Authors Life, Blog, life, moving

If I Ever Go Back Home Again

Historic Shops along Chillicothe Street

I don’t know when it happened that most people in American lived in or around cities. When I grew up on a farm in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it didn’t feel that way. In the part of Ohio where I lived, I think roughly half the people at that time lived in small towns, on farms, or in the countryside. After visiting my old hometown, I get the feeling that things haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 or so years.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about going home to South Charleston, Ohio. The visit was rushed because of the schedule my publicist and I were on. We had less than a week to cover scheduled and unscheduled visits in three states. It was interesting seeing some of the places I used to live, though. Noting what had changed and what had not (most things hadn’t changed all that much) fascinated me.

I had a crazy idea about visiting my old library, the place I learned to love books. I thought I’d donate my most recent books, the ones of which I’m proudest and a few others titles from my publisher, the great and underappreciated works of some of my dearest colleagues. Disappointingly, the librarians at the Houston Library of South Charleston were at best cool to the idea. To them, I was just another author (maybe they thought I was self-published) who wanted to get my opus onto the shelves of their hallowed halls. Really, what I expected was a brief conversation about my connection to the town and perhaps sharing a few anecdotes from the past – things that only someone my age might remember about the curious little town. That part of the conversation never happened.

It is a rite of passage for an author to have a book on the shelves of a library. It’s not as easily accomplished as you might think. Space in a library is at a premium. Although they may want to support authors, especially local ones, they also have to answer to superiors about their borrowing rates.

When I lived in Melbourne, FL, the local library was more receptive to my first two publications. I recall the feeling of accomplishment I had when later on I visited the library with my daughters and together we perused the stacks until we found my books, alphabetical by author. No, it didn’t appear that anyone had checked either of them out. But still, that ranked high on the cool factor for all concerned.

I was speechless after the reception I received in my hometown, which is something for me to say. My publicist commented that the ladies were rather rude. As I said in the previous blog post, they weren’t expecting me.

Houston Library of South Charleston

Since then, a lot of things have changed. I moved to Southern California, meaning I’m farther away from my roots. Although I have visited Ohio several times in the past few years, always before I stayed around Cleveland. The visits were intended to have a more local base of operation for other excursions. One year Christine and I went to Chicago, for example. As my publicist lives less than a hour to the west of the Cleveland, it made some sense going there and driving to various places across the Midwest.

Since I’m now three time zones distant, I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to swing a trip to the Ohio. I know that if I do return I want to have something scheduled for South Charleston, perhaps at the library of maybe Miami View Elementary. I’d also like to visit Shawnee High School in Springfield. That is where I graduated in ’74. Actually, I’d like to spend a few days in the general area, connecting with some old friends and relatives. On the past trip I was able to meet up with two of my cousins, Randy and Lanelle, but the schedule was so tight that even that almost didn’t happen.

I realize that everything in the world has grown older around me. I refuse to admit that I’ve changed too. I’m stubborn like that. There is a scene in one of my books where a guy who is my age is talking to a slightly older man who says, “When you get old everything starts falling apart, not just your body but the world around you, too.” To which the slightly younger character responds, “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

Truth is that the potential I had at eighteen years of age when I went off to college has greatly diminished. I had lots of dreams, and some were pretty big. Forty-four years later, I’ve accomplished some things I set out to do, but certainly not everything. I have seen a lot of the world, places the average person from South Charleston, Ohio never has. I’ve lived here and there throughout the US. And I have friends from all over the country and many around the world.

I guess I’d like to go back home to tell the people who live there, people I have never met (or the sons and daughters of people I grew up with), that as scary as the big bad world may seem when you’re a teenager in a small town, there are enchanting places to see and wonderful people to meet everywhere you go. Most people are wonderful, you know – once you get to know them, once you get past the artificial barriers that separate us. Also, I’d tell them not to sell themselves short of the opportunity of stepping out and making a lasting mark. And, by all means, NEVER stop dreaming.

Authors Life, life, moving

Settling In

It’s been a week since I flew into LAX to begin a new chapter of my life in Southern California. For the most part I’m settled in, now. It’s great being with my son again and helping he and his wife, Laia, with the newborn, my grandson, Jackson Legend Williams. But settling has required some adjustment.

The weather is considerably different here from Florida. Although the climate in Orlando is considered semi-arid, it always feels like it’s about to rain because of the humidity. And though it doesn’t rain everyday (and can go for long spans without any precipitation) it certainly rains more than it does in Irvine, CA. Here, the humidity is generally lower at midday. This time of year, it tends to be foggy in the early morning, though.

Another adjustment I’ve had to make is the time. It’s 3 hours earlier here. That means stuff I used to get up to do at 3 AM I can do at midnight before going to bed. Also, if watching a night game on TV, it usually starts before sunset and ends around 9 PM. I’m not sure my body has completely adapted to new scheduling requirements, but I am better off than I was the first day here. I’m told that adjusting is worse going from west to east. I don’t doubt that. I recall how painful it was getting used to being back in the States after spending two years in Asia.

This is not my first time living in California, either. While I served in the Air Force, I attended the Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterrey, where I spent about a year studying Chinese Mandarin. I’d like to drive up the coast to revisit some memories I have of the place, but I’m not sure when or if that will happen. Even though Monterrey is in the same state, it is about as far away from Irvine as, say Orlando is to Charleston, SC. Also, this is not my first time in the LA area. One of my fellow DLI students and I took a trip down here during 4th of July weekend in 1983. We stayed at his cousin’s apartment in Newport Beach, which is roughly 5 miles or so from where I’m living now.

I have some friends who live in California. One lives upstate a bit. A couple of others live in LA. A fellow Pandamoon Publishing Author, Katie Masters, lives in the next town – maybe three or four miles from here. I’ve already contacted one of the LA people, a former model, actress and author. We’re meeting soon for lunch. My friend from upstate will be driving down here around mid-month. Since her birthday is around then, I’m thinking of taking her to a movie and dinner. A couple of editors I know live here, too, as well as two of the voice actors who have done Audible books for Pandamoon authors.

My immediate plans are to finish a revision of a book that is set in this area. It’s funny, because when I wrote it I had not been in So Cal for years. There are things I need to correct.

Concurrently I’ll be looking for a job, something to help with expenses while I’m here. Yes, a lot of things in California are higher, but so far what I’m seeing is that housing, fuel and taxes are the big difference. Everything else seems to be priced around the same as it was in FL, with some variation for food depending on where it is produced. A lot of fruits and veggies are cheaper here, for example, because they are grown in state.

Authors Life, Blog, life, moving, Uncategorized

My Life Reduced Four Boxes, a Suitcase and Two Carry-Ons

3173042245_20181023_191943Have I told you I’m moving in a few weeks? I think I did. California here I come!

My son and daughter-in-law are having a baby, my first grandson, and I’m going out to help with things, at least for a few years.  So, no, I’m not going out there to try my hand at acting or anything like that. However, I know a couple of actors, some artists, a few writers, several models and such. Being out there, where they live and work, will allow some time to catch up on things with them.  I’m looking forward to all of that. What I’m not looking forward to is moving.

Does anyone hate moving as much as I do? Maybe it’s because I’ve done so much of it over the course of my life, most of it recently, but I suppose I’ve gotten better at prepping it with each go-round. You might think that after sixty-two years and five months I’d have accumulated a lot of stuff. And you wouldn’t be wrong…at least about the me of a few years ago. When I was still married, and all my kids were still at home, we had a lot of stuff. When we moved it filled a moving van. But since the kids ventured off in their separate directions, and my wife became “the ex”, things have changed for Dad. I began renting furnished rooms, for one thing. And with each successive move I’ve made from there to here, the pile of my necessary stuff has diminished and been refined to a few essentials.

One thing I’ve learned is to get rid of stuff each time I move. I set a goal and reach it. Also, I start a month or two early with packing and preparation. That way I spend a little time on it each day or every weekend. It’s hard to gather up the motivation but sorting through my stuff is kind of like taking a trip in a time machine, revisiting memories and old friends. Everything I pick up represents another period of the past. Some things really are trash, though. If I’m honest I know I’ll never use it again. But in some cases, I might be wrong. It’s a challenge to throw something away that I’ve kept for thirty years, something I’ve decided many times over not to throw away. But it comes down to weighing sentimental value against utility.

I have digitized photographs and uploaded them to “the cloud” for safe-keeping. That made me feel much better about ditching the originals. Keeping in mind that, over time, photographs fade makes that choice easier. I’m preserving the memory in a better, much more portable way that can be easily shared with my tech savvy kids. Also, I’ve got to ask myself if I really need anything I’ve kept in a closet, the basement or the attic for much of my adult life? The answer, of course, is probably not. Asking when the last time was that I looked at whatever it is I now hold in my hands works. Some things I have not looked at since the prior move. Those are immediate candidates for the trash. Other things have some historical value. They are personal items I’m keeping as mementos to pass on or things needed for legal reasons like government documents and such. I have about three boxes full of the essentials.

Also, I go through my clothes. If it doesn’t fit, I donate it. Do I really believe I’ll ever wear something I’ve kept since high school or college? Sure, maybe it will come back into vogue…some time before the turn of the next century, but will I be around? More relevantly, will I be able to squeeze into it? It’s better to let someone who really needs it get some use of it. Donate it.

As for all the electronic devices accumulated over the years, the ones that are outdated or broken, whatever can be sold, I sell. For all the other things that won’t sell, I wonder why I kept them in a drawer, or the closet in the first place? There is a reason stuff is called junk and that semi-permanent catch-all storage place to which all things retire before disposal is called the “black hole”. No one’s gonna want a ten-year old cellphone or a five-year-old computer accessory. Remembering that I replaced those things for a reason helps. If it still works, though, donating it makes the parting easier. If I want to keep it, weighing the cost of shipping (or having it moved) against the retained value of the item settles things quickly. It’s not worth it. Future utility against the cost to replace it with something newer, better, faster is also a fair way of assessing value. Lastly, I decide whether it can be recycled before adding it to the trash.

Once I have reduced life to the essentials, I can rest assured that I can travel light (or at least lighter). And the next time I move my effort will be easier, if not less painful.

Blog, Books, Editing, life, novel, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Being a Writer in the Modern World

full length of man sitting on floor
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is something about a bookstore. Maybe it’s the special smell of relatively fresh ink on paper, or just the atmosphere of being surrounded by the worlds of imagination captured between the covers and shelved in row after row, divided by category. A library gives me a similar sensation. I love visiting libraries, too, but usually it is for research. In a bookstore I’m looking for a story and characters to love.

Some of my best memories as a father were reading to my children when they were little with bright eyes and minds filled only with potential. Everything was new to them. Anything was possible. And in a way that is distinctly childlike, they didn’t care whether they had already heard a story. They wanted to experience it again, perhaps something would change. Occasionally, I provided the change and almost immediately one or the other of them would point that out.

I loved taking my children to the bookstore to spend an hour or three perusing the shelves. As they grew older, of course they went off in separate directions in search of something different. It was an exciting place for them and for me.

The Barnes & Noble in Melbourne, Florida was where we usually went, even if we weren’t intending to buy anything – just to look around. Usually, each of us bought something, though. There was a Books-A-Million closer to where we lived, and we frequently stopped there as well, but the B&N always had a different atmosphere. My kids preferred it, and so did I, not to mention that they served coffee.

cup of coffee in distance with red rose
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the time I had just published my first novel, One Over X. It was listed for sale on B&N’s website as well as Borders and the then upstart Amazon. Like most authors, I would have loved to see the book on the shelves in my store. What’s more, my kids would have loved seeing Daddy’s book added as part of that fantastic world of real, tangible, printed books. But alas, my publisher was a small press out of Connecticut. Even though everything about my first book had been done in a meticulously correct way according to acceptable standards, including have the press run completed at a one of the offset presses the Big-Name publishers use, the fact that I was not with one of the Big Five seemed the impenetrable barrier to getting my novel stocked in the bookstore chains. However, I was successful in getting the book into my local library, and a several others.

When I talked to the local store’s manager, she gave me the conditions for stocking my book, which, as a business person with years of retail experience, seemed summarily ridiculous. I needed to accept all returned, damaged and shop-worn books. It would be stocked briefly, on consignment and contingent only on my direct support with a book signing or a reading. If it sold well, they might reorder. Despite it not being a good deal from my perspective, it was a deal. I did my part and promoted the book with personal events.

As scary as it might seem at first, signings and readings are a lot of fun. I sold a few books and made some friends.  Still, the conditions up front were ludicrous and slanted way in favor of the store. Clearly, they weren’t going to lose any money, and for all the lip service they were giving me about supporting a local author, they had no interest in me making money. Yes, it was discouraging.

Of course, the goal with an author’s first book isn’t about making money, though that would be nice. First books tend to be about gaining an audience of readers who will, hopefully, want to buy an author’s next book and so on.

I had better luck with a couple of small shops. They displayed my book but, again, it was a consignment deal. Even though the book was available through Ingram, a major book distributor with channels worldwide, the store preferred calling me when they needed more inventory. I personally delivered the books. As I kept some inventory at home it wasn’t a huge problem. Still, being the distributor and delivery guy as well as the author limited my efforts to the immediate geographic vicinity.

Interviews on local media and reviews in local papers proved next to impossible. The first question asked was: which publisher are you with? And when it was someone they’d never heard of…We only accept submissions for review from major publishers.

My initial publishing experiences never dissuaded me from writing more books. After all, a writer does not choose whether to write but, instead, what to write. I was convinced that if I continued to write stories that eventually I’d grow a following, one reader at a time. And write I did. All the while I worked a full-time job to support a wife and three children, one of whom was already in high school.

After publishing my second book and having similar experiences with bookstores, I decided to self-publish my next. After all, I was doing everything anyway, I may as well handle the production as well and make more money on each book sold. There was a lot going on my life, though, and the company for which I was working was struggling. Eventually, they would go out of business. They paid me severance but I was unemployed for a little while. Money doesn’t last long. I found a summer job selling cars that lingered into the autumn. All the while I continued looking for something more suited to my background. Every evening I worked on a manuscript that eventually became two books. Around Christmas I landed another job that would see me along for the next few years.

In the background I witnessed the sad, slow decline of large bookstores chains. Amazon was growing its presence in publishing, while making the process of self-publishing easier than ever. B&N, et. al., claimed to support eBooks with their own version of a reader, but they still refused to deal with indie and small press authors whenever it came to stocking books in store. The funny thing is that most books published in the eBook format come from indie authors. Anyway, they treated indies as if our books were inferior, as if they carried the same stigma as vanity-press products of the past. They refused to adapt to the paradigm shift, turning down many good writers in the process.

What sours authors on queries to big publishers is the lunacy of the process. It is designed to dissuade unsolicited submissions. Rarely do the Big Five have open submissions. When any of them do, you can imagine what it’s like when the flood gates are opened. Odds are your manuscript upon which you have worked for perhaps a year or two will be lost in the shuffle.

The usual case for an author to gain approval for even submitting a manuscript is to go through a literary agent that the publisher recognizes. So, along the way I queried several literary agents in my genres. I learned that finding an agent is almost as hard as connecting with a publisher. Even when a manuscript is solicited, it may not be approved. And so, an aspiring author may expect to be out some money and wait forever only to be told his or her book baby is ugly.

Still, I continued to write, because that is what a writer does. By now, my family and friends figured I was insane— you know, the adage about continuing to do the same thing expecting different results? I wrote for at least three and sometimes as many as six hours a day. At times I missed doing things with the family because I was writing or taking a nap after staying up all night to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wee hours, a perfect time to compose.

There comes a time when it should be clear that the world has shifted, or perhaps moved on without giving proper notice. It also happens with businesses and I firmly believe that around the time I quit my last job in management the end began to accelerate for large box bookstores. Though I was determined to make it as an author, I knew that utilizing more time at self-promotion, brand-building and writing was what needed to happen. I never had the time while working 60 hours a week in management, always away from my home computer. And yes, when I quit my last job to devote full-time attention to writing, my family considered this proof positive that I had lost my mind.

It was a perfect time for a change. My kids were grown and moved away. I was divorced. I’d already begun to reduce my expenses. I didn’t have any money saved, but that was all right. I was going to walk a tightrope without a safety net. No, it didn’t work out all that well. I crashed and wound up couch-surfing with relatives, which was not as fun as it sounds. But eventually things turned for the better. I found a small publisher with goals and a vision of community that I share.

books bookshop bookstore business
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As I approach bookstores anew with fresh product, I wish I could say that they have adapted to the changing times.  They still believe in the old system where five or so major publishers decide what everyone should be reading. The same barriers I confronted almost 20 years ago are still there. Meanwhile, some small bookstores have begun welcoming new authors as a means of survival. It still requires a good sales pitch, but at least they are willing to order through a distributor.

Over the past couple of decades as a writer, I’ve learned a lot about the publishing business and I’ve helped other people promote their work. It’s kind of funny, because as the influence of the big publishers over the marketplace wanes, the industry is reverting to the way things were done in the 19th Century. Back then, authors found ways to gain attention, publishing short works in newspapers and magazines. Those who had the funds published their own work, by and large, at least until they garnered a significant following and were able to contract a publisher to do the hard parts (editing, layouts and such) for them. A couple of hundred years ago, authors sold their books directly to the public and made their own deals with bookstores. The only difference today is that with the evolution of publishing technology a lot of the hard parts can be accomplished electronically with much greater ease.

Blog, Books, Editing, Environment, Fantasy, Future, life, music, novel, Publishing, Rock Music, Science Fiction, Space, Technology, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy, Word, Writing

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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Colonial Authority: Chapter 31 – The End Times

**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.**

On the cot, his back against the wall, Paul sat as Tam left him alone and sealed the room. How ironic was it that to avoid incarceration Paul needed to exist in a prison-like cell? He sat for a time staring at the opposite wall that seemed close enough that he might reach out and at arm’s length touch it.

After a while, he stretched out on the cot and took a nap. That had been all that he sought from Raven, mere hospitality, but that was denied him. What purpose had it served to allow him to roam the streets of a strange city all night when all he wanted was to avoid detection?

Briefly, Paul sat up to pull the cord and turn off the light. It was as dark as it had been deep in the caverns whenever the artificial light was off. Because he was used to it, the darkness felt friendly and comfortable. Since he was very young he always associated darkness with security. All his other senses seemed greatly and immediately enhanced in the dark. He knew his sight deceived him, confused him, and prevented him from knowing the truth beyond the illusion of the world around him.

In the darkness of the caverns he learned from the orb. It had taught him how to control certain portions of the illusion of the world around him. As a result it seemed as if he did not have to fear anything anymore. Nothing was beyond his ability. He could overcome anything. In his recent experience perhaps he was too ambitious and his conclusions were premature.

He wondered about the sensation of proximity that he had felt, as if Cristina had been nearby back in the alley as he was escorted out. He felt the proximity again, except that this time it was even closer, as if she was almost within his reach, maybe on the other side of the wall. He needed to see Cristina. He needed to talk to her and explain to her what he was doing. If Chase hadn’t already polluted her mind with his doubts and speculations about the dangers that he had felt were inherent in achieving The Resurrection’s goals. Paul felt urgency. It was as if it was now that he needed to act else it would be too late to convince her to join him, act in concert and in harmony.

He knew there was linkage between them. It was far more intimate than the vague sensation sometimes he received whenever someone with the attributes was around. Paul believed there was potential none of them realized. They might act almost as one. They shared the same parents. They were twins. Despite growing up apart and being different genders, they were a lot alike. Had she not attracted his attention immediately, the first time he saw her? There was a thread of continuity between the two of them, connecting them to everyone else possessing the attributes. He believed it was possible through the attributes to connect everyone together as one.

When Paul realized he slept for a while, it bothered him. He was tired. He had every right to sleep. He could smell the recently baked and sliced bread, ham and cheese of a freshly prepared sandwich. He slept so soundly that someone left lunch for him without waking him. That bothered him. In a way he felt violated. It was dangerous that he was not disturbed at the opening of the wall that concealed his hiding place.

He sat up on the cot. It was noon, or maybe fairly late in the morning. It was hard to tell, as there was no light from the outside world. He groped the air and found the string for the light and pulled. Light flickered before becoming steady, forcing him to close his sensitive eyes until they adjusted to the sudden fluorescent brilliance. When he could open his eyes again he reached for the breakfast tray. He sat it in his lap as he ate.

He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Even though the food was only mildly warm, it went down fast and easy. He tried to remember when it was he had last eaten. There were dried meat sticks and energy bars that he had consumed at the last climate station. He had eaten a bit there before resting. Since then, mostly he had been too preoccupied.

When he finished eating he set the tray back near where it had been left for him to find. He couldn’t wait for dinner. He was still hungry but the sandwich helped.

He used the toilet that was closeted at the end of his tiny confinement. When he returned to his desk he pulled out the chair and sat. There was a small chronometer on the desk. He had about five hours before he figured he could expect dinner. He opened the drawer and taking out the infotab he plugged in the memory module and perused the index of books stored on Mods kept in the cube. There were fiction and non-fiction, books that he had read before but some books that he had only heard of. Many were generally unavailable if not outright banned.

He accessed one of the infamous books and began to read about the development of technology in the mid to late Twentieth Century. Certainly, it played a key role in producing the devices to transform the way people lived in what was generally called ‘the end times’ of Earth. Despite the invaluable contributions of technology to modern mankind, the Earth origins of some things were not discussed much in the Colonies. Many devices were banned outright or their usage was taxed heavily and restricted further with licensing fees, effectively preventing them from mass use.

Ostensibly the reasoning was to prevent the same kinds of environmental disasters that killed the Earth. Pristine, terraformed worlds like Pravda needed protection. For example, every vehicle used on Pravda used a certified power source with a neutral environmental impact. Internal combustion engines were banned, as were jet engines, and gas turbines. Synthetic lubricants were used instead of petroleum-derived products. Since the end of commercial development of Earth resources, organic hydrocarbons were prohibitively expensive.

The power generated on Pravda came from very different sources than were used on Earth. With the exception of the cities closest to the ocean, wind and sun generated roughly seventy percent of the power used in the cities. Where the cities could use the tidal forces to capture energy, there was often a surplus of power that was exported along the power transmission lines that ran beneath the railcar tracks connecting the cities. At times, cities like Haven and New Milan could run completely on the power generated from the wave energy baffles installed in the nearby oceans.

In the period of extended draught in the desert, Andromeda, Star City and Delhi generated a surplus of power from vast arrays of photovoltaic generation. The same panels continued to produce power from the light of the two moons although it varied according the phases of the moons. On nights of Double-Full, nighttime generation could account for as much as twenty percent of the total power generated over a twenty-four hour period.

The remainder of the power used in the cities came from various other processes that included differential thermal exchange and proximate quark reaction that combined to produce roughly ten to fifteen percent of the power used in a city. Each city had its own power grid but connected to every other city through the commonly supported supply of power to the railcar system that connected them.

As Paul read the book, the author made a very good case that the pioneering corporations of the late Twentieth Century were profit driven to the exclusion of developing technologies that threatened established industries. Their focus became the cutting edge of technologies that would not adversely affect the status quo of market equilibrium. Such corporations were blamed for triggering the events leading to the demise of the Earth’s ecosystem, ignoring technologies that might have extended the viability of Earth as a home for mankind.

It was also the point of view The Colonial Authority held adamantly. They were unwilling to give the innovations their due. The development and production of the atralnav, the translation device for navigating through sub-space, the organic computer and DOMLIBs that evolved from it were all necessary precedents to colonization. Without certain technologies colonization would not have been as easy and certainly more distant worlds like Pravda could have never been reached in time to make a difference in mankind’s overall survival.

Paul read the book with interest as it advanced several theories for the rapid decline and demise of Earth’s environment in the later Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. It cited the increase in the number of mesospheric clouds during the summers toward the end of the Twentieth and the early part of the Twenty-First Century. A little understood phenomenon at the time, they were a warning signal that the upper atmospheric conditions were changing rapidly. The usual culprits were hydrocarbon emissions from vehicles and factories that were dumping chemicals that polluted the atmosphere, waterways and oceans, killing aquatic life and slowly decreasing the plankton from which a great percentage of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere originated. The defoliation of rain forests not only due to harvesting of the trees but also the effects of acid rains resulting from sulfur emissions and the reduction of grasslands were also cited as reasons for the reduced oxygen in the atmosphere.

Around five in the afternoon he set the book aside. The wall opened and his dinner arrived. He did not say anything except ‘thank you’ to the man who delivered the food. He received a reply of ‘you’re welcome’ as the man removed the tray from lunch. Immediately he turned and without delay the wall closed and once more Paul was sealed away in his room.

He consumed his meal as slowly as he could, trying to make it last longer, but he was also eager to get back to reading about the last decades of Earth. He had just begun a section that dealt with the climatic changes and the increased seismic activity along major fault lines.

When he finished eating and returned the tray to just inside the room where the wall opened, he returned to the desk and continued reading. It was a long time until breakfast in the morning. Based on what Tam promised him, sometime soon he would be able to shower and change clothes. He was looking forward to ridding his body of the pungent sweat smell from all of his exertions.

Paul read about natural disasters with unprecedented death tolls. There were needless wars fought over scarce resources and coveted land. Zealots terrorized the innocent.

There were incurable viruses. The attempts to prolong the lives of those infected were believed to have been the origin of the attributes. There were many with contrary opinions, but it was fact that a super strain of the virus wiped out a third of Earth’s population over a ten-year span. The only people who did not seem affected by the more robust version of the virus were those who had the previous strain and were under treatment with the previous strain of the virus under control.

A cure for the super strain was never discovered.

He read with great compassion for those who had perished because they would not allow their bodies to be infected in order for the associated treatment to build up their immunity to the much more severe strain. There was such fear of the initial virus and such a social stigma attached to it that people died needlessly who could have been readily immunized had they listened to the advice of medical authorities.

Paul began reading a new chapter, focused on wars that began in several places around the world as sovereign nations refused to negotiate away their vital resources. The more powerful nations seized the resources, attacking the weaker nations, invading while professing they had come to liberate the people of the weaker nations from the tyrannical regimes that controlled them – and refused to negotiate away rights to sovereign resources.

As one after another nation was immorally attacked and seized, the risks of the strongest militaries of the world coming into conflict increased. Long held alliances dragged the powerful into positions of defending their friends from attack. In an ever escalating, intrepid game of strategy, the most powerful nations attempted to negotiate between themselves in a last ditch effort to prevent the unleashing of their arsenals of mass destruction.

There were more seismic events that produced even wider devastation, releasing more and more poisonous gas into the atmosphere. It would eventually render the Earth uninhabitable, but for the moment it only exacerbated the catastrophic conditions. Under a truce executed out of mutual interest, the remaining governments on Earth worked deals with the near Earth colonies to accept their refugees.

As more and more people evacuated the Earth, the fragile balance of resources in the colonies was strained as well, resulting directly in the establishment of more distant exploration and research for colonial expansion.

Paul could understand why the book was not popular with the Colonial Authority and had been restricted or even banned. It did not portray mankind in a favorable light. The official view taught in school was human destiny led people to colonize other worlds. It was intended to extend humanity’s wisdom, insight and creativity into the future. Paul already understood as did many others who bore the attributes that humans were certainly not the ever-adapting, ever-evolving, intelligent beings that were destined to rule a remote portion of the Galaxy.

It was very late in the evening by the time that someone came to take him to a shower. Paul had finished reading the book. He had more than enough reading for one day, but the knowledge satisfied him, connecting with pieces of information that he had obtained through other sources. When he returned from his shower and dressed in clean clothing for bed, he stretched out to rest for a while. Because of his overall exhaustion as well as his abject boredom, he fell asleep within moments of his head hitting the pillow.