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Review of Audible Service & The Three J’Amigos Trilogy (JADE, JANE and JILL) by Rose Montague

Recently, I upgraded my Kindle Paperwhite. The latest one has twice the memory and is waterproof (within reason, anyway). It also supports Audible audiobooks, which is rapidly becoming huge in the publishing industry, with many Indies and small publishers joining the major publishers with titles in release. So,  I decided to give this new thing a test drive.

Audible Trademark

Audible is an Amazon company, but you don’t need a Kindle device to enjoy the audiobooks. If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) you can download the Audible App for Apple or Android and play the book through your Bluetooth speakers, headphones, earbuds or vehicle (if so equipped). There are some special trial deals going on for little or nothing. Once you see how much it frees you up, while still satisfying your lit needs you’ll want to sign up for it. You get one free download per month and discounts on other purchases throughout the period. What I have discovered is that I can listen to an average length book in a day or so, while doing menial things like laundry, cleaning the house, riding my bike, taking a walk, just about anything.

Author Rose Montague has been an early adopter of the audiobook format for her action-packed YA/NA books. Previously, I’ve read two of The Three J’Amigos Trilogy, as well as both of her other, spin-off books, which take place in the same universe but feature some other characters that have supporting roles in the trilogy. It was just with all the requests for reviews from others I hadn’t gotten around to reading JILL, which was published within the past year or so. But it was coming up on my “to-be- read” list.

All three audiobooks are narrated by Caryn Kuhlman, who does a fine job. It is essential for continuity between books of the same series to have the same narrator, I believe. Kuhlman varies her voice to make each character distinct, which helps a lot from a listener’s standpoint. For example, Jane in the series is “London Jane” and, yes, she has a British accent.

Cover of Jade Audiobook, 1st in the trilogy.

The one thing I will say that is a difference between listening to an audiobook and reading the eBook or print formats is that if you have read the print or eBook previously, it takes a bit to adjust to the narrator’s voice as opposed to your internal, reading voice. The characters are not going to sound the same as you have previously imagined. But you get used to that in relatively short order.

As for the story – I recommend taking the time to binge read or listen to this series. If you enjoy YA books featuring Supernatural beings (Supes), like Vampires, Shape-Shifters, Witches and Faeries, this is a series you’ll love. It offers a mind-expanding journey into the imagination of the author who is a great, natural storyteller. Her books’ pacing is quick.

Cover of Jane Audiobook, 2nd in the trilogy

Her characters are diverse. Jade is a Supernatural mutt, having the attributes of just about every supernatural being. Jane is a Vampire (Vamp) and a member of her community’s royalty. Jill is the Faeire Winter Queen who interacts with the human world on occasion. The female lead characters are strong, independent, sometimes snarky, sword-wielding, dagger-jabbing, (or steel-bat-swinging) badasses who you’ll be rooting for straight out of the gate. Oh, yes, there is a dragon in the mix as well. As J.R.R. Tolkien informed us, every good fantasy needs a dragon. There is plenty of action, excitement, and globe-trotting along the way, with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat guessing what will happen next. Rose’s books are a thrill ride waiting for you to jump in and claw at anything available while you hang on for dear life.

Cover of Jill Audiobook, 3rd in the series, 

Following this first exposure to Audible, I’ve decided I much prefer listening to the three books in sequence. While waiting for JANE to be written (after having read JADE) I had forgotten some of the story and had to go back into the first book of the series and catch up a bit. I am certain I would have needed to do the same with Jane before reading Jill. However, listening to the books proved to be the best way to revisit the story in preparation for JILL. The trilogy comes to a satisfying, fitting conclusion that also directs the reader to the author’s other series which features Jewel, a budding teenage badass in her own right. Having read both available books of that series I can say that I can’t wait for the audiobooks and also look forward to the next book in that series.   

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The Resurrection: Chapter 30 – Never Except For Always

**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.**

By the time the local sun disappeared behind the skyline of Haven, one of the two moons was already visible just cresting the eastern horizon. Paul stared at the large beach combing machines the Sakum’malien drivers staged at the edge of the dunes awaiting the departure of all the human sun worshipers. Perhaps they wondered at the odd human behavior, but they said little if anything to anyone – even those who spoke some words of English.

The odd feeling of having forgotten something returned, taunting him with information he could not grasp to recall. Again, he sensed a presence but there was no one immediately around except for Chase, Julie and Clare.

“Come on,” Clare prompted. Paul turned and hurried along as the four of them were among the last to leave the beach and rinse off in the beach house before getting dressed into more proper attire for dealing with the big city life.

Julie and Clare hugged one another and said their goodbyes as Chase and Paul retrieved their coaches from the docking station. When they arrived queued behind one another, Julie hugged Paul and Clare hugged Chase. They two men shook hands. It was a nice late afternoon get together they shared.

Chase was always traveling, mainly between his company’s office in Andromeda and Haven where he worked. Paul worked from dawn to dusk daily, sometimes even going in to work for a few hours on weekends just to catch up. He sometimes worked every single day within a month just to finish a project.

Clare climbed into the floater coach and Paul entered after her, settling in at the controls of the console. He waited for Chase and Julie to get settled and pull away from the boarding curb before he pulled out of the parking area and onto the street. “You aren’t in any trouble leaving work early?” Clare asked.

Paul shrugged, “What if I am? I’ve been working there for five years. I receive minimal raises in reward for always finishing my work on time or ahead of schedule and being at work at least on time but usually early and always staying late when necessary.”

“You don’t want to lose your job.”

“Of course not but I don’t think they even know I exist. No one knows who I am but if I was missing for a while they might finally appreciate what ol’-what’s-his-name takes care of for them.”

“Maybe others would take up the slack and they’d never notice.”

Paul nodded. “Yeah, well that puts the onus back onto me, now, doesn’t it?”

After a long pause Clare cleared her throat, “What was it Chase and you went off to yourselves to discuss?”

“Were you and Julie jealous of phantoms and some imagined competition?”

Clare forced a smile but her eyes did not leave his.

“Chase knows a guy he met a while back named Pete. When I was out in New Milan with Chase last fall we both met him and I beat him at shooting pool.”

“He must be awful at it, then.”

“Thanks a lot!” Paul exclaimed even as he shook his head in disbelief.

“I’m, just being honest, hon,” she said. “My baby brother beat you when we went to visit my folks last year.”

“Yeah, that little scoundrel’s a hustler, though,” Paul countered, after receiving a wave of impressions and perceptions the memories cascaded into his mind, filling in many missing pieces of an established past that stretched back well before he stepped out of the ocean water onto the beach.

Everything was there, meeting Pete in New Milan, accompanying Chase to Andromeda on a detour while on their way home. Chase signed a band and then they returned to Haven. Paul never told Clare he and Chase detoured through Andromeda. It took them three extra travel days but Clare always believed he stayed in New Milan for an extra meeting. It wasn’t like they did anything wrong, but it was just he never bothered to tell her where all they went.

As Paul pulled the coach up to the curb of their apartment building, he pressed the button commanding the door to open and as soon as the coach stopped, Clare stepped out onto the curb and waited for Paul to do the same and dock the coach before he joined her. They both entered the building and stood in the lobby waiting for the elevator car to arrive.

“So, that was the big secret Chase had to talk to you about, this guy Pete?”

“Yeah, it was part of it. Pete’s in a band and they’re looking for a female lead singer.”

“So, of course he thought of Cristina.”

“Yep.” The elevator arrived and they both boarded. Paul pressed the button for their floor.

“I could see her doing it.”

“I could too,” Paul said. “I was waiting about calling her, seeing if she’d call first. I guess I have an excuse, now.”

“You miss Cristina, don’t you?”

“I do,” Paul confessed. Even though he felt as if he had been with her recently.

“It’s been a year a least since she left for school.”

“Closer to two years,” Paul said as he tried to pin down an exact time or event associated with it. “I mean we talk by phone or even exchange messages over the global network but we’ve not been together for a long time. The conversations we’ve had were mostly about her acting and how successful I am. I don’t know where she gets it from but somehow she thinks I’m successful.”

“Aren’t you?” The elevator arrived at their floor and they stepped out. Their apartment was just down the hall, the third door on the right.

“Maybe on a comparative basis. I have steady income. She doesn’t. That’s not how I would define success, though.”

“The material element is a consideration.” She arrived at the door two or three steps ahead of Paul, keyed in her security code and leaned against the door as it unlocked and opened. She held the door open for him as he arrived.

“I suppose what I make is a lot or most people.”

“Well, I think you’re successful.”

“I’m happy – not with work but the rest of my life’s great.” He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and kissed her neck.

“I love you unconditionally.” She reached up with both hands and grabbed his head, then turning she releases and kissed him passionately. 

“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Paul said as their lips parted. “It’s just I’m not quite what I wanted to be and whenever Cristina sends me a message it reminds me because she’s the one who’s still faithful to her dream. I guess it makes me feel like I’ve given up and maybe sold myself short, just accepting what I can get paid to do.”

“Cristina reminds you of whatever it is that you perceive as your failures. But you’re successful at what you do.”

“I know. I know exactly what you’re going to say. I’m far from being a failure but failure lurks just past the next decision at my company. I’ve never felt like I have any sort of job security. Backstabbing assholes and highly political opportunists surround me. I have a knot in the pit of my stomach every day when I go into the office. I feel like they’re going to fire me, not just threaten it, but follow through with it. I’m not sure that enduring all of that is worth the pay credits.”

“You just take things way too seriously.”

“Maybe that’s part of it, but most of it is I work for self-serving pricks.”

“Everything in life is about perspective,” Clare said.

“And I lack perspective – is that what you’re saying?”

“I was going to say maybe Cristina is more mature than you are. You always say she handles rejection well. Yet you cannot seem to define your success. You have a good paying job. Some people would call it a dream position.”

“My job is anything but a dream position,” Paul said, flipping around a dining room chair backwards and sitting with his chest resting against the chair back.

“Nothing is easy, Paul. Is there any job anywhere that will pay you what you think your time is worth?”

Paul smiled. “Of course not. With the difficulty of the job comes the compensation.”

“Not always commensurate to the demands of the job…”

“But high enough that some damned fool, like me will attempt the job because it pays better than the last three things I tried.”

“Exactly,” she said. “So what do you want for dinner.”

“Let’s shower and get fixed-up and go out for dinner and some dancing.”

“Really? What’s gotten into you tonight? The beach didn’t wear you out?”

“Yeah a little, but I want to make it a memorable day for you.”

“It already is. “

“Then let’s work on the night part of it.”

“Okay,” she smiled broadly.

“I really need to take a proper shower and put on some lotion,” she said. “I’m sure you do too, you always burn so easily.”

“I wore enough sunscreen I think. I’ll call for reservations. Where do you want to east?”

“Surprise me,” Clare said as she headed toward the bathroom.

“I’m not sure you really want me to do that,” he called out after her.

“It’ll be fine,” she called back.

“Okay. But don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Paul said as he flicked on world viewer and brought up the index for local restaurants. “I think it’s always a good night for Italian.” He said to himself.

After calling for reservations, Paul began watching the news. By the time he heard her shower end he was ready and waiting to take his turn, tired of the dryness on his skin and the overall smell of fish.

When she emerged from the bathroom Clare headed to the bedroom to apply her makeup and get dressed. Paul showered quickly and joined her in the bedroom where he dressed accordingly, in casual attire appropriate for the restaurant to which they were going.

“Are we in a rush?” she asked while putting on her eyeliner.

“No, I made the reservations for eight thirty. Take your time.

“This is a nice surprise. Usually you take the easy way out.”

“What does that mean?’

“‘I’m tired – lets eat in and go to bed early’.”

“I’m a guy. I always seek the path of least resistance whenever possible. Sit down a relax a bit.”

“You are the one who was stressed out.”

“It’s a normal state of being for me. I’ll prevail.”

“I hope so.”

Paul joined her on the couch. “You look pretty.”

“Thank you. You look handsome.”

“We match well, then.”

She laughed. “Whatever’s different about you, keep it going, okay?”

As the news on world viewer played in the background, they shared light conversation about other things that had happened throughout the day, mainly the morning events in Clare’s life at her dance studio. She was grateful when Julie called her suggesting they take the afternoon off and head for the beach.

Clare looked at her wristband. “We probably should be going.”

Paul smiled, starting to get up a few seconds before his cell phone ringer flashed on his wrist. He tapped his earlobe, “Hello.”

“Hey, it’s me,” his sister’s voice was welcome.

“I was going to call you. What’s the news?” He tapped his right wrist to display her holographic image in the palm of his outstretched hand so that at least Clare knew whom he was talking to.

“I didn’t get the part.”

“When you didn’t call, I was worried it was something like that.”

“They wouldn’t tell me until yesterday. I went out with friends and got drunk after I found out. I’ve been sleeping it off all day.”

“Are you okay now?” He asked then allayed Clare’s concern with a nod and a wink.

“Except I want to come home and I have no money. I mean, I really am embarrassed having to ask you, but…”

“I’ll get you home if that is what you want. How much do you need?”

“I don’t even know,” she said. “I have really tried to make it on my own. I even took a job waiting tables.”

“I think Chase might have something to interest you.”

“Really, I thought he did musical groups, not actors.”

“I think you need to broaden your horizons a little, sis.”

“Well, I’m an actress.”

“You have an amazing voice. You should be singing.”

“I’ve been auditioning for musicals, Paul.”

“You’re not getting the traction you need. For whatever reason, they’re passing you over, but everyone who knows you says you have a wonderful singing voice. So, let it become your vehicle.”

“I’m trying to do just that.”

“You aren’t getting it. Listen to me, Cristina. You have to make it where you can, and then go on from there. Then you can do the other things you want to accomplish. Once you have established your credibility, you can do other things maybe something you can’t imagine right now.”

“Well, I guess if you pay my way home I should at least listen to your advice.”

Paul laughed. “If you think I’m full of shit, just tell me.”

“It’s not that.”

“I think I’m being pretty reasonable.”

“Some of what you say makes sense.”

“Cristina, honestly. I think everything will be fine for you, but you have to adapt. It’s a big, strange world.”

“Yeah strange is not the half of it. Lately, I’ve had some bizarre dreams.”

“Really?” Paul asked even as Clare reached up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek and then proceeded on toward the bedroom. “Hold on.”

“Okay,” Cristina said.

“Hon, retrieve the coach and I’ll be right down.”

“Last night could be explained away by all the alcohol. But even before that…the dreams are like the world had not been completely terraformed – like it was forty years ago, you know all the cities were still domed.”

Paul laughed.

“The strangest part, you were in a lot of trouble there,” she said. “You were in prison and trying to escape. It was very bizarre.”

“And what was it that you did in that world?”

“What do you mean what was I doing there? It was a dream, or more like a nightmare.”

“No, I mean what did you do for a living?”

“I don’t…remember…well, but no, I think…I think I was actually a singer.”

“See, in your dreams it’s your destiny. Take it as a sign.”

“Maybe it is, Paul. I don’t know. I’m tired of this craziness. And I want to see you and just sleep for a while.”

“Good you can rest up and when I go to New Milan next month you can come with me.”

“I’ll be back at school by then,” she protested.

“So you have spent almost two full years learning how to act and perform…”

“But I can’t land a role at an audition.”

“Sometimes, I think destiny forces your hand. Maybe you need to audition for a rock band in New Milan.”

“We’ll see.”

“Come home and make a fresh start, sis. Take a sabbatical from your studies. I have always thought you have the potential to be a star. All you need is to find the right path. Chase seems to think you’ll work out for this band in New Milan.”

“I don’t know…”

“The two guitarists are professional sound engineers so the audition will be at a real studio. Chase knew one of them, a drummer from another association. Chase sort of auditioned them. He said what they lack is a vocalist of your caliber.”

“He said that?”

“Maybe not in those exact words, but it was his idea to ask you to audition.”

“So, he’s the one who put you up to this?”

“Yeah, well, I worry about my baby sister, especially when she calls me to tell me she’s broke.”

“Okay, I hear you. I told you I’d give it a shot.”

“Go into this with a positive attitude. I have a very good feeling about this.”

“You know me. I’m always positive whenever I audition.”

“This can work for you.”

“In a strange way, I feel good about it, too,” she confessed.

“That’s the Cristina I know and love. Go to the station in the morning. I’ll arrange everything for the ticket from this end, okay?”

“I appreciate this a lot, Paul.”

“Hey, if I was in trouble I know you’d come to my aid.”

“Since Dad and Mom…well we only have each other.”

“I know. We have to be family first. “

“I’ll call if there is any change.”

“Okay, sis,” Paul said. “Have a safe trip.”

“See you day after tomorrow.”

He tapped his earlobe to disconnect the call. He went to the kitchen for a glass of water, fully intending to go straight downstairs. He hoped Clare was not pissed at having to wait. But when he passed through the dining room he felt the strange presence again, an eerie sensation as if he just passed through another consciousness, causing him to shiver as his skin erupted into gooseflesh.

“Who’s there?” He challenged.

With no answer, even the sensation of the presence was gone.

He continued, rapidly gulping down the water.

“Is anything wrong?” Clare stood in the doorway?”

“No, I was just coming. I’m still having odd feelings,” he said.

“Maybe you need to rest. We can go out some other time.”

“No, I need to spend all the time I can with you.” He felt the presence again – behind him, but saw nothing.

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

He opened the closet door on his way out the door to grab a light jacket. After slipping it on he stepped out into the hallway to join Clare. “I hope I don’t get a ticket. I’m parked in the loading zone.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay. So, Cristina is coming home?”

“Yeah. I have to get her a ticket.”

Clare nodded as they arrived at the elevator.

“She’ll be here at least a month. Then she’s going out to New Milan.”

“With Chase and you?”

“Or just Chase. I haven’t decided to go.”

The elevator doors opened. They stepped inside. He pressed the button for the lobby. Then as mostly a reflex he plunged his hands into the jacket pockets, his right one wrapped around a small orb. Withdrawing his hand he looked at it resting in his palm.

“What’s that?”

“Something I thought I lost.” He closed his fist around it, the opening his hand palm up it disappeared.

“That’s from the magic act you used to do?”

He chuckled. “Yeah. Maybe that was the last time I wore this jacket.”

“You need to check your pockets before you hang things up.” She wrapped her arm around his elbow.

“I know, hon. Sometimes I forget,” Paul admitted.

“So, where are we heading?”

“I thought you wanted me to surprise you.”

“I said that, didn’t I?”

“Having second thoughts?”

“No, it’ll be fine. I’m sure,” Clare said.

The End

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The Resurrection: Chapter 29 – Nature’s Resettling

**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 general wrongness Paul felt in their departure from the past. First he lost their images and then the touch of their hands. He did not want to be right about paradoxes but immediately believed he was.

Isolated in a void he decided was non-existence, dread overwhelmed him, engulfing his presence and consumed his essence. His soul served from his physical form, just reward or punishment for meddling with past events upon which existence depends. Lingering consciousness stretched across limbo and connected at both ends of infinity, he was a singularity – a tiny, insignificant point between the vast and the infinitesimal. He was his beginning that concluded in the same thought of being, life evaporated into the wisps of unrealized probability.

There was no pain, no sensation at all except for separation. If there were a floor where he could have collapsed he would have. However, it was impossible for him to discern real from surreal as he lost consciousness, giving up in the process as he yielded to the oblivion he fully anticipated, a place he decided might be called Never.

Shocked, and suddenly immersed in cool salt water he flailed arms and kicked legs in panic, going over in his mind the principles of swimming – when had he learned them? Struggling to reach the surface, the light from above and beyond the brilliant blue, cloudless sky. He broke through to the sudden sensation of wind in his face. He gasped. It was his first gulp of air that led to immediate panic – an errant thought of the risk. But then he wondered why he would ever think such a thing. How could breathing air be dangerous?

As he tread water, he opened his eyes, but it felt as if it were for the very first time. Looking toward the shore he recognized everything, the thought of strangeness rapidly evaporated under the gross volume of intense memories that foundered his mind and almost instantly reestablished identity, role, purpose and obligations.

He swam a ways coming up closer to the breakers. His toes touched the sandy bottom there. He stood for a moment, allowing the waves to crash around him. Then he walked through the surf onto the shore.

Disoriented but remembering everything about him it was troubling that he had no memory of how he arrived at the beach.

Ahead of him was a white sand dune with some vegetation growing to cover some of its surface. It was likely an attempt to resist beach erosion. It was a problem, wasn’t it? He recalled hearing something about it, the balance between protecting beaches and property along the coast from storm surges while accommodating the public’s desire to enjoy their time in recreational pursuits.

Continuing his confusion he pivoted, trying to reconnect with disassociated memories. He saw the community beach house, recalled emerging from there sometime earlier. Remembered having showered before dressing in his swimming trunks and applying sunscreen to his overly sensitive, exposed, lily-white skin. Over his shoulders he draped a towel as he walked out to the beach. Locating the same towel he picked up from the hard pack directly in front of him. He dried off as best he could and left his hair damp.

The beating rays of mid summer warmed his shoulders as his back was turned toward the ocean. He wrapped the towel around the back of his neck in an effort to protect from the intensity of the local yellow dwarf’s radiation.

Automatically he replaced the protective UV lenses over his eyes, the ones he found on a lanyard along with his towel. The ocean breeze swept over the dampness of his skin and trunks as he tentatively progressed back toward the beach house.

A flash of memory came of being at the office having another rough day. Clare called him and told him she was going to the beach with Chase and Julie. She invited him to join them whenever he got off work. He even slipped out a little early just so he could swing by the apartment to collect his swimming trunks, sunscreen and a couple of extra towels.

Going to the beach was a fantastic idea. He really needed to unwind. It was just he felt strange, like until a few minutes ago he might have been dreaming. It wasn’t a new sensation for him, but it always left him feeling unsettled.

There were some images of a nightmarish set of circumstances worse than anything he endured at work. His imagination was vivid. It helped him in his work, coming up with warped story lines for video games to be played over world viewer. At times it was almost like he had two sets of memories, one his real life and another the fantasy worlds he fabricated in a digital universe.

Framed with that consideration, one set rapidly dissipated to the point that he wondered why he was even trying to recall anything about any of it. It wasn’t like it belonged to any project he was currently working on. Still, at the moment even the more plausible set of memories did not feel real enough for him to grasp and call it his own.

He looked past the beach house to the evidence of the thriving community back on the mainland. A causeway was the way back there from the beach. A high arching bridge spanned the navigable channel in the river of brackish water between the mainland and the barrier island where the beach was located. It did not look right to him but then he wondered how it should look. The towering skyscrapers of a second largest city on the planet sprawled out to either side of the bridge along the mainland shore. It was exactly what he expected to see but, in another way, it seemed strange.

Paul turned back into the sea breeze to drink in another deep, refreshing breath hoping somehow it would magically clear the confusion from his mind. Maybe he had been working too hard. He could be having some sort of breakdown that caused everything to feel surreal.

Seagulls hovered overhead, suspending their mass by the lift they maintained from the steady sea breeze that flowing over their carefully positioned wings. He always envied bird their ability to fly.

He felt a presence nearby but turning around, he saw no one. Still there was a definite presence but then just as suddenly as the sensation came it was gone.

Paul continued on along the beach. Clare stood up when she saw his approach, and then bounded over the white sand, seeming to barely even touch the surface as she proceeded toward him. At the moment of her arrival she launched herself, leaping toward him then wrapping her arms around his neck as he caught her slight weight in his arms. He swung her around as he spun to keep from falling. She offered and he accepted passionate kisses in welcome greeting.

“I missed you all day long,” she said as she pulled back from his lips leaving him almost breathless. Then he leaned toward her and kissed the tip of her nose. She giggled giddily like a schoolgirl as he continued to hold her close, staring into her gorgeous green eyes.

To him she was the epitome of the perfect woman, perfect for him in every way. What did he care if the events around him were still swirling a little and his mind was dizzily unsettled? As long as he was with Clare everything else could seem tentative. He did not care if in an instant the world might change completely. Then he realized how silly it was to have such a thought. Was tentative not how the present moment should feel?

He liked the liberating power of his newfound confidence, feeling as if he could make decisions that mattered. Clare provided him with the strength to endure anything while he sought his creative potential. She believed in him and, in turn, he believed in her.

Smiling across the short distance for the interval her response took, kissing him on the cheek he decided to just allow the flow of events to take him wherever they would for at least the remainder of the day.

“You couldn’t wait to jump in the water?” She challenged as she realized his towel and trunks were damp.

“It was kinda hot when I arrived.” He responded in a way that was hard to argue. It had to still be in the upper thirties, Celsius.

“I already brought towels enough for both of us, silly man!” She playfully punched him in the arm as he returned her to her feet.

“You can never have enough towels, especially at the beach,” Paul replied.

She shrugged, but as she led him down from the dune and closer to the hard pack where she and the others had been sitting and talking while they awaited for his arrival.

Paul knew Chase but he did not recognize Julie at first, even though he knew her name and was certain that talked many times before. The disorientation lingered, nagging at him. Sure, he knew her for even longer than he knew Clare. Julie introduced the two of them! She arranged for the only blind date he ever consented to in his life – based solely on her recommendation. Amazed it worked out so well, Clare was just as Julie promised, perfect for him.

“So, Paul, are you and Clare coming over tomorrow?” Julie asked even before Paul had a chance to shake her hand or Chase’s for that matter.

“It depends,” he replied.  It was a safe, noncommittal answer to something he knew nothing about, yet.

“Well, tell those assholes you work for that it is your niece’s birthday party!” Clare said with a laugh, causing everyone to laugh as well. Julie was sitting on a towel between Chase and where Clare resumed sitting to take a swig from a bottle of cold water she opened only a few moments before she noticed Paul down the beach from them.

As Paul sat down he looked out at the undulating surface of the ocean. The steady sea breeze whipped across the tops of the two to four meter swells. White caps crashed into the shore with enough force that even from where they were sitting he felt the refreshing chill of the spray. Some kids were attempting to ride short boards closer in to shore while a couple of hardcore surfers were lingering out a ways offshore warming up while really waiting for the evening’s double-moon effect to prevail. It was the time of the season when, toward the evening, the gravity of each of Pravda’s two moons amplified the other’s effects while the two celestial orbs were virtually aligned. It produced some serious waves that sometimes even rivaled the ones that preceded an approaching seaborne storm.

Chase leaned back, reaching for the ice chest, saying something about being thirsty. Then he sat back up and glanced over at Paul as he was sitting on the far side of Clare. “Are you feeling okay, dude?”

“Yeah, I’m fine?”

“You’re not thirsty?”

“Not particularly.”

“There’s plenty of water on ice. So when you need one, help yourself.”

“Thanks,” Paul said.

“So, is Cristina still in Emerald or is she on her way back home to enjoy her break?” Julie asked.

“She called me a few days ago,” Paul said, having immediately recalled a phone conversation with his sister. “She had an audition two days ago. She said if she got the part she’d be staying in Emerald for the summer. I sort of expected her to call me by now and really thought she would, especially if she got the role in the musical. But I have not heard from her. So, I’m concerned she didn’t get the part.”

“I hope she’s not discouraged.”

“She’s tough – a true artist. She handles rejection well,” Paul said proudly, but then he dealt with something strange and alternative. He experienced a momentary flash of her singing on stage before thousands of frenzied fans, fronting a rock band of all things. It amused him. “I don’t think anyone has given her a chance to demonstrate her fullest potential.”

“Obviously,” Julie said. “Her voice is simply amazing. I keep telling Chase to hook her up with a talent agency at least. I mean, with her voice she could take a so-so pop band right to the top.”

“Or a rock band of great musicians to legendary status,” Chase said as he stood up and stretched. “It’s not like I haven’t offered to help her. Paul has resisted giving her his opinion.”

“It isn’t that as much as she’s headstrong.” Paul confirmed even as several examples came immediately to mind in support.

Chase walked around the two ladies and nudging Paul with his foot as he passed by. “Follow me. You and I need to talk,” he said as he turned back and looked toward Julie and then Clare who both wanted to know why the boys were going off on their own. “It’s a guy thing,” Chase excused.

“As long as it doesn’t involve other women,” Julie warned.

“It involves business and Cristina. Is that okay?”

Julie smiled. “I’ll let that one slide, I guess, since my best friend is engaged to her brother and all.”

When Paul and Chase arrived at a place Chase figured was beyond earshot of the ladies, he sat down on a bench and waited for Paul to join him. “You are just as headstrong in your way as Cristina. You think you know everything?”

“I doubt what I know is even remotely close to everything, so maybe your assessment needs revision.”

Chase chuckled for a few moments, but then he stared into Paul’s eyes. “You are going to continue pretending?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You’re good. I’ll give you that. No one plays dumb like you can.”

“Maybe it’s because usually I’m don’t need to play.”

“I was in New Milan two weeks ago.”

“I think Clare mentioned that.” He guessed.

“Do you remember Pete?”

“Pete?”

“Yeah, Pete, the percussionist I introduced you two at The Stable in New Milan.”

“When was that?”

“Last fall when you and I were there.”

Paul shrugged, struggling for the memory that felt vaguely accessible but not quite within his grasp.

“Damn it, Paul! You and Pete shot pool for over three hours after you met. You even beat him, rather badly at that. I offered to give him a ride home because he didn’t have bus fare after you finished taking his credits.”

“Okay.”

“Okay you remember or okay you don’t?”

“I remember some of it,” Paul confessed. “Look Chase, I have the world’s worst memory for people’s names.”

“You have to remember this. He kept hitting on the waitress, asking her out and she kept saying no to him, but he was relentless. He thought she was playing to get him to buy more drinks from her, but she was genuinely getting annoyed. That distraction was probably part of the reason why you beat him at shooting pool ‘ ‘cause you aren’t that good.”

“Hey!”

“Just tellin’ the truth. Anyway, as the club was closing she gave in to his offer to buy her dinner. You graciously transferred back the credits that he lost so he would not be financially embarrassed.”

“I’m a nice guy like that,” Paul offered.

“It was actually funny as hell. I can’t believe you don’t remember it.”

“Well, I sort of do and he still owes me the money,” Paul said as he recalled it was not a gift but a loan.

“Or there needs to be a rematch.”

“That would involve going back to New Milan.”

“Well, there is a convention coming up again, same as last year.”

“There you go.”

“It’s even better.”

“Why?” Paul inquired.

“I was thinking. We could get the same special rate as the last time we went together, discounts on the railcar as well as the hotel. Julie can arrange all of that for us.”

“Okay.”

“And maybe you could ask Cristina to come to New Milan and spend some time with you while you’re there. I mean it’s only three hours by railcar from Emerald.”

“I don’t know about that, Chase. She’s kinda on break right now, but by then she’ll be pretty busy with college again.”

“Well I was thinking that while she’s there she could audition for Pete’s band. They aren’t really new just they got back together. They were a band when they were all still in junior high. Pete and Alix, the bassist, share an apartment. Keith and Tim, the guitarists are also sound engineers at a recording studio, which makes getting a place to do demos and have auditions really pretty easy. I mean, I sort of contacted Pete already about auditioning her.”

“I’m not sure she would want to do that.”

“Well, ask her. The guys are great musicians, but frankly, no one in the band sings well enough and they know it. They are looking for a lead singer and really prefer the vocal range of a female.”

“And you immediately thought of Cristina.”

“Honestly, Paul I’ve sent several female vocalists their way, but no one clicked for them. Their voices were good, just they didn’t have the personality the band needs.”

“You think Cristina has what the others lack?”

“I do.”

“She wants to do musicals, Chase. That’s what she’s been studying.”

“Well, it was just an idea. But really what I was thinking was no one I know doesn’t like Cristina.”

“She’s a charmer.” Paul allowed. “I don’t know if she likes that sort of music. She’s classically trained. Dad and Mom paid for her lessons from the time she was able to talk.”

“The band doesn’t play the usual fare, not at all. Their style’s unique. I don’t know your sister’s tastes in music, but maybe she would actually like their sound.”

“I’ll mention it to her. I’ll let her decide. That’s all I can do, Chase.”

Chase turned back toward the ladies, listening from the distance to see if he could eavesdrop on their girl-to-girl conversation. Paul looked out at the ocean waves trying to fill in the remaining gaps of his memory. He still felt there were important things he’d forgotten.

“I guess it’s all gone,” Paul said.

“What?” Chase asked as he glanced at Paul.

“Never mind.”

“No, really what, I didn’t catch what you said.”

“Have you ever had a dream, and when you wake up, you think it was a really important dream? You want to remember it, but it’s gone.”

“Yeah, that happens. It happens a lot, actually.”

“It’s like you’re certain you are going to remember it, but then regardless of your intentions, you forget what was so great about it. Or why you wanted to remember it in the first place.”

“Yeah and trying to write it down doesn’t work all that well either.”

“Exactly.”

“You had a dream recently that you wanted to remember?”

“I’m not sure what it is, Chase. Ever since I got here I have felt really strange, like I had something important to do but I can’t remember what it was. It’s almost like I have forgotten everything I knew, but then, I remember other things. It’s just not complete.”

“Like you forgot about shooting pool against Pete.”

“Yes, things like that.”

“Maybe you hit your head or you had heat stroke.”

“I don’t know,” Paul said.

“Maybe you’re getting old.”

“Chase, I’m three months younger than you.”

“Well, then I need to watch out, too.” Chase corralled his shoulders. “Come on, you’ll snap out of it. We need to get back to our women before they conspire to make us go shopping with them on the way home.”

Paul smiled as he continued along beside him.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 26 – Judgment

**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.**
Paul sat alone staring out the window, just as he did every morning. He watched the city come to life. He observed the mid-morning bustle and afternoon hustle. Then he settled in for the evening and watched as the city collectively grew bored with tediousness of another day and retired to be lulled asleep with the sounds and images of world viewer, carried into a stupor after imbibing sufficient intoxicants, or some combination of the two.

When the city slept so did he. Between his sessions sitting at the window he did other things but mostly he sat at his desk and read.

He thought it was cruel telling him about the reunion and then preventing him from attending. To his understanding all but four of The Twenty-Four were there, invited to meet their mothers. He heard Cristina, Alix and Pete were going into the studio to record and could not attend. There was no doubt where he was. If anyone of the others had not heard by the reunion, he was certain Chase would tell them the main details.

When Neville and Chase visited, they talked a lot about the past and the similarities between each of The Twenty-Four. Every one of them was rebellious as a youth as juvenile records attested – everyone except for Cristina. For some reason she was unique. He thought at the time Neville was trying to make him feel better. But Paul took it a different way. As bad as his life had become, Cristina’s had been just the opposite.

Neville was the source of his knowledge about Alix and Cristina. He confirmed they went home to New Milan, taking the living sand-morph with them. He said he was sending them invitations but he was not expected their attendance.

Generally Paul liked Neville. He seemed a decent enough sort of guy even if he was an administrator and usually Paul had no use for the administrators. On Paul’s behalf Neville spoke to the magistrate. Otherwise the Colonial Authority’s desire for execution would have prevailed. Had it not been for Neville, Paul would already be dead. He did not like being alone but he certainly did not want to die. As long as he was alive he had some lingering hope that in the future something might change.

He held out some hope for Cristina’s idea of exposing the cover-up. Perhaps the embarrassment would benefit him in a reduced or commuted sentence. During his hearing before the magistrate what seemed to be of overriding concern was that he killed so many agents. Even though he was tortured and was unarmed while the agents were discharging their weapons at him, it did not mattered in the judgment. Agents died, many of them. As a result, Paul needed to be punished.

What haunted him most as he lingered in the silence of every day was his stupidity. He should have listened to his aunt and uncle instead of hanging out with the troublemakers in Haven. He might have never met members of The Resurrection. They sacrificed him in order to misdirect the Colonial Authority’s resources. He became the focus while elements of The Resurrection executed their own agendas. He was the patsy become scapegoat but, unlike the others, he accepted the blame for the chaos he fomented as well as what others refused to own.

Paul had been a true believer. They convinced him it was possible to bring a sand-morph back from the dead. He came to realize it was never the true goal of The Resurrection. From their inception they subverted authority. They used everyone, including him. He was young enough to be willing. He became notorious enough to become the focus of attention. It was merely part of the set up, that he would take the fall. They wanted the Colonial Authority to think Paul was more important than he was. The Security Agency believed he was their leader. There was no leader. There never was.

He deserved worse than the magistrate’s summary judgment: life in solitary confinement. The maximum-security facility in Star City became his permanent home. Offered a better lot if he would identify the others, he refused. The Security Agency still wanted to know what Paul knew. Mainly he was fearful of their retribution. The Resurrection infiltrated the Security Agency. Their people were everywhere, but personally unknown to him. He would not risk their retribution. Maintaining his silence allowed him to live. The Resurrection would be content with the status quo. Besides, they could use the story of his mistreatment to recruit other willing goats for the atonement ahead.

Looking away from the window, he lowered his eyes before closing them. Whenever he closed his eyes, she was always there. Cristina had bright green eyes and a winning smile. Her pretty face beamed as she laughed at something silly that Alix must have said to her. Was it his imagination that he saw her? It could not be just that simple to dismiss. She was real, his sister. He barely knew her yet he felt as if he knew everything there was to know.

Her singing voice was wonderful. The guards sometimes played music, occasionally he heard recordings of her band played over the public address system during the day. Whenever a Duae Lunae song played he would stretch out on his bed, close his eyes and listen in utter amazement at how phenomenally talented his sister was. What was wrong with him? Could he have done something similar with his life and his talents?

As far away from home as Star City, Cristina’s band was becoming famous. The guards knew Cristina was his sister and so he felt that they played her songs more often, just for him.

There were no complaints with any of the guards. They treated him with respect and dignity. Even though he was prohibited from any entertainment other than reading, the guards frequently shared any news with him they thought might be of interest.

Each day, at some point after breakfast, he was taken outside to exercise in a small segregated section of the yard. He was not allowed to approach the fence or talk to anyone through it. Talk to the guard attending him was also prohibited. But they could talk to him and he could listen as he stretched and performed calisthenics.

Afterwards, he returned to his cell and usually he sat down to read until lunch was served. In the afternoon he worked for a few hours in one of the manual labor centers. He could not talk to anyone and he was in his own work cubicle. When he was returned to his cell he would read some more until his dinner tray came.

In the evening a guard came to escort him to a shower where he washed his body for a few minutes before drying off and putting on his sleeping clothes and being issued clean clothes to put on in the next morning when he woke – always too early for his tastes.

Long since his dreams were only regular source of divertive escape. When he dreamed the texture of the illusion seemed more vivid and fantastic than it had before. Maybe his confinement liberated his imagination and refined the detail of his nocturnal delusions. It mattered little to him that his dreams were incredibly life-like. He could not wait to sleep just so he had the chance to return to visit the world his imagination conjured and invited him to rejoin.

A recurring dream about a goddess came often – one of his favorites. As stunning to the senses as anyone imaginable, she was so beautiful he immediately decided that she could not possibly be real. Walking hand-in-hand along a beach, the tides sweeping the salty water across their feet submerging them briefly up to their ankles before sweeping back out into the bay, undermining the sand from beneath them. Always her face he saw and it burned deep into his memory. When he was awake he remembered everything about her, her eyes and especially her smile.

She had dimples in her cheeks that were obvious whenever he said something in the course of the dream that amused her. Probably he loved her dimples more than any other feature. It was hard enough for him to make such a determination because, after all, she was a goddess. Everything about her embodied perfection – certainly, the things he liked about her were abundant. Still, he thought about her dimples most of the time when he was awake and recalling the recurring dream.

As they continued to walk in the dream he heard something approaching from behind them. It was an odd-looking vehicle that rumbled and pinged as it progressed across the sand, gripping at the looseness that slid away beneath it and flared behind as rooster tails shot up in evidence of its passing.

He looked into her eyes while basking in the radiance of her smile.

“It has been a while,” he said to her.

“How long was it this time?”

“Even a second apart from you is too painful to endure.”

“I suppose I could get used to all this adoration,” she said but then she immediately laughed.

“What if I told you I’m not really here?”

“Who is ever where they’re supposed to be?” she countered. “We’re together in this moment. There’s only this, whatever is right now.”

Inexplicably, Paul felt the release of his bonds. Really, no prison could contain him. He could always be somewhere else, even places never before seen and he did not have to sleep in order to engage and experience such fantastic adventures.

Leaning into her personal space, bringing his lips close to hers, brushing across her cheek and then kissing her exactly on the tip of her nose, causing her to giggle.

Then after a few moments she became refocused. “Where else are you?”

“Does that matter?”

“It does to me.”

“It would only matter if you need to know the links and the connections to get there,” he said.

In response she chuckled. “You’re one of the strangest men I have ever met,” she said, as she kissed him on the cheek. “It’s getting dark. Maybe we should head back.”

He sighed. “It’s always the same.”

“The same?”

“I can never get past this part,” he said and he forced his mind to reawaken even if it was to the same painful truth that was his persistent imprisonment.

Just another dream, a mental kind of masturbation without any particular intent or physical gratification, misdirected stimulation served only to fuel his desire to be free again. Paul sat up in the bed. His heart ached for her. He wanted to find her. She was perfect for him, but she was not there. She could never be there. Incarcerated, forever or as long as he lived and, as he understood it, the average expected lifespan for someone like him with the enhanced package of the attributes was around 225 years.

Outside of his dreams there would be little hope for him to ever find Clare. Even if he was certain she were real, he had lost any possible access to her through the stupidity of chasing less unlikely dream than pursuing his private goddess – the embodiment of perfect for him.

Almost dawn, Paul decided to assume his position at the window, just as he always did whenever first he awakened. Following routine, he did not have to think about his present situation. It freed his mind for other diversions. Yet he observed every slight deviation from whatever happened the previous morning. He refused to give up on the idea that, in time, there would be an opportunity. A single chance of a lifetime was all he needed to escape. Every dreamer awakens. The living nightmare would eventually conclusion. The opportunity would come to wake up from his life.

The guard came as he always did, delivering his breakfast, which he gratefully consumed. He was very hungry, as hungry as he had ever been. It seemed as if the salt air he breathed within the dream increased his appetite, except that seemed silly even as he considered it.

Quietly consuming his eggs, ham, buttered toast and juice – everything synthetic, as good s a prisoner might expect. What was not artificial in his present circumstance? When he finished he returned the tray to the slot in the door from whence it came. Then he sat down on the edge of his bed and picked up the electronic tablet that contained the book he was reading. He found the place where he had left off and went back a few paragraphs and re-read it to jog his memory as to what was going on with the characters and reacquaint him with the plot.

It was a good story. Lyle, one of the good guards he trusted recommended it to him. Lyle told him the news of the day. He was one of the several Duae Lunae fans who played the music on the institution’s public address system just so Paul could hear his sister’s voice.

The day melded into the sameness of any other day as it became a part of a larger routine. Overwhelming him with boredom as he returned to sit at the window as he always did, looking out at the world that, like his life, moment by moment was passing him by.

Unexpectedly, the door to his cell opened. He turned to see what was going on, a little apprehensive as he remembered the torture sessions at the detention facility always began with an unexpected intrusion. The man who stood in the doorway of his cell he did not recognize. Considering he might be a medical or dental technician, Paul might have relaxed – except he had recently endured a complete physical examination that included every orifice.

Unwarned of any visitors, it was unlikely it was official or scheduled in advance. He studied the face of the man, apparently middle-aged and reaffirmed that he had never met him before. There was potential in that as long as the man was unbiased.

Paul stood up. As he walked toward the stranger who had been admitted into his confined, private universe, he stretched out a hand in greeting. “I’m Paul.”

“It’s good to meet you Paul,” the stranger accepted his hand but did not reveal his name in return.

“What’s your business with me?”

“I’m into speculation, probabilities and such. Actually, it has been the passion of my life since I was very young.”

“And that has what to do with me?”

“Actually, it has a great deal to do with you, both directly and indirectly. Do you mind if I sit down?”

“It is the only reason that I can think of for why they gave me a couple of chairs – just on the off chance that anyone would ever come to visit and might actually want to take a load off his or her feet. Sometimes I use the other one of course, like I was just now, sitting beside the window,” Paul said as he went back to the window to retrieve it and bring it to the table where he settled across from the man.

“I can already see that we have a lot in common,” the man said, and then he spent what seemed an uncomfortably inordinate amount of time staring at Paul before he continued. “As I understand it you can kill people with only the power of your mind.”

“Let’s say I can find weaknesses and vulnerabilities to exploit. Almost everyone has them. But yeah, if they turned off the electromagnetic dampers in this place, even if I could find nothing medically wrong with you, I could constrict your throat. At least I could render you unconscious – certainly, disabled for a period of time.”

“Well, if I were to have a choice in my ultimate demise I would opt for something far more dramatic than that.”

“Are you up for a massive coronary?”

“Yes, that would be more dramatic but painful and not in a particularly unique way.”

“A unique way to die would present quite a challenge.”

“I’ll assume I’m safe until you’ve finally arrived at one.”

“You’re safe because the electronics in this facility have just as well as neutered me. The attributes I possess are nearly useless here.” Paul forced a smile but then after the brief amusement passed the one lingering question remained. “Excuse me, but you never did get around to answering my initial question.”

“What is it you need to know?”

“Obviously you didn’t come here to shoot the shit. What is it that brings you here?”

“I’m a private contractor, Mr. Scalero. In the past, I have written artificial intelligence subroutines for very sophisticated control programs. I’ve told the Colonial Authority that I’m an expert in branch prediction decision matrices and can program the Colonial Authority’s computers to better track fugitives. Your recent life is rife with very curious, unanticipated decisions that fascinate them. Nevertheless your behavior was well within the range of the potential variables for rational decisions. Of course, they do not realize this. However, it gave me the opportunity to get past security and meet you.”

“And now we’ve returned once more to the initial question, what’s your business with me?”

“Your decisions were not expected. That’s the essential point for selling my research. In your case the decisions you made meant major, even life and death consequences for many agents. The Colonial Authority wishes to prevent needless danger to their agents and would be very grateful for your cooperation.”

“I’m alive because I promised to be a good boy. I guess that means I will help you in any way I’m able. However, I surmise that the reasons you told them were phony.”

The visitor positioned a tablet where he could jot down notes and then focused intently on Paul. “Look, most of what I said is true. I need to understand the processes behind the decisions you made in order to predict what you might do in the future.”

“In the future, I’ll do the same thing I’m doing now unless I’m relocated or set free.”

“The future is never completely predictable regardless of the conditions in the present,” the visitor said.

“I’ll not debate the point, but from where I view it, I’m not anticipating significant change anytime soon.”

The visitor cleared his throat and then looked directly into Paul’s eyes as he began. “Tell me about the conditions that prevailed before, during and after your escape from the detention facility.”

“I was subject to interrogation. At first it was polite, even cordial and respectful. But the more I refused to cooperate, the more ugly the interrogation became. The more painful parts of my experience came after refusing to provide the information about other members of The Resurrection. Then, after several hours of questioning and psychological torment, the physical torment began.”

“You were physically accosted.”

“That’s way too polite a term for what happened. I had my pubic hairs singed off or plucked out one by one with pliers. Hanks of hair were ripped from my scalp. I was whipped repeatedly with flexible tubing until I was so numb I could only feel the dead pressure of the contact. I was punched with bare fists, slapped, backhanded, picked-up and dropped on my head with force. I was tied-up and flailed until my back was raw and bloody. They administered electric shock to me, through my nipples and genitals. Is that sufficient for you to comprehend or do you need anything more graphic? I assure you I can give you details that will give you bad dreams for the rest of your life.”

“I get the picture.”

“Well you should have been there except that maybe I would have mistaken you for another of the multitude of self-righteous, sadistic sons-of-bitches that predominated throughout that facility. Those agents who died made wrong decisions and were punished. I’m certain I was not the only one who they tortured to within an inch of life in order to extract information. I killed no one who didn’t try to harm or kill me, something which, for whatever reason, was inadmissible in defense at my hearing.”

“Perhaps you were railroaded. Immediately, after the incident a lot of the dead agents’ wives and children were featured in news reports on world viewer crying out for justice against the man who murdered their husbands and fathers. It was a well-orchestrated effort against which you could never have possibly prevailed. Even if it had been revealed how brutally you were tormented, I doubt it would have mattered. Perhaps the same sort of rage that borders on insanity drove you momentarily. Any one of us might have felt the same under the conditions, but in the present world, there is little empathy. There’s certainly no sympathy for someone who kills another or in your case multiple others. That may not be the only reason you’re where you are now, but I’m certain it figured prominently in the decision of the magistrate.”

“Who are you?” Paul finally asked as he focused on the man’s face, considering it in the growing light of the day that shone true through the one and only window of his cell. There was silence for the moment as he waited for a response to his question. Still, all along he was mentally enumerating the imperfections of the disguise. “You’re old, older than you appear.”

“You can sense that how?”

“By my eyesight alone but I dare say you are barely even what you have determined to appear to be.”

The visitor laughed as he relaxed a bit. “There’s an irony about this sort of confinement, Mr. Scalero. They cannot fully monitor you. Ordinary means of surveillance are useless beneath the highly dampened electromagnetic fields that surround you. Since your last escape, you now wear a collar that serves as a failsafe in controlling you. For the moment they are right in their assessments. You do not threaten them.”

“But you’re telling me we’re safe to talk?”

“We’re hardly safe -merely safer than might otherwise be the case within one of the Security Agency’s facilities. If they knew my true purpose here, I’m unafraid they would retaliate. My concern is entirely for your well being. You’re more important than you realize.”

“I feel spent and discarded.”

“In their myopia the Colonial Authority has no further use for you. If they were enlightened they might understand you hold one key to the viability of the future they once sought and still envision. Under normal circumstances, I would be reluctant to tell you except that they’ll never be able to extract any of this conversation from the background noise that they are generating ancillary to the effort to subdue your abilities.”

“I see.”

“I think it’s good for you to know there’s always balance involved. Whatever they do to control you creates an opportunity to defeat their efforts. I offer that just for your future reference and ultimate consideration.”

“You really do want to help me, then.”

“Of course I do.”

“It’s just not easy.”

“There’re some obstacles.” The visitor confirmed. “I assure you, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome.”

“Who are you?” Paul asked again.

The visitor stood up and in the palm of his hand he produced a single alabaster orb that as he withdrew his hand from supporting it, it still floated between them. “I’m seeking one to bear this burden, yet I have not found him or her. Until then, I assist as best I can in the efforts of others to deliver their burdens while preventing the world from destroying any who are its last hope for survival.”

“I’m afraid I already have one of those orbs. So, alas I’m not the one you seek.”

“Ah but that is where you err. The orb is your ticket?”

“My ticket to what?”

“Why is it that none of you have ever once realized the fullest capabilities of these orbs?” The visitor asked rhetorically even as he moved closer to the door of the cell. “Did they take it from you when you were imprisoned?”

Paul stretched out his hand and his orb immediately appeared. “See,” Paul said. “But little good it does me here.”

“Is that a fact or just what you choose to believe? That’s the only real question where the attributes are concerned. This is the truth. Believe it or not, it is what it is. Despite everything you have done, you are not the largest threat to the stability and order of their world.”

“Cristina is?”

“She desires to alter the past. Once the past is changed it will be irreversible for any event stream that follows. There may be no one born with the attributes. She will have created an inalterable sequence of events that terminates those of us who are alive in this context.”

“Why would she seek to end our lives?”

The visitor shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t realize the full impact of what she is doing. Since the very first of us who was able to slip through a veil or cross a fold in time, we have always been mindful that changing anything may produce undesired outcomes. Perhaps neither Cristina nor Alix who is assisting her realizes anything about the significance of events streams or the consequences of what they intend to do. That’s why I’m here. You can reach her. You have a bond with her that no other has.”

Paul looked into to palm and studied the orb. He rolled his hand over and allowed the orb to follow the contours to the back of his hand. Then he stared at it and the orb rose away from his outstretched hand that he quickly withdrew from supporting it in the physical universe.

“Good, very good. You understand at least that.”

“It’s not where it appears to be.”

“In this universe what is?” the visitor asked. “The orb can be your connection to everyone else who possesses one.”

“That was never explained to me.”

“Why should something so obvious ever need to be explained? If any of you had merely done as you were instructed then he or she would have all the secrets of the universe in hand.”

 

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

The Resurrection: Chapter 25 – Destination

**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 reached over and brushed the back of her hand across Staash’s. He turned his head immediately toward her. “We will be arriving soon,” she projected to him telepathically.

He nodded.

She reached across the aisle to where Alix sat. He reached out to greet her gesture. Then he smiled as he asked, “Did you sleep?”

“Yeah, I slept for a while,” she said. “And you?”

“I hate sleeping in railcars,” Alix said. “That’s why Pete and I always played poker on our trips.”

“I thought you liked gambling.”

“Well, I do but Pete and I both know how to cheat, counting cards so…”

“And all this time I thought you were just incredibly lucky.” Cristina smiled. “Here you and Pete were rigging the games between the two of you and taking Keith and Tim’s money.”

“We let them win sometimes.”

“To egg them on.”

“That’s how it’s done,” Alix smiled. “We’re almost there.”

“I know. It will be good to be home.”

“Absolutely!” Alix confirmed, expressing excitement in his pronouncement.

“Staash and I finished the song last night,” she said. “Actually, I finished writing it. Staash knew the song all along, of course. It is in his nature, after all.”

“I just hope the bass lines are something I can play.”

“Actually, despite how complicated it sounds when Staash renders it, there is nothing beyond any of us as musicians. We just need to think a little outside of where we are comfortable.”

“What are you going to call the song?”

“‘The Message’, Cristina said. “That is what it is.”

Alix nodded. “Maybe something edgier, I mean we are going to record it and probably perform it during our shows, right?”

“I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. What do you think we could call it.”

“Call it. ‘Shared Truth’ because we are sharing the truth with them.”

“Maybe,” Cristina said. “Why not call it ‘Our Truth’

“I like it.”

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Maybe, just a little.”

“Emma fed all of us well. Spoiled us, really.”

“I have never eaten so much,” Alix said.

Cristina chuckled. “Emma’s amazing. She even determined something that did not disgust Staash and he ate it.”

“That was some trick.”

“He tells me that he does not need to eat often,” Cristina said. “I don’t understand his internal chemistry. Maybe I never will. He eats gravel and grout and certain types of sand. He says he likes certain metals, not in their refined forms.”

Alix nodded. “You know the old expression that you are what you eat?”

“Yes.”

“In his case he eats what he is.”

Cristina turned as she was still laughing to share with Staash what Alix had said. He responded with a nod, expressing no shared amusement. To him, Alix merely stated a fact.

The railcar slowed as it was arriving at the outer airlock for New Milan, pausing briefly to be cleaned and cleared before admission into the controlled environment of the second city in the world, both in age and size. When the sanitation efforts were over, the railcar progressed to the station, stopping at the docking platform. Cristina and Alix responded to the impending arrival, Staash waited, expecting Cristina to prompt him. He did not want to draw any undo attention. He was already dressed for maximum concealment and understood the need to remain inconspicuous. Despite that every eye on the railcar had focused on him at least ten times.

As they exited the railcar, Pete, Tim and Keith were there waiting for them, each of them shaking Alix’s hand and giving him a friendly embrace before doing the same for Cristina – Keith giving her a friendly peck on her cheek. Cristina immediately turned toward Staash, “Keith, Tim and Pete, this is Staash.”

“Good to meet you,” Keith offered his hand. Then, so did Pete and Tim, each of them offering a hand, which Staash shook with his but left each of them to wonder why he was wearing a mitten, and one with a very rough texture.

“Staash has been helping me write a song,” Cristina said. “You guys are going to love it.”

“Really?” Keith said.

“It’s nothing like we have ever done before,” she said.

“I’ll look forward to playing it then,” Pete said as he winked at Alix. “Alix and I can work out the rhythm and the back beat. We’ll master it and everyone else can just follow it from there”

“I have the utmost confidence in all of you,” Cristina said.

Pete patted Alix on the back then corralled his shoulders, giving him a warm, friendly hug. To his mind his best friend had succeeded where everyone one else was too timid.

Keith and Tim had already started toward the baggage claim. Keith pulled the cart he had rented behind him while Tim posted at the carousel and waited until the luggage from the railcar was made available, and then he looked for either Alix or Cristina to identify their bags for him to yank from the conveyor so he could hand the bags to Keith.

When they had collected everything they had brought, Keith piloted the cart toward the exit and then out into the garage where he had docked his coach.

In the early days when the band played exclusively in local clubs, Keith’s coach came in handy. It was a converted commercial delivery vehicle with plenty of room in the back. In the cargo area he had added seats that folded up and away to allow more room for the band’s equipment. For the moment it served as the perfect vehicle for the remaining three members of Duae Lunae to pick up the bassist, the lead vocalist and their odd-looking, large and extremely quiet friend.

When they pulled out of the docking garage it was rather dark for the time of day. Rain cascaded down the sides of the dome above them. It had been stormy for about the past week, Keith explained.

“At times it has been quite a light show,” Pete added, just as some lightning lit up the sky beyond the dome. Inside the dome the evening lights had illuminated even though it was late morning.

“One of the local channels on world viewer did a special report on what it will be like for us in the future without domes,” Tim said. “We’ll have to carry these things to prevent the rain from getting us wet. I forget what they called them.”

“Or dress in waterproof clothing,” Cristina allowed.

“Yeah, I guess we could do that,” Tim said.

“Well, it will be a while before the domes are dismantled,” Keith said. “So, I’m not going to worry about a little rain.”

“So the studio is reserved?” Cristina asked.

“All taken care of,” Keith said. “While you and Alix were off having fun, some of us were busy back here getting everything set for our next recording effort.”

“By the way, it was not all fun,” Alix said.

“No?” Keith pursued with a glance toward Cristina.

“There were many times that I was very glad Alix was along,” she said. “Lots of strange things happening.”

“So, what’s your friend’s story?” Keith asked.

“We met Staash on one of our adventures,” Cristina said.

“He’s one seriously big dude,” Tim said, glancing back into the cargo area where Staash’s mass was occupying two jump seats.

“He is a Sakum’mal,” Alix said, receiving a glare from Cristina, but as Alix shrugged, she finally nodded.

“I’ve never heard of that nationality,” Keith said.

“Have you heard of sand-morphs?” Cristina asked.

“I can’t say I have,” Keith responded.

“Sand-morphs were here, on this planet before we came. They lived deep in the caverns. When humans sterilized the world to prepare it for terraforming they killed every sand-morph,” Pete said.

“Except Staash,” Keith allowed.

“No, we brought Staash back from the past.”

“How’d you manage that?” Keith laughed.

“I have the attributes. I can shift in time and space – do some other things.”

Keith overrode the auto controls and pulled the coach over to the curb. He swiveled in his seat and stared first at Alix, then Cristina.

“It’s true,” she corroborated. “I have the attributes too.”

“Sheesh!” Keith said shaking his head. “I never saw that coming.”

“Staash represents organic, silicon-based life,” Alix explained. “Supposedly, through some grievous oversight the early terraform engineers did not detect them. They said there was no life here.”

“Now, we have proof to the contrary,” Cristina said.

“The Colonial Authority has lied to us?” Pete asked feigning incredulity. “Say it ain’t so!” Then he turned to take a good look at Staash. Beneath the hood he wore, Staash’s eyes seemed to glow, creating an eerie effect, giving Pete shivers.

“Is he safe?” Keith asked.

“Despite his size, he is really very gentle,” Alix said.

Keith piloted the coach back out onto the street and returned its navigation system to full automatic as they continued on toward Cristina’s apartment.

“You must be tired,” Keith said. “It’s a long trip.”

“Yeah, it was,” Alix said.

“Actually, I feel okay,” Cristina said. “I mean, I could sleep some more, but I took several naps on the way.”

“I hate trying to sleep in railcars,” Keith said.

“Me too,” Pete said. “But I could have done it except that I liked beating you and Tim at poker so much.”

“Hey now!” Tim cautioned.

“You are the worst poker player I have ever met,” Pete said.

Cristina laughed. “He has other redeeming qualities.”

Tim stuck out his tongue at Pete, but then laughed.

When they pulled up at the curb in front of the apartment building, both Alix and Cristina exited the coach. Keith popped the hatch in back and they collected their things. Alix assisted Staash in stepping down from the coach.

“You guys are welcome to come in,” Cristina called back. “I mean, we haven’t spent any time together since the end of the tour. I’m sure we all have some stories to tell.”

Keith smiled, and then looked at Pete and Tim, receiving shrugs in response to his silent query. “Yeah, maybe we can come in for a bit. Just throw us out when you are tired of us.”

“I never get tired being with you guys. You’re my family.”

Keith, Tim and Pete exited the coach. They followed Cristina, Alix and Staash into the lobby while Keith directed his coach to vacant dock on the ground large enough to accommodate. When he finished, he joined the others and they all rode the elevator up to Cristina’s floor.

The apartment struck her as being much smaller than she remembered. Certainly, it was smaller than Julie’s place and she already knew it was considerably smaller that the apartment above the coffee shop. Still, it felt like home and it was good to return after a long time away. Really, even the period after the tour seemed like dream between extended absences.

Keith and Tim took places at either end of the couch as Pete picked up the remote and activated world viewer. After directing Staash where to sit, Alix and Cristina tended to their luggage, setting it aside to unpack later.

“You guys thirsty?”

“Staash is always thirsty,” Alix said.

“I know that. He went through all the canteens Emma.”

“Staash no want to die.”

Cristina nodded. “Anyone else?”

“Some tea would be good, if it is no trouble,” Pete said.

“I can make some tea. It is going to be instant though.”

“That’s fine,” Keith said. “Don’t trouble yourself too much.”

When the tea was made, Alix helped Cristina deliver it to the members of the band. Then she returned to the kitchen and poured out a glass of ice-cold water for Staash who consumed it all in a manner of seconds. “Do you need more?” she asked.

“If no trouble.”

She returned to the kitchen and brought an entire pitcher of cold water with her. She refilled his glass then set the rest on the table where Staash was seated. “This really is uncomfortable for you, isn’t it?”

“Humans like dry. Staash understands.”

“I can change the humidity in here but only slightly. Maybe that will help though,” she went to the wall mounted control for the heating and cooling system and reprogrammed the humidity to be higher and the temperature to be lower. “There,” she said as she returned to the dinette. “We’ll see how that does.”

“But you will not be comfortable.”

“I can adapt,” she said.

“Thank you,” Staash said.

“No problem. You’re my guest. I need to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.”

“Easier sending Staash home, I think.”

Alix turned to look at them, and then got up from his chair in the living room and joined Cristina and Staash. “It is only a little while longer. Cristina needs you right now, Staash. We have to record the message.”

“Staash understands.”

“I need you to go over everything I need to know how to create the message,” Cristina said. “It needs to be like you’re doing it, not me.”

“Staash make easy,” he reached out and with his scoop-like hand he gently caressed her face.

She trembled ever so slightly at the contact. Her eyes met his and for an instant everything else about her seemed to fall away into oblivion.

“You not resist Staash.”

Cristina stared into his obsidian eyes. Whether her sensation was falling toward it, or floating near it, a void filled her view. Then, she saw her mother and father, each of them holding an infant, knowing full well she was seeing the past when she and her brother we newly born. Then she saw Paul, running away from someone, ducking in behind a dumpster then jumping out, surprising his pursuers. They fired weapons at him but he merely raised his hand and the projectiles their weapons launched toward him flew in multiple errant directions. Afterwards their weapons became too hot for them to hold. They dropped them and each of the weapons melted into discrete puddles of molten metal as the remaining explosive shells popped, spraying ball of liquid metal through the air.

They stepped back, cowering in his presence as he walked past them and escaped. She knew him, sensed what he was sensing, and even heard the thoughts that were going through his mind. She had to back away, otherwise she would lose herself.

“I can’t,” she projected to the Sakum’malien.

“You must trust Staash.”

She closed her eyes and turned away, shivering as she felt Alix’s strong arms wrapping around her.

“What are you doing to her?” Alix asked accusingly.

“Staash help see truth. To know Sakum’malien, first know her truth.”

“It’s okay, Alix. It really is okay. I asked him. Just I was not expecting this sort of answer.”

Keith and Tim had been dueling one another in a video game while Pete watched, prepared to take on the eventual winner. On the preview monitors were the events of the day from all over the world, including a report from Star City that suddenly drew Alix’s attentions. He snatched up the remote and paused the game in progress, to Keith and Tim’s immediate protest. He brought up the report onto the main screen and restarted it from the beginning.

“Sources in Star City report an incident at the Colonial Authority’s maximum security facility. Several prisoners temporarily escaped but were immediately recaptured. The public was never in danger. The escape was blamed on a momentary fluctuation in the power to the facility.”

Alix turned to Cristina. “It is bullshit. It always is”

“Of course it is,” she said quietly.

“Paul escaped.”

She shrugged, but then vocalized. “He is trying to come here but he can’t.”

Alix restored the game for Keith and Tim and then sat down at the table. “You’re sure.”

Cristina nodded, then turning toward Staash she vocalized something that sounded like music.

Staash responded with a smile. “Now learned talk.”

“Now we can begin collaboration,” she said.

“Anytime, pretty lady,” Staash projected to her mind.

She adjusted her chair for comfort and then stared once more into his eyes. Where she had been frightened before now she was resolved to endure whatever was to come.

Alix interrupted but only briefly to kiss her lightly on her forehead before returning to the living room. For what she needed to do she had to be alone with Staash.

The video game between Keith and Tim continued, Pete still waiting for the winner until Alix challenged him for the rights to take on the eventual winner of Keith and Tim. “Just like old times,” Pete said.

“Yes and no,” Alix responded but as he was not challenged he did not bother to explain his underlying meaning.

As Cristina sat at the table, staring at Staash, she saw the spiraling energy of thought, emanating from Staash’s core, intersecting with the flow of the energy of the universe. Her essence intersecting with the very same flow and it made perfect sense to her. It was intended to be.

A symphony of sounds constituting a single conversation as Staash’s mind approached hers. A smile physically expressed on her lips but otherwise she was connected to her body by a single thread of continuity. Staash could lead her away, taking her anywhere and she would still ever be able to return to her origin. It was security for her. The realization meant freedom to explore wherever he led her.

Staash showed her how every Sakum’mal learns language. From the moment of birth to the first moments of awareness of being, he demonstrated how the patterns form, how the mind is molded around the multilayered thoughts and expressions that form the Sakum’malien language. Curious nuances of expression, which at times bent the rules of grammar, were permitted for dramatic effect. She understood. Showing her places he remembered from his home world, wondrous sights, sounds and smells he associated with everything about his personal experience in his world of origin – a strange, dark world in the outer range of the terrestrial sphere of a massive red star.

As Staash withdrew from her mind, his mission of education completed for the moment, again she became aware of her immediate surroundings. She felt Alix’s presence. Within reach of his mind, she touched his soul. He was glancing her way, watching her, concerned but not worried as he waited for the end of the video game between Keith and Tim so he and Pete could go head to head.

She probed for anyone else but there were only the members of her band who mattered.

“How long?” she asked in a raspy voice as she opened her eyes and looked upon Alix’s smiling face.

“Not that long,” Alix said. “Maybe it took twenty minutes or a little more.”

She nodded.

“It’s almost sun set. It’s hard to tell. It’s raining again,” Alix explained as he sat down beside her at the table, still glancing over his shoulder for the eventual result of the video game.

“Has it been raining all afternoon?”

“Yeah, it’s been wet all day outside the dome. I didn’t know what was going on at first – watching and waiting here beside you, but I could tell you were breathing. So I didn’t worry.”

She touched the back of his hand with hers. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She looked across the table at Staash. Maybe only she knew that he was exhausted and resting. She smiled. “He showed me just about everything.”

“You know how the language works now?”

“I know how to write it and how to read it. I know how to sing it but I lack the multiple voices and the overall vocal range. I think instruments can fill in the tonal gaps.”

“Then we have to do that.”

“Alix, I’m not really sure how much of what I say to him he gathers. By far he has the most intelligent mind I’ve ever encountered. He suffers from a huge inferiority complex. He doesn’t believe his poetry has merit or value. His own kind ostracized him and exiled him to a colony because of his poetry.”

“Where he died,” Alix said. “Along with everyone else.”

“That’s what we must change.”

“For his sake,” Alix said as he looked across the table as where Staash was sitting, resting after his own fashion.

“We have to do it for our sake. The plague visited upon us was their revenge.”

“What?”

“Shifting like you do in space and time is child’s play for them.”

“You mean he can do it?”

“If he wanted to. To his kind it is pointless. They are very patient,” Cristina said. “They sought revenge for what we did to their colony. They did not realize all of humanity is not alike. And so, their method of revenge does not affect those of us with the attributes. So, in a way the means of their revenge actually brought of differences together and we’re the result.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 24 – Something for All

**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.**

After lunch, Arnie and Alix went in the supply coach to buy more grout, some crushed limestone and pea gravel for Staash. The variety delighted the Sakum’mal. Hw washed it down with a gallon and a half of water. Still, Cristina was gravely concerned for the sand-morph’s health. The relatively dry environment of humans was extremely bad for him.

Alix picked up a humidifier while they were out and positioned it near to Staash. He said it helped but Alix doubted it was enough humanity. Staash loved the dampness found in musty caves, something no human dwelling could imitate for long without producing mildew that was harmful for humans. It made him wonder how the two species could really ever share the world, which was Cristina’s overall goal.

Arnie went back to the house to fetch everyone to share the dinner Emma had spent most of the afternoon preparing, a roast with assorted vegetables and fruit and garden salad. Afterward, Everyone else bused their tables, while Arnie and Alix swept the floors. Chase and Neville mopped them. All four of them wiped down the tables and made everything in the front room nice and clean for Emma and Arnie in the morning.

The ladies rinsed the pots, pans, dishes cups, saucers, bowls, glasses and flatware before loading it into the dishwasher to be sterilized to the city code. Emma added detergent, programmed the timer and activated the machine. While the dishes were washing, they cleaned, swept and mopped the kitchen, wiped down the counters and, in the end, helped the men carry out the trash to load it into the matter reactor to be converted into energy and stored in the batteries to supplement the energy needs of the building.

When the dishes were finished, everyone put them away. Then both Emma and Arnie thanked everyone or their kind, considerate help.  After saying goodbye to Cristina and Alix, Arnie took everyone but Emma home in the supply coach. Emma stayed after for a few minutes to get the place ready for the next day’s business before she took her private coach home for the night.

Alix ensured everything was locked up while Cristina joined Staash upstairs. When he had shut off all the lights downstairs, Alix joined them. The Sakum’mal was sitting on the end of the couch, staring blankly off into space while Cristina was taking a shower. The world viewer was switched off, so he did not even have that to focus on. It seemed very strange. It did not seem normal even for what little they understood about one another.

“Are you okay?” Alix asked him.

“What difference?”

“What do you mean?”

“Here or not, what difference?” Staash attempted to clarify.

“We care about you,” Alix said. “Otherwise we would have never brought you here.”

“Caring made separate my kind. Now, last Sakum’mal survivor. All colonies dead. Staash not belong here. Nice and polite friends, Staash perform. They thank me. Nice, but Staash different. Never be human. Not want different. Alix never Sakum’mal. Not wait either.”

“You’re here to foster better understanding.”

“What point? Sakum’malien dead. All dead.”

Cristina emerged form the shower with a towel wrapped around her. Having overheard the last part of the conversation she was emotionally touch, wiping a tear away with the back of her hand.

Alix looked at Cristina who seemed to have nothing immediately ready to say. Then he spoke. “I can fix some of that, you know.”

“Staash appreciate effort.”

“Then what’s the issue?” Alix asked.

Staash stared at Alix for several moments then, Alix not Staash looked away.

“Okay, I get it,” Alix broke the silence. “There has to be a better answer, a greater solution that allows everyone who died eighty years ago to live and produce offspring. Even you could have some children and grandchildren by now.”

“Produce children not necessity for Staash,” he said. “Other Sakum’malien vital to peace and existence. Sakum’malien social more than humans. Hermit concept only human. Barely understand. Exile worse than death, friends and family forever away.”

“They did that to you and yet you want to go back?”

Staash lowered his eyes. “You are friend but not Sakum’mal. Cristina speaks language. but not Sakum’mal.”

“We love and respect you,” Cristina said. “I admire your gift of poetry.”

“Sakum’malien no think Staash poetry special.”

“Be that as it may, it was amazing to me,” she said.

“You liked it that much?”

Cristina responded with a smile.

“Arnie did too. Emma, Neville and Mary were very impressed. Chase and Julie cried, too – same as me. Everyone was entertained,” Cristina said.

“Staash thanks all. Feel appreciation. Not what Staash really need.”

“Did the Sakum’malien ever appreciate your poetry?” Alix asked.

“My kind, have hope. Always hope.”

Alix nodded. “I can take you back there, anywhere, anytime you want, even before you ever met us. Between Cristina and me, I think we can make it so you’ll never remember any of this or even know in five days you and everyone else will die.”

“Staash prefer know. Told others. Not believe. Staash outsider, different…”

“You would die, too,” Alix said. “Same as it was before Cristina and I came and met you.”

Staash slowly nodded his head. He knew that sobering assessment was correct. He hung his head and after a time he began to sob after his fashion, feeling sorry for himself and his plight.

Alix looked to Cristina for some brave words of encouragement but she was as tapped out as he. Staash’s situation touched them both in a way they could never think of subjecting him to his original fate.

Suddenly Staash looked up, appearing inspired. “Cristina come warn everyone. Make message credible now.”

Cristina looked toward Alix and shrugged. Certainly it was a thought that had occurred to them before and they attempted it, but maybe Staash knew something they did not about communicating to the masses of his kind. If such a thing were possible it made a good deal of sense. Of course, Cristina would be the logical one. She understood and spoke some of Staash’s language. But she would need Alix to go there and return.

There was the lingering question that haunted them before, what sort of world would they return to if the Sakum’malien survived the sterilization of the planet?

“We need to think this through,” Cristina said in response to Staash’s cold, seemingly emotionless stare.

“What point parading Staash?” the Sakum’mal asked. “Only one here now, ever! No other come. Resurrection dead ones pointless.”

“If we return him and help him prove to the others…” Alix began.

“They wouldn’t listen before. What if they won’t listen at all, ever?”

“They have to,” Alix said.

Cristina went into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. “I need to learn Sakum’malien,” Cristina said before sipping from the glass. After downing the entire glass she continued, “I need to be fluent in it to deliver a message.”

Staash stood, coming toward her, his eyes pierced her soul as he said, “We start right now, then.”

Cristina pursed her lips. “I do not learn as quickly as you do.”

“Begin now, finish sooner,” Staash replied eagerly.

“Unlike you I cannot speak with multiple, simultaneous voices. As you already appreciate, your language is more like what we call music. But each of you is like a small choir. Do you understand?”

“Much Sakum’malien pretty only, meaning little. Leaders speak, nice sound, empty.”

Alix laughed. “Politicians are the same, regardless of the species.”

Cristina smiled. “So I don’t have to sound exactly like you.”

“Close enough good.”

“Even so there is another element that I cannot even begin to express. In order to even attempt to speak it I would have to have several instruments covering the tones I cannot reach with my vocal range alone.”

“We need the band, then,” Alix said.

“I thought about that before. I cannot begin to fathom how to reproduce it though, something that is so natural to Staash that he ignores like we use articles in speech to make the metering flow properly in the cadence of our speech.”

“He usually ignores them in his English.”

“He knows they serve not purpose to the meaning and our metering is as alien to him as our words – more so actually. Sakum’malien has a different rhythm.”

“I would have to make several trips and frankly taking you there was enough but bringing you and Staash back wore me out.”

“I know,” Cristina sympathized.

“It’s maybe possible to take everyone there, but all our equipment? Besides that, how would we power everything?”

“It would be unfathomably complicated,” Cristina agreed.

“We could record our band performing the instrumentals and vocals,” Alix suggested, and then responded in kind to the smile that brightened Cristina’s face. “Use overdubs on the vocals so that all you need to do is sing the last part as the lead.”

“Okay, then nothing really changes all that much. We go to New Milan, just as we planned. Except, instead of parading Staash around for a media circus–”

“That the Colonial Authority would probably discredit anyway,” Alix interjected.

“Yes, well Staash can help me write the music to approximate the voices that I need to communicate the warning to the Sakum’malien. When the band has recorded it we take the recording and a portable player with us when we return to Staash’s home.”

“It’s a great plan,” Alix approved.

“If we succeed,” Cristina began, but then paused for a long, thoughtful time.

“Does that change our lives?” Alix asked the question she could not immediately answer and did not want to contemplate.

After several lingering moments she finally responded. “The real question is when we come back will the world be different?” She finally found the nerve to express her greatest personal reservation. “ If what we do is important enough, what happens to us doesn’t matter.”

Alix looked into her eyes, “If I’m with you nothing will change. What is shared now between us, that’s inviolate.”

“Are you sure?’

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Alix said. “We’re connected by our souls. How can it be different than it is. Just the situation changes, you know?”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Cristina said.

“I would die before I let you get away,” he said to her. “As for everything else, who knows? I suppose it’ll depend on how many of the Sakum’malien listen and survive the sterilization.”

Staash did not understand every word that Alix and Cristina were exchanging but just enough. “You take me back, now?” Staash requested asked.

“Not yet,” Cristina said. “Alix can take you back anytime and it can be just like you never left if that’s what you prefer. So that’s not an issue.”

“Others see Staash away. Then return. Otherwise no one believes.”

Cristina nodded, conceding the point.

“You and I have a song to write, a message to the Sakum’malien warning them of the impending disaster. Then we will teach the music to our band so we can record the music, making it sound as close as possible to what your language sounds like.”

Staash understood but also held out some reservation because there were parts of the language that could not be reproduced in any way by a human, as they exceeded the spectrum that a human could perceive. They would have to address that if it turned out to be necessary. It was a common enough element of their language but sometimes the same or very similar messages could be delivered without the use of the higher forms.

Regardless of the challenges ahead, Staash was eager to begin. He immediately went to the table and sat down, waving Cristina over toward him. “Learn everything Sakum’malien,” he said.

“I want to but what I need right now is to learn a message to give to those you left behind.”

Staash nodded. “Human speak but speak not with words alone. Body talks as well.”

“Of course. Most of what we say to one another is through observation of gestures and what we even call body language.”

“Sakum’malien and human not so different,” Staash revealed, then focusing on her eyes he linked to her telepathically. “In mass communication, the physical element is added. Mathematics is part of this, positioning and angles of bodies speak volumes to the masses that observe, even to the point that the message is very different than what others that do not perceive the fullness of the expression can never know.”

Cristina stared at him even as her mind raced with the possibilities of what he had just revealed. She tried to fathom how it was possible, but then, Staash turned toward her and uttered a simple phrase in his language, a phrase that involved the entire spectrum of expression for him. Suddenly she understood how the language fit together into one complete form of expression. It was compact and ingenuously simple. Her real challenge was figuring out how to record a message of the same clarity and delivering it with the same impact.

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 23 – Showtime

**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.**

Each of them sat at tables arranged in a semicircle creating a makeshift stage. Everyone enjoyed the breakfast Emma prepared while waiting for Staash’s promised performance.

Amazed and speechless, the humans sat in awe of the Sakum’mal as he recited an epic poem in his native language that recounted the history of his kind, though the meaning of the poem was lost on the listeners – except for Cristina and Alix.

Alix held Cristina’s hand. Both of them were moved to tears as Alix received some of the poem’s meaning from his connection with her. No one could tear his or her eyes from Staash as his voice lilted and flowed, as if her were singing in five distinct harmonious voices. He spoke of the legends and lore he was taught when he was very young. Then, when he finished, Cristina prompted for him to recite one of his poems.

The intense beauty of his native language captivated the listeners’ souls even if none of them except for Cristina understood anything he was saying. To her it was a revelation, spawning an epiphany about the construction of complicated musical progressions that blended fundamental tones and harmonics beginning and ending at the same time but within were allowed to evolve counter-rhythmically along many tangents. Even as she listened to the multiple layers of beautiful expression, ideas came for how to employ what she was learning, how to invent and create something new, something never before attempted – something she was certain Duae Lunae could perform.

Abruptly, to the mutual disappointment of all, Staash’s presentation ended. He turned to look toward Cristina who was still sitting at the nearest table beside him with her eyes closed, not wanting to permit any distraction that might prevent her capturing every part of the intricate tapestry of the alien’s multiple voices. Alix released her hand and stood. Then stepping forward he clapped his hands, prompting everyone else to do the same.

Staash frowned with his incomprehension of the need for clapping hands.

“It’s called applause,” Alix said as he approached. “You have seen it in the response of the crowd in the videos you watched.”

“Ah,” Staash said. “Wondered why? At times clapping matched the rhythm of the music but at other times it seemed to progress on its own unaccompanied until music began anew. Staash believed it was part of music, the crowd made own part of music.”

“What an interesting perspective!” Chase exclaimed. “Yes, the live performance of music is always different than a studio recording. There is always a level of excitement that is missing from something recorded live.”

“The audience shows their connection with the music and at the end, the random clapping and cheering expresses their gratitude for the performance. That is why I am clapping, now.” Alix repeated his clapping, as did everyone else. “As a performer you are expected to bow, like this,” he demonstrated. Staash immediately complied even as everyone else in the coffee shop stood, continuing to applaud.

“That was wonderful,” Emma said. “When you speak it is like a choir of voices singing in harmonic perfection.”

“I’m grateful for privilege sharing and receive appreciation,” Staash replied.

“It was quite good,” Neville confirmed. “I do not begin to fathom the meaning but the way it sounded was intensely beautiful.”

“Thank you so much,” Staash said, still rigidly adhering to what he understood was proper.

Cristina opened her eyes, her broad smile likewise revealing how much she appreciated what she had heard. She stood to embrace Staash as best she could as his bulk provided a huge challenge for her to wrap her arm around. “I loved it so much my words fail to begin expressing my emotions,” she said low enough so that only he could hear. “I understood it.”

“Staash is glad. Relieved you liked it.”

Immediately Neville, Mary, Chase and Julie surrounded them, patting Staash on the back which he had learned from observation of world viewer was a physically expressed compliment that was even possibly beyond a handshake but not as good as a hand shake along with a pat on the back. Then he received handshakes from Emma and Arnie who also took time to express their verbal emotional commentary on the experience his recitation evoked.

When everyone else stepped away and returned the tables in the coffee shop to the usual places and, having finished the breakfasts Emma prepared, they bused their tables. Aix took care of Cristina’s plates and cups, leaving her behind. She stared into Staash’s eyes so intensely that it made him wonder what was going on inside her mind. Still, she blocked his access.

“I want to write music like your poetry,” Cristina finally said.

“Staash teach you,” he offered.

“Really?”

“It not hard. Foundation of language you have. Rest is fun.”

“I understand its utilization of fundamental and harmonic tones. The breakdown for me seems to come from understanding how the message is conveyed. Your language has words but they are of lesser importance than the conveyance of the underlying tone of the message.”

“From limited time here, I observe utter dependence on words in your languages. Misunderstanding between people it causes,” Staash said.

“I think you’re right,” Cristina said. “Music transcends language, even for us. Music is a language humans have in common despite culture or their different words. Music may differ culturally but still it’s always music.”

“For Sakum’malien no distinction. Language and music is same. There is more, also – mathematics, you call it. All is integrated language universal. You understand?”

Cristina returned her chair to the table where she sat for Staash’s recitation. “I have a lot of questions about how your language works, but unfortunately, I don’t know where to begin to ask.”

“Other way, better way. Same with Sakum’malien – always better direct link. Uttered language for mass communication and entertainment, nothing more.”

Cristina smiled. “I need a lot of help, I’m afraid.”

Staash laughed after his own gurgling fashion. “Here Staash outsider – alone, odd entity. Product of race existing elsewhere but this world colony dead.”

“Surely your world knows by now others know the colony here is gone. It was eighty years ago.”

Staash nodded his understanding of the time interval.

“How would they react?”

“Despair. Beyond. Not sure what they do.”

“Would they retaliate?”

“Depends how received news. Might see pathetic misunderstanding. Sakum’malien nature not violent. They grieve loss. Every life cherished. Some want punish guilty, warding off  adventurous expansions to our territories.”

“What if it was possible for those who were preserved to be resurrected?”

“Staash puzzled over resurrection you discussed. All were lost. Some bodies well-preserved,” Staash said. “Sakum’malien are dead. Nothing changes dead. Living again, would be infant if spirit comes present. Infant knows nothing, not Sakum’malien ways.”

“You’re sure?”

“Dead is dead,” Staash said. “Body contains spirit only. Unless human know ways returning spirit once departed.”

“Paul, my brother believes it’s possible.”

Staash shook his head. “Humans and their technologies no secret humans know restoring life to dead. Better to go back. Warn colony enclaves disaster coming,” Staash suggested. “Maybe, message persuasive enough, coming from voice not mine, someone learn ways like you wanting understanding Sakum’malien life and language.”

Cristina smiled. “That was what I’d hoped you did for your colony.”

“Listening they would be still live now,” Staash said. “Nothing change, but Staash here. Doubt they live undetected all eighty years.”

“So, Arnie needs to open the front door,” Alix interrupted. “Chase and Julie are going with Neville and Mary to crash at Arnie and Emma’s house. Maybe we take this upstairs.”

“Yeah you’re right,” Cristina said, taking Alix’s hand they followed Staash back upstairs. “Staash and I have been having a very interesting conversation. He thinks the objectives of The Resurrection will ultimately fail. Even if they are able to bring a Sakum’mal back from the dead, he or she will have no memories.”

Alix nodded, as she closed the door of their apartment behind them. “I’ve been thinking about the plans they had, what I know of them, anyway. I’m beginning to understand why Paul was trying to recruit Chase and you. His ultimate goal was to find all The Twenty-Four.”

“Why?”

“In almost every way that I can tell, each of us we are the same, just we have slight differences in our abilities. It goes well beyond the mere distinction of gender that makes us unique in that way. You have empathetic and telepathic abilities. I can slip through space and time and even cause things to ignite from a distance.”

“Chase has telekinesis. Julie can become invisible.”

“Really?”

Cristina nodded. “I’m not sure what other talents they have.”

“We discover our differences through experience and practice. The orbs seem to enhance that. What would it be like if the abilities of every one of us, each of The Twenty-Four could work in concert and harmony in order to achieve a common goal? I think that was what Paul wanted to do.”

Cristina tilted her head to one side.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? We cannot accomplish what we must ultimately do alone or even in pairs. But how formidable could we be as a group? All of our talents brought to bear simultaneously, who is there to resist us? What is there that we couldn’t do? We could change the world to suit us.”

“Bring life to the dead?” Cristina chided. “I think not.”

“It was a recruiting tool, nothing more. I doubt anyone believed it was possible but they could enlist the aid of those who had remorse and sympathy for the tragic loss of Sakum’malien life, once they showed them the evidence.”

“Still, if it was the goal to bring The Twenty-Four together, what is our combined potential?” she asked.

“The question is how do we find all the others?”

“Neville has an idea.” Cristina said. “I don’t fully trust him, though.”

“Because he works for the Colonial Authority?”

“That has a lot to do with it,” she said.

“He isn’t like the assholes we have dealt with. He listens and he thinks beyond the regulations.”

“So there’s purpose in our meeting him now.”

“There’s purpose in everything we’ve done,” Alix said. “Was there ever a doubt?”

Cristina laughed. “Now you finally believe in your destiny.”

“Our destiny, you mean. I’ve been skeptical at times, but I’ve been willing to allow for the possibility there was some pattern or plan we were fulfilling. Now, I understand. It’s very hard to discount what’s obvious.”

Staash had been sitting, quietly listening. But then in the momentary lull between Alix and Cristina he interjected, “What happens to Staash?”

“We’re going to New Milan,” Cristina said. “We know more people there. We have better contacts. Chase might be better connected in Andromeda and it’s a lot closer but I want to be in New Milan, with our band, our friends. Chase has contacts there as well. So, it’s not like he cannot help us even from Andromeda.”

“We need to use those contacts to get the local media on our side. We need to lead them out to the cavern that we visited, where we found you, Staash,” Alix said.

“Except the Colonial Authority controls them. They won’t buck the system. They could lose their contacts and sources of information. Worse they could end up in prison.”

“With us.”

“We need to expose the harsh truth to one and all – get the masses behind us, seeking reform and openness.”

“Seeking the ouster of the powers that exist now and hold dominion over us won’t work.”

“Why not?”

“To get the media to work with us we have to be sneaky – as sneaky as the Colonial Authority.”

“Don’t you think the media would benefit being free of control and authority,” Cristina countered. “Access to knowledge and information should be free to everyone.”

“You are sounding like Paul.”

“Maybe Paul has some of it just about right,” Cristina said. “There cannot be any change until the Colonial Authority is discredited and forced to accept the change – or overthrown.”

“What do you suggest in its place?”

“A free government, totally responsive to the people.”

“There has never been such a thing, never anything responsive to all people,” Alix said. “I’m not sure it would work, anyway. Human history had been about compromises. Forcing an entrenched government to turn over power has only come from revolution and usually violent wars.”

“We know it won’t be easy,” Cristina said.

“Hardly anything worth doing is easy,” Alix said. “My dad used to tell me that. It always pissed me off because he used it whenever I was about to give up on something because it was hard. But he was right.”

“We can’t let anyone parade Staash around,” Cristina said. “The real media circus will begin if we do that. It won’t be easy for Staash.”

“Staash tired learning about humans. Want go home, back life to normal,” he said.

Cristina nodded, and then she stood again and walked over to Staash and embraced him, almost able to touch her fingertips around his massiveness. “You have diminished,” she said as she stepped back.

“Sakum’malien live together, all things good. All share in life – alone only bad. Humans be alone can survive. Me, alone – die here, soon.”

Cristina lowered her head, “That’s what we must work on,” she said. “Nothing else supersedes that in importance.”

“Staash grateful, pretty lady.”