “You should pay more attention if you’re going to be traveling in time and space. It’s a big universe out there. It’s easy to get lost. I should know.”
“We have to free him again,” Cristina said.
“There won’t be another chance, I’m afraid.”
“We have to save his life.”
“When he escaped from their central detention center,” Raven said. “Considering the other related news about systems shutting down and remaining disabled for sometime, I suspected you and Alix. When he was recaptured I would suspect he’d be taken to their maximum-security facility. It is on the southeastern side of town very close to the dome maintenance track.”
Cristina glanced toward Alix.
“The walls of that prison have all sorts of electromagnetic scramblers to defeat any sort of surveillance device,” Raven said. “I believe you will find that it thwarts your abilities as well and in a way far more overwhelming than at the detention facility.”
Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water and poured himself another glass. After he consumed it he complained. “Here killing me.”
“You prefer the cool dampness of a cavern,” Raven said.
“You no would?” Slahl’yukim responded.
Raven stared at Cristina. “He’s your charge now. You have to take care of him. Our world is as alien to him as his nature is to us. It’s increasingly more obvious by the moment that he cannot remain here.”
“But you have not told me how to break the news.”
“Am I the repository of all relevant knowledge in the world? I don’t think so. You have done something without my knowledge and certainly it is something I would have never approved. Everything before was up to you and now this must be the same way. I do not want to be involved.”
“You don’t understand,” Cristina said.
“I assure you I do. I fully understand why you did what you did and I appreciate the enormity of this accomplishment. But everything needs to be planned and the timing must be perfect to ever have the effect you intend. For that, you’ll need patience. You need to dig down deep inside and find wherever you have hidden yours.”
“We can’t exactly walk around with him and not expect to have some questions.”
“I suppose not,” Raven said. “I used to be a lot heavier when I was younger. I’m sure I have a hooded trench coat in my closet that will fit him.”
“That would be perfect.”
“The only issue you will have is his ID and payment wand. Dom can do something for him. The problem is that even if Dom implants a microchip the scan also checks for pulse. It is something that dates back to terrorist infiltration during the clone uprising. Dead clones were routinely used to obviate security measures. There are ways of defeating the check. For example, I have traveled with Dom who obviously does not have a human pulse. When his ID was scanned we were able to clear security simply because I was holding on to his wrist. The device picked up my pulse rate and accepted it as the primary.”
“Makes you feel really safe, doesn’t it?” Alix commented.
“Despite the failing, the bureaucracy still insists it is necessary to check for pulse. It is a perfect example of how some security measures are thought through completely but others are not,” Raven said. “Regardless of that, anything anyone ever comes up with can be defeated provided there’s enough time, energy and resourcefulness.”
“So we can travel with Slahl’yukim,” Cristina said. “Even outside of the city.”
“What’s wrong with breaking the news here?” Raven asked.
“I would rather be in New Milan or Andromeda,” Cristina said.
“I thought the whole point of doing this was to free Paul.”
Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water again and poured himself another glass with the last available water in the pitcher.
“Freeing Paul is part of the point. Maybe it was the major point at first but things have changed. We know things that we did not know before.”
“Like the Sakum’malien are not indigenous,” Raven said.
“Exactly,” she said.
“Still, they were here first,” Alix said.
“‘Finders keepers’ expire sometime after childhood ends,” Raven said. “Besides, the Colonial Authority is not going to respond well to the presence of a living sand-morph.”
“They won’t like the exposure of the truth about the origins of our existence on Pravda,” Cristina said.
“That’s a given,” Raven said. “But the news is not anything that the mainstream public would suspect. The authorities have kept very tight controls on the information and imprisoned anyone credible with the desire to divulge the secret.”
“It is not going to be easy for them to discount the preponderance of evidence,” Alix said.
“But you need to present the evidence before they arrest you and Cristina.”
“I have not done anything like this before,” Alix said.
“The world as we know it is about to change,” Cristina said. “The truth could bring down the Colonial Authority.”
“Which should not be the goal at all,” Raven said.
“What do you replace their authority with?” Raven asked. “There’s no alternative to fill the power vacuum. Despite the negative aspects of their governing, they represent order and stability. Without them there would be anarchy and chaos. Even their tyranny is preferable to the alternative of a world without an organized government and structure.”
“Maybe it will only be embarrassment that they suffer,” Alix said.
“Until then we have to duck under the scanner net and remain out of sight as much as possible,” she said.
“Yes,” Raven said. “That’s the immediate challenge.”