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The Resurrection: Chapter 29 – Nature’s Resettling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I’m fine?”

“You’re not thirsty?”

“Not particularly.”

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

“Thanks,” Paul said.

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

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

“I hope she’s not discouraged.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know what you mean.”

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

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

“I was in New Milan two weeks ago.”

“I think Clare mentioned that.” He guessed.

“Do you remember Pete?”

“Pete?”

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

“When was that?”

“Last fall when you and I were there.”

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

“Hey!”

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

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

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

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

“Or there needs to be a rematch.”

“That would involve going back to New Milan.”

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

“There you go.”

“It’s even better.”

“Why?” Paul inquired.

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And you immediately thought of Cristina.”

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

“You think Cristina has what the others lack?”

“I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I guess it’s all gone,” Paul said.

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

“Never mind.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly.”

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

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

“Like you forgot about shooting pool against Pete.”

“Yes, things like that.”

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

“I don’t know,” Paul said.

“Maybe you’re getting old.”

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

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

Paul smiled as he continued along beside him.

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

The Resurrection: Chapter 28 – Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We grew up apart, always strangers.”

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

“You think you know,” Cristina said.

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

“Why are you here?”

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

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

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

“Through the orb,” Alix said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And so the beast speaks,” Paul said.

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

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

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

“The Sakum’malien,” Staash corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still the catalyst must always endure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s beautiful,” he conceded.

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

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

“It’s perfect,” Paul suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not convinced you’re right.”

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

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

“Sakum’mal,” Staash corrected.

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

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

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

“I’ve never met her,” Cristina said.

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

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

“Alix is over-taxed now,” Paul said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your point?” Alix said.

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

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

“What is EMP?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is lead?” Staash asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Gold?” Staash asked.

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

Staash glowed as was his way of smiling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t understand,” Alix said.

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

“But all that is in the future.”

“Yes, so now—“

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

Paul nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

“Or less,” Alix said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Dtuot’manuh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This would constitute an emergency.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Paul asked.

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

Paul laughed. “You’re not serious.”

“We can welcome the next humans who arrive.”

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

“Wait,” Staash said. “You need this.”

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

“Or discover on the floor of a cavern?”

Alix laughed, “It would be something.”

“What kind of paradox would that create?”

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

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

“I will miss you,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 25 – Destination

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

“I thought you liked gambling.”

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

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

“We let them win sometimes.”

“To egg them on.”

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

“I know. It will be good to be home.”

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

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

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

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

“What are you going to call the song?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I like it.”

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Maybe, just a little.”

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

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

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

“That was some trick.”

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

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

“Yes.”

“In his case he eats what he is.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” Keith said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or dress in waterproof clothing,” Cristina allowed.

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

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

“So the studio is reserved?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Except Staash,” Keith allowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he safe?” Keith asked.

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

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

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

“Yeah, it was,” Alix said.

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

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

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

“Hey now!” Tim cautioned.

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

Cristina laughed. “He has other redeeming qualities.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You guys thirsty?”

“Staash is always thirsty,” Alix said.

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

“Staash no want to die.”

Cristina nodded. “Anyone else?”

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

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

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

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

“If no trouble.”

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

“Humans like dry. Staash understands.”

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

“But you will not be comfortable.”

“I can adapt,” she said.

“Thank you,” Staash said.

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

“Easier sending Staash home, I think.”

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

“Staash understands.”

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

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

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

“You not resist Staash.”

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

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

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

“You must trust Staash.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course it is,” she said quietly.

“Paul escaped.”

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

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

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

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

“Now we can begin collaboration,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded.

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

“Has it been raining all afternoon?”

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

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

“I love you, too.”

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

“You know how the language works now?”

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

“Then we have to do that.”

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

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

“That’s what we must change.”

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

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

“What?”

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

“You mean he can do it?”

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

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The Resurrection: Chapter 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.