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Interview with Laura Ellen Scott, author of The New Royal Mysteries Series

Solid interview with my friend, the always unpredictable and spontaneous Laura Ellen Scott. And she offers lots of reading recommendations for mystery/horror fans.

Horror Scribes

This week we chat to Laura Ellen Scott, author of The Mean Bone in Her Body and Crybaby Lane, the first two books in The New Royal Mysteries Series.

Tell us a bit about you and your writing.

I’m a recovering Ohioan who writes dark mystery novels, heavily influenced by gothic horror. The first two books of the New Royal Mysteries are The Mean Bone in Her Body and Crybaby Lane, and the series is set in a college/prison town where the University has partnered with the corrections industry to offer a crime writing program. Mean Bone sets the stage with several creepy domestic spaces, and Crybaby adds legends and lies to the mix. I have a reputation as a prose stylist, but there’s nothing fancy about my tropes.
I write a more straight-up horror (again, gothic-flavored) in my flash. My chapbook, Curio, is still available as a free ebook via goodreads, and my flash novella…

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The Resurrection: Chapter 7 – Reconciliation

**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.***

Julie sat at her desk, buried in enough paperwork to last a week, but it was usual for her job.

As always, she accomplished next to nothing that was on her personal agenda, not even the critical requirements from the corporate office. There were always crises to manage and figurative fires to extinguish. All of it was the direct result of gross incompetence at some level or another, and very often someone at a higher pay scale than she earned was at fault.

Fixing the mistakes of others, continuously, she made everything function and everyone above her pay grade looked good to their superiors. Appreciated by coworkers but unappreciated with advancements and raises in salary, mostly it was her sense of mission that drove her. Not only did she want to do a good job, but also she needed to go home with satisfaction that she’d improved things for others winning the battle for another day. Lately, others thwarted her attempts, frustrating her until the job seemed drudgery instead of challenge.

Good at what she did, very good, others depended on her personal sacrifice of her time and devotion to the task at hand. Mostly, the job left her lacking energy, any pride  in accomplishment or feeling that things would improve. Her supervisors benefited directly for what she did while they did little or nothing, rarely even patting her on the back. They expected her to wear herself out on their behalf at and her expense.

Despite her overall dissatisfaction with work, she continued working for her company because she needed the meager compensation to pay bills. She earned enough that she did not suffer. She could go out to eat when she felt like it, take in a show every once in a while and go out dancing and club-hopping on weekends with her girlfriends. Her life was not that bad except that she dreaded going to work and having to deal with one crisis after another when everything she fixed her immediate supervisor took the credit for and everything that went wrong was never their blame.

It had been a couple of days since Chase shared macaroni and cheese with her and took the rest of his things with him. She must have been thorough in her cleanup effort. She had found nothing since that night that belonged to him. She had looked in the hopes of having another good excuse to call him. He had not called her even once saying he was missing anything. Apparently he did not miss her, either.

She dared not call him without cause. Although many times a day she thought about him, she had her pride. Being separated just felt wrong to her, very wrong for them. Yet she did not think she had done anything wrong. She fully understood Chase’s point of view but what she did she would do again to protect him. Why was he so stubborn that he refused to see that?

Chase was still looking for an apartment. That was what she assumed. She figured he would at least call her to tell her where he lived. They parted friends – as much as that is possible for lovers when a relationship tears apart – so she expected at least that much consideration from him to know where he lived and how he was doing.

At her behest, Kim call Chase’s temporary roommate – the guy he knew from work – and say she saw him in a club and got his work number from a friend, playing the ‘I want to get to know you better’ routine. He begged off on a date until later in the week, saying he had a houseguest and hopefully he would be out of the apartment before the weekend. So, Kim learned what Julie wanted to know.

When Julie got off from work and entered the garage where her coach was docked, there were three men in suits leaning against it. Their suits were the sorts that agents wear, not uniforms but certainly not fine business attire either. She really did not want to deal with any more questions. Long since, she had already told Yates everything she knew.

“I suppose Yates sent you to collect me,” she said as she approached her coach and the three men.

“He said there would be no problem.”

“Then why send three of you?”

“He felt that one would be a threat, two would be intimidating but three would sort of set you at ease, that we’re legitimate and not going to harm you.”

“In a weird sort of way I guess that makes some sense. I do feel more at ease.”

“We can take you in our coach or you can follow us if you like.”

“I think I’ll follow you. It will save me time getting home afterwards.”

They leaned forward and off her coach and allowed her to undock it and as they climbed into their coach, she got into hers. She knew where she was going but even so she followed them, not passing them.

When she arrived, much to her surprise, Yates was waiting outside the building and he knocked on the passenger side window. She opened the door and he climbed inside. “Let’s go for a drive,” he said.

“I hope you’re happy. Chase and I are separated now.”

“I heard. Certainly, I’m not happy about it at all. That was never my intention for any of this to come between the two of you.”

“How could it not? I only wanted to save him from any pain or grief but he feels I betrayed his friends, my friends as well. They did nothing wrong. That’s the whole point. Really they did nothing wrong.”

“Except they fled the authorities which rapidly elevated them in status to suspects.”

“They’re not dangerous.”

“There is some debate about that. You see several agents were inured in the attempts to detain and then later re-arrest them. Now, they have completely disappeared,” Yates revealed. “There’s no trace of them, still. I don’t know how they did it. I didn’t think it could be done. We’ve alerted Star City, their apparent destination, but they’ve never arrived there. They have been watching security scans from the stations frame by frame looking for them. I’m at a complete loss to explain it. Perhaps, you have some thoughts?”

“If you can’t find them, what chance would I have?”

“You know them.”

Julie pursed a smile. “My life’s a shambles. My former fiancée hates me. When my friends learn what I’ve done they’ll likely hate me as well, because everyone thought Chase and I were a perfect couple – and we were. Because I know them, you think I might know where they’re hiding. I haven’t got a clue. Cristina’s smart, very smart. Alix is resourceful in ways you’d never imagine. If they’ve been undetectable for even a day it’s remarkable considering all the technology at your disposal to keep track of people. But it doesn’t surprise me. If anyone could completely disappear it would be them.”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but you’ll either find out or figure it out, eventually. They’ve been under scrutiny and some level of surveillance for all of their lives.”

“Really?” Julie asked. “And Chase as well…and me?”

“There are Twenty-Four of you.”

“Twenty-Four?”

“Twelve sets of twins. Whether you realize it or not, each of you was born one of a set of twins.”

“I’m sure that’s significant somehow.”

“Well, it is. The significance was lost on me until this morning. I received a visit from the Director of Research at The Hosting Institute, a sort of live-in facility for twelve highly remarkable women who’ve been monitored for over two decades now,” Yates said.

“Okay?”

“The Institute is here in Andromeda. I wasn’t even aware of its purpose until this morning. I’d heard of it in passing and knew its mission was a highly guarded secret. There’s been some speculation that they were conducting research into human fertility but what did I know?”

“I’m waiting to find out what any of this has to do with me.”

“You are one of The Twenty-Four. That’s how they refer to you in official circles. You were borne of one of The Twelve who live in The Institute.”

“I’m confused.”

“Your mother lives at the Institute, Julie. Everyone else who’s one of The Twelve does.”

Julie pulled her coach over to the curb and temporarily parked it. “My mother’s dead. I have visited her grave many times.”

“That was a cover – for a purpose,” Yates said. “Your father knew. He agreed with the objectives and he lived with the consequences.”

“You knew?”

“I never knew all the details. Certainly, nothing about the women in the facility but, yes, I suppose I knew enough. I spoke to your father. I met a number of the other husbands as well. They were amazing men in an equally extraordinary way. They had yielded their wives’ lives already, expecting them to die. Yet, when the women lived, they allowed them to participate in the research program in the interest of all humanity. Each and every one of them was a very remarkable man. In every case, they were the ones who passed on prematurely. It’s not a coincidence, but it is another part of the mystery no one understands.”

“So, you’re saying my mother’s alive?”

“Of course she is, as is Chase’s mother, Alix’s mother, Cristina and Paul’s mother and Pete’s.”

“Pete?”

“He is the drummer in Cristina’s band.”

“I see. And suddenly, it’s okay for this to be public knowledge.”

“It’s not public knowledge. It’s being shared with me to share with you because the Colonial Authority wants to clear up a few things, and maybe by this gesture, you’ll understand they really are on your side.”

“I want to see her.”

“Of course, I’ve made the arrangements. Apparently, Cristina and Paul’s mother is in Star City. She’s seeing Paul.”

“Trying to persuade him away from the course he’s chosen.”

“I suppose it’s something like that,” Yates said, “Here’s the address. You can program it into the controller.”

As she complied her coach merged with traffic and accelerated toward the selected destination. When it arrived, both Julie and Yates exited. They were in the most remote section of the city Julie had ever been, close to the edge of the dome – beyond the circle or the ‘loop’, as it was called. They entered the building and posted at the reception desk. Yates asked for someone named Neville.

Presently a lanky gentleman, middle aged and strikingly handsome emerged through a security door. “I’m Neville.”

“I’m Yates. This is Julie. She’s one of The Twenty-Four.”

Neville frowned. “It’s highly irregular, despite the interim change in what the Colonial Authority desires.”

“These are strange times,” Yates said.

“They are, indeed. Come, I guess my present role is to introduce Julie to her mother.”

“She’s really here?” Julie held back her tears with a wall of doubt, but the sudden, immediate prospect of meeting her mother after all these years broke through any emotional barriers she might have erected. Tears trailed down her cheeks and dripped to the front of her blouse as she followed Yates and Neville down a hallway.

“Except for the testing and the continuous observation, The Twelve have led normal lives – as normal as could be permitted under the circumstances. The Colonial Authority has made a point to ensure they were treated well. They’re comfortable and never want for anything.”

“They never wanted to see us?” Julie asked.

“The stay informed as to what their children are doing. They were permitted to view surveillance when you were young. Since you’ve become adult, the monitoring was changed to weekly summaries they may access. It has frankly amazed us that two pairs of you have already found one another and have a relationship.”

“Had a relationship, in my case, anyway,” Julie corrected.

“A bump in the road,” Neville said. “We have learned through our research that, in the long run, you really don’t have much choice about your eventual mating. Whenever you meet someone who is completely compatible it may as well be carved in stone that you’ll mate.”

“And if he’s attracted to another of The Twenty-Four, as you call us?”

“Quite naturally, you all will have some regard and feelings for one another. It’s instinctual and inevitable. There may be close friendships that develop but only one will ever be compatible as a mate. It’s something quite apart from what we see in the broader population of even those with the attributes let alone humans. There’s apparently a hereditary one-to-one correspondence within The Twenty-Four, twelve pairings that can be no other way, selected by your odd natures. It’s as if it is designed and programmed into your DNA.”

“I’m not sure I like that.”

“It is what it is,” Neville said. “Here we are,” he said as he arrived at a door and knocked.

“Come in,” came the call from within.

Julie was apprehensive, even shy to venture into the room but Neville led the way. “Sylvia?”

“Neville, what a wonderful surprise. How are you? It’s been a few days.”

“Yes, it has and we now have some visitors.”

“And me looking like I just woke up,” Sylvia complained.

“You always look the same, a goddess can appear as nothing less.”

“You’re too kind – always the charmer.”

“I speak only the truth,” Yates said. “Regardless of the situation, I knew you’d want to meet your guests.”

“When they told me I doubted it was the truth – so much security for all these years.”

“How’ve you been?” Julie asked. “It’s wonderful to learn that you are alive, if it is really you.”

“Who else would I be? I guess, because I sort of work for the Colonial Authority, it should not surprise me that they told you. They had to eventually, I guess. But it took so long. Almost no one else knows.”

“I know,” Julie said.

“Oh, my,” Sylvia said even as she focused on her and a tear dripped down her cheeks. “You are just as beautiful as everyone says – more so in person than on the viewers. That’s no way to see my children! Come hug your mother, honey.”

Julie buried her face into her mother’s shoulder. “They told me you died, just like all the others.”

“Well, there are twelve of us who didn’t die and they still don’t know why,” Sylvia said. “What’s important is I’m here and now you know.”

“They tell me I have a brother.”

“Randall,” Sylvia said. “He lives in New London. He’s a criminal defense attorney.”

“Really?” Julie asked.

“Very handsome and very eligible, in case you know anyone who’s looking,” Sylvia said, with a chuckle. “Come sit down here on the bed and we can talk. I’m sure Neville can entertain Mr. Yates for a bit.”

“Yeah, we can discuss a few things,” Neville confirmed as he ushered Yates toward the door and once they were into the hallway he closed the door behind them, leaving Julie and her mother alone.

“It’s amazing, finding you here.”

“This is like a dream for me as well. I mean, I’ve known everything about you. They’ve been really good about that, telling all of us about our children. But it’s not the same as being there, picking you up when you fall down and skin a knee.”

“Father told me everything about you.”

“He had to. I told him he needed to do that.”

“He knew you were here.”

“He also knew that you couldn’t know. That tore him up inside, but he also understood and accepted it. I don’t know how he could ever endure what he did but, from what the other twelve have told me, their husbands did the very same thing as well. Maybe it was because they figured it was borrowed time that allowed us to live. They had long since decided we would die in childbirth. Having the attributes was, always before, the curse of death for the mother. So once it was diagnosed, we were reconciled to accept it. But then, somehow I survived and no one knew why. Then all the others – The Twelve – they also survived. They wanted to know answers and the answers could only come from studying us as a group.”

“But they still don’t have the answers.”

“No, they don’t,” Sylvia confirmed. “You have, or at least had, a boyfriend named Chase. I am very good friends with his mother. He had a sister named Clare. She lived in Emerald City until she was 10 then moved to Andromeda. She’s a professional musician in the City Orchestra. She plays first violin.”

“You know everyone.”

“Yes, even your friend Cristina and her brother Paul has a mother among our group. She’s a wonderful woman but greatly embarrassed by what all has been going on lately with her son. The Colonial Authority allowed her to travel to Star City to see him.”

“They have him in custody again?”

“There’s no escaping them,” Sylvia looked into her daughter’s eyes. “They have plans for the world and they’re determined the plans will be fulfilled. It’s what needs to happen, Julie. I’ve come to that realization. We’re here to save everyone else. We’re the only ones who can change things. We carry the adaptation the rest of humanity needs. So there’s not a choice. We have to do this for everyone else and their survival.”

Julie discerned a bit of sad acquiescence in her mother’s resolve, not so much as to get her into any trouble. Still, Julie could tell that being confined and unable to go anywhere else bothered her mother. She was envious of Cristina and Paul’s mother just because she had been allowed to go to another city, even if she had been ferried on a special transport, and, from what she had heard, she was already on her way back.

Silvia’s station in life was really been like confinement in a prison. Her crime was not merely having two very special babies with talents and gifts beyond the norm for humanity, but not dying immediately after they were born.

Sylvia took Julie’s hand into hers. “You need to listen to me. I know I have not been there for you but I have been watching and I’ve been proud of you in ways that you cannot understand. You’re tough. You’re a strong-willed young woman and extremely dedicated to whatever you do. You’re probably too intelligent for your own good, but you’ve never flaunted it. You may think you’re right at times, but sometimes you’re not. I think Chase is right for you.”

“He doesn’t trust me.”

“Trust is something that’s earned between two people, never a given in a relationship. A woman seeks love above all else, and it every level and facet of the experience in a relationship. Men are easier. They also need love but what they desire most is respect from the one they choose to share their life. Do you understand?”

“He feels I betrayed him and his friends.”

“What do you think?”

“I didn’t want to see him get hurt again.”

“Is that all?”

Julie started crying, expressing her emotions unintelligibly until, finally she regained some of her composure, at least enough to buck up and take a deep breath before speaking further. “I didn’t want to be left alone.”

“Yet that’s what you received for all your efforts.”

Julie lowered her eyes. Sylvia corralled her shoulders, drawing her closer. “He’s good for you. He’s the best there is. He’ll protect you and be a good father to your children.”

“But he doesn’t trust me.”

“He will in time. Go to him and tell him you respect what he did for his friends. Cherish what you can share with him, because that is all either of you will have in life. From it you will bear your children and that the most important part of your life, not only for you or them, but also for everyone else.”

Julie smiled.

“Tell him you did exactly what you had to do. It was what you felt was right and if he doesn’t understand why you did what, tell him you had to do what you thought was right and you’re sorry, but it was necessary to save his life. Then tell him you love him and completely respect his feelings about his friends, but you also deserve his respect because you were only trying to save his life. He needs to hear that you still need him in your life.”

Julie laughed, “You make it sound simple.”

“Honey, if you think he’s not hurting, you’re wrong. He misses you, maybe more than you miss him. If you open the door in a proper way, he’ll come back inside.”

“I wish I had your confidence.”

“My confidence?” Sylvia asked with chagrin, “Honey, you possess the potential to do such amazing things that you cannot imagine – things that maybe no one else in the world could ever do. You have only to discover the fullness of your abilities. You’re a uniquely incredible person. You’re special in ways none of the other Twenty-Four could ever be. You don’t lack confidence. Merely, you lack experience.”

Julie hugged her mother and wiped away a tear. “Can I come see you?”

“I would welcome the visits, if they allow it.”

“Why would they not allow it?”

“Some of their research requires isolation. There’ve been times when I was confined to my room for over a month or more to control the outside variables of some study or another.”

“They’re still studying you?”

“We’re not supposed to be alive,” Sylvia said. “Despite everything they’ve done to us, poking and prodding and watching us, they still don’t understand why. It’s our nature. We were slightly different than everyone else. That’s all, just enough that we lived while everyone else died. I’ve felt at times like the researchers treat us as if we were dead, too. But Neville, the administrator, is always quick to correct them.”

“Really?”

“All they have accomplished is gathering clues and coming up with more questions they can’t answer, things about us individually that are different as well as things that make us distinct as a group. They have traced our ancestry through interviews with any living relatives and us. They have mapped out each of our genomes and them to the others and what is considered normal. Of course, we’re all similar to the ninety-ninth percentile so they are looking for the one or two things out of a billion or trillion that is special and in common between all of us.”

“They haven’t found out anything?”

“In the one that one percentile of difference we share from all the rest of humanity, The Twelve are more like sisters, almost like twins born of different mothers. Haven’t you noticed the family resemblance?” she asked with a laugh.

“Maybe The Twelve have a common ancestor,” Julie offered.

“I suppose that could be said of most people in the world if you go back far enough, but they think. But yes, there is one common ancestor and he or she is the key to the differences, but it took all these hundreds of years…”

“Do you know anything about the ancestor?”

Sylvia shook her head. “Apparently that’s a secret kept even from us, but they are looking for other relatives in the general population to see if they carry any of the traits they’ve found in us. Finding others with the trait who are fertile and using their genetics to breed with others…well, they’re trying to reproduce what they believe is a random event in nature that produced us.”

“There’s nothing random about it,” Julie said. “That’s where they are wrong in their assumptions. There are no coincidences.”

“You’re right.” Silvia smiled. “We all feel that.”

“I know it. It’s more than a feeling. We’re the design.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 6 – Location

**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 rolled over and in the process, inadvertently slapped Alix. Startled he sat up quickly, then realized what must have happened and smiled as he saw that Cristina was still sleeping, resting comfortably in a real bed.

It was almost morning anyway. Maybe they really should get up for an early start on preventing events already set into motion. Yet they did not know enough details to even begin to know where to find Paul.

That was important to Cristina. She wanted to find him. He was the only family she had left in the world. She had never known her aunt and uncle, the people who raised Paul. But then, that logic didn’t make sense to Alix even though he said nothing. Until a few weeks ago Cristina did not even know she had a brother.

Alix fell back into the pillow and even though he was awake he was still groggy and considered trying to take another short nap while waiting for Cristina to rouse. He turned on his side and watched her sleeping, listening to her breathe. He confirmed for the millionth time in the past week how very pretty she was regardless of the time of day or whether she was wearing any makeup. He could not imagine her ever seeming ugly to anyone. There was nothing about her he did not like. Everything he found stimulating and fascinating. She was his personal goddess and he worshipped her, but he would never possess her. Others adored her, even worshipping her for her multiple talents as she performed before thousands and thousands of people. But it was different for him.

Maybe he worshipped her for a bit longer than anyone else. He was there in the beginning, the first day she sang for the band at the audition for Keith and Tim. He had been helping Pete tune his drums for their practice. Only his bass could achieve fundamental tones low enough for Pete to attempt tuning his drums directly to another instrument in the band. For everything else, Alix used an oscilloscope and a tone generator.

Alix saw her walk into the studio – if the place they were renting at the time merited the classification ‘studio’. It was Keith’s terminology. Tim warned Alix and Pete they were auditioning a singer for the band. So, they were not surprised when she showed up. Alix was surprised how amazingly pretty and vibrant she was. She brightened the whole room just being there.

She seemed tentative and quiet at first. Keith, the consummate schmooze, was talking and joking with her, trying to set her at ease. But when she began singing in accompaniment to Keith and Tim playing a song on their acoustic guitars, both Pete and Alix immediately stopped to listen. Her voice was like a mythical siren’s. They could not do anything else but listen. When she finished Pete and then Alix clapped. Tim and then Keith joined in.

“I guess I got the job, then?” Cristina ventured.

Keith laughed. “If you can stay a bit longer, I think Alix and Pete are just about tuned up by now and ready to go. Maybe we can jam for a bit.”

They jammed for over an hour on some riffs that Tim had written but had never really finished into a song. It was a jazz-blues sort of thing that lent itself to improvisation. Cristina accompanied the jam, playing an acoustic guitar. She was talented beyond anyone’s expectations. She also claimed ability with a keyboard, an instrument that the band had not yet utilized, mostly because only Alix could play the piano and even then it was not like he could do it all that well.

Alix recalled when Keith handed her a sheet of lyrics. They played the first song, instrumental only so that she could follow through reading the lyrics and timing the transitions. Then they played it again with her singing.

It was as if she owned the song, as if she had always sung it, maybe even written it. She had a presence and authority that commanded attention as she belted out the lyrics. It was at the end when Alix knew for certain she was then and ever after their lead singer.

In the ten years since, she lost nothing except her initial shyness.

He remained motionless, not wanting to disturb her sleep. He knew she needed her rest. She had been through a lot. Everything he had been through, so had she, but at least he got more sleep while traveling in the railcar.

When the first glints of sunlight hinted at the edges of the heavy drapes that were drawn over the windows, Cristina opened her eyes. “What time it is?”

“Around 6 in the morning,” Alix said. “It’s getting light out.”

She sat up. “We shouldn’t have slept this long.”

“You were tired.”

“We need to find Paul. I mean, we really have to find him.”

“Yeah, I get that. But then if you really want to go back three hours…”

Cristina laughed. “You remembered what you did.”

“Yeah, I can do it again.”

She fell back into her pillow. “Really I could stay right here forever.”

“As long as you’re with me, I’m happy to be right where I am,” Alix said.

“You’ve got it bad, don’t you? “

“If there’s a cure, I’m not interested.”

She drew a deep breath. “How do we find him, Alix?”

“You’re his sister, his twin. There must be some connection between the two of you. I mean that girl on the train, Clare, she was a stranger but you knew she had the attributes and you could talk to her, mentally.”

“I wonder how it worked out for her, with her boyfriend.”

“You said they were breaking up.”

“Yeah, well she thought he was cheating on her.”

“And if he wasn’t?”

“She has the attributes. If she thinks it then she has good reason to think it. It’s like having a sinking feeling that something wrong is imminent.”

“Like what I’ve been feeling since I awakened.”

She snuggled in closer then kissed him.

“I wish I knew what was going to happen,” he said.

“If we can go back couple of days, I suppose we can go forward a day or two.”

Alix smiled. “I’m not sure how it would work, though, skipping over the events that because we jumped back, we have not really even lived the experience. Would it be like we were never here to do anything? I don’t know what that would mean.”

“Then we come back and fix what was wrong or do whatever was necessary but missing.”

Alix laughed, “So, you have it all figured out?”

“Not all of it but maybe at least some of it,” Cristina said.

“I know what I did that was different, how we ended up a couple of days earlier. I just don’t know whether I could get back to where I was if I went into the future by a day more, or even if we lived on to arrive at the point where the future becomes our present.  Would it be the same as what I witnessed. There are always a variety of conditions and a number of variables to consider. Any one potential change, even seemingly insignificant could alter everything else.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this.”

“Yeah, I have,” Alix confirmed.

“Still, we have to do something.”

Alix nodded. “I’m just not sure what we’re supposed to do.”

“Who decides what’s supposed to happen?” Cristina asked.

“I think there’s a conditional destiny of sorts.”

“A what?”

“I can’t describe it any other way. It is like this. What if we do this then this, this, and that? If we do that instead of this, then what does it change?”

“I follow your thinking,” Cristina allowed.

“The courses are potentials, but they’re predetermined based on the choices we make in the immediate moment.”

“If I get up from bed now as opposed to ten minutes from now, it changes everything.”

“Well, some things may result in greater change than others, but yeah, I think that’s the gist of it,” Alix said.

Immediately, Cristina sat up in bed. “I need to find Paul. I feel like something very permanent is about to happen, something no one can ever fix or even if it could be remedied it would take an amazing act of intervention.”

“We’ll both get dressed,” Alix said as he tossed back the covers and then stepped out of bed onto the cool stone floor.

However it was possible that Dom knew, while they showered and dressed he prepared breakfast for them. When they emerged from their room, Dom was awaiting  that the top of the stairs and escorted them to where breakfast was served.

“Is Raven sleeping?” Cristina asked.

“He’s been in his study working on something all night. He told me that before you leave to inform him so he could give you something.”

“Give me something?”

“The way he phrased it I assumed it was something for both of you.”

“That’s intriguing,” Alix said. “I didn’t think he liked me much. Maybe his opinion of me has changed by the company I keep.”

Cristina smiled at Alix.

When they had completed their breakfasts, and exited out into the hall, Dom escorted them to the Master’s study. He knocked at the door and Raven granted permission for entry.

“Good morning,” Cristina said to him.

Raven smiled in response, “Were the accommodations suitable?”

“They were beyond excellent,” Alix answered for them both.

“Very good, then,” Raven stood and offered each of them a velvet pouch with cinch string. When they opened their pouches they discovered new payment wands. “Dom has reprogrammed your ID chips with new identities that are meticulously perfect as well as tied to the wands. Dom handles all of those things for me. When the ID files are accessed there will be a full history, including minor infractions, violations, and juvenile records of some mischief. There are school records and even some college records. Dom has created new lives for you. If you remain here he can even arrange for accommodations in an apartment building that I own. I’m a member of an investment consortium that is not directly linkable to me. A vacant apartment there is the address referenced on your ID’s. There are sufficient funds attached to the payment wands for you to linger in the city for several days then return home if and when you so desire and think it is safe. Dom is pretty good at estimating what would be required. He also monitors the accounts so if they run low he can replenish them from a blind account that’s not attached to mine in any way, shape or form.”

“What is this?” Alix asked as he pulled out a thin gold chain bearing an odd looking stone that glowed ever so slightly as it dangled from the chain as he held it.

“Talismans or if you prefer amulets; some would call them good luck charms, others might have divergent opinions.”

“It’s very pretty,” Cristina said as she extracted her own from the pouch. “What sort of gem stone is this? I’m not familiar with it.”

“The source stone is unique. There was originally only one and it was shattered into many pieces, of which these are but a small portion. It is said that these stones are a piece of the Foundation Stone, which is all that was left when the previous iteration of the universe concluded. These became the basis for the present creation. It is a legend and as is true of all legends there is enough fact in it so it cannot be summarily dismissed. I have studied the stones. They produce strange variations in the harmonic forces of the universe immediately around them. It is a fact that they can enhance the native abilities of those who bear them whenever there is a need to access the power inherent in the universe to channel through them.”

“And you are giving them to us as lucky charms?”

Raven smiled, “I’m giving them to you because they may help you and even protect you. The attributes the two of you possess are remarkable, yet they are abilities latent in everyone who is human. Despite the seeming magic in what you can do, there is really nothing magical in any of your demonstrated abilities. These stones are magical in that they can access the flow of the energy underlying and defining the very universe.”

“Thank you,” Cristina said, then rose up on her toes and kissed Raven. “Thank you, Andy,” she reiterated with a more personal touch.

Raven smiled at her, then accepted Alix’s handshake. “Goodbye and good luck,” he said to them both.

“Raven,” Cristina turned back as she paused at the door. “Did you ever find her?”

Raven seemed perplexed by the question. “There have been many hers who I have obviously found in life.”

“The real Marie?”

Raven stepped back but smiled as if savoring the image of her that his mind conjured. “Then you have read more than I suspected.”

“I have read a good bit but I have never finished it.”

“Tell me, what do you think?”

“I’ve always wanted to believe that you found her.”

“If that is what you believe then who am I to disappoint you?”

“How does it end in the book?”

“What’s the difference if you never read it to the conclusion? As the reader, a book can end anyway that you want it to, right? If the writing doesn’t compel you to the real conclusion, it ends wherever you leave off.”

“I would like to know how the real story ended.”

Raven laughed. “Authors must conclude works of fiction in ways that in the real world might never be possible.”

“You’re not going to tell me.”

“No, I’m not,” Raven said. “You may read it and whether you like the ending or not it is the conclusion. You may decide to linger in the hope that your guess is correct.”

“What happened to her?”

“As she was mortal having nothing artificially extending her life, her demise was much the same as anyone else’s,” he said.

Cristina nodded. “You were with her when she died.”

“You think you’ve tricked me into telling you the end but you’ve not. I’ve only said what is normal for anyone.”

Cristina tilted her head to one side, but then kissed Raven on the cheek again. Then, she turned to exit into the hallway and joined Alix there. Dom saw them to the front door where he handed them backpacks he had prepared with several days of clothing and some non-perishable food. Then, even Dom offered his goodbyes and good luck wishes.

As they descended the hill toward the coach stop, they saw the coach turning in the cul-de-sac at the end of ‘the hills’ route. It would reach the stop at just about the same time as they would. They would not have to wait at all.

They boarded the coach, temporarily stowing their backpacks beneath the bench seat. The coach was vacant except for them, and even unto the exit for ‘the crosstown’, no one else boarded. When they arrived at their exit they gathered up their backpacks and got off. Presently another coach stopped to pick them up just across the street from where they were let off.

Once they were settled again with their backpacks stowed under the bench sea, Cristina sighed, muttering something about not really knowing where to begin to look for Paul. Alix’s response was a nod, but nothing more.

She suspected Paul would return to the vicinity of stations, so perhaps that was a good enough place to start her search for him. She remained immersed in thought and Alix did not disturb her with idle prattle in lieu of purposeful points of conversation.

For his own part he was considering all the practicalities of how to possibly alter the course of events. It was difficult as he did not know what was going to happen. He assumed if they did nothing it would be worse than if they did something to delay what was increasingly beginning to seem inevitable.

Events would begin to progress from that afternoon regardless of what they did. They had taken flight from the authorities. If they were ever going to erase that from reality, they would need to go back to Andromeda, perhaps even back before Cristina made the railcar reservations.

“Sometimes I wish I’d never met Paul,” Cristina said quite abruptly, completely derailing Alix’s thoughts. “But I guess I had no choice in the matter. We’re connected. We’re related. So, everything about us shares some ultimate commonality of purpose.”

“I’m not sure I believe that,” Alix said. “Your objectives are completely different from his.”

“Maybe I’ve come here to persuade him. I’m sure he has come here to persuade me. And yet the authorities are trying very hard to keep us apart. Why? That’s really what I need to know. What’s wrong with a brother and sister meeting and talking, even having a disagreement. If we still go our separate ways and maintain respect for one another, who’s business is it what we do or say to one another?”

“Obviously, we need more information,” Alix said.

“We need more time.”

“Time I can give you,” Alix said as he opened his palm and the orb appeared there. Its presence caused both of the gift talismans they both received from Raven to glow brighter. “Isn’t that interesting?” Alix observed.

Cristina produced her orb as well, with a similar result. Then, rolling her hand over, her orb went back into the semi-oblivion just beyond the veils of reality where she kept it. The glow of their talismans diminished slightly.

“Very interesting,” Alix commented in supplement to his previous observation.

“When we were in the apartment back in New Milan, we brought our orbs together.”

Alix nodded, “And that is when we saw a sand-morph.”

“It was alive,” Cristina said.

“It felt like we were in the past as observers.”

“The creature seemed to respond to us.”

“We assumed that.”

“But lately I have wondered whether it was the past at all.”

“There are no sand-morphs. There have not been living sand-morphs for generations.”

“How do we know that?” Cristina said.

“They were all killed when the world was sterilized.”

“What if some of them survived?”

“Where would they be? The world has been explored and colonized for years and years. Someone would have found them by now.”

“They would have had to be deep in caverns to have survived the effects of sterilization.”

Alix nodded. “According to Chase, Paul was in a cavern when he met him.”

“You don’t think Paul actually found where they are.”

“It’s possible but unlikely.”

“I doubt it, too,” Cristina said. “He would not be so adamant about The Resurrection’s goals if he’d found any of the sand-morphs who were still alive.”

“If any were alive you would think, after all this time, someone would have made contact with them.”

“Or them with us,” she said.

They reached their stop before they noticed and although they scrambled to get up in time to exit, the coach was already pulling away from the curb. They sat back down, clutching their belongings in their laps and waited to arrive at the next stop, where they finally exited.

They turned back to the north and began to walk toward the stop they missed when suddenly they observed a group of young men who seemed to be in a hurry crossing the street at the next corner. Cristina shivered as if she had taken a chill, prompting Alix to inquire, “What’s wrong?”

“All of them.”

“What?”

“All of them have the attributes.”

“They’re part of The Resurrection.”

She nodded. “Affiliated. We have to follow them. Maybe they know where Paul is.”

They broke into a run to reach the corner before the group disappeared down another street. They were just in time to see the last few men in the group entering an alley. They hurried along the street, finally reaching the alley where the men were congregated. A group of them advanced behind a building while one remained out in the alley proper.

Cristina and Alix slipped their arms out of the straps of their backpacks and set them down as they hid in the shadows, nestled in doorways that were recessed into the walls of adjacent buildings. There they waited, watching what was happening, wondering what was going on. Suddenly, Cristina gasped, then immediately suppressed it. “Paul,” she whispered as he had seemingly appeared from nowhere.

Across the way Alix nodded. He saw him too.

The man who remained in the alley halted him. The two of them were conversing, somewhat animated at first but then just as the balance of the group of men returned to the alley to surround them, the man who stopped Paul delivered some sort of a verbal chastisement to his obvious subordinates. Some of it was audible but only a word here and there. Even so both Alix and Cristina got the gist of it.

After a few moments Paul was blindfolded and physically escorted past Cristina and Alix as the two of them withdrew further into the recesses of the doorways while Paul and the others emerged out into the street.

They followed them for a time, as they meandered through the streets, perhaps trying to confuse Paul, then a few blocks from where they found Paul, the apparent leader, Paul and a couple of escorts disappeared into an archway that concealed a stairway that led directly from the street to a floor that was above a small novelty store that was not yet open for the day’s business hours.

Cristina and Alix sat in an alley across the street and observed for a time until the apparent leader came back down the stairway and exited through the archway onto the street. He turned to the east and went on his way. After a few minutes the other two escorts departed, exiting heading west.

“Do we follow them or the leader?”

“Paul is still in that building,” Cristina said as she shed her backpack and propped it against the wall of the building to support the small of her back. “We’ll wait here.”

As Paul removed his backpack as well he asked, “Do you think Paul is in any kind of trouble, I mean more so than already?”

“I don’t know. I sort of feel he’s safe, at least for the moment.”

Alix squatted down where he was and then finally sat back on the ground with his back supported by his backpack as he leaned back against the wall for support.

Cristina was happy to know where Paul was and content to allow events to progress as they would for a while at least. Alix glanced at his chronometer. It was getting fairly late for the morning. Soon the businesses would be open and the bustle of the day would replace the present prevailing tranquility.

As the shop on the first floor of the building that they had been watching opened for business they observed as people came and went. In midmorning she saw someone entering the building, ascending the stairs and then came back down a few minutes later. Suddenly, Cristina stood up, snatching up her backpack by its straps. “Let’s go,” she said.

“I thought we were just going to watch.”

“We are. I just want to see where Paul is – inside.”

Cristina exited the alley and started across the street before Alix could even grab his backpack and try to catch up. She passed beneath the arch and bounded up the stairs, taking two at a time as Alix had finally caught up but was still a step or two in her wake.

They opened the door and entered into a vacant, nearly open floor, the only walls other than the outer walls were a series of partitions constructed from the front wall of the building back to halfway into the floor then formed a sharp corner to adjoin with a sidewall of the building.

Cristina led the way as they explored the entire floor, finding nothing even though she kept telling Alix that she knew Paul was nearby. She even paused for several moments and faced a wall, reaching out and almost touching the wall. “I’m confused,” she said to Alix.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “He’s very close but we’ve looked everywhere.”

Alix went inside the room and checked, looking at everything from ceiling to floor. When he emerged he shrugged, “Unless there is some concealed room on this floor, I have no explanation.”

“We go back where we were and watch. I’m certain he’s here.”

They descended the stairs and headed toward the alley across the street where they had previously been. In the building next to the alley was a small coffee shop. Alix offered to buy Cristina a cup of coffee and she accepted. They sat together sipping coffee at a table beside the front window as Cristina maintained her vigil.

The gentleman who apparently owned the shop came out to their table and personally thanked them for coming in. They promised him that they would return and he thanked them.

When they had finished their coffee they returned to the alley and again deposited their backpacks onto the pavement in exactly the right way to afford them some lower back support while leaning back against the wall of the building that housed the coffee shop.

Around noon, someone approached bearing a relatively flat rectangular box, which he carried between his hands. He passed beneath the arch and ascended the stairs. In a few minutes he returned down the stairs carrying the box vertically under his arm as if it were empty, or at least he no longer cared about the contents.

She considered it for a few minutes, and then looked at the chronometer on Paul’s wrist. “Is it noon?”

“Yeah, close enough for argument’s sake. Why, are you hungry?”

“Well, yeah, but that’s not why I asked. It’s funny. Someone just went upstairs in the building across the street and appeared to deliver something.”

“Where? There’s no one there.”

“Exactly my point. Not only that but he was carrying it flat, like it was a tray, then when he returned he had the box tucked under his arm.”

“Lunch?”

“That’s my thought.”

Alix shrugged. “Okay, if Paul’s there he’s somewhere we can’t access, for whatever reason.”

“Behind a false wall,” Cristina suggested.

“A concealed room,” Alix said. “If we had a measuring meter we could confirm it.”

“We could get one.”

“I suppose we could.”

“Well one of us needs to stay here and watch the building.”

“I’ll get the measuring meter. There has to be somewhere near here that sells hardware.”

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 5 – Mother

**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.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 4 – Lack of Trust

**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.***

At night, when they returned to the apartment, Chase did not share Julie’s bed. He took a blanket to the couch to sleep uncomfortably in protest. He had even told her on the way back from the interrogation that he would be moving out to his own place as soon as he could arrange for it. The trust between them was gone. To him, she had betrayed not only him but also Cristina and Alix. Regardless of her stated intention of protecting him, without trust everything between them was over.

Julie cried herself to sleep. Periodically, the tear-dampened pillow woke her whenever she succumbed to sleep throughout the night. At one point, in near panic borne of a dream she had of Chase being shot shocked her awake. The image lingered of him riddled with the bullets from multiple guns as he strived to save Cristina.

She sat up, fuming, in her jealous rage. What was it between Chase and Cristina? He said they had never done anything, that it was professional and platonic. But she knew Chase. He always gravitated to the prettiest face in any room. It was what he claimed attracted him to her. As much as Chase could no longer trust Julie she could not trust him either. She suspected any number of secret liaisons at night during the tour when everyone else was asleep. How could he resist Cristina? She was gorgeous. How could Julie compete with her? Envious and jealous Julie could not get back to sleep.

Cristina seemed devoted to Alix. She confirmed that Chase was always a complete gentleman. Although he made some playful flirtatious gestures they were summarily ignored. He had never pushed the boundaries. And so, Cristina never knew whether he was serious or just playing harmlessly.

Julie considered many things. One was Chase was telling her the truth. Cristina told her that once, when she nearly threw herself at him, he immediately told her about Julie, saying he was taken. She wanted to believe Chase was always faithful. Lately it seemed that he cared about Cristina far too much. So, as a result, she doubted everything.

What was there about Cristina that made her so special? Was it her voice? Was it that she was a performer that many people idolized? What did Chase find most attractive about her? Frankly, Julie had checked Cristina out head to toe. She was pretty, pretty in ways that were subtle, that even took one by surprise, but she also had flaws, same as anyone else.

Julie was used to the compliments about her pretty eyes, nice figure, soft hair, and model’s face. She didn’t take praise seriously or out of context. Chase said she was beautiful. His was the only opinion that mattered. Was there any point to competition beyond that? Did she have to be prettier than anyone else, Cristina for one?

Cristina was in the public eye; Julie was not. Maybe that was the difference. Still Julie could have been a model. There were offers. If she had taken anyone up on the efforts to recruit her, she could have been famous. She wanted to do other things, though. She wanted to be successful in business.

When Chase woke he fixed himself something to eat and watched world viewer until Julie roused in a panic feeling she should have gotten up earlier to get to work on time. Chase made her coffee and breakfast, which reduced her time to work significantly. They exchanged few words, however. She was in a hurry and did not have time to talk anyway. Even so, it hurt her to receive merely silence from Chase. All he said to her was she would be on her own tomorrow. She was out of the apartment door on time and made it to work with a few minutes to spare.

Chase spent the day packing up his things. One of the guys he knew from work was willing to let him stay with him for a few days until he found a place of his own. It was a terrible imposition based on obligation related to work and so anything beyond a day or two would seriously strain a relationship that was solely business based.

When Chase was finished he left his remote key to the apartment on the dinette and erased his voiceprint from the door command. Effectively cut off from Julie’s life, he could no longer intrude uninvited. He relinquished the privilege of living with her.

On his lunch hour, he met his co-worker at his apartment and Chase moved a few of his things inside as his co-worker programmed an access code for Chase to use temporarily and then scooted back to work. Chase began staging his things inside around the couch where he planned to sleep.

Compared to Julie’s place it was cramped. It was closer to work though. He could leave later and still get to work even though he would to get up earlier to shower so as to not interrupt his temporary roommate’s lifestyle.

It was okay. He could deal with it. Finding a new residence was the priority, though, starting the ensuing day.

Julie returned home to the emptiness of Chase’s having vacated the premises. She sat on the couch in the living room and cried. She could not understand how he could do something like this to her, then as an afterthought she realized she had forced him into a corner and, somewhat, made him do it. She accused him of cheating on her with Cristina even if both of them denied anything but amicable, platonic relations.

Julie began to wonder whether it was jealousy that was blinding her. Chase claimed he was in love with her and she loved him. Even if she had ‘sold-out’ to the authorities, as Chase put it, it was because of her love for him. Why could Chase not understand that? That was the breaking point, was it not? She sold out Cristina and Alix. Chase could not accept her logic for having done that. Did it hurt his pride, his ego that she was protecting him?

She feared Chase would never come back to her. She worried he would fall into a trap, the some one she suspected Cristina and Alix were heading toward. She did not want to see Chase sucked into the intrigue Cristina represented and everything the authorities were concerned about. Chase was headed toward disaster.

When the light of morning came again, she sat up on the couch. She had passed out there and slept in her clothes. She scrambled to get up, shedding her clothes on her way to the shower. After drying off, she did her make-up and went to the bedroom closet to select her wardrobe for the day. Already running late, she got dressed but she took some comfort in seeing a few of the accouterments of Chase’s wardrobe were still in her closet. He forgotten a few things, maybe on purpose, and would rightly come back for them. It would give her a chance and a good reason to talk to him again.

Maybe it was for the best, living apart. In time, they could start dating again, if the two of them could get past the wedge presently between them.

She skipped breakfast to save time and hurried out the door just as her cell chimed. She tapped her earlobe to answer as she saw in the ID it was from him. “Hey.”

“Yeah, it’s me. I’m the moron that left half of his stuff in your closet. I thought I had everything but there are some suits and a few others things.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said as she tapped her wrist to activate the holographic display in her palm.

“Did you gather them up already? I mean, I could come over right now and pick them up.”

“Chase, I’m running a bit late this morning. I’m already on my way to work. I certainly didn’t have the time between last night and this morning to go through everything and pack up all evidence of you. I’ll try to get home early tonight and get everything together.”

“I can come over tonight and pick everything up. I erased my access codes, so it will have to be sometime when you are there.”

“Call me this evening, then.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Look, I want to talk, but I really am late.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

Julie looked at the holographic display in her palm, the image of Chase was still displayed there as the caller until it faded as he disconnected. She sighed as she tapped her wrist and then her earlobe to end the connection. She missed him. The prospect of seeing him however briefly that evening excited her. There was some lingering hope. Maybe they could get back together, but it would take time. She knew that. It would have to be one step at a time.

Julie arranged everything at work to perfectly coincide with her leaving on time. Her supervisor and his supervisor were away on business, which meant she was basically in control of her own agenda. She accomplished a good deal without any interruptions or distractions, actually doing things that were included in her job description for the first time in days.

When she left work for the day and headed back home she felt as if she had accomplished a lot. It was the first time in a long while she sensed fulfillment in her work. It came from doing her work instead of everyone else’s.

She got home. She picked up the messages on her machine in the apartment, and then when she settled, she found a large enough box in the storage closet that she used to collect everything throughout the apartment that was Chase’s. Then she checked all the drawers in the bedroom and the other bedroom room that ostensibly had been Chase’s study. He had left a good number of things besides a few suits.

When she had everything gathered, she set the box down on the floor behind the couch and draped the suits over the back of the couch. About that time, Chase called.

“Hey,” she tapped her earlobe to answer.

“I was just seeing if you are home, yet.”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“The masters let the slaves go on time today?”

“The bosses were away today.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah, I got caught up on paperwork. I sort of think that’s why they have meetings that call both of them away so that the rest of us can get our work done.”

Chase chuckled. “Well, anyway I’ll be there in a few, if that is okay.”

“Yeah, I think I found everything you left.”

“I appreciate you doing that for me. I’ll see you in a bit.”

Julie was in the kitchen getting dinner started when the door chime sounded. She opened the door for Chase then returned to the kitchen as he came inside. He closed the door behind him and stood there staring at the box on the floor and the suits draped over the back of the couch above the box. “That’s all of it?”

“I think so. You can look around and see if I missed anything.”

“Okay but you are much more observant than I am. I mean living here for so long I have grown used to seeing things the way they are.”

“I know,” Julie said, forcing brave resolve into her voice when really what she wanted to do was cry.

“If you find anything else, I suppose you can call me.”

“Yeah,” Julie said. “Are you hungry?”

“A little bit.”

“I’m making some macaroni and cheese.”

“If you are inviting me then, yeah, that sounds good.”

“I’m used to cooking more food than just for me. I started out with too much.”

“It’ll save me from having to stop somewhere on the way back to the apartment.”

“Did you find a place?”

“I looked at a couple of places today. One of them is nice but a little pricy.”

“Well, you’ll be getting a promotion soon.”

“Yeah, hopefully,” Chase said. “I stopped by work today and picked up my messages.”

“Did you have a ton of work on your desk?”

“Well, it wasn’t all that bad. I guess everyone else has picked up the slack.”

“That’s good. I wish that happened at my job. But you know what it’s like. Even when I’m there it’s like I end up with everything dumped on me.”

“Except today.”

“Yeah, today was nice,” Julie smiled as she confirmed.

“Are you going to stay here? I mean it is kind of expensive for just one person.”

“Yeah, it is a big place so maybe I’ll get a roommate,” she said. “The lease runs out in December.”

“It’s going to be hard getting use to this,” Chase said.

“How’s that?”

“Living alone. I mean, it has been a while for both of us.”

“Yeah, well, we just adjust, right? That’s all we can do at this point. You don’t trust me anymore and I understand that,” Julie said.

“And you’re jealous.”

Julie glared at him but it was the truth. “Anyway, I’ll spend some time this weekend cleaning up everything and making sure nothing of yours is left behind.”

“Is that the overall objective?”

“I thought that was the point of moving out,” Julie said. “Wasn’t that what you wanted?”

Chase was silent for a time, and then he finally spoke. “I’m not sure why you allowed the authorities to manipulate you, but you said you were concerned about me. I was concerned about me after that experience at the club.”

“I’m not sure how being separated solves that,” Julie said.

“It doesn’t. It’s just that maybe we need to step back and breathe, you know. Maybe we have needed room for a while and all we were really doing was getting in each other’s way. So maybe separating for now is an irrational response, but it’s what I feel is necessary.”

“I cannot bear to see you get hurt,” Julie confessed.

“Well, I’m pretty careful,” Chase said. “For the sake of argument let’s call that a common objective. But I’m concerned about you. Are you okay being alone?”

“I’m okay,” Julie said. “Like I said, I’ll find a roommate or after December I’ll move into a smaller place. It’s only a few more months. I can handle the rent.”

“If you get in a bind, I can help.”

“Thanks for the offer,” she said.

“I have had a whole lonely night to think about what I’m doing and why. I’ve also been thinking about what you are doing and why. I really don’t understand why I’m not holding you in my arms and kissing you except that each of us planted our feet in the sand and decided to be self-consumed.”

“Self-consumed?” Julie asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that.”

“Then you label what there is between us,” Chase challenged.

“A litany of deception.”

“Oh, come on. Never even once have I lied to you,” Chase said.

“So you say.”

“You mistrust me out of your own insecurity. Somehow you got it into your head that I think Cristina is better than you. I have no idea how, why or even in what way, but you do.  Here is a news flash, Cristina’s a friend. We became friends through a business relationship. I have made several friends that way even though I consider our relationship to be much closer than the usual business relationship. It doesn’t mean I’ve slept with her. It doesn’t mean I want to push the relationship to anything beyond what it is. It simply is what it is. She has a great singing voice and is a gifted songwriter. That’s the extent of my interest in her other than we became close friends on tour and we’ve had many conversations. So, yeah we know one another pretty well. I love her in a way but it’s quite different than what I feel for you.”

“Okay,” Julie responded.

“Listen,” Chase said directly to Julie, in a softer voice. “I’ve always loved you. I don’t want anyone else. I can’t rest comfortably without you lying beside me. But I’ll get used to it because I have to.”

Julie looked away.

“If you want this insanity to end we’ve got that opportunity now. Otherwise…”

“I only want to be with you, and live in peace,” Julie said.

“Peace is a goal, not a state of being.”

“We can get there.”

“Not unless we’re a team. There has to be trust for that to work.”

She had finished making the simple dinner and scooped out the contents of the cooking pan onto two plates. Then she opened a drawer and withdrew two forks, one for each of them. She carried the plates to the dinette and placed them where they usually sat whenever they ate.

She felt like she was only going through the motions, trying to be the same way she always was, setting aside the differences wedged between them. She did not want to see him go, but she understood why he needed to. She did not trust him anymore than he trusted her.

He consumed the macaroni and cheese, and then washed it down with a glass of cold water. He picked up his plate, fork and glass and carried them to the kitchen sink where he rinsed them and then put the plate into the dishwasher.

“Thank you,” Julie said as she came into the kitchen to do the same thing with her dishes.

“Thank you for the dinner.”

“It was something quick. I haven’t had it for a while. I used to eat it all the time back when…well, when it was just me. I guess I’m back to that again.”

“Yeah,” Chase turned and went back to the living room and picking up the box he rested it on the back of the couch until he had picked up his suits and draped them over the top of the box.

“You got it?” Julie said as she came out of the kitchen, her presence offering help.

“I think so. Call me if you find anything else.”

“I will. I’m sure I’ll find a few more things.”

“Probably so,” Chase said. “We’ve been here together for a long time. I guess I never really expected to be…well, you know.”

“I know,” she said and she hurried to get in front of him to open the door. “You sure you don’t need help?”

“No, I have it,” he said as he stepped out into the hallway. “Take good care of yourself.”

“You too,” she said, then as he walked down the hall toward the elevator, she closed the door and went back into the emptiness of the apartment, sat down on the couch, turned on world viewer to take her mind off her miserable personal life and she tried very hard not to cry anymore.