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

The Resurrection: Chapter 14 – The Way

**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 settled into the couch in the living room of their temporary residence above the coffee shop. She was tired and her feet ached. Deciding not to use the public transit system to return was not the best idea, but after Paul’s escape, things had become a little dicey in that section of town. She was glad they had not waited around.

Hoofing it wasn’t the best way to get back to the shop, but it was all they had at the time. Cristina was in heels and despite what they believed was the near proximity of the coffee shop, it was actually two and a half kilometers from the detention center. Alix generously consented to carrying her piggyback for at least half the way.

Once inside the apartment, she took off her shoes, careful not to break the blisters. Alix picked the remote and turned on world viewer to the local news channel. “You can… rest here,” He said breathlessly while sitting on the edge of the couch not wanting to drip too much of his sweat on it. “In the interest…of my smell…not offended you, myself…or anyone else, I’ll…shower first.” The physical exertions of the past couple of hours wore his out.

“Thank you for carrying me,” Cristina said. “You go ahead. I’ll watch the news.”

He smiled. “You should have…brought some…walking shoes…to wear after.”

“Yeah, well next time…”

“Let’s hope…there’s not going…to be next time.” On the world viewer screen, the local media was reporting a possible disturbance at the Security Agency detention center, but there were no details. “So, we made…the news, sort of.”

“Let’s hope it stays ‘sort of’ and they don’t put the pieces together and come after us.” Cristina looked at Alix and smiled. “You were phenomenal.”

“It was more luck…and timing…than anything else, except for…your skills…at distracting…a lot of people.”

“Go shower. I need one too. But you need it worse.” Cristina kissed him on the cheek.

“That’s all…I get for carrying you…” he complained, half seriously as he stood up.

“That was for Paul. You gave him a chance. There’s more to come,” she turned to stretch out her legs on the couch where Alix had been sitting, then stretched her arms.

Alix shrugged. “It still…doesn’t resolve…anything…for Paul.”

She leaned arching her back over the couch arm, then scooted down a bit, sinking into the overstuffed cushions. It was a comfortable couch for relaxing as she watched the unfolding news evolve on the main screen of world viewer. “I’ll thank you for the rest little later,” she promised with a wink. “Speaking of rest. That’s all I want to do right now.”

Alix left her on the couch to shed his clothes and take a shower – making the water as hot as he could stand it. Rivaling one of her twenty-minute sessions, he let the hot water cascade down his neck, shoulders and back, hitting the places, other than his legs that hurt him most. When he finished he dried off, put on some fresh clothes and rejoined Cristina in the living room, half expecting her to be asleep. She was rolled over onto her side, watching the coverage. “So what’s happening, now?” he asked.

“They’re reporting many agents are dead, many more are wounded and now all the prisoners who were inside the detention facility are at large.”

“Including Paul, though.”

“They haven’t mentioned him directly but I’m sure he’ll be a priority for them to recapture.”

“So, what did we accomplish?”

“We still need to fix the cause, but we always knew that,” she said as she sat up.

Alix sat on the end of the coach and leaned back. “I guess I need to figure out where I’m going in space as well as time, then.”

“Where are we going, you mean,” Cristina corrected.

“You cannot go,” Alix said adamantly.

“I have to.”

“No you don’t. It’s too dangerous.”

“How do you expect to communicate with them?”

“I don’t need to. I grab one and bring it back. There’s no communication necessary.”

“What if it doesn’t want to come with you?’

“I doubt it will. It will be an abduction. Add kidnapping an alien to our growing list of crimes. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever go to court over that one, though.”

She chuckled.

“At least I made you laugh.”

“You have to. It’s either that or cry, right?”

Alix shrugged.

“Alix, I really have to go with you. You need to accept that.”

“I can’t risk that. I don’t want to lose you.”

“‘So you’re risking your own life instead, without me. What kind of sense does that make?”

“Perfect sense for me.”

“Look, it’s necessary. We’re in this together. Besides, I have obviously traveled with you in the past.”

“Yeah well, that was different.”

“How was it different?”

“You were in immediate danger.”

“We are all in danger, Alix. Don’t you see it? The Colonial Authority is stealing what’s left of our privacy. Our lives are not as important as their purposes for them. They see everything in terms of what’s best for humanity, for everyone not what’s just for the individual.”

“That debate has been going on for a long time, hon.”

“It’ll only get worse. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m a prisoner because I’m different, because don’t agree with what the government is doing or what they want – or what the majority thinks is right. The majority isn’t always right because it’s too easy to mislead people. They’re going to put all of us in jail, sooner or later. When the official real prisons are full, they’ll turn our homes and apartments into our cells, calling it for protective custody, for our safety – for the common good.”

“That still doesn’t tell me anything about why you think it is necessary to go back into the past with me.”

“It has everything to do with it. The whole reason we have to go in the first place is bringing a sand-morph here to expose how this insidious lie began, Alix. The Colonial Authority had great visions for Pravda. After the lies and the cover-up…well, it only gets worse from here. Once we expose what’s going on…”

“What makes you think anyone will listen? They’re happy being numb. They have world viewer to keep them pacified,” he made a sweeping gesture with his arm toward the far wall of the room where the screen array hung. “Nothing much will change just from bringing back a sand-morph. They’ll twist and distort that too, making it somehow favorable to them. They have the power, Cristina. That’s all they want and all they need. They’ll do anything to preserve their power, even if they have to kill us in the process.”

“It depends on how we pitch what we do. You turn their own game against them.”

“I’m listening.”

“The use people like us, Alix. While we make music because it’s what we love doing, they pervert it into something crass and commercial. And we go along because it helps us survive while we make more music.”

“That’s how it works, if you’re one of the lucky ones. We’ve only been doing this for thirteen years, ten for you. We’ve struggled a lot. But it’s the system. Without Chase and the tour, where would we be?  We’d still be playing clubs in New Milan, maybe going to Haven in the summer. Chase changed all that for us.”

“I know, and he can help us change this too. He’s good with selling and marketing. That’s all we need.”

“And they ban our songs.”

“Which only makes our fans want them more and everyone else more curious. It’s how you spin it, Alix. That’s what works for the Colonial Authority, we can do it too.”

“I don’t think this requires a good marketing campaign, hon. It’s way beyond that.”

“Well, it won’t hurt. Anyway, more directly, we don’t know what we’re dealing with in the past. We only know what we say and what we’ve heard. I know I can communicate with the sand-morphs. Paul and everyone else in The Resurrection seem convinced that the sand-morphs were peace-loving.”

“They could be mankind’s worst nightmare.”

“Exactly, you don’t know.”

“Neither do you,” Alix reminded her.

“But I know I can understand them,” she said.

“The dreams,” he said in response.

Cristina nodded. “I’ll make this work. You just need to get me there, where there are living sand-morphs. That’s your part of it.”

“You and I will have to wear breathing filters, the really heavy-duty ones that no one has needed for decades,” Alix said as he leaned forward.

“Understood,” she said. “We might have them somewhere around here.”

Alix nodded. “So when do we do this?”

“Why not now?”

“Don’t you want to take a shower or something first?”

“Yeah, I can do that first.”

“We can rest.”

“Why do you want to put it off?”

“We have time, Cristina. That’s the thing about time travel, you can always go back further.”

She smiled. “I guess you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. Besides, I really have to spend some time figuring all of this out, okay? There are logistical matters, calculations in multiple dimensions and all that–”

“So you need a day or what?”

Alix shrugged. “I can use that antiquated computer we found in the closet, if it still works. Maybe that’ll help. At least it’ll give me a calculator function. Hopefully there is a programming function, if not I’ll have to write a script to do it and connect this online.” He stood up and walked across the room to the closet. “Maybe two or three days at the most, provided this thing works, more time if it doesn’t. Once I’m there, it won’t take long. I’ll already know where we are here and now.”

“That’s too long to wait for this, Alix.”

“Well I don’t have a faster computer.”

“How about Dom?” Cristina suggested.

“Dom, you mean at Raven’s place?”

“Yeah, Dom. He’s a living computer, perhaps even more advanced than anything else we know about.”

Alix smiled. “Well, yeah maybe that’s a course we could pursue.”

“Sure it is,” Cristina said.

“You want to return to Raven’s estate, then?”

“I think we have to,” Cristina said. “He’ll have the breathing filters, for certain.”

“After you shower?”

“I want to get this done before anything happens to either of us. Okay? We’re maybe the only ones who can pull this off. We’re the only hope for many people.”

“The majority, the one you said that can be wrong, they do not realize what we are doing for them.”

“They probably never will. Even if Paul has escaped, it’s just like you said. They’ll eventually recapture him,” she said. “We’re really his only hope. Doing this is the only way to stop The Resurrection’s plans and expose The Colonial Authority’s cover-up.”

With that she stood up from the couch and went into the bathroom to remove the makeup from her face, take a shower, get dressed and return to a more or less normal appearance. It took about a half hour, but when Cristina emerged from her bedroom she was the lady Alix had grown accustomed to seeing off stage and, more so, learned to love these past several days that they had been together.

It turned out to be some kind of weird vacation. If nothing else, he believed it would make him appreciate recording music in a studio, even if he had never completely enjoyed the experience in the past. He had always hated the repetition part of it. He lived for the creative process, whenever the spark occurred. He could not get used to laying down the same bass lines for fifteen to twenty takes before the producer was good with just one of the tracks.

Her transformation fully completed, dressed in some different, less provocative clothing, she applied band aids to her blisters on her feet and put on comfortable walking shoes. Alix waited patiently for her to finally be ready. When she was finished she stood and he kissed her.

“You like me this way?” She asked.

“I like you everyway, but this one is more like the real you.”

“The real me depends on my mood at the moment,” she said with a laugh. “Let’s go.”

“You’re not tired?”

“I took a nap, a short one while you were showering. I still tired, but this is important.”

“We skipped lunch and it’s almost dinner time,” he stated.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of time. Are you hungry?”

“Not especially. I’ll be fine. I was more worried about you.”

“When we’re on tour I sometimes get busy and forget to eat. I have even missed eating for a while day.”

“I know,” Alix said. “We all watched out for you.”

Cristina laughed. “That’s why you ordered a pizza seemingly as a random thought…”

“Of course.”

She shook her head. “What would I ever do without you guys?”

“What would we ever do without you? That was our concern.”

They descended the stairs and said hello to Emma and Arnie as they passed through the kitchen.

“Going out again so soon?” Emma asked.

“We have to go see a friend.”

“Let ‘em be,” Arnie said. “Don’t start treating them like they are our children. You see where that got us. They hardly even see us anymore except for holidays. Only Neville has an excuse. The girls live in this very city!”

“They’re busy too,” Emma defended them.

“They’re too busy to visit any old fuddy-duddies.”

Emma smiled, but decided to refrain from further comment, directing her attention to Alix and Cristina. “You haven’t eaten lunch, though.”

“We’ll eat a big dinner,” Alix said. “We’re going to a friend’s house.”

“I’ll make something for you and leave it upstairs. How’s that?”

“That’d be wonderful,” Cristina said. “But I’m not sure we’ll be back tonight. We may be away for a little while.”

“It wouldn’t be any trouble. It would give me something to do today. It’s been slow what with all the trouble down around the detention facility.”

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine.”

“Isn’t it awful about what’s going on. They say a lot of agents are dead.”

“I hope your brother is okay,” Arnie said.

“Me too,” Cristina admitted.

“We were listening to the news before we came down.”

“It’s awful. Some of those men probably ate in our very shop the other morning.”

“Maybe so,” Cristina said.

“I feel like we may have cursed them,” Arnie said.

“Well, I’ve always believed that people make their own misfortune by the way they choose to live and how they treat others,” Cristina said. “As tragic as it may seem to others, sometimes when people die maybe they deserved it.”

“See, she agrees with me,” Emma said, punctuating it with a wink and a smile projected in Cristina’s direction.

Arnie offered an old fashioned manual key to Alix as he was the one standing nearest to him. It was the type that the outer door lock of the coffee shop still required. “You’ll need it to get inside. It’s one the kids used to use. If you come back after we lock up and go home. Just lock the door back from the inside before you head upstairs for the night.”

Alix looked at the key. He had not seen one since he was a kid but recognized it. “Okay,” he said. “We may be back tonight.”

“If not we’ll lock up anyway,” Emma said.

“Regardless of what happen, at least this way you have the option of coming and going as you please,” Arnie said.

“We really appreciate all of this. You’ve been too good to us,” Cristina said.

“When you get to be our age, honey, you can tell a lot about the quality of people just by talking to them. We knew you needed our help,” Emma explained.

“Well, don’t think we are ungrateful. We will return the favor.”

“We expect nothing,” Arnie said. “We’re happy we can help.”

“Cristina, we probably need to go,” Alix prompted.

She nodded in response.

“We’ll see you later or tomorrow,” Cristina said.

“We’ll be here. This is our life,” Emma said.

Alix and Cristina walked the few blocks to ‘the crosstown’ coach stop, waiting there for only a couple of minutes before a coach arrived to provide them a lift. As Alix and Cristina settled in beside one another in the bench seat they looked around the fairly crowded coach.

“I’ll watch for our stop this time,” Alix said.

Cristina nodded, and then leaned into him and kissed his cheek.

Alix glanced down at his hands. There was a hangnail on his right index finger that was bothering him so he gnawed at it until he clipped it loose with his teeth. Then he checked his other nails just to be sure.

“You chew your nails?”

“Not usually,” Alix responded.

“I hadn’t noticed you doing it before.”

“It bothers you?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“I don’t always carry nail clippers.”

“I do.”

“Maybe most women do.”

“I wouldn’t generalize,” Cristina said.

Alix leaned back, folding his arms across his chest in the classic, insecure, defensive position.

“I’ve made you self-conscious.”

“Of course.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Do you watch my every action and scrutinize it?”

“Of course not,” Cristina said, and then she chuckled, “No one could endure such a challenge.”

Alix looked up at the display and map. “Five more exits,” he said.

“You can be so amazingly focused at times,” Cristina said.

“It’s a gift, I guess,” Alix said. “One of several.”

“Are you worried?”

“About what we are doing or that maybe it’s never been done?”

“I guess a little of both.”

Alix shrugged. “We have to do it so I’m just sort of accepting that we have to make it work, I guess.”

“What if you can’t do it?”

“I hope I fail immediately because halfway through would be upsetting.”

Cristina looked at him, receiving a smile from him it response.

“Look, it will be what it is. Whether this is possible or not, there’s absolutely nothing either of us can do anything about. We can only do what we can do.”

Cristina kissed him on the cheek again, but then lingered close to him. “We have to do it for Paul and everyone else.”

“We are working on that,” Alix said. “If we can we will.”

“I feel so helpless.”

“It’s because you are relying on me instead of yourself and I’m not exuding confidence.”

“I know I can count on you whenever you commit to me to do anything but you’re right. The uncertainty has been the source of my recent apprehension and frustration.”

“I can only do what I can do,” Alix said. “I think I can make it work. I’ll not lie to you. This will be extreme as challenges go. That’s why we need exact coordinates.”

“Which Dom can provide.”

“I hope he will.”

“He has to,” Cristina said. “He’ll do it as a favor for me.”

Alix chuckled.

“What’s so funny?”

“An android is smitten by your beauty and stunning physical presence.”

“I don’t think that’s what it is.”

“Then tell me what it is,” Alix said.

“I don’t know what it is,” she said.

“Next stop is ours, by the way.”

She nodded and began her preparations for the impending exit.

When they had exited the coach, it was as they had expected, the coach for ‘the hills’ route was already approaching the stop, minimizing their wait, just as it always had. They boarded into a relatively empty coach. In fact there were only two other people aboard and they exited at the third exit leaving Alix and Cristina alone.

At the seventh exit they stepped off the coach and the headed up the hill toward Raven’s estate. When they arrived on the front porch, Cristina reached up and tugged on the rope to ring the bell. They waited for several moments – beyond a minute and then, finally the door opened. Dom might have seemed glad to see them except his face did not so readily belie any emotion.

“We need your help,” Cristina prefaced.

“You’re seeking my help or the Master’s?”

“Your help, Dom,” Alix said.

“I’m flattered you think I might be of some service.”

“It’s something we feel you’d be particularly good at,” Cristina said.

“We need to go back in time, physically – both of us. About 80 years.” Alix said. “That requires us to know spatial coordinates as well as temporal aspects.”

“Of course,” Dom said seeming to indicate expertise without further elaborating, and then opened the door wider. “Please come in. Just do not disturb the Master. We will go to my working room.”

They followed the DOMLIB down the corridor to the back of the main floor of the estate. There was a small room by human standards, but perhaps perfectly accommodating for Dom, including an array of display screens that were tied into the house’s main computer system as well as the resources of the Colonial Authority.

“Please be seated,” Dom gestured to the four chairs at the worktable, he sat in one, while Cristina and Alix settled into two of the others.

“We’ll be leaving as soon as we know where we’re going and what we’re doing.”

“How is it you know where you want to go?” Dom asked.

“We were practicing with our orbs and brought them close together. We first saw our star system as if we were approaching it from space and then we were in a dark cavern and there we saw a sand-morph. Since there are none in the present world, it had to be in the past, before the world was sterilized.”

“That seems a logical deduction,” Dom said, then added. “Of course, it depends on whether your premise is valid.”

“You mean there may be sand-morphs that survived?”

“It would think it’s almost axiomatic,” Dom said. “Just not in this world.”

Alix’s mind raced as he tried to grasp what Dom so casually revealed as a potential. “There could be other sand-morphs on other planets.”

“Your assumption was they’re indigenous. This planet was far too young to have evolved their live form at the time of terraforming. It is one of the reasons for the oversight.”

“They were colonists like us,” Cristina said.

“That is  the most likely conclusion from all the evidence of which I am aware,” Dom said.

“Wow!” Alix expressed the only word he found in his vocabulary to encompass the sum total of how much Dom has just expanded his range of thought.

“I do not have sufficient resources or information to make a definitive determination,” Dom said. “The Master and I’ve discussed it previously. He also tends to agree with the likelihood. It is possible and therefore should be considered in any sort of analysis.”

When Alix emerged from the depths of thought, he looked first to Cristina and then to Dom. “I don’t even know the exact date of the initiation of the sterilization process,” Alix said. “I only know it was in the 2120’s”

“September 9, 2124,” Dom said.

“Then a point in time before that would be good, let’s say September 4, 2124.”

Dom seemed to be completely occupied for several moments. At the conclusion he looked at Alix. “I have the coordinates plotted.” From Dom’s eyes a holographic projection of the immediate star system issued. Overlaid upon it Dom cast the temporal coordinates as well as the spatial coordinates. “I have archived them and printed a copy to your portagraph.

Alix hastily accessed the device he wore on his wrist and usually only used as a chronometer. “Got it.”

“Is that what we needed?” Cristina asked.

“Yeah, well I suppose we should know where to return.”

Dom removed the overlay and pinpointed the present and sent that information to Alix’s device as well. When Alix finished studying the information. Dom closed is eyes and, immediately, the projection terminated. “You will need full mask filters for your journey. There is a pair of operable ones in the front closet in the foyer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other things to attend to for the Master.”

Cristina stood along with the DOMLIB and pressed her hand to Dom’s chest halting him. Then she kissed him on the cheek.

Dom seemed startled but appeared to smile ever so slightly.

“So, now we have everything we need?” Cristina followed Alix and Dom to the front entry. There, Alix opened the closet and found the masks they would need.

“They coordinates are for the cavern where the sand-morph’s were discovered,” Dom explained as he opened the front door to allow them outside.”

“And the return coordinates are here?” Cristina asked. She stepped out onto the front porch to join Alix.

“On this front porch, yes,” Dom replied.

“Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome,” Dom said as he closed Raven’s front door behind them.

“I know where we are and where we’re going. I just hope there’s a sand-morph nearby.”

“There has to be.”

“It is a huge world.”

“Well, let’s hope for the best. At least we know where to look for them,” she said as donned the mask. Once it was properly fitted she checked as Alix did the same. In each of their hands they allowed their orbs to appear and they brought them closer together. In the balance they created a window into another world, a previous era and set of circumstances. Alix grasped her free hand and in the next instant there was a brief but brilliant eruption of white light. They stepped through and were where they were a moments before.

 

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

The Resurrection: Chapter 13 – Invitation

**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.**

Julie stopped just outside the door and waited for Chase to finish his brief conversation with Neville. She thought the visit went very well. Chase seemed to be a little more at ease with the new reality. Toward the end of their visit Chase’s mother had told a couple of anecdotes about Chase’s father, embarrassing things that, of course, his father never told him. Although he was skeptical at first that the woman in front of him was his mother, now he seemed to accept it. Maybe he wanted it to be true and did not want to pursue the matter any further or he was like her in that he could feel the truth.

Julie did not want to participate directly in the conversation Chase and Neville were having. The subject bothered her, and she could not wait to get Chase away from Neville so they could discuss it in private.

Neville was an atypical administrator. He had his own agenda, but he was also a caring human, not a bureaucrat. Still, he was attempting to enlist Chase’s aid in his plans. She was worried The Twenty-Four would end up in a controlled environment for study just like their mothers. Then an even worse thought occurred to her. What if the Colonial Authority was courting their cooperation to gain access to the offspring of The Twenty-Four? What were they up to – planning to keep them all separated and under scrutiny for all their lives?

The same, cold clear logic about researching The Twelve could be bent and twisted to fit any aim the Colonial Authority deemed was in the common interest for the general good. They had already invaded her privacy and all but destroyed her relationship with Chase. Really, she wanted to have as little as possible to do with the Colonial Authority but thus far they were been relentless and pervasive.

Chase finally glanced in her direction and noted she was impatiently motioning for him to hurry along. He offered some closing remark and his hand to Neville who accepted both but he followed Chase for a few more steps, finishing up whatever it was he felt was most important. Then as he and Chase reached Julie’s earshot, he raised a hand to wave and say goodbye to them both before turning back and reentering the security entrance.

“You seem to have hit it off surprising well,” Julie said as Chase approached the coach.

“He’s a nice enough sort. He says he grew up in Star City.”

“Really.”

“Yeah his folks owned a small cafe. As a kid he and his family lived in an apartment above it. He’s just like anyone else, except he’s not a stuffy bureaucrat, and he has the attributes.”

“Really?”

“It’s not common knowledge. He’s a generation behind us, of course. He has the traits not the outwardly physical things, you know…”

“Yes, I know. And he just told you this?”

“No, I picked it up from shaking hands. Anyway, that’s why he’s sympathetic to us and our situation.”

“Why didn’t I get that from him?” Julie asked.

Chase shrugged. “Maybe you weren’t open to it. I don’t know. He invited us to dinner with his wife.”

“You didn’t accept.”

“I said I’d ask and it’d be up to you,” he said as they boarded the coach.

“Maybe it’s not wise to get too friendly with Neville,” Julie said.

“I thought you were the one who was all about cooperating with the authorities,” Chase countered as he pulled away from the curb and headed toward the perimeter gate. They paused there, opening their doors for the required inspection of the coach before the gate was opened for them to exit the compound.

“There’s a difference between providing information and becoming close friends,” Julie said once they were beyond the gate.

“What about Yates?”

“He was friends with my father,” Julie said. “He’s trying to help us out but that’s as far as my friendship with him would ever go. I wouldn’t go to his house or become friends with his wife.”

“Well, I don’t think it hurts anything to know these people as real people. Maybe that is the entire problem. We are different and that frightens most people because they don’t understand us. He’s different because he has some of our traits. Maybe he’s like a bridge.”

“He wants you to go with him to Star City,” Julie said.

“You caught that.”

“How could I not?”

“He thinks Paul might listen to me. The good news is the Colonial Authority doesn’t want to kill Paul. It’s just that after what he did…well, they can’t exactly just let it slide. They even allowed his mother to go there to see him.”

“I heard something about that. It was a failure. He wouldn’t listen to his mother, so, what hope do you have?”

“That is what I said, but Neville seems to think Paul would listen to someone like me, someone he knows, as opposed to a mother he never really knew.”

“Why not just find Cristina?” Julie asked.

“Cristina and Alix really have disappeared.”

“There have been no ID scans or payment wand transactions since here, except for one set of ID scans that does not make any sense because they happened in Star City a couple of days before they left here.”

“Someone stole their identities?” Chase suggested.

“Well, that is what Yates thinks but no one is sure. He thinks the reason they have not been found may be related to someone else using their IDs. But he’s not sure. I’m not so sure, though. It could have been them.”

“How? They were here with us.”

“Remember how they were practicing with the orbs and they saw a living sand-morph?”

“Yeah.” Julie looked at him.

“Cristina believed they were seeing back through time.”

“But it has been over eighty years since…well, since there were any sand-morphs.”

“When I was getting ready to take them the railcar station, the agents stormed the front door of your apartment. I couldn’t see everything. It happened pretty damned fast. Cristina and Alix were taken away. They could not have escaped but they did. Somehow they did.”

“Perhaps Alix can shift from one place to another,” Julie said. “Maybe that is his ability.”

“That isn’t his only ability. He causes things to ignite.”

“Catch fire?” Julie sought confirmation.

“When he thought I was flirting with Cristina he lit my hair on fire.”

Julie laughed.

“I’m glad that amuses you.”

“No, it is just the visual it brought to mind. I’m sure it was scary.”

“All that time I thought he wasn’t practicing with his orb but he was.”

“Maybe those aren’t his only abilities,” Julie suggested. “We all can do a number of things. What if he can ‘shift’ as you say but not only from one place to another but also from one time to another?”

“Okay, okay. That’s interesting. What if they didn’t go anywhere else but went back in time, a day or maybe more and ended up in Star City well before they were even supposed to leave here.”

“But why hasn’t there been any trace of them in Star City since? Anytime they get on or off a bus they would have a payment wand record.”

“Star City has free mass transit,” Chase said.

“That’s right,” Julie said. “So they could have spent all day in the city without being tracked. But they would have to eat…”

“Not if they went to see Raven and he put them up for a few nights.”

“Okay. What about since then? The authorities have been looking for them everywhere, since the afternoon that they disappeared.”

Chase cleared his throat. He was about to divulge a secret and was having some second thoughts in that Julie had sold out to the authorities. Then again he had cooperated as well, but mainly because she betrayed him and whatever he had to say was minor in comparison and mostly only confirmed what she had already told them.

“You know something. You won’t tell me because you don’t want Yates and the authorities to know. They may already know everything we have said to each other.”

“It wouldn’t matter but this coach is clean. It had six hidden devices in it when my friend scanned it. He neutralized all of them.”

“So it is safe?”

“Well, they might have put more bugs on it since, I suppose. But I don’t see why they would. Everything still works, it’s just he applied the zipper to the audio bugs.”

“The zipper?”

“It’s what they call it, like ‘zipping your lip’. It creates an inversion field corresponding to microphone patterns. They used to use it ages to control analog feedback from the monitors in concerts before everything went digital and wireless.”

“Okay. I think I understood most of that.”

“The microphones still show that they are present and they even show the authorities where we are. But none of the bugs can pick up our voices because the zipper cancels out the microphone’s pick-up pattern.

“So, as far as they know we are just being very quiet.”

“Exactly.”

“Won’t they get suspicious that we aren’t talking?”

“Yeah, but, well, we haven’t been together much and as for my coach, I don’t exactly talk to myself when I’m driving to and from work.”

Julie shook her head. “You know someone who can do that, the zipper thing?”

“Julie, I am not a saint. Okay? I even told you that when we first met. I got into trouble a lot when I was growing up. As a result, I know people who know people who can make anything happen for enough laundered payment wand credits. I even know some people who electronically launder the payment wand credits. In this case, though, the guy’s someone I grew up with who went legit. He’d an audio engineer. They use zippers when they are doing live recordings. That’s the only reason the Security Agency allows them to exist. There’s a modification you have to do to the device to get it to jam bugs, but it’s effective, once it’s tuned in properly.”

“Don’t you think that since the authorities have been following us for all our lives, they also know who these people are and where to find them.”

“The authorities know anyway, Julie. Don’t be naïve. There’re ways around everything if you have the right set of connections. There are honest agents and crooked agents everywhere.”

“Why haven’t you ever told me this? I mean, I figured from what you said you had a brush or two and then learned your lesson.”

“I learned my lesson alright but I also still know the system and have my contacts. One of the reasons my father moved us here was to get away from the people that I associated with but then there were plenty of the same sort of people to connect with here. He even sent me to Haven to live with my uncle and aunt for a summer in hopes of changing my course. I suppose it worked to an extent. When I returned I had a new outlook on things and I was a little more focused on the positive things. In fact, until this crap started to happen, I’ve not been in contact with any of my cohorts since before I went to college.”

“After college you had that job in advertising.”

“Yep, I did a flyer for a band that worked well and that got me an interview with Global Star. I had a good job that led to a better job and now I am about ready to be given a great job.”

“Somewhere in all of that you met me.”

“And when I met you it just reinforced that I was on the right course. I had no reason to want to go back to the crazy life that I led before.”

Julie sat silently digesting all the details that never before had Chase shared with her. She wasn’t sure that any of it mattered more than filling in the details about him. Since she met him, he was predictable and dedicated to his work. His darker past troubled her but in another way that might be exactly the sort of background he would need if what she was beginning to suspect eventually came to fruition.

Chase glanced over at her, wondering about the silence lingering between them for the past few minutes. “It matters to you, that I was a punk?”

“I don’t know, Chase. You aren’t that way anymore. I know that. It’s not like I was a saint either.”

“You never got into trouble with the authorities.”

“No, I didn’t,” Julie said. “I was willful and headstrong, though. I was defiant and belligerent. Whenever anyone challenged me I fought. It was never with anyone outside of my father and uncle.

“We each have a past,” Chase said. “What’s important is we learned from it and left it behind.”

Julie reached her hand over to lightly touch the back of his. “I miss having you around.”

“I miss you too,” he admitted what she already knew.

“Why are we not together?”

“Maybe each of us did some stupid things, said things we wish we could retract – even what we felt at the time but now the relationship we had is more important than anything that has come between us.”

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 12 – The Big Gambit

**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.**

When Alix opened his eyes, the first rays of sunshine streamed through the slight gaps in the drapes over the windows. He could not remember having slept as soundly, not even at Raven’s where he felt extremely comfortable. Beside him Cristina stirred and stretched. She, too, rested well, appearing revived with the world’s energy flowing through her. Always he enjoyed being around her, but especially when she was full of energy. At times her mood infected him almost as if he leeched some of her energy, not that he was incapable of making the natural connection to the world.

Momentarily, following before opening her eyes, she kissed him on the cheek then roused, while complaining he needed to shave. When had she complained about his beard before? It seemed odd, since he did not shave regularly and his beard was always sparse, anyway. She told him several times she liked his rough look – if that was what it was. Why was it an issue now?

Alix stood up, out of bed and hurried to the bathroom where he relieved the pressure on his bladder. As he returned, Cristina was already queued to take her turn to do much the same thing. At the end, she turned on the hot water of the shower and disrobed, stepping into the shower first, foiling any attempt Alix might have contemplated beating her to that necessary part of the morning ritual.

Waiting patiently, he shaved, knowing here might be a lack of hot water after her usual twenty-minute session in the shower. Also, he brushed his teeth. Several times he looked at his reflection in the mirror, meeting his eyes in the process. It wasn’t exactly the same as looking into the eyes of others. How could it be. They reflected the soul a mirror could not. Still, he challenged the reflection that this was probably the day for the big gambit, as Alix had begun referring to it in his mind. Maybe Cristina did not see it in the same way or was not fully appreciative of what was involved. He would need to focus with undivided attention in a way that, to his knowledge, he had only accomplished once before – and then it was unintentional.

Somewhere in the process of focusing all of his attentions, he would find the way to will himself into another place in a completely controlled manner. For the immediate moment, that was his challenge. Later on, he would have to be able to navigate the points in space separated across time to when Cristina and he visually connected with a living sand-morph. She believed that was an open, two-way connection, not merely an observation of past events. He didn’t know how he could do it without both orbs, though. The previous encounter seemed serendipitous. Happening upon the exact moment again would be random chance – something he personally did not believe in and neither did anyone else with the attributes.

In her oversimplified way, Cristina seemed to think the event was merely a thought away. Perhaps it was that simple. She could know something he did not. It was equally possible she was naïve about the finer points of navigating folds in time and space – not that he was an expert but he had greater experience than anyone else he knew.

She emerged from the shower and began drying off even as Alix twisted the knob and resumed the flow of water, taking his turn. His shower was much shorter in duration even though the hot water lasted throughout. When he emerged, Cristina was already half dressed and applying make-up as he towel-dried. Alix went into the bedroom and dressed, then went out into the living room and sat on the coach to watch the news on the world viewer. Turning it on almost as a reflex, immediately he felt stupid. Surely it was not active. The apartment sat vacant for how long? Yet, to his surprise, the monitors came to life and displayed the last previous set of programmed channels in preview with the main monitor displaying the local news, which was what interested him.

Were Emma and Arnie paying the bill all this time without using the service? If that were the case, it smacked of a bureaucracy taking advantage of the lack of technological sophistication of customers who allowed all of their bills to be automatically deducted from their payment wand accounts. The apartment should have been disconnected from the network long ago. It irritated him that a heartless agency of the city’s public utilities might be taking advantage of the elderly couple but, at the same time and for the sake of his entertainment while he waited on Cristina to get ready, he was glad world viewer worked.

When Cristina finished with her makeup, she emerged from the bathroom to finish getting dressed. Her appearance stunned him. For whatever reason she decided to wear make-up as if she were preparing to perform. It had been a while since he saw her in the full treatment. As impressive as she was with normal makeup or no makeup at all, her performance face was instantly distracting. It would serve its purpose on others, drawing attention while allowing Alix to do unimpeded in the background whatever was necessary to free Paul from incarceration.

Looking the part of a star, phenomenally attractive and photogenic in exactly the way that caused people to stop whatever they were doing to take notice, she posed between him at the world viewer screen. Alix had trouble tearing his eyes from her anyway but then, he always had. Flashing a smile she was the bait fishing for a compliment – as if she needed it. “How do I look?”

“Like the total diva you are!”

She laughed and she leaned over and he attempted to satisfy his natural compulsion to kiss her. He wanted to ravage her, but he figured they were on a timetable. Cristina was solely focused on rescuing Paul, however that might become possible.

They went over the details of the plan, her part of it anyway. A great deal depended on him, particularly his ability to do something he was not sure was possible. He wanted to try it out first. It seemed prudent. Cristina had the utmost faith in him and told him everything was going to be fine, but he wished he had more time or her confidence because, honestly, he was doubtful.

As crazy as the idea was of returning a living sand-morph from the past, the mission just ahead was more dangerous. They were agreed that it seemed like the only viable means of liberating Paul from his present dire situation. The agents of the Colonial Authority had him in custody and as a branded subversive accused of terrorism, all bets were off about giving him individual rights. Certainly they were interrogating him, perhaps exercising physical threats and torture to extract information. Alix had heard horror stories from some people whose relatives died at the hands of interrogators. They spoke about it in discrete whispers not wanting to risk bringing the same treatment onto themselves or their other relative. Getting on the bad side of the Security Agency of the Colonial Authority was a very bad idea, the kind with lethal consequences regardless of innocence or guilt. If their clandestine undertaking went awry they could expect similar treatment.

“Are you hungry?” Cristina asked, her question breaking in on his mulling over concerns for the day ahead.

“Yeah, actually I was waiting for you to get dressed.” Whether he was or wasn’t didn’t matter. He’d already been to the fridge, saw the making of breakfast inside and decided he’d fix something for both of them.

“Are they in the shop downstairs?”

“I haven’t heard them. At some point – I’m guessing yesterday – Emma must have brought us some things from the kitchen downstairs. We have eggs, bacon, bread, butter and juice. I guess they are reserving the making of coffee to experts.”

Cristina smiled. “Are you cooking or am I?”

“I got it,” he said as he leapt up. “Scrambled as usual?”

“Over easy,” she said.

“Well, that’s a bit of a change.”

“You always have them over easy so I thought I’d try it that way.”

“You are really in the mood today, taking chances and doing things differently,” Alix said as he winked at her from across the room.

“I think it’s the influence of the nature around us. The world wants to change. It’s demanding our attention.”

Alix nodded, soberly accepting the truth underlying her comment. He felt the same thing but found describing it ineffable until hearing her express it in her way. She was directly on target. It was not going to be an ordinary day at all. If he had to do what Cristina fully expected of him it could be a very important day with precipitous consequences in ways they might not fully appreciate.

By the time Alix finished making breakfast, Emma knocked at the apartment door. Cristina answered it.

“I know you slept well,” she said as she brought a tray bearing a pitcher of orange juice and small pot of fresh coffee along with empty glasses and cups for two. As she sat the tray down on the dinette table she continued talking. “This old building has one very good thing going for it, like all the buildings in this part of the city the walls are thick and the windows are made to withstand sudden depressurization of the dome. In the old days, all the doors and windows had to be sealed and the buildings were fitted with their own air supplies and filtering systems. None of that stuff’s needed anymore. I’m not sure it still works. The major benefit is the older buildings are they’re well insulated and very quiet. Hardly any outside noise gets through. The downside is you have to periodically open windows and circulate the air because the buildings don’t breathe like the ones they construct nowadays.”

“Was it common to have breeches in the dome?”

“Until they had all the seals in place and tested everything under full load, yes, sometimes it happened. It took many years to complete the dome. By the time we moved in here, though, it was rare to have an alert – maybe once a year. After we were here for ten years, there were no more alerts,” Emma said. “Neville, our eldest, hated the alerts. He could not go to school and play with his friends. He had to sit home and take his lessons through the world viewer. The systems back then were primitive. “Right before we moved out into our new home, public utilities sent people out to remove the old viewer screen because they said it was far too inefficient and it also would not receive all of their new entertainment channels – especially all the single view pay channels. Since we were original subscribers, they did the up-conversion free of charge and we are only charged for one service between our two residences.”

“I was wondering why it was still active,” Alix said.

“Arnie said there’s no reason to ever cancel the service if they’re going to provide it for free. Once we cancel it, then the next people who would live here – you at the moment – would have to contact them and reactivate it and then receive monthly debits from payment wand accounts.”

“It was a pleasant surprise when I turned it on and it worked,” Alix said. “I was hoping you weren’t being charged for something you weren’t using.”

“He’s addicted to the thing.” Cristina explained.

“I am not! I just want to stay informed.” Alix insisted.

Cristina laughed, as did Emma. “Arnie’s the same way,” the latter said. “You look like you have plans. You are far too pretty to need makeup, but I have to say, you look like a model from the ad channel.”

“Why, thank you.” Cristina blushed though Emma probably could not tell through all of the makeup.

“Well, I’ll leave you to enjoy your breakfast in peace,” she said as she carried the tray with the coffee and juice back with her toward the door.

“Thank you for the juice and coffee,” Alix said as he opened the door for her.

“And the hospitality,” Cristina added.

“If you want refills of either just come on down to the shop. There’s more juice in the fridge.”

“We saw that,” Alix said.

“We’ll be fine,” Cristina said.

Emma paused by the door, her attention drawn to a whatnot shelf where there was a stuffed animal she had not seen for a very long time. “Where on Pravda did you find that old thing?”

“There was a loose floorboard in the back of one of the closets. We noticed it when we were cleaning and when we pulled up the floorboard in the process of fixing it we found that. We dusted it off and thought it would serve to decorate the apartment. I hope you don’t mind.”

“It was Neville’s favorite toy when he was a little boy. I thought we’d never see it again. He outgrew it, of course. The day he couldn’t find it he was far too old to be playing with it but, even so, he cried and cried. At first I thought he would never get over it. But he did. Arnie’s long talk with him helped. Whatever he said to him worked. He never told me what he said – just that it was man to man.”

“How old was he then?” Cristina asked.

“He was ten, I think. As I said, he was far too old to be playing with stuffed animals anymore. But he talked to it all the time. It was his friend. Growing up the only boy with two younger sisters, he always seemed able to entertain himself when need be.”

“What’s its name?”

“He called it Staash – a good, strong and friendly name. Arnie has an ancestor with that name who was a member of the last administration of the nation of Poland on Earth. In family lore he’s something of a hero as he’s reputed to have aided many millions of people to escape the devastation of the wars and escape to the colonies.”

“That’s impressive,” Cristina said.

“When Staash here disappeared, Neville’s sisters were old enough to tease him by taking and hiding it. I always thought they did and just wouldn’t tell him where, but they denied it.”

“Well, next time you talk to him you can tell him you found Staash.”

“Yes, I will,” Emma smiled, returning the stuffed animal to the shelf. “That’s a good place for it, right out where everybody can see. Thank you for finding it. I’ll see you later, downstairs.”

“We’ll be leaving out soon.” Cristina responded.

As the door closed behind her, Cristina picked up the stuffed animal, looking at it, staring into the odd holographic sort of button-like eyes – the kind that change colors and depth whenever moved a certain way to reflect the light. “Staash.” She uttered the name that Neville had called it.

Shadows intruded from the past becoming refined and more resolute by the passing moments. Observing three children at play sitting on the living room floor. Seeming from nowhere a tall man materialized, wearing shimmering robes of the kind Raven wore when they dined with him. In the palm of his hand he held an orb and, as he stood over the children they looked up in amazement as he levitated it between this two hands. The light of the orb illuminated his face casting an eerie glow that accented his prominent facial characteristics and also accentuated the reality of his advancing age.

“Are you okay?” Alix’s voice interrupted her as well as his hand placed on her shoulder. “You seemed in a trance.”

“I was seeing the past.”

“Not the sand-morph.”

“No, something more immediate back when kids were young here. One of them has the attributes – at least one.”

“You’re sure?”

“I saw Raven here. He had them mesmerized doing tricks with an orb.”

Alix shrugged. “Maybe the boy, since Staash belonged to him.”

“I think you’re right,” she returned the stuffed animal to the shelf. Then, turning toward her love, she looked into his eyes. She shared a smile.

“Your eggs are getting cold. There’s nothing worse than cold runny eyes – well maybe there actually is something worse but nothing right now.”

She returned to the dinette table. He held the chair for her and assisted in scooting it into place beneath her. Eating breakfast allowed her to focus on the present and claw back into her immediate life. She drew a deep breath. “I’m okay, now,” she verbally confirmed, prompting Alix to look up.

She finished her eggs and bacon. With the edge of her buttered toast the sopped up what remained on the plate of the broken yolk.

Alix laughed as he observed.

“What?”

“I see you’ve finally learned how to enjoy breakfast.”

Cristina smiled as she wiped her lips with the corner of a napkin, then they both busied their dishes where she rinsed them off before placing them in the dishwasher.

Afterwards, she immediately returned to the bathroom to touch up her makeup, especially her lipstick. Then they returned to the table to finish their cups of coffee before setting out for the day.

It was an ambitiously concocted plan. Neither of them knew exactly how it would play out. Cristina was going to enter the Colonial Authority detention center where all the prisoners were held for interrogation pending any hearing for formal charges. She was going to ask to see one of the prisoners, a name she’d obtain, drawing it from someone’s mind.

Meanwhile, as attentions were hopefully focused on Cristina, Alix was going to come in all alone and sit down as close as possible to the door that accessed the detention cell blocks. At the first chance of an open door he was going to penetrate, slipping in behind someone. He needed to know where he was going if he was going to shift in space – otherwise he might end up somewhere he didn’t want to be, like inside a wall.

From that point on, the plan was dicey. Depending on luck and timing as much as skill and caution Alix needed to find the control room and shut down the security system. This would require him to catch someone leaving the room and immediately step back into time and shift inside the room and watch what they were doing, acquiring access codes and everything. Then, before being discovered, slipping back into the present – or rather a few seconds after where he was before.

If he were challenged for why he was in a security area, he would play dumb, saying he followed a guy from the reception area that he thought might be going to the restroom. He expected to be escorted back outside of the secure area, or at least he hoped they would be that lenient, giving him the benefit of doubt. Knowing the precise location, he could shift back into the control room, disable the alarms and the communication relay that linked the center to other Colonial Authority assets within the city and in other cities as well. He would shut down the electromagnetic jamming system that projected into the interrogation rooms and detention cells. Before leaving the control room, he would disable the network server putting, applying a different administrator password. It was nothing he had not done before, just he had not needed to do it since college. Unfortunately, he was caught then, changing grades for his friends.

When they arrived at the Security Agency’s detention center complex, Cristina executed her role flawlessly. Alix did exactly as he planned. Upon discovering the control room, the door opened and he immediately stepped back a few moments across a fold and observed the passwords and key commands before returning to the hallways a few seconds after he left.

Immediately discovered and questioned, as expected he was escorted back to the reception area where Cristina was still working her charm to its fullest. Alix smiled as he watched her at work. She was a natural at flirting and had everyone’s attention and they were smiling as she performed her role flawlessly. All Alix needed to do was access the control room.

In a thought he was back inside. Immediately, he accessed the computer and changed the passwords to reflect a code requiring knowledge of hexadecimal mathematics – and the solution to the square root of quantity ten minus pi expressed in base sixteen.

He had done something very similar when he was in college. When he was caught it was fortunately after he had completed his operation. By then, the college was much more interested in getting everything put back the way it was than officially prosecuting him – even if he was on probation and watched carefully for the remainder of his self-abbreviated collegiate career.

It would take the Security Agency a while to access the computer again. Then, he shut down the communication links and the internal jamming equipments before shutting down the main server, effectively crippling every workstation in the facility from accessing files and information on the host holographic array.

With the entire security system off-line Alix figured the overall authority structure would react within a few minutes to alert the center through other means. He disabled the local communication access as well to delay notification. It would be several minutes to maybe as much as an hour before anyone discovered what he did to the communications systems. It would be days before they could undo what the damage to their internal computer network.

Having completed his tasks, Alix concentrated and reappeared exactly where he had been seated before, just the few minutes it had taken him to do his handiwork had elapsed. Due to Cristina’s masterful performance, no one noticed when Alix vanished from where he was sitting or when he returned.

He stood up and walked over to the desk, asked a question of someone who seemed perturbed to be disturbed as his attentions were focused on Cristina. Then he turned toward her, “Hey, I think I know you.”

“That line’s so old it should have been left on Earth.”

“No really, I’m sure we have met. Julie introduced us, right. You know Julie, of course.”

“Yes, Julie and I are friends.”

“See, I knew it,” Alix said. “It was at that concert.”

Cristina smiled. “Yes, now I remember you. Bert, right?”

“Bart. Your Patricia.”

“Patrice.”

“Close enough both ways. You were wearing body paint last time I saw you.”

“And nothing else.” She winked.

“Damn, hon, you look good even with your clothes on.”

“Thanks she said. So, Bart, what are you doing today?”

“Nothing now,” he replied, offering his arm. “I have the whole day free, just for you.”

“What a coincidence. So do I.”

“We could go back to my place and…” he paused, and then glanced at all the astonished and envious faces behind the counter. “I could play my guitar.”

She giggled and then hand-in-hand they exited the building. Even outside she continued playing her role, occasionally bumped into him, pushing him off course until he pushed back. “You did it?” she asked in a whisper.

“Of course,” he said. “It was actually pretty easy. But I have doubts it will help Paul. There are real, mechanical locks on the doors that stay locked even when the electronic open-and-close functions are off-line.”

“As long as you disabled the waves that frustrate his senses. That is all Paul needed. The rest of what you did buys him the time he needs to escape.”

“Well, I hope it’s enough.”

Having reached the nearby bench for the Starport transit coach stop Cristina sat and waited. “It won’t be long. We’ll see it from here.”

“Are you going to talk to him?”

“Paul, no. Not right now. He needs to get away. We need to stay clear of him for the time being,” she said. “In fact, maybe we should disappear, too. I mean, not hang around here.”

“The coffee shop isn’t that far. We could walk.”

She stood up. “Let’s do that. On the way we can talk about the next challenge. That’s really how we solve everyone’s problems.”

“Cristina, I have been thinking about it ever since you first suggested it to me.” He took her hand. I have no real experience shifting except for the times I’ve done it and never beyond what I did in a serendipitous way. A day or two is nothing on the cosmic scale. The world is just about where it was relative to the rest of the universe, close enough for argument and accessible as obviously I could still sense it when we shifted. I suppose the danger of being somewhere unintended was yet there, but certainly it was not an extreme departure like going back eighty years.”

“You are telling me you can’t do it?”

“I am telling you I can’t do it unless I know exactly where I am going. And the only way for us to ever find where we are going is…”

“Using the orbs.”

Alix nodded, and then continued. “I’m sure I can do it, though. I mean, in principle, folding time for a minute or a millennium should not matter much. The relevant issue that’s the major logistical challenge is the spatial concern. I have to know where I am going to be, precise coordinates even. Maybe our orbs can give us some of the answers, but I need to project where the exact coordinates for where I’m going to be – eighty years ago.”

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The Origin of a Book or Three

A few years ago an interviewer asked me why I write. The answer started another journey for me, pursuing tangents and in the process writing a book or three. Perhaps only other writers would understand that process. It happens.

As a kid I was big for my age, not necessarily a likely candidate for bullying. But I was picked on quite a lot. My guess is that the bullies in my school thought it bolstered their credentials or something, beating up a guy twice their size. But I was never much of a fighter. It didn’t help that I grew up in a family environment where two older sisters also picked on me a good bit. And my parents took us to church on a regular, if not weekly, basis. So, I was a true believer in turning the other cheek. That was until one day, I asked my dad about it.

Dad, who was a strong man of considerable size, confirmed that he believed in turning the other cheek. But then he told me. “I always try to follow what The Bible says. But if someone is stupid enough to hit me twice it’s okay for me to knock the tar out of them.”

That advice changed things. The next time a guy picked on me at school, I leveled him. Of course, the teacher saw only my response and I ended up in the principal’s office. The bullying stopped, though…for a while anyway.

When I wrote the first draft of Becoming Thuperman I wanted it to be a story about kids being kids, the feeling of endless summer on vacation from school, and overcoming the odds. I decided to set it in Normal, Illinois, just because I figured from the outset that the story would be anything but normal. Where the story and its characters took me in the telling became something well beyond my initial intentions. And, as I wrote it, I found it largely cathartic in dealing with some left other things rotted in my experiences as a bullied child. At the time I had no intention of ever publishing it. I did share the rough drafts with a community of fellow writers to which I belonged. Based on their feedback, I pitched it to my publisher as a coming of age story, which is the essence of the story arc.

BT deals with bullying, though not directly. Will is a runt with a speech impediment and low self-esteem. Like me, he has two older sisters. Unlike my sisters whose taunting was playful by comparison, Will’s sisters revel in tormenting him, especially when his mother is away, and the girls are left in charge. Sandra, the female protagonist and Will’s best friend, has a reputation for giving bullies bloody noses. She defends Will, which is something Will may not be proud of but he certainly appreciates the support.

The book deals with gender roles. Sandra is a natural athlete who convinces Will that he should try out for pitcher on the local Little League team. Also the book is about what might happen if children’s imaginations are allowed to flourish. And then the kids begin to discover their superpowers. Well actually, Sandra is sort of aware of hers well before Will notices either his or hers. Girls develop faster, after all.

From the outset, BT was intended as a MG/YA standalone book, which is something rare for me. I used to tell people that the reason I write serial stories is that I suck so much at coming up with endings. BT has a nice, satisfying ending. Yeah, like any decent little story it left a few things hanging in the balance. And the first few people who read the draft asked if there was anything more to come. Maybe, was my answer. That is always a writer’s answer, by the way.

Frequently the writer is the last to know when a story decides to become a trilogy or something beyond that. Although BT took place in the same universe as my other novels, when I wrote it I didn’t consider that its threads were connected to any overall arc, or that Will and Sandra might actually meet and interact with Brent Woods from Fried Windows or Lee Anders Johnston, Andy Hunter, Terry Harper and Caroline Henderson from One Over X. That occurred to me while talking with Jessica Reino, the fantastic substantive editor that my publisher assigned to work with me.

While reading through Jessica’s notes and suggestions, I decided that there was at least one more book to be told. We discussed where that story arc might lead and over a few sessions spanning a week, we outlined a rough plot for two more books. I had no idea what to call the second book in the series. I just knew that the last one would probably be called Thuperman & Cassandra.

I wrote the first couple of chapters for Book 2 in the early Summer of 2017. It felt strange, writing something for which I did not have a title. Tentatively I was calling it Being Thuperman.  But the story wasn’t so much about that as a continuation of the process of becoming from the first book. Also, we’re introduced to Will’s Papaw and Mamaw, who are mentioned in Book 1. Will is close to them, more so that his maternal Gram and Gramps who live several hours away in a suburb northwest of Chicago.

Homer_Underby_Preview

The title for Book 2, Homer Underby (Release Fall 2018) came to me around MLB’s All Star Break. There was a hashtag on Twitter ‘homerunderby’, applied to the annual contest among professional baseball’s best long-ball hitters. When I first read the hashtag, I saw ‘Homer Underby’. I guess, after having worked for The Home Depot for nearly 13 years, I was conditioned to see ‘Homer’ as a name, referring to the little guy in the company’s ads.  I had no idea where that would lead, just that it needed to be the title for Book 2 and it would be a character introduced in the book.

Homer Underby takes place in the week following the events of Becoming Thuperman. Will and Sandra’s idyllic childhood is about to be interrupted as intruders from the outside step in and force the pair of budding superheroes to utilize their extraordinary powers to save each other and their families. Will discovers that Sandra has not been completely forthcoming about her magic. And Will learns that he is more like his Papaw than his father, having inherited a family secret that usually skips a generation and that most of his ancestors considered a curse.

Will and Sandra are drawn into solving a decades-old mystery about the disappearance of a once prominent citizen of Normal and in the process learn that there is far more magic and intrigue in the world than either of them ever suspected.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 11 – In Doubt of His Mom

**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.**

Julie waited at the bar. She occasionally glanced toward the door, not wanting to be too obvious but Manny, the bartender, had already caught her. “Your boyfriend?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she admitted.

“Well, if he doesn’t realize what a lucky man he is, then maybe I should tell him.”

“Don’t you dare,” Julie threatened.

Manny laughed. “Not that I don’t appreciate seeing you again or your business, but why are you meeting him here?”

“It’s neutral turf, sort of anyway.”

“When you hang out in a bar, not that you have in recent memory but when you have this is it, this is your bar. So, it’s hardly neutral turf.”

“Well, he just didn’t feel comfortable back at the old place. We are going to see his mother.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“You have to get her approval for the relationship?”

“No, he thought she was dead. I thought my mother was dead, too. I recently met her and discovered that she knows Chase’s mother and that she’s also alive and well.”

“That would make an interesting if somewhat incredibly inane plot for a sitcom on the entertainment channel,” Manny said.

Julie sipped from her mixed drink.

“So, before you were telling me that all this time that you never came in here, you were living with him and then you had a falling out.”

“Yeah,” Julie confessed. “I know it’s kind of stupid. I mean, we’ve been together long enough to be married but, for whatever reason, it just never happened. I was devoted to him and he was to me. That was never the issue. Well, honestly I was jealous of his relationship with Cristina, but I also understand it because she’s gorgeous.”

“How could anyone distract his eyes from you?” Manny asked.

“Well, if you saw her, you’d see what I mean.”

“I think you discount your attributes far too readily,” he said.

Manny’s choice of words startled her, even if he meant nothing the way she might have taken it. “Well, I wanted to protect him and I did something that he still does not understand. That’s really what came between us. I can accept if he’s in love with Cristina, but she’s spoken for and he’s been a gentleman with her all along.”

Manny refreshed her drink. “What I said earlier about the sit-com. Scratch that. This sounds more like a soap opera.”

“Thanks for the drink, not the commentary,” Julie said.

“Is this Cristina even interested in Chase?”

“I think she was but she’s not interested any longer, because she had a boyfriend, now. She didn’t before, now she does.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Manny asked.

“You can ask him when he gets here.”

“You accept none of the blame?”

“I’m sure some of it’s my fault. Maybe I should have told him how afraid I was when he was hurt, how much I didn’t want to ever see him in that much pain again. But we had guests staying with us. It wasn’t easy for me to find a place where we could talk.”

“Maybe he felt insulted.”

“Insulted?”

“You know the macho thing,” Manny said.

“Chase isn’t like that.”

“Julie, honey, every man is like that. You hurt his pride. He wants to be the one protecting you even if you don’t need his protection and are perfectly capable of doing everything on your own.”

“After our apartment was broken into, I felt violated and frightened to be alone.”

“You told me about that, the last time you were here.”

“Well, he was there for me, then. I soon discovered it was the same people who threatened him and that the only way to ensure that it did not happen to us again was to cooperate with them. But then, when he found out what I did to protect him and get them to no longer threaten us, he said I betrayed our friends and him.”

“I’m missing a lot of details, I’m sure, but I’ll say this: despite good intentions, events progress as they will,” Manny said.

“I never intended to betray anyone.”

“Yet you did.”

Julie lowered her eyes. “The authorities were following Chase and watching Alix and Cristina. They arrested Alix and Cristina before Chase could take them to the railcar station, but they somehow escaped.”

“Where are they now?”

“No one knows,” Julie said. “No one has seen them or heard from them since. I believe they escaped, but it is very strange that there’s been no word from them.”

“They would not risk contacting you, perhaps.”

“I hope they got away. I never intended for them to have problems.”

“Chase blames you.”

“Of course, he does.”

Manny nodded. “But at least you are still talking to him.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s a hopeful sign. But it’s not the same. Maybe it can never be the same as it was, but I want it to be like it was. It was beautiful, even magical. We connected on so many levels.”

“Except for the one thing that became a wedge to separate you,” Manny said.

“Yeah, except for that, we’d still be together,” Julie said as she again glanced toward the door as it opened. The light from the outside framed a silhouette in the doorway then as the door closed she waved to Chase. He acknowledged her as he saw her sitting on a stool at the bar.

As he arrived at the bar, Julie reintroduced him, “You remember Manny.”

Manny offered his hand, “Good see you again,” he said.

“Likewise,” Chase responded. “Thanks for keeping her company.”

“My pleasure.”

Julie took another sip of her drink. “Do you want anything?”

“No, I’m good,” Chase said.

“You’re ready to go?”

Chase cleared his throat. “Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I’m nervous. How weird is that?”

“You have not been with her since you were an infant,” Julie said. “It was the same way for me.”

Chase held out his hand, offering her assistance in stepping down from her barstool. “Let’s do it,” he said as she joined him.

“I’ll see you later, Manny,” she said.

“You take care of her,” Manny directed to Chase.

“I always will.”

When they reached the outside where Chase had temporarily parked, Julie turned toward him, “Will you?”

“Will I what?”

“Always take care of me?”

“I’ve tried to ever since I first met you,” Chase said as he opened the door of the coach and helped her to climb inside, then he climbed in and settled at the control console.

“I was trying to take care of you. Someone hurt the man I love. They also violated the privacy of where we lived. I wanted answers and received an offer.”

“From Yates.”

“Yes.”

“Look,” Chase said as he merged with the light traffic on the street. “I get it. I really do, why you did what you did and how it all made some kind of sense to you. It’s just that now two of our friends are missing because of it.”

“Don’t you think I am concerned about them, too?”

“If Alix feels for Cristina half of what I feel for you, she’s well protected,” Chase confessed. “But it concerns me that it seems like they’ve disappeared from the world.”

“Yates is looking for anything on them.”

“What good does that do?”

“The Colonial Authority has many parts and branches that do not always communicate well with one another and sometimes act in completely opposite, disharmonious ways,” Julie explained.

“It could be that Cristina and Alix were captured but no one was informed.”

“Or the information was withheld from normal channels.”

“I suppose that makes some sense,” Chase said. “Judging from the reports out of Star City, Paul has been busy making an even more notorious reputation for himself.”

“Do you think any of that is true?” Julie asked in reference to world viewer reports from earlier that morning that obviously they both saw.

“I’m sure it’s true, at least to the extent they reported and their perception of what went on. I’m equally certain Paul would be able to justify what happened, as hard as that might be to fathom at this point.”

“How do you justify all those deaths?” Julie asked.

“That’s sort of my point. Paul would never kill someone capriciously. There would be a very good reason. It would be in direct retaliation. The fact some are alive indicates restraint. Surely, he could have killed everyone. If they threatened Paul in the same way they threatened me–”

“Some of the agents do things like that.”

“Apparently there are a lot of them who work that way. There are just a lot fewer of them in Star City now.”

“Okay,” Julie leaned forward. “At the next intersection take a right and at the second signal, take a left. Then to the end of that street there’s a secure compound. We have to be signed in.”

“They’re expecting us.”

“Yeah, I called Neville yesterday. He said he’d arrange for everything.”

Chase turned right just as she directed then when they reached the second light he turned left. He then programmed the coach to cruise on automatic, adjusting their speed to the timing of the signals. It was still very early in the afternoon on a traditional non-working day for many people. There was not a lot of traffic in the city, not even downtown.

They were heading out toward the northern edge of Andromeda, the parts of the city that were constructed on a slight natural ridge that because of relative elevation commanded a bleak view of the desolation of the Big Continent’s interior. He looked out across the vastness of the desert to the north and west and wondered how it was ever going to look like the Colonial Authority envisioned. It would take decades just to get the irrigation systems in place let alone the processes of amending the sand to transform it into a fertile loamy soil sufficiently enriched with organic nutrients to support a variety of plants.

When they arrived at the front gate, Chase halted and opened the coach door. The gate guard stepped around and peered inside.

“I’m Chase and this is Julie.”

“Neville is expecting us,” Julie said.

“Thank you, please wait,” he said as he entered the information into his pad and then waited for authorization. He looked up and nodded toward Chase even as the gate was already sliding open. Chase closed the door and navigated the coach into the containment area where there was no sort of docking other than landing a vehicle on a partitioned spot marked on the pavement.

When Chase opened the door, Julie was immediately up and exited the coach. Chase had a few things to do that were particular to parking a vehicle on a flat surface rather than in a stack dock array. After he finished, he exited and secured the vehicle. Then, taking Julie by the hand, he allowed her to lead him in the direction they needed to go.

They reached the reception desk. The lady tending it looked up and studied first Chase then Julie. “Are you expected?”

“I have an appointment with Neville,” Julie said. “I’m Julie and this is Chase.”

The attendant checked her list and then looked up. “Take these temporary security badges. Then if you would like to stand by those two doors, I’ll clear you to enter. Neville will meet you inside.”

Neville approached them from down the hallway, greeting immediately, offering his hand to Chase as the distance between them rapidly closed. “It’s my pleasure to finally meet you,” he said.

The phrasing struck Chase as being a little odd, but he shrugged it off even as Neville proceeded to welcome Julie back.

“Your mother is waiting in the social area,” Neville explained to Chase. Then, turning back to Julie, he continued, “Your mother’s still in her room. She said to meet in the social area in a few minutes. They just had their hair done this morning.”

They paused at a central security station that monitored every room in the building. They signed in as the guard checked their badges and scanned their ID implants before clearing them to pass.

The social area was immediately past the security station. As Julie and Chase entered, Chase’s mother, Rosemary stood and with open arms greeting her son. “You’re so tall!”

“Like my father,” Chase said.

She nodded, still staring at him, as if trying to commit to memory every detail of his face. “You’re a bit taller I believe. You’re handsome, just like he was, though,” she said. Then looking at Julie she smiled. “You’ve taken good care of him.”

Julie shrugged, “Despite his resistance.”

Rosemary laughed. “Well, it comes naturally. His father was stubborn, too. Come sit down, both of you.”

Chase was still skeptical. He wanted to believe, but he doubted. How could he be certain that the woman in front of him was, in fact, the woman she claimed to be?

“Well, I for one am glad that the Colonial Authority has decided to allow us to visit from time to time. I have always dreamed of talking to my son. And now, meeting you–”

“It has not been easy. It wasn’t easy for Dad.”

“I know. It was hard for him to live the lie, telling you I was dead. But it was what everyone had to say. All of us, The Twelve as they call is, we expected to die in childbirth. Our doctors prepared us for it and we signed waivers and all sorts of documents that we understood that carrying our twins full term would create a medical condition that would be almost immediately terminal. So, we were all prepared for it and accepted it as necessary so our children could live. Then, when we were still alive afterwards, no one knew why. The Colonial Authority thought the answer might contain the secret they were seeking, and through studying us they might be able to reverse the declining fertility rates. It was a noble cause and like all noble causes there’s always a price to pay. None of us knew how long we would live. The said it was an anomaly – a fluke. We were certain it would end eventually. I don’t think anyone thought we would ever live this long, certainly not long enough to see our children fully grown and even to the point of choosing their mates.”

Neville stood in the doorway behind them. “It’s almost as interesting watching the interactions of The Twenty-Four offspring as it is studying the similarities of The Twelve. As I was telling Julie when she was here before, it seems The Twenty-Four are drawn to one another. So far, with one exception, there have mainly been pairings from amongst the Twenty-Four. We aren’t certain the trend will continue, but it’s an interesting phenomenon we think could be related to your unique genetics as a group as much as the common backgrounds and circumstances.”

Julie’s mother finally arrived. As she entered the social area, she opened her arms and shared a warm embrace with Julie before offering her hand to Chase.

“It is good to meet you,” Chase said in response as he stood up until Sylvia paused to kiss Rosemary on the cheek and then she joined them as they sat around a table.

“I’ve really wanted to meet you,” Sylvia said. “Your mother and I are very close friends. The Twelve have become a sorority of sorts. We hear things about you through our sources here, so as you might suspect, we talk a lot about our children and what they’re doing.”

“It comes as a shock,” Chase said. “For all my life, all our lives, we were lied to.”

Sylvia lowered her eyes. “I do not believe any deception is ever right, but in this instance, I believe it may have been necessary. It never started out to be the lie it has become.”

“I explained some of that,” Rosemary said.

“The Colonial Authority didn’t know what to do with us at first. We were kept in isolation wards at the hospitals where we had been admitted for childbirth. At first they didn’t expect us to live but the more tests they ran the more they came to the realization that we were healthy and probably stood a pretty good chance of living our normal life spans. They had to study us because we were the only ones who had given birth to children with the attributes but did not die. It took a year and a half to get this facility ready and then, they brought each of us here for observation. By then the lies were firmly established.”

“Our dads knew,” Julie said.

“They didn’t like it any more than we did, but they understood the necessity,” Rosemary said.

“Those were different times,” Sylvia added. “No one outside of the researchers began to understand the attributes. Certainly, none of us who carried the genetic distinction understood why we were usual or began to appreciate our potential value. We felt out of place and shunned contact with others. It’s a miracle any of us even married. I’ve heard some of our generation has committed suicide. Others never stepped out from their reclusive natures, leading celibate lives. Maybe they’re still alive somewhere. The Colonial Authority does not know where everyone is. They’ve only been able to track those who had children and most of them died. They don’t know if there would have been more than twelve of us who survived giving birth had everyone found suitable mates.”

Neville had arranged for a pitcher of iced tea to be served along with some snack cakes. This was part of the trial and, of course, it was being observed. Julie’s previous meeting was recorded and reviewed as stage one of a preliminary process for the Colonial Authority to evaluate to costs and the benefits of allowing contact between The Twelve and The Twenty-Four. It was imperative that if the process were to continue this meeting went well.

The Colonial Authority suspected Chase’s loyalties. After all, he intended to chauffeur Cristina and Alix to the railcar station the afternoon they disappeared and became fugitives. The meeting between Paul and his mother did not produce the intended results, although, by then events may have progressed too far for Paul to ever be salvaged to perform any role benefiting the Colonial Authority.

Unless this meeting went well, Neville expected the change of policy would be restricted to only those who knew. He also understood some others of The Twenty-Four would learn from others and he expected a procedure and process for them to petition for visitation. Regardless of the Colonial Authority’s changes of procedures and rules, this was not complete reversal or a breakdown in the security controlling of the living environment for The Twelve. It was merely a more humane loosening of the prison-like environment to allow for visitation between mothers their children.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 10 – Crisis

**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.**

They slept soundly after wearing one another out satisfying their hungers for one another’s undivided attentions in multiple sessions. With the realization that it was light outside, Alix leapt up in a panic, leaning to the window, parting the blinds to confirm what he feared, it was already broad daylight. He grabbed his chronometer from the dressing table where he had left it and confirmed, “Cristina it is 8 AM!”

“Damn!” she said as immediately she sat up.

“I thought I set the alarm, I’m sorry,” Alix said.

“It’s fine. Everything’s fine. We just get dressed and get back to the alley that’s all.”

Alix wanted to shower longer, even considered that if nothing went right this could be his last chance to shower for a while but there was not enough time. Cristina also showered quickly. Afterwards she and ran wet hands through her hair in an attempt to straighten out the tangled mess it had become in the throes of passion. She wished he shad more time to get ready. She then brushed her teeth and afterwards tried running a comb across her head, fighting as it snagged on snarls. She muddled through regardless of the damage she knew she was doing to her hair.

When they were both dressed and packed up, they each took their backpacks and descended in the elevator to the lobby, depositing their security key in the box on the front counter.

They headed out onto the street, crossing over and entering the northern end of the alley. They could see the building from there. Everything seemed to be quiet, even eerily so.

“Perhaps our panic was for nothing,” Cristina said.

Alix shrugged. “Breakfast?”

“Sure,” Cristina said, grinning broadly. “I worked up an appetite between last night and all the hustle this morning.”

When they entered the coffee shop it seemed very crowded. After placing their order for two breakfast platters and two black coffees, they waited. Turning to see if there was place for them to sit close to the window, every table in the place appeared to be filled. They waited for their meals to be served up on plates and then placed onto a tray, hoping by then a window table would be freed up, but there was no such luck.

“I’m sorry it’s so busy today. Not that I’m complaining. This is great for me, but it’s unusual,” the owner of the coffee shop said. “It’s been a while since this place was packed like this, especially first thing in the morning.”

“I wonder what’s going on?”

“They’re all agents,” the owner said. “That’s what one of them told me. Something important is going on around here, I guess. There’s this small table back here, behind the counter. You’re welcome to use it.”

Cristina looked to Alix as he responded with a shrug. “Sure, that would be great,” she said. Alix deposited their backpacks behind the counter as they took the folding chairs the owner hastily delivered to them. Alix opened them and they both sat to sip their coffee while waiting for breakfast to be served.

“They must be planning to make their move today,” she whispered to Alix. He nodded in response.

When the owner carried their plates on a tray, Alix removed and placed them on the table. “If there is anything else you need, just ask. I really appreciate your patience this all this confusion this morning.”

“You’ve been very courteous,’ Cristina said. “Thank you.”

He returned the empty tray to the kitchen and returned to re-freshen their coffees – on the house. After, the owner carried the pot out into the front room to serve his other guests.

“He’s a nice man,” Cristina decided.

Alix nodded as he already had shoveled a bite of eggs into his mouth and continued to chew. After he swallowed, he leaned over to kissed her cheek, then whispered, “What are our plans?”

“I’m not sure,” she responded chewing on a strip of lean bacon. She leaned forward as she reached for the salt, “If everyone in here’s an agent,” she whispered, “I’m not sure what we can do.”

They were very quiet, not wanting to draw any undo attention to themselves as they were at least partially concealed behind the counter. There were at least forty agents in the coffee shop. Based on their recent experiences and observations, this was a month’s worth of business for the place. Of course, the shop was understaffed for the unanticipated demand. Regardless of the reality, the agents boisterous, demanding and often abusive to the owners, saying that they needed to have more help. What was the point? It was a singular event that flooded the place with hungry people first thing in the morning. It was not as if they were regulars who would be offended and never return. They were unlikely to return anyway.

When Alix and Cristina were finished they bused their own table, delivering the plates and cups to the owner’s wife who thanked them, then apologized profusely for how busy it was and how little attention they were afforded.

“We understand,” Cristina said. “They’re assholes,” she added in a whisper that caused the wife to chuckle.

“All this time I thought it was just me,” she said aloud. “But today they belong to us,” she added, punctuating it with a wink.

Cristina smiled, even chuckling. Both the owner and his wife were good people. They certainly did not deserve the confusion. From her experience at waiting table when she was in college, Cristina knew that being busy in a restaurant was a good thing even though it was hectic.

Alix gathered up their backpacks and carried both of them as Cristina followed him through the front room to the door which was already half empty, leaving a mess for the owners to deal with. “They’ll we washing dishes all day,” Alix commented.

“It’s a happy mess,” Cristina responded.

Out on the sidewalk, she halted, turning to Alix, kissing his cheek to whisper, “It is going down this morning.”

Alix nodded. He was thinking the same thing.

His attention drawn to movement, Alix pointed to the archway and Cristina gasped. The leader of the local cell had been inside, visiting Paul. Why so late? Did they expect something? Were they planning on moving him? Didn’t they realize there were agents all over the place?

“Why would he do that?” she barely uttered the question before she noticed the leader had picked up a tail. Agents rushed furiously to gain better-concealed positions to observe him and where he was headed.

After a while several agents congregated outside of the building across the street from where Alix and Cristina stood, apparently going over their plans and then, once everything was confirmed they quickly ascended the stairs. Other agents emerged from the alleys with prisoners in custody, taking them to a waiting vehicle where guards relieved them of their charges.

“We need to get out of here,” Alix whispered.

Several agents came up from behind them. As the two of them braced for confrontation, the group ran past them and up the street, one of the agents lagging behind advised them to get off the streets for their own safety. They returned to the coffee shop and sat down at a table near the window that had recently become vacated but was not yet cleared.

“What is going on out there?” the owner asked as he saw them return and brought them two cups and poured fresh coffee for them.

“I’m not sure,” Alix said.

Cristina reached for her payment wand but the owner waved her off.

“It’s on the house.”

“Thank you,” she said. “But two free cups, that’s a little much.”

“It’s fine.”

“We’ll help you clear the tables, at least.”

He laughed. “If you’ll do that for free cups of coffee, you’re more than welcome.”

“Look,” Alix called for her attention. Two agents were dragging Paul between them descending from the stairs out onto the sidewalk but they took him to a separate vehicle and once he was inside the coach hurried away.

Cristina lowered her eyes. Alix reached out and touched the backs of her hands and she looked up, tears welled in her eyes. “We should have been there.”

“We couldn’t have done anything,” Alix said.

“You know the man?” the coffee shop’s owner asked.

“He’s my brother,” Cristina revealed, no longer caring about her secret.

“Wow,” the owner said. “That’s rough.”

“Yes, it is,” Alix spoke for her as she turned away, shaking her head and sobbing uncontrollably.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” the owner said. “You don’t need to help with the tabled. I’ve not had this much work to occupy me for a long time. It’s kind of nice. For a change.”

“Don’t turn us in,” Cristina requested.

“After the way those assholes treated me and my wife, there’s not a chance I’d ever volunteer a damned thing to any of them. I’ll not lie to them though,” he said. “I’m too old to survive the beatings.”

“Arnie!” his wife came out from the kitchen to protest. “You’re scaring these poor young people to death.”

“Look there’s an old apartment upstairs. It’s furnished. We used to rent it out but it got to be too much trouble. It may be a little dirty but… well when Emma and I were younger that was where we lived.”

“We bought this building right after we moved here,” Emma explained. “The Star City Planning Commission promised us this would be a very busy location because of the railcar station. What they didn’t tell us was that they were leasing space in the station for vendors.”

“We survived,” Arnie said. “It’s because we make a good cup of coffee and good food for breakfasts and lunches. Once people stop here they come back and bring their friends. We’re not like the rush-rush places in the stations.”

“Your food is very good and the coffee is always excellent,” Alix said.

“It’s fresh, that’s half of the secret,” Arnie revealed. “Anyway, Emma and I have noticed you in the alley outside as we come to the shop.”

“We know you probably don’t have a lot of money, so…,” Emma paused.

“You are welcome to stay upstairs for as long as you need to,” Arnie completed the offer.

“We couldn’t impose,” Alix said. “I mean you don’t even know us.”

“We talked about it before. You weren’t in the alley this morning or we would have made the offer then.”

“It’s very generous,” Cristina said.

“Then it’s settled,” Arnie said. “Emma will show you the way and where to find everything you need to clean the place up a bit.”

“I really appreciate this,” Cristina said. “But we aren’t looking for charity.”

“Look,” Arnie said. “We know what it is like being young and having limited resources. Even if it’s for a few days or a couple of months, you are welcome to stay upstairs. In return you can keep the place clean for us and maybe help out in the restaurant when it’s busy. How’s that?”

“I’m speechless.”

“We both are,” Alix said.

“Then you’ll stay?”

“For a while,” Cristina said.

“Just until we know what is going on,” Alix clarified as both he and Cristina followed Emma to the back stairwell that led up to the apartment.

Emma chuckled, “You know Arnie carried me up these steps the first time we set foot in this building. Are you married?’

“Not yet,” Cristina said.

“Well, times are a lot different now. I understand that. The music is crazy compared to what Arnie and I used to dance to when we were young. Whenever we had a good day and could afford to go out at night, we used to dance.” She reached for a switch by the door and turned on the lights of the apartment.

All the furniture was covered to protect it from dust. And so, until the covers were removed, it was difficult to get a feel for what the apartment really looked like. Emma opened a compartment in the wall and snatched up the remote control that was stored there. She summoned a robotic vacuum and other such automated cleaning devices from their storage cubicles.

“This was going to be our home and our livelihood,” Emma said. “It’s been a good place. We haven’t wanted for much over the years but it was nothing like the big dreams we had at the time. Arnie was going to have coffee shops all over the city, in every city, even: gourmet coffee and good, organically produced food – none of that quick synthetic stuff people are forced to eat all the time at the fast food places.”

“It’s a little more expansive, but the quality is always there. We have our regulars – our friends. We take care of them whenever they come and over the years they have certainly taken care of us. How could we go wrong?”

“You could still do it?”

“Honey,” she reached for a lithograph of the family, “We had three children and we raised them to be good, decent, hard-working, honest people. This one.” She pointed, “She’s our baby, Sally. She is the operations manager for a bank downtown. Candace in the middle is an instructor at the University here in Star City. She’s working on her doctorate. Neville, our eldest is a chief research administrator for the Colonial Authority in Andromeda, assigned to some secret project he can’t even discuss. They’re all married. Neville had two children, a boy and a girl. Candace had a boy. Sally hasn’t decided whether she wants to have children.”

“It seems that they have all done very well,” Cristina said.

“Yes, I couldn’t have asked for better children and I’m very proud of them. It makes what Arnie and I did in life seem all the more worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade any of my kids for all the wealth in the world.”

“Or three hundred coffee shops as busy as this one was this morning.”

“We’ll get everything cleaned up downstairs then start on this,” Cristina offered.”

“You have your work cut out for you up here,” Arnie said. “I’ve got the downstairs.”

Alix picked up the remote for the cleaning appliances and programmed them to begin tending to the floors while he started carefully removing the covers so as to not stir up the dust too much.

“We’d better get back started on our mess,” Emma said. “If you need anything just ask.”

“We will,” Cristina agreed. “And again, thank you so much. This is more than we could have ever expected.”

“And very generous,” Alix added, and then continued to orchestrate the cleaning of the apartment as Cristina took up a cloth and some polish and began working on the surfaces of the furniture.

It took the remainder of the morning but when they were finished the apartment was clean and ready for habitation. They unpacked their clean clothes and removed the sealed plastic bag that contained their soiled clothes. There was a laundry next to the pantry. Cristina tested the integrity of the hoses before applying water pressure to the washer from the taps in the wall. She sorted the clothes as best she could and found some powdered laundry soap that, although it was caked together from humidity and years of sitting in one place on a shelf, it still would serve their purposes.

When she had put a load of clothes into the washing machine and started the process, she returned to the living room where Alix was sitting on the couch and making the final adjustments to the vacuum’s course as well as the wax buffer for the tile floors.

“It looks nice,” Cristina said.

“This is an excellent apartment,” he responded.

“I know. It is so big, compared to where I live,” she said.

“Maybe we should relocate to Star City,” Alix said, but then laughed because he knew Cristina would never move away from New Milan.

“We need to lay low here for a while,” she said, completely ignoring what he had proposed, knowing that he had said it in jest.

“What do you have planned?’

“I don’t know yet. I was expecting something to happen this morning but from the looks of it the agents rounded up just about everyone.”

“Including Paul.”

Cristina nodded. “I don’t know what we can do, if anything is possible at all. They will take all of them to their headquarters.”

“Wherever that is,” Alix commented.

“We can find it,” she said. “I’m just not certain what we could do to help him. It may be beyond us.”

“We gave it a good try.”

“To succeed at trying is accepting failure,” Cristina said.

“Hunter said that, I take it?”

Cristina nodded, “Yes, I read it when I was in college. It’s pithy, easy to understand and remember.

“And true, unfortunately.” Alix stood up, directing the vacuum and the wax buffer to return to their storage cubicles. He went to the kitchen and found glasses in the cupboard. He rinsed out a glass and poured some water, which he consumed in gulps. “The water here is very good.”

“It comes from an aquifer,” Cristina explained, same as Andromeda. New Milan and Haven reclaim water from the ocean. It never tastes the same. It starts off bland and no matter how much they amend it with minerals, it isn’t the same as natural spring water. I got spoiled when I was in college. The water in Emerald City was excellent.”

“Well I am finding a lot to like about Star City even if our reason for being here has sort of fallen apart before our eyes.”

“I keep wondering if we had come a little earlier…”

“What could we have done, trip someone? Maybe we could have delayed the inevitable by a few minutes and in the process got ourselves arrested. From the way the agents were set up, I don’t think anyone could have saved Paul. We saw it beginning yesterday, the people posted on the rooftops. They put all their muscle here and made it work.”

“Rendering us useless or at least helpless. In this instance it’s much the same thing.”

Alix walked over to the window, looking across the street to the building that had been the object of their vigil for a few days. “Great view. We should have been here all along.”

Cristina came up from behind and wrapped her arms around Alix’s waist.

“I mean, I can see where they opened the wall, even,” then he turned to face her. “I was right, exactly where I knew the room had to be, not that it matters anymore.”

“What are we going to do now, Alix?”

“Go home before we get killed.”

“We have to do something more than that. They have my brother.”

“You know, don’t take this the wrong way but, maybe he deserves it.”

“How does he deserve this?”

“Cristina, he’s a big boy. He has made his decisions and this is the consequence. Does he deserve it? No one deserves being roughed up or maybe even worse once they have him back at their headquarters. But it has to be on him to extricate himself from this misery. It’s something he knew he was getting into.”

Cristina turned away from the window and sat down on the couch. “I had a dream,” she said. “I saw Paul being beaten and tortured. He was drugged. I could tell.”

“And what does that have to do with us?”

“I saw waves, apparently invisible waves crashing against him as he was being beaten. It was interfering with his abilities. That has to be the way the authorities can control him.”

Alix lowered his eyes and then finally held his head in his hands. “They are using white and pink noise modulated on ultrasonic waves to dampen his natural connections to the fundamental and harmonic tones of the natural electromagnetic spectrum.”

“Do you mind rephrasing that in some language other than Alix-ese?”

“The way we connect and control the world around us through our enhanced senses is that we can access the background energy inherent in everything.”

“I know. I feel that too.”

“They use ultra-high frequency modulators to send noise in an attempt to scramble the energy before anyone who is sensitive to it could access it.”

“You know how to defeat it, then?”

Alix shrugged. “It has to be electronic, perhaps a computer controls it. I have not done much with computers since I dropped out of tech college, but…”

“But you know how. You were gifted at programming.”

“How do you know that about me?”

Cristina smiled. “I kind of checked you out while you were sleeping.”

“Damn it!”

“It was an innocent intrusion,” she said. “Don’t be mad.”

Alix smiled. “It’s a mess inside my head.”

“Not really.”

“I sweep a lot of things under other things.”

“We all do that,” Cristina said with a laugh. “I know about people, Alix. How they think, what’s important to them. That’s why I know I can help Paul.”

“You’re bound and determined to save him, no matter the danger, regardless of the risk to yourself.”

“Alix, Paul is my brother!”

“And we’re amateurs at what we’re trying to do.”

“I think we know how to do things they don’t expect.”

Alix leaned over and kissed her. “I deposit a little time bomb for them in their computer system. It hides there and goes on schedule, later on, when we’re long gone. It shuts down whatever they’re doing with the jamming signals. That’s the quick and easy way to do it. As much fun as all this hide and seek has been, I fully understand we are up against the pros, now. And we are already in hot water with them –whether they realize it here and now, we’re in this all the way,” Alix said. “If this is what you’re committed to, I’m behind you. I love you too much to leave you alone in this, but I have to tell you I think this is totally nuts.”

“We are still behind where we were.”

“What?”

“In time.”

“Not that it matters all that much at the moment, but yeah.”

“I think it matters a lot.”

“How so?”

“Alix, have we changed anything?”

“How would I know?”

“Exactly,” Cristina said. “We don’t know. If you took us ahead in synchronization with where we should be–”

“What is the point?”

“I am just trying to rationalize the potentials of the utility of folding time. Is there any limitation to what you can do? I mean, can you go back further into the past than just a few days?”

“From what Raven said it would take a lot of planning. I would assume I know how to do it, though. But obviously, it’s conjecture at this point because, thus far, we have only jumped back a few days. The farther away from the present you go the trickier it is to hit the right place.”

Cristina was silent for a few moments.

“I can tell you’re thinking,” Alix said, finally breaking the silence. “I’m not sure I want to know what you’re planning.”

“You can bring anyone with you across the fold.”

“Apparently. You want me to do something for Paul.”

“No, no. I think I have a better idea,” Cristina said. “If you can go back as far as the origins of our terraforming Pravda…”

“Oh my…no, Cristina.” Alix shook his head. “I know what you are thinking and you know as well as I do it’s dangerous as hell. You know why – even without me telling you. What if they aren’t peace-loving creatures?”

“What if they aren’t? Neither are we,” Cristina said. “We may claim to be but we really aren’t.”

“I think most people would prefer peace to war. In principle, anyway.”

“But how often has that happened?” she asked. “Even in this world we have strife and conflict. Supposedly we are at peace. There are not any governments yet, only the rudiments of forming Provincial Authorities for each city.”

“Yes and we introduce a real, live alien into this mish-mosh of our own multi-ethnic, multi-cultural intolerance and you have the formula for disaster.”

“But don’t you see? It will eliminate the teeth from the aims of The Resurrection,” she argued. “Especially if the sand-morph is friendly and cooperates. It may even be able to tell us what we need to know to bring back the others of its kind. Either way, the Colonial Authority will have nothing to counter. They will have to confess, admit to everything that has been concealed. They will not be able to hold anyone prisoner.”

“You’re being a bit naive. They’ll kill the sand-morph before anyone knows about it.”

“Then we just have to make it so public that they cannot do that,” Cristina said. “A special concert, a benefit held in Andromeda, Duae Lunae introduces the latest discovery. It’ll be a free show. So, it will get a lot of attention and draw a huge crowd. They will think we have a band we have discovered in Andromeda. Then we prep the audience with some history, something brief, entertaining but comprehensible and then, we reveal a sand-morph in the flesh!”

Alix leaned back into the soft cushion of the couch that he was sharing with Cristina. He knew full well that Cristina was committed to this crazy plan that she had concocted. It might be modified in some ways to make more sense, but she had already decided this was the way to save Paul and everyone else. This was her solution. If Alix loved her, and he truly did, he had to make this happen for her. Whatever it took, regardless of the danger, he had to do this.

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The Resurrection: Chapter 9 – The Fluid

**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.**

Julie had never before considered that the truth might be as fluid as the Colonial Authority conceived it. They could bend and conform to whatever channel necessary to convey it, It would fill whatever the shape of the lie and become the basis for fabrication. How could they keep the knowledge from her all this time? How could her father have known and yet never told her?

Where did the dedication to a cause and the resolve of conviction originate? She was seriously pissed that for all her life she believed her mother was deceased. Now she knew that, all along, the pretext for her youth and even many of the conditions of her present life were a carefully orchestrated lie.

Confident that the real reason for the sudden disclosure was political expedience, she wanted the real reasons, not the official story. Superficially the Colonial Authority claimed to be addressing all the mistakes of the past. In fact their hand was forced.

Cristina’s brother was at least complicit in the conditions that had led to their sudden change of direction, if not heart. In an odd way his was an honorable act of subversion, defying the authorities that spread fear and deception. She had cooperated with them not because she supported the concealment of the truth but because she did not want to see Chase get hurt. His pride blinded him too much to accept that she might have made the right choice. Even if she was not right, perhaps hers was the better choice of alternatives.

Julie sensed that time was running out for the Colonial Authority. Regardless of the pretense, their displays of power and exercise of force, they were scared. She was not sure what frightened them, but she figured it had to do with Paul and Cristina. Since talking to her mother, Julie felt it could involve all of The Twenty-Four who were borne of The Twelve.

The Colonial Authority was in an odd predicament, one that Julie was certain they did not desire and certainly did not appreciate. They were losing control, having to find ways of enlisting the aid of the very people they attempted to control, subjugate and suppress. The Colonial Authority could do nothing else short of going public and telling at least some of the truth to the general public. The human race was facing grave times, the extinction of the entire species. The hope of all mankind on Pravda rested in solving the related riddles of The Twelve and The Twenty-Four.

Why were the mothers of the dozen sets of twins still alive?

What was the ultimate, combined potential of The Twenty-Four?

The secret for the survival of the species rested in the modifications of the DNA that everyone with the attributes shared. But even beyond mere survival, The Twenty-Four seemed to be able to tap into the energy of the universe at will.

There were thirty-six people whose lives had become the ultimate mystery of the age. Despite the thousands of others who possessed the attributes, there was a distinct danger inherent in their mating with humans lacking the attributes. It was something The Colonial Authority did not confirm, but it was common knowledge amongst those with the attributes. Only the males with the attributes did not die as a result of mating with females who lacked the attributes. In every other case, with the exception of The Twelve, a mother who had the attributes would die in the process of giving birth. But only The Twelve gave birth to twins, always a boy and a girl.

There were lies, lies and more lies told so often in the past that she wondered how and when they would come to answer for the deception. At this point, if they told the truth, would anyone believe them? The lie grew more attractive and credible in the retelling. Foremost the terrible truth that in the very beginning, when Pravda was terraformed, the authorities inadvertently killed intelligent life and spent nearly all the time since covering the evidence and suppressing the information, opposing those who knew the truth from ever getting access to the information channels to disseminate the truth to the mainstream population.

Julie reached her apartment building and docked her coach. She rode the elevator up to her floor and exited, walking past two strangers she as they boarded the elevator. She did not have a good feeling about them. Her first instinct was that they were agents. It caused her some concern about entering her apartment. She thought about calling Chase, but then she immediately suppressed the thought. She was on her own. She could handle this. She called the emergency number Yates gave her. He did not answer but she left an urgent message. She waited in the hallway for a few minutes, not wanting to risk entering her apartment. Then Yates called back.

“What’s wrong?”

“As I was getting home, there were two strange men in the hallway getting onto the elevator as I was getting off. It’s probably nothing, but I had an eerie feeling about them. Maybe they were agents. Are there any agents assigned to bug my place?”

“Julie you’re under surveillance already. You know that. To my knowledge, there’s been nothing additional set up.”

“Could you come over? I mean, I’m really not comfortable with this.”

“Okay,” Yates said. “Look, I have a meeting in a few. It will last an hour. I can be there in an hour and a half, two hours tops. If it’s going to take longer I’ll call you. Until then, go somewhere public where you feel safe.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll call you when I reach your place. Then you can come meet me and we will go in and check out your apartment together if you like. I’ll even bring a couple of uniformed officers with me.”

“I really appreciate it,” Julie said.

“Hey, you did us a huge favor and who knows, maybe this started the end of all the secrecy.”

“We can hope,” Julie said.

“I gotta get to the meeting. I’ll call you as soon as it’s over.”

Julie disconnected the call and called for the elevator car, hoping she was just being hypersensitive because of everything she had been through recently. Then, she did not want to be alone in her apartment anyway. She was not used to that.

When the elevator doors opened, she stepped inside and pressed the button for the lobby. When the doors opened again suddenly her heart leapt into her throat for a few moments, as two different strange men approached her but then passed her by as they hurried to board the awaiting elevator. Nerves on end, paranoid, she tried to calm down. Taking deep breaths and slowly releasing them, she tried passing everything off as her overactive imagination, reacting to the recent stress in her relationship with Chase. It was the direct result of the serious case of nerves she had ever since some men, most likely agents, broke into her apartment.

Julie went to a nearby club and sat down at the bar. Years ago, before she met Chase, she stopped by the club on her way home from work and usually spent a few hours sipping mixed drinks and unwinding from the stress of the workday. She used to know everyone in the club, actually. When she walked in she recognized no one except for the bartender. At least he was still there.

She stepped up and slid across the bar stool as she sat down. “You have a drink for a stranger, Manny.”

“Damn girl!” Manny smiled broadly as he recognized her. “I haven’t seen you in…well since you met that guy, what’s his name…”

“Chase.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Damn, babe, you’re looking good, better than ever! How do you do that?”

“I’m not aware of it. I assure you.”

“So you come back to say hello or are there some other matters.”

“There are always some other matters.”

“Yeah, tell me about it! I should be a psychiatrist, except I have a bar not a couch.”

“Mostly, I’m just killing time. I’m meeting a friend at my apartment later on.”

“I see, so what will it be? This first one is on me. The rest you can buy. I have a mortgage, you know.”

“Give me a mudslide.”

“Yeah, that was your drink, back in the day,” he said as he started mixing the drink and then upon delivering it to her, he looked into her eyes, “You and this guy Chase, you still together?”

“Yes and no.”

“Those are opposites, hon. From experience when they are together they don’t always play well.”

“Well we sort of broke up, but we’re still talking.”

“I guess that gives hope even if it is usually false. You were together a long time.”

“Yeah, we were. I think we’ll get back together,” Julie said, then modified, “Anyway, I really hope so.”

“The man who’d let you get away is not worth having anyway,” Manny said. “Damn that rhymed!”

“You should be a poet, Manny.”

“A poetic psychiatric bartender. I could be one of kind.”

“You already are,” Julie said.

“Hon, if I weren’t happily married, I would have been playing for you myself.”

“You’re too much man for me to handle.”

Manny laughed. “Yeah, you always liked playing up on my name, Manny, more than just a Man, right?” He chuckled. “See, I remember everything.” After his amusement had subsided he looked at her directly, serious in his intentions. “You could have any man you desire, babe. Never sell yourself short.”

“Thanks Manny,” she said and then sipped her drink before looking up and around the bar, “Just like old times.”

“It gets busy at night. You usually left before it got busy. Only times you stayed late were when you were here with your boyfriend.”

“Yeah, well, I have to leave early tonight too, once my friend gets to my apartment.”

“Nothing’s wrong, is it?”

“Just some concerns,” Julie said. “There was a break-in at my apartment a few days ago. I’m skittish, you know. When I got off the elevator on my floor there were two strangers getting on the elevator. More than likely, it’s nothing but with everything that’s been going on.”

“You want to play it safe.”

“Exactly.”

Manny nodded. “So, this friend of yours is he someone you trust?”

“Yeah, I guess I do. He was a friend of my father.”

“A good man, then,” Manny said.

“Yeah, I really think he is. I never met him until a couple of weeks ago.”

“How could he be a friend of your father and you never met him?” Manny asked.

Julie sat up, wondering why that never crossed to her mind. Still, Yates knew a lot about her father. Why would she doubt that, unless it was a ploy? Obviously, all of them, her father, mother, her and a brother who she never met were all under continuous surveillance. Of course Yates would know everything about her father. She really wanted to cling to Yate’s story, hoping it was the truth. Her mother did not know him, either – was it her mother, really? Was she going to doubt everything now? Maybe it was a natural response for having been gullible for so long, and severely burned. Yate’s knew her father but not her mother until today. That was possible, of course. Anyway, if it was not the truth, it was another good story – all part of the fluid truth of The Colonial Authority.

She took a couple more sips of her drink and started feeling the effects of the intoxicant. It had been a while since she had been out drinking alone. She had always had a low tolerance for alcohol and for that reason Manny always cut her off before she reached a state of embarrassing herself. She trusted him in the past. One night he took her to her apartment because it was nearby and he needed help walking. Manny already knew she lived within walking distance. His knowing where she lived did not bother her.

Always a perfect gentleman, true to his word, he put her to bed with her clothes still on. All he did was help her remove were her shoes. Then he set a trashcan beside the bed, pointing it out to her for just in case she felt sick. Before he left she pulled him down closer to her and she had kissed him on the cheek. He responded, kissing her on the forehead. Treating her as he would a friend or a friend’s daughter perhaps – maybe even his own daughter – Manny was a good guy she could trust.

After consuming half of her fourth mixed drink, the third one she paid for, Manny could tell that she was already pushing her limit. He went over to her and asked her if her friend had called her yet?

She checked for messages on her cell ID display and then the time. “He should have called by now. Maybe the meeting he was going into when I talked to him is running late.”

“Yeah maybe,” Manny said trying not to sound incredulous.

“It’ll be a few more minutes.”

“The alcohol is getting to you, hon. That’s all I wanted to point out.”

Julie nodded to Manny, “You always look out for me.”

“It’s what I do,” he said.

“Thank you,” Julie said. “Maybe I need to clear my head.”

Manny poured a glass of carbonated water from the tap then slid it toward her. “This will work wonders.”

She took a couple of sips then took a couple of gulps, burping ever so slightly but remembering to cover her mouth with the back of her hand.

A few minutes later her implanted phone rang. She answered. Yates said he was outside her apartment building.

“I am across the street at the club in the middle of the block. I’ll be right there,” she said, and then taking her payment wand in hand she asked Manny to receive a tip. He responded and she rewarded him for his efforts.

After glancing at the display he looked and grinned. “I knew I missed you, I guess I’d forgotten why.”

Julie flashed a smile, “I’ll see you around Manny.”

“I’ll be here, hon. Just no more being a stranger, okay?”

“I’ll stop by more often, I promise.”

Julie stepped outside. Knowing she was intoxicated she paid extra attention to what she was doing and where she was going as she crossed the street to the lot her apartment complex occupied. Yates was waiting for her just outside of the main entrance. Together they entered the building and they walked across the lobby to the elevator. When the car arrived they boarded and rode up to her floor.

At her door she pressed the access codes for her place and the door opened. Yates went in first, walking the apartment, scoping it for any signs of anything that was not normal, spending fifteen minutes of giving Julie the benefit of the doubt before pronouncing to her that he found nothing.”

“I’m so sorry to cause all this aggravation.”

“You were worried. Under the circumstances, I understand. It’s always better to opt for safety.”

Julie gave Yates a hug and a peck on the cheek. “When’s your birthday?”

“In a few months, why?”

“I want to get you a gift.”

“I really couldn’t accept.”

“I’m going to get you something anyway. So a couple of months; is that two months or three?”

“Two and a half, or thereabouts.”

“You wouldn’t want to make this easy and give me the exact date.”

Yates laughed. “I’ll call you a week before, how’s that.”

Julie smiled. “Why the secrecy?”

“We’re not supposed to divulge too much information about ourselves.”

“Well, I’m not going to tell.”

“Neither am I,” Yates said. “Goodnight, Julie. Lock your door and set the perimeter alarm, okay. I’ll have a couple of guys in the area to respond if there’s a call from you. Okay?”

“I really appreciate this,” she said.

Yates shrugged. “I think I was supposed to do laundry tonight or maybe I had dish duty. Regardless of which, there’s something I’m late for at home.”

Julie smiled. “Thank your wife for me.”

“Oh no, hell no!” he protested. “If she ever saw you she would get all kinds of warped ideas about what I’ve been doing coming over here after work.”

“You have always been a perfect gentleman.”

“And I always will be. I love my wife and family. It’s just, well – you know, a pretty young girl like you and middle aged old fart like me. People talk; wives get ideas.”

“Goodnight Yates,” Julie said as she closed the door behind him and turned to tending to her apartment. She needed to vacuum, clean the dishes and do laundry but somehow none of that impressed her as being in any way urgent. She wanted another drink, but decided that was not a good idea. There was nothing in the apartment, anyway.

Sitting down, really considering how she felt for maybe for the first time in months, she decided she was angry. Maybe it was the liquor speaking to her, but it had given her odd clarity of understanding. Never in her life had she felt as angry or as openly betrayed.

She helped the Colonial Authority, even sold out her friends in order to protect Chase. As a result she lost the love of her life and a good bit of her self-respect as well. How could anything about that be right?

Julie turned on the world viewer display, bringing up the local news channel to the main screen and then went to the kitchen to fix something to eat. As she prepared a simple salad which was all she really wanted to invest the time to make, she watched a news report from Star City where they were reporting that an unspecified notorious fugitive had been captured and transported under heavily armed security and isolated in a maximum security cell that was considered impossible for anyone to escape, even the fugitive who was the elusive mass murderer of dozens of agents.

The other news stories did not interest her as much and so she turned to an entertainment channel and listened to some music. For an Andromeda channel to play a New Milan band was significant. But then it was all over the local entertainment news that Duae Lunae had become the first band from outside of Andromeda to ever have both a chart topping single and Mod card simultaneously.

As Julie sat on her couch enjoying the music, reveling in the fact that she knew two of the band members personally. She suspected Chase was gloating over his role in the overall triumph. The tour was fundamental in establishing the band’s performance credibility, a part of the chain of events that was culminating now. If the band got another Mod card out soon, then went back on tour to promote it, they could maximize the brief attention spans of their audience and maybe capitalize on the demand for their music and anything in terms of promotional ‘swag’ that bore the band’s name, like tee-shirts, posters, scarves, headbands, wristbands, and temporary tattoos. She tapped her earlobe then started to command speed dial for Chase’s cell number but then paused. What was the point, really?

She tapped her earlobe, and then suddenly it rang. She tapped her earlobe again and saw the caller ID information displayed in her palm’s holographic projection. They had the same thought at the same time. However, she was glad it went down as he called her, not the other way around. She had delayed. That was important to her. It made her feel a little bit better.

“You saw it?” she asked Chase.

“Yeah, it’s fantastic news. It’s just that no one has heard from Cristina or Alix…so, well I would love to let them know but I have no idea where they are or how to get in touch with them. Neither of them have their cells active.”

“You don’t think the Colonial Authority has them.”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” she said. “Yates doesn’t know anything about them. I think he would know.”

“He could be playing dumb. He could be playing coy with you, seeking more information.”

Julie paused, counting to ten wanting not to offend Chase, but she thought he was completely out of line. Besides she had news. Chase really needed to hear it. It was just that she really did not know how to launch what she needed to deliver, other than just dropping bombshell as it was. “Chase, I met my mother today.”

The lack of response was telling. Then after nearly a half minute of silence he sought clarification. “You did say your mother?”

“Your mother is still alive too. My mother knows her. Actually they’re good friends.”

Again there was silence for several seconds. “Okay, where were you when you saw her?” Chase finally challenged.

“In a research facility here in town. I think they will let us visit them now.”

“Really, me and not just you?”

“I was the first, maybe. I don’t know.”

“Because you sold out to the Colonial Authority.”

“Maybe it was because I chose to at least have an open mind and listen. The Colonial Authority is not the monolithic nemesis you think it is.”

“The parts I have been dealing with…”

“Some of the divisions are not as strident, harsh and abrasive as others. I think some of them are actually working for the people.”

“You’re entitled to your opinion. No body’s beat the shit out of you yet.”

“Chase, I’m not a huge fan of the Colonial Authority, not after learning that they have kept my mother in seclusion and lied to me about her for all my life until today. I’m okay with Yates. He’s not lied to me – as far as I know. I met a guy today named Neville. He seemed to be okay.”

“You have bought into their scheme and they are rewarding you. How can you be certain that your supposed mother was not an actress, a charlatan who they paid to perform for your benefit?”

“I thought about that, Chase, quite a lot, actually. It felt like it was she on a lot of levels – every level actually. If you met your mother don’t you think that you would know her? You have the attributes. You have the ability to know things like that in the same way I do.”

Chase peered at her through the imbedded camera in his wrist. In the background she could see some of his new apartment. “Well, even for the experience of spending a few minutes with my mother, I would not sell out to them.”

“You know that each of us has a sibling. They refer to us as The Twenty-Four. They have monitored us all along the way.”

“I don’t doubt the close surveillance. At times they have even seemed to know what I would do before I did it.”

“Maybe you missed what I said. You have a sibling, Chase.”

“I heard. Do I have a sister or a brother? I have never met him or her and likely as not the Colonial Authority will keep us apart just like they are doing to Cristina and Paul.”

“You have a sister, Chase.”

She observed as Chase sat back, switching from holograph to world viewer’s camera. He was not yet comfortable with the new apartment that required a somewhat odd arrangement of the furniture. He looked for the camera before actually peering into it. It was a classic response to the unfamiliarity with a new configuration of a world viewer. She saw it every time one of her friends had moved to a new place.

“I think they will let you meet her.”

“If I cooperate and obey.”

“It’s not like that, Chase.”

“Enlighten me, then. How is it?”

Julie fought back a tear. “I had to do what I felt was right and if you don’t understand why, it was necessary to save your life. I love you that much and I respect you. I want your respect, too. I still need you in my life.”

“I need time, hon. I just need some time, okay? I love you and I respect you. It’s just I need to work some things out and maybe being apart for a while will do that for us. Don’t worry. There’s no one else. There can be no one else but you.”

A tear trailed down her cheek as she looked into the camera on her wrist and she smiled.

“I really mean that,” Chase said. “I guess what we need to do is start over. Forget the past and just start over. Do you want to do that?”

Julie sat thoughtfully considering the options then she nodded.

“I never wanted to lose you,” Chase said. “If I ever did I would be lost. If you honestly thought you were protecting me, well maybe I should have shown my gratitude instead of anger. Maybe I should have listened to you a little more closely. I guess sometimes you’re right, even if I’m not entirely wrong.”

“I love you, Chase,” she said looking directly into the camera so that he could see her eyes clearly.

“I love you, too, Julie,” Chase looked up into the camera, giving her the same point of view.

“I need to go to bed,” Julie responded.

“Yeah, me too,” Chase responded. “I miss you a lot.”

“You can call me tomorrow. Maybe you can even ask me for a date.”

“That might be fun, go out dancing, and club hopping.”

“Like the old days.”

“I’ll do that,” Chase said. “Tomorrow, I’ll call you at work. We can make plans then.”

“Great,” she said.

“Goodnight, hon.”

“Goodnight,” she said as she tapped her earlobe, disconnecting from the call.