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The Resurrection: Chapter 18 – Unexpected Resurrection

**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.**

It would not be an easy thing to conceal a Sakum’malien. Slahl’yukim was large by human standards. Not so much that he was tall as he was broad and as his body, to a large degree, consisted of silicon so his body had greater mass for its relative volume.

Bringing him back with them proved to be the simplest part of the task of integrating him into a future world that was the domain of humans. The three of them interlocked hands and for Alix it was really not more difficult than bringing Cristina along on his previous shifts.

They arrived almost exactly where he and Cristina had left, within a few centimeters actually. Dom’s calculations have been that precise. Alix was as duly impressed as he had been when they arrived in the past fairly close to a cave entrance where sand-morphs dwelled. Alix suspected Dom had his own agenda that was apart from Raven’s plans or anyone else’s for that matter. He could not quite peg Dom, except to say the android was not exactly what he seemed.

Cristina looked up at the estates’ bell rope. Alix didn’t need telepathy to tell what she was thinking. He reached up to tug on the rope. “He’ll be pissed because we probably just left.”

“Dom’s cordial, always. Anyway these are his coordinates,” Alix said. “We’re here on his schedule.”

He sensed Cristina was going to seek Raven’s advice if not help. Alix did not want to endure another session with Raven and really could not believe that Cristina did either. What they did was completely and utterly against what Raven believed was important. Why would he help them?

Yet there she was on the front porch, Slahl’yukim standing between her and Alix, looking around at the world, seeing it in the darkness. He started to disengage from their hands to go explore. Cristina must have communicated with him telepathically.

Did they do the right thing? Alix wondered. Slahl’yukim was lost and alone. He was bonding with Cristina, something that bothered Alix even if he refused to call it jealousy as the sand-morph had accused. Alix understood that he and Cristina were the alien’s only friends and only link to anything. Of course he would bond with her, become attached to her and she would tolerate him. Still it was disturbing.

When Alix had agreed to this adventure it was a very different situation. The story was very different as well. Now he understood that the Sakum’malien were not different from the humans. Both were invaders of the same world, competitors for the very same space. Humans won that contest. What was wrong and very different from the official story was that it now seemed apparent to Alix that the first humans had to know the Sakum’malien were there. The over-pressurizing of the caverns was defeated, something that was never reported.

Now it seemed it was even more of a conspiracy than anyone imagined. No wonder there was so much energy and effort expended to conceal the darkness of the human hearts who initiated the terraforming of Pravda. The pristine beauty promised was a distant dream. Perhaps all along, it was an unachievable lie. There would ever be the taint of the evil the first humans perpetrated against an alien race. The first alien race encountered as a direct result of their explorations humans exterminated.

Was colonizing Pravda that important to mankind’s survival? Was it worth the effort in light of the declining fertility rates and the inevitable extinction of mankind? Would mankind survive on the world they stole so violently as to terminate an entire race that was here before any human? What difference did it make that they were not indigenous? They were essentially transforming the world to suit their life form just as the humans were intending to do for the purposes of mankind.

Alix tugged n the bell rope again. Slahl’yukim kept looking around, touching surfaces and analyzing everything – like a kid, exploring.

Alix could appreciate the Sakum’malien was overwhelmed with the wonders of what he was seeing  – all of it very strange. He was intimidated, even frightened. There was so much around him that he did not understand. A couple of humans led him into a world dominated by humans, a world in which he was one of a kind. Knowing what humans did to his kind, he was one brave fellow.

The door opened and Dom tilted his head to one side.

“We’re back.”

Dom nodded. “You are late.”

“Well, we have been waiting here for a while,” Alix said.

“Welcome back,” he said even as he looked at the Sakum’malien. “As much as he does not wish to be disturbed, the Master must be alerted as to what you and Alix have accomplished.” Then he opened the door and bade them to remain in the foyer. Alix hurried toward the threshold as Dom held the front door open for him. “I trust the coordinates were sufficient.”

“They were impeccable,” Alix said. “As well you know.”

Dom even appeared to be resisting the urge to smile as he turned away and escorted Cristina to seek out Raven and his approval for audience.

Alix remained behind with Slahl’yukim. He did not enjoy his recent secondary importance to Cristina, but there was not much he could do. He understood the overall objective. He was not sure how they were going to pull it off but he knew he had to help Cristina.

Cristina was able to communicate directly with the sand-morph without any words. Perhaps she had explained Raven as best she could and the estate he lived in, as well as the conditions of the outside world. All along Slahl’yukim was rapidly acquiring the nuances of human language from her.

A few moments after Cristina had followed Dom down the hall toward Raven’s study, Slahl’yukim turned toward Alix and startled him. “Thank your understanding. Cristina special.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Learn quickly speak, not good yet,” he said. “Cristina teacher good.”

Alix looked into his eyes. “You understand what’s happening now?”

“Know happened. Understanding different. Some humans accept tragedy. Some not. You and Cristina want correct wrong. Slahl’yukim want change past.”

“We understand that. But changing the past changes our world, too. Perhaps we would not be together. Maybe we would not even be alive.”

Slahl’yukim forced the odd gesture of a nod he learned from Cristina. Alix assumed he intended it to mean the same thing it did for humans.

“There’s been a cover-up all along. I think most humans would not want what was done to have ever happened. But they were held in ignorance,” Alix said.

“She explain,” he said. “Want me speak tragedy my kind. Efforts impact short desire.”

“Cristina’s brother is imprisoned for his views and his desire to resurrect your kind from oblivion.”

“She explain much. I understand some. Do not understand dead to life. Maybe works humans. Not understand how.”

“We cannot bring our own kind back from the dead, But Paul, Cristina’s brother, and their organization believe it’s possible because your life form does not deteriorate after death as rapidly as ours and many of your kind were meticulously preserved in sealed coffins when they were discovered.”

“Know kill us, preserve us, why?”

“Not everyone knew. Someone discovered bodies and named you sand-morphs, because you were mostly sand by appearance and on the sensors that they used to probe for life forms. Yet you kind of had bodies.”

“How many preserve?”

“I don’t know. Paul would have better knowledge of that. I would guess thousands. But it could be more or less.”

“Intend parade embarrass authorities.”

“We don’t want this to become a circus. We want this to be meaningful and have a lasting impact.”

“Thank,” Slahl’yukim said. “Go back when?”

“When there’s been significant change and an interest in your form of life.”

“If not happen, then still go back?”

“I could take you back to die among your friends. I can take you back to before we met even, so maybe you would never know. I’m not sure how would work, but maybe it could happen. You would not know that five days later you and all of those around you would be dead.”

“Stay here one my kind.”

“Did you have a mate?”

“No one. Shun Slahl’yukim. Outcast, exile, heretic, poet, evil thoughts.”

“You should try writing music here, then. It sounds like you might fit in,” Alix laughed.

“You popular?”

“Me, not hardly. I was always shy. I mean, I perform on stage and all that, but I’m not the focus. Cristina’s the star.”

“She should.”

Alix laughed. “She’s amazing, by the way.”

“Suspect,” Slahl’yukim said. “Lucky human she loves.”

Alix smiled. “I must have a charmed life even if, lately, it has not seemed that way.”

“Intelligence, exotic. Touch mind not resist. Captive attention.”

“She has that gift and can do that to men on many levels.”

Slahl’yukim glowed, “Man that way least. Slahl’yukim too.”

Dom emerged from Raven’s study and waved toward Alix for them to advance. When Slahl’yukim and Alix passed through the door Dom closed it behind him, remaining outside.

“So this is what you’ve done,” Raven said to Alix. “You’ve circumvented the whole issue of resurrecting a demon from the past by just going there and capturing one.”

“Not capture,” Slahl’yukim said. “Come with.”

“He speaks?” Raven laughed, and then turned to accuse Cristina. “You taught him some words in English but not Italian?”

“You don’t speak Italian very well. I am sure he can render things as different languages like humans do. To him all human languages that I know would seem to be as one.”

“So this was the plan all along. Get the reclusive Raven involved in current world affairs.”

“No condemn Cristina. Intentions pure. Me no otherwise here .”

“The purity of her intentions is never in question,” Raven responded. “It’s the wisdom of her judgment that baffles me.”

Raven came forward and studied the alien for a few moments, but then he turned to Cristina and said, “If this is not handled right the Colonial Authority will discredit everything and put both you and Alix in prison. Likely as not, they would execute this alien. Worst case they would study him to excess and then execute him later on.”

“No kill me,” Slahl’yukim said.

Raven focused on the sand-morph’s apparent eyes for a moment. Afterwards he stepped back. “Cristina tells me you are a poet?”

“Yes.”

“I’m a writer but I suck at writing poetry,” Raven said. “I revere poets. I write non-fiction and histories, stories that are long enough to fill a book. I’m sure you are struggling to relate to something comparable in your experience.”

“Comparable. More successful. Poets rare find success.”

“Then the artistic community between our kinds does not differ all that much.

“Make world and characters pretend real.”

“You are able to create pictures in minds with words alone.”

“Poet emotion, moments capture.”

“Poets have a gift with words. Writers have a knack or maybe a talent if they are lucky,” Raven said.

Slahl’yukim glanced to Cristina while non-verbally communicating that he was uncomfortable in the radiant heat of the immediate environment. He claimed that it was too hot and far too dry, something that she found ironic considering his nature until she considered that they both shared the same, common essential component of life. For Slahl’yukim, to be absent of water was to revert to sand. For humans it was to revert to dust.

“That can be adjusted,” Cristina promised.

Raven seemed to have picked up on the non-verbal communication and poured out a glass of water for each of his guests. “It’s mostly cold. Dom brought it recently. I’m not sure whether your kind prefers water cold, warm or even hot,” Raven said.

“As offered,” Slahl’yukim said. “Any way.”

“I must say that Cristina has performed a miracle in such a short time teaching you many words of English.”

“He was a most willing pupil,” Cristina responded.

“Most non-native speakers consider English a difficult language to acquire. Many native speakers fail to acquire it fully,” Raven said.

“My language she gifted. Do no less learn hers.”

Raven smiled. “She has empathic and telepathic abilities.”

“No know terms.”

“She can feel what you feel and think what you think.”

Slahl’yukim smiled broadly. “Like me.” Then he glanced at her. She stood there being impatient and unappreciative of Raven’s comments.

Raven stared into his eyes then immediately rebuffed the alien’s fifth attempt to probe his mind. “Some humans will be weak or not even be aware of your attempts. Others of us will never permit it.”

“Understood,” Slahl’yukim said.

“The real reason any of us are here now is that we need to have a plan,” Cristina said.

“How are we going to break the news to the world?” Alix asked.

“More relevantly how do you break the news without having the Colonial Authority quash the effort?” Raven posed.

“This is a significant event. It is newsworthy and relevant,” Cristina stated.

“But no one wants to hear about it unless it is pitched to them in a personally relevant way,” Alix said.

“You understand the problem,” Raven said.

“I get it,” Alix said. “I really do. Most people don’t care about anything that’s going on around them as long as it doesn’t directly impose on their immediate plans of their overall life.”

“I believe you really do understand people,” Raven said.

“We need to focus on the entertainment value, the shock value, the potential to gather an audience and then we pitch for the mass support.”

Cristina smiled with pride as Alix demonstrated his level of enlightenment about managing the mass media.

“It will be a challenge. He’s newsworthy. Maybe he’s relevant. Most people are never going to relate to him or the story, though.”

“That’s why we transform the news into an event,” Cristina said.

“Well, despite the difficulty of your adventure and your best intentions, what you have done is create a circus sideshow: The Last Living Sand-morph. I’m sure he does not want to endure that moniker for the rest of his life.”

“All I wanted to do was show the world that the Colonial Authority has lied to us,” Cristina said.

“And that’s the reason your brother killed many, many agents?” Raven asked. “That’s the real issue you’re up against.”

“It was the Colonial Authority’s intransigence and lack of integrity in adherence to the regulations for creating a habitable world and the cover up that ensued.”

“That’s why Paul killed agents?”

“That’s where it began,” Cristina said.

“It’s far too complicated. The reason has to be pithy for the masses to understand it.”

“It was kill of be killed.”

“That’s cliché, but more along the lines of what you need.”

“I just know the truth. Paul killed to prevent further brutality in his interrogation and those of others. The agents routinely torture prisoners to obtain information,” Cristina said.

“I know that. He knows it. You know it. Alix knows. Hell, everyone who had ever been interrogated knows. The problem is how do you prove it and how do you get the message out to the masses?” Raven asked. “The Colonial Authority has no interest in giving you a forum for your message.”

“Look, I want to save Paul but at this point I do not know whether that is even possible. He has reached the bedrock of the pit he has dug for himself. And yet he continues to dig,” Raven said.

“Do you know where they will keep him once he is recaptured?”

“That inevitability already occurred, sometime yesterday.”

“No, you’re confused. We broke him out earlier today.”

“No that was two days ago.”

“What?”

“Dom must have given us coordinates so we could catch back up with when we should have been here…”

Raven shook his head. “You should pay more attention if you’re going to be traveling in time and space. It’s a big universe out there. It’s easy to get lost. I should know.”

“We have to free him again,” Cristina said.

“There won’t be another chance, I’m afraid.”

“We have to save his life.”

“When he escaped from their central detention center,” Raven said. “Considering the other related news about systems shutting down and remaining disabled for sometime, I suspected you and Alix. When he was recaptured I would suspect he’d be taken to their maximum-security facility. It is on the southeastern side of town very close to the dome maintenance track.”

Cristina glanced toward Alix.

“The walls of that prison have all sorts of electromagnetic scramblers to defeat any sort of surveillance device,” Raven said. “I believe you will find that it thwarts your abilities as well and in a way far more overwhelming than at the detention facility.”

Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water and poured himself another glass. After he consumed it he complained. “Here killing me.”

“You prefer the cool dampness of a cavern,” Raven said.

“You no would?” Slahl’yukim responded.

Raven stared at Cristina. “He’s your charge now. You have to take care of him. Our world is as alien to him as his nature is to us. It’s increasingly more obvious by the moment that he cannot remain here.”

“But you have not told me how to break the news.”

“Am I the repository of all relevant knowledge in the world? I don’t think so. You have done something without my knowledge and certainly it is something I would have never approved. Everything before was up to you and now this must be the same way. I do not want to be involved.”

“You don’t understand,” Cristina said.

“I assure you I do. I fully understand why you did what you did and I appreciate the enormity of this accomplishment. But everything needs to be planned and the timing must be perfect to ever have the effect you intend. For that, you’ll need patience. You need to dig down deep inside and find wherever you have hidden yours.”

“We can’t exactly walk around with him and not expect to have some questions.”

“I suppose not,” Raven said. “I used to be a lot heavier when I was younger. I’m sure I have a hooded trench coat in my closet that will fit him.”

“That would be perfect.”

“The only issue you will have is his ID and payment wand. Dom can do something for him. The problem is that even if Dom implants a microchip the scan also checks for pulse. It is something that dates back to terrorist infiltration during the clone uprising. Dead clones were routinely used to obviate security measures. There are ways of defeating the check. For example, I have traveled with Dom who obviously does not have a human pulse. When his ID was scanned we were able to clear security simply because I was holding on to his wrist. The device picked up my pulse rate and accepted it as the primary.”

“Makes you feel really safe, doesn’t it?” Alix commented.

“Despite the failing, the bureaucracy still insists it is necessary to check for pulse. It is a perfect example of how some security measures are thought through completely but others are not,” Raven said. “Regardless of that, anything anyone ever comes up with can be defeated provided there’s enough time, energy and resourcefulness.”

“So we can travel with Slahl’yukim,” Cristina said. “Even outside of the city.”

“What’s wrong with breaking the news here?” Raven asked.

“I would rather be in New Milan or Andromeda,” Cristina said.

“I thought the whole point of doing this was to free Paul.”

Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water again and poured himself another glass with the last available water in the pitcher.

“Freeing Paul is part of the point. Maybe it was the major point at first but things have changed. We know things that we did not know before.”

“Like the Sakum’malien are not indigenous,” Raven said.

“Exactly,” she said.

“Still, they were here first,” Alix said.

“‘Finders keepers’ expire sometime after childhood ends,” Raven said. “Besides, the Colonial Authority is not going to respond well to the presence of a living sand-morph.”

“They won’t like the exposure of the truth about the origins of our existence on Pravda,” Cristina said.

“That’s a given,” Raven said. “But the news is not anything that the mainstream public would suspect. The authorities have kept very tight controls on the information and imprisoned anyone credible with the desire to divulge the secret.”

“It is not going to be easy for them to discount the preponderance of evidence,” Alix said.

“But you need to present the evidence before they arrest you and Cristina.”

“I have not done anything like this before,” Alix said.

“The world as we know it is about to change,” Cristina said. “The truth could bring down the Colonial Authority.”

“Which should not be the goal at all,” Raven said.

“Why not?”

“What do you replace their authority with?” Raven asked. “There’s no alternative to fill the power vacuum. Despite the negative aspects of their governing, they represent order and stability. Without them there would be anarchy and chaos. Even their tyranny is preferable to the alternative of a world without an organized government and structure.”

“Maybe it will only be embarrassment that they suffer,” Alix said.

“Until then we have to duck under the scanner net and remain out of sight as much as possible,” she said.

“Yes,” Raven said. “That’s the immediate challenge.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 8 – Vigil

**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 huddled together to share their body heat, warding off the artificially produced chill of the evening. Using their backpacks as support for their lower backs, they sat on the pavement in the alley and leaned back against the wall of the building. Spending the night, sleeping in shifts, they continued their vigil over the building where they were certain Paul was hiding.

Alix had obtained a measuring meter from a store down the street. After spending several minutes inside the building across the street, he confirmed what he suspected. The inside wall of the room upstairs was partitioned three and one half feet shorter than the wall outside of the room. There had to be a hidden space, a very small, narrow room, perhaps. There was no other reason that he could determine, no vent ducts of plumbing – all of that appeared to run through the outer walls.

The concealed room probably dated back to the earliest times of the city, before the railcar infrastructure was fully online. Smuggling was a lucrative, but of course illegal, enterprise. Many felt it was well worth the risk of being caught or the bribes paid to dishonest authorities for protection of their shady business. Alix had seen documentaries on the rough and tumble times when there were only four cities in the world.

In response to the lawlessness that seemed concentrated in Andromeda and Star City, the Colonial Authority established an intercity agency task force to enforce laws and regulations and maintain the peace for the average citizens in the growing communities. It was the origin of the Security Agency. The security needs persisted long after the establishment of the railcar system to the infrastructure, just the nature of the commodities smuggled changed.

The Security Agency grew and its influence within The Colonial Authority expanded well beyond the original scope of its mission, all in the public interest. No one discussed the excesses the agency went to carry out their expanded role as the de facto inter-city police force.

The night passed slowly. Alix fought the urge to close his eyes and rest for a few moments. He knew the end result of falling prey to such self-deception. He did not understand why they did not just go upstairs and find the access to the hidden room. They knew it was there. They knew Paul was inside as there was no other way out of the building.

Closely, they continued to monitor the building, observing the comings and goings of others. There had been a visitor in the evening, around dinnertime. He arrived carrying a box, holding it by its edges, carrying it level as if the contents were prone to spilling. Then he departed carrying the box in the same way, perhaps retrieving the meal tray from lunch, Cristina had surmised.

She was convinced, as was Alix, that the visitors were bringing food to Paul. Then later on, when the bustle of the local area relented to retiring for the evening, another visitor came, carrying a backpack. After a half hour or so, he also left, carrying the same backpack.

Cristina was already sleeping, resting up for her turn at the watch. Alix considered long and hard the purpose of that last visitor and why it would have taken him longer than the others to finish whatever business he had with Paul. Then it occurred to him. The visitor brought a change of clothes and perhaps the necessary articles for taking a shower in the full bathroom that Paul had seen on the floor and had inspected meticulously for any sign that it had been used recently. Every surface in the bathroom had been dry. There was no sign of its recent use, any hairs or stains. Still the toilet had water in it. He assumed that it was functional. If he was right about the purpose of the final visitor of the evening, the bathroom had to be functional.

Cristina woke around 2 AM. She was rested but still sleepy. Alix told her about the final visitor and she agreed with his assumptions and logical assessment. She took over the vigil as Alix stretched out, resting his head in her lap just as she had rested hers in his before. It was a long but thankfully quiet night.

Shortly after dawn, the visitor bearing breakfast came and went. The coffee shop opened a few minutes afterwards. Cristina awakened Alix and suggested that they get some breakfast, an idea Alix welcomed. They picked up their backpacks and went into the coffee shop. They ordered breakfast along with coffee, all the time still maintaining their vigil through the shop’s window.

When they had deposited their backpacks beneath the table, Alix began. “We know Paul’s there. We even know where he is. I don’t see why we don’t just go up there and figure out how to open the concealed room.”

“Paul might be armed,” Cristina said. “He might innocently defend himself before he realized who we are.”

Alix thought for a few moments. “He has to be able to hear through the walls, at least to some extent. We tell him who we are in advance.”

Cristina considered what Alix was suggesting as she sipped her coffee, and then took a bite of toast and chewed it for a bit before swallowing. Then she responded, “We need to know how to open the wall, and where the opening is.”

“It would have to be at the corner,” Alix surmised. “It would be the best place to set hinges strong enough to bear the weight of the wall. The seams in the wall have to be concealed as well and there is the corner trim on the wall and the full door frame seven feet down the wall from it.”

“You have been thinking this through.”

“I was bored last night.”

“So was I,” Cristina said, and then maintained a silent pause in conversation for several minutes as she stared at the building across the street and particularly the windows upstairs. She was this close, so very close to her goal of finding Paul. Yet, she did not know how to best accomplish it. Would Paul listen to her? “Let me think about it,” she finally said to Alix.

He finished his bacon and eggs, sopping up the yoke of the over easy egg with the edge of his buttered toast. It was a perfect breakfast, he thought. It filled him and satisfied him. Of course he was very hungry. Neither he nor Cristina had eaten anything except the snacks that Dom packed into their backpacks before they left Raven’s place. The snacks were amazingly filling but unfortunately the effect did not last long. Still, they wanted to refrain from using the payment wands Raven gave to them as it was limited but they knew they could not possibly use their personal accounts. Even if it was a day early they were fugitives in Andromeda and thus far they had not been found out, certainly they did not want to have any indication they were in Star City.

So far, there was no evidence of their arrival in Star City. No one would have thought of checking the security recordings at the stations for the morning before they were expected to arrive. Who could have imagined that during their escape, Alix had pulled Cristina through a small threshold he opened beneath the veils and they stepped through into a different time and place, a little while earlier.

Cristina leaned back in her chair, not taking her eyes off the building across the street. “I suppose we need to do something. I mean, how long are they going to keep him in that building?”

“Until his trail grows cold,” Alix suggested. “He’s a fugitive, like us.”

“We are fugitives because of him.”

“Just we’re here before anyone knows we’re fugitives.”

“Exactly. Are you sorry I got you into this?”

“It has been scary at times, but really, it’s been exciting. It’s definitely something I never thought I’d be involved in, running from the authorities, hiding, tracking down someone. You read stories about things like this, watch movies, you know? Real people rarely get a chance to live this sort of life.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Cristina prompted.

“I’m with you to the very end,” Alix said. “As long as we’re together I’m not complaining.”

When they finished eating breakfast, they gathered up their backpacks and returned to their places in the alley between buildings where they had the best possible vantage for continuing their vigil. Throughout the day they watched. No one went through the arch and up the stairs except for the one who came around mealtime to deliver breakfast, lunch or dinner – someone different each time.

Once more, a few hours after the last previous visitor, a man came to the arch bearing a backpack, just as Alix had described to her from the prior night’s observations. He went up stairs.

“How long will this go on?” Alix asked.

“As long as necessary. The local cell that is affiliated with his organization has secluded him. They’re taking care of him, but they don’t want to risk him being observed and identified.”

“Won’t the authorities eventually notice on their street cameras that at fairly regular intervals people are coming and going from this building?”

“That might take a while,” Cristina said. “They would have to be focusing in on this section of town.”

“Might,” Alix repeated the operative word. “What if it doesn’t take long? I mean, you and I found him. It didn’t seem all that hard.”

“But we knew what to look for and sort-of where to look.”

“Won’t they?”

Cristina shrugged but then, after that one conversational exchange, she seemed a little more nervous and a lot more focused on the building across the street. Alix was right. The local cell would have to keep moving Paul to prevent his being detected. They would have to vary their patterns, their procedures. The authorities would invariably key in on any routines. They had cameras monitoring the streets. All they had to do was hone in on one area and staff enough people to maintain a vigil.

Cristina noticed some men hiding on rooftops. Who were they? Had they been there before and she had not noticed? Were they part of the clandestine group or agents of the Colonial Authority?

She silently pointed out her observation to Alix who immediately nodded then suddenly began to share her concerns. Were they posted to protect Paul or to capture him? How long had they been observing? Had they observed Cristina and him?

Cristina stood and stretched, and then she walked down the alley even to the next street toward the north. There she squatted down as Alix maintained his divided attention on her and the building across the street. After a few moments, the last visitor of the evening exited the building. Alix watched as the observers on the rooftops returned to whatever concealment masked their presence before. Still, Alix believed they remained there on the roofs. He could not be certain of it. They might have descended from the roofs to some concealed alley or street. Still, why would not they be there, maintaining surveillance – same as he and Cristina were doing?

Alix panicked when he looked down the alley and did not see Cristina. Where had she gone? Why? Then the true fear set in. When he was distracted, someone might have abducted her.

For several minutes Alix debated whether to leave his post and search for Cristina or to stay put and wait for her to come back. If he waited a few more minutes she might come back from wherever she went. But if she had been abducted every minute he delayed would make it more difficult for him to find her.

He was just standing up, preparing to set out in search of her when Cristina returned to the alley. She crossed the street diagonally from the corner of the building they had been watching. She crouched down beside Alix as he explained to her what he had observed.

“They are all over this block. Probably on top of all the buildings in the area,” she said.

“Who are they?”

“Judging from the numbers alone, they must be agents,” she said. “They know something’s going on.”

“Then, it’s not safe for us here.”

Cristina sat on the hard pavement in the alley and adjusted the laces on her shoes. “We need to remain in sight of the building. I was looking for a hotel or some vacant building where we could stay.”

“That would be good.”

“It would be, but there’s nothing in direct line of sight. The rooftops are all taken, at least from what I can tell. I’m not sure where else we would go. They can’t exactly arrest us for sitting in an alley and talking. I guess it’s loitering, but we have done nothing wrong.”

“At least there’s been nothing under our present identities.”

Cristina smiled. “Maybe it’s not worth pushing our luck. They can check fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA to identify us – if they wanted to. We probably don’t need to raise their suspicions. I’d prefer to be unobtrusive.”

Alix nodded. “My point is they’ll become suspicious if we stay here any longer. They may be suspicious already.”

“You’re right,” Cristina agreed. He could tell that her mind was elsewhere at the moment as she studied the nearby rooftops. “It is just there’s nowhere else for us to go and I’m not about to desert Paul, not now that I’ve finally located him.”

“If the authorities move in and capture him, what are we going to do? What’s the point?”

“Maybe we can do something,” Cristina said. “I think we might save him.”

“How? He has the attributes. He must be able to use them.”

Cristina stood up, grabbing her backpack with her. “Come.”

“Where are we going?”

“For a walk.”

“We’ll lose sight of the building,” Alix protested but, knowing better than to think he would win the argument, he snatched up his backpack and followed her anyway.

“I’m not expecting anything before morning,” she said as she moved on down the alley, the way she’d gone before. “We’ve watched the schedule. We know what’s going on and when to expect it.”

“How can you be certain?” Alix asked as he hurried to catch up to her.

“If they’ve been watching all along they know as much as we knew at first, that Paul’s in there but they do not know where. We have an advantage. We know where he is. They are watching and observing the comings and goings, timing them, estimating windows of opportunity. Perhaps they’ll attack when one of the visitors is inside. But they’re going to be cautious and choose the right time. They want this to operate on their timetable. They want to be in control.”

“The best time’s when the last visitor comes for 30 minutes,” Alix suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Cristina said.

“It’s the time that Paul would be exposed for the longest interval,” Alix argued his point.

“Don’t you think Paul’s visitors know that? The building must be protected in other ways that we’ve not yet observed. Besides, the authorities will not willingly attack at night. The night favors us. We have the attributes – better night vision.”

Alix nodded as she took his arm. What she was saying made a lot of sense. It also explained why the authorities had not bum-rushed the hideout. If they were covering every rooftop in a four-block area they certainly had the agents to do it. She must be right. They had other plans.

When they reached the next street, Cristina led the way into a hotel. It did not appear to be the greatest place to stay but it was the closest. They went inside, registered and presented their new thumbs for the imbedded ID chip to be scanned and then paid in advance with the payment keys that Raven had given to them. They asked for a room far away from everyone else, stating they were newlyweds. The desk clerk gave them a room on the top floor.

The room was smallish, as might be expected in the oldest part of the city. It was clean and seemed comfortable enough, though. Considering the most recent reference for comparison was spending the night in an alley, it was an excellent accommodation.

Cristina set her backpack down on the floor and squatted to open it. She noted when she had opened it before to obtain a snack Dom had been thorough in packing. She had everything she needed, even makeup. It struck her as odd that a DOMLIB would think of makeup and certainly it was strange that Raven would have such things in his residence. Perhaps he’d send Dom out to purchase items for them while they were resting.

She unpacked what she needed and disrobed, taking a long, hot shower, washing her hair and then, when she stepped out of the shower and toweled dry, she opened the door to allow Alix to do the same while she got dressed for bed.

Alix’s shower was comparatively quick. The hot water seemed to be getting cooler the longer he lingered and so he focused on getting rid of the dirt, sweat and smell before the water turned too cold.

When he stepped out of the shower and dried off, he walked up behind Cristina and wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the side of her neck just below the ear lobe. She giggled in response, “You missed me already.”

“We could have conserved water and taken a shower together.”

“I sort of think we might have been in there longer then.”

Alix laughed. “You’re probably right. I’m just looking forward to being comfortable lying next to you. Nothing else in this craziness makes sense to me. “

“I’m sorry,” she said as she turned within his embrace and faced him. She looked strange from the preparations she applied to her face to cleanse it deeply. Not that he had ever seen her in such a state, it was just he had other ideas for the evening. It could be their last time to spend together as a free man and woman.

“There is only this moment,” Alix said. “There might never be another.”

“I know,” Cristina said.

Alix swept her up into his arms and carried her into the other room. As she clung tightly with her arms wrapped around his neck, Alix peeled back the sheets with one hand and then laid her down gently on the bed. He leaned over her and pressed his lips to hers even though he inadvertently applied some of the cleansing face cream around his lips.

“What do you have in mind?”

“Everything,” Alix said.

Cristina giggled. “I don’t know if I can do everything but I suppose I can give it a try.”

Alix laughed. “I just want to forget about everything else – just be us, here and now. Nothing else matters.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 1 – The Interrogator

**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.***

Beginning of Book 2 of The Attributes

The cell door opened. Light flooded into the otherwise dark room. Paul tried to rise up from the bed, wondering when and how he got there. Immediately he discovered his ankles and wrists were restrained, strapped to the sides of the bed. At least two people entered the room and grabbed hold of him. Someone, another one, unfastened the straps allowing him to be yanked upward. Painfully, his shoulders reminded him of how long his arms had been secured behind him. Dragged out of the room and into a bright corridor, the shock of being awake again, the reminder of the pain, the beatings, how long was he unconscious. He did not sleep.

Squinting he struggled to see where they were taking him. Why? Did he expect anywhere else? The torture he remembered. They called it an interrogation. It was anything but that. His knees, lower legs and feet dust mopped the slickly waxed resilient tile floor. He dirt stung the open sores on his lower extremities. Jerking him up by his arms they flung him through an open door. There some other hands latched hold of him, pulling him into an interrogation cell. The rough concrete floor’s surface scraped the scabs hide off of his bare knees, calves and tops of his feet, leaving a slimy trail of his blood behind – not that anyone but him cared much. They were already raked raw, as were other parts of his body.

Into a dark corner they deposited him like so much refuse. The smell of the interrogation cell brought back the excruciating agony of the prior session with the interrogator – the sadistic bastard. Trapped in the corner of a small room with one light, he huddled against the wall. Tears welled in his eyes as he caught the scent of the source of all his recent misery.  Hearing his voice made his skin crawl and his heart beat harder in abject panic. He needed to control that.

Hanks of hair plucked from his scalp the pain returned to mind. His pubic area was burned and from the hairs being singed. Nipples, useless as they were, ached from the alligator clips clamped around them for the application of electric shock between beatings until he had lapsed unconscious. He remembered everything in cold, cruel clarity.

Two men entered. From their pungent sweat smell he identified them from the previous sessions. Sometimes they held him during the beatings. Dousing him with ice-cold water forced a scream through gritted teeth. Alertness as the single light illuminated the interrogator. In panic, he struggled to find his feet, only to have them slip out from under him and he fell back, banking his head against the wall. Now, his neck hurt, too. He wondered why it did not hurt before – everything else seemed to.

As he looked up at the man towering over him, there was general laughter from a number of agents who were returning to the room, primed for another session. His mind fused memories of past beating with the present moment until he was uncertain whether he rested at all. Was it his imagination before, the bed in a different room? He crumpled into a lumpy mess of human flesh on the floor as he lay there listening to the jeers and laughter.

“Behold the mighty Paul!” The interrogator mocked him. “Stripped of his legendary status. Here he is, merely a miscreant – another of the mutants. All the wild stories of amazing abilities have been rendered explainable. Just shut down his connection to the source. Now he does not have any kind of command over nature. He cannot kill anyone with mere thoughts alone. A pathetic excuse of a man who the criminals of this world have glorified beyond any reason! We’ll parade you in public and broadcast your image to the world, Paul! This will be a lesson to one and all. No will doubt who’s in charge!”

Hands reached down from around the silhouette of the interrogator, snatching him, violently hauling him up. Dragged again over the rough textured floor and dropped into chair, he felt them holding him there, ensuring he did not fall out onto cold, hard floor.

“So, have you changed your mind?” the interrogator asked.

Paul didn’t respond.

With exasperation, the interrogator struck him across the face. Paul could not see him clearly through his blurred vision. Still, he recognized him, his smell and the knobs ring on his hand, the one that tore into his cheek. With shivers of recollection for each excruciating moment of agony he endured, he knew him too well. Every cell of his body protested in anticipation of more terror. The interrogator was a man who had a demonic soul, Paul decided. He delighted in hearing screams of pain and the horror of anticipating more torment to come. This man promised to keep him alive, though it was only to prolong the torture.

It began the same as the session before, just a continuation. Paul was heavily sedated to deaden his perception of the world. He could not focus enough to gain control over even his sense of balance much less the world around him. Neutralized between the strong drugs and the electronic dampers projected into the room, his gifts failed him. His sensory connection was artificially severed.

“Let’s try it again, shall we?” the interrogator began. “Tell me about your sister, Cristina.”

Paul spat in the direction of the interrogator’s voice and received a backhand swept across his face in exactly the same place as before, already bruised and puffy from previous strikes.

“I’ll keep you alive so you can watch me pleasure myself repeatedly with your sister. I hear she is quite a treat. Maybe she can even get me off with her screams as she begs for the release of death. But I’ll fuck the shit out of her, Paul. That’s what I’ll do! Right up he ass with no lubrication.”

“Sick, perverted bastard,” Paul countered but his voice was weak and it cracked even as he spoke.

“I’m the best interrogator there is, Paul. They brought me here special just to deal with you. Maybe you can take some small pride in that accomplishment. I’m here to dissect you into little pieces. I’ll do it if you want, Paul? Is that the way you want it? Maybe I can fuck you up the ass with a broom handle.”

Paul spat again and received a knuckle punch to his face after which he felt blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and the tip of his nose.

“You know all about your sister, Paul, don’t you? Your parents thought they were so smart separating you shortly after birth. The two of you are monsters. Your mother was a mutant, an aberration of humanity. Mutants are not intended to mate but for some reason your father was turned on by it. You have four nipples and four balls! When I interrogate your sister I have plans for each of her four pretty little teats! That what we have to call them, cause she’d not human. She’s an animal like you, Paul! She doesn’t deserve to live any more than you do.”

Paul struggled but his wrists were immediately pulled back behind him and duct taped to the back of the chair. In the process, his shoulders felt as if they were ripped out of their sockets.

“You are not like real people at all, Paul. You see, you and your sister are really different forms of life altogether. You’re aberrations, what religious people call demons. You appear to be human and in her case a very attractive human from what I have seen and heard. But you can only pretend to be like us. There’s something else inside of you. It possesses you. What amazes me is you think you are better than we are. Look what your arrogance has gotten you. Who has put you in your place? A mere human – li’l ol’ me!” Then he paused to wave his assistants over, “Bind his legs and arms firmly. I don’t want him coming out of that chair!”

When they had finished he hooked up a battery to clips. Using his dirty fingernails he picked off the scabs formed on Paul’s four nipples before he pinched the clips into place.  As he flicked a switch, he waited for the electricity to charge the capacitor, then he laughed was the voltage coursed through Paul’s body, enough so that his spasm in the chair caused him to bite his tongue even as he fell backward and crash into the floor. He struck the back of his head full force on the concrete, addling him for a few moments.

Blood and sweat splattered and stuck the pants legs of others standing about him. In response several of them cursed and kick him in the ribs.

Disoriented from the pain he blinked, trying to focus as he drew shallow breaths. He winced with pain from his bruised or cracked ribs. Not all right but he was aware and oddly his focus was returning as if the drugs were wearing off.

A revelation occurred to him. The interference he sensed before was gone. Mentally he was able to grasp the fragments of his recent memories. Safe haven for a level of serenity where he could reside, his thoughts crawled into shelter from whatever this demon spawn and his henchmen were going to do to him.

The assistants hauled Paul back upright for another go at the voltage. Another charge and discharge – the interrogator laughed insidiously as once more Paul fell over backward.

“Again!” he said sadistically. “I can do this all night. I love my job! You see, I know the worst thing possible is to torture you until you die. But if I get no information out of you, what’s the point? So I’ll keep you hanging on and it will only get worse for you. I assure you I’m very good at doing this, Paul. I can prolong your life and your agony until you beg me to end it. But I won’t, not until I have exactly what I need.”

Paul reached a point of novel experience. His body resisted, not only in response to the pain but also the drugs intended to suppress his special abilities. The suppressing effect was gone. He did not know why but he was grateful to whatever providence. It was part of his difference.

His body completed the tolerance negated its effects, bringing clarity to mind. With focus he swept aside the fog. Blurry vision cleared as he stared at the interrogator, and then growled.

“See you are an animal. Animals growl.”

“Animals can rip a man’s throat out.”

“Is that what you want to do, Paul?”

“You can’t imagine what I’m thinking.”

“I don’t need to know what your diseased mind is pondering.”

“Whose mind is diseased? Give me your name, asshole!” Paul demanded.

“You dare speak to me in that way!”

“It would be better for you if you volunteered the information, but I can extract it from you if you prefer. I promise not to be gentle, either.”

The interrogator laughed. “Was it intended as a threat?” He reached for the switch one more, intending to apply a higher level of voltage this time. Paralysis prevented his arm from reaching out. He could no longer use his hand.

Paul turned to the others in the room. “Some of you are young and have young families. You need to think of them when you ask is this worth your life. You may leave now and run clear of the building. In a few moments it will be too late.  It’s going to be really messy in here.”

Some of them laughed, taking it as false bravado, but not all.

“How dare you!” the interrogator shouted, trying to move either one of his arms.

“You have told me what I needed to know,” Paul said to the interrogator; then he met his eyes, “Richard. That’s your given name, but you have always embraced the nickname ‘Dick’. You have aspired to be everything negative about what that nickname. Living to those standards, as morally corrupt and despicable as they are, has become your goal in life.”

“I am…unimpressed,” Dick said even though he strained against pain throbbing in his temples, blinking his eyes, wishing he could move his arms. “Guards get him out of here!”

Paul looked at the guards, halting their advance with a thought before he retuned his eyes to Dick. “Unlike you I don’t have the time or the patience to draw death out into a lingering, suffering sort of ordeal. But I will allow you a moment of silence to settle your peace with whatever marker you believe is responsible for your miserable existence.”

Paul terminated the painful pressure he was mentally applying to the interrogator.

“You make me laugh,” Dick said, straining to seem unaffected even if he was visually shaken. Finding that he could move his arms and hand, he grabbed Paul’s head between his hands. “I’m going to make you wish you’d never been born.”

“It’s is you are about to make that wish.”

Some of the tape that secured Paul to the chair began to unravel, seemingly all by itself. Other strip began to tear. Paul stood up, snapping what tape remained, breaking free of his bindings as if it were thin paper or, more so like it was never there at all. He raised his arms, coming up between Dick’s hands, as he quickly broke the interrogator’s grip. He flexed his arms and ripples coursed beneath the surface of his skin.

Several of the assistants scurried out the door. Some others adjusted their positions in defense of Dick, drawing their weapons.

“Stand down!” Dick ordered. “I can handle this shit head.”

“I have issues with some of the others. But most of my issues are with you, Dick,” Paul said. “They were following your orders. Maybe some of them enjoyed seeing me suffer. What you have done here is a travesty. It’s not legal. The planners of the colony never intended it to be this way. The Colonial Authority has grown beyond the scope of its charter. This is a police state. Civil rights are trampled to suppress any opposition.”

“You have no rights, Paul. You suspended those the first time you met with operatives from The Resurrection.”

“You’re nothing but a tool for the for the evil in this world. You’re what is wrong.”

“What’s your plan, Paul? Do you think you can walk out of here and disappear? There’re cameras and sensors everywhere, even places you’d never expect. We control you, Paul. I extract information from terrorists like you. I’m very good at what I do, Paul. Despite your resistance, I think you’d agree.”

“I’m not a terrorist. No one in The Resurrection’s a terrorist. We seek only to reveal the truth. This world’s name is ironic isn’t it? There’s no truth left in this world, only more of The Colonial Authority’s lies.”

“You’ve killed. That creates fear in others and that constitutes terror.”

“I’ve harmed no one who didn’t try to harm me first.”

“What about the old man you killed at the relay station.”

“He sold me out, kept me occupied with his stories while waiting for the agents to arrive. He died from an aneurism, like a ticking bomb in his heart. He would have died within a few days anyway.”

“It’s easy to justify your actions once you’ve crossed the line and gone down the wrong path.”

“I’m not wrong, Dick. The system you serve is what’s wrong. It needs to go.”

“So single handedly you’re going to overthrown the government?”

“I have help.”

“You know the people. You have the names. That’s the information I need, Paul. You refuse to give it to me. That information is what stands between you and more pain.”

“I’m beyond that, Dick. You don’t understand.”

“Oh, I understand. I know exactly what needs to be done. Lock him up!” he ordered the guards.

“Good-bye, Dick!” Paul pointed to the interrogator’s temple and suddenly Dick’s head snapped back. Falling he crashed into the table, his head banging onto the floor with an impact that cracked his skull, splitting it wide open like an overly ripe melon. The body twitched and kicked several times, before lifeless his eyes stared straight up at the light above him.

Turning on the guards. Paul waved an arm, easily brushing them aside. Some agents fired tranquilizer darts at him. With a single glare Paul stopped the projectiles in flight, suspending them in air. Then one-by-one, he snatched them before throwing them at the agents, sticking them in the leg or arm with the strong drug that, to them, would be an overdose. Almost instantly they collapsed to the floor.

Others who were not struck scrambled for the only door, closing it and locking in an attempt to trap him inside. In contrast to the general panic and mayhem around him, Paul was serene. Having found the best place to reside apart from the cares of the world, he proceeded toward the door. The internal pins in the hinges melted and the molten metal ran down the reinforced steel doorframe and to puddle up at the base. By its own weight the door fell into the room, slamming onto the floor.

He emerged from the room. In the wake of his passing, with a slight wave of his hand he flung anyone who threatened him them across the room with immense velocity, breaking backbones and crushing skulls. Without so much as touching anyone he eliminated all opposition.

To the agents, Paul’s body appeared to glow. Several apparent halos formed around him through which he could still be seen but he appeared translucent. From the far end of the corridor a barrage of bullets erupted from numerous flashing muzzles. The trajectories of the bullets deflected once they reached the energized edge of one of Paul’s halos. Some rounds scraped along the floor, others imbedded in the walls and ceiling. Undaunted, Paul continued to advance on the agents. With his mind he imagined they were flying. In response to his vision, agents flew toward walls and windows, but it was only those who fired weapons at Paul. Some of the agents died instantly from the force of the impact, others lingered in agony with their broken backs and limbs. The majority would die. A few sustained less severe injuries. Though incapacitated, they were spared his wrath.

As he walked down the hall he sensed Tam in a holding cell, being interrogated. Forcing the door to open he projected his will, picking up the interrogator, pushing him against the wall and pinning him there. “Where are the others?” Paul demanded as he came closer.

“I don’t have to answer to you.”

“You don’t have to breathe anymore either. Once everyone in this building who refuses to cooperate is dead, I’m sure I’ll find everyone I seek all by myself.”

“Look, I didn’t agree with their treatment of you. I don’t work that way.”

“Has he treated you humanely, Tam?”

“Judging from the looks of you, yeah, I’ve been treated very well. He’s not beaten me.”

Paul allowed Tam’s interrogator to slowly slide down the wall to where he sat on the floor. “Where are the others?”

“You want me to violate my oaths?”

“Are oaths more important to you than seeing Emily or your daughters Keisha and Trisha tonight?”

The interrogator tilted his head to one side. “It’s true what they say about you?”

“Whether it’s truth or lies, does it matter at this point? The only way for you to live is to tell me what I want to know.”

“It’s the door at the end of the hallway,” he said. “You’ll need the keys from the front security office.”

“Come, both of you. You will get me the keys, Rael,” Paul directed to Tam’s interrogator.

The three of them walked down to the security office, both Tam and Rael surveyed the level of carnage. “They’ll never relent in finding you. You know that?”

“It becomes a matter of many more are going to die?”

When Paul led Tam and his team outside of the Colonial Authority building, the few agents who escaped harm stood clear allowing them to pass safely into the shadows of the nearby alley and into night.

“What happened to Cristina?” Paul asked over his shoulder as Tam followed him.

“I don’t know, Paul.”

“Tell me the truth,” Paul paused as he turned and physically grabbed Tam’s shirt and focused in on his eyes.

“I’m telling you the truth! We were there to help her and her boyfriend. We walked into an ambush, at both stations. They were waiting for them but they never showed.”

“I’ve felt her here, her presence is undeniable. They may have her,” Paul said. “Where would they have taken her?”

“Other than where we were, I don’t know – unless they took her out of the city.”

“No she’s here. She did something to save me from the interrogator. I’m sure of it.”

Tam looked to several of his team leaders. “Then, she and her friend are phantoms.”

“I assure you they’re real, as real as you or me.”

“We sort of thought she might have gotten off the railcar before getting to the stations,” Tam suggested.

“Both stations were the same. It was like a trap,” another said.

“Do your guys know what she looks like?” Paul asked.

“Paul, some of us are fans, so, yeah, we know what she looks like,” Tam said.

“Where is she? How can someone like her just disappear?”

“How do you know she was even aboard that railcar?” one of the group leaders asked.

“You saw what he did back there and you can still ask that?”

“Well, he’s asking us questions.”

“It’s professional courtesy,” Tam said. “He won’t read our minds – unless he needs to.”

“She was not on the railcar, not that any of us saw,” the group leader spoke directly to Paul. “Granted, we were all pretty busy fighting off the agents. It could have provided a sort of diversion for her.”

“Maybe her traveling companion helped her escape,” Tam offered.

Paul frowned, concerned as he considered the possibilities. “Where would she go?”

“Does she have friends in the city?”

“Would he give her a more cordial welcome than I received?” Paul wondered aloud.

“How’s that?” Tam asked.

“She knows Raven. We’ll start there.”

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 34 – Confrontation

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.***

Paul entered his second day of voluntary captivity. After eating breakfast, he began reading another book. Perhaps he would eventually exhaust the contents of the memory cube – at least the Mods containing books he had not already read – before it was deemed safe for him to come out of hiding. Still, he suspected Tam and the others would relocate him soon. As risky as moving him might be it was more dangerous for him to remain in one place.

He had no complaint about the service. It was everything Tam promised. Despite the quarters being cramped it was what it had to be. No one had found him. For the present, he felt safe.

A troubling dream woke him early on in his sleep. Afterwards, he had rested uncomfortably lapsing briefly in and out of other dreams. As vivid as if it were really happening, when he recalled it with wakeful mind he took it as a premonition or a forgone conclusion. What worried him was it involved Cristina. He believed that maybe there were times when it was quiet and he was not otherwise focused and he could see and feel what she was experiencing.

In the dream people were chasing her. There were explosions around her. She was in imminent peril. She needed his help more so than ever before. What could he do? He was in hiding. Helping anyone let alone her seemed unlikely. Then there was another feeling – an odd sensation he did not understand. How could she be in two places at once?

As his mind lingered in consideration, the potentials swirled confusing and frustrating him to the point the only rational way of dealing with it was discounting his dream altogether. Still, there was something very important about Cristina. He had to see Tam. They had to protect her, too. He wanted to at least get the word out to him that she was in danger. But none of the people who brought him meals or attended to him as he showered and changed clothes would permitted to talk to him – aside from polite exchanges of his expressed gratitude.

He didn’t want to go anywhere else. He just wanted to get word to Tam so he would know Cristina might be in trouble. He didn’t know why or when it began but he sensed her presence. If she were not in Star City already, then she would be arriving soon.

He wondered why she would want to come to Star City, but then he had been heading to Andromeda for a single reason as well. Clearly, they both felt it. Their mutual need and shared destiny compelled them. There was something important about the reunion. Something perches on the knife’s edge of lunacy, doubled in this crazy world. It was past his mind’s grasp. Hopefully, she understood it.

The meals came on schedule. At the appointed time so did his shower and change of clothes. He had finished another book, for the most part. He had skipped past a few boring paragraphs on subjects that he already felt that he knew a lot about and skimmed through some portions that were highly scientific in their detail and well beyond his level of interest or comprehension. He was reading about the aftermath of the DOMLIB insurrections in the near-Earth colonies. The author suggested it was a revolt of former slaves, suggesting the manufactured organic beings had acquired human desires for freedom and self-determination.

The book went to great lengths to chronicle and catalogue the destruction and devastation. Yet nowhere did it explain how humans survived the onslaught. To Paul it was like reading a story then getting to the last chapter and finding that the last few pages were missing.

He knew what happened, of course. Every school child learned of the triumph. It had become a legend discussed as a mysterious act of amazing foresightedness. How could anyone have possibly known or even suspected the possibility that would necessitate the inclusion of a failsafe feature designed into the DOMLIBs. Programmed into their essential nature was a command override that would shut them down in the event of malfunction or violation of the essential core programming parameters to serve mankind.

Paul sat on the cot in his tiny, cramped corner of the world and pondered how anyone would have ever thought that the DOMLIBs might turn out to be dangerous. Had it really been intuition or foresight? Could it have been based on information? The later possibility troubled him the most because the source of such information would have had to somehow deliver the warning across the apparently unassailable barrier of time.

In the memory cube there were a few fiction works that he knew were often attributed to Hunter even if there had never been any official confirmation. Hunter had been a famous author of biographies and histories. To anyone’s knowledge he had never published any works of fiction. Yet the mysterious works anonymously penned existed. If they belonged to Hunter why wouldn’t he have claimed them?

The books had established a broad cult following that grew over the decades until the fantasies were regarded as classics. Other authors built upon the well-defined universe proposed in the series to write their own stories of other characters in the strange world across a continuum of concentric spheres called Anter’x.

Some of the speculation stemmed from the use of a common publisher, a company that was at one time owned in part by Joseph Henderson. Even though the publisher had never published fiction before and after refused to accept submissions from other authors, the series of fantasies were printed, distributed and promoted. Over time, and the slow growth of a cult following, the works outsold every other publication of the company, combined.

Hunter was the sole male heir of his industrialist father’s wealth. During the late Twentieth Century Hunter assumed the reigns of the corporate empire. Under Hunter’s direction the corporation developed pioneering technologies that transcended the trends of the times. HenCo, renamed EthosCorp, developed and launched central processing units for computers that were based on photons not electrons. The company integrated control of a worldwide wireless network of communications called Ethosphere and charges licensing fees to use devices that interfaced directly with the global communications network. And they developed the technology for mass production of organic computers, which led directly to the creation of DOMLIBs.

On the morning of the third day of his isolation, Paul was waiting for the man who came with breakfast, begging him to get the message to Tam about Cristina. The man didn’t even respond. There was no indication that he had heard the message as he simply sealed the wall and left.

Paul fell back on the bed and cried out of his frustration. He did not know how it was possible but he felt the truth. Because of him Cristina was imperiled? He had to get out. He had to find her. He had to jump the next guy who delivered food. By then would it be too late?

She would be coming by railcar, if she had not already arrived. He didn’t know which concerned him more – that she was coming or that she might already be in the city. He had sensed her unmistakable presence in the alley as Tam and the others escorted him to his present hiding place. He was certain of the sensation. Even if it made no sense to him why she would be there, he had felt her mind touching and probing. Could he have imagined it? Regardless of his past sensations, he needed to safeguard the possibility of her arrival by railcar.

He got up and paced what floor there was, nervous, anxious, hoping that word would get to Tam in time, but it was futile. It was part of the deal, wasn’t it? There could be no further contact until things settled.

Paul sat down at the desk, and began what had become his daily ritual, reading. He needed to take his mind off of his worries and so he began reading one of the works of fiction that Hunter had allegedly penned anonymously in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.

What often was cited in argument against the theory that the work belonged to Hunter was the fiction works were written in a completely different style. Based on his non-fiction, many scholars did not believe Hunter could have written the works. The only other possibility that ever gained traction in literary circles over the decades of debate was Hunter might have used his influence to arrange for the works of a friend to be published, perhaps even convincing the publisher they were really his attempts at fiction.

Despite Hunter’s wealth and celebrity, early on in the Twenty-First Century he’d become a renowned recluse, carrying on into his latter years. He refused to accept visitors, only family and a select few friends. Many in the inner circle were writers and artists he met and respected enough to develop longer term relationships.

Having read for about an hour, he was attention consumed, it was a story he had heard about but had never found the time to read. There were adaptations of the book rendered into other media over the decades, including a play from which two films were produced. He had seen one of them as a young child.

Set on an improbable world with three suns and three moons, hellish Anter’x was wracked with violent storms and inhabited by wild, magical beings. There were two young creatures called wolfcats. They lived in the more temperate part of the north. They were part wolf, part cat and part human.

“Gene-splicing,” Paul said aloud as he looked up from the text just as the wall opened, in the same way that he had come to expect. It surprised him as his mind had been absorbed in the text. Had the morning passed that quickly? He checked his chronometer for confirmation. Just as he had thought it was too early for lunch. He stood up from the desk, not knowing what he would do, there was nowhere to run if this was the result of the authorities discovering of his hideout.

Then he sighed with his relief as he recognized Tam.

“This had better be the most important thing imaginable.”

“Cristina is either here already or she is on her way here.”

“I have had people at the stations for several days.”

Paul relaxed, and then looking back at Tam, he asked, “Both?”

“Yes, we are covering both.”

Paul relaxed again. “The authorities will be…”

“They will be doing what they always do. We can deal with it. Okay. Is that all there was?”

“Then she is not here yet?”

“No one has seen her. The last railcar from Andromeda was just after Midnight. There is not another railcar from Andromeda before…well about now. I have to be honest with you if there are no authorities at the station my people will not long linger once a railcar arrives.

“She will be traveling with her boyfriend,” Paul said.

“Even if she and her boyfriend arrive in the station, if there is no reaction, my people are out of there. She will never even know they were there.”

“I hope I’m wrong about her coming here or being here already but if I’m right…”

“I have enough people, my best actually. If they find her and her friend I have a place for her and her boyfriend to be safe.”

“Not in this building.”

“Of course not,” Tam said with parsed irritation. “Look this is my operation. For your sake there had better be something going down to make this worth the expenditure of my team.”

“I’m sorry to impose.”

“As well you should be. Frankly, I cannot wait for you to leave town. But I’m committed to ensuring that you are safe. I will honor my promises. This is a favor that had best be remembered.”

“Anything you ever ask of me I will provide.”

Tam nodded. “I trust everything has been according to my promise.”

“Your people are the best.”

“Yes, of course they are. I trained them personally,” Tam said, and then he turned and immediately after he left the wall closed and sealed behind him.

Paul felt more at ease although he was concerned Tam’s arrogance might blind him and his team to unexpected dangers. After all, Paul evaded his team. Then, he had not evaded Tam, but Tam was not with his teams at the railcar stations.

The more his mind raced with the implication and variables, the more powerless he felt. He needed to return to diversion, the story that he was reading to take him mind off the elements of worry that confronted him. He sat down at the desk again and picked up where he had left off reading about a fantastic world and two young wolfcats belonging to a community of humanoid wolves numbering in the ten thousands called the Pack.

As absorbing as the book was his mind kept returning to his concern for Cristina and his worry. Despite Tam’s bravado, he would not be able to protect her. Paul wanted to be there, but maybe it was too great of a risk…for her if not him. He believed that he could handle himself, but he did not want to risk her life in any way.

He had barely noticed, but his lunch was late. He was absorbed in the book again. It told of the culture and civilization of the wolf pack in such detail that he could easily believe they might be real. Then, as the unusual tardiness extended toward an hour, the wall swept open more violently than ever before, startling him as he stood up. Agents of the Colonial Authority held him at gunpoint, ordering him to vacate the hiding place.

When he cleared the wall/door of the hiding place agents swept in behind him, searching everything, confiscating the infotab and the Mods stored in the cube. There was nothing else of any interest in the room. As he began to protest at the obvious attempt to wipe the memory on the cube, an agent struck him in the backs of his legs. As his knees buckled, he felt a sharp jab of a needle in his neck. Another agent struck a fierce blow to the back of his head. He collapsed face first into the floor. Losing consciousness.

When he awakened a cramped holding cell surrounded him, a room hardly bigger than where he had been hiding. It had a water fountain a toilet, bed, desk and chair. His head ached as he tried to sit up. He was seeing double. He closed his eyes and fell back into the bed. His body ached almost as much as his head.

Beaten, although he did not remember any of the interrogation, it concerned him because the authorities were known to use drugs to extract information. What little he knew about The Resurrection may have been compromised.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 32 – Continuity

**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.**

Alix fought the urge to close his eyes. It wasn’t easy in the night-darkened railcar. He was tired, but he knew he had to stay alert. He trusted no one, except for Cristina. She trusted him enough to be resting beside him, leaning her head on his shoulder and her shoulder against his side as his arm was wrapped around her. She used his broad chest as her pillow.

Every once in a while she would jump. Perhaps the memories of recent events were intruding upon her dreams. In a soft voice he would tell her everything was fine, reassuring her until the tension left her face and she slipped back into slumber, however uneasy.

Why were the authorities chasing them? Was Paul that dangerous? They were merely looking for him, but now they were treated as if they were dangerous criminals. Now, they were fugitives, too.

He couldn’t imagine any way of entering Star City undetected. The problem with entering a domed city was that everyone came and went through the same few airlocks. Paul had experienced an ambush when he arrived in Star City. He was certain of it. Paul must have developed his control of the attributes to the point of having willed the transformer to explode. It was a diversion. If he was still at large, he had the attributes to thank.

Alix knew their escape was the product of luck, timing and spontaneous innovation. There was no planning involved. Someday, when this was over he would confess that to Cristina. For the moment it served no purpose to undermine her faith and confidence in him. Still, he worried. He could not fail her. He would not. She was too important to him.

Before their escape he never tried anything to the extent of what he did to ensure their escape. He had toyed around with the gifts he discovered as part of the attributes, slipping from one part of a room to another. He considered it a mere novelty, as in an instant he could be somewhere else. Intuitively, he knew it was how to explain where the orb went whenever it seemed to disappear. He had played with the veils just never with anyone else along for the ride.

There were only those two times he went beyond what he knew was possible. When the situation forced him to act he had no choice. He did the only thing he thought might work. What amazed him was the distance they negotiated. He was glad it worked. The alternative was unacceptable.

A few hours into the ride, while Alix was staring out the window at the emptiness of the desert in the moonlight, Cristina roused and stretched. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know. We are out in the desert, still on the way.”

“How much longer do you think it will be?”

“I’m not sure,” Alix said, then looked at his chronometer. “We’re not even close to half way. Go back to sleep.”

“You need sleep. I can keep watch for a while.”

“They wouldn’t do anything while the railcar is in motion,” Alix said. “It would be too messy. It would involve too many people and their families.”

“Then we both can rest,” Cristina suggested.

“I still don’t think that’s wise.”

“The new paradigm for us is sleep sparingly and never too soundly.”

“A lot has changed.”

“They have been watching us for a while, Alix. They may be watching Pete as well, maybe everyone in the band.”

“It’s obvious from the attack and the break-in, they were watching Chase and Julie as well.”

“Exactly,” Cristina said. “They were after something, whether it was information, evidence or anything linking us to Paul, and his organization.”

“They planted bugs.”

“I’m sure of it.”

“Chase didn’t seem to care whether they had.”

Cristina nodded. “Maybe they were in on it.”

“What?”

“Just something creepy I feel. They took Chase out first.”

“But he was beat up in the restroom.”

“I don’t know. Maybe that scared him into cooperating.”

Alix looked out the window, staring at nothing in particular.

After several moments, she asked. “What is so important out there?”

“It’s nothing really. It was just while you were sleeping I was imagining what it would be like seeing lights of small towns and farms as we pass them by. I read about how Earth used to be. Riding by train was not so different than being in a railcar. In a future time, maybe Pravda is going to be like Earth used to be.”

“We may not live to see it.”

“They say we can live for a very long time.”

“My recent experience screams otherwise.”

Alix forced a smile but its insincerity also showed in the dimness of the subdued dome lights in the railcar.

“My brave Alix,” Cristina kissed him for his smile anyway. “We’ll make it through this. Do you know why?”

“Because we have to?”

“Yes.”

“I want to see our children playing in the playground, while you and I sit side by side on a park bench eating a lunch we made to bring with us. I see us there beneath a clear blue sky, not an acrylic dome, breathing the fresh air carried on a gentle sea breeze.”

“I want to sit on the bench with our children while we watch our grandchildren playing in the soft green grass.”

Alix leaned over and kissed her.

“Then maybe three generations of our family watching the newest generation playing in the peaceful world that somehow we provided for them.”

“It seems a long ways off,” Alix said.

“I believe it can be. ‘Dreams are mere potentials, shadows without form or substance. To make them reality you need the means, know the way to begin the journey and never stop believing until you arrive’.”

“Who said that?”

“A writer named Andrew L. Hunter. My father loved to read that book to me at night. He told me that at one time Hunter had the potential for an idyllic life but he gave it up to pursue the love of his life. But she was as much an illusion as the dream he had of being together with her.”

“What happened?”

“No one knows that happened to Hunter. He stopped writing – or at least he stopped publishing what he wrote. I’m not sure a writer has it in him or her to just stop writing. It would be like losing our music. Or deciding not to breathe.”

“Did he ever find the love of his life?” Alix asked.

“Father said he always wanted to think that the reason no one ever heard from Hunter was that he found a way to be with her.”

Alix smiled. “You father was a romantic.”

“That he was,” Cristina said. “And a dreamer too.” She wiped a tear from her eye.

“I think I would have liked your father.”

“I think he would have approved of you. He always loved music. That’s why I sing, I guess. Even when I was an awkward little girl, he told me my voice was my most amazing gift. He paid to have an instructor give me singing lessons, singing opera of all things,” she laughed.

“I can’t imagine you singing like that.”

“Well then my voice deepened a bit as I matured and my vocal range slipped from soprano to mezzo-soprano and finally to contralto.”

“It’s better suited for our band.”

“I have had this voice ever since.”

“I love your voice,” Alix said. “I think that all of us in the band have loved your voice from the first time you auditioned for us. In fact you don’t know this because we never told anyone, but after we were together for a couple of years, Pete and I were offered places in another band that at the time was doing really well in New Milan. Pete spoke for both of us knowing what I would say.”

“Obviously, he said no.”

“He told the other guys that we were in the right band already.”

“We have always had a good chemistry in the band. I see other bands changing people all the time, but we had it right to begin with,” Cristina said. “Maybe it was luck.”

“Or destiny.”

“No, destiny was when we finally got together after knowing one another for ten years.” She kissed him. “Get some rest. I’ll be up for a while.”

“Wake me if you start getting sleepy,” Alix said as he leaned his head against the window.

“I will,” she promised.

At first she didn’t know what to do except stare straight ahead. Only the exit lights and some tiny lights indicating the path of the aisle along the floor were illuminated. Still her eyes were sensitive enough to make out some very subtle details even in the dark. She could see ashen faces of some people toward the front who were talking quietly. One row back from the front a young man was reading text from an infotab, the preferred way of reading text. Three rows back from him there was another couple, using one another for support as they slept. A businessman was behind them, apparently stretched out as best he could across the two seats and sleeping – the snoring was coming from his direction.

Then there was a distinct difference. It startled her at first. Cristina fought the urge to turn and look. She felt uncomfortable with what intimate secrets she perceived. The girl’s name was Clare. She was going to see her boyfriend of five years. Last year he had gone away to Star City to find work when no one in Andromeda seemed to need his talents or wanted to hire him for any other position. Even though he had told them he needed a job, no one seemed to care.

He answered an on-line ad from Star City. Although it had been painful for them both, Clare kissed him goodbye at the railcar station. He promised to save up and send for her, and then they could restart their life together in Star City.

After a year he had not sent for her. At first and for several months thereafter he had been good about sending messages across the global network. Then the messages became less frequent until now she received no response to her messages.

Clare was going to Star City unannounced and not for any purpose other than to break-up. She suspected he found someone else and just didn’t know how to gracefully end his previous relationship. She had been faithful to him, but it was becoming increasingly hard.

A heartthrob from her school days had been asking her out. He had a very good-paying job downtown and was living in a nice apartment in a great part of town. He let her charge the railcar tickets on his payment wand because she could not afford the trip.

Why was Cristina privy to so much of Clare’s deeply private information? There was no purpose she could perceive. They had never met. And yet of all the people aboard the railcar, the two of them were somehow connected in thought. She knew what Clare was thinking and feeling. She understood Clare’s anxiety about seeing her boyfriend again after being apart for a year. What did Clare have to do with anything that involved anyone but herself and her soon to be ex-boyfriend?

Cristina focused, trying to disconnect from Clare but couldn’t. She needed a distraction, something to force her mind away. Maybe Alix could serve that purpose, but she didn’t want to disturb him so soon after he fell asleep.

She tried staring straight-ahead, focusing on the back of the seats where the businessman was sleeping, still snoring. At first it seemed to be working. She was forcing Clare’s internal monologue out of her immediate consciousness. Then, abruptly Clare barged in again. “Who do you think you are?”

It was clearly a directed comment, direct in thought to her. Clare was aware.

‘You have the attributes?’ Cristina projected her query.

‘It’s what they call them. You do as well.’

‘I had no intentions of violating your privacy.’

‘I didn’t notice until you tried so hard not to… I’m sure you know everything by now.’

‘Maybe not everything,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t disengage.’

‘When I need to, I have to pinch myself, really hard. I have bruises all over my arms from it.’

Cristina turned around as much as she could in the seat and saw Clare for the first time. Even in the darkness she could tell that she was much prettier than the mental self-image she projected. ‘We are still connected.’

‘I know. Maybe that’s my fault. I was lonely and bored and I was thinking that it might be nice to just talk to someone.’

‘Telepathic conversations are not normal.’ Cristina focused as best she could on Clare’s eyes. ‘I guess I’m kinda new to all this and you are more experienced in using your gift –’

‘Curse,’ Clare interrupted her thought.

‘However it seems to be, I really did not intend to intrude.’

‘Well since you probably know all about my relationship, what is you opinion?’

‘You’re asking for my advice?’

‘Yes, I think that was what I was doing.’

Cristina shook her head as if for emphasis whether Clare could see it or not. ‘I would not pretend to know the answer to your dilemma. I suppose that if he has found someone else then you are free to do as you seem to desire.’

‘What if he is not seeing someone else? What if he really is in love with me and still trying to save up…?’

‘Then why the silence?’

‘That is what worries me.’

‘You have been intimate?’

‘Yes, he knows about my differences.’

‘You have been intimate with your new boyfriend?’

‘No, not yet. I have been faithful. It’s just…well, it’s getting hard to deal with it.’

‘I understand.’ Cristina felt for Clare’s situation. “I guess you really have to play it as it comes. I do not envy you this.’

‘Yeah, well maybe it was good just to talk about it with someone else, someone who knows what it’s like to have the attributes.’

‘You realize that you have someone that you will eventually meet who also has the attributes.’

Clare laughed out loud. ‘You offer me that as hope.’

‘My boyfriend has the attributes. Other than Alix, my best friends are a couple who have the attributes.’

‘Some of my friends in school had the attributes. It took forever for us to really admit it because as small children we were ashamed and hid from other people.’

‘We all experienced it, I think.’

‘It was really odd though. I guess in a way it was funny. Everyone who had the attributes sort of formed a clique in school, boys and girls. We formed it even before everyone knew we all had the same differences. We were just like each other and all of us were different from the ‘norms’. Some of them had ‘norm’ friends and some of them knew about the differences, but it didn’t matter to them so it was very ‘kewl’.’

‘I have very close friends who are ‘norm’ as you call it. Some of them are in my band.’

‘Your band? You mean like musicians?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Wow, that’s very, very ‘kewl’. You perform on stage and everything.’

‘Record Mod cards, hit songs hopefully, and we just finished touring.’

Clare strained to look at her. ‘I’m pretty much up on music. Listening helps me get through the day. The whole scene in Andromeda –’

‘My band is from New Milan.’

‘Not Duae Lunae!’

‘You say it like it is a bad thing.’

‘I saw your band perform live. You have…I mean, your voice is simply amazing. I really love your music.’

‘Thank you.’ Dealing with telepathic embarrassment for the first time was as much of a new experience for Cristina as mentally projecting modesty.

‘Uh, now I don’t know what to say. I mean I have met some of the local bands, I know a couple of guys from school who now play in one of the bands. One of my best friends is like you. She sings and writes songs. She plays guitar but not on stage, just when she writing music.’

‘I’m okay playing some instruments, but the guys are so much better. But, yeah I play guitar too,’ Cristina revealed. ‘So does Alix, but he plays the bass in the band.’

‘I don’t know. Maybe we are a lot more alike than not, all of us. I mean I played in the high school orchestra.’

‘I’ll bet you were good.’

‘I was okay. I played alto and tenor saxophone. I just lost interest. I started focusing more on drawing, line drawing and then I started doing water colors and painting with acrylics.’

‘You are good at it.’ It was a statement borne of capturing some of the mental images of her work that Cristina received.

‘I love it. It’s just very hard to get recognized.’

‘But if you do what you love you will be happy and maybe if you are fortunate people will accept you for what you are and what you do.’

‘I hope,’ Clare said.

‘You’re young. You have time to become better than you are now. Very few artists ever start out producing a masterpiece.’

Clare laughed, both mentally and out loud. ‘One of my friends from high school had some of her pieces exhibited. She’s into sculpture. She’s very good. She’s one of the lucky ones I guess. She met a guy her first year at the Andromeda Art Institute. He was studying to be an instructor and was two years older than she was. He helped her a lot and introduced her to people he had met. They were married last year and have twins on the way.’

‘Wow,’ Cristina replied mentally. ‘She has the attributes?’

‘She does; he doesn’t. Actually, I have a lot of friends who are like that. I jokingly call them mixed marriages.’

‘Actually, that’s probably what to call them.’

‘Well when they were dating they were lucky enough to find guys or gals that loved them despite the physical oddities. A few of them have children.’

‘Their children have the attributes?’

‘Of course.’

‘So, apparently having the attributes is a dominant trait.’ Cristina thought more to herself than she projected.

‘Regardless of whether the partner with the attributes is the man or the woman, the children always have the attributes.’

‘Interesting,’ Cristina considered.

‘Is that more significant than it seems?’

‘Have you ever met a Courier?’

‘A what?’

‘I’ll take that as a, no,’ Cristina paused, wondering how to explain someone like Raven to her. Then she began, ‘There are these very wise and fairly old men – I don’t know of any that are women yet but there could be I suppose. They are the Couriers. When they identify us they give us a small orb that helps to train us in how to develop our abilities.’

‘How do I meet one?’

‘I can arrange it,’ Cristina said.

‘Thank you.’

‘They believe the attributes will be diluted in mixed marriages and eventually if allowed to continue, the attributes will be rendered useless after several generations and mankind will perish.’

‘I don’t believe that,’ Clare said. ‘I think the attributes predominate. After a while everyone will display them.’

‘I hope that’s the case,’ Cristina said.

‘Obviously, it is.’

‘At least for the first generation it is.’

‘Yeah, I see your point. What if the children with mixed heritage conceive children with ‘norms’?”

‘Exactly.’

‘Or even with each other.’

‘There are all sorts of possibilities. The Couriers believe we are intended to become the succeeding race of mankind and that we risk the purity of our genetic codes if we cross-breed with those who lack the attributes.’

‘But as I understand it, unless the decline in the birthrate isn’t fixed within fifty years, mankind will not be able to sustain the population.’ Clare countered.

‘That is true. Introduction of the attributes into the genetic code will correct the fertility problem. But the question is for how long with the succeeding generations of dilution. We may only be extending fifty years into a few hundred years.’

‘But that might give the scientists enough time to figure out how to combat the decline in fertility rates.’

Cristina sat back in her seat thoughtfully considering the entire argument about maintaining the purity of the attributes and how it was somehow destined to produce another version of mankind while the elder race of men declined into oblivion. She had never liked the feeling of despair that gave her. Why were the bearers of the attributes chosen? Why should only they survive? It was the root of all the emptiness she felt. It was not enough merely carrying on the continuity of the amassed knowledge, culture and art of mankind.

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 31 – The End Times

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cure for the super strain was never discovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 29 – Arresting Plans

**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.**

Unexpectedly, the front door opened as several security personnel stormed into the apartment. The first line took up defensive positions while the second line spread out, taking up positions throughout the apartment.

Immediately upon their forced entry, several men seized Chase and dragged from the apartment. Alix and Cristina ducked into their room. They tried to barricade themselves, huddling together before the unexpected and unexplained wrath of the authorities, but the door was too flimsy. Alix started to use his abilities but Cristina halted him. “We go peacefully. Chase needs our help. Maybe we can learn what it’s all about,” she said.

He tempered his response, not knowing what she was up to, but he was willing to try it her way because he suspected that brute force and fire was too extreme.

She surrendered first and even asked that they not use any force against Alix. Disregarding her request, they persisted in beating him as they forced him to his knees. It angered her, but she suppressed her rage, saving it for the right occasion.

The authorities took them to District Office of Investigation, placing them in separate holding cells to be interrogated separately. As neither Cristina nor Alix knew anything the attitudes of the authorities rapidly became ugly, threatening them separately. Then they brought the two of them together, in the same room. Their interrogators sought to play one off against the other, first striking Alix repeatedly as Cristina gasped, and then they asked Cristina questions in order to obtain information.

Alix sustained enough physical abuse from his previous solo interrogation, but he was willing to take whatever abuse they wanted to deliver just as long as they did not touch Cristina. But then they turned their threats on her.

One of the interrogators struck her across the face. Alix could not sustain seeing a welt or bruise on her lovely face, or the tear shed from the pain as it rolled down her cheek. The second attempt Alix melted his restraints into puddles of molten alloy as he simultaneously launched a fireball toward the man who was prepared to strike Cristina again. As he fell away, Cristina released herself from her bonds and joined Alix as he blew out the door that confined them.

“I had it under control,” Cristina complained.

“No one strikes your face!”

She smiled, and then blew him a kiss as they ran side by side. “Where are we going?”

“We have tickets, right?” Alix asked.

“We don’t have our things.”

“Chase will take care of that.”

“He’s in custody. They took him out first.”

“He’ll get out. He’ll take care of things. He’s good at that. We have each other and our orbs.”

“You’re nuts!” Cristina challenged.

“Well, what makes sense about any of this? We have done nothing wrong. And still we were arrested, interrogated and beaten?”

“Are you okay?”

“Except for wanting to set every friggin’ one of those assholes on fire, yeah, I’m just fine,” he said.

There was a wall of security positioned before them as they exited the building out into the plaza. With a sweep of his arm, Alix sprayed a wall of flame toward them. As they cowered from it, Cristina and Alix were allowed the chance to escape. They continued to run toward an open assault vehicle. They dove inside and closed the doors behind them.

“Do you know how to operate this?” Cristina asked.

“What’s to know?” Alix said as he shot flames toward the circuits that controlled the vehicle and suddenly it responded on manual control. These things all have some sort of manual override for emergencies.”

“The authorities will know we are going to the railcar station, and they’ll find we have tickets reserved. If we make it to the station and board, they will be waiting. Even if we make it out of the city their agents will be waiting for us in Star City.”

“If we make it that far we will have a few hours to sleep on the way. Maybe in that time we can rest and formulate a better plan, but for now we just need to get out of Andromeda.”

“Okay, I’m good with that.”

“Good, just stay with me. I have the plan,” Alix said. “Maybe it’s not much but it’s what I came up with,” he said as he looked back and she met his eyes and they each smiled at one another. “Is this fun for you?”

“Not in the least,” she responded.

“I’ll have to do better then,” Alix said. A wall of flame again halted the immediate pursuit.

“I’ll admit that was pretty good,” Cristina said.

“It’s always good to feel appreciated,” Alix said as he focused on reaching the railcar station. “How long is it until our railcar arrives?”

“We are supposed to depart in about fifteen minutes.”

“We have plenty of time,” Alix said even though he was a little concerned at how slowly the armored vehicle was moving under manual override.

He knew the basic layout of Andromeda but he lacked the specifics. He felt that he knew where the railcar station was, on the south side, where it was in most cities. He recalled it being close to the air locks and since they had approached from the west and south, that meant the station had to be in the southwest corner of the city. Unlike Star City that had an eastern and a western station Andromeda had only the one mega-station. The rails from Andromeda turned almost due south toward Haven. There was nowhere else that anyone might want to go that was east of Andromeda, at least not yet.

Alix piloted the vehicle down the streets drawing fire at times from the layers of security officials assigned to prevent them from reaching the railcar station.

“They know where we are heading, they have us trapped. They have been pursuing us for a while,” Cristina said.

“Are you suggesting that we surrender?”

“I’m suggesting this is suicide.”

“I’m not ready to give up. I learned some tricks from my orb,” Alix said. “It’s just that I’ve never tried it.”

“What tricks?”

“I really don’t know what to call it, but I can decide to be somewhere else.”

“What about me?”

“I believe that as long as I’m holding you, I think we go together.”

“You believe; you think?”

“Hey, I’m totally new to all this crap, okay. I’m pretty sure I can take you with me.”

“If not?”

“I will come back and deal with the same things you have in front of you.”

It was not exactly comforting, but it spoke of Alix’s dedication to the promises that he made to her.

“Oh shit!” Alix said, “Brace yourself!”

“What?”

“Incoming, armor piercing… duck!”

There was intense heat from an immediate blast. But then, suddenly it seemed very distant. Cristina had closed her eyes in dread preparation for her imminent death, but instantly she was standing in a courtyard.

She heard rumbling reverberations from the explosion as she turned to reassure herself that the hand she was clutching was still attached to the left arm of Alix. He was grinning at her.

“It worked, hon!” he said.

“Where are we?”

“We’re a couple of blocks from where we were and a few blocks further from the railcar station.”

“Why here?”

“I figured it was time for strategy. Maybe they won’t expect us to move farther away.”

“I suppose I understand that in a warped kind of way.”

“Anyway, it worked! We won’t need tickets to board the railcar.”

“How so?” Christina asked.

“We can just be there.”

“I don’t understand.”

Suddenly, there was an explosion that ripped and tore its way through the armor hull of a nearby vehicle behind which they were concealed.

“They found us,” she gasped. Then, she closed her horrified eyes. When she opened them anew, she and Alix were sitting together in seats on a railcar.

“We made it,” Alix said, and the looked around as the railcar began departing the station. “We just barely made it.”

“What…just…happened?” She asked gasping for breath.

“We got here.”

“I can…see that.”

“Don’t worry…okay? I’ll…protect you. I’m…your shield. I’m yours…and yours alone,” Alix said as he leaned over and kissed her.

She looked into his eyes even as she fought to regain her breath and composure. “What we…just did…was impossible.”

“Yeah, well…we did it, anyway…we had to,” Alix said. “You and I…are not like…everyone else. What else…is new?”

Cristina was still struggling to regain her breath, wits and settle her shaken nerves. “They will…be waiting.”

“Maybe not…they think…they got us.”

“We can’t…count on that.”

“No…probably not,” Alix said. “I have some…other plans.”

“I’d hope so.” She continued to clam down. As the railcar increased its speed, she stared out the window. After a while, she stated the obvious. “We’re in a lot of trouble. What are your plans?”

“We rest for now. Then we figure out what we are going to do before we arrive in Star City.”

“What?”

“I didn’t say they were the best plans. I’m improvising.”

“You are not instilling confidence in me.”

“We can make it. Trust me. I can do it. We are as good as there. First we get into Star City…”

She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. “I know you will do your best. It’s just that…well, that was scary back there.”

“I know it was. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you better.”

“You were amazing.”

Alix beamed. “That was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

“You really have been practicing with the orb.”

“Not as much as I should. Not as much as you’ve been. I don’t have the control of it. When I do something it is still a little wild at times.”

“You got us here.”

“Yeah, well that had to be. Luckily that ended up just about right.”

“Nothing just comes out right, Alix. You did this!”

He shrugged. “I didn’t feel like I was in control.”

She looked up into his face then raised her head a bit more and kissed his cheek.

He smiled in response, and then kissed her lips. Once more she rested her head on his shoulder. “Sleep,” he told her.

“You too.”

“You first. I’ll be here watching. Everything has changed,” he whispered. “We’re fugitives, now.”