**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.**
Arnie made up a serving tray of cups for one and all and a pot of freshly made coffee. “I’ll bring everything we need,” Arnie continued his thought. “We can all sit and talk.”
“You and Mom have to take care of business,” Neville said as he glanced at his chronometer.
“It’s a couple of hours before opening, Arnie said. “We have plenty of time.”
“So it is, I thought it was later.”
“You’re living on Andromeda time, dear,” Mary said.
“I must be.” He smiled, then sipped form the freshly poured cup.
“If anyone shows up early, the coffee’s on the house,” Arnie said and filled everyone’s cups. “This morning, we’re celebrating having our family an friends together.”
Once everyone was taken care of Arnie settled beside Neville and Chase at the two tables his son has hastily scooted together while the ladies arranged their chairs around.
“This is excellent coffee, by the way,” Chase complemented.
“It’s a blend only Dad does,” Neville explained. “Four different types of beans, a secret mixture, roasted on site and ground fresh daily.”
“Well, it is simply the best I’ve ever had,” Chase said.
“Yes, it is,” Julie concurred.
“I was going to drive you to the house and let everybody sleep while I came back here to help Emma with the morning rush.”
“If it can be called a rush. I’m still worn out from the other morning when we were actually busy.”
“Anyway, it appears plans have changed. The caffeine will keep everybody going for a while.”
“I wish I had the recipe. I’d have a cup every morning,” Julie said. “You should patent it.”
“Dad’s been refusing offers to sell it for years.”
“I want it done right, not produced in mass. So, if you want my special coffee, you have to come to Star City and enjoy it here. Everything is in the preparation and the care for how it’s delivered.”
“Every performance depends on the rehearsal,” Chase said, relating Arnie’s insight to show business. “Which reminds me. Have you heard the news?” he directed to Cristina and Alix?”
“Which news? There’s been a lot going on lately,” Alix responded.
“Congratulations are in order. Your single and the Mod Card its from are both number one in Andromeda.”
“You’re kidding me,” Alix stared at him, then looked excitedly toward Cristina.
“It’s also number one in Haven and has been number one in New Milan for ten weeks, now – twenty five weeks in the top five. Maybe the fever has spread to Star City too, I’ll have to check.”
“That’s incredible news,” Cristina said.
“I’m receiving messages about tons of offers coming in from local promoters for some larger venues in every city. Global Star wants to put something together right away, but I’m thinking something more elaborate.”
“We were going into the studio first,” Cristina said. “The guys have written some new material. It would freshen the play list for the shows and promote new material.”
“That would be great. We can work with that, as long as you can knock out the new material quickly.”
“That’s something Alix and I need to talk about, not bore everyone else with. And I have some ideas we need to discuss Chase – in private.”
“Sure, we can do that.”
Julie looked askance at Chase.
“So, little lady, you’re famous,” Arnie asked. “Emma was saying you would be sooner or later.”
“She’s getting there,” Chase said. “Alix too. Being number one in both New Milan and Andromeda is so huge I can’t really explain it to anyone outside of the business. It will launch things elsewhere, maybe worldwide. I’d be surprised if our rivals on Little Continent aren’t ready to make some bids.”
“We’d stay with you, of course,” Cristina said.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence. But you go with who takes care of you the best. I want you to succeed but if Global Star isn’t the best—”
“But it has been,” Alix said.
“You’ll have to give us your autographs before you leave to go back home. We might never have the chance again,” Emma said as she leaned over the front counter.
“It’s happened so fast – I mean, lately it is,” Cristina said.
“The band has been playing since we were in high school,” Alix explained. “Pete and I were in college together but we still played in the band. Keith and Tim have been playing together since they were old enough to walk, just about. They approached Pete and me when they wanted to form a band.”
“Then they auditioned me after I got out of college.”
“Cristina studied music and theater,” Chase said. “She sings on stage but she also plays piano and guitar.”
“Well, all this couldn’t happen to nicer people,” Emma said.
Cristina beamed. “It all falls into place with what we want to do,” Cristina directed to Alix. “Our idea involves telling the world about what we’ve learned about the sand-morphs.”
“Sand-morphs. What have you learned?” Neville probed.
“First of all, they’re peaceful. They’re language is like music, very complicated music in a way with sounds and colors.”
“Paul told you this?” Chase asked. “I mean, you found him and talked to him?”
“We talked to him,” Alix said. “But not all that much about them. Cristina learned almost everything one her own.”
“You can learn a lot in a few moments,” she clarified. “It’s intense when you make a telepathic connection.”
“Talking to them on their level would be almost like attending a concert,” Alix said.
“Exactly,” Cristina said.
“It’s a pity they aren’t around anymore,” Neville said. “They could entertain us.”
“They’re civilization is very advanced. Maybe we’d entertain them. I don’t know. We might bore them, actually.”
“We’ll never know. The point is moot.”
“Oh, but it’s not, far from it,” Cristina said. “We can still learn a lot.”
“Taking trips to the past will do us little good,” Neville said.
“But we don’t need to go back, not right away. We can ask one directly.”
“Ask one?” Neville asked.
“We brought one back with us,” Alix said.
“You did what?” Chase asked.
“That’s a lot of what we need to talk about, my idea involves Staash.”
“Staash?” Neville asked. “I had a stuffed animal–”
“They know,” Emma said.
“I’m sorry we spoiled the surprise,” Cristina apologized to her.
“They found him when they were cleaning upstairs,” Emma explained. “He’s all dusted off and waiting for you at the house.”
“Really, where was he all this time?” Neville asked.
“Hidden, under a loose floorboard in one of the closets,” Alix said. “Subject to a cover-up in his own way.”
“Well, at least that mystery is solved. I’ll bet I know whose room it was in, too, just not which one of them did the deed,” Neville said.
“I hope we didn’t start a family feud,” Cristina said.
“Nothing major, anyway,” Arnie laughed. “Just a normal sibling knock-down drag-out. We’ll sell tickets. Emma can pop some corn.”
“Arnie!” Emma scolded her husband.
“So where’s this Staash, the other one?” Neville asked.
“He’s upstairs, watching world viewer and learning.”
Neville fell silent for a few moments. “Right now, upstairs, there is an alien?”
“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with him learning about humanity from world viewer,” Chase said.
“He learns very fast,” Cristina said. “They’re telepathic, by their nature.”
“That how you communicated?” Neville asked.
“He speaks now.”
“Actually very well,” Alix said.
“I used telepathy at first,” Cristina continued. “After a while we could speak to one another. To my chagrin he learned English far quicker than I’ve acquired his language.”
“I’m sure all this will be of some interest to the Colonial Authority,” Arnie said.
“That’s what we need to manage. We want everyone to know about them,” Cristina said. “The truth. People need to know what happened eighty years ago.”
Neville fell silent again, considering the ramifications of what Cristina proposed and how it would impact the world.
“Alix and I went back to a moment a five days before the initiation of terraforming this world.”
“How many sand-morphs did you see?” Neville asked.
“Thousands,” Alix said.
“In a community?”
“They were reluctant to be observed at first but, yes, we saw several of them and some of their technology,” Cristina said.
“There were maybe fifty of them at first but, as we descended deeper into their caverns, there were thousands,” Alix amplified.
“They call themselves Sakum’malien, or at least that’s the closest rendering within our means of pronunciation,” Cristina said.
Neville leaned back in his chair. Mary kept looking between her husband, Cristina and Alix, knowing enough about the subject of discussion to understand the gravity of what was being said.
“So, this sand-morph…” Chase ventured to reenter the discussion, but paused.
“Staash,” Alix interrupted. “He actually liked the name.”
“Staash, then. He’s really upstairs right now?” Chase asked. “Kicked-back watching world viewer?”
“You think we’re lying to you?” Alix asked.
“No, it just hard to get my head around it, I guess,” Chase said. “It seems so unreal, so completely unfathomable. He’s here from eighty years ago.”
“What’s unfathomable, that he’s proof of alien life or he’s from the past?” Alix asked.
“I guess, I have to see the beast to believe it,” Neville said.
“He’s not a beast. He’s highly intelligent and articulate. Amongst his kind he’s a poet,” Cristina countered.
“Really?” Chase expressed surprise. “Besides their language being music, they have art in their culture?”
“Their culture is very rich, in fact. Language for them is a much better medium for communication than anything humans have ever invented.”
“And he speaks English, now?” Neville sought confirmation.
“As do we all and he finds it confining for what he needs to express,” Alix countered.
“Mostly from watching world viewer,” Cristina said. “He learned the vocabulary and the foundations of grammar from whatever he gleaned through our telepathic connection. He learned nuances of conversation from observation whether it was from us or the world viewer.”
“He is a pro with the remote control including the link functions for accessing information,” Alix added.
“He knows more about us than we do about him,” Neville suggested, his voice hinting it concerned him.
“I think once you meet him most of your reservations will be allayed,” Cristina said.
“Would you like to?” Alix asked, standing up.
“Uh, well uh…yeah sure. I mean, I guess so,” Neville said.
“Is it safe?” Mary asked.
“He’s very civil, even docile,” Alix said. “I’ve learned he has a sense of humor and irony.”
“We would have never brought him back unless we felt it was safe,” Cristina said.
“At least you demonstrated that good sense,” Neville said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Alix countered.
“You can’t possibly think it was a rational decision to retrieve a beast from the past. Because you appear to have that ability doesn’t mean it was ever intended–”
“Look,” Alix interrupted. “The Sakum’malien were here before us. That’s the undeniable truth the Colonial Authority has suppressed for all these years, vehemently and often violently. People have rotted in prison and died because they don’t want that truth to get out.”
“I know; I know,” Neville said. “They were indigenous life and our researchers missed them in their preliminary investigations and inadvertently terminated through the terraforming process.”
“So we’ve been told,” Cristina said. “The truth is something entirely different.”
“Then, please enlighten us,” Neville said with a hint of patronizing sarcasm.
“First of all the Sakum’malien are not indigenous at all. They were in the process of preparing this world for their own colonization efforts,” Alix said. “Despite their physical ability to filter poisons out of the air, they could not long endure the toxic levels in the air that existed even at the time of our early visitations.”
“They reduced the levels of the toxins to what we encountered, over a period of several centuries,” Cristina revealed something she’d learned directly but had not yet shared with Alix.
“They were here that long?” Neville inquired.
“Our spans are relatively brief in comparison,” Cristina said. “Not only would those we exterminated yet be alive, even those who were young adults like Staash would still be considered young.”
“They dwelled in deep caverns and used over-pressurization to form airlocks in order to prevent the contamination within the atmosphere from fouling the clean air inside,” Alix explained. “So you, see, there’s no way the sterilizations treatments that were released into the atmosphere and saturated the oceans could have ever violated the caverns in which the Sakum’malien lived.”
“You know this for a fact?” Neville asked.
“We were there,” Alix said. “I can take you there if you would like to see it for yourself?”