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

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 28 – Unexpected

**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 fought her petty apprehensions. Grand designs and her destiny were before her, but she considered the betrayal of her heritage. Maybe it was an illusion, something borne of her conscience, but it felt true.

A human father and mother who possessed a special characteristic, a gene that made her special passed it on to her. She shared a connection through her heritage, maybe she was not totally but she was human enough to wrestle with the guilt of the species’ potential extinction. Whatever she did, she could not prevent it any other way but the reset the world.

Across the room Alix stood patiently awaiting her decision, sensing it was already the right time. She needed to be as settled in her decision and as focused on the tasks ahead as he already was, otherwise what they needed to do would never be properly executed.

Then there was an interruption, unexpected but hardly a surprise. They were both aware of the intentions of others. Had she not foreseen the possibility? Certainly he had. So, they expected him.

As she looked up, she saw his smiling face emerge from the shadows, a presence but he was not physically there. “You know this is not the time or the place,” she said.

“How is it not right? Is it not a brother’s place to be with his sister in her time of grave choices?”

“We grew up apart, always strangers.”

“True, but even so, look at what we have in common. We both know the truth, don’t we?”

“You think you know,” Cristina said.

“Oh, I know. Perhaps in the sum of all knowledge I’m yet lacking.” Paul laughed. “But I know the truth. Look, it has even set me free!”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m here because I’m concerned. You must realize you’re venturing along an unwise and highly speculative course.”

“Is it you who has determined that or is it some other’s espoused wisdom?”

“I had a visitor come to my cell,” Paul confessed. “He came unannounced but before he left he taught me how I could be in the cell and yet also be liberated.”

“Through the orb,” Alix said.

“Yes,” Paul glanced toward him, mentally registering the need to observe him more closely as he obviously underestimated him.

Cristina stepped back but did not retreat from her resolve. “So you are doing the bidding of the couriers? Who was he? Let’s see, did he still have an orb? That would make it Hummingbird or Sparrow. Both of them came to me and we spoke at length and they taught me things about the orb. So, whichever it was, it isn’t like he’s unaware of my potential or my destiny. I don’t understand why he didn’t choose to communicate his concerns more directly.”

“They have always been a mystery,” Paul said. “Maybe he felt you might listen to your brother. What concerns the couriers is the course you’re pursuing. That’s what separates you from me and the others.”

“The course I’m on is why any of us exist, Paul. Can’t you see that? I know what I’m doing. I’ve thought this through. It may not be the only way, but it’s the best of all possible alternatives.”

“What makes you think you can perceive all possible alternatives?”

Cristina shrugged. “I guess it’s mainly instinct. If there are other alternatives they’re variants along the same course and of minor significance. They would register barely at all in the overall event stream.”

“Damn, hon. You’re beginning to sound like me,” Alix said but chuckled.

“I’m surprised you find anything about this is amusing,” Paul responded instead.

“Look, I get how serious this is,” Alix said. “You think we’re going to die. If that’s the case, then take it as gallows humor. I mean, if you’re right and I’m going to die anyway, maybe I should die laughing. Just to lighten my load of karma for the next go ‘round.”

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t combine our skills,” Paul said to both of them. “We might have been formidable in anything that, as a group, we determined to do.”

“It isn’t too late for you to join us,” Cristina offered.

“Join you? I’ve come here to talk sense into you. What you and your boyfriend intend to do will end the world as we know it. It’s beyond suicide. It is mass murder. None of us will ever be born!”

“That’s not entirely true,” Staash interrupted them from a silence that led the others to ignore him.

“And so the beast speaks,” Paul said.

“The same might be said of you,” Staash retorted. “It is an ability that would be far in excess of what any resurrected Sakum’mal could render.”

“Even if such a resurrection were possible,” Cristina added.

“Look, I was stupid to fall for that rouse. I’ve had a lot of time to think things through. Even the leadership of The Resurrection never believed they could restore the lives of the sand-morphs.”

“The Sakum’malien,” Staash corrected.

Paul glared at him. “Look, I’m sorry for what happen to your kind. I’ve fought to and killed bring the truth to light. I wish I was there and could’ve fixed it, but I was born too late.”

“But we can change that,” Alix said. “That’s the entire point, Paul.”

“No the real point is it’s too late. We can’t change it now. It’s suicide. I’m sure your friend here impresses you as being worthy of life. Then let him stay here with us…”

“How wrong is that notion? He doesn’t belong here, not in this world. He would eventually die here and in very short order. The Sakum’malien are social creatures. To be alone, to be cut off from the others of his kind is a death sentence, Paul,” Cristina explained.

“You of all people should understand that,” Alix added.

“What you intend to do will change so many things that the world around us will be extremely altered. It will never include us because there’ll never be a reason for us to even exist.”

“Humans seem to have an odd understanding of this thing you call time,” Staash said.

“I think we understand our limitations quite well,” Paul said.

“If you understand then, why don’t you know there are no paradoxes? Whatever someone would do in the past requires continued presence as the catalyst of change. The world must adjust around the agent of change.”

“A new event stream emerging,” Alix said. “Raven said that, Paul.”

“Beyond the change it’s all speculative. Maybe the catalyst will exist in a changed context but everything else will be different.”

“Still the catalyst must always endure.”

“It would be an extreme leap of faith for me or anyone else to simply jaunt back into time alter something with major ramifications and expect to return to the same life he or she left,” Paul said.

“The world adjusts, Paul. That’s what we are trying to explain,” Cristina argued.

“It isn’t a leap of faith at all,” Staash said. “It does depend on a higher understanding of mathematics than humans presently possess. Cristina and Alix understand what I have shown to them so far. What they are doing isn’t suicide for them. And it’s not murder. They intend to prevent murder.”

“You’re welcome to join us,” Cristina said, reiterating her offer as she gathered up her belongings and the necessary materials for delivery of their message. Alix did the same and both drew in closer to Staash. Paul stepped back as if he were even physically present.

Cristina and Alix reached out to grasp Staash’s sand-covered mitten-like hands. With their other hands they grasped one another’s relatively softer human hands.

“You must not proceed!” Paul attempted to forbid them.

“You cannot stop us,” Cristina responded. “You’re not physically here.”

“I can still project my will!” Paul threatened.

“If you can do that, you can be here in body as well as mind,” Cristina said.

“How?”

“It’s the orb.” Alix explained. “You established a conduit to be here. Through it you can draw energy back to you.”

Even as Paul stared at his sister his image gradually became more and more solid. “Why would you tell me this?” He looked at his hands and stomped his feet. “Why give me the means of stopping you?”

“Because we know you’ll join us.” Cristina explained. “You said it yourself. We can be formidable.”

Paul started toward them. A ring of flames encircled Paul a few feet from his, knees leaping up to around his waist, preventing him from stepping closer.

“What you intend to do is too dangerous!” Paul protested. “You’re risking your lives and the lives of everyone in the world.”

“We intend to warn the Sakum’malien in their own language so they have a chance to save themselves. That’s all.” Alix explained. “We spent the past few days learning and recording a song that meticulously produces the correct tones to be understood.”

“It was a complicated song to write. It was an effort to learn and execute it for recording, but we were up to the task.” Cristina disengaged her hands and shrugged the straps of her backpack from her shoulders. She knelt down and opened the flap of her backpack and produced the music player. “Would you like to hear it?”

Paul stared at his sister even as Alix engaged the playback.

The song was mesmerizing. Intricately woven overlays of instrumentation danced around highly structured patterns of counter-rhythm. It was an achievement well beyond anything anyone had ever imagined let alone heard.

Tearing away at his defenses heart, exposing every carefully hidden weakness he knew he needed to protect. Entranced unto the ending of the song, Paul cried.

“That’s their language,” Cristina explained. “Imagine millions of them conversing, Paul.

“It’s beautiful,” he conceded.

“This is only the superficial, what we can hear.” Cristina explained. “How can we allow such beauty to remain lost in our past, apart from us, from our experience?”

Staash glowed, sensing what Cristina already knew. They were altering Paul’s thinking.

“It’s perfect,” Paul suggested.

“It has few flaws,” Staash said. “Those will be perceived as you might detect an accent from one who has learned a second language. It does not affect the meaning. It lends credibility to the source.”

“You could delay further, fix the mistakes,” Paul suggested.

“We would risk further interference from the couriers or others who do not understand the importance of what we are doing,” Cristina pointed out.

“It is a singular achievement for someone not Sakum’malien. The message will be immediately understood. It’s source will gain attention through novelty,” Staash said.

“We the warning will be heeded.” Cristina turned toward her brother. “You could bless our efforts and remain here or join us on our grand adventure.”

“I’m not convinced you’re right.”

“How ironic it is! Once your objective was to correct the sins of the past but now you voice opposition,” Alix said.

“I never considered it imminent danger to resurrect a sand-morph.”

“Sakum’mal,” Staash corrected.

“Look, Paul. The moment we leave here, the world changes. We are going into the past and what we intend will create a different event stream.”

“Even if we are only partially successful this world will change.” Cristina stared at her brother. “If you come with us at least you participate in the change. Isn’t it better to know what happened?”

“We’ve never been siblings, not really. It’s the cruelest of ironies we shared the same womb and each of us believed our mother died, but we never knew one another. I have met her at least but I was already an adult and very set in my ways and opinions.”

“I’ve never met her,” Cristina said.

“I hate the Colonial Authority with a passion. They are the bane of my life, of all of our lives,” Paul said.

“Then join our effort and help us. We can change the world.” Cristina reiterated her offer.

“Alix is over-taxed now,” Paul said.

“I can do anything necessary,” Alix assured Paul. “I would rather not leave you behind. I do not know what will happen to you or the others we’ve always known. All I know is that after this adventure is over I’ll be with Cristina. That’s all that matters to me.”

“I have dreams,” Paul revealed. “I have been in the presence of a goddess.”

“So your destiny is beyond this,” Cristina said. “You already know that.”

“I would do anything to be with her,” Paul said with a sigh. “I want to live but I’m not sure the life I have is living at all. I’m here and now only because of the orb.”

“The attributes brought you here,” Cristina explained. “All of us are here because this is our destiny.”

“There’s still interference,” Paul replied. “As I am now, I’m uncertain whether I would register as an entity in your efforts. There’s still the anchoring I feel back in my cell.”

“You are here and if I can touch you,” Alix said. “That makes you real enough.”

Paul shrugged. “I’m nearly here, but a ghost.”

“Then the ghost needs to concentrate more,” Cristina chided.

“What do I have to lose except a prison cell,” he said, finally expressing his choice. Moving toward the others, he closed his eyes, concentrating, pulling his essence with him, by force of his will. Brightly, his image glowed brightly. When the glow diminished he had completely arrived. Reaching out he locked his hands in the circle between Cristina and Alix.

Alix closed his eyes to focus, making slight adjustments to compensate for the delay. Surrounding them with the outward expression of his inner light, he directed them while he negotiated the fold.

Confident in his mental calculations of a few elapsed minutes beyond where Cristina, Staash and he departed. To the amazement of all except for Alix’s they arrived almost exactly in the same physical place as before, eight years in the past.

The Sakum’malien seemed partially disoriented as they maintained some distance. Most stepped back, yet continuing against their surprise to surround them. After all there was now an additional human presence in the group standing very near Slahl’yukim. Alix and Cristina had obviously changed apparel and now Staash was wearing human clothes.

Alix assisted Cristina in removing her backpack, opening it, they extracted the portable player from it. Immediately, she pressed play. Even if the sounds echoed throughout the cavern, she could see the Sakum’malien response. Listening, some of them glowing in their comprehension of the message Duae Lunae recorded ‘phonetically’ in the Sakum’malien language.

In initial response as the message became clear, there was general concern amongst them. A few of them came forward and spoke directly to Staash, but through telepathy which only Cristina could perceive even if out of the multiple queries she caught only a fraction of what was frantically conveyed in a few brief instants. Staash responded to them but then he turned and explained. “They want to know how the humans attack us?”

“None,” Alix explained. “We’ve never figured exactly how it was done. The records are sealed. The terraforming required sterilization first. We just know it had to have happened.”

Paul cleared his throat as he looked around. “Uh, excuse me. Having lived in this cavern for some time, I can tell you something about the sand-morphs… er Sakum’malien and their technology. I also know about the air lock. From it we deduced how the sterilization was accomplished.”

“You know how they got past the airlock?” Alix asked.

“Yeah, actually I do or at least I have a lot of clues that point in one direction. The devices we found suffered from the same problem we discovered with the air handler systems at the cave entrance. Everything was fused as if it was burned out instantaneously. The air handlers drew power from a single crystalline energy cell. Under normal circumstances it should have operated for decades. Once we replaces the control boards, we got it up and running again on the same power source.”

“Your point?” Alix said.

“There was a sudden release of tremendous energy outside the cave and a electromagnetic pulse overloaded every electronic device, including the controls of the air handlers – and the alien devices deeper in the caverns – some of them, the ones closer to the surface, but not the ones deeper. You see, there are considerable deposits of lead in this caverns.”

“Lead,” Alix said. “Lead would insulate against EMP.”

“What is EMP?” Cristina asked.

“Electro-Magnetic Pulse,” Alix said. “It means the means of sterilization was nuclear.”

“Yes and because of the lack of residual radiation following the blast, we can assume the devices were neutron bombs. That would actually make sense since the objects was eliminating anything organic, particularly anything micro-biotic. Then the terraform agents poisoned the Sakum’malien.”

“So, the air handlers weren’t destroyed on purpose?” Cristina asked.

“The humans might have not really intended it at all.”

“Well, they weren’t shielded,” Paul said. “But why would they if they were sterilizing the planet to begin terraforming?”

Staash nodded with his understanding, then turned and through telepathy communicated the consensus on what happened to the Sakum’malien who were standing near to them. Immediately one of them projected something that Cristina captured about half of, yet she responded.

“I’m no longer as certain as I once was that the humans even knew you were here,” she said to a few of them that she could reach through telepathy. “Humans are so ethnocentric that they may have believed that your form of life was not possible and therefore just never even bothered to look for it. When Alix and I were here previously we understood the necessity of over-pressurizing the caverns and realized the delivery of the elements for sterilization would be blocked from the caverns if the systems were in tact. It appears that we did not include the means of delivery into our assumptions.”

A Sakum’mal who were standing nearest to Staash approached Cristina, and then projected. “We do not understand this neutron delivery device.”

“I’m not sure I’m qualified to explain,” Cristina responded. “We have five days to figure it out and get the message out to the world. But if you don’t know what a neutron device is I’m not sure what you can do…”

Staash uttered something very complicated and specific aloud to all. Cristina only caught three of the sixteen overlaid tones that formed the words he expressed and as they were not key words she was at a nearly complete loss as to what was exchanged. Then he turned toward her. “They want to know what sorts of things might protect them.”

“Lead,” Paul interrupted. “There’s lots of it in the rocks, deeper in the caverns. Everyone going as low into the caverns as possible will help. Taking all the electronic devices deep as well.”

“Well placed lead shielding, not naturally occurring lead but refined lead fashioned into heavy plates and used to shield the air handlers. That would prevent the terraforming agents from entering the caverns. But we don’t have lead plates.”

“Deeper in the caverns, we found chambers stacked with lead ingots and evidence of a refining process,” Paul said.

“What is lead?” Staash asked.

“You must know lead,” Paul said. “It’s a fairly common metal, especially in this cavern. There’s actually a lot of lead on this planet.”

Cristina probed what she knew of the Sakum’malien language for anything remotely close to the description of lead. Then after several minutes Cristina finally uttered a word. “Octumiethalum’salieithum.”

Sakum’malien in close proximity stepped back. What she said startled them.

“That is an element so rare on our home world it is valuable beyond estimation. Until our coming to this world we call Ham’uelin we never found as much as was here.”

“Maybe I have it wrong,” Cristina allowed. “It seemed like the proper description, though. There was a lot of lead on Earth. In fact there was so much that people tried to transform lead into gold as they are very close in the elemental state and share many properties.”

“Gold?” Staash asked.

Cristina again probed her own vocabulary of Sakum’malien words before finding a likely match. “Utumiethalum’salieithum.”

Staash glowed as was his way of smiling.

“Gold is  rare on Earth,” Cristina felt compelled to explain.

“Would gold prevent the disabling of these harmful things that the humans will do to us?” Staash asked.

“I don’t know,” Cristina uttered, mostly for Staash’s benefit.

“It’s a Nobel metal and therefore it would provide shielding against EMP,” Alix confirmed. “Not that it helps us any more than the lead we don’t have.”

Staash’s eyes widened as he glowed even more brightly. There was a good deal of telepathic activity amongst the Sakum’malien. Then the one of them who was closest to Cristina addressed her verbally in Sakum’malien, “We have much gold – too much gold. It’s useful. We construct all manner of things with it. It is common on this world, same as on our home world. We have been mining and refining both here. The gold we use for our construction purposes. The lead we export to our home world.”

Paul stared at Alix. “But we found no evidence of gold here.”

“This is rich lead mine,” he said. “Gold is nearby. We need mine and refine first to build places to live inside mine.”

“But we never found…officially, anyway,” Paul stepped back, shaking his head.

“Now it makes sense,” Alix said. “The answer for all the covering up. It was about the gold.”

“And protecting the colonial market of exchange from flooding it with all the gold,” Paul explained. “At least they learned that much from human history.”

“I don’t understand,” Alix said.

“In the colonial times on Earth, the Spanish stripped the gold form the Americas but in the process their economy experienced rampant inflation, to the point that gold wasn’t worth as much as it was before. Somewhere the Colonial Authority has a stockpile of all the gold they stripped from the Sakum’malien mines. They melted it down into ingots and have been shipping it back to shipped it back to Mars or Luna to finance the colonial expansion here.” Paul said. “That’s why there was such an interest in terraforming the place and settling the atmosphere. The colonization efforts were an afterthought, perhaps. It was part of the cover-up. Maybe it was even a way of getting enough people here to work in mines to extract more gold.”

“But all that is in the future.”

“Yes, so now—“

“All that gold is still here and when combined with the lead,” Alix said. “They have the means of survival.”

Paul nodded.

“You need to surround the air handlers that over-pressurize the caverns with lead or gold – whatever’s available. The electronics must be completely shielded.”

Staash gurgled with amusement. “We could bury the devices in gold.”

Paul shook his head. “All these years that was the reason. They were covering the tracks of their greed.”

“They stole from the Sakum’malien,” Cristina said. “They probably believed that’s why they were here, mining the gold.”

“We have five days,” Staash said telepathically to Cristina but then vocalized for everyone else.

“Or less,” Alix said.

“The message must be spread far and wide so that every enclave is prepared,” Staash communicated with his kind.

“That is already underway,” a Sakum’mal said to Staash, and then he extended the left one of his scoop-like hands toward Cristina, then telepathically expressed his gratitude to her, adding, “I have gathered from probing your thoughts that this is a customary gesture of friendship.”

“It is usually the right side one,” Cristina projected back.

Quickly the Sakum’malien switched hands, “My apologies.”

“It is easy to make such a mistake. You knew no better,” she replied as she shook his hand. “I’m Cristina. And you are called…?”

“Dtuot’manuh.”

Cristina repeated the name in her mind then uttered it aloud as best she could.

“So, that’s the solution?” Staash asked. “Shield the air handlers?”

“If there is enough lead and gold,” Alix said. “I would suspect that you need to provide sanctuaries where everyone is shielded as well deep into the caverns just to prevent any possible exposure to the radiation.”

“I thought it was a rhetorical question,” Paul said. “I am sorry, Staash. I really am. But, yes Alix is quite right. Against a neutron explosion most of you would been cooked from the inside, the water in your bodies evaporated until you were a pile of sand, or perhaps turned to something glass-like.”

“We must communicate this to all the enclaves. Some may not be able to do what is necessary.”

“Then they must go to where they can be safe, Staash. There is no other answer.”

“How many colonial enclaves are there?” Paul asked.

“Five,” Staash replied. “There are seven additional outposts having very few inhabitants, mostly researchers – prospectors, you would call them.”

“All of the colonies are like this one?” Paul asked.

“Yes, all of them were explored by humans and they installed the air handlers at the entrances for their own use. Humans did not explore the outposts.”

“The others can be warned now?” Cristina asked.

“It is underway. There is a link, open for emergencies,” Dtuot’manuh responded.

“This would constitute an emergency.”

“The others are preparing the link. We need to bring the message to everyone, everywhere so they will know. It must be broadcast through the links,” Staash said as he turned to Cristina and helped her by lifting the burden of her backpack from her and then he began walking on a path that descended deeper into the cavern. Cristina, Alix and Paul followed him to a place that was obviously where the Sakum’malien lived where every structure was constructed of gold.

Staash progressed with the backpack, taking it several layers even further down into one of the smaller caverns that extended deep beneath the mountain. There the cavern’s ceiling formed a natural near-hemispherical dome covered in smooth polished gold. Others were there, working feverishly to establish contact with the other enclaves and the few outposts.

Staash set down the backpack and then withdrew the music player from it. When the others were finished with their testing of their links, Staash spent several moments trying to get Cristina’s player to interface with the Sakum’malien equipment before finally Alix and Paul assisted him, creating a way to present and broadcast it.

Once the message was played it took only a few minutes before the local colony was inundated with requests for confirmation of the intelligence sources. Every colony confirmed having encountered the alien life forms probing the surface and their building the air handlers into the cave entrances, which most Sakum’malien felt were beneficial in maintaining the interior atmosphere. They said they ignored the humans as harmless and never saw them again.

“Apparently there was more than enough guilt on each side to be shared for the calamity between the humans and the Sakum’malien,” Staash commented.

When the confirmations were transmitted and acknowledged, Staash and several of the others in the link center turned toward the three humans. Telepathically they expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Cristina and asked her to please convey it to the others. The warning at least gave the Sakum’malien a chance to survive.

Then even as she was ready to turn toward Alix and Paul another projected, “You three are very brave and very resourceful. If other humans are like you, perhaps our kind can deal with them in a mutually beneficial way. Our primary interest in this world is its lead resources. Since you indicate that lead is not as revered amongst your people we might be able to share our abundant gold in trade.”

“Not to mention our different technologies,” a third added. “We have been colonizing worlds for many of our generations Perhaps we can share some of our knowledge about transforming worlds to suit certain needs.”

When there was a significant pause. Cristina turned toward Alix and Paul and told them what the Sakum’malien said.

“It’s done,” Paul said, lowering his head as if resigned to accept whatever came of the changes they created.

“We go home now,” Alix slapped him on the back.

“Where is home? If what they do from here on works, our future no longer exists.”

Cristina snatched up her backpack. “We could stay here.”

“What?” Paul asked.

“If we stayed here, we create our own future alongside them.”

Paul laughed. “You’re not serious.”

“We can welcome the next humans who arrive.”

Alix shook his head. “I’m ready to go home, to whatever there is eighty years from now. That’s where all of us belong.”

“Wait,” Staash said. “You need this.”

Cristina turned back to look at the music player, but then laughed, “What would it be like in the future from which we come if our latest recording was an oldie from eighty years before, something the Sakum’malien give to them.”

“Or discover on the floor of a cavern?”

Alix laughed, “It would be something.”

“What kind of paradox would that create?”

“There are no paradoxes,” Cristina said. “I believe that.”

Staash opened his arms in such an invitingly human way that caused Cristina to smile with tears rolled down her cheeks. She fell into his embrace, her arms unable to span his bulk as he had returned to his former mass, content to be among his kind and apparent more accepted.

“I will miss you,” she said.

“I will always remember you, pretty lady. And see you whenever.”

When she turned Alix embraced and kissed her long and enduringly. When he released her, he stepped back still holding her hand as he offered his other hand to Paul. Paul accepted and offered Cristina his other hand.

“We’re finished here. It’s time to go,” Alix said.

Staash glowed brightly. “Thank you, again, my friends. All of you.”

In the very next moment Alix focused upon a time and a place in the future from whence they had come. In an instant they were no longer in the cavern or in the past.

 

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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.”

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 21 – Another Convergence

**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.**

The railcar paused at the first airlock, signaling its arrival at the outer entry to the dome at Star City. When the outer hull of the railcar was cleaned and purged of contaminants, it was permitted through the second airlock and on into the first station where many of the passengers disembarked.

Julie and Chase began gathering up their belongings and stowing away anything they took out of their carry-on luggage on their way. Neville and Mary already completed their preparations and were eagerly waiting to get off the railcar at the next station, on the other side of the city.

The railcar was about half empty after the first stop. A few new passengers boarded and the railcar delayed for the time interval it took for the conveyers beneath the station’s docking platform off load some the luggage designated for the first station. Then conveyor belt reversed direction to load luggage belonging to the newest passengers who were continuing beyond the other Star City station to other cities.

It was an amazingly smooth operation, really and was largely automated with only minimal human monitoring of the process. Every once in a while something would go awry and an attendant would immediately leap into action to correct the malfunction.

Once loaded, the railcar cabin was sealed and it continued on briefly to the other side of the city and the next station where the remaining passengers destined for Star City exited before the railcar boarded any new passengers. When the railcar again came to a complete stop, Neville and Mary were among the first of the passengers queued the exit door. They exited out onto the docking platform as the others who were still aboard the railcar waited. Once inside the station, Neville and Mary waited for Julie and Chase who were separated from them by several passengers in the line. Chase was saying goodbye to Pick, reiterating arrangements to stay in touch, exchanging business cards.

Chase rejoined Julie and they hurried to baggage claim where Chase stood beside Neville to wait alongside the carousel for their checked baggage. The ladies retrieved a luggage cart from a nearby rack and waited a few meters behind the men.

“Neville…Mary!” a voice familiar to them called out.

“Dad,” Neville turned to respond with a broad smile on his face as he embraced the older gentleman who looked older than he ever seemed on the periodic phone video feeds.

They were just completing their hugs when Chase reached for first Neville’s bag and then Julie’s. A few moments later he retrieved his and then Mary’s.

“Chase, this is my father Arnie.”

“The pleasure is mine,” Chase said. “And this is Julie,” he introduced as she approached with Mary to shake hands. Mary hugged her father-in-law.

“I brought the supply coach,” Arnie said. “It is not as comfortable but there’s a lot more room for everyone and the luggage,” Arnie said.

“That’ll be fine, Dad,” Neville said.

“I figured the pretty ladies could sit up front with me. You boys can ride rough in the back on the jump seats with the luggage.”

“Just like the old days,” Neville said, and then made a comment about when he was a little boy going to get supplies for the shop with his father. He would never ride up front in the delivery coach because he preferred resting in the back amongst the bags of coffee beans, sugar, flour, and such, some of them as big of usually much heavier than he was at the time.

Arnie pitched in to help Chase and Neville heft the luggage onto the cart Mary wheeled toward them. Everything loaded Arnie led the way to the van he’d left parked at the curb in a delivery zone. As his vehicle bore a commercial vendor’s decal it was never questioned.

Once everyone and everything they brought with them were loaded into the coach, Arnie used the automatic pilot to direct the coach to return to the alley behind the coffee shop. “I thought we’d stop by so you can see Emma before heading on out the house.”

“How is she?” Mary asked.

“She’s the same as always. She complains once in a while but at our age I suppose complaints are expected if not allowed.”

“The last time we talked, she said she had some stiffness in her elbow,” Mary responded.

“Oh yeah, well I made her go to the clinic about it and they gave her something to rub on it and some sort of injection and after a few hours it was better.”

“That’s good.”

“You know Emma, though. Half the effort was getting her out of the shop to go there. We closed early one afternoon. It wasn’t like we missed much business, but still, she felt guilty. She was angry at me for insisting she go and then gong with her to boot.”

“She sounds like quite a character,” Julie said.

“Well, she can be,” Arnie said. “I don’t know what to do with her sometimes but I am certain I could never have made it to this point in my life without her.” He chuckled to himself. “I’ll bet she would say the same thing about me.”

It wasn’t that far to the coffee shop. By the time that the coach turned off the street and they arrived in the alley behind, the sun was already high enough in the sky that it shone through the dome illuminating even the darkest corners, chasing away the lingering vestiges of a shadowy, moonlit night. Arnie triggered the releases on the doors and everyone disembarked. Emma met Mary at the back door, hugging her warmly. Then with Mary’s introduction, Emma hugged Julie as well.

Chase offered his hand to Emma and she shook it and smiled before focusing her attentions on her only son. They held one another in a shared embrace for several moments, Neville lifting her from her feet. “I’ve missed you, Mom.”

“You don’t have to be such a stranger, you know.”

“Well, I am pretty busy at work.”

“And it’s such a long trip,” Arnie offered as an excuse for his boy.

“Well, there’s that too,” Neville said.

“Why waste the words now that you’re here. Come on inside. Arnie made fresh coffee before he left and I made breakfast for everyone.”

“Great,” Neville said.

“Yes, that sounds wonderful,” Julie said as she reached back and grabbed Chase’s hand and led him inside. While Mary and Neville continued catching up on everything with Emma and Arnie, Chase and Julie continued through the kitchen and out into the front dining area where they sat at a table. Arnie poured two cups of coffee and carried them out on a tray to Chase and Julie.

“There are a couple of people I’d like you to meet,” Emma said to Neville and Mary as they lingered back in the kitchen. “They should be awake by now.”

“They are very nice young people using our old place upstairs – temporarily,” Arnie explained as he returned to the kitchen to gather up a tray of steamed sweet rolls. “They are from out of town and seemed to be having it a little rough.”

“And you just took them in,” Neville said incredulously as shook his head.

“Well, I always do what I feel is right and treat people how I would want to be treated.”

“You know my concern.”

“I’m not as cynical as you are, I guess. I assume people are good people until it’s proven otherwise.”

“Well from my experience there are few people you can trust.”

“And that’s a very sad commentary on our world and times,” Arnie said.

“Well, it is as much my fault,” Emma said. “I couldn’t help it. I know they’re really good people.”

“Where are they from?”

“From New Milan.”

“What are they doing all the way up here?” Neville asked.

“They have been looking for the girl’s brother.”

“I see.”

“Don’t be negative,” Mary chided Neville.

“I’m not being negative. I’m just trying to watch out for the safety and best interests of my parents.”

“And your parents have a lot of experience looking out for themselves,” Mary said, coming to Emma’s defense. “They also did a pretty good job raising you and your sisters.”

“I’m not about to change ‘who’ I am and ‘what’ I believe is right. The world can continue going to hell, I’m going to take care of my part of it, though,” Arnie said.

“Regardless of your concerns, they’re heading back to New Milan in a few days, along with their friend,” Emma said.

“Well, maybe they are all right, then,” Neville finally relented. “It’s just I worry about you guys and your good nature. People take advantage of you.”

“What if they have? It’s on their conscience. Emma and I are fine.”

“You should not pass judgment on people without ever having met them,” Emma said and she started up the steps at the back of the kitchen. “There’s no reason for us to change the way we are. But you are still young enough to learn and adapt.”

The burn of Mary’s glare at Neville caused him to turn away but he received no better from his father’s stare on the other side.

“Okay, okay, I get it. Believe in people until they earn mistrust.”

“I wondered if you even remembered that,” Arnie said.

“Dad, I live by it. I just have always been over protective of you, every since I was a teenager.”

Arnie chuckled. “Yeah, I remember your attempts to protect me.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard this story,” Mary said.

“And you should never hear it,” Neville said.

“There are some secrets made to be kept between a father and his son,” Arnie vocalized his support for his son’s privacy.

“I see how it is. You two gang up on me whenever I’m close to learning something potentially embarrassing.”

“I assure you it’s not embarrassing,” Arnie said.

“Then why can’t I know the secret?”

“Because it’s a secret,” Neville said.

“You and your secrets!” Mary complained.

Just then, Emma returned from upstairs and announced that her other guests would be down shortly. “They said they were awake but I really think I woke them up.”

“They were probably tired,” Arnie said.

“They were out for a good while yesterday. I feel bad for them,” Emma said. “They seemed so disappointed when they came home late yesterday afternoon.”

Suddenly Alix peered from the stairs around the edge of the ceiling as he descended the stairs. When he had reached the kitchen floor Emma offered an introduction, “This is my son Neville and his wife Mary.”

“It is good to meet you,” Alix said as he extended his hand to first Mary and then Neville.

“The pleasure is mine,” Neville said.

“Ours,” Mary amended.

Emma offered. “Where’s Cristina?”

“She’s coming. She’s still doing the make-up thing.”

Cristina appeared feet first descended the stairs as first Alix then everyone else turned in her direction. “This is Cristina,” Alix introduced as she had arrived downstairs.

“This is Mary, my wife and I’m Neville.”

“So, we finally meet,” Cristina said directly to him, then turned to Mary, “Both of you. Emma has spoken of you.”

“Good things I hope.”

“Of course it was good,” Emma offered in protest.

“Emma tells us you are from New Milan,” Neville said.

“That we are,” Alix said. “Do you know New Milan?”

“I’ve been there,” Mary said. “Neville has been there a few times for meetings.”

“Really,” Alix smiled. “You’re from Andromeda, right?”

“Yeah,” Mary said. “You know Andromeda?”

“A little,” Alix said. “We performed there a few times in the last year.”

“Performed? Are you actors?”

“Musicians.”

“That would have been my second guess,” Mary said.

“We were on a world tour.”

“Are you on tour here?”

“Not really,” Cristina said. “We were on vacation, spending some time with some friends in Andromeda before going back to the studio for recording. I came here looking for my brother.”

“We are getting ready to go back home,” Alix said. “Arnie and Emma asked us to stay and meet you. We’ll be leaving in a couple of days.”

“You know,” Mary said, “We’ve completely forgotten about Julie and Chase,” she said to Neville.

“Where are they?” he asked even as Cristina looked to Alix.

“Out in the front,” Arnie said, sitting at a table. “I poured them some coffee.”

“It can’t be the same Chase and Julie,” Cristina said mainly to Alix.

“You know them?” Emma asked as she overheard.

“Well, it could be someone different.” Alix allowed.

“Which seems unlikely,” Cristina added, and then shouted, “Chase, is that you?”

Both Chase and Julie responded, coming into the kitchen, Julie embracing Cristina as Alix shook Chase’s hand the pulled in closer to embrace. “We thought you were missing.”

“Well, we have to talk about that,” Alix replied to Chase.

“So you know each other already?” Neville asked probably just a couple of seconds before Arnie was going to.

“Chase managed our world tour. We met Julie when we visited them in Andromeda several days ago.”

Arnie leaned back against the counter. “Let me get this straight. My son and daughter-in-law know people who are friends of people I met here a few days ago who spent the night the alley beside my building.”

“Small world,” Emma said in summary.

“To say the very least,” Neville said.

“It is quite a coincidence.”

“Except there are no coincidences,” Julie said.

“None at all,” Cristina confirmed.

“I assume Cristina and Alix have the attributes, then,” Neville said.

“Of course,” Chase said.

“It seems as if The Twenty-Four are being drawn together, a pair at a time then into mutual associations.”

“Because we’re supposed to,” Julie said.

“I presume from that statement you know of other pairings?” Alix probed.

“A few,” Neville said. “You mothers have told me of them. They have access to information resources on their children.”

“Our mothers?” Alix asked.

“They’re alive,” Chase said. “Julie and I met our mothers.”

Both Alix and Cristina were suddenly silent.

“Sometimes it’s almost like some evil genie is controlling all of us like marionettes,” Neville offered.

“What determines whether the genie is evil?” Cristina asked.

“Perception?” Alix suggested.

“Everything is about perception,” Arnie said. “That’s been that way from my experience.”

“What is there that exists if no one’s around to perceive it?” Chase asked.

“Such was the divine dilemma,” Neville proposed. “Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it. Was there ever a sunrise on this planet before we arrived to be the first to witness it? The very origin of this planet was regarded as crazy, unscientific speculation no one could possibly corroborate until a remote probe was arrived and through it we perceived a younger version of Earth, uninhabited.”

“Except for the uninhabited part, that is true,” Cristina said.

“Well, now that we’re all here, of course Pravda is inhabited.”

“It was inhabited for a long time before we arrived,” Cristina insisted. “Sand-morphs exist.”

“Yes, yes, that childhood fantasy,” Neville responded. “They find piles of sand in a cave and speculate there was life here before we came.”

“So we’re told,” Chase said.

“No one’s seen one,” Neville said, then sipped from his coffee.

“Except for the people who found the piles of sand when they were still in tact,” Chase said.

“And us,” Alix added.

“You have seen one?” Neville asked with a chuckle.

“They perceived one back in time, through a portal their orbs created,” Chase said.

“Things have evolved a good bit since that, Chase,” Cristina said.

“Has it now? How?” he asked.

“Something I learned to do, called folding time. We went back and found one.”

“Your met one, in the flesh – so to speak?”

“Actually, we met several but communicated most directly with the one,” Cristina said. “His name was Slahl’yukim, the real name, anyway.”

“That’s a mouthful of a name,” Neville said.

“That’s why we shortened it a bit,” Alix said.

“Come sit down out front, all of you,” Arnie suggested, motioning for everyone to come along.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 20 – Anticipation

**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 and Alix returned to the coffee shop, spoke some words with Emma in passing but then started to go upstairs to the apartment. As Alix went on Cristina paused at the bottom of the stairs, “Is Arnie okay? I didn’t see him this morning either. Did he go out?”

“He’s cleaning up the house. Our son and his wife are bringing a couple of friends from Andromeda for a visit. They should be here in the morning.”

“Really. You must be excited.”

“It’s been a long time since they were here. Actually it was when we moved into the new house.”

“Well you can give him the stuffed bear.”

“Staash,” Emma smiled.

“Perhaps we should call the bear ‘little Staash’ so as not to confused with my friend.”

“His name is Staash?”

“Isn’t it ironic?”

“Yes, it is.” Emma agreed. “Maybe you’re right about renaming the bear. The bear will embarrass Neville in front of Mary but she’ll think it’s cute.”

“Do you get along well with her?”

“Mary, oh yes. Maybe it is because we live so far apart that I don’t interfere with her household. But I’ve never had any problem getting along with her. I believe truly Neville found the right woman.”

“You’ll have to introduce us when they get here.”

“Of course. Maybe you, Alix and your friend can come to dinner at our house.”

“I don’t know. We may be leaving soon for New Milan.”

“All the more reason for you to have a good dinner as a send off. That’s a very long trip, and so soon after your friend has arrived.”

Cristina smiled. “I’ll talk to Alix about it. Staash may not want to come.”

“Well, you send him down here,” she picked up a spoon. “I’ll persuade him for you.”

“I’ll bet you could,” Cristina said with a laugh, then continued on, calling down after. “I’ll let you know.”

She opened the door. Staash stood-up. “I have been pleasuring myself to be seeing you again so soon,” he said.

“He’s been practicing,” Alix said, with a chuckle. “He still needs a lot of work – especially on nuance of meanings, euphemism and slang. But hell, I have heard people who are supposed to be fluent do a lot worse.”

“I think it’s an amazing achievement.”

“I thank you,” Staash said.

“You’re welcome.”

Staash nodded. “Your language fits tightly, too much,” he gave his opinion. “I don’t know how to express. It limits minds.”

“I think I understand that,” Alix said. “Sometimes I feel things I can’t find the words for.”

“Yes, I think that is the same I am saying,” Staash said.

“Emma invited us to dinner,” Cristina said to Alix.

“You said no, of course.”

“I said I’d get back to her.”

“What about Staash?”

“He could stay here. I don’t know. It just seemed like such a friendly thing. I told her we were going to New Milan very soon.”

“Yeah, well there is really no reason to stay here anymore.”

Cristina walked over to the shelves upon which Neville’s bear rested. “She said her son and his wife are coming along with some friends from Andromeda. It might be fun having dinner with them.”

“Well, Staash handled being alone here very well.”

“Staash have fun, watch world viewer, learning much to say very easy.”

“Are you hungry, Staash?” Cristina asked.

“What it is that you gave me delicious. What is it you eat, strange looks.” Staash looked at first Cristina and then Alix.

“We eat three times a day, usually. The time after sleeping is called breakfast. Eating round now would be called lunch. Then around sunset, or maybe later we eat dinner.”

“Food same each time or different?”

“Different,” Alix explained.

Staash looked at Cristina, inviting telepathy in order that he could better understand. After a few moments, he turned away. “You eat other living things?”

“Things that were living, yes,” Alix said. “We draw energy from food. Plants capture the energy of the sun in sugars and starches. Animals eat the plants to provide them energy for growth of their muscles and we eat both plants and animals and in that way obtain the energy of the sun that is stored in their tissues.”

Staash stared at them while attempting to remain nonplussed. What little he understood disgusted him. “Humans kill to eat. Very nature, humans are barbaric.”

They heard footsteps ascending the stairs.

“Emma,” Cristina warned.

“Staash, come with me,” Alix led him into one of the other rooms and then bade him to wait and closed the door as he returned to the living room just as Cristina was letting Emma inside.

“I don’t want to intrude, but I forgot to remind you about the lunch I made for everyone. I hope you didn’t eat while you were out.”

“No actually we didn’t,” Alix said.

She handed the tray to Cristina. “I wanted to get Little Staash, to kind of make it a surprise when Neville gets home. I think I’ll leave it on the guest bed.”

“That would be a very good place.” Cristina laughing. “Thank you for making lunch, Emma. That’s very sweet of you.”

“Honey, I love cooking. If I didn’t, I would have been miserable all of my life. Arnie makes very, very good coffee, even the best you can get anywhere, but he’s a so-so cook.”

“You’re a good team, then,” Alix suggested.

Emma nodded, “That we are. Anyway, you can bring the tray and dishes down when as come, just leave them in the sink. I made some stew for Arnie’s dinner. What’s left is in the pot inside the refrigerator. It should be more than enough for three. I’m closing down early for the day to go home and help Arnie with the house. When you’re finished you can just leave everything in the sink. I’ll tend to them in the morning.”

“Alix and I can clean up afterwards. It is the least we can do after you fixed us lunch and dinner.”

“I had to make something to take home for Arnie, anyway.”

“Even so, we’ll clean up.”

“That would be nice of you,” Emma said. “I’d better get home. Arnie is good at the major things like vacuuming, mopping and dusting, but he misses the details.”

“Most men do,” Cristina generalized causing Alix to scowl but then he laughed.

“I’ll see you in the morning then. Bring you friend down for some coffee and breakfast. Arnie will be picking up Neville, Mary and their friends at the station. I’m sure they’ll stop by on their way to the house.”

“Staash isn’t very sociable.”

“Well, then at least bring some breakfast up to him afterwards. Regardless of your friend, you can meet my son and his wife. I know nothing about their friends other than Neville said he knows their mothers.”

“Maybe they were coming this way for other reasons,” Alix said.

“Maybe so. He says they’re nice young people. So I’m sure we’ll like them.”

“You’re nervous,” Cristina said knowing full well that she was.

“Is it that obvious?”

“Yes, it is. You and Arnie are cleaning up the house…”

“The coffee shop as well,” Emma confessed.

“I think you are worrying for nothing. Everything will be fine.”

Emma nodded. “Well, Arnie is waiting for me, I’m sure. You take care.”

“You too,” Cristina responded for both her and Alix.

Staash understood enough of the conversation to know when it was safe for him to emerge. He returned to the place he had been occupying on the couch. Then Staash turned as Alix joined him and began programming the remote to check on entertainment channels. “Staash embarrasses you with others?”

“It isn’t that,” Cristina said as she joined them, setting the tray of sandwiches on the coffee table. “Humans are not very good at accepting differences. I’m afraid most humans would think you’re a monster. They might even try to kill you if we didn’t stop them. We need to choose the right time to introduce you to everyone, and explain who you are and what you represent.”

Staash seemed to understand that. He was not happy with his situation. He wanted to go back to his kind except he knew the ultimate ending and he was willing to allow Cristina the chance to fix that.

In the evening, after Cristina and Alix had dinner together alone downstairs and cleaned up after themselves, Alix called dibs on the shower. He knew that if he had to wait for Cristina it would be a very long time and he was tired. Besides he was eager to show Staash some more interesting things about world viewer such as all the educational resources as well as the variety of entertainment options including games.

While Cristina was taking her shower, Alix happened upon a video recorded of Duae Lunae’s performance at one of the major venues in Star City during their most recent tour. He activated a laser pointer in the remote and indicated, “That’s me. And there, that’s Cristina.”

Staash sat back and seemed to radiate a sort of glow that Alix was beginning to understand was a Sakum’mal’s version of a smile. “Cristina has voice wonderful.”

“Yes, it is,” Alix agreed.

“This is what you like to do?”

“We love it,” Alix said. “There’s nothing like it. There were seven thousand people there just to hear us play our music and watch us perform. They even sang along with some of our songs. There’s a feeling you get from that – you just never forget it. It’s something you want to experience over and over again.”

Staash turned his eyes toward Alix. “You and Cristina famous humans.”

Alix laughed, “I don’t know about me, maybe she is. No one remembers my name as a rule. Everyone knows Cristina. She’s the star.”

“You love her.”

“Ever since I met her I’ve loved her. It’s just been a recent thing that she seemed to notice me. We haven’t been a couple for very long, so we’re still working out the details and the rules.”

“She always loved you?”

“I don’t know if she loved me at all and so I certainly wouldn’t know how long she’s loved me. I don’t know if that ever matters because it’s now that matters. It makes me happy to be with her and forget about anyone else.”

Cristina emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her. “What’s that you’re watching?”

“They are broadcasting a recording of one of our concerts here.”

“Really,” Cristina smiled. “So Staash, you see what I do – what we do. Now you understand performing.”

“Your voice wonderful.”

“Thank you, Staash.”

“Staash teach you my language. You will without accent because singing, instruments rest sounds make.”

Alix frowned with incomprehension until he remembered what Cristina said, the Sakum’malien language was more like music.

Staash wanted to hear more of Duae Lunae’s music so Alix showed him how to access network links to their promotional site and he pressed in a generic access key that the band had been given to have full access to the site’s resources. Alix set it up so that Staash could listen to all the songs the band had ever recorded. The sand-morph seemed thrilled as Alix showed him where there were other videos. It was obvious he intended to watch everything and listen to every song.

“We have a new fan,” Alix said as he wrapped his arm around Cristina’s shoulders.

“Staash, we’re going to sleep. You can watch the world viewer all you want and rest out here again or if you want to try out a bed, in one of the other rooms. Do you understand?”

“What is different humans sleep Staash rest?”

Cristina projected to him and after a few moments Staash nodded. “Yes, Staash understand,” he vocalized. “Staash sleep too. Wonder, though. Different ways.”

She said good night to Staash and left the living room, joining Alix in the bedroom, closing the door behind her. She was mentally, emotionally and physically spent. Despite the desire she saw in Alix’s eyes, she had nothing to give. She kissed him then lay down beside him. They cuddled for a while as they talked, discussing the immediate past and their plans for the imminent future. Eventually they fell asleep wrapped in one another’s embrace.

In the morning, Alix was first to awaken. He gently slid his arms out from around her and carefully sat up in bed and quietly stepped out onto the floor. He turned and softly kissed her on the forehead before gingerly negotiating the way out of the room without disturbing her sleep.

He closed the door to the bedroom behind him, taking pains to do it without making any noise. When he looked out into the living room, Staash was there. He didn’t know whether the Sakum’mal ‘slept’ at all. He appeared to be exactly where he had last seen him and he was still in the process of learning everything about Duae Lunae. Alix never realized how much material the group had on the site or that it could possibly take all night to watch and listen to the media material of their recording sessions and live performances. As he considered that the group had been together for thirteen years, ten with Cristina, it seemed more plausible. They had recorded a lot and performed a lot. There was perhaps more than a week’s worth of videos here and there. For recordings there were several hours of those alone.

“I’m in love with Cristina’s voice,” Staash said with a startling level of fluency.”

“You can stand in line behind every other person in the world.”

Staash glowed. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For speaking of me as your peer.”

“I notice you’re more comfortable speaking now.”

“I have been learning. I make mistakes, still, I think. Learning words easy, grammar hard.”

“It’s the same for us. Someone long ago decided to make a proper way to say everything and enforcing those rules has been a battle ever since. As far as I’m concerned you sound nearly fluent now.”

“Thank you. It is very important to me to be understood clearly. I realize what a gift you and Cristina have provided to me. I have a chance to save lives of my kind. I don’t fully understand all the logistics but I appreciate the efforts you have made and the gift of one chance.”

“The more I’ve considered it, what would have been perfect is if you could have convinced your contemporaries to protect themselves and survive the sterilization,” Alix said as he stood up and walked over to the front window.

“I thought you did not consider that an option,” Staash said. “You did not know what you would be returning to. You think maybe you no longer be here.”

“What we returned to has not improved, so maybe changing it isn’t a bad thing” Alix said. “I’m not as confident as Cristina seems to be that parading you around will accomplish much. It would be an easy thing for the Colonial Authority to circulate a lie discrediting us as the purveyors of a hoax.”

“Then I came here for no reason at all.”

“I wouldn’t say that. You’ve learned about us, about humans and learned about our language and something about our culture and how we live. I think all of that is important. And we’ve learned a lot about you, foremost how intelligent you and your kind are. It’s no small achievement learning our language so quickly.”

“Sharing Cristina thoughts help me much.” Staash’s eyes followed Alix as he paced the floor, and then the Sakum’mal explained his take on the events in the cavern in the past. “They did not listen. You know that. I was fairly recent arrival, outcast from home world. Out of favor with powerful, I say in poems things misunderstood. They branded me maverick – if understand use of word correctly. They exile me. I think you have picked poor representative my kind.”

“I think we picked the only one of your kind who might listen to us,” Cristina startled both of them as she came up from behind.

“I’m sorry we wake you,” Staash said.

“Did you even sleep?” she asked.

“I rested. It is my way, not exactly sleep but serves purpose for metabolism.”

“It will be light out soon,” Alix said as he peered out through the drapes at the sky beyond the dome.

“We need to leave for New Milan,” Cristina said.

“I thought you wanted to attend the dinner Emma invited us to.”

“I don’t know if it’s wise. Somehow I keep thinking we’re living on borrowed time, until the authorities figure out we stepped back a few days in time and that’s how we arrived here without detection.”

“If they detected us they disbelieved it was an error in their sensors,” Alix said. “We have new ID’s and new payment wand accounts. They haven’t been able to track us as Cristina and Alix, else they would have found us by now.”

“It is a matter of time,” Cristina said, and then she laughed at the ironic relevance of the expression. “We have certainly manipulated it. Staash would not be here if that were not the case.”