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Colonial Authority: Chapter 32 – Continuity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then we both can rest,” Cristina suggested.

“I still don’t think that’s wise.”

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

“A lot has changed.”

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

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

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

“They planted bugs.”

“I’m sure of it.”

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

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

“What?”

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

“But he was beat up in the restroom.”

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

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

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

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

“We may not live to see it.”

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

“My recent experience screams otherwise.”

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

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

“Because we have to?”

“Yes.”

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

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

Alix leaned over and kissed her.

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

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

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

“Who said that?”

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

“What happened?”

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

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

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

Alix smiled. “You father was a romantic.”

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

“I think I would have liked your father.”

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

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

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

“It’s better suited for our band.”

“I have had this voice ever since.”

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

“Obviously, he said no.”

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

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

“Or destiny.”

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

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

“I will,” she promised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I had no intentions of violating your privacy.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Curse,’ Clare interrupted her thought.

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

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

‘You’re asking for my advice?’

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

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

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

‘Then why the silence?’

‘That is what worries me.’

‘You have been intimate?’

‘Yes, he knows about my differences.’

‘You have been intimate with your new boyfriend?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We all experienced it, I think.’

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

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

‘Your band? You mean like musicians?’

‘Yeah.’

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

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

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

‘My band is from New Milan.’

‘Not Duae Lunae!’

‘You say it like it is a bad thing.’

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

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

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

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

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

‘I’ll bet you were good.’

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

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

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

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

‘I hope,’ Clare said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Their children have the attributes?’

‘Of course.’

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

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

‘Interesting,’ Cristina considered.

‘Is that more significant than it seems?’

‘Have you ever met a Courier?’

‘A what?’

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

‘How do I meet one?’

‘I can arrange it,’ Cristina said.

‘Thank you.’

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

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

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

‘Obviously, it is.’

‘At least for the first generation it is.’

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

‘Exactly.’

‘Or even with each other.’

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

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

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

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

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

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 31 – The End Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cure for the super strain was never discovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 29 – Arresting Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I had it under control,” Cristina complained.

“No one strikes your face!”

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

“We have tickets, right?” Alix asked.

“We don’t have our things.”

“Chase will take care of that.”

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

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

“You’re nuts!” Cristina challenged.

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

“Are you okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, I’m good with that.”

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

“Not in the least,” she responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you suggesting that we surrender?”

“I’m suggesting this is suicide.”

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

“What tricks?”

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

“What about me?”

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

“You believe; you think?”

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

“If not?”

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

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

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

“What?”

“Incoming, armor piercing… duck!”

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

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

“It worked, hon!” he said.

“Where are we?”

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

“Why here?”

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

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

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

“How so?” Christina asked.

“We can just be there.”

“I don’t understand.”

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

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

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

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

“We got here.”

“I can…see that.”

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

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

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

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

“Maybe not…they think…they got us.”

“We can’t…count on that.”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“You are not instilling confidence in me.”

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

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

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

“You were amazing.”

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

“You really have been practicing with the orb.”

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

“You got us here.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You too.”

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

 

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Colonial Authority: Chapter 26 – Impasse

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

The sirens of security vehicles blared in response to reported alarm indicating a security breech in the dome near the railcar station. Agents of the Colonial Authority were waiting, having been given ample advance notice. They were warned. Paul was unarmed but extremely dangerous. He had already killed in order to escape.

He was practiced in the fruits of the attributes. Penetration of the veils, piercing through the mass illusion of reality, was but one of the many things he’d acquired through the training of the orb. He didn’t enjoy the sensations associated with the experience, but it certainly came in handy during his escape.

His command of the gifts was more useful than he realized. He did not have to use his telekinetic abilities if he could slip through the veils disappearing in one place and reappearing in another. It was just that he had never tested the extreme cases. For example, he wondered whether he could actually slip from one city to another. However, he could pass through from a slow moving railcar as it slowly approached the outer airlock at Star City to the security perimeter inside of the dome.

All that he wanted to do was reach Raven’s doorstep. But it was on the far side of Star City from the railcar station. He realized that he was pretty much trapped, at an impasse. Although the authorities did not know precisely where he was, they were confident he was there.

For the moment, he dared not move. He did not need to give away his position. He needed to regain his strength and wits after his recent use of his gifts. Lying close to the bare ground as he was seemed to aid his efforts.

Paul killed Harold at the relay station. Actually, he facilitated the onset of an impending heart attack. Maybe he had taken a few days off the old man’s life. It would look like a natural death except that the agents were there and they knew that it happened around the time of his escape. They would blame him and call it murder. They were apt to pin everything imaginable on a fugitive. A good scapegoat could forgive many sins. They could easily trump up support for seeking maximum penalties against such a cold hearted, dangerous killer, trying a suspect in the media before all the evidence was collected. The strategic leaking of tantalizing tidbits of half-truths to the ravenous reporters for world viewer’s news-starved all day/all night channels was something the Authority did to perfection.

If they wanted to pin murder on him the agents surrounding him would be authorized to use deadly force. It really didn’t change much since he was already wanted for subversion and sedition. There were already multiple death warrants out for him. The authorities might have already killed him except that they needed information from him to connect the seemingly disassociated pieces of the puzzle, incriminating others in the process. Their mistake was underestimating him, allowing him the time he needed to focus, using his gifts to escape.

The Resurrection might have abandoned him except for his knowledge of the attributes and his connections to others known to possess the gifts in abundance of potential. He didn’t know whether anyone else with the attributes realized as he did that there were certain gifts that came more readily than others. Anyone with the attributes could acquire any of the assorted gifts to use whenever needed, but a few were dominant and specific to each individual.

As he remained quiet and motionless, his attention was drawn toward the shadows to his right. There was movement nearby. The authorities were searching for him or if they had located him, they might be advancing, closing in their perimeter.

“We know you’re here, Paul. You must realize by now you’re trapped,” an amplified voice came toward him but came from several directions simultaneously over a common public address system. “Surrender and it will be much easier for everyone. No one else needs to get hurt.”

Paul closed his eyes, attempting to locate individual sounds of movement, isolating one from another. Surveying for any weakness, an unprotected place that he might hide until he was ready, he could find no gaps in the defense. Completely surrounded, it was only a matter of time before they narrowed in on his location and subdued him. He could fight several of them, but probably not the 40 agents that he sensed – there could be more.

How to create a diversion? He needed to misdirect their focus to the wrong place for a moment. An instant was all he needed.

He focused on the agents’ vehicles, not knowing whether his telekinetic abilities would reach that far. He tried to release the parking safety on the closest coach, but failed. He needed to find something closer, something else that would draw attention away from him.

There was a power transformer enclosed within a protective fence. It supplied power to not only the railcar station, but also to the nearby buildings and streetlights. If he could somehow short it out, it would cause an explosion and knock out the lights in the immediate vicinity. It might work. Although he was dangerously close to it and he really did not know how far the effects of the explosion and the possible shrapnel from the metal case on the transformer would fly. The surrounding fence would contain some of it, enough of it, perhaps.

With his focus and concentration he mentally pictured two of the wires closer together – so close that they arced. A significant discharge of plasma erupted. Then he brought a third wire closer to the other two until there was a shower of sparks and a hum that grew in intensity. Another transmission line arced, followed by a powerful explosion that illuminated the evening. Pieces of debris and balls of flame hailed the open area.

Some agents took cover wherever they could. Others collapsed onto the ground. Then, in the darkness, once the explosion was over they ran toward the transformer, illuminating the area with their hand lanterns. They were looking for Paul, or rather his body, figuring that he had been responsible but could not possibly have survived such an event.

The reaction pattern of the agents produced many gaps. Some were surprisingly wide. Paul seized the chance to exploit one weakness. Under the cover of the suddenly dark sector of Star City, he managed to escape through the authorities’ perimeter.

He stayed to the shadows in the alleys, not wanting to be recognized. Soon enough they would determine that he escaped. They would fan out across the city in pursuit. He was far from safe. He needed to reach the other side of town. Raven had to help him, surely he would.

Wending his way across the southwestern cityscape, ducking into places that were never really intended to be anything more than a narrow gap between buildings. All he really needed to do was get close enough. Several times he had successfully navigated through the strange, oddly bright world of the white light beyond the veils of reality, but only for relatively short distances.

When he reached the downtown Star City, he needed to call Raven but his implant would not work without the travelmod tuned for the city. That was confiscated with his other belongings. Every one of Paul’s contacts in the city would have been compromised when he was captured had he not taken the precaution of a security lockout that would erase all contacts in the event of three attempts to bypass the password. He had a backup of the information stored in a safe place but that was in Haven.

He did not recall Raven’s number, so using a local communication was not possible. Vaguely he knew where Raven lived. It would not be hard to locate once he was in the right section of town. There was only one estate in Star City that would resemble a Medieval European castle, after all. In the entire world Raven estate was unique. It was just that only those with the attributes and the other Couriers knew him as Raven. To everyone else he was a reclusive artist who was rumored to be quite old. Apart from the Couriers, Cristina and maybe a couple of others with the attributes, no one in recent times had seen him.

It was a long shot. Maybe he was expecting more of Raven than he would allow, but Paul had no other option, at least none he was aware.

One of the unique aspects of living in Star City was that from the outset there was a very effective infrastructure for mass transit and as a means of enticing people to relocate to Star City in the charter mass transit granted free to anyone in the city.

Everyone in the world knew about the ‘Starport’ mass transit system. Other cities, including Haven had looked at Star City’s model but had never implemented it, as it was a drain on the city government’s budget. Although the same system might have worked in other cities it remained unique to Star City’s quality of life. No one really needed floater coaches, personal floater pods to get around. A scooter to get to and from the Starport stops was all anyone needed.

People still owned personal vehicles to transport large objects or for business purposes. As a means of transportation they were superfluous to the transit system except that some of the wealthy did not want to live their lives around mass transit schedules.

Starport was efficient, well maintained and hardly ever late. The dependability had become a hallmark of the operation and had lent credibility to Star City’s statements about the quality of life in the city that was in the heart of the continental desert.

A city commuter coach approached a stop that was just ahead of him, out on the main street. He rapidly walked toward the marker and waited the coach to pause, then its door opened and he boarded. There were several other riders, but he said nothing to any of them. None of them seemed inclined to look at him. He consulted a copy of map of routes and after carefully studying the shortest path to get to the far side of the city, he would need to get off at the second stop ahead, then wait for the ‘cross-town’ that would take him to a route called ‘The Hills’.

Paul sat down and quietly tried to relax and catch his breath. His mind whirred with the implications of the events of the last few days. Obviously, he was betrayed. Now he was in Star City and despite all of his planning, the authorities had been waiting for him to arrive.

Paul had been through Star City before but had never lingered long enough to know more than what he learned as a school child. His instructors talked about the history and development of the various cities. As Paul listened he had wondered at the engineers’ decisions of where to build cities. He understood Haven and New Milan. They were close to the coasts and protected to some degree from the gale force winds of the early terraforming history by the mountains that were close to each city. The placement of Star City had never made a lot of sense to him as it was not remotely close to anywhere else. He had wrongly believed that it represented a place to stop on the way to other places. Even if it that logic had served him in his travels, it was not the reason the engineers had chosen the site where Star City rose from the desert.

Regardless of the truth, he had never been more grateful to the planners for building the city where they had than he was at the moment. It was precisely where he needed it to be. Even though as an adult he had learned more about the methodology used in the terraform projects, he still preferred his child-like logic. What did he care that every city within the interior of the continent was placed geographically close to one of the three great continental aquifers?

The sources of abundant water seemed to validate Paul’s childhood theories about why cities had been built where they were. In truth the planners knew that Star City would require abundant water and in the longer term once the desert around it was turned into grasslands, the water would prove essential to ongoing irrigation projects that would transform the entire region.

Paul exited the coach at ‘The Crosstown’ stop. He waited out in the open as he saw his next coach approaching. Maybe it was coincidence but the efficiency impressed him. It was much easier than bothering with a private floater coach having to undock it each time it was used and dock it afterwards. Using Starport, all he had to do was sit back and wait for his interim destination.

As he rode toward ‘The Hills’ stop, he wondered how he would know which stop to get off once he was on the next coach. As the name of the route implied, there were a number of hills that the coach would have to weave its way through. Any stop might be the right stop. Besides, ‘The Hills’ route started well before the stop where he planned to exit ‘The Crosstown’. He didn’t know which direction to go. He might have to ride to the end in one direction before getting onto a coach going in the opposite direction.

He tried to be logical in his considerations. Where would a reclusive sort choose to build an ostentatious estate? Where would the city planners allow such an estate to be constructed when land anywhere under the dome was a scarce and precious commodity? He consulted the route map. There was an area toward the northeastern edge of the protective dome. There were only eight stops in that direction while there were nineteen going the other way. Even if he were wrong, it would take less time to recover from mistakenly riding on an eight-stop route than it would riding the other way.

When he finally reached the stop for ‘The Hills’, he exited. He waited but only for a few minutes before a different coach headed toward him and paused allowing him to board.

There was plenty of room onboard. Except for an elderly lady and a man and a woman who seemed to be engaged in an intimate conversation, he was alone. He paid attention to the houses of each block that the coach traveled. Getting progressively larger and more impressive, first one stop then another passed without an estate that matched the description of Raven’s residence. Then as the coach approached the next to the last stop on that branch of the route, Paul saw it. Just a few hundred meters from the stop, atop a hill stood an estate that reminded him of pictures of historical medieval castles. It had to be Raven’s place.

He exited and quickly ascended the hill. When he reached the doorstep he tugged on a rope that was attached to a bell that rang inside. He waited and waited. Then, as he was just preparing to pull on the rope again the door opened. An odd looking fellow that smelled of solvents and mustiness stood inside the threshold. “Yes?”

“I’m here to see Raven.”

“You do not have an appointment,” it came as a statement not a query. “The Master sees no one without an appointment.”

“Look, tell him it is Paul from Haven.”

“He will not care.”

“He will recognize my name. I’m Cristina’s brother.”

“Cristina,” the servant seemed to smile at the mere recitation of her name. “You will wait where you are. I will consult with The Master.”

“Tell him it’s urgent.”

“Anyone having business with the Master always believes it is urgent, even when it is not.”

“Well this is a matter of life and death,” Paul said as rudely the servant closed the door in his face.

Several minutes passed. Perhaps it was his ego, but Paul expected to be greeted straight away. That had obviously not happened. Still he was self-assured that Raven would see him.

When the servant returned he opened the door. “The Master says that if you are in trouble here that you need to go back home where it is safer. The authorities may not expect you to be there.”

“I can’t. I have to get to Andromeda. Cristina is there. Tell him. All I need is a place to rest, some clothes and, if he can arrange for it, a new identification profile.”

“The master was specific. I am not to allow you in and I am to send you away,” the servant said.

Then as Paul attempted to push past the servant, fully intending to barge his way not only into the residence, but also into whatever room Raven occupied, the servant grasped him about the neck and suspended in the air, feet dangling. “What are you? You’re not a man!”

“I am a DOMLIB,” the servant announced, but it did not dissuade him from continuing to support Paul by his neck, at the end of his extended arm.

Paul was struggling for breath, becoming light headed and feared losing consciousness. He had to do something, anything.

He focused all of his attention into slipping beneath the veils of reality and into the foyer past the front door. When he did, the DOMLIB immediately responded to his disappearance, searching and scanning the immediate vicinity. Having spotted Paul, he turned and immediately pursued him.

“Raven!” Paul shouted. “Help me!”

An older gentleman appeared from a doorway down the corridor, apparently amused at the sight of Paul fleeing his servant. “You were doing so well against a much stronger and quicker adversary. I’m certain you can figure something out. You’re a grown man. And, you’re very resourceful from what I’ve recently observed.”

Paul turned and without laying a hand on the DOMLIB, the servant flew down the hallway toward the foyer where he came to rest. Immediately, the DOMLIB regained his feet and persisted in executing his master’s instructions. Showing no emotions, the DOMLIB approached Paul, intending to remove him from the residence.

“Dom, stand down,” the older man commanded just as the DOMLIB had again reached for Paul’s throat. Obediently, the servant halted and if possible appeared to relax. “See, you are quite capable of defending yourself,” Raven said. “You have no real need of me. Anyone that can take on a DOMLIB and survive is a formidable enough adversary to be highly credible against anyone.”

“I got lucky,” Paul said.

“It was not luck. It was the attributes, the result of you learning how to use your gifts involving no chance at all.”

“I need your help, Raven.”

“Do you really? You have made your own problems. You should be able to come up with your own solutions, preferably ones that don’t involve me.”

“I need to get to Andromeda to see my sister, Cristina.”

“I’m impressed that you know she is your sister. It’s touching that you want to see her. The problem is I don’t see any need to do the sorts of things that you have requested. I won’t tell you why but you will learn soon enough that you never needed to go to Andromeda.”

“Then give me a place to stay for the night. I need clothes and a shower, nothing else.”

“Why should I risk harboring a fugitive?”

“I’m going to fix the mistakes of the past.”

“Really, do you intend to fix every version of everyone’s past or only the ones you connect to? I think I’d love to see you attempt the previous, but I fear you’re too narrowly focused on the latter.”

“What if I could solve all of them?”

“If you have to ask me, then you can’t. You’re just another disappointment in the process.”

“I cannot fix everything,” he confessed.

“Perhaps you could if you really knew what was wrong. But alas we are all myopic, aren’t we? So it goes for each of us into our own petty concerns for the version of the world that only each one of us can personally understand. Not even the truth can grasp our attention once we have determined to tarry down the path of the tyrant’s objectives.”

“The tyrant?”

“Surely you understand that the attributes would not be part of the tyrant’s design. The attributes are intended to serve very different aims, mostly peaceful. You have usurped the powers and are on the verge of bringing war and destruction to the world, terraforming it in a way that is ironically far too Earthlike for my tastes,” Raven said. “I refuse to allow that to happen and so, the only way to prevent it is to ensure that you make your own way in the world and as a result of your hubris you will fail. In that way there is a chance you will learn what you need to know in the process, as that really is the only possible salvation. If not, someone else will take on the responsibilities.”

“You won’t help me then, not even to give me shelter for one night?”

Raven laughed. “You will find your own way, but not while any of the Couriers coddle you. Of all those with the attributes, you alone have mastered the orb to such a high degree that astounds all of the Couriers. Yet you did so in isolation from the others with similar concentrations of the attributes, what the Colonial Authority would call the Twenty-Four. You have learned from the orb and achieved the point of nearly knowing its concealed purpose. How are you ever going to achieve that final goal if you rely on what others can do for you?”

Paul turned away, looking directly at Dom. “No hard feelings.”

“He may not even understand that.” Raven chuckled. “Although he is an organic android he is a machine and has no human weaknesses like emotions.”

“If he is organic he’s alive,” Paul said.

“Yes, that has been a contentious point with them all along,” Raven said. “As for you, Paul, I wish you well in your endeavors. As advice I would say to trust no one and you will not be in this situation again.”

Paul left through the front door, disappointed and disillusioned. He had expected at least some assistance from a Courier. Perhaps they were not all like Raven but he understood that as a group they had a separate agenda in conflict with what he saw as the future. They were adamant in their resolve to give up on the greater numbers of mankind surviving. It was their conviction that the only way to continue the culture, tradition and languages of Earth was to isolate those with the attributes from the general population. They felt that it was risky to even consider diluting the genetic code of those with the attributes with normal men and women. They believed that it would merely extend the inevitable demise of mankind without providing an alternative to extinction. The Couriers believed the attributes must remain pure!

Paul understood their position. He also understood the attributes were the one hope for all mankind to avoid extinction. He didn’t know which he would support. He understood points favoring each course. Regardless of which course was taken, within fifty years the birthrate would fall below the ability to sustain the population except for those with the attributes and their progeny.

Uncategorized

Starting Out In The Middle

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There’s a manuscript I wrote a long time ago that starts out in the middle of the story. In fact the first paragraph is about why it makes as much sense to start telling a story in the middle as it is at either the beginning or the ending. I never submitted that manuscript for publication because it just never felt quite ready to go through that level of scrutiny. As I recall the story was mainly about living and though it had its moments of excitement and resolution it seemed to begin in the middle and after several hundred pages it was still in the middle. But, because of the experience of writing it I have always thought about the concept of starting out in the middle as a commentary on real life.

You know, of course, that we all start out in the middle of something else that is going on around us. For years we play catch-up, learning and absorbing from parents and other, more experienced, family members. Then, as we mature we have teachers, clergy and bosses – pretty much everyone we meet is in influence for whatever span that is determined as appropriate for being a human sponge. At some point, though, someone decides we have become competent. Perhaps it is a degree conferred or some other credential we earn. Maybe it is simply that we have mastered doing something and others decide we are suddenly expert. Whatever and however it happens we are an adult at that point. Maybe some of never reach that point. Who knows?

My thought here is that the beginning of each of our lives is an illusion as much as the endings arbitrarily attached to death. Between times we are immersed in the world and life is a matter of sinking and drowning or swimming and surviving. Living is all about being caught up in the experience. I believe that if a writer is to imitate life, he or she needs to understand being the midst of things. For a reader being in a book world should be similar enough to real life that disbelief is suspended as the author introduces a new, surrogate world. Mainly I deal with fantasy worlds but I think it applies to all fiction.

A writer must engage the reader instantly because entering a book’s contrived universe can and perhaps should be like being born. Spend the first few chapters staking out the territory and meeting the important people who will help or hinder the experience of living. Somewhere in that process you’ll learn about the conflicts from what the characters say or how they interact. Either way, as a reader, you’ll know early on where the story is headed but probably not where it is going.

A well written book always leaves the reader wondering what will happen next because, as with real life, it is filled with challenge and mystery. There are surprises that are both good and bad. There are horrendous failures to overcome and transcending experiences of joy and ecstasy. Some other characters prove necessary or even vital to the hero or heroine in their lives. Extreme difficulty and immense pressure await and a lot of dull detail can be skipped over or summarized because those are the parts of life that are mostly tedious and routine.

At the climax something important is learned. One climax may lead to another and another, or simply a single culmination may be enough to complete the story that you began telling on page one – which was picked up, of course, in the middle of the character’s life. In conclusion, with the major difficulty resolved, doesn’t that character’s life goes on sen though the voyeurs are gone? We as readers assume that it does even if all that is said about the future has a lot to do with magic, myth and happily ever after. As authors we may decide a sequel is in order but just as likely we may never get around to writing it.

Maybe the reason I write serials is because I start in the middle more often that I begin at either end. The universe inside of me that I share in my writing is as real to me as the outside one that the rest of humanity shares with me. Its as hard for me to walk away from my characters after typing The End as it is to simply pick up and move somewhere else in town or across the country. Maybe that’s how it needs to be for characters to exist in the minds of my readers as well.

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#writing #fiction #fantasy #author #characters #beginning #ending #climax

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Making Progress Despite…

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Whether writing is a gift or a curse depends on perspective…and mood I suppose. Having met a lot of writers over the years I have determined there are a lot of similarities, despite our different backgrounds and approaches. The most obvious thing we all do is write. Yet that tends to be the one thing we try our best to avoid doing. You see, we are best a productive procrastination.

Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron. I’m not sure I actually coined the term although the first time I noticed anyone else using it was weeks later on social media. I think my kids may have been responsible for the term getting around.

The first time I used it was with my son while we were moving some pretty heavy furniture items which included a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer and a dryer and one very heavy piano. It’s a miracle either or both of us wasn’t killed moving that last thing. Anyway, after exerting maximum effort in getting a piano down a ramp from a moving truck and into the sunken living room – yeah the house we moved into was built when that sort of thing was popular – neither of us were very interested in continuing with the move. My son stood an watched me carry in things like pillows, individually, and other light articles. After I made a few trips back and forth he asked, “What are you doing?”

Of course, my answer was, “Productive procrastination.”

Simply put, it is the art of finding something else to do that makes some progress while avoiding something more productive but not quite as desirable.

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As much as writers love to write, there are times when the experience is painful. I would say that most times it’s painful, but there are moments when the words flow as of the levee has broken and everything that was trapanned inside pours out. That is a good writing experience.

Mostly, writing is a lot of hours doing something that seems to take a few minutes. We enter a trance-like state during which we are awake and moderately aware of what is going on around us though largely oblivious to it. This we refer to as ‘being in the zone’. There is is possible to compose several pages containing several thousand words of story without being directly cognizant of the normal passage of time. This state can last for from four to six or eight hours. During it everything else is put on hold except for normal autonomic bodily functions and the need to purge. The need for such breaks can break the connection, but most writers acquire the ability to temporally suspend the writing session to take care of things. At times these random break allow for a new idea to rise to the surface and grab our attention.

The process is scary more so to others around us than it is to the writers. Beyond the first time when it happens and causes us to question our sanity we decide it is cool. I believe all writers – at least those of us who do fiction – are functionally insane by any conventional definition. However writers perceive everyone else, ally he so called normal people int eh world – as being the strange ones.

After we have wrestled with the crazy part of writing, ‘being in the zone’ we look at all the pages of words I produced and mostly it makes sense! It is astounding and rewarding. That’s how we generally respond. In the process all the voices inside our heads that were clamoring for attention have settled and receded into the background so that for a few hours we can sleep without interruption or accomplish something int he outside world that might actually make us seem normal to others – like washing the car, mowing the lawn or taking the kids to the park.

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Why would a writer ever want to avoid the creative experience of slipping into the zone? Well, there are times when a story you’re working on becomes difficult to write. You know a character is heading for certain death and, really, you’ve grown quite fond of him or her. Yet, for the sake of working out the plot and resolving the conflict, you know he or she must go. You resist doing that. Maybe the story needs to take a turn. You throw in a plot twist or two to delay the inevitable. But eventually the most difficult passage demands to be played out.

Sometimes as a writer you work to a point of major crisis that, for the characters at least, is not life threatening, but it is just something you don’t want to write about. From experience those times tend to be the most interesting and relatable parts of a book for the reader. So if one is a serious writer, you forge ahead with it.

Other times you claim is writers block and find any number of other things to divert your attention away from what you know must be written. You let it simmer inside until it boils up and there is no other solution but to write it down. Those events are also some of the best parts of a book.

Writers are conduits – mouthpieces of the gods, you will. There are characters who live inside of our imaginary worlds and each of them have a story they need to tell so that they can exist in the minds of readers. To them that is how they choose to exist, to enjoy their lives over and over again.

The writer may choose to delay telling the story, setting it to paper or the digital equivalent, but I don’t think it can be prevented. You see, I don’t believe those characters exist solely in my mind. If I don’t write about them, they will make my life miserable for a while but eventually they will move on to the next writer. But for whatever time the characters live inside of me I’m the one best suited to tell their stories.IMG_0233

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Incomplete Chapters

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One thing I have learned over the course of writing several manuscripts is that if you take a break in the middle of a chapter, you’ll usually wind up rewriting the whole thing.

The reason you feel compelled to take a break is that something is not working. Why do I say that? Well, if the writer is bored, then what will happen when someone else reads it? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

A perfect chapter doesn’t necessarily continue the action from the previous chapter, but it must build on the story line, otherwise it is unnecessary. If there are several threads to the plot, it must connect with one of them somewhere. Early in the novel chapters may establish a character or two – perhaps an important relationship hinting of a conflict later on. However, when a writer is composing any chapter he or she may not necessarily know where the story is headed at that point. Characters tend to tell their own tale. If they didn’t present you, the author, with details and background it wouldn’t be much of a novel. Also, you could tell the entire story as a brief synopsis.

What works for me is using an outline after the fact of writing a draft. That is not to say that from the outset I don’t have a vague idea where the story is headed. Occasionally the outcome that seemed inevitable to me as I began to write turns out to be a red herring or at least a wrong assumption. It is important to allow the characters to tell their stories in their own ways and not force them into a corner or shackle them with your expectations. Although some of the characters may use your logic and generally do what you might do in an given situation, the best characters are those who do the unexpected and are the antithesis of the author, or at least a fabrication of his per her darker side.

Which brings me back on point. If you leave a chapters incomplete to take a break in the middle, whenever you return, go back to the beginning of the chapter and read the story. Fix whatever caused the trouble and then move on. Very often your characters will show you what the problem was. Their dialogue may have been strained or their actions inconsistent with their character profile. Something is amiss. Fix that and the flow and interest will be restored.