Books, Editing, Environment, Future, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Uncategorized, Word, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 22 – Threatened

**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 festive mood of the evening was over. The prevailing spirit of the first real night in town rapidly evaporated once Chase and Alix returned from the restroom, each of them obviously stressed and injured. Chase had obviously sustained some lingering harm that would take some time to heal. Except for a cut and a couple of bruises Alix seemed fine.

Julie and Cristina sat and talked to their boyfriends. Alix asked Cristina to dance, maybe attempting to lighten the mood, but certainly to assuage her concerns and demonstrate that he was fine. They danced for nearly thirty minutes while Chase and Julie lingered at the table, talking.

Obviously, Julie was highly concerned. Chase was still bleeding from a cut on his lip and another on his forehead. Otherwise he seemed to be under control. Chase kept trying to reassure her that it was mere intimidation. It was a warning. As long as he didn’t do anything to draw further suspicion, everything would be fine. “It would be paranoia to think that every agent of the Colonial Authority is after me.”

“It’s only paranoia if you’re not being followed,” Julie countered.

Chase considered her words. Maybe he always had been followed. Perhaps all of them had. Each who possessed the attributes had been under some level of surveillance. The Couriers, whoever they were, knew about them. That concerned Julie. Were they involved?

When Cristina and Alix returned to the table, an instant silence greeted them. It seemed as if Julie and Chase had nothing to say to anyone, even between them as they sat there not wanting to profane the air with what was worrying them that the troubles had come once Cristina and Alix arrived.

It could not be coincidence. Long since she decided there were no coincidences. Each of them learned that single lesson over time. Everything happened for some purpose. Since Cristina and Alix came to visit, the weight of world seemed to be descending upon the four of them. That worried Julie. She wanted to protect Chase. Also she wanted to be a good friend to Cristina and Alix, but she believed the immediate situation was largely their blame. People noticed them. The authorities were obviously paying attention to them.

Alix looked across the table piercing the silence as he asked, “What is Paul doing that provoked so much interest, especially in us? I have personally never met the guy.”

“I met him briefly. Then he called me and we talked for a fairly long time. But I would not even begin to claim that I know him,” Cristina said.

“Before a week ago I could not have told you anything about Paul,” Chase explained. “Cristina met him in Haven the morning after our last gig there. I saw the two of them talking as I was coming over the rise in the bridge on the causeway.”

“I have since learned that he is my twin brother,” Cristina said. “The orbs showed me the truth. I had never met him before that morning on the causeway, at least not that I recall. I never knew that he was my brother until after Raven gave me the damned orb. Since that morning, it seems like my whole life has been turned sideways. I’ve not really been the same old me since.”

Alix looked at her, but then lowered his eyes.

“Some things that have changed are okay with me,” she said for his benefit. “Without the orb, maybe we would have never started talking. It’s just that everything else is topsy-turvy.”

“Did Paul say anything to you about what he is doing?” Alix asked.

“I talked to him briefly. It had nothing to do with anything except I had the distinct feeling that he was flirting with me. I get that sometimes. You must get that too, Julie.”

“Yeah, sometimes. But from your brother?” Julie asked.

“He didn’t realize their relationship until later,” Chase offered.

“Neither did I,” Cristina said. “I thought he was kind of cute, definitely Italian. I admit I was attracted to him in some ways.”

“He’s one of us,” Julie said.

“He has the attributes,” Chase confirmed.

Mo checked on them yet again, ensuring that they didn’t need anything before her shift ended. She said goodbye and thanked them again for taking a picture and sending it to her. Another table hailed her for drinks and hopefully tips as she worked her way back toward the bar and the end of her shift.

“I don’t know. Maybe it is me but that could get to be annoying,” Chase commented. “We know her a bit, now but all the attention…”

“She makes absolute crap for wages and she depends on the tips,” Cristina said. “I know. I was a waitress when I was in college. It sucks. And people like us who are just sitting here, taking up a table and not buying anything really do nothing for her.”

“Yeah, we have been hogging her table all night,” Julie said. “But she checked on us regularly. She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.”

“Exactly,” Cristina said.

“I’ll give her a good tip then,” Chase said.

“It needs to be more than the paltry sum you usually dole out,” Julie said.

“Trust me, I got it. Are you guys ready to go then?”

“Yeah, I think this night played out a long time ago,” Alix said.

As the others walked toward the door Chase walked up behind Maureen and tapped her on the shoulder. “We’re leaving. It was very nice meeting you and thanks again for your support of the band. I just wanted to thank you for your attentive service and if you are ready to receive on your end, I’d like to leave you a tip.”

“Uh, yeah okay, thanks,” she said, mildly surprised and then as she paused and looked down at her payment wand. “Okay, I’m all set to receive.”

Chase executed a payment, and then turned and started to walk away.

“Wait, sir.”

“Chase,” he reminded her as he turned around.

“I think you made a mistake. I mean really, maybe one zero too many.”

“There was no mistake, hon. Enjoy.”

“Thank you. I mean that’s really generous.”

“You work hard,” Chase said as he turned around. Then speaking over his shoulder “Tomorrow, go treat yourself to something special, something you never would do otherwise.”

She smiled, “Mister…Chase, really I appreciate it. I mean, I feel bad like maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention after you stopped ordering drinks.”

“You were fine,” Chase countered as he joined the others at the exit.

“How much did you give her as a tip?” Julie’s brow furrowed as she asked.

“My finger slipped, okay.”

Julie laughed. “Three figure’s worth?”

He nodded. “Hey, it was on the promotional account. It’ll get buried anyway.”

Alix chuckled. “Next time you come in here, she’ll be all over you with service.”

“Yeah, well the only way Chase is coming in here again is with me,” Julie stated emphatically. “I certainly don’t want Ms Mo throwing herself at my hon.”

“I can live with that restriction. I don’t have fond memories of the place.”

Julie flashed an insincere smile while Alix and Cristina observed.

Julie seized the remote for the coach from Chase and retrieved the coach from the docking station. As it pulled up to the curb outside the club, the door opened inviting them to climb inside. Chase waited for Cristina and then Alix to get seated then he waited for Julie to get situated at the console before he climbed in and sat down.

It was a very short distance back to the apartment. Chase was grateful that he didn’t have to walk. His body hurt whenever he drew a deep breath. He thought he might have a bruised or broken rib. His head ached, but mainly he wanted to stretch out and try not to move for a while.

Julie kept looking across the console at him, concerned that he was being brave and not telling her the extent of his injuries. She hoped he would be okay, but she could sense his pain. Still, she knew him too well. He wouldn’t go to a clinic right away. He’d wait for a couple of days, and go only if he wasn’t getting better. She’d already decided that in the morning if he was not his usual self she would insist he seek professional attention.

In the back seat of the coach, Cristina was resting her head on Alix’s shoulder as they talked quietly. They also noticed Chase’s mood. They had been on tour with him for over a year and knew him well. Chase was always positive, always in control of the situation. Now, there was a difference. He seemed apprehensive and frightened.

They arrived at the curb outside of the apartment building and exited. By the time Julie docked the coach at the apartment’s garage Alix and Cristina were already inside and had summoned the elevator. Chase waited behind for Julie and bit back the pain he felt at opening the door as she approached.

“Are you feeling okay?” She asked him quietly as she took his hand and started toward where Alix and Cristina were waiting.

“I feel great for someone who had the kick shit out of him.”

Alix laughed at how Chase turned the phrase in his effort to marginalize the situation and how much pain he was in.

Julie glared at him.

“What?”

“That’s it isn’t it? Your ego is bruised at least as badly as your ribs,” Julie protested.

“I kind of think the ribs are a little more bruised at the moment,” Chase offered.

“Maybe you can take a hot bath and soak in the tub.”

“Yeah, that’ll help.” He hoped.

When the elevator reached their floor and all exited, Cristina had an unusual sensation, unlike any that she had before. “Uh, wait,” she warned as at first tugged at Alix’s arm. Then, she proclaimed to the others. “There’s something wrong.”

“What?” Julie turned, and then, after seeing the conviction in her eyes, she halted her advance toward the apartment door.

“I don’t know what it is, but something’s not right.”

“The men from the club?” Chase asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

“Do you get these feelings often?” Julie asked.

“Not often, but sometimes. I always pay attention to them.”

“Look, what say you gals stay right here. Let Chase and I be macho and go check it out,” Alix offered.

“With all due respect for your macho, mine was dislocated a little earlier and I think in the process much of my testosterone in reserve spilled out as well,” Chase said. “Look if Cristina feels something, that’s good enough for me. I think we should call building security, just to be on the safe side. Let the people handle it who get paid to do it.”

Julie agreed and had already activated her implanted phone and the holographic projection in her palm to ring building security. A few minutes elapsed while they waited in the hallway outside of the elevators for security to arrive. Then the doors opened and two uniformed men stepped off the elevator as Julie explained to them that Chase had been accosted in a club. Then, she lied that he couldn’t find his remote that operated all the locks and appliances in the apartment, so they were worried that the men who had attacked him might be in the apartment.

Julie handed one of the security officers her remote and they went to the apartment and clicked the door open. Upon opening the door, both officers ran into the apartment with urgency and lingered for what seemed a long time. Finally, one of them emerged and motioned for Julie to come toward him. He spoke directly to her for a bit, and then went back inside the apartment.

“What is it?” Chase asked as Julie returned to the group.

“There was a break-in. They saw two men leaving from the patio. They called the Colonial Authority to send detectives.

“Great, just great!” Chase groaned sarcastically. “They may as well call the guys who broke in.”

Alix corralled Cristina’s shoulders, hugging her as he said, “You probably saved someone a major ass kicking, maybe me.”

“Or me,” Chase said. “Anyway, thanks.”

“I would like to do something special to those bozos that attacked you,” Alix said. “I mean if they had not blindsided us, I think we could have taken them.”

Chase laughed, but then winced. “I’m afraid there is very little fight left in me at the moment.”

When the officers from the Colonial Authority arrived, they took pictures, checked for fingerprints, and interviewed each one of them. It took a couple of hours. Chase sensed it was intended to be a good show. Even if the officers were not aware of the covert operations of their own agents, there would be nothing found, no evidence to point to the perpetrators. It was a necessary exercise perhaps, but the result was expected. With nothing to go on, searching for the culprits was futile.

The break-in was accomplished from the balcony. There were still ropes and grappling hooks hanging down from the railing. It was pretty obvious whoever broke in was professional, another reason why there would be no clues left behind.

The interior of the apartment was ransacked. Obviously, whoever it was looked for something specific. Nothing had been stolen but a lot of things were ruined.

After the officers left, Chase and Julie worked at putting the apartment back together while Cristina and Alix cleaned up the broken dishes and glasses from the kitchen.

It was the wee hours of the morning before the apartment was back to any semblance of order. Chase and Julie sat at the table talking quietly while Cristina and Alix showered. Then while they were getting ready for bed, Julie and Chase showered. Afterwards, Julie applied a stretch bandage to Chase’s ribs before the two of them also retired for the night.

Because of the events of the previous night it was very late in the morning before anyone woke. All night long Chase found it difficult to get comfortable and sleep. By morning, apparently he was worn out enough to pass out. He was still snoring when Julie got up. She was glad she had taken a few days off from work to spend time with Cristina and Alix.

As she checked and listened to her messages, learning she needed to go to the office to get a couple of things wrapped up, things she believed were completed already but someone above her in the corporate food chain changed something at the last moment.

She called her administrative assistant to find out how everything was going. Of course, it was a disaster because she hadn’t been there for a couple of days.

When she showered and got dressed, she went to the kitchen to fix a quick lunch to take with her and toasted a bagel and spread cream cheese over it just to tide her over on the way. By the time she was done, Cristina was also awake.

“I have to go to work,” Julie said apologetically. “I should ask for a raise. They can’t seem to get along without me.”

“How’s Chase?” Cristina asked.

“He had a rough night, getting comfortable and all. You know?”

“I can imagine.”

“He’s sleeping now so maybe he’ll rest all day. How is Alix?”

“Alix wants to go out tonight, but maybe we shouldn’t,” she said.

“You guys can go wherever you want. I don’t think Chase will be going out for a few days. But that shouldn’t hold you back.”

“Maybe someone needs to be here with him, just in case.”

“Yeah,” Julie nodded. “Anyway, I’ll be back around seven or eight. That should give you two time to go out and have some fun. Don’t let last night bother you. I have lived here all my life and that’s the first time that anything like that has ever happened to anyone I’ve been with.”

When Julie left, Cristina made a simple breakfast of some buttered toast and juice. She sat at the table to enjoy it as she checked world viewer to see if anything was going on in the larger world. After she searched the channels for anything interesting, she opted to listen to some music instead. By then Alix was awake and greeted her with a half intelligible, “G’mornin’,” on his way into the kitchen where he rummaged through the cabinets and refrigerator for something to curb his appetite.

“Do you want me to fix something for you?” Cristina offered.

“No, I got it, hon. I’ll have what you’re having. That’s really all I need.”

When he had buttered his toast and poured juice into a glass he joined her at the table. Before taking a seat he kissed her on the cheek. “After last night it seems very calm and quiet,” he said.

“I’ll take calm and quiet,” she responded.

“Yeah, that was kind of nuts. I’ve been thinking about it. What was the purpose?”

“They’re looking for anything about Paul,” Chase revealed his suspicion as he entered the room. “So, where’s Julie?”

“She went to the office.”

“She has the nerve to tell me to take time off.”

“I’m sorry if we woke you,” Alix said.

“I got enough sleep. You know me, a couple of hours and I’m golden.”

“How do the ribs feel?” Cristina asked.

“Sore as hell,” Chase admitted, “But only when I breathe.”

“Why do you think they would be looking here?” Alix asked.

“They want to know where he is. They think I know. Maybe they suspect you two as well.”

“I’m not sure it’s safe to talk here anymore,” Cristina whispered.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Chase said as he walked into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from a pitcher obtained from the refrigerator. He popped some tablets of painkiller into his mouth. “I have nothing to hide,” he continued after swallowing. “Yeah, so I’ve met Paul. Cristina met him once, talked to him on the phone. Until last week neither of us ever heard of the guy. We have done absolutely nothing wrong. But to them I guess we’re guilty by mere association.”

“What’s Paul doing that is illegal?” Alix asked.

“Actually nothing he’s doing is illegal, just that it is contrary to the wishes of the Colonial Authority,” Chase explained. “Even within the Colonial Authority there is division over the matters that Paul’s group is dealing with.”

“What group?” Cristina asked.

“The Colonial Authority believes he belongs to something clandestine called The Resurrection. I got that news when they detained and questioned me in Haven.”

“That’s an interesting choice of names. I suppose they are interested in bringing someone back from the dead.” Alix said.

“Not someone, some things.”

“Sand-morphs,” Cristina offered.

“Score!” Chase exclaimed.

“But how?”

“They’re silicon-based life, something the engineers never in their wildest imaginations thought to check for when they were surveying the planet for terraform viability.”

“They killed them all the same,” Cristina protested.

“It was unintentional.”

“Regardless of intention, it is still murder,” Alix sided with Cristina. “It only varies by degree.”

“I think the whole thing is well past the time for accusations, recriminations or finger pointing. It was wrong, but I don’t think anyone knew it was going to happen. It was only after the fact the blame got spread around for enough of the Colonial Authority that they are willing to trample what civil rights we have. The reason no one except for a few people has ever heard of sand-morphs expect for childhood myths is the information about them has been suppressed from the public. Some of their bodies have been preserved. You see, they don’t decay in the same way as we do when we die. Apparently their cell structure maintains integrity for a fairly long time. And that may allow them to be brought back to life.”

“Hence the name of the organization,” Alix said.

“I’m not sure what Paul’s group is really called or what else they’re up to, only they intend to bring at least one of the sand-morphs back to life. It frightens me a good bit.”

“Why?” Alix asked.

“What if sand-morphs are not peaceful, tolerant beings?” Cristina asked.

“What if they are like us in that regard, you mean,” Alix said.

“Exactly,” Chase said. “Right on both counts.”

“We don’t have a great record of tolerating one another let alone sharing a planet with a completely different form of life,” Cristina said.

“I’m not sure we should even be thinking of sharing the world,” Chase said. “Wasn’t it their world?”

“They used to call it Manifest Destiny,” Cristina said. “It was used as a doctrine in 19th Century America to justify taking land from the Native Americans.”

“At least the Americans made an excuse and gave it the semblance of a legal doctrine before stealing their land,” Chase said.

“Very little difference than stealing their gold and silver and forcing them into slavery,” Alix said.

“The colonial period on Earth was rarely about fairness and equity,” Cristina said. “Why should it come as a surprise that we are any different? Is it because we’ve had a few hundred years to perfect our excuses?”

“What the Colonial Authority is doing is trying to pretend it never happened at all and hoping the issue will go away. They have imprisoned and deported people just to keep it quiet. They’ve been effective. Until a couple of weeks ago none of us had any idea that anything like this was possible let alone going on just under the surface of daily life.”

“What if they succeed in resurrecting a sand-morph? What’s the point?” Alix asked.

“One of the things the Colonial Authority has wanted to suppress is how advanced the sand-morphs civilization was. They were intelligent. They had a written language. No only are there are indications they lived in tribes, but also they had something of a government amongst the tribes,” Chase detailed.

“Do you have any idea the sort of impact that would have if it became common knowledge?” Cristina asked.

“For the sake of terraforming a place for us to live, we terminated an entire race and their culture, and a lot of other innocent life as well.”

“Even if The Resurrection succeeds in bringing one back to life, would it remember anything?”

“It’s not for certain. It’s a hope. Maybe the language can be learned from them and something about their history. Some people have done a lot of research already. They have been able to make some educated guesses about their language. It’s how they know they lived in tribes and had a government. But there are a lot of things no one knows about them, maybe they knew things people need to know if we’re to survive.”

“Paul wanted you to join them?” Cristina asked.

“He made a pitch. He wants for all of us to join him,” Chase paused then after clearing his throat and taking a deep breath he continued. “I said, no. Not yet, anyway. I’m not sure I agree with their goals or their methods, but I’m sure he will try to recruit both you and Alix, Julie too – everyone with the attributes. He’s convinced this is what we need to do. He sees it as our commonly shared special purpose.”

 

Books, Editing, Environment, Future, music, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Uncategorized, Word, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 21 – Outing

**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 had been on the phone with this or that party for most of the morning, talking to her contacts and trying to get through to someone at Global Star, even if it was in the wee-hours of morning back in New Milan. When she finally reached someone, an underling of someone that she usually dealt with, he promised her that they were working with the Andromeda authorities that had imposed the embargo. At present they were intransigent on the issue, completely convinced that there were hidden messages in the music.

Cristina volunteered to meet with the local officials as she was already in their city, but the distribution company wanted her to hold off for the time being on any private efforts until they had exhausted all of their efforts and had discussed the legalities of the embargo. Global Star seemed to think it was more about New Milan vs. Andromeda than anything else.

When Alix woke he was elated that he had pancakes and sausage links waiting. He drank coffee and then some juice before plopping down on the couch along side Chase as the two of them engaged in a racing challenge video game on the main world viewer screen.

Julie shook her head as Cristina tapped her earlobe disengaging from her call and came into the kitchen to help her clean up from breakfast. “I’m sorry I have not been much help.”

“No, I completely understand. It’s such bullshit that they have banned sales of your music locally. I’m sure the root of it is our history and I’m personally sorry that it’s affecting you.”

“Global Star seems to think the same thing.”

“It’s all political crap.”

“My real concern is that the bullshit will spread to other cities and all of a sudden we will have a reputation that we don’t deserve and because of it we’ll cease to be a band.”

“Or the publicity will work in your favor, making you even more popular because you’re banned. The bad publicity can be spun to your advantage without allowing for any guilt,” Chase said from the other room.

Julie looked at her, and then lent her the support of a friendly hug. “I’m sure everything will work out. It’s just someone with a wild hair up his or her you-know-where.”

“I know but I feel so impotent here. It’s like whatever I do won’t matter. And they tell me to be patient, because they’re working on it and I know they are. But I know as well as any of them that the longer this goes on, the more harm it can do to our success.”

“Unless someone spins it in a favorable way,” Chase suggested, again from the other room.

“My fear is that after all the hard work we’ve done and the years the band has been performing together our fame will be fleeting, Chase. Regardless the spin, we haven’t established our reputation. Most people think we’re a new band and have only been together for a short while. It’s not fair that some bureaucrats want to take the potential of our fame from us over some stupid rivalry between two cities.”

“Let the guys and gals that are the experts in publicity take charge of it,” Chase countered. “You have the best people in the world working for you. You also have the best legal team to negotiate with all the bureaucrats.”

“We need to go out, do something to take your mind off of it,” Julie suggested. “Leave the boys here playing their game while we go shopping.”

Cristina laughed. “Well, I could use some new shoes. I know that is cliché but I really do need some new shoes. Touring with a bunch of guys for a year, when did I ever have a chance to shop for shoes?”

Julie laughed. “Let’s do it then.”

“I need a shower.”

“You first then,” Julie said.

It was not far from the apartment building to the nearest shopping square. Still, Julie decided to take the floater coach, in case they bought things that would be a burden to carry home.

It was a weekday. The square was not crowded. Almost every shop was busy but not nearly like it would have been on a weekend. The ladies went to five shoe stores before Cristina found a pair that fit perfectly. They were expensive but as she had not bought shoes for over a year. She felt she was over due.

They continued shopping, looking at the latest fashions from Emerald, New Paris, New London and of course Andromeda which in recent years had become associated with trends and fashion for the younger set. Julie and Cristina spend most of the afternoon trying on different dresses and ensembles, not buying but considering. Toward the end of the day they returned to one shop where both of them found a couple of dresses they liked and asked them to be held. They made their purchases and, because of the time, decided to call it a day and return to the coach to drive back to the apartment.

When they arrived Alix and Chase were still dueling with one another in the twenty-fifth round of the simulated racing game.

“We’re back,” Julie announced.

“Welcome home ladies,” Chase said.

“You’re missing it, “Alix directed to Cristina. “I’m killing Chase on points.”

Cristina leaned over the back of the couch and kissed Alix on the cheek.

“So, what did you get?”

“Shoes and a dress,” she replied. “I’ll put them on for you if you like.”

Alix laughed. “That would be like about the only thing I can think of that might end this duel.  It might distract me just enough for Chase to win.”

“Well maybe I should put on my new dress too, then,” Julie said. “Just to be fair.”

“Please, no!” Chase laughed.

“Well if you plan on playing that game all night, we need to interrupt you somehow. Then you guys need to take us out, dancing.”

Chase glanced at Alix and received a smile in response. “Uh, I don’t dance,” he said to Julie.

“You can dance, it’s just you have to be drunk to be brave enough to do it,” Julie corrected.

“What the hell, it will be fun,” Alix said, looking into Cristina’s sparkling eyes. “It will be a chance for you to show us this awesome music community that supposedly exists here.”

“Oh, it exists,” Chase said. “I think you will be mildly surprised at how good our local bands are.”

“But if we are going dancing,” Julie said.

“The clubs with bands can wait for another night,” Chase agreed.

Alix paused the game, saved the status and removed the interface module from his head as he stood and stretched. I probably need a shower.

Chase did likewise. “You can go first,” he permitted.

“Join me,” Cristina invited.

Alix laughed, and then focused on her eyes. “Why would I ever refuse an offer like that?”

When they emerged from the bathroom dressed in towels wrapped around them to conceal their private parts, Chase and Julie took their turn at the shower. Cristina and Alix dressed in the guest room. Then, he went out into the living room while Cristina worked on her makeup in the bedroom.

Once Julie and Chase finished with bathroom, Julie went to her bedroom to fetch her makeup kit to work with it at the bigger mirror of the bathroom. When Chase was dressed, he went into the living room and joined Alix on the couch, taking over the remote to search the news channels.

By the time that she was finished, Cristina ventured into the living room, pausing until both Alix and Chase stood, looking at her and commented on her new dress and shoes. Alix complimented her on how wonderfully the dress accented her perfect figure. Chase returned to the couch sampling the news and entertainment channels, seeking anything about the embargo on Duae Lunae’s music.

“As far as I can tell, nothing has changed,” Chase said to Cristina as she sat down on the couch between him and Alix.

“I’m not sure what I can do. The distributor told me to let them handle it.”

“Then by all means let them handle it. They deal with this sort of crap all the time,” Alix said. “They have the experts working on it, just like Chase says.”

“Why us? Why now? No one else suffers embargos.” Cristina shook her head.

“Maybe this is extreme, but it is their thing not yours,” Chase explained.

“But they’re saying things about me and the band that simply aren’t true. That’s what pisses me off,” Cristina stated.

“It’ll blow over,” Chase promised. “I think it is just the local community is fearful of outsiders penetrating the music scene.”

“But we love Andromeda,” Alix said.

“I know; I know. But the city as a whole doesn’t know how great you are,” Chase replied. “We’ll just have to make sure we debut the next album here and begin your next tour here. Maybe it will even seem like Andromeda is your adopted home, then.”

“That’s a great idea,” Alix said.

“Except our fans in New Milan may take it the wrong way,” Cristina pointed out.

“Maybe we should record some of it here, then,” Alix suggested. “Maybe arrange to record a couple of live tracks in a club. We could feature some local talent as well.”

Chase smiled. “That could work well. Collaborating with some of the more popular bands here that are almost ready to break it huge… We could coordinate a promotional tour.”

Cristina kissed Alix on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

“For listening to me rant and caring about my concerns and coming up with a great idea.”

“How could I not care?” he asked. “It involves me too.”

“It involves all of us,” Chase said.

“You both were so involved in the game earlier that I wasn’t sure.”

“Games are games,” Chase defended them both. “Just because we were involved in the game doesn’t mean we were oblivious to all of that bullshit you were dealing with all morning.”

Cristina kissed Chase on the cheek. “At least you guys appreciated what I was up against and what I was trying to accomplish. I didn’t think you knew.”

“I think it’s a little bit of an over-reaction, and premature at this point,” Chase said. “But, having said that, if I was in your place maybe I would see it the way you do. Still, you really have to give the pros the time they need to work their magic with it.”

Julie finally emerged from her bathroom makeup session. She entered the living room, dressed in semi-formal attire and made up for a night on the town, having put on the special-occasion, pretty-face that Chase had been privy to only a few times, the few times that they had gone out to dinner at a formal restaurant.

“Wow!” Chase said only a fraction of a second before Alix joined in chorus.

“Are we ready to go?” Julie asked.

Alix hopped up, pulling Cristina to her feet by her hand. Chase rocked forward and stood, “Let’s go,” he said.

They took Chase’s floater coach because it was a little bit larger than Julie’s. Even if the club that they were going to was really within walking distance, they wanted to have the luxury of piling into a coach and allowing the auto drive function to guide them home.

When they pulled up at the common facility that served many different businesses in the area, Chase docked the coach and they walked directly to the club and waited for a few minutes at the door while the bouncer scanned their ID implants, and then after a few more minutes he allowed them to post the cover charges on their payment wands and enter.

The club was called ‘Options’, a place that rarely hosted live bands. It catered to people who wanted to dance to the current music of the times. As they entered the club Cristina paused, stunned to hear her own voice, their bands latest hit remixed especially for dancing, playing over the speaker system in the club.

She appraised the mood of people in the club who were dancing to a Duae Lunae’s single. As Alix grabbed her hand and led her in the direction of a table that Julie had spotted that was close to the dance floor.

“This is awesome,” Cristina said as Alix pulled her along behind him. Before they reached the table Julie was holding for them they were already heading for the dance floor. Caught up in the emotions of the moment, they were dancing to their own music.

The dance floor was packed with people having fun. Everyone enjoyed the fruits of something they had worked hard to capture in the studio over a year and a half ago. It was a song that Cristina and Keith collaborated to write. Alix recalled complaining about a couple of transitions, which, for whatever reason, were nearly impossible for him. Now, after having played them nearly every day or night and sometimes twice a day while on tour, he could play the entire song almost without thinking about it.

It was surreal in a special way that both Alix and Cristina enjoyed but did maybe could not fully appreciate. The local authorities had banned the sale of their song whether on single or complete Mod cards. Yet people were excited about it and dancing to the music.

Julie embraced Cristina as the song ended and they started to leave the dance floor. “See, they love your music.”

Alix grabbed Cristina’s wrist. “Stay, we can dance for a bit.”

“Really,” Cristina said with some mild surprise.

“Yeah, this is pretty damned cool.” He indicated the lighted dance floor that even responded to where each foot was placed, with different colors and effects.

Chase pulled Julie toward him, away from Cristina and Alix, seeking privacy for a few moments to kiss her and sit at their table. As the next song began, the foursome met again on the dance floor, continuing to dance to a song from Andromeda’s band, Overt Expression. Julie shouted over the music to tell Cristina that this band was reputed the best in the city. Cristina nodded, but then paid particular attention to the music, its structure and the transitions. After listening for a few minutes while she danced, the song was ending. She decided Overt Expression did things a little differently in shaping their sound, but she liked what she heard. She especially liked the singer’s voice and thought he might be a good candidate for collaboration like Alix suggested, perhaps singing in duet.

Chase had already headed for the table that Julie reserved in passing. It was along a wall, close to the dance floor. First he and then Julie sat down to catch their breaths. He waved to Alix and Cristina who seemed to be searching for the table. As the four of them gathered at the table, a waitress arrived, introduced herself as Maureen, Mo for short and took their drink orders.

“This is a pretty cool place,” Alix said. “I mean how cool was it that they were playing our song when we entered?”

“That was a nice coincidence,” Cristina confirmed.

“You have to be a major act to get played in a dance club like this,” Chase said. “And to have someone remix the song for a dance version…well, that’s at least flattering, I think.”

“It means you’ve arrived in the local scene,” Julie amplified Chases words. “And all this crap about the embargo will only increase your fame.”

“It gives us a bad reputation,” Cristina protested.

“Which is not a bad thing with the counter culture, especially in this city. You know, your Mods are probably the hottest thing in town right now because no one has it and can’t get it because of the ban.”

“Someone will go on the railcar to New Milan or Star City and buy some copies and bring them back here to resell them at a scalped price,” Cristina offered her concerns. “Or worse for us, they’ll bootleg them and black market them.”

Chase nodded his concurrence then added. “But that happens anyway. The true fans that support the band don’t get their music that way. They never have. But in this instance, the embargo will force even the fans to get the music through illegal means. They authorities are taking some kind of strange stand for whatever reason. We need to know why they are doing it, but it really is pretty-much token as far as killing the song. The single and complete Mods have already sold well and will be played in clubs regardless of their efforts. They have to know that. As for the publicity, you couldn’t buy this level of attention.”

The waitress returned with their drinks and lingered for a few moments, seeming to be staring at Cristina. Then she turned away and started to go back to her duties, but abruptly wheeled around, whether from finally recognizing her or gaining the nerve to ask, “You’re her, aren’t you? You’re Cristina!”

Cristina smiled, “Uh, yeah.”

“I knew it! I friggin’ knew it!” Then she looked at Alix, “You’re that guy…the bass player!”

“That would be me.” Alix confessed. He was used to the relative anonymity of the role as well as the instrument he played in the band.

“I heard on the news you were in town,” she said.

She turned around looking for someone to tell, wanting to trumpet her find, but then decided that maybe that was not such a good idea. She turned back. “Look I’ll keep your secret because if I spread the word this club would erupt and chaos will ensue.”

“We appreciate that,” Chase said.

Cristina looked directly into the waitresses eyes, “We are just here to dance and have some fun. We appreciate your discretion.”

Alix leaned toward the waitress and took her hand. In his palm was a promo card with the band’s pictures and global network message addresses. “This is how to reach the band or us individually. Send us a note and direct it to me or Cristina and we’ll respond to you directly.”

She smiled in response. “No one is going to believe this. But it’s pretty cool. I’m such a fan!”

Julie pulled out a framecap from her bag and pointed it at Maureen, “Here, the three of you stand together.”

“Great!” Mo exclaiming, and then looked around to make sure she was not needed.

“I’ll send the picture directly to your Global network address,” Julie said as she captured two images.

“That would be wonderful,” Mo said.

“Here,” Julie offered the plane to her, “Key in your address.” When she had finished, Julie clicked send. “There you are. It should be waiting for you.”

“This is really nice of you, all of you.”

Cristina smiled. “I’ve known four other ladies named Maureen and every one of them was a good person and great friend.”

“I have to get back to tables,” Mo said. “I’ll be right back. Are you okay with the drinks?”

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Chase said.

“You can bring refreshes when you come back,” Alix said.

“You got it.” Mo smiled.

Cristina eyed Alix as the waitress walked away from the table. “You were flirting with her.”

“I was just being friendly with a fan.”

“I know flirting when I see it.”

“You’re jealous?” Alix laughed. “I don’t believe you’re jealous. Like there is anyone that could ever compete with you!”

Cristina looked away.

“I don’t believe it!”

“Come,” Julie said as she stood up and grabbed Cristina’s wrist. “We’ll be right back,” Julie said to Chase and Alix.

“What’s that about?” Alix asked.

“You were coming on a little bit strong to Mo, there.”

“Well, she’s cute. Don’t ya think?”

“Women always seem to be able to tell when a man is flirting. If the girl is cute it is always a very bad thing. That turns it into a threatening situation that you can’t win. And then you sort of denied it while playing incredulous that Cristina would ever think anyone could compete with her. That just compounded the wrongness of what you did.”

“I’m not used to being the focus of attention, I guess. I kind of like it, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s just I’ve never been famous. Maybe I’m not now, not yet or whatever.  But I was feeling that, mostly. I’d never think of hurting Cristina.”

“Well, when the girls get back you need to explain that to Cristina,” Chase advised.

“I’m fortunate,” Alix said. “I mean look at me. Who would ever imagine that Cristina would be with me? She’s the star. I’m just someone in the background.”

“You’re both stars.”

“Chase, even the waitress knew Cristina’s name. She called me the bass player. I’m okay with it because I understand it and I’m used to that. At least she got that much right, you know? So, that’s how it is. Cristina is the focus of the audience whenever she sings. I get it. I’m focusing on her when I’m playing. Hell, look at her! Who’s not focused on her? Even you, Chase.”

“It is hard to tear my eyes away from Julie,” Chase confessed. “But when I do Cristina is where they end up.”

“I’m afraid to go to sleep. I fear waking up from this dream I’m living. If I open my eyes will it be just as it was before? Before a few days ago, Cristina hardly acknowledged me except when it was something pertaining to the band and my playing bass. I was content with that much attention. For ten years that was the extent of my relationship with her. But now that there has been something more, how can I ever want to return to how it was?”

Chase sat silent, feeling for Alix’s sentiments. He too was in love with Cristina, but at least he had another love in his life. Julie captured his heart before he met Cristina, and so he was immunized enough to the effect of Cristina’s charm. The attraction he could resist, and he had resisted, to his own amazement.

When Julie and Cristina returned to the table, they were both silent.

“I’m sorry I was flirting,” Alix said. “I’m not used to getting attention like that. Even so she didn’t know my name, so that’s how important I am to her.”

Cristina glanced at Alix, but then looked away.

“Look, I was having fun. That’s all it was. There’s nothing intended by it. She doesn’t begin to compare to you.”

“She’s cute,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, she is,” Alix admitted. “But I’m in love with you.”

Mo returned to the table with refills on their drinks, and set them down on the table and then collected the payment wand transmissions for them. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, where’s everyone else?”

“They are chillin’ in New Milan,” Cristina said. “We are taking a break before heading into the studio to record a new Mod in a few weeks.”

“A new Mod? That’s exciting news!”

“Most of the songs are written. We really just have a couple we need to hammer out the final details on. Everyone’s resting up for that.”

“I can’t wait to hear it. My boyfriend and I are huge fans,” she said. “We were both excited when we heard you were in town.”

“Yeah, well we met a couple at the airport. They were fans too. It’s nice to know we have support here. Apparently she or her boyfriend decided to spread the news that we were in town.”

“I’d never do that. You’re my friends, now.” Mo flashed a smile.

“Not that it is entirely a bad thing,” Chase said. “Considering what all is going on, being in the city is a good thing for the media to focus on and speculate.”

“Maybe it has some people worried,” Julie said.

“Hey, it’s what it is,” Alix said. “I have no problem with people knowing that we’re in town. I just have a problem with the town thinking we have done something in our music that we’ve not.”

“Yeah,” Mo said. “That’s total crap and the direct consequence of local paranoia. The youth scene scares older people. They think that it’s all the result of outside influences, like it carried subversive messages through music and the arts.”

“They think that a New Milan band cannot possibly be popular here unless they are doing something unusual and strange,” Chase offered his analysis. “So someone thinks that maybe they heard something strange in a song and mentions it to someone. Eventually the rumor spreads and the uninformed who have probably never heard the song decides to create an embargo, just in case.”

“There’s nothing hidden in the music,” Cristina stated. “I promise.”

“I know that,” Mo said. “I think most of the people who are into your band know that as well. It’s just a bunch of overly paranoid people stirring up trouble.”

“Thank you for understanding,” Cristina said and she slipped down from her stool and embraced Maureen, lingering for a few moments then as they parted Cristina smiled at her.

“You’re real people and that is friggin’ awesome!” she said as she laughed.

Cristina looked at her. “Of course we’re real people. What else would we be?”

“Well, I don’t know. It’s just I’ve never met anyone famous before.”

“We really appreciate you being a fan,” Alix said. “Even though I don’t think we’re quite as famous as you think.”

When Mo left to tend to other tables, Chase said had to go to the restroom and he excused himself from the table. As he walked he was still thinking about how close Alix came to straining his relationship with Cristina and how he would never want to do that with Julie. He entered the restroom, but immediately sensed something was unusual and inappropriate. Before he could react or take flight, two men seized him. They pressed him up against the cold porcelain tile wall, while a third man pounded a solidly delivered fist into his stomach. Then all three stepped back allowing him to collapse onto the hard tile floor.

“What…the…fuck?” Chase asked while struggling to regain his breath.

“You know what we need. Tell us what you know,” one of the three said. Chase looked up through sweat and tears, but he could not tell which one of his assailants had actually spoken.

“Tell you what?”

“You were with them.”

“Them?”

Two men grabbed him and again pinned him against the wall. “The Resurrection,” the third man said.

Suddenly, Alix entered the restroom. Immediately the third man turned and warned him, “Get out!”

“What’s going on here?”

“It’s none of yer concern.”

“Chase is my friend, so I guess that makes it my concern.”

“Have it your way then,” the third man slugged Alix up the side of his head, sending Alix flying back against a wall of urinals. Alix looked up at his assailant from the floor, rage filling him as he tried to stand up but received a kick in the stomach.

Suddenly, flames erupted from the hair of all three men. Individually they panicked as they attempted to apply water from sinks to douse the fires. In the meanwhile Alix crawled over to Chase and checked to see if he was okay before standing up and facing the three men, who having extinguished their hair now squared off before him. “Gentlemen, this is not over. We’re watching – both of you.”

They hurried out of the door, leaving Alix and Chase alone. “I guess growing up as a street urchin has some benefits, after all. I know how to bluff,” Alix said, and then laughed as he reached down, offering his hand to assist Chase in getting back to his feet.

“Thanks.” Chase stared at Alix. “The flames?”

“Yeah, well…I was playing with the orb the other day and a flame started dancing in the palm of my hand. I had no idea I could ignite hair. I guess it was the heat of battle so to speak. Literally.”

“Well, regardless of how, it came in handy. I’m glad you came along when you did.”

“What was that about?” Alix asked as he assisted Chase to the sinks where Chase washed his hands and splashed some water on his face even as Alix did the same.

“They think I’m involved in something I’m not. Have you ever heard of The Resurrection?”

Alix looked away then looked back. “I assume you mean the covert group.”

“You’ve heard of them.”

“Yeah, they are part of the underground,” Alix said. “You know how it is: music, counter-culture, being young and all that. Somehow a few people you know are interconnected, usually people you grew up with.”

Chase continued to clean up, using a damp towel to blot blood from his slacks and shirt. “You’re involved?”

“Me, no. There’re a couple of guys Pete and I used to hang out with when we were kids. They’re in a clandestine group, but it is not The Resurrection. But their group was approached for a sort of alliance.”

When they emerged from the restroom, Chase paused at a water fountain, and then swished water around inside his mouth and spat out bloody saliva into the drain. He consumed several gulps of water afterwards. Then, after Alix had done the same they both returned to the table.

“What happened to you?” Julie asked as she took a closer look at the bruises and cut on Chase’s face.

“The floor was wet,” Alix said.

“I don’t believe that,” Julie growled.

“Well it was a restroom, you know.”

“And what about you?” Cristina asked Alix.

“Muggers,” Alix admitted. “Three of them, but Chase and I fought them off.”

“No,” Chase said. “That’s not exactly what happened. Alix saved my ass.”

“It’s kind of hard to tell that. He looks almost as bad as you do,” Cristina said as she used a napkin to blot blood from a slight cut on Alix’s forehead.

“Did they take your payment wand?” Julie asked.

“No, I wish it was that simple,” Chase said.

“I think you need to explain,” Julie suggested as she was reaching for her purse to see if she had anything better than a napkin to treat a cut.

“What’s going on?” Cristina asked, first looking at Chase and then Alix.

“This is probably not a good place to discuss this, but I doubt there’s a better place. For all I know they have us under constant surveillance,” Chase prefaced, then paused.

“Who are they?” Cristina asked.

“Agents of The Colonial Authority,” Julie said.

“Yeah,” Chase agreed. “They’ve been following us for sometime now.”

“They can do that?” Alix asked.

“In their warped minds they think they have probable cause. But even if they didn’t, they can do whatever they want and justify it afterwards. We have no rights where they’re concerned. All they have to claim is that it’s a matter of colonial security and the public is threatened,” Julie said.

“And now we’re on their list too,” Alix said.

“It wasn’t like we weren’t already on it,” Cristina said.

Chase nodded. “I didn’t want to speculate, but now I think that the embargo has something to do with this.”

“This is about Paul, isn’t it?”

“It goes well beyond him,” Chase replied to Cristina’s query. “He sends his love, by the way.”

“He knows.”

“Yeah, he knows.”

“How long?”

“Since just after you met him in Haven.”

“You’ve lost me,” Alix protested.

“You know. Paul’s my twin,” Cristina said.

 

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Nuggets of Wisdom, Inspiration or Whatever

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Last night I had an interesting chat with a reader. Actually he became a reader over the course of the chat as he downloaded Fried Windows. He intended to purchase it but discovered, to his delight, that it was on a special one-day free promotion. It was a win. He began reading it between our chat posts. It was kind of surreal experience for both of us. He had immediate access to the author of a book he was reading and I was receiving immediate feedback on something I had written. Again, it was winning situation.

Although I don’t expect other writers to attempt such a thing it was uplifting. You see, whenever I’m revising something as I have been doing with The Wolfcat Chronicles, I become hypercritical of my writing. At times I wonder why I’m write at all. I’ve been at this game long enough to know that happens and I shouldn’t read too much into the feelings of inadequacy. But until I’m is happy with a book revising it can be a depressing experience. In the course of chatting I was reminding of some of the dramatic moments during the revisions and multiple edits of Fried Windows. Looking back, it’s probably a minor miracle the book was ever published at all.

Specifically I recall one day in the summer of 2013. I was in the midst of preparing the book for substantive edits. From 3AM to 3PM, except for bathroom breaks and trips to refill a water bottle from the filtered tap in the kitchen, I worked on three chapters with which I was not particularly happy. I didn’t finish the effort at that time, though.

My great niece invited me to a dinner party along with my sister, brother-in-law, my nephew and his girlfriend. Although I was present in body and the evening might have been a welcome departure from being obsessed with book revisions my mind was not all there. My overriding concern was getting the book to a point that the publisher and editors could begin working on it so that it could be published in about eight or nine months. Let’s say it put a damper on any potential for fun that evening.

My family is use to my idiosyncrasies. So no one thought I was being weird – any more so than what was usual. I’m not always the most talkative sort, anyway. And since I quit drinking I’ve not been the life of any party – if in fact I ever was except in my own inebriated brain. Somewhere along the way that evening, in the background I mentally assembled a fix for the three chapters in question. Upon returning home, I spend another hour or so laboring over the revision and hammered out what pretty-much became the final version of those chapters. That’s not to say i was finished with the book. Following the publishers substantive review I had eleven pages of notes to go through and a month or so to respond. I actually finished the substantive edits in about a week, which included adding three chapters and rereading the entire book for continuity because of the additions.

I’m telling you all of this because, other than hearing generalized praise from fiends and family and reading posted reviews for my work, last night was the first time since the book was published that anyone gave me direct feedback on the work. That it happened in real time over the Internet from six time ones away was pretty amazing.

Some nuggets of wisdom, inspiration or whatever were brought to my attention. There are a lot of those in the book. Usually they come from Strawb (Mrs. Fields) or Lucy and not the main character, Brent. In fact I might pitch the book as an inspirational piece because of all those elements. Consider them a bonus. As it says on the back cover of the book (provided you have the paperback version) the characters’ perspectives on their world will change the way you think about yours – forever.

Fried Windows is an urban fantasy with elements of science fiction blend with neorealism. That might seem ambitious but it never started off to be anything more than a cute story about a middle-aged man in a mid-age crisis.

Brent Woods is a computer technician working for a technology retailer. While helping out on the sales floor on a busy Sunday he helps an elderly lady named Mrs. Fields who insists he deliver and set up her new computer system. Days later, while trying to decipher her convoluted directions the adventure begins. In the course Mrs. Fields offers Brent a chance to reconnect with his childhood fantasy world and his best ‘imaginary’ friend. The question from the outset is which the one of these characters is really crazy? By the end of the story answering that no longer matters.

The book contains some personal philosophies, I suppose. The resilience of character and believing in one’s dreams enough to continue to pursue them against all odds are also themes. Brent is a good father and loving husband who experiences something extraordinary that changes him forever but is also reconnects him with a past that he either wanted to forgot or was forced to do so.

Mainly the book is intended to be as much fun as thought provoking. When I wrote it I was not in a good situation. So some of that inspired me and  writing provided an escape. For the first time in a very long time I was seriously contemplating being a full-time writer. The only problem was being able to afford the adventure. I had no savings, was out of work and really was burned out on working in my career field.

One day I wrote a poem (yeah, I’m not much of a poet but I have been known to knock out a few). It was about being a kid and going to a carnival. I posted it on a website where other writers could read and comment on it. The feedback on it was positive. That became the catalyst to writing a story that now comprises the first two chapters of Fried Windows. After posting it on the same site and receiving feedback, what I originally intended to be a short story evolved into a series of short stories with the same same characters and overall theme. After writing and posting fifteen installments over the course of a month I had the nucleus of the book. In fact several of the other writers who were commenting on my postings suggested such.

Afterwards, my life got worse for a while, about a far from where I hoped to be as imaginable. Yet I continued to write. Fried Windows was on the back burner, though, as I continued working on other projects. It wasn’t until a month before I actually submitted Fried Windows to my present publisher that I assembled the separated short stories into a novel format adding a few chapters and an ending.

The main difference between Fried Windows and other manuscripts I’ve written is that from the outset I never intended for it to be a novel. In itself that is not all that odd, though. Every writer I know experiences a story that refuses to go away. He or she may start out to write one thing but winds up writing something entirely different. That’s the magic of creativity. Sometimes the best things kind of write themselves. Every writers experience is different in the same ways – if that makes sense.

Fried Windows is one of the few books a publisher accepted – and likely one of the few books I’ve submitted to a publisher that anyone bothered to read. Having said that I submitted the first two chapters of the book as a short story to a magazine. Shortly before submitting it to Pandamoon Publishing the magazine rejected it. So, in a lot of ways, it is a story that wouldn’t quit and I never gave up on it. If there is a secret to success in writing it is to keep writing until you know something is as finished as it will ever be.

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